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CNN RIGHT NOW
Meadows Introducing Lynn Patton Sets Off Fire Storm with Tlaib; Trump Says He Believes Kim Knew Nothing of Otto Warmbier's Dire Condition; Cohen Said Roger Stone Informed Trump of WikiLeaks' DNC E- mail Dump Beforehand; Interview with Sen. Angus King (I-ME); Pierce Bush Interviews Brianna Keilar on Bush Family Media Coverage. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired February 28, 2019 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:31:21] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: It started when Michael Cohen labelled President Trump a racist. The comment from the president's former fixer came during his testimony before a House committee and it set off an explosive chain of events. Republican Congressman Mark Meadows responded by introducing an African-American woman, Lynne Patton, who works for the Trump administration and used to work for the Trump family as an event planner, and also was vice president of the Eric Trump Foundation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARK MEADOWS, (R), NORTH CAROLINA: She says that, as a daughter of a man born in Birmingham, Alabama, that there is no way she would work for an individual who was racist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: That set off a testy exchange between Meadows and Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RASHID TLAIB, (D), MICHIGAN: The fact that someone would actually use a prop, a black woman, in this chamber, in this committee, is alone racist in itself. Donald Trump is setting --
MEADOWS: Mr. Chairman, I ask that her words be taken down.
TLAIB: -- president -- I reclaim my time.
MEADOWS: Mr. Chairman?
MEADOWS: Mr. Chairman?
TLAIB: He is setting a precedent that the highest office can be obtained for illegal activity.
MEADOWS: Mr. Chairman, the rules are clear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Hilary Shelton is director of the NAACP's Washington bureau. He's with us now.
What did you think, Mr. Shelton, as you saw this?
HILARY SHELTON, DIRECTOR, WASHINGTON BUREAU, NAACP: It was such a distraction. The issues going on at the time was testimony from the president's former lawyer, someone that's been close to the president and his family for years and years.
KEILAR: You mean Congressman Meadows having Lynne Patton, that that was a distraction, or that --
KEILAR: OK, that --
SHELTON: The back and forth with Lynne Meadows and so forth. I appreciate what the congressman said in response to those issues. She's right on target in so many ways. Lifting someone up to say that because you knew one black person that worked for the organization that somehow or another you're not racist, even after looking at other evidence more specifically to the issue. Quite frankly, perhaps we need to begin a conversation of what is exactly the definition of racism. We think about racial prejudice plus power being one of the most effective definitions. When you speak to this issue as someone who worked for him at the level she did, when we talk about the woman who stood behind him as a prop, as we think about the issues of President Trump prior to becoming president, the issues of discriminatory treatment in some of his apartment buildings, very well know, became public as we went through this process. When we think about the things he's said and the dog whistles he created with some of the most extreme racists in our country, including hate groups and other white nationalist organizations, if we think about the issues in those terms and the real facts, they're a part of the experience of Donald Trump, it's a different conversation. It's simply a distraction.
KEILAR: You saw how offended Congressman Meadows was. He got very emotional, too. He insisted he's not a racist. He said he has nieces and nephews of people with color. He said he has very good friends. He seemed to look for a lifeline from Elijah Cummings, the chairman, who did to grant one, I will say. But he said this about President Obama back in 2012.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEADOWS: The more we find out, the more we realize how wrong the direction we're going. What we're going to do is take back our country. 2012 is the time we're going to send Mr. Obama home to Kenya or wherever it is. We're going to do it. (CHEERING)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: When you look at that and you look at what he has said, do you feel like he can accurately say he is not racist?
[13:35:00] SHELTON: I wouldn't want to get into an argument about calling someone a name like racist. But if you ask me, if the things he said both at the hearing and the things he said on the campaign trail were racist statements, the short answer is yes.
KEILAR: Why is there such a distinction if someone has said or done repeated things that you deem racist to not say -- you clearly think it's an important distinction. Why?
SHELTON: Only because I don't want to get into the art or process of reading someone's heart or mind. Whether they heard something that was confusing that happens to be racist, which could very well be the case here. But the most important thing is the facts. The facts of the matter are what he did when he held that African-American woman up simply because she had a job with Donald Trump --
KEILAR: She still has one.
SHELTON: Exactly. But to suggest, even under those circumstances, that means Donald Trump is not a racist is really flawed evidence from the beginning. If we look at someone that says something like the former president of the United States, Barack Obama, somehow doesn't belong in this country and should be kicked out because his father happened to be a nationalist from one of the countries in Africa, though we know his mother was born in Kansas and we know the laws are of the land even written to our Constitution as to how one becomes a citizen of the United States. But to carry out those kinds of things as Donald Trump did, quite frankly, is using his power in a very discriminatory manner to have an ill effect on someone else, and in this case, we're talking about President Barack Obama.
KEILAR: Thank you so much, Hilary Shelton, with the NAACP. Thank you for coming into the studio. We really appreciate it.
SHELTON: It's my pleasure. Glad to be here.
KEILAR: Coming up, Michael Cohen accusing the president of criminal conduct while in office. What is the potential fallout for the president? We're going to talk to one lawmaker whose committee just interviewed Cohen behind closed doors.
And the president praising Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for doing a great job as a source tells CNN Netanyahu will be indicted on bribery and breach-of-trust charges.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [13:41:46] KEILAR: President Trump sides with Kim Jong-Un over the death of American student, Otto Warmbier. The president says he believes the North Korean leader did not know about the circumstances leading up to Warmbier's death.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He talked badly about it. I did speak to him. He felt very badly about it. He knew the case well but he knew it later. Got a lot of people, a big country, a lot of people. 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.
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)
KEILAR: Warmbier went to North Korea on an educational trip. He was imprisoned by the regime and he later died just days after North Korea returned him to the U.S. in a vegetative state. During the 2018 State of the Union address, with Warmbier's parents in the audience, the president blasted, quote, the "depraved character" of Kim's regime. Adding, Warmbier's story was a warning to all about the, quote, "menace that threatens our world," end quote.
We have Independent Maine Senator Angus King with us on Capitol Hill.
You, sir, served on the Armed Services Committee. You're watching this very closely. What was your reaction to the president commenting on Otto Warmbier?
I would like to remind people of what his parents said happened to him. They said, when he returned, he was blind and deaf, his arms and legs were totally deformed, he had a huge scar on his foot, and his dad said, quote, "It looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth."
Do you find it hard to believe that Kim Jong-Un wouldn't have known about this?
SEN. ANGUS KING, (I), MAINE: Totally hard to believe. The president was right a year ago and wrong today. I don't know why in the world he would take the word of a dictator for something like this. Particularly a country that's under such tight control. It doesn't pass the straight-face test that Kim Jong-Un didn't know exactly what was going on with this young man, a high-profile hostage and American. I'm just amazed that the president would say what he did today.
On the other hand, I think he did the right thing by walking away from the summit, but then this was an unforced error. There's no way the dictator of North Korea wouldn't have known exactly what was going on with this young man. KEILAR: The president has side with authoritarian leaders before.
This is a pattern. Listen to what he said about the leaders of Russia and Saudi Arabia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I have President Putin -- he just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be. I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.
I hate the crime, I hate what it's done, I hate the cover-up. And I will tell you this. The crown prince hates it more than I do. And they have vehemently denied it. The CIA points it both ways. As I said, maybe he did, maybe he didn't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Those were comments about Russian meddling in the 2016 election and also the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. resident, a "Washington Post" columnist, in Saudi Arabia. That was him talking about Mohammad bin Salman.
So he's done this before. What do you make of this pattern?
[13:45:08] KING: It's really shocking and disappointing. In the first two cases, he was going against the clear statements of his Intelligence Community and taking the word of the perpetrators, if you will. In this case, I'm not sure. I'm not familiar with intelligence on what happened. But again, it just -- it's obvious that the dictator of this country would know exactly what was going on with an American hostage. And to take his word for it, that's -- it's shocking. I don't know why the president keeps doing this. He just seemed to have a propensity for listening to dictators and ignoring his own people.
KEILAR: We heard -- I want to change subjects now and talk about Michael Cohen, who testified very publicly to much interest yesterday. You also heard from him privately. He's testified before the Senate Intel Committee. He testified that the president got a heads-up from Roger Stone after Stone said he had spoken with WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, and he said that Trump was aware of those hacked DNC e-mails that were dumped before they were dumped. If that can be corroborated, is that a crime?
KING: The key term you just used is corroborated. It obviously is an allegation of Michael Cohen at this point, but it is a very, very serious one. I don't want to judge whether it's a crime or not, I'm not a prosecutor. But I think it's a very important piece of evidence in the investigation of whether the president's campaign or the president himself was somehow involved in the Russians' efforts to interfere in our elections. It's important to put that call into context. If, indeed, that call occurred, it was just two or three days before a major dump of Hilary Clinton's e-mails from the Democratic National Committee, and there's a lot of coincidences piling up there. So I think corroboration is going to be very important. And I'm sure that both Mr. Mueller and our committee will be following up to seek that corroboration.
KEILAR: Who else do you want to hear from at this point?
KING: I prefer not to answer that question. I think that because, we're trying, as you've observed, to follow good procedures to be confidential in the work. We have open hearings when we can. But I think there are people high up in the Trump campaign that we have to hear from before this is over to determine whether and to what extent there was a relationship between the Trump campaign and the Russians. If there was one. But there are people we need to talk to. You could guess them but I'm not going to name them.
KEILAR: All right, Senator, we appreciate you being with us. Senator Angus King.
KING: Thank you. Thanks, Brianna.
KEILAR: Fresh outrage in Virginia following the governor's blackface scandal. Now his wife is having to apologize about what happened on a tour with some black children.
[13:52:38] KEILAR: It's a family that's given America one Senator, two governors, two first ladies and two presidents. And Sunday, the all new CNN original series, "THE BUSH YEARS: FAMILY, DUTY, POWER," will take us inside the iconic Bush family to explore how they've influenced America.
I've had the opportunity to sit down with Pierce Bush, President George H.W. Bush's grandson and President George W. Bush's nephew, and he interviewed me about some of my memories of covering the Bush family.
PIERCE BUSH, GRANDSON OF GEORGE H.W. BUSH & SON OF GEORGE W. BUSH: Brianna, it's so special to be here with you and turn the tables a bit and get to ask you questions. I'm sure this is somewhat weird for you.
KEILAR: It is odd. But I love it.
BUSH: So, when you came to D.C., one of your first assignments was going to the White House in 2006. And you thought you were going to get an empty weekend at the White House. What happened? Tell us about that.
KEILAR: That's right. I was going to be filling in for White House correspondents while your uncle, President George W. Bush, was on his Christmas vacation. I had never been to the White House. I had been a journalist in Washington for less than a year. So I go for what I think is just this getting the lay of the land as I'm going to fill in at the White House and a press conference is called and it's the end of the year press conference, which is customary for presidents to give and it was December 20th of 2006. It was a hugely pivotal moment for your uncle because, just the month prior, Democrats had affectively swept into power in Congress. We ended up learning that he was leaning towards a troop increase and not just any little troop increase, this was what precipitated the surge in Iraq. So five combat brigades, 20,000 troops that were going to go in in the hopes and certainly at that point in time to turn around this terrible situation as it was in Iraq. So just this amazing moment in history. But the thing that struck me was just the rapport, honestly, that your uncle had with reporters. It was something you could only really appreciate in person. And even though gets a grilling from reporters, he still has this affinity for them, I noticed. It was something that I hadn't seen quite transmit on television but in person that was actually the thing I walked away with the biggest impression of, that for me. It was a huge day, oh, my gosh, I've gone to the White House today so I would talk to my friends about it on the phone and I remember telling them, he really has an amazing rapport with the press corps.
[13:55:16] BUSH: You mean respect and back and forth?
KEILAR: There was a respect. He liked them.
BUSH: Yes. You've seen that rapport, if you will, dwindle in subsequent administrations, since you've been up here in D.C.?
KEILAR: I would say that was a pinnacle, yes.
BUSH: Let's talk a little bit about my grandmother.
KEILAR: I'm anchoring the show the White House Correspondent is doing her live shot and as she's giving her very serious report about some issue. I see your grandma on a Segway. But at first I can't tell it's her but it's so bizarre. And this goes on for a long time, almost to the point where I'm thinking, this is just too weird. I can't not acknowledge this. And I said to the reporter, Elaine, is that Barbara Bush on a Segway behind you? And she said, oh, yes. She sort of rolls around her on a Segway.
You tell me about that, will you?
BUSH: I mean, yes. My grandparents always liked to find new fun gadgets. They were very early adopters to the Segway phase and my grandmother mastered it.
Brianna, thank you so much for sitting down and letting me turn the tables
KEILAR: Of course. Thank you.
BUSH: Thank you. Appreciate it.
KEILAR: Be sure to watch "THE BUSH YEARS: FAMILY DUTY, POWER," premiering this Sunday night, at 9:00 Eastern, only on CNN.
Coming up, collateral damage. Michael Cohen points the finger at Trump's children during his testimony. Are they now legally exposed?