Return to Transcripts main page


Cosby Sentencing Begins Today, Faces up to 30 Years in Prison; CNN: Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein Expecting to be Fired. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired September 24, 2018 - 10:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: These are live pictures. This is outside the office of Senator Susan Collins. A GOP senator, she's a key swing vote on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, these protesters protesting against his nomination, a group of women there. We heard them earlier calling for his accusers to be heard. We will continue to follow this story here, a number of senators under pressure here to reconsider their vote, as we get ready for testimony on Thursday with Ford coming before the Senate. Christine Blasey Ford, and other stories coming out of possible allegations as well. We're going to continue to monitor that story, of course.

Meanwhile, other news today, disgraced comedian Bill Cosby, he could be labeled a sexually violent predator by the end of the day, a sentencing hearing for the 81-year-old underway as we speak. He is facing up to -- this is a maximum of 30 years in prison, this after being convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004.

CNN legal analyst Areva Martin joins us now. Areva, as you look at this case here, our understanding is 30 years would be really the outer end of what a sentence might be, right?

[10:35:07] That the judge on these three counts might have him serve concurrently. What's a realistic expectation for his sentencing?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: When you look at the data in terms of how judges in this particular county and this state sentence people who are in similar situations as Bill Cosby, meaning individuals who've been convicted of the kinds of felonies that he's been convicted of but with no prior criminal record. The data suggests that the sentencing looks like anywhere from 22 months up to three years. I think that's a more realistic range when we think about what Bill Cosby is facing today. We know that he's 81 years old. His defense team is arguing that he's failing in his health. And they're going to use those factors to try to argue for a much lighter sentence and possibly even home confinement or probation.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: So a few questions, Areva. And I'm glad you're with us to go through all of this. I mean a, outside of the sentencing the judge is going to have to determine whether or not Bill Cosby will be labeled a violent sexual predator. So I'm wondering what would determine that, right?

And then also, will we hear from Bill Cosby? He did not testify in his own defense, but he may speak today and how important could any sort of morsel of remorse from him or an apology, which we also have not heard, how could that factor into his sentencing?

MARTIN: Good questions, Poppy. So as to your first question, Bill Cosby has already been examined by a state medical examiner. And that medical examiner has already determined that he has violent tendencies and that he should be designated as a sexually violent predator. We know that his team is going to push back on that designation because it carries with it public shaming, community alerts, as well as that's a legal determination if the judge does indeed make that determination today in that legal determination could be used against Cosby in the various civil defamation actions that are pending throughout the country. We know in Massachusetts, for example, there are seven plaintiffs that Cosby -- that have accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them. And now they're suing him for defamation. So a determination by the judge today that he's a sexually violent predator could be used in those civil cases.

Two, as to you point about remorse, that's a really big issue. And that's what we expect to see in most sentencing hearings, is for the defendant to take the stand and to express remorse, to apologize to the victims. And to talk about how sorry he or she is in terms of how their conduct has impacted this victim.

Now, what we have seen from Bill Cosby to date is something totally opposite of that. He hasn't expressed any remorse, and in fact, his wife just recently filed a complaint against this judge, claiming that he's been unfair, that he's been biased in his handling of this entire trial. So far from expressing remorse, we have seen this attack of the judge by Cosby and his wife.

HARLOW: Areva, thank you very much. We have to jump because we have some breaking news to get to on Capitol Hill. Appreciate all of that. We'll watch the Cosby hearing.

Look at what is happening live. Folks, this is on Capitol Hill, protesters protesting the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh outside of Senator Susan Collins' office. Listen in.

We have our Capitol Hill reporter, congressional correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty on the phone with us. Sunlen, what do we know about this group, what they're saying, et cetera this morning?


HARLOW: You know, we're having a hard time hearing Sunlen.


HARLOW: Let's get in a quick break. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:43:39] SCIUTTO: The breaking news now, CNN can report that the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is expecting to be fired by President Trump. A source telling CNN's Laura Jarrett here, the deputy attorney general, long under fire from this president, that coming to a tee just to the last several days when it was reported, including by CNN, that he discussed wearing a wire with the president even discussing invoking the 25th amendment to remove him. Our Laura Jarrett is joining us now. Laura, what are you hearing?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: So far, all we know, Jim and Poppy, is that the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, is expected to be fired today. This comes on the heels of that explosive report about the deputy attorney general musing about wearing a wire on the president and musing about invoking the 25th amendment. Lots of officials at the Justice Department, current and former, pushed back on that reporting, saying that he was just being sarcastic, but clearly, this is a fast moving situation. We wait to see exactly how all this will play out. We haven't seen a statement from either him or the White House yet, Jim, but I'm told from a source familiar, if in fact this all comes to completion today, that there is a plan in place as for what happens to the Russia investigation. Of course, that would be the big thing on everybody's mind because Rosenstein oversees the Mueller probe, because Sessions, the attorney general, has recused himself.

[10:45:02] So if in fact this all comes to fruition, then the solicitor general, the number three over here at the Justice Department, Noel Francisco, would become the acting attorney general for purposes only of overseeing the Mueller investigation. He would still remain solicitor general and then Matt Whitaker, Sessions' current chief of staff, would become the acting deputy attorney general for purposes of everything else. So I know that's a mouthful, it's a lot to process here guys, but I just wanted to get you the current plan as we understand it. There will be someone overseeing Mueller.

HARLOW: Right. So this is very significant, Laura, for a number of reasons, namely of interest to so many, of course, is the Mueller probe and the independence of that and the ability for it to move forward. Laura, you have the fact that Sessions resigned in terms of recused himself from the Russia probe. So Rosenstein has been overseeing it. The solicitor general would step in temporarily to oversee that part, but there's something very important here, and that is the Federal Vacancies Act. And that would then, if this all goes through, if the president does fire Rosenstein, this would allow the president to pick anyone he wants, anyone who has a Senate confirmed position, to be deputy attorney general, right?

JARRETT: That's exactly right. So it isn't the case that the president just has to accept whatever the Justice Department has all worked out here in a neat solution. We may not see that come to fruition either. But this is at least, as we know right now, I haven't checked my phone in the last few seconds, but at least as we understand right now, the current plan. The president could blow up all of that and decide he wants someone else entirely.

Remember, we saw this with Mick Mulvaney. We saw this with Shulkin. There are a lot of different moves here and the president has quite a bit of power to put in whomever he wants if the person is already Senate confirmed. So I think we'll just have to wait and see whether the president is willing to go along with the plan.

SCIUTTO: This would be the second senior law enforcement official fired by this president, although it appears that Rod Rosenstein may have walked out on his own before, expecting to be fired. Fired by this president with the Russia probe, at least as part of the justification, certainly in recent days with this news of Rod Rosenstein considering the 25th amendment, et cetera, that adds an extra dimension, but we should remind people that for months and months, the president has attacked Rod Rosenstein in this investigation.

Shimon Prokupecz, if I could bring you in on this, and Shan Wu, we have him standing by as well. You talk of a Saturday Night Massacre playing out over time, right? In the Nixon administration, that might have taken place on a Saturday, but over the course of months, you have a president removing people overseeing an investigation that he, one, is a party to, but two, strongly disapproves of.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: You know, Jim, you're exactly right. I mean this would be a momentous move in this investigation. Certainly everything changes now, because this could likely become part of the investigation. If in fact what Rod Rosenstein, people close to him, and people at the Department of Justice have said, that the idea that he wanted to wiretap someone to record the president or record the president in some secret way was just a joke, if in fact that does come out to be the case and the president is just using this as an excuse to finally fire him, to finally remove him from this investigation, because we know, as you said, that the president has attacked Rod Rosenstein in tweets, privately has attacked Rod Rosenstein, and perhaps has been looking for this excuse to finally take some kind of action in this investigation against someone who is investigating his actions, the Russians, his campaign. And this could finally, sort of perhaps may have given him that excuse to go ahead and do so

But if in fact it is shown that this was all a joke and not as has been reported, that could potentially be a problem now as well for the president. But this is significant. Certainly, something that we had all heard the president wanted to do. His aides, people close to him, have talked about sort of telling him not to do it, listening, and all of a sudden today, this morning, we have this massive huge development in this investigation and something that the Department of Justice certainly has been concerned about would happen and has been trying to protect Rod Rosenstein from happening.

So we'll see. We'll see where this goes the rest of the day. And then we'll see what happens in terms of this investigation and how this investigation moves forward.

HARLOW: All right. Let's go to our Kaitlan Collins, our White House reporter who does have more on this breaking news. Kaitlan, I believe you have some new reporting on this. Again, the breaking news is that the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein believes that he is about to be fired at any moment. What are you hearing from your sources?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That's what we're hearing from the justice side. But I have confirmed with a senior administration official that Rod Rosenstein did resign to the Chief of Staff John Kelly.

[10:50:01] It's unclear when he submitted his resignation, but it is confirmed that he did tell John Kelly that he is going to resign. Of course, that was with that expectation as Laura Jarrett was reporting and Shimon there, that he expected to be fired after that bombshell "New York Times" story broke, that he had considered wearing a wire to go speak with the president, having other people wear a wire to go speak with the president, and in an attempt to encourage some people to invoke the 25th amendment to forcibly remove the president from office.

Now, of course, we know that is something that Rod Rosenstein has denied emphatically. We saw those two statements come out last week. The first statement to "The New York Times" where he said he wasn't going to be commenting any further on this matter based on anonymous sources, but then we reported later on that after discussions with the White House, they made it clear to Rod Rosenstein that he needed to put out a firmer denial for President Trump, which we did see later Tuesday night. Of course, however, that relationship didn't really seem to have any hope left, and now we do know that Rod Rosenstein has submitted his resignation to the White House with obviously this expectation that he was going to be fired after that story broke.

Now, it's interesting, Jim and Poppy, because after the last few days, we have seen the president has had so many other things on his mind, not just with all the drama surrounding his Supreme Court nominee, that Rod Rosenstein really judging by people I have spoken with who have spoken to the president, wasn't always at the top of his list. It wasn't at the top of his mind when he was discussing all this, but it certainly was something. And clearly, Rod Rosenstein, someone who had a tense relationship with the president at times, with the president tweeting about him, but then things had seemed to improve in recent months. Clearly, did not think he could stay on in this job any longer. That's why he has resigned to the Chief of Staff John Kelly so far.

SCIUTTO: Of course, the question is whether the article in "The New York Times" that we learned about the 25th amendment, et cetera, is the proximate cause or if the president's disapproval of the Russian investigation which he has criticized Rosenstein for a number of months.

Shan Wu, if I could go to you. Just in terms of Rod Rosenstein's replacement when he or she is named, the immediate replacement, the Solicitor General, Noel Francisco, but as Poppy noted, the president can choose anybody else who currently holds the Senate confirmed position to be beyond the acting, a more permanent replacement. How much power does that new person in that position have over the Mueller investigation? Including can that new person end the Mueller investigation?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: They would have enormous power over the Mueller investigation. And it really is going to be determined by what kind of person is appointed and whether they're willing to wield that power responsibly or not. A responsible person is going to come in and they're going to take their time. They're going to talk to the career people. They'll talk to Mueller. And they're going to want to do a professional job to make sure that they oversee the investigation but not do something reckless or something overtly political.

But on paper, they will be in charge of it for purposes of that investigation. They will be the attorney general. And if they're so inclined, they could end it at that point or direct it to be resolved in a way that may be more politically expedient for the president. So they'll certainly be able to do that. The question is, what kind of person does the president put in there.

HARLOW: Laura Jarrett, I believe we have Laura with us. - All right. We don't have Laura with us.

Shimon, back to you. Are you getting any reporting on the president's state of mind at this point, and also, who he may have in mind to name? Because again, the solicitor general would oversee this probe for now, but then you would assume the president would take up the opening here that he has legally under the Federal Vacancies Act to name the person he sees best fit here.

PROKUPECZ: Right. No, we don't have any idea who he's thinking about in terms of replacing. It could happen, but certainly people that we have talked to, we have not heard any names. You know even as of this morning, folks here at CNN, some of our reporters here, had heard that people close to the president were urging him not to do this. Not to fire the deputy attorney general, but clearly, something changed this morning. You know, we know that folks at the Department of Justice had been huddled this morning. We thought something was going on because the folks there were not really communicating with our Laura Jarrett. Things were kind of quiet, so we had suspicions that something was going to happen.

Certainly, we did not expect this, the fact that the deputy attorney general would be fired by the president of the United States, especially in the middle, still continuing this investigation, this Russia investigation that Rosenstein is overseeing. And what does this mean now for the new person that will come in and oversee this investigation? That person has to probably be briefed on everything.

And also, keep in mind, Poppy and Jim, as you know this, we're kind of in the middle of what we believe perhaps may be the end of getting close to the end of this Russia investigation.

[10:55:05] Certainly, as it relates to the president. There are all these ongoing discussions whether or not the president is going to sit down for an interview with the Mueller team, whether or not the Mueller team is going to subpoena the president, if he continues to refuse to meet with them. You know, and Rosenstein was a big part of those decisions. Everything that Mueller was doing, he would have to go to Rod Rosenstein and seek permission to do that.

SCIUTTO: We should add our latest reporting that Rod Rosenstein is apparently on his way, physically now, to the White House. We also had a confirmation just a short time ago, a few moments ago, that he has, and this coming from the White House, that he has submitted his resignation, but keep in mind it was our reporting, Laura Jarrett's reporting, that this was in expectation of being fired.

Kaitlan Collins, if I could bring you back, if you're still there.


SCIUTTO: Remember with James Comey, that James Comey, when he was fired a little more than a year ago, there was this grand show of putting out this report by Rod Rosenstein, imagine that, claiming that the reason for the firing was because of his handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation. And then within days, the president blew that up by saying he fired him because of the Russia investigation. The circumstances here, we had this story in the last several days saying that Rod Rosenstein considered invoking the 25th amendment to remove the president, wearing a wire, et cetera. Certainly, it appears to be a proximate cause for this, but from your reporting, is it the Russia investigation? Or -- and was it just a matter of time in light of the president's criticism of the Russia investigation and Rosenstein's leadership of that or this latest story or some combination.

COLLINS: Well I think this story did seem to be the final straw. I mean, as we said earlier, things between President Trump and Rod Rosenstein had improved in recent months. The president stopped tweeting about him, stopped attacking him on Twitter. He's at the White House pretty frequently, they're briefing the president on one thing or consulting with him on another, especially with regards to the requests with the declassified documents which President Trump backed up on last week and said he was no longer going to have them do that.

So the thing is, this is all when it took place last year, right around the firing of James Comey. That was when apparently Rod Rosenstein was having these conversations about wearing a wire to meet the president or invoking the 25th amendment. That was one of the most chaotic times surrounding the Trump administration and that really contributed a lot to the bad relationship and the bad blood between Trump and Rosenstein at that time. Not on the same level with it was between him and the actual Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but it was Jeff Sessions who recommended that the president pick Rod Rosenstein as his deputy.

HARLOW: Right.

COLLINS: So just a lot of drama there with that relationship, but things had improved. But of course, this relationship, how do you move forward with an attorney general who there are reports that he did -

HARLOW: Right. COLLINS: -- you know, want you to wear a wire and what not. But of course, there was a lot of doubt among the president's allies. They thought the story was a set-up, that people were setting the president up to fire Rod Rosenstein. You have to take into account that the president heard a lot of that information, but he did want to address this. You heard him address it at the rally Friday night there in Springfield, Missouri. I was there. The president said there was this lingering stench at the Justice Department and that they were going to get rid of it pretty soon. That seemed like a thinly veiled threat.

HARLOW: Kaitlan, let's take a step back, outside of the reason for you know the firing and the resignation to why this matters to the American people. Not only did he oversee the Mueller probe, but Rosenstein is also the one with the authority to decide how broad the Mueller probe can be. It is he who tells Mueller, yes, you can look into these circumstances with Paul Manafort outside of his time on the campaign, right? I mean this is significant in terms of what he does in that job in overseeing the Mueller probe and what he allows?

COLLINS: He was a pretty crucial defender of the Mueller probe as well. Of course, he has a lot of power. You're exactly right there, to decide if the Mueller investigation should continue or if it's been too widespread, and he's always been defending the Mueller probe for the last several months, as the president has increasingly ramped up his attacks on it. Rod Rosenstein has been what was seen as the voice of reason, saying that the Mueller probe wasn't too expansive, that he hasn't seen anything like that and he hasn't seen a reason why they shouldn't continue with this investigation.

Now the question going forward here is, of course, yes, it will be what is the reason for this firing, what is the reason for this resignation from him, but of course, what happens to the Mueller probe going forward? Does this give the president more room to just increase his attacks on it more, to say that there are people in the top ranking positions at the Department of Justice that are out to get him and undermine him. I think that Rosenstein story threw a lot of problems into that.

HARLOW: OK, Kaitlan Collins, we appreciate all the reporting. And again, Laura Jarrett breaking the new along with Kaitlan Collins. Shimon, thanks for the analysis, Shan Wu, the breaking news. The deputy attorney general who oversees the Russia probe will no longer.

SCIUTTO: Are we watching a Saturday Night Massacre in slow motion here? I'm Jim Sciutto. Thanks so much for watching us today. "At this hour": with Kate Bolduan starts right now.