Return to Transcripts main page


Whitaker Says I Have Not Denied Any Funds to The Mueller Probe; Trump Getting Physical as He Doesn't Follow Doctor's Orders; Prosecutors Are Reviewing If The "National Enquirer" Violated A Non- Prosecution Deal by Publishing Story on Bezos; "New York Times" Says Saudi Prince Told Aide He Would Use Bullet on Jamal Khashoggi. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired February 8, 2019 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Then he says, I'm not going to discuss my conversations with the President about the southern district of New York. We saw very different answers depending on who in Congress was asking him the question, but I think the overall takeaway point here is that he got trapped when he wanted to put his foot down and have strong answers and show the President that he wasn't going to be bullied by Congress, then he had something to say. When it got heated there, he wanted to back up and wanted to retreat to not a full exertion of executive privilege. He's doing actually something a little bit more subtle, preserving the option for the White House to exert it down the line.

BALDWIN: Therefore, the word inconsistencies from the committee chairman. I want to play -- here are some of the other heated moments from this nearly six-hour hearing.


W: I'm sorry. I don't know if your time's been restored or not.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: Mr. Attorney General, we're not joking here and your humor is not acceptable.

REP. DOUG COLLINS, RANKING MEMBER OF JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: He's willingly -- was willing to come but yesterday we had the charade yesterday. This hearing is pointless and basically was made even more pointless by the chairman's opening statement. This is not about the good men and women at the Department of Justice were doing. This is not about FBI agents doing their job.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: There are many American throughout the country who are confused. I'm confused. I really am. We're all trying to figure out who are you, where did you come from and how the heck did you become the head of the Department of Justice? So hopefully you can help me work through this confusion.


JEFFRIES: Mr. Whitaker, that was a statement, not a question.

WHITAKER: OK. JEFFRIES: I'll assume you know the difference.


BALDWIN: So, John Dean, back over to you. This is a man who will be in his job only for a few more days. There was all the drama yesterday between him and Chairman Nadler over will he/won't he show up pending subpoena. Why did today matter?

JOHN DEAN, COOPERATED WITH WATERGATE INVESTIGATORS AGAINST NIXON: Well, it's our first -- as the Congressman just said, where did he come from, how did he get there? I think that's what everyone really wanted to understand. It's just too fishy that the President sets aside the entire succession statute and slides this guy from nowhere into that top job. Plus, he'd been on CNN and elsewhere making all these statements against the special counsel and we didn't really get an answer today and it's very important for the people to understand where did this man come from.

BALDWIN: Gloria, final thought from you.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, it was clear to me that he was completely uncomfortable with this hearing, that he had too many people he wanted to please because he's thinking about his next life, so he didn't want to anger the President, he didn't want to anger the House Republicans, but he also wanted to make sure Rod Rosenstein was OK, and that he's thinking about what he does next and not the current job that he has and it was a lot of theater from both sides, from the Democrats and the Republicans and did anything meaningful come out of it? I'm not so sure.

BALDWIN: On that note, thanks, everyone so much. Now to the breaking news today. Federal prosecutors are now involved after amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says the publisher of the "National Enquirer" tried to blackmail and extort him. This is a huge story. We have all angles covered for you.

Also missed deadline. The White House refuses to send Congress on the report whether the Saudi government had any role in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. What lawmakers are planning to do about that?

Remember this --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you explain to me how a guy who eats McDonald's and all those diet cokes and who never exercises is in as good a shape as you say he's in?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's called genetics.


BALDWIN: So, we're back again. President Trump getting his physical right now, CNN learning he has not been following his doctor's orders. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We'll be right back. [15:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Splashy headlines, juicy gossip and bold face names, that's been the business strategy for the "National Enquirer" for decades but was blackmail also part of the plan? According to amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos the answer to that question is yes, in an explosive 2,000-word blog post, Bezos is accusing AMI of both blackmail and extortion and now CNN has learned that federal prosecutors are trying to determine if AMI, the parent company of the enquirer has violated a none prosecutorial deal. It was going to blow the cover on this affair that he was having with his now girlfriend Lauren Sanchez. "National Enquirer" also obtained photos and text messages of the couple. Bezos spared no expense to find out who leaked to the tabloid. And here's where this alleged blackmail fits in. Bezos claims AMI threatened to publish those pictures and text messages if his team did not drop the politically motivated charges. Bezos response was clear, bring it. So, Gloria Borger is back with me. Also, with us media reporter Oliver Darcy and Elie Honig. So, my goodness, has been a day. AMI has now responded to that Bezos blog post and claims and AMI says what?

[15:40:00] OLIVER DARCY, CNN BUSINESS SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: We're getting a response from AMI. We were waiting and waiting and AMI finally came out this morning and they basically say, they defend their practices but they said they'll look in to it. Specifically, they said American media believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story about Mr. Bezos. Further, at the time of the recent allegations made by Mr. Bezos, it was a good faith negotiation to resolve all matters with him and they go on to say that they'll be launching this investigation, nevertheless. I wouldn't expect much from that.

BALDWIN: Translate that because most of the time you get like this massive statement and they're kind of like, yes, were going to investigate.

DARCY: It's AMI investigating AMI. It's them investigating themselves. It's a four-person board. One of the people on the board is AMI CEO, David Pecker, another is a Trump association and has worked for Trump in the past. I don't think a lot of people are expecting that they're going to reveal any inappropriate conduct when they investigate this.

BALDWIN: That's clear. To you, sir, and we'll get into what you wrote on whether you would prosecute this. On the fact that AMI had been working with SDNY they had made that deal over the hush money payments with Karen McDougal, have they violated that deal?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's the big question. The stakes are doubled now. That non-prosecution agreement is the only thing protecting them from getting charged in connection with the hush money payments. The most important thing that a non-prosecution agreement will say is don't commit any more crimes.

BALDWIN: You get one pass, you don't get two. HONIG: And now it's on our watch as the prosecutors. There's very

little tolerance for that. If the Southern District's conclusion that this whole Bezos incident constituted extortion, we won't give away my answer yet. But which it may be, then they're in trouble for extortion and they're no longer protected on the hush money payment. They could be seeing two lines of legal jeopardy. Gloria, weigh in.

BORGER: Just to follow that, if they're charged criminally then everything becomes discoverable, doesn't it? Their relationship with Donald Trump, whatever's in their records, whatever else they were catching and killing, we don't -- that could all be opened up, but the other thing that strikes me in the blog post is the connection that Jeff Bezos makes to the Saudis in this and to "The Washington Post" coverage which has been relentless about the death of its colleague Jamal Khashoggi, right? And there's one point in the blog post where Bezos writes that an AMI leader advised us that Mr. Pecker is apoplectic about our investigation into the Saudis for reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve. So, what is it about AMI and its relationship with the Saudis and then Bezos points out that Mr. Pecker went to a White House dinner with a high-ranking Saudi guest at some point. So, he seems to be dropping all these bread crumbs and I'm wondering if we'll read about it in "The Washington Post" pretty soon.

BALDWIN: That's the perfect word is bread crumbs. He's not saying this plus this equals this. He's saying you read in to it. So, would you prosecute this?

HONIG: I would. It's sort of unpopular position based on what I've seen out there. I've grown up doing extortion cases, mafia cases. Those are easy. Those are a mobster saying literally I will cut your fingers off if you don't pay me. I did a case like that. Those are easy. This is closer to the line regional prosecutors could differ.

The question is, was anybody trying to get property or something of value? I argue absolutely. They were trying to get Bezos to issue this statement that they're all clear and there's no problem with them and shut down this investigation. He's the richest man in the world. There's enormous value to both sides. The other question is, is it wrongful? There's a fine line between hard knuckle business and something that becomes wrongful. I'll stand in front of a jury any day of the week saying look at these emails. That's over the line. That's beyond hard knuckled business tactics.

BALDWIN: This is how they roll and I know you've got so much more reporting on other people who can relate it in much different ways of feeling the same way. We've got to go, guys. Thank you very much.

[15:35:00] We just mentioned Jamal Khashoggi. The White House has refused to send Congress's report detailing whether the Saudi government and the crown prince had any role in the murder of the journalist and this comes as the "New York Times" reports the crown prince told a top aide some time ago that he would use a bullet on Jamal Khashoggi. Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BALDWIN: Once again the White House is refusing to call out the Saudi crown prince for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a senior administration officials tells CNN the President is exercising his discretion by declining to meet today's deadline set by Congress to produce information on the links between the prince and the murder of the "The Washington Post" columnist. This all comes just hours after the "New York Times" reported about a year before Jamal Khashoggi's killing at that embassy in Turkey, the prince known as MBS told his top aide that he would use, quote, a bullet on Khashoggi. The details come from current and former U.S. officials with direct knowledge of intelligence reports CNN has not verified. CNN's senior diplomat correspondent Michelle Kosinksi, are there any consequences for Trump refusing to meet this deadline.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Just how it looks. This deadline was looming for four months, up until late yesterday, the state department was saying that they would comply with the law and submit to Congress a report that says whether or not or not they believe that the Saudi crown prince was in violation of this human rights based law and whether or not they intend to sanction him personally for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. That's all they needed to do. It seemed like they were going to do something, provide this report, but it turns out they were being very tricky in their description of what they plan because now they're saying, well, the White House reserves the right to decline to do this when appropriate. Technically, though, that is still in compliance with the law. They're using the same language that President Obama used when he signed this global Magnitsky Act into law. He showed that even though wanted this to become a law, he still disagreed with part of it. He said that, well, in a nut shell, Congress can't force the White House to do something like this.

[15:50:00] It can't force the White House to issue sanctions. It can't even force the White House to issue a report on something like that if it doesn't want to. The Trump administration is saying the same thing that in this case we're not going to do it. Legally it holds up, but look at the way it looks when you have the CIA determining that the Saudi crown prince ordered this murder, when you have the Senate voting unanimously to condemn the crown prince for this murder, but then you have the White House not even willing to say whether or not they believe he was involved, it raises a lot of questions. Murder, when you have the Senate voting unanimously to condemn the crown prince for this murder, but then you have the White House not even willing to say whether or not they believe he was involved, it raises a lot of questions. They're not willing to say that he was not involved in this murder or ordered it or behind it and they're not willing to say that he was

BALDWIN: Thank you. Right now, we are waiting to go hear what happened inside President Trump's annual physical. Our chief medical correspondent is with me next from the White House about whether he followed orders to change his diet and start exercising.


BALDWIN: Several sources tell CNN they don't believe he has set foot in the White House fitness room. But I can tell you right now, he's over at Walter Reed Medical Center for his second physical since being elected. Remember the glowing health reports for his personal doctor in 2016 and the White House physician just last year. He was also told to exercise and go on a diet. So, do we know if he took Ronnie Jackson's advice?

[15:55:00] SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it sounds like maybe he hasn't been the best patient talking to people here at the White House. Most don't always follow their doctor's advice. We'll get a good idea of the impact this last year has had on him. Get 12 consultants that take place in this as well. Lots of bloodwork. Lots of diagnostic tests. Trying to answer the question is he fit to lead? Jackson had no doubt about that.


RONNIE JACKSON, FORMER PHYSICIAN TO THE PRESIDENT: In summary the Pres.'s overall health is excellent.


GUPTA: A remarkable scene last January in the White House briefing room. Dr. Ronnie Jackson, the White House doctor at the time enthusiastically endorsing the health of President Trump.


JACKSON: All clinical data indicates that the President. is currently very healthy and he would remain so for the duration of his presidency.


GUPTA: Here is what Jackson told us. The President was 6'3" and weighed 239 pounds, 1-pound shy of being clinically obese. Resting heart rate 68. Blood pressure 122/74. Total cholesterol 223, a little high. Triglycerides 129. Good cholesterol 67, bad cholesterol 143.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell me how a guy that eats McDonald's and all those diet cokes and never exercises is in as good a shape as you say he is in.

JACKSON: It is called genetics. Some people have great genes. I told the President if he had a healthier diet for 20 years, he might live to be 200 years old. I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he does have heart disease?

JACKSON: He does not have heart disease.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. A report showed calcium in his coronary blood vessel.

JACKSON: He does. He did. So technically he had nonclinical atherosclerotic coronary -- coronary atherosclerosis. (END VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: That's heart disease. President Trump's calcium coronary score last year was 133. According to the Mayo Clinic 100 to 300 is associated with a relatively high risk of heart attack over the next 3 to 5 years. President Trump doesn't smoke or drink. As of last year, he was taking five medications daily. 10 mg of Crestor to lower his cholesterol. 81 mg of aspirin for heart health. 1 mg of Propecia for hair loss. A daily multivitamin. And Soolantra cream as needed for rosacea.

Dr. Jackson also said he administered a cognitive exam to the President.


JACKSON: The reason that we did the cognitive assessment is plain and simple because the President asked me to do it. He came to me and he said, is there something we can do, a test or some type of screen that we can do to assess my cognitive abilities.

And this is what the Montreal cognitive assessment looks like. Jackson said Trump got a 30 out of 30, a perfect score.

In that physical exam is expected to wrap up right around 430 he will be fine back here to the White House. We'll see if he has anything to say about what transpired today. The specific recommendations that Dr. Jackson may lose 10 to 15 pounds, lower that cholesterol and probably increased his medication to do that and improve the diet. Low carbs and lower fat but again we'll see the impact that this year has had on him.

BALDWIN: We'll wait for it and we'll get your analysis here on CNN. Good to see you here. Thank you very much.

We do have more on our breaking news today. Fireworks between lawmakers and Acting Attorney General as he testified off and on for six hours about the Mueller investigation. We'll be right back.


BALDWIN: The 2020 Presidential hop hopefuls to start making his first trip to Iowa. He will be hitting four cities today.

[14:30:00] SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: I'm standing here today running for President of the United States because I worry in this nation right now there are people who are losing faith in us and our ability to solve our problems. People are feeling left out and left behind.

PETER BUTTIGIEG (D), 2000 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have come to a moment as we approach the cycle that is a lot bigger than a single election. It is a moment of profound realignment in American politics. It's a moment that's calling for new voices and calling for bold ideas. It's calling for something different than we have seen before.


BALDWIN: Both senators are expected to announce their bids over this weekend and do not miss Van Jones. His show tomorrow night sits down tomorrow night with Julian Castro. That is this Saturday night at 7:00 eastern right here on CNN. Let's go to Washington. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.