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Rudy Giuliani's Revelations on Payments to Michael Cohen Reportedly Catch White House Staff Off Guard; House Chaplain Rescinds Resignation; White House Faces Major Credibility Crisis. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired May 4, 2018 - 8:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We can't confirm the validity of any of the reports.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't want to have problems before the summit even starts. I believe that they're ready to deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Friday, May 4th, 8:00 in the east. And the White House is facing a major credibility crisis of its own making. It is hard to keep track of all the misleading statements and lies. "The Washington Post" has it at over 3,000 in 466 days. We now learn that President Trump paid off a porn star to keep quiet about her alleged affair with him. Rudy Giuliani told us this. He is the president's new lawyer on these matters. And Giuliani says the president fired Jim Comey because Comey wouldn't tell you that the president wasn't a target of the investigation.
CNN reported exclusively that Mr. Trump deceived voters on a different matter during the election. That glowing health letter from the doctor with the long hair, it seemed odd at the time. It was odd because the doctor says that Trump dictated the letter to the doctor.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, so that's a recap of just some of the things that we've covered this week. Meanwhile sources tell CNN that Rudy Giuliani's revelations yesterday blindsided the president's other lawyers and the White House communications team. Giuliani also said that North Korea would be releasing three American prisoners yesterday, which did not happen, catching many, including the White House, or inside the White House, by surprise.
So let's bring in CNN senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson and CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Nia-Malika, we have new sound. Our Kaitlan Collins at the White House just got a very brief sort of walking interview with Kellyanne Conway about what she knew about that reimbursement for Stormy Daniels, so listen to this moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kellyanne, when did you first learn the president had reimbursed Michael Cohen for that payment made to Stormy Daniels?
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I have no comment on that.
COLLINS: Did you know about it before Sarah?
CONWAY: I had never heard about it during the campaign. I was the campaign manager. A lot crossed my desk.
COLLINS: Did you know about it last year in the White House?
CONWAY: I did not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: OK, Nia-Malika, so she was the campaign manager, as she points out. A lot crossed her desk, as she points out.
CUOMO: At the time the payment was made she was the campaign manager.
CAMEROTA: Indeed. But she knew nothing about it. Where does that leave us?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: I think you can obviously see that they're trying to separate the campaign from this payment, basically saying nobody knew about it, it wasn't a discussion during the campaign, that Michael Cohen basically just took care of this in the way he took care of other things for then candidate Trump, now President Trump.
I think it's complicated by what Rudy Giuliani said, this idea -- there are a couple of things he said, one of which was people were worried about this from the beginning, right? When is it the beginning start? Is the beginning in 2006 when the affair happened? Is it the beginning in 2016 on the eve of the election? Is the beginning a couple of months ago when this hit the press? It's unclear.
And of course Rudy Giuliani's other statements basically saying if this had come out, can you imagine what the impact would have been on the campaign, and Michael Cohen took care of it. It's a good thing he did essentially is what Rudy Giuliani is saying. We'll get more questions to this White House as they try to straighten up this story, the latest being that the president knew nothing about not only the payment but the reimbursement. And I guess it was automatically included in whatever kind of payment, monthly retainer fee, that Cohen gets every month for the last year or so.
CUOMO: So you have two bad facts and one good fact that have come out. Kellyanne just gave them a potential good fact, which is I was the campaign manager. It certainly wasn't a matter of the campaign. This wasn't something that we did, gives, Jeffrey, correct me if you disagree, gives a little separation on the idea was this a campaign contribution, a campaign issue or not. The bad facts, what Nia-Malika just referred to, with Rudy Giuliani saying can you imagine if this came out during October during the last debate. Anthony Scaramucci tried to say if the mayor meant no, if it came out before midterms. He didn't say that. That wasn't the context provided. That's a bad fact. We'll just leave it at that. One good, one bad, what do you make of those?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think people are probably parsing these statements as closely as we are. The fact remains now we know that this woman was paidd $130,000 by the lawyer, Michael Cohen, and Donald Trump paid him back. That's the big fact that we now know. That's a big problem. That is a legal problem, it's a political problem, it's a moral problem.
CUOMO: Is it more political than legal?
TOOBIN: Oh, absolutely. Who knows whether any of this can be proved in a courtroom. Starting with the fact that he's president of the United States and as far as we know under Department of Justice policy he can't be charged with anything.
[08:05:06] So I think the proper prism to see this all in is much more political than it is legal. But politically, Donald Trump was at 40 percent in the polls when he took office. He's at 40 percent now. So I don't know how much any of this changes people's political perceptions of him. Minds seem to be made up about Donald Trump. But just for those of us who are trying to keep track of the facts, the fact that they have lied to the public about this payment and who ultimately paid it, I think it is matters.
CAMEROTA: Nia-Malika, Giuliani said he talked to the president before he went on "FOX AND FRIENDS" and he talked to the president after he was on "FOX AND FRIENDS" where he made these revelations, and the president was happy. But we have reporting that the rest of the legal team or the rest of the White House staff, or both, felt blindsided by this. So what does this mean for Giuliani's role and his future?
HENDERSON: It's always an audience of one with this president, right? If he is pleasing the principle, as he apparently did, then that seems to mean that he's OK. I do think one danger is for Giuliani to take up too much oxygen, right? The president doesn't like that. When somebody gets on the cover of "TIME" magazine or something like that or is dominating the headlines and the president isn't, that's something he doesn't like.
We know that Giuliani shares that trait with Trump, meaning he is sort of self-absorbed and he likes attention on himself. So that might be a problem. But in terms of what he did over these last couple of days, it's clear that he is in sort of a mind-meld with this president and basically going out and playing a legal strategy on the one hand and a political PR strategy as well.
And the rest of the staff, you heard Sarah Sanders essentially saying she had only seen it just then, she clearly had had no contact necessarily with Giuliani over this issue. So I don't think the president necessarily cares. If he thinks his cause is being advanced by Giuliani both politically and perhaps legally, then I think he's pleased at this, and so we'll see where this goes.
We've seen this before. New people come in, they get a lot of attention, a lot of splash. We saw that with Scaramucci, for instance. And then 11 days later, at least in the case of Anthony Scaramucci, it didn't work out. We'll see about Rudy Giuliani, if he's able to keep the president's confidence.
CUOMO: We'll see because there is more being said about this. There are a lot of questions. Kellyanne Conway, we just showed you a little bit of a taste of the interview. There was something else that was relevant. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Can we count on the president to be honest?
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: The president is very honest. He promised to cut taxes and he did. He promised to get North Korea and South Korea to sit down and change the course of history and they are. He's got a delegation over in China working on more reciprocal trade deals that stop screwing American workers, American interests, and American businesses. We have a half a billion dollar trade deficit that doesn't makes no sense to him.
And you see him yesterday surrounded by different faith leaders of six different religions, and you see the reformed man that he brought up to the podium, that's the president I work for. That's the president I know. But you should look at his tweets on that matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TOOBIN: I think that's the right answer.
CUOMO: Help me there.
TOOBIN: That the economy is good.
TOOBIN: They're trying to bring peace to Korea. Just don't talk about this. I mean that's the only -- every time they talk about this, they get into more trouble.
CAMEROTA: It's not just the Stormy Daniels stuff that he's been untruthful about. "The Washington Post" found there's 3,001 lies.
CUOMO: For now. The Korea tweet you picked out this morning.
CAMEROTA: That wasn't counted.
CUOMO: You've got to add to it.
CAMEROTA: OK, 3,002. These are the fact checkers at "The Washington Post."
TOOBIN: I understand that. But your interview with Scaramucci today, same thing. Let's talk about how good the economy is, let's talk about North Korea. That's the only way to deal with this problem, I think, because the more you get into Stormy Daniels, the more you get into why he fired James Comey, they're just going to keep lying.
CUOMO: And Kellyanne gave us a helpful segue there when she talks about I think the president being a reformed man up there surrounded by all the faith leaders. That takes us to the House chaplain.
CAMEROTA: I thought she was talking about that he brought somebody --
CUOMO: You think that somebody else or was it him?
TOOBIN: No, it was someone else.
CUOMO: Somebody wrote a whole book about how the president has found God in his role as president, but we'll leave that to the side. So the House chaplain, something happened, Nia-Malika, with Paul Ryan and the House chaplain. The reporting was that Ryan had told the chaplain to stay out of politics. Whatever happened, the chaplain wound up resigning or offering to resign. Ryan accepted it. Then there was like a hailstorm of hate on Ryan's head for going after the chaplain. And then the chaplain rescinded his letter and Ryan accepted his rescission of the letter. What is going on?
[08:10:1000] HENDERSON: This is like the "Real Housewives." So much drama, reality TV involving a father, a man of the cloth here. Some of the reporting around this --
CUOMO: Nothing is sacred.
HENDERSON: Right - suggests that people, members of Congress weren't happy with him. They didn't feel like he was around enough. They didn't feel like he was available enough. The problem seems to be that it was also handled poorly, that the father never got a sense of the why of the firing before it happened. I believe Paul Ryan didn't even do the firing himself, that he sent an aide to do it. And so this is what you get. You have a pullback of this resignation letter, which a lot of people didn't like, the idea that this guy was being cast aside maybe for political reasons, maybe for these other reasons, and so that's what we have. Drama involving the chaplain.
ROBERTS: But the interesting political subtext to the whole chaplain issue was that he's a Catholic priest. And there were, apparently, some members of the House Republican conference who thought it needed to be an evangelical protestant, not a Catholic. And you had certain Catholic members of the Congress saying, this is anti-Catholic bias. That's the interesting politics of this. How many of us knew who the chaplain was?
CUOMO: And Ryan just seemed to get whooped up on by -- it seemed like the chaplain outplayed him politically.
TOOBIN: Don't mess with the padre, this guy is tough.
CAMEROTA: He has connections. Nia-Malika, thank you. Jeffrey Toobin, thank you very much. OK, so the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, struggling to
keep the story straight on Stormy Daniels and the payment and facing tough questions about her own credibility. So we discuss with someone very familiar with the press secretary role. He played it himself for several years.
[08:15:35] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders facing many questions about the shifting story on the Stormy Daniels hush money.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: When the president so often says things that turn out not to be true, when the president and the White House show what appears to be a blatant disregard for the truth, how are the American people to trust or believe what is said here and what is said by the president?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We give the very best information that we have at the time. I do that every single day and will continue to do that every day under this position.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Joining us now is Joe Lockhart. He's the former White House press secretary for President Bill Clinton. He knows a thing or two about scandals and how to address them as press secretary.
Joe, great to see you.
JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good morning.
CAMEROTA: What did you think about her answer there? I gave the best information that I had at the time.
LOCKHART: Yes. You know, she's in a tough spot. You're neither involved in the process and then somewhat complicit in the process and the lie or you're out of the loop. And it's not really clear which camp she's in.
I think she made her job harder by aggressively going and stating and vouching for the president and his denials of not knowing this. That answer is -- it's the best cleanup she can do at this point but I think she's created a lot of this problem herself. But her boss creates most of them.
CAMEROTA: Yes. She said many times, I think it's worth playing because of how many times she had to say that yesterday so let's play this montage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: We give the very best information that we have at the time. Again, we give the best information possible at the time. And again, I've given the best information I had at the time. Again, I gave you the best information that I had. I gave you the best information that I had. Again, I'm giving the best information I have. Some information I am aware of and some I'm not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: I think she's decided that that's going to be her position and that that's going to be her defense and she's going to stick with that. Listen, everybody knows that there is spinning happening in every White House. And when the press secretary of any White House comes out, they're spinning the narrative that they want you to know.
What's the difference between spinning and lying?
LOCKHART: Well, spinning is being attached to the truth and trying to put the best light on it and advocating for a position or defending a position. Lying is when you're just making things up and you're changing your story. And that's where they are. And she's in a tough spot of having to defend it.
The second critical issue for her is there doesn't appear to be any coordination. We went through an impeachment process. The lawyers, the press, the communications people, the political people were joined at the hip. No one went on TV and freelanced. It's just too complicated and too difficult and too important.
And the idea now that the president is sitting in the residence and tweeting and making late-night phone calls and coordinating this and not telling anyone else is just a recipe for disaster.
CAMEROTA: And Rudy Giuliani is saying something different than what the press secretary is saying and what other members of the legal team are saying, but your experience in the White House as press secretary, your tenure, is such an interesting case study because it was truly baptism by fire. Your first day was the day that Congress decided to begin the impeachment process hearings about President Clinton.
So, do you empathize with Sarah Sanders when you see a scandal like this and her trying to weave her way?
LOCKHART: Yes, of course, of course. It's a really tough job. And I think the people who have done it root for the people who come after them and before them.
I think that she's making a fundamental mistake here. You can't have it both ways. You can't be out there advocating for facts, you know, on behalf of the president and then when you find out they're not true saying, oh, I'm just giving you the best information.
I think she needs to take a step back. Stay out of the scandal, the stuff that's under litigation, and like Kellyanne Conway was saying this morning, focus on the things that are good.
CAMEROTA: What do you mean stay out of the scandal? When she goes to the press briefing, she gets asked questions about it. How does she step back from that? LOCKHART: Sure. And when I went every day to the press briefing, I
didn't use that room as a way to litigate what the house impeachment managers were trying to do. I kept the focus on what I knew, where the country was.
CAMEROTA: What does that sound like? Somebody says to her, so tell us about this. Was this actually hush money paid? Was this a reimbursement? What's the answer to that --
[08:20:00] LOCKHART: The answer is that's something under litigation and we'll have to see how that plays out.
Her problem is if you run back a couple of months, that's not what she said. She talked about how wrong it was. She went on the attack. And now she's stuck.
And it's hard to think that she's not complicit in some of this. At some point, she's got to go in, sit down in the Oval Office and say to the president, if you lie to me again, I'm out of here. I don't know if those sorts of conversations happen in this White House.
CAMEROTA: So what's your best advice to her today?
LOCKHART: Best advice is to stick with the positive, don't get into all this stuff. It's frustrating, it's hard to do, it's hard to stand there and kind of look like you're clueless. I was called a lot of those words during my tenure. But you're doing it for a reason.
And again, I come back to you can't have it both ways. You can't attack on Monday and then on Tuesday say, oh, I only have the information I have. You've got to have a strategy and stick to it.
CAMEROTA: If you had her job today, would you quit?
LOCKHART: I think I would have that conversation with the president and just say it's in his interests, it's in my interests, you need to tell me the truth. I'm good enough at my job to know the truth but also present the best case possible, but I'm not going to go into that room and be blindsided every day. And if there isn't a basic sense of honesty between the president and the press secretary, then it's untenable to do the job.
CAMEROTA: Of course, there's a larger issue of just the credibility and what the American public can believe and what they can't believe. What they should listen to and what they shouldn't listen to.
Just this week, as you'll know, as you'll remember, the president's long-time personal doctor, Dr. Bornstein, admitted that he didn't craft that letter about the president's glowing health, the most stamina, the strongest president ever. He wrote it down as dictated by Donald Trump. That was during the campaign.
So, in other words, people didn't have the right information about President Trump's health during the campaign. The president had said he knew nothing about the payment to Stormy Daniels. Now we know from Rudy Giuliani, it was a reimbursement from the president, his rationale for firing James Comey.
Rudy Giuliani now says it's because James Comey wouldn't say publicly that Donald Trump wasn't the target.
So, how do Americans know what to believe?
LOCKHART: Well, the big difference, if you want to go back 20 years to today, is we now have two Americas as far as information. We have, you know, as Donald Trump said famously in the campaign, he can go down Fifth Avenue and murder people and people who still support him.
So, none of this really shakes his supporters. They all think the system is rigged. They all think all the information we're sitting here talking about is all made up and there's some deep state conspiracy that we're part of.
CAMEROTA: And what's the answer to that?
LOCKHART: Well, the answer is that's a minority. The midterms will tell us whether the majority gets out and says this is unacceptable. This isn't the America we want to live in.
If they stay home, it sends a message about our democracy, about -- and politics is an imitation game. If it works for Trump, everyone else will try it too. So that's why November is so important. And we'll see.
CAMEROTA: Joe Lockhart, great to get your perspective and your expertise on all of this. Really fascinating to hear it from someone who had this job. Thanks to being here.
LOCKHART: Thank you.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. A frequent critic of Trump's foreign policy praising him over his recent wins in North Korea, including the possible release of three American prisoners. Why is the praise due? What does he believe will happen next? Why should Trump get credit? All next.
[08:28:03] CUOMO: All right. So one of the big questions for today is was the jump by Rudy Giuliani that we were going to get three American prisoners back from North Korea, was that just a political ploy to distract from all the concerns that are going on?
Well, we've heard from the White House and the state department and they both say they're unable to confirm reports about their release, but we all want it to happen, right? Of course.
All right. So, let's bring in Ian Bremmer, president and founder of the Eurasia Group and the author of "Us Versus Them: The Future of Globalism."
Good to see you, sir.
IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER, EURASIA GROUP: Good to see you.
CUOMO: Congratulations on the book.
BREMMER: Thank you.
CUOMO: First, the topic, the cover of this book. We feel that, man, it's worse here than it is anywhere else. What we're dealing with this cataclysm, these fringes, this anger, this us versus them. You say not so.
BREMMER: I say not so. I say we talk about Trump literally all the time.
I was in London and all they talk about is Brexit. Their heads are just as blown up over that.
Every advanced industrial democracy in the world has growing populism, growing majorities of people that are saying the system isn't working for them. You see it in all their elections. The only exception is Japan where no immigrants, population is shrinking so the working class is feeling better. Military is constitutionally forbidden from fighting wars around the world.
In other words, all of the things that are causing all the backlash in the United States for Trump and Sanders and the U.K., in Germany, in Italy, in France, not happening in Japan. That is a much more fundamental problem with liberal democracy as we have promoted it than it is with the United States and Trump.
CUOMO: But you don't suggest in here that the Japan model is the way to go?
BREMMER: Not at all. I'm saying that it is precisely the fact that our leaders -- politicians, business leaders, the mainstream media -- have not addressed the concerns of the average person, the concerns of my family growing up in the projects, right?
I mean, you know, my brother voted for Trump, my mother would have, because they didn't believe the establishment was going to do anything for them. That's not a failure of globalization. Globalization has brought wealth to people all over the world. It's a failure of the political system on the simple things like infrastructure, on the simple things like fighting forever wars in Afghanistan, not taking care of people when they come back.