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Porn Star Sues Saying Trump Never Signed "Hush" Agreement; Kushner Meets with Mexican President After Losing Top-Secret Security Clearance; White House Press Briefing. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired March 7, 2018 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Step back for a second. Campaign finance laws, ultimately, you would have to prove it would be violating it if it was proven that this money was hush money to dupe the American voter.


BALDWIN: A week before the election.


RANDY ZELIN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY & FORMER PROSECUTOR: It helped the campaign, wouldn't you say?

BALDWIN: Versus, say, keep it away from Melania, who --

BANFIELD: I had a couple-months-old baby with as this relationship went on and on for over a year.


BANFIELD: I suppose that's pretty tricky.

But, Randy, the time is huge. One week before the election. You don't check your common sense if you're a juror, right? You don't just abandon all these important facts when you have to check your gut.

ZELIN: The wonderful discovery that's going to be created as a result of this lawsuit.

BALDWIN: Dear god. Do you think there are pictures?

BANFIELD: It's possible. If you read this agreement, there are pages and pages and pages. Mostly boiler plate that pertain to images, evidence, artifacts, video, any other kind of concrete proof of this.

BALDWIN: Stormy Daniels is also no angel either.

Quick break. More with these two after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [14:35:22] BALDWIN: We're back. Live pictures of the White House briefing. One of the issues that Sarah Huckabee Sanders is certainly going to face is this whole lawsuit from, as Mark Geragos likes to refer to her as, an adult actress, a porn star.

I have Randy Zelin and Ashleigh Banfield still here with me.

Just the fact that Michael Cohen, to you, sir, what kind of law school does one go to, to learn the art to pay a porn star to keep things hush hush?

ZELIN: It is amazing what a lawyer might be prepared to do in order to make a client happy. It happens every minute of every day. Lawyers are put in a bad position. What's worse? Is it worse to lose a client over something or to get rid of a client because of something? When you have a client who is the most powerful man in the free world, you may not want to do a hell of a lot to make him cranky.


BANFIELD: He went to the same law school where he learned you can't rape your wife. He said that. He said that publicly, you can't rape your wife. Brooke, for god's sakes, I could pick 10 people off the street who say, oh, yes, legally, you can.

BALDWIN: As far as Stormy Daniels, she's no angel but she's cleaver. You talked earlier about how she's saying to Michael Cohen, I'm going to have you disbarred for life, or your boss, Donald Trump, knows everything.

BANFIELD: She touches that, right? She doesn't suggest that. She says, hey, have you read the ethical violations rules? If you did all this stuff, if you sign this deal, and he didn't know anything about it, and he's your client, you are not conforming to the rules of your own profession, and that could lead to disbarment. She's pitting Michael Cohen against Donald Trump. Either you are unethical and will be disbarred potentially, or your boss knew all about this stuff.

ZELIN: By the way, let's not lose sight of the fact that the fact that Miss Daniels is no angel is actually perfect here. If she were an angel, then you have real -- what are you talking about? Why would I not sign something? Why would I not do something? What better person to have on the other side of something like than someone who not only gets paid to sleep with people but gets paid to sleep with people and broadcasts it to lots of other people who enjoy watching that kind of stuff.

BANFIELD: Yes. We are having this conversation about the president of the United States. We're having it.

BALDWIN: This can't be happening.

BANFIELD: And it's facts. It's in illegal documents. These things happened.

BALDWIN: Do we have any guesses why David Dennison pseudonym? Is that significant, that's the Trump pseudonym?

BANFIELD: I'm freaked out. My middle name is Dennison, so I'm too close to this to answer.

BALDWIN: Randy, any answers?

ZELIN: Dennison, the Menace-son? I don't know.

BALDWIN: No idea.

Ashleigh and Randy, thank you so much on that.

ZELIN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Randy, if you were defending the president, what advice would you give him to put this behind him. I want to hear your answer after the break. As we await the White House briefing set to begin any moment now.


[14:42:48] BALDWIN: Right now Jared Kushner, the president's son-in- law, White House advisor, who just lost his top security clearance, is in Mexico on official White House business. The visit comes the very same week that Mexico's president was supposed to visit Washington but canceled after a tense phone call last month with the president over border wall funding. This trip also comes a week after the blockbuster report that Mexico is one of those countries that discussed how it could manipulate Jared Kushner.

With all of that to think about, let's bring in Patrick Oppmann. He's in Mexico City for us this afternoon.

Patrick Oppmann, Jared Kushner is there, leading this delegation, focused on economic issues. But after the phone call with Pena Nieto and Trump last week, this whole tariff plan as well, is Mexico even in the mood to listen to Jared Kushner?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Apparently, because they're hosting him. He's meeting right now with the Mexican president. Jared Kushner's aim in all this has to be two-fold, trying to repair U.S./Mexican relations after that contentious phone call, and he's trying to repair his own reputation after, as you said, he lost his security clearance. He's down here on a mission from the president of the United States, Donald Trump, trying to get things back on track. Mexicans are asking if this means that that meeting that was canceled will be back on. They're also asking, why does Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto keep doubling down on trying to have a decent relationship with Donald Trump after so many times where Donald Trump has seemingly embarrassed him, keeps bringing up the wall that Mexico will pay for it, putting him in a tough spot. This is an election year in Mexico. There will be an election in July. And the ruling party is behind in the polls right now. At least the thinking appears to be that President Pena Nieto thinks if he can repair the relationship with the U.S., move beyond the wall, get to the U.S., have a meeting that goes well with Donald Trump, then that could help his party at the polls. There's a lot of ifs there, though. Brooke, as we know, Donald Trump cannot talk about the wall without saying who will get the check and he always says it will be Mexico who picks up the very hefty check for building the border wall.

BALDWIN: And Mexico says no.

Here's another question for you. If they're talking about the wall, or NAFTA, who knows what else might be on the document, how can Kushner legitimately speak with President Pena Nieto without security clearance?

[14:45:16] OPPMANN: Absolutely. A lot has changed. You're talking about drug interdiction, you're talking about classified information, sources and methods. He's not here by himself. He has brought down a team from the State Department and the NSA, people we assume are trained hands, that when he starts to veer off in an area --


BALDWIN: Forgive me, Patrick.

Here is the White House daily briefing.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: -- the president delivered remarks at the Latino Coalition Summit this afternoon. The business leaders in attendance are living proof that the American dream is back and stronger than ever under President Trump's leadership.

As the president noted, last year Hispanic unemployment reached the lowest level in history. It has now remained below 5 percent for the longest period ever recorded.

Latino-owned businesses are thriving like never before, contributing nearly half a trillion dollars to our economy last year alone. And with the president's pro-growth policies, this is only the beginning.

The last couple of weeks, we have been highlighting Senate Democrats' historic efforts to obstruct the ability of the government to function. A stunning 43 percent of the president's highly qualified nominees are still waiting for confirmation in the Senate.

Senator Schumer's tactics have led to 102 fewer confirmations than the next closest administration. As I noted before, blocking Rick Grenell (ph) from serving as ambassador to Germany is putting our national security in jeopardy.

Today, I'd like to highlight Yleem Poblete. It has been almost 150 days since Dr. Poblete was nominated to serve as assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification and compliance. She would work to verify compliance of arms control, including disarmament agreements and missile defense cooperation.

We need her in place so she's able to fully represent the United States at upcoming international meetings to discuss Syria's use of chemical weapons, and to participate in April's Nuclear Non- proliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee meetings. Say that really fast.

SANDERS: And yet Senator Schumer is holding her up, putting the safety and security of the American people -- and, frankly, the entire world -- in danger. Senator Schumer is blocking nominees indiscriminately. He forces time-wasting procedural votes on nominees, and then eventually votes in support of them. Just yesterday the Senate had to waste precious floor time on a universally respected nominee, Terry Dottie, who was confirmed 98 to 0. Even Senator Schumer eventually voted in favor of the nominee, yet still demanded the Senate go through archaic Senate procedure that delays votes and wastes the American people's time. It's a disgrace. It's dangerous and it must come to an end.

And with that I will take your questions.

QUESTION: Sarah, on the tariffs, does the president expect to sign the tariffs tomorrow? And can countries like Mexico and Canada and allies within the European Union expect to have a pathway to gain exemption from the tariffs?

SANDERS: We expect that the president will sign something by the end of the week and there are potential carveouts for Mexico and Canada based on national security and possibly other countries as well, based on that process.

QUESTION: Specifically, what would they have to do?

SANDERS: Again, that would be case-by-case and country-by-country basis, but it would be determined whether or not there is a national security exemption.

QUESTION: So far this year six top White House staffers have resigned. The president says there are more names to come. Why are so many people leaving this administration?

SANDERS: Look, this administration has had a historic first year. We're going to continue to do great things. This is an intense place, as every White House and it's not abnormal that you would have people come and go, but we're continuing to do great work. We are continuing to focus on the president's agenda and that's what we're all here to do.

QUESTION: But actually, it is abnormal. No administration in recent history has had this much turnover.

SANDERS: I said it's not abnormal to have turnover.

QUESTION: If this is not the definition of chaotic, how would you describe what's happening in these recent weeks?

SANDERS: It was then I don't think we would be able to accomplish everything that we've done. The economy is stronger than it's been in ages. ISIS is on the run. The remaking of the judiciary. Jobs are coming in at record numbers. There are historic things that have taken place in the first year. Sounds like a very functioning place of business to me.

QUESTION: When you talk about potential carveouts are you also talking about NATO allies as possibly getting this exemption?

SANDERS: Again, it would be a country-by-country and it will be based on national security.

QUESTION: Let me follow up -- today the president tweeted, "China has been asked to develop a plan for the year for a $1 billion reduction in the trade deficit." What's he talking about? Did he make this recently or has he been talking to the Chinese?

SANDERS: We had conversations with officials last week and we're going to continue those conversations with them. The president has been very clear that he wants to address the trade imbalance that the United States has with a number of countries. He feels like the United States has been taken advantage of for far too long and he's not going to allow that to continue under his watch.

QUESTION: Have they responded?

SANDERS: I'm sorry? We're continuing conversations with them.

QUESTION: Sarah, you've said repeatedly that we've addressed our feelings on that situation in regards to the Stormy Daniels payment. But specifically, can I ask, did the president approve of the payment that was made in October 2016 by his longtime lawyer and adviser, Michael Cohen?

SANDERS: Look, the president has addressed these directly and made very well clear that none of these allegations are true. This case has already been won in arbitration and anything beyond that I would refer you to the president's outside counsel.

QUESTION: When did the president address specifically the cash payment that was made in October of 2016?

SANDERS: The president has denied the allegations against him and again this case has already been won in arbitration. Anything beyond that I would refer you to outside counsel.

QUESTION: Did he know about that payment at the time, though?

SANDERS: I've addressed this as far as I can go.

QUESTION: That payment -- did he know about the payment at the time?

SANDERS: Not that I'm aware of. And again, anything beyond what I've already given you I would refer you to the president's outside counsel.


QUESTION: Has he talked to Michael Cohen about that since this has become a story this week? Has he talked to Michael Cohen about that? If I can just ask one more thing.

SANDERS: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: Has he talked to Michael Cohen about that this week, since it's become news?

SANDERS: I don't know. I'm not sure.

QUESTION: Yes, Sarah, this administration's now imposed additional sanctions on North Korea after concluding that Kim Jong-Un's government assassinated his half-brother using VX nerve agent in Malaysia. Now we have authorities in Britain, have announced that a nerve agent was used to try to kill a former Russian double agent and his wife. Obviously Moscow the prime suspect.

What does this administration have to say about this attempted assassination in the U.K.? And are sanctions against Russia likely as they were in the case of the North Koreans?

SANDERS: This is currently under review and I'll keep you posted as we have further information and developments on that front.


QUESTION: Thank you. A quick question on the China tweet, and then I had an NEC question.

Is there any chance that, if China did respond on that $1 billion reduction plan that that could assuage or affect the shaping of this tariff plan before it is announced at the end of the week? In other words, is China's piece of this tariff thing negotiable or are we only talking about (inaudible) Canada, Mexico, E.U. countries?

And my other ...

SANDERS: Hold on, let me address that first. The president's been clear that he wants to address the trade imbalances and the unfair practices. And certainly we would take anything into consideration, but as of right now we're moving fully ahead.

And anything that would change would be done so on a national security basis. Any decision for (inaudible).

QUESTION: OK. Obviously you're going to take your time and space on making the NEC decision, but can you give us a sort of scope of the short list? And there's two names in particular I wanted to bounce off of you in this room, just among friends here.


Larry Kudlow and Amy Pudzer (ph), can you confirm that those two are among names under consideration? And how much of a role is Gary Cohn himself going to have in helping the President make that pick to succeed him?

SANDERS: I'm not going to get into any naming or a list, but I can tell you that the president has a number of people under consideration, and he's going to take his time making that decision.

QUESTION: With Gary Cohn leaving, Senator Cornyn, Republican Senator Cornyn, said today, "I'm concerned who the president will turn to for advice." Should he be concerned?

SANDERS: No, the president's got a number of very accomplished, smart, capable people around him, and he is going to continue to lean on a lot of those people. But at the end of the day, the American people voted overwhelmingly for President Donald J. Trump.

They voted for his policies, his agenda, and for him to be the ultimate decisionmaker. And I think that everyone can rest assured in the American people's choice on that front, and that they've made the right one.

John (ph)?

QUESTION: You said earlier today that we're continuing to bring in new people very day. Could you tell us who has come in this week?

SANDERS: We've made several personnel announcements. I would refer you back to the press releases of nominations and personnel announcements that have gone out. I think there's been at least three that have gone out earlier this week.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) in the White House?

SANDERS: I'd be happy to forward those to you if you're not receiving the White House press releases.

John (ph)?

QUESTION: The -- the European Union's being very shrewd in its threats of retaliation against these tariffs, saying that they would plant tariffs on things like bed linens, which would include swing states of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Georgia; manufacturers of (ph) chewing tobacco, which includes North Carolina; cranberries, the leading producer of which is Wisconsin; orange juice, again, Florida.

Is -- is the president concerned that he could hurt his political fortunes in some of these swing states if he goes ahead with tariffs?

SANDERS: Look, the president has been talking about this for a long time. It shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody. Other countries have created unfair trade policies for decades that have harmed our national and economic security.

The president wants a strong economy and a strong national security, and a strong U.S. economy benefits all Americans, particularly by helping us maintain a strong military and defend U.S. national security interests.

And he's going to continue every day to fight for making sure that we have strong, both national and economic security.

QUESTION: The E.U. is going to hit him where it hurts. Is -- is he prepared to take the hit?

SANDERS: The president is prepared to protect our country. That is the number-one priority he has as president, is to protect our economic and national security interests, and that's exactly what he's doing.


QUESTION: (Inaudible) just about Gary Cohn. He was a noted free trader, a globalist. Will the president seek another globalist, another free trader?

SANDERS: I'm not going to get ahead of the president's announcement on who will replace Gary.

QUESTION: A follow-up on Gary Cohn. The president has often touted the strength of the markets. There has been some volatility today. The U.S. markets opened down, so did the Asian markets. Is he concerned about the volatility in the markets in the wake of Gary Cohn's resignation announcement?

SANDERS: The president's focused on long-term economic goals. The economy is still infinitely stronger today than it was when the president took office. We're going to continue to fight for strong, economic policy, job growth, wage growth and certainly an increased number of people that are working in this country. Again, specifically some of the actions that you're going to see through the announcement later this week.

QUESTION: Isn't the message from the markets though that they're concerned about Gary Cohn's departure and what it might mean for the stability of this White House and the U.S. economy?

SANDERS: I think if you look at the overall message of the markets, it's that we're doing much better under President Trump than we were doing before he took office.

QUESTION: Now the president called Gary Cohn a rare talent. Does that mean that he's open to having him come back in some other capacity, perhaps a Cabinet-level role?

SANDERS: Certainly. They maintain a strong relationship and are going to continue that relationship and certainly continue -- Gary will continue to be an advocate for the president in a number...


SANDERS: I'm not closing the door.

Steve (ph)?

QUESTION: One more quickly -- one more quickly. Have you confirmed ...

SANDERS: I want to move around this, because I want to ...

QUESTION: If you can just confirm or comment on the ABC News report that a number of staffers have had their ... SANDERS: Kristen (ph), I'm going to bounce around, but I'm sure one of your colleagues would be happy to pick up where you left off.

QUESTION: I do have a question about something you said earlier in response to Jeff's question. You said that there's arbitration that's already been won, by whom and when?

SANDERS: By the president's personal attorneys and for details on that, I would refer you to them.

QUESTION: But you're aware of them, so what more can you share with us?

SANDERS: I can share that -- that arbitration was won in the president's favor, and I would refer you to the president's outside counsel on any details beyond that.

QUESTION: A follow-up, Sarah, a question. Tomorrow the president will be meeting with video game executives. What is he hope to accomplish and why is he bringing them in?

SANDERS: The president wants to continue the conversation on every different area that we can to help promote school safety. And I'm not going to get ahead of the discussion that they're going to have tomorrow, but we think it's an important discussion to have, and one that the President looks forward to.


QUESTION: ... violence, is that why?

SANDERS: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: Does he think that video games are too violent? Is that why he wants to...

SANDERS: Certainly something that should be looked at. And something that we want to have the conversation about.

QUESTION: Sarah, thank you very much. I was wondering, the president tweeted earlier about saying the U.S. is acting swiftly on intellectual-property theft. Should we understand that to mean that the 301 report is imminent? And can you kind of give us some detail about whether it might lean into tariffs or damages for intellectual property theft?

SANDERS: Something certainly that we have considered and talked about extensively, but I'm not going to get ahead of any potential announcements.

QUESTION: Sarah, given the president's criticism of the attorney general in the past referring matters to the I.G., does he then concur with several of the GOP congressmen who are calling for a second special counsel to look into FISA abuse in the Department of Justice?

SANDERS: The president's made clear that he has significant concerns about the current FISA process. Nothing makes the problem of FISA more clear than both the Democrat and Republican memos that outlined that the FBI used political campaign material to get a warrant to spy on American citizens.

They failed to disclose to the judge that the dossier was funded by the Clinton campaign, and the DNC, even as it was being used to spy on people associated with the Trump campaign.

Obviously, those details alone show that the process needs to be looked at closely and reformed, to make sure that we're doing everything we can to protect the privacy of Americans.


Allie (ph)?

QUESTION: Separate topic. I want to ask about the V.A., but I do want to follow up on something you have said twice now this week. Which is, when asked about that payment to the president, you've said that, "Not that I'm aware of." Have you asked the president this question?

SANDERS: I'm sorry, can you be more specific?

QUESTION: Sure, sure.