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Trump Threatens General Motors; Did Paul Manafort Meet With Julian Assange?; Mississippi Senate Election. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired November 27, 2018 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:08]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hour two. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Breaking news out of Montgomery County, Maryland, where police are investigating reports of an active shooter at Walter Reed Medical Center. This is what we know so far.

We did, though, just see a tweet from Maryland Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger, who tweeted: "I am currently at Walter Reed Medical in Bethesda, where we have been told there is an active shooter. I am currently safe in a conference room with 40 others."

So let's go to Shimon Prokupecz in Washington.

And, Shimon, you were saying this all had to do with one building on the Walter Reed campus that is currently on lockdown.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right.

It's a medical facility on this campus. We're told right now that this appears be confined to this one building, but, nonetheless, certainly some concern. Police have responded. They are searching through the building.

Important to note here, Brooke, for viewers is that there are no reports of injuries at this point. And there's actually no report of someone that they're looking for who has a weapon. People have reported hearing some things, and, as a result, police are searching through the building.

We're also hearing from people inside who said they're safe, they're taking shelter, but all accounts right now appear to be that folks are safe, that they're doing what they're being told to do. There are announcements that are ongoing in the building telling people to take shelter.

And that right now is all we know. There is good news, in the sense that we have no reports of injuries and no reports of an actual shooter, just reports that police are investigating a possible active shooter.

And as we see in these cases time and time again, a sort of substantial police response, and then they just start to search through the building and they go through room by room to make sure it's all clear, to make sure that what police here are investigating isn't much more serious, but, nonetheless, right now, police on scene going through the building, making sure folks there are safe.

BALDWIN: As soon as we get more, we will break back in and pass it along. Shimon, thank you so much. Don't go too far.

To the other news of the day here, the White House is also facing questions today about two bombshells tied to the Russia investigation.

First, in a new court filing, special counsel Robert Mueller is accusing President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, that he has breached his plea deal with Mueller's team, indicating Manafort continued to lie to investigators after striking a plea deal to cooperate.

The move is prompting the question, is Manafort trying to maneuver his way to a presidential pardon? Here was the White House response moments ago about a potential partner and about if Mueller is at risk of being fired.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: But given that the president said this morning that Robert Mueller is ruining people's lives, is he considering a pardon for Paul Manafort or for others who were prosecuted, have been prosecuted?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm not aware of any conversations for anyone's pardon involved in this process at all.

QUESTION: And if I can follow up, he also said this morning Mueller is doing tremendous damage to the criminal justice system.

If that's true, is he considering picking up the phone, calling his acting attorney general and saying, fire Robert Mueller?

HUCKABEE SANDERS: Look, I think that the president has had Robert Mueller doing his job for the last two years, and he could have taken action at any point, and he hasn't.

So, we will let that speak for itself. He has no intent to do anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: All right, so that is bombshell number one.

Bombshell number two today, "The Guardian" is reporting that Manafort met with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange back in 2013, 2015, and then the spring of 2016. The timing is key, because that is right around the time Manafort jumped in to work with the Trump campaign. For one thing, it was just a couple months later when WikiLeaks published those stolen DNC e-mails. Now, WikiLeaks is totally shooting this whole thing down. This is their tweet. "Remember this day when 'The Guardian' permitted a serial fabricator to totally destroy the paper's reputation. WikiLeaks is willing to bet 'The Guardian' a million dollars and its editor's head that Manafort never met Assange."

Let's go straight to CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash and CNN contributor Garrett Graff, who wrote the book "The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller's FBI and the War on Global Terror."

And so, Garrett, I just wanted to start with you here on this "Guardian" piece, and just knowing that, again, pinning it on "The Guardian," that the two of them, Assad -- why am I blanking?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Manafort.

BALDWIN: Manafort, thank you. Assange and Manafort -- thank you, Dana. It's been a day.

The fact that they met spring of 2016, what do you make of that timing, Gary?

GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I don't think that Paul Manafort was going in there to get restaurant recommendations for a great night out in London.

(LAUGHTER)

[15:05:02]

BALDWIN: You don't?

BASH: It is possible.

GRAFF: It's possible, but Assange has been in there since 2012. So he's not really got the finger on the pulse of the dining scene anymore.

(LAUGHTER)

GRAFF: And I think what you see is potentially one of the reasons why Bob Mueller has been so interested in Julian Assange, Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi, sort of this nexus of people that we have seen him zeroing in on since the spring, and that there appears to be some screws tightening on Jerome Corsi, and even on Roger Stone in the last couple of weeks -- and, remember, the Ecuadorian Embassy in the last couple of -- in the last week, really, has been taking some interesting action.

They removed the ambassador who has been Julian Assange's ally in London, and they have been blocking Julian Assange's lawyers from meeting with him. And so there's some speculation that maybe they are preparing to turn Julian Assange over to U.S. authorities. And this bombshell from "The Guardian," if it's true -- and we have no reason to doubt it, but it also hasn't been backed up by anyone else yet today -- is a good sign of why Paul Manafort may be in some jeopardy with Julian Assange.

BALDWIN: Right.

And just staying with you briefly, if they're saying, WikiLeaks -- you saw the tweet, flat-out denying the two ever met -- wouldn't it be easy -- I know they're saying there weren't visitor logs, but, Garrett, wouldn't it be easy to prove if Manafort was there, I don't know, flight records, security, surveillance cameras, et cetera?

GRAFF: Exactly.

London is the most watched city in the Western world. And if Paul Manafort was there, there's almost certainly CCTV camera footage of that happening.

BALDWIN: Yes.

GRAFF: And, of course, we know Paul Manafort's travel records coming in and out of London as well.

BALDWIN: Yes.

Dana, to you and your reporting with Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani on this whole notion that the plea deal has been breached with Manafort, that he's been lying repeatedly to federal investigators.

So Giuliani -- you tell me, but it sounds like Giuliani was aware of the problems with Manafort and Mueller.

BASH: That's right. He said -- he told me that he was aware because he is in contact with Paul Manafort's attorneys. This is an agreement that goes back a long time.

And the Trump team, the Trump legal team has such agreements with other related characters, if you will, as part of this drama who have similar interests, who have interests that at least for now dovetail.

And so, yes, Giuliani is in contact with Robert -- with Paul Manafort's attorneys and knew about these problems and is also, as you can imagine, in keeping with what his boss is saying on Twitter, the president, very aggressively going after Robert Mueller as well, saying that he's -- he and the Mueller special counsel team, they're being too hard on Manafort, trying to, from their perspective -- at least their argument publicly -- is to try to get Manafort to lie in order to hurt the president.

So that's what...

BALDWIN: With the solitary confinement, right, they're saying.

BASH: Yes. And that's -- exactly. Look, that's -- that's the argument that Giuliani is making, that Manafort has been put in and out of solitary confinement to squeeze him, they're trying to break him. We have other reporting, however, that that's not the reason Manafort is in solitary confinement, that there are -- that there are less nefarious reasons why he is there.

But it all goes to kind of the broader picture that we have been painting and understanding, that the president and his team are painting, continuing to in a much more aggressive way go after Robert Mueller, in light of what's going on with Manafort and what's going on with Corsi and, perhaps more importantly, things that we don't know that they probably do know because of talks and negotiations going on back and forth with team Mueller.

BALDWIN: Here's the simplest of questions, Garrett, and it's for you.

How is Mueller so confident that Manafort is lying?

GRAFF: Well, this is one of the interesting aspects of this whole case, is, Paul Manafort keeps thinking that he's going to get one past Bob Mueller.

Remember, he's been caught already twice earlier this year. He was trying to ghostwrite an op-ed in support of himself, and Bob Mueller confronted him with the track changes in the Microsoft Word document. And then he was trying to do some light witness tampering to align his story with another potential witness.

And Bob Mueller confronted him with the encrypted text messaging communications. The fact that Paul Manafort hasn't realized that Bob Mueller is one, two, six steps ahead of him at every turn through this case is one of the things that continues to astound me.

[15:10:06]

BALDWIN: Incredible.

Garrett Graff and Dana Bash, thank you.

Dana, thanks for the save earlier. Appreciate you, sister.

BASH: Back at you.

BALDWIN: Thank you. Thank you.

Coming up next, we're going to take you live to Ohio and the site of one of the General Motors plants that will be shutting down, the president responding moments ago, threatening to cut off all GM subsidies in response.

Plus, a racially charged Senate contest is coming to an end today, after the president went to Mississippi to try to boost the Republican candidate. We will dig into controversies around the runoff.

And, later, Republican leaders may allow a vote on a bill to protect the special counsel investigation -- details on the pressure coming from within their own party.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:15:08]

BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Now to a recent threat from the president of the United States aimed smack dab at an iconic American company.

Moments ago, during the White House press briefing, the president tweeted, threatening to retaliate against General Motors for cutting thousands of jobs and closing five plants.

In this blistering tweet, the president warned that his administration may cut all subsidies for GM. So, this is exactly what he tweeted -- quote -- "Very disappointed with General Motors and their CEO, Mary Barra, for closing plants in Ohio, Michigan, and Maryland. Nothing being closed in Mexico and China. The U.S. saved General Motors, and this is the thanks we get. We are now looking at cutting all at GM subsidies, including for general -- for" -- excuse me -- "electric cars."

"General Motors made a big China bet years ago, when they built plants there and Mexico. Don't think that bet is going to pay off. I am here to protect America's workers."

Cristina Alesci is in Lordstown, Ohio, where one of those GM plants is set to shut down.

So, Cristina, when you hear the president threatening to cut all subsidies, what does that mean for hardworking Americans in which -- the town where you are?

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Cutting subsidies doesn't really do anything to fix the problem, the really fundamental problem.

All it does is distract from the fact that the president made a promise to keep these jobs here, and he's failed to deliver on that promise so far.

You know what else this tweet does from the president? It distracts from the actual story, which is the pain that this town is now feeling, the shock and the frustration that it's now feeling after learning that it might lose 1,500 workers in the plant behind me. And the ripple effects of that can be even bigger than 1,500 jobs.

People are worried about local businesses here. They're worried about schools. I spoke to one mother who is worried about the fact that her daughter's class might shrink, and that might impact federal funding. All of these are issues that the community here is dealing with.

And that's really the story, Brooke, not to mention the fact that people here are very frustrated with GM, because they're not getting the kind of answers. GM used this word that was a little confusing. They said that they were essentially stopping production of the Chevy Cruze and not shuttering the plants.

That means that there is hope here that perhaps the company could start production of another vehicle, a better-selling vehicle in this plant. So there's a lot of optimism. But it's guarded optimism because this community is still reeling from layoffs not just now, but in 2017 and earlier this year in 2018.

This community has lost a massive amount of manufacturing jobs, and that continues seemingly unabated. It doesn't seem like Trump's policies are really addressing the fundamental problem that GM is facing right now.

BALDWIN: Devastating for schools. I'm so glad you pointed out parents and funding and school and classroom sizes. This all is affected by these sorts of decisions.

Cristina Alesci in the snow, in Lordstown, Ohio, Cristina, thank you.

Coming up next: the final vote of the 2018 midterms, thousands of people in Mississippi going to the polls today to decide a racially charged Senate contest. We will take you there live.

And a quick update on Walter Reed Medical Center. A Department of Defense spokesperson tells CNN that the situation at Walter Reed was an exercise, and there is no active shooter.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:23:38]

BALDWIN: Right now, voters are headed to the polls in Mississippi, where this racially charged Senate race is coming to a close.

Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith trying to fend off Democrat Mike Espy, who is trying to become the state's first African-American senator there in more than 100 years. Hyde-Smith has made several controversial remarks, including saying she would attend a public hanging if invited.

President Trump throwing his weight behind Hyde-Smith last night, headlining two rallies in Mississippi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Cindy's far-left opponent -- he's far left -- oh, he's out there. How does he fit in with Mississippi? Just explain. But I could go over this. But how does he fit in?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Matt Viser is with me, national political reporter with "The Washington Post." He's been following this race mighty closely there in Mississippi areas and Jackson. Matt, good to see you.

First just out of the gate -- listen, I know I'm setting you up with an impossible question to answer. But the fact that Trump was in Mississippi twice yesterday, is the headline tomorrow Trump saying, you're welcome? How likely is that?

MATT VISER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think it's pretty likely.

I mean, Trump coming, I think it is, one, an indication of Republicans being a little bit nervous. The president of the United States having to spend several hours in this state, holding two different rallies in two different areas of the state, it's an indication of them being nervous about Cindy Hyde-Smith, him trying to drag her across the finish line.

And expect him, yes, to claim credit for the victory if she wins. Republicans are confident, but they do say it's close. I mean, it's a lot closer than they want it to be. This should be a state that's easy for them to carry. And it's a competitive race.

[15:25:10]

BALDWIN: Given how much Trump won Mississippi and 2016 vs. the percentage of the black vote -- I think it's something like 40 percent in Mississippi -- there has been so much focus on Hyde-Smith, but do you think Mississippi here in 2018 is ready for Mike Espy?

VISER: I mean, that's the big test.

I mean, this election has become about bigger things than just Mike Espy and Cindy Hyde-Smith. It's become about race, racial tension in a state with a dark history of racism. It's become about the Confederacy and pride in the Confederacy that exists in many parts of this state and that Cindy Hyde-Smith herself has espoused.

So I think it's become about a lot bigger issues than just the two of them. And that's the test, that Mike Espy is trying to drive up African-American turnout in a state that has a greater proportion of black voters than any other state.

It's a low-key election a couple days after Thanksgiving. So I think that is the challenge in getting people to the polls. And that's what he's testing today.

BALDWIN: You alluded to this a second ago on the embracing of the Confederacy, Confederate past.

You have done reporting on Hyde-Smith and how she's done that more than once in her political career. You wrote it up for "The Post" recently. Tell me more about that.

VISER: So, yes, throughout her career, she has embraced pride in the Confederacy.

One of her first pieces of legislation as a state senator was to rename a portion of a highway in her district after Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy.

There's photos of her visiting the homestead of Jefferson Davis and posing in photos for those. She's had a career out of doing that, which doesn't make her altogether out of step with many of her generation in Mississippi.

She also went to a school that was that was not integrated. It was a segregated school that she -- her parents sent her, to a private school to avoid an integrated one. So she has a history that Mike Espy and his supporters have tried to say that we need to move past this kind of dialogue and this kind of pride in the Confederacy.

But, frankly, it still exists in the state. And a lot of voters are telling us that today as we talk to them after they vote.

BALDWIN: Matt Viser in Jackson, Mississippi, we will be watching for the polls closing and see who is the next senator in that great Southern state.

Thank you.

Just in, President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, has responded to this report today in "The Guardian" that he had met with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange three times, as recent as 2016 -- what Paul Manafort is now saying next.

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