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Democratic Party Files Lawsuit Against Russia, Trump Campaign, Wikileaks; Bob Menendez Talks Lawsuit, Comey Memos; North Korea; Student Walkouts to Protest Gun Violence; Greenberg: Trump on Tape Lied to Get on Forbes 400 List. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired April 20, 2018 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news still coming. We continue to cover "The Washington Post" is reporting that the Democratic Party has filed a lawsuit against Russia, the Trump campaign, and the WikiLeaks organization. They accuse those parties of conspiring to disrupt the 2016 election and tip it in the favor of Donald Trump.

Let me bring in Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, thank you for coming in.

SEN. BOB MENENDEZ, (D), NEW JERSEY: Good to be with you.

BOLDUAN: The article in "The Washington Post" is putting out, some great reporting, some amazing stuff. They accuse "Russia, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks of far reaching conspiracy to disrupt the 2016 campaign and tilt the election to Donald Trump." Is this real?

MENENDEZ: You know --


BOLDUAN: Do you see this as a real thing?

MENENDEZ: They see real elements of it. Certain elements have been reported individually. So collectively when you put it together, I think that the Democratic National Committee feels they have the great substance of a real suit. And so we'll see.

BOLDUAN: What is the evidence of it? Isn't that what Bob Mueller is investigating, what congressional committees are investigating?

MENENDEZ: Well, that doesn't stop them from continuing their investigation. This is a civil suit. And it allows the Democratic National Committee to go forward and make the case that you overwhelmingly try to conspire to affect the last election in a way that is totally inappropriate. So they'll have an opportunity to be put to --


BOLDUAN: Do you think it could hurt, get in the way of Bob Mueller's investigation?

MENENDEZ: Nothing is going to get in the way of Bob Mueller's investigation except for maybe Donald Trump.

BOLDUAN: Getting exactly to the point of what we're talking about right here. Let me ask you about the Comey memos coming out. I don't know if you had a chance to read them. I was fascinated about the discussion in the memos about Michael Flynn. There is a retelling of the story in the memo of how Michael Flynn forgot to tell Donald Trump that a foreign leader had called to congratulate him on his election win. And Comey writes this, "In telling the story, the president pointed his fingers at his head and said, the guy has serious judgment issues."

Just this morning, the president tweets out his support of Michael Flynn, though. But this is Donald Trump saying that he has serious reservations about Michael Flynn. Does that change anything for you?

MENENDEZ: No. The reality is he chose Flynn, he had Flynn actively in his campaign, he had Flynn designate his national security adviser, even knowing information about him, he still let him on for a period of time, as there were questions that were raised about Flynn's inappropriate engagement with foreign governments, while he was a national security adviser. So I think the president says whatever is convenient for him at a given moment.

BOLDUAN: Senator, do you think the release of the memos changes -- I'll call it a game, very serious situation -- changes the game at all in what people believe and how things went down or maybe your view of James Comey?

MENENDEZ: Look, I think you may question that Comey made wrong decisions at a given time. But I think that generally I find him to be a pretty straight shooter. He says what he thinks. You may disagree with his judgment. But it doesn't mean that he isn't a pretty straight shooter.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk more about Russia. Sergey Lavrov said President Putin is ready to accept the invitation that Donald Trump offered to visit the White House. I think this will be the first time that Putin has been to the White House since 2005. Do you think the president should welcome Vladimir Putin to the White House?

MENENDEZ: I think the president should be challenging Vladimir Putin for not only his invasion of Ukraine, for a chemical assassination on European soil, for his interference in our own elections. You know, it is amazing to me the president can say that a court ordered subpoena to go and review his lawyer's documents is an attack on our country. He cannot say that what Russia did in the 2016 elections and is doing right now in our country, and other countries in the world, is not an attack on --


BOLDUAN: Can he do that challenge when he's sitting with Vladimir Putin at the White House? MENENDEZ: If you can't do it from abroad, I don't know how you do it

up front. What we need from this administration, what we're waiting for, not a validation to Vladimir Putin, we're waiting for a strategy on how to counter Russia's maligned aggression throughout the world and Syria, in our own country, in other places in the world.

BOLDUAN: Very related to this whole discussion is the secretary of state. There is not currently obviously a secretary of state. You opposed Mike Pompeo's nomination as secretary of state. Republicans say, the White House is saying that Democrats, you are going to oppose anyone they put up. Doesn't matter what the name would be.

MENENDEZ: That's not true. That's simply not true. Several of the members of the committee voted for Pompeo for the CIA director. But the CIA director is not the same as being the secretary of state.


MENENDEZ: It is not the same as being the advocate for America's diplomacy globally. It is a different set of judgments. I voted for some of the president's cabinet, Secretary Mattis, and others. But that doesn't mean that because he nominates a secretary of state there is a reason there is there's vetting. And he failed in that process. He failed to show he could be an advocate for strong diplomacy. He failed to be forth coming about many issues we asked him.

[11:35:29] BOLDUAN: Let me ask you this then. This is a very real question now. What is worse, Mike Pompeo as secretary of state or Donald Trump walking into a meeting with Kim Jong-Un without a secretary of state at his side?

MENENDEZ: I don't except the proposition it has to be either/or. When that meeting is set, strictly up to the president, unless Kim Jong-Un is going to dictate when it happens. So he could nominate a new secretary of state and would have the confidence of --


BOLDUAN: Not going to happen within the time period that we're talking about.

MENENDEZ: He could. There is nothing that is fixated that the date to meet North Korea. The problem is, then I have to accept a secretary of state who falls far below the desirable qualifications of the secretary of state. The world is far more than North Korea. It is Syria, it is Russia, it is Iran --


BOLDUAN: You have to deal with the fact they lay out right now, Donald Trump says he's likely to meet with Kim Jong-Un. Could happen in May and June. In that period of time no way you get --


MENENDEZ: He could make it September. Look, the reality is, it is a red herring to suggest that a date that isn't even quite fixed yet is the reason why you have to approve a secretary of state who cannot get -- seems bipartisan support from the committee. Seems that Senator Rand Paul --


BOLDUAN: What do you say to Heidi Heitkamp?

MENENDEZ: Everyone makes their own judgment. She's on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I don't think that's where her focus is.

BOLDUAN: Where is her focus then, Senator?

MENENDEZ: Agriculture, and other issues that I think are incredibly important to her state and to the country. But as someone who spent 26 years in Congress, in the House and the Senate, sitting on the foreign relations committee of each House, I am focused like a laser beam on what foreign policy should be and what it means to our country in terms of national security.

BOLDUAN: Senator, thank you for coming in.

MENENDEZ: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: I appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Right now, students across the country are walking out of class to mark the 19 years since the Columbine shooting massacre. And they're demanding action on gun control. Their message, to lawmakers, their message to the White House, we'll bring you that coming up.


[11:41:52] BOLDUAN: Breaking news, students across the country are walking out of class to protest gun violence and demand action from lawmakers. Today, on this 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting massacre, students in every time zone are walking out of school 10:00 a.m. for a moment of silence. This hour, it is the central time zone's turn, of course, that demand for action was re-energized by the deadly school shooting two months ago in parkland, Florida. One place where the walkouts are not happening though today, Ocala, Florida. In a sad twist, walkouts were canceled because a student was shot today in school. Allegedly by another student. Authorities say the victim was shot in the ankle and will be OK. Thankfully. And the suspect is in custody. But, the walkouts are well under way in other areas.

Let's check in on the walkouts in Washington, where Ryan Nobles is for us right now.

Ryan, what are you seeing there?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This group of students here behind me, they started at the White House, about an hour ago. They started at 10:00 a.m., made the walk all the way down here, in the shadow of the U.S. capital. They arrived about half an hour ago, they were screaming do your job, Congress. That's what they have been talking about now. A group of speakers have come up and talked about the next steps in this movement. One of the big things we heard over and over again is that they don't want this movement to die down. They want to continue to grab the attention of lawmakers, and one of the things I found most interesting, I covered quite a few of these rallies since the parkland shooting, and there was a heavy emphasis today on voter registration. They asked the students to raise their hand, if they have registered to vote if they plan to register to vote by the time they turn 18, and then they specifically talked about going to the polls. These students want to make sure their message continues to be heard by the lawmakers, and that's one of the reasons that they're out here today.

BOLDUAN: Ryan, thank you so much.

Let's go from Washington to New York now. Jason Carroll is following the protests there in Washington Square Park.

Jason, what are you seeing there?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This was something not supposed to get off until noon. But already there are already thousands of students here at Washington Square Park. At noon time, when this officially starts, organizers are expecting 5,000 students from more than 30 schools across the city to attend. Already, Kate, the Department of education has weighed in, telling the students that they attend this, they will be marked as absent. They will be penalized. I spoke to the mayor's office about that, they said, look, we appreciate the students coming out here to voice their opinions, but what we would like to see them not do is miss a full day of school.

I want to bring in one of the organizers here, Drew Myers.

Drew, already we're hearing a shooting in Florida today.

And today you're out here to protest against things like this happening.

DREW MYERS, STUDENT WALKOUT ORGANIZER: Yes. And how ironic that we're out here and that happens today. Just shows that this is not OK. It is too daily, happens too much. We're here to tell Congress we want something done. Just too much at this point to, you know, we have to get something done.

CARROLL: One of the major questions is, what do you do to move your voices and this movement forward? How do you sustain the type of momentum?

[11:45:02] MYERS: In order to sustain momentum, we got to talk to teens, keep them engaged. We'll be holding another march on June 2nd and we're also going to be talking to congressmen, meeting with politicians, keeping youth informed, so we can vote in November. Vote out people who aren't with us on this issue.

CARROLL: I want to bring in Crystal here. Crystal, Kate, has been living with gun violence. She lives in the

Bronx. She's been living with gun violence, she said, since elementary school.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: Yes. Sometimes you can go home, and you can hear somebody right down the block gotten shot. My school had several accounts with gun violence starting from elementary school, even up to high school. I feel that as our mayor, he should have been here, and he should have attended, because he has two kids in the New York school system. He should have been here to protest with us.

CARROLL: You heard what the mayor said. I spoke to the mayor's office earlier today, he's falling in line with the Department of education, saying you guys are going to be marked as absent. He appreciates you coming out to protest, but he wants to see you having a full day of school today.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: That's great, but that's not going to help us. Many like before us, people who protested for stuff they strongly believe, they were out here, they did what they had to do in order to get their movement and voice heard. As a mayor, who has two kids who have been in the system, he should have been out here fighting with us, alongside us.

CARROLL: The fight continues.

Thank you, Crystal.

Thank you, Drew.

Thank you, both.

Kate, just want to point out that, you know, I heard my colleague, Ryan, mention that some of these organizers have been coming out here registering, trying to get some of these young folks out here to vote. That's exactly what we have seen out here, exactly, earlier today. They have been registering, getting folks out here to vote. This is a movement they do not want to see stopped.

BOLDUAN: All right, Jason, thank you so much. We're going to continue following this. And 2500 schools around the country taking part in these walkouts today.

Jason Carroll, thanks so much. Jason, I appreciate it.

We'll be right back.


[11:51:21] BOLDUAN: New this morning, John Barron is back. And there are tapes. A former Forbes reporter is now releasing audio tapes of what he says is Donald Trump posing as his own P.R. agent. And Jonathan Greenberg is the reporter and says he was tricked and lied to by Donald Trump. Why? Because Donald Trump wanted to get on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans. That according to Jonathan Greenberg. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BARRON, ALLEGED P.R. MAN OF DONALD TRUMP: Most of this has been consolidated to Mr. Trump. I'd like to talk to you off the record if I could to make things easier.



GREENBERG: That's fine.

BARRON: All right. But I think you can really use Donald Trump now and you can just consolidate it, I think, last year someone showed me the article and he had 200 and 200 and others said you had asked about that, and it's been pretty well consolidated, OK?


BOLDUAN: OK? CNN Senior national correspondent, Alex Marquardt, is joining me with all of this.

Alex, what more are you learning?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This from Jonathan Greenberg in "The Washington Post" just eviscerates the Trump claims of his wealth and his assets. We've seen Trump accused of using the pseudonym of John Barron in the past as well as John Miller. In fact, when Trump was running for president in 2016, on Jimmy Kimmel, he admitted he had used the alias Barron in the past, and we know that's what he named his fifth child.

The clip you played was from 1984. This is the third time Forbes put out their 400 list, and Trump was trying to argue to the reporter that he actually had most of his father's assets and, therefore, he deserved a higher place on the Forbes 400 list.

Here's a little more from John Barron.


GREENBERG: Does Trump make money management decisions?

BARRON: Oh, yes, he's the chairman. And Fred Trump is active. He's an excellent guy, and they're very close. The two are very close as you heard or know, or perhaps you don't know. But Fred Trump is active in the business, too.

GREENBERG: Are you saying that perhaps for tax purposes, the ownership has been transferred to Donald Trump?

BARRON: Correct.

GREENBERG: OK, and when you say, you know, in excess of 90 percent of the ownership?

BARRON: I'd say in excess of 90 percent, and I'd say closer to the ultimate, but in excess of 90 percent, yes.


MARQUARDT: So that was the third time, Kate, that Trump was trying to get on the Forbes 400 list. Rewind two years, when Forbes was putting out this list for the first time, he told Greenberg his family was worth some $900 million and, therefore, he deserves a very high place on the list. Forbes eventually decided to put him down as -- for just $100 million. Greenberg was happy that he helped Trump out, but then Greenberg later found out that Trump was worth just $5 million at the time. Of course, no paltry amount, nothing to sniff at, but far lower than what Trump would like to be seen as having -- Kate?

[11:54:28] BOLDUAN: That's pretty amazing. You can never get enough John Barron and never get enough John Barron audiotapes. It's amazing it's still coming out now.

Alex, great to see you. Thank you.

Still ahead, breaking moments ago, the Democratic Party filing suit accusing Russia, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks of a far-fledged conspiracy to disrupt the 2016 election. What does this mean now? That's ahead.


BOLDUAN: Turning pain into passion. This week's "CNN Hero" was sexually abused as a teenager in her hometown in Bolivia. Now she's created a nonprofit to help other children facing the very same danger. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED CNN HERO: I found out I wasn't alone, that there were tons of girls also being sexually abused. And I had to do something. I had to use the rest of my life to prevent other girls from going through what I went through.

I think the biggest thing is keeping the boys back to girls and allowing them to speak up.


[11:59:51] BOLDUAN: To find out more, go to and nominate someone you think should be a "CNN Hero".

Thanks for joining me today.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.