Return to Transcripts main page
House To Vote Today To Condemn Anti-Semitism, Today: Manafort Could Get 25-Year Sentence For Fraud Convictions, Senate Intel Chair Sharply Criticizes Cohen Over Pardon Talks, CNN: Cohen Provides Documents Showing Edits To His False 2017 Testimony On Moscow Project Allegedly Made By Trump Lawyer; Sen. Martha McSally (R) Arizona Reveals She Was Raped While In The Military; Interview With Rep. Debbie Dingell. Aired 10-10:30 ET
Aired March 7, 2019 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: All right, top of the hour. Good morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: And I'm Jim Sciutto. We begin with breaking news. This morning, just in the last few moments, CNN learning that the House will vote today on a resolution condemning anti-Semitism. The text of that resolution yet to be released. But, of course, this is the source of quite a controversy within the Democratic Party.
HARLOW: Absolutely, and delayed and delayed again. Leading up to this vote, sources tell CNN a, quote, messy debate was happening, as you mentioned, inside the party, but how to handle and address these repeated controversial comments from Minnesota freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. So there is that.
SCIUTTO: That's right. And also questions about whether what else to include in this resolution. That's been the source of a lot of the debate here.
HARLOW: Absolutely. And some of the attacks that have been made against her in the wake of all of this as well. It's a big deal. We'll get to it in a moment.
Elsewhere in Capitol Hill, Michael Cohen has finished his many days, four days, full days of testimony before multiple Senate and House Committees. But this morning, the President's former confidant and fixer is facing some serious new questions about this statement that he made under oath last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP'S FORMER LAWYER: I have never asked for nor would I accept a pardon from President Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Now, Cohen's own lawyer is saying that Cohen told his former lawyer, lawyer at that time, that I quote, to quote, explore possibilities of pardon at one point with Trump lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, as well as other lawyers advising President Trump. Lanny Davis also says that is not a contradiction of Cohen's sworn testimony. You will want to hear that explanation because, of course, Cohen's statement seemed pretty categorical at that time.
SCIUTTO: The major question facing Paul Manafort this hour is how much prison time, the President's former campaign chairman is facing today. We will finally have an answer. Special Counsel says that Manafort does deserve what would essentially would be a life sentence for a host of financial crimes made worse by his broken pledge to cooperate on other cases under investigation. That is where we begin this hour.
CNN's Sara Murray with the latest here and, really, remarkable confluence of events, right, because you have the President's long time lawyer and fixer, he is going to be going to prison soon. And Manafort today, his former campaign chairman, is going to find out how much time he will go to prison.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And, you know, essentially, Paul Manafort will be learning whether he will be spending the rest of his life behind bars. He was convicted on eight counts here Virginia. Prosecutors have said they want up to 25 years for him. And they've said he has shown very little remorse. I mean, you pointed out that he did actually lie, according to prosecutors, when they did strike a plea deal in a separate case.
And prosecutors say, look, Paul Manafort has been out there blaming everyone but himself for his own crimes. And for his part, Manafort has said in filings, you know, he really is sorry. He has asked the judge for leniency. But when he was on trial here in Virginia, he didn't take the stand in his own defense.
He could hear from him today. He will have an opportunity to speak if he wants to before he is sentenced. And that could be his last shot at trying to convince the judge that he deserves a lighter sentence. This is a 69-year-old man whose health has been declining in the nine months since he has been incarcerated. At times, we have seen him in a wheelchair. We have seen use a cane. So this is sort of his last shot at that.
And it's worth noting that this is only going to be his first round of sentencing. Next week, he is going to be before another federal judge to get a sentence on crimes of conspiracy and witness tampering, you know. So it is very possible, he could spend the rest of his life in jail. Back to you, guys.
HARLOW: Sara Murray outside of the courthouse, thanks so much.
Meantime, on Capitol Hill, our Manu Raju is there. Of course, that's from Michael Cohen wrapped up day four of his testimony, Manu. And now, so many questions about what he said under oath about that whether there was any discussion of a pardon. I understand you just spoke with Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, who had some pretty sharp comments about what Cohen said.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. He sharply criticized Michael Cohen's testimony. He wouldn't talk about what they talked about privately in their classified testimony last week before the Senate Intelligence Committee. But, of course, that public statement that Michael Cohen made last week said that he never sought a pardon from Donald Trump.
But now we have learned from Lanny Davis, Cohen's attorney, that Cohen did direct an attorney to discuss a possible pardon with other Trump attorneys. They are saying that the testimony is accurate because of the timeframe in which these pardon discussions took place.
But nevertheless, Richard Burr very, very critical. He just told me that -- he told me this. He said, Lanny and Michael have -- Michael Cohen have a history of not necessarily factual statements. They are the ones that have to clear that up. And he talked about Cohen. He said this is a guy who already lied to Congress with every interview he does. He's susceptible to forgetting what he said in the last, not a situation a good lawyer should put him in. He said that if there're any lies, the Congress quote, he should suffer the consequences, a very strong statement from Richard Burr.
Now, Lanny Davis is saying that the testimony that Michael Cohen gave was consistent with what he -- what actually happened. There's nothing that contradicts it because of the way that the timeframe worked out in which initially there was what's called a joint defense agreement between Michael Cohen's attorneys, the President's attorneys. And at that time, there were discussions of a pardon. But afterward he left that joint defense agreement, there was not -- no discussions of a pardon. And they are saying that's what Michael Cohen was referring to in the testimony.
This is what Lanny Davis after July 2nd. Mr. Cohen authorized me as a new lawyer to say publicly, Mr. Cohen would never accept a pardon from President Trump even if offered. That continues to be the case. But, clearly, that explanation is not satisfying, at least republicans here who have heard the testimony.
SCIUTTO: Okay. So that's a possible lie that gets to his credibility. The false statement that he is actually going to prison for, I mean, this one is material to the broader investigation, is it not, because this gets to the question of talks about a project in Moscow that were denied, right?. And Cohen changed the story on that. Tell us what we know.
RAJU: Yes, that's right. We do know that there were edited statements that went back and forth between Michael Cohen's attorneys, Michael Cohen himself and President Trump's attorneys before that false statement was delivered to Congress back in 2017, when Cohen initially lied and downplayed what the Trump Organization tried to do to try to get that Trump Tower Moscow project going forward, downplayed then candidate Trump's role. We do know that edited statements were provided to the House Intelligence Committee yesterday.
Now, we also know that Michael Cohen was the one who authored the line about ending those talks ending in January of 2016, later acknowledging they occurred much later than that. But nevertheless, that's going to be a focus going forward of this committee, the House Intelligence Committee, about why those statements were edited and why they were made. So that's not going away anytime soon either. Jim and Poppy?
SCIUTTO: Manu Raju, always great to have you on the Hill.
Let's discuss now with Mary Katharine Ham. She's a CNN Political Commentator, as well as a conservative blogger. And John Sale, he's a former Watergate prosecutor, current white collar criminal defense attorney in Miami. Thanks to both of you.
John, if I can begin with you, because I feel like folks at home, there is so much coming at them in the legal sphere. What's really important here, I mean, this question about a pardon? So on the one hand, you have Cohen tying himself in a knot as to whether he sought one. But what struck me is you have the President's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, saying that folks did reach out to him for pardons and that the answer from the President's personal attorney was not, no. This is an ongoing investigation. His answer was not now. Is that -- should that be seen as a troubling use or attempt perhaps to influence the testimony of these witnesses by hanging that possibility out there?
JOHN SALE, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: I don't think that's the case. I have heard Rudy Giuliani on numerous occasions say the President is not considering pardons of anybody at this time. And then Rudy has always added the President always reserves the right because he has the constitutional power to pardon people.
I mean, this issue is not about Rudy Giuliani. It's about Michael Cohen. And we're used to dealing with people who have lied. And then they come around, they've seen the light and now were telling the truth. But when you get the second chance, like he has now, there is no third chance.
And when Lanny Davis is trying to do damage control, I give Lanny Davis credit for a good try. But Michael Cohen said, I would not ever -- never would I accept a pardon. And never means never. And what this is is like when President Clinton said it depends the definition of what is is, and he lied again. And when he said he wouldn't accept a job on the White House, that's so easily proven to be a lie that I think Michael Cohen's credibility is shattered.
SCIUTTO: But shouldn't the President take that off the table while the investigations are continuing? Can that not be read as at least offering that possibility, right? Because the President has Tweeted things about witnesses who are cooperating witnesses and witness who are not -- welcoming witnesses who do not cooperate. I mean, it gets to a bigger picture question of an attempt at least to interfere in an ongoing investigation.
SALE: I just don't think so because the President has the prerogative, the power to pardon.
But the bottom line is he has not pardoned anybody. He hasn't pardoned Paul Manafort. Has hasn't pardon anybody.
HARLOW: I do think -- Mary Katharine, I want to get you in here. I do think Jim makes a point especially given what Bill Barr said in that memo that he sent about, you know, what obstruction of justice is and how a pardon could play into that. But, Mary Katharine, just on the bigger issue that John brings up of trust, look at this Quinnipiac poll. The question is so straightforward. It is so simple. It's not this one. It's the other one about who do you believe more, Cohen or the President.
And, literally, Quinnipiac asked Americans whom do you believe more? 50 percent believed Michael Cohen more. 35 percent believe the President more. Mary Katharine, I mean, a guy who admitted to lying to Congress and is going to jail is believed by a wide margin more than the President.
MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Look, we have a host of unreliable narrators here. And I think the issue for Cohen is, it may very well be that after one shot and admitting that he lied and being punished for it and coming back and seeking redemption that people would believe him more than the President who has certainly lied to the American public but not at this point, as far as we know, under oath, that he would seek redemption, that people would believe him more. But if you have a second strike against you, that is a real problem.
Now, I guess Lanny Davis's somewhat, there I say, Clintonian explanation is that the word never just meant never from this point on would he consider one.
HARLOW: But, really, Mary Katharine, What does is mean? What is the definition of is? Let's just go back there.
HAM: This is where we are.
SCIUTTO: And on the other poll that Poppy referenced there, so you have folks trusting Cohen's word over the President's. But when folks listened to that testimony last week, let's throw these numbers up there again, nearly half, 49 percent, say nothing, they learned nothing new from his public testimony, about a quarter saying they did.
I just wonder, John, in your view having been through this before in Watergate, whether we're in a place where, for large majorities, the American population, what they are hearing doesn't change what they already believe about whether it is the President or his personal attorney or others involved in this.
SALE: Well, probably nobody's mind has been changed. But Watergate was different because nobody believed John Dean. It was his word against the President of the United States until there were tapes. And when there were tapes, that was real corroboration. But Michael Cohen is looking for corroboration, and it's just not there. And, for example, whether or not the President knew that he was going to give false testimony, it turns out that he didn't.
So now, Michael Cohen is indirectly blaming the lawyers. And I can tell you, the lawyers he is blaming, Jay Sekulow, possibly Abbe Lowell, those lawyers are of the highest integrity and fine lawyers. They would not do anything inappropriate. So he can't just keep shifting the blame and it's always someone else who did it.
SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, he did have checks. So on that issue, he did have corroboration. On the other issues, he did not.
SALE: And I'm talking about the edits. I'm talking about the edits of his testimony.
SCIUTTO: No, I understand. I'm just saying a bit broader in terms of the broader testimony. You're right. On those statements, no, the edits did not clearly answer the question or the accusation that he was making them.
SALE: And those lawyers shouldn't be criticized.
HARLOW: Thank you both, John Sale and Mary Katharine, always good to see you.
Still to come, more on our breaking news, democrats to vote today on a resolution aimed at condemning Congresswoman Ilhan Omar's controversial comments about Israel. Very soon, we will speak to one democratic lawmaker about the argument that the divided in their own party around that.
SCIUTTO: Plus this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARTHA MCSALLY (R), A.Z.: I am also a military sexual assault survivor. But unlike so many brave survivors, I didn't report being sexually assaulted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: A stunning -- a brave revelation from a sitting U.S. senator, Arizona Senator Martha McSally, and a veteran. We're going to have more on her story. It's an alarming one. That's coming up.
[10:18:10] SCIUTTO: The breaking news this hour, the House will, in fact, vote today on a resolution condemning anti-Semitism. Earlier, democrats were seemingly unable to agree on the language of that resolution, this all stemming from controversial comments made by Minnesota's freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. We are just learning that the resolution will not mention her by name. Also language in the bill will condemn all forms of hate. Majority Whip Steny Hoyer, telling CNN the message will be, quote, we are against bigotry, we are against prejudice and against hate.
Joining us now to discuss this and more, Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan. Congresswoman, first, thanks so much for taking the time. But also let us express our sympathies to you for the loss of your husband just recently, the long-serving Congressman John Dingell. Our thoughts are with you today.
REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D), M.I.: Thank you for that.
SCIUTTO: On this issue now, we know a vote will take place today. Can you give us a sense of the language in here, what will be said, what won't be said in this resolution?
DINGELL: I think that Steny Hoyer summed it up well. We are still looking to see what the final language is. I, for some time, have been very disturbed, and I say this frequently, you've heard me say it, that this country is being divided with fear and hatred. And we must stand up and be strong against anti-Semitism.
But I represent the largest Muslim community in this country. And the hatred and fear that you have seen there, they've just arrested someone that was trying to burn down a number of commercial entities. Every time I talk about this, I myself find myself the subject of a lot of hate, my colleagues. If you look at what happened in West Virginia, that black caucus has been feeling an increase in anti- rhetoric.
So we need to stand up together as one caucus, be against all of this form of any language to defend somebody. That's what you're going to see this afternoon.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this because it's CNN's reporting that one reason democrats are having this vote today is that republicans in the House were pressing forward with the possibility of their own resolution that the democrats want to have this vote before, in effect, republicans steal it away. What's your reaction?
DINGELL: I quite frankly don't think that that is why we are doing this. So I think every member of our caucus believes very firmly and strongly that we have to stand up against hatred and bigotry. Each member of our caucus comes from a different perspective. They have -- one of the things that all of us have to do. And I don't care if you are republican or democrat. One of my favorite -- it's a John Dingell saying. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. It's to listen to each other. And there are times that something maybe said that somebody finds offensive. We all have to listen. But we need to be clear, this entire institution, republicans and democrats, that we stand up against hatred, bigotry and move on to what the American people want us to do.
SCIUTTO: But if that's the message, it's quite a general one and one that I don't imagine anyone would disagree with, why did it take so long for the Democratic Party to reach unity on that message and on this resolution?
DINGELL: I don't think it took that long to reach unity. I think there was a lot of -- first of all, we were gone over the weekend. There was a lot of discussion. And a lot of members of this caucus had very strong feelings about what they're seeing. We move very quickly. A lot of times, things don't move this quickly.
You have to realize that sometimes the other party, and I have a great deal of respect for them, is trying to do got you moments. I don't think you play got you moments with fear and hatred and bigotry. I think we find a way to remember that we're not republicans or democrats or Americans. And we stand up against hatred, against anybody.
So they are trying to do -- some people, not all of them, were trying to do a got you moment. We are voting on it today, a very strong sense. And then tomorrow, we're going to move on with doing the people's business. So there are a lot of things that we've got to do for the people, like healthcare and infrastructure, and we need to move on. But to get a resolution this quickly is not that fast in this sometimes slow-moving place.
SCIUTTO: There is certainly a lot of demand to that. To that point, when you speak about people's livelihoods, GM, you served for some 30 years with General Motors. As you know, General Motors --
DINGELL: Well, not 40 but 30. I'm not that old.
SCIUTTO: 30. No, I said 30, right? I said 30. As you know, General Motors just eliminated thousands of jobs. They closed three plants here, the Lordstown plant being one of them. And you've spoken about this and the effect on the communities.
As you know, the President has been very public in his criticism of GM for following this decision. And I wonder if you agree with him, that the criticism of GM here is justified.
DINGELL: I have made it very clear that -- from the beginning, that I would work with the President, when he was right, mattered to the people of my district. And I have been very clear how I feel about how General Motors handled this, what they have done, that they are closing these plants, at the same time that they located a Blazer plant in Mexico because that plant is paying $1.50 to $3.50 an hour.
When you look at the faces of those work men and women in Lordstown, when my people that live in my district are working at Hamtramck, it's got an extension, we've got to keep manufacturing in this country, and these companies need to be working with us to keep jobs here. Don't ship jobs overseas. Pay a whole lot less and then ship them back into this country. Not right, not fair.
SCIUTTO: The President, as you know, promised to bring those jobs back. Has he failed to do so?
DINGELL; We've got to look at doing something about I call it NAFTA 2.0. Because I don't want anybody to forget what NAFTA 1.0 did. It's not where I think it needs to be. But I've made it clear I will work with them on a bill that will protect and keep jobs here in the United States and not have them located in Mexico at unfair labor rates.
I have talked to the -- I talked to the U.S. T.R. I've met with him this morning again, the Trade Representatives this morning, and I have talked to the President about it. So, yes, I'm going to fight with him to keep those jobs here.
SCIUTTO: An opportunity for bipartisanship. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, thanks so much, always good to have you on.
DINGELL: Good to be with you.
HARLOW: Look at that. That's really interesting. And she is right, because the new trade deal, U.S. MCA does mandate that these Mexico plant jobs pay. Think it's up to $16 an hour or something to try to force their hand there.
SCIUTTO: And as you said, that that is an area where you do have bipartisan agreement. And she said, she has spoken with the President personally about this.
HARLOW: Yes, Absolutely.
All right. So ahead, a stunning admission from a republican Senator, Martha McSally, the first American woman to fly in combat says she was raped while serving in the Air Force. We will hear the Senator in her own words next.
[10:29:25] HARLOW: All right. A stunning revelation from Senator Martha McSally of Arizona. She said she was raped while she was serving in the Air Force. She said this speaking during a Senate arm services [ph] -- subcommittee hearing on sexual assault in the military and says she came forward because she wants other witnesses to feel like they can as well. Our Kyung Lah has the story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCSALLY: So, like you, I am also a military sexual assault survivor.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Survivor and Senator, representing Arizona now and revealing that she was once a young Air Force member who felt she couldn't speak up.
MCSALLY: In one case, I was preyed upon and then raped by a superior officer.