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Trump Goes on Attack as Legal Troubles Mount; Who is Allen Weisselberg?; Pope Francis in Ireland; Authorities Investigating Sex Abuse Claims in Several States; Pence Stays Mostly Silent during Another Explosive News Week; Senator McCain Discontinues Treatment for Brain Cancer; Massive Floods Hit Hawaii after Drenching from Former Hurricane; Corruption Indictment. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired August 25, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:59:53] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: You know, we appreciate you taking time for us and keeping us company in the morning. Go make some great memories.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Let's hand it off to Fredricka Whitfield now for more of CNN's NEWSROOM.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Hello to you -- guys.
BLACKWELL: You, too.
PAUL: Hello and good-bye.
WHITFIELD: Hello and bye-bye.
All right. Hello to you, everybody. It's 11:00 on the East Coast.
I'm Fredricka Whitfield. NEWSROOM starts right now.
All right. President Trump using his bully pulpit to once again go on the attack. This morning he's leashing (ph) out after a turbulent week that saw many of his top allies flip; tweeting about everything from Jeff Sessions to the FBI's handling of the Clinton e-mails to the U.S. relationship with Mexico.
He specifically is doubling down that he did not know about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between campaign officials and Russian lawyers. That meeting is at the crux of the Robert Mueller investigation into possible campaign collusion.
Even the President's personal attorney is weighing in; Rudy Giuliani tweeting that if Mueller wants to prove he is nonpartisan, he should finish his report ahead of the midterm elections.
CNN's Ryan Nobles is at the White House. So Ryan -- the President is clearly stewing and tweeting.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Good way to put it -- Fred. Spending a lot of time on Twitter this morning reacting to the latest developments in this investigation into his campaign's possible ties to Russia and the impact that it has had on some of his closest associates. And while the President has not mentioned by name -- the name Allen Weisselberg who has now cut a deal for immunity with prosecutors; or the name David Pecker, who's the head of AMI which runs the "National Enquirer", who also has an immunity deal.
He's instead directing his anger at Jeff Sessions, the attorney general that he appointed to run the Justice Department. The President frustrated with the focus of the Justice Department, saying instead of looking into his campaign's ties to Russia, that instead Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department should be looking into Hillary Clinton's e-mails.
So this is a common theme with the President where when he seems to be embattled, where the pressure seems to be ramped up, when it comes to this investigation he finds a way to distract. And that's clearly what he is doing this morning.
But Fred -- no response from the President as to the impact that he thinks that these developments with those in his inner circle deciding to cooperate with federal authorities could have on the investigation going forward instead, the President demanding that Jeff Sessions change course.
And he also in kind of an interesting tweet this morning, quoting Lindsey Graham saying that the attorney general serves at the pleasure of the President. That's something that no one is disputing. The big question is if the President is so upset with Attorney General Jeff Sessions why doesn't he ask him to step down? That's something the President can't seem to explain -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: Ok. And of course, a lot in jeopardy either way, depending on which way the President goes -- so.
Also, CNN is learning about this ex-doorman for Trump revealing another alleged affair. Any response from the White House on that?
NOBLES: No. The White House has not responded to questions about this. And Fred -- aside from salacious details that have been released from what this doorman alleges to know about Donald Trump, what this speaks to is a broader problem for President Trump. This is an individual, Dino Sajudin is his name, worked as a doorman at the Trump World Tower; and he claims to know of an affair that the President was engaged in before he became president that led to the birth of a child. It's an extramarital affair.
What's interesting about this though is that he entered into an agreement with AMI, the company that runs the "National Enquirer", where he agreed in exchange for $33,000 and a stiff penalty if he were to ever reveal this information of a million dollars that he would keep quiet. AMI has lifted that restriction and now he feels that he can tell that story. This is perhaps just one example of stories that AMI has been sitting on as it relates to President Trump.
Fred -- that's something we're going to have to wait and see.
WHITFIELD: All right. Ryan Nobles at the White House -- thank you so much.
All right. So Trump's already tricky legal landscape got another jolt this week. Long time chief financial officer for the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg has full immunity and has talked to prosecutors. But who is Allen Weisselberg and why he is so valuable to investigators?
Here's CNN's Randi Kaye.
RANDI KAYE, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Allen Weisselberg knows where all the financial bodies are buried. That's according to a former Trump Organization employee who spoke with CNN.
Weisselberg is the chief financial officer for the Trump Organization, the top bookkeeper who likely has knowledge of everything from Donald Trump's tax returns to the hush money paid to silence two women claiming they had an affair with Trump before he became president -- something Trump denies.
If Trump reimbursed Cohen for the payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, as his lawyer Rudy Giuliani says, then perhaps Weisselberg can corroborate that for federal prosecutors.
[11:05:02] When Trump won the White House, he put his sons and Weisselberg in charge of the family business.
SHERI DILON, ATTORNEY AT MORGAN LEWIS: He has relinquished leadership and management of the Trump Organization to his sons, Don and Eric, and a long time Trump executive, Allen Weisselberg.
KAYE: Weisselberg, who hasn't returned our calls for comment, oversees the family trust. He's prepared the President's tax returns and was the treasurer for Trump's charity. Weisselberg has also reportedly been privy to Trump's real estate transactions both here at home and overseas, including where all the funding was coming from.
(on camera): There's no doubt about how vast Weisselberg's knowledge is. He has a long history with the Trump family going back decades.
In the 1970s, he was an accountant for President Trump's father, Fred Trump. He then moved over to the Trump Organization. The "Wall Street Journal" reported Weisselberg oversaw many of Trump's personal transactions, including household expenses as well as the purchases of planes and boats.
(voice over): Tristan Snell, a former assistant attorney general who helped lead the prosecution of Trump University, says Weisselberg is the single most indispensable person in the Trump Organization. In that case he says Weisselberg knew where every dollar in the Trump Organization came from and controlled where every dollar went. Over the years, Weisselberg has kept a pretty low profile, one former colleague telling the "Wall Street Journal" that Weisselberg, quote, fits in with the wallpaper. Suddenly though he seems to be a household name.
Randi Kaye, CNN -- New York.
WHITFIELD: All right. There's a lot on the plate right now.
Let's bring in CNN contributor and former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission, Larry Noble; and criminal defense attorney Rebecca LeGrand. Good to see you both.
All right. So Larry -- you first. You know, we'll go back to Weisselberg in a moment because there are a lot of directions to go with that one. But, you know, first on this allegation by this former doorman now. How big of a potential bombshell is that? How could it be relevant in the whole giant scheme of things?
LARRY NOBLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, obviously it has political relevance, but more importantly it has legal relevance. The way I understand it now, this agreement was signed in November of 2015. And Trump announced his candidacy in June of 2015 before the agreement was signed.
So if AMI signed this agreement and then ultimately they paid him $30,000 and paid him -- coordinating that with the campaign. So let's say Trump knew about it or he discussed it with Cohen and then coordinated with the campaign, then you have another case of a potentially illegal campaign contribution from AMI.
So this is another big issue here. And they may argue that well, it wasn't about the campaign but again, this didn't happen until after he already announced he was running for office. It's a big issue.
WHITFIELD: And why is it explained why the doorman would feel -- or why there would be a green light now to that doorman to talk about the details of an agreement or what was witnessed?
NOBLE: Well, what they say is that AMI released him from the agreement. The agreement had a penalty of a million dollars if he talked about the affair and the alleged child born out of wedlock. But what they say is AMI released him. And probably, I am guessing here that AMI released him as part of the deal that Pecker made with the U.S. attorney for immunity, that the idea was you have to release all this stuff, you have to let all this stuff go. So now the doorman is free to talk about it.
WHITFIELD: And so Rebecca -- at this moment, you know, this is, you know, an allegation. We haven't heard and we haven't seen any real evidence of, you know, what is being said here. So what, if anything, you know, can the President do to kind of deflect this or even manage it? REBECCA LEGRAND, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, you know, he's had
his own strategy for managing it. It is not what any lawyer I know would recommend which is to attack the Justice Department and try and change the focus. I don't think that's going to be very effective.
I think the southern district of New York is a strong, independent group of prosecutors and they're going to do their job. I think the same is true for the Manhattan D.A.'s office and for the attorney general of New York as well as obviously Bob Mueller -- all of whom are now investigating related issues.
So I think what he's got to do is play it safe, listen to his lawyers, and hope for the best.
WHITFIELD: Ok. So the Manhattan district attorney's office is taking a closer look at, you know, the Trump Organization as a whole, and you know, whether any laws indeed were broken in this reimbursement or, you know, pay or even reimbursement to Michael Cohen over that $130,000, you know, payment to Stormy Daniels -- Larry. So what would prosecutors be zeroing in on?
NOBLE: Well, if we're talking about state law, then the prosecutors may be looking at the charity, because this is regulated under state law and then whether or not the companies broke any state corporate law because states are regulated under -- I'm sorry, corporations are regulated under state law.
[11:10:04] So they may very well be looking about -- looking at potential fraud, misuse of money, tax problems, tax evasion at the state level. So there are a number of things they could be looking at.
You know, when Weisselberg decides to come forward and testify and is given immunity, that's really a key to the kingdom, in a sense. You know, the fear -- anybody if they are involved in any kind of criminal conspiracy, the fear when you are doing that is that your accountant is going to talk. And this is somebody who presumably knows a lot about the Trump Organization, what they've done, how they used their money. And so the Manhattan D.A. obviously has a real interest in that.
WHITFIELD: And why would -- I mean what do you suspect is at issue as to why he would get immunity. I mean because if there were any, you know, tax laws broken it would remove him from responsibility? Or -- I mean what could be at stake for him?
LEGRAND: So he clearly raised or had his lawyer raise that he felt like there was a threat at least. There was some risk of exposure if he testified. And if there were not a risk of criminal exposure, he wouldn't have gotten immunity. We don't know specifically what that risk was but we can certainly guess.
And we can talk about, you know look, if I worked at an organization where the CFO had just testified under a granted immunity, a long time lawyer had just pled guilty, and there were at least four essentially criminal investigations going on -- boy, I'm working at a troubled organization.
I mean when I look at all the different parts of this case that are starting to come together, what we haven't seen yet is we have seen spokes of a conspiracy, we haven't seen the wheel. But there's every reason to think there is a wheel that joins all this together in a broader conspiracy that has not yet been indicted and I expect we'll be brought to the public's attention in one way or another very soon.
WHITFIELD: And there are so many different avenues to all of this. You know, the President, we know for the last few days and really for maybe weeks or months now, has been going after his Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
And he did it again this morning, tweeting this, "Jeff Sessions said he wouldn't allow politics to influence him only because he doesn't understand what is happening underneath his command position. Highly conflicted Bob Mueller and his gang of 17 angry Dems are having a field day as real corruption goes untouched. No collusion."
I mean, Larry -- why? I mean what does this reveal about the President? How nervous he is about things. How he will, you know, continue to threaten the attorney general. I mean there's the southern district, you know, investigation. But if you're Bob Mueller's team, how are you looking at all of this?
NOBLE: Well, I think what this reveals is one -- he is not listening to his attorneys, who are probably telling him not to do this. But I think it reveals he is really trying to distract everybody. I think he thinks he has the most traction going after Mueller and saying no collusion, no collusion. But even though we don't know exactly what Mueller has, and Trump may be very disappointed when he finds out what Mueller has.
But I think it is a distraction from what's going on in New York. I think it is a distraction from a lot of other things. And it's really the only thing he can do right now.
And the idea of going after Sessions is again just to create this atmosphere, mainly for supporters, I think, that this is all a witch hunt. This is all making something out of nothing. And that they're really going after me for political reasons and he throws in Hillary Clinton's name because that gets them all riled up. But I don't think it is a good strategy.
WHITFIELD: Well I wonder, while it may be a distraction, on the other hand, Rebecca -- might it also potentially give investigators more material because they'll be looking for consistencies and inconsistencies especially if the President does not, you know, acquiesce to an interview?
LEGRAND: Absolutely, you know, his public statements are going to be useful as a case is brought against him be it an impeachment case or a criminal indictment. And for that matter, you know, if one of my clients made the kinds of comments that the President is making about other witnesses and their cooperation, they would be if not charged with obstruction, they would certainly be given -- their sentence would go up for that.
You would be punished essentially for taking the kinds of steps the President is taking to essentially say that he doesn't believe in law enforcement methods. He doesn't agree with law enforcement methods. And he doesn't think people should cooperate with law enforcement. That is not something a criminal defendant usually says publicly.
WHITFIELD: As long as he is the subject of investigations, but the sentiment might be different otherwise. All right.
LEGRAND: Appears to be.
WHITFIELD: Right. Rebecca LeGrand, Larry Noble -- thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.
NOBLE: Thank you.
LEGRAND: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right. Coming up next -- the Pope making a historic visit to Ireland, a country with one of the highest Catholic populations in the world. But the visit is overshadowed amid a child sex abuse scandal in the church.
And later, Vice President Pence going after Democrats, asking where is the respect for President Trump's Supreme Court nominee?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[11:15:05] MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The truth is if we lived in a more respectful time, Judge Kavanaugh would be overwhelmingly confirmed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. Live pictures right now of the pope mobile -- Pope Francis actually just moments ago emerging from the St. Mary's pro-cathedral thee in Ireland soon to be entering the Pope mobile. You can see now from that kind of aerial shot, bird's eye view of him in the rear of it. And perhaps when it takes off, you'll see that there has been a cordoned off area outside the church there along the street.
You do see some crowds of people there, but the Pope there in Ireland for this historic visit. It is his first time as a pope that he has visited this country. And it is the first time in four decades that a Catholic pope has visited Ireland as a whole.
[11:20:05] Pope Francis arriving as the country is reeling from the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. And the Pope has been wasting very little time addressing this very painful issue.
Today he offered an apology and sympathy for the sex abuse by clergy and the cover up by Catholic leaders; and the Pope there at St. Mary's Cathedral there wrapping up his sermon. He also prayed before a lit candle for the victims of sex abuse.
CNN's Phil Black is in Dublin. So Phil -- what more did the Pope have to say? What has the reception overall been like for Pope Francis there in Ireland?
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So far you can see he has done a couple of brief tours around the city in his pope mobile. And there are some people out there, Fredricka, that are clearly very happy to see him. But on the whole, those crowds are pretty light and especially if you compared to the last papal visit here some four decades ago when it was John Paul II. And he was really greeted as a rock star.
The key reason for that, of course, is because the image of the Church in his country has suffered so much because of the sexual abuse scandals that have been revealed over so many decades now and the sense that the Church just hasn't come to grips with that problem.
And so yes, the Pope did address these issues when he was first welcomed here at Dublin Castle by the Irish prime minister. He spoke about the suffering at the hands of clergy. He spoke about the church's failures and the righteous anger and outrage of the Irish people.
Take a little more of a listen to his comments on this issue earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POPE FRANCIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH (through translator): The failure of the ecclesiastical authorities, the religious priests and others, to adequately address these appalling crimes has rightly (ph) given rise to our rage and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community.
I myself share those sentiments.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACK: So he's addressed the issue, but you have to say in a very limited way, and it was buried a long way down into his opening speech here. The initial feedback from victims of sexual abuse by the clergy in this country is that well we've heard this before. The apologies are appreciated but what they want is to hear something new, in particular to hear what the Pope is going to do to make sure this doesn't happen in churches around the world any more.
WHITFIELD: All right. Phil Black -- thank you so much. Keep us posted. Appreciate it.
So as Pope Francis faces the fallout from the Church's abuse crisis in Ireland, here in the U.S. survivors of clergy sex abuse continue to come forward after a scathing grand jury report in Pennsylvania detailed decades of priest abuse and cover-ups. Authorities across multiple states are standing with the survivors who are speaking out.
CNN's Rosa Flores has the story.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My husband was sexually abused by a priest.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am a victim of clergy abuse.
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Survivors of clerical sex abuse from across the nation are pushing for justice after the explosive revelations in the Pennsylvania attorney general's report which showed credible allegations that more than 300 predator priests had sexually abused more than 1,000 children, and authorities in multiple states appear to be listening.
In Illinois, the attorney general is meeting with the Chicago archdiocese as a direct consequence of the report. The attorney general in Missouri launched a review of the archdiocese of St. Louis.
NICOLE GOROVSKY, ATTORNEY: We believe that we have exactly the same issues as they have in Pennsylvania.
FLORES: And in Cheyenne, Wyoming police have reopened a criminal investigation into a church official. While investigators won't release the name because of Wyoming law, the diocese of Cheyenne restricted the activities of retired Bishop Joseph Hart, citing credible and substantiated claims of sexual abuse.
Wyoming has no statute of limitations and neither does the Vatican, which according to the diocese will now determine whether this new evidence is sufficient for disciplinary action against Bishop Hart. Bishop Hart has denied all allegations of abuse. CNN's calls and e- mails to Hart and his attorney have not been returned.
TERRY MCKIERNAN, BISHOP ACCOUNTABILITY: There's a lot of sadness in these file cabinets.
FLORES: Terry McKiernan from the victims' advocacy group Bishop Accountability says that criminal prosecution of clergy is very rare, leaving survivors seeking justice in civil courts.
MCKIERNAN: Not only is it the place where survivors get what justice they can but it's also the place where pressure is created for positive change.
FLORES: At least $3.8 billion has been paid out since the 80s across the nation in lawsuits and claims involving allegations of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, says McKiernan.
[11:24:58] MCKIERNAN: Change is not happening because the Church is reforming. Change is happening because survivors are coming forward and forcing the Church to reform.
FLORES: Another form of justice is spreading around the country. At the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, the names of three bishops are coming off buildings. In Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl's name is being removed from a high school named after him after he was named in the report. Wuerl has said he did everything he could at the time.
And from the Vatican, an apology from Pope Francis, calling the abuses outlined in the Pennsylvania report crimes.
MCKIERNAN: The Pope's letter, I think it's safe to say, has really fallen flat.
FLORES: For survivors who are still haunted by the horrors of the abuse, justice is far from reality.
JIM VANSICKLE, SURVIVOER OF SEXUAL ABUSE BY PENNSYLVANIA PRIEST: All of these different abuses stay with us. We continually think about it and re-abuse ourself in silence.
FLORES: Rosa Flores, CNN -- Miami.
WHITFIELD: Still to come, the Vice President says so-called respectful times are no more and blames Democrats. But he's remaining silent after a week of bombshells in the Russia probe as the President lashes out against critics.
[11:26:14] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: Another explosive news week for the President of the United States and one voice is noticeably remaining mostly silent, Vice President Mike Pence. Pence ignored questions on the legal drama unfolding around the President and focused instead on pushing for the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
CNN's congressional producer Liz Landers joining us right now. So we haven't heard much from Pence why?
ELIZABETH LANDERS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL PRODUCER: No Fred -- we haven't. While the President was tweeting this week and did some television interviews about his legal woes, even addressing the issue of impeachment in that Fox News interview, it begs the question where is Vice President Mike Pence?
Now he was out of D.C. on Wednesday and Thursday traveling to Texas and Louisiana. Reporters traveling with him asked him questions about his reaction to this Manafort and Cohen news.
Take a listen to his non-response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Vice President -- do you have any comment on Paul Manafort or on Michael Cohen and everything that happened yesterday?
(END VIDEO CLIP) LANDERS: Now, I asked the Vice President's office about his non- response there. They said this. "President Trump has already addressed that matter. Vice President Pence is focused on advancing the President's agenda for a growing economy, a safer America, and re- electing Republican majorities in the House and Senate -- Fred.
I spoke to a few sources close to the Vice President who said that this is a strategy that has worked for them, keeping their head down. One person who is close to VP told me that this is just, quote, "Mike being Mike."
So they have found that over the last, you know, 20 months or so in the White House that not engaging on a lot of these palace intrigue issues is a better position and posture for Vice President Mike Pence. And he is much more comfortable sort of in that clip that you played earlier of him defending Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court justice, and being the President's attack dog.
WHITFIELD: All right. Liz Landers -- thank you so much.
So it appears Pence has no problem speaking up when it comes to calling out Democrats on Kavanaugh's nomination. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENCE: The truth is if we lived in a more respectful time, Judge Kavanaugh would be overwhelmingly confirmed. Five Senate Democrats announced they were opposed to President Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court before President Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh. That's not advice and consent; that is simply obstruct and oppose. And the American people deserve better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. Joining me right now, former Congressman and CNN political commentator Charlie Dent. Good to see you.
So what's your overall assessment here? Is it a little strange that, you know, the Vice President is preaching about needing more respectful times considering, you know, the man he is with in office?
CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes. I think the irony of that statement is pretty glaring. Clearly much of the discourse in this country has been degraded in my view by the President. It is his language that has led to I think much of the division within this country.
So I think it is a little bit misdirected to try to say that this division is somehow someone else's fault. You reap what you sow at the end of the day. And that's what's happening I think with the President's divisive rhetoric.
I do think Democrats should give much more fair consideration to Judge Kavanaugh. He's certainly qualified. But the discourse is what it is. It is in large part because of the way the President conducts himself. WHITFIELD: And as for the Vice President, you heard in Liz's
reporting there that a friend of the Vice President says, you know, this is Mike being Mike. But do you think we should be hearing, you know, more from the Vice President in a more, you know, I guess pointed, you know, way as it pertains to even the way in which the President is handling matters?
DENT: Well, I don't expect the Vice President to go out and condemn his boss. Although I do believe that Republican members of Congress are probably at the point now where they're going to have to step up and speak more loudly and draw some clear separation and distance from themselves with respect to the President. Their necks are on the line this time and they're the ones who will need to speak up.
[11:35:01] You just saw for example, Tom Cole, a senior Republican from Oklahoma -- one of the more serious and thoughtful members of the House Republican conference -- made some pretty strong statements the other day. He is from a safe seat in Oklahoma.
There are others like Carlos Curbelo and Leonard Lance and Brian Fitzpatrick who have spoken up. But the voices I think are too few and they're not speaking loudly enough because at the end of the day, you know, they're running for re-election and they will be the ones who will most likely feel the consequences of the behavior of the President. So the quicker they can separate themselves from the President's divisive, reckless conduct and statements, the better off they'll be.
WHITFIELD: And you've heard more from outgoing, you know, Republicans in office, but is it your feeling particularly because we're so close to midterm elections that, you know, there is not a likelihood that more Republican lawmakers would speak out against the President because just as you said they're worried about their own, you know, re-elections?
DENT: Well, if you're a Republican representing a swing or marginal district, one where the President didn't do very well or he may have lost to Hillary Clinton or one that was fairly close, tell you what, those members must have some separation. Look, we just saw a special election in Ohio that should not have even been a contest with a Republican candidate. Troy Balderson won by about a thousand votes.
We saw an election in western Pennsylvania where the President won that district by 20 votes, where the Democratic candidate Conor Lamb won the race. So I would tell my Republican colleagues, even if you're not in a swing or a marginal district, even one that's considered fairly reliable or safe Republican, you too also will have to put some distance and separation between yourself and the President.
Simply doing a bear hug on the President is not going to be a successful general election strategy for most Republican members running for the House in 2018. It's as simple as that.
WHITFIELD: And let's talk about a focus for the President. I mean really badgering, you know, harassing if you will, you know, his attorney general via Twitter and other means. And there's been some criticism coming from other elected members in office.
But then you've got Senator Lindsey Graham who last year said there would be holy hell to pay if the President were to fire Jeff Sessions. But now he is changing his tune on that. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Clearly Attorney General Sessions doesn't have the confidence of the President. That's an important office in the country. And after the election I think there will be some serious discussions about a new attorney general.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So what's your interpretation? Is there an about face when it pertains to Lindsey Graham or is there something else to that sentiment?
DENT: well, I think what's curious about the statement is this. Ok, so let's assume that the President fires Jeff Sessions. I would strongly advise against it, but if he does, then what?
Then who would be the next attorney general? I would assume then that Rod Rosenstein would be the acting attorney general. He is on the Russian matter. I suspect he would be the acting attorney general. And then who would be nominated? And who would want to take the job under the circumstances as described by the President?
I mean the President expects the attorney general to be his personal lawyer. He expects loyalty. He doesn't expect the attorney general to, you know, execute or carry out those laws faithfully. That's my view.
He expects that of Jeff Sessions, it is completely unrealistic; and frankly unfair to the attorney general who is simply trying to do his job. He had no choice but to recuse himself. And for the President to say otherwise I think is horribly unfair, and really would have violate various Justice Department guidelines had he not recused himself.
WHITFIELD: And then I would love to get your thoughts about Senator John McCain who, you know, is battling brain cancer, who has made a decision to no longer receive, you know, treatment. And his family members have said, Cindy McCain specifically, has said the entire McCain family is overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from around the world saying thank you. She said that via tweet.
What are your thoughts about Senator John McCain and his life of public service?
DENT: Well, Senator McCain has been an extraordinary public servant. He's been very kind to me. And I tell you, you know, that one incident that they often show on television where a woman at a Pennsylvania rally made some disparaging comments about Barack Obama being an Arab and John McCain immediately pushed back. I was at that rally. And that's just the kind of man John McCain is -- a man of great character, great strength, you know, strong convictions. And, you know, he was always very kind to me. I have to tell you, one of the nicest things that anyone every said to me a couple of years ago he said "Charlie, I really want to thank you for speaking up and saying things." For me, that was like the highest praise I could have ever received.
[11:39:59] I always thought this man, you know, was the embodiment of personal courage and great moral clarity. And I'm just so touched that he actually said this to me unsolicited. And so I just have nothing but praise for this man. And you know, he lived a life that was just so worthy of emulation.
And he went through so much in Vietnam, those five years in the camp; could have left early, chose not to. But he just loves public service. He enjoys the scrap. He is a feisty guy, let's face it. He is a tough guy.
And I just -- my kindest thoughts and prayers are with him and the whole family.
WHITFIELD: Yes. All of our thoughts and prayers go out to John McCain and the whole McCain family.
Charlie Dent -- thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.
DENT: Thank you -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right. And we'll be right back.
[11:40:45] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: Welcome back.
More relentless rain and thrashing wind in store for Hawaii after Hurricane Lane disintegrated into a tropical storm. Landslides and torrential flooding are still threats. The Big Island has been -- has, you know, experienced a lot of catastrophic flooding with over 40 inches of rain in some areas.
I want to bring in Hawaii state representative Matt LoPresti who joins us via Skype from the island of Oahu. All right. So what's your point of view? What's happening there?
MATTHEW LOPRESTI, HAWAII STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Aloha and good morning.
LOPRESTI: You know, the east side of the state really bore the brunt of the storm and it depleted rapidly and spared the west side of the state which is relatively fine. But they did see approximately 40 inches of rain in some localized areas on the east part of the Big Island. So our thoughts are with them right now. W1: So you, I understand, have sandbags at your front door. Has, you
know, water risen to that extent? Here's a photograph of it. I mean what are you experiencing at or around your house?
LOPRESTI: Well, the good news for Oahu and Honolulu County is we are fine here. The storm fizzled out. It was expected to weaken and turn west. It did that more rapidly than I think we anticipated.
We were preparing for a direct strike with possible hurricane strength winds. We got neighbors who have boarded up their houses. And we put sandbags out just to prepare for the worst.
WHITFIELD: Yes. And in general, you know, the challenges are very different. You know, when you're talking about emergency response on a string of islands such as what you all have there in Hawaii versus on the mainland. So what's your assessment about preparedness, the ability to respond to these challenges? You know, what are the greatest vulnerabilities for people living there?
LOPRESTI: Well, I think the state did everything right. There was a very good collaborative effort between state and county officials, between harbor officials and transportation officials. It is difficult to prepare, of course, for that amount of rain. But one of the key things is to make sure that harbors are safe and open so that we can bring more supplies in for the people.
WHITFIELD: All right. State Representative Matt LoPresti -- we wish you all the best. Hang in there.
LOPRESTI: Thank you very much.
WHITFIELD: Thanks so much.
All right. A quick programming note -- discover the inspiring life and career of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
"CNN FILM: RBG" premiering this Labor Day. That's September 3rd, 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific.
We'll be right back.
[11:48:04] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: The apparent legal strategy of indicted Congressman Duncan Hunter is now raising a lot of eyebrows. He and his wife are accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from his campaign funds but now the Congressman appears to be blaming his wife. Here's CNN's Sara Sidner.
SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Representative Duncan Hunter clearly trying to push some of his financial woes on to his wife but investigators very clear in saying that it is the both of them they are accusing of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from his campaign funds. REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: How are you doing today? Doing good.
SIDNER (voice over): Instead of the halls of Congress, Representative Duncan Hunter entered the halls of justice in San Diego -- he and his wife making their first court appearance after being indicted by a federal grand jury. They're accused of stealing more than $250,000 of campaign funds to furnish a lavish lifestyle including a $14,000 family trip to Italy; $11,000 at Costco; $3,000 on fast food; and hundreds of dollars on clothing some of which prosecutors say they tried to pawn off as charity for wounded veterans.
Both remain defiant, pleading not guilty to the 60 counts against them. The day before court, Representative Hunter went on the attack against the Justice Department.
HUNTER: I paid the money back. This is political -- period.
SIDNER: That is also what he told a crowd at a town hall back in 2017.
HUNTER: What I am is a representative to you and the campaign finance stuff I was not watching it close enough. I have fixed it now. I have fixed it now. It's all straightened out.
SIDNER: A grand jury didn't see it that way. Prosecutors say even his campaign staffers kept warning the couple they were violating the law. The assistant U.S. attorney said the couple wasn't a flight risk due in part to their dire financial condition. Prosecutors noting that Hunter racked up $37,000 in overdraft fees on his personal accounts.
Hunter as much as admitting his family is going through financial troubles.
HUNTER: There's nothing illegal about being poor, ok. I don't think there's anything illegal about not having money in your bank account.
SIDNER: But there is something illegal about using campaign funds to shore up personal finances. And as a congressman, he's paid $174,000 out of tax coffers -- few would call that poor.
CROWD: Duncan Hunter's got to go.
[11:54:58] SIDNER: Outside the court, Democratic voters make clear they are sickened at the charges and they're gunning for his seat. His Democratic opponent, businessman Ammar Campa-Najjar, says he commends Hunter as a former Marine who served his country abroad. But he says Hunter appears to have served himself during his time in Washington.
AMMAR CAMPA-NAJJAR (D), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I think Washington chewed him up and spat him out and engulfed him in the corruption that has plagued Washington for too long. And I think the voters come November are going to change that and hope to have some real presentation for the first time in a long time. SIDNER (on camera): And when it comes to the midterms, Representative
Duncan Hunter's name will be on the ballot as the Republican running for his seat because it is too late to remove his name and put someone else's in there. When it comes to that seat though Democrats clearly vying to try and flip it.
Sara Sidner, CNN -- Los Angeles.
WHITFIELD: And we've got so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM. And it all starts right after this.