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Knife Attack on Americans; Tropical Storm Warnings for Southeast U.S.; Trump Administration Withholds Kavanaugh Documents; Serena Williams at U.S. Open; Papadopoulos Says Sessions Supported Meeting; FBI Tried to Flip Russian Oligarchs. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired September 3, 2018 - 06:30   ET


[06:30:00] ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Targeted. The are working very closely, they say, with their German counterparts, having searched his home over the weekend in Germany seizing a number of electronic items.

Now, as for the Americans, they're in serious, though not critical condition. The U.S. embassy saying they're in close contact with the victims and their families.

We are expecting an update from authorities later today.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, please bring us that update whenever you get it.

Erin, thank you very much for the reporting.

So a tropical storm warning has been issues for parts of the southeast U.S. A potential storm is gathering strength.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has our latest.

What are you seeing, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Very heavy rainfall now across south Florida, Alisyn. And we can see the spin with this storm as well. So it is already out there trying to churn.

Years ago we'd call this a tropical depressions, but now because the models are so good, and because this is really going to turn into a tropical storm, they moved up to potential tropical storm, potential tropical cyclone seven, and it is going to get into the Gulf of Mexico. And when it does, it's going to get into very warm water.

And so far we're only 45, 50, maybe a 60 mile per hour storm. But I will tell you -- and every meteorologist will tell you -- the models do a terrible job on intensity. A really good job on direction, but they could be terrible, 20 -- plus or minus 20 miles per hour on intensity. So we'll keep watching this for you as it moves toward the Gulf Coast. It will leave south Florida for today. You could even get a water

spout on land in south Florida for today. We'll watch that. And then into the Gulf of Mexico, into very warm water, and then producing six to seven inches of rainfall. Finally -- it's finally done, though, I think, on Wednesday and Thursday. We get rid of this thing, but not before we make some flooding rainfall across the southeast and the Gulf Coast. Biloxi, Gulf Port, Pass Christian, all those places that got hit so hard with Katrina going to get very heavy rainfall.


JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: Of course. Thank you, Chad. We'll be keeping an eye on that.

And the confirmation battle for Brett Kavanaugh begins tomorrow. And it's what lawmakers will not see that's causing the controversy. Details, next.


[06:36:00] AVLON: The confirmation hearing for President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, beginning tomorrow. And the Trump administration is holding back more than 100,000 pages of documents related to his prior service. The White House siting executive privilege, but Democrats are accusing the White House of a cover up.

The Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer saying, quote, we're witnessing a Friday night document massacre.

Now, joining me now is Supreme Court biographer and CNN legal analyst Joan Biskupic.

Joan, it is great to have you here.

And you authored a fascinating article on really laying out the stakes. And the documents were handed over Friday night, but as you describe it, what they've handed over in these 270,000 documents are schedules, you know, sort of, you know, really meaningless sort of draws (ph) of executive office, not meaningful e-mails or memos from Kavanaugh to then President Bush. Is that right?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's right, John. We've got a couple different categories here that will help you and the viewers understand just what's at stake in these very valuable records that are being withheld in a couple different ways.

First to all, to remind everyone, Brett Kavanaugh worked for George W. Bush for 2001 to 2006. He was in the White House Counsel's office and then he was at the side of President Bush as a staff secretary. And, John, the staff secretary files from 2003 to 2006, they're being completely withheld. There's no part of them that the Senate Judiciary Committee has access to for those.

And then you take the pool from the White House Counsel's Office, and those were the ones you just referred to, where we have had some to go through to look and see what's exactly there. And the White House and Judge Kavanaugh supporters are saying, but we've given you, you know, hundreds and thousands of documents. But you characterize them exactly right, John, they're not revealing documents. They're parts of conversations. So much has been redacted that it's hard to know what exactly he did and what was going on.

And then we have the third category that you just referred to, the ones that are now being withheld, 100,000 documents withheld based on these various privileges that the administration and the George W. Bush White House have asserted, referring to communications between Brett Kavanaugh and other individuals in the White House that they say make these documents privileged. But it gives us a very, very narrow window to view this individual who is going for a lifetime appointment on the U.S. Supreme Court.

AVLON: And certainly it's a fascinating period in which he is staff secretary.


AVLON: A time of picking, you know, Roberts --


AVLON: And Katrina and warrantless wiretapping and all these issues that might come up.

But let's do an apples to apples comparison --


AVLON: Because everyone plays politics around these, you know, nominations.


AVLON: How does this withholding of documents compare, for example, to Elena Kagan's nomination by the Obama administration and her work in pervious administrations.

BISKUPIC: Sure. Both Elena Kagan and John Roberts, to take two, both worked for administrations and worked -- actually, all of these individuals worked both in the White House and also in the solicitor general's office. And we're going to completely set aside the solicitor general's office because that is a true attorney-client relationship. That's the office that represents the president before the Supreme Court. But these -- but now Justice Kagan and now Chief Justice Roberts worked in the White House and those documents were turned over. Now, some things were held back, but I can tell you as someone who's gone through all of John Roberts' documents that were turned over, both in 2005 from the Bush -- H.W. Bush White House and from the Ronald Reagan White House, we have so much more than what we have now with Brett Kavanaugh.

AVLON: Pivoting forward --


AVLON: These are going to be high stakes hearings. It is history in the present tense. But the judicial committee is stacked full of folks who either have complicated relationships with President Trump or presidential aspirations for themselves. What are you going to be listening for in the coming days?

[06:40:10] BISKUPIC: Oh, that -- it's so true. You know, it's an opportunity to get information from the nominee, but a lot of senators view it as an opportunity to maybe tout their own interests, grand stand a bit. The Republicans, obviously, will be backing the nominee in every way.

But you referred to some presidential contenders and we've got on this committee Cory Booker. We've got Amy Klobuchar. We've got Kamala Harris. We have -- those are three that might have higher office in their eyes. And then we also have, you know, some old-time Democrats who have been through this before and have experienced nomination hearings with Brett Kavanaugh when he was up for an appeals court seat here in Washington, D.C. So a lot of things that will -- a lot will play out that will determine the future of these individuals, but it picks up with their pasts.

AVLON: It's going to be a fascinating moment. Joan Biskupic, it is great to have you on the team. Invaluable insights in the coming days coming from you. Thank you.

BISKUPIC: Thanks, John.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, John, now to sports. Serena Williams won her first set yesterday in 18 minutes. Was the rest of her U.S. open match that easy? We have the "Bleacher Report," next.


[06:45:21] CAMEROTA: Yes, John Avlon, I'm now going to read sports.

AVLON: My favorite thing.

CAMEROTA: I know it is. Enjoy this.

AVLON: Ah, love it.

CAMEROTA: Serena Williams is on to the quarter finals at the U.S. Open, but it took her three sets to advance.

Andy Scholes has more in the "Bleacher Report."

And one was a very quick set, I know that much, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it certainly was, Alisyn.

You know, Serena looked like she was going to make quick work of her opponent yesterday, Kaia Kanepi. She won that first set in 18 minutes. It was the fastest set of the U.S. Open thus far. But Kanepi not going quietly. She won the second set 6-4, making the crowd at Flushing Meadows a little nervous. But Serena would get it back together. She's fired up in that third set. Here she starts yelling come on as she won that point. Serena would win the third set 6-3 to take the match. She's going to Karolina Pliskova tomorrow in the quarter finals.

All right, Alabama head coach Nick Saban is apologizing for this rant he went on after Saturday's win over Louisville.


MARIA TAYLOR, ESPN REPORTER: What answers did you have about your quarterbacks after watching both of them play tonight.

NICK SABAN, ALABAMA HEAD COACH: Well, I still like both guys. I think both guys were good players. I think both guys can help our team. All right, so why do you continually try to get me to say something that doesn't respect on of them. I'm not going to, so quit asking.


SCHOLES: Yes, Saban had been asked about his quarterback battle between Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts all off season. Clearly he had had enough. But ESPN's Maria Taylor's question was more than fair. The network says Saban has called Taylor to apologize.

And, you know what, John, I'm guessing that Saban just had that ready for the next person that asked him about his quarterback.

CAMEROTA: It sounded like it. I agree with that.

SCHOLES: But props to Taylor for the way she handled it.

CAMEROTA: Yes. And her question was like -- she wasn't even asking a loaded question with loaded words.

SCHOLES: It wasn't. Yes.


SCHOLES: It was -- she just said, what did you think about how they played basically and he just went after her.

CAMEROTA: He was like, how dare you.


AVLON: It's tough talking to the most popular man in Alabama.


AVLON: That said, I could -- I could hear you (INAUDIBLE) sports- plaining all day.

CAMEROTA: OK. Well, you're going to have an opportunity --

AVLON: It's one of my favorite things.

CAMEROTA: I'm glad you enjoy it.

Sometimes I do do it phonetically, as you know, but the U.S. Open I actually knew a little bit about that.

AVLON: A little bit.

CAMEROTA: A little bit.

AVLON: It's a good time.

All right, coming up, convicted former Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos publically contradicting Attorney General Jeff Sessions testimony to Congress. How he says sessions reacted to a proposal for then candidate Trump to meet with Vladimir Putin, next.


[06:53:02] CAMEROTA: Former Trump campaign advisor, George Papadopoulos, who has pleaded guilty for lying to investigators in the Mueller probe, is now publically contradicting the sworn testimony that Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave to Congress. In new court documents, Papadopoulos says Sessions and then candidate Donald Trump both supported his proposal for Trump to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the 2016 campaign.

Let's discuss this with defense attorney Shan Wu, and former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, both are CNN legal analysts.

Happy Labor Day. It's great to have both of you here.

OK, Shan, let's remind people. So George Papadopoulos is saying that he made this pitch that Trump should meet with Putin and that Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump were receptive and supported that idea. Now, let's remind people what Jeff Sessions said in his sworn testimony. Here's that moment.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Yes or no, after the March 31st meeting, did you take any steps to prevent Trump campaign officials, advisers or employees from further outreach to the Russians?

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Mr. Nadler, the -- let me just say it this way, I pushed back at that. You made statements that he --

NADLER: Did he --

SESSIONS: In fact, at the meeting, I pushed back.


CAMEROTA: OK. Shan, what does it matter if Jeff Sessions supported the idea of meeting with Trump? Is that illegal? I mean of Trump meeting with Putin.

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Not necessarily illegal, although it certainly calls into question again why wouldn't they report that idea if it had come up? But what's really troubling for Sessions is that this is a contradiction of his sworn testimony. And it completely undercuts any notion that he should not have recused himself. I mean it puts him front and square in the targets of the investigation, which, frankly, he might need to lawyer up himself at this point.

CAMEROTA: But on the flipside, Renato, George Papadopoulos has plead guilty to lying to investigators. Why do we believe him now in this instance?

[06:55:01] RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, it's certainly an issue. It's going to call into question his credibility.

I think part of the reason that Papadopoulos put this in his sentencing memorandum is to suggest to the judge that, hey, the attorney general of the United States lied to Congress. So, you know, take my sentence with a grain of salt. In other words, when you sentence me, keep in mind that I'm not the only one lying about this investigation.

CAMEROTA: It does sound like that's what he's trying to do. But, Renato, what do you think? Is it -- does it change something if Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump were open to the idea of sitting down with Vladimir Putin?

MARIOTTI: It suggests that they -- they were more interested in developing a relationship with Russia than other administrations had been. And really what I think the question for me would just be why hide it. In other words, why wouldn't Jeff Sessions just say to Congress, sure, I was open to the idea. We were open to the idea of meeting with the Russians. You know, that -- that's what I think is the bigger question for me rather than the fact that they wanted to meet in the first place.

CAMEROTA: OK. Understood. And so, Shan, George Papadopoulos will be sentenced on September 7th. So this week. And he wants probation.

WU: Right.

CAMEROTA: So is this just a maneuver to either say, I have more information or, look, everybody's lying and you should treat me with kid gloves on some of it?

WU: A little bit of both. I think it's interesting, you know, for people who cooperate, there's like a slow transformation period where they start off maybe aggressively denying it. He made a big mistake doing it originally without counsel and they didn't turn around till later. So he's really trying to come clean at this point. And that's why, at this point, his credibility is probably much higher than it used to be because he knows he's on the line now for a sentencing. And so I would believe him over Sessions at this point.

CAMEROTA: OK, next topic.

"The New York Times" is reporting, Renato, that Bruce Ohr, and people will recognize that name because he is a long-time Department of Justice official and he has become the latest target of President Trump who wants his security clearance revoked. So he and Christopher Steele, apparently, were very involved in trying to turn Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, into becoming an informant for the U.S. An FBI informant. And Deripaska was connected to Paul Manafort. Tell us what the problem is with this? Isn't this what investigators do, they try to find someone in the inside in Russia who they could use to their benefit?

MARIOTTI: I think that's exactly what our counter intelligence people in the United States do. We have a lot of brave men and women who work very hard to try to develop information on our adversaries and work to get sources of information for our government so that we know exactly what our adversaries are doing.

I think, to me, what's most interesting about this news is that this occurred from the -- in the 2014 to the 2016 time period where you had Ohr and Steele working together on this.

And I think what it really shows is there are anti-Russian efforts. There are efforts to, you know, infiltrate an adversary on behalf of the United States, occurred well before Donald Trump was president. You know, they actually started before he was even a candidate. And so really what it suggests to me is that their efforts to try to penetrate this adversary have nothing to do with Donald Trump, but have to do with protecting our country.

CAMEROTA: Well, obviously, that's not how Donald Trump sees it, Shan. And so the way that he sees it is that Bruce Ohr's wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS, OK, which was the -- you know, firm that was tasked with trying to dig up dirt on Donald Trump. So he sees that as scandalous. And should we see it that way?

WU: I don't think we see it scandalous, but I think -- I agree with Renato, it's important how long they've been working on the case already.

I think the problem now politically is, with these leaks that have come forward, the motivation of the leakers, they're -- they're being very candid. I mean they're concerned about the national security implications of the leak, but they also seem concerned with making sure that Trump doesn't play to his political advantage.

Conversely, that plays right into his hands to say, well, they're thinking about politics. That's why they're leaking this.

The Ohr situation, a very curious situation. I mean clearly some analysts like myself had said previously, there's no way these were just social occasions he was having with Steele. You don't get debriefed by the FBI after you have lunch with your friends.

CAMEROTA: And is it strange that he was meeting with Steele?

WU: In context now, no, it seems like part of an actual ongoing investigation. Initially, when it sounded like sort of a social thing, and then he gets debriefed, that did not add up.

CAMEROTA: OK. But you're saying that this "New York Times" thing actually goes further to explaining what the relationship was.

WU: Absolutely it does.

CAMEROTA: Very helpful.

Shan Wu, Renato Mariotti, thank you both very much.

MARIOTTI: Thank you.

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

[07:00:01] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: John McCain would insist we are better than this. America is better than this.

MEGHAN MCCAIN, DAUGHTER OF JOHN MCCAIN: Real faith, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly.