Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Cancels White House Visit of Super Bowl Champ Eagles; Mueller Team Wants Manafort Jailed As He Awaits Trial; Mueller Accuses Paul Manafort Of Witness Tampering; Giuliani Changing Story On Trump Tower Meeting, Saying It Was A "Mistake" Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 5, 2018 - 11:00   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: We respect the club. You get a hat. You get a hat. Everybody gets a hat.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Chris. Thank you, all, for joining us today. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Brianna Keilar. "AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts now.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Erica Hill in today for Kate Bolduan. We begin with the time-honored tradition, a simple White House photo-op, though in 2018, even the most routine moments have somehow become unnecessarily political.

Today, the Philadelphia Eagles will not be honored at the White House after the president uninvited the team to this afternoon's celebration of their Super Bowl win. That's after he reportedly learned that just a small number of the players plan to show up.

Well, the president fired off a statement, claiming the team opposed his stance on players taking a knee during the anthem. The Eagles, we should point out, have not said why some players chose not to attend.

But when it comes to kneeling, we do know this. Not a single Eagles player knelt during the anthem all last season. The president's statement says, quote, "They disagree with their president because he insists that they proudly stand for the national anthem, hand on heart, in honor of the great men and women of our military and the people of our country.

The Eagles wanted to send a smaller delegation, but the 1,000 fans planning to attend the event deserved better.

CNN's White House Correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, joins us now. So, Kaitlan, was the visit canceled simply because of the numbers here?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, you saw right there in the statement, they referenced a smaller delegation. I'm told it was incredibly small here, Erica. The president was informed yesterday that not very many Eagles players were going to attend, somewhere in the neighborhood of four to 10 players and a handful of coaches, maybe an athletic trainer or two.

And the president was infuriated by that, and decided he was not going to have the Eagles here anymore and that is what led to that abrupt cancellation of their invitation to the White House for what is typically a nonpolitical event.

But, Erica, the president realized what the optics would be if he was standing on the south lawn at an event where typically dozens of players and the coaches and owner are surrounding the president if it was just him and a handful of players there, what kind of message that would send and it would certainly be reported on for days.

But now we are focusing on it just a little bit ahead of schedule because the president has -- had this abrupt cancellation. You saw that blistering statement from the White House. And now the White House is also receiving some backlash of their own.

The president is tying this to the debate over the national anthem, a debate the president himself started last fall at a rally in Alabama when he said those players who protest by kneeling during the national anthem, something they say they're not protesting the national anthem but protesting police brutality and the president referred to them as SOBs.

So, now the NFL Players Association has put out a statement since the Eagles were uninvited from the White House saying they're disappointed in the White House's decision. They said this led to the consolation of several player-led events that were going to happen in the D.C. community area.

And they added at the end that the players in the NFL love their troops. This clearly is something the White House is tying directly to being patriotic, because, instead of cancelling that event today, they're going to hold a celebration for the national anthem here at the White House this afternoon.

Something the president said that a thousand people have been invited to, White House staffers are still a little bit unclear of what exactly that is going to look like. It could just be a few dozen White House staffers there.

But clearly here, Erica, what we have to focus on is this is a debate the president is more than willing to have because he knows this is something that can resonate with his base.

HILL: And we'll continue to see what happens this afternoon as you point out and who shows up. Kaitlan, appreciate it as always.

Joining me now, "New York Times" columnist, Charles Blow, and CNN Political Commentator and former Trump Campaign Adviser, Steve Cortes. Steve, I want to start with you, Kaitlan, made an interesting point right there.

There is no indication based on our reporting that any of the players, who decided not to attend that the anthem was even part of that discussion. Why is the president making this an issue? Is it because it plays to his political base?

STEVE CORTES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think so. There is substance here. Regardless of why they decided not to attend, they did decide to and made a statement about that. They decided to snub the president of the United States. It is incredibly disrespectful.

They decided to snub the White House, which is also disrespectful and frankly just bad manners. The president didn't invite them to a political event. He invited them to a celebration of their championship team and it is not at his house, by the way, it is at America's house, the White House.

So, they showed bad manners, number one. Number two, the NFL just continues to insist on injecting politics and protest into arenas where it does not belong. Arenas like the national anthem and celebration at the White House.

HILL: So, you're saying this is all drummed up by the NFL? You're saying the NFL is injecting politics here?

CORTES: Absolutely, yes. I'm saying from the players to the commissioner, the NFL, ever since last season. I mean, look, I'm a football fanatic, I love this game, most Americans do, it is part of our DNA. It is really too bad that the NFL has infected the game with so much protest and so much political unnecessary political injections and unfortunately, they're doing it again here.

[11:05:07] HILL: So, Charles, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say you don't necessarily agree with that. But in terms of -- to Steve's point here that this is disrespectful on the part of the players, that there was nothing not just the president, the White House, the people's house, and that this is all something that the NFL is pushing. How do you respond to that?

CHARLES BLOW, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I go back to a more fundamental question which is that this president has a very long history of using -- of attacking black and brown people, and by using a kind of hijacked honor to do that, whether through police officers, whether that be through immigration, border patrol agents, ice agents or the military.

He's doing it yet again and what he has never done as far as I can recall is ever addressed the underlying point that they're protesting, which is this police force against black and brown people justified or not?

Not once, and every time he even deals with the issue, he deflects to saying these people are disrespecting this honorable group of people, whether they be police officers or whether they be military. That is a choice that he is making.

And he has done that his entire life. This didn't start in Alabama, when he was talking about calling them SOBs. It didn't start during the campaign season when he was literally attacking every chance he got. Black Lives Matter calling the name racist, calling the group divisive, saying that the problem in poor communities was not that they had too many police, but they didn't have enough police officers.

Saying that people in Chicago, Ferguson, and Baltimore were -- infected with illegal gangs tying all that together. It goes all the way back to 1989 when he called for the execution of the Central Park Five.

People remembered that ad he placed, and the first line of it, the headline had two lines, bring back the death penalty. Second line was bring back our police officers. He's always used high jabbing that honor to beat up on these black and brown people and he needs to deal with that, not just this team.

HILL: Go ahead, Steve.

CORTES: Charles -- I think you're exactly right, by the way, he absolutely has the backs of law enforcement in this country. His default position always is to believe the police, to side with the police. That doesn't mean they're always right.

There is bad apples among every group, but in general, you're exactly correct. By the way, this protest movement with the NFL was started by Colin Kaepernick, a player, who by the way in the middle of a terrible season decided it was a good idea to start protesting, and he wore as part of his protest socks that depicted cops as pigs.

So, yes, this it was a disrespectful movement against law enforcement and police right out of the gate, and it continued that way and the president pushed back and the people back him on that. People want to respect and honor law enforcement and military in this country and that is the president's default position, yes.

HILL: Here is something else I want to bring up because there are two things you bring up that I think this also ties into. The president in his tweet said and I'm quoting, they disagree with their president.

Pointing out, this is a fallback for the president, he defaults to this, if in some way you're disagreeing with him, with the president, it appears to be un-American. This is a president who routinely disagreed with Barack Obama when he was in office, that was not un- American on his part, what is interesting is you bring up Colin Kaepernick.

When he decided to do this, let's remember, he spoke with Nate Boyer, when Nate Boyer weighed in this morning about where we are at this point, I want to play that for you.


NATE BOYER, FORMER NFL PLAYER: This isn't winning and losing. This is everybody is losing right now. That's what feels like to me because we're falling apart. It is not about being right all the time. We need to do such a better job, everybody, of just having these conversations and really listening to one another and really giving a damn about how each other feels.


HILL: In terms of that conversation of that, I'll warn both we're tight on time, but, Steve, is this a missed opportunity for the president to have had a conversation today, even if it is with only four or ten players?

CORTES: You know, it is a missed opportunity. By the way, those players on the Eagles who don't want to come who apparently have problems with President Trump, what they should have done is come, meet him, and respectfully say can we have a meeting sometime later. This is a celebration today.

But can we have a substantive meeting and we'd would like to give you policy prescriptions, the president surely would say yes to that. And that would have been the right way to engage rather than saying we're not coming, we're taking our ball and going home like a bunch of spoiled prima donnas.

HILL: Charles, do you agree with that? Would that have been a better way to handle this for some of those players, whether today or not, to reach out and say we need to have more of your conversation, to your point?

BLOW: No, because the president has had the opportunity to even acknowledge the reason that they were protesting in the first place and he has not. And the fact that that omission says that what he -- that what is happening, he sees it like the rest of us, is OK with him. And that is unconscionable for a lot of people. Even if you choose not to protest, you respect the right of the people who are.

[11:10:07] We all protest in our own way. I write, they chose to take a knee. Different people do have different things to say, I have kids. They are black in America, and I don't want them afraid to encounter the police.

I don't want them afraid to call the cops if something happened, goes wrong. I want them to be -- the same way that a cop -- most want to go home at the end of the night and go home to their families. My kids want to make it home to me.

HILL: Charles, Steve, appreciate it as always. One thing that is clear, there is much more discussion that should be had on all of this. Appreciate it.

Still to come, the truth comes out and now it is time for the cleanup. Rudy Giuliani trying to explain why the White House and others wrongly denied that the president dictated the statement on that infamous Trump Tower meeting.

Plus, National Security Adviser John Bolton gets left out of the crucial meeting on North Korea. Sources say it is because Secretary of State Mike Pompeo didn't want him there. Details ahead.


HILL: They weren't lies, just mistakes. That's how Rudy Giuliani explains the changing story about what happened after Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with Russians at Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Why do you think they chose to lie about his role in drafting this statement about Trump Jr.'s meeting with the Russians?

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: Chris, you think maybe somebody could have made a mistake?

CUOMO: It is a lot of mistakes.

GIULIANI: Why is it always that somebody -- you think Jay Sekulow lied? Maybe he just got it wrong. Like I've got a few things wrong at the beginning of the investigation. It was a mistake. I swear to God. It was a mistake. The guy made a mistake.


HILL: The president meantime continues to blame the Russia investigation on his Attorney General Jeff Sessions tweeting this morning, "The Russian witch-hunt hoax continues. All because Jeff Sessions didn't tell me he was going to recuse himself. I would quickly pick someone else.

So much time and money wasted, so many lives ruined, and Sessions knew better than most that there was no collusion." This as Robert Mueller's team is now accusing President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, of witness tampering.

CNN justice correspondent, Evan Perez, has all the details for us this morning. All right. Evan, bring us up to speed on this one.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erica. Prosecutors want a judge to consider revoking Paul Manafort's bail for what they say were multiple attempts to get witnesses to lie in his case. Manafort is the former Trump campaign chairman and he's awaiting trial here in Washington and in Virginia, federal court, on financial crime charges.

The special counsel, Robert Mueller, said in court filings in Washington last night that Manafort used encrypted WhatsApp messages to try to encourage witnesses to perjure themselves in the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.

Prosecutors cited contacts on Manafort allegedly made including some in late February when Manafort, quote, "repeatedly contacted two unnamed people who may be witnesses against him." And those people had previously assisted in the lobbying and public relations work that Manafort was doing here in the United States and in Europe on behalf of the pro-Russian government at the time in Ukraine. Now, Manafort's lawyers have not commented on these allegations. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges that he faces in D.C. and Virginia. He, by the way, faces a court hearing next week on these allegations and it is fair to add that the allegations add to the pressure on Manafort to possibly cut a deal and cooperate with those prosecutors.

As you mentioned, President Trump is taking to Twitter to repeat his attack on the investigation. But you got to read those tweets and think, Erica, that the prosecutors in Robert Mueller's office today are looking at them printing them out and are using them perhaps to cobble the evidence on whether or not this is obstruction of justice.

Because this is exactly what the president seems to be suggesting that if Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, had not recused himself, that this investigation would have been shut down.

HILL: Evan Perez with the latest for us. Evan, thank you. Let's dig a little deeper now with Robert Mueller's former Special Assistant at the Justice Department, Michael Zeldin, former Federal Prosecutor, Daniel Goldman, and also with us CNN Politics Reporter, Editor-at- Large, Chris Cillizza. Good to have all of you with us.

Michael, I want to pick up on what Evan said there about talking about printing out the tweets, taking a look at them, does all of this constitute obstruction of justice. How much of that is happening in real time?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think it is happening. Whether it is part of the analysis as to whether it is obstruction of justice is not clear. What I think it indicates is the need for the president to be interviewed by Mueller.

If you look at the Manafort pleadings, for example, they say he tampered with the witness and they know that because the person who was spoken to by the Manafort e-mails believed it was. That's exactly what Comey said, I believed -- almost the identical statute.

I believed that the president was trying to shut down an investigation. So, I think it is that that the Mueller team is looking at. That they're looking at to determine the need for the presidential interview. So, I think really this will support their motion to interview the president if that is not able to be worked out amicably.

HILL: What we're learning about Paul Manafort, this is a man under house arrest, has not one but two ankle bracelets, facing multiple federal charges. How desperate would a person have to be to do something like this, considering how much legal trouble they're already facing at this point?

DANIEL GOLDMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: You use a very good word. This is a pure desperation move. The only time a defendant would ever reach out to try to get a witness to change his story is when you know you're guilty and that if the truth comes out, you're going to be convicted. And that your only out here, the only way of saving yourself is to get other people to lie.

[11:20:05] It is a real interesting insight into Paul Manafort's psyche that he -- this is -- rather than cooperate, rather than admit I'm wrong and go in and try to cut a deal and try to reduce my sentence, I'm actually so brazen and so bold that I think I can beat the system that I'm going to go and convince other people to change their story and it is not going to come back to haunt me. It is baffling.

HILL: It is somewhat baffling. Also --

ZELDIN: Just to add one thing to that, I'm not sure that Manafort knew that he was essentially still being surveilled. We don't know how it comes to be that Mueller has these --

GOLDMAN: You can tell from the pleadings that the witnesses who are likely testifying in the trial provided the text and information.

HILL: If you're Paul Manafort's attorney, wouldn't you say, hey, buddy, from here on out, you're under house arrest, let's be smart about what we're doing here. If nothing else, whether you knew or not, as his attorney, wouldn't you say, leave the phone alone, forget the WhatsApp.

GOLDMAN: The only response I have to that is don't you think Donald Trump's lawyers told him not to tweet?

HILL: There's that.

GOLDMAN: Clients don't listen to their lawyers sometimes. They should, but they don't.

HILL: It doesn't always happen. I just want to bring this up, as all of this is happening, we are also seeing playing out in real time, what seems to in some ways the new reality show. We saw George Papadopoulos wife now essentially lobbying the president for a pardon. Take a listen to this.


SIMONA MANGIANTE PAPADOPOULOS, WIFE OF FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS: (Inaudible) in the Trump campaign, I know he did an excellent job. I know he's my -- because of this incident, his freedom is challenged. So, I trust and hope and ask President Trump to pardon him. I hope he will.


HILL: Pretty clear there, last night, on Fox, Chris Cillizza. I'm not really sure where we're at on this.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Well, look, we know that Donald Trump takes his news and sort of his views of the world from cable television and we know that he watches more Fox News than any other channel. During the campaign, aides regularly would communicate or attempt to communicate messages to Donald Trump via cable news that they could not get across in private meetings.

He paid more attention to the cable news than he did in a private meeting with them. And George Papadopoulos' fiancee is not the only person to do this. I point you to Patty Blagojevich, Rob Blagojevich, former Illinois governor's wife, she's done a number of Fox News interview over the last five, six days in which she's quite clearly trying to butter Donald Trump up, saying it takes a strong and big man to do the right thing and pardon my husband.

She also talks about how he -- he, Rod Blagojevich, is much like Donald Trump, a victim of the deep state, a victim of unfair prosecution. That's not by accident. Look, to the extent these people are listening to their lawyers, their lawyers may well be saying, your best case -- and Rod Blagojevich's case, all his appeals ran out, Supreme Court denied to hear it.

So, his only option to not stay in prison through 2024 lies with Donald Trump. His wife knows that. He knows it and they know at least they think they know how to reach and persuade the president of the United States and that is through an appearance on Fox News. Yes, is that weird? Sure, but it is the reality.

HILL: It is 2018, nothing is weird anymore. Let's be honest. Michael, we heard from Rudy Giuliani speaking with Chris Cuomo last night and shifting story, lies, however you want to define them, about that Trump Tower statement.

The written word seems pretty clear as to what we know about that. Even if the narrative we're getting on tv is different. How much of this matters to the investigation?

ZELDIN: I think it fits in, if you look at obstruction of justice, or abuse of office, as a mosaic and there are parts that have to be put together to determine whether you have a complete picture, the lying fits into that. And there is no easy answer that Giuliani tried to let us believe, that this was a mistake.

It was repeated on July 12th, July 16th, August 1st. You don't make repetitive mistakes like that. Those are lies. I don't know who was the source of the misinformation. But Mueller will look at that and remember if you look at the Clinton impeachment articles, one of the articles that Ken Starr wanted to put forth was lying to the American people as a form of obstruction.

So, I think that Mueller will look at that too and decide how does this fit into the narrative that I want to create either as an indictable obstruction of justice case, or report to Rosenstein and says this is abuse of behavior.

GOLDMAN: I want to make one quick point. It is a little different when it is a lawyer speaking than the president himself in terms of lying to the public. But if Jay Sekulow had gone into court and said what he said and then it came out that it was an actual complete -- completely the opposite, he could be held in contempt and sanctioned.

[11:25:05] It is his duty to figure out what the answer is and to make proper representation. So, to say it is a mistake might work to the American public but does not work for lawyers in court.

HILL: And interesting too, Rudy Giuliani was the one who said, look, he was still learning, I'm still learning, interesting -- we have to leave it there but appreciate it. Thank you, all.

Coming up, a feud is brewing between National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Pompeo even asking that Bolton be left out of a crucial meeting on North Korea. That's next.


HILL: Critical talks for the most important national security issue right now are happening without the White House national security adviser. John Bolton wasn't there for the oval office meeting on Friday on the North Korea summit with Kim Jong-un's right-hand man.

Two sources telling CNN there is an escalating feud between Bolton and the secretary of state saying that Pompeo told Trump it would be counterproductive to allow Bolton to attend the oval office meeting.