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Trump's Legal Team Sends Interview Counteroffer To Mueller; More Fireworks During Rick Gates' Cross-Examination. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired August 9, 2018 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[06:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- of just how the president would be willing to answer questions in the special counsel's investigations. This could be the most high stakes interview of the year, certainly of the president's life if it'd ever happens which is a major depth. What his team is clearly most concerned about is that the president could get caught lying. They want to limit the scope of questions as much as humanly possible to avoid what they call a perjury trap.

Rudy Giuliani, now says, the investigation should end in the next three weeks. That Mueller has all the information he needs. But he says if the parole (ph) drags on until November, Republicans will benefit politically, that's his claim.

In the meantime, Mueller's team continues to makes it case against former Trump campaign chair, Paul Manafort. An FBI witness told jurors that Manafort dodge taxes on more than $60 million in income. And Manafort's lawyers launched a final sneak attack on star witness, Rick Gates.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump's first supporter in Congress also facing legal trouble. New York Republican, Chris Collins arrested for an alleged insider trading scheme centered around in Australian pharmaceutical firm. He faces up to 150 years in prison. His son, also named in that indictment, Collins says, he will clear his name and run for reelection.

Also breaking news we're following out of Southern California, 20,000 people are now under orders to leave their homes, the fast spreading holy fire now threatening entire neighborhoods. And authorities say, it was started by an arsonist, the suspect has been arrested.

A lot of news to get you on this very busy Thursday morning, to begin with CNN's Abby Phillip who was live near Bedminster, New Jersey. Abby, good morning.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Erica. We have the latest in the back and forth of volleying between President Trump's legal team and Robert Mueller's special counsel investigators.

Rudy Giuliani, the president's attorney is saying he has sent back what he calls a good faith of terms to reach an agreement with Mueller over a sit down interview with President Trump. But the two sides don't seem to be getting a whole lot more close to each other on the essential issue of whether the president is questions about obstruction of justice.

Here is what the both sides are really dealing with right now. The special counsel investigator say, they want to sit down with President Trump. They want to ask him about collusion, about his associate contacts with Russians, but also about attempted obstruction of justice.

But President Trump's legal team is saying, they're open to an interview. But they only want questions on collusion, questions on obstruction might be possible in written answers but only if they are not what Giuliani is calling a perjury trap.

What exactly is that and why would they be concerned about the president potentially giving false answers to investigators. Listen to how Giuliani explained it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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 a case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP: So Giuliani also told Sean Hannity that they hope to wrap this follow up by September 1st. That's just before the midterm election. But he also told CNN's Dana Bash, that perhaps this whole thing could be good for President Trump. It could be one of the tools that they used to galvanize Republican in an attempt to save the president by voting in Republican majorities in November. John and Erica?

BERMAN: All right, Abby Philip, near Bedminster, New Jersey. Abby, thanks so much. I want to bring in CNN senior political analyst, John Avlon, CNN senior political reporter, Nia-Malika Henderson, and CNN legal analyst, Laura Coates.

Laura, if I can put back up on the screen what the president's legal teams wants here to limit questions the collusion only will consider obstruction questions, but must be written answers, no perjury traps. That's what the president's legal team wants. I want a pony. Who is more likely to get what they want?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Robert Mueller because he is the one who is the superior position. It's fascinating to think that Rudy Giuliani has the leverage that he would need to dictate the terms of a meeting with the special counsel particularly when the dictate of the special counsel is about collusion between members of a particular campaign headed by their own clients and members of the Russian foreign government and other foreign nationals. And so, the fact that he has this level of arrogance and this level of expectation that he will be heated to really is a fantasy. And remember, this is not just obstruction. It's about collusion as well. And so, one person who may be able to give information if they were to see past and nearsighted perspective of, it's only about what the president has done wrong would be a more expensive comprehensive view of what actually happened during the campaign.

So Mueller is the one. And he is not giving a pony to Giuliani.

HILL: Nor John Berman. Sorry.

BERMAN: No one is getting a pony.

COATES: Nor were you John, sorry.

BERMAN: No one is getting a pony.

HILL: But maybe if you're lucky, you know, John Avlon will get you a pony. We've been looking all these. The thing that's --

BERMAN: Delighted.

HILL: -- fascinating, is this term of perjury trap which I have to say it's a brilliant play for Rudy Giuliani because this set him up beautifully, right. I mean talk about something that rolls off the tongue when you're at a campaign rally that you can have your support. It's nothing but a perjury trap.

[06:05:08] JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah. No, it's a very good sound bite. The question is how rude it is and in reality in terms of negotiating position. The example that Rudy gave just the other night on what would be a perjury trap, it would be question like why did you fire Comey.

And then he says, well, that would be a perjury trap because they already know our answer to that. Well, the problem is we don't really know the president's answer to that because the story is changed so many times. And insisting on a written answer as an alternative to creating a perjury trap not only shows lack of confidence in your client, but also makes it be basically not a real deposition.

It's basically just a can piece of spam for the legal purposes. So obviously the leverage Rudy don't think they have is that Mueller doesn't want to push the subpoena.

HILL: Right.

AVLON: They've also got the elections. And DOJ rough guidelines of 60 days out. But this argument that a basic question like, why did you fire Comey, is a political trap -- perjury trap, I don't think that's why.

BERMAN: A good way to avoid a perjury trap is to not to commit --

HILL: Is not lie. BERMAN: Yes. Not to lie.

HILL: You could just tell the truth.

BERMAN: Yes. Don't commit perjury, just saying. I didn't go to law school --

AVLON: It's a crazy idea, John Berman.

COATES: Details, details.

BERMAN: Nia, it is interesting. We had Maggie Haberman yesterday. And she was talking about this notion of timing right now. And you heard Rudy Giuliani talk about it yesterday. Let's listen to what Giuliani said and then I have a question on it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: We do not want to run into the November elections. So, back up from that. This should be over with by September 1st. We have now given him an answer, he obviously -- he should take a few days to consider it, but we should get this resolved. If there is going to be an interview, let's have it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Now, its interesting Giuliani is using the idea that the DOJ guidelines say that you don't do something political in the days before the election. Imagine if that whatever happened.

AVLON: That my freeze.

BERMAN: It's crazy to think about that. But Nia, what Maggie was pointing out was that what Giuliani really wants to do even in August here is to get this issue away from Republicans who, you know, really don't want it heading into the midterms.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: I think there is a political strategy here, right? On the one hand, he sort of wants to have a two ways. He wants on the one hand seeming to drag it out. Even though, let's remember initially when Rudy Giuliani came on board, of the whole idea was that he was brought in to negotiate a deal, sort of settlement in wrap this whole thing up. And that was month ago.

And then here we are months later obviously in the same conversation about whether or not this president is going to sit down with the special counsel and what are the terms of that. So yes, I mean I think with Giuliani, he obviously keeps going to the base there, always on Fox News. He was with (INAUDIBLE) at some point as well talking about this, this idea that maybe if it drags on, it would even be sort of a rallying cry for members of Trump's base, who do see this as a witch hunt.

And the argument would be, listen, if you don't vote in Republicans, then Democrats are going to impeach the president. But then there's this other argument that listen, it should be wrapped up by September 1st. And if you look at sort of a general public on this, they don't necessarily see, majorities don't see that they should be wrapped up quickly even though do you do see Mueller's standing kind of declining.

They also think that the president should sit down with the special council. The last poll that I saw that we did was something like 70 percent of Americans thought that the president should sit down. So there are all sorts of political risks and gamesmanship that Rudy Giuliani is playing here that ultimately don't necessarily have anything to do with what Mueller has and what Mueller might reveal.

HILL: No, he's really -- I mean to your point, he's really sort of throwing out theory, oh, we should wrap by September 1st. But oh, by the way, this would be great to energize the base, and what a great rallying cry which is true as we know.

When we look at Laura, when we look at in terms of because we've heard for so long, you know, this does need to wrap up, right? It has gone on too long. Put aside the fact that Rudy Giuliani knows quite well based on his career that this go on as long as it needs to.

How much, Laura, as we look as this, is there a sense at all as to what would happened once the president, let's say he does actually sit down with Mueller, how much could that move us toward the end here? I mean how closer will be the end when we get to that point?

COATES: Well, it's difficult to assess that, given the fact that the president's statements, his tweeting, his lawyers having conversations about their strategy on an open radio station as well which put lies all the logic as well, thinking about that they prolonged the investigation in terms of any accusations and obstruction of justice.

And remember there is still the fundamental question which goes to the heart of what Mueller is mandated to do which is look into whether there are any ties of collusion between members of the Trump campaign, which he was the head of the Trump campaign and of course Russia.

And so, whatever he has to say and disclose will have two different segments. The part he conducted after the campaign was over and what happened before. And so they're trying to conflate the two. And Giuliani is saying, I've got a gloss over really the meat of the matter. He's trying to gloss over the very reason that Mueller has this probe.

[06:10:07] And on the issue of timing here, Erica, it's so important to consider. Remember, the reason that September is the deadline is because many states have early voting. Although the November midterm elections are still looming in that September day but there is a very good argument to be made if the DOJ policy would be inapplicable here because not any person in the Trump campaign including any president himself is on the ballot in November.

So arguably, argue is that the matter of down balanced strategy and not wanting to rock the vote in those areas is not what the DOJ policy was about initially. BERMAN: I do have to say though, in this environment post 2016, post everything happened with Comey. It would be shocking if Robert Mueller or Rod Rosenstein got anywhere near in the election with any kind of public action. That would be shocking to me. I don't know the guideline statements that looking on that. But politically be tough.

I do want to ask you John about Rudy Giuliani because Nia was saying he was brought on to negotiate allegedly in this interview which we the president and Robert Mueller's team or, you know, if you want to be cynical, he was brought on to string out these negotiations as long as humanly possible and politicize them as much as humanly possible.

AVLON: Yes. Look, I mean Rudy has been pretty clear that his primary job is the court of public opinion. And it's very clear if you look at the timeline on all of these that the strategy has been wait, then hurry up. This has been to some extent a delay tactic.

And now, they're saying, look, the election is upon us. We got to get this done, chop, chop after months of waiting and, you know, allegedly negotiating. So I think that is the larger gain. And then obviously the judo move they're trying to pull with the election date is, well, maybe the threat of impeachment which Democratic leadership doesn't want members of Congress to run on. Maybe that will energize the Republican base as much. But that's clear, the larger gaining.

BERMAN: All right friends, stick around, the Paul Manafort trial in full swing here, the prosecution preparing to rest its case soon. And if you were paying attention yesterday, you saw the defense tried to sneak in one final attack on Paul Manafort's former deputy, Rick Gates. Did it work? We'll discuss next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:15:51] BERMAN: Persecutors in the financial crimes trial of former Trump Campaign Chair Paul Manafort, they could rest their case as early as tomorrow. Yesterday, Manafort's defense team concluded it's cross-examination of Rick Gates, the government star witness. And it included with more fireworks.

CNN Joe Johns, live in the Courthouse in Alexander, Virginian. Pretty high drama, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I would say so John. The money trail in Manafort trial will once again be front and center today when testimony resumes talking about the bank fraud part of the case.

Prosecutors and the defense have now wrapped up the testimony of the most important witness, Rick Gates with one last and final skirmish over his personally behavior and credibility that was interrupted by the judge and put to rest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Star Witness Rick Gates facing a growling third straight day of questioning in the Manafort trial, the defense saving its most personally attack for last, asking Gates if he had four extramarital affairs.

Judge T.S. Ellis cutting off the question, calling a side bar with the attorneys away from the jury. Manafort's lawyers arguing the Gates' answer could prove he lied to the especial counsel notifying his plea deal, Judge Ellis ultimately deciding to halt the line of questioning.

The defense eventually asking, "Does your secret life span over many years?" Gates responding, "Yes, I made many mistakes over many years."

Gates, who join the Trump campaign as Manafort deputy in 2016 flipped in February pleading guilty to lying to the FBI, and it's been cooperating with the special council ever since. Persecutor asking Gates whether Mueller's team had coached his answers. Gates replying, "The only answer I was told was to tell the truth."

Persecutors revisiting Gates admission that he cheated his mentor out of hundreds of thousands of dollars asking where that money came from, Gates responding, "The Ukraine's, Mr. Manafort money".

Gates' testimony underscored how far he and former business partner Manafort went to hide money from the government. The claim highlighted by persecutors next witnesses from the FBI.

A forensic accountant telling the jury, Manafort collected more than $65 million in foreign bank accounts for his political working Ukraine and lied on tax forms. The witness also describing how the FBI was able to track $15 million Manafort spent on real estate, landscaping, and luxury items like ostrich and python jackets.

Judge Ellis again bating heads with persecutors blocking them from presenting documents in the interest of time. The judge urging, "As a concession to the shortness of life, we need to get it done."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: And cannot emphasize enough how firmly this judge is trying to move this trial along in rapid fashion. The government said it has eight more witnesses but still could wrap up its part of the case by end of the end of the week. John and Erica?

HILL: Joe, thank you. John Avlon and Nia-Malika Henderson are back with us, also joining us CNN Legal Analyst Shan Wu, a former lawyer for Rick Gates.

There's so much to parse through here, but what a lot of folks keep coming back to later (ph), I'm just talking about this actually in the break. And Shan, I want to throw this one to you to start. Is the judge here, Judge Ellis and how much has been made of how heavily he seems to be going after the persecution?

We know that he wants things to move along. And that's we're told part of what's behind it. How much should we actually read into it at this point? SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think he can read too much into it, I think Ellis, I love that sketch where he's actually standing up as though he's making the objection himself. But he's really trying to protect the record.

He is very strong will. He doesn't hesitate when throw himself into the proceedings. But he's trying to make sure that in particular the prosecution doesn't veer too much into what he consider as might be prejudicial testimony that he elicit such as in the beginning when he warn them not to blow too much on the luxury items. So it might engender resentment with the jury.

Similarly, he quite judiciously was concerned at too much sort of dirty laundry coming out about this other affairs. And that's we why called, the side bar. It was interesting to know, the persecutions seemed a little surprised that that allegation which, you know, perhaps one can gleam whether they knew about that time or not.

[06:20:09] BERMAN: So Shan, you brought up the dirty laundry here. And what seems to be development before our eyes is this entering -- interesting juxtaposition. You have dirty laundry sensational witness Rick Gates, an embezzler, an admitted embezzler who had an affair and now was accused at least in passing of having multiple affairs there.

The defense is using that to make it its case. And the prosecution is using dry tax documents that maybe hard to understand for the jury here. Do you think that there is a possibility they might identify with a more sensation aspect of this trial?

WU: There's that possibility. I mean it's always very difficult to predict the vagaries of a jury. And, you know, you really don't know until the verdict comes in. But this is the classic set up where they're going to the defense has to attack the cooperator's character and his credibility.

And the prosecution tries to rely on a mountain of paper to show that no matter what you may think of this cooperator, just pay attention to what he's telling you about the papers. So that's the classic two sides being set up against each other.

HILL: Only the two sides being set up here, just tickling over here. I see you wanting to weigh in.

AVLON: Only that I mean, look, you know, Rick Gates' affairs while sleazy are irrelevant as Judge Ellis pointed out to the case. And it seems to me that the real headline is you got $65 million in foreign funds and multiple foreign accounts some connected to the Russians, with signing privileges from a guy who's connected with Kremlin intelligence.

But that's the most relevant headline out of this. We'll see what, you know, jury and the judge decides, but that's where the attention should be as nice as it is to talk about affairs and ostrich jackets.

BERMAN: Nia, let's talk about Chris Collins, congressman from New York. The very first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump, arrested to a glaring headline. Whatever you see congressman arrest --

HENDERSON: Yes.

BERMAN: -- that's a pretty big headline and that happened yesterday. Who's someone very close to the president is arrested as part of an insider trading scheme where this pharmaceutical company that he was on the board of -- he got a tip before the public did about a failed test.

And then, the government alleges that he pass that tip on to his son who then told practically everyone he knows to sell that stock. This is a tough look for a member of Congress. And a tough look for Republicans two months before midterm.

HENDERSON: I think that's right. And you're going to see Democrats basically try to really paint this kind of picture of corruption that the GOP is corrupt. They don't really care about the little guy. They're basically out for their friends.

And you saw that Nancy Pelosi basically talked about the culture of corruption. And you saw a similar thing play out in 2006. If you remember Mark Foley, a different situation in terms of whether he was accused of doing but the Democrats made the same argument there.

What was so interesting yesterday was the meticulous way in which STNY laid this out in a way that is so easy for average people to understand. There is Chris Collins on the White House lawn because he is at this picnic that members of Congress have come to.

He gets worried about this drug trial failing. Then he calls his son. There at some point he goes to other the members of the family or extended family, goes to their house, stays there for a little while. And then they take action on the stock.

So, it's so easy to understand. We'll see what happens with Chris Collins in that district. It's a heavily a Republican district. These isn't -- there hasn't been a real fight or focus on that from Democrats. But these are the kinds of things that can happen in an election year that a party can't necessarily control, that could add to a momentum in this case for Democrats.

So we'll see what he says, you know, he says he's going to hang on. We'll see how long that last and what comes of this very interesting case that they have against him that's seems to be pretty damming in terms of the evidence.

HILL: What if they're laying it out, John. I mean we're looking at with the things that are in the indictment. They also lay out, you know, in April I believe April 25th of this year, you know, they say you blatantly lied to the FBI. That's in there.

AVLON: That's frowned upon.

HILL: All I see is this counter punch generally. All these two comes on the heels of not only with their in the investigation from the Office of Congressional Ethics. There was then the House Ethics Committee. So we're looking at this trail here. And yet, he is throwing out his hand yesterday and saying, "You know what, I'm going to fight this. This is I mean, nothing to see here."

AVLON: Yes.

HILL: Everybody look over here at my reelection bid.

AVLON: This is -- I learned it from you dad. I mean Chris Collins could not have been blind sided by this. I mean when Paul Ryan find out about it, he removed him from the committee he was serving on. And by the way, yes, it's shady that you conserve on a board of a company that oversees -- that is overseen by the committee you're part of, and then referred it to the House Ethics Committee.

So this has been coming down the pipe for awhile. Now, he's relaying on the fact that thanks to (INAUDIBLE) districting. He's got an R plus 8 district that Donald Trump won by nearly 60 percent on proving McCain and Romney's advantage. But he can't claim the victim card here. But he'll try because that what's proven tried and through among to serve the fed (ph).

[06:25:02] BERMAN: Yes. Speaking of the people who have been involved in these types of cases before, the government almost always wins these cases if it brings in. These are very hard charges to fight if you're one of the defendants. But the political side, it also but also Chris Collins allegedly got this phone call on the White House lawn.

HILL: Yes.

BERMAN: He was at the White House at that time. There were other members of Congress, Republican members of Congress who own the stock. They are not believed connected in any way to the alleged illegalities here.

But I can't imagine they like having their names associated with it. I think there's a video. In the white shirt back there, that was Chris Collins on the phone at the White House.

HILL: Yes.

BERMAN: So getting this phone call. And again, as he head in to the election, Nia, one of the things that you wonder is, you know, Chris Collins may be able to be reelected even with charges against him if he stays on the ballot.

But the point that John brought up in passing there that here's a guys who was sitting on a committee, regulating an industry where he owns stock, that is swampy.

HENDERSON: Right.

BERMAN: And that's something that Democrats might be able to run again.

HENDERSON: That's right. This whole idea of economic fairness, right, whether or not all the system is rigged against the little guy or, you know, and basically rigged to help of rich people and people who are in Congress and their friends. And you can sort of wrap in the tax cuts in that.

And then, basically say look at what the Republicans have done. They basically have given, you know, a kind of all this corporate give aways by the tax cut. And here is an example in Chris Collins using his position, using his access to enrich his friends.

So, yes, I think you'll see that argument a bit played out. And you sort of tie not only to Chris Collins thing in there, you tie in what's going on Paul Manafort. You tie in what's going with Rick Gates on the stand there. So you have this whole portrait of the swamp, the swamp that Donald Trump promised to drain.

The swamp that Donald Trump talking about the Clintons being so entangled in on this whole idea of the Clintons and Democrats basically having one set of rules from -- for themselves and one set of rules for everybody else. So I think you're going to see this as underlined theme of Democrats that's going to November.

BERMAN: Hey, Shan very quickly. We have to run to pull a plug on me here. But it is a pretty solid case against Collins as you see it?

WU: Yes. And I agree with Nia. I thought that the Southern District in New York laid it out very plainly. I think the phone records are going to be very, very damaging form here.

And, you know, sometimes people think of this insider trading as something far removed from them, the problems of rich people. But it's really at heart. It's just theft. I mean, it was stealing from people because they have that information. So I think it's a strong case against him.

HILL: All right. Appreciate it all of you. Still to come, we're keeping a very close watch on these wildfires in California. Twenty thousand people, 20,000 people now ordered to leave their homes because of a threat from the holy fire and the suspect for allegedly started it. And Cassidy (ph) were live for you on the ground.

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