Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

The Breadth of Trump Scandals Even Before the Mueller Report; "THE BUSH YEARS" Follows the Emergence of George H.W. Bush; Ex-White House Chief of Staff Breaks with Trump Immigration Policies; Palace Cracks Down on Online Trolls Attacking Meghan Markle; Jared Kushner Meets with Foreign Leaders Without U.S. Embassy Representation. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired March 7, 2019 - 14:30   ET

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


[14:30:00] TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Misbehavior is enough for impeachment, that's a question for a much later day.

(CROSSTALK)

NAFTALI: But already we know on multiple fronts this is an administration that's engaged, or associates have engaged, in at least questionable, if not criminal behavior.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: When we use that word "scandal," we focused on some of the parallels involving specific investigations. Axios didn't mention the very day controversies, from Charlottesville to child separations.

NAFTALI: We have a disruptive president. He's made it clear he's changing presidential norms, so we will have controversies about presidential rhetoric all the time.

Here's what I would do if I were keeping score at home. I would say, all right, we have campaign -- we have campaign violations. Michael Cohen has given us more than enough information about that. We have abuse of power. We need more evidence of abuse of power. But there is suggestive behavior. We have questions of obstruction of justice. What was the president's motive when he fired James Comey? Was it the Russia thing? We also have a question of potentially foreign involvement in our elections and the possibility that Americans were assisting foreigners? That's new. That's new as an ongoing presidential scandal.

Richard Nixon engaged in similar behavior, we now know for sure, in 1968 but that was not public while he was president. That's something we've learned subsequently.

To have a president who is being investigated, not simply for abuse of power and obstruction of justice, for the possibility that his lieutenants were engaged in some kind of conspiratorial activity with a foreign power, that's entirely new.

(CROSSTALK) NAFTALI: And that's what makes this -- this the most scandalous presidency so far. It doesn't mean that it's the presidency headed in the same direction as that of Richard Nixon. The number of scandals happening at the same time, number of pots boiling on the stove at the same time --

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: Totally unprecedented.

NAFTALI: -- Donald Trump has set a new precedent.

CABRERA: Let's talk about another past presidency. We have this new CNN series about the Bush family. Here's a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CHEERING)

ANNOUNCER: George H.W. Bush arrives at the Republican convention having swept aside his rivals.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Texas casts all its votes for her favorite son and the best father in America, George Bush.

(CHEERING)

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDNET OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very, very much.

ANNOUNCER: George H.W. Bush makes his pitch to be the leader of the free world.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I fought for my country, I've served, I've built and I'll go from the Hills to the hallows, from the cities to the suburbs, to the loneliest town on the quietest street, to take our message of hope and growth for every American to every American. I will keep America moving forward always forward for a better America for an endless enduring dream and a thousand points of light. This is my mission and I will complete it.

(CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just remember being inspired and moved and proud of him. We talked about how he wanted to call upon the greater good in all of us to serve our nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: This episode follows the emergence of George H.W. Bush. That wasn't a smooth process.

NAFTALI: Not at all. George H.W. Bush was really concerned that another scandal, the Iran-Contra scandal in the Reagan period in which he participated, wouldn't make -- would make it difficult if not impossible for him to become president. He supported the Iran side. There's no evidence that he supported taking money that the Americans were getting from selling weapons to Iran to use for the contras but he was supportive of a secret relationship with Iranian in order to get hostages freed. He was very afraid that disclosure of that would block his ability to succeed Ronald Reagan. That was a scandal that rifted the country. Once the country realized that Ronald Reagan was not a micromanager and, therefore, it was totally believable that he didn't know about the criminal aspects of this, the American people basically said, this is not grounds for impeachment. But for a number of years, there was a great deal of tension in this country over Iranian-Contra. And George H.W. Bush was afraid I'm not going to be president because of it.

(CROSSTALK)

[14:35:51] NAFTALI: This episode is all about what George H.W. Bush does to finally grasp that final ring. And there are moments when he crosses a line. And you'll see that. And hearing from his family, watching the video, listening to historians, you get a sense of the internal struggle in this man who is very capable of doing good but is willing at times to cross the line to be in a position to do good.

CABRERA: All right. Thank you so much, Tim Naftali. I always learn so much from you every time we talk. Appreciate it.

NAFTALI: Thank you.

CABRERA: Be sure to watch the CNN original series, "THE BUSH YEARS," this Sunday night at 10:00 eastern only on CNN.

Still ahead, former chief of staff, John Kelly, completely contradicting the president on immigration and the separations of families on the border.

And more on our breaking news. Michael Cohen now suing the Trump Organization in what looks to be the next big fight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Former White House chief of staff, John Kelly, making some pretty frank remarks during an appearance at Duke University. He did dodge some questions on security clearances for Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, for instance, but he did want to make one point very clear: He disagrees with President Trump on immigration issues.

[14:40:14] Chris Cillizza is CNN politics reporter and editor-at- large.

Chris, a few eye-opening lines to say the least, especially when he talked about the separation of migrant children from their parents.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Absolutely, Ana, and breaking with the Trump administration and the president specifically.

Let's go through first what John Kelly said. The big separation of family thing that happened was a decision made by the attorney general. It was his decision to make. OK. Decision made by the attorney general, it was his decision to make. Focus on that word, decision, that something had to be decided and changed. Then listen to what the Trump administration has been saying about that family separation policy. Let's play that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: This administration did not create a policy of separating families at the border.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECERETARY: Because it's the law and that's what the law states and the law states. And --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You guys don't have to do that.

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: You're right, and it doesn't have to be the law. And the president has called on Democrats in Congress to fix those loopholes.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The children --

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: The children can be taken care of quickly, beautifully and immediately. The Democrats forced that had law upon our nation. I hate it. I hate to see separation of parents and children.

REP. KATHLEEN RICE, (D), NEW YORK: We all know the results of the policy and the compassionate or lack of compassion.

NEILSEN: Ma'am, it's not a policy. It's the law. We enforce the law.

RICE: The policy is a policy. You just talked about discussing that policy with the then attorney general.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CILLIZZA: So the distinction there, Ana, is important. Kelly is saying the decision was made, and he's right on the merits, the decision was made to enforce a zero-tolerance policy. Yes, it had been on the books but, no, it had not been enforced in the way that Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the time chose to enforce it. Don't have to believe me. Believe John Kelly -- Ana?

CABRERA: Kelly also countered one of Trump's key border talking points.

CILLIZZA: Yes, this is really interesting. This is John Kelly again -- remember, if you know anything about Donald Trump, you probably remember the speech where he comes down the escalator and announces his candidacy and says, Mexico is sending us rapist and criminals and I assume some of them are good people. This is John Kelly at Duke.

And, by the way, he's talking about people coming into this country. They're people coming up here for economic purposes. I don't blame them for that. That's obviously a very different thing than even what Donald Trump is saying now. He is using and he's used these caravans that's moved toward the country as essentially creating this image of them as ravaging hordes of criminals coming into this country. Again, former chief of staff and John Kelly -- John Kelly is no liberal when it comes to border policy. He, in fact, was right head of Department of Homeland Security, chosen for that job because of his hardline stances on immigration. But he quite clearly believes something different as it relates to immigration than the president of the United States. Maybe that's why he's not the chief of staff any more.

Ana, back to you.

CABRERA: Overwhelmingly not criminals, he says, to your point about the Trump narrative that there's a national security crisis at the border because of who's coming across.

CILLIZZA: That's right.

CABRERA: Chris Cillizza, we appreciate that. Thank you.

Britain's royal family making new moves against hate and racism online. We'll go live to London on why Meghan Markle is now being targeted by trolls.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:48:07] CABRERA: Prince Harry's wife, Meghan Markle, a growing target apparently of racist online attacks that are becoming more frequent and vicious.

CNN's Max Foster reports an effort is under way to delete the hateful posts and block those who post them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One of the most talked about women of our time, a fashion icon --

MEGAN MARKLE, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: The winner this evening is Claire Wig Keller.

FOSTER: -- a role model, earning this homage from pop royal entertainment. The Duchess of Sussex bringing something completely new to the very top of the British establishments.

Yet, from the moment their relationship became public, Prince Harry and former American actress, Meghan Markle, detected racial and sexist undertones in parts of the press. There were the references to the duchess's rich and exotic DNA, how her family had gone from cotton slaves to royalty. And this piece suggesting the Los Angeles native was almost straight out of Compton, a reference to a song by NWA.

(SINGING)

FOSTER: The authors of these stories deny racism. But the couple saw underlying prejudice, which they articulated with this palace statement from 2016 calling out the racial undertones of comment pieces and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments.

A typical example is the ongoing narrative that the Duchess of Sussex is at war with her sister-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge. This is based on one report at a respected newspaper that Meghan made Kate cry at a brides-maid dress fitting just before last year's wedding. And even that story is disputed by the palace.

The two women have endured constant comparisons.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Essentially, Kate is no deviation of the norm. She's a British girl-next-door.

[14:50:05] FOSTER: Where Kate's now celebrated for wearing an off- the-shoulder dress, Meghan is accused of breaking royal protocol. When Meghan wears dark nail polish, she breaks royal protocol again with a vulgar fashion move. The comparisons are as awkward for Kate as they are for Meghan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's very much what you envision when you think of the princess and, frankly, she's white, Meghan is a deviation. She's foreign not just by being American but she's got black heritage. She's a divorcee. She's a different type of person. Not what your average British member of the public thinks of when they think of the word "duchess" or "royal family" at all.

FOSTER: A CNN royal source accepts the duchesses aren't best friends. They may not hang out or call each other, but they are friendly and they text. Stories about a rift are just click base the source adds. But it's that click bait that online trolls are linking, too, and using against Meghan.

On Twitter, we investigated the most commonly used anti-Meghan hashtags from the beginning of January to the middle of February. In total, we analyzed 5,204 tweets and discovered 20 accounts were behind 70 percent of the posts. Their profile descriptions typically contain Meghan-related hashtags, like Megzit, but also political hash tags, such as Brexit, and MAGA, Make America Great Again. We don't know how many people are behind the accounts and we found no evidence of a coordinated right-wing campaign against the duchess, but --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Meghan Markle fits into this bigger idea of the West and the U.K. in decline. And here it's symbolized by Meghan who corrupts this old institution of the Buckingham Palace.

FOSTER: CNN has been told that trolling escalated when the duchess announced her pregnancy. That was at the beginning of the high- profile tour of Australia. Palace star for having to spend more time deleting comments on the social media platforms. Also blocking accounts and reporting abuses. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's definitely unspoken interest in what the

baby will look like. There's been a lot of talk on Twitter. Not just from racists but also people that are very pro-Meghan about recessive genes, whether the baby will have its mother's no or coded conversations happening about what the baby will look like. It sounds really horrible to think but a lot of people have offered up the idea that the blacker the baby looks, the worse its treatment will be.

FOSTER: Our royal source tells us they even had to pre block the N- word on Instagram. Plus, emojis of knives and guns.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: CNN royal correspondent, Max Foster, is joining us now from London.

Max, a fascinating report there. Is there concern this online hate could translate into actual violence?

FOSTER: Well, yes. We often think of, you know, media tension and Diana when we think of the royal family but actually palace minds very much focused on an incident last year when an image was posted online calling for him to be shot because he's a race traitor for marrying Meghan Markle. They are concerned that this environment might create a commissive environment for someone that wants to carry out or follow through on an attack. That's why they want to get rid of the more violent elements online. Those emojis of knives and guns and all these references to how, you know, the couple should be -- there's concern about that as we head toward the birth of this baby. Race becomes more of an issue. This will be the first mixed-race baby in the royal family's thousand-year history and a lot of people are uncomfortable with that, while most people are celebrating it, it has to be said.

CABRERA: So disturbing for her to be dealing with these kinds of attacks.

Max Foster, we appreciate your reporting. Thank you.

We're waiting for two major events. The House voting soon on a resolution condemning hate after a freshman Democrats remarks.

And a judge will sentence former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, all happening in minutes.

[14:54:27] This is CNN live special coverage. Don't go anywhere.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: White House adviser and son-in-law Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, reportedly bucking the norms, meeting with foreign leaders without representation from the U.S. embassy. Embassy officials in Saudi Arabia telling "The Daily Beast" that Kushner kept him in the dark with his meetings last week with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Now these meetings come after reports that Kushner earlier advised the crown prince during the Jamal Khashoggi disappearance and murder.

"The Daily Beast" national security reporter, Erin Banco, joins us now.

You're breaking the story, Erin. Who was and wasn't in these meetings?

ERIN BANCO, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: What we know on these reportings is on Jared's latest trip to Riyad where he met with the Mohammad bin Salman, the crown prince, and his father, King Salman, State Department staffers and officials were largely left out of those meetings. They were not read in on the intimate details of the conversations that Jared had with the royal court. And that's concerning to them and members of Congress who we talked to who are concerned about a lack of transparency between the White House, the State Department, into those conversations between Jared and especially MbS. And there's one major reason why they're concerned. This ongoing conversation that's happening between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia about a potential nuclear deal. And so the concern is that there might be some private business interests that have been entangled into these