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President Trump's Namesake Charity Is Going Cease To Exist; Judge Delays Flynn Sentencing. Aired: 1:30-2p ET
Aired December 18, 2018 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, ANCHOR, CNN: All right, we have some live pictures here from the White House that is the briefing room and any moment now, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders will be taking that podium. A lot of questions on a very big news day. We are going to bring that to you live as soon as it gets going.
Meantime, President Trump's namesake charity is going cease to exist. This was the agreement made today in a case, a separate case brought by New York's Attorney General. I am back with the panel. I want to talk to Kara Scanell about this. You have been doing some reporting on this. The foundation was embroiled in controversy including claims that the Trump family that they were actually just kind of using the donations as almost a slush fund. What's going to happen now?
KARA SCANNELL, REPORTER, CNN: Well, so the foundation is ceasing to exist today as part of this agreement with the New York Attorney General's office. But the lawsuit that the Attorney General's office brought against the foundation is going to continue. So they are not letting it go just saying, "We'll dissolve this."
I mean, the Attorney General doesn't mince her words when she says that this details a shocking pattern of illegality and also says that they've used this as little more than a checkbook. And according to their allegations, the foundation was spending money, $2.8 million that it had raised, spending money to settle Trump's personal legal bills involving litigation regarding Mar-a-Lago and a golf course and also buying a painting of Donald Trump.
So this had nothing to do with the point of the charity or why donors donated. And so this is going to continue the lawsuit in addition seeking that $2.8 million in fines and restitution and penalties is also asking that Donald Trump and his three children -- Don Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump -- be banned from serving on another charity in the New York state.
KEILAR: Wow, okay, David, you've got this going on with the foundation. We have the news about Michael Flynn today, his sentencing delayed and this is part of the Mueller case into Russian interference in the election. There is a list of things that the President is facing, right?
DAVID CHALIAN, POLITICAL DIRECTOR, CNN: The Trump organization is facing questions still from the Southern District of New York. There is no aspect of Donald Trump's personal or professional life that is not under scrutiny at this moment in a particularly intense fashion. These developments today with Flynn, I think brings that right back home to him. And I think it's why you see the way that the President is sort of acting out on Twitter and sort of ramping up every day with the morning tweet storm that he has been issuing. He is feeling it. I think that's quite apparent.
KEILLAR: What does it do to a White House? And I think back to the Monica Lewinsky scandal with Bill Clinton. When you think about the President is not doing his job because he is so focused on all of this. I mean, this takes up a lot of bandwidth.
CHALIAN: Well, it certainly takes up a lot of bandwidth with this President. He shows us that every day. There is no - the one thing that is so intriguing about covering this administration is that he really reveals himself fully in so many ways that previous presidents we didn't see.
You had to break through with a lot of spin and smoke and mirrors. The President reveals to us each day on Twitter what he is really thinking, Brianna, and so I think he would be hard pressed to argue that he is consumed by the business of the country. Because it's plain for everyone in the country to see that that's not the case. He is actually consumed by these personal and professional investigations that are occurring around him.
KEILAR: Let's look towards the future. Because today, you have Michael Flynn, he thought he was walking in with a hall pass from Robert Mueller and it turned out, the judge had other ideas. And so everyone is kind of taking a time out and we are going to see him sentenced, we expect now in March.
The same judge, Michael Zeldin, what are you thinking is going to happen that might change this judge's mind, considering what you heard from him today?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: Well, we will see what Flynn is able to do in this continuing cooperation. Remember, Mueller always said that Flynn is continuing to cooperate. The judge said, "Let's see how that plays out in this one particular case in the Eastern District of Virginia regarding his business partners and their dealings in their representation of Turkey."
ZELDIN: But Flynn I think has other opportunities to show the judge that his lies and his misconduct were such that he still can get probation because of his cooperation. I think Flynn's lawyers felt and he took this time out that Flynn was going to get jailed because the judge felt that this was so serious, that notwithstanding substantial cooperation, he was going to get jailed. So they are hoping now for the time out to delay jail.
But the big headline here is the judge finds this behavior treasonous. Not just Flynn, but all the people that Flynn coordinated with in creating these lies because Mueller's statement of offense talks about Flynn talking to hosts of other people in fashioning this lie. It's a bad day for the narrative that this is just a witch hunt and there is nothing serious there.
KEILAR: Shimon, I want to bring in Shimon Prokupecz with us, joining us from the courthouse. Can you see a situation, Shimon where this judge does change his mind that something somehow affects him between now and March that Michael Flynn can cooperate more even though we know according to the Special Counsel he has cooperated so much. Is there a situation where you can imagine him not giving Michael Flynn jail time?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER, CNN: So, I think it's very clear that the judge right now, and who knows what could happen after today, but right now Michael Flynn is probably facing some amount of jail time. How much? No one know.
But you know, one day in jail is probably too much for someone like Michael Flynn. They are going to have submit new briefings and new filings to explain just exactly how his continued cooperation is working. Certainly, as it relates to these cases out of the Eastern District of Virginia with is two business associates charged in the Turkey - the lobbying for Turkey. That's the only thing probably that is going to save him right now.
Unless the Special Counsel is willing to reveal other information that is not out there right now. And I think Michael made a very good point in that Michael Flynn was headed to jail today. Had the judge chosen to continue, had his attorneys not read the tea leaves and decided to postpone this, there is a very high probability that he was going to jail.
Look, the judge didn't mince words. He is disgusted by what Michael Flynn did here. He made that very clear in court and this was not going to be a good day for Michael Flynn. And now, it's on the attorneys. And also maybe the Special Counsel. Maybe they go ahead and do a new filing and add information to try and save Michael Flynn here. But we will see.
I mean, but as right now, the chances are pretty high that Michael Flynn will do some jail time for the crimes that he has pleaded guilty to here.
KEILAR: All right, Shimon, at the courthouse, I'm going have my panel stand by as we will continue to analyze this breaking news today about Michael Flynn. His sentencing unexpectedly delayed, his attorneys agreeing to go ahead with that after a Federal judge giving them the option.
And any moment now, the White House press briefing is set to begin in the midst of all these developments. We are awaiting that reaction to this judge delaying the sentence. We'll be right back in a moment.
KEILAR: Any minute now, we are going to hear from the White House. You see the podium there, we are waiting for Sarah Sanders to come to the podium in the White House briefing room and begin a briefing there. So we'll bring that to you as soon as it begins. Running a little past, but that's not unusual. So we will bring it to you as soon as it starts
Back now with our panel to discuss these stunning developments today. Michael Flynn, the fired National Security adviser walked into court and he thought, we thought he would be getting a sentence which might be really light. Possibly no jail time. Probably no jail time. Instead, the judge got very angry with him. He told him essentially that he was disgusted with him. It became very apparent that this judge was going to give him jail time. The judge offered a pause to Michael Flynn's lawyers. His lawyers seemed to happily take it so that he wouldn't be going to jail today essentially. What is the thing that you think, Kim, Wehle got Michael Flynn in the most trouble?
KIM WEHLE, FORMER ASSOCIATE INDEPENDENT COUNSEL IN THE WHITEWATER INVESTIGATION: I think it was the sense that he was not fully accepting responsibility and he was not contrite for his crimes especially in light of this very light sentence. And you can contrast this with Michael Cohen who made a real point to hang his head publicly, "I am so sorry, I let everyone down."
The Flynn message was, "Sure, I did a lot of good stuff for the Special Counsel, I'm getting this great deal notwithstanding all of these very, very serious crimes for which I was not charged." Right? Two of his associates were charged and he was not included in that. But by the way, I'm going to throw the FBI under the bus.
And I think this judge said, "Listen, you can't have it both ways. You can't say 'poor me, I didn't know.' I was sort of tricked in some way. This is unfair. Look at other people," but you're getting a better deal than anything else. I've seen - I think there is that piece and I also think there is the bigger piece with respect to how essential Mr. Flynn is in so much of this Russia story.
And I think we should all as Americans take some comfort in this system of checks and balances working. This is not a Mueller probe that is completely in control here. We've got a judge, a Federal judge checking this process and saying, "No, I'm not going along with the government here."
CHALIAN: So do you think that the judge woke up this morning and came into this hearing with this agenda to make this point or there was something that happened in the courtroom itself at the beginning of the proceedings?
WEHLE: In my experience, having clerked for down the hall for a judge - for Emmett Sullivan, actually this was probably, he had his thoughts before he came in and talked it over with his clerks. He had an idea of where these things can go. It can definitely change in the courtroom, and in the criminal context much more than the civil context, these judges have a lot of discretion and they do what their gut tells them to do.
But my sense is he read these papers. He also reads the news. He sees the broader picture, throwing the Justice Department under the bus and politicizing the judiciary and he said wait a minute, we need a check here.
CHALIAN: There was a lot of talk that there was going to be no jail time. That was a big part of the conversation in advance of this hearing about the - in terms of the media coverage.
WEHLE: And Federal judges don't like people taking discretion away. The idea being like they've made this deal between Flynn and Mueller, and so by the way, judge, just go along and pat us on the back. Judges do not like that.
KEILAR: He is truly, David, this judge, Emmet Sullivan asserted himself and in a way reminded President Trump of the power of the judiciary as well.
CHALIAN: Right. A reminder that President Trump probably could use from time to time the way he has treated the Federal judiciary at times that it is a coequal branch. But yes, there is little doubt to your point earlier, Brianna, about just having the fact pattern wrong that he was not yet the National Security adviser when Flynn was violating the foreign agent stuff and his work for Turkey. That it was during the fall of 2016 during the campaign and transition piece, not in '17 when he became National Security adviser.
KEILAR: Still not great timing to be doing what he was doing.
CHALIAN: A hundred percent, I think --
KEILAR: There is a difference.
CHALIAN: But he came in to use that as a data point to make his point because he did want to assert himself, insert himself into the process. Within his right to do so. I'm not suggesting that it's not.
WEHLE: And the Manafort trial, too, with that judge.
KEILAR: I wonder, Kara if the judge even might have and we don't know the answer to this, but if he might have not made a distinction between, look, if you are an unregistered foreign agent at some point, what does that say about you and then you go into a role in government. Maybe this is a judge who feels that once you have crossed that line, there is no uncrossing it.
SCANNELL: Well, and as we saw that was the first line that he crossed and then he joins the administration officially and he commit this is crime of lying. So I think the judge is saying also, it's not just the one bad act that you did. It's not like in your whole career of 30 years.
KEILAR: And the lawyers sort of tried to make the case that this was uncharacteristic, right, that the judge is not agreeing with that.
SCANNELL: He is actually saying back up. You committed this crime before you were in the administration and then you were lying about it when you were the National Security adviser which should be respecting the law and respecting their colleagues over at the Department of Justice and saying you just lied to them with ease. Even the agents who had met with him said he didn't appear like he was evasive or trying to lie. And so they are just saying, this isn't just a blip on your radar, this is essentially a pattern.
KEILAR: It's a pattern.
ZELDIN: And if you are in the inner circle of this Mueller investigation, Judge Sullivan is saying what you've engaged in is very serious. This is not de minimis stuff. Papadopoulos maybe. Then this one, maybe, but if you are in the inner core, if you are Jared Kushner or Don, Jr. or Michael Flynn or the President, if we find evidence of wrong-doing, we have to take it seriously because it's so core to the essence of our government.
CHALIAN: And to the President, it's not peanuts.
KEILAR: Not peanut stuff. Isn't that what he said, not peanut stuff. All right, you guys, stay with me because we are standing by for this White House press briefing. We are going to bring it to you live. Stay with us.
KEILAR: We have breaking news as we await the White House press briefing to get some reaction from Sarah Sanders, the press secretary. This was scheduled for almost 25 minutes ago, so this should be happening any moment now. Big news today. Michael Flynn, the former fired National Security adviser to President Trump went to court and it seemed that he wouldn't be getting any jail time, he wouldn't be facing a stiff sentence, but the judge getting very upset with him. There's been a bit of a pause, the judge giving Michael Flynn's lawyers the opportunity to await - really delay his sentencing.
And so now, it's still hanging out here until March. And all of this happening, this isn't the only wild thing that is hanging over President Trump's head, David Chalian. I want to bring you in on this. There is a looming shutdown in just a few days.
CHALIAN: Yes, Friday. It is the deadline.
KILAR: It's almost like an oversaturation of chaos.
CHALIAN: Yes, and Sarah Sanders this morning indicated the administration has found another way to fund the wall and that -- it seemed like she -- just reading tea leaves here, that she was leading us to believe that a shutdown was now likely to be averted, that the President was not going to take this to the brink of his wall.
But as details started emerging on Capitol Hill, it sounds like we are now in that shutdown/showdown dance where Mitch McConnell with the White House presents something with the Democrats. Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi rejected it. And now, at least they're actually talking. Because it seemed like forever, we didn't know which way the President wanted to go here.
Sarah Sanders gave some indication. In that same interview, Brianna, on the Flynn stuff, that's where this whole notion of this mistreatment by the FBI was floated as I think the talking point they were intending for the day when they thought he wasn't going to jail, he was going to get off this. This was going to be part of how they were going to package this.
CHALIAN: Remember, this press briefing that we are waiting for was scheduled long before the surprise from Judge Sullivan in the courtroom today. This was scheduled, I think in an environment fully anticipating that Michael Flynn was not going to have any jail time and that this was going to be resolved today to some degree so that they were going to be able to put their take on it. And I think that clearly is out the window.
I don't know that that's the reason for the delay, but perhaps trying to coordinate how they're going to respond to this is part of the reason that we're seeing this stalled.
ZELDIN: That's absolutely right. I think because - I think they went into this sentencing hearing with their narrative of this is an overreaching, witch hunting, FBI, Michael Flynn was a victim of this behavior, and it played out in court that way. He got no time because the judge realized that this was all about FBI malfeasance.
That went away after the first 15 minutes and the rest of it was how serious is this conduct that the government - the present government has engaged in, in their run up to becoming government and then in the transition?
So I think it just has killed their narrative and put back right back front and center, this is serious business that we're looking into.
KEILAR: And Kara, something we were talking about with David in the break is this idea that as again Michael Flynn and his judgment, his interactions, his misdeeds, his crimes are on full display now, we are reminded this is the former National Security adviser of President Trump. This is a person that he put in such a key position.
SCANNELL: That's right. I mean, someone that Trump had as a surrogate during the campaign, through the transition team, helping them select other intelligence officials and then ultimately in this position and then we see that Flynn lies after he's been in contact with multiple people on the transition team, a according to the court filings.
KEILAR: All right, we are awaiting this White House press briefing. This should be underway any moment. It is actually delayed at this point, as no double the White House has been scrambling after this delay in former National Security adviser, Michael Flynn's sentencing. We'll be back in a moment.