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Ted Cruz's About Face, Praising Trump; Stormy Daniels' Attorney Speaks to Reporters Following Hearing; Greenberg: Trump on Tape Lied to Get on Forbes 400 List; Russia Claims Warned the U.S. on What Red Lines Could Not be Crossed in Syrian Strikes. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired April 20, 2018 - 13:30   ET

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


[13:30:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: In an about-face for the Texas Senator Ted Cruz, now lavishing enormous praise on President Trump. Senator Cruz wrote this for "Time" magazine for its 100 most influential people list just out, and I'm quoting now, "President Trump is a flash-bang grenade thrown into Washington by the forgotten men and women of America."

But remember the 2016 presidential campaign, when Trump attacked Cruz with a lion's head nickname and talked about the looks of Cruz's wife while Cruz fired back with these.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ, (R), FLORIDA: I believe you know politics much better than I do because, for 40 years, you've been offended liberal Democratic politicians for years.

Last night, he sends tweets attacking my wife, attacking Heidi. It is inappropriate, it is wrong, it is, frankly, disgusting.

Donald Trump will not be the nominee.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: He's leading right now.

(CROSSTALK)

CRUZ: Donald Trump will not be the nominee.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Will you support him as the nominee?

CRUZ: Donald Trump will not be the nominee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Joining us from New York, CNN political analyst, John Avlon.

John, what about this about-face? How do you sense it?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's extraordinary. The man President Trump called Lyin' Ted is now effusive in his heartfelt comments for the president. You have to wonder if it's heartfelt or just to play to the base political consideration given he's facing an unexpectedly tough reelection race in Texas this fall. BLITZER: Listen to how then-Candidate Donald Trump talked about his

then-Opponent Ted Cruz. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Lyin' Ted does not have the temperament to be doing this. He's choking like a dog.

Ted cannot get along with anybody. He's a nasty person.

Ted is very glib. He goes out and he says, well, I'm a natural born citizen. The point is, you're not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: After taking shots like that, did you ever think you would see these kinds of compliments coming from Senator Cruz for President Trump in this new issue of "Time" magazine?

AVLON: You know, I don't think I hold Ted Cruz to a high standard of constancy. But even still, this is a man who the president of the United States insinuated his father was somehow involved in the assassination of John Kennedy, somebody who Cruz called during the campaign a serial philanderer, a bully, and on and on. There is bad blood between them. Which leaves me to think this was a concession, or even his inner core, but simply playing into the base of politics. There's something sad about it, frankly.

BLITZER: You know Cruz is up for reelection. Do you think the very nice words from Senator Cruz in "Time" magazine could lead to a campaign visit or two or more from the president in Texas in the coming months?

AVLON: That's clearly going to be Ted Cruz's hope. And he's hoping he can build bridges with the base that he may have burned during that tough campaign. The race is, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll, gained three points with the Democratic congressman. It shouldn't be that close, especially in Texas. Ted Cruz probably feels he needs all the help he can get. I want an energized Trump base behind him to buoy that effort. Again, I love seeing people mend fences in politics, but there is such a thing as going too far. That standard might be insinuating a Senator's father killed President Kennedy.

BLITZER: John Avlon, thank you for that analysis.

AVLON: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Up next, a reporter claims the president posed as his own spokesman all to climb his way up the "Forbes" wealth list. You're going to hear the audio for yourself right after the break.

Also, Russia calling the shots. The Kremlin claims it warned the U.S. about what red lines could not be crossed in last week's strikes on Syria. We have new details just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [13:38:07] BLITZER: Nothing yet from the judge, but the hearing in Los Angeles involving the Stormy Daniels' lawsuit against the president and Michael Cohen, the president's long-time lawyer, that hearing has ended, at least for today.

Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, is speaking right now.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: I'm going to make a brief statement and then take some questions.

First of all, we're very pleased with today's hearing. It's apparent to us that the court recognized, to quote the court, that there are "gaping holes" in the application by Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump to delay this matter. It has always been our intention to make sure that this case proceeded expeditiously and that as much information as possible would be known and made known to the American people about what happened here, all of the facts relating to the negotiation around this agreement, the 130,000 there are payment and the cover-up that has resulted.

As I'm sure each of you observed, we have one of the finest federal judges in the country assigned to this case relating to the Honorable James Otero. Incredibly diligent, very, very smart as today's hearing indicated, and very, very focused on what matters on all constitutional issues in this case. There is no question that he is going to ensure that Mr. Cohen's Fifth Amendment rights are adequately protected at the same time that the rights of the American people and the American public to know the truth are equally protected.

I'll take questions.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can I ask you, you asked for more details about what was taken in the raid and electronics in particular. Would you share those details here?

[13:40:01] AVENATTI: Well, I was repeating what was stated in New York by Mr. Tom McVey, the very able, competent and exceptional assistant U.S. attorney who is handling the criminal matter in New York. He stated in open court on Monday that when the FBI raided the office hotel room and residence of Mr. Cohen that they imaged the electronic devices, phones, computers and the like, they left those behind and only took the images with them with approximately 10 bankers boxes full of documents. I was only regurgitating what was said on Monday. I don't have any reason to doubt that.

BLITZER: We're going to continue to monitor Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels.

We're also awaiting a ruling by this judge out there to see if there is going to be a stay in the case, what goes forward. We'll update you when we get more information.

In the meantime, there is other news we're following. Donald Trump, president of the United States, speaking in the third person. He still does it fairly often, but it's a style he uses in speeches. And maybe something he perfected decades ago when he reportedly acted as his own personal spokesman under the name of John Barron.

Now a "Forbes" reporter is releasing copies of taped conversations he had with John Barron back in 1992.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONATHAN GREEBERG, "FORBES" REPORTER (voice-over): OK. What's your first name, by the way?

JOHN BARRON, ALLEGEDLY DONALD TURMP POSING AS HIS P.R. MAN (voice- over): John.

GREENBERG: John.

BARRON: John Barron.

Let me tell you what the deal is just so you understand.

GREENBERG: OK.

BARRON: Mr. Trump -- first of all, most of the assets have been consolidated to Mr. Trump, you know, because you have down Fred Trump. And I'd like to talk to you off the record, if I can.

GREENBERG: OK, sure. That's fine.

BARRON: But I think you can really use Donald Trump now and you can just consolidate it. I think last year somebody showed me the article, and I think he had 200 and 200, and the other's been pretty well consolidated now for the most part, as I also think somebody had mentioned that you had asked about that or somebody had. And it's been pretty well consolidated, OK?

BARRON: It was a tremendous deal from any standpoint, I guess, but what I think you might want to do is at some point maybe after that before you right your little article, maybe you want to call me again and sit down because I'd like to discuss a couple things. I look at the "Forbes" from my standpoint as being important. And I don't think that in numerous cases, and I can only judge by the New York realtors that you mentioned, I don't think you have your facts 100 percent correct. And I think that's probably somewhat important. So if you have a chance, if you so deem or if you deem it necessary or important enough, I'll be available.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, that was, quote, John Barron.

Let's discuss this and more. Joining us from New York, John Cassidy, contributor for the "New Yorker" magazine. He's covered Donald Trump extensively in the past.

John, what do you think of that tape from 1982?

JOHN CASSIDY, CONTRIBUTOR, NEW YORKER MAGAZINE: He was John Barron in a divorce case, in other cases. I've never had that experience myself, but I think a lot of New York reporters wouldn't be surprised to see this. Back in the '80s, everybody who covered Trump knew he was determined to get on the "Forbes" 400 list. He was always determined to show that he was one of the really rich people in America, richer than these rivals in the New York real estate game.

And the article was a very good article, I should say. It just shows it's all true and that Trump actually told lies about his assets, including one of the things he said was that his father had passed over all the family assets to him and consolidated them, subsequently, and merged in his father's will, in Fred Trump's will, and passed them over to his kids. I think it confirms what we previously knew, that when it comes to Trump's estimation of his own worth, you need to take a lot of what he says with a pinch of salt.

BLITZER: Yes, he's always been very, very sensitive on that "Forbes" list, especially including, in my interviews I've done with him over the years. That P.R. push over his wealth, that's been a focal point, as you well know, and a lot of business reporters in New York know as well.

It came up several times during the campaign, too, about his net worth. Here's part of his current -- the current "Forbes" billionaire's list. Take a look at this. This probably deeply irritates the president. Jeff Bezos from Amazon and the owner of the "Washington Post." He's at the top of the list. He's worth $112 billion. He's number one. The current billionaires list lists Donald Trump as number 766. He has $3.1 billion net worth.

You have a smile, John. Why are you smiling?

[13:45:10] CASSIDY: Part of the article we're referring to mentions that back in the '90s, "Forbes had him at $324, which is higher than he is now. He even complained when they highlighted him as $4 billion and said he should be a lot higher. Whatever worth you put on Trump, he says I'm worth double that. That's the usual thing.

The point is, it's difficult to figure out what he is exactly worth because the Trump Organization is a private company. It doesn't have any stock listings, so you can't look at the stock prices. Also it's got a lot of hidden debts. We don't know how much. "Wall Street Journal" estimated about a billion dollars during the campaign. There's all sorts of figures. During the campaign, he said he was worth $10 billion. Various magazines have put it at $2.5 billion, $3.5 billion. I did a little back-of-the-envelope myself estimation for a piece he wrote, and I got it figured at $2.5 billion. That's a lot of money. He's got a lot of assets. Nobody denies that, but he doesn't appear to be as rich as he says he is.

BLITZER: John Cassidy, thank you so much for joining us.

CASSIDY: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, red lines drawn. We're getting new details behind America's strike last week on Syria and how Russia warned the United States where it was acceptable to bomb.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:50:50] BLITZER: Right now conflicting accounts of the phone call between Washington and Moscow leading up to the Syria airstrikes by the U.S. The Russian foreign minister claimed the U.S. was warned about the so-called red lines in Syria, the areas they could and could not bomb.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIA FOREIGN MINISTER (through translation): We had contacts on the military leadership level afterwards at the level of generals between our representatives and the commanders of the U.S.- led coalition. They were informed about where our red lines are, including geographical redlines on the ground. In any case, the results show that they have not crossed these red lines.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is joining us.

Barbara, what has the Pentagon been saying about these so-called red lines, deconfliction with the Russians?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: So-called might be the way to think about it, Wolf. What the Pentagon has been saying since last Friday night when all of this happened is they did tell the Russians, in other words, the U.S. told Moscow to stay out of certain areas or be aware that the U.S. would be in areas, that could include Damascus, that could include Homs, it was essentially a large area, a bloc in the area where the U.S. might be operating in a broad time, not specific locations, not specific time frames. But this is how deconfliction works, you tell the other guy I may be operating in this broad area at this time. Moscow was very well aware of what the real message was there. There was no escalation back from the Russians, no action by the Russians that the Pentagon has reported.

And I want you to listen one more time to what General Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had to say in that late-night press conference last Friday night about the Russians and all of this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. JOE DUNFORD, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: We specifically identified these targets to mitigate the risk of Russian forces being involved. And we used our normal deconfliction channels. Those were active this week to work through the airspace issues and so forth. We did not do any coordination with the Russians on the strikes, nor did we pre-notify them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: And just to tie it all up for the week, a short time ago, here at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary James Mattis said that Bashar al Assad would be ill advised to ignore the warning that the U.S., the French and the British sent him in those airstrikes just one week ago -- Wolf? BLITZER: Interesting.

Barbara, thanks very much.

I'm joined by CNN national security analyst, Samantha Vinograd.

Why is this so-called deconfliction so important, Samantha?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Because it actually helps our mission in Syria. When we deconflict with Russia, we have more room to pursue our mission to counter ISIS and occasionally punish and deter chemical weapons use. It has benefits on both sides. The goal is to avoid unintended run-ins on the ground where Russia has personnel, as we do, as well as in the air. It is a very crowded airspace over Syria. We want to make sure our forces don't come into unintended contact. We saw a crisis happen a few weeks ago when U.S. forces did kill Russian mercenaries on the ground in Syria. So communication here is key. There are different ways that the United States and Russia can communicate about operations in Syria. One is the so-called hot line that's getting a lot of press. This hot line is to deconflict specific operations. As the Pentagon briefed last week, it is likely impossible that they would be in touch minutes or hours before a specific operation to deconflict the air or the ground. But. We also have regular contact. So General Dunford may be in touch with his Russian counterpart every week or every day to talk about the strategic power in Syria.

BLITZER: Where do you see all this heading?

VINOGRAD: I am very worried that Russian lines are going to multiply. We know since their military intervention in Syria in 2015, they've established these geographic and personal red lines. They could start spreading assets and people throughout Syria and say, you can't strike here because we have people there and if you do, we'll escalate. They're trying to expand their role in the political space and play mediator in chief. And we know they're carrying Syria's water diplomatically. So the problem is they could establish more red lines, threaten to escalate with them if we don't respect them, and it could limit U.S. policy objectives.

[13:55:14] BLITZER: This is a tense situation. The stakes are enormous.

Samantha, thanks very much for that explanation.

There is more breaking news we're following. The legal team representing President Trump's personal lawyer in court. A Michael Cohen indictment may be coming soon. You're going to hear why. That's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:59:44] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Happy Friday. Thanks for being with me this afternoon.

We have some breaking news at the moment. The attorney for Michael Cohen, the president's personal attorney, says that Cohen could be indicted very soon, perhaps in the next 90 days. This revelation coming today inside a federal courtroom in Los Angeles as Trump and Cohen's lawyers are trying to delay the Stormy Daniels lawsuit.

Sara Sidner is our CNN national correspondent. She is just outside that courthouse for us in L.A.