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Nunberg Testified Before Grand Jury; U.K. Expels Russian Diplomats; U.S. Response to U.K. Attack; Haspel's Role in Torture. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired March 14, 2018 - 08:30   ET



[08:31:30] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Roger Stone is denying a report that he'd met with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2016. But former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg says that Stone told him he was contacting Assange. And now Special Counsel Robert Mueller wants to know the details of that conversation.

Joining us now is Sam Nunberg. He testified last week before the grand jury as part of the Mueller probe.

Sam, nice to have you here.


CAMEROTA: OK, so you were interviewed by Robert Mueller's team on Friday?

NUNBERG: By his -- by his team.

CAMEROTA: By his team, right. By his team, yes, on Friday.


CAMEROTA: And did they ask you about whether Roger Stone met with WikiLeaks?

NUNBERG: Well, I -- well, in general. First of all, I had the voluntary interview, which was earlier. And last week I had grand jury testimony. And I don't want to undermine the evidence that they're presenting to the grand jury, but I also think it's pretty obvious that they asked me about this. I won't discuss any other issues. And, yes, they asked me about the conversation I had with Roger.

CAMEROTA: OK. So this is a big deal because Roger Stone is obviously a long-time Donald Trump confidant. And if he was meeting with WikiLeaks, which then revealed that they had these hacked e-mails from John Podesta and from the DNC, that's a close connection. That's a big deal. And so -- so does it seem to you that that's a focus of Robert Mueller's?

NUNBERG: Well, look, I had warned Roger, whom I'm very close with, during that last summer. I warned him repeatedly during that 2016 summer, do not associate yourself with Julian Assange. And I said --


NUNBERG: For two reasons.


NUNBERG: One, at that point it seemed pretty obvious that Hillary Clinton was going to win and there was surely going to be a special counsel into these matters. And if there was a Republican majority -- I mean, excuse me, a Democrat majority in either body of Congress, then he was going to be called. Little do I know that even Donald Trump can get elected and we still have a special counsel. I mean that's really an accomplishment by the president.

CAMEROTA: But what did Roger Stone -- how did he respond to you when you said don't deal with WikiLeaks?

NUNBERG: Roger is going to do what Roger is going to do. Roger advised me to do what I -- not to do certain things. We're very stubborn people.

And I think Roger's argument is different than mine. I do not believe Julian Assange is a journalist. I do not believe when Julian Assange releases information that shows methods, that shows who we're -- who's helping the United States, that is not the same as releasing the Pentagon papers, which was a study showing that the government knew we were going to lose a made up war.

CAMEROTA: Fair enough. But you do believe that Roger Stone met with WikiLeaks and --

NUNBERG: No, I don't believe it. I believe he told me he did. I just don't believe that he ended up meeting with them.

CAMEROTA: So what did he tell you about that?

NUNBERG: I was trying to reach Roger. And a couple for -- you know, and I mean we'd talk either -- we could talk 15 times a week or we cannot talk for two weeks. And I was trying to reach him and I was like where the hell -- where the hell have you been? And Roger just said, oh, I -- I was with Julian Assange. I met with Julian Assange.

CAMEROTA: And now he says he was joking. Here's what Roger Stone says about this. He just said it this week to "The Washington Post."


CAMEROTA: I wish him no ill will, but Sam can manically and persistently call you, Stone said.

NUNBERG: Which is true, by the way.

CAMEROTA: OK. That part's true.

Recalling that Nunberg had called him on a Friday to ask him about his plans for the weekend. I said, I think I will go to London for the weekend to meet with Julian Assange. It was a joke, a throwaway line to get him off the phone. The idea that I would meet with Assange undetected is ridiculous on its face.

NUNBERG: So -- so, first of all, Alisyn, in "The Washington Post" story, I would -- I did not come out and contact Josh Dossey (ph), who I spoke to and said -- and wanted to leak -- wanted to say -- broadcast to the world. Josh called me and said that they had somebody on background that had said that Roger had told them that he had met with Julian Assange --

[08:35:06] CAMEROTA: Yes, that's right.

NUNBERG: But Roger's quote was directly to -- was directly discussing it with me.

CAMEROTA: I know. I get it. I understand.

NUNBERG: So I just want to explain -- explain that, yes.

CAMEROTA: Yes, that you weren't the source on that on. I get it.

However, he says it was a joke. Why didn't you see it as a joke?

NUNBERG: Well, I don't -- it's irrelevant how I see it. My issue is, when I go to a voluntary interview and I'm told I'm not a subject or target, there's only one violation I can do that could get me in deep trouble, which is not tell the truth. If you don't tell the truth, if you're not a subject or target, you're in trouble.

CAMEROTA: And so your truth is that you still believe that Roger Stone was serious when he told you that he met with Julian Assange?

NUNBERG: No, my -- my truth is, Roger told me that.

I would also say I can't get -- I don't want to get into the specific specifics, but the e-mails Roger told me were coming out -- well, I will actually. Roger told me the e-mails were going to be about the Clinton Foundation. I had asked Roger if Assange had any new information about Benghazi. Now, look at the e-mails that Assange released. They neither had anything to do with Benghazi or the Clinton Foundation. And this, you know --

CAMEROTA: Yes, but there is something fishy about all of this because Roger Stone tweeted all of these things. We have a few of them.


CAMEROTA: I'll just read a few. Because this was before WikiLeaks put it out, OK. So before WikiLeaks ever put out --


CAMEROTA: Their hacked e-mails from the DNC, he said, trust me, it will soon be Podesta, John Podesta's time in the barrel, hash tag crooked Hillary. OK. NUNBERG: Right.

CAMEROTA: So then John Podesta's leaked e-mails come out.

NUNBERG: Can I talk about that?

CAMEROTA: Yes, go ahead.

NUNBERG: OK, so that one was going on when the Manafort Ukrainian stories were coming out and people like Roger and me assumed that Podesta's brother, who had profited and made money and, as you know, has (INAUDIBLE) his firm, and then Roger wrote an article in "The Daily Caller" subsequently --


NUNBERG: That talked about -- talked about Podesta's brother working with Ukraine.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but you're saying this was a lucky guess that it would be John Podesta's time in the barrel?

NUNBERG: No, no, no.

CAMEROTA: Like, how can you --

NUNBERG: Well, no, no, no, time in the barrel -- time in the barrel can also means, time in a barrel, like, you're going to -- we're going to have an article about you. You're going to be exposed as well.


NUNBERG: Now -- now the other ones are very problematic. Let's go over them.

CAMEROTA: OK. OK, here are the problem -- here are the problematic ones that Roger Stone seems to know.

NUNBERG: Correct.

CAMEROTA: On Wednesday, Hillary Clinton is done, hash tag WikiLeaks. Here's another one, I have total confidence that WikiLeaks and my hero, Julian Assange, will educate the American people soon, hash tag lock her up. Next, liberals think Assange will stand down. That's wishful thinking. Payload coming.

OK? I mean these are -- this is a man who knows something.

Next, Julian Assange will deliver a devastating expose on Hillary at the time of his choosing. I stand by my prediction.

These were all in the days before the WikiLeaks document dump came out. He sounds like he knows something.

NUNBERG: Roger's got to explain that. That's not for me. And I agree with you, that those will be problem -- that those are problematic. And, once again, I -- I am not a Julian Assange supporter. So --

CAMEROTA: Right, but you are a Roger Stone supporter.

NUNBERG: Correct.

CAMEROTA: He's still your mentor, right?

NUNBERG: Correct. He's a -- well, I don't know if he wants --

CAMEROTA: Because -- I mean have you had a split? Are you --

NUNBERG: No, we have not had a split at all. We have not had a split at all. I want --

CAMEROTA: But is he comfortable with you talking about him?

NUNBERG: He -- is he comfortable? I don't know if he's comfortable or not. But the issue is, is, once again, this story, as I told you before, I was not -- I did not approach "The Washington Post." Somebody else did. And then I was called and said that Roger immediately said that he was talking about the conversation I had had, which is why I responded publicly about it.


You have said about what you've gleaned from the special counsel, from Robert Mueller's team --

NUNBERG: Uh-huh.

CAMEROTA: Let me just quote you. You say, this is a big deal. And you've said that if they have something on Donald Trump, it's going to be a very big deal.

NUNBERG: Right. Well, first of all, in my -- in my humble opinion, if it is -- if they find something that's financial, which I don't believe -- I've never seen any corruption around there, it has to be something that then candidate Trump did. The minute he left, he went down that escalator. It has to be an issue like that.

But I don't think that -- when you meet these people, they are so professional. These are -- these aren't bureaucrats. These aren't the type of people I think that are just sitting around collecting 120- plus a year and surfing the web. These are people that could work in any Fortune 50 company and they're not wasting their time and they would wind this up if they had to.

I also believe that's why the president needs to eventually meet with Mueller's team if he really wants to wind this up and expedite getting it done.

CAMEROTA: And it's not a witch hunt in your mind?

NUNBERG: No, it's not a witch hunt. And let me explain why, Alisyn. Because when I was first called by the FBI agent, it was like the Tuesday after the Wolff book came out, and I was actually frankly rude to him. And I had not really looked into this that much. I had stayed away from it.

But then, as I have to do, one, as a lawyer, and one just in general when you work, I look at what the other side is saying. And I read books and I looked into it. And there was a book called "Collusion" by Luke Harding and there was things like that.

And Donald Trump had -- he just fired Comey and stayed to the Rosenstein rational in that memo --


[08:40:01] NUNBERG: He -- I think he even could have gotten away with the Lester Holt interview. But then he has the Russians in the Oval Office. I mean -- and he doesn't even allow American photographers in? That's -- there's something going on there.

CAMEROTA: Very quickly, the last time we saw you was the Samapalooza (ph), where you, you know, set a record to be on all sorts of cable shows and it --

NUNBERG: By the -- by the way, we beat Fox News in every single -- we beat Fox News that hour, so --

CAMEROTA: So you're --

NUNBERG: In total and demo.

CAMEROTA: You're watching the ratings thinking that Sam Nunberg is a big draw and it sound like you are. But people were concerned about you.


CAMEROTA: How are you doing?

NUNBERG: I'm great. I'm great. I was very stressed out that day. I was --

CAMEROTA: Because you'd been called by the special counsel.

NUNBERG: Not -- well, it wasn't that being called by the special counsel. The special counsel -- the voluntary interview is actually more stressful than the grand jury testimony, because in the grand jury all they want is the information.

And I want to just say, too, they've never asked me for my opinion, and especially against -- in front of this grand jury. They've never asked that. Facts, facts, facts. What do you know firsthand? No hearsay. No -- no even double hearsay.

So I think maybe I did too many interviews at that point. But it was a fun day. We're still talking about it. You know, I -- you know, and I don't want to keep repeating the line, oh, Sam had a TV meltdown. I thought it was great TV. And I -- and I thank Erin for the interview. CAMEROTA: Well, there you go, Sam Nunberg, thank you very much for

giving us all this insight.

NUNBERG: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right, Britain's prime minister is set to take action against Russia after the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy. We have a live report with some new developments, next.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[08:44:56] CUOMO: All right, we're following breaking news.

The British prime minister is speaking right now and just announced that the U.K. will expel Russian diplomats after the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy.

Let's bring in CNN's Nick Paton Walsh live in London with the breaking details.

How is the message being received and what will be the impact?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She's still laying it out, Chris. The detail really is 23 Russian diplomats have a week to leave the United Kingdom. She accuses these of being undeclared spies, basically being engaged in undeclared espionage activities.

At the preface of her statement she said that high level contacts between the U.K. and Russia would cease. And she also said they would be doing their best to dismantle the espionage work within this country, prevent it from re-establishing itself. She said that after, frankly, in her words, the sarcasm of Russia in terms of its response to U.K. requests, that they explain how the nerve agent Novichok came to put critically ill Sergei and Yulia Skripal in the town of Salisbury, that they had no choice but to hold Russia culpable.

She's still outlining the particular elements of the response here. But I'm pretty sure we're going to see some elements of visa banned for certain individuals. She referred to how they would prevent Russia for being able to reestablish its espionage network here.

But the big question is, exactly how tough will the entirety of this response be? It has to really act now I think many believe here in the U.K. and they have to show that the U.K. is willing to take sort of personal economic harm, to inflict harm on Moscow because many confused (ph) last time when Alexander Litvinenko was killed by a radioactive element in 2006, then not doing enough.


CUOMO: All right, Nick Paton Walsh, thank you very much. Please keep us in the loop with any further developments.

So 23 Russian operatives, who have been identified as being relevant but not registered as state actors and diplomats, they're out. They have one week to get out. And it does remind us of Obama and his administration getting rid of 35 for the same kind of reason here in the United States. Not attached to a nerve agent.


CUOMO: But it raises the question, what will the Trump administration do? They kept saying, well, when we get the facts, we get the facts. You've got the facts. What do you do?

CAMEROTA: Right. And what will the new State Department team and national security team do about this? It's quite a dramatic development. So we'll talk about all of that and analyze it, next.


[08:51:18] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CUOMO: All right, so we've been listening in to the British prime minister, Theresa May. And she says that they have no question that Russia is behind the nerve agent attempted murder of people on their soil. And as a response, they're going to expel 23 Russian operatives. They are people the prime minister says who have been identified as working in the interest of that state but not registered. They have one week to get out.

All right, now, what will this mean for the United States? The White House has said they stand by their ally. Here's what they need to stand by. Here are the words of Theresa May.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: No explanation as to how this agent came to be used in the United Kingdom, no explanation as to why Russia has an undeclared chemical weapons program in contravention of international law.

Instead, they have treated the use of a military grade nerve agent in Europe with sarcasm, contempt and defiance. So, Mr. Speaker, there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian state was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr. Skripal and his daughter.


CUOMO: All right, so there's Theresa May.

How will the United States government respond?

Let's get some perspective from Robert Baer, CNN intelligence and security analyst, and Phil Mudd, CNN counterterrorism analyst.

Good to have you both.

Bob Baer, strong words by the prime minister there, Theresa May. A very different message coming out of the White House, let's wait and see, when they get the facts together we'll figure it out. Sarah Sanders wouldn't mention Russia. Rex Tillerson did. Now he's out. The president again seemed to vacillate saying, well, when we have the facts, we'll accept the facts, but they don't have the facts. They do have the facts. They say it was Russia. What are the implications for the U.S.?

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, first of all, we did -- had the facts right from the beginning. This nerve agent is unique to Russia. The CIA found out about it in a place called Nucas (ph), Uzbekistan. Horrified by the lethality of this thing. And there's only one place it could have come from was Russia. And the way I understand it, the only person who could have authorized this is Vladimir Putin himself. So the facts are not in dispute here.

I would just say that May hasn't gone far enough expelling Russian diplomats. It's got to go way beyond that because Vladimir Putin knew he'd be caught in his attempt on this Russian colonel. You know, something's got to be done about Russia. We simply cannot pass this off as sort of a one-off. It's happened too many times. And this country needs to obey -- you know, follow its obligations to NATO. It's just -- there's no question about it.

CUOMO: Well, that -- look, that's the sticking point would be NATO and what it requires of people. Now, the pushback, Philip, will be, listen, this is their problem. You know, we'll support them, but there's no reason for the U.S. to jump in every battle. That's been a mantra for President Trump. He did say he'd stand by his ally. Is there any room for being conservative here?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Heck, no. I see zero room. I will tell you, by the end of the week, maybe even by the end of the day, the United States will do something. I -- this is not a Democrat or a Republican issue. In national security circles, this is going to be seen as a test of an alliance that has stood solid since World War II.

If you're sitting in a British seat, I guarantee you're on the phone today or at the embassy in Washington saying, are you with us or against us? There's no middle ground there. You guys, the Americans, have got to lead.

One quick comment, Chris. This is not just about two people who were subject to an attempted murder in the U.K., this father and daughter. The Russians are trying to reassert empire. That's the acquisition of Crimea, that's the partnership with a man, Bashar al Assad, who has used chemical weapons in Syria. They're trying to reassert an empire that was embarrassed by the fall of the wall in 1992. So this is about the Brits and others in Europe looking to the Americas and saying, not only how are you going to respond to this, but what's our leadership from the west and from across the Atlantic as Russia reemerges? This is a bigger test than it looks like, Chris.

[08:55:22] CUOMO: Well, it is, and also it's in a weird context because, again, the president of the United States seems to be spoiling for a fight with anybody when it comes to words, except Russia. So how will that play out here?

Bob Baer, let me ask you and Philip about something while I have you both.

Ms. Haspel, the choice to take over at the CIA. We had Leon Panetta on here who said, look, this criticism about what programs she oversaw and what black sites she oversaw, that was about policy at the time. She shouldn't be judged by that alone and he endorsed her choice as CIA head.

Do you agree, Bob?

BAER: Oh, absolutely. She used to work for me. I supervised her on her first overseas assignment. Fact-based, smart, tough. She has been -- she was not the architect of the torture program. She, better than anyone, will tell you that it doesn't work, torture. And if there's any chance of getting this across to Trump, it's going to be Gina Haspel. So whatever she can do to get this guy back on track is going to be helpful.

CUOMO: All right, now we do remember that Trump has, in the past, said that torture works.

Phil Mudd, you have said many times that that was not your experience. But the criticism will be, hey, we don't care who put the policy in place. If she was someone of conscience, she wouldn't have done this, I'm going to hold it against her, maybe I'll vote against her as a Democratic senator because we know the Republicans will probably be on board. What's your response to that criticism?

MUDD: Pretty basic. Everybody who said that forgot the past. Let's relive the past. It's the spring and summer of 2002. The American people, including the president and the vice president, said, this is the policy of the United States. And these are the people who represent American values. We -- and I was among them -- went down to speak to the Congress about this, Democrats and Republicans, in leadership on multiple occasions. They either said nothing or OK. To ensure that this was legal, we went multiple times over years to the Department of Justice and they said it's OK. And the American people have since said it's OK if you look at polling. That's what I'd say, Chris.

CUOMO: You know, what, I appreciate the perspective, gentlemen. Who knows better than you guys.

Bob, Phil, be well. Have a good day.

MUDD: Thank you.

CUOMO: CNN "NEWSROOM" with John Berman is going to pick up our important coverage right after the break.

Please, stay with CNN.


[09:00:02] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, good morning, everyone. John Berman here.

Kaboom. A not-so-dramatic reenactment of the political explosion that went off overnight.