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NEW DAY SATURDAY

Trump Discussed Playmate Payment On Cohen Tape; Kremlin Praises Trump-Putin Meeting As WH Remains Silent; Manafort Faces Numerous Charges On Bank And Tax Fraud; Mueller Seeks Immunity For Five Witnesses In Manafort Case; All 17 Victims Identified In Boat Accident; Heart Doctor To Fmr. Pres. George H.W. Bush Fatally Shot On Bike; Trump Evangelicals Hail Upcoming Religious Freedom Meeting. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired July 21, 2018 - 7:00   ET

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


[07:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY WEEKEND with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour now. And it is good to be with you this Saturday. The White House is starting the weekend in damage control mode. This is after learning about a tape recorded by President Trump's long-time fixer and former lawyer, Michael Cohen.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: On this tape, then-candidate Trump and Cohen reportedly heard discussing a payment to a former Playboy model. Now, it isn't the only recording Cohen made, we've learned. Here's CNN's justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Michael Cohen secretly recorded multiple conversations with Donald Trump, sources tell CNN, and those tapes are now in the hands of federal investigators. Two months before the election, Cohen recorded a discussion with Trump discussing a payment to the former Playboy model, Karen McDougal. That's according to Trump's current attorney, Rudy Giuliani. McDougal claimed she had a nearly year-long affair with the president after Melania gave birth to Barron in 2006.

KAREN MCDOUGAL, FORMER PLAYBOY MODEL: I was attracted to him, yes. He's a nice-looking man. And, you know, I liked his charisma.

SCHNEIDER: McDougal has said Trump tried to hand her cash after their first night together.

MCDOUGAL: After we had been intimate, he tried to pay me. And I actually didn't know how to take that.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Did he actually try to hand you money?

MCDOUGAL: He did.

SCHNEIDER: Trump denies the affair. McDougal said she didn't take the money that night, but McDougal eventually sold her story to the National Enquirer for $150,000. The tabloid never published it. Giuliani told CNN that Trump didn't know he was being recorded during that discussion. But on the tape, Trump and Cohen discussed buying the rights to McDougal's story from AMI, the parent company of the Enquirer. Trump advised Cohen to pay by check so that it could be documented, according to Giuliani. The recording was one of several seized by the FBI during a raid of Cohen's hotel room, apartment, and office back in April.

There are other tapes of Michael Cohen and other powerful individuals that the FBI seized beyond the president that could be embarrassing for the people on the tape and for Cohen, according to a source familiar with those tapes. Prosecutors in New York City are examining possible election law violations related to payments Michael Cohen made to women who alleged sexual encounters with Trump. Adult film actress Stormy Daniels received $130,000 to keep quiet about an alleged affair. She's since sued Trump over the agreement. Daniels' attorney is now urging Cohen to release the recordings.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY OF STORMY DANIELS: If Michael Cohen, in fact, is a true patriot as he wants the American people to believe and as Lanny Davis wants the American people to believe, then Michael Cohen should release all of the audio recordings. And I will tell you for a fact, there's more than one. There's multiple recordings. And all of them should be released for the benefit of the American public.

SCHNEIDER: For now, Michael Cohen isn't commenting. He's been seen on the streets of New York City but has stayed mostly silent, at least publicly. He sat down with ABC anchor, George Stephanopoulos off camera earlier this month signaling his willingness to work with Special Counsel Robert Mueller stressing his family, not the president, comes first.

And late last night after a week of twisted words from the White House regarding Russia, Cohen quoted the legendary broadcaster Walter Cronkite and said, "It has never been more important than it is now for everyone to distinguish between innuendo and fact."

Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.

PAUL: And this morning, Russia is putting its own spin on President Trump's one-on-one meeting with Vladimir Putin calling the summit better than super, magnificent. Revealing that they've talked about Syria, the Ukraine, and military security. Right now, we're getting all our news from Moscow, it seems, in terms of what happened in Helsinki since the White House really hasn't said anything about other conversations behind closed doors.

CNN senior international correspondent, Sam Kylie is live for us from Moscow. Sam, good to see you this morning. Help us really get a grip of what Russians are saying happened at the summit.

SAM KYLIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christi, as you said there, it was Sergey Lavrov who said it was magnificent and better than super. That was the initial reaction with him seen high fiving his subordinates in the corridors of power in that presidential palace in Helsinki. That was the immediate aftermath. Then we saw the chaos in the United States with claim and counterclaim by the president himself about what went on. And then slowly what we've seen is the Russians take hold of the narrative starting initially with this idea that it was a very positive summit, then going on to suggesting through leaks and innuendo that there have been discussions about security, matters of cyber, and matters on terrorism, of course being a suggestion from the Russians that they jointly tackle cyber espionage and cybercrime, somewhat ironic given the allegations against Russia in terms of interference with the presidential elections in 2016 and those 12 indictments of Russian intelligence officials.

[07:05:01] On top of that, some talk about -- talks about future arms reduction treaties, nothing very controversial serious about that.

And then we get into Syria, this is something that's been coming out in dribs and drabs from the ambassador to Washington from Russia who's here at the moment, hints coming from the foreign services in general suggesting that there was -- there is talk about a repatriation of 1.7 million Syrians from the aspirate population around Syria back into Syrian territory.

Now, that doesn't sound too bad an idea until you consider that from the American perspective, any repatriation of Syrian refugees is completely off the cards if they're going to go back into territory controlled by Bashar al-Assad who's in alliance with the Russians. So creation of friction there. But again, owning the narrative.

And then we get to the position of a suggestion coming from Vladimir Putin that the White House had since the meeting pushed back on. But there are suggestions that it was being entertained by Donald Trump if not the rest of his administration on having a referendum among the population who were essentially living in an area captured by Russian- backed Ukrainian proxies and Russian troops themselves in the east of Ukraine.

Remember, of course, Russia annexed Crimea. Donald Trump has refused to condemn that although it has been condemned by the United States and all of her allies. And now a suggestion that he might even be considering a referendum there. Again, just recently, the White House spokespeople pushed back on that. Christi.

PAUL: All right. Sam Kiley, thank you so much for walking us through it.

BLACKWELL: All right. Joining me now to talk about this, from New York, Amie Parnes, CNN political analyst and senior political correspondent for The Hill. And Sarah Westwood, CNN White House reporter live in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, near the president's golf club. Welcome back to both of you.

And, Sarah, let me start with you. Post would to wouldn't and no but not that no clarifications from the president, for those around the president, how do they see or assess the degree of control they have over the narrative of coming out of Helsinki? Because Sam just listed all of the Russians' narratives about what came out of the meeting, how do they assess what they're now giving the American people and do they have control?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, sources have told CNN that the immediate aftermath of the summit was focused more on containing the fallout from that disastrous press conference Trump had alongside Putin and less on the substance of the meeting. And that was made particularly difficult because Trump and Putin met alone with their translator. So there are many administration officials that still don't have a full picture of what was discussed let alone the American people.

And because the White House has refused to provide details of these agreements that the Kremlin is claiming Trump and Putin struck, that's really left an information vacuum that obviously Moscow has been more than happy to fill. So because the White House was back on its heels, was on defense all week this week, that has allowed Russia to really shape the narrative surrounding this meeting.

And the only thing that the White House has been out front are on have been negative. One is that potential deal involving Putin's request to have two American citizens handed over to the Russians for interrogations. Obviously, that was an extremely controversial prospect that the White House did say Trump was considering before ruling it out a day later. And the other was that invitation that was extended to Putin to visit the White House sometime this fall. At this time that that was announced via a tweet, the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, was on a stage and in a position to find out publicly from a reporter.

So the two things that the White House has tried to be out front on have been disastrous and almost making the situation worse.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about that moment, Amie, when DNI Coats was being interviewed by Andrea Mitchell and learned on live television that Vladimir Putin was being invited to the U.S. in the fall. The White House, the president specifically reportedly was not happy with his laughter after learning that. Is he in trouble? Is his job in jeopardy?

AMIE PARNES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, I think President Trump has gone back and forth on how he views Coats. And there were some reports that he was trying to be nicer to him because he thought he was about to leave. And now, he is sort of more angrier. I'm hearing from sources at Coats for these comments. But this is what happens, as Sarah said, when there is a vacuum, when people aren't, you know, given information. And when two leaders meet one on one and there aren't readouts provided, this is a pretty traditional, standard thing. That once leaders meet, they're briefed, you know, they brief their counterparts, they brief other agencies. And it goes on and on.

And there has been a vacuum all week. And people -- I've been hearing from people, NSC officials, you know, former NSC officials, who have complained, who have said, you know, this is not how we do things. This is why Russia is now controlling the narrative.

[07:10:09] BLACKWELL: Any indication, Sarah, that the next meeting will be inclusive, that will not be initially one on one but will include the DNI, the secretary of state, the chief of staff, that this will be an expanded meeting from the start?

WESTWOOD: Well, it's very likely that President Trump is going to be advised to have more senior officials in the room with him. You heard Coats during that appearance this week say that he would have suggested Trump do the meeting a different way. The complete lack of other individuals in the room besides Trump, Putin, and their translators, has created a situation where there's a possibility that other administration officials may never know everything that was discussed during that meeting and are left looking at these potential tentative agreements that Putin and Trump supposedly struck through the lens of Trump's recollection. And as we know, that's not always reliable. So certainly that's something that Trump may be advised going forward.

But again, think about the timing of when this meeting is going to take place. In the fall when Republicans are potentially -- before the midterms in November. This is going to be a really difficult time for Republicans to be put again in the awkward position of having to criticize President Trump's unpopular strategy towards Russia.

BLACKWELL: Amie, let me ask you a legislative question here. Senators Rubio and Van Hollen, they have introduced, actually, several months ago this deter act which would essentially trigger automatically sanctions against Russia if the director of national intelligence determines that Russia has interfered in another federal election. It's getting some bipartisan support, nine additional bipartisan co-sponsors on Thursday. What's the viability of that, that even President Trump would sign that, encroaching upon the executives, powers, or that if he doesn't, that they'd get veto-proof majorities in both chambers?

PARNES: I don't think it's very likely, Victor. I mean, if the president has indicated a reluctance to do that, Congress tried to put something out earlier and the president has sort of pushed back against that. I don't see that happening at all. But what you are seeing is more and more Republicans behind the scenes come out and say, you know, I'm not OK with this. I'm not OK with this. And I've been hearing more of that over the last couple of days. And that's pretty interesting. And then you had a congressman talk about the problem in the pages of The New York Times which was also, you know, something that was relatively shocking for a lot of people.

So I think going forward, I think a lot of Republicans are going to be voicing their apprehension about what happened with Russia. And especially as Putin tries in Moscow, tries to control the narrative increasingly.

BLACKWELL: All right. Amie Parnes, Sarah Westwood, thank you both.

WESTWOOD: Thank you.

PAUL: All right. Still to come, something a lot of people have been waiting to see this upcoming week. The trial for former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. The charges he faces and what we can expect to hear from this. BLACKWELL: Plus, all 17 victims have now been identified in that deadly boat accident in Missouri. Coming up, we hear from a woman who lost nine family members including her three children.

PAUL: And a prominent Houston doctor shot and killed on his way to work. Coming up, the hunt for his killer and the doctor's connection to former President George H.W. Bush.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:15:39] BLACKWELL: The first trial into special counsel's Russia probe is set to start in just a couple of days. Prosecutors will present the case against the president's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

PAUL: Yes. Remember that Manafort was at the helm during a critical time of this campaign. But his prior lobbying work for Ukraine, pro- Russian government, that's what led to his ouster at the end of the day. And then it made him a target for the special counsel.

BLACKWELL: Jury selection begins on Wednesday. In total, Manafort faces 25 criminal charges in two separate cases. One in Virginia, the other in Washington D.C. Now, in Virginia, he faces 18 counts of bank and tax fraud. Seven other charges are in D.C. Include failing to register as a foreign agent. That trial is scheduled to start in September. The prosecutors from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team have laid out almost 500 pieces of evidence they plan to present including pictures of mana fort's five homes and his expensive cars and his pricey clothing.

PAUL: So CNN legal analyst and former New York City homicide prosecutor, Paul Callan with us now. Paul, thank you for being here. First and foremost, your thoughts on 500 different pieces of evidence. Common?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST AND FORMER NEW YORK CITY HOMICIDE PROSECUTOR: No. This is a really huge and complex case they've put together against Paul Manafort. I was going through the exhibits earlier today, and there are actually 24 pages of numbered exhibits which come out to over 500 exhibits in the case. Not to mention all of the witnesses, including five who have been given immunity from prosecution by the federal judge. So it's going to be a very complex federal case.

PAUL: Anything that you saw in that evidence that stood out to you?

CALLAN: Yes. The most interesting thing, I think, were the items of luxury that the prosecutor is going to show to the jury by way of pictures and in other ways to prove that Paul Manafort lied about his taxes. The taxes that he should have paid and his income. For instance, there's a picture of a putting green on one of Manafort's homes in the Hamptons. There's a pictures of a $21,000 watch that he owns, pictures of expensive automobiles.

Actually, even pictures of extremely expensive suits that Manafort wears. And this is an indication of what we call a lifestyle case. The government puts up all of the things you own to show how much they're worth. Then the government puts up another chart showing possible sources of income. And in the chart, the jury will see that his income doesn't even come close to supporting the luxury lifestyle that he lives and then they ask the jury to believe that this is obviously a case of tax fraud. He made a lot more money than he's declaring, and he's, therefore, guilty of tax fraud.

[07:20:20] PAUL: You mentioned the five witnesses that are seeking immunity. We do not know who those five witnesses are. We want to be very clear about that. But this case started as a Russia investigation, and his moves now evolved into what we see here, money laundering, bank, and tax fraud and the like. But what does the fact that there are five witnesses seeking immunity? What does that tell you that might be revealed here? Might it go beyond of this money laundering?

CALLAN: Well, you know, I think you're going to hear an awful lot about how Paul Manafort conducted his business, his connections in Ukraine, his connections probably to the Russians, as well. And eventually this probably in the end, not in this trial, but it's going to be linked back to President Trump in the end because I suspect that what Manafort has always been looking for is to link to Russian contacts and maybe some of them started with Manafort's dealings even before he went to work for Trump. So this is the beginning of a process that I think that Mueller's going to use to try to link the Russians to Trump.

PAUL: Dr. Tony Page (ph) last hour who said he thinks the best defense for Manafort is to simply be patient and be quiet and wait for President Trump's pardon. Do you think that's going to happen?

CALLAN: Well, you know, I think it may very well happen. I think Page's analysis is probably accurate. But I have to say, if you're Paul Manafort sitting there, I think you're going to hope for a more aggressive defense than that. I think you're going to try to build reasonable doubt into the minds of the jurors by saying that this is an unfair analysis of my income, that there are lots of other ways. I've been a successful businessman for many, many years. There are lots of other ways that this money could have been accumulated and that the government is trying to smear me by saying that I've been very, very successful in what I do.

So I think you'll see a case where Manafort's attorneys try to prove reasonable doubt in the case and say look at this case, they have to depend on five witnesses who had to get immunity from testimony. And there are lot of other ways that you'll see a fierce attack by the defense.

PAUL: All right. And all they need is reasonable doubt. Paul Callan, we appreciate it. Thank you.

CALLAN: Thank you.

PAUL: Thank you, sir.

BLACKWELL: Former President George H.W. Bush is offering his condolences this morning after the murder of a prominent Houston doctor. Coming up, the search for the killer and some of the unusual details involved in this killing.

PAUL: And, you know, all 17 victims have been identified in that deadly duck boat accident in Missouri. What's striking here is the mom who lost nine family members including her own three children is speaking about it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:25:39] PAUL: So glad to have you with us here. Twenty-seven minutes past the hour. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you.

PAUL: So listen, this morning we know all 17 victims of that Missouri duck boat crash have been identified. A team from the NTSB says it could take up to a year to release and report on exactly what happened.

BLACKWELL: Last night, the community held a memorial near Table Rock Lake. This is in Branson, Missouri. Of course for the 17 victims. Thursday afternoon, the ship launched in hurricane-like conditions with winds of almost 70 miles per hour. And this morning, a mother who lost nine family members including her three children. She says the decision to try and beat an approaching storm may have cost her relatives their lives.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIA COLEMAN, MISSOURI BOAT ACCIDENT SURVIVOR: There's big, huge waves, choppy. Everybody start getting like, hey, this is a little bit too much. And then it got really choppy and big swells of water started coming into the boat. Then a really huge wave swept over. And when the wave swept over, the last thing I heard my sister-in-law yell was "Grab the baby." My head pushed up to the top of the water and I lost control. I didn't have even -- I couldn't see anybody. And I know it wasn't, but it felt like I struggled for -- it felt like I struggled for at least an hour. But it was probably like 10 minutes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: So far, survivors have been released from the hospital. Doctors say it's unclear when Coleman will be able to go home.

PAUL: Police in Houston are looking for the suspect who shot and killed a cardiologist who treated former President George H.W. Bush. He was a patient of his. CNN correspondent Polo Sandoval is live for us from New York. So, Polo, I understand this doctor, he's more than a physician to the former president. He was prominent in the Houston medical community.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christi, his name was Mark Hausknecht, had been in practice for nearly four decades. Well- respected. A pillar in the medical community in Houston. Now, police in the Texas City are trying to find his killer, and more importantly, a motive.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANDOVAL: Police in Houston searching an area near the Texas medical center for a murder suspect after cardiologist Mark Hausknecht was gunned down Friday while riding his bicycle to. Police said the doctor was riding north when he passed the shooter also on a bike going the other direction.

[07:30:00] TROY FINNER, EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT CHIEF, HOUSTON POLICE: The suspect was on a bicycle, as well, drove past, rode past the doctor. Turned and fired two shots. The doctor immediately went down.

SANDOVAL: A private ambulance passed by the scene, and EMT stopped to help before the Houston Fire Department arrived.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I seeing somebody flagging us down. I said it -- you know, "Something's wrong? And then, I drove up a little further and I see the gentleman sprawled out on the floor with blood all over him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We stopped, rendered aid to the best of our ability.

SANDOVAL: Authorities said, investigators don't know if the shooting was targeted, random, or caused by road rage. A few people may have witnessed the attack and police are looking at surveillance video.

FINNER: Our homicide investigators are interviewing people. Another good thing about our Medical Center, as you know, there is a lot of cameras. So, we're hoping that we can get some footage of this.

SANDOVAL: Dr. Hausknecht was a well-known cardiologist. One of his patients was former President George H. W. Bush, whose spokesman issued this statement, saying, "Mark was a fantastic cardiologist and a good man."

President Bush said in a statement, "I will always be grateful for his exceptional, compassionate care, his family is in our prayers." A Houston Methodist Hospital spokesman, also, releasing a statement, saying, "Not only was he revered by his patients but Mark was highly regarded among his peers and colleagues. He was recently recognized as a super doctor."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANDOVAL: And so far, police have only described their suspect as a white or Hispanic man in his 30s. At the time of the shooting yesterday morning, he was riding a light-colored mountain bike.

But ultimately, though authorities right now are pouring over surveillance video in the area, and also hoping that someone perhaps, saw something after all the shooting did happen during what was considered rush hour there on that hospital complex. Guys? PAUL: Yes, that is just bizarre. Polo Sandoval, thank you so.

BLACKWELL: All right, still to come. Michael Cohen, the president's former attorney, and fixer secretly taped the discussion with the president about a payment to a former Playboy model.

And the questions now about how far they would go to suppress allegations of an extramarital affair from going public.

PAUL: Also, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is organizing a meeting of international political and religious. And they're going to talk about religious liberty. We're talking about the agenda here and there are questions raised about how dedicated the Trump administration is to religious freedom?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: Mortgage rate held steady this week. Here is your look.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:36:58] BLACKWELL: The president's former attorney Michael Cohen, secretly recorded a discussion with the president about a payment to a former Playboy model.

Now, the news is sparking new questions about just how far the president and his lawyers will go to suppress allegations of an extramarital affair from going public.

Here with me to discuss, CNN political commentator and former senior communications adviser for the Trump campaign, Jason Miller. Jason, good morning to you.

JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good morning.

BLACKWELL: All right. First question here, you with the campaign in 2016. September 2016, specifically, when this conversation happened. Did you know about the payments or the conversation about the payment?

MILLER: Not at all, and everything I'm learning here is from CNN, or the New York Times, or other public sources of information. But I think what we're important to keep in mind is that we're having a conversation about a conversation that either one of us have heard nor is anybody else outside of the legal team.

But who has actually seen the transcript of this is the Trump legal team which is reviewed it and doesn't believe that there's anything that's at all problematic for the president.

And I think, it's important to keep in mind that what we're talking again about here is a conversation that -- a brief conversation that was recorded from a former Trump attorney who has now gone and hired a Bill Clinton attorney in Lanny Davis. And ultimately, this is all under the purview under the investigation of the Southern District of New York, not the Mueller investigation.

So, if this was something that was problematic for the president, I think, Rosenstein would have kept it with the Mueller investigation. But this is something I think that's more problematic for Mr. Cohen.

BLACKWELL: OK. So, I was going to say before you got to the last two sentence, everything you said there, was a fact. The last two were an opinion I can't really fight you on your opinion there. But you did say we're talking about a conversation about a conversation.

Yes, but the context is important, right? This is a conversation that if when Hope Hicks said in November of 2016 that we quote, "Know have no knowledge of any of this if that were true, this conversation could not have happened." So, that leads to this -- the next question.

The story has changed repeatedly both about Karen McDougal and about Stormy Daniels. What the president knew? What he was involved in? Where the money came from?

What credibility does this administration, does this president, do his supporters who speak with -- on he -- about him on this -- in his context. What credibility do any of you have now in trying to convince the American people something did or did not happen?

MILLER: Well, I would say, Victor, again, you're innocent until proven guilty here. I haven't seen one piece of evidence that's been put forward saying that the president statements or anything from his team have been inaccurate or have been wrong.

BLACKWELL: OK, let's stop there. Let's stop there, OK. Sarah Sanders from the podium in the White House said that the president knew nothing about the payments to Stormy Daniels. Rudy Giuliani came back and said that the president not only knew about them but reimbursed Michael Cohen.

[07:40:01] MILLER: Well, I -- obviously, the mayor's legal team is the ones going to speak with more authority there, and that's why you need to have your outside legal entity. That student is speaking on that not asking someone behind the podium to do it. So it's good for the mayor to make sure that those details are very tight and very details.

BLACKWELL: How about this one.

MILLER: Yes.

BLACKWELL: Let's take another one here. Hope Hicks said in November 2016, "We have no knowledge of any of this," speaking about the Karen McDougal payment. We now know that the president discussed potentially an additional payment to McDougal or reimbursing, am I?

The parent company of the National Enquirer for its payment to McDougal in September of 2016.

MILLER: Well, Viktor, Viktor, as we know from the CNN.com story that I believe that you're referring to, that there was no payment to Karen McDougal from Trump world.

BLACKWELL: Correct.

MILLER: And so, again, there -- what are we talking about, because there wasn't --

BLACKWELL: We're talking about honesty, right?

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: But hold on -- hold on. Victor, if your --

BLACKWELL: The campaign says -- the campaign says we had no knowledge of any of this.

MILLER: Victor, right.

BLACKWELL: That's not true.

MILLER: Yes. The campaign didn't have any knowledge of any of this. And again, you're trying to say that there was no payment from the Trump world going to Miss McDougal.

BLACKWELL: Her answer wasn't there was no payment. Her answer was we have no knowledge of any of this. And two months prior, one would assume that we includes the candidate himself, right? Or is that unfair here?

MILLER: Victor, again, I think you're trying to put words on people's mouths. There was no payment to Miss McDougal. And so, I think it's a moot point. Nothing is changed on that front.

BLACKWELL: OK, the audience knows exactly what was said because we've reported it, and we now know what is truth. Let me move onto one other thing here, about -- it may be laughable, but those, those are facts. Let's move on to --

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: But Victor, but --

BLACKWELL: go ahead.

MILLER: Now, it's a -- look, I mean, you can -- you can dismissive but there is no payment to Miss McDougal.

BLACKWELL: That is true.

MILLER: And that's of the CNN -- the CNN.com story is very clear to that point. And so, I don't see --

BLACKWELL: I am not -- we're not debating that.

MILLER: I don't see what's inaccurate here.

BLACKWELL: The question is -- I think, we've laid out what is inaccurate. The campaign says that they had no knowledge of any of this.

We now know that the president indeed had or then-candidate had knowledge of it. That on its face is, is the truth versus what we were told two months later.

MILLER: Well, we're going to have to agree to disagree on this because from the campaign side, we didn't know anything about this.

BLACKWELL: OK.

MILLER: And so, that's not something that, that I can speak to, but what again, what I can speak to is the CNN.com story that we're talking about, that was reported last night, that very clearly states out that there's nothing that's problematic inhere for the president.

BLACKWELL: All right.

MILLER: And to this point, this still remains that's Michael Cohen, make --

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: That's Rudy Giuliani's spin on it.

MILLER: Well, but there are also -- there are other sources that were in there that made that pretty clear, as well. And again, going back to what I think is the bigger picture, I think that people at home should keep in mind.

If this fundamentally were problematic for the president, then I believe that this would have been -- again, this is my opinion, but I think, it's also opinion that's shared by Trump supporters and a lot of legal experts, this would be something that would still be under the purview of the Mueller investigation and not the Southern District of New York.

And I think that's a critical detail, Victor.

BLACKWELL: OK. Jason Miller, thanks so much.

PAUL: Well, the State Department is hosting dozens of world civic and political leaders at a meeting this coming week to talk about religious liberty, something that people are very passionate about.

We're going to talk about why Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said the president's praise for Russian President Putin fits right into this agenda.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:47:48] PAUL: Well, this coming week, it's the first of its kind event for the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, bringing together foreign and religious leaders for a meeting on how to safeguard religious freedom around the world?

POLITICO is reporting, it's playing well with President Trump's evangelical voter base. Nahal Toosi, Foreign Affairs Correspondent for POLITICO, who's covering the story with us now.

As well as John Fea, he's the author of, Believe Me: The evangelical Road to Donald Trump. Believe Me coming from -- I think, Donald Trump's many speeches where he says, "Believe me, believe me", it's where this is coming from.

So, thank you both for being with us. Certainly, appreciated. I wanted to ask you, Nahal, the Washington Post reporting that last year, the U.S. government list of worst violators of religious liberty, Russia, is on that list.

So, Secretary of State Pompeo, had said in a call with reporters earlier this week that the praise of Putin is part of the strategy for President Trump here that the U.S. is hopeful that the engagement President Trump has had will begin to turn this in the right direction, and that the administration has spoken with Russians on religious freedom.

Is praise a good strategy, do you think?

NAHAL TOOSI, FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT AT POLITICO: I think that very much remains to be seen. You know, Russia has had an increasingly troubling track record on religious freedom.

And I don't know that praising Vladimir Putin, although, it might make him happy on a certain egotistical level, necessarily means that he's going to change policies that he feels helped keep him in power to a certain degree.

So, you know, I guess it doesn't necessarily hurt if the president was going around trashing Vladimir Putin, it's not necessarily going to push him to do more to help religious groups. But praise, I think we'll have to see on that, it could just be a neutral thing.

PAUL: How much is President Trump, willing to go to bat for this issue with Russia, John SIA, and does it matter to Evangelicals?

JOHN FEA, AUTHOR, BELIEVE ME, THE EVANGELICAL ROAD TO DONALD TRUMP Yes, I'm not sure how much Donald Trump is going to go to bat. I know his staff, his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said he is going to go to bat. I think this is a huge issue for American evangelicals and Trump ran on religious liberty and defending religious liberty.

I do think though that if we were to bring the politics into this religious liberty to many American evangelicals' means something very different than the kind of international religious liberty for all religions. Not just Christianity.

That many religious liberty advocates and scholars put forward. So, for -- in America, in the domestic situation, Trump voters, they see religious liberty as essentially religious liberty for their Christian beliefs and their understanding of the Christian identity of America. Then, he is a member --

(CROSSTALK)

[07:50:45] PAUL: But they don't see it -- I'm sorry, but they don't see it for say -- you know, Muslims. Because the president, you know ran on this pledge that he was going to keep Muslims out of the U.S. So, if you're a people from Muslim countries, I mean, how do you -- how do you -- how you classify -- how do you, you know, correspond those two very different ideas?

FEA: Sure, I think -- I think many evangelical leaders will pay lip service to religious liberty, for Muslims, for all faiths. But ultimately, the Trump policies have not supported that if not back that up.

PAUL: It's OK.

FEA: Whether it be a Muslim band, and for or any other several other policies.

PAUL: Nahal, I wanted to ask you, Pompeo also said this. He said, "It will not just be a discussion group, it will be about action. We look forward to identifying concrete ways to push back against prosecution and ensure greater respect for religious freedoms for all."

He wants more than talk, he wants more than words. What actionable measures are expected out of this event this week?

TOOSI: Well, we do expect to see more than simply declarations. One of the things that people are hoping that the administration will do. As well as the other leaders who are gathered. We're talking like -- you know, 80 countries that have sent -- that are sending delegations.

Is perhaps, the creation of institutions in these other countries to promote religious freedom, say the appointment of religious freedom ambassadors for the countries, or perhaps, missions that convene to try to figure out, engage the status of religious freedom domestically in some of these countries.

And if I could just add one more thing on the Russian front, although, the Secretary of State and the State Department, officially, have not commented on whether Russia has been invited or not at this event, I was told by a pretty well source State Department staffer that Russia has not been invited.

PAUL: OK.

TOOSI: So, let's not -- let's not forget that, that's not necessarily being nice to the Russians by not inviting them.

PAUL: OK, very good point. Listen, I have to get this last question in because there are some evangelicals that a lot of people see as judgmental, and they are confused by their willingness to forgive President Trump.

I mean, we even see what's just happened in the last 24 hours with these recordings that are -- that are coming out between him and his attorney Michael Cohen. I want to listen to what Pastor Jeffress, said, about evangelicals and the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROBERT JEFFRESS, PASTOR, AMERICAN SOUTHERN BAPTIST: We are choosing to support his policies. We're not under any illusion that we were voting for an altar boy when we voted for President Trump.

And we knew about his past, and by the way, none of us has a perfect past. We voted for him because of his policies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: John, why seems to look the other way? Do they simply hope that he is going to put go in the direction of their policies? Is that their driving force to support the president?

FEA: Yes, I think -- yes, I think, sadly is someone who identifies as an evangelical Christian myself, I think, that's what we're seeing here, it's the in justifies means, Robert Jeffress, and other evangelical advisors to Donald Trump are certainly interested in things like abortion, and religious liberty as they understand.

And so, the Kavanaugh appointment, for example, is huge. Whether or not, Trump had the -- had the affair with McDougal or Stormy Daniels or anyone, whether or not he lied about it is really irrelevant.

And if it comes out that all of this is true, it's not going to move the needle, or Trump's evangelical support one bit as Jeffress mentioned in that clip,

PAUL: OK. John Fea and Nahal Toosi, we still appreciate you taking the time to be with us. Thank you. We'll be right back.

FEA: Thank you

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[07:58:30] LARRY DAVID, AMERICAN COMEDIAN: I once took an improv class. And I remember a woman in the class coming up to me after and said, "Yes, you're -- hey, really -- you're really good, you know." And I went home, Yes, I'm good -- I'm good to him.

I also hate memorizing lines, and so that combination of not wanting to memorize lines and also do improv interested me. And that was sort of the beginning of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In they have a mess.

DAVID: Jesus Christ.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: God.

DAVID: You're out of nowhere. Like my face, Brittany. What is that? What a violation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know what, they'll usually go away though if you just wave them away. Did you wave her away? DAVID: Sort of, yes.

ROBERT WEIDE, DIRECTOR, CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM: I often find myself getting a little bit annoyed when people refer to Curb Your Enthusiasm is being partially improvised. But in fact, it's almost all improvised.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no script. Basically, Larry would say, what has to happen in this scene which was, "I'm going to show you this wire that has to be dropped down," you're going to say, "Somehow, I can do that if you can get me to meet Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

DAVID: You know what, I'm more than happy to call her up, I can't guarantee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So it's hard to get anything absolutely guaranteed. I want to get through (INAUDIBLE). You don't know if it's guaranteed or either.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

DAVID: As trite as a talent, sometimes they do write themselves. And so, if you have good juicy ideas, you don't really need a script you can just wing it.

LARRY CHARLES, SCREENWRITER, DIRECTOR: We have moved past the tightly scripted comedy. The improv on Curb gives it a rawness and a spontaneity that an audience is really seeking, I think, in the comedy that they watch these days.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL: The original series, The History of Comedy airs Sunday night, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.