Return to Transcripts main page


Awaiting Mueller's New Revelations on Manafort and Cohen; FBI Joins North Carolina Election Fraud Probe with a Person of Interest Named; Trump Calls Tillerson "Dumb as a Rock, Lazy as Hell"; Army and Navy to Face Off for the 119th Time. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired December 7, 2018 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: So, Shimon, starting on Paul Manafort, remind us how we got to today.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Right, so we really got to today because the special counsel is accusing him of lying. It was after he pleaded guilty, there was no second trial. And he decided he was going to cooperate with the special counsel. He started lying, they say, during countless meetings. Numerous hours that he spent there with them. They found out that he was lying, and so they ripped up the cooperation deal. And they told the judge, you know, we're ready for him to be sentenced. And today we plan on seeing and hearing just about how he lied, where he lied. I think we need to be prepared, though, that we may not know as much as we would like in this investigation.

BALDWIN: Why? Because of redactions?

PROKUPECZ: Because of reactions. I think Paul Manafort probably is being accused of lying about things that have not been charged yet. About crimes that are still under investigation. About things that the special counsel perhaps is going to include in a report that they are not ready to make public yet.

So, there's a lot still going on and this seems to be -- there seems to be indications that there's going to be redactions. Like we saw in the Michael Flynn filing. We're going to learn something. We're going to learn how many times he lied --

BALDWIN: Who he lied for.

PROKUPECZ: -- who he lied for potentially. But I think the important details about what exactly he was lying about, we may not get to know as much as we would like.

BALDWIN: Mueller knows, we won't know.

PROKUPECZ: Mueller knows and a couple other people.

BALDWIN: What about Michael Cohen?

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, we've obviously seen this amazing evolution that Michael Cohen has gone through over the last year or so. Starting out as a man who said he would take a bullet for Donald Trump. His life really revolved around his former boss, Donald Trump. And then a lot of things began to change really after that FBI raid back in April. That's when we sort of knew and certainly Michael Cohen knew that he was in a lot of trouble. And the loyalty that he had always shown for Donald Trump, you could clearly see that begin to get strained.

He was openly saying that he would campaign against Donald Trump. He was telling people to vote against him, vote against the Republican Party. And now his focus is on cooperating with various investigators and sort of making it known to anyone who will listen, I have the goods and I want to share this information with investigators so that they can get to the truth.

What we are going to find out today hopefully -- but again I this a good --

BALDWIN: It's an appropriate caution.

LEE: Yes, a caution about how much we might actually not even know after today. We will know what Mueller and SCMY investigators are going to recommend, in terms of how much jail time, if any, Michael Cohen should get. And then we might get a little bit of context on what they actually make of the various things that Michael Cohen has already pleaded guilty to. But again, even that may not paint a full picture.

BALDWIN: The Mueller bread crumbs continue to be dropped, continue to be dropped to you guys to figure out the bigger picture.

PROKUPECZ: We'll be here.

BALDWIN: I know you will. MJ and Shimon, thank you, guys, so much.

Coming up next, breaking news out of North Carolina where there are massive allegations of election fraud. The FBI is now involved in this case, as the state's election board has now named a person of interest in this investigation. We've got that for you.

And more on this just extraordinary exchange between President Trump and his former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Trump just tweeting calling him dumb as a rock and lazy as hell. This after Tillerson suggested some of Trump's ideas were illegal. More on that in just a moment.


BALDWIN: This just in, the FBI is now assisting in North Carolina's probe into alleged election fraud there. We are also learning North Carolina State Board of Elections has named Leslie McCrae Dowless as a person of interest in connection with an alleged absentee ballot operation in the ninth congressional district. Dowless was an operative working for Republican candidate Mark Harris. Harris is now saying that he would support a new election if there is evidence of fraud. Right now, Harris leads his Democratic opponent, Dan McCready, by 905 votes. And McCready withdrew after his concession -- withdrew his concession after election irregularities were uncovered in a second county. So, with me now is CNN senior investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin, who has been spending the last couple of days in North Carolina. And Drew, tell me more about this named person of interest and what you're hearing there.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that named person of interest, Leslie McCrae Dowless, is a person we named days and days ago. He has been the subject of a criminal investigation. But the board of elections now says this is who they're interested in too. A couple of interesting items from the board of elections, they have subpoenaed records now from Mark Harris's campaign, from Mark Harris's campaign consultants. And a new twist, from the campaign of the sheriff of Bladen County. That is something we didn't know about until just a few minutes ago. Also, just a few minutes ago, Mark Harris, the Republican candidate who supposedly won the election has now emerged to say something he released his statement on Twitter we want to show what you he has to say.


MARK HARRIS, REPUBLICAN NORTH CAROLINA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: My campaign and I are cooperating fully with the state board of elections investigation, and we will continue to do so. I trust the process that's under way, just as I've always trusted the decisions of the voters. I trust that this investigation will be full and complete. Examining any alleged irregularities that could have benefited either party, in this election or past election cycles.

[15:40:00] The integrity of our electoral process is the heart of our democracy and we must protect it. And although I was absolutely unaware of any wrong doing, that will not prevent me from cooperating with this investigation. I'm hopeful at that this process will ultimately result in the certification of my election to Congress before the next House session begins.

However, if this investigation finds proof of illegal activity on either side to such a level that it could have changed the outcome of the election, then I would wholeheartedly support a new election to ensure all voters have confidence in the results. As we move toward resolution, I look forward to participating in a transparent, factual and fair process. Thank you and God bless you.


GRIFFIN: Brooke, there seems no doubt that there was election fraud that was perpetrated. The question is, is it enough that it would overturn or question the results in this election? That's for the board of election to decide. It also seems clear that somebody did it and that's the criminal side and whether or not Mark Harris knew, Mark Harris hired somebody who knew, Mark Harris's campaign hired someone who knew and the person who did it. Those are all a criminal matter and now, as you have said, the FBI assisting in that investigation is a sign of just how serious that has become.

BALDWIN: They've got some explaining to do. Drew Griffin, we'll talk again next week. Thank you. I want to get back to this just extraordinary war of words between the

President and his former fired Secretary of State. Rex Tillerson fired the first shots -- let's be clear. Saying the President wasn't disciplined, didn't read, often had ideas that weren't exactly legal.

So, moments ago President Trump tweeted calling him dumb as a rock, lazy as hell and lacking mental capacity. Here's the tweet. You can see it for yourself. Michelle Kosinski is our correspondent at the State Department. She covered Rex Tillerson. Also, with us, chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. Ladies -- Michelle, let me just start with you. Your reaction to this back and forth. And second, why do you think Tillerson after not speaking for months and months decided to say what he did.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: I think the venom, the emotion and the outrage in this one tweet. I mean, even though given the source that this is coming from, we see tweets similar to this from the President all the time. I mean, tweets you wouldn't expect from a President of the United States. But this about left me speechless.

He's referring to his former Secretary of State -- granted one that he fired by tweet. But it's somebody who was the head of Exxon, who was there for decades. I mean, somebody who came in and at least tried to do his job and tried to do it quietly. I feel like there's been this enmity there ever since it was reported. Remember back many moons ago when Tillerson had called Trump a moron after a meeting. At least it was reported as that.

And remember, it wasn't long after that that Trump forced Tillerson to go out publicly in front of cameras and in front of the world and praise him. Although, at that time Tillerson ever denied having called him a moron. So now that Tillerson has spoken out a little bit -- granted that the few things he's said, they've been strong. Saying that Trump is undisciplined, he doesn't like to read, he doesn't pay attention to detail, and he sometimes wanted to do things that in Tillerson's view were illegal. I mean, he said a lot in a few words.

Now it seems Trump's turn to really let him have it in this way. I feel like Tillerson has been humiliated by Trump before. So, the question isn't how can this happen because at this point, it's not really a surprise that we're seeing Trump react this way. It's that how could Tillerson allowed himself to be humiliated this way for as long as he did. And I also want to point out that Tillerson did break his silence earlier on.

[15:45:00] Not long after he was fired, he gave a commencement address at a college where he talked about what he feared was going on in America and dangerous to democracy and only having one voice out there that could be a potentially dangerous one. And that was a quieter way and a smaller venue of him speaking out against the administration that he served for a short time. Now he seems to be taking the gloves off to say a little bit more. I'm not sure where this is going, but obviously it has affected the President in a way that maybe even for him you wouldn't expect. He obviously has a lot on his mind and this is kind of another big Friday in the small city of Washington. [15:45:00]BALDWIN: Yes. Gloria, are more struck by, you know, the

phrase dumb as a rock or lacking mental capacity or are you more struck by what Rex Tillerson is saying about the President.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm not struck by what Rex Tillerson is saying. I think it's all entirely predictable. I think they disagreed on a lot of policy issues and Tillerson lost. And the president got tired of him. But I was looking back at some tweets from the President or some statements from the President back to 2016. And remember, what Tillerson also said, which is interesting to me, is that the President operates on instinct.

He hired Tillerson on instinct because he looked like a Secretary of State. He casted him in that role. And the President openly says things like that. Well, in 2016 Trump said Tillerson is a world class player. In 2017 he said Tillerson will be a star. And then -- and now he says he was dumb as a rock. So, you can see the evolution there, which is pretty stark. And what we're seeing from Trump is pretty pro forma. He gets punched and he punches back. And he has to say, well, I like the guy I have now. You did a lousy job so shut up. And that's basically what's going on. I think it's pretty boilerplate for Trump. It's unusual as Michelle says.

BALDWIN: Boilerplate. This is where we are.


BALDWIN: This is boilerplate when the President of the United States says your dumb as a rock.

BORGER: Yes, and the guy who was a former chairman of Exxon, they have different operating styles. Sure. This is just to me -- this is Trump just being the counterpuncher, unfortunately.

BALDWIN: Yes, OK. Gloria and Michelle, ladies thank you so much on all things Rex Tillerson and Donald Trump.

Coming up next, what could be the first multiple bombshells today? CNN is learning special counsel Robert Mueller has questioned Chief of Staff John Kelly about potential obstruction of justice by the President. We're learning more on that.

Also, what we have on President Trump, what he's planning to drop at tomorrow's Army/Navy game. Back in a moment.


BALDWIN: It is a rivalry like no other. Welcome to Army/Navy weekend. The two service academies will face off tomorrow for the 119th time. Navy leads the series by nine wins, but Army is a favorite by seven points this year. And if Army comes out on top, this would be their third win in a row.

President Trump is expected to attend, and we have just learned he's expected to announce Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. If selected, Milley would he succeed the current chairman, General Joseph Dunford whose term expires later next year.

Army/Navy is one of the best and longest rivalries in all of college football, and Coy Wire is in Philadelphia with a preview. Hey, Coy.


COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Dating back to 1890, the Army/Navy game is seething with traditions. What makes it one of the most respected rivalries in all of sports. Now one of the coolest traditions is of the running of the game ball, starting at West Point, New York, yesterday, journeying about 150 miles through the elements, overnight. They carried this game ball to be delivered to the field. This is cadet Tyler Reese. You're a senior. This was special to you. What is something you really enjoy about this run

TYLER REESE, WEST POINT MARATHON TEAM: Yes, sir. What's so special about this is just the support from the community. We ran through New York, new jersey and now Pennsylvania. And just so much support from the community. You know, we ran to New York, New Jersey and now Pennsylvania. And just so much support from the community you can see cheers, food that we got. It just reminds us why we're all here.

WIRE: I didn't know you could run on a full tummy like that. We also have a freshman, Emily Danella. This is your first one. What has stood out to you about this special tradition?

EMILY DANELLA, WEST POINT MARATHON TEAM: I just think this is a tradition you're not going to get anywhere else and it makes the game so much specialer, because this game is the most spirited game in college football. And you're not going to get anything like it. And it's America's game, and we might be rivals on the field, but after all, we're on the same time.


BALDWIN: Awesome. Coy, thank you. A quick check of the big board. Markets down by more than 500 points here. Seven minutes to go to the end of the trading day. Sources telling CNN President Trump is expressing anxiety about this week's volatility in the stock market and is surprised that his trade truce with China hasn't done more to settle nerves.

Also, more on our breaking news on Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen. News expected to drop any moment now. CNN has crews on standby.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to "THE LEAD," I'm Jake Tapper. We begin with breaking news and our money lead. And the Dow dropping down more than 500 points today. Capping off a tumultuous week as a source tells CNN that President Trump is anxious over the stock market's dismal performance.