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Negotiations Continue between Special Counsel Mueller and Trump Legal Team over Possible Sit-Down Interview; Rep. Chris Collins Charges with Insider Trading. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired August 9, 2018 - 8:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got triple digit temperatures, we've got a red flag warning.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota on John Berman.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Thursday, August 9th, 8:00 in the east. Alisyn off. Erica Hill still with me here two hours in the show, which is a good sign.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: I think it's a good sign. I think you're doing a great job, John Berman.
BERMAN: Thanks so much.
The back-and-forth between the president's legal team and the special counsel has been going on for months. The president has talked publicly about wanting to answer questions, that's his claim, but the rubber may now be hitting the road. The Trump team submitted a counteroffer to Robert Mueller, trying to limit the scope of potential interview questions to avoid what they call a perjury trap. In other words, they're concerned about the president getting caught lying. Rudy Giuliani says the investigation should end in the next three weeks, but if it drags on until November, he claims Republicans will benefit politically.
HILL: Meantime, President Trump's first supporter in Congress also facing legal trouble this morning. New York Republican Chris Collins arrested for an alleged insider trading scheme. He faces up to 150 years in prison, and he's not the only one. His song among the others named in that indictment. Collins is vowing to clear his name and run for reelection.
Let's bring in CNN political analyst, "New York Times" White House correspondent Maggie Haberman and CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. As we look at all of this, and if we start with Mueller, just based on your reporting, Maggie, where do you think we stand at this point in terms of how quickly there could be some sort of resolution here between Mueller and Giuliani and the legal team for Donald Trump?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think you can expect that this is going to be one of the final exchanges between team Trump and Mueller on this question. Giuliani yesterday threw out the date of September 1st, saying he thinks this needs to be done by then because with DOJ guidelines you are unlikely to see a report issued within 60 days of an election. That's the only area where there would be resolution. It's really important this back an forth.
Then it would become a question of, is there a subpoena fight? Does Mueller try to subpoena the president? There are people on the president's team who do not believe that is likely. There are some who think it is likelier than not. I think that what we have seen is what Mueller is up to is not visible to most of us, so I think a lot of mind reading as to what he's going to do is what Trump's team has been engaging in, and they may prove to be right. But given how many other witnesses Mueller hasn't spoken to, there's a bunch of people in the White House he still hasn't interview, he has not spoken to Don Jr. as far as we understand it, I don't think he has interviewed Roger Stone yet.
So I think there is a lot of work left to do. So this is certainly not the end of the probe. It might just get them through this phase their in where they've been creating a paper trail over several months where they can then say look, we did try to have an interview with you. It's been eight months now. If they wanted to sit for an interview they could have by now. And for Rudy Giuliani to say you can't ask him questions about Comey, that's a central fact. So that's like saying and you can't ask questions about Russians. So they're obviously never going to agree to that.
BERMAN: You can't say words out loud, can't drink water, you can't breathe air.
HABERMAN: Right, if you make certain conditions you know will be poison pills, yes, it's not going to go very far, your offer.
BERMAN: Speak specifically for a moment, Maggie, before we get to the legal ramifications here with Jeff, about what Rudy Giuliani and the president's lawyers want to shape in terms of obstruction specifically.
HABERMAN: In terms of obstruction, they want to deal with that as little as possible. Their argument has been all along it's not obstruction for a variety of reasons, one of which is that there was no active proceeding going on that he would have been obstructing. The tweets are his opinions. The tweets are a really interesting subset, because the White House has said after various times, and the DOJ has said they consider his tweets to be official president statements. But you are increasingly having, we've seen over and over a rationalization for the president says as that's just how he talks. And basically that's now what you have his lawyers doing. He's just talking about firing Sessions, First Amendment right.
There is a real question of what you lose as a private citizen when you are president that Trump has not been willing to give in to. So on obstruction I don't think their argument has changed at all. They're just not validating it in their minds. I don't know that Mueller is going to see it that way.
HILL: It's fascinating when you phrase it, what you give up as a private citizen when you become president. And Jeff, there's also what this president believes you gain when you take that oath of office. And in many ways it is to not only to not answer not only certain questions but to answer to certain valid issues and questions and legal concerns.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, one of the core arguments that the president's legal team has made is that the there is a big distinction between actions taken while he is president and actions taken during the campaign.
[08:05:002] And their view is under Article Two of the constitution which defines the president's power. You can't inquire into the decision-making process of the president about whether to fire Comey. One of the big precedents here is the "Clinton v. Jones" case, the Paula Jones case, where the Supreme Court said Bill Clinton had to give a deposition in the civil case that Paula Jones filed against him. And the way that the Trump team has evaluated that case, or the way they view that case is, well, that was because -- the reason the Supreme Court allowed that inquiry is because it dealt with activities before Bill Clinton was president. It's a totally different story if they want to ask about what he did when he was president. Whether that's a meaningful legal distinction I don't think I know. I don't think the Supreme Court has resolved it. But that's a line that the Trump legal team is trying to draw.
BERMAN: Jeffrey, why is the special counsel even engaged in this game at this point? Why not just say we've been at this for eight months, I'm a little tired of it, frankly, here's your subpoena?
TOOBIN: Because the president is in a different legal position than anyone else. Any prosecutor in the country can't just decide to send a subpoena of the president of the United States. There is law that suggests if you can get, if you, a prosecutor, can get information from a different source rather than the president you should go to that source. There's a case involving Mike Espy, who was secretary of agriculture under Clinton.
So the Mueller team is trying to show their good faith, that they are not just willy-nilly demanding Donald Trump come before a grand jury. They are spending a lot of time proving it. I find this -- that this has gone an absurdly long time, this single negotiation. We are talking nearly a year on this issue at this point. But I do think -- I agree with Maggie. I think the issue is coming to a head, and by September 1st we will know whether there will be a voluntary interview, and we'll probably know whether there will be a subpoena or not. HILL: If there were to be a subpoena just based on that September 1st
date and everything we're talking about, right, is this a subpoena that you would imagine would come, Jeff, after the election?
TOOBIN: Well, I think -- no, I think the subpoena would come right away, but the legal fight would go on for months. I think you'd likely have a Supreme Court resolution of the subpoena by the end of June of next year the way the Supreme Court term always ends at the end of June. That just puts this off into a whole other realm, because would Mueller file a report while that issue was still outstanding? So I think there are a lot of factors that will go into whether to file a subpoena, and the length of the fight is certainly one of them.
BERMAN: Maggie, you were here yesterday and you were talking about the political games being played by the president's team over the timing.
HABERMAN: I don't think I said political games, but go ahead.
BERMAN: Not games --
HABERMAN: Well, that's an important word.
BERMAN: Political strategy.
BERMAN: But hang on one send here, because you said it here yesterday morning, and then almost as if on cue Rudy Giuliani all over the place yesterday was talking about the timing here, and if we have that sound I want to play that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: 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.
You don't 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 should take a few days to consider it, but we should get this resolved. If there's going to be an interview, let's have it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: I think it's a testament to reporting. What I was trying to say is you were eight hours of Giuliani actually saying it out load, but what is the strategy?
HABERMAN: I think it is what we talked about in terms of the legal component, which is they wanted to have laid out the case by which they will have been reasonable. I think if a subpoena is issues, I think their thinking is -- look, they here in a situation they don't want to be in, so I don't think it's a game. I think they are trying to get this dealt with as quickly as possible with as little damage to the president as possible, and they have a strategy to do that, or some semblance of it.
They believe -- some of them, anyway -- that if there is a subpoena that is filed that it will be base riling for the president. It will be incentive for turnout. There will be a reason that Republican voters who have said -- my colleague and yours, Alex Burns from the "New York Times" covered the Ohio special election and voters said to him over and over again we have to protect the president, those who were voting Republican on Tuesday.
[08:10:05] So I think they are hoping they can boost turnout in that way. The problem is there is a negative polarization effect where it could have an equally base-riling impact on already excited and enthusiastic Democrats. So I just don't know you can game out how it will play. There's no world in which any of this is good for the president. It's just not.
HILL: No, and that's the fascinating point that it really doesn't, at this point no matter how it's trying to be spun in the court of public opinion, which Rudy Giuliani is doing on a daily basis, it doesn't end that way looking good for the president.
HABERMAN: But it does end that way in the terms of court of public opinion if from this respect. To Jeff's point that the president is different, you don't just go and file a subpoena against the president. You also according to DOJ guidelines don't indict a sitting president. And according to team Trump they have been given assurances that that guideline will be paid attention to, and I think that's an important thing to bear in mind here.
HILL: Jeff Toobin, you get the last word.
TOOBIN: I think this thing should get resolved. I just think this is crazy that we are still talking about whether the president will give a voluntary interview months and months after Mueller and Trump's team have been talking about it. I think it shows a lot of patience on Mueller's, part but I think enough is enough. Just one way or another get it done.
BERMAN: Jeffrey, Maggie, thank you very much. This will make for an interesting September.
HILL: Yes, it will, yes, it will. And the movie is going to be amazing when it's finally made.
So just who does have the president's ear? An eye-opening report says three friends at Mar-a-Lago are influencing policy at the V.A. How so? How do things really happen at Mar-a-Lago? We have Maggie here. We're going to ask her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) [08:15:21] 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 question to my affiliation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: New York Republican Congressman Chris Collins defiant in the face of insider trading charges, vowing to clear his name as you just heard, and run for reelection in the fall.
We're back with Maggie Haberman.
Maggie, as we look at all of this. I mean, the indictment itself is fairly damning as most legal minds have said, there's a lot in there. But when you look at Chris Collins, when you look at what's happening with Paul Manafort and the people around the president, right, who was only going to have the best, they are people in his orbit and Collins was the first to stand up and say, I wholeheartedly support Donald Trump for president.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right.
HILL: Is this starting to trickle into Donald Trump? How much is it affecting him? Because there were rumblings that the tweets we were seeing were related to Manafort going to trial?
HABERMAN: I think it was related to among Manafort and other things and I think there's an assumption President Trump's behavior is predicated on a set of facts that relate to whatever you're seeing and it doesn't necessarily. It can be that he is somebody who is prone to a lot of anxiety around certain things and his reactions tend to be pretty outsize when he feels like something might be near him.
But that doesn't mean that he -- only he knows what the facts are, we don't know, but I don't assume because he's tweeting, it therefore means that he thinks his children are about to get indicted or so forth. And I think that's an important point to remember.
I do think that the swirl of all of this and I think the confluence of events, the Manafort trial, the discussion over an interview, Michael Cohen emerging as a potential threat to the president and there were reports that started here that Michael Cohen may have information about whether Don Jr. had told his father about the meeting in Trump Tower which both Trump and his son have denied and we don't know where that goes, but all of that is problematic.
I think that these kinds of things are -- I think Chris Collins is more problematic to the Republican brand going into November. But I think that if you -- and, look, he's in a very heavily Republican- leaning district. He may still win. He was indicted before. Michael Grimm in Staten Island, this would be the first time.
But it does start to create for the person who -- the president who rose on the drain the swamp message, these all are very swampy. The Manafort trial is literally a circus. I mean, the stuff that is coming up, an ostrich skin jacket and it's all -- and embezzlement and this -- there's a lot of muck and so the Chris Collins piece adds to that. Republicans who are running in November do not want to be asked about Chris Collins and they're going to be.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right, it may matter less in his district --
HABERMAN: That's right.
BERMAN: -- than in surrounding districts. And, again, I don't know if we still have the picture here. The fact that Chris Collins allegedly took the phone call on this stock when he was at the White House.
HABERMAN: That's bad.
BERMAN: Just coincidental but, you know, a tough picture for Republicans to deal with.
Now we're talking about the issue of who has influence. And you brought up the swamp here. "ProPublica" has a report that discusses how these three friends of the presidents who go to Mar-a-Lago have influence over the V.A.
They've been giving advice about the V.A., representatives of the V.A. have been flown down to Mar-a-Lago at taxpayers expense to meet with them. We're talking about Ike Perlmutter, who is a big mucky muck at Marvel Entertainment. Think about the "Avengers" there.
Also Bruce Moscowitz, a Palm Beach doctor.
HABERMAN: Good of you to push that out there.
BERMAN: "The Avengers" may be influencing V.A. policy. And Marc Sherman who is a lawyer also.
They're influencing policy at Mar-a-Lago. They have no official position here. What goes on in Mar-a-Lago?
HABERMAN: Well, what goes on is that it's -- whether it's Mar-a-Lago or Bedminster or aspects of Trump Tower, what you have is this unofficial shadow government around Donald Trump which is what a lot of us who covered the campaign thought was a real possibility when he got elected.
What his advisers have tried to do is down play the influence of these folks over time, oh, these are just people he sees on the weekend, Ike Perlmutter is just a friend whose influence we like to see.
No. What we saw in the emails -- that was incredibly good reporting by "ProPublica". What you saw in these emails that they have filed Freedom for Information request to obtain. What you saw was they were -- they were running it. I mean, this wasn't just input from time to time when the president is down in Florida.
There was outsourcing secretly a government function to a group of privatized folks, lawyers, a filmmaker and producer.
[08:20:01] One lawyer who had at least some connection to wanting to get his sons' technology used by the V.A., it raises all kinds of questions and you have to assume this is the only agency where this is going on. I mean, one of the things that I think has been deleterious on the Trump reporting is we're so focused on the bouncing be of Donald Trump, there's a lot going on in the agencies that we're not seeing, and I think that is going to be a lot of the story of the remaining first term.
HILL: How much of that is starting to come out? Because the reporting is there, right? I mean, we have entire teams -- "The New York Times" -- we have teams working on this everyday. Maybe I should phrase in a different way. Coming out in a way you think it's resonating and sticking with the American people and then they're seeing that shiny object which is very important and able to process all things at once.
HABERMAN: I think there is such a fire hydrant of information being thrown at voters that I think voters have started to tune it out and I'm not certain that this kind of things breaks through at this point. I think after we see what happens in the midterms, things may change in terms of what voters are interested in. We will be heading into a presidential election cycle. People will pay more attention.
I don't know how much of this gets into the public conscience but I think for instance, we had the daily drip of Scott Pruitt at the EPA and for voters that turned in to -- reporters could barely keep up. So I think voters were having a hard time as well. I'm not sure how much this impacts voter sentiment but I think the reason why we do this is not voter sentiment, but it's government accountability.
BERMAN: Let me read a statement about these two "ProPublica", from these gentlemen. At all times we offered our help and advice on a voluntary basis seeking nothing at all in return, they said. While we were always willing to share our thoughts, we did not make or implement any type of policy, possess authority over agency decisions or direct government officials to take actions. To the extent anyone thought our role was anything other than that, we don't believe it was a result of anything we said or did.
Just remember, Mar-a-Lago, I don't know what the annual dues are, but I think the initiation fees are $200,000 and the people whom are members get to rub elbows with the president.
HABERMAN: I mean, I -- what you get in return is you get to say that you're influencing V.A. policy. You don't actually have to have something -- that's value enough. You get to have the president's ear. That's value enough and I don't understand how they can argue they were not involved.
One of the gentlemen was involved in regular conference calls. I mean, that's not not being involved. That's not just telling the president. This was telling the actual bureaucrats who are running the agency what to do being involved in daily policy. I realize they weren't commanding all aspects of it, but they were
very significantly involved. It always raised questions about why Ike Perlmutter was so deeply connected in what was going on in terms of this election of a V.A. secretary. This goes well beyond that.
BERMAN: All right. Maggie Haberman, great to have you here with us today. I appreciate it.
HABERMAN: Thank you.
HILL: Thanks, Maggie.
A stunning political upset. A Ferguson city councilman will be the next county prosecutor. You'll hear why his victory means so much. That's next.
[08:27:01] HILL: Today marks four years since the death of Michael Brown. The black teen was killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. A grand jury declined to bring charges against the officer.
Well, this week, a St. Louis County processor faced his first election since that incident since the Ferguson unrest and he was upset by a councilman from Ferguson who promised to reform the criminal justice system.
Joining us now, Wesley Bell, who will run unopposed in November.
Good to have you with us, congratulations.
WESLEY BELL, CANDIDATE FOR ST. LOUIS COUNTY PROSECUTOR: Thank you. Thanks. Thanks for having me.
HILL: This was -- look, this is something we should point out that is near and dear to you. Not just as a member of the community, but you've been a public defender. Your father is a police officer.
There are so many conversations that have been had in this country in the last several years because of events like what happened with Michael Brown and discussions of the community and a look of involvement and understanding between prosecutors and the community.
What do you think will change now for you as you move forward?
BELL: Well, one thing I've learned as a city councilman in Ferguson is that you cannot ignore the public engagement component of public service. You have to communicate and be visible to your constituents, and I think that's the way that you start building credibility and trust because at the ends of the day, the justice system is predicated on trust so we're going to assign our prosecutors geographically so they know the communities that they serve and we're going to work on that trust component through communication and transparency.
HILL: Part of that transparency, part of that communication I know for you comes down to facts and to data, which doesn't sound like something that would really, you know, build a connection and yet it's something you say has been seriously lacking.
BELL: Yes, absolutely. One thing the current administration has not done is keep good data because as any data wonks know, if you don't track the data, you don't know what you're doing well or not as good. And so, we're going to make sure we track data so we know what we're doing and we're going to make it public so we can evaluate it, analyze it, and so that outside organizations can do the same because again ten years from now, we're going to find new research that leads us in different directions that are going -- to keep St. Louis County safer and help people and we have to be open minded, but we have to track data in order to make sure that what we're doing is effective.
HILL: You've said justice is about consistency.
HILL: Where do you think it's been lacking up to this point?
BELL: Well, I think wherever you look at the justice system, when you start changing the rules or changing the policies in particular cases, you know, that makes people start to question the process and so, what we're going to do is we're going to create policies that will be ready and available to the public on day one. We're going to make sure that everyone knows what the score card is, what it looks like, so they know exactly what we're doing before --