Return to Transcripts main page
Trump's Military Parade Postponed; Security Clearance Firestorm Grows; Manafort Jury Deliberates. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired August 17, 2018 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: So many people thought this thing would be done. It sounds like it's not.
Your initial thoughts, hearing they want to go home?
ELIE HONIG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, it's consistent with the note we saw yesterday.
There are some juries that get in the room and sort of look at each other and go, we're going to hammer this guy and go home, right? And there are some juries that say, we're going to throw this thing out and go home.
This jury is clearly going very meticulously through the evidence and through the counts. And what that note tells me is they don't have any intention of finishing up real soon,not today, even though, as you said, many juries do.
BALDWIN: Paul Manafort's wife on the screen, by the way, for everyone watching, his wife going home for the weekend.
HONIG: Many juries do come back on Friday, but it doesn't look like this one will.
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: This case has 18 counts of income tax evasion.
BALDWIN: Crazy complicated.
CALLAN: Crazy complicated counts,all right, 27 witnesses, 370 exhibits to go through. OK?
That's a lot of work to do. To just touch each of those charges and have a discussion of any kind about them would take at least this much time. Rule of thumb in high-profile lengthy cases, a lot of times they say it's a day of deliberation per week of trial.
This case went a little over two weeks, the trial portion.
CALLAN: That means Monday, the third day, would be, if you just go by this rule of thumb, third day or fourth day, I would say most likely for a verdict, if we're going to get a verdict in the case.
BALDWIN: Still, I hear you on the complexities of this case and all the pieces of evidence and then the witnesses, but if you're the government, if you're the prosecutor in this case, obviously you were hoping for a swift, in their eyes, swift justice on a Friday afternoon. What are you thinking now?
HONIG: Yes, it's a little disappointing I think if you are a prosecutor. You are hoping that they will just -- generally the consensus is quicker verdict for the prosecutor.
That said, the questions they have asked have been smart and rational and focused, and I would say smart questions. You can get wacky questions. I'm sure we have both had crazy questions. We want the witness to come back in and we want to question him in the jury room. And then you start going, oh, no?
As long as they stay focused, as they seem to be, I think the prosecutors should stay steady and cautiously optimistic.
CALLAN: I think the one wild card, I think, is the political aspect of the case. You remember the defense was constantly trying to sneak in the fact that he was singled out for prosecution, that a special counsel is prosecuting him, even though the judge had said you're not supposed to talk about that.
They were trying to convey to the jury this is selective prosecution. And the one thing I would worry about as a prosecutor, if there's somebody on that jury who is a die-hard Trump fan, you have the president of the United States yesterday making comments about this deliberating jury.
BALDWIN: You had him talking about Manafort today.
CALLAN: Today as well, saying what? It's sad.
BALDWIN: It's sad what they have done to him.
CALLAN: Because he's such a good man.
BALDWIN: Right. CALLAN: Now, I can never remember, ever, a sitting president
intervening while a jury was deliberating. There's a lot of politics in this case.
And if you have people who are sort of die-hard Trump supporters and they believe this is a selective prosecution, those are people who might disorder the evidence and say, I can't vote for a conviction. You could have a hung jury in that scenario.
We don't know the politics of the people on the jury, but I'm just saying, this is very unusual behavior by a president.
BALDWIN: And speaking of the jury, and I'm talking to the control room really quickly, saying, guys, if we have that sound of the president talking about Paul Manafort earlier today, we should pull that and play that, but another piece coming from the judge -- oh, you guys are good. Roll the tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't talk about that. I don't talk about that. I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad when you look at what's going on there. I think it's a very sad day for our country. He worked for me for a very short period of time, but you know what?
He happens to be a very good person. And I think it's very sad what they have done to Paul Manafort.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Sad day for our country. Sad what they have done to Paul Manafort. He's a good person.
I just think your point is worth underscoring that this is a sitting president commenting on this federal case involving someone who worked for him as his former campaign chairman, calling him a good guy.
And if you are a juror, how do you not see what's happening?
CALLAN: And people have to remember, too, that in a criminal case, all 12 jurors have to agree to vote guilty. If one person says no, it's a hung jury.
If one person is influenced, you heard that from the president -- they're not supposed to be watching to TV or listening to anything about this, but if it got back to that juror, you have to wonder, would it influence the jury?
BALDWIN: Can you imagine how emotional this may be for jurors behind the scenes going through the complexities of bank filings and tax fraud allegations and all these pieces of evidence, all the while the undercurrent being the state of America, the state of this investigation, the president of the United States?
[15:05:03] HONIG: Yes, it's got to be a lot.
And it is sort of the prosecutor's nightmare, which is your one holdout juror. And I think it's interesting that what the president said right there is something that the defense lawyers in court would never have been allowed to say. Right?
The defense lawyers, like you said, they tried to allude to it, like Paul said, to slide it in, selective prosecution. But if they had said what the president just said in the well of the court, Judge Ellis would have come down hard on them, because that would have been an absolute violation of their duty and their ethics.
CALLAN: Even if Jeff Sessions said it, rather than Donald Trump, if a lawyer said it, he'd be held in contempt of court while a jury is deliberating, I think.
BALDWIN: Wow. Wow.
Thank you, guys, so very much on that.
Despite outcry from both sides of the aisle, today, the president confirmed that he will be stripping the security clearance of even more people in the coming days, and he gave a huge hint over who could be next.
President Trump also responded on camera for the first time about the White House withdrawing, yanking the clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: There's no silence. If anything, I'm giving him a bigger voice. Many people don't even know who he is. And now he has a bigger voice. And that's OK with me because I like taking on voices like that. I have never respected him. I have never had a lot of respect.
And Senator Burr said it best. If you knew anything, why didn't you report it when you were before all of these committees, including their committee? So, he had a chance to report. He never did. This was just -- came up lately. And it's a disgusting thing, frankly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: The president then went after the only active Justice Department official whose clearance is under review. That's Bruce Ohr, who was demoted from his position in the deputy attorney general's office after the discovery of some meetings with the man who wrote that infamous Steel dossier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I think Bruce Ohr is a disgrace. I suspect I will be taking it away very quickly. I think that Bruce Ohr is a disgrace with his wife, Nellie.
For him to be in the Justice Department and to be doing what he did, that is a disgrace. That is disqualifying for Mueller. And Mr. Mueller has a lot of conflicts also directly himself. So, you know that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Now, because of what the White House has done, there was this unprecedented show of force coming from the intelligence community. Look at all these faces. Fifteen people, nearly all of whom once led the CIA, are showing support for Brennan and condemning the president's use of security clearance as a political stunt.
So, for more on that, let's go to CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins.
Kaitlan, we added two names to that list signing on to this letter. Tell me who these people are and what their overall message is.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, today, the president was saying that he's had a tremendous response to revoking John Brennan's clearance, but that response certainly has not been all positive.
We're seeing quite a show of force from these former intelligence officials who you don't often see something like this. Yes, John Brennan was very vocal in his criticism of the president often on television talking about him, making clear where he stands and what he thinks of the president's positions, but you do not often see officials like this, former CIA directors, former deputy directors of the CIA, intelligence chief, get together in this show of force and issue a collective rebuke of something the president has done.
But they feel so strongly about the president revoking Brennan's clearance and threatening to revoke several other officials' clearances that they issued this statement highlighting just how unprecedented this is, calling it a regrettable move, and saying that they believe it was a direct action from the president to stifle free speech.
And, Brooke, you have got to look at who is on this list. It's not just Democratic officials who served under Democratic presidents, but Republicans too. And also one really big name that signed on today, Robert Gates. He was a former CIA director and the secretary of defense. He also signed his name on.
And that really just goes to show what this message that they are sending, because he's often someone who is pretty quiet about this. It is pretty significant that even he is joining on in this rebuke of President Trump's decision to do this.
But, Brooke, it doesn't seem that this criticism is getting to the president. He actually feels quite strongly about what he did. He thinks he's gotten a pretty positive response. And as you heard from him when he was boarding Marine One outside of the White House, he made clear that he's ready to revoke more security clearances in the coming days.
Now, of course, what the larger context of that is, is the president using his presidential powers to lash out at people that are directed to the Russia investigation. He was not prompted by reporters to say as much today, but he drew the line between revoking those clearances and the investigation himself, going straight from talking about John Brennan to talking about Robert Mueller, the special counsel, and saying that he's conflicted.
It is the president himself here, Brooke, that even though his spokespeople said days ago that they were revoking the clearance for national security matters, the president is making quite clear, Brooke, that it is about the Russia investigation and those people who are criticizing him.
BALDWIN: Kaitlan, thank you.
Coming up next, Peter Bergen will join me live, CNN national security analyst, who says that the president picks the wrong guy here to mess with.
Plus, the wife of the former Trump aide who cut a deal with Robert Mueller says he should now scrap the deal. Can you even do that?
Plus, Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York, now walking back comments from a speech this week when he hit Trump's famous slogan and said America -- quote -- "was never that great."
And as the tributes continue to come in for the Queen of Soul, we're learning more about how she spent her final days -- more on Aretha Franklin.
You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
BALDWIN: To another high-profile figure who's criticizing the president for revoking the security clearance of former CIA Chief John Brennan.
This is William McRaven, retired Navy admiral who oversaw the raid to kill Osama bin Laden. In his own letter, he urged the president to revoke his own clearance, saying that it would be an honor, his word.
Former NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden told CNN that Admiral McRaven, who has really stayed away from public political comments, is showing that he's fed up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN (RET.), CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: You can just see from the tone of the letter he had had enough. I mean, there was an undertone of a powerful sense of embarrassment as to what was happening to the United States. And then in 250 very focused and powerful words, he said what he said.
I think that would be in case of emergency break glass. I think Bill McRaven broke the glass yesterday. And we might see an awful lot of other folks like him more willing to comment now, John.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: When it comes to this back and forth between Trump and Brennan, my next guest says Trump has picked the -- picked on the wrong guy.
CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen is a senior fellow, along with Brennan at the Center on National Security over at Fordham Law.
And, Peter, thank you so much for being with me.
And I just wanted to begin with -- I don't know normally quote my guests back, but your lead in the CNN opinion piece was just -- it was so strong.
You wrote: "Trump is picking the wrong guy if he thinks a revocation of John Brennan's security clearances is going to intimidate or silence him. The man who is in many ways the architect of the war on militant jihadists is not going to be easily bullied."
So this is a man who is not easily pushed around.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: That's right, Brooke.
Look, a guy who speaks fluent Arabic, who was a CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia, who was picked by the George W. Bush administration to run the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, which was one of the recommendations of the 9/11 commission, which is basically to bring intelligence from all around the intelligence community to connect the dots that weren't connected before the 9/11 attacks, and then was picked by President Barack Obama to be his top counterterrorism adviser, and really was the architect of the drone program we saw under Obama's presidency.
And we think of President Obama, some people think of him as somebody not comfortable with the exercise of military power. But really, if you look at the drone program, it was massively expanded during Obama's time, both in Pakistan and Yemen and also in Somalia.
And it was John Brennan who sat in a windowless office in the West Wing and really oversaw Barack Obama's counterterrorism policy. So this is not a guy that is going to be easily intimidated. And I think we have seen -- I mean, his immediate response to the revocation of the security clearances was to take to "The New York Times" and to say that the claims that there was no collusion with the Russians were hogwash.
Well, that's a pretty strong claim coming from the CIA director. So he definitely picked a fight with somebody who's going to not be silent on these issues.
BALDWIN: He's certainly not afraid to speak up. You tell the story about during that time when they were obviously wanting to kill and capture Osama bin Laden, and it was John Brennan in the room who was the one saying, we have faith in our SEALs. They really dedicated their lives to this mission of finding Osama bin Laden.
They believed he was in that Abbottabad compound, which was not what the vice president and secretary of defense were saying, right?
On the final National Security Council meeting on the decision to capture/kill bin Laden, President Obama ran around the room, and Secretary Gates basically advised against the raid because there were too many things that could go wrong. Similarly, Vice President Biden made similar kind of recommendations to the president.
Brennan was always -- he always -- he had great faith in the CIA analysts who developed the kind of circumstantial case that bin Laden was in the compound. And he was very close to President Obama.
And so he was a strong voice for let's do the raid. Yes, there are risks, but you capsule or kill bin Laden, you get the intelligence that you pick up there, and doing nothing or doing some other kind of approach also has risks.
So Brennan was a key voice in the room for these very important national security decisions. And I think that president -- I think the fact that Admiral McRaven came out with this letter in defense of John Brennan is enormously important.
It's one thing for former senior intelligence officials to defend Brennan. It's another thing for a former four-star admiral. And there's a kind of -- as you know, Brooke, the higher you are up in the service and even in retirement, the less likely you are to take political positions publicly.
And the fact that he's taken such a strong position, I think, speaks for itself.
BALDWIN: Peter Bergen, thank you.
BERGEN: Thank you.
BALDWIN: Coming up next: President Trump canceling his own military parade. But who he says is to blame and why the mayor of Washington, D.C., is calling him out.
Plus, a CNN poll shows six in 10 Americans think President Trump is too friendly with Russia.
CNN political director David Chalian is here to weigh in.
BALDWIN: The mayor of la Washington, D.C., is pushing back after President Trump blames local politicians for the cancellation of the military parade that he has been wanting since last year.
The president has been planning this massive parade since he was invited to witness Bastille Day ceremonies by French President Emmanuel Macron.
The Pentagon announced it was postponing the parade just yesterday after reports surfaced that it could cost meanwhile, in the neighborhood of $92 million.
The president blamed these local politicians for running up the cost, tweeting that they knew a windfall when they saw one. The D.C. mayor, Muriel Bowser, hit back with rights tweet saying, she's the local politician who finally got through to the reality star in the White House.
CNN political director David Chalian is with me.
And let's just cut through this. What is this really about? Because we know it is Trump who wanted this parade all along. Trump knew the cost. And now suddenly it's as though he's swooping in and saying, see, it's too expensive, so I'm going to -- I'm going to stop this.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right.
He clearly was trying to throw the city of Washington, D.C., under the bus here and use them as a foil for an excuse. But, as you know, the president just wanted a parade. It wasn't until recently that members of his administration started putting the things in motion that you need to actually accomplish that.
One of those things was the DHS secretary sent a letter to the city of Washington, D.C., to Mayor Bowser, I think this was August 8, and said we're looking at November 10 as a date.
Then the director of Office and Management Budget in the White House, the OMB, they went to go meet with the city to say, can you give us a ballpark estimate of what this would cost? There are very few specifics, how long the parade would be, what the route would be. All of that would sort of determine obviously -- have impact on the cost, Brooke.
But the city put together -- and as you saw there in Bowser's tweet, she says it was $21.6 million, nowhere near the $92 million figure that was cited.
BALDWIN: Still, it's a pretty priceless response from the defense secretary, James Mattis, when he's -- let me play the sound, if you folks haven't heard it, when he started hearing the number $92 million.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Whoever told you that is probably smoking something that's legal in my state, but not in most states, OK?
I'm not dignifying that number with any reply. I would discount that. And anybody who said that almost guarantee you one thing. They probably said, I need to stay anonymous. No kidding, because you look like an idiot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: How often do you hear him speaking like that?
CHALIAN: It's refreshing to hear the defense secretary speak so casually that way with reporters.
But, again, what has happened here -- let's just be clear -- is that the price tag -- whichever price tag it is -- is just too high for the president to politically justify to the country as to why he should move forward at that high a price tag.
We know this is something that really impressed him, as you mentioned, when he was in France and visiting with president Macron. He indicated on Twitter that he was going to go over there again to commemorate the end of World War I.
But this price tag was not politically palatable. Muriel Bowser and the city of Washington became a convenient scapegoat for the president. And you saw Bowser, in her tweet, I think, was giving the president a bit of his own medicine.
BALDWIN: Totally. Stay with me. I want to talk about these new numbers.
The White House's foreign policy is also coming under a microscope. A new CNN poll out today shows 55 percent disapprove of President Trump's handling of foreign affairs.
So, David, what does that number tell you?
CHALIAN: Well, as you know, we test a whole range of issues to get his approval, in addition to the overall approval.
Brooke, this is one of his lower ones. I think the economy is probably his best that we tested. Foreign affairs is one of his lower approval ratings at 40 percent, though not as low as his handling of the Russia investigation.
But when you look inside some of what may be driving that, we asked America in this poll, Brooke, sort of their perception of some other countries on the world stage that have been making headlines.
And we found fascinating results. Take a look at these numbers about Russia; 41 percent of Americans in this poll, Brooke, say Russia is an enemy of the United States. Right? That is a record high number of Americans calling Russian an enemy going all the way back to 1999, when we started asking this question.
And, remember, this after we saw the president cozying up to Putin in Helsinki, and having favorable things to say; 41 percent of Americans call it an enemy.
Two other countries, take a look at Iran. That also has record high numbers of American saying it is an enemy of United States; 50 percent, half the country, calls it that. You see 34 percent call it unfriendly, only 10 percent friendly and 2 percent an ally.
And North Korea also setting records here.
CHALIAN: Fifty-nine percent of Americans see North Korea as an enemy, 25 percent unfriendly.
And look at the image there that's next to the poll results. You know that the president is trying to be working something out here with Kim. But he is doing so in an environment where his constituents, the people of the United States of America, clearly see that country as an enemy.