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Gates to Plead Guilty, Testify Against Manafort; "National Enquirer" Accused of Shielding Trump from Negative Stories; Fox Host Denies Race Involved in "Shut Up and Dribble". Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired February 19, 2018 - 14:30   ET



[14:30:58] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Yet another major development in the Russia investigation. This time a former senior Trump campaign aide is preparing to plead guilty and cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. The "L.A. Times" with the scoop, reporting Rick Gates will plead guilty to fraud-related charges unrelated to the election, they say, within the next few days. It appears Gates has agreed to testify against former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to Mueller's indictment and is preparing for trial on alleged financial crimes unrelated to the campaign.

With me now, Paul Rosenzweig. He was senior counsel to Ken Starr in the Whitewater investigation of President Clinton.

Paul, thank you so much for being with me.

How does this apparent Rick Gates plea intensify pressure around Paul Manafort?

PAUL ROSENZWEIG, FORMER SENIOR COUNSEL TO KEN STARR: Quite substantially. Gates, by all accounts, was Manafort's deputy. Manafort was his mentor. He probably had pretty full insight into the scope of Manafort's activities. And so the idea that Manafort will be able to with stand the charges against him successfully is substantially diminished at this point. It's far more likely Gates testifying against Manafort means Manafort is going to wind up either having to take a plea or be convicted after trial.

BALDWIN: You wrote this piece in "The Atlantic" basically saying special counsel was sending a potent message to the public with regard to the Russian indictments. What are you saying? What's the message Mueller is sending?

ROSENZWEIG: Well, as I said in the article and as I'm sure your viewers realize, none of the Russians who are indicted are going to see the inside of an American courtroom. Russia doesn't extradite citizens to the United States. Generally. They certainly wouldn't in this case. So the indictment from Mueller has to be seen as much as a public message about the nature and scope of Russian interference in the American electoral system as it is also a I haven't indication of the criminal law. It is in the sense a pretty decent summary of a lot of what he learned through social media to influence the election. It's a warning call, if you will, to Americans and the body politic that it may recur if we aren't careful in 2018.

BALDWIN: Meantime, you have the president who has been clinging to this unwitting part. You say that's unlikely that the Russians, you know, initiated this activity and acted for their own benefit. I want you to explain what you mean by that.

ROSENZWEIG: It's certainly true that the indictment identifies a few unwitting people from within the Trump campaign as recipients of information from Russia. As far as we know so far there's been no allegation of collusion. But saying so far is the key statement. It doesn't mean there is no proof of further coordination of activity and that there won't be forthcoming. Indeed, it is pretty unlikely that there will be no coordination whatsoever. We have seen indications of it. The Trump tower meeting with Donald Trump, Jr, for example. Carter Page's trips to Moscow. There are straws in the wind, if you will, that suggest some form of, if not coordination, at least cross pollination of information between some people in the Trump campaign and the Russian activity. The Russian activity was so well targeted it has to have had guidance from inside America, I think.

[14:34:34] BALDWIN: That's the question, did they have the guidance, and who did they have the guidance from?

Paul Rosenzweig, thank you so much, sir. We'll speak again.

As a report surfaces of another alleged pay-off to another alleged lover, we are getting an inside look at the Catch-and-Kill operation that really helped then-private citizen, Donald Trump.

Also ahead, Lebron James fires back at a FOX News host who tells him to, quote, "shut up and dribble" after he expresses views on President Trump. Let's discuss it coming up.


BALDWIN: Now to this alleged tabloid protecting Trump from troublesome stories, a process called Catch-and-Kill. Stories like the alleged extramarital affair with Playboy's 1998 Playmate of the Year, Karen McDougall, according to reports in "The New York Times" and the "New Yorker." Catch-and-Kill is now the "National Enquirer" tabloid shielding Trump from stories that could damage him.

Megan Twohey, the investigative reporter working on the story with "The Times," is with me now.

Pleasure to have you on. Thank you so much.

Just reading the piece this morning and we were talking commercial. You referred to it as the machinery. That's what it was. I want you to explain to the people how around the time Trump was running for president how there were stories of previous alleged sexual -- what's the word I'm looking for -- indiscretions where he was alleged to have been involved and they wanted to have it end.


TWOHEY: In the last several weeks, there's been attention paid to Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen.


TWOHEY: Finally admitted he facilitated a payment to a Playboy playmate to basically keep her silence, to prevent her from telling her story.

BALDWIN: That was the porn star.

TWOHEY: Excuse me.

BALDWIN: Not the playmate.

TWOHEY: Stormy Daniels, the porn star.


TWOHEY: What we have realized in the course of the investigation is that basically the efforts to cover up and silence potentially damaging stories about Trump went well beyond the payment to Stormy Daniels. That there were a variety of ways in which Michael Cohen worked using intimidation tactics, hush money.

BALDWIN: How would it work?

TWOHEY: Right.

BALDWIN: For example, you guyed had an example of the hedge fund manager. Got his hands on a photo of then private citizen Donald Trump autographing a woman's breasts. What happens after they find that?

TWOHEY: That's in 2015. This is right when Trump entered the race. There is a former hedge fund manager-turned digital entrepreneur who gets his hands on several photos in which it appears Trump is signing the bare breasts of a blonde. He takes them to Cohen who blows up and threatens him. Says I'll destroy you if you publish those. The attention turns to the -- the conversation turns to a company that runs tabloids, including "National Enquirer." That's where the conversation calmed down. They agreed he would take the photos to American Media, which ultimately never published them. It's just one example of the way --


BALDWIN: To pay for them. Just not publish them.

TWOHEY: In that case, there were a variety of business talks that got under way.

BALDWIN: Right. TWOHEY: That this guy wanted to do business. There would be an

interview with Trump and all the giant projects between American Media and the digital entrepreneur who had his hands on the photos. There was an executive, an American Media executive at the time who said it was basically the media company's efforts to help Trump cover up what could be damaging photos. At this time, almost from out of the gate, there are questions during his presidential campaign about his treatment and relationships with women. Those multiplied. Those continued. Those spiraled as the campaign went on.

BALDWIN: What is Michael Cohen saying? How is he saying this is legal?

TWOHEY: There are questions about this. It goes beyond. The photos are one example of several we were able to identify. You know, in the case of -- obviously he has admitted to making a direct payment to the former porn star who said she had a sexual relationship with Trump in 2006. We learned Karen McDougall, the Playboy playmate. When she was basically getting ready to go public with her story in about October of -- excuse me, in the summer of 2016, that she actually ended up striking a deal with American Media in which she received a payment to not go public with her story. Michael Cohen was collecting the details of that settlement through American Media and through her attorney. That's just another example in which we see all of the ways in which there did seem to be a machinery to keep quiet what could be potentially damaging stories.

BALDWIN: As I read your piece, and all five of you on this mega byline, I thought back to the different press briefings, White House press briefings, where Sarah Sanders would be saying, Mr. Trump denied all of this, America voted for him, case closed. Should there be concerns any of the practices have been brought to the administration?

TWOHEY: I think that there is a variety of reasons to care about the story. From a legal standpoint, we are looking at was it illegal? Did Michael Cohen himself violate campaign finance laws when he basically has now confessed to paying $130,000 to silence a woman who had a damaging story to tell about his client, the presidential candidate, now president. There are other questions with regards to President Trump came under not just -- there weren't allegations of consensual affairs. There have been serious allegations about sexual misconduct, groping and other misconduct. I think why it's so important to figure out why the machinery of cover-up worked is it raises serious questions about whether or not there were more serious allegations that have basically remained out of view because of all of the different mechanisms that were at play to keep things hush-hush.

[14:45:03] BALDWIN: Which was the practice then, dot, dot, dot.

Keep digging, Megan Twohey, with "The New York Times."

TWOHEY: We will.

BALDWIN: Thank you so much.

TWOHEY: Thank you. BALDWIN: An apology from Senator Orrin Hatch to the wives of Rob Porter. The Utah politician apologized in letters to both women for how he initially defended his former staffer. Porter recently resigned from his White House post amid allegations he abused two women. Neither of the wives is releasing the content of the Senator's letter. But Porter's second wife, Jenny Willoughby, tells CNN, quote, "It was a sincere apology for pain he may have caused us." When allegations first surfaced about Porter Senator, Hatch released a statement that vigorously defended the former staffer saying, quote, "It is discouraging to see such a vile attack on such a decent man." A day later, Senator Hatch's office issued a second statement saying he was heartbroken by the allegations and condemning domestic violent as abhorrent and unacceptable. Porter's first wife said she also appreciates Senator Hatch's apology.

FOX News relies on a random variety of celebrities for their political opinions, but one of the network's hosts ripping Lebron James for offering his. Now Laura Ingraham is accused now of being racist, or racism for telling the NBA player to "shut up and dribble." The new war of words, next.


[14:50:52] BALDWIN: Carnival, the fun ships, or that's what the ads say, so you probably don't expect this. Seen onboard this 10-day Carnival cruise, police in New South Wales investigating a massive fight that broke out between the passengers in the ship's nightclub, and it was all captured on cell phone.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Horrifying, like people screaming, running around.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They were on the ground in handcuffs begging for them to stop and the security kept punching them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were looking to pick on any Aussie they could find.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What an event that was.


BALDWIN: The ship had to dock early in Australia to remove a large family of 23 people. A Carnival statement reads, "We have a zero- tolerance approach to excessive behavior that affects other guests. In line with this policy, we cooperated fully with local authorities in Australia to remove a large family group who had been involved in disruptive acts on board Carnival 'Legend.'"

The company said passengers will be offered a 25 percent future cruise credit as a good will gesture."


UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Drivers, start your engines!



BALDWIN: NASCAR's biggest race, Daytona 500, with a result that has been a long time coming. That is Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr, the first black driver to take part in the iconic race since 1969. He may have finished second, but he stole the hearts of a lot of NASCAR fans out there. And just watch the pure joy as he hugs his mom.


UNIDENTIFIED MOTHER OF WALLACE: You've waited so long, baby!

DARRELL "BUBBA" WALLACE JR, NASCAR DRIVER: You act like we just won the race.



WALLACE: I'm just so emotional over where my family has been the last two years. I don't talk about it, but it's just so hard. And so having them here to support me is -- pull it together, Bud. Pull it together. You just finished second. It's awesome.


BALDWIN: And awesome it was. Wallace squeaked in second place just by an inch. Austin Dillon won the race.

Ahead for us here on CNN, the gunman who murdered 17 people in that tragic school shooting appears before a judge today. This, as the family who took him in as a child is telling CNN what it was like when he lived with them. You will hear directly from this mother and father, next.


[14:57:49] BALDWIN: Lebron James is firing back after FOX News anchor, Laura Ingraham, told him to "shut up and dribble." This is all stemming from comments Lebron James made on a podcast accusing President Trump of not caring for the people.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST, INGRAHAM: This is what happens when you attempt to leave high school a year early to join the NBA. And it's always unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid $100 million a year to bounce a ball.

Oh, and Lebron and Kevin, you're great players, but no one voted for you. Millions elected Trump to be their coach. So keep the political commentary to yourself or, as someone once said, shut up and dribble.


BALDWIN: By the way, actually, he did finish high school. And he fired back with this post: "I am more than an athlete. #wewillnotshutupanddribble."

Another NBA star adding that her comments are racist. Ingraham doubling down, denying any racial intent. She said it's the same content of her book, "Shut Up and Sing," where she criticized other celebrities trashing then-President George W. Bush.

Let me bring in Baltimore Ravens tight end, Benjamin Watson, and author of "Under Our Skin, Getting Real about Race."

Benjamin Watson, my friend, it is good to have you back on. I hope you are well.

Let me just begin with saying Ingraham doesn't think Lebron James should be talking politics. But let me just remind our viewers who FOX does deem credible to talk politics. Look at this list. All of these, quote unquote, pundits. Why are they allowed but not Lebron James, Benjamin? Do you think race is involved in this from her?

BENJAMIN WATSON: Well, I don't know quite why they aren't allowed other than the fact they have an opposing view. What we've seen so much right now, especially in the climate we're in, is if you have an opposing view from someone, whether they be a TV personality or somebody that you're working with, you want to shut them down. So as we see, there are plenty of people allowed to speak about politics or whatever as long as they agree with whatever narrative a certain host or hostess wants to push.

So when it comes to race, I do think that there are racial undertones. I watch Laura Ingraham and watched her response and watched how she tried to show the different people she said shut up and whatever to. There were only one or two. But when you say those sorts of things, especially because of our history as a country, we can't say those things in a vacuum.

BALDWIN: I don't know if you saw --