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Manafort Trial Closing Arguments; Manafort Recommended People for Administration Jobs; Shifting Statements Surrounding Trump; Sanders Can't Guarantee No Slur; Interview With Rep. Jim Himes. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired August 15, 2018 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: I'm a Fenway -- nothing against Iowa corndogs, but I'm a Fenway frank guy.

Thanks for joining us at INSIDE POLITICS.

Jim Sciutto is in for Wolf. He starts right now.

Have a good day.

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

Any minute now, defense attorneys will get their final chance to make ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort a free man. Prosecutors made their closing argument just a short time ago this morning. It took them some 90 minutes. And they methodically laid out their case. The , Greg Andres, telling jurors at one point, quote, Mr. Manafort lied to keep more money when he had it and he lied to get more money when he didn't. This is a case about lies.

Cameras are not allowed inside that Alexandria, Virginia, courtroom, but we have had reporters inside from start to finish detailing and dissecting every word.

CNN crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz, he's been following this trial for us, including being inside there. Shan Wu, former federal prosecutor turned defense attorney. We should also note, he previous served as attorney for Manafort's former business partner Rick Gates.

So, Shimon, the final word from the prosecution here, emphasizing that word lies.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, quite a number of times. And really this is what this case has been about, right, tax fraud, bank fraud, lies, lying on documents, lying in e-mails, lying to accountants, lying to tax preparers --

SCIUTTO: And lying for money.

PROKUPECZ: And lying for money essentially. Hiding money. Not wanting to pay taxes for money.

But I think one of the more interesting things, and some of the -- probably more -- perhaps some of the more -- greater color from this closing argument was how the prosecutors treated Rick Gates. You know, at one point, telling the jury, you don't need to like him. You know, trying to deal with this issue of the fact that he had an affair, the fact that he was stealing from Paul Manafort. All of those, obviously, are going to be --

SCIUTTO: And pleaded guilty to lying to prosecutors.

PROKUPECZ: And pleaded guilty to lying and also pleaded guilty for his own charges relating to some of the Manafort stuff.

The other thing I think that they made a point of, it's all about documents. You know, we' have all made a big point that Rick Gates is the star witness here. Well, it was interesting because prosecutors said, no, the star witness here is the documents. Look at the documents. If there's something you don't believe, if there's something you question about Rick Gates, all of that is supported by the documents. So, clearly, that, to them, is an important part of this case. And the bank fraud is really an important part of this case. That's really where Paul Manafort has the most exposure on, where he can really face some significant time on.

SCIUTTO: Shan, if you can, help us handicap this case here now. You did have the unusual circumstances where the defense did not bring any defense witnesses.


SCIUTTO: Closed their case and now they're going to make their closing arguments. Is this an open and shut case for this jury?

WU: No, I don't think so. Not at all. And it was always hard to handicap. But any white collar case with this amount of documents, it's an uphill battle for the defense. Not that unusual for them not to put on a case. I think it shows a measure of confidence that they think they've scored some points on cross-examination. They built some credibility for themselves. They promised the jury, we're going to show you that Gates stole, which at the time I thought was really a bombshell, but they delivered on that. And they, of course, had the point that he had plead guilty to false statements. So I think they feel they've established some credibility and they've made some points on cross-examination.

On the bank fraud in particular, there's some arguments that even though there may have been this notion of the quid pro quo, that it doesn't mean that Manafort actually submitted false information to the bank.

So they've got some things to hang their hat on. I think that's why they didn't present a case.

PROKUPECZ: I wonder if what they're going to do here is give the jury the tax fraud charge and say, yes, he committed these tax frauds, but then really hammer on the bank fraud, because, like I said, I think that's where he has the most exposure. And there is some argument to be made, certainly under the law --

WU: Right.

PROKUPECZ: Certainly to the jury that perhaps the prosecutors here did not meet their burden of proof.

The tax fraud, I think, he's going to have a hard time with.

SCIUTTO: Shan, on the bigger issue of the broader focus of the Mueller investigation, Russian interference in the election, it came out of the trial, reaffirmed -- I was there last week when Gates didn't reveal but confirmed he'd been interviewed by the special prosecutor, his team, some 20 times. That investigation still ongoing.

WU: Right.

SCIUTTO: Do we have a sense of Gates' importance to Mueller's investigation on the Russia portion of this probe?

WU: We've know from what's come out publicly here, I mean I think we can infer his importance by the fact that he got a very generous plea offer here. But I think we've seen little hints that there's a lot of debriefing that's going on. You know, we've seen some of those examples come out.

PROKUPECZ: Twenty times.


WU: Yes, 20 times is a lot of time to spend with the prosecutors.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And they don't waste their time.

And that's what's key is that he's cooperating. He had a lot of charges against him, Gates. To get that cooperation deal with the promise, it appears, of just probation, not jail time, and if the prosecution says they didn't really need Gates to convict Manafort, does that then presume that he is cooperating on the other issues under investigation, and providing value?

[13:05:08] WU: Right. Generally the prosecution is not going to give someone a good cooperation deal unless they feel it's valuable. And, you know, I'm not speaking from anything confidential or privileged --

SCIUTTO: Understand.

WU: But that's just the way that it goes.

And it's interesting, in the Manafort trial, there's this atmospheric that it's possible there's a jury nullification issue going on, where they might think, you know, he did so many wrong things and they've given him such a good deal that maybe it's not entirely fair to Mr. Manafort. And sometimes juries will go that route or you really only need one person to go that route, of course. SCIUTTO: Right. That's one person who doesn't believe it meets the

standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.

Shan and Shimon, thanks very much.

Among the mountain of evidence in the Paul Manafort trial is an e-mail exchange with Jared Kushner, President Trump's adviser and son-in-law. Manafort e-mailed Kushner recommending a bank chairman for secretary of the Army. At the time, that bank was providing millions of dollars in loans to Manafort. The e-mail also included two other recommendations for possible Trump appointees. Kushner responded, quote, on it. There's no indication the Trump team, in the end, considered those suggestions or that Kushner was aware at the time of those millions of dollars in loans to Manafort.

Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut, he's a member of the House Intelligence Committee, and he joins us now from Stamford, Connecticut. Thanks very much, congressman, for taking the time.

REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Good afternoon, Jim.

SCIUTTO: So that e-mail there was an example of Manafort's continued influence or perceived influence with the Trump administration because three months after he left as chairman he felt he had the influence at least to request a job for his banker. How concerning is that to you?

HIMES: Well, it's ugly. It's very ugly. I mean, you know, the American people should have the confidence of knowing that their secretary of the Army or their undersecretary of commerce didn't get that job because he wanted to -- he was willing to extent a loan to Paul Manafort. That's not the way a government should work. And it just really -- I mean talk about the swamp not being drained. It is the ultimate in influence trading.

Now, no surprise, right, no surprise, this is an administration that sort of makes a hobby of influence trading and so I'm not surprised by it. But, again, it's just further example of the reason why the American people have record low regard for Washington, D.C.

SCIUTTO: We're, of course, witnessing a continuing public assault by the president and his allies on the special counsel, the investigation. Just a short time ago, the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, he had some more particularly pointed words for Mueller about this probe. And I'm going to quote him here. He told Bloomberg the following, if he doesn't get it done in the next two or three weeks -- he's speaking about Mueller here -- we will just unload on him like a ton of bricks. Right the damn report so we can see it and rebut it.

What is he threatening here to unload on the special counsel who was appointed, we should remind viewers, by a deputy attorney general appointed by this president. What is he implying there?

HIMES: Well, you know, I mean, my God, so much to unpack there.

First of all, the president has been unloading on Bob Mueller, you know, a Vietnam War hero, respected by pretty much everybody, for over a year right now. So I don't quite know what he means by we're going to unload. I mean we're at the tail end of a year plus of the president and the president's people doing all they can to delegitimize Bob Mueller, to delegitimize the FBI. And this has one objective, Jim. The objective is that when Mueller comes out with his report, which I anticipate he will do in due course, whenever he thinks that justice is served by releasing that report, not whenever Rudy Giuliani or Donald Trump wanted to come out, he will come out with a report that the White House will, over the course of a year and a half, have delegitimized in the eyes of some minority of the American population. That's what's happening here.

But, you know, the American people ought to scratch their head and say, what a minute, what other subject of an investigation gets to decide when the prosecutor wraps up their case? You know, the president is not above the law and neither is his attorney.

SCIUTTO: I wonder, the president has been perpetuating this attack on Mueller for some many months. He's made a lot of veiled and not so veiled threats against the special counsel, against his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, et cedar, but he hasn't pulled the trigger on any -- I mean he could -- he could fire Jeff Sessions. He could fire the deputy attorney general. We know from our own reporting that he's had a lot of internal pressure not to take that step. In light of how long he's done this without actually moving, do you think this is more for public consumption and that these are, in the end, empty threats from the president?

HIMES: Yes, look, at the end of the day, the recourse against the president is political, right? I know we have a long conversation of the legal intricacies of whether a sitting president can be indicted. The bottom line is that that's never been tested. And so the answer to this question of, is Donald Trump in trouble is political. And so, therefore, if his base believes, as they do today, because of his -- Donald Trump's throwing mud at Mueller, at the FBI, at the Department of Justice, if he believes that those entries are corrupt and that Bob Mueller, despite all of the evidence and the many convictions and the many guilty pleas and the many indictments is somehow serving the interest of Hillary Clinton, which is sort of insane on the face of it given what happened prior to the November 2016 election, you know, the president can count on a number of Republicans to, regardless of what happened, this is, remember, I can shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue president, the president can rely on Republicans to defend him, regardless of the fact pattern because he has so delegitimized Bob Mueller.

[13:10:48] SCIUTTO: There's a new poll from Quinnipiac University. They do some pretty good polling out there. It says that more than half of Republicans now agree with the president's assertion, alarming assertion, offensive assertion, that the press is the enemy of the people. Just 36 percent say the news media had an important part of our democracy. Now, among Democrats, very different numbers, just 5 percent said the media is the enemy of the people. But I wonder, if you look at these numbers, that's more than half of people who describe themselves as Republicans who say that the media is the enemy of the people. Language from an authoritarian regime. How alarming should that be?

HIMES: Yes, right -- right out of -- I mean you know who says that kind of stuff? Josef Stalin said that kind of thing.


HIMES: Dictators say that kind of thing. And sadly, and I really do mean sadly. I've got lots of terrific Republicans in my congressional district in Connecticut. Lastly, this just demonstrates the extent to which the Republican Party has abandoned all its principles, whether that's fiscal responsibility, whether that's not supporting tariffs, you name it, being decent, and become really a cultive (ph) personality around Donald Trump. And it's a really interesting question to ask yourself, what happens to the Republican Party post- Trump? What are my colleagues who gave up their constitutional responsibility to serve as a check and a balance on the president of the United States. how are they going to answer for that on the -- on the back end of Donald Trump's presidency?

SCIUTTO: Congressman Jim Himes, thanks for joining us today.

HIMES: Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, the White House press secretary says she cannot guarantee that a tape does not exist of the U.S. president using the "n" word. We're going to discuss that next.

Plus, Turkey now retaliating against President Trump's tariffs and still refusing to release an American pastor held there. The standoff spooking the markets today as fears of a global financial crisis, that's right, a global financial crisis, at least fears of that, expand.

And more than 300 priests accused of abusing more, wait for this, 1,000 young children in just one state. Today, not a word yet from the pope. I'm going to speak with one survivor of that horrendous crime who says the war against the Catholic hierarchy is just beginning.


[13:17:29] SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

If you've been keeping track, the White House still not denying that President Trump may have used the "n" word during his time on "The Apprentice." Is it because like you, and perhaps like us, the White House isn't sure who exactly to believe. Do you trust Omarosa, the reality TV villain turned White House aide, or do you put your faith is Katrina Pierson, the Trump campaign staffer who has admitted that she signed an NDA, meaning that if the president had said that vile word, she couldn't confirm it. Perhaps our own Jake Tapper summed it up on the air best.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE LEAD": We honestly have a story where there are like 30 liars. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, yes, yes. They're not credible. Nobody.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nobody's credible.

TAPPER: And they're all changing their stories. Omarosa, Katrina Pierson, the president. They're all changing their stories and we don't know what to believe. And that's, I guess, why Omarosa has these tapes.


SCIUTTO: Want to bring in CNN politics reporter Chris Cillizza.

Chris, help us keep track of this because, you know, we often say there are changing stories and that's not a new thing with this administration. But these stories have changed remarkably.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Changed remarkably, Jim, and change remarkably quickly. Remember, we're dealing from Monday to Wednesday. Let's go through it.

Let's start, obviously, Katrina Pierson and Omarosa. Let's start with what Katrina Pierson said Monday on Fox News. I'm not going to read the whole thing. That did not happen. She's talking about the "n" word tape. It sounds like Omarosa is writing a script for a movie.

OK, let's stop there. Fast forward to Tuesday morning when Omarosa is on CBS and plays some audio of a conversation she secretly recorded between she, Pierson, and another aide named Lynne Patton. Let's play that.


KATRINA PIERSON: I'm trying to find out at least what context it was used in to help us maybe try to figure out a way to spin it.

LYNNE PATTON: I said, well, sir, can you think of any time that this might have happened, and he said no.

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

PATTON: You know, how do you -- 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.


PIERSON: He said it. He said it. No, he said it. He's embarrassed.


CILLIZZA: OK, that's Tuesday morning, Jim.

OK, so let's go to Tuesday, 10:06 a.m., Katrina Pierson and Lynne Patton come out with a more formal statement. This statement says essentially what has been definitely introduced that we never had a call confirming that Frank Lutz, a Republican pollster, directly heard Donald Trump say this word on a tape. Now, that doesn't mean a tape doesn't exist. It just means, they were denying that Don -- that Frank Lutz heard Donald Trump. Wheels within wheels.

[13:20:03] But, wait, there's more. Let's go to the next one.

Again, Katrina Pierson, two hours later, 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 warry of her obsession with this alleged tape.

And one more on those same lines I believe we have. Yes, this is with Erin last night. Your viewers, I'm pretty sure, have run into an individual that is the complete epitome of annoying to where you have to finally give in, in order to get on about your day. OK. Four explanations. Less than 24 hours, Jim. And the last explanation that Katrina Pierson has settled on is, she lied on that recording to placate Omarosa because she just wanted to move on with the conversation. What did she lie about? The fact that Donald Trump likely said, in their mind, the "n" word on a tape or that it existed. That's kind of a big thing to just say something because you want to move the conversation along.

But that's where Katrina Pierson has landed. And that's why we just can't get to the bottom of this. So many stories. So many changing stories.

Back to you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: We won't know unless we do find there's a tape.

Chris Cillizza, thanks very much.

Just a short time from now at the White House, there will be a briefing. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders having an opportunity to clarify remarks from yesterday when she was asked whether the president is on a tape using the "n" word. Here is the response that got so much attention yesterday.


QUESTION: 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?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: 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.

QUESTION: Just to be clear, you can't guarantee it?

SANDERS: I -- look, I haven't been in every single room.


SCIUTTO: Joining me now is CNN political analyst Julie Hirschfield Davis, a White House reporter for "The New York Times."

You know it's interesting, listening to Sarah Sanders there, and it's not the first time where you see the White House spokesperson kind of protect themselves a bit. One say, well, the president has said this. You know, it's not me, the president has said this, but also really can't rule it out because she can't rule it out.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I mean in a job like that, her one job -- her one task is to be able to convey accurately what she knows to be the truth. And she has gotten burned time and time again on so many of these issues that have arisen for the -- from the -- for the president, whether it be Stormy Daniels and his involvement with her and trying to silence her, whether it be a policy issue of what was happening at the border with children and families, where she says something that later proves not to be able to be borne out. So we do see her now retreating more and more into this space of, here's what I know to be true. I really can't speak to beyond what I've been told. It makes her a lot less effective as a spokesperson and it also leads to the kind of situation you have today where she's, again, you'll have to come back at this and give an answer that might be more satisfying to people who are trying to get to the bottom of what is a fairly simple question.

SCIUTTO: It's interesting that they've added, this was not until now a scheduled briefing. Do you read into that, that the White House is going to make another shot at clarifying this?

DAVIS: I mean, I guess I would assume that they would. I -- we've gotten to the point now, and it's pretty unusual in the annals of White House coverage, where it's not a foregone conclusion that there will be a regular briefing at the White House. So, when there is, sometimes it's an occasion. And it's often a surprise. And I think actually that's also by design. That allows the White House to control and sort of narrow the scope of questions because people never know whether you're going to get a crack at the White House to actually ask about the issues of the day, about the questions that the president himself may have raised with a tweet or whatever -- or whatever else.

SCIUTTO: Or the president himself, I mean because when's the last time he's done an actual full press conference as opposed to one of those two and two briefings. It's been -- it's been months, right?

DAVIS: It's -- it's been more than a year, I think.


DAVIS: Except for on foreign soil.

SCIUTTO: So on correcting the record, it was a rare instance yesterday where the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, she admitted that she had made a mistake in yesterday's press briefing, this related to job figures. She had said at the press briefing yesterday that Trump had been responsible for far more black jobs than President Obama. Have a listen to the claim.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This president, since he took office in the year and a half that he's been here, has created 700,000 new jobs for African-Americans. That's 700,000 African- Americans that are working now that weren't working when this president took place. When President Obama left, after eight years in office, eight years in office, he had only created 800 -- or 195,000 jobs for African-Americans.


SCIUTTO: Only problem with that figure is it just wasn't true. Sanders admitted that later tweeting the following, quote, correction from today's briefing. Job numbers for President Trump and President Obama were correct, but the time frame for President Obama wasn't. I'm sorry for the mistake, but no apologies for the 700,000 jobs for African- Americans created under President Trump.

So let's clarify what happened here for the record. The economy added about 3 million African-American jobs while Obama was in office. And 140,000 new jobs attributed to Trump were actually added while Obama was still president. Did the correction actually correct the record on this?

[13:25:13] DAVIS: Well, actually, not, because the 700,000 figure that she provided, as you point out, includes a couple of months under -- when President Obama was still president. And the figures that she was comparing it to for President Obama, what she said were for eight years, actually were for the first 20 months of his presidency, which again included several months when George W. Bush was still president --


DAVIS: And had been in the aftermath of a huge financial meltdown. So, no, she didn't actually correct the record.

But I think more notable than that is just the fact that when you have -- the Trump administration actually does have a positive story to tell on this front.


DAVIS: Putting aside the comparison with President Obama. When you go into the briefing with a talking point like that, to -- for have it -- to have it be that shoddy, to have it be that devoid of checking and sort of nailing down the details, which is what the Council of Economic Advisers does, is extraordinary.

SCIUTTO: Yes, you want them to get the stats right.

I mean the thing is, they do have a positive story to tell here --

DAVIS: They do.

SCIUTTO: But were -- appeared that they were trying to fudge the numbers by starting it at the election rather than inauguration in both cases --

DAVIS: Right.

SCIUTTO: Which then skewed the final --

DAVIS: Which then gives -- which then gives President Trump credit for something that he didn't do.


DAVIS: And givers President Obama sort of a knock for something that wasn't actually his responsibility.

SCIUTTO: Well, look at that, sometimes there's -- it could be to your advantage to stick to the facts. Imagine that. A lesson.

Julie Hirschfeld Davis, thanks very much.

Coming up, a damning grand jury report on predator priests, raping, that's right, raping little boys and girls. Some of them as young as 18 months old while, quote, men of God did nothing. The shocking allegations of a cover-up spanning some decades. We're going to speak with a survivor. Stay with us.