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Trump Revokes Brennan's Security Clearance; NYT: Omarosa May have as Many as 200 Recordings; Omarosa Releases Tape of Lara Trump Offering $15K for a Month Job; Jury Begins Second Day of Deliberations in Manafort Fraud Trial; WSJ: Cohen Reversed Course on Stormy Daniels' Payment After Access Hollywood Tape-Release. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired August 17, 2018 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[06:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CO-HOST, THE STARTING LINE: Drip of news -- for the continuous loop of Aretha Franklin music, we've been listening to since yesterday --
ERICA HILL, CO-HOST, THE STARTING LINE: Happily --
BERMAN: Happily, wonderful, a wonderful tribute --
HILL: Yes --
BERMAN: To listen --
HILL: Absolutely --
BERMAN: To that nonstop. In the meantime, you've heard of the drip of news, how about the strip. Overnight, we learned that President Trump plans to strip more former national security leaders of their security clearances maybe as soon as this morning.
They took away former CIA Director John Brennan's because of his role of watching the investigation into the Russian attack on the 2016 U.S. election. That's exactly what the president told us.
And today the president could expand that list. Some of the folks who could be targeted, 12 former officials including CIA Directors like David Petraeus, they signed a letter of support for Brennan calling the president's move an attempted stifle free speech.
And there was another unusual, and frankly arresting admonishment of the president, coming from the man who oversaw the Osama bin Laden raid. Retired Navy Admiral William McRaven basically said if you're going to take away Brennan's clearance, take mine too.
It will be an honor, he said, to lose it for this reason. Also former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman has released a new recording, this time featuring President Trump's daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, Omarosa says it proves how the White House tried to buy her silence after she was fired. The "New York Times" reports this morning that Omarosa could have as many as 200 tapes. HILL: Meantime, day two of jury deliberations and Paul Manafort's tax
and bank fraud trial. The panel unable to reach a verdict yesterday, sending a note to the judge at the end of the day with four questions, among them, a request for the judge to quote "redefine the meaning of reasonable doubt."
We are also as John said remembering the queen of soul.
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HILL: Tributes pouring in from around the world for Aretha Franklin after the legend died yesterday at age 76. We'll take a look back this morning at her incredible life and legacy. We begin our coverage this hour with Cnn's Abby Phillip who is live at the White House. Abby, good morning.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning Erica. President Trump this morning might be feeling empowered after he made his polarizing decision to strip former national security officials of their security clearances.
But some of those very same officials are vowing that they are not going to be intimidated and they're not going to stop criticizing the president.
PHILLIP (voice-over): President Trump gearing up to strip more security clearances from former officials linked to the Russia investigation. A White House source indicating that the nine intelligence officials under review by the White House are at risk of losing their clearances in the coming days.
It comes despite growing fallout over the president's decision to revoke the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, an outspoken Trump critic. William H. McRaven; a retired Navy Admiral who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden penning a scathing letter to the president in the "Washington Post", titled, "revoke my security clearance too, Mr. President."
McRaven insisting "if you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you're sadly mistaken."
MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA & NSA DIRECTOR: When you have a man of the prestige and accomplishment of Bill McRaven willing to go public like this, I think we'll see others following suit as well.
PHILLIP: Twelve former senior intelligence officials issuing a joint statement, saying "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." But many Republican lawmakers disagree, some even praising the decision. SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Mr. Brennan has gone way
over the line in my view and I think restricting his clearance, pulling his clearance makes sense to me.
SEN. JOHN THUNE (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: The fact is he's out there every single day, acting in a very partisan way, probably it doesn't help his cause.
SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: He's been entirely political. I think I called him a butt-head and I mean it.
PHILLIP: Meanwhile, the "New York Times" reports White House aides are concerned Omarosa Manigault Newman could have as many as 200 recordings with Mr. Trump and other officials stashed away.
The former senior White House aide releasing a new recording Thursday despite facing legal action by the Trump campaign. Claiming the president's daughter-in-law Lara Trump offered her a $15,000 a month position on the re-election campaign as hush money shortly after she was fired.
LARA TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP DAUGHTER-IN-LAW: It sounds a little like, obviously, that there are some things you've got in the back pocket to pull out. Clearly, if you come onboard the campaign, like we can't have -- we've got --
OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN, FORMER AID TO DONALD TRUMP: Oh, God, no --
TRUMP: Everything, everybody positive, right? PHILLIP: Lara Trump denying the family knew about Omarosa's alleged
ethics violations at the time of the call. And firing back, "I hope it's all worth it for you Omarosa because some things you just can't put a price on."
PHILLIP: And President Trump today is headed to the Hamptons for a campaign event and a fundraiser before heading to Bedminster, New Jersey where he'll spend the weekend at his golf course, John and Erica.
[06:05:00] BERMAN: Abby Phillip for us at the White House, Abby, thanks very much. I want to bring in Cnn senior political analyst John Avlon, former CIA counterterrorism official and Cnn counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd, and former director of communications for U.S. National Intelligence and Cnn national security analyst Shawn Turner.
So we heard from Admiral McRaven and then these 12 former security officials overnight. And really, the Admiral McRaven though, Phil, felt like an I am Spartacus moment. It felt like this moment of solidarity where McRaven stood up and said we're going to do this, take mine too, everyone else join in as well. How did you read it?
PHILIP MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: I read it the same way. If you want to look through all this haze and determine how people who serve in the security business think I would read that letter, when I read it, I felt like I should sign up to it.
It's like -- it's what people like me -- we were talking about it yesterday, I spoke with a fair number of friends here. There's some reasons why a lot of people like me would say this is not why I served.
I'm going on vacation tomorrow, John, I'm going to get ice cream, eat hot dogs and I want to read newspapers and watch TV where people are allowed to speak as Americans like they want to speak.
I often don't agree with John Brennan, what does that have to do with this right to speak. The other thing -- the final thing I think is notable is you know, I came in under Ronald Reagan, I was hired in 1985 at the CIA, I left under Barack Obama.
People outside of Washington probably don't understand how significant it is for people in the military or the intelligence service to critique a president. We were trained to serve whoever the American people elect. And when McRaven took this step, I think it's a sign of how serious the issue is.
HILL: And in your -- Shawn, what's interesting about that is part of the fallout that we've seen from a number of people is coming forward and saying, look, we can stand up and we can say this, we can write a letter, we can put together -- there can be a dozen former officials who can do this, we can hear from McRaven.
But it's more the rank and file. It is the -- it is the career folks who serve under any administration because as you point out, Phil, they're just doing their job, and the real damage that that could do to them and in turn to national security.
Sean, do you agree with that assessment?
SHAWN TURNER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS FOR U.S. NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I do, in fact, this has a -- this has a really chilling effect on the rank and file. Look, I mean, Phil made a great point. You know, these are seasoned intelligence officers who have a great amount of experience.
And I think that what we're seeing here or we see reflected in Admiral McRaven's letter is what's reflected across not just the senior ranks of the intelligence community, but also in the rank and file.
And what really concerns me here is the fact that there was no due process here. Look, the president has a prerogative to reject -- to revoke the security clearance of anyone he wants to take a security clearance from. But typically, what you see in these cases is you see an assessment of the behavior that that individual has engaged in.
And you know, there's an investigation and there are findings and that security clearance is pulled based on some activity that makes them unfit to hold a security clearance. But there was none of that.
In this case, and the president has acknowledged this, he turned on the television, he saw what John Brennan did and said any -- revoke the security clearance.
And I just have got to say I typically don't weigh in on politics, but if you're a Democrat or a Republican, and you're a duly elected official, and the leader of your party does something that is objectively wrong and you can't muster the courage to stand up and say that it's wrong like what we're seeing in this case, then in my opinion you're just demonstrating a level of cowardice that makes you unfit to hold the office.
BERMAN: Let me take you under here though for a moment. In this dispute as a political dispute, which is that we're learning overnight that the White House and the president specifically likes where this is going from a public relations standpoint.
The president thinks this makes him look strong. We've heard from Republican officials over the last 24 hours and it's not universal, John Avlon, but there are plenty certainly and not from the president's standpoint supportive of his comments here.
Lindsey Graham, Richard Burr; the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who has been seen as running a bipartisan operation on that Intel Committee, very critical of John Brennan here. The president is not on an island here. He is not on an island in terms of some of the comments he's made about Omarosa this week, some of the comments deemed as racist, he's not an island here.
JOHN AVLON, POLITICAL ANALYST & FORMER EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, DAILY BEAST: He's not an island in terms of the fact this is unprecedented for a president, but not in terms of support from his party. We've seen that over and over.
Some Republicans like Richard Burr may be picking their fights, and indeed, it is difficult to defend if you're a Republican, Brennan's comments about the president, calling for example the Helsinki press conference treasonous.
That's tough medicine. You have some Republicans who are showing dissent, Bob Corker most notably, Suzanne Collins, but the fact that you have Admiral McRaven's letter as Phil said, the fact that so many former directors and national intelligence and CIA are stepping forward out of their comfort zone which stays away from politics, our best tradition.
To call out this president for this action and some others, I think it's sight. You've got very high-minded defenses of the constitution, the right to free speech, Brennan's career, and then you've got Senator John Kennedy from Louisiana calling Brennan a butt-head.
I think these are unequal defenses.
HILL: It's also fascinating, we're hearing from Rudy Giuliani who as we know --
BERMAN: Yes --
[06:10:00] HILL: Probably makes the president very happy in the way he's continuing the different narratives the president wants to put out there. But Phil, let me throw this one out to you, he's saying, look, this has nothing to do with an enemy's list, if the president isn't going to call on you for advice, there's no reason for you to have that clearance.
That it's not about the first amendment, Phil, that this is, you know what? If you don't need to help the president, you don't need that clearance. Why would someone need the clearance if they're not -- they're not helping the president.
MUDD: Well, that's not what the question is here, and by the way, the debate has gotten away from what the president has said. Lindsey Graham needs a dunce cap today. This is not about what John Brennan has said, what the president himself said was this is about the Russian witch-hunt as he calls it --
BERMAN: Yes --
MUDD: And about going after people he believes were involved in the witch-hunt. So this is about the president once again, and the reason I think he likes it for his base is saying everybody coming after being the Mueller investigation is after me because I'm Donald Trump, not because I did anything wrong.
So let's focus on the facts here. The facts aren't about John Brennan speaking out, that's not what the president said. The facts are the president wants to muzzle an investigation that was legally opened by the Department of Justice.
That's it, he likes and he likes it because Manafort is on trial, Mueller is going to bring down the hammer and the president wants to say I was a victim.
TURNER: But you know, it is the case, Erica, that you know, to your question, these individuals -- there is a reason for these individuals to have the security clearances. Look, these security clearances -- there are a couple of things that people misunderstand.
These individuals are not going into intelligence agencies on a weekly basis, sitting down at computers and combing through intelligence. It doesn't work that way. These individuals are senior, career intelligence officers who have a wealth of knowledge and experience.
And the reason they have these security clearances is because often times the individuals coming into those offices don't have the same amount of experience and knowledge related to issues that are ongoing.
So you want to have individuals out there, that those new people in those positions as agency directors and directors of national intelligence can call on to come in and help them navigate some of the more challenging issues we face in the national security space.
BERMAN: This development that you're mentioning there, perhaps the president doesn't understand the intricacies of how the security apparatus works, it could be the least surprising --
AVLON: Yes --
BERMAN: Revelation in this whole episode. John, if I can, I do want to shift gears to Omarosa for a moment here. Omarosa saying yesterday --
AVLON: Almost equal important --
BERMAN: Yes, well, look --
HILL: They're certainly connected, I mean, we can't ignore that --
BERMAN: They're totally connected, and the "Washington Post", that's the point, right? The "Washington Post" reports overnight that Sarah Sanders didn't like where the Omarosa story was going, why?
Because you had people saying what the president was claiming was racist and his comments were racist.
AVLON: It's a bad luck.
BERMAN: They did not like the fact that Omarosa has apparently a tape for every day, a tape for every season coming out. And the "New York Times" is reporting as many as 200. So now, they drop this bit of news there. This Omarosa thing isn't going away, and Maggie Haberman is reporting overnight also that the White House is as concerned about this as anything they've had on their plate maybe other than the Russian investigation.
AVLON: Yes, look, I mean, it is a sign of the times that a rogue reality show star could derail an administration dealing with real world affairs. And it does appear that they pushed out a back-dated decision and statement from the president about the security clearance.
I think the thing about this most recent tape in addition to the potential trough that exist is the fact that they're basically -- they're offering her a no-show job for $15,000 a month, paid for by small dollar donors to the Trump campaign.
And there is no blushing about it. This is just basically what it's done. And the show is really disrespect for their core supporters, although their supporters may not see it that way.
So I think it does show the administration really nervous because when you have someone of the demonstrated character of Omarosa who's got dozens, maybe hundreds of tapes, anything could be out there.
And it's the one thing they can't spin their way out of is when their tapes are flipped, not out of Access Hollywood, and they may find it out drip, day by day here.
BERMAN: Has a lot Trump going to negotiate this --
AVLON: Yes --
BERMAN: Empowered, offered 15 grand a month to Omarosa from a family, pretty interesting. Call the family, I watched "Peaky Blinders", it felt like "Peaky Blinders".
TURNER: All the reference --
BERMAN: Right there. Shawn Turner watches "Peaky Blinders" too, he just laughed at that -- Shawn, Phil, thanks so much for being with us, do appreciate the discussion this morning.
BERMAN: A big development just before their --
HILL: Yes --
BERMAN: Time last night, which is that the jury in the Paul Manafort trial asked for very interesting questions. One of our legal experts coming up next say these questions should be of great concern to the special counsel's office, stay with us.
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HILL: The jury in the bank and tax fraud trial of Paul Manafort begins a second day of deliberation soon just before wrapping up day one. They sent four questions to the judge, one of them asking him to redefine reasonable doubt. The others were related to the former Trump campaign's chairman's tax filing and foreign bank accounts disclosures.
Joining us now, two senior legal analysts, defense attorney and a former federal prosecutor Paul Callan and Shan Wu; former attorney for Manafort associate Rick Gates. Always good to have both of you with us.
So you know, I brought this up this morning because I wanted to make sure I'm not an idiot in asking this question. But when I saw the answer that the judge gave in terms of redefining reasonable doubt, he said prosecutors must prove the case in this case not beyond possible doubt, but beyond doubt based on reason. Paul --
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes --
HILL: Can you speak that in English for me?
CALLAN: Well, you know, this question of whether -- the definition of reasonable doubt scares prosecutors to death. Because it makes them think, well, the jury thinks there's reasonable doubt in the case.
A lot of times by the way, it's just one or two hold-out jurors and they just want to hear the definition. So it may not be such a bad question in the end. But the courts are very careful in defining it because the Supreme Court and other appellate courts across America have said the term is reasonable doubt, don't be attaching your own meaning to it.
So, a lot of times, judges just flip it and they say it's a doubt based on a reason. Sometimes they'll go with the question as we ask, they'll say, you have to prove guilt to at least a moral certainty.
There are some other phrases that are used --
HILL: OK --
BERMAN: OK --
CALLAN: But he is starting out with the safest instruction to the jury which tells them nothing --
HILL: Nothing at all.
BERMAN: Right, so when these four questions came in Shan, I think the response from Erica Hill and he was as Erica just put it, and I knew when you heard them as well, you said this is not going to be, you know, a sound sleep tonight for the prosecution team.
[06:20:00] Part of it is the timing of the reasonable doubt question.
SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's right, I mean, Paul is right the ban of defense counsel and prosecutors and courts is that definition, it's a very unhelpful definition. But the timing I think is critical here.
It certainly is not uncommon for that question to come out. It does usually indicates there's hold out, there were some dissension, and what's alarming for the prosecutors is how quickly that note came out. They barely had begun deliberating, typically, you wouldn't reach a question like that until there's been some kind of preliminary polling within the jury and somebody is concerned that may be holding out already.
So that's why as a prosecutor in the case, I would be very concerned that it's coming out at such an early time.
BERMAN: And then also Shan, the two other -- two of the other questions had to do with arguments. Some think that the strongest arguments the defense made during the trial, it's almost as if the jury is posing the question on the defense terms.
WU: Yes, that's right, I think again, that's another alarming point for the prosecution is the question about both the shelf life which was the phrase that Gates used, a lot of people are thinking it's a misspelling of Shell Corporation, it was actually a phrase about putting the company on the shelf.
And also the question about the banking and disclosure regulations. There's a pretty good cross-examination point for a FinCEN agent, where they basically admitted that it was possible that Manafort might not have needed to register it because it's a little bit complicated.
But his corporation owned a foreign bank account, and under those circumstances it's possible, maybe he did not have to register. So that's an important point to the defense there. It's interesting that the jury is honing in on it so quickly. HILL: As all this is playing out, we're waiting for day two to see
what happens. We also learned in a court filing yesterday that the prosecution has three times the amount of evidence for this next trial that Paul Manafort will be facing. A, should we read anything into that Paul? And B, what's the real difference here between these two trials?
CALLAN: Well, there's a big difference. This trial is taking place in Virginia in a county that at least has a lot of areas that voted for Trump. The defense I think thought they might have a better shot at an acquittal in Virginia as opposed to Washington D.C.
Where if you look at the voting numbers, of course, the president is not very popular. However, the complexity of this case in Virginia is really overwhelming. I mean, you know, the second question the jurors are asking is about shelf corporations.
And you know, whether you have to file tax returns regarding an account in Cyprus -- I mean, they're examining things like this. The good thing for the prosecution is they want to look at the pictures now of the ostrich jacket and the python coat and all of the other luxury items that Manafort had which I think prosecutors were using to try to simplify the case and say, hey, he's living way beyond his means, so he filed false tax returns.
In Washington however, totally different charges. Failure to register as a foreign agent is the primary charge there and money laundering. There're simpler charges, easier charges for jurors to understand.
HILL: No ostrich --
BERMAN: Although it's not an easy case either --
CALLAN: No, it's not --
BERMAN: Though it's not an easy case either. And I think frankly, a lot of people have undersold the political ramifications, the political side of this. If Paul Manafort is acquitted, because I think that Rudy Giuliani and the president will jump all over this.
HILL: Absolutely --
BERMAN: And I think you could, Shan, I think presumably see the president move to pardon Paul Manafort, it's not impossible, and he says look, this jury just acquitted him, why should he have to sit for another trial?
WU: Absolutely, that could give him a good bit of leverage to use from that point. And to Paul's point, it is a very different case in D.C., it was a big strategy call on the Manafort's camp to refuse to let the cases be consolidated.
And again, just based on public information, nothing insider from my former representation. They could have consolidated both cases in D.C., but they made a call to want to break it up, make the government go twice and pros and cons to that, but no question, it ratchets up the pressure on the outcome of this first trial enormously for both sides.
HILL: As all of this is going on on this new reporting from the "Wall Street Journal" about Michael Cohen and the payment to Stormy Daniels which we both spent a lot of time talking about that this deal actually came about, they've been approached according to the journal in September, the Access Hollywood tape is released.
The next day, all of a sudden, Michael Cohen is open to a deal after initially sort of balking at the idea. Paul, just your thoughts on that.
CALLAN: Well, the lingering question getting back to the Stormy Daniels payment is whether it was illegal. Of course, you can -- I mean, maybe unseemly --
HILL: In terms of campaign funds --
CALLAN: That's right, I think that maybe unseemly to buy the silence of somebody, but it's technically legal in the United States, unless it's a campaign violation. The timing here now and the issue of Trump getting in trouble because those comments of -- those comments on the bus would suggest that an analysis was made here, he can't take another hit on having an affair with a porn star, we better buy her silence.
[06:25:00] That might make it a campaign violation and possibly a criminal in nature.
BERMAN: And Shan, when I read this, you know who I thought was in trouble was Michael Cohen. And this could give us a window into all the news we've been hearing from his camp about willing to cut a deal here. It just does seem like prosecutors have a lot to go on in terms of just getting him, if they want to.
WU: Yes, and I agree with Paul there that the timing is what comes into focus with this. I mean, he didn't become interested in negotiating until that tape came out. It really again ramps up in the ocean that this was much more related to the campaign and then the president's camp would want us to think about it.
And that definitely puts a lot more pressure on Cohen to have to come clean about that.
BERMAN: Shan Wu, Paul Callan, fascinating legal discussion this morning, man, isn't the few hours -- the next few hours is going to be interesting.
HILL: Who knows what Monday will bring, my friend. Thank you, thank you both. Just ahead, we are remembering the queen of soul this morning, Aretha Franklin, a look back at her life and legacy and yes as much music as we can get out there for you.