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Government Asks for Manafort's Bail to be Set at $10 Million; Tony Podesta Leaves Lobbying Firm Amid Mueller Probe. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired October 30, 2017 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:30:03] CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: OK. But what is alleged in here that he has agreed happened is essentially he lied to the FBI in January 2016 about the timing of his meeting and contacts with a foreign agent, a foreign official, a Russian foreign official.
The reason that the foreign official reached out to him as we now know per the plea agreement is because he had the job as a foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump. So I think that that's very important.
The Manafort stuff is a little bit more easily dismissed because yes, it does have to do from 2004 to 2015. I don't think you should dismiss it. But this Papadopoulos stuff matters in my opinion and is much more problematic for Donald Trump and his administration than what we know of the Manafort indictment.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Dana, close this out.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They got him and they flipped him, Papadopoulos. That's what happened and it is clearly continuing to happen.
That new Rick Gates statement that you just read, Brooke, is also interesting because, you know, they're saying he's going to take a breath. He's going to try to figure things out. That, you know, that sort of cryptic note about him not having the proper counsel there at the time.
Rick Gates, again, certainly not a household name, but from our reporting real time and our knowledge real time of the Trump campaign, he was there and around at critical times from the convention, you know, through when he went to the Republican National Committee and then back in and out of the White House this year.
And certainly he was not supposed to be there officially, but he was there several times, but he worked on the PAC.
So the question is whether he has anything to offer the Feds. Especially given the fact that he's got this giant indictment in front of him and that can't be underestimated, that question.
BALDWIN: Right. Cooperating with the Feds, talking with the Feds, what might that mean for other people in this orbit, to be continued. Chris Cillizza and Dana Bash, thank you so much.
We're going to continue here on this breaking news. I can hear the buzz in the Washington newsroom here. More today -- is the former Trump adviser George Papadopoulos now cooperating with authorities after this guilty plea? What does that mean? Should the White House counsel be worried? We'll talk more about that.
Also, what do today's indictments signal about the pace of this Bob Mueller investigation? Is this coming to a close or is this, oh, so much more to reveal? You're watching CNN's special live coverage.
[14:37:00] BALDWIN: All right. So some more breaking news here on the news with regard to Paul Manafort and Mr. Gates here. As we know, they have gone through federal court and bail has been set for Manafort at $10 million. Gates at $5 million. And the court has placed both of these two gentlemen under house arrest.
So I have with me Jennifer Taub, Jeffrey Toobin, Carrie Cordero, and also Carl Bernstein here with me.
Jeff Toobin, just to you first. What jumps out at you is the fact that they're under house arrest, yes?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely, and the enormously high bail. They don't have to put up that much money, but they are agreeing to forfeit that much if they disappear.
In a white-collar case like this, this is an unusually severe bail conditions. Usually, the only condition would be you'd have to surrender your passport, but you would be released on your own recognizance.
Obviously, the -- the Mueller investigation and the Mueller team made the case to the judge that both of these gentlemen are flight risks and they are flight risks to leave the country where they can't be retrieved.
So the judge agreed at least enough to impose really onerous bail conditions, you know, just short of locking them up.
You know, house arrest, you know, it sounds --
BALDWIN: What does that entail exactly?
TOOBIN: It means you stay in your apartment other than sanctioned trips to a doctor, to your lawyer's office. I mean, you are really like --
BALDWIN: For the foreseeable future.
TOOBIN: Until the trial is resolved. And the trial in this case, as we were discussing earlier is months away. So that is a -- and it may be, and this is something to look into. Their presence at their homes may be secured by an ankle bracelet, you know, which registers if they leave --
BALDWIN: That's what you were thinking.
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
TOOBIN: Which is an even more unpleasant and onerous condition of bail. So, obviously, the judge was convinced that these two represented flight risks and took really rather severe steps to make sure they hang around the jurisdiction.
BERNSTEIN: And presumably the prosecutor outlined in some way to the judge why he considers them flight risk. But there's another element of this that goes to everything we have seen today about this deadly serious investigation and the signals that Mueller is making. And that is ankle bracelets or the equivalent there are going on these people.
For those of you out here who may have also conspired, you should take a look at this. These are very tough, some would say nasty, prosecutorial tactics. We see what's going on. I think those of us who have covered the courts over the years, a former prosecutor here --
BERNSTEIN: This is how you build a conspiracy case and try to get others to flip, to talk about what they have seen. And what we have seen today absolutely undermines the notion that Donald Trump has been saying that, no, there's nothing here to even suggest collusion.
[14:10:08] I've avoided the word collusion and talked about knowledge, perhaps of what the Russians wanted.
This is about -- these indictments are about a conspiracy to collude, to undermine an American election. That's what really comes through when you put the dots together and it says there are other conspirators to be heard from in this, is that not right, Jeffrey?
TOOBIN: That's -- I mean, you're going a little farther than I would based on the evidence that I've seen.
But just one point about the toughness of the prosecution.
TOOBIN: The prosecutor has been appearing before the grand jury most often is Andrew Weissmann. Andrew Weissmann and I were colleagues in the eastern district of New York, in Brooklyn and he later went on to run the Enron Prosecution Task Force.
He is a notoriously tough prosecutor and these bail conditions are certainly indicative of an Andrew Weissmann prosecution.
BALDWIN: Carrie, let me have you jump in.
Carrie Cordero, once served as the counsel to the assistant attorney general for national security. Your thoughts on the where the bail is set and house arrest.
CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER COUNSEL TO ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: Well, sure. The bail certainly represents the extraordinarily serious charges that are alleged in this indictment.
I mean, what the indictment really shows that the big picture is that Paul Manafort's entire career was based in a culture of corruption. The fact that he brought millions or tens of millions of dollars, hid them in foreign bank accounts, hid that information from the U.S. Treasury, from federal investigators looking into whether or not he was a lawful register foreign agent.
This is someone who built his entire career in corruption, working for an oligarch in the Ukraine, who was ousted based in part on allegations of corruption.
So it's not surprising, really, that the prosecutors would treat him as seriously and the bail is representative of the seriousness of the charges that are against him and Mr. Gates.
BALDWIN: We don't know. This could be the beginning or not of other dominos to fall, but Jennifer, what -- what signal does this send?
You're an expert on white-collar crime here. I mean, you know Mueller's team has really brought in all these experts on white-collar crime that, you know, speaks volumes.
What signal does this send?
JENNIFER TAUB, CO-AUTHOR, "CORPORATE & WHITE COLLAR CRIME, 6TH EDITION": Thanks, Brooke. I really do think that the sleeper story here today is the guilty plea entered by George Papadopoulos. Although, of course, the charges against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates are quite serious.
This plea, this admission that he lied to the FBI regarding contacts that the Trump campaign had with Russian officials is really very serious because it goes to the heart of what the special prosecutor was investigating.
And I was particularly interested in the initial statement, in that charging document which makes clear that there are more facts that are known both by Papadopoulos and the special prosecutor concerning these matters. And this was just one charge that they decided to bring against him.
So I think this is very critical and I think there are probably many other folks who took part in the campaign or perhaps even in the White House who may have engaged in illegal and false statement as well, and they're probably very, very nervous about this plea.
BALDWIN: Let me also just clarify language. I just got handed a separate piece of paper here. The government has asked for Manafort and Gates to be placed on house arrest. We don't know that they've actually been placed under house arrest. So there is a key difference. Asked for them to be placed.
But on Papadopoulos, Carrie, back to you.
We know that -- when you look at the criminal complaint there, it goes back to I want to say it was January 27th, right. So that's seven days after Trump was sworn in. This was way before anyone's even talking about Special Counsel Bob Mueller here.
CORDERO: Well, first of all, it's important to remember that the special counsel's investigation did not start the moment that the special counsel was appointed. The special counsel's investigation picked up on what was already an ongoing investigation by the FBI into Russian influence, into the election and whether or not there was influence.
So there was a continued investigation. The charges against him, again, indicate that he lied to investigators and they showed that there really was intent on the part of the Russians and knowledge on the part of members of the campaign that there was Russian intent to be involved with the campaign.
[14:45:00] So what his plea document demonstrates is that not only was he trying to set up meetings with Russian government officials and Trump campaign officials, but that Trump campaign officials other than him knew about it and they didn't cut him off. They didn't fire him or if he was in a volunteer capacity, they didn't say we're not interested in you participating anymore. They continue to engage in e-mails with him. They continued to engage in a dialogue with him and the one footnote in the documents indicates that even encouraged the conversations to continue.
TOOBIN: And, Brooke, if I can just add one point.
BALDWIN: Go for it.
TOOBIN: You know, let's start to put all of the evidence together.
TOOBIN: Think about the June 9th meeting at Trump Tower with -- with Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner where he receives an e-mail that says the Russian government...
BALDWIN: Has got dirt.
TOOBIN: Has got dirt, and you know, wants to share it with you. He doesn't say what do you mean? Why would I be interested in that? I never heard anything like that. He says great. Love it.
It's because, it seems, they were getting other overtures from the Russian government that we are seeing in these e-mails today. So there are -- it is all part of a continuing relationship between the Trump campaign and people affiliated with Russia. That's what we are learning today.
BERNSTEIN: The Papadopoulos indictment is very specific about this. And it keeps saying each time that Papadopoulos has a contact with the Russians and including someone who is identified whether accurately or not as a niece of Putin, pardon me, that each time this happens he reports back to those higher up in the campaign.
It's all laid out there. And our own reporting from Jim Sciutto there indicates that among those higher in the campaign, who were notified was Paul Manafort, who was the campaign manager.
So then that goes to the --
BERNSTEIN: Chairman. Pardon me. And that goes to the question then if that is the case and I'm sure Mueller is looking into all of this, then who did Manafort talk to about these overtures for -- more than overtures, these back and forth communications with the Russians?
Whether or not incidentally, it is illegal to do that with the Russians is another threshold question that we don't know the answer to yet unless there is a real intent to collude with a foreign power, but whatever the case, we are now seeing a conspiracy outlined of a prospective conspiracy to collude with this foreign power to undermine our election.
BALDWIN: Thank you, Carl. Jennifer, just hold that thought for just a second, because I need to ask you all to stand by.
Welcome to breaking news Monday. There is more breaking news here within this whole Mueller probe. It is also now apparently impacting a top Democratic lobbyist, who says he is now stepping down from his lobbying firm.
Who this is? What his involvement here in this mess has been? Stay with me.
BALDWIN: All right. Here is the breaking news.
Within this whole Mueller probe. It's now impacting a top Democratic lobbyist.
CNN's Dan Merica is joining me with more.
We're talking about Tony Podesta. What have we learned? What's his involvement?
DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, we are being told that Tony Podesta is stepping down from the lobbying firm, the powerful lobbying firm he helped found.
A couple important notes here. Tony Podesta's brother, John Podesta, was the campaign chairman of Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign, obviously, entirely wrapped up in the e-mail investigation and the e- mail story line. His e-mail was hacked as we well know.
We are told that Tony Podesta told his staff that he was stepping down at a meeting at his all-staff meeting and that he is currently calling clients to let them know.
Now Podesta had a very powerful lobbying group in Washington, D.C. He's trying to salvage their clients, who told they are going to change their name, change their leadership all with the hopes of being able to continue to stay open. But obviously Tony Podesta was a big part of the Podesta Group as a founder.
Now this all stems from -- obviously, it comes on a day when much of the news has been dominated by the Mueller probe, and Tony Podesta's work with a pro-Russia, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has been really at the center of the intersection between his lobbying work and the Mueller probe.
Now I want to read you a statement that we got from the Podesta Group. They stood by their position that all of their work was in accordance with lobbying regulations.
And they quote, I want to read this. "The Podesta Group's work for the ECFMU, that is the European Center for a Modern Ukraine, a non- profit think tank, was in support of Ukraine's admission to the EU, a position supported by foreign policy experts at the time. The ECFMU provided formal certification that is neither funded by, nor directed by a government or political party."
Now a Podesta spokesperson tells us they stand by that statement and that Tony Podesta is working with and cooperating with the Mueller probe, but obviously, all of the news, the fact that Mueller is even into some of this work seems a bit too much for the Podesta Group to maintain their founder Tony Podesta.
BALDWIN: Dan, thank you.
Dan Merica at the White House for us.
With me now CNN contributor and former director of The Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub.
Walter, welcome back. On the Tony Podesta news, a Democrat. What's your reaction to that?
WALTER SHAUB, FORMER DIRECTOR, THE OFFICE OF GOVERNMENT ETHICS: Well, I'm hearing about it just at the same time as you are. One thing that's important to note, early on, I took a look at DOJ's regulations for the special prosecutor and it clearly says and actually it's repeated in his written authorization that Mueller received himself, that he can investigate any matters that arise in the course of this investigation.
It doesn't say matters arising against Republicans or Democrats. It just says any matters. So if he's come across something involving Podesta, that's fair game.
SHAUB: If it's come up in the course of this investigation.
[14:55:14] BALDWIN: Walter, let me ask you about today's indictments involving these Trump campaign officials and President Trump.
He's already shown that he's not afraid of using his pardoning power and so had a lot of journalists asking if he might use it within this Mueller investigation.
Let me play you some sound. This is CNN's senior legal analyst and former U.S. Attorney Prett Bharara.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRETT BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: He also have from historical record in recent months that Donald Trump will avoid going through the regular process for pardoning someone who was an ally, in this case it was Joe Arpaio, the sheriff in Arizona.
And there's been much speculation about whether or not Donald Trump would hesitate to use his pardon power to get out of legal jeopardy and trouble any allies of his and that's something I would watch very, very closely here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: So, Walter, here's my question. If you're the Feds and you're trying to get someone to flip. This case is totally different because it involves the president who has this pardoning power, is it more difficult for the Feds to get someone like Paul Manafort to flip because he's thinking maybe a pardon is in his future?
SHAUB: Well, that was the concern I expressed around the time that our parole received that pardon.
SHAUB: Because I was concerned it was less about Arpaio and more about a message to people
BALDWIN: Sending a message.
SHAUB: That, you know, stand by me, there might be a pardon coming.
BALDWIN: Right, which is you were not the only one to pontificate precisely that.
You also tweeted out that we need to get every member of Congress on the record on Bob Mueller. Do you think, and you know, the White House has essentially said today that's not the case. I don't want to fire Bob Mueller. But do you think today's developments make it a greater likelihood that Mueller might be fired?
SHAUB: Well, the White House said today that there's no plan, but it sounded to me like it was carefully worded as there's no plan right now. It's certainly something that concerns me deeply because our entire nation, our republic depends on having an independent judicial system which includes the executive branch's role as prosecutor.
If we have the White House interfering with investigations, whether by issuing pardons before the work is done or firing the investigator, it is, as far as I'm concerned, the biggest threat to our republic that I can imagine right now.
BALDWIN: What about the fact that when you look at the scope of this Mueller investigation and using Manafort, for example. I mean, this goes way before the campaign back into, say, '06 territory.
What does that tell you about Mueller's interests and perhaps pattern of investigation when it comes to the president here because remember, the president has said, you know, if you go way back into my finances years and years ago, that's a red line. Don't cross it.
SHAUB: well, it tells you a lot about the nature of a criminal investigation, which is slow and methodical and careful, and he's going to keep chasing down every thread defying criminal behavior that he can that arises out of this investigation. So it doesn't surprise me.
And it's also important to remember that the charges that are filed now can be amended or changed or updated. You can file a superseding indictment and so that raises concerns about the president's comment that you better not look into other matters. You better not broaden the investigation beyond the narrow scope that I think it should be. That's very threatening language. And the reason I chuckled when I thought about it it's also kind of a tell.
If a prosecutor is knocking on your door and you say don't look over there, that's, of course, where they're going to look.
SHAUB: It's very concerning and it's part of the reason, I think, members of Congress need to stand up right now from both parties and send a strong message that any interference of this investigation is not going to be tolerated because they're going to have a much harder choice to make if they sit idly by until something happens. And then in this polarized political environment, they have to decide then in the heat of the moment whether to take a stand.
They should prevent the situation that would necessitate them taking a stand by speaking out now and every last one of them should do it if they care about our republic. BALDWIN: We'll see if Congress is listening. And we've got a congresswoman on this next hour. I'll ask her about doing precisely that.
Walter Shaub, thank you so much.
We will have much more on our special breaking news coverage. We are back in 60 seconds.