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Giuliani Contradicts Self on Trump's Comey Conversations; Fox News: Mueller Greater Threat than Vladimir Putin; John Kasich Responds to Trump Tweets; Trump Speaks to Military at Fort Drum, Signs Defense Authorization Act. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired August 14, 2018 - 14:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:31:34] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: To yet another backtrack from President Trump's legal team involving the obstruction piece of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Rudy Giuliani says if the president sits down for questioning with Mueller that President Trump will say he never discussed easing up on a probe of Michael Flynn with James Comey.

Here is Giuliani from this weekend with Jake Tapper.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: 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. There was no conversation about Michael Flynn. The president didn't find out until Comey believed there was until February when it supposedly took place.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: You are saying that President Trump and James Comey never discussed Michael Flynn?

GIULIANI: That is what he will testify to if he was asked that question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Now, hang on a second, because just a few weeks ago, Giuliani said that the president and Comey did discuss Flynn.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: He's saying that the president was asking, directing him, in his words, to get the Michael Flynn investigation go.

GIULIANI: He didn't direct him to do that. What he said to him was, can you --

STEPHANOPOULOS: He took it as direction.

GIULIANI: Well, that's OK. Taken it that way, 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Just a reminder here in the former FBI director's memos, Comey claims the president said, quote, "I hope you can let this go."

Let's talk to Peter Wehner. He served in three Republican administrations, Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43.

Peter, a pleasure to have you on. Welcome

PETER WEHNER, SENIOR FELLOW, ETHICS AND PUBLIC POLICY CENTER: Thanks. Thanks for having me on.

BALDWIN: First up, Giuliani saying one thing one week and another thing another week on a central piece this investigation. What say you?

WEHNER: I would say that Rudy Giuliani has had and seen better days. This is the coin of the realm with these guys. They say one thing one day, something else the other day. We had it with Jay Sekulow. But this is an administration that deals in lies. And they have given us an avalanche of lies and misstates. So they are lies and misstatements.

They are living in a post truth world or trying to create one. They are throwing things on the walls and seeing what can stick and what doesn't. Seeing Rudy Giuliani embarrass himself is something I guess we have come to expect. It is a sad thing to see. But it's also a pernicious thing. This is all part of an effort to discredit institutions and individuals who are trying to get to the truth and reality of thing as they relate to Donald Trump and his wrongdoings.

BALDWIN: As far as throwing things on the wall and seeing what sticks, I want you to tell me just from the legal perspective what you hear in this, if you listen closely. Because Giuliani actually doesn't deny the conversation took place, right, about Flynn, between Trump and Comey. He 2says that Trump will testify that he did not take place. The nuance there.

[14:34:37:] WEHNER: Yes. Look, they are trying to get nuance more and more because they are worried that the Mueller investigation is closing in on them and that there's evidence to contradict what they have said. So they are trying to create escape hatches and ways out. But it's not going to work. In the end, Robert Mueller is going to come forward with his report. My suspicion sits' going to be a powerful indictment that's going to demonstrate layers and layers of wrongdoing. So all that Trump and his supporters are going to be able to do is to try and slander Mueller and discredit the investigation not because those charges will be true.

They are not. Robert Mueller is a man of tremendous integrity and the investigation is first class. But that's what they have been reduced to. This is the end justifies the means. This is an administration surrounded by supporters who say that they have got to do whatever they have to do and say whatever they have to say to try and protect Donald Trump. And the stronger the Mueller case is, the more the slanders increase and the more the attacks and efforts to delegitimatize the investigation increase.

BALDWIN: As we are talking, Peter, I don't know if you have a TV in front of you, but for everyone watching along and you are wandering what is going on. Obviously, there's the president. He is in Fort Drum. He is there to sign this $16 billion national defense authorization act. What you are looking at is an actual drill that is happening here in Fort Drum for the president.

WEHNER: Right.

BALDWIN: Just to let people know what's going on, he will be signing this defense bill, which is actually named after John McCain, Peter --

WEHNER: That's right.

BALDWIN: --who is a frequent Trump critic. So --

WEHNER: He is. And an American hero. And somebody that was also slandered pie Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign.

BALDWIN: As we stay on the pictures I want to continue on in the conversation.

In recent days, we have been hearing escalated rhetoric from FOX News hosts, analysts. So here is just the latest example.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Robert Mueller is a greater threat to this republic and the Constitution than anything Vladimir Putin did during the campaign.

JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST: Is Mueller a greater threat than Putin to this country?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a serious threat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: You heard -- you heard her question. You know, this is the only show the president watches, Peter, transmitting a message that Putin is less of a threat than a specially appointed former FBI agent.

WEHNER: Yes. This is insane. And it just shows you that with these people there's no bottom when it comes to defending Donald Trump. Vladimir Putin is a dictator. He is repressive. He has killed journalists. He is an adversary of the United States and intervened in the 2016 election and tried to tilt the outcome. The idea that Robert Mueller is a bigger threat to America than Vladimir Putin is crazy. There's a difference between America and Donald Trump.

What you have to understand what's going on here is the stronger the case that Robert Mueller has, the more vitriolic, the more acrimonious, the more libelous his support remembers going to be on his attacks on Robert Mueller. It's actually a sign of the strength of the case that Mueller is assessing and their fear of what he's going to reveal. If Robert Mueller didn't have anything they would ignore him. But they know that he's got something. And they can't refute it on the facts. So they have to try and delegitimatize him and the investigation. But in the end, the truth will out and I don't think they are going to get away, which they certainly shouldn't. What is happening here is a cynical and dishonest game.

BALDWIN: Speaking of Putin, there has been this whole back and forth. Trump has been tweeting today before he arrived and is standing with the nation's military members in Fort Drum. He was tweeting. He was tweeting about his former foe, someone else who wanted to be president, the Ohio governor, John Kasich. The president was saying that he heard of the Ohio Republican's Senate campaign. Kasich responds. We have the clip on the screen, which is, of all people, Vladimir Putin laughing -- from the Ohio governor.

WEHNER: Right. It's unusual to see a Republican governor troll a Republican president. But that's life under Donald Trump. Yes, and that race, the Ohio 12th district, I don't think there's much question that the Kasich endorsement was more helpful to the Republican candidate than the Trump one. I think the Trump endorsement probably helped but Kasich helped more. He's certainly more popular in Ohio. But this is an illustration of what politics under Donald Trump has become. This is like a reality game show. It's trivial. It's unserious. And he has a way of pulling almost who is involved in politics into it with him.

And we can't let that happen, because politics is about a lot of things, but politics finally and fundamentally is about justice. And promoting the human good. And the common good. And we can't allow this kind of cynicism and this kind of triviality to take over. We need people to defend politics and embody what it can be. And Trump is the antithesis of that. The trick for the critics is to find out how you can make a case against him without being drawn down into the muck with him. It's not always an easy thing to do.

[14:40:28] BALDWIN: Peter Wehner, thank you so very much for talking to me here about Trump, and Giuliani and Mueller.

I want to go to our pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, to help us understand what exactly we have been seeing in the drills at Fort Drum.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, you are seeing the president now, looks like the drills may have concluded a bit. He is shaking hands with the troops, taking photos with them. This is something that really is very important to the troops. They wanted to see the commander-in-chief. And they like meeting any president of the United States because, after all, this is the person that can send them into battles.

But, as you look at these pictures, it is very important to remember, this is a demonstration in front of cameras. This is a photo-op. Is it real training for the troops? Yes. They train all the time. But they are doing this in front of cameras because the president is there.

The scenario we are told, you know, is establishing a front line in a foreign country. Of course, in reality, if they are establishing a front line in a foreign country, the chances are they are being shot at. That certainly is not what is happening as the president watch this is demonstration. So not to minimize it at all in terms of something the military wants to show the president of the United States that they can do, but it should be sort of understood for what it is.

It is a demonstration in front of television cameras. And it is a demonstration, the fact is, for a president that has not yet found the time or opportunity, if you will, to visit the front lines in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, where so many troops are, where so many top generals go visit the troops. The president has not made that journey yet, away from a demonstration in front of TV cameras to the front lines where, even today, in Afghanistan, U.S. troops are on the ground working as advisers in a very bitter fight with the Taliban. That the Afghanistan forces are trying to win.

You know, troops are putting their lives on the line, on the real line, all over the place. The president is seeing an important demonstration. That's what it is. He will, I guess, be continuing this visit and speaking shortly.

BALDWIN: He will speak shortly. We'll take it. We will listen in.

Barbara Starr, thank you so much. Appreciate your voice on that in the military.

Meantime, a major development in a high-profile Stand Your Ground case out of Florida where a man was shot and killed during an argument over a parking spot. Almost a month later, we are asking, why are charges just now being filed?

And a Minnesota teenager says she was medically kidnapped. This unusual story involving an 18-year-old girl who says she was held captive by the world-renowned Mayo Clinic after the hospital helped save her life. Do not miss this CNN exclusive showing her escape. Coming up.

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[14:47:33] BALDWIN: Now to Florida where a man involved in a deadly Stand Your Ground case has been now charged with manslaughter. The video from July shows Michael Drejka confronting a woman who was parked in a handicapped spot. The woman's boyfriend, Markeis McGlockton, confronts the man, pushes him to the ground, and as McGlockton starts to walk away he was shot in the chest and he later died. Drejka was not arrested. And at the time of the shooting, the sheriff said no crime was committed.

Martin Savidge is with me now with clearly an obvious change.

What change took make prosecutor bring charges in this case? MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The reason the sheriff said he

couldn't make an arrest in the case at that time was the fact of the controversial Florida's Stand Your Ground case. However, there has been a review by the state attorney of the county and essentially that attorney has said, hold on a second here, we don't necessarily see it that way. In other words, that Drejka may not have a strong case of the Stand Your Ground. As a result of that, there was a manslaughter charge that was placed. Drejka was taken into custody this morning, put in jail under $100,000 bond and has his court appearance tomorrow.

The family of the man who was shot, Markeis McGlockton, has issued this statement. And they say, "This man killed Markeis in cold blood without a second thought about the devastating impact these actions would have on our family. But this charge gives us a measure of hope that the truth will win and justice prevail in the end."

The video is key in his case. It will be key in his trial. It does not mean yes or no to Stand Your Ground. It just means that prosecutors believe they can make a case that Stand Your Ground here does not apply after this argument, as you say, over a parking space outside of a convenient store in Florida back in July -- Brooke?

[14:49:27] BALDWIN: Martin Savidge, thank you.

Coming up next, new questions emerge about airport security after a ground employee managed to steal an empty commercial plane, fly it for over an hour, only to end in a fiery crash. How the suspect was able to get up in the air, and are security changes now need? Let's talk about this, coming up.

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BALDWIN: The FBI says it has located human remains in the flight data recorder in the wreckage of the Horizon airplane that crashed Friday near Seattle. And there are all kinds of questions about how an airport worker, with apparently no piloting experience, could pull something off like this. Authorities say Richard Russell, a ground service agent, stole and flew the plane for about an hour before crashing into a remote island. During the harrowing joyride, Russell even attempted stunts. All the while, these armed F-15 jets scrambled to fly behind him.

And throughout the whole flight, he talked to air traffic control.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD RUSSELL, AIRLINE EMPLOYEE WHO STOLE AIRPLANE: I got a lot of people that care about me and it's going to disappoint them to hear that I did this. I would like to apologize to each and every one of them. Just a broken guy. Got a few screws loose, I guess. Never really knew it until now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: We are going to come back to this.

First, let's go straight to President Trump at Fort Drum, New York.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- this base and most particularly the people that are working so hard here and so effectively.

So I want to start by say, at ease! Just relax. Do you have seats? You can sit down. Go ahead, sit -- if you want to stand, you can. We'll just get one big standing ovation, right? Sit down.

Thank you. That's pretty good. Everybody has got a seat. Thank you very much.

I want to thank our wonderful vice president, Mike Pence, and say a special hello to the incredible patriots of Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division. Special people. Thank you.

(CHEERING)

(APPLAUSE)

[14:55:02] TRUMP: A few moments ago, I witnessed your extraordinary capabilities firsthand during an artillery raid demonstration. I would like to begin by applauding the 10th Mountain Division Combat Aviation bringing aid, along with the 3rd Battalion 6th Field Artillery.

(CHEERING)

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: I hate to say this, but nobody stands a chance against you folks. Nobody stands a chance.

(CHEERING)

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: I'm here today to sign our new defense bill into law and to pay tribute to the greatest soldiers in the history of the world, the United States Army.

Thank you. Thank you.

(CHEEERING)

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: The National Defense Authorization Act is the most significant investment in our military and our war fighters in modern history. And I am very proud to be a big, big part of it. It was not very hard. You know, I went to Congress, I said let's do it. We've got to do it. We are going to strengthen our military like never ever before. And that's what we did.

I want to say, very strongly, there's no better place than right here at Fort Drum to celebrate its passage. No better place. After years of devastating cuts, we are now rebuilding our military like we never have before. Ever. Because we know that to survive and having that survival of our freedom, it depends upon the might of our military. And no enemy on earth can match the strength, courage, and skill of the American Army and the American armed forces. Nobody's even close. They never will be.

We are grateful to be joined today by many of our nation's top military leaders.

I'd like to recognize Deputy Secretary of Defense Shanahan, who is with us.

Please, Mr. Secretary.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: People I've heard about all my life, very prestigious title, I always love the ring, the joint chiefs of staff. Right? That's got a good ring.

Anybody in the audience going to be a member of that some day? I think so. Raise your hand if you think you are going to make I. Raise your hand. Go ahead. Oh, come on.

That's all? Only a few? I don't know.

I want to thank General Dunford, General Millie, General Neller, Admiral Richardson, General Goldfein, General Engle, and Vice Admiral Ray. Thank you all for your leadership. You are magnificent. We appreciate it very much. Thank you. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: A very special thank you to the commanding general of the 10th Mountain Division, Major General Walt Piatt. What a special man.

Walt, I want to thank you.

Where is Walt? Where is Walt?

Walt, thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you.

(CHEERING)

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Walt is back on American soil after deployment in Iraq.

And I just want to welcome you home. You have tremendous respect. They have great, great admiration and respect for you, Walt. Thank you very much.

I also just had the chance to meet Division Command Sergeant Major Jason Roark, along with 10th Mountain Division Soldier of the Year, Michael Lima.

Where is Michael? Where is Michael?

Soldier of the Year. Michael.

(CHEERING)

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Pretty good.

And that Soldier of the Year, Michael, out of how many? How many? That's a lot of soldiers. 18,000? Do you want to work for me? Thank you, Michael. Great job.

We would not be here for today's signing ceremony without the dedicated efforts of the members of Congress who worked so hard to pass the National Defense Authorization Act.

I would like to recognize Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, whose district proudly includes Fort Drum. I have to tell you about Elise. She called me so many times. I said, I don't want to take her call. She wanted me to be here. I said, I won't be able to, you'll have to change a lot of scheduling. But that didn't suit her.