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Omarosa Manigault Newman Releases A Secret Recording Of President Trump; FBI Agent Peter Strzok Was Terminated; Aired 6-7p ET
Aired August 14, 2018 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[18:00:10] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Happening now Omarosa's revenge. The fired Presidential aide releases a secret recording of her former boss, and Mr. Trump hits back calling her a whacky lowlife. Tonight even the President is acknowledging that this ugly grudge match is not Presidential.
Better than expected we are learning more about the Kremlin's take on the Trump-Putin summit and why Russian officials were especially pleased with the U.S. President's performance there. New reaction this hour to our exclusive reporting.
Lying for loans. After more testimony accusing Paul Mueller of borrowing millions of dollars under false pretenses Robert Mueller's team has rested its case against the former Trump campaign chairman. Tonight there is some mystery about what happens next.
And family feud. The son of a top Republican lawmaker publicly slams his father, accusing him of ruining the career of the FBI agent who sent anti-Trump texts. We are following all the new fall out, now the bureau veteran Peter Strzok has been fired.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Sciutto, and you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
SCIUTTO: And breaking tonight, President Trump is gloating about the firing of the FBI agent who disparaged him in text messages, using it to unleash another rant against the Russia investigation. But Peter Strzok's lawyer is warning that his client's ouster flies in the face of bureau protocol and should be deeply troubling to all Americans.
As Mr. Trump slams a veteran law enforcement official he's also trying to vilify would Russians show how the Russians turned on him. Omarosa Manigault Newman has now released a secret recording of Mr. Trump as she promotes her new tell-all book.
I will talk about that and more with Congressman Gerry Connolly, a Democrat on the foreign affairs committee. Our correspondents and analysts also standing by.
First to CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins who has more on President Trump versus Omarosa.
Kaitlan, this is really uglier than an episode of "the Apprentice."
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Jim, it's a fight only two former reality TV stars could have.
The President alleging one of his former highest paid staffers here in the White House is a whacko, that would be Omarosa Manigault-Newman who is making allegations of her own about the President and revealing conversations she recorded of her conversations with White House staffers and even the President himself, which is raising questions about why Omarosa was hired to work here in the first place.
COLLINS (voice-over): President Trump addressing soldiers at Fort Drum.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm here today to sign our new defense bill into law.
COLLINS: As former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault-Newman escalates her war with the administration, revealing she recorded her conversations with the President.
TRUMP: Omarosa, what's going on? I just saw on the news that you are thinking about leaving. What happened?
OMAROSA MANIGAULT-NEWMAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE STAFFER: General Kelly came to me and said you guys wanted me to leave.
TRUMP: No, nobody even told me about it.
COLLINS: Omarosa breaching major security protocols secretly taping her firing by John Kelly in the White House situation room, one of the most secure places in Washington with no devices allowed.
JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I think it's important to understand that if we make this a friendly departure we can all be -- you know, you can look at your time here at the White House as a year of service to the nation and you can go on without any type of difficulty in the future relative to our reputation.
COLLINS: Trump tweeting today that despite intense pressure to fire Omarosa he kept her around because she only said great things about me, adding whacky Omarosa skipped work, missed meetings and was a vicious colleague. Despite promising this on the campaign trail.
TRUMP: We are going to get the best people in the world.
COLLINS: Asked about Omarosa over the weekend, Trump said this.
TRUMP: A lowlife. She's a lowlife.
COLLINS: Omarosa had no defined role in the west wing but rigged in nearly $200,000 taxpayer fund dollars and carried the title assistant to the President. She is also claiming the Trump 2020 campaign offered her a $15,000 a month position if she agreed to keep silent, something she says she refused to do.
Trump also admitting for the first time she signed an NDA, writing on twitter whacky Omarosa already has a fully signed nondisclosure agreement.
When CNN reported that senior staff signed NDAs earlier this year the White House denied it. But Kellyanne Conway said this yesterday.
[18:05:09] KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: We have confidentiality agreement in the west wing. Absolutely, we do.
COLLINS: One White House official telling CNN they don't consider Omarosa's recordings to be a national security threat but noting they are worried she wasn't the only staffer recording conversations.
All this as Omarosa threaten more trouble for the White House.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have more recordings?
MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: Oh, absolutely.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you planning on releasing them?
MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: I don't know. I'll watch to see if they threaten legal action. They have been trying to figure all how to stop me. I'm expecting that they are going to retaliate. And so I'm going to stand back and wait.
COLLINS: Now, Jim, the President was happy to bring up Omarosa today but there is one critic he did not mention. That would be Senator John McCain.
As the President was in Fort Drum today, signing a massive spending bill that is named after senator McCain who made it a top priority of his wheel he was on Capitol Hill and even back at home battling cancer, the President with the way list of people to thank today for helping get that bill through, but he did not mention McCain's name, not once, not at all - Jim.
SCIUTTO: And he was speaking in front of soldiers. Of course, McCain, a decorated veteran.
Kaitlan Collins, thanks very much.
Now to the firing of the FBI agent who has been a frequent target of President Trump's attack, Peter Strzok was terminated by the bureau's deputy director despite a finding by the FBI that he should get a demotion and a suspension for sending those anti-Trump texts.
Let's bring in CNN senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju.
Manu, this was not standard operating procedure. The FBI did its own investigation here.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. And Peter Strzok's attorney raising concerns that this appears to have broken from the precedent of the office of professional responsibility did suggest that Peter Strzok had demoted, to get suspended, but the deputy director of the FBI came in overruling that and firing him on Friday.
Now in the aftermath of the revelation of this firing, President Trump today doing a victory lap, demanding an end to the Russia investigation and also calling to reopen the Clinton investigation.
RAJU (voice-over): Peter Strzok, a controversial figure in the Russia probe terminated by the FBI because of his text messages disparaging Donald Trump. Strzok's lawyer says FBI deputy director David Bowdich overruled a recommendation to demote and suspend the special agent while Trump quickly took to twitter to celebrate and call to an end to the Russia probe.
The list of the bad players in the FBI and DOJ gets longer and longer based on the fact that Strzok was in charge of the witch hunt, will it be dropped?
Strzok helped oversee the start of the Russia probe and played a key role in the Clinton email investigation, which Trump today said should be properly redone.
Strzok was taken off special counsel Mueller's team after the discovery of texts between him and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page. Those messages including one in which it said he'd stop Trump from becoming President led to a tense ten-hour congressional hearing in July.
PETER STRZOK, FORMER FBI AGENT: I'm stating to you, it is not my understanding that he kicked me off because of any bias. But I don't appreciate what was originally said being change.
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I don't give a damn what you appreciate, agent Strzok. I don't appreciate having an FBI agent with an unprecedented level of animus working on investigation during 2016.
RAJU: But the justice department inspector general found no evidence to suggest Strzok's feeling towards impacted the decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton, something Strzok made clear at that raucous house hearing.
STRZOK: It was in no way unequivocally any suggestion that me, the FBI would take any action whatsoever to improperly impact the electoral process.
RAJU: The news comes amid questions about whether Trump will sit down with the special counsel. Trump's lawyers said the President won't answer questions but whether he ask then FBI director James Comey to back off investigating the former White House national security advisor Michael Flynn. Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani now changing his story disputing
Comey's sworn testimony that the President suggested he back off Flynn.
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: And the reason I keep saying his words is I took it as a direction. I mean it's the President of the United States with me alone saying I hope this, I took it as this is what he wants me to do. I didn't obey that, but that's the way I took it.
RAJU: Giuliani now saying this on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION."
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: There was no conversation about Michael Flynn.
RAJU: The comments of Jake Tapper contradict what Giuliani said repeatedly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is he a good witness for the President if he says the President was asking him, directing him in his words to let the Michael Flynn investigation go?
GIULIANI: He didn't direct him to do that. What he said to him was can you --.
RAJU: And this last month.
[18:10:00] GIULIANI: He didn't tell him don't investigate him, don't prosecute him. He had to exercise his prosecutorial discretion because he's a good man with a great war record.
RAJU: After Giuliani denied making that claim, he offered this explanation to tapper after being shown video of his past comments.
GIULIANI: I said it but I also said before I'm talking about their version of it. Look, lawyers argue in the alternative.
RAJU: And another remark by Giuliani about the interview that may or may not occur with the President telling "The Wall Street Journal" that the President would not sit down with the special counsel's team after September 1st because it's getting closer to mid-term Election Day.
Also, Jim, earlier today, Rudy Giuliani called again for this investigation to be wrapped up by September. But of course, no sign that's going to happen especially in light of the fact that Giuliani's team has subpoenaed an associate of Roger Stone, one of the President's closest advisers to come before them in October 7th --Jim.
SCIUTTO: Yes. No sign of baiting (ph) there.
Manu Raju on the Hill, thanks very much.
Joining me now is Congressman Gerry Connolly. He is a Democrat who serves on the House foreign affairs committee.
Mr. Congressman, thanks very much for joining us tonight.
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Great to be with you, Jim.
SCIUTTO: You were serving on the foreign affairs committee. You may have heard our story there that intelligence officials tell myself and my colleague general McLaughlin that Vladimir Putin, other Russian officials were pleased with the Helsinki summit, that it exceed their expectations.
I wonder in your view should the American people be concerned that a hostile foreign power was pleased with the performance of the U.S. President next to the Russian President and pleased with what he said there.
CONNOLLY: Absolutely. I don't know how any patriotic American could be happy with Trump's performance in Helsinki. Especially a two hour meeting, nobody knows what happens and then a 45-minute press conference that was sickening. The President of the United States almost salivating next to the dictator of Russia and actually questioning his own government, his own intelligence community, his own allies at the benefit of Mr. Putin.
That was a shameful moment for the United States. But the lowest moments of any U.S. presidency. And yes, all of us ought to be troubled by the fact now we know from intelligence sources that Russia was understandably pleased with that performance.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you if I can about the news today, the firing of Peter Strzok by the FBI. Of course, the President celebrating that firing. But he said something in his many tweets about this today that caught our attention. First of all, he said inaccurately that Strzok was in charge of the Clinton e-mail investigation, and he was not in charge of it. But he did say that investigation should be in his words properly redone.
It strikes me the President makes a lot of demands by this oftentimes by twitter. Many of those demands are frankly ignored by many of the officials the President appointed himself. But is this one here you believe the FBI will take seriously to reopen that investigation based on this President's statement?
CONNOLLY: I hope not. When James Comey testified before our committee as the FBI director at the time on why and how the FBI came to the conclusion that there was nothing to be prosecuted, he made it very clear that it wasn't even a close call. No crime had been committed. In fact he improperly at the press conference that summer characterized secretary Clinton's behavior which he really had no business doing, but he made it very clear there was nothing further to be investigated. I find that ironic that the man who was the subject of an active criminal investigation, the very thing he wanted done to Hillary Clinton wants to shut down his own investigation. I'd call that a double standard by any stretch of the imagination. SCIUTTO: The FBI did its own investigation. The inspector general of
the Strzok texts and recommended discipline, but that discipline being a demotion and 60 day suspension. What you had today -- actually the firing took place on Friday, was the deputy director in effect overruling the inspector general by then proceeding to fire Peter Strzok.
I wonder if you are concerned the politics around this, the President's comments, demands from Republican colleagues of yourself here, whether that influenced the FBI decision here to go beyond what the inspector general recommended.
CONNOLLY: You know, Jim, I have participated in both hearings. The hearing with the inspector general Mr. Horowitz in which he certainly took issues with Peter Strzok's emails and behavior, but he went out of his way to say there's no evidence that clouded the investigation.
I also attended the hearing chaired by Mr. Goodlatte and Mr. Gowdy with Mr. Strzok, and I was really disgusted at the decision by those two gentlemen to essentially have a scalp on the wall. And that's what they did. They discredited this man, they destroyed his reputation, and now they've destroyed his career.
And even though it flies in the face of the recommendation of DIG. I think unfortunately that's what Washington has descended to where we destroy people in order to make a political point, or in this case in order to protect the subject if not the target of a criminal investigation, that's Donald Trump.
[18:15:45] SCIUTTO: I want to ask you if I can, disturbing allegation emerging today about your -- one of your colleagues, democratic congressman Keith Ellison, his former girlfriend accusing him of not just emotional abuse but also one incident, physical abuse saying he tried to drag her off the bed while cruising at . Her son saying he saw a video of the incident, and she also apparently shared this story with three friends, and those three friends telling CNN she told them about this incident as well. Congressman Ellison, we should mention, dying this. Do you believe Congress should open up an investigation of this event?
CONNOLLY: I know-nothing about this, Jim, other than what I read earlier today. And I think it would be improper for me to comment until more facts are known.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this, just based on at least the allegation and precedent leading up to this with other similar allegations against Democratic and Republican lawmakers, isn't there at least an investigation by the House warranted here?
CONNOLLY: That will have to be decided by the ethics committee. There is a process, and every member and every victim is entitled to due process. So hopefully that due process will work out.
SCIUTTO: Do those allegations concern you? I know you served alongside Congressman Ellison, but the allegations against him, do you find them concerning? CONNOLLY: Any time this kind of allegation is made is a concern
hopefully to all of us. But that doesn't -- that doesn't prejudge the situation. I want to let the ethics committee process if there is one work out.
SCIUTTO: Congressman Gerry Connolly, thanks very much for joining us tonight.
CONNOLLY: Thank you, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Coming up just ahead will the firing of Peter Strzok help or hurt the FBI's credibility? I'm going to ask a former bureau official who worked alongside of Strzok.
And the Trump camp's many conflicting claims about what it President said to James Comey. Who will Robert Mueller believe in the end?
[18:22:23] SCIUTTO: We are following breaking news on the firing of the FBI agent who sent anti-Trump text messages. The President seizing on Peter Strzok's ouster to vent his anger at Robert Mueller and the entire Russia investigation, even at Hillary Clinton.
Let's bring in former FBI supervisory special agent supervisory agent Josh Campbell. We should mention he worked alongside Peter Strzok at the bureau. He is now a CNN law enforcement analyst.
Josh, thanks for joining us tonight.
JOSH CAMPBELL, FORMER FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: Hey, Jim.
SCIUTTO: So President Trump of course railing against Peter Strzok today. He did so for months in public. Are you concerned the President's opinion influenced this decision by the FBI, not just the President but the politics around this?
CAMPBELL: I don't personally believe that for two reasons, first which being I know the deputy Dave Bowdich, the deputy director of the FBI, the person who ultimately made this decision. And one would be hard pressed to find someone with greater integrity that Mr. Bowdich.
I think what happened is he looked at the facts here and said look, this warrants, you know, dismissal. These have very serious allegations.
But Jim, I also think that this is one of those instances where two things can be true at the same time. If you look at the way the President has approached Peter Strzok, if you look at disgraceful way on which people like Congressman Gowdy and Congressman Goodlatte have politicized Strzok, his career and this hearing, I mean, that is all disgraceful. But again, I think two things to be true. I think they politicized and I think FBI officials looked at this at it and said this is serious incident and he has to go.
SCIUTTO: How unusual though would it be for a deputy director to overrule what was a recommendation from the inspector general who said, yes, these texts were bad but did not interfere in the investigation and he should not be fired?
CAMPBELL: I think it's unusual but I think it is a very unusual case. And just kind of take you -- kind takes you behind the scenes in how this works internally with the FBI when the internal affairs division. Anytime that there's allegation of some type of wrongdoing against an employee that's been substantiated, the OPR, the office of professional responsibility will look back at precedent and try to determine OK, what makes sense here as far as punishment? What other cases in the past have we seen and what was the punishment? Because you want to make sure there was some kind of baseline and people aren't treated unfairly.
I think they probably look back here on this case and couldn't find a precedent. There hasn't been an instance like this where you had an employee who was engaged in a lot of these actions that we have seen. And so I think what they have decided, this is an internal affairs is that they weren't going to wield the cudgel. That went up to the office of the deputy director who said, no, this is very serious and obviously need a greater action.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. You know, there's a big question picture here whether this firing helps or hurts the FBI's credibility. You could argue on the one hand Strzok for instance was removed by Mueller from the Mueller investigation, and it discovered now he's been fired. You can argue, OK, it shows they take this bias seriously and that they have removed it.
On the other hand you see the President and a number of Republican lawmakers today citing a number of people have been fired from the FBI Strzok included to say, the whole investigation is, you know, adulterated somehow. So, you know, how does it - Does it work in the FBI's benefit or against it?
[18:25:25] CAMPBELL: I think it benefits but I think that is a side of facts here, right. I think the external view of from the public obviously trying to rebuild confidence in America's premier law enforcement agency, the public would like at this and say look, this is an organization that takes allegations of wrongdoing seriously.
But in all honestly, Jim, I think the main audience here is internally. To the men and women of the FBI. So if you are the deputy director, if you at the director, those in charge of running this organization, you're probably wondering how you can sit there and look the rank and file in the eye in the organization and say we expect you to adhere to a rigorous obedience to this institution's core values, the rank and file. At the same time that they are giving a pass and going lenient on a senior leader. So I think the primary audience was internal. They wanted to ensure the organization adheres to the core values, and again another page is being turned in a very sad chapter in the bureau's history.
SCIUTTO: The President call fed for the reopening of the Clinton email investigation as a result of this via twitter. But let's be frank, the tweets are Presidential statements here, is this a demand that the FBI would take seriously?
CAMPBELL: I don't think it is because the men and women of the FBI don't wake up and read Presidential tweets and decide how they are going to order their affairs that day. If the President were serious about this he would pick up the phone, he would call the attorney general, he would call the director of the FBI and say I order you to do this.
I think there is a larger audience that is, you know, beyond the men and women of the FBI. But I have to tell you the way this would go over inside the FBI is like a lead balloon because Peter Strzok wasn't the only one who worked on the Hillary Clinton investigation. There was a large team that was in place. And if you go back to 2016 when Comey stepped to the microphone and announced that there would not be a recommendation, that was the belief of a whole host people who worked on an investigations.
So to now to try to cloud the issue and say because Peter Strzok was engaged in some type of wrongdoing, now we need to start over again isn't going to square with the men and women of the FBI. And I think it is yet another instance of the president of the United States inappropriately, interfering with the rule of law.
SCIUTTO: And breaking a heck of a lot of precedent as he does.
Josh Campbell, thanks very much.
CAMPBELL: Thanks, Jim.
Just ahead, Omarosa at war with the President. What is she revealing about the dysfunction inside the Trump White House?
And the prosecution rests in its case against the President's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Will Manafort take the stand now in his own defense?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. We are following breaking news. A stunning White House response to an explosive claim by fired former aide Omarosa Manigault-Newman. She is alleging that a recording may exist of President Trump using a racial slur during the taping of his reality show, "The Apprentice."
[18:33:30] Let's dig in deeper now with our correspondents and analysts.
Gloria Borger, it was really remarkable moment at the White House podium today. Because you would it would be an easy answer when presented with this possibility that the president used this word, but Sarah Sanders was very careful, perhaps based on the past experience of White House spokespeople, contradicted by the president, but it bears repeating.
Let's listen again to that moment. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 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?
SARA SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I can't guarantee anything, but I can tell you that the president addressed this question directly. I can tell you that I've never heard it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just to be clear you can't guarantee it?
SANDERS: Look, you haven't been in every single room. I can tell you the president has addressed this directly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: "I haven't been in every single room" and kind of, you know, throwing off on the president. I mean, "He said it, take his word for it. I can't guarantee anything."
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: She's protecting herself. I mean, she really -- I think she probably doesn't know the answer to it and so she's protecting herself by saying, "You know, I wasn't in every single room. How could I possibly know that?"
I mean, I would presume that if you would've asked that question about other presidents to other staffers, they would've just said, "Of course not. Of course he wouldn't have." But I think she felt the need to protect herself there, given the fact that this is what, you know, Omarosa is saying.
I mean, the whole thing is so tawdry and ridiculous; and you know, I'm at the point now, today, where I believe that Omarosa and Donald Trump deserve each other. They're the same people. They're both ruthless. They lie. They have used each other in the past. And what we see, you know, playing out here now is beneath the dignity of the office of the presidency.
[18:35:17] SCIUTTO: Susan Hennessey, if there is a tape, should there be consequences?
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think there should. You know, so I understand this is a little bit of a naive position, but I do think that, if there is a tape of the president of the United States using that word, I don't think that that is politically survivable, and that's my last shred of optimism that I can sort of hang onto. But I continue to believe that that is not acceptable in American political life, that taboos still exist and that President Trump can push us, you know, further than we possibly imagine; but I think even he can't push us this far.
SCIUTTO: David Swerdlick, we can guess whether this tape exists. The fact is we don't know. We do know, because the president tweeted to the world today, another derogatory term for Omarosa. He called her a dog. Should be fired. After calling her a lowlife yesterday. Explain to us what -- why is that particularly offensive?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the White House will continue to stand on this idea that the president is a counterpuncher, that he insults everybody, you know, equally; and so therefore, this is, you know, not anything special.
Here's the problem for President Trump. Because he has gone after the intelligence of African-Americans, Don Lemon, Maxine Waters, because he has said sexist things about Rosie O'Donnell, Megyn Kelly, because he has reserves the worst insults for people of color and women and seems to take relish in getting in fights with people of color.
I always go back to the example of Sergeant La David Johnson. He could not manage to have that be a dignified situation, his condolence call to his widow. Because of that he gets no benefit of the doubt in these situations so when he would saying being a dog is just a run of the mill insult, you can't give him the benefit of the doubt.
BORGER: How about birtherism, by the way?
SWERDLICK: Yes. Sure. Throw that on the pile.
SCIUTTO: La David Johnson, the soldier who died in Niger. The president spoke to her mother [SIC] and had a, well, at best an uncomfortable conversation.
Phil Mudd, you were a public servant for many years. CIA, the FBI. If you called someone a dog, someone who you'd let go, you've been in supervisory positions, would you have survived?
No, not because OF the individual incident but because of the context. If this were -- if this were an individual incident, I think what -- but remember, he didn't just call her a dog. It's there in black and white. There's a record copy.
I'm going to get called in by H.R., carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey. I'd be told to get counseling for a year. And then I'd be told I can't get promoted and I can't get an addition in pay for a year.
But remember, we've got context here. If you want to carry the parallel. He trashed every one of the other candidates, made fun of Carly Fiorina's face. He made fun in Tennessee now of the stature of the Tennessee senator. He went after one of the most -- one of the proudest Americans on the planet, LeBron James.
In context, if I had done that over time, I wouldn't have gotten fired for this one, because I would already have a boot in my butt; and I'd be out the door. It's the context here that's significant, not the isolated incident.
SCIUTTO: You know, it's interesting. The White House, rather than taking issue with the substance of these claims, is basically suing or taking Omarosa to court based on a no-disparagement clause -- well, non-disclosure clause which, really, we should specify is a non- disparagement clause. The White House claims that these things are normal in government. The fact is, they're not. Yes, related to classified information.
But no, there have been never demands before saying that, if you leave the office, you cannot -- and I'm going to read from the no disparagement clause from the Trump campaign 2020. It says, "You hereby promise and agree not to demean or disparage publicly in any form or through any medium the campaign, Mr. Trump, Mr. Pence, any Trump or Pence company, any Trump or Pence family member or any Trump or Pence family member company or any asset of the foregoing."
I mean, it's incredibly broad. First implication -- First Amendment implications galore there.
Susan, you served in government. Is there any precedent for this?
HENNESSEY: I don't think we've ever seen anything like this out of a prior administration.
Also, I think the tell here is that the White House has repeatedly lied about this. They've said over a course of months that no, they never asked anyone to sign an NDA. Now all of a sudden, they say, "Oh, well, actually, yes, they did." And I think the reason why they lied about this and tried to hide it in the past is because it runs counter to really basic Democratic principles of transparency.
White House officials work for us. And unless there are reasons -- security reasons, executive privilege reasons in order to maintain secrecy -- they should be accountable to us.
So look, the larger question here is whether or not this is actually going to be legally enforceable. I think that's probably unlikely. As you mentioned the government does use NDAs in the context of security clearances. But this is a -- this is a restraint on a government employee where there's actually no basis like that.
[18:40:07] And this isn't the Trump Organization any more. This is the United States government. When the government acts to place prior restraint on a citizen's speech, there become constitutional consequences.
BORGER: Well, the president clearly wanted this, because he was running this like the Trump Organization. And the White House counsel, Don McGahn, had to sort of cobble this together but was telling people, apparently, "Don't worry about it. It's not enforceable, but we're going to -- you know, we're going to ask you to sign it because this is what the president wants."
This is how he operates. This is how he thinks he can protect himself. Only he really can't in this particular -- in this particular situation.
SCIUTTO: Phil Mudd, you served the government again, just rely on your experience. Secretary -- Sarah Sanders repeated a falsehood from the podium today, because she said that these NDAs are normal in government when, in fact, they are only normal in that they relate to the nondisclosure of classified information, not to telling people they can never criticize anybody involved in the administration or any company or any family member, as it does here.
You never signed anything like this, I assume, during your time in government?
MUDD: No, I'll take it a step further. I feel like I was stupid the other day. When I first heard about this on TV, and you or I or somebody else was talking about it, I assumed this referred to non- disclosure of classified information. Not only have I never signed anything like this, I've never heard anybody who had to sign something that said, "I can't disparage one of my bosses." I've disparaged bosses I've had for the past five years on CNN. Nobody's ever called me on it.
I'll take it a step further. I think this is an advantage for Omarosa. She's got 15 minutes of fame. If the White House chooses to pursue this through legal means, she gets a 16th minute. So I think, if I'm sitting in her shoes, saying, "I'm going to violate this till the cows come home. And I'm going to hope that the White House brings legal action, because that means I get to go on CNN through October." Great for her.
SCIUTTO: A 16th minute of fame. Listen, stand by. We have more to discuss.
Just ahead, Paul Manafort speaks in court for the first time, but only to say that he won't testify. What is his legal strategy?
Plus, data on millions of the voters -- voters exposed online for months. A CNN investigation, that's ahead.
[18:46:56] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Back now with our panel.
There was a CNN poll today. A lot of revelations about how the American public sees the Mueller probe, the Russia investigation. Headline figure here is that two thirds of those polled, and fairly equal showings from Democrats and Republicans here -- that's not the right figure. Two thirds of those polled say that they want the special counsel to complete the investigation by the midterms. Perhaps we can put that number up so people can digest it.
But, David Swerdlick, what does that mean? Does that mean people are running out of patience in both parties with the special counsel?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, there's a couple of numbers that you're talking about, Jim, are linked, right? Two thirds of Americans according to the poll say they want the investigation to wrap up. Seven out of ten say they want Trump to testify.
Well, one reason the investigation hasn't wrapped up, among others, I assume is that President Trump has yet to speak to the special counsel's team face to face. And that's something been negotiated now for weeks and months. Gloria has been reported on a lot.
So, I think these two thing work in concert. If a pollster asks you, do you want this to wrap up? Of course, because you want to know what the findings are. It's not clear to me from those answers though that that this means people are saying it has to be shut down immediately. It's just that people want to know what happened.
SUSAN HENNESSEY, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY ATTORNEY: I think the other thing that's significant that occur in the midterms is thus far, we have seen the special counsel out doing much of the investigating and the congressional committee is really on the back foot because, of course, they are on controlled by the Republicans. In the midterms, if all of a sudden, the House flips to the Democrats and Adam Schiff has the subpoena power in the House Intelligence Committee that could substantially change the pace and momentum of information that we're getting out of congressional investigation. So, even if he did wrap it up by midterms, we could be going through another round in November.
SCIUTTO: Gloria, does this, though, put pressure on the special counsel? When you have -- I mean, first of all, we have the president attacking him every day.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure.
SCIUTTO: And the public saying, hey, listen, we'll see -- show us the goods.
BORGER: Yes, right. Well, I think he wants to wrap it up. If I were to guess I think he would be the first to say I'd like to get this done.
I think the pressure here, it's kind of interesting because President Trump and Rudy Giuliani have done a very good job of discrediting Mueller to a great degree. We have seen Mueller's popularity go down. And yet 70 percent of the people in our polls say they want Trump to testify.
So, Trump is in a little bit of a box here because you hear Rudy saying, and all the lawyers saying we don't want to put him in front of the special counsel. The president apparently saying, yes, I do want to testify. But the American public believes, I think, that the president owes it to the country to at least tell his story to the special counsel.
SCIUTTO: And two thirds of the respondents say they believe the president hasn't been truthful in the investigation so far. We should also note this, the special counsel's approval rating in this poll I believe was 48 percent. The president's approval rating in this poll for his handling of the Russia investigation is just 34 percent as compared to 55 percent, Phil Mudd, who approve of the president's treatment. That figure, Phil Mudd, is not promising for President Trump.
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I agree with that with one huge exception. The most fascinating part of this for me has to do with what it tells us about presidential power, especially under President Trump. [18:50:06] Let me give you one example. If you look at polls a few
years ago on immigration, not that many Americans would have told you that immigration was a significant issue for America. The president moved that bar simply because of the pervasiveness of social media.
Three years ago, people would have said Robert Mueller is honorable if they knew who he was. The president moved that bar simply because he is all over social media. This tells me about presidential hour in 2018 as much as it tells me about politics in this individual case.
SCIUTTO: That's a good point. It's in the numbers.
Phil, the rest of the panel, thanks so much, as always.
Just ahead a giant breach of voter information, and a top election official who denies any vulnerability. We have a CNN investigation, and that's next.
[18:55:30] SCIUTTO: Breaking news: information about millions of voters in Georgia exposed online. But the state's top election official, who also happens to be running for governor, denies the election system is vulnerable at all.
CNN senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin is working the story for us.
Drew, this security breach in Georgia going on for months, really alarming.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Honestly, that's all we know about. This could have been going on a lot longer than that. We don't know how long it's been going on. The state of Georgia didn't know how long it's been going on and it's led to this claim that the entire system in Georgia is unreliable and insecure.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Right around the same time Russians were trying to penetrate state voting systems in the summer of 2016, cyber security expert and part-time hacker Logan Lamb decided to check out how Georgia's centralized voting system was holding up. What he found was an open window.
LOGAN LAMB, CYBERSECURITY RESEARCHER: There were documents were election day supervisor passwords. There was a voter registration database with 6.3 million records of all of Georgia's voters.
GRIFFIN: Including full names, dates of birth, even driver's license, and partial Social Security numbers, all wide open to anyone snooping around. And now, we know during this same time, Russians were snooping around. According to the Justice Department's special counsel investigation that included snooping around Website of concern counties in Georgia to identify vulnerabilities. Lamb didn't know about the Russians, but he did know having voting
records so easily accessible was a problem. So, he e-mailed and then he called Georgia's Center for Election Systems, run out of this house on the Campus of the Kennesaw State University to warn them. Six months later, all that Georgia voter data was still unprotected.
(on camera): All the passwords, everything was still available, to anybody who wanted it.
LAMB: Right, yes.
GRIFFIN: What does that tell you about the secure election of the state of Georgia?
LAMB: Georgia's election systems -- they should not be trusted.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Eventually, the Kennesaw State closed the security loophole and notified the state. A lawsuit was filed challenging the security of Georgia's elections.
Then, shockingly, evidence of what took place vanished. I.T. workers at the Kennesaw University wiped the election systems computer's hard drives clean, deleting any potential evidence of tampering.
BRIAN KEMP (R), GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: I blow up government spending.
GRIFFIN: The person in charge of Georgia's elections is Georgia's secretary of state, Brian Kemp. He is the Trump-styled Republican now running for governor. And the voting mess under his watch has turned into a mild campaign issue.
Kemp's office says the secretary of state had no idea Georgia's voter information system was so vulnerable to attack until months after Logan Lamb's warning. Kemp blames Kennesaw State Center for Election Systems for the debacle, ended the long running contract with the center and shut it down.
On Facebook, he called the actions of the election center's employees reckless, inexcusable and then showing undeniable ineptitude. Then he hired the director of the center to work with him at the secretary of state's office. And to assure all of them all this didn't mean anything, he posted: Georgia's elections are safe and our systems remain secure.
(on camera): How can he possibly say that?
MARILYN MARKS, COALITION FOR GOOD GOVERNANCE: He cannot say that with a straight face.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Marilyn Marks, a self-funded advocate for improving election integrity is part of a group that has sued Georgia. She says the state system is easily penetrable and if the system fails, if it's hacked or infected with malware, there would be no way for Georgia to double-check the votes. In part, she wants a paper ballot backup for the upcoming midterm elections. The state says no.
MARKS: When told that hey you have been exposed to bad guys. You have been exposed to viruses, you have been exposed to every known bad thing that can happen into an election system, they just say OK, next election.
GRIFFIN: And that pretty much sums up what Georgia's Secretary of State Brian Kemp is saying, we will take care of this in 2020, after he becomes Georgia's next governor.
GRIFFIN: Secretary Kemp's office says switching to a different voting system now this close to election would cause confusion, potentially suppress turnout and in Trump-like fashion says the press is overhyping this. He says anything that says something to the contrary is voting is not secure is fake news.
SCIUTTO: You would think it would be a bipartisan effort to protect elections.
Thanks very much, Drew Griffin. Alarming investigation.
I'm Jim Sciutto. Thanks very much for watching tonight.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.