Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Israeli's Prime Minister Race; Loughlin Faces Money Laundering Charges; Conway Answers Questions on Hush Money Payments and Taxes. Trump Speaks at White House. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired April 10, 2019 - 09:30   ET



[09:32:04] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Right now Benjamin Netanyahu appears to be on the verge of securing a record fifth term as Israel's prime minister. With roughly 97 percent of the votes counted, Netanyahu's party holds a very slight lead over the party of his chief rival, Benny Gantz.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, but it also appears that his path back to power is much more straightforward.

Our correspondent Oren Liebermann joins me live from Jerusalem.

I mean if this holds, is this history making in terms of being the longest serving prime minister?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And that's a milestone he'll achieve in summer, outlasting David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, and becoming this country's longest serving prime minister. And it does look very much like that's the path we're on at this point. Ninety-seven percent of the votes counted. It is very, very close head to head between him and his rival, former chief of staff Benny Gantz. Just a few thousand votes separate the head to head race.

But when it comes to the all-important question of who is it that can build a governing coalition, who is it that can form a government, Netanyahu has the advantage with the support of the ultra-orthodox parties and smaller right wing parties, which is why he made this confident statement.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): And I want to clarify that this will be a right wing government, but I will be the prime minister of all Israel -- Israeli citizens, Jewish and non-Jewish, left or right, all citizens.


LIEBERMANN: That statement that he'll be the prime minister of all citizens of Israel, Jewish and non-Jewish, very different than the campaign rhetoric we heard which certainly had quite an anti-Arab element to it, as well as a left versus right, and us versus them. So it seems like he's trying to backtrack on some of that and try to be inclusive after what was an incredibly divisive campaign.

Meanwhile, his rival, Benny Gantz, who claimed victory yesterday, putting out a very different statement today, not quite a concession, but certainly sounding like it. Here's what he said in a statement. Reports tell an unfinished story. Yes, odds may not seem in our favor, but two things are missing, the first is certainty as there is still a possibility of electoral shifts that will allow us to engage in various political endeavors, the second is without doubt recognition of the great hope we delivered to the Israeli people and society.

The problem for Gantz is that that electoral shift as more votes come in, some 200,000 votes from soldiers, diplomats and others may make this even more of a victory for Netanyahu.

Poppy and Jim.

SCIUTTO: Oren, question for you. The Trump administration made two moves in the last week that seemed to favor the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, Golan Heights, annexation in effect, but also designation of the Iran Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. I mean, in the simplest terms, did Netanyahu get help from the U.S. in this election?

LIEBERMANN: I think you can look at the last two weeks, as well as the last few months and say yes definitively. The actions of President Donald Trump appeared almost blatantly to advocate for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and for his re-election as a major political gifts, especially Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights, recognition of that.

[09:35:04] Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited the Western Wall in the old city of Jerusalem here behind me with Netanyahu just a couple of weeks ago. That was unprecedented until this. So it very much came out as Trump openly it seemed campaigning for Netanyahu.

Did it make a difference? Do we know if it had a quantitative effect? That's a more difficult question to answer. But one thing I think we can definitely say, it certainly didn't hurt here.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Look for congratulations from President Trump coming soon, I imagine.

Oren Liebermann, thanks very much.

We should note that the president is leaving the White House, speaking to reporters as we speak on his way to Marine One as he's departing for Texas. We're going to bring you those comments as soon as we have them.

Tonight, Washington Governor Jay Inslee sits down for a live CNN presidential town hall moderated by our colleague, Wolf Blitzer. It's 10:00 Eastern Time, of course only on CNN.


[09:40:12] HARLOW: All right, now to the just continuingly stunning college admissions scandal.


HARLOW: Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband and 14 other wealthy parents are now facing money laundering charges in this huge scandal. The latest charge comes a month after Loughlin and her husband were charged with conspiracy to commit fraud.

SCIUTTO: They are now accused of paying $500,000 to get their two lawyers into the University of Southern California.

Let's bring in former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Elie Honig. So, beyond all the bad parenting here, money laundering, they were setting up shell companies.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, so this refers to the way they made the payments, right? Remember, they didn't just cut a check to the college.

HARLOW: Right.

HONIG: Money laundering is a very common feature of criminal schemes like this one, pay the money through this fake, shell, non-profit organization to try to hide where it comes from and where it's going. That's a crime in itself and it will up the penalty that Lori Loughlin and the others potentially face.

HARLOW: OK, jail time?

HONIG: So, interesting. I think Felicity Huffman and her attorneys have sort of handled this very smartly, which is, get out there, plead quickly, plead unambiguous --

HARLOW: She pled guilty.

HONIG: She pled -- right, pled guilty, accepted full responsibility. Get in early, get your -- you get points off your sentence if you accept responsibility and if you do it quickly. Her sentencing guidelines range, which is not mandatory but it's important in advisory, is four to 10 months.


HONIG: Which I think puts her within shouting distance of probation. I think her lawyer will have a good basis to go in there at sentencing and say, she's facing this small amount of jail time, but there's no good to be done by sending her to jail. I think the prosecutor -- the reporting is the prosecutors are going to be seeking the lower end, but some jail time. I think the prosecutor will say, we need to send a message here, you can't get a break because you're rich and famous.

HARLOW: Well, that's the thing. People --


HARLOW: Look at Martha Stewart, right? HONIG: Yes.

HARLOW: Prime example. Like, a lot of people say, if she weren't Martha Stewart would she really have gone to jail for that.

HONIG: Sure. It's such a tough conundrum when you're dealing with celebrities as defendants. I've had a couple of them in my time and on the one hand you really do not -- you can't punish them extra because they're celebrities --

HARLOW: Right.

HONIG: And you can't use people as a vehicle to send a message. But you also have to be very careful of anything that will be perceived as giving them special treatment or light treatment because of their status.

SCIUTTO: There are a couple cases of celebrities getting off easy, too.

HARLOW: Totally.

SCIUTTO: We don't have to cite them all.

HONIG: It happens.

SCIUTTO: What happened -- because the coaches were --



SCIUTTO: Explicitly involved in this. Harvard fencing coach. Yale women's soccer coach. Other coaches who were part of -- you know, they were taking money. Do they face even stricter penalties?

HONIG: I think they do. I think their conduct here is more problematic even than the parents because they're insiders. I mean they're betraying their employers and they owe more of a duty to the universities who employ them. And, by the way, they're pocketing some of the money that compromised their job.


HONIG: So I think they may be in a tougher position than the parents.

HARLOW: Do you -- OK, Elie Honig, thank you.

We've got a lot of news coming out of the White House.

HONIG: Let's roll.

HARLOW: I'm hearing in my ear.

Thank you very much.


SCIUTTO: Just a little bit.

The president has just been speaking. It is deadline day as well. Still no word from the president or administration as to whether they will release the president's tax returns. If House Democrats do not receive them by the end of today, they will likely issue a subpoena.

Here with us now to discuss this and other headlines, Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway.

Kellyanne, appreciate you taking the time this morning.


SCIUTTO: So I've got a lot of topics to run through. You'd expect me to.

I want to start with news, "Wall Street Journal" reporting this morning that federal prosecutors here in New York have gathered more evidence than previously known, including by speaking to some of the president's closest confidants, Hope Hicks, Keith Schiller, about his involvement in those hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.

I just want to ask you this question because I've heard your comments before defending the president. But if there was no wrongdoing here and the president was confident in that, why did he lie about it in April 2018, as you know, on Air Force One and say he didn't know about the payments?

CONWAY: Well, the president is saying he didn't know about the payments when they were made, that he discovered that -- I've spoken with him directly about this and that is what he has told me, so I'm going to repeat it to you.

But I actually think --

SCIUTTO: Well let's say, just for the sake of our audience, who might not remember this, I'm just going to play the tape. It was a very clear question. It was a very clear answer, again, on Air Force One.

CONWAY: No, very -- he just took a question from the same reporter minutes ago on the South Lawn.

SCIUTTO: I know, I know. But just -- our folks at home might not have heard it. Let's play it and then I want to hear how you respond.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When the audit is complete, I'll release my returns. I have no problem with it.

I'm releasing, when we're finished with the audit.

It depends on the audit. Not a big -- QUESTION: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to

Stormy Daniels?

TRUMP: No. No.


SCIUTTO: Simple answer, simple question. Sorry, that started with a tax return question. But you heard the answer there. That's pretty simple. I don't see how you can say that while he was being very specific there, only that he did not know about it at the time.

CONWAY: That is what he told me, that his answer was referencing when the payment was made. But, again, you know, Mr. Cohen has testified in front of Congress, then said he lied in front of Congress, so testified again. Obviously the Mueller investigation, 22 months and $30 million or so later also looked into these issues, as you know. I know people who were promised collusion. Those who are still searching for collusion are denying what they see at the border, 103,000 migrants there last month --


[09:45:18] CONWAY: A 35 percent jump. And so it doesn't surprise me at all that the SDNY has interviewed other people. But, again, this country's been talking about this --

SCIUTTO: That's the key. That's what's new in there is this piece -- the piece -- there's a lot to unpack there, but the piece that the prosecutors had evidence of the president's involvement in that payment before Michael Cohen went in that courtroom and implicated the president, which would seem to mean that it's not based entirely on Michael Cohen's testimony here, that others have documented it. And, by the way, we have seen the images of the checks.

CONWAY: Well, Jim, but remember too, the president's outside lawyers have also said that this was not a campaign finance violation, that this was not done in furtherance of any campaign activity. And I can tell you as the campaign manager at that time, that there was no discussion -- this is a president who every single day was beating back the false accusers, as he referred to them, including ones that got a ton of airtime on CNN. And so the whole country was watching that as it unfolded.

But I guess I am very curious. I know it's your show and you get to pick the news, but I guess I am curious as to why we keep on recycling this particular story when we just had a two-year investigation that took on all types of chutes and ladders apart from the original -- the original task and mission, which was to find out --

SCIUTTO: Well, this is new today --

CONWAY: If people on a campaign that I ran had colluded with Russians and somehow we had an illegitimately elected president. That's all been decided.

SCIUTTO: I'm not -- I'm happy to get to that topic.

CONWAY: There is no collusion. We didn't talk to Russians.

SCIUTTO: But this is new today and it's a -- it's a separate -- it's a separate investigation.

Let me, if I can, ask, again, because the time we have with you is -- is short, so I want to make sure we get to as much as we can.

As you know, today is the deadline for the president to release, as imposed by House Democrats, to release his tax returns. I'm unclear because, as you know, the president has said repeatedly he won't release them because he's under audit. But his chief of staff said this weekend he will never hand them over.

Is it because of the audit or has he made a decision that he's just not going to share them with the public?

CONWAY: Well, just let me -- a few factual things.

It's the IRS who has been asked by Chairman Neal, the Ways and Means Committee, to release the president's tax returns. The president just told the media moments ago on the South Lawn, I'm sure you'll play the clip when you get it, that he's under audit. If he wasn't under audit, maybe he would release them.

But Secretary Mnuchin of the Treasury testified under oath just yesterday to a House committee, Jim, that he is going to do what he would do for any citizen, which is protect sensitive information and security information. And --

SCIUTTO: Yes, but every presidential candidate going back to Nixon has released them.

I just wonder if part of his pitch is --

CONWAY: And he didn't and he got elected.

SCIUTTO: I'm a rich successful man, why wouldn't he want to show the most definitive record of his income and his business success by showing his tax returns to the American people.

CONWAY: He has produced -- sorry, he has produced 104 pages of financial disclosures that tell an awful lot about his businesses and -- and his holdings.

SCIUTTO: But not his tax return.

CONWAY: And so he didn't release them during the campaign and he was elected anyway. Everybody knew that that -- that people were asking about those tax returns. It apparently is more important to many Americans what their tax returns look like now having gone through the largest -- one of the largest tax cuts in American history where we've got unbelievable employment numbers and growth numbers.

SCIUTTO: OK, let's get to the litigated because I -- CONWAY: I know you don't want to talk about those, but those are the number one issues to the country (INAUDIBLE).

SCIUTTO: No, I want to talk about everything. I will talk about everything. But to get to your point about, it's been litigated in the election, because I've heard you make this point and others. I mean the president lied during the election. As you know, he lied about birtherism. He lied about Muslims celebrating 9/11 in New Jersey and others. And, yes, he was elected.

CONWAY: Actually, he's --

SCIUTTO: Does that then give him license --

CONWAY: Well --

SCIUTTO: Does that give him license to then share falsehoods while he's president? Is that -- is the -- does the election give you license to do whatever you did during the campaign?

CONWAY: Well, that's a -- that's a lot of opinionating about the campaign.

But -- so focus on my work here at the White House, I will tell you, since you want to talk about the 2016 campaign, since you brought it up, I certainly didn't because I never have to talk about it again, winning finishes all the sentences. It's Hillary Clinton who had a 62 percent number of people saying that they thought she was not honest or trustworthy and it hurt her in the election.

SCIUTTO: Absolutely.

CONWAY: They did not want -- they certainly -- we as a country certainly wanted to elect the first female president, but not one who has a difficult relationship with the truth. And so that certainly was decided by the electors.

SCIUTTO: Well, then the president --

CONWAY: But this president ran on a set of promises and has fulfilled them.

SCIUTTO: I could recite the number of times the president has demonstrated his difficult relationship with the truth, but we don't have -- we don't have time for that.


SCIUTTO: Before we --

CONWAY: And it -- look, if you think that's your job as a reporter, then go for it.

SCIUTTO: It is, but --

CONWAY: But -- but I think my job here is to work every day on policy that helps --

SCIUTTO: Part of a journalist's job --

CONWAY: That helps improve the lives of Americans. And we do have record low unemployment among millions of Americans. We have growth over 4 percent and we have unemployment under 4 percent. This matters to people. If you look at the latest polls, this bipartisan poll by two pollsters and friends of mine, I respect (INAUDIBLE), a Democrat, (INAUDIBLE) as a Republican, just came out yesterday and that poll shows that the president is doing so well with respect to the economy --


[09:50:14] CONWAY: Even people who don't like the tone of the tweets once in a while appreciate the fact that they have job security, job availability and job mobility.

SCIUTTO: It's a fair -- it's a fair point and it's taken. We talk about that a lot on this broadcast.

CONWAY: It's -- it's a major -- it's a major issue to this country, though.

SCIUTTO: One issue, though, the president --

CONWAY: They really care about their economic wherewithal.

SCIUTTO: They do. And it's a fair point. We talk about it a lot on this broadcast.

One issue where the president and Republicans do not do well, where they're trusted more by Democrats than Republicans, is health care during the 2018 midterms. You know this was a voting issue. Seven -- of the more than 40 percent of voters who put health care as their number one issue, 75 percent of them back Democrats.

You have said that the president has a plan to replace Obamacare. What is that plan and does he have any support on The Hill for that plan?

CONWAY: Well, it's not a plan to place Obamacare. Obamacare, it looks like the Democrats, including President Obama, are moving off of Obamacare. They're all making joyful noises about Medicare for all. And that includes Bernie Sanders, who today --

SCIUTTO: Some are but not all. Some candidates, others don't support it.

CONWAY: Well -- well, who exactly is running on Obamacare? I don't know who that is. Who is out there, as a candidate right now, saying, you know what, Obamacare must be protected? You know, 3.4 million Americans lost their plans within months of Obamacare taking hold. They were lied to that they could keep their plan and keep their doctor.

And I'll make you a deal, Jim, as somebody in this White House who's working on the president's health care plan, and we have several meetings a day on it, as somebody who's working on it, I'll make you a deal. People who like their Obamacare can keep their Obamacare. But let's see if they're actually going to do that --


CONWAY: When they have other choices, when there's higher quality, lower cost --

SCIUTTO: We will take -- we will take you up on that offer. I will note that there's a lot of reporting that Republicans want to keep protection for pre-existing conditions, which is, of course, a key feature of Obamacare.

CONWAY: There's no question, including us. It's --


CONWAY: Jim, let me make -- let me say in no uncertain terms, it's nonnegotiable. Pre-existing conditions will be protected. This president has said this as a candidate, as president, during transition as president-elect. And he was never senator or congressman Trump who voted to repeal pre-existing conditions.

SCIUTTO: And pre-existing conditions is actually one of the most popular elements --

CONWAY: It's nonnegotiable.

SCIUTTO: Even in red states --


SCIUTTO: Of Obamacare. We should note that.

CONWAY: No question. And this president, it will be --

SCIUTTO: Where it came from.

CONWAY: We're not even discussing not protecting them, trust me.

But what we want to make sure is that people understand, Medicare for all mean choices for none.


CONWAY: Sixty million seniors and disabled rely upon Medicare for their health care benefits and for that financial stability.


CONWAY: But we want to make sure that when people hear government insurance, you can't just hear insurance, you have to hear the word government. You don't want government more involved in one of the most intimate parts of your life, your health care portfolio profile.

SCIUTTO: Yes. All right -- although it is for Medicare and veterans care. But we'll get to that another time.

Kellyanne Conway, thanks so much.

CONWAY: Thanks for having me, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Your boss, when you have this tape, come back.

CONWAY: There you go.

SCIUTTO: You're welcome back any time.

CONWAY: OK, thank you.

SCIUTTO: Let's listen to the president.

CONWAY: Take care.

HARLOW: OK. All right. So, watch.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Very, very well. We have numbers coming from companies that are beyond expectations. The tax cuts are working very, very well. So, we're very proud of the economy.

Job numbers are as good as we've ever had. And more people are working right now than ever worked in our country before. We're doing really well.

I'd like to congratulate Bibi Netanyahu. It looks like that race has been won by him. It may be a little early, but I'm hearing he's won it and won it in good fashion. So, he's been a great ally. And he's a friend. I'd like to congratulate him. That was a well fought-out race, I can tell you. But it looks like Bibi has won that race.

Go ahead, Sid (ph).


TRUMP: Say it.


TRUMP: So the fact that Bibi won, I think we'll see some pretty good action in terms of peace.

Look, everyone said -- and I never made it a promise -- but everybody said you can't have peace in the Middle East with Israel and the Palestinians. I think we have a chance. And I think we have now a better chance with Bibi having won.

Yes, please, Major?


TRUMP: Hold it. Major.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE). TRUMP: No, there is no law. As you know, I got elected last time with the same issue. And while I'm under audit, I won't do it. If I'm not under audit, I would do it. I had no problem with it. But while I'm under audit, I would not give my taxes. There's no law whatsoever.

Now, I will say this, I would love to give them, but I'm not going to do it while I'm under audit. It's very simple.

Remember, I got elected last time, the same exact issue, with the same intensity, which wasn't very much because, frankly, the people don't care. What I have done is approximately a 104-page summary, and really in great detail, of assets and values and what -- nobody wants to go over that because it's so good. I built a great company, one of the best companies. I have some of the greatest assets in the world. I did a good job. And now, frankly, I don't care about them. I only care about the United States. But I have no obligation to do that while I'm under audit. And no lawyer would tell you to release your tax returns while you're under audit.


[09:55:31] TRUMP: I think that the whole asylum rules, laws and regulations have been taken advantage of by people that are very bad people in many cases. These are the people running the cartels. They're gaming the system. They have been for years. The only difference is our economy is now so strong that more people come up.

We have done a great job at the border with bad laws. It's very important that the Democrats in Congress change these loopholes. If they don't change them, we're just going to be fighting.

Now, the other thing. We've built a lot of wall. A lot of wall. And it's new wall. You know, when we rip down an old wall and then replace it, it's called a new wall. And that's what we've done. A lot of wall is going up. And every place we build a wall, it's less and less. But the power of the economy, it's like a magnet, it's bringing more people than we've seen in a long time.


TRUMP: Major.


TRUMP: Well, the Mueller report's interesting. After $35 million, with 13 increased to 18 angry Democrats, people that truly hated Donald Trump, truly hated Trump, they found no collusion whatsoever with Russia. But I could have told you that and so could most people. And so could have everybody that voted for me, which was a lot of people.

So after wasting all of this money and all of this time with people that were haters, people that worked on the Hillary Clinton Foundation, people that were absolutely haters of Trump, they found in collusion.

What has been found during this period of time are the illegal acts of getting this whole phony investigation started. And hopefully that's where people are going now. That's where people are going. And it's very interesting. It was an illegal investigation.

Major, it was an illegal investigation. It was started illegally. Everything about it was crooked. Every single thing about it. There were dirty cops. These were bad people. You look at McCabe and Comey. And you look at Lisa and Peter Strzok. These were bad people. And this was an attempted coup. This was an attempted takedown of a president. And we beat them. We beat them.

So the Mueller report, when they talk about obstruction, we fight back. And do you know why we fight back? Because I knew how illegal this whole thing was. It was a scram.

And what I'm most interested in -- excuse me. What I'm most interested in is getting started. Hopefully the attorney general -- he mentioned it yesterday, he's doing a great job getting -- getting started on going back to the origins of exactly where this all started because this was an illegal witch hunt and everybody knew it. And they knew it, too. And they got caught.

And what they did was treason. What they did was terrible. What they did was against our Constitution and everything we stand for. So hopefully that will happen.

There is a hunger for that to happen in this country, like I have never seen before, including all of the millions of people that voted for me. What they did was disgraceful. There's never been anything like it in the history of our country.

Thank you.


TRUMP: Well, I like Herman Cain and Herman will make that determination. Herman is a wonderful man. He's been a supporter of mine for a long time. He actually ran a very good campaign. But that's up to Herman. I -- Herman is -- you know, he's already sat on one of the Fed boards and he's just somebody I like a lot.

[09:59:50] As to how he's doing in the process, that I don't know. You go through a process. But Herman's a great guy and I hope he does well.