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Report: Mueller Pushes for Ex-Trump Aide to Help on Collusion; Democrat Congresswoman Kept an Aide Accused of Abuse Threats; Independent Autopsy Shows Stephon Clark Shot 6 Times in Back. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 30, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:30] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Wolf, we'll take it. Hi, everyone. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. We begin this hour with the President shocking his own advisers by making that unexpected military announcement about the U.S. strategy in Syria. He wasn't talking to the Pentagon, not to the State Department but to a crowd at his speech near Cleveland, Ohio.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're knocking the hell out of ISIS. We'll be coming out of Syria like very soon. Let the other people take care of it now. Very soon. Very soon we're coming out. We're going to have 100 percent of the caliphate as they call it, sometimes referred to as land, taking it all back quickly. Quickly. But we're going to be coming out of there real soon.


BALDWIN: A source tells CNN the President's aides are, quote, still trying to figure out what he meant by that, end quote. This as CNN has just uncovered a stunning development in the Russia investigation. Here is what we know. After indications the Special Counsel had been pursuing primarily an obstruction of justice case, a former Trump campaign deputy, the cooperating witness, is now helping Mueller make the case for collusion, so we'll unpack how that is helping them in just a moment.

First, straight to our CNN White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins who was there in West Palm Beach Florida where the President is spending his long Easter weekend. And Kaitlan on the first note, you know the President has said over and over he would never telegraph his military strategy before he does anything. Does anyone know what he meant by withdrawal very soon?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, now he is telegraphing a strategy that no one knows what he is referring to, Brooke. Even people inside the administration telling my colleague Jim Acosta, that they're still trying to figure out what exactly the President was referencing when he was boasting that the U.S. is winning the fight against ISIS and soon those troop also come out of Syria.

That seams to be something that only President is aware of. Because another defense official told my CNN colleagues that they weren't aware of what the President was talking about and even the State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said she didn't see the President's comments but was not aware of any plans for the United States to pull out of Syria.

So, a lot of questions here. One big question mark, essentially, after the President said that. And I should note that the White House has not responded to our requests for comment, seeking a little bit more clarity on exactly what the President was talking about. But you're right, as you point out, not only that does no one know what the President is talking about when he said that, this is a President who, for so many months now while he's on the campaign trail, now that he's also been in office that he wasn't going to be a commander-in- chief who telegraphed his military moves. He wasn't going to show his hand, essentially, and let the enemy know what he was going to do next.

But what he said in Cleveland, Ohio, essentially seems to be doing just that there, Brooke. It certainly does raise a lot of questions. It raises a lot of questions about whether or not it's in line with what his administration officials also say because just in January, the Defense Secretary James Mattis, was saying there is no timeline for what's going on in the United States' role in Syria.

It certainly seemed to conflict with that. But of course, the President is commander in chief. If he makes the decision to withdraw those troops, that is certainly something that is within his power to do. But you would think he would inform at least his administration officials or someone else in the White House exactly what he plans to do here, Brooke.

BALDWIN: You would think, Kaitlan, thank you, in Florida. That was Syria. How about the Russia investigation now? Now to sign post that Mueller is not only pursuing this case of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign but that he is actually getting help from a former Trump insider. That cooperating witness is the man by the name of Rick Gates. For the very first time we know how he's helping.

Many had surmised that Mueller was mainly using him for information on Paul Manafort his former close associate, but CNN has now learned that Mueller's team instead wanted to know what Gates knows about the key question. Did members of the Trump campaign work with any Russians to win the election? With me now, Daniel Goldman, former federal prosecutor. You know, obviously, this is a huge, huge deal. We've been talking about this whole obstruction case. But now this speaks to collusion, maybe a direct link between team Trump and Russia, this Russia intel officer. What are your questions?

DANIEL GOLDMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I'm not surprised. Because in federal court when you cooperate, you are agreeing to give up any information you know about any crimes that are committed. So, it's not at all surprising that they're asking Rick Gates what he knows about collusion or conspiracy with other Russians because he was the deputy campaign manager during the critical point of the campaign in the summer and fall of 2016.

[14:05:00] BALDWIN: Yes.

GOLDMAN: So, they will ask him what he knows about Paul Manafort and his case. They'll also ask him what he knows about Russia and the collusion and ask him everything else that he may know. I think that the obstruction of justice gets a lot of publicity because it is easier to figure out what Mueller is doing on the obstruction of justice angle and what may be obstruction of justice. But that does not mean that they are not working incredibly diligently on the collusion angle. This is now the reporting we're getting, exactly what you would expect.

BALDWIN: You said the key word on Rick Gates, cooperating, right? He has a deal. I'm wondering what he must have given up to get that?

Right. And there were reports that the Mueller team said to his lawyers, we don't just want Manafort. We need more than that. That's consistent with sort of the pattern, practice of how things work, and it is also consistent with the fact that the case against Manafort is very strong. The communications and the conversations between lawyers would go something along those lines saying, look, you want to cooperate and help yourself, get a reduction in your sentence, you are obviously going to have to testify against Manafort and he's the cherry on top of the Manafort case.

But we also need to know everything that you know about what happened during the campaign. Rick Gates was the deputy campaign manager. He may not have been involved in a lot of the high-level meetings. What is interesting in a criminal investigation in a prosecution is that what co-conspirators say to him, such as Paul Manafort, who may have been in a meeting, can be used in court against Manafort or others even.

BALDWIN: Got it.

GOLDMAN: Even if Gates was not there himself, if people are telling him things about a conspiracy with Russians to violate election law, then that's admissible.

BALDWIN: OK. Dan Goldman thank you very much.

GOLDMAN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Now to this today, is President Trump's very first day in office without his trusted adviser, Hope Hicks. Here was that good- bye moment yesterday. Sources confirm to CNN that the White House may not fill her position after all as outside advisers are telling President Trump he doesn't need a communications director. But here is the thing.

Hicks' role within the west wing was critical, "The New York Times" calling Hicks, quote, the unofficial translator to the rest of the staff. Although Hicks never once gave an on-camera interview, Olivia Nuzzi joins me. She is a Washington correspondent for "New York" magazine. She had this extraordinary piece not too long ago. You've met Hope Hicks, wrote this profile of her in the magazine. The word we keep hearing, Olivia, is unravel, that the President will unravel in a Hicks-less west wing. Is that accurate or is that exaggerated?

OLIVIA NUZZI, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT FOR "NEW YORK" MAGAZINE: Well if we can see him raveled all this time, I think that's pretty

alarming, given his behavior in the first year of the presidency. He is very comforted by her presence. She's also the last link to the campaign except for Dan Scavino, another aide there.

She was the closest aide to him logistically. Her office is right next to the oval. She could hear him calling for her at all hours throughout the day. When he needed something, he went to Hope Hicks. As you quoted "The New York Times" thing, she just kind of stands as a barrier between the President and the rest of the staff, even though you would think a communications director had a role of standing between the President and the press and the chief of staff might be standing between him and the rest of the staff. I think it was more Hope Hicks than anyone else in there.

BALDWIN: So, I think there are a lot of people in Washington and beyond who are perfectly qualified to take on this role as communications director. What I want to know from you, you knowing all the inter-workings here, who could fill that emotional role that Hope Hicks filled for the President?

NUZZI: A therapist, a nanny. I don't know. It was not a typical communications director role. I don't think you can really -- this is not a normal White House. This was not a normal campaign. You can't really talk about it the way we would typically talk about different administrations. So, I think, you know, it will be someone who naturally falls into the role. People have talked about Kellyanne Conway, who is also close to the President. Though not quite as close. You know, it will be someone who has the trust of the family. That was a big thing that defined Hope Hicks' relationship to Trump. But maybe he won't fill it with anyone. I don't know.

BALDWIN: On that point --

NUZZI: Communications director is not about being, you know, a shrink or nanny to the President. It's about long-term planning, figuring out policy rollout. I think that they need someone in there just to handle day-to-day logistics stuff.

[14:10:00] BALDWIN: That's what I wanted to ask. There's this notion, we're hearing the reporting that the President has been talking to outside advisers and they said why do you need to fill this communications director role? And also, PS, why do you need this chief of staff? We have no indication as to how closely he may or may not follow that advice, but the idea -- he does so much PR himself. Does he need one?

NUZZI: I remember a few years ago when I was first profiling Hope Hicks, Donald Trump's press person from the '80s from during some of his tabloid divorce drama told me that he is his own spokesperson. I think back to that quote a lot. He certainly is. At the same time a communications director is not just somebody who tweets on the President's behalf. While he may divert from communication strategy with his statements or unannounced foreign policy plans, there is still a lot to be done, day-to-day, with planning, press releases and not answering questions from networks like CNN or publications like "New York" magazine. There is an infrastructure in there that needs people to be working.

BALDWIN: Olivia Nuzzi, thank you so much on that.

NUZZI: Thank you.

BALDWIN: A Democratic congresswoman under serious fire for keeping this chief of staff accused of abuse and of threats I guess another aide on her staff. How she is responding to that.

Parkland shooting survivor rejecting an apology from this "Fox News" host for mocking him. Hear his reasons and now the number of advertisers who bailed out of her show.

And an independent autopsy showing the unarmed man shot and killed by police in Sacramento suffered eight gunshot wounds, six of them, six in the back. More on that, you're watching CNN.


BALDWIN: Apologizing, quote, for failing to protect a former female staffer who she says was abused by the congresswoman's former chief of staff. Esty is under fire for keeping Tony Baker on staff for three months after learning about allegations within a week. Esty senior advisor Anna Kaine once dated Baker and said he had become violent, punching her in her back, berating her, sexually harassing her in Esty's Capitol Hill office throughout 2014.

Esty learned all of this in 2016 after Kaine says Baker left a voicemail threatening her life. Even after this Baker remained on staff for three months. The congresswoman, in a statement, saying she, quote, demanded counseling for my offending chief of staff and launched an internal review of management policy and practices. And an investigation into what was going on in the office.

She said, it was through this review she quote, learned but the threat of violence was not an isolated incident but part of a pattern of behavior that victimized many of the women on my staff. It was then where they came to this conclusion where he would leave but not before she wrote him a letter of recommendation for a job at the gun violence prevention group Sandy Hook Promise. Where he is I believe of a couple days ago no longer.

MJ Lee is our CNN national political reporter, she is all over this. Seema Iyer a former prosecutor criminal defense attorney. And Erin

Gloria Ryan senior editor with the "The Daily Beast."

So, MJ I want to get to you in the second on your reporting, but just reacting, Erin, I want to begin with you to the story. The congresswoman had been outspoken on sexual harassment up on Capitol Hill, so vocal during #MeToo. This was happening in her own office and again she knew within a week. And nothing happened for three months and paid $5000 in severance. I call BS on this. What about you? ERIN GLORIA RYAN SENIOR EDITOR, "THE DAILY BEAST": I'm going to have to echo your call BS, Brooke. This is something that I find really important for us to pay attention to. think congresswoman Esty probably thought of herself as somebody who was on top of #MeToo, she was endorsed by Emily's list planning which is an organization that endorses pro choice Democratic female candidates for office, she is somebody who has the sort of views that I think sometimes people think inoculate them this sort of a misstep. It's an important moment to take a step back and realize no matter our views, everybody is capable of making huge mistakes like this.

BALDWIN: MJ to you on all of these different people in this web that you have been talking to. What have they said, friend of the former chief of staff and this woman?

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what is significant, it is that he through a friend, is not denying most of the allegations that this woman is making.

BALDWIN: Except for the punching?

LEE: That's right. He doesn't dispute that he was abusive, that he sexually harassed her, that he berated her, including leaving a very threatening voicemail in 2016, all of which led to her taking out a restraining order against him.

[14:20:00] But you're right the one thing he does deny is that he says he never punched her. If all of these allegations are obviously really disturbing, I think how all of this unfolded afterwards is, you know, even more disturbing in some ways because you think that this kind of thing shouldn't happen in all places like Capitol Hill. He continued to work for the congresswoman for three months after she found out.

As you said, he received thousands of dollars in severance and then this reference letter that she agreed to write with him. They agreed in advance, before he left her office on specific talking points basically that she would have to use if she was ever approached by potential future employers of this former chief of staff, you know, talking up his skills, legislation that he has worked on which, obviously, would have helped him get a future job after he left his work.

And I also want to read a statement that we got from Tony Baker. It's interestingly worded. He says in 2016, Elizabeth was the only person who stopped to ask me how I was doing, in urged me to get help beyond just becoming sober. I immediately sought comprehensive help which was invaluable in my life of recovery.

I have a lot of respect for Anna and I agree that stories like hers need to be told. I also did reach out to Anna Kaine. She sent me a lengthy statement as well a part of which was a direct message to others on Capitol Hill who have been abused. Part of what she said is I hear you, I believe you, it is not your fault and you are not alone.

BALDWIN: That's the thing. It's this culture, whether it's Capitol Hill, Hollywood or anywhere. It's this culture of quiet, this culture of silence.

SEEMA IYER, FORMER PROSECUTOR, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Can we please go back to 2014 when all this was happening, did they know in the office? Maybe we don't have the answers to that. You have to look back to see, did the other co-workers know what was going on between these two people? Did she perhaps come in with an injury? Did she call out of work? Why was it not exposed back then? In his statement I immediately sought help. No, immediately would have been in 2014 or perhaps before.

BALDWIN: Here is the thing. We have been talking about NDAs in another slice of life. It's an important conversation here so let's talk about it.

RYAN: Right.

BALDWIN: A congresswoman says she was pressured by the office of house employment council to sign a nondisclosure agreement with Baker, it's a process she now says is set up to protect alleged abusers. Can you explain how this works, either of you? Go ahead.

LEE: First of all, I would not excuse the way that congresswoman Esty handled all of this. I want to make that very clear. I do want to point out that this really is the system currently in place on Capitol Hill. We have been doing so much reporting over the last couple of months on what happens when people who are alleging abuse come forward on the hill. And this is very typical. I'm glad it's actually coming to light as such a clear example, so people can really kind of take in that this is an example of how something

IYER: Except for the fact that she had her own lawyer. So, the office of house employment council, that may be a legal body that has some type of rules in place, but she has her own lawyers to represent her, but then perhaps talk about not signing an NDA which could ultimately harm her in the future. Her responsibility is to constituents, right?

RYAN: Can I just jump in?

BALDWIN: Please.

RYAN: I think that this really crystallizes the kind of disconnect between what we think should happen in public and what happens in private. I've been thinking about this in the months since #MeToo broke. I think there are ways that I probably behaved that weren't great in my history that maybe I allowed myself to be friends with a man who conducted himself in ways that are not wonderful.

I think every single person should be taking a look at their own behavior and their own past and realize am I somebody who is, in theory, advocating for women's equality and advocating for women's safety and being somebody who supports #MeToo? But then in my personal life being somebody who is fighting against it? We're all part of this. We're all part of the problem. In order for us to be part of the solution we need to acknowledge our part in the problem itself. BALDWIN: I want to end by saying when I was reading about some the

comments she made back during the John Conyers time when people were calling for him to leave, and she had said, for too long a culture in Washington has accepted entirely unacceptable behavior, in that case to change period. Just as we call out men I think we have to call out women, too, who don't help other women.

MJ, and Seema and Erin, thank you so much for that.

We move on to breaking news. Independent autopsy showing the unarmed man shot to death by police in Sacramento. We know that he suffered eight gunshot wounds, six of them in his back. We will take you more to Sacramento momentarily. The President stunning his own administration by saying the U.S. will soon leave war-torn Syria. Hear about the serious consequences if American troops withdraw.


[14:30:00] BALDWIN: The results are now in from Stephon Clark's family's Independent autopsy and what it reveals is that the 22-year- old was shot eight times by two Sacramento police officers. Six of those bullets piercing his back. The autopsy was conducted by the same doctor who discovered CTE, degenerative brain disease found in some NFL players. CNN's Nick Watt is in Sacramento with more details of this report. Nick, tell me more about this autopsy.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We just heard from the pathologist and the lawyers from the Clark family this is what they had to say. They say that the first bullet hit Stephon Clark about here, on his side and front which they say suggests he was not, in fact, face on to the officers in what the Police Officers Association says was a shooting stance. They say he was initially to the side, that he was hit here.

The force of that impact turned him around and there were six other bullets that hit him in the neck and the back and then as he was falling or actually had fallen to the ground there was eighth shot that hit him in the thigh. Now this pathologist said that those first seven shots, each of those shots could have theoretically been fatal in itself. They are now saying that this result, these results contradict the narrative that we have been getting from the authorities which, as I said, what is was that Stephon Clark was facing them at the time that the first shots were fired.