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Pope to Meet with Survivors; National Enquirer's Secret Safe; Browns and Eagles Quarterback Issues; Pecker Talks to Prosecutors; Conspiracy about Obama Administration. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired August 24, 2018 - 06:30   ET



[06:30:29] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Pope Francis heads to Ireland today to meet with survivors of sexual abuse by priests. As the scandal here in the U.S. continues over that massive cover-up for more than 300 predator priests in Pennsylvania alone.

CNN's Phil Black is live in Dublin with more.

What do we expect, Phil?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, good morning.

The pope will be flying into a country where the overwhelming view is the Catholic Church continues to act in its own interest, protecting itself instead of children and the victims of sexual abuse. This was always going to be a very difficult visit for the pope. A big test because there are so many people who have suffered and are suffering as a result of sexual abuse within the church.

And that report in Pennsylvania, which found that 1,000 children had been abused by hundreds of priests has only added to the expectation that the pope must act decisively, meaningfully, while he was here.

We've been speaking to victims of abuse. Their stories are truly harrowing. And their view is that while they accept the pope has written a very fulsome, clear and, in many ways, unprecedented apology, what they want is more than that. They are demanding action. They want a global policy of zero tolerance to be enforced by the Catholic Church. They want accountability for abusers and those who try to protect them.

The pope will still be greeted by big crowds here, hundreds of thousands of people, but he is also going to be met by some pretty big protest crowds as well. If he fails to deliver on what people here are asking and demanding, he will be viewed to have failed in dealing with this issue.

Dave -- sorry, John, back to you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Phil, I appreciate it. High expectations for the pope as he heads to Ireland. Will he meet them? That's the big question. Big political news coming out of Australia. Australia has ousted its prime minister, voting in its fifth leader in just over five years. Treasurer Scott Morrison will take over after Malcolm Turnbull was forced out by his rivals in the governing liberal party. Morrison is the architect of Australia's hard line policies against refugees and asylum seekers.

CAMEROTA: OK, so President Trump's longtime friend, David Pecker of "The National Enquirer," is getting immunity from the feds. So we take a closer look at the details of that relationship, next.


[06:36:44] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: "The National Enquirer" did a story. They actually have a very good record of being right.

I've always said, why didn't "The National Enquirer" get the Pulitzer Prize for Edwards and O.J. Simpson and all of these things.

Because, I mean, you can't knock "The National Enquirer," it's brought many -- many things to light, not all of them pleasant.


CAMEROTA: Well, President Trump may feel differently now that his long-time friend, David Pecker, publisher of "The National Enquirer, has reportedly been granted immunity and has corroborated Michael Cohen's claims that the president knew about that hush money payment to Stormy Daniels and to Karen McDougal. "The Associated Press" also reports that "The National Enquirer" kept a safe of secrets containing damaging documents about the president.

Joining us now is Stu Zakim. He's the former senior vice president of corporate communications at American Media Inc., which owns "The National Enquirer."

Stu, great to have you here.


CAMEROTA: What did you all keep in that safe?

ZAKIM: If only we knew.

CAMEROTA: Did you know there was a safe?

ZAKIM: No, I didn't know that there was, but it's not surprising because if you think what -- how the company operations, I mean you have information about someone that you can leverage to get them to do something you what to do. Now, AMI has a lot of magazines and they need -- they sell -- you sell on newsstands when you have celebrities on the cover.

CAMEROTA: Yes. ZAKIM: So you can imagine the -- the leverage you have, is you have something -- "The Enquirer" has something that you can use to get someone to do something on one of your other titles.

CAMEROTA: What do you imagine is in that safe? What does that mean there are secrets in the safe?

ZAKIM: Oh, well, once again, I have no idea. But one can only imagine there are secrets of lots of people because this is not the only time catch and kill has happened with Trump. It's been going on pretty much since Pecker owned "The Enquirer."

CAMEROTA: So, I mean what -- what -- according to the AP, it's things like damaging stories, documentation of that, documentation of hush money, and, by the way, they now report that things in that safe have disappeared?

ZAKIM: Well, you know, listen -- we are talking about a publication that has made it's career, its legend based on making things disappear or appear, depending on what they think of the story. You know, I mean, "The Enquirer" has always been known as the home of fake news. So if they wanted to take something out of the vault and use it or not, that was their prerogative. But, once again, I really don't know what's in that vault.

CAMEROTA: But when you were there, for the years that you were there --

ZAKIM: Right.

CAMEROTA: Did you know that stories about Donald Trump, negative stories about Donald Trump, were being killed?

ZAKIM: No, I really actually didn't know that. But, once again, since he was a friend of David Pecker's, it's logical to assume that, yes, there were.

CAMEROTA: When you were there, did you have any dealings with Michael Cohen?

ZAKIM: No, not at all.

CAMEROTA: Any dealings with Donald Trump?

ZAKIM: Only at events. You know, he would come to events and I would see him there. But, one on one, absolutely not.

CAMEROTA: But you were aware that David Pecker and Donald Trump were good friends.

ZAKIM: Oh, of course.

CAMEROTA: That was common knowledge.

ZAKIM: That was common knowledge, had been around for a while.

CAMEROTA: So why would Donald Trump's good friend David Pecker flip on Donald Trump, to use the vernacular of Donald Trump?

ZAKIM: Well, you said David Pecker's good friend. Well, there's no friends of David Pecker. David Pecker's only friend is himself. And what survives -- makes him survive all these years is when things -- push comes to shove it's about him. Friendship and loyalty go by the wayside and he's a businessman at the end of the day and I think a lot of these decisions, perhaps this one about cooperating with the prosecutors, is predicated on the fact that it's good -- better for his business because the story about him will end once he testifies. If he doesn't testify, it goes on. The story maintains itself.

[06:40:12] So, once again, as a crisis communications counselor, I would have given that same counsel.

CAMEROTA: You would have said, accept immunity.

ZAKIM: Take it. Let's end the story cycle. It could live on forever if you keep avoiding the subpoena, it's going to be a mystery. Why are you doing it?

CAMEROTA: Yes, but if you accept immunity, then you spill all your secrets, and that also juices the story. I mean, why did he accept it? He didn't have to. He refused to cooperate with the congressional committees who wanted to know what he knew. So why is he willing to spill his secrets now?

ZAKIM: Well, once again, I think it's about what's important to David Pecker is David Pecker. And why should he go to jail on behalf of Donald Trump?

CAMEROTA: But what did he do wrong? Why would he go to jail? What -- what is it he's --

ZAKIM: Once again, I'm not an attorney, but what I've -- what I've been reading --

CAMEROTA: What do you -- what do you -- you have (INAUDIBLE) there. What do you think he did wrong?

ZAKIM: I don't think he -- well, according to (INAUDIBLE), he violated campaign contributions. Now, once again, I'm not an attorney or a specialist in that. But if they concede that the monies that were paid to Karen McDougal were not just to take -- buy her story, but were used, as we've been hearing, to influence the election, it's a different story.

But, once again, media is to only influence public opinion. So, to your point, I don't know necessarily if he did anything wrong except that he was aligned with somebody like Donald Trump. And that makes the story a lot more salacious. And you take the combination of "The Enquirer" and all this stuff we know about Trump, it's -- it's irresistible.

CAMEROTA: Well, it -- there's certainly a lot of juice there.

Here's what Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to. And, you're right, it does implicate "The National Enquirer." Here it is. Corporation number one, aka American Media, aka "National Enquirer," advised Michael Cohen, the defendant, of negative stories during the course of the campaign and Cohen, with the assistance of American Media, aka "National Enquirer," was able to arrange for the purchase of two stories so as to suppress them and prevent them from influencing the election. Michael Cohen, the defendant, knowingly and willfully caused a corporation to make contribution an expenditure aggregating $25,000 or more during the 2016 calendar years to the campaign of a candidate for the president of the United States.

Were you surprised that Michael Cohen pleaded guilty?

ZAKIM: No. I mean we -- I think, as we've been seeing throughout this whole process, Cohen is also a survivor and into self-protection. So why would he go to jail for the long term when he can make a deal and shorten that when he -- for his own purpose.

And, listen, I can't speak for him, but common sense makes you think that way.

CAMEROTA: Stu Zakim, thank you for sharing with us what the experience was at "The National Enquirer."

ZAKIM: Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Great to talk to you.

ZAKIM: Thank you.


BERMAN: Preseason scare for the Browns and their two top quarterbacks. More in the "Bleacher Report," next.


[06:46:47] BERMAN: The Browns and Eagles fans didn't have much to cheer about in last night's pre-season game.

Lindsay Czarniak has more in the "Bleacher Report."



And I'm convinced that probably the most interesting thing that happened last night was really before the game, in fact. I remember being on the field last winter when the Eagles were celebrating their Super Bowl win under back-up quarterback Nick Foles and thinking how weird it's going to be when starter Carson Wentz is back. But fans, they're ready. And Wentz didn't play last night, but he did give those fans reason to be excited. Look at this. He looked pretty good in his pre-game workout. He was moving around on that surgically repaired knee. Philly fans certainly hoping that he's going to be ready to be the starter week one. Maybe another Super Bowl run? I don't know.

The Browns gave reason to think, though, that they're not going to be awful --

BERMAN: Which is a high bar.

CZARNIAK: That is a high bar. They had injury scares, though, last night. Starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor, he hurt his left wrist in the first quarter when he fell out of bounds. Taylor left the game for a couple of series, but he came back. He will go under more tests today. Cleveland's backup didn't do much better. The number one draft pick, Baker Mayfield, he started the second half --


CZARNIAK: Yes, but he left the game after colliding with a teammate. He was checked for a concussion.


CZARNIAK: Yes, that's bad. He was cleared, though, to return by doctors, but he did not go back in. It was a precaution.

Cleveland won. It was an ugly game. It was more like a baseball game, 5-0, right, when you hear something like that. But that was that and so Cleveland, we hope they do improve.

The Texas Longhorns have a few extra scholarships heading the season. They decided that one should go into a walk-on senior defensive back (ph) Jarmarquis Durst. He was in the middle of giving a presentation about a humanitarian trip he took to Jamaica when he was given the news. And look at the reaction from his teammates.


JARMARQUIS DURST: I wasn't supposed to be (INAUDIBLE) in front of you all. (INAUDIBLE) people wrote me off. They wrote me off. Just to be here, I'm so thankful. I'm thankful for these fans and I'm thankful for everybody in here. You all -- you all gave (ph) me love (INAUDIBLE).


CZARNIAK: This is such a great story. He's a Houston native. He started his football career at a D2 school in Texas. He transferred as a walk on. I mean talk about believing in yourself, right, and not giving up. Awesome. His junior year.

BERMAN: That reaction was phenomenal.


BERMAN: There's so many awful stories right now out of college football and sports.


BERMAN: It's so nice to see a good story.

CZARNIAK: Right. And --

CAMEROTA: Seeing how supportive they were.

CZARNIAK: (INAUDIBLE) supported. He was not expecting that in the least, right? So it was so cool. Now he goes into his senior year and it's all -- it's all good.

BERMAN: Lindsay Czarniak, thanks so much.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Lindsay.

CZARNIAK: Thanks, guys.

CAMEROTA: OK, so there's this conspiracy theory about the Obama administration that has been circulating through the Trump administration. Journalist Ronan Farrow is going to join us next with his new report.


[06:53:44] BERMAN: Another one-time ally of President Trump seems to be turning on him. David Pecker is the publisher of "The National Enquirer." He's become the latest to speak to federal prosecutors. And "The Wall Street Journal" reports, along with "Vanity Fair," that Pecker's been granted immunity and that he told prosecutors what he knows about the hush money payments made to women alleging they had affairs with the president. And according to these stories, Pecker says that President Trump knew about the payments.

And joining me now is contributing writer for "The New Yorker" Ronan Farrow.

Ronan, you're a man of many scoops, let's establish that right now.


BERMAN: I want to talk about your old scoop before I talk about the new scoop because you wrote months and months ago about "The Enquirer's" practice of catch and kill. You know, buying stories and then burying them, particularly how it relates to now President Trump.

The news that David Pecker, the publisher here, got immunity, why is that significant?

FARROW: So this was a pattern, very clearly. They were paying money to identify, sometimes to investigate, and then to kill stories, as you said. You know, there was a case when they paid Karen McDougal, who alleged she had an affair with Donald Trump that I reported on, to silence here. There was a case where they paid a doorman at the Trump Organization to silence a story that he wanted to tell about an alleged affair and a love child that had supposedly resulted from it.

[06:55:06] The interesting thing about this patter from the beginning was that it clearly put AMI, the parent company of "The National Enquirer," in legal jeopardy. We were talking to election law experts from the beginning who said, hey, given the proximity to the election, the close relationship between Pecker and Trump, and the seeming intent to influence the election, this could get them in hot water. So it's not terribly surprising to hear that there's this immunity deal because this is a situation where prosecutors likely had a lot they could hold over Pecker.

BERMAN: What was the nature of the relationship between David Pecker and the president?

FARROW: So we had talked to, over the course of those stories that I did, you know, dozens of AMI employees who said they were really close. There was this transactional arrangement where Pecker would identify stories to be killed for Trump. Now, we know much more explicitly now from the charging documents in the Michael Cohen case that that is exactly what was happening, that there was actually a formal arrangement, and that Michael Cohen would liaise with Pecker to identify these stories and to make sure they didn't show up in the news.

BERMAN: So there may be theoretically, hypothetically, more out there than the two stories we know about?

FARROW: You know, I will stick to the ones that I've reported about, but certainly this was a pattern.

BERMAN: You also aren't surprised by this AP report that there was a safe -- a safe with secrets about the now president of the United States and presumably about other celebrities as well.

FARROW: A lot of the employees at "The Enquirer" knew about this safe. Some of the documents, like that arrangement with the doorman that I just mentioned, actually resided in that safe for a while. It was a physical, old safe that was just in someone's office there.

BERMAN: It's almost cliche. I mean I was joking with Alisyn that if she wrote about this, no one would believe here. There's an old safe where they kept stuff?

FARROW: Yes, that's exactly right.

BERMAN: And if you're -- if you're a federal prosecutor, you know, just giant alarm bells must be going off right there.

FARROW: Yes. And, look, there are protections under the First Amendment for news outlets and their decisions whether to run stories or not. But there are also exemptions to those protections if an organization isn't acting in a journalistic capacity. And I think prosecutors probably had a pretty fair case given "The Enquirer's" track record on this to argument that they weren't acting as a journalistic organization.

BERMAN: All right. So let's flip to the new scoop out from "The New Yorker" just over the last 24 hours. And this has to do with a memo that apparently was circulating inside the West Wing from the Trump administration alleging some kind of operation by former Obama officials called the echo chamber. Explain exactly what's going on here. FARROW: The idea of the echo chamber had roots in the conservative press, far right news outlets, like Breitbart trotted this out over the course of 2016 and 2017. And the concept is that Ben Rhodes and other former Obama aides had a relationship with allied journalists where they would swing coverage against Donald Trump, particularly on foreign policy issues. Now, of course, there are former officials who talk to the press and who have criticized this administration, but this memo takes it to such an extreme, John. It says that these are basically, in effect, enemy combatants. They are analyzing this memo like a foreign set of terrorists would be. It talks about a war room. It talks about an opt (ph) center. And all of that is a sort of mythical conspiracy theory. So it's striking to see this distributed at very high levels in the White House.

BERMAN: The memo, which you published, it is extraordinary. There's nothing metaphorical about it or ironic. It's actually saying there is a physical organization to take down the Trump administration.

FARROW: That's right. And it's been troubling to a lot of people to see the National Security Council and the White House devoting time and energy to circulating a memo that seems to indulge in these conspiracy theories.

BERMAN: And it looks like some of the information that's put out by another organization, which you've done another amount of reporting for yet another scoop, Black Cube (ph), which is this Israeli private investigating firm that may have done research on Obama officials about the Iran deal, may have done some work for Harvey Weinstein before. What's their role in this?

FARROW: So Black Cube is this private intelligence firm in Israeli. They did do work for Harvey Weinstein. It secretly recorded women and tracked women and used false identities and front companies to go after them. In a very unusual turn of events, they were doing a similar operation aimed at undermining former Obama officials who were proponents of the Iran deal. They were using, again, false identities, front companies, going after these people's wives, doing sexual blackmail on them.

Now, what's interesting is that the internal documents used by this private investigation firm use exactly the same concepts and language as this memo that's circulating in the White House.

BERMAN: They have a statement (INAUDIBLE) say Black Cube does not get involved with politics. It says it has no relation whatsoever to the Trump administration, to Trump aides, and it goes on there.

Ronan Farrow, thanks so much for being with us. I have to say, it's eerie how much all of your work is involved in so many of the stories that we're dealing with right now. So, congratulations on all this (ph).

FARROW: They're all connected. A pleasure to be here.

BERMAN: Thanks, Ronan, appreciate it.

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


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When it comes to David Pecker, the most important thing to him is business. It supersedes friendship.

[07:00:02] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Enquirer was an organ of support for Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president has said that he has not lied --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president is an unindicted coconspirator.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Republican majority ought to be pursuing the truth.