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Closing Arguments Now Underway In Manafort Trial; Giuliani: Mueller Waiting On Verdict Before Trump Talks; White House Can't Guarantee Trump Hasn't Used The N-Word. Aired 11-11:30am ET

Aired August 15, 2018 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:17] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. Well, I'm Kate Bolduan. Happening right now, the last in final pitch to jurors, one man's future on the line in a special counsel's investigations, credibility maybe on the line as well. Right now, the jury is hearing closing arguments in Paul Manafort's bank and tax fraud trial.

Yesterday, the defense rested without pulling a single witness, without presenting a single piece of evidence. And the form of Trump campaign chair himself not taking the stand. But in this huge moment displaying out today, it's not just the question of whether or not Manafort is guilty that will be decided.

Robert Mueller's credibility is also facing a very real tape -- real test today as well. And wait courtesy of Rudy Giuliani there, of course, is still more hanging in the balance. Now he says, the entire Mueller investigation is on hold until there's a verdict.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Are you any closer to having a deal with Mueller to sit down?

RUDY GIULIANI: No. I haven't heard from him in a week.

CUOMO: How do you interpret that?

GIULIANI: I think they're waiting for -- I hate to bring up the case. I think they're waiting for the Manafort case. I think they feel if they win, they're going to be empowered.


BOLDUAN: CNN's Jessica Schneider, she's outside the court house now. Jessica, you were inside the court room and so started this morning, what is -- what are they telling jurors?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: OK. They just steps out of the court room, so we are one hour into prosecutors closing arguments here. And they consistently went back to one team repeating a few key phrases here. They first said that Paul Manafort is not above the law. And then they continue to stress, he lied and lied again, so prosecutors hammering home that message to the jury here.

You know, they are really taking this jury step by step through all of the evidence, all of the details that they need to prove, all 18 counts of bank and tax fraud here. So they're reiterating some of the witness testimony reminding the jury of some of these exhibits. The jury hasn't seen all of these exhibits. They haven't seen some of the clothing purchases, some of the pictures of these extravagant items that Paul Manafort bought. But they will see that once they go back into the deliberation room.

Of course, they've been stressing the fact that Paul Manafort knew about all of these. He knew that he was breaking the law, that he directed, re-engage in particular, and that he absolutely willfully did all these. So this is all things that prosecutors have to prove here. The defense yesterday saying they didn't put on a case because they didn't need to put on a case, because they said prosecutors did not prove their case.

And Rick Gates, we've heard so far in closing arguments that name, that key witness mentioned three different times on prosecutors. They are hammering in on the fact that Rick Gates may have done somethings. He admitted to embezzling money from Paul Manafort that they stressed that Paul Manafort was the one who directed some of this activity. And they also stressed that Paul Manafort was the one that had this 31 bank accounts or his cash to $60 million he made from the political consulting he did in Ukraine.

In fact, there was one moment of levity inside the courtroom where the prosecutor sort of quick joke. He said, "What? Do you really think that someone set out these foreign bank accounts? Do you really think that someone else put in $60 million?" And then he said, "We should all be so lucky." And I heard sort of muted laugh in the courtroom.

For prosecutors here, they really have to take jurors step by step through all 18 counts that Paul Manafort is charged with, to establish that they have in fact met their burden of proof here that Paul Manafort directed this. He knew what he was doing and he did it willfully, Kate?

BOLDUAN: All under way right now. And as we've seen with this case, it has been moving so fast. Let's see how fast they moved through closings right now. Jessica, thank you so much for laying out perfectly.

Joining me right now to discuss this and what it means, CNN Legal Analyst, Defense Attorney and former Federal Prosecutor Shanlon Wu. He briefly represented the star witness as Jessica was talking about Rick Gates. Also with us, CNN Legal Analyst, former Federal Prosecutor Renato Mariotti.

Renato, you just heard Jessica coming out in the court room, what they're saying at least what prosecutor -- what prosecutors are laying out in this first hour of their closing arguments? What do you think of the approach?

RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's really textbook. When you have a lot of accounts, what the jury is looking for as an answer is, is there the evidence to prove beyond the reasonable doubt, each of what's called the elements of those crimes, each of the specific components of the crimes that they need to find.

So what the prosecution is doing is methodically walking through that evidence, showing the jury that for each of those 18 counts, they presented evidence of his guilt. And they're keeping the focus on Manafort. So when you're a prosecutor what you're trying to do is be laser focus on the defendant and what the defendant did and said.

[11:05:03] And usually that's talking about how the defendant lied because that is the key component of fraud, is that you're lying to get money. So what the defense is going to do is they're going to try to distract. They're going to talk about Rick Gates. They're going to talk about all of the other people. What the prosection's job, need to do is to bring it all back to Manafort what he did, what he said.

BOLDUAN: Shan, as Renato saying, king of go methodically through it. Can you methodically go into too much details when it comes to closing argument?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That certainly impossible and that you could lose to jury. And they will -- the prosection will have thought carefully about, you know, what are the nuggets that they really want to put forth? And Renato is right, they do have to do it methodically.

And what they're hoping is that is more of the review and a highlighting. And if they feel that they're losing the jurors' attention, there's no worst feeling than being a prosecutor, doing a long closing. And you feel like their eyes are glazing over. And you know that's because they're with you or because jury is not following you anymore.

BOLDUAN: That sounds terrifying. It's like moving an audience but with real life ramifications. Forget -- I'm losing my audience. You're losing the jury and your audience. That's even worst.

Renato, you had said that you're not surprise that the defense didn't call a single witness, didn't offer any evidence. So then what is the defense then do in closing?

MARIOTTI: You argue the case. So, look, if the defense had these amazing witnesses, they would have called them. If they had somebody who said, Manafort was really set up by Rick Gates altering the accounts or the e-mail or something else. They would have put those witnesses forward, but usually the defense doesn't have anything quite that good to work with. Your choice is either calling no witnesses or calling one or two, not very compelling witnesses or not very central witnesses.

So what you do in the defense set is you say, look, the prosecution has the burden of proof. They have to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt, that such a high burden. And look at all of these crazy things that happened here, maybe, you know, Rick Gates was the real bad guy. He's a liar. He was hiding things from Manafort. Maybe he hid more things. He try to distract the jury from what really matters. He's trying to throw as many things up against the wall and see what sticks. And that's why the prosecution is laser focus. And I agree with what you and Shan were saying. You also have to try to keep it short and concise.

I was concern when prosecutors were talking about needing two hours. I tried to keep my initial closing arguments in even complicated long white-collar cases to an hour or less because frankly the jury gets tired and board. They don't like hearing lawyers talk, so they try to keep it short as possible and get to the point because the defense is going to try to distract the jury from the important evidence.

BOLDUAN: And, Shan, the fact that, it didn't present -- they didn't present really any evidence. They didn't call any witnesses. And what they'll be going through in their closing, does that speak to -- does that give you an in clinging to the strength or weakness of the prosecution's case here?

WU: I think it gives us a strong clue as to what the defense things of their strength. I mean I think that --


WU: -- they feel these courts in good points on cross, and they have enough to work with. And as Renato said, I mean, there's a limited amount you can usually present on the defense side unless you're going to put your client on and they weren't going to do that. They think they've got enough to go on and look for them also not necessarily in this instance to do this little shotgun approach. You can get some sense as to what they're going to zero in on.

I mean, the strong point for them is we told you that Gates stole money, and everyone agrees he did. That helps their credibility. And two, they're also going to point to that same fact showing that he was able to hide something from Manafort.

I think they look to build on that as well as the couple of other, the small points they've made about the documents and other witnesses. So I don't think they'll be trying to throw everything including the kitchen sink here. I think they're really trying to focus it on those points.

BOLDUAN: And, Renato, then what do you think of what adding into the mix. We're not talking about the -- we have -- the Russian investigation. This is a tax of bank fraud case of course. But what do you then make of what Rudy Giuliani is proposing right now, with the Mueller investigation that Mueller isn't making any moves on his investigation until he sees how the Manafort trial shakes out?

MARIOTTI: I think Giuliani has no idea what he's talking about to be very honest with you. I think he's just talking out of his butt. And it's -- that you say euphemism. There's no way that Robert Mueller and his staff are sitting around doing nothing, watching the trial, waiting for that to end. You know, remember, it's the president seem that has been dragging this out. I've never seen an investigation this long about a single interview.

They are trying to run out the clock probably because the midterms are coming up. Now they're saying, well, you know, there's -- he's speculating about what Mueller's team is doing. I don't think anything about the interview of the president, we rest on the outcome of this trial. I just think that's pure speculation by Giuliani.

BOLDUAN: Renato, great to see you. Shan, great to see you. And I love your euphemisms these days. All right, thanks guys. I appreciate it. Let's see what happens. We're going to keep it close ear and eye on that courthouse. And we'll bring you update as, again, Jessica will be coming out as she can to give us updates from this closing arguments playing out as we speak.

[11:10:06] Coming up for us, it's stunning admission from the White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sander says, she cannot guarantee that there isn't a tape of the President using the N-word. Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying, "There are no guarantees in life potentially." Shouldn't there be when it comes to that one?

Plus, a shocking new report on predator priest saying that more than 1,000 children in the state of Pennsylvania where sexual abused by members of clergy, and so far no comment from the Vatican. We'll be right back.


[11:15:04] BOLDUAN: Add this to the file of things we've never thought we'd have to ask and also hope we wouldn't need to. Is there a tape of the President of United States using the N-word? And why can't anyone close to the President get their story straight on this one. He, himself denies the rumor that has been percolating since the campaign. But the White House press secretary falls somewhere short of that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you stand at the podium and guarantee American people will never hear Donald Trump utter the N-word on the report, I mean any contact.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I can't guarantee anything but I can tell you that the president address 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, I haven't been in every single room.


BOLDUAN: Adding to the confusion, again, why is this confusing? Trump campaign official Katrina Pierson. She's depending herself a secret reporting of 2016 phone call amongst campaign staff and it was really spy Omarosa Manigault Newman.

On the call they were discussing the rumor and Pierson said this.


KATRINA PIERSON, TRUMP CAMPAIGN OFFICIAL: I've said, "Well, for who we think of any time of this if this kind is happening, he said, no."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well that's not sure.

PIERSON: And so -- And he said, "Why don't you just go ahead and put it to that." I don't know what the (INAUDIBLE).


BOLDUAN: This is after denying the call ever happened because really denied it never happened then the tape came out and then, and now Pierson has this.


PIERSON: Your viewers, I'm pretty sure, have run into an individual that is the complete epitome of annoying to where you absolutely have to finally give in, in order to get on about your day. That happens a number of times because Omarosa is a bully.


BOLDUAN: All cleared up. Do you see what I'm saying? No, I don't even see what I'm saying at this point. CNN's Jeremy Diamond sees what I'm saying, you know, what I'm saying. It's not the White House. Jeremy, why is this is so confusing? What are you hearing?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, part of the confusion here, Kate, is that there are really credibility issues on all sides of this issue. The President has his own credibility issues. Katrina Pierson, as you just mentioned, has her own credibility issues. She had previously denied having said that she believed the President has indeed said that racial epithet during any kind of conference call. And Omarosa of course have a track record of lying in the past. She would advance her own personal agenda.

But really what's important here is that Omarosa's allegations here all lead back to the White House. Let's remember the crack of this issue is whether or not there is a tape on which the President has said the N-word. You just heard Sarah Sanders declining to provide any kind of certainly.

But we do know that the President himself has been adding fuel to this fire lashing out on Twitter against Omarosa repeatedly. And he is in particular use, you know, quite serious language as far as attacking her personally calling her a low life, calling her a dog and it seems to fit a pattern of the President lashing out to attack African- Americans in particular over their intelligence.

That's something that we've certainly seen from the President throughout his presidency but Sarah Sanders yesterday defending the President himself insisting that he is an equal opportunity insulter. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: This has absolutely nothing to do with race, the President an equal opportunity person that calls things like he sees it. He always fight bar with bar.


DIAMOND: And so, you hear there Sarah Sanders talking about that equal opportunity insulting that the president does on the daily basis defending these insults by saying, "Well, he insults everybody else but of course he was Sarah Sanders who just a couple of weeks ago went on a rant against the media insisting that she has been the subject of personal attacked against her, particularly about her appearance. But it appears that with Sarah Sanders when it comes to the President insults they are OK. Kate.

BOLDUAN: Jeremy, thank you so much. Joining me now to discuss this CNN White House Correspondent Abby Phillip and CNN politics reporter and Editor-at-large Chris Cillizza.

So, Abby, just going up with Jeremy was laying out right there. So now is the best defense, it's OK that the president calls a woman a dog because he's just mean to everyone.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: OK. I think we've seen this from the White House and from the President's allies in the past. They all seemed to say I response to where the preparing says something inappropriate or out of line or beyond the pale that the president is allowed to do whatever it takes to defend himself. Hut there are lot of people calling him to question that approach.

First of all as Jeremy pointed out Sarah Sanders, just months ago, was asking us to increase the civility in politics. The President has repeatedly refused to do that. And also, in this case, the President has spent so much of it's time as president choosing to insult African Americans in one particular way by insulting their intelligence.

And that's something the White House is never acknowledged. Sure, he insults the intelligence of a lot of people but the majority of them have been black.

[11:20:03] And also, the President is clearly not paying attention to the fact that this is a part of a broader problem with addressing race in this administration. And he has never really tried to kind of bridge that divide here.

BOLDUAN: And, Chris, Sarah Sanders' answer when asked about the rumors of Trump and the n-word. It is something different than I guess she often gives. I mean, it's not the tweet speaks for itself. It's now "I can't guarantee anything." What is this? Like self- preservation?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: To quote the great '80s band Great White, Kate, it may be once bitten twice shy. Because the truth of the matter is, that I think Sarah Sanders has repeatedly -- Abby and her colleagues to what has have documented this, has repeatedly been put out to say things that it wound up either be wholly not true about what the president knew, when he knew with those sorts of things. Or that had to change her story repeatedly because she was either getting false partial information.

So I do think some of it is that. I mean, the danger in that of course is that we know Donald Trump watches these press briefings. We know that while Donald Trump thinks he is the best pollster and everything else, strategist. He definitely thinks he is the best communicator and understands how to deal with the media the best.

So she's in a position where that's going to get scrutiny no matter what. But it did feel like hedging her bets a little bit. that's not something we've seen before out of this administration, particularly as it relates to things Donald Trump says he did or didn't do.

BOLDUAN: Yes. I mean, you don't have to look really far at all, Abby, to figure out that there were a lot of ways to answer the question. I mean, like the way that Sarah Sanders answered tough questions in the past. I mean, we just pulled a few together. Listen to this.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I would say that his tweet speaks for itself there. I think the President's statement via Twitter today is extremely clear. I don't have anything to add beyond the statement itself. I think that statement speaks for itself. There's nothing to add.


BOLDUAN: What do you think is difference this time, Abby?

PHILLIP: I think this is one of those -- maybe it's an acknowledgment on Sarah's part that this is a really important thing. If she -- if it turns out that she says that this tape doesn't exist and maybe it does, I would be credibility explosive. I think her credibility would really be shot after all of this

And I think it's also because she knows that she doesn't know. She knows that there are a lot of people around her who don't know. And she knows that perhaps the President may not even know. So she's beyond hedging her bets at this point. I think she understands that this is something that she should just stay as far away from.

But I should also point out that she got to that answer where she says, you know, "I can't say that for certain." After a lot of pressing by reporters, we had to kind of drag that out of her. That was not her first response to it. So it just goes to show that even when she was -- that because she was pressed, she wasn't willing to really put her credibility on the line in this case where I think there are too many uncertainties, even for her.

BOLDUAN: And look I know, Chris, you're going to say, "Why are you surprised, Kate? Why are you acting outright?" But I mean, i think it still a moment and I think you -- I think you both would agree still think, it's just like yesterday. I think it's a moment too. I think it's a moment to stop and talk about it when the president call, the president of the United States, makes it official public statement and calls a woman a dog.

I think it's a moment to stop and acknowledge, and discuss when the president of the United States -- when it's unclear and no one can guarantee that the president of the United States hasn't used the N- word. They aren't certain that the president -- there is a level of uncertainty enough that the president would use that word that they can't guarantee it's not on tape.

PHILLIP: Absolutely. I actually wouldn't say -- I mean, yes, we shouldn't be surprised, Kate. But that also doesn't mean that we shouldn't be shocked and appalled that on some level, right, and take note of it. I think Donald Trump relies on the fact that he feels as though if he says and does enough things that it's hard to keep track of it. I always make the analogy of a basketball game. If one team out and starts guarding the other to extremely aggressively in doing what would be considered fouling in an neutral understanding of the rules.

You have two options if you're the referee. You either foul out all the players or you suddenly or consciously/unconsciously adjust the way in which you referee the game. That's what Donald Trump is banking on. I think that's what we have to be wary of not doing.

BOLDUAN: No, foul, everyone should be fouled out until we're now just playing a game of horse. It's the only game I can ever win, Abby. So maybe that's just what I want to do.

Great to see you guys, I really appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up, a historic night of primary contests including the first transgender nominee for governor from a major party. The other big wins, the big losses, and what it could all mean for the midterms.

[11:25:03] What did we learn from last night? Let's talk about it.


BOLDUAN: History was on the ballot last night. Three women candidates, all taking a step toward breaking barriers, now this morning after voters had their say overnight.

[11:30:00] Christine Hallquist, her bid to become the nation's first transgender governor clearing a major hurdle when Vermont Democrat nominated her to take on the incumbent Republican governor. Here she is speaking this morning.


Christine Hallquist, Vermont Democratic gubernatorial nominee: It did start to sink in the historic significance --