Return to Transcripts main page
ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Source: Trump's Money Man Granted Immunity In Cohen Probe; Trump Fuming After Sessions Adamantly Defends Himself; A.P.: National Enquirer Stored Damaging Trump Stories In A Safe; Ex-National Enquirer Editor Speaks About CEO Pecker & Trump; Senator McCain Discontinuing Brain Cancer Treatment; Hurricane Lane Unleashes on Hawaii. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired August 24, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Stephen, thank you, you will be missed. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Out front next, Trump's top money man granted immunity. Could Allen Weisselberg, who said to be like family to Trump be the greatest threat to him yet.
Plus, a top National Enquirer editor for decades on reports of a safe with negative stories about President Trump. Did the publisher David Pecker also let Trump prescreen stories? And what did that -- what was it that left Trump fuming last night? Let's go out front.
Good evening, I'm Erica Hill in tonight for Erin Burnett. Out front tonight, Trump's money man case. Allen Weisselberg, the Chief Financial Officer for the Trump organization granted immunity in the Michael Cohen investigation. That's according to a source familiar with the matter.
Weisselberg, by all accounts, he is someone who was very close with Trump. Some saying he was like a family member. Another source says Allen knows where all the financial buddies are buried. In fact, just listen to the people who worked for Trump for years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY GOLDBERG, PERSONAL FRIEND AND LONGTIME ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: He knows everything about Donald. And in terms of the money trail, Donald can be hurt, I believe a great deal by Allen Weisselberg.
SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: He knows every single financial transaction. He's responsible for creating the business system they had there.
BARBARA RES, FORMER EXECUTIVE, THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION: I do believe that he got more and more involved as time went on, and Donald trusted him. He was almost a family member.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: Listen, you don't have to take their word for it. Donald Trump himself wrote in his 2004 book, "Think Like a Billionaire", "Weisselberg is so top that most banks would rather I negotiate the deal than him. He's a loyal employee, and he's the ultimate master at playing the cards of business." But will Weisselberg remain loyal?
The source telling CNN Weisselberg's interview with investigators focused on Cohen's hush money deals to silence women who claimed they had affairs with Trump. In the case of Stormy Daniels, that hush money of course has paid in the week leading up to the 2016 election. Cohen pleaded guilty to eight felonies including violating campaign finance laws. And in court said he paid the hush money at then candidate Trump's direction. This comes just one day after the Wall Street Journal reported another longtime Trump ally, National Enquirer Publisher David Pecker, who was also granted immunity to share what he knew about hush money payments.
A source tells CNN Pecker told prosecutors Trump knew about the payments. So you've got two longtime Trump allies, Pecker and Weisselberg, granted immunity and three other former Trump associates cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. So, is it any wonder that this is what President Trump has to stay about people, quote, flipping.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If somebody defrauded a bank and he's going to get 10 years in jail or 20 years in jail, but if you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you go down to two years or three years, it's called flipping and it almost ought to be illegal. You get 10 years in jail, but if you say bad things about somebody, in other words, make up stories, if you don't know, make up -- they just make up lies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: Kara Scannell is out front. So Kara, could Weisselberg not only flip on Trump but perhaps be the most damaging flip yet?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Erica, he really could. I mean, it's going to turn on what the terms of this immunity deal that Weisselberg and his lawyer struck with the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan and the breadth of it or whether how narrow it is. So, from what we know is that Weisselberg's immunity deal was struck a couple weeks ago. He went in and talked to investigators at the time.
A source tells us that the focus of the questions then were about Michael Cohen and this hush money payments and that Weisselberg has not been asked to return. So that sort of suggest that this could be a limited deal, but it's something that we don't know. The Trump organization, their attorney declined to comments and the U.S. attorney's office also declined to comment on this.
But the key here is Weisselberg. He is so close to President Trump, as you just heard from all of those employees that used to work there. And when Trump was -- when he assume the presidency, he put his sons in charge of the company but also Weisselberg. It shows just how trusted he is, Erica. So he is going to know a lot of information, and it's really going to turn on just exactly what those terms of that immunity deal are.
HILL: It would be fascinating to see the exact terms. Wouldn't it? Kara, thank you.
And out front now, CNN Senior Political Analyst, Mark Preston, former Federal Prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, Jennifer Rodgers, and New York Times Columnist, Frank Bruni. As we look at this, during this conversation that Michael Cohen secretly recorded with Donald Trump, he talks about one of those payments. And Allen Weisselberg's name is mentioned. Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, LAWYER FOR TRUMP: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David. You know, so that -- I'm going to do that right away. I've actually come up and I've spoken --
TRUMP: Give it to me.
COHEN: And I've spoken to Allen Weisselberg about ho w to set the whole thing up with --
TRUMP: So, what do we got to pay for this? One-fifty?
COHEN: -- funding. Yes.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
[19:05:08] HILL: So Mark, it beg the question, of course, we know what an integral part Weisselberg has been for the Trump organization. Could this particular episode just be the tip of the iceberg?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It certainly could be. You know, in boxing we call this -- or we would call it a one-two punch, there was only two people. But in this scenario, it's been a one-two-three punch for President Trump. You had his political fixer Michael Cohen flip. You had one of his close friends, somebody who was working with Michael Cohen to squelch stories, to help President Trump's campaign, he has flipped.
And now you have Allen Weisselberg -- and I think the importance of this really can't be overstated. One, he oversaw Trump's charity. Two, he's done Trump's taxes and what was Kara just said right before we came to this segment here, probably the most important thing right now. He is the only non-family trustee of President Trump's financial trust. He knows everything.
HILL: That he does. And what's fascinating, it was just over a year ago that President Trump was speaking with the New York Times, and talked about finances specifically as being a red line when it comes to the Mueller investigation. Take a listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL SCHMIDT, CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: If Mueller was looking at your finances or your family's finances, unrelated to Russia, is that a red line?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?
TRUMP: Yes. I would say, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: So, again, that was in reference to the Mueller investigation. When we talk about Michael Cohen obviously this is the U.S. attorney here in New York, but Jennifer, as we look at this, it's important to remember, this President doesn't get to determine with all due respect where the red line is, in this investigation.
JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: That's exactly right. You know, Mueller's investigation is narrowly circumstances. It's under the supervision of Rod Rosenstein. It's written as to what it's supposed to encompass, it's only the campaign's involvement with Russian interference and crimes arising from that like obstruction of justice.
But the Southern District can investigate any crimes happening within its jurisdiction if they're federal crime. So there's really red line in connection with the Southern District's investigation. I mean, of course, the President still could fire the Attorney General, and try to put pressure on the new attorney general or even Jeff Sessions to quash that investigation, but it's not like the Mueller probe where it actually is kind of cabins there.
So, it could go into just even beyond the campaign finance allegations, into the Trump organization itself and look for criminal activity happening there of the sort that the corporations often do, like tax fraud, accounting fraud. I mean, the sky could be the limit if somebody really wants to start exploring that.
HILL: It's fascinating just if you look at all of these just simply from the financial aspect, right? Because we know this President does not -- he likes to talk about money but he doesn't like to talk about his personal finances. His tax returns being a perfect example there.
I mean, Frank, as much as we look at this in the secrecy that's been involved with the President's finances for decades now, this money trail could really be significant.
FRANK BRUNI, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: It could be enormously significant. And I think secrecy is a key word that you just used. And Donald Trump spent his life accumulating secrets and spending energy on nothing so much as keeping those things hidden, and uncultivating his image and managing his image. And now he is looking around, and he's seeing all these people who know different things about his life intimately, who know him well and they are talking to prosecutors, they're talking to investigators and he has no control.
And I think what's so fascinating and alarming here is when Donald Trump feels this vulnerable, this impotent, he lashes out. You know, he bites back in various ways. We don't know how he is going to do that but I think the next couple days, the next couple weeks are going to be scary and utterly unpredictable.
HILL: Well, and that's the reporting that we've seen this week too, Frank, right? We've seen it in the Washington Post, in the New York Times. Maggie Haberman writing about, listen, when he is backed into a corner --
HILL: -- everyone around him will tell you this is when he lashes out. We've seen the tweets. You know, there was the late-night light at the White House earlier this week, and there also the comments that he's making, even in that Fox interview.
BRUNI: Well think back, I mean, I think back to the "Access Hollywood" tape when that was revealed, right? His apology took about 3 seconds. And then what did he do? He went on the attack. He brought all of the Clinton accusers to the debate. That's what Donald Trump does when he is feeling powerless and cornered. What's going to happen in the future?
HILL: So there's some question about what would happen and some of the key is getting floated is obviously a possible pardon for Paul Manafort. Jennifer, as we look at that as an option, Rudy Giuliani has reportedly talked to the President and said, listen, here's why this is a bad idea politically. Even some Republican lawmakers coming out and, you know, trying to send a message to the President that this may not look good. What kind of a precedent would it set if the President did decide to pardon Paul Manafort?
RODGERS: Well, I'm not sure that it would really set a precedent in the sense that, you know, you have to hope that no future presidents would be, you know, crazy enough to do such a thing. It's such an outrageous thing to do to pardon someone in your own self-interest.
[19:10:00] So I don't know about the precedent. I mean, it would be an utter abuse of power to pardon Paul Manafort for the purpose of getting Paul Manafort to stay on Trump's side and not to cooperate with law enforcement. So, you know, hopefully there would be a political remedy to that because sadly, there's not really a legal remedy to that. But, I mean, it would be such an abuse of power you have to hope that Congress would finally act.
HILL: One of the things that's fascinating as we look at all of these, we know the President has a very strong base and there is not much rattles that base. But we sent Jason Carroll to one town in Pennsylvania that voted for President Trump in 2016 and he asked specifically about this issue of a pardon. Take a listen to the answer.
PETER SARTORIO, INDEPENDENT VOTER: The President better watch about the pardons. Because with the pardons, that he does that, it looks like it was set up by him with the last couple of tweets that he had. Where he sticks up for -- who is it the guy they're talking about now?
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Manafort.
SARTORIO: Manafort. He's a great guy. He was wonderful, and everything else. And he's kind of sending a message that, if you stick with me. I will pardon you.
HILL: Mark, is that a message when it's coming from a voter? That you think would actually get through to the President in a different way than say one of his advisers or a lawmaker?
PRESTON: Will it get through to the President? I don't know. Just that comment there, though, gives you a little more faith in the American people. But it just goes to show you how they're not tuned in to every moving moment of it. He didn't even know Paul Manafort's name. And, you know, for all of us, I mean, it's on the tip of our tongue but it is a crime example of Donald Trump going one step too far.
And when you add this in just very quickly because I think it's important here, when you add in what he has said about Paul Manafort, not knowing him and then when he gets convicted about -- he says all these glowing things about him and at the same time he also says, why are they going after him for things that happened years ago, years ago, years ago? You have to wonder. Is he thinking to himself? Are they going to come after me somehow for things that I've done years ago, years ago, years ago?
HILL: Certainly, an interesting point to end on. Thanks to all of you.
Out front next, the President lashing out at Jeff Sessions. New details about the President's state of mind when it comes to his Attorney General.
And the A.P. reporting there is a safe at the National Enquirer and locked inside, damaging stories about President Trump. Can that be true? Well, my guest worked there for 30 years. We'll ask him.
Plus, President Trump abruptly pulling the U.S. out of a key meeting with North Korea taking his own state department by surprise. Will Kim Jong-un retaliate?
[19:16:04] HILL: President Trump not letting up on his own Attorney General. We know the President spent Thursday night fuming over Sessions fighting back at him, that anger leading to early morning tweets that both mocked and taunted the Attorney General. Trump wrote, it was so unfair that Sessions was not looking into the, quote, corruption of Trump's foes like James Comey and Robert Mueller. "Come on, Jeff, you can do it. The country is waiting." Go to Trump over Twitter. So far, unlike yesterday, Sessions is staying silent.
Out front now is Kaitlan Collins at the White House. So Kaitlan, you actually has a new information tonight about the President's mind-set and what's happening behind the scenes with Jeff Sessions. What did you learn?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We know what led to that outburst on Twitter from the President this morning and that's because he was fuming in the White House residence last night after Jeff Sessions issued that statement publicly rebuking the President saying that actually he took control of the Department of Justice the day he was sworn in and he wasn't going to let politics influence his agenda while he was there. The President did not like Sessions pushing back on him so forcefully, he was angry about that statement last night.
And we're seeing is this relationship that has been deteriorating over the last year and a half spill back into the public view this week. Once again, raising the question here in Washington, if the President is so angry with Jeff Sessions, why doesn't he just fire him?
But Erica, we're told by sources that actually even though the President is publicly complaining about the Special Counsel Robert Mueller, saying he is conflicted -- saying that investigation needs to be brought to an end, he actually does seem to recognize the limits here, because he thinks that firing Jeff Sessions would cross a line with Robert Mueller. And so far even though he's come very close to firing Jeff Sessions on multiple occasions and always had his advisers talk him out of doing so, so far he has not gone that far yet fearing that he would be crossing that line with Robert Mueller.
Of course, how we see things played out this week, it is raising the question even more of just how long this can last. Because it does feels as if this feud between the two of them is taking a much different turn seeing them publicly push back against one another, such an unnatural thing for a relationship between the President and the Attorney General. And now the question is just how long will it be before the President does finally decide to make that decision?
Because what I was told from one source who is familiar with what Jeff Sessions said in that statement, it seemed as if he was daring the President to fire him. Erica?
HILL: Well, interesting to see, as you point out as we wait and we wonder. OK Kaitlan, thank you.
Out front now, Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu, well of course he's on the Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committee. As we look at this situation between the President and the Attorney General, Republicans have long been protective of Jeff Sessions. But that may be starting to change. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: For the office and the country and after the election I think there will be some serious discussions about a new attorney general.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: Serious discussions after the election. Meantime, Senator Chuck Grassley, of course, chairs the Judiciary Committee, said yesterday they'd be able to take up a new nomination this year. Do you foresee a new attorney general before the end of the year?
REP. TED LIEU (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Thank you Erica for your question. I believe that if Donald Trump either pardoned Paul Manafort or fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions that would cross a red line and he would be firing Jeff Sessions, because he wants to make sure that he's got someone else in place that can run interference on the Mueller investigation that would cause to the obstruction of justice. I think that's why Donald Trump has not fired him yet and I hope the President does not do so in the future as well.
HILL: So that's your red line in terms of obstruction of justice, but do you want Jeff Sessions to stay on? Do you support him at this point as Attorney General?
LIEU: I do. I think Jeff Sessions has pushed back against the President, in terms of maintaining the independence of the judiciary and the judicial department at the Department of Justice. I also want to note that Donald Trump tweeted basically an enemies list and asked Jeff Sessions, the Department of Justice to go after those people. That's completely disgraceful.
[19:20:05] But what makes America great is that our law enforcement personnel took an oath to the Constitution not to Donald Trump. They're going to follow the Constitution no matter how much the President yells and screams.
HILL: So as point that out, when you talk about the fact that you do support the Attorney General, you have been critical of him in the past -- I'm just going back to my notes here, especially about meeting with Russian officials -- you've said either you're lying to the U.S. Senate or you're lying to the U.S. House of Representatives. Looking at his different testimony there, are you still in the same place when it comes to your feelings on Jeff Sessions when we look back at those past comments?
LIEU: Yes. I am highly critical of Jeff Sessions. I think a number of his policies, especially the (INAUDIBLE) anti-immigrant policies are bad for America, but in terms of what he's doing now in preserving the independence of the Department of Justice, that's a good thing. He's pushing back against the President to maintain the integrity of the professional agents and prosecutors at the Department of Justice and that's why I think it would be a red line if the President tried to fire Jeff Sessions.
HILL: Red line if he tried to fire him. Let's talk a little about Paul Manafort of what's been made whether the President may, may not, grant a pardon to Paul Manafort. That's also a red line?
LIEU: Absolutely. The reason that the President would want to pardon Paul Manafort is not because he thinks Paul Manafort shouldn't have been convicted of tax and bank fraud. It's because he doesn't want Paul Manafort to flip on him and to give information to the government. That also would be obstruction of justice, if the President pardon Paul Manafort and I hope he does not do that as well. HILL: You've never been one as we know to shy away from criticizing the President, from letting him know how you feel. You have talked about impeachment in the past, even sort of taunting him, twitter about it and yet this is something that we're not hearing much from Democrats these days. Why the step back from talking about impeachment when it was such a talking point for so long? Is it the concern about political liability?
LIEU: I have not said that the President should be impeached. What I have said is, if after the investigation Special Counsel Mueller is done and we look at it and there's evidence of conspiracy or collusion with the Russians, and yes, the President should be impeached or if he committed other crimes. So right now we know that Michael Cohen testified under oath and implicated the President in committing two felony violations of the campaign finance laws. That's very serious.
In the House, the Judiciary Committee needs to hold hearings to see if the President committed two felonies in particular because the Department of Justice has issued guidelines saying they're not going to indict a sitting president. It's now falls back on the Congress to do the investigation to see if the President in fact committed those two felonies.
HILL: What are your thoughts on the news today about Allen Weisselberg being granted immunity in that case against Michael Cohen?
LIEU: It is very striking to me that the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York has granted immunity not just to Allen Weisselberg, the CFO of the Trump organization, but also to two other individuals, David Pecker and Dylan Howard. It tells me that these prosecutors are very intent on prosecuting felony violations of a campaign finance laws and that's a good thing, because our democracy depends on upholding and enforcing the campaign finance laws. And for the President of the United States to be implicated in two of these felonies, it is a very major deal and that's why Congress needs to hold hearings on this issue as soon as we come back from recess, and the House of Representatives.
HILL: Wow. We look forward to those hearings as well. Congressman Ted Lieu, appreciate it. Thank you.
LIEU: Thank you, Erica.
HILL: Out front next, reports of a safe at the National Enquirer used to store stories that could be embarrassing to President Trump. Is there really a safe? We're going to ask a top official who worked at the Enquirer for decades.
Plus, a brutal Hurricane Lane hammering Hawaii. High winds now fueling brush fires. Hundreds of people already evacuated. We are live for you in Honolulu.
[19:27:58] HILL: Tonight, inquiring minds want to know, what is in the safe? The Associated Press reporting the National Enquirer kept damaging stories about President Trump along with details about hush money payments locked away in a safe. This is the CEO of National Enquirer's Publisher David Pecker has been granted immunity. Pecker has protected Donald Trump for years. He's accused of catching and killing negative stories about the President long before he was in the White House. Could Pecker now be the one who takes the President down?
Out front is Jerry George who worked for the National Enquirer for 28 years served as a tabloid's L.A. Bureau Chief. Good to have you with us tonight. Can you confirm for us that there was this safe full of stories of the Enquirer, Jerry?
JERRY GEORGE, FORMER L.A. BUREAU CHIEF, NATIONAL ENQUIRER: Yes, Erica. You know, as archaic as it sounds, there was such a device in this digital age where, you know, particularly sensitive story files, including source agreements and contracts and page proofs were stored for access and protection.
HILL: Would the only copy of those stories and those agreements be in that safe and, if so if they were destroyed, would that be it or would there be another copy that lives somewhere else, even digitally?
GEORGE: I think there probably would be much of the content preserved, you know, on a hard drive. But, you know, the actual physical signatures may, on the contacts, may actually be in that safe.
HILL: How many safes are we talking about?
GEORGE: Well, you know, I worked out of the Los Angeles office, and we had one and I know that the New York office had one and I think that's the one we're referring to.
HILL: And especially in the New York office. Would this only have been filled with stories about President Trump? Or what else could be in there?
GEORGE: No. It could turn out to be quite a Pandora's box. I mean, I think anything sensitive, any story that might be potentially litigious, even post-publication, the actual file and the contracts would be held in that safe. So there's a lot of interesting information on a lot of important people kept on hard copy in a safe.
[19:30:07] So, there's a lot of interesting information on a lot of important people kept on hard copy in a safe.
HILL: You mentioned there was one in the L.A. bureau, too, where you were. Who had access to that? Could you go into that safe anytime you wanted?
HILL: And was the practice the same then in New York, to your knowledge?
GEORGE: Yes, yes. The bureau chief which at the time was Barry Levine, you know, had the combination and could open it at will. It also stored, you know, valuables, such as cameras and cash. Anything that was remotely sensitive was kept in the safe.
HILL: So you were at AMI when David Pecker took over as CEO in 1999. And you say when he took over, there was an edict that came down specifically about Donald Trump, that no negative stories would ever appear in an American Media publication. Tell us more about that.
GEORGE: Well, Erica, you know, when David Pecker arrived, he sort of brought with him a silent editor, and that was, you know, Donald Trump. They have a -- they have a long -- long-standing friendship, and David brought that to the table when he accepted the position as CEO.
HILL: You said a silent editor. Does that mean he gave Donald Trump power to kill stories or to even direct stories?
GEORGE: That's exactly what I mean. He relished the, you know, the proximity to Donald Trump and he gave him great access. Donald Trump, as you know, loves publicity. So, it's not that stories, you know, were -- there were no stories done, but everything done was done with a glow to it.
HILL: Uh-huh, a glow, a golden sheen perhaps some might say.
"The Washington Post" also reporting during the presidential campaign, that the "Enquirer" would send stories about Donald Trump, but also about his political opponents to his attorney Michael Cohen and that he could weigh in, which sort of leads us to understand why the coverage was the way it was, obviously during the campaign in terms of what we saw about Hillary Clinton and what we saw about Donald Trump.
I know you were gone by then, but this had started out before then. You talk about being the silent editor. Also in 2010, the "A.P." reporting at Cohen's urging the "Enquirer" began to promote a potential Donald Trump candidacy. You were still at "Enquirer" then. What was that directive?
GEORGE: I was and I remember that editorial stand. They were -- they were very pro-Donald Trump in the early days, and with their help, you know, he was propelled into the presidential timber. No one thought he would actually get elected, but in the end, that's what happened. And American Media had a role in that.
HILL: And also endorsed him as a candidate, which they had never done before.
GEORGE: Of course.
HILL: The president --
GEORGE: It was the first time that they ever endorsed a presidential candidate.
HILL: And Donald Trump, you know, in many ways repaying the favor. I mean, here's just a little bit of what he had to say. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The "National Enquirer" did a story. They actually have a very good record of being right.
I've always said, why didn't the "National Enquirer" get the Pulitzer Prize for Edwards and O.J. Simpson and all of these things?
I mean, you can't knock the "National Enquirer". It's brought many things to light. Not all pleasant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: Glowing words there for the "National Enquirer." You talked about how when David Pecker came on, he and Donald Trump already had this friendship. He brought in a new edict.
Do you think David Pecker would turn on Donald Trump?
GEORGE: I think ultimately, to save his own skin, he may not have a choice.
HILL: What do you think he has that's so damaging?
GEORGE: I mean, I think he's under a lot -- David Pecker knows where the bodies are buried. David Pecker knows all of the Trump stories that were killed, all the story leads. He pretty much, you know, knows the worst of President Trump's personal life.
HILL: What else do you know of that would be out there that would have either been killed or perhaps the president would have pre- screened and said he didn't want it published?
GEORGE: I know of stories involving, you know, marital discord. I know of stories of infidelities on the president's part, and also stories on the children. I
[19:35:07] I mean -- between the Trumps and the Kushners, they have more skeletons in the closet than the Addams Family, as the old joke goes. There's a lot of material there --
HILL: So, this edict about no negative stories about Donald Trump, that also applied to, it's my sense here on what you're saying that it applied to his children. One would imagine that applies to Melania Trump and perhaps to his ex-wives as well?
HILL: Especially which one? The current wife or the ex-wives?
GEORGE: The ex-wives and Melania. I mean, you know, very little is reported on their personal life, and, you know, the "National Enquirer," which, you know, prides itself on being the investigative tabloid that can eke out the most sensational stories, turned a blind eye to everything that was unpleasant in that family.
HILL: When it comes to the now president screening stories as well, did that also apply to screening stories that may have been about his opponents, whether it be in business, or anybody with whom he had a feud? Someone who was facing a presidential election? Is it your sense he would also have been allowed to weigh in on those stories?
GEORGE: I would go as far as to say that, you know, President Trump and his team fed stories to the "National Enquirer" on his political opponents.
HILL: Jerry George, it is fascinating. We appreciate you taking time for us tonight. In your words, David Pecker very dangerous to President Trump because he knows where all the bodies are buried. Thank you for your time.
GEORGE: My pleasure. Thank you.
HILL: OUTFRONT next, the "New Yorker" reports Trump advisers passed around a memo charging former top Obama staffers with conspiring against Trump. One of the Obama officials who was named in that memo is OUTFRONT.
And word today a true American hero, Senator John McCain is refusing further treatment in his battle with cancer. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who has spoken to the senator's doctor in the past, is my guest.
[19:41:21] HILL: New tonight, President Trump stuns the State Department. A source telling CNN that was caught completely off guard when Mr. Trump canceled Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's trip next week to North Korea. The White House says Pompeo was in the room with President when he tweeted, quote, I asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not to go to North Korea at this time because I feel we are not making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization of North Korea.
OUTFRONT now, the former deputy assistant to President Obama, former national security adviser to Vice President Biden, Collin Kahl.
Good to have you with us tonight.
Did President Trump make the right call here on North Korea?
COLIN KAHL, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, actually, I think it might be the right call, but I think as usual, he kind of threw a monkey wrench into the process catching the State Department a little unaware. Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, named a new envoy for the Korean negotiations yesterday, Steve Biegun, who's a good guy.
But I think as was the case a few months ago when Trump kind of prematurely canceled the summit with Kim Jong-un before re-planning the summit with Kim Jong-un. He appears to have caught the State Department a little flat-footed. HILL: But, overall, you do believe it was the right call?
KAHL: Well, I think it's the right call because there hasn't been any meaningful progress on denuclearization. But I think that was expected. I think the big problem with the Singapore summit that Trump held with Kim Jong this past June is that it all it was create a lot of theater and created kind of a nothing burger of a summit statement, and the two sides just don't agree on even the meaning of denuclearization, let alone what steps need to be taken.
HILL: We'll continue to follow that further.
I also really want to ask about this "New Yorker" report about a memo circulated at the Trump White House in 2017 which accuses you and other former Obama administration officials of coordinated attacks to undermine President Trump's foreign policy. And it names you specifically as the likely ops chief.
What's your reaction?
KAHL: Yes, the memo was kind of bananas. I mean, I worked for the White House about two and a half years. I have known people who worked at the NSC for years. I don't think any of us have seen anything like this.
Look, the memo that was bouncing around at the NSC, and I don't know whether it was written by someone working at the NSC at the time or commissioned by them or simply being circulated among them, but it kind of alleges this vast conspiracy of former Obama officials as kind of orchestrating a media and deep state campaign to undermine Trump's foreign policy. It's definitely nuts, but I think what the "New Yorker" article also made clear is that there are a lot of similarities between this mystery memo and some of the shenanigans being done by the Israeli intelligence firm Black Cube, targeting me and Ben Rhodes and our families around the same time period.
HILL: Do you think that's a coincidence?
KAHL: No. I mean I don't have evidence it's not a coincidence, but there are striking similarities to include the emphasis on the so- called echo chamber that was used to promote the Iran deal. You know, alleged attacks on Seb Gorka, who was the deputy assistant to President Trump at the time.
So, there are a lot of striking similarities between this NSC conspiracy memo and the Black Cube operations, which, you know, were targeted at me and my wife and Ben Rhodes and his wife.
HILL: And you're talking about those that went after you specifically. And that part I will say, of the article, it's fascinating and a little scary.
If we look at this memo specifically, look, on one hand you could say, why wouldn't people who had just finished their job in one administration who believed deeply in some of the policies that they were working on for this administration and the Obama administration's legacy, why wouldn't they band together to try to promote that narrative?
[19:45:12] We even have former Secretary of State John Kerry meeting with the Iran foreign minister to try to save the Iran deal.
KAHL: Look, it's not crazy in some respects. A lot of those people mentioned in the memo are friends, a lot of us former colleagues. Not all of us.
But the notion that there was this vast conspiracy where essentially we kind of ran a war room every day that tasked the media and the deep state to block Trump's agenda, that's the nutso part.
What's also strange is that, at least in my time at the White House and the National Security Council, I don't remember anybody ever drawing up a domestic enemies list or circulating one that then ends up getting used by some shady private investigatory firm in Israel to go and target people.
So, that's the part of this that is kind of beyond the norm.
HILL: Colin Kahl, appreciate you weighing in tonight. Thank you.
KAHL: Yes, thank you, Erica.
HILL: OUTFRONT next -- the sad announcement today that Senator John McCain is forgoing any more cancer treatment. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is with us next.
And Hawaii at this hour in the crosshairs of a powerful hurricane. Hundreds evacuated also by wind-driven fires. We are live in Honolulu.
[19:50:17] HILL: Tonight, reaction is pouring in around the country after news Senator John McCain is stopping treatment for the cancer he's been battling for more than a year. In a statement, his family wrote: John has surpassed expectations for his survival but the progress of disease and inexorable advance of age render they verdict. With his usual strength of will, he has now chosen to discontinue medical treatment.
OUTFRONT now, CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
You know, Sanjay, as we look at this, I know that, you know, in the past, you've spoken to Senator McCain's doctors. You're a neurosurgeon, though, who's also dealt with this condition. When you heard the news, what were you thoughts?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I was sad. It's a tough thing to hear. Not entirely unexpected given how aggressive this particular cancer is. It's glioblastoma, GBM.
Many have heard this term. For those who haven't, this is an aggressive brain cancer. It's one of the most aggressive cancers that we know of that exists in the human body, and this is one that happens to be in the brain. Median survival is about 14 months.
You know, I started my training in neurosurgery, Erica, 25 years ago. Over the last quarter century, we haven't really made much progress in terms of reducing the mortality and increasing the survival with this tumor. So, it's really sad and tough I'm sure for Senator McCain and his family.
HILL: It's also a tough decision for anyone to make to discontinue treatment.
Walk us through that conversation for both the patient and for the patient's family.
GUPTA: I think with something like this -- the conversations begin almost immediately. You remember it was back in July of last year, so 13 months ago that Senator McCain had this blood collection just behind his left eye, left eyebrow. They didn't know what it was. When they removed the blood collection, that's when they found the tumor, and it was subsequently found to be this glioblastoma.
It's at that point I think that you start having the conversations. Here are the options, here's what we think, you know, might reasonably be achieved with these options, here's the potential side effects and you're constantly doing a risk analysis. You're doing it on your own subconscious mind. You're doing it with your family. You're doing with your doctors.
And at some point, you say, look, either the treatment is not working or the risk and toll that these treatments are taking on my body are greater than the benefits. It could be that his family in part helped Senator McCain make this decision because, you know, he may not be as equipped to be able to make the decision himself right now. We don't know, but that's typically how it goes.
HILL: Right. You know, he was -- I'm thinking back to when sat down with Jake Tapper almost exactly a year ago, and he was so upbeat --
HILL: -- in talking about, he -- and I think he said, if I'm quoting correctly, that he felt so fortunate that he could celebrate his wonderful life.
Having that attitude, you know, just in your experience and I think all of us just in life we know that's not just helpful for the patient but it is helpful for the family around them, too, to know that someone is at peace with where they are in this journey.
GUPTA: Yes. You know, I think so, and I think these fall into the realm of anecdotal, right, Erica. You know, you hear these stories of survivorship and courage and grit, whatever you want to call it.
He's a fighter, there's no question about it. I think it makes a difference objectively, you know? More likely to be compliant with his treatment, to do everything that he can to try and, you know, fight back against this disease, I think that helps certainly him objectively but also helps his family. But I think that they probably collectively now have come to this conclusion over the past couple of weeks, again, that either the treatment is not working or it's taken too big a toll. I understand he may have had a seizure last Friday and had a bit of a decline. So, that's I think in part all these factors go in to making a really tough -- the toughest decision you ever make, all these factors going to making it.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, always appreciate it, my friend. Thank you.
GUPTA: Yes, thank you.
HILL: OUTFRONT next: Hurricane Lane bearing down on Hawaii. Winds driving dangerous brush fires along with up to 40 inches of rain expected. We are live for you in Honolulu.
[19:58:07] HILL: Breaking news, Hawaii bracing for Hurricane Lane. Now a category one storm just south of the island. The most powerful winds expected to hit tonight.
There's already massive flooding. The hurricane is expected to dump over 40 inches of rain in some areas. And all that rain causing landslides onto the island on the big island. And if that's not enough brush fires have now broken out in Maui.
Nick Watt is OUTFRONT live from Honolulu.
So, Nick, 40 inches of rain. Brush fires in Maui. This is rough to say the least.
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, where we are in Honolulu right now, we are bracing for the storm to reach us. The surf is up, the wind is gusty and that should be here. Those heavy winds, those rains here within the next few hours.
Now, the storm has been moving from the south to the north. As you mentioned big island, 40 inches of rain in places, 4-0, that is immense. So the ground there is so saturated any new rainfall just slides right off as a flash flood.
Now, some tourists have had to be rescued down there from a rental home, and moving further north. Maui, the airport, is still open, but today, all flights have been canceled and those brushfires you mentioned. I mean, it sounds bizarre and hurricanes have brushfires. We don't know what started them, but we know the wind has been whipping those flames.
One of those flames jumped a highway. More than 100 homes have been evacuated. Now, the storm is moving slower. As you mentioned now, a category one. That's a good thing, in that the weaker it gets, the more likely the trade winds will push it out to sea and we'll be safer here on the islands. But the slower it moves, the longer it lingers over places, the more
rain it dumps, and the rain and the storm surge, just the water, that is going to be the problem this hurricane brings to the Hawaiian islands. In fact, the mayor of Honolulu, he said earlier, listen, if we get even half the rain the big island got, that's going to be some major, major problems -- Erica.
HILL: All right. We'll continue to follow it. Nick Watt, appreciate it. Thank you.
Thanks to all of you for joining us tonight.
"AC360" starts right now.