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Trump Deposed Under Oath in Lawsuit; Interview With Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson; Remembering Colin Powell. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired October 18, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.
Today, America is in mourning. His leadership, his service broke barriers. And, today, the nation and world are pausing to remember and reflect on the life of Colin Powell. His legacy is a story of American courage and integrity, from his birth in Harlem to Jamaican immigrants, to his combat in Vietnam, to later a man who would shape U.S. national security policy.
Over his four decades of public service, General Powell would become the country's first African-American national security adviser, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and then secretary of state, a true trailblazer, beloved and respected by several American presidents, earning him the Presidential Medal of Freedom twice by both a Republican and a Democrat.
His family saying in a statement today: "We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American."
And now this from President Biden moments ago.
"Over our many years working together, even in disagreement, Colin was always someone who gave you his best and treated you with respect. Colin embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat. He will be remembered as one of our great Americans."
Powell died this morning of complications of COVID-19. His family says he was fully vaccinated, but we have also learned Powell was battling multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that suppresses the body's immune response, another source confirming that Powell also had Parkinson's, which put him at additional risk.
Colin Powell was 84 years old.
CNN's Gloria Borger and Elizabeth Cohen join us now.
Gloria, the tributes pouring in have been profound, many talking not only about the remarkable imprint his life left on history, but for generations to come. GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I was thinking about
Colin Powell so much this morning, as all of us were.
And what comes to mind, it may be corny, sort of sounds old-fashioned, maybe a cliche, but he was a true public servant. This is somebody who was political, but he was not ideological. He didn't walk on one side of the aisle or another. He is somebody who just believed in serving his country. And he is somebody who also turned down the lure of running for the presidency when he was incredibly popular, because he thought he could accomplish what he needed to accomplish in other ways.
And I feel like Colin Powell is somebody who could admit a mistake, as he did when he said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and there were none. And he called it a blot on his record. He was a true and honest public servant.
CABRERA: Elizabeth, we are told he had this blood cancer. Even though he was able to get vaccinated, that didn't protect him at the same level it does many others, right, who are fully vaccinated, the vast majority of us who've gotten those vaccinations. He also had Parkinson's.
And we were told he was scheduled to get his booster shot in the next week, but, because he was too ill, to get that one, he wasn't able to get that additional layer of protection. So what more can you tell us about all of that and how that may have impacted this battle with COVID?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, Ana.
So, his multiple myeloma, as well as his Parkinson's, made him more vulnerable to complications of COVID-19. Multiple myeloma, as you said, is a blood cancer. It affects the bone marrow, and that really leaves patients immune-compromised in a way that is really, really hard to reverse.
And when people are immune-compromised, even double vaccination with Pfizer, we don't know, but those vaccines might not have worked very well. Even if he had gotten a booster, it still might not have worked very well.
We know that immune-compromised, folks, sometimes threat, vaccines just don't work. And then the Parkinson's, well, Parkinson's can affect the muscles in the respiratory tract. And so when you have trouble using those muscles, maybe trouble breathing, maybe trouble coughing, that also can make -- if you get COVID, can make things much more complicated.
So both of those factors likely contributed.
CABRERA: Elizabeth Cohen and Gloria Borger, I really appreciate both of you ladies. Thank you.
With us now as General Wesley Clark, former NATO supreme allied commander. And, General Clark, I know you were close friends with Secretary Powell. And so I'm so sorry for your personal loss today. How are you reflecting on his life and remembering him today as a friend, as a soldier, as a leader?
WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Well, he was a great friend and mentor of me and my family. We knew him for over 40 years.
We watched him struggle with the prejudice in the Army. We watched the great contributions he made as national security adviser and chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He really set the Army and the national security apparatus into the Cold -- post-Cold War era successfully.
And I just think he's just -- he was a wonderful human being. He had tremendous warmth, tremendous intuition. He had great common sense. He knew things that would work and knew they wouldn't. But he was also a loyal soldier. He stayed with the Bush administration with the decision to invade Iraq, even though I'm sure he was well aware of the problems that would lie ahead.
CABRERA: You told our team that you were on a Zoom call with Secretary Powell just a couple of weeks ago. So, recently, you had spoken with him?
What can you share with us about that call and your interaction with him that day?
CLARK: Well, he was -- first of all, he was 100 percent Colin Powell. As he said, I have never missed a day of work. That's what he said.
He's very much engaged in business, doing a lot of stuff with energy, working with private firms, very committed on the social side and obviously following the country closely, very concerned about the partisan split, especially about the Republican Party and its efforts to sort of undermine democratic principles.
We talked about what could be done, how he could come out to the country and sort of be our conscience. But, as you said, he was battling disease. He wasn't able to do it.
I think his passing is a tremendous loss for our country and for our future.
CABRERA: Have he already been diagnosed?
Forgive me for interrupting you. I didn't mean to.
Had he already been diagnosed with COVID at that time, or not?
CLARK: No. No. He was in perfect health, except, as he said, he said, I have got Parkinson's, I have got cancer. And he said, I'm 83. I don't know what's worse.
CABRERA: And he always seemed so strong. I think this announcement that he had has caught so many people by surprise. In his most recent public appearances, he seemed to be very full of vitality.
We talk about his service at the highest levels of government, right, as secretary of state, the Joint Chiefs chairman. But he was someone who really led the way on the battlefield as well. He nearly gave his own life in service to this country, stepped on a Vietcong booby trap. He was also injured in a helicopter crash in Vietnam.
General Powell received nearly a dozen military awards, including two Purple Hearts, just a remarkable life of service.
Any stories that stand out to you?
CLARK: Oh, I think there are many, many stories, many personal recollections I have General Powell.
But the greatest, I guess, is that after the Berlin Wall fell, he came and told those of us who were young one-star generals at the time. He said, look, we're going to have a peace deal with them. We're going to shrink the size of the United States Army and the United States armed forces, he said, but the United States is a great country and it needs a great armed forces.
And he was always such a strong proponent for American security and national defense, common sense, don't fight, except as a last, last, last resort. Go in. You have got to have a plan to win and popular support. That's who Colin Powell was. Those were the lessons of his life that he gave.
CABRERA: We are so grateful for your service and your ability to share memories of Colin Powell and speak to -- about him on a personal and professional way.
General Wesley Clark, thanks so much for joining us.
CLARK: Thank you, Ana.
With us now is Jeh Johnson. He served as secretary of homeland security under President Obama.
Secretary Johnson, thanks for being here.
JEH JOHNSON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Thanks, Ana. Thanks for having me on.
CABRERA: What do you see as the legacy of Colin Powell?
JOHNSON: Good question.
I did not know General Powell well. I would run into him on occasion and events in Washington. I used to joke with him that some people used to confuse my own father for him.
He's being hailed as the quintessential American story today, son of Jamaican immigrants, grew up in the Bronx, went to City College, and then rose to the highest levels of government. He was a role model for me in the following respect.
This is someone who was one of the finest public servants of my lifetime who happens to have been black. He was not defined by his race. People today are calling him as the first black national security adviser, the first black chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the first black secretary of state.
In my eyes, he was an excellent dedicated public servant of bipartisan stature in Washington who happens to have been black. And that's how I have tried to model my own public service in public life.
CABRERA: You brought up his bipartisanship. Colin Powell didn't let politics drive his decision-making. He was one of the most high- profile Republicans to endorse Barack Obama over John McCain in 2008.
Let's listen to that moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN POWELL, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I think he is a transformational figure. He is a new generation coming into the world -- onto the world stage, onto the American stage.
And for that reason, I will be voting for Senator Barack Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Secretary Johnson, you say you remember that moment vividly. Why?
JOHNSON: I do.
As an Obama supporter in the fall of 2008. I remember that interview. I remember that Sunday show.
And this is what was remarkable, in my view. Here was a man who was an elder statesman of the Republican Party who rose above party politics, who rose above party allegiance to give an endorsement that he believed at that moment was in the best interests of our country. He saw the larger picture. He saw that we were ready to elect as our president someone like a Barack Obama, Barack Obama himself, and made his endorsement accordingly.
He saw the larger American interests, rather than simply what was good for the Republican Party, his party at the time.
CABRERA: The fact that he was unafraid to say what he thought was right, even if it ruffled feathers within his own party, more recently speaking out against Trump, how unusual is someone like a Colin Powell, especially in this day and age?
JOHNSON: I think that people in his model are increasingly rare in our society today. We need more leaders like General Powell, who can rise above partisanship, enjoy the stature and a solid reputation among Democrats and Republicans, whose word is valued by people of both parties.
He's going to be greatly missed. He taught us a lot about the limits of warfare, for example, as a war fighter. He taught us the Pottery Barn rule. Always have a plan when you go in. These are things I have repeated myself numerous times. It's much easier to get into an armed conflict than it is to get out.
And Colin Powell taught us that. And so he's going to be greatly missed on a number of levels.
CABRERA: Secretary Jeh Johnson, I really appreciate your thoughts, your perspective and insights today. Thank you so much for joining us.
JOHNSON: Thanks for having me.
CABRERA: A serial liar under oath and on camera, former President Trump today sitting down for a deposition that he's been fighting for years. It's connected to an alleged assault outside Trump Tower. What could it reveal?
And the growing fight between Senators Bernie Sanders and Joe Manchin is only getting uglier, as Democrats race toward a critical deadline on the Biden agenda -- details just ahead.
Plus: 16 Americans kidnapped by a powerful gang in Haiti. What's being done to free them?
CABRERA: Welcome back.
You're looking at protests and people gathering outside Trump Tower in Manhattan this morning, where former President Trump arrived for a long-awaited videotaped deposition in a 6-year-old lawsuit.
Now, this case accuses Trump's security team of assaulting a group of Hispanic activists outside the building in 2015. And the plaintiff's attorneys want to know if Trump can be held liable for their conduct.
CNN's Kara Scannell has the latest.
Kara, six years after this alleged incident, Trump is under oath, on camera. Walk us through the case and what potential liability he faces.
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Ana.
So this deposition was scheduled to begin a little more than three hours ago at Trump Tower just behind me. And that's also the same place where this alleged assault took place. This lawsuit relates to 2015. That is when protesters were outside of Trump Tower. They were protesting some of then-candidate Donald Trump's anti-immigration rhetoric.
It was then that these protesters allege that Trump's chief of security had assaulted the men, including punching one of them in the head. Now, this case was filed in 2015. It was only in 2019 that a judge in New York state out of Bronx County had said that Donald Trump's testimony in this case was indispensable and ordered for him to sit for a video deposition.
But that was then delayed further because Donald Trump was still in office. That brings us to today, where he is inside this building, participating in this deposition. Now, because this relates to the security issues there, he will be asked questions about security. What was his role and responsibility?
But they're also interested in punitive damages in this case. That's what they're seeking. And in that matter, the lawyers here may ask questions that relate to Donald Trump's finances and his net worth, big questions that the public has and that are subject to this ongoing criminal investigation.
So the deposition is under way. As far as we know, there's no time limit, so this questioning will continue on for -- until completed with it. But it is a long time coming. The former president has not sat for a deposition in the multiple lawsuits he's facing since he went into office.
And it won't be the last one either. A judge, a different judge, has ordered the former president to sit for a deposition by December 23. That's in the defamation lawsuit brought by the former "Apprentice" contestant Summer Zervos. She has sued the former president for defamation. She's accused him of sexual assault -- Ana.
CABRERA: So, staying with this particular deposition, this case from 2015, what has the former president said about this case before today's questioning?
SCANNELL: So, yes, Ana, he had a state -- in a affidavit that he filed with the court a few years back in which he said he had no knowledge of this assault. And he said that he had delegated all security to one of his top officials, Matthew Calamari. He's still with the company. He's the chief operating officer.
So he has taken this position that he was not involved with it and that he did not have direct involvement in how they were handling security of that day. But it is also interesting here, because Matthew Calamari is someone that we have talked about before because he's someone that is being looked at in the criminal investigation by the Manhattan district attorney's office.
So it'd be very interesting if any questions are asked about that today as well -- Ana.
CABRERA: Oh, the overlap.
Kara Scannell, thank you for staying on top of it.
Now let's bring in CNN's chief political correspondent and "STATE OF THE UNION" co-anchor, Dana Bash.
Dana, I want to start with something Republican Senator Bill Cassidy said about Trump just this weekend. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: If he runs, he wins the nomination.
SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA): Well, I don't know that.
President Trump is the first president in the Republican side, at least, to lose the House, the Senate and the presidency in four years. Elections are about winning.
QUESTION: That's super interesting.
You think that, if he ran, he could lose the nomination?
CASSIDY: Well, if you want to win the presidency, and, hopefully, that's what voters are thinking about, I think he might.
QUESTION: But it's clear you ain't voting for him?
CASSIDY: I'm not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Again, that is a sitting Republican senator. But why is it so few elected Republicans see Trump as a liability?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, for context and a note -- you know this, Ana -- that Senator Cassidy voted to impeach then-President Trump because of January 6, the second impeachment.
And he voted yes in the trial. And he has been one of the few -- you're exactly right -- very outspoken about the fact that he feels that the former president is very detrimental to the GOP and to the notion of the GOP being a viable party.
I remember I interviewed him on "STATE OF THE UNION" last February, and he said that the Republican Party won't get anywhere as long as it continues to idolize -- that was his word -- idolize one man, meaning Donald Trump.
The answer to your question is that, in the short term, Republicans, either in gerrymandered districts in the House or in -- even in purple states in the Senate, they need the Republican base to vote for them.
And right now, still, that base is the Trump base, full stop. And it's a little bit of the chicken or the egg, because they are the Trump base because they don't have enough Republicans like Bill Cassidy coming out and speaking out, because they believe that is where the Republican Party is.
BASH: So, at one point does that stop? Unclear.
CABRERA: And so a lot of Republicans are choosing to continue pushing the big lie about the 2020 election as this January 6 probe continues.
And this weekend, several members of this select committee indicated a subpoena for former President Trump is still on the table, including a Republican congressman, Adam Kinzinger.
What are the political calculations there about whether to subpoena Trump?
BASH: This is going to sound very naive of me to say, but I believe that they don't believe that it is politically advantageous to try to call former President Donald Trump to testify, but they believe that it is a necessity to find out what happened, to find out his culpability, to find out the culpability of the people around him, to find out any connection between the White House and White House officials or Trump officials and the people who stormed the United States Capitol while they were -- people inside were doing their constitutional duty to try to certify election results.
If you ask Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney, the two -- the only two Republicans on that January 6 committee, they might even argue that it's politically, for the reason we were just talking about before, maybe even not great to have the former president up there, because it almost makes him a martyr.
But to get to the bottom of it, which is what they're trying to do, you need to talk to people like that, and that's why Adam Kinzinger is leaving that on the table.
CABRERA: Let's pivot and talk about President Biden and his agenda that's currently stalled right now. The White House has been in these intense talks with two key senators in particular, moderates Joe Manchin, and Kyrsten Sinema. They're also talking to Republican -- or, I should say, progressives, especially in the House, like Representative Jayapal, who was meeting with the president or was at the White House in meetings today.
But these two senators, they want different things, even though they're both Democrats, when it comes to the big social safety net package. The hope was to have a deal by Halloween. Can the president thread this needle in just a couple of weeks? BASH: Well, he's going to have to save his agenda and to push forward
on his agenda. And it really is interesting, Ana, the way it is coming down to the back-and-forth between these two veteran Democratic -- well, I guess Bernie Sanders is officially an independent, but he, of course, ran for the Democratic nomination for president -- but these two people who are effectively within the president's own party, but they have such different philosophies on how to govern.
And that is that -- the bridge that the president, Joe Biden, is going to have to figure out a way to build. And that's just the way it is. I have talked to so many Democratic lawmakers about this who are -- have varying points of view on whether they come down on Joe Manchin's side, which is, we want to limit the social safety net piece of legislation, or Bernie Sanders' side, which is that they want it to be very broad and robust.
All of them say to me, it has to be the president of the United States that needs to pull them together, because that's the way it works.
Well, I wonder what they're trying to accomplish really by being so public about their battle. I mean, Bernie Sanders wrote in this West Virginia newspaper, Manchin's home state this weekend -- quote -- "Poll after poll shows overwhelming support for this legislation. Two Democratic senators remain in opposition, including Senator Joe Manchin."
And then the West Virginia lawmaker responded quickly -- quote -- "I will not vote for a reckless expansion of government programs. No op- ed from a self-declared independence socialist is going to change that."
What are they trying to accomplish by doing this in such a public fashion, when they're from the same party?
BASH: Right, again, not officially, but for all intents and purposes, they are, and they're trying to accomplish, ultimately, similar goals in terms of moving the country forward to support a Democratic president's agenda.
But, look, I know this is going to shock you, but there's a lot of posturing that goes on in Washington. And Bernie Sanders believes what he believes, but he's also trying to show his supporters and the White House and anybody who will listen that he's fighting until the very end for it, and same with Joe Manchin.
I will say that Senator Manchin, we know from the beginning of the Biden administration, when the vice president went in and did some local interviews trying to pressure Joe Manchin, he doesn't take kindly to that. So I think that speaks to the very quick and very biting response that he gave to the fact that Bernie Sanders put an op-ed in a West Virginia paper.
CABRERA: Right. BASH: And also the fact that Joe Manchin represents a state that
Donald Trump won I think more votes there than any other, except for Wyoming.
And so you have to kind of know your audience. But a lot of this is his posturing right now. But the posturing is going to continue until they can find that middle ground.
CABRERA: Dana Bash, thank you so much.
BASH: Thank you.
CABRERA: Good to see you.
BASH: You too.
CABRERA: Coming up: 16 Americans and one Canadian kidnapped in Haiti. What we know about their condition and what is being done to free them, that's next.