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Trump Campaign Lawyer Sends Threatening Letter to Omarosa's Publisher; Former Head of Special Ops Tells Trump to Revoke His Clearance, Too; Manafort Jury Delivers Note with Questions for Judge. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired August 16, 2018 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR/CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Happening now, met his match. Former "Apprentice" star Omarosa releases another secret recording and says she'll do what's necessary to protect herself, saying Donald Trump has met his match.
[17:00:23] And a top retired military commander adds his voice to the protest over the president's move against an ex-CIA director.
"Something had to be done." The president makes it very clear that the real reason he acted against CIA chief -- former CIA chief John Brennan was because of the Russia probe, saying, "Something had to be done." Did he just give special counsel Robert Mueller one more thing to investigate?
Russian space weapon. A Russian satellite starts acting very strangely, releasing smaller satellites and raising concerns that the Russians are turning space into a future warfront. Is that why the president is calling for a space force?
And rest her soul. Tributes are pouring in for Aretha Franklin, the queen of soul, who was a voice and source of inspiration during the Civil Rights Movement, as well as one of the biggest stars in the history of American popular music.
Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Acosta, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
ACOSTA: Breaking news, a retired Navy admiral who oversaw the bin Laden raid issues a scathing public takedown of President Trump for revoking the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan.
Admiral William McRaven tells the president to take his security clearance, too, saying, "You have embarrassed us, humiliated us on the world stage, and divided us as a nation."
That comes as the president admits he moved against Brennan because of the Russia probe. But if the president is hoping to distract from the revelations of former aide Omarosa, he'll have to do better. She just released another secret recording and says there's more where that came from, declaring Donald Trump has met his match.
I'll speak with Senator Chris Van Hollen, and our correspondents and specialists are standing by with full coverage.
But first, let's go straight to CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, you have some breaking news tonight. You've learned the president's campaign lawyer sent a threat letter to Omarosa's publisher, trying to stop her new book. What can you tell us about this latest attempt to silence Omarosa?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. The lawyer for President Trump's reelection campaign did send a letter to the publisher of Omarosa Manigault Newman's tell-all book. And they have responded, and this is big.
They are writing a letter back to him, saying that they cannot be intimidated, and they are going to proceed with this book being published as they had planned all along, and that they will not be silenced by a letter from his attorney.
There are several key lines in this letter first obtained by CNN. I'm going to read some of them to you now, saying that their client will not be intimidated by what they say are hollow legal threats and that they have proceeded with publication of the book as scheduled here, Jim.
They said that the letter sent from Charles Harter, the attorney for President Trump's reelection campaign, generally claims that excerpts from the book contain disparaging statements, but they note "it is quite telling that at no point do you claim that any specific statement in the book is false."
Lastly, they said, "Your letter is nothing more than an obvious attempt to silence legitimate criticism of the president."
Now, Jim, this letter comes from their publisher, their outside counsel in response to President Trump's attorney for his re-election campaign. This is not from Omarosa herself but from her publisher, saying that they are going to move forward with this book.
Of course, this comes after the president's re-election campaign brought an arbitration action against Omarosa after she published this book, saying that she violated a campaign NDA from 2016 that she signed.
But they're saying they're going to keep publishing this book, and they maintain that the claims that she makes in this book are true.
ACOSTA: And Kaitlan, has the president responded today to the controversy surrounding Omarosa's comments, or the security clearance he revoked?
COLLINS: No response from the president today. He was asked several times, not just about Omarosa and the claims that she makes in her book but also about the White House's decision to announce yesterday that they are revoking the security clearance of the former CIA director, John Brennan, and considering revoking the clearances of nine other officials.
So far they have no -- nothing else to say about that.
COLLINS (voice-over): President Trump going silent when it came to questions today.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it appropriate for you to punish your critics, Mr. President?
COLLINS: As two of his loudest critics launched their attacks.
OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SENIOR AIDE: Hey, it's the art of the deal.
COLLINS: Former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman releasing another tape, this time with the president's daughter-in- law, discussing a role with the Trump 2020 campaign. Lara Trump offering her $15,000 a month for an undefined role, as long as she kept things positive.
LARA TRUMP, TRUMP'S DAUGHTER-IN-LAW (via phone): It sounds a little like, obviously, that there are some things you've got in the back pocket to pull out. Clearly, if you come on board the campaign, like, we can't have -- we got to --
MANIGAULT NEWMAN: Oh, God, no.
L. TRUMP: Everything, everybody positive, right?
COLLINS: That conversation happening after a December interview where Omarosa said she'd seen things in the White House that made her uncomfortable. Omarosa left out what she said during the call but said today she saw it as hush money.
MANIGAULT NEWMAN: I saw this as an attempt to buy my silence, to censor me and to pay me off, $15,000 per month, by the campaign.
COLLINS: In a statement, Lara Trump denying Omarosa's account, claiming the job offer was made before she was aware of Omarosa's gross violations of ethics and integrity in the White House.
Asked if she's going to release more tapes, Omarosa playing coy.
MANIGAULT NEWMAN: If I need to I'll do what I have to do to protect myself. Donald Trump has met his match.
COLLINS: Omarosa releasing her fourth tape one day after the White House tried to extinguish her news cycle, announcing President Trump has revoked the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan, an outspoken critic who said his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin was nothing short of treasonous. Sarah Sanders offering these explanations for the unusual move.
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: His erratic conduct and behavior, the history that calls into question his objectivity and credibility, leveraged his status as a former high-ranking official. COLLINS: But Trump upended that defense when he blurted out that the
reason for revoking Brennan's clearance was the Russia investigation, telling "The Wall Street Journal," "I call it the rigged witch hunt. It is a sham, and these people led it," adding, "It's something that had to be done."
Sanders and other officials staying quiet today. But Brennan did not, writing in an op-ed for the "New York Times," "Mr. Trump's claims of no collusion are, in a word, hogwash."
COLLINS: Now, Jim, back to this exclusive letter obtained by CNN. We've asked Charles Harter, the attorney for the Trump reelection campaign, for his version of the letter that he sent to Simon and Shuster. He hasn't gotten back to us yet, but it does sound as if we could be preparing for a legal fight here, particularly with this graph from the letter from Omarosa's publisher, saying, "Should you pursue litigation against Simon and Shuster, we are confident that documents related to the contents of the book in the possession of President Trump, his family members, his businesses, the Trump campaign and his administration will prove particularly relevant to our defense" -- Jim.
ACOSTA: And that's not hogwash. All right. CNN's Kaitlan Collins, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
In a breathtaking, blistering letter, the retired Navy admiral who oversaw the Osama bin Laden raid says President Trump has embarrassed, humiliated and divided the nation, and he wants the president to revoke his security clearance, as well.
Let's turn to CNN's chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.
Jim, this is a pretty scathing letter. It's remarkable to see what this retired admiral has to say.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Just a quick word about McRaven. He is no wilting flower. He's a former Navy SEAL. He's the head of joint special operations command, in charge of all of U.S. Special Operations forces in charge of that during, arguably, the riskiest raid in U.S. military -- recent U.S. military history, the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
And today the strongest of words, the strongest of rebuke for the American president. He said in his op-ed, "Former CIA director John Brennan, whose security clearance you revoked on Wednesday, is one of the finest public servants I have ever known. I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance, as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency."
I mean, even some stronger words in here. He said, "Through your actions" -- referencing the president -- "you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation."
And just a final point, Jim, on the importance of folks who maintain their security clearance like this, former intelligence officials. This guy involved in literally hundreds of special operations raids, killing all the bad guys or many of the bad guys in Iraq and Afghanistan. If there was someone you wanted to consult if there was a terror threat to the U.S. and someone you had to take out abroad, he would be the man. And that's why maintaining these clearances, it means something.
ACOSTA: Yes. No shortage of credibility there. And Jim, how remarkable is it for the former CIA director to say that the president's claim of no collusion with the Russians is hogwash? That grabbed a lot of people's attention.
SCIUTTO: It did. And listen, there's some due criticism here, to some degree. Because the question is -- and actually Mark Warner, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Republican chairman, raised this question. He said, "Listen, if you are referring to classified intelligence that you were made aware of during your tenure as CIA chief, then, you know, you're revealing classified intelligence here, right?"
If you're just opining, that is an issue, at least Senator Warner said, that would justify removing your clearance, because you're going far beyond what a former CIA director should intimate without backing it up.
[17:10:05] So that's the question here. Is he just saying, "Listen, this is an open matter. Let the special counsel investigate it"? Or is he saying, "I know something. I can't tell you what it is, but collusion, by the way, that's not hogwash"? I mean, that's a fair question.
ACOSTA: Yes, and the special counsel is also investigating, Jim, whether the president obstructed justice. Could revoking Brenan's security clearance be seen as obstruction? That's one of the charges that's being looked at.
ACOSTA: Well, we do know that the special counsel has looked at the president's tweets and comments. Those were some of the questions that were submitted to the president's lawyers. We don't know -- and it would be different for him to, say, attack his attorney general, attack the special counsel, as opposed to remove the security clearance of this senior intelligence official.
I will note this: that now the president has punished three of the senior-most intelligence officials who were involved in starting that investigation. Of course, he fired James Comey, the former director of the FBI. He has now removed the security clearance of John Brennan, who was CIA director. And on the list of those whose security clearances are being reviewed, according to Sarah Sanders, is James Clapper, of course, the former director of national intelligence.
And I would note, those are three of the four people in the room, Jim, who delivered the news to President Trump in January 2017 about the existence of the dossier.
Do you think the president is making a connection in his head to that meeting in that room? It's possible.
ACOSTA: It sure sounds like it. All right, Jim Sciutto, thank you very much. We appreciate it.
Joining me now is Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.
Senator, thanks for joining us. I just want to point out, in just the last few moments, Senator, attorneys for Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman for President Trump, they have assembled in the courtroom there in Alexandria, Virginia. We are waiting to see what developments come from that. But that's happening right now.
Apparently, the jury, Senator, has four questions. And we're going to get more information from our correspondent on the scene shortly. We have a correspondent there who's going to be keeping tabs on what questions the jury has for the judge at this point.
But I want to get back to this pretty remarkable letter from Admiral McRaven that Jim Sciutto was just talking about. What is your reaction to that? Because it seems that you have some fairly impressive people from our intelligence community coming forward and saying what happened to John Brennan yesterday was wrong.
SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Well, Jim, I hope every American, regardless of their political persuasion, will take a look at this statement from the admiral. A very powerful statement, a statement from one of the leading military figures in the United States, saying to the president of the United States that not only has the president embarrassed and humiliated us overseas but to stop the McCarthy-era tactics that the president is engaged here, trying to silence his critics, as he's tried to do with John Brennan, engage in this continued obstruction of justice, whether that's in a legal term or loosely defined, in terms of trying to punish people who criticize the president or who believe, as I think most Americans do when they get right down to it, that we need to allow the Mueller investigation to run its course and get to the bottom of things.
SCIUTTO: And I wanted to get your take on this, because many Republicans in the Senate are defending President Trump's decision on John Brennan.
Are you surprised by that reaction, that more Republicans -- you've been in Congress for a very long time, Senator. You know people across the aisle. I'm sure you have many friends across the aisle. You've known them for many years. Why aren't more Republicans saying that what the president did to John Brennan is wrong?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, Jim, I am very disappointed. Unfortunately, I'm increasingly not surprised by my Republican colleagues, because they seem to be totally intimidated by President Trump and some of President Trump's supporters.
And so rather than standing up as patriots, as the admiral has done here, they've decided to sort of slink away and not want to address this issue.
Look, I think the question of patriotism and commonsense decency is an American question. It's not a question of whether you're a Republican or a Democrat. I would hope that our Republican colleagues would speak out in support of common decency and against what the admiral rightfully calls McCarthy-era tactics.
ACOSTA: And Senator, I want to have you stand by, because I want to go now to our Jessica Schneider. Jessica is a correspondent. She's live on the scene in Alexandria, Virginia.
Jessica, I understand there are some developments in the Paul Manafort case at this very critical stage in that trial. What can you tell us?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Jim. So the jury has now presented a note to the judge. This is the first we've heard from the jury since they began deliberating just minutes before 10 a.m. this morning.
So what's happening in the courtroom right now is that we know the jury has given this note to the judge. They're asking four questions. We do not know exactly what the questions are. But as part of that note, they've also indicated that they will, in fact, be deliberating tomorrow. So no verdict will come tonight.
[17:15:15] You know, Paul Manafort is back in the courtroom along with his defense lawyers, as well as the prosecution. And just a quick note. I mean, these are 18 counts this jury is considering. There are a lot of elements to all of these counts of bank and tax fraud, also bank fraud, conspiracy. You know, they're dealing with 388 documents. So it's not surprising that these questions have come up.
Again, four questions from the jury. We should know a little bit more about what these questions are as these proceedings continue. But we know there will be no verdict tonight, possibly tomorrow. But deliberations will continue tomorrow morning, for sure -- Jim.
ACOSTA: OK. Let's get Senator Van Hollen to react to that. Thank you, Jessica.
It sounds as though, Senator Van Hollen, that the jury is going to take some more time, no verdict this evening as our correspondent there, Jessica Schneider, just reported. They had some questions about all of this.
What do you make of this development? I mean, I suppose there are some complicated issues, some tax and business issues that they have to sort through before they render a verdict in this case.
VAN HOLLEN: Well, that's right, Jim. I believe there were 18 separate counts. And so the jury is doing its job. They're going to go through each of those counts.
But for those of us who followed the trial, it was very clear that the prosecution put on a very, very powerful and strong case. You know, the rest of the question beyond the -- beyond the Manafort
trial, the Mueller investigation more broadly, I think we should continue to ask why is it that President Trump, who says this process is rigged and keeps saying that he wants to tell his story, why is it that he continues to refuse to speak under oath to Bob Mueller and his team? He continues -- he, the president, continues to hide from the opportunity that he says he wants. And I think that that raises questions. Right? If you've got nothing to hide, why not show up and tell your story?
ACOSTA: And Senator, one thing I wanted to ask with respect to the Manafort trial, if we were to have a scenario where Paul Manafort is found guilty, what would be your message to the president, if he is pondering whether or not to give Paul Manafort a pardon? Would that be appropriate in this case? And if you don't believe it's appropriate, what would Congress have to do next, in your view?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, Jim, that would be a total abuse of power. And clearly, another step that would be taken to try to obstruct justice, because Paul Manafort clearly, even if he's convicted, could come forward with additional information about the president and other aspects of what the president's campaign was engaged in that may not have been part of the counts in this trial. So that would be a gross abuse of process.
Now, it is true that the president has the power of the pardon. On the other hand, if you look at the guidelines for which Justice Departments have used in the past for exercising that pardon power, there have been clearer steps that have been gone through.
Now, this president has blown through all of that. I mean, he has undermined the integrity of the pardon process. He's politicized it. And you asked me about the response from my Republican colleagues with respect to what the president has done in revoking security clearances. Again, that would be a moment, if he used the pardon power in such an abusive way that people as Americans, as patriots need to stand up. They need to stand up for the rule of law.
So let's see how things proceed. But again, the main thing is this investigation, the Mueller investigation, must be allowed to run its course if the public is going to have any confidence in our system.
ACOSTA: And on this issue of obstruction of justice that pertains to the Russia investigation, on John Brennan's security clearance, the president told "The Wall Street Journal" -- we can put this up on screen -- "I call it the rigged witch hunt. It is a sham, and these people led it." He's referring to those members of the intelligence community that he's going after their security clearances on. "So I think it's something that had to be done."
Something that had to be done. Do you believe, Senator, that that is an admission that this was political retribution? And what, if anything, can the special counsel's office do about that?
VAN HOLLEN: There's no doubt about it. This is one more example where the president's press team put out one story as to why Brennan lost his security clearance. That was also a lousy argument.
But now the president has been very clear that the reason he wants to punish John Brennan is because he thinks Brennan is somehow responsible for the Russia investigation.
And when you go about selectively punishing people who have been involved in the investigation one way or another or commented on it to try to silence them, clearly, that is an effort to obstruct the ongoing effort.
[17:20:09] And I'll leave the legal standards of obstruction of justice to Bob Mueller and his team. But this is a pattern where the president is trying to punish not just those who say -- you know, who are his critics, which he does, as well, but here it's clearly related once again to the Russia investigation, just like in the Comey firing.
ACOSTA: OK. Senator Van Hollen, thank you very much for your time and your perspectives on all of this. We appreciate it.
Coming up next, breaking news that the president is hoping his move against a former CIA director will distract from the revelations from his one-time aide, Omarosa. He'll have to think again. She's released a new secret tape, declaring Donald Trump has met his match.
And a jury is weighing the fate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. How will the president react if he's found guilty?
[17:25:20] ACOSTA: More breaking news. Now a jury is deciding the fate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The fraud case is a big test for Special Counsel Robert Mueller. And CNN's Kara Scannell is outside the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia.
And Kara, you were just in the courtroom. This jury has questions. What questions did the jury have for the judge? Very interesting development.
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Jim. After almost seven hours of deliberation, the jury knocked on the door. The court security officer went in, came out with a piece of paper.
And it turns out the jury has four questions. One of them relates to the requirements to file notice that Manafort had foreign bank accounts. They asked very specific questions related to the elements of that charge.
They also asked a question about what is required for Manafort on some of the tax charges he faces. They asked the judge also for a definition of reasonable doubt.
And then another question they wanted some help indexing the exhibits to the indictments.
Now, the judge told the jury -- he called them back in -- he told them that they had to rely on their recollection for all of these counts, all these questions that they had. But he did tell them for reasonable doubt, he told them that it did not mean beyond possible doubt. So that was the only affirmative instruction that the judge gave to the jury, and the jury notified the judge that were going to break today at 5:30, and they'll return tomorrow morning and pick up deliberations where they left off.
But they're not getting any real additional information. The judge is just telling them they need to rely on their memory, and they need to rely on the testimony of the witnesses and the documents that they have as exhibits, Jim.
ACOSTA: OK. CNN's Kara Scannell, very interesting development.
Let's get more from our experts. And I want to turn to Joey Jackson first, because Joey Jackson, you've been in your share of courtrooms. When a jury sends a question to the judge and says "What does reasonable doubt mean," to me that says that this jury has its own doubts as to whether or not Paul Manafort is guilty. Correct me if I'm wrong here.
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Though not necessarily. So what ends up happening is, is when a jury goes and deliberates, obviously, they may have questions and concerns regarding the evidence, the testimony and the legal standards that apply.
Also, when jurors go back, sometimes it may be a single juror who needs clarification. It's not necessarily that they all do.
But I think the asking of the question, which has been asked plenty in having a federal trial, as I've had, or state trials, as I've had, it's asked: what is the standard that we have to govern this? And generally speaking, a judge would be more helpful than this one apparently was and will tell the jury, look, reasonable doubt is not a mathematical certainty; it's not a scientific certainty. It's not beyond every and all doubt. Right? Is the evidence legally sufficient?
And so before, I think, we jump to the conclusion that, hey, maybe the prosecution didn't prove its case, I think we're looking for a jury that's grappling with knowing what standard are we really governed by? What's the sufficiency of the evidence that we need to determine? And that goes to that issue, plain and simple. So I wouldn't read anything more.
And as to the other charges, remember, Jim, they listened to ten days of testimony, not including, you know, the closing arguments and the jury instruction. And so they want clarification. They have these 18 charges, and they want to know. There are certain elements. They want to match the facts to the elements they can reach the right conclusion.
This is a jury that's doing their job, and it doesn't seem like they're predisposed to any particular outcome. It seems like they're predisposed to getting to the heart of the matter. And that's all I read into it. ACOSTA: All right. And Gloria Borger, and Joey is right, we can't jump to any conclusions based on all of this. But if you're Paul Manafort's legal team, you must find that as something of a positive development.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure.
ACOSTA: If you're grasping for positive developments, I suppose that's one.
BORGER: I don't know what Joey would say to that, because he's the real lawyer. But it would seem to me that Paul Manafort's team would be heartened by a jury asking this question, which is so basic to the case.
But they're also taking their time. There are 18 counts. They're not getting it done today. This is a judge, as we know, who wants to move things along. But the jury seems to be saying, you know, "We're going to take our time, and we're going to kind of look at everything as we have to."
But it is a question that, if I were on the special counsel's side of this, if I were on -- I would be scratching my head, saying, "I thought we kind of talked about that during the case." Right, Joey? I mean, wouldn't you be just a little concerned?
JACKSON: Now, that is true. That is very true.
ACOSTA: Joey, but people are convicted after this question. I've covered lots of trials. The jury will ask this question, and they'll still convict the person. Sometimes it's just one of those pro forma things that are sorted out at the beginning of a jury's deliberations in all of this.
JACKSON: Absolutely. A hundred percent correct. ACOSTA: And Chris Cillizza, let's turn to the decision by the president to revoke the security clearance for the former CIA director, John Brennan.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS WRITER AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Yes.
ACOSTA: This McRaven op-ed that came out in "The Washington Post" this afternoon, saying, "Hey, take my security clearance, too." I mean, that's a pretty -- pretty scathing thing to say.
CILLIZZA: Yes, I mean, the problem is that you have a lot of differing explanations of why the security clearance was taken. We have Sarah Sanders saying, well, it was for security reasons. The President in the interview with the Wall Street Journal, he didn't make clear that it was about Russia, but he certainly kind of mentioned that Brennan's comments vis-a-vis the Russia investigation annoyed him. This is not inconsistent with what we've seen from the President. There's a -- there's a consistency of inconsistency in messaging. Remember that the reason Jim Comey was fired was because of the memo Rod Rosenstein wrote. And then, Donald Trump went -- did an interview with Lester Holt,
said, well, this is Russia thing. I was going to do it anyway. This is the difficulty of trying to manage message as it relates to Donald Trump. Look, no one says the President can't do this, legally speaking, but I do think it is either meant to or will -- and I think it'll be both probably true -- trying to send a message of, you know, dissent which is what Brennan was doing, dissent is grounds for having your security clearance removed (INAUDIBLE) I've learned about this from Sam and other smart NASA security books. It's not --
ACOSTA: Dissent is supposed to be patriotic last time I check.
CILLIZZA: It's not as though -- it's not as though John Brennan will somehow like cease to exist as a human. You're doing -- you're doing --
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: You won't be able to contribute though which is --
CILLIZZA: Right. I was going to say what you're doing damage to is -- you're doing damage to collected institutional wisdom being able to be shared. I mean, I don't think John Brennan is like "no!" I mean, you know what I mean? I think there's -- you're actually hurting the current national security (INAUDIBLE)
VINOGRAD: You are. You're also -- you're also hurting the functioning of the intelligence community absent, I think, John Brennan and Admiral McRaven, because if you're an intel analyst right now, you're working at the CIA, you might come across intelligence that is not flattering towards the President. You might hear a foreign leader making a discouraging comment. I would be very worried about putting that into a summary with my name on it, and suggesting that that goes to the White House because the President could get upset and try to silence me. And let's also be clear, the clearance contagion with McRaven, this is signaling to our enemies around the world that he considers the President's actions more of a threat perhaps than Al Qaeda or Isis or any of these other issues that he worked on, but he's willing to step back and say, I won't contribute.
ACOSTA: Gloria, let me read a bit of what Admiral McRaven wrote in the Washington Post. This is pretty astonishing stuff. "I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance, as well." This is the man who oversaw the Osama bin Laden raid. "So I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency." You know, we're running through a lot of esteemed people from the intelligence community who are rising up against this President in this city.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. It is -- it is stunning.
ACOSTA: It is something.
BORGER: What is also interesting to me is that Republicans in Congress, Senators, they're not -- they're saying, fine. You know, they believe that Brennan went overboard when he said that the President was treasonous, I believe it was after Helsinki. And they believe that these former intelligence officials should not be speaking out against the President, that as former intelligence officials, they ought to keep their mouths shut and lose their first amendment rights. There are a lot of people including me who disagree with that, but Republicans do not seem to think that this is any kind of an issue whatsoever. And I would also say that I would wager -- and Sam, you would know more about this than I do -- that this administration probably hasn't consulted Brennan, or Clapper, or McRaven, or Susan Rice, or any of these people on the enemy's list at all about foreign policy. Have they?
VINOGRAD: Not to my knowledge. Not to my knowledge. But there is -- there is one differentiating factor which is if John Brennan is judged to have used his access to classified information in the past to make these statements, something he knew about the Russian campaign against us that's still ongoing. And that informed his comments about collusion, that's one thing. There is an executive order that lays out the 13 criteria for losing your security clearance. So, is he saying something based upon information he saw or is he just expressing an opinion? Two different things.
ACOSTA: Hey, Chris Cillizza, some of this was -- some of this was sparked by this Twitter tantrum that the President unleashed on John Brennan, some of it was sparked we all believe because of what Omarosa was doing earlier in the week.
CILLIZZA: Of course. I mean, look, it's hard -- we know Donald Trump -- whatever you think of, Donald Trump is a masterful manipulator of message and media. He understands, he grew up in the New York tabloid, he understands if something over here isn't going well, the best you can do is change the subject over here. The timing is not going to know.
[17:35:00] I want to read on thing, because I think this is really important. This quote from Orrin Hatch is to Gloria's point. This is what Orrin Hatch said, "I'm surprised on Brennan and Trump. I'm surprised it took Trump so long. Brennan has not been a friend of the administration at all." What difference does that make? Friend of the administration is not -- to Sam's point about --I'm pretty sure that's not one of the 13 things.
VINOGRAD: It's not in the EO, it's not in there.
CILLIZZA: Like that kind of logic I think is --
ACOSTA: That's sort of the opposite of the enemy of the people.
CILLIZZA: I mean, it's just -- it's just -- the idea that, well, OK, it's justified and he should have done it sooner because John Brennan has spoken out against the President. It's to your point, dissent can be in many times is patriotic. The idea that if you -- if you dissent therefore you are deserving of this, should be concerning. ACOSTA: And Joey Jackson, one person who's dissenting right now is
Omarosa. But to Chris' --
CILLIZZA: What a segue.
ACOSTA: But to Chris' point about the President being a master manipulator of the media, perhaps not always according to Brian Kilmeade of Fox News. Let's play this.
(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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now, Joey Jackson, the President is having executive time with his remote control and is watching "Fox & Friends" and Brian Kilmeade is saying he's been outsmarted by Omarosa. What do you imagine the President's reaction was at that moment?
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, we know what the President's reaction is, right? He doesn't like criticism, he doesn't like even the insinuation that he's outsmarted by anyone, much less the fact that that could be the case. And so, I would imagine that the reaction wouldn't be too good. But look, the fact of the matter is that she potentially did do that, right? We talk about how she was able to tape these things. Everyone says, oh, bad character, she's taping everything. The larger question for me is, how was she permitted to get all this information and no one has any idea about it?
And so, at the end of the day, though, I don't think the President is going to be -- do anything or be able to do anything in terms of the book slow down, in terms of getting her from stopping to talk, I don't care what nondisclosure agreement is in place. And a quick point, Jim, and that's this, we have to understand that nondisclosure agreements are about protecting, right, critical confidential information, not preventing someone from having an opinion and being able to criticize and opine about their thoughts and views when they were some place. And that's on that basis that I think she's taking the President to task and he won't be able to do a thing about it legally.
ACOSTA: That's right. Very good point. And also, nondisclosure agreements should not prevent you from doing your patriotic doing -- duty and speaking out for your country. Thanks very much all of you, appreciate that.
ACOSTA: Coming up, the President makes it clear the reason he acted against former CIA Chief John Brennan was because of the Russia probe. Did he just give Robert Mueller one more thing to investigate? And tributes pour in for Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, a voice for the Civil Rights movement, and one of the biggest stars in the history of American popular music. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
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ACOSTA: She was the Queen of Souls. Sad news out of Detroit today, the legendary singer and songwriter, Aretha Franklin has died at the age of 76. Joining us now is a man who knew her well, a record executive Kerry Gordy. Kerry, thanks so much for joining us. A sad day, but also, a wonderful day in some respects, and that we get to reflect on this just incredible, amazing woman. Growing up, what were your memories, your first memories of Aretha Franklin?
KERRY GORDY, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, PAISLEY PARK RECORDS: Well, my first memory was, I guess, you know, she was the Queen of Soul. And I thought that she was married to James Brown because he was the King of Soul. So, I remember going to school and all of the kids singing "Respect." And it was -- it was just an amazing time with regard to the civil rights movement and so forth. So my memories were just her being just the greatest singer that I can remember.
ACOSTA: And Kerry, your father helped found Motown. And so, you're intimately familiar with all of this. And you know, the thing that jumps out at me when I listen to Aretha Franklin is how the sound of her voice just overpowers you every time you hear it. Let's listen to one of her most well-known renditions. Let's listen to this.
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ARETHA FRANKLIN, QUEEN OF SOUL: R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me. R-E-S-P-E-C-T, take care TCB. A little respect. (INAUDIBLE)
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ACOSTA: Everybody knows the words to that song, or most of the words of that song. Kerry, why is that song so iconic? We were singing it around the newsroom today.
[17:45:00] GORDY: Well, first of all, it wasn't just that the song was iconic, it was this when she sung whatever she sung, you believed it. And it was the first song that I can ever remember as a child being aware and cognizant of the lyrics. When she said, oh, your kiss is sweeter than honey, but guess what, so is my money. That was a line that every girl loved to say. And it was -- it was just -- it was just amazing. So, that was -- that was, I guess, the issue. Truly funny because I think --
ACOSTA: And such an empowering song to women, too. And Kerry, how important was Aretha Franklin to the civil rights movement, do you think, to feminists and to the African-American community? I mean, she was sort of the soundtrack to an era. GORDY: Well, she was very important because she donated -- she's
donated her proceeds to the civil rights movement, she used her platform to promote voting rights, and you know, she and her father helped organize the Freedom March to Washington with Dr. King.
GORDY: That's really funny. You know, I have a little funny story as respect embodies who she is. My current COO of my company was an agent at William Morris (INAUDIBLE) she was an agent. And one day she was a junior agent and she was sitting at a desk and Aretha called. And Aretha says, hello, and she says, oh, hi, Aretha. And she's like, wait a minute, do you know me? Do I know you? You call me -- you refer to me as Ms. Franklin, not Aretha. I want my respect. And I think that from -- she embodied that song. Everything that was about her embodied respect.
ACOSTA: Absolutely. And we all have -- we owe so much respect for Aretha Franklin tonight, and we appreciate you so much coming on and talking about this. We're bursting with enthusiasm for Aretha Franklin, just like you are, Kerry. Kerry Gordy, thank you so much for your perspective on Aretha Franklin, an amazing, just iconic woman and performer. We will miss her. Thank you so much, Kerry, appreciate it.
GORDY: Absolutely. We will. Thank you.
ACOSTA: Coming up, strange behavior from a Russian military satellite is raising alarms among arms control experts. Does it pose a threat?
[17:52:00] ACOSTA: Tonight, new concerns inside the U.S. defense community over a Russian military satellite exhibiting some very strange behavior. Our Brian Todd is on the story for us. Brian, why are officials keeping an eye on this particular piece of equipment? It's very interesting.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Jim. They're doing that because this satellite seems to have done something that U.S. officials admit they have never seen before. It has birthed two other satellites according to experts, and they're worried the Russians could use it as a weapon in space.
TODD: Blasting off from a Russian cosmodrome, a Soyuz rocket surges into space. Its payload, a military satellite shrouded in mystery. That was in June of last year. Tonight, space and military analysts are investigating whether that satellite is the same one which a top U.S. arms control official said this week was exhibiting, quote, abnormal behavior.
BOB HALL, SATELLITE EXPERT, ANALYTICAL GRAPHICS INC.: When you look at the entire Russian catalog, this satellite and its children are the ones that jump out as the ones that are acting in an unusual way. TODD: The satellite's children? Experts at the firm Analytical
Graphics who've analyzed this satellite believe the larger Russian satellite, quote, birthed, a smaller satellite a couple of months later. Then, a couple of months after that, the smaller Russian satellite birthed an even smaller satellite.
HALL: Almost like a Russian nesting doll.
TODD: The Russian ministry of defense even announced the first birthing, saying the smaller satellite would, quote, inspect the condition of the larger one. But experts are worried the Russians could be testing it out for military purposes.
HALL: The fact that it's the MOD announcing -- the Ministry of Defense announcing that, and it's a secret mission, clearly, even if it's a test satellite, it's got some kind of military purpose in what it's testing.
TODD: What kind of military purpose? The Pentagon and U.S. Air Force Space Command won't say specifically what they believe the Russian satellites could do. But tonight, a U.S. military official tells CNN the Russians and other adversaries have turned space into a, quote, war-fighting domain.
MICHAEL KOFMAN, EXPERT ON RUSSIAN MILITARY, CNA: You could see the evolution of that technology in that a single satellite could then sort of give birth to multiple smaller satellites, which could be potential kinetic weapons. Of course, we're thinking later on for the future.
TODD: This possible threat is one reason why the Trump administration has been pushing so hard for a so-called Space Force.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Space Force!
TODD: U.S. military officials have told CNN the Russians have already developed a satellite called Cosmos 2499. They nicknamed it Kamikaze because they say it could at some point have the capability to go on the attack and slam into American satellites. Experts say the Russians could use satellites to jam American satellites, intercept or disrupt crucial communications.
KOFMAN: A lot of our image surveillance reconnaissance means are space based, so it's really more a United States ability to see and (INAUDIBLE) forces that potential is threatening.
TODD: The Russians are flatly denying the U.S. assertion that they're trying to weaponize satellites.
ALEXANDER DEYNEKO, RUSSIAN DISARMAMENT OFFICIAL (through translator): The same unfounded slanderous accusations based on suspicions, on suppositions, and so on and so forth.
[17:55:07] TODD: In denying that they have weaponized satellites, the Russians are, again, pressuring the Americans to join a treaty that would ban weapons in space. The U.S. government has resisted joining that treaty, saying there's no way to verify that Russian and China are curtailing their weapons. And U.S. officials say the treaty has too many loopholes to allow those countries to actually build their weapons capability, Jim. Looks like we have a genuine arms race in space going on right now.
ACOSTA: Very worrying development. Brian Todd, thank you very much.
Coming up, breaking news, CNN has learned President Trump's campaign lawyer threatened Omarosa's publisher, trying to stop her new tell-all book. But Omarosa warns that Donald Trump has met his match. And a top former military commander lashes out at the President in defense of ex-CIA Chief, John Brennan.
ACOSTA: Happening now, breaking news, threat letter: CNN has learned about a new attempt by the Trump team to silence Omarosa by warning that her publisher will pay a price for her tell-all book. The fired White House aide is vowing she won't be intimidated, as she releases a new recording.
Critical mass: Mr. Trump under fire after admitting that he stripped former CIA Director John Brennan of his security clearance because of the Russia investigation. Tonight, the retired Admiral who oversaw the Bin Laden raid says he'd be honored if Mr. Trump punishes him, too.
Awaiting a verdict: Jurors in Paul Manafort's trial just sent a note to the judge asking multiple questions, what might the President do if his former campaign chairman is convicted?