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Trump & Omarosa Escalate Feud Over Tapes & 'N'-Word; CNN Poll: 55% Disapprove of Trump's Handling of Russia Probe; U.K. Police Investigate Possible Terror Incident Outside Parliament; Trump Confirms White House Staff Sign Non-Disclosure Agreements. Aired 6- 6:30a ET
Aired August 14, 2018 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
OMAROSA MANIGAULT-NEWMAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE EMPLOYEE: I am going to blow the whistle on a lot of this.
[05:58:47] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Clearly Omarosa is in a really desperate situation. I really do feel sorry for her.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just kind of unthinkable that that would happen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many people have this type of blackmail against a president?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He did want to stay. He loved the bureau.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The text message and e-mails, they were not of sound judgment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They destroyed his reputation, and now they destroyed his career.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to your viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's August 14, Tuesday, 6 a.m. here in New York. Alisyn is off; Erica Hill joins me.
What's your favorite reality show?
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, it's hard to pick just one, isn't it?
BERMAN: I like the "British Baking Show.
HILL: OK. I'm a big fan of "Fixer Upper."
BERMAN: They're both very different than what's going on right now.
HILL: They are. BERMAN: Yes. There is an escalating battle overnight between two former reality stars. One used to work in the White House. The other still does, and that one happens to be the president of the United States. So really, it must be sweeps.
In the past, President Trump heaped praise on Omarosa Manigault- Newman. Overnight, though, he called her wacky and deranged and made the eye-opening statement that there are no tapes of him using the "N" word while filming "The Apprentice." Incidentally, he also for the first time seemed to admit that White House employees have been asked to sign confidentiality agreements.
On the other side, in the past, Omarosa has heaped praise on the president, but overnight, in addition to calling him a racist who should be impeached, she said she has more tapes from her time inside the White House, and for good measure, she said she'd be happy to share them with the special counsel, Robert Mueller, whom she seemed to suggest has reached out to her before.
HILL: So as all that drama is playing out, a new CNN poll finds two thirds of Americans want Robert Mueller to wrap up the Russia investigation before the November midterm elections. A finding that's likely to sit well with the president, as is this. For the first time, President Trump's approval rating is higher than some his predecessors at this same point in their presidency.
Plus, the FBI firing Peter Strzok, the now former senior agent became, of course, a household name for his anti-Trump texts. His lawyer slamming the decision, saying the agency has the, quote, "power but not the right" to fire Strzok.
Let's begin our coverage on this Tuesday morning with CNN's Abby Phillip, who is live at the White House.
Abby, good morning.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Erica.
The White House is really aggressively going after Omarosa Manigault- Newman's credibility, trying to stop this new book from gaining any more traction; and President Trump is the one leading the charge.
PHILLIP (voice-over): President Trump fighting back against claims by former senior White House aide Omarosa Newman that he used the "N"- word while filming "The Apprentice." In a late-night tweet, the president insisting, "I don't have that word in my vocabulary and never have."
Omarosa providing no truth, alleging she heard him use the racial slur on tapes but only after her book had gone to press.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: How many times did you hear Mr. Trump, your former boss, how many times did you hear him use the "N"-word?
MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: Multiple times. It sounded as if he used it every day.
PHILLIPS: Omarosa claiming during interviews that she had a conference call in 2016 with former Trump senior communications adviser Jason Miller; former Trump Organization employee Lynn Patton; and former Trump campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson, where Pierson said she knew he used the word. Omarosa's allegations coming with widespread denials from people quoted in her book.
KATRINA PIERSON, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN SPOKESWOMAN: That is absolutely not true. I have no sources with that tape. She was the only one that brought this tape up. People that I've checked with who she's mentioned have no idea what she's talking about.
PHILLIP: While defending himself against Omarosa's attacks, President Trump apparently confirming White House staffers are asked to sign non-disclosure agreements. Omarosa claims the Trump re-election campaign offered her a $15,000-a-month job in exchange for signing an NDA, where she would have to promise and agree to not demean or disparage the administration and Trump family members.
MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: I never signed that draconian NDA that they presented to me when I walked into the White House.
PHILLIP: Omarosa coming under fire for secretly recording a conversation with chief of staff John Kelly in the White House situation room and a phone call she had with President Trump after she was fired.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (via phone): Omarosa, what's going on? I just saw in the news that you're thinking about leaving. What happened?
MANIGAULT-KELLY: General Kelly -- General Kelly came to me and said that you guys wanted me to leave.
TRUMP: No, nobody even told me about it.
TRUMP: They run a big operation, but I didn't know it. I didn't know that. Goddamn it. I don't love you leaving at all.
PHILLIP: The recordings stoking White House fears that others may have taped conversations and concerns about what else Omarosa could divulge in the coming days.
MANIGAULT-KELLY: I have a significant amount, in fact, a treasure- trove of multimedia back for everything that's not only in "Unhinged" but everything that I assert about Donald Trump.
PHILLIP: Omarosa even hinting that she's been in communication with the special counsel.
MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: Oh, I have plenty.
MATTHEWS: Anything Mueller would like to see, Mr. Robert Mueller? MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: If he -- if his office calls again, anything they
want, I'll share.
MATTHEWS: Would you be a good witness in this investigation?
PHILLIP: Well, today is the day that that book is actually released. And Omarosa is not going away quietly. She has several television interviews scheduled for today, and we will see what else President Trump has to say about all of that -- Erica.
HILL: All right. Abby, appreciate it. Thank you.
Also want to get to this breaking news this morning. A new CNN poll just being released shows two-thirds of Americans want Special Counsel Robert Mueller to wrap up his Russia investigation before the November midterm elections. And for the first time, President Trump's approval rating is higher than some of his predecessors at this point in their presidency.
CNN political director David Chalian joins us now with those new numbers.
David, good morning.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Good morning, Erica.
Yes, indeed. Let's look at the overall approval rating for the president is at 42 percent; disapprove 53 percent. This has been remarkably steady for months. It's a couple points higher than it was in our last poll, about where it was last spring, but Donald Trump has just been operating in this low 40 territory pretty much throughout the duration of his presidency thus far.
[06:05:00] But you noted the history. Take a look at this. Donald Trump, in every poll we've done since the beginning of his term, has always been at the bottom of this list when we compare him to his predecessors at this point in the presidency.
Now, in August of the second year, he's above Reagan; he's above Clinton; he's above Carter numerically. Still not in the top half, but he is making progress up that chart.
We also asked about how people think he's handling the Russia investigation. Obviously, this is not a good number for the president. He's upside-down by 21 points. Only 34 percent approve, 55 percent disapprove. But I want to note something about this 34 percent. It is up five points from where we saw last month, and that is largely driven by people who are eager to see him testify. So perhaps the public negotiation, the one-sided negotiation led by Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump, stating he really does want to sit down with Mueller, is having some sort of impact here.
And you noted the biggest number in our poll, Erica: 66 percent, two- thirds of Americans want Mueller to finish his probe before the midterms. And take a look at this by party. Majorities of Republicans, 72 percent; independents and 69; 57 percent of Democrats want Mueller to wrap up before the midterms. No doubt Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani and his team will take some solace in these numbers.
But I'd also note, if a majority of Democrats are eager for this to wrap up, perhaps they think it will help them in the midterms. So it may not just be good news for the president here. Both sides are probably going to claim some victory in these numbers.
And then take a look at Mueller's approval rating on the Russia investigation: 47 percent approve, 39 disapprove. This is an uptick of 6 points for Bob Mueller's approval rating. We've been talking for the last many months that we've measured it that the attacks on Mueller from the president have really been working most significantly with the president's base. But here you see with voters overall, Bob Mueller's approval rating is on the rise right now.
And then the importance of the Russia investigation to your midterm vote. Thirty percent say it's extremely important; 15 percent very important; 53 percent not important. This extremely important number is on the rise. Last time we tested it, it was 23 percent. So more and more people, largely driven by Democrats here, say that the Russia investigation is very important to their vote.
We had been hearing out on the campaign trail from candidates that they don't hear about it so much, but that may be beginning to change. Especially among Democrats, it may start being a motivating factor for them this fall in the midterms -- Erica, John.
BERMAN: Fascinating stuff. David Chalian, go nowhere. We have much more to talk about.
Also joining us now, CNN senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson and Laura Coates, a former federal prosecutor and a CNN legal analyst.
And Nia, I want to start with the headline number here, which is that 66 percent. Let's put that up again so we can see. Sixty-six percent of people in this CNN poll said they want to see the Mueller investigation wrapped up by November. This poll has been out for all of eight minutes. I am shocked we have not seen President Trump, Rudy Giuliani, someone else in those eight minutes use this number to make the case that America wants this finished.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL WRITER: Yes.
BERMAN: It's more nuanced than that but that's a number they will like.
HENDERSON: Yes. And just give them a little while. It's still early. And they've got Twitter, and they likely will point to this poll, because it essentially confirms what -- what Rudy Giuliani has been saying, this idea that it should be wrapped up by September 1. They said recently that they won't give an interview after September 1. So there's been this public negotiation. And really, they planted the seeds in the public's mind that it should
be wrapped up. Also what's planted the seeds in the public's mind is what happened in 2016, right? Revelations about the Clinton investigation that happened close to the election. Some Democrats feel like that hurt Hillary Clinton.
So this isn't just kind of a hypothetical in the minds of many voters. It's something that they lived through in 2016.
I think David's point, this idea of why do they want it to be wrapped up is key. The poll obviously doesn't show that. If you're a Democrat, you probably think, or at least hope, that the findings will, in some ways, implicate the president, implicate Republicans and hurt Republicans in November. If you're a Republican, you likely think that it will exonerate the president and do the party well come November.
HILL: Interesting, David. As you pointed out, we weren't hearing, perhaps, as much about this from candidates, and yet what's fascinating to me in the polling are also these questions that talk about what the president is putting out there in terms of information.
We know this is a large part of the legal or P.R. strategy, whatever you want to call it with Rudy Giuliani and the president. And you asked specifically about the things that the president is saying, whether people think that they are true; and that is a fascinating part of it in terms of how that may be influencing where people are.
CHALIAN: Yes. And most people don't think what the president says as it relates to the investigation is true. That's been a consistent number that we've tested all along.
It's also been true that it's sort of a 60/40 split in the country, those that think it is a worthy investigation that needs to be looked into and those that think it is an effort purely about trying to sort of get the president. And that 60/40 split has been consistent throughout -- throughout this, as well.
But what you just said about the -- the impact on how people are thinking about it relating to the importance in their vote this fall, you really do see a significant uptick among Democrats, some 16-point increase among Democrats who call it extremely important since the last time we tested that.
So, I do think that Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump are going to be very pleased, that they are going to say, "The public is on our side, Bob Mueller. Wrap this up."
But there's something in these numbers that also indicate this -- this Russia investigation may be a bit more of a motivating factor for Democrats than we had seen previously.
BERMAN: Which will be very interesting, because some of these Democrats running on swing districts haven't really focused on it to date. They've looked at other things. They may look at this, sense the enthusiasm; and you night see them starting to talk about it a little more.
I do want to point one thing out here. This has not been a long investigation if you compare it to investigations, similar types of investigations. It's not quite an apples-to-apples comparison if you're looking at Benghazi or Iran-Contra or Whitewater, because both of them, they had findings midway through. Impeachment in the Whitewater investigation actually happened, you know, 24 months before the end of the investigation.
But the Mueller investigation is only 15 months. All these other things went on for a long, long, long time, Laura. And I'm not so sure that Robert Mueller cares all that much about our polling.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That may be true. And I'm glad you put that particular graphic up there, because for most people looking at investigations, in fact, most prosecutors would chuckle at the thought of 15 months being the time you have to wrap it up, particularly if you're thinking about the other investigations like the Benghazi, like the Iran-Contra, like the Whitewater.
But I must say that it's probably more of an apt comparison you've been alluding to here, John, because there have been some findings midway through. There have been a lot of indictment that have come down, a lot of criminal charges that have actually come down. It is the myopia of the president who believes that, unless there is some direct connection to himself or an implication of himself, then there is no investigation worthwhile.
But in reality, you've got Russian nationals who have been charged that has been a speaking indictment. You're not going to get them back to the U.S. under our jurisdiction to do anything with them.
You do have the discussions about -- you have Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, who are tangentially related to the collusion probe, because they were, in fact, doing some activity while they were the campaign chairman and deputy campaign chairman.
You also have this new probe about Roger Stone. And of course, you've got the underlying GRU nationals, the GRU agents from Russia who have had a very big hand influencing our elections.
So I would argue that, even in a very short amount of time, 15 months, they have gotten a lot of work done, a lot of ground covered. They may have to skip over, in some parts, the mid-term election period if there is that DOJ rule that says not to interfere with the incoming elections. But it's arguable whether or not the president's campaign would be under that guise, because none of them are on the ballot. And that's who it's designed to protect against.
HILL: Right, which is an important point.
Nia, really quickly before we let you go, we looked at the length of all those investigations and people's perception of where we should be at this point.
The other thing that's fascinating, though, is even with Benghazi there was not, I would argue, the drip, drip, drip on social media that we are seeing every single day. We talked about it a lot. We talk about it on television. But it is slightly different this time around, and that has had an influence.
HENDERSON: Yes. I think that's right. I mean, it's constantly covered, and people want to see what is the end to this saga that we've been covering and talking about it for these last many, many months.
And so I also just think Americans are generally impatient people and, in some ways, that's reflected in that poll. They want this thing over, and they certainly want some sort of revelation to come before the election, because they think either way, for good or bad depending on their side, it will help them or hurt them.
BERMAN: All right. Much more to discuss on this in a little bit. Guys, stick around.
In the meantime, breaking news in London, British police are investigating a possible terror incident after a car crashed into security barriers outside Parliament. Several people are injured. The driver now in police custody.
CNN's Erin McLaughlin live at the scene with the breaking details -- Erin.
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, it happened at 7:37 in the morning here in London, the height of rush hour, when a man in his late 20s driving a silver Ford Fiesta crashed into a number of pedestrians as well as cyclists outside of Parliament before hitting a barrier and being arrested at gunpoint on suspicion of terrorism- related offenses.
Authorities say that he did not have any other weapons inside his vehicle. A number of people were injured, but none of those injuries believed to be life-threatening at this point.
[06:15:11] It's been about three hours since that time, and as you can see behind me, heavy police presence here in the heart of Westminster in London. A cordon remains in place just behind me over there. It's Westminster Abbey. Beyond that, it's Parliament Square. You see Big Ben covered in scaffolding. Not far from there, that is where we believe that this crash took place.
Authorities very clearly taking no chances. We've seen a number of police response incident units out, as well as bomb-sniffing dogs. Authorities say we can expect to see a number of police officers, including armed officers, throughout the city for the rest of the day. We are expecting a press conference very shortly here to update us on this situation -- Erica.
HILL: All right. And we'll look for more on that. Thank you.
Also still to come this morning, more on President Trump's feud with Omarosa and that deepening paranoia in the White House.
HILL: President Trump sharpening his attacks against his former White House aide, Omarosa Manigault-Newman, saying she lied about his use of a racial slur during the filming of "The Apprentice." In a tweet, the president also appeared to admit White House aides signed non- disclosure agreements.
We are back with Nia-Malika Henderson, David Chalian and Laura Coates.
And Laura, I want to throw this one to you first because, in that tweet, the president said, "Wacky Omarosa already has a fully signed non-disclosure agreement."
[06:20:08] There has been some question in the past about non- disclosure agreements and whether or not White House staffers were asked to sign them with this president. And talk about whether or not they would either be enforceable or constitutional.
Why is there a difference, Laura, if you are working in the White House, more of a public employee, versus a private employee when it comes to an NDA?
COATES: Well, the First Amendment is the main difference. Remember, the government cannot be in a position to try to infringe or silence your First Amendment rights. And that's what they would be doing if you had a non-disclosure agreement that you could not say anything that was not classified information. There's really an over -- an overarching theme here.
If it's classified, you don't have the same protection. You can't simply spout off at the mouth about statements that have been made and learned in the course of your employment about classified issues. If it's not that, however, you can't just bar people from speaking and exercising their First Amendment rights to do so.
And if you remember correctly, when they first introduced this issue to White House staffers as a part of this administration, even White House counsel Don McGahn had concerns and relayed to people that this was probably not going to be enforceable for that very reason.
There's a Supreme Court case called Pickering, as well, about the issue of a state or a federal employee is not going to be silenced because they say things that are perhaps controversial or disparaging or somehow critical of their particular employer, as long as it's not gleaned in terms of classified information.
And so I think largely the NDA was used to placate the president's paranoia but not one that had a lot of bite to it. And it was not even a financial or actually a penal part of the actual contract.
BERMAN: That seems to be the reporting here, is that Don McGahn just got sick of trying to placate or trying to tell the president that it couldn't be done, said, "OK. I'll have people sign it" but told the people signing it, "We can't enforce this, so it's not much of an issue."
Still, it is remarkable that people inside the White House were asked to sign NDAs.
Also remarkable that overnight the president putting out this statement on Twitter that he was speaking to reality show producer who reassured him that he never used the "N"-word on tape while filming "The Apprentice."
Now, look, I mean, this back and forth between President Trump and Omarosa is remarkable on many levels here. I found it fascinating the president really went out of his way to say this, Nia. He seems to be being aggressive on the P.R. front here, perhaps more aggressive than the White House was when "Fire and Fury" came out a few months ago.
HENDERSON: Yes, I think that's right. In some ways lesson learned, because they weren't really necessarily prepared for that book, didn't have a real strategy. And here you see them having a strategy. You see Omarosa having a pretty good strategy, too, being all over television, talking about her findings, talking about the recordings, releasing the recordings, essentially saying she has more recordings. I think striking a lot of fear and probably paranoia in the hearts of a lot of people who work in the White House, who are wondering, "What else does she have? When will she release them?"
But listen, I mean, this is the show that Donald Trump must have known he was getting into when he hired Omarosa, somebody he's known since 2004. He once tweeted it in 2013 that Omarosa always promises and delivers high drama. So that's what we are having here now, high drama and a kind of back and forth with the president of the United States that is very much like the kind of boardroom quarrels we saw on "The Apprentice."
HILL: Yes, and listen, if that was the goal in hiring her, it certainly worked.
The other thing -- one of the other things that was fascinating that we heard in this interview last night, David Chalian, is when Omarosa said, "You know, if he calls again," when she was asked about Robert Mueller and whether, you know, she would cooperate if asked for anything. She dropped the "again," just kind of left it there. And then they moved on.
But clearly, I don't think this is a woman who says anything just off the cuff, especially on a book tour. So one would imagine that that's something that may also come up today, David.
CHALIAN: Yes. And I think it's a little unclear if she was contacted by FBI agents or if she was contacted directly by the special counsel's office. So it's not entirely clear who contacted her in the initial contact when she is referring to being contacted again. But she is clearly dangling this out there, just like she is dangling that she's got a treasure-trove of material backed up on disks that she can put forth into the public space, trying to threaten, it seems, in some kind of way, the president.
And just listening to our conversation this morning, guys, it is like what are we talking about? This is the presidency of the United States. I mean, do you remember when it was really brazen and bold back in 2000 when George W. Bush was running a campaign about returning honor and integrity to the Oval Office? We are in the midst, as John described earlier today, like a television sweeps war in the seat of American political power.
[06:25:00] BERMAN: Yes. It is absolutely extraordinary. And Omarosa not just saying she has a treasure-trove. It's a treasure-trove of multimedia resources.
BERMAN: So I don't know what that means, if it means also posters, or dioramas, recordings, video, but multimedia --
HILL: Diorama. Well-played.
BERMAN: Diorama there, which always worked in fourth and fifth grade. But this is -- this is severely -- severely different.
Laura, I don't understand what she might have that would be of value to Robert Mueller. It's not like he can subpoena all these tapes unless he has something to believe there's something pertaining directly to the Russia investigation. Correct?
COATES: Correct. I thought you were going to say, "I don't know what she could possibly have of value," and you could have probably stopped there in terms of the information but particularly with Mueller's investigation or the probe that he has. It would have to be something about the insight or the intent and mental state of the president of the United States.
And so if he is interested in the conversations that she has had with him, it may be based on whether she has recordings about key relevant moments in time on the campaign trail and possibly afterwards in terms of the president's actions towards people like James Comey or the formation of his tweets. What is his intention in making those statements? Is it to threaten or intimidate a witness? That's where I can think he would probably be most interested, if at all.
HILL: The other thing that's fascinating, and just to pick up on something that David said earlier, she is touting the fact that she has worked in another White House.
So A, she kind of knows the drill, including that you don't typically bring a recording device, right, certainly into the situation room. At the end of it, Josh Dawsey has a great piece again this morning in "The Washington Post," and at the end there's this fantastic exchange where he goes through, you know, from the book. And she talks about how she went in for the firing, and she said, "I don't consent to being taped," even as she clandestinely taped the meeting herself, the people said.
Then, a White House lawyer who was present responded by telling her she wasn't being taped and adding he didn't want to be taped either. Josh Dawsey says a representative for Manigault-Newman did not respond to her request for comment. There's also that. I mean, just the sheer -- I'm at a loss for words over it. That, to your point, David, we are having this conversation about all of these things that have happened, and it's kind of the new normal.
CHALIAN: Yes. I mean, obviously, that is an entire break from protocol as it exists in any White House that anybody could imagine. So we have sort of left this planet of understanding what goes on, and we're in some other realm right now. And it is -- it's hard to wrap your mind around, that this is what the president of the United States, by the way, is spending his time on, as well.
BERMAN: And again, I will note, he put out a tweet last night where he said, "Mark Burnett called to say that there are no tapes of 'The Apprentice' where I used such a terrible, disgusting word as attributed by Omarosa."
Why did he need to get a phone call to tell him that?
HILL: Well, we just needed to clear it up.
BERMAN: Well, but I -- you know.
HILL: I agree.
BERMAN: I don't know that you need to have that confirmation.
HENDERSON: Yes. That's a good, good point. And the other thing is we -- you know, I mean, the president doesn't always represent the truth accurately. I mean, he said things have happened that didn't really happen.
But you're right. I mean, why would you need proof from Mark Burnett if you know you've never used that word? Why would you need somebody to call and let you know -- let you know that?
BERMAN: Nia-Malika Henderson, Laura Coates, David Chalian, thank you one and all.
HENDERSON: Thank you.
HILL: The queen of soul, Aretha Franklin, we're learning, gravely ill. We have an update on her health next.