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Trump Suggests Putin Told Layer to Say She's an Informant; Trump Suggests Dirt on Tester; Should Pelosi Step Aside; Trump's Prediction on Midterms Not Consistent with Top Republicans; "Enquirer's" About Face on Cohen a Sign Trump Turning on Cohen; AT&T, Justice Department Give Closing Arguments. Aired 11:30a-12n ET

Aired April 30, 2018 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES, (D), NEW YORK: We know that at the same time that Russia was interfering with our democracy, high level members of the Trump campaign, including Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn and the son, the son-in-law, the personal attorney, the foreign policy adviser, the long-time good friend, Roger Stone --

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: You're not keeping track, don't worry about it.

JEFFRIES: It goes on and on and on. All the president's men were having regular communication with Russian spies. And as Bob Mueller's job to figure out what was going on, but this mounting evidence that there was a conspiracy working with Russian spies to sell out on democracy undermined the presidential election.

BOLDUAN: But just like Trump has no proof that Putin put her up to it. You don't have proof this is felony conspiracy.

JEFFRIES: I disagree with that. I think, one, you have mounting evidence, for instance the meeting that took place at Trump Tower in June of 2016.

BOLDUAN: Because of what they said --


JEFFRIES: It's clearly a Russian spy who is now acknowledged that on the record promising in advance of the meeting dirt on Hillary Clinton. This is a hostile foreign power saying to a presidential campaign we have something that you can use to undermine the election. That, to me, sounds like a conspiracy.

Now, listen, at the end of the day, Bob Mueller has to figure it out.

BOLDUAN: Another allegation of President Trump called out this weekend at the rally was against Democratic Senator Jon Tester. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tester started throwing out things that he's heard. Well, I know things about Tester that I could say, too.


TRUMP: And if I said them, he would never be elected again.



BOLDUAN: This is about the White House Doctor. Ronny Jackson. But nothing to do with Jackson in the sense that if the president has dirt on Jon Tester that could cripple him, does he have an obligation to the American people to say what he has.

JEFFRIES: I think he's bluffing. Jon Tester has been a great public servant, served his state well, I think he'll continue to serve his state well. At the end of the day, listen, the Senate has a job to do. It is called advice and consent. It is in the constitution. All of my friends on the other side of the aisle who talk about the original intent of the constitution, I would think, would support the notion that the Senate should aggressively vet as part of its constitutional responsibilities nominees that are being put forward and Jon Tester and his team appear to do that in this case.

BOLDUAN: This is not a partisan statement, but a strange instance where they were very few Republicans who are coming to the defense of Ronny Jackson, saying we need to slow down, vet what you're saying. This needs to be vetted before anything continues.

About midterms, though, let's forget the Senate for a second. In the House, if Democrats do not win back the majority in the House, should Nancy Pelosi step aside?

JEFFRIES: She's been a tremendous leader. That's a hypothetical question. I don't think she should step aside.

BOLDUAN: We're talking hypothetically about a lot of things.


BOLDUAN: You're going to answer it.

JEFFRIES: I don't think she should step aside, period, end of story. That will be a caucus decision to make. I don't think we have to confront that particular hypothetical because I think we'll win the House of Representatives.

BOLDUAN: You don't think -- she is a fundraising juggernaut. She fundraises like no one -- no Democratic leader has in the past. Is that the reason you think she should stay as leader, not if you guys don't win back the majority, you don't think --


JEFFRIES: No. I think that generational change is going to come, and the caucus will have to figure out when that happens. Beyond her being a fundraising juggernaut, she's a tremendous legislative leader. We don't control the House, the Senate or the White House, we passed a spending bill where we increased funding for affordable housing, for public housing, for head start, increased funding for community based hospitals, and then let them cut a dime from Social Security and Medicare. How did that happen? The caucus was unified under her leadership.

BOLDUAN: Real quick. You were there. I saw you there. Across the room. Saturday night, the Correspondents' Dinner. There has been a lot of reaction, of course, including from the president. He called it big boy bust and the dinner is dead and called the comedian filthy. Where do you land on this?

JEFFRIES: Well, you know, I think, one, you know, the comedian was very funny and brilliant at times and rough at times. But for this president or for his allies to lecture us about decency is just the height of hypocrisy. It is so outrageous. This is the president who went after, for instance, African nations and called them S-hole countries, he called black athletes sobs, he made fun of disabled reporters. You have some nerve. So I dismiss everything he has to say. Moving forward, we can all figure out how to come together as a nation to get things done on behalf of the American people and that's what I think we should do certainly in Congress.

BOLDUAN: Thank you for coming in.

JEFFRIES: Thank you.

[11:34:56] BOLDUAN: Really appreciate it.

Coming up for us, fight like hell, that's the message from President Trump to the Republicans six months out from the midterms. A new report says the president may not be fully grasping or understanding just what is at stake for the party.

We'll be right back.



TRUMP: Historically, when you win the presidency, the person that wins, the party that wins does poorly in what they call the midterms. And the reason is, I guess, you take it easy a little bit, right?


TRUMP: We got to go out, we got to go out, and we got to fight like hell and we got to win the House and win the Senate. And I think we're going to do great in the Senate. And I think we're going to do great in the House because the economy is so good.


(END VIDEO CLIP) [11:39:01] BOLDUAN: Going to do great. That's President Trump over the weekend with his rosy prediction on the midterm election. He may be the only one. Incumbent presidents almost always lose seats in their first midterm. But the "New York Times" is reporting now that the president may be ignoring warnings from top Republicans about the bruising they fear is coming. So now six months out, what do Republicans do? Does the president help or hurt? Was Saturday night a preview of the president's midterm pitch. If so, how did he do?

One of the authors of the "New York Times" story, Alex Burns, and Alex Conant is here as well, former communications director for Marco Rubio's 2016 campaign.

For the purposes of this segment, we're going to be referred to as Mr. Burns and Mr. Conant, as Alex says, in New York Times style.

Mr. Burns, what are Republicans telling us? What are Republicans telling you about how the president is responding to these warnings from top Republicans?

ALEX BURNS, NEW YORK TIMES: Look, they're really sort of two pieces of news here. First, the reality that the president's senior most advisers, senior folks on the Hill told him directly he should expect to lose control of the House of Representatives and that the Senate also is vulnerable --


BURNS: That's already news. The fact they're talking about the Senate being vulnerable, they were not saying that four or five months ago. That's a major shift in the playing field.

The second piece of news here is that the president is sort of brushing off these warnings, that he's worried in the sense that he's sort of fixated on the midterms. He asks people what he thinks is going to happen what he thinks is going to happen. When people tell him to his face, we're going to lose the House or we're almost certain to lose the House, he just says that's not going to happen. And for Republicans in Washington, that's deeply unnerving because their feeling is if the president doesn't commit to a strategy for the midterms and --


BOLDUAN: Didn't take it seriously --


BURNS: They don't think he'll stay on message, but they think he can stick to some broad plan for how he can be helpful.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about staying on message, Mr. Conant. Here is a semi-complete list of the topics that the president touched on in this campaign rally saturday night. Standing for the national anthem, immigration, North Korea, the White House doctor and Senator Jon Tester, calling James Comey a liar, trade with China, moving the embassy to Jerusalem, the caravan at the southern border, Obamacare, his approval ratings and the White House Correspondents' Dinner.

If this is a preview of his campaign pitch for Republicans up for re- election, would you tell your candidate to bring him in?

ALEX CONANT, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, MARCO RUBIO PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Depends where my candidate was running. I agree with Mr. Burns' report, a lot are concerned about the midterms. President Trump's support has not proven transferrable. The only reason that the Senate is at all at risk is because of what happened in Alabama where the candidate -- the President Trump supported lost in Alabama, which should not happen. The same thing happened in the rural district in Pennsylvania a couple of weeks ago. If President Trump's political support is not transferrable in the midterms, we're going to continue to see Republicans underperform and that is very troubling. I like the rally on saturday night. I didn't like everything he necessarily said in it. But he is trying to get his base fired up. That is what he has to do if we're going to hold on to the Senate, let alone the House.

BOLDUAN: Good point.

Mr. Burns, you're also reporting that team Trump is debating now whether or not to focus on House races or try to defend the Republican majority in the Senate. What are they weighing?

BURNS: A number of factors on both fronts. For folks who think that the House is looking very, very ugly, that it looks like it is very unlikely that Republicans will keep control, the question is how much time do they put into trying to hold down Republican losses in the House so that it is not a blowout and so that the president has a whole bunch of friends in the House on the Republican side, people who are grateful to him for showing up, even in the face of defeat, so that even under Democratic control, Democratic investigations, Democratic push for impeachment, he has friends in that chamber. On the other hand, you know, if Democrats do take control of the House, the only thing the president is going to be able to count on being able to do in the back end of his term is appointments and if the Democrats take the Senate too, that gets dicey as well.

BOLDUAN: When it comes down to it, Mr. Conant, Trump doesn't have a great track record and when it comes to where he's really thrown his weight behind a candidate, you know, Roy Moore and Rick Saccone, where do the Republicans think they can -- that he's going to be most had helpful. Where can he turn an election in the GOP's favor?

CONANT: He can be helpful in two ways. One is fundraising. I was encouraged in Alex's report this weekend that the president is not going to be doing weekly fundraisers. That's critical. So far Democrats have been out raising Republicans. That's a problem. And second, the president can do what he did to Senator Tester this weekend. He can sustain -- if he can do -- sustained --


BOLDUAN: Something he's got dirt when clearly there is no way he has dirt on Tester. CONANT: If he can attack Democratic Senators, Democratic members of

the House, every single day between now and the midterms, put pressure on them, especially the ones that represented red districts, red states, that is extremely helpful for us. I think Tester woke up this morning a lot more worried about his re-election than he was last week. Why? President Trump is popular in Montana. If Trump makes Tester an issue, Tester will have a tough re-election. He needs to stay on the attack. I think there has been far too many times when President Trump has been critical of Congress, critical of Republican leaders in Congress, he needs to recognize they're his friends and spend every moment between now and the midterms attacking Democrats and raising money for his Republican friends.

[11:45:41] BOLDUAN: I fear he's never going to really think they are all friends when it comes to Republican leaders. But your point is a good one. If you move Tester to defense, rather than being on offense, that's already something of a win when the Republicans try to take him on.

Great to see you. Thank you.

They'll be coming to a theater near you.

Coming up, does Michael Cohen have proof of alien life on Mars. He's made the cover of the "National Enquirer" now. Why he's there and what it has to do with President Trump. Is it everything to do with President Trump? That's next.


[11:50:37] BOLDUAN: "From salacious supermarket headlines to the White House, question mark? President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, is not feeling the love these days. The "National Enquirer" is now turning on the president's long-time lawyer. A new headline explaining "Trump Secrets and Lies." It's well known that the president and "Enquirer" owner are close friends. The "Enquirer" has been accused of using the tabloid to help Donald Trump. Michael Cohen is facing a criminal investigation after the FBI raided his home, office and hotel earlier this month. Some see the tabloid's abrupt about-face as a sign the president himself is trying to distance himself from Cohen, including the lawyer representing porn star, Stormy Daniels, in her lawsuit against Mr. Cohen.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: Mr. Trump and the administration have concluded what I've been saying for weeks, that Michael Cohen is in a lot of trouble and he's going to flip on the president. This is their first effort on their part to undermine Mr. Cohen's credibility, so they can claim when he does flip that he's a liar, he has no credibility, et cetera. It's pretty transparent what's going on here. Mr. Trump realizes he's in a lot of trouble and he's in panic mode.


BOLDUAN: Here with me now, host of "RELIABE SOURCES," Brian Stelter, is here.

Brian, what do you think? Yes, I find it amazing we're talking about the national "Enquirer", but what do you think? What is the national "Enquirer" saying and do you think they speak on behalf of the president now?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": It sure looks and smells that way. It feels that way. It's very hard to prove this direct connection. What we do know for sure is the president is close friends with David Pecker, who is the owner of the "National Enquirer". There does seem to be a two-way street where the "Enquirer" supports the president and the president supports the "Enquirer." When you're at the supermarket these days and you see the "Enquirer," it's worth looking to see what the president is thinking about, what the message of the president's world is, and it often gives you a clue of what happened. When Michael Flynn was going down, the "Enquirer" said that the president was being turned on. It doesn't seem like an accident.

BOLDUAN: Do they deny claims of coordination?

STELTER: They sometimes deny specific claims of coordination, they don't deny the general friendship, and the tabloid, that the president supports them and their agenda. Remember, this is the company that paid Karen McDougall that amount of money essentially to stay quiet and not talk about her affair with Trump

BOLDUAN: Exactly. Then they killed the story because they said it wasn't credible. The "National Enquirer" talking about this lack of credibility.

Great to see you.

STELTER: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Brian.

Moments from now, President Trump is going to be welcoming the president of Nigeria to the White House. We're taking a live look at the White House there. A beautiful day in Washington. It will be the first time the president hosts an African leader since taking office. Will the term that President Trump applied to countries in Africa come back to haunt him now?


[11:58:00] BOLDUAN: It's closing arguments today between the Department of Justice and two media giants. The Justice Department is trying to block AT&T from buying CNN's parent company, Timer Warner. And as this trial comes to a close, another major merger is in the works. Cell phone carriers T-Mobile and Sprint are planning a $26 billion partnership. Where are things heading here?

CNN's justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, is outside the courthouse in D.C. where everything happens.

Jessica, what do we expect from closing arguments today?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, a big six-week trial with media implications for the business world and the media world is wrapping up. I was inside the courtroom as the government attorneys began their 90-minute closing arguments. They're trying to put a point on all the arguments they're making throughout this month and a half long trial. There are two big arguments that the government is stress to go the judge right now. Basically, they're saying if this proposed merger goes through between AT&T and Timer Warner, this will increase prices for consumers. The government also arguing this will stifle the competition in those emerging entities like Sling TV or Dish TV, the direct competitors to the cable TV model that's been out there for decades. But the government has had an uphill battle throughout this entire trial. Many of the court watchers and also the business watchers who have been inside this trial say that the government really hasn't been effective in making its case to the judge. They've argued that AT&T has had a more forceful and effective presentation here. In fact, early on in the trial, the government's own witness, a Comcast executive, sort of undercut some of the government's arguments here, saying any merger here would not really affect the carriage negotiations or really have any huge implications on consumers here. So that's what the government is fighting back on, reminding the judge of the implications that they say this merger will have.

What's interesting here, Kate, is that after AT&T wraps their closing a little bit later this afternoon, the judge will then sit down to write what he expects to be a 200-page opinion here, and we expect any decision will come before the June 21 merger deadline that's looming between AT&T and Time Warner -- Kate?

[12:00:13] BOLDUAN: So definitely a quick read.

All right, Jessica --