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Special Counsel Brings New Charges against Paul Manafort; Mississippi to Hold Runoff Election for U.S. Senate; Three U.S. Servicemembers Killed by Roadside Bomb in Afghanistan. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired November 27, 2018 - 8:00   ET

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


[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: -- Russian interference in the 2016 election. The special counsel's office claims that Manafort's lies relieve them of any promises they made to Manafort. Manafort says he has provided, quote, truthful information. So both sides are calling on a judge to resolve this and sentence Manafort immediately.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Meantime, the polls are now open in Mississippi. Today is the runoff for the remaining contested Senate seat in the country. President Trump was in Mississippi campaigning last night to help embattled Republican senator Cindy Hyde-Smith. At the same time, he was losing more ground in the House. A net gain of 40 seats for the Democrats is well within reach.

Joining us now, Jess McIntosh, Matt Lewis, Jeffrey Toobin. I want to start with the Paul Manafort news. Jeffrey Toobin, when I saw this, I scratched my head. I said Paul Manafort, he had a path here to a reduced jail sentence. He just said no, I don't want to take that path. It raises all kinds of questions. Does Robert Mueller have so much information about so many things that he can catch him in anyone lying? Does Paul Manafort not care about going to jail for longer? Or is he protecting some secret that's worth going to jail for longer?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: This is a real iceberg story in the sense that a lot of it is beneath the surface. And the biggest question that is unanswered is why. Why would you lie when you have a cooperation agreement? That -- the whole point of cooperating is to get a lower sentence because you tell the truth to prosecutors. Don't do a cooperation agreement if you are not going to tell the truth.

That's why it's a very rare situation which we have seen now, because people with cooperation agreements cooperate. But he didn't. And the question is why. Is he simply arrogant? Is he simply just a congenital liar? Is he hoping for a pardon? Is there something huge that he's protecting? All of those are possibilities. I don't know which one is true.

CAMEROTA: Matt, maybe it's the easiest one. Maybe he's banking on a pardon since we know that President Trump is inclined to pardon people that he likes.

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Look, I think all those possibilities are plausible. On the one hand, the ego thing makes sense. This is a guy, if you think about it, he has been kind of a high roller, a big deal at least in terms of making a ton of money and being a player on the Republican side since the 1980s. So when you've had that many decades of kind of doing things your way, playing dirty politics, kind of Lee Atwater style politics, it may be understandable you think you can get away with stuff.

But the other argument I think is plausible, too. Maybe this is a play to try to get a pardon. Then all of this goes away. He needs to signal to Donald Trump that he is not cooperating. Well, that signal has now been sent.

BERMAN: Jess, you look at this. You look at Michael Flynn, the president former national security adviser, you look at Rick Gates, the deputy campaign chair, you look at George Papadopoulos. There's a whole lot of people lying.

JESS MCINTOSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I think that Trump has actually done a pretty good job of obfuscating what the substance of the issue is. Collusion is a difficult thing to get your arms around. It's not a term that American households use on the regular. Lying is pretty understandable. So you have the Manafort story coming out just hours after George Papadopoulos goes to prison for lying. There is the saying that it is not the crime. It's the cover-up. In this case we don't really know what the crime is going to be, whatever Mueller is going to say happened. The cover-up we are seeing playing out in real-time, and it is truly astonishing that there are this many people who are comfortable being this open about lying to our intelligence.

TOOBIN: And what's just remarkable is those of us who have covered many Washington scandals, that phrase, it is not the crime, it's the cover-up. All the lawyers say that their clients, look, it's very hard to prove any underlying crimes here. Just go in there and tell the truth and you'll be fine, and people never do. And here they are, one after another convicted, or plead guilty to lying.

CAMEROTA: And so Jeffrey, one more question. Does this mean that the Paul Manafort, any stuff that he's already given to Mueller's prosecutors is it tainted? They can't use that? They don't know whether it is trustworthy?

TOOBIN: I think they're going to have to do that piece by piece. And that's why this piece of news is potentially good news for Donald Trump because when Manafort flipped, many people said, oh, boy, he's going to be the star witness against Donald Trump. He's a useless witness now because they have found him to be a liar.

BERMAN: But can the special counsel's team use this sentencing document when they go in to explain to the judge what Paul Manafort lied about to reveal some of the workings of his case?

TOOBIN: Yes, if they want to. It is also possible that they will file this document under seal. I don't know how they will pursue that.

MCINTOSH: It is clear that they know more. They are not relying on Manafort. They couldn't have been as sure he had been lying about all of the ways that he was lying unless they had information that went well beyond what he was willing to provide them.

[08:05:06] So I think at this point, even the lies could be helpful in determining what is trying to be hidden.

CAMEROTA: Hey, Matt, let's talk about President Trump's approval rating as well as what's happening at the border. So his disapproval rating is now at the highest according to the Gallup poll that we have seen, 60 percent disapproval. That's up 10 points over last month. So something is going on, OK, that made it spike like this.

Now, this brings up the border. Obviously, the visuals of what's happening is disturbing. Teargas being used. There are women and children in this crowd. But also storming the border is very disturbing to Americans. So what do you think it is that has made the president's disapproval spike? And do you think that he can still use what's going on at the border to his advantage?

LEWIS: Yes, well, a lot to unpack there. First, Donald Trump is someone who has never cared about being popular. I know it sounds weird. The guy is an egomaniac narcissist. But he was elected by being very unpopular. He tried to win the midterms, and in fact he did well in the Senate, did horrible in the House while being unpopular. Not as unpopular as he is today, but still unpopular.

So this is a guy who doesn't really care about growing his coalition. And it's a weird philosophy because any normal politician would say, OK, we have to grow out support. Trump doesn't care about that. and I think this manifests itself into the border controversy. Look, any normal politician would try to find a way to appease their base, secure the border, but also display some compassion, right, win over some of those suburban soccer moms that went against him and cost Republicans the House. Donald Trump has no interest in doing that. There's no compassionate conservatism.

Barrack Obama did a lot of the same things on the border that Donald Trump is doing. Nobody thought that Barack Obama was mean or that he didn't care about immigrants. I would even say the same thing about other presidents like George W. Bush. Donald Trump, it's not just what is happening on the border. It is the rhetoric, the racial rhetoric and his tone that I think is really hurting him with a lot of these voters who are swing voters.

BERMAN: Jess, I think it is really interesting what is going to happen this week. I don't want to reduce this all to just politics because those were human beings that were suffering underneath the teargas there. Immigration is a very difficult issue, and protecting the border is a very difficult issue. I don't see Democrats jumping up and down this week despite the fact that Matt Lewis is saying the president is coming off with an unpassionate conservative there. I don't see Democrats necessarily seizing on this with the same fervor that they did, for instance, with child separation. It seems to me they realize there is some political potency for the border security argument here over the next several days.

MCINTOSH: I think part of it is choosing to center the argument or choosing not to center the argument. There really is no border crisis aside from the one where we are jailing children and poisoning them with gas. So I think you see Democrats pushing back on Donald Trump. You don't see them talking about the migrant crisis at the border because that is largely a rightwing invented crisis.

Yes, there are people at the border, and occasionally throughout our history there have been. But we saw in the lead-up to the midterms Trump and the administration being absolutely willing to lie outrageously about the nature of these people, their intentions on getting here. It didn't work. If anything, it backfired. We saw white women move in numbers towards Democrats that we haven't seen in midterms before. We saw more people engaged in turning out. We saw voter turnout that almost rivaled the presidential election. If anything, that kind of rhetoric backfired.

So I think at this point Trump continues to use it. I'm not sure what his endgame is now that the midterms are over. He doesn't have a base to rile to any true effect anymore, but it doesn't seem to be working. So I think Democrats might be content to allow him to do that all on his own.

CAMEROTA: He's just not attached to facts. This will shock you. So he says things like teargas is very safe. He says things like, oh, Border Patrol agents are getting badly injured when we have the chief of the border patrol agents, the source, who says no, rocks actually were thrown at them, but they were throwing their protective gear. They did not get injured. But whatever you need to do to make a point.

TOOBIN: Every time we have one of these conversations about Donald Trump being untruthful or appealing to his base, I remember the 2016 election.

CAMEROTA: Talk about it.

TOOBIN: As you recall, Donald Trump won that election by being Donald Trump. And I think that's the governing and political philosophy underlying his presidency, which is he is who he is. He came from nowhere. People like us never gave him a chance. And that's the kind of president he's going to be. That's the kind of candidate he's going to be.

[08:10:03] CAMEROTA: And it's effective.

TOOBIN: Yes. He's the 45th president of the United States. Now, will he get reelected? Beats the hell out of me. But he did get elected once.

BERMAN: Matt, it is interesting because overnight in California, California 21, one of the congressional districts where they are still counting, the Democrat took the lead over the incumbent Republican. It does put Democrats on pace get to 40 seats, a 40-gain seat in the House. You noted that the Republicans held the Senate and increased their margin. It's why I think the president is so exciting to campaign in Mississippi last night and today. He wants to be able to wake up tomorrow if the Republican wins there and say, hey, we got another Senate seat. But the House, 40 seats is a big number, Matt. LEWIS: Yes. I think he's going to win in Mississippi. But you

should, right? Getting credit for a Republican winning in Mississippi is not exactly -- so anyway, that's going to happen. But look, 40 seats is huge. The interest thing to me is how the narrative of this whole midterm got set. You know, when it was 8:00 on the east coast on election night and it looks like Republicans are going to win in Florida and in Georgia, I think there was a narrative set that there wasn't a wave and that Republicans had a pretty good night. And then we have seen not just over the course of election night, but over the course of the last couple weeks as recently as this morning more results trickling in. And 40 seats is nothing to seize at. Certainly, in the House it is a huge, huge blow. And most presidents I think would take that into consideration as they are planning their re-election strategy.

MCINTOSH: I completely appellee with Matt on how this has played out. And I think you are seeing something interesting among Democrats and Democratic operative. The people who would be talking about this kind of thing on election night, on television for people to watch, we are so traumatized from 2016 that it took two weeks for us to be able to admit -- three weeks that we won. And not only did we win, we won big. We won seats we weren't expecting to win. We defeating Republicans we never expected to defeat. But that night it was just so nail biting that I think it took us a while to come around. We're not accustomed to victory at that point, so we're not great at it.

CAMEROTA: No. You're really slow rolling your enthusiasm here, yes. Thank you, all.

BERMAN: Matt, Jess, Jeffrey, thank you very much.

Following breaking news. Three U.S. servicemembers have been killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. This just happened. CNN's Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon with the details. Barbara, what have your learned here?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John and Alisyn. According to the Pentagon, this is the single largest loss of life in combat in ground action in Afghanistan in three years. Three Americans servicemembers killed, three servicemembers and a contractor also wounded when their vehicle hit an IED in Ghazni. If you look at the map, Ghazni is southwest of Kabul. This is an area where the Taliban had been resurgent in recent weeks. That's not unusual. The Taliban have been coming back in certain areas across Afghanistan. The U.S. had to send troops into the Ghazni area recently to try and help Afghan forces retain control of the area.

And what is so interesting is this is the same area where just a few days ago you saw the top commander, the four-star general Scott Miller, carrying his own M4 carbine, as he was walking in the area of Ghazni because the situation is so uncertain there. We asked his spokesman to explain to us a little bit more about this area and why we are seeing General Miller, like a regular comfort soldier except he's a four-star, carrying his rifle.

And they gave us a statement saying, and I want to quote it, "Any time we fly over hostile terrain, we carry carbines. We like to be prepared in case the helicopter has to set down." That is no small statement that this general, these troops are facing this kind of danger still in Afghanistan every day for the last 17 years. And I think it becomes obvious to everyone when you look at a situation like this, this is what American troops are dealing with every day out on the front lines. Some people may be making phone calls to troops to talk politics. The president did that. There is no dispute in that. But for troops out on the front line, this is what they are facing this holiday season. John, Alisyn?

BERMAN: Every day.

CAMEROTA: Barbara, it is important for the rest of us to remember that reality. Thank you very much.

So President Trump does not believe the dire climate warning put out by the U.S. government. One of the scientists behind that report tells us the real story next.

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[08:18:54] REPORTER: Have you read the climate report yet?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've seen it. I've read some of it, and it's fine.

REPORTER: They say the economic impact will be devastating.

TRUMP: Yes, I don't believe it.

REPORTER: You don't believe it?

TRUMP: No, no. I don't believe it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. That's President Trump not believing a dire report from 13 federal agencies and his own administration aided by 300 leading scientists, all of which predict that climate change will cause environmental and economic devastation in America by the end of this century.

Joining us now is one of these scientists who helped write that report, Katharine Hayhoe. She is the director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University.

Katharine, great to have you with us. We're so glad you have help us sift through this because it is more than 1,000 pages. So, we need your help boiling it down. But it just gets more and more disturbing the way you dive into it.

Here are some of the findings. Higher temperatures are already happening. They will increase deaths. Food and waterborne illnesses will spread. Wildfires, as we've just seen so painfully in California, will increase. Floods, as we have just seen after hurricanes, will be more frequent.

[08:20:01] Asthma and allergies will be worse. Crop production will decline because of high temperatures and drought. Seafood industry predicted to lose $230 million by the end of the century.

It is -- it's all so dire. What are we missing? What do you think the headline from this report is?

KATHARINE HAYHOE, DIRECTOR, CLIMATE SCIENCE CENTER AT TEXAS TECH UNIVERSITY: What we're missing is the fact that climate is already changing, and it is affecting us today in the places where we live. It's no longer a feature issue. Today in some places in coastal Florida, property prices have already dropped 7 percent along the coast compared to just in land.

Wherever we live, whether we are subject to wild fires, hurricanes, heavy precipitation, flooding, heat waves, we are already experiencing the impacts today.

CAMEROTA: And so, when you hear President Trump say, I don't believe it. I don't believe it. I know you have said something funny previously where it is like not believing in gravity. Climate change doesn't care if you believe in it or not, it's still happening.

But what does it mean for the rest of us that he doesn't believe in it? Could some of this be staved off if our leader believed in it?

HAYHOE: Carbon emission is kind of like smoking. The best time to stop is now. If you can't stop now, then as soon as possible. So, every year that considers without a serious action to reduce and eventually eliminate our emissions is another year of guaranteed impacts further down the road.

CAMEROTA: And so, I mean, when you're so stiff in this material, when you hear the president say he doesn't believe it, how does that make you feel?

HAYHOE: It makes me feel frustrated because, again, you can say I don't believe in gravity. But if you step off the cliff, you are going down. So we can say I don't believe climate is changing, but it is based on science. It's over 150 years old.

And if we're making decisions that just don't affect us, but that affect hundreds of millions of people based on flawed or faulty information, the result is not going to be good.

CAMEROTA: You know what the skeptics say. I'm sure you heard it a million times. They think that all of you scientists are self- interested. You are doing this because you're bankrolled by other people. That some of your predictions in the past haven't come true. Therefore, you're I guess delegitimized.

Here are just yesterday what some of the skeptics said. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: A lot of these scientists are driven by the money they receive.

TOM DELAY (R), FORMER MAJORITY LEADER: The report is nothing more than a rehash of age old, 10 to 20 year assumptions made by scientists that get paid to further the politics of global warming.

STEPHEN MOORE, FORMER TRUMP ECONOMIC ADVISER: We have created a climate change industrial context in this country with billions and billions and billions of dollars at stake. A lot of people are getting really, really rich off the climate change issue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Katharine, are you just rolling in the dough? Is that why you're doing this? You're just cashing in?

HAYHOE: Rolling in the (INAUDIBLE) is more like it.

I got paid zero dollars to write this report. My salary would have been exactly the same if I had or hadn't. If I was studying astrophysics like I used to, I probably get the same salary as well.

The reality is I found is that people often accused us of doing what they would do themselves in our position. If we just cast our eye down the richest corporations in the entire world on Wikipedia's list, the vast majority of those owe their wealth to fossil fuels, so therefore, they have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo as long as possible.

CAMEROTA: Katharine, I think it's hard even more regular people, even people who aren't skeptics to know what to believe because it is all so overwhelming. It's also -- it makes people feel powerless, so its' easy to turn away.

When -- what will happen? I mean, what do you want people to know in terms of if we do nothing by 2050, say, what will our lives look like?

HAYHOE: I think the most important thing I think to know is that our choices matter. A certain amount of impacts are inevitable because of what we have done before, as if we have been smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for several decades.

But the most serious and dangerous impacts are not here yet, and they can be avoided. How? By acting. What's the first step. The first step is actually to talk about it because studies have shown that three-quarters of Americans don't even hear somebody else talk about it more than once or twice a year.

I'm not saying we have to dive deep into the science, but this report, the national climate assessment, offers a great opportunity for us to say, hey, I live in the Northeast, the Midwest, the Southwest, Texas, Florida, Louisiana, and here is what's already happening in the places where we live. Here is why it matters to us personally, not the polar bears, not future generations, but us. And then it's important to talk about what we can do about it. The

fact that in Texas, we had 25,000 jobs in the wind energy industry already. The fact that coal mining museum in Kentucky put solar panels on the roof. The fact that our economy can continue to grow and thrive as we transition to clean energy.

[08:25:02] CAMEROTA: Katharine Hayhoe, it is so helpful to hear that it is not hopeless. Thank you very much for sharing your science with us.

HAYHOE: Thank you for having me.

CAMEROTA: John?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I love the idea of a billionaire scientists rolling around in cash at some exclusive club somewhere for studying climate change.

CAMEROTA: I know. She actually would break it down for you. After she got a million dollar grant to do research, at the end of it, she got $2,000.

BERMAN: Fascinating to hear that perspective.

All right, a big midterm surprise overnight. Democrats grabbing a lead in a California House race that was projected on election night as a Republican win.

We're going to ask an outgoing Republican what went wrong for Republicans in that state and around the country. That's next.

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