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DOJ Official Says Mueller Report Not Expected Next Week; Trump Says Cohen Is Taking His Own Chances Testifying at Capitol Hill; Trump on Arrested Coast Guard Officer, Says It's A Shame; Best Picture Nominees Tackle Issues of Race; New England Patriots Owner Accused of Soliciting Sex. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired February 22, 2019 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00] SHIMON PROKUPESZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Told is that the President who as we know is planning his trip on Monday, is planning to leave, it's obviously a big trip, we're told officials do not in any way want to step on that trip. So out of concern for that given the -- obviously the attention once Mueller would be done and a report would be delivered, that landing on William Barr's desk, obviously the news it would create. There's concern it might step on the President's trip, and the officials at the Department of Justice do not want to do that. All we know is as much as we have been anticipating that this would come down next week, that's now unlikely to happen. Keep in mind this doesn't mean there's been a new development and that the team has found something new.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Good point.

PROKUPESZ: And that there's new parts of the investigation that are going to come forward. For all intents and purposes, from everyone we've been told, that the investigation is pretty much complete. There wasn't going to be any major announcements from the investigation. The only thing that tell now is that the Department of Justice from everything we've been told just does not want to step on this trip. And so, they are not going to be doing this next week. Mueller is not going to be delivering his report.

BALDWIN: OK. Got it. Thank you for the update on the timeline there. I have Nelson Cunningham standing by, former White House general counsel under President Clinton, as well as a former assistant U.S. attorney and former federal prosecutor. So, Nelson, your response to the fact that team Mueller, they don't want to step on the White House and the big trip to Vietnam.

NELSON CUNNINGHAM, FORMER WHITE HOUSE GENERAL COUNSEL UNDER PRESIDENT CLINTON: I'd like to know the sourcing on all these stories. I've been following this investigation closely since it began, and I'm wondering -- color me skeptical on whether or not we're actually going to see a report from Mueller in the coming weeks. Here's why -- he's in the middle of so many big things right now. He's just indicted roger stone. Roger stone is somebody who if he ever became a cooperating witness could give Mueller an incredibly useful roadmap into his conversations with the President, with Manafort, with Assange. Now would Mueller ever want to call him to the witness stands, absolutely not. He's a walking credibility gap. He could paint a road for Mueller -- a roadmap for Mueller, though it would be useful in painting the picture and leading him to other good evidence. There's other pieces of litigation that Mueller is still pursuing including one that was recently up before the supreme court. That has not yet been decided. Leads me to wonder why would he conclude his investigation right now? Is it because Rod Rosenstein is leaving? Rosenstein has been his protector. But Bob Barr, the new Attorney General, is somebody who Mueller has known for 30 years if not longer. They served together --

BALDWIN: Yes, yes. Let me ask you -- on Bill Barr, the new A.G. he's now to this job. I mean, he served before. He's now to this position, right, in this -- in this time. What do you think he's thinking?

CUNNINGHAM: Barr himself is a very well-known, very well-known person in Washington. He's got a reputation as a principled man. He's a mainstream lawyer. He's a mainstream conservative. I might not agree with him on, say, his views on judges, but I will agree on his views on law enforcement and the principles behind the Justice Department, the FBI, and the way the proper investigations are conducted. I ask myself as somebody who comes from the Democratic side, I look at him and say, you know, he's already been Attorney General. He didn't need to job. Would he take this job a second time just to tarnish his reputation? And that doesn't strike me as realistic. It strikes me that he -- if problems land in his lap, I think he will handle it the way we would expect, say, Rod Rosenstein to handle it or any other truly professional prosecutor. In other words, I'm actually one of those who has reasonable confidence that Attorney General Barr will handle this, any report that he's given, in an appropriate fashion.

BALDWIN: Back to your point, Nelson, on maybe Mueller taking a bit more time. I think what I'm hearing from you, you mentioned roger stone, there are several sort of loose ends. One scenario that's been tossed around is that Mueller will refer those open-ended cases to other prosecutors. So that he would have his own report, that he would drop to Mr. Barr, and then refer the others to other prosecutors. Could that not be the case here?

[15:35:00] CUNNINGHAM: Yes. It could be. We don't know what Mr. Mueller is thinking inside his ad to see what his role is. -- his head as to what his role is. We have two recent examples of what prosecutors have done with --

BALDWIN: Jaworski and Starr.

CUNNINGHAM: And Jaworski ended with no conclusions to chronology and boxes of evidence. Starr ended it with a full-pledged report that went into every jot and tittle. They were operating under different statutory schemes. Mueller is somewhere right in the middle. Having watched him a long time, I will say what he will come up with will not be as fulsome as what Ken Starr came up with and not have recommendations for impeachment which was part of can stars legislative remit.

I doubt it will be a bare-bones chronology. I think he's done a lot of work; his team has put a lot of work into this. I would imagine that any prosecutor would want to put the results of his work into one detailed document for the Attorney General's consideration. That does not mean that it will become public. It does not tell us what will become public because Barr is -- is limited by the regulations that govern him. And Barr will have to decide what can be made public. Of course, the House will have to make a determination what do we subpoena, how do we get our hands on this? That's how Jaworski's chronology made its way to the House in the Watergate era. The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed it, and the D.C. Circuit, the Court of Appeals here in Washington, approved that subpoena and ordered the documents turned over. We could see that here.

BALDWIN: Which is I believe it's Judge Beryl Howell. I was reading too much yesterday, who is presiding over the Mueller case. There's that whole piece of it. Let me play this -- this is what the President said moments ago from the oval office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Release the Mueller report, have you spoken to --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I haven't.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've had nothing --

TRUMP: I have not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you expect to?

TRUMP: At some point I guess I'll be talking about it. You know, the nice part -- it was no collusion. It was no obstruction, there was no anything. That's the nice part. There were no phone calls, no nothing. We have -- I won the race because I was a better candidate than she was. Had nothing to do with Russia. And everybody knows it's a hoax. It's one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated on the country. 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: He's referring to the Mueller report. Nelson, what are his lawyers both inside the White House, outside the White House, what are they telling him do you think?

CUNNINGHAM: Any good lawyer will prepare his client for the worst. And then prepare for best. If anybody has the courage to tell him what they fear might be coming, those could be sobering conversations. It's pretty clear that the President has not always followed the advice of his lawyers. In fact, he seems rarely to follow the advice of his lawyers. And so, you could just imagine a situation where the lawyers inside the White House are busy preparing for what could be a bombshell. It could be a nothing burger it could be somewhere in between. Without knowing how their client is going to react or how to keep their client's thumbs off of his phone.

BALDWIN: Nelson Cunningham, thank you so much for all of that. I appreciate it.

Again, the news from Shimon Prokupesz a moment ago saying there were thoughts that the Mueller report would be coming out next week. Now according to Shimon and his sourcing, it won't be next week. The special counsel's office doesn't want to step on the toes of the White House in this big trip to Vietnam next week.

I want you to listen to what the President said about his Labor Secretary who a judge found broke the law in this sweetheart deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, do you have concerns about the Labor Secretary in the Jeffrey Epstein case?

TRUMP: I don't know too much about it. I know he's done a great job as Labor Secretary. That seems like a long time ago. He's been a fantastic Labor Secretary. That's all I can tell you about him. That's all I know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about the charges against Bob Kraft?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: OK. Doug Heye is with me. Do you think the Labor Secretary is going to resign?

DOUG HEYE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I don't think -- at least in the short term. The one thing we've learned over all the scandals we've seen in Washington or in Virginia is that if a politician hunkers down, unless they are told directly that you need to resign by their boss, in this case Trump telling the secretary to resign, they're not going anywhere. That's a very different world than we were in just two or three years ago. But that's where politics are right now.

[15:40:00] BALDWIN: OK. We're going to talk to this investigative journalist who had been doing so much reporting on Epstein and the plea agreement and how it related back to the Labor Secretary and the fact he had been appointed. How this looks in Washington, the fact this person is still in the job. It's just -- we wait for the developments. I want to switch gears. Labor Secretary and the fact he had been appointed. How this looks in Washington, the fact this person is still in the job. It's just -- we wait for the developments. I want to switch gears. I was talking to nelson Cunningham about the news about Mueller. I'm sure everybody's paying attention to when will the report come out, what will Bill Barr do, the new A.G., the House could subpoena this report. What do you think?

HEYE: It shows -- we knew that next week was going to be chaotic. Now we know it's going to be slightly less chaotic. More things are coming. It seems almost an hourly basis. We're prepared for them to do on Fridays. It's less absolutely chaotic than it was an hour ago. Still, Washington is going to be out of control next week. And some of this actually I think benefits Trump. You know, when everything is so chaotic, it's very hard to focus on any one thing. BALDWIN: OK. Actually, hold on. I'm being told let's listen to

President Trump talking about election fraud in North Carolina.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, have you condemned the North Carolina election fraud? This is a big story; the Republican candidate is calling for a new election. Why can you not condemned that given you condemn other kinds --

TRUMP: I condemn any election fraud. And when I look at what's happened in California with the votes, when I look at what happened -- as you know, there was a case where they found a million fraudulent votes, when I look at what's happened in --

Excuse me, excuse me. When I look at Texas, when I look at that catastrophe that took place in Florida where the Republican candidates kept getting less and less and less and less. And fortunately, Rick Scott and Ron ended up winning their election, but it was disgraceful what happened there. I look at a lot of different places all over the country. I condemn any voter fraud of any kind -- whether Democrat or Republican. But when you look at some of the things that happened in California in particular, when you look at what happened in Texas with all of the votes they recently found were not exactly properly done, and that concludes California -- I guess they're doing a final report. I would like to see the final report. But any form of election fraud I condemn.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: This is about the Ninth Congressional District of North Carolina. You and I were texting yesterday, was it yesterday, two days ago, when I had the head of the Democratic party on, you know, this is before -- this was after we learned about the absentee bolts and the woman saying -- ballots and the woman saying she was paid to do what she said she did. We were waiting to see the President weigh in on this. He had yet to until this afternoon when he was pressed on it. Mark Harris, the Republican leading in this race, had said, you know, let's have a do-over. What do you make of the President's comments?

HEYE: In a normal world, I think Donald Trump not weighing in, a President not weighing in on something being investigated would be a good thing. Obviously, we're not in a normal world, and he's conflating this with California -- it's not clear what happened there.

BALDWIN: Yes.

HEYE: Being from North Carolina, knowing the district pretty well, this has been an ongoing problem, Bladen County, an ongoing problem where there are questions in past elections, too, about what was going on with absentee ballots. And in the primary. What we've seen here, though, is obviously a very different world where you had the candidate's son say, you know, I told dad. And you don't hear the word "dad" often in this context in politics. I told dad this is going to be a problem and don't do it. To say so under oath. Not only forced the candidate out, but essentially in communications terms gave Donald Trump permission to finally speak out against this.

BALDWIN: He did. He also said this -- I want to play this. This is what he said on Michael Cohen's testimony which is slated for next Wednesday. Public testimony up on Capitol Hill. Here was the President --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- Michael Cohen's testimony --

TRUMP: No, no. Lawyer/client. You know, he's taking his own chances.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Just jogging back, you know, we were supposed to be hearing publicly from Michael Cohen earlier this month. Then it was going to be behind closed doors. Then it was stopped. It's been the stop, start, stop, start. It's now happening next Wednesday. Do you think that there will be bombshells, or it will be much more tame than people anticipate?

HEYE: I think to assume, knowing how Michael Cohen has been the past several years, that there will be fireworks even if there aren't bombshells. We know Capitol Hill is in no mood to put up with shenanigans from Michael Cohen. I worked for Senator who said any goodwill we might have had has been worn out because Michael Cohen has delayed and delayed and said I'm too sick to come in, and then is at dinner at a restaurant that night.

[15:45:00] Capitol Hill, House Republicans and Democrats, Senate Republicans and Democrats, they're not looking for games in this case. They want to find out facts, and there will be fireworks from Michael Cohen. He has to be careful and protect himself, as well.

BALDWIN: Nelson Cunningham, we've got a microphone on you. Let me ask you the same thing with your legal mind. What are you expecting from the public hearing Wednesday?

CUNNINGHAM: I think there will be a lot. Michael Cohen has made it clear in the last few weeks that he's got a story to tell, and he wants to tell it. I'm not quite sure why he's delayed his testimony. I do know he persuaded a judge to put off the beginning of his criminal sentence by two months. Judges don't take those things lightly. They tend to do that only when they're given good medical evidence. I have to assume he's got a real medical issue. I would think that what we're going to see next week is going to be Michael Cohen taking a last stab before he goes in to try to rehabilitate his public image.

BALDWIN: OK. And we've been talking about the Coast Guard story, the cache of weapons, this plan to murder, you know, he wanted to murder something like, you know, everyone on the planet. And having this list against members of the media and members of Hollywood, Sarah Westwood is on this. We're told the President did finally weigh in on this, this Coast Guard lieutenant's alleged massacre plot. What did he say on that?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right. This is the first time that this so-called white supremacist Coast Guard was weighed in by the President. He said it's a shame a very sad thing when a thing like that happens. He said he thinks the language is nice. He denied that his rhetoric could have inspired this person who's been described as a domestic terrorist who had a hit list that included Democrats, that included media figures and some critics have said that perhaps the incendiary rhetoric used by President Trump and his allies could have created the environment in which this coast guard official allegedly did develop this plan for a mass killing. Of course, President Trump not taking responsibility for that, saying that it's not his fault. This was an isolated incident. White House officials throughout the day had sort of shied away from weighing in on this, from taking any responsibility, commenting on the link to President Trump. So, this was the first we heard President Trump condemning the attack, but not accepting responsibility for his rhetoric.

BALDWIN: Here was the President --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President when were you briefed on the Coast Guard member who was arrested for threatening Democrats and other members --

TRUMP: I'm actually getting a very final briefing and a very complete briefing in about two hours after this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any thoughts on this man --

TRUMP: I think it's a shame. Yes. I think it's a very sad thing when a thing like that happens. I've expressed that. I'm actually getting a very complete briefing in about two hours.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think you bear any responsibility for modifying your language when it comes to that?

TRUMP: No, I don't. I think my language is very nice. Yes. From China, from China.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The trade conflict has been one year, no negotiations going on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: It's a shame sound bite I want to play talking about this, you know, white supremacist Coast Guard lieutenant and plot to massacre so many people. And the President, you know, until five seconds ago essentially hadn't weighed in but was quick to jump in on, say, Jussie Smollett.

HEYE: Yes. Again, if you're waiting to determine all the facts, we have a lot of politicians might be wanting to do that more. Chris Cillizza wrote a great piece people were rushing to weigh in and offer condemnation before they know what's happening. That's fine -- for Donald Trump waiting normally is a good thing. He waits, he picks and chooses on what he waits in or weighs in on. That's ultimately the problem. When he gives the milquetoast that's a shame, it seems he's not doing enough and picking and childhood choosing his battles.

BALDWIN: Thank you so much. Good to see you. As you see, a busy Friday. We're going to have more coming up next on the indictment of R&B singer R. Kelly.

Also charges against New England Patriots Owner Robert Kraft for soliciting sex at a day spa in Florida.

[15:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: It is time for the Oscars this weekend. Nominees are reflecting on the issues hitting home for so many Americans. Here is Stephanie Elam.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: From the immigration debate to views on the racial divide in America, some of the pressing issues facing the country could be on the minds of Oscar voters when they cast a ballot.

[15:55:00] MATTHEW BELLONI, JOURNALIST, "THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER": A lot of people end up voting not just for what they enjoyed the most but for what a movie represents.

ELAM: A star is born may no longer be the front runner. Pushed aside by Roma now considered the one to beat.

BELLONI: Roma is not an overtly political film but certainly of the moment right now. It is a story about a Mexican woman in the '70s. She's a domestic worker. It resonates with the debate this going on right now in America about immigration.

ELAM: A pair of films tackle race in America. Spike Lee's "Black Klansman" even includes video footage from the attack in Charlottesville, Virginia.

"Greenbook" takes a more populist approach to racial tension. But that has divided Hollywood.

BELLONI: The criticism is that it subscribes to the theory of the white savior, the white character that comes in and makes it OK for the black person to love or to accept.

ELAM: But the movie is a box office hit and the Producers Guilds best picture, a sign more traditional Academy members still have influence.

BELLONI: The kind of voter that went for "Driving Miss Daisy" 30 years ago.

ELAM: With the big win at the Screen Actors Guild Awards "Black Panther" can't be ruled out. It's nearly all black cast elevated the super hero film into the cultural conversation.

BELLONI: Is it the best picture of the year? We can debate that. It is the most meaningful picture for the future of Hollywood? Probably.

ELAM: Stephanie Elam, CNN, Hollywood.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Thank you. Back to our breaking news here out of New England and Jupiter, Florida. The Patriots owner, Bob Kraft, charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution. More on that with Jason Carol in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about the charges against Bob Kraft? He is a friend of yours.

TRUMP: Well, it's very sad. I'm very surprised to see it. He has proclaimed his innocence totally. But I am very surprised to see it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: President Trump commenting on this scandal that has now hit the New England Patriots. Owner Robert Kraft just has been charged with two counts of soliciting sex. Quote, "stunning investigators" that is the word straight from the chief of police his mouth down in Jupiter, Florida. Kraft is now wanted and prosecutors are now filing an arrest warrant for him. No word on when or where Kraft will turn himself in for these misdemeanor charges. A police detective added this about the allegations against the billionaire whose team just won the sixth Super Bowl title earlier this month

CNN national correspondent Jason Carroll is with me now. First just on the Robert Kraft side, how is he responding?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He's put out a statement to raise spokesperson that says, "the NFL is aware of the ongoing law enforcement matter." As far him himself his spokesperson says, "We categorically deny he engaged any illegal activity. Because it is a judicial matter we will not be commenting further."

The reason why the President was commenting about this is because you know --

BALDWIN: They are friends.

CARROLL: They friends. He has been down at Mar-a-Lago visiting down there on several occasions. Jupiter, Florida about 20 minutes or so from Mar-a-Lago were all of this happened. Investigators actually have been dealing this investigation for several months. They came up with the names of 25 so called Johns.

And as you heard there, detectives were shocked when Robert Kraft ended up being one of them. But they say they have the evidence.

BALDWIN: They said they have video.

[16:00:00] CARROLL: Video of the --

BALDWIN: Of the acts.

CARROLL: Of the paid acts is what they are calling it. There is video of him being driven to the facility as well. All of this came about because of this day spa that is located in a strip mall next to a yogurt shop, there was allegations of sex trafficking going on at this establishment that extends beyond Florida that extends to New York, that extends to China. Women allegedly being held against their will and forced to commit sex acts. So very serious allegation surrounding what's going on. What is going to be interesting to happen here, I mean these are misdemeanors. And so very little jail time if any normally associated with these types of things. But the NFL has its own personal conduct policy that owners have held to a higher standard. In fact, 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.

BALDWIN: We'll watch for the fallout. Thank you very much.