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Omarosa Releases Recording of Call With President Trump. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired August 13, 2018 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:01] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good Monday morning, everyone, I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. Hope you had a great weekend. We have a lot to get to this morning.
A private firing gets even more public. The new recording from ex- White House aide and reality TV star Omarosa Manigault Newman, this one of the president of the United States, a conversation she had with him. And we're hearing it on tape for the first time this morning. She claims it was recorded one day after Chief of Staff John Kelly ousted her. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Omarosa, what's going on? I just saw on the news that you're thinking about leaving. What happened?
OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE: General Kelly -- General Kelly came to me and said that you guys wanted me to leave.
TRUMP: No, I -- nobody even told me about it. Nobody --
NEWMAN: Well --
TRUMP: They run a big operation but I didn't know it. I didn't know that.
TRUMP: Goddamn it, I don't love you leaving at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Newman has already released the recording of the conversation that she had with General Kelly, at least part of the conversation in the situation room. That when it came out over the weekend sparked all sorts of questions, raised national security concerns and raised a lot more credibility questions.
Let's go to our Boris Sanchez who joins us with more.
Boris, covering the White House, knowing the background between -- sort of her tenure while she was serving in the White House, the controversy that swirled after she left, walk us through what we're learning this morning. BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning,
Poppy. Yes, this newly released audio from Omarosa indicates that the president told her that he wasn't aware that she was fired by John Kelly. Omarosa now says that she did not believe the president when he told her that, that in subsequent conversations he ended up admitting that he delegated that task, that he directed John Kelly ultimately to dismiss her. Though she still maintains that she believes that President Trump wasn't fully aware of everything that was happening in the White House at that time.
Here's more from Omarosa on NBC this morning. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning, good to see you.
NEWMAN: Good morning. Glad to be back here at the "Today" show.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nice to see you. I should let you know I am recording this conversation.
NEWMAN: Very good.
NEWMAN: What a coincidence.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. You brought us a new tape. The president the day after you were fired, we just heard it. He says he didn't know about it, he doesn't like you leaving the White House. Is he lying in that tape?
NEWMAN: I'm not certain but what's most concerning, one, why was I locked in the situation room for almost two hours? Why was I not allowed to leave -- I'll get to the second part, and lastly when I asked to leave and I asked for counsel and I asked for my husband, why was I denied at least four times? When I spoke to him and he said had he no idea, that should be alarming to any American that the president of the United States does not know what's happening when an assistant to the president known him for 15 years.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Hold on. OK But just -- you brought the tape.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: They are very serious and startling questions about that recording made in the situation room, namely was it legal? But there are also questions about why John Kelly felt it was necessary to take Omarosa into the situation room to fire her to begin with.
Let's play some of that sound now of the conversation between the chief of staff and the former Trump aide in the situation room at the White House. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I'm only going to stay for a couple of minutes. These are lawyers. We're going to talk to you about leaving the White House. It's come to my attention over the last few months that there's been some pretty, in my opinion, significant integrity issues related to you and use of government vehicles and some other issues. And they'll walk you through the legal aspects of this. But there is some from my view -- there's some money issues and other things but from my in my view the integrity issues are very serious.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Now, Poppy, I've asked the White House about those integrity issues if they can clarify what John Kelly was talking about. They have yet to respond. In a separate statement Sarah Sanders suggested that this recording is a serious security breach and Hogan Gidley, deputy press secretary, was just on FOX News saying that Omarosa is a disgruntled former employee who's now peddling self-serving lies -- Poppy.
HARLOW: OK. Boris Sanchez, thank you for walking through all of that.
With me now CNN political commentator Errol Louis, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and CNN counterterrorism analyst, former CIA counterterrorism official Phil Mudd.
So, Jeffrey --
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Can I ask you a question first? How crazy are all these people? What is going on?
HARLOW: There you go. Answered Jeffrey's question this morning. No. On the legal fronts there, OK, first of all, did she break the law? I mean, D.C. is one party consent. This is the situation room. There are national security questions.
TOOBIN: Clearly she committed a firing offense while being fired so I don't think it counts. I don't think this is a legal issue. I think this is an insight into the administration and the kind of people who work there and how they treat each other, which is bonkers.
[09:05:11] HARLOW: Walter Shaub, obviously the former ethics czar, said on CNN there's some irony, Errol. There's some irony that she's being told she's being fired for misconduct while she is committing misconduct.
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Yes. There's a certain kind of comedic aspect to it for sure. One thing I would say, though, is that this is not without precedent. We haven't seen this in a long time but if you go back far enough, you'll find that the reason Richard Nixon was wiretapping and taping all of his conversations with everybody was he then, as we've now heard from Omarosa, had a White House where people were going to point the blame, they were going to mischaracterize conversations, at least that's what Nixon thought and he wanted to make sure that decisions that they arrived at, that people were on the record saying that they wanted this bombing or this strategy, especially in Vietnam. And he didn't want to be sort of caught out there. That's why he did that.
That mentality, that paranoid mentality appears to have carried over into the Trump administration. It seems to be alive and at play where people don't trust each other to the point where they are making recordings.
HARLOW: Phil Mudd, Sarah Sanders says this is a national security concern, also the president's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani echoed that this morning. Let's listen to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: She's certainly violating national security regulations but I think have the force of law. Yes, I would think she is. I mean, I have to look at it more carefully. And is she violating every bit of trust that people should have in someone? I mean, Donald Trump made her. What kind of ingratitude is this?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: OK, aside from who made whom here, the question about national security, is it a national security concern? You're supposed to put all of your devices in these lockers outside of the situation room before you go in, that applies to everyone. Clearly she had a phone or a recording device. She wouldn't actually answer Savannah's question this morning when she said, what did you record on. Is there a national security concern here?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I don't think there is. Look, I remember walking into the situation room and my recollection as you just said is you have lockers there, you're supposed to put your phone in there.
Look, there are questions in General Kelly raised these in the tape we heard that Omarosa recorded of her firing about integrity that I suspect went back months. I doubt she had significant access to national security issues. She clearly was regarded in the White House as someone who wasn't trustworthy.
I think the great irony here is someone I think it was Errol mentioning this, she seems to think that this is a good idea to release, that it buttresses her case. The irony is she's being fired for integrity while she violates regulations in taping a conversation about integrity. Unbelievable.
HARLOW: So to that point, Errol Louis, I mean, is there-- and you saw Preet Bharara also tweet and sort of make that point. Is it possible, given what he noted, what Phil noted, that this just sort of falls flat then and people just say she's not credibility, she doesn't have this, you know, integrity, look at what she did in this recording the situation room, we don't buy it or --
LOUIS: She may not have integrity but that doesn't mean that the tape themselves, the recordings themselves or inaccurate or even revelatory. There could be some really interesting stuff that she's recorded. As we've heard reported from Josh Dawsey that there might be dozens or even hundreds of recordings, you don't know what you're going to catch and the date in particular could get really, really interesting.
TOOBIN: And this is an interesting parallel to what went on in 2016 with WikiLeaks. We know that it was illegal not just improper for someone to hack John Podesta's e-mails, to hack the DNC e-mails.
HARLOW: Yes. Right.
TOOBIN: There was unethical behavior in the creation of these e-mails but once they were out there --
HARLOW: They are out there.
TOOBIN: We all started to look at the substance. If Omarosa has tapes where people are saying interesting newsworthy things, we are going to focus on what they say rather than her ethics in collecting them.
HARLOW: Another legal question for you, in this interview just a few minutes ago on the "Today" show this morning, Omarosa claimed false imprisonment. OK. Let me read you the sentence, quote, "The moment I said I would like to leave and they said I can't go, it became false imprisonment." She's talking about her firing in the situation room. She was in there with General Kelly, with some lawyers.
TOOBIN: That's ridiculous. I mean, you know, when you get fired, they sometimes tell you, gather your things and leave the building. You are physically under the control of the people who employ you, that is especially true at the White House where there are of course enormous national security concerns. So the idea that there is some tort against her in -- in the physical act of her firing, I think is absurd.
HARLOW: Let me ask you about the nondisclosure agreement here, Phil Mudd, that has been reported on. We saw the text of it on "Meet the Press" yesterday and Omarosa claimed on "Meet the Press" that some employees like Sean Spicer, she alleges -- we don't know.
[09:10:05] She alleges were offered hush money to sign these nondisclosure agreements upon leaving the West Wing. She said offered $15,000, she said she didn't, you know, sign it, they can't buy her silence. If true, common practice and what about coupled with this cash that she alleges?
MUDD: Well, I've heard of nondisclosure agreements before, I've signed them. I would be surprised if that nondisclosure agreement was coupled by an offer of cash.
Let me give you one perspective on this, you can sign all the nondisclosure agreements you want, they are very difficult to enforce. For one thing the question is whether what she's saying is inappropriate versus illegal, I totally agree with Jeff Toobin. This is inappropriate but it doesn't get close to being prosecutable.
The second issue if you want to try to prosecute some of these nondisclosure agreements, you're going to give her another 15 minutes of fame. I'd left this would die. She's going to disappear in a week or two.
HARLOW: Thank you, gentlemen, very much. Errol Louis, Jeffrey Toobin --
TOOBIN: We'll be on to the next crisis --
HARLOW: -- Phil Mudd.
LOUIS: It will be longer than a week or two.
HARLOW: Thanks so much.
What a difference not just a week or two but a month makes. Rudy Giuliani changes his story in a very significant way. He's now saying that the president never talked about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn with former FBI director James Comey. This is a consequential discussion so why is the story changing?
Also, security gaps expose, what we're learning in the days after that plane was stolen off the tarmac in Seattle. And one year after clashes in Charlottesville, white nationalists outnumbered by counter protesters this weekend. Is change coming? We will ask the woman set to break one big diversity barrier in Congress.
[09:15:11] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Rudy Giuliani is now saying that if President Trump sits down with Robert Mueller, the special counsel, and that's a major if, and if Mueller asks him whether he tried to get the FBI to go easy on former national security adviser Michael Flynn, the president will say unequivocally no.
This is a big deal. The story has changed dramatically. More than a year ago, newly fired FBI director James Comey told Congress, testified under oath before Congress that the president asked him to "let this go," this being the FBI probe of Flynn's contacts with the Russian ambassador.
Comey, at the same time, had written a contemporaneous memo about it at the time, he says, it happened. Well, a month ago Giuliani, the president's lawyer, said the president merely asked Comey to give Flynn a break and there was nothing illicit about it. That's what he told George Stephanopoulos on ABC.
Well, now, Giuliani tells our Jake Tapper, no, no, no none of that, there was never a conversation about Flynn between the president and Comey.
Shimon Prokupecz joins me from Washington with more. It was sort of through the looking glass to listen to these changing explanations and a narrative that's just been flipped on its head.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Right. And we see this often, right, poppy, with Rudy Giuliani. He changes the story from time to time, depending on when he's interviewed, who he's interviewed by.
But, really, why all of this is important, that's sort of what we need to keep in mind. And this goes to the heart of Robert Mueller's obstruction investigation.
As you said yesterday, Giuliani simply says that there were no conversations about Michael Flynn. But here's what he said on July 8th to ABC's George Stephanopoulos.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: What he said too him was -
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS CHIEF POLITICAL ANCHOR: He said he took it as direction.
GIULIANI: That's OK. Taking it that way - I mean, by that time, he had been fired. And he said a lot of other things, some of which have turned out to be untrue. The reality is, as a prosecutor, I was told that many times, can you give the man a break, either by his lawyers, by his relatives, by friends. You take that into consideration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PROKUPECZ: So, Poppy, yesterday, Rudy Giuliani, as you said, taken a different position, saying that there was no conversation at all regarding Michael Flynn. And here's what he told Jake Tapper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: The president didn't say to him go easy on Flynn or anything about Flynn. He's saying that, I'm talking about their alternative. I'm saying the conversation never took place. But if it did take place, and here's the conversation that's alleged, it is not illegal to have said that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PROKUPECZ: Well, really, whether it's illegal or not, that is something that is at the central issue and it's central to investigation into obstruction with Robert Mueller, Poppy.
HARLOW: Shimon, thank you for walking us through that. It is more than a little confusing. With me now our chief legal analyst, back with me, Jeffrey Toobin.
Look, I suppose Rudy Giuliani can say whatever he wants in all of these TV interviews and whether he's being truthful or not truthful and completely flipping the story, there's nothing illegal about that.
But, I mean, where do we go from here? What does it tell you about whether the president will sit with Mueller and, if he does, he's going to say there was no conversation. So, it will be Comey's word against the president's on that.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, Rudy Giuliani is correct that lawyers often make arguments in the alternative. It's like - if I borrowed your tea kettle, you could say, well, you never borrowed my tea kettle. Well, it was broken when you borrowed it to me, and no it was broken after I returned it to you.
I mean, lawyers can make these contradictory, alternative arguments and that's what Giuliani is doing here. He never said it to Comey but if he said it, it was not inappropriate.
He was making the same argument last week about collusion. He was saying there was no collusion. But even if there was collusion, it's not illegal.
These alternative arguments often work well in court. They confuse ordinary people.
[09:20:03] HARLOW: But perhaps that's the strategy.
TOOBIN: I think he's giving the president's supporters a menu of arguments.
HARLOW: To choose from.
TOOBIN: And I think they will take them up on that. His supporters - I think it's important to remember that Giuliani sees this not as a narrow legal issue, but as a political fight. And he is giving his side ammunition in the political fight.
HARLOW: And he has said as much. I mean, he has said that he's as much a strategist here as he is being the president's lawyer.
Let's listen to something else from Rudy Giuliani revealing the rationale behind this sort of about-face, more of what you were mentioning. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: The president says he never told Comey that he should go easy on Flynn. Comey says the president did. He put it in his memo. If he goes in and testifies to that under oath instead of just this being a dispute, they can say it's perjury if they elect to believe Comey instead of Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: OK. That can be seen in two ways, one another argument against the sit-down with Mueller because he would call it a perjury trap. Two, if the president does sit for the interview, it will be Comey's word on this versus the president's word on this. Comey has this contemporaneous memo, which a lot of legal minds say holds a lot of weight to have a contemporaneous memo. Would it here?
TOOBIN: It would. It would, especially if you look at the surrounding circumstances where there does appear to be the president being very concerned about the well-being and future legal problems of General Flynn.
I still - the perjury trap, I think, is not a useful phrase. No prosecutor is going to bring a case simply because it's one person against the other.
And, remember, there's not going to be any case at all because the president can't be indicted in any case. But it's not just that there are contradictory views that lead to a perjury prosecution, it is that there is an accumulation of evidence that one statement is true and one statement is false. It's not simply that another person sees it a different way.
HARLOW: Before you go, on the Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the president - nothing new that he's attacking him, but he went very far again this weekend. Let me read you part of what president wrote.
"Our A.G. is scared stiff and Missing in Action." He's talking - it's a long tweet there, but he's talking about the dossier, et cetera, Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, who is going to testify in front of Congress a little bit later this month.
When you couple that with earlier tweets a few weeks ago saying that Sessions should end the investigation in the Russian probe, could any of this amount to an obstruction charge?
TOOBIN: Not necessarily an obstruction charge, but particularly the tweet a couple of weeks ago where he said Sessions should end the investigation, that could certainly be evidence of the president's state of mind, that he has an intent to interfere, to obstruct, the Mueller investigation.
I think this latest tweet is just evidence of the dysfunction within the administration that you have a president of United States trashing his own attorney general. I don't think that's a legal issue. I think that's a bizarre political issue.
HARLOW: Jeffrey, thank you on all these counts this morning. So, next for us, how did this happen? How in the world was an airport worker able to steal a plane, a commercial airline and fly it from the Seattle, Tacoma airport, according to a co-worker of the man who did just that, it's not all that difficult to do. We'll have a live report ahead.
HARLOW: Welcome back. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. And this morning, the FBI says it has located human remains in the wreckage of the Horizon airplane crash. It crashed on Friday near Seattle. And authorities say the airport worker who stole the plane, this man, Richard Russell, he flew for about an hour before it crashed in a heavily wooded area, an island.
And we now have audio, audio from the cockpit, to air traffic control while this was all going on. Listen to Russell moments before the crash.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD RUSSELL, STOLE THE PLANE AND CRASHED IT: Hey, pilot guy, can this thing do a back flip, you think?
I think I'm going to try to do a barrel roll. And if that goes good, I'm just going to go nose down and call it a night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Our Dan Simon joins me from Seattle with more. And, Dan, we'll get to this fascinating interview that you did in a moment.
But, first, just for anyone that missed the details of this over the weekend, walk us through what we know at this point?
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you that 29-year-old Richard Russell, he worked as a grounds person here at the Seattle airport for Horizon Airlines.
He had just finished his shift when he got into a tow tractor. He was part of this tow team and he pointed the aircraft in the right direction and then climbed in the cockpit, somehow fired up the engines, had a successful taxi and takeoff.
And then, he's flying around for a little more than an hour where he has this conversation, if you will, with air traffic control before finally crashing his plane into a small remote island, a sparsely populated island in the Puget Sound. Poppy?
HARLOW: I know, Dan, that people who knew him were stunned by this. They hadn't seen these signs and you actually had a chance to speak with someone, a friend of his, right, who knew him well. What did they say?
SIMON: Right. We're beginning to get a clearer sense of what Russell was like as a colleague, as an employee, as a friend. I spoke with somebody who worked with him for eight solid months. His name is Jeremy Kalen.