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Andrew McCabe Breaks His Silence on Investigations into President Trump; Judge Voids Manafort Plea Deal, Says He Lied to FBI and Mueller; Manafort's Lawyers Say He Did Not Intentionally Lie to Special Counsel and His Team; Lawmakers Vote on Bill to Avoid Government Shutdown; Investors Optimistic Amid New U.S.-China Trade Talks; Interview With Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA). Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired February 14, 2019 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:09] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto.
This morning new revelations about the crucial first days of the Russia investigation, the former acting FBI director breaking his silence about why he launched the FBI's probe into the Trump campaign's ties with Russia.
Andrew McCabe says that he feared the investigation might be blocked before it started and that he could be fired next. Speaking to CBS, McCabe also reveals new details about the meeting with President Trump just hours after he fired FBI director James Comey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: I was speaking to the man who had just run for the presidency and won the election for the presidency, and who might have done so with the aid of the government of Russia, our most formidable adversary on the world stage. And that was something that troubled me greatly.
SCOTT PELLEY, HOST, CBS "60 MINUTES": How long was it after that that you decided to start the obstruction of justice and counterintelligence investigations involving the president?
MCCABE: I think the next day I met with the team investigating the Russia cases. And I asked the team to go back and conduct an assessment to determine where are we with these efforts and what steps do we need to take going forward?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: All right. So a lot of jaw-dropping headlines there. And they don't stop there. McCabe also claimed there were meetings within the Justice Department about removing the president by invoking the 25th Amendment.
There is clearly a lot to get to this morning. So let's go to Laura Jarrett who joins us from the Justice Department. Wow, Laura Jarrett. Where do we begin?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Wow, indeed. Well, a remarkably candid interview, Jim and Poppy, from the former acting director of the FBI, the man who opened the investigations, the early investigations into Russia back in 2016 or as of 2017. And he describes not only the turmoil within the FBI and the Justice Department at the time, the chaotic time after former FBI director James Comey was fired, but he also goes on to explain how he sought to preserve the record on Russia. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCABE: I was very concerned that I was able to put the Russia case on absolutely solid ground in an indelible fashion that were I removed quickly or reassigned or fired that the case could not be closed or vanish in the night without a trace. I wanted to make sure that our case was on solid ground and if somebody came in behind me and closed it, and tried to walk away from it, they would not be able to do that without creating a record of why they've made that decision.
PELLEY: You wanted a documentary record.
MCCABE: That's right.
PELLEY: That those investigations had begun because you feared that they would be made to go away.
MCCABE: That's exactly right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JARRETT: Earlier this morning "60 Minutes" anchor Scott Pelley also went on to describe that McCabe will confirm for the first time on the record that there were, in fact, discussions about invoking the 25th Amendment to recruit cabinet members to try to oust President Trump from office. Those discussions, as we reported back in December with the deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein. And at the time, Rod Rosenstein fiercely pushed back on it.
I want to read to you what he said at the time about those reports including that he sought to wear a wire to record the president. At the time he said, Poppy and Jim, "I never pursued or authorized recording the president. And any suggestion that I have ever advocated for the removal of the president is absolutely false."
So obviously more to come on this. The book isn't even out yet.
SCIUTTO: On the other issue here because the man who may soon oversee the Mueller probe is, of course, William Barr, Trump's pick for attorney general, you have new reporting that he's already consulting with top DOJ officials as to how to handle the Mueller report. What have you learned?
JARRETT: That's right. I think the challenge here for William Barr is how to balance the fact that the Justice Department does not typically reveal what we can call derogatory information. So problematic information about uncharged individuals. They do not typically do that. But at the same time he has to balance the public's right to know what happened to the Russia investigation, what Mueller found. And so those are the things that he's balancing here, and obviously the biggest issue is how much does Congress find out about the Mueller report.
Under the regulations they have to say very little other than the investigation is closed. That's really it. And so Barr is in consultation with top Justice officials about what exactly he will say to Congress.
Now no decisions have been made. He hasn't seen the report. He hasn't seen any of the findings. He hasn't even been confirmed yet. But he wants to hit the ground running -- Poppy and Jim.
SCIUTTO: Laura, stay with us. We also have former federal prosecutor Laura Coates and White House reporter for the "Washington Post" Seung Eun Kim.
Listen, a lot to break down here as Poppy was saying. One that's absolutely catching our attention is that this idea about the 25th Amendment, the idea of using this provision to remove the president from office.
[09:05:04] Andrew McCabe, well, according to Scott Pelley's account of what Andrew McCabe told him, he says that this was not a theoretical discussion, but they were, quote, "counting noses," already kind of canvassing how many cabinet members might support such a removal.
Seung Eun Kim, you've been covering this White House for a long time, is that consistent with your reporting?
SEUNG EUN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Well, I would have to think that -- well, there is a lot of dispute, as Laura mentioned earlier, about what those reports really meant because we do have an on-the-record denial from the deputy attorney general about those conversations.
Just on the broader McCabe interview, I mean, which was stunning as we have been discussing for the last several minutes, I had to imagine that what he says and the revelations that his assertions are something that's going to be really infuriating to the president. If he hasn't seen those interview clip, it's already -- he will. I presume he may tweet about it in the imminent future because we've seen how Andrew McCabe has been such a punching bag, a target for the president in some time.
And in the CBS report the White House has already called what Andrew McCabe -- the probe that Andrew McCabe opened up as baseless. So the infuriation from the president is something that I imagine would be happening pretty shortly.
HARLOW: Laura Coates, on the 25th Amendment, Laura Jarrett just laid out for us, you know, part of Rosenstein's response to that overall "New York Times" article that included allegations of him, you know, considering wearing a wire, and then talking about invoking the 25th Amendment. On 25th Amendment part I was just reminded of Rosenstein's response at the time. And let me read it, quote, "Let me be clear about this. Based on my personal dealings with the president there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment."
The word choice is really important. He doesn't say in that response -- this is a few months ago -- we never talked about invoking the 25th Amendment, Laura. He says there is no basis to invoke it, Laura Coates. What do you think?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, both things can be true that based on his personal experience with the president of the United States he has now come to the conclusion that the 25th Amendment is not warranted. It can also be true that what Andrew McCabe has said that there was certainly a discussion about whether to pursue it and whether to wear a wire in the instance of trying to figure out and assess whether the president of the United States would be justifiably removed by the 25th Amendment.
So I think he was very careful with the economy of words. It all sets up a very interesting dynamic here. Andrew McCabe sets up the president between a rock and a hard place. Either he can say that he believes now that Andrew McCabe is not a liar, which he has branded him as such for quite some time. He has been the punching bag that my colleagues spoke about. Because he believes he's not credible.
If the president were to act on this statement, he'd be selectively assigning credibility to something in contrast to what he believes and said openly about Rod Rosenstein.
What's it going to be, Mr. President? Is Andrew McCabe a liar or should he be believed? And if he should be believed then a whole Pandora's box is opened about the statements he's made and about instances involving James Comey.
SCIUTTO: You know, as you mentioned there --
JARRETT: Could I just add there, Jim?
JARRETT: Jim, just real quick. The one of the issues here I think is the fact that the Justice Department and obviously people close to Rod Rosenstein will point to the fact that Andrew McCabe has been discredited as a liar. He was fired for lying to internal investigators about a separate issue related to the Clinton Foundation and his work on that at the FBI, his role in a report that went to reporters back then. But they will say this is not a reliable narrator.
The problem for Rod Rosenstein is that McCabe kept memos. He has contemporaneous notes from way before he was fired. HARLOW: Right.
JARRETT: About all of this.
JARRETT: And not only does McCabe have memos but his top deputy, his lawyer there at the time, Lisa Page who we've heard so much about from the president given her text messages, she also kept notes. So -- and there are more. So the fact that he is seen as sort of a problematic character now given what happened with the watchdog report at the Justice Department, the internal investigation, is one thing. But I think we do have to balance that against the fact that he did keep contemporaneous notes.
SCIUTTO: Right. And it's a good point. I was actually going to ask you about this, Laura. And let's be clear the president and his surrogates have attacked every -- they call every witness a liar. Right? I mean, they've used it with Michael Cohen, they used it with everybody. And some, there is basis for that because Michael Cohen has a record of lying as there is with Andrew McCabe.
The question is, from a legal standpoint, does that affect how a court sees McCabe or a judge sees McCabe's testimony and how does a judge see contemporaneous notes? Does he treat them as credible, as evidence that's credible evidence?
COATES: Well, contemporaneous written memos are very helpful to try to buttress somebody's credibility because if it's close in time to the incident, which is what the contemporaneous portion means, and it's written at a time when it's fresh in your mind and there's no perhaps motive to lie or motive to concoct then the court will look at this in a way that it doesn't discredit it entirely.
[09:10:02] It also can be in front -- if that were a jury, it could be part of a case of evidentiary conclusions. However, remember, that a court of law in particular, not the court of public opinion, but a court of law is very used to there being unsympathetic witnesses who also can offer credible testimony. There are people who the old adages, who testifies against drug dealers, drug users, who testifies against pimps, prostitutes.
There is a credibility crisis at all times. However, it doesn't necessarily fatally undermine their credibility. What :Laura Jarrett had to say was very important in the sense that you've got a whole host of people who are writing contemporaneous memos about similar points. And the theme could conclude -- could lead somebody to conclude that either there is a general conspiracy, they all decided to write the same memo with the same material in it, about the same points, to try to undermine the president of the United States, or they independently drew the same conclusions.
HARLOW: Thank you very much, all of you. Laura Jarrett, great reporting as always. Thank you.
Laura Coates, Seung Min Kim, a lot to get so stay with us. Coming up for us this hour, a federal judge rules ex-Trump campaign
manager Paul Manafort intentionally lied to the special counsel, Bob Mueller, about his Russia contacts. So what's next? That's the latest.
SCIUTTO: So many lies about this investigation. Plus, we are just hours away from a vote on the spending package to avoid another government shutdown. The big question today, of course, will the president then sign it.
[09:15:00] POPPY HARLOW, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: All right, to this morning, a judge has ruled former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort intentionally lied to investigators --
JIM SCIUTTO, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: Yes --
HARLOW: And now, he faces the very stark new reality that he may spend the rest of his life behind bars.
SCIUTTO: Those false statements include lies that Manafort made about interactions with his long-time Russian associate Konstantin Kilimnik who has ties to Russian intelligence. Joining us now, CNN Sara Murray with more. So, Sara, this is really a series of lies. Is this cooperation agreement with the special counsel, between the special counsel and Manafort done and dusted?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, that's what the judge says, Jim. She said that Manafort busted his cooperation agreement by intentionally lying, in addition to that lie about his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik that you pointed out.
The judge also said he intentionally lied about a payment for his legal bills as well as this unnamed criminal investigation that the Justice Department has ongoing. Now, there were a couple of things that the judge said he didn't actually intentionally lie about or at least the government didn't provide enough evidence to prove that.
One of those was his contacts with the Trump administration and another also had to do with Konstantin Kilimnik. But the judge said that the things he did intentionally lie about were material to the investigation. And so this is a busted deal, and here is why this is a problem for Paul Manafort.
This cooperation agreement was his best chance at getting some of his jail time reduced. He's already facing, you know, a number of convictions in Virginia. He was convicted on a number of financial crimes, and now has this guilty plea in Washington D.C.
So prosecutors in D.C. are not expected to bring any additional charges against him for these lies. But he is facing potentially decades in prison when he does eventually gets sentenced. Back to you, Jim and Poppy.
HARLOW: All right, big deal, Sara Murray, thank you very much. Laura Coates, Min Kim are back with us. Laura, to you, what I find so striking about this -- there are a number of things, right, like why the intentional lie, et cetera. But did Judge Amy Jackson noted twice in her order in this decision that Manafort lied about Kilimnik, OK, talking about Russia's interests and the payments he received.
The fact that he lied about that twice was material to the investigation.
LAURA COATES, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: You know, the night -- the idea that she has made it very clear -- she wants to send not just a signal, maybe inadvertently. What the nature of the investigation is and just how closely the ties are to the Kremlin.
She's alerting the public through this very public opinion and essentially saying, listen, Mueller's team has been investigating whether there have been ties to somebody, a part of the campaign and ties with Russia. Now, the word collusion is not in the opinion.
But what is, is the notion that material lies, material to the actual investigation. Which means that there is an ongoing desire by Paul Manafort to shield some facts or to not be fully cooperative. And you have to ask yourself why when he's facing so many decades in prison is he continuing to try to circumvent what he knows is the right thing?
SCIUTTO: Yes --
COATES: Why lie to Mueller's team if he didn't have --
HARLOW: Yes --
COATES: Some other nefarious behavior involved?
SCIUTTO: And it's a pattern of lies, right? By Manafort, and not just Manafort, but Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos. So Min Kim, what is the White House's answer if it has one to why so many lies specifically about Russia, multiple lies about it?
I mean, I know they try to use this process crime argument that, oh, they were just caught in, you know, not remembering things, but let's be frank here. This is all about Russia. These lies are all about Russia. Does the White House have an answer?
SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Well, what's happened over time is that they kind of shifted the explanations over the last two years of the extent of the contacts between Trump associates and Russian officials. I mean, I just remember White House or Hope Hicks saying right after -- right during the transition that there were no contacts at all.
And we've seen clearly how this has evolved over the last two years, and of course, how these -- how these investigations have unfolded over time. I think white -- if anything, what the president may have to say about Manafort would be really interesting.
He hasn't said anything so far as I can tell. And often times, the president has treated Paul Manafort and his legal woes a little bit differently than other people in the circle such as Michael Cohen. I mean, I remember being on the tarmac with him that day, that remarkable day when there were essentially simultaneous guilty pleas from both of the men.
[09:20:00] And he was sympathetic towards Paul Manafort, he called him a guy who has had this long history in Republican politics even though as he distanced himself a little bit, saying he was only my -- he was -- he had a minimal role -- he wasn't with me for a very long period of time. But I just -- it will be interesting to see how -- what the president, if anything, has to say about this latest turn in developments.
SCIUTTO: Yes --
HARLOW: Laura, why would Paul Manafort plead guilty to the special counsel and then lie about it?
COATES: Well, he wants to plead guilty to try to curry favor in some way to reduce his sentence, and I'm sure he thinks he's the smartest person in the room, and therefore can go ahead and deceive people and manipulate through that process of an overture of credibility.
But he's talking to a very seasoned prosecutors and investigators who are well aware of the stakes, and are well aware of people who have tried to manipulate before and have tried to lie in order to curry favor. So I suspect he thought that he had the upper hand.
Now, his attorneys, to be fair, said none of this is intentional, even after the judge has said this, it was not intentional behavior. And why would a man facing so many years in prison at his advanced age relatively speaking want to lie? Well, it may be, Poppy, that the boogeyman he fears is not Robert Mueller.
There may be some other reason he is coveting his ties to Russia or the Ukraine in a way that it's nothing to do with whether or not he wants to raise the ire of Robert Mueller. We're talking about his connections to people who have far more criminal enterprise-related ties. And Robert Mueller may not be the scariest person in the room to him.
SCIUTTO: Yes --
SCIUTTO: Final question, Seung Min, so Paul Manafort has just eliminated one of his paths to a possibly weaker sentence here, that is the cooperation deal pardon. Is this what he's looking at as his only way out, and is that something that the White House is still considering? I mean, the president has been, you know, made a lot of public statements about this. But they're also aware of the political dangers here.
KIM: Well, I think like they are clearly cognizant of what a pardon could mean. I mean, we -- he's been -- the president has been asked about this in various --
SCIUTTO: Yes --
KIM: Interviews and various forums. He hasn't -- the answer that he's generally given to the parting question is that, that's not something that he is talking about. But it will be interesting to see if the White House is weighing any options and that's something we'll be looking at pressing the White House on again.
SCIUTTO: Yes, man, if the White House or the president judges, it's in his interest to do so, right?
KIM: Yes --
SCIUTTO: Laura Coates, Seung Min Kim, thanks very much.
HARLOW: OK, is the government going to shut down?
SCIUTTO: Jesus --
HARLOW: Let's see what's going to happen on Friday. So lawmakers are voting today on another deal to avert another shutdown. The question really still remains, especially --
SCIUTTO: Yes --
HARLOW: Jim, after your interview with the White House yesterday, will the president sign it?
SCIUTTO: Plus, we are moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Dow expected to fall a bit at the start of trading, but investors are optimistic as a new round of trade talks between the U.S. and China kicking off in Beijing. That is important to watch.
[09:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
SCIUTTO: All right, so could you take another government shutdown? Just hours from now, Congress is set to vote on a bipartisan plan to keep the government open. It is expected to pass, but the biggest question remains, will the president sign it before midnight tomorrow?
The new compromise deal falling way short of Trump's original request for $5.7 billion to build his wall or barrier on the border. Let's get to CNN Congressional correspondent Sunlen Serfaty on Capitol Hill. So Sunlen, what's included in this deal? And does it have support potentially to override a presidential veto?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, this is certainly a massive piece of legislation. One thousand, one hundred and sixty nine pages long, and it came together just before midnight last night. And as you noted, this actually wraps seven spending bills into one. But of course, the main source of the contention, the main source of the debate has been over the funding for the Department of Homeland Security.
And certainly, that's where we've heard a lot up here on Capitol Hill over the last days and weeks of this battle. Now, what's in the bill? One-point-three-seven-five billion dollars for 55 miles along the southern border. It includes funding for 45,000 ICE detention beds, $1.7 billion increase in overall DHS spending, and that includes things like technology, ports of entry, security.
Now, notably, there are a lot of things that did not make it in the bill. We will hear a lot about this over the next 24 hours, the fact that President Trump's demand for $5.7 billion for the border wall funding, this falls way short of that. Also, it does not have an extension of the violence against Women Act.
That's set to expire next month. Back pay for federal contractors that did not receive their pay affected by that 35-day shutdown last month. That is not in there as well. Now, the Senate leader today at some point will be voting this through, then it is over to the house.
The expectation here is that it will pass overwhelmingly here on Capitol Hill. That will send the bill to President Trump for his signature. The expectation is that he'll sign it. But of course, I think the failure among lawmakers, Jim, here is that they will not and cannot exhale until his actual signature is on that bill.
So of course, it's still TBD, but certainly today, by the end of the day, the House and Senate intends to send this bill to President Trump. Jim?
SCIUTTO: Certainly, no appetite on the Hill for a shutdown, we'll see if the same is true in the White House, Sunlen Serfaty, thanks very much.
HARLOW: All right, so joining us now is Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia, he serves in the House Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committee. Good morning Congressman.
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D), VIRGINIA: Good morning.
HARLOW: Thank you -- thank you for being here. And as I understand it, you are preliminary at this point, yes, on this --
CONNOLLY: Yes --
HARLOW: -- on this vote to overt a government shutdown.