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Trump's Former Foreign Policy Adviser Pleads Guilty. Aired 10:30-11a ET
Aired October 30, 2017 - 10:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:32:28] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We have more breaking news for you this morning. We're reporting that Paul Manafort and Rick Gates surrendering to authorities today. A 12-count indictment against them stemming from the Russian meddling investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. But we just learned that someone else, which would mean a third person, has now already pleaded guilty to something connected with this.
Let's get right to CNN justice correspondent Evan Perez.
Evan, what do we know? What's going on here?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, now we have information on George Papadopoulos who, it turns out according to the document that were just released by the special counsel's office, pleaded guilty back on October 3rd to lying to the FBI.
Now the importance of this is that now we have the first indictment from Mueller that has some connection to the 2016 presidential campaign. George Papadopoulos admits now to the FBI that he lied when he was first asked about his contacts with people in Russia, with people who are close to the Russian government. In particular, there was some conversations back in March of 2016 shortly after he had joined the Trump campaign and he was in contact with a professor from Russia who according to the FBI has close ties with the Russian government.
And according to this information that he now admits, he says that this meeting was about promises from the Russian government to possessing dirt on Hillary Clinton in particular about thousands of e- mails that they said they had.
Now again, this professor who is not named in these documents was in touch with George Papadopoulos shortly before he became -- I'm sorry, shortly after he joined the Trump campaign as a foreign policy adviser and that timing is important because it says according to the documents that the Russians knew and they were trying to use his connections to the Trump campaign in order to try to get access to the campaign.
There's also a mention of contacts and communications with a woman also who was connected to the Russian government. Again, the whole purpose of this was trying to make inroads. The Russians -- the Russian government was trying to make inroads to the Trump campaign and it appears they were trying to use George Papadopoulos to do that.
Again he is a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign and he pleaded guilty on October 3rd to giving false statements to the FBI.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: OK. Evan Perez with more breaking news for us this morning outside of the courthouse where we're waiting for Manafort and Gates.
Let's talk more about this. Our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin is back. CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger is also here.
[10:35:06] OK. So President Trump, according to "The Washington Post," called this man Papadopoulos an energy consultant and, quote, "an excellent guy." This is also a guy who at least six times, according to "The Washington Post," tried to set up meetings between top campaign officials on the Trump team and Russians.
And now he's admitted according to Evan's reporting and according to the -- to what we have here, the paperwork, that he lied about the timing, the extent and the nature of his relationship and interactions with certain foreign national governments with close connections to senior Russian officials.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, this is enormously significant because this is a guilty plea coming out of the Trump campaign directly. I mean, you know, the president, you know, tweeted earlier this morning that Manafort's, you know, financial crimes -- alleged financial crimes took place before he was involved with the Trump campaign. That's incorrect. In fact, they are alleged to have continued while he was with the Trump campaign but they are financial crimes not directly related to the Trump campaign.
This is a felony guilty plea about activities in the Trump campaign regarding Russia so this goes directly to Mueller's mandate to investigate collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. I mean, we're going to have to parse exactly what he pleaded guilty to, but it was related to the Trump campaign and Russia. I mean, that's what it was about.
BERMAN: All right. Gloria Borger, I want to bring you into this. The White House, we don't know if they had this information when they started this spin this morning about Paul Manafort and Rick Gates that they weren't, you know -- go ahead. Go ahead.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, what they will say is that Paul Manafort turned down all these meetings and that these meetings were offered by Papadopoulos but that it never amounted to anything. So I'm just saying in advance that's what they're going to say. That's what they're going to say.
BERMAN: And again, you have much more on the disposition inside the West Wing this morning. What the president is saying about this, how he feels about it and what he might say publicly beyond these tweets saying, you know, what Paul Manafort did a million and a half years ago doesn't relate to me. BORGER: Right. And I think -- I think my reporting shows that what
the president tweets is what he's probably going to say. I spoke with somebody close to the president who said that the president has been briefed fully on the charges this morning, and the source said that the president could say later -- and this was, of course, before the tweets -- that he feels badly for Paul Manafort but that this has absolutely nothing to do with the campaign and this source also downplayed these charges as what has been predicted and said that it goes back years as Donald Trump just tweeted and said that it's completely unrelated to Donald Trump.
HARLOW: So the president's part two of his tweet this morning is simply also there is no collusion. This is someone who in March of last year, Jeffrey Toobin, George Papadopoulos, there are two separate things this morning. There are charges, really serious, a dozen charges against two people. Gates and Manafort.
HARLOW: And then there is a guilty plea from someone who the president described one year ago as a member of his foreign policy team, an energy consultant and an excellent guy.
TOOBIN: It's very significant. Also just from Mueller's perspective, it is significant that he has a guilty plea. I mean, you know, the fact that a prosecutor is working without having won any cases is something prosecutors worry about. Mueller doesn't have to worry about that anymore because he has now one guilty plea and as well as an indictment against two others.
BERMAN: Look, I find it very curious that we're learning this information about the Papadopoulos thing today. Obviously it was part of what was unsealed. It is wildly different than the financial crimes with Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. It just makes me wonder, are there more out there? Or is this everything at once and there's nothing else? Have they made determinations on other people who've come in that they have been truthful. Something I'm very curious about.
Gloria, I want to bring in the idea of what the administration will do in regards to Robert Mueller because since CNN broke the story that indictments were coming.
BERMAN: And this was a clean break, by the way, on Friday. All weekend there was speculation that Donald Trump, will he now push to fire Robert Mueller? Republicans, you know, have been criticizing Robert Mueller. Do you expect any movement on that front?
BORGER: Well, at this point I really don't. I think the White House attorneys from my reporting are going to maintain that they're cooperating with Mueller fully. That Manafort is a separate case. And as you know, the president has drawn the red line and you guys have been talking about this all morning about his own financial transactions as part of the Trump organization. We see here that Mueller has gone back many years in terms of
Manafort's finances and this question of money laundering and financial crimes, et cetera.
[10:40:10] The question is whether Mueller would in fact do that with the president of the United States. Now as of last week -- and I'm telling you, these things are changing very quickly. As of last week, I was told that they had been given no indication that the president -- that Mueller is moving into sort of the financial realm with Trump and affiliates but, first of all, would they know, and secondly, will that have changed? Are things that we need to continue to report?
HARLOW: OK. Also, Jeffrey Toobin, our Phil Mattingly just tweeted out something that is from -- not this indictment. A different indictment against Papadopoulos. What we've learned now about this guy who was a foreign -- who was a consultant at least with the Trump campaign on foreign affairs. Was apparently arrested July 27th of this year upon his arrival at Dulles International Airport.
Following his arrest the defendant, Papadopoulos, met with government officials on numerous occasions to provide information and answer questions. Now if this is someone who has -- if this is someone who is helpful to the government, would he still have pled guilty as to lesser charges?
TOOBIN: Well, I -- usually the way it works when someone is cooperating who has some culpability, they have pled guilty and in return for a suggestion of leniency from prosecutors to the judge when it comes time for sentencing. So it sounds like, based on Phil Mattingly's reporting, that he did -- that this was a cooperation agreement. That he pled guilty to this crime but in hopes of leniency he has been cooperating along the way.
HARLOW: Multiple meetings.
TOOBIN: Multiple meetings to -- and, you know, whether he has anything useful about other criminal activity from other people, we don't know at this point. But obviously he has been cooperating.
BERMAN: I got to say, I want to find out much more about the George Papadopoulos matter because one of these things is not like the other.
Jeffrey Toobin, Gloria Borger, thanks so much for being with us.
We are waiting to see Paul Manafort and Rick Gates as they head over to the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C. You can see the cameras set up outside. A 12-count indictment against these two men, now part of three people that we now know have been charged in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
[10:46:44] HARLOW: All right. We are back now with even more breaking news this morning. We've now learned that a former Trump foreign policy adviser has pled guilty for making false statements to the FBI and former campaign staffers, the former chair of the campaign, Paul Manafort and his associate, Rick Gates, have been indicted on 12 counts including conspiracy against the United States. They're being processed at this moment.
Joining us now, CNN political commentators Errol Louis, former congressman Steve Israel and former congressman Jack Kingston.
It's nice to have you all here.
Errol, to you. Top line box this morning, this is a guilty plea about lying to the FBI from one person who worked on the Trump team.
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's right.
HARLOW: And this is some -- a serious indictment with 12 serious counts against two others.
LOUIS: Very serious stuff. The most recent one is, I think, remarkable because we're talking about false statements that were made after the inauguration. The president, even though he tweeted this just a few minutes ago, can no longer claim this has nothing to do with the administration. This was somebody who pleaded himself. It's not as if someone is making an allegation. He says with his own mouth under oath I lied. I did this. I did that.
And we're talking about events that happened in one case January 27th. So now we're in the administration. Now we've got a guilty plea. Now we've got somebody who was talking to the Russians. This charge about fake news at some point people have to decide if the facts matter at all but clearly the facts here again sworn to in an American court is that we've got a problem here.
BERMAN: Jack Kingston, George Papadopoulos, an adviser to the Trump campaign, lied about meetings that he had with Russians. Lied about contacts that he had with Russians and admitted to that. So to Errol's point, what do you make of that?
JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, number one, I don't believe he's a member of the administration. If I heard Errol correctly --
BERMAN: No, he didn't. An adviser to the Trump campaign. He was a foreign policy adviser and introduced by then candidate Trump as a foreign policy adviser.
HARLOW: And a, quote, "excellent guy." The president called him an excellent guy last year.
KINGSTON: Yes, but -- but I still want to qualify, he's not in the administration. And so I think that there are a lot of people in the campaign who had illustrious titles and titles probably that claimed a lot more than they actually did in the campaign. Carter Page was one of them, for example, who had never met Donald Trump and yet was kind of painted in the press quite often as being somebody very, very close to the president, but he had never met him. So I don't know what George did in the campaign. He was probably a
volunteer. But you know, he did lie. And I think that's significant. But he wasn't lying necessarily on behalf of anybody. He was lying to protect himself because he has suggested that the campaign meet with Russia.
Now let me say this. Everything that has been premised and published so far shows that the campaign rejected his offers and said, no, we're not going to do that. And in fact, at one time Sam Clovis said we don't -- we don't like this at all. This looks like it's a violation of the law. So I think that it's possible that the buck could stop right there.
On the Paul Manafort stuff, that's stuff that has been under investigation for many, many years. And it does not appear to have anything to do with the campaign.
HARLOW: Well --
KINGSTON: As you know --
[10:50:02] HARLOW: You're saying that the timeline just doesn't match up. I mean, this indictment is for, you know, 2006 to 2017. It didn't end in 2013.
KINGSTON: It only -- but the money was really during the 2007 to 2012 era when he was working for the Ukraine government and he had that infamous black ledger that was covered many times in the press in 2016 where something like $12 million was in a handwritten ledger and he had forms and bank accounts in Cyprus and so forth.
The fact that it went beyond that was possible that he was still laundering money back to the United States but the other part 2017 is when he finally, along I might add with John Podesta, chairman of the Hillary Clinton campaign, his brother, Tony Podesta who worked with Paul Manafort, that's when they both actually went ahead and signed their Fair Act forms showing that they were working for a foreign government.
That, again, was Tony Podesta, who I'm sure is going to be another shoe that falls very quickly as we start looking more and more into this whole thing and the question --
BERMAN: We'll see.
KINGSTON: -- about the dossier and --
BERMAN: We'll see. Today was campaign chair Paul Manafort who was indicted along with deputy chair of the transition, Rick Gates, and foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos who pleaded guilty. What happens later we'll have to wait and see.
Congressman Israel, to you, just again, your reaction to the events. STEVE ISRAEL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I chaired the
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for four years and I used to coach candidates and lesson one in politics try and avoid headlines with the words "31 page indictment" and money laundering and they haven't been able to avoid this.
Republicans were going into this midterm cycle, they were facing a headwind. They now face a headwind that is strong and sustained. The fact is that if you're part of that 35 percent of the American people who love Donald Trump, this is the nothing burger that we've heard about. But if you are a resistor and an opponent of Donald Trump this is like an all-you-can-eat buffet. For most swing voters, those coveted swing voters who will determined who has the majority in Congress next year, this isn't really much of anything. They kind of tune this out.
What they want is a president focused on their paychecks, on veterans' health care, on drug abuse and national security. What they have is a president who is obsessed and consumed now with his own legal and political survival. Two tweets already this morning, a tweet storm yesterday.
This is really going to play to Donald Trump and House Republicans' failure, their weakness. People want a president who's going to be focusing on them, not legal and political survival. I think this portends a very bumpy cycle and I can tell you already, I talked to some colleagues this morning, Donald Trump has been on the phone with Republicans, saying, I didn't know that the Democrats were in charge of the House Intelligence Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee. You guys need to up the ante. Level the playing field. And that's what you're going to see.
HARLOW: The sad thing about this, Errol, is just to the congressman's point about, well, if you're the 35 percent that love the president, this is a nothing burger. Isn't this -- this is beyond politics. This is a guilty plea of someone working, lying to the FBI about, you know, working with the Russian government and this is 12 counts including conspiring against the United States.
HARLOW: To two other people high up.
HARLOW: At what point is this beyond how you feel about the president?
LOUIS: You raise a good point. This is an important moment for American institutions and the integrity of the courts and of the Congress and of the media and of the voters. You know, they're in this, too. People have got to decide whether or not any of this matters and I understand, you know, I mean, if you go back to Watergate, until very late in the game, a lot of people weren't paying attention, didn't think it was serious and all of the polling sort of bears that out. However, the events did march forward. The institutions did do their
jobs. The system did hold and that's what we have to focus on here to make sure that what is true is put forward, that we don't chase all kinds of distraction that the president and others are going to throw up, but we don't start attacking and cannibalizing the institutions. There's been this drumbeat of attacks on Mueller and the idea of a special counsel actually looking into this.
And if that had succeeded we wouldn't have these guilty pleas, we wouldn't have this investigation. The congressional committees have got to do their job. Everybody has got to do their job. And you know, look, the public will catch up at some point. Those who want to catch up. Those who don't care, well, God bless them, you know. But for a lot of people, it's real serious business when according to the second indictment that was unsealed today, or this guilty plea that was announced, you know, somebody was meeting with Russians and then felt compelled to lie about it. After the inauguration, after they had won.
LOUIS: Why did he lie? That is the next set of questions that people are going to want answered.
BERMAN: Congressman Kingston, I can't tell if you're trying to talk. Let me ask you a question and you can answer that or what you've been trying to say because I can't tell in my ear if you've been trying to talk about this.
The Robert Mueller investigation, do you think Bob Mueller is doing his job?
KINGSTON: I think he is. You know, Peter King has been cautiously supportive of him, Trey Gowdy, the same thing. He has criticism because we don't understand where he was during the uranium one deal when he was director of the FBI.
[10:55:06] Why weren't there questions when there were apparently an informant who said, hey, Russia is trying to infiltrate this American trucking company, and I think those are legitimate questions. I have questions about his relationships with James Comey, but I think for right now I'm going to go with Trey Gowdy.
But let me say this in terms of what counts to the American people, the stock market is at 23,000, $5 trillion new money coming into the economy because of the growth since this president has taken office, lowest unemployment rate in 16 years. A lot of things that matter to people have been delivered by this administration.
During the Clinton administration, there were 47 indictments, 14 people went to jail, and yet he was re-elected. So I think that the American people realize that if things are going well in the economy, things are going well with them these kinds of sometimes very, very political and I think we can all agree that this is a political investigation, these things go on. You know, to --
BERMAN: Congressman -- we want to give Congressman Israel.
HARLOW: Your response to that.
ISRAEL: I can't wait. Look, I love Jack Kingston but I don't know who you're talking to, Jack, but the people I'm talking to, they're not progressing the way they want. There isn't the mobility they want. And you can agree with the nuance of a specific policy but they want a president who's focused on them and not his own legal and political problems. They want a president tweeting about them, not him.
HARLOW: Thank you all very much.
KINGSTON: Remember when --
HARLOW: Congressman, we have to leave it there.
BERMAN: Congressman, we have to go right now because there's so much news this morning, we got to stay on it.
The breaking news, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, they'll arrive at a federal court house. They face a 12-count indictment. A foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign pleaded guilty.
Much more on the breaking news coming up.