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Robert Mueller's Investigation Leads to Charges. Will President Trump Fire Special Counsel Robert Muller? President Trump Directs Attention to Democrats in Tweet. Aired. 10-10:30a ET

Aired October 30, 2017 - 10:00   ET

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ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Poppy Harlow. Our breaking news this morning, conspiracy against the United States, money laundering, false statements. Those are just some of a dozen federal charges, in all, facing President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his longtime business partner, Rick Gates.

You see the two there, walking into FBI headquarters this morning. We should note, Rick Gates worked for the Trump campaign far beyond the time that Manafort did.

BERMAN: Now, these are the first charges, the first criminal defendants, in the (ph) Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. It began as an investigation in Russian meddling in the election, and has expanded beyond that. This indictment, 31 pages, 12 counts, does not mention the campaign or the White House. But, again, both men played key roles in the campaign.

Both men turned themselves in to the FBI in Washington this morning. They will head to a federal courthouse in just a bit. We could see that happen. Let's start with CNN justice correspondent Evan Perez, who's broken so much of this story.

Evan, to you.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN ANCHOR: John and Poppy, we expect that (ph) both of these men are going to be here at the federal courthouse in the -- in the coming hours, where they're going to be having their first appearance before a federal judge.

And, as you mentioned, there are 12 counts, all of it having to do with Paul Manafort and Rick Gates' work for the former ruling party in Ukraine. This is a -- a -- a party that was viewed as being pro- Russia, during the time that they were in power.

And a lot of the -- these 12 counts that are in this indictment have to do with the failure to register as foreign agents for the Ukrainian government. The failure to tell the IRS that they had bank accounts, millions of dollars that flowed through these bank accounts in places like Cyprus and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Nothing, as you mentioned, nothing here mentioning the 2016 election,

nothing mentioning the campaign which, as (ph) -- I (ph) suppose, people at the White House are going to be very pleased about. Because they're going to say that this really has to do with things that are old. These things that are in the past, having to do with Paul Manafort's work for the Ukrainian government.

Now, we expect that this is only the beginning, that this is not the end of this. What happens, often, in these cases, is that prosecutors file these indictments and then they have the ability to continue the investigation, continue to (ph) gathering facts. And then do a superseding indictment with additional information.

We don't know what else Bob Mueller and his team have come up with. But we know that, in this indictment, that the -- the 12 counts that have been mentioned here, it really has to do with work that goes back, as far back as 2006. That Paul Manafort and Rick Gates did for the Ukrainian government, again, who was a client of theirs for -- for many years.

John and Poppy?

HARLOW: All right. Evan Perez. We're waiting for that moment, for them to be transported, there (ph) to the courthouse.

Thank you for all the reporting.

Of course, Evan part of the team that broke this news this morning. Let's talk more about who these men are, how integral they were in the president's campaign, and a lot more. With us, now, is our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash.

And, Dana, let's start with Paul Manafort. That's a name people know better, of these two. But both men, very important when it comes to Trump World. But let's go through Manafort first.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. Look, Paul Manafort was officially in the campaign for not that long of a period of time, but he was there at a critical, critical juncture. You see on the screen there, he was chairman from May of -- of 2016 to August 2016. And he came on, really, as -- as somebody who was suggested, we understand, by the president's longtime friend, Tom Barrack, who said, you know, "You need somebody to help navigate the delegate process at the convention."

It's (ph) sort of hard to imagine now, but if you go back in time, the Trump campaign was very concerned about a revolt at the Republican convention. And so Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, were brought on, initially for that, to try to manage the delegate situation and make sure that all -- that the number of delegates that -- that he needed to actually clinch the nomination went through. And it did. And it did.

So Paul Manafort was kind of the chair at that point, and Manafort, then, because the now-president and, really, his -- his children, pushed out Corey Lewandowski, who was the campaign manager up until June of 2016. Manafort, for that summer, became the effective head of the campaign.

It all ended because of the story that we're talking about. There were stories in the New York Times, and others, really extensive, about Paul Manafort's ties to Ukraine and to Russia, and it was towards the end of August, after the -- the Republican National Convention, that the president fired Paul Manafort.

And so it was a short period of time, but it was a very important period of time that Manafort was there.

BERMAN: Now, as for Rick Gates, his relationship with Paul Manafort goes back years and years--

BASH: Yes, it does.

BERMAN: -- and his relationship with the campaign transition -- and then White House -- from the outside, actually extended beyond Paul Manafort.

BASH: Exactly. That's exactly right. Look, as you see on the screen there, he was the deputy to Paul Manafort. But he came on with Manafort because the two of them had worked so long together, so extensively, in the private sector. And I think what was -- what was most interesting is that, when Manafort was fired, Rick Gates stayed on.

If you talk to people -- and I remember doing this, real-time, during the convention and then afterwards, a lot of people at the Republican National Committee, who were working hand-in-glove with the Trump campaign and those in and around the Trump campaign, they said Rick Gates was a very, very important guy. He kept trains running on time, he got things done. Very much behind the scenes but really, critically important to the Trump campaign at that particular time.

And while Manafort was fired, he stayed on. And not just that, John and Poppy. He stayed on, even, in -- in the Trump world after the campaign. He was hired by Tom Barrack, who was the chair of the inaugural committee, to effectively do the same job, get things done during the inauguration.

And after that, he was hired to help run the president's PAC, the outside political action committee, the -- the sort of political arm that started right after Donald Trump was inaugurated. And, again, he was fired from that in the spring of this year, because of ongoing stories about Rick Gates' ties to Ukraine and Russia through Manafort.

So, the -- again, these were two really important figures in the Trump world. Manafort for a much shorter period of time, and Rick Gates, much, much more behind the scenes.

BERMAN: And remember that, when you hear the White House spin, separating them, separating the campaign from these two figures. You know, while they were there, they were major players.

Dana Bash, thank you so much for that context. Let's get over to Jessica Schneider right now. She is at the federal

courthouse where both men will be arriving, presumably shortly. What will the process be?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT : Well, John, we know, now, when both men will appear in court before a judge. It will happen at 1:30 this afternoon. That's when both Paul Manafort and Rick Gates will go before a federal magistrate judge for that initial appearance, the arraignment, if you will.

Now, right now, both of those men are still at the FBI field office, just a few blocks from here. We know that Paul Manafort arrived around 8 o'clock this morning, Rick Gates shortly thereafter. They've been processed. That includes the booking, the photographs, the fingerprints.

After that is concluded and when they're ready to be transported here to the federal courthouse, they will, in fact, be taken by federal authorities here, to the district court. They'll then be held here until that court appearance, again at 1:30 this afternoon.

Now, in the court appearance, the charges against them in (ph) this lengthy 31-page indictment with 12 different counts, those will all be laid out for them. Also, what they could expect for a maximum criminal penalty.

And I've been speaking with some federal prosecutors, not directly involved in this case but they do deal with criminal matters in district court. They tell me that the judge will determine whether or not to detain both defendants, both men, or release them. There is a number of factors that can be considered, in whether or not to detain criminal defendants in federal cases like this.

However, it is likely, considering that this is a white-collar criminal case involving money laundering, also lying to federal prosecutors about their foreign agent status, it is likely that the judge would release them, possibly with several considerations about -- as to whether or not they have to surrender their passports, as to whether or not they have to maintain a curfew.

So all of those decisions will be laid out when both men make their initial appearance, right here at district court, that happening at 1:30 this afternoon. And in the meantime, John and Poppy, we wait for both men to be transported by federal authorities from the FBI field office, right here to court. Back to you.

HARLOW: All right. Jessica Schneider, thank you very much for that. Let's go to the White House now, where Kaitlan Collins is there. And we have learned, just the (ph) past few moments, that the president has been briefed on these charges. What else do we know?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's right. The president has been briefed by his legal team at the White House here. We hear that we're not likely to get a statement from the legal team on this until they can go through the full scope of these charges. But other than that, we have no official comment from the White House

so far, John and Poppy, on this. All we have, so far, is several White House officials, on background, attempting to distance themselves from Paul Manafort, from Paul -- from Robert Gates, and from these charges, telling several people on the White -- on the CNN White House team that these charges have nothing to do with the White House, nothing to do with the Trump campaign.

And one person actually told my college, Sara Murray, "These guys were bad guys when they started. They were bad guys when they left." And they added, "This has nothing to do with Russia." But that's right, we know that the president has met with his legal team, they've gone over these charges.

But just to remind everyone, Paul Manafort is someone who was hired by the Trump campaign back in March. Then he was promoted to campaign chairman in May and he did not resign until mid-August. So he is someone who was around the campaign for some time.

And we actually last heard the president comment on Paul Manafort in August. That was after the FBI had raided Paul Manafort's Virginia home. And the president told reporters at his golf course in New Jersey, that he thought that the raid signaled something very serious. He said that he'd always known Paul Manafort to be a decent man and that he knew that he had fees coming in and out of some places. But all -- above all, he said that he thought he was a decent person.

But it's not likely we'll hear from the White House until later this afternoon. The press secretary, Sarah Sanders, is scheduled to brief reporters at 1 o'clock here. So we will keep you updated on any comment from the White House on these charges.

HARLOW: OK. All right. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you so much.

And I do want to bring our viewers a little more color that we just got from our Gloria Borger. A source close to the president acknowledging, "Yes, the president has been briefed on this and that he will likely say later that he feels badly for Paul Manafort and his family, but this has nothing to do with us or the campaign."

BERMAN: Which this indictment, as of now, does not. However--

HARLOW: Right.

BERMAN: -- the investigation of Robert Mueller might have a lot to do with the campaign. So stay tuned. We are following all these major breaking developments, as Paul Manafort and Rick Gates face charges. A 12-count indictment. They go to the courthouse very shortly. Stick around.

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARLOW: All right. Back with our breaking news. Those (ph) two men you see on your screen, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, two men very close to the Trump campaign for a significant period of time, have been charged with 12 counts, very serious counts including conspiracy against the United States, money laundering, et cetera.

With us, CNN chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, our legal analyst; and former special assistant to Robert Mueller previously, Michael Zeldin; Asha Rangappa, CNN analyst and former FBI special agent. So thank you all for being here.

Jeffrey Toobin, to you: This is -- these are two people high up and important to Trump World, as we just heard from our Dana Bash and our team. The thinking though, also, is, "Well, is this an effort to flip one or both of them?" To get them to cooperate to get to something bigger?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Certainly, in a major white- collar investigation, the first charges are almost always against people that the prosecutor hopes will plead guilty and then cooperate against others. Rick Gates in particular, tomorrow, could virtually guarantee himself no prison time if he were to flip and cooperate.

Now, there are problems with flipping and cooperating, starting with the fact that you may have nothing to offer against other people. You may--

HARLOW: That they don't already have?

TOOBIN: That -- that they don't already have or that you just are unaware of other criminal activity. But the -- the federal criminal law, the federal -- federal law enforcement offers tremendous benefits to people who plead and cooperate. I mean, you -- you know, Sammy Gravano admitted to killing 19 people and he only got five years in prison after he cooperated. I mean, that's what this -- how the system works.

Certainly, these two -- these two defendants who are well-represented by counsel, the counsel will be telling them that. They may say, "Look, I'm not guilty of anything. I'm not cooperating." They may say, "I may be guilty but I don't want to cooperate." But there are major, major incentives to cooperating in the federal system.

BERMAN: You know, Asha, you've been inside some of these investigations, working from different angles both at the FBI and as a lawyer. As you look at this right now, as you look at these charges before us, what do they tell you?

ASHA RANGAPPA, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: They tell me a couple of things, John. So, right now we don't see the direct tie between Trump and Russia. But this is Birnam Wood creeping a little bit closer to the White House. We have these two campaign officials who -- who do have Russia's -- ties with Russia. And we have a conspiracy charge here. And a conspiracy charge is going to allow the government to, potentially, expand the scope of who might have been involved with that connection. I would also say that this criminal indictment needs to be looked at

against the backdrop of the counterintelligence investigation. And I just want to highlight two different things.

The first is, what we know about the FISA warrants on Manafort. What is listed in the indictment now, all of his activities on behalf of Ukraine, presumably formed a large basis and may have been the result of information gleaned from the first FISA that was on him. We know that that ended and then there was another FISA that went up on him for -- for his ties with Russia directly.

So what I would say is, that there might have been information gained from those FISAs that we -- we don't necessarily see here, that could be building the, quote-unquote, "collusion case," in terms of election interference.

The second thing is, also, the Steele dossier. Manafort plays a big role there, in terms of coordinating with the Kremlin, in terms of election interference. That's raw intelligence, we don't know how much of it's true but it makes sense, now, that Mueller would be using the Steele dossier and trying to verify as much of it. And maybe that's why he needs Manafort to start talking.

TOOBIN: Can -- can I just--

HARLOW: Yes.

TOOBIN: -- expand on a point that Asha -- Asha's making? Because I think it's -- it's a very important one. Why was Paul Manafort involved in this campaign? What -- why -- who is he? Why is he involved?

I mean, what this indictment lays out, is that he was making millions of dollars from the Russia-backed party in the Ukraine. I mean, he is someone who was doing Vladimir Putin's bidding in Ukraine.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: He then becomes the campaign chairman for -- for Donald Trump. Who's he working for? What side is he on? I mean, it is consistent with a campaign that was highly sympathetic to Russia.

HARLOW: And -- and you will remember, under his leadership, his five months there, at the convention is when the U.S. -- the Republican platform towards Ukraine changed, to be much more sympathetic to Russia.

We're watching, obviously, vehicles as they're going, here, we just -- we don't know yet if that--

BERMAN: Yes. There are a lot of black (ph) SUVs (ph)--

(CROSSTALK)

HARLOW: -- that's all I can tell you, those (ph) are (ph) --

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: There are a lot of black SUVs in Washington.

HARLOW: -- That's a black SUV.

BERMAN: Maybe someone was in that that we care about. We'll get back to you on that.

HARLOW: But -- but to Jeffrey's -- to Jeffrey's point, Michael Zeldin. To you, as someone who worked with Bob Mueller, your thoughts this morning? I mean, count one of this indictment is that Manafort and Gates generated tens of millions of dollars, over a decade, and -- from Ukraine, and hid those payments from the government of the United States.

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN ANALYST: That's right. He engaged in a money- laundering conspiracy. So when I was special counsel to Mueller at the Justice Department, my mandate was money laundering. And this is pretty much what we did. This is pretty much blocking and tackling.

There are two statutes that are raised here, Title 18, 1956, which has an international money-laundering provision, which you see all of the allegations of the money coming from Cyprus to the U.S., and buying these properties using shell corporations to disguise the true ownership of that money, Manafort and his partner.

Then you see domestic money laundering under 1956 as well, which is, money laundering intended to evade the -- the requirements under the tax laws, and to conceal the true source and origin of that money, the money gained overseas.

Also, you've got these things under Title 31 of the Criminal Code, which are called FBARs, which are these foreign financial account reporting requirements. And they require people who earn more than $10,000 in cash or currency or any other form of payment, overseas, that has a bank account there, to report that money. And these guys didn't do that in successive years.

So they laundered the proceeds of money from outside the U.S., inside the U.S. They laundered the money in the U.S. with the invent to -- intent to evade taxes and to promote their underlying schemes (ph). They failed to file the reports of their foreign financial accounts overseas. And then, finally, they failed to register as foreign agents and make truthful statements about those foreign agent registrations (ph). So this is a pretty big deal, from an investigative standpoint, and it's a very well-constructed indictment.

The thing about the indictment, too, is that this type of behavior is the type of behavior that the reporting, if you will, in the media, has made with respect to Flynn and the Flynn Intel Group. So you may see a mirror indictment with respect to Flynn and his Intel Group, for these types of charges.

So if you see this and you're Flynn, you might be thinking, like Jeffrey said, "How do I incentivize the government to think lightly about me?" And maybe it's Flynn that this message -- this indictment sends a message to, to start cooperating.

The other thing -- the last thing--

BERMAN: Look. There are a lot of people, a lot of lawyers -- go ahead.

ZELDIN: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: -- last point?

ZELDIN: The -- the last thing I wanted to say is that in the 21st paragraph of this indictment, it does say that Manafort wants (ph) information from company A and B, the two other consulting firms, so that the president can be briefed on this.

So there is a direct reference to the president. I assume that's the president of the United States. And, as was reported, this lobbying on behalf of Ukraine did find its way into a watered-down plank at the convention.

So to say that it has no touch points to--

BERMAN: Right.

ZELDIN: -- the -- the campaign or President Trump may be an overstatement.

BERMAN: We'll take a look at that. It could be referring to the president of Ukraine.

TOOBIN: I think -- I think it basically, it is (ph)--

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: -- basically, or (ph) referring to the president of Ukraine.

TOOBIN: -- 2013.

ZELDIN: Yeah.

BERMAN: -- Michael, but we take your point there. The other point, that a lot of folks and (ph) a lot of lawyers in Washington right now are looking at this indictment and looking to see what Bob Mueller is doing. And wondering if they might be next and how they can (ph) mitigate (ph) that.

HARLOW: Well, because these do (ph) -- yeah. They say--

BERMAN: Right.

HARLOW: -- a lot of these counts, you know, Manafort and Gates, together with others.

BERMAN: Right. All right. Jeffrey Toobin, Michael Zeldin, Asha Rangappa, thanks so much.

Let's get to Jeff Zeleny at the White House. He's getting some more information about what's going on there. Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John and Poppy. I'm actually in our Washington bureau. And we are talking to people inside the White House, today, who are discussing their meetings with the president.

And one question, of course, hanging over all of this is, "Will the president renew his call to fire the special counsel, Robert Mueller?" Of course, he has made his, you know, displeasure at this investigation, no secret of course. He has been trying to discredit the investigation.

But we are told the president is not going to renew his call to fire the special counsel at all. In the words of one official, "That would undercut the argument of the White House." And the thinking here is this. The White House is saying, in fact, "The president believes this has nothing to do with him." That is their line of thinking.

So by simply calling for the firing of Special Counsel Bob Mueller, it would, in one respect, offer Democrats and critics something that they are hoping to seize on. So the White House is staying far away from that. The president, staying far away from any direct criticism of the special counsel.

John and Poppy?

HARLOW: OK. Jeff Zeleny, thank you for the reporting. We're waiting for a verbal statement from the president--

BERMAN: Right.

HARLOW: -- or (ph) the White House, but we now know the president's thinking (ph) directly from him. Let's put it on the screen, the president, just writing moments ago on Twitter, "Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren't Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????" He said this was years ago.

Jeffrey Toobin, the years of this indictment are 2006 to 2017.

TOOBIN: Right. I mean, it's, you know. It's just not true. I mean, you know, the president, obviously, can tweet what he wants. But the indictment itself. I mean, you don't have to interpret the indictment, you only have to read the indictment to see that it says the conspiracy goes during the precisely the time he was -- Manafort and Gates -- were working for the Trump campaign.

So with respect to the president, it's -- he's just simply wrong.

BERMAN: All right, Jeffrey. Stick around. We have a lot more to talk about, including more breaking news. The possibility that someone else is now charged, or at least pleaded, in this investigation. We'll have much more on that straight ahead.