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Daniels' Attorney Wants to Depose Trump & His Lawyer; Trump Maintaining Maximum Sanctions, Pressure On North Korea; North Korean Leader Visits China Ahead Of Trump Meeting; Court Documents: Gates Connected To Person With Russian Intel Ties During Campaign. Aired 9- 9:30a ET

Aired March 28, 2018 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:00:00]

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: (Brush) with depth.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN HOST: Strong man.

ROMANS: Wow.

BRIGGS: Doing work on a tractor, you're hardy, but the luck, nurses, opposite places coming same time, two at the same, on the same scene and they rush into action, take the initiative, amazing.

ROMANS: Divine intervention, thank you very much for that good stuff, time now for CNN Newsroom with Jon Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Good morning, everyone, John Berman here. Mr. President, raise your right hand. This morning, he might be one step closer to testifying under oath about his alleged relationship with adult film actress, Stormy Daniels.

Did you have a sexual relationship with her? Did you have knowledge of the alleged threats against her? Did you know your personal lawyer paid her to keep quiet about all of this? These are all questions the President could face under penalty of perjury after a new filing overnight by the attorney for Stormy Daniels asking to depose the President.

We're also getting new bizarre details about the legal imaginations behind the scenes. CNN's M.J. Lee has been following every detail of this story and joins me now. What's going on?

M.J. LEE, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, this is a very significant development overnight. Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels' lawyer, filing a motion overnight to depose Donald Trump and Michael Cohen each for no more than two hours about this $130,000 payment and this so-called hush payment with Stormy Daniels, dating back to 2016.

The hearing date has now been set for April 30 to discuss all of this. And this is, of course, significant because it is an effort to get Trump's sworn testimony under oath about what exactly he knew about all of this and whether or not this is realistic. Well, Michael Avenatti is saying that there is precedent and he is pointing to a Supreme Court ruling that relates to former President Bill Clinton, here's Avenatti from this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You mentioned Clinton versus Paula Jones in your motion, why is that relevant?

MICHAEL AVENATTI, AMERICAN ATTORNEY: Well, it's the Supreme Court precedent. The Supreme Court already decided that a sitting President could be deposed in connection with a civil matter. And if that was the law then, it certainly is the law now. It hasn't been overturned.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEE: Though we have not heard from Michael Cohen this morning, but we are hearing from David Shwartz, this is Michael Cohen's lawyer in an unrelated matter, but he has, never the less, been serving as his spokesperson. Here's his statement, he say's all of this is a reckless use of the legal system in order to continue to inflate Michael Avenatti's deflated ego and keep himself relevant.

His statements are ludicrous when he asks where Michael Cohen and Donald Trump are. He knows they are following the rules of the court. They are handling the case in a court of competent jurisdiction and as a lawyer he needs to do the same. This is politically motivated and people see through this charade.

Now, I just want to point out, John, that there has been a lot of confusion about what Donald Trump knew and didn't know. The White House, of course, has continued to deny that there was even an affair in the first place. But then, Donald Trump's lawyer got involved in a law suit against Stormy Daniels and then just the question about the NDA and the $130,000 payment.

Well, Avenatti says that he actually had a meeting with Charles Harder earlier this month and that, at one point, he actually asked Harder, is your client, Donald Trump, a part of this agreement, the NDA and the hush agreement? And Charles Harder answered and said, we don't know yet, we are still researching it.

So, this is either Donald Trump's lawyer being unwilling to say whether he was a part of the agreement or, simply, not knowing the answer and we don't know the answer to that yet either.

BERMAN: It's a bizarre answer.

LEE: It is.

BERMAN: We need to remember it's coming through translation from Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels' attorney here, but interesting none the less. M.J. Lee, thank you very much. Stick around. Joey Jackson is here with me now, CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney. Joey, really, two major issues here. What does Stormy Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti want out of deposing the President and will he get this deposition?

Let's break them down into two separate things. Why does he want the deposition? It seems to me, this is the end. It's actually not even a means to an end.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST AND CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: All right, so, I always thought it may be Bob Mueller that took down the President, if it went that way. It very well could be Michael Avenatti. I'm not overstating it, here's the distinction.

We talk about whether or not Donald Trump will go in the Mueller investigation, will he testify? The criminal proceeding, you have a Fifth Amendment right not to say anything, right, which his lawyers are advising him to do. Let's shift specifically to this. What Avenatti is doing is saying, oh, you want this arbitration? You say that the agreement provides for arbitration?

Before we get to that, we're going to have a hearing on whether the agreement is legitimate itself, that, in order to get to that hearing, you have something called discovery. Discovery provides for people being deposed. As Avenatti said, the President is not above that, right? You have that Clinton - you referenced that M.J. Lee, right? You have that Clinton involving Paula Jones where the Supreme Court said, you can sit for a deposition even if you're President. It relates to unofficial acts, you have no immunity.

So, what he's going to get, specifically to your question, is number one, to determine whether you had a valid agreement. Was it with essential consultants or was it with you, Mr. Trump? What did you know about the payment? Did you direct the payment? Did you have any involvement with the payment? Michael Cohen said you knew nothing about it, is that true? Was he acting as a surrogate to you? Was he acting on his own accord?

So there's a lot of information to get out and be gleamed (ph) from that in discovery. And if Donald Trump sits for that deposition, as I believe based upon the motion papers (ph) he'll be required to do, and he runs a fowl of the law by doing what? Lying, you have a problem because you have perjury.

BERMAN: All of those questions are uncomfortable for the president both politically and personally, unclear how legally complicated they are for him if he tells the truth, right. If he lies, perjury, that's a whole different thing.

Now you think that this deposition you just said, you think it might happen. Why? How? There is this April 30th hearing, why would a judge allow this to happen instead of just saying go to arbitration, which is part of the NDA?

JACKSON: OK, but great -- great point John, and here's the answer. In order for you to get to arbitration, which is in the agreement, you have to establish that the agreement in and of itself is valid.

Part of that agreement is an arbitration provision. The challenge Avenatti making is to the agreement itself in terms of whether it's lawful and legal and whether the arbitration provisions in the agreement could stand up.

There's a provision, Federal Arbitration Act that allows for a hearing to make these decisions, before you get to a hearing, you get to discovery, and getting to discover you get to depositions, and getting to depositions, you get to the president which entitles him to ask the president questions related to something he is very much a part of. This is serious.

BERMAN: M.J., very quickly, this meeting behind the scenes between Michael Avenatti and Charles Harder. What was going on here? Why did they have this meeting?

LEE: Well they the meeting, according to Michael Avenatti, before Avenatti filed these motions for the deposition. He says it was a typical -- typical for this kind of meeting to happen before these papers were filed, and I guess they were just talking over logistics and as a part of that, it occurred to Avenatti to ask the very fundamental question of is your client Donald Trump a part of this agreement?

BERMAN: And Charles Harder, the president's attorney, did not have an answer, said he was researching it, Joey Jackson, is that plausible?

JACKSON: I -- I mean, look, of course. He's going to -- he has to do his due dilligance or what have you, but just think about this, right, in the event that Avenatti gets his jury trial on the issue of whether the agreement is valid, you know, a lot of questions will be answered.

Does Donald Trump really want to go down that road? I'm one that believes if the original agreement is valid based upon, you know, the ands or ors, we've had these discussion.

But enforcing the agreement is another matter, if I'm Donald Trump's lawyer, I say look the other way, forget about $20 million, a million per breach, forget about the scorgement (ph) of the $130,000 for you to sit and potentially purger (ph) yourself to protect Michael Cohen or otherwise admit you directed this, then you get to the campaign finance issues.

It -- it's not a road worth going.

BERMAN: Stay as far away from (inaudible) --

JACKSON: Will he listen, that's the question.

BERMAN: (inaudible) legal advice. Joey Jackson, M.J. Lee, thank you very much.

JACKSON: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: Another major story this morning, the mystery train that led to a mystery meeting. Is this some mysterious path to denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, and who's driving the train, Kim Jong-un or Donald Trump?

Diplomatic drama overnight, confirmation on (ph) North Korean leader Kim Jong-un did meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. It is one more major step in Kim's carefully choreographed march onto the world stage. But this morning President Trump is taking credit, he says there is a

good chance that Kim will chose peace and denuclearization under maximum pressure from Washington. The White House is also celebrating what it considers it's first trade deal, this one with South Korea.

It is (ph) Abby Phillip at the White House with the very latest, first on this North Korea activity overnight, Abby.

ABBY PHILLIP, WHITE HOUSE CORRESTPONDENT, CNN: Well good morning, John. This is the president who seems pretty much happy with the way things are unfolding. The -- at that extraordinary meeting between Kim Jong-un and President Xi in China has left President Trump to tweet this morning that he's optimistic about the potential meeting with the North Korean leader.

He wrote, for years, through many administrations, everyone says that peace and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was not even a small possibility. Now there is a good chance Kim -- Kim Jong-un will do what is right for his people and for humanity.

Look forward to the meeting. And in a second tweet that he talks about this message that was relayed to him from the -- the -- the Xi Jinping of China about his meeting with Kim Jong-un, which he said went very well and that Kim looks forward to meeting with me.

In the mean time and unfortunately, maximum sanctions and pressure must be maintained at all costs. That last bit is the official administration position on all of these developments as they unfold that even in spite of the prospect of a meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un, they have to maintain this maximum pressure, because of course Kim Jong-un hasn't really shown concrete steps toward denuclearization yet and that has to be a prerequisite before anything moves forward.

At the same time, this is a problem that has vexed President Trump since the very beginning of his administration, and clearly he is feeling like there is progress being made, that he is about to go in a direction that no other previous president has been able to go on this subject.

BERMAN: Meanwhile, overnight, Abby, an announcement of a trade deal with South Korea, something the administration is very proud of.

PHILLIP: That's right and it's happening almost simultaneously with all of this talk about negotiations with North Korea. Essentially this trade deal puts aside some of the underlying trade questions that have existed here between the United States and South Korea since President Trump announced tariffs. But this deals with what happens with U.S. car - or South Korean car imports into the United States and it establishes a higher threshold for how many cars the United States car makers can export to South Korea. It was 25,000 in a previous deal 2012, now it's 50,000.

But the problem is only 11,000 cars have ever been exported by any U.S. car maker in the past. It also exempts South Korea from some of the steal tariffs that President Trump has placed in recent weeks. Again this deal seems to be an effort to just put the trade issue aside. But from a practical perspective, experts say it may not do a whole lot when it comes to what actually happens between South Korea and the United States on trade cars and steal, John.

BERMAN: Yes and the U.S. doesn't actually sell that many cars in South Korea not matter how hard it tries. Abby Phillip at the White House, thank you very, very much. Kim Jong-Un's trip to China was his first journey out of the country since taking power. It is hugely symbolic and maybe even more then just symbolic. CNN's Ivan Watson for us in Sol, Ivan.

IVAN WATSON: Hi there, yes. This was a secret summit. Kind of hard to believe that the Chinese and North Koreans could pull this off. But basically Kim Jong-Un making his first trip outside of the country since assuming the throne in Pyeong Yang more than six years ago. And he went to North Koreas closest ally going back more than half century, China. It was a four day trip and both governments kept it quiet until Kim Jong-Un got back to North Korea on this special train that he took to and from Beijing.

Now this came after years of frankly frosty relations between Beijing and Pyeong Yang, they were not getting along very well and it wasn't helping that North Korea was conducting nuclear weapons tests, firing ballistic missiles that were against - that were banned by United Nations security counsel resolutions. Xi Jinping the Chinese leader, he basically brushed aside those differences, saying that the very close relationship is a strategic choice. And that the two countries should not allow isolated incidence to disrupt that. For his part, Kim Jong-Un mentioned that denuclearization is a possibility provided there's cooperation from the U.S. and South Korea. And that's a very important concession John because Pyeong Yang's position in the past has been that removing it's nuclear weapons, getting rid of that arsenal is a redline, it's taboo, it is non-negotiable. And here he is floating this possibility.

Then we had an extension of invitation to Xi Jinping to visit North Korea in the future, which we hear the Chinese leader has accepted. What does this say? Well North Korea's isolation, which has been extreme in recent years, is coming to an end. And also some of the differences have been smoothed over which may give Kim Jong-Un a stronger bargaining point when he goes into talks with the South Korean president the next month and then the expected historic face to face meeting with President Trump sometime after that, John.

BERMAN: Yes very interesting to watch. Kim saying the words he knows he needs to say to get the progress he wants. Ivan Watson, thanks so much for being with us. Questioning the president under oath. The lawyer for Stormy Daniels asked the judge to let his depose the president. Will he have to sit down for a sworn testimony? An investigator for the special counsel say they have found a link between former Trump campaign Deputy Chair Rick Gates and a Russian intelligence network, what that means for the investigation.

Plus -- that's Stephon Clark's brother at a city council meeting in Sacramento. Dozens and dozens of protestors, what they all want form law makers after police shot and killed that man's brother. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:18:39]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The president says he is looking forward to his talk with North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, but he will continue to keep maximum pressure on North Korea.

Joining me now is Mike Rogers, CNN national security commentator and former House Intelligence chair. Mr. Chairman, thank you so much for being with us. The president is celebrating this meeting between Kim Jong-un and Xi Jinping overnight writing among other things, "Now there is a good chance that Kim will do what is right for his people and humanity. Look forward to our meeting." Do you share this optimism? Do you see the same progress?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Listen, I think the president had some good wins here actually. I think even the trade deal with South Korea was an important step. It wasn't huge. It's not going to make a huge difference in the economy either way, but it's an important step, especially for automakers in the United States.

So, that was an important deal. That got our relations back on from economic purposes with South Korea. I think the meeting in China was all about Xi. He's trying to make sure that President Trump understands that that's his region. He is going to dominate that region.

And by the way, if he wants him to come up by train, he's going to have him do that. So, I'm not as opted mystic although I do think conversations are important.

BERMAN: Look, the Chinese-North Korea meeting is very complicated in a number of ways for the its yeah. South Korea didn't know it was going to happen. It might give China leverage in the future meeting that President Trump wants to have with Kim Jong-un.

[09:20:02] And it strikes me that Kim here is still getting everything he wants. This is all still part of a plan, a carefully choreographed plan that began on New Year's from Kim. So, who is driving this train?

ROGERS: Well, this is not uncommon. Unfortunately, if you look at his grandfather and his father, Kim Jong-un's policies haven't changed a bit. He has learned from them that, if you rattle your sabre, push aggressively on, in this case nuclear weapons, you'll negotiate, get something you want, and then you go down the road and try to do the same thing. We have to be careful that we are not caught in that trap again.

BERMAN: Look, he wanted the meeting with China, the meeting with South Korea, he wants the meeting with Donald Trump. He's getting all three of those things. "The New York Times" reporting overnight that North Korea is firing up a new reactor. Now as we've seen before, our country will say this is all for power and electricity. It's not for nuclear weapons production, but it's hard to distinguish between the two. Should this be a concern heading into these meetings?

ROGERS: I think so. There's no inspections of this reactor at all. So, that is a huge concern. Again, it puts Kim Jong-un in a better place to negotiate where he wants to go on his nuclear program, and in his mind, we need to understand what he's thinking.

He believes if he gets a robust nuclear program, both weapons and civilian, it allows him to be in the driver's seat to negotiate what happens in South Korea and North Korea's reunification. He believes that.

And so, all of these steps that serve to highlight him on the international stage and then at home is not working to our advantage in any negotiation that the president of the United States might have with Kim Jong-un.

BERMAN: It strikes me as odd, Mr. Chairman, that we heard from South Korea that Kim Jong-un wants to meet with the president. We now heard from China that Kim Jong-un wants to meet with the president. The one person we have not heard from is Kim Jong-un or North Korea. Why?

ROGERS: Well, again, I think our president has been very out there saying he wants this meeting. Again, the more he plays coy, the more he plays that he's in the driver's seat in these discussions, the better off for him.

If I were him, I wouldn't talk about that meeting either until maybe a couple days before it happens and says the United States wants to have this meeting that bad because they need my guidance and leadership in the region, then let's have it.

Again, they're very, very good at setting the table for the best outcome in anything like this. That's why I think the Xi meeting candidly was more for the Chinese president than it was for Kim Jong- un. But it's still gave him stature. The same with South Korea, it gave Kim Jong-un, North Korea stature.

This meeting with President Trump will give him stature. Without having to give up anything, he hasn't given up anything yet even to get these meetings. I think that's the most concerning part about the strategy. We're letting him drive the train on the strategy, no pun intended on driving the train.

BERMAN: No pun well taken in this case. I used it, too. So, thank you for affirming my use of that.

ROGERS: Well done, John. That was a great pun. That's what I meant to say.

BERMAN: Thank you very, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate you being with us. A great discussion. Look forward to talking to you in the future.

ROGERS: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Members of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team say they uncovered a connection between someone working inside the Trump campaign and someone who is connected to Russian intelligence. What this means for the investigation, that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:28:01]

BERMAN: Overnight an intriguing development in the Russia investigation, lawyers working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller say they've uncovered a connection between Trump Campaign Deputy Chair Rick Gates and a person who worked for Russian intelligence. That contact took place between these men actually during the campaign.

Joining me now, CNN's crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz. Shimon, what have you learned?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. That's right, John. So, this was all revealed last night in a court filing by Mueller's team regarding the sentencing of that Dutch lawyer who pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his conversations with Rick Gates.

This lawyer was doing work with Manafort and Rick Gates on some lobbying work out of Ukraine. Now the details in the court file point to more allegations that senior members of the Trump campaign were communicating, as you said, and conducting business with a Russian person connected to Russian intelligence.

So, this information that is contained in this court document basically says that Rick Gates and this "Person A," who was this intelligence official, were directly communicating in September and October 2016, that "Person A" had ties to Russian intelligence services and also had these ties in 2016.

And also, that this intelligence person, this "Person A," he worked with Rick Manafort and Gates in connection with the Ukrainian lobbying work and it was a close business contact of Paul Manafort. He did some work for him in the Ukraine according to these court documents.

So, significant here certainly, John, in that, yet, it points to more information that senior members of the Trump campaign were communicating with Russian intelligence.

BERMAN: All right. Shimon Prokupecz, thank you very much for that report.

Joining me now CNN contributor, Bianna Golodryga, CNN political analyst, Margaret Talev, and senior political writer at "FiveThirtyEight," Perry Bacon.

You know, Bianna, it's interesting. I think people will hear that report and say, wait the minute, the deputy campaign chair had contact with Russian intelligence. Is that what's significant here, A? Is it, B, just more proof that Robert Mueller really has deep knowledge of what's going on here, C, Rick Gates is cooperating, and maybe that's the importance here or maybe, D, none of the above. BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Or all of the above. I mean, we (inaudible) have a case where lying has been uncovered, right, throughout this investigation. When it came to Manafort --