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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
V.A. Nominee Denies Wrecking Government Car While Drunk; Cohen Will Assert Fifth Amendment in Stormy Daniels Case; Trump Available to Review Materials Seized in Cohen Raid.; Giuliani Met With Mueller to Discuss Potential Trump Interview. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired April 25, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:04] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: -- Comey tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. That's it for me, thanks for watching. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, breaking news. President Trump's embattled V.A. pick, Dr. Ronny Jackson damming new allegations facing him tonight, including wrecking a government car while drunk. Is the president still sticking by him? The White House spokesman Raj Shah is OUTFRONT.
Also breaking, more, Michael Cohen, pleading the Fifth in the ongoing case with Stormy Daniels. This, as his attorneys are expecting their first look at materials seized by the FBI in that raid tonight. Stormy Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti is my guest.
And Rudy Giuliani, the newest member to Trump's legal team meeting with Bob Mueller. What was his message to the special counsel?
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, a lot of breaking news. Let's start with this.
Claims of drunk driving, wrecking a government car, giving out Percocet. These are the incredibly serious new allegations against the V.A. secretary nominee Ronny Jackson tonight. These allegations now coming from 23 of Jackson's current and former colleagues.
The allegations detailed in a document compiled by Democrats on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. One of the allegations that after a going away party, Jackson drove a government vehicle, drunk at the time and then wrecked that vehicle.
Another damming accusation is that Jackson, who, you know, was the physician for Presidents George W. Bush, Obama, and Trump, quote, could not be reached when needed because he was passed out drunk in his hotel room.
And another claim, that Jackson provided a, quote, large supply of Percocet, a prescription opioid to a White House military office staff member. Now just a short time ago, President Trump walking past reporters as you see there, refused to answer questions about Jackson. And as for Jackson himself, he still denies the allegations.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You never wrecked a car?
RONNY JACKSON, V.A. SECRETARY NOMINEE: I've never wrecked a car.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You never wrecked a car? Did anything happen with opioids? It's the Democrats are laying all this out.
JACKSON: I have no idea where that's coming from.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you still want to move forward with this nomination?
JACKSON: It should be --
JACKSON: It should be very easy to prove that, right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where are all these allegations coming from?
JACKSON: Thanks guys. Appreciate it. I have no idea.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you been handing out Percocets?
You have no idea?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you withdrawing your nomination?
JACKSON: No, I have nit wrecked a car. So I can tell you that. That's easy to deduct. Thanks guys.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you move forward?
JACKSON: We're still moving ahead as planned. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're still moving ahead?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you tell the president that, sir?
JACKSON: Thanks guys.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: And tonight, the White House seems to be b standing by the president's pick.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Dr. Jackson's record as a White House physician has been impeccable. He has an incredibly strong background. He's a highly qualified, highly skilled individual and if he didn't think he was capable of doing the job, he wouldn't have announced his nomination in the first place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Impeccable and highly qualified. Of course, descriptions that would not be true if the allegations against Jackson are accurate. Allegations that also by the way include this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You would actually just go down the aisle and sort of say he wants to go sleep once you wake up?
SEN. JON TESTER (D), VETERANS AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: That's the report we got from the people, the 20 some people who got a hold of us and said we got a problem. This doctor has a problem because he hands out prescriptions like candy. In fact, in the White House, they call him the candy man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Now, the White House insists that they were not aware of these accusations when the president picked Jackson to lead the federal government's second largest agency. Veterans Affairs has nearly 400,000 employees and the touches the lives of Americans across this country. They say the allegations never came up during his four background checks over the years. Sanders suggesting that the Trump administration actually did their due diligence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the White House doing any sort of additional looking into Dr. Jackson's background in light of all of the allegations?
SANDERS: There's been, again, a pretty thorough vetting process done by the FBI as well as three other independent investigations, but that's part of what the nomination process of Congress should do and what it's supposed to look like and why they should move forward with a hearing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So Congress is to blame? It's a pretty amazing thing to say given the allegations and given the fact that members of the president's own party are calling out the White House for poor vetting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What do you think this says about the White House's vetting process?
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: It needs to be more robust. It certainly does. REP. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: This does raise questions about the White House vetting process.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: All I can say is that, there's been a history here of people coming to the Hill not very well vetted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Manu Raju is OUTFRONT with the breaking details. And Manu, what are they doing to verify these accusations that they now say are coming from 23 people, and the list of accusations keeps growing? Are they going to be able to verify it or not?
RAJU: Well, they're requesting a range of records from the White House and from other agencies to see if there's any other, you know, records that corroborate these claims.
[19:05:02] But Republicans also are concerned about this, Erin, concerned enough to delay today's hearing that was scheduled of this confirmation hearing for Ronny Jackson with no plans at the moment for a new date to reschedule that hearing. And some Republicans that I talked to who sit on the Veterans Affairs Committee told me that they view that the sources who have come forward to provide this information are credible including Mike Rounds, who's a Republican senator on that committee. He said some of these individuals are credible because they're current and they're former officials who did work with Dr. Ronny Jackson.
Now, they don't -- they are cautious, too. The Republicans in particular because they say they don't know exactly if they're accurate. Democrats, too. They say they don't know if they're accurate. But if there is any sense that they may be accurate, that would be enough to sink the nomination.
And Erin, I can tell you tonight that the Republicans on this committee and on Capitol Hill little more broadly are very skeptical that this nomination will get ultimately get confirmed, and if it's worth putting this fight to push him through and deal with these messy allegations that are coming from 23 individuals right now. And whether it's worth fighting to get him ultimately confirmed, particularly if any of these are true, unlikely at this point. Some Republicans believe that he ought to get this job even if it continues to hang out there for several more weeks here, Erin.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Manu. And I want to go now straight to the White House and the Principal Deputy Secretary Raj Shah who is on to talk about this. So, Raj, you know, we're learning that Ronny Jackson, Dr. Ronny Jackson did meet with the president this afternoon for about an hour.
Can you tell us anything about that meeting? And, is everything still on track? That they're going to push ahead with this?
RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE PRINCIPAL DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Well, Erin, thanks for having me on this evening. Yes, we are pushing ahead with this nomination. Ronny Jackson has denied the most recent allegations that have been put forward by Senator Tester in this document citing anonymous sources. And I think it's important to be clear.
There are anonymous sources on the one hand while there are individuals who've gone on the record including President Obama in the past defending Dr. Jackson, defending his character, his integrity, his conduct as the White House chief physician. So, you know, these are accusations. We are looking into them but Dr. Jackson has been investigated four separate times in terms of background investigations, including a most recent FBI investigation which Senator Tester himself said who was briefed on it said it came back clean.
BURNETT: So, just to ask as a very basic question. When you started this process and the president said I want Ronny Jackson, did you do any vetting at all beyond saying he passed background checks from the FBI?
SHAH: So first of all, he has passed three separate background investigations and for anybody in this sensitive position as his --
BURNETT: No, I understand, but I'm saying did you do anything else?
SHAH: But, Erin, I think for fitness, -- no, there are obvious questions about what he thinks about veterans issues. How he would conduct and clean up the V.A., which are questions very important to the actual position that he's being nominated for. You know, there is a thorough background check in which you interview subordinates, you will interview previous bosses, you interview individuals --
BURNETT: So you're saying you did that separate from an FBI background check?
SHAH: The FBI does that.
SHAH: The FBI does that, and it came back clean. Again, Erin, it's very important, this is a rear admiral in the United States Navy who's conducted himself in all published reports on him, all audits et cetera, come back with a stellar record including from President Obama and the current president. He's gone through over a decade.
He is, you know, a guy from a small town in West Texas who moved to become the president's chief physician. And he has shown an impeccable record. And, you know, until there is actual evidence, and I want to this, Senator Tester has issued two pages of anonymous accusations against Dr. Jackson --
BURNETT: You heard Mike Rounds of GOP say this is credible. I mean, I'm just -- I'm happy --
SHAH: What is also credible is President Obama and President Trump. What is also credible are the assessments from, you know, numerous audits. I mean, there's an issue recording prescription drug dispensation by the White House Medical Unit. There have been internal and external audits by the Walter Reed Medical Center internal audits which are routine that have shown that the White House Medical Unit dispenses prescription drugs according to medical policy.
So there's a lot of evidence, all of it supports --
BURNETT: So do you know enough, Raj, on that point -- I just want to interrupt you because obviously, the allegations are now specifically about Percocet, which is an opioid. Right? Something everyone in this country is aware of. Aware of over prescription (INAUDIBLE).
There's a very specific allegation. Do you know for sure that that is false? Or do you not know yet?
SHAH: Well, what specific allegation? I just want to be clear.
BURNETT: This is overprescribing Percocet to a military officer.
[19:10:05] SHAH: What I'm saying is that there have been numerous audits done about the White House Medical Unit's prescription -- use of prescription drugs and issuing of prescription drugs. They do so according to policy, according to medical policy. Several audits under Dr. Jackson's while he's been the leader of the White House Medical Unit have given them, you know, a clean bill of health.
And, you know, if you are a White House official and he is your physician, he asks you pertinent questions. He informs you of the risks involved then may make an assessment. He is a physician. He will obviously give out a prescription drug when appropriate.
BURNETT: It sounds like you're saying you're sure that that accusation is false. Or are you saying it didn't show up before, but you're not sure. I mean, I'm trying to understand. Are you looking into this specifically or not, Raj, or are going to deny them all? I'm just trying to understand.
SHAH: I understand your point, but it's really impossible to address anonymous allegations, sources of which we can't interview or speak to. These -- we rely upon the background investigation process. We rely upon the FBI's assessment which has done interviews with relevant individuals. We rely upon the stellar record that, you know, he has been -- he has shown, really, in the United States Navy, in the White House, and the assessments from multiple presidents. And I would say that you have right now, anonymous accusations that are being presented by Senator Tester which you also have people that have gone on record today.
President Obama's national Security Council chief of staff said in the New York Times today he's never seen anything to corroborate these allegations in numerous years of serving alongside Dr. Jackson. You had somebody on your network earlier, former secret service agent who said nothing that they have ever seen corroborated this stuff.
BURNETT: Raj, what I'm curious about though is -- I mean, you can make this case, right, and no one knows at this point, right. But you do have 23 people. You do have Republicans on that committee saying that these sources are credible. I hear you.
You want people to be named. But what I am trying to understand is, are you going to come out in point-blank deny any of this ever happened? Are you prepared to do that or are you not prepared to do that?
SHAH: Dr. Jackson has not. I mean, he did that earlier --
BURNETT: He has not, but I'm asking about you as the White House. Have you looked into it? Is the president of the United States absolutely sure these allegations are lies against Dr. Jackson or is he not sure?
SHAH: We're saying that there are independent assessments from many individuals and from many credible statements that have been made on the record that speak to his character. All of us in the White House have been around Dr. Jackson for the last 15 months. We've seen him personally, we've seen him conduct his role as a physician, we've seen him on overseas trips and nothing we have seen corroborates any of these allegations.
So we're happy to address them and Dr. Jackson is happy to address them. One-on-one with senators in an open hearing on the record with cameras on, live for everyone to see.
BURNETT: A White House official is right now -- I don't know if you know this, Raj but, we do have reporting telling Jeff Zeleny that the president today actually raised the prospect of going into the briefing room where Sarah Sanders was to stick up for Dr. Jackson but that several senior administration officials advised him against doing so. Is that true? Was he advised against doing that?
SHAH: Well, I wasn't in the meeting. I will tell you that the president feels very strongly about Dr. Jackson's character. About through his personal interactions with Dr. Jackson, about how strong of a leader he is. That this is a man who served in combat, who saved lives.
He's cared for veterans on the battlefield. He's cared for us at the White House. And he'll do great care for our veterans all across America who deserves his leadership.
BURNETT: So, can I just play for you something that Jon Tester said because I think it's significant to the heart of this, right. To say, sure, maybe President Obama had a great experience with him. He has said he has. President Trump has said he has, but that does not mean that these things are not true.
Here is Jon Tester.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TESTER: We were told time and time again the people above can be treated like gold, the people below him, he belittled, screamed at him. Really created a really toxic environment to the point where the people who worked around him felt like they had to walk on egg shells because of his lack of respect for his job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: You know, Raj -- you know, it just sort of makes me think, you know, when the allegations against Matt Lauer came out or Charlie Rose, I had worked with them and hasn't experienced it, but everything that was said against them that came out to be b true, it happened. But I didn't know about it, but it still happened.
Isn't it possible that the guys who were, you know, that he was treating, don't know that these things happened but yes, they indeed happened?
SHAH: Well, with all due respect, Erin, I guess anything is possible. I think what Senator Tester might be referencing there is an audit that Dr. Jackson himself called for of the White House Medical Unit in 2012 in which some of these allegations were made against him and against another senior manager for which the report issued most of the blame for the other senior manager and there was another audit done the next year which the morale had improved according to two-thirds of the people who were interviewed
[19:15:02] So, this -- and since then in subsequent years, he was promoted and given accolades by President Obama and by the current president. So again, this is a five-year-old report which h addressed by the White House and been looked at and he has been promoted since then as the chief White House physician.
BURNETT: Right. I'm just simply making the point that the president of the United States, whoever that is, would not have been aware of this behavior at a secret service party, or wrecking a car, handing out drugs to someone that he shouldn't. I'm just simply making that point --
SHAH: But Dr. Jackson would be --
BURNETT: -- that the president of the United States would not necessarily have known. So they can be speaking honestly and vouching for character and not actually know all the facts.
SHAH: That may be, but I can attest that Dr. Jackson does know the facts and he has denied that specific allegation that you just made.
BURNETT: Jeff Zeleny is also reporting that White House aides, I understand you don't want to, but you are preparing for the possibility that Jackson may pull his nomination. Is that true?
SHAH: Well, of course we are. We -- this is -- as the president said, Dr. Jackson's decision. We stand behind him 100 percent depending on what he decides to do. We think that he'll make a great secretary of Veterans Affairs, but this is a nasty process right now and we're seeing it unfold right before us.
He is being hammered frankly by accusations from individuals who are not going on the record and as I stated earlier, there have only been two new voices on the record who have both defended Dr. Jackson today. So, it's very difficult when you're being, you know, kind of shot at from, you know, anonymous sources. He deserves the right to defend himself, deserves the right to have a hearing.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Raj. I appreciate your time.
SHAH: Thanks so much, Erin
BURNETT: And next, breaking news, Michael Cohen asserting his Fifth Amendment rights to not testify in the Stormy Daniels case. Daniels attorney responding live.
And breaking news, Rudy Giuliani meeting with Bob Mueller. Giuliani wants to get the probe quickly resolved. Is that wishful thinking. And the president increasingly acting as his own communications director. So, will he ever fill the role? Anthony Scaramucci who once had that job is OUTFRONT.
[19:20:34] BURNETT: Breaking news, Michael Cohen said he's going to plead the Fifth in the Stormy Daniels case. In a court filing, Cohen says it's because of the ongoing criminal investigation in New York.
OUTFRONT now, former assistant U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York, Harry Sandick, White House Correspondent for American Radio Networks April Ryan, and editor-in-chief of the Daily Beast, John Avlon.
All right, Harry, what do you make of it pleading the Fifth?
HARRY SANDICK, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: It's a total illogical thing for him to do. I don't view it as much of a surprise. A search warrant was executed in his hotel room, in his offices and it appears he's under investigation. Any lawyer would advise their client as Cohen's lawyer has to take the Fifth.
BURNETT: The problem with it is of course is what -- not just what a lot of people think about when you take the Fifth whether they should or shouldn't. But the president himself has said what he thinks about people who take the Fifth. Here he is
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Have you seen what's going on in front of Congress? Fifth Amendment, Fifth Amendment, Fifth Amendment. Horrible. Horrible. The mob takes of it.
If you're innocent, why you're taking the Fifth Amendment?
When you have your staff taking the Fifth Amendment, taking the Fifth so that they're not prosecuted, I think it's disgraceful
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Yes.
BURNETT: All right, he made it clear how he feels about it.
RYAN: It's -- yes, it's stunning. It's just stunning when it fits his situation, you don't hear a tweet, you don't hear anything from Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you don't hear anything from Raj, you don't hear anything from anyone. But, you know, it's amazing how it can get you caught up and get you in trouble for a situation that basically mirrors what you were talking about.
This president is very concerned about this situation. And that's some of the reasons too why he wants to find out. He's very close to wanting to find out what is actually in, what they've seized in that raid.
The president wants to find out. He does -- he wants him to take the Fifth because the president himself could wind up being implicated in this. So the best thing for him to do is keep his mouth shut and for the president to I guess also do the same.
BURNETT: I mean, John, It is pretty incredible. And by the way, what the president said there is what most people think. And Harry would say that's not the way it should be, we have the law for a reason. What the president said is what most people think. But it's very unfortunate reality when he's now talking about his own personal lawyer who's under criminal investigation.
JOHN AVLON, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: It's an unfortunate twist. Yes, but that's where there's a tweak for everything and given Trump's ability to just shoot from the lip, there is a sound bite that's going to contradict his actions in office.
And look, this is constitutionally protected. Michael Cohen is within his rights to do it. But, as Trump said during the campaign as most people get, it is a self-protected measure.
In this case, it may help Donald Trump in the short run, but it's not going to add credibility to his claims of being innocent and this being a witch hunt. In fact, he's going to be seen by most folks on the street as evidence to the opposite
BURNETT: Right, if you have nothing to hide then come out and say it like he said. I didn't do anything, I didn't do money laundering, I didn't do anything with medallions. I didn't -- OK, then come out and talk about it
I mean, Harry, here's the question, the president's lawyers now also filed a lawyer. A lawyer -- I'm sorry, a letter
BURNETT: In the case, it's about how they want to deal with the evidence. OK. And now we know there's, you know, there's millions. I don't know. There's tens of thousands of pages of evidence.
And in the letter, they say, quote, our client will make himself available as needed to aid in our privileged review on his behalf. So they're going the get the first document done and they're saying the president of the United States is going to make his time available to go through these documents.
SANDICK: Yes. I mean, whether he is necessary for that process or actually spends much time is uncertain. What's driving this is Judge Wood, one of the concerns the government raised was, will this take too long to drag it out, to allow Trump and Cohen's lawyers to look at the documents. And so she issued an order today saying I want to know that you can review these documents quickly.
And so, the lawyers --
BURNETT: But we don't know what that exactly mean or is that --
SANDICK: Well, what it means is, you better not come back to Judge Wood later on and say we can't review these documents in the next few months, we're a small firm. We're very busy. The president's involvement is not --
BURNETT: Time is too valuable. Yes.
SANDICK: That's right. This is meant by Judge Wood to say, look, if I'm going the cut you a little bit of break here and not just use the government's filter team proposal, you better not delay this case. We don't want to be coming back a year from now and this still isn't done.
[19:25:00] BURNETT: So April, is it a delay tactic that they're using by saying the president will look at these documents, or is it the president's worried about what's in them or wants to see them? Or -- do we know which?
RYAN: Almost definitely the president is worried about what's in them. You can bet your bottom dollar on that one. You know -- and the problem is, if the president does find out that he was actually taped, again, this group before they became the administration, the new Trump administration or close to the administration, what they used to do in business was tape everyone, and what if Cohen has taped the president and the tape -- and the president finds out he is actually taped and there's incriminating evidence on something. There within lies the problem.
But I'm going to say this, you know, in the court of public opinion, this does not look good to take the Fifth. But the president is smart to want to find out. But what happens when he finds out too much when it leaks to him. That's the problem.
BURNETT: John, you know, Giuliani, you know him very well, now a lawyer for Trump, has met with Mueller and apparently, his making his argument. They're talking about an interview with the special counsel, trying to end this quickly.
Will Rudy succeed where all others have failed?
AVLON: I'm not going to bring in a crystal ball and predict success or failure, but I do think this is one of the arguments for bringing Rudy on the team is his deep relationship with Robert Mueller. He was FBI director when Rudy was mayor during 9/11. They've known each other decades going back in the Justice Department. So it's drawing on that credibility to try to reset the table. And apparently, according to reporting, saying, look, the president is reluctant to testify, but can we get a better sense of why this is necessary. What's the timeline and apparently, Mueller's office arguing this is necessary to determine intent and that's necessary to expedite this moving forward.
BURNETT: And Harry, your bottom line on Michael Cohen pleading the Fifth is, you would or would not read into it any implication of guilt.
SANDICK: I think the -- as a lawyer, the better course is not to (INAUDIBLE) an implication of guilt. People take the Fifth --
BURNETT: John is shaking his head --
AVLON: As a human.
BURNETT: As a human, yes.
All right, thank you all very much. I appreciate it.
And next, more on the breaking new, Michael Cohen pleading the Fifth, Stormy Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti joins me next.
And the other breaking story this hour, alarming allegations of the president's pick to lead Veterans Affairs, wrecking a government car while drunk. Giving out an opioid. What is happening? Trump's former communications director, Anthony Scaramucci is next.
[19:31:18] ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: More on the breaking news. Michael Cohen saying he'll take the Fifth in the Stormy Daniels case. This is according to a court filing late today. Cohen says it's because of the ongoing criminal investigation he's facing in New York.
OUTFRONT now, Stormy Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti.
Michael, Michael Cohen taking the Fifth. Your reaction?
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: Well, I think this is a stunning development. It cannot be overstated. On April 5th, only a few weeks ago, the president was asked on Air Force One about his involvement or knowledge of the payment to my client and the agreement that was negotiated. He referred the "Associated Press" reporter who asked the question to Michael Cohen.
BURNETT: His lawyer. AVENATTI: And he specifically stated, you're going to have to ask
Michael Cohen. Now, we learn that Michael Cohen's unwilling, he's refusing to answer questions about the agreement and about the payment and he's relying on the Fifth Amendment. I think this is the first time in our nation's history that we have a sitting president's personal attorney pleading the Fifth Amendment against self incrimination. I do not think the magnitude of this can be overstated.
BURNETT: Now, you know, obviously, we heard the president a few moments ago getting his point of view on people who take the Fifth.
AVENATTI: Well, he's been consistent about that.
BURNETT: He's been very consistent. He said it multiple times.
But, you know, we had a lawyer here who said, look, the point of a court of law is that someone has the right to do that and that we should not presume innocence or guilt.
AVENATTI: Well, here's what I'll say. In connection with a civil proceeding in federal court, and that's what our case is, it's a civil proceeding in federal court, there's a presumption -- when a party or a witness invokes his or her Fifth Amendment, there's a presumption of a negative, what's called a negative inference. The fact finder, a jury or judge can draw what's called a negative inference. And what that means is that you can presume, that if the witness answered the question, instead of invoking his Fifth Amendment right, that the answer would incriminate him, that it would not be positive for him or her. And that's a very serious matter.
BURNETT: And I just want to be clear. All right, so in terms of what this does to the case, you think obviously this strengthens your position if he's going to take the Fifth because of this inference, negative inference.
AVENATTI: There's no question it strengthens our case, and I don't think though that the declaration that was filed earlier is going to be enough to carry the day and allow them to stay or pause our case. There's a variety of reasons for that. We're going to file a response likely tomorrow in response to this declaration. But we are confident that our case is not going to be stayed.
BURNETT: So, they are supposed to get the first batch of materials, right, stuff seized by the FBI. They're supposed to get the first batch, and, you know, it's obviously they're going to be inundated. It's a deluge of materials.
They have eight lawyers. Michael Cohen says and his team, they're going to be going through this. Trump Organization has lawyers going through this. And, obviously, their whole goal is to try to protect it as much as possible saying attorney client-privilege, right? Prosecutors, judge, everybody's going to be involved in this.
How many records that were seized do you believe were r related to your case, to Stormy Daniels?
AVENATTI: Well, we think there's a substantial amount of evidence and records relating to our case, my client, not just relating to the negotiation of the agreement and the payment. But also subsequent communications between Michael Cohen and Keith Davidson, my client's former attorney.
AVENATTI: We believe those communications actually occurred as recently as days before the FBI raid. There's substantial reason to believe these two attorneys were continuing to communicate with one another well into this year about my client, the settlement, the negotiation and documents relating this to this payment.
[19:35:01] BURNETT: All right. So, the president now, his lawyers have gotten involved. They have notified the court he is going to make himself available as needed to aid on our privilege review on his behalf. That's their quote. So, the president of the United States is saying that he's going to be giving his time to look at these documents if needed.
Your reaction to that?
AVENATTI: Well, I mean, I think it's bad for the country that the president is going to be devoted to this task. But from a personal level for the president, it's probably I can think of no greater priority that he should have than this case because -- and I've been consistent in what I've said for weeks now.
AVENATTI: I think that this is ultimately going to result in the president not being able to serve out his term, whether it'd be by impeachment or resignation. I believe it's going to be by resignation. I'm going to stand by that.
BURNETT: So, you believe he's doing this because he's afraid of what's in it. Not as a stall tactic to eventually say, well, we couldn't review the documents. I didn't have the time. The president's time's too valuable. He couldn't look at them.
I mean, there's two different theories here that could be true.
AVENATTI: This is critically important for him personally to devote whatever time is necessary as it relates to reviewing this material because it is in his best interest to try to shield as much evidence and information as possible from government prosecutors. Of course, I don't think that he could spend enough time to ultimately accomplish the task because I think the dye is already cast.
BURNETT: Why do you think it would lead to his resignation? He slept with her, fine. I mean, people don't care, right?
AVENATTI: No, no, it's not about that.
BURNETT: What's the point?
AVENATTI: It hasn't been that for some time. It's not about the sex. It's not about what happened in Lake Tahoe. It's about the cover-up, it's about the lies to the American people. It's about the fact that Michael Cohen, his fixer for ten years, knows where effectively many, many bodies are buried. He was sloppy in his execution --
BURNETT: So, it's not about Stormy necessarily is what you're saying?
AVENATTI: Well, I think Stormy's a part of it, but I don't think that's the -- I don't think that's all of it. I think there's going to be a mountain of evidence that comes from the FBI raids, the prior electronic surveillance, which I am highly confident was occurring between Michael Cohen or of Michael Cohen and the days leading up to the FBI raids. I think there's going to be a mountain of evidence that is going to support charges against Michael Cohen. He's going to wall on the president and there's going to be a very, very dark days, there are going to be very, very dark days ahead for the president.
BURNETT: I guess -- I'm just trying to understand the bottom line. If the American people don't care who he slept it, and they don't care if he lied about it to his wife or lied about it to them, what then would the issue be?
AVENATTI: Well, the issue is the cover up and the American people should care when their president lies to them.
BURNETT: All right. It has been about a week, more than a week, actually, since you and Daniels unveiled the sketch. The infamous sketch, and we'll show it to everybody, again, of a man she claims threatened her in Las Vegas when she was there with her daughter, her young daughter at the time in a parking lot about -- talking about her alleged affair with the president.
You told me a day after that that you had some pretty good ideas about the suspect's identity. You've gotten a lot of tips. Are you ready to say who it is?
AVENATTI: We've gotten a lot of tips. We've gotten over 3,000 tips at this point. I would describe 600 or 700 of those were credible. We're spending enormous amount of time --
BURNETT: Six or seven hundred of them?
AVENATTI: As credible. It takes a lot of time to run these to ground.
I mean, look at what just happened today in connection with the Golden State killer and how long that took to come to fruition. We are spending a lot of time on this. We're going to make sure that we identify the proper person if we identify them publicly because this, the stakes very, very high and we want to be very careful in how we proceed and we're going to be diligent and smart about it. And that's what we're doing. When we identify the individual, when we are prepared to announce it, we're going to announce it.
BURNETT: But it sounds like, given the volume that you're going through -- first of all, you may never choose to do so. But you're not close to announcing.
AVENATTI: Well, I actually think we are a lot closer today than we've been at any stage in the process, but we are certainly not prepared to definitively state that right now.
BURNETT: All right. Michael, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.
AVENATTI: Thank you.
BURNETT: And tonight on CNN, don't miss a special live town hall with James Comey coming up at the top of the hour, 8:00. Anderson there. James Comey will be there. You see the crowd already gathered in Williamsburg, Virginia.
And next, breaking news: President Trump meeting with his embattled V.A. pick, Dr. Ronny Jackson, in the West Wing today for an hour. As aides are preparing for Jackson to withdraw, Raj Shah just confirming that.
A man who worked in the West Wing, Anthony Scaramucci, is my guest next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right down in the middle, Sean.
SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Looks like a departure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Sean Spice back repping the Trumps. Or is he?
[19:43:43] BURNETT: Breaking news: President Trump's embattled pick to lead the V.A. firing back against new and extremely serious allegations. The White House Dr. Ronny Jackson denying that he wrecked a government car while drunk, vowing that he will not drop out.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DR. RONNY JACKSON, WHITE HOUSE PHYSICIAN: No, I have not wrecked a car. So, I can tell you that. That's easy to deduct. Thanks, guys.
REPORTER: Will you move forward?
JACKSON: We're still moving ahead. Thank you. REPORTER: You're still moving ahead?
REPORTER: Did you tell the president that, sir?
JACKSON: Thanks, guys.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, President Trump's former communications director, Anthony Scaramucci.
This is a mess.
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER TRUMP'S FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: What part of it is exactly messy?
BURNETT: The whole Ronny Jackson situation, how do you think it's been handled?
SCARAMUCCI: I'm not there, but I love him. He's an impeccable guy. You probably read President Obama's report about him.
SCARAMUCCI: You now, the Trump family, the first lady and the president love him.
I got to know him a little bit. I was only there for 11 days, but I got to know him and have an enormous amount of respect for him.
I think there's a bigger problem here if you don't mind me saying it. I mean, we are digging super deep into everybody's backgrounds and personalities and we're going to find defects in every single person. The search for the perfect people to stand in a confirmation hearing I think is sort of impossible, Erin.
And so, I'm wondering when all of this stops. You know, he's a very credible guy.
[19:45:00] He was an admiral in the navy. He's a surgeon. He's very smart. He understands the veterans issues and he has the faith and trust of the president of the United States.
Did he wreck the car? I'll take him at his word that he didn't wreck the car. Was he passing out sleeping pills? Again, I'll take him at his word that he wasn't passing --
SCARAMUCCI: I'll take him at his word.
But here's the problem. If he has to drop we're losing a very, very good person, very high caliber and we're doing it to each other. And, by the way, if Secretary Clinton were the president of the United States and she was putting somebody up for the V.A., they'd be rigorously scrubbing that person and giving a problem to that person. And so, I'm just wondering as Americans, when are we going to stop
doing this to each other because you're not going to find perfect people. Do they do that in France? Maybe they do, but I think we've got to stop doing it here.
BURNETT: So you think it would be OK if he was so drunk he couldn't answer the phone when he was on duty to serve the president of the United States and we should get past that?
SCARAMUCCI: No, I think we should look at it, but I think we have to be very careful about searching for perfection. If you, you may feel that, we don't know if it's true. OK? That's an allegation that's being made about him. It may or may not be true.
But let's say that it is true for the sake of this argument. I'm not sure if that's 100 percent disqualifying.
Wrecking a government car while drunk?
SCARAMUCCI: Him taking it or him giving it out?
BURNETT: Him giving it out.
SCARAMUCCI: Well, again, it's a hypothetical and I love the guy, so I'm not going to answer the question because I'm going to say he's saying he didn't do it, so I'll accept that he didn't do it.
In a situation where people are getting Percocet to fall asleep, I would say that we got to be careful with that.
BURNETT: It's a pain medication.
You know, Raj said, look, they are preparing for this to be withdrawn. It would be irresponsible not to be preparing for it, right?
SCARAMUCCI: Yes, quite a cast of characters in the green room tonight. I saw it --
BURNETT: Does it need to be withdrawn? His nomination?
SCARAMUCCI: That's up to the president. That's up to Admiral Jackson and the president and I think Raj is obviously being defensive there and frankly doing a good job for the White House. He's got to say that to lay out the right expectations, so there's optionality in whatever outcome happens.
BURNETT: Now, a White House official told us that the chief of staff, John Kelly, had reservations about Jackson in the first place. And so, he had reservations. And that once it became clear there were issues, some people, by the way, have very serious questions about his call it experience or ability to lead an organization of nearly 400,000 people after just having been a personal physician, no matter how good he was, and that Kelly as a result did not protect him once these other issues started coming up. Senior White House aide Ted Kelly told Trump yesterday, don't give a
full throttle defense of Jackson. Back off. Do you think Kelly hung Jackson out to dry? Is that part of the problem?
SCARAMUCCI: OK. So, here's the unfairness. You know, I've had my issues with John, but here's the unfairness in the conversation. So some White House aide is leaking that information. I understand that's your job to get the information.
But why don't we do what we'd like to have done on Twitter and Facebook and let's drop the anonymity and why don't we just get the name of the aide that's leaking that information on John?
BURNETT: Well, they could be fired.
SCARAMUCCI: Oh, that's why.
BURNETT: I mean, that's why people leak. You know that.
SCARAMUCCI: That's my point. See, this is the problem, OK, and this is the problem I was having.
BURNETT: You had a conversation with someone --
SCARAMUCCI: That's the problem I was having -- OK, well, my conversation by the way wasn't a leak because I told the two people that I was talking about directly to their face exactly how I felt. There was no -- you know, everything was right out in front. So, it wasn't a leak. I just thought he was a kid from home and I was having a conversation with him. We can talk about that if you want, but let's stay on this.
It's very unfair to John Kelly that he's got somebody inside the White House doing that sort of nonsense to him. If John Kelly gave me more than 11 days, I would clean those guys out. I would have figured it out.
It's very, very easy to figure out who's leaking and what they're leaking on. I'm a student of history, as are you. Certain leaks are appropriate. Policy leak, you're testing personnel and things like that, but the internecine intrigue leaks where you're trying to damage John Kelly's reputation I think is unfair to John Kelly, and it would have taken about 15 or 20 minutes. You don't need to be Detective Columbo to figure out who the sources are, who's leaking, what nefarious activity is --
BURNETT: You think it's that easy?
SCARAMUCCI: Oh, it's pretty easy, yes.
BURNETT: You really do?
SCARAMUCCI: Absolutely, because here's what happens. You know, you know the people inside the building. And you know the journalists and you can start mixing and matching. All you've got to do is go to a couple of bars in D.C. and you start doing the mixing and matching. I had it pretty much figured out who the main leakers were inside the
BURNETT: Are they still there?
SCARAMUCCI: The big ones that I identified are not there, but I'm sure there's others.
BURNETT: So --
SCARAMUCCI: You know there's leaking. It's ridiculous.
BURNETT: There's always leaking. I mean, that's a way the world works, right?
SCARAMUCCI: Erin, Erin, it's unfair to the chief -- there's a certain type of leaking that's totally appropriate -- policy leaking, personnel floaters.
[19:50:02] But this sort of stuff where someone's leaking this information on, on a private conversation that the president is having with his chief of staff, it's unfair to the president and it's unfair to the chief of staff.
Even if it's making the chief look good, it's unfair. And certainly, it is really bad if it is making him look bad, OK? Because this is what these adversaries (ph) --
BURNETT: Are you talking to the president now? Are you talking to him about this?
SCARAMUCCI: This is the nonsense in the White House that people don't like, and the American people don't like this. I talked to the president.
BURNETT: Are you talking to him about Ronny Jackson?
SCARAMUCCI: I have not talked about Ronny Jackson, and -- but I don't also want to exaggerate my relationship with the president because I probably talked to him -- the last time I talked to him, was maybe 10 days ago. I don't talk to him every day. I'm not one of the guys that tries to pretend he is on the phone with the president all the time. But I talk to the president once in a while.
BURNETT: Hope Hicks left a month ago, nearly a month ago, right, as communications director. That spot vacant and obviously, there's been a lot of talk about the president filling it himself essentially as communications director.
SCARAMUCCI: He's good communications director.
BURNETT: Do you think someone should be in there? Would you go back?
SCARAMUCCI: Well, I would never be asked back. So, like I said from the press box, I don't like answering hypotheticals, so the chance of me returning to Washington are minus zero, although I will be speaking at the National Press Club tomorrow, you know, maybe I'll check out the Smithsonian when I'm there, but I am not going back to the White House any time soon.
What I would say to you is that the president probably needs a very strong communications director. When I was down there, in that short period of time, we had dinner with Bill Shine. I would have loved to have seen Bill as his communications director. He's an incredibly talented guy. But for whatever reason, that's not going to work. But the president will pick somebody once he understands that person, he has faith and trust in that person, that they're going to do that job in the way that the president wants it.
BURNETT: So, Michael Cohen, you know him.
SCARAMUCCI: Very well.
BURNETT: He has said he is taking the Fifth in the Stormy Daniels case. You have said that Cohen will not turn on the president, won't flip on the president. I spoke with Jay Goldberg who represented Trump in his divorces over decades, spoke to him after the FBI raid. He says he thinks Cohen will lie to tell prosecutors what they want to hear, to get himself out of trouble. And he says Cohen will do it because he has a weak character.
Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY GOLDBERG, LONGTIME TRUMP ATTORNEY WHO WARNED HIM MICHAEL COHEN COULD FLIP: I do know him. Well, he is of a type that I recognize in the past as one not suited to stand up to the rigors of jail life.
BURENTT: So, you think he is of weak character?
GOLDBERG: I do think so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARAMUCCI: OK, I obviously I think that that's unfair. And just to characterize it, what I really did say about Michael is that I don't think there's anything for him to be flipped on and then, of course, you get asked with a hypothetical, and you guys are doing a good job of pinning me in there, and once I answered that hypothetical, I said he would definitely not flip.
And the reason why he wouldn't flip is that I disagree with Jay. I think Michael is not only of good character, but he is very, very close to the president and he's a loyal guy and there's no reason. But there's no reason to flip, OK?
I don't think he has done anything wrong. I pray for his family. I hope he's exonerated. But let me tell you this, OK, in the neighborhood I grew up in, we run towards our friends when they are in trouble. We don't run away from our friends. And so, if God forbid he did something wrong, I would like to be there for him and his family. I just think it's the right thing to do.
BURNETT: No matter what it was, all right.
SCARAMUCCI: No matter what it was, because you know what? God forbid it happened to one of your brothers or one of your sisters, you don't know what happens in life. You know, I have seen drug overdoses. I have seen, you know, gang fights, OK? I know the difficulty of this stuff.
BURNETT: Before we go, President Trump and Kanye tweeting each other today. Kanye saying he supports the president. The president thanking him. You got in on this today, retweeting from Kanye this tweet. In a text conversation between Kanye and someone named Anthony initials A.S., that's you I presume?
SCARAMUCCI: I'm not going to confirm or deny that on the show. We love Kanye. But what did I say in my retweet. That we're all members of one race, the human race. I think we have to dial back the differences of color, dial back the differences of gender, or sexual orientation. Why don't we try to be nice with each other?
BURNETT: All right. Anthony, thank you.
SCARAMUCCI: It's great to be here. Great to be back on your show. Thanks, Erin.
BURNETT: I appreciate it. All right.
And next, reunited. Former Press Secretary Sean Spicer back with the Trumps and taking questions from Jeanne Moos.
[19:58:13] BURNETT: Here's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Question one, which is the real Melania? Times up.
Question two, which one of three is flesh and blood?
Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer helped unveil Madame Tussauds latest wax figure.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can touch her hair. You know, we encourage people to take selfies.
MOOS: Is it OK if I hold her hand?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sure.
MOOS: Unlike the real one.
Thus, I got to do with the president sometimes can't.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump tried to hold Melania's hand, and nope.
MOOS: Actually, he was holding his hand minutes earlier, just not when they posed for official photo.
We wonder --
She's mad at the president?
SPICER: Not that I ever saw.
As a spouse of 14 years, I have had my own awkward moments but I think there is a genuine love and concern.
MOOS: Spicer was genuinely concerned with promoting his own book. Wax Melania is dressed in a replica of a blue dress she wore to a debate. Madame Tussauds invites the public to give Melania a voice. You can compose a tweet on behalf of the wax first lady. Oh, never mind, it is just a publicity stunt.
Melania will be moved from New York to Washington at the end of May. Until then, her neighbors include the Obamas, the pope, and the queen, along with Prince William and Kate.
I'm just going to hold her while we talk.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, you could. It's more comfortable.
MOOS: At least wax Melania doesn't mind the jokes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's like trying to arouse a dead trout.
MOOS: There is something fishy about these fingers, too.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BURNETT: And thank you for joining us. Our live town hall with the former FBI Director James Comey starts right now.