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Judge Delays Michael Flynn Sentencing; White House Holds Briefing About Flynn Sentencing Delay; Trump Foundation Agrees to Dissolve in Face of Lawsuit. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired December 18, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi there, I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Any minute now press secretary Sarah Sanders will take to that podium. She's got a lot of questions she's facing today, including what could happen in the briefing room likely will pale in comparison to the fireworks inside that D.C. courtroom in federal court. President Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was expected to learn his sentence after pleading guilty to lying to FBI. Instead there he was, he walked into that black SUV with orders to go back to court in March after his sentencing has been delayed. Flynn, the first former White House official to face sentencing in the Russia investigation got a scolding today from the judge there, Judge Emmitt Sullivan, who said a lot. He said, "I am not hiding my disgust, my disdain for your criminal offense." He added "The aggravating circumstances are serious, not only did you lie to the FBI, you lied to senior officials in the incoming administration." A bit later after a brief recess, the judge would walk back some of his harshest comments, including those about treason. The judge did say he was merely asking questions, that he wasn't making accusations and prosecutors said there was no reason to consider charging Flynn with treason. So, let's go straight to our senior justice correspondent Evan Perez. He was in the courthouse. Evan, I mean, this was something no one saw coming today, that the Mueller folks had recommended zero jail time. What happened?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: No, it was a stunner, Brooke. You know, Michael Flynn came to court today and he had every reason to expect he was going to walk out with no prison time, again maybe facing a fine and some probation essentially. Instead he walked out of court today feeling probably that he narrowly escaped being locked up by this judge. This is a judge who did not take kindly to a court filing that was filed by Michael Flynn's lawyers in the past few days in which they sort of raised some questions about whether or not mike Flynn believes he was tricked into making false statements to the FBI back in January of 2017. It was clear today the judge really wanted to hone in on that and spent probably half an hour just going through that and making sure that Michael Flynn indeed is sorry for deceiving the FBI and that he wanted to plead guilty today. He repeatedly asked Mike Flynn whether he was ready to go to sentencing, and it began dawning on everybody in the courtroom that maybe this judge was not going to listen to the prosecution. Remember the prosecution was asking for leniency for General Flynn, and of course General Flynn's lawyer himself requested no prison time. It was clear this judge was not going in that direction. As you pointed out, he raised a question, he said I'm not hiding my disgust, my disdain at the offenses that you committed. He said these are serious, serious crimes. It was clear that Michael Flynn was headed to jail, to prison, if he hadn't requested a delay. In the end the judge granted this delay for a sentencing, so we're now facing sentencing in marc march, Brooke, instead of today. It was clear the judge was not happy. He made clear lying to the FBI on the premises of the White House in the West Wing was not something that this judge took as a small thing.
BALDWIN: Give me a little bit of color. I mean, take us inside because from what I had read, Evan, Flynn's family members were in there, he was pleased to see them, they were smiling and then the judge said what he did and the mood changed.
PEREZ: The mood changed dramatically, Brooke. There were probably about a dozen family members there. He comes from a very large family in Rhode Island. If you've spent any time with him and his family, you know they're very gregarious, have fun loving group of people and general Flynn himself is very sure of himself. I think a lot of people would call him arrogant but he's certainly not a soft-spoken person. In court today, he was very soft spoken. At first you could barely hear him.
[14:05:00] And then the judge repeatedly was asking him questions and he kept saying yes, your honor, yes, your honor. Very polite. When he began seeing exactly what this judge was beginning to think, I think that's when mike Flynn realized that, you know, he needed to show all of the politeness and all of the remorse. That's what the judge was homing in on. He was homing in on the idea that Mike Flynn was sorry for what he had done.
BALDWIN: Evan, hang with me, they want you to continue to be part of this conversation, also with me Caroline Polisi, a federal and white- collar criminal defense attorney, she was hired to represent George Papadopoulos in a DNC civil lawsuit, and Josh Campbell is with us, CNN law enforcement analyst and former FBI supervisory Special Agent. Continuing this conversation, today was a wow, Caroline. You know, Evan hit on the stunner of the day, the judge throwing this curveball in Michael Flynn's face, General Flynn. What did you make of the judge's moves?
CAROLINE POLISI, FEDERAL AND WHITE-COLLAR CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think this has got to be very frustrating, not only for the defense attorneys and general Flynn who obviously walked into the courtroom expecting no jail time but also for the prosecutors.
BALDWIN: Hold on. Let go to the White House for Sarah Sanders.
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Good afternoon. As you know, the World Economic Forum will take place in Davos, Switzerland from January 22nd through 25th. The President will attend as he did last year. Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, will lead the delegation. That will also include Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chow, Kirstjen Nielsen, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Linda McMahon, Adviser to The President Ivanka Trump, Senior Adviser Jared Kushner And Deputy Chief Of Staff Chris Liddell. The President is once given fulfilling a promise to the American people and this morning the acting Attorney General signed the final rule making clear that bump stocks are illegal because they fall within the definition of machine guns banned under federal firearms law.
A 90-day period now begins which persons in possession of bump-stock type devices must return them to an ATF office or destroy them. Instructions will be posted on the web site today. Martha McSally has been appointed to the Senate. We congratulate her. The President applauds Governor Ducey for his swift and qualified selection and appreciates Senator John Kyle and thanks the people of Arizona. I'll take your questions with that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your reaction to the delay in the Flynn sentencing and the rather unusual inquiry from Judge Sullivan this morning asking
prosecutors if Flynn possibly committed treason?
SANDERS: The delay is something within the court. In the meantime, we wish him well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about the inquiry about whether he committed treason? Does the President see any reason why Flynn should be asked if you committed treason?
SANDERS: I'm not aware of anything that would indicate that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was in the courthouse the last hour when Judge Sullivan basically said he was disgusted by Michael Flynn's crimes, he said he had disdain for Flynn, Flynn said he knew it was illegal to lie to the FBI and he was ready to accept responsibility, this is all before agreeing to a delay in sentencing. Given that, are you in a position or would you like to revisit comments earlier today that the FBI ambushed Flynn here?
SANDERS: No. We still firmly believe that the things that may have taken place, again that's for the judge to make that determination, whether who engaged in something inappropriate. What we do know that was inappropriate by own self-admittance of James Comey is the FBI broke standard protocol in the way that they came in and ambushed general Flynn and, in the way, that they questioned him and the way that they encouraged him not to have would you counsel's office present and we know that because James Comey told us that.
[14:10:00] He said the only reason they did it, it was the Trump administration and they thought they could get away with it. Those are facts and certainly there may be other issues there but that we don't have any reason to want to walk that back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very quickly about Michael Flynn. He has cooperated with the special counsel's office and met with them 19 times. Is there a particular reason why the President has not said that he is rat the way he said Michael Cohen is a rat?
SANDERS: Look, we know Michael Cohen to be a liar on a number of fronts and the President's opinion is extremely clear on that front. I don't see any reason to go beyond that comment at this point. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two questions on the government shutdown. Can you
clarify us the current White House position towards the continuing resolution that's floating you on the hill? Is it a demand more $1.6 billion in border wall funding or supporting taking this up after the Christmas break?
SANDERS: At this point we're disappointed in the fact they've yet to vote and pass something. When they do that, we'll make a determination whether we're going to sign that. The President has asked every one of his cabinet secretaries to look for funding that can be used to protect our borders and give the President the ability to fulfill his constitutional obligation to protect the American people by having a security border. So, we're looking at the other options. In the meantime, we'll see what the Senate does and let you know when we have an announcement.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Following up on that, there are other sources that could potentially pay for the wall, what sources are you looking at?
SANDERS: The President has asked every agency to look and see if they had money to be used for that purpose.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If they could find that money, does that mean the President would accept a proposal that does not include funding?
SANDERS: We'll see what the Senate will pass. We're disappointed in the process and their inability to put something forward. Once they put something on the table, we'll make a determination on whether we'll move forward.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael Flynn did say he lied to the FBI repeatedly. Does that concern the President? He seems to be concerned that Michael Cohen was a liar. Is he concerned one of his top aides lied to the FBI and was working for a foreign government?
SANDERS: Not when it comes to things having to do with the President, the activities he is said to -- we'll let the court make that determination -- that he's said to have engaged in don't have anything to do with the President. Let remember what this is supposed to be about, whether or not Russia influenced the election and whether or not the President had anything to do with it. We know Russia tried to create chaos but certainly not that the actually impacted it. The only reason the president is the president is because he was a better candidate and beat Hillary Clinton. We also know that the president never colluded with Russia. So that's the whole reason that we have this and we know those things to be false.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the President concern that Michael Flynn lied to representatives of his own government and was working for another government during the campaign? Does that concern him or not?
SANDERS: There's certainly concern but that's for the court to determine. We're going to let the court play that out and they'll make a determination on whether or not he engaged or certainly right or wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is the President making positive comments about him?
SANDERS: Again, we are going let the court play that out and they will make a determination and whether or not he engaged something right or wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is the president making positive comments about him given the things --
SANDERS: It's perfectly acceptable for the President to make a positive comment about somebody while we wait to see what the court's determination is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me ask you about a tweet the President sent out earlier today as he continues to vent frustration about the Federal Reserve. He said that he hopes the Fed reads the "Wall Street Journal" op-ed. Part of the op-ed the "Journal" points out that U.S. growth might be slowing, housing and autos are down and a few cracks in the credit markets. When the President talks about the fed, is he just venting at this point or is he generally worried that if there is a rate hike tomorrow that the economy will slow down?
SANDERS: The President is stating his opinion, which he is perfectly within his right to do so. I think that's one of the reasons people like him is because he does that and he does it regularly. He's been very clear about what his position is while at the same time he understands the fed is an independent agency. It doesn't take away the President's right to state his opinion on a particular matter.
[14:15:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to clarify one thing and move back to the border wall. The clarification on Michael Flynn, one of the things concerning the judge is he lied inside the White House as the national security adviser to the President. Is the White House disputing that Michael Flynn is a liar?
SANDERS: We're disputing any actions he engaged in had nothing to do with the President. Maybe he did do those things but that doesn't have anything to do with the President directly.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When it comes to the border wall, today on television you mentioned that the President would be willing to accept $1.6 billion for the wall the way that I understood it when you said it and also that plays into a broader $25 billion bill over ten years. Is that what the White House's current offer is to capitol hill that it would accept?
SANDERS: Again, we are continuing to have constant and regular conversations with the hill. I'm not going to negotiate here. We've laid out clearly what our parameters are with members of congress. We want to know what they can pass. We want to know what they think they can actually get done. We've laid out what we'd like to see. In the meantime, we're looking at other areas where we can draw money from to make sure the President can protect our border and protect American citizens. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With the deficit ballooning to over a trillion
dollars under this President, where are the additional monies on this wall going to come from and why is he asking the American taxpayer for them when he promised Mexico was going to pay?
SANDERS: We're not asking taxpayers for that. We're looking at existing funding through other agencies that we can draw on to do that immediately. The President has been clear that the USMCA deal would provide additional revenue that would show Mexico was paying for the wall.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The trade benefits, if there are any, don't go to the Treasury.
SANDERS: He's saying we could pay for the wall four times over and by doing the new trade deal --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But trade benefits go to private citizens.
SANDERS: He's talking about the general revenue that comes from that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you're going to tax --
SANDERS: No, we're not taxing. We're talking about additional revenue that wouldn't have existed without the President doing a new deal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you done the math on that in.
SANDERS: We know we'll have additional revenue from the USMCA. We think there will be more than that that comes in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was announced today that the President's charity was being dissolved. Does the President or anyone in his family have regrets about how that was handled?
SANDERS: I'll refer you to the Trump Organization.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has the President given any indications to Turkey he would be willing to extradite the cleric?
SANDERS: The only thing he said is we would take a look at it but nothing committal at all, just that he'll look into it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've been saying things don't have anything to do with the President, he's just giving his opinion, has a right to give his opinion, but does he not have a broader right -- responsibility, as far as if his national security adviser is lying, should he not be speaking on behalf of the American people, not just himself, President Trump, man under investigation, but in all these aspects. You're talking about saying he is just speaking for himself and he's not been linked to collusion is the claim and therefore it doesn't matter what he says.
SANDERS: That's not what I said at all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And his comments on the fed have no bearing, he's just giving his opinion.
SANDERS: I didn't say it has no bearing. I said he's the President of the United States and he should not only does he have the ability to give his opinion, he should give his opinion. That's why the people elected him is because they trusted him to make decisions on policy matters. They want to know what his positions are on specific policies. He absolutely should state his opinion on not just that but on every topic that comes up that he wants to engage on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, a lot of people who are somehow involved in investigations feel the FBI is unfairly targeting them, but the President normally has a different role --
SANDERS: We know for a fact that the FBI engaged in an outrageous amount of political bias, particularly under James Comey's leadership is frankly laughable.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Using terms like rat, who are cooperating witnesses --
SANDERS: Or --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doesn't he have a responsibility to preserve confidence in the rule of law?
SANDERS: Certainly. That's why he's appointed new people to do that, whether it was Director Wray, a new Attorney General, somebody that can come in and be very transparent throughout this process. One last question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just wanted to go back to the shutdown. You keep saying you've asked agencies to look for more money. On this issue of reprogramming specifically, is your red line in these negotiations that you need Congress to reprogram money explicitly so the defense department or whoever it might be, the congress say you can spend this money that we didn't on this issue of reprogramming specifically so DHS or the Defense Department or whoever it might be say that Congress says you can spend this money that we didn't spend on something else on wall construction.
[14:20:00] SANDERS: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Or are you saying you have the legal authority and what are you basing that legal authority on since Nancy Pelosi said today that in fact --
SANDERS: I would never use Nancy Pelosi as my source for legal authority on probably anything but I would use attorneys that work here at the White House and agencies that's their entire job is determining whether or not something is legal and we're looking to those individuals to find out those specific pots of money that can be used for that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, a bonus amount of money reprogrammed by Congress won't be necessary for the President's signature on this budget bill? SANDERS: We would like to see congress pass an appropriations bill
that fully funds our government and allows the President to protect our border and provide appropriate border funding but we're also looking at other eaves that would allow us to provide and do our constitutional responsibility and the President to carry that out. I encourage you guys to tune in to the President's events. Thanks, guys.
BALDWIN: OK, we're going to talk all about general Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser of President Trump who didn't last very long because as one of those astute reporters reminded everyone, he was actually fired by the President for lying to the vice President. This is now, as we've learned today, his sentencing will be delayed.
Tell me again, Tim. You want me to go to Pam Brown? I guess we're going to go to Pam Brown. Maybe she has some news. Pam Brown on all that's going on with general Flynn. Do you have something?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I just have analysis to offer in watching Sarah Sanders respond to the questions about general Flynn and the fact that his sentencing has been delayed. We're seeing a familiar tactic, Brooke, where the White House is trying to distance themselves from what's playing out with Flynn. But the fact is you really can't because he was the President's national security adviser who was lying to other White House officials, which was why the President said he fired him, as you pointed out, because he lied to vice President pence. And the judge today brought that up saying not only did he lie to the FBI but lied to other officials in the White House. He lied to the FBI while sitting in his office in the west wing. The judge saying it was a disgrace, he was disgusted. In contrast, though, Sarah Sanders came out and one of the first things she said was that she wished Michael Flynn well. Earlier today President Trump tweeted good luck to Michael Flynn and Sanders was pressed on that saying why are you speaking so positively about the President's former national security adviser when he lied on multiple occasions and pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
BALDWIN: That is the point I was about to make. Dana, I wanted to go to you. The question was asked why is the President referring to someone like Michael Cohen as a rat yet his former national security adviser, who he fired himself for lying to his own vice President, the most high-ranking official who has lied to federal investigators, that he's wishing him well? Why isn't the President speaking up on behalf of the American, yes as a man under investigation. I know this is something you wanted to jump in on.
[14:25:00] DANA BASH, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Pam said it, it doesn't take rocket science degrees to understand the answer to that. He still has hope that Michael Flynn is not going to be what Donald Trump labels a rat like Michael Cohen was, that he's not going to give the special counsel -- at least he doesn't know what Michael Flynn has or hasn't given to the special counsel. He knows about Michael Cohen. The thing that struck me, coming from the White House podium is saying this has nothing to do with the President. How could that even come out of a White House press secretary's mouth? She is not the spokesman just for the individual Donald Trump because that's what he views it all through that prism, this has nothing to do with me personally Donald Trump. But it has to do with the President of the United States. I have a quote from the judge saying you were an unregistered agent of a foreign country while serving as the national security adviser to the President of the United States. That directly undermines Donald Trump. He is the President of the United States. He put Michael Flynn in that job. He was down the hall walking past the President with federal agents. That undermines the President of the United States, maybe not Donald J. Trump but Donald J. Trump in the position that he is as commander in chief, leader of this country.
BALDWIN: You want to jump in on that?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes. Sarah Sanders is not the President's private spokesperson. She's standing in the White House, standing next to the American flag, speaking on behalf of the American people. For some reason she's made her decision that her job is to go down and lay down verbal depression fire on behalf of the President and in the process she gets to pick and choose and say, well, it's shameful to say if someone on my staff is doing something wrong and it doesn't impact me, it's OK or I'm not going to comment on it. Let that sink. The buck doesn't stop in the oval office, it stops anywhere else because they don't want to take responsibility. And there is a continued pattern of attacks on the rule of law. Sarah Sanders this morning was standing in front of the White House on Fox News and said that the FBI ambushed Michael Flynn, as though they're criminals.
BALDWIN: She was later asked about that.
CAMPBELL: And she doubled down. Michael Flynn's own attorney in court today was asked by the judge, was your client entrapped? And he said no, your honor. She continues to pedal these lies, I hate to call it that but I'm going to call it what it is. It's lies meant to distract the American people. The one thing that she did say that was true today, she said we are going to keep doing what it is we do every day. As someone who cares about the rule of law, it is manipulating the American people to believe that law enforcement in America is somehow corrupt.
BALDWIN: The word of the year from Merriam-Webster, the dictionary, "Justice."
For people who are just tuning who are just following what has happened today with the former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, the headline is his sentence had been delayed. He expected to roll in, have a conversation, would hear from the judge, this judge was sentence him to zero jail time, he's been cooperating, he continues to cooperate as we learned especially with that case out of Eastern Virginia yesterday, but the judge said not so fast. Can you just bring us up to speed on that?
POLISI: Josh alluded to the fact the kiss of death in the defense attorney's filing was that implication that potentially there was some sort of FBI malfeasance here. The judge was really having none of that. It's got to be really frustrating for the special prosecutors. If you look at those sentenced thus far, they've all gotten a little bit of jail time, including my client, George Papadopoulos. And Flynn got the cooperation, he met with them 19 times, he was an open book, he provided real valuable assistance in we saw two indictments come down. They engaged in charge bargaining, they didn't charge Flynn with the crimes he was implicated in those --
BALDWIN: Just one count, right?
POLISI: Just one count. They wanted to send a message as they've been doing throughout the entire investigation, if you work with us, it will pay off, we will help you. Ultimately, it's the judge that decides. This has got to be frustrating on all parties' accounts. It looks like the judge is not signing up for the special counsel's agenda or Flynn's agenda.
[14:30:00] BALDWIN: Coming up, we want to talk about what was said about paying for a border wall. And word that the Trump Foundation has agreed to dissolve under judicial supervision amid an ongoing lawsuit. Sarah Sanders was asked about that. Her words "no comment."