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Flynn Pleads Guilty to Lying to FBI; Trump Endorses Moore; Reconciling Tax Bills; Trump "Feels Bad" For Flynn; Trump on FBI. Aired 8:30-9a ET
Aired December 4, 2017 - 08:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:32:29] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D) CALIFORNIA: I think what we're beginning to see is the putting together of a case of obstruction of justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, that's Senator Dianne Feinstein, top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying that they are developing an obstruction of justice case against the president. And that gets tricky, right, because obstruction of justice is a crime. And if it were to be pursued as such, that would be the realm of the special council, not Congress.
But where's this all coming from? Michael Flynn's guilty plea. The president says that the White House is very happy that there is no collusion with Russia, and he sees that coming out of Flynn pleading guilty.
Let's talk about that now with former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo.
It's good to have you. Merry Christmas to you and your family if I don't speak to you before then.
MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Thanks, Chris. Merry Christmas to you and yours.
CUOMO: All right. So the concern is if the president knew that Flynn lied to the FBI when he went to Jim Comey and said I hope you can see your way clear of letting this guy go, that would be in violation of his duty to see the faithful execution of law. And adds to an understanding that maybe this was obstruction of justice. Defend.
CAPUTO: Well, I think obstruction of justice, you have to prove both falsification and concealment. And we know that there are members of Mueller's team who have far overreached on -- for example, on Arthur Anderson ,trying to prove obstruction, ended up destroying a company and -- with 85,000 employees and it was overturned later on.
This is a very sticky wicket, not just for Donald Trump, but also for Mueller's team. And if we're going to be, you know, taking apart these tweets that are coming out, obviously tweets about ongoing cases are pretty inadvisable.
CUOMO: Well, ill-advised for the president to tweet about this, but he did. And, again, just to stick with the facts on it, do you think he knew that Flynn lied to the FBI when he went to Jim Comey?
CAPUTO: No, I don't. I mean I'm looking at the timeline and looking what Don McGahn briefed the president on and the things that appeared in "The Washington Post" today.
I know there are a lot of people out there that are looking for a smoking gun anywhere they can get it. And if it comes from a tweet that the president's attorney/adviser drafted for him, I think it's going to make it difficult for them to prove this in a court of law.
But, you know, this isn't -- we know now, especially with the Flynn charges, that there is no Russian collusion being alleged anymore. It's all about obstruction. He's the fourth Trump campaign official, the second high ranking one, who's been out there and accused of crimes. And there's not one word of Russian collusion.
[08:35:11] I think that's what the president has been looking at. That's what I've been looking at. But obstruction, of course, is a sticky wicket, and this is going to go forward, I think, as an obstruction investigation.
CUOMO: Well, you need to know more on the collusion piece because these efforts to affect Russia's disposition towards sanctions and what may have been said and who was involved, that could go specifically to collusion. I'm using that word intentionally, by the way. A lot of people use it for the wrong reasons. Collusion is not a crime. It is an activity. It is a type of cooperation that could lead to illegality. But it's an early step on that.
The reason I ask you of whether or not you think Flynn -- that Trump knew about Flynn lying to the FBI is because his own lawyer thinks he knew. John Dowd says in "The Washington Post" today, he said it on the Sunday show, that information was passed to Trump by White House Counsel Dom McGhan and he says that the president knew weeks before he did the Comey meeting.
So, let's put your opinion to the side. His lawyer says he knew. How does that change the analysis?
CAPUTO: I'm not quite sure how it changes the analysis. I'm not an attorney. I don't know that Dowd is correct on that. We're hearing mixed reports out of the White House if (INAUDIBLE) --
CUOMO: Why would you go to Comey and ask him to let a guy go who had lied to the FBI? Why would you do that as president?
CAPUTO: Well, I think -- I mean, listen, you -- I'm looking far and wide for cases where an elected official went to the chief of police and said, oh, can you take it easy on my guy and we'll --
CUOMO: Mike, let me stop you for one second. We'll get back to this.
CAPUTO: But, Chris --
CUOMO: No, no, no, no, I'm not stopping you because I don't like what you're saying. The president spoke. I want people to hear it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, and others have wanted to be done for many, many years. It will be one of the great really events in this country in a long time. So important for states' rights and so important for the people of Utah. And I know a lot of you are coming out with me. We'll have plenty of time to talk.
The stock market, I think, is going to have a very big day based on the massive tax cuts that we're very much in the process of getting approved. But based on the vote we had last week, the stock market has been reacting unbelievably well. The only thing that hurts it is the fake news. And there's plenty of that.
So, we're heading out to Utah again. I know you're coming with me, a lot of you. We'll have plenty of time to talk today. Thank you.
TRUMP: Well, I feel badly for General Flynn. I feel very badly. He's led a very strong life. And I feel very badly, John. I will say this, Hillary Clinton lied many times to the FBI. Nothing happened to her. Flynn lied, and they destroyed his life. I think it's a shame.
Hillary Clinton, on the Fourth of July weekend, went to the FBI, not under oath. It was the most incredible thing anyone's ever seen. She lied many times. Nothing happened to her. Flynn lied and it's like -- they ruined his live. It's very unfair. Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: All right. All right.
So, Mike, I'll bring you balk. That's why I was cutting you off. It wasn't that I was checking your point, is that we wanted people to hear the president of the United States.
CUOMO: And, again, instructive to the point that we were discussing. The president saying, I feel bad about Flynn. You know, Hillary lied a lot. You know, that's his opinion, by the way. There's no demonstrable lie to the FBI except what happened about whether or not there were classified e-mails. And even that Comey had to back off the idea that she had lied about what classified e-mails were being used on that server. So that's the president's opinion.
But it still leads us back to motivation and why he went to Comey even if he knew that Flynn lied. It seems like he's making his own case with the words coming out of his mouth, yes, I knew he lied and I don't care because I don't think all lies are equal. Now, if that's what was going through his head when he went to Jim Comey, do you think that he put himself in a little bit more legal jeopardy because why you decide to help -- why you get rid of Comey is relevant to the special counsel?
CAPUTO: Well, I think any previous president would probably take the advice of his counselors and not talk about ongoing legal cases that could come back to the White House. But this is a different kind of president. Previous presidents might not have even used Twitter. And now this president is.
You know, most of my friends who are in the White House, those of us who are outside who watch the Twitter feed, just like you do, you know, sometimes it makes us pretty nervous. But this president is very different and I think he feels confident in his position in his legal case and he's not as concerned as we are. I get that.
But the problem we have here is this. The lawyer, Dowd, apparently drafted a tweet that was, you know, worded poorly. The president has said that he fired General Flynn for lying to the vice president. And we also have known for 11 months, 11 months, from a "New York Times" leak 11 months ago that General Flynn very likely flied to the FBI.
[08:40:08] These charges that came down against General Flynn have been long, long, long expected. And I think we're just seeing the advancement of this investigation. And it looks like that Mueller is moving forward resolutely.
CUOMO: Lying to Pence and lying to the FBI are very different.
CAPUTO: They are.
CUOMO: We've known the Pence story for a long time. We did not know that Flynn lied to the FBI and that the president may have known that.
CAPUTO: No, there was a leak to "The New York Times" about him lying to the FBI, very likely lied to the FBI. That's been out there for quite some time.
CUOMO: But a single report, you know, you got to see it when it comes out in the form of action by the special counsel. Then you know it.
CUOMO: You know, the old expression for lawyers, you only know what you show. You know, Mueller just showed his hand on Flynn to an extent. And with Dowd, I don't care if he drafted the tweet or not. I know, you know, people can -- can go with that either way they want. He said on the show that Trump knew that Flynn had lied to the FBI. That clouds the picture of why he went to Jim Comey. Whether or not he likes to talk on Twitter is besides the point, Michael. It's what he says.
CAPUTO: Right. Right. You know, Twitter is a jealous mistress. I mean no one knows better than me, Chris. It's a -- it's a tough place to do your business. But the president -- CUOMO: Right, but I'm saying it's -- who cares. He chooses it. And it's what he says. They're official statements out of the White House.
CUOMO: I don't care if he's using semaphore. It's the same thing. Twitter's not an excuse for this, it's just his chosen medium. He's the one who's saying these things.
CAPUTO: I get that. And I think that tweets necessarily complicate the investigation and make things more difficult for the White House. But there's an up side and there's a down side. I'm confident that the president's going to come out the other end of this thing not being found guilty of obstruction. Obstruction requires falsification and concealment. I'm not an attorney, but I think that's a high climb for the Mueller team. What I'm -- what I'm proud of now is that we all know from these charges against General Flynn is that there is no Russian collusion, no one's been charged or even discussed it and we're moving into another area of the investigation.
CUOMO: I don't know how you say that. How can you be so confident of that?
CAPUTO: Because the allegations against General Flynn all took place during the transition. You can't collude on an election that had happened 45 days before.
CUOMO: But the timing will be relevant, obviously. You're talking about The Logan Act and whether or not you had a private citizen negotiating on the behalf of the United States. And that's something that is rarely been enforced anyway. And there is certain politics and practicalities during the transition.
But I don't know why you're so quick to say that there is no collusion when now you know for a fact -- we're watching the president exit the copper there at Joint Base Andrews. He's now walking along with a military official. We'll see where he's going, what he's doing. Obviously, your screen will tell you Trump's on his way to Utah for a speech, the monuments there and the abbreviation of the definitions of those monuments and what that's being done very much in the news.
Final question to you. .Let's switch topics here. We'll see what they have on collusion. We're not going to solve that now.
CUOMO: He came out and endorsed Roy Moore this morning. And it seems to be about practicality over the moral agency that's involved in that election. Are you comfortable with the president saying Roy Moore's our guy?
CAPUTO: Yes, I'm comfortable with it. I -- Roy Moore wasn't my first or my second choice in the Alabama primary. But we know how that 71- plus percent of Alabama Republicans think the charges against the judge are false. This is up to the people of Alabama. Not to the Washington establishment and not even to the president of the United States. But I think the president and others around him in the Senate and in the House realize that the practicality of another Republican vote, loyal to the president, far outweighs these allegations, which came in at the last minute in an election. And it's something -- I always discount anything that -- any accusations against a candidate in the final weeks of a campaign.
CUOMO: Michael Caputo, appreciate you're take. Thank you for being on NEW DAY.
CAPUTO: Thank you.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Chris, it's time for "CNN Money Now." The House and Senate tax bills differ on some major points. What does that mean for you?
Chief business correspondent Christine Romans is here to fill us in.
What do you see, Christine.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONNDENT: Well, look, what Congress decides will be felt by taxpayers in every corner of the economy. A lot depends on the fate of the Obamacare mandate and there are other wrinkles to get through here. The first and foremost, the House has four income tax brackets, one, two, three, four, ,the Senate has seven and lowers most rates, including that rate for the top.
The Senate keeps some popular tax breaks that the House kills. We're talking about mortgage interest deduction, medical expenses and student loans. Grad students have been really worried here about their tax bill. They fare better under the Senate plan than the House.
Big, permanent corporate tax cuts are the cornerstone of both of these versions. Make no mistake, with no guarantee it will add t jobs or raise wages. Let's zero in on the Senate bill. A score from Congress itself finds winners and losers in every tax bracket and the losers grow over time.
[08:45:01] For example, for Americans making the median income, 81 percent get a tax cut in 2019. But by the year 2027, only 14 percent still have a tax cut. And a fourth, a fourth of those middle income taxpayers will pay more. The biggest tax cuts go to the top earners.
Other tax goodies for the top, repealing the AMT. The estate tax, also repealing that. Preserving the carried interest deduction. That's mainly used by hedge fund and private equity managers and real estate developers.
So, Chris, the criticism from Democrats and frankly from many economists about this, this is definitely corporate tax reform, corporate tax cuts, less so on the individual side, unless you're rich.
CUOMO: But it's being sold as the best deal for the middle class that they've gotten in a long time. Christine Romans, thank you for keeping us up on the facts.
ROMANS: You're welcome.
CUOMO: The president venting his frustrations about the FBI and Justice Department on Twitter. What does he gain by undermining institutions of our democracy? The potential fallout, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I feel badly for General Flynn I feel very badly. He's led a very strong life. And I feel very badly, John.
I will say this, Hillary Clinton lied many times to the FBI. Nothing happened to her. Flynn lied, and they destroyed his life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[08:50:05] CAMEROTA: All right, that was President Trump speaking out moments ago about Michael Flynn's guilty plea. He called it unfair.
This comes as the president launches an extraordinary assault on the FBI in a series of tweets saying the bureau's reputation is in, quote, tatters.
So let's bring in our guest to discuss all of this. We have CNN's senior national security analyst Lisa Monaco. She was special counsel Robert Mueller's chief of staff when he was the FBI director. We also have Mike Rogers, CNN national security commentator and former House Intel chairman. He did six years with the FBI. So you guys are the perfect people to talk about all of these things.
Lisa, let me start with you.
You just heard the president say that he feels badly for Mike Flynn. He immediately then pivoting, as he will do, to Hillary Clinton. How do you think we should be looking at these Michael Flynn developments?
LISA MONACO, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY ANSLYST: Well, Alisyn, the plea that was taken by Michael Flynn on Friday is an example of the speed and the substance with which the Mueller special counsel investigation is moving. What the prosecutors now have, in the form of a cooperator in Michael Flynn, is basically a personal tour guide for the prosecution and for its investigation going forward. Michael Flynn being the senior most individual in the campaign, in the transition, and in the beginning days of the White House, he can provide a lot of insight and a lot more information to the prosecutors as they continue their investigation.
There's been a lot of focus on the fact that he pled to one count of false statements.
CAMEROTA: Yes. MONACO: But that does not, by any stretch, represent the full information that he has admitted to already, or that he can, and probably already has, provided to the prosecutors.
CAMEROTA: Mike, how do you see it? I mean I think that's an interesting personal tour guide approach. I think that helps us get our minds around it. But he has to know something. And based on the looming charges that are bigger than the one count that he pled guilty to, it does seem as though Robert Mueller thinks that Mike Flynn holds the key to things. How do you see it?
MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. I mean, again, this was somebody that was pretty instrumental both in the campaign and then after the election in the transition of the president -- Donald Trump into the Barack Obama administration.
So what's important about this is if you look at that. So what happens before you get to that plea deal is the FBI folks and the DOJ folks will sit in a room and say, guess what, it's not just about this. You have to tell us everything that you know. If you want this deal, you have to tell us everything. We have other charges we can charge you with. And it appears, by all the comments that were made surrounding it, that maybe his family members may have been implicated as well. All of that can go away if you give us full cooperation. That full cooperation has to be robust. So before he signed that deal, I guarantee you they got a layout of what he could provide in that time he was with the transition after the election and in the time he was with the campaign prior to the election. That's clearly what the investigators were interested in --
ROGERS: In those conversations. And saying that it was a more senior person certainly implicates other folks that are probably in the White House today.
CAMEROTA: Hey, Lisa, I want to read to you this tweet that has become problematic about what Donald Trump sent out this weekend about why he fired General Flynn. He said, I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful .There was nothing to hide.
That, as you know, has become problematic because the president wasn't supposed to know that he -- that Flynn had lied to the FBI or that that wasn't supposed to be the rationale for firing him. So now President Trump's lawyer has said, oh, actually that was my tweet. I sent that out. I worded that. I sent that out. It wasn't the president.
If it was the president's lawyer, then no harm done and this tweet goes away and it's not problematic?
MONACO: No, absolutely not. I think that even if Dowd was the one to author the tweet and, you know, look, this is the statement of president's defense counsel, he's going to make a whole bunch of statements that he thinks are going to be in his client's interests. Regardless of who authored it, this now opens up a whole new avenue, I would imagine, for Mueller and his team to try and figure out, OK, who was the author of that tweet? Is there any information to corroborate the Dowd story that he's the one who authored it.
But the other thing, Alisyn, to remember is, the -- as a legal matter, it -- when it comes to obstruction, the president does not have to have known that Flynn lied. Obstruction requires knowing that an investigation exists and taking steps to impede it. But, regardless, this -- this statement over the weekend certainly is going to be problematic down the line.
CAMEROTA: OK, Mike, last, I want to read to you yesterday Donald Trump's tweet, nobody's disputing that he authored this one, and it's about the FBI. After years of Comey, with all of the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation and more, running the FBI, its reputation is in tatters. Worst in history, exclamation point.
[08:55:04] What do you think about the president saying -- you know, going after his top criminal justice agency?
ROGERS: Well, candidly, I think it verges on dangerous. You have FBI agents who are chasing violent criminals today around the country. They're chasing child pornographers today. They're chasing spies operating in the United States today and white collar criminals. And the list is pretty long. And terrorism. They're trying to stop terrorism in the United States.
The FBI's credibility is at -- on the line every time an FBI agent shows up and opens up their credentials and introduces themselves as part of an organization that is respected around the world. And to have a president diminish that organization, I think, is absolutely crazy.
And the president -- this is where the president needs to start to understand that this is a little bit bigger than yourself in this case. I mean, the drama credit card of this administration is over its limits. You cannot continue to ramp up these, I think, pejorative attacks on America's institutions that we will need when the president is here, and when the president is gone. These are really important. The men and women of the FBI, I think, deserve a lot better than this.
CAMEROTA: There you go.
Mike Rogers, Lisa Monaco, thank you very much. Great to have both of you with us.
CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow and John Berman is going to pick up after this very quick break.
[09:00:13] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, good morning, everyone. Top of the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow.