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White House Says 20 Plus Staffers Talk with Special Counsel's Team and with Congress; Former Gymnastics Doctor Sentenced Up to 175 Years in Prison for Sexual Abuse; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired January 25, 2018 - 10:30   ET



[10:30:58] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: We do have some breaking news in the Russia investigation. We've just learned in the past few minutes that more than 20 White House staffers have sat down for conversations with Bob Mueller, the special counsel, and his investigators.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Let's get straight to our panel now. We're joined by CNN political commentators Matt Lewis, Paul Begala, Ben Ferguson.

You know, Paul, first to you, we know this because we've been provided with this list by the White House here.


BERMAN: Bragging about how cooperative they have been in this investigation. You know, they say that, again, 20 White House staff, eight people from the White House Counsel's office, 1600 documents on Michael Flynn and Russia, more than a million documents from the campaign.

What message, Paul, do you think this is intended to send?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think in preparation for the president testifying in front of Mr. Mueller's team they want the country to know that they have been cooperating. They said they've been cooperating. This is clear evidence that they have in fact been cooperating, making officials available.

Of course, there is no real choice. Right? Mr. Mueller has the power of subpoena, so he can compel anyone to testify unless they invoke a Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.

But here's the concern that I'm sure the president's lawyers have. First off, he just won't shut up. You know there is a famous defense lawyer who's got a large mouth bass on the wall in his office and it says, I would never have been here if I had kept my big mouth shut. And so the president keeps talking. He said last night that he can't wait, he's looking forward to testifying in front of Mr. Mueller under oath, of course.

He doesn't know what Mueller has. This is -- the problem in these things, it's always asymmetrical information. You don't know what the special counsel and the FBI have and god forbid you lie. And -- seriously, our president, the one thing he excels at, he's not a very stable genius, but he is a floored and flamboyant liar. He's a Liberace liar. And he's going to be confronted with people who know more about this case than he does and it's not going to go well for him.

HARLOW: OK. So leading up -- that's Paul's take.

Matt Lewis, leading up to what even the president said yesterday in this conversation with reporters could be sitting down with Mueller in a few weeks time, if this is going to happen, the campaign to discredit Mueller and his team among some Republicans, both in Congress and outside of Congress, continues.

You have a fascinating new piece in "The Daily Beast" this morning about it. And you say this is treading into Alex Jones territory and you say this is a deep state fever swamp. Why do you say that it's going too far?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Look, I've been -- you know, I think it's fair to be skeptical and to question the FBI and the Clinton and Trump investigations. I've done that here. And I think that there have been examples of conflicts of interest and at least the appearance of impropriety. It is perfectly legitimate to talk about and I think to bring up. And in a healthy democracy you ask questions about your government and about the police.

Having said that, I want to just warn, you know, conservatives to tread lightly here because this -- there is -- this does not end well when you start talking about secret societies and deep state conclaves, and I do fear that we are headed there. We've seen it not just with the conspiracy theorists like the Alex Joneses of the world, but increasingly we have seen it with more mainstream conservative talking heads and even Republican politicians.

It's not a good look and I do fear not only the toll that this could take on our institutions, like the FBI, but also on the conservative movement as a whole.

BERMAN: So, Ben Ferguson, Matt Lewis, just one conservative. He was looking at you in the --


HARLOW: Yes. He was looking down.

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I'm not a conspiracy theorist because I'm only looking at the text messages and the words of those who are now missing months of text messages who talked about a secret society.

HARLOW: Thousands of people, Ben. Thousands of people are missing those texts.

FERGUSON: Well, I'm talking about -- let me finish. Let me finish. The text message that talked about even having a secret society. We're getting that from someone that clearly did not like the president of the United States of America and then the FBI expects me to believe, oh, we lost all of these text messages over months and months while we're legally supposed to obtain them after people start asking questions about them and there was a glitch on a cell phone.

[10:35:09] I don't think the FBI is dumb. I don't think law enforcement is dumb.

BERMAN: But Paul --

FERGUSON: And I think when you -- let me finish, when you text about a secret society the day after the president has been elected and it's clear that you don't like the president of the United States of America, that's not a conspiracy theory, that's just saying, I'm not dumb enough to believe that you lost text messages and I do believe that you don't like the president and I do believe that clearly you should not have been in the investigation of Hillary Clinton.

BERMAN: Just one factual thing now is that it wasn't just the text messages between those two that were lost, it was thousands of FBI employees.

FERGUSON: Right. Which is scary.

BERMAN: Well, it seems unlikely to me. And I don't know for sure that they would have discarded thousands of employees' text messages just so they could get rid of two that they'd be concerned about or, you know, the exchanges between those people.


BERMAN: But we understand your take.


FERGUSON: Mueller wouldn't accept what you just said in his own investigation that somehow you have text messages about the president not liking him, a secret society clearly trying to undermine the president during the election and clearly you like Hillary Clinton.

BERMAN: Well, OK. Hang on, hang on, hang on.

FERGUSON: You really think that Mueller would accept that? If the president said that, would you accept it? Of course not.

BERMAN: I think Mueller is investigating what he can in getting -- collecting the facts as it were. All I'm stating is that they lost text messages for thousands of people because of what they say was a flaw in the Samsung.

FERGUSON: Right. Because --


BERMAN: Hang on, hang on, hang on. Hang on. We don't -- we don't know that. It seems like this was a technical glitch, Ben, and also it was because of an inspector general investigation that these text messages even came out as they should and the secret society texts you're talking about seems to --

FERGUSON: John. John.


BERMAN: About a gift of a calendar. No, no, no, all I'm saying I don't think there's --

FERGUSON: Would you use the same logic if it related -- would you use the same logic -- would anyone allow Donald Trump to get away with the same logic that you just used if there were missing text messages that related to the Russia investigation and four months of all the campaign staff messages disappeared? There is no way that people would accept that as a valid answer.

BERMAN: All right.

HARLOW: Ben -- OK.

FERGUSON: And that's my point. There's clearly a double standard here.

BERMAN: I don't think we're going to -- we're not going to satisfy you. But, you know, we let you speak your mind on this.

HARLOW: John is really -- he's stating the facts here. I mean, these are facts that you cannot dispute unless you know the context of the secret society text which our own justice reporter who's seen it.


HARLOW: Doesn't know. Because there is no context yet. So, OK, why don't we talk about Oprah?

BERMAN: Let's talk about Oprah.


BERMAN: Because she brings us all together.

HARLOW: She does. Let's talk about Oprah, guys. For first time Oprah herself is answering the question, will you run in 2020? She gave this interview to "In Style" magazine. Here's her answer, "I've always felt very secure and confident with myself in knowing what I could do and what I could not. And so it's not something that interests me. I don't have the DNA for it."

She went on to say someone -- and I'm paraphrasing here, someone came up to me the other week and said I could run your campaign, she said, basically, I'm not into that.

Paul Begala, do you buy this? Oprah is not the future of your party? Or is this just as John thinks a political answer? BEGALA: Oh, I -- it seems to me completely candid and very self-

aware. One of the things about our politics is that maybe the most important thing and I've contributed to this, I have to admit, is you've got to have a thick skin. Yes, I helped advise a super PAC, we ran $190 million of attack ads on Donald Trump and you have to carefully decode what I say on the air, but I don't much like Donald Trump. OK. I don't regret any of those ads.

But I admire the toughness he showed in the face of those attacks. You -- to run for president, you have to, as Hillary Clinton used to say, have the height of a rhinoceros. And it may not be lovely, but it's real. And Miss Winfrey is so admired and so beloved and for wonderful, important reasons. But if you're going to get into this game, anybody, left, right, center, the first thing you have to do is be willing to withstand the most withering attacks.

And as I say, Donald Trump did and my hat is off to him at least. The guy's tough.

HARLOW: I think she's got -- I don't know. I think she's got thick skin.

BERMAN: All I'll say, and I don't think she's going to run, not that anyone cares about my prediction, but this was not Shermanesque, she didn't say I'm not going to run, I will never run, and she also at least took a meeting.

HARLOW: Yes. Yes.

BERMAN: And one way or another she took a meeting on the campaign.

BEGALA: She picked a motto. She'd be great.


BERMAN: And to me --

FERGUSON: She's the Democrats' best candidate.

BERMAN: That's as much of a headline, I took a meeting on the campaign, as, you know, I'm not confident, you know, I'm confident in myself, but I know I don't want to do this, I don't have the DNA.

Anyway, Matt Lewis, Paul Begala, Ben Ferguson, thanks so much for being here.

BEGALA: Thanks.

BERMAN: All right. More fallout from the Larry Nassar sexual abuse trial. The president of Michigan State University stepping down. And now big sponsors distancing themselves from USA Gymnastics. We have a live report ahead.


[10:43:41] BERMAN: So new fallout this morning in the sexual abuse case against former gymnastics doctor, Larry Nassar. The Michigan State University president resigned hours after the school's doctor was sentenced up to 175 years in prison.

The thing here, and we don't often make this clear. Nassar worked both for USA Gymnastics and for Michigan State.


BERMAN: That is why this scandal has legs in the Michigan State University.

HARLOW: And a lot of these women who testified with these victim impact statements said I went to the university and no one believed me, no listened to me, they didn't do anything and that's why they're saying the university is culpable in this as well.

Listen to the judge that handed down that sentence.


JUDGE ROSEMARIE AQUILINA, INGHAM COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT: My page only goes to 100 years, sir. I'm giving you 175 years, which is 2100 months. I've just signed your death warrant.


HARLOW: Our correspondent Jean Casarez has been following the trial the whole time. She joins us from Lansing, Michigan, with more.

Look, you heard from those women for more than a week and the judge handing down what she says is effectively and is a death sentence for Larry Nassar.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And now in the last 24 hours, so much has happened. It's just one thing after the other. And what we're really waiting for at this point is, will the Michigan Attorney General's Office announce officially that they are launching an independent investigation, which could be criminal in nature?

[10:45:05] That will be the next thing to happen if it does. But what we know at this point is the U.S. Olympic Committee has launched an independent investigation. In an open letter to Olympic athletes and others they said that they are going to a third party to have an investigation to try to understand how this could have gone on for so long and why it never came to the surface.

They want to know who knew what and when. They are going to launch that immediately. They are also strongly considering decertifying the USA Gymnastics, which is the governing body that they have for USA and the Olympic athletes in the sport of gymnastics. They decided not to do that at this point. They have already taken the three top people and had them resigned, that's as of last weekend. They are also giving money to counseling for all athletes.

Now, right here in Lansing, overnight, the president of Michigan State University, Lou Anna Simon, has resigned. She said that the negative publicity kept mounting and mounting and it was best if she would leave. She also did not take any responsibility or place any responsibility on Michigan State University. She appreciated the support that the board had put in her, but she says that when it gets so negative that that negativity always is placed on someone's shoulders in essence, and it was hers and she felt it was best for her to leave.

John and Poppy, it keeps going on. AT&T is now pulling their support from the USA Gymnastics. They say they want to go back, but they want to wait until that board cleans up and figures out who knew what, once again, and when -- John, Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes. Jean Casarez, thank you for being on top of this. It's incredibly important. We appreciate the reporting.

Switching gears, Major League Baseball inducts four new members to the Hall of Fame. Which ones and which were snubbed from the honors again this year? In the "Bleacher Report" next.

BERMAN: Yes. Light a candle for Edgar Martinez.


[10:51:49] HARLOW: Major League Baseball has four new members to the Hall of Fame. Some big names not included.

BERMAN: Edgar Martinez. Andy Scholes is with us in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Good morning, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yes, good morning, guys. You know, for just the fourth time ever the baseball writers electing four players to the Hall of Fame in the same year.

This "Bleacher Report" brought to you by the new 2018 Ford F-150.

So you got Chipper Jones and Jim Thome going in on the first try. You got Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman joining them. And Thome was overcome with emotion when he got the call.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The baseball writers have elected you to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Congratulations.



SCHOLES: A great moment for Thome and his family. He is eighth all- time on the homerun list. Now to get the baseball hall of fame, you need to be on 75 percent of the ballots filled out by the writers. And Chipper Jones getting a whopping 97 percent on his very first try. Vlad Guerrero never met a pitch he didn't like. He's the first position player from the Dominican Republic to make it into the Hall of Fame.

And Trevor Hoffman has the second most saves in baseball history. He's just the sixth reliever ever to get into the hall. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, meanwhile, receiving more votes this year, getting to about 57 percent, but many writers continue to leave them off because of allegations of steroid use. Those guys have four years left of eligibility.

All right. Imagine this, you're in the NBA arena getting a hotdog, then right next to the register you can put 10 bucks into a kiosk and bet on the game. Well, that's the NBA's vision. The league is urging New York state lawmakers to pass a sports betting bill that could serve as a model for all 50 states.

The NBA says it wants 1 percent of every bet made on its games, in addition to some other regulations. A league attorney saying the league wants fans to have more access to gambling than just casinos, even being able to place bets right there on your phone or a kiosks while you're at the game. The NBA is the first major professional league to lobby for legalized sports gambling.

All right. Finally, the quarterback matchup at Super Bowl LII is basically David versus Goliath. Tom Brady has got more wins and touchdown passes in the playoffs than Nick Foles has for his entire career. And when speaking with the media yesterday, Foles acknowledged for what he's up against.


NICK FOLES, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES QUARTERBACK: He's definitely a guy that I've always watched. Any young quarterback, any quarterback, you know, around has watched Tom Brady. I mean, he's done an amazing job. He's probably the greatest quarterback to play the game.


SCHOLES: And John, I'm sure you agree with Nick Foles that he is the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. But there is one person out there that is very confident that the Eagles are going to win the Super Bowl. According to reports, someone placed a multimillion dollar bet on Philly to win the game and that bet even moved the spread of the Super Bowl from Patriots favored by six down to five.

HARLOW: Wow. If they play like they did on Sunday --

BERMAN: Well, I --

HARLOW: It's amazing.

BERMAN: Look, actually I think the spread is very favorable to the Eagles right now given how they played and how the Patriots played. I will take one issue with Nick Foles. Nick Foles says I think he's probably, Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback of all back. What's probably, Napoleon Dynamite? I mean, come on. Get rid of the probably there, pal.




HARLOW: Andy, who is your money on?

SCHOLES: I would think the Patriots are going to win, but if I'm taking five or six points, you know, the Eagles might be a good bet because no matter how the Patriots play in the Super Bowl, they always play close ones.

BERMAN: Right.


[10:55:08] SCHOLES: They always win by a field goal at the end. So, you know, Philly plus the points might be the way to go.

HARLOW: All right, Andy, thank you, my friend.

SCHOLES: All right.

HARLOW: See you tomorrow.

The president holding these key face-to-face meetings today with two of America's biggest allies in Davos, Switzerland. All of this as we're learning new details from the White House about just how many White House staffers have spoken with Special Counsel Bob Mueller. Stay with us.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, there. I'm Brianna Keilar, in for Kate Bolduan. We have breaking news from President Trump's first meeting with --