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NEW DAY

Special Counsel Robert Mueller Pushed For Gates' Help On Collusion; Sen. Chris Coons Discusses Russian Collusion, Removal Of The Special Counsel, And V.A. Nominee Ronny Jackson; New Orleans Mayor On The Fight To Remove Confederate Statues; Bill Cosby's Sexual Assault Retrial Begins Next Week. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired March 30, 2018 - 07:30   ET

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


[07:31:58] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A new court filing shedding light on how the Mueller investigation plans to use information from former Trump campaign deputy chair Rick Gates to tie Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, directly to a Russian intelligence agency.

Joining us now is Sen. Chris Coons, Democrat from Delaware and a member of the House Judiciary Committee -- I'm sorry, Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senator, what does this new information tell you that Rick Gates is talking about these contacts that he had with someone that he knew had contacts with Russian intelligence?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D) DE.: Well, John, it's striking that in these latest court filings, special counsel Robert Mueller reveals that the individual who tied Russian intelligence -- their military intelligence unit -- the GRU -- directly to the Trump campaign is linked through Rick Gates, the deputy campaign manager. And since he's a cooperating witness that, to me, would be a very concerning development if I were in the Trump administration.

This is the first time you've got a direct link between an active campaign leader and Russian intelligence.

BERMAN: An admitted link at this point, although it was lied about at various times by various individuals right now.

So does this contact -- does this link constitute collusion?

COONS: It's as close as has been proven publicly so far -- as has been alleged publicly so far.

I think the next thing you'll see special counsel Mueller working on is a meeting around the Republican National Convention that now- Attorney General Jeff Sessions also participated in that resulted in the weakening of the Republican Party campaign platform in a way that favored Russia over Ukraine; something that was a high priority for the Kremlin.

That's also something that would suggest an influence on the campaign by Russian intelligence interests.

BERMAN: Can I ask you what sounds like a pedantic question but I think it's highly pertinent given that we've been at this for more than a year right now.

What is collusion to you? What would constitute collusion to you?

COONS: Well, collusion is a complex legal term. For me, just to put it in common sense terms, it's where two parties are cooperating in a way intended to break the law. To share information or resources in a common effort to undermine the law.

BERMAN: So just to backtrack even more, Donald Trump, Jr.'s meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian promising dirt on Hillary Clinton from Russian intelligence -- is that, on its face, collusion?

COONS: That's also highly suggestive. There's been -- obviously, after that meeting was uncovered, after a number of initial misrepresentations or outright lies about who was in the meeting, what was the topic of the meeting, the question remains whether or not information that was vital to the campaign was shared at that point between Russian intelligence and the Trump campaign.

That makes it clear that folks at the highest levels of the Trump campaign were eager to receive information --

[07:35:00] BERMAN: Right.

COONS: -- from Russia, but it doesn't show that that information actually yet changed hands. That's why this connection to an active Russian intelligence agent is important.

BERMAN: All right.

You are part of a bipartisan effort with Sen. Thom Tillis to basically protect the Mueller investigation -- put a buffer between an additional legal buffer between the president which would make it much, much harder for him, if not impossible, to remove the special counsel. You've been at this for a long time.

Any recent progress?

COONS: Well, we introduced the bill late last summer in August. We had a hearing last fall in front of the Judiciary Committee. And puzzling to me, a number of my Republican colleagues questioned whether it's constitutional.

BERMAN: Yes.

COONS: Briefly, there's a key Supreme Court case that's 20 years old, Morrison v. Olson, in which seven Supreme Court justices said that a much stronger law -- the independent counsel law -- was constitutional.

Some of my Republican colleagues have been hesitating to support moving forward on this bill, most importantly, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Grassley. So we've engaged in a campaign to try and remind our colleagues that this is constitutional, that's it the easiest way that we can put a speed bump before President Trump in the likely event that he decides to fire special counsel Robert Mueller.

BERMAN: In the --

COONS: Now, let me just say, John, when I --

BERMAN: Hang on. You just said in the likely event. I mean, do you really go to bed at night worrying that by the time you wake up the president will try to fire the special counsel?

COONS: Yes. I'm very concerned given that President Trump said publicly that it would be a red line if the special counsel started going after his personal finances or his family's business. And we know that starting several weeks ago that's exactly what is being done in the special counsel investigation. They sent a subpoena to The Trump Organization and just in the last two weeks, the president has started attacking the special counsel by name in tweets.

We know from reporting by "The New York Times" that back in January, President Trump wanted to fire the special counsel and was only stopped from doing so when White House counsel Don McGahn threatened to resign if he did so.

So I think it is obvious that he would like to fire him. Whether he will or not is the core question. Many of my colleagues think it would be dreadful if he fired him, but don't believe he will.

I think the president's abrupt recent actions in how he dismissed the V.A. secretary, the secretary of state, other key members of his cabinet suggests that this is something he is likely to do.

BERMAN: Likely to do. Again, you're using that word.

So when Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and other Republican leaders say they don't think that the president will try to fire Robert Mueller, do you think they are wrong, do you think they're being dishonest, or do you think they're just covering for the president?

COONS: I think they've been given assurances by people in the West Wing that they've got this under control. That the president won't make such a precipitous or an unwise move.

But I will remind you that President Trump's own legal team just had a major shakeup and John Dowd who was serving as the lead of the president's legal defense team has just resigned, I think partly in protest over the president's decisions about how to interact with special counsel Mueller.

I'm sure they have their own reasons for being confident that he won't --

BERMAN: In this case -- in this case, it seems that John Dowd did not want him to cooperate with Robert Mueller. Did not want him to testify and answer questions from the investigators. And by all accounts --

COONS: Right.

BERMAN: -- the president says he wants to.

Let me just ask you because we have a chance to talk to a senator right now who will be involved in the confirmation process.

Dr. Ronny Jackson, White House physician, admiral, good doctor by all accounts, will be nominated to be the new V.A. secretary.

Do you yet know how you will vote on his confirmation?

COONS: I have not had a chance to meet him, to interview him, or look deeply into his background. But I'll just say on the surface, by all public press accounts, he is a good doctor, a good man, but has no relevant experience running any major organization.

The Veterans Administration is one of the largest and most complex federal agencies and this shows the troubling trend that President Trump has of preferring nominees for his cabinet -- or cabinet members -- who are personally loyal or who are telegenic over those who have relevant deep experience.

BERMAN: Do you vote to nominate or confirm anyone who didn't have any relevant experience to run any agency?

COONS: You know, I've been in the Senate eight years. It's entirely possible that at some point I did. But in general, I tend to just nominees based on whether they have the experience to run the relevant agency.

I voted against the secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, and against the secretary of HUD, Ben Carson because although experienced people neither of them had run a federal agency or a government agency or frankly, any agency of anything like the size of the Department of Education --

BERMAN: Right.

COONS: -- or the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

[07:40:01] BERMAN: Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, great to have you with us. Have a terrific holiday weekend, sir.

COONS: Thank you.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right.

He is a rising star in the Democratic Party and currently the mayor of New Orleans. Does he plan to run for president in 2020? What are his plans? Mayor Mitch Landrieu, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITCH LANDRIEU, MAYOR, NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA: Instead of revering a 4-year brief historical aberration that was called the Confederacy, we can celebrate all 300 years of our rich, diverse history as a place named New Orleans and set the tone for the next 300 years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[07:45:00] CAMEROTA: New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu delivering a searing speech last May as the last of four Confederate statues was removed from his city. The effort to take down those monuments is now the focus of Mayor Landrieu's new book, "In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History."

And, Mayor Mitch Landrieu joins us now. Good morning, Mayor.

MAYOR MITCH LANDRIEU (D), NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA, AUTHOR, "IN THE SHADOW OF STATUES: A WHITE SOUTHERNER CONFRONTS HISTORY": Hey, Alisyn, how are you?

CAMEROTA: I'm well. Great to have you on with us.

LANDRIEU: Thank you. Happy Easter.

CAMEROTA: You, too.

LANDRIEU: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: So, how hard was that decision to take down those statues?

LANDRIEU: Well, it was one that I came to after a lot of consultation with a lot of people, but when it was clear what the history was, the answer about what to do actually came rather easy. It was just hard to do it.

CAMEROTA: Yes, of course. I mean, look, we all -- even those of us who didn't live in the south were gripped by this national debate.

And you heard the pushback on the other side. By taking down the statues you are expunging an important chapter in American history. You're whitewashing it, you're sanitizing it.

These are some people's great grandfathers or grandfathers who did -- who, you know, fought in the Civil War and so, why are you expunging their history?

LANDRIEU: Well, a couple of things.

First of all, after the killings at Mother Emanuel in Charleston, it was pretty clear that symbols of the Confederacy were still alive and well and promoting harm that really couldn't be countenance anymore.

Secondly, you can't change history by taking a statue down. You're just moving to another place. And, of course, in the speech and in the book I write about the difference between the reverence of individuals that did something really bad the remembrance of it so that were never repeated again. And thirdly, these particular monuments occupy prominent places and reflect only four years of New Orleans' 300-year history, crowding out all of the other history. So not only are we not whitewashing history, we're actually adding to it and telling the whole story, not just a very small part and a misleading one at that.

CAMEROTA: You're getting a Kennedy Profile in Courage for having --

LANDRIEU: Amazing.

CAMEROTA: -- for having done this. Your reaction?

LANDRIEU: Well, first of all, I really was rendered speechless. I don't feel, you know -- I'm humbled by it and I don't feel capability of receiving that award.

And I receive it on behalf of the people of New Orleans who have been through, as you know, an incredible amount in the last 12 to eight years and have done heroic things to bring this city back.

And so, it's an incredible honor. I accept it humbly and I'm just so thankful for it.

CAMEROTA: You have a little more than a month left as mayor of New Orleans.

LANDRIEU: I do.

CAMEROTA: What's your next move?

LANDRIEU: I do. Well, first of all, it's been a great 8-year run and, of course, you know the city is getting ready to celebrate its 300th anniversary so we invite everybody to celebrate it with us.

But, you know, as I land the plane I haven't given much thought to what I'm going to do next. It's eight years. It's been a hard eight years. It's been fun and I'm really thankful that I've been able to do it and when I finish I'll have time to think about what comes next.

CAMEROTA: I know that you probably don't like the 2020 presidential question and I think that you've said that you're not there yet. But generally speaking, are you interested someday in running for president?

LANDRIEU: Well, you know, you never say never in politics, obviously, but it's not something I'm intending to do. It's not something I'm planning to do.

I obviously feel good about the possibility that people think that you could do that one day. I mean, anybody in the world would be honored by that thought but it's not something that I'm planning on at the moment.

CAMEROTA: If the climate were right, do you think that you could run for president? And I ask that because I know that you've said that -- I think you've said that you think you're too moderate to run. LANDRIEU: Well actually, I do right now given the scope of what politics is in the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee. But it really has less to do with the climate than it is to do whether or not it's actually something I think that I'm supposed to do or whether that I'd be prepared to do.

And I think it's way too early for anybody to really seriously think about it because I don't know where the country's going to be in a couple of years. As you know, every day it changes fairly dramatically. Heads are spinning. There's an incredible amount of chaos and I just think it's too early to think about.

And, of course, you have to step back and think about the entire possibility of it happening or not, but I don't really see it happening but you never say never. And, you know, who the heck knows.

CAMEROTA: Pretend that you are not running, OK, in 2020.

LANDRIEU: Yes.

CAMEROTA: Then who? Who do you think rises to the fore?

LANDRIEU: Well, first of all, there won't be a dearth of candidates, I assure you. There will be maybe 130 people trying to -- trying to get the Democratic nomination. There are a lot of people that are really qualified.

I really have the highest regard and respect for Joe Biden. I know Mike Bloomberg is thinking about it -- Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Eric Garcetti. I mean, there are a ton of really good people.

You actually have some good people that are talking about it on the Republican side. Jeff Flake, I think, has been a profile in courage in the United States of America.

And we ought to encourage a really thought civil debate where we can be hard on the problem and soft on the people. That's really what this country needs. To get out of chaos, get back into stability, and get us focused on winning together.

CAMEROTA: Do you think Joe Biden will run?

LANDRIEU: I hope he does. I think he'd be great.

CAMEROTA: All right. Mayor Mitch Landrieu, great to talk to you. Thank you so much.

LANDRIEU: Great.

CAMEROTA: The book, again, is "In the Shadow of Statues." It's getting rave reviews.

LANDRIEU: Thank you so much.

CAMEROTA: OK, thanks. Great to talk to you -- John. BERMAN: Alisyn, Bill Cosby's indecent assault retrial begins next week. Why it will look very different time around. We have a live report, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:54:17] BERMAN: Bill Cosby set to stand trial again for allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand. The first trial ended in a hung jury and a mistrial. This time, as many as five accusers may take the stand.

CNN's Jean Casarez live in Norristown, Pennsylvania with much more -- Jean.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, today is the final pretrial here and the judge still is deciding what evidence will and will not be coming before this second jury. And as you said, the prosecution this time around is going to be able to have five prior bad act witnesses. Women who said I, too, was drugged and sexually assaulted by Bill Cosby.

A source close to this case confirms to me that former supermodel Janice Dickinson is one that has been subpoenaed and she will be flying to Pennsylvania.

[07:55:04] Now, the defense wants a witness that is named Margo Jackson, someone who they say says talked to Andrea Constand way back in 2003 or 2004 -- she's not sure of the exact date -- but that Andrea Constand says she could fabricate this whole story and she could get a lot of money.

I sat down with former lead defense attorney for this trial, Brian McMonagle.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASAREZ (on camera): So you believe they had a romantic relationship?

BRIAN MCMONAGLE, FORMER LEAD DEFENSE ATTORNEY, BILL COSBY TRIAL: I don't think there's any doubt about that fact. I mean, the testimony in this trial was that Ms. Constand had been with -- to her -- his home on a couple of different occasions. That there had been romantic settings, romantic interludes.

CASAREZ (voice-over): Constand testified the relationship was not romantic. He was a Temple friend, she said, somebody I trusted, a mentor.

As for the romantic interludes McMonagle says happened, Constand insisted they were passes from Cosby that she rebuffed which made sense to Diana Parsons who says her sister has no interest in romantic interludes with men.

DIANA PARSONS, SISTER OF COSBY ACCUSER ANDREA CONSTAND: Andrea was actually about 16 years old when she told us that she was gay. CASAREZ: Cosby's attorneys used phone records to try to prove a romantic relationship, pointing to more than 50 calls Constand made to Cosby after the alleged assault and before March 31st when Constand left Temple.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CASAREZ: Andrea Constand testified in the trial that as a manager for the women's basketball team at Temple University and Bill Cosby being so involved with the team and supporting them, she had to take calls from him. She had to take those phone calls because there were many calls after the fact -- after the alleged assault, but she said it was part of her job duty.

The defense saying that is what proves there was a romantic relationship -- John.

BERMAN: Jean, you've covered this situation for so long. What has it been like in the courtroom this time around?

CASAREZ: It's tense. I mean, there are moments of very -- intensity on both sides.

Remember, this is a brand new defense team. They are all from California. Tom Mesereau, the very famed attorney that got an acquittal for Michael Jackson on sexual assault charges is the lead attorney. So I think they're all getting to know each other.

But the intensity on the defense is apparent because if convicted, Bill Cosby could spend the rest of his life in prison so this is very, very serious for all accounts. And the commonwealth, they want justice for someone they say was a victim of Bill Cosby.

BERMAN: Jean Casarez for us in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Jean, thank you very much.

Tune in tomorrow night for the CNN special report, "THE CASE AGAINST COSBY," 8:00 p.m. eastern only here on CNN.

We have a lot of news we're following this morning so let's get to it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Robert Mueller is connecting the Trump campaign and Paul Manafort directly to Russian spies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My bet is that Gates revealed Russian connections.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He could have seen and heard a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a lot of partisan smoke but we haven't seen that direct connection.

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: The president ought to be cautious. Don't ever mess with Director Mueller. He'll crush you. DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's why I made some changes because I wasn't happy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm concerned about putting somebody in charge of the V.A. who doesn't really have management experience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn't exclude the possibility that he would be a fine secretary.

DAVID SHULKIN, FORMER SECRETARY, VETERANS AFFAIRS: And really wanted us to take a stance for privatization. I wasn't willing to do that.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump saying goodbye to Hope Hicks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No one can replace Hope Hicks for the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your new day. It is Friday, March 30th, 8:00 in the east.

John Berman joins me today. Great to have you.

BERMAN: It's good to be here.

CAMEROTA: Up first, a development in the Russia investigation. CNN has learned why special counsel Robert Mueller wants the cooperation of former Trump campaign deputy Rick Gates. Court documents indicate that Gates could be critical to nabbing even bigger fish in a collusion case involving the Kremlin.

BERMAN: President Trump's pick for V.A. secretary drawing criticism and skepticism. Dr. Ronny Jackson tapped to oversee 360,000 federal employees and a budget of $186 billion. He has virtually no management experience.

According to "The Washington Post," Dr. Jackson himself was taken aback when he got the news that the president wanted to nominate him and he expressed hesitance about taking the job.

Let's start though with the Mueller investigation -- the breaking news on that front.

Shimon Prokupecz live in Washington with our top story -- Shimon.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, that's right, John.

Rick Gates, the former campaign official with Trump has been cooperating, as we know, with the Mueller team and what we're told is that he's been primarily -- that the Mueller team has been primarily using Rick Gates for information about what they call the central mission of the investigation which has been Russian interference and collusion in the 2016 campaign.