Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Goes on Attack as Legal Troubles Mount & Doorman Claims Affair Produced Child; Feud Between Trump and Sessions Escalates; Pope Speaks of "Pain and Shame" of Clergy Sex Abuse; Paul Manafort Found Guilty & Facing Another Trial in D.C.; YouTuber Causes Accident in San Diego Leaving Him, Mother & Daughter Dead; FOX News Accuses Trump of Lying; Controversy over Closing African-American Polling Stations in Georgia Aired 1-2p ET

Aired August 25, 2018 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[13:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: That meeting is at the crux of the Mueller investigation into possible campaign collusion. Even the personal attorney is weighing in. Rudy Giuliani tweeting that, "If Mueller wants to prove he's nonpartisan, he should finish his report ahead of the midterm elections."

CNN White House reporter, Sarah Westwood, joins me right now.

The president clearly is upset.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Fred, President Trump has spent this morning fuming over the Russian investigation and he's facing yet another legal complication after enduring a week of them. His former doorman is claiming to have knowledge of an affair President Trump had years ago with his former housekeeper. He's now claiming that relationship produced a child.

Although we first heard about the existence of these allegations in April, we're only now learning of details of this alleged affair because he is now released from a confidentiality agreement of sorts that he entered into with the parent company of the "National Enquirer." That's the American Media Inc, headed by David Pecker, a personal friend of Trump. Pecker was recently granted immunity in the Mueller investigation. That's obviously something that could add yet another wrinkle to the troubles Trump is facing on the legal front as Trump and Pecker were good friends.

And the implication of this development is perhaps more important than the allegations itself. Because it raises the question of how many other people with damaging allegations against Trump were paid by AMI in 2016. We now know of three different individuals who were paid to suppress their damaging allegations against Trump during the 2016 election. Two of those stories, Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's former attorney, was directly related to and admitted to prosecutors he helped pay those women during the 2016 election -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: Sarah Westwood, at the White House, thank you.

So this feud between President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, well, it's escalating. The president now responding to Sessions' pushback this week that the Department of Justice will not be influenced by politics. Trump writing this: "Jeff Sessions said he would not allow politics to influence him only because he doesn't understand what is happening underneath his command position. Highly conflicted Bob Mueller and his gang of 17 angry Dems are having a field day as real corruption goes untouched. No collusion."

CNN politics reporter, Jeremy Herb, joining us right now.

So this feud escalating this week, what does the future hold potentially for Sessions?

JEREMY HERB, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: I think the latest attacks, the escalating attacks we have seen from the president this week show he would like to get rid of his attorney general. Politically, though for now, it's not a real plausible scenario. And that's because if this president were to fire Sessions, it would be the Senate that would have to confirm his replacement or else Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Special Counsel Mueller would be in charge.

Now, we ask the Senators, Republican Senators, again this week, following these latest attacks, would you support Sessions, would you be able to confirm a new nominee. And many key Republicans said no, we cannot confirm anyone to replace Sessions if he were to be fired in this climate.

But there have been some key defections from that. Notably Lindsey Graham, one of the president's defenders, said that, after the midterms, he could see a scenario where it would be acceptable for the president to bring in a new attorney general. So I think that's a shift now we're going to watch to see where Sessions' fate lands.

WHITFIELD: That was a big shift in just, you know, a few months' time.

The president threatened once again this morning that he may at some point have to get involved with the FBI. We've heard this several times over the past few months. Here's what he said on his angry rant to FOX News back in April.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (voice-over): You look at the corruption at the top of the FBI. It's a disgrace. And our Justice Department, which I try and stay away from, but at some point, I won't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: And then one month later, he made a similar threat about the Justice Department, saying, and I'm quoting now, "At some point I will have no choice but to use the powers granted to the presidency and get involved." Then in June, he wrote, "I have tried to stay uninvolved with the Department of Justice and FBI, although I did not legally have to."

What is he, I guess, sign posting here? HERB: We keep hearing, at some point, that he's going to take this

action or he could take this action. And the question, of course, is, where is that line? This week, we saw the investigation get closer and closer to the president. We had the guilty verdict against Paul Manafort, the guilty plea, most notably, from his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, and so far, we haven't seen him take any actions beyond these comments, beyond these tweets. It's absolutely something I think everyone in Washington is watching for.

We have heard from Republicans that say if he were to do this, would be a threat to his presidency. A potential impeachment from the obstruction of justice. Until he takes the step, it is a hypothetical question.

WHITFIELD: Jeremy Herb, thank you so much.

All right, let's talk a little bit more about this. Former U.S. Attorney Greg Brower with me now, and former associate White House counsel under George W. Bush administration, Jameel Jaffer.

Good to see you both.

Greg, you first.

CNN is reported the president is fuming over his feud with Sessions but he's worried about Mueller's reaction if he were to fire Sessions. So what would be some of the possible problems if the president were to fire Sessions?

[13:05:24] GREG BROWER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: You know, the potential problems with the president firing the attorney general are too numerous to mention in a few minutes on the air here today. His recent rants really are bizarre. And I will tell you this, I've worked with the attorney general, with the deputy attorney general, with the FBI director, and I would tell you two things I know for sure about those three men. One is that they are absolutely committed to defending the integrity of the Department of Justice and protecting it against attacks like this. And secondly, they are also absolutely committed to defending and upholding the rule of law. So I think what we saw this week from the attorney general was a commitment to that. I have no doubt he will continue, as will Rosenstein and Wray, to push back at any efforts at interjecting politics into what the DOJ and FBI do.

WHITFIELD: Jameel, while the president may want to get rid of the problem, you know, and the problem is Sessions, that would only bring on a bigger problem, no?

JAMEEL JAFFER, FORMER ASSOCIATE WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I think that's exactly it, Fredricka. The problem here is the president has complete control of the Justice Department. If he wanted to fire Jeff Sessions, he could. He knows politically it's not viable. He's sitting over there almost like a 13-year-old kid, tweeting at him, attacking him, undermining the Justice Department, undermining all these terrific career prosecutors. I mean, look, Jeff Sessions, Noel Francisco, Rod Rosenstein, these are all conservatives and the president's going after Jeff Sessions by name. I mean, it's outrageous.

WHITFIELD: Right, but he keeps doing it and it seems like it's -- I mean, it's the prelude to something else perhaps, Greg. You know, Jeff Sessions doesn't appear as though he's going to just quit. I mean, what is the goal for the president if he's not going to, you know, eliminate him? Is it just to kind of get a consensus out there?

BROWER: As Jameel said, the president has the power to fire all of the individuals that Jameel just listed. And the fact that the president doesn't, I guess suggest that he either doesn't have the guts to do so and/or he is simply trying to play to his base and prepare the battlefield, if you will, to be able to criticize whatever comes out of the Mueller investigation when it is finally completed. But it is unprecedented to say the least for the chief executive to do this sort of -- engage in this sort of criticism of his top DOJ and FBI leaders. It makes no sense.

WHITFIELD: At the same time, we've seen some sort of evolution of some consensus, namely Senator Graham, who last year said if Sessions were removed, there would be "holy hell to pay," I'm quoting him. But now he's saying something very different. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Clearly, Attorney General Sessions doesn't have the confidence of the president. That's an important office in the country. And they're -- I think there will be some serious discussions about a new attorney general.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Jameel, what's different?

JAFFER: Well, look, obviously, Senator Graham is right, the president can and should have an attorney general he can rely upon and trust. It's one of his closest advisers. That being said, you can't go after the attorney general because you don't like how the investigation is going. Every time the president has gone after Jeff Sessions, is because some bad news for him has broken in this investigation. That's what makes it problematic for the president.

WHITFIELD: Greg?

BROWER: Yes. This was surprising to hear from Senator Graham who's friendly with the attorney general. I've heard that Senator Graham is now trying to walk it back in some sense by saying, well, look, I'm simply saying these things to try to talk the president down from taking action now. But of course, with friends like that, who needs enemies? It was a very surprising turn of events.

WHITFIELD: And now you've got two close Trump allies who have been granted immunity to talk. And, you know, one would wonder, Jameel, what's the immunity and what would, you know, these folks have to hide or protect themselves from in order to get immunity in exchange for information that investigators want? [13:10:53] JAFFER: Well, look, with the Michael Cohen plea deal,

clearly the Justice Department has shown they think they can bring charges against somebody for improper campaign contributions based on these payoffs. David Pecker may feel like he has potential liability if he doesn't cooperate. That's with respect to him. With respect to the CFO of the Trump Organization, who appears to be given immunity also, he was deep in the finances. If there's a problem in the finances, he's right in the middle of it. If he's looking out for himself, that's obviously going to be a challenge for the president also going forward.

WHITFIELD: And, Greg, namely talking about Weisselberg and Pecker, you know, since they're the latest, and they're also both very close to the president long term. What would the president's worries be now?

BROWER: Well, he should be very worried in my experience. These are two men who know an awful lot about the president's business and other activities over the last decades. And the fact that they've been immunized now means that they will be compelled to testify, have every incentive to testify and share what they know of the government. And that cannot be a positive development for the president and his inner circle.

WHITFIELD: And to be immunized doesn't mean it's a fishing expedition. These investigators already know or have great value in these two characters before even extending immunity, right?

BROWER: Yes, typically, the way it works, the investigators will believe that these witnesses have something to offer. Good defense counsel for these witnesses will tell the government, look, we're happy to cooperate, but we need immunity. Even if it's not clear their clients would necessarily be charged with anything, a good defense counsel will want to line up immunity agreements so as to free their clients to be able to freely cooperate with the government. If the government isn't interested in charging them anyways, it's a free thing for the government to offer. It benefits both sides and will certainly help the investigation.

WHITFIELD: Greg Brower, Jameel Jaffer, good to see you both. Thanks so much.

Still ahead, as some of the president's closest confidants flip on him, so are some anchors on his favorite news channel.

And the pope making a historic visit to Ireland, a country with one of the highest Catholic populations in the world. But the visit is overshadowed amid a child sex-abuse scandal in the church.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:16:30] WHITFIELD: Right now, Pope Francis continues his historic visit to Ireland. It's the first time the pope has visited the country in nearly four decades. He arrives as the country is reeling from a sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. This morning, Pope Francis addressed the issue, speaking at a Dublin

castle. The pope offering sympathy for the victims of sex abuse carried out by clergy, and an apology for the cover-up by Catholic leaders.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POPE FRANCIS (through translation): The failure of the ecclesiastical authorities, the failure to adequately address these appalling crimes has given rise to a rage that remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community. I, myself, share those sentiments.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: CNN's Phil Black is in Dublin.

Phil, how is the pope and his visit impacting people there?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, in the words of one child abuse victim, sexual abuse victim, a woman who's gone on to be an activist, she said it was disappointing. There was nothing new in it. And she's right. He spoke about the shame, the criminal appalling behavior of priests, the failure of the church to deal with this properly, and the righteous outrage of the community because of all this. We have heard all of that before. And the view very much here, from people across Ireland, from victims of sexual abuse, even from the prime minister of Ireland, who spoke just before the pope, what they want to see now is actions. Actions from the church in how they're going to deal with this issue a concrete, definite way. An action plan, if you like, one that guarantees children will be protected. And those abusers will be guaranteed accountability and punishment for them. That's the sort of system, that's the concrete measure they're looking to the pope to implement in the global Catholic Church. That's what they're hoping he'll touch on at some point during his visit here, but he hasn't so far.

So he spoke in a limited way on another occasion a little later in the day. He sat in a chair in a church and prayed before one single candle. That candle represents all the victims of clerical sexual abuse and other cruelties inflicted by Catholic institutions here. One candle, so many victims, so much suffering. It was a poignant moment. It was very symbolic. But the people in the country are looking for more than just symbolism from this pope on this visit -- Fredricka?

[13:19:16] WHITFIELD: Phil Black, in Dublin, thank you.

Coming up, it's just a jacket, so why is the special counsel so adamant about getting it into evidence in the next Paul Manafort trial? How much of a role could it really play in the outcome? We'll try to get some answers, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: President Trump's legal landscape has certainly turned from bad to worse. In a week that saw some of his closest allies turn on him, one was convicted of serious crimes. Former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was found guilty of eight felonies related to tax and bank fraud. And with another trial slated to start in just a few weeks, this could be just the beginning for Manafort's troubles.

Joining me right now, from Cleveland, civil rights attorney, Avery Friedman, and from Las Vegas, Richard Herman, a New York criminal defense attorney.

Good to see you both.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Avery, prosecutors say they have at least 2,100 pieces of evidence from Manafort's next trial, which will be in D.C., five times the amount presented in the Virginia proceedings, which did bring some convictions. What does that tell you on, will this be kind of a rinse and repeat or does this just mean it's including but a very different route?

[13:25:04] AVERY FRIEDMAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY & LAW PROFESSOR: Well, believe it or not, when you compare what went on in northern Virginia earlier this week when that jury came back, that is minor league compared to what's coming up in the federal district court in the District of Columbia. They had 800 pieces of evidence in Virginia. In D.C., they have enormous, thousands of documents, and we go from ostrich jackets to oligarchs. We're dealing with failure to register as a foreign agent. We're dealing with serious crimes. In comparison, if you look at what happened this past week and you see what's coming up on the 21st of September, holy smokes, Mr. Manafort has huge problems.

WHITFIELD: So, Richard, do you see, you know, the Virginia case was a warm-up to what may unfold in D.C.? We're talking about conspiracy against in the U.S., failing to register as a lobbyist, among other things.

RICHARD HERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY & LAW PROFESSOR: Yes, Fred, it gave you insight into just how efficient the Mueller investigation is. I mean, they were jumping for joy and declaring victory because there were 10 hung counts. But there was one lone holdout juror.

FRIEDMAN: That's right, that's right.

HERMAN: So I would expect those counts get tried because it goes toward the pressure they want to put on Manafort. The next trial takes place in a jurisdiction, Fred, where Trump won less than 7 percent of the vote. This jury will not be sympathetic to him. They will convict him, Fred. The case is pretty much black and white, like the first case was. He'll be facing probably 100 years when he gets convicted there. He's facing a minimum of 30 right now.

FRIEDMAN: Right.

HERMAN: And the thing with the pardoning, Fred, is this. It's interesting. Yes, the president has the power to pardon. It may be an abuse of power. It may be obstruction by the president. But he can do it. When you get convicted of federal tax crimes and federal tax fraud, that means you committed state tax fraud. When the state prosecutes you for state tax fraud, that cannot be pardoned.

(CROSSTALK)

HERMAN: He's in a world of trouble, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Yes, only on the federal level.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: While the president hasn't necessarily said he's going to do it, he just simply has left the door open, right, you know, Avery, by praising Manafort and saying, you know, he hasn't done anything that's anything unlike a lot of other people who have done stuff, lobbyists, et cetera.

(CROSSTAL)

FRIEDMAN: Think about this, Fredricka. He talked about the trial in northern Virginia against Manafort as a, quote, "hoax." Well, my goodness, gracious, you had literally all 18. In fact, it's very possible you could see a retrial of the remaining ones, given the fact it was one hold out. But if that's a hoax, and you have this enormous trial coming up in Washington, D.C., goodness gracious, there's nothing that even gets close to the question of a hoax. And the questionable pardon, again, we're doing legal analysis. That's a serious political problem. Legally, he can do it politically. At least, the politicos say that would be political suicide.

WHITFIELD: And then, Richard, why will there be a repeat of some of the evidence that, you know, really kind of puts a microscope to the lavish living, you know, of Paul Manafort? We're talking about conspiracy. We're talking about, you know, lobbying, you know, and being too cozy with, you know, foreign countries while doing so. Why does the ostrich jacket or the snake skin, you know, items, why is that relevant?

HERMAN: These are financial crimes, Fred. When you try to hide and evade reporting requirements and hide money from the Internal Revenue Service, people take that very serious. The federal sentencing guidelines are not kind to people who commit crimes like this where the dollar amounts are astronomical. Someone in a white-collar fraud case can get sentenced to more time than someone who walks down the street and shoots someone intentionally.

FREIDMAN: That's right, that's right.

HERMAN: It's out of control. The federal sentencing guidelines are very harsh. When they try to rile up the jury and show the guy was out of control with lavish expenses, you know, that was a little smoke and mirrors, but it worked. And they saw it. It was really black and white, the first case. They didn't need to put Gates on the stand to get a conviction. They probably won't use Gates in the next trial --

FRIEDMAN: That's right. And they're going to -- (CROSSTALK)

HERMAN: I'm sorry. Just Mueller is so efficient, Fred, and that's what should scare the hell out of Trump right now, how efficient they are. And his circle is closing in on him. Weisselberg went down this week with immunity.

(CROSSTALK)

FRIEDMAN: That's critical, that's right --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Avery, what does this say to you about the efficiency, proficiency, of the Mueller probe?

HERMAN: Right.

WHITFIELD: That, you know, the first Virginia trial would have some convictions, but then, of course, some, you know, hung decisions, and then, now, you've got this D.C. case.

HERMAN: Right.

WHITFIELD: Is there any way into, you know, looking at the overall probe by example of these two cases?

[13:30:07] FRIEDMAN: Well, I think what we've learned and what everyone expected to see, Fredricka, was a methodical, careful prosecution. I'm not convinced we're smoke and mirrors. I think it was basically very straight forward. I think that's what we're going to see. Again, registering as a foreign agent, failing to do that, and the reasons or motives behind not doing that will surface. That's why I think the case coming up in September is so enormous. And, frankly, you really wonder what on earth is going to happen with all these people now coming out, especially Allen Weissenberg. One cannot underestimate the power of the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization appearing before a grand jury. That is bigger than Michael Cohen. It is bigger than any of the other witnesses. Bottom line, much is going to come out and I think we're going to see it in September.

HERMAN: And, Fred, look --

WHITFIELD: WHITFIELD: We'll see if the defense handles it any differently. Manafort didn't take the stand.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: And nor did it -- you know, the defense produce any witnesses.

(CROSSTALK)

HERMAN: Fred, Weisselberg is going to know the sourcing of the funds. That's the million-dollar question, the sourcing of the funds. You can pay off people with side agreements to keep quiet about relationships. You can pay off magazines to hush people. But if the source of funds are campaign funds or Russian money laundering, you got a big problem.

(CROSSTALK)

HERMAN: If it's Trump's own money, you have no problem.

WHITFIELD: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

HERMAN: Weisselberg knows, Fred, that's why they got him.

WHITFIELD: Richard Herman, Avery Friedman, always good to see you. Thank you so much.

HERMAN: Good to see you.

FRIEDMAN: And we agree.

WHITFIELD: I know, there was agreement there, astounding.

Look, I think everyone would agree this is a sizable crowd right here. Live pictures out of Dublin, Ireland. Pope Francis is there. He was at a church service earlier today. Some described the crowds outside were not that impressive. But now you're seeing there's a collective body of people at the stadium where 70,000 are expected. We'll continue to watch this and bring you more live information, coverage, images, as soon as the pope arrives.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:36:50] WHITFIELD: We're learning more about a tragic car accident that left three people dead, including a mother and her daughter. Police say a YouTube star known as McSkillet Trevor Heitmann was driving at a high rate of speed in the wrong direction on a San Diego highway when he crashed head on into an SUV, killing a mother and her 12-year-old daughter. Heitmann also died. The incident causing a series of collisions.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is following the story for us.

Polo, what's the latest?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, Heitmann, as you mentioned, among the three people killed in the crash. He's known online as McSkillet, has about 900,000 followers or so because of his YouTube show. Very popular among the gaming community. He now confirmed among the dead by San Diego County medical examiner's office.

The California State Highway Patrol says that he was driving in this luxury sports car, 100 miles an hour, in the -- against traffic, driving against traffic there when he collided with an SUV. Aboard that SUV was this mother and daughter. Authorities not confirming the identities of them yet. CNN actively working to confirm that information. But again, police have now confirmed the deaths of those three people, the two occupants of the SUV and also this YouTuber who was believed to have been driving that sports car.

WHITFIELD: So, now, this wasn't the only accident that McSkillet was allegedly involved in? There was something else prior?

SANDOVAL: Yes, interesting, there was another incident, Fred, that was documented during the moments before this crash. Police say they believed that Heitmann was involved in a separate incident, at a local elementary school. Investigators saying the same vehicle was involved, the same sports vehicle that was involved in this accident was seen crashing into a side of an elementary school. The occupant in that vehicle then seen throwing something at the door of that elementary school and then sped away. Investigators are certainly looking into that incident as well.

But they are certainly going to be trying to answer a lot of questions, including if drugs or alcohol were potentially factors here. As we now know, sadly, speed certainly was. As the medical examiner described it, the car that Heitmann was driving, quote, "fragmented into several pieces." As you see if these pictures, Fred, ended in a very fiery scene.

[13:39:16] WHITFIELD: Horrible situation.

Thank you so much, Polo Sandoval.

All right, next, some of the president's closest allies have turned on him, and now some anchors on his favorite news network appear to be following suit, accusing him of lying.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Safe to say it hasn't been President Trump's best week. His former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, found guilty on eight counts of financial crimes. His former lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleading guilty to two felony campaign finance violations. Some of the closest confidants are cooperating with investigators after being granted immunity, "National Enquirer" publisher, David Pecker, and Trump organization CFO, Allen Weisselberg.

But things could be going from bad to worse for the president as the once cozy confines of FOX News could be turning on him as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEIL CAVUTO, FOX HOST, CAVUTO: What the president is saying is we're all making gravy so why stop the train.

Well, I don't know, maybe because the train could be resting on shaky tracks. Or the conductor of the train has said or done some shaky things. Or at least something consistent things.

SHEP SMITH, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Trump himself denied knowing about a payment. Asked directly on Air Force One, did you know? No. Now we know the president was not telling the truth.

BRET BAER, FOX NEWS HOST: The president's rollout of explaining this has not been clear.

I think you could look back at the statements and, clearly, he was not 100 percent truthful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[13:45:15] WHITFIELD: And the "Washington Post" fact checkers take it a step further, calling the president's claims about Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels flat-out lies and giving him four Pinocchios.

I want to bring in our CNN senior media reporter, Oliver Darcy.

Oliver, good to see you again.

The president's closest professional allies are flipping on him. Now his allies in the media are, too. So what is all this saying?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: It's really something for journalists to directly say the president's not telling the truth but now it's coming from FOX journalists, his favorite channel. He's turning it on and seeing someone like Bret Baer, widely respected among the FOX audience, saying the president was not 100 percent truthful. Or Shep Smith saying that the president did not tell the truth. And that monologue you played of Neil Cavuto was absolutely brutal where he really spent some time showing the president had not only not told the truth on the hush money payments to Stormy Daniels but a number of subjects.

I think it's probably a little worrisome that normally FOX is a lot more indirect when calling out the president. I mean, Shep Smith has been direct, but others have been more cautious in calling out the president. This week, you saw, with the hush money payments and with the clear evidence that shows the president knew he was not telling the truth, that these FOX journalists are calling him out, and that's something he's probably not happy about.

WHITFIELD: This realization, what was the breaking point? Or was it a collective, particularly in this week?

DARCY: Well, it really happened after the -- well, when Cohen made the plea deal, it was pretty clear that the president had not told the truth about the hush money payment. But the audio that we obtained at CNN that showed the president discussing the hush money payments, and then later we know that he said he had no knowledge of it, it made it really clear to a lot of people and give journalists a lot of comfort to say, hey, he knew he wasn't telling the truth and he said he had no idea of the hush money payments? That's not true. A lot of journalists are calling it a flat-out lie.

You were talking about the "Washington Post," the fact checker usually doesn't rate things to be a lie because it's difficult to tell intent, it's difficult to say someone knowingly did not tell the truth, but in this case the fact checker said, we have video that shows the president knew about the hush money payments and then later said he did not. And that for them constituted enough grounds for them to call it a lie. Not misleading. Not a misstatement. But a flat-out lie.

WHITFIELD: The pattern has been the president would say yes to sit- down interviews with FOX. He's been very reticent, particularly after his, you know, NBC sit-down with Lester Holt, you know, last year to sit down with the big three. So now that you have some of his favorite anchors now calling him a liar or, you know, challenging him on truthfulness, you know, is this going to change, you know, the behavior of the president, that FOX has been his go to?

DARCY: Well, it's unlikely because, to be honest, Trump when he does interviews with FOX, he doesn't do it with the hard news journalists. He's doing it with Shep Smith or Bret Baer. He's doing it with the "FOX and Friends" hosts, or his buddy, Sean Hannity, or Tucker Carlson. So I doubt we're going to see a change really there.

And to be fair to the FOX journalists, they do call him out from time to time on the mistruths he says. Particularly, Shep Smith. He's been very harsh on the president, or not harsh, he's been very direct, calling out mistruths.

But it was striking I think in 24 hour-span to see three of FOX's most prominent hard news journalists very directly say to their audience we know the president was not telling the truth.

WHITFIELD: Oliver Darcy, thanks so much.

DARCY: Thank you.

[13:49:04] WHITFIELD: All right, and this quick programming note. "S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED" has a new home on CNN. Catch her on politics, policy and the media, tonight at 6:00 eastern time, right here on CNN.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We're at the North Fork Championship. It's the hardest whitewater course in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you meet whatever imposes a lot of risks and a lot of unknowns for us as kayakers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are racing in a really hard river. I was really nervous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's certainly aggressive. It can be violent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you were to break a paddle, it is super dangerous. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometimes the waves crash and you find yourself on

your head and just try to roll up. Hopefully, you haven't hit a rock by then.

GUPTA: No risk, no reward.

Set in the rapids of Idaho's Payette River, the North Fork Championship is one of the world's most premier kayak competitions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the world's best kayakers are here. Olympians now are here, which we have always wanted, but not winning every round, so it is cool to see other athletes doing well against the fastest-known people in the world.

GUPTA: A select group of 30 athletes race a section of the river known as Jacob's Ladder, an expert ladder class-five rapids. The fastest time wins. And the race begins with one big drop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For a lot of people, the ramp looks really intimidating. Once you are out there, there's no turning back. You are off an eight-foot ramp.

[13:55:03] GUPTA: If the rapids weren't hard enough, racers have to paddle through a set course, forcing them to make difficult moves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to go on either side of the gate, or go around it, coming back upstream.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They make you go to places you would never go. And it's complicated, there's rocks, the water is moving really fast, so any mistake you do, you can crash really bad.

GUPTA: And if riders accidentally hit a gate, they're penalized with time added to their run.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've lost the race in the past because of that. I would have had the fastest time but hit a gate and got a five-second penalty.

GUPTA: This time, this man from Spain came out on top of the world- class field at one minute, 49 seconds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you win, you get a crown. You're kind of the North Fork championship and bragging rights. This is the event that every kayaker wants to win. It is unbelievably exhilarating.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: The Board of Elections in Georgia has rejected a plan that would have closed several predominantly African-American polling places ahead of the midterm elections. That proposal caused an uproar as critics claimed it was an attempt to suppress the black vote.

And CNN's Victor Blackwell has more.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LESTER HARMON, GEORGIA RESIDENT: If you don't vote, you get no rights.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 76-year-old Lester Harmon votes in every election at the Benevolence Fire Station less than a minute's drive from his southwest Georgia home.

HARMON: Go up the road, you see it there on your left.

BLACKWELL: But with just two-and-a-half months until the midterm election, a proposal to close his local polling place has outraged Harmon and his neighbors.

Election consultant, Mike Malone, who was hired in April by the Randolph County Commission and the county Board of Elections to help with the midterms, proposed slashing the polling places across this predominantly African-American county from nine locations to just two.

Malone says they don't comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and by closing them the county would save money.

As recently as last Friday, Malone claimed his proposal has big-name support.

MIKE MALONE, ELECTION CONSULTANT: Consolidation has become highly recommended by the secretary of state.

BRIAN KEMP, (R), GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE & SECRETARY OF STATE: Let me thank you all so much.

BLACKWELL: But the secretary of state is Republican Brian Kemp, Republican candidate for Georgia governor.

STACEY ABRAMS, (D), GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Good evening, Georgia.

BLACKWELL: He's running against Democrat Stacey Abrams who, if elected, would be the country's first black female governor.

The race and the proposed closures have thrust this county of roughly 7,000 into national headlines.

REV. EZEKIEL HOLLEY, PRESIDENT, TERRELL COUNTY NAACP: This is straight racism.

BLACKWELL: Reverend Ezekiel Holley is the local NAACP branch president.

HOLLEY: We fought very hard to have the opportunity to vote. And now the times have come so they can vote and their rights are being taken away.

MALONE: There's absolutely nothing farther from the fact. There's no disenfranchisement. There's no disenfranchisement for the African- Americans. There's no disenfranchisement for the Caucasian community. BLACKWELL: The camp in Abrams campaign have condemned the plan.

Abrams' camp is fundraising off the proposal, writing an e-mail to supporters, "Voter suppression is alive and well in Georgia. And it's being pushed by a Kemp associate."

A spokeswoman for the secretary of state's office tells CNN, "Our office did not recommend Mr. Malone to county officials to propose consolidation."

And as backlash against the plan mounted, Kemp's office says Malone retracted his claim this week that the closures are highly recommended by Kemp's office. CNN's calls to Malone were not returned. And the country has ended its relationship with Malone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I call this meeting to order.

BLACKWELL: After a week of international criticism, the two-member Board of Elections unanimously settled the controversy in a minute- long packed public meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED BOARD OF ELECTIONS MEMBER: I move that the Board of Elections and Registration make no change to the voting proceeding in the county.

UNIDENTIFIED BOARD OF ELECTIONS MEMBER: There is a motion and I second it. And the vote shall me.

All in favor, say ay.

UNIDENTIFIED BOARD OF ELECTIONS MEMBER: Ay.

UNIDENTIFIED BOARD OF ELECTIONS MEMBER: Ay

This meeting is adjourned.

BLACKWELL: In a statement, Randolph County writes, "The interest and concern shown has been overwhelming. And it is an encouraging reminder that protecting the right to vote remains a fundamental America principle.

Victor Blackwell, CNN, Cuthbert, Georgia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[13:59:21] WHITFIELD: Hello, again. Thanks so much for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredericka Whitfield.

After a week of controversy, President Trump is tackling the scrutiny surrounding his White House in his usual way, on Twitter. The president lashing out in a flurry of tweets about the Russia investigation, also taking aim at his Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Frustration boiling over after news that some of his most trusted allies are turning on him, including former attorney, Michael Cohen, chief financial officer for the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg, "National Enquirer" publisher, David Pecker, and that magazine's editor, Dylan Howard. And now CNN on exclusive reporting on a former Trump doorman making accusations about the president's past involving an alleged secret affair with a former housekeeper.