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Giuliani: Mueller's Team Said It Can't Indict a President; Trump Tower Transcripts Show Quest for Dirt on Clinton; Inside Year One of the Mueller Investigation. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired May 17, 2018 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Giuliani said the special counsel is going to adhere to guidelines that a sitting U.S. president can't be indicted.
[05:59:24] RUDY GIULIANI, DONALD TRUMP'S LAWYER: The same reason they can't indict him, they can't issue a subpoena to him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're still conducting a criminal investigation. They can absolutely subpoena Donald Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thousands of pages of documents shed light on this June 2016 meeting.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was something like 54 things he couldn't recall.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How could none of those conversations lead back to the president of the United States?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump did reveal for the first time that he actually paid Michael Cohen for the hush money.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The failure to disclose is potentially a violation of law.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are there other transactions we don't know about that were not reported?
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Thursday, May 17, 6 a.m. here in New York. Here's our starting line.
It's been one year of the Mueller investigation. So where are we today? Well, the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, says Mueller's office informed President Trump's lawyers that they cannot indict a sitting president. Is that true? And what does that mean for Mueller and the president as they consider a subpoena? And new details surfacing about that infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting
involving members of the Trump campaign and Russians. The Senate Judiciary Committee has just released more than 2,000 pages of documents raising questions about what the president knew.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The problem is this new information doesn't really answer those questions. And they didn't interview Jared Kushner.
So it's hard to size what Mueller may know by this latest info dump. The big headline is that this committee says Russia did meddle in the 2016 election, and they did do so to help Donald Trump. That conclusion in line with the intelligence community's assessment and of course, contradicts House Republicans.
And meantime, President Trump's new financial disclosure documents acknowledging he did repay Michael Cohen more than $100,000 for election expenses. We'll look at why the Office of Government Ethics let the Justice Department know they find the disclosure relevant.
There's a lot to cover here this morning. Let's start with CNN's Jessica Schneider live in Washington. She's got the top story. Yes.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Chris. Rudy Giuliani, he's attempting to draw clear lines in the legal landscape this morning. He says that since the special counsel has no authority to indict a sitting president, the only option from this probe would be to write a report that could then be referred to Congress for any possible impeachment proceedings.
And also this morning, Giuliani is offering some new insight into the special counsel's strategy, as well as new documents that are being revealed about even more details from that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): President Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, telling CNN that Special Counsel Mueller's team does not believe they can charge a sitting president with a crime under Justice Department guidelines. Giuliani saying, "All they get to do is write a report. They can't indict. At least they acknowledged that to us after some battling. They acknowledged that to us."
Giuliani later indicating that Mr. Trump's legal team may use this reasoning to justify potentially refusing to grant Mueller an interview with the president.
GIULIANI: What we're going to do is we're going to see what kind of legal remedies are available to us, including, if they subpoena us, challenge the subpoena. The same reason they can't indict him, they can't issue a subpoena to him.
SCHNEIDER: But the issue has never been tested in court. And it remains unclear if Mueller's team, which declined to comment, would try to challenge longstanding guidelines. SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: The president is not above
the law. And an indictment, that's the course that Robert Mueller chooses to go, I believe would be upheld by the courts.
SCHNEIDER: This as more than 200 pages of newly-released documents from the Senate Judiciary Committee shed light on the infamous June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower. According to his testimony, British publicist Rob Goldstone, who arranged the meeting, thought Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya had a smoking gun against Hillary Clinton. The president's son, Donald Trump Jr., celebrated the prospect. A Russian lobbyist present for the meeting told senators Trump Jr. kicked off the meeting by telling his Russian guests, "So I believe you have some information for us." But multiple attendees told investigators that they ultimately left empty-handed.
DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF DONALD TRUMP: This was such a nothing. There was nothing to tell. It was literally just a waste of 20 minutes, which was a shame.
SCHNEIDER: Goldstone testifying that President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, appeared, quote, "infuriated" when the Russian lawyer focused on Russian sanctions, telling her, "I really have no idea what you're talking about. Could you please focus a bit more and maybe just start again?"
In his testimony, Donald Trump Jr. admitted that he was interested in listening to information about Hillary Clinton, contradicting the initial story put out by the White House that the meeting was about adoptions. When asked about the president's involvement in crafting that statement, Don Jr. telling investigators he may have commented through Hope Hicks, something the White House later conceded.
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president weighed in as any father would.
SCHNEIDER: Donald Jr. also repeatedly testified that he does not recall telling his father about the meeting. Phone records show that he called a blocked number before and after arranging the meeting and again on the day it occurred. Democrats note that former campaign aide Corey Lewandowsky previously testified that candidate Trump's primary residence has a blocked number. And two days before the meeting, then-candidate Trump teased a speech about Clinton that never happened.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we're going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons. I think you're going to find it very informative and very, very interesting.
[06:05:05] SCHNEIDER: And today is the one-year anniversary of when Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel. It does remain to be seen if the president will comment on this, since there has been some confusion over whether they will hold a previously planned news conference with the NATO secretary. It was on the NATO secretary's schedule, but it is not right now on the White House schedule.
As for Rudy Giuliani, he says he plans to use this one-year anniversary to push the special counsel to disclose how much money is being spent and also to actively begin negotiating any possible interview with the president -- Chris and Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: OK, Jessica, thank you very much.
Let's bring in CNN legal analyst and former special assistant to Robert Mueller Michael Zeldin; and CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Jeffrey, Michael, good morning.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Good morning, ma'am.
CAMEROTA: We have a lot to get through on this one-year anniversary of the Mueller probe starting. Is Rudy Giuliani right? A sitting president cannot be indicted, and would Robert Mueller have told him that?
TOOBIN: This is one of the great unanswered questions of constitutional law. The Supreme Court has never addressed this question. No -- no prosecutor has tried to indict a president. There is Justice Department guidance going back to the 1970s that says a president cannot indict -- be indicted. That seems to be the -- the general consensus view, but we don't know that for sure.
And it is quite possible that Mueller said, "We are going to follow that guidance. We are not going to indict the president if we have evidence. We will turn over this information, if we have it, to Congress and let the impeachment process go forward but not a criminal process."
CUOMO: Interesting side note on that is the longest commissioned study on this, as you guys know, was done by Ken Starr. And that one found that the president could be indicted, because no one is above the law. That's where that famous quote in the political parlance comes from.
But it just raises the question, Michael Zeldin, is that you come to the conclusion that you want in the moment. You know, and Ken Starr was looking to go after Bill Clinton. So no matter who commissions the study, they're going to get the result they want.
Here's my question. What difference does it make? Rudy Giuliani, one of the reasons we keep asking the mayor to come on the show, is to explain these positions under some testing. So what if he can't be indicted? That doesn't mean he can't be subpoenaed. Rudy seemed to be connecting those two thoughts last night on television.
He can still be subpoenaed, period, let alone with the reason being I need you to testify about information in other cases. True or false?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it is absolutely true there's a disconnect between whether he can be indicted and whether he can be required to be interviewed. Jeffrey is right that the office of legal counsel opinions in '73 and
2000 say a sitting president can't be indicted. And the special counsel regulations say that the special counsel shall follow Justice Department policy.
So there's nothing newsworthy, if you will, in Giuliani's statement that the special counsel is going to follow his mandate and the OLC guidance. But he's completely mistaken, I believe, as a matter of law, as to whether or not that testimony from the president can be obtained.
Because remember, one thing is clear. That the president of the United States can be indicted once he leaves office. So you have a duly constituted grand jury who's gathering information as to whether or not people have committed crimes, including the president of the United States. The fact that he can't be indicted now doesn't preclude the grand jury from obtaining evidence that it may use to indict him after he leaves office.
So Giuliani's notion that all the grand jury can do is nothing with respect to the president and only as to others is just not, you know, sustainable as a legal argument.
TOOBIN: And remember also in 1974, the Supreme Court said the president can be forced to answer a trial subpoena --
ZELDIN: That's right.
TOOBIN: -- for the Watergate tapes. Unanimous decision by the Supreme Court. In 1997, the Supreme Court said Bill Clinton had to give a deposition in the Paula Jones case, in a civil case.
So the idea that the president can't be subpoenaed, that's pretty much been discredited, not exactly in the grand jury context but as a general proposition.
CUOMO: In all the politics of it, you know who agrees with your position? Rudy Giuliani.
TOOBIN: We have that on tape.
CAMEROTA: 1998, this was Rudy Giuliani talking to Charlie Rose.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLIE ROSE, FORMER JOURNALIST: If the president is asked to testify, subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury and says, "No, not going to do it."
GIULIANI: You have to do it. I mean, you don't have a choice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Well, there. It's decided. There you go.
TOOBIN: Pretty dispositive there. CAMEROTA: But also, just one last thing. When Rudy Giuliani makes the statement, "All they get to do is write a report. They can't indict." At least they acknowledged that to us after some battling. They acknowledged that to us.
He made it sound as though a report is just an exercise in futility. Actually, that would be getting the facts out to the public. That would be getting -- trying to get to the truth. I mean, even in report -- he's making it sound like, "So let's just end this thing, because all you get is a report."
TOOBIN: And a report is a big deal. And in both -- in the Watergate context and in the Starr/Whitewater context. That report was turned over to Congress as a basis for impeachment. So yet another reason why the need to write a report is a very considerable one.
CUOMO: Right, Michael, we see --
ZELDIN: Let me just add one thing to Jeffrey's comment. Under the independent counsel statute, when I was independent counsel, we had an obligation under our mandate, under the statute, to write a public report. In the case of Mueller, he's governed by regulations that say he has to write a confidential report to the deputy attorney general, explaining who he decided to prosecute and who he decided to decline prosecution.
That report then resides with the attorney general, who then has the discretion whether to make it public. So it's not necessarily that he gives a public report.
ZELDIN: He gives it on a two-step through Justice and then Justice makes the determination. It's a small point, but it's important to understand that Mueller --
CUOMO: It's a little frustrating to us if Rosenstein decides not to release the report. But that would certainly cause a big kerfuffle with -- with a lot of different sectors of our democracy.
You know, now look, the need to talk to the president is made very clear by this info dump by the Senate Judiciary Committee, is it not? You see in there that there is a question about what the president knew about this meeting where the Trump folks seemed to go. They're looking for information about Hillary Clinton. Got talked to about adoptions and the Magnitsky Act, got upset and left.
Don Jr. says that there's a blocked call on his record. He can't explain who it was. Was that to the president? There's some suggestion that the blocked number was Trump's number at that time. So this info dump, it gives you basis for why you'd want to talk to the president, exclusive of any criminal exposure, yes?
ZELDIN: Yes. Well, and the thing I think that we make a mistake in is thinking about the June 9 meeting as a one-off meeting. It is part of a continuum of conduct between the Trump Organization and foreign nationals.
So these documents that have been released yesterday show there is a continuing relationship between the Trump Organization and foreign nationals on exhibit No. 5. The Don Jr. deposition talks about continuing the desire of Russia to help with a Russian-based Facebook page targeting the 2 million voters in the United States. And so all of that, Chris, adds to your point that this continuing conversation between the Trump Organization and Russians has to be explored. And the president is the head of that organization needs to offer his testimony what happened over the course of that campaign, not just June 9.
TOOBIN: And remember, a couple of weeks ago, that came out about 50 categories of questions that Mueller had, they apparently based on telephone calls. Those 50 questions show the kinds of things you would want to ask the president. It's a long list. You know, he is the central figure in all of this. You know, you've got to talk to him.
ZELDIN: That's right, and in addition to that, many of the questions that Mueller has, you know, said he was interested in talking to the president predate the president's time in office.
So there is no executive privilege that applies to that. The notion that he has to have, you know, only key evidence, needs for there to be a, you know, question of the president only implies, that logic only implies when there is a valid assertion of executive privilege. There cannot be one in the pre-inauguration time period.
So again, Giuliani is wrong as to the facts and as to the law, something he should probably study before he starts talking about this topic, as well.
CAMEROTA: Great context. Thank you very much. Michael Zeldin, Jeffrey Toobin.
CUOMO: All right. So what does all this mean for Mueller's investigation? You know, we're going to talk about it, because it hits the one-year mark. A reminder: that's nothing for federal investigations. I know a year sounds like a long time. Not in this context. But it is a good chance to look at what has he gotten accomplished. How does this size up with other investigations that were similar to it? And what does it mean about strategy going forward and any possible end date? All that next.
[06:18:16] CUOMO: All right. Today is the one-year anniversary of the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. So let's give you some numbers. The probe has led to 75 criminal charges against 22 different people and companies. There have been five guilty pleas.
One person has already been sentenced, the Dutch lawyer who pleaded guilty to lying. Forty people have given interviews to investigators. And those are the only ones we know about, because it's secretive. So there could have been more, because Mueller hasn't been leaking. One of the biggest remaining questions, will the special counsel interview President Trump?
Let's bring back Jeffrey Toobin and bring in CNN political analyst David Gregory. We always say we've got this dovetailing, fellows, of the law and the politics.
So one year in, what does that mean politically? We know on the Trump supporters' side, it means that's been too long. It has to go away. There is no precedence in terms of these kinds of investigations. They've all gone much longer. But political meaning of the one-year mark?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think what's clear through all of the fog is that you have this attempt by Russia to manipulate our election, to help Donald Trump, to hurt Hillary Clinton. There's been a lot written, and I think the record is so clear now about why Putin was trying to interfere. Why he didn't like Hillary Clinton.
And how an authoritarian like Putin is trying to expose and exploit cleavages in democracies like America, where there's such distrust of the media, distrusts of the political class, and would latch onto somebody like Trump.
I think the action is trying to see whether Trump and the team did something to cooperate in all of that or they got in the way of the investigation. I mean, that's where I think the action is right now, which is ultimately, the worst of what the president did happened after he became president getting in the way, trying to discredit the investigation, as opposed to kind of the original fact pattern. I feel like that's where we still are.
[06:20:14] CUOMO: Do you use the word "action" because you were at the Kentucky Derby and now you're, like, a big veteran because you wear big fancy hats? Did you see the picture?
CAMEROTA: I did.
GREGORY: Let's just say I've got a new commitment to the running of the ponies.
CUOMO: All right. That's it. I just wanted to get some context. Thank you, sir.
CAMEROTA: And can I borrow your hat for the royal wedding?
So legally speaking, 75 criminal charges, as we put up; 22 people and companies charged; 5 guilty pleas. I mean, these numbers get your attention. So give us context. I mean, you know, when you talk about Watergate or you talk about other things that were investigations into campaigns and presidents. Is this -- are these big numbers?
TOOBIN: It is a significant -- it is a significant number. One of -- to put on the political hat, you know, when Donald Trump was inaugurated, his -- his popularity was roughly 40 percent. Today, after all the news, after all the Mueller investigation, it's
about 40 percent. So I don't think it has had an earthquake of political importance. But the other fact about the Mueller investigation is that it's sort of been like an iceberg all along. Three-quarters is below the service. This is a unique office in my experience, despite my own best efforts and many of our colleagues, there has been no leaking out of that office. Where they're going next, what further case.
You know, yes, there is this very big issue of will the president cooperate. But there are also other issues of will there be more criminal charges? Will there be other cases brought? And remember, Paul Manafort is going to go on trial this summer. That's a -- that's a very big deal. Will he -- will he ultimately wind up pleading guilty and cooperating?
Another question: Michael Cohen is under investigation in the Southern District of New York. But that may merge in with the Mueller investigation, as well. Will he be charged, be convicted, plead guilty, cooperate? Also very important.
CUOMO: We don't know what part of the investigation Mueller gave and what he reserved, right? We off just make it sound comprehensive. Like, this has all been given away. Can't have anything to do with Mueller. We don't know that for sure. But it's tricky in this one. Watergate was a simple analysis inasmuch as there was an obvious felony. There was a break-in.
And then you had the who was close to the president, how close did it get to him, and what is the proof thereof? Here you don't really have that. It makes you wonder what is the bar of success for this? How does Trump come out a winner here at the end of it? How does he come out a loser?
GREGORY: Well, you know, Rush Limbaugh made the point, because this isn't my original thought, that Trump really embraces being the victim. And that there's -- there's something about that in his presidency that he's really latched onto. And it's worked for him.
To your point, Jeffrey, about you know, why it has had an impact but only so much of an impact. Because he has used this from day one to say, "See, they don't like me. They're going to come after me, whether there's anything there or not, whether it comes anywhere near me or not."
And he may have gotten himself into so much trouble just by that paranoia and conduct that was a result about that paranoia, firing Jim Comey, et cetera.
But -- but I still think, you know, the question is we -- something happened that was significant, that is attempt to manipulate our election. And what we don't know is whether -- you know, the Trump team, by everything we know, is certainly open to the idea of cooperation and collusion. They may not have actually done it.
But they really played fast and loose with a group of people who are really trying to do America harm. That's perhaps the most generous explanation.
TOOBIN: One thing we can be certain of is whatever Mueller comes up with will not lead to a bipartisan consensus. That's what it means. You know, we are in such a tribal political moment. Democrats are going to see what Mueller says one way.
Republicans are going to see it another way. And I just think that's a certainty. The ultimate findings, I don't know what they'll be. But certainly, the reaction will be there.
GREGORY: It makes impeachment -- I mean, it makes 1998, you know, look far less involved, you know, in that tribal moment than we're in right now. I mean, look at the Senate versus the House Intel Committee. I mean, this is your Congress at work, which is, you know, going in two different directions. And it's not very constructive. And I think that's exactly right.
And I think the one thing that Trump has done, you know, the bar is pretty high now, I think, for Mueller. He comes in anywhere near where I think we are, I think the president is going to have a field day and then say, you know, "I told you." And look at all the stuff they don't have.
CAMEROTA: Jeffrey, tell us how we should see the financial disclosures that the president has made and where it was confirmed that he did make this payment to Stormy Daniels or through the lawyers of $130,000? So where does that get us?
[06:25:00] TOOBIN: I think it raises the question again of what this money was ultimately for. Because the question is, if that money was to protect the president in the waning days of the presidential campaign, if it was a political expenditure, the fact that the president reimbursed later doesn't mean that it was not a political contribution. And that issue of whether the money to Stormy Daniels was, in fact, a political --
CAMEROTA: Isn't that open to interpretation? We'll never know. Michael Cohen says no. The timing says yes. There we are.
TOOBIN: You have to look at the surrounding circumstances. You have to look at the communications among all the parties. Just because what people say their motives were and what the -- you know, Rudy Giuliani said it was the waning days of the campaign. Obviously, it had a political purpose.
So, you know, what prosecutors have to do is look at all the surrounding circumstances. But that issue of whether it was political in purpose or not is, I think, the legal significance.
CUOMO: And Rudy Giuliani said more than that. He said, "Could you imagine if this had come out during the last debate at the end of the election." So that was what we call a bad fact in the analysis.
The biggest one that came out from the disclosure, though, is the amounts don't match up. Well, Rudy Giuliani described as his forensic look and what he discovered that even the president wasn't aware of and his own guys haven't even found. What Rudy did does not match the disclosures on the document. That's going to have to be explained.
Cohen's finances in that account are very murky. And the idea that this was a simple reimbursement, as you point out, does not match up, and why Trump was paying him, how much he was paying him, and for what purpose, I think, remains somewhat mysterious.
CAMEROTA: We're going to get into a lot of that in the program. Because there's all sorts of reporting about Michael Cohen's account and how much money was going in.
TOOBIN: By my colleague Ronan Farrow from "The New Yorker."
CAMEROTA: Ronan Farrow had a bombshell, another one, last night. And we will have Ronan here. Thanks.
CUOMO: We're going to have to start calling him B-52 Farrow. Just dropping bombs.
TOOBIN: That happened.
CUOMO: He'll use it.
GREGORY: Maybe in the next hour.
CUOMO: He'll use it. Like a track (ph).
CAMEROTA: Thank you very much, gentlemen. OK.
So now there is new video of that raid in Niger that killed four U.S. soldiers. What we're learning from this video, what it shows us, next.