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Report: 12 Killed And 66 Shot Across Chicago On the Weekend; How Accounts of The Trump Tower Infamous Meeting Have Evolved; Trump Urged to Stop Tweeting About Tower Meeting; Trump Admits Trump Tower Meeting Was About Getting Dirt on Clinton; Bookkeeper Says in Trial That Paul Manafort Was Broke in 2016; Growing Trend of White House Officials Breaking with Trump Publicly. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired August 6, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Two times this summer we have seen people protesting against violence. More needs to happen. After this weekend, wolf, it's tough to see the numbers that we have seen, especially with all the young people involved.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Like a war zone in parts of Chicago right now. I covered wars. It is an awful situation. Ryan young thank you for the report. I will be back at 5:00 p.m. eastern in the situation room for our international viewers. Amanpour is next for our viewers. In north America, "NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Wolf, thank you so much. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You are watching CNN. Up first, despite narrative after narrative, story after story, lie after lie, turns out it was about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton after all. President Trump now admits the real purpose of that infamous Tower meeting was to get the goods on his political rival. No surprise, the president's admission came via Twitter.
Let me read this for you. "This was a meeting to get information on an opponent. Totally legal. And done all the time in politics. And it went nowhere. I did not know about it."
The problem -- the fact that this is just the latest in a series of conflicting and contradictory explanations about the meeting. The question is, what does this mean in terms of the investigation of possible collusions with the Russians. Let's start with CNN's senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny. What is behind the president's sudden admission, Jeff?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Brooke. I mean this working vacation is suddenly becoming more of a venting session for the president. What is behind it obviously is a sense of anticipation, perhaps I think a estate, perhaps worry over what the Mueller investigation is actually doing. Now we do know the president of course has said before that the purpose of that meeting back in June, 2016, in Trump Tower was to get some opposition on the Clinton campaign. But president never said it so explicitly as he did in the tweet yesterday. The context and timing Brooke is important. The president knows so much more now about the Mueller investigation, knows so much more now at what he is looking at for obstruction of justice or conspiracy. It's coming in the second week of the Paul Manafort trial.
He also has worries about his potential legal exposure for his son who was leading that meeting. All of that taken together led the president to tweet yesterday. Brooke, it is a pretty quiet week here. The president is supposed to be on this working vacation. But we do know he is talking to his lawyers. He is talking to his other advisors. And this clearly is one of the things that's on his mind. Because he is the one who keeps bringing this up again and again, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Jeff, thank you.
The shifting stories about the Trump Tower meeting can I know be tough to follow. Let's review the changing narrative about the infamous sit-down at Trump Tower. First, the initial line was that there was no meeting. Remember, it took place in June of 2016. Not a peep about it. Nothing. Then look at this from Don Jr. Nine months after it happened. Quote, did I meet with people that were Russian? I'm sure. I'm sure I did. But none that were set up and certainly none that I was representing the campaign in any way, shape, or form. That was June. July of last year the "New York Times" broke the story -- and the story became, OK, yes, there was a meeting, but it was on Russian adoptions or more accurately sanctions.
Very soon after, the Trump team was then forced to fess up that the meeting was actually to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. Then the public was told yes there was a meeting but no dirt on Clinton actually came from it. Don Jr. reportedly said this about the Russian lawyer with the supposed Clinton dirt, quote, her statements were vague, ambiguous, and made no sense. All right. So then last week the president and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, added this new twist. Not only was there no collusion. But that collusion is not a crime. And that is where we are right now. Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said he was early in the job.
[14:05:00] Got some bad information. Sekulow said that is the reason he denied the president was involved in the misleading statement about the Trump Tower meeting. This is what told CNN about the meeting in the statement in July of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY SEKULOW, TRUMP ATTORNEY: Let's focus on what the president was aware of. Nothing. He was not aware of the meeting. Did not attend the meeting. And was only informed about the e-mails very recently by his counsel.
By the way, I wasn't involved in the statement drafting at all. Nor was the president. I am assuming that was between Mr. Donald Trump Jr. -- between Don Jr. and his lawyer. I'm sure his lawyer was involved. That's how you do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: That was then. This is now. Let's bring in former federal prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg and CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash. Dana, just first to you, 30,000-foot view, the fact that the president is just even tweeting about this Trump Tower meeting which is the center of this investigation, you have new reporting that he is being told to quit it.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. You heard Jeff Zeleny report a couple of minutes ago that you know, this is pretty clear that the Trump Tower meeting is on the president's mind. That's obvious. But it's not the first time that the president has been tweeting bits of information in and around the Russia investigation because they are on his mind. But this does appear to be different in terms of how people in and around the president are viewing the tweet on Sunday about the Trump Tower meeting. I am told that he, the president, is being urged to stop, to stop tweeting about it because it gives the whole discussion more oxygen.
We are talking about it right now. I mean it's in part because jay Sekulow said what he said yesterday. It's really largely in part of the president's tweet. The president tweeted in response to a report on CNN and the "Washington Post" that he was concerned about his son, about his son having legal exposure. But in that tweet obviously he talked more broadly, as you were saying, about the idea of the meeting being about dirt, finding dirt on Hillary Clinton.
So, the whole idea of tweeting is always controversial in Trump world. But this particular case, there is concern, I am told, that it's giving this story way, way, way too much oxygen.
BASH: The tweets that he's been doing, Brooke, on Mueller, on the witch-hunt, on, you know, the Democrats working for Robert Mueller, which is by the way not -- it is a red herring, that is not something the people working around the president on strategy are concerned with. This crossed the line.
BALDWIN: Specifically, on the piece regarding getting dirt on a political opponent, Peter, this to you. The president saying it's politics, everyone does it but federal law makes it a crime for any person to solicit, accept a contribution or anything of value from a foreign person for a U.S. political campaign or for the purpose of influencing any election for federal office.
Was the Trump Tower meeting, Peter, against the law even though as they say they didn't actually get anything on her, the fact that that was the intent?
PETER ZEIDENBERG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I would say they are all, everyone who participated in that meeting has a great deal of legal jeopardy. And certainly, in the view of Robert Mueller, colluding, which it has been called in the press, is actually conspiracy, and Mueller has already defined that activity as being illegal. It's -- he's indicted about a dozen people for violation of 18 U.S. code, section 371, which is conspiracy against the United States. And anyone who participated in that meeting, whether they succeeded in getting information or not, is in jeopardy of being indicted for conspiracy. Conspiracy is not dependent on success. It's simply an agreement. Once that agreement is made, if it's illegal, and anyone -- any part of that conspiracy, any individual takes any steps to further it, then they can all be charged with conspiracy regardless of whether it was successful.
BALDWIN: Peter, what difference legally speaking would it make if Mueller can prove that Trump actually knew about this Trump Tower meeting beforehand?
ZEIDENBERG: Well, it puts the president obviously in jeopardy as well. You know, I don't think it's going to be all that difficult to establish that. I mean, the Trump Tower meeting was on the 9th of June, as I recall. Two days before that, he had made a speech saying that he was going to have very interesting information about Hillary Clinton.
BALDWIN: On Hillary Clinton.
ZEIDENBERG: He was going to be announcing in a short period of time, in a matter of days.
BALDWIN: Which he never followed through on, because he didn't get it.
ZEIDENBERG: He never followed through on it.
[14:10:00] ZEIDENBERG: Very strong circumstantial evidence that he was aware of that meeting before the hand and what the purpose of that meeting was.
BALDWIN: Also, just on the hypocrisy front, Dana, not only does the president tweet out essentially no bigs, we got no dirt and by the way there was nothing wrong about doing that, every politician does it, he then tweeted today Hillary Clinton and her team 100 percent colluded with the Russians. So, did Adam Schiff. Essentially, he is saying when Hillary wanted dirt it was a total crime. Let me point out the obvious, there was no investigation pointing at Hillary Clinton and her colluding with the Russians. Secondly, you cannot have it both ways. No.
BASH: You are exactly right. But that's following a logical stream there of argument, Brooke. And that's not the point that the president is trying to make here. That's not the goal, I should say, here. The goal is to just throw things out there that confuse the situation, that confuse the investigation in the public's mind. And that's it. I mean that's the goal, which is what keeps us so busy doing what you just did, doing the Yes, but, and the fact check. It's important. But for the president, when he has the echo chamber on another cable news network and in talk radio and on conservative website, that's his goal. Unfortunately, for the truth and the facts, he is successful on just stirring up mud in the waters so that you can't really see what's really in there.
BALDWIN: How about -- ZEIDENBERG: Can I just say that --
BALDWIN: Go ahead, Peter.
ZEIDENBERG: Bob Mueller is not going to be confused by that. He's not going to be distracted by it.
ZEIDENBERG: So, he is going to speak much more loudly by way of indictments. And I would suspect that individuals who participated in that Trump Tower meeting will be -- there will be charges brought related to that meeting. So, this, yes but, Hillary did it too is not going to get Mueller off the track.
BALDWIN: How about, Peter, just one more to you. One of the key witnesses at the center of that meeting and so many others was this woman, hope hicks, who was just getting on board Air Force One over the weekend which has a lot of people scratching their heads. You know, she doesn't work there anywhere. Is the president at risk of witness tampering with her here?
ZEIDENBERG: You know, I'm sure her lawyer would have preferred her not to have that contact. But my guess is that Hope Hicks has been interviewed. I know she's been interviewed on the hill. And I strongly suspect --
BASH: And by Mueller.
ZEIDENBERG: That Mueller has already interviewed her.
ZEIDENBERG: So, he may feel ultimately that her testimony is locked in.
ZEIDENBERG: It's going to be very hard at this point for her to change her view of what the events were. She testified under oath in the grand jury. She is sort of locked into her story now.
BALDWIN: All right, Dana and Peter, I appreciate both of you so very much for that.
Coming up next, breaking news in the trial of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. The prosecution' star witness, Rick Gates, is expected to flip and reveal what he knows. We will have a live report from the federal courthouse coming up next.
Also, ahead, taking sides. Is First Lady Melania Trump supporting Lebron James over her own husband? What we're learning about Melania's very interesting comments appearing to contradict the president.
And CNN goes inside the world's largest motorcycle gathering, Sturgis, South Dakota where some bikers are not shy, debating politics, and sharing their thoughts about this president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you a fan of the president? Do you think he is doing a good job?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is doing a lot better than what Obama did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[14:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BALDWIN: The trial of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort is underway in Virginia. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to 18 counts of bank and tax fraud and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts. Really, the big question is when will Rick Gates his former right-hand man take the stand? Possibly today or later this week as the prosecution's star witness? We do know, we will hear more today from the former accountant, Cynthia La Porta, who admitted last week that she helped prepare false tax returns. His testimony under immunity raises the stakes but Gates is the show stopper. He is Manafort's former deputy at the Trump campaign. He is awaiting his own sentence after pleading guilty to making false statements and conspiracy to defraud the United States. Plus, he is cooperating with prosecutors as part of a plea deal. Shimon is following this story for us from Washington. Let's start with the bookkeeper who has been testifying. Tell me about the bookkeeper and any connection to Gates.
[14:20:00] SHIMON PROKUPESZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: She is under cross-examination. The defense is questioning her. We don't have exact details yet but it's clear they are going to paint her as someone who may have been confused or uncertain. I think one of the things that the defense may try to do is ask her why she didn't report -- she is alleging all sorts of things that Manafort made her do. Why didn't she report to it anyone? The other thing, they are going to question her immunity deal, whether or not she is testifying, whether or not she is giving up this information because she herself is afraid that she is going to be prosecuted.
Those are typical defense things that attorneys would ask in these kinds of cases. The other thing is who is going to testify after her? We don't know yet. We thought maybe there would be FBI agents that would come in this afternoon and testify after her. That is not the case now we are told. But when does Rick Gates come in? We still don't know. It could be like you said, in these kinds of cases. The other thing is who is going to testify after her? We don't know yet. We thought maybe there would be FBI agents that would come in this afternoon and testify after her. That is not the case now we are told. But when does Rick Gates come in? We still don't know. It could be like you said, this afternoon. Or it could be tomorrow.
One of the things that I think is important this the Gates' testimony we are going is learn some details about his cooperation. We may even get to see documents that he signed with the special counsel's office in this cooperation agreement which will give us some perhaps maybe eyes into what he has been doing these last months with the special counsel. Obviously, he is a big witness for the prosecution, but I think even a bigger witness for the defense. Because as you know, he's been sort of portrayed as the mastermind behind this. I mean, Rick Gates is important as a key witness for the prosecution but he's not their only witness. They have all of this other evidence including this bookkeeper and other book coopers and accountants who are going to testify. But Rick Gates really is an important witness for the prosecution. But probably more important for the defense.
BALDWIN: We will be following it and talking with you all week. Thank you for the update on what is happening in Alexandria.
Coming up next here a growing trend. Members of President Trump's inner circle, including family and top officials publicly disagree with the president on a number of issues. The latest, his own wife. First Lady Melania, praising Lebron James while her husband let's just say, isn't. What's behind this? We will take a deeper look, next.
[14:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BALDWIN: Trump's rallies the crowds cheer when he refers to journalists as enemies of the people. But lately we have seen a growing trend with some in the president's inner circle who are willing to publicly disagree with the man himself. A couple days ago the first lady sided with Lebron James after her husband tweeted this, "Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn't easy to do. I like Mike. Right."
So that was the president's response. And Melania let's just say did not sing that tune. Jeremy Diamond, our White House reporter is on this. This is not the first time that his own wife has disagreed.
JEREMY DIAMOND. CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right. She has done so in the past often via her own spokeswoman. It's interesting when we talk about the Trump administration and people close to the president we are often talking about them defending everything the president says regardless whether it is true or not, regardless of whether it's right or wrong. Now we are seeing several people close to the president seeming to distance themselves to some of what he said. Let's start with Melania Trump, the first lady, who of course broke with the president on the issue of Lebron James after the president criticized him in that tweet you just showed the first lady released this statement saying. "t looks like Lebron James is working to do good things on behalf of our next generation." And she also said that she would be willing to visit Lebron James's school. We are still waiting to see if an invitation is forthcoming on that.
But she is not alone, of course. There is also the president's daughter. Ivanka Trump was recently asked if she agreed with her father's use of the term enemy of the people to refer to journalists. Here's what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IVANKA TRUMP, THE PRESIDENT'S DAUGHTER: I am very vehemently against family separation and the separation of parents and children. I have some sensitivity around why people had concerns and gripe especially when they sort of feel targeted. But no, I do not feel that the media is the enemy of the people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DIAMOND: That was the president's daughter not only disagreeing with the term enemy of the people but also on the policy of family separations at the border. But she is not alone to disagree with the president's use of the term enemy of the people within the administration. The president's chief defender oftentimes Kellyanne Conway put it this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[14:30:00] KELLYANNE CONWAY, CONSULAR TO THE PRESIDENT: I don't believe journalists are the enemy of the people. I think some journalists are enemy of the relevant and enemy of the news you can use.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DIAMOND: Kellyanne Conway there of course. The White House is always spin doctor putting a little bit of spin on there beyond just saying that fake news -- that journalists are not the enemy of the people. That is not all. Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary has stood by the president's terminology, the enemy of the people. He was pressed just last week to disavow that term. She refused to do that. That was in an interaction with Jim Acosta. But the president himself is sticking by this term enemy of the people. Yesterday he once again reiterated that and also called reporters disgusting. That was just of course the president's latest attack on the news media. Brooke.
BALDWIN: Jeremy, thank you. Let's go to the woman at CNN whose job it is to follow all things Melania Trump. She is Kate Bennett, our White House reporter. Kate, Jeremy laid out other members of the family or Trump's inner orbit who have gone against the president on x, y, or z. Again, to have his wife totally split with him over, over Lebron James. Do you know, what's the thinking behind the first lady here?
KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, I mean, I think this is a first lady who just expresses her opinion and expresses what she's feeling, whether it disagrees or agrees with her husband. She is going to say it. This wasn't just a minor correction, wasn't a statement issued by her office. I asked the question, and that was the answer. I think the difference here between the east wing and the west wing is that oftentimes the answer feels like, you had know, it's come from the first lady. It's direct. It's truthful. And it doesn't mean to cause waves.