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Michael Flynn Report Expected to Reveal New Details in Mueller Probe; CIA Director to Brief Key Senators on Murder of Jamal Khashoggi; President George H.W. Bush Lies in State at the U.S. Capitol. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired December 4, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:00] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: There's other things that we need to address in terms of beds and treatment and the like, but an important number here, for $3,000 to $5,000 bought from China, that's a kilogram of Fentanyl, that's enough to kill 500,000 people.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, my god.
ROMANS: I mean, just think of how cheap it is and how potent it is.
HARLOW: Yes. OK. Christine, thank you.
ROMANS: You're welcome.
HARLOW: For being on this. We appreciate it.
All right. Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto.
What has Michael Flynn had to say to Robert Mueller? We've been waiting for a solid year. There have been four delays in his sentencing so far. That's because he's been cooperating. Now the former general, former Trump campaign aide, former National Security adviser to this president for a short time, is finally set to learn his punishment for lying to the FBI today, perhaps this hour.
We may learn details of Flynn's cooperation. That may become public. This is often how you learn those details of what has been a very closed investigation by the special counsel.
HARLOW: Exactly. Also this hour, and for many hours to come, Americans from all walks paying their respects to the 41st president, George H.W. Bush. Right now more than a dozen former CIA directors are honoring one of their own. Again, what he has called his favorite job, leading the CIA for a year.
Let's begin on the special counsel probe, though. Our Jessica Schneider is watching and waiting, and waiting, and waiting for the details.
What will this court filing likely tell us? JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Poppy
and Jim, we've heard nothing from Michael Flynn since he pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators one year ago. That was December 1st, 2017. But since Flynn's sentencing is finally coming up on December 18th, that means that Mueller's team will be filing a brief today, and it's expected to detail Flynn's year-long cooperation, and it also could reveal what Flynn told investigators about any dealings between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
Because, remember, Michael Flynn was at the forefront of the Trump campaign, front and center at Trump campaign rallies. He in fact often was the one leading the chant "lock her up" in reference to Hillary Clinton. Well, now, Michael Flynn faces jail time, up to five years behind bars. Now the likelihood in all this is that he'll actually get zero to six months because of his extensive cooperation.
And it's even possible that if he assisted the special counsel enough, they could ask the judge to give no prison time at all, just probation. So Flynn really could have been crucial over the past year. He was the first high-ranking Trump adviser to agree to cooperate. And he was front and center in the early days of the Trump White House.
Of course as National Security adviser, short lived as it was, meaning that he really could reveal what the administration's dealings with Russia were, especially since Michael Flynn was in contact, even during the pre-inauguration days with then Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. And really that's exactly why he was charged, for lying about his contacts with Kislyak and the fact that he discussed the possibility of easing sanctions.
So, Jim and Poppy, a lot expected to be revealed today. The filing is due by midnight, but it really could come at any time.
SCIUTTO: Did he keep the president informed?
SCIUTTO: That of course the question looming over this.
Jessica Schneider, thanks very much.
Joining us now CNN legal analyst, Page Pate, and chief investigative correspondent for Yahoo News, Michael Isikoff.
Michael, if I could begin with you. You of course have been following the Russia investigation from the very beginning here. Focusing on Flynn for a moment. It was interesting in mid-September, the last we had a special counsel filing on Flynn, Mueller made certain that nothing would be revealed then prior to the midterms which seemed to be an indicator that his cooperation has netted something that is politically important, possibly explosive. Now we're past the midterms. Does that lead you to believe in this
filing we will learn something about what has been the outcome really of Flynn's cooperation and how it fits into the broader picture here?
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO NEWS: Right. Well, we're certainly going to learn a lot because this will be the first time the special counsel will be presenting in public any reference to what they have learned from Michael Flynn. But I think we all -- you know, it's best to wait and not speculate here because we -- as far as we know, we have not seen any public cases, any indictments brought that would be tied to something Michael Flynn has told Mueller's team.
And the mere fact that they are going ahead with this sentencing today or filing the sentencing memos, the actual sentencing is next week, is an indication that whatever cooperation they were getting, they don't need it anymore. They are prepared to tell the court and the public what they have learned. So, you know, it's possible there are sealed proceedings we don't know about that Flynn's cooperation has led to. It's possible that Flynn has talked about his communications with the president himself and that might feed into any obstruction report or it may be that Flynn's cooperation has not led to any indictments of others.
[10:05:15] You know, we should just wait and read this with a fine toothed comb when we get it.
HARLOW: We should indeed. Hold that thought because I want to get back to you in a moment, Michael, and your fascinating new reporting about where things stand.
But, Page, just to respond to what Michael said regarding, you know, we just don't know yet if Flynn gave anything substantially useful to Mueller's team. But if he didn't, why was his sentence postponed four times?
PAGE PATE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right, Poppy. That wouldn't make any sense at all. I've represented a lot of people who cooperate in federal criminal investigations and the only reason you continue the sentencing date if there's active cooperation is because that individual is helping you in connection with some investigation.
Now we know at the very beginning, Michael Flynn's lawyer said he has a story to tell, and he wants to tell it.
PATE: And he's been telling that story over the last several months. Now it is certainly possible that the memo that's filed today in advance of sentencing could be under seal. I think if the investigation is still ongoing, they're still using Flynn, they may not show all their cards right now. But if they do, then I suspect the investigation is wrapping up, at least as far as Michael Flynn is concerned.
SCIUTTO: You heard that there, Michael, Page saying he believes the investigation is wrapping up. As Poppy noted you have a new piece out. You called this the clearest sign yet, using your words there that Mueller's long-running probe may be reaching its critical peak. And again, I take your caveat well, because as I always say, you know, Mueller's investigation is like a black hole. You only know what's going on there based on its effect on other bodies. Right?
SCIUTTO: Because it's such a tight black box. But reading those signals, what leads you to believe that this is in the final stages?
ISIKOFF: Well, a number of things. I mean, first of all, the fact that this week, which is going to be quite a week, you know, we're getting the sentencing memos on Flynn, on Michael Cohen, and there will also be a filing relating to Paul Manafort about what Mueller's people believe he has lied to them about.
Now, and you know, perhaps the most significant part of what I reported last night was that Mueller's people are saying that the Manafort filing will be public. There may be some redacted portions. There may be a redacted addendum, but they do expect to making this public. So what that tells me is, you know, again, I go back to what I was saying about Flynn. All of these could have been put off by Mueller if he was still getting substantial cooperation in an ongoing matter.
There was -- you know, sentencing, as I'm sure Pate knows, can be put off indefinitely. Some people go years while they're cooperating without having a -- without getting sentenced. So the fact that Mueller is going to be making public filings on all these three major high-profile defendants is an indication that whatever he's learned from them, he's learned and he's ready to move on.
You know, that plus some other, you know, signals, smoke signals we're getting that, you know, I quoted one source saying that defense lawyers are being told they are tying up loose ends. That people on the Hill are being told that at least on the obstruction phase Mueller's team is not objecting to calling of key witnesses. So I think all this points to an investigation that is in its fourth quarter, climactic end game.
HARLOW: All right. Thank you both.
SCIUTTO: Fourth quarter.
HARLOW: Fourth quarter.
SCIUTTO: We'll see.
HARLOW: Just seems like it's been a long game.
Everyone, read Michael Isikoff's piece. It's fascinating. Thank you, Michael and Page. We appreciate it.
ISIKOFF: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: I want to bring in CNN political commentator and President Trump's former legislative director Marc Short.
Marc, thanks very much for joining us again this morning.
MARC SHORT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thanks for having me on, Jim.
SCIUTTO: I always think it's important on stories like this to go big picture because it's hard to follow the kind of day-by-day, but just so folks at home can understand what the big picture is here, what Michael Cohen testified to last week was in effect that the president misled the American public when he said that there were no conversations during the 2016 campaign about this Trump Tower Moscow project.
Cohen testified under oath that actually it continued well up to very close to the Republican convention. What Michael Flynn lied about to the FBI was that there were discussions during the transition, December 2016, in this case about Russia sanctions.
I just want to ask a very simple question. Why the lies about those Russia contacts?
SHORT: Oh, I don't know that there are lies at this point, Jim. I think you have different accusations that's been made by Michael Cohen, who is --
[10:10:03] SCIUTTO: You have people testifying under oath, though, at penalty of going to jail, right?
SCIUTTO: Saying that there were lies.
SHORT: And I think that you also have already proven that Michael Cohen has been a serial liar who has lied on multiple occasions and the reason that he's being prosecuted now is because he lied to Congress.
SCIUTTO: Is Michael Flynn a serial liar?
SHORT: I don't know that. I think General Flynn has served our country honorably, but we don't know what General Flynn has testified to the special counsel or not. We're waiting on that report. General Flynn, I believe, is under indictment because of being dishonest with the FBI, but I don't know to what allegations he's made against President Trump.
SCIUTTO: Well, that's a question here, then, too. Because the president, as you know, throughout this, going back to the campaign, I mean, first he said there were no contacts. That claim has been belied by what we have learned since then, that there were repeated contacts at multiple levels. And I just -- you know, so folks at home understand why the need to be misleading about that, if the contacts were innocent.
What was the motivation for not being forthcoming about this early on, which would have removed a lot of these legal troubles? For instance, if Michael Flynn had not lied about contacts with the Russian ambassador during December 2016 about key policy issues, U.S. sanctions on Russia, he would not be facing a federal crime here.
SHORT: Jim, you say you want to have a big picture conversation, and I don't have an understanding of what the president's negotiations were with Russia about a Trump Tower. There is no Trump Tower in Russia. The investigation was intended to focus on was there collusion in the campaign that helped elect Donald Trump and defeated Hillary Clinton.
To date, there's been no evidence of collusion and further I should say that the Trump campaign interfered with Russia in influencing the election results. So, you know, we continue to have conversations about people who have lied or people who failed to file as foreign lobbyists and they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Those are serious crimes and serious allegations, but that does not prove any sort of collusion with Russia that interfered with the election. That's what the investigation was about. That's what we have been waiting more than two years to uncover, and there's still no evidence of that.
SCIUTTO: You have seen and read and heard about the president's public comments including in the last 24 hours about this ongoing investigation. I mean, for instance, you say that these crimes should be prosecuted. The president has said something different. He has said that they are unfairly being treated unfairly. I mean, he's called the Justice Department, he put the Justice Department in quotes, you know, in relation to this investigation.
More recently, the issue has been is the president signaling to witnesses in this investigation, specifically in this case, Roger Stone, but also Michael Cohen, signaling to them that hey, Roger Stone, you're doing a good job here by not cooperating. Michael Cohen, you're doing a bad job by cooperating. Is that something the president of the United States should be doing?
SHORT: I don't think there should be witness tampering or interference, Jim, but I also think there's an enormous frustration that, again, a special counsel was named to investigate where there was collusion with Russia on an election, and the investigation is instead focused on where, you know, Michael Cohen has lied about various elements of personal financial dealings or where Paul Manafort failed to register as a foreign lobbyist. And I understand that that's intended to apply pressure to get them to testify to something else --
SCIUTTO: No, but that -- Marc, Marc, just fact check there. Fact check there. Michael Cohen pled guilty to a crime a number of months ago about campaign finance fraud in which he implicated the president. That is not a -- and I know this phrase process crime has come out there. That is a crime. It is not all unrelated to the campaign.
SHORT: That is fair, Jim, but there's been no prosecution yet of a campaign finance. Michael Cohen has said that what he thinks happened was campaign finance. I don't know that there's a lot of lawyers who would agree with that sentiment. I think he's in a position where he's made a lot of errors, he's made a lot of mistakes and he's looking to strike a plea deal.
SCIUTTO: Marc Short, appreciate you taking the hard questions, as always.
SHORT: Thanks, Jim. Thanks for having me on.
SCIUTTO: Well, just minutes from now, a long-awaited appearance, the CIA director briefing key senators on why the agency believes that the Saudi crown prince at least knew about if not directed the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Remember, the president has publicly rejected that assessment and he delayed -- the administration delayed Gina Haspel's appearance on the Hill.
HARLOW: That's right. And the Bush family welcomes President Trump for a private meeting today to pay respects, as the late President George H.W. Bush lies in state on Capitol Hill. We'll take you there live.
[10:19:00] SCIUTTO: Just over 30 minutes from now, a small group of senators, Republicans and Democrats, will enter a classified briefing room, where the CIA director Gina Haspel will discuss exactly what she knows about the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Remember she listened to the audiotape provided by the Turks. The president did not.
HARLOW: That's the highest ranking person to have listened to it.
Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers on both sides demanded this. I'm sure they're very happy they're going to get this briefing. I understand you just talked to the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker. What did he say?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, in fact, he was disappointed that this briefing is only going to be for six senators. We're not expecting any more than a handful of senators at this briefing. He said it should be done for the full Senate, and asked him if the White House was preventing the full Senate from being briefed and he said he did not know that, but he's moving forward with legislation. He's trying to get bipartisan bill on the floor to target Saudi Arabia by Monday.
Now I also asked him about the contention by the administration that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, that there was no direct evidence tying him to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and Corker pushed back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[10:20:12] SEN. BOB CORKER (R), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: The crown prince that it would appear directed, you know, the dismemberment of a journalist who has children here in the United States, who is a resident here. And there's been no response. I mean, that just -- what happens over time is leaders like him believe that they can get away with, you know, killing people around the world that are dissidents or who are criticizing them. And that's not a world we need to be living in. It's certainly not an American value.
RAJU: When they say there's no direct evidence linking the crown prince to this murder, what's your reaction to that?
CORKER: Well, my reaction has been that, look, whether he directed it or not, I think he did, he owns it because it was an agency that he directs that carried it out. So, you know, they've shown no ownership of this issue whatsoever and it's just inappropriate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: So Bob Corker now working with the group of senators, Republicans and Democrats. He said that he met with the leadership of the Senate yesterday to figure out what they can move forward on. I asked him if this legislative pact coming together would target the crown prince. He said that it's something they have not decided yet. He didn't want to get into all the details but of course the measure that he's moving forward would pull back U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
He has not opposed that effort in the past, but he suggested he could support it now, so these members willing to go much further than the administration is at this point -- Jim and Poppy.
HARLOW: And, Manu, just on that point before you go, last week when there was the vote on it, it was 63 senators including 14 key Republicans, voted to tie the president's hands, right, on this continued aid of Saudi in Yemen. So they would need to get that number to 67 to have a veto-proof majority. Is the thinking the math right now that they've got enough votes?
RAJU: It's unclear at the moment. The administration is trying to pull back Republican support from that measure. But there are other things that could get bipartisan support, and Corker suggesting something much broader than just going after the U.S. involvement in Yemen, perhaps other measures, sanctions perhaps, things to that nature. So his belief is that if there is a significant bipartisan support, it would be enough to overcome any presidential veto, but as we have seen before, guys, when the president's hand is forced, he may ultimately be forced to sign something like he had to do with Russia sanctions at the beginning of the administration.
HARLOW: Yes. Good point. Manu, thank you.
Eyeing 2020? If you just heard what Joe Biden said last night, a strong possibility. Next.
[10:27:41] HARLOW: All right. Right now, President George H.W. Bush, the late president, lying in state at the U.S. capitol. Several groups paying their respects to him today and throughout the rest of the day. Ranging from Operation Desert Storm military leaders to members of his community service initiative Points of Light. SCIUTTO: And there's a live picture there. Only 35 Americans, I
believe that's the number, that have this honor. It's a remarkable one.
Later today, President Trump will visit the Bush family privately as they stay at the president's official guest house just across the street from the White House.
Joining me now, CNN's Phil Mattingly, he's been up there at the capital throughout the day and yesterday.
Tell us what you're seeing. It's been a remarkable collection of people, both members of the public but also people who served with this president.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there's no question about it. I would say it's more solemn than somber. A lot of people with their own thoughts. I think what's more interesting to me is in talking to Capitol police when I came in early this morning, they said there's a steady stream of visitors, those coming to pay their respects, throughout the night. Keep in mind, the Capitol rotunda was open throughout the night.
The other interesting piece of this, as you mentioned, people that are coming in today with relationships to President Bush, his close personal aides from his time in the White House, people associated with his Points of Light organization, military leaders from Operation Desert Storm. People who benefitted from the Americans With Disabilities Act, which was signed into law by President Bush really underscores the sheer scope of his government service, what he accomplished in his time in public life that right now is being recognized by so many.
You talk about the Bush family, they're at Blair House today. They will be meeting with the president privately. I'm also told they'll be taking meetings with foreign dignitaries who are coming into town for the service tomorrow at the National Cathedral.
The president actually tweeting earlier this morning that he was looking forward to meeting with the, quote, "wonderful Bush family," and that First Lady Laura Bush, wife of George W. Bush, will be getting a tour of the White House with First Lady Melania Trump later in the day.
I think it's interesting, obviously, there's been no shortage of discussion about the animus between the Bush family and President Trump that has been so very clear to so many people over the course of the last couple of years, that has really been put aside over the course of the last couple of days. And I think there's merit to not trying to psychoanalyze what is happening right now and instead just say this is a good moment both for the administration, for the country, and for the individual that's being honored right now, tomorrow in Washington and then the day after that in Texas, guys.
SCIUTTO: So much symbolism here as we watch. I believe that platform was built for Abraham Lincoln. HARLOW: Wow.
SCIUTTO: And as you noticed the honor guard there has a member of each of the services. You will have the Army, the Navy, who the Bush was a veteran, Air Force, Marines.