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Gas Prices Climbing; Harvey Weinstein Arrested; President Trump Flip-Flopping on North Korea Summit Decision?. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 25, 2018 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:03]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump even saying that they could still meet on that same date, June 12, that date that he had canceled.

And when asked by a reporter if North Korea was playing games, here's what Trump said:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everybody plays games. You know that. You know that better than anybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: To the White House, we go, and our senior correspondent there, Pamela Brown.

Pamela, you know, the response from North Korea, that is what has surprised so many experts. Can you just walk us through what has transpired over the last 24 hours?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. It surprised a lot of experts.

Clearly, the president liked the statement from North Korea, calling it a warm and productive statement, saying it was a very nice statement. And you have seen the change of tone from the president since that letter was sent yesterday morning, Brooke, to Kim Jong-un, where the president said that it would be inappropriate to hold this summit, given the North's hostility toward the U.S. in its previous statement, and when the president was boasting about U.S. military prowess.

Then, as the day went on, you had the statement from North Korea, saying, we still want to meet with the U.S., we will do it at any time, any place, even calling the president's decision to have the summit a brave decision.

And so you're seeing things sort of take a turn now, this whiplash of, OK, well, now is the summit going to happen on June 12, as originally planned? And you heard the president say that we're talking to them now. It might still happen then. The secretary of defense, Mattis, said today that there could be some

good news on that front, it could still happen on June 12. And Sarah Sanders said as much, too, saying that preparations are still under way for that, that the U.S. will be prepared for that to happen.

What will be telling, Brooke, is if the U.S. continues with its original plan before the summit was canceled to send the advance team over back to Singapore. As you will recall, the White House had said that last time they went over there, they were stood up bit North Koreans.

But if they end up going again, that will be telling, a telling sign that they're still very much moving forward for this summit to happen on June 12. So, we will just have to wait and see, Brooke.

BALDWIN: OK. So, there's that.

BROWN: Yes.

BALDWIN: We're also getting new details, Pamela, about the White House lawyer who ended up attending yesterday's Russia investigation briefings. What can you tell me about that?

BROWN: Yes, that was a surprise to the lawmakers and others there in attendance for that briefing that was supposed to be all about congressional oversight.

Sarah Sanders had said from the podium a day or two earlier that it would just be John Kelly, the chief of staff, who would be -- he wouldn't be attending the meeting, but might go there before to sort of lay the groundwork.

And then Emmet Flood joined in. My colleague Kaitlan Collins pressed Sarah Sanders on that today, why the president's attorney on the Russia investigation would be there just before this classified briefing, and here's what Sarah Sanders said:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What actually happened, they went, they made a couple of remarks before the briefing and the meeting took place and started. And they simply went as individuals to help facilitate the meeting and communicate that the president was asking for full transparency and then they left.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: They got no readout of what was happening during that briefing?

HUCKABEE SANDERS: Again, they didn't participate in the meeting and they weren't part of that process.

QUESTION: But can you see why critics think it looks bad that they were there?

(CROSSTALK)

HUCKABEE SANDERS: I can see why people simply don't want to pay attention to the facts, sure. I know that's something you guys like to do sometimes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: And I can tell you, Brooke, that Emmet Flood was a late add. As of early yesterday morning, he wasn't supposed to go. Then, clearly, something changed. Unclear why that decision was made.

My colleague Jim Acosta was told by an official, a lawmaker's aide, that essentially it was expressed to John Kelly and Emmet Flood that it was inappropriate for them to be there and they left. However, White House officials dispute that, saying that the plan all along was for them to go, make a few comments, lay the groundwork, and then leave before the briefing started -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Got it. Pamela, thank you at the White House.

We have another twist in this pay-to-play investigation of Trump attorney general Michael Cohen. CNN has learned that Cohen met with Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg at Trump Tower in January of 2017.

That meeting happened just days before Trump's inauguration. A person familiar with the meeting tells CNN that Vekselberg and the head of a company called Columbus Nova used the conversation to discuss improving U.S.-Russian relays.

Columbus Nova, keep in mind, paid Cohen $580,000 for a consulting contract last year.

Vekselberg had few words for CNN's Matthew Chance when asked -- when he asked him about the ongoing Russia investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Vekselberg, quick question from CNN.

(CROSSTALK)

VIKTOR VEKSELBERG, BUSINESSMAN: Thank you. Thank you. Not now.

CHANCE: Mr. Vekselberg, why did you your company pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to President Trump's lawyer?

VEKSELBERG: Not now.

Really appreciate. Just later, OK? Yes. Really appreciate.

(CROSSTALK)

VEKSELBERG: I understand. I understand. You're so aggressive.

[15:05:01]

CHANCE: No, I'm not at all.

VEKSELBERG: No, no, no.

(CROSSTALK)

VEKSELBERG: Please.

CHANCE: Was it to buy access to the president?

(CROSSTALK)

VEKSELBERG: Please, later.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Sources say the FBI questioned Vekselberg in April about his contacts. He was also sanctioned by the U.S. for election interference.

Meanwhile, longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone also facing some more tough questions. "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that Stone tried to gather dirt on Hillary Clinton from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange using this mutual acquaintance.

"The Journal" reports that Stone repeatedly e-mail a New York radio personality in 2016 looking for documents about Clinton's time when she served as secretary of state. The new report also calls into question Stone's testimony to the House Intelligence Committee last year.

And it comes as CNN has learned that special counsel Robert Mueller is looking into stone's finances. He recently subpoenaed two of Stone's former associates, which may explain Stone said this, this week, that he's prepared to be indicted.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP ADVISER: I can guarantee you they have found no evidence whatsoever of Russian collusion, nor trafficking of allegedly hacked e-mails with WikiLeaks. It is not inconceivable now that Mr. Mueller and his team may seek to conjure up some extraneous crime pertaining to my business, or maybe not even pertaining to the 2016 election.

I would chalk this up to an effort to silence me. So, I am prepared, should that be the case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Let's discuss.

I get David Axelrod today, former senior adviser to President Obama, CNN political senior commentator, and host of "THE AXE FILES."

David Axelrod, a pleasure.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good to see you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: OK, so, what gives? You have the newly surfaced meeting between Cohen and this Russian oligarch.

AXELROD: Yes.

BALDWIN: You have the newly surfaced e-mails to WikiLeaks from Roger Stone. And yet we're supposed to believe that there is no smoke, that this is a total witch-hunt.

AXELROD: Well, it is interesting that this oligarch with whom he met has already been apparently questioned in conjunction with the special counsel probe.

So, there is a link there. It may not pan out. But it is certainly ripe. And Cohen himself will have to answer for that.

In terms of Roger Stone, you know, Roger Stone was the guy who, as he is inclined to do, preened like a peacock some weeks before the WikiLeaks release about John Podesta's e-mails, saying that the Podestas were coming under -- would be the next target.

And so, you know, there are -- and he's talked about his -- his outreach to Guccifer 2.0 and so on. So, he shouldn't be so shocked when people ask questions about these relationships. And it's -- it was sort of peculiar that he said, yes, I might have committed some other crimes or I might be indicted for some other crimes, but not those crimes, as if that's an exculpatory fact.

So, we will see what happens. But I'll tell you what. There's never a boring day on this beat.

BALDWIN: There's never a boring day on this beat since June of 2015.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: What about this -- quote, unquote -- "spy" that the president has alleged was infiltrating his campaign and these classified briefings and DOJ briefings and up on the Hill yesterday?

I know you talked to Sally Yates about the president demanding this inquiry.

AXELROD: Yes.

BALDWIN: Let's watch that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AXELROD: What do you make of the president's demand of the Justice Department that they investigate -- essentially investigate the investigation that involves his campaign and perhaps him? SALLY YATES, FORMER ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: This has really

taken the assault on the rule of law to a new level. Really from the beginning of this presidency, President Trump has not observed the time-honored norm that has been in place, at least since Watergate, that there should be a real division between the Department of Justice and the White House.

Certainly, DOJ is part of the executive branch. We all recognize that. But for the public to have confidence that the law is not being used in a political way, presidents in both parties have recognized that those decisions really need to be left to the people at the Department of Justice.

And there have been, you know, incidents in the past, from calling, for example, Attorney General Sessions and trying to get him to drop the criminal case on Sheriff Arpaio, to repeatedly calling for the investigation or prosecution of his former political rival.

But this took it a step further, because he didn't just opine. He actually directed. And that does take things to a different and more dangerous level, I think, in trying to inject himself.

[15:10:01]

And, here, it's even a step beyond a dangerous point, because it not just directing a criminal investigation or to stop one of anyone. It directly relates to his campaign. That's truly unprecedented.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: I want to you have comment on that, but let me just add, regarding the briefings yesterday, even Republicans who were in these briefings walking out shrugging, saying nothing new.

So...

(CROSSTALK)

AXELROD: Right.

Let's be clear about the spy story. This is akin to the president- elect accusing President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower during the campaign. I think it's akin to the effort on the part of Republicans in Congress to raise questions about some of the subpoenas that were issued, trying to politicize those.

This a strategy. And the strategy is to say, this is a political investigation, this is a political probe, so that if the results come out badly for the president, that he and his supporters can dismiss this as a political prosecution or a political statement.

That is what this is about. There is no spy story about the Trump campaign, just as there were no wiretaps on Trump Tower. This is mythology that is being built up on the right to prop up the president. BALDWIN: On North Korea, one more for you, David, this whole art of

the deal play from Trump, maybe that's not totally surprising, but what is, is Trump and Kim's kind of warm and fuzzy language around this whole thing, despite the fact that Trump canceled it.

You have heard North Korea's reaction, especially considering the not- too-distant past, the whole my button is bigger than your button.

AXELROD: Yes.

BALDWIN: What's up?

AXELROD: Well, look, we should all want diplomacy to work here, because the alternative is an unthinkable conflict in which many, many people would die.

So, diplomacy is important, but diplomacy also requires a certain amount of planning, a certain amount of decorum. The president stepped out and he called for the summit with Kim and surprised even his own national security team when he did it.

And what has happened is what you would expect, which is, without the preparation, things become very dicey, particularly with the North Koreans. Now, hopefully, they can put this together.

But it's going to require some planning, because what you don't want to do is go into a meeting of that level with the top leaders of these countries without some sense of what can be accomplished there.

And I think the president has treated it like a real estate deal. The president has treated it like he's dealing with creditors in Atlantic City.

This is not that. And I think he's getting a very quick lesson in diplomacy.

BALDWIN: David Axelrod.

Please, everyone, tune in, his interview with Sally Yates on "THE AXE FILES" tomorrow night 7:00 Eastern here on CNN.

David, thank you, as always.

Coming up next: Harvey Weinstein in handcuffs, charged with rape. It is a day so many of his accusers have waited for years. We will hear from them in their own words, and the eyebrow-raising response from Weinstein's attorney.

Plus, Amazon's Alexa records a couple's conversation in the privacy of their own home and, not just that, sends it to someone in their contact list.

Hello, nightmare scenario.

And, later, CNN digs up some conspiracy theories that were pushed by a Republican nominee for Congress. We're talking 9/11, arguing it's an inside job, and that Beyonce is part of the illuminati. You have to stick around to hear this.

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[15:18:33]

BALDWIN: It is being called a watershed home in the MeToo movement, Harvey Weinstein in handcuffs.

The film mogul is being charged with three felonies today, first- and third-degree rape and criminal sexual misconduct in the first degree.

Weinstein's attorney says that he will plead not guilty to all of the charges, telling reporters that Hollywood was partly to blame for the allegations facing his client.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENJAMIN BRAFMAN, ATTORNEY FOR HARVEY WEINSTEIN: Mr. Weinstein did not invent the casting couch in Hollywood. And to the extent that there is bad behavior in that industry, that is not what this is about.

Bad behavior is not on trial in this case. It's only if you intentionally committed a criminal act, and Mr. Weinstein vigorously denies that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: And while Weinstein's case centers around the allegations of abuse of these two women, there have been more than 80 who have accused him of sexual misconduct.

Here are just a few of their faces and their voices sharing their stories for the pursuit of justice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROSE MCGOWAN, ACTRESS: And I'm so proud of Lucia Evans and Paz Vega and justice for starting.

I mean, we have to understand he turned himself in on a Friday. That's a slow news weekend, Memorial Day. So he still has privileges from high up somewhere.

But this is -- this is a big strike into the heart of abuse of power. And this shows people worldwide, which is what I was hoping the whole time, that this cannot and will not stand.

[15:20:05]

QUESTION: If he were watching this today, what would you say to him?

MCGOWAN: We got you. We got you.

NATASSIA MALTHE, MODEL: I was sitting on the bed talking to Harvey when he pushed me back and forced himself onto me. It was not consensual. He did not use a condom.

MIMI HALEYI, ACTRESS: I remember Harvey afterwards rolling over onto back, Saying, "Don't you feel we're so much closer to each other now?" to which I replied, "No.'

ASHLEY JUDD, ACTRESS: I fought with this volley of no's, which he ignored. Who knows. Maybe he heard them as maybe. Maybe he heard them as yeses. Maybe they turned him on.

ASIA ARGENTO, ACTRESS: In 1997, I was raped by Harvey Weinstein here at Cannes. I was 21 years old. This festival was his hunting ground.

I want to make a prediction. Harvey Weinstein will never be welcomed here ever again. He will live in disgrace, shunned by the film community that once embraced him and covered up for his crimes.

And even tonight, sitting among you, there are those who still have to be held accountable for their conduct against women, for behavior that does not belong in this industry, does not belong in any industry or workplace.

You know who you are. But, most importantly, we know who you are, and we're not going to allow you to get away with it any longer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Asia Argento there.

With me to talk more about this, CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel and criminal defense attorney Sara Azari.

Just need to take a minute to take all those -- the women in, all the years, the months of this investigation. I was talking to one of the accusers last hour, who just said, this is such a profound moment for them.

Going back to, Jamie, to when you listened to the attorney of Harvey Weinstein standing outside the courthouse steps saying, he didn't invent the casting couch, how is that indicative of how he may defend him?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I thought it was fascinating.

He was almost putting the MeToo movement on trial. It's clear he said he's going to plead innocent, but they're going to be very aggressive about this.

There was another thing he said about he was looking for 12 fair people. You know where that's going. He's saying, maybe there's not a fair jury out there. But the line was, he's looking for 12 fair people who are not consumed by this movement.

So I think we're going to see a lot of pushback, that Harvey's going to say this was consensual, and they're going to say he was swept up in something.

BALDWIN: And we should point out you have known him off and on for 15 years.

SARA AZARI, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Right.

BALDWIN: Did you want to...

AZARI: Yes.

I think -- I think -- you're right. I think he's going to say that the sexual contact was consensual, but also that this is how it goes in Hollywood, that the currency in Hollywood is the exchange of the casting couch for consensual sex.

I mean, he's laid that out already. And I do agree with the part of his statement, though, about his concern over the MeToo movement and whether he can get 12 fair jurors, because, as we just saw in the Bill Cosby trial, he had trial number one before the MeToo movement started by Harvey Weinstein, and he was -- he got a hung jury, because the women, the accusers, the other accusers were not allowed to testify in support of Andrea Constand's claim.

And then he went back to trial two, and suddenly five other women were allowed to come in and testify, and, boom, he gets a guilty verdict. And so this is a valid concern by Brafman, is that if any number of these 80 women are allowed to testify based on the relevance of their testimony and the similar pattern of conduct, that's going to be really bad for Harvey Weinstein.

In this climate, he's, I think, setting the stage for, if there's a guilty verdict, it's going to be because of this, because we can't get a fair jury.

GANGEL: I have also spoken to people who have worked with him for decades very closely.

BALDWIN: Yes.

GANGEL: And they say that they believe he is in denial, that he -- the one thing that we all know about Harvey, just from watching him, you don't have to know him, is, he's a fighter. He never gives up.

That's how he won all of those Oscars. That's how they -- but...

(CROSSTALK)

AZARI: Is that why he's smiling when he leaves the courtroom?

BALDWIN: He smiled. He smiled.

(CROSSTALK)

GANGEL: He's smiling.

(CROSSTALK)

AZARI: Right.

BALDWIN: We have the clip of him walking out of the courthouse.

Guys, if we can cue that up and play it. And it's a blip. We will get there, but it's a blip.

(CROSSTALK)

GANGEL: Your earlier interview with...

BALDWIN: Katherine Kendall.

GANGEL: ... Katherine Kendall said that she thought it was nervous laughter.

[15:25:01]

BALDWIN: She did.

GANGEL: I think that's most likely the case.

One of the things that we've talked about is -- we were talking earlier. You mentioned he was carrying books in today when he came in. Why was he carrying these books? When you're getting booked, you know they're going to take everything away from you.

I think that he may have thought or his lawyers may have thought that they were going to slow-roll him.

AZARI: Or maybe he thought booking means he can simply read a book while the case was being called. I don't know.

GANGEL: In reality, he's a voracious reader.

I -- he always has a book in his hands.

(CROSSTALK)

GANGEL: So, in a certain way, that -- it didn't surprise me. But I think they may have also thought that he was going to be sitting there for a long, long time today, before they finished.

BALDWIN: What's their biggest obstacle -- obstacle?

AZARI: You know, I think -- in terms of the defense or the prosecution?

BALDWIN: The defense.

Actually, the prosecution would be more interesting.

AZARI: I think the prosecution is -- you know, I think it's not that difficult for them, because they have so many victims who are unrelated, who are telling the same story.

BALDWIN: Yes.

AZARI: Even though their -- the conduct they're alleging is aged and is old, I mean, New York doesn't have the statute of limitations that applies to this conduct. Many other states don't either.

And so I think it's not that difficult for the prosecution to prevail. And also, remember, there's a lot of heat on the New York DA's office, because they have dropped the ball before with respect to Harvey Weinstein.

So, they're going to take this very seriously. They're going to be very aggressive about it. And for the defense to prevail here, they're going to have to really prevail in the pretrial motions to try to keep some of these women out in terms of supporting evidence.

BALDWIN: Sara and Jamie, thank you so much.

GANGEL: Thank you.

BALDWIN: What a scene today in downtown Manhattan with him in cuffs.

Coming up next: gas prices hitting $3 a gallon in much of the country, just in time for your holiday weekend. We will talk about what President Trump's policies may have to do with it.

Also, an actual candidate running for a seat in Congress has quite the conspiracy theory about -- Beyonce?

We're back in a moment.

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