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Andrew McCabe Says Department of Justice Discussed Removing Trump Using 25th Amendment; Judge Says Manafort Lied to Mueller About Russia Contacts; Feinstein Meets with Joe Biden, Believes He Will Run for President; Avenatti Claims Tape Shows R. Kelly Having Sex with Underage Girl. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired February 14, 2019 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello on this Thursday. I'm Ana Cabrera in for Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thanks so much for being here. He was fired from his job as FBI Deputy Director just two days away from missing his retirement. He missed his retirement money because of this. And now for the first time, Andrew McCabe is publicly confirming stunning claims involving the Justice Department and President Trump. McCabe says top Justice Department officials actually held meetings to discuss removing President Trump from office by using the 25th amendment. That news comes as a judge sides with Robert Mueller and says Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, intentionally lied to the special counsel, the FBI, and a grand jury about, among other things, his contacts with Russia.

And that means Manafort just broke his plea deal. More on Manafort in just a moment, but first, I want to just stop and take note of where we are in American politics today. The former FBI deputy director is confirming previous reports that Justice Department officials discussed invoking the 25th amendment and recruiting cabinet members to remove President Trump from office. Now, that amendment provides procedures to replace the President or the Vice President, because of death, removal, resignation, or incapacitation. Andrew McCabe's revelations today sparked a swift and sharp response from Vice President Pence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This President has been producing for the American people and I couldn't be more proud to stand with him and the words and the writings of a disgraced FBI agent won't change that fact --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you have never heard of this before?

PENCE: I have never heard any discussion of the 25th amendment by any member of this administration and I would never expect to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Andrew McCabe also opened up about why he launched an obstruction of justice probe against the President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: 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 made that decision.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You wanted a documentary record that those investigations has begun, because you feared that they would be made to go away.

MCCABE: That's exactly right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Dana Bash is CNN's chief political correspondent and James Gagliano is a retired FBI supervisory special agent and a CNN law enforcement analyst. Let me just start with you, dana. Let's talk about all of these different pieces. CNN first reported this 25th amendment conversation back in September. And you'll recall, at the time, and again today, deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, denied the reports. He's denying it again today, that there was any basis to invoke the clause, based on his own personal interactions with Trump. Rosenstein also previously said that he was kidding when he talked about wearing a wire to record President Trump, but McCabe says that wasn't a joke, and that Rosenstein actually talked to FBI lawyers about it. Dana, this is extraordinary, that we are hearing this from McCabe's own mouth!

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, it absolutely is. And on the Rosenstein statement, I don't know about you, but I thought it was very carefully worded, saying there was no basis for invoking the 25th amendment. Not that they never discussed it. That was, that was, I thought, intentionally left out of the statement. Now, whether, if it goes -- if he's pressed on that later on, whether he would again say, you know, we're not serious, the way he did about the wiretap, who knows, but he didn't outright deny that, which I found really, really noteworthy. Look, this is, in Andrew McCabe, somebody who has been, from his perspective, wronged by the people he dedicated his life to serve for many, many years, in that he was fired before he could get his pension. And he also, obviously, has a very different perspective than the people in the Trump administration. And he wants to get his story out and he's got a book to sell. It doesn't mean what he's saying is inaccurate. But what it does mean is that you have to put that into the context of what he is doing now, with regard to the 25th amendment. I do think it does make sense and it's a pattern what you heard from him and from Comey, wanting to make sure that you get the systems in place that Jim can talk a lot more about, because he knows about the FBI system, it's a system that's in place to make sure that whatever it is they're working on is documented and is recorded and maybe even is launched.

[14:05:09] CABRERA: And is protected. BASH: That's the word. Is protected.

CABRERA: It's one thing, Jim, to launch an investigation. It's another thing to be talking about invoking the 25th amendment of the President of the United States. How does it escalate to that point?

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST, RETIRED FBI SUPERVISORY AGENT: Yes, in the issue of full disclosure, I know Andy McCabe personally. I worked with him on the New York s.w.a.t. team in the FBI back in the early 2000s. I respect him personally. Some of the things that have come out, through the IG's report that's come out last June, there's some things that he's done, that he'll have to deal with going forward. As we rightly criticize the President for saying things that are not true, we can also criticize Mr. McCabe for two times, four times not speaking the truth. But having said that, the FBI's mission is to support and uphold the constitution of the United States, to investigate allegations of criminal activity, bereft of fear or favor. And what I fear happened in this, I think good people were working in a period of time when there were a lot of consternation and things going on early 2016, 2017, and I think some decisions were made where people went outside of the guardrails, outside of the protections and the processes and protocols that were in place where the FISA was involved, and where decisions were made. The FBI's deputy director doesn't determine whether or not cases get opened or closed. That case was opened, the Russian collusion case. If the deputy director was fired, I do not any that that would have stopped it, but I think there was some panic on the seventh floor of the FBI headquarters. And I think Mr. McCabe, it was too close to him, and I think there was some panic that caused him to be concerned about this.

CABRERA: Let me jump off of that. Because you call it panic.

GAGLIANO: Yes.

CABRERA: I look at what he's just shared, wire, talking about the 25th amendment, talking about opening up the investigation about the President of the United States. I mean, it sounds like people internally were freaking out. These are career Justice Department people.

GAGLIANO: True.

CABRERA: Longtime seasoned investigators.

GAGLIANO: Yes.

CABRERA: How do you explain it?

GAGLIANO: I explain it this way. When I was a young FBI agent in 1991, I was on a drug squad. Another young man wanted to work in the drug squad, as well. And the FBI director made a determination not to do that, because this person, this FBI agent's brother had been a cop and had been killed by a drug dealer a number of years before that. Decisions have to be made that emotions have to be taken out of those sterile, antiseptic, and Ana, to your point, I get it. People were panicked at the time. But as the deputy director, and Mr. McCabe as a young man thrust into that position, as a deputy director, you have to be the calm in the chaos. You have to step back and say, we followed the rules. If this President needs to be removed, there are remedies for that. The ballot box or the 25th amendment.

BASH: Right. I hear what you're saying, but I think what you're raising is also an important point, is that he thought he was being the calm one there, by maybe going outside the traditional guardrails, but not knowing what he didn't know, meaning the investigation was already underway, not as far as long as it is now, and not as advanced as it is now. And the little bits of information they had led them to see a five-alarm fire with regard to the potential for the President of the United States to have been very much involved with Russians or at least his campaign. They didn't have all the details of that that hopefully we'll learn from Mueller very soon. And that is why he reacted the way he did, whether he went overboard, whether it was an Al Haig moment or not.

GAGLIANO: I'm in charge.

CABRERA: We'll find, we'll see. Both of you, stand by. Thank you for that analysis. I want to move on to the Manafort news. The President's ex-campaign chairman is not the first former Trump official caught in a lie, but now he is the first Trump-linked defendant who lied after cutting a deal with the special counsel. That was the ruling just made by a federal judge. She found that Manafort was not truthful about his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian believed to have ties with Russian intelligence. The judge also found that he lied about legal bills and he lied about information material to another unnamed Justice Department investigation. The judge did find, however, that the special counsel failed to prove Manafort lied on a couple of other issues, his interactions with the White House officials since the President took office. And Manafort's comments on Kilimnik's role in an attempt to influence witnesses.

[14:10:00] Dana Bash is back with me, also here now is CNN legal analyst, Ellie Honig, a former attorney for the Southern District of New York. So, Elie, how would Manafort been able -- Mueller been able to Manafort that intentionally lied about these things?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, is it the kind of thing that you would likely just misremember, as Manafort's lawyers tried to argue, or is it the kind of thing that there was no common-sense way a person would misremember, or that he had a motive to misstate it. And I thought it was really interesting, Mueller's team got into the motive. Why did he misstate it? One of the interesting things the lawyer said was, he was trying to augment his chances to get a pardon. What does that tell you? There's really only one person in the entire world who can issue a pardon to Paul Manafort. So, I thought that was an interesting little bread crumb.

CABRERA: But do you think that is alone explaining his motivation for lying, or could there be other motivations?

HONIG: There could be numerous motivations. They said on the record, that was one. But lying is a complex thing. People lie usually for a reason. But it can be a complex combination of reasons. It could have been to protect himself. It could have been to protect others. It probably wasn't just loosely done. Because understand the stakes of this lie that Paul Manafort told. I mean, this was it for him. He's 69 years old. He's looking at a heavy sentence. This chance to cooperate, other than a pardon, was his last out. And now that he blew it, he's going to get buried at his sentence.

BASH: Also the fact that he lied knowing that Rick Gates, his longtime deputy, was cooperating and could likely corroborate what the prosecutors think or prove that he's lying, which may or may not be how the prosecutors are so sure that he lied and how the judge is so sure now, more importantly, that he lied, that also makes you wonder why even and especially given that, he still went ahead and lied. Who is he trying to protect? Is it as simple as he's trying to get a pardon? Or is it something even deeper?

CABRERA: So, Elie, what happens to Manafort now?

HONIG: He goes to sentence, he gets the book thrown at him, he's going to get double-digit years and he has to sit back and wait for a pardon. There's no other escape hatch for him. Will he get a pardon? I don't think so. First of all, he can't hurt the President anymore. He is done as a cooperator. He can't -- Mueller will not cooperate him, the southern district will not cooperate him. He is -- what we used to call burned as a cooperator. So, he can't hurt Trump anymore. On the other hand, if Trump pardons him, Trump embraces all this stuff. That's going to hurt Trump politically. My guess is Trump doesn't pardon him or at least not until after November 2020

BASH: And what I am told by Trump sources is that while the President has been incredibly positive about Paul Manafort, you know, as he's been tweeting and talking publicly --

CABRERA: He has been very empathetic.

BASH: Empathetic over the past several years, I guess, year plus, that changed a bit when he found out, when the President found out about this meeting with Kilimnik. That Manafort did while he was Donald Trump's campaign chairman.

CABRERA: This was in August of 2016, the one you're referring to. Before he was fired.

BASH: Yes.

CABRERA: Where he believes is perhaps where he got the polling information.

BASH: These are people, obviously, the subtext of this is this these people I'm talking to insist that Trump didn't know anything about that meeting. And so, the idea and the notion of a pardon really did slip greatly, now that the President knows that he actually was talking to Russians while he was working on the Trump campaign.

CABRERA: That is significant. We've got to leave it there. Dana Bash, Ellie Honig.

Breaking news regarding R&B Star R. Kelly. A new video reportedly shows Kelly having sex with an underage girl.

Also, breaking news, Amazon pulling the plug on plans to build a campus in New York City and wit some 25,000 jobs. Did political pressure, including freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez kill this mega deal.

And we have this just in as well, after a private meeting with Joe Biden, a Democratic senator revealing what she thinks he's about to announce. Stand by.

[14:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Just in, a potentially significant 2020 development. Let's get right to CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. Manu, what have you learned?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I just spoke to Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who spoke to Joe Biden, the former Vice President this morning, and she came away thinking after that meeting that Joe Biden will, in fact, run for the Democratic Presidential nomination. Now, she was also -- I asked her explicitly, did he say that he would, in fact, run. She said, no, he didn't explicitly say so, but the impression she came with was, in fact, he will. She said, oh, yes, when I asked her, do you think he's going to run for President? Biden behind the scenes has had a range of conversations with close confidants, friends, advisers. He's known Dianne Feinstein for a very long time. Feinstein has said in the past that she would endorse a potential Biden candidacy and I asked her about it here. And she said, he made me the first woman on the Judiciary Committee 26 years ago and I have never forgotten it. I've known him and worked with him and it's just a logical step for me. Now, there's a big question here in the 2020 race is what Joe Biden will do. It's a very crowded field, but if the former Vice President and former Delaware Senator were to jump into this race, it would have a dramatic impact, re-shuffle the race going forward. So, all eyes are on Joe Biden and that decision as he talks behind the scenes about what to do. But at least in this one conversation, one key

senator believes that Biden is ready to do it. The question is, will he? And when will he make that announcement?

[14:20:00] CABRERA: Dana, your reaction to this and what would the impact be if he jumps into the race?

BASH: Well, Manu just said that it is very true that Dianne Feinstein has been very open about the fact that she wants Joe Biden to run for President, she wants him to be President, she even had to sort of massage that when it was obvious that she was saying that and the junior senator from California, Kamala Harris, was also going to run.

CABRERA: Her home state.

BASH: Exactly. And so, so, yes, so some of it might be wishful thinking, but she also, this isn't her first rodeo. And Senator Feinstein has talked to many a potential Presidential candidate and this one is somebody who she, as Manu said, is very, very close with and has been for more than a quarter century. So, you know, we'll see. But I think that the other important point is that one of the reasons why this is so newsworthy is because everybody wants to know, what's Joe Biden going to do? Because it's not just the people who are already in the race, I think even more importantly, it's the people who have not yet declared. Will they run? Somebody like Michael Bloomberg, for example.

CABRERA: And would a Biden candidacy make Michael Bloomberg more or less likely to run?

BASH: Probably less likely. They're good friends, I think they consider themselves in the same lane within the Democratic primary electorate. And so that's just one example. And there are other examples. Because, look, Joe Biden is in these early polls. A lot of it is name i.d., but in these early polls in the early states, he's on top. He's been there. He's been there in primaries or caucuses with regard to Iowa, he's been there in the general election cycles. So, they know him. And everybody's just waiting to see what the calculus is. He clearly has this desire to do it and that obviously is what Senator Feinstein picked up on, but he also has other issues, family issues and issues with the fact that he has done it before many times. And whether it's time for someone younger to take over.

CABRERA: So here we wait. Another little carrot dangled in front of all of us to see when he's going to jump in. And no definitive answers just yet. Thank you so much, Dana Bash.

BASH: Thank you.

CABRERA: Breaking news we want to get to involving R&B Star R. Kelly. Prosecutors now looking at a newly surfaced video that according to lawyer Michael Avenatti shows Kelly having sex with an underage girl.

Plus, the wife of the White House communications chief goes on a very public anti-vaccine rant. We have Dr. Sanjay Gupta here to debunk her most serious claims.

[14:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: We are following breaking news about R&B Singer R. Kelly. Attorney Michael Avenatti says he has a videotape allegedly showing Kelly engaging in graphic sex with an underage girl. Now, Avenatti claims this is a different VHS tape than the one used in another criminal case against the star in 2002. And this newly surfaced tape has been handed over to prosecutors in Kelly's hometown of Chicago. This is in addition to an investigation already underway following an explosive lifetime documentary which featured interviews with multiple women who say they were sexually abused by Kelly, some when they were in teens. CNN has reviewed this tape in question and CNN's Sara Sidner is following this for us in Los Angeles. And also, here with us is CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney, Joey Jackson. Sara, first, what do we know? How did Avenatti get this alleged tape? SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's not something that I

know and it's not something that he is revealing at this point in time. But I think what's important about this story that if everyone I have seen on this tape is accurate and everything that I have heard on this tape is an accurate depiction, this could be potential evidence in a new case against R. Kelly. Now, we have spoken to sources on this story and I have also viewed the tape. And can I tell you that the video is graphic, it is clear, it is in a well-lit room, there are two scenes to this tape. One is in what appears to be a living room, which is very bright and well lit, and the other is in a bedroom, which is darker, but still, you can certainly see the features of both of the people who are on the tape. During the tape, and it is impossible to know this girl's age, but I do want to mention that the details I'm about to share with you right now are disturbing and so people should be forewarned before I go into a few, just a few of the details of this 42-minute-and-45-second tape. You see at one point a naked man coming into the frame who appears to be R. Kelly. Our source has identified him as R. Kelly. He is seen performing multiple sex acts with a female that is on this tape. Now, the person that is on this tape, the girl on this tape, she describes the age of her genitalia. She talks about her female genitalia, she describes it as being 14 years old, not once, but at least six different times. And he then confirms on the tape, in his own words, the age of her genitalia. We do not know how old this girl is. We have not been able to corroborate that.