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Jury Selection to Begin in Paul Manafort's Trial; Rudy Giuliani's Press Circuit on Mueller Investigation Examined; Interview With Rep. Scott Taylor. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired July 31, 2018 - 8:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: -- in a federal courtroom in Virginia this morning. That's when President Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort will go on trial for tax evasion and bank fraud charges.
To be clear, Russian interference and Donald Trump are not on the docket, but this will give the public its most detailed look at some of the evidence that Mueller has spent a year accumulating.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: A Monday media blitz by President Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani that played out here on NEW DAY. I think it may still be playing out.
CAMEROTA: Giuliani has not left the studio.
GREGORY: He has not left, really. Certainly, the issue is still with us. He sewed a lot of confusion about the Russia investigation, Giuliani insisting collusion is not a crime and perhaps revealing a planning meeting two days before that now famous Trump Tower meeting between the Trump campaign and Russians who were promising dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Let's sort all of that out. Did that other meeting really happen? Why would Giuliani reveal it now? What was he really up to? We want to begin our coverage this morning with CNN's Abby Phillip. She is live at the White House with more. Abby, good morning.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Rudy Giuliani yesterday went on a media blitz in an attempt to defend his client, but his statements and then corrections and then statements again have only led to confusion, leaving White House aides a little bit concerned and trying to distance themselves from his statements.
PHILLIP: 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.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was 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.
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I'm don't even know if that's a crime, colluding about Russians. You start analyzing the crime, the hacking is the crime. The hacking is the crime.
CAMEROTA: That's the original crime.
GIULIANI: Well, 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 them the meeting was about to take place. 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: There wasn't another meeting that has been leaked but hasn't been public yet. That was a meeting, an alleged meeting, three days before. He said 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 was four of the six. That meeting never, ever took place. It didn't happen. It's a figment of his imagination, or his lying.
PHILLIP: Giuliani telling CNN reporters have been asking him questions about this second meeting and he was trying to get ahead of the story.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Cohen, how are you doing today?
MICHAEL COHEN, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S FORMER ATTORNEY: Doing great, yourself?
PHILLIP: President Trump ignoring multiple questions about Cohen and the Russia investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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 of what it is. It's one that would have kept me out of the investigation.
PHILLIP: So President Trump this morning is already responding to what Rudy Giuliani was saying yesterday, backing him up by saying collusion is not a crime, but also saying that even if it was, it doesn't matter because there was no collusion anyway. So the president seems to be not too unhappy with what his attorney was saying yesterday on his behalf, even though it does seem like the White House and perhaps the president's legal team is trying to move the goalposts about what exactly could constitute a crime or constitute wrongdoing when it comes to the Mueller probe. Alisyn and David?
GREGORY: New strategy for sure. Abby Phillip, thank you so much from the White House.
Meantime not far from where Abby is, jury selection getting under way this morning in the criminal trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. He is facing a number of charges related to alleged financial crimes. CNN's Joe Johns is live outside the courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia, with more on that. Hey, Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, David. Here we go on the rocket docket in Alexandria, Virginia. Fast-moving justice, that is what this court is known for.
[08:05:03] Jury selection occurs today, and this is the first case brought to trial by special counsel Robert Mueller. It's important because Paul Manafort, of course, is the former campaign manager for Donald Trump. Eighteen counts in this superseding indictment here. This trial could go on for about 30 days, perhaps shorter than that. Three dozen witnesses. And there's another trial that Manafort is going to have to face later this year here in Washington, D.C.
Of course, Robert Mueller is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election but that is not what this case is about. This case is about bank fraud, it's about cheating the IRS. What Manafort is essentially accused of is getting tens of millions of dollars, prosecutors say about $60 million from the Ukraine government for political consulting, essentially banking or parking that money in foreign banks, and not telling the Internal Revenue Service about it. So difficult days ahead for Paul Manafort here in Alexandria, Virginia. And as I said, another trial in D.C. later this year. Alisyn, David, back to you. CAMEROTA: OK, Joe, thank you for laying all that out for us.
We want to talk about the news that happen happening overnight and this morning. Let's bring in CNN's chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and CNN political director David Chalian. David, let's start with Rudy Giuliani. I know you watch these things very closely, you listen for headlines. What did you make of everything that Rudy Giuliani told us yesterday in terms of collusion, meetings, et cetera.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICS DIRECTOR: It sounded like two different headlines that came out of his whole sweep of talking seemingly nonstop yesterday. One was this strategy shift or messaging shift in some way of moving off of just the relentless there is no collusion, there is no collusion, there is no collusion, to collusion is not a crime. That's just not been part of the Trump operation's main set of talking points here, and that got injected here, obviously the president amplifying that today.
The other thing of course is just sewing this confusion around this meeting about whether or not there was a pre-meeting about the meeting that Don Jr. was going to have at Trump Tower with these Russians and whether or not Donald Trump was either present or briefed on the content of that meeting. As you know, President Trump has said time and again the first he learned of it was in July, 2017. But I think Giuliani didn't do anything except create more confusion about whether that point of fact is true from their side.
GREGORY: Jeffrey, we're told as kids by our parents, don't collude.
GREGORY: But in this case what we're seeing is essentially an argument that, look, even if we worked with the Russians at some level with the Russians at some level to get dirt on our opponent, big deal. That's not a crime. So what's the legal truth here?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: The legal truth is complicated. Having a meeting in Trump Tower is probably not a crime. I don't think it is a crime. If you agree with the Russians to spend money in social media, to put up Facebook ads, to plant fake stories on Facebook as the Russians are charged with in that first indictment, that would be a crime because it's been charged as a crime by the Russians. But if Americans were involved, which has not been proven, that would be a crime.
If, for example, in the second case involving Russians that the Trump campaign coordinated with, worked with the hacking of the Democratic National Committee, of John Podesta's e-mails, that would be a crime. If the -- if the Trump campaign somehow coordinated with the Russians to spend money in this political campaign, that would be a crime. Those are criminal conspiracies. Collusion is this broad term that has no legal significance but it has come to represent criminal conspiracies that are crimes.
CAMEROTA: It's just a shorthand that people use, and maybe we should stop using it. TOOBIN: Maybe I should stop. Obviously given what I do for a living
I use that word a lot, but maybe it would make sense to stop because it is just sewing confusion.
CAMEROTA: There is collusion confusion. I agree with you. Feel free to use that one.
So here's how Senator Blumenthal explains what the crime is. So here's what he tweeted. "Note to Giuliani, look it up. Colluding to violate the law is conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. 371. Obstructing justice is also criminal, 18 U.S.C. 1503.
[08:10:09] Your client Trump is under investigation by the special counsel for both. Bombast and bullying won't make it or him go away."
So David, about the meeting, that's what, as you say, got a lot of attention. And I just want to play that moment in case people missed it yesterday because it was fascinating how much detail Rudy Giuliani was offering about a nonexistent meeting. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: Lanny Davis said 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 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 took place. It didn't happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: So David, we really appreciate Rudy Giuliani coming on NEW DAY. We really appreciate all the time he gave us, and I appreciate him trying to answer the question so intently there that he was trying to remember who was in the nonexistent meeting.
CHALIAN: Right. And it went from one additional person he didn't name to then later it was two additional people that he didn't name, so he just didn't have the facts of this nonexistent meeting from his perspective completely down.
We are in, despite all the confusion that Rudy Giuliani may have caused here, Alisyn, we're in the same place here that we've been, which is Michael Cohen is alleging something that Donald Trump had knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting, and the Trump side is saying that is totally untrue. And so you have both sides being represented in Cohen and Trump by people who are known not to tell the truth, and you leave it up to others to decide what here can be believed until an actual agreed upon fact pattern can be reached.
GREGORY: Jeffrey, this is why this entire episode is so tailor made for what this is, which is ultimately a political process, right? So you have unsavory characters, you have lots of lying going on, you have the specter of Michael Cohen. It seems what Giuliani was doing is saying, look, this guy, his word, is a scumbag. He praised him a few weeks earlier, now says he's a pathological liar. So if he was lying about this other meeting that never happened he's probably lying about the meeting we know about. But the bigger point is that this is all subject to interpretation, that whatever Mueller comes up with will just be interpreted by the different sides and then we can all go home.
TOOBIN: Well, that's right, and it's especially important because even though Robert Mueller is a criminal prosecutor, his investigation of Donald Trump will not end in a prosecution. The Justice Department policy is presidents can't be indicted. So whatever Mueller concludes about Donald Trump's role in all of this will be presented in a report in some form to Rod Rosenstein, to members of Congress, to the public. We're not exactly sure what form it will take, but it will be a paper report that says Donald Trump did x, y, and z.
We can be sure that within moments of that report coming out that Rudy Giuliani and all of the Republican establishment will say there's nothing new in the report, it doesn't prove a crime, this is all just a political witch-hunt. And that's where we'll be. So as Rudy Giuliani's public statements are just simply sewing the groundwork, or laying the groundwork for the political fight to come about whatever Mueller discloses.
CAMEROTA: OK, so here's what we know about what is happening today, David, it's the Paul Manafort trial. So we know it's the first trial stemming from the Mueller probe. The trial will focus on his lavish lifestyle, all of the money that he made as a political consultant, but not collusion, as we've been calling it, or conspiracy. Robert Mueller plans to call 35 witnesses. That's a heck of a lot. The witnesses include Rick Gates, who is Manafort's former business partner and deputy Trump campaign chairman, and then there will be a second trial in September.
And so this is just interesting to see what evidence they've amassed and how those circles do -- the ripple effect. Even though it's not about conspiracy, he did get caught up in the net of bad behavior that Robert Mueller then looked into.
CHALIAN: No doubt about it, and although this isn't directly related, as you said, to matters related to his work on the Trump campaign, it is indeed related to his business deals with pro-Russian backers, so there is a bit of a nexus there in some way.
I do think it's sort of our first moment, and Jeffery will speak much more intelligently to this than I will, but the first moment here beyond court filings where we really get to see Mueller's team put cards on the table and lay out a full narrative here as they make their argument.
But I do think the question lingers, and Jeffery if you have an answer to this I'd love to hear it, everyone that has looked at this sort of case seems to think that Mueller has pretty strong case here against Manafort and it begs to question about why that did not seem to be sufficient pressure for Manafort to try to work out a deal here with Mueller.
CAMEROTA: Great, question, quickly Jeffery?
ZELENY: I wish I had the smart answer that my brother Chalian expected. I don't understand why he hasn't plead guilty. This looks like a lay-down, easy conviction in a courthouse where almost everybody gets convicted.
CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, isn't the answer -
ZELENY: I mean -
CAMEROTA: - very quickly, I mean, the Trump folks would say it's because there is no information to share. He doesn't have any information on the President. He can't offer anything up, so he can't make a deal.
ZELENY: But you can still plead guilty -
ZELENY: - and save yourself some time in prison if you plead guilty rather than go to trial. Going to trial guarantees you a longer sentence.
GREGORY: All right, David and Jeffery, thank you both -
ZELENY: If you're convicted. You don't get a sentence if you're not convicted.
CAMEROTA: Thank you for clarifying.
ZELENY: That's illegal -
CAMEROTA: Good, you're still innocent if you're not (inaudible). OK, thank you both very much. President Trump is again threatening to shut down the government over the boarder wall funding. Do Republicans support this idea, what do they think? We ask one next.
CAMEROTA: President Trump doubling down on his threat to shutdown the government over border wall funding. Listen.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As far as the border is concerned, and personally if we don't get boarder security after many, many years of talk within the United States, I would have no problem doing a shutdown.
CAMEROTA: But Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, says he does not see that happening. Joining us now is Republican Congressman Scott Taylor. Good morning, Congressman.
REP. SCOTT TAYLOR (R), V.A.: Good morning, Alisyn. How are you?
CAMEROTA: I'm well. It looks like a beautiful day there in Virginia Beach. Thank you very much for joining us.
CAMEROTA: When the president makes this threat, do you see it as an idle threat or do you see it as this is what he's willing to do? In January, in fact, the government was shut down for two days. Do you think this is a possibility now?
TAYLOR: I kind of see it as posturing to be honest with you. Look, I fought against the government shutdown last time over the DREAM Act and I'll fight against it this time as well. As you see here in Virginia Beach, we have more military than any congressional district in the nation. It would affect the military. It affects our National Guard. It affects our federal workers, our government contractors. It's an irresponsible thing to do, I think. So I do not support it.
CAMEROTA: I appreciate your candor. Why do you think the president often resorts to that threat?
TAYLOR: You know, the president tries to negotiate from a tough position. I get that. I understand it. He's - obviously has his prerogative in trying to push the things he wants to get accomplished. And I get that. I understand it. I know that it was the wrong thing to do last time, and I think it'd be the wrong thing to do this time.
CAMEROTA: Do you think that it gets Democrats attention? I mean, he wants funding for his border wall. Do you think that this is - do you think it is ultimately effective and it does end up getting them to the negotiating table?
TAYLOR: Well, it certainly could be. I mean, the last time the government shut down, it was the Democrats shut it down over the DREAM Act and they got burned for it because it was pretty clear that it was them that did it.
I mean, the president wants - he wants the money for border security, and I get that. I want that, too. I want secure borders as well. You know, the House just passed exactly the dollar amount that the administration asked for. The Senate, I don't know where they are yet. We'll see. I imagine it'll be somewhere in between.
So it is important to get border security I believe, but again, I'm opposed to shutting the government down over that.
CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean, and just to represent the other side, you know, Democrats say that they gave the president what he wanted in terms of $25 billion for the border wall, and they say that Republicans control all the levers of government and they, I think, would disagree that voters held them responsible. But look, it didn't work out for anybody and I think that that was the general consensus -
TAYLOR: Well let me - can I -
CAMEROTA: Yes. You may.
TAYLOR: Let me comment on that, of course. Yes, Republicans control all, but you add up all votes in the Senate, it's 51. It's not 60. So if the last time the government shut down, it wasn't over those negotiations that you're commenting on. It was over the clean DREAM Act, which had zero chance of passing.
So that was irresponsible. I think it would be irresponsible here, too. Again, in my area, there's real pain. There's real pain when the government shuts down for the military, for the National Guard, for federal workers, contractors. I don't think it's the right thing to do.
CAMEROTA: Congressman, I have to ask you about a story that we just covered here on New Day about these 3D guns. Today, regular people without a background check will be able to download the blueprint from a 3D - and on a 3D printer make a gun in the privacy of their own home.
These are untraceable. They are plastic. They'll be able to not be detected at stadiums and airports, by metal detectors. How is this happening?
TAYLOR: Well, I'm certainly concerned about it, and I know that the president just tweeted that he's - once he - I guess he said something about it not being common sense or something, talk with the NRA. I don't really care about the - with the NRA, but I do think that the legislature as well the Executive Branch should be looking over these things, should be understanding where we look to regulate them if at all, which I think there should be some, of course.
You know, this is something that - this is a growing issue that we're going to have because of computing power and because of this stuff being able to spread like crazy not just on the regular Internet, but on the Darknet as well.
Look, legislation is behind technology. There's no question about that. So we have to - I think we should take this up in Congress to look at it, to see how we may be able to help and be able to protect our citizens in the right way and keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them, of course, and that's somebody speaking as a guy who - I like a robust second amendment, of course.
But yes, I do think that we should look this up in the legislation, that we should - the president and the Executive Branch should work with us to figure out what we should do about it, but until -
CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, listen. To be honest - TAYLOR: That being said to be honest - that being said to be honest, you know, legislation just because we put it in place, it is limited. There's no question about it. It's limited -
CAMEROTA: I understand. I understand. I mean -
TAYLOR: This guy to have the guns and they got downloaded. It was actually Spain that had the biggest amount - the largest amount of downloads on the blueprints for these guns, but I do think that we should take this up in Congress. I do.
CAMEROTA: Look, it sounds like we're all late to this game. We just had one of the dad's from Parkland from -
TAYLOR: No question.
CAMEROTA: - the Parkland Massacre. He was saying, that you guys in Congress and we in the media have been asleep at the switch while this has been happening, and he's been trying to sound the alarm that this is happening today, and that when this genie is out of the bottle, it's going to be really hard to put it back in. And we have - we can only assume that the president was watching, because we just did it moments ago and the president tweeted moments later. Here's what he said, "I'm looking in to 3D plastic guns being sold to the public, already spoke to NRA - doesn't seem to make much sense."
And so Congressman, I know that you see the limits of legislation, but does send a shiver down your spine that this is going to be happening today unless somehow Congress can stop it or there's an injunction?
TAYLOR: Well, I don't know. I mean, I think it's unrealistic to say - I mean, everybody points to Congress all the time. It's unrealistic to say, "OK we're just going to be able to stop it like that." That's completely unrealistic.
However, that doesn't make - negate the fact that we should come together to look at where there should be reasonable regulations on this technology. I've got to tell you, I mean, listen. We're in an era of computing power that spreads exponentially very quickly. And yes, Congress is behind all technology and legislating those things. There's no question about that.
There are things that we probably can do, and there's things that are unrealistic to think that we can completely stop that because of the way the Internet works, because of the Darknet, because of technology. So I'm not saying we shouldn't do it. I think that we should. I think we should try to reduce -- just like there are laws that prohibit other illegal things, right?
CAMEROTA: Yes, I understand I just don't want to be in a stadium -
TAYLOR: It makes it tougher for people to get, but it doesn't stop it 100 percent.
CAMEROTA: Yes - of course, of course. I just don't want to be in a stadium or a plane, and have somebody be able to walk through the metal detector, you know?
TAYLOR: I understand.
CAMEROTA: So anyway, I hope that something can happen today.
TAYLOR: I understand that.
CAMEROTA: It sounds like we have the president's attention as well yours. Congressman Scott Taylor, thank you very much for being with us and weighing in on all of these things.
TAYLOR: Thank you for having me.
CAMEROTA: David -
GREGORY: So collusion is not a crime. Is this just semantics over illegal definition? Senator Dick Durbin on the story with the Russian investigation and much more coming up next.