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New Details on Lauer Assault Allegations; White House Refuses to Cooperate with Impeachment Inquiry; Trump's Extreme Border Proposals; Cohen Expected to Meet with Prosecutors. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired October 9, 2019 - 06:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We do have some breaking news.

There are new details about an alleged rape by former "Today" show host Matt Lauer. A former NBC News staffer tells her story in a new book written by investigative journalist Ronan Farrow. The allegations ultimately led to Matt Lauer being fired from the network.

CNN's chief media correspondent Brian Stelter is here with more.

These allegations that came out this morning in this excerpt are the most disturbing to date.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's absolutely right. Lauer was fired almost two years ago. At the time, NBC said it was due to inappropriate sexual behavior at the workplace. What we're hearing now is much more disturbing than just inappropriate. This is from "Variety" magazine publishing excerpts overnight from Ronan Farrow's new book. It's called "Catch and Kill." It comes out next week. And it has this first interview on the record with Lauer's accuser, of course the former "Today" show host Matt Lauer who was fired years ago.

Farrow spoke with a woman whose claim led to the firing. Her name is Brooke Nevils. She's a former NBC News producer and a former assistant to Meredith Vieira. She says she was raped by Matt Lauer while covering the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Nevils alleges that it happened after a night of drinking with Vieira and Lauer at a hotel bar. Nevils said she had six shots of vodka and that Lauer invited her up to her room. But, according to Farrow, she had no reason to suspect Lauer would be anything but friendly based on prior experience. Nevils then says that once in the room, Lauer forced himself onto her and raped her. Nevils tells Farrow it the book, quote, it was nonconsensual in the sense that I was too drunk to consent.

Now, this apparently didn't end there. Nevils tells Farrow that she and Lauer then had other what she says were consensual sexual encounters. She described them as, quote, completely transactional. It was not a relationship.

Now, Nevils did not immediately report the alleged attack in Sochi to NBC Universal executives. She says she did confide into Vieira three years later. Vieira then urged her to get a lawyer and report it to NBC human resources, which she did.

Now, CNN has reached out to the legal teams for Matt Lauer and for Brooke Nevils for comment. Now, we've not heard back overnight.

NBC News has officially declined to comment for now on these new reports, but I believe a statement is in the works.

Remember, after the firing two years ago, Lauer said this, a statement that read in part, there are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions. To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry. As I am writing this, I realize the depth of the damage and disappointment I have left behind at home and at NBC.

Lauer went on to say, some of what's being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed. I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly.

So that's what Lauer said at the time.

It was this complaint, which we now know is from this woman named Brooke Nevils, which led NBC to shockingly fire him seemingly out of nowhere in November of 2017. But, as I mentioned, this was originally described as inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace. The lawyer at the time said this is misconduct. This is the first time we're hearing about the really disturbing details.

CAMEROTA: It's a violent crime. If this is accurate, this is a violent crime. It's not inappropriate, you know, behavior in the workplace. And it's just really upsetting details.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, Brian, you said you anticipate a statement coming from NBC. How do you anticipate they will handle this?

STELTER: Yes, because NBC's been bracing for this Farrow book for several weeks, preparing to tell their side of the story about what happened with Lauer and what happened with Farrow. Remember, Farrow was working for NBC, working on the Harvey Weinstein investigation. NBC let him walk it out of the building to "The New Yorker." So a lot of that is still to come.

But this is the first time we've heard from this accuser on the record. It's notable that she spoke with Farrow. She also reveals that she was paid seven figures when she left NBC in 2018. She describes the awkwardness of being at work, people knowing that it was her complaint that led to the firing of the "Today" show's biggest star.

[06:35:05] You know, of course the "Today" show went on without missing a beat. But this has continued to be an embarrassment, I think, for the network, for NBC. It raises questions about who knew what when, about who Nevils told within the building and why wasn't there an HR system. You know, it always raises the question in this Me Too age, do women and men feel comfortable coming forward, sharing what they've experienced, sharing what they've heard with the supervisors, with the bosses? It seems, in this case, she didn't do that. Maybe she didn't feel comfortable doing that. But now we know, for the first time, some of the truly disturbing details of this case.

CAMEROTA: And we should just remind people, there are other women who came forward with other misconduct allegations, but this one does --

STELTER: It was described mostly as harassment at the time. This is the first time we're hearing about rape.

BERMAN: All right, Brian, please keep us posted on this. Again, the book doesn't come out until next week.

CAMEROTA: Thank, Brian.


BERMAN: So, this morning, the White House is refusing to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry into the president citing the Constitution to make eight constitutional arguments. We thought we'd better here from an actual constitutional expert, next.



BERMAN: So, this morning, the White House is refusing to comply at all with the congressional impeachment inquiry, claiming the probe is both unconstitutional and a violation of due process. The problem with that argument turns out to be the Constitution.

Let's discuss with CNN legal analyst Michael Gerhardt. He's a constitutional law professor at the University of North Carolina.

Professor, I'm so glad you're here. Can you point me to the part of the Constitution where it says that Congress has to vote to launch an impeachment inquiry?

MICHAEL GERHARDT, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: And it's a good question because it's not in the Constitution.

BERMAN: What does --

GERHARDT: The Constitution --

BERMAN: Yes, go ahead.

GERHARDT: No, I'm sorry. The Constitution makes it very clear that the House has the sole power to impeach. And that's pretty plain. It means it's up to the House, not the president, what the House does with respect to impeachment. The Constitution also provides the power in the House -- gives the House the power to develop its own rules of internal governance. And so the House has rules. They're following those rules. And all of that is legitimate. The president doesn't get to tell the House what to do.

BERMAN: And, again, the issue is that the argument they're making therefore is not just, a, Constitutional, but you also suggest it makes the case that the president is above the law.

What do you mean?

GERHARDT: What I mean by that is if you look at the letter, in -- in -- along with all the other positions the president's been taking over the last several months, they all amount to one thing, the president says he's not going to be accountable in impeachment. He's not going to be accountable in a court because he's refusing to comply with subpoenas to turn over evidence. He's asking aides, directing aides not to testify in front of Congress, to block them from sharing information with Congress. All of that together means that he's basically above the law. That's the argument he's making in his letter.

BERMAN: He allows zero avenues for oversight it seems here. There's almost no wiggle room. And not only that, they're offering no guarantee that if the House does what his lawyer claims that they want the House to do that they'll even comply.

GERHARDT: Exactly. He may just keep moving the goal post. He may -- my guess is, if they -- if the House does something, he'd just simply think of something else to throw at them. And so the only avenue he's leaving himself, rather ironically, is the next presidential election, which is exactly what he's trying to influence by seeking aid from foreign countries to help his re-election.

BERMAN: I want to make one point here is, again, there's another erroneous claim that's being made by the president in this letter which is that Democrats want to overturn the results of the 2016 election. Impeachment, as written by the founders, is not designed to overturn an election. In fact, what happens if a president is impeached and removed from office?

GERHARDT: He returns to private life. He's a private citizen again. If he's convicted and removed by the Senate, then he's automatically out of the presidential office. And so I think the president clearly wants to try to deflect and confuse people by all the different kinds of arguments he's making. But, in my opinion, none of them is a good constitutional argument. He simply wants to make his way to the next election and at the same time try and get foreign aid in that election.

BERMAN: And, by the way, if a president is removed from office, which has never happened, the elected vice president of the United States takes over. So it doesn't overturn the results of the election. In fact, it would validate the results of the previous election.

GERHARDT: Exactly.

BERMAN: That's why a vice president is elected, among other things.

When we're talking about congressional oversight --


BERMAN: I want to play you sound from a former member of Congress who seemed to think that the executive branch of government needed to comply with congressional oversight. Let's listen to this.


REP. TREY GOWDY (R-SC) (June 20, 2012): The notion that you can withhold information and documents from Congress no matter whether you're the party in power or not in power is wrong. Respect for the rule of law must mean something irrespective of the vicissitudes of political cycles.


BERMAN: Now that happened to be former Congressman Trey Gowdy, who some reports say will serve as an outside counsel to the president on impeachment. And unless my ears were mistaken, he seemed to be arguing that Congress does have oversight responsibility that must be respected by the executive.

GERHARDT: That's exactly what he was arguing then.


Also recall that the Third Article of Impeachment, approved against Richard Nixon by the House Judiciary Committee, had charged Nixon with failing to comply with a legislative subpoena.

There's a long history of the House and the Senate, for that matter, taking the position that other officials must comply with their subpoenas because they're lawful. And in not complying with those subpoenas, the president is breaking the law.

BERMAN: And a very last question, quickly, what recourse, at this point, does Congress have?

GERHARDT: The only recourse it has, besides subpoenaing people and doing more fact finding, is to turn to its impeachment inquiry to try and develop as much information as it can, as much facts as it can, to build a record to kind of connect the dots and see if that leads to impeachment.

BERMAN: All right, Professor Michael Gerhardt, we look forward to leaning on you through this process to understand what actually is written down in the Constitution, because it turns out it's probably going to be very important here.

Thank you, sir. CAMEROTA: All right, an alligator-filled mote, an electrified wall, shooting migrants in the legs. New details about the Trump administration's extreme border proposals, next.


CAMEROTA: President Trump has made immigration the central issue in his presidency. Now a new book, "Border Wars: Inside Trump's Assault on Immigration," chronicles his president's efforts to upend the nation's immigration system and the drastic proposals he's suggested to do so.

Joining us now, the authors of that book, Michael Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis. They are both "New York Times" journalists and CNN political analysts.

Great to have you guys here.

Your book is getting a lot of attention because there's so much meat in there. You talked to the president about this.

Here is one passage that has gotten a lot of attention. Let me read it. Privately, the president has often talked about fortifying a border wall with a water filled trench stocked with snakes or alligators, prompting aides to seek a cost estimate.


He wanted the wall electrified with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh. After publicly suggesting that soldiers shoot migrants if they threw rocks, the president backed off when his staff told him that was illegal. But later, in a meeting, aides recalled, he suggested that they shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down. That's not allowed either, they told him.

This does sound like something out of Caligula, frankly, if I may. And the president has said that that part -- the president has pushed back and said that's not true. Here's his tweet last week.

Now the press is trying to sell the fact that I wanted a moat stuffed with alligators and snakes, with an electrified fence and sharp spikes on top at the southern border. I may be tough on border security, but not that tough. The press has gone crazy. Fake news, exclamation point.

You guys want to tackle that?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There's a lot there. I mean the first thing I would say, obviously, is that, you know, we look -- we worked on this book for a very long time. We talked to many, many different people who had been in the room with him when he spoke about these various thoughts he would have about ways to make it tougher at the border, harder for people to come across, to have a better deterrent than the United States has right now. And we're very confident in our account, which has been confirmed by other news organizations as well. What I would say is that, you know, I don't think that the president

-- he doesn't think about these things in the same way that most presidents or politicians would. So when he's musing in a meeting about, well, maybe we could do this and maybe we could do that, you know, he is actually sort of spit-balling, right? And a lot of the time his aides are engaged in a process of, what do we actually have to take seriously, what do we actually have to push back against, what do we, for instance, have to go get a cost estimate for? And he talked about a trench so often that that was one of the things that they ultimately had to go ask the Army Corps of Engineers what would it take to build -- to actually dig a trench. And they had to go back and tell him it would be three times more expensive than an actual wall.

CAMEROTA: To build a trench and stock it with alligators? Did they go that far?

DAVIS: I do not believe they ever costed out the alligators or the snakes.


DAVIS: But they did -- I mean he talked about fortifying this structure so often that a lot of time was spent -- a lot of staff time, a lot of time at the White House, a lot of time at the Department of Homeland Security trying to figure out, how do we deliver on this vision that the president has.

CAMEROTA: See, Michael, what I'm struck by is the president so often says something outlandish and then doubles down on it about, say, Mexicans or anything. And the idea that he's somehow embarrassed about that passage. That he's denying it. That's interesting to me. It's different.

SHEAR: Right. Well, and, actually, that's different than he normally would because a lot -- a lot of times he either embraces the tough rhetoric or when he's accused of things in this realm in the immigration space, he doesn't actually deny it. He pointedly did not, for example, deny the comment that -- that he had said that folks -- that migrants should be shot in the legs. He didn't deny that piece. He denied some of the others.

DAVIS: And we should point out that he actually tweeted a picture of the spikes at one point. So that's --

CAMEROTA: That's for real.

SHEAR: Right.

DAVIS: He's owned up to that.

SHEAR: Right.


I also want to get to another part in the book that I think is really interesting because Jared Kushner has been tasked with figuring out a lot of stuff in this administration and one of them, I guess, was immigration. And when -- after this briefing that he had with then, the head of Customs and Border Protection Kevin McAleenan, who's now at the Department of Homeland Security, that he -- Kevin McAleenan explained that a wall was not going to solve the problem.

SHEAR: Right.

CAMEROTA: And that the problem was bigger than that. And here is what you write in the book. Kushner nodded, his jaw tight and eyes wide. OK, he said quietly. So we've wasted the last two years. Steven Miller looked stunned. Trump had taken the wrong hostage and now they were all stuck demanding a ransom that everybody knew would never be paid. How were they going to get out of this?

Really? They had been told that the wall won't work and they're still sticking with it?

SHEAR: Yes. Well, they're still sticking with it because it fundamentally is the object, the central piece around which Donald Trump has built his immigration agenda, right? It was the thing that he whipped up his crowds during the campaign. It's the thing that sort of stands as the totem of everything that he wants to do, keeping people out. And so I -- but I think one of the things that the story about Jared Kushner suggests is that the lack of kind of experience and knowledge, immigration is a topic where people in Washington have been dealing with this for -- there are -- there are people who are experts for decades on kind of trying to break through the immigration gridlock. Jared Kushner is not one of them. And, you know, the fact that he was sort of deputized at that sort of moment, key moment to go over to Congress and try to figure out this sort of shutdown, border wall funding mess, I think what he realized in that meeting was that it's a lot more complicated and that the focus on the wall had really diverted the attention away from the real solutions.

CAMEROTA: Is there a feeling inside the White House, around the president, that the wall is not going to work and they should back off it?


DAVIS: No, there is -- I -- there is no feeling like that. I mean I think everyone at the Department of Homeland Security who has worked on this issue for a long time, there are people in the White House who understand that practically speaking it is not going to do what the president wants, which is to cut down on both legal and illegal immigration. But they also understand, what Mike said is very true, that this is not something the president is ever going to drop. This is something that's a fundamental part of his political identity. It's a big part of the campaign. Build the wall. We're building the wall. He's always saying that. He's not going to stop saying that.

And so I think what they're engaged in is an effort to try to -- while he still talks about that, try to do other things that will deliver on this tough talk about, we're going to have less immigration, we're going to have fewer immigrants. But really I think everyone knows that the wall is not going to do that. CAMEROTA: Well, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Michael Shear, the book is

packed with substance and interviews and tidbits like that, that we read. It's a great read. "Border Wars: Inside Trump's Assault on Immigration." Thanks so much for talking with us.

DAVIS: Thanks for having us.

SHEAR: Thank you very much.


BERMAN: All right, we're learning this morning that Michael Cohen might have new involvement in an investigation into the president. A source tells CNN the president's former personal lawyer and fixer will be allowed to leave prison to meet with state prosecutors in New York.

Athena Jones here with the details on that.

Interesting, Athena.


Interesting, indeed. As you mentioned, Cohen is expected to be brought back to New York City from the federal prison in Otisville, to meet with officials from the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. This will be the third time Cohen is meeting with state prosecutors.

And as you may remember, he's serving a three year sentence after pleading guilty to several crimes, including campaign finance violations tied to payments made to two women, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, who allege they had affairs with Trump a decade ago. These are affairs Trump denies.

Now, investigators are exploring whether the Trump organization broke New York state law by falsifying its records in describing the reimbursement provided to Cohen for those payments. We reported last month that officials from the DA's office interviewed Cohen in Otisville when they opened their investigation.

Now, a law enforcement official tells CNN, Cohen is expected to tell prosecutors everything he knows about these matters. And the information he provides, if it's deemed credible, could lead to Cohen testifying before a grand jury. Cohen is one of several people with knowledge of the payments that could be of interest to prosecutors, but he has credibility issues. After all, last year he pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about that Trump Tower project in Moscow.

Now, prosecutors are also pushing for Trump's tax records with the theory being that the documents will provide definitive proof about where the money has been allocated, unveiling if there was anything that was a masking of payments that was a deliberate falsification.


CAMEROTA: Athena, thank you very much for that development. Meanwhile, President Trump's stonewalling may be frustrating for

Democrats, but it's providing plenty of material for the comics. Here are your "Late Night Laughs."


JAMES CORDEN, HOST, "THE LATE LATE SHOW WITH JAMES CORDEN": Just half an hour before a key witness was scheduled to testify in front of Congress, President Trump blocked the witness from appearing. I mean say what you will, Trump is really hitting his stride when it comes to obstructing justice, isn't he?

TREVOR NOAH, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH TREVOR NOAH": The big news today is that the White House has taken its fight with Congress to the next level, officially sending word that it will not participate in any aspect of the impeachment probe. Yes, which is crazy. Like, Trump can't just decline to participate. Like, this is not the Vietnam War.

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": The White House made the announcement in an officially bitchy eight-page letter to Congress, writing, given that your inquiry lacks any legitimate constitutional foundation, any pretense of fairness, or even the most elementary due process protections, the executive branch cannot be expected to participate in it.

Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, you can't just not participate in your own impeachment. Sir, you are charged with assault and battery. How do you plead? Umm, pass.


CAMEROTA: Oh, that was a cliff-hanger.

BERMAN: The silence -- he let the silence hang out there, which made it that much funnier.

CAMEROTA: Funnier. That was great.

BERMAN: He understands humor. We, not so much.

All right.

CAMEROTA: It's all about timing.

BERMAN: Timing.

CAMEROTA: Fantastic.

BERMAN: We've got new details on the White House efforts to contain the fallout of the call to the Ukrainian president.

NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The White House shut down and blocked testimony by a key player at the center of the Ukraine scandal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Democrats fighting back with subpoenas for Ambassador Gordon Sondland.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The failure to produce this witness we consider yet additional strong evidence of obstruction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we see in this impeachment is a kangaroo court and Chairman Schiff is acting like a malicious captain kangaroo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're trying to give them due process. If they choose not to avail themselves of that opportunity, it's actually their loss.



ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.