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Conway's Husband Tweets on Trumps Hush Money; Trump Aide Says President Trump Shouldn't Interview with Mueller; Three Americans Set To Be Released From North Korea; Trump Admits Payment to Stormy Daniels; Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired May 3, 2018 - 13:30   ET

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


[13:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:30:42] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Kellyanne Conway's husband is trolling the White House again. This time over the bombshell admission from Rudy Giuliani that Trump repaid his attorney $130,000 hush money for porn star Stormy Daniels. Legal experts say this admission could put Trump in legal jeopardy and Conway's husband seems to agree. This morning he tweeted, " The FEC rules on campaign spending, specifically the portion on personal gifts and loans and how they are considered as campaign expenses."

CNN White House Reporter Kaitlan Collins is live outside the White House. Kaitlan, this isn't the first time that Conway's husband has publicly questions -- questioned the President's actions essentially undermining his wife's boss. Have we seen any action from the White House?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: They haven't reacted to that tweet specifically today but Jim surely they know that Kellyanne Conway's husband is tweeting out things like this. Seeming to contradict what Rudy Giuliani and President Trump are both arguing that because President Trump repaid Michael Cohen that $130,000, payment that he made to Stormy Daniels. And it does not constitute as a campaign finance violation.

Clearly George Conway disagrees with that. That is obviously notable because his wife is one of the highest ranking women in this Administration. One of the highest ranking people in this Administration. And he seems to be arguing against what the President and Giuliani are both saying. That it could have very well been a campaign finance violation. Just goes to show what strange times we are living in here Jim.

SCIUTTO: No question. She's very senior and she's also been unyielding in defending the President to the left and right. Her husband -- I'd like to know what their conversations at home about that are like. On -- on -- on another issue, an issue I know that you -- you've been digging into. This is another resignation coming from the EPA. Another official announcing they are leaving. The third to do so this week. What's behind it?

COLLINS: Liz Bowman, that is the Head of Public Affairs and she is resigning. The third EPA official to resign this week. She certainly did not have an easy job especially lately with all the dozens of scandals that have rocked the EPA because of the EPA Chief Scott Pruitt. Who is -- has actually dozens of inquiries looking into his spending, where he was living. He had an apartment that was owned by a lobbyist of course. Several jobs like that, but it does go to show that all these people are departing the EPA. A lot of them are people who were close to Scott Pruitt.

The other two who left earlier this week certainly here is a third departure. There is certainly a chance here Jim that we could continue to see more of these departures as these scandals continue at the EPA. But right now, the White House is continued to stick by Scott Pruitt saying they're waiting to see what the outcome of these investigations into his actions are. Of courses, he's under scrutiny for several things he did. But there is one person sticking by Scott Pruitt and that is the President.

SCIUTTO: It's the only one that matters. Kaitlan Collins, thanks very much. More on our breaking news, the President coming clean on the hush agreement with Stormy Daniels as his lawyer ties it all back to the 2016 election. Plus, an ominous warning to the President, do not sit down with Robert Mueller. Why an ex-Trump aide described the Special Counsel as deadly accurate in their investigation. We're going to have details next.

[13:33:54] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:38:11] SCIUTTO: A former Trump campaign aide who has met with Special Counsel investigators has an ominous warning for President Trump. Do not sit down with Robert Mueller. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: Even if I didn't go to the interview today and I found out how well prepared they are and what they're looking at. I think the President shouldn't go anywhere near this. I think it's in a lot of ways a trap. I think the President is clear on post -- potential Russian collusion. I think the campaign's in the clear. In the end, if they want to get the President, they're going to try and trip him up in an interview like this. And my advice after being through it is stay away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: That was Former Trump Campaign aide Michael Caputo. He talked to CNN just hours after leaving the Special Counsel's interview room and then again this morning. I want to bring in my colleagues, CNN -- CNN Crime Investments Reporter Janome Propropez and CNN Law Enforcement Analyst Josh Campbell as well. Janome, starting with you. The President has said repeatedly and many of his aides and allies collusion is dead. It's a dead issue. They've got no evidence etcetera, etcetera. Here you have a Trump loyalist there who's often dismissed the whole investigation saying actually, they seem to have something on it. Or at least they're intent on going down that path.

JANOME PROPROPEZ, CNN CRIME INVESTMENTS REPORTER: Well, that's right. And the focus, what -- according to Michael Caputo was on Russia collusion and he commented on just how well prepared the FBI agents were and the U.S. Attorney and just the amount of information they had. And here's what he said about that through Anderson Cooper last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: I think they're very focused on Russian collusion. I think they believe that they'll get to something. They didn't tell me not to talk about this. They asked me not to interfere in the investigation as I exited the room. And I really don't want to give too much details because I feel that that interferes with the investigation. However, they're talking about Wikileaks. They're talking about Guccifer. They're talking about DCLeaks. All the thing that you would expect that they're -- that they're looking into. And I'm -- I'm, you know -- I'm concerned for some of my friends who are in peril.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[13:40:15] PROPROPEZ: And some of those friends, Jim, he says is that he's concerned about that are in peril -- peril is Roger Stone. There seems to be a lot of focus on Roger Stone. Certainly on Wikileaks but I think really what we should all take from him -- from his experience with the Special Counsel is just how much they really know. I think that's what caught him off guard the most. I mean, he was shaken by this -- by this interview. He called it an interrogation but you could just tell that it extremely effected him and what he went through.

SCIUTTO: Josh Campbell, long experience in the FBI. To your knowledge, with your experience does -- does Special Counsel questions along those lines if he does not have evidence to create the curiosity for the answers to those questions?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes. So we can bet that the investigators, whether the prosecutors, the FBI agents that are in that interview are going to know the answers to most of the questions that they're asking. First of all, you want to norm this person out. You want to see are they being truthful on easy questions. That will help you determine whether you think they're being truthful on the more difficult questions. But also you're going to sprinkle in questions that you generally don't know the answer to because, you know investigators don't know everything. That's why they bring in these witnesses. It was very interesting watching the -- the -- the -- Caputo talk about, you know, in the aftermath because it was so striking to see as Janome was saying how rattled he was.

And you know, I disagree with him with respect with him saying that the President shouldn't sit down with the lawyers because it's a trap. Or they're somehow going to trying to trick him into something. That's not what the FBI does. They're interested in gathering the facts. But I will tell you as a former FBI agent and just the unvarnished observation here, any good lawyer would not let the President anywhere near the Special Counsel team after seeing how rattled Mr. Caputo was. And it's worth noting that he wasn't rattled because they were mean to him or they were disrespectful. He was rattled because of how prepared they were.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I mean the way to avoid the trap as folks like to call it is just tell the truth. But --

CAMPBELL: That's right.

SCIUTTO: -- sometimes that's a difficulty -- difficult thing coming out of this White House. Michael Caputo, he as you were saying earlier just described how thorough the Special Counsel Robert Mueller was. I think he compared it to a proctology exam. Apologies for that image. What else did he tell about how it went down?

PROPROPEZ: So he explained to Anderson Cooper last night the amount of information that they have. The text messages, he (inaudible) spreadsheet, emails and really the depth of knowledge that the Special Counsel has. Here's what he said about that Jim.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAPUTO: The Mueller team knew more about what I did in 2016 than anyone that ever worked there. They have texts, not just emails. I believe quite a bit of those. They had spreadsheets full of information that I'm sure they have on every person that they're going to interview. These are very, very thorough and professional interviews. It feels more like an interrogation than an interview.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PROPROPEZ: And that's the thing here Jim, that he really was shocked by just the depth of knowledge. And it -- look by now they have spoken to so many people that were part of this campaign, the people had knowledge of this. But there's also a lot of information that they have that is built off of intelligence that has -- they have worked for like for over a year now. And also other information, other sources that we know nothing about. And it's clear that they are sitting on a lot of information that has just now been made public.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And I mean -- sort of the -- the fizzling out of this investigation has been pronounced by many, are hoped for by many but it just doesn't look like that's the case. Janome, Josh Campbell, thanks very much. After months of being detained in North Korea, Rudy Giuliani says that three Americans are set to be released today. This as the two nations gear up for a sit down between Trump and Kim Jong- un. And the President admits to a hush agreement with the porn star Stormy Daniels as we wait there for the briefing in the White House there. Just weeks ago of course from that podium and from the President himself, they denied any knowledge of this hush money. Please stay with us.

[13:43:57] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:48:31] SCIUTTO: We are getting mixed messages from the Administration on the status of three Americans now held in North Korea. One official says the Administration is quote, "Confident the men will be released but the timing remains unknown." Meanwhile, there is this statement from the President's new lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: We got Kim Jong-un impressed enough to be releasing three prisoners today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: While the President did not directly address this situation of the timing, he hinted that something could be coming.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: What a day, what a beautiful day and our country is doing very well. You'll see some very good announcements very shortly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: CNN International Correspondent Alexandra Field joins us now from Seoul, South Korea. Alexandra, what are you hearing from there about when or if these hostages will be released?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well look, Jim, the families of these three men have been living a nightmare. We know that at this very moment they're holding on to a lot of hope. They are hoping that this is the opportune time when North Korea will send their loved ones home. It could happen in the run up now to this historic summit that's scheduled to take place between Kim Jong-un and President Trump. Certainly they've gotten strong indications within the last day or so that this is very much in the works. You have the President himself tweeting on the issue of these three detainees. Saying that everyone should stay tuned, certainly the family members have been tuned in.

One of these men was taken into custody back in 2015, the other two in 2017. The son of one of the detainees, Tony Kim, has said that he has not been given any indication of a release. But certainly you have that message coming from the President, you also had Rudy Giuliani --

[13:50:15] FIELD: -- almost inexplicably making an announcement that they would be free today. That hasn't been officially backed up by the White House. Sarah Huckabee Sanders didn't make an official statement on that. Instead she said what the Administration has said all along. That it would certainly be a good opportunity for North Korea. That it would be a show of good faith for North Korea to send these hostages home in advance of the summit meeting. One source who does have direct knowledge of the negotiations has gone further than that telling CNN that a release is eminent.

He says that the ground work for this was laid some two months ago when the North Korean Foreign Minister traveled to Sweden and proposed the idea of returning the detainees at that time. Apparently he was told that U.S. officials would insist that any release of these men would not be tied in any way to the main issue that is top of the agenda here for that conversation that will take place between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump. That, of course being denuclearization but really there does seem to

be every indication that these families can be hopeful right now. That the opportunity is there. That North Korea could make that move to send these men home. Certainly though when you're dealing with North Korea, they're not going to believe it until they see these people stepping off the plane. Jim.

SCIUTTO: Absolutely. If and when it happens it would be such welcome news for those families. Alexandra Field there in Seoul, South Korea. Our next guest is someone who has been direct talks with the North Koreans himself. As a Congressman in the 1990's Bill Richardson negotiated a North Korean delegation within a delegation. He's also served as Governor of New Mexico, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and Energy Secretary for the purposes of today, it is Governor Bill Richardson. Thanks very much for joining us and taking the time.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW MEXICO, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N., FORMER ENERGY SECRETARY: Thank you Jim.

SCIUTTO: First of all, as you watch this in light of your personal experience in dealing with North Korea in difficult times. What is your sense of what's happening here now? Do -- do you have hope that there is a genuine chance for peace and negotiation between the U.S. and North Korea?

RICHARDSON: Well I think this release is a step forward. It's a good move by the North Koreans. Although the three individuals, the Americans they really were down there on trumped up charges in prison. But this is typical of the North Koreans. What they do is in the past they use these hostages as bargaining chips. They detain Americans, then they ask in return for a high level visit, President Clinton others to get them out. This time they're not asking for anything in return. But they are getting in something in return and that's a summit meeting with the President of the United States. Something that they've always wanted.

SCIUTTO: What did you make of Rudy Giuliani, the President's personal attorney, not Secretary of State, not the National Security Advisor, announcing in effect that this release is going to happen?

RICHARDSON: Well, you know, he -- I would think that this would have come from Secretary Pompeo because I know that he was involved when he went to Pyongyang, to press for the release of these hostages, and -- and to do it before the summit. But you know, Rudy Giuliani, he's a big player in the Administration. I don't know if it slipped out but the President kind of confirmed it. Look, they're going to be released probably today. I don't know based on North Korea time, but it's going to happen soon. And it makes sense for the North Koreans to do this humanitarian gesture.

But, you know, we should emphasize the North Koreans -- this is typical modus operandi. They use these American hostages to build up a lot of tension. Then they release them and they want something in return, a high level visit, something else, food assistance. I was involved in several of these successfully. But this time what they're getting in return is a summit with the President something they've always wanted to deal with the U.S. directly.

And they don't want to -- they don't want to have problems before the summit even starts. So I would suspect other gestures like this, other statements by Kim Jong-un. You know, not having -- knocking out the nuclear facility, not using it are forthcoming. But this is welcome for the families. I mean, they've suffered. But these were trumped up charges. They should be released soon.

SCIUTTO: Well you described exactly like they are. It's really hostage taking by - -by this country. On the bigger picture issue though, in your view do you see a fundamental change in North Korea's approach to this -- that it is possible that North Korea's willing to deal on the central issue? Which is it's nuclear program? Do you find it credible that North Korea would give up it's nuclear program? In light of frankly, how dependent it is on it at least in it's own view for it's -- for it's own survival, or at least the regime's survival.

RICHARDSON: Well, I believe that they're ready to deal. Total denuclearization, dismantling their nuclear and missile facilities I don't believe they're going to do that. There's a slight chance. But what I think they are ready to do is maybe put some limits, some curbing of the use, technology. Limiting, freezing, that's a favorite word of -- of their --

[13:55:15] RICHARDSON: -- existing arsenal and maybe some positive measures that deal with conventional forces with South Korea, with Japan. No more missile tests. But full denuclearization, my worry is that this is something that the United States expects and wants, dismantling. That's a good goal. But I don't think the North Koreans are going to do it. But I think if we set up a process and not expect too much at the summit of a negotiated settlement that involves dramatic use of nuclear weapons reduction by the North Koreans. It's worth the effort. Although I worry that we won't be prepared Jim. I'm worried we won't have a sound strategy.

SCIUTTO: It's a fair question. Bill Richardson. Governor, thanks very much for joining us.

RICHARDSON: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well just stunning revelations over the hush money paid to Stormy Daniels after multiple denials. The President now admits it, contradicting himself. Now all eyes are on the press briefing as the White House gets ready to face reporters questions.

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