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Ethics Office Asks for Investigation Into EPA Chief; Trump Administration Defends Separating Children and Families at Border; Paul Manafort Sent to Jail. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired June 15, 2018 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:01:00]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: You are watching CNN on this Friday afternoon. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being here.

President Trump's former campaign chief Paul Manafort has been sent to jail until his trial on alleged foreign lobbying crimes. This federal judge just revoked his bail after prosecutors argued that Manafort is -- quote, unquote -- "a danger to the community."

They also said that he has committed new crimes, namely, witness tampering and conspiracy to obstruct justice, all the while being under house arrest. Manafort, he's pleaded not guilty. And when he walked into court today, he was greeted with shouts of "Lock him up."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Lock him up! Lock him up! Lock him up! Lock him up!

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: Lock him up!

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: Lock him up!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: For his part, President Trump is trying to distance himself from Manafort as much as possible.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I feel badly about a lot of it, because I think a lot of it is very unfair. I look at some of them where they go back 12 years.

Manafort has nothing to do with our campaign. But I feel so -- I will tell you, I feel a little badly about it. They went back 12 years to get things that he did 12 years ago?

You know, Paul Manafort worked for me for a very short period of time. He worked for Ronald Reagan. He worked for Bob Dole. He worked for John McCain, or his firm did. He worked for many other Republicans. He worked for me, what, for 49 days or something, a very short period of time. I feel badly for some people, because they have gone back 12 years to

find things about somebody? And I don't think it's right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: And Trump has just tweeted: "Wow, what a tough sentence for Paul Manafort, who has represented Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole, and many other top political people in campaigns. Didn't know Manafort was the head of the mob. What about Comey and crooked Hillary and all of the others? Very unfair."

Evan Perez is our senior justice correspondent, and he's standing by.

And the question is, does he know that Manafort was tampering with witnesses?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right, Brooke.

And, look, the judge today made it clear that this hearing that she had today was not about politics. As a matter of fact, she seemed to be addressing the president, other people who were not in her courtroom. She says, this hearing is not about politics, it's not about the conduct of the special counsel.

And she was trying to put the attention squarely back on Paul Manafort, because the allegations are pretty serious. According to the government, Paul Manafort for about five weeks was reaching out to people who were going to be witnesses in this case, people, who once they figured out what he was trying to do, according to the government, reached out to the FBI to report what they were being told, and what they said was essentially being encouraged to perjure themselves before special counsel.

And so this is the reason why the prosecutors today said that he was a danger to the community. They said that he deserved to go back to jail. The defense for Paul Manafort said that, look, he didn't know these people were going to be witnesses. They said the judge should actually provide a list of 50 or so people who are going to be in this court case, so that Paul Manafort could know who not to be in touch with.

And they also said that he promises not to do it again. The judge wasn't buying any of this, Brooke. He -- she really said that she struggled to do this, simply because, obviously, sending someone to jail before they have been found guilty, before they have been given a fair trial, is really the unusual way to go in a white-collar case, especially when there is no threats, there's no overt danger to society.

But she said that what he did was a harm to the judicial system, essentially, and she said she had no appetite to tolerate it anymore. He was led out by the U.S. Marshals at the end of the hearing. They came back a few minutes later. They had his belt, his wallet, cell phone, his necktie that he used that he was wearing when he came to court. And I can tell you, when he walked into court past those protesters, he had a smirk on his face, clearly a little bit amused, and did not think, clearly, that he was going to be ending up today in jail.

[15:05:01]

BALDWIN: Surprise. That judge was tough, saying, this isn't middle school. I can't take his cell phones away, so he's staying behind bars.

Evan Perez, thank you so much for that.

There are also -- we're hearing that another close ally of the president here, Michael Cohen, right, they go back years and years, he could be considering flipping, and telling the feds what he knows.

Sources are telling CNN the one-time Trump fixer is angry with how he's being treated by the president and his new attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

So, CNN's Ryan Nobles is on that.

And you're there at the White House.

I'm curious, any reaction to the news on Cohen saying he may cooperate?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Brooke, part of Michael Cohen's calculus here as to whether or not he's going to cooperate with federal authorities is the sense that he -- that the president has his back, that he's going to look out for him as this case unfolds.

And the president was actually asked about Michael Cohen this morning, and you judge whether or not it appears that the president is fully behind his former lawyer. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I haven't spoken to Michael in a long time.

QUESTION: Is he still your lawyer?

TRUMP: No, he's not my lawyer anymore.

QUESTION: Your personal lawyer.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: But I always liked Michael. And he's a good person. And I think he's been...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Excuse me. Do you mind if I talk?

QUESTION: I just want to know...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: You're asking me a question. I'm trying to ask (sic) it.

QUESTION: Just want to know if you're worried if he's going to cooperate with federal...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: No, I'm not worried, because I did nothing wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: So that's not necessarily a full-blown feeling of support from the president to Michael Cohen. He made it clear that he is no longer his lawyer, and the president basically spending a lot more time defending himself, saying he doesn't -- really not worried if Michael Cohen testifies, because he believes he's done nothing wrong.

So, Brooke, we will have to see if this plays into Michael Cohen's decision-making as he deliberates this next stage in his legal battle. He has been very close to the president for a very long time, but it seems, with every passing day, the president is doing more to separate himself from Michael Cohen -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Ryan, thank you so much.

Let's have a bigger conversation on all of this.

I have with me Gloria Borger, our chief political analyst here at CNN, and also here, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers.

So, ladies, nice to see both of you.

And, Gloria, to you first just on all things Michael Cohen. What's changed? Why is he is the word mad or irked or aggravated or disappointed with both he president and Rudy Giuliani?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, it's hard to know. I think he's under a great deal of pressure. My colleague Kara Scannell has reported this morning that, you know, he's telling friends and family that the pressure is very difficult, and that he might be willing to cooperate with prosecutors.

You know, he's got two children, college-aged children. His wife is apparently very upset with all of this. And it's costing him an awful lot of money. And, as Ryan was pointing out, I think that he was probably looking for more support from the president, from Rudy Giuliani, and it's sort of unrequited love.

BALDWIN: And didn't get it.

BORGER: As you know, he's always been really loyal to Donald Trump. They have had an on-again/off-again relationship since he started working for him in 2006, but, you know, I think he sort of has been the ultimate loyalist to this president, and maybe he's feeling a little unloved at this point.

BALDWIN: Is that what it is? Not getting the love, Jennifer? From a legal perspective, I mean. We know he hasn't met with prosecutors. He's looking for that SDNY legal team, as we had reported earlier this week. So what's up?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, he has a very important decision to make, if and when he's charged. I don't think he will make that decision until he kind of sees what he's facing. So I don't think the time is there yet.

But, yes, some of it definitely comes down to what you're being asked to cooperate about. So, you have your own situation, your family. Can you face that jail time? Do you want to put your loved ones through that? But also what are you being asked to do? And if it's too hard for him, then, you know, that kind of weighs against it.

BALDWIN: Yes.

RODGERS: But if Trump is not being as nice to him as he wants, then that makes it not so tough.

BALDWIN: Let me also ask you, because we know Cohen had been trying to get this restraining order against Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, to keep him from speaking out as much as he has over their lawsuit.

And s owe know this federal judge has just ruled against Cohen for now. What do you make of that?

RODGERS: Well, not too much, because, you know, he goes in ex parte, which means without the other side, just to the judge, and say, I want a restraining order. That's very, very rare that you would get a restraining order in that circumstance. It has to be a real emergency.

And what the judge said is, basically, why are you here? This is not an emergency. Go away. You can make your case later, when both parties can be involved. So I don't know that it's shutting the door forever, but it's very hard to tell a lawyer he can't speak about a case.

So I think, in the end, he won't get his restraining order, especially with Rudy Giuliani, the president's lawyer, out there on the other side.

BALDWIN: Talking.

RODGERS: Talking up a storm.

BALDWIN: Talking, talking.

RODGERS: So I think they will continue to be allowed to say what they like. It's not going to damage the case. BALDWIN: OK.

Gloria, what about -- obviously, we talked through this entire show as the I.G. report came out, all 500 pages. Everyone was madly going through it.

[15:10:01]

And I know now, today, you have this new reporting on the fallout from this I.G. report and how the president's legal team thinks it helps them.

How so?

BORGER: It does. It does.

My colleague Evan Perez and I are reporting that they now believe that this inspector general report is going to become a central part of their theory of the case.

First of all, they spent some time huddled with the president yesterday. And if you listen to the president today, you can kind of hear this in what he's saying. First of all, they believe now that they can say to the special counsel, there was no obstruction.

Just look at what the inspector general said about James Comey, that he was insubordinate. Now you know he had every reason in the world to fire him, and it had nothing to do with Russia. So, therefore, they believe that they can make the case that ought to be off the table.

Secondly, they think -- and, again, this is the attorneys -- that because of the Strzok e-mails, particularly the one that said "We will get him," they believe -- and Peter Strzok was there at the outset of the Russia investigation. So they believe that it was tainted and corrupt from the very beginning, because it was run by people who had a visceral hatred for Donald Trump.

So they're going to make the argument to the special counsel that, you know, this whole investigation is tainted.

And we heard the president this morning say the same thing. He said about Strzok, it doesn't get any lower than that, and what you see is a bias against me.

So expect to hear these arguments from the president's lawyers, and Rudy Giuliani, too.

BALDWIN: How valid are both of those arguments?

RODGERS: So, the first one has a little validity, the second not at all.

BALDWIN: OK.

RODGERS: So on this notion of there was something else in the president's mind, we knew this before, because the letter that Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote about the firing of Comey had this same theme to it, he's fired because he mishandled the Clinton investigation.

So that's kind of a rehashing of that argument. And there's a little bit of credibility there. The problem is, what you're looking for with obstruction is what was in the president's mind, the reason that he fired Jim Comey. Did he fire Comey in order to undermine the investigation?

And so, if he did, then it doesn't matter whether Comey was incompetent or, you know, whatever the other terms were, insubordinate. It doesn't matter, because if he fired him...

BALDWIN: To shut down the Russia investigation, that's a different can of worms.

(CROSSTALK)

RODGERS: It's obstruction.

(CROSSTALK)

RODGERS: So it helps them a little bit. It does give them a little bit more on the -- same thing with the memo that he got or that they created at the time.

BALDWIN: Sure.

RODGERS: But not all the way.

The second thing, no way. I mean, a text message from an FBI agent, putting in words what are his own personal feelings about the presidency, is not going to get them anywhere to say that...

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Even if he worked for a hot minute on the Mueller investigation?

RODGERS: You know, FBI agents, like the rest of us, are allowed to have personal views.

What's ironic to me is, think back to what the GOP were saying when Trump was the candidate. There were so many people saying, he's the worst thing ever, he cannot be the president, we must stop this. And all of a sudden, he's the president and everyone says OK.

BALDWIN: It wasn't emblematic of the entire populace of the people who voted. Therefore, this wasn't emblematic of the entire agency.

RODGERS: Right.

So, people are entitled to have their views. He did. Doesn't mean it's tainted.

BALDWIN: I got you. I got it. Jennifer, thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: And, Brooke, don't forget.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

BORGER: Don't forget that the president himself in that interview with Lester Holt, when he was talking...

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Said the Russia thing.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: ... said that Russia thing. So that's going to be a very important interview as this case progresses.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes.

Gloria Borger, thank you. Jennifer Rodgers, thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Next: President Trump claims Democrats are to blame for his administration's policy of separating families, parents and their kids at the border. We will go live to Texas to fact-check that, and to show you what life is like for these children, these boys and these young men being held at these immigration detention centers.

Also, the president now says he was being sarcastic when he said he would love for Americans to sit at attention for him like North Koreans do for Kim Jong-un. We will discuss what is on the agenda when he calls North Korean officials this weekend.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:18:13]

BALDWIN: So, this morning was pretty extraordinary.

You had the president of the United States walk out of the White House and straight over to the media. Who did he choose to stop and talk to? His favorite TV channel, of course, FOX News.

And talk, he did, for 49 minutes in total, on a wide range of topics, from his recent trip to Singapore, to former Cabinet members, to how many TVs are on Air Force One.

And standing there on the White House North Lawn, a lawn that, keep in mind, you and I pay for in taxes, he lied. He lied again and again. And, today, we're going to call him out.

So, let's go through it, first on North Korea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Hey, he's the head of a country. And, I mean, he is the strong head. Don't let anyone think anything different. He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Two things. One, the whole Kim's people sit up at attention, they do that because they fear imprisonment and possibly murder.

Kim ordered 340 people to be executed in his first five years, about 140 of whom were government officials. And that's all according to this 2016 report from the Institute for National Security Strategy.

On the "my people" note, let's keep in mind, Mr. President, Americans have the right to freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

When later challenged on those comments, the president, though, said he was joking.

Next: the inspector general report. Remember, this was 18 months in the making. This whole thing was this detailed look at how the FBI handled or mishandled that Clinton e-mail investigation.

Here's the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think that the report yesterday, maybe more importantly than anything, it totally exonerates me. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. And if you read the report, you will see that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[15:20:02]

BALDWIN: No part of the 500-page report addresses Trump's guilt or innocence in the Russia investigation.

Next to his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I feel badly for General Flynn. He's lost his house. He's lost his life. And some people say he lied, and some people say he didn't lie. I mean, really, it turned out maybe he didn't lie.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Flynn pleaded guilty of lying to the FBI. And President Trump said so himself in a tweet from the president.

"I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI."

And, lastly, on immigration and this administration's policy separating children from parents at the border, here was the president this morning:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The children -- the children can be taken care of quickly, beautifully and immediately. The Democrats forced that law upon our nation. I hate it. I hate to see separation of parents and children.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: On the "that law," fact: There is no federal law on the books requiring family separation.

FactCheck.org states this: "Instead, it is the administration's decision to criminally prosecute all immigrants who cross the border illegally that will cause children to be separated from their parents."

And CNN is on the ground near that border. And Ed Lavandera is there in Mission, Texas.

And, Ed, I know, moments ago, the Department of Homeland Security confirmed that there are now 2,000 children who have been separated from their parents over this entire six-week period. You have been talking to some of them. Tell me some of their stories.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, yes, this was -- actually, this is important to note here that this is the first time we have been able to get numbers as to where the numbers...

BALDWIN: A number.

LAVANDERA: ... as to where the numbers stand on this process, and this nearly 2,000 children separated from their family from April 19 to May 31.

So this doesn't even take into account the numbers that have been added to that in the last two weeks. It will take some time to update that. But that's where we stand.

And as -- it's very difficult to speak directly with a lot of these people, because they have been or remain in custody, either through ICE detention or throughout the immigration system. It's kind of a convoluted process here.

But -- so a lot of these people, we haven't heard directly from. And we have heard a lot of stories from people who are dealing with them, immigration lawyers, activists who have been able to get inside some of these detention centers and chronicle some of their stories.

And, you know, they kind of speak to that heartache of being separated. But what is also clear to point out here is, despite the federal government's insistence that they prosecute 100 percent of the people crossing the border illegally -- and we should point out that this is a federal misdemeanor crime for a first offense -- that not everybody is falling under this category.

In fact, DHS officials won't say exactly why some are prosecuted and some aren't prosecuted. But here in the -- in South Texas, along the border, we have come across in shelters that help treat migrants and allow them to clean up and that sort of thing, we have met more than a dozen different families over the course of the last couple days who say they were never taken into federal court, their children were never separated.

So, a real unclear picture as to why some are prosecuted and some are not, Brooke.

BALDWIN: What about -- you were telling me the other day on TV the story of the woman -- there were these reports that there was a woman who was sitting there breast-feeding her children, and these officials came up and tried to literally, you know, take this child from her arms.

And, obviously, that's gone all around, and now the Department of Homeland Security is pushing back on that, saying that is false. Is it false?

LAVANDERA: Well, we have gone back to -- there was -- this is coming from an attorney who interviewed a woman here in South Texas earlier this being week who said that her young child was taken from her as she was breast-feeding in a detention center before being brought over to the federal courthouse in McAllen, Texas.

And this attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project was the one that interviewed her and then relayed that story to us. The Department of Homeland Security really pushing back strongly on a conference call with reporters just a short while ago. They insist that this never happened, that they have tried to track down more details on that story, and insist that they haven't come across any kind of evidence that that has happened.

We've gone back to the attorney who shared that story with us. And I was told just a little while ago that she would release another statement and get back to me on that. But when we spoke with her yesterday, they were standing by that story and the details of that particular immigrant's story about what happened to her in the detention center.

[15:25:04]

BALDWIN: Ed Lavandera, thank you for being there in Texas. Keep going. Appreciate it.

Coming up next: President Trump says the North Korean nuclear threat is "largely solved" -- quote, unquote -- but he will be on the phone with officials there over the weekend. Let's talk about what's next after this whole Singapore summit.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BALDWIN: We are back here. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Just into us, one of -- the Office of Government Ethics is calling on the EPA inspector general to investigate ethics allegations against Scott Pruitt.

In a letter expected to be sent today, the watchdog specifically mentions claims this week that Pruitt used aides to set up meetings with companies in an effort are to get his wife a job.