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Prosecutors: Rep. Duncan Hunter Used Campaign Funds For Affairs; Stephanie Grisham Announced As New White House Press Secretary And White House Chief of Communications; Defense: Mom Of Five May Have Pulled Off Gone-Girl-Style Escape; Trump Speaks Amid Iran Tensions, North Korea, CBP Chief's Resignation, Immigration. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired June 25, 2019 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:30:00] DAVID SHORTELL, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: Now some new allegations that add to the government's case.
I'll take you through a few of the details, and there are many in this filing.
According to the filing, Hunter paid over $1,000 for a ski weekend in a resort outside of Lake Tahoe with a lobbyist who he had known professionally here in D.C. He spent those $1,000 out of his campaign funds. He also used campaign funds in this affair to pay for food and beverages that he would bring to the woman's house when he was living with her for a period of time.
A second affair -- and there are five separate affairs outlined in this filing. A second one allegedly taking place between Hunter and one of his own congressional staffers. Hunter and the woman occasionally spending nights together in their congressional office, according to the filing. And he took her out on dates on the campaigns fund, one day at a D.C. bar, well known for its indoor mini- golf. They spent over $200 on food and drinks at the bar.
Now, Brooke, we should be clear, prosecutors aren't putting this out there to be salacious. They are trying to make a case to the judge that they should be allowed to include these allegations as part of the evidence in this the case they're building against Hunter ahead of this September trial. That's when the trial is expected to take place.
Hunter has pleaded not guilty to the charges. And we've reached out to his office for comments on these affair allegations -- Brooke?
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: As we wait for comment, this isn't just about Hunter. This is also about his wife, right? His wife, Margaret, was also facing federal charges, recently changed her plea to guilty. What's the status of her case, David?
SHORTELL: That was the big development this month in the Hunter case, when a few weeks ago, his wife changed her plea from not guilty to guilty. She was charged alongside him bac in August in these same charges of spending thousands of dollars on a trip to Italy and large bar tabs in D.C. When she changed her plea earlier this month, that was a stunner. It
meant she was cooperating with prosecutors and could be potentially helping to build a case against her husband.
It was also significant because, initially, Hunter attempted to kind of put some of the blame -- she held a role in his campaign. She was his campaign manager. And she had said, I'm not guilty, and now she said earlier this month, I'm pleading guilty. And she expressed remorse when she did change her plea earlier this month at a court hearing in California -- Brooke?
BALDWIN: Let us know if you get other comments from the Hunter camp.
David Shortell, thank you very much.
In the meantime, outgoing White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders' last day in the Trump administration is Friday. And her replacement has just been announced? First lady Melania Trump's spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, is moving from the East Wing to the West Wing.
Sarah Westwood is our CNN White House reporter. She has more on this announcement.
Sarah, not only will Grisham serve as press secretary but she will also be chief of communications at the White House, yes?
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brooke. The scope of responsibilities that Grisham will have will be much broader than what Sarah Sanders did.
She won't just be the press secretary. She will have three jobs. She will be the White House press secretary, the White House communications director, and she will retain her role as spokeswoman for the first lady.
She will fill a void left by Bill Shine when he departed as White House communications director months ago, allegedly to go the campaign.
But the role of press secretary has changed dramatically under Sarah Sanders. We have not seen a White House briefing in more than 100 days now. It's become a much more inward-looking role as Sarah Sanders became more of an adviser than she was much less visible in the later days of her tenure.
Grisham is someone who has been with the Trumps since the days of the campaign. She's one of the longest-serving aides in this White House, having been with the Trumps since 2015.
She will accompany the president to Japan and South Korea later in this week. That will be a big first test to the role. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders will be leaving Friday. Grisham also accompanied the president to Camp David over the weekend.
It's not clear when the official job offer was extended, Brooke, but Melania announcing that today. [14:34:07] BALDWIN: Got it. Sarah Sanders' last day Friday.
Sarah Westwood, thank you very much, at the White House for me.
A bizarre turn in the case of a missing mom from Connecticut. Could a manuscript similar to the plot of "Gone Girl" be a clue to her disappearance? We have a look at the new theory and who's putting it out there, coming up next.
BALDWIN: The attorney for the estranged husband of the missing Connecticut mom is floating this legal defense out of a plot straight out the movies. The lawyer is now suggesting that 50-year-old Jennifer Dulos may have staged her own appearance as in "Gone-Girl" style, how she escaped from her whole life. "Gone Girl," a popular novel-turned film about a woman who faked her own death and framed her husband for it.
The attorney says his legal team found a novel the missing woman was working on. And they believe it suggests that she, quote, unquote, "had the imagination, means and motive" to just disappear. Dulos' family rejects that theory, calling it false and irresponsible.
The mother of five has been missing for more than a month. Her estranged husband and his girlfriend pleaded not guilty to charge of tampering with evidence in her disappearance.
CNN Legal Analyst, Areva Martin, is with me now.
Areva, I know you've heard a lot of things as a lawyer, but the notion that this "Gone Girl" theory, what do you make of that?
[14:40:03] AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This is really -- I would call it imaginative and speculative. The theory is somehow that this woman, to retaliate against her ex-husband, has staged her own disappearance to frame him, to make it appear as if he assaulted and perhaps murdered her, I think the defense has a lot of holes to fill in. There are a lot of holes in this theory.
Her family members have said this book was written over 17 years ago, even before the movie "Gone Girl" was released, and that the book has nothing to do with the plot in that very popular movie, that the book is really about a woman and her relationships and her journey and finding herself.
And you can't dismiss the evidence. Police have physical evidence that suggests that Jennifer was the victim of some kind of violent assault in her home. There's blood evidence and other evidence that's really damning.
BALDWIN: By the way, her estranged husband is not only a suspect in her disappearance, but he's in this custody battle for the five kids this couple shares. Do you think this unusual legal strategy, essentially, as you said, he's the victim, does it help or hurt her chances of getting custody of the kids? MARTIN: I don't think it helps his chances at all getting custody of
the children. The family law court is going to be looking at what's in the best interest of these children before they make any determinations that the ex-husband can have custody of these kids.
And if he's trying to make -- not trying to, but if his lawyer is making these damning theories and accusations against this woman who has been missing, I don't think a family court judge is going to take kindly to that.
From all accounts, this was a devoted mother of five. She's very involved in the lives of her children. She loved her children. She had a rigorous schedule and routine with respect to them.
To suggest that she's somehow made this up to frame the ex-husband, who, by the way, she made accusations that she was afraid of him, he was violent, and she had concerns related to him. I don't think this is a strategy that is a winning strategy if you're trying to get custody of your kids.
BALDWIN: We will keep following it.
Areva Martin, thank you very much.
And we ready? Shall we go to -- here we go. Here's the president.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I am. I'm very concerned. And they're much better than they were under President Obama by far. And we're trying to get the Democrats to agree to really give us some humanitarian aid, humanitarian money. That is a fair question. I appreciate that question. But I'm very concerned. It's in much better shape than it ever was.
A lot of these young children come from places that you don't want to know about, the way they've lived, the way the poverty they grew up in. But with that, if we get this bill signed, we'll be able to do it. The Democrats don't want to sign anything, and now I think they're going to probably sign this, from what I understand. I call it humanitarian aid. This isn't even about border.
At the same time, you see the numbers are way, way down. Mexico has been helping us a lot. They have very strong immigration laws. They are moving 15,000 people or 16,000 people to our southern border and they move 16,000 troops to their southern border, which is pretty incredible.
A lot of signs are coming out with the cartels and all the bad folks, the coyotes, as they call them, and all the bad people that are bringing young children and taking advantage horribly -- it's a form of slavery what they're doing to young children. You understand. You reported on it. A lot of that is stopping now because of what we're doing and because of what's happening on the border.
So I just want to thank Mexico. They've done a great job. We appreciate what they're doing. Hopefully, they can keep it up, because it's very important. (CROSSTALK)
TRUMP: They have very, very -- Mexico has very, very powerful immigration laws. They can do things. Our laws are so bad.
What we would like to do, and I'll do it right now officially, is ask Democrats to give us help on asylum. Help on all of the loopholes, the horrible loopholes that could sign over a period of years that don't allow us to do what we should be able to do. We need the votes of Democrats.
And I think very importantly, because our economy -- you heard Larry Kudlow -- because our economy is so strong, it could be the strongest in the history of our country, people want to flow up to the United States. Because you can't do it that way. You have to do it legally.
You have these massive numbers of people trying to get into the United States because of the economy. Because we've done so good. But that's one of the problems with doing well. Everybody wants to come in.
Ten years ago, five years ago, four years ago, they didn't want to come in, now they want to come in. But we can't let that happen. So we're doing very, very well.
As far as the wall is concerned, the wall is heavily under construction. The Army Corps of Engineers is doing a great job. We're doing a lot of wall. We expect to have 400 miles built by the end of next year. That's a lot. We're building them in the right places. We're building them in 15 areas where we need it the most. And it's having a tremendous effect.
[14:45:17] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did you ask Customs and Border Protect head, John Sanders, to resign? Do you know why he is leaving?
TRUMP: No, I knew there were going to be changes there. I've made changes, very good changes. We're moving people around to different locations. The game has changed a lot because of what Mexico is doing. We're doing things we wouldn't be able to do before.
The problem with our Border Patrol, who are phenomenal people, but they're not allowed because the laws are so bad with Catch and Release, and all of the different things, including chain migration, the visa lottery. The laws are so bad, and the asylum resumes rules and laws are so bad, that our border patrol people, that are so incredible, aren't allowed to do their jobs.
Because Mexico is now, for the first time in 50 years, helping us, and we really appreciate it, we're able to make certain changes we wouldn't be able to make before.
Steve, did you have a question?
(CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You had a back and forth with the leader of Iran this morning via tweet. What message did you want to send to him with your tweet?
TRUMP: There's no message. I'll tell you what the message is, when they're ready, they'll have to let us know. When they're ready, they'll let us know, very simple.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)
TRUMP: Ready to do whatever, doesn't make any difference. Whatever they want to do, I'm ready. OK?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) -- do you think this economic employment of the Middle East without Israelis or Palestinian officials attending? What's your strategy going-forward when there's no --
TRUMP: Well, we want to get support, and we have to get economic support, because the Palestinians don't have money. And we have to help the Palestinians with some money, because they don't have it. And one of the groups that you get are some of those countries in the Middle East that do have money. So they are going to play a role in the peace plan. And we'll see what happens.
We had a little bit of a setback in the election from -- in Israel, as you know, is -- I guess the result is somewhat mixed, now they're going to do it again. That's another do-over, unfortunately. But we'll see what happens. I mean, we'll see what happens with that election.
But it's an early process. We expect other people to help out.
TRUMP: Because again there's no money. And some people don't have money. And if they don't have money, it's going to be very hard. We want people to be able to live and live well.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You did not ask Sanders to resign?
TRUMP: I didn't speak to him. I don't think I've ever spoken to him, actually. We have some very good people running it. I don't know anything about it. I hear he's a good man, a good person. I don't know him. I don't think I've ever spoken to him.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you tell us about the decision to make Stephanie Grisham as your new press secretary.
TRUMP: So Stephanie has been with me from the beginning, as most of you know. And then over the years, she's worked for the first lady. Done a fantastic job. The first lady loves her. I think she's been just incredible, very talented.
And I hear so many people, who do you like? A lot of people wanted the job. A lot of people. Who do you like? So many people said Stephanie. And she's here. She knows everybody. She actually gets along with the media very well, as you know. A lot of the folks in the media like her very much. And I think she's going to be fantastic. She's going to do a great job.
I offered her the job this morning and she accepted. The first lady is very happy for her. It's a big job. A very big job. But we think Stephanie's going to do a fantastic job. Hogan is going to be with her. Hogan is one of the people that recommended -- here's Hogan. He recommended her very strong last.
Hogan, who do you think? He said Stephanie Grisham.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: If a war with Iran does break out, do you have an exit strategy with Iran --
TRUMP: You're not going to need an exit strategy. I don't need exit strategies.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you tell us about your letter to Chairman Kim?
TRUMP: Just a nice letter back and forth. He wrote me a beautiful letter on my birthday. He wrote a beautiful letter. I thought it was very nice. Two friendly letters. We get along very well.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: No mention of another meeting?
TRUMP: Maybe there was. At some point, we'll do that. Getting along very well. He's not doing nuclear testing.
When I took over, when I became president, they were testing previous to that. They were doing testing so much. They were doing ballistic tests and nuclear tests. We didn't have our prisoners back. We didn't have a whole lot of things that are going wrong.
Now we have our hostages back, our prisoners back. They came back. We've had, as you know, the remains of the heroes, our great heroes from many years ago, that's coming back. And coming back as they find them and as they find the sites and the graves, they're sending them back.
[14:50:03] The relationship is a far different relationship than it was during the Obama years, where you're going to end up with a war. You're going to end up with a war in North Korea, that I can tell you. Maybe you haven't heard that.
TRUMP: You understand?
You're going to end up -- you're going to end up in a war in North Korea. And if the -- if it kept going the way it was going, if you had that group continuing going onward.
As far as Iran is concerned, the deal was a horrible deal. It was no good. It was no good. It ended in a very short period of time. We're dealing with countries. It ended in a very short period of time. They would have had a clear path to a nuclear weapon. We're not going to allow that to happen, can't do it.
I'm all for Iran. I have so many people, Iranian friends. I come from New York. I have tremendous numbers of Iranian friends. They're great people. They're from Iran. They're wonderful people.
It's too bad this is happening. They're living badly right now. The country is not doing well economically at all. That can be changed very quickly, very easily. But they have to get rid of the hostility from the leadership. The leadership, I hope they stay. I hope they do a great job. They should talk to us decently. We're all for them.
We want it to be done properly. But the deal that was done by President Obama, $150 billion for nothing. He used the money for terror. They gave the money out to terrorists. If you remember, John Kerry, they asked him that question, do you know the money's going to be used for terror, he said, yes, essentially, he said, some of it. He knew about it. He actually said that some of the money may be used for terror. What kind of a deal is that?
Then they gave them $1.8 billion in cash. Cash. Plane loads of cash. What kind of a deal is that? And the biggest problem is, they had bad testing. You weren't able to see many of the sites.
You saw that, Tim.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.
TRUMP: You couldn't go into the most important sites to test, to see. They were probably making the stuff for long time.
But with $150 billion going to them, they were doing very well, and $1.8 billion in cash. And you have no real right of testing, you couldn't test properly. And most importantly, the agreement ends in a short period of time. They had a path to nuclear weapons. We cannot allow Iran to have a path to nuclear weapons.
And by the way, we have tremendous support. People were very happy with what I did the other day, by not doing something, OK? But we have tremendous support. Nobody wants to see Iran have nuclear weapons.
Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you. (CROSSTALK)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you think they understood the message you were sending them last week? You decided not to strike.
TRUMP: I hope they understood the message. I decided not to strike. They shot down unmanned -- as you know, an unmanned drone.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Will they take your seriously now Mr. President?
TRUMP: I think everybody does. I think you do too. Good-bye.
BALDWIN: Our own White House correspondent, Abby Phillip, getting a couple questions in there to the president in the Q&A talking Iran. Saying don't need an exit strategy with Iran, talking about the letter he received with Kim Jong-Un.
But it's the border, it's immigration I want to focus with you, Abby on.
You asked one of the money questions on John Sanders, the acting commissioner of CBP, who is resigning. The president said he's not happy with conditions on the border. Did I hear that right? You were in the room. He's never -- and the fact that he's said, he never even spoke to John Sanders, who is the person resigning.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Quite a few remarkable things there. I think the question right now is, what is going on at the border, is the president even aware. Is this the level of service the United States is going to provide.
I asked him at the beginning, and he said I am very concerned about it. But he said that they were an improvement in the conditions in the Obama administration.
You know, this is an argument that we've heard from President Trump repeatedly. But what we're seeing and hearing about on the border right now, by all accounts, is a scope and a scale. These kinds of stories of children not having regular access to showers and soap. That's of a different scale.
On Capitol Hill, they're debating a package of border supplemental funds. The president put additional pressure on congressional Democrats saying he wants that bill. But he didn't talk about why he issued a veto threat earlier this morning, saying the version of the bill that the House Democrats were taking up, he would veto. Still a lot of unanswered questions from the president there.
But as you mentioned, his Customs and Border Protection chief resigned, effective on Friday. We learned about it today. The president saying he's never met him, he doesn't know who he is, from the sound of it.
PHILLIP: But this is -- Brooke, the problem the administration has right now, at almost every level, at his Department of Homeland Security, in these key positions, dealing with immigration, he has a slew of acting officials.
[14:55:13] John Sanders was an acting official who had come up from the ranks of the Department of Homeland Security. The president said today he never met him. But he was initiating some changes in the personnel at this agency.
The turmoil is what's causing a lot of people to ask, what's going on here at this critical agency that is dealing with public relations and really humanitarian crisis. The president doesn't even know who he is. He said he didn't ask him to resign. He didn't' really play a role in that. But there's clearly some turnover there at time when it seems they need leadership the most -- Brooke?
BALDWIN: I'm sitting here thinking, if he's not talking to this acting official, and you think of all the acting officials in Washington in all these key positions, who else may he not be talking to.
Abby Phillip, at the White House. Abby, thank you very much for that.
Speaking of this dire issue at the border, we're going to take you to Clint, Texas, where more than 100 migrant children are now going back to the facility that's been referred to as appalling.
Also, news just in, alarming news on the economy. Why the nation's federal debt is now projected to hit, quote, "unprecedented levels," risking a fiscal crisis.