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Omarosa Releases Recording of Call With President Trump; Rudy Giuliani Now Says Trump Never Talked to James Comey About Michael Flynn; Trump Calls Jeff Sessions Scared Stiff and Missing in Action; Saudi Coalition Airstrike in Yemen Kills 40 Kids. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired August 13, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:19] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. Top of the hour, 10:00 a.m. Eastern. So glad you're with me.
Moments ago, President Trump lashed out at former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman over her attacks on his administration over the weekend and this morning. The president writes that she is wacky, vicious, not smart and that she missed many meetings. He goes on to say that he told his Chief of Staff John Kelly to try to, quote, "work it out" with her because she, quote, "only says nice things about me."
Clearly, it did not all work out. And we are seeing the fallout from it this morning. And this also begs the question, if the president thought all of this about Omarosa, that she wasn't effective at her job, that she was wacky, et cetera, why did he bring her in? Why did he hire her? Remember he says he brings the best people around him? Why bring her on and why pay her six figures?
These tweets are coming after Omarosa just released another recording, this one this morning, a recording of the president and her having a conversation, a conversation she says came the day after Chief of Staff John Kelly fired 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 --
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: Now as there are questions over how many tapes Newman may have. She said she has more that we haven't heard. An administration official tells CNN the recordings are deepening the sense of paranoia in the West Wing.
Let's go to our White House Correspondent, Boris Sanchez who joins me now.
All right. So just walk us through sort of the disconnect here between what the president is saying this morning and what we just heard on that tape.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy. Essentially Omarosa tried to make the case that President Trump told her that he had no idea that she had been fired, though she later went on to say that in subsequent conversations he acknowledged that he directed John Kelly to dismiss her. She says that during the recording of the tape, she did not believe the president.
She went as far as to say that she doesn't think that President Trump is fully aware of everything that's happening within his administration. But perhaps the most startling part of all of this is the revelation that she actually recorded her firing by Chief of Staff John Kelly in the situation room, an area that's known as a SCIF. This is supposed to be an area where electronic devices aren't allowed because sensitive information is processed and communicated there.
Of course, this recording now being played around the world. Listen to this, John Kelly talking to Omarosa.
(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 the White House put out a statement this weekend. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders suggesting that this recording is a serious security breach. I should tell you, Poppy, that in the last few minutes, CNN heard from one administration official who told us effectively that they do not believe that Omarosa presents a serious national security threat because she was never privy to classified information or to conversations about national security information that may lead to leaks or something that would put troops or anyone in harm's way. Of course, the question ultimately is whether she could face legal issues because of this recording -- Poppy. HARLOW: But it is notable that you have, you know, the head of
communications for the White House Sarah Sanders saying this is a national security issue, you have Rudy Giuliani, the president's closest and personal attorney, saying the same thing. But you are reporting from the West Wing is they don't really think that. But I don't know if the others think, you know, it works optically for them in this.
Before you go, part two of the president's tweet just moments ago says, essentially, that even though Omarosa, he argues, was not effective at her job at all, that he kept her there, wanted her to stay there simply because she said nice things about him. I mean, he is publicly admitting this.
SANCHEZ: Yes. He only hires the very best people who say nice things about him apparently. This coincides with previous reporting from CNN and others that the president isn't exactly receptive to people who have been critical of him in public.
[10:05:06] And further about how foreign leaders try to approach the president and flatter him to try to gain an advantage in diplomatic relations. Of course this all sort of is exemplified by the latest tweet, which sort of echoes previous tweets about other people that have been dismissed from the White House that we've seen from the president. Remember, he also said that Steve Bannon cried and begged for his job when he was fired -- Poppy.
HARLOW: Boris Sanchez, with all the reporting, thank you very much.
Let's talk about it with Matt Lewis, our CNN political commentator, and our Legal Analyst, Paul Callan.
Matt, you know, just listening sort of side by side to the tape of the president's call with Omarosa, she says it was the day after she was fired, we don't know. We can't independently verify it. But that compared to the president lashing out at her in these two tweets this morning, what should the American people take from it this morning?
MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I just think it's another example of how Donald Trump lies and how Donald Trump, you know -- what he says is very contingent on what he thinks will benefit him at a given time. So I think that there's really not a lot of character there, not a lot of integrity there, not a lot of consistency there. You juxtapose different tapes, he's saying completely opposite things.
He is telling Omarosa, in this instance -- there are so many examples. In this instance he is telling Omarosa, I didn't know, this is not -- I don't love the fact that this happened, essentially, I didn't know, I was out of the loop, I wish it didn't happen. Today it sounds more like, of course, we fired her. She was always incompetent and she's a horrible person. I mean, both things can't really be true.
HARLOW: That's true. They can't. That is true.
Paul Callan, to you, legally, jeopardy for Omarosa here? I mean, it's one-party consent in Washington, D.C. This was recorded in the SCIF, you know, in the situation room. She wasn't supposed to have a device. Legal issues?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't see any legal issues unless, you know, John Kelly was discussing classified information with her in the situation room. And there's no indication of that. I find it odd that he would bring her into the situation room, lock the door. Now she's throwing out allegations that that might be unlawful imprisonment, which by the way I don't think it is either.
I have a feeling it was less of John Kelly trying to lock her in as opposed to maybe locking other people out from coming in and disturbing what was going to be a very sensitive conversation. So I don't think there are any legal issues that are presented. These are questions of judgment, not violations of law.
HARLOW: You know, Matt, the story also when you talk about sort of consistency and credibility from Omarosa, she doesn't particularly have that on her side.
HARLOW: I mean, when she left the White House, she went into this interview with ABC a few days later, and she said absolutely, the president is not a racist, et cetera, et cetera. And then, you know, a completely different story from her now on this book tour. So, I mean, the American public, who do they give -- I don't know, who do they believe?
LEWIS: There's no honor among thieves, there's no good guys in the story. I mean, I think Omarosa is obviously very smart and very cunning. And Donald Trump in that tweet talks about how she's vicious, as if that's an attribute, not a criticism. But she's not a good person. She lacks character and she, like -- just like the president, she lies all the time.
I think that when it benefited her to be a Trump supporter, she played that role. And now that it benefits her to get a book deal and to be a Trump critic, she is playing that role. Will the left, will the media embrace her now because she's a Trump critic? Or will they remember that she's an opportunist? That remains to be seen.
I think she's hoping that she can re-brand and become sort of a resistance hero. But we'll see if that works.
HARLOW: OK. Gentlemen, thank you very much. We have a lot to get to. I appreciate your insight on this.
Another fired White House official is in the news this hour. Michael Flynn. He served briefly as National Security adviser before he was forced out, fired for lying about his contacts with the Russian ambassador before the inauguration.
At the time, President Trump supposedly asked then FBI Chief James Comey to go easy on Flynn. That's what Comey testified to and that's what he wrote in a contemporaneous memo to his colleagues and later after he had been sworn in he said this in front of Congress, so under oath. A month ago Rudy Giuliani seemed to shrug the whole thing off. Over the weekend he completely change course, saying the president never discussed Flynn at all with James Comey.
Our Shimon Prokupecz is back with me from Washington to explain. To be very clear here, this is a -- this is a 180, a complete reversal on Giuliani's part.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: A complete reversal. It goes from the idea that there was conversations about Michael Flynn between the president and the former FBI director but didn't get into specifics about letting him go.
[10:05:02] This then yesterday what Giuliani said was that basically there was no conversation at all with the former FBI director and the president. And of course, the importance in all of this is that this all goes to the heart of the obstruction investigation.
Here is what Giuliani said back on July 8th to ABC's George Stephanopoulos.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: What he said to him was, can you --
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Comey says he took it as direction.
GIULIANI: Well, that's OK. I mean, taken 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 for the longest we had at least thought that there were these conversations, something took place, there was a conversation between the president and Comey about Michael Flynn. Now yesterday as you said, Poppy, it was a complete reversal. Essentially Giuliani telling Jake Tapper that no conversation about Flynn took place. And here is that sound.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: The president didn't say to him, go easy on Flynn or anything about Flynn. He is saying that. I am talking about their alternative. I'm saying the conversation never took place. But if it did take place -- and here is the conversation that's alleged. It is not illegal to have said that.
(END VIDEO CLIP) PROKUPECZ: So of course, Poppy, this all goes to what the FBI director, the former FBI director wrote in memos, told his colleagues, told people on his executive board at the FBI now against what the president is saying, which is that it just simply never happened, it was never any talk of Michael Flynn. So obviously, all of this is going to depend on what Robert Mueller and his investigator find and essentially what will be in that report when it comes out.
HARLOW: OK. Shimon, thank you for the update and walking us through all of it.
Ahead for us this hour, scared stiff. Those words from the president as he once again takes a jab at his own attorney general.
Also the Pentagon says it is stepping in to investigate the death of dozens of children in Yemen. This after that deadly Saudi coalition air strike 2that killed 40 children on a school bus. But a question is, will the White House hold Saudi Arabia responsible and condemn them for this? We will have a live report ahead.
And a deadly plane crash exposes a major security breach at our nation's airports. An employee steals a plane off the tarmac in Seattle. How could this happen? What's being done from preventing it again?
[10:16:58] HARLOW: Welcome back. Even on vacation, President Trump is going out of his way to attack his own attorney general while complaining about what he alleges are conflicts of interest in the special counsel probe.
The president wrote over the weekend, quote, "Our A.G.," meaning our attorney general, "is scared stiff and missing in action." He is talking about Jeff Sessions, who's recused from things -- from all things retaining to Russia.
Let's talk about this more. Back with me, Matt Lewis and Paul Callan.
You know, Jeff Sessions every morning is getting up and going to work amid these attacks. And, you know, he is being applauded by some folks who have always disliked him for standing up in this way and keeping himself recused from the Russia probe, for example.
Where does this go from here?
CALLAN: It's hard to say where it's going to go because, first of all, you have to remember the president has the right to appoint the attorney general and fire the attorney general. So if the president wants to fire him, the person who's missing in action is the president, because he is opted not to fire him. And to keep him on the job and berate him publicly repeatedly undermines confidence in the position of attorney general and it's wrong. So you should either get rid of the guy if you can't work with him or keep your mouth shut about him being incompetent. And the president has to choose a course that's best for the country, not for him personally. HARLOW: Matt Lewis, what do you make of these attacks that continue?
This is just a few weeks after the president said that he should -- using the word should, Jeff Sessions should end the Russia probe.
LEWIS: Well, a couple of things. One, I used to think that Jeff Sessions should have resigned, that he was being humiliated. Now I actually think it's kind of heroic that he sticks in the job. If Donald Trump wants to fire him, he can fire him. And so I have gained a little bit more respect for Jeff Sessions. And I think he did the right thing by recusing himself.
I would say I think it's very clear that there were problems in this investigation. I think there were at -- at the very least, the appearance of impropriety. But steps have been taken. Bruce Ohr has been demoted. Strzok has lost his security clearance and is probably going to be fired. There were some real problems in the investigation.
I think what Donald Trump wants to do, of course, is muddy the waters and try to say that because there were some bad actors investigating him, that they somehow fabricated this whole story.
HARLOW: Well --
LEWIS: Yes, so that's essentially the game he is playing and it's -- you know, I think it's bogus.
HARLOW: Bruce Ohr will testify before Congress I believe it's August 28th so that's coming up. And this, all for people who aren't aware, pertains to his wife being employed by Fusion GPS, of course, you know, the commissioning of the dossier. This all comes full circle. We'll hear what he has to say for his part but again he has been demoted.
Paul, when it comes to Rudy Giuliani, he keeps saying that Robert Mueller does not really need to interview the president because everything is out there. Right? All of the documents, the president's interview with Lester Holt has answered all of the questions. But then as Giuliani keeps changing the story as he did this weekend in his interview with Jake, like a 180 on whether or not the president talked to Comey about Michael Flynn, doesn't that explain exactly why Mueller's team wants answers from the president directly?
[10:20:15] CALLAN: You know, Poppy, I think that's a great observation. And it's quite true. The one thing Mueller now will want to know is, did the president actually say this to Comey about going easy on Flynn.
CALLAN: And I find Giuliani's, you know, claim very, very odd. When you read the ABC interview, it seems clear that he wasn't quoting Comey. He was quoting his client, the president, saying and admitting that he had asked for leniency for Flynn.
CALLAN: And then the defense now that's been presented by some is that well, he was speaking in the alternative. He was saying, well, maybe he said it, but even if he did say it, it's not a crime. Well, that's kind of like saying, well, my -- you know, your client is charged with a bank robbery. You're not going to come in and say, if he didn't commit the bank robbery, you're not going to say, well, he didn't commit the bank robbery, but on the other hand, if he did, a lot of the money in that bank was his.
I don't think you're going to do that. I think you're going to say he didn't say it. Why -- so his -- Giuliani's story doesn't hold water with me.
HARLOW: OK. Gentlemen, thank you both for sticking around on all of that news this morning.
Ahead for us, the president is calling for a potential boycott of Harley-Davidson. He's calling it great. So what do bikers who support the president and have all the way through -- what do they have to say about that?
I will talk to one of them next.
[10:26:13] HARLOW: All right. We are continuing to follow the killing of 40 children on a school bus in Yemen. We first brought you this story last week. But now the United States says it is sending investigators to try to find out more about this Saudi coalition airstrike that caused the death of these innocent children. And now we have new video, new video that is extremely difficult to watch of this tragedy.
Let's go to our Nima Elbagir who joins me now with more.
And you've been reporting on this throughout. I know that last week when we spoke, they couldn't even cope with what they were trying to mourn through, couldn't even bring themselves to bury these children. And now they are beginning to do that.
NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And some of these bodies, Poppy, are so mutilated that the parents have not been able to identify their own children. So they're still going through the process of identifying a lot of the missing children. What this video that we have obtained through local officials shows us, though, is it shows how happy the children were in the hours and moments just before the strike.
This was a long awaited day out, a respite from the horrors of a childhood spent in war. I have to warn our viewers and you, Poppy, that these images are really distressing. But we think it's important that we show them. Take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ELBAGIR (voice-over): They are taking roll call. They probably needn't bother. This is the day we're told the students had excitedly been awaiting for weeks. The little boy filming, Osama (PH), swings the cell phone around to capture all his friends. They are due to graduate today after two months of religious summer school.
First up is a shrine to the filthy mosques. It may not seem like a fun day out, but in a city ravaged by war, this cemetery is one of the few remaining green spaces. The children scatter in a game of chase. Less than an hour later, most of the children you see in this video were dead.
Osama's phone was found in the wreckage of the bus and with it the children's last moments. CNN obtained the footage from local Houthi officials. This attack on the school bus carrying children by the U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition in Yemen has drawn condemnation. The coalition maintains the attack hit a legitimate target, trainers and recruiters of child soldiers.
Still, the coalition is investigating. And says it is fighting to reinstate Yemen's legitimate president after his overthrow by the Iranian-backed Houthi militias. Three years on now, and the devastation in Yemen continues.
The surviving children struggle to piece together what happened.
The scope of the tragedy still too difficult to absorb. (INAUDIBLE) is a medic, the first at the scene.
Many of the bodies found after the attack are so mutilated that the process of identifying them has been drawn out and torturous.