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Report: Trump Lawyer Cobb Out and Emmet Flood In; Giuliani Says Trump Mueller Interview Would Last 2 To 3 Hours; Doctor Says Trump Dictated His Extraordinary Stamina Letter; Black Men Arrested at Philly Starbucks Settle For $1. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired May 2, 2018 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Wednesday afternoon. Multiple and fast-moving headlines breaking this hour on the Russia probe. Robert Mueller is threatening to subpoena the president of the United States, and Trump is threatening to interfere with the Justice Department. We'll get to all of that in just a moment here. But first, in the thick of all of this, administration officials are now telling CNN that the White House lawyer leading the president's team in the Russia investigation is leaving.

Ty Cobb is out. And just in a source indicates that Cobb had been clashing with the president over his combative tweets against Bob Mueller. The source also says that Cobb made it clear on multiple occasions that he could not go down that path. This is all according to our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta, who we'll talk to in just a second. According to other reports, Emmet Flood will replace Cobb. He represented President Bill Clinton during his impeachment process and former Vice President Dick Cheney when he was sued by former CIA officer Valerie Plame. To Jim Acosta with the scoop this hour, for everyone saying maybe this was semi-expected, that was a bombshell you just broke.

JIM ACOSTA, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think this is big, Brooke. It indicates there are some big tensions inside the president's legal team, or at least there were as of a couple of hours ago. Ty Cobb, in-house White House lawyer departing the president's legal team. I'm told as you are just saying a few moments ago by a source familiar with Ty Cobb's departure that he had been clashing with the president for weeks, over his posture towards the Mueller investigation, that he did not want to be part of, a quote, mud slinging campaign, that he was uncomfortable with the president's tweets and he did not want to go down this path of clashing with the Special Counsel's office.

We understand from talking to sources for months now that Ty Cobb had been counselling a much more gentle path of cooperation with the Special Counsel's office. That may be out the window. Brooke, I did talk to Ty Cobb on the phone just in the last hour. He did try to go out on a positive note saying, quote, I've done what I came to do in terms of managing the White House response to the Special Counsel's requests. I'm extremely grateful to the president and the Chief of Staff John Kelly for the opportunity to serve my country.

Now, you were just mentioning a few moments ago, Emmet Flood, the Clinton impeachment lawyer coming in to join the president's inside White House legal team on the Special Counsel's case. We've confirmed that as well.

A source familiar with this telling me, though, it's very interesting that Emmet Flood was originally designed to come in to replace the White House Counsel Don McGahn and those discussions have been going on inside White House for some time now and that Emmet Flood was going to replace McGahn.

Now it seems McGahn will be staying on for some time to provide some stability and that flood will be replacing instead Ty Cobb. Make no mistake, he had been clashing, been fighting with the president for weeks over the direction of the president's legal strategy, his PR. strategy for going up against Robert Mueller. With Ty Cobb out of the way, it's all bets are off in terms of what's going to happen next, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Let me ask you something else that I touched on, that the president clearly feels threatened -- has been threatening publicly to interfere with the justice department. The back story is that sources tell CNN the justice department is refusing a house Republican request to turn over a memo detailing the scope of the Robert Mueller investigation. Why? Because there is an active investigation under way. So, the president takes to of course what else, Twitter, and says you see the final line here, "he'll have no choice but to use his power and get involved with a, quote, rigged system." All of this that sources tell CNN that Mueller has raised the possibility of a presidential subpoena in at least one meeting. Jim, what's your reaction to that?

ACOSTA: I think this is why Ty Cobb left the White House. He did not agree with these tweets. He's not agreed with these tweets almost from the beginning. That he has felt for some time that the president was just pursuing the wrong legal path and trying to fight with the Special Counsel Robert Mueller in tweets and in headlines and so on. So, I think this is part of the straw that broke the camel's back for Ty Cobb.

Obviously when you read what the president is tweeting there earlier this morning, he's responding to that story in "The Washington Post" that there was some discussion about the special counsel, Robert Mueller, issuing a subpoena to compel the president to provide some kind of sworn testimony in the Russia investigation.

The president obviously saying in that tweet there he's willing to shut it down or take some other kind of dramatic action to make sure he isn't interviewed by the special counsel's office. From what we understand, my colleague Gloria Borger and others have been counseling the president to not go down that path. It seems you lost that battle and is making a graceful exit as best he can.

[14:05:00] BALDWIN: Jim Acosta for now, thank you so much. Our CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger is standing by. As is Solomon Wisenberg who served as deputy independent counsel for the White-Water Investigation and questioned President Clinton before a federal grand jury. Let's just get rolling on all these different headlines. Gloria,

first to you. The notes that Jim has from the source that, you know, the reasoning behind this Ty Cobb departure was because he was clashing with the president, he didn't want to be part of the mud slinging, he was uncomfortable with the president's tweets. Is this just another signal that the president will not be sitting with Bob Mueller?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think it is. We did the story last night saying that the legal team is at this point preparing a more adversarial posture with the special counsel. It's clear that's the way that it's heading. And, you know, to follow up on Jim's reporting, that is not the way that Ty Cobb wanted to go but he was the odd man out.

And I was told by one source that Cobb said, look, when the situation becomes too rancid, that's the word, when it becomes too rancid, then I'm going to make my exit. There's also the case that, you know, Ty Cobb came in to prepare all the documents, to make sure all the witnesses were interviewed, to make it kind of a smooth procedure with the White House counsel -- with the special counsel's office, which is what he did. That part of his job is over. He wanted to stay if the president was going to have an interview because he wanted --

BALDWIN: With Bob Mueller.

BORGER: With Bob Mueller because he wanted to help prepare the president for that interview.

BALDWIN: But he left.

BORGER: A, it looks like that may not happen. And, B, as Jim also is reporting, Cobb had a couple of major blow-outs with the president recently over his posture and his tweets about the department of justice, et cetera, et cetera, and I think that, you know, in the end it became an untenable situation and, you know, Ty Cobb said good-bye and the president probably wasn't unhappy about it.

BALDWIN: Solomon, your reaction to the news of Ty Cobb leaving. Do you know Emmet Flood at all, this Clinton impeachment lawyer?

SOLOMON WISENBERG, DEPUTY INDEPENDENT COUNSEL FOR THE WHITE-WATER INVESTIGATION: I know of him. I don't know him. When he was working on the Clinton case, he was very junior. I don't think any self- respecting lawyer, particularly for any lawyer who worked for the Department of Justice could stand for the president's thuggish tweets against his own department of justice and against bob Mueller. And it's disappointing that Rudy Giuliani is apparently standing for it. I don't think there's any question now the president is not going to answer these questions, but it's not just a choice between answering questions and taking the fifth. There's a third way and I think that's very much related to Emmet Flood coming in now.

The third way is to invoke executive privilege. And there's a very interesting constitutional point here. First of all, there's no question that Mueller has the authority to subpoena a sitting president. We subpoenaed a sitting president. There's no question about that. But there is a real question about whether Bob Mueller has the right in court to contest executive privilege. He's an inferior officer to the president.

And in U.S. versus Nixon, the 8-0 Supreme Court opinion that said that Richard Nixon had to hand over the tapes, Richard Nixon made the argument, Leon Jaworski is an interior officer to me, this is an intra branch dispute, supreme court, you don't have the right to look at it and the Supreme Court said no, no, no, the, executive regulation -- the regulation that appointed Jaworski gave him the explicit authority to contest executive privilege. There's no such authority for Bob Mueller. So, it's going to be a real legitimate question whether or not Mueller can litigate this.

BALDWIN: But just staying with you along the executive privilege path, you know, when you looked at those 49 questions that were leaked, these Mueller team questions for Trump, leaked to the "Times," aren't half of the questions that they put out there reportedly on things that happened prior to the presidency? How would that affect it?

[14:10:00] WISENBERG: Well, first of all, if you're the president- elect and you are about to take the office of the presidency, you can have some privilege for what you are discussing. But it doesn't have to be all the questions. The president doesn't have to object to all the questions. In fact, he'd be foolish to do so. That's one of the mistakes that Nixon made, he just made a blanket claim for executive privilege.

The president can say look there are 30 of these questions that are just ridiculously broad, and they impinge upon my job as the president. My god, you want to know why I decided to delay the resignation letter of Jeff Sessions before I acted? You want to know about my discussions about that? That goes to the heart of executive power. And so, it's not at all clear to me that he would lose. And like I say, first Mueller has to be able to argue that he can even contest it.

Mueller, when he opposed Paul Manafort's motion -- remember Paul Manafort made a motion that Mueller didn't even have the property authority to investigate him. And Mueller's response was, hey, this is an intra branch question between me and the Department of Justice. Someone at the Department of Justice can surely indict you and it's not your business what happens in an intra branch dispute -- Go ahead.

BALDWIN: Go ahead, Gloria.

BORGER: This is where the tweets come in, though. You can make the case I'm not a lawyer, you are, but you can make the case that the president has actually publicly spoken about some of these things that he might in the end decide he wants to claim privilege on -- and of course --

BALDWIN: And it's already publicly out there.

BORGER: It's already publicly out there and I think there is an argument, people precisely like Ty Cobb and John Dowd when he worked there, and others were trying to keep the president from talking about these issues in a public way, which he has done.

WISENBERG: I think you're right. There can definitely be a waiver. But again, the argument would be Mueller doesn't even get to come into court and talk about executive privilege and whether it's been waived. I'm the president, I'm telling him he can't do it and I'm invoking executive privilege. It's more of a procedural argument.

BALDWIN: So, if the executive privilege then -- where does this then go, Solomon? Does it hit a wall? Does it go to the Supreme Court? How does this end potentially?

WISENBERG: It's going to go quickly to the Supreme Court. They'll have to decide whether or not there's something inherent in Mueller's authority that does allow him to do it.

BALDWIN: Solomon mentioned Rudy Giuliani. Gloria, you saw the reporting in the "Washington Post" that if Trump does sit with Bob Mueller, according to Rudy Giuliani would be max two or three hours around a narrow set of questions.

BORGER: Right. Well, that's what they were trying to do. This thing has gone on for months and months, right? We all know that. Ironically the morning of the Michael Cohen raid, the president's lawyers were sitting in an office getting ready a proposal for a narrowly defined presidential testimony on the subject of Russia. And they were getting ready to propose that, according to my reporting, to propose that to Mueller's team. Then they go look at the television set.

They see the Michael Cohen raid and they say are you kidding me? Well, I guess we're not going to make this proposal. They meet with Mueller's team anyway, but nothing is put on the table. So now you're in a lull right now, and you have, as we and "The Washington Post" reported last night, Mueller mentioning the "s" word -- the subpoena word. And that again, as we were just talking about, is something that could wind up very quickly heading towards the Supreme Court.

BALDWIN: But if you have Rudy Giuliani, Solomon, if he potentially says, all right, we'll do these narrow set of questions for two to three hours, is it up to the Trump legal team to define that parameter or is it really the DOJ?

WISENBERG: No, it's up to Bob Mueller. You don't let the person who is the subject of your investigation say --

BALDWIN: That's what I thought.

WISENBERG: Here's what you can question and here's what you can't. Mueller's never going to accept that. I want to make a point, though. It's one thing to vigorously litigate this case. There's nothing wrong with the president saying I'm going to invoke executive privilege to the max. [14:15:00] What Ty Cobb was upset about and he should have been upset

about were these ugly, unprecedented tweets by the president himself that were full of falsehoods and that were really unprecedented. And I hand it to him for saying he's had enough.

BORGER: And by the way, that was a lot of the stuff that John Dowd was upset about because remember for a while they kept him from criticizing the Department of Justice. And then after Cohen, Katy bar the door. That was it.

WISENBERG: It's not just Cohen, if you got just a second.

BALDWIN: Ten seconds.

WISENBERG: It's also the timing of when they found out about these questions. Everything changed after they got these 45 questions.

BORGER: Well.

BALDWIN: All right. We could keep going. I've got to get to my commercial break. But I appreciate you both so much. I promise you we'll continue these conversations as more and more news comes out. Solomon and Gloria, thank you both so much.

[14:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: now a stunning CNN exclusive remember back to that health assessment letter from 2015 declaring Donald Trump has quote, extraordinary stamina and would be the healthiest person ever elected to the United States presidency. It turns out that Trump actually dictated the entire thing himself. At least that is what is Dr. is not telling CNN.

With me James Hamblin who wrote a scathing opinion piece on this for "The Atlantic" where he is a senior editor, he is also a lecturer at the Yale School of Public Health, he is a medical doctor but no longer practicing. James, thank you so much for joining me. When you read the letter, it certainly has the hall marks of shall we say Trumpisms. How alarmed are you that a candidate for the highest office in the land self-diagnosed himself and that a doctor went along with it?

JAMES HAMBLIN, SENIOR EDITOR AT "THE ATLANTIC, AND LECTURER AT THE YALE SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Right. There are certainly concerns ethically about Dr. Bornstein's willingness to go along with this but what's most striking is the idea that you would have a candidate who is running for president who would willfully circumvent this vetting step, which is meant to be an act of transparency and good faith and showing the American people that you're capable of holding this office and fit for it and to circumvent that process is -- raises serious ethical questions.

BALDWIN: Isn't it also shame on this doctor? Couldn't he lose his medical license over this?

HAMBLIN: He could. And that could affect his patient base, which is people on the upper east side of Manhattan, who see him as a gastroenterologist. But if we have the president of the United States, who is willing to lie and misrepresent his medical history and his medical assessment to the entire voting American public, that is something that implicates the entire world in terms of reflection on his character.

BALDWIN: Remember back during the campaign when then candidate Trump really went on the attack against Hillary Clinton, saying she wasn't as healthy -- wasn't healthy enough to be president and she stumbled a bit at the 9/11 memorial and he highlighted that and there was all this pressure on him to release his own medical documents. With this dictated letter, is this fraud?

HAMBLIN: I don't want to get into the legal weeds to it, I think when someone signs their name to something that they did in the light, especially at a level like this. It's not an official document, it's certainly that was put forward to the American public as a gesture of transparency that turns out not to be that. If indeed Dr. Bornstein is correct in saying it was dictated by Donald Trump. So, the ethical questions are paramount to me over the medical questions. But it does raise I think the point that we could really have a better process for evaluating candidates where it's standardized and transparent and people are seen by a panel of doctors who are appointed by some objective committee and that information could be shared with the American voting public to do with it what they will. And we'd know we had all the facts.

[14:25:00] BALDWIN: Dr. James Hamblin, thank you so much.

We have more on our breaking news here the president's White House lawyer out and a Clinton impeachment lawyer in. What this means for the Mueller investigation. And also, just in the men arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks have reached a settlement with the city and the coffee giant. Those details ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:30:00] BALDWIN: Just in to CNN, those two black men arrested inside a Philadelphia Starbucks last month have reached a settlement with the city of Philadelphia and with the coffee giant. This controversial arrest was captured on cell phone video, ignited angry protest and nationwide debates about racial profiling and Starbucks will close its stores one day this month for racial bias training. Athena Jones is here with details on the settlement including the one dollar.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is pretty remarkable. These two men, Dante Robinson and Rashon Nelson, they experienced this horrific event. Now they are releasing the city of Philadelphia from any claims for $1 each. They will be working with the city of Philadelphia and a nonprofit to develop and fund a $200,000 grant for young entrepreneurs. So instead of going -- suing the city and going through a long, protracted legal battle, they're settling for $1, establishing this fund and they are going to be part of the people who decide how the grant is awarded and how the young entrepreneurs are selected. Now separately they also reached an agreement with Starbucks.