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Trump Calls Omarosa a "Low Life" & a "Dog"; DOJ Released Manafort E-mail Recommending Banker to Jared Kushner; Russian Officials Pleased Trump Took Putin's Word over Intel Assessment in Helsinki; Majority Say Mueller Should Wrap up Russia Probe Before Midterms; Turkey Calls for Boycott of U.S. Electronics over Trump Tariffs. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired August 14, 2018 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:30:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Joining me now is former Trump campaign advisor, Michael Caputo. He lived and worked in Russia in 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.
Michael, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today.
MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISOR & POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Thanks very much for having me on, Jim.
SCIUTTO: If I could begin on the president's comments today regarding Omarosa. Is calling a former staffer, in this case, a woman, a woman of color, calling her a dog, is that acceptable language from the president of the United States?
CAPUTO: I wish he hadn't used that language. I think it's inappropriate for anyone to call anyone that. I think it's especially inappropriate to call a woman that. I think trying to paint it as a racial slur is a little over the top. If you look at your own graphic a minute ago, he's called people that name of all race, colors, and creed. The president is an equal-opportunity offender when it comes to what he says and tweets at times. It becomes difficult to defend sometimes.
SCIUTTO: You've seen the president -- and of course, listen, I wonder, in your view, does it make much of a difference if it's an offensive, abusive language, whether applied to man or woman or people of color or people not of color, you agree the president should not use that language. Why, then, does the president feel the need to use that language?
CAPUTO: That's the presidential model that we have. I think in the end we've all known the president is always on the attack. If you throw one shovelful at him, he'll throw 10 shovelfuls back. That's the way he was raised. That's the way he's grown up. That's the way he was in business in that tabloid news town of New York, where, as you know, it's a really brutal atmosphere. A lot of people --
CAPUTO: -- for the president.
SCIUTTO: But he's president of the United States.
CAPUTO: Understood. Understood. And --
SCIUTTO: The office is bigger than the man.
CAPUTO: No doubt. And a lot of people were thinking that the kind of finer-grain sandpaper of the Oval Office would level this off a little bit. But the president hasn't changed. I think expecting him to change is a little too optimistic. In fact, I think we'll see this kind of language to the end of his time in the Oval Office. When somebody accuses him of saying the "N" word, which to me, and I believe for the president, is a really incredible accusation. You can understand why he's upset. You can understand why he's upset that Omarosa was recording people in his White House. You can understand why this president, who many talk about his focus on loyalty, is truly offended by what Omarosa has done. I can tell you as somebody who used to work on the campaign, Omarosa has really never had a positive impact on anything that the president did in politics, and I wish she wasn't in the White House at all.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you about this because there are developments today in the Paul Manafort trial. Really remarkable that the defense turning down the opportunity to prevent a defense before going to closing arguments. An e-mail that surfaced in court caught our attention because it shows in this e-mail that Paul Manafort, three months after he left the campaign, was pushing for a position inside the Trump administration for the banker who lent him $16 million. He sent that e-mail to Jared Kushner, of course, the president's son-in- law. His response was enthusiastic. He said, "I'm on it." The president has said Manafort played a small part in the campaign for a short period of time. This is after he left that role and after the president was elected. Is this concerning to you? It looked there that Paul Manafort had the expectation that he could do a favor for a banker that lent him millions of dollars.
CAPUTO: We also see nothing came of it. The administration, or the transition was on the watch for these kinds of things. You understand that Paul was on the campaign to try to position the candidate for a successful Republican convention. He was replaced after that. He was very successful at doing that. But in the end, in the last couple months, he wasn't truly involved. Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway and David Bossie brought it home. I think it's not unusual. Paul Manafort was still a friend of the president and a former adviser during the transition process. We got a look at it through those lenses instead of from the perspective of those of us watching on trial.
SCIUTTO: Was it really credible for the president or his loyalists to say that Paul Manafort was inconsequential when he was the chairman? He was the head of the campaign for three months, including during the convention. And felt he had enough pull to e-mail the president's son-in-law with a request for a senior position. We weren't talking about dogcatcher here. He was pushing for his banker to be secretary of the Army.
CAPUTO: Understood. You know, I know that Paul earned a lot of respect when he was on the campaign from a lot of the people, the family, and advisers around the president. Look at the timeline. When the president came down that escalator in June of 2015 until March of 2015, it was five people who were running that campaign. Paul came in, in late March of 2015 and left in August. That's a comparably short period of time, but an important period of time. Then, of course, Kellyanne, David, and Steve came in and brought it all home. It was a kind of group effort, a couple of phases of leadership. And Paul had a short phase in a very important time. I think -- I understand what the president and his team are trying to do. It's important to distance the president from any kind of criminal prosecution. We know the president and his team have nothing to do with anything Paul is accused of. I think they're at a safe distance.
[13:35:54] SCIUTTO: Final question, if I can. We had some exclusive reporting yesterday on U.S. intelligence assessments finding that the Kremlin, that Russian officials were pleased with the Helsinki summit between Trump and Putin, particularly with that presidential news conference, where you remember that the president doubted his own intelligence agencies, the country's own intelligence agencies, taking, in effect, Putin's word over their word. I'm just concerned, as an American, are you comfortable with a hostile power or rival power viewing the American president's performance as positive for them at such an important moment?
CAPUTO: I think that oversimplifies things. I can see why the Kremlin thought that they got -- had a good summit. I understand what they're looking for. They're looking for all the optics they got. I believe the president got what he was looking for as well. It was unfortunate to see such negative coverage of it. I know why the president was upset with his intelligence agencies. I know he believes many of them or several of them were trying to keep him from being president, and even now, some of them, are trying to eliminate his presidency. I get that. I understand that frustration. But it really has nothing to do with whether or not Russia was trying to impact our elections. I didn't like the way it was kind of brought into one, you know, brought together. I think it was important for the president to say he believes that the Russians were trying to impact the elections. I don't think it was important for him to turn to Vladimir Putin and wag his finger or to repeat the exact words of a reporter who tried to script something he would say to the president of a competitive power. I think that's expecting way too much. But I'm not surprised --
SCIUTTO: Michael, he did a lot less than wag his finger. He doubted the U.S. intelligence assessment. It wasn't the coverage that was negative. It was Republican lawmakers as well who were concerned and criticized the president's performance there. CAPUTO: And I was concerned, too. I spent a lot of time there. I
know a lot about Russia. It was my specialty in university. I know that we have to deal with Russia in a certain fashion. But every single presidency, one after the other, in modern times has tried at first to get along with Russia. We saw that with Barack Obama. We saw that with George W. We saw that with even Bill Clinton. I was in Russia, being sent there by the Clinton administration. We were very positive, very bullish on Boris Yeltsin. I don't think just because Donald Trump is a former businessman and not a lifelong politician he should have to come at this in some kind of a negative view. I believe the president wants better relations with all nations. I don't think we did -- we got a great deal out of Helsinki though.
SCIUTTO: Michael Caputo, thank you for taking the tough questions today.
CAPUTO: Thank you very much. Have a great day.
[13:39:00] SCIUTTO: We'll talk again.
Coming up next, why CNN's exclusive poll shows that Rudy Giuliani's media blitz against Robert Mueller may be working with some Americans.
And the White House briefing ahead on CNN. These are live pictures from the briefing room. How will Sarah Sanders respond to the president's really just degrading attack on his former friend and senior adviser, Omarosa? We're going to take you to that press conference live.
SCIUTTO: Welcome back. In a new exclusive CNN poll, 66 percent of Americans say they would like to see Special Counsel Robert Mueller wrap up his investigation by the midterm elections, some three months away, and 26 percent said that should not be Mueller's goal.
Joining me now to discuss is Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch, from Florida, a member of the House Foreign Affairs, Judiciary and Ethics Committees.
Thank you very much, Congressman, for taking the time.
REP. TED DEUTCH, (D), FLORIDA: It's great to be with you, Jim. Thanks.
SCIUTTO: We should note about that number there that Democrats appear to be a significant portion of that number and may have different motivations from Republicans for wanting to wrap up the investigation. When you look at this, do you believe Mueller should speed things up, get to it, put out his report before these midterm elections?
DEUTCH: Well, what we want and I think what everyone wants is for Mueller to complete the investigation to get to the truth. The interesting numbers in the poll that you just released are that nearly six in 10 Americans think the president is lying when he talks about the investigation, and nearly six in 10 think that he's trying to interfere in the investigation. That's what we've seen when he sent his lawyer out over the past couple of weeks to change the story. First, the day Mueller was appointed, the president said there was no collusion. He said it dozens of times since. Then he sent out Rudy Giuliani to say, well, maybe there was collusion but it's not a violation of the law. He sent out Rudy Giuliani to do the same thing about that meeting where the president first said that he hoped that Comey would go easy on Flynn. Then Rudy Giuliani said, well, it wasn't really a directive, it was a question. Then he said it didn't happen at all. The reason people don't trust what's coming out of the White House is because the story changes literally from hour to hour. That's the important job Mueller has in completing this investigation and getting to the truth.
[13:45:58] SCIUTTO: You make a good point. Clearly, this is part of a campaign. The president, his lawyer, have been trying to undermine the special counsel for some time. You do make a good point. And 66 percent want it to wrap up, 70 percent of Americans we found in the poll think Trump should testify, 56 percent believe that he's lying, 58 percent call it a serious matter.
What strikes me about this, and I wonder if this is the headline here, that it is -- that campaign you talk about by the president and his advisers appears to be working with Republicans but not with Democrats. And the president's approval rating, as CNN found in this poll, staying at 42 percent. If you look at the history here, that's been a fairly rock-solid number for the last several months of this year. What is that telling you? Does that tell you that folks have pretty much made up their mind on this president?
DEUTCH: Well, it's telling me that nearly six out of 10 people in this country recognize exactly what the president and his surrogates are doing and trying to confuse the matter and changing the story. They even changed the story, Jim, about the meeting at Trump Tower, which you remember was initially about adoption until even the president acknowledged, sure, it was about trying to get dirt on Hillary, and there's nothing wrong with that. Instead of focusing on the 40 percent or 42 percent, I think it's wise for us to look at the fact that 60 percent of the people in this country look at what's been coming out of the White House with respect to this investigation and they don't believe it. That's why Mueller -- they want Mueller to complete this investigation so that they can get the truth. The best, as you point out, the best way to move this forward, and Rudy Giuliani knows it, and the president of the United States knows it, is for the president of the United States to testify under oath. It's no wonder that the only topics that Giuliani says the president won't testify about are the things he's changed his story on time after time after time. We've got to get to the truth. This is ultimately about Russia's attempts to interfere in our elections. And, yes, look at what we've seen from Mueller thus far. We've seen the president's campaign manager, deputy campaign manager, national security adviser, top foreign policy advisers on the campaign, all of them either indicted or having taken a guilty plea, presumably, cooperating with Mueller. There's so much that we're going to learn. You bet we all want to learn it. But the best way to move this along is for the president to do what I think everyone wants him to do, which is to go on and tell his story under oath. SCIUTTO: Right. We'll see if the president fulfills that promise.
Congressman Ted Deutch, thanks for joining us today.
DEUTCH: Thanks, Jim. Thanks for having me.
SCIUTTO: And still coming up, Turkey's president calling for a ban on American electronics as tensions with the U.S. and the NATO ally intensifies. How the dispute between those two close allies is affecting the global economy.
[13:53:23] SCIUTTO: Turkey's President Erdogan calling for a boycott of American electronics. This, in an effort to push back against President Trump's decision to hike tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports to the U.S. Those tariffs contributing to economic turmoil in Turkey, which some fear it could lead to a global financial crisis.
CNN Money editor-at-large, Richard Quest, joins me now.
So, Richard, how big of a risk is this for the global economy right now, especially when coupled with the many other trade disputes under way with China, the E.U., et cetera?
RICHARD QUEST, CNN MONEY EDITOR-AT-LARGE: It adds another element of unease and uncertainty, at the very moment when we don't need it. How these two leaders, Donald Trump and Recep Erdogan, get out of this, it's not easy to see. They're both very strong populist leaders. Erdogan has recently been re-elected. He has a new constitution. He's enormously powerful within his country and within this power structure. So how do you get out of it? Indeed, neither man wants to be seen as weaker than the other. Erdogan is courting the Russians and others. At the same time, Donald Trump knows he can't just abandon Turkey. It's a member of NATO. Anyway, Jim, the sudden raising of the tariffs last week arguably over the detained pastor was capricious. It was just out of the blue. It came from nowhere. It hasn't been prepared. So we're left in this situation where, frankly, at a time when Turkey's economy is going downhill fast, this is extremely serious.
[13:55:07] SCIUTTO: No question. It's a risk.
Richard Quest, thanks very much for walking us through it.
QUEST: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: Coming up next, the first White House briefing since Omarosa released her secret audio tapes, also since the president called her a dog, also the first since the firing of the former FBI Agent Peter Strzok. We will take you to that press conference live. Stay with us.
[14:00:12] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thank you for being with me.