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New York City Prosecutors Charge Manafort Immediately After D.C. Sentencing; Manafort to Serve 7.5 Years Total; CNN Obtains Emails Michael Cohen Gave Congress to Bolster His Claim A Pardon Was Dangled by Trump; Canada Grounds Boeing 737 MAX Jets; Trump Bans MAX Jets. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired March 13, 2019 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello on this Wednesday. I'm Ana Cabrera in for Brooke Baldwin. And we begin with a whirlwind of developments involving the man who once led Donald Trump's Presidential campaign. Just minutes after Manafort was sentenced to a total of seven and a half years for federal crimes, the 69-year-old felon learned it's not over yet. He is facing new charges, but this time they're coming from the Manhattan D.A.'s offices for alleged offenses out of the reach of any Presidential pardon. It is a stunning fall from grace for Manafort who has gone from buying $15,000 ostrich skin jackets to wearing a federal inmate uniform. And just a short time ago, in his second sentencing in two weeks, Judge Amy Berman Jackson added 43 months to the time he'll have to serve. That's after Judge T.S. Ellis gave Manafort 47 months for financial crimes last week in Virginia. Now, Manafort's attorney spoke just after today's sentencing as critics nearly drowned him out. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN DOWNING, PAUL MANAFORT'S ATTORNEY: Very sad --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not what she said! Liar!
DOWNING: -- sentence that is totally unnecessary. Much like this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Manafort's attorney there calling it a very sad day. CNN's Kara Scannell and Pamela Brown are both outside the federal courthouse in Washington where Manafort just learned of his new punishment. Pamela, let's start with the sentencing, today, then we'll move on to the new charges he's facing. How did Judge Jackson arrive at this sentence? Do we know?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was really a dressing down of Manafort and his legal team by Judge Jackson. She did, at times, try to be balanced. She said at one point, look, Manafort is not public enemy number one, he's also not the victim here. But she clearly stated time and time again that she did not buy in to Paul Manafort's arguments, that he, you know, accepted responsibility. She said saying "I'm sorry" because I got caught is not an inspiring plea for leniency. Basically, saying this was too little, too late. Basically, for the first time today in court he said he was sorry for what he did and his conduct. And she basically just said that she could see through his games, see through his spin. She said, were you spinning the lies then to get a better deal or spinning the facts now to get a better deal? And she also went after his attorneys for the fact that they brought up Russia collusion in the filing, saying that there wasn't any collusion. She said that that was a non sequitur and questioned why the attorneys would even raise that. And clearly, his behavior following his guilty plea factored into this decision today, the lies and the witness tampering, where she handed down six years, 2 1/2 which he will serve concurrently with this sentence in Virginia, and an extra 3 1/2 years after that. Not the maximum sentence that she could have handed down, but clearly, she tried to take a balanced approach to fit the crimes that he pleaded guilty to the conspiracy against the U.S., the conspiracy to witness tamper, and his behavior after the fact. Behavior he said he knew he was doing, he was fully aware that he was committing crimes and he did so anyway. That all factored into today's sentencing, it appears.
CABRERA: Right. Referencing the witness tampering that came when he was still out of prison before he got slammed behind bars, before the ongoing trial, obviously, elsewhere, and then this one. What does this sentencing now mean, bigger picture, for the Mueller investigation, Pam?
BROWN: Well, this is the last big puzzle piece in the Mueller probe. This is the most high-profile investigation. You'll recall, a year and a half ago, CNN was first to report the first charges in the Mueller probe against Manafort. And here we are today in this final sentencing, the stakes were high. Because in some ways, the prosecutors wanted to use today to sort of justify their work over the last nearly two years in this high-profile case. Manafort has been a central figure in all of this. And so, certainly, it is a big deal, as we near the end of the Mueller probe, by all accounts, our reporting is that it is nearing the end. That it won't be long before the Attorney General announces he has received Mueller's confidential report. And so, the stakes were very high today. It's certainly a momentous day in the Mueller investigation.
CABRERA: Kara, fill us in now on the details of these new charges from the New York district attorney. What are the new accusations against Manafort?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well, Ana, today the Manhattan District Attorney's office unsealed the 16-count indictment against Paul Manafort with charges ranging from residential mortgage fraud to false business records and conspiracy in a scheme to defraud. It adds a new level of legal issues for Manafort and while we talk a lot about the Manafort case, it's always kind of looming in there as part of the defense has been that he's looking for a Presidential pardon.
[14:05:00] The key thing here with these state charges is that the Presidential pardon doesn't apply. They're essentially pardon proof. Now, the district attorney's office would have to approve these cases, these charges in trial or Manafort will have to face them, and that will take some time, since he is currently in a jail here in Alexandria, Virginia. But it adds a whole new level of scrutiny to Manafort. It means it's not the end for him. He could potentially face, if he's convicted, even more time. But this time in the state prison system. So, this is just another level for Manafort. And as you said, Ana, another example of the fall from grace from the man who was once, you know, one of the kings of "k" street here as a big lobbyist. So, it's one element of Manafort's legal exposure is resolved today, but then there's a new journey that he's going to begin now in New York state.
CABRERA: Kara Scannell, Pamela Brown, thank you both for that reporting. Now let's bring in our legal experts on what today means. We have Caroline Polisi, a federal and white-collar criminal defense attorney, also with us CNN legal analyst Jennifer Rodgers.
What message do you think the judge was trying to send today in Manafort's sentencing?
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think she was sending the message that it's a very serious thing, very serious crimes here. But I think she was very reasonable in the way that she sentenced Manafort today. Because she gave him the maximum on the obstruction of justice, which really was egregious on Manafort's part. But she didn't give him the maximum on the other charge that he was facing in front of her, and it's because there were some factual overlap with the Virginia case. So, she said, I give you the max on the obstruction, I'm not going to give you the max on the other and I'm only running it partially concurrent and partially consecutive to take into account that some of these facts were already taken into account in the Virginia case. So, I thought her sentencing was very balanced, very reasonable. He's facing seven and a half years, which for a man of his age, is a significant sentence. And he'll start serving that time and we'll see what happens with the New York case and a possible pardon, but he'll be in prison for a while.
CABRERA: So, let's talk about the New York case. Because within an hour of this sentencing, Caroline, federal -- the federal charges, they were gone, they were done with them, bam! Now come these New York state charges against Manafort. What's your reaction?
CAROLINE POLISI, FEDERAL AND WHITE-COLLAR CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, my initial reaction, I have to say, Ana, is that this was in really poor taste on the part of Cy Vance. This looks politically motivated. Within hours of the sentence coming down, he makes this move of unsealing his indictment, which just as you said, is pardon proof, as it were. And so, you know, the underlying theory of prosecutors is you should prosecute without fear or favor, right? You should prosecute whether or not somebody is in the public eye or not. And this makes it look like this is a politically motivated prosecution. And it's not going to sit well with many Americans.
CABRERA: Do you see it the same way, Jennifer?
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I have a slightly different take which is, you know, he made no bones about the fact, Cy Vance, that they were proceeding with the case, pursuing the case and planning to charge it, and part of that is looking political because they're doing it to backstop the possibility of a pardon, but you have to wait until the federal case is resolved before you can put your charges in, because they're going to need to physically move him up to New York to face these charges. So, there would have been no point in unsealing before these charges. So, within the hour --
POLISI: Could have taken a little more time.
RODGERS: But generally speaking, it's not a surprise they waited until the federal court was resolved. And brought their charges forward they needed to do that in order to kind of take care of the case logistically.
CABRERA: Again, a President can't pardon on state charges. But when you look at some of these charges, they sound awfully familiar to the charges he was facing in federal cases. What about this idea of -- or the questions of double jeopardy? Could that apply to this, Caroline?
POLISI: Absolutely. But under the doctrine, if at last dual sovereignty doctrine, which states basically that a state can, it's its prerogative, prosecute for the same underlying conduct if there's a different state crime, but in New York, it has heightened double jeopardy laws which give you more protection than the constitution does. And there were some rumblings, I don't know if you remember a while back, Congress was trying to amend those laws for this very instance so they could continue to prosecute under that lower standard. It never went through, but it looks like this conduct is wholly separate and apart from a lot of the conduct that was charged in the previous case. It so looks like they're very much well aware of the double jeopardy issue.
CABRERA: Ladies, stick around. There's more to discuss today. It is a big news day with a lot of legal discussion.
Breaking moments ago, CNN obtaining new e-mails revealing a back channel between Trump's lawyer and Michael Cohen. An attorney telling Cohen he could, quote, sleep well after speaking to Rudy Giuliani. What does that mean?
[14:10:03] Plus, more countries including Canada now banning Boeing's MAX 8 as we learn at least five pilots here in the U.S. raised red flags, yet the U.S. still won't ground the fleet. What are they waiting for?
And operation varsity blues. The cheating scandal exposing how the rich gamed the system to get their kids into top schools. But how are Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin different from donors who get special treatment? We'll discuss.
[14:15:00] CABRERA: More breaking news on this Wednesday. CNN has exclusively obtained e-mails sent by a lawyer with longtime ties to Rudy Giuliani, to Michael Cohen. These e-mails appear to show a back channel being established between Donald Trump's legal team and his former lawyer and fixer. CNN's Gloria Borger has the exclusive reporting here. Also, back with us are Caroline Polisi and Jennifer Rodgers. Gloria, tell us more about these e-mails.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: We have obtained two e- mails that have been given to Congressional committees and they contain communications that were done in April of 2018. And remember, that is after Michael Cohen's office was raided by the feds. And they're between Michael Cohen and an attorney named Bob Costello, who has a long-standing close relationship with Rudy Giuliani. They focus mainly on Cohen's relationship with the White House at that particular time, which Costello described in these e-mails, in glowing terms. He said, it was very, very positive. You are loved. And it ends, this e-mail ends, sleep well tonight, you have friends in high places. So, the interpretation, however, of what's being said in this e-mail and the other e-mail depends on who you ask.
CABRERA: And how is Costello explaining? What is he saying these were all about?
BORGER: Well, well, Costello says that what this was is an effort to kind of keep the relationship between Michael Cohen and Donald Trump on track. He claims that Michael Cohen may have been worried about whether the President liked him or not and vice versa. And Cohen sympathizers say that is not true, that what this is evidence of is dangling a pardon. And that that's what this was about and then when I spoke with Costello, Costello said, you know, that is utter nonsense. I was not dangling a pardon. I was just trying to help this relationship. And so, there isn't this other e-mail, and you have it up on the screen, which says, I just spoke to Rudy Giuliani and told him I was on your team. He asked me to tell you that he knows how tough this is on you and your family and he will make sure to tell the President. He said, thank you for opening this back channel of communication and asked me to keep in touch. So, the question that's still out there, and we do have these dueling narratives is, was this about a pardon without the word "pardon" mentioned? And remember, this time, at this time Michael Cohen had not been charged with anything. He may have been, you know, worried about the potential campaign finance violation or he may have been worried about what the feds got in his office. And Donald Trump may have been worried about, you know, about that, too. But we -- so we have these dueling narratives, you know. Was it just about fixing or helping a relationship or a pardon?
CABRERA: And that's the big question. Let me ask our legal analysts how they interpret it. Jennifer, friends in high places? Does this sound like a pardon dangle to you or just somebody trying to keep the relationship strong or even repairing a relationship that may not be as strong?
RODGERS: Well, you know, it's hard to tell, obviously, it's very vague. But here is a time when the feds have gone in and seized, pursuant to court order, a bunch of materials. A lot of that communications between Trump and Cohen's work for Trump. So, they're kind of all in this universe of what's out there, what do they have? What are we facing now? Let's kind of stick together. You know, remember, there was a joint defense agreement around this time period when the federal officials were going through all of the seized materials and trying to determine what was privileged, what could they look at, what could they use in a potential prosecution? So, the notion of communication between the two of them, and listen, you know, we're in this together, let's stick together, is not so inherently problematic to me at this time. You know, on the other hand, the notion that anyone would even be thinking about interfering in a case, right? You have the President, how can he possibly help Michael Cohen if Michael Cohen is in the sights of federal prosecutors? There's no legitimate appropriate way for him to help Michael Cohen. What he needs to do in that circumstance is just to say, you deal with your case, good luck to you and your family. And that's it.
CABRERA: Unless they are involved together in some nefarious activity. How do you interpret these e-mails? What stands out, Caroline?
[14:20:04] POLISI: Right, well, I agree with Jennifer for that -- look, a unique feature of all of these prosecutions in the backdrop here is the possibility of a Presidential pardon and you know, certainly in my experience, I've never encountered that representing a client in that capacity, to have that sort of on the back burner. So, I think in a lot of ways, some of the attorneys don't necessarily know how to approach it, because they've likely never had that as a scenario before. So, I agree, I don't think it's completely inappropriate to be talking about the issue. It's no secret, again, President Trump, remember, he gave that weird posthumous pardon to jack Johnson and then pardoned Scooter Libby. He definitely made public overtures that seemed to send the signal that, hey, he liked giving pardons and he was amenable to granting pardons, even not in the ordinary course. So, I don't think it's that odd.
CABRERA: Gloria, when Cohen was reassured by his attorney that everything was, quote, very, very positive, you are loved, saying, sleep well tonight, you have friends in high places, what do you make of the fact that Cohen ultimately decided to cooperate with prosecutors anyway?
BORGER: Well, the joint defense agreement was dissolved in June of 2018 and I recall very distinctly that by July 2nd, Michael Cohen had declared his independence and he told ABC News, if you'll recall, that he's not going to be villain in this case. And, you know, moved away. I think the real question here is whether this was just about dangling a pardon, which Cohen's sympathizers say, keeping up a good relationship as Costello told me between the White House and Donald Trump, or something more -- not nefarious, but something more questionable which would be whether, in fact, Costello was somebody who would represent Cohen and then report back to the Trump team about what -- about what Cohen was thinking. Obviously, Costello denies this. And Giuliani himself spoke with dana bash last night and he said, you know, this was about reassuring Michael that the President wasn't angry at him and it wasn't long after the raid and Giuliani told Dana that the President felt bad for him.
CABRERA: All right. Gloria Borger, Caroline Polisi, Jenner Rodgers, the hits keep coming today. Thank you all for helping to walk us through it. Canada now joins other nations around the globe to ground Boeing's MAX
8. So why is the U.S. now the lone holdout when it comes to grounding this fleet?
Plus, actress Lori Loughlin turning herself in today in connection to one of the biggest college cheating scandals in history. But is this case a symptom of a much bigger problem or issue? We'll discuss.
[14:25:03] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CABRERA: So, after Canada today grounded the Boeing 737 max 8, the United States is now the only country allowing the aircraft model involved in two deadly crashes in five months to fly in its air space. This as CNN is learning that at least five pilots in the U.S. anonymously filed these complaints about this specific aircraft. A database maintained by the federal government reveals several concerns here. One of them, quote, the flight manual is inadequate and almost criminally insufficient. Still, the FAA is standing by its decision to keep the jets in the air in the U.S., as is Boeing, as is a number of airlines that use these jets. Look at this. This is the live radar tracker for this specific type of jet, showing all of them over north and central America. Pretty striking there. CNN aviation analyst Justin Green is the former President of the International Air and Transportation Safety Bar Association and Les Abend is a retired pilot for American Airlines where he worked for 34 years. Les, because you're our pilot here, I want to start to get your reaction to some of these complaints. One captain writing, quote, an auto pilot anomaly that led to a nose down situation. Another captain writing in a report, the auto throttles failed to move to the command position during takeoff and climb. We hear auto pilot, auto throttles failed. Explain exactly what may have happened here. What are they referencing?
LES ABEND, RETIRED PILOT FOR AMERICAN AIRLINES: Well, they're referencing the auto pilot was probably engaged. I read these statements. They're taken, unfortunately, a lot of them out of context and I would have to read the whole thing, because I've done these myself as a pilot. But the bottom line is the autopilot would be connected, which would take over the function of both the throttles themselves and the pitch and roll of the aircraft in its navigation. So that's essentially where it is. But where they're going with this is there was some kind of minor malfunction with these things. As a result of what, I don't know. It's not related to the MCAS system that we've been talking about, that may be attributable to the Lion Air crash and possibly the Ethiopian aircraft. They were different systems that were involved. Whether they all connect together, it's hard to say at this point.
CABRERA: So, Les, when you say you've also made complaints like these yourself, back in your days when you've been flying, and obviously, under different planes, because these are brand-new planes, so would these complaints have stood out, should they have stood out? Would these have risen red flags?
ABEND: If I had written it in the maintenance logbook, yes, it would. These particular complaints were written to what they call an asap report. So, NASA is actually the one that takes care of these reports and files them and documents them. If they're serious enough, they'll follow through on these reports. But most of the time, the stuff that gets attention --
CABRERA: Les, I've got to interrupt. We have breaking news. Let's listen into President Trump right now.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- had a very, very detail ed group of people working on the 737 8 and the 737 9, we're going to be ordering an emergency order to ground all 737 MAX 8.