Return to Transcripts main page


White House Has 12 Top Suspects for NYT Anonymous Op-Ed; Lindsey Graham: Op-Ed Means No Evidence of Trump/Russia Collusion; "Coffee Boy" Papadopoulos Asks for Mercy Ahead of Sentencing; Roger Stone Associate Goes Before Mueller Grand Jury; Former FBI Deputy Director McCabe Still Under Investigation; Sen. Booker Releases Documents GOP Says They Were Cleared. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 7, 2018 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you.


BOLDUAN: Thank you very much. You star in the film. Everyone should watch it. It airs on CNN, Sunday night, 8:00 p.m.

Thank you.

MILLER: It's a beautiful film.

HARLOW: It is a beautiful film.

Thank you for being here.

And thank you all for being with me this week. I'm Poppy Harlow, in New York. Have a great weekend. I will see you Monday.

"AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

"The Woodward book is a scam. The op-ed writer is a traitor. If I get impeached, it's not my fault, it is yours." How is that for a midterm message for you? Does that even fit on a bumper sticker? I don't think people care anymore. Regardless, that was a big part of the president's message last night when he was stumping for a Republican Senate candidate.

While he is still out west on the campaign trail, back in Washington, the hunt is on for the anonymous senior Trump administration official who penned that scathing essay against the president.

The president offering up to FOX his ideas, kind of, sort of, of who it could be.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, number one, "The Times" should never have done that. They have virtually -- it's treason. You could call it a lot of things. But to think you have somebody in all of the cabinets, so many people, they came forward, they are writing editorials. They are all saying, it's got to be at a low level. It may not be a Republican. It may not be a conservative. It may be a deep-state person that's been there a long time. You don't know where. It's a very unfair thing.


BOLDUAN: The list of the top brass in the administration coming out to deny that it was them who wrote it just keeps growing and growing. Even standing here, you almost have to squint to start so see the names. Maybe it's just how bad my eyesight is.

The White House, according to the "New York Times," has a list of 12 people as their top suspects.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the White House and is joining me with more on this.

Jeremy, the president started wondering aloud if the person who wrote this essay even existed. Now he concedes the person exists. How are they finding out who this person is?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, as you said, the president has alternated between questioning that this person exists and calling this person a gutless coward. Last night, as you saw, the president suggesting this could be a fairly low-level staffer. But I wouldn't hold your breath that the president actually believing that. What had been consistent throughout this is the president's clear anger and frustration about the fact that there's a senior administration official who wrote this editorial and put this out. Privately, we know the president has also been angered, urging his senior aides to look for this person, to carry out a hunt essentially for this senior administration official. We know that hunt has been under way with senior White House aides looking into the identity of this individual. The president is not only worried about individuals within his administration, he is also increasingly worried about the prospect of Democrats taking over the House and impeaching him. He seems to be turning it into a rallying cry for his voters.


TRUMP: What you are going to have is you are going to have a country that's going to turn into a third-world country. Because if the opposite party becomes president, every time, before it even starts, before you have even found out whether or not he or she is going to do a great job, they will say, we want to impeach him, and you will impeach him. It's so ridiculous. But we'll worry about that if it ever happens. But if it does happen, it's your fault, because you didn't go out to vote.


DIAMOND: It's your fault if you didn't go out to vote. That's the president's words last night to his supporters last night. But this is a message that Republican strategists have told me could be used by the president and by others in the Republican Party as they near the midterms. They do see the issue of impeachment as a way to motivate the president's base, his core supporters who may not typically turn out in midterm years, to come out this year, support Republicans across the board and ensure the Republicans keep the House and the president doesn't get impeached -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: I think I'm going to start trying that in different ways in my life. My show gets canceled, it's your fault, Jeremy, because you didn't get more people to watch my show.

DIAMOND: I will tune in.

BOLDUAN: OK, thanks. Appreciate it.

Joining me right now to discuss this -- not the status of our show -- former Republican governor of New Jersey and EPA administrator in the George W. Bush administration, Christine Todd Whitman, and CNN political commentator and former counselor to President Bill Clinton, Paul Begala.

Great to see you both.

Governor, in response, I saw in response to this essay and to this opinion piece, I saw that you suggest that they should go about -- they are so mad about it, the cabinet should invoke the 25th Amendment. That takes two-thirds of Congress. Do you think that's the remedy now?

CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN, (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR & FORMER EPA ADMINISTRATOR: The remedy certainly isn't staying within the White House and being an enabler if they think this president is off the rails. To have -- what really bothers me is we have a shadow government, people not elected, people who have not been vetted. They are now saying they are taking papers off the desk, they are trying to keep his worst instincts in check. For him to say that if impeachment goes on it's somebody else's fault -- no. We ended up with President Trump because people have not been voting in primaries and they have allowed the extreme elements of the parties to choose their choices for the fall. They didn't like those. We have gotten here over time. What worries me is you have people saying, don't worry, we're taking care of it. Who are you? We don't know who you are. You weren't elected. Even his supporters have got to say, we don't know you are doing what we want you to do.

[11:05:56] BOLDUAN: Paul, you have been in -- you have been in a pressure-cooker situation of a scandal-ridden White House before. If this happened on your watch, what would you be doing right now to be finding the person who wrote this? Would a lie detector test be high on your list?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I don't think a lie detector test would be something we would have gone into. We didn't that disloyalty in the Clinton White House. We had problems with federal investigations. He was cleared.

But I think the governor makes a really important point here. We should be talking about the substance of this op-ed and the substance of the Woodward book. Is the president fit to serve? I'm not persuaded we need to invoke the 25th Amendment. The governor is right about that. But I'm not as close as the people in Woodward's book or this op-ed. The problem with the op-ed is, the writer was gutless. The president is right about that. He is right and the governor is right to be complaining about that. You have to stand up. When I worked for President Clinton, if I felt like he was unstable and unhinged and all these things, I would have said so publicly. I would have walked out on the lawn and seen Wolf Blitzer and said, Wolf, I resign and here is why.

You don't have to ask Governor Whitman. You know there are people of courage in the Republican Party. You are sitting with one of them. Colin Powell, John McCain, God rest his soul, there are Republicans who have stood up at some political risk to themselves and their reputation and their career. That's what this gutless person needs to do. She or he needs to stand up and say, I am there, this is who I am, and this is why I think the president is unfit.

BOLDUAN: Paul is pointing to it, but you have a very unique perspective on the situation, Governor. You were EPA administrator to George W. Bush. You stepped down over a very strong difference in opinion on policy when it came to environmental rules. At any point, did you consider -- would you have considered writing an anonymous opinion piece anywhere to make your position known?


BOLDUAN: What this writer is trying to express is, I'm staying here to try to keep the ship afloat. Do you see that perspective at all?

WHITMAN: No. You really don't. I hear it. I understand it. I know that's what a lot of the sane people, as it were, as they call themselves around the president say they're doing. I think they're just being enablers. They weren't elected. They are not the people we expect to be representing us and doing policy. If the president is that unstable, then something more needs to be done. They need to stand up and be heard and say, this is how bad it is. There's a vice president and there's a process that would allow for that vice president to step forward. I may not agree with anything he will do on the social levels or other things, but I think he's more stable than the current president.

BOLDUAN: Fascinating because you have seen this from the inside. You have taken a stance. You have resigned your position and stepped down because of a difference of opinion.

WHITMAN: Right. You can do that. You don't have -- in that instance, it was so minor compared to what we are talking about now. It's practically not worth mentioning. There was no need to go out and trumpet about it and do it quietly. This is serious. We're talking about the president of the United States. When you have a combination of the Woodward book and then this anonymous op-ed, you have to stop and think, something is very wrong here. Either he doesn't know who to hire and can't manage people or what they are saying is real and, therefore, as a nation, we ought to worry about it. What does it say to us about us to the rest of the world? The world needs a very stable United States.

BOLDUAN: Paul, Lindsey Graham has an interesting theory this morning about the motivation behind this opinion piece. Let me play it for you. Listen.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This op-ed piece about the personality of the president, suggesting that he is unhinged and he is incapable of being a good president without being minded, tells me a lot about the Mueller investigation. I think what's happening here is a new line of attack. That is the best evidence yet that there's no collusion. This, to me, is a signal that if there's -- there's nothing there with Russia in terms of the president working with the Russians during his campaign. The next line of attack is the man is unfit for office, he is crazy.


[11:10:29] BOLDUAN: Do you see that, Paul?

BEGALA: No. It's moronic. It's moronic. And Lindsey is not a moron. He's a very bright guy.


BEGALA: So why is a bright guy saying something that moronic? Because --


BOLDUAN: That's why I asked you. Lindsey Graham is one -


BOLDUAN: Lindsey Graham is a complicated -- he has a complicated relationship with the president.

BEGALA: He's not very -- he's not very -- he's completely enabling. This is the problem. What the governor is talking about is extraordinary, someone within the executive branch breaking with the president as she did. It doesn't happen often. When it does, it's usually a matter of great principal and a person like her of great courage. The Congress every day is supposed to check and balance the president. This president is unchecked, unbalanced. It's because of people like Lindsay Graham who should be better. He doesn't lack brains. He lacks spine. He needs to do his job under the Constitution. He should bring people to the Hill and swear them under oath, is the president fit to serve, are we doing the right thing, did he give classified information to the Russians in the Oval Office? We know he did. Why isn't the Congress checking and balancing this man under the Constitution instead of making up this moronic nonsense. As if the op-ed had something to do with the Mueller probe. It's crazy.

BOLDUAN: Governor, I want you to have the last word. Do you think the president has a right to be paranoid now? WHITMAN: He already was. I don't think this was going to change

anything. I agree with Paul. Congress has been disappointing. They have a role to play in this and they have not. They have been enablers as well. It's time for them to accept the responsibility that there's a check and balance here. If they believe in that, they ought to be exercising it. To think that the Mueller probe is in any way involved in this is just ludicrous.

BOLDUAN: Governor, great to see you. Thank you for coming.


BOLDUAN: Paul, great to see you. Thank you.

BEGALA: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, sentencing day for the so-called coffee boy. Former Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, asking for mercy ahead of his sentencing for lying to federal investigators in the Russia probe. We will take you live to the courthouse. What does his future look like?

Plus, criminal charges are still possible for the embattled FBI deputy director, Andrew McCabe, in connection with the inspector general's report that said he lied. He lied to investigators as well. That is next.


[11:17:01] BOLDUAN: Soon, George Papadopoulos, the first Trump campaign adviser arrested in the Russia investigation, and the first to agree to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, he will learn his fate today. Some in the Trump orbit called Papadopoulos a coffee boy when his name was revealed. He is now center stage as he faces sentencing in a federal court in a few hours. He pleaded guilty nearly a year ago to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians.

Joining me now, CNN's Shimon Prokupecz with more on this.

Shimon, what do you expect to happen today?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: I do expect that while he is asking for leniency and his lawyers are asking him not to serve jail time, it's likely George Papadopoulos will serve some jail time. It's a pretty serious accusation that he pled guilty to, that he lied to the FBI. In fact, the government here, while he did provide some limited assistance and he cooperated, what's interesting is they said he did not provide substantial assistance. They are asking the judge as well to give him anywhere from a month to six months, up to six months in jail.

Certainly, a big day here for the special counsel. It's going to be one of their first cooperators, one of the first arrests here being sentenced today. This will end this chapter of the investigation. While parts of this investigation are still ongoing -- Kate? BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

To that point, an associate of Roger Stone in front of Mueller's grand jury today. Can you remind folks who Randy Credico is and why Mueller wants to talk to him?

PROKUPECZ: Credico is this interesting character in all of this. He is an associate of Roger Stone. I don't think they have the best relationship now. But where he plays in this has to do with WikiLeaks and what the Mueller team has been looking at is whether or not Roger Stone had any advance notice that WikiLeaks was going to post these -- the DNC e-mails, the John Podesta stuff, all of this, whether or not Roger Stone had any kind of advance notice. That's where Credico comes into play, because it's believed that he was somehow communicating with WikiLeaks. Whether through their lawyers or Julian Assange is not clear. But it seems that that is what Randy Credico, where his interest lies. Where the Mueller team wants to know his communications with Roger Stone about WikiLeaks. That seems to be the focus of the Mueller investigation. This would be the third person that we know of -- actually the fourth person that the Mueller team has wanted to talk to who is an associate of Roger Stone. Things here not looking good for Roger Stone. He himself, he has not been before the grand jury or talked to the Mueller team. Obviously, significant.


PROKUPECZ: Could indicate that he is a target in this investigation.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Great to see you, Shimon. Thanks so much.


[11:19:58] BOLDUAN: I want -- quick programming note for all of you. Tune in tonight, 7:00 eastern. I will interview Randy Credico, who Shimon was just talking about, about what went down today while I'm filling in for Erin Brunette on "OUTFRONT." See you then.

But first, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, he was fired back in March. But we are just now learning that he has been the subject of a grand jury investigation of his own for months. This stems from a DOJ investigation into whether McCabe misled internal investigators about his contacts with the media, reporting on the probe into the Clinton Foundation.

What does this mean for McCabe? Are criminal charges coming up?

CNN's Laura Jarrett is joining me right now with more on this.

Laura, what are you hearing about this? What's McCabe saying?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Kate, McCabe is not out of the woods yet. His attorney is batting down this new reporting out of the "Washington Post" confirming a grand jury has been used in this case. He says his client will ultimately be cleared and charges will not be brought.

I want to read a little bit of a statement that McCabe's attorney gave to us. He says, "This leak about a procedural step taken more than a month ago occurring in the midst of a disastrous week for the president is a sad and poorly veiled attempt to try to distract the American public."

So he's questioning the timing of the "Post" reporting, but not denying a grand jury was used. I should point out that the use of a grand jury like this, a federal criminal investigation, is routine. It's about as routine as having a prosecutor on the case. But it does show that the U.S. attorney here in D.C. is taking it seriously. She's not just paying lip service to the inspector general's referral that McCabe lied to investigators. Of course, McCabe denies it, says that he did nothing wrong. We will wait and see how this gets resolved -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Interesting.

Thanks, Laura. Appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: Going to show you a live picture of Capitol Hill right now. Coming up, Brett Kavanaugh may be out of the hot seat himself, but he is still the hottest topic on Capitol Hill. You can see Ted Cruz very interested at that very moment. After days of fireworks, witnesses are now testifying for and against Trump's Supreme Court pick. What's happening and what was with all the high drama yesterday? That's next.


[11:27:01] BOLDUAN: Right now on Capitol Hill, the fourth and final day of confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, is underway right now. Senators are hearing now from legal experts and other witnesses for and against the nominee.

This follows another day of high drama and conflict yesterday. Democratic Senator Cory Booker taking center stage declaring that he was knowingly going to break committee rules and risk expulsion from the Senate to release documents that he thinks the public needed to view and that had been barred from public view, called committee confidential. Republicans accused him of grand standing saying later the documents he was talking about had already been cleared for public release.

CNN's Anderson Cooper asked Senator Booker about it last night.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, A.C. 360: This morning, you said you were going to break Senate rules so you could release documents pertaining to Kavanaugh. You said you were willing to risk expulsion from the Senate. Republicans have said the documents had already been approved for release before 4:00 a.m. this morning. Senator Cornyn accused you of a political stunt to bolster your possible run for the presidency. Was that just a stunt?

SEN. CORY BOOKER, (D), NEW JERSEY: The amusing thing about that is what Cornyn first said is he threatened, threatened me with expulsion. Said what I was doing was unbecoming to the office I was holding. It's a deep insult for a Senator to give to a Senator. He was doing that because last night I broke the Senate rules by reading from that e-mail. Then today, throughout the entire day -- this is not just about one e-mail. I released over 20 committee confidential documents in violation of what they say are the Senate rules, in which Cornyn said I should be expelled for.


BOLDUAN: Joining me is CNN senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju.

Manu, do we know what that drama was all about? And is Booker facing any real consequences?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This all stemmed from an effort earlier this week at night when Booker was reading from confidential documents in the open session. Republicans said he should not have done that, because it was a violation of the rules. The next day, that's when the drama played out in the committee in which he decided to release some of the documents. Yes, some of the documents that he did release were cleared by the committee. There were four documents that were greenlighted by the Senate Judiciary Committee for public release. But Booker released more than 20 documents, most of which have not been cleared by this committee. As a result, you are hearing Republicans saying this is a clear violation of the rules and there should be a Senate Ethics Committee investigation to look into this.

I can tell you from covering Senate Ethics Committee, it takes a lot to expel a Senator from his or her seat. It's highly, highly, highly unlikely that would happen here. If anything, there would be a letter admonishing him for his actions. Beyond that, it's hard to see any real consequences that Booker faces, which is one reason why he was saying to John Cornyn yesterday, bring it on, because there's very little that probably would ultimately try to do.

Of course, as you mentioned, Republicans saw this as all a political stunt for someone who is almost certainly going to consider running for president --