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Trump Loses Bid to Dismiss "Apprentice" Contestant's Lawsuit; Playboy Models Wants Out of Confidentiality Agreement; 1st Meeting of Trump Lawyers and Mueller Investigator over Trump Interview; Trump Shakes Up Legal Team; 2nd Package with Explosives Found at FedEx Facility in Texas. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired March 20, 2018 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:32:10] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: To the other breaking storm now that President Trump has lost his bid to dismiss this defamation case brought on by a former "Apprentice" contestant. Her name is Summer Zervos. Zervos accused of the president of sexually assaulting her back in 2007. He denies those claims.
With me now with her story is Athena Jones. We've got Brian Stelter and Areva Martin.
First to you.
Summer Zervos, separate from the Playboy playmate who we talked about before, she was on "The Apprentice," and she alleges, in '07, which is right around the time, Stormy Daniels -- that was '06 -- that he tried kissing her, touching her inappropriately.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Right. A couple of different times, she says he kissed her, made her uncomfortable, kissed her twice in the lips in New York. Later on, she met him in a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel. That's where she says he grabbed her shoulder, began kissing her once again, placed his hand on her breast. These are among the allegations that she came forward with in, you'll remember, October 2016, right around the time that "Access Hollywood" came out. In fact, right after that "Access Hollywood" tape came out, in which the president or then-Candidate Trump bragged about touching women inappropriately and assaulting them. That's when Summer Zervos decided to make her allegations public. So, she did.
Immediately after she made these announcements, the president pushed back on Twitter, he pushed back in the debate with Anderson Cooper, he pushed back in speeches at campaign rallies saying -- not just Zervos but several other women, she's not the only one -- that all women were lying, 100 percent fabrication. Servos is arguing that Trump defamed her, caused her emotional and financial distress by calling her a liar in a specific way. At one point, he retweeted a tweet that had a picture of her. So it was very specific and direct allegations.
His team was arguing, look, he's the president, either dismiss this or delay it. It will get in the way of official business. The judge did not buy this. The president now has 10 days to respond to this woman that the judge has put forward. It won't even be delayed until the end of his presidency. And she said in part of her writing, "There's no compelling reason to delay the plaintiff's day in court. And most importantly, no one is above the law." She cites the Clinton versus Paula Jones case back in the '90s, saying, "It is settled that the president of the United States has no immunity and is subject to the laws for purely private acts, of which this is."
BALDWIN: This judge is saying, Areva, you can bring this case on, despite all the groping and the kissing allegations, this has to do with defamation.
AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes.
BALDWIN: Because the statute of limitations on the groping and the kissing and all of that expired. So this is their way of taking Trump head on?
[14:34:52] MARTIN: Yes. We're see this textbook way, I would say, of bringing defendants into court like Donald Trump, being used in a lot of these sexual harassment cases. The statute of limitations has run but the accused goes out and starts calling the person a liar, defaming the person. So the would-be plaintiff sues for defamation. They don't have to sue for the sexual harassment.
In the defamation action, the question is true, that should have been defamation, the truth of the matter. So the underlying action of sexual harassment gets litigated in this defamation action. So it's a backdoor way to talk about the sexual harassment, the groping, the touching, all the inappropriate conduct under this defamation action rather than a sexual harassment case.
BALDWIN: Last question, is it possible that in some facet of this reality as we move forward that the president could be deposed in a case involving a porn star, a Playboy playmate and an "Apprentice" contestant?
MARTIN: All three cases. We could see the president --
MARTIN: Not only depositions, subpoenas, written discovery and having to answer under oath questions about the intimate details of these alleged affairs with two porn stars and the alleged sexual harassment of a former TV star.
BALDWIN: All right.
MARTIN: That's state of affairs for the president of the United States.
BALDWIN: Areva, Brian and Athena, thank you so much.
Up next, President Trump attempting to further shake up his legal team, but being turned down by a high-profile Republican lawyer. This is a day after he hired that noted conspiracy theorist, that lawyer. Is the White House shifting tactics when it comes to this whole Russian investigation? What does it tell us about this president's mindset? We're back in a moment.
[14:40:41] BALDWIN: Just in, an official from Cambridge Analytica, now speaking out against the company, has agreed to give an interview and documents to the House Intelligence Committee Democrats. He claims the data firm, linked to the Trump campaign, received access to 50 million user's accounts in a breach of Facebook, who says it will brief lawmakers this week as serious questions surface on its role in privacy rules.
A sideshow is forming in Russia's election meddling. Turmoil between President Trump and his legal team. Ted Olson, a high-profile Washington attorney, was being lured to join this roster, but turned down the role. This is just 24 hours after a deep-state conspiracy lawyer joined the team.
This, as CNN, learned an interview between the president and Special Counsel Robert Mueller could be scheduled within weeks. Sources say White House lawyers met with Mueller's team to discuss what Mueller wants to know from the president. And "The Washington Post" is reporting the president's lawyers handed over documents on key events to try to limit the scope of that interview.
So, Michael Zeldin is with me, CNN legal analyst, and worked as Bob Mueller's special assistant at the DOJ.
Michael Zeldin, what do we know about the Mueller people and the Trump legal team?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right. So, Brooke, overarchingly, what Mueller wants to inquiry is, what did the president know, when did he know it, and what did he do with that knowledge? So that overarches the whole thing. Specifically, then, we've learned in the latest meetings that he has inquired of Sessions and Comey. Comey makes, cleared the Oval Office and then asked him to let the Flynn investigation go and then the repeated violations of Washington, White House, DOJ, communications policies. So, if you think of that, that is sort of obstruction.
The Kislyak chats concern Michael Flynn and allegations he may have engaged in a couple of things. One is coordination with the Russians, quid pro quo. We'll help you, you'll get rid of sanctions and/or, too, you'll help us and we -- before we get there, we'll set policy that will be favorable to you, specifically as it relates to a number of issues that Russia had an interest in, oil and gas and other such matters. Think of this as coordination/collusion. Think of Comey and Sessions as obstruction. That's what the newest reporting is, that the White House is going to be asked of by Comey.
BALDWIN: Actually, can I jump in and ask you, as a result of what they're learning, you know, that team Mueller once asked Trump about, he has added this new lawyer, this guy who has been peddling on that other cable network, conspiracy theories about the DOJ, FBI, wanting to retain Trump. You actually worked with Joe DiGenova.
ZELDIN: Yes. He was independent counsel and I was the deputy counsel. We put together our final report and Joe was very tough with respect to the way he wanted to proceed with this investigation, to make sure that we got all that you wanted to get from Herbert Walker Bush. Joe has been the United States attorney in the District of Columbia and is a well regarded and a seasoned lawyer with respect to these types of investigations. You'll remember, Brooke, during the Watergate -- sorry. During the Whitewater investigation, he was an outspoken critic of the Clintons and a proponent of Ken Starr being able to have full reign with the Clintons and getting a chance to interview them under oath. It will be interesting to see whether or not Joe keeps the same tough on President Bush, tough on President Clinton, and how he responds to the tough on Trump. We'll see.
[14:45:08] BALDWIN: Michael Zeldin, thank you so much.
We'll come back to DiGenova and something he wrote back in the "Wall Street Journal" back in '97. It might come back to bite him today.
Meantime, we talk Texas and this manhunt for a serial bomber after another package exploded. This one happening overnight at his FedEx facility. Could be connected to the other explosions in Austin. We'll talk to an FBI profiler about what the feds will be looking for to solve the case.
[14:50:01] BALDWIN: The situation is escalating in Texas as hundreds of federal authorities have descended on the state capital. Another bomb has exploded, the latest and fifth in two-plus weeks, happening inside a Federal Express warehouse early this morning outside of San Antonio. Its destination? Austin, Texas. It exploded on a conveyer belt. One worker suffered a concussion as a result. Authorities are also investigating a possible second device found inside another box.
Moments ago, President Trump did say this about the attacks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The bombings in Austin are terrible. Local, state and federal are working hand in hand to get to the bottom of it. This is obviously a very, very sick individual or maybe individuals. These are sick people. And we will get to the bottom of it. We will be very strong. We have all sorts of federal agencies over there right now. We're searching what's going on in Austin, a great place, tremendous place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Also happening right now, the bomb squad is at the scene of another suspicious package at a different FedEx building near Austin's International Airport.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OFC. DESTINY WINSTON, AUSTIN POLICE DEPARTMENT: As of right now, we don't have any type of link to say that this is, in fact, related to the San Antonio incident. Any type of package or suspicious package call we get right now into the department due to past events we are taking very seriously. We are going to investigate to our full ability. And that's why we have everyone out here right now. We want to make sure the community is safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Jeff Lanza is with me, former special agent with the FBI.
Jeff, thank you so much for joining us.
Local police are saying they don't think that FedEx is the actual intended target of this explosion and the FBI not connecting the dots on all five of these bombs as of yet. From what we know so far, what would you say as far as sophistication level goes from these explosions?
JEFF LANZA, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: They appear to be sophisticated and that's exactly what authorities are saying in Texas. And the level of sophistication comes from two things. Number one, they seem to have some sort of mechanism in there that involves the explosion taking place after a device has been moved around a little bit. That would mean someone planting the twice in a package at a location would have to prevent that from happening before they put it down. There must be a trip mechanism or safety mechanism that would prevent it from going off prematurely. That is sophisticated.
BALDWIN: Someone would need to be nearby to see if the package was getting juggled about, then to have it explode? Just have a mechanism within the package to be set off?
LANZA: Yes. Authorities are saying there may have been a mechanism in the package that, once it's moved around, gyroscope of sorts, that would cause the bomb to detonate. That is a level of sophistication --
BALDWIN: Got it.
LANZA: -- that would preclude many people that don't have that have that being involved in this activity. We're talking about someone who has experience with these devices and has, I guess, maybe a scientific mind to be able to put that all together.
BALDWIN: So then this package that detonated, giving the worker this concussion at the facility, outside San Antonio, headed to Austin. What do you read into that, anything?
LANZA: Well, so the first several devices were placed somewhere. This is a new attack vector, so to speak, in that they're using the mailing system, FedEx system, to get these packages delivered. That makes sense. Anyone that hasn't been sleeping the last few weeks in Austin is not picking up a random package on their doorstep. If it comes from a delivery service, they might be more likely to pick it up. Maybe that's the idea behind using this delivery service now.
BALDWIN: Jeff Lanza, thank you very much.
Got to get back to our breaking news. We're keeping a close eye on Texas. But breaking news involving these allegations against President Trump today. Former Playboy model, who allegedly had this nine-month fair with Trump, is reportedly suing in order to make her story public. She wants to talk.
On top of that, President Trump is losing his bid to dismiss a defamation case brought on by this former "Apprentice" contestant.
[14:54:21] We have details on both of those stories when we come back.
BALDWIN: You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with us.
We have several breaking news stories. Let's start with these two, both involving allegations on President Trump. First, a former Playboy model, who allegedly had a nine-month affair with President Donald Trump, she is suing the company that kept her original account from publication. "The New York Times" is reporting that Karen McDougall is suing to be released from an agreement which has been keeping her silent all these years. The White House has said Trump denies the affair.
In a separate development this afternoon, his legal team has lost a bid to dismiss a defamation case, this case brought on by former "Apprentice" contestant, Summer Zervos. Trump has also denied Zervos' accusations that the president sexually assaulted her in 2007.
With me now, CNN's Athena Jones, also national political reporter, M.J. Lee, and our attorney, Joey Jackson.
So, let's see, M.J., I'm starting with you.
You are talking about McDougal, this Playboy playmate case, very similar to the Stormy Daniels' case. The biggest difference is it was the "National Enquirer" that paid her all the money to, which she didn't realize, never tell her story.
[15:00:00] M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right. This woman who alleges that she had a nine-month affair with Donald Trump. And according to "The New York Times," she is now suing American Media, Inc., which owns the "National Inquirer." And what she is claiming is --