Return to Transcripts main page


Manafort Sentencing Memo; Kraft Charged with Soliciting Sex; Resolution to Block National Emergency. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired February 22, 2019 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:00] ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, yes, this is embarrassing for Nike, but this company's still going to come out on top.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: First and foremost, we hope Zion is doing OK.


BOLDUAN: And that he gets back on the court.

Great to see you, Alison. Thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

KOSIK: You bet.

BOLDUAN: And thank you all so much for joining me today. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Kate.

And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

It's deadline day for prosecutors who want former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to spend years in prison. Their sentencing memo, due in court soon, could reveal important, new information about the Russia special counsel investigation.

Plus, new details on the inner workings of the Trump re-election campaign and new numbers that show the map the president raveled to his stunning 2016 victory is not as friendly anymore.

And a busy day and a busy weekend for the 2020 contenders. Kamala Harris courts African-American women at a big conference in New Orleans. And if you're a longer shot candidate, like Julian Castro, you work Iowa in small groups and build support one vote at a time.


JULIAN CASTRO (D), DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE: Here and then there, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want to tell people, I read your book. It is wonderful. Please --

CASTRO: Oh, thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go to the library, go to Costco, buy the book, whatever.


KING: We begin the hour with a big legal deadline today and an intriguing question it presents, how much is Robert Mueller ready to tell us? A midnight filing deadline today for the Russia's special counsel and what could be Mueller's last public act before he delivers his report to the Justice Department.

Today's sentencing memo for Paul Manafort gives Mueller's prosecutors a big opportunity. That opportunity is to put meat on the bones buried beneath redactions in other court filings and a chance to answer the biggest question, was there collusion and did it reach into the heart of the Trump campaign?

The president, with a morning Twitter reminder, quote, no collusion, and the president says, the witch hunt must end.

The collusion question, of course, central focus of Mueller's big investigation, and his prosecutors have hinted Manafort is central to their theory. They say Manafort complicated his predicament by lying after finally promising to cooperate. Prosecutors say those lies include contacts with the Trump White House and sharing internal Trump campaign polling data with a Russian intelligence operative. Why he lied or what he was allegedly trying to hide are among the details we could learn today.

In studio here to share their reporting and their insights, Julie Pace of "The Associated Press," Carl Hulse of "The New York Times," CNN's Shimon Prokupecz, and Tarini Parti with "BuzzFeed."

How much -- so many of these documents have been redacted. This is the final sentencing memo. They want to put Manafort away for a long time. The judge, obviously, can read what's hidden behind the redactions, but how much are we going to learn?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. So I think we're going to see probably a connection of dots here and why prosecutors think that Paul Manafort should get the sentence that they're asking for. Will it go further than any of the other documents? I'm -- it's going to be hard to say right now because I still think we're still guided by the same principles that they can't reveal information that is still under investigation.

But I think they're going to probably go deeper than they've gone in any other filings, trying to link Paul Manafort to what was really going on here, right? I think their theory -- I think you're right, their theory has been that Paul Manafort is the central figure in this entire investigation, certainly on the collusion end, whether or not he was somehow getting help from the Russians for the campaign. So that's going to probably be laid out a little bit more.

But, look, the judge already knows a lot here, right? We've got through so many different hearings, the violation of the -- the breach of the cooperation agreement. But this will -- could be -- I think what's significant, John, in all of this, is this could be the last significant filing from the Mueller team because we do expect him to wrap up, if not today, you know, any day next week.

KING: And so that's -- that's where the intrigue kicks in, in the sense that if you're Robert Mueller, you know all the public scrutiny on this investigation. You know what the president has said about you and will continue to say about you. And you know the American public, whether they're -- whether they're partisans and already have picked sides, or whether they just want to know, two years, answer the questions, this might be -- you don't know how much of your report will be made public by the Justice Department. That could be a fight down the road.

So if you look at the history of this, whether it's the Russian troll indictment, the original Manafort/Gates indictment, the Kilimnik superseding indictment, more indictments more than any -- all of these filings we've learned crumbs, we've learned little pieces. But all the redactions keep us from understanding how it all fits together.

Will Mueller feel the pressure to say, all right, this might be the last public thing I file, air it out?

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "ASSOCIATED PRESS": I -- we don't know yet, but certainly we know a lot. It's not as though we're going to get a report from Mueller via Bob Barr, the AG, and it will be completely new because Mueller has been quite detailed in a lot of these filings. But to you point, there are -- there are -- there's the string that we don't know how they all fit together at this point.

One point that Shimon made that I think is really important is, the Trump White House, when they talk about Paul Manafort they say, look, everything that Paul Manafort's getting in trouble for, this is all before he was campaign manager. This has nothing to do with -- with his role as campaign manager. And what we actually are seeing, and what we may see even more clearly through this filing, is that that's actually not the case, that he is central to this question of whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the election. And that goes completely against everything we've heard from the Trump administration.

[12:05:15] PROKUPECZ: There is a meeting with this Russian, Kilimnik, that is central -- the prosecutors, the special counsel has said --

KING: A couple of weeks after the Republican Convention.


PACE: Right.

KING: Donald Trump gets nominated and a couple weeks later the guy who is his campaign chairman and the most important guy at the convention in terms of the operations is meeting with the Russia operatives. Why?

PROKUPECZ: Right. And they was central they're saying. The heart of their investigation. They said this in a court transcript, right, at a hearing. We may actually see them say this in writing from -- in this filing that we get today.

KING: Right, here's what they said at the previous hearing. This goes to the larger view of what we think is going on and what we think the motive is here. This goes, I think, very much to the heart of what the special counsel's office is investigating. That's about this meeting that takes place in the summer of 2016. Again, Donald Trump has just been nominated. His campaign chairman, still with the campaign at that point, because he was later fired, but still with the campaign at that point, he's kind of busy. He's trying to win a presidential election. Why is he having this meeting?

And the unanswered questions we're looking for that the prosecutors say he lied about after agreeing to cooperate. Why did he make a $125,000 payment to a pro-Trump PAC? Why did he try to minimize this Russian operative's role in witness tampering? What other DOJ investigation Manafort allegedly lied about? That's mentioned in the documents and we don't know what it is.

PROKUPECZ: That's a big one.

KING: And which Trump administration official, or officials, was he in contact with after his indictment, which prosecutors say?

TARINI PARTI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "BUZZFEED": Right. I mean the -- all of those things point to actually Paul Manafort's role in the campaign and how it relates to Russia. But, you know, part of this -- Paul Manafort's trial was -- became so focused on, you know, ostrich skin jackets, things like that, that that's what the president chose to focus on and it helped him sort of distance himself from Paul Manafort.

We saw some of those things come up in filings, but it didn't quite play out as much -- in public as much as, you know, some of the other stuff for Paul Manafort that was prior to his role on the campaign.

KING: Right. The question -- and this is -- it is Mueller's obligation to answer in some form, especially because it's the president of the United States at issue here, was Manafort, and Roger Stone for that matter, were they just swamp creatures trying to make money, peddle influence, raise their name, promote themselves, thinking Trump was going to lose? Or was there connections, was this a coordinated effort within the campaign to share information and to get help from the Russians?

CARL HULSE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Those two things don't have to be in conflict.

KING: Right.

HULSE: Right. They could have been doing that -- both of those things.

I think that the Trump tweet this morning was indicative of what they're anticipating, right? We don't know what's going to happen. But I think all of us around the city feel this is coming to a climax. KING: Right.

HULSE: And this is -- this is sort of the first part of it and where -- where is it going to go from here?

But I do hope that they actually start to say some things today because I think because what's gone on so far as given the president and his team a chance to say, hey, this really wasn't about us, this is about something else. But this could be about them and --

KING: Right. One way or the other --

HULSE: Right.

KING: In the sense that if Mueller has spent all this time and what he finds is a bunch of stupid meetings or greedy people in the Trump Organization, but no president -- no candidate fingerprints on it, no candidate knowledge of it. He should say so.

HULSE: Right.

KING: If they can prove knowledge among senior officials or the candidate himself, they need to say that too.

The interesting part is, you mentioned this town's waiting. Apparently the Manhattan D.A. is also waiting on this. And the idea that, you know, there are some who think the president could still exercise his right to pardon Paul Manafort, especially if he thinks Paul Manafort has some information -- or if he just decides he wants -- Paul Manafort's been through all this and I want to pardon him. "The New York Times" reporting this hour, the Manhattan district attorney's office is preparing state criminal charges against Paul J. Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, in an effort to ensure he will still face prison time, even if the president pardons him for his federal crimes, according to several people with knowledge of the matter.

Now, we have zero indication the president's preparing that. It has long been one of the things that Mueller's prosecutors were thinking about when -- why was Manafort lying? Was -- did he have some secret deal, maybe? But we don't know that. But this is what you might call a backup plan.

PROKUPECZ: It is a backup plan. And the Manhattan D.A.'s office has been at this for well over probably two years, since -- for quite some time now, since Robert Mueller got involved, even before, but they were waiting -- they were always waiting. They didn't want to, in any way, conflict with what Robert Mueller's been doing. And now that that is coming to an end, they may see some opportunity here.

But they've been ready to file charges. They've been ready to have a grand jury file charges, essentially, and move on with that case. And it is a back-up plan. There's always this concern that the president would pardon Manafort. But he can't pardon him on this case. There are other jurisdictions that have also been looking at Paul Manafort and bringing charges against him. So it's all a backup plan. And -- and we'll see.

PACE: But it's also a reminder, just the fact that this is now focusing on SDNY, that while the Mueller investigation may be reaching a conclusion, and we may be getting to the point where we learn what he came up with, there's a whole nother set of investigations that actually get, from what we know publicly, closer to the president, his business, other people around him than we know about Mueller.

KING: Right. Even the end of one chapter, it could be the beginning of other chapters.

PROKUPECZ: It's going to be very consuming (ph).

KING: I need to interrupt the conversation for breaking news and shocking charges this hour out of Palm Beach County, Florida.

[12:10:03] Jupiter Police say Robert Kraft, he's the owner of the New England Patriots, paid a prostitute for sex.


DANIEL KERR, JUPITER, FLORIDA, POLICE CHIEF: Yes, sir. He -- he is one of the individuals.

QUESTION: Can you please state who he is?

KERR: That would be Mr. Robert Kraft.

QUESTION: Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots?

KERR: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: And what is he being charged with?

KERR: He's being charged with the same offenses as the -- the others, and that is soliciting another to commit prostitution.


KING: CNN's Jason Carroll reporting this story for us.

Jason, what more can you tell us?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Really, this is an embarrassing moment for Robert Kraft. The 77-year-old billionaire, owner of the New England Patriots.

Again, just to recap here, Jupiter Police announced today that that was charged with two counts of soliciting and another to commit prostitution. This is stemming from an eighth month investigation, eight month long investigation that stemmed from Florida, also to China, and to New York. And apparently what investigators are saying is he visited this day spa on not one but allegedly two occasions. And according to what investigators are now telling us, he is among some 25 men who were arrested, again, for soliciting a prostitute. Again, this is the owner of the New England Patriots, a friend of the

president. Again, much of the details of this coming forward to us now as this press conference now just wrapping up. But you're getting the headline there that Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, arrested for soliciting a prostitute at a day spa down there in Jupiter, Florida.

We're efforting (ph) more information. As soon as we're able to get it to you, we'll pass it along.

Back to you.

KING: Jason, appreciate that.

Our legal analyst Paul Callan joins us now on the phone.

Paul, from what little we know so far, just give me your initial thoughts on this case and the high profile of an NFL team owner, the champion New England Patriots, being arrested in such a case?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST (via telephone): Well, it's shocking, but on the other hand, John, it's not called the world's oldest profession for nothing. So this -- this solicitation under Florida law is punishable by up to a year in jail. You can get a year in probation or a thousand dollars in criminal fines. They also have an interesting provision in Florida law that you have to complete a hundred hours of community service and attend a prostitution and human trafficking awareness course. So he's in for an embarrassing time.

It's unusual that the John, which is what he is in this fact pattern, gets arrested. Usually the prostitute gets arrested or the person who's running the brothel gets arrested. So this is an unusual approach to round up the Johns. You see it happening periodically in jurisdictions where there's a major prostitution problem, and he just got caught in the net. So it's a really damaging thing to his reputation, obviously.

KING: To that point, you heard the law enforcement briefing where they said Mr. Kraft is one of 25 men as part of this. So clearly the police seem to think that they had a major problem on their hands. Not a -- I'm not trying to put context into this. I'm not sure how I would put context into this. But not a -- not -- this is an organization, a business, being used for a major operation that they decided they needed to make a statement here, right?

CALLAN: Absolutely, and send a message out in the community that they're not going to tolerate the operation of these spas that periodically become popular in urban communities around the country. So this is not unusual. It does happen all over the country, but it's a kind of a send the message arrest.

KING: Paul, stay with us.

Christine Brennan, a contributor, who's also a sports columnist for "USA Today," joins us now. Christine, Robert Kraft -- as you know, I'm a Patriots fan. I'll -- full disclosure, I saw Robert Kraft over the weekend. I saw him Saturday and Sunday. I was at the NBA all-star game in Charlotte, North Carolina, and he was there. We had a brief conversation, Mr. Kraft and my children, on an elevator and then in a hotel.

When you see this -- what's just your thought when you heard the news, we dialed you up, Robert Kraft arrested alleging -- alleged to have solicited prostitutes?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST (via telephone): John, Robert Kraft is arguably the best known owner in sports. There's a few others out there, too. But he's certainly in the top five, maybe in the top three in all U.S. sports. And so he has farther to fall than almost anyone.

As you well know, he is one of the faces of the New England Patriots. And they've played in ten Super Bowls. They have won a record times six Super Bowl championships under Robert Kraft. So he is so recognizable. He is so well-known. And he really represents his franchise the way most owners don't in the sense that he's out front, very visible, and deflate-gate, very visible in that controversy several years ago. So the potential downside of something like this for Robert Kraft, John, is even worse than it would be for most people because so many people know exactly who he is.

[12:15:01] KING: And, to your point, he's an icon in New England for turning this -- what was more of a losing franchise around. But nationally known, a, because of the Patriots' success, b, because of his friendship with the president of the United States. The president of the United States has nothing to do with this, but the fact that he is known as -- the politics of this have come into play, that magnifies it. That's your point, right?

BRENNAN: Oh, absolutely. But, you're right, he has been a very vocal support of the president.

You know, Robert Kraft, John, and, again, you know this well from being someone who's followed Boston sports and New England sports for years. He is a very visible person. He doesn't shy away from taking stands, from being out there. A lot of owners, in all sports, tend to -- some of them want to be out front. Other want to be behind the scenes. And Robert Kraft has always, as a 77-year-old, who has always been out front and has always enjoyed the limelight and the spotlight and sparring with journalists and just being a guy who loves to represent his team.

And this, of course, is the exact opposite kind of publicity that he would want. But because he is so well known, now the scrutiny is there in a way that it wouldn't be for so many other people.

KING: We'll keep our eye on -- as the investigation plays out.

Christine Brennan, appreciate it. Paul Callan and Jason Carroll as well.

Up next for us here, House Democrats plot their next move, trying to block the president's emergency declaration and his border wall.


[12:20:27] House Democrats forging ahead today on a resolution to terminate President Trump's emergency declaration. Speaker Nancy Pelosi planning an expedited vote Tuesday. Congressman Joaquin Castro, you see it there, filing his joint resolution this morning to repeal the declaration and fight what the congressman calls, quote, the fake Trump emergency. Castro says he has 226 co-sponsors on his bill already, including one Republican. The White House, today, trying to limit support for this resolution in the president's own Republican Party.

CNN's Phil Mattingly joins us live.

Phil, what is the White House trying to do to block the momentum on this and what's your latest count?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Keep defections down and keep specifically Republican defections down. When you look at the numbers right now, this isn't a matter right now is, will this pass the House? Yes, 226 is more than 218. Democrats have the majority. This will almost certainly pass the House next week, on Tuesday, when they vote. And it should, at least I'm being told right now, pass the Senate as well. It will only take a simple majority for the Senate to also pass something terminating the national emergency resolution.

But here's the crux, and here's kind of where the White House has shifted towards and Republicans support of the president have shifted towards, keep the number below a veto proof majority. In the House, that's between 289 and 290. Two hundred and 26, the current number of co-sponsors, is obviously well short of that. And my understanding, from talking to House Republican aides, at this moment in time, they believe they can keep it down with the White House's help. Over in the Senate, you need to keep it below 66 or 67 votes. There is a 53-47 Republican majority in the Senate. Expectation that right now is maybe they lose five, maybe six Republicans.

That will also fall below a veto-proof majority. And that means that despite the opposition, and we've heard bipartisan opposition, the president's national emergency declaration will likely stand. Now, obviously, this doesn't factor in the lawsuits that are coming, that we know of some of which have already been filed, some of which will be filed in the future, but at least from a legislative perspective, the White House goal here and Republicans who are supportive, their main mission right now is keep the numbers down.

Now, will it be a rebuke of the president if Republicans join Nancy Pelosi in the House, if Republicans join Democrats in the Senate to try and block this? Yes, it most certainly will. But will it stop it? On its face, so long as it stays below those top two thresholds of a veto-proof majority, it won't, and that, in the end, to be frank, is pretty much all the White House cares about at this point, John.

KING: Pretty much. I get that. Doing the second round math, if you will. Keep it for it to be veto proof. Phil Mattingly, appreciate that.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny joins our conversation in studio.

Democrats obviously understand that math, too, but they think it's important to do. They also think it will change the debate in Washington. The Mueller report could interrupt everything. But, if not, change the debate in Washington to something where they may not win in the end in terms of the resolution, but they think they're on high ground with the American people.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I think they do, but, I mean, again, it's a symbolic thing. The president probably will not pay much attention. And he'll be in Vietnam, of course, with his summit with Kim Jong-un.

But, look, this is just one more example. We see them every day, every week, about what it means to have a -- the Democrat in control of the House. But at the end of the day, I'd be very surprised if there were a lot of Republican defections on this. There's really no reason for them to do that.

HULSE: I mean certainly going to be more in the Senate than in the House. The House Freedom Caucus, all those people, tend to go along with it. Susan Collins in the Senate has been very outspoken. A lot of other appropriators, Roy Blunt is one, Lisa Murkowski another one. Senator Shelby, who chairs the committee, though, told me that he would not vote to reverse this.

But, you know, this is -- this is bad for the Congress, and this puts the Republicans in a bad place. So they're going to side with Trump over their own institution.

The appropriations power is really the heart of Congress' power. You start giving that away, you really don't have much left. And I think it's going to be a tough vote for some of these Republicans. They're going to have to go with the president. And they know that they're giving up their own authority.

KING: And the speaker seems to get at that. Speaker Pelosi writing a letter last night sending it around to all colleagues in the House trying to get at that point, essentially saying to the Republicans, and these are my words not hers, I thought you were constitutional conservatives. If you're constitutional conservatives, you have to vote with us on this one. Here's how she put it, I write to invite all members of Congress to co-sponsor Congressman Joaquin Castro's privileged resolution. The House will move swiftly to pass this bill. The president's decision to go outside the bounds of law to try to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional legislative process violates the Constitution and must be terminated.

PARTI: Right, we saw Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan give that exact reasoning for why he is supporting the resolution. And even though the president has a very busy week next week, I think he is going to be looking at who is daring to cross him on this big priority for his administration. So I think that his reaction to the kinds of Republicans' and names that we see in the next few days come out could be interesting. We might see some tweets from the president attacking, potentially, some of his critics.

[12:25:10] PACE: And certainly politics are at play here. You know, Jeff is right, in some ways this will be a bit of a show vote because they probably won't be able to get enough to go -- to clear the veto- proof majority. But there are Republicans who are going to be on the ballot in 2020, particularly in the Senate, in some tough states. And some of what Pelosi and the Democratic leaders in the House is going to be doing over the next year or two is going to be putting those guys in just really tough spots, to choose between voting against the president, taking a stand and maybe appealing to some of the moderates in their state. You're just going to see this over and over and over again and this is one of those examples.

KING: Right. And it's a great reminder that anything that happens in Washington right now, yes, it might be a policy challenge, and a legitimate one today, but most of the calculations about it are going to have 2020 implications.

You look at the cover of "The New Yorker," not a favorable view of the president's focus, essentially saying he wants to finish the wall. The White House surrounded by waters and storms and the like. I mean that's his only focus. That's one way to put it.

And if you're a Democrat running for president, especially if you're one the president says is a socialist, who's trying to make an early mark in the campaign, impressive fundraising so far, Bernie Sanders says, no, Mr. President, don't make this about me, it's about you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you support that resolution?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, of course, I do. What the president is doing is unconstitutional, it's illegal, and it is part of his movement toward an authoritarian society. This guy clearly is not familiar with the Constitution, clearly not familiar with the separation of powers. He thinks he's got it all. He's the only one running the government, and that has got to stop.


KING: So we'll have this fight, although that question, the constitutional question, if they fall short of the votes, we're going to leave that one to the courts.

HULSE: It will be fought out in the courts.

You mentioned 2020. I mean there's some -- Republicans are going to be up. This is a tough vote for Cory Gardner in Colorado. He's got to appease the right out there to void a primary, but then he has to win a general.

And I think other reason this is -- looks bad for the Republican, and I think we're going to see a lot of these old quotes come back to haunt them, about President Obama's use of executive authority. You know, they were outraged. They actually -- the House Republicans sued President Obama over spending money that they didn't authorize on health care. And, you know, the pen and phone comment that the president made back then, you know, this was an outrage. And I -- you know, it's hypocrisy in Washington.

PACE: The other person who was outraged about that was Donald Trump.


ZELENY: Right.

KING: Right.

ZELENY: But there's so many examples of when Republicans were outraged but don't necessarily vote in that way.

PACE: Right.

ZELENY: So we'll see how many Republicans actually join Justin Amash.

KING: Right. Take a closer look at this a bit later in the program.

An update now on the shocking developments this hour.

New England Patriots' owner Robert Kraft busted in a sting operation, charged with soliciting sex. Jupiter Police say Kraft has been charged, but not arrested, and allege they have video from inside the spa where these alleged crimes took place. The Patriots releasing a statement just moments ago. We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity. Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further. That from the New England Patriots about their owner, Robert Kraft.

We'll be right back.