Return to Transcripts main page


McGahn Talked with Mueller; Giuliani on Trump Tower Meeting; Biles Makes Statement; Bomb Supplied by U.S. in Yemen. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired August 20, 2018 - 06:30   ET


[06:30:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And northwest of Baghdad, killing one service member and injuring several others. Military officials say the helicopter was part of a counterterrorism mission. There's no indication that the crash was caused by enemy fire. The fallen service member has not yet been identified.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: More breaking news. Pope Francis has broken his silence nearly a week after a disturbing grand jury report detailed decades of -- decade's long sexual abuse of more than 1,000 children in Pennsylvania by Catholic priests. The pope issued a letter to his faithful this morning. This is what he wrote. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it. These words of Saint Paul forcefully echo in my heart as I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons.

The pope goes on to say that most cases in the U.S. belong in the past, but the church failed to recognize the magnitude of the damage. Now, belong in the past is debatable here given that so many of the people who were involved and listed in this report from Pennsylvania exist very much in the presents. So that will be discussed no doubt going forward.

CAMEROTA: All right, listen to this story. There was this remarkable rescue at sea. A British woman fell off of a cruise ship and had to tread water for ten hours in the Adriatic Sea before she was finally saved by the Croatian Coast Guard. The 46-year-old woman went overboard from the Norwegian Star Cruise Liner and its travel to Venice on Saturday. She was rescued 60 miles off shore. She told reporters she is very lucky to be alive.


CAMEROTA: Yes, she is. And I'd like to hear more about what happened during those ten hours and how she stayed alive and how she fell overboard. I mean it doesn't usually end this well.

BERMAN: No, I mean she's very good at treading water. I think we can agree on that, 10 hours of treading water is a long time.

CAMEROTA: Well, the Adriatic Sea is actually very salty, so you float a lot. BERMAN: Oh, really?

CAMEROTA: Yes, it's extremely salty. And delicious seafood comes out of there. But I digress.

BERMAN: But how did she -- you don't just fall off of a cruise ship, at least my understanding of cruise ships. It never happened on "The Love Boat."

CAMEROTA: You shouldn't.



BERMAN: All right, we're going to get more information for you and bring it to you.

All right, so how concerned should the president be about what Don McGahn has told Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team in apparently 30 hours of conversations? We're going to ask a former Trump White House lawyer, next.


[06:36:22] BERMAN: There are new questions about just how extensively White House Counsel Don McGahn is cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. A source tells CNN that McGahn's attorney did not give the president's legal team a full debrief of the interviews. "The New York Times" report that those interviews lasted nearly 30 hours.

Joining me now is Jim Schultz. He's a former Trump White House lawyer, now a CNN legal commentator.

Jim, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

Was it a mistake for Don McGahn to speak and speak so extensively with the special counsel's team?

JAMES SCHULTZ, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: So at the outset I think it's important to note that this is not new news. We knew a long time ago, and the public knew a long time ago, that Don McGahn was going to speak with the special prosecutor's team. That is not something that this -- way back when there was a ton of reporting on this.

BERMAN: So, Jim -- so, Jim, I didn't ask -- I didn't ask (INAUDIBLE) whether it's new or old. The issue is, was it smart? Was it smart for Don McGahn to do this and do it as extensively as he did?

SCHULTZ: So this was a strategy employed by John Dowd at the time and Ty Cobb at the time, who was the president's lawyer handling the -- the government's lawyer, the White House's lawyer, handling the internal matter to the White House as it relates to Mueller. And this was part of their strategy. It was also a part of their strategy to turn over 1.4 million documents and make a lot of White House staff available to the special counsel in order to speed along this process.

Now, as it relates to speaking along the process, it's not wrapped up yet. So whether that was beneficial or not remains to be seen.

But I do believe that, no -- that, no, in terms of jeopardy to the president, I don't see the downside to having McGahn go in and talk with them.


SCHULTZ: And Dowd, you know, specifically said that McGahn was a strong witness.

BERMAN: Let me -- John Dowd did, in fact, say he was a strong witness for the president's case. The strategy is working, ask Rudy. That's what John Dowd says.

"The New York Times" is saying that the president's current legal team was surprised by the revelations in "The New York Times" that came out this weekend. You're saying they're not new. Even if they're not new, they apparently surprised the White House legal team so much so that the president was at Bedminster making all kinds of phone calls and at one point told Rudy Giuliani to issue a statement that the story was wrong. Giuliani didn't do that. So it may indicate that Giuliani didn't think this story was wrong.

And this isn't me questioning whether it was a smart strategy. I don't know. I have no idea whether it was smart or not. But I have read Sam Nunberg --


BERMAN: I have read Sam Nunberg, who's been with Steve -- Steve Bannon thinks it's a bad idea. Sam Nunberg tweeted this over the weekend about the president's former White House lawyer Ty Cobb, Ty Cobb is the worst lawyer on the planet, pathetic, dumb moron who voted for Hillary Clinton. And Chris Christie, another Republican close to the president, who was no slouch as a lawyer himself, said this.


CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: It put Don McGahn in an impossible situation because once you wave that privilege, you turn over all those documents, Don McGahn has no choice then but to go in and answer everything. Every question they can.

It's bad legal advice, bad lawyering, and this is the result of it.


BERMAN: So your response to Governor Christie?

SCHULTZ: So here's -- here's my response to that. One, we've seen a tightening down now with Emmet Flood in the White House in terms of what they're willing to turn over. There's become -- there's becoming more -- more and more pushback. We saw this related to John Kelly from the White House relating to their strategy. So there has been some shift in that.

But as to Governor Christie's comments, I think it's important to note that this is an executive agency turning over documents, executive level -- executive documents, and this is the White House turning over to an executive agency executive -- documenting that are subject to executive privilege. That doesn't necessarily mean that those documents go into a grand jury. That doesn't necessarily mean that those documents and those interviews go, you know, before Congress. They're still privileged. The president can still assert the privilege relative to that information, the executive privilege. I think that's important to note.

[06:40:24] BERMAN: I think it is important to note. I do also think it is important to note that both "The New York Times" and CNN reporting that they -- the White House did not get a full report of all the questions that Don McGahn was answered -- or asked in these interviews. That's just interesting. I guess we don't know what it means, having not been part of those 30 hours of interviews, but it must be unsettling for a legal team not to know everything that went on and to find out this late that it was so extensive.

I do want to get your take on something else that Rudy Giuliani said over the weekend when he really did seem to get completely wrong, the information that's been out there for more than a year about the Trump Tower meeting. Rudy Giuliani incorrectly claimed over the weekend that Donald Trump Junior did not know that this meeting to get dirt from the Russians on Hillary Clinton wasn't to be with a Russian lawyer. Listen one time to what Rudy Giuliani incorrectly said.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: The meeting was originally for the purpose of getting information about -- about Clinton. The meeting turned into a meeting that instead --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which in itself is attempted collusion. I under --

GIULIANI: No, it's not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just said it. The meeting was intended to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from a Kremlin lawyer.

GIULIANI: No, it wasn't. No, no, that's --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was the intention of the meeting. You just said it.

GIULIANI: That was the original intention of the meeting. It turned out to be a meeting about another subject. And it was not pursued at all. And, of course, any meeting with regard to getting information on your opponent is something any candidate's staff would take.


BERMAN: A key part of this fight, which we didn't play, was that Rudy Giuliani says, she didn't represent the Russian government. She's a private citizen. I don't even know if they knew she was Russian at the time. They did know she was Russian at the time because it the e-mail exchange to Donald Trump Junior it was said again and again, this Russian attorney, the Russian government attorney you'll be meeting with, right there. And another e-mail, would it be possible to move tomorrow's meeting to 4:00 p.m. as the Russian attorney.

So Rudy Giuliani is saying thing that's are not true here.

SCHULTZ: Well, I don't know whether he's saying they're true or not true or whether he had his facts right or not. That e-mail that you've put on the screen seems to show that there was a Russian government attorney. What that means and how that's interpreted, lawyers are going to argue about.

But -- but I really -- I mean I've said time and time again on this show and others that when Rudy Giuliani speaks, there needs to be some precision on it. There needs to be some -- some -- and it can't just be spin and that spin can't change day to day. It needs to be precise and he needs to be getting his facts right. It seems like every weekend there seems to be some issue that comes up where there's some imprecise nature in what he says. And that's a problem when you're speaking as the president's lawyer publically about issues that are relating to this investigation.

BERMAN: Jim Schultz, you have said that for some time. Thanks for saying it again this morning. Thanks so much for joining us. Really appreciate it.

SCHULTZ: Thanks.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: All right, there was a violent crash that it sent an Indy car flying through the air. We have an update on how that driver is doing there, next.


[06:47:54] BERMAN: Simone Biles making a statement at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships with her performance and apparently her wardrobe.

Andy Scholes has more in the "Bleacher Report."

Good morning, Andy.


Olympic Gold Medalist Simone Biles proving once again she's one of the most gifted gymnasts of all time, winning her fifth national title over the weekend. And this win meant a little more considering what's transpired in the gymnastics world over the past year.

You know, back in January, Biles revealed that she was one of the many victims of Larry Nassar. And after sweeping all four events to win the competition, Biles said she specially designed her teal leotard that she wore on Sunday seven months ago. Now, teal is the designated color for survivors of sexual abuse. And Biles said she wore the leotard for the survivors and that she stands with all of them.

USA Gymnastics, meanwhile, did not recognize or mention the survivors of Larry Nassar at the event.

All right, just a terrifying crash yesterday at ABC Supply 500 Indy car race. Robert Wickens tries to pass Ryan Hunter-Reay and their tires touch. Wickens going airborne, flying into the fence. Just a terrible crash. Wickens was airlifted to a nearby hospital. Indy car announcing Wickens suffered injuries to his lower extremities, right arm and spine, along with a pulmonary contusion. He's expected to undergo an MRI and have surgery. Others involved in the wreck, they're doing OK, but, Alisyn, we certainly wish Wickens well in his recovery.


SCHOLES: That's a terrible, terrible crash.

CAMEROTA: Oh, so scary to watch from all of those different angles. So, please, keep us posted and updated on his condition.

Andy, thank you very much.

SCHOLES: All right.

CAMEROTA: All right, up next, a bomb that killed 40 children in Yemen was supplied by the United States. We have a CNN exclusive report, next.


[06:53:27] CAMEROTA: OK, now to a CNN exclusive report.

A bomb used in an attack that killed dozens of children on a school bus in Yemen earlier this month was supplied to the Saudi-led coalition by the United States.

CNN's senior international correspondent Nima Elbagir is live in London with the exclusive details.

What have you learned, Nima?


Well, working with local contacts, we were able to, in the aftermath of the attack, receive footage of the shrapnel of the bomb. And that's what we worked to verify. But not only that, we were able to reach out to some of the families whose lives have been shattered by this bomb.

Take a look at this, Alisyn.


ELBAGIR (voice over): Every day Zaid Al Homran visits the graveyard where his two little boys are buried. Today, he brought their five year old brother along. He's all Zaid has left.

Zaid AL HOMRAN, OSAMA'S FATHER (through translator): People were screaming out the names of their children. I tried to tell the women it couldn't be true, but then a man ran through the crowd shouting that a plane had struck the children's bus.

ELBAGIR: On August 9th, Zaid's son Osama filmed his class on their long awaited school trip. A reward for graduating summer school. Within hours, and it had all gone horribly wrong.

A plane from the U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition struck a bus carrying them. Dozens died. Some of the bodies were so mutilated, identification became impossible. All that's left are the scraps of school books, warped metal and a single backpack.

[06:55:07] Eyewitnesses tell CNN this was a direct hit in the middle of a busy market.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I saw the bomb hit the bus. It blew it into those shops and threw bodies clear to the other side of those buildings. We found bodies scattered everywhere. There was a severed head inside the bomb crater.

ELBAGIR: This video of shrapnel was filmed in the aftermath of the attack and sent to CNN by a contact in Sada (ph). A cameraman working for CNN subsequently filmed these images for us. Munitions experts tell CNN this was a U.S. made Mark MK-82 bomb, weighing in at half a ton. The first five digits there are the cage number. The commercial and government entity number. This number here denotes Lockheed Martin, one of the top U.S. defense contractors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're at the forefront of the science that makes things (ph) real (ph).

ELBAGIR: This particular MK82 is a paveway (ph). A laser-guided precision bomb. It's targeting accuracy a particular point of pride for Lockheed Martin. Part of an arms deal with Saudi Arabia, sanctioned and contracted out by the U.S. government.

So why does this matter? Because the devastation inflicted by the MK82 is all too familiar in Yemen. In March 2016, a strike on a market using a similarly laser guided 2,000 pound MK84 killed 97 people. In October 2016, another strike on a funeral hall killed 155 people and wounded hundreds more. Then, the bus attack on August 9th, where they're still counting the dead.

The U.S. doesn't just sell arms to the coalition in its battle against the Iranian-backed rebel Houthi militias, it provide intelligence, help with targeting procedures, midair refueling. President Obama blocked the sales of precision-guided military technology to Saudi Arabia over human rights concerns.

Six months later, under the newly elected Trump administration, then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson overturned the ban.

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Look, there's a balance that needs to be struck. The president also noted that the Saudis have a right to defend themselves. They were being attacked from across the southern border by Houthis who were aided by Iran and were launching rockets and missiles.

What I would tell you is that we certainly had, under the Obama administration, deep concerns about the way the Saudis were targeting. And we acted on those concerns by limiting the kinds of munitions that they were being given. And stridently trying to argue for them to be more careful and cautious.

ELBAGIR: Saudi Arabia denies targeting civilians and defends the incident as a legitimate military operation and a retaliatory response to a Houthi ballistic missile from the day before.

When asked to comment on CNN's evidence, a coalition spokesperson Dukia Maliki (ph) told us the coalition is taking all practical measures to minimize civilian casualties. Every civilian casualty is a tragedy. Adding that it would not be appropriate for the coalition to comment further while the investigation is underway.

The U.S. wouldn't comment on the origins of the bomb, but the State Department is calling for a Saudi lead investigation which the U.S. defense secretary.

JIM MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Wars are always tragic, but we've got to find a way to protect innocent in the midst of this one.

ELBAGIR: Osama's cell phone footage is all that his father has left of the two boys. Their last happy moments.

Osama's father isn't optimistic that an investigation will change anything. In a country where loss has become commonplace, they aren't even praying for justice anymore, just peace.


ELBAGIR: U.S. lawmakers had already been clamoring for greater congressional oversight of these Saudi-U.S. arms deals. And the response to our reporting already, Alisyn, has been really extraordinary, both online and from lawmakers. It does seem that there are finally growing questions about what the long-term sustainability is of the status quo, not only in the war on Yemen, but also in the U.S.'s role in it.


CAMEROTA: Nima, this is just sickening and heartbreaking. And thank you very much for your important reporting on this.

ELBAGIR: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: And thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, CNN "TALK" is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Don McGahn has no choice but to go in and answer everything.

[07:00:03] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no way Trump will ever speak to Mueller since they don't know what McGahn said to Mueller.

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: We have a pretty good sense of it. And John Dowd yesterday said that McGahn was a strong witness to the president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The idea of allowing unfettered access