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Trump Set to Sign New Tariffs Today, Staffer Scramble; Top House Intel Dems Speak After Interviewing Lewandowski; Ex-Trump Campaign Chief Pleads Not Guilty to New Charges; CNN: Kelly Warned About Talking to Mueller Witnesses. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 8, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:16] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me.

After days of reporting about a White House in chaos, today the proof may be in the public schedule. The White House is hailing a 3:30 signing event on these tariffs but behind the scenes a mad scramble just to make this whole thing happen. Late last night, the policy was far from finalized. The event scrapped and then today the president tweeted out this event happening in an hour and a half and then moments ago, he said this at his cabinet meeting.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a very big meeting at 3:30. I call it an economic meeting, something we have to do to protect our steel, our aluminum in our country.


BALDWIN: OK. As you push tariffs, the president also recognized his chief economist Gary Cohn who is resigning in opposition to the president's plan.


TRUMP: This is Gary Cohn's last meeting in the cabinet and of the cabinet and he's been terrific. He may be a globalist but I still like him. He is seriously at globalist, no question. But you know what? In his own way, he's an analyst because he loves our country.

And where's Gary?

You love our country.


And he's going to go out and make another couple of hundred billion and then he's going to maybe come back. He may come back, right?


BALDWIN: So while we wait to see how the White House weathers tariffs and other heavy front is hanging over press secretary Sarah Sanders. You saw it right around this time yesterday when she established this official link between president and the porn star here Stormy Daniels. Sanders revealed that the president had won in arbitration against Daniels after weeks of denying no connections with her.

Daniels is suing the president saying he did not sign this nondisclosure agreement, this NDA that is supposed to stop her from talking about their alleged affair. A source says the president is, quote/unquote, very unhappy with Sanders and her response.

With me now, CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash.

And so, we will get to all things Stormy Daniels in just a second. But first, let's talk about this "New York Times" report the president talked to people after they were interviewed by the Mueller team specifically, Reince Priebus and Don McGahn. CNN has this reporting that the chief of staff here John Kelly has actually had to talk to the president, right, about being careful about what he's saying with regard to this special investigation and who's being talked to.

The quote we have is White House officials saying it's pretty clear that Kelly admonishes him -- him being the president -- constantly and he's not the only one.

Does the president just not care that there's a line here?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, that's pretty much it. The important thing to keep in mind is that the reporting that that Maggie Haberman with "The Times" has done it is very clearly about doing things that are probably untoward but not illegal, meaning to have a conversation about testimony after the testimony was given isn't obstruction because you're not affecting the testimony, it's already happened, right?

But, yes, it's just not something that should be done, but it is not surprising because the lines -- the traditional lines of protocol and what is and is not usually done are so blurred on a daily basis even and especially in this Russia investigation because we know from the reporting we've done almost for the past a year, Brooke, how frankly obsessive the president is about this, that he talks about it with his friends, that he asks questions about it. So, it shouldn't be a surprise that he also asks questions of people who have been interviewed because he still talks to people like Reince Priebus even though he left.

BALDWIN: So, OK, people also surprised on this whole tariffs thing which happened at some point last week, the sort of a lower point of his week and then, all of a sudden, he starts talking about you know tariffs on steel and aluminum, tweets about some sort of event today at 3:30 at the White House, leaving people continuously sort of scrambling and wondering well what policy is there? There has been no policy.

What is happening today?

BASH: Well, let's see. We'll see in about an hour and a half, and I think this is to me one of like could have served a key case study of the governance of Donald Trump, because this is no small thing. I mean, this is a campaign promise he's delivering on --


BASH: -- to -- from his perspective -- better protect American manufacturing. It's something that he very much, though, disagrees with many people in his party.

[14:05:01] So, a more traditional president or politician or leader would have briefings have discussions private discussions with people who disagree with him in his party, here's what we're going to do, lay out what and why and kind of -- you know, be prepared for the onslaught of opposition or maybe even get some buy-in from people who support him.


BASH: He's got none of that. He's just going to sign this and --

BALDWIN: He wavers -- he waxes many things with --


BASH: Exactly, which he's going back and forth with Jeff Zeleny who's at the White House. I said, is there anything that you've learned that we know? And he said, it's really even at this moment, I'm -- less than an hour and a half yeah where he gives this has the signing ceremony we don't exactly know what he's going to do except that we do understand that he is going to likely give exemptions to Canada --

BALDWIN: And Mexico.

BASH: -- and to Mexico.

BALDWIN: OK. To Stormy Daniels -- to Stormy Daniels, we were watching and I alluded to the questions to Sarah Sanders and we talked, you know, yesterday about what she was saying. Trump is apparently now furious with her. The quote to Jim Acosta was this, Sarah gave the Stormy Daniels storyline steroids yesterday.

Does he have a point? Did it sort of backfire because it was the first time I think we all heard on the record that now officially he's linked to all of this?

BASH: Maybe, maybe if you look at sort of the pure political point of view or the sort of communication point of view. But you know what? You are not going to hear from me and I'm guessing you feel the same way any criticism of somebody at this White House or any White House giving actual information.

I mean, she didn't have all the information. She didn't have the details.


BASH: But she gave information and it is something frankly that's not in her lane and she said that explicitly a couple of times that from the White House podium, she's not supposed to be talking about this but she did mention this so-called arbitration which set off all of the questions and more information about what had gone on behind the scenes with Michael Cohen, the president's fixer and longtime lawyer, and Stormy Daniels.

So, look, I mean -- can you imagine being Sarah Sanders?

BALDWIN: Hang on a second, Dana, here's Adam Schiff speaking.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: -- today. We have requested that he'd be subpoenaed to return to answer certain sets of questions he was unwilling to answer today that were very pertinent to our investigation. These included questions about the production of the false statement concerning the Trump Tower meeting, questions about the firing of James Comey and conversations about that, as well as any discussions that Mr. Lewandowski had with the president about the potential of firing Bob Mueller.

These other questions went unanswered. Mr. Lewandowski did answer a whole set of other questions concerning his time after the campaign, but nonetheless witnesses don't get to pick and choose when it comes to very relevant testimony to our investigation.

So, we have requested a subpoena. Whether that will be granted by the majority or not, I cannot say. They're taking it under consideration. But we feel it very important not only to getting to the truth in terms of our investigation, but also in terms of the broader precedent that it sets that we not allow witnesses to come in and tell us what they're willing to answer and what they won't. And if we have an answer or just a couple of questions --

REPORTER: What was the rationale?

SCHIFF: Well, the rationale was they didn't believe it was relevant and we emphasized repeatedly that was not their determination to make and, of course, whether the administration knowingly made false statements about meetings with Russians is very relevant to our investigation, whether there were actions taken to impede the investigation, obstruct the investigation is also very relevant. So, it was a meritless objection but that was the least proffered reason why they refused to answer.

REPORTER: Did the White House intervene in any way to answer these questions? And also did you get any support from Republicans when you raised these concerns questions about his lack of answer these questions?

SCHIFF: I don't want to get into the specifics of conversations. All I could say, you know, vis-a-vis whether the committee will insist on getting answers that is being taken under advisement by the majority, I think they are struggling to determine how if at all to distinguish between these witnesses. In our view, they ought to be all treated the same way. We shouldn't be saying that we're going to assist on answers from Steve Bannon but not from Hope Hicks, or not from Corey Lewandowski or will insist on answers to some questions but not others and allow the witnesses to decide what they think is pertinent. REPORTER: Did the White House intervene? Did the White House intervene?


[14:10:02] REPORTER: As we understand in the past, the Republicans have shut down your request for subpoenas in real time. What's the reason that (INAUDIBLE) attendance today perhaps on a getaway day and was there any discussion about future interviews and what might be still forthcoming in terms of this investigation?

SCHIFF: It wasn't -- I think a function at all of this being getaway day. We had ample representation during the interview. We still haven't gotten an answer frankly on whether we will move forward with contempt on Steve Bannon. They were quite unequivocal at the time on the need to insist on answers, but have been very quiet since.

So, I think they're still grappling with this. There is really no way to distinguish these witnesses, except some are in favor and some are out of favor at the White House. That's not a legitimate basis to distinguish when it comes to whether we compel people to give us the information, the facts that we need.

So in terms of investigation going forward, there are any number of witnesses that are very relevant, that have not come before our committee. Those that had a role for example in writing the speech that President Trump gave prior to the Trump Tower meeting where he promised he was going to be revealing things about Hillary Clinton. We know Steve Miller had a role in his speechwriting and he's not been brought before the committee.

There are others that had knowledge that that meeting was going to take place prior to it taking place that we've asked that have not become before the committee and, of course, there are large categories of documents that need to be subpoenaed, including communications between the likes of Roger Stone and others and WikiLeaks, the president's son and WikiLeaks direct messaging that we should subpoena from the providers that we haven't.

So there are a number of steps that I think any credible investigator would say these need to be done and we still hope that they will be. Thank you.

REPORTER: Did the White House intervene today though --

BALDWIN: OK. So, ranking member of the House Intel Committee there, the Democrat Adam Schiff answering just some questions here on one of the Trump campaigns former campaign managers, Corey Lewandowski, who he was saying had at least answered all of the relevant questions from his House committee.

So, Dana is with me and also joining us Joseph Moreno, former federal prosecutor.

Dana, what was your takeaway from that? BASH: You know, we we've heard this song sung so many times at those microphones after witnesses come before this particular committee, the House Intelligence Committee, as they do their Russia investigation of people who are in the Trump orbit either current White House officials former officials or in this case, former campaign manager saying that they're not going to answer all the questions, Democrats getting upset about it, asking for a subpoena.

But the reality is that this is a Republican-led House, a Republican- led committee. They have made clear that they're not interested in these subpoenas and it's been a very, very raw partisan investigation. And so, you know, he -- I would not hold your breath that he is going to get -- he Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on that committee -- is going to get what he wants. I just don't.

But I do think it's important to note that it still continues to work very differently on the Senate side. You're not seeing these kinds of press conferences.


BASH: You don't know what's going on or at least sometimes even who's behind closed doors because they're working genuinely still, as far as we know in a bipartisan way.

BALDWIN: Joseph Moreno, what do you think?

JOSEPH MORENO, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT PROSECUTOR: I mean, it's absolutely right, Brooke. I mean, this has been a recurring theme and we saw it with Hope Hicks where she testified before the House and the Senate and before the special counsel and yet she was selective in the topics she would address basically limiting her conversations to the campaign and the transition period and not during her time in the White House. It's very clear that there's a lot more of interest that these folks have and it's yet to be seen whether or not subpoenas will follow to compel that testimony and then further if the White House will invoke executive privilege in an attempt to stop that testimony.

BALDWIN: Stand by, everyone, because also happening right now at the White House, the president is shifting his attention from guns to video games. Just weeks after the school shooting down in Parkland, Florida, why the president's argument does not line up with the facts?

Also just in, Chief of Staff John Kelly, as we've just alluded to a second ago, he's warning the president about talking to witnesses in the Robert Mueller investigation. Hear who the president actually spoke with and Mueller reportedly getting evidence that a Trump associate tried to set up a secret back channel with Russia and then mislead investigators all about that.

We have those details ahead. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


[14:19:05] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news. BALDWIN: We're back with more breaking news this afternoon here, just talking about Paul Manafort, right? You know, he's been facing these charges of bank fraud and tax crimes, so he was in court today just now.

We have just learned that he and his former Trump campaign chairman entered a plea of not guilty. Prosecutors were saying in court that they plan to call when this trial begins in July, 20 to 25 witnesses and the prosecutors arguments could last up to two weeks. Also keep in mind in addition to this court, he also faces federal charges in federal court in Washington, and that trial supposed to start a little later on this fall.

But let's walk through this. Joseph Moreno is still back with me.

And just first when you hear the fact that he entered this plea of not guilty, your first reaction?

MORENO: Well, it's not surprising, Brooke, because that's seems to be the course of action he's taking in the D.C. case. And this is actually really interesting because this is not a superseding indictment in the traditional sense.

[14:20:04] There's actually now two parallel prosecutions. One in D.C., on the original money-laundering and conspiracy charges, and now you have a very --

BALDWIN: Federal court.

MORENO: Yes, you have very fulsome now tax and bank fraud prosecution in Virginia. And there's no sign that the one will go away or replace the other. So, really you have two parallel prosecutions going on at the same time and if the first case sort of built the skeleton of the case, the second indictment really put the meat on the bones. And Mr. Manafort is facing some credible charges here.

BALDWIN: Stay with me, Joseph, because I want to ask you about this other piece of news. Manafort's hearing today comes as we learned that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has actually warned the president to be careful when he's out about talking to these witnesses in the Russia investigation. This is all coming from "The New York Times" today, that they've been reporting that Trump has had conversations with at least two witnesses, number one being the White House counsel Don McGahn, and two, being the former chief of staff Reince Priebus.

So, for the reporting piece of this, let's go to Jessica Schneider. She's our justice correspondent here. And with these two you know gentlemen who the president apparently talked to, what exactly was said?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the president really in one case wanted to know how the interview went, in another case, it gets a little more dicey, trying to maybe pressure Don McGahn, the White House counsel, to really change his story. But, you know, it's interesting, Brooke, because a White House official is telling CNN that John Kelly has warned the president about talking to witnesses, but the same official tells us that they contend that there's really nothing wrong with it, and legally speaking, that is probably right. But the appearance here we've learned has really made some top aides in the White House uncomfortable.

So, I'll go back to really what the president said. So, in one instance, according to "The New York Times", the president asked former chief of staff Reince Priebus if the special counsels team had been nice during the interview. "The Times" reported that Priebus responded to the president that investigators were, in fact, courteous and professional, but didn't give any more specifics.

Now, it's the second instance that might be drawing some concern here. So, the president reportedly told an aide that White House counsel Don McGahn should issue a statement denying what was a January "New York Times" article that had reported McGahn told the special counsel's investigators that the president once wanted him to fire special counsel Robert Mueller and that McGahn pushed back, even threatened to resign.

But McGahn told the president at the time when the president asked for this clarification, he reminded him that, Mr. President, you did ask me to ask Mueller and the president, of course, pushed back against that account according at "The Times", saying that it didn't really happen that way. So, it's interesting, Brooke, because the special counsel is now aware of both of these conversations that the president had with these two key witnesses.

So, the question here is it's being raised by some legal minds, could the president's comments to these witnesses, Reince Priebus and Don McGahn, be yet another piece in what we know is already a possible obstruction of justice probe by the special counsel. So, a lot of questions swirling here after this report -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Jessica, thank you.

So, Joseph Moreno, back over to you for one more question. So, Jessica's whole point about how the appearance of this, right, in talking to Reince Priebus, and talking to Don McGahn, does that -- does that cross a line?

MORENO: Well, I mean, Jessica is right on. If the reporting is accurate that the chief of staff is warning the president not to talk to those witnesses, that's really good advice and he should take it. Even in the best circumstances, technically, these witnesses are not found to confidentiality and they can speak about their testimony. But for exactly the reason that you do not want to walk into an obstruction case, you really should not speak to witnesses. It's just best practices and I think any defense counsel would revise their client against it, particularly when you know you have a special counsel that is looking specifically to potentially build an obstruction case.

BALDWIN: OK. Joseph, thank you.

Coming up here, we're going to talk about the secret meeting that apparently happened just before between Russians and people with ties to President Trump. And one of the big questions that's being asked, was it a way to establish a back-channel with Russia?

Plus, one of the strangest ways yet that Russians try to influence the election, Nintendo fans anyone? An anti-Hillary Clinton video games released weeks before the votes were cast. Look at this.

We'll be right back.


[14:28:50] BALDWIN: Back to the story about the president and the porn star. The president is, quote-unquote, very unhappy with his press secretary after she revealed a link between him and Stormy Daniels. Daniels is suing the president now, saying that he did not sign that nondisclosure agreement, that NDA, that supposed to stop her from talking about their alleged affair.

Let's go now to our legal minds. I have with me, criminal defense attorneys Seema Iyer, who is also a former prosecutor, and criminal defense attorney Darren Kavinoky, who also hosts "Deadly Sins" on Investigation Discovery.

So, welcome, welcome to both of you.

And, Seema, first to you. Here's what I'm wondering -- why do you think Stormy Daniels waited an entire year to question the NDA's validity?

SEEMA IYER, FORMER PROSECUTOR/CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think she was abiding by it until Michael Cohen may have opened the door and violated the agreement, thus allowing her to open her mouth, because both parties, even if the party who it's intended to protect violates it, then the other party gets all bets are off, I can talk now.

BALDWIN: So, OK, as recently as last week, according to this lawsuit, you know, they're saying that Cohen, Trump, that they were trying to in their words shut her up with this lawsuit.

IYER: Right.

BALDWIN: Here is more from Daniels attorney.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: These threats continued until in fact only a few hours ago when Mr. Rosen -- Lawrence Rosen --