Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Manafort's Team Informed Trump's Lawyers on Mueller Moves; Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Brief Senators on Khashoggi Killing; Interview with Rep. Debbie Dingell (D), Michigan. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired November 28, 2018 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:37] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto. We begin this hour with two potentially major revelations about the Russia probe. Court papers drafted by the special counsel but never filed alleged that former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone made a determined effort to access the e-mails that Russian hackers stole from the DNC then gave to WikiLeaks.

HARLOW: All right. So fast forward two years. We've also learned that while former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort allegedly was breaching his plea agreement with the special counsel his lawyers were -- get this -- in secret contact with the president's legal team. That is only fuelling speculation that maybe there is talk of a pardon?

Let's go to our Alex Marquardt, he joins us now to break it all down.

So, Alex, what have we learned about what the president's legal team learned from Manafort's team about the Mueller probe? It's -- I mean, it's astonishing.

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's deeply unusual. It's not illegal, Jim and Poppy, but there is -- it has been revealed that there's been a certain level of coordination between the president's team and Manafort's legal team in the two months that since Manafort struck that plea deal and has been cooperating with the special counsel's probe.

Remember he was supposed to be a star witness in this probe. He was given a break. Ten of the 18 charges that he was handed were dismissed. And he was essentially going for leniency. What we've learned now is that Kevin Downing, Paul Manafort's lawyer, has been talking to the president's legal team. Rudy Giuliani, the president's lawyer, confirmed this. And essentially, this is Paul Manafort trying to have it both ways.

He is trying to get leniency on the one hand from the special counsel but at the same time his legal team has been sending information to the president's legal team essentially giving them a sense of what the questions are that the prosecutors are asking specifically in regards to President Trump. So that would certainly help Giuliani and the rest of the legal team shape their legal strategy and their public relations strategy.

And we've seen evidence in the president's tweets as he attacked Mueller and the Russia probe that he has some insight into the investigation, the conversations that are going on with Paul Manafort and his lawyers.

SCIUTTO: So a convicted felon sharing information from inside the special counsel's investigation with sitting president who's also subject to that investigation.

HARLOW: That is amazing.

SCIUTTO: You can't put a finer point on that. Other issue here, I mean, this goes to communication between Trump world and Russia possibly or at least foreknowledge about these Russian stolen e-mails, and WikiLeaks, Roger Stone, a Stone associate named Jerome Corsi. I mean, difficult for folks at home to follow, but the key here, Alex, is it not, is about whether Trump world got a tip about these e-mails that Russia stole before they came out.

MARQUARDT: Right. It is hard to follow, Jim. And we should really break it down. Someone like Jerome Corsi is not necessarily a household name that many of our viewers might necessarily know. Roger Stone is a bit more prominent. But essentially these two men could provide a crucial missing link in this investigation into collusion. So what Robert Mueller and his team are trying to figure out is what the relationship was between these two men and WikiLeaks.

And in this draft court documents that CNN has obtained, what it shows is Roger Stone instructing Jerome Corsi to get in touch with WikiLeaks, specifically a quote reading, "Get to Assange." Julian Assange, the head of WikiLeaks, has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy for the past several years.

And what we need to remind everyone of is if that link is established it shows that Russian hackers who got those Democratic e-mails handed those off to WikiLeaks who then coordinated with these Trump associates, and then that creates a direct link between the Trump campaign and those Russian hackers. And that is collusion.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I mean, it's not just foreknowledge, I should say, as you note there. It would be coordination. In other words, because they would have asked for WikiLeaks to release it at certain beneficial to them.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: Including the day of the "Access Hollywood" tape.

HARLOW: The tape.

SCIUTTO: Alex Marquardt, thanks very much.

We're joined now by CNN Legal and National Security Analyst, Asha Rangappa and CNN Contributor, Garrett Graff. So much to unwrap here, Asha. If I can draw on your legal knowledge

here, starting with this issue of the communication between Manafort's legal team and the president volunteering this inside information in effect.

[10:05:07] So we know it's not illegal, but is it potential evidence of interference, obstruction of justice?

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It can be depending on what was being discussed. Now normally these kinds of joint defense agreements cease once a defendant starts to work with a prosecutor. And this is because a lawyer has an ethical and professional obligation to represent the interest of the client. And when they are working with a prosecutor, those interests become adverse to other potential defendants. So they can't be sharing those privileged communications with other defendants.

So this is highly unusual. What it could -- I mean, sure, that's an ethical problem. A legal problem could be if there was any kind of coordinated effort to actually try to undermine this investigation between, you know, Giuliani and these lawyers. Now we don't know that that's the case. But that could be where it could cross a legal line.

And as I've mentioned before on CNN, this could be a problem for the president because if they were in fact coordinating their stories and any of this coordination of lies was reflected in the president's own written responses to Mueller, we now know that Mueller knows that Manafort lied. He would be able to now potentially have, you know, perjury and false statements against the president if those were the basis, as well.

SCIUTTO: I mean, that's an interesting point. It could cut both ways.


SCIUTTO: It could cut through the president's detriment legally, yes.

HARLOW: Good point.


HARLOW: Garrett, you have a piece that everyone is talking about this morning in "Wired." Fascinating. And the headline, "Mueller's End Game May Be in Sight." Why?

GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, what I think we've seen is Mueller has been remarkably quiet for these last four months. But there are all of these little tea leaves that are adding up to show that we might be on the verge of a new set of indictments and perhaps some new significant new material before the end of the year. Most significantly perhaps coming out of Paul Manafort and this decision to move ahead with sentencing and say that Paul Manafort is not cooperating.

Bob Mueller has said that he wants to file a complete listing of Paul Manafort's, quote, "crimes and lies." And that that opens up the possibility for Mueller to file what could look a lot like a Mueller report, a document with the court that would be released to the public documenting Paul Manafort's behavior throughout the 2016 election, not just relating to the underlying wire fraud and bank fraud.

And just to sort of talk about that joint defense agreement, there is some reason to believe also when you look closely at these court documents that Mueller might have anticipated some level of coordination. Rick Gates, when he faced his plea agreement, was hit with a gag order as part of that plea agreement. Paul Manafort notably wasn't.

SCIUTTO: Interesting. Asha, if I could again ask you to kind of do a Garrett here, right, and connect some of these dots legally here, let's say if the special counsel establishes -- and again, we're reading smoke signals as always from the special counsel because you're getting it from outsiders, not himself. But if he's able to establish that yes, Roger Stone, a close Trump associate, did have foreknowledge via WikiLeaks of when these e-mails were coming out and even went the other way and said hey guys, we're having a tough day on Friday, October 7th because this "Access Hollywood" tape came out, now might not be a great time to release these e-mails as WikiLeaks did within the hour of the release of that tape.

If you have that back and forth communication, foreknowledge and even coordination, what does that mean legally? Does that constitute -- let's drop the word collusion because that's not actually a crime, but conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, which is the legal question here?

RANGAPPA: Right. You're asking what would need to be shown to prove conspiracy.


RANGAPPA: And specifically the participation of Stone and Corsi in conspiracy. You mentioned there's a lot of actors involved. So let's just zoom back for a second. Mueller has charged 13 GRU Russian military officers with hacking into the DNC server and releasing these e-mails. One of the charges is conspiracy against the United States. The object of the conspiracy was to use this information, release it at specific times in order to damage Hillary Clinton and therefore distort the election.

So in order for someone to be basically ensnared in this conspiracy it's not enough that they just have knowledge that this is going on. They have to be in agreement with the objective which is to, you know, release this at specific times to damage this person, and they have to take an action in furtherance of that conspiracy.

So in your example, Jim, if they just knew and were, you know, kind of keeping up on what was happening, probably not enough.

[10:10:07] If they were coordinating and saying, do it now, this is when, you know, we think it will be maximized -- maximize the damage, that could then start to cross the legal line and they could be liable for the conspiracy as well.

HARLOW: OK. Understood. Sorry we have to jump and cut it a little bit short.

Thank you both for being here, Asha and Garrett.

I want to get over to House Speaker Paul Ryan right now, answering some questions on border wall funding. Of course this is all tied to a possible government shutdown. I think we have it. Let's listen.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Doesn't have the president's $5 billion --

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: The house has the president's $5 billion wall. And the House -- obviously, you know, the House is there. We've never been the issue here. Our bill contains the president's full request for the border. But ultimately the president and the Senate Democrats are going to have to come to agreement, as well.

As you know this takes 60 votes in the Senate. Therefore Senate Democrats have a say so in appropriation matters. And so I think what we're going to have to do is just sort all of this out between all the parties that are involved.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So if they come to an agreement --

RYAN: I'm not going to negotiate to the press. That's a foolish thing to do. But what we'll have to do is come together. I think hopefully actually, like Kevin said, hopefully after the election, Democrats realize a secure border should not be a Republican thing. It shouldn't be a Democrat thing. It's just good for the country to actually secure our border. The House is there. We hope the Senate comes with us.

SCIUTTO: There you're seeing Paul Ryan, outgoing speaker of the House there on that border funding. One thing he didn't mention there is a quid pro quo. What --

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: There's long been this talk of border wall, DACA agreement, but the president seemed to take that off the table.

HARLOW: Yes. That hasn't been sort of foremost in the conversation right now.


HARLOW: Now it's about how much.

SCIUTTO: Well, that could be a little bit of a game of chicken it seems, you know, who is willing to shut down the government.

HARLOW: And the American people, you know, in the middle of it.

SCIUTTO: Always. HARLOW: All right. In just minutes, all senators will be briefed by

the secretary of State and the Defense secretary on murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and also the war in Yemen. The absence of CIA chief Gina Haspel has one senator calling it a, quote, "cover-up."

SCIUTTO: She did listen to that tape after all.

Plus the president threatens to cut G.M. subsidies after the company cuts thousands of jobs. How are communities impacted by those layoffs? Reacting to this a sitting U.S. president threatening economic penalties against a company for making economic decisions. We're going to take you there.


[10:16:46] SCIUTTO: In just moments, Defense Secretary Mattis and Secretary of State Pompeo will brief the entire Senate on the war in Yemen. Also notably they are expected to answer questions about the administration's response to the murder, the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

HARLOW: So the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the case for the administration's reaction to this murder, which the CIA has assessed with high confidence was done at the behest of the crown prince. He wrote an op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal" this morning. Let me read you part of it, quote, "The October murder of Saudi national Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey has heightened the Capitol Hill caterwauling and media pile-on. But degrading the U.S.-Saudi ties would be a grave mistake to the national security of the U.S. and its allies."

Also he tweeted this morning about it.

SCIUTTO: This is a remarkable tweet. And it bears reading. "The Trump administration," he wrote, "effort to rebuild the U.S.-Saudi partnership isn't popular in the salons of Washington. But the kingdom is a force for stability in the Middle East. Degrading our ties would be a mistake for U.S. national security. Read my op-ed."

I just have to note, the salons of Washington, quite dismissive when you might note that Khashoggi himself was a member of the salons of Washington. He was a "Washington Post" columnist. He lived in northern Virginia. He was a frequent participant. I saw him there at discussions, public forums in Washington, D.C.

Pretty remarkable comment from the U.S. secretary of State. Pretty dismissive.

HARLOW: It is. And you should read the entire opinion piece by Pompeo this morning if you have not already because he elaborates on that even more.

Let's go to our Senior Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju, he's on the Hill.

You know, senators, a number of them are upset because Gina Haspel, the CIA director, is not going to be there to brief them and she is the one who has heard this tape.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question about it. We -- I talked to Senator Bob Corker who is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about this for a week. He's been pushing for Gina Haspel to come as part of the briefing. He urged the Senate majority leader to make that request, to have her come forward so she could explain exactly what the CIA found and then the Congress could decide how to respond legislatively based on the CIA's assessment.

But she is not coming to this briefing. It's going to be Jim Mattis, it's going to be Mike Pompeo. And in large part this is designed by the administration to try to make the case to stop a resolution in the Senate that would end the U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen. That's a resolution being pushed by Senators Mike Lee of Utah, Republican, Bernie Sanders, independent from Vermont, and Chris Murphy of Connecticut, the Democrat.

That could come up for a vote as soon as today. The administration is trying to make the case that it should not pass. But the questions are going to be not just about what's happening in Yemen, what the administration knows about the Khashoggi murder and the question about how the administration -- the Congress should respond afterwards by moving on either sanctions or doing anything else to punish in particular the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

All of those questions may not be answered in full today because of the fact that Haspel is not coming. And you'll hear Republicans and Democrats raise concerns about that later today, guys.

SCIUTTO: Manu, let me just ask you this briefly.

[10:20:02] The administration clearly digging its heels in here by saying we've gone as far as we can, relationship comes first. You have had Republicans, Lindsey Graham among them, say they want to penalize the crown prince. Based -- I'm not going to make you a whip, you know, the vote counting up there, but do you see sufficient Republican support to pass something over the head of the president here to penalize Saudi Arabia?

RAJU: It really depends on what that is. They have not coalesced over one specific legislative response. I asked a very important man about this, Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader about whether or not Congress should respond, should punish the crown prince. He said that the actions about -- the killing of Khashoggi was abhorrent. He said that Congress should respond, but he acknowledged there are a lot of discussions underway about exactly what that is and whether they can get all of that together by, say, December 7th, that funding deadline to keep the government open, attach something to that, for instance.

A big question uncertain they can get something together so quickly by then. But this is going to be an issue that's going to continue into the new Congress, as well. So this isn't going away anytime soon, guys. HARLOW: But, Manu, very quickly, what about Senator Jack Reed's

resolution that could come to the floor today that would at least, you know, harm Saudi Arabia in its efforts in Yemen and cease U.S. support of Saudi there?

RAJU: Yes. And those are the things that they could potentially move forward on. It's uncertain whether both that and the Murphy resolution I was mentioning earlier with Lee and Sanders, if those will pass. It's possible that's the only option on the table but we'll see if the administration succeeds in convincing Republicans in particular to block those.

HARLOW: Got it. Manu, thanks for all the reporting.

So President Trump is firing back at General Motors after the company announced thousands of layoffs. The threat he made that sent G.M. stock lower, next.


[10:26:33] SCIUTTO: This morning President Trump going after G.M. threatening to cut all of the company's government subsidies. This after the nation's largest automaker announced that it is cutting more than 14,000 jobs, closing five plants in North America, four of them in the U.S., including two facilities that will have a critical impact on the heart and soul of the U.S. auto industry.

Our next guest not only has the brute with General Motors, she represents the Motor City in Washington. Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Debbie Dingell.

Congresswoman, thanks for taking the time with us this morning.

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D), MICHIGAN: Good morning, guys. It's good to be with you.

SCIUTTO: First I want to ask you about the effect on these communities particularly the community around Detroit there. They've already seen so many job losses through the years. How devastating are these cuts now?

DINGELL: So first of all let me just say that I have been warning a lot of people including my colleagues that we're going to see a softening in the industry. This is a cyclical industry. And they've had the longest run of good sales that really has occurred since the industry became an industry. But these people were not prepared for these announcements. They were quite frankly stunned.

But let me -- I want to clarify some things because we don't know of the total impact right now. The Canadian plant is going to close. The four other plants that were announced this week are idled with no product designated for them. What's going to become critical is what happens next year in the UAW negotiations.

So, you know, I have no facts. This is not factual. I'm just dealing in grapevine. But the grapevine says that -- when they go into UAW negotiations product will likely be put back into one of those plants.

The other thing is, so other companies, by the way, are doing some things similar. I don't want to announce anything that's not announced. But the companies in the UAW agreement is putting people who may not be at that plant to work in other plants. So how this really gets dealt with is going to matter because I will not -- I will make sure that G.M. does not locate one more plant in Mexico. They'll never ever get my support on anything.

SCIUTTO: I understand, it's a good point, because some of these workers could be re-allocated as G.M. changes in effect its product lines to respond to a changing market. The president, however, has made this, as you know, a very political issue and the president benefitted from his promises that he is going to keep jobs like this. This of course counters that message. But he's now threatening to take away G.M.'s subsidies.

Now I know you have ties to G.M. --

DINGELL: So let me tell you --

SCIUTTO: Former president of General Motors Foundation.

DINGELL: I agree with the president.

SCIUTTO: What's your reaction to that?

DINGELL: You know --

SCIUTTO: Do you agree with penalizing the company?

DINGELL: I'm going to say this to you. We need to get a far better understanding of what G.M. is up to. I don't like what I'm hearing on the grapevine which is that they're going to move production to another country. We need to understand what their product plans are, what they're benefitting from. They want things that the other companies don't want.

I will tell you something, this company has done something that nobody else has done for the last two years. Republicans and Democrats united. This has to be the most thoroughly disliked company in Washington, D.C. right now. And I have always said to you that I will work with the president. If it helps the working men and women of my district I will work with him.

I want facts. I'm not -- I will tell you, I will never support a NAFTA 2.0 if they're going to be shipping and putting more jobs in Mexico. Period.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you, you're saying, though, you support the president's threat in effect to take away subsidies from G.M. if you learn for instance that these jobs are going outside the country?

DINGELL: That is correct. I mean --

SCIUTTO: Fair enough. DINGELL: We need to be supporting companies that are creating jobs

here. Supporting jobs here.