Return to Transcripts main page


Michael Flynn Concerned About Son's Legal Exposure in Special Counsel's Russia Probe; Senator Bob Menendez Corruption Trial Still Awaiting Verdict; Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired November 9, 2017 - 06:30   ET



[06:33:52] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Vice President Mike Pence comforting the victims of Sunday's church massacre in Texas. The vice president blames bureaucratic failures for all missed red flags from this killer's violent past.

Now Reuters reports that the FBI may have lost a critical opportunity to unlock the gunman's iPhone and recover potentially critical evidence by failing to ask Apple for help within 48 hours of the attack.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Nearly two months after Hurricane Maria made landfall, 57 percent of Puerto Rico is still without power. You cannot forget about the need there. Another indication of it, FEMA is going to begin airlifting people out of there. Approximately 3,000 survivors are going to have to come to mainland United States.

This comes at the request of the island's governor. The agency tells CNN it's working to establish agreements with both Florida and New York to take in survivors because they are currently in subpar shelters.

Remember, this hurricane hit in September. People are still in crisis.

CAMEROTA: Disgraced actor Kevin Spacey is one of the stars in an upcoming movie called "All the Money in the World."

[06:35:03] However director Ridley Scott wants Spacey out and he wants actor Christopher Plumber to replace him. This would require reshooting all Spacey scenes. Scott, still trying to make the original December release date, he says. Meanwhile former Boston TV news anchor Heather Unruh alleges Spacey sexually assaulted her 18- year-old son after getting him drunk at a restaurant in Nantucket last year.

All right. So we'll have a national conversation about all aspects of sexual harassment during my CNN town hall tonight. It's called "TIPPING POINT, SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN AMERICA." That will be live at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. I hope everyone tunes in for that conversation.

CUOMO: All right. We have news for you. CNN has learned former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is worried about the legal liability his son might face in the Russia investigation. The question is, is the special counsel putting pressure on Flynn's son to flip the father?

That's next.


CAMEROTA: Multiple sources tell CNN that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is concerned about his son's possible legal issues in Robert Mueller's Russia probe.

Might that concern make Michael Flynn more open to cooperating?

CNN's Michelle Kosinski is live in Washington with more.

Michelle, what have you learned?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Alisyn. Well, CNN is told by multiple sources familiar with this that Flynn has expressed concerned about the potential legal exposure of his son, Michael Flynn, Jr., who like his father is under scrutiny by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Flynn's concern could factor into decisions about how to respond to Mueller's ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign and the business dealings of key Trump campaign advisers.

CAMEROTA: All right. So what legal questions does the special counsel have for Michael Flynn?

KOSINSKI: Yes. So this is coming from two witnesses who were interviewed by the special counsel investigators. They tell CNN's Jim Sciutto that questions regarding Flynn are focusing on his and his son's business dealings, including their firm's reporting of income from work overseas.

So FARA, this Foreign Agents Registration Act, that we've been hearing so much about lately, requires those who are acting as agents for foreign entities to publicly disclose their relationships with those entities and financial compensation that they get for such work.

Flynn Jr., who serves as his father's chief of staff and top aide, was actively involved in his father's consulting and lobbying work at their firm Flynn Intel Group, and that included joining his father on overseas trips like Moscow in December 2015 when Flynn dined with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a black tie gala for the Russia Today television network.

Now Flynn, Sr. is also under legal scrutiny by Mueller's team for undisclosed lobbying during the campaign on behalf of the Turkish government and Flynn's alleged participation and discussions about the idea of forcibly removing a Turkish cleric who has been living in exile in Pennsylvania. This according to sources.

In the past a spokesperson for Flynn has denied that such discussions ever occurred. And so that's where we are right now in the investigation -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: But, Michelle, do you have any sense of what happens next in the investigation?

KOSINSKI: Well, Flynn's business dealings have been the subject of federal investigation since November, and that's before Mueller's appointment which was in March. It's not clear that either of the Flynns, though, will face charges once the investigation is complete.

Flynn's attorney didn't respond to multiple requests for a comment. Flynn Jr.'s lawyer also declined to comment. But Flynn Jr. did tweet this past Sunday. Quote, "The disappointment on your faces when I don't go to jail will be worth all your harassments." Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK. Very interesting. Thanks so much for that update, Michelle -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Let's bring in CNN's chief legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Jeffrey Toobin.

Good to have you, Professor, as always.


CUOMO: On one level, very obvious. You prosecutor types do this all the time. Full disclosure, Jeffrey used to be a federal prosecutor. So you want me, you find someone in my family you can pressure, and that makes me think twice before I don't play nice, I believe is how the rhyme goes. Is that what we're seeing?

TOOBIN: Well, it certainly could be. I mean, this often comes up in the context of husbands and wives. Let's say a husband is under scrutiny for a tax offense. If you find out that the wife has also signed the tax return, she is potentially liable. You go to the husband, say, look, we will give your wife a pass if you plead guilty, if you cooperate. Here we have a father --

CUOMO: And Manafort comes to mind.

TOOBIN: That's right. You notice that his wife's name is mentioned several times in the indictment of Manafort. Here it's not a husband and wife. It's a father and son. And a lot of parents will do whatever is necessary to protect their children. And that is potentially how the Mueller team is dealing with the Flynn family. It's just one example of how powerful prosecutors are and how much discretion they have to decide whom to charge and whom to give a pass to.

CUOMO: But looking at the situation, what could they be wanting out of the Senior Flynn in terms of what he can offer them?

TOOBIN: Remember, Michael Flynn was very active in the Trump campaign for a long time. Even longer than Paul Manafort. You know, he was also involved in the Russia account. You know, as we all know, he went to Russia, met with Vladimir Putin. Also involved in the Trump campaign. If there is anyone who might know about contacts, and of course the

big word collusion, between the Trump campaign and Russia, Flynn would certainly be a candidate for someone who might know about that connection. He has said -- remember, his lawyers said in a very mysterious way, he has a story to tell. That is certainly a story that prosecutors want to hear.

But so far he's taken the Fifth, as is his right. And the question is, will prosecutors charge him? Will they make a deal with him? Will they give him immunity?

[06:45:02] All of that is -- you know, is to be decided and, you know, it absolutely has big stakes for him, for his family, and for the investigation.

CUOMO: Two quick check points. One, the notion that this is all they've got, these indictments that came out, the idea that they come out of the box with their best. Is that accurate?

TOOBIN: Not necessarily. I think, you know, what's quite clear from the Manafort indictment is that was in the works well before Mueller was even appointed. If you look at the density of the accusations, the financial documentation necessary, there is no way Mueller could have assembled all of that just since May. That was under investigation by the Department of Justice even before Mueller was appointed.

Who among us knew that the Papadopoulos investigation was even in the works? Certainly not me. There is no guarantee that this is the full extent of it or the most serious. Remember, one of the prosecutors said to the judge this is a small part of a much larger investigation. So it is often true that prosecutors start small and work big. So it is not necessarily the case that this is the best they have. But, you know, in fairness it may be all they have. We just don't know.

CUOMO: Our already smart audience may be introduced to a new term called the superseding indictment, where they come down with more charges that originally thought.

One other quick thing that we're going to take another bite at later in the show with you, the word collusion. Should we be using that when talking about the special counsel's purview or should we reserve that for the political discussion that's going on in other committees? Because it is not an operative legal term. There is no crime of collusion.

TOOBIN: You know, that is so, so important, Chris. Collusion, as you say, is not a crime. Behavior that is collusion might be a crime in other ways. It could be certain kinds of conspiracy. And I know we're going to talk about this later. But collusion itself is not a crime. It is something that many people take a dim view of.

Congress, which has the power to impeach and does not have to abide by the statute laws, Congress can decide in its own discretion what is a high crime and misdemeanor. But it is not a violation of federal law. Something that can get you thrown in prison. Collusion. CUOMO: Important point. We'll make it even more deeply later in the

show. For your own edification at home, Google high crime and misdemeanor and you will see it neither involves crimes nor misdemeanors. But that's one of the things that happens in politics. Look it up for yourself.

Jeffrey, thank you very much. See you soon -- Alisyn.

TOOBIN: See you soon.

CAMEROTA: I love when you give the viewers homework. I think they appreciate that.

CUOMO: This is a smart audience.

CAMEROTA: I know that.

CUOMO: And so much of this stuff, you know, they're getting spun by somebody and now we have to go to break, and they can just look it up themselves.

CAMEROTA: Well, I did. This requires engagement. You cannot be passive during these things.

CUOMO: Not anymore. This is an active reality. We live in interesting times.

CAMEROTA: Meanwhile, the jury in the corruption trial of Senator Bob Menendez is entering its fourth day of deliberations. What are they focused on? We have a live report, next.


[06:52:10] CAMEROTA: Day four of jury deliberations from the corruption trial of New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez.

CNN justice reporter Laura Jarrett has been covering the trial. She's live in Newark, New Jersey, with more.

Do we have any idea which way they're leaning, Laura?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, good morning, Alisyn. Still no verdict as we head into day four here in Newark, New Jersey. One juror did come back with a request to see a portion of the defense team's closing arguments. But otherwise, no real hints on whether they're leaning towards acquitting, convicting, or whether they simply can't reach a verdict at all.


JARRETT (voice-over) : It's a high stakes corruption trial with national implications. And at the heart of it all, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez.

SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: I am convinced that I will be declared not guilty, innocent of all the charges. JARRETT: Federal prosecutors tried to paint a stark picture of a

seven-year bribery scheme with Menendez doing political favors for a wealthy Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen. In exchange for Menendez's help, Melgen paid for the senator's posh hotel room in Paris in 2010 and forked over $600,000 in political contributions in 2012.

Menendez also took multiple free rides on Melgen's private jet, all of which Menendez failed to report on his Senate disclosure forms. The senator later telling CNN's Dana Bash in 2013 the private jets slipped through the cracks.

MENENDEZ: I was in a big travel schedule in 2010 as the chair of the DSCC, plus my own campaign getting ready for reelection cycle and in the process of all of that it unfortunately fell through the cracks that our processes didn't catch moving forward and making sure that we paid.

JARRETT: Prosecution witnesses told jurors that Menendez had an aggressive tone in lobbying officials in the Obama administration to wipe away a multimillion dollar billing dispute that Melgen had with Medicare and threatened to hold a congressional hearing if they didn't help resolve a contract dispute that Melgen had with the Dominican Republic.

But at trial defense lawyers said prosecutors have had it all wrong telling jurors the government used misleading testimony, twisting a 25-year friendship into a federal crime. Several witnesses told jurors that Menendez was motivated to act out of broader policy concerns, not because he was being paid off by his friend.

MENENDEZ: Never, not once, not once have I dishonored by public office.

JARRETT: And jurors also heard from a slew of character witnesses supporting Menendez, including fellow New Jersey senator, Cory Booker, as well as Republican senator, Lindsey Graham.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: All of the people I dealt with in the Senate, Bob is very honest, honorable guy. My statement in court was that if Bob gives you his word, he keeps it no matter what the pressures are and I've always found him to be very honest and honorable guy and a handshake from Bob was enough.

[06:55:10] JARRETT: The outcome of the trial now rests with 12 jurors in New Jersey. As Menendez grapples with the fate of his political future as well as a lengthy prison sentence if convicted.


JARRETT: Now, Chris, Senator Menendez has fiercely maintained his innocence throughout this entire trial telling us yesterday, reporters outside of court, that he is waiting to be exonerated. He's waiting to see himself cleared of all of these charges. But if he is convicted, the Justice Department will certainly hold up this case as a shining example of federal bribery laws still being alive and well -- Chris.

CUOMO: Right. Now while it would have been shocking if the senator said he was guilty of something outside the courthouse, this is a complicated case. You've covered it very well. Thank you, Miss Jarrett.

All right. A new CNN poll shows eroding confidence and trust in President Trump one year after his historic election. So what does this mean for Republicans? What is the lesson for them? Is this about just needing to get a tax bill passed? Or is there another kind of leadership that is being demanded? Next.