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Manafort's Defense Points Finger at Gates in Closing Argument; White House Won't Give Number of African-Americans in West Wing; No Comment from the Vatican about 300 Plus Predator Priests. Aired 3:30- 4p ET

Aired August 15, 2018 - 15:30   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Breaking news in the trial of Paul Manafort. His defense team has just wrapped up closing arguments within just minutes of making their final pitch to the jury. Manafort's defense team touted his credentials as a seasoned political consultant, and noted how he earned, quote, great respect for his work, including his role as Donald Trump's campaign chairman.

They also implored jurors to consider the high burden of proof the government must meet to prove that Manafort is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense wrapped its case without calling a single witness. Jurors will now soon begin deliberating the 18 criminal bank fraud, tax and foreign banking charges in this first case brought to trial by Robert Mueller's team.

And our justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, has been following this from the beginning. She is outside that federal courthouse in Alexandria. And so, we know just a little while ago some drama after jurors were escorted out the room. Tell me what happened.

[15:35:00] JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, fireworks for sure here. I mean, the defense really has been quite aggressive throughout their closing arguments. So, here's what happened. Here's the thing that prosecutors took issue with. As part of their closing arguments, the defense team said that Paul Manafort was a victim of the special counsel. In fact, the defense team really put it this way, saying that no one was really concerned about these bank loans, because, remember, these charges date from 2010 to 2014. And the defense team said, look, no one was even concerned about these issues until the special counsel showed up and started asking questions. Those are the words from the defense counsel. And they said, clearly their goal was to stack up the counts.

Now what's important to note here is that throughout this trial, we have not heard mention of the broader special counsel investigation. We have not heard mention of President Trump. These concerns or questions about any Russia collusion during the campaign. So now in these closing arguments, defense team seems to bring up this idea that perhaps special counsel Robert Mueller brought these charges against Paul Manafort as part of their broader investigation into possible Russian collusion. So that point was made to the jury. Once the jury was escorted out of the courtroom, prosecutors said,

hold on here, judge. We have an issue with this, because as part of these pretrial rules, everyone agreed that any mention of selective prosecution would be banned from the courtroom. And now it appears, according to the prosecutors, that the defense crossed that line. So, the judge said, OK, let's take a recess here. Let's excuse the jurors. Let me think about this and how I will instruct the jury. So now, Brooke, we're waiting to hear what the judge will do about this. How exactly the judge will instruct these jurors. That instruction should last about an hour and a half. And after that, deliberations will begin. It's all up to this jury. They need to make a unanimous decision here -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Jessica Schneider, we wait for it. Thank you so much.

Coming up next, President Trump's race problem. The White House cannot guarantee there's not a tape of him using the "N" word. Let's let that be the beginning of our conversation.


BALDWIN: Moments ago, the White House would not disclose the number of African-American staffers who work with the President in the West Wing. But Sarah Sanders says diversity is important to this administration.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're going to continue trying to diversify this staff. We have a large number of diverse staffers from various backgrounds, both race, religion, gender.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many staffers are there --

SANDERS: Look, I'm not going to go through and do a count. The same way I'm not going to do a sit-down and count on the staffers that are in your news organizations.


BALDWIN: The question is yet another example of how this nation is once again confronted with issues of race and this President after Sarah Sanders yesterday could not guarantee that the President has never, ever used the "N" word. So, with me now, CNN political commentator, Angela Rye, a board member of the Congressional Black Caucus Institute. And Surya Yalamanchili, a former "Apprentice" contestant who wrote the book, "Decoding the Donald." So, good to see both of you all. Angela, first to you. Diversify the staff.

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, here's the thing. First of all, even when Omarosa did work there, she did not sit in the West Wing. She sat in EEOB, which is a little bit of a walk. And so, I think we should be clear, there have never been any black staffers in the West Wing in this administration.

To the point, though, and this will be the rare occasion that I would agree with Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The fact that she pivoted by calling out a news organization and its diversity I think is an important point. Diversity is an issue and inclusion, which is another good point about this, is an issue that we all struggle with in every single organization from every fortune 500 company in government administrations on the local, state and federal level. I think the distinction is, most entities understand its importance and are working actively to solve it. At least they know that it somehow impacts their bottom lines. And somehow this billionaire boss hasn't -- it hasn't translated for him that it's important. And in fact, he's instead trafficked regularly in racism and bigotry.

BALDWIN: You wrote the book on decoding the man. What say you?

SURYA YALAMANCHILI, FORMER "APPRENTICE" CONTESTANT: Well, I think we just need to think back to the original sin of his campaign. Which he rose on the back of the birther movement. The first time we have a brown man as President, Donald Trump went all over the country and TV stations around America, around the world, saying he probably wasn't born in the United States and offering millions of dollars for someone who could produce this evidence. And that was what he built the back of the campaign off. So, say no more.

BALDWIN: A really important conversation was had this morning on our morning show with Charles Blow, one of our political commentators and also "New York Times" opinion columnist. They were having this conversation about Trump and about the conversation that was had in the briefing yesterday about the "N" word and what was asked of Sarah Sanders, and those who support the President, whether they're actively hating people or not, are they complicit?

RYE: Yes.

BALDWIN: Listen to this.


CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If you can turn a blind eye, because you don't have skin in that game --


[15:45:00] BLOW: Literally. Right? Your skin doesn't look like that. Then that means that your part of it. You're complicit in it. It doesn't mean you have to wake up every morning actively hating someone. Animus is not required for someone to be a racist or white supremacist. It is not. And that is a big fallacy about it. People think you have to hate in order to arrange people in a hierarchy. No, you don't. You can just simply believe that that is true. You can simply believe that racism and white supremacy produce better outcomes for everyone. That black and brown people will be better off too if white people are just in charge. If you just follow this man, what he wants to do, you'll be better off for this. People think like that. That 42 percent has turned a blind eye to what he's doing. Or they are actively cheering it if you look at some of those rallies.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: So, Angela, I want to start with you on whether you agree. And also, is it possible to support the President's politics, disagree with the man, misogyny, racism, whatever you so believe, but still support him and not be racist?

RYE: Charles made a fascinating point, and I think it's one that is really worth discussing further. So, first of all, kudos to you on this. He's absolutely right. I've spent a lot of my time on air just being angry with the bigots who have acted violently, you know, as a result of said bigotry and hatred. But I haven't spent a lot of time unpacking the fact that there are enough people who believe some of the things that he says or are kind of the silent, amen corner, maybe I won't ever call you the "N" word, but I'm certainly going to call you the "N" word in how I pay you, right? I'm not going to ever say that you don't belong here. I wouldn't say that, you know, Obama wasn't born here. But I certainly may not look at a woman for a position that she may be qualified for. I think that's a major turning point, pivot point, in this discussion.

BALDWIN: But what about some -- and I'll phrase this to you, some Americans who, again, believe in what the President is doing, maybe with how they see tax cuts or how they're benefitting or creating jobs and that kind of thing? I know you're looking at me -- you know where I'm going. But say, well, I'm not a racist. I never think or say the "N" word. Don't lump me in with them.

YALAMANCHILI: I think people need to look in their own heart and see what's there and what they want to sign themselves up for. As, you know what, I'm with him, I'm with her. And, you know, whether or not there's a tape that says, you know, these slurs on there, you know, it's going to be locker room talk. That's what the people who want to say, hey, you can already see the excuses. It doesn't matter.

BALDWIN: And people who support him could support --

YALAMANCHILI: Yes. And CNN is a family network, so I won't say the word. But you know, it's a crap-hole countries or --


YALAMANCHILI: -- or I mean, you know, the people who come to this country to do work that many Americans don't want to do, labeled as rapists and murders. So, Yes. If you want your tax cut --

BALDWIN: Twenty seconds, close this out with a thought.

RYE: Really quick. I think the other thing that we really have to consider is this is the same President who just said affirmative action doesn't belong in the education -- higher education system. So ,if you believe that at all, ask yourself why. If you have watched police violence happen in black communities and you have thought first what did the black kid do wrong, ask yourself why. I think that's really the turning point in what Charles was saying in that commentary.

Angela and Surya, thank you so much. More conversations need to be had.

Coming up next, Pennsylvania's attorney general says he still hasn't received a response from the Vatican one month after he sent a letter to the Pope about his findings of widespread child sex abuse in the Catholic Church there. We will talk to the reporter who famously helped uncover a similar scandal in Boston. Do not miss this.


BALDWIN: No comment from the Vatican today after the stunning news that more than 300 priests sexually abused more than 1,000 children from the 1940s up until now. Let me repeat that, no comment from the Vatican. Even though a Pennsylvania grand jury report details of a widespread effort to hide this disgusting secret. The details are difficult to hear but so important to expose.

In Erie, one priest with a list of 41 possible survivors would tell boys he was giving them a cancer check when he molested them. In Scranton, a priest forced a young girl to get an abortion after he raped her. In Allentown, a priest admitted to a church official that he molested a boy and the diocese ruled, quote, the experience will not necessarily be a horrendous trauma for the survivor. One priest was forced to register as a sex offender for child porn convictions in 2005 and it still took the church two years to dismiss him from the priesthood.

And in 1977, the mother of a boy who was physically and sexually abused reported it to church officials. The priest was reassigned and when he finally left the church more than a decade later, he got a job at Disney World with a recommendation from the diocese. Those are just some of the examples and still no comment from the Vatican. Although, many of the individual diocese have issued statements of apology to these survivors.


BISHOP JOSEPH BAMBERA, DIOCESE OF SCRANTON: There are simply no words that I can offer to take away the pain that this has caused. Simply put, child sexual abuse cannot be tolerated and must be eradicated from our church.

[15:55:00] Sadly, the church has taken far too long to do that.


BALDWIN: One of the survivors in the grand jury report agrees and in an interview on CNN's "NEW DAY" Shaun Dougherty said the Pope should have been on a flight to Pennsylvania immediately to address this.


SHAUN DOUGHERTY, ABUSE SURVIVOR: When am I going to tell the Pope? This is -- they're supposed to tell me the morality. I mean, who do you tell an institution that teaches morality but has none? What am I supposed to say to them? I have to deal with them as they -- the way they treat their organization. They're not treating it as a moral faith-based organization. They're treating it as a business. When you've embezzled from the church as a priest you go to jail. When you rape a child as a priest you get transferred to a whole new flock of kids.


BALDWIN: My next guest part of the "Boston Globe" team featured in film "Spotlight" who broke the priest sex abuse story in Boston in 2002. Michael Rezendes was played by actor Mark Ruffalo and the real- life Michael with me now. A pleasure and honor to meet you. "Spotlight" was 16 years ago. That was one city. This is an entire state. You heard me rattle off some of the details. When you heard me do that, what were you thinking?

MICHAEL REZENDES, PART OF BOSTON GLOBE SPOTLIGHT TEAM THAT BROKE ABUSE STORY: Well, I thought it was terrible. I mean, I think it's horrible. And as you said, disgusting. I also think it's the same story over and over again.

BALDWIN: It's the same story.

REZENDES: It's the same story in Boston. In Boston there was an attorney general's investigation and the attorney general found that there were 250 predator priests and more than 1,000 victims. It is the same story. It is the same story in Boston, in Pennsylvania, in Los Angeles, in Ireland, in Australia, in Chile. The same story. And I think what you said that's so significant is what you got today out of the Vatican which is no comment.

BALDWIN: Nothing.

REZENDES: Because that's the issue. I'm asked very often, how come the church can't stop this. The church can't stop it because it refuses to be transparent about what's happened, which is very harmful to the survivors. And also. the Vatican has not taken any significant measures to stop child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

BALDWIN: Why not?

REZENDES: Well, I think it's a very good question. It raises actually very disturbing question and that is, can the Vatican take action? Does it have the will or are there so many people in the veteran who are opposed to change that this will never be corrected? I mean, the American bishops, I have to give them some credit. In 2002 they got together in Dallas for a conclave and they approved a document called the charter for the protection of children and young people. I don't think it's a perfect document. I don't think every bishop in the United States adhering to its provisions, but it is something, it is a start.

BALDWIN: I think what's so striking and I think hearing the survivor on the morning show saying, you know, if a priest were to embezzle from the church he would go to prison. And yet, if you rape a child you are reassigned. Right? Some of these details, one of the priests was still living next to a school. I mean, there are -- where are the repercussions? I don't understand that piece.

REZENDES: Well, I think a lot of people don't understand it. I mean, one of the problems is that there are many officials in the Catholic Church who continue to view child sexual abuse as a sin that is forgivable as opposed to a crime that needs to be reported to the authorities.

The other thing that's important to point out is the clergy is an all- male secret society. There are no women in the clergy. There are no children in the clergy. And it's just possible that there is a profound lack of understanding within the clergy as to what sexual abuse can do to a child.

BALDWIN: Yes. And hearing these stories and hearing what -- how it's affected their lives as a result of this, I will point out, and I'm sure you know this, that one of the victim in this grand jury report says because of your story --


BALDWIN: -- because of you, this person came forward.

REZENDES: It's very rewarding. Very rewarding. You know, I'm glad the story has had that affect. That's the best thing about the "Spotlight" series. It's the best thing about the "Spotlight" movie. Is that it validated the stories of the survivors and it gave them the courage to come forward and say, you know what? This is not a secret anymore. This happened to me and it was wrong.

BALDWIN: Bless you and your team. For doing all that work and exposing that. Thank you so much. And thank you for coming on and talking about what happened in Pennsylvania.

REZENDES: Great to be here.

BALDWIN: I appreciate it.

Michael Rezendes. Thank you so much for being with me here today. I'm Brooke Baldwin in New York City. We're going to send things to Washington. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.