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Trump Lawyers Don't Want Questions They Consider A "Perjury Trap"; New York GOP Congressman Indicted In Alleged Insider Trading Scheme; California Fire: Holy Fire Has Scorched 6,200 acres; What Role Will Trump Play In Midterm Elections? Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired August 9, 2018 - 07:00   ET


[07:00:01] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This may be the last best chance for President Trump to face to face with Robert Mueller, at least according to Rudy Giuliani.

The Trump legal team has submitted this new offer of terms to the Special Counsel on just how the President would be willing to answer questions in the Russia investigation. For a man who is now stranger to high profile interviews. This really could be the most high stakes yet for the President, if it ever happens, which honestly is a major doubt.

Well, his team is clearly most concern about is that the President could get caught lying. They want to limit the scope of question as much as humanly possible to avoid what they call a perjury trap. Giuliani says the investigation. He wants it to end in the next three weeks that Mueller has all the information he needs.

But if the probe brags on until November, Giuliani says, that Republicans will the ones to benefit politically, that his claim.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Meantime, President Trump first supporter in Congress also facing legal trouble this morning. New York Republican Chris Collins arrested for alleged insider trading scheme, which center around in Austrian pharmaceutical firm.

His now facing up to 150 years in prison, his son also named in that indictment among others. Collin says, he will clear his name and run reelection.

BERMAN: All right, I want to bring in CNN's Political Director David Chalian, CNN Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Gentlemen, thank you so much for being with us.

Let's put on the screen here Jeffrey, what the President's legal team is after here. So it there on your left. To limiting the questions that the President could be ask the collusion only. He could consider answering obstruction questions, but really want them to be extremely limited and of course he wants written answers and no perjury traps here. Is this a reasonable request Jeffrey? One that is likely to be entertained in a realistic way by the Special Counsel?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the Mueller office has been negotiating the terms. I mean, normally with witnesses there are no sentence, no negotiation when your grand jury subpoena. It's entirely up to the prosecutor.

But the President is in a unique constitutional position when it comes to any sort of relationship with law enforcement. And the Mueller team has been negotiating. It does seem like the President's team has made the conditions more and more onerous.

And I really think what's being set up here is Rudy Giuliani and company setting up Mueller to be blamed when negotiations break down. I mean the real issue here seems to be, how it's all resolved when it turns out there's going to be no interview.

Now remember, if there is no interview, Mueller could subpoena the President. And this whole fight would move into the court. And that could last for months.

BERMAN: And Jeffrey just to be clear, you've always been telling me that you think that the Special Counsel would like to avoid issuing a subpoena if he can. You're not 100 percent sure that he will.

TOOBIN: I'm not, I'm not sure. That office is famously leak proof. I don't know their though process. But I do know that they want to resolve this sooner rather than later.

And if there is a subpoena, the time it takes to go the district court, to go the circuit court and presumably to go to supreme court, could take the better part of a year, and that's not something that I think that Mueller wants, but he also doesn't want to be denied the access to talk to the President.

That's why these negotiations have gone on at such tedious length. I mean we've been taking about this. There was almost an interview that was going to take place in January of this year. They had schedule. It was going to at Camp David. And here we are in the middle of August with the issue still totally unresolved.

HILL: So much of what you put out there Jeffrey though, it really does set up perfectly. A, part of what we see Rudy Giuliani's job to be, which is to put out these narrative, right? And to put out the message publicly up. Well, look, he wants to sit down. Does he really well, who knows. But the message is, he want to sit down.

If it doesn't happen, well, look, we tried. We did everything we could. If he doesn't get subpoena, well then I guess they didn't really need him right. So hey, this is just a witch hunt. And then also we have now David Chalian. Rudy Giuliani saying very clearly this need to wrap up by September 1, we've got all these other issues, we can have this playing into the midterms.

But, by the way, telling our Dana Bash, if it does, that actually for us too.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right. What's unclear is that, is that Rudy Giuliani political strategy all along. Or is that now an after the fact strategy that well, I better come up with something that I think is advantageous for us if indeed it does go into the fall. That remained unclear. I don't even completely dismiss Giuliani sort of political analysis, that there could be among the Republican base a real rally around the President kind of moment.

[07:05:01] Its why I think you've seen Republicans throughout this entire election here Erica raise the spectrum of impeachment far more than Democrats have, because they see that as politically beneficial to energize the Republican base, this notion that the President maybe imperiled.

But I do think, we cannot stress Jeffrey's initial point enough, which is that, if you have an eight month negotiation and obviously we only see one half of the negotiation play out in public because votes have in the negotiation does not really play out in public.

But if that is playing out in pubic, that is less about a legal strategy and more about a P.R. strategy. That is why there are these public pronouncements from Giuliani because he is trying to lay that ground work.

BERMAN: And Axios this morning point out correctly that Giuliani is exploiting the Special Counsel silence here. This is a wide sided debate. Giuliani knows that, he can say what he wants, the Special Counsel won't respond at least not publicly.

Let's play a little stand at Giuliani talking about the politics of the timing here.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: We do not want to run into the November election. 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 I, but we should get this resolved. If there is going to be an interview, let's have it.


BERMAN: The other side of the politics Jeffrey which I find so interesting is regionalized, continue use of the phrase perjury trap here, where he's admitted out load to the American people that what his most concern about is the President will get caught lying.

TOOBIN: When I was a prosecutor and now that I've been a journalist. I've never been understood the phrase, perjury trap. I mean that is -- an invented phenomenon, to explain lying. I mean, it's not perjury trap, if you tell the truth.

And the idea that you -- that there is something unfair about asking question that you maybe proof to be lying about. I mean, what is that. I mean, that is just something that is invented political not legal talking point that I think is really irrelevant to what's going on here.

HILL: And that is a political talking point. We'll play very well when we go back to talking about the base. Once again, I do want to get your take on. And Jeffrey, to put you on this one for just a minute on what we've seen in term of this indictment against Chris Collins, coming out yesterday saying look, I'm going to fight this. I'm going to run for reelection.

But when you read through it, I obviously -- I'm not an attorney but reading through it, the way that the case is laid out here. It would seem there's a lot to fight, if his thinking of fighting this. How strong does it look to you?

TOOBIN: One of my favorite movies is Prince of the City. And there's a line in there with the cops says to one of the suspects. He says "We don't got you good, we got you beautiful." I think, it looks like they got Chris Collins and family pretty beautiful here.

I mean, did they sell the stock or not -- as soon this news came out. Did these phone calls take place or not? I mean, Chris Collins made a big show of saying his running for reelection. He didn't answer a word about the substance of the case.

And boy, it reminds me a lot of the Martha Stewart case, where there was a piece of bad news and they sold right, and Sam Waksal who was the head of the company, who got the bad news. He had to plead guilty because it was just so obvious and I don't -- let just say I would be very curious to see what the defense is here.

BERMAN: In the legal team had said that he himself didn't tell any jurors (ph), that might be move point here. David Chalian.

TOOBIN: No, I'm sure he also didn't rob a bank. He didn't kidnap a child and so what. I mean --


CHALIAN: And how about just like member of Congress not using their position to help enrich their families in any way.

BERMAN: We'll talk more about that David. I find that really interesting here because the politics of this maybe more substantial Republicans. Chris Collins, the first member of Congress to endorse the President, got this phone call in the White line.

And then he was sitting on this committee with oversight, over this company and theory that he owned a lot of shares and talking implication here David.

CHALIAN: Yes. It's not a good look obviously for him. And you're heading in to an election season where as we just learn in the special election this week John, no matter -- how Republican your district is no matter, how much you have not faced real substantial competition in the past.

If you are a Republican sitting member of Congress right now, you really need everything to go according to script here or you're going to face some serious political consequences. This being indicted is not according to script.

BERMAN: And not just for Chris Collins who is relatively safe seat. But for people who may know him, for people in his party, correct.

CHALIAN: Well look, of course, look at Paul Ryan initial reaction, right? Just stripping him from his committee assignment and getting this before the ethic team.

[07:10:07] This is -- because he understand how this from a brand perspective heading into the fall when you're already facing a ton of headwinds, is not at all what the party wants to be focused on.

HILL: Looks a little swampy if you're looking at branding. David, Jeffrey appreciated it. As always, thank you both.

BERMAN: More print in the city close next time, appreciate it.

HILL: With that is beautiful.

BERMAN: Breaking news from Southern California, 20,000 people already to evacuate because of the threat post by the holy fire which really has just exploded the last few days. A suspect accused of starting the blaze is under arrest in due in court this morning.

CNN Nick Watt, live for us in Lake Elsinore, California with the very latest Nick.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, it's not the size of this fire that's the problem right now, it's the location. And it's about 6,000 plus acres burned so far. You can see it behind me up there in the National Forest.

The problem is, it is now coming close to home. Around 7,000 structures are currently under threat. As you mentioned 20,000 people already under mandatory evacuation. Many more people told to get ready they may have to run.

Now, the weather is also a key factor in this. It's been hot. It's been dry. That's one of the reasons why we're seeing so many fires. But this fire in midweek, there was a little humidity, that help kind of dump it down a little and there is a chance of maybe some cloud and some rain later today, which would help.

Yesterday there was 19 aircrafts fighting this fire at planes and helicopters dropping retardant. There were 300 plus personnel trying to contain this fire before it gets into the residential areas around here. And really starts causing some destruction.

As you mentioned a man has been arrested, he's been charged with two felony counts of arson. He will be in arraigned a little later today and then we will find out really maybe why he did this and how he did this. His been named already as Forrest Clark, a local man, as I say he will be in court later this morning. Back to you.

HILL: All right, Nick thank you. We'll continue to follow that throughout the day.

Meantime, a dramatic and deadly escalation of violence along the Israeli Gaza boarder to tell you about, Israel military launching a series of airstrike against Hamas militants leaving three Palestinian dead including an 18th month old baby.

The attack comes after at least 100 rockers were fired from Gaza toward Israel. The three Israelis suffering shrapnel wounds.

BERMAN: New York City just became the first in the nation they cap the number ride sharing vehicles like Uber and Lyft. The bill approved by the New York City counsel calls for one year freeze on new for hire vehicle licenses. It also requires those companies to pay drivers a minimum rate.

Supporter of law state will ease gridlock and improve wages, critic say, they'll make it harder and more expensive to get around.

HILL: Backlash growing over major changes to the Oscar telecast. The Academy announcing plan to keep the award show to a tight three hours, and also an earlier air date in 2020.

Hollywood insider they're really pushing back hard on the new popular film category calling it a cynical move to boost TV rating. One film in critic even calling it the best achievement in pandering (ph).

BERMAN: I feel like this might be very important. I'm not sure why. But it does still important to me.

HILL: I mean, there's a lot of (INAUDIBLE) and back option. Some of what, I think maybe some of Brian Stelter, Jim Scuitto this morning. People talking about, often the most popular movie has also been up for the best picture award and has won at time.

BERMAN: The Return of the King, Titanic, Forrest Gump.

HILL: Yes.

BERMAN: Rocky, to name a few. I think what happens in the last few years you have all these nominees and all these winners for these small films. And I love a small, independent arty film, but if you have five nominees and really very few people have seen them, I think it's hard for viewers to connect.

ABC who hosts the Oscar telecast maybe the driving force here.

HILL: And that sort of the rumbling and the concern as well.

BERMAN: Yes, throw us a bone here. Help us out. This could be good for Wonder Woman, too. I mean, Wonder Woman one was obviously robbed at the Oscar for not --

HILL: Totally.

BERMAN: -- winning best picture

HILL: (INAUDIBLE) my son was watching it again the other day. There you it get staying power.

[07:14:09] BERMAN: Is a blue wave coming or will the Republicans be able to stop it in November? Our political commentator debate, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Two key races, the special congressional election in Ohio 12 and the Republican primary for governor in Kansas they remain too close to call after vote headed to polls on Tuesday.

The President backed candidates, the once he back in those races lead in both races. So President Trump is declaring victory there, but can the Republican Party stem the tide of potential blue wave in November?

Let's discuss, joining me CNN Political Commentator Symone Sanders and Scott Jennings. I'm super excited to speak to both of you, very smart people on this subject. I want to cover a lot of ground. So very quickly Scott, I want to remind people that Ohio 12, there 68 districts in this country less Republican than that one. That race within a thousand votes.

So let me ask you quickly on a scale of one to ten, how concerned are you by that result?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, I'm concerned. Look, I think it's indicative of what we've seen in some special elections. And Republicans have won eight of nine. But the results have been closer than you would expect in several of them.

So I am concern about what might happen in the fall and midterm. Now on the other hand, Democrats have come up short in several of these.

BERMAN: We're going to jump on the other hand at length in a second here. But I just want to talk about the concern and hope there.

Symone, as you look at that race in Ohio 12, how concern are you on a scale of one to 10 that the Democrat didn't win?

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm not concern John, because the fact of the matter is, we should not have been able to "Compete" in district at all. The fact that we can, the fact that turnout was not as high in the rural areas as it was in some of the metropolitan and suburban areas.

Means that a lot of folks, unlikely voters in this potential midterm elections are going to be coming out to the polls.

[07:20:01] BERMAN: So Scott, respond to that. Is that a sign of trouble for Republicans and then make your point that you wanted to make on signs of hope.

JENNINGS: Yes. It is a sign of trouble. If you have more people coming out to vote in the midterm who traditionally vote only in Presidential election, that would to favor Democrats. Republicans do well in midterms because the electorate matrix typically is more conservative.

And it's been the case in the last several. One thing we say in the Ohio 12 race though in Delaware County, which is the true suburban county in that district. Balderson actually got roughly the same percentage of the vote share that Trump did.

Now the Democrat there did better but it didn't have anything to do with the degradation in Balderson's percentage. It just had everything to do with the fact that he did better than Hillary Clinton did in 2012.

So, I was heartened that Balderson got 54 there where Trump 54.5. That tells me that Republicans still do have some messages that can work in suburban counties.

BERMAN: I want to talk about two things here, if I can. First the Trump factor then the Pelosi factor. Symone, the President is saying that he can swing some of these races. He says everywhere he goes his candidates win. Do you think that Democrats fear the persuasive powers that the President has?

SANDERS: No, I'm sorry to laugh on President Trump. But no, John, we don't fear the persuasive "Power" that the President has. What Democrats are doing in these midterm election and leading up to the midterm election is talking about the issues.

And so they're specifically talking about health care. Talking about the fact that Republican and Congress have threatened to again, bring legislation. In fact, take away their health care. They're talking about the economy and yes, some folks wages has gone up, some people have gotten a temporary tax cut.

But wages for most people are still stagnant. Folks are still working two, three, four jobs and still can't put food on the table to feed their families. And so that what Democrats are talking about. And I think that's why we've seen so many folks achieve success not just in the specials but over. I mean since November of 2017.

BERMAN: Scott, there are great articles in both in the time and the post this morning about the White House, Republican leaders try to figure out to how to employ (ph) the President. Who wants to believe clearly that he can swing some of these elections, will be effective or is he flashing in danger sign for some Republicans?

JENNINGS: Well, he'll be effective in some places. I mean, there's no question that the President is a key to juicing Republican turnout, which is a word that strategist around the Balderson campaign use with me. When he came in, when this came in, they do believe that they stabilized the race and that they got some Republican excited who might not otherwise vote in a thousand vote race.

Obviously that matters. But there are also races out there where the President is not going to be in use. I think there are 25 districts that Republicans hold that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. You would imagine that President is not as helpful there as he is in places that he actually carried.

If I might respond to Symone though on the economy, what I think is really not an effective strategy for the Democrats, is that they're running like we're inside of a great depression. Now we got candidates for on the Democrats side out there running on these plans that guarantee everyone a job. It's not clear to me how that's different to what Donald Trump is already done.

I mean we have four percent unemployment. We have more job opening that humans to fill them. I mean I guess I could out and invent baseball. But I think somebody already beat to me it. In this case Donald Trump already running, but I will say --

BERMAN: Hang on. I will say that Donald Trump run effectively on the economy, when the economy was improvement at great phase in 2016. So you can make inroads if you do it a certain way. Well, the Democrats can do that effectively, is a different story.

Symone, if I can. I want to go to the way back machine. Way back to about 20 minutes ago, when we have Rashida Tlaib, who will be the first Muslim woman elected to Congress in November. She just won the Democratic primary there.

And I asked her about this issue that's come up again and again in congressional races around the country, which is Nancy Pelosi and Democrats now on both sides of the party. Conservatives like Conor lamb, Danny O'Conner in Ohio and now really on the left Rashida Tlaib are running away from here.

Listen to this.


BERMAN: Will you vote for Nancy Pelosi?


BERMAN: Probably not?

TLAIB: That's my answer, no probably not.

BERMAN: Is she one of the people you're referring to as a Democratic sellout?

TLAIB: Look, I don't know, all I can tell you that she doesn't speak about the issues that are important to the families of 13th congressional district.


BERMAN: That was interesting, Symone. What do you make of it?

SANDERS: That was interesting. This is what I'll say John, I find it interesting that we're asking all of the Democrats -- the Democratic candidates about Nancy Pelosi, and we're not asking any Republicans about Jim Jordan.

Why have we allowed -- again, I think folks participating, Democratic candidates and current Democratic alike participating in this ruse, if you will, will you vote for leader Pelosi? Will you not vote for leader Pelosi? And they do not pushing back and challenging folks.

[07:25:08] The speakership of Jim Jordan, the fact that he has been accused of allowing sexual assault (INAUDIBLE) at Ohio state University. In the wrestling program is something valid here.

Now this is what I'll say about Leader Pelosi in Democrats. Look, you noted that there are 68 more seats -- less Republicans than the Ohio 12 congressional district. Democrats only need to win 23. We are on tract, we think to take back the House if folks keep the energy up and come out in turnout in the midterms.

When we take back the House they'll be a vote. You need 218 to get to speaker. Will Leader Pelosi get to 218 to become Speaker Pelosi yet again? Perhaps, but if there's anyone who thinks they want to unseat (ph) Leader Pelosi, they have to be able to demonstrate that they can raise the type of money. She's been able to raise for Democrat and keep caucus together.

If someone can do that, they'll give her --

BERMAN: Let me just take one point, Republican can ask all the time whether they support the President. They haven't press on Jim Jordan the speaker yet, perhaps because I think that there's not a sense that is viable candidate for House Speaker, be that as may.

Scott, to you, Nancy Pelosi has been a favorite pinata for Republicans running a congressional race is all around the country. Will that continue to be effective?

JENNING: Yes, there's no question. And Symone we have to admit I know see sees congressional district polling. Nancy Pelosi is drastically under water and virtually every competitive congressional district in this country. She was way underwater in Ohio 12, which is why the Balderson campaign that may great use of the fact that O'Conner ultimately admit that he would support Pelosi for speaker.

Let's not mislead folks about the way this works. If the Democrats take the majority, Pelosi will be on the floor their choice for speaker. And Kevin McCarthy most likely will be the Republican choice. So if you're a Democrat on the floor of the House, you have choice, either vote for Pelosi or not, which will allow Kevin McCarthy to possible become the speaker. They are all going to vote for Pelosi.

SANDERS: That's not true.

JENNINGS: So, if I were running Republican campaign I would say -- it is true, that exactly how it works. So if I were running a Republican campaign I would say you got a choice. We've got 4 percent unemployment, optimism is on the rise, job prospects are good.

But we can go back to the way that Nancy Pelosi wanted to do it when the economy was bad. It's a great choice and Republicans got to run on.

SANDERS: John, I'm laughing only because Republicans are running on Nancy Pelosi because they can't run on their tax cut to will be because they can't run very close to the President because his toxic and depending on where you go his unpopular. They can't run on all of the things that they've been able to "Get done" because when they had the chance to get something done, they did a tax cut for the wealthy. You get what I'm saying, and so I think it's laughable on the --

JENNINGS: We're running on the economy.

SANDERS: -- only parts that Republicans across -- is Nancy Pelosi.

BERMAN: Scott Jennings, Symone Sanders, thanks so much for being with us this morning. We will see how both parties run over the next two months. And I'm excited to talk you both about it again soon. Thanks. Erica.

HILL: Did the White House's zero tolerance policy hurt migrant families chances of asylum? The ACLU said yes, one of the organization attorneys is making that case. Next.