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Did Manafort Engage in Witness Tampering;? Did Eagles Embarrass President Trump?; Did John Bolton Try to Blow Up North Korea Talks?. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired June 5, 2018 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: This is -- this is the event that is happening at the White House, minus the Philadelphia Eagles team.

Pam, tell me again in my ear, what did you just say? OK.

We're going to continue our conversation as we stay on these pictures.

And, Maeve, let me go to you.

So, the president here, he wants the Eagles, he wants players and members to stand. And, again, we should remind everyone not a single player knelt during the regular season last year, never stood behind in the locker room, never knelt.

But, again, the president seems to be making this about patriotism. But what did you think of how Sarah Sanders kept responding in that briefing?

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's just -- I mean, clearly, the president thinks that this is a very strong political issue for him. And that's why he continues harping on it.

None of this makes any sense today. The event that you just showed pictures of is just odd. It's the president standing up there without really explaining what's actually happening.

Clearly, Sarah Sanders did not want to engage on what this issue is really about and whether the president understands the full dimensions of it. And I think that that will lead a lot of people to wonder, you know, why he doesn't want to dig more into it, why he just digs in on things like this and ends up in the situation that he did today.

BALDWIN: Pamela Brown, I believe, is ready for us. She was in the briefing. And -- no Pamela. OK.

Let's stay on the Eagles, and then we will come back to Pamela's question, because it was great, on following up on the president's dictating that misleading statement after that Trump Tower meeting.

In fact, let me just -- let me go there, because, you know, the news came out yesterday. There was this 20-page letter that was sent from the Trump lawyers on to the Mueller team, basically saying that that initial misleading statement, the fact that Don Jr., Paul Manafort and others from the Trump team were meeting with the Russians over adoptions, that was misleading, right?

Ultimately, we learned that it was about dirt on Hillary Clinton.

So, Pamela Brown asked the question, if Sarah Sanders wanted to correct the record, because we heard the president did indeed dictate the statement.

And then last on night on Chris Cuomo's prime-time show, Rudy Giuliani, the outside counsel, who Sarah Sanders kept referring to yesterday in the briefing, said this:


RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I don't think anybody was lying. I think a mistake was made in the very early stages of an investigation.

I don't mean an investigation. Very early stages of a representation by a lawyer, which happens all the time. So, I don't think it's a significant fact.

It was a mistake. I swear to God, it was a mistake. The guy made a mistake.


BALDWIN: So, that said, Maeve Reston, to you.

Today, Sarah is asked, do you want to correct the record? We did hear from the outside counsel, Rudy Giuliani, saying it was a mistake. And yet she dodged.

RESTON: First of all, I mean, it doesn't make any sense that Giuliani said it was a mistake, considering that that was a contention that was made by different members of the administration and Trump's lawyers over and over again. So, why do you repeat something that's a mistake, if that is right, what Giuliani is saying?

Second, you have Sarah Sanders in the situation where Pam's question was very direct, and she would not engage on her own misstatement whether she was misled. She clearly did not want to go there.

And I thought it was very significant throughout the briefing that she was not going to explain, was trying to defend her own credibility and say, I try to bring you the best information, I try to be honest with you, without actually explaining what happened in that situation.

It is hard to know exactly what her motives were, but there's a lot of different possibilities, perhaps protecting herself, perhaps not getting into an area that the White House doesn't want her to explain. And so it was just a fascinating exchange over and over again as reporters really drilled what is a very important question about the administration's credibility.

BALDWIN: All right.

I see Ben Ferguson popping up.


BALDWIN: So, Ben, I really want to hear your voice. I want to pivot back to this whole Philadelphia Eagles conversation.

I remember you came on, was it last week, two weeks ago, with an important other perspective on this whole national anthem debate, that the genesis of the kneeling and how you feel as a conservative commentator.

You heard how Sarah Sanders put it today, that it was this political stunt by the Eagles to essentially in the end bail. Therefore, I think they felt that they had to cancel this event. How do you see it?



I think it's a sad day for this country, that we could have had a great conversation about what was bothering the Eagles player and those that play in the NFL. And instead of having a conversation with president, who they clearly have a problem with, they decided not to show up.

And I heard a lot of Donald Trump, saying Donald Trump is not listening to people, not understanding people, and not having a dialogue, and is he going to have a roundtable discussion with pro athletes?

That should have been taking place right now at the White House. And it could have been taking place at the White House right now if the Eagles would have shown up and met the president.

Look, when you don't get along with someone or you don't like their viewpoint, you don't accomplish anything by not showing up and having a dialogue and discussion.

And we need more of a discussion. And to put it back on the president with these types of questions that you just saw Sarah Huckabee Sanders have to respond to of, has the president ever thought about a dialogue, there was a moment today that dialogue could have taken place.

And the Philadelphia Eagles, I think it was clear, by so many cancellations, they wanted this picture to look insignificant. They wanted to look big while making the president look small. I don't blame the president for canceling this event when they changed it at the last moment, because that's how it would have been reported.

It would have been a, look at the president, how weak he is and these men in the NFL stood up to the president. And I think the president had no other choice but to cancel this. And I would say to any other NFL player, if you ever have an

opportunity to meet with a person that you disagree with who has the ability to change hearts and minds in this country, who could you argue is the leader of people that maybe you don't like that are conservative, you always show up for that and try to have a dialogue.

And I would even say this. If you really hate somebody, then look at it from the standpoint of be the bigger man and show up and explain yourself, instead of trying to embarrass somebody who happens to be, by the way, the president of the United States of America.

BALDWIN: I want to move on in just a second.

But, Kelvin, I want you to respond to that.

KELVIN WASHINGTON, FORMER ESPN RADIO HOST: Ben, let's you and I have a dialogue here, Ben.

FERGUSON: Love to.

WASHINGTON: You said that you wanted him to -- them to be the bigger man, when the president, in fact, who is supposed to be the leader, never has been the bigger man.

FERGUSON: He was there. He was ready for them.

WASHINGTON: He's called them SOBs.

You're talking about today. I'm talking about calling them SOB.


WASHINGTON: That's fine. Call them out of -- their name, told them, if they don't want to kneel, they need to get out -- they should get out of this country.

So, how in fact is he being a leader, when he's antagonizing them and he's creating...

FERGUSON: He said they should get out of the league. He didn't say out of the country.

WASHINGTON: No, he said the country. He did say the country.

FERGUSON: He said -- he was clearly talking about them getting kicked off a team.


WASHINGTON: I'm taking him for his words. Ben, he said they should get out of the country. He said that a few weeks ago. We heard that. we actually played the -- rolled the tape.

So, he's creating, already creating an environment where it is antagonistic and it already a hostile environment. Yet you're asking them to be the bigger men to go see him. FERGUSON: Here's what I say. I had an athlete, a good friend of mine

who is a pro athlete...


BALDWIN: Quickly. Quickly, Ben, because I got breaking news.


BALDWIN: Quickly.

FERGUSON: And he got asked to go to the White House with Obama and he said, should I go? I said, yes, you should go and meet Obama. He's the president of the United States of America. Forget your politics.

You got asked to show up for a Michelle Obama event to get kids active and to lose weight and to be healthy. I don't care if you don't like the president. You show up for that moment and have a dialogue. That's the right thing to do.


WASHINGTON: ... people wanted to go. They were disinvited.

BALDWIN: I know Kelvin feels differently. I know we could go on, on this.

I want to get to this breaking news out of the State Department. But I thank you all so much for the conversation and for you guys as well.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BALDWIN: Here's what we have from the State Department.

Officials believe National Security Adviser John Bolton made the Libya model remarks, wanted to deliberately blow up those talks with North Korea. This is all, of course, ahead of this June 12 summit.

According to sources, Bolton's concern was that the talks would not go in the right direction for the United States. So, we're learning this was all on purpose.

Michelle Kosinski is joining me now.

Michelle, this is significant.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Multiple sources are saying this, because there's always been that question.

When John Bolton, the national security adviser, brought up the comparison to, let's have North Korea denuclearize in the same way Libya did, that was a quick denuclearization, relatively, but everybody knows that the North Koreans are infuriated by this model, because they're not looking at the process of denuclearization, so much as they're seeing the endgame for Moammar Gadhafi, which was of course being killed, albeit years later, by rebels that were backed by the United States.

So when you hear John Bolton say this on television, and then the president picks up on it and repeats it, and then the vice president picks up on it...


KOSINSKI: ... and then they witness the blowback of this, knowing that it infuriated the North Koreans, and then everyone is angry about it, the question is then why did Bolton bring this up in the first place?

So, sources are saying that, he, too, knew that this would have that kind of negative extreme reaction, but he wanted to throw this big monkey wrench into the works, possibly blow the entire process of talks,. because he felt that it wouldn't end up in the U.S.' favor in the end.


And whether that was because he felt like North Korea wasn't going to play the game, or he felt like the U.S. side wasn't going to be capable of getting everything they want, that is up for debate among these sources.

But they feel that this was a deliberate attempt to shake things up. That then angered not only the president, but the secretary of state. And the two of them then had a heated conversation in the White House over this.

This is why, according to one source, Bolton is now cut out of the process, cut out of the North Korea issue, at least for now. And that's really stunning to see, especially when he came in to make changes and to get things like this done.

BALDWIN: Just wondering. We will be watching the relationship between Bolton and Trump after this moving forward.

Michelle Kosinski, thank you very much for that.

Ahead here on CNN, this wide-ranging interview with Russia's President Vladimir Putin, what he revealed about his relationship with President Trump, how often they talk on the phone, and their joint concerns for both countries.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.



BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Today, a judge set be a deadline of Friday for the president's ex- campaign chief to respond to a new accusation by the special counsel, Robert Mueller. This could put Paul Manafort behind bars as he waits for two trials on bank charges and other -- bank fraud and other charges.

Mueller says that Manafort tried to get witnesses to lie for him. This is according to court documents. Manafort's spokesman tells CNN -- quote -- "Mr. Manafort is innocent. And nothing about this latest allegation changes our defense. We will do our talking in court."

So, joining me now, CNN contributor Garrett Graff, author of "The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller's FBI and the War on Global Terror," and CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin, who was the special assistant to Robert Mueller at the DOJ.

So, gentlemen, welcome.

And, Garrett, just to you first.

Can you just walk me through exactly what Paul Manafort was allegedly trying to do here?


So this was -- this is sort of a fascinating case, particularly coming on the heels of, if you remember, sort of relatively early after Paul Manafort was originally charged, Bob Mueller went after him for trying to sort of help write an op-ed defending him.

And Bob Mueller was even able to sort of cite individual track changes that Paul Manafort made. So the fact that after all of that last fall and winter, we have this new set of allegations concerning contacts that Paul Manafort made and tried to make with other witnesses in this case between February and April is really quite surprising.

He sort of, through multiple channels, telephone calls and electronic communications, tried to contact other witnesses to tell them his side of the story, or at least that's what he appeared to be trying to say. And, evidently, the witnesses went to Bob Mueller and turned over the evidence of those communications to the special counsel's office.

BALDWIN: OK, Michael Zeldin, let me just get this right. So Manafort's out on this $10 million bond. And, as he's out, these investigators have been talking to these witnesses.

And through the witnesses, they have discovered that Paul Manafort tried communicating with them through some sort of encryption app to pass along information that he never should be doing in the first place. And he got in trouble for it.


Pass along information is a very polite wait of describing what he was doing. What the prosecutors allege is that he was trying to influence their testimony. Remember, at the heart of this matter is whether or not this group of Europeans was lobbying in Europe and America.

If they were lobbying in America, then Manafort had to register as a foreign agent, if just in Europe, no such registration. So, what he was trying to do, Manafort was trying to do, was say to the Europeans, according to Mueller, corruptly, was, just say Europe. Leave out America. And, that way, I have a defense of no registration.

They say that's corruptly trying to influence their testimony. That's a crime. It's a sort of obstruction of justice-like crime, and that they have a request, Amy Berman Jackson, to withdraw his probation and withdraw his release on conditions and put him in jail in the meantime.

And then they probably will follow up with a superseding indictment for witness tampering.

BALDWIN: And so now that we're talking witness tampering, and last week's timing, of course, is significant, that was the D'Souza pardoning, and potentially considering other pardons from the president, what message is Mueller now sending back with this?


ZELDIN: You know...

BALDWIN: You smile. Why?

ZELDIN: Well, the discussion last week was, President Trump, all- powerful, with powers of pardon, could decapitate the Mueller investigation.

Mueller, I think, is saying in a sense through his...


ZELDIN: ... not so fast. Right?


ZELDIN: Not so fast.

BALDWIN: Garrett -- Garrett Graff, do you agree, the message...



BALDWIN: ... signal?


And I think that that's one of the things that's really quite interesting about this, is why Bob Mueller is setting this out now. This contains evidence of behavior going back to February 27.

And so sort of, why, the beginning of June, Mueller is dropping this now, you know, this is the same challenge we keep running into with Mueller's investigation. We don't know sort of what part of the soda straw we're staring through right now.

BALDWIN: Mm-hmm.

Michael Zeldin and Garrett Graff, thank you so much for that.

Still ahead here: The White House briefing got heated amid questions about inconsistencies from the White House and the canceled Eagles celebration event.


The contentious moments, we will play them for you ahead.



QUESTION: Is this about something more than the national anthem, something other than the national anthem?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, if it wasn't a political stunt by the Eagles franchise, then they wouldn't have planned to attend the event, and then backed out at the last minute.

And if it wasn't a political stunt, then they wouldn't have attempted to reschedule the visit when they knew that the president was going to be overseas.

And if this wasn't a political stunt, they wouldn't have waited until Monday, well after 1,000 of their fans had traveled and taken time out of their schedules, to offer only a tiny handful of representatives to attend the event.



BALDWIN: With me, George Martin. He is a former president NFL player and the former president of the NFL Players Association. And Ephraim Salaam is back with us, a retired NFL player, as well.

So, gentlemen, thank you both for being with me.

And just really, out of the gate, I want you both to respond to what we just heard from Sarah Sanders saying that this was a political stunt, all of the onus, it sounds to me, is on the Eagles team.

So, George, first to you.

GEORGE MARTIN, FORMER PRESIDENT, NFL PLAYERS ASSOCIATION: Well, first of all, I would like to say that when we won the Super Bowl back in '86, the highlight of my career was being invited to the White House in '87 to meet the reigning president at that time, who happened to be a Republican.

I happened to be a Democrat. And that had no bearing on the fact that going to the White House was exactly a coronation. It was a validation of your championship. And that's what it should have been all along. Now that you have immersed politics in it, you can see how it's

deteriorated to something that none of America wants to see. And the shame of it all is that still no one is talking about the root cause of why we're all here, and that has to do with the injustice that happens to African-Americans, disproportionate to our white correspondents.

BALDWIN: Which is precisely what correspondent April Ryan was trying to get to at the end of the briefing. And it just didn't sound like she was getting anywhere with Sarah Sanders.

But, George, let me just stay with you for a second, because you talk about then going to the White House. I mean, what an invite, right? Whether Democrat, Republican, to be able to go to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is huge.

And I'm just wondering, can you imagine how these players are feeling? Is it a show of disrespect by not showing up? Or is it, because the president politicized all of this, they had no choice?

MARTIN: Well, I think it's more of the latter, but the point being that it's really a tremendous photo-op.

I have a photo on my desk to this day of us meeting with Ronald Reagan and all of the grandeur that went along with it. And to lose that, even for those players who wanted to still come, they should have been afforded that opportunity.

Not only that. It's not just for the players. In order to win a Super Bowl, you need a contingent of not only players, but coaches, and the ownership and many fans.

So, I think it was really a black eye on the White House, and it was disrespectful for a whole cadre of individuals.

BALDWIN: Ephraim, I want to hear how you feel how Sarah Sanders characterized it.

But let me just add this nugget, that apparently the president was furious when he find out that, initially, 80 or so members of the Eagles team were going to show up, and then a couple days later, found out it would be somewhere around 10.

So, he cancels this whole ceremony. He, we're told, is well aware of what the optics would look like. George points out this is really -- this is about a photo-op.

But, again, not a single -- not a single Eagles player took a knee or stayed in the locker room during the regular season.

So, is this just really about crowd size and optics?


And we all know this is nothing to be surprised about, that Donald Trump has a tremendous ego. We have known that in business. We know that in this White House.

He's also very divisive. So, if you have 80 some-odd players and staff on the Eagles supposed to show up, and only 10 show up, what does that look like to Donald Trump? That's not a picture he wants to hang anywhere.

So, how does he save face? He cancels the trip, because he doesn't want to be one-upped. You got to remember, this is the same man who bold-faced lied at his inauguration, saying there were more people than ever before, when, clearly, anyone with eyes can see the difference between just eight years prior, when President Obama was elected.

But this is all about posturing and ego, I'm better than you. And it is just not very presidential.

BALDWIN: But how -- you say it's not very presidential.

But how affected -- how much of a -- I think that one of my guests last hour said it's a black eye on the sport, in the sense that, Ephraim, you know, you and I were talking recently about the new rules going ahead for the next season, about staying in the locker room vs. coming out on the field, and how these teams have really adjusted their rules around the president.

Do you feel that way?

SALAAM: People -- people always say, I want my sports without politics.

But here we have the leader of the free world who refuses to take a step back and let well enough be. He continues to push his agenda -- this agenda and bringing more division between the NFL and its fans, and just all of us as Americans.

You have to realize, look, this is not about -- it never was about being unpatriotic. We can agree on that. Like Mr. Martin just said, look, the issue has never been about being unpatriotic. Right? No players are trying to be unpatriotic. This is a tremendous country.

We love what our service men and women are doing to protect us. We love this country and this -- and the flag.

It's all about the injustices we're having in our communities that no one in the White House, including -- including Sarah Huckabee, wants to suggest, because she quickly got out of there when that question was broached to her.

BALDWIN: And that's where I want to end, George, where you really started, on why everyone started talking about this in the first place, why Colin Kaepernick took that knee.