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Jury Begins Deliberations in Manafort Trial; Press Pushes Back Against Trump; DEA Identifies Drug in Overdoses. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired August 16, 2018 - 09:30   ET



[09:31:04] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, jury deliberation begins in the trial of the president's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. They will decide his fate. Attorneys delivered their closing arguments yesterday. Manafort is charged with 18 counts of bank fraud and tax evasion. The prosecution closed by saying this is a case that is all about Manafort's lies. The defense closed by arguing this trial was all politically motivated.

Let's go to the courthouse. Our justice correspondent Jessica Schneider is outside with more.

Both teams seem happy with their closing arguments. Now it's in the jury's hands.


In fact, when Paul Manafort's lawyers left the courthouse yesterday, they said that Paul Manafort himself was very happy with the way that closing arguments went. Of course in just a few minutes, it will be in the jury's hands. Six men and six women who will determine Paul Manafort's fate.

So, on Wednesday, there were a lot of strong words on both sides of the prosecution and the defense. The prosecution really framed their argument with two main themes. First they said Paul Manafort, he is not above the law, and then they repeatedly accused Paul Manafort of lying. Lying to the government. Lying to banks. Lying to the bookkeepers.

In fact, the lead prosecutors, Greg Andres, he put it this way in a very pointed statement here. He said, when you follow the trail of Mr. Manafort's money, it is littered with lies. Mr. Manafort lied to keep more money when he had it and he lied to get more money when he didn't.

Well, the defense team saying that Rick Gates was the real liar here. Of course Rick Gates, the former right hand man to Paul Manafort, who has sense flipped, pleaded guilty and is now cooperating. The defense team, Kevin Downing in particular, put it this way. He said, to the very end, he lied to you, meaning Rick Gates. The government so desperate to make a case against Mr. Manafort made a deal with Mr. Gates. So, Poppy, it comes down to whose side was more persuasive. Of course, the prosecution put up about 27 witnesses. The defense, none. But the judge did remind the jury that Paul Manafort had an absolute right not to testify. Paul Manafort did not take the stand. We'll see how that plays out with the jury when they begin deliberations in just a few minutes.

HARLOW: OK. All right, Jes, keep us posted. Thank you.

Let me bring if Laura Coates, our legal analyst.

So, Laura, you look at all the counts and you look at the fact that Manafort faces over -- potentially over 300 years in prison if found guilty on all of these -- all of these counts. The jury is going to be in the deliberation room in just a few minutes. They're going to see some things for the first time. They're going to see the actual pictures of this sort of ostentatious lifestyle, the $15,000 ostrich jacket, the high end clothes, et cetera, that he bought with these foreign wire transfers. And you've got to defense trying to hang their entire case on discrediting Rick Gates, right, the star prosecution witness. And then you have the prosecution trying to hang their case not on Rick Gates but on the documents. Is that a risky move?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's risky, in fact, on both sides. It's particularly bold of the defense to try to hang their entire case on whether you believe in the credibility of Rick Gates, who really is only a corroborating voice and not the linchpin to most of the actual charges that are on the indictment. He's only a corroborating voice on a fraction of them.

HARLOW: Right.

COATES: So to say I'm going to put all of my eggs in one particular basket is a bold and perhaps a mistake to make. But if you're the prosecution, they are well aware that if the most exciting thing about a trial that lasts over a week is whether or not there is an ostrich jacket and an ostrich vest, they're well aware this is a very, very dry, elemental document-heavy case. And for that reason people say, well, perhaps they should go more salacious.

But the reality is, is, Poppy, it can be both dry and cult and dry. It's a document-heavy case. They have testimony from accountants who do not have the same skeletons in their closet as perhaps Rick Gates says, and they're desperately trying to make the connection that says, listen, either he lied or he didn't. This is not just about the Russia collusion investigation, if at all. This is about whether or not Uncle Sam got paid and the documents say he did not.

[09:35:15] HARLOW: Also, the defense again reiterating, Laura, in their closing argument that this is politically motivated. but then Judge T.S. Ellis jumps in and says, you know, instructs the jury to ignore that part of it, right, and the Justice Department's possible motive for bringing the case. But will jurors? I mean is it already just planted in their mind?

COATES: Well, first of all, it was a good rebuke by the judge to do so. They had all agreed, prior to the trial, that they would not mention the Russian investigation or the collusion aspect or the authority of the special counsel to really bring forth this matter, which is part of his mandate to uncover and investigate things that he found in the course of the collusion investigation. So when they did it, it was a good rebuke by T.S. Ellis.

However, it's very, very difficult to unring that bell for the very same reasons that a jury will look to figure out why the person did not come on the stand to defend themselves or give them any other witnesses to defend that particular person. It's also hard to ignore the very big elephant in the room, which is, this is the very first case out of the Mueller collusion probe.

HARLOW: Right.

COATES: It will be the litmus test, and that is a hell of an elephant to have in the room. And so they were strategic, as a defense, to plant the seed, to watch it go through the entire trial and they can't ignore it.

HARLOW: There you go.

Laura Coates with the expertise, thank you, my friend.

COATES: Thank you.

HARLOW: Up next, an unprecedented, unified fight. Hundreds of newspapers with one clear message -- stop attacking us Mr. President, next.


[09:40:56] HARLOW: Welcome back. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

And this morning, hundreds of U.S. newspapers coast to coast are banning together with a clear message. The message, we are not the enemy of the people. Meantime, just minutes ago, the president tweeted this, quote, the fake news media is the opposition party. It is very bad for our great country but we are winning.

Let's go to our senior political analyst and anchor John Avlon, who joins me now.

"Reality Check" time so necessary this morning.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: We could always use a little "Reality Check," Poppy, but especially with the president's tweet you just saw there. He is doubling and tripling down on this really divisive message. The good news is, there's a broad pushback and I'll walk you through that and let's talk a little bit about it because this morning we've got around 350 American newspapers, they are linking arms and taking a stand, publishing editorials condemning President Trump's attacks on the free press.

Now one of Donald Trump's predecessors, James Madison, who might be called the original constitutional conservative, said this, to the press alone, checked as it is with abuses, the world is indebted for all the triumphs which have been gained by reason and humanity over error and oppression. In contrast, here's Donald Trump.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They are the fake, fake, disgusting news.

They are the worst.

Those very dishonest people back there.

Absolute dishonest. Absolute scum.

It's frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write.

They are the enemy of the people.

I would never kill them, but I do hate them. And I -- and some of them are such lying, disgusting people. It's true.


AVLON: None of that is normal in American politics, despite the built in tension between the president and the press.

But if you think words like that don't matter, take a look at this. Fifty-one percent of Republicans now agree with Trump's unhinged plan that the press is the enemy of the people. Luckily, overwhelming numbers of independents and Democrats disagree. But Freedom of the press should not be a partisan issue.

But there's a bigger problem. When the American president uses the bully pulpit to preach against the free press, it gives an excuse to autocratic around the world. Exhibit A, Donald Trump's self-serving distortion of the phrase "fake news" has been picked up by dictators who apparently take him seriously, as well as literally, on this issue.

Here's Vladimir Putin claiming that Syria's chemical attacks were fake news. Syria's Assad on reports that he executed 13,000 prisoners, quote, we are living in a fake news era. Venezuela's Maduro denying human rights abuses and economic catastrophe, quote, this is what we call fake news today, isn't it?

The Philippines Duterte killing thousands and trampling on the rights in the name of his drug war, quote, I'm being demonized by fake news. And Myanmar, a security official denying the country is ethically cleansing the Rohingya people saying, quote, there's no such thing as Rohingya. It's fake news. And the official newspaper for the communist party in China, quote, Trump is right, fake news is the enemy. Something China has known for years.

In these and other countries, journalists are jailed or even executed for printing things the leader doesn't like. But America's always been different. And that's why we've been a beacon of freedom in a stormy world. At our best, leading with the example of our power of our example, even more than the example of our power. And that's a tradition worth fighting for. And that's why we'll continue to do our job as journalists, holding power to account without fear of favor.

And that's your "Reality Check."


HARLOW: So needed this morning. So need.

AVLON: It is.

HARLOW: And joining us now to have this conversation, let me bring in Marcela Garcia, editorial writer for "The Boston Globe" editorial board.

Marcela, it was your paper and your team that led this effort, right, that said a month ago, we have to do something. We have to be a united voice as journalists across the country to do something. Three hundred and fifty-papers from towns large and small, coast to coast, every state in between coming out and doing this even, you know, in Kansas, a newspaper there in Topeka that endorsed the president in 2016 part of this.

What do you hope this moment achieves?

MARCELA GARCIA, EDITORIAL WRITER, "BOSTON GLOBE" EDITORIAL BOARD: I hope that this moment achieves -- you know, I hope that people get the message about the value of a free press.

[09:45:05] You know, like you correctly say, two weeks ago we started -- we became alarmed at the level of rhetoric coming from the president, from my president, from your president, from the president of the United States of America, calling and labelling one whole class of fellow Americans as the enemy of the people. And we thought that it was time for the media to have a say in this debate to remind people what we do every day, which is to hold power accountable, elected officials accountable.


AVLON: Marcela, were you surprised at the reaction you received from editorial boards across the country?

GARCIA: Yes, absolutely. You know, we talked about it again, as an editorial board. We discussed this a couple of weeks ago. And we all thought it was a great idea. And we started reaching out to newspapers, right. Some say -- some said no. Some others said yes. But then all of a sudden a ton of local, you know, community newspapers from across the country started coming in and just basically saying to us, I want to be a part of this, I want to be a part of this.

HARLOW: Yes. I think --

GARCIA: And so it's been overwhelming. HARLOW: And I think to your point, Marcela, let me just point out some

of those papers because this is -- this is really important. We're talking about in Belen, New Mexico, the "Valencia County News Bulletin" write, we are not the enemy of the people, we are the people.

In Athens, Ohio, the "Athens News" points out that local officials, inspired by Trump, are increasingly, quote, going on the attack.

In Benson, Minnesota, the "Swift County Monitor," small paper there, says, attacks on journalists will lead to violence.

You know, so often I think it is viewed -- I know being from the middle of the country -- like the coasts don't get it, right? They don't get what we're living through. They don't' get how we feel. How important was it for you to have all of these papers from small towns in middle America and everywhere else join your effort?

GARCIA: It was very important for us because this isn't about "The Boston Globe." This isn't about President Trump. This isn't about, you know, one paper versus another newspaper. It was about collectively raising our voices and saying, we don't -- we -- we're not the enemy of the people. And, again, as we have noted before, you know, the threats or -- you know, threats to the freedom of the press or defending a free press looks very different in Boston and New York than it does, you know, in the middle of the country, like you say.


GARCIA: So it was very important for us to have representation, you know, for most of the states, which we do. We nearly -- we have representation from nearly every state.


GARCIA: And also red and blue states.

HARLOW: I would just read what the "San Francisco Chronicle" editorial page editor, John Diaz (ph), wrote. This is what he's predicting as a result of this. Quote, Trump will call it collusion and will attempt to cite this day of editorials to discredit criminal and factual news stories in the future -- critical and factual news stories in the future, even though no one involved in these pieces had anything to do with his campaign.

Do you -- do you think that's a correct prediction?

GARCIA: I don't know. I don't know what's going to happen. But I think that what's at stake here was too important for us to be on the sidelines. We -- the stakes here are so high that we need to say something. The -- you know, the rhetoric reached a level that we just felt was too dangerous and words matter, right? And so it's a real threat to weaken our democracy. The free press is a bedrock of our democracy. So we -- we just couldn't afford or we couldn't be, you know, bothered with, you know, what the president is going to say or how people are going to view this. No, we needed to make a stand and that's what we're doing.

HARLOW: There you go.

Marcela, thank you.

And, John, yes?

AVLON: And, look, it's just so inspiring to see newsrooms across the country, especially small, local papers, under so much pressure, but which are the heart and soul of their communities, to stand up. And we see the president already attacking. But we know that newspapers really are the conscience of their communities. And it's a wonderful example of that to stand in solidarity.

HARLOW: Thank you, guys. Marcela, thanks for joining us.

GARCIA: Thank you so much.

HARLOW: John, thanks for the "Reality Check."

We'll be right back.


[09:53:24] HARLOW: First responders overwhelmed with emergency calls after more than 70 people overdosed at a single park in New Haven, Connecticut. Officials say when the emergency crews were assisting one person in the park, four to six others would literally fall down overdosing right next to them. At this point, no fatalities, but two individuals are considered to be in serious life-threatening condition. Police have in custody a single person connected to all of this.

Polo Sandoval is with me now and following this.

This had to do with a synthetic drug. And the DEA is learning a lot more and telling us a lot more this morning. What was it?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it really was a chaotic situation yesterday, Poppy. The DEA now has some of these test results that they had been waiting on about this substance that led to so much yesterday. And at this point, according to a local mayor's spokesperson, he can confirm that the DEA results have come back and show that this was synthetic marijuana with no additives. I should mention that initially there was some reporting out there and some concern because of what doctors were saying, that this was possibly some of this K2 or what's kind of known as Spice --

HARLOW: Or Fentanyl.

SANDOVAL: Laced with something like that.

HARLOW: Right.

SANDOVAL: Or perhaps another substance. However, now the DEA has confirmed through this spokesperson saying that this was synthetic marijuana with no additives. But it certainly did lead to a lot of activity yesterday.

HARLOW: But what's synthetic marijuana versus marijuana?

SANDOVAL: Well, you know, we've seen this before. Of course the federal government has warned about this, which is this -- the substance that is usually -- it's mixed with other chemicals.


SANDOVAL: As you mentioned, Fentanyl as well. It's something that they've been tracking for a long time now. But what's different here is just the sheer numbers that we saw yesterday. At least 74 people there in the New Haven Common, which is a very popular park, right next to Yale University in the downtown area.

HARLOW: Right.

[09:55:07] SANDOVAL: At least four people were treated there. But, as you mentioned, and as you correctly point out, no fatalities yet. And there also have not been any overdose cases in that specific area in the last nine hours. That could change, though. We'll let you know.

HARLOW: And we know this comes as the CDC report this morning shows a record number of overdoses last year.


HARLOW: Seventy-two thousand Americans dying as a result. It's --

SANDOVAL: Right, grim figures as the situation unfolds in Connecticut.


SANDOVAL: Seventy-two thousand people died from drug overdoses in 2017. That's a 6.6 increase over 2016.


All right, Polo, thanks for the reporting. Keep us posted.

The fate of former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort soon to be in the jury's hands today. We're keeping a close eye on all the developments. We'll go live to the courthouse with an update.