Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Democrats Debate Anti-Hate Resolution; Interview With Former Gov. John Kasich (R) Ohio; Sherrod Brown Not Running For President; Manafort Learns Fate. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 7, 2019 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:00]

ERIN BANCO, THE DAILY BEAST: 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 conversations that have to do with potential government deal.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: So, what is the typical procedure for meetings like this?

BANCO: So, typically, when a member of the U.S. government goes abroad, they often interact very intimately with the State Department embassy in whatever country they're in, in terms of security, in terms of setting up appointments, in terms of, you know, inviting officials from that embassy into those meetings.

And so what we know from this trip is that there was a State Department official inside some of these meetings, but that State Department official was not from the embassy in Riyadh. He was an individual who works very closely on Iran matters, and that the only people that were really briefed about this trip were Secretary Pompeo, this individual who worked on Iran, and Jared Kushner's team in the White House.

And so there's been very little readout about what actually went on in Saudi Arabia, and, like we said, that's concerning members of Congress.

CABRERA: Erin Banco, thanks for laying it out there for us.

BANCO: Thank you.

CABRERA: Good to see you.

Top of the hour. I'm Ana Cabrera, in for Brooke Baldwin.

Any minute now, Paul Manafort learns his fate. Donald Trump's former campaign chairman is facing the first of two sentencing hearings today, which will determine whether the 69-year-old will spend the rest of his life behind bars. Manafort was found guilty of defrauding banks and the government and

failing to pay millions of dollars in taxes, charges stemming from the special counsel's investigation. Now, prosecutors say Manafort deserves up to 25 years in prison, again, in this one case, the case in which he was convicted on all these charges, and he should pay millions of dollars in fines and restitution.

He was convicted by a jury after a three-week trial last summer. And since then, Manafort has shown little remorse, prosecutors say, even lying under oath following a plea deal after that trial.

Shimon Prokupecz is CNN's crime and justice reporter. He's outside the courtroom in Virginia for us.

Shimon, what can we expect here?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ana, so just in about a half-hour or so, we expect things to get under way here. Paul Manafort's lawyer and wife are inside the courtroom already.

And so we expect the hearing to begin around 3:30. We may hear from Paul Manafort. It may be his last-ditch effort here in all of this to try and get leniency from the judge. Paul Manafort, who is 69 years old, could, could face the rest of his life in prison. Certainly, any hefty sentence here would perhaps prevent him from ever leaving prison.

He would have to spend the rest of his life. His birthday in just a few weeks. On April 1, he turns 70. But we do expect to hear more from his attorneys. We will hear from prosecutors explaining why he should get up to 25 years in prison and then, finally, we probably will hear from Paul Manafort, who's going to try and get leniency from this judge.

CABRERA: All right. We will be watching closely and we will be discussing the outcome as it unfolds.

Thank you, Shimon.

Also moments from now, House Democrats are gearing up to take a vote on a resolution condemning hatred in all forms, a resolution rooted in controversy surrounding Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. Omar has faced bipartisan criticism and condemnation for using anti-Semitic tropes in tweets and other comments she made, but within the Democratic Party a split has emerged over how to deal with these comments and the backlash that has followed.

Earlier, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it is up to Omar to explain what she meant, while also saying the freshman Democrat perhaps didn't understand the impact of her remarks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I feel confident that her words were not based on any anti-Semitic attitude, but that she didn't have a full appreciation of how they landed on other people, where this -- these words have a history and a cultural impact that may have been unknown to her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Let's bring in CNN congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill.

Phil, how did this end up creating such a divide between Democrats?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Ana, I think the interesting moment is that what this -- what has really happened over the course of the last couple weeks with Congresswoman Ilhan Omar's remarks is, it has just kind of ripped the lid off a clear divide between members of the Democrat Caucus and, frankly, the Democratic Party on the whole.

It's generational. It's ideological. It's split between different groups. You have older members of the Democratic Caucus, Jewish members of the Democratic Caucus who are furious at what Congresswoman Omar has said, particularly the latest comments related to dual loyalty, which is considered to be an anti-Semitic trope.

And then you have members and allies that are close to Ilhan Omar who believe she's unfairly being targeted here, that there are broader issues, particularly because she's a Muslim member of Congress, particularly because she's been targeted.

They have been trying to plug the gap here over the last couple weeks as this has built. Internally, it has built. Behind closed doors, it has built. The frustration has built. What Speaker Pelosi has tried to do is try and defuse that to some degree.

[15:05:01]

Take a listen to how she described things earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: We're working now on a resolution. We will see when we bring it to the floor that we will, again, speak out against anti-Semitism, anti-Islamophobia, anti-white supremacy and all the forms that it takes. That's what we're working on, something that is one resolution addressing these forms of hatred, not mentioning her name, because it's not about her, it's about these forms of hatred.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: So, Ana, as Speaker Pelosi notes, the resolution itself doesn't mention Congresswoman Omar, but it has been expanded from four pages to seven, not just to talk about condemnation for anti-Semitism, but also condemnation for anti-Muslim bigotry, condemnation for white supremacy.

And I will note the resolution, the seven-page resolution does mention the dual loyalty issue, condemns that explicitly. But the effort here for Democrats, particularly Democratic leadership, is try and address this and then try and move beyond it.

Ana, as you know quite well, Democrats have a lot on their agenda. This is not an issue or a fight they wanted to be bogged down in, but they very much are at this moment.

CABRERA: It is an important issue and a big part of the discussion right now in American life. Phil Mattingly, thank you for that reporting.

More breaking news this hour involving another associate of President Trump. Michael Cohen has just filed a lawsuit against the Trump Organization. The president's former personal attorney says the company failed to fulfill its contractual obligations when the Trump Organization abruptly stopped paying his legal fees last summer.

And joining us now to talk about more of this, CNN chief legal analysis Gloria Borger and Arianna Berg. She is a former prosecutor with the U.S. attorney's office in the Southern District of New York, the same office that prosecuted Michael Cohen.

So, Gloria, as we look through this lawsuit, Cohen is essentially saying, between June of 2018 and now, he is owed money for his congressional testimonies, the Stormy Daniels lawsuit involving the defamation claim, the search of his home and office. He says he's owed damages that were incurred with that, his cooperation with the special counsel and the criminal cases against him.

He says these fees incurred exceed $1.9 million, and that they continue to accrue. What's your reaction?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Michael Cohen believes that he had a deal with the Trump Organization that they would pay for his legal fees, period, end of paragraph.

This shows that he says that he spoke with Eric and Don Jr. about this when the fees weren't being paid and that he is due those fees. From the Trump side, I think there's a feeling that they believe that they agreed to pay Michael Cohen's fees when there was a joint defense agreement and there was an extensive document review as a result of that, but once Michael Cohen decided to cooperate with investigators, they pulled back.

So Michael's point is, you -- we had an agreement that you would pay for my legal fees, period, no matter what, and he's decided to sue them.

So, Arianna, what's the reality Cohen gets a check cut?

ARIANNA BERG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, you know, it's not uncommon in large companies for senior management to get these sort of indemnification agreements that are within their employment contract.

And, essentially, what these do is, they allow for the payments of attorney fees by the company for any matters that arise within the scope of their employment. And, usually, as we can all imagine, carved out from that, usually, they don't agree to pay for attorneys' fees for criminal activities committed by the employee.

So, here, we have an interesting issue, because Michael Cohen's job, we could say, as a fixer and personal attorney for Donald Trump, you could say that the matters within the scope of his employment were criminal, potentially, unto themselves, at least sketchy.

And so the question really becomes here is, can -- are they obligated to pay out attorneys' fees after their interests have divided, after Cohen essentially agreed to start attempting to cooperate with the special counsel's office...

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: Essentially, against the interests of Trump's team.

BORGER: Right.

BERG: Exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: No, I was just going to say, Michael Cohen's job was to protect Donald Trump, which he did. And then the question is, as you point out, when he stopped protecting Donald Trump, does the agreement end or does it continue?

CABRERA: OK. Now he wants almost $2 million in back pay.

We will talk about that, but I also want to ask you a little bit about this new reporting that Michael Cohen may have sought out a pardon from President Trump, despite definitively saying this at his congressional hearing just last week:

[15:10:06]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY/FIXER FOR DONALD TRUMP: I have never asked for, nor would I accept a pardon from President Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: He says he wouldn't accept and he's never asked for it.

But, according to Michael Cohen's current lawyer, Lanny Davis, when the FBI raided Cohen's office and hotel year nearly a year ago, Cohen asked his attorney at that time to talk to the Trump team, including Rudy Giuliani, about a possible pardon.

But Davis argues Cohen did not lie to Congress because Cohen never asked the president directly. Giuliani tells CNN -- quote -- "I have been asked about pardons by lawyers and the press, and I never offered anyone a pardon." Now, lawmakers say presidential pardons are amongst the hot topics that they will be investigating in coming weeks. As for Cohen's credibility going forward, well, here's Republican Senator Susan Collins.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: If Michael Cohen asked for a pardon, I do think that that is problematic, because it casts doubt over the veracity of all of his testimony.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Gloria, I know you have new reporting on the pardon discussion. This is really a moving target, isn't it?

BORGER: Well, it is and it's a very confusing story. And I and Pamela Brown and Jeremy Herb and others in our team have been trying to kind of deconstruct what happened when, because it's very confusing about what exactly was discussed, who was initiating these conversations, and how far they really progressed.

And I think what we know is that there were a couple of attorney-to- attorney conversations in which a pardon was raised, the question of a pardon was raised about how Michael Cohen's case could be resolved, for example, between Michael Cohen's attorney and Rudy Giuliani and Michael Cohen's attorney and an attorney for the president.

But it was raised in a cordial way and not as Michael Cohen wants a pardon, will you give it to him, OK? So when Michael Cohen was talking about he never asked for a pardon...

CABRERA: Right.

BORGER: ... what he may be talking about and what I think Lanny Davis is talking about is this timeline which shifted because once he declared his independence from Donald Trump in early July of last year, there weren't any conversations.

So I think when they had a joint defense agreement, there were some lawyerly conversations about this possibility, but, once they split, there were no conversations. Does that make any sense?

(LAUGHTER)

CABRERA: OK. It makes sense but it didn't make sense because when Cohen was testifying before Congress, he didn't stipulate. He didn't say, well, we talked about it at one point, but after I decided I wasn't going to cooperate with the president's team and was instead going to cooperate with prosecutors, I no longer wanted or was seeking a pardon.

So, Arianna, in your interpretation, did Michael Cohen lie to Congress?

BERG: Yes, I think this pardon issue -- I think the reason why we care about this pardon issue is for two reasons.

One is, it potentially goes to Michael Cohen's credibility. As you mentioned, he did testify in front of Congress and he stated pretty definitively, he used that N-word, the never word, which as a lawyer you never instruct -- you really should instruct your client never to use the word never, because it gets you in trouble.

And here it might very well have gotten Cohen in trouble. It doesn't -- I don't think it rises to the level of criminal exposure for perjury for Michael Cohen, but I think it does really run the risk of a major credibility problem for Michael Cohen.

He went into those hearings with those credibility issues. He's obviously pled guilty to lying in front of that very congressional body before, and we know him to be a longtime chronic liar on behalf of Donald Trump. But we really needed him to come into these hearings with the slate completely clean.

He needed to come in and say, mea culpa, I did wrong, I lied in the past, but now going forward you can trust everything that I say in front of you. And this one, I think, if proven to be true, that he did actually seek out a pardon, I think it takes a little bit of the credibility out of what he has to say.

Having said that, though, he came with receipts, he came with documents that backed up all of the critical points of testimony in front of Congress. So while I think it dings him a little bit, I don't think ultimately it sinks his testimony. I think he said a lot of really reliable things that were corroborated independently by documents.

[15:15:00]

I'm remembering that statement that he made, too, Gloria, about the fact that, no, I never asked for a pardon. It's almost as if he were waiting for a follow-up question or something from the Congress members, who never spoke about the pardon again.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Well, Ana what's the difference between open to a pardon, having your attorney have a lawyerly discussion about these are the options that await Michael Cohen, vs. asking for a pardon?

And when he was part of a joint defense agreement, you would assume he was open -- you know, open to the idea of a pardon. When he decided, you know, sorry, I'm not going to defend Donald Trump anymore, you can you can see how things how things would change.

But, you know, these are these are questions, I guess, Congress is going to have to consider, because there are lots of Republicans who are raising these very issues.

CABRERA: Yes.

And we know Jim Jordan is among them who's already asking the Department of Justice now to look into whether Cohen perjured himself.

Ladies, stand by, because that's the Cohen news for today, but moments from now, we are expecting Paul Manafort to be sentenced. We're also expecting the House to start debate on that anti-hate resolution that has caused major Democratic infighting.

Plus, Senator Sherrod Brown gets out of the 2020 race. He's one of five contenders to say they have decided not to run just this week. We will get reaction from his fellow Ohioan former Republican Governor John Kasich.

And, again, we're keeping an eye on the federal courthouse in Virginia where President Trump's former campaign chair Paul Manafort is about to be sentence, potentially two decades in prison.

Lots to cover. Stay with us here in the CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:20:52]

CABRERA: We have this just in to CNN. We have learned House Democrats are now demanding documents from the White House about possible meddling in the AT&T and Time Warner merger.

We should note, that deal has since gone through and Warner Media is now the parent company of CNN.

CNN congressional reporter Lauren Fox is joining us now.

What have you learned?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, we know that House Democrats on the Judiciary Committee want to know more about the president's interactions with his advisers when it comes to this merger.

In a new letter, they wrote: "We write to underscore our serious concerns regarding allegations that President Trump attempted to interfere with antitrust law enforcement. According to a recent report by Jane Mayer in 'The New Yorker,' President Trump instructed senior White House officials to direct the Justice Department's review of AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner."

Now, this comes, of course, as Democrats have launched a broad set of investigations into the president, his advisers, everything from security clearance to any interactions that his campaign had with Russia.

But, of course, this issue is just an example of exactly how Democrats plan to use their new power. This is a story that came out just a few days ago and already Democrats are preparing an investigation.

CABRERA: It goes on. Lauren Fox, thank you.

Now to a bit of surprise in the 2020 race. Just a short time ago, we have learned yet another Democrat will not be running for president. Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown made that announcement today, saying: "I will keep calling out Donald Trump and his phony populism. I will keep fighting for all workers across the country, and I will do everything I can to elect a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate in 2020. The best place for me to make that fight is in the United States Senate."

John Kasich is the former Republican governor of Ohio and is a CNN senior political commentator.

Governor, I imagine you know Senator Brown. What's your reaction to his decision?

JOHN KASICH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm surprised. I really felt that he was just reelected. He could have a clean shot at this.

I would guess that maybe -- I haven't talked to him about it. This is news to me, frankly. Maybe he and his family took a look at it and said it's going to be brutal, it's going to be nasty, and maybe they just didn't have the stomach for it.

I thought that he had come off pretty well. People were saying, you know, he was liberal, but yet he was kind of viewed as a moderate. I kind of expected him to go forward.

But I have to tell you, trying to get into these presidential campaigns, it's not bean bag. It's a very tough effort and they probably assessed it had and said, it's not worth it.

CABRERA: We show the graphic who has said no to 2020 just this week. He becomes the fifth person.

We have been talking a little bit about the infighting inside the Democratic Party over this resolution to denounce anti-Semitism, or do they denounce hatred at large? 2020 contender Senator Kirsten Gillibrand released a statement about this controversy.

I want to get your take on what she says, Governor. She says: "We must also call out the hypocrisy of the Republican Party in this instance. Many Republicans have taken offense to Congresswoman's Omar remarks and condemned her in the harshest terms, but said little or nothing when President Trump defended white supremacists at Charlottesville or when Leader McCarthy promoted a conspiracy about Jewish donors buying elections.'

Does she have a point?

KASICH: Not really. I think this is all primary politics.

Look, here's the amazing thing. The Democratic Party in the House, it's a mess. They can't figure out how to pass a resolution saying that we're not going to tolerate this kind of language.

Now, the Republicans -- and I'm not here to -- as I say, I'm an umpire, call them like I see them. They took Steve King off of his committee because of his ridiculous comments. But for them not to be able to get to the floor and just demand a vote, saying, we will not tolerate this, it's almost showing almost a generational split inside the Democratic Party.

And then just a week ago, when they were passing some gun control legislation, I didn't have a chance to review it all, but it sounded like it was pretty good, on a motion, a technical motion to recommit, where people wanted to protect themselves, the Democrats, they couldn't get done what they wanted to get done.

They're stumbling and bumbling along. And it reminds me a lot of what the Republican circus was like with this -- quote -- "Freedom Caucus." It just was a mess.

[15:25:05]

You remember what John Boehner said. He said, I just couldn't take these people anymore. It was so crazy. So, what Pelosi has to do is, she's got to make up her mind whether she's going to assert herself.

Now, there's an element of asserting yourself with also an element of listening. But when it comes to things like this, the party is -- they have got to be clear about this. And I think it's a mistake for them to waffle.

CABRERA: But do you find it interesting that President Trump has condemned Democrats on Omar, but continues to remain silent on Steve King?

KASICH: Yes. Look, I have condemned Trump for what he said . A lot of Republicans have condemned.

Don't get off the issue here. And, look, it's not acceptable, some of the things he said. And nobody's been more clear about that than I have been. And there have been a lot of Republicans that were outraged by his behavior and continue to be.

However, that's not the issue now. The issue now is these anti- Semitic messages that were not dreamt up by Republicans. These are Democrats who have been outraged by this creeping anti-Semitism. And, by the way, we're not only seeing it now out of a member of Congress, but we're beginning to see it across the world.

People are becoming more and more comfortable with this approach towards anti-Semitism. It's just -- it's incredible here in the 21st century. So, stand against it wherever it is.

CABRERA: Let me move on to another stance some Republicans are taking against the president when it comes to his emergency declaration on the border.

We have new CNN reporting now that the White House is quietly trying to pressure Democrats -- or, rather -- sorry -- GOP senators not to vote in favor of this resolution that would essentially terminate Trump's national emergency.

(CROSSTALK) CABRERA: We already know at least four Republicans have said they plan to vote for the resolution to disapprove of the national emergency declaration.

How do you see this playing out? Will the party stay united?

KASICH: I will tell you what I see. I see pretzel man or Gumby. You remember Gumby? You could move that thing around or pretzel man.

Let me wrap myself up so I can be all things to all people. This move by the president to declare this is a terrible precedent, and Republicans know it. And the leadership is trying to figure out how do they save face?

But they're probably not putting that much pressure on here for Republicans not to vote it. It is going to pass. Then it's going to be an issue of whether you can have an override. Precedents matter. The minute that you do these kinds of things, it means that the next person, the next president is going to try to use this kind of authority.

This would be a very, very big mistake. And, beyond that, the president has an ability to get the money he wants for the wall without having to go this route. It's like it's stubborn. It's really, really bad.

But what I'm disappointed in...

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: Although the president apparently doesn't have the ability to go -- to do it not going this route.

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: No, he can get billions of dollars in money that's already been set aside.

But the fact of the matter is, this -- this national security resolution was designed for a president to act quickly when there was a consensus that a president needed to act quickly.

So, not only should they stop the president, but the Congress ought to change this law, so that presidents cannot do these power grabs. Now, look, I was an executive. I liked to be a strong executive, but there are limits.

But what is disappointing to me are these Republicans who are hiding, and think about how many Republicans have called them out. We're talking about Chuck Hagel, the former senator from Nebraska, former secretary of defense, Richard Lugar.

I mean, there are a list -- Mickey Edwards, who I'm going to do an op- ed piece with about this. This is ridiculous. Just stand up and protect the Constitution. That's what you need to do and the institution at the same time. CABRERA: We will look for your op-ed.

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: Governor Kasich, thank you for being with us.

KASICH: All right. Thank you very much.

CABRERA: We're watching -- we have lots to cover this hour, two live events, right now, lawmakers about to debate that anti-hate resolution on the House floor, after the bitter back-and-forth among Democrats about the language it would include.

Plus, judgment day for Paul Manafort. The former Trump campaign chair will find out any moment now how long he will spend behind bars.

Don't go anywhere.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)