Return to Transcripts main page


White House Daily Briefing Wraps Up; NYT: Trump's Lawyer Floated Idea of Pardon for Flynn, Manafort; Stormy Daniel's Attorney Seek Deposition from Trump, Lawyer; Many Evangelicals: Alleged Affairs Between President & God. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired March 28, 2018 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: -- to create a strong workforce here, which is why he has put a big emphasis on workforce effort. Something that Ivanka Trump has been engaged in and the Office of American Innovation and have played a big role in pushing forth very strong policy shifts to improving the workforce development of people in this country so we have more skilled workers to fill those high-skilled jobs you mentioned.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And the Senate candidate in Utah just said that he's more hardliner on immigration than the president because he's opposed, for instance, to citizenship for DREAMers. Would the president sign a bill that would give solution to DREAMers?

SANDERS: We put out a number of solutions to fix the DACA problem. Democrats have shown their unwillingness to do so and that they want to use DACA recipients as political pawns instead of actually fixing the problem. We'd love to come up with a long-term solution. If Democrats decide to show up for work and be part of that process, we'd love to do that.

Let me take one last question.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sara, two questions for you on Sanctuary cities. Calling the president's tweets today, it's encouraging other cities or counties to join this lawsuit against the state of California?

SANDERS: The president is encouraging people to follow federal law. There's a reason we have laws in this country and he expects that individual cities and states should follow the federal law.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: If I could ask you about the president's former lawyer, John Dowd, are there any actions Mr. Dowd took while serving the president that President Trump was uncomfortable with?

SANDERS: I'm sorry?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Were there any actions that John Dowd, the president's former attorney, took, while he was serving President Trump --


SANDERS: No, not that I'm aware of I'm not aware of any specific actions.

Thanks so much, guys. Have a great rest of the week.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Lot of questions about the story we were just discussing before the White House briefing, the scoop in the "New York Times," John Dowd -- no longer sort of chief attorney on team Trump -- and the notion he had floated pardons for Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, as the special counsel, as the Bob Mueller team was homing in on them. So Dowd, in a statement to the "Times," denying any of this. And you heard Sarah Sanders, over and over and over, I refer you to Ty Cobb, another attorney here, and his statement.

Mark Preston is with me.

Mark, you heard all of that. I heard from Sarah when I was asked multiple times directly, "I'm not aware of any conversations like that, conversations involving pardons. I haven't talked to Trump about this specifically." And Ty Cobb says, "I'm on the record, no pardons are under discussion or under consideration at the White House."

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: What's interesting, Brooke, she continually referred to the statement by the attorney basically taking it off her shoulders. I'm not aware. Look at the statement. I'm not aware. Look at the statement. At the very end of the briefing, too, when one of the reporters asked can you unequivocally tell us, did President Trump know about this payment? You have gone up there, answer this had question but never definitively answered whether he knew about the payment. What did she do? Deferred. Having said that, here is the problem for Sarah Sanders. Whenever she stands at that podium and says something you have to take it with a grain of salt. I'm not trying to disparage her. There have been a lot of mistruths from that podium. Even if she did come out and say something you have to take a step back and wonder if that will hold for the next day, the next hour. For President Trump and Twitter, the next minute or so.

BALDWIN: On the pardon story -- guys, let's flash out the tweet. We were going to do this before Sarah took the podium. This is Kellyanne Conway's husband. He has been on Twitter recently, taking jabs at the president. He retweets "The New York Times" scoop and says, "This is flabbergasting." What's the political fallout here?

PRESTON: It's incredibly terrible for Independent voters, OK, and for Democrats. They're bolstering the argument on that side. What we have found, a new CNN poll released yesterday, Donald Trump still has the support from Republicans. In fact, according to that poll, Brooke, 73 percent of Republicans believe that the Mueller probe is a witch hunt to go after Donald Trump. If that says anything right now. If you wonder why he has taken the strategy, if you wonder why, when you come to the issue of pardons -- we didn't ask about the pardons. Does he think he can get away with this stuff, that's because he has the backing of those still supporting him and right now that is the Republican Party.

[14:34:50] BALDWIN: Mark Preston, thank you very much.

We'll have more on this breaking story.

Also, the other huge headline, is it a stunt, a legal strategy? Stormy Daniels' attorney files a motion in federal court in California seeking to depose Donald Trump and his lawyer, Michael Cohen. They say there is precedent for such a move, pointing to Bill Clinton's deposition in the late '90s. Will it work?


[14:39:42] BALDWIN: We are back on a Wednesday. You're watching CNN.

To Stormy now. Could allegations of an affair with a porn star force the president of the United States to raise his right hand and testify under oath? The White House has said that they have answered these questions, quote, "extensively." That is false by anyone's measure. The White House has continued to dodge questions. And the president remains uncharacteristically silent, given his tendency to take his gripes to Twitter.

But his silence may not be for long if Daniels' attorney gets his way. Mr. President, did you have a sexual relationship with Stormy Daniels? Did you have knowledge of the alleged threats against her? Did you know your personal lawyer, Michael Cohen paid $130,000 to keep her quiet about all of this? These are the kinds of questions that the president could face under penalty of perjury.

With me more to talk this over, AnneElise Goetz and Anahita Sedaghatfar.

Ladies, thank you so much for being with me.

AnneElise, Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, argues the Paula Jones case, last '90s, against President Clinton set a precedent, allowing a sitting president to be deposed in a civil matter. Give us a reminder of the precedent and would it apply today?

ANNEELISE GOETZ, ATTORNEY: We all remember the Paula Jones case. When that went up the ladder to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court said a sitting president will not be shielded, not be shielded from civil lawsuits that are unrelated to their official duties. Because the sexual assault allegations were unrelated to serving in his capacity, they were able to move forward. This is very similar to what we're see nth defamation case brought against President Trump right now. They just used this same argument successfully at the initial court level. We're seeing it one more time and we'll see how far it goes up the ladder this time. The Nixon argument.


BALDWIN: Thank you for the refresher course on what happened in the late '90s.


BALDWIN: Thank you for the refresher course on what happened in the late '90s.

Anahita, looking at what Avenatti is doing, do you think this whole move is a stunt or it gets Trump closer to court, especially in the defamation cases against him?

SEDAGHATFAR: We know he claims it's a publicity stunt, that Avenatti is doing this to get publicity for himself, that it's an attempt to smear the president. I don't know whether or not that's true. Brooke, I know there are very high stakes here. Not just from a legal perspective. If Donald Trump is compelled to testify and give his deposition, that will open up a whole set of worms. Political ramifications here, $130,000 payment made by Cohen. Whether or not that payment violated campaign finance laws. In other words, did that payment -- was that an in-kind contribution to affect the outcome of the election? And that's the prime issue. I suspect Trump's attorneys are going to try to delay, delay, delay. But they can't delay indefinitely here. So, I think he will have to sit for deposition if the case does not settle beforehand.

BALDWIN: You mentioned $130,000. I was looking at my notes, AnneElise. Did the president know that the hush money was paid? Sarah Sanders said again, I don't know. I refer you to outside counsel. Will they ever answer that question?

GOETZ: It's interesting that Stormy Daniels' attorney has focused the conversation on the hush money. When you look at the actual lawsuit, what he's actually suing for is whether the NDA was valid or not. It really has no bearing on if President Trump was aware of the payment, if President Trump actually provide the payment. All that matters for purposes of that document and the corresponding lawsuit, did she receive the payment? Yes, she did. Under the four corners of the document, is everything else legal and valid? At this point in time, whether President Trump was aware of the payment, whether he paid her versus I paid her, it doesn't affect the validity of the document. People want to make it a very political issue. This is a boring basic law issue like I deal with on a regular basis.

[14:44:23] BALDWIN: OK. A lot of Americans fill like it's not so boring, but I hear you loud and clear on the law.

AnneElise Goetz and Anahita Sedaghatfar, thank you very much for that.

Getting back to our breaking story. We're follow this scoop out of "The New York Times," reporting that the president's former lead lawyer floated pardons for Flynn and Manafort. We'll talk about the legal implications and how this plays into the Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigation.


BALDWIN: The president is mum, not saying publicly about his alleged affair with a porn stay and Playboy model. That's not hurting his support among one of the biggest groups that helped elect him, white evangelicals. A new CNN poll shows that 68 percent of white evangelicals approve of the job President Trump is doing, and in that same poll, 40 percent the white evangelicals votes say they believe women while 36 percent side with the president. And in recent interviews with evangelicals who voted for Trump, many say the allegations are between the president and God.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can throw all of that stuff up in our face as many times as you want, but that means we will work harder for Trump. Is that not so, ladies?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Worst case scenario, if he slept with her, whatever, that's between him, the Lord and his family. That is not about the job he's doing in running our country. He's doing an amazing job.

[14:50:00] STEPHEN SHRING (ph), AUTHOR: He is a changed man. These allegations are from a long time ago. We elected him, you know, the "Access Hollywood" tape had just come out and people knew that he was not perfect. I bring that up again and again in my book --


SHRING (ph): -- because we Christians know that you have to have forgiveness and God can change lives.

CAMEROTA: Isn't that a tenet of the Bible? Don't you have to own up to these things? Donald Trump famously said he never asked God for forgiveness.

SHRING (ph): I'm glad you're quoting the Bible. But that's between him and God. The issue for me and for millions of evangelicals are his policies. He supports the kind of policies we think are important.


SHRING (ph): He has become a champion of religious rights, helping persecuted Christians, I could go down the line. And then, of course, the Neil Gorsuch appointment was huge.


SHRING (ph): Those are the policies -- he has done more to keep his promises than any other president.


BALDWIN: Let's have this conversation. I have two great voices. CNN contributor, Joshua DuBois, a former White House faith adviser to President Obama, and Pastor Darrell Scott, the CEO of the Diversity Coalition for Trump.

Gentlemen, thank you so much for being with me.

Pastor Scott, you know the president pretty well. As a man of God, explain how, for you and your heart, how you support someone who has been divorced twice, is alleged to have stepped out in his marriage more than once, in one case with a 4-month-old baby at home. How do you process that?

DARRELL SCOTT, PASTOR & CEO, DIVERSITY COALITION FOR TRUMP: First of all, I'm going to go on record in stating that the president said he didn't do it. If I have to choose between my president and a porn star on whose word I'm going to take, I'm going to take my friend, the president's word. That's first of all. Secondly --


BALDWIN: Did he personally tell you that?


SCOTT: They made the statement that he denies it happening.

BALDWIN: They being Sarah Sanders?


SCOTT: The White House made the statement. I support the White House statement that it didn't happen.

Now, I support the president that he is now. Evangelicals support the president that he is now more so the businessman than he was 12 years ago and believe his present presidential merits outweigh his past personal demerits. I don't find it difficult. He's not the same person he was 12 years ago. I'm not the same person I was 12 years ago. You're not the same person you were 12 years ago. To drag up a porn star who says she had a one-night stand with a billionaire 12 years ago and try to give her a voice of morality in America, that's what I find to be preposterous.

BALDWIN: I think she said it was more than once she said, but I'm listening to you very closely.

You sat with the president on a number of occasions. In conservations with him, how does he come to terms with his faith? And, you called it, his businessman past. Others have called it a playboy past. How does he explain that to you?

SCOTT: The Apostle Paul, who has been called the greatest example of Christianity that Christianity ever produced, he was none for -- he persecuted the church in his previous life, but he said I wrong nod man because the person I am now and the person I was then are two different persons. So the Donald Trump of today, President Trump, is not the same Donald Trump as 12 years ago. We can't try to make a comparison in the two and where is he right now.

BALDWIN: Joshua, how do you see it? JOSHUA DUBOIS, PASTOR & CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Brooke, it's an absolute

mess. These of the same leaders, leaders of my faith -- I'm a proud Christian. Same leaders that have been telling us for decades that character matters, but apparently when it comes to Donald Trump character doesn't matter anymore. There's a major difference between Donald Trump and the apostle Paul. The apostle Paul was held up on the road to Damascus and turned around. He went in a different direction. There's nothing about Donald Trump that indicates he has gone in a different direction.

Look at the spectacle we just witnessed over the last week. Not just one, but two pornographic actresses, models, have said with great credibility, with more seriousness than Trump has when he addresses these issues that they had adulterous relationships with Donald Trump when his third wife was either pregnant or parenting their newborn child. That is devastating for the credibility and the Christian witness of those who wrap their arms in the good name of Jesus and God and the Bible around this man. That will have impacts not only on their credibility but Christian witness in this country for years if not decades to come. It's just a mess, Brooke.

SCOTT: No. If these things were happening in the Oval Office, if these things happened six months ago, it would be different. We don't know when President Trump had his personal Damascus experience. All the major tenets of the Christian faith, Donald Trump exists wholeheartedly, preexistence, virgin birth, sinner's life, vicarious death, burial and resurrection and ascension, second coming of Jesus Christ. He believes in all of that. Now his personal walk with God, his sanctification process, that's between him and God just as yours is between you and God, and Brooke's is between her and God, and everybody else is. So we can't set a standard and say walk a certain way or not. We don't know when his epiphany began.

[14:55:31] But I will say this. We can see, based on his conduct, at least since the election began, that man got so much prayer by so many different preachers, it would have been amazing that he didn't win. Every time I turned around, Donald Trump was lifting up his hands and submitting his heart to Jesus Christ as his Lord and requesting prayer. I can't say his personal Damascus experience, just because it's not the same as yours or anybody else's. You can't say it's not genuine.

BALDWIN: What about -- what about --

SCOTT: He is at a stage in his Christian walk where I don't want to bring up something from 12 years ago. Give me something from 12 days ago, we might can have a conversation.

BALDWIN: How about something from three years ago? This is what Donald Trump said in 2015.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever asked God for forgiveness?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's a tough question. I don't think in terms -- I'm a religious person, shockingly. People are so shocked when they find this out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But have you ever asked God for forgiveness?


TRUMP: I'm not sure I have. I just go and try to do a better job from there. I don't think so. If I do something wrong, I think I just try to make it right. I don't bring God into that picture. I don't.


BALDWIN: Joshua, let me ask you about that. A key tenet in Christianity is forgiveness. In order to forgive -- let's say one can forgive sins of someone's past, doesn't the person you're forgiving, in this case, the, need to ask for forgiveness, own up to those things?

DUBOIS: That's right. As Pastor Scott knows and I'm sure teaches, a core tone of repentance is owning up to it. He said I don't bring God into this. That was a recent tape. We need to start thinking about this as human beings, as people who are looking after human dignity. If that was your brother-in-law and he was treating your sister the way that Donald Trump appears to have treated Melania when she was pregnant or parenting their newborn, is that someone you would trust?

If that was the pastor of your church or principal of your child's school and you found out there was a strong possibility that they cheated on their third wife with two pornographic actresses, is that someone you would trust to lead? We're inuring this man with our trust, with the presumption he turned things around to give them the authority to lead the greatest country in the world. That's a devastating thing for the credibility of those who support him and the long-term position of the church in the United States.

BALDWIN: Pastor Scott?

SCOTT: I don't necessarily think so. Simply because if this happened before they were principal, if this happened before they were the pastor, it would be one story. If their wife chose to remain with them, it would remain with them. I don't look to see how faithful an airplane pilot was before I let him fly the plane. I don't look to see how faithful the bus driver was to his wife before I ride on his bus. There are certain things that remain between a man and God, and a man and his wife.

I don't know what thoughts, and you don't know what thoughts Donald Trump has when he lays his head on that pillow and is talking to God or his inner self or his conscience is speaking to him, just because he's not going to get on television and bear his soul so you guys can pick him to pieces. He's smarter than that.

BALDWIN: I'm glad we had the conversation. I appreciate both perspectives.

Darrell Scott, Joshua DuBois, we're got to go, but thank you both so much.

SCOTT: Thanks for having me.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Back to the breaking story this afternoon. "The New York Times" reports that the president's former lead lawyer floated the idea of pardons for Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort. We're back in 60 seconds.