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President Trump Cancels Eagles White House Celebration Over Anthem Dispute; Mueller Accuses Paul Manafort of Witness Tampering; Trump Blames Jeff Sessions' Recusal for Ongoing Russia Probe; Interview with Senator Ben Cardin; Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired June 5, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Brianna Keilar in Washington, where he's had Patriots and Penguins, Tigers, Astros and even Cubs. But President Trump has no time for Eagles, even those who want to spend time with him.
KEILAR: And so instead of a routine visit by the Super Bowl champs from Philadelphia, the White House is scrambling to host what's being called last minute a "Celebration of America" at 3:00 p.m. Eastern, just five hours from now.
HARLOW: The Eagles invitation was abruptly canceled when the White House learned that 10 players at most and sources tell us maybe as few as four players were planning to show up. The president blames the flap over anthem kneeling, though no Eagles actually knelt last season during the national anthem. One player tells CNN that issue never even came up in their meeting about potential White House visit.
Also this morning another blistering assault from the president on his own attorney general, whom he blames for what he calls the Russian witch hunt hopes.
Our Kaitlan Collins is at the White House with more.
So, Kaitlan, first on the Eagles, what have you learned about sort of -- what went on behind the scenes, how this all went down with this last minute cancellation?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, this is very abrupt. Last minute is a good way to put it because as of Sunday, the White House was still planning on this celebration happening this afternoon. They had been planning this, I'm told even Kellyanne Conway was involved in some of the planning for this to go forward and the celebration to happen this afternoon. As it has with dozens of other teams before these events are typically nonpolitical, but that is not the case today.
When President Trump was informed yesterday that very few players were going to be attending, some staffers in the White House heard as many as 10, some heard as few as just four players, the president was infuriated and decided to un-invite the team from coming to the White House for that celebration today, issuing that statement last night that said that they were unable to attend because they disagreed with the president here.
So I'm told he was infuriated but he still wanted to hold some kind of event at the White House today. And though the Eagles has said that this is not tied to this debate over the national anthem, that wasn't something they even discussed when they were talking about coming to this event, the president is clearly making that distinction, tying it to that here today and instead holding this event here at the White House this afternoon where he said he's invited 1,000 people to attend where they will play the national anthem and it will be just a generally patriotic celebration.
Now the president is receiving a lot of backlash from the city of Philadelphia, specifically the mayor who issued quite a harsh statement saying that uninviting the Eagles, quote, "Only proves that our president is not a true patriot, but a fragile egomaniac obsessed with crowd size and afraid of an embarrassment of throwing a party to which no one wants to attend.
So it's unclear what exactly that celebration is going to look like today, Poppy. But we know that there won't be any Eagles players in attendance.
HARLOW: We do. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you for that reporting -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Well, again this morning, the president is blaming Jeff Sessions for the Russia investigation and saying that if he had known that Sessions planned to recuse himself, he'd have quickly picked a different attorney general.
This coming as Robert Mueller accuses Trump's former campaign chairman of witness tampering and asks a judge to jail him pending trial.
CNN's Evan Perez is here with more on that. And these are pretty serious charges.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: They are, Poppy. 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, Special Counsel Robert Mueller said in court filings in Washington last night that Manafort used encrypted messages to try to encourage witnesses to perjure themselves in the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.
Prosecutors cited contacts that Manafort allegedly made including some in late February when Manafort, quote, repeatedly contacted two unnamed people who may be witnesses against him, those are two people who previously assisted in the lobbying and public relations work that Manafort was doing in the United States and Europe on behalf of a pro- Russian government at the time in Ukraine. Manafort's lawyers have not commented on these latest allegations.
He's pleaded not guilty to those charges in D.C. and in Virginia. But you can see that these allegations are adding pressure on Manafort to possibly cut a deal with prosecutors.
Now President Trump, as you mentioned, has taken to Twitter to repeat his attack on this investigation. He says the Russian witch hunt hoax continues, all because Jeff Sessions didn't tell me that he was going to recuse himself. I would have picked -- I would have quickly picked someone else.
He's, of course, Poppy, talking about the Attorney General Jeff Sessions who is recused in this investigation and that tweet is coming so, so, so close to saying that if Jeff Sessions was running this investigation, this would be shut down. And, of course, that's the kind of statement that prosecutors look at if they're trying to say -- trying to prove that the president was intending to obstruct this investigation.
KEILAR: It's really interesting day-to-day. You keep calling me Poppy and it's cracking me up.
[10:05:02] I know you know who I am. So you're very tired. You're working too hard, Evan Perez.
PEREZ: I said Poppy to you last time.
KEILAR: OK. That's a good excuse. That's a very good excuse. I'll take it. Poppy's great. To be mistaken for Poppy.
HARLOW: Well, I'll take it.
KEILAR: I'm down with it, Evan Perez. I just like giving him a hard time, too, Poppy.
HARLOW: I was kind of like, does he think he's talking to me? Is he really sitting next to you?
KEILAR: I know he knows he's not.
HARLOW: We love you, Evan.
KEILAR: We love you, Evan.
HARLOW: Thank you for the reporting.
Joining us now, Robby Mook, CNN political commentator, former campaign manager for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential bid, Alice Stewart, CNN political commentator and former Ted Cruz communications director and Susan Hennessey, our CNN national security and legal analyst.
Thank you, one and all for being here, and Susan, I have to begin with you just on what is going on here with Manafort and the fact that Mueller's team is trying to throw him in jail before his trial because of these serious allegations with trying to tamper with two witnesses.
Here is what Congressman Adam Shift said last night to Chris Cuomo. He of course the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Special counsel team is not going to do this unless they have pretty darn iron clad evidence that Manafort is trying to essentially corrupt or co-opt these witnesses. So it's a big development and I think a sign that Manafort is willing to try anything, do anything and he's facing some serious time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Do you agree with that assessment, Susan, that Mueller's team has iron clad evidence?
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, it appears from the filing that they do. They actually have the messages in question, they also have the cooperation of the individuals who received those messages and those individuals say that they perceived that outreach to be an attempt to secure their false testimony.
You know, so that is incredibly strong evidence. I also think that Congressman Schiff is correct, that this is an example or evidence of how desperate Paul Manafort really is, you know, to -- he's already out on bail. He might find himself in court today either with a dramatically more restrictive bail conditions or potentially even back in jail.
KEILAR: And what does that look like, Susan, witness tampering here, for him to -- tell us about it.
HENNESSEY: Right, so essentially what happened here is Paul Manafort saw or what allegedly happened here is that Paul Manafort saw this indictment or these charges come out. He then -- he then contacted individuals who had worked with him on lobbying within the United States or alleged lobbying within the United States to say, you know, something to the effect of, hey, you know, remember how we only worked in Europe, right? We didn't work within the United States because operating within the United States, that's the element of the criminal conduct here.
And so by saying that, which, of course, everybody -- everybody in that conversation knows to be false, what it is or what it appears to be is an attempt by Paul Manafort to coordinate these statements and coordinate these statements by essentially saying I'm making representations that we only worked in Europe and therefore you should as well.
HARLOW: Let me get you, guys, Alice, to you first, on the credibility gap, canyon, call it what you want at the White House. The exchange with some of the reporters and Sarah Sanders at the briefing yesterday was remarkable because, I mean, clearly there is so much dishonesty that has been coming from that podium and from some of the president's former legal team on this.
Rudy Giuliani, Alice, as the president's personal lawyer, made the case to Chris Cuomo that it essentially doesn't really matter if there is lying to the public as long as it is not lying under oath. He said, "The most important thing is that there is no testimony under oath to that effect." Where is the line here when it comes to honesty?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the line is rather blurry lately. And I completely disagree with what Rudy Giuliani said with regard to it only matters if you're lying under -- to prosecutors. I think a lie is a lie, whether you're talking to the public or to the prosecutors.
Look, in my working communications, there is three main points, three main C's when it comes to communicating a message, specifically one like this. A, it has to be correct. It has to be consistent. And you have to make sure that it doesn't conflict with other members of your team. And you have to have the same story.
Look, we don't know what the truth is here. We have two truths, someone is not telling the truth. The story continues to change so it's not consistent. And we have some team members saying one thing and other team members saying another. So this is quite a credibility crisis. And this is something that has been going on for quite some time and this is just another chink in the armor.
I think they can get it straight and get back on track, but what we need on this case and others moving forward, let's have one truth, let's stick to that truth and let that truth play out. And that's the only way we're really going to get to the bottom of what exactly happened with regard to Russian meddling in the election and whether or not there was any coordination with this campaign.
KEILAR: And let's listen to this exchange between Sarah Sanders and Josh Dawsey from the "Washington Post." It's really extraordinary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH DAWSEY, WASHINGTON POST: How are we supposed to know what to believe? How can we believe what you're saying from the podium if his lawyers are saying it's entirely inaccurate?
[10:10:01] SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Once again I can't comment on a letter from the president's outside counsel. I direct you to them to answer it. John?
DAWSEY: But, Sarah, the words are literally -- you said he did not dictate. The lawyer said he did. What is it?
SANDERS: I'm not going to respond to a letter from the president's outside counsel. We purposefully walled off and I would refer you to them for comment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: So, Robby Mook, I mean, that's just -- she's sidestepping, but that aside, this is missing entirely the point. I think a lot of people, they look at spokespeople and some of them might say, oh, whatever, you know, spokespeople lie. But that's not actually the case, right? I mean, if -- they spin, right? Having covered campaigns, having dealt with a lot of political spokespeople, they may spin, but they're not supposed to lie.
As a reporter, when they do lie to you, this is something that can haunt them for years professionally. It makes them incapable of doing their jobs. So when you look at Sarah Sanders getting caught in this place, where she's so disconnected from the truth of what's going on in her White House, what does this mean for her and for this White House?
ROBBY MOOK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Well, there is two things going on here. First, I would actually argue, she is sidestepping because she doesn't want to get in the middle of any sort of legal situation. If there in fact was an attempt to obstruct justice, and she is somehow advancing that, she could be in trouble here, too. So I'm not a lawyer, but if I were her, I'd be really worried about weighing in on any of this at all. So I think that's -- I think that in this specific instance is what is going on.
But to your broader question, look, these guys play according to a totally different playbook. In a normal circumstance, you absolutely want your spokespeople to have credibility so that when they need to advance a narrative, when they need to correct the record, the press really pays attention and takes them at their word.
Donald Trump does everything completely differently. And particularly in this investigation, look, there is a question about whether people broke the law, there is a question about whether the president should be impeached, those are two totally separate things. And then there is this third space that the White House is trying to operate in, which is throwing out all kinds of wild legal theories. That's what they want us to spend time discussing.
They don't want us to talk about Paul Manafort may go behind bars, how the president may have obstructed justice. They want us to talk about is Sarah Sanders right, is she wrong? You know, can the president end an investigation? What did Rudy Giuliani say today? So I -- I agree with everything you said. Normally you want your spokespeople to maintain their integrity. These guys just don't play by that playbook. So I don't frankly -- I don't think they care.
HARLOW: So here's something, Susan Hennessey, that Sarah Sanders is going to have to answer for, questions from reporters about what the president just wrote this morning, saying that he should have picked another attorney general and because of Jeff Sessions, this Mueller probe continues. And that as our Evan Perez reported earlier, is going to be exhibit A for Mueller's team. They're going to look at this very closely. Why is this significant in their probe? HENNESSEY: Well, I think that's right. I think the first thing to
note is that Jeff Sessions' decision to recuse was not at all controversial. It was relatively clear from anybody from the time of his nomination and frankly should have been clear to the president that he was going to have to recuse himself.
It also wasn't discretionary. Right? He was -- he was bound under DOJ guidelines and regulations to recuse himself. So I really think that what we're seeing now is the president having some buyer's remorse. He understands that he doesn't have -- politically he's not going to be able to fire Attorney General Sessions, and so he's essentially trying to humiliate him out of the job.
HARLOW: But do you read, Susan -- do you read this differently than some of the president's other tweets and attacks on Sessions because he directly ties it to the Mueller probe by saying the Russia witch hunt hoax which is what he calls the Mueller probe continues all because Jeff Sessions didn't tell me he was going to recuse himself, meaning if he had someone other than Jeff Sessions, this probe wouldn't be around. And does that go to the intent issue and potential obstruction?
HENNESSEY: So I do think that he's sort of -- he's giving voice to this in a more clear way and that potentially is significant. That said, this is information that any reasonable rational person would have been aware was motivating the president's conduct thus far. Right? So maybe the fact that he's actually just putting it out there and saying it in a really brazen way is significant. But this is not new information.
HARLOW: Thank you, all. Yes.
STEWART: And also this is a way for him to continue his narrative that the Russia investigation is a witch hunt and if Jeff Sessions as he says was in charge, then we wouldn't be where we are. The good thing is this doesn't affect Jeff Sessions' day-to-day role as what he's doing, he continues to focus on immigration and MS-13 and president will continue what he's doing, just trying to undermine the Mueller investigation.
HARLOW: Thank you, all. Appreciate it very much.
So T minus one week until the North Korea summit. Who's in, who's on the outs on President trump's team leading up to that historic day?
[10:15:06] KEILAR: Plus, it's a jungle out there in California. The deeply blue state should be a safe ground for Democrats, but with a crowded field, could Democratic enthusiasm in today's primary actually back fire? And then later, a CNN exclusive interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook. He says privacy is a fundamental human right. One that is under attack right now.
KEILAR: Just a week to go until his meeting with Kim Jong-un and President Trump meets with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ahead of that as well as U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley. This as sources are telling CNN about escalating tensions between Pompeo and John Bolton. The president's national security adviser.
Pompeo facing off with Bolton after Bolton made a comment about the Libya model being used with North Korea. Something that angered North Korea. Bolton was not invited to Friday's meeting where a North Korean top official delivered a letter from Kim Jong-un to President Trump.
[10:20:10] And joining me now is Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland to talk about this.
Sir, thanks so much for being with us.
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: Brianna, it's good to be with you, thanks.
KEILAR: So as a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, you're obviously watching everything that is going on with North Korea very carefully. We're one week away from this summit what do you think the best case scenario is going to be?
CARDIN: Well, first, I think it's good news that the summit is taking place. We know that the only sensible way to resolve the problems of the Korean peninsula's nuclear weapons is through diplomacy. But we know it's going to be difficult. The president needs to be very strong in regards to what we need to accomplish and that is to end the nuclear capability of North Korea, to work on a way in which we can deal with the other issues involving North Korea, and do it in a way that includes our allies and friends, including South Koreans and Japanese and involving China.
That's not an easy assignment. So it is going to require a great deal of diplomacy, and persistence and the good news is that we're talking and I hope that the president is adequately prepared for what should come next and that is a freeze in the program, North Korea, inspectors on the ground and confidence building between our two countries.
KEILAR: What do you think about this sort of drama behind the scenes? What did you think when you learned that Mike Pompeo, the secretary of State, said that it would be counterproductive to allow John Bolton. He's a pretty new national security adviser to President Trump, to allow him into this meeting with the former spy chief who brought the letter from Kim Jong-un. What did you think?
CARDIN: I thought Ambassador Bolton's comment about Libya was not helpful at all. What Kim Jong-un wants to be able to ensure that he can protect his regime without nuclear weapons. And Libya is an example where that didn't happen. So I think it was not helpful. I don't know the internal conflicts that may exist. We know that ever since President Trump has taken office, there has been conflicts among his national security team.
I hope that we're united. I would ask the president to work closer with Congress because I think it is important that we all work together, in unified position that we're all united in making sure North Korea ends its nuclear program.
KEILAR: I want to ask you about something that we just heard from Vladimir Putin. He was doing an interview on Austrian television and this is what he said about his contact with President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): Indeed, Donald Trump and I have met more than once at various international venues and secondly we regularly talk over the phone. Our Foreign Affairs Department, our special services, are working fairly well together in areas of mutual interest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: It was interesting, Senator, because Putin was asked about basically not getting along too well with the U.S. and he shifted back and said that he's regularly in contact with President Trump. We know that the two have spoken about, I think, six to eight times, that's our official count that we've been able to track down since President Trump came into the White House. What do you think of Putin stressing that?
CARDIN: Well, Mr. Putin has a game plan. His game plan is to try to bring down our democratic systems of government. Not just in the United States, throughout Europe. I authored a report in January that spelled out the use of his asymmetric arsenal to compromise democratic institutions in Europe and the United States. So what concerns me is that President Trump needs to be very clear of Mr. Putin. That we will not tolerate his interference in our government.
To this date, President Trump has yet to fully acknowledge Mr. Putin's involvement in the 2016 elections.
KEILAR: And I also want to ask you about the president's tweet this morning. Something I know you'll have a response to, this is about his immigration policy that he's enhanced under his administration. He says separating families at the border is the fault of bad legislation passed by the Democrats, border security laws should be changed but the Dems can't get their act together, started the wall.
What do you think of that considering Jeff Sessions, his AG, has emphasized using this policy to deter people from coming across the border and reporting that this is a practice that has become enhanced under this administration. He's blaming you guys.
CARDIN: That tweet, like so many of President Trump, has no reality to it whatsoever. The Democrats have worked very hard to keep families together, we were working with Republicans on a compromise that would have improved our immigration laws. And President Trump blew up that compromise.
Make no mistake about it, it's President Trump's policies that are separating families at the border. It's President Trump's immigration policies that is isolating America globally in dealing with the refugee issue. [10:25:04] This president has developed an immigration policy that's
not in America's national security interests and certainly not in our interests in leading in the global community.
KEILAR: All right, Senator Ben Cardin, we appreciate you being with us, thank you.
CARDIN: Thank you.
KEILAR: So this just in to CNN, First Lady Melania Trump is going to join the president for her first official public event with the press since all the way back on May 10th. She's going to be joining the president at a FEMA briefing today about the upcoming hurricane season. Of course the first lady has been active in hurricane relief efforts.
And breaking news, in the last few minutes, one time movie mogul Harvey Weinstein answered to rape charges. We'll have a live report from outside the Manhattan courtroom next.