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Attorney General Sessions Cites The Bible To Justify Separating Families At The Border; President Trump Approves Tariffs On $50 Billion Worth Of Chinese Goods; Michael Cohen Files Restraining Order Against Stormy Daniels' Lawyer. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired June 15, 2018 - 07:30   ET



[07:33:53] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: And I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to "Obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves. Consistent, fair application of law is, in itself, a good and moral thing and that it protects the weak and it protects the lawful."


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: That's the attorney general of the United States, Jeff Sessions, using scripture to defend the policy of separating parents from their children at the border.

Joining us now, former attorney general under George W. Bush, Alberto Gonzales. He's the author of "True Faith and Allegiance," and dean of Belmont University College of Law.

Mr. Attorney General, thanks so much for being with us.

What do you make of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his use of the Bible in defending this policy at the border? Is this a Godly policy?


But let's face it. As attorney general, you take an oath to defend the laws and the Constitution of the United States, not to defend the commandments in the Bible.

[07:35:09] As a -- as a general matter, there is discretion in the way that our laws are enforced. We have to have secure borders. I think that's very, very important in a post-9/11 world. But surely, as a creative nation, we can come up with a better way of doing so without separating children from their parents. I think it's very unfortunate. And I'm delighted to see that Congress appears to be on track to pass legislation to deal with this in the way that it should be done, and that is through permanent legislation.

BERMAN: You used the word discretion there. You are saying something that the administration will not admit, that this is a choice. They have made a choice to do this. They have made a choice to implement a policy that separates parents and children at the border, correct?

GONZALES: Well -- and clearly, there is discretion in the enforcement of virtually every law, quite frankly.

And one thing -- when people -- before getting too hard on Jeff Sessions, Jeff Sessions reports to the president and to the White House and he merely may be reflecting the policy preferences of the White House. And that is the job of the attorney general with respect to law enforcement policies such as immigration.

And so, yes. But to answer -- to respond to your question, there is discretion here.

BERMAN: I'm no expert on the Bible.

I happen to be a little bit of an expert on your former boss, George W. Bush. I covered him for years and years. So, one of the things that he liked to say was family values don't stop at the Rio Grande River.

This is a policy that seems to just fly in the face of that.

GONZALES: Well, again, I think we all understand that there is great disappointment in this policy in certain circles here in America and fortunately, it appears that it's motivating Congress to do something. I think that's very, very important. I think that's the way that this should be handled.

BERMAN: As someone who has lived in Texas -- or lived in Texas for so long, I mean, just tell me what your feelings are when you see these pictures of the kids who have been separated from their parents.

GONZALES: Well, it's heartbreaking and it's very disappointing. And I realize that we have laws that have to be enforced. We need to have a secure border and people trying -- I understand that some people coming -- most people coming in this country are simply trying to find a better life for themselves and for their children.

But we've got to do this in a way that's lawful and a way that's orderly. And hopefully, Congress will help us achieve that goal by passing legislation very soon.

BERMAN: Last question on this. Is there any biblical justification for doing that, as far as you can tell?

GONZALES: Well, I'm not an expert on the Bible.

But again, let's just focus on what the laws and the Constitution of the United States requires and allows us to do. And I think, again, I'm hopeful that Congress is going to help us out here.

BERMAN: I want to talk to you about the other big news of the day and this is something you're connected with also, which is the inspector general report on the FBI's handling of the Hillary Clinton investigation. Specifically, the decisions that James Comey made.

James Comey is someone you worked closely with for a few years and you had your own issues with James Comey.

I happened to speak to you after he made the decision to inform Congress that they were reopening the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation in the days before the election. You had problems with that decision then.

What do you make of the inspector general report findings?

GONZALES: Well, I haven't read all 500 pages of the report but the reporting sort of confirms my belief that Jim, who is a very talented and hardworking public servant, made some serious errors of judgment. And I think the inspector general report now confirms that.

And there are obviously, some other things that are perhaps if not equally as troubling -- even more troubling which is, of course, the text which indicates some level of bias in some of the people that worked on these investigations.

You know, with respect to FBI agents, they're going to have biases and they're going to have preferences. But the professionals, they keep those -- they don't let those biases and preferences affect their decision-making. And they certainly aren't foolish enough to talk about them openly -- to talk about -- to communicate those biases and preferences on a government e-mail, and I think that was very, very foolish.

BERMAN: There's no question that it was poor judgment for them to do it. The question is did the bias affect the investigation?

And it's interesting here because it's messy -- correct -- because the I.G. report found that, "We found no evidence that the conclusions by the prosecutors were affected by bias or other improper considerations." In other words, political bias did not impact the conclusions of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation.

However, when it comes to Peter Strzok, this FBI agent, it did say that they can't be confident that bias didn't impact some of the decisions he made in the investigation.

How are we supposed to process that?

GONZALES: Well, it makes me uncomfortable and I can understand how some people are angry about this because it does leave open for doubt that the investigation was totally impartial and unbiased about the fact that we've got individuals who are openly talking about their preferences here who are involved in the investigation.

[07:40:00] Maybe not at the highest level and perhaps not involved in making the final decision and driving the outcome, but it does leave room for doubt and I think that is very, very unfortunate.

I'm confident that the inspector general did the very best he could --


GONZALES: -- in trying to make sure that -- of his findings. And so we have to -- from as far as I can tell, this was probably the right result.

BERMAN: And again, just to be clear, the inspector general says they found no evidence that bias impacted the conclusions in this report or any of the specific steps taken along the way. It says, sort of, very messy things about Peter Strzok.

Does this make you question the Robert Mueller special counsel investigation at all?

GONZALES: Not at all. Not at -- this is totally separate as far as I'm concerned.

I knew Jim Comey well.

I knew Robert Mueller equally well. He was the FBI director when I served as the attorney general. And I've seen nothing to question my belief that he's going to do the very best he can to find out what happened in connection with the Russian meddling of the 2016 presidential election.

As far as I'm concerned, I see no evidence that there's any connection or should we have any questions or doubts about the Mueller investigation.

I think Rudy Giuliani -- his comments about the -- Mueller stepping aside, I think are very, very unfortunate based on what I know. Perhaps he knows more information than I do, but I question the need to make those kind of comments other than the fact that he's now an advocate for the President of the United States. But otherwise, I think those comments are very unfortunate.

BERMAN: Former attorney general Alberto Gonzales, thanks for talking to us on a range of issues this morning.

GONZALES: Thanks for having me, John.

BERMAN: Alisyn --


President Trump gets set to impose $50 billion worth of tariffs on China. How will China respond? We dig in, ahead.


[07:45:33] CAMEROTA: President Trump approving tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods. The U.S. is targeting hundreds of items like aerospace equipment, tech, manufacturing, and medical supplies.

China is promising to respond in-kind. It previously threatened U.S. goods like soybeans, planes, and cars.

BERMAN: Former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort will be in federal court in Washington this morning. A judge expected to decide whether Manafort's bail should be revoked. This, after he allegedly tampered with potential witnesses while awaiting trial on charges of fraud and money laundering.

One impact, he could end up in jail at the end of today. It's not impossible.

CAMEROTA: OK, let's keep our eyes on that. That sounds important.

Meanwhile, in Arizona, the Mesa Police Department accused of another violent arrest. Look at your screen. This bodycam video from January shows officers beating an unarmed man.

A police report reveals that 23-year-old Jose Conde resisted arrest and threw punches at the officer who found cocaine on him. Conde says the officers later mocked him at the hospital.

This comes on the heels of another video showing Mesa officers punching an unarmed man in May.

BERMAN: To Daytona Beach, Florida where six roller-coaster riders were rushed to the hospital after the coaster derailed. The front car left dangling off the tracks -- yikes.

Local media reports that two people in that car suffered traumatic injuries. They fell 34 feet to the ground. Fire crews rescued a total of 10 people.

CNN has reached out to the Daytona Beach Boardwalk and the ride's owner for comment. We'll bring you any updates as they come in.

CAMEROTA: OK, that's terrifying. I mean, that's terrifying.

The thrill of a roller-coaster is the fear that something like that always might happen but you know that you're safe because they've tested it a million times. And you hope that you're in good hands and then something like that happening is just --

BERMAN: You know that you're safe?

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, you hope that you're safe. I can't believe -- I mean, knowing that they fell 34 --

BERMAN: That's crazy.

CAMEROTA: -- feet is really -- it's amazing that they survived. So we will follow that for you.

Meanwhile, this. Late last night, Michael Cohen filed a restraining order against Stormy Daniels' lawyer, trying to keep Michael Avenatti from talking to the press. But it did not seem to be working because Michael Avenatti joins us live, next.

BERMAN: Uh-oh.


[07:51:48] CAMEROTA: Late last night, President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, filed a restraining order against Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti. The order cites more than 120 media appearances by Avenatti, claiming the quote "publicity tour is depriving Michael Cohen of a fair trial."

Here to respond is Michael Avenatti.

Michael, I take it you're not deterred by the threat of a restraining order.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: No, I'm deterred. I'm not going to be gagged. I mean, this is a search for the truth.

And this is part and parcel, Alisyn, of what Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen have been doing for the better part of 10 or 15 years. They want to intimidate people and shut them up. It doesn't matter if you're a judge or the press or an attorney. They don't like people that speak the truth.

CAMEROTA: Here's what the argument Michael Cohen is making in the restraining order request is.

"Avenatti's actions are mainly driven by his seemingly unquenchable thirst for publicity. Mr. Avenatti's publicity tour, wherein he routinely denigrates Mr. Cohen, is likely to result in Mr. Cohen being deprived of his right to a fair trial."

Does Michael Cohen have a point that you have gotten the media upper hand on him?

AVENATTI: Well, I think I've gotten the media upper hand on him because I'm speaking the truth and that's resonating with people. This isn't about a publicity tour, this is a truth tour. And the reason why I've resonated, I think, with people is because I back up what I say with facts and evidence and I speak the truth as to what's going on here.

There's nothing stopping Michael Cohen or his attorneys from coming forward and debating me or offering a contrary position in the press. In fact, we saw that initially with David Schwartz and others but they were so pathetic that they went off the air.

So -- you know, look, this is about -- this is a matter of significant public importance. If it wasn't, I wouldn't be on CNN. You wouldn't invite me back. MSNBC wouldn't have me on.

No one else would have me on if people weren't interested. They're interested because this matters to the country.

CAMEROTA: I think Michael Cohen would say that it's on the advice of his attorneys that he's not going on television. I'm sure he would love to debate you but he, I think, would say that he's taking the advice of his attorneys.

But to his larger point, do you think that because he's being silent and you're out there, that it will be harder for him to have a fair trial?

AVENATTI: No, I don't because again, Michael Cohen can have any number of attorneys speak out on his behalf, whether it be Mr. Giuliani or Mr. Schwartz or Brent Blakely or anyone else appear on his behalf to talk about the issues and the facts.

But, Alisyn, they don't want to do that because the facts and the evidence are ugly and they want to avoid this. They want to hide it. They want to continue the cover-up.

CAMEROTA: The U.S. District Court judge, Kimba Wood, had this to say about you when you had asked -- you had asked, I guess, for access to some portion of the case against Mr. Cohen and she said "You would have to change your conduct and stop your publicity tour. This conduct is inimical to giving Mr. Cohen eventually a fair trial."

What's your response to that?

AVENATTI: Well, what she actually said was -- she used the words "publicity tour" and then she immediately caught herself in the court and immediately corrected what she had said, and said she did not mean that in a derogatory fashion or to suggest that there was anything wrong with it. So I think it's really important to put that into context.

[07:55:02] But look, as it relates to the California case, we're in the California case. We've been involved in the California case --

CAMEROTA: And can you just remind people what you mean by that so the -- give us a status report. What is the California case?

AVENATTI: The California case is the case in which I represent my client relating to invalidating the NDA and the defamation action against Michael Cohen. That's the case we filed in early March. That was effectively, the first case.

The bottom line here Alisyn is that Mr. Brent Blakely, and Mr. Cohen, and Mr. Trump do not want the truth out there. They don't want the documents, they don't want the evidence laid bare for the American people.

And we're going to continue to fight for the First Amendment and I'm going to tell you, we're about to find out whether the media and the press really believes in the First Amendment. Whether they think that people should be gagged. I mean, this is more of the same --

CAMEROTA: Well, why? What does that mean? Meaning that if the restraining order goes through then you have a choice to make.

AVENATTI: No. If the motion for a restraining order goes through then I will not be permitted to speak to the press or the media and likely, no one else will be permitted to speak to the press or the media about this case at all. And so --

CAMEROTA: And then, what is the media supposed to do about that?

AVENATTI: Well, I think it's important -- I mean, unless the -- unless the press and the media want to report strictly on the weather day in and day out, I think it's important that you have people willing to speak with you and provide information and you have sources.

CAMEROTA: Well look, obviously, so do we. But, I mean, are you saying that you would respect the restraining order or that you would break it?

AVENATTI: No, I'm not going to break a restraining order by a federal district court judge.

My point is is that this attempt is an attack on the First Amendment, period. It's not just an attack on me, it's an attack on every source, every individual that provides information whether it be in this case or others. And indirectly, it's an attack on the media.

It's the same reason why Mr. Trump has attempted to close the media out of the White House. It's more of the same.

CAMEROTA: And so, where are we with this case? And I think that with all the legalese, and all the different challenges, and all of this sort of ancillary legal issues that keep cropping up between Stormy Daniels and you and Michael Cohen's side, where are we with this? When will there be some sort of decision?

AVENATTI: Well, I mean, we're in exceptional -- we are in an exceptional place because the more Mr. Giuliani and others go on television and the more evidence and facts that come, the better our case gets.

And right now, the case is stayed. We filed a motion that's going to be heard next week to lift the stay.

And I think the timing of this motion that they just filed is very interesting because they are trying to take the air out of the balloon as it relates to our attempt to get the stay lifted so we can proceed with the deposition of the president and others in connection with our case.

So look, I think we're -- I think we're a good six, 12 months away from the decision in the case.

But they want to shut this down now because they do not want me deposing the president. And, Alisyn, if I depose the president they don't want that transcript getting leaked to the press or being provided to the press or allowing me to comment on what happened.

I mean, this is a prelude to that. Make no mistake about it.

CAMEROTA: But just remind people of what your ultimate goal is. You want Stormy Daniels to be able to speak freely.

AVENATTI: It -- we want four things.

We want the NDA invalidated on the grounds that we've claimed, including that it was a violation of campaign finance law.

CAMEROTA: So that she can speak freely.

AVENATTI: So -- well, she can speak freely and also that she will not be threatened with a -- with millions of dollars in bogus damages if she does speak, OK? So that's the first thing we want.

We want the defamation claim against Michael Cohen to be decided in her favor and we want damages.

We want the defamation claim against the president for his ridiculous assertions about my client to also be decided in her favor, and we want damages.

And then the fourth thing we want is we want full disclosure -- full disclosure of all of the facts and all of the evidence relating to the Essential Consultants LLC that Mr. Cohen created for the payment to my client, as well as the use of the bank account, the receipt of the monies from the Russians and others.

We want all of that laid bare for the American people so they can make a decision as to what happened.

CAMEROTA: Michael Avenatti, we will be following this, as you know.

AVENATTI: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Thanks for coming in.

AVENATTI: Bye-bye.

CAMEROTA: We're following a lot of news this morning. Let's get right to it.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, DIRECTOR, FBI: I take this report very seriously.

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And, Mueller should be suspended. Strzok should be in jail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is clearly bias but the inspector general said that that was reflected in the investigation.

ROBBY MOOK, FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Director Comey felt entitled to lecture Sec. Clinton when it turned out he was doing the same thing.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: This was the president's plan to take down the special counsel. President Trump swung and missed. REP. PAUL RYAN (D-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We don't want kids to be separated from their parents.

REP. DAVID STRINGER (R), ARIZONA: Immigration today represents an existential threat to the United States.

SESSIONS: Obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're using the Bible to defend the indefensible to separate children from their parents.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone, and welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Friday, June 15th, 8:00 in the east.

It's been a busy week --

BERMAN: Oh, man.

CAMEROTA: -- and today is no different.

BERMAN: It's a week's worth of news in one day.

CAMEROTA: OK, let's get right to it.

The Justice Department inspector general's report is out and already being used by President Trump and his allies as ammunition against the special counsel's Russia investigation.

The president tweeting about the report for the first time just this morning as his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, says Robert Mueller should suspend his investigation today.