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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Bill Cosby Found Guilty in Sexual Assault Trial; Cosby Accuser Reacts to His Guilty Verdict; Trump's Governing by Gut Causes White House Indigestion. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired April 26, 2018 - 16:00   ET

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


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

[16:00:10] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. We're going to break with breaking news in the national lead today.

Bill Cosby, guilty, guilty, guilty. A Pennsylvania jury convicting the disgraced comedian of three counts of aggravated indecent assault. Women were seen crying and embracing one another outside the courtroom after the verdict was read.

The case against Cosby centers on testimony from Andrea Constand, a former employee with Temple University in Philadelphia. She testified that Cosby, a powerful trustee at Temple, drugged her and sexually assaulted her in 2004. Five other women testified in the trial that they survived similar attacks from the man was once regarded as America's dad. Cosby is now 80 years old and faces 30 years in prison.

Let's go do CNN's Jean Casarez in Norristown, Pennsylvania, right outside Philadelphia

And, Jean, Cosby, he had some ugly words for prosecutors after the verdict.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very much so because after the jury left the prosecutor stands up and he wants to revoke the bail of Bill Cosby, $1 million bail. And remand him into custody because he said these are very, very serious felonies and I am concerned that he could flee the jurisdiction. And that is one of the bases for revoking bail and the judge then said, why? And he said, because, your honor, he has several residences around the country and he has a private plane.

Bill Cosby then stood up and in the loudest booming voice in a packed courtroom that was absolutely silent at the moment he said, he doesn't have a plane you asshole, directly to the elected state attorney that got those three guilty verdicts just minutes before.

TAPPER: Tell me about the survivors of his assault. What reaction did you notice from them?

CASAREZ: Well, when the verdict rang out, nobody, nobody thought there was going to be a guilty verdict. I mean, the jury's deliberating. You don't know what they're really discussing in that deliberation room. But there was virtually no one that believed there would be guilty verdict. What I heard was hung jury again, a mistrial. That was really the prevailing thought.

So when those guilty, guilty, guilty rang out in that courtroom, some of the accusers, those women that have traveled from all over the country to come here to watch this trial because they say they, too, have been drugged and assaulted by Bill Cosby, they let out an "ah" like that. That's what I heard in the courtroom. And it was brief but it was loud. You heard it. And they were escorted from the courtroom. The decorum order is in place. They were escorted from that courtroom but then moments later the proceeding ended.

TAPPER: Two days ago, Jean, jurors heard a deposition given in 2005. That's when Andrea Constand sued Cosby. How important was that when it comes to today's verdict?

CASAREZ: Well, obviously, this case is all about credibility. Who do you believe? Do you believe Bill Cosby or do you believe Andrea Constand? I mean, those were the two main players here and the deposition by Bill Cosby and it took almost two hours for that deposition to be read back the portions that were in this trial. But it talked about he said in his own words that he -- from the moment he saw her he liked her. He wanted her and that he was trying to gain permission and he detailed explicitly sexually what they did together. And actually in a poetic tense but it was all consensual.

Now, ironically, Andrea diagrammed almost exactly factually the same thing except saying that she was drugged and assaulted. So right there you have a he said-she said. You've got to believe someone. But the overall ending of that deposition that was read last night not only that he had seven prescriptions of Quaaludes that he gave to women he wanted to have sex with, but when asked about the Benadryl in that deposition, he -- the question was, did you tell Andrea it was Benadryl? No, I didn't. But it's over the counter. Why didn't you tell her? No answer.

Did you tell her mother it was Benadryl? No, I didn't. You told her mother you were going to your prescription bottles to see what it was and you'd mail it to her what it was. Did you do that? No. So the jury was left last night that this over-the-counter medication that's one of the safest ones around, that's what an expert testified in the trial, he wouldn't tell them what it was. That was something that had to weigh over on the side of the prosecution.

TAPPER: And Jean, now, now Bill Cosby faces sentencing. A decade in prison potentially for each count, three counts. When is the sentencing going to take place?

[16:05:01] CASAREZ: The judge will determine the date. That has not determined yet, but there are a couple of assessments that have to be done. First of all, there is a pretrial sentencing report that's done where scoring is also done to determine how many years he should serve in prison.

Remember, he's 80 years old at this point but he also has been convicted of three extremely serious felonies. Aggravated indecent sexual assault. And there's also a sexual assault assessment that will be done to him, sexually violent predator assessment. And remember, he will be a registered sex offender at this point.

Bill Cosby, the person that so many people in this country have adored, followed, and got the name America's dad as the years went on.

TAPPER: Jean Casarez, in Norristown, Pennsylvania, thank you so much.

More than four dozen women have publicly come forward and said that Bill Cosby committed sexual crimes against them, some of those women were in court today. Five of them testified. Take a listen to some of what they had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VICTORIA VALENTINO, COSBY ACCUSER: Thank you, thank you, thank you. We are vindicated. We are validated and we are now part of the tsunami of women's power and justice. We are not shutting up and we're not going away. Get over it.

LILI BERNARD, COSBY ACCUSER: Today this jury has shown that the Me Too -- what the Me Too movement is saying is that women are worthy of being believed. And I thank the jury.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Joining me now is Kristina Ruehli, she says Cosby drugged and assaulted her in 1965. She's the first known survivor of Bill Cosby's predilection for sexual assault. She joins us.

Kristina, 1965. This is a very long time coming for somebody seeking justice such as you. How are you feeling today?

KRISTINA RUEHLI, COSBY ACCUSER: I am, of course, as exhilarated as any of the others. But the real feeling because of the time is of a confirmation that I have that in our system, I guess we saw it in Watergate. I hope we will see it in other instances. But it was a confirmation that the justice system can work.

I was also a Jane Doe and actually was one of the 19 women who were on the prior bad acts witnesses and thankfully I wasn't chosen. But I don't think that this would have happened but for the help of the media. I have to say that when I was first being interviewed I said -- because he was not speaking to the media. I said by his silence he has ceded his power to his victims and the media and we ran with it.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Kristina, let me ask --

RUEHLI: If CNN had not stuck with us with -- if the media had not been as tenacious as the other -- all the other victims had been not as tenacious as they were this wouldn't have happened. You, your station and many, many others, the newspapers, gave us a voice. The worst thing that happens when you are a sexual victim is this feeling of voicelessness.

TAPPER: Yes. And that's one of the jobs of the media, obviously, to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted -- the comfortable. Let me ask you, how much do you think this verdict happened because of the awakening that this nation has had because of the Me Too Movement and the "Time's Up Movement"? Women having the courage, women such as you to have the courage to come forward. Do you think that was -- I mean, we have no way of knowing, obviously, but do you think that might have played a role in the verdict?

RUEHLI: Oh, yes. I definitely do. One of the things that's rather ironic in that -- and you think about the LGBT movement and how quickly that actually happened and now this is happening very quickly. We were the earthquake. OK? There's going to be a lot of aftershocks. If you've been in California you're going to have lots more earthquakes. But I think that these women made a lot of difference. One -- one of them in particular struck me because of what happened in court today and that was Heidi Thomas.

She said that as he was assaulting her he was shouting and referring to himself in the third person. He did that in court today. He said he doesn't have a plane. So I think that those women who all had the same pattern helped a great deal because otherwise you just looking at a bunch of trees and can't see that it's a forest.

[16:10:13] TAPPER: All right. Kristina Ruehli, congratulations on this feeling of consummation and justice that you have achieved and thank you to you and all the brave women who came forward to share your stories. Years and years of people sniping and attacking you and yet you achieved justice today so congratulations to you for that.

We do have some breaking news from the White House. Unbelievable pictures of Kim Jong-un meeting with a member of the Trump administration. Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Breaking news: just in moments ago, the White House just releasing unbelievable photos. The now confirmed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shaking hands with North Korea's Kim Jong-un. The photos are from the meeting the two men had over Easter weekend earlier this year.

Just this morning, President Trump talked about these very photos, telling Fox News, quote, we have incredible photos of the two talking and meeting which I'd love to release.

[16:15:07] If we can -- if we can, I'll do that. Actually, it's not a bad idea.

That interview with Fox News highlighting the president's governance by gut causing indigestion this afternoon for his own White House in some respect, with his cabinet in a state of semi-chaos. President Trump called in a favorite cable show "Fox & Friends" earlier today. He blew off some steam in a stream of consciousness conversation about several topics, sometimes it seemed almost as if the president thought it was a private conversation, which, of course, it was not. In fact, comments he made about his attorney Michael Cohen who is under criminal investigation, a topic about which perhaps he should be discrete.

Those comments have already landed in a legal filing later, with New York prosecutor citing his words in the case involving Cohen and Stormy Daniels, the porn star who claims to have been threatened by a goon, telling her to keep quiet about her alleged extramarital affair with then private citizen Donald Trump. We're going to talk to Stormy Daniels attorney in a minute.

But the president broached many topics today in that interview, including Dr. Ronny Jackson who minutes before bowed out as his pick to be secretary of Department of Veterans Affairs, following serious allegations of inappropriate behavior and a hostile work environment, charges that the president has blamed on Democrats.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNTIED STATES: The Democrats are obstructionists. It is horrible what they're doing. They're not approving people.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TAPPER: The president also threatened to, quote, big price to pay for the ranking Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Jon Tester of Montana, though the Republican chairman of the committee, Senator Johnny Isakson from Georgia, is the one who first put the confirmation hearings on hold indefinitely because these concerns, bipartisan concerns and the inescapable fact that the biggest problem here in the nomination was in the nomination itself, that Jackson was picked not because he was the best qualified for the job but because the president likes him and thinks him loyal.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

TRUMP: And he has a perfect record. He's got this beautiful record, unblemished. His son is a wonderful boy, goes to Annapolis at the top of his class. One of the finest cadets.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TAPPER: None of which, of course, is a credential to be the secretary of the V.A. And in addition, of course, as we all know the White House did no vetting of this candidate and was utterly shockingly unfairly to Dr. Jackson unprepared for the charges against him, ones the president called fake today, though the charges have yet to merit a serious response from the White House. Jackson is expected to remain on as the White House physician, at least for now. As for actually cabinet level officials, the EPA administrator Scott Pruitt appears to be on thinner and thinner ice.

Lawmakers earlier today blasting Pruitt for his big spending with the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee saying this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. FRANK PALLONE (D), NEW JERSEY: You are unfit to hold public office and undeserving of the public trust.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: However, many conservatives seem to like Pruitt's deregulatory regime quite a bit, but given the many ugly headlines Pruitt has prompted, even many White House sources acknowledge that Pruitt is a man who would not have lasted so long in any other administration, but he is still there because President Trump likes Pruitt and continues to defend him in private, even against the advice of top aides who see Pruitt as undermining the Trump administration. There's that gut feeling again.

CNN's Pamela Brown picks up our coverage of the president's airing of grievances.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump today defending his pick to run the Department of Veterans Affairs.

TRUMP: He is a great man and he got treated very, very unfairly. He got treated really unfairly. He's a hell of a man, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is not taking any questions. Thank you, guys.

BROWN: Dr. Ronny Jackson withdrew his name from the nomination process today amid allegations ranging from drunken behavior on the job to mishandling prescription drugs. Jackson saying in a statement: The allegations against me are completely false and fabricated. If they had any merit, I would not have been selected, promoted and entrusted to serve in such a sensitive and important role as physician to three presidents over the past 12 years.

After Senator Jon Tester, the ranking member on the Veterans Affairs Committee detailed the allegations against Jackson to the media, the president threatened his political future.

TESTER: I think Jon Tester has to have a big price to pay in Montana because I don't think people in Montana -- the admiral is the kind of person that they respect and admire. And they don't like seeing what's happened.

BROWN: Trump also critical of FBI Director James Comey in the wide- ranging phone interview today.

TESTER: I did a great thing for the American people by firing him. I love the FBI. The FBI loves me. But the top people in the FBI headed by Comey were crooked.

BROWN: The president also had ominous words for his own Justice Department. TRUMP: And our Justice Department, which I try and stay away from,

but at some point, I won't. Our Justice Department should be looking at that kind of stuff, not the nonsense of collusion with Russia.

[16:20:05] There is no collusion with me and Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right.

TRUMP: And everyone knows it.

BROWN: But today, members of the president's own party again warned him from doing anything to interfere with the special counsel's Russia investigation.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: The president will do what he wants to do I think. And I just hope that he doesn't want to do this.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: I think it will be ill-advised.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: He's got to be very careful. I mean, it's a serious thing to do that. And he better make sure that he knows what he is doing.

BROWN: The president today also wading into the Stormy Daniels case saying for the first time his attorney Michael Cohen is representing him in the matter.

TRUMP: As a percentage of my overall legal work, a tiny, tiny little fraction, but Michael would represent me and represent me on some things. He represents me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal. He represented me. You know, from what I see, he did absolutely nothing wrong.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And in the hours following that interview, the president's own words were being used against him by prosecutors in New York in the Cohen case, saying the fact that the president said Michael Cohen only represents him in a tiny fraction of legal cases proves their point that relatively few documents seized in the Cohen raid would actually be protected by attorney/client privilege unlike what lawyers for Cohen and Trump have been arguing in court -- Jake.

BROWN: All right. Pamela Brown at the White House for us, thanks so much.

We have a lot to talk about. Let's dive into it with our panel.

When asked if he wants to talk to special counsel Robert Mueller, Margaret, President Trump said if I can. If I can. This governance by gut saying whatever is on his mind, doing whatever is on his mind, isn't this what his lawyers are exactly worried about if he does appear with Robert Mueller, saying whatever?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. That's precisely. That's why he has lawyers and frankly that's why he needs them. And that's, you know, that's why you have people like Rudy Giuliani

who are out there saying, well, we want to see if Mueller's sincere an in his interest to get to the bottom, which by the way is bogus, because Rudy Giuliani knows Robert Mueller. They have a 30-year history together in the Justice Department. They all know that Mueller's serious and to be respected, but he's again playing this role of kind of containing the president and trying to distract the president. Nobody wants if you're the president's lawyer to put the president in front of Robert Mueller.

TAPPER: And let's talk about the comment that Margaret's referred to. President's new lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, speaking to "The Wall Street Journal" says, quote, does the special prosecutor really have an open mind? We are trying to assess their good faith. The president is convinced that if he tells the story to a decent, fair minded arbiter, the whole thing will be over.

Kind of an odd thing to say. I mean --

JOAN WALSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's preposterous. It's preposterous that Rudy Giuliani himself thinks he is the arbiter of whether Mueller is acting in good faith or has an open mind.

He is doing a job. He's a job he was asked to do. He's doing it well by most accounts. He's certainly doing it thoroughly and the idea that Rudy Giuliani of all people who we know was under some kind of FBI investigation for what he knew about the New York FBI leaks, James Comey told us that, that he is going to somehow be the one to look into the eyes of Mueller and sees that he is a decent man.

This is a crazy notion. And it's just a game. It is just more gamesmanship.

TAPPER: Alex, what is the job of Rudy Giuliani? He hasn't practiced this type of criminal law in quite sometime. Is he here to be the man that negotiates with Robert Mueller? Is he here to just put on a public face of this for the president's base? What is the job exactly?

ALEX BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, it's sort of all of the above, the two rules that you just described. And on top of that, you know, he used the word honest broker to describe potentially Robert Mueller. I think he is somebody the president sees as an honest broker, right? We have seen president Trump cycle through a number of attorneys and sort of lost patience with and lost faith in. Rudy Giuliani is somebody to have a personal relationship with and as we saw in the whole Ronny Jackson affair, the personal relationship is what matters to him more than anything else.

HOOVER: And I think with Rudy, I mean, you have to just think everything that Rudy was saying is about what he says publicly because it's about communicating with the president directly.

TAPPER: Right.

HOOVER: You know, it's not about what he says about Mueller because Rudy and Mueller actually know each other.

TAPPER: Right.

HOOVER: Mueller doesn't care what Rudy says in public, right? But what Rudy actually can do is bring down the temperature between the special counsel and the president because he has these unique relationships of both.

TAPPER: Speaking of bringing down the temperature, Dr. Ronny Jackson, the president's White House physician who was nominated somewhat inexplicably to be V.A. secretary withdrew his nomination today. I want you to take a listen to President Trump during take your kids to work day what he had to say about this pulled nomination and Admiral Jackson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's a great man and he got treated very, very unfairly. He got treated really unfairly. He's a hell of a man, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALSH: You know who's treated unfairly?

[16:25:01] The veterans of America. That's who's treated unfairly.

This man had no business being nominated. And again, it's like we've been saying, he was nominated for one reason, the president trusts him. He gave the president a really, really nice clean bill of time that some of us wondered about at the time.

TAPPER: Said he would live to be 200.

WALSH: Two hundred, we could all be so lucky. But, you know, it's unfair -- it's unfair that --

TAPPER: It's not really a medical diagnosis.

WALSH: No, I don't think there's any science involved right there. But our veterans deserve better and they always did and all this news is terrible. But he was really unqualified before this terrible news came out and no business being there.

TAPPER: Beyond the qualification issue were these controversies and these allegations being made about him and I just have to say as somebody who's covered confirmation battles since the 1990s, I have never seen a White House so unprepared to answer questions. You know what it reminded me of, it reminded me of when the McCain campaign -- and God bless John McCain, wherever he is right now -- but when the McCain campaign was first asked questions about Sarah Palin and they were just completely unprepared, they didn't know about her almost and this is what it reminded me of.

BURNS: Sure. And, look, to the extent that Dr. Jackson was treated unfairly, by people, I think he was treated -- you could say treated unfairly by the White House and there's a reason why when you ask somebody to go in front of the Senate, first you vet them, you check out their name wit the Hill, you make sure they're not going to be completely humiliated. That clearly didn't happen here.

TAPPER: Not at all.

BURNS: Now, if these allegations are true, obviously, there's responsibility on Dr. Jackson for not sort of looking out for himself in this process. But, you know, I certainly don't recall any other nomination and we have seen a whole bunch of problematic nominations in this administration quite so unvetted, unfocused and just sort of reckless.

TAPPER: Margaret?

HOOVER: No, I mean, I couldn't agree more. It reminds me of -- name escaping me. Only time I've seen this happened in a White House I was involved in was when President Bush decided to nominate his staff secretary to be the next Supreme Court justice.

TAPPER: Harriet Miers.

HOOVER: Harriet Miers, and you know, that's what happens when you're not prepared, right? When you put somebody up for Senate confirmation and you don't have everything and trying to do a favor for a friend.

WALSH: And they do deserve better. They really do.

HOOVER: They all deserve better.

TAPPER: I mean, the question of whether or not he should continue as the head physician at the White House I think still looms large even if the matter is settled, that for Congress because they don't have any sort of supervisory role at the White House.

WALSH: He is accused of hostile work environment. He is accused of sexual harassment, and he's also accused of overprescribing and some mystery prescriptions that may have gone to him. so, if these things are true and he deserves, you know, benefit of the doubt, we want do get to the bottom of it. I don't mean to convict him prematurely.

But if things are true, no, he cannot serve in that capacity at all.

TAPPER: Something that Congress does have oversight over is the EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. He was on Capitol Hill today. He contradicted what he said earlier to Ed Henry on Fox News about knowing about pay raises given to staff working around the White House.

Listen to what he told Fox News three weeks ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED HENRY, FOX NEWS REPORTER: They're friends of you.

SCOTT PRUITT, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: Well, they serve a very important person.

HENRY: And you didn't know that they got these large pay raises.

PRUITT: I did not know that they get the pay raises until yesterday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: And then this is Scott Pruitt today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL TONKO (D), NEW YORK: Did you, Administrator, authorize Mr. Jackson to sign the documents for you?

PRUITT: Congressman, those were delegated to -- and to Mr. Jackson and inspector general did reference that in his management alert --

TONKO: So he did -- he did -- you did authorize him then to sign them?

PRUITT: Those -- those decisions, that decision was made by --

TONKO: Yes or no? Did you authorize him?

PRUITT: There are delegations giving him with that authority.

(END VIDEO CLPI)

TAPPER: Pruitt said that the pay raise was delegated to his chief of staff. Several senior officials told CNN they knew that he lied to Fox and were stunned that he contradicted himself under oath today.

Alex, is the president going to care?

BURNS: Look, I couldn't tell you whether the president is going to care. I can tell you that a lot of people who are totally supportive of the agenda that Scott Pruitt is pushing at the EPA --

TAPPER: The deregulatory agenda.

BURNS: The deregulatory agenda, are beginning to question whether he has outlived his usefulness, right? That the most adamant defenders of Pruitt have said all along, look, the haters are just out to get him because they don't like what he's doing at the EPA. It is not clear that he is -- that he can really be effective in the role pursuing that same agenda.

TAPPER: All right. Everyone, stick around. We have more to talk about. We have more breaking news.

The sheriff in charge in the parkland shooting may be unseated by his own deputies.

That story next.

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