Return to Transcripts main page


Manafort to Plead Guilty; Water Rescues Underway in North Carolina; Gas Explosions Near Boston. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired September 14, 2018 - 09:30   ET



[09:33:01] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

Of course we are continuing to follow Hurricane Florence. Our Anderson Cooper is on the ground there in the Carolinas.

But I do have major breaking news that just crossed to bring to you. And that is that President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, according to our reporting, has indicated that he is prepared to plead guilty. This is a significant development. This is a guilty plea in the second trial that Manafort faces. Jury selection set to begin on Monday where he faces seven counts, including money laundering, all tied to his work and his lobbying work with the former pro-Russian government, Viktor Yanukovych, in Ukraine.

Again, the man that ran the president's campaign for six critical months leading up to the 2016 election, we have learned from our reporting will plead guilty today in U.S. district court in Washington. There was a lot of talk about whether or not this would happen. And a key question still, as I bring our legal analyst, a former New York City prosecutor, Paul Callan in, a key question here, Paul, is whether this plea agreement, we just don't know at this time, whether or not it will agree -- it will include cooperation.


HARLOW: And that's the key.

CALLAN: That's --

HARLOW: You can plead guilty, but will you plead guilty and agree to cooperate with the special counsel, Mueller's team, and give very important information to them or not. What -- what's your read?

CALLAN: That's -- that's the central -- that's the central question here. And people should understand that probably 90 percent of the time when somebody pleads guilty to a federal criminal charge there's no cooperation. It's just the prosecutor wants to avoid a trial. The defense wants to avoid a trial. And a plea of guilty is entered.

So when there's a deal, however, an agreement to cooperate, the defendant gets a much lighter sentence normally. And, of course, in this case, if the deal is to provide information relevant to the investigation of the Russian connection to the president, it's a very, very big deal. But we won't know.

HARLOW: We won't know. So let -- the pretrial motion was set to begin today at 11:00. And we knew that this might be coming just before that. And that's why a lot of this seems to be -- have been pushed back by the judge.

[09:35:06] Here is what the special counsel's team -- because this is the first person who was indicted by Mueller's team a year ago in October. This is what they allege, that he hired lobbyists for this pro-Russian government, Viktor Yanukovych's government in Ukraine, who met with members of Congress, who helped organize meetings between Viktor Yanukovych and U.S. officials, including a 2010 meeting with President Obama, who promoted the placement of articles that were very pro-Yanukovych government in American media, like "The New York Times." None of that on its face is illegal.

However, if you do not disclose it as part of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, if you don't tell the Department of Justice about it, right, and then if you allegedly, they allege he laundered the money that he got, the millions of dollars from doing that, that is illegal. That's what he's up against here.

CALLAN: Yes, that's what he's up against. But, of course, remember, he's already been convicted of eight counts of criminal conduct in Virginia, in that trial that was just finished recently. What his real fear is, that if he's convicted in this trial, he might be facing consecutive time. Now, he's probably going to get between six and 12 years on the Virginia charges, but he could face another 12 years on these counts.

HARLOW: Right.

CALLAN: And that could run consecutive. But a deal might eliminate that and allow him to have what we call concurrent time.

HARLOW: And, again, remember, he refused to cooperate or plead ahead of the first trial that he was then found guilty on those -- on those eight counts, right?

CALLAN: And that was a friendly district for him because, remember, in Washington, D.C., it's an overwhelmingly democratic district. At least in the Virginia jury pool, he likely had people who were registered Republican.

HARLOW: Let me -- as we bring in our Evan Perez on this reporting, you know, Evan, just yesterday, because, you know, this is a man, again, who ran the president's campaign for six months and the president, as he said after the first trial, you know, says this had nothing to do with my campaign, et cetera. He's a good man, et cetera.

Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer told "Politico" yesterday, there is no -- and I'm quoting here, there is no fear that Paul Manafort would cooperate against the president because there is nothing to cooperate about, and we long ago evaluated him as an honorable man.

We don't know, do we, Evan, whether or not this guilty plea will include a cooperation?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. Exactly, Poppy, at this hour, we do not know. But certainly at 11:00 a.m., just over an hour from now, we expect that Paul Manafort is going to enter a guilty plea. Just a few minutes ago, the prosecutors from the special counsel's office, Robert Mueller's office, filed new documents in court, a 76 page criminal information document which lays out essentially what we expect he's going to plead guilty to, which is conspiracy against the United States, money laundering, tax fraud, failing to report foreign bank accounts and lying to the Justice Department and the FBI when he was interviewed previously about these foreign bank accounts that he had and about his business that he was doing in Ukraine.

So, at this hour, we expect that Paul Manafort is on his way to court. He is going to be -- we expect that he will be in court at 11:00 and he will enter a guilty plea.

As you mentioned, what we don't know is the finer points of the deal, which we know they were negotiating for multiple -- several hours yesterday. We had a team outside the special counsel's office and we saw that Paul Manafort's legal team was there spending several hours. They ordered out for lunch. We also saw that the prosecuting team that prosecuted him, that got those guilty verdicts in Virginia, in Alexandria just last month, they also showed up there for this session. So we expect that whatever this deal is that has been reached, and we're going to learn more about it at 11:00 a.m., we expect that this deal includes the resolution of those charges that remain in Alexandria. If you remember --

HARLOW: Right.

PEREZ: He was facing 18 charges there. He was convicted of eight of them, Poppy.

HARLOW: Exactly. All right, important reporting, Evan Perez.

Again, the breaking news that just crossed, the special counsel, Bob Mueller's office, confirming that Paul Manafort, the president's former chairman for about six months, will plead guilty today in U.S. district court in Washington this morning. We're all over this.

Also, we are all over the breaking news hitting the Carolina coast, Hurricane Florence. We will be back with more of that breaking news. My colleague Anderson Cooper is on the ground. We've got you covered. Stay with us.


[09:43:38] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome back to our continuing coverage of Hurricane Florence, now at a category one. Very slow moving storm that is going to -- that has made landfall at 7:15 in Wrightsville earlier today, this morning. Our Dianne Gallagher is in River Bend, where they have been gathering

boats in order to try to rescue people. We've seen a number of rescues. Some 200 people rescued in New Bern and surrounding areas over the last several hours in the overnight as the water has gotten -- has been rising.

Dianne, explain where you are and what you're seeing.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, right now I am in a neighborhood in River Bend. We're going down into what appears to be sort of a dead end area. But we're in a shallow point at this point. We're in a boat because it keeps going deeper and shallow, and deeper and shallower and that tends to be part of the problem there as people live in a certain area, on a street, and they're like my street's high, it's not a big deal, and then it's further down and they can't get out. Their cars stall out. They can't physically get out. Some areas in this are above my chest, up around here. And, again, I pointed out, I'm about 5'10", so these are high waters here.

Now, again, it kind of goes in and out, in and out. We are with a group of volunteers who drove down from Maryland at about 4:00 p.m. yesterday. They worked until 4:30 in the morning, Anderson. They say they pulled about 40 people out, rescuing them in downtown New Bern, around where I was last night.

[09:45:05] In fact, they told me that the water where I was standing at Union Point Park is about 30 feet right now. They saw about five foot waves coming in off the Neuse River. They took a little break and got back out here as soon as 4:30 -- excuse me, as soon as it was light this morning. They've been working ever since, pulling people out of these neighborhoods and river bends.

There was actually just a boat that went by us with additional people and their two dogs who came out. I asked how they were doing. They're like, oh, we're real wet, but we're good.

This seems to have surprised people. Again, I'm not sure why because they did call for evacuations. They were mandatory to evacuate in Craven County. I apologize, right now, we're kind of doing like a little bit of -- we're starting the boat up again, trying to move here.

But I just want to point out how these are volunteers, Anderson. These guys drove down here from Maryland. They came down to help out. We've talked about the Cajun Navy. The Cajun Navy drove up. They are positioned all around North Carolina. These are good Samaritans, these are heroes who chose to come here and help people who did not evacuate.

Now, our mission right now is not for human beings. Our mission right now is to go get other boats. This can help out with the rescue missions. This can help out just people getting property as well. But we can help get more people if we have more boats. Simple math there.

If you can take a look around me, you can see these sheds. You can see it goes up high on some houses. Some that have come around me. Not as high.

In this particular area right here, this is Mitchel. He's walking next to us. He got out of the boat. He's going to walk right here. It's about a little thigh high there on him. He's a little taller than I am.

But these homes, depending on the topography here, is on how high or how low this water is. And that seems to be where some of the confusion is. I talked to several people who said, I don't even live on a low street, but I couldn't get out because the street next to me was so low. The street in front of me I had to get on was so low.

Anderson, just to get here from where I was at New Bern earlier, it took me almost 40 minutes to go just a couple of miles because of all the downed trees, the flooding that's on the roadways, the downed power lines that are everywhere.

We're having some problems getting around. Again, I apologize, we have another crew member here who was just jumping back in the boat.

So we're going to go get this boat. We're going to go a little faster here now with the -- because we're going back into a different area here.

But, again, we just wanted to kind of illustrate what these people, these volunteers are trying to do right now. So there are more rescues, Anderson. Still about 100 people or so who need rescue. And the water is continuing to rise across the county.

COOPER: Yes. It's incredible always to see volunteers, you know, putting themselves at risk in order to save their neighbors, in order to save, you know, fellow citizens and folks they don't even know. And they're doing incredible work.

Dianne, we'll check in with you to see how that goes. Hope you're able to get a couple more boats. As you say, that's the mission you're on right now, not picking up people but trying to get more boats in order to be able to kind of grow these rescues.

We're going to take a short break. Our coverage continues from here in Wilmington, North Carolina. Also in South Carolina. We have correspondents all over the region. We'll be right back.


[09:52:53] HARLOW: All right, welcome back. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

We are containing, of course, to watch Hurricane Florence as it batters the Carolina coastline. My colleague, Anderson Cooper, is there. We'll get back to him in just a moment.

But I do want to update you on something that happened overnight just north of Boston. Gas crews right now are inspecting more than 8,000 homes and businesses there. This is after a series of sequential explosions overnight and fires that one official compared to Armageddon.

Let's go to my colleague, Athena Jones. She is in Andover, Massachusetts, for us this morning.

What happened and what are they learning this morning? I mean they're inspecting 8,000 different buildings at this point.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Poppy. That's right, 8,600 gas meters. So 8,600 buildings, whether they be homes or businesses. And this is a really frightening situation. It's something that everybody can relate to. Almost everyone either is or knows someone who has gas fueling their home.

At last check, we got an update from Columbia Gas, the company that provides the gas to this area. The gas was still not off. And the officials are warning that this incident could stretch a week or more with people not able to access their homes. We know that they're now inspecting. They're putting up different colored labels on homes that they have inspected showing they're safe or restricted or unsafe. We know that one person was killed. At least ten, including a firefighter, were wounded, including one critically.


JONES (voice over): A string of violent gas explosions ripping through nearly 40 homes and businesses in three Massachusetts towns, sparking fires that stretched across dozens of blocks and forced thousands to evacuate.

CHIEF MICHAEL MANSFIELD, ANDOVER, MASSACHUSETTS FIRE DEPARTMENT: I've been in this -- in the fire service for almost 39 years, and I've never seen anything like this in my entire career. It looked like Armageddon. It really did.

JONES: One explosion collapsing this chimney on a car and killing an 18-year-old man who was inside. The authorities say an issue with gas lines may have prompted the explosions, which began shortly before 5:00 p.m.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, that smoke is crazy, bro.

JONES: Loud booms ringing out as fires erupted without warning. Firefighters and rescue workers racing to respond, answering more than 70 reports of fires, explosions and gas odors as the night pressed on.

[09:55:10] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And there was state police up at the top of the road, state police down here, you know, local watch police. It was mayhem pretty much.

JONES: The chaos forcing thousands of residents and workers to evacuate as smoke billowed above multiple neighborhoods.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a paralyzed father. I had to get him out of here as quickly as possible, you know. They told us to get out. Insane. JONES: As of Thursday night, local utility company Columbia Gas was

still working to shut off the gas. Authorities warning that some of the lines were over pressurized and that the threat is not over.

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER (R), MASSACHUSETTS: This is still very much an active scene.

MAYOR DAN RIVERA, LAWRENCE, MASSACHUSETTS: If you have not evacuated, you've just got to go. Trust us, when we tell you, if you stay in your home you're going to be at risk.

JONES: Earlier in the day, before the explosions, Columbia Gas put out this news release, announcing that they were upgrading natural gas lines in towns across the state, including the neighbors impacted by the explosions. The company saying Thursday that their thoughts are with everyone affected by the incident as they work to support first responders and complete safety checks.

BAKER: At this time the focus remains on insuring the public safety. Once that's complete, we'll work with federal government and others to investigate how this occurred and to hold the appropriate parties accountable for their actions.


JONES: Now, the National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating this incident, and we expect to learn more information as a press conference Governor Charlie Baker is going to be holding at some point in the next couple of hours.

Meanwhile, shelters are open and there's an emergency operation center that is up and running.


HARLOW: Athena Jones, thank you very much. Incredibly scary watching that unfold overnight. Appreciate the reporting.

Again, we're going to get back to my colleague Anderson Cooper in just a moment. He is on the Carolina coastline where Hurricane Florence continues to batter and pour down rain. We'll bring you the latest in just a minute.