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Trump Attack Mueller: Comey As Russia Cloud Darkens; Trump Downplays Mueller's Revealing Memos; Kushner Offer Advice To The Crowned Prince; Trump's Two Crimes In 2016 Campaign; Workers Claim Trump New Jersey Club Hired Undocumented Immigrants. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired December 9, 2018 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: The tweets coming one day after President Trump surprising announcement that Chief of Staff John Kelly will leave his post at the end of the year, an announcement that was supposed to come formally tomorrow. Well despite that, the Russia cloud continues to hang over the White House with questions now being raised over whether a sitting president can be indicted.
Some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree on this. No one is above the law.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I disagree with the Office of Special Counsel in the Department of Justice, there's nothing in the constitution that prohibits the president from being indicted. I think it's very important that, you know, the -- we originated, this country originated in rebellion against the English king. We didn't -- we did not seek to create another king. Nobody, not the president, not anybody else can be above the law.
SEN. MACRO RUBIO (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: If someone has violated the law, the application of the law should be applied to them like it would to any other citizen in this country. And obviously, if you're in a position of great authority like the presidency, that would be the case. I don't know if it's going to reach that point or not, we have to wait and see.
But my position on that or my position on that one, that will be a political decision. It will be the fact that we are a nation of laws, and no one in this country no matter who you are is above it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Let's check in with CNN's Sarah Westwood at the White House. Sarah?
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN REPORTER: Well, Fred, President Trump has been spending this weekend going after his former FBI director, railing against the Paris climate accord, calling for the end of the Russia investigation, making a series of personnel changes, basically talking about everything but Special Counsel Robert Mueller's claim and court filings submitted Friday that the President directed his former attorney Michael Cohen to make two illegal payments during the 2016 race.
Now, while the President was awaiting those filings to be submitted on Friday, he started what became a spree of high level appointments starting with the announcement of his new attorney general, Bill Barr, on Friday morning. He also announced his pick for the next UN ambassador, Heather Nauert.
Saturday morning, he moved on announcing the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley who will replace the outgoing Chairman General Joseph Dunford. And then, the President ended months of speculation by telling reporters on Saturday afternoon that he's Chief of Staff John Kelly would soon be leaving the White House. And when that same conversation with reporters here at the White House as he was leaving to attend the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, the President said that his team was very happy with the filings that prosecutors submitted on Friday although he admitted he hadn't read the memos himself because those memos didn't include evidence of Russian collusion.
Although they did tie the President to the alleged campaign violations related to payments made to women who had alleged that they had affairs with President Trump that were trying to come forward during the 2016 race. Now Congressman Jerry Nadler, he's the top Democrat on the House of Judiciary Committee said Trump's involvement in those payments would be impeachable offenses in his view even if politically they didn't rise to the level of impeachment. Take a listen to what Nadler told our Jake Tapper this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: If it is proven that the President directed or coordinated with Cohen to commit these felonies, if it's proven and I understand it has not yet been, it's been alleged by the prosecutors but has not been proven. If it's proven, are those impeachable offenses?
NADLER: Well, they would be impeachable offenses. Whether they are important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question. But certainly, they would be impeachable offenses because even though they were committed before the President became president, they were committed in the service of fraudulently obtaining the office. That would be the impeachable offense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WESTWOOD: Now, the White House has attacked Cohen and worked to undermine his credibility and sought to distance the President from revelations about the conduct of his former associates including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. But this week, Fred, President Trump will have to confront these new disclosures from the Special Counsel Robert Mueller, even as his administration is adjusting to new faces at the highest levels. Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Sarah Westwood, thank you so much from the White House. All right.
Joining me right now to discuss further, Democratic Strategist and CNN Commentator Hilary Rosen and Senior Correspondent for the Washington Examiner and CNN Political Analyst David Drucker, and former Federal Prosecutor and CNN Legal Analyst Shanlon Wu, good to see all of you.
HILLARY ROSEN, CNN COMMENTATOR: Hi, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. So, Shan, you first. Is it an issue of you cannot indict a sitting president or is it you cannot prosecute a sitting president?
SHANLON WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I really think it's both. I mean, I agree there's nothing in the law that prohibits indicting and prosecuting, but it is the Justice Department's policy not to do that. I think with good reason. I mean that immediately creates a constitutional crisis.
And I don't think this is -- some people have been speculating what if the President murdered somebody. That's not the scenario we're facing here. It's appropriately in the political realm, there would be an impeachment, articles of impeachment and then perhaps an impeachment trial.
[15:05:10] But I do think that in terms of the level of proof here, there is probable cause and this is an accusation by the Justice Department that he's committed to these two felonies. It's not right accusation.
WHITFIELD: Well, listen to what Senator Rand Paul had to say about this special counsel's probe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I'm absolutely against it. I think it's a miscarriage of justice and we shouldn't have prosecutors going after one person. And if we get this way and we're going to prosecute people and put them in jail for campaign finance violations, we're going to become a banana republic, where they have every president gets prosecuted and everybody gets thrown in jail when they are done with office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So, David, your reaction. I mean, is the inference that one person is being pursued here?
DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I mean I think the President has been a target of a Special Counsel and they've been trying to figure out if he had any role in misdeeds and collusion and other matters. But I don't think it's a case where the special counsel itself lends itself to banana republic and we might end up just in a legal circus with everybody in office.
I mean, a lot of people run for president, not a lot of them end up with FEC violations. Some do, they're very minor. They pay a fine deal with it and it's over. So I think what Rand Paul is doing here is trying to defend the president, speak on his behalf and suggest that anything that the special counsel might do that ropes in President Trump would be illegitimate. And that's understandable from a political standpoint.
Look, supporters of the President are trying to deal with a new political reality. And that is you're going to have a Democratic House with Democratic chairmen and impeachment which is a political mechanism designed to deal with legal misdeeds, is entirely a political judgment. And Democrats are going to have to decide once Mueller issues his report whether or not they believe the offenses, if there are any, are impeachable, and then whether or not they believe that it's politically feasible and politically advantageous for them to go about impeaching the President. Because all of these have different scales and there are different levels of what the answer is, it's not cut and dry.
WHITFIELD: So, Hilary, former Chief Of Staff Rahm Emanuel, you know, says, it would not be advisable in his view if the first order of business for a democratically, you know, control controlled House would be impeachment proceedings. What do you think about whether it should be the first order of business or if it should come potentially after Mueller's report?
HILARY ROSEN, CNN COMMENTATOR: I think we've already heard Nancy Pelosi and Jerry Nadler, the two people are going to have the most say in this decision. Say that that isn't the first order of business, but that inquiries into behavior are.
And, you know, I think it's worth stepping back for a minute. You know, there have been debates all weekend about the implications of the Mueller report, but it is worth stepping back and looking at what people would do, what people would be saying on the other side of the aisle if in fact this were Hillary Clinton who were president or if this were Barack Obama or Bill Clinton who are president, our last two Democratic presidents.
Bill Clinton was impeached by a Republican House for lying about having sex, like period. We're talking now about a charge from the Justice Department that the President actually subverted the FEC laws as a way to assure his election as President. There's a huge difference here.
And so, I think there is going to be an increasing amount of cry from Americans generally to take the Mueller report and the Mueller findings seriously as they keep coming down the pike. I think it's premature to make a decision about the outcome, but I think we have seen from the first few sentencing documents that this is an inquiry that is bearing real offenses by the president and his cronies.
WHITFIELD: And then, there was this notable moment during former FBI Director James Comey's testimony that came out in transcripts. When Comey was asked a question about being fired as FBI director and FBI lawyer actually stepped in and then said this. I'm quoting now, "Mr. Chairman, to the extent that question goes, again, goes to the Special Counsel's investigation into obstruction, the witness will not be able to answer." So, Shan, what's going on here in terms of the parameters of the questions during that closed door meeting?
WU: I think it would be a mistake to read too much into that. But it's certainly fair to read into that but we already know. I mean, there's no question the special counsel is looking at the obstruction question. I don't know that that FBI's lawyer sort of proactive statement there means that they are very far down that road.
I mean, it makes sense that they would not want Comey to be answering in the transcript that's going to go public. What his views are because he's going to be a witness again. He's already been a witness.
[15:10:01] But I think there's no question there's an obstruction possibility going on here. They're looking at it. I think there's a lot of danger for the President on the obstruction issue. I think particularly, he's got a situation where he is already submitted in writing.
They are likely to be contradicted by what Cohen's evidence is, and even worse for him under that very unusual Joint Defense Agreement, it's possible that the alleged falsehoods by Manafort actually conformed to inaccuracies in Trump's written statement which would be a big problem. So like finding two people cheating on exams with the same wrong answers.
WHITFIELD: And so, David, how concern should the President be? I mean, yesterday, when he was about to, you know, head to Philadelphia for the Army-Navy game, you know, he said he's happy with what we've been reading and he says, you know, it's turning around nicely. Does he mean that?
DRUCKER: Right. I don't think the President means that. I think the President was very satisfy with how this was playing out. I think he would lay off, let the investigation work its way and approach this from a position of confidence. And at least let supporters of his deal with some of the political battles that always exist around the special counsel investigation.
I think the president is concerned because these are really political matters even when you're dealing with a legal investigation that politically he's going to end up in a really tough spot heading into his 2020 reelection. And I think that's why he is trying to shape public opinion and shape the opinion of the Mueller report before it has ever been issued.
I think that's one of the reasons why most of the major leaks on what Mueller is doing have come from the President's team in an effort to litigate these things so that by the time in advance, so that by the time Mueller issues his report, people will already been looking the other way. Because, you know, with this president, there's one sort of issue or scandal or whatever word you want to use, all on top of another until it all runs together. And none of them really ever gets a full airing. And I think that's the way the President likes it.
WHITFIELD: Sharing public opinion and perhaps even trying to change the subject, Hilary, with yesterday's kind of spontaneous announcement that his Chief of Staff would be heading out later on this year when reportedly a more formal announcement was going to be made tomorrow, Monday.
ROSEN: Yes. Well, I mean, in fairness to these announcements, they tend to happen when reporters are catching him on the fly and he doesn't have a talking point. He's just telling the truth, which is, you know, a miracle for him. But I think that it is important to realize, though, that part of the President's PR game in this is to try and delegitimize the entire inquiry so that when House Democrats do take over, and do start holding hearing, demanding documents which we know the administration is going to be resistant to, hand over, demanding witnesses to the table.
That they can set this up as, you know, their own version of kind of a political inquiry, a political witch hunt. And that's why I think you're going to find Democrats be very fact-based. Very low emotion, but very methodical and how they start to investigate this administration.
WHITFIELD: All right. We'll leave it there for now, everyone. Hilary Rosen, David Drucker, Shanlon Wu, good to see you all. Thank you.
ROSEN: Take care.
DRUCKER: Thanks everyone.
WHITFIELD: All right. Coming up, a new report about the relationship between Jared Kushner and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, and the contacts they have following the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. And later, growing pressure on the White House as the guilty pleas and the charges in the Mueller probe mount, so will Republicans in Congress continue to stand by the President? More on that straight ahead.
[15:17:45] WHITFIELD: Surprising new details on how a key player in the White House handled the fallout from the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. According to a report of the New York Times, the President's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was advising the Saudi crowned prince even after he was accused of ordering Khashoggi's killing.
The Times says Kushner offered Mohammed Bin Salman, also known as MBS, advice about how to quote weather the storm following Jamal Khashoggi's death. It goes on to say, Kushner and MBS were chatting privately and informally in the days after the murder, despite White House protocol that National Security Council staff be on all phone calls with foreign leaders.
According to three former White House officials and two others briefed by the Saudi Royal Court, I'm quoting now from the paper, "The two men were on a first name basis, calling each other Jared and Mohamed in text messages and phone calls." Kushner first admitted he had contact with MBS when he talked to CNN Van Jones in October.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: What kind of advice did you give MBS in this whole situation?
JARED KUSHNER, PRESIDENT TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: Just to be transparent. The world is watching is a very, very serious accusation and a very serious situation. And to make sure you're transparent and to take this very seriously.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: In November, the CIA concluded MBS, the crowned prince, personally ordered Jamal Khashoggi's killing. But according to the New York Times, Kushner continued to argue that Saudi Arabia is a key ally to the Trump administration.
Let's bring in Margaret Talev who covers the White House for Bloomberg News and former CIA Operative Bob Bayer. Good to see you both. All right.
So, Bob, is the White House compromised with this kind of relationship?
ROBERT BAYER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Well, you know, Fred, it's worse than compromised. I mean, I think they find this outrageous that he would be on the phone with the man accused of killing Khashoggi. You know, weathering the storm, for me that translation is "I'm going to will help you cover this up."
I mean, look, at this point in diplomatic communications, they should revert to the State Department. There should be notes going back and forth written but an adviser to the president should not be on the phone trying to comfort a man who probably ordered the murder of an American columnist. It's just outrageous.
[15:20:14] WHITFIELD: So, Margaret, it doesn't appear as, though, the relationship will change in any way. I mean, even the President has always said that, you know, Saudi Arabia is important for really big deals. Does this mean that Saudi Arabia gets to operate with impunity in the eyes of the White House?
MARGARET TALEV, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Yes. I mean, that's obviously an important question and one that you're seeing some Republicans now, including Lindsey Graham kind of try to tackle, trying to use Congress' powers to impose some sort of consequences for what happened.
But I think Bob is right that we knew and have known from the beginning that Jared Kushner and MBS had this personal relationship. We saw it play out over MBS as visits to the US, the dinners. And the idea that these are both men in their 30s who had -- sort of peers from an age perspective and had the ability to forge the bonds of a relationship that could bear fruit on the foreign policy front.
But after Jamal Khashoggi's killing, the circumstances of that sort of politically from a policy perspective have changed and the fact that several US officials were willing to talk to the "New York Times" about this and get the information out there tells you just how deep the concerns run inside the White House with the impending change in the Chief of Staff. I think we will see that this will be a new challenge for John Kelly's successor.
WHITFIELD: They are close in age. MBS is like 33, Jared is around 37 apparently according to this reporting. They're on a first name basis, you know, when they have their conversations.
You know, so, Bob, are these grounds for any kind of counter- intelligence investigation? If so, would it even happen under this administration?
BAYER: Absolutely. We need a record of those conversations. I mean, did Jared Kushner, you know, encourage Mohammed Bin Salman in any way? I mean, that's what diplomacy is about. I mean, Congress should subpoena those conversations if there's a record of them or at the least, the texts.
I mean, this is as bad as accusations about Hillary and her e-mail having informal channels to a head of state who murdered an American. I have never seen this in American diplomacy ever. Go back as far as you like.
WHITFIELD: So, Margaret, you know, the White House seems to have already let the genie out of the bottle so to speak by throwing its arms around Saudi Arabia, you know, saying that, you know, we'll learn of this investigation even before details from the CIA report, you know, came. So is there any indication that the White House would treat Saudi Arabia or even this investigation any differently?
TALEV: There's not. And I think even without these revelations, the President has staked out his preference for how to go forward. Again, that Saudi-US relationship not only does he consider it essential for his approach to Iran and the Palestinian-Israeli issue.
But he just -- he is not willing to take it really around the edges at this point. I don't that has very much to do with Jared Kushner. But as long as Jared Kushner remains in the White House, this is an important front for communications and it's one that if the Saudi government is able to have a tab on it, certainly, the US government, not just the White House, but the intelligence agencies, the policy making agencies, the National Security Council want to have a full understanding of the communications between that core, the President and his core inner circle and the leaders such as MBS.
And I think that's going to be the challenge, again, for the next chief of staff, and perhaps one of the targets for the Democratic House majority coming in, in January.
WHITFIELD: Yes. And, Bob, you've already expressed how astounding this is to you in terms of, you know, these things being played out like this. But we're also talking about an adviser, the son-in-law who also had a hard time with security clearances. So, you know, add these layers onto that and where are you in terms of his role, his influence and what's next? BAYER: Well, Fred, first of all, he doesn't know what he is doing vis-a-vis with Saudi Arabia. What we need fast is an ambassador there in place and he should be the only one communicating with the Saudi government. You just simply cannot have amateurs playing around in foreign policy because it's going to lead to more disasters. I've seen -- just will.
You will -- and if he's not wedged out of this position fast, I guarantee you there will be more.
WHITFIELD: All right, Bob Bayer and Margaret Talev, thanks so much. Good to see you both.
TALEV: Thanks, Fred. You too.
WHITFIELD: In the meantime, complete silence from republican leadership as special counsel Robert Mueller's latest court filings edge closer to President Trump.
[15:25:03] Will GOP lawmakers stay quiet and stand by the President if the probe intensifies? That's next.
WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Robert Mueller's latest filings are putting more pressure on President Trump and Republican who have stood by him even as the guilty pleas and charges mount, a headline in the Washington Post reads, "Siege warfare -- warfare rather. Republican anxiety spikes as Trump faces growing legal and political perils."
[15:30:02] This follows revelations this week from Mueller's court memos that President Trump has been implicated in two crimes in the 2016 campaign. Those filings say Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, acted at Trump's direction in an alleged hush money scheme. So if this allegation is really true, how will Republicans collectively respond?
For that, let's bring in CNN Political Commentator Anna Navarro and former House Republican Charlie Dent. Good to see both of you.
All right, so, Charlie, you first. You know, this morning Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler who was slated to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee told CNN that these accusations could be impeachable offenses, but whether they are important enough to justify an impeachment remains to be seen.
So why does there appear to be so much silence from key Republican leadership on the President being implicated and what should happen next if proven to be true?
CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Fredricka, what I think has happened is many congressional Republicans have made the calculation that it is safer for them politically to stand with the President. They are conditioned to be concerned about primaries, but I don't think this is a very good long-term strategy. There are many Republicans who are in heretofore safe seats and barely won their elections. Many others who are not in such safe seats lost their elections. So at some point maybe when the economy turns or maybe when this Mueller bombshell drops, maybe some will turn.
But I think in the short-term, they tend to stick with him. Overtime, they will realize it's a perilous place to be. Independent voters turned on Republicans in the midterms by 12 points. So I was always -- I've always been surprised that so many are willing to stand next to the President knowing that his approval numbers are so dismal and at so much more and so many more shoes are about to drop.
WHITFIELD: So, Ana, do you see this as damaging to the political leadership, the GOP overall? Damaging to America for this kind of stuff?
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: All of the above. Look, it's damaging to the GOP. They paid a high price already. Over 40 seats that have been lost, maybe over 40 after the North Carolina situation is resolved. Governor seats, legislatures, they paid a very high political price for their silence and for their complicity with Donald Trump. But I think they're scared and they should be scared.
Donald Trump is a guy who has no qualms about coming after other Republicans. He prefers to lose the seat to a Democrat. Like for example, with Mia Love or with Carlos Curbelo here in Miami than to have a Republican who dares speak up against him or confront him.
I also think there is the issue of avoiding talking about this as much as possible until they absolutely necessarily have to, until Bob Mueller comes out with all of his, you know, revelations and whatever he ends upcoming up with. You know, I think they are procrastinating and I think they are avoiding and I think they are in happy silence and safety as long as they can possibly be.
WHITFIELD: So here's what a Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio said on CNN today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: It's about the country. It's about what our laws are and about the fact that no one should be above the law. From the very beginning of all of this, I said, what we deserve is the truth. No one is beneath the law. Meaning, no one is not entitled to the protections of it, but also no one is above it.
So I would just say that we want to know everything and we will know everything that's happened here at some point. Mr. Cohen has version of it. Obviously those who are accused or potentially accused, this part of it have another and we don't know what additional information the Justice Department has to corroborate some of this. They don't necessarily have to put that in these filing because they're sentencing filings.
So my interest from the very beginning in all of this is for all the information to be out there before the American people so that the court system can make judicial and justice decisions and the American people can make political decisions and Congress as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So, Charlie, do you agree with Senator Rubio and do you also believe that there are sort of contingency plans that Republicans, you know, are talking about now?
DENT: Well, if I heard Senator Rubio correctly, it's pretty clear to me that director Mueller is likely to not indict the President, but he is going to take this big stink bomb of a report and he's going to dump it on Congress's lap and say you deal with it because I'm sure there are going to be some very incendiary issues in here, perhaps legal issues, but certainly political issues and then Senator Rubio and other Republicans may get their wish that they're going to be forced to deal with it and confront it.
And, now, I don't believe that Jerry Nadler is necessarily -- or the House Democrats will necessarily going to take up impeachment on a partisan basis. I think there may be some reluctance to do that. I think the Democrat should only move on an impeachment if they see some Republicans stepping forward with them.
[15:35:00] WHITFIELD: So on a Mueller seeing a filings, you know, reveal that former campaign Chairman Paul Manafort lied about five major things, including communications with Russia and communications with the campaign. What does that tell you about and particularly the revelation that Manafort continued to talk to the White House even this year?
NAVARRO: Well, I think we're all wanting to know who that person he was talking to in the White House, continued to speak to in the White House is just how senior they were and what the relevance of those conversations are.
And, you know, when you take a look at what's happening with Manafort, when you take a look at what's happening with Cohen, Flynn, you keep thinking to yourself, "Yes, Donald Trump is right, he does hire the best people, doesn't he?"
And, you know, about what Marco Rubio said on that clip, I agree with him. I think that the prudent thing to do is to wait for Mueller to come out with all of his report, his full report. But also the prudent thing to do would be for Congress, for the Senate to move on the bipartisan bill that's in front of them that is sitting there without action being taken to protect Mueller from unjust firing.
They, you know, they can avoid a huge headache for themselves if they take this step. They can send a very strong message to Donald Trump. We want to see the full report. We want this to come to conclusion by taking that simple step. And, you know, I don't understand their unwillingness. Cowardice, inability to confront Donald Trump.
WHITFIELD: All right, we'll leave it there. Ana Navarro, Congressman Charlie Dent, good to see you both.
All right, from Fox News to the United Nations, Heather Nauert is President Trump's pick to be the next UN ambassador. Is she the right fit for the job? More on that, next.
[15:41:27] WHITFIELD: President Trump said he is nominating State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert to succeed Nikki Haley as US ambassador to the United Nations. Nauert would arrive at the United Nations relatively inexperienced, but President Trump said she has done a great job at the State Department.
Nauert maybe best known as a former host at the Fox News Network and earlier today, Republican Senator Marco Rubio who is on the Foreign Relations Committee said he was holding off on supporting her nomination for now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUBIO: You know, I think she's been at the State Department now for almost two years. She's traveled extensively. I must certainly think she has the ability to do the job well, which is to be America's advocate in this international forum.
Well, again, I'll have to meet with her. She'll have to go through our committee before I can answer that question for you. She's just been nominated. I don't know her well. I don't know much about her work. I know she's been the spokesperson at the State Department. But the things you're asking me is does she have detailed knowledge of foreign policy to a level that would allow her to be successful at the United Nations. I don't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right, joining me right now, Bill Richardson. He was the US ambassador to the UN in the Clinton administration. Good to see you, Ambassador?
BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER US AMBASSADOR TO UN UNDER CLINTON: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right, so what is the criteria for this UN ambassador -- this US Ambassador to the UN? How were you assessed for that job?
RICHARDSON: Well, I believe you have to have foreign policy experience. She's had a crash courses, spokeswoman. You have to learn intensively in dealing with the press to explain foreign policy.
You know, the one dealing I had with her on the Rohingya issue, the Myanmar issue, I thought she handled at least with me very well. She reached out. I got a chance to talk to the Secretary of State.
Now the negative side, political stature, you have to have that political stature like Nikki Haley, like others who've had the job to be effective at the UN You have to have a relationship with the President. I'm not sure she has that.
She has a good relationship obviously with the Secretary of State, but I think, Fredricka, the job has been diminished by not having a cabinet level the way it was under -- when I was UN ambassador, Nikki Haley.
So, she will not be participating in the major foreign policy decisions that are taken up at the White House. So the policy side will be diminished at the UN, so I'm a little concern about that.
WHITFIELD: Yes. And what's your concerned about the diminishing of that role?
RICHARDSON: Well, because when you're a cabinet level, you're almost an equal to the Secretary of State, although you report to the Secretary of State. The CIA director, the Secretary of Defense, you're in those national security meetings outside of UN decisions, now that won't happen.
So, there is a danger that the job will be primarily advocating the existing foreign policy of the United States and I worry, too. We're hostile to the United Nations. The President doesn't like globalism. So she may find the UN, you know, a bit hostile there. And you want somebody that can maneuver intensively to advocate for US interests there.
WHITFIELD: And what would the White House's argument be on how this would be advantageous to diminish the role?
RICHARDSON: Well, they're going to say, one, we're a country that pushes sovereignty. We're not involved globally. We're cutting the UN, one.
[15:45:01] Number two, where I think there's a real danger there is we need somebody strong at the UN that is going to say to Russia or China in the Security Council, don't veto this resolution on North Korea or on Syria. I think that's where she has to have the strongest learning curve. But, you know, she seems to be politically adept, but I worry that the diminishing of the job is not going to be in US interest.
WHITFIELD: And before you get that job, you have to be confirmed by the Senate. So, if she were to call upon you for advice on how to best prepare for a confirmation hearings for this job, you know, give me a thumb nail sketch of how would you advise her on preparedness?
RICHARDSON: Well, number one, be bipartisan. Talk and get to know some of the Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee. There got to be key. Don't just be a Republican spokeswoman advocating for the existing policy. Learn about the importance of the United Nations and globalism and multilateralism. You know, the UN is a good institution on the whole that advocates and helps US interest.
And third, I would say, you know, do a crash course on those issues where you are intensively dealing at the UN, North Korea, Syria, but also issues like the plight of women, sexual abuse and endemic diseases, the rights of women, finding ways that we go after terrorism.
After all, we have to build international support for our goals. Be a good advocate for the UN and say to the Senate that you're going to be an advocate for multilateralism despite an administration that doesn't seem to be very much in that direction.
WHITFIELD: All right, Ambassador Bill Richardson, always a pleasure. Thank you so much. Clearly, big shoes to fill. It's a tough job. All right.
Two former employees at President Trump's Bedminster Golf Resort now say they worked there as undocumented immigrants. Their story in their words straight ahead.
[15:51:41] WHITFIELD: President Trump has taken a hard line policy against undocumented immigrants since he first hit the campaign trail. But a story first reported by the New York Times says managers at his Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey knowingly hired illegal immigrants. The paper tracked down two women, one of them was a house keeper who says she interacted with the president and his family.
CNN's Polo Sandoval spoke with those women.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN'S REPORTER (voice-over): Sandra Diaz and Victorino Morales are the first to speak out to publicly about their experience working at a Donald Trump golf resort as undocumented women. As first reported by the New York Times, Thursday, both were hired as housekeepers at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Morales says she was hired in 2013.
Diaz says she worked there from 2010 through 2013 and has since become a legal permanent resident of the US. Both claim managers employed by the Trump organization knowingly hired them as undocumented workers.
Diaz tells me her decision to go public was made in part because of what she calls a high level of hypocrisy.
"The President launches such hard line immigration rhetoric", says Diaz, "yet his organization is doing to complete opposite." Morales and Diaz's former colleague, says she has additional reasons for speaking out. The undocumented Guatemalan alleges that she was subjected to demeaning verbally assaults by her superior.
SANDOVAL: After Trump became president, the housekeeping manager became more aggressive towards the employees recalls Morales. She describes being threatened with deportation repeatedly. There are also allegations of illegal hiring practices. Diaz claims managers that the property went as far as to arrange for fraudulent documents to keep them employed.
SANDOVAL: Morales tells me she was taken to an off site location after being hired away from the club. She says it was there that she was provided with a bogus social security card and identification. The woman's attorney, Anibal Romero, says they are prepared to provide proof to authorities if an investigation into the Trump organization's hiring practices is launched. ANIBAL ROMERO, LAWYER FOR DIAZ AND MORALES: Absolutely, we have
documentary evidence, we have the testimony of workers, we have the fraudulent documents, all of this could be provided to federal authorities and/or state authorities. Both of my clients are willing to cooperate with federal and state authorities.
SANDOVAL: In response to the claims, Trump organization Spokeswoman Amanda Miller said in the statement "We have tens of thousands of employees across our properties and have very strict hiring practices. If any employee submitted false documentation in an attempt to circumvent the law, they will be terminated immediately."
No public criminal or civil actions have been filed against the Trump organization regarding the allegations from Morales, Diaz and two other women mentioned by the New York Times. Morales and Diaz tell CNN they do not believe Donald Trump was actually aware of the alleged illegal hiring practices and they even have fond memories of their early years working at the Trump property.
SANDOVAL: I was very proud to say that I worked there, says Diaz. Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York.
[15:55:08] WHITFIELD: For us here at CNN and really everywhere, it is the most wonderful time of the year. And this time we are honoring some of the best humanity has to offer. CNN Heroes. There are ten extraordinary people who are doing extraordinary things around the world and we can't wait to see who gets top honor this year. Join Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa as they announce the 2018 CNN Hero of the Year, that is live tonight, 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
WHITFIELD: Hello again everyone. Thanks so much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. All right, we'll start with the looming Russia cloud less than 48 hours after being implicated in two federal crimes, directing hush money payments to women after alleged affairs, President Trump is resorting to his strategy of distract and deny. The president railing against Former FBI Director James Comey, accusing him without evidence of --