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President Trump Tweets on Meeting between Don Junior and Russian Lawyer; NRA Sues New York over Insurance for Gun Owners; Interview with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired August 6, 2018 - 8:00   ET


[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And now sources tell CNN the president is concerned about Don Jr.'s legal exposure for his involvement in that meeting.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The president and his son have contradicted themselves over and over again in trying to explain this Trump Tower meeting. Let's just walk down that bizarre winding path. July 8th, 2017, the "New York Times" first reports on the meeting. Don Jr. responds with a statement claiming it was about Russian adoptions. One day later "The Times" reports the president's son was promised dirt on Hillary Clinton before that meeting. Two days after that, Don Jr. releases his e-mail exchange with the person setting up the meeting where it shows Trump Jr. was promised dirt on Hillary Clinton that was to be provided by the Russian government. Trump Jr. at the time said he loved it.

July 12th, multiple reports indicate that President Trump was involved in preparing Don Jr.'s statement about Russian adoptions. The president's lawyer Jay Sekulow denies the president had any involvement. August 1st, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders admits President Trump weighed in on the statement but she flat out said he did not dictate it. Donald Jr. tells the Senate Judiciary Committee in September that his father had nothing to do with crafting the response. That clearly was not true. In January of this year the president's lawyers told Special Counsel Robert Mueller in a letter that the president dictated the statement himself.

And late last month CNN reported that Michael Cohen is willing to tell the special counsel that the president did know about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting in advance. And that brings us to the statement the president released yesterday, admitting that the meeting was designed to get information on an opponent, though he did in that tweet once again claim he did not know about it.

CAMEROTA: All right, joining us now to talk about all of that, we have CNN senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson and CNN legal analyst Renato Mariotti.

Renato, I have become a stickler for the law, my parking tickets aside. And we have the law right here, OK, and it is actually not in legalese. It's in easy to understand English. Here is the law as it is spelled out. Federal law makes it a crime for any person to solicit, accept or receive a contribution of anything of value from a foreign person for a U.S. political campaign or for the purpose of influencing any election for federal office. Isn't that just as clear cut as it gets? Anything of value, isn't that what we would call dirt on Hillary Clinton?

RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That is very clear to me. I suspect that the president's team and Donald Trump Jr.'s team would argue that the dirt was not a thing of value. They'll also say we never got the dirt although obviously the Russians did deliver a lot of e-mails from Clinton and Podesta and others that influenced our election. They would say we had nothing to do with that or we didn't expect that to come.

I think the problem for them -- they are going to try to confuse the issue, but the problem for them is if you agree to commit a crime, you've essentially committed a crime -- you've committed that crime. It's what we call conspiracy. So, and a lot of times we use this word "collusion," really what matters legally is that term, conspiracy. When two people agree to commit a crime, that's a crime.

So if a Russian agreed with Donald Trump Jr. that the Russians would provide this aid, that itself is a crime. So as long as there is any kind of action taken to move that conspiracy forward, he could be charged. So Donald Trump, the president is right to be concerned about his son's legal jeopardy.

BERMAN: So Renato, to put a point on this, you're saying Donald Trump Jr. in the e-mail we saw a year ago. This is not new news. In the e- mail he said if that is what it is, in other words dirt from the Russian government on Hillary Clinton, I love it. You're say being that in itself is a crime no matter whether anything was exchanged in the meeting, because the president and his team is clearly saying nothing came from that meeting. There was no dirt provided on Hillary Clinton. They claim they weren't behind the WikiLeaks thing, so there's nothing of value that they received directly there. But you're saying none of that needs to have existed?

MARIOTTI: Right. There's often -- there are people in federal prison right now who are in there for crimes that were never completed. There are people who try to buy drugs from government agents. They never got the drugs from the DEA agent, but they were convicted of conspiring to obtain those drugs.

So what matters here is whether -- the only other thing they would need is what's called an overt action in furtherance of the conspiracy. In other words, they would have to have done something to move it forward, one of the people involved. And that could be a fairly minor thing. There could have been an additional meeting or there could have been some steps taken. I suspect that Bob Mueller is trying to figure out exactly what the Russians did and move forward. And don't forget, by the way, a bunch of Russians have already been indicted for contributing to our election. So this is a crime that Robert Mueller has already charged.

[08:05:00] CAMEROTA: So Nia-Malika, our reporting is now that the president understandably is growing more concerned about what the political -- I mean legal ramifications are for his son, Don Jr. NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right.

That's why you saw him yesterday in that early morning tweet lash out at our reporting, lash out at the "Washington Post" reporting and call it fake news, and essentially say, admit what he hadn't really admitted before, which is that this meeting happened, that it was specifically about this dirt on Hillary Clinton, and also distancing himself, right, from this meeting that he also says was innocuous but at the same time he really wants to distance himself from it because that has been the story all along, that he supposedly had nothing to do with this meeting or didn't know about this meeting. And of course Michael Cohen has come out and said something very different.

This is I think gets at why Bob Mueller wants to talk to Donald Trump, because he clearly knows something about what was going on in his campaign. Here was a meeting that was attended by very high profile people in that campaign, Manafort, Kushner, and obviously Donald Trump Jr. So as much as you hear from the legal side of Donald Trump's team saying -- or Donald Trump saying he does want to talk and the legal team saying he shouldn't talk, it really gets at I think why it's so critical that he has information Bob Mueller obviously wants to have. There he is tweeting all about it. He's on this working vacation, and I'm sure his lawyers are tearing their hair out because he isn't helping any of the kind of public arguments around why he shouldn't talk.

BERMAN: And also, Nia, I don't want to let the politics and the morality of this slide, because the president with that tweet yesterday is acknowledging that for a month or more he dictated a message that was misleading and his lawyer said something that wasn't true, that was a lie. His press secretary said something that wasn't true, was a lie. Whether or not they knew they were lying is different. They may have been lied to with that information. But there was this lie that was allowed to sit out there.

HENDERSON: Yes, that's right. And where did the lie come from? Did it come initially from Donald Trump? Did it come from Donald Trump Jr.? Again, that's why Bob Mueller is so interested in hearing from all of these parties, to see who knew what and when they knew it. And we don't know whether or not Donald Trump Jr. has told the whole truth under oath when he talked to folks on Capitol Hill. And that's one of the reasons why you see Cohen coming out there and then there being a lot of frustration around the recent developments out of this case.

It's also interesting, you had the president sort of saying at one point that the Russians are angry that he was elected and in the tweet he's admitting that the Russians were essentially helping him or helping his campaign or offering to help his campaign by offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. So there are all sorts of contradictions here and all sorts of attempts to cover up what happened there and just a series of lies, which, again, gets why the president is nervous about sitting down with Bob Mueller because there is this history of not telling the truth both publicly and privately, clearly, because at some point someone was not telling the truth to those lawyers about what happened in that meeting.

CAMEROTA: All right, guys, we're out of time. Renato Mariotti, Nia- Malika Henderson, thank you both very much.


BERMAN: Turning now to an escalating legal battle between the NRA and state of New York. The NRA has accused the state of a political blacklisting campaign which it says cost the organization tens of millions of dollars in damages.

Joining us now, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Governor, thanks so much for being with us. This has to do with a dispute over Carry Guard, a type of insurance the NRA wanted to help issue that would indemnify or at least provide resources for people to defend themselves if charged with discharging their firearm in self-defense. New York state says they can't do that, the NRA says it can, correct?

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, (D) NEW YORK: Yes, John. Good morning, John, good morning, Alisyn. Yes, the state's regulate insurance, as you know. And the NRA was in essence selling an insurance product in the state of New York called Carry Guard. It was designed for people who carry weapons. And the insurance policy essentially insured them for intentional bad acts, intentional wrongdoing, which violates the law in the state of New York and many other states.

We took action against the actual insurance company. They paid a fine, they agreed to stop selling the product in a consent decree. And the NRA was involved basically as their broker getting a commission and advertising. And that violates the law. And their complaint is, well, we lost money.

[08:10:00] Too bad. You violated the law, and it's not a defense to say well, I was committing illegal activity but I was making money from it. And now I'm upset that I lost the revenue.

BERMAN: You know correctly that states are the ones who regulate insurance law in this country. But there are states where this Carry Guard insurance is legal, correct?

CUOMO: A state can regulate its own laws. We're going to be working with the other states, and our superintendent of insurance I'm going to have in contact with the other states. It would be highly unusual for a state to allow an insurance company to reimburse for an illegal activity. They call it murder insurance. There is no public policy in saying if you commit a crime or do an intentional wrong act we will in essence pay you for doing that.

BERMAN: What they would say though this includes self-defense.

CUOMO: I'm not an expert --

BERMAN: They would say this includes self-defense, obviously where depending how you prove that would not be illegal. That's where a distinction, the dispute lies.

Let me read the statement from the NRA and get your response to it. The NRA says "Our client is suffering setbacks with respect to the availability of insurance and banking services as a result of a political and discriminatory campaign meant to coerce the financial institutions to refrain from doing business with the NRA. The actions of the defendants are a blatant attack on the First Amendment rights of our organization." Your response?

CUOMO: Yes, two different points. On the insurance that they are selling, I don't think there's any question but that is illegal and violative of public policy. They are making a different point, which is I have been a longtime opponent of the NRA. I plead guilty. I believe the NRA represents an extremist group. I believe they've been counterproductive for gun owners in this country. I believe their politics seeks them to stop any commonsense gun reform because then, John, they would be out of business.

Most gun owners support some type of reasonable gun control, 90 percent of Americans support background checks. The NRA has always been against any progress whatsoever. They are oblivious to the facts. They've caused carnage int his nation. They've done gun owners a disservice because there is a commonsense compromise if the NRA wasn't always threatening politicians who went anywhere near reasonableness. If you remember President Trump after the Parkland shooting spoke in the White House conference room and asked reasonable questions. He seemed reasonable. Why can't we raise the purchase age? Why can't we raise the age for assault weapons? He met with the NRA and he did a total 180 the next day and was absolutely against any reform. And this nation still has done nothing on guns.

BERMAN: Let me just note one of the implications in the NRA is that your efforts the last weeks on this issue are political. You're engaged in a primary campaign for reelection here. You have an ad that you put up on YouTube over the weekend on this. So is there politics from your side here?

CUOMO: Well, this insurance action happened months and months ago, right, before any of it. But as far as their basic point, that I have been opposed to the NRA politically, ideologically, morally, they are right. I plead guilty. It started when the worked in the Clinton administration. I was secretary of Housing and Urban Development. We had something called the safe gun agreement that we signed with some of the largest gun manufacturers in the United States that would have changed the way guns were distributed, would have ended the gun show loophole.

Gun manufacturers, John, were agreeing and signing. The NRA found out, and they rallied all of the extremists, and they stopped the gun manufacturers from signing an agreement. That's how far they have gone. I passed five years ago the best gun control law in the nation. And they were a fierce political opponent. They caused me all sorts of political damage. We passed the law anyway. It's been the law for five years. We banned assault weapons. We have a mental health database. We have everything that we are talking about doing now. And by the way, John, legal gun owners in New York still have their guns and hunters still hunt. And it shows it is possible. And the NRA hates that message.

BERMAN: Governor --

CUOMO: Because they are against any reasonable conclusion.

BERMAN: Governor Cuomo, we are out of time. We will get more statements from the NRA and their response to this effort you are asserting right now. Thanks so much for being with us this morning. Appreciate it, governor.

CUOMO: Thank you, John. Thank you, Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, ANCHOR, CNN: Yes, Governor, it's great that you still come here even though Chris has left us, we appreciate that you still take time.

BERMAN: Maybe because Chris has left us.

CAMEROTA: Maybe, it's because -- which one is it, because Chris left?

CUOMO: Well, I don't want to say, Alisyn, but you seem in a much better mood. I guess it's the summer months that has put you in a better mood.

CAMEROTA: That's it. That is it, Governor.

CUOMO: I can't imagine what else it could be.

CAMEROTA: No, no. It's summer, it is all the extra sunlight, Governor ...

CUOMO: It's summer.

CAMEROTA: ... always great to see you.

CUOMO: That's our story and we're sticking with it.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Come back any time. I love having the Governor on.


CAMEROTA: Yes. We had a whole shtick that we used around fairly making fun of Chris.

BERMAN: It hasn't quite ended yet even though Chris is away.

CAMEROTA: Likely Chris is sleeping right now. Meanwhile, President Trump insults the intelligence of LeBron James. Why? Well, we're going to get the reaction from a man who has worked with the NBA superstar, next.

CAMEROTA: President Trump insulted LeBron James, this was in response to a CNN interview that Don Lemon did with the NBA superstar in which LeBron James said he had no interest in sitting down with the President while Mr. Trump tweeted that Don Lemon, quote, "Made LeBron look smart, which is not easy to do."

The point of that interview with Don Lemon was that LeBron James has founded an elementary school for at risk third and fourth graders in Akron, Ohio. [08:05:05]

CAMEROTA: Joining us now is David James, he is the Superintendent for the Akron Public School System, the district that oversees LeBron's "I Promise School." Mr. James, thanks for being here.


CAMEROTA: Any relation with LeBron James?

JAMES: No, we are not related.

CAMEROTA: Okay. So, let's just put up some of the things that LeBron's school does and provides for these kids, because it's really generous. Free tuition, free uniforms. free breakfast, and lunch and snacks and free transportation within two miles, free bicycle and helmet, access to a food pantry for their families and then for every student that graduates high school, they get guaranteed tuition to the University of Akron. So what impact will this have for at risk kids?

JAMES: I mean, I think it will have a very big impact. LeBron has always said in his experiences growing up, he had to go through some of the same things that many of our most challenged students have to go through, and so our partnership with the foundation, which goes back nearly ten years since I've been superintendent, he's always been there for the kids, he's always looked at the leaders in the community and will always say and has always said it's about the kids.

When you look at some of the socio-emotional issues that our children have, the I Promise School will attempt to handle some of those issues with the availability of extra counselors and for folks who have issues with food and security, the pantry is there.

We provide free breakfast and lunch to all of our students and the transportation is the same for any K through 8 who lives more than two miles away gets a bus ride. So, it is a public school and we're funding it as we would fund other schools in Akron.

LeBron funds and his partners fund a lot of the extras which these kids so desperately need.

CAMEROTA: So Mr. James, what did you think when you saw the President's tweet insulting LeBron James' intelligence?

JAMES: It reminds me of someone who once told me prominent targets draws fire. It was very unfortunate because LeBron in my book has done a great service to the kids in our community. He's been a very upright guy. We really enjoy the partnership that we have with LeBron and he's really set a good example, I think for our youth.

And I've said it before, I need a thousand more LeBron James to work with our kids and partner with us.

CAMEROTA: Well, you might have one more LeBron James in the form of the First Lady, Melania Trump. Here's what she -- the statement she put out. "It looks like LeBron James is working to do good things on behalf of our next generation," and she would be open to visiting the I Promise school in Akron. What do you think? Would you like her to come visit?

JAMES: I think we would entertain the First Lady. I don't know how LeBron feels about that, but the school just started last week and we've gotten a lot of calls of people who want to visit, but I think we'd make some consideration if the First Lady wanted to come visit.

CAMEROTA: All right, well, we will be following this. Maybe that will actually happen. David James, thank you very much for telling us what's going on there in Ohio.

JAMES: Thank you.


BERMAN: Quite a scene as it always is at the annual Sturgis bikers rally. President Trump, their leader of the pack. We ride with Bill Weir next.


BERMAN: It is a remarkable sight and sound. We're talking about the Annual Sturgis biker rally in South Dakota. We wanted to get a sense of where the people there stand on all sorts of things -- the economy, politics, media, and yes, the President. So we sent CNN's Bill Weir, a man who likes leather to Sturgis to get a sense of what he's hearing there. Bill Weir joins us this morning. Hey, Bill.

BILL WEIR, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Good morning, John, I spared you the chaps this morning at least. I'm giving you that decency, but here we are on the storied Main Street, the corner of Maine and Harley-Davidson way in Sturgis. It's a little early, people are still sleeping off yesterday, but this is the grand daddy of all biker rallies and what a great place to get inside of the mind of those fervent Trump supporters.

This is a fiercely patriotic and loyal group. They love their freedom. And so, like you said, we wanted to sort of put our finger on the pulse of this side of deep red America.


WEIR: They rumble in from all points on the compass and for one week each summer, this little town of 7,000 explodes to half a million.

But this is one city that looks nothing like the rest of America. You can go hours without seeing a person of color. In Sturgis, a minority is a white guy on a foreign bike.

There are no debates over gun control here or the ethics of the #MeToo Movement and there is no doubt who is the leader of this pack.

But you're a fan of the President. You think he is doing a good job.

JOHN SANDS, POSTAL WORKER, LEXINGTON KENTUCKY: Of course, he's doing a lot better than Obama did.

WEIR: This Ghost Rider reveals himself as John Sands, a postal worker who rides up from Kentucky each year. And like so many I talked to, sees proof of Trump's brilliance in the booming economy.

ROD WOODRUFF, PRESIDENT AND CEO, STURGIS BUFFALO CHIP: What they'll tell you is, they'll say, you know, it's the Trump bump, the economy is so good, people are feeling so good.

WEIR: Rod Woodruff is the owner of the sprawling Buffalo Chip, a Disneyland for bikers, and says his campers have an average income of $95,000.00 a year.

WOODRUFF: Seventy-five percent are homeowners in the United States.

WEIR: Okay.

WOODRUFF: Lots of people own multiple motorcycles.

NYLA GRIFFITH, MEDIA AND PUBLIC RELATIONS, STURGIS BUFFALO CHIP: We have tattoo parlor up here. We've got food, pizza, anything you want at the free access crossroads.

WEIR: Very good.