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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump To Meet With Kim Jong Un As Cohen Testifies And House Votes To Block National Emergency For Wall Funding; Trump: I Will Veto Dem Resolution On National Emergency; Michael Cohen To Testify Publicly On Same Day As Kim Summit; Patriots Owner Caught in Sex Sting?; New Info Expected in Mueller Probe. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired February 22, 2019 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:00]

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: When you pull out the policy book, it states that owners are held to a higher standard and will be subject to more significant discipline when violations occur.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: We will watch for the fallout, if there is fallout. Again, he vehemently denies.

Jason Carroll, thank you very much. Good to see you.

Thank you for being with me.

"THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: What clues might the new Mueller filing reveal? It's going to land by midnight tonight.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Breaking news, House Democrats kicking off a fight with the new attorney general, demanding the full Mueller report be made public, as we also get new details on just when the Mueller report itself will drop.

The president has a new favorite reality TV show, the 2020 Democratic campaign. He's tuning in to all the rallies, town halls, commentaries, who he wants to run against and how he plans to sow division among Democrats -- coming up.

Plus, the owner of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, Robert Kraft, a billionaire, accused of soliciting for sex at a day spa. Police say there is video evidence. Kraft says he didn't do it.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Soon, special counsel Robert Mueller will reveal brand-new clues. Mueller's sentencing memo for former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort is due at D.C. District Court by midnight tonight. What could be the last opportunity for the public to learn where all of this is headed before the Mueller report, although a DOJ official now tells CNN that Mueller is not expected to deliver his report to Attorney General Barr next week, as had previously been reported.

Moments ago, top House Democrats just wrote to Barr, demanding the full report be released to the public. This is a setting off a battle before the report has even been delivered.

Today's Manafort memo is set to include an outline of all the facts about the case that prosecutors believe the judge should consider before deciding how much time the former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort should spend behind bars.

We should learn details of Manafort's crimes, about his cooperation and lack of cooperation. He's been in jail, Manafort, since June for witness tampering. And while the president has been publicly suggesting that there is a pardon available for Manafort, "The New York Times" reports that the Manhattan district attorney's preparing state charges against the former Trump campaign chair as an insurance policy to guarantee that Manafort faces prison time even if the president pardons his federal crimes.

CNN's Pamela Brown joins me now.

And, Pamela, at the center of the Manafort case are his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, who Mueller says has ties with Russian military intelligence. That's the same group, the GRU, that interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

So it's possible that any minute we're going to learn about more than just Manafort's financial crimes.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right.

I tell you, reporters covering the Russia probe from the beginning or anxiously awaiting this memo, because it will likely cover Manafort and Kilimnik's alleged contacts with potential witnesses after Manafort's arrest in his lies about interactions with Kilimnik in 2016, as well as other topics.

And the sentencing memo, Jake, it, as you pointed out, is expected to be released before midnight. So we're waiting to see what prosecutors will say about Manafort giving, as you recall, the Trump campaign internal polling data to Kilimnik during the election. That in and of itself has raised questions of whether the Russians used that data to help with targeting on social media during the campaign.

We're waiting to see if there will be more on that front. The filing could also reveal more about other key contacts Manafort had after his arrest and more about his alleged lies to prosecutors.

So today's finally is significant because it's one of the last opportunities for Mueller's team to tell the public of its overarching theory of what happened during the 2016 campaign and the communications between Manafort and Kilimnik, which really strikes at the heart of what Mueller has been looking at -- Jake.

TAPPER: And, Pamela, prosecutors have previously said that Manafort should face up to 25 years in prison. He's 69 years old. They also want him to pay tens of millions of dollars in fines for tax and bank fraud.

What kind of punishment do we think we're going to hear today?

BROWN: So it's unclear exactly, but the bottom line here, Jake, is Manafort, as you pointed out, he turns 70 in a month.

So he's likely going to spend the rest of his life in jail, behind bars, regardless of what Mueller's team asks today in terms of punishment. So the most highly anticipated part of this sentencing memo is really what we learn from Mueller's team that can answer this question of possible coordination with Russians during the 2016 campaign and potential lies following that to cover it up.

But details about Manafort's cooperation, as you know, Jake, have been especially guarded by prosecutors, since his interviews have been such a significant part of the Russian influence investigation. So it will be interesting to see what prosecutors choose to reveal today -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Pamela Brown, thank you so much.

[16:05:00]

We're going to talk with our experts right now.

Let's start with the fact that six Democratic committee chairs just wrote a letter to the brand-new attorney general, Bill Barr, which says in part -- quote -- "The public is entitled to know what the special counsel has found. We write to you to express in the strongest possible terms our expectation that the Department of Justice will release to the public the report special counsel Mueller submits to you without delay and to the maximum extent permitted by law."

Obviously, there will be redactions for confidential, secret information, but it sounds like the House Democrats are willing to sue.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, they mean business, and it needs to be public.

Obviously, House Democrats have a reason they're putting that out. It's to their benefit, or they think it is, to put it out publicly, but if you're Donald Trump, or even his supporters, and there's nothing to hide, why wouldn't it be public?

So I think they are anticipating that there will be a big public pressure to make it public as well, because the public is entitled to know what's in there.

It's also -- I think Democrats should also remember to set expectations here. We don't know what's in it. But also this is -- by mandate, it's going to be a concise report. It's not going to be 500 pages. His mandate is limited to -- specific to the Russia investigation.

So it's not going to touch every tentacle of everything that we have talked -- been talking about for the last two years. It is more of a road map for what needs to happen moving forward, which is why it also needs to be public, so that the American people know why Congress is doing certain things, why parts of the justice system are doing certain things.

So there are many justifications for it. I think it's smart for them to get ahead of the release before it's a debate with that in mind.

TAPPER: It's entirely possible, Mary Katharine, that we have seen the last Mueller indictment, that Roger Stone was it, and that this report is not actually going to have evidence of conspiracy, direct evidence of conspiracy.

Obviously, many Democrats on the Hill think that there's circumstantial evidence. Why not -- is there -- I assume that you believe in releasing everything because that's generally your position. But is there a good argument against releasing as much as possible?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I believe in releasing as much as possible because we paid for it. So I'm on board for that.

(CROSSTALK)

HAM: But, yes, I'm not sure what the argument is for not releasing it, because I think even many Trump supporters don't get the feeling this is a huge blockbuster.

Democrats are obviously -- whatever is in it are going to probably take it as a road map vs. -- as opposed to closure, which is what many Trump supporters would prefer.

But I do think there needs to be some sort of closure. This has been two years of a very, very public or very, very public process going on behind closed doors, ironically, and there needs to be some sort of conclusion to it.

And so I think as public as possible is good for all of -- actually for the nation, not just for the process.

TAPPER: Jamal, what do you make of the fact that the Manhattan district attorney is preparing this indictment so that if President Trump pardons Paul Manafort, and we're going to hear any minute now on what the final sentencing recommendation is, that they will just file state charges, and Manafort can go to prison that way, because a president cannot pardon for state crimes?

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, first of all, what an outrage that that's something that the prosecutors feel like they have to do to just try to protect themselves at the Justice Department, protect themselves from the president interfering in their investigation.

We get used to this stuff because it happens all the time, but it just seems like this is such a -- so outrageous. I was in Dayton, Ohio, last weekend at a friend's from college birthday party. Everybody there, everybody there from 40 to 75 years old wanted to know what was going to happen with the Mueller report.

I just don't see a way...

TAPPER: And I'm sure they thought that you had all the...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: You knew everything.

SIMMONS: They thought I had all the information. Right. I had seen the whole thing.

(LAUGHTER)

SIMMONS: I don't see a way that they cannot release this and the American public won't be in outrage that they don't.

TAPPER: And what are you looking for, if anything, in the Manafort document that we're going to get that by midnight tonight?

Mueller going to put forward basically the last -- his last hurrah when it comes to specifically just what they're saying Manafort did, what he did wrong, his cooperation, his lack of cooperation, everything.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: So I -- coming from the polling world, I'm really going to be looking to see if there's any new information we learn about the extent to which Manafort shared polling data that was either internal to the Trump campaign, or what have you, with his contacts within either Russian or Ukrainian...

TAPPER: Konstantin Kilimnik, yes.

SOLTIS ANDERSON: Exactly.

This was something that I believe leaked because Manafort's lawyer sort of incorrectly redacted a document, and so that's kind of how we know that that might be in there.

Coming from the polling world, I mean, I know very closely how important that kind of information can be when making strategic decisions. And I assume that, if that occurred, that that would be a key component of trying to make the case that Paul Manafort acted in ways that were improper, and that would draw perhaps the closest connection between a campaign and Russia itself.

So, from coming from the polling world, I'm looking to see if there's any new insight we get about what polling information, if any, was shared, with whom it was shared, and what could have been learned from it.

SIMMONS: There's a related point to that, I think, which is, did Paul -- how and why did Paul Manafort interfere with the RNC platform process on the Ukrainian question?

(CROSSTALK) [16:10:03]

SIMMONS: Right?

PSAKI: Absolutely.

I think what's really interesting to watch, as all legal analysts are saying we should expect a narrative kind of that repeats his crimes and sort of how it came all together. We haven't totally seen that yet.

So what would be interesting is how this is all tied together. Is he more than just a sketchy foreign lobbyist? How does the RNC platform tie with the meeting he had with Kilimnik, tie with the polling data? Does it tie together?

That would be a more concrete understanding for all of us about not just Manafort's dirty business dealings, but how this ties into the 2016 campaign and to Trump specifically?

TAPPER: And this has been one of the big questions, Mary Katharine, the whole time, is who in Russia is so sophisticated that they know to go after this demographic in Pennsylvania and this demographic in Wisconsin?

And this might be the answer. It might not be.

HAM: Right.

To me, that's the big line is very simply what happened and what dealings did he have after he joined the campaign or very shortly before? Because it was no secret that he was a shady character of some sort long before 2016.

TAPPER: For decades.

HAM: And I think you can check the tape on me from 2016 saying that.

TAPPER: Yes.

HAM: But what matters in this case is what happened -- or not in this particular legal case, but for the purposes of the Mueller stuff, is post-2016, when he joined in March.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. We got a lot more to talk about.

President Trump just commented on the looming Mueller report, as he prepares to head overseas to meet with North Korea's Kim Jong-un. What did he have to say? We will bring you that next.

Then, one of America's most famous sports team owners caught in the middle of a prostitution sting -- what police say New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft did, not once, but twice.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:15:44] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And we are back with our "Politics Lead." Next week could potentially be the most consequential of the Trump presidency and we just heard him talk all about it.

The President will meet face to face for the second time with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in the President's quest for the denuclearization of the peninsula and the Nobel Peace Prize. His former fixer and attorney, Michael Cohen, will testify publicly in an open hearing on Capitol Hill the same day as the summit and the Democrats in the House will vote on legislation to block the President's national emergency declaration to build his border wall.

As CNN's Abby Phillip now reports, Trump administration official say they are entirely focused on the summit, however, and the President's agenda.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) about the release of the Mueller report? Have you spoken to him about that?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I have not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've said nothing within that (ph)?

TRUMP: I have not.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump answering questions today about the looming Russia probe report. While behind scenes, the White House prepares for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to hand it over and ends his investigation.

TRUMP: There was no collusion. There was no on obstruction of. There was no anything. So I look forward to seeing the report. If it's an honest report, it will say that. If it's not an honest report, it won't.

PHILLIP: Press Secretary Sarah Sanders says once the final report is done don't expect the President to weigh in on whether it should be made public.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Again, the President is going to leave that decision up to the attorney general. Just because he hasn't made that call he is following the proper process.

PHILLIP: She says the White House is ready whatever the outcome, but insists staffers aren't focused on the probe. Those comments coming just hours after the President tweeted that there is no collusion and the witch hunt so bad for our country must end.

The Mueller report is just one of several possible headaches facing the White House as Trump heads overseas to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un the same day as the Trump-Kim summit. Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, is set to testify on Capitol Hill both publicly and behind closed doors.

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: I'm done with the lying. I'm done being loyal to President Trump.

PHILLIP: On Tuesday, House Democrats are expected to vote on a resolution of disapproval, aimed at blocking the national emergency Trump declared to build a wall on the southern border.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: There is no emergency at this border. If there were, we'd all be there with him.

PHILLIP: Then there's President Trump's trip to meet with Kim, which could also prove to be a disappointment. As White House officials are now tampering expectations for the summit, a mid doubts about whether Kim is serious about denuclearization.

SANDERS: We're taking those one step at a time. We're continuing to see positive progress and we think that's a good thing, but we're not going to be naive in the process. We know we have a long way to go.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIP: And President Trump also told reporters in the Oval Office today that he would 100 percent veto that resolution of disapproval that the House Democrats are planning to vote on next week when it comes to his national emergency.

He also expressed some -- his belief that he doesn't believe that that resolution would survive his veto, so he's not surprisingly saying that he will win out on this one at the end, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Abby Phillip, thanks so much.

And let's take a listen to what President Trump actually said about vetoing this Democratic resolution to block his emergency declaration to get his border wall funds.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: On the wall? Will I veto? 100 percent. 100 percent, and I don't think it survives a veto. We have too many smart people that want border security, so I can't imagine if that it could survive a veto, but I will veto it, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: It does seem as though that's where this is headed. I don't know if it's going to make it the way it works as if it passes the House, and it will, then it goes to the Senate. Mitch McConnell has to bring it up under this law. And I don't know if it has enough votes to pass the Senate, but it definitely doesn't have a veto proof majority.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST AND POLLSTER: That's right. And I think as a result you may see a number of Republicans who had public misgivings about the national emergency declaration before it happened and who maybe have then softened on their position a little now that's it's reality not vote to oppose it.

Because if it's -- ultimately if the legislation is not going to work, if the President can veto it, they may just sort of say, "Well, it's not worth taking a stance. It's going to get me in trouble with my base but not really have any effect." I imagine that is the thinking of a lot of Republican lawmakers who on principle grounds don't like that the President has done this, but don't -- but feel powerless to do anything.

[16:20:06] TAPPER: And there are a number of Republicans who are up for reelection in purple states. Susan Collins in Maine, Cory Gardner in Colorado, Martha McSally in Arizona, who might not want to vote on this at all because they're in purple states.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, it's a tough thing to have to be on record about, which is the point of Democrats putting it in front of them. But I think the -- I think Kristen's read on this is right, that you probably get a lot of people softening a little bit more not wanting to vote on this, even though I think they should because they should vote their (INAUDIBLE) and power grounds are not great for any executive branch no matter what party.

But I think the clarity on this will come from the courts and I hope that by -- via it going through the courts you might get some more clarity on what powers the executive actually has in this area.

TAPPER: Next week is going to be big. It's not just this vote, it's also going to be Michael Cohen is going to testify three times, once publicly before the Oversight Committee run by Chairman Cummings. President Trump was asked about Michael Cohen testifying. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any concern about Michael Cohen's testimony before Congress this week?

TRUMP: No, no, no.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, (INAUDIBLE).

TRUMP: The lawyer is lying but, you know, he's taking his own chances.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now, to be clear, there's something going he is not allowed to talk about, but he will be expected to be ask about hush money payments to women alleging affairs to President Trump, the President's compliance with tax laws, various conflicts of interest, business practices, accuracy of the President's public statements and attempts by the President to intimidate Cohen and intimidate others. Do you think he is really not worried?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. I mean, he's always winning and he's going to say he's winning. But, you know, the Michael Cohen testimony is like cotton candy and sugar rush to everybody who watches these things in Washington and well beyond.

And while there is certainly a scope of what he can and can't talk about as it relates to, you know, investigations, Democrats are going to ask him about all sorts of things about Trump to make Trump look incompetent, to make his judgment look bad, to kind of draw this narrative that he was directing these. We've already, of course, seen that come out. So that's what -- that is what is to be anticipated.

Now, Trump has been looking forward to this summit, but this is really -- it's a photo op. There's not going to be real negotiating and real deal making that happens at this meeting. What I've heard from people who work on this issues is that what they're hoping to do is reset it because the last time they met Trump made all of these promises to Kim Jong-un, then Pompeo and others had to kind of walk them back and now they need Trump to kind of reset it so they can actually make progress. That's good, but that doesn't mean that there's going to be a big victory coming at the end of this week either. That's highly unlikely. It could be months from then.

TAPPER: In fact, President Trump just talked about that. He talked about this upcoming summit, which is the same day as the Michael Cohen public hearing, probably not coincidentally at least -- as far as the Democrat scheduling is concern. But take a listen to President Trump talking about the summit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We have had such a great relationship and China has helped us a lot with North Korean, with Kim Jong-un since I got to office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: What do you think?

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Oh, I think that if President is going to go to the summit, who knows what he's going to say when he's in the room. But whatever it is, it's not going to be true two weeks later, right? I mean, what we've discovered is that President Trump goes into this environment and we never quite know what's real and what's not.

And that is a thing that's most disturbing I think as just a citizen of the republic is you can't really trust what the President says on any day. That takes us back to the Michael Cohen testimony because none of these people are good people. It's not like we've got some shining angel on one side and some devil on the other. They're all kind of murky and people have got to weight into this mess. I think it's just bad for the entire country.

ANDERSON: Well, and I'm expecting that the Republican questions to Michael Cohen will seek to underscore your point, that every -- that he is perhaps not the most credible person, that he has a shady path that perhaps when he's saying things about the dirty deeds he did on behalf of the President, perhaps that reflects more on him that the man he was serving. TAPPER: What do you make of the prospect of actually there being a deal at this summit? Obviously, I think everybody hopes for one, but the President's own director of national intelligence said that they just don't think North Korea is ever going to want to denuclearize.

HAM: Yes. I would say unlikely I'm happy to be proven wrong. I worry about the President's clarity of -- like his moral compass in the room and his consistency on these things. But I also -- I'm OK with doing something different on North Korea because we've been doing the same thing for many, many, many -- for several decades now with not a lot of results. So him being a very unorthodox actor in some ways can give you more openings for things, but I am worried about how that actually play about.

PSAKI: Look, that's true. I mean, things were set for a while and now thing have gotten a lot worse with North Korea -- I mean, with North Korea in terms of their capabilities over the last couple of years. But I think a lot of Democrats would say if they're being totally honest that this is -- it's good to break the log jam.

[16:25:05] I think the concern is that the document coming out of the last summit was a farce (ph) and it kind of gave them more leverage and public propaganda than did anything useful. So the question is, can they reset so ambassador (ph) could be craft and others can really get something going?

TAPPER: Everyone stick around. Coming up, a sex sting surprise. Up next, the billionaire owner of the New England Patriots and what police say he illegally did inside a Florida day spas. Stay with us.