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Rudy Giuliani Says Campaign May Have Colluded But Trump Didn't Know About It; Giuliani Flips And No Longer Rules Out Trump Campaign Collusion; Michael Cohen Says Trump Directed Him to Rig Polls in His Favor; White House Is Considering Backup Plans for State of the Union Address; Interview with REP. Ted Lieu (D- CA); Trump Denies Military Aircraft for Pelosi Trip After She Urges Him to Move State of Union Address. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired January 17, 2019 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being here. On this roller coaster unpredictable ride that is the Trump White House, there is one thing Americans can always count on, frequent denials about any kind of contact with Russia.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There has been no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians.

There was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian people.

There was no collusion whatsoever. There never has been. The last thing I want is help from Russia on a campaign.


BALDWIN: And Rudy Giuliani is just one of the many people in Trump world making that case to the public. Here is the President's attorney last summer.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it still the position of you and your client that there was no collusion with the Russians whatsoever on behalf of the Trump campaign?



BALDWIN: And if someone did collude with Russia, Giuliani's response was --


GIULIANI: I've been sitting here looking at the Federal Code trying to find collusion as a crime.


GIULIANI: Collusion is not a crime.


BALDWIN: So just to recap, the first story was, there was no collusion and it changed to if there was collusion, it wasn't a crime and now, we know Paul Manafort shared polling data with a Russian businessman linked to the Kremlin, it appears Mr. Giuliani's having a change of heart. But the President shouldn't be worried because like any good attorney, Giuliani's pointing the figure away from his client and toward everybody else.


GIULIANI: I never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign --

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Yes, you have.

GIULIANI: I have not. I said the President of the United States. There's not a single bit of evidence that the President of the United States committed the only crime you could commit here, conspire with the Russians to hack the DNC.


BALDWIN: Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu of California is with me now. He's a member of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committees. Congressman, a pleasure. Welcome.

REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: So, let's get your take on the evolution of collusion from this White House, the story's certainly have changed over time. What say you?

LIEU: Let me thank CNN for putting Rudy Giuliani on TV, it would be great if you could keep doing that because last night he made a stunning admission, denying that he ever denied that anyone in the Trump campaign engaged in collusion, only that Donald Trump didn't and we know that he had to go to this position because Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign manager, gave polling data to the Kremlin. That would be collusion because the Kremlin was doing a cyberattack and influence campaign and this polling data would have helped give them a road map on how to influence American voters. By the way, collusion is a crime. I'm a former prosecutor. It's just called "conspiracy" in legal terms.

BALDWIN: So, as you point out, Giuliani likes to come on TV. He likes to come on CNN and when he does, Congressman Lieu, he has a habit of dropping bombshells to get out ahead of breaking news, to get out ahead of the next proverbial shoe that's about to drop, do you think that's the case here? LIEU: It's certainly possible or he is looking at the same public

reporting we're all looking at which is either there were 497 coincidences last two years with Russia or something really bad happened, and I think what he's trying to do is to put out into the public that, OK, we understand that members of the Trump campaign, in fact, engaged in collusion but he's trying to protect Donald Trump from that. What Democrat-controlled Congress is going to do is try to figure out this year, did Donald Trump know of the collusion within his campaign?

BALDWIN: There was one other moment in the interview that I just want to highlight where Rudy Giuliani claims obstruction is not part of Mueller's mandate. Here he was.


GIULIANI: They have gotten so beyond their scope that it's absurd.

CUOMO: How has he gotten beyond his scope?

GIULIANI: Ethics, ethics -- how has he gone beyond the scope? At least four degrees of separation. It begins with collusion. He goes to a completely phony obstruction investigation.


BALDWIN: So that's actually totally not true. When you look at Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's -- it's his May 2017 letter, Congressman, appointing Mueller, this is section B, subsection 2, explicitly states, the Special Counsel is authorized to conduct the investigation confirmed by then FBI director James B. Comey, including any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation. Are you reading it the same way I am?

[14:05:00] LIEU: Absolutely. So in early 2017, Congress members Stacey Plaskett, Kathleen Rice and I who were all former prosecutors we wrote a letter to the Department Of Justice asking for appointment of the Special Counsel because we were reading regulations and it became clear to us that we needed to have a Special Counsel that was independent from the President, start investigating and based on those regulations as well as the letter that Rod Rosenstein actually wrote, it authorizes obstruction of justice investigations as well as anything else related to the Russian inquiry.

BALDWIN: You mentioned a second ago that it is your party now in control on the House side and so, when we talk about Trump and consequences, Congressman Lieu, is there any question in your mind that more of the Trump inner circle will face indictments for contacts with Russia?

LIEU: That would depend on what the evidence is that is uncovered. I do have to say that subpoena power used in the correct way is a wonderful thing and the Democrats will certainly use the subpoena power to get documents. The mere fact they know we have that power will cause them to appear. I'm pleased that had Michael Cohen is coming up to Capitol to testify. I'm going to have Matt Whitaker come testify. We want to know why he hasn't recused himself yet because he wanted to defund it.

BALDWIN: You mentioned Michael Cohen. Lastly, just are there any new subpoenas coming from your committee that you want to make public?

LIEU: Subpoenas or not, the preferred way we would like to do it, we want to first give witnesses the ability to voluntarily come. We're pleased that the acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker has agreed to come to the committee.

BALDWIN: OK. Hang tight with me just for a minute. You mentioned Michael Cohen. If people haven't been paying attention, collusion isn't the only word of the day. There is also Cohen as in Michael Cohen turned convicted felon who is set to tell all the before Congress next month. Turns out he wasn't just shelling out hush money, he also tried to rig online polls in Trump's favor as reported out today by "The Wall Street Journal." The President has a love/hate relationship with polls, he loves them until he hates them.


TRUMP: I love polls when I'm winning. I'm winning with the smart people. I'm winning with the not so smart people, too. I am winning with everything.

And watch the polls, because this is part of the crooked system. It's part of the rigged system that I've been talking about since I entered the race. It's a rigged system. They put out phony polls.


BALDWIN: Fact check. The President was correct. Someone was indeed trying to rig the polls and it was Michael Cohen and according to him, Trump directed him to do it. M.J. lee is with me now. Stunning piece in "The Wall Street Journal" today.

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Stunning and bizarre. Donald Trump does love to complain about polls being rigged if they are not favorable to him but he's OK with them apparently if they're being rigged to help him. "The Wall Street Journal" story says that Michael Cohen enlisted a man named John Gauger. He works at Liberty University and is also the head of a tech company to rig these online polls to help Donald Trump look better. For example, a CNBC poll in 2014 that ranked business leaders, a drug poll that ranked the Republican Presidential potentials. Now in early 2015, this man went to Trump tower to collect $50,000 from Michael Cohen for the services that he provided. Now, this is where the story gets very, very strange. Michael Cohen apparently handed John Gauger a cash bag, this is a Walmart bag that had some 12,000 to $13,000 in it instead of the full $50,000 payment. Even though Gauger says he was only paid this $12,000, Michael Cohen apparently then proceed in 2017 to ask Donald Trump to be paid back the full $50,000 and he apparently got the money, according to the story Donald Trump paid Michael Cohen $50,000 for the work that he did related to the polling and just to let you know what Michael Cohen is now saying in response to all of this, he tells "The Wall Street Journal" that he disputes the money bag part of this story, saying, all monies paid to Mr. Gauger were by check. He also gave CNN a statement earlier today and let me just read it to

you. As for "the Wall Street journal" article on poll rigging, what I did was at the discretion of and for the sole benefit of Donald Trump. I truly regret my blind loyalty to a man who doesn't deserve it. So obviously he is not denying that this poll rigging happened and I can guarantee you, Brooke, when he comes before Congress in February, he's going to be asked about this and we are going to see him in a public setting saying, Donald Trump made me do this and that is why I did it.

[14:10:00] BALDWIN: Got to ask Congressman Lieu about this. When you hear these details and again it's almost -- whether it is a blue Walmart bag stuffed with $12,000 in cash or as Michael Cohen is saying, no, no, no, it was a check, either way he is acknowledging it was handed over to this i.t. guy to rig the system. When you read about this, you thought what?

LIEU: So, my first thought was we are the most powerful nation on earth and this is just embarrassing. This is just another instance of someone very close to Donald Trump engaging in unethical activities at the direction of Donald Trump and you're right, Brooke. It doesn't matter whether it's $13,000 in a bag of cash or in a check or in a wire transfer, the fact that Donald Trump was telling Michael Cohen to go ahead and rig polls is unethical and it is just something that you sit and think, we're not living in a parody and you wake up and read in those stories and it makes you think you are.

BALDWIN: What is the one burning question you want him to answer to?

LIEU: So, he's going to testify before the House oversight committee. I'm very sure that our Elijah Cummins is going to make sure that he answers all the relevant, important questions. What I want to know is since Michael Cohen was up front and personal and close to Donald Trump, just a straight up simple question, did members of the Trump campaign collude with the Kremlin and did Donald Trump know about it?

BALDWIN: Uh-hum. If that happens, February 7th, until then Congressman Ted Lieu, thank you so much.

LIEU: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, State of the Union plan B. A day after Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for it to be rescheduled, we're now learning about the alternative White House plans currently in the works. We have those details. Also, school lunches scaled back. Food safety inspections delayed. Marriage licenses put on hold. Some of the real-world consequences of this government shutdown including my next guest who says her Coast Guard family is hurting.

And he is an NBA star from the New York Knicks refusing to travel overseas with his team today fearing for his own safety. Enes Kanter joins me to explain why the Turkish government wants him arrested and extradited. Do not miss that. You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

[14:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) BALDWIN: Welcome back. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Day 27 of this government shutdown and as we've been watching both sides back and forth now, an unusual move from President Trump to Nancy Pelosi. Jim Acosta is standing by with that development. Jim, what is President Trump saying?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, our nation's capital has become a playground, Brooke. The President has responded in sort of a childish way is the only way to describe it to the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to her letter essentially saying that the State of the Union will be postponed or she asked that it be submitted in writing if the government is still shutdown. This is the letter from the President. I guess in lieu of having actual briefings here just tweet this had out, madam Speaker, due to the shutdown, I'm sorry to inform you that your trip to Brussels, Egypt and Afghanistan has been postponed. We will reschedule the seven-day excursion when the shutdown is over in light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay. I'm sure you would agree postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate. It goes on to talk about how the President is going to continue to defend the nation's borders and he's calling upon the Speaker to join the strong border security movement as he's calling it to end the shutdown. What this letter does not include, Brooke, is any kind of response from the President to what he's actually going to do about the State of the Union coming up on January 29th. We've been talking to our sources throughout the last 24 hours or so and what we understand is that they're looking at a variety of options inside the White House. I talked to a White House official late last night who said the President is going to show up at the Capitol on January 29th to deliver the State of the Union speech and I talked to one Trump adviser earlier today who said that some of the betting is and these are folks who egg on the President to some extent, but some of the betting is that Nancy Pelosi will fold in all of this and allow the President to deliver the State of the Union speech and this adviser described the Trump/Pelosi battle right now as King Kong versus Godzilla and we'll allow the viewers at home to decide which one is King Kong and which one is Godzilla. This letter is not really a -- it's -- just to offer an observation, not really a serious response to what the House Speaker said yesterday which is you can't have the State of the Union speech at the Capitol on January 29th.

BALDWIN: Hang on a second. So, this is the President's volley now back to Speaker Pelosi. Does the President have the authority, Jim, to cancel these trips to Brussels, Egypt and Afghanistan? Not only is she a member of Congress, she's the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, can he do that?

[14:20:00] ACOSTA: The letter goes on to say, obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative. I suppose the president is saying, if the House Speaker would like to fly commercial on a commercial carrier, she can do that but what the President is saying is that he's not going to allow government employees to be a part of any kind of excursion that the House Speaker would be on overseas, whether that be flying or protecting her and so on. So, yes, this is sort of a back and forth that seems to be going on between the President and the House Speaker, but interestingly and up until this point we haven't seen it, no response from the White House to the House Speaker saying yesterday you can't give a State of the Union speech on January 29th.

This letter right here saying that he can cancel her upcoming travel plans is about the closest thing we've come to an official response from the White House to the House Speaker and her letter about the upcoming State of the Union speech, Brooke. The mystery continues, what can I tell you.

BALDWIN: It does. Dot, dot, dot. Thank you, Jim.

Let's go up the road from you, Manu Raju who's catching the other end of this on Capitol Hill. So, the President writes Nancy Pelosi saying I'm sorry to inform you can't go on x, y and z trip unless you want to fly commercial which is his volley back to her saying she's going to postpone your State of the Union or you can do it from the oval office. Does the President have the authority to cancel her trips?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Members of Congress take trips paid for by their appropriations here on Capitol Hill. This is approved through the various committees that are in charge of traveling over specific issues. That's how that is doled out. She does fly on a military jet and what apparently the White House is referring to is that they would try to prevent her from flying on a military jet to these overseas trips. She gets that type of protection as the Speaker of the House, as someone who is in line in succession to the President behind the vice President of the United States. She is afforded that protection, so the question is, is the President trying to take steps here from preventing her from flying in that jet overseas on these trips. I don't think it's entirely clear yet from what the White House is suggesting, but that's what they're saying. They're canceling her trip and if she flies commercial instead, Brooke -- go ahead.

BALDWIN: If we're talking about trips to Brussels, all right, so she's going to Belgium, Egypt, but Afghanistan, Manu. When you're talking about flying to Afghanistan as a member of Congress, as a Speaker of the House, isn't it just unusual to begin with to say ahead of time that you're going to a place like Afghanistan, that the President's now put that out in the public either?

RAJU: That's new. That was certainly news up here on Capitol Hill. Not many people were aware of her trips overseas, particularly in a dangerous war zone like Afghanistan, so it's uncertain what's going to happen. I've reached out to the Speaker's office for a reaction. This is just breaking. I'm certainly that they just learned this on Twitter like virtually everybody else here. It's also uncertain exactly what the President decides to do and what would happen if the Speaker decides not to accommodate the President at all on January 29th, that initial date going forward. Some Republicans have suggested that he deliver it in the United States Senate, which is controlled by Republicans. That's not so easy either, because Republicans -- there are various procedures you have to do in the United States Senate, some of which require unanimous consent and a body that's divided between Republicans and Democrats hard to see that happen on such a partisan issue, it's without precedent for him to do something like this to come and deliver to the United States Senate. You have to go back all the way to George Washington's times in the first -- one of the first inaugurals. It's hardly any precedent there. It's uncertain that's going to happen. Where he may deliver such address if he does decide to do it on January 29th and Pelosi doesn't allow him to do it. I talked to Mark Meadows who's one of the President's closest allies, he thinks the President will deliver this somewhere else. What does that mean in the White House? That's still unclear. Pelosi herself told me today that she has not heard any sort of formal response or any response from the White House, from her letter from yesterday morning asking for a delay in the State of the Union.

[14:25:00] This appears to be the first official response to try to say that they're going to take steps to prevent the Speaker from traveling overseas on official travel, so this is the response the Speaker trying to push back this State of the Union date, saying, you may not be able to travel overseas. We'll see how the Speaker responds but a tit for tat of sorts and also not much closer to any deal to resolve what's at stake here, a government shutdown that's going to carry on into 30 days or so into next week given that both the House and the Senate are expected to be out after today up until after Martin Luther King Day next week, Brooke.

BALDWIN: All the while, 800,000 American are going to work and not getting paid. Manu, I'll let you grab some more reaction. Thank you so much for jumping up with us. Gloria, let me get your perspective. I'm still back on Jim Acosta referring to Washington as a playground. The only phrase that comes to mind is nanny, nanny boo-boo.

BORGER: Right, sandbox, get out of the sandbox. The wording in this is incredible to me because it is this kind of dumb tit for tat thing, but he calls -- first of all, I'm not sure he can postpone her trip, but let's just leave that aside.


BORGER: "In light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I'm sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is appropriate." Now, this is a President who went to Iraq not too long ago. I don't know whether he would call that a public relations event but most of the members of Congress -- in fact, all of the members of Congress that I know who go to places like Afghanistan, A, it's not announced publicly, B, sometimes we never find out about it. They can talk about it when they get back, but they go to places like Afghanistan because they want on-the-ground information about what is exactly going on there. You learn things on these Congressional delegations and it is important that members of Congress see what they are voting on very often.

BALDWIN: Of course.

BORGER: So, this is not -- and then he called it -- he called it an excursion, OK?

BALDWIN: To a war zone. BORGER: To a war zone, right? This is not an excursion to the beach,

OK? This is a Congressional delegation, I presume, to a war zone and other places along the way, but -- but he was making -- the President seemed to be making light of any kind of trip that she would take to a place like Afghanistan, which is an important place for the Speaker of the House to visit. Now, I don't know what the timing of her trip was supposed to be because we're not told the timing when members of Congress go to war zones, go to places like Afghanistan, just like when the President went to Iraq. We were not told in advance about his trip to Iraq. You don't announce these things, so this -- this seems silly to me, honestly. The real world out there looking at this will go, come on, kids. Time for a nap.

BALDWIN: I've got a Coast Guard wife on stand by and I cannot wait to when we eventually talk to her.


BALDWIN: I want to get her response to all of this. Her husband's working for the Coast Guard for 16 years and they've got two kids and this is what we're talking about. Let me just stay with you, Gloria. So, it's this tit for tat. It's this back and forth obviously between these two but for everyone else watching, everyone's like make it stop.


BALDWIN: Make it stop! Make it stop!

BORGER: Yes. Reopen the government, figure out a way to deal with the immigration issue and, you know, the problem is you have both sides that are boxed in. The President boxed in, of course, first, because he is insistent upon this wall and he's not going to give on it and the Democrats are saying we're not going to give you the wall. They believe they've already given him money for the wall. He turned down another offer in which they had given him more money for the wall and so you do have two sides here that are boxed in and people are suffering and it seems ridiculous that in the middle of all of this, the President is responding to Pelosi essentially saying, you know, I'm not going to let you take your trip to Afghanistan, which is I'm sure is a pleasure trip, an excursion. Come on.

BALDWIN: Right, right.

BORGER: Not the way to do it.

[14:30:00] BALDWIN: Gloria, stand by. Let's go to the Pentagon and so, now that we have this letter from the President basically publicizing that the House Speaker was planning to fly to this war zone and now, he's suggesting, you can fly to this war zone, but fly commercial. Does he have the authority to deny military plane?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me first point out, I think if my civics is correct, he is suggesting third in line to the presidency of the United States, is that right, would fly commercially into a war zone and somebody pleads hasten to correct me if I'm wrong on that point. So that would be point number one. So how do members of Congress get military air flight anywhere in the world that they need to go on official business? How does this happen? So essentially the U.S. Air Force maintains a fleet of jets, cargo jets, the blue and whites, also, if you will, that take Congressional delegations around the world when their trips are approved and they're approved in a couple of different ways. Sometimes it's actually the Congressional leadership that starts the process and says, this is a trip we want our members to go on. We want them to go to these countries abroad and meet with officials and meet with U.S. troops.