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Justice Department Investigating Clinton Foundation; Bannon in Book: New Details from Tell-All Book on Trump. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired January 5, 2018 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:31:48] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: We are back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
There is breaking news today involving the Clintons. Sources telling CNN that the feds are actively investigating the Clinton Foundation for corruption. That is the charity of Bill and Hillary Clinton. The probe is looking at whether the Clintons took donations in exchange for political favors. In other words, pay to play. The Clinton Foundation calling the investigation politically motivated.
So let's bring in our CNN justice reporter, Laura Jarrett, part of the CNN team breaking all of this today. And also with us, CNN contributor and former Nixon White House counsel, John Dean, is back.
First, Laura, to you on the reporting. Is there any indication of new evidence that prompted this investigation? What do you know?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting, Brooke, U.S. Official tells me that the FBI and federal prosecutors down in Little Rock are digging into whether the foundation's donors improperly were receiving some sort of policy favors or special access to Clinton while she was secretary of state in exchange for donations. But also examining whether tax laws were followed properly here. Back in November of 2016, FBI agents in different field offices, including in Arkansas, had opened preliminary inquiries whether in proprietary but those fizzled before Election Day. So it's not precisely clear right now what if any evidence is this.
But the Clinton call it a sham and politically motivated. In fact, a representative for the Clinton Foundation said, "Time after time, the Clinton Foundation has been subjected to politically motivated allegations and, time after time, these allegations have been proven false. So we'll stay focused on what really matters." He goes on to say, the tricky part here, Brooke, is how does the Justice Department handle this, given that we have a president who continues to regularly demand investigations of his former political rival.
And while this investigation is being run out of the local U.S. attorney's office, not here in Washington, it puts DOJ in a very tenuous position and when it's trying to stay out of the fray and appear independent.
BALDWIN: So something the president had promised, you know, back in the campaign era. We'll come back to that thought in just a second.
But, John Dean, here's what we are hearing. Democrat Senator Ed Markey calling the Clinton probe a red herring to divert attention from the Russian probe. Republican Jim Jordan calling the investigation into the Clintons a come-to-Jesus moment for the DOJ. What do you think of this?
[14:34:31] JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It would be unprecedented by the Department of Justice, which has a long tradition of trying to keep itself above politics. Throughout all the presidencies I've watched and that's certainly been a long tradition. No question there has been a lot of pressure on this Department of Justice from this president, and from this White House, to do something political with the Department of Justice. If it started in Little Rock, as indicated, and is a natural flow from information agents have there, that would be explainable. It's not justifiable, if it comes from Washington.
BALDWIN: Would it just, quickly, be easily determinable if it was politically motivated? Because we have known President Trump wanted this for some time and the A.G. has spoken out about it.
DEAN: If the FBI has been pressured into it, I don't think they'll be putting out press releases that they've been pressured into it. I think it will be hard to come by.
BALDWIN: I don't think so either.
John Dean, thank you.
Laura Jarrett, thank you.
Next, new revelations from the tell-all book, including Steve Bannon saying Ivanka Trump is terrified that Robert Mueller's investigation has stretched into the family's' finances.
[14:39:44] BALDWIN: People heading out to buy this new book, "Fire and Fury," couldn't wait to read some of these incredibly intimate details, Trump-tale-all. And before we share passages from the book, some of Author Michael Wolff's reporting has been corroborated. Wolff paints some scenes without directly quoting anyone, and with his sources, at times, very vague. So bear that in mind as we bring certain passages that do not have direct quotations but do appear to make news. As for these direct quotes, Steve Bannon has not disputed any of this.
My panel of ladies is back, Abby, Kristen and Karoun.
Let's start with the part about Bannon saying Ivanka Trump was terrified about Robert Mueller probe. So this is what Wolff had written, quoting, it reads, "The Kushner position was not helped by the fact that the president having gleefully telling multiple people that Jared could solve the Middle East problem because the Kushner's knew all the crooks in Israel, the kids, Jared and Ivanka, exhibited an increasingly panicked sense that the FBI and the DOY were moving beyond Russia and election interference and into the family finances. Quote, "Ivanka Trump is terrified," said a satisfied Bannon.
Karoun, Ivanka is terrified?
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, well, the Ivanka Trump has the ear of her father, like few others do in Trump's inner circle. And if she -- again, this is Bannon's account to Wolff. If it's correct, it indicates there is a split there. It indicates that the Mueller probe is certainly shaking members of the Trump family, people close to the president. And if that is the case, that they are worried about the finances posing potential links, we know that many members of the Trump team stayed involved in their business interests at the same time that the campaign was going on. We know there were these meetings that Jared Kushner had with Russian bankers who were representatives of investment funds that are tied to the Kremlin. Those are dots out there yet to be connected. But if the reporting that Ivanka Trump has actually been very, very worried about this is accurate, that is a sign of where they feel their vulnerabilities may be.
BALDWIN: Yes. Here's another piece from the book.
Kristen, I'm going to tee this for you.
This is talking about Wolff is writing about the infamous Trump Tower meeting June of 2016. He writes, "The president insisted the meeting in Trump Tower was purely and simply about Russian adoption policy. That's what was discussed, period. Period. Even though it was likely, if not certain, that "The Times" had the incriminating e-mail chain. In fact, it was quite possible that Jared and Ivanka Trump and the lawyers knew "The Times" had the e-mail chain. The president ordered that no one should let on to the more problematic discussion about Hillary Clinton.
So that speaks to also just what the president knew, right. Then goes into that statement from Air Force One. Was he intentionally not telling the truth? What do you think about that?
KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, this is the kind of thing that has tied a lot of folks up in knots who for the entirety of the Trump presidency have viewed Steve Bannon as this sort of evil emperor behind the scenes. Hose no he's now coming out and saying things that you would hear from Democrats, about the potential or likely guilt within Trump's orbit or family when it comes to things like did they break any laws with regard to engagement with Russia. So it's been interesting over the last 48, 72 hours for me to watch folks kind of change their position on Steve Bannon now that he is someone who is coming out and making these claims about what the Trump family did or didn't do with regards to Russia. Amongst, in circles that previously would have thought Steve Bannon to be no ally of theirs.
BALDWIN: Even though, let's keep in mind, despite all of what's coming out in this book, the days are running together this week. But Steve Bannon saying on the radio Trump is a great guy, which Trump acknowledged. So there is that as well.
There is another excerpt. This is on Hope Hicks, former Trump assistant turned White House director, so this is the quote on Hope. Here you go: "Shortly after Lewandowsky, with whom Hicks had an off- and-on romantic relationship, was fired in June of 2016 for clashing with the Trump family members, Hicks sat in Trump Tower with Trump and his sons worried about Lewandowsky's treatment in the press and how she might help him. Trump, who otherwise seemed to treat Hicks in a protective and even paternal way, looked up and said, 'Why? You've already done enough for him. You are the best piece of tail he'll ever have,' sending Hicks running from the room."
I mean, Abby, again, these are just -- this is Michael Wolff's account but the best piece of tail coming from the president, you got to be kidding me?
[14:45:03] ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, as you mention, a lot of anecdotes in the book. They are there. And I reached out to Hope Hicks last night to ask for comment and got none in response to that. You know, we don't know. The people involved in that anecdote are Hope Hicks and the president of the United States. So one of those people would need to sort of relay the truthfulness of this story.
PHILLIP: But that being said, I think the broader point is this book has a lot of potentially damaging stuff in it. And that is one of the reasons why you've seen just total full-court press coming from this White House to try to shut it down.
Karoun, Kristen and Abby, thank you all so much for going through all this book.
Again, they moved it up to being out today. And essentially, Michael Wolff telling Savannah Guthrie this morning, hey, thanks, White House, for the press.
Coming up, what we have learned about the first five days of 2018 and what it can reveal for the next 360 days to follow.
And from frozen iguanas falling from trees in Florida, to cars frozen in flood waters in Massachusetts, the stranger things we are all seeing during this deep freeze up and down the east coast. Back in a moment.
[14:50:03] BALDWIN: Last summer, during the course of one month, the news cycle was so extraordinary, so fast and furious that we compiled a scrolling list of events. Well, this time we are doing a scroll for the events of the past week. The first of the new year, so with that, here we go. "The New York Times" reports the president ordered his lawyer to stop
Jeff Sessions from recusing himself. The paper also reports Robert Mueller is aware and on top of that. A Sessions aide approached a congressional staffer for negative information on Comey just before his firing.
A bombshell book released painting a wild picture of chaos within the White House. The author of that book says that people all around Trump think that he is unfit and acts like a child.
We have also learned that a psychiatrist went to Washington and briefed mostly Democratic lawmakers on the mental fitness of the president.
In that book, Steve Bannon, once the president's chief strategist, rips the president and his family, including calling the Trump Tower meeting treasonous, and says Mueller's probe is focused on money laundering.
Speaking of the firm behind the dossier, publicly warns Congress, look into the president's past dealings, business dealings, specifically with Russia.
The president, responding to Bannon, releases this extraordinary statement, blasting him, saying that Steve Bannon has lost his mind. And he also pins a new nickname, Sloppy Steve.
The president's lawyers take the extraordinary step of trying to squash Bannon and the book issuing a cease-and-desist letter to both Bannon and the publisher.
The president tells Kim Jong-Un that his nuclear button is bigger and more powerful. Shortly after that, in a rare move, both North and South Korea communicate. Then the president takes credits for those talks.
The president backs protesters in Iran. Tehran condemns him.
He then threatens to cut aid to the Palestinians, who respond by mocking "Art of the Deal." The U.S. then suspends aide to Pakistan.
The president calls on a Hillary Clinton aide to be jailed and then calls his Justice Department a deep state. That same Justice Department is now actively investigating allegations of corruption related to the Clinton Foundation.
The president takes credit for no one dying on commercial flights last year.
The stock market continues soaring. The Dow crossing 25,000 for the first time ever.
Sorry, thought I didn't have to do this.
The president teases an award show literally giving a time and date for what he calls the corrupt media. The longest-serving Republican Senator announces his retirement despite the president's wishes, which clears the way for a Mitt Romney Senate run.
The president dissolved his controversial Voter Fraud Commission
He also moves to vastly expand offshore drilling.
He says DREAMers and Hispanics will soon fall in love with Republicans.
And Sean Spicer says he screwed up.
One week, welcome to 2018.
Coming up next here on CNN, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaking out to CNN in a special and rare interview, saying his political death has been greatly exaggerated. What he is revealing about his plans for the year ahead.
[14:57:21] BALDWIN: Hollywood award season gets under way this weekend, and political statements will take center state. Talk show host, Seth Meyers, will host the 75th Golden Globes on Sunday night. And he plans to turn the focus from Washington to Hollywood. A lot of celebrities plan to wear black in protest to raise awareness of gender and racial equality. This suggested attire has been encouraged by "The Times" initiative, a movement founded essentially by a lot of Hollywood's most prominent actresses, executives. It is aimed at combatting sexual harassment and assault. The show of solidarity for sexual misconduct victims follows a wave of scandals by some of Hollywood's biggest stars, producers and executives.
And we continue on. Thanks for being with me on this Friday afternoon. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You are watching CNN.
Book sales of the just released Trump White House expose already booming. But the real "Fire and Fury" may come from the latest bombshell hitting the president, and it could play a key part in the Russia investigation.
Here's what we are learning today. A source close to Attorney General Jeff Sessions says President Trump tried to stop Sessions from recusing himself from the Russia case. That was reported first by the "New York Times." It says this is back in March. Special Counsel Robert Mueller knows all about it. The source says President Trump ordered not his personal attorney, but the official White House counsel, Don McGahn, to direct his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to remain in charge of the investigation. As far as we know, Don McGahn failed to stop Session's recusal, infuriating the president. According to "The Times," quote, "Mr. Trump said he expected his top law enforcement official to safeguard him the way he believed Robert Kennedy, as attorney general, had done for his brother, John F. Kennedy, and Eric Holder had for Barack Obama." Mr. Trump then asked, "Where is my Roy Cohn," referring to this man, his former personally lawyer, who was also the top aid to Senator Joseph McCarthy during the 1950s, his crusade against Communism. Cohn was known as a tough courtroom battler.
Let's start the hour with our CNN justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider.
There were multiple major components of this in the "New York Times" this morning, reporting an aid of Sessions was trying to get dirt on the then-FBI Director James Comey, who was later fired by the president. Tell me more.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. As to that part, Brooke, the Department of Justice has forcefully denied that Jeff Sessions was is any way involved trying to get damaging information on James Comey.