Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Elvis, Babe Ruth, Scalia Among Medal of Freedom Honorees; Trump Says He Wrote Answers to Mueller's Questions and Not His Lawyers; White House Official Says Trump to Get Rid of Firefighters but Not Arsonists. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired November 16, 2018 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Orrin Hatch is one of the longest serving Senators in American history, having represented Utah for more than 41 years. Currently the Senate's President pro Tempore and chairman of the finance committee, Senator Hatch has sponsored more bills that have become law than any other living member of congress. He has led the way in confirming qualified judges throughout the federal judiciary in order to protect our constitutional order and has championed religious liberty, fought against communism and stood on the side of freedom around the world. Senator Hatch's dedication to the Senate, the country and the rule of law has helped make our country what it is today and for that we honor him. (APPLAUSE)

The Honorable Antonin Scalia. Antonin Scalia was one of the greatest Supreme Court justices in American history. Confirmed unanimously in 1986, Justice Scalia authored nearly 900 Supreme Court opinions. He was a champion of the Constitution, insisting that the role of federal judges is to uphold the original meaning of the Constitution, never to impose their own beliefs on the country. Justice Scalia's legal philosophy is rooted in America's founding principles, legal heritage and constitutional obligations. He never backed down there the bedrock proposition that the Constitution means and will always mean what it meant when it was adopted. Justice Scalia's devotion to the rule of law has left a lasting legacy for our country and we now honor this giant of the supreme court. (APPLAUSE)]

Dr. Miriam Adelson. Miriam Adelson is a committed doctor, philanthropist and humanitarian. She has practiced internal and emergency medicine, studied it and specialized in the disease of narcotic addiction and founded two research centers committed to fighting substance abuse. She and her husband Sheldon also established the Adelson Medical Research Foundation which supports research to prevent, reduce or eliminate disabling and life- threatening illness. As a committed member of the American Jewish community, she has supported Jewish schools, holocaust memorial organizations, friends of the Israel defense forces and birth right Israel, among other causes. The United States is proud to recognize dr. Adelson for an incredible career and record of service to her community and the country. (APPLAUSE)

Roger Staubach. Hall of fame quarterback Roger Staubach played 11 seasons in the National Football League, winning two Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys and making the pro bowl six times. He first made his mark on football at the United States naval academy where he set 28 records and won the Heisman Trophy in 1963. Soon after graduating, Mr. Staubach volunteered to fight in the Vietnam War. Following his football career, he was a successful businessman and a champion for many charitable causes, including the united way of America, the children's scholarship fund and allies in service, an organization devoted to supporting service members, veterans and their spouses. The United States now honors Mr. Staubach's life of service and accomplishment on and off the field. (APPLAUSE)

[14:05:00] The Honorable Alan C. Page. Justice Alan Page is an accomplished jurist, athlete and philanthropist. After a successful college football career at the University Of Notre Dame, he played 15 years in the National Football League with the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears. He started in four super bowls, was named the NFL's most valuable player in 1971 and was inducted into the hall of fame in 1988. While playing for the Vikings he obtained his law degree and practiced law during the off-season. After retiring from the NFL in 1981, Justice Page practiced law full-time before winning a seat on the Minnesota Supreme Court In 1992. He served for more than 20 years. Since 1988 his page education foundation has provided scholarships to nearly 7,000 students. The United States proudly recognizes Justice Page's athletic accomplishments and lifetime of public service and philanthropy. (APPLAUSE)

George Herman Babe Ruth Jr. Babe Ruth played for four baseball teams between 1914 and 1935. He set records that stood for decades including 714 home runs, 2,873 hits, 2,174 runs and 2,062 walks. He remains unmatched with a .690 slugging percentage. Over 15 legendary seasons, Babe Ruth led the Yankees to seven American league championships and four World Series championships. His legacy has never been eclipsed and he remains the person fiction of America's past time. Off the baseball field he created the Babe Ruth Foundation and tirelessly raised funds for the war effort during the Second World War. The United States proudly honest an American hero who forever changed the landscape of American sports. (APPLAUSE)

Elvis Aaron Presley. Elvis Presley defined American culture to billions of adoring fans around the world. The king of rock and roll, Elvis used gospel, country and rhythm and blues to create a sound all his own, selling more than a billion records. Elvis also served nearly two years in the United States Army, humbly accepting the call to serve despite his name. He starred in 31 films, drew record breaking audiences to his shows, sent television ratings soaring and earned 14 Grammy award nominations. He ultimately won three Grammy awards for his gospel music. Decades after his passing, Elvis Presley remains an enduring and beloved American icon. The United States is proud to honor this American legend. (APPLAUSE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just want to thank everybody. These are outstanding individuals and we are so proud to have them represent us for so many years and it's a great honor to have everybody with us. On behalf of the first lady, Melania, myself, thank you all for being here. This has been extraordinary. Thank you very much. Thank you. (APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, please remain seated until the President, Mrs. Trump and medalists have departed the east room.

[14:10:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello, I'm Ana Cabrera in for Brooke Baldwin. You've been watching President Trump award the nation's highest civilian honor the Medal of Freedom to seven recipients, everyone from Elvis to Babe Ruth, Oren Hatch and Antonin Scalia, an eclectic mix from the world of sports, entertainment, law and politics. Just before the President hosted that ceremony, he made a rare revelation about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. President Trump confirmed he, not his attorneys, wrote responses to questions from the special counsel's team.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: My lawyers aren't working on that, I'm working on that. I write the answers. My lawyers don't write answers, I write answers. I was asked a series of questions, I have answered them very easily, very easily. I'm sure they're tricked up because, you know, they like to catch people, you know, was the weather sunny or was it rainy? He said it may have been a good day, it was rainy, therefore, he told a lie. He perjured himself. OK. So, you have to always be careful when you answer questions with people that probably have bad intentions. It didn't take very long to do them and they were my answers, I don't need lawyers to do that. Now, you need lawyers for submittal, you need lawyers to go over some of the answers, but they are not very difficult questions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: And before he made that disclosure President Trump spoke of how happy he is at the White House after reporters said he appeared, quote, agitated as indicated by a stream of tweets he sent yesterday slamming the Mueller probe.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: No, I'm not agitated. It's a hoax. They there should have never been any Mueller investigation. There was never anything done wrong. There was no collusion, never has been. You would have known about it a long time if there was. There was nothing -- they should have never had it. They've wasted millions and millions of dollars. There should have never been a so-called investigation, which in theory it's not an investigation of me, but as far as I'm concerned, I like to take everything personally because you do better that way. The witch-hunt, as I call it, should never have taken place. It continues to go on. I imagine it's ending now, from what I hear it's ending, and I'm sure it will be just fine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Let's go straight to CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins joining us now. Robert Mueller has not unveiled any indictments in the Russia probe since July. Does the President know something is on the horizon?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's the question and that was the question after President Trump sent the tweets lashing out as the special counsel as you showed on the screen. President Trump says he is not agitated but just yesterday he called this a witch-hunt like no other in American history. So, you would have to say he is a little bit agitated about this and that's why he's sending out those tweets after those three days of private meetings with his legal team, going over what it is they're going to say in response to these written questions from the special counsel. President Trump there insisting that he has written these questions himself. He said they haven't been submitted yet but he is the one that penned the answers to the question. He said they have not submitted the questions yet, but the expectation is that that would happen in the coming days since President Trump says that they have completed those, but it was also interesting to hear what else the President said about the special counsel while he was speaking with reporters there in the oval office earlier today, including implying that they were trying to get him to perjure himself.

You heard that right there at the beginning when he said that they were going to ask him about the weather and if he said it was raining and it wasn't raining that that would be considered a lie and that is really a defense that we've seen his legal team employ over the past few months in an attempt to discredit the special counsel and whatever this report and whatever their answers are going to be from the President and his legal time team as well. He did sound annual dated. He went on about it saying I'm not agitated, despite we know that sources have described the President as being in a pretty dark mood since he returned from his trip to Paris and really focusing on the special counsel after a period of relative quiet from the President. One thing he did say is that he believes this investigation is winding down, though he didn't answer why he believes that, but it does seem to be that has something to do with the back and forth with the special counsel over these questions for President Trump, which he says he has finally submitted.

CABRERA: All right. Kaitlan Collins at the White House. Thank you for filling us in. Let's get some legal expertise on these new developments. Here with us CNN legal analyst Page Pate, a criminal defense and constitutional law. Page, the President made a point to emphasize he wrote the answers, not his lawyers. What's your take on his comments?

PAGE PATE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Ana, the questions are supposed to be answered by the President so you would certainly expect him to have some input into those answers, however, it isn't entirely inconsistent with the reporting that we heard that he met with his lawyers for hours to go over these questions.

[14:15:00] Now, if a lawyer is helping a client, say, in a civil deposition or an investigation where you're responding to written questions like this, it's common for the lawyers to draft an answer, the client to review that answer and make sure it's accurate. So, you know, I'm person the lawyers have had some involvement in draft these answers and will have more involvement before they're submitted to the general counsel.

CABRERA: It wasn't just hours he has met with his lawyers, reportedly he has been meeting with them at least three days this week. The President also saying while he wasn't the questions very easily, the President's lawyer Rudy Giuliani telling the "Washington Post" that some of the questions create more issues for us legally than others. He also said some were unnecessary, possible traps, might be irrelevant. How do you square these conflicting statements?

PATE: Well, Ana, we have to remember this is an unusual procedure to begin with. I mean, ideally, I am certain that the special counsel's office wanted to have a face-to-face with the President. Wanted the President to answer not just questions about what happened before he became President, but also questions relating to a possible obstruction charge. So that didn't happen. The President was able to choose how he was going to respond to the special counsel, so it seems somewhat disingenuous to now criticize the questions that are being asked. Obviously, this is a very involved investigation. I do not believe that based on the number of these questions, as has been reported, that the special counsel is going after irrelevant or unnecessary details. I am sure there is a focus and reason for each one of those questions.

CABRERA: Quickly, if you will, Page, could the President choose not to answer certain questions?

PATE: Absolutely, but then we get to the potential showdown, will Mueller try to subpoena him to come in either for a grand jury session or some other type of interview? Now we have somebody else overseeing that investigation with Mr. Whitaker, so that type of a showdown I'm sure both sides want to avoid, if possible.

CABRERA: Page Pate, good to have you with us. Thanks so much.

PATE: Thank you.

CABRERA: The husband of one of the President's top advisers says the administration is, quote, a dumpster fire. You will hear George Conway's wild interview.

, a mistake reveals the founder of WikiLeaks may be secretly charged. The question now, is this part of Mueller's investigation or not?

And this --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my gosh. There's explosions going on. I've got to put my window up, I can't breathe. Oh, my gosh. Oh, this is horrible. Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh. These poor people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Driving through hell, video of another harrowing escape as the number of dead and missing opinions to rise.

[14:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Welcome back. It might be one of the more unusual power relationships in Washington right now, George Conway, the husband of White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway, is once again speaking his mind and he is blasting the administration which his wife seeks to endlessly defend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE CONWAY, HUSBAND OF WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR KELLYANNE CONWAY: I'm filling out the financial forms and it's like -- I forgot what time of year it was, I'm thinking, it was like late April -- man, I'm thinking. I'm watching this thing and, it's like the administration is like a (BLEEP) show in a dumpster fire. And I'm like, "I don't want to do that. I don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Let's discuss. CNN national political reporter Maeve Reston is with us and Anita McBride who has worked with three Presidential administrations. So, Maeve, he is married to a White House insider, way up the echelon in terms of insiders. Wouldn't he have a pretty good idea about the inner workings of this White House?

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: I mean, he certainly does and obviously two very strong personalities in that marriage with their own distinct opinions, but clearly this interview was sort of the farthest that he has gone that we have heard so far. It's striking from that perspective, but, you know, I think that he does feel as though he is speaking for many conservative Republicans out there who don't agree with the Trump administration's policies and, you know, Ana, I'm sure you talk to them all the time, I talk to them all the time, there are many people particularly after the steep losses that we've seen in the midterms that just feel like the direction of this White House is out of control and is leading to very, very deep and long-term damage to the party. So a fascinating interview there, obviously we don't know what goes on in that -- in that household, but, you know, he is starting this group that is checks and balances, that is intended to be more of a check on the President's power coming from the Republican side and that just shows you sort of what a diverse and broad party it is at this point, I think.

CABRERA: I am still trying to imagine a scenario in which my husband would be making comments like that about the place I work and where I am in such a public way. Anita, you have seen several administrations in action, have you ever seen such a public display of spousal criticism like that?

[14:25:00] ANITA MCBRIDE, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO FIRST LADY LAURA BUSH: On one of the Sunday morning shows CNN last Sunday, Kellyanne Conway was asked about this, how she feels about her husband publicly sort of splitting with the administration, and she said, do you know what, I wonder if all the feminists will be out there standing up for me saying, oh, here is a woman that has a different opinion than her husband's. It actually was an interesting point when you think about it, but, you know, politics is a tough game and even, you know, between spouses you can have very different set of opinions, we've seen that with others, Mary Madeline, James Carville, although granted they were two opposite parties. I think one other thing, what I found amusing about the clip you showed, the trigger point for George Conway saying I don't want to be going into the administration was more the pain of filling out the financial disclosure forms, too, and whether this was worth it, and that is actually something for any appointee that has to face. You know, when there's so much controversy surrounding the administration --

CABRERA: You don't know how long you will last, right? Well, I thought it was an interesting choice of words that he used, too, when he described the administration as watching a dumpster fire. Just yesterday, in fact, a senior administration official told our Jake Tapper that there are arsonists and there are firefighters in the Trump administration and he says that the President wants to keep the arsonists. Anita, what does that tell you about the President's instincts to keep the folks who cause the trouble?

MCBRIDE: Well, I just think, you know, we've kind of seen this a little bit from day one with the administration, I'm sorry to say personally knowing how hard it is to work in the White House and when there's so much chaos and has been surrounding so much staff changes and people warring with each other. Look what we just saw with the first lady's office and the national security council. I mean, the first lady's office is generally the easiest office in the White House to get along with and that -- so I just, you know, think there are lots of examples there of things always being really tense. In a situation where it's already hard to do, you know, the work of an administration as it is.

CABRERA: Maeve, despite the President's tweet saying the White House is running smoothly, there has been constant staff shakeups, this President is losing cabinet officials at a record rate. What are the so-called firefighters actually doing?

RESTON: Well, I think that there are many people within the Trump administration who are there because they feel that they need to keep the wheels of government rolling beyond the kind of reality show that we see from the top, particularly, you know, as it plays out in the press. I think that you have to remember also that the Trump administration was operating from a talent deficit from the very beginning. There were many young Republican staffers who were worried about whether going to work in that White House would harm their careers, and there have been huge gaps in many of the departments of government in terms of just people willing to go there and work, or, you know, replacing people who have left. , it's a grinding job being in the administration. So I think that this is a White House that is operating, you know, some people would say with kind of the wheels off, but there are people who want to kind of hold down the fort and those are the firefighters. President Trump in many cases is getting rid of people because he doesn't like them for personal reasons, but those aren't necessarily the right staff people to lose when you want to keep government running smoothly.

CABRERA: Maeve Reston and Anita McBride, good to have you both with us. Thanks, ladies.

RESTON: Thank you.

MCBRIDE: Thank you.

CABRERA: Just in, we are learning a Republican led House committee will be issuing two noteworthy subpoenas in their final weeks of power. You are looking at the people they plan to call before them. Fired FBI Director James Comey and Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Details just ahead. Plus, predatory professors, stunning allegations claiming three former Dartmouth College professors turned one campus department into a 21st century animal house. We have the details.