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Paul Manafort's Team Informed Donald Trump's Lawyers on Mueller Moves; Mueller Court Filings Detail Stone and WikiLeaks Connection; Mattis, Pompeo to Brief Senators on Yemen, Saudis and Khashoggi; CIA Director Omitted from Senate Briefing on Khashoggi; Pompeo Slams "Caterwauling" Over Journalist's Murder; Senate to Decide on a Resolution to End U.S. Support in Saudi-Led Conflict After Yemen Hearing; New Report Suggests Manafort's Team Informed Trump's Lawyers on Mueller Moves; Russia's Assault on Ukrainian Ships to Be Addressed at G20; Investors Keep a Close Ear on Fed Chair Speech. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired November 28, 2018 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: -- news this morning. We get not one but two exceedingly rare peeks behind the scenes, in one case behind the back of the Mueller investigation.
CNN has seen a draft court filing that spells out in great detail alleged attempts by Roger Stone to get his hands on stolen Democratic e-mails that WikiLeaks obtained from Russian hackers. Stone is a long-time confidant of the president and an adviser to his campaign.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Gets right to the potential question of collusion.
SCIUTTO: Separately we've learned that while the former chairman of the Trump campaign Paul Manafort was supposedly cooperating with but allegedly lying to the special counsel, his lawyer was in close touch with the president's lawyers. That is not itself a crime, but it certainly did not make the Special Counsel Robert Mueller happy.
CNN's Alex Marquardt is in Washington.
So, Alex, help us understand how a defended briefing, another person involved in the investigation, potential that is the president himself, how is that acceptable?
ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, Jim. As you know, it's not a crime. It's legal. It's not customary. Particularly since Paul Manafort has struck a deal with the special counsel's office. So this has certainly raised the ire, it has certainly annoyed the special counsel's office.
The president's lawyer Rudy Giuliani has confirmed to our colleague Dana Bash that the two sides are in touch, that Paul Manafort's lawyer Kevin Downing has been in touch with the president's legal team as he put it on -- regarding issues relating to the president and team Trump. So Manafort's lawyer briefing the president's lawyers about the shape and the direction that the special counsel's prosecutors are taking in their questioning, particularly as it pertains to the president.
Now, as we understand it, this is an informal cooperation. It's not -- it falls short of what we understand a joint defense agreement to be because it is less formal.
But, Jim and Poppy, this is essentially Paul Manafort and his team trying to have their cake and eat it, too. On the one hand, they struck this plea deal two months ago. Paul Manafort is supposed to be the star witness helping the Mueller probe along as they look into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. But then at the same time, they are feeding this information to the president's team about the direction that the Mueller probe is going in. And what that does is that it helps the president's team shape their legal and public relations strategy.
So is this Paul Manafort possibly fishing for a presidential pardon? Maybe. He's not looking in good shape. We saw just this week the special counsel's office say that over the past two months that Manafort has repeatedly lied to them and as a result Mueller and his team have asked for a date for sentencing for Paul Manafort -- Jim and Poppy.
SCIUTTO: It is a remarkable reality, too. Paul Manafort was telling the truth to the president, inside information but lying to the special counsel at the same time.
SCIUTTO: Alex Marquardt, thanks very much.
New insight into what Robert Mueller's team may know about Roger Stone's effort to gather damaging information on Hillary Clinton during the election. CNN has obtained documents written by Mueller's office showing how Stone allegedly sought damning information and e- mails from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, because he knows were stolen by Russia in an effort to influence the election campaign.
HARLOW: All right. Our political correspondent Sara Murray is with us and had a rare, the only, sit-down with Corsi.
Walk us through all of these key revelations.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, so this is interesting because these new e-mails that are in this filing, that I spoke to Corsi about, came 10 weeks before WikiLeaks released John Podesta's e-mails. And they show, you know, Jerome Corsi seeming to alert Roger Stone that dirt was going to be coming. Corsi shared these documents with me, spoke to me about them. He said he got the documents as part of his plea discussions with Mueller's team.
Now he says he's not going to take their plea deal. He doesn't believe he lied. But they offered us an extraordinary window into part of the Mueller investigation. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
MURRAY (voice-over): Draft court filings offering significant new insights into what Special Counsel Robert Mueller may know about Trump associate Roger Stone's efforts to seek out damaging documents about Hillary Clinton from WikiLeaks ahead of the 2016 election.
The draft filing says Stone e-mailed conservative author and right- wing conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi to get the pending WikiLeaks e- mail. That e-mail coming just three days after WikiLeaks released e- mails from the Democratic National Committee in July of 2016, e-mails the U.S. government later said were hacked by Russian intelligence officers.
JEROME CORSI, CONSERVATIVE AUTHOR: Roger Stone writes in July, when I'm in Italy, and says get to Assange. And so I copy that e-mail. I forward it to Ted Malloch, an associate in London.
MURRAY: Two days later, President Trump said this at a campaign rally.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you are able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.
[09:05:01] MURRAY: A week later, the draft filing says Corsi e-mailed Stone writing, "Word is friend in embassy plans two more dumps. One shortly after I'm back. Second in October. Impact planned to be very damaging." Before referencing Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta and the Clinton Foundation.
Two days later, Stone discussed the allegations against the Clinton Foundation on InfoWars.
ROGER STONE, CLOSE TRUMP CONFIDANTE: Julian Assange has that proof, and I think he's going to furnish it to the American people.
MURRAY: Mentioning that he had recently been in contact with then candidate Donald Trump.
STONE: I spoke to Donald Trump yesterday. He's in good spirits.
MURRAY: Later that month Stone tweeted this cryptic message. "Trust me. It will soon be Podesta's time in the barrel."
According to Corsi, Stone later asked him to help develop a cover story for that tweet, an allegation Stone denied.
CORSI: Roger was saying, you know, I want you, you know, to help me figure out, you know, a way to make it sound like I didn't know these were Podesta's e-mails that Assange had. That wasn't what I was referring to.
MURRAY: Stone insisting to CNN that the interactions with Corsi laid out in the court filing do not "prove that I had advance notice that anyone had stolen Podesta's e-mails or that I knew the source or content of the WikiLeaks disclosures.
In an interview with CNN, Corsi says Stone also encouraged him to press Assange for dirt the morning the "Access Hollywood" tape was released.
CORSI: My recollection is that Roger is saying, you know, it is going to be dropped. And Assange better get going. You know, why don't you get to your buddy Assange and tell him to start.
MURRAY: Stone vehemently denies Corsi's claims as "pure, unadulterated, unmitigated B.S."
The same day that the "Access Hollywood" tape was made public, WikiLeaks published the first batch of Podesta's e-mails, prompting this response from Trump three days later.
TRUMP: WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks.
MURRAY: A source tells CNN that President Trump's lawyers learned he was referenced in the documents before Thanksgiving, and they were irritated by a line in the filing that notes that Corsi believes Stone was in regular contact with senior members of the Trump campaign, including then candidate Donald J. Trump.
MURRAY: Now this revelation that Donald Trump was actually named in the filing a source said delayed the Trump team's responses to Special Counsel Robert Mueller as they were going over those questions, of course. And as we know in the days since then, Donald Trump has continued to hammer the special counsel's investigation.
HARLOW: Yes. Wow. It is fascinating the way you lay it all out there piece by piece by piece.
SCIUTTO: Yes. I mean, raising the volume in this criticism of the special counsel's investigation.
HARLOW: Yes. Yes.
SCIUTTO: We see it again this morning.
SCIUTTO: Let's bring in, in addition to Sara, CNN national security and legal analyst Susan Hennessey.
So, Susan, drawing on your legal background here, it is not illegal for legal counsel for one defendant here to brief legal counsel for the other. But I wonder, in the special counsel's broader investigation of obstruction of justice, possible obstruction of justice by the president, would this be evidence relevant to that line of inquiry?
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's not unusual for there to be a joint defense agreement in this kind of circumstance. What is unusual -- what is unusual is that ordinarily prosecutors, whenever they start allowing someone to cooperate actually require that person to withdraw. The one big question here is whether or not prosecutors in this case impose those types of conditions.
Then I think the question does become based on sort of Manafort's behavior and decision to lie is whether or not in the course of those communications with Trump attorneys, either a pardon was dangled or information was exchanged the purpose of which was actually to impede the investigation.
HENNESSEY: You know, one significant thing regarding the timing here is reportedly Donald Trump has submitted those written answers. And so he submitted those written answers before he was aware that Mueller's team knew that Manafort was lying. So whatever information Manafort were sharing with Trump potentially the circumstances have dramatically changed in the intervening weeks.
HARLOW: And remember, Sara, to you, this cooperation only came after Manafort was found guilty on a number of counts and then the president praised him as a good man, et cetera, after he was found guilty. So the suggestion that some have made that perhaps there could have been, you know, a move by Manafort to essentially fake cooperation with Mueller's team, inform the president, hope for a pardon and in the interview with the "Washington Post" last night the president would not go on the record when asked about a potential pardon for Manafort.
MURRAY: And you know what, that's as good a theory as any because why, if you are Paul Manafort, and you had vowed you were going to fight this investigation, you were going to fight this investigation, would you then say, OK, never mind, I'm going to take the plea deal, I'm going to cooperate, lie allegedly throughout this cooperation agreement? It doesn't make any sense unless you are trying to angle -- unless, one, you're very stupid. And we know Paul Manafort is not an extremely stupid individual. Or two, you're angling for some broader strategy here, which would be a pardon.
[09:10:05] And we have seen, you know, how sort of forgiving Donald Trump has been toward Paul Manafort. He feels awful that he's been put in this position. He feels like the only reason he's in this position is because Paul Manafort worked for him, never mind the crimes he committed.
SCIUTTO: Well, the president has also said at times, well, Paul Manafort only worked for me for a little bit of time. You wonder if his own personal interests are more important than Paul Manafort's alleged suffering.
But, Susan, if I could ask you this question, so the second half of Sara's piece here which gets at this possibility of communication between Trump world and Assange, and I always remind viewers WikiLeaks was seen by the U.S. as a middleman between stolen -- e-mails stolen by Russia to influence the campaign, WikiLeaks effectively the way to get that out into the public eye here. Early on in this investigation and an intelligence source of mine
said, you know, look at what's open source. In other words look at public commentary here. And Roger Stone had a lot of public comments in advance of these releases which Sara referred to. The president talked about this as it was happening.
As you look at the evidence as it is trickling out here, are you seeing evidence of foreknowledge of these releases? And if there is foreknowledge, is that a legal issue by itself for the president and his advisers?
HENNESSEY: Yes. I think this is a case in which Stone and others might actually be brought down by their own hubris, their own ability to sort of keep this stuff secret. Now their claim is essentially that they guessed all of this, that they were just making predictions and that they turned out to be right.
What we're seeing in this draft Corsi plea agreement and the other Mueller filings is the level of specificity and communication that was occurring between Stone and WikiLeaks. I recall that there was also communications revealed between Stone and Gucifer 2.0 named in a prior Mueller indictment. So I do think that this becomes legally problematic because we have them talking about specifics, talking about coordination regarding timing, foreknowledge of the release of stolen information.
You know, that raises lots of questions, not just about this vague sort of was there collusion, but campaign finance violations, computer fraud and abuse act violations. So we don't know enough specifics to sort of say all the legal elements are met. But every new piece of information we hear I think does move people like Roger Stone more into sort of legal peril, not less.
HARLOW: Thank you, Susan Hennessey, important insight. Sara Murray, great reporting, great guests. Thank you.
Still to come, minutes from now the entire Senate gets a major briefing on everything from the crisis in Yemen to the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Who will they not hear from? The head of the CIA who heard that tape.
We will ask the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee if that is OK.
SCIUTTO: Plus, the final Senate race of 2018 as Mississippi makes history by sending another woman to the upper chamber.
[09:15:00] POPPY HARLOW, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: All right, in just under two hours, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet with senators behind closed doors. This is a critical briefing. It is about Saudi Arabia's role in the crisis in Yemen, and of course, senators will be asking about the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. JIM SCIUTTO, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: But attention will turn to the killing of the journalist, and our next guest has already referred to today's briefing regarding that killing as, quote, "the ultimate cover-up". Joining us now is Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, he is ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator, thanks very much for taking the time this morning.
SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Good to be with you.
SCIUTTO: So let me begin with the briefing here and the absence of the director of the CIA Gina Haspel. You have said that this is a problem for the briefing because she has listened to that audiotape, which is some of the key evidence of not only the nature of this murder, but who is behind this murder. What is your reaction to her not being there today?
MENENDEZ: Well, to me, the fact that Gina Haspel as the director of the CIA who has made, I understand from all published reports, a determination that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia was involved in the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi is a critical element. And it is a cover up not to have her there.
I don't want to hear a characterization by the Secretary of Defense or the Secretary of State. I want to hear the actual evidence by the person who went to Turkey, heard the ultimately the audio versions of what happened and other evidence that the CIA has deduced.
And so it's an affront to the Senate that has important decisions to make on foreign policy not to have her there.
HARLOW: You would think that she would want to be there, a U.S. official told our colleague Pamela Brown, she is not going because it's a policy-oriented meeting on Yemen and wouldn't be something that the CIA would typically be involved in, OK?
Let's get your reaction to what the Secretary of State who will be in the room today, Mike Pompeo writes this morning in an opinion piece in the "Wall Street Journal", quote, "is it any coincidence that the people using the Khashoggi murder as a cudgel against President Trump's Saudi Arabia policy are the same people who support Barack Obama's rapprochement with Iran -- a regime that has killed thousands world-wide, including hundreds of Americans, and brutalizes its own people?
Where was this echo chamber, and where were these avatars of human rights, when Obama gave the Mullahs pallets of cash to carry out their work as the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism?" Perhaps he should talk to Senator Lindsey Graham, that aside, what will you ask him today, Mike Pompeo, about the killing of Jamal Khashoggi?
MENENDEZ: Well, I'll ask him how is it that we are willing to turn a blind eye to a vicious attack and ultimately the killing of a United States permanent resident, a journalist in the world in order to say that our relationship with Saudi Arabia is more important. [09:20:00] Yes, Saudi Arabia is an important relationship, but at the
end of the day, if we allow our allies with impunity to kill others simply because we have an interest, then we forego everything about what the United States is important in the world.
And we understand that those allies who observe democratic and human rights values are more long-standing and more valuable to us than an instantaneous need with the Saudis who have their own interests in continuing to fight --
HARLOW: Right --
MENENDEZ: Extremism in the region, as well as Iran. So we don't have to forego the very essence of what America is all about in terms of democracy and human rights as a beacon to the world, and for which those values sustain us in our foreign policy interest in order to continue Saudi Arabia's part of a coalition against global terrorism.
SCIUTTO: Senator, you know something important distinction that Secretary Pompeo did not, which is the difference between Iran and Saudi Arabia is Saudi Arabia is a close U.S. ally. Presumably there's --
MENENDEZ: Right --
SCIUTTO: A relationship there where the U.S. can speak to them about issues like this. I want to ask you a question, is it your view that by not penalizing, not holding Saudi leaders to account for this, that not only Saudi Arabia, but other police states take this as a signal it's OK to do the same in the future, to murder their critics even abroad?
MENENDEZ: Absolutely. This is a global message that if you have some interest with the United States that you can bargain on, you can do anything that you want with impunity. That's a message we've sent to Putin, that the president doesn't seem to have a spine to turn -- to you know, to face Putin and his violation of the international order.
That's the message that we send to Duterte in the Philippines, that's the message that we are sending to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. It's a global message and it's a dangerous message for the ultimate national interest and security of the United States. It's unconscionable in my mind.
HARLOW: Senator, your fellow Democrat, the Ranking Member of the Senate Arms Services Committee Senator Jack Reed will support -- is supporting the resolution to end U.S. support, to end it for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. It's a resolution that could come to the floor for vote as early as today. Where do you stand, will you vote in favor of it?
MENENDEZ: I'm strongly supportive, I didn't support this resolution --
HARLOW: Right -- MENENDEZ: Or a version of this resolution before because I wanted to
give the administration a chance to show us that they were actually changing the course of events in Yemen. Tens of thousands have died, our assistance has not produced less civilian casualties.
Bombing a school bus with 25 children on board is not my idea of a better targeting process. I will vote for the resolution, and I will insist that the global Magnitsky invocation that I, as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Chairman have asked the administration to specifically give us a determination on the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.
HARLOW: So --
MENENDEZ: I want to see what that's resulting.
HARLOW: When Secretary Pompeo wrote this morning again in that opinion piece, quote, "without U.S. efforts, the death toll in Yemen would be far higher", is he right?
MENENDEZ: No, that's no, you know, I gave him the benefit of the doubt, and I regret that I gave them the benefit of the doubt. It has not produced less killing, and that's why the Saudi Arabia accountability in Yemen acted. I have with Senator Graham and a whole host of Democratic and Republican sponsors is so critical because we need to stop the refueling, we need to suspend armed sales to Saudi Arabia.
We need to sanction those who are engaged in creating a humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, as well as those who are supplying supplies to the Houthis and to ultimately find the ultimate responsibility for the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi. That's what the legislation does and that's what I hope we can get passed.
SCIUTTO: Senator, I want to turn to Russia now, as you're aware, Russia making what appears to be another territorial grab in Ukraine, international territory, attacking Ukrainian ships on the way to Ukrainian port. Nikki Haley, Mike Pompeo, they've condemned Russian aggression, the president has not.
Who does Vladimir Putin listen to, Trump or his advisors? And if he's listening to Trump, is he taking this as a signal it's OK?
MENENDEZ: Listen, Vladimir Putin listens to Trump, and he's convinced that the best bet he ever made was in the last presidential election when he got involved in our national elections as determined by a whole host of U.S. Intelligence agencies.
President Trump cannot find a spine to stand up to Vladimir Putin in the national interest and security of the United States. The aggression that is going on in international waters against Ukraine is just another step of the aggression that Russia has shown, not only in the region, but in the world.
[09:25:00] And I hope that when he goes to the G20 Summit this week, he'll find a spine to stand up to Putin because we cannot have another Helsinki adventure.
SCIUTTO: But on that point then, this is not the first time that the president has held his fire on Russia, of course, repeatedly on Russia's interference in the 2016 election. Do you have an explanation for why the president -- why this president habitually refuses to unequivocally condemn Russian aggression and the Russian president?
MENENDEZ: There is no plausible explanation. There is no explanation that's in the national interest and security of the United States. Maybe Robert Mueller will ultimately give us that explanation.
HARLOW: Just to put a button on it, it sounds from your previous answer, like you actually want the president to meet with President Putin on Friday and meet with him whiles he's at the G20. Is that right?
MENENDEZ: I want him to meet with him if he's going to stand up to him. If he's going to give us --
HARLOW: OK --
MENENDEZ: Another Helsinki performance, forget about it. But I want to meet and stand up to him and say this violation of the international order cannot continue. You cannot continue to interfere in our elections. There are consequences, and by the way, here's what I'm going to do right now, and those consequences in terms of sanctions.
And if you want to change the course of events, we can have a better relationship, but not for so long as you continue to have the aggression that you have against Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea, the constant cyber attacks against our country as well as other countries.
Putin only understands strength, and what he has is a weak president responding to him.
HARLOW: Senator Menendez, appreciate you being here, we know you have a very big day, important day, important meeting ahead, thank you.
SCIUTTO: Thanks very much.
MENENDEZ: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: Well, we are just moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. The Dow should rise at the start of trading based on futures, but investors will be watching a speech later this morning by the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, this hours after the president went after him and the Fed passed rate hikes.