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Manafort and Gates Plead Not Guilty; Papadopoulos Plea Deal; Trump Polls Numbers Sink. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired October 30, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: -- foreign entity being Russia. And so I think that the defense is one you would expect, as Gloria pointed out, but it's one that's not going to hold a lot of legal water now that you have a guilty plea.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Evan Perez is over at the federal courthouse here in Washington.

You've got some breaking news, Evan. Update our viewers.


I just walked out of the courthouse where Paul Manafort and Rick Gates were appearing before a magistrate judge. They just entered a plea of not guilty to all 12 counts in this indictment. There was a little bit of a surprise at the top of the hearing because Manafort was represented by his attorney, who we've known for several weeks. Rick Gates' attorney was not there. It's not clear exactly why he was represented today by a public defender and the public defender told the judge that Rick Gates plans to hire his own private attorney, but that attorney was not here today. So in his stead, there was a public defender there who entered a plea of not guilty for Rick Gates.

Again, both Paul Manafort and Rick Gates entered not guilty pleas. The judge has now set forth a schedule for future hearings before the judge that's actually going to be hearing this case. We expect in a little while we're going to hear at least from Paul Manafort's attorney, who's going to come out here and speak to the cameras right after this court hearing.

The two men did not speak. Manafort and Gates did not speak during the court hearing. They just entered, they came in and said their name when the judge asked them and apart from that they did not say anything.

But, Wolf, at this point they've entered not guilty pleas here before the magistrate judge in federal court.

BLITZER: Very significant developments indeed.

Evan, we're going to stay in very close touch with you.

That's it for me. Thanks for watching.

Brooke Baldwin picks up our special coverage right now. Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Wolf, I'm going to take it from here. Thank you, sir.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me. You're watching CNN's special coverage of a landmark day of this Russia investigation.

Moments ago you saw there the spokeswoman at the White House, Sarah Sanders, responding to this news today. Not only had the first charges been filed as CNN first reported, but the first guilty plea is now in the books and the plea specifically involves Trump campaign ties to Russia.

This comes from George Papadopoulos, the campaign's former foreign policy adviser. He admitted he lied to the FBI about his communications with Russians and now we are hearing that he is indeed cooperating with authorities. Could even more charges be filed against these two men? Paul Manafort, who led the Trump campaign for four months, and his business associate, Rick Gates, who also worked on the campaign. The two just pleaded not guilty in court. Right around the same time that that White House held its press briefing.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Today's announcement has nothing to do with the president, has nothing to do with the president's campaign or campaign activity. The real collusion scandal, as we've said several times before, has everything to do with the Clinton campaign, Fusion GPS and Russia. There's clear evidence of the Clinton campaign colluding with Russian intelligence to spread disinformation and smear the president to influence the election. We've been saying from day one there's been no evidence of Trump- Russia collusion and nothing in the indictment today changes that at all.

QUESTION: But the George Papadopoulos agreement (ph) is about the campaign. It is specifically about the campaign.

SANDERS: It has nothing to do with the activities of the campaign. It has to do with his failure to tell the truth. That doesn't have anything to do with the campaign or the campaign's activities.

QUESTION: But it is the clearest evidence yet of ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. So --

SANDERS: Again, there are no activities or official capacity of which the Trump campaign was engaged in any of these activities. Most of them took place well before the campaign ever even existed.


BALDWIN: We will have much more on the moment, the Manafort-Gates indictment here.

This is Manafort surrendering this morning. So far the allegations, he and Gates -- involving him and Gates do not involve the Trump campaign, the conspiracy of money laundering, but we have to start with Papadopoulos.

And I realize this is a name that many of you perhaps are not familiar with, so let me just back up and set this up here. Investigators say he did not tell the truth on multiple occasions, including his interaction with someone labeled foreign contact one within this criminal complaint, someone he called, quote, nothing.

But I want you to take a look at what investigators later found in e- mails written by him, quote, just finished a very productive lunch with a good friend of mine, that's foreign contact one, who introduced me to both Putin's niece and the Russian ambassador to London, who also acts as the deputy foreign minister. It goes on, the topic of the lunch was to arrange a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss U.S.-Russia ties under President Trump.

[14:05:01] So let's start with that piece. I've got CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto.

And, listen, there is a lot. We've all been reading through this affidavit on this George Papadopoulos. But people are really taking a note, page eight, section 19, footnote two. It is the footnote that people are latching on to. Talk to me about that.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is one, we should say, of more than one references to communications back and forth regarding -- inside the Trump campaign regarding communications with Russian officials.

So here is one here. It relates to an e-mail that was sent by Papadopoulos to another high-ranking campaign official, which a Senate Intelligence Committee source tells me is Paul Manafort. And it talks about a request from Russia to meet with Mr. Trump. The e-mail goes on to say, Russia has been eager to meet Trump for quite some time and had been reaching out to me to discuss.

This footnote then relates to that e-mail. It was forwarded from Manafort on to another campaign official, which I'm is told -- I'm told is Gates, who responds, let's discuss. We need someone to communicate that DT, presumably Donald Trump, is not doing these trips. It should be someone lower level in the campaign so as not to send any signal, which -- which seem to indicate some desire to keep under wraps the kinds of communications they're talking about.

And I want to draw your attention then, Brooke, to another e-mail that goes in August. So a couple of week -- a few weeks later, where a campaign supervisor tells George Papadopoulos, quote, I would encourage you and another foreign policy adviser at the campaign, quote, to make the trip if it is feasible.

The point up -- the reason I bring this up now is we just heard really the first pushback from the White House on what we learned today regarding the statement of offense by George Papadopoulos saying he was low level, volunteer, didn't -- no one really dealt with him. In fact, there were a number of e-mails that belie that fact. You have senior campaign officials responding to, forwarding his e-mails on and, in fact, instructing him to carry out meetings with Russians.

So you just heard Sarah Sanders there, from behind the White House podium saying, he was a volunteer. He was on a committee that met once. Well, the president mentions him in March --

BALDWIN: And she said, Jim -- she said -- sorry to just jump in, but just to underline your point, she said off the top, today's news has nothing to do with the president.

SCIUTTO: Right. Well, and she says -- and then she sort of specified by saying, nothing to do with campaign activity. This is campaign activity.


SCIUTTO: This is a foreign policy adviser, in touch with other senior -- more senior members of that team. So she says he was a guy, he was a volunteer, he was at one meeting. Not true. There are e-mails that go months after he's took this position with the campaign where he's in touch with senior campaign officials informing them of offers from Russia to meet and discuss dirt on Hillary Clinton, offers that other members of the campaign, in fact senior members of the campaign instructed him to go ahead and take these meetings.

So it belies the description, one, that he was a nobody, and, two, that what we're talking about here, rather what the statement of offense talks about here, had nothing to do with campaign activity. This is campaign activity. It's just -- it's hard to see how the defense you're hearing from behind the White House podium stands up with the facts.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes. Let's call it what it is, which is precisely what you just did.

Jim Sciutto, thank you so much.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Let's broaden this out. I have Carl Bernstein with me, CNN political analyst, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, and CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

So, gentlemen, OK, we've got a lot to get to. Just start -- I just want both of your reactions. I mean to Jim's point on how clearly Sarah Sanders was trying to diminish any sort of role that George Papadopoulos had within the campaign, but is this the closest to potential collusion that we have seen so far?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: No, there's no question that these -- the e-mails in the charging document in the filing that Mueller's team went with in the Papadopoulos case is the most detailed statement yet we have about how the Trump campaign thought about Russia, dealt with Russia, in addition to the June e-mails about the meeting that Donald Trump Jr. had.

BALDWIN: Talked (ph) about. TOOBIN: Which I think -- you know, it -- the only way to look at these things is holistically, as together, because they all suggest an extreme interest in meeting with Russia, which we -- you know, you need to say is unusual for a presidential campaign.

And when you combine that with Paul Manafort, during precisely this period, was the campaign chairman. And we know from the indictment how much money he was making from the Ukrainian interests that were allied with Putin, you start to see a fuller picture of a campaign that was deeply interested in and perhaps involved with Russia. And that is a very important part of this investigation.

BALDWIN: What are you thinking, Carl?

[14:10:03] CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, these documents show what a serious, sober, methodical investigation Mueller is conducting and it puts an absolute lie to the Trump campaign and Donald Trump's negations of there ought to be an investigation. This is why there needs to be an investigation. And this investigation needs to continue until the facts are known and if Trump maintains they exonerate him and his aides that's one thing. But we are in deadly serious territory in which a conspiracy is outlined among these indictments. When you put the dots together, it is a about a conspiracy.

But most really important that we have not known about is it shows that the Trump campaign knew about people having possession of the e- mails, of Hillary Clinton's e-mails supposedly, back in March of 2016. This is, I believe, quite a revelation. I don't think we've known until now that they knew anything about it.

And what you see through all of these documents that have been produced for the court is the salivating by which campaign officials were just hungering for dirt on Hillary Clinton. That's understandable. The Clinton campaign wanted dirt on Donald Trump also. But they knew that they wanted information through the Russians who were seeking at the time a removal of sanctions, a different kind of relationship with a new president. So everything we've been hearing from the first time about collusion becomes at least plausible in a documented way.

BALDWIN: OK. So herein lies the next question. If reportedly now Papadopoulos is cooperating with the feds.


BALDWIN: And so if he's cooperating, and if he's talking, does that then mean that he is, to use the phrase flipped, and should other people in Mueller's sights and also the White House be nervous?

TOOBIN: Absolutely. Well, he clearly has flipped. There's no doubt about that. The document says that he is now meeting with the investigators and talking to them.

You know, I -- we need to, you know, pause and say, just because you're meeting with investigators and telling them what you know doesn't necessarily mean that you are saying incriminating facts about other people.

BALDWIN: About x, y and z.

TOOBIN: We don't know what he is saying about the other people. Certainly he is explaining the context of the e-mails that are discussed in this document.

If I can just make a slightly separate point --


TOOBIN: That I think is not really very controversial. This indictment today is a complicated indictment, the one of Manafort and Gates. There is no way in the criminal -- federal criminal justice system this case could even go to trial within six months. There are going to be motions. There's going to be discovery. There are going to be legal arguments. This investigation is going well into 2018, if not longer, as a result of what happened today. And I think that's just something, you know, people --

BALDWIN: Perspective. This is going to last a while.

TOOBIN: People need to think about. People may be disappointed about that. They may be happy about that. But the Mueller investigation is around for at least another year.

BALDWIN: Jim Sciutto, I think, is also just trying to chime in on the conversation on Paul Manafort specifically.

Go ahead, Jim.

SCIUTTO: On Manafort and Gates, because Papadopoulos, because what we learned there is so potentially explosive and relates directly to the Russia investigation, let's not forget what crimes they're charged with. Just a couple of things.

Manafort was lobbying members of the U.S. Congress against U.S. foreign policy positions. He was lobbying for a party in Ukraine that is anti-NATO. NATO, of course, U.S. is in that alliance, very key member of that alliance. He was lobbying member of U.S. Congress in support of the jailing of a political opponent of the Russian-backed president of Ukraine.

So these are not small things in the big issue when you talk about an American here who was not just cooperating with, but working for a foreign leader, a Russian-backed foreign leader very much against U.S. interests.

So, yes, while those crimes or alleged crimes took place before the campaign, they're not just accounting tricks or tax evasion. They are things of import. They are crimes -- potential crimes of import.

BERNSTEIN: Two point, if I may.

BALDWIN: Go ahead, Carl. BERNSTEIN: First, it's very important to remember that Manafort, while he was the campaign chairman and supposedly aware of these contacts, was talking to the candidate himself almost every day. So one of the things investigators are going to want to know from Manafort, if they can get it from him, and from others, is, well, was some of this about these e-mails conveyed to the president of the United States -- to the president-elect or the candidate?

The other thing that we really need to be calm and fair to the president of the United States here. That this investigation, this is a landmark and at the same time it's a road map that shows us where the investigation is heading.

[14:15:05] BALDWIN: The scope.

BERNSTEIN: But it's not definitive yet. And it's time for everybody to say, let's look at these facts. Yes, these facts are really serious business. There are many Republican congressmen who are former prosecutors, who are lawyers themselves, they know how to read this stuff.


BALDWIN: And they are going to have a little chill go down their back from reading this.

The other thing that's so serious about this is that it shows how wrapped up the campaign was in getting information from the Russians. Does that mean collusion in terms of interference in the election? Not necessarily yet. But that's one of the things Mueller is going to try and find out. Is this real collusion? Collusion is not incidentally a crime in itself, I believe. There's no Title 18 crime of collusion. But we're looking at the outlines of a conspiracy to undermine the democratic election that took place in the United States. And that's where these dots seem to be going if someone is trying to connect them.

BALDWIN: Last question, just where does all of this -- and there are other people, the x, y and z, right, who may or may not be in trouble based on what Papadopoulos says. Where does it go next? What balls are you watching there?

TOOBIN: Well, let me use the three words you're never allowed to say on cable news, which are, I don't know. I mean, did I know that this -- Papadopoulos was going to get -- was Papadopoulos was going to get -- plead guilty today? I mean, you know, Mueller is doing a very serious investigation. He is, despite the best effort of people like me, not disclosing how he's getting where he's going.


TOOBIN: So, you know, he obviously has access to a great deal of information that we as journalists don't. And he's moving forward. I mean this is certainly evidence today of a very serious investigation that is farther along than most of us thought he would be.


BERNSTEIN: One other thing to keep in mind, that Mueller has some 21,000 e-mails from associates of Donald Trump in the White House, in his campaign, in his business organization. All of those documents are potential perjury traps, the same way that Papadopoulos has been accused of perjuring himself essentially because there is a record now through those e-mails and gives Mueller an opening to ask these people as witnesses about anything whatsoever.

If you're Hope Hicks, for instance, the president's assistant, what did you see, Miss Hicks, on this date or that date that is referred to by Mr. Papadopoulos? Those are the kinds of lines of inquiry we're going to see. And, also, there are so many potential witnesses here who indeed could be frightened by what is happening to these three individuals.

BALDWIN: Sure. Sure. She's now director of White House communications.

Listen, I appreciate your candor and the I don't know.

BERNSTEIN: Yes, we don't.

BALDWIN: We don't know, do we? We don't know.

BERNSTEIN: No, we don't.

TOOBIN: No we don't.

BERNSTEIN: And we need to be calm and fair to the president, as well.

BALDWIN: Yes. Absolutely.

TOOBIN: No, you be calm. I'm not going to be calm. No, no, Carl's right, we need to be calm.

BALDWIN: Carl and Jeff, thank you both so much.

Just a programming note for tonight, a CNN special report, "The Russia Investigation" with Jake Tapper. It is tonight, 11:00 Eastern, only here on CNN.

We have much more to come here on this breaking news today. We'll dig into the White House response, including the president tweeting this morning in all capital letters, no collusion. Does that still hold true after today's guilty plea?

And the president has already shown he is not afraid to use his pardoning powers, doing it once with controversial former Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Might Trump do it again with those indicted perhaps in this Russia probe? We'll discuss what he could do legally.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN's special live coverage.


[14:23:17] BALDWIN: Welcome back to the breaking news. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

The White House under pressure today as the Russia investigation announces its first two indictments as we learn of a guilty plea from a Trump campaign insider.

And now there's also this news from Gallup. As of today, President Trump's approval rating has hit an all-time low. You see the number there, 33 percent. This comes as the White House, moments ago, tried to brush aside the importance of today's developments.

So, let me bring in CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash and CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large Chris Cillizza.

So good to see both of you.

And, Dana, first, just on those Gallup numbers, 33 percent. That's a new record.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. And not a record that any president or any politician wants to be the proud holder of. And there's no question that just the fact that it means a third of the electorate is supportive of him, which the flip side of that is two-thirds are not --

BALDWIN: It not.

BASH: Is a danger zone for this president.

And, look, he has not been somebody who has been, you know, driven by his approval rating thus far. He has not made move to kind of expand his base. In fact, for the most part, what we've seen from this White House and this president is attempts over and over to try to hold on to that core base.

Unclear if that's going to change going forward with moves to try to actually get tax reform done, which is the big -- the big legislative accomplishment, really the only one that Republicans on Capitol Hill say that they care about at this point. But certainly not a good sign for this White House to see those numbers.

[14:25:02] BALDWIN: Yes, that's a reminder. This is -- that's how Sarah Sanders led the briefing, right, Chris, with talk of tax reform and then an analogy involving, you know, beer and taxes. But we're all talking about, you know, the big news from today.


BALDWIN: I mean what did you make of how she tried to downplay the massive news this afternoon?

CILLIZZA: I mean, somewhat predictable, Brooke. They've been downplaying Paul Manafort's role in the campaign for months, long before we knew an indictment was coming down, essentially saying, yes, he was someone who did a specific thing for Mr. Trump regarding the delegate process. And then once that was over, he left. Not totally accurate, candidly. He was brought on to lead the delegate operation heading into the Republican National Convention because there was a sense that Ted Cruz might challenge for that. But he successfully did that and really expanded his portfolio considerably as it relates to Trump world.

The idea of George Papadopoulos being a volunteer, which was the other sort of major line of argument, lots of people on the campaign are volunteers. You know, the fact that he did have an audience with the president. The fact that he was sending e-mails to top brass. I mean this isn't someone who walked into a Trump campaign office and said, hey, I'd like to volunteer. I mean this is someone that in -- was touted as a foreign policy adviser to Trump in an interview between Donald Trump and "The Washington Post." I mean they put him, George Papadopoulos that is, as sort of someone to point to, to show that Donald Trump had real bona fides, he was talking to serious people.

So it's a little bit misleading.

Now, that said, it's -- it's not like they had a great argument to make spin wise here. When you have the campaign manager indicted and a foreign policy adviser pleading guilty to lying to federal -- the FBI, it's not like there's a spin you can put on that, that's going to make perfect sense and make everybody happy.

BASH: Yes, and --

BALDWIN: But isn't this sort of the Trump -- Dana, the Trump world talking point when, you know, trouble bubbles up and they say, oh, we didn't really -- we didn't really know him that well.

BASH: Yes.

BALDWIN: Or he wasn't that significant in our orbit at the time.

CILLIZZA: That's right.

BASH: It is. It is. And you know what, that's irrelevant. It is irrelevant whether this guy walked into Trump Tower to get a cup of coffee at Starbucks, or whether or not he had a name on the masthead. What is relevant is that according to the indictment and the affidavit that goes with it is that he had communication not just with a Russian official, who was talking about dirt, but much more importantly, he then had communications with senior Trump officials about this at the time.

And now our Jim Sciutto is reporting that they happen to be Paul Manafort, who was the campaign chair, and Rick Gates, who was -- who was basically Manafort's deputy, who did everything with and for him. So that is why it is significant.

It is also significant because, clearly, this guy, Papadopoulos, is cooperating with the feds.

CILLIZZA: That's right.

BASH: And this indictment today could have potentially been buried by these big names, Manafort and Gates, and the White House could have much more easily had a defense to say, look, these guys are being indicted for things that didn't have anything to do with the campaign, much less Russia vis-a-vis our campaign. But that's all muddied, clearly intentionally, by the special counsel's office by this additional indictment.

CILLIZZA: And just -- Brooke, just to quickly --

BALDWIN: We have just -- hang on, Chris, just one second.

CILLIZZA: Oh, sure.

BALDWIN: Because we've just gotten a statement in. This is from the deputy -- Manafort's deputy, Rick Gates, right, who was part of this in federal court today. And so let me just read part of it.

It says Rick Gates pled not guilty today. He welcomes the opportunity to confront these charges in court. He is not going to comment further until he has had a chance to review the lengthy indictment with his legal team. In the meanwhile, he would appreciate you respect his and his family's privacy as they weather this unexpected and hasty proceeding designed to accommodate perhaps political and press considerations rather than his right to have counsel at his choice by his side during the most troubling and challenging day for him and his loved ones. This fight is just the beginning.

Go ahead, Chris.

CILLIZZA: I was just going to add to Dana's point, which is, I think we have a tendency, because we know the name Manafort, right? We've seen him on the podium.


CILLIZZA: We may even know the name Gates. We -- as you -- you just showed a picture of him on the podium at the Republican National Committee with -- Convention with Donald Trump. Very few people -- I'll put myself in this category -- know George Papadopoulos.

BALDWIN: Totally agree.

CILLIZZA: But what is in not just the allegations, not just what the FBI read out, in the plea agreement he signed saying what is above here is true, it gets to the heart of what we've been talking about for months and months and months and months. Now, the Trump campaign is trying to say this guy's a volunteer. Nothing came of his attempts to set up meetings with Donald Trump and Russian officials. OK.

[14:30:02] But what is alleged in here that he has agreed happened is essentially he lied to the FBI in January 2016 about the timing of his meeting and contacts with a --