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White House Adviser Says "No Need" For Trump To Pardon Michael Cohen; Kellyanne Conway Slams CNN For Asking About Husband's Anti- Trump Tweets; Human Rights Groups Call For Investigation Into Russian Reporter's Death. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired April 23, 2018 - 07:30   ET

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


[07:30:00] MARC SHORT, WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS, ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: With last quarter revenues, though our Treasury, were higher than they've ever been. The reason -- the reason that the deficits are growing is not because revenues have decreased. The reason that the deficit is growing is because spending's increasing.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Spending, yes --

SHORT: Yes.

CUOMO: -- and you guys signed onto it.

SHORT: Well, you just said it was because --

CUOMO: And your tax cut.

SHORT: -- of the tax cut package. OK, well then your out is revenues are growing at a higher rate than ever before and they have more -- the highest numbers ever in a quarter.

CUOMO: But you have bigger deficits to offset them and that's all I'm saying. We'll see how it plays out.

SHORT: Well, no, no. What you said -- you said it's because of the tax cut. And the reality is the --

CUOMO: Yes, that the tax cut added to the deficit, no question about it, in a way that nobody in your party would have ever anticipated an administration ago that they'd be signing onto a tax cut like that, that had that kind if implication on the deficit but that's where we are.

SHORT: It's fascinating to think that you believe we inherited a great economy from the Obama administration.

CUOMO: I'm just telling you what the numbers are.

SHORT: No.

CUOMO: The unemployment rate was very low.

SHORT: One point eight percent. CUOMO: Where we were going --

SHORT: One point eight percent GDP growth over the entire year.

CUOMO: And look, no --

SHORT: The worst since the Great Depression.

CUOMO: The --

SHORT: Unemployment -- more people that are on -- came on food stamps in the history of our country. Fifteen million people added onto foods stamps in the last year of the Obama administration.

What this administration is actually doing is lowering that.

CUOMO: All right.

SHORT: The lowest unemployment claims in 44 years.

CUOMO: We'll talk to -- I'll talk to you about each of those things individually on a different day. You're always welcome here.

Because we both know one of the reasons people are getting off food stamps isn't because they're getting great jobs. They're now being pushed off the rolls with new requirements. But we'll talk about that on another day.

SHORT: All right.

CUOMO: No, Marc, we'll talk about it another day.

I want to ask you one other thing. Is it true that the planning for this first state dinner, that Melania Trump deserves a lot of credit for this? She's doing it all herself. She didn't even hire outside consultants for this.

Is that true?

SHORT: Absolutely. She's an incredibly gracious, beautiful first lady who has done a phenomenal job. Represents us well and she's planned the state dinner.

CUOMO: That's interesting because, you know, even when Michelle Obama, when they did their first one with Renzi -- you know, the Italian one -- I was invited to that one, by the way -- that, you know, they used an outside consult on that, so that's impressive. I just wanted to get that detail nailed down.

Marc Short, you are always welcome to come on this show --

SHORT: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: -- and make the case to the American people. I appreciate you doing it more than you know.

SHORT: Thank you, sir.

CUOMO: Alisyn --

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK.

So, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway had a wild exchange with CNN's Dana Bash this weekend. How a question about Conway's husband took a very weird turn.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:35:55] CAMEROTA: So there was this fiery exchange between CNN's Dana Bash and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION." Dana asked Conway about her husband, a well-known attorney named George Conway, posting or retweeting messages that are critical of President Trump.

Here's part of this interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I just want to ask you one question, and a lot of people are asking me -- probably you, too -- and that is what is up with your husband's tweets? Your husband is a very well-respected lawyer and he's been sending some tweets that have been critical of the administration.

Just an example in response to a tweet he saw saying President Trump's aides are reluctant to speak for him because he contradicts them. Later, your husband wrote, "So true. It's absurd."

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: He writes a lot of things that are also supportive and he writes a lot of things about corgis, and the Philadelphia Eagles, and sports, too.

But the fact is that -- well, two things I'll say to you.

Number one that, again, that woman who lost the election whose name I never say on T.V. anymore is wrong that women -- I think she said white women have to listen to their -- the men in their to form their own political opinions. Wrong again, lady.

Number two, it's fascinating to me that CNN would go there but it's very good for the whole world to have just witnessed. That is now fair --

BASH: I went --

CONWAY: Excuse me, that is now fair game what people's -- how people's spouses and significant others may differ with them. I'm really surprised but very, in some ways, relieved and gratified to see that.

BASH: No --

CONWAY: That should really be fun. BASH: No, I actually -- first of all, I would ask you that if you were a man and your wife were to --

CONWAY: No, you wouldn't. I mean, you named --

BASH: A thousand percent I would.

CONWAY: No, no, no, no, no.

BASH: And it's not about that. It's about --

CONWAY: It's a different standard --

BASH: It's about -- it's about -- it's about questioning -- publicly questioning what you are doing for a living and with regard to your boss. And it has nothing to do with your gender and --

CONWAY: No, and it has nothing to do with my spouse and --

BASH: Right, that's what I was just asking.

CONWAY: Oh, no, no, no, no. You just brought him -- you just brought him into this so this ought to be fun moving forward, Dana.

BASH: OK.

CONWAY: We're now going to talk about other people's spouses and significant others just because they either work in the White House or at CNN? Are we going to do that?

BASH: But, you --

CONWAY: No, you just went there.

BASH: Yes.

CONWAY: CNN just went there. Look, differences of opinion --

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: I'm not -- by the way, this wasn't critical. I'm just asking about...

CONWAY: Oh, about -- it was. It was meant to harass and embarrass. But let me just tell you something.

BASH: Absolutely not.

CONWAY: Let me just tell you something. By definition, spouses have a difference of opinion when adultery is happening.

BASH: I could not agree more.

CONWAY: By definition, spouses have a difference of opinion when one is, I don't know, draining the joint bank account to support things that maybe the other disagrees with. So, this is a fascinating cross the Rubicon moment and I'll leave it at that.

BASH: OK. Well, that certainly was not intended to cross any Rubicon. It was actually intended to be somewhat lighthearted about the fact that we are all grownups who have different opinions, but I'm sorry that you took it that --

CONWAY: That isn't what you said. You said I have got to ask you a question that is on everybody's mind.

BASH: Yes, it is. It is. It is.

I'm sure you -- I'm sure you hear it too. It is. And it is hard to have -- to have two adults in -- in a situation like this, but it is unusual for --

CONWAY: I'm sorry, what does that mean?

BASH: It is unusual for...

CONWAY: I'm sorry, it's hard for whom? I'm sorry. Back it up.

It's hard for the two adults. My husband and me?

BASH: You and your husband. My point is that --

CONWAY: Now you're talking about my marriage again?

BASH: I'm not talking about your marriage, I'm --

CONWAY: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

CONWAY: You're talking about my husband.

BASH: Kellyanne, Kellyanne, here was my whole point in this --

CONWAY: It's hard for whom?

BASH: -- is that you are a professional working for the President of the United States and your husband is a very well-respected lawyer. And my point is, is that we don't often see -- in fact, I don't remember the last time we saw somebody working for the president in a high-profile position when their spouse is saying critical things about them.

That is all. That is all.

CONWAY: Well, that, A, is not true. There are other family members whose people who work at the White House who certainly don't support the president privately and publicly.

But I will tell you this. And there are people who have been in his administration who worked for Democrats or gave money to Democrats. But all that aside, that really is meant to divert attention from, again, the big issues that America cares about.

But, like I said, CNN chose to go there. I think that's going to be fascinating moving forward. And don't deny that, when you just said it must be difficult.

I do want you to clarify, though, for the whole worldwide audience and, in fact, for me since you raised me. It's quote, "difficult" for whom to have two adults what?

[07:40:08] BASH: No, no, my point only is that --

CONWAY: Difficult for my children --

BASH: No.

CONWAY: -- who are probably watching you right now because it's not hard for them?

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: Well, I didn't send the tweets.

CONWAY: They've already seen a double standard for their mother for two years.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: It is not about gender. I don't want to have this conversation and you know that I don't believe that it's about gender.

(CROSSTALK)

CONWAY: No, no, I didn't say -- no, no, it's not about gender. Hold on. It's not about gender.

There's been a different standard for me than there have been for other people.

And we bite our tongue plenty because I work for the people of this country, the United States government, and the presidency, and the President of the United States. So, there's plenty that I don't say. There's plenty that I don't talk about.

BASH: Absolutely.

(CROSSTALK)

CONWAY: One day, I will have my say.

BASH: OK, well I'll just give you -- I'll just give you --

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: Because you went there -- you are always invited back here. Because you went there, I'll just give an example, because you asked.

Andrew McCabe. The president went after Andrew McCabe for something that his wife did -- ran as a Democratic, and that had nothing to do with the president. So --

CONWAY: No, no, no, no.

The president knew something early that everybody else is now finding out. The president has excellent instincts and he knew Jim Comey and Andrew McCabe --

BASH: But he didn't say that. He talked about his wife.

CONWAY: Oh, you don't know that he didn't say that.

He knew that Andrew McCabe could not be trusted. And look what happened just this week. Andrew McCabe -- it's admitted now that he lied four times, at least three under oath, Dana. Criminal referral just this week because he lied about leaking to the media.

This is the number two at the FBI. This should have everybody concerned. Everybody should go back and look at what the FBI was doing and not doing while Comey and McCabe were in charge of it.

And they all thought, if not wanted, the other person to win the election and that so colored and politicized so much of their actions and their inactions.

BASH: Well, as you know -- as you mentioned, the inspector general is asking to look into Andrew McCabe and we are covering that, and we will continue to cover that.

Thank you very much.

CONWAY: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: Thank you, Kellyanne. Appreciate it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: OK, what was that? Let's discuss with CNN political commentator and Republican consultant Margaret Hoover. And, CNN political analyst and columnist for "USA Today" Kirsten Powers.

Margaret, I don't know. I'm feeling like the question about Kellyanne's husband struck a nerve with her. What happened there?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Well, I can understand why it struck a nerve because I happen to be a person who has a spouse that has a different perspective that happens to --

CAMEROTA: And he's in the public eye.

HOOVER: -- be in the public eye and have his own political views that often are starkly different from my own. CAMEROTA: Yes.

HOOVER: And, I don't answer for his political views --

CAMEROTA: OK.

HOOVER: -- which I have to. I truly don't think --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

HOOVER: -- any person who is married, whether they're in public life or not, should have to answer for the political opinions of their spouse.

CAMEROTA: OK, let me stop you there -- right there because she was saying this only happens to me. Kellyanne was acting as though we would never have asked anybody else.

If -- I like to play the game if this were President Obama, OK? If David Axelrod's wife, when President Obama was in the White House, was tweeting that President's Obama's policies were absurd and flabbergasting, wouldn't we have asked David Axelrod about that?

HOOVER: Here's how I would prefer to hear the question framed. I would prefer to see the question say Kellyanne, does it put you in a difficult position when your husband tweets against the President of the United States, your boss?

CAMEROTA: I think that is what Dana was saying.

HOOVER: Because -- no, because then Kellyanne's asking about -- she's answering a question about herself --

CAMEROTA: Sure.

HOOVER: -- rather than answering a question about what her husband's doing. And I think the question was how -- what's up with your husband's tweets as though she's answering for her husband's choices and political views.

CAMEROTA: OK.

HOOVER: And so I do -- I just think there's a distinction because you don't -- I really am not my husband's keeper. I mean, I love him, he's the father of my children.

CAMEROTA: I understand, but I think a fair question to ask is this how -- like, what's going on where your husband -- it seems to be undermining the policies that you're fighting for in the White House.

HOOVER: Spouses can have different perspectives --

CAMEROTA: OK.

HOOVER: -- and different political points of view.

Kirsten, what do you think?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, COLUMNIST, USA TODAY: I don't know. I just seem to remember Republicans always talking about Bill Clinton during Hillary Clinton's election, so I don't really understand this idea that nobody ever talks about what the spouses do.

And I think your example's a good one of David Axelrod but it's not even exactly the same thing because Kellyanne Conway's husband is actually a major player in Republican politics. So it's not just some spouse who has some opinions. It's somebody who's actually very influential and I think -- so it is interesting to people.

To me, it looked like Dana was being very lighthearted.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

POWERS: It was very lighthearted. And the idea that, you know, whatever -- I think anybody who's ever met her -- and I think viewers can tell by watching her, she's literally one of the nicest people you'll ever meet. And she's not somebody who is nasty or would try to harass and embarrass someone, and Kellyanne knows that.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

POWERS: So, you know --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

POWERS: -- even if -- even if -- even if she didn't ask the question perfectly, there's a mature, adult way to respond to that, and that's not what Kellyanne did.

CAMEROTA: And just so that everybody knows, let me just put up what we're talking about -- George Conway's tweets, OK.

So he, himself, has tweeted, calling the -- some of the president's policies absurd. And then he called one flabbergasting in terms of pardoning his top aides.

[07:45:10] Then he retweets all sorts of things from Trump's sworn enemies like Maggie Haberman and Chuck Todd. So, the very people that the president's going after George Conway then retweets.

So I see -- I mean, Margaret, I hear you but I just don't think it's --

HOOVER: I just -- I don't want to --

CAMEROTA: -- a valid question.

HOOVER: They -- look, they have different political perspectives. We know he doesn't like the president. I mean, he also was denied the job -- supposedly was up for a very high job at the Justice Department and didn't get it because of his political views.

I mean, that is OK. I mean, it's OK for spouses to have different political perspectives. I just -- I just -- again, of course, Dana didn't sort of mean it to embarrass.

Clearly, it did embarrass Kellyanne. I mean, I think the response that Kellyanne gave was demonstrated and really illustrated how uncomfortable it made her feel.

But I don't -- I just don't -- again, you know, I think spouses can have different perspectives and it shouldn't be on especially the wife, which it often is on the wife to explain away her husband's political positions.

CAMEROTA: I get it. Just one --

HOOVER: I identify with that comment.

CAMEROTA: I understand and I appreciate that you're pointing out this perspective from your own personal perspective. I think that's really helpful.

But let's just remember for one second that it is also President Trump who has gone after Ted Cruz's wife, Andrew McCabe's wife.

HOOVER: But that's -- yes.

CAMEROTA: So, Kellyanne Conway saying you never go after the spouse, tell your boss.

HOOVER: Yes. I mean, Kellyanne -- clearly, it hit a nerve. I don't think Kellyanne fought fair there. I thought it was -- it was really -- it was a little ugly the way she responded to Dana and it looked like she was trying three different lines of attacks.

And she could have just said -- the better response for Kellyanne would have been my husband and I have different perspectives on politics and we're just going to leave it at that.

CAMEROTA: What do you think, Margaret?

HOOVER: It's to Kirsten.

POWERS: Yes. No, I just --

CAMEROTA: Oh, sorry. Sorry, Kirsten.

POWERS: I don't think there's anything -- I don't think there's anything wrong with the question. I think that people get asked these kind of questions all the time.

I think -- you know, I have a fiance who's also in the public life who's on -- you know, writes for "The New York Times" and is on Twitter. And if somebody asked me something about what he said I'd say look, we have different opinions.

I think that's not a big deal. I don't really understand. Like, what's so offensive about this?

HOOVER: Yes. POWERS: And I -- just this, you know -- and she immediately goes to like she's under attack and starts making like these weird threats about how --

HOOVER: Counterattacks, how bizarre.

POWERS: -- about -- she was like --

So you think Dana attacked her? You think she was counterattacking?

HOOVER: No, no, no. I think -- I was agreeing with you, Kirsten. I think Kellyanne --

POWERS: Oh, I'm sorry.

HOOVER: -- was almost counterattacking Dana in a way.

POWERS: Oh, yes, because I don't think there was an attack. I think it was clearly done in a lighthearted way --

HOOVER: She felt attacked.

POWERS: -- and she could have just said yes, we have different opinions. Let's move on.

And instead, she uses an opportunity to go on this vicious attack, you know, sort of saying -- I didn't even -- I couldn't really follow but somehow it's sort of suggesting maybe she's going to start talking about spouses of people at CNN.

And it was just -- it was completely out of control and just -- I just didn't make any sense except for the fact that either it touched a nerve or -- and/or she's just using it as an opportunity to impress her boss because she can be really nasty to CNN.

CAMEROTA: All right. Kirsten Powers, Margaret Hoover, thank you both very much for the conversation. Always great to see you guys this morning.

POWERS: OK, thank you.

CAMEROTA: Chris --

CUOMO: All right. We have another media story with a much more grave angle to it. A Russian investigative journalist dies after falling from a fifth-floor balcony. What are the questions, next?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:51:53] CUOMO: All right, what do you make of this? The death of a Russian investigative reporter remains a mystery more than a week after he plunged from the fifth-floor balcony of his apartment.

Now, Russian officials say there are no grounds to open a criminal probe into his death, but the reporter's colleagues and human rights groups are calling for one. CNN's Nic Robertson has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): A thousand miles or more east of Moscow is Yekaterinburg, still semi- slumped in its Soviet past.

Among so many other drab, humdrum apartments of that era, this balcony. It seems unremarkable, yet it is not.

ROBERTSON (on camera): In the early hours of April 12th this year, a young, up and coming investigative reporter tipped over the balcony and fell. His neighbors found his body here, crumpled in the street. His death is a mystery.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): In life, Maxim Borodin, on the right, excelled at fun. At work, his intrepid investigative streak brought him acclaim and enemies.

One interview about ultra-royalists, he said, earning him a bang on the head by a thug wielding a metal bar. But it was his recent reporting on Russian mercenaries fighting in Syria that really got him national attention.

Police say they don't see foul play but the night before his fall he called a friend, telling him his apartment was surrounded by security officials wearing camouflage, asking him to call a lawyer. Shortly after, telling the friend who posted the details to Facebook, it was a false alarm.

ROBERTSON (on camera): None of his neighbors here want to talk about what happened and it's impossible to know precisely what took place that night. But there's a big dent in the dirt, broken twigs on the tree next to it, mud splattered on the wall directly below his balcony.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): At the news agency Novy Den (New Day) where Borodin worked, his colleagues are still struggling to fathom their loss.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): He was a great journalist. His investigations, his stories, his interviews always made a big splash among the audience.

Another of Borodin's friends who despite his own difficulties wants us to understand Borodin had so much to live for, not the suicidal type.

ROBERTSON (on camera): A spokesman for the interior ministry tells us that Borodin's apartment was locked from the inside. A fact, he says, that indicates no one left the apartment. Most likely, he says, there were no strangers in there.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The closer you look here, the less the facts seem to add up and the harder it seems to grasp the truth. [07:55:06] At New Day, strange things have been happening. They say

their Internet traffic from search engines has nosedived in the past few days.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): According to our sources -- this is obviously not verified but they are saying that it was a targeted action on someone's order.

ROBERTSON: Of all Borodin's reporting the most sensitive story about Russian mercenaries in Syria goes right to the top. They work for a company called Wagner, linked to oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin who denies any ties, is a target of U.S. sanctions, and close friend of President Putin.

But, cautions Borodin's boss, his death may just be a tragic accident.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): This is a journalist's job to uncover things that others would like hide, but that doesn't mean he had enemies who wanted to kill him.

ROBERTSON: It feels, not for the first time, a chill is falling across Russia's reporters.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON: Two of the friends of his who said that they would speak to us turned down our interview request at the last minute. It seemed that they were afraid as well.

And until now, the police have not been to talk to neighbors to ask them what they saw that night. Neither has there been an investigation of that place where he fell to the ground, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Yes, investigative journalism is a dangerous business in Russia and elsewhere.

Nic, thank you very much.

The president getting set for this week with major international implications. We look at all that, next.