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Manafort Tries Again; Cohen Drops Libel Suits; Trump Warned Cohen Could Flip; McDougal Free to Talk About Trump; Castro Rule Ends; Southwest Passenger Speaks About Incident. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired April 19, 2018 - 09:30   ET

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


[09:34:11] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort expected back in a Washington, D.C. courtroom this morning, trying again to get charges related to his Ukraine lobbying work thrown out.

Our Shimon Prokupecz joins us for the latest on this.

Shimon.

SIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, that's right, John, back in court today. We expect to see Manafort with his attorneys here in Washington, D.C., where they're asking the court to dismiss some of the conspiracy and money laundering counts and also one of the counts as it relate to some of his foreign work for not reporting it. Remember, the special counsel had charged him with all these counts and also not in court will be his codefendant, Rick Gates, who, as we know, has pleaded guilty. He was also charged in this case and has been cooperating in the special counsel's investigation.

Now, the other thing that could be interesting here today is that the memo, that memo that Rod Rosenstein wrote to the special counsel, it was that -- that addressed the scope of the investigation, essentially allowing Mueller to look into these other things that aren't what appears to be Russia related, that may come up in court today. Manafort's lawyers had been arguing that the special counsel had gone beyond its scope in its investigation in bringing these charges against Manafort. So those arguments certainly could be what's news here and what comes out of that could be interesting because it'll be the first time where these memos are discussed in court, John.

[09:35:35] BERMAN: All right, Shimon Prokupecz for us in Washington.

Shimon, thank you very much.

Just before we came to air, there was a really interesting legal development surrounding Michael Cohen, who, of course, the president's personal attorney or fixer, who had his home and apartment and office raided by the FBI. Cohen has dropped liable suits that he had filed in January against Fusion GPS, which created that dossier now that is so important, and also Buzzfeed, which published the dossier.

Joining me now is former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti. Thanks so much for being with us.

Let me read you the statement from Michael Cohen's legal team here. They say, given the events that have unfolded and the time, attention and resources needed to prosecute these matters, we have dismissed the matters despite their merits.

Now, I'm not a lawyer, but I don't think it's so simple there. There might be something else going on here. Explain.

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, there's a -- this suit, I think, was always a publicity stunt or an -- or an effort by Cohen to get the word out that he disagreed with some of the items in the dossier.

One problem for Cohen is that in a suit like that, the truth of what happened, the truth of what's underlying that lawsuit is actually what's going to be discussed and going to be at issue in the lawsuit. So he's essentially saying I -- you know, in that lawsuit, I believe the dossier is false. Well, Fusion GPS's defense to that can be, the dossier is completely true. And then you could imagine you'd have discovery, you'd have a deposition where Mr. Cohen would be questioned under oath about whether the items in the dossier are true or false. That's always a dodgy thing for Mr. Cohen. And particularly now that he's a subject of a federal criminal investigation, you can understand why his lawyers do not want to have a trial about whether or not the dossier is true or false.

BERMAN: Yes, given he's under criminal investigation, did not want to sit for discovery in this civil case. Not worth the risk there. Fascinating, nonetheless.

What do you make of the statement from the president's former divorce lawyer, Jay Goldberg, in this phone conversation to the president which he was only too happy to share with the whole world, by the way, that he feels that Michael Cohen could flip on him?

MARIOTTI: I will tell you, it's a really interesting statement in my view. You know, if, for example, you were asked, can you cooperate and provide testimony regarding one of your associates for criminal wrongdoing, I suspect you wouldn't be able to do it. Most of us aren't -- don't -- aren't insiders in criminal enterprise. We're not able to flip on people. We don't have that sort of insider information. And essentially what I find interesting about that comment is it presumes that Michael Cohen has information to give. It really is not the sort of -- the -- talk about, well, will somebody flip on you is something that only people who have criminal exposure talk about. People who -- who, you know, aren't involved in criminal activity, aren't really concerned about whether other people will flip.

BERMAN: It is interesting, the language you sometimes hear from Trump associates surrounding this entire investigation or investigations is interesting. The presumptuous that Michael Cohen has something in this case you're suggesting, or when you're talking about the possibility that the president might testify, the presumptuous that he wouldn't be able to tell the truth or that he would get caught lying. The parameters there are fascinating.

Independent of that, again, you're a former federal prosecutor right there, what's your experience with people who face this type of pressure in a criminal investigation? Do they often end up flipping?

MARIOTTI: Certainly, particularly when there are people like Michael Cohen, who aren't career criminals, who haven't, you know -- who aren't prepared for that. You know, in other words, there were times when I prosecuted people who were working in drug cartels. Well, those people are -- they go into that business knowing that a long prison term a, you know, a very much a possibility.

White collar defendants, for them, you know, a year, two, three years in prison is a very, very long time. Typically when the pressure gets on, those people ultimately make the decision to cooperate.

BERMAN: Very quickly, Karen McDougal has settled her lawsuit with AMI, the parent company of "The Enquirer" here. She's now free to say whatever she wants, even though she really already said whatever she wants to Anderson Cooper in this interview. What's the upshot of this right now?

MARIOTTI: Well, I think, you know, now she certainly can make use of her -- of her fame and, you know, I think part of the upshot of that lawsuit for her is that we're talking about her on CNN. I think for her, you know, she's somebody who no one knew and she was able to get herself inserted into the news and make her story and she got to meet Anderson Cooper and, you know, presumably that has some value to her and perhaps her story -- she has some details about her story she want to share that will have some additional value.

[09:40:22] BERMAN: Renato Mariotti, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

MARIOTTI: Thank you.

BERMAN: Missouri governor's fights to save his career amid allegations that he secretly took nude photos of a woman to blackmail her. The latest developments, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: The two African-American men who were arrested at a Starbucks last week in Philadelphia are speaking out for the first time this morning. They say they were waiting for a potential business partner when the manager called 911 on them for not ordering. They say they want to make sure this does not happen to anyone else again.

[09:45:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONTE ROBINSON, ARRESTED AT STARBUCKS: So what I want is for a young man, young men, to not be traumatized by this and, instead, motivated, inspired.

RASHON NELSON, ARRESTED AT STARBUCKS: To help people understand that it's not just a black people thing. This is a people thing. And that's exactly what we want to see out of this, and that's true change. So put action into place and stop using your words.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: The CEO of Starbucks met with both men and apologized for the incident. The company will close 8,000 stores nationwide the afternoon of May 29th for racial bias training.

All right, the end of an era. For the first time in nearly 60 years, Cuba has a leader not named Castro. Just moments ago, first five (ph) President Miguel Diaz-Canel sworn in as the country's new president. He ran unopposed, if you can say he really ran, and is Raul Castro's hand-picked successor.

Joining me now with the latest from Havana, our Patrick Oppmann.

A major transfer of power, Patrick.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, happening right before our eyes. History seems to take a long time to take place here, John. You think 60 years of a leader named Castro. The only president that most Cubans have ever known. But we're looking at live picture of a man named Miguel Diaz-Canel born after the revolution. He's 57, turns 58 tomorrow. And he represents a younger generation, but one that is still very faithful to the revolution started by Fidel and Raul Castro. He's a man who, throughout this ceremony this morning, has talked about continuity, talking about keeping with the spirit of the revolution, talking about the United States as an aggressor that needs to be fought, if need be.

And even though he will be the head of the government here in Cuba, John, Raul Castro remains the powerful first secretary of the communist party. And we just heard moments ago that he will remain head of the Cuban Armed Forces. So while Raul Castro is stepping back, he's going to be looking very closely over this official's soldier, making sure that he's not betrayed the revolution.

Still, though, 86-years-old, Raul Castro is beginning the transition, beginning to turn over power to the next generation. And now we have, for the first time in most people's memory here, a president whose last name is not Castro.

BERMAN: A major milestone. Though, as you know, Raul Castro stepping back, but not away.

Patrick Oppmann in Havana. Great to have you with us. Thanks so much.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:51:57] BERMAN: You're looking at live pictures out of Texas there on your right, where moments from now we're going to hear from one of the heroic passengers from Southwest Flight 1380. In his own words, he'll describe the desperate struggle that he and his fellow passengers went through to try to save the life of Jennifer Riordan. That's who you're looking at right there. Polo Sandoval is standing by in Philadelphia, where this flight ultimately landed.

Polo, what do we expect to hear and what are we learning now about this flight?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, John, as is -- we usually see these kinds of cases, some of the most powerful stories usually come out in the days following some of these traumatic incidents. In this case, this individual has already returned home to Texas. He was on that plane when things went terribly wrong on Tuesday, when that fatal engine failure occurred at 32,000 feet.

We're about to hear from Andrew Needham, from his hometown in Texas, just north of Dallas. This is one of two individuals that according to several passenger accounts rushed to the aid of this woman that was literally halfway outside of the plane. Several of these passengers said that they tried desperately to try to pull Jennifer Riordan back into the plane just moments after that window shattered, but were unsuccessful. And it wasn't until two men, including the man that we'll hear from in a few minutes, literally used every -- all the strength they could to pull her back in and they quickly began administering CPR and first aid.

Of course, sadly, we know that she did not survive. But it just really helps to paint a better picture, John, of what took place in that -- inside that Boeing 737 and the powerful moments that followed that engine failure.

There was a nurse that reportedly sprang into action to try to help this woman. And, of course, this fire fighter as well. Because when you think about it, at 32,000 feet, John, these people only had themselves. They had those two very capable pilots, who we heard from via Twitter overnight. And, of course, just one working engine, the one that you can see on our side right now.

John.

BERMAN: Polo, at this point, what are we hearing from the captain and the first pilot on this?

SANDOVAL: We did hear from both of them yesterday via Twitter, obviously asking for privacy at this point. These two pilots not only -- the captain that was involved, that actually helped fly this plane safely here to Philadelphia, but also the first officer, is essentially not only asking for privacy but saying, in short, on Twitter, they were simply doing their job. It certainly is something that we've heard from several people who have been instrumental in saving so many lives before. And I imagine that if you call them heroes, they simply laugh it off. But the reality is, those passengers on that plane have been crediting this flight crew for being able to land that plane safely here in Philadelphia.

So, again, this is really the first time that we hear from these two experienced pilots who were at the helm, who were flying this plane when things went terribly wrong. But at this point we now anxiously await to hear just one more witness account, one of the most important ones, of course, one of the people who was instrumental in trying to save that woman's life.

BERMAN: Polo, any answers on what happened to the engine at this point?

SANDOVAL: Not at this point.

[09:55:00] Yesterday we heard from the National Transportation Safety Board. It was expected to be their final press conference here on site before they returned to Washington, D.C. They said they're now going over the evidence. They've recovered several debris portions that were recovered about 70 miles from here.

And it's interesting how they were able to track those down. Some of the technicians that were manning the radar that day immediately following that incident Tuesday morning, they noticed certain blips on the radar, which they later determined to be some of that debris. They factored in the weather conditions, the wind conditions as well, and they were able to get an approximate area of where the debris fell. They gathered that debris. They're analyzing it right now to see if, in fact, it was that fan blade that detached that caused that catastrophic failure for the engine.

BERMAN: All right, Polo Sandoval for us in Philadelphia. Polo, thanks so much.

The race for the White House still two and a half years away. The president has announced he is running for re-election. This morning, some stunning non-endorsements from members of his own party.

Stay with us.