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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Mueller's Questions for Trump Leak; Trump Officials Raided Doctor's Office?. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired May 1, 2018 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I had a different thought, which is essentially what the president was doing this morning in tweeting, what he was doing was essentially trying to build an argument that, if he's charged with obstruction of justice, and they haven't proven the underlying collusion, that is not acceptable.
I think he's actually trying to build an argument with his audience, with his fans, because what he said was essentially a new argument in the law, which is not accurate, but that you can't be charged with obstruction of justice if the underlying issue hasn't been proven.
That is factually incorrect. We have the President Clinton impeachment records that go the other way. But I think he's trying to make an argument for his people.
And why do we think that is -- why do I think that is happening? Because Mueller has indicated that the obstruction of justice charge would happen first. And that could happen in the next several months.
And so I think what he's really trying to lay the groundwork for is saying, even if I'm charged with obstruction of justice, no big deal, because no one has proven the underlying collusion yet.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And some of the questions look pretty hard and look as though Mueller might have information that we don't know about.
Obviously, he has a lot of information we don't know about, but some of the questions seem predicated on information we don't know about, such as contacts made by the Trump campaign, alleged contacts, including Paul Manafort, to Russia to get help.
Now, we know about Russia offering help, but we don't know about people on the Trump team reaching out for help from Russia. If you were the president's lawyer, would you be concerned about the questions?
KEVIN MADDEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look, I don't think there are any questions in there that are surprising.
I think they're all consistent with a lot of public reports that we've seen about the focus on obstruction and the focus on collusion. I think they're pretty detailed.
Look, I don't know why they were leaked, but I would say that, if I were to guess, one of my theories might be that the internal team, legal team, is having a hard time getting this president to focus. And if there is one thing that will get him to focus, it is having these type of questions in the news.
TAPPER: That is interesting.
MADDEN: And to consider the severity and the detail with which that Mueller is likely to go into with some of his inquiries and to get prepared.
The other part of it, I think, is what Neera mentioned. And I think Kaitlan also alluded to it as well, which is that they want to systematically start to undermine some of these questions and the lines of inquiries as outside of the scope of what the special counsel should have been focused on in the first place.
And they are going to do that now, all the way until, if there is an interview, which I'm skill skeptical that that will even happen.
TAPPER: It seems -- I don't know anybody who thinks it is going to happen.
TAPPER: Do you think President Trump will sit down...
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it seems less and less likely.
And certainly the president's legal team, after seeing these questions, I would assume if it was me would not want him to sit down with these -- with the special counsel, of course, because some of these questions we have heard the president talk about publicly already or they have already been posed to the White House, and there haven't been straight answers.
But the assumption is obviously that the special counsel already knows the answers to these questions. And he wants to see what president would say in response to them.
TANDEN: Can I say just how extraordinary it is that special counsel would have questions for the president, and he would not answer? At the end of the day, if a prosecutor had questions for me or just everyday people, you get subpoenaed, you are going to answer.
TAPPER: No one is above the law. That's the principle of this country.
TANDEN: No single person is supposed to be above the law.
TAPPER: Yes. TANDEN: So the idea that it's like a will he/won't he question, he
absolutely must answer the special prosecutor's questions, and he should subpoena if he doesn't.
TAPPER: The idea that no one, no person in the United States, no man is above the law is perhaps one of the things that will be eroded continually, as other things in this Trump presidency are.
Everyone, stick around. We have a lot more to talk about.
President Trump's longtime personal doctor says he was -- quote -- "robbed" when Trump's longtime bodyguard showed up at his office and took the Trump files. That is not a joke. This actually happened. Stay with us.
TAPPER: We have some breaking news on this guy, believe it or not.
Remember him from the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump's personal physician, Dr. Harold Bornstein, who at the time claimed Trump would be the healthiest president in history?
Bornstein is back in the headlines. He's saying that Trump aides -- quote -- "robbed" him at his New York City office. Bornstein said, shortly after the inauguration, that Trump aides barged in, terrified his secretary, pushed aside a patient, and took the president's medical records.
Bornstein first told NBC that the aides were the president's former bodyguard Keith Schiller, along with a Trump Organization lawyer, and a third man he described as large.
A person familiar with the matter told CNN that Bornstein is overreacting and mischaracterizing the meeting. The source also said that the Trump officials brought along a letter from the White House physician, who was at the time Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson.
CNN's Jeff Zeleny joins me now from the White House.
And, Jeff, the White House is not denying that its team went into the office and took these documents, but they're saying it wasn't a robbery of any sort.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Jake.
At the White House press briefing earlier this afternoon, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders did not deny it at all. She said, in fact, there was a -- steps that were taken more than a year ago, just in the first weeks of the Trump administration, to seize these medical records.
Of course, the method might be slightly unusual. But this is how she explained it as a run of business. Let's watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: As a standard operating procedure for a new president, the White House Medical Unit took possession of the president's medical records.
QUESTION: It was characterized as a raid. Is that your understanding of what happened? The doctor seemed to be pretty upset about it.
HUCKABEE SANDERS: No, that is not my understanding.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: So, saying standard operating procedure, hard to recall any other president who would send his longtime personal bodyguard over to collect these records, but no question the president owns his own medical records here.
So this is just one more twist in an odd turn of stories about the president's personal physician here, but the White House pushed back sharply on any suggestion that he was raided or robbed. They said that simply isn't true -- Jake.
TAPPER: Jeff Zeleny at the White House, thanks so much.
I'm back with the panel.
So, moments ago, Kaitlan, the White House called it standard operating procedure for the Medical Unit to take possession of the medical records.
But Sarah Sanders didn't deny that Schiller and others were responsible. Schiller, who was -- he was the president's personal bodyguard and then became a special assistant to the president.
It doesn't really sound like standard operating procedure.
COLLINS: It is not standard operating procedure to send someone who is your longtime bodyguard, who you gave a job in the White House.
A, that typically doesn't happen, to go to his office, and from what he says, that they barged in, they took these documents, even making them take a photo of him and the president off of the wall. Of course, this is a very colorful figure on the other side of the story as well.
So it draws into question what exactly his claims are. But it isn't standard operating procedure to send someone like that. You would just request the documents. But clearly they took a very different route there.
But it does raise questions about -- that is kind of the role that Keith Schiller had. We also know that he delivered the letter to the FBI that fired James Comey. So he had a very certain peculiar role in the West wing, to say the least, but it is certainly not standard operating procedure.
TAPPER: Yes, I don't know what you would call it, but he certainly carried out some of the more uncomfortable deeds that President Trump needed accomplished.
Kevin, obviously, the medical records of any politician becomes a sensitive subject, whether it is Hillary Clinton or Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, John McCain. Bornstein said his office was raided after he had told "The New York Times" that President Trump took Propecia, which is a drug for enlarged prostates and also can stimulate hair growth in some men.
Bornstein also said he wasn't given a HIPAA release. From his perspective, this sounds personal. And it doesn't sound like it was just standard operating procedure.
I wrote down Jeff Zeleny's term, which is, this method is slightly unusual. I think that is an understatement. Right?
MADDEN: Yes, there is a process to do this. There is a protocol when it comes to dealing with your doctor and getting get your records. The president -- obviously, it does not surprise me that they didn't follow the protocol.
I think what it was designed to do was exactly what it did do, was that it sent the message that this doctor is no longer in good stead with the president or his team and overstepped the line now and they are creating distance. And they're doing so by sending the message that -- with that raid on his office.
TAPPER: It goes stronger than raid. Dr. Bornstein after the raid, he felt -- quote -- these are his words, not mine -- "raped, frightened and sad."
TANDEN: Yes, I mean, I think what is odd about this whole situation is this is a person who a few months earlier said he had the most spectacular health in the history of humanity or something like that.
TANDEN: And I think -- I don't mean to be suspicious, but it makes me wonder what is actually in those records. And maybe they thought Dr. Bornstein is not someone they could trust any longer.
So they needed to take immediate possession of those records, because perhaps there is something in there that may communicate to the broader public, if you have a doctor willing to do so -- that's unusual too -- that his health was perhaps not the healthiest ever.
Maybe he's upset about the hair growth issue. But it is strikes me as a kind of practice that goes above and beyond normal behavior to basically send in three people, one of whom is a big guy, to scare the daylights...
TAPPER: Scare the heck out of him.
TANDEN: Out of your doctor.
TAPPER: But here is a theme, though, Kaitlan Collins, which is Dr. Bornstein that the gushing thing about President Trump's health, then candidate Trump's health, and Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson said that he thought that Trump theoretically could live to be 200.
What is it -- Dr. Bornstein looks like a guy who might say the first thing, but Rear Admiral Jackson, you think, I don't know, he's a military guy. He seems like he me -- look, my dad is a doctor, my mom is a nurse.
That is not doctors and nurses talk.
COLLINS: You mean like glowing, praising terms.
He is saying that Trump -- Jackson is saying Trump can live to be 200. This other guy is saying that if Trump got elected, which he did obviously, that he would be the healthiest individual to ever hold the office.
TAPPER: Come on.
COLLINS: It is funny, these glowing, gushing statements from both of these men who were the president's doctors.
COLLINS: Of course, the president's personal physician has been his personal physician for so long, and Dr. Ronny Jackson has obviously only been his physician the 15 months that he was in office. He's no longer actually his attending physician.
But it does raise questions. And they have both clearly have had downfalls in the last few weeks.
TAPPER: And let's talk about Dr. Jackson for a second.
TANDEN: A bad sign. TAPPER: Let's talk about Ronny Jackson for a second.
CNN reported exclusively the White House knew last fall about a potential breach of privacy incident involving Rear Admiral Jackson and the vice president's wife. She directed aides to tell Chief of Staff John Kelly about her concerns.
And yet still the White House is angry at Senator Jon Tester for sharing this information, these allegations against Rear Admiral Jackson when he was up for VA secretary, although, apparently, Tester did so with the blessing of the Republican chairman of the committee, Johnny Isakson.
So it seems like Karen Pence and Vice President Pence had issues with this guy. Johnny Isakson, the senator from Georgia Republican, had issues with this guy, and yet Jon Tester is getting all the heat.
NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Yes, I would just say actually substantively, the allegation here is that Ronny Jackson basically violated -- the privacy --
TAPPER: The health privacy law.
TANDEN: The health privacy rights and laws of a patient which happens to be Mrs. Pence. But that is -- that is a gross violation for any doctor of any kind. And the fact that it's coming from the Pence family and not coming from Jon Tester himself seems to indicate there's a broader problem there.
TAPPER: And then just look at everyone who goes into this White House whether it's a Doctor or Rob Porter, Sean Spicer, or whatever, I mean, it just seems like if I were a Republican consultant or you are a Republican consultant, why would anyone go into the White House? It just seems like people do not escape with their reputations intact. Most of the time -- there's still -- there are a few people, McMaster, Dina Powell, but a lot of people it just seems like to you go in there and your reputation is going to get savaged.
KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you have to remember what drives them in many cases as people who feel -- really feel the strong need to serve and the need to somehow be a stabilizing force inside of the administration and point them in the right direction. But clearly there are processes and protocol that are supposed to be in place inside this White House that are not that are creating the problems and it's going to be a bigger problem in recruiting new people to the administration as some of this turn-over occurs.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: And certainly a lot of the problems are their own fault. Of course, Rob Porter, the President had nothing to do with what he did to his wife, same with these allegations against Ronny Jackson. They were way before Trump came into his life. But there are people that the President essentially turns to salt. McMaster was one of him. He embarrassed him. Same with Tillerson was this President -- the President said people are knocking down the door to get into the White House to work there, that simply isn't true. That's evident by what's going on with the search for the V.A. Secretary Nominee that they cannot find anyone, that are having trouble picking just one person. So certainly the president does have a history of --
TAPPER: I love the book of Genesis and the President turns into salt. A little Sodom and Gomorrah. Stick around, we have a lot more to talk about. Speaking of turning into something, is President Trump using a supermarket tabloid headline to send a message to his fixer and personal attorney Michael Cohen? Stay with us.
[16:50:00] TAPPER: In our "POLITICS LEAD" today, throughout the Presidential Election of 2016, one publication, one singular publication could be relied upon to do President Trump's dirty work for him every time and I'm referring to the National Enquirer. The Publisher David Pecker and Trump are long-time friends and the tabloid published vicious attacks, false attacks against Ted Cruz and his aides during the primaries and against Hillary Clinton during the general election. That is what makes this cover so notable. The National Enquirer is now attacking former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. CNN's Brynn Gingras filed this report.
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Long-term Trump friend and lawyer Michael Cohen says he would take a bullet for the President but the feeling may not be mutual. The headline from this week's National Enquirer read Trump Fixer's Secrets and Lies. When asked if he thought the story's publication was sending a message, Cohen told CNN, what do you think? That's because a source close to Trump tells CNN a story like that wouldn't be published by the tabloid without the President's blessing. National Enquirer head David Pecker is a long- time ally of Trump's. In the three-page spread, the tabloid also writes the President is in the hot seat because of his lawyer, possibly another signal Trump is not happy with Cohen. Right now attorneys are sifting through evidence seized from his home, hotel room and office last month as they try to block the courts from using it in a mounting criminal probe against him for his business practices. There has been widespread speculation if Cohen is charged, he will turn on the President. Last week, the President called into Fox News and distanced himself from Cohen and the investigation.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Michael is a businessman. He's got a business. He also practices law. I would say probably the big thing is his business. And they're looking into something having to do with his business. I have nothing to do with this business.
GINGRAS: But the Trump Campaign is paying some of Cohen's legal fees with the President's re-election campaign funds. According to the Federal Election Commission, nearly $228,000 has been paid to Cohen's defense attorney's firm. But two campaign officials say the money is for legal fee associated with the Russia investigation and not the current criminal investigation that partly looks into payments Cohen made to Stormy Daniels, a woman who alleges an affair with the President which Trump denies. (END VIDEOTAPE)
GINGRAS: And all of this as financial pressure may be mounting for Cohen. New York taxes were noticed system shows Cohen and family may owe up to $282,000 in taxes for the cab companies. Cohen had no response on that matter. Jake?
TAPPER: All right, Brynn Gingras, thank you so much. Let's bring back the panel for a speed round. Kaitlan Collins, is this on purpose? Do you think National Enquirer is going after Michael Cohen to send him a message to undercut him, to undermine his credibility?
COLLINS: It certainly could be. I mean, we saw what the President reacted when the New York Times wrote that very scathing piece detailing that their relationship isn't as chummy as it's been portrayed. It's actually the President has treated him poorly. I don't think it's that part of the question.
TAPPER: And what do you think Michael Cohen might do? I mean, do you think ultimately he would flip?
TANDEN: I have to say, this is like a three-dimensional chess I don't understand because saying that the -- having the National Enquirer say that the President is really angry at you makes it more likely he's going to flip. So I mean, if I were Michael Cohen I would -- I don't know which message you would go with. Maybe I would flip, maybe I wouldn't flip, but it seems a very strange process.
TAPPER: At the end of the day, one of our favorite movies, Kevin, you and me is Goodfellas, at the end of the day, Henry Hill flipped.
[16:55:03] MADDEN: You know, for the little stuff, he kept quiet. But when it came to big stuff and it became personal, it became about his family, that was when you know, things changed. And I think you know, Brynn mentioned the financial toll that is having on his family. The emotional toll of having a president -- or somebody like this he was so close to -- he was seen as the fixer, as the guy, now to start to create distance, I think that has a really big impact.
TAPPER: And that message from the National Enquirer, that's got to be devastating because I'm sure --
MADDEN: It's not an accident.
TAPPER: I'm sure Michael Cohen has seen that happen a few times, maybe even perhaps played a role. Everyone stick around. We'll be right back. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Quick reminder, shameless plug, check out my new novel, the Hellfire Club on Amazon and at local bookstores now. That's it for THE LEAD. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.