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Omarosa Says She's Been Interviewed by Special Counsel; CNN Poll: 66 Percent Say Mueller Should Wrap Up Probe By Midterms. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired August 14, 2018 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: -- to it some more. We got it on Spotify or something.

Don Lemon, always a pleasure to have you. Thank you so much. Of course, this guy on CNN each and every night at 10:00 here.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me. THE LEAD with Jake Tapper starts right now.


The White House Press Secretary just said she could not guarantee that the American people will never hear a tape of the President using the N-word. THE LEAD starts right now.

The Trump campaign goes after Omarosa for millions after the President of the United States calls her a dog. Nasty tweets, backstabbing, ugly accusations. The reality T.V. presidency hits its own version of the sweeps.

Case closed? Paul Manafort's defense rests without calling a single witness. But who will have the final say, the jury or the President's pardon pen?

Plus, a CNN exclusive, misconduct allegations of President Trump's Pentagon. Complaints about a top Pentagon official that sounds swampy. Like Scott Pruitt swampy. Is all of these trickling down from the top?

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin this afternoon with breaking news in our politics lead. And the ugly war of words between President Trump and Omarosa Manigault- Newman getting even nastier.

The Trump campaign now taking legal action against the fired White House adviser, claiming her new tell-all book violates a nondisclosure agreement signed that Omarosa signed during the 2015 presidential campaign.

This all comes as President Trump took to Twitter today to reassure the world that, despite her accusations, he has never used the N-word. And by the way, the President said Omarosa is a dog. When asked about the insult today on MSNBC and the insult of other

minorities and women, Omarosa invoked a moment last fall when the White House criticized Democratic Congresswoman Frederica Wilson and the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson who was killed in an ambush in Niger.


OMAROSA MANIGAULT-NEWMAN, FORMER DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS, OFFICE OF PUBLIC LIAISON: They were tag teaming by attacking these African- American women. Who in their right mind would attack a woman who just lost her husband on the front line of serving for this country?

That is exactly it. He is not in his right mind. He is mentally impaired and unfit to serve as president.


TAPPER: Of course, we should point out that Omarosa has no medical credentials to assess the President's mental state. That's just her opinion.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House for us. And, Kaitlan, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders just said that she could not guarantee there's not a tape of President Trump out there using the N- word. Shocking!

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: A pretty stunning comment. The Press Secretary standing there in the briefing room, unable to say that a tape of the President using the N-word will never surface.

Instead, Sarah Sanders pointed to the President's denials on Twitter saying that that word is not his vocabulary and said that she herself has never heard the President use that word.

It was a stunning comment among a slew of remarkable ones during that briefing there, Jake, where she also said that the President's insults about Omarosa, specifically the one this morning referring to her as a dog, aren't racist because when the President insults people, he's an equal opportunist who insults people of all races.


COLLINS (voice-over): The White House in an all-out war today with one of its own. Sarah Sanders painting Omarosa Manigault-Newman as nothing more than a disgruntled former employee.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President is certainly voicing his frustration with the fact that this person has shown a complete lack of integrity, particularly by the actions following her time here at the White House.

COLLINS (voice-over): President Trump escalating the messy fight with his fellow former reality star, praising his Chief of Staff for quickly firing that dog. Omarosa responding to the President's insults by releasing more

recordings, this time of Trump campaign staff discussing an alleged recording of him using a racial slur and how to handle it.


KATRINA PIERSON, NATIONAL SPOKESPERSON FOR DONALD TRUMP'S PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: I'm trying to find out at least the context it was used in to help us maybe try to figure out a way to spin it.

LYNNE PATTON, ADMINISTRATOR FOR REGION II, DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT: I said, well, sir, can you think of anytime that this might have happened? And he said, no. I said, sir, have you --

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: Well, that's not true, so --

PATTON: He goes, how do you think I should handle it? And I told him exactly what you just said, Omarosa, which is, well, it depends on what scenario you're talking about. And he said, well, why don't you just go ahead and put it to bed?

PIERSON: He said it.

PATTON: I don't know what the scandal is.


PIERSON: No. He said it. He's embarrassed.


COLLINS (voice-over): One of the staffers on the call, Katrina Pierson, telling CNN she was only trying to placate Omarosa.

The President, again, taking to Twitter denying that any tape of him using a racial slur exists, claiming "I don't have that word in my vocabulary."

The Trump campaign taking legal steps against Omarosa today, filing an arbitration action alleging she violated a confidentiality agreement.

While CNN hasn't seen the agreement Omarosa signed, it has obtained a copy of the nondisclosure agreement Trump campaign officials signed in 2016.

[16:05:08] Those who signed agreed not to disparage the President or his family and agreed to binding arbitration if they did. The messy feud creating an environment of paranoia in the West Wing as officials fear there could be more recordings to come while Omarosa continues her book tour.

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: There's a lot of corruption that went on both in the campaign and in the White House, and I'm going to blow the whistle on all of it.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COLLINS: Now, as far as NDAs go, Sarah Sanders wouldn't say if she signed one while being here in the White House.

But she did blame the media when she was asked why the White House won't just ignore Omarosa's book until it goes away, not pointing out that she herself has issued two statements about Omarosa's book and that the President, Jake, has tweeted about it nearly 10 times in just the last 24 hours.


TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much.

Let's discuss this with our very eager panel. I want to play for you this remarkable exchange from the briefing where Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was asked a pretty straightforward question, I think, by NBC's Kristen Welker. Let's take a listen.


KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Can you stand at the podium and guarantee the American people they'll never hear Donald Trump utter the N-word on a recording in any context?

SANDERS: I can't guarantee anything, but I can tell you that the President addressed this question directly. I can tell you that I have never heard of it.

WELKER: Just to be clear, you can't guarantee it?

SANDERS: Look, I haven't been in every single room. I can tell you the President has addressed this directly.


TAPPER: I mean, that's pretty stunning. First of all, I'm not sure why, today of all days, she decided that lying was something she wasn't willing to do. So kudos to her for the truth on that, but, like --


TAPPER: But the idea that you can't make that guarantee, why can't you make that guarantee?

JEAN-PIERRE: Because anyone when's been paying attention knows that -- well, basically, if you don't know that Donald Trump is not a racist or is a racist -- gosh, I'm trying to get my words together here --


JEAN-PIERRE: -- then you haven't been paying attention. So even she knows that she cannot categorically say that Donald Trump is not a racist. And also, just look at his Twitter. His Twitter feed. When you call

somebody a dog, especially people of color which he loves to do, women, in particular, you're basically dehumanizing them. You're saying, you're not human.

And the funny thing, too -- I was thinking about it, too -- is, like, OK, Putin's poodle is calling Omarosa a dog, right? Because that's what he's been called after the Helsinki.

But it's the low I.Q., right, the rapists, the drug dealers? It's all a pattern. And what he is saying is people who are not like me, the other, I am going to dehumanize them.

And they are not human, I'm going to belittle them. And I'm going to make them less than. And that is Donald Trump's way.

TAPPER: Don't you think that you could guarantee that if somebody said -- you used to work for Mitch McConnell. You know, can you guarantee that there's no tape of Mitch McConnell saying -- using the N-word?


TAPPER: Yes, that's what I'm saying.

HOLMES: I know him.

JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, yes.

HOLMES: I mean, no hesitation whatsoever. What was so puzzling about this, for me, is that your job is the Press Secretary. Now, look, Sarah's got the toughest job in politics by far, and that goes by, basically, any press secretary.

But the President did address this on Twitter. In fact, he said it's not in his vocabulary. So why then, at a press briefing, we can't make guarantees about whether or not this tape exists is really puzzling to me because the President said it doesn't exist.

ANGELA RYE, PRINCIPAL AND CEO, IMPACT STRATEGIES: He says a lot of things himself that he then has to retract because they're lies. I think we are well into the thousands in "The Washington Post" count about the number of lies.

I think my challenge here is to just chime into what, Karine, you were saying, and that is, Jemele Hill, Frederica Wilson, Maxine Waters, LeBron James, CNN's Don Lemon, NFL players who are overwhelmingly Black are sons of B's.

This man has an issue with Black people. He has an issue with Latino people. That's how he started his campaign. And so she can't guarantee that a racist didn't use the N-word for the same reason that we can't guarantee the head of the KKK didn't use the N-word, right?

Like, I hate to break it to you but this guy -- and I remember, like, being on air during the campaign and the first time I said he was a racist -- I can't remember whose show it was. Jake, it was not yours.



RYE: But they said you can't call him a racist.


RYE: Why can't I?


RYE: If all indicators say that you regularly traffic in this type of -- in this type of conversation and you will egg people on -- even on the anniversary of Charlottesville where somebody died, he couldn't say, right, like, this was --

JEAN-PIERRE: He never said her name.

RYE: -- White supremacy, it has to end.


RYE: He said, again, it wasn't -- this time, he didn't say on all sides, there are good people on both sides. He said all types of racism.


RYE: And so he regularly plays footsy with White supremacists. And that's why he has probably said it.

JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, he has said it.

TAPPER: And if I could just say, that their -- defenders of the President point out, and Sarah Sanders was doing this that he --

[16:10:01] JEAN-PIERRE: Yes.

TAPPER: -- he's an equal opportunity offender, he goes after everyone. And it is true that he has called people dogs before, and it is true that he has insulted people's intelligence before.

RYE: Sure.

TAPPER: But! But according to "The Washington Post," 11 of the 15 attacks on people's intelligence -- post-inauguration, OK? So just since he was inaugurated, 11 of the 15 were against African-American men or women.

So that is quite disproportionate, not only to the population but to Trump critics. And this is before Omarosa. Don't you think that there's an issue -- well, you have been saying it for months.


TAPPER: There is an issue here. There is an issue here, Bill.

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes, there's an issue there, and it's not an issue for African-Americans to call out. It is an issue for all Americans to call out.


KRISTOL: He is the President of all of us, and he is saying things that are really indefensible.

TAPPER: Yes. So one other thing about the tape released today by Omarosa about what seems to be Trump campaign aides, including Katrina Pierson, discussing the potential N-word tape, she denied that call ever happened on Monday.

But she has now released a statement saying, quote, in her secret tape recording of me, it was one of many times that I would placate Omarosa to move the discussion along because I was weary of her obsession over this alleged tape. That discussion was nothing other than sifting through unconfirmed rumors regarding "The Apprentice" tape and the transcripts support my statement. Omarosa fabricated the story by conflating numerous discussions.

So this is a challenge for all of us here. We, honestly, have a story where there are, like, 30 liars.

RYE: Yes!


RYE: Yes! Yes!

TAPPER: And --

JEAN-PIERRE: They're not credible. Nobody's credible.

HOLMES: But here is --

TAPPER: And they're all changing their stories.

RYE: Yes!


TAPPER: Omarosa, Katrina Pierson, the President.

RYE: Yes.


TAPPER: They're all changing the stories, and we don't know what to believe. And that's, I guess, why Omarosa has these tapes.

RYE: But shouldn't we just believe, like, his behavior, right?

HOLMES: Right.

TAPPER: Right.

JEAN-PIERRE: Right, right.

RYE: If we don't have to ever listen to a word he speaks --


RYE: -- we can listen to this man's behavior. We can watch her behavior.


RYE: She told us at the National Action Network convention, every knee shall bow to Donald Trump. Boo, that's a Bible verse.


RYE: That's a Bible verse and it does not apply. We shall not be bowing down to Donald Trump.


RYE: He will be bowing down like Nebuchadnezzar. That's another Bible --

JEAN-PIERRE: And we don't --

KRISTOL: And why are we talking about Omarosa? Because Donald Trump made her an assistant to the President.

JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, he started it.

KRISTOL: Assistant to the president.


KRISTOL: There are about 20 of them in the White House.

TAPPER: Right.

KRISTOL: I know people who have served in government -- gosh, don't we all, I'm sure --


KRISTOL: -- 20, 30 years. They got up to the deputy assistant level. They did a heck of a lot for this county, and they never quite made that level. That's a very high level at the White House.

RYE: Yes.

KRISTOL: Think about that for a minute. Why? What were -- I mean, that was --

JEAN-PIERRE: He brought her into this.

KRISTOL: Everyone just dismisses that.

JEAN-PIERRE: He brought her into this.

KRISTOL: Well, that's just Trump being Trump. She didn't have the power. It's really a -- that, in itself, is very telling.

RYE: Yes, but they'll hire -- that's true, too. He paid her the most, but she didn't have an office in the White House. She was in EOB, which I think is also significant. For you to be paid at that level but he is still keeping you out to a degree, I think that's important, too.

HOLMES: Well, he's keeping her out. Probably for good reason, now.


TAPPER: Yes, I mean.

JEAN-PIERRE: That's right.

HOLMES: But we're losing our money and --

TAPPER: Right, it's not --


RYE: That's right. I agree, I agree.

KRISTOL: But he's not paying her, as we know.

JEAN-PIERRE: But we just --

KRISTOL: We are paying her. We're paying her.

RYE: That's true, we are paying her.

KRISTOL: And it's never --

JEAN-PIERRE: That's true, we're paying her, but we're paying him too.

KRISTOL: John Kelly took over as Trump tweeted, right? And John Kelly, right away, said, well, she should go. But Trump persuaded the Chief of Staff to keep her around for an extra six months, I think, it is.

RYE: Yes.

KRISTOL: Because she was saying nice things about him.

RYE: Yes.

JEAN-PIERRE: Yes. KRISTOL: And we were paying for her to be an assistant to the

president because she was apparently saying nice things about him.

JEAN-PIERRE: Because she says nice things about him. But that's how he rolls. That's exactly how he rolls.

TAPPER: And, Josh, you work in campaigns. What do you make of this move by the Trump campaign to bring a legal action against her to honor her nondisclosure agreement, which, obviously, is very broadly written, not just about state secrets or personal information but just about any disparagement, any information?

HOLMES: Yes, I mean --

TAPPER: And they're actually seeking money from her? They're seeking to tell her to stop -- you know, so she can stop talking.

HOLMES: Right.

TAPPER: I mean, this -- I've never seen anything like this.

HOLMES: Well, as a political matter, it's the exact opposite of what you want to do, right?

TAPPER: Right.

HOLMES: Because I think if you didn't do anything at all, if you just let Omarosa go on her book tour and show up on all the various cable stations and say whatever she is going to say, by Monday of next week, Omarosa doesn't exist on planet Earth. There's nobody that's talking about this book after one week.

RYE: Yes.

HOLMES: Unless they light the fuse and begin tweeting at her and begin filing some kind of legal action against her, which is where we are at right now. Now, who knows how long this goes?

My problem with this entire story is what you mentioned, Jake, in that there is -- I'm all filled up on credibility problems here, right? I'm not interested in entertaining anybody else's version of the events.

If a tape exists, let's hear it. If it doesn't exist, let's not talk about it. Because, frankly, just speculating on whether we think he's a racist and whether we think that these things exist, I think, undermine the credibility that President Trump is actually making real inroads with as to what the media covers in this country.


TAPPER: Right, except listen --

HOLMES: Here is the fact.

TAPPER: But can I talk -- KRISTOL: I mean, I'll just throw in --


KRISTOL: And I give her, Omarosa -- if she hadn't come out, we wouldn't be discussing -- we wouldn't know, I don't think, for sure -- it was reported a little a few months ago -- that the White House was having government employees sign the nondisclosure agreement. Which, for me --

TAPPER: It had been reported, and the White House had lied and said it wasn't true.


RYE: Yes.

TAPPER: That is very important, in my view. It is totally outrageous. There is no legal authority for it.

I would like Don McGahn, the White House Counsel, who is a government employee and who should be accessible to the media occasionally, at least, or his deputy, who was the ethics lawyer, to explain what legal authority they have to pressure White House staffers to sign something.



KRISTOL: It's totally inappropriate for a public official.

TAPPER: "The Washington Post" has a story today where Don McGahn was walking around and getting people to sign it and saying, don't worry, it's not enforceable.

[16:15:02] (LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: He's just doing it just to placate the President.

JEAN-PIERRE: And it's true, it's not.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. We got a lot more to talk about, another Omarosa bombshell. She says she's talked to Special Counsel Robert Mueller but, again, is she even a credible witness for this investigation?

Plus, a new disturbing report, the investigation that uncovered yet another Catholic priest sex abuse scandal and cover-up to keep the allegations quiet. You want to hear about this. Stay with us.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: "The Washington Post" has a story today where Don McGahn was walking around and getting people to sign it and saying, don't worry, it's not enforceable. (LAUGHTER)

[16:15:03] TAPPER: He's just doing it just to placate the president.

Everyone, stick around. We've got a lot more to talk about.

Another Omarosa bombshell. She says she's talked with special counsel Robert Mueller. But again, is she even a credible witness for this investigation?

Plus, a new disturbing report, the investigation that uncovered yet another Catholic priest sex abuse scandal and an apparent cover-up at high levels in the church to keep the allegations quiet. You're going to want to hear about this.

Stay with us.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you been interviewed by the special counsel?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have? And what sort of questions were they asking you?

MANIGAULT NEWMAN: That's the extent I can go in discussing that as well. I feel like my hands are tied.


TAPPER: That was Omarosa Manigault Newman claiming earlier today that she has met with special counsel Robert Mueller. She has released several secretly recorded conversations from her time in the White House. She said that she would happily hand over any relevant recordings to the special counsel.

Let's continue this conversation. I mean, I think it is serious question. What does she have? But also, does she have any credibility?

[16:20:00] I'm going to you first.


TAPPER: Want me to go to Bill first? I'll go to Bill first.



(LAUGHTER) ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, it is a laughable matter if only it wasn't a very serious investigation that we are talking about.


RYE: I think, no, she doesn't have any credibility. We can go to what she said during the campaign.

The fact that as a person of color, you sat in an administration that you know that you now say regularly, right, that this is someone who is a racist and a bigot, but you sat there and you watched all that happen and you didn't blow the whistle, you were dragged almost literally out of the White House.

So, you have -- when they talk about motive, right, in the legal space, you have motive to say something disparaging about this person and about this administration. So, I think that Bob Mueller knows --

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: You can't lie to the special counsel.

RYE: You can if you're these people! They don't care!

KRISTOL: Well, you can and then --


KRISTOL: Physically able.

RYE: They're very able to.

KRISTOL: And then you will plead guilty like Rick Gates.

TAPPER: Her claims about this N-word tape that President Trump --

KRISTOL: That's irrelevant.

TAPPER: But they've been all over the map, you know what I mean? She made like five different claims in the last week.


KRISTOL: She did say though -- I mean, who knows if -- maybe lying about speaking with Mueller. And I guess it's not against the law to lie.

TAPPER: Right.

RYE: That's my point.

KRISTOL: But if she spoke to Mueller, you can ask what might it have been about and we do know that she has said that Trump did know or talked to her about knowing about the e-mails at the time. Now, who knows if they talked in the campaign or not, but it's not out of the question. So, I don't rule out the fact that Mueller got some interesting piece in relation to her.

TAPPER: But let me say about that, because she said that on Katy Tur show earlier today. She has provided no evidence for it, right? It's not in her 400-page book.

KRISTOL: No, I know.

TAPPER: It didn't come up in the other five or six other interviews she did. I mean, I heard her say it, too.

RYE: Yes.

TAPPER: And I was surprised by it, too. But at this point, I mean, are we just -- again, Paul Ryan, Speaker Ryan said that President Trump trolls us. Is Omarosa doing the same thing?


KARINE-PIERRE: Absolutely.

TAPPER: That's not in the book, though.

KARINE-PIERRE: We're talking about it today, right? We're continuing to talk about her and the book.


KRISTOL: I mean, she is ridiculous obviously in many ways. She said there are these tapes. That's ridiculous. And then she said a tape discussing Trump's use of bigoted language and there's not quite that, but there's a tape of her discussing it with another person.

TAPPER: Right, with Katrina Pierson saying, he said that he's embarrassed.

KRISTOL: I'm open-minded on this. Liars tell the truth sometimes.

TAPPER: Very open minded.

JEAN-PIERRE: I think Mueller has what he needs, right? I think he is ahead of us, ahead of the administration, ahead of the public and I -- he has everything that he needs and if she has something that is useful, I'm pretty sure Mueller's handling it.

JOSH HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: If the investigation hinges on Omarosa, he's got a real problem.

JEAN-PIERRE: Exactly. Exactly. Then we're really in trouble. Isn't it -- sorry.

TAPPER: Go ahead.

RYE: I was going to say, there's something, too, to be said for the fact that she wasn't just saying that she talked to Bob Mueller, she also was kind of lobbying to be talked to, as well, like it was supposed to be a second conversation. I think that will be the first conversation in this same discussion. She's like, I would be happy to tell him what happened.

TAPPER: That's what's interesting about this. And "The New York Times" with a piece about this, about I think about the Trump-like characters who are now emerging as Trump's nemesis, Michael Avenatti and now Omarosa.

We're going to take a quick break.

As his defense team rests its case, Paul Manafort is opening his mouth the first words he spoken in court. What were they? Coming up.

Plus, a tragic turn to those raging and historic wildfires in California.

Stay with us.


[16:28:15] TAPPER: It's something we have yet to see with the Russia investigation: President Trump and Democrats in complete agreement. A new CNN poll shows 57 percent of Democrats think Mueller should try to wrap up his work by the midterm elections, 72 percent of Republicans polled agreed. But they definitely do not agree on how they feel about the investigation with 77 percent of Republicans saying they think the investigation is mainly an effort to discredit the president while 91 percent of Democrats say it's a serious matter that should be investigated.

CNN's Sara Murray joins me now.

And, Sara, it really seems like President Trump's repeated and long- term attacks on legitimacy of this investigation, it's working.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it seems like to some extent. You know, the American public doesn't necessarily agree that this investigation is a witch hunt but there does seem to be some weariness there and they at least seem to agree on the fact that it's about time for Mueller to wrap it up.


MURRAY (voice-over): After months of President Trump attacking special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did nothing wrong. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction.

MURRAY: -- at rallies, on Twitter and with his lawyers on cable news --

RUDY GIULIANI, PERSONAL ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: Mueller should bring it to a close. It's about time to say enough.

MURRAY: -- the rhetoric seems to be resonating with the American people.

A majority of Americans, 66 percent, in a new CNN poll now agree they want Mueller to wrap up his investigation by November's midterm elections. The surprising twist, it doesn't matter which party you belong to. Seventy-two percent of Republicans, 69 percent of independents, even 57 percent of Democrats want Mueller to finish up by November.

TRUMP: I would love to speak. I would love to. Nobody wants to speak more than me, in fact, against my lawyers, because lawyers say never speak on anything. I would love to speak.

MURRAY: President Trump insists he's will willing to sit for an interview with Mueller and 77 percent of Americans say he should, but Trump's attorney, they're taking a tougher tact. Rudy Giuliani consistently arguing for limits and conditions on any Mueller interview with the president.