Return to Transcripts main page
Trump Rails Against Robert Mueller in Tweetstorm. Aired 6- 6:30a ET
Aired July 30, 2018 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: The man is a pathological manipulator, liar. These are tapes, I want you to hear them.
[05:59:14] ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: My guess is that this is a rift that will continue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tweets are a sign of his mood. It is not a happy state.
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This is part of a strategy to be the deflector in chief. The distorter.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we don't get border security, we'll have no choice. We'll close down the country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president is willing to be patient to see how we can get that done.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should we expect a September shutdown?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's hope not. We need border security. We can't have open borders.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Monday, July 30, 6 a.m. here in New York. John Berman is off. David Gregory joins me.
Happy Monday. Happy summer.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST/ANCHOR: Good to be up. I was running in the park yesterday, and somebody said, "Come on in." This is -- this is not a sleepy summertime news week.
CAMEROTA: No. We just have a net out in the park to try to catch anchormen and drag them in here.
CAMEROTA: No, it isn't. We have a very busy day.
GREGORY: Almost 100 days now, a little less now until the midterm election, and the president seems to be feeling that heat.
CAMEROTA: Yes. Things are heating up, so here's our starting line.
President Trump continues to try to undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. The president lashing out in a series of tweets slamming Robert Mueller.
Meanwhile, Mueller begins the prosecution of the president's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, with a trial tomorrow. And the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, appears to be waging war with Mr. Trump's former personal attorney and fixer. Giuliani recently praised Michael Cohen as, quote, "honest" but now says Michael Cohen, quote, "has lied all of his life."
The reversal comes after Cohen released that tape of his conversation with Donald Trump about trying to silence that "Playboy" model who alleges she had an affair with Mr. Trump. And after CNN learned that Cohen is willing to tell Mueller that the president knew and approved of that meeting between his campaign and Russians to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. Of course, you'll remember that was just months before the 2016 election.
So Rudy Giuliani is going to join us live on NEW DAY to explain all of that this morning.
GREGORY: We will look forward to that. We're talking about the midterms, now less than 100 days away.
President Trump is threatening to shut down the government if he does not get the funding that he wants for the border wall. Remember, he said immigration would be a big deal for Republicans in the fall. So this threat rattling Republican leaders, who say that budget talks with Democrats are actually going pretty well. They don't want to shut down. So why is the president saying this months before the midterm elections?
Speaking of those elections, Republicans are hoping the president's big economic numbers -- economic growth numbers that are quite good will help the GOP keep the majority in Congress. But there's also new polling showing a blue wave, may, in fact, as a lot of people expect, be on the horizon.
We're going to begin our coverage this morning with CNN's Abby Phillip. She is live at the White House.
Abby, good morning.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, David. Just another weekend, again, of attacks on Robert Mueller's special counsel investigation, calling him out by name in a series of tweets.
But the president and his allies are also intensifying their attacks on the president's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who has signaled a willingness to talk to investigators in a different case.
PHILLIP: With Robert Mueller's investigation inching closer and closer to Trump's inner circle, the president ramping up his attacks against the probe and directly targeting Mueller by name.
In a series of tweets, the president accusing Mueller of having conflicts of interest, including an alleged contentious business relationship with Mr. Trump. The White did not respond to CNN's quest for information.
But ethics experts from the Justice Department determined last year that Mueller's assignment is appropriate.
President Trump's latest criticism coming days after sources told CNN that the president's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, is prepared to tell Mueller that then-candidate Trump knew in advance and approved the Trump Tower meeting with Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton months before the 2016 election.
The president has repeatedly denied that he had any knowledge of the meeting, Cohen also authorizing the release of a recording of a conversation with Mr. Trump discussing a potential payment to a "Playboy" model who claims she had an affair with him, something the president denies.
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER PERSONAL ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: I need to open up company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David.
PHILLIP: President Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, telling CBS that tapes of 183 Cohen conversations exist but that only one captures a conversation with the president.
RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: There are 12 others, maybe 11 or 12 others out of the 183 in which the president is discussed at any length by Cohen, mostly with reporters. All clearly corroborating what the president said in detail on many of those tweets. So these are tapes I want you to read. I want you to hear them.
PHILLIP: Giuliani continuing to assail Cohen's character --
GIULIANI: The man is a pathological manipulator, liar.
PHILLIP: -- despite repeatedly praising him.
GIULIANI: He doesn't have any incriminating evidence about the president or himself. The man is an honest, honorable lawyer.
PHILLIP: President Trump also taking to Twitter to again threaten the government shutdown if Congress does not fund his border wall and change the nation's immigration laws.
The threat coming after the president met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan last week to talk about government funding. After that meeting, both leaders downplaying the possibility of a shutdown.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you're not worried about a government shutdown?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's not going to happen.
PHILLIP: And President Trump is going to have a press conference with the Italian prime minister this -- this afternoon at the White House today.
He'll also have another Oval Office photo spray, where last week a CNN reporter tried to ask him some questions in that venue, and then the White House attempted to retaliate against her. We'll see if, once again, they try to do something similar again today, David and Alisyn.
[06:05:08] CAMEROTA: OK, Abby. Thank you very much for starting us off.
Joining us now to talk about all of this, we have John Avlon, CNN senior political analyst; and CNN legal analysts Renato Mariotti and Carrie Cordero. Great to have all of you.
Renato, the president put out these tweets, you know, undermining and criticizing Robert Mueller. It's hard to read them, actually, on air because they are so riddled with inaccuracies and demand so much fact checking, and we've only got three hours.
But the upshot is that he now says, 14 months later, that Robert Mueller has all sorts of conflicts of interests with Donald Trump. Are there people who would have checked on that beforehand?
RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's right, as a matter of fact, there is a group of career lawyers at the Justice Department whose job it is to take a look at conflicts of interest, and in fact, that's the same group that took a look at Attorney General Jeff Sessions's conflicts of interests and determined that he recuse himself.
CAMEROTA: That's good to know.
GREGORY: But you have to -- you do have to ask yourself, John -- I mean, first of all, we have to point out that these are folks who the folks who vetted Mueller for the job were appointed by this president.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
CAMEROTA: By Donald Trump.
GREGORY: By Donald Trump.
CAMEROTA: I'm so glad you're pointing that out, "Look at all of these angry Democrats." These are often Republicans, and they're his people. GREGORY: Right. Who he appointed. He's got to believe there's no
factual reason to think that he's got anything to worry about from Mueller. Because he's certain been acting in a way as if he's done something wrong, but to continue to make these assertions, you have to believe he believes there's no factual basis to worry about what Mueller's got.
AVLON: I would never discount the power of Donald Trump's reality distortion field. He is a master marketer and hype man, and he clearly buys what he's selling. The problem is, where does that conflict with basic fact. And that's the job of the Mueller probe.
We haven't heard this conflict of interest accusation of the president before. The president is also a master of deflection. Certainly, conflict of interest is not something that's bothered him before. He is angry that Jeff Sessions recused himself. So it's a new line of attack. We'll see where the rubber meets the road and what he's basing it on, if anything.
CAMEROTA: Carrie, your thoughts?
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So first of all, I had the opportunity to observe a lot of senior leaders in the Justice Department, the intelligence community when I worked in government long ago. And Bob Mueller was one of those. And I can tell you that there's really no one that was respected in the department for greater integrity or leadership, and really, just being a cut above anyone else who was serving in leadership in terms of his ethics and integrity.
So that's just a nonstarter, I think, in Washington in terms of an argument. What I think is actually going on is, remember, last week there were some members who were allies of the president in the House who had introduced articles of impeachment against -- or a resolution of impeachment against Rod Rosenstein. And that failed.
Within about 24 hours, that whole effort failed. And so they were doing that in order to take the pressure to not be criticizing Bob Mueller directly to try to discredit the special counsel investigation. That effort failed against Rod Rosenstein, and so now we see the president this week going directly after the special council.
GREGORY: So I think that's important, because there are two audiences for the president's tweetstorm. His most ardent supporters are going to lap all of this up and make it a bullet point for a Sean Hannity monologue about, you know, why you can't trust Mueller, why you can't trust Rosenstein.
But people who actually know these individuals, who have worked with them in Washington, who are in leadership, understand that they have impeccable reputations. And they have not signed on to -- whether it's the impeachment of Rosenstein or attacking Mueller. But the president is playing a different game, which is to remind people that, in his mind, this is completely ill-conceived and unfair, and there's a lot of people who do buy into that who are his biggest supporters. AVLON: And the president has embraced a play-to-the-base strategy.
One of the president's peculiar things is also coming up with these pithy, memorable attack lines. You know, "Low-energy Jeb," "Little Marco." Yesterday, I think you saw him conflate two ideas he's done independently in the past. It's the Robert Mueller rigged witch hunt.
AVLON: He's bringing them all together.
GREGORY: And the Manafort trial is about to begin, which is evidence that there's no witch hunt here. Whether this has anything to do with collusion is a separate matter. That's a big deal that I'm sure is on the president's mind.
CAMEROTA: Is this like the fireworks at the end where they all go off all at once?
MARIOTTI: Well, also, there's a midterm election coming up. He's got to fire up his base. He's got to get them excited, and I really think the Rosenstein impeachment is just an effort to rile up the base. The Republican leadership isn't about it. Paul Ryan said he's not. They didn't bring it as a privileged -- privileged articles of impeachment on the floor. It's purely a stunt to try to get the base energized.
CAMEROTA: OK, so Michael Cohen, Rudy Giuliani is just going with -- you know, loaded for bear now on Michael Cohen who, of course, was the president's longtime fixer, confidant, you know, personal attorney, you know, often constant sidekick.
So here is what -- how Rudy Giuliani two months ago felt about that person, Michael Cohen, versus how he feels today. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: If he believes it's in his best interest to cooperate, God bless him. He should cooperate.
I do not expect that Michael Cohen's going to lie. I think he's going to tell the truth as best he can, given his recollection. And if he does that, we're home free.
The man is a liar, a proven liar. There is no way you're going to bring down the president of the United States on the testimony, uncorroborated, of a proven liar. I guarantee you this guy is a proven liar.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Two months ago, he had said he's honest and honorable. Go ahead.
CORDERO: Well, it's important that we keep Rudy Giuliani's statements in context. He is the president's public face of his legal and political defense. There are other lawyers working behind the scenes, actually, working on the nuts and bolts legal issues that the president is facing in his capacity, and so Rudy Giuliani, now they've determined that Michael Cohen, based on his public activity recently, is perhaps not going to stay in alignment with the president, and so this is just spin.
AVLON: Yes, I mean, I think, you know, look, with the new information, of course, is that Michael Cohen was taping these conversations, including with his client.
But this is Trump's top consigliere. And to put it in terms Rudy would appreciate, this is like Michael Corleone all of a sudden deciding that Tom Hagen has been a scoundrel and a pathological liar this entire time. It's just tough to believe.
GREGORY: I always like "Godfather" references when applied to real- life situations, and so I appreciate that.
And in the case of Tom Hagen or Michael Cohen, you know, you've got somebody who is a fixer, who is doing stuff for you, and now he's feeling the pinch. He's going to say things. Where is he a proven liar is the question. There's no question what he did was sleazy at the very least by recording his client.
What is Giuliani referring to where he's a proven liar?
MARIOTTI: You know, frankly, where he's a proven lawyer is he 's trying to cover for the president, saying that the president didn't know about anything about these payments, that's where he's a proven liar. And it's kind of a disingenuous thing on Giuliani's part. He was a proven liar because he was actually lying --
GREGORY: The other thing quickly on this, I think what's important is, as you said, the public face and the spin from Giuliani, whatever Mueller has, we don't know. He's not just going to rely on what Michael Cohen says about it, in terms of whether the president knew about the Russia meeting or other matters.
CORDERO: He's not, and that's a good point. Because you know, it may be -- I've been wondering why Michael Cohen has been acting so publicly, and it may be that the special counsel's office doesn't need Michael Cohen's testimony. It may be that through other witnesses who have been more quiet or through documentary evidence, that the special counsel's team already knows whether or not the president knew about that June meeting, June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower or knew the purpose of it. We don't know yet, but it doesn't necessarily stand to reason that Michael Cohen has to be the lynch pin for that.
GREGORY: If only we could question Giuliani about this.
CAMEROTA: You know what? I have good news for you.
CAMEROTA: I have good news. Coming up in our 8 a.m. hour, the president's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, is going to join us live here on NEW DAY, and we will question him about it, David Gregory. GREGORY: Great country. President Trump is threatening to shut down
the government over border wall funding again, but Republican leaders say not so fast. Budget talks are actually going pretty well with Democrats. So why is the president doing this? We'll discuss.
[06:17:10] CAMEROTA: The midterm elections are 99 days away. Set your alarm clocks. And lawmakers have a new reason to worry, because President Trump is threatening a government shutdown if Congress does not fund his border wall and change immigration laws soon.
So let's bring back John Avlon. Also joining us, CNN political analysts Michael Shear and Karoun Demirjian.
So Karoun, this isn't what lawmakers need right before the midterms, threat of a government shutdown. But you know, as we heard Mitch McConnell, I'll play it for you in this radio interview he did. He sounded quite confident that that's sort of an idol threat and not going to do it. Here's Mitch McConnell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the funding of a border wall going to wait until after the midterm elections?
MCCONNELL: Probably, and that's something we do have a disagreement on. And --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So homeland security won't get funded before the midterms?
MCCONNELL: Probably not, but most of the government will be covered, and then, at the end of the year, we can't reach an agreement on that. We'll do what's called a continuing resolution for that little portion of the government spending that's left unpassed in individual bills.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you're not worried about a government shutdown before midterms?
MCCONNELL: No, that's not going to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: He's awfully sanguine, Karoun.
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, he is. But look, we have been through this -- this before. The president has talked about the border wall funding. He has said, "I would like to see a nice shutdown" in past rounds. They've always managed to come up with some sort of a deal to keep the government funded.
And look, we've been doing continuing resolutions since forever. Like, there's always a discussion about we're we going to do a full budget to be completely vetted, and then at the last minute, things come up that are kind of irreconcilable differences that force everyone into a continuing resolution. I think that the appetite for shutdowns in Congress is not really there at all, and they usually use that fatigue and lack of desire for a shutdown to get some sort of agreement across to the government stays open, because it's a word the president tosses around, and I think a lot more than members of Congress are willing to go with, given the experience of a few years ago. And how stressful that is --
GREGORY: But he'll just argue that they are week. I mean, this is what he tweeted over the weekend. He says, "I would be willing to shut down government if the Democrats do not give us the votes for border security, which includes the wall. Must get rid of lottery catch and release, et cetera. Finally go to a system of immigration based on merit. We need great people coming into our country."
I mean, we can all agree we need great people coming into this country.
But John, I mean, this is such a signature promise. And if there -- the one promise about Trump's politics is that he has -- he's carried through on the promises he's made. Now, he had a shot to get border funding before by Democrats, and he blew that opportunity.
But he's going to keep making this argument, because he said before that this is -- this is a good, this is a good argument for Republicans. Not all Republicans, but his ardent supporters anyway.
AVLON: That's right. And look, this is a core belief of his. Here's what's fascinating about that tweet. He says it's up to Democrats to get the votes to help him passed border security.
[06:20:04] Last time I checked, Republicans have unified control of government. They have unified control of Washington.
And what's so surreal about this threat is, in the past, we've had government shutdowns, which by the way, Mitch McConnell was pretty sanguine about in the past weren't going to happen. It was a Democratic president, Republican Congress.
Now you've got a Republican president, Republican Congress threatening a shutdown before midterm elections. That looks like a suicide pact. But the president's undeterred. He wants to muscle. He wants to be the tough guy. But it's really on the Republicans. There have been bipartisan deals in the past. Very unlikely that's going to happen 100 days out from a midterm.
CAMEROTA: In fact, that's what you heard Mitch McConnell saying. "We'll do this after the midterms, basically."
OK, so Karoun, let's move on to the president's continued dangerous attacks on the free press and his rhetoric; and how people are trying to push back on him and let him know how dangerous and the repercussions that there could be.
So Arthur Sulzberger, "The New York Times" publisher, was I guess, sort of forced to reveal that he had had this White House meeting with the president on July 20. Here's what he said. Here's what he wrote about this. "I told the president that, although the phrase is 'fake news' is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists the enemy of the people. I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence."
I mean, people are really trying to send up flares here to the president. There isn't just rhetoric. This isn't just fun and games. There are real-life consequences to what he's saying.
DEMIRJIAN: Right. Because look, it's -- nobody knows quite when the rhetoric becomes an excuse for somebody that -- it's not inconceivable that people have attacked journalists before. I think we all know about the paper in Annapolis. Five people were killed. Now, that is not something that seems like it was tied to what the president was saying, but the point is, it's not completely out of the realm of possibility that people take -- people take physical action to harm and kill members of the press.
And with the president continuing to step up his rhetoric about how not just the news is fake but the people who are behind it are bad, that's -- nobody quite knows when that slippery slope becomes something that crashes into a wall, and that's, I think, something that has been a concern on the minds of many people. And now you're seeing the public display of what went on behind closed doors in "The New York Times."
GREGORY: Michael Shear, who works at "The Times," I guess I would add to your publisher with one other beat. I'm not just concerned that the president describes the media as the enemy of the people. I'm really concerned that there's such a reservoir of support for that sentiment in the country.
MICHAEL SHEAR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I think that's right, and look, you know, what A.G. did when he went in to meet with the president -- and let's Republican that it was the president that requested this meeting. It was the White House that requested that it be off the record.
So the reason that "The New York Times" didn't reveal the existence of the meeting was because we were honoring that request. It wasn't until the president himself tweeted about the meeting that we -- that our publisher decided to talk about it.
But when he got the invitation to go into the president, one of his top priorities was to -- to push back against this rhetoric, not only because, as you say, it's -- it's unseemly and distasteful and undermines democracy to hear it coming from the president, but because there are people out there who are receptive.
I mean, look, you've been -- we've been all been at the Trump rallies. We've all been out on the campaign trail and around the country. And the problem is that when the president talks this way about a group of people, in this case, the media, there is a receptive audience of people who really get angry, who really, you know, express those -- that anger in -- in really sort of distasteful ways. Now, 99 percent of those people aren't going to be -- be moved to
violence, but I think there is a danger out there that if you just keep pushing that rhetoric, that there are going to be people who are going to -- who are going to go beyond just the yelling and the hand gestures, and the -- and the screaming. And that really is the danger that I think A.G. was trying to get at.
GREGORY: It's not just violence. It's the lack of credibility. It's people not believing what they should believe.
AVLON: Right. Right, it's undermining independent institutions outlined in the Constitution as checks on power and accountability.
But it's not just the domestic halo effect. And the publisher of "The Times" mentioned this in his letter. It's also the way this mantra of fake news has been picked up by dictators around the world.
AVLON: From Assad to Maduro, to Putin, to Duterte. They have been taking the president's comments as, basically, permission to further target journalists and isolate them. That is bad for liberal democracy and freedom of press around the world.
CAMEROTA: Well, Putin should worry about fake news, since so much of it originates --
CAMEROTA: -- in Russia, and since it is fiction. And that is what helped --
AVLON: The actual.
CAMEROTA: -- clog up our election, 2016.
Thank you all for all of your comments.
Meanwhile, we need to get to this story, because wildfires are still raging out of control in California. A man who lost his wife and two great-grandchildren tells us about the heartbreaking final phone call that he got from them.
[06:29:19] GREGORY: The death toll is rising in California. At least six people now killed as these wildfires rage out of control. A second firefighter and a woman and her two great grandchildren among the dead. That woman's husband is describing his final phone call with his loved ones, moments before they died.
CNN's Dan Simon is live in Redding, California. He's got more this morning.
Dan, good morning.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, David.
This is one of the most difficult conversations I've ever had with somebody. This is a 76-year-old man who is completely broken after losing the most important people in his life.
Ed Bledsoe and his wife, Melody, they were raising their two great- grandchildren. They'd had them since birth. Five-year-old James, who they called Junior, and 4-year-old Emily.
About 7 o'clock on Thursday night, Ed went into town, really, to run an errand. About 15 minutes later, he got a frantic phone call that the flames were encroaching his house.