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Giuliani: Our Expert Thinks Cohen's Trump Tape Is "Doctored"; Giuliani: I'm Not Sure What The Mueller Conflict Is; Fire Claims The Lives Of A Woman, Her Two Great-Grandchildren; Republicans Reject Trump's Calls For Government Shutdown. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired July 30, 2018 - 11:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Over the weekend, the president tweeted the tweets. This morning his attorney talked the talk. I guess, that means someone should be walking the walk. Let's stick with just the talking.

Let's do it. Rudy Giuliani on CNN this morning, doubling down on the president's weekend attacks of his former attorney, Michael Cohen, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The president claiming Mueller has conflicts of interest that should preclude him from running the investigation. Yes, we're more than a year into this and now they are talking about conflicts. What are those conflicts? Listen.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: He is referring to a dispute which I imagine Mueller -- I imagine he disclosed it to Rosenstein when he appointed him. It would involve something that actually wasn't settled even to this day.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: What's the conflict?

GIULIANI: I can't tell you. I'm not sure I know exactly what the conflict. I have a good idea what it is. It's one that would have kept me out the investigation.


BOLDUAN: All cleared up? Add to that this. Giuliani now says that he is not sure that collusion with Russia -- that collusion with Russia, if it happened, is a crime anyway. Is this the definition now of moving the goalposts? Regardless of goalpost moving, why then is the president spent so much time and at every turn will say that no collusion happened with Russia if it's now not a big deal and not a problem?

Again, all cleared up? As far as Michael Cohen goes, the president's attorney says Cohen doctored the tapes of his conversations with the president, says their experts agree. Now what?

CNN's Abby Phillip is at the White House for us. Abby, I would not fault anyone if their head was spinning today with all of this and all the tweets over the weekend. So, where do we land on this Monday morning?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Kate. So much going on in that interview with Rudy Giuliani, but one thing is very clear. The president and his allies are attacking Michael Cohen, no-holds-barred this morning from the president's personal lawyer, who just a few weeks ago, a few months ago called Michael Cohen and honorable man. Now is calling him a liar and scoundrel. Listen to what Giuliani had to say.


GIULIANI: He was shaking people down for money. He was lying about things. He was manipulating or doctoring tapes. What Cohen has done to himself and what Lanny Davis has done is ruin his credibility before he shows up at the prosecutor's door. Do you think anyone in the Southern District of New York will put Cohen on the witness stand ever?


PHILLIP: So, the key here is not what Cohen is claiming, that the president knew in advance about that infamous Trump Tower meeting, not that the president perhaps talked to Cohen as we heard on that audiotape about the payment to an alleged mistress, it's not about any of that.

It's about Cohen's credibility as a potential witness in this case. President Trump got in on this over the weekend tweeting or in some cases sub-tweeting Michael Cohen by retweeting an old tweet of Michael Cohen in which he had praised Donald Trump Jr.'s explanation for the Trump Tower meeting and asks, will the fake news media ever report on this?

We did report on it at the time. It goes to show, so much has changed in the president's relationship with Michael Cohen and vice versa. They are really at odds with each other. Not in any way going to reconcile with each other, it seems, based on what we're seeing right now -- Kate.

CABRERA: But wait until tomorrow or maybe just within this hour. Great to see you, Abby. Thank you so much.

Joining me right now, CNN legal and national security analyst, former FBI special agent, Asha Rangappa, CNN senior political reporter, Nia Malika Henderson, and CNN senior political analyst, Mark Preston.

Mark, can you try this one for size for me today on this Monday? You have a conflict that renders you incapable of doing your job. I'm not going to spell out what it is and it's up to you to explain yourself, what your conflict is and why it renders you incapable of doing your job. What is this?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: What world are we living in? Are we living in Bizarro world, which I think we are or in the current state of play right now, Kate? Listen, you know what's happening? It's so confusing. There's so many facts out there. There's so much misinformation.

What we are seeing I believe seems from the Trump campaign, from the Trump lawyers, from Rudy Giuliani is what they are trying do is they are trying to do misdirect, create chaos. By creating chaos around the facts and around the fact and around information. They are sowing seeds of doubt regarding the investigation.

This is very, very dangerous, creating all this white noise is basically lying. It is impeding an investigation even if it's not legally impeding an investigation. I do believe regardless of what happens in this investigation, whether people go to jail, or people don't go to jail, I believe the historians will look back on this and not look kindly upon those who acted the way they're acting now.

BOLDUAN: We're all not being cute about this. It is not known what conflict of interest we're talking about here.


[11:05:08] BOLDUAN: There is a suggestion that it could have to do with golf course fees that Mueller -- there's some dispute over it. Maybe that's it. Maybe it's not. Regardless, I do know Rod Rosenstein at the Justice Department did say just last month that when it comes to Mueller, I'm not aware of any disqualifying conflict of interest in testimony to Congress.

But Asha, then there's the question of collusion. Let me play for you, please, what the president's attorney says about that.


GIULIANI: They're not going to be colluding about Russians, which I'm not sure that's a crime. You start analyzing the crime, the hacking is the crime.


BOLDUAN: Asha, is this moving the goalpost? Is this a difference between a legal question and a political one?

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think it's both, Kate. He is now starting to get into the realm of, you know, collusion. It might have happened. Nobody can go to jail for it. Let's remember that there are forms of collusion that are criminal.

Conspiracy, aiding and abetting, if anyone helped the Russians with the hacking or the social media front, aided and abetted them in that effort, they would be liable criminally. But I think that Mark made a great point, which is there may be forms of collusion that aren't necessarily criminal.

Cavorting with Russian agents, encouraging them on national television to attack and hack the United States. I don't know that those things could be prosecuted on their own. I can tell you that somebody -- people who do that would never in the real world get a security clearance and have access to all of the nation's secrets and be entrusted with stewarding the country. So, focusing only on the criminal aspect, I think also misses the forest for the trees.

BOLDUAN: I also -- I guess, Nia, what should anyone take from this comment from Giuliani? We all at least can try to remember, since it's been a winding road, where this began which is everyone saying there's no collusion, there's no collusion, there's no collusion. Then very memorably Kellyanne Conway coming along visual aids to a Fox News interview to make this point where collusion was extremely important. Just watch this to remember.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: In case you run out of time, this is how I see it so far. This to help all the people at home. What's the conclusion? Collusion, no. We don't have that yet. I see illusion and delusion.


NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: I mean, who knows, right? I think mark is right, there is this, I think, goal of the Trump team to really confuse everything. There seems to be preparing supporters to say, well, listen, even if collusion has come up, then what's wrong with that?

What's wrong if Donald Trump knew about that meeting? What's wrong if Donald Trump Jr. was willing to get information from the Russians to help out his father's campaign? You even heard folks say that.

They seem to be preparing the groundwork for something at this point, but also who really knows at this point? You have Giuliani in a real spin mode at this point and really worried about what Cohen knows, what Cohen has released.

He has in a defensive and offensive crouch in a way we hadn't seen him before when he had all of the territory out there, all of the oxygen and Cohen wasn't really speaking. This is, who knows where this will go?

It's a long and winding road. They're throwing out a lot of distractions. Ultimately, Mueller at some point will release a report, maybe in September, maybe a little later. Who knows? At this point, we're just having to see Giuliani spin and Donald Trump really trying to keep a hold on his supporters.

BOLDUAN: At the same time, it seems folks are worried but not worried -- that's within the same conversation is what you hear from the president's team. Mark, on my Michael Cohen, Giuliani started first suggesting that the tapes could have been doctored, over the weekend, could have been doctored. So, should be discredited. He thinks the verdict is in on it. Listen to his interview.


GIULIANI: By the way, he didn't put out the first part of that tape. I had to go find the first part of the tape. He cut off the last part of the tape with Trump, which our expert says is doctored. I think it's unlikely he turned it off during the conversation, so does the expert. Think about it. If I were scrumptiously recording your conversation and Trump didn't know it, I would have to put it off at the right time, unlikely.

[11:10:09] More likely is, he came back home, he erased the portion that he wanted erased and then he tried to tape record a conversation it appears with Don Jr. Then he erased that.


BOLDUAN: Is this now just -- how far down the rabbit hole are we on this now?

PRESTON: Did anybody have any trouble following that? For a little while I was like, where is he going? He pulled it back together. We are so far down the rabbit hole right now. I agree, we all agree that they should have audiologists, folks who can come out there, audio experts that can tell us what the tape is.

I don't need to hear it from Donald Trump's expert. I don't need to hear it from Michael Cohen's expert. I need to hear it from the FBI. That's the person who will make the decision. When we look at this whole investigation right now, you talk about moving the goalposts, Kate. There's an argument to say that we're in an entirely different field right now than we were six months ago.

BOLDUAN: And Asha, but with this tape, what is SDNY doing with this? Are they looking themselves to see if it's doctored? What role in general do you think the tapes play in a case against Michael Cohen?

PRESTON: Well, I think they are.

RANGAPPA: The content.

PRESTON: I'm sorry.

RANGAPPA: If the content of that tape is relevant to their investigation and any potential charges, they might file, then they are going to do a forensic examination. They will authenticate the voices. They are going to see whether it was doctored. That tape -- I don't know how much weight it has towards anything they are trying to get to. It may not even be something that they want or need at this point.

BOLDUAN: We will wait and see. Until tomorrow, friends. Thanks, guys. I really appreciate it.

All right. Coming up for us, the president threatens a government shutdown over funding for the border wall. Top Republicans in Congress are not on the same page with this. Where is this headed? More details on that coming up.

Plus, a heartbreaking tragedy in California where growing wildfires have killed at least six people and one man is speaking out after losing his wife and two great-grandchildren to these flames. That's next. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Emily said, I love you grandpa. Grandma says, I love you. Junior says, I love you. Come and get us. Come and get us. I said, I'm on my way. I said, keep him talking until he died. I tried to call him back. It went to nothing.




BOLDUAN: Grandpa, come and get me. That's a heart wrenching words of a little boy pleading with his great grandfather on the phone just as the California wildfires overtook their home. That little boy, his sister, and their great-grandmother are among the confirmed deaths now from the Carr fire in Northern California.

That fire is getting bigger. Just getting bigger and is showing very little signs of letting up. Nearly 100,000 acres have been burned. Almost 900 structures destroyed. The police chief in Redding, California telling reporters this over the weekend.


CHIEF ROGER MOORE, REDDING CALIFORNIA POLICE: This fire is scary to us. This is something we haven't seen before in the city.


BOLDUAN: Let's get there. CNN's Dan Simon is standing by. Dan, you spoke with that poor man who lost his wife and grad great grandkids to this fire. His story is just heartbreaking.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's one of the most difficult interviews I have ever conducted, Kate. This is a man who is broken after losing the most important people in his life. I should tell you that ed along with his wife, Melanie, they were raising their great- grandchildren, 5-year-old James, who they called Junior and 4-year-old Emily.

On Thursday night around 7:00, Ed Bledsoe left his house, just wanted to go into town and run a quick errand. At about 15 minutes later, he got a frantic phone call that the flames were encroaching his house. Now, inside, trapped, were his wife and his two great-grandchildren. I will let Ed pick up the story from here.


ED BLEDSCO, LOST FAMILY IN CALIFORNIA FIRES: I talked to Junior on the phone until he died. He kept say, grandpa -- he said, come get me. He said, come and get me. The fire is coming in the back door. Come on, grandpa. I said, I'm right down the road. He said, come and get us. Emily said, I love you grandpa. Grandma said, I love you grandpa. Junior says, I love you, come and get us. I said, I'm on my way. I said -- he talked until he died. I tried to call him back and it went to nothing. Poor babies and my wife. What did I do wrong with life? Wonderful people. My wife was the greatest woman in the world. My grandkids was excellent.


SIMON: Well, as you could imagine, he is feeling a tremendous sense of guilt over what happened. I should point out that he says that he never received any word that he should evacuate. That just goes to show you how fast this fire really took over some of these communities.

Let me point out where I am right now, Kate. This is the Redding Estates subdivision. Much of the neighborhood looks like this. So much devastation in the community. You are talking about nearly 900 structures that have gone up in flames, more than 700 of them are homes -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: It looks like a bomb went off behind you. That story -- Dan, thank you so much for bringing that to us. My heart breaks for that poor man.

[11:20:10] So, let's talk about what others are dealing with right now with this fire, like that poor man, where the fire is headed and what folks are doing about it. CNN meteorologist, Chad Myers is in the weather center with more.

Chad, that is tough to handle, what that poor man is going through. A lot of families are facing this very same thing, which is, it's moving fast, it's big. Give us perspective how big this fire is at this point.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, we talk about acres and no one can put their mind on what that means. We are talking 154 square miles. Ten miles long, 15 miles wide right there through the western side of Redding. It's the wild land urban interface on the west side that did catch fire.

It's always the most dangerous. You put really nice houses into the prettiest places because there's trees. When those trees catch on fire, you are right in the middle of it. To put it in perspective, seven times the size of the island of Manhattan. Half the size of all the boroughs put together.

A lot of smoke out there as well right now, choking smoke, unhealthy for some people to breathe. Advisories have been posted by California here. The temperatures will be in the triple digits again. That's not unusual. The normal high in Redding is 100. It will be 104, 105.

Gusty winds because the air is rising so fast, because the ground is so hot, because that fire -- the fire makes a low-pressure center where it is. The air rises and other air has to rush in. That's how it turns into the blast furnace.

So, no relief in sight. The next chance of rain is statistically happening on Tuesday of next week, because of this big ridge of high pressure. No help from mother nature at all.

BOLDUAN: That's a punch in the gut for everyone out there battling those flames. I really appreciate it, Chad. We will watch this very closely. California deals with wildfires but this one is brutal.

Coming up, will there be another government shutdown? Is the country phasing a government shutdown now over the border wall? President Trump seems to say he would be OK with that. Top Republicans though not so much. That's next.



BOLDUAN: If there's one phrase to describe Congress right now, a well-oiled machine is likely not at the top of your list. The next looming fight is not likely to help. Another possible government shutdown. One right before the midterm elections. President Trump is making the threat tweeting this just yesterday.

"I would be willing to shut down government if Democrats do not give us the votes for the border -- for border security, which includes the wall." But top Republicans in Congress seem to have a very different take. Listen.


REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R-WI), HOUSE SPEAKER: As far as the wall is concerned, we have gotten some wall funding already under way. The president's willing to be patient to make sure that we get what we need so that we can get that done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you are not worried about a government shutdown?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, that's not going to happen.

SENATOR RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: I don't like playing shutdown politics.

REPRESENTATIVE STEVE STIVERS (R), OHIO: We're going to make sure we keep the government open, but we're going to get better policies on immigration.


BOLDUAN: All of them saying we hope that's what's going to happen. David Chalian, CNN political director is here. David, how real is this? Another government shutdown.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: So, at the end of the day, I don't think this would actually be a goal anyone wants to achieve. The president clearly not Republicans on the Hill as you are suggesting. I think it's a little less important about how real it is than what is real is just the threat of it is going to impact the dynamics, Kate. Now Speaker Ryan and Mitch McConnell, who may have thought they had the president in a really good place and understood this would not benefit the party politically, now have to deal with wrangling the votes in the shadow of a shutdown showdown threat because the president sees some leverage in just to get money or distract from other woes. You know this president and have observed him. Any time he thinks he has leverage, he is not likely to give that up easily.

BOLDUAN: Is this fight -- is this a fight the president really wants? It's very clear that no majority in Congress wants a government shutdown. It ends up landing on them. That's how it goes.

CHALIAN: I can't imagine there's a political adviser anywhere that says to President Trump, you know what would be a good idea heading into these midterms, let's actually shut down the government.

BOLDUAN: That's a great idea.

CHALIAN: I don't think that is an actual strategy, which is why I don't think the president seriously wants that outcome here. I do think there are a lot of people in the president's orbit and the president believe the greatest danger to the Republican majority is complacency among the core base supporters in the party. I do think the president sees some value in having an all-out fight over wall funding as a way to generate enthusiasm in the base.

BOLDUAN: The reality right now is that the House is out for the next five weeks. When we talk about actual action here, wait and see. Talk to me about the state of play where CNN is forecasting key House races right now. I've been finding this new workup fascinating, David.