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Trump's Team Negotiating Over Mueller Interview; Prosecutors Focus on Manafort's Lavish Lifestyle; Senate GOP Vote Down Extra $250 Million Toward Election Security. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired August 2, 2018 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D), NEW YORK: When someone says you should do something, normally, it's considered an instruction.
[07:00:03] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The government has to prove that he had this money and that he spent this money.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Prosecutors have pictures of that illustrious ostrich coat, luxury watches.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is going to be a very important indicator for Bob Mueller.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first bumpy hit, I was like, "This is going to be bad."
MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Not only can wind sheer force a plane to the ground, it can also force jet engines to have a failure.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What will you tell people when you get home?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I fell from the sky and survived.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And you and I, David Gregory, are still marveling about the aftermath of that crash. And we're going to have a passenger on with us this hour to talk about what it was like in --
DAVID GREGORY, CNN ANCHOR: We're marveling at that -- that nugget from "The New York Times" this morning that the president wants to sit down with Robert Mueller, because he alone could persuade him that the whole thing he's been investigating is a witch hunt.
CAMEROTA: Oh, to be a fly on the wall.
Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. John Berman is off, lollygagging on vacation.
CAMEROTA: And David Gregory is lollygagging here.
CAMEROTA: The negotiations continue between the special counsel and team Trump. Robert Mueller would like President Trump to sit down for an interview. And in exchange, the Trump team would like to limit obstruction-related questions. Robert Mueller insists that obstruction questions be addressed in person instead of through written answers.
Now, "The New York Times" reports that Mr. Trump is pushing for an interview still, against his legal team's advice, because he believes he can convince Robert Mueller that their investigation is a witch hunt.
GREGORY: Meantime, something the president is paying a lot of attention to, of course, day three of Paul Manafort's trial on bank fraud and tax evasion charges.
Things are moving pretty quickly, as we expected. Prosecutors have called nine witnesses so far. Then he's saying Manafort spent millions of dollars on luxury items and services paid for through international wire transfers from a shell corporation.
The White House and President Trump's lawyers want the president to keep his distance, but he just can't help himself, tweeting the feds are treating Manafort, quote, "worse than notorious mob boss Al Capone."
Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Abby Phillip. She's live at the White House, where everything is happening.
Abby, good morning.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, David.
Obstruction of justice, as you just mentioned, is becoming the sticking point in negotiations between the president's legal team and the special counsel attorneys. Now, President Trump yesterday sending out a tweet that's fueling questions about obstruction of justice, as his attorneys and he continued their attacks on the special counsel.
RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: I'm not going to give you a lot of hope it's going to happen, but we're still negotiating.
PHILLIP (voice-over): The back and forth over a potential interview between President Trump and Special Counsel Robert Mueller resuming, with sources telling CNN that Mueller has offered to reduce the number of obstruction-related questions but is insisting they're answered in person.
The president's lawyers have previously offered to provide written answers to obstruction questions but are aiming to limit a sit-down interview to questions largely involving Russian interference in the election and potential collusion. CAMEROTA: You're saying that one of your conditions is that he will
not answer questions about obstruction of justice?
GIULIANI: It is not -- yes. But maybe if they could show us one or two there, we would consider.
CAMEROTA: One or two what?
GIULIANI: One or two questions that they really need.
CAMEROTA: You would consider it.
GIULIANI: We would consider it.
PHILLIP: Rudy Giuliani telling NEW DAY on Monday that the odds are against a sit-down interview, despite the president's eagerness to go through with it.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have always wanted to do an interview because look, there's been no collusion.
GIULIANI: It's us, meaning a team of lawyers, including me, that have the most reservations about that.
PHILLIP: "The New York Times" reports that in recent days, the president has pushed his lawyers to continue negotiating, because he, in effect, believes he can convince the investigators that their own inquiry is a witch hunt.
JAY SEKULOW, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: It's time for this inquiry to come to an end.
PHILLIP: The president's anger over Mueller's probe boiling over on Wednesday after a source says he received updates from his legal team. Mr. Trump declaring that "Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop the Mueller investigation right now," despite the fact that Sessions has recused himself from the investigation last year.
NADLER: When someone tells a subordinate officer "You should do something," it normally is considered an instruction. This tweet itself is probably more evidence of an ongoing obstruction of justice.
PHILLIP: The tweet putting the White House and Mr. Trump's legal team in clean-up mode.
SANDERS: The president is not obstructing. He's fighting back.
GIULIANI: He expresses his opinions on Twitter. He used the word "should." He didn't use the word "must." And there was no presidential directive that followed it.
PHILLIP: That characterization at odds with this explanation of Mr. Trump's tweets last year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are President Trump's tweets considered official White House statements? SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, the president
is the president of the United States, so they're considered official statements by the president of the United States.
PHILLIP: And President Trump is heading to Pennsylvania for a campaign rally later today. He also has another one on the books in Ohio on Saturday. This is as aides are telling CNN that they are considering scheduling more and more campaign rallies in an effort to keep the president distracted from all of this legal stuff happening around him.
[07:05:11] He's also heading out to his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, later today for about a week of summer vacation, David.
GREGORY: Abby, thank you so much.
Now prosecutors plan to question Paul Manafort's bookkeepers and accountants when his trial resumes in Virginia this morning. On Wednesday, prosecutors focused on the former Trump campaign chairman's lavish lifestyle and how he paid for it.
CNN's Joe Johns live outside the courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia, with more on this.
Joe, good morning.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, David.
You know, this part of the case has been characterized by the judge, for good or for bad, as a deep dive into Paul Manafort's expensive taste in men's fashion, in cars, in home remodeling.
But that would be missing the point that the federal prosecutors are trying to make at this stage in the trial. What they're trying to show is not only where Paul Manafort spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, but also how he effected the transactions. That would be with overseas wire transfers.
And what they want to show is that he was spending money he got from foreign countries that he had not paid taxes on to fit the elements of the charges.
So they brought forward a number of witnesses who were essentially the keepers of records for these high-end retailers for clothes, a Mercedes-Benz dealership here in Northern Virginia. A kitchen remodeler in the Hamptons, all to make that point.
Also to make the point that it was Manafort who executed these transactions, signed his name, and not his chief deputy, Rick Gates.
Of course, the defense has said they want to make him, Rick Gates, a central part of the case and try to show that he was at the heart of all of the wrongdoing in the Manafort case. So today we are looking forward to hearing from a couple more of those
vendors. And then, as you said, we will hear from the money people from Manafort: his bookkeepers and accountants -- David and Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: OK, John.
JOHNS: Back to you.
CAMEROTA: Thank you, keep following it for us. Thank you very much.
Joining us now, are our legal analysts and former federal prosecutors. We have Renato Mariotti and Laura Coates.
Renato, I want to start with you. Explain what happens, since we know that the president team and Robert Mueller's team are in negotiations right now. Rudy Giuliani has confirmed that. So explain what happens if the president's team insists that the preside will only answer written questions. His lawyers obviously want to be able to control -- that gives them more control than if the president just sits down and talks. OK?
If that happens, if they'll only answer written questions, is that -- does Robert Mueller agree to that, or is that sort of useless, because those are so lawyered up that they become almost useless? Those answers?
RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I don't see Bob Mueller agreeing to accept only written answers. They are essentially very useless. Certainly, there is some value in seeing what the president's legal position is, but those written questions and answers are essentially just prepared by attorneys. What you would be getting is the answers that, you know, Giuliani, Jay Sekulow and a number of other lawyers had come up with. It would really have nothing to do with what the president's candid views are.
So if -- if that's their position, I expect Mueller to issue a subpoena to the president, and then for the president's team to go to court and try to fight the subpoena over many months. And then, potentially, if they lose, which I think they likely would, to take the Fifth.
GREGORY: So my question, Laura, is what are they after to try to establish obstruction of justice through interviewing the president, versus what they already have, what they've already determined or established through the witnesses or other evidence they have?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the one thing that they really need to put a bow on, essentially, is the idea of is there actual intent here?
And we can all surmise and we can guess and we can opine about whether or not the president's contextual clues, all the statements he's made over the last 18 months and beyond, perhaps, about this witch hunt or about the perceived witch hunt, what he could actually think about it.
But what Mueller's team needs to know is did you personally have the corrupt intent to actually impede or influence or undermine this investigation? Rather than have to go through the much harder standard of saying circumstantial evidence, being that contextualization of everything, can I actually hear it from the horse's mouth?
And to Renato's point, it's so important is the idea here that you have the opportunity to question the president of the United States or any witness, for that matter. You need to be able to assess their credibility. Look them in the eyes, have that gut reaction, and then base that off of and compare it to what they've already written.
And I'm also very surprised -- I don't know if you are, as well -- that the president's team, who has been so concerned about what they call a perjury trap, would put in front of Bob Mueller's team a written statemen and then allow the president to go rogue, perhaps, in his oral statement to follow up on those things. That, by definition, would probably be a contradiction for them.
CAMEROTA: Yes, such a great point. They don't want him to sit down. I mean, they've been honest about that. Rudy Giuliani is honest about that. But they -- you know, all the reporting suggests that he continues to want to sit down, because he thinks that he can sway or persuade the investigators to come around to his way of thinking.
Renato, you're a former federal prosecutor. You say that you've already seen enough evidence. What does that mean?
MARIOTTI: You know, I actually wrote a piece in January in "Politico" magazine, where I kind of laid out, and Laura was mentioning, she called the circumstantial evidence, but all the evidence that we've seen of the president's intent. You know, not only the firing of James Comey; pressuring the attorney general to [SIC] recuse himself; telling the White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller at one point. And just all sorts of statements by the president, you know, angry about the -- you know, the existence of this investigation, and very much desiring to help Michael Flynn, helping others in that investigation, engaging in, you know, talks of pardons to undermine the investigation, et cetera.
There's a variety of evidence that shows that the president has the intent to undermine this investigation. We see it every day on Twitter, if you log into Twitter --
CAMEROTA: But that means that -- that to you means obstructive. You have to think this is officially obstruction of justice or no?
MARIOTTI: I do. I frankly think the evidence is very strong that the president is obstructing.
GREGORY: Well, what about the other side of that, which is that he may want to undermine it. He may -- he may opine from the cheap pets care about the investigation but he is the chief executive and executive power allows him to fire fueler and Jim Comey, they are trying to understand what his intent was, we know what he said publicly about this, so what more is there to know? MARIOTTI: Well, he certainly has the power to do whatever he wants,
but just like he would be unlawful for him to fire someone because of their race or because of their religion. It's also unlawful for the president to fire someone in order to obstruct an investigation. And so why he has the power to fire people, the power to --
GREGORY: Well, he could say in the case of Comey, that's not what he did. He had a basis by Rosenstein to fire him for cause.
MARIOTTI: And then he went on television a day later, a few days later and said that wasn't why he did it, right? He was planning to fire him anyway, right?
CAMEROTA: Laura, how do you see it --
MARIOTTI: So you --
COATES: Yes, I think he is, in many ways, hiding behind what Gregory is talking about. The idea of, well, if I really wanted to put my thumb on the scale, I would simply fire the man who oversees and sanctions the conduct of Robert Mueller and gives him the yay or the nay, and that's Rod Rosenstein.
Obviously, talking to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has recused himself, and saying the word "should," to him, is what he's saying he wanted to impact it, I don't go to the man who's recused himself. I go to the man who actually makes the decisions whether or not to go forward to a grand jury and seek indictments of this particular person.
Having said that, I think the president fails miserably if he wants to get into a semantics argument about the idea of, "Well, I said 'should.' I didn't say that he must or he shall or direct him to do anything wrong." When you find yourself arguing about the form and not the substance of what you're doing, you are playing a losing man's game.
GREGORY: But I'm very interested in the idea of whether legally, it will make a difference. And again, remember, this is only going to be a legal process to a certain degree. Right? This is going to become a political process whenever a report goes to Congress.
This difference between what the president says, which puts us in unique territory, because of the use of Twitter and because he just -- he says so many unconventional and unusual things. But what he actually does, which is he's given Mueller plenty of room. He wants to sit down with him and do an interview, so he wants to cooperate despite all the railing against the investigation he does.
COATES: You know, if I can just say, no prosecutor, and I think Renato would probably agree. No prosecutor endeavors, as their end game, to have an obstruction of justice case. That is a claim that you would add onto the more meatier matters. And the reason for that is, why would you give somebody the gift of saying, "All right. Your endeavor to try to stop my investigation has, in fact, done just that. I will give you the gift of an obstruction charge and ignore all the actual underlying criminal activity that you did not want me to see.
And so while the public will look at this and say, "Well, he's got enough to go forward in this charge, why not go forward, because he's not trying to end there. If there is other information he can uncover, he should. It's under his directive to do so. And obstruction may be an additional claim, but certainly should not be his end game.
[07:15:07] GREGORY: And why does he keep acting, the president, in a way that makes it look like he's done something wrong, which is, you know, all of this, this question of obstruction of justice, his tweets, his firing Comey, makes it look like he's done something wrong when he claims he hasn't.
CAMEROTA: Your final thought, Renato?
MARIOTTI: He -- this is a political process, as David suggested, and that's why he keeps trying to undermine the investigation publicly. Because he needs to influence the Republican senators who are going to be the jurors in a potential impeachment and their constituents and their constituents' opinions are what matters.
GREGORY: That's right. That's important.
CAMEROTA: Renato, Laura, thank you both very much.
So, Senate Republicans voting down a measure to put $250 million towards election security. Why would they do that, knowing what we know about Russia's intentions? Are lawmakers and the Trump administration taking this seriously?
We have Senator Amy Klobuchar with her thoughts, joining us next.
CAMEROTA: Senate Republicans voting down a measure that would have allocated an extra $250 million towards election security ahead of the midterm elections. Given the Russian attack on the 2016 election, are lawmakers and the Trump administration taking this seriously enough?
[07:20:10] Joining us now is Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
Good morning, Senator.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: Thanks, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Why did Republicans vote down that measure?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, you'd have to ask them.
CAMEROTA: What did they share with you on -- in terms of their thinking? KLOBUCHAR: I think we've been very frustrated, especially by the
White House's continual denial of what happened here. We do have the intelligence director, Dan Coates, who's made it very clear that this happened. He said the Russians are getting bolder. He said that the lights are blinking red and we have to get ready. This election is 96 days away.
And so what we have done here is, first of all, despite the rejection of this money, a few months ago we got $380 million right out to the states, and I worked on that with Senator Langford, Republican from Oklahoma. And now our bill is getting marked up August 15 with a lot of pushing which would really set out some rules of the road. Requiring back-up paper ballots, something really important. Fourteen of our states either have partial ones or don't have them at all.
If people are going to use federal money for election equipment, if states are, then they should have back-up paper ballots. Secondly, audits, that's required so we can check on elections after the fact and make sure that they were legal and that they match up with the votes, and then the final thing is to make sure that, when these hacks occur, you don't wait a year, like what happened last time, to let the states know that hacks are going on in other states. There's no other way for them to protect themselves.
CAMEROTA: Look, we know that the president, for whatever reason, doesn't take this seriously. He's called this all a hoax many times. And so are there things that Congress is doing right now.
What do you say to the American public about whether or not the midterms will be secure from Russian interference, or do you need the president to get on board?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, we would have needed better coordination months and months ago instead of having it be a rush right now, but I believe that, despite all of these tweets and all of the misinformation that's been out there, our job right now is to do everything we can leading up to those elections.
And that means homeland security has to be on top of every attempted hack. Let the states know they now have classified status for a number of these state election officials so information can be shared with them.
I also think we should pass our bill. It would send a message to the country. I believe we're going to get it out of the Rules Committee on August 15, and then it should immediately go to the floor. There's a similar version in the House to send this message.
One, it's required by law to share info. Two, get those back-up paper ballots. Fourteen states that don't have them yet. And No. 3, make sure that we have audits so we can check this.
Russia is going to be watching. And we just hope they're not going to be hacking, because they know which states aren't prepared.
CAMEROTA: I mean, it sounds like you're hoping against hope. How confident are you, if you could give us, perhaps, a percentage right now, that these elections will be secure?
KLOBUCHAR: I can't give that percentage. I just know that last time 21 states, there was attempts to hack into 21 states. And in the last indictments out of the Justice Department, out of the Mueller investigation, 500,000 voters had their data stolen, basically. Private information was hacked into.
So it is not just about messing around with the votes, although do remember in 1923, it was Stalin that said, as head of the Communist Party in Russia, it doesn't matter who votes. What matters is who counts the votes. Well, 95 years later, that's still what they're focused on.
So yes, our elections must be secure, but we also have to protect people's private information. Everything from power grids to bank accounts, our country has to get its act together when it comes to cyber security.
This is an attack from another country, and we cannot expect a state like, say, Arkansas to be able to protect itself by itself from a foreign country.
CAMEROTA: Senator, I want to switch gears and ask you about fellow Minnesotan Al Franken. As you know, Al Franken resigned during this "#MeToo" moment, where he was seen pretending to grope a sleeping woman before he was ever a senator.
Yesterday, he talked. He was asked on a Minnesota CBS station in an interview -- well, actually, on Monday. He said, "I miss the whole job. I loved that job. I loved the job as senator." And he said that he had not ruled out running again and trying to get that job again. Would you like to see Al Franken run again?
KLOBUCHAR: Al made his own decision to resign, so I don't see this in the cards that he's running right now. I think he went back to Minnesota for a really important American Indian project, a school that he'd worked on. I was glad he was there for the opening of that school. It meant a lot to him.
[07:25:00] And I think -- I've always said that he's going to do something else with his life. I talk to him often. And it could be in the nonprofit area. He's incredibly creative, and so let's see what he does.
CAMEROTA: Well, he's saying -- I mean, I'm not just -- this is not just wild speculation. He's the one saying he hasn't ruled it out. And I guess I'm just wondering, would you like to see him back in Congress?
KLOBUCHAR: I'd like to see him back in -- doing good work and using his skills and his passion for public service in a way, but that doesn't mean that he necessarily has to run for office.
And I am really pleased that he's continuing to do good things like go to that Indian school and work on those things, but again, we're really focused on the 2018 elections right now in Minnesota and across the country. We have a number of really great candidates running, including my colleague, Tina Smith, who's doing a great job. And so that's what I'm focused on right now.
CAMEROTA: Understood. I understand. And I mean, he's your friend, and I know that I'm putting you in an awkward position.
KLOBUCHAR: Again, I have not talked to him about running for office again. And I -- I'm hoping that he works on some of the issues he cares a lot about, and there's many ways you can do that besides running for office.
CAMEROTA: Senator Amy Klobuchar, we really appreciate you coming on NEW DAY this morning. Thanks so much.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.
GREGORY: So as we know, President Trump has been calling on his attorney general to end the Mueller probe right now. Do the president's actions amount to obstruction of justice? It's a big question we've been talking about this morning. We'll have a debate on this, coming up next.
CAMEROTA: And of course, we're showing you this dramatic video shot by a passenger on that ill-fated flight that crashed in Mexico. Everyone on the plane made it out alive. We have the woman, the passenger who shot this tape and lived to tell about it. She's coming up on NEW DAY.