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Giuliani: Mueller's Team Said It Can't Indict A President; New Yorker: Missing Financial Files On Cohen Motivated Leak; More Republicans Defy Ryan, Sign DACA Petition; NYC Man To Spanish-Speaking Workers: My Next Call Is To ICE. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 17, 2018 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:00]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- Kate Bolduan starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. The Russia investigation turns one year old today. I guess happy birthday is in order. Well wishes you're probably not going to get from President Trump.

But he does offer up at least this, congratulations, congratulations, America, he writes in a tweet. We're now into the second year of the greatest witch-hunt in American history and there is still no collusion and no obstruction. The only collusion was that done by Democrats who were unable to win an election despite the spending of far more money.

And the president's legal team also marking the big day by ramping up big demands that the special counsel wraps up the investigation. Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani seems to have a new message on this anniversary as well. Maybe we consider that an anniversary gift to Donald Trump. What Giuliani says Mueller told him. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I asked him specifically if they -- if they realized or acknowledged they didn't have the power to indict. Both under the Justice Department memo, which gives them their power in essence, confines their power, and under the Constitution. And he said, well, he wouldn't answer.

And one of his assistants said they acknowledge they had to be bound by Justice Department policies. And then the next day or the day after, they clarified it for Jay Sekulow, who was with me at the meeting, that they didn't have the power to indict, that what they would eventually do is write a memorandum and give it to the deputy attorney general.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: But, not so fast, says at least one Democratic senator, Richard Blumenthal, who serves on the Judiciary Committee and is also a former U.S. attorney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I will grant you that there are a lot of legal scholars who say that a president cannot be indicted while in office. I happen to believe, having reviewed a lot of the same law, that a president can be indicted. Why? Because no one is above the law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: So, what is going on here now on this anniversary. CNN's Dana Bash is joining me with much more. Dana, you spoke with Rudy Giuliani. Why is he hammering so hard on this indict or not indict in question?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is an important point, Kate. There are a couple of things going on here. First of all, on the specifics on indict or not indict. What the Trump legal team is trying to do with this is make the case to the public, and more importantly to the Special Counsel's Office.

That if they don't believe that a sitting president can be indicted, then if the president ultimately refuses to be interviewed, and the Special Counsel's Office says, well, we need you and we're going to subpoena you, then the argument can be if and when they go into the courts.

These are all big ifs, but if and when they go to the courts, up to the Supreme Court about whether the president can be indicted, the argument that the Trump team can make is, well, why would you have to subpoena a president when you know that he can't be indicted, and you believe that legally.

That's the legal argument. But let's talk about the public relations argument, which is a big part of this. What the Trump legal team is trying to do with this anniversary and Rudy Giuliani was very transparent about this.

They are trying to shape the story line in a way that is favorable to their client, meaning if the president can't be indicted, the next thought in the American public's head would be, well, maybe that means he didn't do anything wrong.

The reality is, just because a sitting president can't be indicted didn't mean that he's out of hot water. We don't know the specifics of this case. We don't know ultimately what Robert Mueller is going to find in the report that he's required to write and give to his supervisors and they in turn are required to give to Capitol Hill.

And although an indictment may be off the table, the reality is that that doesn't separate the president or shield the president for -- from what is constitutionally very explicit, which is potential impeachment process.

So that's all down the road, these are all hypotheticals, but just, again, there is the legal explanation and there is the public relations explanation and I think at this point, because the president has hired Rudy Giuliani, Giuliani is doing the president's bidding by going out and saying these things to reporters like me, to television networks like Fox, it is to shape the story line in a way that makes the president calm and happy.

BOLDUAN: Calm and happy, and away from his Twitter feed or at least away from saying let's sit down with Mueller right now and get this all out there.

BASH: That's exactly right.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Dana. Thank you.

So, Michael Cohen, the president's personal attorney, he is facing more trouble this morning. The whistle-blower who leaked President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen's bank records, is now speaking out, saying that they leaked the financial documents when they noticed other critical records were missing.

CNN's M.J. Lee joining me now with more details on this. M.J., what do we know about the missing records and the government databases is kind of all centering around.

[11:05:11] M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: That's right. You know, this document is called a suspicious activity report, and this is basically a report that banks have to file to the Treasury Department if they suspect that something weird is going on.

Now one of the banks as you know, that filed one of these reports, is First Republic Bank. This is a bank that Michael Cohen used to set up a bank account for essential consultants, the shell company that he used to basically make his payment to Stormy Daniels and we now know that he also used that bank account to receive a lot of money from companies where he was trying to do business consulting for.

Now, a law enforcement official is now telling the "New Yorker's" Ronan Farrow that the reason he decided to leak some of these reports to the media is because he happened to notice that two of these reports appeared to be missing and he was so alarmed, he figured he better get these out to the public. Now, this is what Ronan Farrow said on "NEW DAY" this morning about why he thinks all of this is so significant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONAN FARROW, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, "THE NEW YORKER": It is possible, prosecutors we talked to and people experienced with the database we talked to said that for instance the Southern District of New York or Special Counsel Mueller went in and said, please quarantine these, restrict them in some way.

But what I would highlight, Alisyn, is that every expert we spoke to said that almost never happens. They didn't know of a procedure for doing that. So, if indeed that's the case, it suggests that there is something very, very sensitive in these remaining reports.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEE: Now, this law enforcement official says that he has basically never seen these reports go missing from the government's system and so he was extremely troubled. But what is also clear, Kate, is that he clearly did not make this decision lightly. He also said to say I am terrified right now would be an understatement.

BOLDUAN: I think it is probably a fair statement as well, considering what is -- it actually -- he could be facing, he or she, could be facing real jail time if this came down to it.

There is also more though with Michael Cohen. New reports that he tried to, failed to, but tried to solicit something like a million dollars from a foreign government. This is the first time we're hearing he's trying to solicit money from a foreign government for advice regard the new administration early on.

LEE: That's right. If you recall a few days ago, CNN reported there was a Qatari government delegation, accompanied by a Qatari investor that went to Trump Tower in December of 2016, weeks after the election, and they had a meeting with Trump transition officials.

Now, that Qatari investor, his name is Ahmed al-Ramahi, he has now told "The Intercept" that Michael Cohen, at various points, asked him for a million dollars and he basically expressed that he wanted to be the middle person between what could be lucrative Qatari investments in the United States.

And this investor tells "The Intercept" that he rejected this request, he said no, and Michael Cohen is now pushing back on this as well telling "The Intercept" that this actually never happened. So little bit of a he said/he said right now.

But at the very least we know that this is an unflattering headline, yet another one, for Michael Cohen, when we already know that he appeared to be very aggressive in pushing for these kinds of business consulting deals after the election by promising access to the new president, administration.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, M.J. A lot to get through today. Joining me right now to discuss, Asha Rangappa, CNN legal and national security analyst and former FBI special agent, and Michael Moore here as well, former U.S. attorney. Great to see both of you.

Asha, what -- getting to where we are, M.J. was laying out for us, what does it mean to you that these bank reports, these reports could be missing?

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Kate, I trust this employee when he says that this is unusual, having worked in the FBI, I understand that there are certain protocols and if I had -- if I were to go into a case file, for example, and there were certain serials or documents missing, that would be alarming.

However, I want to point out that what the special counsel is investigating is extraordinary as well. This is an unprecedented election interference by a hostile foreign power that has counterintelligence elements.

So, I think that it could be possible that these may have been removed because they are relevant to a highly sensitive investigation. On the other side, if they were removed illegally, I would be surprised if that was not on the radar of Mueller's team.

He has (inaudible) himself. He also has the lead prosecutor for the Enron case, so he has people who are very familiar with these processes and I'm not sure whether the leak was the right way to go forward with this person's concern.

BOLDUAN: You think this person, you disagree with how this was handled?

RANGAPPA: Absolutely. I think that, you know, leaking, there really is no other avenue. At the very least this could have been brought to the special counsel's attention if not the inspector general.

[11:05:07] I would have suggested to him that he at least consult a whistle-blower attorney first to protect himself. So, I think that, you know, I don't know that this was the way forward for this person.

BOLDUAN: That's interesting. Michael, what do you think, though, of do you see a scenario where the Southern District of New York or Robert Mueller would remove the -- these records, kind of proactively?

MICHAEL MOORE, PARTNER, POPE MCGLAMRY LAW FIRM: I think it is unlikely, but I don't think it is necessarily impossible. The SARS investigation and the Bank Secrecy Act and all this stuff, the SARS documents themselves are meant to be secret. And they're meant to protect both the banking institution and the customer of the bank so that you don't necessarily ruin the reputation, the business as it goes forward.

I think it is unusual for these to be missing. They're not as secret as a federal grand jury process, but they are very system information. I sort of agree that the better course here might have been to copy everything you still had, lock it up in a safe and talk to somebody else like a prosecutor rather than run to the media about it.

I appreciate the fact he wants to get the information out, I assume it is a he, and tell us what his fears are about the documents being missing, but it would be unusual for these things to go and to not be some reason they're taking it.

I think Bob Mueller has known about this for a long time. That alarms me a little bit. If they are missing, nobody knows, then that's a whole different story. That's a different scenario where we really are talking about some serious problems.

BOLDUAN: Let's then talk about Rudy Giuliani, Asha. From everything that has been discussed over time, with this investigation, it seems unlikely that -- there is a debate, it seems unlikely that you can indict a president. Michael, you can weigh in in one second. Giuliani is, it seems, is trying to suggest because they don't think the president can be indicted that then he shouldn't be able to be subpoenaed to testify. Do you see that argument?

v\ RANGAPPA: I don't see that argument, Kate. So, first of all, let's remember that we're hearing a secondhand account of this conversation from Rudy Giuliani, who hasn't always been known to give the details appropriately and has walked back conversations before.

I think that Mueller may have stated what is, in fact, the Department of Justice policy, which is the office of legal counsel stating a sitting president can't be indicted. I think that's different than him stating that he does not plan to indict the president.

And that's for two reasons. Number one, he may not have come to a conclusion yet on whether a crime here has been committed. Remember that with the Hillary Clinton investigation, one of the critiques was that the prosecutors had already come to a conclusion before interviewing Hillary. I think he may not have his conclusion yet.

The second more important point is that Mueller, under the special counsel regulations has the power to depart from Department of Justice guidelines. He can submit a request to Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, to depart from those guidelines if he believes that it is warranted.

So, I don't think that an indictment is necessarily off the table. And I think that you don't only subpoena a witness when you plan to indict them. They could be relevant to other -- they may have information that is relevant to other investigations. So, I don't think that that itself takes the president off the hook for giving an interview or testimony.

BOLDUAN: Michael, what do you think? I mean, the same reason you can't indict a president, is it the same reason that you can't subpoena a president?

MOORE: No, I think this is just an effort on the part of Giuliani to sort of manage the public's expectations because I think there is absolutely no intention on his part to put the president up for an interview.

And I think that he's looking for a reason to tell the people, this is why we can't put him up. But they're right. Mueller can ask for an exception and expansion of his authority under the special counsel memorandum and the Department of Policy to move forward.

There is a legal debate, never tested in court, on whether or not a president can be indicted. But I will say this, a grand jury is there to investigate. That's the difference in a federal grand jury and state grand jury. They have investigative powers to bring in and investigate crimes.

It could be essentially -- Trump can be an unindicted co-conspirator in some collusion or obstruction case of collusion, conspiracy. Let me say this, Bob Mueller is -- he's a Vietnam combat veteran. He led his men in battle.

I imagine he's about as distracted by this stuff from Giuliani as he was from a jungle gnat out there buzzing around. He has his head down, he's moving forward. This is nothing more than Giuliani trying to shape the narrative, get us talk about whether or not the president has the ability to move forward.

In that way when he says, look, I'm not going to let him come to the table then he could say, I told you. He didn't have the authority and then he could be challenge in court down the road. It is a good argument.

[11:15:07] BOLDUAN: Well, when you don't know what the investigator has, maybe all you have is to try to get on the public and shape that narrative. Maybe that's it.

MOORE: I think it is right, but I think what he's doing is he's -- he's saying things that kind of throw a curve at it without necessarily being well grounded in the law and the facts. And if he thinks about it, even from an impeachment standpoint, the Constitution allows for the president to be impeached for what, high crimes and misdemeanors.

He's claiming that Bob Mueller has no authority to investigate criminal conduct, but Mueller has the authority to do this report and turn it over to Congress. And they will look at high crimes and misdemeanor and the information he's uncovered during his investigation can be part of that report.

BOLDUAN: Asha, Michael, thanks so much.

MOORE: Great. Good to see you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Coming up for us, is a new battle over immigration turning into a rebellion on Capitol Hill? The fight right now is between Republicans and Republicans. Details ahead.

Plus, a racist rant caught on video goes viral. A man in New York City walks into a restaurant, whatever transpires threatens to call ICE, immigration enforcement, on workers who were speaking Spanish to each other, each other, and now the backlash.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:20:21]

BOLDUAN: Is a revolt now under way in the House of Representatives? I asked because it sure is starting to look like one. Overnight, two more House Republicans signed on to a petition to vote -- to force a vote on immigration, specifically to save the DACA program.

This just after Speaker Paul Ryan told Republicans not to do exactly that. It is called a discharge petition. It is a rarely successful maneuver to force a vote on the floor without the blessing of the leadership who, of course, control what votes are held, what votes are called to the floor. If five more Republicans sign on with the addition of all of the Democrats you would assume would be on board, this Republican rebellion against their own leaders to get a vote on the DACA program, it could work. Speaker Paul Ryan's message now, listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R-WI), HOUSE SPEAKER: We don't want to advance something that we know won't become law and just get vetoed even if it made it to the president's desk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: So, this bold move, successful or not, thrusts the nation's immigration debate back into the spotlight. Just as the president is ratcheting back up his own rhetoric on the issue. Of course, no one can forget how the president launched his presidency.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: That was launching his presidential campaign and once in office, he softened his tone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT TRUMP: We're going to deal with DACA with heart. I have to deal with a lot of politicians, don't forget. I have to convince them that what I'm saying is right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Then what is old is new again, from the president yesterday, going back to his biting language, when asked about MS-13 gang members and other undocumented immigrant who have committed crimes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT TRUMP: We have people coming into the country, trying to come in, we're stopping a lot of them. But we're taking people out of the country, you wouldn't believe how bad these people are. These aren't people. These are animals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Joining me right now to discuss, CNN senior political analyst, Mark Preston, and CNN political director, David Chalian. Mark, first to you. Let's talk about the move in the House, what is happening in the House of Representatives. It is really fascinating. What is behind this rebellion in the works on immigration right now?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you have so many Republicans right now who aren't necessarily in lockstep with what Donald Trump wants to do with building our wall or some of his enforcement mechanisms because they realized that that's not going to fit their district in many ways.

We have seen a Republican conference now on the House side not really express where they want to go on immigration for fear that it will upset President Trump. This is an issue that they clearly understand that is going to hurt them at the polls if it looks like they continually are attacking Hispanic voters heading into the midterms.

BOLDUAN: And then, David, Paul Ryan, he says that he's telling Republicans that they are working on something already and that he doesn't want them to kind of move ahead or get ahead of them because he doesn't want to put anything on the floor, have it passed, and have it head to the president and get vetoed right away.

But is Paul Ryan right on this? I mean, Trump himself has said he wants to get something done with DACA. I mean, could he sign something, anything, if it came to his desk?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right. Trump wants to get something done. We should remind everyone, of course, it was President Trump who rescinded the DACA program.

BOLDUAN: So, conflicted on this.

CHALIAN: Exactly. But, Kate, what Paul Ryan, if you want to understand, if Paul Ryan thinks he has a problem on his hands, just look at sort of emergency meeting he called last night on this, once his fellow members indicated that there were 20 Republicans and that there are only five away from joining with all the Democrats potentially and actually going around the leadership here.

He understands there is a problem. This immigration issue, Kate, you can't sort of look at it in a vacuum. Look at it over the last 12 years, certainly a decade plus, the Republican Party has been roiled by this issue, from George W. Bush days, when Senator Kennedy and Senator McCain were trying to do immigration reform.

This is a rift inside the Republican Party and if you look at the people who have signed on to this discharge petition, to understand the politics behind this, match it up with the map of the vulnerable districts that Republicans are in this fall.

They know as Mark was saying, the American people have made themselves clear on this, and they know they're on the side of the majority of Americans on this, that's why they're trying to force Paul Ryan's hands here.

[11:25:08] BOLDUAN: Well, stand by to stand by on that. On the broader immigration conversation, Mark, the president yesterday said this about the DHS policy that could separate parents from their children if they try to come to the country illegally. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Those are the bad laws that the Democrats gave us. We have to break up families. The Democrats gave us that law. It is a horrible thing. We have to break up families. The Democrats gave us that law and they don't want to do anything about it. They'll leave it like that because they don't want to make any changes and now you break up families because of the Democrats. It is terrible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Everything that I've seen, the president isn't correct there. And please tell me if I'm wrong. I haven't seen a law that says children are to be separated from their parents. What is going on here? What is he getting at?

PRESTON: Well, I mean, I wish I could tell you. I wish I could try to explain --

BOLDUAN: That is your job, Mark.

PRESTON: I can tell you, you know in the past he has been known to be very loose with the facts when he's explaining something. But, you know, as he's talking about that, and perhaps he's trying to do so, maybe he's not doing so, but what is happening is that that's a little dog whistle from Donald Trump to all of his supporters out there.

That's a little dog whistle to them saying, hey, listen, I'm the one tough on immigration, I'm the one who will take care of this, it is not Democrats. That's the message he's trying to send.

BOLDUAN: But this whole thing, as Donald Trump has gone from candidate to president, has become a sticky issue I would argue, David. Let me play for you something else that the president said just yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Like MS-13 gang members putting innocent men, women and children at the mercy of these sadistic criminals. But we're moving them out of this country by the thousands. Ms-13, we're grabbing them by the thousands and we're getting them out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: So, the president has hit continually on the theme of we're under siege. He also then tweets out and says that border crossings are at a 46-year low. He wants to claim credit, but he also wants to continue to call it a crisis. How is that going to work?

CHALIAN: You're right, it is a tricky proposition. He clearly wants to appeal to the law and order sensibility that many Americans have about wanting to sort of follow the rule of the road and believe those that don't -- should have some form of punishment. So, he wants them to seem really tough against the most violent criminals possible while also trying at times to show compassion like on the DACA issue. Like he was doing in that cabinet meeting with that bipartisan group of legislators not that long ago.

He's been all over the map on this because he understands that standing in just one place on this issue is -- means he's not always standing with where a majority of the country is.

And he's torn between his base and satisfying his base with the broader electorate and now torn between those things with so many head winds facing his party in advance of this fall's election.

BOLDUAN: It becomes tricky because claiming victory, which he likes to do, on an issue that animates and excites the base might be a problem. In a weird twisted way when you are trying to turn them out to vote in 2018. It's great to see you guys. Thanks, Mark. Thanks, David.

And then there is this, the racist rant that went viral. An ugly incident in New York City where a man berated two restaurant employees for speaking Spanish. His tirade was captured on video. Watch it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clients of your staff speaking Spanish to customers when they should be speaking -- every person -- he spoke it, he spoke it, she's speaking it. This is America.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, this is America!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's very ignorant and he shouldn't be allowed --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My next call is to ICE. They live off of my money. I pay for their welfare. I pay for their ability to be here. You're running a place in Midtown Manhattan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People like you are --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: This video has been seen something like more than 4 million times on line. CNN's Polo Sandoval has been following this. Polo, when I watch this kind of start picking up online and then it took off like wildfire yesterday. What do we know about this?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's 24 hours, Kate, it's just been circulating around the web. Here we are, another racist rant captured on video, right here in New York. According to authorities, this all took place in a Manhattan restaurant. This gentleman calling the employees of this restaurant undocumented, threatens to call immigration authorities and then eventually makes his way out of the restaurant.

We have spoken to Emily Serrano, the woman who recorded that video. Well, apparently according to her, this gentleman says go back to Guatemala. She's actually from Puerto Rico, and we're also learning that this is certainly not the first time that this man has been captured on video making these kinds of -- or at least behind --