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Trump Administration Reports 471 Parents were Deported Without their Children; John Bolton: Trump Open to Talking Again with Kim; Satellite Images Show New Activity at North Korean Missile Site; Democrats Struggle to Unite Amid Uproar Over Omar's Israel Comments; Investors Look for Direction as Market Opens. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired March 7, 2019 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Everywhere should learn from New Jersey teenagers, never has that been said on national television.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Never. Mike has been across the street maybe shovel out of --

CAMEROTA: That's so nice.

BERMAN: For our neighbors. They got paid for it, though.

All right. "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto starts right now.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Very good Thursday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Poppy Harlow. Today is the first person to dace the indictment in the special counsel probe, it's the day that they're likely to get the longest sentence handed down so far. Of course we're talking about for Paul Manafort, one-time chairman of the Trump presidential campaign. Long-time lobbyist for foreign governments. He will learn his fate from multiple tax and bank fraud convictions. He'll learn that fate today.

None of those convictions, it's important to note, are related to the Trump campaign or to the president himself. Now prosecutors want him locked up for a minimum of 19 years, in part because he broke a cooperation deal by lying.

SCIUTTO: Yes. This is a big day in all these investigations. Michael Cohen, the president's lawyer and fixer, is facing three years in prison. This morning he's facing hard questions about his apparent interest in a presidential pardon. That despite this claim to a House committee just last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER PERSONAL ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I have never asked for nor would I accept a pardon from President Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Well, maybe not. Cohen's own lawyer today saying that his former lawyers, that is Cohen's former lawyers, did reach out and that the president's lawyer tells CNN he has fielded numerous pardon queries and always responded the same way.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is following all this on Capitol Hill.

So, Sunlen, Cohen may have wrapped up his congressional testimony but you have this ongoing questions because the thing was that statement he made in public last week was pretty categorical and it appears that his -- the actual fact here was not so clear cut.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Michael Cohen was very clear when he said that in front of the committee last week saying never have I asked for nor would I accept a pardon. Those very clear words coming from Michael Cohen in front of TV cameras. And so this does -- all of these contradictory statements about who talked to who about a presidential pardon really underscored that we still don't have a clear picture of what happened and brings us to the question if Michael Cohen misled Congress over this issue over presidential pardons.

The "Washington Post" coming up with some new reporting saying that Michael Cohen talked to the House Intelligence Committee yesterday and during that he discussed the subject of a pardon with Trump's attorney Jay Sekulow and Rudy Giuliani. Important to note here, though, that we do not know, according to this reporting, who first raised the topic of a presidential pardon, whether it came from Michael Cohen, whether it came from the attorneys.

That an important point as we're trying to assess out these details here. Now Rudy Giuliani told CNN's Dana Bash last night that he had been asked about pardons by attorneys but that he would not comment specifically on conversations with other attorneys. Giuliani saying here that these were privileged discussions.

Now as you noted, Lanny Davis, Michael Cohen's current lawyer, trying to do some cleanup this morning about all these contradictory conversations. All of these contradictory elements. He released an official statement on this issue. He says that Cohen was referring to in his testimony last week was a period of specific time. A point where Cohen was -- after the collapse of the joint defense group, that point, Cohen would not accept an offer. Excuse me, Lanny Davis in the statement saying during that time period he directed his attorney to explore possibilities of a pardon at one point where Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani as well as other lawyers advising President Trump.

Now very clear, guys, a lot of confusing elements to this but very clear that we still have a lot more to learn about this and certainly that this will come up again.

HARLOW: I was just going to say, Sunlen, not very clear. Right? I mean, there are so many different parties saying so many different things about this right now. Before --

SERFATY: Many contradictory elements.

HARLOW: Totally. Before you go, what do we know about Cohen's latest testimony, right, that he gave yesterday behind closed doors about the proposal for a Trump Tower in Moscow?

SERFATY: That's right. So much attention of course over that Trump Tower project. Yesterday, up here and he was testifying behind closed doors from the House Intel Committee he provided documents to the committee which he says shows edits were made to that false statement that he made in 2017 over the Moscow project. Now in front of that committee he says that last week he said there were several changes made including how we are going to handle the message. The message of course being the length of time that the Trump Tower Moscow project stayed and remained alive.

And Jay Sekulow, the lawyer here, he pushed back on those allegations in a statement last week. He said that the statement that they edited or changed to Congress is not true, completely false. So again, Poppy and Jim, more contradictory elements coming from these testimonies.

[09:05:01] SCIUTTO: Some splitting of hairs. We've seen it before.

Sunlen Serfaty, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Let's talk about this a little more. With us former federal prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers and former White House lawyer for President Trump, Jim Schultz.

Good morning to you both.

Jennifer, on Cohen, what are the important things you think this morning that we don't know?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, there's a lot that we don't know as has been discussed. There are a lot of unanswered questions here. You know, I think the important things are that Congress has been digging into the details here. And prosecutors I think have known about all of this for quite a while. And they will have had time to sit down with Cohen, really go through all of the details or who said what, what did you authorize, what did you learn. You know, what were you thinking at the time. What happened before you split ways with Trump, what happened after.

So, you know, I haven't heard anything that gives me reason to believe that Cohen has committed perjury in the sense of a chargeable offense. In large part because the questions and answers weren't clear enough for that.

HARLOW: Right.

RODGERS: You know, will he take a credibility hit if we learned that, you know, he said something a little bit too categorical, and it wasn't quite that clear, maybe. But that's why people corroborate what he says. So there's a lot more information that we don't know about other witnesses, other documents. You know, Cohen is bringing documents in. All of that really goes together. No one is listening to Cohen's words in and of themselves necessarily.

So, you know, there's a lot to learn. The good news is the people who matter were on it and know a lot more than we all know -- Poppy.

(LAUGHTER)

HARLOW: True.

SCIUTTO: So, Jim Schultz, let's get to the essential question of pardons here because that is really important. And Rudy Giuliani admitted it. He said he has been approached more than once by various lawyers that his answer to them was not no. It was not now.

Are you troubled at all by the president's personal attorney keeping that hanging out there, the possibility of pardons, and how that might influence the testimony of potential witnesses and what is more than one ongoing investigation?

JAMES SCHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: So it's not within the province of the president's lawyer, his private lawyer, to make judgments as to whether the president is going to issue a pardon or not.

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: But they speak for the -- the president's lawyers speak for the president as Rudy Giuliani does.

SCHULTZ: As it relates to pardons --

SCIUTTO: All the time.

SCHULTZ: As it relates to pardons and official conduct that goes on in the White House, the president's lawyers -- the president's personal lawyers do not speak for him as it relates to official White House business. That falls squarely within the province of the White House and the White House employees. So --

SCIUTTO: Rudy Giuliani makes statements in defense of the president all the time. You're saying he doesn't speak for the president?

SCHULTZ: I've criticized Rudy Giuliani going out and making statements all the time. He's the president's personal lawyer. He goes out and talks about facts. Sometimes his facts aren't exactly on point. So here, I mean, to hold him -- to hold that -- you know, there is a whole decision-making process that goes into presidential pardons. But the power does lie within the president himself, not Rudy Giuliani.

HARLOW: How about this? The court of public opinion matters here as well, right?

SCHULTZ: Sure it does.

HARLOW: And last week's Quinnipiac poll shows there's a huge gap in terms of whom Americans trust more on this stuff, Michael Cohen or the president. Look at these numbers. 50 percent believe Cohen more over the president.

And Jim, to you, I mean, that's -- the American people are saying that someone who admitted to lying to Congress who's headed to prison for -- in part for that and other crimes is more believable than the president of the United States.

SCHULTZ: Polls are polls. I'd like to see what the actual questions in the polling -- in the polls were. Just the fact --

HARLOW: I mean, can we pull it up?

SCHULTZ: Sure. Please do. I'd like to see --

HARLOW: I'll read you the question here, guys. Can we show that back up?

SCHULTZ: Sure.

HARLOW: Whom do you believe more?

SCHULTZ: And what came before that question? I'm sure there was a teaser before that question in the poll. Polls always typically do that.

SCIUTTO: That's a pretty --

SCHULTZ: Who do you believe more --

SCIUTTO: That's a pretty straightforward question.

SCHULTZ: I'm sure there was a series of other questions. Right.

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: Confusing (INAUDIBLE), that's not believable.

SCHULTZ: Well -- right. Right. I understand. But it is troubling, right, that the American people believe Michael Cohen --

HARLOW: Right.

SCHULTZ: That there is a poll out there that the American people believe Michael Cohen more than they believe President Trump on these issues, especially given the fact that Michael Cohen is an admitted liar as it relates to these matters. He's pled guilty to it. You know, we've seen inconsistencies in his testimony before Congress or at least there is alleged inconsistencies between what he said to Congress and what might have actually happened in the most recent testimony.

So I think this has to play out a little more. I think it's a little premature given the fact that all of that was front and center. All they -- all the American public have the benefit or, you know, not -- the American public doesn't sit and listen to the testimony. The entire testimony. All they see is what CNN and other cable news channels put across the bottom of the screen for the most part. HARLOW: Yet we played the whole testimony.

SCIUTTO: We did.

SCHULTZ: No, I know. But that doesn't mean everybody is watching it. Let's admit there, that not everybody is sitting there watching the entire testimony.

HARLOW: Totally. I hear you.

SCHULTZ: I'm (INAUDIBLE) person, I didn't sit and watch the entire testimony.

SCIUTTO: I hear you. I hear you.

Jennifer, before we go, just on another issue, because of course there is a new attorney general, Bill Barr. He has publicly questioned whether the Comey firing.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Amount to obstruction of justice. You know, says it's within the president's purview.

[09:10:04] But he did say senators during his -- tell senators during his confirmation hearings that offering pardons to hostile witnesses could be conceivably obstruction of justice. I mean, with what we're learning here, does this pose potential danger to the president?

RODGERS: That's right, Jim. And it is a big deal. Now to Jim's point from before, if you were actually thinking about charging something criminally, you would have to prove that the president himself knew that these conversations were going on. You know, it can't just be Giuliani on his own, kind of throwing out these ideas. And yet the notion that these pardons were being tangled in front of potentially Cohen, Manafort, Flynn and others means that there is I think some real jeopardy there that Bill Barr has admitted could be the basis of a criminal offense.

Now Manafort cooperated with authorities for a while before going south. Flynn's cooperation according to the Mueller team was adequate and always. So I think they know a lot about whether this in fact was happening, whether they know whether the president was personally involved or not is another question. And that's what they would have to have in order to even consider charging him.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I get it. Listen, thanks to both of you.

SCHULTZ: Yes --

SCIUTTO: These are complicated issues and we're going to be -- you know, the American public is going to be judging them over time.

Other issues today. Paul Manafort set to learn his fate inside a Virginia federal court today. How long will he go to prison?

HARLOW: Right. The president's former campaign chairman is facing up to 25 years behind bars for bank and tax fraud.

Sara Murray is outside the court with more. What are we looking at?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Paul Manafort could very well learn today if he is going to be spending the rest of his life behind bars. As you pointed out, prosecutors have asked for up to 25 years in jail for the eight crimes he was convicted of here in Virginia. And they say he's shown very little remorse for these crimes. That he essentially has been willing to blame everyone but himself for his own criminal activity.

For Paul Manafort's part in his filings he has asked the judge for leniency and he said that he's sorry. He did not take the stand here in Virginia in his own defense when this case went to trial. But he will have an opportunity to speak before he is sentenced today, if he chooses to do so. That could be his last chance to ask the judge for some leniency in this case.

You know, Paul Manafort is 69 years old. He's already had declining health issues in the nine months he's been incarcerated. At times we've seen him use a wheelchair. We've seen him use a cane. So that could be his last opportunity and make his case to the judge. And it's worth remembering that this is only the first sentencing round for Paul Manafort. He will be appearing before a separate federal judge next week on crimes of conspiracy and witness tampering.

Back to you, guys.

HARLOW: That's right. In a separate case.

Sara, thanks very much, at the court there in Alexandria, Virginia.

Ahead for us, we learned in important testimony this morning, 471 undocumented migrant parents were deported without their children during these family separations at the border. This news on the same day the president's former chief of staff John Kelly says the vast majority of immigrants crossing the border are not criminals.

SCIUTTO: Of course not the way the president has portrayed them.

Plus tensions escalating among Democrats as they struggle to contain the backlash over Congresswoman Ilhan Omar's latest comments regarding Israel. Could this have a lasting impact on the party? How do they resolve it?

And this morning R. Kelly is back behind bars, this time arrested for failing to pay child support. But the second part of his explosive interview with CBS is out. Why he says he has no money. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:15:00] SCIUTTO: Listen up for this story. In a new court filing, the Trump administration is now admitting that some 471 migrant parents were deported from the U.S. without their children.

HARLOW: Let's get right to Jessica Schneider, she has the details on this. So that's the number we learned. What else do we need to know behind that number?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy and Jim, this is all part of an ongoing class action lawsuit. So, like you said, the Trump administration now identifying those nearly 500 parents who were removed from the U.S. without their children.

So, that number on its own might sound shocking, but really, it isn't entirely unheard of that parents will opt to leave their children in this country when they're sent back home, and that's because many of them have family members here in the U.S. who can sponsor that child.

So now for some clarification as to what happens. A spokesman at the Department of Homeland Security, they're stressing that at the height of those family separations last Spring, separated parents, they were, in fact, routinely asked by ICE agents and their home consulates.

If they wanted to be reunited with their children before they were sent back home, meaning they take their kids with them. A lot of these parents opting not to do that. So DHS is also previously acknowledged, you know, that parents were removed without their children.

We've heard that in the past. But now with this court filing, the administration is providing the updated count here. And we know that it was 471 parents who left this country without their children. So, in addition to that, the court filing actually revealing some new numbers as well, that the number of children who have been reunited with their families as of Monday, just more than 2,700 kids, they've been discharged from the government's care.

And Jim and Poppy, that number is up six since mid February. So the government showing here perhaps that it is making some progress with these kids leaving the government's care here. Guys?

SCIUTTO: And certainly, important, if the parents had the option to be with their kids, and decided to let the kids --

HARLOW: Right --

SCIUTTO: Stay --

HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: Jessica, thanks for helping clear that up. Let's discuss now with James Clapper; he's of course the former director of national intelligence. General Clapper, thanks very much for joining us this morning.

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Thanks for having me. SCIUTTO: So on this issue, the administration officials prior to

Nielsen's testimony yesterday have admitted in public numerous times, Sessions did this, Kelly and others. That the family separation, zero tolerance policy was explicitly intended to deter asylum seekers.

[09:20:00] And I just wonder when you look at issues like this, like parents being sent home without their children, and there's some confusion as to how much, you know, freedom they had to bring them or whether they made the choice to do so.

But whether that should be seen as a mistake by the administration or an intended part of the policy.

CLAPPER: Well, I honestly don't know, Jim. This is a very complex and very charged situation emotionally. And in fairness and I'm thinking about the people in the trenches at the border trying to deal with this. And as opposed to what the politicians back here in the beltway and in Washington say.

I think under any circumstance of forced separation of children, particularly if the parents haven't or sponsors have consented to that is egregious, and that was the policy, particularly with the prior Attorney General. I think the administration would be well served to clear that up and equivocally state that is not the policy.

HARLOW: Right, because Nielsen in her testimony, Director Clapper yesterday just confused all of it. And by the way, if it was intent -- the intent was to deter, it didn't work, right? If you look at the number of families that have been attempting to cross the border specifically.

CLAPPER: You know, exactly, Poppy, that's true.

SCIUTTO: So looking at those numbers, Poppy is talking about here, 76,000 border apprehensions just in February alone and the administration, begging the point in the last four months, there have been as many of these apprehensions as the prior 12-month period.

I wondered of course, you were part of this 58 former national security officials who put forth a joint letter last month saying that, you are aware of no emergency, justifying the president's emergency declaration. I wonder, as you look at those numbers, does that bolster the administration's case that there isn't emergency at the border?

CLAPPER: Well, I think -- I think there's clearly a humanitarian crisis. I just associate the termer national security or national emergency with some sort of national security threat --

SCIUTTO: Right --

CLAPPER: Which has been the essence of the hype from -- particularly from the president, his tweets and you know, all these human traffickers, and this is the threat to us, and that's why we have to deploy active duty forces to the border which I think is a mistake, and we shouldn't do that. That's an abuse of the troops to use them for that -- for that

purpose. But I do think it's pretty obvious however tremendous humanitarian crisis, and I think the Department of Homeland Security and again, I'm thinking about the troops on the front line there have a tremendous challenge. And I'm very sympathetic to them.

HARLOW: If we could get you on North Korea because this is very important, obviously, Jim was there at the summit in Hanoi, and since it fell apart, since the president walked away from the table, these new satellite images, Director Clapper showing rebuilding at this specific long range missile launch pad site. What's your read, how concerned are you about it?

CLAPPER: Well, welcome to negotiating with the North Koreans.

HARLOW: Yes --

CLAPPER: This is an all too familiar pattern of theirs, it's been my strong conviction ever since I engaged with the North Koreans when I went there in 2014 to bring it out to our citizens that they are just not going to denuclearize. I don't care what they say.

Now, you know, these summits and dialogue, it works to their advantage. It puts Kim Jong-un on the stage on an equal basis with the president of the United States which is something the North Koreans have longed for, for decades. So, it's not surprising to me that we see evidence of them continuing with their nuclear and-or missile program.

That is -- that is the way they generate leverage. And I just wish that the president -- in fact, in the summit in Singapore in June, had asked Kim Jong-un what is it -- what will it take to make you feel sufficiently secure that you don't need nuclear weapons?

HARLOW: Right --

CLAPPER: And it seem to me the answer to that would kind of determine your negotiating strategy, and I don't know that we know that. The other thing would have been very handy to have agreed on, would have been a definition -- a mutual definition of denuclearization which as far as I know we still don't have. So, this is not surprising and this is a typical North Korean behavior.

[09:25:00] SCIUTTO: John Bolton said this morning, he's open --

HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: To -- the president is open to more -- to the possibility of another summit.

HARLOW: Very surprising --

SCIUTTO: So, we'll see if that one produces more results.

HARLOW: Director Clapper, thank you, as always.

CLAPPER: Thanks for having me.

HARLOW: Democrats divided this morning, a lot of back and forth, confusion, fighting, bickering over what to do about the repeated controversial comments from freshman congresswoman Ilhan Omar about Israel. What is the lasting impact on the party here in terms of the division from this?

SCIUTTO: We are just moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Investors searching for some sort of direction, the jobs report out tomorrow, that's going to be important. And tension could be growing between the U.S. and China and their long-standing trade dispute. Can they reach agreement? That's a big deal.

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