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CNN NEWSROOM

Billionaire Tom Barrack Spoke To Mueller's Team Back In December; White House Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders Is Playing Defense During A Briefing This Week; President Trump Says A Date And Location Have Been Set For His Meeting With Kim Jong-Un; Nightmarish Conditions For Residents Of Hawaii's Big Island; Rudy Giuliani Held A Press Event After A Controversial Week That Included Him Contradicting The President On The Payment To Stormy Daniels; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi Is Now Calling For An Ethics Investigation Into Democratic Congressman Tony Cardenas Of California; Several Cheerleaders For Washington's NFL Team Say A 2013 Trip To Costa Rica Crossed The Line. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired May 5, 2018 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: The President's friendship with Barrack dates back more than 40 years. And Trump tapped Barrack to chair his 2016 inaugural committee. Barrack spoke to CNN back in October. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM BARRACK, LONGTIME TRUMP' FRIEND, CHAIR OF 2016 INAUGURAL COMMITTEE: It's a President who has managed his whole life for the 40 years that I have known him. He has been successful at everything, but he manages by conflict.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Let's get right to CNN's Boris Sanchez at the White House.

Boris, Tom Barrack has enjoyed rare access to Trump for years. So what types of questions did he face from Mueller's team?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Ana. Yes. According to my colleague, Gloria Borger and a source, she spoke to the questions centered around Tom Barrack's relationship with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates. Manafort, of course, has been accused of a laundry list of financial crimes and fraud. Gates has been accused of similar crimes. Gates, however, has pled guilty while Manafort has denied all those allegations.

It was actually Tom Barrack who introduced Paul Manafort and Donald Trump. The two men being very close. Barrack was actually offered a top role within the administration that he essentially turned down, at least reportedly. Unclear exactly what details were gathered by the special counsel. But what the source is indicating, Barrack was asked about his relationship with Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, not about his relationship with the president or about his role on the inaugural committee. We are also told that Barrack was told he has not a target of the investigation -- Ana. CABRERA: Boris, all this happening as there's this new reporting in

"The New York Times" involving the President and when he knew about that hush money payment to stormy Daniels. Give us the latest.

SANCHEZ: Yes, Ana, two sources have told "The New York Times" that the President has been well aware of this arrangement between his attorney, Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels for some time, even when he publicly denied having any knowledge of it on air force one.

Look. There has been a number of denials and contradictions coming from the White House on this. Not just from President Trump, but from several key figures within the administration, like Sarah Sanders and Raj Shah who have both denied that the President had any awareness of this.

Rudy Giuliani just a few days ago on FOX News said the exact opposite. The next day, the President said he still had to get his facts straight. Though we should point the President himself also tweeted out that Michael Cohen was reimbursed for certain actions that he took as his attorney.

I should note the President has just returned from Ohio, unclear if he's going to answer questions from reporters, but we will continue to press them on this find out when he knew about this arrangement with Stephanie Clifford, aka Stormy Daniels -- Ana.

CABRERA: And we know you will keep asking questions.

Boris Sanchez, reporting at the White House. Thank you.

The Stormy Daniels story in particular has posed quite the challenge for the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders. Here she is playing defense during a briefing this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We give the very best information that we have at the time. Again, we give the best information possible at the time. And again, I have given the best information that I had at the time. Again, I gave you the best information that I had. I gave you the best information that I had. Again, I'm giving the best information I have. Some information I am aware of and some I'm not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: My next guest knows what it's like to stand behind that podium during a difficult time. Joe Lockhart was the White House press secretary for Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial. And he is joining us now.

So Joe, you will recall Clinton got a lot of heat from his supporters for dismissing the investigation, the allegations that he was facing as right-wing conspiracy until he finally admitted he did have sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. How much of an impact does it have to the credibility of the office

and the people who have to defend the oval to have the President change his tune.

JOE LOCKHART, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY FOR PRESIDENT CLINTON (1996-2000): Well, I think there's two very different questions, whether the President tells the truth or the press secretary. It's a very distinct job you have as the press secretary, which is to tell what you know. And it's -- part of the job is not telling everything. And if a President's under investigation, you are best bet is to say the President's under investigation. We are not going to talk about that.

And I think Sarah Sanders has gotten into trouble by trying to have it both ways. When she doesn't want to answer the question, she says, talk to the lawyers or I'm giving you the best information I have. But half the time, she is attacking. And she's attacking and vouching for the President and saying, these allegations are not true.

If you go back and look at, you know, 20 years ago when I was there, we left it to others to decide whether the allegations were true. We did talk about the motives of the politicians who were coming after us, but didn't try to try the legal case from the White House podium.

CABRERA: That's interesting. Our (INAUDIBLE) writes this. I want to get your take on this, a boss who would mislead you but also do so knowing full well, you would then put your credibility on the line publicly to defend that misinformation as the boss no one should be willing to work for and includes Sarah Sanders. He goes on in his article to suggest that she should resign. She should threaten to quit.

As somebody though who has had to deal with White House messaging during the Lewinsky scandal, what kind of lessons learned can you offer her? What would you do if you were her moving forward?

[16:05:17] LOCKHART: Well, I think at this point, I would go into the oval office and tell the President that if he lies to me again, I have to quit. It's that easy. I think she is at the -- runs the risk and is at the stage where she is complicit in the lies even though she may not have the best information.

CABRERA: Why would she be complicit if she is only working of the information she has?

LOCKHART: Because she now knows for certain that the President is a liar. It has -- the last five days has told us what we already knew. I mean, listen, we knew in a kind of funny way when he sent Sean Spicer out to make a fool of himself and say it was the biggest inaugural crowd.

We now know without any shadow of a doubt that the President will say whatever is in his interest at that moment and has no regard for the truth. So she knows this. So, going out and vouching for that again makes her complicit in the lie. So, I think she's in a very tough situation. It is a very tough job. I have sympathy for her or anyone who does the job, but going forward, she has to make clear that she's just not going to carry his water anymore.

CABRERA: Meantime, we have Rudy Giuliani, who has now come out as a new messenger of this administration, even though he is not technically part of the administration, because he's outside counsel, but he's been talking about everything from Stormy Daniels to the Russia probe to North Korea and the people who are detained, Americans in North Korea who are detained. Again, he is not part of the White House press team, so he is not necessarily coordinating messages with them. Has he essentially hijacked the White House messaging and how do they get it back on track?

LOCKHART: Well, I mean, Rudy Giuliani appears to have committed the one unforgivable sin in this White House, which is, he told the truth. He came out and he was asked a simple question and rather than make up some grand fairy tale that served the President's interest, he told the truth and look at the trouble he is in.

He is outside the White House, but I can tell you from my experience, when you -- these are political battles. At their heart, they are political. They are not legal. Lawyers will sort out the legal part. The really tough part is the political part, and you have to coordinate. When I worked in the White House, I started my day with a meeting with the lawyers. I ended my day with a meeting with the lawyers and talked to them all day long.

CABRERA: And were you giving them what to say or were they telling you what you could say.

LOCKHART: There was a lot of back and forth. There was a lot of -- you know, politically, here is what we would like to say and a lot of times the lawyers said, well, you can say that. And a lot of times, the lawyers said, do not go anywhere near that. And I trusted them to know that their first job was to protect the legal position of both the office of the President and the sitting President, but they also knew that there was a lot of politics involved here. And that takes a lot of coordination. It does also take a commitment to out and trying to tell the truth every day and we haven't really seen that.

CABRERA: Let me ask you about another member of the President's incoming legal team, Emmett Flood. As you know, he also served during Bill Clinton's administration. He was his lawyer during the impeachment proceedings. A source telling CNN Ty Cobb quit being a representative of President Trump because he was quote "uncomfortable with the Mueller tweets" and he didn't want to quote "be part of a mud-slinging campaign." Do you think flood looks at the situation differently?

LOCKHART: Yes. I don't really know Mr. Flood very well. I don't think he was a very senior or central member of the legal team so I would actually say he really didn't represent the President. He was just part of a much broader team.

But I think the -- I get where Ty Cobb is coming from. The tweets make life a lot more difficult. There's a big difference between how we handled it 20 years ago and how President Trump is handling it, and I think it goes to the end result. We never talked about it. The President never, except for a rare occasion, which always backfired, never made himself to be a victim. He didn't become his own defender, his own spokesperson. He talked about the economy. He talked about health care. And when I see people screaming and yelling about why won't you cover the unemployment news? Well, if they just shut up about this stuff, you would cover the unemployment news. It is news. But they are making news. He is making news. He is making himself to be America's number one victim under attack when the vast majority of the public just wants him to do his job and serve them.

CABRERA: Do you think he has been unfairly scrutinized?

LOCKHART: No. I think any sitting President -- any politician is open to scrutiny. I don't think he has been unfairly or more scrutinized than anyone else. I think he continually, as he does, I think, he has always does, makes everything about himself. And has to fight back on everything. And it's not serving him well now.

There are things that are going on in the country that are positive, but nobody hears about them very much. And it is Donald Trump's fault because he keeps changing the subject to stuff that doesn't help him.

[16:10:22] CABRERA: Joe Lockhart, good to have you on. Thank you so much.

LOCKHART: Sure thing.

CABRERA: Coming up, President Trump says a date and location have been set for his meeting with Kim Jong-un. What does it mean for the fate of three Americans who still haven't been released?

Plus, earthquakes, an eruption and a neighborhood surrounded by lava, what's next for people on Hawaii's big island?

And feeling exploited, cheerleaders for the Washington redskins come forward about a topless photo shoot and a night out with wealthy male sponsors.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[16:14:56] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are really doing well with North Korea. We are really doing well. For years, for years, they have had this problem and everybody has said sort of, oh, don't talk. Don't talk. Don't -- please don't. The last administration had a policy of silence. Don't talk! You may make them and him angry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[16:15:23] CABRERA: The President talking North Korea and revealing he has agreed to a time and place for his historic summit with Kim Jong-un, although he is not giving specific details yet. His comments come as the fate of three Americans being held in a North Korean imprisonment are remains in limbo, even though Trumps lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, announced they will be released and here he is today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: There is a good chance that three long-time hostages in North Korea will be released over the next several days. I pray that that happens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Joining us now, CNN senior political analyst and former adviser to four Presidents, David Gergen.

David, always good to see you.

In this week, that included everything from new revelations on Stormy Daniels to the President tweeting about Kanye West. How do you rank his Russia's attorney outside counsel making a North Korea announcement like this?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it is very unusual. Rudy Giuliani is a very unusual person. You know, he is a uniquely independent. Speaks his mind. I think they knew that when they brought him in, but still, normally, the outside counsel stays out of things like this.

I think the real issue right here now, Ana, is I would assume that the North Koreans will release these three people as part of the wind-up or the, you know, ramp-up to the talks themselves as a gesture of goodwill. I would imagine it would come at the time of the announcement. What's interesting now is we are going to get a time and an announcement on North Korea and only eight days away, the President has to make a decision about Iran. And the betting heavily in Washington now is he is going to tear up that deal or at least walk it back significantly.

Will that have any impact on the North Koreans? If the U.S. signs up to a deal, will they keep it? That's one of the questions that the North Koreans are going to be asking themselves. It will be interesting to see how those two things intersect or even collide.

CABRERA: We do know that there have been ongoing meetings between the Trump administration and South Korea's leadership as well. We know there is going to be that upcoming meeting between the South Korean President and President Trump on May 2nd leading into that summit.

But let me just pivot to other news because Giuliani talking North Korea is one thing but he, of course, is also been trying to walk back some of the comments he made on Stormy Daniels and this hush money payment that was made and whether the President knew about it earlier this week. Here is how Kellyanne Conway reacted when she was asked about his comment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kellyanne, when did you first learn that the President Trump had reimbursed Michael Cohen for that chaos payment made to Stormy Daniels? KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: I have no comment on that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you know about it before Sarah?

CONWAY: I have never heard about that during the campaign. I was the campaign manager.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you know about it last year in the White House?

CONWAY: I did not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did the President mislead the American people intentionally?

CONWAY: The President sent out three tweets on the matter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: So, that last question was perhaps the most insightful. She was asked, did the President mislead the American people intentionally and she responded with, look at his tweets. David, what kind of answer is that?

GERGEN: Well, listen, they have left this in total confusion, made a hash of it. I think the country widely believes now that he did know, that Rudy Giuliani told the truth. He blurted it out there. It appeared that he did so with the President's blessing and authorization and Kellyanne Conway and the chief of staff were all left in the dark as were his lawyers. The rest of his legal team and of course they were very upset.

I think they changed their story back and not in a very persuasive way. They changed their story back because Rudy had unwittingly made the President more vulnerable to criminal investigations and charges regarding the stormy Daniels thing. And they wanted to walk it back, but I -- you know, they have sold so many versions, you have to believe it, you know, they don't want us to know the truth.

CABRERA: Clearly someone is lying. Now, Robert Mueller's team's trying to get to the bottom of what really happened to get to the truth in the Russia probe. And I want to play something that Rudy Giuliani also said this week pertaining to that. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: If they do, do Ivanka, which I doubt they will, the whole country will turn on them. They're going after his daughter?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about his son-in-law. They talked about him.

GIULIANI: I guess Jared is a fine man, you know that. But men are, you know, disposable. But a fine woman like Ivanka, come on.

(END VIDEO CLIP) [16:20:07] CABRERA: The President's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is disposable? What do you think Giuliani is getting at there?

GIULIANI: I don't think he -- I think it's very clear he doesn't like Jared. I think he feels very secure in his job or otherwise he might have been fired. You know, Jared may go after him in his own quiet way, and he can be quite lethal when he wants to be. So, it is -- I thought -- and I also thought, frankly, it was demeaning to Ivanka. You know, somehow a woman, you know, should be treated like an innocent, we can't take her all that seriously because she's going to be wounded too easily, after all the time she spent standing up for women, you know, it's a rather odd thing to say, isn't it?

CABRERA: And not only is she his daughter but again, she is a White House employee too.

GERGEN: Exactly.

CABRERA: I want to get this in real fast too, David, because so much has happened this week. It may be hard to remember that story earlier in the week when the President's former doctor, Harold, told CNN that Trump actually dictated that infamous letter proclaiming that he would be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency. Half the country is going to say, well, that's weird. But who cares. Should we care?

GERGEN: Yes, we should care. I mean, we rely on these doctors' reports that tell us the health of the President and if they are going to, you know, create this puffery about the President, which is, you know, obviously a lie. It means that Ronny Jackson's evaluations, you know, he came out and made this statement that if the President were any healthier, he would live to be 200 years old. I mean, what a preposterous statement.

And I think it -- once again, it's lowering the standards that we expect of Presidents. We keep going lower and lower, you know, treating us like fools, treating the general public like fools, as if people don't catch on to these things. They do. People in this country are pretty darn smart about things like this. They sniff it out when somebody is lying to them. And I think they have got a bead on this.

There are a lot of people, as we know, who continue to support the President despite the lying. They accept it as a matter of course, because they care far more about some of the results they're getting in their lives, and that's going to continue.

But I tell you, if you keep eroding the trust in the particular President, the credibility of that President goes down in a really tough situation which may come from Mueller comes out and the President then starts denying, a whole lot of people in this country are not going to believe him and the people who are for him now may change their minds.

CABRERA: David Gergen, thank you, sir. Good to see you. GERGEN: OK. Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: Coming up, molten lava dangerously close to dozens of homes as a Hawaii volcano erupts and now there are concerns about what else is spewing into the air. We will get a live report next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:22:21] CABRERA: Lava, toxic gas, and more than 450 earthquakes in 24 hours. Nightmarish conditions for residents of Hawaii's big island. Many having just minutes to escape the lava from the erupting Kilauea volcano. In one community, lava is springing up from fractures in the ground up to 100 feet in the air.

CNN correspondent Stephanie Elam is live near Hilo, Hawaii.

Stephanie, officials say there's still more danger ahead?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Definitely, Ana. They have now recorded seven fissures that have opened up spouting that lava into the sky. And many of those fissures right in neighborhoods right by people's homes. Those neighborhoods have been evacuated. They have moved everyone out of there. And then as if that wasn't enough to have to worry about the lava, there's also the issue of the sulfur dioxide which is impossible to breathe. When you smell it, you get near it, it almost takes your breath away.

So because that is also erupting, they have had to clear out further areas just to make sure that no one is impacted by that. And then as you mentioned, those earthquakes, which one so strong yesterday, 6.9 magnitude on the Richter scale, it knocked out power to thousands of customers in the area so they are working to get that back but at the same time dealing with the fact that you have that sulfur dioxide issue in the air and also the lava that is springing up in these neighborhoods, Ana.

CABRERA: Just incredible images we are seeing there.

Stephanie Elam, thank you for staying on top of this story.

Coming up, crossing the line? The scandal involving NFL cheerleaders. A topless photo shoot and a night out with male sponsors.

You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Don't go anywhere.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:32:27] CABRERA: President Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, holding a press event right now after a controversial week that included him contradicting the President on the payment to Stormy Daniels. Let's listen in.

GIULIANI: So, go ahead. What would you like to ask?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) GIULIANI: Again, as I said, I will repeat it one more time. Not answering questions about that now. We will talk about that tomorrow and later on in the week.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are people so afraid of the words are regime change and assume that it must mean war boots on the ground?

GIULIANI: Well, it almost always doesn't. I mean, I guess this regime is so violent and the biggest supporter of terrorism in the world that they assume that it will be violent. I'm hoping it wouldn't be. More like what happened in Poland, more like what happened in Russia. I mean, Russia was one of the biggest armies in the world and it wasn't violent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Mayor, have you talked --

GIULIANI: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you very clearly demonstrated when you held the paper up what you thought the President would do with the nuclear agreement was spit on it and get rid of it. Has he told you personally?

GIULIANI: No. I mean, it's a different thing when he is President of the United States. And I don't mix my role as attorney for him with my foreign policy views. He knows my views from the time of the campaign. I know his views. It's different, it's a year and a half of history, but he has surrounded by really terrific foreign policy advisers. And I would think John Bolton's view of this is no different today than it was a year ago, which is that this agreement is one of the worst ever reached in American history.

Unfortunately, the Iranian regime has gotten the benefits of it already. And I think Prime Minister Netanyahu did a pretty good job of showing us how it was violated. The MEK could do that same job as effectively as the prime minister. So, I don't --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On a scale of one to ten --

GIULIANI: But I can't predict. It wouldn't be fair now. I mean, if I were, just in private life completely, I would give you my prediction. You know, what my desire is but I can't give you a prediction because I, you know, I represent the President. And I can't -- and I certainly can't speak for him. You know, Bolton maybe or Pompeo can speak for him but I can't.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Mayor --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about North Korea? What do you anticipate happening in North Korea?

GIULIANI: No. I think I'm praying like everyone, including -- nobody's done more to get people released from North Korea than the gentleman who was here before, Bill Richardson, for whom I have enormous respect, even though we are in different parties. I think he would -- I think the less said about it right now the better and the more we pray, the better. But we could have three people released. That would be historic in and of itself. And then we could have -- we could have, maybe, just maybe, a nonnuclear North Korea. Wow. That would be unbelievable.

[16:35:17] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) Iran proxy wars in Yemen and Syria --

GIULIANI: I guess you can't go that far with it yet. I mean, he first has to decide what he wants to do with the agreement. Seems to me there are three choices, right, one that I don't like, continue it. Second one, renegotiate it. Number three, throw it out, get the sanctions back, and then see if they don't come to their -- on their knees again like they did last time. President Obama -- obviously, I will not answer that question. But you can --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why not?

GIULIANI: Because this is not the time for it. The concentration here is on the freedom of the Iranian people. Can you have some simple respect and remain concentrated on that? There is plenty of time to answer the other questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you support a regime change?

GIULIANI: I have been in support of regime change for I don't think how long. I mean, ten years. I continue to be. I think it's the only way to peace in the Middle East. It's more important than an Israel-Palestinian deal. Iran used to be an ally of not only the United States but of Israel. That could happen again. I mean, you're seeing Egypt becoming an ally of Saudi Arabia and Israel, Saudi Arabia, Emirates, Qatar, this could really spread.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When John Bolton was named national security adviser, using his connections to MEK and really painting him and the group in just --

GIULIANI: Look, I went through it with John at that time. I wrote letters for him. I didn't testify because they didn't want know testify but I wrote letters for him, and MEK has been one of the more maligned organizations, but it's come into its own now. It was listed as a terrorist group by one of the biggest mistakes of the Clinton administration in order to placate Iran and I have to teach you, you can't placate them. They are murders, they are killers, they are thieves and they are corrupt and they kill members of MEK.

And the silly people in our state department said, the MEK is not really a threat. Then why is the Iranian regime killing them if they are not a threat? You don't kill people that are not threats just for the fun of it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think the President might go out and tweet in favor of what's going on in Iran.

GIULIANI: He did. He did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What kind of effect is that having on the morale within Iran? Is that what we should be watching?

GIULIANI: I think it's great. I think the President -- I think maybe more attention paid to that and not some of the other things you want to talk about. I think the same scenario could happen in Iran that has happened in North Korea, because this President is so much more effective than our prior President, who was feckless. I mean, the prior President drew a line in the sand, Assad killed his own people, and he did nothing. This President drew a line in the sand and he bombed Assad. Assad has stopped. So we got to hope that works. It's not going to work all the time. It's not going to work immediately but long-term, it's the much better approach. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The status of the three American hostages?

GIULIANI: I don't know the status of them. You might know it better than I do. They looked pretty good yesterday. I haven't paid attention to it today and I'm praying it will get done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Change from Thursday -- comments on Thursday?

GIULIANI: Nothing's changed. They are working on it. And I'm not privy to -- I'm not privy to what they're doing. I'm reading the newspapers like you are. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the current status of the Mueller investigation?

CABRERA: Of course that was Rudy Giuliani taking a few questions from reporters following his speech to the Iran freedom convention in D.C., saying he wanted to keep the conversation about Iran in that question and answer session.

Let's bring in CNN political commentator and former special assistant to President George W. Bush, Scott Jennings.

First of all, Scott, nobody wanted to really talk about Iran in that Q&A because Rudy Giuliani is representing the President as his outside counsel in the Russia probe. Why is he talking about foreign policy instead of taking questions on that?

SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes, great question. I mean, it seems like Rudy has taken on a larger role than just external counsel for an outside matter. It seems like right now, he is one of the closest people to the President when it comes to all things both legal and policy. He is not shy about commenting on it. So, I think what will be interesting to see is whether he continues to play this role from outside the White House.

I mean, the things he was saying today and the things he was talking about, these are normally the purview of your national security adviser, your state department, those kinds of people who are inside the government. Certainly, the President can take counsel from anyone he likes, it's just unusual to see someone outside speaking so freely about it when they're not actually part of the national security apparatus. [16:40:03] CABRERA: Even in his comments today at this convention, he

talked about the North Korean detainees and said he, again, believed they were going to be released in the next few days. So he seems or implies to know something about that as well.

But let me ask you about the broader picture and his media blitz this week, how he contradicted the President's previous comments about the stormy Daniels payment. Here's how conservative media reacted to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love Rudy, but they better have an explanation for that. That's a problem.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look, I'm -- I was a criminal defense lawyer. This is what I did. I was always looking for inconsistencies in statements like any lawyer would. The left is going to seize on that. It's all about credibility and impeaching someone's credibility throughout the process. So, if you are not being -- if you're not being truthful about this, then are you being truthful about the Russia -- you can see where this is going to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Scott, if FOX is conflicted on how to react, should the President be worried about the conservative base's reaction?

JENNINGS: Well, I don't think the base is going to leave the President over, you know, a couple of days of fumbles by Rudy Giuliani. I mean, clearly, he got out over his skis, the President had to reel him in.

I think what the base wants to see for the President is a competent legal strategy in an external apparatus to handle certain questions moving forward. That competent legal strategy, I think, is going to be set by Emmett Flood, who's a real lawyer who knows how to handle real investigations. It strikes me that Rudy Giuliani is really taking on a PR role. The real legal role here, the where the President's really in danger is on the legal side and that's why they went out and got a great lawyer in Emmett Flood who knows what he is doing.

So my suspicion is, once Emmett gets to the office, there's going to be a lot more tight scripting of when Rudy Giuliani goes out and discusses the implications of certain legal machinations in this case.

CABRERA: But you just said that Emmett Flood is a real lawyer. You don't think Rudy Giuliani is a real lawyer?

JENNINGS: Well, I don't think Mr. Giuliani's been practicing for quite some time. Of course he is a real lawyer. I mean, he is alive and he is a real person. But you know, Emmett Flood is a real, practicing attorney who has real high-level experience handling investigations in the executive branch. He represented us when I was special assistant to President Bush in the second term. On a lot of serious matters, on investigation issues. So, Emmett Flood is exactly the kind of lawyer you need in this situation and it strikes me that he won't be playing the public role that Rudy is playing. So if you want to know who's going to be running the legal strategy, it's Emmett. Who is running the PR strategy? That's Rudy.

CABRERA: And yet, Rudy Giuliani, we understand, did meet with Robert Mueller earlier this week, trying to lay out the parameters that there were to be an interview with the President and the President yesterday said he would be happy to sit down with Mueller. Do you think that's going to happen?

JENNINGS: I don't know. I would be surprised at this point if the President sat down with Mueller for an interview, despite what he has said. Perhaps they are trying to find middle ground here where perhaps the President could answer questions in a time-limited fashion or answer questions in writing. I mean, the safest thing to do would be to answer questions and have them submitted in writing. That way you have really tight control over exactly how you answer them.

But given open-ended several long hours interview to this special counsel under the circumstances and under the posture that has been brought forth this week, I think it's highly unlikely that the President will ultimately sit down and do that. I know he has maintained his innocence and he has maintained that there has been no collusion. So they may take a little PR hit on him not sitting down, but it's probably not worth the risk if they can get a deal to do it in writing.

CABRERA: There is also the possibility if he doesn't do so voluntarily, Mueller could subpoena Trump and that could make this investigation go on much longer. Is that what Republicans want?

JENNINGS: Well, I think Republicans want this investigation to ultimately come to an end. And they want the investigation to come to an end and tell us what we really all want to know. Nobody really wants to know about Stormy Daniels. What people want to know about is whether Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin and the Russians interfered in our election, how did they do it? And how do we stop it in the future? That's what this whole thing started as, a collusion investigation and how do we stop the Russians from interfering in our democracy. But we are in some ways way far a-flung (ph) from that right now.

So I think what Republicans want is this to eventually come to an end because it's been going on for a long time, and to tell us what's most vital, not about the President's sexual history, but about the future of the country as it relates to the Russians.

CABRERA: Scott Jennings, thank you so much for joining us.

JENNINGS: Thank you.

CABRERA: Quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [16:48:54] CABRERA: House minority leader Nancy Pelosi is now calling for an ethics investigation into Democratic congressman Tony Cardenas of California. Cardenas recently reveal, he is the subject of a civil suit alleging he sexually assaulted a 16 -year-old girl in 2007. It's an accusation he vehemently denies. Now, Pelosi says she is withholding judgment until the ethics investigation is complete.

CNN's Maeve Reston is joining us now from L.A.

Maeve, what else can you tell us about this case and the allegation itself?

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, this landed about a week ago as a lawsuit that was filed by Lisa Bloom, a very well-known L.A. lawyer, charging that an unnamed politician had basically sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl after playing a round of golf with her back in 2007. The victim alleges that this politician handed her a cup of water with a funny taste. She collapsed on the golf course, and then that he drove her to the hospital and sexually assaulted her on the way to the emergency room. So, incredibly serious allegations here.

The identifying details in the lawsuit led everyone to the congressman. And he came out on Thursday vehemently denying the allegations, saying that they are categorically false and that he's going to fight them and that he's asking other Democrats to withhold judgment, you know, as this case works its way through the courts. But that's obviously going to be very difficult for him to both run for reelection at the same time that he is fighting these incredibly serious charges.

This young woman, who came forward and she's obviously not being named, said that she was inspired by the Me Too movement and wanted to speak her truth, Ana.

[16:50:47] CABRERA: So, talk to us more about the potential risks if he stays on to fight these allegations.

RESTON: Well, as you saw with Nancy Pelosi's statement today, Democrats are taking a very cautious approach. And that's partly because, you know, he is denying the allegations and because he is saying that he is possibly, you know, the victim here of allegations by the father who is a disgruntled former employee.

But obviously, this is a huge year for Democrats as you have talked about a lot. They are trying to take control of the House. He is in a very safe seat in the San Fernando Valley for Democrats but if you're fighting these kinds of allegations at the same time that you're running for reelection, there is a very real possibility here that Democrats could lose that seat. And of course that, you know, potentially has a huge domino effect. So, there are some of his fellow candidates, his rivals, who are calling on him to step down. So we will see how this plays out over the next few months. Ballots drop on Monday, absentee ballots, so his name is going to be on the ballot no matter what.

CABRERA: All right. Maeve Reston reporting in Los Angeles. Thank you for that.

RESTON: Thank you.

CABRERA: Now imagine being sent to a foreign country by your boss and then having your passport taken away. That's exactly what members of the 2013 Washington redskins cheer leading squad say happened to them, along with other things that they say went well beyond their job description. They say a photo shoot went too far and that some were told to serve as escorts at an evening event for sponsors.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Several cheerleaders for Washington's NFL team say a 2013 trip to Costa Rica crossed the line. In the interviews with "the New York Times," the women say that upon arrival, the team collected their passports before requiring them to take part in a racy photo shoot where some of them were topless for a team calendar. All of this while high-profile sponsors and FedEx field suite owners looked on.

JULIET MACUR, REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: Shooting the calendar in these little tiny outfits is really the issue. It's that it's giving access to sponsors who are men who are seemingly paying for this privilege to watch women pose with hardly any clothes on. The issue is giving access to sponsors and making the women feel uncomfortable.

GALLAGHER: The cheerleaders claim that some of them were picked to be quote "personal escorts" for the sponsors at a Costa Rican nightclub later that night. And while sex was not involved, the women told the "Times" they felt quote "worthless and unprotected." And were so devastated by the situation that they did not return to the squad the next season.

The cheer team's director says that the night at the club was not mandatory. And the Washington team issued a statement saying that it's looking into and taking the allegations seriously, but quote "based on the dialogue we have had with a number of current and former cheerleaders over the past 48 hours, we have heard very different firsthand accounts that directly contradict many of the details of the May 2nd article."

That's something two former Washington cheerleaders picked by the team to appear on NBC's today show Friday echoed.

CHARO BISHOP. FORMER REDSKINS CHEERLEADER: Some girls were excited to do those things. In terms of being an escort, that was never a perception that I had. I think that being friendly and receptive and welcoming to sponsors is completely different.

RACHEL GILL, FORMER REDSKINS CHEERLEADER: We always have the option to say no. We are never forced or told to do something we don't want to do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just treated the -- GALLAGHER: A former Carolina Panthers cheerleader says that in her

experience, it wasn't that simple.

BRITTNEY CASON, FORMER NFL CHEERLEADER: Manipulation is a strong word, but it's what happens.

GALLAGHER: Brittney Cason says that the NFL cheer leading environment can be toxic with low pay and high standards and that the women often feel powerless to say no.

CASON: So if you're put in a situation where you feel uncomfortable, they quickly remind you that there's hundreds of other girls that would kill to trade for your spot right then and there, and so you just kind of go along with it, fearing that you could be kicked off the team.

GALLAGHER: Recent lawsuits from cheerleaders on other teams around the NFL have described discrimination, unfair wages, and sexual harassment. The NFL released a statement Friday saying, our office will work with our clubs in sharing best practices in employment- related processes that will support club cheer leading squads within an appropriate and supportive workplace.

Dianne Gallagher, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[16:55:00] CABRERA: Coming up in the NEWSROOM, a federal judge in the Paul Manafort case slams the Mueller probe, suggesting their only goal is to take down Trump. Is it a setback for the special counsel? We will discuss.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:59:49] CABRERA: 5:00 eastern, 2:00 in the afternoon out west, I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. And you are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. So glad you are with us.

The breaking news this hour, one of President Trump's closest friends and confidants, a real estate tycoon who earned his trust decades ago was questioned by special counsel Robert Mueller's team of investigators. CNN has learned billionaire Tom Barrack spoke to Mueller's team back in December. President's friendship with Barrack dates back more than 40 years.

END