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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Paul Manafort in Court; GOP Senator Dismisses Trump Crime Accusations. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired December 11, 2018 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:32:12]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: We're back with some breaking news now.

Moments ago, the judge in the Paul Manafort case demanded more detail on Manafort's alleged lies from Robert Mueller's team. Among the topics Manafort is accused of lying to prosecutors about, conversations with a man the FBI says is tied with Russian intelligence, as well as contact with an unnamed Trump administration official in recent months.

CNN's Evan Perez joins me now from outside federal court.

Evan, how significant is it that the judge is asking for more detail today?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Jake.

The judge said that she didn't have enough information in order to make a decision on whether or not Paul Manafort lied and whether that makes a difference enough in the sentence that she is ultimately going to decide.

And that's actually the very question that Paul Manafort's lawyers raised with the judge. They said they're going to be meeting with prosecutors from the office of the special counsel to determine whether or not this is even meaningful enough for him to go through the process of additional hearings, which is, of course, an expensive thing -- expensive thing to do with additional lawyers.

So essentially what this means, Jake, is that Paul Manafort is facing 10 years in prison here for pleading guilty here in the D.C. court. And they don't even know whether it's going to make a difference, if these lies are enough of a difference in that sentence, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Evan Perez, thank you so much.

And we have some more breaking news.

A California judge just ordered porn star and director Stormy Daniels to pay nearly $300,000 in legal fees to the lawyers representing President Trump. This comes from the defamation suit brought by Daniels, not the primary lawsuit involving her nondisclosure agreement concerning her alleged affair with Mr. Trump. Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, argued today the amount awarded was

less than half of what Trump's team asked for. Trump's attorney called the ruling today a total victory for the president. And, of course, this is coming after President Trump was implicated by federal prosecutors in crimes committed by his former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen relating to hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Playboy Playmate of the year, Karen McDougal.

Yet the response from Republicans on Capitol Hill has been rather muted. Let's discuss.

I want to start with something striking from Senator Orrin Hatch. And just to remind people, Senator Orrin Hatch from Utah, when he voted in 1999 to convict then President Bill Clinton in the Senate impeachment trial, he said in a statement back then -- quote -- "This great nation can tolerate a president who makes mistakes, but it cannot tell rate one who makes a mistake and then breaks the law to cover it up."

Now, compare that with what Senator Hatch, the most senior Republican senator, had to say about President Trump being implicated in felonies by allegedly directing Michael Cohen to make these hush money payments. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: The Democrats will do anything to hurt this president. Anything.

QUESTION: But it's not the Democrats. It's the Southern District of New York, the U.S. attorney, that is making this allegation.

[16:35:00]

HATCH: OK. But I don't care. All I can say is, he's doing a good job as president.

I don't think he was involved in crimes. But even then, you can make anything a crime under the current laws.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Amanda Carpenter, as a conservative who has stayed consistent throughout the Trump era, what do you make of that?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's just funny to watch everyone say it doesn't matter, because I think you have to go back and remember what it was like in June, in October of 2016.

June is when Karen McDougal, the Playmate, wanted to make her story public. That was before the Republican Convention. And they stuffed that story and acted in an illegal way to do so. And anyone who questions that, go read the filing by the Southern District of New York. That should have been part of the conversation if that woman wanted to make it public before the Republican Convention.

And then you fast-forward to October. The "Access Hollywood" tape became public October 7. The day after, Stormy Daniels started making overtures to say, I want to tell my story. They stuffed that in an illegal manner.

So had we those two pieces of information, you have to ask yourself, would the election have changed? October, there was a lot of focus on Donald Trump's treatment of women. Can you imagine what it had been like the day after the "Access Hollywood" tapes came out, Stormy Daniels came out and started talking about her time in a hotel with Donald Trump?

I think that's worth a couple hundred thousand votes in states like Wisconsin and Michigan.

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I honestly think that seeing Senator Orrin Hatch say what he just contradicted himself is the reason why so many people are disillusioned with the current state of politics.

Many Republicans in Congress and otherwise have sold their souls for a brazen pursuit of power. And the American people told you in the midterm elections, and I believe they will hopefully say it again in 2020, that this is not what they want. This is not the type of America we want to have.

We want elected officials who are willing to stand up to the president, not go along with the get along because it benefits you. And that's what Orrin Hatch and so many other Republicans have done.

(CROSSTALK)

CARPENTER: He's on his way out. He doesn't care.

SANDERS: He's on his way out, but there are so many people still sitting there, still coddling and backing up the president in private, while publicly maybe wagging their finger just a little bit, but they still vote for his policies. They're still supporting their Republican agenda. This is a disgrace.

TAPPER: I heard Jonah Goldberg, the conservative writer for "The National Review," the other day talking about -- on NPR talking about how there used to be a time when Republicans looked at the moral issue -- forget the legality of it all -- forget whether or not this payment was acceptable or this payment was not acceptable under the law.

The morality of it, the idea that the president shortly after his wife gave birth to their son was having these affairs with whomever -- doesn't matter -- but, in this case, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, allegedly.

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Yes, and breaking the law, according to the Southern District of New York.

I mean, it's all so unbelievable. I'm still reeling from the Dave Bossie thing that we were discussing in the break, was fired at Newt Gingrich's insistence from the Hill 20 years ago when he worked for Dan Burton because he was such an out-of-control sort of character, and then went into sort of various sleazy direct-mail things and so forth for 15 years, then was a big Trump guy, because why not?

You know, birds of a feather and all of that. The idea that he could be chief of staff is so jaw-dropping, that for me it almost swamps everything else. But I also agree the Orrin Hatch -- that's pathetic.

Really, this is -- it's just pathetic.

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I have to say, what's interesting is, you have a portion of his statement from 1999 dealing with President Clinton.

And I was reading earlier, there was this other piece. "I know none of us enjoy sitting in judgment of the president, our fellow human being. But that is our job, and we cannot ignore our responsibility. I believe most of us will do a sincere job of trying to fulfill our oath to do impartial justice."

And I just would ask him, what happened to impartial justice and at what point did that become partisan, especially when you should be at your most courageous on your way out? And he's going in the exact opposite direction, talking about the success of the economy, when he also raised the success of the economy in his 1999 statement, saying that that's not good enough. You still have to be a moral human being.

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: No one is asking him right now to vote for impeachment or anything like that.

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: All you're asking him to say is, the Southern District of New York has made these charges or made these statements. Let's see how the legal system plays out. Meanwhile, let's let the legal system play out.

That's all we need. We don't need rationalizations and defenses of this guy ahead of time.

(CROSSTALK)

CARPENTER: On the morality front, yes, there is infidelity, yes, there's the campaign finance violations. But when you read that filing, the extreme amount of deception just comes seeping through.

And that just wasn't from Michael Cohen. It was at the direction of Donald Trump. It wasn't that they just made an illegal campaign finance violation. They set up shell companies. They had bank loans. They hid this and stuffed this in a way that should disqualify anyone from public office.

[16:40:00]

SANDERS: Can we just be frank, though, and say, I really do not believe that the Republican Party truly ever really cared about morality and higher moral ground.

KRISTOL: No?

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: No, I think that that was a message that they successfully co-opted.

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: I don't know.

TAPPER: I think Bill Kristol feels that way. I think Amanda Carpenter feels it.

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: I think Mitt Romney feels this way. I think John McCain feels -- felt this way.

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: I'm saying that to say, I think the -- something that the right has always done very well is messaging.

And I think the right very successfully messaged themselves as a party of higher moral ground and to say that Democrats, we don't love the lord in some respects and we don't care about morals and so on and so forth.

And now you have Donald Trump, who at every turn has acted in a total affront to what is supposed to be a cornerstone of the Republican Party.

(CROSSTALK)

CARPENTER: And I do think part of this, everyone knows more is coming, so they don't want to go out on a limb on this.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. We're going to keep the conversation going.

I will come to you first next time, I promise.

She's young, she's into guns, she's Russian, and now this accused spy is expected to tell all to the feds.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We have some breaking news in our "WORLD LEAD." At least two people are dead and several others injured after a gunman went on our rampage at a Christmas market in Strasbourg, France. The shooter has been identified, and according to CNN affiliate BFM, was injured in a police operation. CNN Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman is in France for us. And Ben, what are your sources telling you what's happening on the ground?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well we understand that the Paris public prosecutor which has a special unit to investigate terror attacks is on its way to Strasbourg as we speak. Now, that's not a confirmation that this was a terrorist attack but it certainly would point in that direction. Now, we understand at about 8:00 local time, that's about two and a half hours ago, shots rang out near the Christmas market in the center of the city.

What happened soon afterwards was at least two people were killed, eleven injured, among them, seven seriously wounded four lightly. Now, the gunman who's as you said identified by BFM as a 29-year-old local has fled the scene so the situation is still ongoing. Apparently, he's gone south to a neighborhood just below the center of the city. The police have called on people to stay inside and to stay away from the center of town. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Ben Wedeman, thank you so much. I appreciate it. We'll bring you more news on that attack when we get it. In other world news, an accused Russian spy cooperating with U.S. federal prosecutors. That's something you don't hear every day. Sources telling CNN that 30-year-old Maria Butina who the U.S. government claims was a secret agent for the Kremlin has agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government.

Putin allegedly infiltrated conservative political circles including the powerful National Rifle Association during the 2016 campaign in hopes of influencing U.S. policy towards Russia. She even had a chance to question then-candidate Trump. CNN's Sara Murray joins me now. Sara, what are federal prosecutors most interested in learning from Butina?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they obviously want to know about her contacts with her Russian handler but also, and this is awkward, how she worked with her boyfriend, an American, who helped her with her endeavors here in the U.S.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Accused Russian spy Maria Butina is now cooperating with prosecutors and offering a window into how she worked at the direction of a Russian official to infiltrate political groups like the National Rifle Association. As part of a plea deal, Butina is poised to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy in D.C. federal court on Thursday according to draft filings obtained by CNN. The documents show Butina worked with her boyfriend, Conservative Political Operative Paul Erickson.

PAUL ERICKSON, BOYFRIEND OF MARIA BUTINA: We live in a time of a testing of public character.

MURRAY: And a former Russian central banker Aleksandr Torshin. With Erickson's assistance and at Torshin's direction, Putin is sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over U.S. politics. Butina has sought to use those unofficial lines of communication for the benefit of the Russian Federation according to the draft filing.

Butina is already telling investigators about Erickson's role in her plot and offering intel about her contacts with Torshin who left his post at the Russian central bank amid reports that Butina was nearing a deal with federal prosecutors. Today, Russian President Vladimir Putin weighed in on her case.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT, RUSSIA (through translator): This poor girl is sitting here, our Butina. She faces 15 years in prison for what? When I heard that something was happening to her, I went and asked all the heads of our Intel services, who is this? No one knows anything about her at all.

MURRAY: A Russian native Butina have founded a gun rights group back home and used it to build ties with the NRA.

MARIA BUTINA, RUSSIAN AGENT: My story is simple. My father is a hunter, I was born in Siberia.

MURRAY: She became a regular at NRA events and set out to meet politicians and document the encounters. In 2016, Torshin requested she write him a note justifying his travel to the NRA upcoming meeting in Kentucky. She did as he directed encouraging his attendants partly because of the opportunity to meet political candidates according to the draft filing.

They didn't score a meeting with Donald Trump then, but earlier in 2015 she asked the candidate a question about his relationship with Russia.

BUTINA: If you would be elected as a president, what will be your foreign policy especially in the relationships with my country?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin, OK. And I mean, will we have the strength. I don't think you'd need the sanctions. I think that we would get along very, very well.

[16:50:08] MURRAY: Her attorney has claimed Butina is using Erickson and that they were actually in love, even releasing this video of them singing a Disney love song.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Now, it's unclear how this love story is going to play out. Erickson is under scrutiny from investigators, his lawyer declined to comment today, and as for Butina, she is likely to be deported to Russia as part of her plea deal. Jake?

TAPPER: Sara, how serious is the crime to which she's pleading guilty?

MURRAY: Well, you know, it's not as serious as prosecutors originally sort of made it out to be in court when she was facing two different charges. They sort of cast her as this criminal mastermind. They've really walked a lot of that back in the draft filing of the plea deal. They've said that she should serve about zero to six months as a sentence. She's already been incarcerated for about five months. Of course, this will be up to what the judge wants to do when it comes to sentencing. The maximum that she could spend in jail is five years. And as I pointed out, Jake, she's probably headed back to Russia.

TAPPER: All right, Sara Murray, thank you so much. Coming up next --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We hold the solutions and we call them. We must keep it on the ground.

TAPPER: The new move by the Trump administration that literally has the world laughing at the U.S.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: More on our "WORLD LEAD" now. Terrifying and uncharted news from the Arctic U.S. government scientists say there is an unparalleled period of warmth in the Arctic due to human-caused climate change. This means 95 percent of the oldest Arctic ice has melted the scientists say, and all of the heat coming from the Arctic is impacting normal weather patterns which will likely cause more deadly storms.

This marks the second Trump Administration study in just a few weeks warning about dire climate change consequences. Remember, President Trump said he didn't believe the first one. Right now, leaders from around the world are in Poland at a U.N. summit trying to find solutions to the crisis with the U.S. delegation literally being laughed at on that world stage after promoting fossil fuel during the conference.

CNN's Rene Marsh joins me now. Rene, has the Trump administration said anything about this new government report that once again is sounding the alarm on climate change despite the fact that the president says he doesn't believe it?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Right. So I asked the head -- acting head of the EPA today. He told me so far he has not had a chance to read that report. But Jake, what is clear is the administration belief that the United States is doing well in its effort to address climate change. Of course, that is in stark contrast with what scientists and the rest of the world are saying. Perhaps the most symbolic moment demonstrating that split happened just this week. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We must keep it in the ground!

MARSH: This is the reaction you get when you bring coal to a climate fight. President Trump's Senior Director for Energy faced the backlash during an international climate conference in Poland after announcing a pro-fossil fuel policy. PRESTON WELLS GRIFFITH, SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR ENERGY, UNITED STATES:

The administration's economic strategy is rejuvenating our economy, revitalizing our manufacturing base benefitting American workers while safeguarding our environment.

MARSH: Not laughing. The administration's own top scientists who just unveiled a new and concerning report.

MARTIN HOERLING, RESEARCH METEOROLOGIST, NOAA: The Arctic is the canary in the coal mine. There's no there's no doubt about that.

MARSH: The latest findings from NOAA reveal record-breaking warmth and fitting ice in the Arctic. The cause in part is you guessed it, carbon-rich coal and oil.

It appears that the world is laughing at the United States stands as it relates to climate change. What is your response?

ANDREW WHEELER, ACTING ADMINISTRATOR, EPA: Right. I don't think a planned protest can be considered the entire world laughing. I think those were the protesters.

RYAN ZINKE, INTERIOR SECRETARY, UNITED STATES: The United States stands the world's largest oil and gas producer in this -- in the world. Environmentally, it is better to produced energy in this country under a reasonable regulation than watch it produced overseas with none.

MARSH: Contradictions between preferred policy and scientific facts laid out in reports from the administration's own agencies are now becoming clearer as a string of warnings to aggressively cut greenhouse gas emissions appear to go unheeded at the highest levels.

HOERLING: The longer we wait on the sustained policy, the more expensive and the more consequential will be that delay. So the frustration is we would like to see the highest levels of actions happening faster than they are.

MARSH: Just before protests erupted in Poland, Trump's team joined oil-rich Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait in not endorsing a critical U.N. climate report. That report says world citizens have about a decade to avoid catastrophic and irreversible damage to the environment. But the U.S. which once brought the world together to agree to the Paris Climate Accord stood alone at the G20 in reiterating Trump's promise to withdraw from it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH: Well, Jake, both Wheeler and Zinke as you heard there, they may not believe that the world is laughing at the administration's position on climate change, but what they cannot dispute is the U.S. is very isolated from the rest of the world when it comes with -- comes to how to deal with climate change. And Jake that never used to be the case.

TAPPER: All right, Rene Marsh, thank you so much. You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER, you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.