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Trump Walks Back Giuliani's Stormy Payment Story; Trump Would Love To Meet With Mueller Lawyers Advise Against It; Manafort Accuses Mueller's Prosecutors Of Trying To "Get" Trump. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired May 4, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. I'll be straight up today. I have no idea what the president means. That can apply to many days, of course, but especially today. After his new attorney Rudy Giuliani went on tv and laid out that the president had reimbursed Michael Cohen for the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels, that same president now says that same Giuliani didn't get his facts straight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Rudy knows it is a witch-hunt. He started yesterday. He'll get his facts straight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Trump also said it is everyone else's fault essentially for talking about all this despite his own triple tweet on the very topic yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, when did you --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When did you change your story on Stormy Daniels?
TRUMP: We're not changing any story. What I'm telling you is this country is right now running so smooth. And to be bringing up that kind of crap and to bring up witch hundred hunts all the time, that's all you want to talk about -- excuse me, excuse me. You take a look at what I said. You go back and take a look. You'll see what I said.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: So, where does that leave us today? With simple things like the truth and facts? Let's try to figure it out. CNN's Jeff Zeleny is at the White House for us. Jeff, what just happened?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, I think what just happened is the president clearly certainly, you know, had some pent-up frustration. He's been watching news coverage of this as we know, and he clearly wanted to talk. You can tell by the look in his eye when he was walking out of the White House about an hour or so ago.
We shouted questions, I frankly didn't think he would answer them. White House aides signaled that he might not answer, but boy, did he. Clearly wanting to clear things up, but in the process once again, seemed to confuse things.
So, sorting through all of that, he threw Rudy Giuliani under the bus, said he just started yesterday, that's not true. He's been on the legal team for a couple of weeks or so. And it certainly goes against what the president suggested just yesterday that Rudy Giuliani was, you know, happy with his performance.
We have seen this before multiple times, Kate. The president says he's happy with someone, happy with something, and then he watches the news coverage of it and then changes his mind.
So, I'll be waiting to hear from Rudy Giuliani to see what statement he'll be releasing. The president said that Rudy will be releasing a statement, so presumably to try and clear something up.
But the most interesting thing, I think, Kate, the president is saying he didn't change his story on Stormy Daniels. And then pressing that reporter there, who, you know, who actually was the same reporter, Catherine Lucy, from the "Associated Press," who asked him that question a month ago on Air Force One, did you know about the payment? He said no.
So, the president clearly trying to again dismiss this as a witch- hunt, but not answering any of the specifics here about if he changed his story. So, we have some frustration boiling over the president, clearly wanting to address this himself. Kate, again, I think as many questions now, as we had earlier, just different ones.
BOLDUAN: Honestly, I said it yesterday, I'm going to say it again today, we know less today than we did yesterday. Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much. It's great to see you.
Joining me now to try to make sense of it, Mark Preston, CNN senior political analyst, Doug Heye, CNN political commentator and former communications director for the Republican National Committee, and Julie Pace, CNN political analyst and Washington bureau chief for the "Associated Press."
Hey, guys. OK, Mark, what do you make of Donald Trump saying Giuliani just started, and he will eventually get his facts straight?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, because what he is seeing is that he's seeing this story going in a direction that he was not looking for it to go. From what we understand, that Donald Trump told Rudy Giuliani to go out and make comments. After which, spoke to him, thought he did a good job.
As you see with the narrative on this story right now, it hasn't been good for President Trump. That's why we're seeing President Trump go out and at least pretend to address the situation.
Because he didn't answer us at all by going on camera and attacking the media is something that works well with his base and I think that's just what we saw transpire.
BOLDUAN: Right. But, and a big but, Doug, Rudy just started and wasn't totally familiar with everything. Should people accept that nonexplanation explanation because Dana Bash very perfectly as always reminds me that Rudy Giuliani told her that he coordinated carefully and spoke with Donald Trump before and after his appearances on Hannity.
DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure. You know, as a former communications staffer, I know the worst thing that a communications director or press secretary can say privately is what do you mean he knew all along?
And it is always a problem, if that's what you have to go out and defend, whether you're the press secretary or then if you're a counselor to the president as we saw with Rudy Giuliani where we know that they spent a lot of time working on this.
[11:05:10] So, we know that one of two things happened, either Rudy Giuliani didn't know what he was talking about, which is its own problem, or he did and then it blew up in everybody's face, which is a situation that I think is probably a lot more likely here.
Either way, it is a real problem for the White House because it means that we continue to focus on this. We're not focusing on the good jobs report from this morning where the president could take a lot of credit for things.
It also means that the White House is going to have further explaining and this story will continue to shift in different machinations, which is only negative for the White House.
BOLDUAN: I honestly think it's even larger than that. Forget that it's == it has the media focused on something other than the good news that the president could be talking about, Julie. There is a real problem here with truth and fact at this very moment.
Either Rudy Giuliani is telling the truth or Donald Trump is telling the truth or Michael Cohen is telling the truth on a pretty important thing that is real legal fallout and also political fallout. I don't know which one to believe, not that I expect you to exactly know, but I would love your insight and expertise.
JULIE PACE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, you're right. I mean, one of the problems with the president's attempts to clean this up this morning is that he just muddied it further. He says Rudy Giuliani didn't have all the facts, but we don't know specifically what he's referring to there.
So, we still don't know whose version of events the White House is going to lay out as what they will insist is the real version of events. But this is what happens when you have an administration that for more than a year has found themselves in similar situations where a story keeps changing.
We have seen this happen with the story about Rob Porter, a staffer who was ultimately -- was ultimately forced to leave the White House because of allegation of spousal abuse. We have seen this in so many different situations where you just can't take the White House or the president's own version of events as fact. It leaves them with a real credibility gap.
BOLDUAN: Mark, the president also said, we played this for you, basically puts it on everyone else, the country is going great and you guys keep bringing up this kind of crap, bringing up witch-hunts all the time.
I mean, the fact is that Giuliani is the one who brought this up as part of -- as we now know a carefully coordinated strategy that he planned with the president from as we learned from Dana.
Donald Trump tweeted about this three times yesterday. Rudy Giuliani told Dana Bash also in his conversation with her that you're not going to see any daylight between me and the president. They're the ones that are pushing this or am I just simply going crazy?
PRESTON: Well, Kate, I think you're crazy anyway, but that's something that is entirely different through this discussion. We can talk afterwards. But, no, I mean, the fact of the matter is, is that this was a strategy that they thought they could pull off and it didn't work.
BOLDUAN: This is what I'm trying to figure out. When did they figure that out that it didn't work? Just because --
PRESTON: I think by last night. Donald Trump or certainly by midafternoon. Donald Trump realized this didn't go this is the way I wanted it to go so this is how I'm going to play it.
Now one big thing was said today that is going to become perhaps the next deflection point away from the story is that President Trump said we're going to have details soon about where North Korea and South Korea and I are going to meet to try to put together a deal.
Expect that to come out in the next couple of hours I bet because that will be a huge story that the White House will hope overrides the screwup basically by Rudy Giuliani.
BOLDUAN: And I have faith in everyone and all of the intrepid reporters all over the country that everyone can walk and chew gum at the same time, still try to seek out fact and truth on this and talk about the date and location of another important meeting that the president will be having. Doug Heye, if you were Sarah Sanders, do you call in sick today?
HEYE: Well, at some point that's what you have to think of. Look, Sarah and a lot of folks in the administration are very skilled at what I would call the George Costanza maxim, it is not a lie if you believe it. We have seen that time and time again and they've been able to make that work for them. The problem is we don't know within its own White House, communications team, legal team, who believes what anymore and that's a real problem, not just for their own credibility, but ultimately for the credibility of their boss moving forward.
BOLDUAN: Julie, do you think the president -- the president likes to intentionally muddy the waters. We know that he did that during the campaign as well. But yesterday the question was kind of is the president giving the full story or is the president keeping his press secretary in the dark and I guess now we can add to the question today, is the president keeping his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani in the dark too?
PACE: Well, you're right, the president has used this strategy for decades in his business life, his private life, he'll give multiple versions of events, he'll have different -- he'll shade the truth when he feels like he needs to.
It is a much different thing to do that as president. It certainly is a much different thing to do that when you are telling someone like the press secretary who is your chosen spokesperson who has to go out and disseminate a message to the world on your behalf.
[11:10:07] And press secretaries will sometimes cut themselves off specifically from certain pieces of information, so they can credibly go out and say I don't know. But there is a strategy to that.
Sometimes you want to be able to go out and say, you know, I don't know the answer to that question or I'm not aware of that level of detail. The problem that Sarah Sanders has found herself in, though, is that she will often get information from the president, pass it on and then it is found to be not true.
That's a really difficult situation and when you have the press secretary and the legal team, both ending up in those kind of circumstances, it just creates a mess. We don't know what the long- term legal implications for the president will be, but certainly just as a political strategy and a communications strategy, it is deeply flawed.
BOLDUAN: Great to see you guys, thanks so much.
All right. Coming up, President Trump says he would love to speak with Robert Mueller, but his lawyers won't let him. That's what he said. Did Donald Trump just take one big step further away from ever sitting down with the special counsel today?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I would love to speak. I would love to go. Nothing I want to do more. We did nothing wrong. We ran a great campaign. We won easily. We won that easily, 306 to 223. We won it easily. That was a great victory. That was a great day for this country.
We just had new job numbers out. We broke 4, 3.9 percent. I would love to go. I would love to speak, but I have to find that we're going to be treated fairly. Wait, wait. I have to find that we're going to be treated fairly because everybody sees it now, and it is a pure witch-hunt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: President Trump getting some things off his chest this morning. At one point insisting that he wants to talk to Special Counsel Robert Mueller as you heard there, nothing he would love more, actually. But he also says his lawyers are advising against it. I wonder why so now what?
Joining me right now, Jim Schultz is here, CNN legal commentator, former attorney in the Trump White House, and Jennifer Rodgers, former federal prosecutor, now a lecturer at Columbia Law School. Great to have you both here. Jennifer, do you believe that Donald Trump wants nothing more than to speak to Robert Mueller?
JENNIFER RODGERS, LECTURER, COLUMBIA LAW SCHOOL: Well, I'm inclined to doubt it because, you know, this is kind of what he said about the tax returns as well. I would be happy to release my tax returns, but my lawyers say that I can't. You know, he doesn't want to sit down with them.
That interview was full of peril for him. Everyone is telling him that, but this way he gets to have his cake and eat it too. He says I love to do it, I want to clear the air, they won't allow me to.
BOLDUAN: And Jim, again, we hear from the president that the Mueller team is all Democrats, and let's not get into it, because we already discussed a lot of that, we all know that Mueller is a Republican and everyone also respects what he has done.
That is a political argument, though, we know, and could be an effective one that we have heard from him before. But do you think this, when the president says that now, is the beginning of what he hopes is a legal argument in the case of a subpoena?
JIM SCHULTZ, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: No, I don't. I think the president's message is consistent with what Giuliani said over the weekend. When Giuliani came out over the weekend, he started talking about scope and he started talking about time as it related to the questions.
And I think this is -- and then the president today, talked about fairness, which echoed what Giuliani said over the weekend. So, I think Giuliani started out very strong as it related to the Mueller investigation over the weekend.
Now, that tailed off a little bit with the Hannity interview in terms of the communication strategy. But I think over the weekend, he started out very strong and starting to send a message to the Mueller team that this needs to be negotiated and we're not just going to have it your way.
BOLDUAN: So, if he's on message, if there is no daylight between the two men, Jennifer, when it comes to the perspective on sitting down with Mueller, what about what we are seeing when it comes to the Stormy Daniels situation?
I mean, you got Giuliani going out there and Giuliani going out there, of course, and now Trump saying that don't worry, just started, doesn't have his facts all straight, if that were you and your client said that about you, what would you think?
RODGERS: Well, there is a lot of chaos going on right now with this communications situation. What I do know is that the prosecutors are only happy about all of this because if they decide to delve in this issue and really look at whether there is a campaign finance violation here, they're going to go under all of this.
They're going to find out who knew what, when, how these payments actually happened, what the purpose actually was. And all of these inconsistent comments only help them, it tells them what the defense is, and you know, it gives them some fodder and ammunition when it comes time to charge if that's what they decide to do.
BOLDUAN: And it's not just Donald Trump, Jim, that is speaking out this morning. Giuliani also apparently speaking out again this morning, Giuliani saying that Trump didn't know that's what the money was for until he showed them the paper work about a week ago and that Trump's response was, oh, my goodness, I guess that's what it was for. Do you believe him?
SCHULTZ: I think yesterday I would imagine Giuliani got called in and someone spoke with him, maybe the president, maybe someone else, and said, look, you got to get your facts straight here and you have to tell the story in a way that answers questions. A lot of this -- a lot of what Giuliani did just raise more questions, which goes back to the point you made, Jennifer, about the prosecutors having more questions.
Look, they're going to find out all that information anyway. They've subpoenaed Michael Cohen's records, all of that is going to come to light. But the fact of the matter is if effective communications strategy is to be employed here, they got to get the facts right and disperse information that answers questions.
BOLDUAN: The president also had this to say about the issue of obstruction of justice, Jennifer. He said, there is no collusion, no obstruction, and he says there is a funny thing, if you fight back because you people say something wrong or they say something wrong or they leak, which they have been doing, says the president, if you fight back, they say that's obstruction of justice.
[11:20:06] RODGERS: Well, you know, the prosecutors aren't really concerned with the president's definition of obstruction, lucky for us it is actually defined in the federal statute. So, you know, that's really just, you know, not much of anything other than the president trying to get his message out to the voters. BOLDUAN: Jim, even before the president undercut Giuliani today, which he did, for sure, in some regard, do you think Giuliani is helping the president? I think what I'm getting for you is no. The amount of -- the number of reporters that he's speaking with and the number of details that he's offering up.
SCHULTZ: I think he helped them a lot over the weekend as it related to the questioning by Mueller. I think that was the right tactic to take over the weekend. I think they need to get their facts straight going forward. Giuliani could be a tremendous mouthpiece for this legal team.
Let's not forget, Emmet Flood is just coming on the scene. He's a guy that say true legal strategist, very good legal mind, has very good knowledge of the special counsel laws, he's got to be calling some of the plays here and Giuliani needs to be executing on those plays based upon his quarterback.
BOLDUAN: I would love to see the playbook, seriously, for how it changes day by day. Stand by. We're getting some new information, breaking news coming in, we're following the hearing, we're hearing the hearing of Paul Manafort, a hearing he was in court today, he hoped to convince a federal judge to dismiss one of the charges against him.
CNN's Jessica Schneider has been following all this. She has breaking news coming up in the hearing. So, what do we know right now, Jessica?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, very interesting turn of events in this hearing for this motion to dismiss. It turns out the federal judge in this case, in the eastern district of Virginia, issued a reprimand of sorts to the special counsel's team.
Of course, this was all unfolding over the past hour. And what happened is this federal court judge, he was a Ronald Reagan appointee back in the '80s, but he said this to the special counsel when casting doubt over the special counsel's probe of Paul Manafort and all of the charges that have resulted against Paul Manafort.
So, he said this, he said, "You don't really care about Mr. Manafort's bank fraud" and then the judge continued saying this was really a way for the special counsel to get at the president himself.
Going forward saying that you want to know what could provide and lead to Trump's prosecution or impeachment? That's what you're really interested in. This is the first time we heard a federal judge really kind of lash out and maybe slap the special counsel's team on the wrist here.
This is all emanating from many charges that Paul Manafort is now facing. He's facing dual indictments, one in Virginia, Washington, D.C. What is interesting here is that this hearing today was all about this motion to dismiss. Paul Manafort's team said, look, the special counsel has been overreaching here. They had a mandate to look into potential meddling of the Russians in the 2016 election and all of these charges are not even anything to do with the campaign. You can see Paul Manafort here, leaving court, no doubt his legal team has to be feeling a little bit good after this federal court judge did reprimand the special counsel, potentially for overreaching.
Saying that they're just going after Paul Manafort to get eventually at the president here. So, Kate, some very important and really what could be monumental words by this federal court judge as we move forward in this Paul Manafort case -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Fascinating. Jessica, thanks so much for bringing that to us. Fortunately, we still have Jim and Jennifer still here. Jennifer, what is your reaction to that?
RODGERS: Well, it is extraordinary. I mean, you rarely see that kind of rebuke from a federal judge. So, we'll have to see how it plays out. The Virginia case, to me, I'm kind of surprised that it happened there if anywhere.
That case was -- a mortgage fraud case, a bank fraud case, fairly clear cut that these, you know, there is good cause to believe the crimes were committed. They have a lot of evidence in this case, so they have a lot of evidence in this case.
So, to choose -- this is the platform to say this is some sort of an illegitimate prosecution is a little bit of a surprise to me. But, you know, and I should also say that the standards for finding that someone is being prosecuted improperly are very high, but we'll have to see how it plays out.
BOLDUAN: Jim, your reaction to what came out of the courtroom today?
SCHULTZ: I think we saw last week and the week before, this issue playout in the civil proceeding and Manafort's team got slapped down on that. I think this week you see a federal judge in the criminal proceeding looking at this in a different way and saying, OK, is the special counsel's office operating within the scope of their authority? And I think that -- he's raising that question and admonishing the team as -- and giving them something to think about.
BOLDUAN: Never a dull moment, my goodness. Stay close to it. Jim, Jennifer, thanks so much. I really appreciate it. Fascinating fast- moving developments today.
Coming up for us, how tough is the president willing to be on gun control? We've heard a lot on the subject from him since the shooting in Parkland, Florida. Which side will he see tonight?
[11:25:09] Which side will the country see tonight of President Trump when he speaks at the NRA convention? Live pictures from the convention right now. We'll go there.
BOLDUAN: President Trump right now heading to speak at the National Rifle Association's annual convention. This is obviously the first NRA convention since that horrific school shooting in Parkland, Florida. So, which President Trump will show up tonight? That has been a real question if you followed his position on gun regulation since he's taken office. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Bump stocks, we're writing that out. I'm writing that out myself. I don't care if Congress does it or not. I'm writing it out myself.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Mr. President, it will have to be you that brings the Republicans to the table on this. Right now, the gun lobby would stop it in its tracks.
TRUMP: I like that responsibility, Chris. I do. I think it is time. It is time that a president stepped up.