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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Closing Arguments in Manafort Trial; Jury to get Manafort Case; Omarosa and Trump Battle Continues. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired August 15, 2018 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[16:30:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: 69-year-old Manafort is charged with a slew of financial crimes. Among them, orchestrating an elaborate worldwide scheme involving dozens of offshore bank accounts to avoid paying taxes on millions of dollars earned while lobbying pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine.
Earlier today, during his closing argument, Federal Prosecutor Greg Andres said this case is simply about one thing, lies.
Meanwhile, in their close, Manafort's defense team attacked Mueller's case saying he's, quote, a victim of overzealous prosecutors.
CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider is outside federal court in northern Virginia.
Jessica, the prosecution raised concerns with the judge that the jurors were told by the defense that Manafort was selectively prosecuted?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. After the defense team called Paul Manafort a victim, the prosecution really called them out on it and they said that these were against the pretrial rules. They said that those rules ban any mention of selective prosecution or really the broader Russia probe here. So now the judge is instructing the jury in a sense to just disregard those comments from the defense.
But all in all today, there were a lot of strong words on both sides as they made their final push to the jury.
SCHNEIDER (voice over): Prosecutors made their final pitch to the jury, focusing on two main themes, Paul Manafort is not above the law and he lied to the government, his bookkeepers and the banks. Lead prosecutor Greg Andres told the jury, Mr. Manafort lied to keep more money when he had it and he lied to get more money when he didn't. This is a case about lies.
Andres reminded the jury about the more than $60 million Manafort made from his lobbying work in Ukraine, that he allegedly hit in 31 foreign bank accounts. Andres briefly alluded to Manafort's extravagant purchases, which the jury will get to see pictures of for the first time when they deliberate, including that $15,000 ostrich coat and $10,000 karaoke machine, but pointed out, we're not in the courtroom today because Mr. Manafort is wealthy. It is because Mr. Manafort filed false tax returns. It is not a crime in this country to be wealthy.
Andres laid out the evidence to the jury that he says proves Manafort directed all aspects of this financial scheme and knew he was breaking the law. Andres focused on the black and white proof rather than the two and a half day testimony of Rick Gales saying, the star witness in this case is the documents.
But the prosecution did mention Gates' name several times, arguing that while he was involved in Manafort's scheme, Gates' testimony backs up the testimony from Manafort's accountants and bookkeepers. See if it's consistent, they urged.
But the defense dug in on Gates, making him a part of the focus of their closing for a case in which they presented no evidence and no witnesses, including Manafort, who opted not to testify. The defense told the jury, sitting here today, Mr. Manafort is innocent.
PAUL MANAFORT, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Today at around 7:30, Mr. Trump will be officially the nominee of the Republican Party. So we're excited about that.
SCHNEIDER: And telling jurors about Manafort's work on the Trump campaign, as well as other campaigns, noting how Manafort earned great respect for his work. The defense attorney also accused Robert Mueller of selectively picking Manafort's financial records in order to concoct an elaborate fraud scheme saying, clearly their goal was to stack up the counts and, in the end, urging jurors to hold the government to its burden of proving Manafort is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
SCHNEIDER: A very aggressive closing by the defense where they even told the jury at one point that Rick Gates lied to you. Well, now, the judge is giving the jury their instructions. That should last about another hour. And then the case goes to the jury for deliberations in this very high-stakes case.
TAPPER: All right, Jessica Schneider, thank you so much.
Kim, you're a former federal prosecutor. Based on what you've seen of the evidence and the presentations by the prosecution and the defense, what do you think? Do you think this is an open and shut case?
KIM WEHLE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it's never an open and shut case, in particular given the political implications here, but it's a case that is proven based on documents. Jurors file tax returns. Jurors sometimes take out bank loans. They know what they have to do when they fill out these loans. And the government's theory is that they were -- you know, he lied on these documents. So we don't really need necessarily Rick Gates' testimony to undermine or make clear or unclear what is in the plain language of the documents.
TAPPER: And, Symone, the prosecution acknowledged that its star witness, Rick Gates, the former deputy campaign chair of the Trump campaign who took a plea deal was not a Boy Scout. They admitted that he'd had an extramarital affair and that he was involved in the crimes. But, as you heard Kim say, the prosecution says this is really -- has to do with just the documentation and Rick Gates' story of events, you know, co-exists and co-aligns with that.
SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, which is, I'm sure, why we saw him being brought as a witness in the trial in the first place.
Look, I think the fact of the matter is, while everyday regular American folks that are going out there and potentially casting their ballots in the midterm -- not potentially, we want everyone to vote in the midterm elections in November, they are not necessarily keyed in on the intricacies of Paul Manafort versus Rick Gates and everything else. But they will see that if Paul Manafort is in fact convicted, they will see that, well, if the president's campaign manager and all these other folks are -- his campaign manager's been convicted and all these other folks are wrapped up in investigations, what is really going on with Donald Trump? Why are Republicans in the House and maybe some in the Senate not making sure that we are thoroughly investigating this? Is the president obstructing justice? These are questions that, again, I don't think your everyday, regular voter current has on their mind. But as this trial goes on, as facts come out, as convictions may or may not come down, these are questions folks might have.
[16:35:39] MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think Symone's right about how much people are tuned in and there's a difference of skeezy (ph) and provable in a court of law as illegal, right? But there is a general skeezyness (ph) surrounding the Trump campaign and the Trump administration and people will feel that as they're sort of headed to the ballot boxes later and that's what I think will make the difference over the intricacies of this particular trial. They do have to hit the burden of proof here though.
HAM: And I also think it's interesting that Judge Ellis, who was -- the judge in this case was fairly outspoken about, hey, are you going -- are you going past your mandate here, Mueller, nonetheless has let this let this, you know, of course, this process run through and that's sort of how we do business. And the fact that it's going in this way I think is sort of encouraging.
WEHLE: I think --
TAPPER: Although one thing that is unusual, Amanda, is that President Trump has been weighing in on this case. He said --
AMANDA CARPENTER, CN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And that's unusual. TAPPER: I mean for any other president.
TAPPER: And what he said he thinks Manafort's getting a raw deal and he's continually compared him to, quote, Alfonz Capone and, I mean, so that could theoretically play a factor here, both in terms of whether the jury's seeing any of these tweets, but also whether or not Manafort gets pardoned if he's convicted.
CARPENTER: Yes. Well, I think the broader question for most people is, what does this have to do with collusion or Donald Trump? All of Trump's allies say this happened years ago. Here is how I think it relates and how critical I think it is for the prosecution to win this case.
At its core, this case is about how Paul Manafort hid his relationships with foreign financiers and secretly routed their money into the United States for the purpose of gaining influence. That sounds like someone who may be skilled in Russian collusion, as well. And there's a lot of attention on this Trump Tower meeting for Don Junior and the lies he probably told to cover that up. But we forget that Paul Manafort was in this meeting. This is a guy who pretty much was the king of K Street. He knows how to make secret deals. He knows how to do lobbying. He knows how to trade favors. He knew what he's doing in that meeting, even if nobody else did.
TAPPER: Did you think it was unusual that the Manafort defense team, Kim, didn't call any witness? They just rested. And also, that they cited his work for President Trump when closing, talking about, you know, in terms of him having a good reputation and being a reputable man?
WEHLE: Well, they don't have a lot that they can do in this instance. I mean we've got -- it's either the jury's going to believe it was a fat cat that tried to basically, you know, defraud the government and defraud banks, or someone who is a Trump ally that is being attacked here.
I think the reason they didn't call any witnesses is because the defense that really Rick Gates is making all of this up and is really the bad guy here is belied by the documents as well as ten witnesses corroborating some of what he said. And beyond that, the bigger picture has to do with whether the president, as was said, is going to, a, pardon him, or -- and if he does pardon him, what's going to happen after that pardon, because the -- because Mr. Mueller could still subpoena him, even after the pardon, and then he would potentially either have to plead the Fifth or he'd have to testify anyway.
TAPPER: Evan Perez reported back in March that Mueller told Rick Gates that they didn't really need him for Manafort. They wanted information on collusion, whether there was any conspiracy with the Russians in the Trump campaign. And he got a very, very light sentence. We don't know if his cooperation was just on the Manafort issue, but he really isn't paying much of a penalty.
HAM: Right. And that's -- I mean that's, frankly, what makes people who are Trump allies like a little bit suspicious of the process is when certain people get off almost scot free and other people don't. Like, what exactly is the transaction there? Which is the question behind all of this. I'm not saying that I agree with them. But like --
HAM: But this is -- right.
HAM: But this -- this is what people sort of have issues with when they're -- when they're taking (INAUDIBLE).
TAPPER: Yes. And we'll see when Mueller concludes what it all is.
Coming up next, silencing his latest nemesis, did the president's legal threat against Omarosa do enough to keep the reality TV villain quiet, at least for now? Stay with us.
[06:44:10] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN, FORMER AIDE TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I have to be very careful because as of today Donald Trump has decided to sue me or to bring litigation against me to silence me and to not allow me to tell my story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: That was Omarosa Manigault Newman, as if you needed me to tell you that, last night say the Trump campaign is afraid of what she has to say and is trying to silence her by filing a legal claim with multimillion dollar implications. President Trump has only served to shine the spotlight on his former protege by blasting out eight tweets in 24 hours attacking her. Some of the president's supporters now acknowledging that he ran right into Omarosa's trap. Did he not?
HAM: I mean, are you not entertained, everyone? This is the show we have asked for and now we have it. Some day when she's the press secretary for President Avenatti, it's going to be quite an adventure.
[16:44:56] No, but this is -- this is what Trump creates. It was a symbiotic relationship from the beginning between the two of them, though the entire time at the White House, and it remains one, where they're sort of feeding off of each other, sometimes to his detriment, sometimes to his benefit, and the other way as well. But it's just sort of this circus with no real rhyme or reason. And I do believe that she's somewhat cynically motivated when she's turning this. JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: I think they're serious questions about her credibility but that said, the President has been bringing oxygen to the story significantly. Axios reporting today that the President was told by multiple advisors and his wife to ignore her attacks, he didn't. Now, this has become a story in its own right about racism and the n-word and whether there's a tape the White House can't deny, will not guarantee that there is no such tape. Let me say right now I'm willing to bet that you can guarantee about everybody at this table that there does not exist the tape of any of us using the n-word in a disparaging fashion, I mean, and yet the President walked right into this.
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I would not believe anything the Omarosa says unless receipts, audio, video, what-have- you. And although she is an unreliable narrator of the story, she's raised three important news cycles. One, the debate over wither there are tapes that exist with Donald Trump using two n-word, the fact that White House aides sign non-disclosure agreements which was confirmed by Kellyanne Conway, and three, she is raising the charge that Donald Trump had advanced knowledge of the leaking of Hillary Clinton's e- mails. Those are three legitimate subjects worth exploring so here we are --
TAPPER: Although the --
CARPENTER: -- between her fighting with Katrina Pierson.
TAPPER: Although the third one let me just say she provided no evidence for it. It's not in her book and then --
CARPENTER: Maybe there are tapes coming. She learned the ultimate Donald Trump trip of creating suspense.
TAPPER: So let me play you some sound because it's not just the likes of us who are talking about how the President has messed up here, it's also some of his allies including his favorite morning show Fox and Friends. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN KILMEADE, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: In order to sell a book, she's come out with a series of tapes and in many ways seems to have outsmarted the President who has taken the bait and gone out and tweeted directly after her. After the President came out and gave Michael Wolff millions of dollars by going after his book, he seems to be doing the same thing with Omarosa's book.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: I mean, just for the record that is Brian Kilmeade saying yeah Omarosa outsmarted President Trump. Everything he said is accurate, I'm just surprised. You think he's trying to get through to him?
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It is a deep burn. Yes, he's trying to get through the President. But we've seen the President do this, he doesn't learn. He runs into the same trap. He did with James Comey's book was number one I think after President Trump --
TAPPER: Oh, for weeks.
KUCINICH: For weeks. Because the President didn't like it and he kept -- he couldn't stop himself. And the fact of his advisors told him not to do it, I mean, come on like that never works. She has -- she is a creature of the Trump Organization, of the Trump way of doing things and we're seeing her put all of those lessons to use.
TAPPER: Simone, there's a question about how did Democrats combat President Trump. Omarosa said something to Trevor Noah last night on The Daily Show that I want to get your response.
SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Omarosa I think gave a strategic advice --
TAPPER: Well, just about how to defeat -- about how to defeat President Trump. This is what she had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE: There's one way to shut Donald Trump down and that is to just don't give him the oxygen. And the oxygen comes from the clicks, the likes, the shock, the discussions. If you ignore him then you starve another thing that he the most and that is controversy and attention.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: The irony (INAUDIBLE) of Omarosa, OK. You know what, look, I -- Democrats are winning races because they are not just talking about Donald Trump. They're out there talking about the issues, they are talking about how detrimental his policies have been for hardworking American people all over this country, and that's why they are doing well. That is why a blue wave, in my opinion, is, in fact, coming as long as people turn out to the polls.
Now, Omarosa is feeding -- is giving Donald Trump the oxygen he wants so that she can fire up her book sales. But the fact that matters is I'm no fan of Omarosa. I know her personally. I'm not a fan, Jake, but I'm not about the President sit around and call Omarosa a dog, call her crazy, just throw these racist, misogynistic, sexist ropes around. I think that's unacceptable. I think -- I was so glad to see so many people that are also cringe to defend Omarosa came out to say that this is just not something the President should be saying. He's always attacking women, people of color, what is his problem?
TAPPER: And the response when Sarah Sanders was asked about this, the response was well he attacks so many people. How can you say that these ones are sexist or these ones are racist? An interesting argument.
HAM: He's routinely awful, that's the defense. I rest my case.
TAPPER: But even Orrin Hatch was asked today and he -- and he -- and he said he basically that he disapproved of the President calling Omarosa a dog. I mean, Orrin Hatch is a fairly supportive Senator and not one who criticizes --
HAM: He's also -- Orrin Hatch doesn't really regularly call people dogs to denigrate them.
[16:50:00] CARPENTER: I think there's a certain amount of fatigue that really is setting in even among the Fox and Friends crowd. It's like really Donald Trump? It's one thing when he's in control of his situations. In this case with Omarosa, he is that her beck and call. He's being bullied by a reality T.V. star and that's embarrassing to everyone and ultimately this story will get tired.
TAPPER: All right, coming up next, caught in the middle as the Taliban stages a comeback in Afghanistan. Our U.S. troops a permanent prop in a war that will never end stay with us.
[16:55:00] TAPPER: And we're back with the "MONEY LEAD." President Trump is standing his ground on trade tweeting today "our country was built on tariffs and tariffs are now leading us to great new trade deals as opposed to the horrible and unfair trade deals that I inherited as your President." This after turkey announced new retaliatory tariffs against American-made products including cars, tobacco, alcohol, and rice. The news kept Wall Street investors rattled. The Dow finished 137 points down after spending the day in the red.
The "WORLD LEAD" now. The White House moments ago reacted to an eruption of violence in what seems to be a never-ending war. Today in Afghanistan at least 48 people were killed when a suicide bomber targeted a school in the capital of Kabul. When asked about the violence today, the White House said it is leaning on the Pentagon for direction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'll leave it to the Department of Defense to get into specifics about tactical situations on the ground. What I can tell you is that we're committed to finding a political solution to end the conflict in Afghanistan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: But after nearly two decades of violence and instability, many critics are asking whether there is any U.S. strategy that can work.
TAPPER: This morning devastation in Afghanistan again as a suicide bomber kills at least 50 students in an attack on a Kabul classroom. That attack coming as the important province of Ghazni is under siege with the Taliban killing at least 150 people in a deadly attempt to take the province and key city from Afghan government control. Civilians fleeing with their families share only stories of horrors. They were burning buildings in fire, this man says, and dead bodies everywhere and the fight was ongoing. The Pentagon this week downplayed the Ghazni siege stressing that the Afghan government retains control of the city. They're tellingly the Afghans were only able to do so with the help of U.S. air support and U.S. service members.
ROBERT GATES, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: They need to take increasing ownership of this conflict.
TAPPER: This is not the Afghanistan then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates envisions when he met with U.S. soldiers in Ghazni province in 2011.
GATES: I think we've made headway on our major goals which have been to degrade the capabilities of Taliban.
TAPPER: That was seven years ago. The promises have continued.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe at the end of 2014 we can look at the families and the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines that have served over the last 11 years and say we won.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the conditions are set for success.
TAPPER: Today the inescapable fact, we are in the 17th year of this war and Afghan forces still seem incapable or unwilling to often in defending their country on their own and the Americans who have sacrificed in Afghanistan are asking what's next.
C.J. CHIVERS, FORMER MARINE: There are a lot of veterans who poured their hearts into that country and their blood who have a sense of despair or disappointment, some cases discussed. That things did not fare better.
TAPPER: C.J Chivers is a New York Times Reporter, former Marine infantry officer, and author of the new book The Fighters in which he tells the stories of the service members with whom he was embedded. Those who have borne the burden of the lofty pronouncements and unrealized promises of commanders and generals.
CHIVERS: We went there reasonably smart at the outset and then over time we saw distraction, disorganization, incoherence ultimately.
TAPPER: More than 2,200 American service members have given their lives in this conflict. Just days ago Sergeant First Class Reymund Transfiguracion was killed by an IED. Now, the third Commander-in- Chief behind the U.S. effort is making familiar promises while also bluntly criticizing past leadership.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They left me with Afghanistan which is -- was a disaster. We make a lot of progress in Afghanistan.
TAPPER: And what is Afghanistan today? The first six months of this year had a record high number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan compared to the same period over the last ten years, almost 1,700 killed. Those pulling their boots on for the first time want to believe they will be the ones to deliver long-promised success.
CHIVERS: If I were to try to paint or describe a future in which we might find a way out of this, it would be to look at the humanity of the people on the ground on different sides of the conflict and try to analyze what we're doing for them.
TAPPER: And whatever it is, is it working?
TAPPER: THE LEAD will soon be making its international debut on CNN International beginning on September 10th. We'll be seen around the globe including in primetime in Great Britain and across Europe. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER, you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage continues now with Jim Sciuto. He's next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.
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