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CNN RIGHT NOW
Source: Intel Officials Say Russia Trying to Get Trump Re- Elected; Trump Ignoring Barr's Warnings & Putting Pressure on A.G.; Aides Urge Trump to Wait after Election to Pardon Stone; Warren Creates Document to Release Women from Bloomberg NDAs: Many Questions from Jurors During Harvey Weinstein Trial; Trump Administration Closer to Bringing Thousands of Troops Home from Afghanistan. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired February 21, 2020 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: More now on this explosive story. New information that the Russians may be attempting to interfere with the 2020 election favoring President Trump to win.
We here to talk about it, we have CNN senior national correspondent, Alex Marquardt, and CNN national security correspondent, Vivian Salama, with us.
So let's look at what the Kremlin has said. They called this paranoid messages, which we would not expect them to say anything different.
That said, what kind of warfare are we expecting to see, Vivian?
VIVIAN SALAMA, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: We don't know what revealed in the briefing that took place in the last couple days. However, we do have evidence from 2016, as well as former special counsel, Robert Mueller, provided a road map in his own investigation. And it can be twofold. We're talking physical attacks on infrastructure like booths and centers and things like that.
And there's also misinformation and disinformation campaigns we've seen over the last couple years, and that really caused a lot of disruption in our elections.
The FBI has allocated a lot of personnel to deal with this problem. And other agencies have as well.
The private sectors also tried to tackle this, like Twitter, Google and Facebook, trying to tackle these false messages and reports and the box you've seen on Twitter.
It's a really, really hefty beast of a problem and something that right now -- I talked to intelligence officials all the time, and they say we're just not ready for the problem that is still ahead.
KEILAR: And it is just right ahead of us, right? So the objective here, what's the objective for Vladimir Putin?
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Chaos. Chaos is the objective. It was the objective in 2016 and it remains the objective in 2020. Chaos and division, weakening the United States.
We know that, from the Intelligence Community, right after the election in 2016 that the Russians were working in favor of Donald Trump. The I.C. said that during the course of the election that they wanted not just for Hillary Clinton to lose, but they started working actively to support President Trump.
There's no reason, really, to think that they want that to change. This is a country that is angry. This is a country that is divided.
They want to upend the Western Democratic order. What you see under the leadership of President Donald Trump, it is a weaker NATO. It's less-friendly relations with our European allies. It's the U.S. pulling out of Syria. It's trade wars.
You really do have a disruption of the Democratic order that, you know, the president doesn't make any apology for, that many of his supporters are in favor of, but that can work in favor of Russian interests.
And we know that the president isn't upset about this assessment that Russia is intervening. He's upset about the assessment that Russia is intervening on his behalf, which he thinks delegitimizes his victory in 2016 and could do the same in 2020.
KEILAR: Alex, Vivian, thank you so much to both of you for that.
President Trump has tweeted about Department of Justice matters more than 40 times since the attorney general said that Trump's tweets about the Department of Justice matters make his job impossible. So what will Barr do about it?
Plus, after hitting Michael Bloomberg over nondisclosure agreements, how Elizabeth Warren is offering to help them all go away.
KEILAR: Well, the ball is once again in Attorney General Bill Barr's court since he publicly warned the president that his tweets made it almost impossible for Barr to do his job.
The president has commented or lobbed insults regarding justice and legal matters 42 times. He's openly defied his A.G. in the span of this week. Not even the report that Barr considered resigning had any impact on the president's actions.
We have CNN contributor and former Nixon White House counsel, John Dean, here to discuss this.
Looking back, you have some contacts, obviously, to put this kind of behavior in. Tell us just historically how this shapes up and how concerning it is.
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, it is unprecedented what Trump is doing. We didn't have Twitter for most attorney generals to have to deal with. So it's a new phenomenon.
Yet, the president did speak out periodically on cases, and they were always warned by their attorney general to back off and did so.
Nixon, being an example, talked about the Charles Manson case. And they were afraid that he would disrupt the trial because he wanted to see Manson behind bars. Nixon backed off and just zipped his lips.
KEILAR: That's interesting, because that's -- I forget exactly what the charges were with Charles Manson, but obviously that had to do with murders by the Manson family.
DEAN: A lot of murders.
KEILAR: It's a different situation here. It's what's really going on in Washington and his administration. So how does the attorney general respond? What are his options here?
DEAN: I think what the attorney general should do -- since Trump will not behave himself, is he should issue a directive out of his office, saying that all of the prosecutors should just ignore all of the White House chatter about cases pending before the courts and say that these have absolutely no influence on us, we will not follow them, the president and the Department of Justice are different entities.
What happened post-Watergate, Brianna, was there was a guardrail of a setup and there was no such contact. And it's because Nixon so badly abused his relationship with the department. He actually had the department coming over, telling them what was happening in the grand jury, and then using that to tell other aides, like his chief of staff and his top domestic adviser, how to deal with it in case they got indicted.
KEILAR: Can you imagine if Barr issued a directive that basically said, ignore that chatter, ignore what the president is saying. We look at what happened with Jeff Sessions and just the ire that he inspired from President Trump.
What do you think would happen if Barr did that? I struggle to see how he might withstand that pressure, or do you think that might be the thing that could shore him up, although he would have to sort of invoke a more independent streak than he's had thus far?
DEAN: Brianna, the properly worded directive, if you will, could make the public understand what Trump is doing is putting his finger on the scale of the system and doing it for people for whom he has some connection or who have some way the potential to influence him and his campaign. The American people are very fair. And they wouldn't want to see a
president who is tilting justice.
So I think Barr could very easily issue a directive and say, listen, he will not stop tweeting. Tweeting does not influence the Department of Justice, so let's just get on with it.
KEILAR: As you're aware, a judge has sentenced Roger Stone 40 months in prison. Stone is the president's longtime friend, former political adviser. And he's facing this time in prison for charges of obstruction, lying to Congress, witness tampering. The judge said Stone was prosecuted for covering up for the president.
The president has dangled this idea more than once that he might pardon Stone. He said essentially that's where people have been treated unfairly and he believes Stone has been treated unfairly. His advisers, though, want to wait until after the election. What do you think of that?
DEAN: The judge is going to have more to say about this. We don't have her public statement yet, but she was laying out what was going on, why it was going on and making it very difficult for the president to turn around and just free this guy.
Now The last hope it seems that Stone has is he's filed a motion for a new trial based on a statement made by one of the jurors who he believes was biased, who was politically opposed to Trump.
Well, political opposition to Trump does not give you grounds to reverse a trial or get a new trial. People can be as political as they want to. But they're asked, and, indeed, I'll pledge that they would, set aside those biases to reach a judgment.
There have been a couple jurors who have spoken out and said that the woman who is the issue was the one who forced them to go through in detail every charge to make sure they got it right. And that's what they did. And it was a better case because of her effort to go through the evidence.
KEILAR: John Dean, thank you so much for your insight.
DEAN: Sure. Thank you, Brianna.
KEILAR: Tonight, don't miss CNN's Anderson Cooper as he sits down with the former governor of Illinois, Rob Blagojevich, fresh off his commutation from President Trump. That is only on CNN tonight at 8:00 Eastern.
Still ahead, everybody is a critic. Why President Trump used part of his campaign rally to complain about the Oscar-winning film "Parasite."
And a quick reminder. A new episode of "THE WINDSORS, INSIDE THE ROYAL DYNASTY." That's on only on CNN Sunday night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific.
KEILAR: This week, we saw presidential candidate and billionaire, Michael Bloomberg, on the debate stage for the first time. And he struggled to answer tough questions about allegations of sexist and misogynistic behavior against him and his companies and nondisclosure agreements that keep people from speaking out.
Well, the candidate who took him to task on the debate stage has a plan for that. It's a contract that she wrote herself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just want to read the relevant language.
"Bloomberg and the company release any and all obligations contained in any agreement including but not limited to any employment, settlement, severance or nondisclosure agreement between Bloomberg and/or the company and any other person to the extent those obligations preclude the other person from disclosing information relating to sexual harassment, discrimination, or other misconduct at the company or by Bloomberg himself. Under this release, it is now the other person's choice to disclose such information or not."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Joining us now to discuss this is CNN legal analyst, Laura Coates. She's also a former federal prosecutor.
This is operating on two kind of planes here. There's the political plain and the legal plain when it comes to nondisclosure agreements. What could Bloomberg really do here? Is this just a gimmick that Elizabeth Warren is using to illustrate the fact that people who may want to talk can't talk?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: We're well aware of the political angle here. They want to have some moral high ground over whoever is going to be the incumbent, which is President Trump, and for the Democratic nominee to have the moral high ground.
Saying, look, we don't have the problems of NDAs. We don't have the problems of hush money. We don't have the problems particularly of trying to muzzle -- as her language said, to try to muzzle somebody about what may be ahead for somebody trying to evaluate a candidate.
If you're Bloomberg, he actually answered question to say, no, we'll live with that. We'll live with the choice that was essentially made at the time of the contract.
That actually is a viable source for most contract law that doesn't have a political angle. You both have the benefit of the bargain. You both have agreed to certain terms. And it might become politically inconvenient down the road is not going to be what compels the courts to say what takes it away.
However, he does have to address the fact, for people looking at the issues, look at the issues of discrimination and sexual harassment, and perhaps your role in it, it does become an Achilles heel that may grow. And he could easily say exposing everything, if he's truthful about saying, it didn't involve any liability for me but --
KEILAR: He said his language, which --
COATES: His language, a joke.
KEILAR: I'm not downplaying it at all.
But just to be clear, that clearly, a lot -- he was sort of known for being a prolific, if you want to call it a "joke." I use quotation marks because a lot of people clearly felt that was creating a hostile environment.
KEILAR: There's other discrimination issues that have to do with the company as we understand it. I want to be clear about that. Because with NDAs, we don't always know what's going on.
COATES: We don't know.
KEILAR: I want to ask you about Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced Hollywood movie producer. His trial for sexual assault is on day four of deliberations. There are a lot of questions from the jurors. What do you make of this?
COATES: New York is in a unique position. Normally. you'd have cases not within a limitation period. Meaning, it's too old to prosecute. Those cases normally don't come up unless you're trying to contrast the credibility of the case that he can actually be prosecuted.
Think back to the Bill Cosby case. You had dozens of women who wanted to testify to their own experiences. They couldn't use them all to support the current or the one case that could be charged.
New York is different. They have a predatory sexual assault statute. It essentially says, I can bring in those old cases not to prosecute but to show a pattern of behavior, and if I believe the first one happened, then anything that happened after that, I can combine to make the person have up to 25 years.
Their questions are around that first incident involving the actress, Annabelle. If they find that to be the case, it's a long haul for Weinstein to --
KEILAR: Thank you so much for your insights, Laura. We appreciate it.
And from baseball to the White House, one columnist says cheating is now celebrated in American culture. He'll join us live.
KEILAR: Today, on "Home Front," our digital and television column where we try to bridge the civilian military device and also bring you some stories of military families, the Trump administration is one step closer now to bringing thousands of troops home from Afghanistan.
Just hours from now, a seven-day reduction in violence is set to begin in the region. And if all goes well, that could pave the way for a larger peace deal between the U.S. and the Taliban to be signed by the end of the month.
The first step of that peace deal is expected to reduce the current number of troops to about 8,600. So by thousands of troops being reduced.
And just for context here, since the 19-year war began, the Defense Department has reported 2,309 military casualties in Afghanistan. And right now, many of the men and women who are serving there in the branches were just babies when 9/11 happened and in Afghanistan.