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Hurricane Maria Makes Its Way Through Caribbean; New Reporting Indicates Paul Manafort Faces Indictment; Head: President Trump Set to Address U.N. General Assembly. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired September 19, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:10] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Manafort has been in the crosshairs of this from the beginning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's much more aggressive than the norm.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an unprecedented situation.
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In recent years the United Nations has not reached its full potential.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump is expected to use what aides are calling a harsh tone in talking about the threat posed by North Korea.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump has a tall order. He needs to show that he can be a world leader.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, September 19th, 8:00 in the east. Chris is off. John Berman joins me. We have had a busy two hours.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Busy like 30 things going on.
CAMEROTA: That's right, and they still are.
So another monster hurricane is tearing through the Caribbean. Hurricane Maria taking aim at Puerto Rico. It is expected to make a direct hit in tomorrow. The island's governor says the impact could be, quote, "catastrophic." This is a dangerous category five storm. You can see what it's already doing, battering the islands of Dominica and Guadeloupe there.
BERMAN: Following several other big stories this morning, including the CNN exclusive. We have learned that the U.S. government wiretapped former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort amid concerns that he was communicating with Russian operatives trying to influence the election. In about two hours President Trump is expected to give his first address to the United Nations General Assembly. It will be, we are told, a deeply philosophical speech, that's what the White House says, and include warnings for North Korea and Iran.
We have this all covered for you this morning. Let's begin with meteorologist Chad Myers tracking now hurricane Maria. Chad?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Category five as of 5:10 a.m. For 10 minutes the storm was down to a category four before the hurricane hunter flew in and said, wait a minute, this is back to five. This is not a four. So up to 160 miles per hour, totally devastating Dominica overnight, not that far from Guadeloupe as well.
But Puerto Rico, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands under the gun right now as a category four or five, right there between 155 and 160, and to me, it's like what's the difference. It will bear down on St. Croix and Puerto Rico overnight tonight and make landfall likely tomorrow morning. There will be rainfall but the real damage will be surge and will also be wind damage.
This area here, Puerto Rico all the way through the British Virgin Islands and U.S. Virgin Islands and the country of Dominica, all going to be hit by these 150 mile per hour winds. And even with the wind and the rain we could see some mudslides, and also we could still see the potential for damage with flash flooding as well, as always.
The yellow track Irma, the red track, Maria. Maria is going to make the right-hand turn, at least we think so. So far, we'll see if it does, we always wait for that turn, guys. And right now we hope that it's a gutter ball between Bermuda and the U.S. 48.
CAMEROTA: Chad, with all of the attention on Maria, we seem to have forgotten for a second about hurricane Jose. Is that doing anything right now?
MYERS: Yes, let me get to it. It's here on this graphic. Hurricane Jose, it will eventually die out right in the Atlantic, but right now it's still 70 miles per hours, category one, category two, somewhere in there, about 75 miles per hours, then dying to a category nothing in about 48 hours, but it's still going to take a long time. This is Sunday, so it's almost five days away now, and it's still sitting in the same place making waves and some wind. The waves and the rip currents across the northeast are tremendous today. Stay out of the water, please. That's all you need to do.
BERMAN: Chad Myers, we will take your advice. Thanks so much, Chad.
Puerto Rico is bracing for a direct hit from hurricane Maria, that will happen tomorrow. The island still trying to recover from hurricane Irma. CNN's Nick Valencia is live in San Juan with a look at the situation there. Nick?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Hurricane Maria is not expected to make landfall here on the island territory until Wednesday afternoon, we have already started to see conditions deteriorate. Walk with me a little bit and I will show you what we are dealing with on the beach. These waves are starting to swell, and there's clouds earlier this morning. It was clear blue skies for the most part, and those clouds are starting to creep into this blue sky and eat up what is left of it.
We still see people on the beach. Earlier we saw some of these hotel officials try to keep people off the beach and clearly not listening. They want to get in their last good swim before what local officials say is going to be great very aggressive wind and rain sometime around 8:00 p.m. tonight. A short time ago Governor Rossello gave a press conference on Facebook Live and said conditions are going to get worse and worse by the hour. He also reminded people that flooding is going to be a major problem. In fact one of the locals told us we are actually in a flood zone that we're on the other side of a lagoon here where we're staying. This area floods during a normal rain event. That is not expected to be the case tomorrow. It's expected to be maybe perhaps even a category five.
[08:05:00] Shelters have been put in place, about 500 or so across the island. We also understand it's being reported that some food is being rationed, including baby formula because local and municipality officials want to make sure everyone has resources at their disposal once the storm hits. Very ominous warnings from the governor. He says we can't expect any miracles. This storm is not going to change and people here are preparing for the worst. Alisyn?
CAMEROTA: OK, Nick, thank you and be careful. Obviously we will check back with you.
Now to a CNN exclusive. Sources tell CNN that U.S. investigators wiretapped former Trump chairman Paul Manafort under a secret court order before and after the election. Our Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz, and Pamela Brown have broken this story for us, and we have all of the breaking details about why the government was listening to someone so close to the president. Evan Perez joins us now with his reporting. Tell us everything you have learned.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, sources tell us that the FBI got permission from the secret surveillance court to monitor Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman, before and after the election. This is an extraordinary step for the FBI to do surveillance of a high-ranking campaign official, and of course Paul Manafort is now at the center of the Russia meddling probe. We're told that there are intercepted communications that raised concerns about whether Manafort was encouraging Russians to help the campaign.
Other sources told us that the intelligence was not conclusive. Special counsel Robert Mueller's team has been provided all of these communications, Alisyn.
BERMAN: Encouraging Russia to help the campaign, Evan, what exactly does that mean?
PEREZ: There's a lot we don't know about exactly what was said. But we are told the FBI does have communications between suspected Russian operatives relaying what they claimed were discussions with Paul Manafort as well as communications involving Manafort himself. None of this has amounted to what officials tell us is considered a smoking gun in this investigation, and there's a lot more work being done to determine whether there's even a criminal violation here.
We didn't get a comment from Paul Manafort's spokesman, but Manafort has previously denied that he ever knowingly communicated with Russian intelligence operatives during the election, and he's also denied helping Russia undermine U.S. interests.
CAMEROTA: Evan, why two separate times? Why did they get two FISA warrants to monitor him?
PEREZ: Right. Well, the secret order that began on Manafort actually started began back when he was a subject of an FBI agent in 2014, and that centered on work that was being done by a group of Washington consulting firms, including his, for Ukraine's former ruling party, according to sources we have talked to. The surveillance was discontinued at some point last year for lack of evidence according to one of those sources.
The FBI then restarted the surveillance after obtaining a new FISA court warrant that extended at least into earlier this year. Sources say that the second warrant was actually part of the FBI's effort to try and figure out what was going on between these Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives. It's unclear when that new warrant was started. But as part of that FISA warrant we learned that earlier this year the FBI conducted a search of a storage facility belonging to Manafort. Of course we know in July the FBI raided his home outside of Washington.
BERMAN: In the timeframe here involved here, again, before Manafort worked for the campaign and after he worked for the campaign, do we know if Paul Manafort spoke to Donald Trump during this time?
PEREZ: We do. And that's the big, big question that hangs over this. We have been told by sources that the president and Manafort were still talk into earlier this year, that's well after the campaign and after the president took office. During this time the FBI was listening to Manafort's phone, so it is possible that those conversations were collected.
CAMEROTA: Evan, you remember the president tweeted that Trump Tower --
PEREZ: Oh, yes.
CAMEROTA: -- was wiretapped. So does this mean he was right?
PEREZ: Well, it doesn't. The Justice Department has denied that the president own lines were wiretapped, but, as we said, it is possible that he was picked on Manafort's surveillance. We know that Manafort has a residence in Trump Tower. It's not clear if the FBI did surveillance on him while he was there. As recently as last week the Justice Department told a certain court it wouldn't confirm or deny whether there was a FISA on any of this.
BERMAN: So both these FISA warrants came out before there was every such a thing as the Robert Mueller investigation, but what does it all mean now for that investigation?
PEREZ: All signs point to the fact that Mueller is moving quickly, that prosecutors and lawyers there working for him are pushing forward on Manafort. It's not clear what the plan here is, but as best as we can determine they do plan to charge him. This is something "The New York Times" reported last night, and according to our own sources, that is accurate.
[08:10:00] The picture that is emerging is that they are going to use financial issues, tax issues and possible financial crimes to put pressure on him and perhaps use that to flip him. Whether he has any actual information to provide for this broader investigation is the big question. But, again, the big unanswered question is what has been found to prove whether there's any crime in those connections, those weird connections that have emerged between the Trump campaign associates and the Russian government.
CAMEROTA: Evan, thank you so much for sharing all of that exclusive reporting with us.
Let's bring in our panel. We have CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, CNN politics reporter and editor at large Chris Cillizza, and CNN national security and legal analyst Susan Hennessey. Great to have all of you. Jeffrey Toobin, let's just start, Evan just gave us so much information there. Let's start at the end, that their reporting suggests that Paul Manafort will be charged with something and that they then might try to flip him or use him somehow to get to something different, something bigger, more information. What does that tell you?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It tells you that they think Paul Manafort is the key to this investigation. And if you look at the tactics they've used, especially the search warrant at his house, which is very unusual for a white collar crime investigation, not unprecedented, but it is an extremely aggressive tactic, and it suggests they really think Paul Manafort is still hiding things from them, and they want to get him to tell the truth and perhaps plead guilty in the process.
Whether he has committed and whether he has any information to implicate others we don't know. But it certainly shows that the Mueller investigation thinks Manafort is the key to an expanding investigation.
BERMAN: Susan Hennessey, you were part of a piece last night at blog trying to explain the significance of the developments overnight, it was about 30,000 words. I will sum it up in one word, it's really significant, this development. But you point out the timeframe here is fascinating because the FISA warrant, the first one was before Paul Manafort was involved in the campaign, the second after. So it's not necessarily clear as we sit here this morning what the investigation or what Robert Mueller might go after him for.
SUSAN HENNESSEY, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY ATTORNEY: Exactly. There really do appear to be two distinct investigations, but there are connections. The first one is into Paul Manafort's, that early FISA warrant was into Paul Manafort's connections to Ukrainian government officials. That predates the campaign. Then this later FISA warrant reportedly was issued in relation to the investigation into Russian and Trump campaign officials contacts. So the connective tissue there is Paul Manafort, his connection to individuals with Russian interests and connections to that country.
But we really are talking about two separate buckets here. What is interesting, as Jeffrey mentioned, that Mueller's team does appear to be mount pressure and be rather aggressive on Paul Manafort. The real question is what else might he know?
CAMEROTA: So Chris, obviously this is huge and breaking and exclusive that CNN has. This is more specific and bigger than things that we had heard previously. "The New York Times" also has new reporting with some color about what was going on at Paul Manafort's house while Robert Mueller's team is trying to poke around and get more information. So here's this from the "New York times." "Manafort was in bed early one morning in July when federal agents bearing a search warrant picked the lock on his front door and raided his Virginia home. They took binders stuffed with documents and copied his computer files. They even photographed the expensive suits in his closet. Special counsel Robert Meuller then followed the house search with a warning. His prosecutors told Mr. Manafort they planned to indict him." Your wheelhouse is politics. What does this all mean politically?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, EDITOR AT LARGE, CNN POLITICS: When I read it last night, I thought to myself, man, Tommy Lee Jones is going to play Bob Mueller in the movie. That kind of stuff really sounds like movie -- they are picking the lock and taking pictures of his suits and issuing warnings. To Susan's point, they are taking a very aggressive approach here.
I think you guys asked Evan about this, and what I have seen politically speaking is what you are seeing is Trump and his associates trying to conflate in some ways our reporting as it relates to the Manafort wiretapping to prove that Donald Trump's tweet in early March that he had been wiretapped is right. That's wrong, right? It's just wrong. Paul Manafort being wiretapped and Donald Trump being wiretapped on orders by Barack Obama are not the same thing. But you're going to, I think, see a lot of that muddle politically speaking.
But again, it's so important to remember this operates on two tracks. Yes, there's a political track. There is the attempt to discredit Bob Mueller. There is Donald Trump saying again and again this is a witch hunt.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: There is, you know, there is Donald Trump is saying again and again this is a witch hunt. [08:15:04] But the legal track continues and continues aggressively
and really operates in a lot of ways, while, of course, the political pressures are there, and operates totally separate from it. No matter what is said, well, see, Donald Trump was right -- Bob Mueller and his team of investigators, as these stories remind us, continue to sort of plod onward here in a way that politics is not terribly influenced by it.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANAYST: Can I make one point about the investigation?
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.
TOOBIN: You know, we put a lot of emphasis on who will testify? Will Donald Trump, Jr., testify? You know, these cases are made or not made based on evidence, tapes, emails, paper trail, that's where this case is going to stand or fall.
You know, we know that witnesses by and large are not going to implicate Donald Trump if they are not forced to buy a paper or electronic record. The fact that there are tapes, there are e-mails, that's what this case is really going to come down to, not the testimony.
BERMAN: There are tapes, again, a significant phrase right there that we could not have said yesterday because we did not know that to be the case.
You know, Susan Hennessy, Chris used the term plodding along, the Robert Mueller investigation plodding, and I'm not disagreeing with Chris Cillizza, because that would be in my own peril.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Of course, not, dangerous.
BERMAN: But is this investigation moving perhaps much more rapidly than we realized? I mean, one of the things in "The New York Times" piece that they said, is that Robert Mueller hates long, winding investigations. He wants this to be over as quickly as possible.
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY & LEGAL ANALYST: Also one thing to keep in mind is there are a lot of different threads here. So, we have one investigation into Paul Manafort. We have investigations into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. So, there are a lot of pieces.
This is an indication that the Manafort sort of piece of this investigation has progressed to the next phase. If he has, in fact, received a target letter but informed he was a target, not exactly clear from "The New York Times" reporting what occurred but he has been informed he's going to be indicted. That might mean that Robert Mueller is prepared for the next stage, which is the litigation stage.
It's also the stage in which Mueller might be prepared to make allegations in public for the first time.
TOOBIN: And -- I'm sorry, Susan, go ahead. CILLIZZA: No, Jeff, I just want to make one quick point about Manafort. In Trump's judgment that we haven't talked about yet, remember that first the Ukrainian FISA warrant on Manafort well predates when he was brought onto the Trump campaign. Even the most basic sort of digging, I mean, would produce, not necessarily that there was a FISA warrant against Paul Manafort, but he had done a lot of work in foreign countries, some of it that had raised questions.
I mean, I heard those sorts of things when Manafort was brought on, and yet Donald Trump instituted him at the top of his campaign in order to try to secure him the nomination. So, that's not a legal thing but it does get to the judgment factor. You could have seen the potential problem with Paul Manafort coming a mile away.
This was not -- this was not something that even with the most basic digging you might have been able to surface.
BERMAN: Jeffrey, you want to add --
CILLIZZA: Sorry, Jeff.
TOOBIN: Well, I just, in terms of, you know, the different areas of investigation, the one that we should not forget is the whole idea of a possible obstruction of justice by firing James Comey who was investigating the president. I mean, that is obviously, another major focus of the Mueller investigation.
BERMAN: And again, it's no small thing when a president's campaign chair is indicted. If that happens, that's a giant, giant thing. We tend to overlook the significance of just that one statement.
All right. Susan, Jeffrey, Chris, thank you very, very much.
President Trump is preparing to make his first address at the United Nations. How will he balance his America first policy with a call on world leaders to work together? We will discuss, coming up.
[08:22:33] BERMAN: President Trump set to address the U.N. General Assembly this morning. This is what he wrote just a few minutes ago: Big day at the United Nations, many good things and some tricky ones happening. We have a great team. Big speech at 10:00 a.m.
CNN is told the president will deliver a deeply philosophical address. That is what the White House is calling it. He will single out North Korea and Iran.
I want to bring in CNN political and national security analyst David Sanger, and former Congresswoman Jane Harman. She is the director, president and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson Center.
Congresswoman, let's start with you, because yesterday, we had Tony Blair, the former prime minister of the Great Britain here, and he was saying the world is confused by President Trump, they want clarity from the president today. We are told he will give a deeply philosophical speech somehow marrying America First with the notion of working together towards common goals. Possible?
JANE HARMAN, DIRECTOR, PRESIDENT & CEO, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: I think it's possible. The world is confusing. I am not sure anybody could make total sense of it, including Tony Blair who admits that. He says we have to think in new ways about it.
I would have to give Trump high marks for putting North Korea at the top of the agenda. There's been a policy failure over three administrations. The -- I think the Clinton administration didn't do an adequate deal. The Bush administration repudiated it. The Obama administration focused on Iran and not North Korea, and now, North Korea is the most dangerous place in the world and Trump is focusing on it.
From what I hear, he's going to read his text today and stay within some boundaries. Nikki Haley is very capable is at the U.N. and this is his biggest foreign policy stage so far in his presidency and he might say things that are very helpful in clarifying how he sees the world and how the rest of the countries in the world who are also worried about North Korea ought to see the world.
CAMEROTA: Well, he has been talking and it is different. I mean, what he said yesterday at the U.N. is quite different than obviously what he said on the campaign trail, David Sanger. He's taking more conciliatory tone. Yesterday, he was talking about, however, that the U.N. does have problems. So, let me play for you what he said yesterday, how he characterized it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In recent years, the United Nations has not reached its full potential because of bureaucracy and mismanagement. While the United Nations on a regular budget increased 140 percent, and its staff has more than doubled since 2000, we are not seeing the results in line with this investment.
[08:25:02] But I know that under the secretary general that's changing and it's changing fast.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: What did you think about what you heard yesterday and how different it was than what he said previously about the U.N.?
DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, you know, Alisyn, it reminded me of the things that he used to say about NATO. Remember during the campaign, he would say NATO was obsolete and the U.N., he said, was undemocratic. Once he came in and NATO had done relatively little to change, he said NATO was no longer obsolete.
And in the U.N.'s case, he's got a reasonable argument to make that the bureaucracy has gotten out of control and that the return on the investment the country's make, particularly the United States, which is obviously the largest supporter of the U.N., has been relatively low. He's got a difficult balancing act today as Jane alluded to. The
first is that he comes as a president that talked about America first and he's in a building that is 15 blocks and a world away from Trump Tower, which is to say that it's all about the world first and the United States as one if the most powerful among many nations. Walking that line is going to be difficult.
Then on Iran, he's got to make the argument that the -- that he will leave the agreement, the 2015 Iran nuclear accord, if it doesn't get amended, extended and so forth. And he's going to probably be a little vague about what his standards would be. And this is difficult because the European countries are not coming with him if the U.S. bails out.
And then on Korea, he's got the additional problem that it's hard to make the argument you will reach a diplomatic agreement with the North Koreans if they have seen you just leave or threaten to leave a nuclear agreement with Iran. They would say, why would we trust this administration?
So, there's a lot of inner relationship he didn't have to deal with during the campaign, but he does have to deal with as president.
BERMAN: And, David, one of the things that's clearly much more under discussion right now, at least publicly than ever before in dealing with North Korea is the so-called military action. Defense Secretary James Mattis is looking at all different possibilities. And one thing he said overnight was he noted that the United States hasn't tried to shoot down any of the North Korean missile launches yet because the missiles weren't headed towards the United States or Guam, but it's possible they might try to do that in the future.
Does that move the bar at all?
CAMEROTA: To you, David.
SANGER: Well, it certainly would seem to me to move it because right now, the U.S. has only done this if they thought they were threatened. I would be interested to hear what Congresswoman Harman has to say about this, but shooting down a missile not aimed at your territory is a risky act, and it's not as risky as taking down on the pad, but it would certainly start us down a road to conflict.
CAMEROTA: What do you think, Congresswoman?
HARMAN: Well, a couple things. David is a former and future scholar at the Wilson Center, so he's very smart.
HARMAN: And we should listen carefully.
On this, yes, it's risky, and intercepting at missile at boost phase, that's what David was just talking about, on the launch pad is probably riskier. What will the North Koreans understand if we do this? I don't think anyone wants to provoke a military confrontation with Seoul just down and at reach of conventional weapons from the southern part of North Korea. I mean, 20 million people live there.
On the other hand, this -- the message isn't received yet. We have to contain this program. The world wants to contain this program.
I strongly agree with what David just said about Iran. If the Trump administration tries to get out of that deal, it will send a very disturbing I think and destabilizing message to North Korea. Iran is complying with that deal. All of the intelligence agencies think it is.
It has engaged in provocative behavior in the region, but that was not part of the deal. As Wilson scholar Rob Litwak, David quotes all the time, says that deal was a transaction, not a transformation. And we need to be very, very careful.
I think the Trump team is doing a much better job, and he was praising the team and I want to praise Nikki Haley. I think she's doing a star turn as our representative at the U.N.
CAMEROTA: That's great to hear.
Congresswoman Harman, David Sanger, thank you very much for being with us.
So, the GOP is taking another shot at repealing Obamacare. Days ago, they have a new plan that they are putting forward against the deadline of September 30th. What are Democrats planning to do to stop this? We have a senator here next.