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Republican Hypocrisy?; Rick Gates Testifying in Paul Manafort Case; Election Day. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired August 7, 2018 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:02]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: First of all, bless her for being so honest about not always being the best mom and not having it all.

Brooke, when you look at the five women leading Fortune 500 companies who just in the past few months have stepped down, from Campbell's Soup CEO, to Mattel's CEO, Meg Whitman and Hewlett Packard, all five of them and Indra Nooyi now are all being replaced by men.

So those men, we hope, will be good leaders, and they likely will be. But if you don't have more quality, more parity at the top, companies will not be as competitive as they could be. They will not perform as well. So I guess when are we going to stop talking about it.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And actually have...

(CROSSTALK)

HARLOW: And actually being OK with 24 women leading Fortune 500 companies?

BALDWIN: No.

HARLOW: So, we got a long way to go.

BALDWIN: We do. We will keep talking about it.

Poppy, thank you so much.

HARLOW: My pleasure.

BALDWIN: You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.

First here, he is the prosecution's star witness, Rick Gates testifying in the trial of his former boss Paul Manafort. The prosecution is expected to wrap up any moment now. And then what could be a fiery cross-examination will begin.

Testimony today has focused on the complex system of shell companies and foreign bank accounts Manafort allegedly used to hide millions of dollars, money from pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine.

Gates testified about his boss' money troubles from 2015, 2016. Gates admitted supplying false information to help Manafort receive bank loans. Earlier, the prosecution presented e-mails showing Manafort directing Gates to move money through offshore accounts.

So, Joe Johns is our senior Washington correspondent who's covering this for us from outside that courthouse. There he is in Alexandria, Virginia.

So, Joe, bring me up to speed on the trial at this moment.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: So, our question of course, as you said at the top, Brooke, is when will cross-examination begin?

The assumption is, it's pretty close. What we do know is that the prosecution has asked a lot of questions. And there was a break around, what, 2:30 Eastern time that was supposed to go until about 2:45 Eastern time. The judge told the defense to keep questions in cross-examination sharply focused, sort of telegraphing the things to come out.

Now, let's talk a little bit about the last testimony that we heard from Rick Gates, of course, hugely important, almost anything he says about the case. I think one of the most interesting points that was brought out by the judge at the very end of that direct examination was a bit of talk about Gates' plea deal with the agreement and this agreement to testify here.

The judge brought out on questioning from Gates that he did have an agreement with the government that the government would not object to probation for Gates at his sentencing. But he hasn't been sentenced yet. So the question is, what kind of time is he going to get, given the things that he's pleaded guilty for?

Some of the other things I think that are important is to say that there was also talk about Paul Manafort's direct involvement and apparent direct action to try to doctor certain bank documents in order to make it appear that he had more money than he actually had.

And just follow me here a minute. Gates testified that he was asked by Manafort to take a PDF computer document from an e-mail and convert it to Word, so that it could be edited. He did so. He testified that Manafort received the document, and when the document came back to Gates to reconvert to PDF, it had $6 million more in income than it showed before he received it.

The whole point of that is that they had to try to doctor income on certain documents in order to get loans, even though they knew they didn't have information that a bank would accept in order to give them a loan.

So that's probably significant. And we will hear more about that when we get to cross-examination. Of course, the thing about cross- examination, and for anybody who knows anything about TV shows on the law, it's leading questions. An attorney is allowed to ask, you really did this, didn't you, or isn't that right?

And it turns it into a much more dramatic and intense situation. The defense is going to try to tear down the whole case that the prosecution has made -- Brooke, back to you.

[15:05:06]

BALDWIN: I want to start with the cross-examination with a couple great voices standing by. Joe Johns, thank you so much for that and what's been going on so far.

So let's bring in two folks, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger, and CNN legal analyst and former Watergate special prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste.

So, I want to just actually start on the legal side, Richard. So let me start with you on how Joe left off, right? So we are looking ahead to this cross-examination. And we know that Gates has -- he has admitted to lying and, as Joe was just outlining, falsifying, right, that extra $6 million, falsifying financial documents.

How will that play with the defense, because can't the defense just say this guy is an admitted liar, this is the guy who should be on trial and really attacking his credibility?

RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, he should have been on trial, except he pleaded guilty.

And, of course, he's acknowledged his criminality. And so, before the jury, you have a person who, unlike Manafort, has acknowledged his guilt, and then stands ready to be questioned.

Now, the questioning will be very sharp, because there's a lot of material for the defense to go into. And particularly, in my view, the fact that he actually stole money from Manafort will be highlighted. So there was no honor among these thieves. And that will be a point which the defense, I'm sure, will spend a good deal of time on.

But the overarching question is whether the two of them together, before they split up because one of them has turned state's evidence, whether the two of them have reaped huge amounts of money which they did not pay taxes on, which they violated any number of different laws and regulations about, because of their greed.

And that's what will ultimately be before the jury.

BALDWIN: On the greed, so you have, Gloria, this battle of two liars. You have the admitted liar, and you have the accused liar. And ultimately it is the jury who will decide who they believe.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

And also don't forget there are documents they're going to be looking at. There's an accountant. There's a woman who admitted that she was falsifying documents for Paul Manafort.

So it's...

BALDWIN: The paper trail. BORGER: Right.

It's not just that you have one liar against another liar. There are no heroes in this story. But you also do have things, e-mails, documents, that they can look at, bank records. They can see exactly what was -- what was transpiring.

And then they can decide whether Gates, who, after all, is pleading for his life here, and we know that -- that's why he turned state's evidence -- but then they can decide who they're going to believe. I mean, as Richard says, they're going to attack Gates because he embezzled money from Manafort. So there you go.

Not exactly a great guy here. But he admitted it, and he is singing here. But I have to say that that's not the only thing the jury is looking at. They're looking at paper. They're looking at e-mails. So those things don't lie.

BALDWIN: Is the documentation, which is such a key part of the prosecution's case, Richard, will that along with Gates' testimony be enough?

BEN-VENISTE: Well, certainly the prosecution believes so.

And it is a very strong case when you have this amount of documentary evidence, as Gloria points out, and as well as witnesses who once worked for the two of them who acknowledge under oath that Manafort was directing the operation, was the person who had the ultimate say- so.

And whereas Gates might have done various administrative things and executed orders from Manafort, the prosecution's theory is that Manafort was the guy in charge, he's the one with the umpteenth different houses and the incredibly lavish lifestyle.

So that's going to affect the jury substantially.

BALDWIN: I was talking -- Richard, just saying with you, I was talking to one of our lawyers last hour, and they were saying, though, if Gates lies just even once, like the teeniest of lies on the stand, once, his deal gets ripped up.

[15:10:05]

BEN-VENISTE: That's very rare in practical terms.

While the terms of the plea agreement say that, unless there is an enormous lie of something that has been hidden, that's not likely to happen.

BORGER: But, remember, they caught Gates in a lie in his original proffer. And that was a problem for him. So you're not dealing with somebody who's unfamiliar with lying.

But I don't think that the jury has any great choices here in saying this guy's a good guy and this guy is a bad guy. They were bad guys doing bad stuff.

(CROSSTALK)

BEN-VENISTE: Listen, they didn't -- the prosecution didn't find Gates by looking in the phone book.

BORGER: Exactly.

BEN-VENISTE: He was Manafort's guy for many, many years. That was the association that Manafort chose. And that's something the prosecution will harp on, believe me.

BALDWIN: Let me -- let me turn the page on someone else, Michael Cohen.

Gloria, "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that Michael Cohen, Trump's former attorney, could be facing new legal troubles. They're saying that Cohen is under federal investigation for possible tax fraud after under-reporting, they're saying underreporting income from his tax medallion business.

So I imagine that would put even additional pressure on Cohen to try to, speaking of deals, cut a deal with the special counsel.

BORGER: Look, I think he's trying. I think he's been waving a red flare, saying, I know all of this. There are things I know that I can tell you that I would like to be able to either deal with the special counsel or the Southern District of New York.

He has made it -- he has made it no secret that Donald Trump is no longer his mentor and good friend. And so these kinds of charges which "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting about are things that I think we would expect. It's been talked about in the taxi medallion business, for example.

Taxi medallions used to be worth a lot of money. Then Uber came along and they were worth a lot less. And maybe he overstated his financial picture when he was trying to get some loans. So it makes sense that these are things that they might be -- they might be looking at.

But we -- at this point in our reporting, we do not know about any conversations that he has, that his attorney Guy Petrillo, has been having with the Southern District of New York. So this story has to play out for a while longer.

BALDWIN: Got it.

Gloria and Richard, thank you so much on that.

BORGER: Sure.

BALDWIN: Coming up next here, it is a huge day in America here ahead of the general election, voters at the polls in five states in what could be a crucial test for the future of the Democratic Party. We will break down the chances that three progressive candidates with the endorsement of Bernie Sanders could potentially pull off an upset. And the vice president arguing that a president should be impeached if he cannot demonstrate the highest moral code, his words. At least that's what Pence thought in the '90s, when Bill Clinton was on the brink of impeachment. So what's changed?

And, later, Spike Lee talks to CNN about his new movie, "BlacKkKlansman." Hear his take on where this country stands on race relations and why he thinks this film could impact the midterm elections.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:17:48]

BALDWIN: Right now, voters in five states are heading to the polls, and today's results could provide more clues to see which way voters are leaning as we approach November's midterm election.

We are watching primaries in Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington state, but all eyes are on a special election in Ohio, where Democrats believe that they can take a seat that has been reliably Republican for nearly four decades.

Looming over all of this, of course, President Trump and his big shadow.

So, for all things to look for this evening, CNN political director David Chalian.

And, hi, David Chalian. Talk to me about what you're going to be doing tonight.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, you said it.

All eyes on that first race there that you're talking about, the D vs. the R, the congressional race in Ohio. You have got Republican Troy Balderson, Democrat Danny O'Connor. This is the last special election of the cycle before November's midterms.

That's why so many people are watching to sort of get where are the prevailing winds just a few weeks out from that big midterm election. You noted this is a district Donald Trump won by 11 points. It's been in Republican hands for 35 years.

The fact that it's a dead heat is already astounding. But we will see if the Democrats pull out a big upset here and actually make their November goal one seat closer. They would only need then 22 seats in November as a net gain to win the majority of the House of Representatives.

But there are a couple primaries, Brooke. You mentioned Donald Trump hangs over all of this. That is true, especially in Kansas in the governor's race there. Kris Kobach, you know, controversial figure in Kansas, part of President Trump's now de-paneled voting fraud panel, hard-liner on immigration, Donald Trump went in and endorsed him yesterday on Twitter, against the wishes of the Republican Governors Association and the establishment crowd.

He went against the sitting Republican governor of Kansas. And the big question is, if Kobach wins the nomination tonight, does that put that Kansas gubernatorial seat in jeopardy in November?

One final thing I want to show you is on the Democratic side, Brooke. We have got a Democratic divide. You know, we have talked about this a lot. All three of these candidates, Abdul El-Sayed in Michigan gubernatorial candidate, and two Kansas congressional candidates in two Kansas districts tonight, they have all gotten the Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez progressive wing endorsement of this primary season.

[15:20:11]

It's sort of the flip of what I was just talking about Kobach. The question here is, if folks from this wing of the party emerge with the nominations tonight in these states, does that make the Democratic Party more likely or less likely come November?

Will their progressive, liberalism, resistance wing of the party, which is where we have seen the energy in the Democratic Party, will that win tonight and what does that mean for the chances for the party in November?

BALDWIN: You said it. It's the last big test before the general in November.

David Chalian, we will be up with you and watching the coverage. Thank you, my friend.

CHALIAN: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Coming up next: retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan getting candid in this new interview, saying he has helped avoid tragedies, his word, in the Trump White House and that the president was just trolling people in Helsinki.

Two Republicans join me next to discuss.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:25:43]

BALDWIN: The vice president, one of the president's biggest offenders, someone who has certainly never criticized the president publicly since becoming his second in command, but now CNN's KFILE has uncovered some old columns that show 1990s Mike Pence may actually disagree with the current version of 2018 Mike Pence.

So let me just set the scene.

It's the late '90s. Bill Clinton is the president, scandals engulfing the White House. Pence, at the time living in Indiana, wrote two columns, both of which argue that the president of the United States should have high morals, and if he or she does not, that they should be impeached, removed from office.

The quote, he wrote: "If you and I fall into bad moral habits, we can harm our families, our employers and our friends. The president of the United States can incinerate the planet. Seriously, the very idea that we ought to have at or less than the same moral demands placed on the chief executive that we place on our next-door neighbor is ludicrous and dangerous."

So we're going to start there with two conservatives with me here. Scott Jennings is a CNN political commentator and a former special assistant to President George W. Bush. And Rich Lowry is "The National Review" editor and a CNN political commentator.

Gentlemen...

RICH LOWRY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Scott is going to take this up first.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Is he?

(LAUGHTER)

BALDWIN: I'm looking at you first.

The 1990s Pence seems like quite a different guy than the 2018 Pence, who is completely ignoring any sort of moral issue with Trump.

Do you agree with the '90s Pence that a president should be impeached over moral violations?

LOWRY: No, I don't think that was a good standard then.

But, obviously, Republicans talked much more that way than they do now.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Why don't they talk that way now?

LOWRY: Well, obviously because you have a president of the United States who engaged in conduct that no one should be proud of, and no one should defend.

BALDWIN: So hypocrisy...

(CROSSTALK)

LOWRY: Well, one bright line is that he hasn't -- what set -- made the Monica -- the Clinton scandals thermonuclear, he actually continued his conduct in the office with an intern. But, look, the Republicans have given up this ground for the time

being. And I think a key thing that happened in terms of the iteration of the party on this stuff was Mitt Romney, a fine, upstanding, punctilious man, got completely destroyed in 2012 and personally destroyed.

So I think a lot of Republicans concluded we put up the Boy Scout, we got nothing from it. So let's go with this guy who is something else entirely.

BALDWIN: Again, hypocrisy?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the Constitution doesn't mention hypocrisy as grounds for impeachment, nor does it mention morality. It mentions high crimes and misdemeanors.

And I would argue that holding someone to your own personal morals, and trying to call that a high crime or misdemeanor is a really bad idea, no matter who's in office. So I disagree with '90s Mike Pence.

I would also say that elections are not referendums. They are choices, and I'm guessing Mike Pence would argue that it's immoral to do what -- go down the path of voting against Republicans if it means putting a Clinton in office.

And so this where it gets real dicey about trying to apply morality to political situations. I think we ought to stick with the Constitution. High crimes and misdemeanors, yes. Everything else, that's not what the founders intended.

BALDWIN: Paul Ryan. It's funny you mention Boy Scout. Apparently, that's what he said in this "New York Times" article was what the president, in a pejorative sense, used to refer to him as.

And so he does this interview with "New York Times." He's pretty candid, and he's basically saying, when he's asked about Trump and the Republicans really not saying a whole heck of a lot, he's like, essentially, trust me, I have stopped this from being much worse.

So, no specifics, but this is what -- this is what he did say -- quote -- "I can look myself in the mirror at the end of the day and say, I avoided that tragedy. I avoided that tragedy. I avoided that tragedy. I advanced this goal. I advanced this goal. I advanced this goal."

Profound words.

No, seriously, though, but with Paul Ryan, what do you think he's referring to specifically?

LOWRY: I didn't know whether he literally means tragedy. I'm sure he has had influence on the president in terms of policy and things he has said, but it's not as though he stopped him from launching a nuclear war or anything of that nature.

BALDWIN: I don't think anyone takes it that way, but roughly speaking.

LOWRY: Right.

But this is a calculation Paul Ryan and other Republicans have made is, I can speak out really vociferously, like all the time, condemning the president's conduct.

(CROSSTALK)

LOWRY: And that will -- and that will destroy me. You know, the party, my party -- own party will no longer support me.