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White House Cannot Guarantee Trump Used the "N" Word; Rick Gates Concludes Testimony at Manafort's Trial; Decades of Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired August 15, 2018 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:12] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour, good morning, everyone, I'm Poppy Harlow in New York, and we are following a number of significant stories for you this morning.

First up, we are minutes away from closing arguments in the Paul Manafort bank fraud trial. The first trial in Robert Mueller's Russia probe and a major test for the special counsel. We'll take you live to the courthouse in just minutes.

Also this, priests were raping little boys and girls and the church covered it all up. A grand jury report out of Pennsylvania accuses 300 priests of sexually abusing more than 1,000 children. Victims tied up and whipped, a young girl raped in the hospital, and alleged cover-up that stretched all the way to the Vatican according to the attorney general.

And this, diversity wins and so do the president's picks. Democrats rally behind what could be history-making candidates and Republicans stand behind this administration. What this all means for November.

W will get to all of it. But here's where we start. The White House cannot guarantee to you, the American public, that you will not hear an "N" word tape from the president. They can't guarantee that but say they haven't heard it. But in the same breath they say don't call the president's attacks on ex-White House aide Omarosa Manigault- Newman racist.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This has absolutely nothing to do with race and everything to do with the president calling out someone's lack of integrity. He always fights fire with fire.


HARLOW: The feud is escalating, the credibility questions are mounting, so let's to my friend Abby Phillip outside the White House for more this morning.

And Abby, let's begin with this. The defense from the White House as the president calling a black woman a dog, his former aide whom he hired, and essentially in their defense saying look, he is an equal opportunity insulter, right? ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, but it also

is part of a broader conversation also about that "N" word tape. It all points to a White House having trouble once again explaining the president's position on issues of race, explaining why he oftentimes wants to single out black individuals whether it's athletes like LeBron James or Omarosa with cutting insults.

Now the White House says he insults everyone but of course this is a pattern that continues and what you've heard from other Republicans including Senator Jeff Flake is that this is language that is unbecoming of a president. You have other lawmakers saying regardless of whether Omarosa was African-American or not, calling a woman a dog is beyond the pale, and the White House is once again trying to explain why the president continues to go across the line when it comes to attacking African-Americans or black people wherever he's in a feud with them -- Poppy.

HARLOW: There are all sorts of folks weighing in, people who worked on the campaign, people who worked in the White House, et cetera. It's really he said, he said, she said, he said.

Can you walk us through the tapes if you will and what people are saying about these recordings that were part of them?

PHILLIP: Right. Well, yesterday we spent a lot the day trying to sort this all out. And what it starts with is Omarosa alleging in her book that there was a conversation during the campaign about this alleged "N" word tape. She says a conference calls happened with Trump staffers Katrina Pierson and Lynne Patton and Jason Miller, in which they discussed the tape and in which some of these individuals talked about the tape as if they knew that it had actually happened.

After that those individuals deny that that conversation ever happened. They deny that there was a conference call. They deny that they had ever talked about the tape as if it existed then Omarosa released the audio of that tape. Then their stories started to change. We had two of those people on CNN last night and here's how they eventually got around to explaining what they were saying on the tape that Omarosa played.


KATRINA PIERSON, SENIOR ADVISER, TRUMP 2000 CAMPAIGN: She really was a dog with a bone when it came to this tape. It got to the point to where we had a campaign to run so what you hear in that tape, which is not the tape she's been referencing, is me placating to her which I did a number of times because she would not let this tape go.

LYNNE PATTON, DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT ADMINISTRATOR: There were a lot of times that we talked about this tape because Omarosa was literally obsessed with it. She brought it up constantly. It's clear now that the reason why she did was because she was surreptitiously recording us.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIP: So credibility issues all around here. Trump's allies are saying Omarosa is not credible, but yesterday they spent a lot of the day not telling the truth about that incident. So that's where we are here. We have Omarosa, we have the president and his allies, and we have the tapes -- Poppy.

HARLOW: OK. Abby, thank you very much.

Let's try to sort through all of this. My political panel is here. Karoun Demerjian, Molly Ball and CNN legal analyst, Laura Coates.

Welcome, ladies. And Molly, let me begin with you and what Sarah Sanders cannot guarantee to the American people. Here she is yesterday.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you stand at the podium and guarantee the American people they'll never hear Donald Trump utter the "N" word on a recording in any context?

[09:05:07] SANDERS: I can't guarantee anything but I can tell you that the president addressed this question directly. I can tell you that I've never heard it.


HARLOW: The president denied it, Molly. Omarosa's credibility is a question indeed. But what matters more here, that the White House can't guarantee that the president never used the "N" word on a recording or that there is no -- I mean, no tape has surfaced so no one has heard this other than those few people that have come out and claimed they did?

MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I thought that the exchange with Sarah Sanders immediately before that was almost as telling where she was repeatedly asked whether she had directly asked the president about this and she dodged the question repeatedly saying he addressed it directly to the American people. He tweeted about it. Clearly she didn't want to bring it up with him whether because she didn't want to hear what he had to say or because she just wanted to stay away from it entirely.

It seems like something that, you know, people who work in the White House know that the president doesn't always tell the truth, and they don't want to necessarily be responsible for, you know, repeating things that he's told them that they can't trust.

HARLOW: You know, Karoun, it stands out to me that yesterday we heard Sarah Sanders, to Molly's point, on the podium basically say look, he hits fire with fire, he shoots back at everyone. He sort of insults equally. Right? And -- you know, defending the language that's been used.

This is the same woman who back in June called for a level of civility when she was, you know, harassed at that restaurant. So is she asking for more from the American people than she is from the president?

KAROUN DEMERJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that the times at which civility is defended as the higher ideal are selective when it comes from the White House. You know, this has been a constant struggle as you (INAUDIBLE) the president as well. I mean, Melania Trump is running a campaign about being nice to people and getting against cyber bullying and her -- you know, the president is one of the chief actors I suppose of using really sharp language and doing it sometimes on Twitter and then having his staff defend him as well.

You know, somebody said a mean thing about him so he's going to fight back and punch back that much harder. That's more kind of playground mentality than is presidential mentality and also the problem is that when you start incorporating potential racial slurs, that's not really fighting fire with fire, that's fighting back really, really -- with much more than, you know, anything that was dished out at you and also treading into a territory which we hope we will find as a nation but keeps kind of rearing its head and the president doesn't do very much to deny those things when it comes up.

So it's also -- it's part of that broader context of what's been going on both in the White House and what's been going on with the president when it comes to various questions of where he stands on racial issues. It's not good and it's not something that you'd think that Sarah Sanders would have to be in a position where she's saying look, don't look at me because the president is doing this from -- that's not an ideal situation to be in. She should be able to say, I would be shocked at least if the president has said it but she can't.

HARLOW: To hear that.


HARLOW: And by the way, though, when we look at the new CNN polling just yesterday, none of this is affecting his approval rating. It is holding steady through all of this at 42 percent.

Laura, to you, and what's going on now between the White House and Omarosa legally. They have begun the process of legal -- you know, through the system of trying to take her through binding arbitration. I mean, tell me what the point is of that. I mean, what you think the White House wants from this other than of course to state we oppose this, we think she broke this NDA, et cetera, because she's already out there talking. Her book is already out there saying so much. She can't really silence what's already out there. So what's your read?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The attack in terms of the arbitration is largely symbolic. If you separate the two different NDAs, however, there's the one that would have been signed if she was an employee of the White House and the West Wing and a federal employee, and there's the one she would have signed as a member of the campaign.

When she was a member of the campaign she acted as a private citizen contracting with a private entity. You don't have the same guarantees that you will not have a court of law uphold that NDA because you can privately contract away your rights to say what you're otherwise entitled to say in the private sector.

But when it comes to federal government, Poppy, you cannot privately contract away your First Amendment Rights. You still have whistleblower protection, you still have the obligation as a federal employee, as somebody who is a public servant to speak about wrongs that you see, even if it means that it has to criticize your employer. However if you have confidential or classified, is the key word here, information, there can be remedies against you if you disclose that.

There's no indication however that she revealed classified information in her public sphere.

HARLOW: That's right.

COATES: Or that she somehow was even privy to classified information so the courts are going to look at a very narrow window here, Poppy.

[09:10:06] The moment in time when her NDA from the private sector campaign overlapped in her time as a member of the federal government, and that window of time the question for the courts will be, well, can you silence that person contractually through a private agreement when they are now a federal employee?

HARLOW: So then --

COATES: Likely not.

HARLOW: Let's listen to Sarah Sanders' explanation of this again yesterday at the podium.


SANDERS: The back-and-forth on who has signed an NDA at the White House. I can tell you that it's common in a lot of places for employees to sign NDAs, including in government and every administration prior to the Trump administration has had NDAs particularly specific for anyone that had a security clearance.


HARLOW: OK, so, Molly, after this Ari Fleisher who is press secretary for George W. Bush tweeted this. "On the NDA issue, it is simple, White House aides with access to classified info signed a form in which they commit not to disclose classified information to unauthorized people. Beyond that, there were no NDAs while I was press secretary."

So just set the record straight for us. Is this as typical as Sarah Sanders is making it seem, Molly?

BALL: No, numerous veterans of previous White Houses have come out and said exactly what Ari Fleischer said which is there is a thing that you sign in government that says that you won't reveal classified information but the type of nondisclosure agreement that employees of the Trump White House are apparently routinely being committed to is not routine at all. It includes things like a non-disparagement clause.

HARLOW: Right.

BALL: It includes a very broad clauses about things -- about basically not talking about anything or saying anything negative about your work for the American public in the public sector working for the government, so as Laura was saying, that is likely not legal, that is likely unenforceable and it certainly is unprecedented, and goes against the whole spirit of public service.

So I think -- you know, I think it's very clear, though, that in trying to litigate the point of that is to have a chilling effect on other potential ex-White House employees who might want to write this kind of a tell-all.

HARLOW: That's a good point.

BALL: You know, it's frankly surprising that this is the first real tell-all from inside the Trump campaign and White House given how many people have been fired, say, like dogs or have, you know, left under acrimonious circumstances might be a nicer way to say it.

HARLOW: All right. Thank you, ladies, all important points, appreciate you being here with me.

Ahead, let the closing arguments begin. Moments from now the defense and the prosecution will make their final case in the bank fraud trial against ex-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. We'll take you live right outside the courthouse there.

Also, priests were raping little boys and girls and, quote, "men of god did nothing." The absolutely stunning grand jury report on 300 predator priests and their more than 1,000 victims.

And CNN investigates a massive data breach in Georgia. The records of six million voters exposed. We'll dig in.


HARLOW: We are minutes away from the start of closing arguments in the bank fraud trial of the former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. Prosecutors have two hours to convince jurors that Paul Manafort hid millions of dollars in Ukrainian lobbying income from the IFRS and then lied to banks to get these high dollar loans when the money ran out. The defense will get two hours to convince jurors that Manafort, Manafort is the victim. That's what they'll try to do. The victim of a lying and divvying ex-partner turned prosecution star witness, i.e., Batman, Rick Gates.

Let's go to Jessica Schneider, who joins us at the courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia.


HARLOW: You know, Jessica, prosecutors have a lot to sum up, right? All these documents, all these evidence in these two hours. Manafort's lawyers, who didn't present a single witness, burden is not on them here?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. It's up to prosecutors to prove their pace. So when closing argument starts in just a few minutes, prosecutors will be pointing to that 10 days of testimony, those 27 witnesses to prove their case beyond that unreasonable doubt. The defense, of course, didn't present a case, they were no witnesses, there was no word from Paul Manafort.

So the defense will likely stick to their argument that they made outside of court today to our - yesterday, actually, to our cameras, saying that, look, the prosecution has not proved their case here.

The defense team will likely also point to, what they pointed to in their opening statements, maybe pointing to Rick Gates trying to convince the jury that he's not a believable character, that he, in fact, embezzled money from Paul Manafort.

So the closing arguments, they begin in a just few moments here, each side will heave two hours to present their case to the jury. Of course, prosecutors will probably hammer in on what they presented throughout this trial. The lavish lifestyle of Paul Manafort. Of course, who could forget that $15,000 ostrich jacket, the $10,000 karaoke system in his Hampton home.

So all of that will be laid out for the jury, Poppy. And then of course, once that happen, there'll be instructions. It'll be up to the jury to ultimately decide this case.

HARLOW: Right, right, but as the judge has said, right, I mean, having those things that often change his lifestyle is not a crime in of itself. It was the money that purchased them, was that all part of a bigger of a bigger crime.

Jessica, thank you. It's certainly an important day.


HARLOW: With me now, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Laura Coates.

We couldn't get enough of you. We thought we'd bring you back.

COATES: Happy to be here.

HARLOW: Always glad when you and your mind are on this show, Laura.

COATES: Thank you.

HARLOW: Let's talk about that. I mean, you did hear the defense team come out to CNN camera just saying, look, "The government has not met its program proof and that is what the government needs to do."

They called no witnesses. It's unusual, it's unheard of. How are juries going to read that though?

COATES: Well, it's not unheard of for a defense not to present a case, particularly for a defendant not to take the stand, but when you have to document heavy case and you have so many allegations that don't even include the testimony of Rick Gates, who has the most credibility issues of everyone who testified in the prosecution's case, it was - however, they chose in a very bold move not to try to combat that in any way, it seems instead they are hinging their entire defense on a juror's inability to find Rick Gates both likeable and credible. But they have to understand that being an unsympathetic witness does not make you a not credible witness.

HARLOW: Right.

COATES: If you had a unique insight into that person. And again, you had accountant, you had documents that don't have skeletons in the closet who were able to articulate whether or not you paid Uncle Sam. And so it's a curious choice you made.

But remember, Poppy, he's got another trial coming up. And anything he would have said in this trial ...


COATES: Will most assuredly be used against him in the future.

HARLOW: I know, and the juries know they're not supposed to penalized Manafort, the defense at all for him not taking the stand, they are not supposed to. Do they though? I mean, if someone does not want to speak in their own defense, but maintains innocence in all accounts?

COATES: They do, and if not, what we're supposed to do in the interest of justice. But the jury is comprised of human beings, who will take issue with the notion that why wouldn't you come out and defend yourself, are you hoping that I'm just going to say that birds of a feather, don't flock together?

And this person should standout as an outlier credibility especially when many of the 32 counts - is it 32-count (INAUDIBLE), Poppy, have nothing to do with whether or not Rick Gates was able to testify, to cooperate.

HARLOW: Right.

COATES: So as the jury deliberates and all these notions, they're going to look at things that have collaboration from document alone or the ones that have collaboration from Rick Gates, or accountants or other people who were immunized in their testimony.

And the jury can oftentimes still look at that with a side eye and a raised eyebrow and think for themselves, I wonder if I can believe the person who chose not to defend themselves.

HARLOW: So this case, to say it one more time, has nothing to do directly with President Trump or the campaign, Russian meddling, all right. Just important to say over and over again, however, the President's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, talked about it in that context last night. Asked by our Chris Cuomo, where do things stand about with President Trump potentially sitting down with his special council. Listen to this exchange.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN: Are you any closer to having a deal with Mueller to sit down?

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No, haven't heard from him in a week.

CUOMO: How do you interpret that?

GIULIANI: I think they're waiting for the - I hate to bring up the case. I think they're waiting for the Manafort case. I think they feel if they win, they're going to be empowered.


HARLOW: What's your read on that?

COATES: It's true that this will be a good litmus test of whether or not people will view Mueller's ongoing and going forward investigation with credibility, but I think, Giuliani silently agreed the fact that there is a recognition, that there is a - the chairman of the campaign is on trial to figure out why perhaps Russia would have been - we're thinking we had a receptive ear in this member of the campaign.

HARLOW: Laura Coates, it's nice to have you.

COATES: Nice to be here. Thank you.

HARLOW: All right. So still ahead, wait until you hear this. Stunning horrifying details of decades of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, in Pennsylvania. A grand jury report details, allegations of rape, of forced abortion.You will not believe this. More than 1,000 child victims. We will tell you all about it. And also the great lengths that official say the church went to cover it all up.


HARLOW: Confessions, cover ups, rape, incredibly disturbing details from grand jury report revealing more than 300 Catholic priests sexually abused more than 1,000 children in Pennsylvania. Some of these cases date as far as back as 1947, and I want to warn you the details are extremely graphic and disturbing, but it's really important to lay them out there fully to understand the full scale of the abuse here.

One priest is accused of raping a 7-year old girl who is in the hospital, a 7-year old girl after her tonsils were removed. Another priest accused of impregnating a 17-year old girl and then arranging an abortion. And the grand jury also uncovered a ring of priests who had allegedly

shared information by creating pornographic videos where they used whips to sadistically torture their victims. One of the survivors spoke this morning with CNN. Listen to Shaun Dougherty. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHAUN DOUGHERTY, VICTIM OF PRIEST ABUSE: Since coming forward now, 350-some priests and now, since I've been public about this for two years, you know, am standing on the shoulders of many, many before me that unfortunately many are no longer with us. And they're propping me up right now and I have to tell you, I'm completely at peace today.


HARLOW: Our correspondent, Jean Casares, is following this, and with me now. And Jean, the attorney general said in this press conference, this cover-up stretched all the way up to the Vatican?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And we have heard from the Vatican, so to speak. They are saying this morning that they are not releasing a statement on this report or on this abuse at this time. So we'll see what happens in the short term.

But this massive report, 885 pages, so much was learned about what priests did to young children, but also the procedure of how they covered it up. We learned in this from this report that there were secret archives in every diocese and that's where they would have these internal documents that actually described the abuse.