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AT THIS HOUR
Manafort Sentencing Now Set for March 5; Source: Cohen Has Spoken with Mueller's Team for over 70 Hours; Report: Feds Looking at Don Jr & Ivanka Work on Moscow Tower Deal; House Democrats Consider Calling Cohen Back to Capitol Hill; Comey Fights Subpoena to Testify Behind Closed Doors; Trump's Whirlwind G-20 Underway after Cancelling Putin Meeting. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired November 30, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: So he should definitely come on the show Monday and do an interview with us about it, right, Coy?
COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: I'm on it for you, girl.
HARLOW: Thank you, my friend. Have a great weekend.
And thank all of you for being with me today. I'm Poppy Harlow, in New York. Jim Sciutto will be back in the chair with me on Monday. Have a great weekend.
"AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts now.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.
Another day, another court appearance for one of the president's inner circle, as it becomes clear the special counsel views President Trump as a central figure in the Russia investigation. Sources are telling CNN that the president is, quote, "spooked and completely distracted." His former campaign chairman's case back in court today, well, it can't be helping that. Facing the judge today to set a date for Paul Manafort's sentencing, the same Manafort who was accused by the special counsel of breaking his plea deal by lying to investigators.
Also, more information coming out about Michael Cohen, who pled guilty to misleading Congress. Why? He says loyalty to the president. CNN is learning Cohen has spent more than 70 hours in interviews with the special counsel's team.
Let's start with Manafort's team in court.
CNN's senior justice correspondent, Evan Perez, is in Washington and following all this.
Evan, you were in the courtroom. What did we learn today?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, we learned today that March 2019, that's at least the date this so-called witch hunt, which the president refers to, the Mueller investigation, that's how long we have been living with this investigation. Paul Manafort is scheduled to be sentenced on March 5th according to the judge. Between now and then, we'll see a new fight in court because prosecutors for Robert Mueller, the special counsel, have accused Paul Manafort of lying during the time he was supposed to be cooperating with investigators. They say they're going to lay out, between now and next week, what exactly those lies are. And the defense, Paul Manafort's team, which says he hasn't lied, they say they'll try to get prosecutors to provide evidence of what the lies are. Between now and march, we'll see a lot more fighting here in court.
We're expecting to see a lot more detail of what exactly Robert Mueller and his prosecutors have gotten in the 18 months or so that this investigation has been ongoing.
And as you pointed out, the president has been distracted a little bit by this. Just as he was going to the trip in Argentina is when we learned about Michael Cohen's plea, that he was pleading guilty to lying to Congress. And it's clear from the president and his legal team that they believe this investigation has gone on too long. They believe it's distracting from the president and his job. And they think Robert Mueller is out to get the president -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: All right. Great to see you, Evan.
That's happening in court. But also, we have, from the president's former campaign chairman to his long-term attorney, Michael Cohen, surprising everyone by pleading guilty to misleading Congress in court and also announcing he's voluntarily now working with the special counsel's team, having already sat for 70 hours of interviews.
One key part in the court documents that came out yesterday, putting renewed attention on Trump's family, especially Don Jr., and now White House adviser, Ivanka Trump.
Alex Marquardt is here with more on this.
Alex, how do Don Jr and Ivanka factor into this right now?
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN: Both Don Jr and Ivanka were involved in the Trump Tower Moscow project. Though a source tells us that that was in a very limited role.
Now, this could still be a major problem for Donald Jr, because, like Michael Cohen, he was questioned by Congress. Now in light of Cohen's admission he lied to Congress, if the new information that Cohen has provided conflicts with what Don Jr told them, he's going to be in some hot water.
Let's take a step back, break all this down. In the court documents regarding Cohen's guilty plea, he admits the Trump Tower Moscow project was discussed with then-Candidate Trump well beyond when the caucuses and primaries started in 2016. Those discussions, updates went as late as around June of 2016. That means that as the presumptive Republican nominee, Trump was still involved in and being updated on business dealings with Russia. But it wasn't just Trump who was being briefed. Cohen also says he briefed family members as well. Now, look at this. It's not illegal to discuss that business side of
things with Trump's children. But here's part of what Donald Trump Jr Told the Senate Judiciary Committee when he was under oath, that he knew that Michael Cohen and his Russian-American business partner, Alex Sater, were working on the project in 2015. That a letter of intent was signed by his father, Donald Trump. Most of Donald Trump Jr's testimony isn't public so it's not clear how much detail they got into. But again, if it conflicts with what Cohen is now saying, that's going to be problematic for Donald Jr. And with Democrats taking over the House in January, that could also mean subpoenas for his sister, Ivanka.
[11:05:04] BOLDUAN: Alex, what about this -- the information we're getting about the plan to give Russian President Vladimir Putin a multi-million-dollar penthouse in this Trump Tower Moscow project?
MARQUARDT: Crazy, right, $50 million, apparently, for a penthouse up there. What Felix Sater is saying -- he was the developer working on this project with Michael Cohen. He described this as a marketing ploy, something to make the building more attractive to potential buyers. This was first reported by Buzzfeed, which said, as we mentioned, the apartment was valued at some $50 million, but they were talking about giving it as a gift to Putin. Now, we did ask the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, about this. He said that the president had never heard about this idea -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: All right. Great to see you, Alex. Thank you so much.
BOLDUAN: It's great to have Alex lay that out because the webs are tangled, and in detail.
CNN legal analyst and former prosecutor, Renato Mariotti is here, and CNN legal analyst, Shan Wu, he was also the attorney for Trump aide and Paul Manafort's righthand man, Rick Gates, who pled guilty in the Mueller probe as well.
It's great to see you both.
Let's start with Manafort, Shan. I want to ask you about what happened in court and what that could mean. If Manafort's attorneys want to know from the Mueller team what they think he lied about to break the deal, and they want to see evidence of what that could be, that could mean discovery. Is that a problem for Mueller's team if that's what happens?
SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's not likely that Manafort's team is going to get what they want. This is the problem for cooperators. When you cooperate, the prosecutor is judge, jury and executioner. They really hold the keys. They can challenge it, as they're doing, saying, no, we did tell the truth, he was forthright, but it's the prosecutors who make that decision. Ultimately, it's very much a discretionary call. The judge is not in a practical position to second guess them as to every piece of truthfulness and withholding. The judge would have to have, not a mini trial but an entire trial at the sentencing. As Renato knows, that's not practical. You must convince the prosecutors you're trustworthy. If they come out against you, if you have lost your favor with them, you're in a deep hole. That's where Paul Manafort finds himself.
BOLDUAN: How much information, Renato, do you think we'll get out when the prosecutors lay out why they think he lied?
RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it will be significant. I mean, we may not get some details because they're highly sensitive or classified.
MARIOTTI: But I think we'll get enough detail because -- Shan is right that certainly Manafort has a very uphill battle. But the judge still needs to find by what's called a preponderance of the evidence by 51 percent that Manafort did lie if she's going to consider that as part of the sentencing, and certainly Mueller's team is asking her to do so. So I suspect we'll see enough to make it clear that Manafort was not being candid with the prosecutors.
BOLDUAN: Let's talk about Michael Cohen as well.
Shan, how important is it, how significant, I guess, what did you think when you heard this detail that Michael Cohen has spent some 70 hours with the special counsel so far?
WU: The 70 hours is an enormous amount of time. What that tells me is that there's nothing that the prosecutors don't know about what Cohen wants them to know about. And what he wants them to know about are things which will be damaging to the president, his family, his business. So that is plenty of time to fully explore that. That's a very big problem. It always was a problem for the president, if Michael Cohen flipped, because this is your lawyer who is flipping, it's the person who hears you normally under confidence, under privilege. You're letting your hair down, confiding in him, brainstorming ideas. They may be crazy ideas, may be illegal ideas. He knows all of that. And 70 hours is an enormous amount of time. There's a lot of ammunition there. It's very problematic for the president.
BOLDUAN: Renato, the president made the case yesterday, he said it a couple times, there's nothing wrong with looking into a business deal with Russia when he was running for president. On its face, that's not illegal. But if that's the case -- I know everybody keeps returning to this, but it is important -- why are so many people lying about it?
MARIOTTI: Well, that's a great question. I think that's the $64,000 question, Kate. And certainly, not only was the president not being candid about it, but his family wasn't being truthful about this. And you know, just to be clear, Michael Cohen made this lie to Congress many months ago. No one corrected the record, no one came forward. It really begs the question. And what it suggests to me, as somebody who was a prosecutor for a long time, is there's more here. And while we're all going to be waiting to see what happens, Mueller has been digging and probably knows some more of those answers and we'll find them out in the months to come.
[11:10:07] BOLDUAN: Shan, I mean, the president very famously in an interview with the "New York Times" had said that Mueller looking into his finances would be a red line. I think it was his family and his finances. This definitely seems to be what we're looking at now. What do you think that now means?
WU: Yes, really, for the president to say that, that's like waving a red flag rather than drawing a line in the sand for people to look at.
BOLDUAN: Look here. Look here, yes.
WU: Don't look there. So that's -- he does not want that to happen. You know, the paragraph seven in that information filed yesterday is very troubling because it talks about the family members in the business.
WU: It mentions the mysterious campaign official, which could be Paul Manafort. Looking at Trump's businesses is a big problem for him. And the biggest problem that's so blatant here is so many people seem potentially willing to lie about it, to cover it up. And in D.C., in traditional white-collar investigations, it's the cover-up, the lying that gets you in trouble. This case now has is permeated with false statements convictions. Part of that is a failing of the legal strategy, part is probably that the client doesn't listen to the lawyers. But they have a lot to hide in terms of businesses, and that attempt to hide it is getting them in tremendous hot water. This thing that surfaced with the Putin thing, it's unbelievable. Renato said the $64,000 question. It's like the $50 million question.
WU: I mean
WU: Sounds like a bribe to me, frankly.
BOLDUAN: Well, Renato, Shan mentioned the family. Do you think, as Alex Marquardt was laying out what we have learned in the information from the court yesterday and Michael Cohen's pleading, do you think that the president's family is in trouble now, legal trouble?
MARIOTTI: Well, if I was the lawyer for Donald Trump Jr, I would be very concerned. If you asked me a few days ago, would I be worried about Donald Trump Jr being charged, one thing I would have said is, well, his biggest liability that's obvious is potentially lying to Congress. And it's not clear to me that that will really be charged or whether Mueller would see that as within his authority or his scope. And what we found out yesterday is Mueller does believe that lying about these Russia-related matters is within his scope. And, by the way, according to CNN, acting attorney general, Matt Whitaker, saw and learned of that plea deal in advance and didn't block it. So he apparently agrees with that.
BOLDUAN: And that was another interesting fact to come out in all of this.
Great to see you both. Thanks so much. Let's see what happens today.
Coming up next, what are House Democrats planning on the Russia investigation? Planning to do about the Russia investigation when they take control of the House? Will they be calling Michael Cohen back to Capitol Hill? I'm going to ask an incoming member of the House Democratic leadership after this.
Plus, a major data breach at one of the nation's largest hotel chains. Details on the information that was potentially stolen from a half a billion guests of Mariotte Hotels, and it's a lot of information.
[11:17:36] BOLDUAN: In the wake of everything that happened this week, Democrats want former Trump attorney, Michael Cohen, back on Capitol Hill to answer questions after pleading guilty to misleading Congress. The likely incoming leader of the Judiciary Committee, Democrat Jerry Nadler, said he wants answers from Cohen, but the current chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Republican Bob Goodlatte, not so much.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BOB GOODLATTE, (R), VIRGINIA: What Mr. Cohen was doing and Mr. Trump was doing are two different things. We need to find out about it. As you know, those interrogatories that were submitted to the president, and that he's answered, we have not seen. And maybe someday we will see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Joining me right now, Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, who was just elected the new head of the House Democratic Caucus and sits on the Judiciary Committee we're talking about.
Congressman, thanks for coming in.
REP. HAKEEM JEFFIRES, (D), NEW YORK: Good morning. Thanks for having me on.
BOLDUAN: Thank you.
Jerry Nadler says he wants to investigate Cohen's misstatements to Congress. Should that be the first order of business for the Judiciary Committee come January? JEFFRIES: I think we have constitutional responsibility as a separate
and co-equal branch of government to make sure we conduct meaningful oversight of an out-of-control executive branch. That hasn't happened in the last two years and we have to look at some of the things that have been done as it relates to the undermining of our democracy. But overall, House Democrats are going to remain focused on kitchen-table pocketbook issues anchored in our for-the-people agenda, involving fighting to lower health care costs, increasing pay for everyday Americans, a real infrastructure plan, and cleaning up corruption and the mess in Washington, D.C.
BOLDUAN: But if you do have -- if you say you want to look into these things, and they should be looked into, you say, you have the House Judiciary saying they want to look into it. House Intel saying they want to investigate it as well. As the new leader of the caucus, that investigation after investigation when the Mueller team is still doing its work, do Democrats run the risk of this becoming another Benghazi investigation?
JEFFRIES: Well, I think the Benghazi investigation was obviously totally out of control. That was a classic witch hunt. Democrats aren't going to over investigate the Trump administration. We also --
BOLDUAN: How do you avoid that? How do you avoid that?
[11:19:56] JEFFRIES: Well, I'll tell you how we avoid it. First, we have made clear, Leader Pelosi has indicated that H.R.-1 is going to be focused on our promise to clean up corruption in Washington, D.C., involving trying to get dark, unregulated money out of politics, which gives too much power to the special interests and undermines the ability of members of Congress to do the business of the people and focus on the issues that make life better for everyday Americans. H.R.-1 will also involve dealing with the intense voter suppression that continues to take place throughout this country so that every American can just exercise their constitutional right to vote. Then, we, of course, are going to turn to issues like infrastructure and lowering the high cost of prescription drugs, promises that we made to the American people. Now it's time for us to deliver.
BOLDUAN: You're saying -- but can you guarantee me that some of the first orders of business I'm going to hear coming out of the committees come January is not going to mention the words Russia, Trump or Michael Cohen?
JEFFRIES: Well, I can say, certainly, from my perspective, and in all of the conversations I had during the process of running to be chair of the House Democratic Caucus, and in the days since, members have consistently said that their singular focus will be on trying to make life better for the people that they represent by keeping the focus on kitchen-table pocketbook issues. But, Kate, as I mentioned, we do have a constitutional responsibility to conduct reasonable oversight. The other side of the aisle ignored that responsibility and engaged in conducting themselves like the cover-up caucus. That, of course, won't happen. But we'll keep the focus on issues that are front and center for the American people.
BOLDUAN: Well, let me ask you --
JEFFRIES: Health care being at the top.
BOLDUAN: Let me ask you, there's a court hearing where former FBI Director James Comey is going to fight a subpoena from your committee, from House Judiciary, that would require him to appear before the committee next week. He says he wants to testify in public. Republicans on the committee want it behind closed doors. Is James Comey right to fight that subpoena?
JEFFRIES: I don't want to comment one way or the other on the appropriateness of James Comey's legal strategy. But I will say it seems to me that all of these facts should be revealed to the American people. I've consistently made the point that we want to let Bob Mueller's investigation to proceed and then, ultimately, whatever conclusions he draws should be presented to the American people, consistently with their philosophy. Whatever testimony James Comey gives should be presented before the American people.
BOLDUAN: Do you think then Bob Goodlatte's -- I don't want if you want to call it a compromise -- but he said today that Comey has nothing to worry about if he's worried about selective leaks coming out from closed doors. Goodlatte told CNN today that he would release a transcript of the interview the next day. Isn't that good enough then?
JEFFRIES: Here's what I'm trying to figure out. Why are Republicans in the closing days of a lame-duck session obsessed about James Comey as opposed to be focusing on trying to make sure we don't shut down the government, that we fund our ability to serve the people of the United States of America?
BOLDUAN: Congressman, Republicans will say, we can walk and chew gum at the same time all the time. But when it comes to the Judiciary Committee, do you think that's a good compromise coming from Goodlatte to Comey?
JEFFRIES: No, I think the compromise that is appropriate is that James Comey should be allowed to testify before the American people with Democrats and Republicans questioning him in a way that people can draw their own conclusions.
BOLDUAN: Congressman, thank you so much for coming on. Congratulations on your election. See you soon.
JEFFRIES: See you soon. Thank you.
BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.
"Spooked and in a terrible mood" -- just how you definitely want to feel walking into a big meeting, right? That's how sources tell CNN the president is feeling at the G-20 summit. We'll take you there live next.
[11:28:26] BOLDUAN: President Trump kicking off two days of meetings in Argentina with other world leaders at the G-20. Major international summits like this one are known for the careful choreography, scheduling, planning, honestly, down to the minute, really. That's why it's all the more surprising that so much of President Trump's time at the G-20 seems to be still up in the air. On his way to the summit, President Trump cancelled his planned meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, citing tensions between Ukraine and Russia. They also downgraded other meetings. So what is going on here?
CNN senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is traveling with the president at the G-20.
Jeff, what is the White House saying now about the canceled meeting with Russia?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, good morning. We do know that meeting is still not going to happen as it was originally scheduled. That was supposed to be on Saturday. A long one-on-one meeting between Vladimir Putin and the U.S. president as well. That is now off. We have seen some indications of the odd body language already going on here this morning. You saw that photograph, all the world leaders always stand before the cameras and do a class photo, it's called. It seems like a class photo. There's as much awkwardness in the room as you might remember from a school photo or something. But the reality here is there's a lot of maneuvering behind the scenes. The Kremlin announced there's still going to be a brief meeting between Vladimir Putin and President Trump somewhere on the sidelines. They're trying to save face, perhaps, after President Trump canceled that meeting.
We got a statement from White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders that does not add much to this at all. It confuses the matter more. Let's take a look at it and we'll explain what she says. She says this, "The Russian witch hunt hoax, which is hopefully now nearing an end, is --