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Mueller Received Two Key Written Answers from Trump; Bipartisan Bill to Protect Mueller Fails to Reach Senate Floor; Mattis Says There Is No Smoking Gun That the Crown Prince Was Involved in Murder. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired November 28, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Thank you so much. Hi, everyone, I'm Brooke Baldwin. We begin with breaking news that's exclusive to CNN. We are just learning what President Trump told special counsel Robert Mueller in writing about two specific issues that are part of the Russia investigation. These are the answers he provided pertaining to WikiLeaks and the 2016 Trump Tower meeting. Let's go straight to dana bash, who is breaking the story. Dana, what did the President say or write?

DANA BASH, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Brooke, as you mentioned, we are really getting the first insight into how the President responded to Robert Mueller's written questions. Up until now it's been a big unknown. So, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN two things, Brooke. Number one, that the President told the special counsel that Roger Stone did not tell him about WikiLeaks; and, number two, that the President was also not told about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his son, campaign officials and a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. Now, the President's answers were described to us. We didn't get any direct quotes, and the President also made clear, we are told, as part of his answer that he was giving them to the best of his recollections. Big Picture, WikiLeaks, the Trump Tower meetings, those are really key to what Mueller's central mission has been, which is investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russians in 2016.

BALDWIN: How different is this, these written responses, from what the President has said publicly?

BASH: We're told what the President has said in these written answers match his public statements. But there is a really big difference. These written answers would be subject to criminal charges if false. That's why it's our understanding that the President made clear his answers were the best of his recollection, which is standard for lawyers as a way to try to shield their client should their recollections be challenged.

BALDWIN: How do you think Democrats will respond?

BASH: Well, we know our Manu Raju who was running around Capitol Hill has already gotten one of the key Democrats on this issue, Adam Schiff, who is going to be the House chairman of the intelligence committee. Let's listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), RANKING MEMBER INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The written responses are hardly adequate. There really needs to be a live interview with the President because you need to be able to ask follow-up questions in realtime. In terms of whether he was aware of the meeting in Trump Tower, there is important relevant information we were not allowed to get. One of the key documents for example that we are going to pursue, are the phone records that would show who was on that phone call that Don Jr. had sandwiched in between his calls to set up the meeting at Trump Tower with a meet Agalarov.


BASH: So, Adam Schiff is referring to an unknown caller. That's what came up on the screen when Don Jr. was having a conversation with a known caller on the other end. He might not know about those phone records. You can be sure Robert Mueller does. And the whole notion of a live interview, remember what we're reporting now at the beginning of the at least for the first time we know some of the answers that the President gave in these written Q & A sessions that this is and was part of a very extensive negotiation between team Trump and team Mueller about how to get the President's answers. And at least with regard to collusion, this is what they came up with, written questions, written answers.

BALDWIN: Dana Bash with the scoop. Let's analyze now. Joseph Moreno is here, a former prosecutor for the Justice Department. Joe, the Trump Tower meeting, Roger Stone, WikiLeaks, both lawyers in the Trump case says to the best of his recollection Trump wasn't told. Wasn't told. Your quick analysis on that.

JOSEPH MORENO, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT PROSECUTOR: To the best of my recollection, that is exactly lawyer talk. I would never let a client go in in any scenario, much less something with such high stakes and make an emphatic statement. You always say to the best of my recollection. It gives you a little wiggle room.

BALDWIN: Wiggle room is a good thing depending on your perspective. There's been so much that has happened since the calendar date of let's say the Trump Tower meeting. Do you think it's possible that Mueller might have enough evidence to prove Trump otherwise?

MORENO: Wiggle room only gets you so far. To Dana's points, these are sworn statements. They're the equivalent of being under oath. So, if you're caught lying --

BALDWIN: Criminal.

MORENO: Surely. Is it better than a live interview? Does it give you more time to prep? Absolutely. But the stakes are extremely high with these written answers. Saying to the best of my recollection it was two and a half years ago, that gives you wiggle room. But if you're faced with e-mail, evidence, other witnesses that are contrary to what you said, you could still be in trouble. [14:05:00] BALDWIN: Dana back over you when we were talking

yesterday. We have a bit more about the communication between Paul Manafort who has breached his plea deal and is no longer a credible witness, the fact that as he was talking to team Mueller, his lawyer was talking to Trump's lawyers. What do you know about that?

BASH: Right, exactly. We talked about it on this show yesterday that Rudy Giuliani told me very explicitly that he was and has been in pretty constant contact with Paul Manafort's attorney as things were going on. Now, they didn't have and don't have a formal joint defense agreement, which can you talk to your esteemed lawyer there on the set about what that means, but they have had an informal ones. They're not the only ones in and the Mueller investigation. What apparently has many eyebrows raised inside the Mueller team is the question of whether or not the Manafort team was giving information that they gleaned from the questions they were getting during a plea agreement negotiation to the President. What I do know from Rudy Giuliani is one of the things that the Manafort legal team was complaining about to the Trump team was the fact that according to Giuliani, they felt he was getting squeezed, railroaded was the word Giuliani used with me, to try to force him to say, for example, that the President knew about the Trump Tower meeting in 2016 when, according to at least Manafort's lawyer, he didn't believe that or didn't have that information. It wasn't something that he maybe knew about. So that's kind of an example of the talks. They're not, as we talked about yesterday, it's not illegal --

BALDWIN: It's not illegal, it's important to say. But it could -- go ahead. What are you going to say? It doesn't look good.

BASH: Yes. And one of the things that some of the attorneys who have been involved in cases like this before have said it could put some of the lawyers in a position where they might be called as witnesses because of the goings on.

BALDWIN: I want you to jump in on that. As I was listening to her and you think about it, it's hard because we're so in the weeds of all this but the 30-second view is hang on a second. The Manafort team is talking to the Trump lawyer, they're talking to Mueller, all around the same time, Trump has submitted his written answers to Mueller. I know you're with me. What do you make of the timing of all of this?

MORENO: "The New York Times" characterized this whole arrangement as highly unusual. This is borderline bizarre. The idea that -- maybe it's not illegal but it's so contrary to the spirit of cooperation, that you're cooperating supposedly completely truthfully but at the same time then running information back through lawyers to the very individuals that might be the subject of what you're cooperating on. The optics are terrible. It might not be illegal but really, really bad position. You'd never want to be put in the position as a lawyer to be a factual witness. Any lawyer whose client is going in for cooperation, the first question you should ask is what, if anything, can I do with this information? The prosecutors would say nothing. You tell it to us and keep it to yourself. We're way behind usual here, borderline bizarre. BALDWIN: Just in, a Senate bill designed to protect Robert Mueller's

Russia investigation has just been blocked on a floor vote leading to a contentious reaction. Let's go straight to our congressional correspondent Sunlen Surfaty. Sunlen, what happened?

SUNLEN SURFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Republicans in the Senate blocked this bill from going forward. There was a small group, a bipartisan group notably of senators, Senator Cory Booker, Chris Coons and Republican Jeff Flake, they went to the Senate floor trying to force this bill to protect Robert Mueller to a vote. And it was blocked by one senator, Republican Senator Mike Lee. The way they are trying to do this is through unanimous consent and the rules say that one senator can block it. So, it does not go forward. It will not have a vote on the Senate floor. Republican leadership here in the Senate has been essentially against this bill. Mitch McConnell as recently as yesterday said he doesn't think it's necessary, he said he doesn't see any indication that President Trump is moving towards or inching towards firing Robert Mueller. This is a point that Republican Senator Jeff Flake when he was giving his floor speech proposing them to move to this bill, he argued against it. He said President Trump's tweets just in the last few days, here's what he said.

[14:10:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: BALDWIN: Somehow it warranted a tweet from the President earlier this week, one of several, calling special counsel Mueller a, quote, conflicted prosecutor gone rogue and claiming that the, quote, $30 million witch hunt is doing nothing but ruin lives. To be clear, this is the same investigation that brought indictments for more than a dozen Russian nationalists for gone rogue and claiming that the, quote, $30 million witch hunt is doing nothing but ruin lives. To be clear, this is the same investigation that brought indictments for more than a dozen Russian nationalists for attempting to influence the 2016 election. Why shouldn't we be up in arms about that? Why does that warrant a tweet from the President? Many tweets. Trying to go after special counsel.


SURFATY: And trying to use leverage, Senator Jeff Flake has vowed to withhold his vote on judicial nominations they're trying to work on during this lame duck session, Brooke. As of now Republican leaders have indicated they will not pull this for a vote. So, no immediate path forward for this bill to protect the special counsel.

BALDWIN: Got it. Sunlen, thank you. Coming up next, no smoking gun. Senators have just been briefed on U.S./Saudi relations in the death of journal Jamal Khashoggi. My next guest was in the rule and discuss what was said and talk to Jean Shaheen. And why Senator Gina Haspel was not in the briefing. A leading Senator said he's not voting on a spending bill until he hears straight from the CIA.


BALDWIN: Now the clash over Saudi Arabia coming to a head over capitol hill and it is happening behind closed doors. The entire Senate just received a classified briefing on the murder of U.S.-based journal Jamal Khashoggi. The details come at a critical juncture as the Senate is weighing whether to pass a resolution that would pull the United States out of any involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen. A number of Senators, including Republicans, are urging the pull-out in response to the CIA assessment that the Saudi crown prince ordered the hit on Khashoggi, a vocal critic of his. But President Trump sent his Secretary of State and his defense chief to capitol hill today to convince Senators to side with the Saudi royal family. The Saudis are critical in keeping Iran's interest in the region in check and Senators also took note of who the White House did not send -- the head of the CIA, the director Gina Haspel. Secretary Pompeo was asked about her absence after walking out of that briefing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why wasn't the current CIA director here briefing Senators as well?

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I was asked to be here and here I am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Senators were very frustrated. Normally in your PAST role as CIA director, you would be here briefing the Senators on an issue this sensitive. Why isn't the CIA director here?

POMPEO: I was asked to be here and I'm here.


BALDWIN: And Defense Secretary Mattis just spoke with reporters moments ago.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Just the other day you said there still needed to be work done on accountability on what you called the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.


STARR: Now the administration's position is there is no direct link to him, no link to the murder. What has changed? Do you believe it's a closed issue, that he is not involved and what makes the administration believe that?

MATTIS: I don't think there's any change at all, if I heard your question correctly, Barbara. We have no smoking gun that the crown prince was involved, not the intelligence community or anyone else. There is no smoking gun. We have not changed that accountability for the murder is our expectation of everyone involved in the murder. Accountability is our position, has not changed at all. And, by the way, I have read all the intel. I have personally read all the intelligence. I have read all the translations.

STARR: Sir, is it correct the CIA has not come to a conclusion on these matters but expressed high confidence?

MATTIS: There you need to go to the CIA.

STARR: And have you listened to the tape?

MATTIS: I cannot understand that language, but I have spent more than enough time in service of our country. I know what grim circumstances could be. I needed to see what was said. I read the translations of what is alleged to be the tape. We do not have the tapes. We do not have the tapes. At least I'm not aware that we do. But I have read the translation twice the day they were given to me and -- excuse me, Barbara. And I have already read about two weeks ago, ten days ago, I reviewed once again all the intel we had. I will just tell you there is no smoking gun, but our position has not changed, we expect accountability --

STARR: No smoking gun connecting the crown prince to the murder?

MATTIS: That's correct.


[14:20:00] BALDWIN: So, no smoking gun you've heard from both the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, both of home briefed the U.S. Senate. But that wasn't nearly enough for some including Senator Lindsey Graham, who has threatened to stall the spending bill if he does not hear from the CIA soon.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If that briefing is not given soon, it going to be hard for me to vote for any spending bill.


BALDWIN: Moments ago, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire, spoke to me about the briefing and what she was told about why the CIA director wasn't present.


BALDWIN: Senator Shaheen, welcome.


BALDWIN: Were you told why the CIA Director Gina Haspel wasn't present today?

SHAHEEN: I inferred from what was said the White House said she was not going to be allowed to join us. The request was made and it was denied.

BALDWIN: So, you're conforming the White House blocked her briefing you all?

SHAHEEN: I don't know if it was the White House but I inferred from what was said to us that it was the White House that said she was not going to be there.

BALDWIN: Was there any explanation provided as to why?


BALDWIN: OK. In this briefing what was revealed about the U.S. assessment of who is responsible for Jamal Khashoggi's murder?

SHAHEEN: Obviously, it was a classified briefing so I can't talk about what specifically was said in the briefing, but I think it's fair to say that there was a lot of discussion about what has been in public reports about his murder. And I think what Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Mattis heard was a great deal of frustration on both sides of the aisle about the failure of the administration to take -- and the president to take a stronger stand against Khashoggi's murder.

BALDWIN: We saw Secretary Pompeo walk up to the microphones after he briefed you all. One of the headlines to come from him was he said there was no direct reporting connecting Mohammad bin Salman, the crown prince to Jamal Khashoggi's death. Do you believe MBS was responsible or even aware of Khashoggi's murder?

SHAHEEN: Yes. I think when you have an organization, a security organization that reports directly to the prince, that has a number of its representatives who are implicated directly in the killing of Mr. Khashoggi, that you have to hold the prince accountable for that. I think it's fair to say that people who are in positions of authority and power like Mohammad bin Salman is, that nothing happens in an agency that is as close to him as the one that's been implicated is. Nothing happens there without his knowledge and consent.

BALDWIN: So just to be specific, when you say you believe the two are linked, that he was aware, do you have specific evidence, or are you basing your conclusion on the CIA assessment?

SHAHEEN: I'm basing my conclusion on the reports that I have seen about the intelligence on the murder.

BALDWIN: OK. Ambassador Bolton answered some questions yesterday from the White House press corps precisely on this. He was asked if he had listened to the audio of Khashoggi's murder and this was his response.

JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: No, I haven't listened to it. I guess I should ask you why do you think I should? What do you think I'll learn from it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're the national security adviser. You might have access to this intelligence.

BOLTON: How many in this room speak Arabic?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't have an interpreter?

BOLTON: You want me to listen to it? If he is speaking Korean I wouldn't -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You could get an interpreter.

BALDWIN: President Trump over and over has dismissed the CIA's assessment that MBS was involved. What does this say to you? Why do you think the White House is dismissing its own intelligence?

SHAHEEN: I think you have to ask the White House about that. I can tell you that I have spoken to someone who has seen video that has been on the internet of what's purported to be the dismemberment of Mr. Khashoggi, and his reaction was if the American public could see that video, they would be outraged and they would force a different response from this White House. So, I think --

[14:25:00] BALDWIN: Is this a credible source who you're referencing?

SHAHEEN: He is a credible source. I can't tell you if the video is a credible source because I haven't seen it. But I can tell you that when there is as much information as has been released by our own intelligence community, by other -- by the Turkish government about what has happened here, that it is important for the United States to reflect our values and show the outrage that people in this country feel and members of congress feel on both sides of the aisle about what has happened here. And we have not heard that kind of outrage from this President and this White House.

BALDWIN: And you have no idea why that is. You don't want to jump in on why they would be ignoring --

SHAHEEN: I can tell you why they say they're not reacting in the way that many of us in the Senate think is appropriate, but I can't speculate on what the reason is.

BALDWIN: As we continue asking those questions of the White House, let me move on and ask you, do you support the resolution? We heard Secretary Pompeo refer to it as poorly timed in ending U.S. support in Saudi Arabia in Yemen?

SHAHEEN: I do support the resolution. And I think it's important to point out that I think secretary Pompeo has misjudged the frustration that exists in the Senate of a series of actions by the Saudi government. He and the other briefers made the case very well for what's happening in Yemen and the importance of the United States in playing a role to try to get all the parties to the table. That's one of the things we tried to push in the legislation that Senator young and I got through congress earlier this year. But it's important to understand at this point given the string of events by the Saudis, the eruption with Qatar, the kidnapping of Prime Minister Hadi and the others in Saudi Arabia, the consistent bombing of Yemen that at this point has taken the lives of 85,000 children and puts 14 million people at risk of starvation, that it's important for us to send a very strong message to the Saudi government that we are not going to accept the kinds of actions that they have undertaken. They have been an important ally, I appreciate that. Yemen is a very important country strategically and we need to address AQAP, the al Qaeda and the Arabian Peninsula. But we also need to stand up for American values and say the murder of an American resident who is a journalist at one of our newspapers is not acceptable.

BALDWIN: Senator Jeanne Shaheen, thank you very much.

SHAHEN: Thank you.


BALDWIN: More on our breaking news this afternoon. CNN learning specific details about President Trump's response in writing to two questions for special counsel Robert Mueller and the questions that Mueller's team would like answers to. We have a live report on that state ahead. Also, just in today, as the President attacks his hand- picked federal reserve chairman, the fed issuing a state on the U.S. economy. Good news and a warning.