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Trump Under Fire Over Putin Congratulations; Trump vs. Stormy; Family of Austin Bomber Speaks Out. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 21, 2018 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Which is what people are wondering still.

Chris Cillizza, Oliver Darcy, guys, thank you so much.


BALDWIN: Let's continue on.

All right, you're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin, top of this hour.

President Trump is confronting not just one, but four challenges to his control over information. The first, this major leak. A source says President Trump is furious that word got out he either missed or simply disregarded warnings from his national security adviser that specifically said in all caps on this note card that he was handed, do not congratulate Vladimir Putin on his reelection win.

The president in fact did just that on his Tuesday phone call with the Russian president. A leak of such confidential detail may indicate a move to embarrass President Trump coming from the highest levels. And as President Trump tries to learn the source of the leak, he is getting hit with three lawsuits that could open up more private details in a very public way, all from women in his past.

We will get to that in just a moment.

But first to the White House to Kaitlan Collins.

Kaitlan, the president tweeted about his call with Putin moments ago.


I surprised it actually took this long, Brooke, but we have heard from the president after there was a lot of backlash throughout Washington after the president himself told reporters in the oval Office yesterday that he did, in fact, congratulate Vladimir Putin on that recent election victory.

He just wrote on Twitter and he said: "I called President Putin of Russia to congratulate him on his election victory. He noted that in the past that President Obama also called him as well."

He says: "The fake news media is crazed over this." And he goes on to say: "They are Wrong. Getting along with Russia and others is a good thing, not a bad thing."

Brooke, I should note that kind of mirrors the defense that Press Secretary Sarah Sanders used at the press briefing yesterday when she was asked why the president did call to congratulate him.

And to be clear, that came in a response to criticism from people like Senator John McCain, who did not criticize president for having a relationship with Russia or for having dialogue with Russia, but Senator John McCain specifically criticized the president for congratulating a dictator on what he said was a sham victory.

Now, also, we should note that, of course, following that "Washington Post" reporting yesterday, that the president's own security advisers advised him in his briefing materials ahead of that call in all capital letters do not congratulate Vladimir Putin.

It's not the media that's just criticizing the president for this. It's his own national security advisers who warned him not to do so as well and clearly someone who is very familiar with those materials that leaked them to the press, which is why it was later reported by "The Washington Post" he was advised not to do so and then obviously did it anyways, Brooke, which is not too surprising.

It's actually unclear if the president even read those directions from his national security advisers, because, as we have reported these last 14 months he has been in office, he often follows his own path during these calls with foreign leaders -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: All right, Kaitlan, thank you so much.

Like Kaitlan said, Republicans are blasting him, including another veteran Republican senator blasting the president's call to Putin. Here is Senator Chuck Grassley.


SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: I think Putin is a criminal. What he did in Georgia, what he did in Ukraine, what he has done in the Baltics, what he has done in London poisoning people with nerve gas, that's a criminal activity.

I wouldn't have a conversation with a criminal.


BALDWIN: With me now, CNN political commentator Andre Bauer, used to serve as the lieutenant governor of South Carolina, and CNN commentator, political commentator Peter Beinart, who is contribution editor at "The Atlantic." And Chris Cillizza sticking around for this chat.

Let's just add that tweet on into the conversation.

Andre, just beginning with you, I do want to get to the fact that I think it does cause -- it should cause everyone pause that this leak happened. But before we even peel back that layer, the fact that the president is doubling down, yes, I congratulated Putin for his election victory, the fake news media is crazed because they wanted me to excoriate him. Getting along with Russia is a good thing.

How do you defend that?

ANDRE BAUER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Number one, he's clarifying his position.

Look, I sat down with one of the worst leaders there's ever been, dictators, in Fidel Castro at his home. And I didn't start the conversation out with telling him how bad he was. It later escalated to a very heated conversation about policy, but I didn't walk into his home and immediately tell him how bad he was.

Donald Trump started a conversation. He's now reaffirming through Twitter that, look, I made a congratulatory call. We are all world leaders and there are things we will find common ground on. That doesn't mean I believe in everything he's done. But just like he may sit down with Kim Jong, there are times you can find common ground with leaders.

But you don't immediately pick up the phone and say you're the worst person ever that's ever been elected office or rigged an election and, therefore, let's start working together now.


CILLIZZA: So, I think that Donald Trump, as president, has a right to pursue the relationship, broadly speaking, with Russia, whether it's a new or an old one, that he wants to.

The one thing I will take issue with in the tweet in particular, that the news media wanted him to excoriate Putin. As far as I know, the news media was not involved in the construction of Donald Trump's briefing papers that urged him to make mention of the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy on British soil, which Theresa May has laid at the feet of Russia, and to say do not congratulate.

That was not the media involved in that regarding Putin. Again, Trump can chart his own course. But I just -- it's disingenuous to say that the news media was in any way, shape or form involved in advising him to do or not do these things.

He can ignore his advisers, but that wasn't us.


What say you?

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think Donald Trump is purposely conflating two different things.

When Donald Trump says the United States has to cooperate with Russia on some things, he's right. There are issues where the U.S. has to cooperate with Russia, in Afghanistan, for instance. If there's ever going to be a peace process in Afghanistan, Russia has some influence with the Taliban.

Russia, for better or for worse, has influence in Syria. We are never going to have a peace deal in Syria that's going to end that horrible war unless Russia is at the table. Trump is right about that.

But what he's deflecting is why he has not come up with a strategy to protect the United States from this form of hacking. And those are two completely separate issues.

The fundamental deficiency is why he hasn't brought all the stakeholders together and said, what are we going to do to make sure we never have an election interference like this again?


BALDWIN: Hang on a second, because I think there's been a new tweet.

Is that what you guys were saying in my ear? There's a new Trump tweet.

Here we go. Let's read this together.

"They can help solve problems with North Korea, Syria" -- this is what -- "North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, ISIS, Iran, and even the coming arms race. Bush tried to get along, but didn't have the 'smarts.' Obama and Clinton tried, but didn't have the energy or chemistry. Remember reset. Peace through strength."

Energy, chemistry and smarts.

CILLIZZA: Some of that is just Donald Trump being Donald Trump. Honestly. I think -- I don't want to say you discount it. But there is going to be a braggadocios element that exists in putting down of other people.


CILLIZZA: But the important part of that tweet is what Peter was talking about, which is no one disagrees that we will need Russia in some of these situations.


CILLIZZA: The issue, though, is, what relationship do we have with them, particularly given all of the context of Donald Trump being the last person or among the last people willing to say, yes, Russia hacked this election, attempted to meddle, interfere, and, yes, according to the intelligence community, they are doing so again? The context matters.

BALDWIN: But it also Republicans, Andre. Its members of his own party who are...


BAUER: He has been fighting them since he got ever elected. Any time people come back and say, well, some people in his own party,

look, Donald Trump is his own party. Donald Trump is an independent thinker. He ran against 16 other Republicans. And from the beginning, he has bashed them, too.

He's an agent of change. He's not going to go up there and play nicety with Republicans just to get along.

BALDWIN: But do you not care that Vladimir Putin is attacking the U.S.?


BAUER: I do. But the president issued sanctions. He hasn't just played nicety with them and said we're not going to do something.

I think it's a little bit unfair to the president to say all he has done is play nice with him. And in fact actions have spoken louder than his own words.

BALDWIN: So, should he have not said anything to Putin?

BAUER: I think that, any time you're a leader trying to start a conversation, you start out with pleasantries.

Now, the conversation changes after you get into the details. But when he just won reelection, whether it's rigged election or not, which most of us feel it is, you still don't start out the conversation by telling him how bad his family is or how bad he is.


BEINART: But here is the question I have. Right?

Donald Trump has been markedly soft in his -- that's a nice way of putting it, right, in his commentary on Russia's interference with the election. The intelligence agencies have been much, much stronger about what Russia is doing.

Donald Trump presumably doesn't want to insult Vladimir Putin.


BAUER: He insulted him with action.

BEINART: OK, the question is, what has he actually gotten from all of this? What have we gotten from Russia as a result of this? Maybe I could see there could be a strategy not to rub Putin -- if you were going to get tangible benefits.


BEINART: But as with so much of Donald Trump's foreign policy, when you look at what this great deal-maker has actually brought back, in terms of American interests, you basically see nada.

What are the concessions that Russia has made to the United States?

CILLIZZA: They would argue it's a long game.


CILLIZZA: You can always argue that. If I send a dumb tweet, people say that was a dumb tweet, I say, you're not playing the long game.


CILLIZZA: You can always defend yourself by the long game strategy. And the truth is, we don't know, because I think in the near term -- and it's important to remember, though it may seem that there's so much news packed every day, we're talking about 14 months of a presidency, right?



CILLIZZA: In that time frame, there has been a lot, in my opinion, when you look at how he has approached Russia, there has been a lot, to Peter's point, of softness.

He has been less willing than some other foreign leaders, many in his own party, to condemn Russia, and to identify them as a foreign bad actor.

Is that because there's a payoff coming on the back end? I mean, obviously, we don't know that. Maybe that's the grand plan. But my sense of Trump is, we write the idea of a grand plan. I think he just does stuff.

And if it works out, great. But I'm not sure that what he tweeted on the first day of the presidency relates to...


BALDWIN: Yes, yes.

What about just pointing out in the tweet he mentions Obama, right? And we know Sarah Sanders, rightfully so, by the way, pointed out how Obama did have this phone call with Putin. It was 2012. And he was criticized for congratulating him as well.

But in the tweet, he says, Obama called him also and then he mentions his predecessors Clinton and Bush.

And, Andre, I'm wondering, why can't he move past those who preceded him and just be...


BAUER: I think he's trying to remind everybody, he is not the only one that has tried to reach out.

BALDWIN: But he mentions Obama.


BAUER: Remember that Obama, hey, as soon as I get done with this election, we're going to be able to work together more, too, that got caught on tape.

Leaders have different ways of approaching other leaders. And everybody tries their own little shtick at trying to make a connection where they can accomplish unilateral goals.

BEINART: I think this particular moment is important, though, because of what happened in Britain, right?

What we know is that Europe is in disarray to a significant degree because of the political success of pro-Putin parties in Eastern Europe and now to some degree in Italy. Britain is in a weak position. They have tried to respond strongly to this.

And when they don't get backing from the United States president, that puts them in a very weak position. Right? And I think that's why it was particularly disturbing that Trump was not willing to make a strong statement about that.



We're going to leave it. Guys, thank you so much for rolling with the tweets this afternoon. Thank you very much.


BALDWIN: Coming up next here: The family of the Austin bomber is actually speaking out for the very first time, as police are releasing these new details about the kind of explosives he used, where the investigations go from here and these photos of him in, who they think, in a wig and gloves.

Also, Stormy Daniels warns she's not going anywhere. That's according to her on her Twitter page, as two other women join her in lawsuits against the president.

We are going to break down the merits of her case.

And later we're live in Parkland, Florida, where the school shooter's brother is now in legal trouble, and hundreds of students at the high school are staying home amid new threats.

We will be right back.



BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Look at the ladies on your screen. You have a porn star, a Playboy

Playmate and a reality TV star, these women all from President Trump's past, the chorus cries getting louder.

In just the last 24 hours, the results of a polygraph test found that porn star Stormy Daniels was telling the truth about her alleged affair with Donald Trump. She has now taken to Twitter and she says she is not going anywhere.

While a second woman is now suiting to get out of a nondisclosure agreement and a state court ruled that a third woman can actually sue the president in connection with yet another alleged incident.

My colleague Anderson Cooper had two men on his set last night. He talked with Stormy Daniels attorney Michael Avenatti, and David Schwartz, who represents his friend Michael Cohen.

It was the next best thing to having Stormy Daniels herself confront Donald Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, and the results were explosive.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Does any attorney ever pay $130,000 out of their own pocket?

DAVID SCHWARTZ, MICHAEL COHEN'S ATTORNEY: First of all, we keep labeling it as hush money. It's pursuant to a nondisclosure agreement. These nondisclosure agreements are entered into every single day in America. They are entered into by politicians...

COOPER: It's money to remain silent.

SCHWARTZ: But it's money to not disclose the substance of the case.


SCHWARTZ: So, $130,000 was paid. It was pursuant to a contract.

But to answer your question, is that normal course of business for an attorney to pay it? No. But there's nothing illegal about it. And given the context of this relationship, there is certainly nothing unethical about it.

And remember, Michael Cohen was representing E.C., LLC. It was E.C., LLC that entered into this contract. Donald Trump was a third party beneficiary.

COOPER: Does that make sense to you?

MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: It doesn't. Donald Trump was not a third-party beneficiary. Under the law of California, he was a signatory to the agreement.

If Donald Trump was never going to be a party to the agreement and if he didn't want to bother Donald Trump with the agreement, and if Donald Trump was too busy campaigning for president to know anything about the agreement?


SCHWARTZ: That's painting a fictional picture of the whole scenario. There's an "or" there. So, it could be E.C., LLC or...

COOPER: Right. But why have any line for Donald Trump?

SCHWARTZ: Because they left it open. They left it open for either/or. But the bottom line is...

COOPER: What does that mean?

SCHWARTZ: E.C., LLC entered into the contract. It's a real contract.

COOPER: You're saying Donald Trump had nothing to do with this. Why have a line...


SCHWARTZ: He has everything to do with it. He was a third-party beneficiary. You're just not acknowledging that fact.

When this case is all said and done, you know, she's going to be liable for $20 million.

COOPER: Again, I don't get -- I know it's $1 million per breach.

SCHWARTZ: Whatever, $10 million. Who knows how many millions?

COOPER: But you guys have been saying 20. I was trying to figure out where did that 20 figure come from?

SCHWARTZ: I have been going by what they have been saying. But the 20 is easy, because there are easily 20 different violations when it's the threat, it's the threat of disclosure of the material.

Michael Cohen is going to collect every single penny of that money. Make no mistake. He's going to collect everything.


AVENATTI: If Michael Cohen is such a stand-up guy, where is he?



You're going to go down in flames on this case. There's no question about it.

AVENATTI: I love when my opponents tell me that.


BALDWIN: Two grown men fighting it out on TV. That was quite a moment. It went on for a while.

Ashleigh Banfield is with me, host of HLN's "Crime and Justice," and Sara Azari, federal and state criminal defense attorney,


Sarah, just starting with you.

Watching those two guys duke it out for -- it went on -- I want to say -- I think I watched this morning 20 minutes or something like that.

I mean, we have talked a lot about Avenatti and team Stormy has been really taking a look at the page out of the Trump playbook, but do you think -- is that what we watched last night, aggressive, talk over one another, throw some insults and you win?

SARA AZARI, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: That was a little bit of good television, in addition to the facts in the case.

But I have to say that Avenatti is correct in that there is a signature line for Donald Trump. He is named as a party at the beginning of the agreement. By the way, in California, most courts treat the and/or in the context of a contract as in the conjunctive, which mean the or would be ignored and it's an and.

There are stipulations in that agreement that are totally within the control of Donald Trump, such as David Dennison, AKA, Donald Trump, gets to pick the governing law for that agreement. That's I think paragraph 8.2 or 8.6, somewhere in there.

A beneficiary doesn't have that type of stipulation in a contract, nor does he or she have a signatory line. I do agree with Avenatti. This is going to be interesting how it plays out in terms of whether it's enforceable or not.


Let me just back up for a second, Ashleigh Banfield?



BALDWIN: You have this whole Mueller investigation swirling over here. And now you have not one, not two, but three women, three separate allegations, three separate court cases all facing Donald Trump.

How extraordinary is that?

BANFIELD: By the way, so far.

BALDWIN: So far, three.

BANFIELD: This could be giving people a lot of, you know, pause to think it's time for me to go after my NDA as well. You might see this happen again.

As Michael Schwartz said, this is par for the course. Everybody has NDAs. Perhaps that's how President Trump did business on a regular basis. Maybe there are other women.

We have seen the other allegations, right, from all the other women prior to the campaign. Can I just mention as well, prior to the campaign, Donald Trump said he was going to sue every single one of those women that made those allegations? Not one. Not one lawsuit coming from him.

Plenty coming from the other side. That's also sort of notable. But you make a really good point. There's a Mueller investigation that everybody thinks is deathly serious and then there's all these sexy stories that are hilarious.

And like Sara said, they make for great TV. I actually think they're more serious.


BANFIELD: Well, it's the Martha Stewart theory, because oftentimes the trouble comes from not being truthful, as opposed to the act itself. And so I tend to think it's so easy to lie about sex, right? Haven't we heard that with a president before?

And we are talking about, once again, the difference between a two- letter word. The difference between or, and it used to be the difference between is. I think this is more serious.

BALDWIN: On Ashleigh's point, Sara, I think what you're referencing is if and when the president is deposed and he is asked questions about sex, et cetera, and he lies, that would then get him in trouble, perjuring himself?

AZARI: Absolutely.

And I think as salacious as these stories are by these women -- and I agree with Ashleigh, I think more will come forward -- I think it's about the president's cover-up. It's about this president's inability prior to own up to his conduct prior to becoming president.

He has opened the door to exposure for defamation, as we know from Zervos' case, in that her sexual assault case was long dead because of the statute of limitations, but because he called it fake news and because he called his accuser a liar, he is now dragged into court for defamation.

He's just digging a deeper hole for himself. And the bigger message here is that the president can sue and be sued. But like Ashleigh said, he's not suing anyone. He just keeps getting sued.

BALDWIN: How about Stormy Daniels and her Twitter page? I spent a little bit of time on her Twitter page last night.


BALDWIN: Now it's like part of the job.

BANFIELD: And still consulting.

BALDWIN: It's part of the job.

And so I was reading and reading. And I came across this tweet, which, by the way, has now been retweeted something like 30,000 times. She's got a voice and she is using it.

She said: "Technically, I didn't sleep with the president 12 years ago. There was no sleeping. Hee-hee. And he was just a goofy reality TV star. But I digress. People do care that he lied about it, had me bullied, broke laws to cover it up, et cetera. And, P.S., I am not going anywhere."

Ashleigh Banfield, she says she's not going anywhere. We're expecting her to come out and do this wide-ranging interview on "60 Minutes" on Sunday.


If you're advising her, just as a lawyer, I'm assuming she's not checking with her lawyer every time she's tweeting.

BANFIELD: I actually am not so sure about that. I think they may be working in concert.

BALDWIN: Really?



BALDWIN: Really?

BANFIELD: Listen, there's crazy and there's crazy like a fox.

And I think that Michael Avenatti is drip, drip, dripping himself into and under the skin of President Trump. If you think back to Paula Jones' suit and the allegations that were lobbied his way and the reaction, it was silent.

He had a way of being able to compartmentalize all of that. And because of that, the media wasn't as explosive on his end about the words he said every step of the way.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, has been known to speak off the cuff, to go against what advisers tell him. We had that story, I don't know, 10 minutes ago.

And so it's possible that Avenatti is just trying to poke the lion to roar. And then when he roars he may say things that are not in his best interest. Not unheard of, Border Patrol BALDWIN: Sara, quickly, last word. I'm hearing you nodding. Yes,

you agree?

AZARI: No, no, I absolutely agree.

I think Avenatti is playing Trump's game very well, and he has so far. And I think one of the things that came out yesterday with the photograph of the polygraph and her polygraph results, where everybody was like, why? Polygraph tests are not admissible in a trial.

And I think the idea is that he's setting the stage for the interview with Anderson Cooper this Sunday, is, look, the American people, the world needs to know that my client is going to tell the truth. So, listen to her, because it is the truth.

BANFIELD: He says he has video of it, too.

AZARI: Whoo.

BANFIELD: Photos. Not sure if I want to see them.


BALDWIN: It is the drip, drip, drip.


BANFIELD: I wish I looked that good taking a poly.


BALDWIN: Sara and Ashleigh, we will save that conversation for commercial break.

Do not miss Anderson Cooper's exclusive interview with Karen McDougal, though. She is the Playmate who says she had a consensual affair with Donald Trump. This was years ago. The White House says it never happened. Watch for Karen and Anderson having that conversation tomorrow night 8:00 here on CNN.

We are waiting, moving along. We're waiting any moment now for this news conference on those bombings in Austin, as the family of that Austin bomber, who, by the way, now is dead, is speaking out for the very first time.

Stay here.