Return to Transcripts main page


Tensions Escalate over Aid at Venezuelan Border; Interview with Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD); R. Kelly to Attend Court Hearing on Sex Abuse Charges; Catholic Church Scandal; New England Patriots Owner Arrested in Prostitution Sting; Austin: Live Music Capital of the World; Cohen Gave Prosecutors New Information on Trump Family Business; Stars Take Center Stage in Host-Free Awards Show. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired February 23, 2019 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:19] DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Dana Bash, in today for Fredricka Whitfield.

And we begin with breaking news out of Venezuela where the political and humanitarian crisis is reaching a boiling point. Police are firing tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters and crowds of workers, demanding to cross the border into Colombia to work.

This comes as a power struggle between the president, Nicolas Maduro and self-declared acting president, Juan Guaido is turning into a faceoff over international aid.

We've got full coverage for you now.

And let's talk to Isa Soares who is in the capital Caracas and also Nick Paton Walsh who is on the ground in Venezuela -- at the border I should say between Venezuela and Colombia.

And Nick I'm going to get to you first. I've been watching your reports all morning. It looks very, very dicey there. What's happening as we speak?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well actually Dana -- I'm I think probably about a foot inside with me in line here on the border seemed to be earlier on. It is a tense atmosphere.

This woman here drawing many numbers of the crowd today who've been remonstrating with the Venezuelan riot police next to me.

But just in the last hour or so, it had been significantly tense with the riot shields held up across their face. They lowered them and that was a bit I think to drop the temperature here. It is significantly calmer. And the protesters have responded in kind by taking here a more congenial atmosphere here.

But the big outstanding question is the humanitarian aid. They have been shouting, the protesters here at the police, that the aid is coming across, regardless of what the riot police have to say about that.

Now they are calm at this moment. There is a larger at times more boisterous crowd of pro-government protesters on the other side of the bridge who strangely earlier on were joined in unity, singing the national anthem with Venezuelans from the opposition here.

But part of the feeling about a moment of change here is because Colombian officials have taken into I could say their custody, into their care three maybe four Venezuelan soldiers who have defected, who have left their positions here at the border post and gone over into Colombia taking advantage of an offer from the opposition leader, the self-declared interim president Juan Guaido who said look, there's an amnesty for you if you turn your backs on Nicolas Maduro. The feeling might be that more of that could possibly come in the hours ahead.

But certainly these riot police are significantly more calm. So these are exactly the scenes the opposition and the White House wanted to see, pressure on the Venezuelan security forces to let aid in in the hours ahead -- Dana.

BASH: And that really is so important to underscore when you are talking about the scene that we're witnessing which does look calm now but we saw the pictures from earlier which was anything but calm.

This is about getting in humanitarian aid -- basic things like food and medicine. And when you were trying to talk to one of those soldiers behind you, they declined to talk. And you mentioned it might be because if they do, their family might not get food from the Venezuelan government.

That's the degree to which these soldiers and other people feel the pressure over something so basic as sustenance.

WALSH: Absolutely. I'm standing really on the border between plenty and very little indeed to eat. Now, one of the protesters here shouted at the police saying "Listen, my friend, if I want a soda, I just go and buy it. I don't have to think about how I'm going to get the money, how I'm going to negotiate my way through the process."

That is the stark difference and the reason why when this border is open, thousands of people go into Colombia from Venezuela every day just to feed their families. That is what's so striking here.

Put all the geopolitics aside, there's a simple amount of humanitarian need inside Venezuela. And it is stark and it's very desperate. And it's often -- when mostly always denied by President Nicolas Maduro.

So the aid gathering on this side supplied by the United States and the Colombian government are frankly a tiny amount compared to the amount that's actually needed, a symbolic gesture designed to push through and to show really that Nicolas Maduro doesn't control this border.

That hasn't happened yet but that's the goal and the symbolism is so heavy that there will be, I'm sure, great attention here like the one today -- Dana. BASH: Nick Paton Walsh -- thank you so much for that excellent reporting, as always.

Let's now get to Isa Soares who is also reporting on this issue. More of the political aspect from you -- Issa.

Maduro and Guaido are both calling on supporters to mobilize today. Probably that's part of what we're seeing down there. What else are you hearing?


[11:04:59] What we're expecting, what we've seen already starting to move is Guaido -- Juan Guaido supporters meeting several points within Caracas and then uniting, dressed in white, going towards army barracks. And the reason they're going to army barracks is because they're heeding the call of Juan Guaido.

They want him to go to those army barracks and to ask the soldiers to stand on their side, stand on the side of democracy. At the same time what we have seen from Nicolas Maduro, he's called on his supporters to take to the streets as a call, anti-imperialist call saying hands off Venezuela.

We have seen crowds already of Maduro supporters with banners that say, "Hands off Venezuela" but also "Go home Yankees." So very strong messages, sort of rhetoric that we've been hearing all the time from Nicolas Maduro.

Meanwhile, I can tell you in the last ten minutes or so the appointed Venezuelan ambassador to Brazil has confirmed, Dana, that a truck -- truck from Brazil has made its way into Venezuela.

So this is U.S. aid truck that had been on the side of the Brazilian border that has now come into Venezuela. She's celebrating on the side, the complete porous and lawless side of the country, this is Pacaraima in the Brazil-Venezuela border. But it would no doubt give the followers, Guaido followers, the impetus and really the positivity to actually continue these protests and these calls to take to the streets today -- Dana.

BASH: Thank you so much for that reporting in Caracas. I appreciate it.

I want to now turn to a senior senator on the Foreign Relations Committee, Ben Cardin. He is the Senator from Maryland.

Senator -- let me just get straight to you what we just heard from Isa Soares about a truck from Brazil carrying U.S. aid has made it into Venezuela.

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, Dana -- it's good to be with you.

This humanitarian crisis was created by Maduro. Now he is trying to close the border with humanitarian aid desperately needed getting into his country to help his own people. It's outrageous.

We expect that some of the military will not follow orders. That they recognize that they want to be on the right side of history.

So I think what's happening, you're seeing an erosion of the military support for the Maduro regime. And recognizing that the humanitarian aid is critically important to the people of Venezuela.

BASH: You have been sounding the alarms on the situation in Venezuela for some time. I pulled up a speech that you gave on the Senate floor back in December of 2017.

But given where we are now, what else do you think should be done? Do you think that the Trump administration, the U.S. government is doing what it could and what it can with regard to trying to get that humanitarian aid as much as possible across the border? Or should U.S. military intervention be considered at all?

CARDIN: I think military intervention could be counterproductive. I don't think that is what's needed here. I think we need to continue to support the people of Venezuela.

We have seen the United States through our leadership get our European allies on our side, most of the countries in our own hemisphere on the side of the people of Venezuela, and recognize that Maduro has lost all legitimacy in his country.

We still have major players such as Russia and Cuba that are on the wrong side of this issue. And I think we need to continue to put as much pressure as we can.

But we are finding the military establishment within Venezuela is starting to erode. I think we need to continue to up the pressure, make it clear that those generals that carry out these orders against the people of Venezuela, there will be consequences. And those who recognize that the right side of history is to be with the people that we will certainly understand that and recognize that and protect them the best we can.

BASH: Are you comfortable with how the Trump administration is handling this as we speak?

CARDIN: Yes. I think that the Trump administration did the right thing in recognizing the interim government. The meetings that we've had here in the United States with representatives of the interim government recognize that they have to move promptly to free and fair elections within Venezuela.

So I think at this point the Trump administration has handled this properly, but let me just caution against military. I think that could be counterproductive.

BASH: Ok. Let's go from South America to, you know, areas to the south of the United States, way over to the Middle East and talk about Syria and the evolving plan inside the Trump administration for U.S. troops there. I want you to listen to what the President had to say about that yesterday.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I heard Lindsey Graham this morning congratulating me on having defeated, you know, the caliphate. Frankly, I'm getting a lot of congratulations.

At the same time, we can leave a small force along with others in the force, whether it is NATO troops or whoever it might be so that it doesn't start up again, and I'm ok.

[11:10:01] It's a very small, tiny fraction of the people we have. And a lot of people like that idea and I'm open to ideas.


BASH: Ok. So about 200 U.S. troops in the current plan will be left in Syria. How do you feel about that?

CARDIN: I really don't understand the President's policy in Syria at all. I really don't understand his objective. At one point he said he's going to remove all troops. Then he says he's going to leave 200. Now he's talking about leaving 400.

He said that our European allies would fill the gap. They say they're not going to fill the gap. I really don't understand.

We have a civil war going on in Syria and we have ISIS and extremists that given any vacuum, they'll fill it.

So we need to work with our allies on a common strategy. President Trump has not done that. So no, I don't have a lot of confidence in his game plan because I don't know what his game plan is and I'm not sure that's been articulated well within the administration and certainly not with the American people.

BASH: It looks like it could be something as simple as the President, his instinct, and what he campaigned on was to get U.S. troops out of a lot of far-flung places, including Syria. And then he had pressure from people like Lindsey Graham and others -- no, no, no, you can't pull out because the caliphate will come back and ISIS will grow again and so on and so forth.

Do you think that that's what we're seeing, a real time sort of push and pull from within the Republican Party?

CARDIN: It is very difficult to read this president from the point of view of a coherent policy in Syria. We know the manner in which he held the denouncement of withdrawing troops cost us our Secretary of Defense who strongly disagreed, General Mattis, with that decision. We know our European allies strongly disagreed with the manner in which the President made his announcements.

We all understand there's not a military victory for the United States in Syria but the manner in which our troops are in that country and the future of our troops in that country, very much need to be done in conjunction with our allies so that we don't play into the hands of the extremists, whether ISIS or whether it's Iran. You play into their hands the manner in which the President handled his initial announcement in regards to Syria.

BASH: Ok. Let's move east on the globe to Vietnam. The President's summit this coming week with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. It will be a one-on-one meeting at least to begin with and then broaden a bit beyond that.

What realistically, Senator, do you expect or do you hope could come out of this meeting?

CARDIN: I'm somewhat puzzled because look, we all recognize that diplomacy is the way to solve the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula. So we all encourage discussions.

But for a summit meeting to take place, you expect to see some concrete progress on denuclearization in the Korean Peninsula. This is the second summit.

We already had one in Singapore that produced virtually no results in regards to denuclearization. The first step on denuclearization is an acknowledgment and a statement of the nuclear program in North Korea.

You need to have that assessment, need to have international inspectors, you need a game plan in order to denuclearize. We didn't see that after Singapore.

So I hope that what we'll see after the Hanoi summit is that there will be a concrete acknowledgment of North Korea's nuclear programs. We'll have an opportunity for international in inspectors. And that there'll be a specific game plan on how they will achieve denuclearization.

Will that be achieved in Hanoi --


BASH: Let me follow up on that.

CARDIN: -- I have no idea.

BASH: Just quickly, let me follow up on that.

CARDIN: Go ahead.

BASH: My CNN colleagues here are reporting from administration sources that the administration is weighing backing off an earlier demand that North Korea make a full accounting of its nuclear and missile programs as a prerequisite rather for U.S. concessions. Good move or bad move?

CARDIN: Terrible move. That's the objective here is to have denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the first step on that is a declaration. So if they're backing off on the declaration, they're basically backing off from the objective of these diplomatic gestures. That would be backing off on the principal reason why we have sanctions against North Korea and the objective of diplomacy is to end that nuclear threat.

BASH: Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee -- thanks for taking a trip around the globe to a lot of hot spots going on, on this Saturday. Appreciate it.

CARDIN: Thank you. Good to be with you.

BASH: You, too.

And still ahead, in just a matter of hours, R. Kelly, one of the bestselling R&B artists of our time will be back in court facing multiple charges of sexual abuse against teenage girls. We're live outside the courthouse

Plus, a stunning admission today at the Vatican. Files that would have proved child sex abuse in the Catholic Church were either destroyed or never drawn up. We're live in Rome.


BASH: In a matter of hours, R&B singer R. Kelly will be in court to learn whether he can post bail, following his arrest on multiple charges of sex abuse involving young girls. The accusations span from 1998 to 2010.

Kelly turned himself in last night hours after Chicago police issued an arrest warrant. The 52-year-old is accused of committing sexual acts on four victims, including three under the age of 17. If convicted, he faces up to 70 years in prison.

CNN's Nick Watt joins me now. Nick -- what are you hearing that we should expect in the next couple of hours?

[11:19:54] NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have heard from the sheriff's department here in Cook County that R. Kelly is currently in their custody. And as you say at lunchtime here we are going to find out if he's allowed to go free on bail or if he will stay in custody.

Now, last night we did hear from R. Kelly's lawyers giving us a hint at what the defense strategy is going to be. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think these women are lying?



GREENBERG: I think all the women are lying, yes. One of the charges appears to involve the same alleged victim from the earlier case and double jeopardy should bar that case. And he won that case. A jury heard the facts in that case, a jury acquitted him fair and square. It's over.


WATT: Now, you heard that lawyer referring to a previous case. That was 2008 when R. Kelly was acquitted on similar charges, partly because the jury said that they couldn't beyond a reasonable doubt identify R. Kelly in a video that allegedly showed him engaged in sex with an underage girl.

Now, this time around, Michael Avenatti has provided local authorities here with a video that he claims shows R. Kelly involved, having sex with a 14-year-old girl. And in that video, Avenatti claims that R. Kelly is referred to by the young woman as daddy. Ten counts. Four women. He's due in court lunchtime.

Back to you.

BASH: Ok. Well, we'll be here and we'll be watching along with you. Thank you so much for that report -- Nick Watt.

With me now is Paul Callan, a former New York City prosecutor and CNN legal analyst; and Wes Lowery, a national reporter for the "Washington Post". Thank you so much both of you for joining me.

Paul -- I want to start with you. And just -- I'm not sure if you were struck the same way I was listening to R. Kelly's attorney saying two things. One is double jeopardy which we can talk about in a second; but flatly -- they're all lying. Is that just what you have to do as a defense attorney or is there any kind of wiggle room with regard to how one approaches these kinds of charges?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: What a great question -- Dana, because you know, we're in a culture now where I think a lot of people are much more sensitive to the rights of victims in these cases. That kind of aggressive defense you always would hear 20, 25 years ago, anytime rape or sexual abuse was charged.

But on the other hand, he has no place else to go except to say that they're lying. I mean obviously they're not mistaken as to who R. Kelly is. And if they are underage or were underage at the time of the offense, and I think at least one of them, well, three of the victims alleged here were underage, the mere fact that he has sex with them, it's a crime. There doesn't even have to be forced use in that situation.

BASH: Absolutely.

CALLAN: So they're taking a very aggressive approach to this. And I think maybe too aggressive for the beginning of the case.

BASH: Yes. It certainly struck me. And Wes -- you're here with me in Washington. You know, these rumors about R. Kelly, they've been circulating for years and years and years. Why do you think it has taken so long?

WESLEY LOWERY, NATIONAL REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": Of course, and they weren't even necessarily rumors, right. This was kind of an active part of OUR popular culture, things people would joke about that he would sometimes even reference in his music, right.

And I think it's important, I mean this was -- there was a full trial around the idea of child pornography when there was a previous tape that came out. And the reason he was acquitted in part was because the woman, the young woman in that video didn't Cooperate with prosecutors.

So this is something he could have already in fact been potentially convicted of previously had there been a full cooperation. What seems to be the case here is that prosecutors in Chicago and Cook County have additional cooperation from victims, and part of that comes from kind of persistent efforts by journalists, by activists, by some attorneys to address this. You know, we're a different era than we were in the early --

BASH: I was going to say it's also changing times.

LOWERY: Of course.

And we're taking --

BASH: -- a new era.

LOWERY: -- we're taking more seriously things that we have known for a long time, right? And I think that that, with that additional scrutiny, that additional pressure, and also in some ways, the course correction with some of us in the media and investigative journalists and activists saying perhaps we might not have believed these young women, these young black women who are in Chicago previously or we might may have written it off.

I have friends in Chicago with stories of R. Kelly hanging out outside of their high school, right. This was just a commonly known and understood dynamic that now we are all finally get kind of -- you wake up and you say wait a second, that thing that has been going on is completely unacceptable.

And so it is remarkable to see in this moment real movement on something that everyone has kind of always known, at least known of the allegations.

BASH: And Paul -- the fact that these allegations are from 1998 to 2010, what challenges does that present for the prosecutors trying to convict someone for alleged acts that happened so long ago, especially with regard to physical evidence.

CALLAN: well, Dana -- it's a challenge for prosecutors because when so many years have passed, of course, the witnesses' recollection of the details, not so much the sexual contact, but they'll be attacked on whether they remember the time that it occurred, the place that it occurred, who else was there.

[11:25:06] And if there are flaws in their story, that can create reasonable doubt in a case. Now, if there's videotape, of course, that changes the picture entirely, although we do have to say that in 2002 R. Kelly was successful in being acquitted in a case where there was videotape of him actually having sex with the alleged victim. But the claim in that case was that the young girl could not be identified as somebody who was underage by the evidence presented. But there are claims that the evidence is much clearer in these cases.

BASH: And Wes -- I want to ask you about as the final word, something that I heard Brooke Baldwin talking about with one of her guests over the week last week, which is the issue of race and how much that plays into this, not with regard to R. Kelly so much but his alleged victims.

LOWERY: Of course. You know, R. Kelly's victims, to the extent that we know who they are and have documented this, were often young, black women -- young, black, poor -- impoverished, young, black women who are hoping to make it in the music industry in many cases; who are fans of his and folks who we know are very often legally and culturally, societally vulnerable.

We might see stereotype oversexualize, who we may dismiss in terms of their claims of victimhood. And so this is in many ways a course correction and an important one to telling young black women who are victimized that we as a society will believe them and will take them seriously.

And so -- and it's worth noting that the prosecutor in this case, Kim Foxx is a black woman. Recently elected in Chicago, a star in prosecution nationally, and someone who -- you know, there's something to be said symbolically about her being the person to finally put handcuffs on R. Kelly.

BASH: Very well said. Wes Lowery, Paul Callan -- thank you so much. Appreciate both of you.

CALLAN: Thank you.

BASH: And still ahead, a stunning admission from the Catholic Church. A top cardinal admits that files which may have contained proof of priests' sexual abuse were destroyed. More from the historic meeting in Rome next.


BASH: A bombshell admission from a top Catholic cardinal dropped during the Vatican's unprecedented and historic summit on clergy sexual abuse in Rome. A German cardinal told the gathering that the Catholic Church may have destroyed files that documented decades of sexual abuse of children.

CNN Vatican correspondent Delia Gallagher joins me now from Rome. Delia -- tell me more about what's been going on. It sounds like it is pretty hard, especially for someone like you who has watched the Vatican deal with this, to wrap our arms around the admissions that are flying in the public there.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it has been quite interesting, I have to tell you -- Dana. I mean this is day three that was devoted to transparency, and they got it from none other than Cardinal Marx who is a member of the Pope's inner circle, in his C9 council of cardinals. He was speaking specifically about Germany, he said, but let's take a listen to what he had to say.


CARDINAL REINHARD MARX, ARCHBISHOP OF MUNICH, GERMANY: Files that could have documented the terrible deeds and names of those responsible were destroyed, are not even created. The stipulated procedures and processes for the prosecution of offenses were deliberately not complied with but instead cancelled or overwritten.


GALLAGHER: So Dana -- you know, that this is important because Cardinal Marx, while speaking about Germany, he also said that he assumes that Germany is not an isolated case, and you will remember that the U.S. attorney in Pennsylvania -- there's a federal investigation in Pennsylvania open right now as there is in New York. And in Pennsylvania, the U.S. Attorney warned the Catholic Church not to destroy files.

There are victims currently seeking for a federal investigation into the Catholic Church nationwide in the United States. Some of those survivors met with the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, Callista Gingrich, last night. And they say that they also pushed her on pushing for a federal investigation.

So we will see whether something comes out of that. Certainly the admission on the part of a senior cardinal in the Catholic Church is something that U.S. investigators are going to be looking into more in the U.S. -- Dana?

BASH: Absolutely -- Delia. Before I let you go with all of this transparency, as they're calling it, going on with this conference, there's going to be even more pressure for the church not just in the courts of law in the U.S. and elsewhere but the church to act. Did they understand that there?

GALLAGHER: Well, they say that they do -- Dana. And I have to say that we're seeing some signs of that. There's been talk about lifting the Pontifical Secrecy, for example. That is when they don't allow victims to know very much about what's going on with trials against their accusers here at the Vatican.

And we have heard from Vatican officials in these days that that's something that they're looking to try to lift. So that's one example. We will have to see though what the follow-up is going to be. BASH: Delia Gallagher -- thank you so much for that report.

Appreciate it.

BASH: And still ahead, the billionaire owner of the New England Patriots caught up in a prostitution sting. Police say they have him on video receiving, quote, "paid acts" at a day spa.

What that means for one of the most powerful men in sports, next.


BASH: Soon a warrant will be out for the arrest of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft after a bombshell report from Florida police. They say the billionaire and one of the most successful team owners in NFL history was soliciting sex at a day spa in Jupiter, Florida.

CNN's Jason Carroll has a look at what police found and what comes next.

CHIEF DANIEL KERR, JUPITER POLICE DEPARTMENT: We're as equally stunned as everybody else.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Police in Jupiter, Florida shocked that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is allegedly caught in their sting operation at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa. Kraft, charged with two counts of soliciting another for prostitution, which are misdemeanors.

[11:39:57] KERR: Much of our evidence comes directly from the businesses, also from body-worn cameras of our officers, and also surveillance that we had been conducting.

CARROLL: Police say Kraft visited the spa on two occasions and they say they have videos allegedly showing him in a room receiving what detectives characterize as paid acts. Their investigation into human trafficking at the spa lasted several months. More than two dozen men or johns including Kraft are being charged for receiving illegal services.

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

CARROLL: Kraft whose team won the Super Bowl three weeks ago, is the chairman and CEO of the Kraft Group. His worth is listed by Forbes at more than $6 billion and he is a friend of the President and frequent visitor to Trump's club Mar-A-Lago.

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

CARROLL: A spokesman for the 77-year-old billionaire released a statement which says, "We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity. Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further." The Kraft family has been s active in philanthropic efforts over the years, but police now say they will be issuing a warrant for his arrest.

Jason Carroll, CNN -- New York.


BASH: And still ahead, Michael Cohen crosses the President's red line. A new report details what Trump's former fixer told prosecutors about the Trump family business.

But first -- Austin, Texas boasts a vibrant music community and thriving food scene. We take you there in this week's "Wander Must".


ELIZABETH MCQUEEN, MUSICAL ARTIST: Austin is the live music capital of the world.

Because it's really a place where musicians and music lovers come together to create community.

The Continental Club is one of my favorite venues.

It is a place where you can go see music in a really intimate setting.

Stubb's is a great venue. They have a huge outdoor amphitheater. If you want to go and have a big crowd experience, that's a great place to go.

ALI CLEM, LA BARBECUE: Here at the La Barbeque, we are a female-owned barbeque joint.

LEANN MUELLER, LA BARBECU: And we're also married.

Texas barbeque is definitely heavy brisket. At La Barbecue we recommend that you come in and try a little bit of everything We have brisket, pulled pork, beef ribs, (INAUDIBLE) house-made sausage.

This platter will be life changing.

MIGUEL VIDAL, VALENTINO'S: UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What makes Valentino so special is the elements that I try and bring from home cooking and representation of the Mexican-American culture in Texas.

So this is our Tex-Mex barbecue platter. Everything at Valentino's is "hecho con amor". It's all made with love.

Everyone get down to Austin and let us share our food and music and let's have a really good time together.


[11:43:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) BASH: President Trump's former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen is raising a red flag with prosecutors about the Trump family business, offering up information about possible irregularities within the business and about a donor to the inaugural committee.

Joining me now to talk about that is former federal prosecutor and Robert Mueller's former special assistant at the DOJ Michael Zeldin, and White House reporter for "Politico", Eliana Johnson.

Michael -- let me start with you. The whole notion of prosecutors being interested in broader aspects of the Trump Organization isn't necessarily new. What seems to be new here is that Michael Cohen is helping potentially a lot. What does that tell you?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, if -- you're absolutely right that there is an indication that the federal prosecutors are looking to a full financial investigation of the Trump Organization, then Cohen and the CFO of the Trump Organization are the two key witnesses who can unlock the doors to the prosecutors for them to receive documents that they'll need to corroborate these --


BASH: Unlock the door how? What does that mean?

ZELDIN: Well, you know, these witnesses are witnesses that are going to need corroboration. There's a lot that is damaging about them. And so if Michael Cohen says something, they're going to want documents to support that. And they're going to have to be able to tell prosecutors where these documents can be found within the organization so that they can be subpoenaed. And that I think is what's most significant about what Cohen has to say.

BASH: And Eliana -- the whole notion of the Trump Organization, that has been, you know, what the President told the "New York Times" a couple of years ago, now his red line.

But that was with regard to the Mueller investigation. This is separate. This is prosecutors in New York, in the jurisdiction that would oversee the Trump Organization.

ELIANA JOHNSON, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "POLITICO": That's right. I don't think you're going to hear the President say, well, it's not Bob Mueller so that fine. I'm happy to have the SDNY investigate.


BASH: Right.


JOHNSON: That's the whole Trump Organization. But there are a couple interesting things about it. The first is that the White House counsel's office, the raft of lawyers in the White House cannot protect the President from any activities that took place outside of his time in the White House. And so that's going to prove a real challenge for the President I think.

The other question it opens up I think is should prosecutors find some real wrongdoing in the Trump Organization that occurred before Trump became president, how does Congress handle them. Would they consider an impeachable offense something that the President did before he took office?

[11:49:07] BASH: And the other question, Michael Zeldin -- is would we even know because there are -- there's so much of a gray area about what you can and can't do with regard to a sitting president while the President is in office?

Would we even know about issues with the Trump Organization or legally is the entity of the Trump Organization separate from the President, the individual?

ZELDIN: I think that the Trump Organization is a freestanding organization separate from the Trump presidency. Just like Paula Jones' lawsuit against Bill Clinton was a separate lawsuit, independent of the Clinton presidency.

BASH: Got it.

ZELDIN: And so I think that those things would be separate in this case. And Eliana is right that there is some concern about whether or not, if you acquire the office of the presidency by fraud, whether that is an impeachable offense.

George Mason I think it was in Virginia said it should be, but there is no resolution of that. So that's something that they have to figure out as well.

BASH: And real quick, something you said before, Michael -- about Michael Cohen not necessarily being the most reliable of witnesses because he's going to jail because he lied to federal prosecutors.

ZELDIN: Right. That's right. And that he now has one year under the federal rules, Rule 35, to sort of rehabilitate his cooperation to get a further reduction in his sentence. So he's going to try very hard to do that. And the prosecutors are going to, you know, lean on him to say here's your one time to do that.

Of course, the defenders of him -- the attackers of him will say he's doing this, he's lying just to get a reduction in the sentence. But that's going to play out big time in his testimony on Wednesday.

BASH: And, Eliana -- you know, you are traveling to Vietnam to cover the big summit with the North Korean leader and President Trump. While that's happening, here in Washington, Michael Cohen is finally going to go up to Capitol Hill, one of the hearings -- one of the committees rather that he's going to be testifying in front of will be public.

JOHNSON: That's right. And this is going to produce a disconcerting split screen for the President who pays very close attention to what the media headlines are, as we know. And it's not the first time for the President that the Russia investigation or Russia headlines have interrupted his travel abroad. Recall when he was in Helsinki for his meeting with Vladimir Putin, Robert Mueller announced the indictments of several Russian foreign nationals.

The President does not like this. And I think we're going to see it play out again this week. It's been a recurring feature of this presidency that this investigation has disrupted his attempts to make foreign policy.

BASH: Although our Shimon Prokupecz is hearing that one thing that could be delayed because of the summit is the Mueller report actually being finalized.

Thank you so much -- Eliana. Michael Zeldin -- good to see you as always.

ZELDIN: Thank you.

BASH: And before we go to break, I traveled to Las Vegas this week to see former senate majority leader Harry Reid and I sat down with him for an exclusive interview.

He reflected on his decades of service in the Senate and was characteristically about his feelings about President Trump.

Here's part of our conversation.


BASH: You've had some choice words for President Trump -- spoiled brat, con man, human leech, big fat guy, and amoral seems to be your favorite right now.

Is there anything you think he's doing right?

HARRY REID, FORMER DEMOCRATIC SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Is there anything that I think that President Trump is doing right?

I just have trouble accepting him as a person. And so, frankly, I don't see anything he's doing right.


BASH: You can see a lot more of my exclusive interview with the former senator on Monday on CNN's "NEW DAY".

We'll be right back.


BASH: Hollywood's big night may be missing a host, but it's not missing the star power. Here is Nikki Novak.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NIKKI NOVAK, FANDANGO CORRESPONDENT: When the season started, everybody thought that Christian Bale was going to take it for his role in "Vice".

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are going to do this thing or what? I mean is this happening?

CHRISTIAN BALE, ACTOR: I believe we can make this work.

NOVAK: He completely transforms into Dick Cheney -- physically, the mannerisms. He's almost unrecognizable as himself.

But what happened over the season was Rami Malek started to steal it. He started winning where people didn't expect him to win for "Bohemian Rhapsody and his portrayal of Freddie Mercury.


NOVAK: People think he's Freddy Mercury at this point - he's almost like the resurrection of Freddie Mercury and this bodes really, really well for him.

That said, Bradley Cooper still has a viable shot for winning Best Actor. And that is large in part by the fact that he was, quote unquote "snubbed" for Best Director.

BRADLEY COOPER, ACTOR: Can I tell you a secret? I think you might be a songwriter. Don't worry, I won't tell anybody.

NOVAK: Well, there is like an outcry. Well hold on, Bradley Cooper was amazing as Jackson Maine. He created this character. He changed his voice. He sang. A lot of people are saying he could possibly pull out the win at the last minute. You never know what's going to happen.


BASH: Never know. We have much more just ahead in the NEWSROOM and it all starts right now.

Hello. Thank you for joining me. I'm Dana Bash in for Fredricka Whitfield.

[11:59:59] Next hour, R&B singer R. Kelly is expected in court to learn whether he can post bail following his arrest on multiple charges of sex abuse involving young girls.