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Elizabeth Warren Vows to Break Up Giant Tech Companies; Trump Communications Director Resigns; Outrage Grows Over Manafort Sentence. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 8, 2019 - 15:00   ET



BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And the women are paying the price, caked in dust, dazed and confused, hungry and thirsty, scrambling onto trucks normally used to transport livestock bound for camps to the north. In defeat, misery is their lot.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Eastern Syria.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Ana Cabrera, in for Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN.

A very busy Friday for the Trump White House, which finds itself again at the center of several breaking news stories right now. Communications chief Bill Shine is out, taking a job in the Trump reelection campaign. More on that in just a moment.

And for Paul Manafort, the man who was chairman of Donald Trump's first presidential campaign, a 47-month prison sentence has now been handed down. A federal judge issuing the ruling after Manafort was convicted on multiple financial crimes. That sentence was far short of the 19 to 25 years recommended by Robert Mueller's team.

And the news sparked sharp criticism throughout the legal and the political world. The president, however, praised the decision.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I feel very badly for Paul Manafort. I think it's been a very, very tough time for him. But if you notice, both his lawyer, a highly respected man, and a very highly respected judge, the judge, said there was no collusion with Russia. This had nothing to do with collusion. There was no collusion.

It's a collusion hoax. It's a collusion witch hoax. I don't collude with Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CABRERA: We should be clear, despite what you just heard, the judge in this case did not say there was no collusion, only that it did not pertain to the charges in this particular case.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins joins us at the White House.

The president is really trying to spin this one in his favor, Kaitlan.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you can see why the White House is seizing on that portion of the judge's remarks, as Manafort's sentencing hearing got under way, because otherwise they're answering questions about the fact that the president's former campaign chairman has been sentenced to nearly four years in prison for not paying his taxes and committing bank fraud.

They are paying attention to that. So are Manafort's attorneys repeating that claim, saying also that they -- the false claim that there was on -- that that's what the judge said, there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

And you can expect to hear that over the coming days. One thing that the White House isn't saying or ruling out so far, despite multiple questions from reporters, is a possible pardon for Paul Manafort.

CABRERA: I thought we might have had sound there.

Kaitlan Collins, let me ask you about Bill Shine for a second. He's leaving the White House. He's essentially the communications director. He's going to be joining the Trump campaign now. What is the back story there?

COLLINS: This all happened really quickly and it caught a lot of people in the West Wing off-guard because it wasn't that long ago that Bill Shine was talking about reorganizing the communications team, doing different things, so people said they did not have an indication that he was on his way out the door right now.

A little bit of what might have hinted at that is that he was actually scheduled to go on the president's trip to Vietnam for that second nuclear summit with Kim Jong-un, but then abruptly just two days before he announced that he was no longer going on that trip and was going to stay back in Washington.

Now, Ana, our reporting shows that the president had gotten pretty frustrated with Bill Shine in recent weeks, complaining that his coverage had not improved since he hired him to come in and essentially give him better coverage.

So that certainly is something that contributed to it, and also Bill Shine just being in the spotlight with stories not only about his family, but also his history at FOX News.

Now the question inside in the White House is, who is going to replace Bill Shine? Because, of course, this is a position that staffers often joke is cursed, because so many people have held this title since President Trump took office. And now they're waiting to see who's going to be number seven.

CABRERA: All right, Kaitlan Collins. Never a dull moment even on a Friday. Kaitlan, good to see you.

All right, President Trump may be losing his communications chief, but he's escalating a war of words with his former fixer, Michael Cohen, himself, blasting him for comments Cohen made to Congress last week.


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


CABRERA: In a tweet today, the president called Cohen a liar, saying he directly asked Trump for a pardon and that Trump turned him down.

Gloria Borger is CNN's chief political analyst. Carrie Cordero is former council to a attorney general, assistant attorney general.

Carrie, now that Trump is weighing in on Cohen's statements about this pardon idea, did he just give Democrats and Mueller an easier path to force Trump's own witness testimony?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I don't know that they will be calling the president to testify, but it certainly indicates that the president once again is willing to use his public forum to say things that most likely is not true.


Michael Cohen said under oath when he appeared before Congress, correcting prior information that he had provided. So this most recent testimony by Michael Cohen was his opportunity to tell the truth. He understood the consequences of it. And he said he didn't ask for pardon.

And he used pretty precise language as far as him asking for a pardon. The president is saying the opposite. And the public will have to determine which one they believe.

I don't think that we will see the president called before Congress to testify, nor will at this point it doesn't seem likely that the president will be speaking to the special counsel's investigators.

CABRERA: OK, but now we have a new Twitter spat, Gloria, Cohen responding to Trump on Twitter with this: "Just another set of lies @realDonaldTrump. Mr. President, let me remind you that today is International Women's day. You may want to use today to apologize for your own lies and dirty deeds to women like Karen McDougal and Stephanie Clifford."

What's your reaction, Gloria?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, neither of these men are known for their use of nuance in their communications.

And I think that Michael Cohen wants to hit back at Donald Trump in every way that he can. And in terms of what you were just talking about to Carrie, our own Jim Acosta said last night that there was some chatter about perhaps the White House referring Michael Cohen's so-called perjury, which they described as perjury, to the Department of Justice.

If they were to do that, then perhaps the president would be called to testify or would be open to discovery on the whole Stormy Daniels- Karen McDougal thing, and I don't think they're going to want to do that either.

But this is just their effort to continue to discredit Michael Cohen, which has also been the Republican strategy.

CABRERA: Let's talk Manafort now, because the president really focused on these comments from the judge. I quote from Judge Ellis: "He is not before the court for anything having to do with colluding with the Russian government," talking specifically about this particular case.

Carrie, he did not say there was no collusion, as much as Trump wants people to believe this.

CORDERO: Right. He didn't.

His lawyers emphasized that when they left the courthouse. The judge didn't actually need to say this statement. This has been consistent with what he did throughout the trial, which I think indicates that the judge was sympathetic throughout the trial to Paul Manafort because he thought that he was selectively prosecuted.

I think that this judge thought the Paul Manafort would have never been brought to trial had he not been connected to Donald Trump and their campaign and wrapped up in the special counsel's investigation.

But the fact the matter is that he was convicted by a jury in the Eastern District of Virginia on eight different counts of different types of financial crime. And so the president can try to twist the judges words. And it may have been inappropriate for the judge to even be talking about collusion, when that actually was not part of the case.

But the fact the matter is that Paul Manafort was convicted of what he was convicted for.

CABRERA: And, Gloria, the president says he feels badly for Paul Manafort. What I just can't get over about those words is the president's public empathy for convicted criminals.

BORGER: Well, the president likes people who are loyal to him. He has called Paul Manafort, I believe, either brave or courageous.

On the other hand, he's called Michael Cohen a rat. So the president tends to judge people by how they regard him. And Manafort has -- and his attorney who came out of the courtroom yesterday and said there was no collusion, even though the attorney knew full well his case was not about Russia, that it was about bank fraud, tax fraud.

Those are signals. Those are arrows that are being sent directly into the Oval Office, saying, look at this, look at this. Pardon me, pardon me. That's what that's about.

I don't think the judge was doing that. But I do think that this has been ongoing, and that Manafort's lawyer did the same thing coming out of the courtroom yesterday, and the president feels empathetic towards Manafort. We don't know what he's going to end up doing.

CABRERA: The other big news today, White House communications chief Bill Shine out.

Gloria, what do you make of a timing, the week this damning report came out about the depth of the White House-FOX News connection?

BORGER: Yes, it may be tangentially connected to it, because, of course, that report showed that it's kind of an incestuous relationship between FOX News and the White House and the people come and go from FOX to the White House.

But I think that really Bill Shine is somebody who may have thought he would have a larger role than the role he ended up having, which was effectively stage-managing the president, that the president is his own communications director.


And there have been reports at CNN and elsewhere that the president wasn't thrilled with the performance of Shine, because he thought he would get them better press than he's gotten.

And so I think you put all those things together, and I think Shine decided to leave. And the fact that they say he's going to the campaign is really very much of a soft landing. He has no title and who knows how long he will remain.

CABRERA: All right, Gloria Borger, Carrie Cordero, thanks, ladies.


CABRERA: Up next, 2020 presidential contender Elizabeth Warren rolls out a plan to break up big tech companies like Amazon and Google. We will explain how that would work.

Plus, two former rivals in the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal in the same room for the first time. You will hear them spar over the current special counsel probe and whether President Trump obstructed justice.

And then later, "The Miami Herald" digs up a photo of President Trump with the woman who once owned that spa where Robert Kraft was accused of soliciting prostitution. Details on how she ended up at the Trump Golf Club to watch the Super Bowl.



CABRERA: A shockingly week jobs report on this Friday bringing a bad into a rough week of economic numbers for President Trump and the country.

Of course, the president loves to take credit for the economy, but only 20,000 jobs added last month, a fraction of the 180,000 jobs expected. And this report follows the news that the deficit exploded by 77 percent so far in just the first four months of the 2019 fiscal year.

At the same time, the U.S. trade deficit is now the largest in the country's history.

And with us now is CNN global economic analyst Rana Foroohar.

What do you read into these new jobs numbers? Is this the start of a an economic slowdown?

RANA FOROOHAR, CNN ANALYST: Well, I think we knew we were going to be in an economic slowdown by this point. I mean, historically, recovery cycles last about 10 years. We're at 10 years. So it's time for the economy to be moving a little more slowly.

This was a big surprise, though. I mean, 20,000 jobs, not a lot. On the upside, if you were to average out the last couple of months, we had a really great January, we had a poor February. If you average it over three months, which is kind of how I like to look at things -- you can't take just one month in isolation -- then you get about 180,000, 186,000 jobs being created month by month. That's not bad.

But economists are forecasting that we're going to see weakness ahead in the next year. And the thing that I like to look at a lot is the work force participation number. That's the number of Americans, the percentage of Americans that are actually working.

That's still low. That's at about 63 percent. You want to see that closer up to 67, 70 percent in order to really feel like the economy is where it needs to be.

CABRERA: And that work force participation number you mentioned, does that have to do with also the unemployment number actually going down, even though there were only 22,000 jobs added?

FOROOHAR: Well, that the unemployment number went down very, very slightly. And that's in part because a lot of people that had been furloughed because of the shutdown were coming back onto the job.

It did not go down enough to really push that overall participation number up. And that's what you need to see in order to get the kind of money in people's pockets, the spending, the consumer demand to really get the economy going.

I don't think that you're going to see that in the next year or two. I suspect that, by 2020, you're going to be in a real slowdown.

CABRERA: Let me ask you about some comments from Elizabeth Warren.



CABRERA: This new plan to break up big tech companies like Google Amazon, Facebook.


CABRERA: Listen to what she said, how this would work.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The way to think about this right now is Amazon is one like the umpire in the baseball game. It runs the marketplace. And it also has a lot of teams on the field because it's actually competing with the other businesses on that platform and giving special advantage, putting them on page one, and somebody they don't like back on page six.

So my notion is, you can be an umpire or you can own a team, but you can't do both at the same time.


CABRERA: Rana, I know you're writing a book on the big tech companies.


CABRERA: What do you make of her idea to break them up?

FOROOHAR: It's actually a very elegant way, what she just described. It is like, you own the marketplace and you can play in the marketplace. That's the problem with the big tech companies, Amazon, Google, Facebook.

There are privacy issues, and then their competition issues. And I think what's interesting about her proposal is, it knits together some of those things. And it says, look, we need to make sure that we're not living in a rigged game, where not just people, but individual small companies feel like they can't come into the marketplace and compete with these bigger players, because that's bad for the overall economy.

I think it's very brave that she's taking on this issue. And it's going to be a tough one for the Democrats, because Democrats get a lot of money from Silicon Valley.

CABRERA: Would this have a big impact on the economy at large?

FOROOHAR: I think that, over the longer term, if we actually regulate some of the biggest companies more tightly, it'll be good for the economy.

And if you look back, say, 20 years ago, which is when we had the last big tech antitrust case, that was the Microsoft case, just the threat of that regulation actually allowed companies like Google to be born. There was more of an open marketplace. And I think that that's what we will see again.

CABRERA: So interesting.

Rana Foroohar, good to see you. Thanks for being here on this Friday.

FOROOHAR: Good to see you.

CABRERA: Up next, a fascinating debate about the Mueller investigation between two men who are no strangers to White House scandal.

Former independent counsel Ken Starr and President Clinton's former Press Secretary Joe Lockhart battle over whether President Trump has obstructed justice.

Plus, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar sparking controversy again with criticism of President Obama's policies -- why she's calling his message of hope and change a mirage.



CABRERA: Two key players in one of this country's biggest political scandals, former independent counsel Ken Starr and former Clinton White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart met for the very first time today.

The objective? Let bygones be bygones. Discuss what went wrong in the Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal and weigh in on the parallels and the pitfalls of the investigation of Russia and the Trump campaign.



JOE LOCKHART, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY FOR FORMER PRESIDENT WILLIAM J. CLINTON: I think there is an important comparison to make here, though, and I would be interested in Judge Starr's view, which is Donald Trump has acted way beyond the pale.

President Clinton did not fire the head of the FBI. President Clinton did not want the head of the FBI in office and thought that he had a political agenda against him. But he didn't fire him.

President Clinton didn't go out every day and call this a witch-hunt and say that there was nothing to this. The president went about doing his job. President Clinton didn't 10,000 times tell lies and mislead the American public.

He did mislead the American public and lie to them in that Roosevelt Room. There is no defense of that.

But to try to compare these things -- and I think that's -- getting back to the Axios stories, that is the strength of the Axios stories. Donald Trump is using the full weight of the federal government and the executive branch now to protect himself and to cover up what he has done.

And in the case of President Clinton, he let this thing go. And the idea that we sit here 20 years later saying, oh, the president committed crimes, the president made mistakes, he's acknowledged them, and that's -- but I don't believe he has committed a crime.

And the one thing we haven't seen from President Trump is any acknowledgment.

And I will remind you, President Clinton went out and apologized for this before the report came out, before the House took up impeachment. So he wasn't -- until -- he wasn't saying, I want to wait until all -- the jury is totally in. He acknowledged these things as things he had done wrong.

He acknowledged the pain he had caused to his family and the distraction to the country. And I think it's wholly on a different scale when you have allegations and now evidence that a foreign government influenced our election, maybe delegitimized the election of a president, and the president's team, if not the president, was working with them. Wholly on a different scale.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: What about that, Judge?

KENNETH STARR, FORMER SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: Well, one of the great strengths of the special counsel investigation is that a very important set of charges have been brought against 13 Russian individuals and two organizations.

I read those indictments carefully. There's not one word that suggests collusion. The Russians behaved very badly, indeed, criminally, and they should be brought to the bar of justice.

Let's see, was there collusion? Thus far, including in the Paul Manafort case, we have seen no evidence of collusion.

CAMEROTA: But Joe is talking about obstruction of justice that we have seen evidence of, if you believe all of the tweets about a witch- hunt and the firing the head of the FBI. Do you consider that obstruction of justice about this investigation?

STARR: We did not charge President Clinton with obstruction of justice because of James Carville, Sidney Blumenthal, an entire army.

And one of the things, Joe, as you know, that President Clinton was very clever, very shrewd, because others did the dirty work. We were continually attacked, constantly attacked. Our motives and so forth, our operations were attacked.

And our integrity was attacked, but President Clinton was able to rise above it, let others do the dirty work.

CAMEROTA: But what about this example of President Trump?

STARR: And what President Trump refuses to do is follow the Clinton model. He wants to go on the attack himself. I do not consider that obstruction.

I really don't, because when you look at what the law of obstruction, you can have the moral view of what obstruction is, and then you can have the legal view, what in fact constitutes the crime of obstruction of justice.


STARR: But hold on a second. Hold on, Joe.

LOCKHART: But President Trump went on television...

STARR: There is no corrupt motive that has been defined by the Supreme Court of the United States.

And that's where I'm -- in this room, I have said, don't be so broad- minded, so to speak, in saying this constitutes obstruction of justice.

It doesn't obstruct justice to do what the president has the power to do, which is to fire the head of the FBI.

LOCKHART: Maybe I should have gone to law school.

But -- so let me speak for everyone in America who didn't go to law school. President Trump went on television even after two -- two days leading up to that interview, he lied about why he fired Comey.

He directed Rod Rosenstein to write a phony letter about he was being -- but when he went on TV, he just felt like he had to let it all out. And he said: I fired him because I wanted to stop the Russian investigation, because I think the Russian investigation is a witch- hunt.