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Report: Trump Hints He Will Strip More Former Officials of Security Clearances; Ex-Intel Leaders Unite Against Trump Revoking Clearances; Manafort Jury Deliberating After Asking the Judge Several Questions; Manafort Judge Says Jurors Are Being Threatened and Their Names Will Not Be Revealed; Father Leads Police to Where Bodies of Pregnant Wife and Two Children Are Hidden. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired August 17, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi, everyone. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for joining me. This is CNN and this is where we begin. We're going to begin by putting the last 48 hours just into perspective. The president's former campaign chairman waiting to learn the verdict in his criminal trial. One of his fired aides still releasing secret tapes. A massive group of American journalists uniting against the president's assault on facts. A massive group of former intelligence officials uniting against the president's assault on free speech and the man who orchestrated the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden daring the president to revoke his security clearance. That's where we begin. Just a short time ago the president spoke on camera for the first time that he withdrew the clearance from former CIA Director John Brennan. Here he was.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's no silence. If anything, I'm giving him a bigger voice. Many people don't even know who he is and now he has a bigger voice and that's OK with me because I like taking on voices like that. I've never respected him. I've never had a lot of respect. Senator Burr said it best. If you knew anything why didn't you report it when you were before the committees, including their committee. He had a chance to report. He never did. This just came up lately. It's a disgusting thing frankly.


BALDWIN: The president then went after the only active Justice Department official whose clearance is under review. Bruce Ohr who was demoted from his position after the discovery of some meetings with the man who wrote the now infamous dossier.


TRUMP: I think Bruce is a disgrace. I suspect I'll be taking it away very quickly. I think Bruce is a disgrace with his wife nelly. For him to be in the Justice Department and to be doing what he did, that is a disgrace. That is disqualifying for Mueller. And Mr. Mueller has a lot of conflicts also. You know that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: We begin with our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. That was the president today but I want to ask you about this letter. The letter from 15 former intelligence leaders. Two more names just added to this list. How unusual is it for them to come together like this?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, this is pretty unusual stuff here, because we're in uncharted territories, dare we say that again, about President Trump taking away security clearances on the basis of a political development. No accusation that we have seen that any of these people disclosed classified information. That is the factual reason you take away someone's clearance almost all of the time. So now we have 15 former officials, seven former directors of Central Intelligence including Bob Gates who also served as Defense Secretary. He's a critical voice in all of this. He's the ultimate quiet man. He doesn't go out and talk a lot in public. When he talks, when he signs on to a letter like this, it gets noticed.

Let's go back and take a look at what some of this letter from these 15 people says and it says, quote, "we all agree that the president's action regarding John Brennan and the threats of similar action against other former officials have nothing to do with who should and who should not hold security clearances and everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech. You don't have to agree with what John Brennan says and, again, not all of us do, to agree with his right to say it. We have never before seen the approval or removal of security clearances used as a political tool as was done in this case."

So, circling back, Admiral McRaven, the former four-star Navy admiral, I know him well, one of the most respected military leaders this country has had issuing his own letter in retirement yesterday in the form of an op-ed basically daring the president to take away his security clearance saying it would be an honor talking about McCarthyite tactics. These people are some of the most serious-minded people in this country. The admiral spending decades in military service, not a political job. For him to come out now and say this is something that is being watched everywhere. Brooke.

BALDWIN: Barbara, thank you. Speaking of Admiral McRaven, I want to hone in, he is the retired Navy admiral who oversaw the raid to kill Osama Bin Laden. As Barbara was alluding to, it's his letter where he's urging the president, bring it on, revoke my clearance, it would be quote unquote an honor.

[14:05:00] Former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden told CNN that Admiral McRaven who has really shied away from public political comments is showing that he is fed up.


MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER NSA AND CIA DIRECTOR: You could just see from the tone of the letter he had had enough. I mean, there was an under tone of a powerful sense of embarrassment as to what was happening to the United States and then in 250 very focused and powerful words he said what he said. I think that would be in case of emergency break glass, I think Bill McRaven broke the glass yesterday and we might see an awful lot of other folks like him more willing to comment now, John.


BALDWIN: Let me bring in Eli Lake, columnist for Bloomberg View, also with us CNN national security analyst Kelly Magsamen. Welcome to both of you. Let's also point out Kelly used to work with John Brennan when they were on the National Security Council together so I know you know him well. First on Michael Hayden's comment that McRaven is in the sense of emergency breaking glass and if you agree with that and also your reaction to this letter now 15 former senior intelligence officials signing on.

KELLY MAGSAMEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: ABSOLUTELY. I think it's unprecedented and I think these former officials are sounding the alarm quite frankly. I mean as Barbara Starr noted, John Brennan and some of these characters like Admiral McRaven and bob gates, they are folks who aren't really partisan. They take their jobs very seriously, they take their former positions very seriously. They're men of high moral character who are coming out and speaking out.

I think it's a watershed moment and I think they're trying to basically raise the alarm. This really isn't at the end of the day about John Brennan. This is actually about an abuse of power. The president wanted to show that he had power against a political opponent or a dissent and he used a lever of American political power against that person and that's what this is about, it's not really about John Brennan and that's why so many of them came together.

BALDWIN: Another way to look at it, though, and Eli, I read your piece, to the point that listening to the president earlier saying this is getting a tremendous response. Doesn't this -- isn't this what the president wants? Does this fuel him? You know, he wants to have enemies?

ELI LAKE, COLUMNIST FOR BLOOMBERG VIEW: Well, I think the president would not like it if his -- the face of his -- the resistance against him was someone like admiral McRaven, but someone like John Brennan is an ideal foil for President Trump. Not only does John Brennan have a long history and he's divisive among Democrats particularly with progressives because of the black side program and the drone strikes, you know, John Brennan has been probably the shrillest voice of all the officials. He as overstated and the case and engaged in innuendo where there has been more responsible criticisms that haven't gone as far as John Brennan and been well documented.

There is a history before the Trump era we're in John Brennan was a bit of a villain for a lot of Democrats. He had to apologize at one point to Senator Feinstein when she accused him of spying on her own staffers. So, in that respect, I think that? In some ways because John Brennan is an imperfect message, Trump has an instinct for that and approaches like professional wrestling and is looking for right foul because he only really cares about the adulation of his base and this is the perfect way to do it.

BALDWIN: Perfect way to drum up the base and increase his support. Kelly, will you agree or no?

MAGSAMEN: I think President Trump likes to talk about a deep state and there is a risk in some of this being perceived by Trump supporters as just reinforcement of that conspiracy. But the other alternative is to stay silent in the face of abuse of power and I think these former senior intelligence officials and military officials felt compelled by the president's own actions to come out and speak out against it.

BALDWIN: No stifling of free speech. They agree with Brennan's right to speak up and so many others. When we go back to the briefing from a couple of days ago when this news broke, Sarah Sanders standing up there, she had said his clearance was taken away from the frenzy and erratic behavior and because he was endangering national security. Sort of more broadly speaking.

[14:10:00] So, Eli, now with the president both with that "Wall Street Journal" interview right where he's connecting the investigation and what he said today at the White House, does that sound like national security issues to you?

LAKE: No. Let's not forget John Brennan had to explain in earlier media appearances when he said the Russians have something on him. When he says that as a former CIA director the assumption from viewers of television programs like this and other journalists is that he knows something. Anyway, my point here is that very well may be true, but he really does have an obligation to put up or shut up and he has really gone much further out on a limb than other former officials. You don't hear Mike Hayden and other former officials going quite as far as John Brennan has calling him at one point a traitor and things like that. He has every right to criticize the president but when he implies he has information the rest of us can't see, that's not good for dem ok-- I think you have to look at the fact that John Brennan has engaged in an innuendo that really is a hallmark of the year of m McCarthyism.

BALDWIN: We're going to continue on this whole story out of Alexandria, Virginia. Jury deliberations under way in the Paul Manafort fraud trial. This as the judge is about to make a major decision of his own whether to unseal those secret bench discussions that have been fueling so much speculation. He's been meeting with lawyers from media organizations who want them unsealed. More on that. Also, President Trump cancels his own plans for that big military parade. Who he says is to blame and why the mayor of Washington, DC is now taunting this president. And just a gut- wrenching discovery in Colorado. Investigators have now found three bodies believed to be a missing Colorado woman who was 15 weeks pregnant and her two children. The father who publicly pleaded for their return is now in custody. We have a live report straight ahead out of Colorado. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


BALDWIN: All right. Day two of the Paul Manafort jury deliberations still -- we're waiting. Still no decision yet from jurors but the why in this case could be nearing his own decision. Right now, he's been holding a hearing with lawyers representing various news organizations including CNN requesting that he unseal those secret bench conversations, conferences, other information. I remember it was just a week ago that court was delayed for five hours while lawyers and the judge discussed issues in private. Judge Ellis has said that he plans to release it all with one exception. All of this is happening as jurors are asking their own questions about the case. Manafort, remember, he's facing 18 criminal charges in Virginia related to tax and bank fraud and if he is convicted on every single one of those charges, he could be going away for a long, long time, as in more than 300 years long time. Let's sort all of this out. Elie, former federal prosecutor who is going to help us answer a lot of these questions. With regard to all of these sidebar conversations the lawyers have had and they've kept secret and sealed, organizations want to unseal them. First the reason for keeping them quiet is what?

ELIE HONIG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: So, it's very common for lawyers during a trial to have these sidebar conversations. I think we've all seen them in movies. Typically, those are not sealed. They can be accessed by the public. In my experience the main reason to seal a sidebar is because it deals with sensitive information about a cooperating witness and/or an ongoing investigation. There may be some line of cross exam the defense wants to go down and the prosecution will say it's not relevant and it will out something we may be doing secretly.

BALDWIN: So, you don't anticipate because this investigation could be going on for a while, they may very well want to hold those and keep those sealed even as the jury deliberates, even after the verdict comes out until a later date.

HONIG: Yes. The fact that the judge already agreed to seal it means the judge agreed there's a need for ongoing secrecy. I wouldn't expect the judge to change that until that need for secrecy goes away which probably won't be before a verdict.

BALDWIN: The jury, they've had a couple of questions, asking for clarification which is perfectly normal including definitions for reasonable doubt and what a shelf company is.

HONIG: Yes. So, the reasonable doubt question is probably the single most common question that juries ask because that is the fulcrum of the whole case. It's the burden the prosecution has to meet and the defense will say it 100 times in closing. The original instruction that's given is sort of unsatisfactory to a lot of normal people. The judge just says reasonable doubt is a doubt based on reason. [14:20:00] BALDWIN: You're like what? What does that really mean?

HONIG: Exactly. Can you tell us a little more? What judges do is what Judge Ellis did here, he says the same thing, he says the term defines itself. It is a doubt based on reason. You can see jurors going can you give us something else?

BALDWIN: He said responding to this, had to prove their case not beyond a reasonable doubt, but beyond doubt based on reason.

HONIG: It's the same thing. Just saying it back and forth and juries get frustrated with that. It is such a common question. A lot of people say it's a good sign for the defense. It might be. Juries ask that question all the time. I've had that question asked that resulted in conviction many, many times. So, I wouldn't worry if I was the prosecutor.

BALDWIN: As we've been talking we got a little bit of new information. The judge is saying he will not reveal the juror's names. Apparently even the judge has been threatened because of this highly publicized trial. He's rolling around with U.S. Marshals and so why would he not want to reveal jurors? For their own safety?

HONIG: Both -- yes. I've had anonymous juries. Typically, in cases where there could be a danger to the jury. You absolutely want to protect the jury from somebody interfering with them. You also want the jurors to feel safe. To feel that they can render a verdict and they're not going to be harassed, hounded, that kind of thing. It could be after the fact he may permit their information to be released.

BALDWIN: Stay with me. Jessica Schneider has been in the courtroom. She's now walking out in front of the camera there in Alexandria. So, bring us up to speed on just the latest that's going on there.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, this was a really revealing moment in the courtroom. Mind you the jury is still deliberating here, but the judge was having this hearing because of media outlets request to un seal some of the so-called secret information and some of this information included the juror's names. So, the media requests were that these names would be revealed because up until this point, these jurors are anonymous. They're deliberating. They've been through this trial. We do not know who they are. We've only seen their faces in the courtroom and obviously the public has not seen their faces and obviously the public is not seen their faces. What was revealing about this is the judge said I don't want to reveal their names because of their personal safety. And he went even further. He said that -- let me actually quote this. He said, "I'm not going to reveal any threats, but I can tell you there has been."

So, the judge here revealing that throughout this process he has received threats. The judge went on to say it's OK for me. I have the Marshal's protection. The Marshal goes with me everywhere, even to my hotel. I don't reveal where I'm staying, but the Marshal is there to protect me and the judge said I worry that I would be putting the jurors in harm's way if I reveal their names and exactly who they are.

Quite an enlightening moment. The judge said this case has garnered a lot more interest and emotion was his word than he ever expected. The exact quote he said was, "I had no idea that this case would excite these emotions I can tell you frankly."

The judge revealing he has received threats as a result of this high stakes, highly publicized case and as a result, Brooke, he will not at least for now reveal the names of these jurors who have been here throughout this trial and are now working to deliberate to determine the fate of Paul Manafort.

BALDWIN: Paul Manafort facing those 18 counts. The jury verdict could happen as we are on TV. We are ready for it. Jessica Schneider, thank you so much. Continue to keep us posted. Elle, thank you so much. Don't go too far.

Coming up next, did President Trump rain on his own parade? He's now pulling the plug on a planned multi million-dollar military parade but not without casting blame. We'll explain why.


BALDWIN: There are new details, still no motive in the deaths of a Colorado mother and her two young daughters. Police say they were killed by the husband, their father, Chris Watts. Sources say watts confessed to the murders and told authorities where to find the bodies. All three were found at a petroleum company where watts had been previously employed. Sources also say the children, 4-year-old Bella and 3-year-old Celeste were hidden inside gas tanks to conceal the smell. Their mother was found nearby. She was 15 weeks pregnant and had just posted a video of her surprising her husband and daughters with the news of her pregnancy.


[14:30:00] CHRIS WATTS, CONFESSED MURDER OF WIFE AND 2 CHILDREN: We did it again? I like that shirt. Really?


CHRIS WATTS: That's awesome.

SHANNON WATTS: On my goodness. Come give me a hug. I love you girls.


SHANNON WATTS: You want to give the baby a hug? I love you, Bella. You're so sweet. Give me a kiss.


BALDWIN: Such a sweet looking family. Relatives and neighbors are simply stunned. Some are furious for missing signs they say were hidden in Chris Watts public plea to help find his family. Here he was just before his arrest.


CHRIS WATTS: Just come back. If somebody has her, please bring her back. I need to see everybody. I need to see everybody again. This house is not complete without anybody here. Please bring her back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were hoping for the best.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We feel stupid. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He just didn't seem like the type of guy to

injure a fly, let alone his entire family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know how anybody could do that. There's no reason.


BALDWIN: With me now CNN's Martin Savidge. This morning I watched those sweet Facebook videos and you just wonder how. The judge sealed the arrest affidavit we know. He's still not been charged, correct?