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President Trump Responds to LaVar Ball's Tweets on President's Claim to have Saved UCLA Players from Prison Time in China; Charles Manson Dies; Georgia Dome Destroyed In Scheduled Implosion; Kushner's Attorney: Senate Panel Is Playing "Gotcha Games"; Fired FBI Director James Comey's Actions Under Scrutiny. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired November 20, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Charles Manson is dead. The cult leader who orchestrated gruesome murders that shocked the world is gone.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He needs to look into our eyes and see the pain that he's caused.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CUOMO: If you knew what we were laughing about, you would laugh, too. Good morning, and welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Monday, November 20th, 8:00 in the east. And up first, President Trump slamming the father of one of the three UCLA basketball players arrested for shoplifting in China. The president asked for appreciation, you'll remember. He did supposedly help get these students out of China. The athletes then thanked him publicly.

But LaVar Ball, who is a piece of work in his own right, the outspoken father of one of the UCLA players, LiAngelo Ball, he's casting doubt on the role of the president. The president heard this, and he did what he does most often, responded in kind. "Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in China!"

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The president went on. "Shoplifting is a very big deal in China, as it should be, five to 10 years in jail. But not to father LaVar. Should have gotten his son out during my next trip to China instead. China told them why they were released. Very ungrateful."

The president also ripped into Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona. In an open mic moment, Senator Flake referred to the Republican Party as toast if President Trump and Roy Moore were allowed to define it. The president then fired back. "Senator Jeff Flakey, who is unelectable in the great state of Arizona was caught purposely on mic saying bad things about your favorite president. He'll be a no on tax cuts because his political career anyway is toast."

CUOMO: Are you a toast person or an English muffin or a bagel person?

CAMEROTA: I like toast, whole grain.

CUOMO: Toast gets a bad name.

Let's bring in CNN contributor and Donald Trump biography Michael D'Antonio and associate editor at "Real Clear Politics" A.B. Stoddard. So how do you see it, A.B.? On the one hand, this is what he does. No target too small, No indignity goes suffered. So is this just more of the same or have we seen a new and lower bar for the president actually saying that he should have left American citizens to rot in a Chinese jail?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: I don't think anyone is surprised that he said that. I think his supporters, as we always talk about, you know, will never disapprove. And I do think that -- let's start with the fact that these guys with incredible opportunity before them really -- this is a shameful act. They did not deny that they shoplifted sunglasses in China. And it's embarrassing to the country. It's wrong. And they were right to thank the president.

He -- we were here on Friday and talked about -- was back on a positive note with his tweets, talking about the pitfalls on the road of life, and, you know, to take great care of themselves. And Mr. Ball was rude. But that's -- you know, that's an aside. President Trump always takes the bait. He always wants more credit. He wants to be thanked. He believes, you know, that people are ungrateful and it's a disgrace, and he always says this kind of thing.

But I do think the intensity and the reason he was doing it last night was because there was an ABC News piece out about the fact that Mueller is now -- the special counsel, is now looking for communications, documents from Department of Justice about the recusal in the Russia probe about the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, as well as the firing of Comey, which indicates he's homing in, of course, on the obstruction of justice. So I do think sometimes the timing has to do with Russia, even though it is sort of typical Trump to blow back on these things and stoke the culture wars.

CAMEROTA: So Michael, what do you think? Because just to remind our viewers, you, of course, are the Donald Trump biographer. You have studied him for decades. So that's the question. Is this just his usual reflex, or is it all a strategic distraction because of the Russia investigation and other things boiling in the political sphere?

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Alisyn I think it can be both. I think that he does have this reflex. But we also know that Mr. Ball has this method, as well. So probably the only two people in the country who are really happy about this are President Trump and Mr. Ball. They -- this is a game. They're both playing the game. It is -- it serves them both. For the president, it does distract the media and the country from his troubles with the Special Counsel Mueller. And for Mr. Ball, this is part of his effort to monetize fame.

[08:05:06] You know, this is a game that actually Donald Trump almost invented, monetizing fame. You seek the attention, you -- as he says, any attention is better than no attention.

And, you know, so now we have a guy that Chris called a piece of work who is jabbing at the White House troll, and the rest of the country gets to watch. And the only people who are doing the shameful thing here are the president and the basketball player's father. When I look at a guy in his 70s engaging in this kind of behavior, and then I see some college students who shoplifted some sunglasses, I actually see a disparity. And I see the president acting un-presidential. You know, those kids did the wrong thing, foolish. They had adults intervene on their behalf. Mr. Ball should have been grateful. But, you know, there's no money in being grateful, and there's no political gain for the president in being gracious.

CUOMO: So this is a win-win on one side. The president bringing up MarShawn Lynch, NFL player, on not standing for the anthem at a game in Mexico City. That plays to a culture divide that the president believes works to his benefit. This, the same thing -- ungrateful kids, they should have thanked me. That works.

But then, A.B., we have the Jeff Flake tweet, OK? And that's not about some faux sense of morality and Americana. It's about the expediency of how to explain what happens with the tax bill. Let's put up that tweet. He has some fun with Flake, "Flakey," attacks him for his lack of political future, which is fair. "He'll be a no on tax cuts, because his political career anyway is toast," now, an unintended truth, probably, there, by the president. That's right, when you don't have to worry about getting elected any more, you just vote your conscience, which is what everybody thinks you were put there to do in the first place. But this is different. This isn't just playing on a culture divide. This is about manipulating how people see the battle over the tax plan, right?

STODDARD: Right. Look, no matter who votes against the bill on the Senate floor, President Trump, no matter what policy grounds they will be arguing their no vote, President Trump will go after them likely because that's what he's done this whole year.

Right now, without Senator Flake having any reservations, there are five senators, Murkowski, McCain, Senator Johnson, and then of course Senators Collins and Corker, who have different reasons why they have concerns with the bill ranging from deficit problems. There are some fiscal hawks remaining in the Republican Party in Congress, though not many left. And then, of course, issues on the more moderate side about what stripping out the individual mandate will do to health care premiums and how that increase in premiums could actually out -- wipe out any benefits they get from a tax cut.

And so you're already looking at five senators that could bring the bill down, because they only -- they can only lose two. But Senator Flake, he has -- senator -- I mean, the president has a personal beef, obviously, with Senator Flake who has been extremely critical of the president, very out in the open about it, wrote a book about it, and subsequently could not get reelected in a primary in Arizona because of it.

But it was funny the way he described it like he was purposefully caught on an open mic. And we know that Senator Flake has said everything he said on that mic in public already. So it was -- it was -- it wasn't meant to be an interview in public comments, but it's not inconsistent at all with what Senator Flake has said. And again, it's something -- he has an axe to grind with Flake, and he's going to stay after him and try to make it sound if he opposes it on deficit grounds like he's doing it because it's a personal political spat.

CAMEROTA: Michael, one last tweet that I want to get your response to. This is from Congressman Adam Schiff. And he was talking about the president tweeting about having -- about wishing that he had left these basketball players, these American citizens and kids, in, you know, this Chinese prison to rot. Adam Schiff writes, "The president would have left American students in a foreign jail because their families didn't lavish sufficient praise on him. How can someone in such a big office be so small?" And I'm wondering as well as you know Donald Trump and have studied him, does he get affected by those comments, or can he compartmentalize and dismiss them as that's a Democrat, who cares? What when somebody says that he's acting small, or Jeff Flake comments about him in an open mic, then what happens with President Trump?

D'ANTONIO: Well, he sees a dramatic opportunity. This is another enemy for him to go up against. It's actually something that serves him very well. The president is not put off by this. I think for people to think that he stews over a poke at him from Adam Schiff is incorrect.

[08:10:08] If it were someone in his own party, a senator who might vote against a tax bill, then I think he might get his back up. But this is something he will dismiss, or he'll call Schiff some crazy name. The world will be entertained, and some people will be aghast and think, well, what is going on in Washington. But we're now accustomed to this. This is the routine. So it's useful for him dramatically and keeps our minds off the serious business.

You know, this is a problem, though, I think for his legislative agenda. The reason that "Flakey" and Corker and everybody else is lining up against him is they actually oppose his policies, and he's not doing anything to court them.

CUOMO: "Flakey." See, it sticks. One thing is for sure. We'll know if the president doesn't like something that is said about him because he will respond. That's what he does. Mr. D'Antonio, Miss Stoddard, thank you very much, as always.

So LaVar Ball made a good play here. If what you want is attention, bring -- so many of you now have heard his name. You're going to be Googling him. So what was in this for him? Was this really about his son? Did he just make a good choice in terms of baiting the president and winning? Let's get his take. He's going to join us tonight on CNN Tonight. I'm filling in for Don Lemon. So at 10:00 p.m. eastern you'll hear from LaVar Ball why he decided to go at the most powerful man in the world. CAMEROTA: And we will recap for you tomorrow morning, as well. Can't


CUOMO: Indeed. Why sleep, when I can be here with you?

CAMEROTA: Great point.

CUOMO: Meanwhile, we do have breaking news for you. Charles Manson has died. The cult leader masterminded the gruesome murders of seven people in Los Angeles during the summer of 1969. CNN's Stephanie Elam is live in Los Angeles with these breaking details. Stephanie?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. Those gruesome murders that were carried out, murdering seven people that left the nation horrified, well, the man behind it has now died of natural causes.


VINCENT BUGLIOSI, MANSON TRIAL PROSECUTOR: Manson may be the most famous, notorious mass murderer ever.

ELAM: The summer of '69 was marred by gruesome murders that shook the nation. Five people killed at the home of Hollywood star, Sharon Tate, and another couple murdered the following night. Manson was the mastermind behind the brutal killings, the leader of the clan that carried out the unthinkable. He was convicted of conspiracy and murder in 1971 and infamously went down in history.

CHARLES MANSON: I do a lot of things on the world that you guys don't see.

ELAM: Manson was born in Cincinnati in 1934 to a single teenage mother.

MANSON: She got out of my life early. I spent the best part of my life in boy schools, prisons, and reform schools because I had nobody.

ELAM: After marrying twice and spending half his life in prison, 32- year-old Manson made his way to Berkeley in 1967. He established himself as a guru in the summer of love, and was quickly sharing a home with 18 women.

JEFF GUINN, AUTHOR, "MANSON, THE LIFE AND TIMES OF CHARLES MANSON": You get these kids, these children, coming into Haight-Ashbury, and here is Charlie Manson saying how much he loves them and he wants to take care of them. He took full advantage.

ELAM: Manson's passion for music translated into an obsession with the Beatles' 1968 song, "Helter-Skelter."

BUGLIOSI: To Manson it meant that the Beatles wanted them to have a worldwide revolution, blacks against whites.

ELAM: Aiming to launch the fabricated war, Manson directed his disillusioned clan to kill. On August 9th, 1969, four followers invaded the Hollywood Hills home of actress Sharon Tate where they massacred five people. The 26-year-old starlet was eight and a half months pregnant. The next night the clan brutally murdered Los Angeles couple Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. At both homes they left behind shocking murder scenes.

BUGLIOSI: When those words "Helter-Skelter" were found printed in blood at the murder scene that was tantamount to Manson's fingerprints being found at the murder scene.

ELAM: After evidence in the cases mounted and a high-profile trial, Manson and four followers were convicted of nine murders and sentenced to death in 1971, which was downgraded to life in prison when California banned the death penalty.


ELAM: And it turned out to be nine life term sentences that Manson was serving out here in California. And as far as trying to get out of jail, he did try to do that. He tried to get parole and it was denied 12 times, Chris.

CUOMO: Stephanie, thank you very much. Appreciate the reporting on this.

All right, so I don't know if you saw it this morning, but don't worry. We got you covered. What do you do with 25 years of sports history and amazing memories in the Georgia Dome? You blow them up. Wait for it. Wait for it.

[08:15:06] This was all planned. Don't worry about that. This was about making room for more development.

CAMEROTA: That's good. Someone didn't just accidentally cause that. That would have been really a problem.

CUOMO: Lord knows the things we have going on in the world, but this was planned. The Georgia Dome hosted Super Bowls, the Olympics, the NCAAs. It was huge. It's been replaced by the Mercedes-Benz Stadium up next door. The new stadium is home to the NFL's Atlanta Falcons and Major League soccer's, Atlanta United. But the George Dome and all those memories up in a puff of smoke.

CAMEROTA: I like the sentimentality that you're going for here. I really do.

CUOMO: You make fun of me more and more.

CAMEROTA: I too am nostalgic. I don't like getting rid of 25 years of memories, but who doesn't like a good implosion in the morning.

CUOMO: You seem to be in conflict.

CAMEROTA: I am in conflict. That is true.

Meanwhile, Jared Kushner's attorney disputing claims that his client has not been up front about Russia contacts. He accuses senators of playing gotcha games, next.


CAMEROTA: An attorney for President Trump's son-in-law and top aide, Jared Kushner, says the Senate Judiciary Committee is playing political gotcha games. He's pushing back against claims that Jared Kushner failed to turn over documents related to the Russia investigation.

[08:20:06] CNN's Evan Perez interviewed Kushner's attorney and he joins us live from Washington. So, what did he say in this interview?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, when it comes to contacts involving Russians during the 2016 campaign, Jared Kushner has been forgetful, he's been slow to acknowledge from his failure to list in his security clearance this past year to this past week when the Judiciary Committee in the Senate sent him a bipartisan and public letter saying he hadn't turned over documents that the committee knew existed.

The documents we are talking about include Kushner's communications with the fired National Security adviser, Michael Flynn. Kushner's security clearance forms, campaign contacts with Wikileaks, and a curious Russian back door proposal to connect the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, with the campaign.

An idea, by the way, that Kushner rejected. Now in this interview with me, Abbie Lowell, Kushner's attorney, pushes back against those accusations. Take a listen.


ABBE LOWELL, ATTORNEY FOR JARED KUSHNER: In my communications with the Senate Judiciary Committee, I said, take these documents and let's talk about what else is relevant. They jumped the gun to make it a media event. And any perception that Mr. Kushner has been anything but cooperative, if you look at the contents of these e-mails, he's the hero.

He's the one saying there shouldn't be any contacts with foreign officials or foreign entities. That's what the Senate Judiciary Committee should pay attention to and not create some sort of partisan gotcha game.


PEREZ: And by the way, that was a bipartisan letter that was sent to Kushner. The bottom line here, though, is that Kushner is not promising to do an interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee. And while his attorney is saying that he's cooperating with Congress, Kushner has another investigation to keep in mind.

That's the criminal investigation that's being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. And right now, Mueller is still working through the roster of White House officials who are coming in for interviews, including this week we expect Kushner is going to be one of those interviews -- Alisyn.

CUOMO: All right. I'll take it, Evan. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

What an interesting set of circumstances that we have going on with this investigation. Let's get some more insight. Joining us now is Benjamin Wittes, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and editor-in-chief of the blog, Lawfare. He's also a friend of fired FBI Director Jim Comey. Good to have you, sir.


CUOMO: Have you been in recent contact with Mr. Comey, by the way?

WITTES: Wouldn't say if I had.

CUOMO: Because?

WITTES: Because the relationship is a private friendship, and I'm not here speaking on his behalf, and so any communications that we might have are irrelevant, frankly.

CUOMO: Well, they're certainly not irrelevant, right? Because so much of your insight into these issues comes from an informed perspective of knowing what Comey thinks about them, right?

WITTES: I actually like to think that if that's the reason why people want to talk to me, you know, I said everything that I had to say about my conversations with Jim months ago. And so there would be -- that would be a weak basis on which to want to talk to me now.

CUOMO: Well, everybody is a diamond. You have many facets, Mr. Wittes. That's just one of them. You certainly have other values, as well, like your political and legal analysis. So, let's harness those right now. When it comes to Comey, we'll get into Kushner and what you think about that.

But you know what the political pushback is. The political pushback is you want to look at these questions about the Trump campaign, fine. But you must also look at the Clinton campaign and the events surrounding her side of this situation.

And Jim Comey looms large for these critics. They say, he should be looked at, because he called the investigation a matter, because he seemed to have been drafting an exoneration note for Clinton before the investigation was up.

Do you believe that there is any merit to these types of charges, and that they warrant investigation?

WITTES: No. But I also don't think there's any harm, particularly, like any public figure exercising significant authority. Jim's actions are reasonably subject to question, and I don't think there's any particular harm in reviewing, revisiting judgments that any public official made. That said, it's an effort to change the subject. And the subject that we should all be focused on is the question of, first of all, the underlying conduct that the Russia investigation was constituted to investigate.

And secondly, the circumstances of the president's gross interference with that investigation up to and including firing the person who was running it.

CUOMO: Well, push back on the other side, though, because they connect the dots. They go all the way up to Mueller, who was once celebrated for special counsel, life-long Republican. They say, well, here's how the argument goes.

He was at the FBI during the Uranium One deal. The Uranium One deal is about Russia. He had information that he didn't act on when he was at the head of the FBI about contributions. So, he's tainted.

Comey is connected because Clinton is connected to Russia because of the dossier. So, anybody trying to clear her of problems was trying to help her in her efforts to harness Russian efforts to interfere in the election. So Comey has to be looked at.

That's their whole rationale for why this is about Russia, but to the substantive matters, do you think there is an issue with calling the probe a matter versus an investigation? And do you think it's true that he was drafting a "she's off the hook note" before the investigation was over?

WITTES: So, first of all, as to the taint of everybody associated with this investigation, I would say that just listening to your question just now sounded a little bit like looking at Congressman Gomert's chart from the Sessions hearing the other day.

And there is a reason, you know, that that -- when you look at a chart like that it looks crazy and there's actually -- these are like conspiracy theories that don't really have any merit to them.

The idea that Bob Mueller, of all people, is going to cut Hillary Clinton a break because he was in office when the Cifius process cleared the Uranium One deal is just not worth the time to talk about. It's a silly, stupid idea.

And it's -- it's not -- we shouldn't dignify it with a serious conversation. As to whether Jim began thinking about or drafting a statement exonerating or ending the investigation before the investigation was complete, you know, I have news for you.

Sometimes Supreme Court justices start working on draft opinions as a way of thinking through stuff before oral arguments. Sometimes, you know, people think about how they're going to talk about something before the entirety of the work is done.

There's nothing remotely wrong with that. And the idea that we should reopen the Hillary Clinton e-mail matter because some people object to the timing of the drafting of a statement that will either live or die on the merits of what was said in it is just silly.

CUOMO: And, look, point to your perspective on this. We saw Jeff Sessions push back on Representative Jim Jordan about the need for a special counsel on these matters. He said, "sometimes looking like something isn't enough of a factual basis for actual investigation." That was Jeff Sessions, who said that in front of a House panel. Jared Kushner, what is your take on his exposure here, and on his cooperation to this point?

WITTES: So without knowing precisely what he testified to, as in the specific words that he said in response to the specific question, and without having all the evidence available about what his precise state of mind was when he said whatever he said.

There is no real way to answer that question, except to say that the sequence of omissions from things that he's put in his security clearance, from things that he's delivered to the committees from things that he's said, the sequence of omissions is profoundly embarrassing, should be profoundly embarrassing to him, and will raise suspicions with investigators.

And, you know, what the merits of those are I can't say, sitting here, and by the way, neither can anyone else. But I do think, you know, every time Kushner or one of the other senior Trump administration officials makes a representation about the quality, frequency and type of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia government officials or their agents, those turn out to be at best incomplete or sometimes just wrong.

And I do think that's the kind of thing that investigators, both on the congressional side and on the criminal side take very seriously.

CUOMO: Benjamin Wittes, always appreciate your take and thank you for taking on the arguments on both sides.

WITTES: My pleasure.

CUOMO: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Chris. After winning the release of three American basketball players from china, President Trump now says he should have left them in jail. What do his Republican supporters think? That's next.