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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Warren Announces Plan To Break Up Amazon, Google, Facebook; Former MD Rep Fights For 2020 Traction After Running For 2 years; George Conway Takes Digs At Trump In Rare Public Appearance. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired March 8, 2019 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. SENATOR (D) CALIFORNIA: We are looking at further evidence in America's judicial system of absolute unfairness where white collar versus other kinds of crimes - does that - you know this is what I say. People commit white collar crimes, they should be prepared to bring their toothbrush and spend as much time behind bars as anybody else.
TAPPER: As CNN's Sara Murray reports, however, it's possible that during next week's sentencing in D.C., the former Trump Campaign Chair might receive a much tougher penalty.
SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Critics say Paul Manafort got off easy but next week he will come face to face with another judge who may take a harsher view of Manafort's crimes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm surprised at the sentence.
MURRAY: Judge Amy Burman Jackson is set to sentence Manafort for conspiracy and witness tampering, crimes that carry a maximum of ten years. In deciding whether to impose that maximum sentence, Jackson could also weigh the fact that Manafort continued to commit crimes even after he was arrested and later lied to investigators when he was supposed to be cooperating. A federal judge in Virginia Thursday sentenced Manafort. President Trump's former Campaign chairman to nearly four years in prison, far less than the recommended sentence of 19 - 25 years.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D) CONNECTICUT: This sentence in my view failed to do justice to very serious crimes that Manafort has committed as well as his utter disrespect for the laws.
MURRAY: The comments Manafort's lawyer made after his client's sentencing only further inflamed democrats.
KEVIN DOWNING, ATTORNEY TO PAUL MANAFORT: There is absolutely no evidence that Paul Manafort was involved with any collusion with any government official from Russia.
MURRAY: Adam Schiff, the Democrat Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee fired back via twitter saying, "this statement by Paul Manafort's lawyer after an already lenient sentence, repeating the president's mantra of no collusion was no accident. It was a deliberate appeal for a pardon."
In deciding Manafort's sentence, Judge T. S. Ellis called the recommendations excessive and claimed that Manafort lived an otherwise blameless life, but his resume shows a complicated picture. Manafort spent a lifetime enriching himself with lobbying work for dictators and regimes with abysmal human rights records. Like former Philippine leader, Ferdinand Marcos whose image Manafort tried to bolster in Washing after decades of his brutal rule.
When he was light on cash, Manafort turned to a Russian oligarch for millions of dollars that Manafort never appeared to repay according to witness testimony at his trial. Later he built ties with the Ukrainian Oligarchs with close ties to the Kremlin and stashed the millions he earned from them in foreign bank accounts. As part of his illegal lobbying work, Manafort even pushed news stories in 2012 designed to paint President Obama's Administration as anti-Semitic according to court documents. For their part, prosecutors reached back nearly a decade to document Manafort's history of tax fraud hiding foreign bank accounts and defrauding banks leading to his eight convictions in Virginia.
Now Manafort faces a maximum of 10 years when he is sentenced in D.C. but it's going to be more difficult for him and his lawyers to make the argument that the judge should not give him the maximum. This is a case where Paul Manafort actually pleaded guilty and as part of that guilty plea he acknowledged a number of other crimes and actually signed a document saying that he deserved 17 to 22 years in prison. Jake.
TAPPER: All right Sara Murray. Thanks so much.
Joining me now are two former federal prosecutors. Elliot Williams is also a former deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department. Gene Rossy is the former assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia. And Gene, let me start with you. You've prosecuted cases in front of Judge Ellis for more than two decades. You say the sentence is not completely surprising. Why not?
GENE ROSSI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well for 20 years, I tried 7 cases in front of Judge Ellis and it's like a Marine going to Parris Island and I've been to the Island 7 times. And I'm not - I don't agree with his sentence. I'm not surprised and here's why.
I've been in front of Judge Ellis so many times I can't count and I've seen him with a - with a defendant who is 70 years old, apparently has health issues, has been completely humiliated, him and his family. And here's the - here's the rub. He doesn't like the case and I have tried cases in front of Judge Ellis and when he doesn't like the case, it is awful. And that's the main thing. He came out yesterday and said there's no Russian Collusion before they even started the hearing so he's kind of showing his hand. So I'm not surprised. I don't agree with it but that's what Judge Ellis has done.
TAPPER: And Elliot, Mueller's team still has the upcoming sentencing for former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn who admitted to lying to the FBI, Manafort's business partner, Rick Gates who pleaded guilty to lying to Mueller's team. Roger Stone hasn't even gone to trial yet. How might the Manafort sentencing affect those cases if at all?
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well I don't think they'll affect those cases. I still think it's striking given how low the sentence was in relation to the federal sentencing guidelines. You had potentially a 293 month maximum that this could have been sentenced at and it got sentenced down to 47 months. So when judges have a tremendous amount of discretion when they are deciding how to sentence somebody and I think perhaps the judges there will - will exercise that discretion in the same way.
Look, at the end of the day, it's a lot of people with proximity to the president who keep pleading or getting convicted of serious offenses. Now that's not to implicate the president in any crimes or anything like that but you've got to question who an individual's friends are when everybody is getting locked up or going to jail.
TAPPER: And - and Gene, you talked about Judge Ellis not liking this case. He made it very clear last year he was skeptical of the prosecutor's intentions. He told them, "You don't really care about Mr. Manafort's bank fraud. You really care about what information Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump or lead to his prosecution or impeachment." Manafort's next sentencing is in front of a judge who has actually shown frustration with Manafort so far not with the prosecutors because Manafort broke the bail terms she sat, broke the gag orders she sat, allegedly committed additional crimes while out on bail and then broke the plea agreement. Do you suspect that this new judge - not new judge but the D.C. judge next week will go harder on him?
ROSSI: You know the old saying if you pray for something hard enough you're going to get it. They got a light sentence relatively from Judge Ellis. But I predict this, Judge Jackson is going to go postal. She's a former prosecutor and what Paul Manafort did was he agreed to cooperate, accept all of this responsibility and then he lied, lied, lied and she -- I predict she's going to probably give him 5 to 10 years consecutive because of the light sentence that Judge Ellis gave.
TAPPER: Not concurrent.
ROSSI: Consecutive or give 10 concurrent so he gets at least ten years.
WILLIAMS: On top of that I actually think it is more likely now after that 47 month sentence that she does go consecutive.
WILLIAMS: Just because tacking time on to a 47-month sentence is very different than tacking time on to a 293-month sentence. So it's just a different playing field now and she's shown frustration with Stone, with Manafort and all of these folks who are lying to her and sort of thumbing the nose at the processes and court so even if she doesn't go the full (inaudible), I think it gets that consecutively.
ROSSI: I want to add this. I've been praising the special counsel's office and I know five of them - I trained five people in that office; they're brilliant. I've got to tell you they made an unforced error. Here's how. They didn't ask for a specific sentence. They filed the sentencing memo, said here are the guidelines. When I was a prosecutor, I stood up and I owned it. I said, "Your Honor, I think he should get 10 years, 15 years, 20 years..."
TAPPER: Not a range. You would just say specific.
ROSSI: You just don't file a memo and I hate to even criticize it because I know these people well. You don't just file memos and say, "OK Judge, you decide." You got to own it.
WILLIAMS: There would - there would still have been a range but the special counsel team didn't push for something specific in the range.
TAPPER: Elliot, let me ask you also because there's a lot of criticism especially by politicians and by defense attorneys out there saying this is not the sentence that a poor person or a person of color would have received for the same because how much did he not pay in taxes, $25 million? It's not difficult to find there's an African- American woman who voted when she wasn't allowed to vote because she was on probation; she is doing five years in prison.
WILLIAMS: Jake, this isn't a fringe theory or anything, just look at the statistics and look at the numbers. And it's a decision that society has made to poo poo and look past the serious conduct of while collar criminals. And again the mere fact that we are even talking about a 48-month sentence is indicative of the fact that this is a white-collar crime. If this were - if this were any number of other crimes or even some other financial crimes, no one - many judges wouldn't have batted an eye to sentence within that range but because it's a wealthy, monied white-collared defendant, society sort of tolerates it. It is odd.
TAPPER: Thank you so much Gene and Elliot. I really appreciate it. Great stuff. ROSSI: Thank you.
TAPPER: Most - most 2020 presidential candidates have been running for a few weeks but there's one democrat who has been on the trail for two years and you might not have ever even heard of him. Who is it? We'll tell you next. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Our 2020 lead, presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren promoting tonight a plan to break up tech giants such as Amazon littering - literally in the same New York neighborhood Amazon was going to build their second headquarters but ultimately dropped their plans after backlash from many progressives in the community. Let's chew on this. Take a listen to Warren explaining what she views as the problem when tech giants get competition.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: They can say we get better fast. We better tighten up our data protection and privacy or they can say we have a zillion dollars, let's just eat them up. Let's just buy them. That's what's happened with these mergers. They're buying up their competition.
TAPPER: So what do you think Doug? I mean breaking up - you're the republican at the table. Do you think this is a good idea? Do you think this might appeal to democrats?
DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think they appeal to a certain portion of democrats. Democrats typically don't like the word "big" on anything -- big business, big tobacco and now big tech. It also tells us how democrats are starting to look at the fundraising in a way that they didn't four years ago or eight years ago. Clearly Elizabeth Warren who has sworn off PAC money isn't going to be relying on Silicon Valley for fundraising. She's looking at small dollars. What the question is going to be do other democrats follow her on this?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But actually my question is how many republicans will? I think it cuts across, Doug, in a really interesting way. It's the first idea of the presidential election that I think has cross-cutting potential. At the CPAC - the Conservative Political Action Committee meeting last week Josh Hawley, the new freshman Senator from Missouri gave a scorching speech about big tech - attacking big tech.
My friends -- and I do have some who are Trump loving conservatives hate big tech. I'm serious. It's not entirely impossible that Donald Trump signs on to the Elizabeth Warren attacks on big tech.
TAPPER: So Warren's tech plan has two major proposals. It would reverse high-profile mergers such as Facebook buying Instagram or Amazon acquiring Whole Foods. It would also force companies who earn $25 billion or more annually to spin-off part of their company. It's a pretty aggressive plan.
I mean, it is true that a lot of conservatives don't like tech. They think they're being censored by Twitter and Google for example. But I mean, to say $25 billion or more, you have to spin it off, that's pretty revolutionary.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is. It's revolutionary and just big picture here. There was a time when Democrats wanted to align themselves with tech companies you may recall. And so it is just so interesting now after this sort of fall from grace in public relations from Facebook and other companies with privacy scandals and misinformation that now you're seeing a Democratic candidate on the on the campaign trail put forward these aggressive policies. And it will be interesting to see if any other Democrats follow suit.
TAPPER: I mean, do you think this is going to force other candidates, other Democrats, especially to propose similar measures?
SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I am actually really interested in what if anything Kamala Harris says in response because Silicon Valley is her current constituency as the senator from California. So I think how she calibrates that issue would be really fascinating to watch. But also on so many other issues we've seen in this Democratic primary so far, you know, once someone says something or does something or aligns themselves, it does get to this push to the left or in other various stances. So I wouldn't be surprised if we saw more of a movement coming up soon.
TAPPER: There's something I've wanted to bring up. The New York Times had a profile of Joe Biden, the former Vice President talking about how he potentially is going to run for president. He's 95 percent there. And one thing that was in the story was very interesting were the fact that his aides keep telling him to stop telling stories about how well he worked with very, very conservative racist senators in days past such as Jesse Helms in North Carolina. Here's an example of the kind of thing they want him to stop doing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: Jesse Helms, the last part of his career, Jesse Helms worked with me.
I remember one day walking in the end of May and Jesse Helms from North Carolina who was a very, very tough guy and a bit of a racist -- no for real.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So the argument is people don't want to hear -- Democrats don't want to hear about how great you worked with Jesse Helms or Strom Thurmond or whatever. But that's who Joe Biden is. He more he likes to work across the aisle. DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I think it's what would
make Biden potentially a very good president but not a great candidate running for the Democrat. My first job in politics was making $5 an hour for Jesse Helms 1990 campaign so I always have a soft spot in my heart for him knowing that those politics are well past where we are right now.
And if you're a Democrat being Jesse Helms favorite Democrat or Strom Thurmond favorite Democrat is really poison as you go in this process. It's also why Joe Biden's best day as a candidate may be his first day and every day after a tougher.
BEGALA: And Joe has to be Joe. And he does work across and he has and if he abandons that, he's abandoning his true self in much the ways people criticized Al Gore for not running strictly or more focused on the environment. When the Vice President was attacked by Cynthia Nixon the actor and the failed Democratic candidate for governor in New York, for calling Mike Pence a decent guy, Joe Biden should not have folded.
He should have said he's a decent guy with whom I disagree. Love the sinner hate the sin. That's what we do in our party and he could have made this a terrific moment of strength for himself instead of bowing down to the first actor who criticized him.
TAPPER: As the Democratic field gets pulled to the left, the President has been capitalizing off of it slamming what he calls a growing threat of socialism. But as CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports for us now, there is at least one Democratic presidential candidate actively attempting to swim against that tide.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: In a presidential race with no shortage of bold-faced Democratic names, there's one candidate who's been running for nearly two years who you may never have heard of.
JOHN DELANEY (D), FORMER REPRESENTATIVE, MARYLAND: I'm John Delaney and I approve this message.
ZELENY: Yet he has more than three dozen visits to Iowa and New Hampshire already under his belt.
DELANEY: I've been to 99 counties.
DELANEY: John Delaney is running for president. And after logging more miles than most candidates combined, the former Maryland congressman and businessman has a warning for Democrats trying to win back the White House.
You wonder if the party is moving so far to the left that that will ensure the re-election of President Trump.
DELANEY: I do worry about that. I mean, if the party starts embracing kind of if you will socialism in a pure form, I think that's a really big mistake, right, because it's not good policy and it's definitely not good politics.
[16:50:02] ZELENY: Running from the middle, Delaney faces an uphill climb even if he was a household name like many other Democrats in the race. But he believes it's time to speak truth to power namely the progressive ideas driving the Democrat primary.
DELANEY: I don't agree with the Green New Deal, right, I'll just say it.
ZELENY: He compares the chances of passing the current version of the Green New Deal to Mexico paying for Trump's border wall. He's promising a different way.
DELANEY: The things I want to do are very consistent with what progressives care about, but I'm very focused on how we actually make them happen. So that makes me more of a moderate and a centrist, no question.
ZELENY: He insists the imperative to defeat President Trump is so urgent that Democrats and Independents may ultimately be more pragmatic than it seems today.
DELANEY: I think the American people are tired of like the extremes in each party holding the rest of us hostage.
ZELENY: His name frequently comes up in conversations with early state voters in part because he visits so often and these T.V. ads.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a firm believer in well --
DELANEY: Bipartisanship. Bipartisanship. Bipartisanship.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It might be a dirty word in Washington but it seems to be awfully refreshing right here in Iowa.
ZELENY: But even the accolades can be stinging like this headlines of a conservative Washington Post column calling Delaney the smartest presidential candidate you've never heard of. But for now, at least, he's undeterred, smiling as he delivers a bit of tough medicine to Democrats.
DELANEY: I think the American people are yearning for someone who's a truth teller. And sometimes the best way to kind of make that point is to be a little bit disagreeable with your own party.
ZELENY: So Delaney has already taken more than three dozen trips to Iowa and New Hampshire and he plans to visit all 50 states this year. Along the way, he's increasingly calling out fellow Democrats for promising too much to progressive voters. Now he knows it's an uphill climb but he believes Democrats should not abandon the middle. Jake?
TAPPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much. Be sure to tune in to CNN Sunday night for a special presidential town hall from South by Southwest, the festival in Austin Texas at 7 p.m. Eastern. I'm going to talk to former Congressman John Delaney at 8:00 p.m. My colleague Dana Bash will do a town hall with Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and at 9:00 p.m. I will take the stage again to talk to a South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg. It's all live right here on CNN on Sunday night.
Coming up, normally he's president Trump's number-one troller on Twitter. Now Kellyanne Conway's husband is picking up the mic to go after the president. Stay with us.
[16:55:00] TAPPER: Noted conservative Attorney George Conway normally sticks to 280 characters to troll President Trump on Twitter. He's called him pathological and narcissistic, sociopathic demagogue, a cancer, a liar, and honestly that's just this week. But today the Trump critic who just happens to be the husband of President Trump's most loyal advisers Kellyanne Conway made a rare public appearance.
As CNN's Tom Foreman reports, it was not without subtle and not so subtle digs at President Trump.
GEORGE CONWAY, HUSBAND OF KELLYANNE CONWAY: Now, if people were to get indicted were not indicted on the basis of whether the President likes them, we wouldn't have a republic, we would have a banana republic.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He did not use the President's name, but in an extremely rare appearance George Conway tore into Donald Trump just the same.
CONWAY: And the President has suggested that members of his own Justice Department should be locked up for investigating the president.
FOREMAN: Conway blasted Trump over his ideas on justice, his attacks on freedom of the press.
CONWAY: That's a problem of a different order of magnitude. You can't have a free country with that.
FOREMAN: Conway has freely attacked the president for a long time despite being married to Kellyanne Conway. Just this past week, tweeting Trump is a fraud and an embarrassment and inveterate liar, a narcissistic, sociopathic demagogue. Referring to the President's repeated unproven claims of being a great student, Conway tagged Trump #SummaCumLiar noting Trump's approach is to virtually never tell the truth when there's an opportunity to tell a lie. Even offering an armchair diagnosis. It's pathological. It's an illness. The President has brushed him off before.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You mean, Mr. Kellyanne Conway?
FOREMAN: Suggesting George Conway's barbs are meaningless. TRUMP: He is just trying to get publicity for himself.
FOREMAN: Kellyanne Conway clearly squirms when confronted about differences with her husband at times suggesting such questions were fundamentally sexist.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: First of all, I would ask you that if you were a man.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: No you wouldn't.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A thousand percent I would.
K. CONWAY: No, no, no.
FOREMAN: But George Conway continues to revel in the role of Trump troll in chief.
CONWAY: Plus, I kind of like the fact that you can tweet that rich, public officials without fear of retribution in the courts.
FOREMAN: Now, remember, this is not a Liberal. This is a guy who's as conservative as they come. He feels the rule of law is being undermined so much by this White House that he just has to speak out. However, it has been very rare that he does speak out. We see him tweet every now and then you see him quoted. Very rarely does he speak up, but boy did he speak up today and I'm sure they're not too happy about it on the White House Communications office.
TAPPER: I'm sure. Tom Foreman, thanks so much. I appreciate it. Be sure to tune in this Sunday morning for a special edition of "STATE OF THE UNION." We're going to be live from Austin, Texas. My guest would be on set with me Democratic presidential candidates Julian Castro and Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington, plus Republican Congressman from Texas Will Hurd will be there.
You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER. You can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks so much for watching. I will see you Sunday morning.