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Trump Happy with White House; Trump Wrote Answers to Mueller's Questions; Judge Sides with CNN; Assange Possible Charges; George Conway Speaks about Kellyanne. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired November 16, 2018 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Be back here Monday as well.

Don't go anywhere, though. Brianna Keilar starts right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: John, thanks so much.

We're going to pick up where you left off. And you have been listening to the president discussing everything from Robert Mueller to a judge siding with CNN in its lawsuit against the White House over press access.

I want to bring in CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins.

You heard the president there. He was putting on a happy face. He said he's happy with the White House. But, make no mistake, things are pretty volatile over there.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They certainly are. And he said that he wants to make a few changes to members of staff, as you heard him saying that that's typical after the midterm elections. But we should note that one of the people whose fate has been hanging in the balance, the Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, was standing right over the president's shoulder as he was signing that bill on cyber security there in the Oval Office before he took these questions from reporters.

Brianna, one thing the president said is that he's not agitated about the Russia investigation despite those tweets from yesterday going after Robert Mueller, the special counsel, and going after the investigation as a whole after a brief period of silence on the Russia investigation from President Trump. But, Brianna, he did make some news there. He says that he has answered the questions that the special counsel had. Those written questions that we had reported the president had been meeting with his legal team several times this week to discuss what those answers are going to be. He said that he has written those questions and that his lawyers were not the ones writing it, that he was the one writing the answers to those questions and that they finished them, but he said they have not submitted those answers yet, Brianna. He didn't say when he expects them to send them in to the special counsel. But you would have to assume it would be sometime soon.

Brianna, the president also said that he believes the Russia investigation is coming to an end. He says that's what he's been told. He doesn't say by whom. But he said that he believes this investigation is coming to an end and he likely believes that answering these questions is one way to do that.

Now, Brianna, he didn't say what he answered these questions or how he answered them and what he's going to say, but this does come after his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was complaining about some of the questions to "The Washington Post" saying that he found some of them to be irrelevant. But they are speaking with reporters in the Oval Office. The president said he did not find these to be very difficult questions and repeated again that he believes there has been no collusion.

KEILAR: All right, Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you.

And the other big topic was the CNN lawsuit against the White House.

Chief media correspondent Brian Stelter joining me now.

This was interesting because the president responded after the judge sided with CNN this morning. The fight here not over, right? And it seemed like the president was hinting at that because he said decorum is important and they are going to be looking to set some kind of standard moving forward about how the press should behavior, even though he says that his is in favor of press freedom.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, President Trump, of all people, calling for decorum. It's a strange day. A strange Friday. But this is all a result of the White House's loss in court this morning. The Department of Justice lawyers who have been representing Trump made the case that Trump could ban any reporter, any time, for any reason. But the judge in this case sided with CNN's Fifth Amendment arguments. The argument that Jim Acosta was denied due process when his press pass was revoked last week.

So now, as of a few minutes ago, Acosta's back at the White House continuing to report, returning to his job there at the White House. And we will see him on television later today.

But it is unclear how this case will not progress, Brianna. President Trump, as you said, made comments about writing some rules and regulations. He's going to go ahead and try to satisfy the due process part by coming up with some guidelines so that perhaps in the future he can revoke other press credentials and he'll end up winning in court. That is all a question mark though. Right now we don't know if the White House will continued to fight CNN's lawsuit or if it will try to settle. All of that remains unclear.

But I just interviewed Ted Boutrous, one of CNN's outside lawyers. He said CNN would like to reach a resolution in this case, would like to be reasonable about this. He said the White House is unpredictable though. We don't know what's going to happen. And, as a result, CNN remains ready and willing to continue litigating this case in the months ahead. He said to me, the system worked, Brianna. The system worked. The courts responded to the executive branch and, you know, challenged the executive branch's revocation of that press pass. And he put a temporary restraining order into effect and the White House did abide by that temporary restraining order and that's why Acosta's press pass is now back in his hands.

KEILAR: That's right. And he just walked back into the White House grounds, as we understand.

Brian Stelter, our chief media correspondent, thank you so much.

Here with me now is Julie Hirschfield Davis. She's a CNN political analyst and she's a congressional correspondent for "The New York Times." And Laura Coates, our CNN legal analyst and a former federal prosecutor.

So this is -- this is pretty interesting. And, Julie, you've said before, you said, look, some people may disagree with the style of Jim Acosta, but press access is something that is very important and that this violates that. I saw that from you on Twitter.

[13:05:09] And when you saw the president, though, respond to this today, because, to be clear, what the judge basically decided was, it was pretty arbitrary, this way that the White House decided Jim Acosta should not have any more access and they pulled what's called his hard pass, what allows him to get onto the campus.

We just head the president saying that they are going to establish some standards for decorum. What do you think that means? How -- what's going to happen from here?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I mean, I think, you know, obviously on its face, it was a victory because Jim Acosta has his press pass back. He's back at the White House. He got his access back for now.

But I do think this is somewhat ominous what the president is saying. If you look at what the judge said in this case, he found that it was an arbitrary violation of First Amendment and Fifth Amendment rights. But he allowed it to be interpreted and the president is certainly going there and Sarah Sanders in her statement reacting to this went there. She said, this shows us that there is no absolute First Amendment right to access to the White House. That's a pretty ominous thing to say. And that does suggest that the White House is now going to go back to the drawing board and say, OK, you want us not to be arbitrary when we curb your access? Well, here are our rules. They can define decorum however they want to define it. And they will then have a leg to stand on the next time they decide they want to take away somebody's press credentials.

So, for the White House press corps, I think this is very much sort of a temporary victory and there's a possibility that this ratchets up into a bigger fight over what does decorum mean and can their -- if you believe in the First Amendment, can you really place that many restrictions on a reporter who's doing their job asking question of the White House.

KEILAR: And I wonder, Laura Coates, because when you look at decisions that involve the First Amendment, in general judges side not on the side of decorum. They generally side with freedom of the press over decorum, which includes that there is behavior protected by the First Amendment that some people may consider as -- to be objectionable, but it doesn't matter, it is still protected.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right. I mean the First Amendment presume vigorous public debate, which means you're going to have some impassioned viewpoints on both sides and the way that you convey that passion and the questions you ask may not be everyone's cup of tea.

But the reason this is such an interesting case in particular is because the judge talked about the Fifth Amendment, not the First Amendment grounds. Not about whether or not they thought that Jim Acosta was being discriminated against for his viewpoint or perhaps his style, but because the White House did not give a protocol in place to do it. And they were very nuanced because although this could be a case interpreted to say this is about the freedom of the press and access in general, it really is more nuance. It's about the hard pass itself being revoked, which is essentially, as you articulated, was the notion of being able to facilitate access in and out, not coverage overall.

So the White House now is in a position to say, we've got a nuanced case here. We can make the White House accessible, but we have to make it as easy as possible to actually afford the First Amendment right to you? Perhaps not. And so the court was very clear, this is going to be a temporary victory, even for the reasons Julie talked about, but also the nature of the law itself. It's an injunction, meaning the court has not ruled on the underlying case about First Amendment rights or the Fifth Amendment totally. They're just saying, for right now, you may be lucky to prevail in the future and I'm going to put a book mark on this moment to give you access today.

KEILAR: Which is why we're going to keep watching.

Now, I want to ask you about Robert Mueller, because the president addressed this. He's been on this Twitter tirade here recently, which is sort of a new thing, at least of late, that he would take on Robert Mueller on Twitter again. He just said -- he said this whole thing was a hoax. The so-called -- or he called it a so-called witch hunt, as I say, which isn't new. I mean he's said that before. He insisted he was not agitated, because he was asked by a reporter in there, you know are you -- you seem like you were agitated when you went after Robert Mueller here. What did you make of his demeanor there and his answers?

DAVIS: Well, he sounded a little bit agitated. I mean, you know, we -- as you said, you know, we've heard this from him before. Actually not so much in the last few weeks and months as he's been more focused on the midterm elections and he was talking about immigration and he was talking about his record and the economy and he sort of put this on the back burner. I think we are fully back on it right now, both because he is in a process where, as Kaitlan reported earlier, he's answering these questions. He's actually like writing out the answers, we think, at this point.

And also because this thing is, you know, I think he has the sense that this is coming to a conclusion, which means that we might get a report. We might get some actual information about what Bob Mueller has been doing for all of this time. And I think that's very nerve- racking for him. He doesn't know what the Mueller investigation has found. He knows what he's going to say presumably if they're really as far along in this question answering process as they say they are, but he doesn't know what else Mueller has. And so it's a very -- it's kind of -- you know, he's on the knife's edge right now with this and I think it does make him nervous and it makes him relitigate, you know, again and again how unfair he thinks the basis of the whole investigation is and that's what we're hearing from him.

[13:10:15] KEILAR: I mean it seems natural that this would be an unnerving process for anyone who's in this situation. But I wonder, Laura, because he said -- and he always says this, and if it's percolated down to his supporters, no collusion. That is something that his supporters across the country will say, there is no collusion. He says that. It has been adopt and repeated even just by regular folks who are for Donald Trump. And the truth is, he doesn't know yet what has been found, right? I mean this is the investigation that's supposed to answer that.

COATES: Right. And he's calling it a so-called, because he's the one that's called it a witch hunt. I'm not sure who you could make that assessment given, what, over 131 charges, dozens (INAUDIBLE) people charged, people who have pled guilty, people who are sentenced to prison as well.

KEILAR: Well, and if I could, pled guilty after trying to, for instance, George Papadopoulos, after trying to brokering a meeting between the campaign and officials in Moscow.

COATES: Others who were involved in identity theft or identity fraud, talking about selling dummy accounts to the Russians to facilitate their own issues as well. Talking with people like Rick Gates. I mean Paul Manafort, we may want to forget, but you can't forget. We also have Michael Flynn outstanding as someone to be sentenced. And although Michael Cohen is a little bit distinct, he is somehow attached to the overall probe. And so it cannot be a witch hunt if you actually have substantive things, including a courtroom jury who said, this is not an issue that we just go away with.

Having said that, however, I do have questions, and call it the skeptic in me, that says, I find it very odd and coincidental the president of the United States, within a week of having installed somebody at the helm of the DOJ, after having a long silence on Twitter and other issues about the Mueller probe, suddenly now presumes he knows what they have. That he may believe that either he's opining or maybe relaying something. And either way he is --

KEILAR: Do you think he may know? Is that --

COATES: I think here may know the impression that somebody has about the state of the actual Mueller investigation --

KEILAR: That he did not have before --

COATES: That he did not have before. Now --

KEILAR: Someone who is a supporter of his, or not recused, I should say in -- DAVIS: And not recused.

COATES: Not -- well, not recused, not Senate confirmed. But there's no indication, as of yet, that although the statute does require in many ways for Mueller to be kept -- to keep him apprised of what's going on in the investigation, I haven't heard of any pushback from the Mueller team, unlike the state of Maryland to say, this person is not like -- is not entitled to having access to the briefing. So I am going to reserve judgment about whether there really is a plant in the DOJ. But I do find it suspicious that he is relaying what he thinks he knows about the state of the Mueller investigation when he has somebody there who can relay the information to him.

KEILAR: Laura Coates, Julie, I'm going to have you guys stand by for me for just a moment. We have so much more news ahead.

The president also said that he is happy with almost all of his cabinet. We're going to discuss what that could mean.

Plus, the husband of one of the president's top advisers says the administration is, quote, a dumpster fire, and there was a lot more that he said that I can't even repeat. You're going to hear George Conway's wild and very interesting interview.

Plus, a mistake leads to an explosive revelation. The founder of WikiLeaks has been secretly charged, but the question is, does it involve the Trump campaign?


[13:17:44] KEILAR: An extraordinary slipup has revealed a prepared indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Assange, who remains under asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, has been on the U.S. radar since WikiLeaks popped up back in 2006. And his release of stolen, classified materials has kept his name in the headlines.

Among those highlights are the 2007 posting of a Guantanamo Bay procedural manual, the 2010 release of thousands of classified pages on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the 2016 election season release of hacked e-mails from the Democratic National Committee and also from the chairman of the Hillary Clinton campaign.

CNN justice reporter Laura Jarrett is at the Department of Justice for us.

I mean this is stunning. Tell us what was released, how this got out, and what we know exactly about charges that Julian Assange could be facing.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Brianna, the way this whole thing went down is just truly remarkable. It all starts with the fact that there was an unrelated case on the docket in the Eastern District of Virginia, having nothing to do with Julian Assange at all. Last night it resurfaced. It was recently unsealed. And, what do you know, it has two references to charges against Assange, very explicit, as plain as day, and no one had noticed it on the docket until yesterday. I want to read just a portion of one of those mentions to you here. It

says, Brianna, the complaint would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint. Now, it doesn't say anything further about what kind of charges Assange is facing. And when we asked the Eastern District of Virginia spokesperson exactly what is this referencing, how this happened, what he said was the court filing was made in error. He went on to say that this was inadvertent. That there's no connection between these two cases whatsoever. But it obviously raised a ton of red flags.

Now, federal prosecutors reuse motions all the time, especially when it's something like this, a motion to seal something that's highly routine. But for this type of error in such a significant case, someone as notorious as Julian Assange, to have been overlooked, just sitting on the public docket for over a week unsealed is pretty remarkable.

[13:20:02] Now, as for the charges, we still don't know exactly what he's facing here. We don't know whether it's related to that DNC, a dissemination of all those materials in 2016 back during the presidential campaign, or it could date back, stretch back as far as 2010. We remember the Obama administration wanted to try to go after Julian Assange, thought they had First Amendment concerns there.

Now, we had reported even just last year that prosecutors thought that they had enough, they had a path forward and were prepared to try to file charges, but they never did. We never saw an announcement. And so now we wait to see whether this case will finally be unsealed soon, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Laura Jarrett at the Department of Justice, thank you.

Now, the original case against Julian Assange, a rape accusation in Sweden, was dropped over a year ago, but he remains there in the Ecuadorian embassy where he's been for six years. And his legal team says an ouster from the embassy would put his life at risk.

I want to bring back in Julie Hirschfield Davis and Laura Coates with us.

So, first off, Laura, it's -- when you listen to his lawyer he said aside from how this was released, which it sounds like you're reading one complaint and it's about this guy, not Julian Assange. You turn the page and all of a sudden it's about Assange. I mean clearly a mistake of something cut and paste, which is stunning.

But his lawyer says, aside from how this was released, what's in it is what is really troubling to them. What does it mean?

COATES: Well, his lawyer believes, of course, that the idea of trying to charge someone for what they think was giving over truthful information is a problem in an area like the First Amendment written (INAUDIBLE) United States of America.

However, what I really think about this is so shocking is that I wonder if this is a coincidence to how inadvertent, how this mistake can actually be made. I mean was a cut and paste done? Was there -- has there been a grand jury empaneled already who has said that charges could be filed against Julian Assange? You can have sealed indictments to that effect and not actually have it filed in the court yet to relay the person to be charged right now. Were they preserving other cases? I have a lot of questions about what is entailed in this particular document.

But I think ultimately it should be no surprise that Julian Assange remains a subject of interest for people in the United States of America for at least the part 14 plus years, but certainly since Chelsea Manning and certainly since the ideas of Roger Stone was talking about the connection about having documents released in the 2016 election. So I'm not surprised that he'd be somebody who was a subject or somebody of interest, but how it's done is really surprising.

KEILAR: Let's revisit, if we can, Julie, what the president said in his comments about his cabinet. We're waiting for a shake-up. There's a lot of people on the chopping block. And he said that he's happy with almost all of the cabinet. So, there you go. He's essentially saying, yes.

There -- I mean there are going to be changes.

DAVIS: Right. And, I mean, I think, you know, he's sort of been signaling that for a while. What was striking about that was that in the photo op where he said all of this stuff, where he was signing that cyber security legislation, Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of Homeland Security, was in the room with him. He praised her on the cyber security legislation. But we do know that she's one of the people he's eying shifting through the exit, shall we say, and that could also cause a cascade of other departures or shakeups, including John Kelly, the chief of staff, who's very close to her.

You know, there's been a lot of talk about him being dissatisfied with Jim Mattis. That that comment that he made that Mattis is a Democrat and there's been, you know, some sort of intrigue there. We don't' know how long he'll be there. There's clearly more than a little bit of unrest in this cabinet, but he is putting like a pretty positive face on it for now. I think it will be interesting to see how long he keeps that up. We did just have, you know, a pretty punishing midterm result for him and I think he was looking to make some moves and it's just, I think, a question of when.

KEILAR: And what does it mean one source, one top official said to Jake Tapper that there's arsonists and there's firefighters in the administration and that the president is looking to get rid of the firefighters. So we'll see what effect this is going to have.

Julie and Laura, thank you so much.

The husband of one of the president's top advisers says his wife isn't a fan of his criticism. Hear George Conway's new interview.

Plus, a disturbing development in the deadly California wildfires. We are hearing now that more than 600 people are reported missing. And there are urgent efforts underway to find them.


[13:28:57] KEILAR: A rare interview today from George Conway. And if you don't already know him, well, he's a conservative attorney who also happens to be Kellyanne Conway's husband and an outspoken critic of President Trump, Kellyanne Conway's boss. Among the things that he was asked in this interview is how his wife, a special counselor to the president, feels about his attacks on President Trump. Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How's all your activity -- anti-Trump administration activity, going down with Kellyanne?

GEORGE CONWAY, HUSBAND OF KELLYANNE CONWAY: I don't think she likes it. But I don't -- you know, I don't -- I've told her I don't like, you know, the administration. So we're -- it's even. You know, it's one of these things. I mean if I -- if I had a nickel for everybody in Washington who disagreed with their spouse about something that happens in this town, I wouldn't be on this podcast, I'd be probably on a beach somewhere.


KEILAR: I want to bring back in Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Laura Coates to talk about this.

I mean that -- a lot of people look at how he goes out publicly and just, you know, totally takes out President Trump rhetorically and they wonder how -- how do these two coexist under the two roofs -- under the same roof? And it's so interesting to hear him talk about this. She doesn't like it, but, look, we both have the things we don't like.

[13:30:06] DAVIS: Right.