Return to Transcripts main page
CNN RIGHT NOW
Trump's New Tweets on Michael Cohen, Roger Stone; Mueller's Big Week with New Revelations Expected on Flynn, Manafort; White House Contradicts Trump's Claim on China Deal; U.S. & China Push Pause on Trade War for 90 Days; Russian State TV Trolls Trump after Canceling Meeting with Putin at G-20. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired December 3, 2018 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:30:00] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: What's your reaction here?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Obviously, Cohen doesn't want to go to prison. We will see how the judge feels in that case. Whether Mueller's team weighs in with something else.
But I think the president in his tweets is sending a clear signal, if you give any information about me, I'm going to hang you out to dry. He wants to see Cohen go away for a long time versus what he had to say about Roger Stone. Roger Stone has not been questioned by investigators. The president is saying, you will be rewarded if you don't cooperate.
KEILAR: Rewarded with?
MURRAY: Potentially, a pardon.
MURRAY: I'm mean, it's not explicit in the tweet but what --
KEILAR: Right. It's easy to read into that, that maybe that's what he's talking about when he says about Paul Manafort that a pardon is not off the table. You put the two things together and it's easy to connect.
Laura, when you look at Cohen's sentencing, that we're seeing next week, he is asking for no prison time. Is that realistic, do you think?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No. It's not for a number of reasons. Number one, the assumption that because you cooperated or because you pled guilty does not automatically mean a judge is going to be lenient with you. You have taken responsibility and should be held accountable. It does happen sometimes with a plea offer or taking responsibility and a judge at trial does reward you with a lesser sentence, but not a no sentence. Especially if he lied to Congress as well. The message it would send to the court and the nation would be that somebody could lie to Congress, could be involved in personal tax evasion and other things and campaign finance violations and serve zero time. The judge has ultimate discretion here but, largely, it's not to Michael Cohen to say, it's a personal toll on my life, I don't prefer to do so, I've cooperated. That's great. But if you do the crime, you will do some aspect of the time.
KEILAR: As Sara put it, Laura, the president is saying, hey, if you cooperate with special counsel, I am hanging you out to dry.
What he says what he does about Roger Stone in this tweet, is it witness tampering? Do you think?
COATES: It's shocking to do so. Remember, Roger Stone is in the public's eye now because he has not been questioned by Robert Mueller. And who would you not question? A defendant or a target of an investigation. I would not give that person an opportunity to talk their way out of a charge or an allegation when I want a conviction. Him not talking to Mueller does not bode well for someone like Roger Stone. But the president of the United States saying, listen, you have guts if you fail to cooperate with an ongoing investigation is idiotic. He is the head of the executive branch of government whose role it is to say talk to the fellow investigators and give information. For him to say this, he is trying to influence the thought process of somebody. Whether it goes to the criminal size of it, TBD.
KEILAR: Sara, when you look at -- the tweet account of the president is great because it really tells you what's on his mind. He's tweeted over and over about this. There are so many tweets that we can show you. Is this going to get more intense, do you think?
MURRAY: I do think it will get more intense. If you look at the activity we have seen over the past week, part of the reason we are seeing this anxiety from the president on Twitter is that all of these bread crumbs are bringing this investigation closer and closer to President Trump, not just the people around him. They are now implicating him in the conversations with Michael Cohen about Trump Tower. Cohen is saying he was in touch with people in the White House and the president's lawyers when he was coming up with this false congressional testimony. And later on this week, we will get an update on what's going on with Michael Flynn, one of the earliest cooperators. We heard almost nothing about that. We'll also hear what it was that Paul Manafort did that caused the plea agreement to go by the wayside. There are more updates that will be coming.
KEILAR: What are you keeping an eye on, Laura, just our legal mind here, as you look at the week ahead and we see this Flynn development that's going to happen? What's interesting to you?
COATES: For me, it's the timing of it. The last jigsaw piece was the president's own written answers. All the activity happening all of a sudden, all happening after the president hands in his written answers and he's now locked in to certain statements. Suddenly, Manafort is made to be a liar. Cohen is pleading guilty to crimes against Congress as well. Michael Flynn, all of a sudden, is going to have an update after more than a year. All the time that Giuliani and the counsel for the president thought they were buying time for him to stall, perhaps, have now actually sold time to Mueller's investigation, and said you have given us time to have our case develop. For me, I'm looking at figuring out how Michael Flynn, Cohen and Manafort fit together with the president of the United States' own written comments. He cannot backtrack, he cannot backpedal, he can't escape his own things in writing. Now that jigsaw puzzle may be complete.
KEILAR: Written in stone.
Laura Coates, Sara Murray, thanks so much to both of you.
A trade war ceasefire. The U.S. and China reaching a truce for 90 days, but questions loom over what they agreed upon.
[13:34:43] Plus, hear how Russian state media is trolling President Trump after the G-20 summit and his cancelling of his meeting with Vladimir Putin.
KEILAR: "Dropping tariffs on cars" -- President Trump tweeted about this as part of his message on trade with China. But now the White House economic advisor, Larry Kudlow, admits that no concrete agreement was made.
So I want to bring in Sarah Westwood. She's at the White House for us.
Can you clear this up for us or at least tell us where these differing pieces are, the differing opinions?
[13:39:48] SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Brianna, there's not a lot of clarity from the White House about where trade talks with China stand. President Trump last night tweeted that China has agreed to reduce and remove those 40 percent tariffs on cars, but Larry Kudlow told reporters on a conference call a few minutes ago that there's no specific agreement from China to remove the tariffs, whether they are going to take them off all together or lower the 40 percent rate. And that's emblematic on the breakthrough, in President Trump's words, that the White House has reached with China. Neither side is touching or rolling back existing tariffs and both of them seem to have engaged in handshake agreements about what they are going to do. President Trump delaying further escalation in his tariffs and China has, in principal, agreed to increase its purchase of agricultural products and energy products to try to address that trade balance between the U.S. and China. But this administration is being quiet about exactly what China has agreed to purchase, when they will increase those purchases. The president has set a 90-day clock to hammer out all of these trade issues that starts on January 1st. Brianna, it's not clear that in just 90 days, the White House is going to be able to get to the laundry list of structural issues that they have with China. Right now, they can't even agree on what the starting point is.
KEILAR: Very good point.
Sarah Westwood, at the White House. Thank you so much. I'm joined now by Gary Locke. He was both ambassador to China and
commerce secretary in the Obama administration.
Ambassador, as you hear this, we thought, according to the president, that China was cutting tariffs on American cars. We had a whole idea about who the winners and losers were. And it turns out, according to Larry Kudlow, that this is not exactly the case. What's your reaction to this?
GARY LOCKE, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CHINA & FORMER COMMERCE SECRETARY: The positive is that there was a pause or truce on this trade war. The president has given his negotiators and the Chinese negotiators some 90 days to try to reach an agreement on some of the fundamental issues that America has with China's trade and economic policies. In the meantime, he will not escalate the tariffs up to 25 percent from the current 10 percent on some $200 billion worth of Chinese goods coming into the United States. But we don't really know what else will happen in that meantime. Will the Chinese remove or reduce the barriers and the tariffs on American agricultural goods? Because obviously the tariffs that the Chinese imposed in retaliation to Trump's tariffs have really hurt American corn growers, soy bean growers, and many other manufacturers of components that go into China. So at least we are putting a pause to this escalation of the trade war. Because in a trade war, nobody wins. Only losers on both sides. But a lot of details yet to be announced. We don't even know what they will be talking about and how the negotiations will proceed.
KEILAR: Certainly diplomatically, and when you talk about trade here, the language matters. Right? That's what I hear you say. I wonder because Max Baucus, who you preceded as ambassador to China, called this deal a, quote, "nothing burger." It sounds like you are not quite in line with what he's thinking. You think there's at least a positive to be taken away from this.
LOCKE: We know that the economies in both countries were beginning to suffer. If you have a slowdown of the U.S. economy, that's obviously going to hurt American workers and American companies and American consumers. A trade war, an escalation of a trade war would have only compounded that. Of course, the Chinese economy was beginning to slow down, too, and so the Chinese leaders are worried about jobs in their country. So a pause keeps things from getting worse. If we had a further escalation of the trade war, it would have affected the world economy and that would have come back and had repercussions on the Chinese and the U.S. economies. This pause is good. But the key challenge is, what will the discussions focus on. Can they achieve agreements on some really, really tough issues in only 90 days? Issues that have really been hard to solve for many, many years. And will the Chinese go as far as America wants it to go? A lot of tough negotiations over the next 90 days.
KEILAR: And why is that 90 days important when you consider that China doesn't seem to think there's 90 days. It seems, when you listen to what has come out of the Chinese government, Chinese state media, that the understanding is, while there are discussions, there's a pause to this. Why is that such an essential detail that there should be agreement on? LOCKE: It's the president, President Trump who has said he is going
to postpone escalating or increasing the tariffs set to go up on January 1 and he is giving his negotiators 90 days. That may be unrealistic, but what will the president do after 90 days if they haven't reached full agreement, if they only made progress on the tough, tough issues such as technology transfer, intellectual property rights, et cetera, et cetera? These are going to be very, very tough issues. And I don't know that you can even put them all down to paper or even reach a broad outline in 90 days. The question is, what will the president do after 90 days or when the 90 days expires and what impact if there's not a full agreement, what impact will that have on the U.S. economy and the Chinese economy and the world economy?
[13:45:28] KEILAR: The Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, from Iowa, says he would consider legislation that would stop the president from raising tariffs. It seems like the law doesn't necessarily seem to be on Grassley's side. But what does that tell you about the concerns he has as a Senator from a state like Iowa?
LOCKE: It shows that a lot of constituents from all around the country, the constituents of these Senators and members of Congress, have been hurt by the tariffs that the Trump administration has imposed on some over $200 billion worth of Chinese goods coming into the United States. Tariffs on things that -- which is really a tax, a tax on the American consumer, a tax paid for by American companies that bring in small parts from China, which they then use to assemble and manufacture other things, which are sold in America or sold around the world. It has raised the cost of doing business for American companies. It's taken more money out of the pocketbooks of American consumers. And Senators and members of Congress are rightly concerned about the impact to their constituents.
KEILAR: Ambassador Gary Locke, thank you so much. We appreciate you being with us today.
LOCKE: Good to be with you, Brianna.
KEILAR: Up next, Russian media is openly mocking President Trump for bailing on his meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit. We are live in Moscow, next.
Former first lady, Michelle Obama, in a candid moment, drops a curse word in front of a sold-out crowd. We have more on that and her message to Duchess Meghan Markle.
[13:51:28] KEILAR: Russian state media publicly mocking President Trump for bailing on his expected bilateral meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G-20 that was supposed to happen, and then it got canceled, really at the last minute, after we thought it was, indeed, going to happen. This was, according to the White House, over the Russian seizure of Ukrainian Navy ships and sailors. But Putin supporters are not buying this.
We have CNN's senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, joining me now from Moscow with the story.
What's Russian state media saying?
FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brianna. You're absolutely right. They're certainly not buying it. They're saying the reason why President Trump, they believe, canceled that meeting is because of domestic political concerns. All of that coming as that plea agreement from Michael Cohen was also taking shape. And that's certainly what the Russians are putting first and foremost. It really seems to us here as though the criticism that President Trump is getting from Russian state-run television, from a lot of shows there's of a different quality than we've seen before. You know, there have been rough patches, even since Trump has been in office. For instance, when the U.S. sanctioned Russia. But now it really seems like it's taken a step further, whether some commentators, who are saying that they believe that Trump is like a rock around Russia's neck, that relations between the U.S. and Russia can't get any better, as long as Trump is in office. It's interesting, because one very powerful commentator here in Russia said, look, it's absolutely strange that President Trump, a few minutes earlier, had said that he's looking forward to the meeting, and then all of a sudden said the meeting is off. And him saying, it looks almost as though to the Russians, that President Trump is something like an unstable character. So, certainly, a lot of very scathing criticism coming from Russian television shows, which, you know, in a lot of cases do mirror the thinking that's going on in the Kremlin, as well, because they are a state-run media. So there's a lot of anger, but also a lot of mocking of President Trump, as well -- Brianna?
KEILAR: And it seems like they're trying to get under his skin, right? Because, as you know, really anyone who watches President Trump knows --
PLEITGEN: Well --
KEILAR: -- he has this obsession with strength and they're calling him weak.
PLEITGEN: Yes. Yes, it seems like they're calling him weak. One of the things that we've seen in the past is that, even when things got tough between the U.S. and Russia, you would hear from Russian state media, and quite frankly, from a lot of Russian government officials, is that they would try to shield President Trump from it, saying, look, they believe that President Trump was trying to improve relations between the U.S. and Russia, but it was maybe the Russia investigation that got in the way or Congress that was sanctioning them. So, now what they're essentially saying is that they believe that he might be too weak to go against some of the political climate that's going on in Washington. Certainly, if you see some of the criticism that we saw specifically last night -- there's a really prominent show that's on Sunday evenings, where they said that he was trying to avoid people there at the G-20 summit, that he looked as he was very introverted when he was there. So, yes, it looks as they're saying that he might be -- which is a big insult here in Russia, that he might be too weak to handle some of the domestic political issues that he's facing at home and, therefore, taking that out on the Russians -- Brianna?
KEILAR: Big insult to President Trump, as well.
All right, Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much, reporting from Moscow for us.
[13:54:36] KEILAR: Soon, former President George H.W. Bush will arrive in Washington for the last time. He will lie in state in the U.S. capitol as the nation honors his life of service. And we'll have live coverage on CNN. Stay with us.
[13:59:55] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Ana Cabrera, in for Brooke Baldwin today. Thank you for joining us as the nation mourns for the 41st president during a week of tributes.