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Giuliani Media Blitz Sows New Cloud of Confusion; Trump: I'd Meet with Iran without Preconditions; Trump Threatens Shutdown Over Border Wall Funding. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired July 31, 2018 - 06:00   ET



RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: I don't even know if that's a crime, colluding about Russians.

[05:59:24] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Collusion is not a crime? Federal elections violations is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something major would always go before Trump, always.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a problem for Don Jr., because he has testified that he did not tell his father about the meeting.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm ready to meet any time they want to. I think it's an appropriate thing to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He slams the Obama/Iran deal, but he's adopting the Barack Obama position that he's willing to sit down with some of these folks without preconditions.

Unidentified female: It's yet another example of chaotic foreign policy.


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 Tuesday, July 31. How did that happen? It's 6 a.m. here in New York. John Berman is off. David Gregory joins me.

Great to have you.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning. I think Rudy Giuliani may still be talking to you.

CAMEROTA: I got him a lot more coffee.

GREGORY: He may still be over there, making news in ways we didn't realize. Wow.

CAMEROTA: I got him a lot more coffee. And that played throughout the evening.

GREGORY: That's your strategy, actually. You just bring -- you keep bringing coffee to the newsmakers, and they keep talking.

CAMEROTA: That's right. Until Stephen Colbert wraps it up.

GREGORY: At the end of the night.

CAMEROTA: We'll play you what happened after Rudy Giuliani sat down with us. So here's our starting line.

In just hours, Special Counsel Robert Mueller faces his first test in a federal courtroom in Virginia. President Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort's, trial gets underway today. It is on tax evasion and bank fraud.

To be clear, Russian interference and Donald Trump are not on the docket. But that did not stop the president's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, from coming on NEW DAY yesterday and so wing a bunch of confusion over Russia.

Giuliani insisted that collusion is not a crime. And he seemed also to reveal a planning meeting that happened two days before that infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russians who were promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. So did that other meeting really happen? And why was Rudy Giuliani talking about it, if not? Those are just two of the questions.

GREGORY: And who's on first?

President Trump is actually making news with another about face this morning. Mr. Trump now says he's willing to meet with Iran's president without preconditions. That's a week after threatening them on Twitter.

But then, a couple of hours later, America's top diplomat did set conditions for any potential meeting. We'll try to sort that out.

And a new report in "The Washington Post" this morning says that North Korea is working on new, advanced missiles. Important because that comes despite President Trump declaring just weeks ago that they were, quote, "no longer a nuclear threat." So is North Korea living up to the agreement they made with President Trump in Singapore?

We've got it all covered. A busy morning. Let's begin with CNN's Abby Phillip. She's live at the White House this morning.

Abby, good morning.


Well, Rudy Giuliani, the president's lawyer, went on television yesterday in an effort to help defend his client. But his statements actually might have created more confusion, leaving some White House aides a little bit -- more than a little bit confused.


PHILLIP (voice-over): A White House official distancing the president's press team from his outside lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, telling CNN they are not coordinating after Giuliani's aggressive and confusing media blitz.

Since the start of the investigation into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia to interfere in the 2016 election, the message from the president's team has been the same.

TRUMP: There is absolutely no collusion.

There was no collusion.

There's no collusion. No collusion.

PHILLIP: But Monday, Giuliani appeared to open the door to a different line of defense.

GIULIANI: I don't even know if that's a crime, colluding about Russians.


GIULIANI: You start -- you start analyzing the crime. The hacking is the crime. The hacking is the crime.

CAMEROTA: That certainly is the original crime.

GIULIANI: The president didn't hack.

CAMEROTA: Of course not. That's the original crime.

GIULIANI: He didn't pay them for hacking.

PHILLIP: Giuliani also pushing back on allegations that then- candidate Trump knew in advance and approved his campaign's 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. A claim sources tell CNN that Mr. Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, is willing to tell Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigators.

GIULIANI: We said there was a one-on-one meeting that Donald Jr. came in and told him about the meeting was about to take place. Well, there are two witnesses who say it didn't happen.

CAMEROTA: The president and his son.

PHILLIP: The president's lawyer also bringing up the possibility of another previously undisclosed meeting before then saying it did not happen either.

GIULIANI (via phone): There was (ph) another meeting that has been leaked but hasn't been public yet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. GIULIANI: That was a meeting, an alleged meeting three days before.

He says there was a meeting with Donald Jr., with Jared Kushner, with Paul Manafort, with Gates and possibly two others, in which they, out of the presence of the president, discussed the meeting with the Russians.

We checked with their lawyers, the ones we could check with, which were four of the six. That meeting never, ever took place. It didn't happen. It's a figment of his imagination or he's lying.

PHILLIP: Giuliani telling CNN that reporters have been asking him questions about this alleged second meeting and he was trying to get ahead of the story.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Cohen, how are you today?


PHILLIP: President Trump ignoring multiple questions about Cohen and the Russia investigation.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, do you feel betrayed by Michael Cohen, sir?

PHILLIP: Despite lashing out at Mueller over alleged conflicts of interest over the weekend. Giuliani conceding that he was unaware of what the president was referencing.

GIULIANI: I can't tell you. I'm not sure I know exactly what the conflict is. I have a good idea what it is. It's one that would have kept me out of the investigation.


PHILLIP: So we'll see what today brings in terms of whether Rudy Giuliani will go back on the airwaves, try to clarify even more of his statements.

[06:05:09] Meanwhile, President Trump is going to head to Tampa Bay, Florida, today for a work force development event, followed by a campaign rally -- Alisyn and David.

CAMEROTA: Abby, thank you so much for explaining all of that. Now it's clear.

Joining us now, we have CNN senior political analyst John Avlon and CNN legal analysts Anne Milgram and Renato Mariotto [SIC] -- Mariotti.

Renato, so there's a couple things -- there's many things, actually, to dive into with what Rudy Giuliani told us on the air on NEW DAY yesterday.

First, they've gone from saying "No collusion." You saw Donald Trump, President Trump having written in big, black letters on his speech. He added it to a speech. He said, "NO COLLUSION" in all caps. Then yesterday his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said, "Well, collusion is

not a crime." So is that a significant change in the narrative or are we parsing this too closely?

RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it's a very significant change. You don't switch from no collusion to collusion is not a crime unless there's evidence that you've seen that makes you concerned about taking the position of "no collusion." I mean, it suggests to me that something that he's seen related to all of these meetings suggests to him that it's going to be hard to make that public position tenable.

GREGORY: We should be clear -- we should just be clear about what the crime would be, then, in this consideration. So if it's conspiracy, right, getting something in exchange, something valuable, right?

ANNE MILGRAM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, conspiracy is just you have an agreement, and someone takes a step towards furthering that agreement. And so it also doesn't have to be you have a conspiracy up front to do the act.

So Trump didn't have to agree with the Russians to hack the e-mail. If he agreed later to even help arrange when the e-mails were released, for example, before the Democratic convention, that's enough.

CAMEROTA: That's conspiracy?

MILGRAM: It could be conspiracy. It could be aiding and abetting.

GREGORY: Because the campaign would have gotten something in return from the Russians of value.

MILGRAM: Right. The Russians are the ones actually -- you know, either it's a conspiracy because they do it together or the Russians are committing a crime, and the Trump administration is -- Trump as president was helping them in some way. And again, it could be pretty broad in terms of what that would cover.

CAMEROTA: John, just to remind our viewers. You worked with Mayor Rudy Giuliani for many years.


CAMEROTA: You know him well. You can sort of parse what he says and how he speaks. Your thoughts?

AVLON: Look, I think that Rudy is a little big unplugged and freeform on here. So I think parsing his two words may be unhelpful. I think he was trying to get ahead of a story with a second meeting, not corroborating the existence of the other meeting.

I do think the --

CAMEROTA: Hold on. Time out, time out. Because that got a lot of attention.

AVLON: It did.

CAMEROTA: He seemed to mention another meeting that none of us had ever heard about. In fact, he came up with some of the guests even in that meeting, the Jared, the Don Jr., the Rick Gates that none of us had ever heard about. And then he had to clarify for the rest of the day whether that was a real meeting. So let's hear a moment of this.



GIULIANI: Lanny David just added there was a meeting two days before the meeting took place with Donald Jr., Jared, Manafort and two others, Gates and one more person.

He says there was a meeting with Donald Jr., with Jared Kushner, with Paul Manafort, with Gates and possibly two others in which they, out of the presence of the president, discussed a meeting with the Russians. We checked with their lawyers, the ones we could check with, which were four of the six. That meeting never, ever took place. It didn't happen.


CAMEROTA: OK. I actually understand this now. The way we've just put it together, I actually understand it now.

GREGORY: It's kind of like a bar mitzvah seating chart. You can't have Michael sitting next to Rick if he's there because they don't get along. I don't know.


So what the client -- what my client meant to say, as we would suddenly say, Rudy is, I think, responding to a story what has been floated to him. In the process, he elevated it while meaning to dismiss it.

I think it still leaves us kind of nowhere. I do think there was consistent messaging about the idea that collusion is not a crime. And they may be moving goal posts, decimating the goal posts, as "The Washington Post" said. But I think what's really key is collusion may not be a crime, but conspiracy is, and there are plenty of other problems.

The larger moving of the goal post and the way that Rudy, I think, has deployed in the court of the public opinion to muddy the waters and expand the Overton window, is look, collusion is not a crime. The president can't obstruct justice, on and on and on in ways that may not be relevant to where Mueller's head is at or what the actual situation may be legally.

GREGORY: Or it may be -- here's what I think we have to pull back, aside from the collusion questions, which is you've got this figure in Michael Cohen, as close to the president. Everybody knows that.

Now he's coming forward and saying, "Guess what? There were a couple of meetings, and -- and they talked about how to work with the Russians to get this information out on Hillary. If the bigger defense, not in a court of law, but in a report based on a report to Congress becomes, "Look, you know, they weren't messing with the Russians here. They wanted oppo research on Clinton. They'll take it from wherever they can get it. And that is not a crime."

[06:10:14] Or -- and/or that Trump himself had nothing to do with that piece of it. Maybe people on the campaign did. He wasn't aware of that. That's where I see this unfolding if that's, in fact, the strategy.

MILGRAM: So but remember that it's not a crime to get dirt on your political opponent. It is a crime for a foreign government to interfere with U.S. election, and that's been proven now that there was interference.

MARIOTTI: And there's also a crime for a foreign national to make a contribution to a United States campaign.


MARIOTTI: And so if they are the ones providing the resources --

AVLON: I'm not sure you need to go too far down to the national in- kind contribution category. This is coordination, potentially, of some kind with a foreign government.


AVLON: That has an explicit interest in the election. There's nothing about that that, you know, doesn't cause a problem for the smell test. Even in past elections, campaigns, the 2000 campaign, you'll remember, the Gore team got a debate briefing tape from someone inside the Bush campaign. Immediately called the FBI.

So -- and this is of a, you know, magnitude smaller of a fundamental problem. So, this gets more serious. And you know, WikiLeaks had some internal texts put online yesterday that showed, you know, DMs with Don Jr. in particular. So there are connections and meetings. We have to figure out what level they rise to, whether the candidate knew, when did he know it. But there are problems that you can't simply spin away.

CAMEROTA: Well, Robert Mueller is doing the work, so we don't have to. So -- and that leads us to Paul Manafort.

So the first trial connected to the campaign is beginning. And so here is what we know. Trial to focus on his lavish lifestyle and the millions of dollars that he made as a political consultant but not possible collusion.

So it is not going to do with everything we've been talking about. Mueller plans to call 35 witnesses, including Rick Gates, Manafort's former business partner, and deputy Trump campaign chairman. He faces a second trial in September.

What do we need to know, Renato?

MARIOTTI: Well, it's going to be a long, complicated trial. You heard 35 witnesses. For the jury's sake, I hope they don't call all 35 witnesses.

But I'll tell you, Manafort is looking like he's in a bad spot. He's facing very severe charges, two different trials, a lot of evidence and potentially a long sentence.

Once this trial starts, I think the chance of a plea goes even further down. I think the chance that he --

CAMEROTA: Why? Why doesn't somebody plead once the trial starts and the pressure ratchets up?

MARIOTTI: You actually get a -- a greater sentence. You get less credit for cooperating once the trial begins. And at this stage of the game, it's going to be much harder for him to flip. You know, coming in and talking to Mueller at this stage, it's pretty late in the game.

Once the jury is seated in the box, jeopardy attaches so he would have to plead guilty in the midst of trial in order to preserve so there's no double jeopardy issue.

GREGORY: So let's just remember that, among the charges, bank fraud and, you know, tax evasion. That's the big piece, is on money that was from Russia.

AVLON: Right.

GREGORY: To help a Ukrainian leader who was tied to the Russian government and to Vladimir Putin. That is the only tie. It has nothing to do with the 2016 election. But he was the campaign manager who had these existing ties to Putin's government, which was significant.

MILGRAM: I don't think the government will play that up, but that's absolutely true, and it will be the backdrop for all this conversation.

GREGORY: That's where some of the criticism has been from Judge Ellis in Virginia in the district there, saying that, look, you're just using this to -- to put pressure on him to see if he's got anything on Trump.

AVLON: Possibly. But now we are going to trial. And I think that larger context does matter, right? This isn't simply resuscitating old ghosts. These are tens of millions of dollars, allegedly, that Manafort --

CAMEROTA: But why is it only coming out now? Why are we dealing with this trial now? It's because of the campaign. I mean, Paul Manafort did this decades ago, right? Or a decade ago. AVLON: A decade ago. Look, I think the larger issue is, is that when you are campaign manager for a Russian-backed candidate in Ukraine, in the context of Ukraine and Crimea, and you come to the president's campaign, now-president's campaign with those relationships, with that experience in money laundering that came, arguably, from Putin, that's relevant, folks.

GREGORY: Well, it's also the special counsel had this brief started investigating, and prosecutors are going to charge crimes as they find them.


GREGORY: Which is happening with Michael Cohen in the southern district, even if it's not directly related to what he's looking at in terms of potential conspiracy.

All right. We're going to come back. President Trump says he will now meet with Iran's leader without preconditions. He's open to that. But his secretary of state appears to be saying something else. We'll break that down, coming up next.


GREGORY: Lot of news yesterday, but this was pretty notable, as well. President Trump now sending a new message to Iran, despite threatening them last week on Twitter, in all caps no less. The president now says that he's willing to meet with them.


TRUMP: No preconditions, no. They want to meet I'll meet, any time they want. Any time they want. It's good for the country, good for them, good for us and good for the world. No preconditions. If they want to meet, I'll meet.


GREGORY: Maybe not. Let's bring back John Avlon. Also joining us, CNN global affairs analyst and staff writer at "The New Yorker," Susan Glasser; and CNN correspondent Phil Mattingly. Welcome, all.

So hours after the president made that declaration of no preconditions at this press conference with the Italian leader, his secretary of state Mike Pompeo was interviewed on CNBC. And what's clear in his answer is, yes, actually, there would be some conditions before the two leaders would sit down. Listen to Pompeo.


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: If the Iranians demonstrate a commitment to make fundamental changes in how they treat their own people, reduce their malign behavior, agree that it's worthwhile to enter in a nuclear agreement that actually prevents proliferation, then the president said he's prepared to sit down and have the conversation with them. (END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY: Susan Glasser, what's going on here?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, you know, secretary of state these days often means a certain amount of cleanup duty. And we saw that with North Korea over and over again, where Pompeo is in charge of negotiating the deal that Trump didn't really negotiate but said was a victory.

I think something similar is happening here with Iran. You see the president, I guess, trying to get leverage with threats like the threat last week and then saying, "Oh, hey, no problem. We'll meet."

[06:20:05] You know, I think that it's very unlikely, however, that the Iranians are going to follow this script as Trump has played it out with the North Koreans, for example.

GREGORY: Just remind us, though, one beat on where we stand with the Iran nuclear deal, which, of course, was forged under the Obama administration.

GLASSER: Well, you know, it's a good point. So one of the things that's happening is that President Trump unilaterally withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal in May, even though that was negotiated by the world's six major powers along with Iran. And the European allies of the United States, along with Russia and China, have stayed in that deal.

So Iran feels that it still has partners in that deal. That makes it, A, much less likely to meet. B, what's happening as a consequence of that is that President Trump reimposed unilateral U.S. sanctions on Iran. And those are about to come into effect over the next week. And so you see this ratcheting up of words.

Iran, by the way, has recently threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz to oil shipments if the U.S. follows through with a new round of oil sanctions. And I've talked to some Iran analysts who think that it's actually very possible that Iran would follow through on that threat.

So, basically, this is all happening as a result of President Trump's pullout from the Iran deal in May.

CAMEROTA: But Phil, I mean, President Trump is comfortable with new sanctions and getting their attention, getting Iran's attention in that way. What's the response in Washington to all of this?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Confusion, I think to some degree. Look, if you want to look for a simplistic parallel, North Korea is, I think, the one you immediately see. Right? You tweet about the size of one's button. You go back and forth with kind of bellicose rhetoric, and then you propose a meeting.

I think the most interesting element when you talk to, particularly on Capitol Hill, Republicans who are starkly opposed to what the Obama administration is doing, very supportive of pulling out of the Iran deal, is the fact that the Obama -- or the Trump administration, Iran policy is actually rather coherent. And it's one of the areas, particularly when we talk about cabinet officials, that people feel like they have a really good understanding of what's going forward.

And then the president tweets, or then the president speaks. And not only does it confuse world leaders and people across the globe, but it confuses a lot of allies, too, in terms of what are actually we trying to do here? What's actually on the table?

I think the most interesting part of Secretary Pompeo's remarks, besides they were very clearly clean-up and very clearly laying out a lot of preconditions that apparently weren't there in the president's mind, is it was very reminiscent to the secretary's Senate testimony just last week where he basically did this on several key areas in international diplomacy, walking through four senators, Republican senators who were a little bit perplexed as to where the president and the administration stood that this is our policy. Don't worry about what the tweets say. Don't necessarily pay attention to what the president is saying. This is where we stand.

GREGORY: This is what's striking, is there's a couple of facts to this. Susan and I have talked about -- Susan wrote about this in the last couple of weeks, which is whether there really is an American foreign policy.

You have in President Trump someone who believes he is uniquely capable of conducting diplomacy on his own terms if he alone can get in the room with the leaders. Now, it's so provocative that it's interesting. It's been interesting with North Korea, but now we have reporting from "The Washington Post" indicating that this -- they're not playing by any of these rules. And we don't know how that's going to play out before the president might do it again. So you do have an administration pursuing a policy, and the president essentially going it alone.

AVLON: Right. Look, this is Donald Trump applying, "I alone can fix it" to the world. What could possibly go wrong?

You've got an administration trying to provide some coherence to the president's impulses. But one of the few pieces of connective tissue to the president seems to be doing the opposite of whatever Obama did. That said, at some point you go around the horn.

And now, you know, conservatives criticized President Obama for saying he was willing to talk to the Iranians. Now President Trump is embracing that mantle. And so Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, is left with cleanup duty, which basically can be boiled down to "What my client meant to say." Not "no preconditions." A ton of preconditions. And that's what he meant to say.

GREGORY: Susan, what about the "I alone" foreign policy?

GLASSER: Well, we all know at this point that President Trump relishes the pageantry and the enormous amount of attention that's lavished on him personally by personalizing American foreign policy, having these one-on-one summit meetings.

He continues, as he did yesterday, amazingly enough, to say, "I had a great meeting with Vladimir Putin. I don't know what all the trouble is about." So, you know, do people think that he would love to have a sit-down with the Iranian leadership and come to some new peace in the Middle East? Yes.

I am skeptical in this particular case that Trump is running the same play but might not realize that the Iranians have a different -- a different approach than the North Koreans, even than the Russians. And actually, right now I think they have much less incentive to come to the table.

Remember, they had a deal that the United States unilaterally ripped up. And in fact, the response yesterday from the Iranian foreign ministry was instructive. The spokesman came out, and he said, "The United States has no credibility. Why would we meet with a country that just tore up the nuclear deal that we spent years negotiating?" I think it's a good question right now.

[06:25:02] CAMEROTA: OK. So, Phil, on to the next topic, government shutdown. It's deja vu all over again. And I, for one, am not going to be fooled like I am every time.

AVLON: We'll see the football for you.

CAMEROTA: Yes, yes. Exactly. This time I'm going to think they're going to find an agreement at the 11th hour, as they generally do, but President Trump -- look, the Republicans as you know, said, "We're not going to see a government shutdown before the midterms." But President Trump said something different. Here he is yesterday.


TRUMP: As far as the border is concerned and personally, if we don't get border security after many, many years of talk within the United States, I would have no problem doing a shutdown. It's time we had proper border security. We're the laughingstock of the world. We have the worst immigration laws anywhere in the world.


CAMEROTA: Phil, what happens next? You have a crystal ball.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Well, look, so the president is on a completely different page of where Republican leadership is. And it's not just that they had an agreement between Speaker Paul Ryan and Leader Mitch McConnell. It's they had an agreement with those two individuals and the president in the Oval Office in a private meeting that occurred last week. That's according to several people who are briefed at the meeting that the president was OK with the idea that we will deal with the wall and we will deal with spending related to the wall after the election.

There's two reasons for that. Obviously, the political fallout of a shutdown fight when Republicans control every lever of government. Not great. Just a couple months before the shutdown.

But there's also the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. Mitch McConnell made very clear that is around the time he wants Kavanaugh confirmed. They feel good about where this information process is. They don't want to step on something that conservatives will lavish praise on the president -- Republicans will lavish praise on the president for doing.

The irony of all of this is because of President Trump, the spending and appropriations process is actually working better than it ever has. You remember his veto threat after the $1.3 trillion omnibus. He's the reason things are working on Capitol Hill on this. And now he's trying to undercut it, which I think everybody is kind of shaking their head.

And I will note, Republican leaders say their strategy is not changing. They're basically brushing off what he's saying. But it's just another one --

The one thing is that, look, the president didn't take yes for an answer on immigration and on border wall funding. He could have had that. But this is what he ran on.

And the truth is that it was a failure by Republicans and Democrats to get any immigration deal that gave rise to him in many ways, and he's not going to get off that message before the midterm, even if he doesn't go through. And we've seen reporting that he would not actually want a shutdown, but he still wants to talk about it.

CAMEROTA: Susan, Phil, John, thank you very much.

North Korea may be making new missiles again. This is a new report that raises concerns from the intel community. We'll tell you what they're saying.