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CNN NEWSROOM

Tillerson: Trump Told Me to Do Things that Would Violate the Law; Market Volatility Causes Anxiety for Trump; Trump Administration Hopes to Use Wanzhou Arrest for Leverage in Trade; Kevin Hart Bows as Oscars Host Due to Homophobic Tweets; Giuliani: Mueller Has Accused Manafort of Lying about Trump. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired December 7, 2018 - 14:30   ET

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


[14:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Nelson, at one point does Trump's ignorance not work as a defense?

NELSON CUNNINGHAM, FORMER WHITE HOUSE GENERAL COUNSEL: That is a great question. First of all, it's remarkable that Rex Tillerson has kept his mouth shut since being shown the door in March. He was not treated very well by this White House, by this president. This was quite a coming out last night in Houston, at a dinner where presumably an awful lot of prominent Republicans in Texas were there. Tillerson might have viewed this as his moment to start coming out with his version of his time in the White House and not painting a very flattering picture of the president.

BALDWIN: Nelson Cunningham, thank you, sir.

CUNNINGHAM: My pleasure.

BALDWIN: Just in, sources telling CNN that President Trump has been expressing anxiety about this week's extreme volatility in the stock market. You see the Dow down 522 points this afternoon. And his surprise that his trade truce with China hasn't done more to settle nerves. Details next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:35:10] BALDWIN: With the markets falling another 500 points today, CNN is now learning that the extreme volatility on Wall Street is becoming a point of anxiety for the president.

CNN's Sarah Westwood is traveling with the president today in Kansas City.

We know, Sarah, the president pays close attention to the markets. How is he feeling about it all?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Brooke, but sources tell our colleague that the president has expressed anxiety over the poor performance of the stock market in recent days. Trump has expressed surprise that that so-called deal with China was not more encouraging to investors, that trade agreement was China was very light on specifics and it did nothing to touch existing tariffs. But still, Trump had hoped that the optimism out of that sit-down meeting he had with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the g-20 summit would do more to stabilize the markets. It only did so for a day.

In the past the president has blamed the Federal Reserve for roiling markets, but the president believed the deal would create more optimism, and he's acknowledged extended losses to hurt him politically. It's Trump himself who has frequently tied himself to the stock markets and cast the market's performance as an indicator of his own performance Brooke?

BALDWIN: Prides himself on jobs, the economy. It's not a good look when the economy isn't going so well.

Sarah Westwood, thank you for that bit of color today.

Today's turbulence gives a sense of how sensitive Wall Street really is to this continuous trade truce between China and the U.S. Beijing is angry, investors are alarmed about the arrest of this woman, Meng Wanzhou, at top executive at a Chinese tech giant, Huawei. Her arrest Saturday in Canada reportedly came at the request of the U.S. with a source telling CNN that some in the administration think her arrest can be used as leverage in trade talks with China.

Let me go to David Andelman, a visiting scholar at the Law School Center on National Security and the former Southeast Asia chief for the "New York Times."

David, nice to see you. You write saying Meng's arrest

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: -- Meng's arrest is the absolute worst timing. Explain.

DAVID ANDELMAN, VISITING SCHOLAR, CENTER ON NATIONAL SECURITY & FORMER SOUTHEAST ASIA CHIEF, NEW YORK TIMES: The timing was just appalling. First of all, it happened just as Trump was sitting down with President Xi Jinping of China for a get together, a break the ice on all of these trade problems, dinner in Buenos Aires. And apparently he didn't even know about it, which is really quite extraordinary, a symptom of perhaps everything that's going on in the administration, one hand not talking to the other. But beyond that, no one seems to really have understood exactly the depths of the crisis that was about to be set off. Meng was the daughter of the founder of Huawei, and the founder of Huawei is one of Xi Jinping's closest friends and confidantes. He has effectively taken this woman hostage for a crime that wasn't even a crime in China. It was really extraordinary.

BALDWIN: We heard this analogy that her arrest is like China arresting Tim Cook of Apple. Do you think this alone has the ability to totally sabotage the trade truce?

ANDELMAN: Totally sabotage may be a bit early but it's certainly not going to help things get back on track. This coming right at that particular moment was particularly horrible but I must come back to the sanctions. The sanctions of Iran is what this whole issue is all about allegedly. The charges against Meng have now been unsealed apparently in this Vancouver court just this morning at her bail hearing. It turns out that she is being charged with establishing a subsidiary of Huawei to do business with Iran in violation of the sanctions. But these sanctions were never anything approved by China. China signed an agreement with Iran that lifted all of the sanctions. She's being charged with doing something that was entirely legal in China and in most of the rest of the world other than the United States and being seized for that. This is what is really particularly upsetting about this.

BALDWIN: But given all of that or perhaps I should say despite all of that, the Trump administration, according to sources, is seeing this as possible leverage in these talks with China. I'm wondering from you what are any potential apparently you have to understand the Chinese, which Trump has never tried to do.

[14:40:07] ANDELMAN: First, you have to understand the Chinese. He doesn't seem to understand one of the most fundamental issues of dealing with China is the question of face, saving face. They have basically taken this whole issue and slapped Xi across the face with this. This is a horrific problem that Trump has gotten himself into because he has taken this woman, who to all extents and purposes, as far as the Chinese are concerned, did nothing wrong. They're trying to hold her hostage. This should have never happened. In order to get the trade deal going. None of this seems to make any logical sense. Again, if you understand how the Chinese deal with the world and with their adversaries.

BALDWIN: As you point out, all of this happening the same night. John Bolton said he knew. We don't know if Trump did either.

David Andelman, thank you very much, David Adelman.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, everyone's talking about this story. Comedian Kevin Hart bowing out on an offer to host the Oscars. How a series of homophobic tweets from years ago have come back to haunt him.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:45:48] BALDWIN: Just days after dropping the big news that he was hosting the Oscars, actor and comedian, Kevin Hart, is out. He stepped down over homophobic tweets from years ago that recently resurfaced online. The backlash was swift. Hart said he didn't, quote, "want to be a distraction" and he said he didn't want to say he was sorry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN HART, ACTOR & COMEDIAN: I got a call from the Academy that said apologize for your tweets of old or we're going to have to move on and find another host. I chose to pass. I passed on the apology. The reason why I passed is I've addressed this several times. I've spoken on it, I've said where the rights and wrongs were, I've said who I am now versus who I was then. I've done it, I've done it. I'm not going to continue to go back and tap into the days of old when I've moved on and I'm in a completely different space in my life. The same energy that went into finding those old tweets is the same energy should go to finding the response. We feed the Internet trolls and reward them. I'm not going to do it, man. I'm going to be me, I'm going to stand my ground. To the Academy, I'm grateful and thankful for the opportunity. If it goes away, no harm, no foul.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: As far as apology, that's what he ended up doing. Here's the tweet, "I'm sorry that I hurt people. I'm evolving and want to continue to do so. My goal is to bring people together and not tear us apart. Much love and appreciation to the Academy. I hope we can meet again."

With me, Michael Musto, columnist with the celebrity and pop culture site, newnownext.com

Michael, some people, including myself, big Kevin Hart fan. It's a bummer. But at the same time, this keeps coming up for him but those tweets had been out there. Like he said, that was from '09, 2010. The Academy would have known about them. Why is this coming up?

MICHAEL MUSTO, COLUMNIST, NEWNOWNEXT.COM: I don't think he ever took them down. So much for his apology. Now he's taken them down.

BALDWIN: Yes.

MUSTO: He was getting warm with the semi-evasion. Not good at all. He did much better with the follow-up, which is a flat-out apology.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Let me play it. Here we go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HART: My team calls me, oh, my god, Kevin, the world is upset about a tweet you did years ago. Oh, my god. Guys, I'm almost 40 years old. If you don't believe that people change, grow, evolve as they get older, I don't know what to tell you. If you want to hold people in a position where they always have to justify, explain their past, then do you. I'm the wrong guy, man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: What did you think of that?

MUSTO: I'm talking more about his tweet where he actually came out and apologized. After the Academy gave him an ultimatum, you have to apologize or we're going to get rid of you. He refused, as you saw. Moments later, he did a good apology when he said, I'm sorry that I hurt the LGBTQ community. He also said, I don't want to be a distraction from the awards. That as a smart thing to do. He got that part way but he's still not there.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: The head of the students' rights campaign and LGBTQ advocacy group tweeted to Kevin. And I want to get this out there: "You have the rare opportunity to take responsibility, teach people in this moment, send a message to the LGBTQU that they matter, deserve dignity and respect. You say you've grown. Show up. Make amends for hurtful things you've said against LGBTQU people."

Has he gone far enough? Does he need to do more?

MUSTO: I think this is just the beginning. He needs to do charity work, give money and help LGBTQ youth. His was literally bashing his own child. That was the joke. Is that funny? Saying playing with a dollhouse for a boy is gay. That's not cute. I don't care if he's evolved.

(CROSSTALK)

I'm not convinced that he's evolved. I think his excuses through the years were lame in saying I'm showing my own insensitivity. Yes, that's insecurity. It's another word for homophobia. It's a very --

(CROSSTALK)

[14:50:25] BALDWIN: Who should host now?

MUSTO: They better get someone else of color. I suggest Wanda Sykes, who is gay, Ron Porter, who is gay.

(CROSSTALK)

MUSTO: They're not gay, but that's OK.

BALDWIN: Michael Musto, thank you so much.

MUSTO: I'm available.

BALDWIN: Michael Musto is available, to the Academy if you're paying attention.

MUSTO: I'm gay.

BALDWIN: Thank you very much. And thank you for that.

MUSTO: You're welcome.

BALDWIN: OK.

Just ahead, to Capitol Hill we go where fired FBI Director James Comey is testifying right now. One Republican congressman already revealing Comey is refusing to answer the key questions.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:55:38] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BALDWIN: I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN on this busy Friday afternoon.

Even by the unprecedented standards of this Trump era news cycle, today is an extraordinary day. First, the Russia investigation has taken another dramatic turn right into the heart of the West Wing. CNN is learning Special Counsel Robert Mueller questioned the chief of staff, John Kelly, in regard to potential obstruction of justice by the president. That just hours after sources tell CNN that John Kelly is on his way out. Apparently, he and the president aren't even on speaking terms anymore. He's expected to resign soon. Watch for that.

What is more there are new explosive details on Trump's ex-campaign chief, Paul Manafort, that could explain why Special Counsel Robert Mueller accuses him of breaking a plea deal. Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said Mueller believes Manafort lied about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting. Mueller's briefing on Manafort could be released any moment now.

And also due today, prosecutors' sentencing memo on Michael Cohen, who has been cooperating with prosecutors. That could drop at any moment.

Let's start with our CNN senior justice correspondent, Evan Perez.

Evan, let's talk about Kelly and this obstruction case in a second, but you have new reporting on Paul Manafort and how it all relates to the Trump Tower meeting in the summer of '16. Tell me about that.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right, Brooke. Rudy Giuliani told Dana Bash that Paul Manafort is being accused by the special counsel of lying about his interactions with the president. He's lying about President Trump. Now we don't know exactly what the nature of the lies are. And Giuliani, by the way, does not know what's going to end up in this court filing that we're waiting for.

We know one of the things he was being asked about, Paul Manafort was questioned about, was the Trump Tower meeting. As you remember, Paul Manafort was one of the senior people that sat in on that meeting that was supposed to be getting dirt on Hillary Clinton. The special counsel, as we know, has been focused, in part, on knowing what exactly happened there, who knew about that meeting, when did they find out. So now we're going to wait to see whether or not this makes it into the court filing that, as you said, we're waiting for that could come any time this afternoon.

BALDWIN: And what about chief of staff, John Kelly? So he is chief of staff number two in this administration so far. He joins the White House in July of 2017. Now he's been tapped or recently he was tapped to be questioned on the Mueller team on obstruction?

PEREZ: Right. It keeps happening in this White House, more people around President Trump to become witnesses. This is exactly what happened with John Kelly. The White House, by the way, tried to fight the request to interview the chief of staff. They tried to say it's something that would be off limits. In the end, they agreed to allow a narrow set of questions. The questions were centered on this, if you remember, stories that emerged about the president ordering Don McGahn, his former chief of staff, to order the firing of Robert Mueller, the special counsel. John Kelly was there during one of the blowups. Don McGahn, by the way, was asked by the president to go out and publicly say the stories weren't true. McGahn refused to do that. John Kelly was a witness to all this. This is why Robert Mueller wanted to interview John Kelly. We're told that the set of questions were narrowly focused on this. This is part of the obstruction part of this investigation that is still ongoing, Brooke. We talked about that. The White House viewed this as off limits. In the end, they were persuaded that the Mueller team could only get this information from John Kelly, that this was important to the investigation, a key part of this investigation. And as you said, John Kelly, he comes into this White House in July of 2017, and you'd think there's no way he's be part of this investigation. It turns out because he works for the president, the president doesn't have discipline to keep these in check. He becomes a witness in this investigation.

BALDWIN: You go work to the president, you become a witness, as you said at the top.

Evan Perez with the two big pieces of news in just the last hour.

Evan, thank you so much.