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Cuomo and Nixon Clash; Cohen Pleads Guilty; Controversy at U.S. Open; Trump's Sparring with Mexico. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired August 30, 2018 - 06:30   ET



[06:31:34] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: There was a fierce faceoff at New York's Democratic gubernatorial debate last night. Incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo and his opponent, progressive Cynthia Nixon, getting into a contentious back and forth over their competing visions for the state and their party.

CNN's Jason Carroll is here with more.

How did it go, Jason?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the gloves really came off last night. I mean if anyone was there watching, Cuomo, from the outset, really wanted to frame the debate around who would be the best candidate to fight Donald Trump and his policies. Nixon seemed to be more focused on Cuomo's record and promoting policies, such as universal health care and legalizing marijuana. It made for a fiery debate, a lot of name calling peppered throughout the hour. Nixon accused Cuomo of being a corrupt corporate Democrat, while Cuomo, in a not so subtle dig at Nixon's past career as an actress, repeatedly said she was living in the world of fiction.

Cuomo pledged that if re-elected, he would not seek a presidential run. It has been widely speculated that he would throw his hat in the ring. Much of the debate focused on problems facing New York City. As the two candidates bickered over what would be the best way to fix the city's ailing subway system, and it got a little personal.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: My opponent lives in the world of fiction, I live in a world of fact. Let's do - let's just do a few facts, OK? The subway system is owned by New York City. The subway system --

CYNTHIA NIXON (D), GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: The MTA has been controlled by the state since 1965.

CUOMO: Excuse me. Can you -- can you stop interrupting? Can you stop interrupting?

NIXON: Can you stop lying?

CUOMO: Yes. As soon as you do.


CARROLL: Nixon also called out Cuomo for the gaffe he made earlier this month when he said America was never that great. She accused Cuomo of buckling after Trump criticized him for making that comment. Last night's debate was the only debate the candidates agreed to, although late last night Nixon tweeted that it was fun and that she'd like to do another. That's not likely. Nixon is trailing far behind Cuomo in the polls. The primary is set for September 13th.


CAMEROTA: Ouch, that did get a little heated.

CARROLL: Ouch. Big ouch.

CAMEROTA: All right, thank you very much, Jason.

So, ahead on NEW DAY, we will speak live with Cynthia Nixon in our 8:00 hour.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, what was behind Michael Cohen's decision to make a deal with prosecutors in New York? What CNN has learned about the days leading up to his dramatic court appearance, that's next.


[06:37:53] CAMEROTA: Sources tell CNN that President Trump's long time personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has accepted the fact that he is likely going to prison. Those sources say Cohen took his plea deal last week in order to protect his family from more legal and financial troubles.

And joining us now to discuss this we have CNN national political reporter MJ Lee, who first reported the Cohen news, and CNN legal and national security analyst Asha Rangappa.

MJ, so is this a fate accompli? He's definitely going to prison? There's nothing that a judge could do at this point?

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: I mean, you know, at this point in time, I think it is very hard to imagine a scenario where he can avoid the jail time. Remember last week he pleaded guilty to eight counts, including tax evasion, making false statements to a bank, and also campaign finance violations, which obviously have to do with the payments that he made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.

What's interesting now though, in retrospect, looking back on last week, is that we now have more information on sort of what he was up against. Prosecutors made it really clear to him, you know, there could have been more charges coming. His wife could have been implicated. And that was a big consideration for him. There was also the threat of his assets being seized. And, in the end, he finally just felt like, you know, I was feeling defiant and wanted to fight this in the beginning, but that simply is not an option any more.

Not to mention sort of the legal bills if he had gone to trial would have been massive and he did not want to leave his family with that kind of financial burden is what we're being told.

BERMAN: You know, Asha, this is so instructive, MJ's reporting is, because in some ways this is a case like no other. I mean Michael Cohen was the attorney of the president of the United States, so it has that aspect, which is unusual.

However, there is something very common about someone coping a plea when the evidence is overwhelming, when you want to protect your wife, and when you know it's going to turn badly. And so you get the best deal you can and maybe it doesn't have anything to do with the president. There's no cooperation deal here as far as we know.

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: That's right, it doesn't look like prosecutors right now are interested in getting information in order to make a deal with him for something other than what he's already pleaded to.

[06:39:59] But, you know, there's nothing like looking at a sentence of somewhere in the range of five years in prison for you to kind of re-evaluate your situation. And the federal government wouldn't have -- you know I go -- always go back to that execution of that search warrant, which would have been a very high standard for them to meet in terms of the investigation they had, which told me that they had accumulated a lot of evidence. And I'm sure that this would have been a losing battle for Michael Cohen to fight.

What I think is interesting here is whether Cohen is truly undergoing a paradigm shift and a re-evaluation of priorities and, you know, reflecting on what he had before because, you know, he's still, if he really wants to come clean, I think he has the potential to like dump everything he knows --


RANGAPPA: Not for transactional purposes, but just to say, I'm done with this life. Do what you want with it. And that could still have some implications. So we'll see what happens.

CAMEROTA: So then I -- but then, in that case, why, to your previous statement, wouldn't prosecutors be interested thus far in what else he has to share? Why aren't they going down that road?

RANGAPPA: Well, Michael Cohen has a lot of baggage. I mean, you know, if he is the only person that is providing a certain kind of information and, you know, they have to invest time and resources to corroborate it and don't believe that he's trustworthy, they may not be willing to do it and definitely not do it in exchange for a reduction of -- or some kind of plea. But if he gives them information, you know, without them having to, you know, give anything in return, that's still something that they can look into. And he still has a range, a 51-63 month guideline range according to the federal sentencing guidelines. So, you know, he could potentially still benefit from a reduction on the lower end if he -- if he gives up some information.

LEE: Though if I could quickly say, though, you know, this idea that Michael Cohen could dump more information and pass that along to prosecutors, I think we do need to keep in mind that they actually already have probably everything that they could have taken from him because of that raid back in April where they literally took millions of pieces of information, documents, and also recordings. One of those recordings we obviously know about. This is where they talk about the payments that they -- that Michael Cohen and Donald Trump discuss making to Karen McDougal that wasn't made. But that information is out there and I think a part of what we're sort of realizing now, post indictment, is that prosecutors really already had a lot from Michael Cohen that they needed and it's not clear right now whether they feel like speaking to him would actually produce more than what they already have.

BERMAN: It's a good point. In this whole Michael Cohen saga, it does seem like the government has not an excess of information, but certainly sufficient information on everything it wants. because the other reporting yesterday, Asha, was that there was a second executive from the Trump Organization that the prosecutors were considering giving an immunity deal to in order -- like Allen Weisselberg, but that did happen and this person didn't testify and they still got Cohen to plea. So it shows you I think the weight of the evidence that the government already has.

RANGAPPA: Yes. I think MJ's absolutely right, they have an incredible amount of documentary evidence, which would have substantiated definitely some of the loan and tax charges that Michael Cohen pleaded to. And I'm not surprised that whoever this executive was didn't get immunity because, as we know, both Allen Weisselberg, the CFO of the Trump Organization, and David Pecker did provide evidence under, you know, with some immunity to prosecutors and it's hard to see, you know, how much higher they could go in the Trump Organization in terms of knowing what was going on with those campaign finance reimbursements and David Pecker. So that third employee probably didn't have additional information to offer on those charges.

BERMAN: Right.

All right, MJ Lee, Asha Rangappa, thank you very much.

I want to make one point of clarification on an interview we had earlier this week with Michael D'Antonio. He suggested that establishment of Vice President Mike Pence's political action committee could mean an automatic Pence 2020 bid should President Trump not run for re-election. Now, to be clear, the funds raised by Pence's leadership PAC cannot directly be used to benefit his own campaign should he run. That's according to guidelines by the FEC. However, such leadership PACs are often used to build donor lists, curry favor in influential states, build networks of support, but there is the distinction there, a legal distinction, which is important to a lot of people. So I just wanted to make that clear.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. All right, meanwhile, a backwards shirt causing an international incident. How this simple moment on a tennis court caused major controversy at the U.S. Open.

[06:44:58] BERMAN: This is outrageous.


BERMAN: U.S. Open officials feeling the heat, and it's not because of the sweltering temperatures at Flushing Meadows.

Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Hey, Andy.


This "Bleacher Report" is brought to you by Ford, going further so you can.

After a female player was given a code violation for changing her shirt on the court, the U.S. Open was just slammed on social media for sexism and a double standard because, you know, male players, they change their shirts on the court all the time, usually while sitting in their chair.

So what happened was a French player, Alize Cornet briefly took her shirt off after realizing she had it on backwards after a heat break. The umpire then gave her a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct. Now, the Grand Slam rulebook states women should only change their attire in a break between sets in the nearest available bathroom. Women's tour official say Alize did nothing wrong and Alize, meanwhile, said she received an outpouring of support over this incident.

[06:50:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALIZE CORNET: I was really (INAUDIBLE) fight for it. So all the players were supporting me for that and were telling me if I get fined, we will all be together and (INAUDIBLE) and, you know, make a revolution (INAUDIBLE) and stuff. I was like, all right, calm down, I'm going to get the information first and then we'll see if we make revolution or not. But, yes, it was -- it was nice to -- to have the girls -- girls' support.


SCHOLES: After all the outrage on social media, the U.S. Tennis Association has clarified the rule saying women can also change their shirts in their chair or leave the court briefly without being assessed a bathroom break. Alisyn, the USTA also says they regret that all of this even took place.

CAMEROTA: Well, there you go. I mean it sounds like that was an antiquated call forcing women to have this kind of modesty when men don't and so -- BERMAN: It's outrageous. It's outrageous. And women's tennis has this issue where there's so much concern about what they wear and how they wear it. And I cannot figure out how this exists in 2018.

SCHOLES: Yes. And this coming just on the heels of that French Open controversy with Serena and her outfit. So --

BERMAN: It's ridiculous.

CAMEROTA: All right.

BERMAN: Wear what you want to wear. Play tennis. Win.

CAMEROTA: What does Serena Williams wear to play tennis?

BERMAN: Whatever the hell she wants is the right answer to that.

CAMEROTA: It's still good. It still works.

All right, meanwhile, an Uber driver caught on video in a frightening confrontation. Why a Florida sheriff is calling this a classic case for a controversial law.


[06:55:30] CAMEROTA: A sheriff in Florida says an Uber driver was justified in shooting and killing a man who stormed toward his car. Video shows a pickup truck cutting off the Uber driver. The truck driver apparently thought his girlfriend was in that Uber heading home after the two got into a fight over text. And then this happened.


ROBERT WESTLAKE: I say something?

JASON BOEK: You know I got a pistol? You want me to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) shot you?

PASSENGER: Oh, my God.



CAMEROTA: So the truck driver did say he had a pistol, but he was holding what authorities say was a cell phone. The Uber driver, Robert Westlake, is a licensed security guard who holds a concealed weapons permit. The sheriff's office says Westlake is cooperating, adding that the encounter was a classic case of stand your ground.

Oh, boy.

BERMAN: An incredible rescue in Wisconsin. An eagle-eyed firefighter spotting boy's finger poking outs of a manhole after the 11-year-old was swept into a storm sewer. The sheriff's office says the boy went under while playing with friends following severe storms. Dive teams and first responders began a frantic search. Luckily, the firefighter saw the boy's finger poking out of the manhole from some 30 feet away.

CAMEROTA: What kind of vision did -- what kind of bionic vision does this firefighter have?

BERMAN: I've got to see his eye doctor. He's got some sick bifocals.

The boy was taken to the hospital alert and conscious. That's amazing.

CAMEROTA: That is amazing.

All right, we are praying that that works out well.

Meanwhile, President Trump driving Mexico up a wall after repeating his claim that our southern neighbors will pay for his signature campaign promise. CNN's Jeanne Moos explains.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Mirror, mirror on the border wall, what's the most famous Trump question of them all?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Who's going to pay for the wall?

CROWD: Mexico.

TRUMP: Who's going to pay for the wall?

CROWD: Mexico.

TRUMP: I don't hear you.

MOOS: We hadn't heard him talking about Mexico paying for ages. And then on Tuesday --

TRUMP: Yes, the wall will be paid for very soon, by Mexico.

MOOS: The return of a golden oldie, one of Trump's greatest hits during the campaign.

TRUMP: We will build the wall.

A great, great wall.

A very powerful wall.

As beautiful as a wall can be.

MOOS: And, Mexico --

TRUMP: They'll be happy to pay for a wall.

MOOS: Maybe not that happy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mexico will not pay for the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) wall. I'm not going to pay for that (EXPLETIVE DELETED) wall.

MOOS: President Trump is trying to get Congress to cough up $25 billion. And so far only 1.6 billion has come through. Mr. Trump calls Mexico's president Enrique and they're acting buddy, buddy now that a preliminary trade agreement has been reached with Mexico's president sending an affectionate hug.

TRUMP: A hug from you would be very nice.

MOOS: But when President Trump said anew that Mexico will pay for the wall, the foreign minister tweeted, we will never pay for a wall.

How about play with the wall? That's what the Republican candidate for governor of Florida showed his kid doing in a campaign ad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ron (ph) loves playing with the kids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Build the wall.

MOOS (on camera): Forget building it. She may end up paying for it. The future American taxpayers pick up the tab instead of Mexico.

MOOS (voice over): There are jokes about Mexico agreeing to pay for Trump's impeachment. It all seems so much easier when candidate Trump appeared on "SNL."



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I brought you the check for the wall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, that's so --

MOOS: The president may get the hug, but not the check.

Jeanne Moos, CNN --

TRUMP: A hug from you would be very nice.

MOOS: New York.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is way too much money.



MOOS: Jeanne has a very unique way of framing things always.

BERMAN: Look, it's interesting. Everyone's making jokes about it, but there's this serious NAFTA negotiation going on right now and if the president, what he said gets in the way of that, it could have consequences. Don't know if it will. We shall see.

CAMEROTA: I look forward to Jeanne tackling that.

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


TRUMP: Don McGahn's a really good guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He wants a team of yes men.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whenever somebody on the inside spends 30 hours with somebody who's trying to get you, you've got to start worrying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the ways to rally that Trump is by stoking the racial fire.

REP. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: It has zero to do with race. It has everything to do with whether we want Florida to continue to go in a good direction.

[07:00:03] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's apparently given up the whistle. They've gone to the bullhorn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are grateful to have been gathered here today to honor the life and memory of John Sidney McCain.