Return to Transcripts main page


Manafort Jury In 2nd Day of Deliberations & Asking Judge Questions; Michael Cohen Agreed on Hush Money to Daniels after "Access Hollywood" Tape Release; Pentagon: China Training Pilots to Bomb U.S. Experts Worried Russian Satellite Could Be Used as Weapon Against U.S.; Video Shows Aretha Franklin at Piano Not Long Ago. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired August 17, 2018 - 13:30   ET



[13:30:48] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Keeping our eyes on the Paul Manafort trial. Right now, the jury in its second day of deliberations. They're weighing a verdict on 18 counts of tax evasion, bank fraud, and hiding foreign bank accounts. Yesterday, they asked the judge four questions, including a request to define again the meaning of reasonable doubt.

Laura Coates is a CNN legal analyst, former federal prosecutor, and Glenn Kirschner, former U.S. attorney for D.C. and a former federal prosecutor.

Glenn, if I could start with you, these kinds of questions, jury comes back says, hey, judge, what exactly does reasonable doubt mean? Does that signal to you as an experienced prosecutor either way as to where they're leaning?

GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY & FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: No, it is one of the most commonly asked questions by jurors after they retire to deliberate. The concept of having to decide an issue beyond a reasonable doubt is just not something we apply in our everyday lives. You're sitting down with your family, trying to decide where to go for vacation, you don't typically use beyond a reasonable doubt to make that decision. But jurors are told in order to convict somebody, they must find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, not to an absolute certainty, not to a scientific certainty, or a mathematical certainty. But if they have doubt for which they can give a reason based on the presence or absence of evidence in the case, then they should not vote guilty. So it's an alien concept to most jurors, which is why they often ask a judge for additional guidance on that concept.

SCIUTTO: Laura, we heard from the defense attorneys yesterday after these questions came in. Just the idea they didn't return a snap verdict, they said this is good for us, that kind of thing. On the flip side, it strikes me -- I sat in that courtroom for a few days last week. It's 18 counts. They're quite complicated things for a layman to deal with here. Bank fraud and foreign bank accounts and ownership percentages, that kind of thing. When you see a case like this, would you expect a jury to take some time? LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I would. You have 18 counts, all

these elements built in. If the ostrich jacket is the sexiest thing you're going to present, it's a very dry case, a very document heavy case. In fact, there are thousands of pages of documents they have to go through. You can't just go back to the jury and say, let's take a poll, who wants to find him guilty and who wants to find him not guilty? You have to go through each element of the crime in order to do your actual judicial service. I'm not surprised by that. What I am surprised by is how they got right to the meat of the matter pretty quickly, asking more nuanced questions aside from the reasonable doubt question about things like, well, what are the requirements if you have 50 percent ownership of a particular account or you have different delegative duties with it. They're trying to really think about the nuances of these highly complex areas of law, and they're doing at this point an indication they're really plugged in.

SCIUTTO: Glenn, one of the interesting parts of this case is you've had a lot of these bench conferences. That happens in a lot of trials. But these had to be kept secret because of the content. The judge is hearing a motion to unseal parts of those conferences. Of course, it's secret, so we don't know what's in it, but what kinds of things might be revealed if he decides to unseal them? Are we talking about stuff likely to be related to Mueller's Russia investigation, or could it just be details about this bank fraud case?

KIRSCHNER: Jim, I think there are two strong possibilities. One is they're talking about ongoing investigations. Rick Gates, as we all know, is probably a player as a witness in the Mueller investigation beyond this Paul Manafort trial. So you know, that may be something that the judge may keep under seal, even when this trial concludes, because he won't want to interfere with any ongoing investigation of the Mueller team. The second likely candidate is they're talking about juror issues. There's really no need for the public to hear about the ins and outs of maybe what jurors have been exposed to. Often we're talking about juror scheduling issues, the juror has a doctor's appointment so they have to alter maybe the schedule moving forward to accommodate a juror. So those are the two things we most often see take place at side bars. They become sealed by the judge. Sometimes the judge unseals them at the conclusion of the trial, and sometimes he or she doesn't.

[13:35:03] SCIUTTO: One question we might learn today.

Laura Coates, Glenn, thanks for helping us through this. Stand by.

Coming up next, new details on what caused Michael Cohen to offer a hush deal to porn star, Stormy Daniels, and why that could lead possibly to charges.

Plus, why experts are concerned that a Russian satellite up in space right now could be a weapon, perhaps aimed at the United States.


[13:40:03] SCIUTTO: We're now learning that the release of the now infamous "Access Hollywood" recording during the election campaign may have caused Michael Cohen to reverse course on a decision. The "Wall Street Journal" reports that President Trump's former personal attorney initially resisted the idea of paying adult film star, Stormy Daniels, hush money, this in September of 2016. But according to "The Journal," the day after that tape was released in October 2016, Cohen informed a representative for Daniels that he was now open to a deal. Daniels claims that she had a consensual sexual encounter with Trump before he was president.

Let's bring back now Laura Coates and Glenn Kirschner.

Laura, why is that timing important to the legality of that payment?

COATES: Because it shows you just how much the actual impending campaign and the election was going to be on the decision of whether or not to silence Stephanie Clifford, aka Stormy Daniels. The closer you get, the more you think about the campaign contributions that are made and campaign finance violations that may result in you're trying to silence somebody. So the fact that before the "Access Hollywood" tape came out, he was not receptive to it. Then all the sudden you had this idea of grabbing them by the proverbial "P" word all the sudden. It makes it seem like it may not be elected and you want to silence somebody who would give indication he somehow was an unsavory being all the more. That's why it's so important.

SCIUTTO: So, Glenn, to be clear, as Laura was saying, then that money to pay off Stormy Daniels becomes a misuse of campaign funds. Is that the idea?

KIRSCHNER: Yes. You know, this is really one that we have to apply just a common-sense test, too. These deals that were struck, these payments that were made, these shell corporations that were set up to pass money through, this was all to impact the election and Trump's chances of being elected. I mean, I don't think anybody is sort of pulling a fast one by suggesting that, well, maybe Michael Cohen out of the goodness of his own heart because of his affection for Trump made these payments. I mean, it just doesn't pass the laugh test.

SCIUTTO: Now, on this issue, and this is something we've seen before, the president's story on the payment has changed. You'll remember that initially he said he didn't know anything about it. Then he tweeted that Cohen did it to stop a false allegation by Stormy Daniels. Then Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, said the president did reimburse Cohen for the payments. So of course, the president was involved. Does that changing story, beyond what it means publicly, in a legal sense, does that matter?

COATES: Yes, it goes back -- remember, this is always about the nondisclosure agreement that's a case in California right now which is largely based on the idea that one of the reasons the NDA -- you cannot abide by it or honor it is because it -- you cannot uphold a legal contact to make radar under the activity. Think about the motivation, the intent. Think about the Air Force One comment the president had to the press pool. You think about the fact that David Dennison signed on to it and you have this changing story. A court of law is looking at this and saying, well, perhaps you were spending to deceive not only the public but perhaps the court into thinking you can uphold this NDA. That's also a problem.

SCIUTTO: Glenn, Michael Cohen is under investigation by federal officials for his business dealings. So beyond the payments, beyond his involvement with the president, just his business dealings, taxi medallions, you name it, in New York. Of course, the question is, does that legal pressure, is that legal pressure sufficient enough, in your view, you're a former prosecutor, to push him to testify against the president if there's something he can testify against the president on?

KIRSCHNER: You know, Jim, it sure seems like there's a lot of pressure on Michael Cohen. We have to remember that although Bob Mueller referred out a piece of the Cohen investigation to the southern district of New York, that doesn't mean he hasn't retained a great big hunk of the Michael Cohen investigation for himself as it may relate to Russian collusion. Because, you know, he has a mandate from the deputy attorney general regarding the scope of his investigation. I think he's being very careful to abide by that. When he finds something unrelated to Russian collusion, he refers it out to the appropriate U.S. attorney's office, whether in New York or as we see with Paul Manafort, across the river in the eastern district of Virginia. But I'll tell you, I would bet he still retained a large chunk of the Michael Cohen investigation for himself because it likely does relate to contacts between Russia and the campaign.

[13:44:54] SCIUTTO: None of this is ending soon. That's for sure.

Laura, Glenn, thanks very much.

A stunning new Pentagon report suggests that China may be training its pilots to target the U.S. for bombing. The details of that report coming up.

And a Russian satellite suddenly acting much like the country's famous nesting dolls. Why experts are worried it could be used as a weapon against the United States.


SCIUTTO: America in the cross hairs. A new report from the Pentagon says that China is actively developing its fleet of long-range bombers and likely training its pilots for missions over the U.S.

Joining me now CNN military and diplomatic analyst, retired Rear Admiral John Kirby.

China has been making moves to expand its military power and influence abroad. What do we see in this report?

[13:50:10] REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY & DIPLOMATIC ANALYUST: This report makes clear they have continued that process. They view the first two decades of this century as an era of strategic opportunity to expand and develop what they call their comprehensive national power. This report lays out some very specific examples of how they're doing that. Let's take a look at them. They're giving the Chinese air force a

nuclear mission, the ability to arm bombers with nuclear missiles, as you said, Jim, that perhaps could go as afar and be as accurate, and to attack U.S. targets. Again, it's for the training of their pilots. But they're also modernizing the People's Liberation Army to be able to conduct complex joint and out-of-area operations, something we've not seen the Chinese army able to do.

SCIUTTO: Until this point, they've focused their attention on their borders and the immediate surroundings. Now they want to be able to project power where the U.S. is dominant.

KIRBY: Exactly. It's not just about area dominance now. It's power projection in an expeditionary way out of area and across the globe. In keeping with that, they're expanding their ring of bases. We talked about the bases in the sphere of influence they're creating in the South China Sea but they are trying to contract for and build bases around the world, Pakistan, Djibouti. They really want a more robust global footprint.

SCIUTTO: The other big adversaries, of course, is Russia, and folks think of Russia cyberattacks, interference in the election, et cetera.

KIRBY: Right.

SCIUTTO: But in space, there's a new satellite that's drawing the attention of the U.S.

KIRBY: Yes. This has flummoxed experts. We're not sure, nobody is sure what this satellite is meant to do. They've been observing weird behavior from it. It has been sidling up to other Russian satellites. It's been directing itself even to stages, launch stages that put it into orbit, moving over and around them. It's got some sort of self- movement capability. In addition, it appears to be able to launch sub satellites, smaller satellites, as you can see in this video here that can do that. We're not sure clear this is purely peaceful. Is it a repair and refueling capability, or is there a more sinister intent here to maybe weaponize space or to be able to knockout other satellites?

SCIUTTO: That would hurt the U.S. because we're very dependent, both civilian and military, on satellite capabilities.

KIRBY: Absolutely.

SCIUTTO: So is the U.S.-- one of the big debates has been, does the U.S. weaponize in space to deter and respond to attacks?

KIRBY: Well, it's a very interesting question. It's controversial. But you can get the clues for where the United States is going by looking at the National Defense Authorization Act that the president just signed, which authorizes a space-war fighting policy and tells the Department of Defense to stand up the Space Command, not the Space Force, but a unified branch. Also look at the national defense strategy. If you just look at the first page, these two sentences sit side by side with one another and clearly make China and Russia adversaries of the United States.

SCIUTTO: When I speak to intelligence officials, they put China and Russia at the top of the list of threats.

KIRBY: And it's right here.

SCIUTTO: Admiral Kirby, thanks very much.

KIRBY: You bet.

SCIUTTO: As fans remember Aretha Franklin, her granddaughter revealed a recent video. Really touching. This is the queen of soul singing at her private piano not long ago. Don't miss it.





[13:58:15] SCIUTTO: Of course, fans are still remembering how the late queen of soul, Aretha Franklin, touched their lives, still touches their lives, telling personal stories and posting tributes on social media. There are no bigger fans, however, than Franklin's family. And her granddaughter went on Twitter to share a very personal moment. It's a family video shot just a few months ago of the legend singing and playing the piano at home. The granddaughter writing, "We lost an icon, a legend but today I lost my grandma."




SCIUTTO: That's the queen of soul almost five months to the day before she died. Her granddaughter also said, that "God is telling her she's at peace, and that she's going to make her grandma proud."

That is it for me today, Jim Sciutto. Thanks very much for joining us.

The news on CNN continues right now.

[14:00:10] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Jim, thank you so much.

Hi, everyone. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for joining me.