Return to Transcripts main page


Jurors in Cosby Trial Defend Verdict; Will Mueller Subpoena Trump?; President Trump's Top Lawyer Quits. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 2, 2018 - 15:00   ET



AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And I will say, the media -- I am a member of the media. I love it when he lies, because it gives me something to talk about.

I can't turn off that button in my brain that says, what is he going to say next? I am a media-obsessive. I admit it. But I also realize that to take away Donald Trump's control that he has of the media, it's time to start competing in the narrative space and not surrendering the microphone too much to him.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm going on my honeymoon next week, and I'm hoping to do this for two weeks.



RAMPELL: ... here.

BALDWIN: I do. Thank you so much. This is Amanda, "Why We Love It When Trump Lies To Us," "Gaslighting America."


BALDWIN: Ladies, thank you so much. Good to see both of you.

Let's continue on, shall we? Top of the hour.

Thank you, ladies.

Top of the hour. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

We begin with a batch of major developments here in this Trump Russia probe. Trump's top lawyer in his defense is out. A Clinton impeachment lawyer is in.

Robert Mueller threatened to subpoena the president, as Trump threatened to interfere with the Justice Department.

We're going to get into all of this, this next hour, starting with CNN's Jeff Zeleny at the White House.

Jeff, Ty Cobb says this -- quote -- "I have done what I came to do in terms of managing the White House response to the special counsel's requests. I'm extremely grateful to the president and Chief Kelly for the opportunity to serve my country."

But we are also hearing from our colleague Jim Acosta that he's been wanting out ever since Trump has gone off on Robert Mueller.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, there's no question in the last I would say couple weeks or so the president's anger at all of this investigation has accelerated and intensified, no question at all.

That, we are told, as Jim Acosta was reporting earlier, that made Ty Cobb and others a little apprehensive here. Ty Cobb really since he joined the White House, and he's a lawyer inside the White House, he works in the White House every day, he has been trying to play the role of good cop.

He has been trying to assist with all the White House staffers who are interviewed, all the documents that the special counsel's office was asking for. He has been the jolly good time fellow complete with his handlebar mustache trying to be the good cop.

He's been sort of apprehensive about the president's increasing, you know, his anger really boiling over often -- certainly privately and on Twitter as well. So it's in one hand not a surprise at all that he is leaving. It was more of a surprise that the president decided to hire Emmet Flood, whose name has been floating around out there a little bit.

But Emmet Flood is entirely different than Ty Cobb. He is someone who worked inside the Bush administration counsel's office, was involved in the Clinton impeachment as well. So this is someone who is a much -- has sharper elbows, shall we say.

So this is an aggressive posture here we're about to see certainly escalating, Brooke.

BALDWIN: What about, Jeff, switching gears to...


BALDWIN: ... what I touched on a bit ago? Trump clearly threatened publicly to interfere with the Department of Justice.

The back story is that sources tell CNN the Justice Department is refusing a House Republican request to turn over a memo detailing the scope of Robert Mueller's investigation.

Why? Because there's an active investigation under way. So, what does the president do? He takes to Twitter and he says basically -- you see the final line here, the two words, get involved. He will have no choice but to use his power to get involved with the -- quote, unquote -- "rigged system."

All of this as two sources tell CNN that Mueller has raised this possibility of a presidential subpoena in at least one meeting that they all had together.

Your response to that, Jeff Zeleny?

ZELENY: There is no question that things are coming to a head here.

And if the president -- he has been on both sides of this. He said, yes, he wants to sit down with Bob Mueller, yes, he wants to get this over with. But in recent times, he's been advised by so many people to not do it.

This certainly could be coming to a head. And if there is a subpoena involved, it's one of the reasons the president needs a new a lawyer here.

But the president from the beginning, of course, trying to discredit this entire investigation. The question now is, how much is he going to fight this? Is he going to take the Fifth? Is he going to -- exactly what this new legal strategy will be, we're not certain of.

But the reality is, it is coming to a head. If you think that the clashes have been already pretty sharp, they seem to be preparing to get more so. And, ultimately, of course, this could end up in the Supreme Court, if the president's lawyers fight any attempt to have him sit down with the special counsel.

So, Brooke, it's halftime in this investigation probably. We don't know how long it is, but certainly the most troubling part for the president could still be to come -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Jeff, thank you.

Let's bring in the legal experts.

With me now, Paul Rosenzweig, a lawyer who was a former official in the Department of Homeland Security, and CNN contributor John Dean, President Nixon's White House counsel. He cooperated with investigators during Watergate.


So, gentlemen.

John Dean, first to you, sir, and just your reaction to Ty Cobb leaving and this hiring of Emmet Flood, a Clinton impeachment lawyer. What does that signal to you?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It doesn't clearly signal anything at this point to me, because I don't know if he's replacing Ty Cobb in the White House, where his client will be the office of the president, or whether he is going to be just another lawyer.

BALDWIN: Let me jump in. Let me jump in, because the clarity I have from Jim Acosta is that the original expectation was that he would actually take Don McGahn's job as White House counsel, but now it appears Flood will fill Cobb's shoes instead.

DEAN: That means his client is the office of the president.

That's a little different than having Donald Trump as your client. So, he will be actually responsible for the same sort of things that Ty Cobb was, production of documents, arranging witnesses. He will probably be in on the discussions with the private lawyers.

But you have got to remember he doesn't have attorney-client privilege to the same degree that -- he has some -- that the president's private lawyers do.

BALDWIN: Paul, CNN sources say that this move reflects a more adversarial approach to Bob Mueller, that -- quote -- "playing nice" hasn't gotten anywhere.

But it seems to me that the president for months and months and months has been pretty darn adversarial.

PAUL ROSENZWEIG, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY OFFICIAL: Well, yes, I was going to say, what does playing nice look like?

BALDWIN: No idea.

ROSENZWEIG: I'm kind of waiting for that.

It is the case that Mr. Flood is -- first off, he is an excellent attorney. So it kind of puts to bed the Trump can't hire good attorneys story for -- at least for a little while.

He comes from a law firm, Williams & Connolly, that has a well- deserved reputation for being zealous in its advocacy for its clients. And I assume you will bring that same zealousness to his representation of the White House.

He has a vast amount of experience both in the Bush administration in the White House Counsel's Office and, as you reported, working for the Clinton impeachment inquiry. I suspect that what he will be getting is excellent advice.

And if I have any sense of it all, the advice will be, do not take that interview, Mr. President.

BALDWIN: You would say, do not take it.

John, you -- going back to your Nixon days, I mean, you took the Fifth Amendment during the Watergate investigation. Do you think that is a viable option for President Trump now? And how would that be taken during a possible impeachment process?

DEAN: I actually didn't take the Fifth. I testified in front of Congress very openly and waived it.

I did refuse an offer at the grand jury level, when the prosecutors, the early prosecutors, were playing some games.

BALDWIN: Ah. Forgive me.


DEAN: But that's deep in the woods of Watergate.

BALDWIN: Do you think he should plead the Fifth, the president?

DEAN: I think he could, but I think it's politically impossible or very difficult.

There's also been the suggestion by some lawyers that he could be immunized if he pled the Fifth, and we could get the testimony anyway, because he cannot be prosecuted under the existing standards at the Department of Justice. You just go ahead and immunize him.

Get -- then he is forced to give the testimony. And that testimony could be used in an impeachment proceeding.

BALDWIN: What about executive privilege? I mean, what if he only will answer X, Y, and Z, and the rest he says, forget it?

DEAN: Well, of course, that would not apply to his business activities before he became president. It would only apply after January 20, things like the firing of Comey and his relationships and conversations with General Flynn.

Those would be potentially covered by executive privilege.

But I just recently read U.S. vs. Nixon on the executive privilege issue. And I think that the overwhelming weight shows that he would have great difficulty invoking it if the prosecutor needed it.

And it's going to be the prosecutor's decision, not his, as to whether he needs it.


If there were to be this interview between Trump and the Mueller team, Paul, to you, we know that Rudy Giuliani's recently joined the Trump legal team. He told "The Washington Post" -- and he, of course, goes back with Bob Mueller. They have this great relationship.

He told "The Post" that if Trump interviews with Mueller, that it would be max two to three hours, around a narrow set of questions.

It's my understanding it's not their place to say how long they will sit for an interview, right? It's up to Bob Mueller and the Department of Justice, correct?

ROSENZWEIG: Well, that's correct, though to avoid a subpoena fight, Mr. Mueller might -- might negotiate with the president over the terms of it.



ROSENZWEIG: President Clinton, for example, voluntarily appeared after he was issued a subpoena.

And part of the deal of avoiding the subpoena fight there was that his testimony was limited to four hours.

I will say that if the list of questions that "The Times" has reported out is any indication of the breadth of Mr. Mueller's interest in the president's testimony, there is no way that this set of questions can be asked in two to three hours.

You would barely be starting on the first three or four. The 48, 49 questions are 10, 12 hours worth of interview, in my judgment.

BALDWIN: And, again, those are just the questions. That doesn't even include all the follow-ups that would happen in between.

ROSENZWEIG: Follow-ups, exactly.

BALDWIN: Right, right, right.

John Dean, back over to you. Back to -- on the executive privilege point, the fact the Trump has been so public weighing in on this investigation, tweeting a lot, wouldn't he just waive that?

DEAN: There is a real argument that can be made that his tweets do waive some of his claims, potential claims, of executive privilege.

Executive privilege is not a highly refined, but very qualified privilege, that is fought really in the political basis more than a legal basis. Unlike, say, the attorney-client privilege, where there's lots of case law, that doesn't exist with executive privilege.

It's typically invoked in front of Congress, seldom with the courts. So these are pretty vague areas. And I think the fact that he has tweeted in many of these subject matters, any court would look at that and say, well, Mr. President, you have already talked about that. How can you claim privilege?


John Dean, Paul Rosenzweig, gentlemen, thank you so very much.

John, again, I apologize for that error. Appreciate both of you.

Just ahead, special counsel Robert Mueller now floating the possibility of a presidential subpoena. We will break down the legal precedent of that.

Also, jurors in the Bill Cosby trial defending their verdict today, pushing back at the argument that the MeToo movement played a role in their decision.



BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Before the news of the sudden departure, Trump's White House lawyer Ty Cobb told ABC news that there was still this possibility that President Trump could voluntarily sit down with special counsel Bob Mueller and his team.


TY COBB, WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL COUNSEL: It's certainly not off the table. And people are working hard to make decisions and work toward an interview. And assuming that can be concluded favorably, there will be an interview.

Assuming it can't be, assuming an agreement can't be reached, then it'll go a different route.


BALDWIN: A different route, repeating Ty Cobb's words.

We now know that possibility could mean a subpoena. Two sources tell CNN that special counsel Robert Mueller has raised this possibility of a presidential subpoena in at least one meeting between his investigators and the Trump legal team.

But what legal precedent does Mueller have to compel the president of United States to talk?

For answers, let's go to CNN Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic.

And, Joan, two cases they can look back to, Clinton and Nixon. Show me.


OK, First, in 1974, U.S. v. Nixon, this one arose from the Watergate scandal. In 1974, the special counsel, the independent counsel subpoenaed President Nixon, trying to get the Watergate tapes, the Oval Office tapes, conversations that the president had with advisers and aides who had been indicted by a grand jury.

And Nixon said no, asserted executive privilege. This is the main landmark case, where the Supreme Court took up executive privilege. The court unanimously ruled against Nixon. It acknowledged that a president has an interest in keeping communications confidential, but said, in this case, there was an overriding interest in the criminal justice system and getting answers to a specific criminal inquiry.

The Supreme Court, as I said, ruled unanimously on July 24, 1974. And by August 9, President Nixon had resigned.

BALDWIN: All right, so Nixon.

Now, how about Clinton vs. Jones?

BISKUPIC: Yes. This is a little bit more familiar to your viewers. This happened in

1997. It was not a claim of executive privilege. It was a claim of immunity, presidential immunity. But the Supreme Court unanimously ruled against Clinton and also referred to U.S. v. Nixon, saying in this one, Brooke, President Clinton did not want to have to go through a civil lawsuit at that time while he was serving as president.

It had been brought by Paula Jones, who had alleged that he had sexually harassed her when he was governor of Arkansas. And the Supreme Court said, no, this should not distract from your duties, that you should have to undergo this civil lawsuit.

This was not a subpoena, Brooke, as we had in U.S. v. Nixon and as we might have today against President Trump. But, just so you know, Ken Starr, the independent counsel at the time, actually did get a subpoena against President Clinton to try to get him to testify in the Monica Lewinsky matter.

President Clinton then agreed to testify voluntarily, and Ken Starr withdrew that subpoena.

BALDWIN: So, there's two examples of the precedent.

What about -- we know President Trump, flashing forward just on the opposite side here.


BALDWIN: He talked about Article 2 of the Constitution, which defines the office of the president. How does that play in all of this?

BISKUPIC: Well, Article 2, Brooke, is the part of the Constitution that gives the president all of his powers.


Just like Article One covers the Congress, Article 3 covers the federal judiciary. And what President Trump's supporters seem to be suggesting is that Article 2, because it gives the power to hire and fire people, that it would protect the president's views, decisions, innermost thoughts on why he would've hired or fired, for example, Rod Rosenstein, if it goes that way, that they're saying this is part of his core powers.

But that is -- that is kind of a broad-brush defense there, if he were to assert it. And I don't think that would go anywhere either.

BALDWIN: Depending on which way this thing goes down, Joan, you may have quite the story on your hands at the Supreme Court.

Thank you so very much in Washington for me, walking us through all those cases.

Coming up here, this CNN exclusive. The doctor who wrote that glowing letter, remember this, explaining Donald Trump would be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency now says he didn't write it -- what he's revealing to CNN next.



BALDWIN: Here's a stunning CNN exclusive.

Remember that health assessment letter back from 2015 declaring that Donald Trump has extraordinary stamina and would be the healthiest person ever elected to the presidency? Yes, that.

It turns out that Trump actually dictated the whole thing himself. At least that is what his doctor is telling CNN.

With me now, Trump biographer Michael D'Antonio.

Good to see you, as always, my friend.

You know, I mean, obviously, this is alarming. And this matters, right? This is from a man who would go on to become president and his M.D.

You have spent hours with Trump. That -- the statement, healthiest ever, extraordinary stamina, full of Trumpisms, does it surprise you to learn this?


I think Donald Trump, before he was president, treated everyone as if he or she were a stenographer. The whole idea of being in his presence was to absorb what he wanted, write it down, if necessary, and then regurgitate it on command.

So, this is very consistent. And, as you noted, the language in it is very Trumpian, his extraordinary stamina and strength. It's like a page out of a comic book from Donald Trump's youth. And it's just -- it's just pure Trump.

BALDWIN: It's comic book fodder, but it's also -- I agree with Chris Cillizza. He wrote about how this actually matters.

He wrote about these four reasons why Donald Trump faking a doctor's note matters. And point three of his is, Trump will say or do absolutely anything to win.

And he writes: "In a world in which everything is justified by self- interest, nothing can be off-limits. And that at the moment is the space that Donald Trump willingly occupies."

What does this, Michael, reveal about Trump the man?

D'ANTONIO: Well, it is the space he's always occupied.

And if you think about this carefully, you can see that this is an abuse of this physician. This is a man of the medical license. He's been Trump's doctor for decades. And now he's being pushed around by the candidate, then candidate Trump, and really cornered.

And I can't imagine how, facing the strengths of the pitch from Donald Trump, that he just capitulated. And that's a violation of his own ethics and practices in his profession.

So, all around, this is a profoundly corrupt and dishonest thing to do, but it is par for the course for Donald Trump.

BALDWIN: Let me ask about a different doctor.

I want to just play a reminder of what Dr. Ronny Jackson, as White House physician, reported about the president's health earlier this year.



It's called genetics. I don't know. Some people have just great genes. I told the president that, if he had a healthier diet over the last 20 years, he might live to be 200 years old.

I don't know.


JACKSON: I mean, he has incredible -- he has incredible genes, I just assume.


BALDWIN: Incredible genes. I mean, we all remember sitting there and watching that news conference with Dr. Jackson.

What do you make of that, in light of the dictation news that we now know with his previous physician?

D'ANTONIO: Well, we have to think that, in this case, the president pressured Dr. Jackson and said, well, I have these really great genes, which is a line that he made with me, used with me, and that he's used with a great many people.

He likes to assert that he's superior in all these different categories, ranking from intellect to physical strength and stamina.

And Dr. Jackson has been caught up in another little controversy over releasing information about the vice president's wife's condition. Her physician complained that this is a violation of medical ethics and rules.

And so you see this tendency toward corruption in the people around the president. And that includes those who really should be beyond corruption.

BALDWIN: Michael D'Antonio, a pleasure. Thank you for your opinion.

D'ANTONIO: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Coming up next: even more trouble today for Scott Pruitt, including new ethics concerns.

The embattled EPA chief now facing at least 11 separate investigations. Hear the allegations now.

And backlash erupts after Kanye West makes some just explosive comments about slavery during this interview with TMZ -- what he said, how he's defending himself.