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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Stormy Daniels' Lawyer Says She was Physically Threatened to Stay Silent; Russia Vows to Retaliate Against U.S. and U.K.; Is Russia A Friend Or Foe Of The United States? New CNN Series Talks Love, Sex, And Female Empowerment; CNN Gets Exclusive Access As Suspected Scammers Arrested. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired March 16, 2018 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:30:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: One, threaten her with -- physically threaten her?

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: Again, I'm not going to answer any further questions relating to the specifics of what transpired. I think the American people will believe my client when she is able to tell her story.

TAPPER: Do you have any reason to believe that Donald Trump knew about this threat?

AVENATTI: I'm going to stand by the same answer.

TAPPER: Is she -- is Miss Daniels considering, or has she considered firing criminal charges?

AVENATTI: I'm not at liberty to discuss communications that I've had with my client on that topic. I'm sorry.

TAPPER: So let's move on to the other bombshell accusation that you've made in the last few hours, that six other women have come to you saying that they have similar stories to Miss Daniels involving Donald Trump. Did those women -- any of them feel physically threatened as well? And if so, in the same way that your client Miss Daniels was?

AVENATTI: Jake, I haven't made any bombshell accusations. I have been asked questions and I've answered those questions truthfully relating to facts. This is a search for the truthful. As it relates to those six individuals, I'm not at liberty to get into the specifics relating about them beyond what I've already said. We're in the process of vetting their stories. I want to be really, really clear about something. And that is that we're not going to get over the tips of our skis on this.

We're not going to just march out and start making a bunch of, quote, "accusations," close quote. We're in the process of vetting the stories that we've been told were relating to those six women. As you know when there is an issue as prominent as this issue right now, this matter, there's a lot of people that come out of the wood work and make a lot of accusations and say a lot of things. We are not staking our reputation on what we've been told relating to

these six individuals. We're going to do our due diligence. We're going to do what we need to do to vet them. And when and if we decide to represent one or more of them, then hopefully we'll be in a position where we can offer some additional details.

TAPPER: So you have said, though, that at least two of these six women also signed nondisclosure agreements. Have you seen those agreements?

AVENATTI: I've seen two documents which purport to be nondisclosure agreements.

TAPPER: Did President Trump or any of his representatives sign those two NDAs that you saw?

AVENATTI: I'm not at liberty to discuss the content of those NDAs yet.

TAPPER: What kind of proof does your client Miss Daniels have of this alleged affair? Does she have photographs? Does she have recordings?

AVENATTI: I'm not at liberty to answer those questions. I've been asked it many, many times. And again, I think when your viewers observe the interview, they're going to learn a lot of details about my client, about not only her relationship with the president, but also what transpired after that, including the vast attempts that were made to silence and muzzle her and prevent her from talking to the American people about what really happened.

TAPPER: But do you consider a nondisclosure agreement to be an attempt to silence or muzzle her?

AVENATTI: I think that would be one step but that is certainly not all that was done in connection with this case.

TAPPER: Right. Because -- but I'm thinking that the average person at home hears, this happened and she was paid $130,000 to keep her mouth shut. That's not really the same as an attempt to muzzle her. They were giving her compensation.

AVENATTI: Well, that may be one example. But again, I think that the efforts that were made in connection with this case went far beyond that. And I think that when the American people tune in to "60 Minutes," they're going to learn that.

TAPPER: There is obviously a big debate about how relevant an extramarital affair when Donald Trump was a private citizen, an alleged extramarital affair, is to the job he's doing right now. Is there anything in the litany of accusations, you would call them facts, that surround this case that happened while Donald Trump was president?

AVENATTI: Yes.

TAPPER: Can you go any further than that? AVENATTI: No.

TAPPER: And to those who say, hey, this is just an alleged affair back when Donald Trump was a private citizen, who cares, you would say?

AVENATTI: It's all about the cover-up.

TAPPER: All right. Michael Avenatti, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.

AVENATTI: Thank you.

TAPPER: It could be Russia's most dangerous attack yet and they are poised to do it again at any moment, the government says. That's next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:38:36] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Now it's time for the "World Lead." The Russian retaliation at any moment is expected. The Kremlin says it will directly respond to the expulsion of 23 diplomats by the U.K. as well as the new sanctions imposed by the United States. All of this comes as the U.S. government says Vladimir Putin went so far as to order cyber attacks on American power grid which would theoretically plunge millions of Americans into utter darkness, chaos and catastrophe.

Let's get right to CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen who's in Moscow.

Fred, what type of retaliation should we expect by the Russians against the U.S. and the U.K.?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake, a lot going on in several fronts here with the Russians. But really the information is only trickling in. We heard earlier today from the spokesman for Vladimir Putin. He said that what the Russians would do is increase what they call their blacklist of Americans which means that they're going to sanction some Americans.

They haven't said how they are going to do that, how many Americans or American entities they want to sanction and when exactly it is going to happen except for them to say that it's going to be soon.

Now the situation is even more serious with the Brits. The British Foreign minister, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson came up earlier today and said he believed it was overwhelmingly likely that that Vladimir Putin himself had ordered a nerve agent attack against a former Russian spy on British soil. The Russians were absolutely livid at those comments, called them unpardonable.

[16:40:03] Now the latest that we'll hear from the Russian is they say against Brits they finalized all the measures they want to take in retaliation for the Brits kicking out some Russian diplomats. They haven't, however, said what those measures are going to be and there again they say they will be announced soon. Not giving any timeframe or hours -- Jake.

TAPPER: And Fred, in addition to the nerve agent attack against the former Russian spy and his daughter, Britain's Metropolitan Police have launched a murder investigation into the death of Russian businessman Nikolai Glushkov in the U.K. earlier this week. What can you tell us about that?

PLEITGEN: Yes. Yes, I mean, it's one of those things that has come through, that really is remarkable. It was earlier this week on Monday that Nikolai Glushkov was found dead in his apartment. Now this is someone who was friends with a lot of Russian exiles and some of which died under mysterious circumstances and some of which were poisoned. Like Alexander Litvinenko who was poisoned in 2006. He knew him as well.

Well, today it turns out that Glushkov apparently had marks on his neck of compression which leads the investigators to think that he was murdered. Now they've ordered a murder investigation. Their counterterrorism police is even involved as well.

Now to some it might sound cynical but the Russians are saying they themselves have also launched an investigation into his murder and once again are demanding answers from the Brits on this topic as well. So far they said they haven't gotten any from London, however, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Fred Pleitgen in Moscow for us. Thanks so much.

Joining me now is CNN anchor and chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour.

Christiane, always great to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good to be with you, Jake.

TAPPER: So Russia has long denied any involvement in this -- this long list of mysterious deaths of Russians in the U.K. The British Foreign secretary said today this would not have happened without Vladimir Putin's order. What do make of it all?

AMANPOUR: Well, look, I think there's no doubt that all the Western governments from here in the United States, whether it's the White House or the foreign policy establishment in Congress, to Britain, to France, Germany and around, absolutely believe that these kinds of blatant and very, very complicated attacks on sovereign states, can only be done by the authority or the approval or the order of the president. And that's what they believe, which is why they're being quite strong about standing up to say that.

I mean, Theresa May told her parliament that, you know, she strongly believed before she came out with the actual sort of evidence and the expulsions that this was, quote, "an unlawful attack by the Russian state on a sovereign state," their own. I mean, these are very strong words. And ever since Vladimir Putin invaded and then annexed Crimea and then sent the little green men actually Russian into eastern Ukraine, there has been this cold war but now war by other means between Russia and the West, cyber war, interference like that, a stepping up of actual, you know, military sort of confrontation without it getting to confrontation yet.

And then these, what many believe, revenge attacks and lessons that do not cross me because I can get you and your family. That's what the daughter apparently was all about, if you talk to the exiles and experts.

TAPPER: The White House was asked yesterday whether Russia is a friend or a foe of the U.S. The White House said it was up to Putin to decide for himself whether they want to be a good actor or a bad actor. But empirically given all that's transpired, the long list that you just recited, Crimea, election interference, cyber attacks, can Russia ever be a friend of the United States and of the West?

AMANPOUR: Well, I think it can. I mean, you only have to go back to the post-Soviet era, the era between Boris Yeltsin and President Clinton. For a short period there was a time when they were working together with the same initiatives, the same -- you know, the same -- at least the same sort of kind of world view that wasn't implacably forced against together. But they've always had differences, whether it's over the Balkans or wherever it might be.

But the problem is that essentially after President Bush, you know, first got Russia to help them out as staging places for launching the invasion of Afghanistan, I think Iraq was a step too far. And then when it was Libya during the Arab spring, Russia never forgave them. And now only after Europe put sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, in other words violating international norms, big country invading, annexing small country, Russia versus Crimea, they have been at logger heads and worse ever since.

And the West believed that it is Putin's aim to destabilize the Western democratic order and their institutions. And not just the political institutions but NATO and all the other orders that it believes is uniquely threatening and they wanted stabilized. And Vladimir Putin is former KGB and the head of the FSB.

[16:45:00] He knows how to do this. And Russia has a long history of waging war by alternative means. Whether it's fake news and propaganda, now it's translated into you know, cyber warfare.

TAPPER: So you Christiane, you've reported from all over the globe, into war zones on every continent, interviewed many heads of state. You have a new series coming up which is quite a departure from what people are used to from you. It is called "SEX AND LOVE AROUND THE WORLD," in which you tackle some tough questions about intimacy and female empowerment. What inspired you to make this series?

AMANPOUR: Well, you know, there's no obvious segue here right now except to say that it is a real respite from some of the incredible stress that we see in the political sphere right now. But what inspired me was precisely, I wanted to see the flip side of the human condition from all the extreme coverage that I've done in the past. Watching people on the edge of survival compared now to watching people really sort of investigate and explore and get in touch with what makes them human. And what is more human than love and sexuality?

And I did explore it from the perspective of women. I'm a woman. I've spent my career exploring women and kids and young girls who are victims of these wars, sex trafficking, all the rest. We did something completely different. We didn't focus on women as victims in porn, in prostitutions, in sex trafficking.

We went to all these unlikely cities and actually found lots of young women trying to push the boundaries, to sort of breakout of the very conservative norms that exist around them, in culture, religion, politics and particularly personal politics, sexual politics. Just the right to choose their own partners in society that's have always had arranged marriages, forced marriages and the like and it's really eye-opening. And I think there's a little something for everybody in there including you, Jake.

TAPPER: I'm sure. I'm looking forward to it very much. Christiane Amanpour, it's always good to have you. Thanks so much. Be sure to tune in Christiane Amanpour, "SEX AND LOVE AROUND THE WORLD." It premieres this Saturday at 10:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN. Hundreds of thousands of dollars meant to help America's veterans, instead it was allegedly being used the fund a lavish lifestyle. Only CNN was there when the investigators raided the con artists posing as a veteran's charity. Stick with us with this outrageous story.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:50:00] TAPPER: In our "WORLD LEAD" today, the Commander-in-Chief tweeting his condolences to the families of seven service members killed in a helicopter crash writing, their sacrifice and service to our country will never be forgotten. The chopper went down in Western Iraq. The military says the crash was not caused by enemy activity.

And another U.S. helicopter crew flying alongside said there was no hostile fire, which leads us to our "BURIED LEAD" which is our category for stories that we feel are not getting enough attention. Whether fallen service members or wounded veterans, this show tries to bring attention to the men and women who served which is why it is so galling when we learn about those who exploit the reverence so many of us feel such as the four individuals who appeared before a judge yesterday and today for using the wounded warrior name for their own personal gain. CNN's Laura Jarrett has the story.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Exclusive new video shows a federal task force in Indiana capturing those they call the lowest of the low. Con artist who's allegedly stole money intended for America's heroes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are some despicable fraud schemes out there but you can't get much lower than this.

JARRETT: A federal indictment alleges that Joanie Watson and Thomas Johnson conspired with two others to setup the Wounded Warrior Fund and Foundation, familiar sounding but fake organizations, both easily mistaken for the very real Wounded Warrior Project.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Find out how you can do your part.

JARRETT: A multimillion-dollar charity that serves veterans nationwide. Investigators stay suspects made cold calls and sent solicitations in order to defraud more than 1,000 victims.

RICHARD FERRETTI, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, U.S. SECRET SERVICE: They would fax fliers into local businesses saying they're starting a calling card program for the Indiana veterans who were deployed overseas. That program was completely fictitious.

JARRETT: On print receipts for donations, the group falsely claimed to be IRS approved 501(c)(3) not for profit charities, even encouraging victims to keep the paperwork for tax reduction purposes. Over more than six years, they ploy successfully netted more than $150,000.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This fake organization was asking for people for food donations, for hotel rooms for veterans.

JARRETT: Authorities say the money funded the suspects' lifestyles instead.

FERRETTI: They've used it at casinos, they've used it for medical bills so we can't find a single dollar so far that's gone to a veteran in this case.

JARRETT: The fake organization was created by (INAUDIBLE) James Linville according to an indictment. Despite never serving in the military, he posed as a veteran using the name Sergeant Bob Davis, the indictment alleges. Eventually, local law enforcement began receiving complaints. As investigators closed in, Linville left nearly 30 threatening phone messages for detective on the case.

LINVILLE: Put me in jail, I dare you. I'll make a mockery of your court. I'm a sovereign citizen, mother(BLEEP).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was belligerent with officers and detectives in this case. And really, in my opinion, had no remorse for his actions.

JARRETT: No remorse that seems for veterans who will never see the donated funds and no remorse for victims such as Dan Cristiani who says he gave Linville and his group $1,000 over two years.

DAN CRISTIANI, VICTIM OF FRAUD: He said that he wanted to come by and get a check if you know, I would help support Wounded Warriors. I felt like I was taken advantage of.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[16:55:03] JARRETT: Linville and all of his accomplices have pleaded not guilty to the charges in this case but if they are convicted, they face decades in prison. Jake?

TAPPER: Laura Jarrett at the Justice Department for us, thank you so much. White House firing watch continues. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Tune in this Sunday morning to CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION." My guests will be Republican Senators Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul, and Jeff Flake. It all starts at 9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern on Sunday morning only on CNN. And that is it for THE LEAD now. I turn you over to one Mr. Wolff Blitzer right next door in the THE SITUATION ROOM. Have a great weekend. I'll see you Sunday morning.