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Pardoned Conservative Commentator Dinesh D'Souza Speaks Out; Howard Schultz To Leave Starbucks And Considers Bid For Public Office; Supreme Court Rules For Baker In Same-Sex Wedding Cake Case; Philadelphia Mayor On Trump Canceling White House Invite For Eagles. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired June 5, 2018 - 07:30   ET



[07:30:55] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump's pardon of conservative firebrand Dinesh D'Souza continues to raise questions. D'Souza pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws back in 2014. D'Souza says that the president pardoned him because the president wants D'Souza to be able to spread his principles.

So here now to respond and talk about all this is Dinesh D'Souza. Mr. D'Souza, thanks for being here.


CAMEROTA: OK. So there's been a lot of debate, as you know, about your pardon and what it signifies. What message do you think the president was trying to send by pardoning you?

D'SOUZA: I think he was trying to send the message that there was a political hit on me by the Obama administration. A kind of selective prosecution for an offense that is an offense but is normally considered a technical offense that gets community service and maybe a fine.

But in my case, to quote President Trump, "They went after you with everything they got." This is the Holder Justice Department and Preet Bharara, the prosecutor in New York.

And so, Trump basically said I want to set this I injustice right and --


D'SOUZA: -- and clear your record, and so that's what the pardon did.

CAMEROTA: I mean -- and I've heard you say that before that you think that you were sort of politically persecuted, but you pled guilty. Why did you plead guilty if you didn't think that you were guilty?

D'SOUZA: Because the government, in these cases, uses all kinds of strong-arm tactics behind the scenes. For example, they will say we're going to get you for mail fraud, and

you say mail fraud? They say yes because you put the check in the mail.

We're going to get you for band fraud. Bank fraud? Yes, because you withdrew the money from the bank.


D'SOUZA: We're going to put additional charges on you that carry five years in prison. Now, Alisyn, would you risk five years in prison? What would that do to your life and your career?

CAMEROTA: I understand, but this is what prosecutors do.

D'SOUZA: So what they do is they bludgeon you --

CAMEROTA: I mean, just to be clear, this is what prosecutors do in every case. You make a deal about a -- to get a guilty plea and prosecutors tell you what you're facing.

I mean, this is basically, Dinesh --

D'SOUZA: Well, it's not what you're facing. It's not -- it's not what you're facing.

CAMEROTA: Well, hold on. Let me just -- it is what you're facing. I mean, these are the options. They lay out your options. This happens in every single criminal case I've ever covered.

And so, the idea that you were politically persecuted, you didn't have to plead guilty.

And as the prosecutor Preet Bharara has said, this was sort of garden- variety campaign finance law stuff. Let me play it for you, what he says about you being treated unfairly or not and then you can respond. Listen to this.


PREET BHARARA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: The questions about whether or not he was treated unfairly was litigated in the court. The judge, very well-respected -- Judge Berman -- listened to the arguments about that and said it was all hat, no cattle. There was no evidence of that whatsoever.


CAMEROTA: Go ahead.

D'SOUZA: Well, first of all, Judge Berman is a Clinton appointee who among -- as part of my sentence, sentenced me to mandatory psychiatric counseling. I mean, what could be crazier than that? Am I Jeffrey Dahmer, who put bodies in the refrigerator?

I gave money to a college friend of mine who was running for office so the very fact that this kind of nonsense is going on --

CAMEROTA: Right, but you used straw donors. I mean, to be clear, you used straw donors which is illegal and you -- again, you pleaded guilty to it.

But either way -- look, I understand that you --

D'SOUZA: Yes, but look, here's the point. No -- Alisyn, no American in this country's history has ever been prosecuted, let alone locked up for doing what I did. If you remember, justice isn't just a matter of did you do it.

CAMEROTA: But I'm not sure that's true. Hold on a second, Dinesh. I just want to fact-check.

D'SOUZA: It is true, it is true.

CAMEROTA: OK. I mean, a simple Google check of campaign finance violations turns up all sorts of people who are convicted of these sorts of things.

As you know, there was a -- I think a Clinton donor who actually --

D'SOUZA: But I think if you look at those cases you'll see --

CAMEROTA: -- went to jail for much more time than you went to the halfway house.

This is a real crime. People are often prosecuted for this.

D'SOUZA: No, that's simply not true if you look at those cases. And my lawyer, Ben Brafman, compiled an extensive list of these.

If you look at these cases, in virtually every single case the government prosecutes a repeat offender, kind of like Rosie O'Donnell who exceeded the campaign finance law on five different occasions --

CAMEROTA: Yes, but didn't use straw donors like you did and the amount of money that you did.

[07:35:00] D'SOUZA: -- or there's corruption involved -- some sort of a deal. Some kind of a quid pro -- some kind of a quid pro quo. Remember, there's no corruption even alleged in my case.

So if you can find me a case, Alisyn, where somebody gave 20 grand with no corruption and got a more severe penalty than I did, I will completely withdraw this claim.


What I want to move on to is what you said on Fox about what the president said to you in his phone call about why he pardoned you because I thought it was really interesting.

You basically said he wanted you to be a bigger voice than ever, defending the principles that you believe in. And so, I want to just go through -- hear what those principles are and I have some, I think as reflected in your Twitter feed. So let's just go through this, if this captures what your principles are.

So, February 2015 you tweeted about President Obama and there are people here -- racist overtones here. "You can take the boy of the ghetto," you say. "Watch this vulgar man show his stuff while America cowers in embarrassment."

You had another tweet in 2010 about President Obama's father. You say, "This philandering, inebriated African socialist" is what you call him. Oh, sorry, that's from a "Forbes" magazine.

So I'm confused. What are the principles that you are hoping to be able to talk about now and spread?

D'SOUZA: Well, Alisyn, first of all, I'd be happy to talk about those two tweets.

Obama's father was a philandering, inebriated African socialist, as a matter of fact.

CAMEROTA: All right, hold on. Hold on -- are you -- are you anti- philandering?

D'SOUZA: Look, I'm not talking about this. I was referring to Obama's book "Dreams from My Father."

CAMEROTA: Yes, but you focused on this philandering --

D'SOUZA: But hold on. Let me talk about principles. The principles --

CAMEROTA: -- and I want to know if your principle -- are you anti- philandering? Are you anti-vulgarity in your first one?

D'SOUZA: Look, philandering is not a principle. What I was saying is that Obama blames himself that he derived his dreams, his principles from his father. And the "Forbes" magazine article listed what those principles were. It's not unreasonable to investigate that.

Look, I'm a mainstream conservative. I worked in the Reagan administration. I worked at the most reputable conservative think tanks from AEI to the Hoover Institution.


D'SOUZA: The very idea that you can define me by a tweet or two over a long career is preposterous.

CAMEROTA: I'm not trying to define you but I am trying to figure out what your principles are. And they seem confusing because you are obviously a supporter --

D'SOUZA: Well, my principles -- CAMEROTA: -- of President Trump's and the idea that you would go after President Obama's father for philandering and for being vulgar, that strikes some as hypocritical.

Why aren't you speaking out about President Trump's philandering? Why aren't you speaking out about his vulgarity?

D'SOUZA: Well look, my argument about Obama wasn't about philandering. Obama is not a philanderer. His father was, but Obama wasn't.

CAMEROTA: Sure, but that's what you focused on.

D'SOUZA: I was focusing on the anti-colonial ideology -- the anti- colonial ideology of Barack Obama, Sr., which was imbibed by the younger Obama. And my book really focuses on all of that.


D'SOUZA: It's not a sleazy attack on an individual. It's an examination of ideas.

CAMEROTA: OK, but when you call -- say to somebody you can take the boy out of the ghetto, it is a sleazy attack on an individual.

D'SOUZA: Well look, here's Obama in the White House and he's got this selfie stick and he's running around looking in the mirror and making ridiculous faces.

I mean, if people say that Trump has degraded the --

CAMEROTA: And that's what you think is a -- but hold --

D'SOUZA: Hold on.

CAMEROTA: Yes, go ahead. So that's -- you find that more degrading than things that you've heard in the past year in terms of vulgarity coming from the White House?

D'SOUZA: Look, in fairness, I have to say that we have seen a great degradation of the White House and this is -- this didn't start with Trump. It didn't even start with Obama. It really goes back to Clinton because I think there was a lowering of the tone in the 90s and I'm sorry it's -- because I'm actually sorry to see the --

CAMEROTA: And has President Trump raised the tone?

D'SOUZA: No, I wouldn't say -- in some ways he hasn't, but I think he is also a product of an environment that's very destructive.

Look, this personal attack --

CAMEROTA: You don't think that he's setting the tone?

D'SOUZA: The Trump -- no because I think that -- I think that Republicans have said basically in the past, we nominated Boy Scouts like Romney -- people who are squeaky clean and the left launched such attacks on these people that they ended up looking like Lucifer.

We're finally going to appoint a tough guy who is -- who can -- who can take it and can return a punch. And so, Trump, yes, I think he's in a much more -- in the mud if you might say. And I regret that this is the environment we now live in but we do.

CAMEROTA: There's one more tweet that I want to bring up with you and it's about the Parkland students and -- where you said after they went through the massacre and then they were trying to fight gun violence and they won some and they lost some.

And you said, "Worst news since their parents told them to get summer jobs." You apologized for that and I'm sure that those kids appreciated that apology.

[07:40:03] But it was so shocking, frankly -- the first one -- that you would go after these kids who had just lived through a killing field.

What principle is that that you were trying to communicate there going after them?

D'SOUZA: Well, I've got to tell you honestly that that was a case where I was trying to make a point that completely misfired and I take the full responsibility.

As I saw it -- and this is how you get into the heat of the battle in social media -- those kids were becoming pawns in the kind of political campaign. They were being manipulated by other people. They were being, for example, dragged down to the legislature where a vote was taking place.

And so my target was really the --

CAMEROTA: But they marched there on their own. I mean, they marched there on their own.

D'SOUZA: -- media manipulation.

CAMEROTA: They weren't dragged there. These kids were really motivated and marched there on their own.

I see -- I hear what you're saying, that's how you saw it.

D'SOUZA: I'm not --

CAMEROTA: The facts just don't support that.

D'SOUZA: Well, what I'm saying is that in general, teenagers do not have the sophistication to be able to track legislative votes and show up in the right place at the right time and pose for the media --

CAMEROTA: Listen --

D'SOUZA: -- as if they are stars on the T.V. shows.

So I'm saying I was a little --

CAMEROTA: I mean, I've heard this argument before but teenagers protest all the time. Teenagers are passionate. I mean, this is what happened in the 60s and we've had this argument before.

You don't -- you didn't believe that they -- I get it. You didn't think that they were acting of their own accord but they did.

But still, I appreciate you saying that tweet was a misfire but in terms of principles and of elevating the conversation and of changing what you say about the degradation of everything we're talking about, that principle is just so reprehensible to go after them.

D'SOUZA: It is reprehensible to go after them and I'm very sorry I did. And, as you know, I apologized for it. So yes -- look, I think that was unfortunate.

I also think that there -- one tends to, in social media, get sort of drawn into these sort of Twitter battles with people and I'm going to be more careful about that in the future.

CAMEROTA: Thanks. That -- I appreciate you saying all of that. That is certainly true. Twitter is perhaps not the best of us.

One last question. Did you -- did you meet President Trump before he pardoned you?

D'SOUZA: I've never met President Trump in my life. I have spoken to him once before on the telephone but I've never met him. And the time I talked to him to get my pardon was only the second time I've spoken to him, ever.

CAMEROTA: And so, when you, for instance, had done your anti-Obama film you hadn't gone to Trump Tower and had any meetings there or talked to anybody there?

D'SOUZA: Never. Trump did tweet out, I believe at that time, that people should go see the film but I've never met the man before.

CAMEROTA: And so, now that you have been pardoned what is your plan for spreading your word more, as the president encouraged you to do?

D'SOUZA: Well, it's to continue doing what I'm doing and hopefully, with a more magnified voice.

I've got a new book and movie coming out later this summer. I don't want to go into it because I don't want to use the pardon as a way to promote things I'm doing. But I've been very excited with my current work and I'm in the final editing stages of a movie which will be out in August.

CAMEROTA: OK. Dinesh D'Souza, thank you for being here. We appreciate getting your perspective on all of this.

D'SOUZA: Thank you.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Great discussion. All right.

He helped make Starbucks into a global brand. Now, CEO Howard Schultz is stepping down. Is politics in his future? Signs point to yes.


[07:47:06] BERMAN: Time for "CNN Money Now."

Howard Schultz is leaving Starbucks. Could that mean a presidential run in 2020?

Chief business correspondent Christine Romans in our Money Center with that -- Romans.


You know, Schultz is ending a 36-year run as the public face of Starbucks, stepping down as executive chairman later this month. He left the chief executive office last year.

But this is a guy who often had a progressive stance on things like gay marriage, immigration, workers' rights, fueling rumors that maybe he has political aspirations, something he long denied.


HOWARD SCHULTZ, EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN, STARBUCKS: I have no interest in a political office. I'm here at Starbucks.

I have -- I have no plans to run for office.

I have no plans whatsoever to run for political office.

I want to be as involved as I possibly can as a citizen to help the country. I don't know what that's going to mean in the future.


ROMANS: And now, that future could include a bid for public office. That's what Schultz told "The New York Times," later confirming to CNN he is considering a range of options, including public service.

But the election of President Trump, of course, put a spotlight on business moguls and their political ambitions. The "will you run for president" question, John, has been asked of Disney's CEO Bob Iger, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, JPMorgan's Jamie Dimon, Oprah Winfrey. And, Alisyn, also Mark Cuban and many others -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Why doesn't anybody ever ask me that because I am --

ROMANS: Do you want -- do you want to run for president --

CAMEROTA: Yes. ROMANS: -- in 2020, Alisyn?


BERMAN: What are you the CEO of other than me?

CAMEROTA: Do I have to be a CEO of something?

BERMAN: I think the point was the CEOs are being asked.

ROMANS: Business moguls.

CAMEROTA: Oh, OK, then never mind. Thanks, Christine.


CAMEROTA: Thanks so much.

So, the Supreme Court sides with a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. I think you're familiar with this story, John, because the couple at the center of the case is going to join us live, next.


[07:53:10] BERMAN: The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple for their wedding celebration due to the baker's Christian beliefs. The court argued that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was hostile toward the baker based on his religious beliefs.

Joining us now is the couple at the center of this case, Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig. Gentlemen, thanks so much for being with us.

I know it's probably been a tumultuous 24 hours after you waited so long for this ruling. After a day of letting it sink in, what's your reaction?


You know, when we first heard the news yesterday we felt a lot of things but, I mean, just shock and disappointment were the main emotions we experienced. This has been going on for six years and to have it turn out this way was very disappointing.

You know, there -- after we learned more about the ruling there were some silver linings in there that at this point have made us feel a bit bitter but it's still a disappointment, of course, to lose at the Supreme Court.

BERMAN: You say there are silver linings. Still, you do, overall, see this as a setback?

MULLINS: I think it's too soon to be able to say. But I think the most important thing for us that we want people to understand is that the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act is still fully in effect in Colorado. Nothing has changed about that. It is still illegal to turn a gay couple away from a business just because of who they are.

BERMAN: It is, but it's complicated now, right, because of the opinion written by Justice Kennedy.

Let me read you the pertinent part here. He says, "The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market."

[07:55:15] So how do you thread that needle?


So, I feel like the compromise is you get to choose what you sell at your business, you just can't choose who to sell it to.

BERMAN: So a baker shouldn't sell wedding cakes period because he or she might have to sell them to same-sex couples?

CRAIG: Right. If he chooses to -- I mean, it's completely up to him to choose to sell wedding cakes but once he decides to make that choice he can't pick and choose who to sell that wedding cake to.

BERMAN: Jack Phillips, who is the baker at the center of this case -- he spoke moments ago. Listen to what he said.


JACK PHILLIPS, OWNER, MASTERPIECE CAKESHOP: I told these two men when they came in the store, I'll sell you cookies, brownies, birthday cakes. I'll make you custom cakes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just the art of the cake.

PHILLIPS: This cake is a specific cake. A wedding cake is an inherently religious -- a wedding is an inherently religious event and the cake is definitely a specific message that goes with that.

I don't create cakes for Halloween. I wouldn't create a cake that would be anti-American or disparaging against anybody for any reason -- even cakes that would disparage people who identify as LGBT.

I just -- cakes have a message and this is one that I can't create.


BERMAN: It's one, he says, that he can't create. Your reaction to that?

MULLINS: Well, I think it's important that we be clear on this that Mr. Phillips would not sell us anything for our wedding.

And as far as the example of the Halloween cake goes, any human being could buy a Halloween cake but only a same-sex couple needs a wedding (sic) for a so-called same-sex wedding. They're two completely different things. One is based on someone's identity and one is just a product that any single person could buy.

CRAIG: Well, and I think it's really easy to kind of get caught up on the idea of a cake but I don't feel like our case was about a cake.


CRAIG: It's about getting access to public accommodation.

BERMAN: And I -- and I do understand that.

The challenge legally -- and Justice Kennedy seems to be struggling with this, frankly -- is how do you account for the free speech rights? What are the free speech rights and the religious belief rights due to a baker or a different purveyor of any kind of good? What rights do they have in choosing what they take part in?

MULLINS: Well, I mean, freedom of religion is essential in our country and that's why it's protected by the Constitution, but you cannot practice your faith in a way that harms others or excludes them from public life.

BERMAN: You know, Dave Mullins, Charlie Craig, we do appreciate you being with us. I know it must have been just a remarkable 24 hours and I'm sure it will continue over the next few days.

Thanks so much for being here.

CRAIG: All right. Thank you, John.

MULLINS: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. We're following a lot of news so let's get to it.

All right, good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, June fifth, 8:00 in the east.

The president says that he hates when athletes kneel for the National Anthem but this morning it really does seem what he hates even more with that, puny crowds.

Overnight, the president disinvited the Philadelphia Eagles from a scheduled White House visit -- they were supposed to come and celebrate their Super Bowl win -- after it was clear that fewer than a dozen or so were actually going to go.

The president wrote, "Staying in the locker room for the playing of our National Anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling. Sorry."

CAMEROTA: Well, there is one key point. No Eagle players actually did kneel during the Anthem at all last season.

The mayor of Philadelphia is responding. He sent out this tweet.

"Disinviting them from the White House only proves that our president is not a true patriot, but a fragile egomaniac obsessed with crowd size and afraid of the embarrassment of throwing a party which no one wants to attend. City Hall is always open for a celebration."

BERMAN: And joining us now by phone is the mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenney. Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for joining us.

We just read your statement aloud to the president's actions. Have you had a chance to communicate with any of the players overnight?

MAYOR JIM KENNEY, PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA (via telephone): No, but good morning to everyone and I'm really proud of our players. I think our players represent the best of our country.

They're a diverse group of great athletes who are involved in our community here in every way. And I'm very proud of them, very proud of the Eagles organization, and very proud we're Super Bowl champs.

BERMAN: What statement do you think the president is making by disinviting the dozen or so players that were going to go?