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Trump Is Open to Putin's Invitation to Moscow; North Korea Returns Possible Remains of U.S. War Dead; Trump Empire's Financial Gatekeeper Subpoena by Mueller. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired July 27, 2018 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] JILL DOUGHERTY, FORMER CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: So, I think what you've got is both sides would like to get together. There's no question. But when they do it and how they do it, because especially let's say, will both, Putin coming to the United States could be very touchy. There is no way Congress will be friendly to him and invite him up to Capitol Hill. It would be very, very diplomatically dicey.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Well, you know. Minor details, the fact the intel chief said Russia hacked our democracy in 2016, that Senator Claire McCaskill's computers were attempted to be hacked into. She's running for re-election. Mid-terms are being attacked, like small potatoes. I'm being facetious, but we understand why Congress would respond that way.

DOUGHERTY: Exactly. And I think also just think of it in the reverse, if President Trump went to Moscow, that would be a big deal, too, and it would be fraught with a lot of potential problems. So, it is very interesting. I watch Putin almost more than Trump, if that's possible. But it is very interesting to watch how Putin is playing this. It is kind of like, Yes, Yes, you come over here, Yes. And then slathering President Trump with praise today. I mean, it was over the top. He is a great businessman. He follows through on his promises. This is all in quotes to his electorate.

And you have to read between lines that President Putin was just elected. So, President Putin thinks it is a good thing that presidents carry out their promises to their electorate. It is a lesson for him. Look at me. I do the same thing. I'm a good president, too. He works it in many different ways on many different levels.

BALDWIN: What about the other Russian piece of this, you lived in Moscow for a number of years. Let me play this clip and we'll talk on the other side.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE, (through translator): It is really odd. You can't bash your own country. Especially with you're its president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, (through translator): Trump blaming U.S. stupidity for bad U.S. relations, make him smell like a Kremlin agent.


BALDWIN: That's so good. So, this Russian anchor saying that Trump smells like a Kremlin agent. Reminder, Russia once celebrated Trump's victory. What are we to read into the fact the Kremlin-controlled media is now slamming Trump for not standing up to Russia. And what kind of welcome would Trump expect from the Russians?

DOUGHERTY: I watched that show very carefully. That anchor happens to be not exactly a fan of the United States. Let's put it that way. So, her saying that was really fascinating. You know, Brooke, what is really going on, there's a bit of trolling on many different levels. In Russia, although they're saying we hope we'll have a better relationship. President Trump, you know, wants to have better relationship. There is another sub text out there. It is kind of, not necessarily making fun, although that sometimes happens. But pointing out the problems that Trump has, that he's not predictable. Who knows what he will do.

And that's also in the Russian media. So, they're kind of having it both ways. Yes, good relationship, but you never know. So, if President Trump were to go to Moscow, I think there would be the average people would say great. Let's just have good relations. I'm kind of tired of this. But the other people, especially Kremlin, would want to make sure the person who ultimately comes out on top is President Putin. Because domestically, he has to look strong to his people, he has to look as if he is the adult in the room. And that's why I don't think it will be very soon that they will meet. I think it is really too complex.

BALDWIN: Yes. Jill Dougherty, thank you. Good to see you.

Coming up next, the possible remains of dozen of Americans killed during the Korean War back on U.S. soil. What this move by North Korea tells us about the ongoing talks there? Plus, President Trump denying Michael Cohen's claim that he knew and approved of that Trump tower meeting in 2016. The question is, does Bob Mueller already know which man is lying?


BALDWIN: A solemn moment at Osan Air Base in South Korea this morning. Soldiers carrying boxes believed to be the remains of U.S. soldiers killed. Some 65 years ago during the Korean War. The return of the remains was one commitment the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made when he met last month in Singapore. The president spoke about the return from the White House.


[15:40:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Fallen heroes from America. Back from the Korean War. They're coming back to the United States. These incredible heroes will soon be laid to rest on sacred American soil.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: Gordon Chang is with me. The author of "Nuclear Showdown," how North Korea takes on the world. And a columnist with "The Daily Beast." So, Gordon, when I first read about this, was it wrong of me initially when I read about it, and the line is, believed to be the remains. This is North Korea we're talking about. What if it's something else?

GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN, NORTH KOREA TAKES ON THE WORLD": Well, it certainly could be. The North Koreans could be known to supply the remains of dogs to countries where they said they were actually returning soldiers' remains. At this particular point, until the DNA analysis is done in Hawaii, we won't know who they are. These could be British soldiers. The British fought alongside us in the Korean War. Presumably the North Koreans would return remains that they thought were westerners. Until that analysis is done, we certainly don't know.

BALDWIN: You know it is the UN flag draped over the remains and not an American flag. The DNA analysis, they say it will take months of detailed analysis to determine how many Americans can even be identified. You were saying there are 7697 unaccounted for Americans in North Korea. Considered MIA and they're thinking they're handing over 55 of them?

CHANG: Right. The North Koreans on various occasions have said they have 200 sets of remains. The Pentagon estimates there are 5,300 sets of remains and that 7697 are missing. We also know that of that 7697, they say they're MIA many should be characterized as POWs. we have incontrovertible evidence that Americans were captured. We have no indication of death. And although they're quite old, nonetheless, they should not be MIAs and we should be talking with North Korea torsion China, and Russia about these people. We know that they were taken to those various locations.

BALDWIN: We know when Secretary Mattis was saying, maybe we'll send - American troops to North Korea to find these remains. Do you see that happening?

CHANG: I think we stopped in 2005 because it became too dangerous. This is a step forward and President Trump gets credit for this. He raised this on his own. It is very important to families, but it is more important that we get an accounting of Americans who were probably POWs, or we know were. They might still be alive, Brooke.

BALDWIN: To think the families who have been waiting 65 years for this would question. If this is Kim, if these American remains and he is making good on his promise, what does that signal to you?

CHANG: It is a small step forward. This is something easy for Kim to do. We have a long way to go. Not only the issue of remains but of course disarming the missiles, the nukes, the infrastructure, getting the inspections, all of the rest of it. There is a lot to go with North Korea. But at least we are making some small steps and is better the possibility of not making steps at all.

BALDWIN: Gordon Chang, thank you so much. Coming up next, follow the money. Federal prosecutors subpoenaing the

man who signed all the checks for the Trump Organization. My next guest explains why this is not good for the president. And one of the president's former advisers who has already spoken to Robert Mueller and said there is no way the president didn't know about the Trump Tower meeting. Join CNN live in a matter of minutes.


BALDWIN: While Michael Cohen's new claims about that Trump tower meeting could have massive implications for this president, there are some new developments in Cohen's investigation that could expose something the president has worked tirelessly to keep confidential. His finances. According to the "Wall Street Journal," the chief officer Allen Weisselberg has been subpoenaed.

One employee said, this is the quote, "ultimate nightmare scenario for this president because he, quote, knows where all the financial bodies are buried. Allen knows every deal, every dealership, every sale, anything and everything that has been done. He knows every membership, anything you can think of."

David Cay Johnston is back with us. A Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. He has been reporting on Trump's finances for almost three decades. So, David, welcome back. You of all people know how much this man knows. How rattled Donald Trump must be right now?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, PULITZER PRIZE WINNING JOURNALIST: Donald is undoubtedly extraordinarily rattled. Allen Weisselberg may well decide to invoke his right to the fifth amendment. It's a right we all have, and we shouldn't draw any conclusions, but prosecutors can grant him immunity in an effort to force him to testify.

[15:50:00] But will he will know sources of money which is critical to the Russia matters. He will know who Trump is fully indebted to. Because the financial disclosure forms for the president are not very good. As Mr. Trump himself said, these forms were not designed for a man of Mr. Trump's great wealth.

BALDWIN: According to the "New York Times," Weisselberg was first hired as an accountant for Trump's dad, Fred Trump in the 70s. He goes way back with the family. Can you talk about the importance of loyalty within the family, within this organization?

JOHNSTON: Well, Fred Trump had a business partner named Willie Tomasello who is identified in law enforcement public reports as a front for the Gambino and Genovese mafia families, two biggest mafia families in New York. And Donald grew up and came into the business when, of course, Fred was still in charge of it.

What's changed is that the current Trump organization has lots of dealings with Russian mobsters. By that, I mean Russian-speaking peoples from the Russian Federation, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and other Russian-speaking areas. What money flowed and what the deals were and where the records are, that is all stuff that Alan Weisselberg but will know. Donald is not a detail guy. He once said when he found out that the vice president for finance of one of his casinos was black he wanted the guy fired saying I don't want black people touching my money, only short guys that wear yamakas.

BALDWIN: Are you serious?

JOHNSTON: I'm dead serious. He said to the president of his casino who put it in his autobiography.

BALDWIN: Wow. Let me read you a tweet from Triston Snell, a man that worked on the Trump University lawsuit as an assistant AG. He said Weisselberg also reviews every payment and signs every check for all of the subsidiaries of the Trump Organization, all of the random LLCs. It goes through him.

Do you know, David to you, do you know if Weisselberg would have signed his name or Trump's signature? Or would he be authorized to sign Trump's signature. I ask because if the checks come into question, does it become a legal liability if he's been signing Donald Trump's name?

JOHNSTON: Well, it doesn't matter whether he has authority to sign on Donald's behalf or signs personally. What matters is he is granted authority by Donald to do these things and unless they make a showing that somehow, he was acting improperly or without authority, then he's acting as Donald's surrogate and that is what will matter to a grand jury that's looking into Michael Cohen.

And here we are getting into where there are records. You cannot move money across borders anymore except for something called the Hawala system used in the Middle East without leaving a financial trail and the IRS agents working for FinCEN, the money laundering agency, they're masterful at finding needles in haystacks, trillions of dollars sloshing around, and they find you if needed a $100 transaction.

BALDWIN: And as I'm thinking money and looking at you, that is man who also then would have had the hands all over Trump's tax returns. Yes?

JOHNSTON: Well, presumably but let's remember the guy that did the Trump tax returns for years Jack Mitnick testified under oath, civil tax trials the Donald lost, civil tax fraud, looking at the tax return that was in evidence and said, your honor, that's my signature on that return but neither I nor my firm prepared that tax return.

So, one of the things dealing with Donald Trump you always have to remember is you can't really trust anything that you see. You've got to verify very carefully and get the actual records.

BALDWIN: When you mentioned a second ago the potential of Weisselberg pleading the fifth, what are the chances you think he would receive immunity?

JOHNSTON: Oh, if prosecutors want his testimony, I'm sure they'd be perfectly happy to grant immunity. Can be for specific transactions or prophylactic. Now sure he is facing a real crisis care. Donald surrounds himself with loyalty to him, absolute unquestioned, you are the boss loyalty is what matters. He is known to replace highly competent executives in the casino business with falling down drunks because they were totally loyal to him. And this is going to be a real challenge for Mr. Weisselberg who I fear, you know, how this will go for him if he decides to try and tough it out.

[15:55:00] BALDWIN: David Cay Johnston, thank you. You are excellent. Appreciate it.

It is the picture that's everyone talking this afternoon and now Robert Mueller's spokesman responded to questions about how close physically the special counsel was to Don Jr. There on the right side of your screen at the DC. airport. We're back in a moment.


BALDWIN: Time is running out if you'd like to nominate someone to become our next CNN Hero. That is what "Black Panther" actress Christine Hollingsworth did for her friend Dr. Rob Gore. He is an ER doctor doing antiviolence work in Brooklyn.


CHRISTINE HOLLINGSWORTH, ACTRESS: I nominated the doctor to be a CNN hero because we grew up together and then I saw that he was doing all this of this wonderful community work. I'm very familiar with CNN Heroes, a fan of the show and as I was volunteering here, I said to myself. Wait a second. Perfect match. And here we are. So, I'm so proud of my friend and so surreal and exciting and so rewarding.


BALDWIN: It's awesome. We love hearing the different stories these men and women in the U.S. and around the world and could become the next CNN hero. Keep in mind the nominations close Tuesday night. If you know someone who you would like to nominate, go to CNN I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me today. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts now.