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Trump, Manafort Pardon "Not Off the Table"; Trump Threatens to Cancel Putin Meeting Over Ukraine; Ukraine Under Martial Law Amid Conflict with Russia; Redskins Pick Up Player Despite Domestic Violence Arrest. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired November 28, 2018 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: The narrative coming out of the White House and the allies of the White House. Or that people like Manafort have been telling the truth, but that the special counsel is trying to push them to buy into a narrative about, who knows, the President, that they refuse to buy into.

So, Trump, who never really liked Paul Manafort before is now feeling kind of sorry for him and likes him. And, as you know, Manafort's attorney has been keeping the White House apprised of what's been going on. And I think the real legal question here -- and Paul can talk about that better than I can -- is that just leaving the notion out there is one thing but dangling a pardon to Paul Manafort would be another thing. And that's something that Jerry Nadler, who is the incoming chairman of the Judiciary Committee has told CNN, that that could potentially be an impeachable offense, if you are actually dangling a pardon to someone because it would help you as President of the United States.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: What do you think?

PAUL CALLAN, FORMER NEW YORK CITY HOMICIDE PROSECUTOR: Well, I think to paraphrase the President, sometimes the President shoots from the gut rather than the brain when he does these things.

BALDWIN: From the "Washington Post." Very good, Paul Callan.

CALLAN: Yesterday. He says that a pardon was never discussed, but he's not taking it off the table. Well, how did it get on the table in the first place if it was never being discussed? I mean, that's something I'd like to know about. And to Gloria's point, which is an excellent point, if you hold out the prospect of a pardon with the intent of influencing somebody to either give false testimony or to not cooperate with an ongoing criminal investigation, that can be an obstruction of justice.

Now, if you're the President of the United States and you have the pardon power, some people will say, well, he can use that pardon as he sees fit. I don't think that most lawyers would agree with that. I think even the pardon power can be used corruptly and can be used to obstruct justice. And by dangling a pardon in front of somebody to influence their testimony, that could be an obstruction, which would translate into an impeachable offense, an abuse of power and an obstruction of justice. Maybe he can't be prosecuted criminally because he's a sitting President, but Congress certainly could look at this as a possible impeachable offense.

BALDWIN: Wow. Let me add another layer to this. And Gloria back to you. With all these headlines coming out this week on Manafort and Mueller and Trump's lawyers, we also now know that, you know, as Manafort was, you know, cooperating with the Mueller team, his lawyer was discussing what they were discussing with the Trump lawyers. And another layer to that, this all happening a week after President Trump gave his written answers to the special counsel.

BORGER: Right. And, you know, I know we've been talking about this a lot and I've been calling some legal sources to sort of get my head straight on this, and they do have kind of a loose joint defense agreement, which means -- and Paul knows this better than I do -- lawyers talk to each other. We understand that. The question that is out there is whether, in fact, what Manafort's lawyer is doing is keeping the White House informed and how specifically he's keeping this many informed to let them know that their guy is on their side, which would presumably help make Manafort's case for a pardon.

I mean, look, you know, Manafort's lawyer is trying to protect his client. His client doesn't want to go to jail for the rest of his life. So, it's clear to me that this is kind of a pardon move. Maybe not stated directly but you don't have to come out and say can I please have a pardon when you are in these kinds of discussions. And, again, we don't know how substantive they've been. You know, Dana's great reporting today about some of the questions that were asked is important. But we really don't know what team Trump is telling team Manafort, if anything at all, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to kind of read between the lines here.

BALDWIN: Right. And putting this pardon out there on the record from the President, let's play there through. Let's say he could just be dangling it, he may follow through. If he were to follow through, we don't know when he would follow through. But let's say he pardons him in the middle of this Mueller investigation. How does this affect the investigation?

CALLAN: Well, it depends on how important Manafort would be to the investigation. But I think what's going on here is something very, very different. What people forget is that when Manafort is pardoned, if he's going to be pardoned, he loses his Fifth Amendment right to refuse to testify under grand jury subpoena.

[15:35:04] On the other hand, as long as his case is on appeal and it's going forward, he can assert the fifth and not be forced to testify against Trump. So, it's in Trump's interest to delay the pardon, and this could be even why all of a sudden Manafort, after all of this time, now he wants to cooperate with Mueller. And now right towards the end of the cooperation, he blows up the cooperation so Mueller has to go into court making a motion probably delaying the sentencing because they have to have a hearing on whether Manafort is lying or not.

BALDWIN: But what's the motivation to blowing up the cooperation?

CALLAN: His motivation is to delay as long as possible. Until Mueller his report, closes down the investigation, then Manafort can be pardoned and it's too late. It can't be used against Trump.

BALDWIN: I got it. OK. OK.

BORGER: You know, and maybe Mueller doesn't even have to issue a report anymore. Because they're so much out there already. He's going to do this memo. In this memo he may very well detail a lot of the things that he's been talking to Manafort about. This may be a way for him to go around Matt Whitaker and get information out there that perhaps would have been redacted in a report. So, maybe from Mueller's point of view, it's like, let me just push all this information out there and make it politically impossible for Trump to pardon Manafort.

BALDWIN: Yes. Gloria and Paul, thank you very much on that news breaking this afternoon.

Coming up next, President Trump threatens to cancel a meeting with Vladimir Putin after Russia gets into this military altercation with the Ukraine. What we're learning about Russia's new deployment of its missile defense systems next.


BALDWIN: President Trump is now threatening to cancel his sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin after Moscow seized three Ukrainian naval ships, Trump telling "The Washington Post," quote, maybe I won't even have the meeting. I don't like that aggression. I don't want that aggression at all.

The Kremlin pushing back hard today, saying it expects the high- profile meeting to go on as planned at this weekend's G20 Summit. All of this is happening as Ukraine's President is imposing martial law and morning his country faces a threat of a full-scale war with Russia. So, with me now, retired Rear Admiral, John Kirby. Former State Department and Pentagon spokesman and a CNN military and diplomatic analyst. Admiral, let's back up two steps. Remind us how this all started with the Ukraine/Russia confrontation in the Black Sea.

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: So, this all happened on Sunday, Brooke. Two Ukrainian gun boats and a Ukrainian tugboat that was civilian owned, were transiting from the Black Sea north up to the Sea of Azov. And to get there you've got to through that little strait called the Kerch Strait.

They were just about near the strait when the Russian naval vessels turned them around, blocked them from going in there. They used the bridge as a blocking mechanism as well. This bridge that they built in May. When they started to head back south, they turned around. They were heading south down around Crimea, they were going to go up to Odessa -- a port in Ukraine. When they were blocked again by ten other Russian navy vessels. One of them rammed the Ukrainian tugboat. We have video of that. I think we just showed that. And one of them fired on one of the Ukrainian tug boats injuring at least one Ukrainian sailor. They then took possession of all three of those Ukrainian ships, brought them into a port right there at the Kerch Strait. And those 24 sailors, Ukrainian sailors, are now being tried in a Russian criminal court.

BALDWIN: So, in response to all of that, Ukraine has now imposed martial law. What will that entail here and how is Russia reacting to it?

KIRBY: So, martial law is not anything new under the sun. We've done it here in the United States several times, including after the civil war when we were reconstructing the South. It means that basically the military will take care of some civic civil government institution. It doesn't mean that the military is taking over the whole country.

Now, Petro Poroshenko, the President of Ukraine, has designated the areas -- we've got them highlighted in yellow -- they are all regions that are either adjacent to Russia or they're adjacent to areas where Russian separatists and Russian military forces are active. And you can see right up north of Crimea, all those areas are now under martial law.

It's only temporary, Brooke, 30 days. Petro Poroshenko wanted 60. Ukrainian Parliament wouldn't give him 60. They give him 30. Now, the Russians are claiming this is because Petro Poroshenko is trying -- he's an autocrat. He's trying to enforce his power. He's trying to affect the Presidential election which is going to happen in March. That's hard really to swallow because this is only going to last for another month. And it really is just a temporary measure. Because Ukrainians are so worried that this naval incident on Sunday could lead to something more provocative and perhaps more aggressive by Russia.

BALDWIN: The world will be watching Trump and Putin down in Argentina. Admiral Kirby, thank you very much.

KIRBY: You bet.

BALDWIN: More on our breaking story. CNN learning specifically how President Trump responded to two key questions from special counsel, Robert Mueller's team. And are the President's answers raising any red flags?

[15:45:00] Also, ahead, just days after he was arrested on domestic violence charges. An NFL player was both released by his team only to be quickly claimed by another. That move raising serious questions about what kind of message the NFL is sending both to its players and its fans.


BALDWIN: As the nation is absorbing the shock of General Motors, announcing its shuttering five plants in North America, and cutting thousands of well-paying jobs. We are starting to get new details about which vehicles GM will stop making. There are six. They are all sedans, three Chevys, two Cadillacs and a Buick.

[15:50:00 Peter Valdes-Dapena, is a CNN business senior automotive writer and is with me now. And Peter, big picture, looking at this car industry, it's changing quickly. What's the future here?

PETER VALDES-DAPENA, CNN BUSINESS SENIOR AUTOMOTIVE WRITER: OK. Well, the near-term future and what GM is responding to right here with these product droppings is that they're shifting towards crossover SUVs. Car companies have done a better job of making SUVs that are more comfortable, more fuel efficient so customers are going in that direction, leaving behind cars. Same time, in the longer- term, GM also needs to invest money in things like electrification, electric cars, plug-in hybrids and self-driving technology. So, in order to have that money to invest, they want to cut down on things they're spending money on that aren't working for them, such as these cars. Some of which I will say are pretty good cars that I'm a little sorry to see go.

BALDWIN: I know you've been covering the auto industry for years and years and years. Will read more of your reporting at Peter, thank you very much.

Just into CNN, we're learning President Trump's plane that was used during the campaign was involved in a minor accident at New York's LaGuardia Airport this morning. According to a source, staff was moving another plane when it crashed into the wing of the parked Trump 757. No one was injured. We'll be right back.


BALDWIN: As of today, a professional football player who has been accused of domestic violence twice this year has a new job at the NFL. The Washington Redskins offering linebacker Reuben Foster a spot on their roster three days after his arrest and dismissal from the San Francisco 49ers.

Foster's girlfriend accused him of pushing and slapping her. She is the same woman who filed domestic violence charges against Foster earlier this year but later recanted. We should note that the "USA Today" is reporting that the Redskins never contacted the Tampa Police Department for arrest details before hiring him. The only NFL to do so, the Philadelphia Eagles, who eventually decided to take a pass on Foster. Now Foster cannot play for the Redskins just yet. He has been placed on the NFL commissioner's exempt list. Which means he can't practice or attend games while the league reviews his arrest. So, with me now, Christine Brennan, "USA Today" sports columnist and CNN sports analyst. A pleasure to see you.

Great to be here.

BALDWIN: You have not been shy in criticizing this particular ball club. Why would the Redskins hire a guy who was arrested for domestic battery over the weekend?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: 72 hours after he slapped his ex-girlfriend, he has a new job in the NFL. It is awful. We should just scream it from the rooftops. It is terrible. It is unacceptable. It's something that just should not happen. Especially four years after Ray Rice did the NFL. And did teams not learn anything, Brooke? So, that's number one. Why? Because he's a good football player. He's a young man in only

his second year. He's made mistake after mistake after mistake. You mentioned the arrest. It's a terrible rap sheet. But what they're hoping is that roll the dice, when and if he's cleared, which that's really debatable, if he'll ever be cleared to play, but if he is, they've got a deal. And what a statement that is from the National Football League, a team in the league in 2018 that is worth the risk to bring down all this ignominy you around D.C. -- I just came from D.C., Brooke, and the town is livid. I've never seen anything quite like this. So, that's the good news. But the bad news is that right now, he may well play again.

BALDWIN: I want to come back to the reaction in a second. But this is how the Redskins have put it.

Today we have claimed the rights to linebacker Reuben Foster. The Redskins fully understand the severity of recent allegations made against Reuben. If true, you can be sure these allegations are nothing our organization would ever condone.

All right. Now, you brought up the Ray Rice stuff and Mike Jones. We read in Mike's piece in the "USA Today" calling it complete hypocrisy. Pointed out Roger Goodell, four years ago and punishing Ray Rice. This is what Dan Snyder, the Redskins owner, said at the time.

The entire Washington Redskins organization strongly endorses Goodell's efforts to eradicate domestic abuse and the independent investigation into the Ray Rice assault.

So, the obvious question is, what changed in four years? What changed?

BRENNAN: Well, what changed is a valuable potential football player. A young man with promise on the football field. Which I even hesitate to say those words, Brooke, because it's that we should so not care about that. Because we should care about, of course, this woman who was attacked repeatedly. But that he is a good enough player that they can -- that they think they can use him.

BALDWIN: But you're saying the reaction so different.


BALDWIN: And that is the positive in this whole thing.

BRENNAN: Absolutely. The take-away here, if you're looking for something good, is that the way people around Washington, D.C., the way the community, the way the media, it has been absolutely unanimous, Brooke. And it has been condemnation of the highest order against Washington's football team and the fact they would even attempt to do something like this.

BALDWIN: Is this the kind of thing -- I have you for 30 more seconds. Is this the kind of thing Dan Snyder would take into account? I mean, I know that they're trying to determine whether he can or can't play. But will they listen? BRENNAN: One would have thought they would have listened and had that conversation before taking him off flavors. That would've been the opportunity.

And think about this. Colin Kaepernick. We've talked about him a lot. Here's a man who has been kneeling, and in a very peaceful way. Never got a job in the NFL. And here's a man in Rueben Foster with domestic violence and other charges and just a terrible record in his two years in the NFL and he's got a job.

BALDWIN: Lot's to ponder at the end of the show. Christine Brennan, a pleasure. Thank you very much.

BRENNAN: Great to see you. Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you so much for being with me here, as well. We'll send it to Jake. "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.