Return to Transcripts main page


Donald Trump Legal Team Sends Interview Counteroffer to Robert Mueller; GOP's Collins Indicted on Insider Trading Scheme; NYC Caps Uber, Lyft Vehicles in Crackdown. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired August 9, 2018 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:30] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour, good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

The special counsel wants to question the president and the president, from all indications, is ready, maybe even eager to comply. But with the latest counteroffer from Rudy Giuliani now sitting on Robert Mueller's desk, three questions are looming larger than ever. One, will an under oath face-to-face, history-making interview ever take place? Negotiations have now dragged on for eight months.

Two, what will Mueller do if and when the president and-or his lawyers just say no? And, three, with all the public pressure from the Trump legal team for Mueller to wrap things up, is that really what the president wants?

Rudy Giuliani suggesting to CNN that his client, and I quote, "needs something to energize his voters in the midterms."

We're going to dig in to all of it this hour. Our Abby Phillip starts us out. She is again in New Jersey outside of the president's golf resort where he is on a working vacation.

So, Abby, let me start with this because there are so many once again mixed signals this morning about the urgency of this. What are you hearing?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. It seems that the president's team has settled on something new, something different from what they've been saying before. Just a few days ago Rudy Giuliani was saying Mueller needs to put up or shut up. In fact, in that letter that he sent back to Mueller this week, he says they hoped that the investigation gets wrapped up quickly but now he's telling CNN's Dana Bash that there is a possibility that if it is not wrapped up quickly that this could be one of the tools that the presidents and Republicans use to galvanize the Republican base going into the midterm elections.

After some modest results on Tuesday in terms of the performance of Republicans this could be, according to Rudy Giuliani, one of those tools that they use to get voters out to the polls but that could be also just be an acknowledgment on the president's team's part that they don't have control over the situation. They have sent back a response to the Mueller team basically saying we are open to an interview, we're open to letting the president answer questions in person but we want any questions about obstruction of justice to be on paper. We also want those questions to be limited and to not be what he calls a perjury trap.

So the back-and-forth is really not getting the two sides any closer here to a resolution it seems --Poppy.

HARLOW: What is, Abby, then the bottom line hang-up here? Because the Trump team is really worried about what they keep calling a perjury trap. You don't have those issues if you just tell the truth.

PHILLIP: It would seem that that would be the case. And if you don't lie to prosecutors, you don't have to worry about a perjury trap. But this could all just be a way potentially of trying to kind of push back on Mueller, try to push this into the later part of this investigation.

Now Giuliani has been talking a little bit about this perjury trap issue and I just want people to just listen to how he's explaining it himself when he spoke to Sean Hannity last night.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: The reality is, he doesn't need to ask a single question on obstruction, he has all the answers. They're not going to change. The president is not going to change his testimony so stop the nonsense. You are trying to trap him into perjury because you don't have any a case.


PHILLIP: Again, I think that leads people to wonder whether or not there are any questions about obstruction of justice that his lawyers will allow and if all of this is simply just pushing Mueller to a deadline, perhaps September 6th when we are within that 60-day window before the midterm elections and the pressure is on for Mueller to make a move or not make a move as to not affect the 2018 elections. But it seems that if that doesn't resolved it will end up being a question of whether Mueller is willing to subpoena the president, touching off a more likely legal fight -- Poppy.

HARLOW: All right. Abby, great reporting. Thank so much.

With me now, CNN crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz, and Josh Dawsey, our political analyst and White House reporter for the "Washington Post."

So, Shimon, let me just start with you on that because to Abby's point about that 60-day mark out from the midterms, you heard Rudy Giuliani on FOX News last night saying that, you know, Mueller can't take this past the beginning of September and he said there would be a, quote, "very, very serious violation of Justice Department rules if he does." Is that accurate?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Absolutely not, Poppy. There is nothing at the Department of Justice certainly that indicates that they can't do overt acts, that they can't do these investigations, you know, 60 days before an election. It's customary, usually what happens is around the time of an election they won't do what's called overt acts, that is they won't bring indictments, they won't perhaps subpoena people.

[09:05:07] They won't do anything publicly as to not sway or try to sway the election. The idea that we're in that timeframe or approaching that timeframe right now is just simply not true.


PROKUPECZ: In fact I think -- I think what we do know, you know, Poppy is that we do expect that Mueller continue into September and there may be a cooling off, or there may be a quiet period come October, a month before the election.

HARLOW: Look, as we saw from James Comey in the Hillary Clinton e- mail probe, things can be re-announced, reopened days before an election.

PROKUPECZ: Right. And that's -- and that is something that Mueller and his team would be conscious of, right?

HARLOW: Sure. Sure.

PROKUPECZ: That that is an issue because Mueller was -- I mean, Comey was pretty much in trouble for that. So that is something that they are considering.

HARLOW: Yes. For sure in their minds.

Josh, Dana Bash, as she always does, got the scoop from Rudy Giuliani and he told her this week that Republicans could actually benefit from this dragging on past the midterms. Even though he's saying wrap it up, he's saying if it goes longer it would benefit.

Let me read it to you. "Now I am thinking the continuance of the investigation," Giuliani says, would actually help because people are getting tired of it and the president needs something to energize his voters." I mean, what do you think? Would that energize Republicans?

JOSH DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the president's non-stop assault on the Mueller probe, via Twitter, via his public comments, Rudy Giuliani's frequent attacks, you do have a declining faith among Republicans in the Mueller probe. You've seen the poll numbers go down, down, down.


DAWSEY: And if you have the prospect of impeachment or say, hey, you know, if you don't elect Republicans, you're likely to have Democrats who'll subpoena more, who'll investigate more, who will really come after the president. It could lead a lot of Republicans to say we think this is unfair and we will show up to the polls.

Now I don't know that in many swing districts and suburbs and states like, you know, Michigan and Virginia, that the Mueller probe will be top-of-mind to voters. It's kind of hard to believe that it would be but you could also see the president's allies, outside PACs, with ads saying hey, vote for Republicans or they're coming after your president.

HARLOW: Guys, I want your take really quickly on Devin Nunes who has been such an ardent supporter of the president. Of course the California congressman. Rachel Maddow on her show last night first played this tape that was taken inside a private fundraiser of Devin Nunes. We now have the audio. He said a lot. But here's part of what he said about the president's statements on Twitter as it all applies to the Mueller probe.


REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: They know it's ridiculous to go after the president for obstruction of justice. But if they tell a lie often enough and they put it out there and they say, oh, we're looking at the tweets, because you know you've got a mixed bag on the tweets, right? Like sometimes you love the president's tweets, sometimes we cringe on the president's tweets. But they're trying to make a political -- this is all political as to why that story ran in the "New York Times" on the tweets.


HARLOW: I mean, his broader argument, Shimon, as you know, was here's why you have to elect Republicans and keep Republicans in control of Congress because otherwise we're going to see an impeachment, you know, Articles of Impeachment against the president. It's not that different frankly from what I read than what he said publicly but what do you see is the significance here?

PROKUPECZ: Well, I think the idea that any of this is politically or politically motivated by Mueller certainly is probably ridiculous. Look, I think the obstruction issue is very real. It is something that the president's lawyers are very concerned about. It is something that I think is on the top of their mind. In fact it is what they're trying to get Mueller not to ask the president about. Right? We know -- there are two things that are constant in all of this. One of them being that Mueller wants a sit-down.

The other being is that Giuliani keeps saying that they want this wrapped up by September so presumably in the next few weeks we could have some answers here.


PROKUPECZ: The next step is whether or not Mueller goes to that extreme step of subpoenaing the president but there's one --

HARLOW: Right.

PROKUPECZ: You know, the one thing really -- and it's obvious to all of us that the lawyers here do not want is for the president to be asked questions about obstruction. They said fine, ask about collusion. We can answer the questions about collusion in writing. But what is it about the obstruction matter that concerns the lawyers so much?

HARLOW: Yes. Well --

PROKUPECZ: That if they're confronted by investigators with.

HARLOW: Huge questions about obstruction, intent. You know, when you fired James Comey.

PROKUPECZ: That's right.

HARLOW: What were you thinking? When you had the conversation about Michael Flynn, what were you thinking?

All right, Shimon, great reporting as always. Thank you.

Josh stick around. I have a few questions on your reporting this morning because you got a lot of bylines in the "Washington Post" this morning so let's start with the front page on the dilemma that you argue and report out that the GOP is having right now after the Tuesday elections.

I mean, when you look at the Ohio 12, still a tossup, Kathy McMorris Rodgers in Washington not getting 50 percent of the vote. The huge, huge turnout records since 1978 for Democrats in Michigan. What are the lackluster results for Republicans this week doing to the party conversation overall?

[09:10:06] DAWSEY: Well, we're 90 days out obviously before the midterms, Poppy, and the president is saying he wants to have an aggressive stance going forward. He wants to campaign three, four, five days a week. He wants to go into dozens of districts and, you know, talk about the economy, talk about immigration, talk about trade.

To Republicans that cuts both ways. Now the presidents brings out big crowds, he energizes his base, but in many places his numbers are below 50 percent, including key districts where Republicans, you know, need to win to keep the House and, you know, to keep the Senate as well. But particularly the House is what Republicans are very concerned about.


DAWSEY: Go ahead, sorry.

HARLOW: I do think it was telling the quote you had in there from Kevin McCarthy, the Republican congressman, House Freedom Caucus, who said you can't half embrace the president's agenda. And this is the real dilemma some of these candidates are dealing with right now.

On Russia, people should know this morning that the White House has -- is drafting at least an executive order and what it would do as it pertains to Russia interfering in the election is that it would call for more sanctions from the U.S. against Russia for election interference. Would give the president the authority to do that.

I guess my question to you is, is this something with teeth or is this really discretionary and more sort of an optics play?

DAWSEY: Well, that's a good question. It's an eight-page executive order that we saw the draft of, and something that the president's staff, Kirstjen Nielsen at DHS, State Department, the intel community, DNI, all of these different agencies, different sounding warning bells, alarm bells about interference in the past few weeks. You heard, you know, in the crosshairs, the lights are blinking red, and you have a president who's continued to say this is a hoax and has questioned his intelligence community.

So I think what you're seeing is you're seeing that many folks in his administration are pushing him, you know, to embrace this more, to take more drastic steps, at least publicly show that he's doing something and you have a president so far who has been reticent to do that even though his aides say, you know, he authorized a briefing on interference at the podium, that he know this executive order is being written. We still have to see, will he sign it? And will he put teeth on it?

HARLOW: Right. Right.

DAWSEY: When the president gets fixate on something, you know, he really puts teeth on it. He goes after folks for doing things he doesn't like them to obviously.


DAWSEY: We have not seen him do that with the Russian interference.

HARLOW: But so interesting the reporting that you have that he is apparently telling White House aides to continue to --

DAWSEY: Right.

HARLOW: You know, talk publicly about election interference as he continues to talk publicly about it being a hoax, so great pieces.

Josh, thanks.

DAWSEY: Thanks for having me.

HARLOW: Still to come, New York Congressman Chris Collins now under indictment for securities fraud, insider trading. He is fighting on, staying in the race for November and offering a glimpse of what his defense will be.

Also, in that compound in New Mexico we're learning more about the cruelty that unfolded against these children and the plans police were able to thwart.

Also later, unspeakable pain in Yemen as children again fall victim to the country's vicious proxy war. Our Nima Elbagir is there. And we'll explain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: He is facing a maximum 150 years in federal prison if convicted of the fraud counts against him. I'm talking about New York Republican Congressman Chris Collins, but he is refusing to step down. He is still campaigning for reelection in November and insisting that he will be cleared of the charges against him.

He represents a ruby Red district in Upstate New York and he was the first sitting member of Congress to endorse President Trump. Allegedly, this is what the Department of Justice says, tipped his son to dump stock in an Australian drug company called Innate Immunotherapeutics once he found out a bad drug test trial.


REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), NEW YORK: The charges that have been levied against me are meritless and I will mount a vigorous defense in court to clear my name. I look forward to being fully vindicated and exonerated, ending any and all questions relating to my affiliation with Innate.


HARLOW: With me now, Bob McCarthy, a political reporter for "The Buffalo News" in his district. Our Phil Mattingly, our congressional correspondent, back with me. Thank you both for being here.

And, Phil, let me begin with you. Total defiance here, not dropping out, still running. He knows his district, right, and he knows that the race against the little-known Democrat there, even with these charges against him, maybe he has a shot.

This is significant to watch because it's in a district where the margin of victory that he saw, 60 percent to Hillary Clinton's 35 percent, was the largest of any of the New York House districts.

So, what do you make of his calculation to stay in this race?


HARLOW: Oh, Phil - sorry, Phil, quickly and then I'll get to you, Bob.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Bob would have a great idea of kind of how the district is laid out, but just from kind of the top line perspective, look, if you look at the district right now, if you look at the way it was redrawn, if you look at Chris Collins standing in the district, he's in a good place.

If you look at the amount of money that he has in the bank compared to his opponent, if you look at the support that he's had over the last couple of years, it's very clear. And you could hear it last night that he believes he can run and win. And, Poppy, it's not without precedent. There was another New York Republican Michael Grimm, who had been indicted, ran and won reelection. A Democrat, William Jefferson, who had been indicted, ran and won reelection.

It just depends on how close they are with the districts and how much they align with the district. So, I think that's the calculation right now. But I think you make a good point, Poppy. There's no discussion right now, I'm told, based on people on Capitol Hill that have been in touch with his team about him leaving anytime soon.

HARLOW: But Michael Grimm didn't win the second time around, right, Phil?

MATTINGLY: True. Very true.

HARLOW: So, there you have it.

MATTINGLY: And he went to jail.

HARLOW: There's that. So, your beat, Bob. This is your district. This is what you report on every day as a political reporter up there. What are the constituents saying?

MCCARTHY: The constituents are, I think, amazed at this because they are very much behind Chris Collins, they are very much behind President Trump and that's why Chris Collins has been such an ardent supporter of the president.

[09:20:09] He's been on your network and all of the other networks, probably more than 100 times in the last two years as kind of a real champion, a real cheerleader for the president.

So, I think that they are dismayed. But I bet you anything, you're going to see Chris Collins mounting a pro-Trump campaign as he goes around the district over the next few months and that's going to resonate with people.

HARLOW: You know what's so interesting now, now that we know these charges against him, Bob, is looking back at some of the words and language he and his supporters used when House Ethics Committee was investigating the holdings that he had in this pharmaceutical company, I mean, his supporters called the ethics probe in the House a witch- hunt.

He himself, Collins, called media reports that anything he did would be a violation of the stock act, fake news. I mean, it's just exactly the language the president uses.

MCCARTHY: Yeah. And that's by design, Poppy, because it's - again, he knows this district. He knows what resonates with people, and that's why you're going to hear Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump throughout this whole campaign.

HARLOW: I wonder, Phil, what you think about what the White House is going to do here. So, mum on it right now, but this is the first member of Congress to endorse the president. Last October, when the House Ethics Committee came out with their report that found there was "substantial reason to believe that he violated ethics rules at a minimum."

Mike Pence, the same month, the vice president, traveled to Buffalo to help him fund raise. So, I mean, does the White House stand by their guy, Phil?

MCCARTHY: Good question.

MATTINGLY: I think it's fair to say you're not going to see many White House officials traveling to help him any time soon. You're going to see a little bit of distance.

I think the wild card is the president. The president knows who his supporters are. The president knows who his most vocal supporters have been. The president, as Bob notes, knows who's been on TV talking and supporting him over the course of the last couple of years.

You really can't calculate what he's going to do, particularly in his 280-character platform. I think the White House political operation is keenly aware of the map that they're looking at right now and they're keenly aware that they don't have the money or the resources to start putting into a plus 26, plus 27 Republican district even if they wanted to.

So, I think, with that in mind, they're going to try and stay as far away from this as possible, but you just never know, Poppy, if the president decides he wants to wade into it.

HARLOW: That's true. Bob, before we go, it seemed to me like you were seeing the beginning of the crafting of the defense last night by Collins. And that is, hey, I lost money on this. So, there was nothing to see here. What's your read?

MCCARTHY: Yes. Throughout this entire thing, he has insisted that he has played by the rules, that he has abided by every possible rule even when the Congressional ethics office mounted their first investigation and came back and said there is reason for concern here.

So, he just has let this kind of slide away and say that this was not a problem, nothing to see here folks, keep going on, and that's kind of what it's been with the congressman.

HARLOW: Something tells me, you too and your colleagues will keep doing your reporting on it, as you always have. So, thank you for being here, Bob. Important insight from the district. And, Phil, thanks so much.

So, New York City is cracking down on Uber and Lyft, those taxi-like vehicles. And we all take them. But there are new rules and it's significant. It has to do with how many can be on the road and also how much the drivers have to be paid.

Our chief business correspondent Christine Romans is here. I find this fascinating. CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It's really interesting. And this is the first city and a big city - the biggest market really for Uber and Lyft to do this.

And, look, it was the congestion concern. It was also wage concern with this new package of bills passed. You're talking about a $17 and change minimum wage assured for these drivers.

Look, there are a lot of them on the roads, Poppy. Eighty thousand Juno, Lyft, Uber, and Via drivers in 2018. Compare that with just 2015 where there were 12,600 and there are 14,000 taxis on the roads here. So, you can see the big boom.

And what the city wants to do is sort of pause the new for hire licenses for a year. No new ones for a year while they figure out congestion and patterns and whether they can lift these wages.

Taxi drivers have complained for a long time. They have seen the value of a medallion, which is the right to drive a taxi that you have to buy, from a million to $200,000 and there are a lot of drivers competing out there.

And, of course, that's the business model. Uber and Lyft need as many drivers out there driving as they can. This is what Lyft said. These sweeping cuts to transportation will bring New Yorkers back to an era of struggling to get a ride, particularly for communities of color and in the outer boroughs.

So, the ride share agencies don't love this, but the city wants to look at congestion and wages.

HARLOW: And the $17 an hour wage in New York City is much more a livable wage. It's still not enough for a lot of people to get by. But then, it was. So, it's important for them.

[09:25:03] ROMANS: Look, the wage is even important. Look, you've already seen the New York City and New York State, this move toward a $15 wage for restaurant workers and others. So, there has been this trend already. Here now, they're talking about it for drivers.

Quick check of the markets.


ROMANS: Because we're really super-close to an all-time high for the S&P again, but I don't know if you're going to get it today. It's just so quiet. The trading ranges, as you know, have just been super tight here. So, it doesn't look like a big gangbuster of a day.

Really strong earnings, strong economy, countered by worries of trade wars. That's the same story.

HARLOW: Everyone's on vacation, except for us.

ROMANS: I know. I know. Go on vacation, Poppy. HARLOW: I'm trying. Romans, thank you very much. New stunning

details - stunningly disturbing details in the rescue of these 11 children from that compound in New Mexico. Prosecutors now say that at least one of those children was forced into learning how to be a school shooter. Ahead.