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Paul Manafort Faces Second Sentencing; Matthew Whitaker Returns to Capitol Hill to Clarify Previous Testimony; Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D) Pennsylvania is interviewed about Paul Manafort's second sentencing, Matthew Whitaker and Michael Cohen's Congressional Testimony, and Nancy Pelosi's comments about impeachmen; At Least 5 Pilots in U.S. Raised Concerns About Boeing 737 Max 8; FAA: No Basis to Order Grounding of Boeing 737 Max 8 Jets; Wall Street Journal Blames Software-Fix for 737 Max was Delayed in Part By Government Shutdown; Ex-Trump Campaign Chief Paul Manafort Faces Second Sentencing. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired March 13, 2019 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:12] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Very good morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Poppy Harlow, and we are minutes away from a long awaited end point in the special counsel's investigation. Note I said an end point, not the end point, and very possibly a sequel that outdoes the original.
It is the second and final sentencing hearing today for Paul Manafort, the foreign lobbyist who became chairman of the Trump presidential campaign and later the first person indicted in the Mueller probe. Less than a week after being sentenced to just 47 months in prison for a series of convictions in Virginia, Manafort will stand before a very different judge in Washington today where he could get up to 10 years for conspiracy against the United States and witness tampering.
SCIUTTO: Also today the man who briefly oversaw the Mueller probe is called back to Capitol Hill to revisit his testimony that he gave just last month under oath, Matthew Whitaker then in his final days as acting attorney general gave testimony that the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee now calls unsatisfactory, incomplete or, this is crucial, contradicted by other evidence.
Much more on that in just a moment, but we begin with Paul Manafort's second day of reckoning. CNN's Pamela Brown, Shimon Prokupecz are at the D.C. federal courthouse.
Pam, let's talk about this hearing this morning. And what are the guidelines for this judge in terms of how long a sentence she can give here?
PAMELA BROWN, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the guidelines say that she cannot sentence him for more than 10 years, but today is a really big day here at the D.C. federal courthouse because as Shimon and I have been covering this for nearly two years, this investigation into President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, so it really caps the downfall of Manafort.
This is his final sentencing. He pleaded guilty of conspiracy charges, conspiracy against the U.S., conspiracy to witness tamper, and he will be going before Judge Amy Berman Jackson, a different judge from last week, and we could hear from Paul Manafort for the first time here in D.C. because he's been under a gag order previously and so it will be interesting to hear what he has to say.
As you know, last week he was in Virginia facing a judge there, Judge Ellis. He showed up in a wheelchair and spoke up there as well, though he did not apologize for his actions. So we'll be keeping a close eye to see what Paul Manafort has to say today, if anything. And he was sentenced last week to nearly four years in prison. So what we'll be looking for today is what Judge Jackson does. Again, she can't sentence him for more than 10 years, so the question is, will whatever she sentences him to be concurrent with what he is already sentenced to serve or will it be consecutive? Will he have years piled on top of that?
So a lot to look out for here today, and of course, you know, just thinking about, Shimon, last time we were here, it was for the Michael Flynn sentencing that was then delayed. And as you know, Shimon, there were a lot of drama, a lot of twists and turns, and so we'll be looking to see if there will more of the drama today.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, certainly.
HARLOW: I mean, Shimon, before we get to Flynn, which is fascinating, as Pamela brings up, let's talk about Amy Berman Jackson. A very different judge from TS Ellis. Yes, an Obama appointee but unanimously confirmed by the Senate. So, I mean, what do we need to know about her?
PROKUPECZ: Well, she certainly comes prepared. She has been very thorough in everything that she's done, that has before her certainly, and during the Mueller investigation. She is the same judge that is overseeing the Stone case, so we've seen her take action there as well. She is the judge who put Paul Manafort in jail when he was charged with witness tampering. So there is all of that with her.
She was, as you said, an Obama appointee. She's been on the bench since 2011. One of the interesting things about her is that she's had a very different take on the Mueller investigation than what we saw from Judge Ellis in Virginia, who was sort of critical of the Mueller investigation. She has not taken that position. She has been through this investigation. She knows a lot of information about this investigation.
It was in her court where we got the closest to any possible hint of collusion. It was in her court that it was revealed that Paul Manafort shared secret campaign data, polling data, with a Russian operative. So she knows a lot about this case, certainly a lot more than any of us do. How will all of that play into what she ultimately does today? We shall see.
BROWN: And I also think one of the other things we're going to be looking out for is how much she considers the fact that Manafort violated his plea deal according to prosecutors by lying to a grand jury. That's something else we're going to be keeping an eye on.
SCIUTTO: Well, we know you both are going to be there. We're going to stay on top of this throughout the morning.
[09:05:03] Pamela Brown, Shimon Prokupecz, thanks very much.
HARLOW: All right. Let's get right to our Manu Raju. He's on the Hill where former acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker is set to meet with House Judiciary members in just a bit. Of course this follows his contentious testimony a few weeks ago.
What do they want to know?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Democrats are concerned that he did not give what they believe was the full truth, and particularly over his interactions with President Trump, one after it was revealed that federal prosecutors in New York implicating the president in that hush money scandal involving Michael Cohen to keep quiet those affairs that were about -- the stories about those affairs are about to come out right before the 2016 elections.
They don't believe what Whitaker testified to. He said the president did not lash out at him and then he later side-stepped questions about whether they had any discussions about that. Separately they also want to know about his testimony, suggesting that he never had any interactions with the White House about his public concerns about the special counsel's investigation.
This because Jerry Nadler points out somewhat incredulously he doesn't believe that they didn't discuss this as Whitaker was interviewing for a White House attorney position with the responsibility for overseeing, dealing with the special counsel's investigation. So when I talked to Jerry Nadler yesterday, he told me very clearly he needs to hear what he says is the full truth from Matt Whitaker.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER (D), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, he made a number of statements to committee, which we had reason to believe weren't entirely truthful, and we outlined those questions to him in the letter we sent, and we're giving him an opportunity to clarify because it's very serious that you tell the complete truth to a congressional inquiry. So we're going to give him the opportunity to clarify that. And the subjects are in the letter we sent him.
RAJU: You don't believe that he didn't have conversations with the president about the Mueller investigation or anybody at the White House?
NADLER: We're very skeptical of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now another person who is clarifying his testimony for a separate committee before the House Oversight Committee is the president's former attorney, Michael Cohen. When he testified earlier this month before that committee, he said that he never asked for a pardon from the president. Well, it's turned out that there were discussions with the president about a pardon. And in a letter last night from Michael Cohen's attorneys to the House Oversight Committee chairman, Elijah Cummings, the attorney says that he should have been clearer about the time frame in which he was discussing this possible pardon, say that he meant there was never a discussion after they left what's known as a joint defense agreement between the attorneys.
He said at that point there was never a discussion. There were some discussions about a pardon when they were all part of that joint defense agreement. Will that satisfy Democrats? We'll see. Republicans unlikely to be satisfied. They're already concerned that he lied to that committee when he testified earlier this month.
HARLOW: Right. I mean --
RAJU: Jim and Poppy.
HARLOW: You've got to be so careful under oath always, but especially when you previously admitted to lying to Congress.
Manu, appreciate that. Keep us posted. Jim.
SCIUTTO: Joining me now is Democratic Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon of Pennsylvania. She serves as vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
Congresswoman, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.
REP. MARY GAY SCANLON (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: Let me begin with the Manafort sentencing here. As you know, the judge in this case, Judge Amy Berman Jackson, she told Manafort in Mueller's office that she had decided he intentionally lied, therefore violating -- first of all, breaking the law, but also violating his cooperation agreement. Should he be penalized for that? Should that add to his sentence today, in your view?
SCANLON: Certainly. I'm an advocate for the rule of law, and I believe when you serve in government office you should be held to the highest standard, not the lowest common denominator.
SCIUTTO: And looking back at his sentence last week, were you disappointed by the sentence he received in a Virginia court, which was far below, as you know, the sentencing guidelines?
SCANLON: Well, you know, you have -- you rely on our judges to exercise their best judgment, but as someone who has worked with folks who've gotten extremely long sentences under mandatory sentencing guidelines, you know, it's really disappointing to see someone go away to jail for decades or even life for a low-level drug offense and then see someone who's lied to the U.S. government get four years.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you about Matthew Whitaker, the former acting attorney general, as you know, called back to the Hill because the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, believes that he was not forthcoming in his prior testimony.
I know that you won't be in that hearing today, but you have questioned him before, Matthew Whitaker. Are you concerned that he lied before your committee?
SCANLON: Well, it would be an understatement to say that his testimony before us last time was not very candid. He really wasn't testifying to the committee. He seemed to be testifying only to the White House. He was not forthcoming with his answers.
[09:10:01] He refused to even admit things that are part of the public record. So, yes, there were a number of areas where he did not seem to have been truthful, so we're looking forward to hearing from him maybe now that he's not a -- no longer the attorney general, perhaps he can be more candid with us.
SCIUTTO: To be clear here, you believe that Matthew Whitaker lied before your committee?
SCANLON: He at least was not forthcoming. I think it remains to be seen whether he lied, but obviously that would be an offense.
SCIUTTO: That's something you're attempting to, I imagine, establish today.
Michael Cohen, as you know, also had some highly watched testimony on the Hill. In the wake of that, some of his statements on the Hill undermined by past statements, his lawyers trying to clean this up. As you know, Michael Cohen said he never asked for a pardon from the president, but it appears that he may have discussed a pardon at least prior to the time period, you know, after he entered cooperation with federal prosecutors.
Should that lack of truthfulness or lying, if you want to call it that, should that undermine his broader credibility with his allegations regarding the president's behavior?
SCANLON: Well, unfortunately, judiciary is one of the few committees that Mr. Cohen has not yet testified before. He's been before another of the other committees, and quite frankly, I was not able to watch his testimony because we were busy trying to get work done with respect to gun violence and fair elections, but from what I read in the paper and see on your network, certainly it does look as though there are some questions about his credibility that will have to be resolved.
SCIUTTO: Is he not a credible witness, in your view?
SCANLON: I actually don't know about that. He certainly has very little to lose at this point. I understand that he has not been truthful in the past, but at this point he's going to jail one way or another, and in the criminal justice context, you often find that that's when people finally fess up to their past misdeeds. SCIUTTO: On another topic, certainly a discussion within your own
caucus, and that is Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker's comments regarding impeachment saying that for now, and again, with the qualifier if there is no compelling evidence or also bipartisanship support, she does not support an impeachment process for the president now, and she added, of course, the president is not worth it.
Do you disagree with her on this? Do you believe that the Democratically-controlled House should be at least considering impeachment today?
SCANLON: I don't believe the Democratic House should be considering impeachment today. Impeachment is a really serious constitutional process, and it's not something that should be undertaken lightly or for partisan purposes. We saw that with the Clinton impeachment. But by the same token, you should not abandon your obligation to conduct oversight and act as a check and balance on the administration for partisan reasons, and that's what we've seen for the last two years.
SCIUTTO: Do you believe that this House speaker, though, just to be clear, is abandoning that responsibility by taking that option off the table now?
SCANLON: I don't think the House speaker is abandoning any possibility. We do not have the grounds or the record to conduct impeachment at this point. She didn't take it off the table for some point in the future if the evidence warrants. And we're going to go based on the facts.
Congresswoman, we appreciate you joining us today. Thanks very much.
SCANLON: OK. Thank you.
SCIUTTO: Well, they were warned. We now know that pilots here in the U.S. recently raised concerns, serious concerns, about the Boeing 737 Max 8, but the FAA is digging in. And these planes are still flying. You might be flying one of them today.
HARLOW: Remarkable. All right, so actress Felicity Huffman and actress Lori Loughlin starring in a major college cheating scheme. Allegedly these two along with dozens of others accused of carrying out a nationwide fraud to get kids into prestigious universities. Huffman released on bill and a warrant issued for Loughlin. We'll have the latest.
And we're on top of all of the developments inside the D.C. federal courtroom today. Minutes from now the president's former campaign chairman will face his second sentencing.
[09:15:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: At least five pilots here in the U.S. filed complaints about the Boeing 737 Max 8 airplane in recent months, the same plane involved now in two deadly crashes within five months. That according to a federal database. Some of those complaints throttle failed to move to the commanded positions. Imagine that in the cockpit.
The flight manual is inadequate and quote, "almost criminally insufficient". And to be clear, this plane is still in the air in the U.S., these are the 737 Max 8s that are currently flying in the U.S. right now, the U.S. behind a lot of other countries that have --
POPPY HARLOW, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: I know --
SCIUTTO: Grounded the aircraft.
HARLOW: You know, and everyone this morning is asking why? Why when you have another pilot in the U.S. reported that another 737 Max 8 hitched nose down, followed by the flights system, calling out don't sink, don't sink. But this morning again, as Jim said, those flights are in the air.
That's despite at least 44 countries and 26 airlines grounding them around the world. The FAA says there is no basis to ground the planes. Let's go to our CNN business editor-at-large Richard Quest; the pre-eminent airline expert at this network for a very long time. What are you learning this morning?
RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR-AT-LARGE & HOST, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS: OK, this morning, it becomes ever more clear the confusion that does exist. You have these pilots reports in the databases, many -- the issues of which they refer are absolutely at the core of Lion Air which, of course, is the one, the plane that went down in October and very likely this one, Ethiopian.
We're waiting to hear today hopefully where the black boxes are going to be sent. We know they're going to be sent out of Ethiopia, the country doesn't have the technical expertise to read them out, and the view seems to be probably somewhere in Europe.
[09:20:00] And even the president and the CEO of Ethiopian Airways this morning is calling for all planes to be grounded. But Jim and Poppy, why isn't the FAA grounding or banning? It's really simple, it's a difference of philosophy. They see it differently. Their view is that we have these facts on the ground, they do not indicate that the plane is unsafe.
And until they get new facts, they won't move. The rest of the world is saying the existing facts that we know about are sufficient for an abundance of caution. And that's the phrase we see again and again, "abundance of caution", safety comes first, protective safety measures.
SCIUTTO: Well, they're kind of --
HARLOW: Yes --
SCIUTTO: They're alone on that position as you show that, we just showed the map there, the number of countries around the world that have banned this. The "Wall Street Journal" is reporting this morning and this caught our attention that a software fix -- you know, Boeing was aware of this and they issued a software fix for the control system.
That was delayed in part because of the federal government shutdown. What are you learning about that?
QUEST: Yes --
SCIUTTO: I mean, you know, this is a labyrinthine process, right? And you've got regulators working with the airlines, but the folks weren't working then. And that in part delayed this. Would that have had an impact?
QUEST: No, I mean, unlikely. You know, Boeing has been working on this since Lion Air in May -- sorry, in October of last year. It's a fix. It's not a major change. The thing they're talking about is a procedural shift that will tell pilots to do things in a different way. It is -- I'm pretty certain that even if the FAA had been working normally, this would not have had any material effect on the result of Ethiopian. I'm virtually certain about that.
The issue now is how the airlines, Southwest, American, United with the Max 9, continuing to fly these aircrafts when they know other airlines in the rest of the world, reputable carriers, have decided not to.
SCIUTTO: Yes, and do they start to get calls from passengers, right?
HARLOW: Yes --
SCIUTTO: Saying, I don't want --
HARLOW: Yes --
SCIUTTO: To fly these planes, and if you don't -- you know, I'm not going to get on your airline because you're flying this plane, yes.
HARLOW: I was just thinking --
QUEST: Yes --
HARLOW: About that, having to book a flight in a few weeks, and I do think it is worth noting to everyone that the FAA has not had a permanent head for the last year. There's an acting FAA administrator, the president is set to nominate a new one, but look, the FAA is front and center in all of this. Richard, important reporting, thank you.
SCIUTTO: In just moments, Paul Manafort will enter the court for his second sentencing. How much more time behind bars could a judge give the former chairman of the Trump campaign?
[09:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
HARLOW: This morning, Paul Manafort is back in court in a D.C. federal courthouse where he pleaded guilty last September under a deal with the special counsel that he promptly blew up by lying.
SCIUTTO: Any minute now, the former chairman of the Trump presidential campaign could get up to ten years for conspiracy against the U.S. and conspiring to tamper with witnesses, that in addition to the 47 months he got last week on a separate set of convictions in Virginia.
Pamela Brown, Shimon Prokupecz, they're outside the courthouse, and the judge is going to speak for some time before issuing her decision here. And I wonder as we begin to hear those comments, Shimon and Pam, will that give us an idea of where the judge is going with the sentencing?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's always hard to say because last week with Judge Ellis in Virginia, there were many twists and turns where at times you thought, OK, he's really going to, you know, lay it down and give him --
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes --
BROWN: A long sentence, and then he gave him only four years, around four years, which was much less than the sentencing guidelines. And so, you really -- it's hard to read the tea leaves on what the judge says. We should note that Paul Manafort has just arrived, he is once again in a wheelchair, but notably different from last time.
He's wearing a suit today unlike the scrubs we saw him in last week. We could actually hear from him today in court. Is that right, Shimon?
PROKUPECZ: Yes, normally in these situations, we do hear from defendants. They do speak and you know, he gave a four-minute -- he spoke for four minutes last time when he asked Judge Ellis for compassion. It seems that, that did have an effect on the judge. The judge did -- was compassionate there.
You know, when you think about what Judge Ellis did on the last court date, he explained why he was sentencing him only to the four years so that he'd live a quote, "a blameless life before any of this had happened." A lot of people took issue with those words.
It's going to be interesting to see how Judge Berman, how she treats this case. What does she say about the impact of this case and what Paul Manafort has done here and his activity and his behavior?
BROWN: Right --
PROKUPECZ: And like you said, it is interesting that Paul Manafort is now in the courtroom, he's in his wheelchair, he's wearing a suit, as you said. Prosecutors are now inside the courtroom as well, so we should be getting underway here pretty shortly.
BROWN: Yes, it's just about 9:30 --
PROKUPECZ: Yes -- BROWN: Eastern Time, so we're waiting to hear. And what was
interesting is last week when he was sentenced in Virginia, Paul Manafort did speak, but he did not specifically apologize --
PROKUPECZ: That's right --
BROWN: For his actions. And he was sort of reprimanded by Judge Ellis on that, and so I'll be looking forward today to hear what he says and to hear if he does express remorse --
PROKUPECZ: Yes, I don't think he will because if anything, if we look at what he did last week, I don't think he's going to --
BROWN: Yes --
PROKUPECZ: Express remorse. I think he's going to just talk more about how difficult this has been on his life. I think one of the interesting things is going to see how they address the witness- tampering charges that he pleaded guilty to. I do think --
BROWN: Right --
PROKUPECZ: That's significant and judge --
BROWN: And lying --
PROKUPECZ: And lying. Judges treat that very seriously.
BROWN: This is -- this is a culmination though, of a two-year - nearly.