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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Head of TSA Security Fired; Manafort: Trump Won't Hold Grudge if Republicans Distance Themselves; House Speaker Yet to Endorse Trump; Bill Cosby in Court Today; Virginia Governor "Shocked" by FBI Fundraiser Investigation. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired May 24, 2016 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:30:00] RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION & GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Of course, as you mentioned, this is all happening as airports, airlines, and passengers are complaining about those painfully long airport security wait times.
Now, the head of TSA security operations, he made more than $0,000 in bonuses. They paid that to him in $10,000 increment. And that was on top of his base salary of $181,000. So he received all that money. And even after TSA failed to detect fake explosives and weapons 95 percent of the time during those covert testings, he remained in his position. Now, that alone is just a prime example of a broken Washington.
This shake-up happens, of course, just two weeks after members of Congress grilled the head of TSA, Peter Neffenger, about why Kelly Hoggan was getting such a handsome salary and bonuses despite his poor performance.
And on top of all of that, you mentioned the airport security checkpoints. They weren't getting any better either. But when it comes to those long lines, TSA is to blame as well as Congress for not allotting the funding needed to get the staffing levels to where they need to be.
But you asked about those lines. It shows that TSA is serious about reducing airport wait times because, in an internal memo, just what CNN received yesterday, was that they plan on creating a command center. It will be specifically focused on monitoring passenger volume and wait times at airports across the country.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Having to target that quickly and respond to that quickly is the key.
Rene, thank you very much.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good news for Republicans looking to distance themselves from Donald Trump. They can now steer clear without fear of a Twitter insult or the release of their cell phone numbers. The rare permission slips from Team Trump. That's coming up. BOLDUAN: Plus, will a judge take Bill Cosby's sexual assault case to
trial? The decision could come down any moment. We are outside at the courthouse watching this play out just ahead.
[11:36:18] BOLDUAN: For all of those calls for Kumbaya and party unity -- we're talking the Republican side now, not the Democratic side -- that all seems it's going to come with an asterisk. Donald Trump's top campaign adviser is promising vulnerable Senate Republicans that he won't hold a grudge if they choose to distance themselves from him for their own re-election purposes. And this is according to sources inside a closed-door lunch.
BERMAN: And this is according to our senior political reporter, Manu Raju, who coincidentally happens to be on your TV screen right now.
Manu, tell us what went on inside this lunch. Tell us about this message from the Trump team.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: What we're seeing is a studious effort by the Trump campaign to really build trust with Republicans on Capitol Hill. Paul Manafort had a flurry of meetings last week, with everyone from Mike Lee, a Ted Cruz supporter; the House Freedom Caucus, that conservative group; and Republican chief of staffs, who represent Senators.
At that chief of staff lunch, I'm told a Republican aide actually asked Donald Trump's top adviser, said, how are we going to deal with this impact down-ticket? Do whatever we can to help your guys, whether that means if there's an issue that puts your guys in a different position, we'll avoid talking about that, and if you want to completely distance yourself from the Trump campaign, by all means do that. And I was told that was actually received rather warmly. It really shows this effort to build some trust and relationship, ease tensions with the party establishment is paying some dividends. Expect a lot more of that from Paul Manafort and the Trump campaign in the coming days, guys.
BOLDUAN: You were also in Paul Ryan, the House speaker's, press conference today, and he was asked obviously probably every time about all of Donald Trump's issues, all his stances on issues. What did you hear from Paul Ryan today?
RAJU: Well, he actually has not gone and actually endorsed Donald Trump of course yet, and one reason why, Kate, is because they're actually trying to have discussions over policy issues and almost shape Donald Trump's views and make sure he does not step on this house Republican agenda they're drafting right now.
He was asked specifically about this issue of executive power. That's something that a lot of Republicans are concerned about, that Donald Trump has an expansive view of executive power. And Paul Ryan made clear this is a key issue the two sides are discussing right now. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We believe that this president has grossly exceeded his authority. He's not the only president to do that. He's just the most recent president to do it, and he's taken it very, very far. So, yes, this is one of the things that we are in discussion with our presumptive nominee about, which is our steadfast commitment to our principles of self government which is to restore the Constitution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, I can tell you that the views on Capitol Hill about getting behind Donald Trump are split right now. Ryan is not on board yet, and also I talked to Corey Gardner, the Republican Senator from Colorado, yesterday. He's usually very chatty. When I asked him yesterday, will you support Donald Trump? He said call my office. So clearly, folks are all over the map right now. Some are getting on board but not everyone is on that Trump train yet, guys.
BERMAN: Call my office? Wow. That's not very nice.
BOLDUAN: So they insert the ear buds and say, I got a call. I got something.
BERMAN: Manu Raju, thanks so much.
We'll get on the phone with Corey Gardner's office. Let us know what he says.
BOLDUAN: Call my office. Call my office, Berman.
Let's bring in CNN political commentator, Mary Katharine Ham, who is also a senior writer for "The Federalist"; and Matt Schlapp, the former political director for President George W. Bush.
Guys, great to see you.
Manu's reporting is fascinating about what Paul Manafort is saying to these vulnerable Republicans inside this lunch.
What do you think, Mary Katharine? Do you see Republicans distancing themselves?
[11:39:51] MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, I think that will be necessary and that's why the campaign is doing that, because Trump, as we have seen has a tendency to, shall we say, tell it like it is in whatever fashion he deems necessary and having somebody at the top of the ticket who does that puts a lot of these guys in trouble particularly in purple states. That doesn't mean he won't sometimes be helpful to these guys. That's true. To have the campaign say you can distance himself and he's not going to go on a tweet rage against you is helpful to them.
The question is whether it's actually true. Donald Trump may be sitting there with his phone and decide he wants to go on a tweet rage. That's how he works.
BERMAN: He tells it like it is, Mary Katharine.
Matt, I can't tell if this is a distancing moment or not, because the polls have come out showing the race closer than some people might have thought. You see some donors starting to come forward and say, hey, we're OK with Donald Trump. Johnson, a Romney guy, Bush guy, now saw, yeah, Trump, OK by me, here is some money. Do you see movement toward or away from Trump?
MATT SCHLAPP, FORMER POLITICAL DIRECTOR, PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: It is a rapid pace. Lou Eisenberg is the chairman. He's an old standard, wonderfully respected fundraiser and Republican. These donors, these conservative leaders, these activists from across the country, elected officials -- I just spent time with some congressmen this morning on the House side. This is inevitable. He will not get the numbers that previous Republican nominees have gotten in terms of the percentage of Republicans, but he will get very clear it, and at the same time, he will get higher percentages from Independents than anything we've ever seen. So this is a very, very steady move to Trump.
BOLDUAN: Steady. But I mean it's like a head fake in how quickly that has all changed.
BOLDUAN: You had people who said they could never think of sporting him, and now it seems everyone is changing, evolving maybe we should call it.
Mary Katharine, speaking of evolution, Donald Trump is going to be headlining his first fundraiser, something that he slammed other Republicans for doing. The self funder becomes the funder. What do you make of it?
HAM: I think when you become a general election nominee, you have to play a bit more of a conventional game, and he's doing that. The interesting thing about that is whether it touches his brand or not. He's Mr. Outsider. He doesn't play the game. He funds himself. He doesn't have giant, lavish fundraisers with people who he might be beholden to, except he does now. So I think that's the interesting thing here is whether that damages his brand. And, frankly, his campaign -- I'm not sure about him personally. His campaign is paying a pretty conventional general election game here, shoring up support and doing the fundraisers. And the people in Washington frankly are responding in a pretty conventional Washington way, which is falling in line with the machinery of the party. It's not an outsider situation anymore. It looks very different.
BERMAN: Matt, you know, how long -- Paul Ryan, every time he has a weekly briefing, he's going to go there, he's going to get questions about Donald Trump, and at least for the time being, he gives these long-winded answers --
(CROSSTALK) BOLDUAN: Still working on it.
BERMAN: Still working on it. We're in line here. I haven't endorsed yet. How much longer can he do this? Going to go on until November?
SCHLAPP: It doesn't really matter. I will be honest with you. Donald Trump is less than 100 delegates away from clinching this nomination. It's set in, in the psychology of Republicans, that Donald Trump is the nominee, including those even from the never Trump kind of corners, and Paul Ryan, it's inevitable he will support Donald Trump. Corey Gardner will support Donald Trump, and I don't think it's going to be news anymore as Senators and Congressmen endorse him.
I will say Paul Ryan was smart to try to -- look, Donald Trump is a businessman. He's done a lot of business deals. Paul Ryan is leveraging Donald Trump on a conservative agenda, and good for Paul Ryan. There's nothing wrong with doing that.
HAM: Yeah, that's the part that matters. For things like policy issues that you and I care about, that Trump has convinced no care for at all. Ryan should talk to him and should be hard to win over. Many people should be hard to win over. Unfortunately, in this town, when you are at the top of the ticket and you have all the power and money, people are won over very quickly.
BOLDUAN: We're watching that play out in real time.
Mary Katharine Ham, Matt Schlapp, great to see you, guys. Thank you.
SCHLAPP: Thank you.
HAM: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: Also AT THIS HOUR, Bill Cosby is in court and any moment a judge could decide if a sexual assault case against him will go to trial. We're watching that.
[11:44:26] BERMAN: And happening this morning, the high-profile Democratic governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, says he is shocked after CNN broke the story that he is under federal investigation. The FBI looking into past campaign fundraising issues. His side of the story, coming up.
BOLDUAN: Bill Cosby is in a Pennsylvania court today. A pretrial hearing is under way right now to determine whether or not a sexual assault case against him will go forward.
BERMAN: CNN correspondent, Sara Ganim; and CNN legal analyst, Danny Cevallos, outside the courthouse right now.
Sara, explain what this courthouse is about today. SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Of all the women that have come
forward, John, this is the only one in which a criminal case right now is being heard. This is Andrea Constand. She was the former director of the women's basketball team here at Temple University in Montgomery County. This is Cosby's hometown. He was absolutely loved here. And now this is the place where this one criminal case is being heard.
She says that back in 2004, she went over to his house. He handed her some blue pills, and he sexually assaulted her when she was unable to defend herself.
Now, Bill Cosby says this was a consensual act, sexual act, that she consented to, and that's been a key part of his defense today.
My colleague inside the courtroom tells me that the defense attorneys for Bill Cosby will say that she continued to go to his home even after this allegedly occurred, and they say a victim wouldn't behave that way if this was a true sexual encounter.
Now, this is an interesting case, because remember last summer, we were all shocked by that. Bill Cosby said he did get a prescription for Quaaludes to give them to women he wanted to have sex with. This was in a case also to do with Andrea Constand. That was a civil suit, and that was a deposition that he gave in defending himself in her civil suit, which they eventually settled. But now this case, more than almost 12 years later, has been brought before a criminal court. The only case in which Bill Cosby, if this goes to trial, could lead to jail time -- John?
[11:50:49] BOLDUAN: You were inside the courtroom, Danny. What stuck out to you?
DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: What stuck out was, far and away, the most important part of the preliminary hearing was the prosecution's election to not call the primary complainant but to read her statement into the record. The reason this is so significant is that a recent case in Pennsylvania now allows the prosecution to use only hearsay evidence to establish their prima fascia case. Although that case is going up on appeal, and the defense bar is certainly opposing that decision by the superior court.
But remember, today, a preliminary hearing is only about a prima fascia showing, a probable cause showing that it's more likely than not that a crime was committed and that this defendant committed it. So the burden is very slight for the prosecution, and credibility is supposed to not be an issue, but a battleground in the next hours will be whether or not the issue of consent is a credibility issue or if the defense can actually negate consent at a preliminary hearing, which would be an uphill battle, and surely a massive victory if they were able to do it.
BERMAN: I was just going to ask, Danny, how much does the judge have to decide on that issue in order for this case to go forward or not?
CEVALLOS: Time and time today, that defense attorney have heard many times reminding defense counsel, this is a preliminary hearing and by that, the burden, the standard is so much lower that defense attorneys are routinely not allowed to get into matters that are way beyond that prima fascia showing that the prosecution made. The judge today, not surprisingly, reeling in the defense somewhat, but that's to be expected in a preliminary hearing. And the defense is simply engaging in zealous advocacy on behalf of and doing a good job too, I would add.
BOLDUAN: Sara Ganim, Danny Cevallos, you guys are watching it. We're watching what happens in that court. You guys will come out and give it to us as it plays out.
Thanks, guys. We appreciate it.
BERMAN: All right. Developing right now, the Democratic Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe is shocked that his campaign contributions are now under federal investigation, contributions to him. He has denied any wrongdoing and he spoke moments ago.
BOLDUAN: CNN senior news correspondent, Evan Perez, was the first to break this. He's joining us with the latest.
Evan, what are you hearing? What is the very latest right now?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right now, we know that this is an active and ongoing investigation. It goes beyond just the parts of the case that we personally have been able to find out about. And those are looking into the 2013 gubernatorial campaign of Governor McAuliffe and, in particular, we know that investigators have looked at donations. $122,000 in donations that were made by a Chinese businessman, a billionaire Chinese businessman to McAuliffe's campaign.
McAuliffe spoke to reporters a short time ago in Alexandria, across the river from us, and he addressed these allegations. Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TERRY MCAULIFFE, (D), VIRGINIA GOVERNOR: We heard from the CNN yesterday that they were asking about this gentleman. I'm not sure I've even ever met the gentleman. We went back and checked. This man had been fully vetted and clearly had the right. He owns a big company. He's a major donor to Harvard University. He's out on the board of New York University. Very substantial individual.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How many people?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PEREZ: And you hear what he's doing there, focusing on this donation by a businessman by the name of Wang Winyang (ph). And he's right, we did check this out. We did the reporting on this and we found that according to his representatives and as far as we could tell, he does have a valid U.S. green card, which would mean that his donations to his campaign would be legal.
We do know this is still an ongoing investigation. We do not know what else the FBI and the Public Integrity Section of the Justice Department are looking at but I can tell you, it's an active ongoing investigation that goes beyond this one donation -- guys?
BERMAN: Evan, we've got about 20 seconds left. You said you're not sure what investigated, but the illegality, alleged illegality, would be what, exactly?
[11:55:19] PEREZ: Well, in this investigation, it would have to do with campaign violations which could be a felony or something that would simply result in fines. That depends on the severity of the case. These are taken very seriously but they're notoriously hard cases to make -- John?
BOLDUAN: And still a lot more to learn exactly about what they're all looking into, as you're pointing to, Evan.
Thank you. Amazing reporting as always, Evan. Thanks.
BERMAN: Bernie Sanders says democracy is messy, and preparing for a messy convention, but his campaign manager insists messy is a going thing. Messy, messy. How is this messy mess going to go over with Democrats? That's coming up.
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