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HALA GORANI TONIGHT

Attorney General Sessions Fires Back at President Trump; Owner Of "National Enquirer" Received Immunity from Mueller; Brexit Negotiations Hit Some Snags; Trump Condemns Cohen Flipping; Trump: Stock Market Would "Crash" If I Were Impeached; Time Magazine Cover Depicts Trump Presidency In Crisis; Iran Temporarily Frees British-Iranian Woman From Prison; Hurricane Lane Brings Heavy Rains To Hawaii. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired August 23, 2018 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:00:00] HALA GORANI, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. Live from CNN London, I'm Hala Gorani. Tonight, another day, another list of headaches for the

American president. His own attorney general is hitting back hard today after Donald Trump said he never took control of the Justice Department.

And another tweet from the president about farms has angered the government of South Africa.

We'll hear from a spokesperson for the ANC. And people here in the U.K. are getting their first idea of what a no deal Brexit will look like. And

it is not pretty. Donald Trump is escalating the fight with the top law enforcement official accusing him of never taking control of the Justice

Department. But, and this is unusual for him, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is firing back finally.

Just before he visited the White House for a pre-scheduled meeting, Sessions released a statement saying, "while I am attorney general, the

actions of the department of justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations. I demand the highest standards and where they

are not met I take action."

That's part of the statement he released. Democrats and some Republicans have warned that Mr. Trump should not fire Sessions as a way to try to end

the Russia investigation. However, today, two prominent Republicans signaled a shift including Lindsey Graham. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The president's entitled an attorney general he has faith in, somebody that's qualified for the job.

And I think they'll come a time sooner rather than later where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice.

Clearly, Attorney General Sessions doesn't have the confidence of the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GORANI: All right. So, there you have top Republicans saying, well, the president is entitled to do this. President Trump fighting back today on

another front with denials and deflections after his former lawyer implicated him in crimes committed to influence the very election that put

him in the White House. In fact, Mr. Trump said they're not crimes at all. Not campaign finance violations. You'll remember, of course, the big news

this week as part of a plea deal Michael Cohen said then candidate Trump directed him to make hush money payments to two women who claim they had

affairs with him. President Trump suggested Cohen shouldn't have been allowed to cut a deal at all.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People make up stories. This whole thing about flipping they call it, I know all about flipping for

30, 40 years, I'm watching flippers. Everything's wonderful and then they get ten years in jail and they flip on whoever the next highest one is or

as high as you can go. It almost out to be outlawed. It is not fair.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

A lot to discuss here. Let's bring in White House reporter Jerry Diamond. Jeff Sessions first, hitting back at the president. Is his job in

jeopardy?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That is the big question but we do know that the Attorney General Jeff Sessions just at the White House for

a pre-scheduled meeting on prison reform that he attended with the president. The president's son-in-law Jared Kushner and several other

White House aides as and of yet it appears that the attorney general left the White House without incident.

And he does appear to still be the attorney general despite a really remarkable back and forth we have seen between the president and his own

attorney general, something that does not happen often if ever really in modern presidential politics. The attorney general striking back at the

president saying he does have full control of the Justice Department despite the president's suggestion otherwise. And insisting that he will

maintain the Justice Department's integrity and political independence as not bringing politics into any Justice Department decisions that are made.

GORANI: Some observers suggest that the president is trying to get Jeff Sessions to resign so he doesn't have to fire him. Because it would look

as though he was trying to interfere in the investigation firing him and not having him step down or allowing him to make the decision to step down.

DIAMOND: Yes. That's exactly right. And Jeff Sessions with his, you know, firing back through this statement appeared to be all but daring the

president to fire him himself. But we know that Jeff Sessions has the backing of Democrats and Republicans on capitol hill who have said that the

president's any attempt to fire Jeff Sessions would be viewed as an attempt to interfere in the Mueller investigation.

[15:05:00] But not only that, the number two Senate Republican John Cornyn today making clear if the president does fire Jeff Sessions there is not

time in this congress to confirm a replacement so the president would essentially be leaving the Justice Department fully in the hands of deputy

Attorney General Rod Rosenstein of whom we know he's also no fan.

GORANI: And as we have been reporting and as we watched over the last several hours, the president gave an interview to Fox News. How's the

president defending himself against the accusations by his long-time lawyer Michael Cohen who pled guilty to several counts in which he implicated the

president on felony crimes?

DIAMOND: Yes. It was interesting to hear how the president talked about Michael Cohen versus how he talked about Paul Manafort. Paul Manafort, of

course, was convicted the same day that Michael Cohen took this guilty plea implicating the president in a federal crime.

Paul Manafort, the president's former campaign chairman, by contrast, did not implicate the president in any of the matters for which he was charged

and he certainly hasn't tried to flip on the president to avoid the stiff decades long prison sentences that he is now facing and the president using

that as an opportunity to lash out against the notion of folks who flip on others becoming cooperating witnesses in federal prosecutions. Remarkable

comments to hear the president say he would like to all but outlaw flipping as a tool that prosecutors have in their toolbelt.

This is something that prosecutors frequently use to take down criminal enterprises, to go after criminal conspiracies and get the folks at the

upper echelons of the conspiracies and to hear the president of the United States who's in charge of the executive branch by proxy and charge of the

Justice Department make those comments truly stunning, Hala.

GORANI: All right. Thanks very much, Jeremy Diamond at the White House. The president not only spoke to fox news and sent out a tweet at 1:00 in

the morning eastern time. All caps, no collusion. Rigged witch hunt. This is something very much on the president's mind. It seems not just all

day but also part of the night. And there is one more shocking twist to all of this.

If you can keep up. Long-time Trump friend and the CEO of the company that owns the tabloid "The National Enquirer" is reportedly wrapped up in the

legal chaos. This is David Pecker in the photo on the screen with Donald Trump. He is not a Household name but we didn't know Paul Manafort and

Michael Cohen by sight either. This is why Pecker is important.

"Wall Street Journal" is reporting that he provided investigators with information about the payments from Cohen to the women claiming they had

sexual relationships with Trump and that for that he got immunity from prosecution. Well, we'll have more on this later.

I want to turn your attention now to South Africa. Why South Africa? Because the president of the United States has weighed in on that country.

Among the many tweets he fired off on Wednesday came this one. It reads, I have asked Secretary of State Pompeo to closely study the South Africa land

and farm seizures and the large scale killing of farmers. Those comments seem to be in response to a report on fox news that allege that the South

African government was seizing land from white farmers.

CNN's David McKenzie joins me now from Johannesburg. What's the reaction there in South Africa to this tweet?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the reaction was swift and it certainly pretty bold language from the South Africans. As you might

expect, since President Trump seems to be weighing directly into a sensitive political issue here, domestically, South Africans, Hala, saying

South Africa rejects the narrow perception seeking to divide our nation and remind us of the colonial past and probably worth a fact check on the fox

news report farms are not being seized as they describe and farm murders while tragic not at high levels compared to even a few years ago. In fact,

one farming advocacy group saying it's a 20-year low and the facts seem to be incorrect and this is a very complicated divisive issue already in South

Africa. Hala?

GORANI: Any idea what Fox News was talking about here?

[15:10:00] MCKENZIE: Well, they are really putting out a -- not the first time I have seen reporting on Fox on this issue. There are analysts and

even the defamation league in the U.S. who have just said that, you know, this is a lightning rod for white nationalists globally.

This issue of the persecution allegedly of white farmers in South Africa which is not on the scale nor in the kind of way that they're suggesting

that in terms of the reality on the ground. Know, this is a lightning rod for white nationalists globally. This issue of the persecution allegedly

of white farmers in South Africa which is not on the scale nor in the kind of way that they're suggesting that in terms of the reality on the ground.

The ruling ANC wants to have a policy a more aggressive policy of land redistribution and worth remembering the land here in South Africa is owned

by 70 percent is owned by white South Africans. When you look at the demographics of this country, and its racist past, that's something that

most people in South Africa want to see redressed.

But there isn't this large-scale invasion of lands they're suggesting and aren't this -- there isn't this white genocide you have been seeing in more

fringe white nationalist web pages over months now seemingly moving over to fox news and on to the Twitter handle of the president of the United

States.

GORANI: So, this is sort of a pet story, a distortion really, something that isn't supported by the facts on the ground by white nationalist

groups, correct? This idea that white farmers are being persecuted and killed in large numbers?

MCKENZIE: Reporter: Well, like all propaganda there's kernel of truth in there. Not necessarily on the scale or the sentiment but the issue itself.

There is some nervousness some people in South Africa that the policy of land redistribution will lead to economic trouble and investors in

particular overseas have at times held back on long-term investments because they're unclear of which way the government will take this

direction. But the government and the opposition here in South Africa have said this is an issue that needs dealing with and certainly --

GORANI: Sure. But, David, this isn't the same as claiming that white farmers are being murdered in large numbers and having their land stolen.

I mean, this is a pet sort of cause quote/unquote and story of white nationalist groups.

MCKENZIE: Exactly. So, if you're asking me, well, how does it relate to the truth, this's how it relates to the actual reality on the ground. The

reality is far different from what President Trump suggests and this is a rallying cry that is at best heavily distorted and should be seen as white

nationalist propaganda.

GORANI: David Mckenzie, thank you live in South Africa. We're going to have more on this story and hoping to get reaction from the ANC and we are

going to continue to try for that. Still to come tonight, he is the man with the plan, at least that's his task but now Britain's Brexit Secretary

is telling the country, be ready if no deal is reached. We will have full details in a moment. A British-Iranian woman is reunited with her daughter

after two years in prison in Iran. Why her hard-fought freedom may be very brief. We'll be right back.

[15:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GORANI: Well, imagine sitting in a hospital bed and waiting for a transplant that could save your life and then imagine waiting and waiting

and waiting some more. How would you feel if you knew that part of the reason it's held up is the political leaders never reached an agreement on

something they had years to sort out. That could be a reality for some people here in Britain if it cannot come to a consensus on Brexit. That

news comes from the man in charge of it all.

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab. If no deal is reached he says among other things the U.K. could face more red tape for hospitals, higher charges on

international credit card payments and extra taxes on parcels from Europe. A reality Britain has to be prepared for and he's hopeful otherwise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOMINIC RAAB, BREXIT SECRETARY: I'm still confident that getting a good deal is by far the most likely outcome. The vast majority, roughly 80

percent of the withdrawal agreement, is now agreed and making further progress on those outstanding separation issues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GORANI: And we're here. Here with a huge pile of papers there. This is only a third of the directives that the government has issued. Right?

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Correct, 148 pages. This is all they have issued so far. They issued the first batch today. The EU with a

version many months ago. 68 directives. Still expecting more of these to arrive until the end of September.

GORANI: What are the headlines here? Higher bank card fees. Hospitals. Might be more -- I believe this is already sort of starting to emerge with

the lower number of EU nurses applying for some jobs. Pharmaceutical companies told to stockpile essential med sins?

NOBILO: Yes. I was investigating this and talks with the show last week and talking to pharmaceutical companies and they of their own initiative

decided to stockpile for another four weeks before they're concerned about the understand certainty. Well, today, the government have said we want

all medicines stockpiled for six weeks. Just to allow for any transport backup, backing up or lorries stocked up at the border.

GORANI: Truly sounds like a doomsday scenario. The likes of which nobody could have voted for in this country. Nobody voting for Brexit wanted this

outcome.

NOBILO: Certainly nothing delineated to any extent like this during the referendum campaign and you mentioned the fact organ donations might be

delayed. Any form of tissues or scientific research possibly delayed, too. At moment the U.K. is a member of the derivatives on the things and lots of

bodies that the U.K. is a member of can't reapply to until it's a third country and what that means is that Britain will have to leave, crash out

in March 2019 if there's no deal and then reapply for membership of everything.

GORANI: Takes time.

NOBILO: It can take up to nine months and impact a number of industries who won't trade, organic farmers. They will have to reapply to be organic

certified which could take nine months, can't trade with the EU for nine months.

GORANI: Does polling suggest in this country there's appetite for a referendum on the terms of the deal?

NOBILO: It's -- there have been several polls conducted over the last year and we've seen a variety of information, some suggest that the apathy of

Brexit is so great and people want it done and dusted and others support a second referendum. You would have seen that last week a big businessman in

this country donated 1 million pounds giving a --

GORANI: Founder of SuperDrive.

NOBILO: Indeed. This is a campaign for a referendum on the final Brexit deal. Of which, of course, remaining in the EU would be an option and now

we have heavyweights of all the main political parties in the U.K. also backing that campaign and some celebrities like Patrick Stewart, Dominic

West and others.

[15:20:00] GORANI: Bianca, thank you very much. There's one strange one which is that the U.K. would have to reprint the cigarette packages because

it doesn't own the copyright of the people looking ill.

NOBILO: EU library owns the images.

GORANI: One of many things to change with no deal. Thank you very much.

Earlier we were talking about the intrigue swirling around the White House. It is hard to keep up. The president and his attorney general Jeff

Sessions are in a very public spat. Trump's long-time lawyer Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty in court and pointed the finger squarely at Trump and

now his long-time friend and boss of the national enquirer David Pecker reportedly swept in that Cohen case.

Let's talk about it with a White House ethics czar who served under president Obama. A lot here to go through but what do you make of the head

of the company that owns the "National Enquirer?" Reportedly swept in that Cohen case. Let's talk about it with a White House ethics czar who served

under President Obama. A lot here to go through but what do you make of the head of the company that owns "The National Enquirer"? Long time

friend of Donald Trump taking a deal, making a deal and obtaining immunity and collaborating and cooperating with prosecutors? What do you make of

that?

NORM EISEN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS CZAR: Hala, thanks for having me back on the program. And what we're seeing is campaign finance crimes that

Mr. Cohen stood up and pled to in court on Tuesday. He said the president was aware and now you're seeing knowing agreement by others to participate

in those crimes, what the law calls a conspiracy. And, of course, that's been fatal to presidencies before. We know the Nixon presidency was

brought down by conspiracy. So, Mr. Pecker and Mr. Cohen turning on the president providing evidence. It's an ominous sign for this presidency.

GORANI: Mr. Trump, he gave an interview to fox news. He insisted that the two payments to those women did not break campaign finance law.

EISEN: No. Mr. Trump as is so often the case misunderstands the law and the facts. When there is an outside payment he was very focused on the

fact that campaign money wasn't used. Whether there's an outside payment to benefit a campaign, to influence the outcome of a campaign, in whole or

in part and in this case, you had two payments that were made clearly with the intent to avoid disrupting the election, when that happens, you have a

crime. I mean, that is black letter campaign finance law. The president is confused or intentionally trying to muddy the waters or be dishonest.

GORANI: But he is saying they didn't come from the campaign and therefore they weren't illegal. That's the point he's making.

EISEN: That's not the law! Think about it. Our whole campaign finance system is based on the idea that money in excess of certain limits that

comes from outside the campaign is forbidden. Otherwise you could have people spending millions, tens, those who can afford it, of millions of

dollars to influence campaigns in these ways. Having it go secret and unreported. That's not the law. That's silly.

Mr. Cohen properly pled guilty to campaign finance violations and the reason the decisional shoe dropping of David Pecker of "The National

Enquirer" Trump's long-time friend cooperating, more evidence that Trump knew of this. That makes for a conspiracy and it draws the president in

further depending on how the allegations and the evidence play out.

GORANI: What would David Pecker have been offered immunity from in this case in your opinion?

[15:25:00] EISEN: Well, he also would because in the Karen McDougall payment he was involved in structuring, making a payment to influence the

outcome of an election is just like the Stormy Daniels payment. The same structure. He would have had to stand up in court and make the same plea

as Mr. Cohen, that he committed a campaign finance crime. They decided they wanted his testimony and the interesting question, Hala, is they have

a guilty plea of Mr. Cohen. Why do they want the testimony? For Mr. Cohen or use against somebody else? Could that be against the Trump campaign?

In the Trump organization? Or could it be the president himself?

GORANI: And the president is saying this business of flipping shouldn't be allowed that this is a tool that prosecutors use. They scare off potential

witnesses or people under investigation by saying they could be in huge trouble and face decades and decades in jail. And then they make deals

with them. This is what the president is saying.

EISEN: Well, the president has had a long history and a sad one of disrespecting and fighting and undermining law enforcement and this

statement is another example. The language the president uses to attack the way prosecutors make cases, how else are they going to make cases if

they don't have the tools? It is already hard enough to bring people to justice. And the language he uses is more befitting for an audition to

play the part of Tony Soprano than the president of the United States. It is appalling to see him attack the department of justice that way.

GORANI: We heard from Jeff Sessions through a statement today essentially fighting back saying that he, you know, will continue to lead the

department of justice and will continue to consider cases in an independent manner. Do you think the president is trying to get Jeff Sessions to

resign instead of firing him?

EISEN: Well, like many bullies, President Trump quails when you stand up to him and he's known for not wanting to fire people and let them dangle in

the wind and make it uncomfortable and force them to quit. I'm sure he has that aspiration for Jeff Sessions. He could slide a crony in there and

doesn't have Jeff Sessions' conflicts of interest that forced him to step away from the Russia investigation, Trump could put in somebody to

manipulate the Russia investigation.

But Sessions isn't going and admirable to stand up. Somewhat extraordinary to see the attorney general and the president in a public fight. But the

attorney general is doing the right thing here. Since the president is talking and acting like a mobster, the attorney general is standing up for

the rule of law. So, to anybody around the world who may be looking at this and wondering about American leadership, we see the strength of that

leadership in the form of Jeff Sessions and the strength of the system. Our system, our criminal justice system, the rule of law, our constitution

is bigger than any one person.

GORANI: You have, Norm, top Republicans, Graham saying maybe it is time to replace Jeff Sessions. So, I mean, top Republicans on capitol hill when

they have to choose between siding with someone like Jeff Sessions or siding with the president because they know it hurts them politically not

to, they side with the president.

It is not a point of shining moment in American history when you look over at majority party on Capitol Hill, Hala. I agree with you. The

Republicans in the Senate like Mr. Graham for the most part have been supine lap dogs to the president. In the House, it's been even worse.

They've been active participants in the president's attacks and lies on the justice system if not as a matter of law, a matter of fact participating in

the alleged obstruction.

However, I will say for every Jeff Sessions there is a senator Richard Burr, the senator of North Carolina, who's conducted a tough, meaningful,

bipartisan investigation on the Senate intelligence committee with the ranking member Democratic Senator Warner. So -- you can't judge everybody

in the Senate by senator graham.

GORANI: Norm Eisen, as always, thanks so much for joining us.

EISEN: Hala, I love being on the show.

GORANI: Thank you. We love having you.

In other developments around the world, ISIS has released what it claims is a new audio message from its leader. In the recording, they say that ISIS

groups are losing ground and says this is a test from god. It's the first audio message from Al Baghdadi in almost a year. We can't independently

confirm the voice on the tape is his but experts who listened to it believed that it is genuine.

ISIS claiming responsibility for a knife attack in a suburb of Paris according to its media outlet but here's the thing. There is no evidence

to support the claim two people were killed and another was badly injured and police say it's a family dispute. A spokesperson for the interior

ministry told CNN the two people killed were the attacker mothers and sister and ISIS claims responsibility for what locks like a tragic case of

murder in a family situation.

Still to come, the U.S. economy is soaring. What could possibly cause it to crash? Donald Trump says he has a warning. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:30:39] GORANI: Well, the U.S. president likes to take credit for everything good that is happening with the U.S. economy and he's issuing a

warning to his critics, if he's impeached by the U.S. Congress, the global economy will tank, he says.

At rallies, the president, as I mentioned takes full credit for America's robust economy, a huge tax cut and his pro-business policies have led to

big gains for investors, that's undoubtedly true.

But in a friendly interview with Fox News, Mr. Trump predicted that would all change if he's forced from office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, you know, I guess it says something like high crimes and all. I don't know how you can impeach

somebody who's done a great job.

I'll tell you what. If I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash. I think everybody would be very poor. Because without this

thinking, you would see -- you would see numbers that you wouldn't believe in reverse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GORANI: Well, investors seem, so far, very much unfazed by all this political turmoil surrounding all the president's men. There's been little

reaction to the courtroom drama involving Mr. Trump's associates. Obviously, impeachment proceedings would rattle the markets, but were

nowhere near anything like that.

Let's go to New York and Money Correspondent, Cristina Alesci, for a reaction to what's going on in Washington. And, really, it's almost, you

know, the opposite. Markets and the Dow Jones keep going from one record to the next record. Why are investors so positive about everything?

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're really not getting caught up in the distractions in Washington is what they would tell you, if

you talk to them. And you're right, you know, maybe an impeachment proceeding even though we're far away from that, the Democrats, of course,

have to take control of the House before any serious discussions about that take place.

You know, an impeachment process would rattle the market in the short term. There's no doubt about that. But in the long term, investors are going to

focus on corporate earnings. They're going to focus on interest rates and they're going to focus on economic growth and jobs. And those are the

things that drive the market.

Look, the closest comparable that we have to how markets may react in this kind of an uncertainty with impeachment is Bill Clinton. And in that

particular case, the impeachment proceedings with Bill Clinton happened during at the time, the longest Bull Run that the U.S. had seen and it

didn't rattle the markets at all.

In fact, 1998 and 1999, the market rallied. So it's kind of hard to see that a long-term implication of an impeachment here in the U.S. as far as

the markets concerned anyway.

GORANI: Right. But what about tariffs? Economists hate tariffs. Business owners don't generally speaking like tariffs. They say they hurt

everyone involved and yet, again, we're not seeing a negative reaction from Wall Street. Why not?

ALESCI: Well, Ironically, as I was reporting this story out today about the president's comments, the one risk factor out there are the tariffs.

Right? It's not impeachment. It's the tariffs that everyone is focused on. I don't think the market is completely ignoring the risk of tariffs.

In fact, I've spoken to analysts and investors who think the market would be higher, if it weren't for this overhang today. And now you'll see today

escalation of that fight between the U.S. and China. This round of tariffs hit a -- a round of tariffs hit today. $16 billion worth of Chinese goods

got the extra levy.

[15:35:13] So far, the U.S. has put $60 billion worth of tariffs on China and it's consider on Chinese goods and it's considering another $200

billion and those -- that process has already started. There are companies right now in Washington, D.C. testifying to government officials on why

tariffs are good or bad for their business. Overwhelmingly, a lot of them would say bad for their business here in the U.S.

GORANI: All right. Well, corporations and investors seem to think that this environment is good for business, it's good for sales and their stock

market price is going up and up and up.

Thank you, Cristina Alesci.

ALESCI: Of course.

GORANI: Now, sometimes a picture says it all. Time Magazine has captured Mr. Trump's presidency in crisis with this cover. Take a look.

In deep. As you can see he's struggling to stay afloat in the oval office which is filled with water. It is the latest in a series of covers

depicting a worsening storm engulfing the White House from the earliest days of the Trump presidency. It started with nothing to see here, with

the wind -- stormy wind there on the president and the oval office. Then stormy. This is, by the way, when the Stormy Daniels scandal broke. And

finally in deep.

Let's bring in veteran political analyst, Larry Sabato. He's the director of the center for politics at the University of Virginia.

Larry, we were talking about how the stock market is doing great, unemployment is low. In fact, wage growth is better now than it was a few

years ago. And typically presidents are rewarded and their party are rewarded when the economy does well. Do you think that will be the case in

the midterms?

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR OF CENTER FOR POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: It may keep the Democrats from winning a sweeping landslide, but I don't

necessarily think it will keep Democrats from absolutely winning the House of Representatives.

The economy seems to have less effect on midterm elections than it does on presidential elections, especially when an incumbent is running.

But by the way, Hala, there is absolutely no truth to his assertion that the market would crash if he left. Not just the Bill Clinton example but

also the Richard Nixon example from 1974. Often people are relieved to get rid of controversial presidents and it doesn't say much for his vice

president, does it? Doesn't have much confidence in Vice President Pence.

GORANI: That's interesting. So, it is -- it does seem, at least in the case of the Dow Jones and Wall Street, just in the last few months despite

the fact that there is so much political chaos and uncertainty investors have been very happy with the economic environment certainly, deregulation,

and tax cuts are something that they are typically happy about.

But let's talk a little bit about what's going on round the president. These former great friends, lifelong friends, his former fixer, and lawyer,

all turning on the president. What impact does this have on the administration as a whole?

SABATO: Well, remember, Michael Cohen, the president tells us, is a terrible lawyer and should not be hired by anyone except he hired him for I

believe seven years and he wasn't a minor part of the Trump organization. He is the real danger to Trump. Much more so than Paul Manafort because

Cohen, not only has had access to most of the moves that Trump has made financial and otherwise and almost certainly has seen his taxes, but he has

recordings. We don't know what recordings he has but I'm sure the prosecutors have them.

GORANI: Yes. And David Pecker, as well, his lifelong friend, the boss of The National Enquirer that basically was almost a media arm of the campaign

of Donald Trump, also turning on the president.

SABATO: Yes. And that could also be interesting because Trump and Pecker have talked so many times at critical junctures in Trump's career

stretching back decades and Pecker has done him enormous favors. This catch and kill every time there was a negative Trump story, you pay for it

and then make sure it never sees print.

So I'm sure that the prosecutors and the Mueller team are getting a lot of really interesting information. And we need to remember, we don't know any

of it. We think we're learning things as Cohen has a plea deal or Manafort is convicted. This is a tiny piece of what Mueller has been looking at.

GORANI: What do you make of the president's reaction? Because after all of this came out and the guilty plea and the news about David Pecker's

long-time friend, people look at the prescient in that Fox interview sit down and they try to look at the body language, at how he's defending

himself, at what he says. When you observe him, what goes through your mind?

SABATO: He knows he's with a friendly audience and a friendly interviewer. So he's more relaxed than he would be with anyone else and he makes all of

these assertions that probably aren't true.

[15:40:09] Look, the reason he goes on these rally visits to so many state is not simply because he's trying to help candidates. Hala, he's helping

himself. He draws that energy from the Trump base, the hardcore Trump base and he knows he still has them. Do you know that private surveys have

shown over the last couple of days he has not lost even one percent? Now, he's well below 50. He's in 40, low 40s, whichever polling you choose, but

he hasn't lost a thing. It doesn't matter what comes out about Trump, the Trump core base will stick with it.

GORANI: So we're talking in the low 40 percent range. That the president no matter what happens is not losing any support from his base. Would

anything change that? Anything at all?

SABATO: I've tried to think of possibilities and maybe tapes between Trump and Vladimir Putin might, but I'm not even sure that would. I think the

cake is baked. It's baked with the majority opposition to Trump. Well over 50 percent but it's also baked in terms of Trump support. Around low

40s and depending on who runs against him he could be back to the 46 percent he got in 2016.

GORANI: Larry Sabato, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.

Coming up, a British-Iranian woman is finally reunited with her daughter after more than two years of prison in Iran. But her hard-fought freedom

may be very brief. We speak to her husband, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GORANI: For today, at least, it was all smiles for a joyous mother/daughter reunion in Iran. This is Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe who

spent the last 28 months in prison in Iran. On spying charges. The group working for her release calls it a genuine surprise. But her freedom may

not last very long at all. Just three days, in fact. But even that is a good sign according to the British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt. More

needs to be done, though, he says. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEREMY HUNT, U.K. FOREIGN SECRETARY: Every day that she is in prison is a reminder to the whole world of a gross injustice. So we call on the

Iranian authorities to capitalize on the goodwill from today's announcement by going a whole way and releasing Nazanin and allowing her to go back to

her family, come back to the U.K. which is where her home is and end this totally appalling injustice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GORANI: Well, our International Diplomatic Editor, Nic Robertson is here and Nazanin's husband, Richard as well. Thanks to both of you.

I want to first start with you, of course. You didn't expect this?

RICHARD RATCLIFFE, NAZANIN ZAGHARI-RATCLIFFE'S HUSBAND: No, no. I mean, a really great day. We haven't heard rumors that it might happen. We've had

lots of promises, lots of promises recently and over the months before. But no. I was very surprised getting the phone call in.

[15:45:08] GORANI: You can't go to Iran now?

RATCLIFFE: I can't go to Iran. I've got no application for visa, but I've got one coming.

GORANI: You spoke on the phone, I presume?

RATCLIFFE: Yes. So I have a nice -- on Skype. She called me from the prison and it was the first time I've seen her in two years and so just

sort of --

GORANI: The first time to see you've seen your wife in two years?

RATCLIFFE: I've seen her face though smiling and happy and just out of prison. And so it was just magical.

GORANI: So, the first you heard of this release was when she called you?

RATCLIFFE: Absolutely, yes.

GORANI: So let me get this straight. You get a Skype call. You're not expecting a Skype call. You answer the Skype call and your wife's face

pops up.

RATCLIFFE: With tears on her.

GORANI: My goodness.

RATCLIFFE: Yes.

GORANI: And what was your --

RATCLIFFE: Well, just, you know, I was woken up by it. And you're slightly confused and you're trying to make sense. And, of course, she

couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe it. And it was just particularly profound. We've had big grins on our faces.

GORANI: And I want to get the rest of the story. But I mean, what are you hearing in terms of why you think the Iranian authorities decided to do

this? It's a three-day release?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: it's a three-day release and I think we've got to look at. There's some other contacts of

when it is. It's Eid. It's a time of festival. It's a time when governments can be a little bit benevolent towards the detainees and show a

positive sign towards them that there is some light maybe at the end of the tunnel.

So here's an opportunity without them getting criticized, per se. This is something that would be traditional to do, per se, during the Eid period to

let somebody go home, spend some time with their family. So you can sort of do this politically maybe without getting too much backlash and

criticism from the Iranian perspective.

GORANI: And, Richard, your understanding is this is a three-day release and her lawyer has applied for an extension. When do you hear back on

that?

RATCLIFFE: So he's going to get it on Saturday. I mean, I think it's always a three-day release when you get furlough and it gets extended

afterwards. So no guarantees. But he seemed fairly confident that she should get one and if there's a problem her dad can come down, as well. So

it wasn't like, you know, we'll need to go along and plead and it'll be fine.

GORANI: And under what conditions is she released?

RATCLIFFE: So her conditions are she's not allowed to go -- not allowed to leave the country, which also means not allowed to go to a foreign embassy.

So she can't visit the British embassy and not allowed to talk to the media. Not allowed to any political activism. But she can just

(INAUDIBLE) so she went off to the family holiday and joined the rest. So got to see her aunt, got to see her grandmother, got to be in the family

garden. So lovely.

GORANI: That is absolutely lovely. Do you think Jeremy Hunt, the new foreign secretary, was a factor at all in all of this?

ROBERTSON: No. I think this is something that's been going on for a long time and he has paid tribute to Boris Johnson, all be to Boris Johnson that

put his foot in his mouth, so to speak, when speaking publicly in House of Parliament about. This was a lot of criticism at the time.

But Jeremy Hunt has paid tribute to the work behind the scenes of Boris Johnson has done. Richard, I think you probably have a keen of sense of

the effectiveness of that. But there's clearly -- this is a sensitive issue. There's clearly an effort to get the diplomatic language right.

Even though as quite a strong statement we heard from Jeremy Hunt just before. Given that the U.N. today.

But you cannot I think -- Richard, forgive me here, separate this one, the bigger global politics of the position Iran finds itself in particularly

given President Trump pulling out of the JCPOA, the nuclear deal and the pressure Iran and the support Iran wants from European nations at this

time.

GORANI: So these are the big picture international relations and diplomatic tensions angles. But then the micro story here which is so -- I

mean, how do you feel now? I mean, I'm trying to put myself in your shoes. How do you feel now that you've spoken to your wife over Skype? First time

seeing her face in a couple of years. She's now reunited with her daughter going on a family picnic. How do you feel?

RATCLIFFE: It's just great. Yes. It's just great. So I mean, yes. Normally, when I do interviews, I'm going around telling a sad story and

it's quite hard. This is just lovely to talk about.

GORANI: Yes

RATCLIFFE: And, yes. I spoke to her immediately afterwards and then later on, we'll be speaking again in the morning. And the fact that I can call

her, which I couldn't before. I mean, with all these things. It makes such a difference. It's only three days but today is a great day.

GORANI: Absolutely. What is -- talk to us a little bit about your daughter -- I mean, how that reunion took place because this is the first

time. How old is your daughter?

RATCLIFFE: She's 4, yes.

GORANI: She's 4. So her mom has been prison since she was 2. She's starting to understand what's going on around her.

RATCLIFFE: Yes. Starting to ask questions. Why are you prison? And she was having visits. Why can't you come visit us? And so she understands

and doesn't understand.

It was really important for her today to make -- to have a bunch of flowers. SO she'd seen that when other prisons released that the families

have a bunch -- so she wants to have a bunch of flowers to give to her mommy. So she went out in the garden this morning and cut the flowers and

present the bunch. You see that was her proudly handing them over and then she wanted to her mommy her dolly's house. So that was the other thing

that she did today. So just sort of, you know, show her her world.

[15:50:07] GORANI: That's so moving. What state of mind does your wife in though? How hopeful is she?

RATCLIFFE: My God, she's been up and down. It's like yesterday and we didn't know any of this and she was in a very miserable way.

I think obviously -- see we get to a Saturday night and we have no news that it's going to be extended, then I mean, she won't be looking forward

to going back at all.

GORANI: Sure, yes.

RATCLIFFE: It's been a long, hard journey for all of us and with that comes real ups and downs and, you know, the potential for panic and so on.

GORANI: We wish you the best. Richard Ratcliffe, thank you so much. Nic Robertson, thanks, as well. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GORANI: The news surrounding President Trump's legal issues never seems to stop. We're hearing from the president's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani

again talking about that word that seems to be on people's mind, impeachment. He spoke to Sky News. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: Hardly. I think it's inevitable that he won't. First I think Trump is completely cleared. You have this

Cohen guy. He doesn't know anything about Russian collusion. Nothing about obstruction. He's a massive liar. If anything it's turned very much

in the president's favor.

I think impeachment would be totally horrible. I mean, there's no reason. He didn't collude with the Russians. He didn't obstruct justice.

Everything Cohen says has been disproved. You don't only impeach him for political reasons and the American people would revolt against that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GORANI: Well, Rudy Giuliani, that looks like he's taking a break from playing golf there speaking to Sky News saying impeachment not at all in

the cards.

To East Asia now where a season of extreme weather is continuing. Two major storms have hit in the last few hours. There's a typhoon that's

brought heavy rains and cut power in southern Japan, while there's a typhoon called Soulik that has been battering the South Korea Island of

Jeju.

And meanwhile, in Hawaii, Hurricane Lane with sustained winds of more than 200 kilometers an hour is closing in on Hawaii's Big Island. It's a

category four storm. It has slowed which is good. But it's still bringing with it heavy rains and flooding. You can see the dramatic images.

Residents have been stocking up on supplies after as authorities urged them to have two weeks' worth of food and water set aside.

CNN Miguel Marquez is tracking the storm for us live from Hawaii's Big Island. What's the situation where you are now, Miguel?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So we are on the far southern end of the big island where the effects of the hurricane are being felt. This

is a massive, massive hurricane. And it is still about 200 miles south of where we are but we are feeling the effects of it.

I want to show you, sort of, what's happening here. This is Punalu'u Beach. This is the black sand beach on the south side of the Big Island.

And you could see it is all the public beaches and all the public areas are closed across Hawaii. You can see the waves out here are just crashing

against the very gorgeous coastline here.

Schools are closed. There is a great expectation of at least lots of rain. Over the last 12 hours or so. They've had about a foot of rain on some

parts of the Big Island and they are expecting much more.

[15:55:00] The entire state of Hawaii is now under either a hurricane warning or hurricane watch. That means they can expect hurricane-like

conditions in the next 36 to 48 hours. And people are preparing. Not only here on the Big Island but on Oahu and areas where there are much more

populated.

There is great concern about some of the effects of this storm. The good news, if there is good news, Lane has stalled far south of here and is

moving at a snail's pace. About seven miles per hour now. So it's not clear when we could feel the worst of the effects here. But I can tell

you, we've had the beginning bands of that rain come in overnight and throughout today.

We're able to just come down in buckets for a little while and then as you see now it's almost a nice day and then the weather will turn very, very

quickly. We're also starting to feel the first of the wind. Hala?

GORANI: But two weeks? Asking people to stockpile food for two weeks? That's a bit scary, isn't it?

MARQUEZ: Well, it is scary except that's when you live on Hawaii, they deal with earthquakes, they deal with volcanos so people do prepare for the

worst oftentimes and the problem here, especially on did Big Island and some of these islands, is if you get cut off, I mean, they had very big

rains in April in Kauai and there were mudslides, people get cut off for weeks at a time. That is the big problem. That is the biggest concern so

they want people to be prepared for the long haul if it comes to that. But right now, everybody's just sort of bracing to see what happens. Hala?

GORANI: All right. Miguel Marquez, thanks very much there live on Hawaii's Big Island. We'll continue to track that.

Just to reiterate, of course, the big story we're following is all the news surrounding Donald Trump's White House with his former associates, his

former personal lawyer, of course, taking that deal, making that deal and pleading guilty to several counts of federal felony charges including

violating campaign finance laws.

And we are learning today, of course, that his longtime friend David Pecker, who owns the company that controls the tabloid The National

Enquirer, took an immunity deal with authorities in order to cooperate with prosecutors. So that's yet another longtime associate of the president

turning on Donald Trump. We'll have a lot more after a quick break.

And also, all the day's top business news stories with "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" at top of the hour. I'm Hala Gorani. Thanks for watching

tonight. Stay with CNN. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is coming your way.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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END