Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Threatens to Remove Security Clearances from Ex-Intel Chiefs; McConnell Has Little Room for GOP Defections on Kavanaugh; Manafort Trial Delayed & 5 Witnesses Granted Immunity; FBI Has 12 Tapes of Michael Cohen; Victim at Trader Joe's Standoff Killed by Police Bullet; Former Ambassador to Russia to Meet with White House on Russian Harassment. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired July 24, 2018 - 11:30   ET



[11:30:34] DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: The White House says President Trump is considering revoking the security clearances of former top intelligence officials who are criticizing the president's attacks on their Intelligence Community, the Intelligence Community that all of them worked in, and also they are criticizing the Russia investigation.

Joining me to discuss is Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, of Connecticut.

Senator, thank you for being with us.

I wanted to first play what the House speaker said about an hour ago about this whole threat being a distraction by the president. Take a listen.


REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think he is trolling people, honestly. This is something that's in the purview of the executive branch. I think some of these people have already lost their clearances. Some people keep their clearances. That's something the executive branch deals with. It's not really in our purview.


BASH: Senator, not in your purview. We know this is the prerogative of the executive branch of the president. By this, I mean having and giving security clearances. Let's just say that the president follows through on these threats, would or could Congress act to reverse it?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D), CONNECTICUT: First, Dana, there's no prerogative on the part of the president to launch a petty personal political vendetta against distinguished public servants, which is what the president is doing here. It's unworthy of the president. It would be beneath most presidents. It may be an effort to distract. But it's a very nefarious, malicious effort. Things are not going well for the president on Russia. I'm going to be sponsoring a resolution disapproving of the Putin visit that the president has planned for this fall. I'm hoping that we will have bipartisan support for such a resolution. But an effort to distract using this kind of malicious and petty personal political vendetta is really a disservice to the presidency and to our country.

BASH: Senator, I want to turn to the Supreme Court nomination that is pending before you in the Senate right now. The Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told senior Democrats, if Democrats, if you all push for the release of Kavanaugh's documents related to the Bush administration, that McConnell will delay the vote until right before the midterm elections. He controls the Senate floor schedule. Are you concerned that your efforts will backfire?

BLUMENTHAL: Really good question. I am concerned that the Republican leadership will use the Kavanaugh nomination in a very cynically manipulative way for political purposes. The ruse of delaying it because we are doing our constitutional responsibility, asking for all the documents, is transparently political. It is a cynical manipulation of the process. We need and deserve all of those documents, including from the Bush administration. and also including documents where he is copied, not just where he is a sender or receiver. Because we have seen from other judicial nominations, even Supreme Court justices, that those C.C. documents can be highly relevant. I hope that the Republican leadership will rise to this occasion.

BASH: What if they don't? What can you do about it?

BLUMENTHAL: We will use every tool that we have available. Certainly, speaking for myself, I have no intention of surrendering our constitutional prerogative and duty to demand all of the relevant evidence about Kavanaugh.

BASH: Senator Blumenthal, thank you so much for joining me. Appreciate it.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

[11:34:31] BASH: Coming up, more Michael Cohen on tape. Prosecutors have at least 12 recordings of President Trump's former personal lawyer. How does that change his legal case? That's next.


BASH: The judge in the trial of former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is meeting with potential jurors this morning. And 12 jurors and 4 alternates will be chosen to decide the first trial in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. In a pre-trial hearing yesterday, the judge granted Manafort's request to push the start date back from tomorrow until July 31st. The judge also granted immunity to five witnesses.

Joining me now to discuss is CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Shan Wu, who, for a time, represented long-time Manafort aide and confidante, Rick Gates.

Thank you for joining me.


BASH: Let's start with the notion of these five witnesses being granted immunity. What's the significance of that that?

[11:40:03] WU: It shows how much the special counsel is putting into this case. Five is a lot of people to grant immunity to. They really want to make sure that they come out with a win on this first one. There are pros and cons to granting that much immunity. Sometimes it doesn't look good to the jury. They make take the viewpoint of they will say anything the prosecutors want because they have nothing to lose.

BASH: They had a lot to lose if they didn't agree to immunity?

WU: Right. Right. Presumably, that's why the lawyers asked for it.

BASH: Exactly.

You tweeted that the fact that the judge decided to and agreed to delay the trial until the end of the month is rare. Explain.

WU: Judge Ellis, who I have been before, is a classic rocket-docket judge in the eastern district of Virginia. They are very fast. He does not tolerate any delays. For him to grant this sort of delay pretty much on the eve of the trial indicates that he must have found some compelling reasons, such as there's a lot of new evidence. He wants to make sure that he protects his verdict. If there's a guilty plea, he doesn't want some appellate issue that they didn't have enough time to prepare.

BASH: One thing I really want to ask you about is, and I'm reading about this and reporting it out, that the prosecutors going into the Manafort trial explicitly said they don't intend to submit evidence relating to Russia, the Russia investigation. Based on what you know about this trial, that does not mean that there won't be a direct connection throughout the trial to President Trump. Correct?

WU: I think that's correct. They have to be limited to what the indictment says and relevance would stop them as well as Manafort's attorneys would stop them from talking about collusion issues. Certainly, the president's name is going to come up. Probably, Manafort's relationship --


BASH: You think anything that could be embarrassing or detrimental, either legally or politically?

WU: Possibly. I think they will be careful to stay focused on the direct charges against Manafort. One thing that was interesting was that I believe the Manafort team yesterday sought to have a motion excluding any mention of Manafort's actual job title with the administration.

BASH: Is that going to be successful?

WU: I don't think so. I don't think so.

BASH: I would bet not.

Real quick, we learned yesterday that federal prosecutors in New York, in the Michael Cohen case, received 12 audio recordings from the FBI raid of Cohen's home and office. The parties have withdrawn their privilege on this case. What does that tell you?

WU: I think that's a very strategic move on Giuliani and that side's part. If they litigated the privilege issue, they run the risk that the judge might determine that there's a crime fraud exception to it. Much more of a public debate about what's in the tapes. By doing it this way, they have a better chance of controlling the release.

BASH: They say they're doing it -- Giuliani and company are saying they're doing it because they have nothing to hide. Do you think that's spin or true?

WU: I think that's strategic spin. They don't have to reveal -- I think Lanny Davis has been on them about that and is getting a bit of the better part that was argument saying, go ahead and release everything.

BASH: Thank you so much for joining me --

WU: Thank you.

BASH: -- and giving your legal expertise. Appreciate it.

Coming up, will President Trump put American critics of the Kremlin in the hands of Vladimir Putin? We will discuss with the former House staffer on Putin's wish list. That's next.


[11:46:26] BASH: More than 40 million Americans do not have enough food to eat. At the same time, nearly half of the food supply in the U.S. is wasted every year. It's a paradox that our "CNN Hero" saw at a young age and decided to fix. Meet Maria Rose Belding.


MARIA ROSE BELDING, CNN HERO: There was a food pantry in my church that I grew up working with. Would you have too much of one thing and would be in need of a different thing. Some of it would expire. I ended throwing a lot of it away. When I was 14, I realized, that doesn't make sense. The Internet was in front of us. That's such an obvious thing to fix. This is not unclaimed. It has turned green. You would think the novelty would wear off. It doesn't.


BASH: To see Maria Rose's brilliant fix in action, go to -- excuse me, White there, you can nominate someone you think should be a "CNN Hero."


[11:49:50] BASH: Breaking news. Los Angeles police say the woman who died during a shootout and stand-off at Trader Joe's on Saturday was killed by an officer's bullet. Melanie Karado (ph) was an assistant manager at the Trader Joe's in the Silver Lake District. Officers were chasing the suspect who ran into the store firing at police. Los Angeles authorities just released officers' dramatic dash cam videos from the incident.








BASH: CNN's Paul Vercammen joins me on the phone with the latest -- Paul?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): They're expecting the suspect, Atkins, to appear here later in superior court for an arrangement. They've ramped up the charges against him, some 30 charges, including murder, six charges of attempted murder.

Earlier, the police chief, Michael Moore, the new police chief, came out. He seemed emotional during this press conference. He said the officers who fired are devastated. He said he wanted to offer his deepest condolences and sympathy to Melanie Karado (ph), the victim who died, to victim's family. Let's listen to the chief.


MICHAEL MOORE, CHIEF, LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT: I'm sorry to report that we've now determined through our forensic investigation that one of the officer's rounds struck Ms. Karado (ph) as she was exiting the market and was in close proximity to Atkins. Ms. Karado (ph) ran back into the store and collapsed behind the manager's desk. She was later carried out by others within the store. Officers moved up, and she was moved to a point of safety and treated by the Los Angeles Fire Department. Tragically, Ms. Karado (ph) died as a result of the gunshot wound she sustained.


VERCAMMEN: And repeatedly through that news conference, the chief saying how sorry he was. But he added that Gene Atkins' violent behavior, quote, "precipitated this." He talked about how this started in south Los Angeles when Atkins allegedly shot his grandmother seven times and an acquaintance. Some say it was his girlfriend. Shot her once, a wound that grazed her head. For now, he said the officers had to defend themselves, the city of Los Angeles and others. But there still will be further investigation into all of this.

Back to you now.

BASH: How tragic.

Paul, thank you so much for that report.

And we'll be right back.


[11:55:32] BASH: A former U.S. ambassador to Russia is headed to the White House today. He's looking for help on harassment he and others have been subjected to by Moscow. Michael McFaul is one of several former U.S. officials wanted by Russia for questioning. He tweeted, quote, "I am coming to D.C. today to try to meet with several U.S. government officials to urge them to communicate with their Russian counterparts about the negative consequences of further harassing former U.S. officials like me."

McFaul hasn't responded to CNN's request for comment.

Joining me now to discuss is Kyle Parker, chief of staff at the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. That's the U.S. government agency that promotes human rights, military security, and economic cooperation in 57 countries. Parker is also on Putin's list.

I want to get to that in a minute. But first, I want to talk about a tweet that the president just sent out. We'll put it up on the screen. I want to get you to react. The president tweeted, "I am very concerned that Russians will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming election." -- meaning the midterms in November. "Based on the fact that no president has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for Democrats. They definitely don't want Trump."

Your thoughts?

KYLE PARKER, CHIEF OF STAFF, U.S. COMMISSION ON SECURITY AND COOPERATION IN EUROPE: Well, the Russians seek to sow chaos. I certainly don't necessarily think the president is wrong. Who knows who they might support in this. You know, their goal isn't a strong U.S. administration.

BASH: It's pretty remarkable that I have to say this, but the fact that he is saying that the Russians are going to try to have an impact on the upcoming election is something that was actually in question. Not that they were trying to have an impact, but the president recognized that last week and now he's acknowledging it. Does that tell you anything?

PARKER: You know, I don't know what it tells me. I have the honor of serving both sides of the political spectrum.


PARKER: So I really don't think it's my place to really grade the president.

BASH: Fair point. Fair point.

Well, let's get to the main reason why you're here. That is you were on the list of Americans that Russians say they want to talk to. Just by way of context, you were, for a long time, a top Hill staffer and, more importantly, you pretty much wrote the Magnitsky Act. The background of that, for those who are not familiar, it was and still is some really tough sanctions and penalties on Russia in response to the fact that Russia killed a man by the name of Sergei Magnitsky who exposed really pretty big fraud in Russia.

Now, you speak fluent Russian. I think we can put up on the screen the list that the Russians gave. Your name is one of them. If you can see below -- oh, sorry. That was your tweet saying, "Look, mom, I'm on the list." So you are kind of trying to make light of it. There you go. There's your name in Russian. On that list, it had to have sent a chill up your spine.

PARKER: You know, you have to take it seriously when someone like Vladimir Putin is -- you know, names you personally and is out to get you. That's for sure. Twitter is for this sort of thing, I guess. But that was my first reaction when I saw it in the Russian press.

BASH: Ambassador McFaul is going to the White House today to talk about Americans, including himself, being harassed. Are you being harassed by Moscow? This is about one of the biggest pieces of agenda items for Vladimir Putin, to get rid of this act that you wrote.

PARKER: Right, right. Yes, I mean, that's why I assume I'm on the list. You know, this is -- I wrote the Magnitsky Act for Senators Carden and Wicker and other members of Congress. In a sense, this is an attack on them, too.

BASH: How are you being harassed?

PARKER: You know, I have received threats emanating from Russia in previous years, I think in 2014 when we first imposed some pretty punishing sanctions on Russian officials.

BASH: Ten seconds. What do you hope Ambassador McFaul gets from the White House today?

PARKER: Well, it would be nice to see an unambiguous pushback from the very top, something like the president's tweet recently to the president of Iran, to president Putin, mentioning in no uncertain terms.

BASH: Maybe an all-caps tweet. That would be nice.

Thank you for joining me. PARKER: Thanks.

BASH: Thank you so much for watching.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.