Return to Transcripts main page

AT THIS HOUR

Jerome Corsi Refuses to Accept Mueller Plea Deal; Papadopoulos Heads to Jail Today; Court Report Today on Manafort's Cooperation with Mueller; Alan Dershowitz: Mueller Report Will Be Devasting to Trump; U.S. Fires Tear Gas at Migrants Rushing U.S./Mexico Border; Trump Hits Campaign Trail in Mississippi Ahead of Runoff. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired November 26, 2018 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:00] CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN BUSINESS & POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Look, there have been several economists who have said now is not the time to raise but, at the same time, the Fed really does have justification to raise interest rates at this point.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: OK. Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Cristina Alesci, thanks very much. Certainly a story we'll keep on top of.

HARLOW: Yes.

Thanks for being with us today. We'll see you back here tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto.

"AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.

We are going to start with breaking news "AT THIS HOUR." Jerome Corsi, an associate of long-time Trump ally, Roger Stone, telling CNN that he will not sign a plea deal with the special counsel, Robert Mueller.

CNN crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, is joining me right now. He has all of the very latest on this.

This has been going one way and the other and all playing out very publicly, oddly enough. Shimon, what's the latest?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, now very publicly. Jerome Corsi did an interview this morning with a conservative outlet where he essentially explains why he will not take this plea. He says that the special counsel offered him a plea deal, essentially, that it would be one count to lying, and that he's refusing to take that plea deal because, essentially, if he does take the plea deal, then he's lying about the fact that they're saying that he's lying. It's very confusing story he gives in this interview. He explains that he knew about the Julian Assange, the Podesta e-mails through his own work. He connected the dots in Augusta and realized that Julian Assange had the Podesta e-mails and he was probably going to release them in October. In this interview, Corsi calling it the October surprise. Of course, Julian Assange would know how to do that. He gives a good explanation of what he claims is how he knew about these e-mails. He says he had no knowledge from Julian Assange, never spoke to him about it, never communicated to anyone about it. Corsi says the special counsel has been asking questions about whether or not he was that conduit between Julian Assange and Roger Stone and essentially the campaign and whether or not anyone in the campaign knew in advance that these e-mails were going to surface.

BOLDUAN: And that's not the only thing going on.

Stick with me, Shimon.

I want to talk about this breaking news with CNN federal analyst, former federal prosecutor, Shan Wu, who is joining us, and CNN legal analyst, Renato Mariotti, also a former federal prosecutor.

Renato, you saw this news from Jerome Corsi this morning. First, he was in negotiations with the special counsel over a plea deal. Now he says he will not sign it and they can put him in jail as long as they want. What's your reaction to this today?

RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, is he very foolish to be discussing this publicly. Whenever I've negotiated plea deals on either side, either now for my clients or when I was a federal prosecutor, it's best to keep these negotiations and discussions private. Everything Mr. Corsi is telling CNN and these right-wing outlets can be used by Mueller against him. I suspect Mueller will go forward and bring charges if Corsi doesn't change his mind very soon.

BOLDUAN: Shan, what's your reaction to this? When it comes to Jerome Corsi, specifically, when you're talking about negotiations or now lack thereof with the Mueller team, should the president -- is there reason for President Trump to be worried when he sees this playing out publicly? Or at the very least, should Roger Stone be worried? It all seems to be focused around Roger Stone and who knew what and when it came to WikiLeaks and those stolen Democratic e-mails.

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Kate, unquestionably, Roger Stone should be worried. I agree with Renato, it's very foolish of Corsi to take this course. But this seems to be the age of the Twitter plea negotiations, which is peculiar.

(LAUGHTER)

The one voice that's silent on Twitter is the Mueller folks. They remain silent. We don't know what they have. There's no way that Corsi could have met that many hours without them knowing everything about him. He has no defense left whatsoever.

I think the president should be worried about two things. One, of course, generally, if there really is a path back to Stone and that the president new and encouraged WikiLeaks getting these e-mails and releasing them, that's a big, big problem. The secondary worry is overall the continued path of various people in his circle getting indicted and pleading guilty to false statements, giving more cooperation that he and his team don't fully know what they're talking about. That generally will be worrisome for him. But it's hard to know whether this is something substantive leading to collusion or not or whether it's more these folks getting caught with their actual lies but not exactly on the Russian interference part.

BOLDUAN: Renato, from what we are seeing play out publicly, does this definitely mean, if you had to guess, that Jerome Corsi will be indicted?

[11:04:59] MARIOTTI: Sure. You have a man -- assuming he's -- what he's saying is accurate, that he was told he was going to be indicted and he was in negotiations with Mueller, the special counsel, no other prosecutor will tell you you're going to be indicted if they don't intend to do that. You can expect an indictment of Corsi to come out. I have to say that I don't think that this is somebody that Mueller is going after on his own. I suspect that he is trying to put pressure on Corsi because he wants to have Corsi as a witness against Stone. Stone, of course, is in frequent contact with the president, which makes him a potentially a very important person in this puzzle.

BOLDUAN: And, Shimon, this is not all that's happening today with regards to what's going on in the Russia investigation. George Papadopoulos is going to jail. You have Paul Manafort heading back into court. What else?

PROKUPECZ: Yes, Papadopoulos, we're waiting for him to finally serve his sentence. He had asked the judge to delay it because of a Roger Stone associate, who has been suing to basically say -- to challenge the Mueller authority, saying it's unconstitutional. He was hoping, Papadopoulos, to wait out that decision. A judge said no, that's not happening. You're to report to jail today.

We're also waiting to learn any details on the Manafort cooperation. There's a report that's due to the court. It was just about 10 days ago when the special counsel had asked for a 10-day extension, which is a little bit unusual here, because they normally have been asking for 60-day extensions. So, maybe, we may learn more about Paul Manafort's cooperation. It's unclear. That would be key details in this entire investigation.

Really, that's about it for now. You know, we wait. We wait to see if anything else drops this week. There's been a lot of anticipation that Mueller is working on a lot of stuff. Certainly the report on the president's mind even today. And that sort of seems to be the talk a lot right now, what will this report that Mueller eventually puts out entail, what kind of details will it have, and where does this lay in terms of the president? How much will the report focus on the president? BOLDUAN: And on Manafort, Shan, when the judge granted the request,

the request said this in part, that it would, quote, "allow them to provide the court with a report that will be of greater assistance in the court's management of this matter."

Make that English for me. What does that mean? What could that mean?

WU: It most likely means that they'll be able to tell the court how helpful he has been and how productive that help has been and that will help the court in what kind of sentence they want to fashion for him. I don't think we can expect a lot of details in that. That will be done under seal and it won't reveal that.

I think it is very important, as Shimon pointed out, the length of time was a rather short term. If they ask for more time here, it's reasonable to infer that there are more valuable contributions going on in the background.

BOLDUAN: Contrary to the Jerome Corsi route, Paul Manafort has gone a different route when it comes to his legal defense.

Let me play one thing for you, Renato. Alan Dershowitz, a long-time Harvard professor, someone who has been a supporter of the president, had this to say yesterday about the Mueller report, whenever it does come out. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALAN DESHOWITZ, ATTORNEY & LAW PROFESSOR, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: I think the report is going to be devastating to the president. And I know that the president's team is already working on a response to the report.

When I say devastating, I mean it's going to paint a picture that's going to be politically very devastating. I still don't think it's going to make a criminal case because collusion is not criminal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: You give me your take. It doesn't seem that Alan Dershowitz -- it's unlikely he has been in communication with the Mueller team in terms of exactly what's been put in the report but what do you think of what he said?

MARIOTTI: I have gone up against Alan on Twitter, television and elsewhere and he has consistently had a very radical legal position that nothing that Trump has done could possibly be a crime. He's still sticking to that. This seems to be a way of walking it back a little bit by saying, look, he has done some things that are damaging but still nonetheless sticking to his legal position.

Look, there's no question that if you string together a lot of the things that the president has done, just on obstruction of justice alone, you would think that would be politically damaging. I'm not a political expert but it would seem problematic for the president. Dershowitz is in a very, very small minority of people who thinks it's impossible for any of that to amount to being a crime.

BOLDUAN: Let us stand by and see together at least for the next five minutes when something else is going to drop.

Great to see you.

Shimon, thank you for bringing the breaking news.

Great to see you guys. Really appreciate it.

Coming up for us, tensions boiling over at key border crossings between the U.S. and Mexico. Dozens arrested. Hundreds left in limbo. And President Trump firing off a new threat this morning.

[11:10:07] Plus, the alarming new report that says climate change is going to kill thousands of people and have a major hit to the U.S. economy and economies all over the world. Why did the Trump administration bury it on a holiday weekend?

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: It was a dramatic scene over the weekend when U.S. Border Patrol officers used tear gas to push back a crowd of Central Americans who said they wanted to seek asylum, a group including women and children. The migrants rushed the border and overwhelmed some police barricades at one of the busiest crossings in the U.S. between Tijuana and San Diego. That port of entry is reopened after being shut down for hours yesterday. And more than three dozen people were arrested. What happens now?

Let's go to CNN's Miguel Marquez in Tijuana for us.

Miguel, what's the situation there this morning?

[11:15:19] MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At the moment, it is calm and business as normal. This is one of the border entries that was shut down yesterday. This is the entry to a foot bridge, a pedestrian walkway to the U.S. from Tijuana. It was shut down after several hundred protesters, migrants rushed the border, overwhelming this area and moved beyond it. The Customs and Border Patrol saying there were some older bits of fence that they were able to get over, that several of them were able to get over, that they began hurling projectiles at Border Patrol agents, and that's when they deployed C.S. or tear gas canisters and pepper bullets or pepper balls in order to back them off. Several were arrested. It does not sound like anybody actually got through and into the U.S. They were able to stop them there at the border once they got over that first barricade. But it was very, very tense on that side and certainly very tense on this side of the border as well.

Thousands and thousands of Tijuana's use these border crossings every day to go to the U.S., to shop, to work, to go to school. It is a huge disruption when these borders are shut down -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Miguel, is it clear why the migrants rushed the border yesterday?

MARQUEZ: It sounds like they may have been emboldened. There was a demonstration. There's about 5,000 migrants, who were in the caravan, staying in a sports facility about four miles from here. There was a demonstration or protest. They moved up toward the border. Once they got up here, some of them, perhaps, emboldened, decided to overwhelm Mexican police barricades. And then it was areas like this -- you see this bridge, this car bridge, they went under these bridges toward the border and pushed up on the border, along and on that side, and it was quickly repelled and everything went back to normal. They shut the border down and then opened it up a few hours later. They shut down everything, foot traffic and car traffic, both in and out, opened up a few hours later. Today, everybody is holding their breath, seeing what happens. But it seems back to a normal process of asylum seekers lining up, waiting, hoping to be able to put that claim of asylum in to the U.S. -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Raising this issue, though, on exactly what is the administration going to do, though.

Miguel, thank you. Appreciate it.

Joining us right now to discuss this is John Sandweg, a former acting director of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, and Tony Wayne, a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

Gentlemen, thanks for coming in.

TONY WAYNE, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO MEXICO: Thank you, Kate.

JOHN SANDWEG, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFROCEMENT: Pleasure to be here.

BOLDUAN: John, let me ask you -- I want to get your reaction to what happened yesterday. Migrants rush a checkpoint. Border Patrol pushed them back with tear gas. The administration closes down the border for hours. What do you say to that?

SANDWEG: Any time you have people rushing the border and attacking the physical infrastructure, you're going to expect and it's justified that Border Patrol will take action to push those people back.

The problem is all the actions that led up to this and created this powder keg of pressure, where we have an orderly system of asylum that works for years -- it's under-resourced and takes too long but it works -- we're trying to do everything we can to go away from that, and now you have 5,000 people who have made this incredibly treacherous journey, who made it to the last bit and, all of a sudden, they can't get into the United States and make their asylum claim. I think you can expect things like this to happen when you create a situation like that.

BOLDUAN: John, real quick, who would give the order to fire tear gas on the crowd?

SANDWEG: Very much at the local level. Things like this move so quickly, it will be done by the local supervisors on site right there.

BOLDUAN: Ambassador, this confusion then over a deal or not being struck between the Trump administration and Mexico regarding migrants staying in Mexico while their asylum claims are being processed, it was reported that the incoming Mexican administration agreed to the deal and then denied it a day later. What do you make that have -- I don't even know if we call it a reversal over the weekend. What do you make of it?

TONY WAYNE, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO MEXICO: I think there are talks under way between officials from the incoming administration and U.S. officials about how they could handle this once the new president of Mexico takes office on December 1st. ink the incoming officials probably did not intend to reach an agreement before they're in power on December 1st. As I understand, those talks are still going on, that they are looking at how they can handle this emergency situation in the short term. And then there's all sorts of work that needs to be done for a medium and longer-term set of majors to work together between the U.S. and Mexico and with the country's in North and Central America to deal with this.

[11:20:14] BOLDUAN: John, does it seem reasonable to you for the Trump administration to ask Mexico to hold asylum seeks while their claims are being processed?

SANDWEG: It's going to be interesting. Listen, there are two ways this could be done. One, as I think the administration seems to think they're close to an agreement on, which is where people stay in Mexico while their claim is pending in the United States. Candidly, that will raise a ton of legal challenges in the United States. It's very hard to pursue your asylum claim when you're not in the country. How are you going to appear before the judge, present evidence? How are you going to work with your lawyer? I'm not sure that that system is going to be successful. I'm sure the administration, though, would love -- and the ambassador said this -- a third safe country agreement, whereby, people who come to the U.S. border from Mexico and claim asylum, those claims are made in Mexico, and if asylum is granted, it's granted by the Mexican government. It sounds like, based on the leaks, Mexico isn't willing to do that. But I worry in the short term that if Mexico adopts this plan, we'll have more situations like we saw Sunday in Tijuana because we'll have a lot of people stacked up right there at the northern border and Mexico is probably not prepared to provide the humanitarian relief to those individuals and they'll be desperate and do things that desperate people do.

BOLDUAN: Which isn't good for anyone on either side of the border, to have it shut down, to have these people tear gassed, and have Customs and Border officers being rushed. It's not good for anybody.

One thing that is often forgotten right now, Ambassador, there's no U.S. ambassador to Mexico at the moment. What impact does that vacancy have on this whole situation?

WAYNE: Well, I think it means that, at a lower level, there's a charge (ph) at the embassy and other officials who are dealing with their Mexican counterparts but there are also probably a lot more talks going on between Washington-based officials and officials in Mexico City.

But we're also at this transition where there's one week left in the outgoing administration and the new team is coming in. They're still just working as a transition team. So they're having their own logistical problems in figuring out what they should consider seriously, what they need to think about, what legal opinions they need, because there will be challenges in Mexico also to any agreement with the United States. Both within the coalition of the incoming president, because that's a widespread coalition, which includes many people who are strong supporters of migrant rights, and among the opposition, who are probably looking for some areas where they would disagree with the new president. So it's a delicate political decision in Mexico. It's complicated anyway.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

WAYNE: As is clear, this is something we've been trying to work on for a number of years and we have just not gotten to a comprehensive regional layered approach, which is what's need.

BOLDUAN: No easy solution. It makes it harder when there isn't a top diplomat on the ground there, an ambassador for the United States, in Mexico. It doesn't help at the very least.

John, I really appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

Ambassador, thank you as well.

WAYNE: It's our pleasure.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next, could another red state in the Deep South see a Republicans seat turn blue? President Trump is on his way to Mississippi to see if he can keep that seat in Republican hands in a surprisingly tight run-off that is tomorrow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:28:15] BOLDUAN: Just when you thought it was over, I'm here to remind you that Election Day is still upon us, with a Senate showdown in reliable red Mississippi. Tomorrow, voters are heading to the polls again for a runoff between Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith and Democratic challenger, Mike Espy. Understanding the stakes, President Trump is heading down there today to head two rallies for Hyde-Smith, just as a string of controversies trail her over public hangings, her past praise of a Confederate soldier, and talking about suppressing voter turnout.

Here to discuss, Joe Trippi, Democratic strategist. He's working with the Espy campaign. And former special assistant to President George W. Bush, Scott Jennings. Both CNN political commentator.

Guys, it's great to see you.

Joe, you are fighting for Espy. You also advised Doug Jones' campaign in the special in Alabama, an election where the Republican candidate faced different, but did face controversy. Your guy won there. Are you anywhere near as confident about Espy pulling off a win here?

JOE TRIPPI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it is Mississippi. It's a red state. It's going to be tough. Cindy Hyde-Smith has been dropping since all her comments and other things have come to light and we've been surging. We think it's going to be closer than anybody expected. And we think we can eke it out. It's all going to come down to turnout. This race shouldn't have been as competitive as it is, and it is, and that should tell you something about what's happening right now and the problems that Cindy Hyde-Smith -- and, actually, why President Trump had to come down to help save her, try to save her.

BOLDUAN: And we will see.

Scott, she has faced a string of controversies, including comments about attending a public hanging and her attempts to clean it up after the fact. Let me play it for our viewers as a reminder.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CINDY HYDE-SMITH, (R), MISSISSIPPI: If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd like the front row.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Could you clarify and articulate --

(CROSSTALK)