Return to Transcripts main page

CNN RIGHT NOW

Bush 43 to Eulogize Father; Trump Rips Cohen; U.S. and China Push Pause; Trump and Congress May Extend Deadline; Harris 2020 Campaign; Springsteen on 2020; Khashoggi's Communications Before Murder. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired December 3, 2018 - 13:00   ET

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


[13:00:14] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, saying goodbye to a president. The plane carrying Bush 41's remains arriving in D.C. soon, as we learn who will eulogize him.

In the middle of an active investigation, President Trump praises Roger Stone for not testifying against him. Is this witness tampering?

Plus, the president says, throw my former lawyer behind bars, as Michael Cohen explains why he should not go to prison.

And stocks rally after the U.S. and China freeze their trade war, but there are serious questions about what they agreed upon.

Special Air Mission 41 is in the air right now, bringing former President George H.W. Bush back to Washington. We are going to bring you live coverage of the plane's arrival a little later today.

But a short time ago we saw this farewell ceremony at Ellington Field outside of Houston, full honors, as the 41st president of the United States was saluted for his final trip to Washington.

And upon arrival, the former president is going to lie in state. He will be in the Capitol Rotunda until Wednesday morning.

A memorial service will be held at the National Cathedral in Washington before Special Air Mission 41 completes its final flight back to Texas.

The funeral will be held Thursday at the Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University.

And at the National Cathedral service, there will be four eulogies. His eldest son, the former president, George W. Bush, and former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, former Senator Alan Simpson and presidential historian Jon Meacham.

At Thursday's funeral in Texas, we will hear from grandson George P. Bush and longtime friend and former Secretary of State James Baker.

CNN's congressional correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty, is joining me now from Capitol Hill.

Of course this special Air Mission 41 is the name that's being used right now for what we normally call Air Force One. Talk about the reactions that we have seen and the upcoming memorial events, Sunlen.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, it certainly is a full three days here in Washington planned for the former president to commemorate his life and his legacy. One that, of course, touched D.C. very deeply. That's starting later today when the body of the former president will touchdown at Andrews Air Force Base. That is the Air Force base where as a president you fly in and out of. So certainly a fitting way for him to return here to Washington.

Then his body will be brought up here to Capitol Hill, where he will lie in state from today until Wednesday. That is a very high honor and something that will be marked by the presence today -- tonight, I should say, of Vice President Mike Pence. He's expected to come up here on Capitol Hill and make short remarks about the life of the former president. And then this will be open to the public, where members of the public can come into the Rotunda, pay their respects, certainly is a fitting and suitable and somber end for the former president. We expect that President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will also visit up here on Capitol Hill at some point tonight.

Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Sunlen, all eyes will be up there on the Capitol shortly here and we'll bring that it to you live on CNN.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is getting ready for a busy week. We could get clear insight into the Russia investigation with several big moments in court.

In the meantime, President Trump is lashing out at the probe and Mueller's star witness, President Trump's former attorney, Michael Cohen.

CNN's senior justice correspondent Evan Perez joining me now.

What's the president saying?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, as you said earlier today, President Trump has started tweeting about people who are cooperating and who are not cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. One of the persons that he says is being very weak is Michael Cohen.

Now, here's a tweet from him earlier today. Michael Cohen asked the judge for no prison time. You mean he can do all of the terrible unrelated to Trump things having to do with fraud, big loans, taxes, et cetera, and not serve a long prison term? He makes up stories to get a great and already reduced deal for himself and get his wife and father-in-law, who has the money, off scot free. He lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence.

There's President Trump essentially endorsing some strong prison time, essentially a lengthy prison time, for Michael Cohen, versus Roger Stone and some of the other people who are not cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. You can see where his emphasis is today on Twitter.

KEILAR: Yes, it is unusual for sure.

And then this week ahead for Robert Mueller, what are we expecting?

PEREZ: Well, it's going to be a very busy week. Tuesday, one of the key characters in the Trump-Russia story is Michael Flynn. He's the president's first national security adviser. We haven't heard anything from him since he pled guilty more than a year ago to lying to the FBI. We're expecting tomorrow some important new details of what he has been saying to Robert Mueller and his prosecutors. He's really one of the first important -- the first important to cooperate in the Mueller investigation. And he knows a lot, not only about the president, but about Jared Kushner and several of the other characters, Brianna.

[13:05:22] KEILAR: All right, Evan Perez, thank you so much. What a busy week we do have ahead.

I want to bring in now Kaitlan Collins. She's at the White House.

Kaitlan -- and, actually, as I bring in Kaitlan, we are going to take a look at the markets right after this hit with her.

But China has confirmed President Trump's claims, which the markets have been responding to here. But there seems to be some disagreement here.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There does seem to be some disagreement coming out of that dinner that they had, President Xi and President Trump, while they were in Argentina. And President Trump, for his part, is touting this as an undeniable success. He is saying it's always the White House that they have put essentially a 90-day timeframe as a pause on increasing those tariffs on China that was supposed to happen on January 1st. In the meantime, they are going to continue to work things out according to what the White House says.

But President Trump is announcing some new things as well, including last night, saying that the Chinese agreed to reduce that 40 percent tariff on cars coming in to China from the United States, even though the Chinese have said nothing about that and have not confirmed that.

Brianna, something else that Chinese state media has not mentioned either is that 90-day timeline that President Trump and his economic advisers keep pointing to saying that that is when they are going to work out these structural changes in trade with China, something that they seem very hopeful about.

But President Trump is pushing full steam ahead, saying that this is an undeniable victory, even though his advisers are expressing caution.

Now, two of these people I'm about to mention are not people who often agree with each other, but the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, even saying this morning that some of these details still need to be hammered out, saying that I hope we can reach a real agreement here. While Peter Navarro, someone who is very much of a hawk when it comes to China is saying, talk is cheap. Let's see what we agree to at the end of this 90-day negotiating period, which could include another meeting, another face-to-face sit down between President Trump and President Xi and see what comes out of that.

But, if you pay attention to the president's Twitter feed, he touting this as a success. But most people behind closed doors here in the White House are saying this isn't some big breakthrough, Brianna, but instead a step back from an escalation in that trade war that we saw happening.

KEILAR: Very good way to put it there.

Kaitlan Collins, thank you, at the White House for us.

Now, Congress has just five days left to act to keep the full government up and running. A shutdown looked imminent, but with the passing of former President George H.W. Bush, lawmakers are not expected to let that happen on their watch.

CNN political director David Chalian joining me now.

So we know there's still some fighting on negotiations behind the scenes. What are we expecting?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, Brianna, you say -- you're right to say they don't want that to happen on their watch right now, this week, but the idea that we're not going to have a shutdown showdown, I don't think, is at all off the table. It just is not going to be this week in respect for the events of commemorating and celebrating George H.W. Bush's life.

As you know, there are events at the Capitol, where the former president is -- the late president's going to be lying in state. So all the votes were getting delayed. There were going to be no votes in the Senate until Wednesday. The clock just wasn't there and nobody wanted the acrimony of what a deal is going to look like at this time when we're remembering a statesman, somebody who put country and party above self. Nobody wanted to see up on Capitol Hill, Republicans or Democrats, a really bitter fight. But that doesn't mean the bitter fight isn't to come next week or the week after.

KEILAR: It's hard to believe it's already December, so the holidays were -- are upon us at this point in time and this is going to be crucial decision making time for some people, including Kamala Harris when we look towards 2020.

CHALIAN: Yes, the senator from California, who's very much considering a presidential run. Something is so different this time around, Brianna. All of these people are openly acknowledging that they're very much considering a run for president. Usually we see our politicians playing a little coy about that. Not at all right now on the Democratic side. And Kamala Harris said over the weekend at an event in San Francisco

that she is going to make up her mind over this holiday season with her family, which only guarantees that as of January 1st every reporter in America is going to be asking her every day, what's the decision, what's the decision. I don't know when she's going to reveal it publically, but she will have made up her mind this holiday season.

KEILAR: I guess it's easier to say I haven't decided yet than, wait, what, no. You know, it's just so ridiculously coy that they play.

And then Bruce Springsteen, what, he's weighing in with his political analysis.

CHALIAN: Well, Bruce Springsteen has never kept a long distance from politics, as you know.

KEILAR: Yes.

CHALIAN: He campaigned for John Kerry. He campaigned for Barack Obama. Even a little Hillary Clinton campaigning. So he is clearly a liberal and a Democrat. But he has some concerns so far of what he's seen about this potential 2020 Democratic field. And in an interview with "The Times of London," he said that he doesn't see any obvious choice right now who can really emerge to beat Trump at this stage of the game. He cautions against the notion that he hasn't see anyone who speaks sort of the language that Trump understands that people speak and he, again, hasn't seen anyone emerge yet.

[13:10:21] I would just caution to say the yet, right? We'll see no doubt somebody will emerge. There will be a Democratic nominee. And at that point, it may look different than it does right now. But at this outset, to have such a big liberal voice from the world of pop culture as Bruce Springsteen say he doesn't see anyone yet, it's a bit of a warning shot -- a warning shot to Democrats.

KEILAR: Sure is.

David Chalian, thank you so much.

CHALIAN: Sure.

KEILAR: President Trump on a tear over the Russia investigation, praising Roger Stone for having guts. Is this witness tampering?

Plus, potential new clues behind the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, as new messages -- new text messages come to light. Former intelligence director James Clapper is going to join me next.

And, backlash erupts after this warm embrace and one conservative columnist asks, are the world's business tyrants laugh at America?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:15:29] KEILAR: We are learning more now on what may have spurred the Saudi government to order the murder of "Washington Post" journalist Jamal Khashoggi. CNN has been given exclusive access to What's App messages where Khashoggi conversed with another Saudi exile who's in Canada and in some of these messages Khashoggi referred to Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman as a, quote, beast who would devour all in his path.

The two men discussed a plan to mobilize young Saudis to take a stand on social media against the Saudi government and the crown prince specifically.

This other exile's phone was hacked by military grade spyware according to experts at the University of Toronto, who believe that Saudi Arabia is responsible for the hacking of the exile's Omar Abdulaziz's phone.

Now, two months later, Khashoggi was killed, likely at the behest of the crown prince, according to the CIA. There are also multiple report that is the crown prince sent nearly a dozen messages to a close adviser who oversaw the hit squad that is believed to have killed Khashoggi. And those messages are coming right around the time that the Saudi hit squat was in Turkey, where the journalist was murdered. Reports of what amount really to a smoking gun.

And here with me now is James Clapper, he's the former director of national intelligence.

I mean these reports are stunning and they really start to piece things together. I wonder what your reaction is.

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, to me, the-- again, I do have to comment that in particularly the case of the CIA reporting, alleged CIA reporting, that obviously if that's so, it's a leak, which -- and leaks are never good. So I'm obliged as an intelligence guy to say that.

Having said that, I think what this does, both reports simply enrich and reinforce, you know, what I think the understanding is of what occurred here. First, the motive. And it was, I think, already understood that the crown prince, MBS, Mohammad bin Salman, regarded Jamal Khashoggi as a threat, not only for what he was writing in "The Washington Post," but what he might endanger in the way of support among another anti-MBS proponents.

And as far as the reporting on the messages exchanged, well, again, I think it was already pretty much understood that there's no way an operation like this could have possibly happened without MBS' not only knowledge but direction.

KEILAR: The defense secretary, James Mattis, says there is no smoking gun. And I hear what you're saying about the leaks. You're an intelligence -- former intelligence official. You don't like seeing the leaks.

But, at the same time, if General Mattis is privy to information which, if true, could be a smoking gun, what do you think about him saying there is no smoking gun?

CLAPPER: Well, I think this is somewhat of a manifestation of what I call the rather elastic evidentiary bar used by the administration and members of the administration in this particular incident.

When the intelligence community ascribes high confidence to a finding, to an assessment, for me, you can take that to the bank. And so while there may not have been a video reflecting MBS directly giving direction to do away with Jamal Khashoggi, the evidence from many sources I suspect is so compelling that they came out with a high confidence rendering, and depending on your definition of smoking gun. For me, no doubt about it.

KEILAR: Yes.

Max Boot, he's a CNN global affairs analyst and a columnist for "The Washington Post," I know you're familiar with him, he wrote about the G-20 and he said that it was a success if only for the fact that President Trump made no mistakes. But he also said, quote, the world's tyrants are laughing at the United States and Trump is letting them get away with it. He's talking about Vladimir Putin and Mohammad bin Salman. We saw that just remarkable, for lack of a better term, handshake between the two of them. What do you think of this assessment?

CLAPPER: Well, I have a tendency to agree with them. Most of what Max says, I agree with. I think he's right. I think -- and some of that has to do with the doubt about -- in the minds of many overseas (INAUDIBLE), the presidents' tenure. And so that gives rise to this. And, of course, the high five, which makes great "Saturday Night Live" material, is simply two autocrats with blood on their hands conveying publicly, thumbing their nose publically at the United States and its leader.

[12:20:12] KEILAR: Russian meddling is ongoing. This is something we actually learned. Russian meddling and U.S. politics happening now.

Let's listen to something that the defense secretary said about this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: There is no doubt the relationship has worsened. He tried again to muck around in our elections this last month. And we are seeing a continued effort along those lines.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: What is the administration doing in response to him saying meddling in the elections last month and what should they be doing?

CLAPPER: Well, I think the -- Secretary Mattis has simply reinforcing and echoing what others have said, notably the secretary of Homeland Security, that, you know, that the threat to our electoral system or fundamental system continues from the Russians. And so they were interfering with this election, although I think in a different way than they did in the election in 2016, which was clearly focused on demeaning one candidate and supporting another one.

In this case, I think they're a continued theme of sewing doubt and discord and discontent in this country given the fact that I don't think they focused on candidates since, you know, all 435 members of the House of Representatives and a third of the senators were up for election. So they had a different approach perhaps, but their overall objective of undermining our system is still there and good on Secretary Mattis for reinforcing that.

KEILAR: Former President George H.W. Bush passed away on Friday. All eyes have been on the family and watching what is going to happen this week as his body makes its way here to Washington.

You served as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency during his administration, but when you were a lieutenant general, right? Is that right?

CLAPPER: Yes, well -- well before my most indelible memory of President H.W. Bush was actually before that when I was farther down the food chain as a two-star and I was the head of intelligence for what was then known as strategic air command out at (INAUDIBLE) Air Force Base in Nebraska.

And President Bush visited SAC (ph) headquarters. The first time a president ever visited in 13 years. And, of course, any time a president visits a military organization it's a big deal. So we had a meticulously choreographed and rehearsed sequence of events for his visit.

I was to start, which is typically of intelligence, to give a 15- minute overview of the Soviet's strategic nuclear arsenal, which I managed to do. President Bush, by the way, was accompanied by another great American icon, Brent Scowcroft, who's then his national security adviser.

So I did my 15 minute bit and our commander and four star was then to escort him to the next event. Well, we went by an open office area with about eight or ten enlisted air men, junior people, and the president would not be stopped. He was going to stop and talk to every one of those young troops. And the first thing he did, which I thought was magnificent, he put them at ease so they weren't petrified to talk to him. And he asked -- and he was very personal and direct and sincere. And I think it reflected with each one of them. He wanted to know their background, their home, if they were married, their family and their intentions with the Air Force and all that. And he did it with every one of them.

And, of course, they loved it. It was a magnificent tribute, I think, an indication of his great respect for the position, his position as commander in chief. Upset the schedule totally because they blew about 35 or 40 minutes. But it was -- I'll never forget his devotion to the troops.

KEILAR: And if I'd asked you, you wouldn't have said, well, he really stayed on schedule when he came to visit in Nebraska, right? These are the moments that sort of defined someone.

CLAPPER: Exactly.

KEILAR: So, thanks for sharing that with us. Really appreciate it. CLAPPER: Thanks, Brianna.

KEILAR: Thank you.

CLAPPER: Thank you.

KEILAR: Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen asking for no prison time. None. Hear his reasons and how the president is responding.

Plus, President Trump praises Roger Stone for not testifying against him, saying that he has guts. Now some legal experts say he's tampering with witnesses.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:28:54] KEILAR: As Robert Mueller gears up for another busy week, President Trump is calling for his former attorney, Michael Cohen, to serve a full prison sentence. The president is lashing out after Cohen asked a federal judge for no prison time.

Meanwhile, he's praising his former adviser, Roger Stone, quoting Stone's comment that he will, quote, never testify against Trump. Trump writes, this statement was recently made by Roger Stone essentially stating that he will not be forced by a rogue and out of control prosecutor to make up lies and stories about, quote, President Trump, un quote. Nice to know that some people still have, quote, guts, unquote.

Joining me now to discuss, former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst Laura Coates, and CNN political correspondent Sara Murray.

I'd ask you what -- the quotes almost made me stumble. What does that mean? OK, but that's not what I want to talk to you about.

Some of the charges, Sara, that Cohen pleaded guilty to were related to Trump, two connected, though, to federal campaign finance laws there, one for lying to Congress about Trump Tower Moscow plans. What's your reaction here?

[13:29:59] SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, I mean, obviously, Cohen doesn't want to go to prison. We will see how the judge feels in that case and whether Mueller's team weighs in with something else. But, you know, I think the president