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House to Vote on Anti-Hate Resolution Amid Dem Chaos; Judge Sentencing Trump's Ex-Campaign Chair Paul Manafort; Cummings Says, I Told Cohen I Would Nail Him to a Cross if He Lied. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired March 7, 2019 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: We're keeping a close eye on Capitol Hill where today the House is preparing to vote on a resolution condemning hatred in all forms. That vote comes amid the firestorm around Minnesota's Ilhan Omar, just one of one of several freshman Democrats in Congress to face controversy over everything from their words to their policy proposals. There's the Green New Deal which critics including some Democrats say is just unrealistic. There's also the battle over how to take on Donald Trump and whether impeachment should be on the table. Michigan's Rashida Tlaib says yes and plans to file a resolution this month. But some member of her party's leadership says that's premature.
And New York's Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also feeling the heat on her tax proposal, proposing a tax of up to 70 percent on income over $10 million. And when asked about the flap over Congressman Omar, who is both her colleague and her friend, Ocasio-Cortez said this to CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALEXANDREA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK: You know, I think 12 it's a learning experience and it's part of the fact that when we elect the most diverse Democratic Congress that we have in pretty much ever. It means that we're -- we have new communities at the table, new conversations that need to be had.
[15:35:00] And we have to learn how to have conversations differently every time. So I think it's just part of a learning process that we have as a country, frankly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: CNN reporter Michael Warren is in Washington for us. Michael, you wrote about the Omar remarks and how this has really highlighted a rift among Democrats. Do you think it created a new rift or did it just expose what's always been there?
MICHAEL WARREN, CNN REPORTER: Well I think it exposed a lot of what's already simmering under the surface within this Democratic caucus. Which has been on a very, very united throughout the two months that they've had the majority. But this wasn't a dispute about policy. It wasn't a dispute about do you support the Green New Deal or impeachment or more investigations. This was something that was focused on bigotry and whether or not the caucus was going to tolerate it or not.
Now that divide is in many ways generational. You heard a lot of sort of older Democratic members saying, why are we tweeting about this, why aren't we talking to each other one-on-one. But ultimately this resolution was an effort by Speaker Pelosi to try to simmer things down that clearly didn't work out as yesterday's delay on the vote demonstrates.
CABRERA: A lot of people look at this on its face and say how hard it is to condemn anti-Semitism? Why all the back and forth? Why all the debate? You also say that the Democratic leadership failed to address this quickly enough allowing the issue to become even larger. Tell us more about that.
WARREN: Yes, that's right. This was a moment where a lot of Democratic leaders denounced Omar's initial comments a couple of weeks ago and I think probably thought it was going to go away. When Ilhan Omar made additional comments that again relied on anti-Semitic tropes suggesting that supporters of Israel in Congress were possibly had allegiance to another country, Israel, being that country. There was much more pressure from within the Democratic caucus from Jewish members who said these are anti-Semitic tropes, we can't stand by.
But I think there was a tension there with the young progressive wing and also the Congressional Black Caucus who said, why is Ilhan Omar a young woman of color being targeted here when Republicans, particularly the President of the United States, have their own problems with bigotry? Why aren't we denouncing those? It ended up being a huge mess for the Speaker and nobody seems to be happy with this end result that they're about to vote on.
CABRERA: All seven pages of this resolution. Michael Warren, thanks. We'll keep a watch as this develops. We also are following our other breaking news.
A judge right now sentencing the President's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. We'll take you live back to Virginia when we come back.
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CABRERA: Happening any moment now the President's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, will be sentenced to prison. For how long? We'll soon know. Manafort was convicted on charges stemming from Special Counsel's Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election. The 69-year-old, former lobbyist, may spend the rest of his life in prison.
Prosecutors say Manafort deserves up to 25 years behind bars for defrauding banks and the government and failing to pay taxes on millions he earned from Ukrainian political consulting. And Manafort was flat broke when Trump tapped him to run his Presidential bid. His trial revealed a high rolling lifestyle of access, ostrich, python jackets, luxury cars. Manafort had a clear shot at a lighter prison sentence but he threw it away by not sticking to a plea deal he made with Mueller.
Now the Special Counsel says Manafort lied and he lied and he lied some more to members of Congress, to the FBI, to his own lawyers, the list goes on. I want to bring in CNN justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider. Jessica, tell us how we got here.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It is a long winding road, Ana. Paul Manafort, of course, the most high-profile defendant caught up in the Special Counsel's probe. But you'll remember it was just three years ago, March 2016, when Paul Manafort was hired on to the Trump campaign. He spearheaded the delegate fight and eventually got promoted to campaign chairman.
Now it was at the height of the campaign when Paul Manafort attended that Trump Tower meeting in June of 2016. That meeting had led to lingering questions for Mueller's team. It happened on June 9th, 2016, with Paul Manafort attending with Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr., who had been promised he would get damaging information on Hillary Clinton from that Russian lawyer who was there. Of course, he didn't get it, but that meeting has been a focal point in the Russian collusion investigation and that's part of the reason that FBI agents actually raided Paul Manafort's home on July 26th, 2017.
They were there looking for documents connected to that Trump Tower meeting, plus anything related to tax and bank crimes. And what the FBI agents found, well, it soon led to the first set of indictments for the Special Counsel on October 30th, 2017. Those were indictments against both Paul Manafort and his former campaign deputy Rick Gates.
Now gates did eventually plead guilty and he is cooperating with the Special Counsel. Manafort, meanwhile, is accused of trying to tamper with witnesses after his indictment and that is exactly why he was charged with obstruction about eight months later on June 8th, 2018.
[15:45:00] Now Manafort has been behind bars since that date. He's been in a Virginia jail in solitary confinement and he went to jail -- to trial actually, in his Virginia case in August. The jury there convicting him on eight counts of bank and tax fraud. There were 18 counts total but the jury deadlocked on the ten other counts that were eventually dismissed.
Then just a few weeks later in Washington, D.C., Paul Manafort entered into a plea deal with prosecutors on those charges, but Mueller's team eventually, they accused Manafort of lying during his plea talks. And the judge just a few weeks ago ruled that Paul Manafort did intentionally lie and that thereby voided this plea deal. Now that was the judge in Washington, D.C., the judge in Virginia today at this sentencing, he could take that into account as we await Paul Manafort's sentencing. But, Ana, a lot has happened with Paul Manafort in the two years -- actually in the three years since he was campaign chairman and, of course, now we wait a sentencing -- Ana.
CABRERA: Jessica Schneider, thanks for laying it out there. Stay with us. Paul Manafort's sentence just ahead. Don't go anywhere.
[15:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) CABRERA: We're back now with our special coverage. The man Donald Trump chose to run his presidential campaign will be sentenced to prison today. 69-year-old Paul Manafort could spend the rest of his life behind bars on charges in connection with Robert Mueller's probe. Let's go live to Shimon Prokupecz, CNN crime and justice reporter at the courthouse. Shimon, fill us in. What's happening inside?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, so we're expecting to get underway at any moment now. Paul Manafort is in the courtroom. He came in, he's in a wheelchair, wearing this green prison jump suit. He also has a cane with him. His family, his wife, are all in the courtroom as well as some friends. Obviously, his attorneys are there as well. And we're just waiting to begin the sentencing hearing. And as you said, he is potentially facing the rest of his life in prison at 69. Any substantial sentence here would almost certainly mean that Paul Manafort would spend the rest of his life in prison.
CABRERA: We know this judge has been critical of Mueller's team. Could that play a role in the sentencing?
PROKUPECZ: Well certainly, it can. The judge, during some of the hearings, was tough on prosecutors. At one point before the trial had started, the judge was questioning prosecutor, wanting to know if they were trying to put pressure on Paul Manafort to cooperate, perhaps against the President, perhaps against others. At times, highly critical of the prosecution. At times, highly critical of the Mueller team, wondering why they were doing this, whether or not they were trying to use some kind of pressure here to get Paul Manafort.
You know, this judge is known to be somewhat of a wild card. He's known to speak a lot, talk his mind a lot. Certainly, we are expecting that this could go on for quite some time if he chooses to take a normal path that we would expect with this judge. That is where he speaks his mind, offers his opinion a lot in these types of cases. So we'll see. There's still a lot to happen here. Obviously, the big thing is whether or not we hear from Paul Manafort, whether or not he asks the judge for more leniency here so that he doesn't, perhaps, spend the rest of his life in prison.
CABRERA: So, were talking about two separate cases that Paul Manafort will be sentenced on, this one in the Virginia courtroom, then there's the D.C. case in which Manafort actually pled guilty to two counts following the trial where he was convicted on these eight count there in Virginia. So, today's sentencing is just about that. But I'm curious, Shimon, if, you know, after prosecutors accused Manafort of lying following his cooperation agreement after he was convicted, does that come into play at this sentencing?
PROKUPECZ: The prosecutors have argued that in their sentencing memo. Obviously, this is something the judge could consider, for the character wise, whether or not, as we said, whether or not Paul Manafort has been remorseful. Whether or not he has shown any sort of -- that he's aware of what he did here was really bad and he's sorry for what he did. Whether or not we see any of that, it could play a role. But you know, when you look at the amount of prison time that Paul Manafort is facing, in this case up to 25 years, in the end it really doesn't matter. The sentencing on the D.C. case is expected to take place next week.
CABRERA: All right, Shimon, keep us updated, please. And as we wait to hear the judge's sentence on the former Trump campaign chair, we are also following breaking news on President Trump's ex-attorney Michael Cohen. He is now suing the Trump organization in what looks to be the next big fight.
[15:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CABRERA: We have this just in. As accusations swirl over whether Michael Cohen was completely honest when he denied having sought a pardon from the President. Even though now we know he asked his lawyers to inquiry about it.
The chairman of the House Oversight Committee just talked to CNN. And here's what he said, when he was asked did Cohen lie about pardon, he says I don't know. I read about these alleged inconsistencies. I'll take a look at it. The most important thing to me is I always protect my own integrity and of course, the integrity of our committee. Republican and Democrat, nobody, definitely, not Mr. Jordan is going to dictate how I go about running my committee. We will be methodical. We will be transparent and, most importantly, we will hold the President accountable, and Mr. Cohen accountable.
He says, I told them that if he has lied, I will nail you to the cross. And I meant that. If he has lied, what we refer to DOJ, I can tell you, I've got to really look at it and make sure they are true inconsistencies and outright lies and I've got to make sure it meets even the threshold that DOJ would even investigate.
So again, ongoing questions about whether Michael Cohen was truthful when he came back before Congress in that public hearing last week and developments that have played out since then. We're staying on top of the Cohen developments. He's also now suing the Trump organization. We also have Paul Manafort who is about to be sentenced by a Virginia judge.
Stay with us here on CNN. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts now.