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Defense Rests in Manafort Trial; Trump and Omarosa Clash; Trump Denies Using N-Word. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired August 14, 2018 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Hope to see you back here at noon tomorrow.

Jim Sciutto is in for Wolf this week. He picks up our coverage right now. Have a great day.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Jim Sciutto, in for Wolf Blitzer. It is 1:00 p.m. here in Washington. Wherever you are watching from around the world, thank you so much for joining us.

We begin with breaking news.

The defense in Paul Manafort's tax and bank fraud trial has rested without calling any witnesses. Manafort telling the judge himself he did not want to take the stand. That now sets the stage for closing arguments tomorrow morning.

With me now is Shimon Prokupecz, who's been following the trial. Also Michael Zeldin, a former federal prosecutor and former special assistant to Robert Mueller at the Justice Department.

Shimon, if I could begin with you first.

I mean just to highlight this, this is the president's former chairman of his campaign, charged with multiple crimes here.


SCIUTTO: And his defense, in effect, cannot mount a defense, or is refusing the response -- the opportunity to mount a defense here.

PROKUPECZ: Certainly refusing the opportunity. And, you know, the jurors will be told that -- and have been told that there's no obligation for a defense for the attorneys to put on any kind of defense, right?

I think it's certainly shocking that they didn't put on any witnesses. Like, no one expected Paul Manafort to testify, quite clearly. Such overwhelming evidence from the prosecution. They have e-mails, documents. They have Rick Gates, who was his long-time business partner. So it's not surprising that Paul Manafort didn't testify. But I think people are kind of surprised that at least they didn't put

someone on to show that they were making some kind of effort perhaps in the sense -- you know, while jurors shouldn't consider this as anything negative, there's always a perception thing also with jurors, and sometimes how they could view this.


PROKUPECZ: And it seems, obviously, that the defense here is putting everything on their cross-examination, and they're going to make whatever arguments they're going to make in closing tomorrow.

SCIUTTO: Michael Zeldin, is this the legal equivalent of a white flag?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, no, because we think that the defense theory is reasonable doubt. And they think that, through Gates, they are able to create reasonable doubt.

There was one point in the trial, the question went this way, from Defense Counsel Downing. After all these lies you've told and the fraud you've committed, you expect this jury to believe you? He's asking Gates.


ZELDIN: Gates says, yes. Then Downing replies -- he continues, I'm sorry, he says, I'm here to tell the truth. Manafort had the same path. I'm trying to change.


ZELDIN: That's the essence of what this trial is. If they believe, after all these lies and frauds, Gates is incredible, one juror, all they need for a hung jury, may say, I have a reasonable doubt. And maybe that's what they're playing to.

SCIUTTO: But court prosecutions regularly depend on the testimony of witnesses who, shall we say, are not saints, right? If you think -- I mean think of every mob trial, right? Sammy The Bull Gravano. It's not unusual, is it, to have a --


SCIUTTO: Someone with not the most stellar reputation testify against --

PROKUPECZ: But what the prosecutors here, and Michael could speak to this probably better, what they've been so good at doing here is that they have all this other evidence. They really didn't even need Rick Gates.

SCIUTTO: E-mail. Yes.

PROKUPECZ: E-mails, documents, folks from the banks, the accountants, the tax preparers.


PROKUPECZ: That is overwhelming evidence.

ZELDIN: That's right, it corroborates. So you could say, even if you have a question about Gates' morality, his integrity, the truth of his testimony is corroborated by all of the documentation --

PROKUPECZ: That's right.

ZELDIN: Including -- you can't say it exactly in these words, including the words out of Manafort's mouth himself through all of his e-mails where he acknowledges the criminal patterns and encouraged them to go forward.

SCIUTTO: He's spending a lot of money on this defense. And Paul Manafort, as we know, as it came out in this trial, does not have a lot of money to spend.

Is there any suspicion here that he is throwing himself, if not on the mercy of the jury, on the president's mercy, that this is an indication that he's expecting or hoping for a presidential pardon?

ZELDIN: It's a good theory. I thought, and I said it on air, that this was a guilty plea. It may have been a slow guilty plea through the conduct of a trial, but this was a guilty plea because the evidence was so overwhelming. You can have the same thing happen in a few weeks in the District of Columbia where he's going to stand trial again for more or less the same charges.

I don't understand why you wouldn't work out an agreement to reduce your, you know, exposure for sentencing, even if you don't testify, unless you think that maybe if I stand silent and I have something to say and the president knows I have something to say, he'll remedy that down the line with a pardon.

SCIUTTO: Shimon Prokupecz, of course this is part of the overall Mueller investigation. It doesn't relate to Russian interference, but these charges were brought by the special prosecutor. What does this mean for the broader Russia investigation?

PROKUPECZ: I think -- well, for the special counsel, certainly if they get a conviction here, it's going to help them with their credibility politically speaking. I think Rick Gates I think is an important witness for them. That's become evident during the trial.

[13:05:08] SCIUTTO: Witness beyond the financial crimes.

PROKUPECZ: Beyond. And what's important is that he holds up here because if for any reason his credibility is torn down, if for some reason there's an acquittal here and let's say it's Rick Gates' fault, what will that then mean for the rest of the investigation? So that, politically speaking, this is an overwhelming case for the prosecution. They should win this case. So that will be -- politically for them, it's important that they get this victory and that the credibility of these witnesses are held up. And the other thing is still, what -- can Manafort still get some sort

of a deal? We know, based on a lot of the reporting we've done here, that there has been pressure on Manafort. They were trying to get him to cooperate. He has refused. Could he somehow, down the line, get a deal?

SCIUTTO: Well, any point up until sentencing, right, that opportunity is there, yes.

ZELDIN: Well, he's got -- actually, this rule 35 opportunity for him, under the rules of procedure, that within a year he has the opportunity to cooperate and then get some sentencing reduction based on that cooperation. So he's got an opportunity to help himself if he wants to.

SCIUTTO: Michael Zeldin, Shimon Prokupecz, thanks very much.

And now to the president and his escalating feud with former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman. Trump tweeted today, really a remarkable moment, remarkable words to come out of the mouth of the president via Twitter in this case. He said the following. When you give a crazed, crying, low life a break and give her a job at the White House, I guess it shouldn't work out. It just didn't work out, rather. Good work by General Kelly for quickly firing that dog. Dog, low life. The president of the United States using those words to describe a woman who he hired multiple times for this job, but also, of course, back in the reality TV show days.

Now the Trump campaign is taking legal steps against Omarosa, accusing her of violating a nondisclosure agreement. All of this coming as Omarosa claims that she heard Trump use the "n" word on an audiotape. And she releases a new secret recording of a 2016 conversation that she had with Trump advisers, in this case Lynne Patton and Katrina Pierson, discussing the alleged use of that racial slur. Have a listen.


KATRINA PIERSON, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN SPOKESWOMAN: I'm trying to find out at least what context is this used in to help us maybe try to figure out a way to spin it.

LYNNE PATTON: I said, well, sir (ph), can you think of any time that this happened (ph) in the past? And then he said no.

OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN: Well, that's not true. So --

PATTON: You know, how do you (INAUDIBLE). He goes, how do you think I should handle it? And I told him exactly what you just said, Omarosa, which is, well, it depends on what scenario you're talking about. And he said, well, why don't you just go ahead and put it to bed. I --


PIERSON: He said it. He said it. No, he said it. He's embarrassed (ph). (END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Well, Pierson released a statement shortly after saying that Omarosa made up the story. She says, quote, during the 2016 campaign, we heard rumors about an alleged tape from "The Apprentice." It's clear now that those rumors were always being circulated by Omarosa and her alone. Pierson goes on to say, quote, in her secret tape recording of me, it was one of many times that I would placate Omarosa to move the discussion along because I was weary of her obsession over this alleged tape.

Let's go right now to CNN's White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins.

What else can you tell us about legal action by the Trump campaign? Of course, President Trump himself and the campaign have repeatedly threatened lawsuits that they haven't followed up on. Are they following up on this case of legal action?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, so far we're seeing the first legal action since Omarosa did start on this publicity tour for this book where she makes these stunning allegations. And this is from the Trump campaign. They are filing an arbitration action against Omarosa Manigault Newman saying that she violated a 2016 nondisclosure agreement that she signed with the campaign.

Now, we have not seen the agreement that Omarosa herself signed specifically with her signature on it, but we have seen one that the campaign passed out to other staffers and had most other staffers sign. And in that NDA, it does say that those signing cannot disparage the president or his family, and it does have a clause about arbitration, binding them to that agreement. That is what we're seeing here. That is an agreement that most of those staffers signed. We've reached out to see if that's the one that Omarosa herself signed, but we have not heard back.

But -- and it's unclear where this is all going to go with this arbitration, Jim, but this is the first legal action we've seen anyone take.

And we saw the president preview this yesterday when he said that Omarosa had signed a full nondisclosure agreement. This seems to be the one he's referring to, but it's still unclear exactly which one he's referring to.

But, Jim, what we are seeing is this consume the White House. This book, in and of itself, leading the president to tweet over almost ten times in just the last 24 hours alone about his former staffer, one of his highest paid staffers here in the White House. And now Sarah Sanders, the press secretary, is going to come out during this briefing here in the next hour, the first briefing she's had in weeks now that the president was on his vacation in New Jersey last week, and she's going to have to answer questions about this former staffer who is making these very serious allegations and engaging in this back and forth with this White House that we are really seeing just consume them here. [13:10:29] SCIUTTO: No question. Kaitlan Collins, thanks very much.

We should note that the White House had denied in the past, or not confirmed, that there were any NDAs signed. And also that lawyers we've spoken to said that they're not defensible because it's a First Amendment issue, a freedom of expression.

We should also note that Katrina Pierson will join my colleague, Erin Burnett, tonight at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time right here on CNN.

We'll discuss this war of words, the language that the president used -- really remarkable language -- and those alleged "Apprentice" tapes.

Plus, in the middle of all this, the White House set to hold its first briefing in 12 days. That's a live picture from the Briefing Room. Just a short time from now, we're going to take you there live when it happens.


[13:15:27] SCIUTTO: The very public feud is escalating between President Trump and his former adviser, Omarosa Manigault Newman. Trump now calling her a dog after Omarosa claims that Trump used the "n" word on an audiotape.

Joining me now to discuss this, Georgetown Professor Michael Eric Dyson. His new book "What Truth Sounds Like" dives deep into the conversation about race in America and in politics. Also joining us is CNN political analyst Eliana Johnson and CNN's senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson.

Michael, if I could begin with you.

The president of the United States, he calls a former senior adviser, who he hired himself --


SCIUTTO: A woman, a woman of color, he called her a dog after calling her a low life yesterday.

DYSON: I mean this is reprehensible. We've seen this movie before. Jim Clark, Bull Connor, racist sheriffs in the south who dehumanized African-American people and then subsequently applied policies that intended to undermine and subvert their democracy.

This president, even more ridiculously and carelessly and callously, calling a black woman a dog. So, last time I checked, a female dog is a -- and this is what he called her. He gets away with this. He has dehumanized so many other African-American people. His policies have undermined our integrity as citizens. A Justice Department that is undermining voting rights. We've got people in housing who are reinforcing discrimination.

So it's not just a one-off. It's not just a loose cannon engaging in rhetorical animus toward vulnerable black people. This is part and parcel of a policy of both deep and profound personal disintegration before our eyes, as well as policies that hurt black people. It's a dangerous cocktail and combination.

SCIUTTO: Nia-Malika, I wonder, is there a political agenda for this president behind language and epithets like this? When, for instance, I hear the president call Maxine Waters a low IQ person to his crowds --


SCIUTTO: And he knows it gets a clap and it gets a laugh and a smile and some applause, that's with effect and with intention. Are we seeing that with this as well?

HENDERSON: I think so in some ways. I mean you do have the history of Donald Trump going after high-profile African-Americans. And we saw that most recently with LeBron James, with Don Lemon. And beginning his kind of political assent with the birther lie, the idea that President Obama wasn't really an American and lied about where he was born.

So, yes, I do think it's part of his strategy as a politician. And, quite frankly, we've seen this from Republicans before. I mean this idea of using racial division for political gain. And you had top Republicans basically apologize to the NAACP. Ken Mehlman in 1995 went before the NAACP and apologized for the Republican Party for all the years that they did this.

And so you do see, I think with Donald Trump, kind of a replay of some of the things, some of the coarser strains we've seen in the Republican Party over the last years. And it works. I mean it works on his base. They like it. It kind of stokes white anxiety. It stokes white grievance. And you hear it in his language, a threat (ph), and I don't think it's something he's going to stop.

SCIUTTO: Eliana, we've been down this path before, this president using offensive language against men, women, children, people of color. I mean we've just got a few with the specific dog insults. David Axelrod, Matt Miller, Ariana Huffington, Alan Sugar. Each time we will often ask the question, is there something qualitatively different about this one that will not just get the president's normal, usual critics riled up, but Republicans, Republican lawmakers. I saw that Jeff Flake tweeted something about this today, but he's -- he's in the category of Republicans who, one, is going out, and, two, is willing to criticize this president.

Is there anything different about this one? Are you going to see, I don't know, Paul Ryan say something beyond, that's not just helpful?

ELIANA JOHNSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I'm not sure if you're going to see other Republicans come out and condemn the president. But I do think there's something different about Omarosa for Trump. She is somebody that he helped to elevate, promote, make into a national celebrity. Somebody he once considered an ally who doggedly defended him. Somebody who learned from him about how to run a media campaign who is now turning on him and inflicting a tremendous amount of damage on this White House through a drip, drip, drip strategy.

And the damage she's doing goes beyond what's on these tapes. She's now revealed that the White House is forcing public servants to sign nondisclosure agreements. That wasn't on the tapes. And turn this into a story that's going on a week now and shows no signs of abating. And I think that is really roiling the president, getting under his skin.

[13:20:16] SCIUTTO: Professor.

DYSON: Yes, I've just got to say, though, absolutely true, but the problem is, of course, is that she's giving him a taste of his own medicine, a dose of what he's done. But beyond that, it still doesn't legitimate or justify the kind of vicious animus he's expressed toward people of color, and in particular dog, mongrel.

Look at all the KKK language that was used. He's evoking an entire history of assault against black people with dehumanizing language. So he might say that about other people as well. But when he applies it to Omarosa and then he applies it to LeBron James and he applies it to Don Lemon. He's doing something very specific, and we need white brothers and sisters and non-black people who are allies to call him on this. Don't just have the complicity of silence or, oh, my God, and wring our hands. This is an assault the likes of which we haven't seen from the presidency in so many decades.

SCIUTTO: Nia-Malika, the recording that Omarosa released discusses another use or alleged use of the worst racial epithet, the "n" word. And you hear, we played it earlier, you hear other Trump advisers discussing it. And Katrina Pierson, long time spokesperson, responding, not saying to Omarosa, as she said in her statement today, oh, that's -- that's crazy, forget about it, but saying, how do we spin it? In effect, treating it as credible at the time.

Now, Omarosa has her own credibility issues as well here. Is this something substantive that bears pursuit, this allegation from Omarosa?

HENDERSON: The idea that there might be a tape out there?

SCIUTTO: Uh-huh.

HENDERSON: I mean I think journalists have been looking into this. It was something that was floated during the campaign. It was floated by somebody who worked on "The Apprentice" and --

SCIUTTO: Just to be clear, we're talking about a tape that records the president using the "n" word, right.

HENDERSON: The -- right, saying -- using the "n" word or other disparaging things. What's so interesting about that was the ways in which you had these three African-American women who were on that campaign strategically to defend the president against charges of racism. And it's something that Omarosa talks about in her book, this idea that how can Donald Trump be racist because he was so good to Omarosa. And that was her role in the campaign. And she very often defended him against attacks of sexism and racism. And now as he's facing those attacks from her, he doesn't necessarily have a lot of people left who can defend him.

DYSON: Right. That's one of the -- that's one of the faux pas of many African-American people. Oh, well, he treated me nicely. Oh, he did this nicely. Yes, the guy who put a plunger up the behind of Abner Louima (ph) was dating a black woman. So having affection for black people is nothing to do -- has nothing to do with the decrying of the hatred that someone might express about black people in general. So just because you get crumbs from master's table doesn't mean you ain't on no plantation.

SCIUTTO: Eliana, let me ask you a question here that, you know, just goes to a broader issue because the, you know, the president's been accused of this kind of thing from a number of quarters. To be clear, and we should be fair, I mean, whether this is defense or not, the president uses similar offensive language regarding a whole host -- a whole host of people. As we listed there before, some of them not people of color.

Is he hearing from anybody inside the White House that this is a step too far, that this damages you, that this brings you down at a time when your numbers could be higher, et cetera? Does he hear anything like that from people who are close to him in his inner circle?

JOHNSON: Two points to make on that. The president hears constantly from senior advisers that his language isn't appropriate, chiefly that he should stay off Twitter. I think that's almost a code for your language is inappropriate since you hear him less often say these sorts of things, you know, in public statements. Twitter is sort of his vehicle for venting. But it's so frequent that I think it loses its punch when his advisers tell him that.

The departure of Hope Hicks, who really was the person who could rein him in, I think we've seen more of this rhetoric since she left the White House. So, sure, he hears this, but I think Trump himself, he's sort of done away with presidentialism and the forms of the presidency. And there's a resignation on the part of White House aides that, you know, this isn't somebody who observes the forms and traditions of the presidency, and it's never going to be.

SCIUTTO: Yes, let Trump be Trump. You hear that a lot. You know, this has been successful for him. You know, let him be the man he is, seemingly without limits.

Thanks to all of you. Appreciate it. It's a difficult topic.

The Manhattan Madam revealing what happened when testifying before the Mueller grand jury about her interactions with Roger Stone.

[13:24:44] And at least 35 peo are killed -- and these are just remarkable pictures here -- when a highway bridge collapses in the midst of a storm. Now there is a race to save survivors buried in the rubble.


SCIUTTO: President Trump is doubling down on his attacks against his former adviser Omarosa Manigault Newman. Trump calling her today a dog after Omarosa claims that she heard Trump use the "n" word on an audiotape.

Joining me now is former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo. He lived and worked in Russia in the 1990s. He was also interviewed by the special counsel back in May. He, we should say, has firmly denied any collusion between Trump's team and the Russians.

[13:30:05] Michael, thanks so much for taking the time to join us today.


SCIUTTO: If I could begin on the president's comments today regarding Omarosa.