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Daniels' Attorney Wants to Depose Trump and His Lawyer; Trump: "Good Chance" Kim Jong-un will do What is Right; White House Defends Trump's Silence on Stormy Daniels. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired March 28, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning, John Berman here.
The president's silence on Stormy Daniels, will it come to an end by legal force? A short time ago the lawyer for adult film actress Stormy Daniels filed a new motion asking to depose the president. That puts President Trump one step closer to having to testify under oath and answer questions about what he knew and when about hush money paid to keep Stormy Daniels quiet.
Our MJ Lee following the very latest on this story, this new filing overnight.
MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. This is a very significant development because Stormy Daniels' lawyer is now trying to get a sworn testimony under oath from President Trump about what he knew about this so-called hush agreement with Stormy Daniels. He filed this overnight to try to depose both Donald Trump and Michael Cohen, his lawyer, for no more than two hours each and ask them questions about the $130,000 payment as well as his NDA that Michael Cohen signed with Stormy Daniels in 2016. And a hearing date has now been set for April 30th.
Now as to whether it is realistic for Avenatti to get this deposition from President Trump, well he's arguing that there's actually precedent and he's pointing to a Supreme Court ruling about former President Bill Clinton. Here's what he had to say about that this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NORAH O'DONNELL, HOST, CBS "THIS MORNING": You mentioned Clinton versus Paula Jones in your motion. Why is that relevant?
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS LAWYER: 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 has this law now and hasn't been overturned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEE: Now, we have not heard directly from Michael Cohen this morning but we have heard from one of his lawyers and spokesman David Schwartz. And I just want to read the statement from him. He says that what Michael Avenatti is doing 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 can see through this charade."
Now I also want to note that John, there's been a lot of confusion about what exactly President Trump knew and what his involvement was. The White House has continued to deny that there was even an affair in the first place but Trump's lawyers also recently got involved in a lawsuit against Stormy Daniels.
Well, Michael Avenatti, I spoke with him this morning, he said that he had a meeting with Donald Trump's lawyer, Charles Harder. And that in this meeting he actually asked him is your client Donald Trump a party to this agreement. This agreement being the NDA with Stormy Daniels and Harder's response was we don't know yet. We're still researching it, so unclear if he was unwilling to answer that question or if he truly didn't know the answer to that question.
BERMAN: Michael Avenatti, Donald Trump's lawyer doesn't know whether President Trump was a party to that nondisclosure.
LEE: They are looking into it.
BERMAN: That would be bizarre, but nevertheless, MJ Lee, thank you very much.
Joining me now, CNN legal analyst and civil rights attorney, Areva Martin. Areva, thank you so much for being with us. I want to get to what Michael Avenatti wants out of this deposition in a second. Do you think he'll actually get it? Do you think a judge will let it get to that point?
AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think there's a bigger issue, John and that's the issue of the validity of the nondisclosure agreement. Because according to that agreement, the entire matter should be resolved by a private arbitrator in private arbitration, not in a federal court. And that's what Trump and his team have been pushing for is to remove this entire matter from a court and put it back into private arbitration. They don't want this litigated publicly. They want this to be a very private matter and what Michael Avenatti is doing by filing these motions, consistently filing in federal and state court, he's essentially telling the American public all of the information of the nondisclosure agreement is supposed to keep private and confidential. So not clear if a deposition will go forward because I think the court has to first decide if this matter should be in federal court in the first place.
BERMAN: And that may be with what this April 30th court date is about. I'm trying to figure out what would be argued in front of a judge on April 30th and what that judge will ultimately decide. Will the judge decide that no, this case really does belong in arbitration or will be allowed to move forward?
MARTIN: Yes, that's essentially what's going to happen in this initial court hearing. A decision has to be made by the judge about the validity of the nondisclosure agreement and we know both sides have their positions. Trump's team is saying that the lack of signature by Donald Trump does not invalidate that agreement and that agreement is still valid and should be the controlling document.
On other hand, Stormy Daniels' attorney is arguing that Trump's failure to sign that nondisclosure agreement renders it null and void.
[10:05:05] And that it is no longer the controlling document and that he's free to move forward with the action that he's filed which we know he's now admitted that action to sue Michael Cohen for defamation. He says that Cohen defamed Stormy Daniels by calling her a liar. So, he's saying we should and legitimately, the court has jurisdiction over this matter.
BERMAN: I assume that it would open up a world of complications for the president if the judge ultimately did decide he could be -- deposed here, I should say. The questions would be very, very potentially damaging.
MARTIN: Absolutely and not only the prospect of a deposition, John. They could also ask that the deposition be videotaped. So the entire video of the deposition could be made public. And we have to keep in mind the Summer Zervos case. That's the case that's pending in a New York State Court where a judge ruled that that court can move forward using that same Paula Jones Supreme Court decision that stated in Avenatti's declaration asking for the deposition in the federal case. So, potentially, Donald Trump could be subject not to one but to two depositions in civil cases involving women, one a porn star, one a Playboy -- former apprentice contestant, allegations of sexual harassment and in this case we know of a consensual extra marital affair.
BERMAN: Of course, the big difference here is it really does have to do with the nondisclosure agreement, not necessarily the relationship or the facts behind the contact itself, but fascinating nonetheless.
Areva Martin, thank you so much for being with us. Thank you.
Other major news from the White House overnight, the White House weighing in on this dramatic mysterious meeting between North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un and Xi Jinping in China. Remember, Kim took the mystery train up to Beijing for this meeting.
Our Abby Phillip at the White House with the White House reaction. Abby?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, John. This is a president who seems pretty happy with where things are going when it comes to this soon-to-be meeting with Kim Jong-un. The president this morning tweeting on two occasions about the meeting and saying this, "For years and through many administrations, everyone said that peace and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was not even a small possibility. Now there is a good chance that Kim Jong Un will do what is right for his people and for humanity. Look forward to our meeting!"
In the second tweet he wrote about the fact that the Chinese President Xi Jinping conveyed a message to him about meeting with Kim Jong-un who they said that meeting went very well and that Kim looks forward to meeting with me.
In the meantime and unfortunately maximum sanctions and pressure must be maintained at all costs. Now that last bit is the administration's official position on this impending meeting. It will happen. But in the meantime they are saying they are not taking their foot off of the gas pedal when it comes to sanctions and no date and time set yet.
Also, there hasn't yet been any clear evidence that Kim Jong-un is actually moving toward denuclearization. There are a lot of unanswered questions here but clearly President Trump is eager to take a victory lap about this. He wants to get this done and be able to say that he's done something that none of his predecessors have been able to do on a problem that has vexed him and many others on the Korean Peninsula. John?
BERMAN: Speaking of the Korean Peninsula, the White also trumpeting a trade deal with South Korea overnight. Abby?
PHILLIP: That's right. And I think these things are -- in some ways related. The United States and South Korea trying to put aside this trade issue at a time when they need to be kind of on the same page going into negotiations with North Korea. The White House announcing that this trade deal deals with the import and export of cars between the two countries. It establishes a higher threshold for how many cars United States car makers can export to South Korea. In a previous 2012 version of the deal it was 25,000 cars. And now in the new deal it is 50,000.
But it should be noted that no U.S. car maker has exported more than 11,000 cars to South Korea. So, it's not clear whether this new higher threshold is going to make a huge difference at all. And it also deals a little bit with some of the steel and aluminum tea tariffs the president put in place. It exempts South Korea from most of those tariffs on steel. Again, this is a trade deal that the White House is heralding as something revolutionary and in some ways it is, but in other ways it simply just codifies this issue and puts the trade issue between the two countries aside for the time being. John?
BERMAN: Abby Phillip at the White House. Thank you very much.
Joining me now is Kimberly Dozier, CNN global affairs analyst. Thank you so much for being with us. The president implicitly in a series of statements this morning. I think trying to claim some credit for this meeting between Kim Jong-un and Xi Jinping in a mystery train that went up to Beijing here. It seems to me this may be about issues beyond the reach of President Trump.
[10:10:01] KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, from President Trump's point of view, the threat of military force that was stronger with his administration than previous ones and you had specific leaks about preparations being made, got him into this position where he's looking at a possible meeting.
However, what this could be, was China simply reasserting itself, feeling like it had already damaged its relationship with North Korea through sanctions, through banking actions, at the U.S.' request and behest. And then felt like it was being overtaken by first north and south talks and then this announcement of President Trump's talks. So, this could be them reestablishing the ties.
It could also be Kim Jong-un looking for security assurances. If he's going to give up his nuclear weapons program, someone has got to be watching his back. And that will be China.
BERMAN: It gives him something perhaps in his pocket -- a big something talking about China if he goes into these negotiations or discussions, I should call them, with President Trump. Kimberly, again, it seems to me that this trip to China is part of a plan that Kim has played out over the last few months from his statement on New Year's Day to now. He did the statement. He had the Olympics situation. He met with the South Korean leader. You know all of this points to progress from his point of view. Is he getting everything he wants here?
DOZIER: Well, from his perspective in a very short period of time in this U.S. administration with just a few missile tests just by showing what he's willing to do plus some technological developments. He's getting something that his father never got, an offer of a meeting directly with the U.S. president. What we don't know, what is he demanding in return? He hasn't spoken publicly about the meeting yet. It hasn't been announced to his own people.
One of the thing that's being reported by domestic media in Asia is that he wants the U.S. to give up its nuclear guarantee of defending South Korea. You can't -- I can't see the White House agreeing to that because that would be putting the South Korean ally's fate basically in China's hands. For North Korea, which has rolled back or broken every previous agreement to denuclearize.
BERMAN: Is it odd that we've heard from the South Koreans that Kim Jong-un is willing to meet with the president - from China but we actually haven't heard from North Korea itself?
DOZIER: Well, from his point of view, why not drag out the suspense and make sure he's getting enough guarantees behind closed doors before actually sitting down with the U.S. president.
BERMAN: Interesting that he's dealing with the U.S. president, reality show president but he's running something of a reality show himself from the other side. Kimberly Dozier, thank you very much for being with us.
DOZIER: Thank you.
BERMAN: Still to come, the president, no public events for the last five days, no statements at all about Stormy Daniels. So far the poll numbers seem to be sticking for him but how long can this silence last?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Stephon Clark! Stephon Clark!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Tensions rising in Sacramento, protesters inside city hall frustrated, angry after police shot and killed an unarmed black man.
And changes coming your way to your Facebook account as the company's CEO now says he absolutely will testify before Congress. Stay with us.
[10:17:45] BERMAN: Overnight the attorney for Stormy Daniels filed a motion trying to get to depose the president, get him to testify under oath about all the facts surrounding his relationship with Stormy Daniels. This, as the president himself maintains his silence over the matter.
Joining me now to discuss, CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein and CNN political commentators, Symone Sanders and Scott Jennings. Scott, the president hasn't held a public event since last Friday. Have we seen him for the last time during his administration? I mean eventually he has to do something in public. How long can he keep this silence up?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, he could keep it up for, you know, a few more days I would think. Eventually he'll come out and he can also do events where he doesn't have to do questions and answers. I mean, obviously he doesn't want to talk about the story, because I'm not sure there's anything left to stay. I mean we've heard from Stormy. We've heard from her lawyer. The next round of issues here is all going to be whether people do go into depositions. So, I'm not sure the president has anything to gain by talking about it publicly. If he wanted to discuss this, he should have done it a month or two ago, and just say, yes, I did it 12 years ago and I'm sorry. I apologize to my wife and pop that balloon. They chose not to take that strategy. So, now they have to be quiet and let the legal process playout.
BERMAN: Scott Jennings predicting several more days of silence. A political Groundhog Day --
JENNINGS: I came out and saw my shadow today.
BERMAN: So, Symone, from the podium at the White House, we heard them say, you know this doesn't seem to be affecting the president right now. We hear behind the scenes, his poll numbers are holding, that's another reason he's maintaining his silence. Are you surprised that this hasn't had more of an impact on the numbers? SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I'm not surprised. But I mean, look, this is -- never forget the "Access Hollywood" came out and Donald Trump was caught on tape on that video saying you can grab women by the all know what and let you do whatever you want because you're famous. He still was elected president. Because there are a number of people that excused that video and excuse this behavior and still support him for a number of other reasons. I think what's important here though is, that I'm tired of hearing about the president's sexual escapades and who he did it with and when and where and why. But I do think what is key here is that a number of -- did the president actively participate in intimidation tactics to shut down and/or try to shut up Stormy Daniels.
[10:20:09] If that is in fact the case, I think that matters to a number of voters, particularly a number of female voters in suburban districts. Because it is something that a number of women can maybe even identify with, -- they find disturbing and it could affect the way they would like to vote or not vote in 2018.
BERMAN: You just rang the Ron Brownstein bell right there. You said female voters in suburban districts here. Ron, is this the group that could be the most vulnerable politically here?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, look, I mean, I think Scott is right. One issue rarely, you know, changes the way people think about a political leader or a political party but they do -- it becomes part of a constellation of things that shape your view. And pretty much everything that has happened in the Trump presidency has pushed away college educated white women who are a Democratic leaning group normally but slightly.
Hillary Clinton won 51 percent of them. Democrats never won more than 52 percent of them in House elections going back to 1992. In the last NBC Wall Street Journal poll, over 60 percent of them said they plan to vote Democratic in 2018. There's a whole list of things both policy and style and personality from the Trump administration from gun control, to the way that he tweets, that has done more to reconfirm their doubts and to alleviate the doubts they had about Donald Trump.
And then on the other side of the ledger, we don't know exactly what this will mean to blue collar white women but there they have taken a hit. I think largely around policy. You know the effort to repeal the ACA hurt him with those blue collar white women who were essential to his victory, probably the biggest single reason that he won. If you look at his approval rating now among them, it's running 12 to 15 points below his vote among them in 2018 and both sides from both of those reasons and obviously the tremendous energy that African- American women have shown in the 2017 elections. I think you could see a more significant gender gap than usual in this election and while Stormy Daniels won't be the cause of that, she could reinforce it.
BERMAN: Symone Sanders, shifting gears to guns right now, John Paul Stevens, former Supreme Court justice, wrote an op-ed in the "New York Times" suggesting the country should repeal the Second Amendment. The president went on the attack saying that will never happen this morning. You as a Democratic strategist, do you think Democrats should campaign on John Paul Stevens saying, hey, I agree with the former Supreme Court justice that they should repeal the Second Amendment?
SANDERS: Not if they'd like to keep their jobs. Democrats should not be campaigning or repealing the Second Amendment. And this is what happens, John, when Democrats allow folks on the right in the Republican Party to define and frame the conversation. Because now, folks are asking not just me but other -- what other Democratic strategists and Democratic representatives, do you want to repeal the Second Amendment. Be clear, no Democrats anywhere talking about repealing the Second Amendment. Justice Stevens is entitled to his opinion, but I believe he's of the minority and not the majority. Many people are merely talking about common sense gun safety, common sense gun control legislation that is overwhelmingly popular. And something that we should able to do. Because why in the richest country in the history of the world, why are we the only country where mass shootings happen at the level that they happen. There's something there and we have to address that.
Not just mass shootings but also hand gun violence and gun violence is happening in communities all across this country.
BERMAN: John Paul Stevens, by the way, a Republican nominee to the Supreme Court. But Scott Jennings and Aaron Blake, you know write up for "The Washington Post," noted that that op-ed was something of an in kind contribution to perhaps national Republican campaign committees.
JENNINGS: No question. I've been on Amazon this morning, sending a nice fruit basket over to John Paul Stevens' office, because I look at these Senate races on these red states, Joe Manchin in West Virginia and Donnelly in Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Montana. I mean these Democrats don't want to have to answer for this. And with all due respect to my friend, Symone, I do think there are people out there who want common sense gun regulations but there are a heck of a lot of Democrats who have gone much farther than that in calling for actual gun bans -
SANDERS: Who? Tell me who?
JENNINGS: For a lot -- there are a lot -- did you go to the march this weekend. I know you did. And I did too in New York.
SANDERS: Yes. So, the young people -
JENNINGS: There are a number of people out there -
SANDERS: -- the kids - yes, the kids were calling for gun bans -
JENNINGS: My point is this -
SANDERS: But I think children are very different than elected Democratic representatives.
JENNINGS: In these rural states and rural states this is going to be an issue that is motivating for voters. I do agree with Symone. There's common ground to be found but it will not be around the issue of banning any kind of guns in my opinion.
BERMAN: I will note - I will note the one person who called for ceasing guns without due process is the president of the United States which is you know again is something in and of itself. Ron Brownstein to you?
BROWNSTEIN: Yes. If you go back to the '90s when Bill Clinton won those two epic battles against the NRA for the Brady Bill and assault weapon ban.
[10:25:01] Most of the Democrats from rural and small-town America, voted against it. So, the big change in the gun control debate, hasn't been that those people have been replaced by Republicans or are also voting against gun control. The big change has been that in the a 90s, Bill Clinton won because dozens of suburban Republicans voted for gun control against the NRA, about 45 in the final passage.
Today, all of those suburban - virtually all of those Republicans are voting in lock step with the NRA. And that - you know in the same way, Scott is right. The Democrats in the rural areas in the Senate races have to be very careful about the issue. The reverse is true I think now where the Republicans holding on in these big blue metros, outside of Orange County, California or suburban Philly, Minneapolis, Chicago, Denver. There are Republicans there who are now I think exposed as the tide has shifted. And I think you can see the divide widen, whichever party ends up with majority in the House, I think the divide will be deeper between Democratic dominance of the population centers and Republican continued strength outside of them in smaller town America. That is the fundamental trench separating the parties geographically in American politics.
BERMAN: More division, something to look forward to. Ron Brownstein, Symone Sanders, Scott Jennings, thank you all guys for being with us. Appreciate it.
A new twist in the Russia probe, prosecutors say that Rick Gates who was the deputy campaign chair communicated with an ex-Russian intel officer while he was working on President Trump's campaign. What this means for the special counsel. That's next.