Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Republicans Claim Cohen Committed Perjury in Hearing; U.S.- Proposed Venezuela Resolution Fails in U.N.; Ex-Lawyer Michael Cohen Implicates Trump in Several Crimes; Trump Defends Kim Jong-un Over Death of Otto Warmbier; Parent Says Virginia First Lady Gave Cotton to Black Students; Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to be Indicted on Bribery and Fraud Charges. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired February 28, 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] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: -- and Michael Cohen's public hearing have now asked the Department of Justice to investigate Trump's former lawyer for perjury. We'll discuss the partisan divide over the explosive testimony with former Ohio Governor, John Kasich.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Breaking news now. A resolution on Venezuela proposed by the U.S. that calls for presidential elections and deliveries of aid has failed at the United Nation. It was vetoed by Russia and China at this emergency session that's underway right now.

[15:35:00] The Russian ambassador in the room criticizing the U.S., accusing the Trump administration of seeking regime change as the country is embroiled in a power crisis. So that's happening more as we get that.

Meantime, Michael Cohen's lawyer is firing back after two Republican Congressmen say that Cohen, the President's longtime personal attorney, committed perjury when he testified before the House Oversight Committee. Trump allies, Congressmen Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows have referred Cohen to the Department of Justice for possible criminal prosecution. They say Cohen wasn't truthful on several points including Cohen saying he never desired to work in the Trump White House. Cohen's attorney says the move is, quote, a sad misuse of the criminal justice system with the aura of pure partisanship. Here is the Congressman Jordan today talking about that hearing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: This is -- this is step one in the Democrats crazy efforts to impeach the President of the United States. And the best they could come up with, the best they could come up with is a guy who is going to prison in two months for lying to Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: CNN senior political commentator, John Kasich, is the former Republican of Ohio and former Republican Presidential candidate. Governor, a pleasure to have you on. JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, Brooke, before we

get into the Cohen thing, you know, you think about this, Russia vetoes the resolution at the U.N. People are starving in Venezuela. This is one place where the administration has it right trying to put pressure on. We have a huge coalition of people that want to change the government in Venezuela to set the people free and the Russians veto it at the U.N.

BALDWIN: Thank you for that. Thank you for jumping in on that. I wanted to start with you just on Michael Cohen in just looking at members of your party yesterday.

KASICH: Right.

BALDWIN: Did a lot of, you know, liar, liar pants on fire.

KASICH: Right.

BALDWIN: But not a lot of --

KASICH: What do you really know? Digging in to find out what's true and what's not?

BALDWIN: Why not?

KASICH: You know, it's -- everything is so partisan now that I think that if you're a Republican sitting up there, you're afraid to ask the question because then you become kind of a skunk at the Republican Party.

BALDWIN: Even if you're on the side of seeking the truth.

KASICH: I mean, that's what it seems like to me. You know, it's such a different time. When I was in the Congress and we did investigations in defense where we saw the Marines blown up in Lebanon, we had to have tough questions. This is like, I'm a Republican therefore I can't ask the administration tough questions. But this is where we've come. Some people there, probably really believe that Cohen has no credibility, that the Democrats should never have called that hearing. But at the same time if you're on that committee, I think you want to acquit yourself by saying, let's get to some of the facts here. But they didn't do it. But you know, this is where we live today and it's really amazing.

BALDWIN: Do you -- you can't listen to just Michael Cohen, right? It's this whole big picture collectively and if what some of what Cohen said is corroborated by other key players here, do you think this warrants action against a sitting President?

KASICH: Well, here's what we are learning today and I think Cohen said this yesterday, that there are investigations going on the --

BALDWIN: Elijah Cummins said other shoes to drop.

KASICH: -- on the basis of some of the things going on the basis of some of the things that he said. I don't know how many investigations you're going to have. You got the Southern District. And of course, we're all waiting for Mueller to see what he brings forward.

BALDWIN: If and when it is corroborated, does that warrant actions against a sitting President?

KASICH: Let's see what we have. I mean, in other words, I'm not really great into speculation. People wanted me to speculate about the Korean Summit last night. Wait a minute, I need to see it. I need to know -- look, if you want to be really gone TV, you do a lot of speculating, but I'm not a speculator. I want to do a good job and we'll see what we have. You know what I hope?

BALDWIN: What?

KASICH: I hope that there's not all these things, these threads that fit together, but if they do, this is terrible problems for the President and terrible problems for our country.

BALDWIN: The other question is, something else that stands out that actually hasn't gotten a lot of attention is Cohen's remark --

KASICH: One other thing. One other thing. What is amazing to me is the resilience of Republicans and their ability to put their heads in the sand in regard to Donald Trump and his activities.

BALDWIN: If and when something eventually happens, they can't do that.

KASICH: I don't know what they're going to do because a lot of times -- I talk to these Republicans, hey, what's going on? Well, my 401(k)'s better or, you know, we're richer and he's been a good President and all that. And, in the meantime, think about how much this country has been hurt, attacks on the basic institutions in this country, the FBI, the press.

But I got to tell you, Brooke, these are kind of nuances for a lot of people. We follow it all the time but a lot of people don't follow this. And they're like, my life is OK, I'm working, I have money and it's just people wanting to pick on him and that's where a lot of Republicans live. The question is, with the Cohen testimony, how many Republicans that have been sitting on the fence finally say after that, I've had enough. That's what we'll have to see in these polls and the politics of this.

[15:40:00] BALDWIN: Stay with me. I have more from you. I want to ask about the statement from the President. You mentioned speculating or not last night on this summit in North Korea. He says he believes Kim Jong-un when he says he didn't know that Otto Warmbier was tortured. The Warmbiers from your home state of Ohio.

KASICH: That's just crazy.

BALDWIN: Hang on, hang on Governor. It is not the first time President Trump has taken the word of a dictator.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BALDWIN: All right. As the President heads back home to Washington from his second summit with North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, I can't help but think of the family of Otto Warmbier.

[15:45:00] An American college student who was captured and imprisoned in North Korea for more than a year. And when he was returned home to his parents, he had severe brain damage. He was in a coma and died days later. And Warmbier's parents were guests of the President at his 2018 State of the Union address.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You're a powerful witnesses to a menace that threatens our world and your strength truly inspires us all. Thank you very much. Thank you.

TRUMP: Tonight we pledge to honor Otto's memory with total American resolve.

TRUMP: We need only look at the depraved character of the North Korean regime to understand the nature of the nuclear threat it could pose to America and to our allies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: But when the President came face-to-face with Kim Jong-un in Vietnam, he gave him a pass, even defending him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: He felt badly about it. I did speak to him. He felt very badly. He knew the case very well but he knew it later. And, you know, you got a lot of people. Big country. Lot of people. And in those prisons and those camps, you have a lot of people and some really bad things happened to Otto, some really, really bad things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you --

TRUMP: But he tells me, he tells me that he didn't know about it and I will take him at his word.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So he takes Kim Jong-un at his word, he sides with Vladimir Putin about Russian involvement in the 2016 election. He believes the Saudi Crown Prince about the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. And I was honored to speak with the Warmbier parents just months after his death and they unequivocally hold one man responsible.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRED WARMBIER, SON OTTO DIED AFTER BEING DETAINED IN NORTH KOREA: Using the term coma for Otto's condition is completely unfair. Otto had severe brain damage. Otto was systematically tortured and intentionally injured by Kim Jong-un and his regime and this was no accident. BALDWIN: How has it been explained to you what North Korea did? When

you say torture, what did they do? Do you know?

CINDY WARMBIER, SON OTTO DIED AFTER BEING DETAINED IN NORTH KOREA: No.

FRED WARMBIER: North Korea doesn't even acknowledge -- they considered it a humanitarian gesture sending Otto home. His teeth looked like they had been rearranged with a pair of pliers. You can only look at the evidence. A perfectly healthy young American visiting there, an innocent young American comes home with severe brain damage. But it's not like it happened and they shipped him home immediately. It's a year later. These people are terrorists. Kim and his regime intentionally injured Otto.

CINDY WARMBIER: Nobody should go there ever. Nobody needs to go there. It was legal. He went with a tour group. Nobody needs to go there, you know. "The Wall Street Journal" just went there. They show you what they want you to see, so why are we playing into this? Why do we play into this at all anymore? I mean, I don't want to see anyone else hurt or taken.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN: Mr. and Mrs. Warmbier I am thinking especially of you today and Governor Kasich, I know you are too. They're from Ohio.

KASICH: I just can't believe what the President said. I mean, I'm -- sometimes I don't have the words to describe some of the shock that I see when I listen. And here's the thing. To think that Jong-un did not know about Otto Warmbier like he's got thousands -- no, he doesn't have many American. Americans are pawns. They're used be dangled out there. Bill Richardson who created a relationship with North Korea, somebody I was in touch with at the very beginning of this whole thing, that he would tell you, I believe he would tell you that they know exactly what they're doing in regard to American. And to say that I talked to this guy and there's lots of things happening in the country but he didn't know.

BALDWIN: He didn't know about it and I will take him at his word.

KASICH: It's beyond outrageous. And, Brooke, think about if your own son or daughter went on a trip and then they just disappeared and they sent him back and he -- you don't know where he is the whole time. There's no communication. The State Department didn't always know or at least didn't tell people what was going on and at the end he comes home and basically --

BALDWIN: He isn't himself.

KASICH: -- he's brain dead. And the parents have to go through this excruciating situation which remains today. Because it wasn't that long ago. And then you have the President saying, well, I kind of think he didn't know any better and he felt terrible about it.

[15:50:00] It's implausible to me and how you can do that, how you could agree with that.

BALDWIN: And not only does he agree with Kim Jong-un, he agrees with Vladimir Putin, Duterte, MBS. Why?

KASICH: Well the only thing -- I can't get in his head on these things and I'm not here to spend my time just bashing Trump. Sometimes you've got to tell the facts as you see them and that's what I do here when I work at CNN. Maybe he thinks if he does that, he's going to get some kind of a deal. But you can't sell human rights down the river. You can't trade something that is bad, and hoping you're going to get something good. Life doesn't work that way. He should have said, are you kidding me? I want you to release all these prisoners.

Human rights problems in Korea, it's one of the worst places on the face of the earth. And so, maybe he thinks he's going to get a better deal. You know, he's going to be --maybe that's his way of getting the art of the deal.

Here is what I -- first of all, thank God who didn't get a bad deal out of North Korea. That's what a lot of people are saying. Secondly, how can you go there when you don't already have it pretty well accomplished? You don't send the President over there to negotiate from the seat of his pants. So they walk away but they don't have much. OK, what's the implications? Well what about China now? We're in the middle of these trade negotiations. What's going to happens with the China negotiations? What happens to the leadership in South Korea? I mean, everything is now -- has been set back because of this. This summit should never have happened until they were close to an agreement and then add to this this whole story, the human-interest story of the Warmbier family and Otto himself. It's just a terrible situation.

BALDWIN: Yes, agree. One last one, this has nothing to do with President Trump and everything to do with the Virginia governor. As a governor, the Virginia governor, embroiled in this whole thing of the black face photo, and admitting to black face some years ago and almost moonwalking at a press conference until his wife stopped him. So his wife now is -- there is a black eighth grader in Virginia who she says, according to her mom, was handed cotton by the first lady as she was going on these governor mansion slave cottage tours. Now the governor's mansion is saying, no, no, no, this is an educational tour and we're handing out cotton to everyone, no matter the color of your skin. What say you?

KASICH: I swear they're tone deaf. I mean, he made the statement in referring to slaves as indentured servants and now this. I mean, I don't know what they're thinking. And I don't really know what the Democrats are going to do in Virginia. They've got a problem with the governor, they've got problems with the lieutenant governor. They've got problems with the Attorney General. And you know what I think they're really afraid of?

BALDWIN: What's that?

KASICH: They all go down you're going to have a Republican governor. So there we're seeing politics on the other side. We spend our time wondering about Cohen, the way the Republicans were acting. Well look at the Democrats in Virginia. You know, this is why, Brooke, we have to realize the great hope for America is that the real change that comes from the bottom up. And I'll give you a perfect example. The kids in Florida at Parkland changed Florida. If they had waited for the politicians, they would have been waiting for 100 years. OK. Which they were almost waiting for. But the hope is in us. We have the pressure. We can get things done.

BALDWIN: Let's end on the positive. Governor, pleasure.

KASICH: OK, thanks, Brooke. Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you very much.

Breaking news out of Israel today. Where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has just reacted to his pending indictment for bribery and corruption. We'll be right back.

[15:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: A major blow to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he seeks fifth term in office. CNN has just learned he is about to be indicted. Netanyahu facing multiple corruption charges including breach of trust and bribery. The criminal accusations are linked to three different probes. But the Prime Minister is denying any wrongdoing. CNN's Oren Liebermann is live in Jerusalem. And Oren, what exactly is he accused of doing and when will those charges come down?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, a major blow, obviously, to the Prime Minister just 5 1/2 weeks before the election or so. There are three cases here. And two of the smaller cases known as Case 1,000 and 2,000, the Attorney General says he intends to indict the Prime Minister on a charge of breach of trust.

Relatively speaking that's a smaller charge. But in the third case, known as Case 4,000, the Attorney General says it'll be charges of bribery and breach of trust. In that case, investigators say Netanyahu gave regulatory benefits worth some $300 million to his friend, a wealthy businessman. In exchange Netanyahu received favorable news coverage in an online site owned by that businessman.

Netanyahu fired back immediately in a prime-time address, calling this political persecution and basically saying the Attorney General only made this decision because of media pressure on the Attorney General and pressure from the left. They couldn't beat him in the polls, Netanyahu said, so they had to take down his right-wing government like this. He calls it unfair that he won't have a chance to have his hearing, which he is entitled to, until after the election. So therefore, he calls it an undemocratic way of changing the government.

How soon could the indictment come? It's still months away but will certainly loom over Netanyahu when he seeks election. Brooke, the key question here, of course, can Netanyahu win this hanging over his head? Crucially, he has the support of his right-wing coalition partners, crucial to his success. But if he loses even a little bit in the polls to his challenger, it will be very difficult for Netanyahu to win another term in office.

BALDWIN: Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem. Thank you so much, Oren. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me. We'll go to Washington. "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.