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Michael Cohen Recordings; Judge Allows Illegal Foreign Gift Case to Proceed; Deadline to Reunite Children with their Parents; Trump Blinks Again and Again; Melania Trump TV Watching. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired July 26, 2018 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, EDITOR, DCREPORT.ORG: That attorney/client privilege did not apply to the tape and she was going to make it public and they didn't want a judicial ruling that the crime fraud exception applied. That is that this tape was about two people discussing a crime, John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we do know that the president -- the president's legal team here, Rudy Giuliani, and others waived privilege on this.


BERMAN: The timing of that -- the timing of that, I suppose, is what is an open question right now because what they believe the judge would ultimately rule, I -- we don't know. But we do know that his team waived privilege.

As interesting as this all is, there's been another legal development over the last 24 hours which I know interests you in particular, which is this ruling in a federal district court in Maryland on an emoluments lawsuit against the president brought by Maryland and the District of Columbia there. Why do you think this case is so important?

JOHNSTON: Because our Constitution has that word "emoluments" in it three times and Trump and the Justice Department representing the office of the president have tried to argue that it only means bribes. No, in the dictionaries from the 18th century, emolument meant any gain, any benefit. And the judge's decision at the very end, page 49, in plain English, lays out the manipulations of the government by Donald Trump, once he became president, so he could keep the old post office, which has become a big money maker for him by people trying to curry favor with the White House.

BERMAN: And the issue is, this judge decided that it can go forward to figure out, based on this lawsuit, whether the president is getting any gain from these businesses, from foreign countries. Not a bribe. And you note, this is the first time that a judge has actually distinguished between the two, as the Constitution does.

JOHNSTON: That's right. And it's important -- you know, there is an argument that we've heard from justices like the late Justice Scalia, that we need to look at the Constitution in the context of when it was written. And clearly the emoluments cause, the effort to make sure foreign governments weren't influencing our decisions, plays a role here. But Donald Trump's manipulation of the General Services Administration, which runs the lease for the old post office that is now the Trump Hotel, is a key part of this ruling. It's in plain English. Anybody who goes to the internet and goes to page 49 of the judge's decision can read it. It's very clear that there is a serious constitutional problem here and that Donald Trump, in my view, has been violating his oath of office from the moment he took his oath.

BERMAN: And, again, that's your view. The judge is letting this case go forward. The important thing is, what happens now? What does this allow in terms of discovery?

JOHNSTON: Well, first of all, we should expect that the White -- the Justice Department will appeal this ruling. The people who brought the case and very carefully wrote their case, a crew, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, are going to start pressing for discovery. They're going to want to see the books and records of that hotel. Who's doing business there? How is it that they're taking in $68,000 a night in the bar at that hotel? And, undoubtedly, there will be a fight to oppose that. And, of course, Donald has a long, very well-documented history of hiding books and records, claiming they don't exist, and otherwise not cooperating with audits.

BERMAN: And then, of course, there is, and you can cue the ominous music now, the question of Donald Trump's tax returns. Might those be something that ultimately becomes part of this case?

JOHNSTON: Well, I have been pressing for an investigation of Trump's tax returns and giving the New York state attorney general criminal authority. She has civil authority. She gets criminal authority if Governor Cuomo or the State Department of Taxation refer the case to her.

Donald Trump lost two tax trials. They were civil trials, but they were tax fraud trials. He lost them both. He's confessed to sales tax cheating. There are numerous other things in the record where he has cheated the system. And we now have Governor Cuomo sort of hinting, well, he's open to this, but he hasn't actually ordered an inquiry of Trump's tax returns. But I'm sure that that will show that Donald Trump's tax returns are not clean.

BERMAN: Well, we don't know. We haven't seen them, except for the, what, that year 2005, which is something that you obviously know a lot about.

When you think about his tax returns and when you look at what we all saw a week ago Monday now on stage between President Trump and President Putin, as you were watching that, again, as someone who had covered Donald Trump for so long, particularly his financial dealings, did it raise questions for you?

JOHNSTON: Well, I'll tell you if -- in high school in the '60s a civics teacher had said an American president will stand next to the leader of the Kremlin and will side with him and take his word against the American's intelligence agencies, I would have gone to the principal's office and said, you've got a crazy person teaching civics. That was an astonishing performance by him.

And it should deeply, deeply trouble us. As I've said in many forums, John, the kindest thing you can say is that Donald Trump has divided loyalties. He continuously supported Vladimir Putin. This is a man who -- who has attacked children in --

[08:35:12] BERMAN: Do you think there will be any financial, though, do you think there will be any financial trail in those tax returns if we ever see them?

JOHNSTON: Oh, sure, because we know that Donald suddenly was flush with cash and buying assets and his sons -- one of his sons has said, we were getting lots of money from Russians. We know of documented cases where he got money from Russians. We know that Donald has been doing business with Russian gangsters for years. And when I say Russians, I mean Russian-speaking people.

BERMAN: What that means and what we will actually see remain to be seen.

David Cay Johnston, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

JOHNSTON: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: It is deadline day, John, for reuniting those children who were separated from their parents at the border. So will that happen? Two families who were separated share their ordeal with us, next.


CAMEROTA: All right, so the U.S. government faces a court-ordered deadline today to reunite those families separated from their children at the border. The Trump administration has already admitted that roughly 914 parents will not be reunited with their children by this deadline today.

[08:40:12] CNN's Ryan Nobles spoke with many of the families affected and he joins us live from Washington.

What did you learn, Ryan?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, I met two children from two different families. One, a seven-year-old boy who loves the super hero Flash, and the other an 11-year-old girl who has to help her father operate a smartphone and likes to play basketball. They are normal kids in almost every way. Normal kids dealing with a very difficult situation.


NOBLES (voice over): Even though they're sitting right next to each other, at certain times Arely reaches to grab her seven-year-old son, Andy, as if to make sure he's still there.

It was an incredibly hard experience for me, she says, when they separated me from my son.

Arely and Andy fled from El Salvador, seeking asylum from a situation they aren't comfortable talking about. They crossed into Texas hoping for relief. Instead, they were separated as part of President Trump's zero tolerance policy. Andy sent to a shelter in New York City, his mother held at the Port Isabelle Detention Facility.

When she saw her son taken away, she wasn't sure she'd ever see him again.

They took away my son. They told me I would never see him. They told me they would deport me and he was going to stay with the government.

Jose Angel and his 11-year-old daughter, Kimberly, fled Honduras and arrived at the U.S. southern border June 17th. Almost immediately, Kimberly was sent to the Casa Presidenta (ph) Shelter, her father detained at Port Isabelle. It would be a month before they would see each other again.

When God creates a family, says Jose Angel, I feel there isn't anything that can separate you from your kids, except something like death.

Both families describe a painful month, filled with a desperation to reunite, coupled with uncomfortable conditions they say were inhumane.

They wouldn't let me go to the bathroom sometimes. And when I wanted to eat, they wouldn't let me eat until they wanted.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a request from CNN about the treatment of these families while in their detention centers. But the day-to-day experience for Arely and Jose Angel pale in comparison to the lingering trauma they say their kids are dealing with after being torn from their parents.

I am happy I am with him and not separated. Kimberly and Andy say they never blamed their parents for their separation, but both parents say the guilt they felt was overwhelming.

I begged her to forgive me, he says. I said, forgive me, daughter, while I was crying, forgive me.

Their attorney, Sophia Gregg, calls her representation of both families luck. She was in the right place at the right time. She argues this crisis was avoidable.

SOPHIA GREGG, ATTORNEY: There is a system. People can seek asylum. Just because someone seeks asylum in this country doesn't mean that they need to be held in a high-security prison while they attempt to seek asylum.

NOBLES: But even if the crisis was avoidable, the reality of its impact is now a part of the day-to-day lives of these two families. Jose Angel says that for him it's like a nightmare.

The things that happened to me are things I would never wish on anyone. It's a nightmare that may have ended, but will take much longer to completely recover from.


NOBLES: And Jose Angel left behind a wife and two other children in his native Honduras. We asked him if he had it to do all over again, would he still make the journey to the United States? John, he answered, no.

BERMAN: Ryan Nobles for us in Washington.

Again, even if these reunifications take place, the damage that was done may be irreparable in some cases.

So why has the president blinked? Why might he be using so much Visine this morning? Blinking on not one, but at least two issues in the last 24 hours. Stay with us.


[08:48:19] CAMEROTA: All right, as you know, President Trump wanted to invite Vladimir Putin to the White House.

BERMAN: He did invite him to the White House.

CAMEROTA: OK, he did invite him to the White House. He wanted Vladimir Putin to show up. But now President Trump is taking a rain check. The president also had threatened to escalate a trade war with the European Union, but then yesterday seemed to walk it back.

So, why does the president keep reversing course?

Let's get "The Bottom Line" with CNN's senior political analyst John Avlon.

Do you find these things notable in this week that have -- seem to have turned around?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think it's easy to say this has been a moonwalk week. He's backtracking with different degrees of elegance.

Look, retreating on the Putin White House invite is just a recognition that it (INAUDIBLE) bad idea (INAUDIBLE).

CAMEROTA: Who gets to him and says, do not do this?

AVLON: Hopefully anyone, everyone. There's nothing smart about inviting Vladimir Putin and surprising your director of national intelligence when he finds out about it on stage and says, say that again?

BERMAN: And maybe that Vladimir Putin got to him by not responding. AVLON: Yes.

BERMAN: I mean even Vladimir Putin --

AVLON: That's cold. Yes.

BERMAN: Didn't think it was a great idea. He didn't return the text.

AVLON: Donald, you don't want to do this, pal.

Yes. So that's a good walkback. That's great.

Look, in terms of his reversal of his tough talk on trade with the president of the E.U., I actually think he deserves credit for this, right? This could be -- there's the risk of Lucy and the football with a big bunting announcement without any substance. But it can be seen as a vindication of his tough talk, that he was talking tough, he was playing a hard ball and then folks say, you know what, we do need more reciprocal trade agreements. Maybe we should have a goal of zero tariffs. Again, way too easy to say, but the tariff truth is at least a step in the right direction.

BERMAN: I actually don't really understand what happened with the European Union yesterday. They agreed to buy more soybeans and liquefied natural gas, which is something and substantial. But as far as actually the real contentious issue, the steel tariffs are still in place. The reciprocal tariffs are still in place. And they just agreed to not make it worse?

[08:50:10] AVLON: I think they agreed not to make it worse. They say, we're going to work on this with the goal of lowering trade barriers or getting more equality where it exists. That's a step in the right direction. And again, a lot of the hope for President Trump, the disrupter, is that tough talk would breed action. And we'll see if it does.

CAMEROTA: And we just had the congressman from Iowa on, Republican --


CAMEROTA: Who was saying how confused, you know, voters are. So the tariffs are hurting them in Iowa, but they might get this bailout, but they don't like bailouts, they're against bailouts, and maybe we need a bailout. It's -- the policy is all over the place.

AVLON: I mean you had Ron Johnson, Republican senator from Wisconsin, called it a Soviet-style economic move. There's a lot of confusion, as we also saw from that most recent poll, a lot of Trump's base voters, or states he won, are really souring on him, and it may be partly impacted by the trade tariffs.

BERMAN: I want to talk about something that happened yesterday after our air, which I found to be fascinating. There was the Maggie Haberman piece in "The New York Times" which discussed how the president got very angry when Melania Trump, the first lady's television on Air Force One was turned to CNN and not Fox News. CAMEROTA: She has good taste.

AVLON: Yes, what can we say?

BERMAN: And he ordered, apparently, in a series of e-mails, all the televisions on Air Force One to be on Fox.

So there was this statement put out by the first lady's office yesterday, the East Wing, or not a statement, it was a comment to our Kate Bennett, and the statement is, the first lady will watch whatever she wants on TV. And I am always fascinated by what the first lady's office chooses to comment on and how they choose to comment on it.

AVLON: Yes. And this was not a subtle brushback pitch. This was, nobody puts baby in a corner. And I say free Melania, folks, she should be able to watch CNN as much as she wants.

But the sinister side to that story is that President Trump trying to control the environment on Air Force One, sort of hermetically seal it into an affirmation news bubble, that's partisan media and that's a big part of the problem we're having in this country.

CAMEROTA: I just want to read the statement from -- put out by the first lady's office, because I think it's actually even more interesting.

Did you know that every 15 minutes a baby is born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, that's from drug exposure in the womb. Maybe you'd like to talk about the 160,000 kids who skip school every day for fear of being bullied. Or the 280,000 students who are physically attacked in schools every month. Seems kind of silly to worry about what channel she watches on TV. Any channel she wants, by the way. Or if she heard some recording on the news.

Stephanie Grisham is exactly right, the president should focus on those issues over his choice of what his wife will be watching on cable news.


CAMEROTA: So I hope she is impressing this issue upon the president of what she'd like him to talk about and focus on, rather than who he sees as his enemies in the press.

AVLON: I think that would be very good advice for all of us (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: But it is interesting -- but she chooses to respond. When the office chooses to push back with statements like this is when articles come out that in some way she's being controlled. And they want to make it clear that she's not.

AVLON: Yes, look, I mean, she is an accomplished, independent woman in her own right. And, look, I think the mere fact we have an immigrant as first lady could be a very powerful position. So the question is, how much does she feel empowered? And when she does get sort of treated like a -- something that can be controlled, it's understandable that she and her staff would lash out.

Now, what that says about the state of play in the White House and the Kremlinology, that's all very fascinating. This is not normal.

BERMAN: Kremlinology in -- Kremlinology, in this case, no pun intended.

AVLON: No pun intended in that particular case. But it's a fascinating insight into the tensions --

BERMAN: Right.

AVLON: Between the first lady's office and --

CAMEROTA: Yes. I would hardly say they exploit her role as an immigrant or even talk about it.

AVLON: Sadly, no.

CAMEROTA: I mean, you know, that -- this is an issue that is so on the forefront of all of the national dialogue right now and they really don't bring that up.

AVLON: We are a nation of immigrants and the first lady is a good reminder of that.

BERMAN: John Avlon, great to have you with us. Thank you so much. You, too, can watch whatever you want.

"The Good Stuff" is next.


[08:58:00] BERMAN: It is time now for "The Good Stuff."

A three-year-old from Wisconsin meets his real-life heroes. Check out Kalix Parnowski (ph) in his superhero outfit.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, how cute is he?

BERMAN: He is wearing that very well. He wore it to meet the firefighter who helped save his life. The young boy nearly drowned earlier this month. When crews arrived on the scene, Kalix was unresponsive, but together they quickly got his heart beating.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a great feeling. It definitely makes me believe that, you know, there's a reason why we were all there. We were all put in that position and all in the same spot that we were supposed to be in, in order to save his life.


BERMAN: I will note, Spider-man does not wear a cape, but Kalix can wear a cape if he wants to after what he's been through. CAMEROTA: He rocks it beautifully. But those angels who saved his life



CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, I remember that story. That is incredible how well he's doing right now.

BERMAN: It's great to see.

CAMEROTA: OK, we need some levity. The audio of Donald Trump and Michael Cohen discussing the playoff to a playmate got this reaction from late night.


STEPHEN COLBERT, LATE NIGHT TALK SHOW HOST: The audio confirms that Trump knew about the payments during the presidential campaign! Donald Trump lied! So now they have to reset the sign on the White House lawn.

MICHAEL COHEN, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S FORMER ATTORNEY: You never know where that company, you never know where he's going to be --


COHEN: Correct.

COLBERT: Yes, getting hit by a truck is a real risk. Have you seen the idiots they let drive those things.

SETH MEYERS, LATE NIGHT TALK SHOW HOST: Michael Cohen released a recording of a conversation he had with Trump about paying off a Playboy model. And, sure, it's lurid because it involves Playboy, but I'm only in it for the articles.


BERMAN: Let's just laugh at the material they're presented with every day.

CAMEROTA: Oh, an embarrassment of riches.

BERMAN: An embarrassment of riches.


BERMAN: All right, thank you all for being with us this morning. That is all for NEW DAY.

It is time now for CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow.

CAMEROTA: See you tomorrow.

[08:59:59] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everyone. Good morning. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. So glad you're with me.

We are watching the White House this hour, as we do every morning. But any second now, President Trump is due to leave on a day trip, highlighting jobs and trade in Iowa and Illinois.