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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
New Information Emerges on Mueller Investigation; Will Trump Sign Deal to Avoid Shutdown?. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired February 13, 2019 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Wow. Michelle Kosinski with the update there.
Michelle, thank you very much for jumping in and getting us that reporting.
In the meantime, I'm out of time. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me.
Let's go to Washington. "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts now.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Almost the whole nation's capital walking on eggshells around President Trump.
THE LEAD starts right now.
President Trump, everyone hoping upon hope that he will sign the deal that will keep the government open, but will not give him his wall. And it seems both Democrats and Republicans are gritting their teeth until he signs it.
That cloud of secrecy is cigar smoke. New details today about Paul Manafort's alleged dealings with a man prosecutors say has ties with Russian intelligence. What Robert Mueller now wants to know about the shady encounter in a private cigar room.
Plus, infiltrated by Iran. An ex-Air Force officer who left the U.S. and vanished, now she's a wanted woman, wanted for allegedly sharing military secrets with Tehran.
Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
We begin today with the politics lead, Americans on pins and needles two days until another partial government shutdown. And no one seems to know for sure whether President Trump will sign the bipartisan deal to keep the government open and also provide some funding for new border barriers.
And when I say no one seems to know, I mean no one. Take a listen to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's hard to say definitively whether or not the president's going to sign it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: House and Senate Democrats are refraining notably from gloating about the deal, gloating about, for instance, the fact that the president will get less in border security funding in this deal than in the deal he turned down in December.
Why are they being so mum? Well, Hill sources tell me congressional Democrats want the president to sign the deal, and they're afraid of doing anything that might push the president over the edge, so they're treading very carefully.
The House is expected to vote on the legislation tomorrow night, followed by the Senate. White House sources tell CNN they believe President Trump will sign the line that is dotted, but there is no guarantee.
The lives of 800,000 federal workers, plus countless contractors and other Americans, could, of course, be upended once again, though the president vowed today he does not want another showdown -- shutdown.
CNN's Abby Phillip us off today from the White House.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Will he or won't he?
President Trump keeping Washington waiting, as he decides whether to sign a compromise agreement on border security that would prevent a second government shutdown, impacting the lives of 800,000 federal workers and their families.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to look at the legislation when it comes. And I will make a determination then.
PHILLIP: Publicly, the president says he still needs to review the details of the proposal, but two people who have spoken with him say he intends to sign it.
TRUMP: We haven't gotten it yet. We will be getting it. We will be looking for land mines, because you could have that.
PHILLIP: Speaker Nancy Pelosi today offering up some advice.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: As with all compromises, I say to people, support the bill for what is in it, don't judge it for what is not in it.
PHILLIP: But Trump says he isn't happy with what he's been told about the bill, which gives him less money for the border wall than the deal he could have gotten before the shutdown and far less than the $5.7 billion his administration demanded. Senator Richard Shelby, who briefed Trump on the deal Tuesday, arguing that the smaller number for the wall was a down payment on a bigger deal.
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: We will debate it and vote for it and send it to the president. Then he will evaluate it in the context that this is only a down payment. This is not a panacea. This is not building all the wall.
PHILLIP: In fact, President Trump today teasing that he might use executive action to move federal money around in order to build more wall.
TRUMP: But we have got a lot of funds for a lot of other things, but with the wall, they want to be stingy. But we have options that most people don't really understand.
PHILLIP: Options that some Trump allies are urging him to act on.
SEN. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: I hope he uses his emergency power to take care of our border, because it's the right thing to do.
PHILLIP: Other Republicans expressing frustration that the recent shutdown didn't help them produce a more comprehensive deal.
REP. CHRIS STEWART (R), UTAH: You have to ignore reality to say anything different. It didn't help us. The deal we ended up with now is worse than we had before the shutdown.
PHILLIP: And with Congress needing to act by Friday, the president signaling that he wants to avoid another politically damaging shutdown.
TRUMP: Shutdown would be a terrible thing. I think a point was made with the last shutdown. People realized how bad the border is, how unsafe the border is, and I think a lot of good points were made, but I don't want to see another one.
PHILLIP: And President Trump has been citing $22 billion in the bill for border security as proof that this bill is not as bad as it seems.
But that figure encompasses a lot of things, including personnel and technology. And a vast majority of that is not his border wall, Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Abby Phillip at the White House for us, thanks so much.
Let's dive into this with the experts.
Kevin, take a listen to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HUCKABEE SANDERS: It's hard to say definitively whether or not the president is going to sign it until we know everything that's in it.
The president isn't fully happy, as he said yesterday, with everything that's in the legislation, but there are some positive pieces of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: What's holding them back from knowing everything that's in it?
My understanding is that the House and Senate negotiators have been briefing the Republicans, have been briefing the White House.
KEVIN MADDEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think they know what's in it. They just legitimately don't know if the president's going to sign it.
I mean, I think senior staff in this White House has been burned so many times saying that one thing was going to happen, only to have the president change his mind at the very end. So I think not only Sarah Sanders doesn't know, but others inside the White House don't really know whether or not the president's going to sign it.
I think the staff has somewhat -- become inured to the president's decision-making process. I think the bigger challenge they continue to have and where you're going to continue to see fractured support up on Capitol Hill is that congressional Republicans, particularly in the Senate, they have grown very weary of this drama.
And let me ask you, because the Democrats, as I said earlier, they're really keeping their mouths shut. I mean, they have a case to make, although there are progressives who are upset with the bill. They have a case to make that, as you just heard a Republican congressman say, this bill is the worst deal for the Republicans -- the Republican point of view than the one the president turned down.
Democrats kind of like walking on eggshells, because they don't want to upset the president.
JENNICE FUENTES, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think everyone is walking on eggshells. And I think, like we have seen in the White House staff and we've seen the Democrats in the House, I think our bar is so low that to say that we claim an accomplishment or success because we're keeping the government open goes to show the crisis in governing that we have.
We have all elected officials trying to deal with an irrational and impulsive and, quite frankly, out-of-control president of the United States. And this is what that has gotten us. Nobody seems happy with this.
And everybody, including the 800,000 federal workers, wonder if they're going to be getting a paycheck after Friday. TAPPER: So, Senator Turner, so this legislation has $1.375 billion
for border security. The last one, the one that the president rejected, had $1.6 billion.
NINA TURNER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.
TAPPER: Take a listen to Sarah Sanders talking about the idea that this is actually a worse deal the president, the great negotiator, got.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUCKABEE SANDERS: I think those are people that are being disingenuous, and Nancy Pelosi said directly that she wasn't going to give a single dollar for the wall. So that's just not true.
This includes roughly $1.4 billion for the wall. That's just people that are trying to spin to hit the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: I mean, this isn't for a wall. This is for border barriers. I don't know where we are in the semantic game that we're in.
I mean, the president stepped on his own victory. He should took the first deal and been done with it. But he couldn't do it.
In terms of signing, I don't even know if the president knows whether he's going to sign it. But there are 800,000 reasons why, plus the contract workers, why he should sign it.
TAPPER: What do you think of all that? Do you agree that -- I mean, I think it is fair to say we have never seen before a White House staff and a Congress so unsure of what a president is going to do about a government spending bill.
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.
I mean, Sarah Sanders has learned not to box yourself into a position because that comes back to burn her, as Kevin pointed out. But I do think there's a way that everyone gets to claim victory out of this. I think this is the deal.
Donald Trump proved to the base that he would fight. Did he get more money? No.
TAPPER: He got less.
CARPENTER: But he showed the base that I'm willing to try.
And that does stand for something, because, going forward, where do you think Republican voters are going to go? If the Democrats are really taking the position that walls are immoral and we won't stand for it, if Donald Trump can just show people that he's making progress on the wall, he will be fine.
TAPPER: And progressives -- there have been some members of the Progressive Caucus in Congress that are not happy about this bill. They were trying to get a camp on ICE beds, which would basically allow more undocumented immigrants to be released into the community.
And only the most dangerous ones would be kept. Nancy Pelosi said it's important to focus on what's in the deal, not what's not in the deal.
What are you hearing from your progressive friends on the Hill?
TURNER: I mean, I agree with the speaker on this.
And I think most people who are thinking about the pure focus right now is not another government shutdown. Those other things should be worked out after this. But the most important thing is not to shut the government down and leave those workers in peril yet again.
CARPENTER: Can I just say one thing I find confusing? Because didn't we all sort of think the ultimate deal is some kind of permanent barriers for permanent DACA protections?
And then all of a sudden, we start negotiating about detention beds? I mean, this seems like this took a very weird turn. I don't fully understand it. I don't understand the Democratic position that we should reduce the amount of beds for people that are seeking asylum, families that are traveling over the border, in order to help immigrants.
I just don't understand.
MADDEN: Well, it's largely a product of the fact that we're trying to do this in three-week increments. If you're going to get a larger deal on something as contentious is DACA, it's going to take a much longer set of negotiations, not just in three weeks, with a C.R.
MADDEN: A C.R. deadline.
FUENTES: I probably would add to that, Kevin, that problem is that we are doing this in a very irrational way all the time.
Immigration, it's a very complex, complicated issue that both Democrats and Republicans want to fix. But without comprehensive immigration reform, everything falls by the wayside.
What is going to happen to the dreamers? What happens to TPS? What happens to matching immigrant labor with the economy and the needs of the people in our system? What happens to the 11 million that are still undocumented? So much to take care of, and here we are talking about beds.
TAPPER: And let's assume that the president signs this, because it looks like he might, although nobody knows for sure. So I wouldn't bet money on it.
But let's assume he does. There is still this question about will he then declare a national emergency to try to get more money for his wall that way? Now, Sean Hannity, who is one of the president's friends and advisers, he called -- originally, he called the deal garbage.
But last night he kind of changed his tune a little bit. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY": I'm not as concerned as some other conservatives if the president signs the bill. But there's a couple of ifs.
Step one, the president decides he wants to sign the compromise. Now, if he takes step two, which is the president utilizing monies identified, some $900 million, for additional construction.
But the important third step needs to happen simultaneously. And that would be the president would need to declare a national emergency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: I will -- this is not an original observation, but I would I would note again that we don't really have state-run media in this country. We have media-run state.
TURNER: Amen to that, Jake.
Hannity doesn't have to be concerned, because it's not his paycheck in peril, so he can have this kind of attitude about it.
The president is going to get this wall by hook or by crook. I really do believe that. So whether he declares an emergency or whether he looks at different funding sources, which they are, so he can pinch here, pinch there, he's going to build a portion of this wall no matter what, so that he can say to his base by 2020 that he delivered against the will of Democrats.
He's going to try to play this all on Democrats.
MADDEN: I would agree with that.
I would slightly paraphrase it differently. I would say, he's going to declare victory no matter what. What that looks like, whether it's through a national -- declaration of a national emergency, or saying that he's moving money around via executive decision, he's going to declare victory. TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around.
We have the latest twist in Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, a secret meeting inside a New York City cigar club. That's next.
Then, a Georgia congressman under fire for a book prominently displayed in his office, a book about Robert E. Lee, and the page that it was open to was quite objectionable. Wait until you see how he tries to explain it.
[16:17:09] TAPPER: And we're back with our national lead now.
Former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort back in court and behind closed doors. A judge is deciding right now if Manafort violated his plea deal by lying to special counsel Robert Mueller's team. It centers around secret meetings inside a New York cigar club where, our CNN's Jessica Schneider reports, Manafort allegedly passed on private campaign data to a man with contacts with Russian military intelligence.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, the federal judge overseeing Paul Manafort's fate is considering whether Manafort lied to Mueller's prosecutors during plea talks. If the judge decides Manafort lied, it could impact Manafort's March sentencing with the judge possibly imposing a stiffer sentence.
But the questions surrounding Paul Manafort and any possible Russian collusion are still swirling and special counsel investigators believe details about Manafort's meeting at the height of the 2016 campaign inside this Manhattan cigar bar could prove pivotal. On August 2nd, 2016, Manafort met up with his Russian business associate Konstantin Kilimnik just blocks from campaign headquarters inside the private Grand Havana Room in midtown. Paul Manafort was still Trump's campaign chairman and Kilimnik had ties to Russian intelligence at the time according to the FBI.
And at a closed hearing last week, special counsel prosecutor Andrew Weissmann revealed the dinner meeting was very much to the heart of what the special counsel's office is investigating.
Manafort's deputy Rick Gates also attended the cigar room meeting and all three men apparently left through separate doors. Kilimnik's alleged connections to Russian intelligence is likely why Weissmann said in court last week there is an in-person meeting at an unusual time for somebody who is the campaign chairman to be spending time and to be doing it in person.
Inside the Grand Havana Room, the men allegedly talked about Ukrainian policy and a peace plan that would have benefited Russia by lifting economic sanctions. Manafort's lawyers now say Manafort told Kilimnik any peace plan idea was, quote, crazy and they have repeatedly argued Manafort never intentionally lied to prosecutors. According to "The Washington Post", just days before they met in
Manhattan, Kilimnik sent Manafort a cryptic note saying he had met with a man who had given Manafort, quote, the biggest black caviar jar several years ago. "The Post" saying congressional investigators believe black caviar was code for money.
And prosecutors also seem to be looking at whether this August 2016 meeting was when Paul Manafort shared campaign polling data with Kilimnik, something Manafort's attorneys inadvertently revealed in earlier court filings.
SCHNEIDER: And this wasn't the only meeting between Kilimnik and Paul Manafort, according to prosecutors. They apparently met several times throughout 2017, including when Kilimnik was in Washington for Donald Trump's inauguration, as well as in 2018.
[16:20:01] Jake, all of these points of interest now for prosecutors.
TAPPER: I would say so. Jessica Schneider, thanks so much.
First of all, let me just say three of you have worked on presidential campaigns. Anybody here had a secret lunchtime meeting with a somebody with ties to Russian military intelligence at a cigar bar?
KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Never. I worked on three presidential campaigns and you eat all three meals at your desk in campaign headquarters, unless you're in airport -- unless you're in an airport somewhere.
CARPENTER: It depends of where you are at, at all times, how to reach you. That's what's weird is that the people go off for secret meetings, Manafort goes abroad. That blows my mind because the fact that a campaign manager would leave for extended periods of time and other people wouldn't ask questions, that's bizarre.
TAPPER: And you were noting -- you reacted when it noted that that all three of the men at that meeting left from separate doors.
FUENTES: Right, they have nothing to hide but they're in a smoke- filled room and the nobody knows where they are, very suspicious indeed.
TAPPER: And when it comes to these meetings between Manafort and Kilimnik who prosecutor says say has ties with Russian military intelligence, the GRU, a prosecutor told the judge last week that these meetings are, quote, very much to the heart of what the special counsel's office is investigating.
And we know the special counsel is tasked with finding out if there's evidence of conspiracy between the Russian government and anybody in Trump's orbit. CARPENTER: Yes. I mean, it's pretty basic. Did you talk to Russians? They say no. If they lie about it, then they find evidence of it, that obviously raises some red flags.
And I think you know the big news this week is that the Senate Intel Committee seems to like their wrapping up their investigation and you kind of have this discrepancy between what Mark Warner says, well, it's not really wrapped up, and Richard Burr coming out, the Republican on the committee, is saying there's no direct evidence of collusion. Here's my question we know that Michael Cohen lied to Congress about the duration of the Moscow project, they have lots of questions about our meeting, and all these Senate members have very clearly indicated to the press that they know other people lied to them as well and they all are kind of circling around Don Jr. All these questions get back to Trump Tower meeting and the duration of the Moscow projects.
TAPPER: Yes. So if I could just say I talked to somebody on the Senate Intelligence Committee a staffer who told me that I think what the difference is going on here is direct evidence, the idea of direct evidence. And the Republicans are saying, well, there's no direct evidence, and Republicans are saying that. Democrats are saying there's a whole lot of circumstantial at best.
TURNER: Not so fast.
TURNER: Yes, no, it's not surprising. I mean both sides are doing what they are supposed to do. Ultimately, though, the American people deserve to know what the truth is regardless of political party and both sides should want that.
FUENTES: But then the choice of words in the Senate leadership and intelligence select committee, it's worrisome because this words that logical end --
FUENTES: -- that we've exhausted, I don't think any of those things are true if we are to believe that there's plenty, as Nina said, if this circumstantial evidence. And I think it's worrisome that up to this point for the last two years has been a bipartisan on a bipartisan track, and the fact that now they're going different directions, I don't know maybe it said this Republican senators trying to calm down the president so he signs off the agreement.
MADDEN: There's comity I think in the process, but this is still always -- these always eventually turn into some partisan inkblot where everybody decides to see what they want to see when they look at it. It's just not as important. It's important that they went through their oversight. It won't be as important as the evidence that the special counsel --
TAPPER: To Mueller, yes. MADDEN: Because this is political theater and it's public -- it's court of public opinion. The court of law and evidence and facts from the special counsel will be more --
TAPPER: And, Amanda, take a listen to Congressman Adam Schiff. He's the new chairman, Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He was asked about this debate going on in the Senate side. Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Richard Burr said there's no evidence of collusion he found in his committee. What's your reaction to that?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: You know, Senator Warner differs with that conclusion. We certainly strongly disagree with it in the House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: They disagree with it in the House.
CARPENTER: Here's what I think it comes down to. If you ask somebody a question and they lie to you, sure, you didn't find any evidence of anything but you know they lied to you. And the Senate Intel members have said that they who have refer -- made referrals to Robert Mueller about people they have suspicions of lying to Congress. And so, they let Robert Mueller take it from here.
And remember Michael Cohen is going to jail because he lied to Congress. And so, maybe they didn't find evidence but they knew people were lying that's where I suspect that's this roadblock is.
TAPPER: And that's also the thing -- that that's the U.S. attorney's office for the southern district of New York, Michael Cohen, and that's where a lot of people, even allies to the president say that's where the real trouble lies because who knows what mall is going to find but just an open -- opening day, a hunting season and go inside of the Trump Organization, you can find anything you want.
FUENTES: You know, I think up to now, every passing day, it gets harder and harder for it to be -- for it to be a matter of opinion. I think that's where everybody has their opinion but the more -- more people that go to jail because of lying to Congress, the more circumstantial evidence which would eventually leads to something more concrete like maybe a direct link.
TAPPER: All right. Everyone, stick around.
No, she's not missing in Iran. Instead, this former Air Force intelligence specialist is allegedly working for Iran.
[16:25:03] New details of what the accused spy shared that may have put American agents in danger.
Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
TAPPER: Our politics lead. Questions about the Green New Deal are exposing some divisions among 2020 Democratic candidates. Right now, their support is all over the map. The Midwesterners largely down the middle, others from the coasts giving it full endorsements.
As CNN's Jessica Dean reports, the 2020 race is turning into something of a geographical divide.