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Manafort and Gates Charged with Conspiracy against the U.S.; No Response from White House; Robert Mueller Investigation. Aired 9:30- 10:00a ET
Aired October 30, 2017 - 09:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:30:00] JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Justice, the making of false statements to the Treasury Department do not refer at all to the Trump campaign. However, he is -- both Manafort and Gates are charged with a conspiracy, together with others, unnamed, to defraud the United States, a conspiracy that took place while Manafort was the campaign chairman for Donald Trump, while Gates was working for Donald Trump. And that's a problem. And, you know, what contacts Manafort and Gates had with the Trump campaign and the Trump White House, after the president was inaugurated, is something that's going to be of great interest to Robert Mueller and, I suspect, of great interest to us as well.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: That White House talking point, though, is telling. They are grasping on to something which is, in fact, true --
BERMAN: That the White House not mention inside this 12-count indictment.
TOOBIN: And that is --
BERMAN: Doesn't have --
TOOBIN: That's a very fair point.
BERMAN: To do directly, as far as we can tell, with campaign matters --
BERMAN: At least not yet.
Shimon Prokupecz, look, we know that Paul Manafort has had Bob Mueller on him hard for the last several months, including that no-knock raid on his house. Someone else who has been, you know, questioned extensively, or at least probed extensively, is Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser right now. Where else has Robert Mueller's team been looking to give us a sense of where they might head next?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, it's very hard to tell right, really, where they may head next. And you almost wonder if the president had not fired the FBI director where we would be right now. And would we even -- you know, we wouldn't have a special counsel and perhaps maybe all of this would be over now. But, obviously, the investigation by Bob Mueller has expanded into other parts of -- into other parts.
So we know that they have been looked at some of -- the special counsel has been looking at some of the FaceBook stuff and some of the Twitter stuff. We know that other people close to the campaign and at one point close to the president have been in and have been interviewed by the special counsel. They're not under investigation, like the former chief of staff, Reince Priebus, the former spokesperson at the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer. Those people have been in there, have been interviewed, and that we believe has more to do with the investigation into the firing of the former FBI director. And there may be other people who have been there, that we just don't know yet.
The grand jury proceeding that has been going on was sort of used to bring in people who were not willing to come in and cooperate with special counsel. So we did see instances where witnesses were brought in before the grand jury because, we were told, they were not cooperating with the special counsel. So he would bring them in and seat them before the grand jury and ask questions.
And other than really some of those people, we really don't have a window into where things stand now with this investigation. All we know is, obviously, that it's just not over and it's going to keep going until some other questions can be answered.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: OK, guys, stay with us. There's a lot more to get through. We're not through all 31 pages yet, but we are getting some color from inside of the White House.
Our Jeff Zeleny is reporting that the White House lawyers are sitting down with the president this morning to talk about all of this, the charges against Manafort and Gates. No official statement yet from the White House. Much more when we get back.
[09:37:41] BERMAN: All right, the breaking news this morning is this, the 31-page, 12-count indictment against Paul Manafort, the former campaign chair for President Donald Trump, also Rick Gates, who worked in the campaign, 12 counts. Some of them up on the screen right now. A huge day for the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and not to mention, the White House.
Joining us now, CNN political analyst Alex Burns and Amie Parnes, and CNN contributor Bianna Golodryga.
You know, Amy, this is one of the biggest moments for the presidency to date. And we know the president's behind closed doors right now meeting with his lawyers talking about something.
AMIE PARNES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. He's very quiet. He hasn't said anything until a tweet -- since a tweet this morning. This is a big moment. He has -- when you look at his agenda this week, he's trying to move along tax -- his tax legislation. He's trying to actually put some points on the board. And he hasn't been able to do that so far. And when you think about Republicans and what they need going into next year, they desperately need this. This is really bad timing for him.
I mean I know the White House is trying to distance it and say, you know, this is all about Manafort and he was only on the campaign for three months. But, you know, Gates was also on the campaign for a long time and so this actually reflects poorly, I think, on the White House.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: But you could also say that they were trying to cushion the blow. I mean over the past weekend you've seen Ty Cobb, the president's lawyer, speaking out to "The New York Times," to other publications, sort of distancing the administration, the president from Paul Manafort, acknowledging that this could very well come down the pike and say, you know, the president wishing him well, but he wasn't that involved with the campaign. We know that's not true.
HARLOW: But the problem with that is just the facts.
HARLOW: I mean I should note that, I mean, as Jeffrey Toobin rightly pointed out, the Trump campaign, the president not mentioned anywhere in these 31 pages of this indictment.
But, Alex, Paul Manafort chaired the campaign for five months. The two men, the president and Manafort, kept talking for months beyond that until their respective lawyers demanded they stop and Rick Gates stayed on, raised millions of dollars for the president, helped chair the inaugural committee until his concerns about his work in Ukraine were too much and he was pushed out of that super PAC. So those are just the facts. So doesn't the White House have to grapple with that and address them in their response?
ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: They probably do. And on top of everything you just listed, which was pretty comprehensive, they might have to address why Paul Manafort was hired in the first place, when every issue -- nearly every issue mentioned in this indictment was at least widely suspected about Paul Manafort for years. That he's somebody who at the time he was hired by the Trump campaign was seen as someone who had been involved in some pretty shady stuff in Ukraine and who seemed to live a lavish lifestyle beyond his reported means.
[09:40:16] So this is not stuff that should catch anyone at the White House by surprise. And it's not something that should catch President Trump or, you know, thinking back on his, you know, thought process and hiring process as candidate Trump, by surprise, either.
BERMAN: Again, we are waiting to hear from the president and his staff directly. The early word from our reporting, Jim Acosta, Jeff Zeleny, the White House pleased it doesn't touch them directly.
HARLOW: Absolutely. BERMAN: But, again, this could just be the beginning.
Amie, one of the things that will be interesting, not just the White House response, but the Republican reaction to the White House response. How will Republicans deal with this? Now, we heard Sean Duffy, congressman was on "NEW DAY" this morning, and he continued to talk about Hillary Clinton. He continued to talk about the fact that the focus should be somewhere else, even now that we have charges.
PARNES: That's the thing. I've heard from numerous sources that President Trump has been stewing for months. He's been saying, why isn't the focus on Hillary Clinton a little bit more? And so this actually, last week's news that they're hoping up these -- you know, talking to more and more people and opening up these inquiries on Hillary Clinton, it's sort of being pushed by the White House. He's been frustrated. And I think -- I think the White House wants to continue that narrative. And they're happy that they haven't been mentioned.
But, like I said earlier, I think this does reflect poorly and I think they need to address it. And it's going to loom large over the White House and continue so in the coming months.
HARLOW: We've seen, Bianna, in the past few days, calls growing a little louder from Murdoch Publications, "The Wall Street Journal," "The New York Post," and from some (INAUDIBLE) for Mueller to resign. I man this is after so many Republicans like Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie were glowing and effusive in their praise of him when he was named special counsel. Now they're saying he should resign.
GOLODRYGA: It's interesting, after CNN broke the news Friday that this was coming, there were people speculating as to whether the president would order a Saturday night massacre and fire Mueller over the weekend.
GOLODRYGA: The truth of the matter is, it's much harder to classify this as fake news now that it's out there, now that these indictments exist. And the question is, what this administration does going forward? I president has, as we mentioned, anticipated that this may happen. I think we all kind of had once we -- we heard that police were walking out with suits when they raided Manafort's house. I mean, what were they looking for, clearly, more evidence along this line.
But it will be interesting to see if the president continues down the anti-Hillary Clinton narrative. We were talking backstage. Imagine if this had been John Podesta. Republicans would have been outraged, I would imagine. Now we're not hearing very much about that.
BERMAN: There is a lot of talk, I should say, in the ability that I've had to scan these 31 pages right now, of lobbying firms "a" and "b" that were hired by Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.
BERMAN: It's not impossible that that is the Podesta group over time.
GOLODRYGA: It's true.
BERMAN: So it's not impossible that there is a connection there.
BURNS: What's telling here, I think, though, in terms of the Republican Party, you're hearing, as you said, Poppy, from Murdoch Publications that Mueller's got to go. The president should get rid of Murdoch (ph). You're not hearing the that from senior Republicans or even many junior Republicans in Washington. The official Republican Party seems to be taking a sort of "hide under our desk" approach to the indictment so far. That's not going to be a sustainable pose over the course of the week.
GOLODRYGA: But, if I could just say, as Amie pointed out, regardless of how the White House paints the picture right now and the president's reaction, this is not good news for an administration that, a, wants to finally embrace a tax plan that is supposed to be unveiled this week, a Fed chair announcement supposed to take place this week. The president's leaving for what's large -- what's loomed as his largest and most important foreign policy trip at the end of this week. I mean all of this a traditional administration would be dealing with right now, not a federal indictment.
BERMAN: Can we give you a dramatic reading? You got to do the last one. Can I do this one?
BERMAN: This one is from Sara Murray, another one of our terrific White House reporters. We keep on getting intel from inside the West Wing right now.
BERMAN: A source close to the White House tells Sara Murray that the bad behavior of Manafort/Gates has little to do with the Trump campaign or Russia investigation. This is a quote. These guys were bad guys when they started. They were bad guys when they left. The indictment has nothing to do with any relationship to Russia. And then, as for the president, he takes the information on its face. It has nothing to do with him. And then here's a key. This person said the president is not planning to try to fire Robert Mueller.
BURNS: That's kind of extraordinary that the best White House response at this point is to acknowledge that the president hired some really bad guys, right? That those are their words, not, you know, anyone else on the outside editorializing or criticizing.
But, look, I do think in terms of the larger trajectory of the Mueller investigation and a conversation about the Mueller investigation, this makes it awfully difficult to sideline or fire a special prosecutor once there are actual prosecutions in play. You'd have to make the case that somehow Mueller had errored in indicting Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, and nobody is saying that this morning.
GOLODRYGA: Can we take a step back?
[09:45:01] GOLODRYGA: Did she say that the president --
GOLODRYGA: That this guy's always been a bad guy? Because if that's the case, why would you --
HARLOW: Always bad guy when they started, bad guy when they left. Which goes to whoever make the good point of, why did they hire in the first place?
GOLODRYGA: Why would he be your campaign chairman? They would he be the one who appoints your VP?
BERMAN: The president apparently didn't say that. That was a source within the West Wing --
HARLOW: This is a source.
BERMAN: Whose defense was, these guys were bad guys when they started, they were bad guys when they left.
HARLOW: Right. But the -- back to the thinking. That's the thinking there.
Let me ask you this, Bianna. This stood out to me. This is a White House source saying on the indictment specifically, it had nothing to do with any relationship to Russia. I mean this is about Manafort and his time while he was working for Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia, who was seen as a puppet of Putin and Russia. What do you make of that?
GOLODRYGA: And we've seen of the ties with Oleg Deripaska --
GOLODRYGA: Another billionaire and oligarch, who at one point was not allowed to have a visa to come to the U.S. as well.
Look, the president can say this was a one-off or what not. I guess the bigger question is, are we going to see Mueller go into the president's finances dating years back? And that's something that people are questioning, were there Russian ties there? Were there relations with Russian businessman for the president? The president said that was a red line at one point. So we'll see if he reacts.
BERMAN: You know, Amie, not collusion. This wasn't Russian collusion. I can hear that as something we hear, you know, any minute now coming from republicans on Capitol Hill.
PARNES: Right. No, I mean, and obviously the White House is going to continue to push this. As Sara pointed out, they're going to continue to say, oh, these guys aren't our guys. But the fact of the matter is, this was a guy who was his campaign chairman. This was someone else, Rick Gates, who worked on the campaign. I mean it's not a good day for the White House. And as Bianna pointed out earlier, he's about to embark on this huge trip, he has a huge week ahead of him and he -- all he can do now is focus on this.
BURNS: In some ways that's a huge opportunity for the president, right, that the typical presidential damage control playbook in situations like this is to get out in the country, get out across the world, show you're doing the people's business, show that you're engaged in important stuff that's more important than whatever the legal issues or scandal issues are back in Washington. And if the president can control himself and focus on that, that's the opportunity of a foreign trip and tax reform (INAUDIBLE).
HARLOW: Maybe. I mean, you know, right, that's the lesson from Clinton, from Bush 43.
HARLOW: Will he do it? No tweets yet.
BERMAN: No tweets yet. We are watching very carefully.
We're also looking to see if the president's spokesman, Sarah Sanders, comes out and says something out loud, because this could merit some kind of public statement. She is planning on briefing later today.
You know, Alex, Amie, Bianna, thanks so much for being us.
Again, the breaking news, the first charges in the Russian investigation. We're waiting to see Paul Manafort and Rick Gates as they head over to the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C. Will they speak? Will they address the press on their way?
Stay with us.
[09:51:56] BERMAN: All right, the breaking news this morning, former campaign chair for President Trump, Paul Manafort, and associate Rick Gates, they've turned themselves in. They've surrendered. They're being processed by the FBI. I'm holding up right now 31 pages, a 12- count indictment against these two men for charges ranging from lying and money laundering, all sorts of stuff, over a very long period of time.
HARLOW: Including conspiracy against the United States.
A lot to get to. Let's bring in our political director, David Chalian, and CNN contributor and author Garrett Graff. His book, "The Threat Matrix," traces the history of the FBI. So, David Chalian, to you. The time period here, what's included in this indictment which spans, you know, 11 critical years, the time period is significant in terms of the time that Manafort and Rick Gates worked for and with the Trump team.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: That's right, Poppy. It's important, as we're discussing these two figures who have not been part of the Trump White House, to remind everyone, at the time at which Rick Gates and Paul Manafort were running the Trump campaign, remember, Donald Trump had just basically secured the nomination, but then there was this extensional threat from never Trumpers in the Republican Party to try to deny him the nomination in Cleveland at the convention. The people in charge of that effort of squashing that, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.
So to hear Sara Murray's source say these were bad guys when they came in and they're bad guys when they go out, that means that Donald Trump brought in what somebody is describing as bad guys to deal with a very real threat to his nomination as the Republican nominee for president. And this is at the very same time of that infamous Donald Trump Jr. meeting in June of 2016 with the Russian attache, if you will, the lawyer who was clearly there to deliver opposition research to harm Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump. And you'll recall that Paul Manafort was a part of that meeting because he was so central to what the campaign was doing.
So while the indictment today may not say "Russia" or "collusion" or "Trump campaign," and it certainly doesn't and we're going to hear that as a big talking point from the White House and Republicans throughout the day, I think we'd be foolish to think that this will never touch Russia when you look at Paul Manafort's actions at the time he was running the campaign.
BERMAN: You know, Garrett Graff, you've written extensively on Robert Mueller right now. And in my hands is this 31-page, 12-count indictment, which is incredibly complicated, incredibly detailed. I'm not sure you've had a chance to go through the finer print here. But what does this tell you about how this man is conducting this investigation right now?
GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: So this is almost exactly the indictment that you would expect first out of the gate with Bob Mueller. It is, as you said, complicated, but it's also incredibly comprehensive. And it's grounded, we assume, because it's primarily financially related in written documents, in traceable transactions. There's not a lot here that speaks to what someone might have said.
These are hard black and white details in writing, in financial transactions and really I think that one of the ways that we should think about this indictment today is, this is 12 reasons why Paul Manafort should start having some long conversations with Bob Mueller's investigative team.
[09:55:08] HARLOW: David Chalian, the time period here, if you look at one of the counts or the end here, count 38, between 2006-2017, it talks about Manafort and Gates knowing -- with other parties, by the way, knowingly and intentionally conspiring to defraud the United States. That is while he was -- Manafort -- chairing the campaign during a critical point in time. Of course, the point when the president sealed the Republican nomination.
CHALIAN: I haven't gotten to that count yet, but I don't -- is that perhaps tied to not properly disclosing work as being, you know, on behalf of a foreign agent and therefore is that part of the conspiracy that they're saying against the United States there, unregulated agent of a foreign principal. That is last point there.
And that is wow. You are right to note. This is -- this was going on while he -- some of this was going on while he was at the helm of the Trump campaign. And you'll recall, when they fired him at that time and got rid of him from the campaign, Eric Trump was on TV talking about how much they believed Paul Manafort's other work to be a total distraction from the campaign. It's why thy jettisoned it (ph).
You know, Garrett, you note that the FBI typically doesn't go after people, they go after organizations. You also note that when you're going after a pyramid, you start at the bottom, not at the top. This is Paul Manafort campaign chairman. There's not much higher than that if you're going after someone higher in an organization.
GRAFF: Well, except that when you look at these charges, as the Trump White House is already saying this morning, they have nothing to do with the core of this question about Russia and collusion. And that this -- these are sort of long standing business deals.
One of the things that I think stands out in this indictment is that this is not a couple of paperwork errors. And so, you know, why did Paul Manafort join this campaign in the first place?
HARLOW: Yes. This is knowingly, intentionally, those are words used throughout this indictment.
Gentlemen, thank you both very much.
David, we know you have a lot of work to get to as our political director on this day. Thank you.
Nice to have you, as well, Garrett. We appreciate it.
BERMAN: All right, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, they are being processed by the FBI at the field office. Then they will head to this building, the federal courthouse in Washington D.C. There will be hearings there.
We are watching every move. We'll bring you the very latest, next.