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White House: Russia Right Now Trying to Interfere in Elections Ahead of Midterms; Paul Manafort's Luxury Wardrobe, Lifestyle Front & Center at Trial; Ohio State Places Head Coach Urban Meyer on Paid Leave During Investigation. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired August 2, 2018 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: That means if you're being bombarded by propaganda, the way that we as a free society, we're not going to shut down the outlets. There are First Amendment barriers to it. What we do is say, hey, you need to know the source of this information. That's what Facebook -- what Wray said, the FBI is working with tech companies to expose where certain things are coming from Russian actors.

The indictment against the social media. about the social media campaign is to let Americans know. you are being targeted with propaganda, and it is up to us partly to be critical, to process information using critical thinking skills which seem to be, I think, in shorter supply these days.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: I hear you. And transparency is always a good thing.

But were making the point telephone point is to sow this discord. And what we're hearing from this White House, coming back to you, has been happening.

TIM NAFTALI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This is actually a real problem. And I cut my teeth studying the Cold War and a little bit about World War II. We were on the same page. We, as a country, were on the same page. There was a disagreement. Left and right disagreed the extent to which the Russians were a threat. An exception of people belong to the Communist Party of the United States. Americans did not disagree that the Soviets were a threat nor did they want to assist the Soviets in competing with us globally. We're not on the same page. The White House every day muddies the water, publicly. It's great to see the FBI director stand up there, the national security adviser stand up there, Mr. Coats stand up there, that's great. The bureaucracies are doing their job. But the White House speaks for us. And the message that goes out from that White House every day just helps the Russians assist in tearing us apart. I hope this won't continue. I think,, at some point someone in the White House has to realize that, unless they really want to help Russia, they might want to dial back the rhetoric because, at this point, they are assisting a foreign country's disinformation campaign.

BALDWIN: I'll let that last spot float out there.

Asha, Bara (ph), and Tim, thank you so much for that conversation. Coming up here, a new offer -- speaking of the special counsel -- from

a new offer from Robert Mueller to President Trump, talk to me in person and I won't ask you as many questions about obstruction of justice.

And we're looking at pictures of Paul Manafort. The battle over Paul Manafort's expensive wardrobe. Why prosecutors really want to show these images of pricey ostrich coat and python jacket in this federal courtroom, and why the judge, so far, is saying no.


[14:37:04] # The battle over Paul Manafort's luxury wardrobe and lifestyle front and center here day three of his trial in Alexandria, Virginia. We have photos of his former campaign chief's $15,000 coat made from an ostrich and a python jacket with a price tag of $18,500. The special counsel's team, prosecutors fighting to show photos of Manafort's lavish lifestyle to the jury. So far, the judge is saying no, saying, being wealthy is not a crime, reminding jurors that Manafort is facing tax and banking violations.

Also new today, a landscaper is testifying how Manafort spent nearly half a million dollars at his Hampton's mansion over the course of five years. His grounds featuring a waterfall and a red-and-white flower bed in the shape of an "M."

Manafort's longtime bookkeeper taking the stand, testifying, number 14 times in a row, here. The bookkeeper saying she never heard any mention of Manafort's 14 different shell company bank accounts.

A brief moment of levity the judge, Judge T.S. Ellis. The judge noticing his binder of exhibits and documents got swapped with one of Mueller's prosecutor's binders. In response, the prosecutor joking that Judge Ellis now had a sneak peek at their strategy. Judge Ellis replying he didn't need to see the bind, the prosecutor's strategy was clear him to.

Just who is this no-nonsense judge unafraid to speak so bluntly in this courtroom?

With me now with a lot of insight, defense attorney, William Cummings, who practices in Judge Ellis's district for 54 years.

Bill Cummings, welcome to you.

And help us understand -- help us understand who this judge is. It's my understanding you're saying this is vintage Ellis. What does that mean.

WILLIAM CUMMINGS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It's not just vintage Ellis. It's also typical of the judges in that courthouse going way back 50 years to Oren Lewis. They used to call him Roarin' Oren Lewis. He was a terror to some lawyers in that courthouse.

The tradition has been there for a long time. All the district judges in that courthouse are very active participants in a trial. You know, a lot of people don't understand that the federal district judges have a way more latitude in commenting on proceedings as they go through than a state court judge has. This is not unusual.

But the important thing about Judge Ellis, he wants the record to be clear. And the record is something that goes up to the court of appeals. And making certain that a question, for example, that a lawyer asks is that a compound question, he corrects that because an answer to a compound question is ambiguous. So that kind of thing is important to make sure that the evidence is clarified before it goes on the record. But Judge Ellis has been doing this ever since he got to Alexandria.

[14:40:22] BALDWIN: This is his M.O. We heard the line from him yesterday. Prosecutors really want to show these fancy clothes and his whole lifestyle that Manafort seemed to take on, and his line in the courtroom, "Mr. Manafort is not on trial for having a lavish lifestyle."

I'm curious if you have an anecdote to share that sums up Judge Ellis?

CUMMINGS: Well, I have an anecdote which is interesting because we had a jury trial not too long ago, several different lawyers, multiple defendants. and Judge Ellis, in commenting to the defense counsel about something that one of them had said, got red in the face. Of course, his facial coloring won't show up on the record. And so I sit up and said to the judge, I want to make sure the record shows you're red in the face. And he says, how do you know that? How can you tell that? I said, because I'm wearing glasses. And the judge took that very well and calmed down. He took it with the respect that was given.

The point is that if the record shows that the judge is, in fact, demonstrating a kind of a personal feeling that's not going to be shown on the written record, it could affect a bias issue on the court of appeals.

BALDWIN: Got it. They are hoping prosecutors may rest their case as early as next week. This is snappy. It's moving through.

Bill Cummings, thank you so much for shedding a little light on this judge, Judge Ellis. Appreciate you.

CUMMINGS: Thank you.

BALDWIN: And for wearing your glasses, the anecdote there.

Just ahead here, championship winning football coach, Urban Meyer, forced to take paid administrative leave as Ohio State University investigates abuse allegations against Meyer's now-fired assistant coach, Zach Smith. Next, hear from Smith's ex-wife as she describes this alleged abuse and why she thinks Urban Meyer knew about it and did nothing.


[14:46:29] BALDWIN: Legendary football coach, Urban Meyer, is on paid leave until Ohio State University investigates what he knew and when he knew about a 2015 domestic violence allegation against his now-fired assistant coach, Zach Smith. Smith was served a civil protection order last month prohibiting him from going within 500 feet of his ex-wife, Courtney Smith, for the next five years. A photo of Coach Meyers' core values hangs in the Ohio State locker room, and one of the core values is, in all capital letters, treat women with respect.

Listen to how Courtney Smith describes the 2015 alleged domestic violence incident in an interview with a sports network.


COURTNEY SMITH, EX-WIFE OF ZACH SMITH: He came home -- he came to my home. He wasn't happy. We got into an argument. He decided he wanted to take my son. It wasn't his night, his parenting night. And I, obviously, fought back not physically but no you're not going take him, it's my night. There needs to be boundaries. And when I stood up to him, he didn't like it and took me and shoved me up against the wall with his hands around my neck. Something he did very often. My daughter was clinging to my leg and he, obviously -- it registered with him what he was doing, so he took my son and left and I called the police.


BALDWIN: Courtney Smith also says that she told Coach Meyer's wife, Shelly, about this alleged abuse.


SMITH: Very sympathy. Supportive. Caring. You know, why didn't you do something about this before, was her first question? I explained to her, just as I did to you, it's scary. You know, people who are being abused just don't pick up and leave right away. It takes a long time and a lot of courage. They manipulate you, the abuser. They make you feel like it's your fault. And they demean you. And they put you down to the point that you have no self-esteem. And you're scared. And there's a reason why they do that.

You know, Shelly, she was going to tell Urban, she was going to tell Urban. I said fine. You know, you should tell Urban. We can't have somebody like this coaching young men. He's supposed to be a mentor for young men. I gave him so many chances. And if he's doing this to somebody he's supposedly loved, and in front of -- some of the incidents were in front of our children, like that's just -- that takes it to a whole other level. That's not somebody that it, personally, as a mother, would want coaching my son. Or, you know, I wouldn't put anybody, my children in the hands of anybody like that.


BALDWIN: Her ex-husband's attorney released this statement: "Zach Smith wants to be as transparent and honest as possible, but it is not going to be done today through the media. It will only be after he and his ex-wife are sworn in to testify. Once he gets his chance to tell his side of events, don't be surprised when it is corroborated by every police who ever responded to Mrs. Smith's calls."

Just last week, Coach Meyer was asked about what happened allegedly in 2015.


URBAN MEYER, HEAD COACH, OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY: I got a text late last night that something happened in 2015, and there was nothing. Once again, there's nothing. Once again, I don't know who creates a story like that. This recent one was you press pause -- and something our team was, you get an event, you press pause, get your mind right and step up. Press pause again to gather information, get your mind right to gather energy, and step up to do the right thing. That's the position that I hold.


[14:50:23] BALDWIN: College football reporter, Brett McMurphy, who broke this entire story is joining me. And so is Kristen Balboni, who interviewed Courtney Smith. She's with me as well.

To both of you, thank you so much.

Brett, I know you've been working so hard on this. And I know a lot of people are focused on Coach Meyer's future but I want to start by focusing on Courtney Smith and the alleged abuse she says she endured. Can you just talk to me about what she says happened to her, which it's my understanding, from reading your reporting, it goes way back to when she was pregnant with their first child in 2009?

BRETT MCMURPHY, COLLEGE FOOTBALL REPORTER: Yes. Actually, that's when I started pursuing this story. I heard there was an incident with Zach Smith back in 2009 when he was a graduate assistant at the University of Florida, coaching under Urban Meyer. I got the information from the Gainesville Police Department. He was arrested for aggravated assault of a pregnant female. Like you said, his wife was eight to 10 weeks pregnant. Ironically, the assault occurred on their one-year anniversary.

After that, I started looking into Zach Smith's past in Ohio. I did public record requests. I uncovered a domestic -- a protection order civil order, which basically is a five-year restraining order. That was issued Friday, which was two days before Big-10 Media Days. At that point, Urban Meyer said he had no knowledge of what happened in 2015.

Eventually, I was able to track down Courtney Smith. She agreed to talk to me. I spent three days in Columbus and I went through everything, all the evidence, text messages, photos she had. I saw all the police reports. It was very disturbing, all these domestic violence issues. But let me say, Zach Smith was never convicted. People can ask police why that happened. But it was very disturbing.

BALDWIN: Right. It is disturbing when you look at the pictures and you hear, you read the text exchanges. Kristen, when you watch the interview that you conducted, reading

Brett's reporting, what he's saying, obviously, what he found is correct. So he's never been -- Zach Smith has never been convicted. Going back to that aggravated battery on a pregnant woman, victim charge, there were friends at the time, of Zach Smith, who came to Courtney and actually wanted her to drop the charge, correct?

KRISTEN BALBONI, SPORTS JOURNALIST: Yes. Brooke, there were a few different people that did it. She referred to one person as Urban Meyer's attorney that came to talk to her and she said he impressed upon her what would happen. She was supporting the family at the time because he was a graduate assistant. He said, if his coaching career is done and this gets out, can you imagine what this would do to your family. It was Zach Smith's family, according to Courtney who drove down. His mother and grandfather, who was former Ohio State head coach, Earl Bruce, they drove down from Ohio to Florida to talk to her right after this incident happened. She had still, was still deciding whether or not to press charges. She told me she waited eight days. They talked to her and she said she felt pressured. She said, "The prevailing sentiment from everyone who talked to her, this is the first time it's happened, this is probably the last, don't you think he deserves a second chance."

BALDWIN: Smith was on Meyer's coaching staff for 11 seasons, five at the University of Florida, six at Ohio State.

So, Brett, the question is, who knew what, and why did no one seem to do anything sooner. You got your hand on these text exchanges between Courtney and Coach Urban Meyers wife, Shelly. Let me read one of Shelly's response. "I'm with you." She's talking to Courtney. "A lot of women stay, hoping it will get better. I don't blame you. Just want you to be safe. Do you have a restraining order? He scares me." This all goes on further in the exchange.

So tell me more, Brett, about these text exchanges between these two women and any other coaching staff wives, coaching staff would have been aware?

MCMURPHY: Well, that's -- when I was in Columbus for three days, Courtney showed me the text messages. She has hundreds of text messages. It's incredible the responses back and forth. Courtney said, and you can tell in the tone of the text messages, all of the wives were very supportive, very sympathetic of Courtney. But ultimately, no one would do anything about it. Obviously, their husbands knew. Obviously, Shelly Meyer knew about it. You mentioned the text exchange, I put specifically on my Facebook page. I saw hundreds of those. She had phone conversations with Shelly Meyer. Shelly Meyer said she had to tell Urban Meyer. Courtney said, then please tell Urban Meyer. All this went on but, ultimately, nothing happened. Zach remained on the staff. She told me why she decided to come forward, is basically, she left Zach in 2015, officially separated in November, divorce was granted September 1, 2016. She thought the abuse and harassment would stop when she left him. It did not. It escalated.

[14:55:24] BALDWIN: When did Urban Meyer then know about this, and why didn't he do anything at the time? Do you have an answer to that?

MCMURPHY: I don't know specifically when he knew about it. I know the text messages were from 2015. He was investigated for domestic violence on October 25th, October 26 of 2015. Also another charge on November 9th. It was in that period. Also, Zach Smith's attorney contacted Courtney's attorney in early November and asked him, how bad it is. Her attorney said, it's bad. I'm very confident, in that time frame, and based on the text messages I saw, Urban was probably first aware of these domestic violence allegations sometime in the month of November 2015.


And, Kristen, what did Courtney say about the fact that she had reached out to these other wives, specifically the head coach's wife? Did she want her to say something, and what was her response to nothing being done?

BALBONI: Yes. You know, the one thing that I really took away from talking with her about this is that she told me those coaches' wives were like her family at Ohio State. And I echo what Brett said. She told me they were all very supportive, and you can see in the text messages Shelly was very supportive. She said she reached out after they were separated and after she left, because, like she told Brett, she thought things were going stop and she really wanted to make Shelly Meyer and other coaches' wives aware this was still going on.

I don't know exactly what she wanted to happen but she knew by telling them that certain people were going to get involved, whereas, in the past, I don't think she was ready to tell people about it while she was in the marriage. She told me that she was really disappointed that no one had come forward and done anything about it. She used the word "enabling the abuser."

BALDWIN: Brett McMurphy and Kristen Balboni, thank you both so much.

BALBONI: Thank you.

MCMURPHY: Thank you.

BALDWIN: And you can watch all of Kristen Balboni's interview with Courtney Smith. Go to

Coming up next, quite a show of force at the White House. Intel chiefs all warning that Russia is right now trying to attack the U.S. midterm elections. They were also grilled on why the message from the president seems to be so different. Stay with me.