Return to Transcripts main page


Live Coverage and Analysis of Paul Manafort Second Sentencing Hearing; FAA Has Not Yet Grounded the Boeing 737 Max 8. Aired 10:30- 11a ET

Aired March 13, 2019 - 10:30   ET


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: OK. So right now in the sentencing of Paul Manafort -- the final sentencing -- the defense is making their case. Let's bring all of our players back in. Let's go outside the federal courthouse in D.C.

Pamela Brown, Shimon Prokupecz are there.

Pamela, what are you hearing. Color inside the court, where we are, when this sentence is coming.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the prosecutors just wrapped their arguments. And Andrew Weissmann, the lead prosecutor in this case, talked about character. He says that Paul Manafort's actions after he pleaded guilty are not reflective of someone who learned a harsh lesson, someone who has remorse or someone with a moral compass.

And he went on to say that, look, Paul Manafort looked FBI agents in the eye and lied to them. He said Paul Manafort lied to them. He said Paul Manafort lied to the grand jurors in this case.

And he laid this out very slowly, to make the case to the judge that this isn't just about the two conspiracy charges he pleaded guilty to. This is about his actions after, and how that is a reflection that he is not remorseful.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. And what he said, just to kind of put a button on what you said here, close the loop here, is that what -- the conduct that Manafort engaged in was criminal conduct that goes to the heart of the American justice system.

And this has a lot to do with the witness tampering charges. This is something that the FBI, that judges treat very seriously and where, perhaps, Paul Manafort could face his biggest sentence on.

The other thing we just learned, which you see on your screen there, is that Paul Manafort is going to speak. The difference this time, where we didn't see remorse from him when he spoke last week, this time, his attorney is saying he is going to tell the judge, he is going to tell her how sorry he is for the crimes that he committed.

So a very different take here, it seems, from the Paul Manafort team. BROWN: That's really interesting. Inside the courtroom, we're told

that he is just looking straight ahead. He is not looking at any particular person, as Andrew Weissmann was talking. He never looked at him according to our producer inside.

And it is notable, he is expected to show remorse. Because he didn't last week, as you noted, Shimon. And the judge pointed that out, that he did not apologize specifically for his actions.

And so it is something that could work in his favor if he does apologize --

PROKUPECZ: It could.

BROWN: -- today and show remorse.

PROKUPECZ: There's one other point that I want to quickly make. I know we have to wrap, here. But this has been a big argument that the defense has been trying to make in court filings and secret -- some of the secret proceedings, is that the U.S. government knew for years that Paul Manafort was engaged in this kind of activity. And yet they didn't see anything wrong.

That is what's going on now. His attorneys are making that argument. The judge wants to pursue that.

BROWN: Right.

PROKUPECZ: She's asking more questions about that.

BROWN: Saying that, look, if he wasn't the campaign chairman for Trump, he might not be here.

PROKUPECZ: That's right.

BROWN: All right. Back to you.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: All right. Well, the sentence could come down at any moment. We're going to stay with our team there, watching -- as we watch.

Jennifer Rodgers, you have a lot of experience in the courtroom. So his defense is saying he's truly sorry. He didn't apologize last week. How does a judge weigh a statement of apology against the actions? Lying, witness tampering, et cetera?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. Well that's a good question. Because most defendants do express a lot of remorse when they're in the courtroom, facing the judge at the moment, you know, of sentencing. Because why not, right? Why not take a shot at it, try to get the judge to give you a little bit of time off.

So usually you do see these very, you know, presumably heartfelt expressions of remorse. And I don't think they move the needle very often with the judge because the judge knows that they're going to try to say what they need to say. And the truth is, what did the person do.

And, here, you actually have an even more important measure of that, which is after the plea, we have evidence of what he did --


RODGERS: -- after he had supposedly accepted responsibility.

HARLOW: The late plea, Paul Callan. I mean, he did not plead guilty at the outset of all of this, OK?

Talk to us about what history teaches us about Judge Jackson here. And the level to which she holds public officials or those that have served public -- you know, people running, et cetera.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, she has a very interesting history. You know, she's a Harvard undergrad, Harvard Law graduate.

HARLOW: Total underachiever.

CALLAN: Yes. And she wasn't using the services of that guy in Sacramento:



CALLAN: And in any event, she also represented politicians who were charged with political crimes, as a defense attorney.

[10:35:05] And on the bench, she had the case involving Jesse Jackson Jr., when he was charged with misuse of campaign funds. And she was pretty tough on him. She sentenced him to 30 months in prison. And I think one of the observations in court at the time was that she held people who hold public office to a higher standard.

HARLOW: I'm sorry --


HARLOW: -- I have to jump in here because Manafort's lawyers just said that officials at the highest levels of government knew about his activities.

SCIUTTO: Who are they referring to there?

HARLOW: Right. We don't know yet.

SCIUTTO: Could they be referring to -- I mean, we've had a lot of references --

HARLOW: Don't (ph) know.

SCIUTTO: -- in prior court filings, to co-conspirator one, individual one, et cetera. Which have included the president himself. Will we know who -- CALLAN: It's -- you know, it's hard to say. I don't think he's talking about the president himself.

HARLOW (?): No.

CALLAN: I think this is a reference to the fact that the charges against him -- lobbying without registering for a foreign entity -- are rarely brought against people in the United States --

HARLOW: Right.

CALLAN: -- and they may be saying, "Listen, everybody in government knew that this was going on and no charges were brought against Manafort or, by the way, other K Street lobbyists."

So he's been singled out because of his affiliation --


CALLAN: -- with Trump. I bet -- I'm sure that that's what the argument means, but --

HARLOW: It's kind of what Shimon was alluding to, I think --


HARLOW: -- before.

Shimon, just bringing you back in on that part.

PROKUPECZ: Yes. So this has to do with Paul Manafort's meetings with State Department officials or officials at the embassy in Kiev. And the whole point of this argument has been, from the defense team, is that, look, for years U.S. officials in the highest level, whether it's intelligence officials, other officials, knew what Paul Manafort was doing.

They knew about his work in Kiev, they knew about his work in the Ukraine. And no one ever really raised any issue with it until -- until the special counsel is formed. And when the special counsel is formed, all of a sudden, this becomes a criminal investigation. They have issues with the work that he's been doing.

And some have argued, perhaps, maybe, that the U.S. government, in these meetings at the U.S. embassy in Kiev, were getting intelligence off of Paul Manafort.

So for years, no one had an issue with this. With the work that he was doing, people at the FBI, people at the CIA, perhaps other places, knew this was going on. Knew this work was taking place. But, yet, no one ever thought to bring charges.

The special counsel's office and Andrew Weissmann has argued, "Well, not so. We were investigating this." There was a DOJ investigation. We've done stories on this, of Paul Manafort. But no one really moved to bring charges until the special counsel's office and the Mueller team was put together.

BROWN: Which has raised this argument on both sides, where Manafort's lawyers have said the only reason he's being charged now is because he was the Trump campaign chairman.

But then, of course, the -- Mueller's prosecutors argue, "Look, it shows how brazen, he was, to have been committing these crimes and then take on this role that would put him in the spotlight as the Trump campaign chairman." So we will see, today, how the judge looks at all of this.

PROKUPECZ: Well, we know how the judge over in Virginia, Judge Ellis, looked at this. Right?


PROKUPECZ: Remember that quote where he said, "Oh, the only reason you're going after Paul Manafort was to get him to cooperate against Trump, to get other people." There has been that feeling, that one of the reasons that they did bring these charges was to put pressure on Paul Manafort.

Look, his partner, his business partner and the co-chairman of the campaign, Rick Gates, pleaded guilty and has had a cooperation agreement. And it's no secret that the special counsel's office wanted Paul Manafort to cooperate --

BROWN: Right.

PROKUPECZ: -- from the beginning.

BEROWN: And this really is, as you've said -- and I know we're wrapping -- but this is the last shot for special -- for the special counsel's office to make the case about Manafort, that, "No, we didn't just go after him because he was the Trump campaign chairman," especially in the face of him being sentenced to four years last week, which was much less than what they had proposed to the judge, of 25 years -- back to you.

SCIUTTO: He avoided millions of dollars in taxes. Avoiding taxes is stealing from the government. You pay your taxes, we pay -- someone else is not paying their taxes, they're stealing from you and me. And that's -- I think it's dismissed as this sort of, like, petty crime. But he did it for a long time and folks got to keep that in mind, I imagine the judge is going to keep that in mind.

HARLOW: Yes. For sure. Let's talk about the politics. Dana Bash with us, our chief political correspondent.

What do you make of all this, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Shimon makes an important point, putting into context what we're hearing from the lawyers inside this hearing right now. That, wait a minute, people at the highest levels of the government knew, real-time, that he was meeting with Ukrainian officials and so forth. But that doesn't account for the fact that that continued when he was

not just Paul Manafort, a lobbyist, Paul Manafort, a business guy. But Paul Manafort, the chairman of the campaign of the Republican nominee for president of the United States.

[10:40:05] And not just that. That according to the Mueller team and court documents that we have seen, Manafort met with this gentleman, Kilimnik, and gave him polling data from the Trump campaign. Now whether or not that's collusion or not, you know, that's for a separate conversation.

But the point is, is that it continued while he was in the midst of a very important political role. And whether -- you know, maybe he did it because he was trying to show these people that he's worth the money that they're giving him for other business, that he's a player, that he's still in -- you know, in the game. And not because they were trading information about the campaign, in order to affect the campaign.

But it's still not OK. And that is an important aspect of this, as he is sentenced, that we can't forget.

SCIUTTO: Yes. No question.

HARLOW: Dana, stay there.

Everyone, stay there. We're waiting for the sentence to come down. Also, on top of this important story that develops, we know U.S. pilots have raised concerns about the Boeing 373 Max 8. Why is the FAA not concerned? Next.


[10:45:49] SCIUTTO: We are learning, just this morning, that at least five pilots here in the U.S. filed complaints about the Boeing 737 Max 8 airplane in recent months.

But this morning, Max 8 airplanes are still flying throughout the U.S., dozens of them.

HARLOW: That is despite at least 44 countries and 26 other airlines around the world, grounding the aircraft. The FAA says there's no basis to ground these planes. Let's go to our Marty Savidge. He joins us from one of the busiest airports, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.

Marty, what are you learning this morning? And especially about the FAA and why they are not shifting their position here.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right, a couple of things. Morning to you, Poppy. Morning, Jim.

When it comes to the flying public, there are people who are concerned about the kind of aircraft they're now flying on these days. But when you tell them that five pilots that fly domestically in the U.S. have come forward and in some way or form have expressed their concerns about the aircraft, or have had control problems themselves, that really catches the attention of the flying public. Because they know those are the people that are actually at the controls, and who would better understand.

Much of the public is not aware that there is this kind of self- reporting hotline that the federal government has for commercial airline pilots, where they can report either issues with aircraft or with their work circumstance.

So when they've now heard that five pilots have come forward and make these claims, including claims that they were fighting with the aircraft, that the aircraft did a quick nose-down attitude after shortly they had put on the automatic pilot. That sounds eerily like the sort of things we've been hearing in the initial phases, at least, of the investigation of both of these fatal crashes overseas.

So people are definitely concerned as they fly. Today, the FAA says it's still safe -- back to you.

SCIUTTO: Martin Savidge, thanks very much. We know you're going to stay on top of that story.

We have breaking news coming out of the courthouse in Washington, D.C. And that is that Paul Manafort, the president's former campaign chairman, has begun speaking. This before the judge, Amy Berman Jackson, who very shortly, within the next few minutes, in fact, will issue a sentence to him.

We have our team outside the courthouse here, Pamela, Shimon. We have one of our colleagues inside the room. Do we have any sense of what Manafort has said so far?

PROKUPECZ: That's right. He is speaking right now, Jim. And what -- we're seeing a very different take, here, from Paul Manafort. He is seated in his wheelchair. And he's addressing what happened last week.

He says, "My previous elocution, I told Judge Ellis I was ashamed of my conduct." Apparently, he says, it was not, at that time, "clear what was in my heart. I am sorry for what I've done," is what he's now saying to the judge.

He says, "Let me be very clear. I accept the responsibility for the acts that caused me to be here today. While I cannot undo the past, I can assure the future will be very different." And then he says that "I'm upset with myself for these personal failures."

He mentions being in solitary confinement for nine months. And then he says that "My behavior in the future will be very different. I have already begun to change."

BROWN: And that was one of the arguments that his lawyers have made repeatedly. That, look, this is someone who's already spent nine months in jail. He's going to be 70 next month. And the likelihood that he would commit crimes once he is out of jail is very low. Making the argument that he shouldn't receive a stiff sentence. That

he already has learned his lesson. And, now, Manafort himself, apologizing for the first time, a full-throated apology in the courtroom, in the wheelchair, reading from this prepared statement, saying that "Yes, I accept responsibility for my crimes."

Now we'll have to wait and see if the judge believes that this is a genuine heartfelt apology for the crimes he has pleaded guilty to.

PROKUPECZ: And I think it's important to note, a very different take today than what we saw last Thursday, last week. A lot of people took issue, even the judge, Judge Ellis, said that he did not see any remorse from Paul Manafort.

Paul Manafort spent a lot of time talking about how his life has been, how terrible his life has been --

[10:50:00] BROWN: Right.

PROKUPECZ: -- since all of this happened. But never really took responsibility, never apologized. We're seeing a very different take here, now, where he is apologizing, you know, quite -- can't be any more simple, here. He says, "I am sorry for what I've done."

He's now talking about the time that he spent in solitary confinement for the last nine months.


PROKUPECZ: He's been separated --

BROWN: His health has deteriorated.

PROKUPECZ: -- his health has deteriorated. He's in a wheelchair.

And one of the things, while he's separated from the prison population, the jail population, it's because of safety also. They've sort of kept him away from the general population.

Of course, the president, Rudy Giuliani certainly has made an issue of him being in solitary confinement.

BROWN: And he goes on to say that he looks to his family and God's guiding hand to carry him forward. He says, "I pledge to do all I can to accelerate the healing process."

And then he goes on to say, "Your Honor, I will be 70 years old in a few weeks." His wife is 66, he is the primary caregiver. He says, "Please let me and my wife be together."

PROKUPECZ: So, certainly, I think --

SCIUTTO: Pamela and Shimon, thanks very much. We have Jennifer Rodgers here, Paul Callan as well.

Jennifer, you've spent a lot of time in a courtroom. He's there, trying to be contrite in a way that he was not -- and even acknowledged in his statement, in his last court appearance --


SCIUTTO: -- a week ago. Does that difference factor into the judge's decision, which we expect at any moment now?

RODGERS: It might a little bit. I mean, you so rarely get a do-over in these circumstances. So I think part of what Judge Jackson is going to be thinking about is, "Well, listen, there was a lot of blowback after last week. A lot of people were out there, saying in the public realm, 'Wow, he didn't even express remorse,' you know, 'How brazen of him.'"

And so now he has a chance to do it again. So I think she's going to know that too. So we'll have to see what she does with it, but I wouldn't expect a big move in the sentence based on that.

HARLOW: You know, I wonder, Paul Callan, if you think the way that Manafort has performed and how remorseful he's been this week versus just a week ago, has to do with the judge he knew he was in front of.

Because you'll remember, it was months ago that Judge Ellis, who handed down the sentence last week, called out Mueller's team --

SCIUTTO (?): Yes.

HARLOW: -- and in part said, you know, "This man is here in part because of his role in the campaign," et cetera, "Yet these crimes aren't -- there's not that direct line," right?

SCIUTTO: Yes, so Judge Ellis had to apologize for some of those courtroom comments --

HARLOW: Yes, it's true.

SCIUTTO: -- because he called out the prosecutors. Later said, "I went too far." I was in there for some of those moments --


SCIUTTO: -- and he was -- he was, you know, an active judge, one might say -- Paul.

CALLAN: "Crusty" is --

HARLOW: Yes. That's -- that's a great --

CALLAN: -- often used to describe him. And he -- yes, I think that's a great question, Poppy. Because Manafort shows up, of course, in a prison jumpsuit. And that sort of plays into Ellis' position, that he was being sort of tortured and misused by the prosecutors to get at Trump.

Now whether that was really true or not, we have to hedge and say, "It's also possible that they didn't get his suit to the jail for him to change into before" -- HARLOW: Yes, we don't know.

CALLAN: -- "he went out into court." We don't know the back story.

But here, of course, he's bundled up in a suit. He's looking better. And he's apologetic to the judge. I think he's playing to the judge, but I also think he's playing to somebody else. He's playing to the president --

HARLOW: To the president --


CALLAN: -- and he's playing to the American public because he's hoping the president will pardon him if he sins (ph).

HARLOW: Let's get Dana Bash in here on that.

Dana, what are your thoughts?

BASH: I totally agree with you, Paul. This is about the court of public opinion, which influences the audience of one, President Trump, as much as anything.

And last week was a big fail on Paul Manafort's part. The fact that it was all about how much of an inconvenience the crimes that he committed are on his life and on his family, instead of, "I made a mistake."

And yes, it was a different judge. Today he is before a much tougher judge who has been tough on him, not just in other cases. Very tough on him along the way.

But this is his final chance to say things and get out there with the megaphone that is this case, and hope that it lands on the president's desk and hope that -- that if he is remorseful, then there won't be as much blowback.

Of course there would be blowback from a pardon, but not as much if he at least says, "I made a mistake."

SCIUTTO: Yes. I mean, is the judge tough on him because he committed crimes, multiple crimes, including after he pled guilty to crimes, we should note that.

And Dana, as well, yes. We have to be clear here. This was not related to collusion, to conspiracy with Russians to interfere in the election. But this was the man that the president chose to be his campaign chairman --

BASH: Absolutely.

SCIUTTO: -- who is going to serve many years in prison.

BASH: No question about it. And, you know, we're so caught up in, understandably, the details of what we're waiting for. This is a very, very dramatic moment. And it's going on in that courtroom as we speak.

But we can't lose sight of exactly that, Jim. This is the president of the United States. And this is the second time in two weeks that his campaign chair is being sentenced in a federal court --

[10:55:01] SCIUTTO: Yes.

BASH: -- for crimes.


SCIUTTO: That federal courthouse, just down the street from the White House, we should note.

HARLOW: It's a very big deal. Look, they've made their cases. The defense, the prosecution, Paul Manafort, making his plea for leniency to this judge. She will hand down her sentence imminently. Stay with CNN as we continue this coverage.


HARLOW: Be right back.


[10:59:59] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR, AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. And here we go. Right now is a key moment in the nearly two-year-long special counsel investigation.