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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein Navigates Difficult Currents; L.A. County Sheriff's Office Responding to Reports of Shots at a High School; AT&T CEO Says Hiring Michael Cohen Was a Big Mistake; Royal Wedding Just Over a Week Away. Aired 10:30-11a ET
Aired May 11, 2018 - 10:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:30:00] FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: On what he calls an industrial scale without any borders to it -- Poppy.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Fred Pleitgen for us live from Tehran, thank you for the reporting. We appreciate it.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. The Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is delivering a commencement address this morning.
We're going to take a closer look at this man who was overseeing the Russia investigation. You're going to hear from people who know him very, very well about how he would react if the president tried to interfere in this investigation.
HARLOW: Right now, the man at the center of the Russia investigation Rod Rosenstein is delivering the commencement address at Campbell Law School in Raleigh, North Carolina.
BERMAN: And Rosenstein is facing constant pressure from not just the White House but lawmakers on Capitol Hill. But as our chief political analyst Gloria Borger reports, Rosenstein seems to be unruffled by this whole situation.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): If the president is your boss, this is not what you want to hear when he's asked if he'll fire you.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You figure that one out.
BORGER: Trump was dissing his own deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, for whom every day can be a near-death experience. As a frustrated president lashes out at the Russia investigation.
[10:35:13] TRUMP: The entire thing has been a witch hunt and there is no collusion.
BORGER: Rosenstein became the man in charge once the attorney general recused himself. So he's the one who hired the special counsel, which leaves him as the man in the middle, between Trump and any move to fire Robert Mueller. A precarious place. Oddly enough, Rosenstein started out as a teacher's pet.
TRUMP: He's highly respected, very good guy, very smart guy, the Democrats like him, the Republicans like him.
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This guy is a man of upstanding character and essentially the gold standard at the Department of Justice.
BORGER: Rosenstein's stock rose even higher when after just two weeks on the job he wrote a now infamous memo at the request of the president, lambasting FBI director James Comey for mishandling the Clinton e-mail investigation.
ANDY WHITE, ROSENSTEIN'S FRIEND AND FORMER COLLEAGUE: If the president asks you to look at this and give me your thoughts, you can't say no.
BORGER (on camera): So he writes the memo.
WHITE: Writes the memo.
BORGER: And then --
WHITE: All hell breaks loose.
BORGER (voice-over): The president loved it, almost as much as he hated Comey. So much in fact that he received it, released it, and fired Comey all on the same day last May.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We have major breaking news.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president of the United States has terminated the director of the FBI, James Comey.
BORGER: Josh Campbell, a close Comey aide, was with him in Los Angeles when Comey learned watching CNN that he had been fired.
JOSH CAMPBELL, FORMER SENIOR ASSISTANT TO JAMES COMEY: They said we have a letter from the president that was dropped off at the visitors center at FBI headquarters.
BORGER (on camera): Visitors center?
CAMPBELL: At the visitors center indicating you've been fired. They said there's something else, there is something attached to this letter. There's a lengthy explanation from the deputy attorney general laying out a case against you.
BORGER: Was he surprised at Rosenstein? CAMPBELL: He was very surprised of Rosenstein. And again not that
they were chummy or friends or you would know what to expect.
CAMPBELL: Because none of this was telegraphed.
BORGER: Do you think he knew that it was going to be used by the president as the rational, publicly, for firing James Comey?
WHITE: Well, I think he had to know it was going to be used in some degree. I don't think that he realized that the president was going to put Greyhound bus tracks on his back with that memo. I don't think that he realized it was going to be used in that way.
ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: My memo truthfully reflects my views. I'm not in a position to comment on anybody else. So for my perspective, Senator, that memo is about what it is about. I do not know what was in anybody else's mind.
BORGER (voice-over): In Comey world, Rosenstein is seen as a Trump collaborator, not an independent actor.
(On camera): So what's the motive?
CAMPBELL: I think the motive is to keep his job.
BORGER: What is Rosenstein's rep now?
CAMPBELL: There is conflict there. He's someone that people are suspicious of, but in these interesting times, people are looking at him and thinking he might be the last best hope that we have to ensure that Bob Mueller is allowed to do his job, which is a strange place to be in.
BORGER (voice-over): Rosenstein is 53, married, with two teenage daughters.
WHITE: He's a dad. You know, his world has changed a lot because of this.
ROSENSTEIN: My younger daughter was 14 at the time when she heard I was going to become deputy. She asked me a very important question, she said, Dad, does this mean you'll get your picture in the paper?
ROSENSTEIN: And I said, no.
BORGER: But he keeps his own counsel even with his friends.
WHITE: With Rod, you scratch the surface and you get more surface. But that's him. He is -- he's inscrutable publicly. Professionally he is devastatingly effective. He's methodical. He's thorough.
BORGER: A career justice department official with a Harvard Law pedigree, a former U.S. attorney from Maryland for a dozen years, a Republican appointed by George W. Bush.
JAMES TRUSTY, ROSENSTEIN'S FRIEND AND FORMER COLLEAGUE: He's been presiding over a small district that was bringing every case you can imagine from material support of terrorism to public corruption to MS- 13 to corrupt jails where almost all the guards get indicted. I mean, he's been aggressive and he has not shied away from the political spotlight when it comes to prosecutorial decisions.
BORGER: He was confirmed for his current job last April 94-6, but the shine wore off quickly after the Mueller appointment. And then Rosenstein further enraged Trump by not stopping the Michael Cohen raid.
[10:40:04] TRUMP: So I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys, good man, and it's a disgraceful situation.
BORGER: And an increasingly tenuous one for Rosenstein.
SALLY YATES, FORMER DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: No one is above the law, even the president.
BORGER: Obama appointee Sally Yates is a former deputy attorney general, fired by Trump last year.
YATES: The president can't fire a prosecutor because he's mad that he authorized a search warrant of his lawyer's home and office.
BORGER (on camera): Right. He can be mad about it.
YATES: Sure. He can be mad about it, as long as he's not trying to influence his conduct.
BORGER (voice-over): At a recent meeting with the president, Rosenstein himself volunteered that the Cohen raid did not put Trump in any legal jeopardy. But the president remained furious.
TRUMP: I'm very disappointed in my Justice Department. But because of the fact that it is going on, and I think you'll understand this, I have decided that I won't be involved. I may change my mind at some point because what's going on is a disgrace.
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: I believe that Attorney General Sessions, my good friend, and Rosenstein, who I don't know, I believe they should in the interest of justice end this investigation.
WHITE: If he asks Rod to fire Mr. Mueller, Rod would resign. That's my guess. Because at that point, it's untenable. You have a president who is not respecting the process, not respecting the Constitution, he won't do it.
BORGER (on camera): He won't?
YATES: It would be a red line for the president to fire Bob Mueller. But it should equally be crossing a red line if he were to fire Rod Rosenstein as well.
BORGER: And what red line is that?
YATES: Well, it's a red line in terms of totally turning the rule of law on its head.
BORGER (voice-over): Some Republicans would see it as a step in the right direction, calling Rosenstein conflicted because he wrote the Comey memo. They also fume he won't provide his unredacted internal memo detailing the scope of the Mueller investigation.
The president himself again threatening. "At some point, I will have no choice but to use the powers granted to the presidency and get involved."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you afraid of President Trump firing you?
ROSENSTEIN: No, I'm not, Congressman.
TRUSTY: Rod is -- he's like shockingly fatalistic.
ROSENSTEIN: There are people who have been making threats, privately and publicly, against me, for quite some time, and I think they should understand by now the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted.
WHITE: He is a career public servant. He's a career prosecutor. Whatever Mr. Trump wants to say frankly can only make his reputation go up.
BORGER (on camera): Even if he gets fired?
WHITE: Especially if he gets fired.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
HARLOW: We do have breaking news, according to the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, there are reports of shots fired at a high school in California, just about an hour and a half north of Los Angeles. Reports that this is taking place at Highland High School.
Let's get straight to our Alex Marquardt who is following this.
What can you tell us, Alex?
ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John and Poppy. Well, details are still coming in, but what we do know is that the L.A. county sheriff is responding to reports of a man with a gun. So far they're just reports, they have not confirmed so far that shots have been fired. We know that the sheriff's deputies are responding as well as the Palm Dale Fire Department. Responding to Palm Dale High School.
Now Palm Dale as you mentioned is just north of Los Angeles, around 50 miles, about an hour and a half drive. The first call came in at 7:05 a.m. local time. So that would be the beginning of the school day as students are going into the high school. Of course, this is the end of the school year, and I was just looking on the Web site of this school, they got final exams coming up in just a couple of weeks.
Now it has not been confirmed that there has been a shooting, but what we do know is the L.A. County Sheriff's Department is responding to reports of a man with a gun. That's what we know so far -- John and Poppy.
BERMAN: Alex Marquardt, thanks very much. This high school has about 3,000 students, the city about 150,000 people there.
BERMAN: We'll keep our eye on this. We'll update you on any new details right after the break.
[10:48:47] BERMAN: All right, breaking this morning, the CEO of AT&T Randall Stephenson now says that hiring the president's personal lawyer Michael Cohen was a big mistake.
HARLOW: So he sent a letter to his employees, saying that the Washington, D.C.'s vetting process clearly failed, again calling it a big mistake.
Our Senior Media Correspondent, host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter joins us with more. In full transparency obviously AT&T is in the process of trying to acquire our parent company, Time Warner.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: And that's one of the big reasons why Cohen was retained by AT&T last year. The company was trying to get any of the help it could possibly get to figure out how to get the deal approved. Ultimately last November, the government decided to sue AT&T and Time Warner, trying to block the deal. Now a judge is working on a ruling, we will know a month from now if that deal is allowed to go forward.
But in regards to Cohen, we're finally now three days later learning more about how this happened. How it came about. We now know the payments were $600,000 in total, not $200,000 we first heard about. We know that Robert Mueller learned about this six months ago, he's been aware of it for a long time.
And new this morning, AT&T is saying it was Cohen who approached AT&T, not the other way around. It was Cohen shopping himself to various companies which lines up with CNN's reporting earlier in the week that Cohen was out there pitching himself as the right guy to hire.
[10:50:01] Here is a part of what AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson is now saying in a pretty blunt message to employees this morning. He said, "There is no other way to say it, AT&T hiring Michael Cohen as a political consultant was a big mistake. To be clear, everything we did was done according to the law and entirely legitimate, but the fact is our past association with Cohen was a serious misjudgment."
You know, Cohen, of course, now under federal investigation. This is one of those cases where if you work with someone dirty, you're going to get your own hands dirty as well. Cohen has not been indicted at this point. But there's a lot of speculation he will be in the coming months. I think that's one of the reasons why AT&T is now out here expressing regret for this.
And one more detail we learned this morning, the head of AT&T's D.C. office in charge of lobby and legislative affairs, he is suddenly retiring. I think that's code for being asked to leave.
BERMAN: Yes. I mean, this is a big amount of crow being eaten by AT&T this morning in the statement.
STELTER: Yes. Yes, indeed.
BERMAN: Still a lot of questions.
Brian Stelter, thanks very, very much.
HARLOW: Thank you.
BERMAN: All right. We do have the breaking news we're following out of Los Angeles County. The L.A. County Sheriffs tell us that they are responding to multiple reports of a man with a gun on the campus of the Highland High School in Palm Dale, California. That's 90 minutes north of the city of Los Angeles.
BERMAN: We'll have new details ahead.
[10:55:40] HARLOW: You know you're counting down the minutes.
HARLOW: You can't even fake it.
BERMAN: Holding my breath. And --
HARLOW: But -- but the royal wedding is just over a week away. A CNN special report hosted by our very own Alisyn Camerota takes a looks at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's extraordinary stories from their romance to how they will help redefine Britain's most famous family. And she's staying late on a Friday, staying with us, to tell us all about it.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: I don't know what your problem is, John Berman. This is, as assignments go, this is a pretty sweet one.
BERMAN: I am pro-Meghan Markle.
CAMEROTA: Yes. Well, interesting that you would be so pro-Meghan Markle yet it's hard not to be.
CAMEROTA: She's fabulous on so many levels. And so for this special, what we wanted to do was go back and talk to people who knew her before she, you know, got splashed into the public consciousness. So we just talked to people who knew her in college.
CAMEROTA: Knew her in grammar school and we, you know, dug up some juicy morsels about some of the episodes in her life that made her the person that she is today. Even some of the difficult episodes. So here's a little taste.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Harry wants to keep his relationship with Meghan private as long as he can. But just four months after that first date, the news is out. And the paparazzi pounced once again.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, there was a photographer who got inside Meghan's house in Toronto. The paparazzi were camping on her mother's front lawn and following, you know, and harassing all members of her family, anybody really who knew her.
CAMEROTA: Despite starring in a TV show, Meghan is relatively unknown. Now the British press wants to know who she is and if she's fit for the royal family.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was a woman who has been married, people fascinated by the fact that she was divorced. People fascinated by her background, her acting, a career woman, how would that work being with someone in the royal family, that's not what we have seen before.
CAMEROTA: They also have not seen someone biracial dating a member of the royal family. And some of the conversation is blatantly racist.
AFUA HIRSCH, JOURNALIST: There was one newspaper headline saying, "Straight Out of Compton," suggesting that she was from a gang ridden neighborhood.
CAMEROTA: Afua Hirsch is a journalist and recently wrote a book about race, identity and belonging in Britain.
HIRSCH: Would Harry be dropping around for tea in gangland, which was very clearly racially loaded.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A whole another issue exploded, which was the number of rather horrific social media racist comments began to flood in from the darkest, vilest corners of the internet.
BERMAN: So such an interesting figure to be joining the royal family. But I will say this, you know, a certified American television star is giving up her citizenship for someone who is, like, sixth in line to the throne. I think this is the wrong -- I really genuinely think there should be a real discussion about this.
CAMEROTA: I appreciate this. You think that she's making more sacrifices than he has to.
BERMAN: Yes. What is he giving up?
CAMEROTA: Well, I don't need him to give up anything. What she's getting -- and this is what I can tell you, is she's getting an international platform for the issues that she cares about. So she was already philanthropically minded. She was already working on girls education issues. OK. She was already traveling internationally to Africa, as he has. So now she has the biggest platform in the world, John Berman, with which to further that good work. More so, believe it or not, than being an actress in Hollywood.
HARLOW: I think she just schooled you on that.
BERMAN: She gave me an actual genuine serious answer to my relatively foolish question. Also I know she's getting sort of an attractive hunky, you know, red head, and an apartment apparently in the palace.
CAMEROTA: This is a handsome couple. Let's be honest. And part of the appeal and why they're so compelling is I can't take my eyes off of them.
HARLOW: There you go.
CAMEROTA: They're total eye candy, but they happen to also have substance and seem to be truly in love from our reporting.
HARLOW: Yes. Before this gets too weird for 11:00 a.m. on a Friday morning.
HARLOW: What are we going to expect from you live in the UK next weekend?
CAMEROTA: OK. So I'm going to do "NEW DAY" from London, well, from Windsor, actually, on Friday morning. So as a preview. And then I'm on, you know, throughout from the beginning to the end, I mean, for about seven hours on Saturday, we're going to see all the arrivals, all the fabulous hats that people will be wearing, all the celebrities.
BERMAN: Will you be wearing a hat?
CAMEROTA: I do have a very --
HARLOW: What are they called?
CAMEROTA: Nice fascinator.
HARLOW: Fascinator. CAMEROTA: I will be bringing that matches my raspberry dress.
HARLOW: Yea. Take that, John Berman.
BERMAN: Take that.
HARLOW: Ali, have a great time.
CAMEROTA: Great to talk to you.
HARLOW: All right. Be sure to watch the special, the CNN special report, "A ROYAL MATCH." It airs tomorrow, 8:00 p.m. Eastern only right here on CNN.
Thank you so much for being with us.