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THE SITUATION ROOM
Former Stormy Daniels Lawyer Michael Avenatti Indicted on 36 Counts; Trump Touts Ties with Kim Jong-un Hours After Dictator Threatens "Telling Blow"; Interview With Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA); WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Facing Extradition To U.S. On Conspiracy Charge After Dramatic Arrest In London; Rod Rosenstein Tells Wall Street Journal Attorney General Barr is Being As Forthcoming As He Can On Mueller Report. Aired on 6-7p ET
Aired April 11, 2019 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: It's not my thing. President Trump denies knowing anything about WikiLeaks, despite repeatedly praising it on the campaign trail, where he called WikiLeaks fascinating, a treasure trove, and said -- quote -- "I love WikiLeaks."
Show Barr. The president is backing William Barr, now facing blistering backlash over his controversial claim that the Trump campaign was spied on, an unsubstantiated allegation which the president calls absolutely true. Was Barr's testimony aimed at an audience of one?
And Stormy's lawyer charged. Federal prosecutors slap Michael Avenatti with dozens of new charges, including fraud, tax evasion, and stealing millions of dollars from his clients. Tonight, the attorney who rose to fame representing a porn star is facing a potential sentence of more than 300 years.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I am Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
It was a stunning theft of classified American military secrets. And now the man U.S. prosecutors say helped plan it almost a decade ago is under arrest. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is facing extradition tonight after being pulled by British police from the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he took refuge seven years ago.
Tonight, President Trump is denying any knowledge of WikiLeaks, despite its theft of Democratic e-mails, which Mr. Trump repeatedly touted and praised during the 2016 campaign.
I will be talking about all of that and more with Congressman Gerry Connolly, a member of the Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform Committees. And our correspondents and analysts also are standing by.
First, let's go to CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins.
And, Kaitlan, the president is pleading ignorance about WikiLeaks, despite the notorious role that it played in the 2016 election and its prominent place in the Mueller investigation.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
And you will remember the day that that "Access Hollywood" tape surfaced, that was the same day, Brianna, that WikiLeaks started publishing those damaging e-mails from Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, John Podesta.
Now, the president had no problem praising WikiLeaks in the days leading up to the election. But today, when he was asked about them and Julian Assange, he had none of that to say.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It's not my thing.
COLLINS (voice-over): President Trump distancing himself tonight.
TRUMP: I have been seeing what has happened with Assange.
COLLINS: Offering no comment on the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, despite repeatedly praising the organization when it released damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
Today, the president said he's leaving the matter in Bill Barr's hands.
TRUMP: I don't really have any opinion. I know the attorney general will be involved in that, and he will make a decision.
COLLINS: While top officials in his government have denounced WikiLeaks as a hostile intelligence service, Trump didn't see it that way during his campaign, when WikiLeaks publishing thousands of e- mails stolen from the Democratic National Committee.
TRUMP: This just came out. WikiLeaks. I love WikiLeaks. Another one came in today. This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove. I love reading those WikiLeaks.
COLLINS: Trump quiet about Assange today.
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Spying did occur. Yes, I think spying did occur.
COLLINS: But he had plenty to say about the stunning assertion his attorney general made yesterday.
TRUMP: Hard to believe it could have happened, but it did. There was spying in my campaign. And his answer was a very accurate one.
COLLINS: Bill Barr is now facing backlash from Democrats, including one of the three who voted to confirm him, because they say he's feeding a conspiracy.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D- WV): I think that was a horrible choice of language. And it was a horrible statement to come from our attorney general.
COLLINS: Even some Republicans are skeptical about his choice of words.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: If we had to do it over again, I imagine the word spying wouldn't have been used, but there was most certainly surveillance.
COLLINS: At least one person was pleased with the attorney general's performance.
TRUMP: I think what he said was absolutely true. There was absolutely spying into my campaign. I will go a step further. In my opinion, it was illegal spying, unprecedented spying.
COLLINS: Former FBI Director James Comey said he had no idea what Barr is talking about and doesn't consider court-ordered surveillance spying.
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: If the attorney general has come to the belief that that should be called spying, wow. That's going to require a whole lot of conversations inside the Department of Justice.
COLLINS: Trump in the Oval Office today with the president of South Korea, who was hoping to get stalled U.S. talks with North Korea back on track.
TRUMP: The big deal is, we have to get rid of the nuclear weapons.
COLLINS: One day after Kim Jong-un vowed that North Korea will withstand the pressure from sanctions and should deliver a telling blow to those who impose them, Trump said the sanctions will remain in place, but added he won't ramp them up for now.
TRUMP: I had the option up significantly increasing them. I didn't want to do that because of my relationship with Kim Jong-un.
COLLINS: Now, Brianna, back to that assertion that Bill Barr made that the Trump campaign was spied on, the president made clear today that he feels vindicated by that, but he added that he does believe this is something that Justice Department should be looking into, because, Brianna, he said, if not, he believed it would be a disservice to the country.
KEILAR: CNN's Kaitlan Collins, thank you for that report.
Let's get more now on the sudden arrest of Julian Assange after years holed up in Ecuador's London embassy.
CNN senior national correspondent Alex Marquardt is working this part of the story for us.
And, Alex, it was like something out of a movie.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, really, it was.
This is an extraordinary and sudden turn of events today, as Ecuador kicked out their world famous guest, as you mentioned, of almost seven years. Now, the Ecuadorian foreign minister said today that Assange's mental and physical health were seriously declining. He described Assange as aggressive, saying that he would do things like riding scooters in the embassy and blasting loudspeakers late into the night.
He also apparently tried to block the embassy security cameras and install his own cameras. Now, of course, all that ended today and he now faces extradition to the United States.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): A dramatic end to Julian Assange's nearly seven years at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Resisting arrest and refusing to come out, he was dragged out by officers, his signature gray hair now long in a ponytail, a new bushy beard, shouting at the crowd.
Assange now faces possible extradition to the United States, where he is charged with conspiring to help former intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who is now in prison, for breaking into Defense Department computers and leaking secret documents in 2010.
JENNIFER ROBINSON, ATTORNEY FOR JULIAN ASSANGE: I have just been with Mr. Assange in the police cells. He wants to thank all of his supporters for their ongoing support. And he said, "I told you so."
MARQUARDT: His lawyer claims that Assange, who started WikiLeaks, was simply acting as a journalist and is protected under the First Amendment.
ROBINSON: This precedent means that any journalist can be extradited for prosecution in the United States for having published truthful information about the United States.
MARQUARDT: But U.S. prosecutors charge Assange's role in the leak went much farther, agreeing to help Manning in cracking a password to gain access to the classified information.
Among the secret material released by WikiLeaks was a video in 2007 on a U.S. airstrike that killed a dozen Iraqis, including two men working for the Reuters news agency.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, we just engaged all eight individuals.
MARQUARDT: U.S. officials and Assange critics accuse him of putting American national security at risk, as well as threatening military forces, diplomats and covert sources.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I have repeatedly condemned the guy. He will be offered a fair trial. The wheels of justice are finally turning. He's never been a hero. He released classified information that put our troops in danger.
MARQUARDT: The Justice Department says more charges could be on the way. Assange has so far not been charged in relation to the Russian hacking of the Democrats during the 2016 presidential race, a race that saw then-candidate Trump publicly praising and encouraging the WikiLeaks dumps.
TRUMP: This just came out. WikiLeaks. I love WikiLeaks.
MARQUARDT: Longtime Trump friend and associate Roger Stone is now facing charges of working with WikiLeaks to gain access to the stolen e-mails, while coordinating with the Trump campaign.
Today's arrest coming after Ecuador decided to revoke his asylum, the president accusing Assange of hostile and threatening behavior against the country, which also says the 47-year-old Australian was a terrible guest, even putting feces on the embassy walls.
MARQUARDT: Now, Ecuador also said today that it spent over $6 million on Assange, most of it on security expenses.
Brianna, the judge in London today ordered Assange to remain in custody until that hearing about his extradition to the United States, that set for three weeks from today on May 2 -- Brianna.
KEILAR: All right, Alex Marquardt, thank you for that report.
I want to bring in CNN justice reporter Laura Jarrett and CNN law enforcement analyst Anthony Ferrante with us.
So, Laura, you have Assange. He's charged with conspiracy to commit computer fraud. Explain the significance of this charge.
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: So this is a major moment for the Justice Department, because, in the prior administration, they really wrestled with, how are we going to charge him, while at the same time not charging CNN for the receipt of classified information?
If we're talking about publishers, and we're talking about protecting press freedoms, how do we best do that? Well, it turns out the feds actually found information, communications with show he took it a step further, because he was actually, according to these charging documents today, helping Chelsea Manning break Department of Defense passwords, which is very different than a journalist, right?
And so that's what I think changed the game here. And the case is potentially not even over, because the Justice Department now has 60 days to file their formal extradition request, so they could end up charging him with additional charges here.
And we already know that there's a grand jury impaneled, ready to go.
KEILAR: Do you think, Anthony, that there are more charges to follow?
ANTHONY FERRANTE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I actually don't.
FERRANTE: I don't think there are any more charges.
I think -- I think there was a lot of discussion in the halls in the Department of Justice years ago on how to carefully approach this matter. And I think it's very clear that Julian Assange took active steps to participate in the theft of this information, and then disclose it.
KEILAR: It's been a long time since this happened. Why now? Why do you think they want to get their hands on him now?
FERRANTE: Well, they have always wanted their hands on him. Today is a very good day in the United States and the United Kingdom.
I worked for both the Obama and the Trump administrations. And at both -- during both administrations, I received phone calls from the West Wing, and they asked me to reach back into the -- at the FBI and say, is the FBI and our counterparts in the United Kingdom, are they ready when Julian Assange steps outside?
KEILAR: But what made come to this point today, almost seven years after being holed up in the embassy?
JARRETT: By all accounts, it just took a really long time. And there were starts and stops. And I think authorities tried for a really long time. And it just took a while to get there.
There's also the death penalty issue, because, in order to extradite, you can't -- my understanding is, you can't extradite to a country that would impose the death penalty. So there might have been background negotiations, ensuring that, if he does come over, he won't face a charge that would be death-eligible.
So there's -- I think there's a lot of complicating factors here.
FERRANTE: I also think he wore out his welcome.
KEILAR: Sounds like it. Feces on the wall.
FERRANTE: Feces on the wall.
I mean, the photos of him today, he didn't look -- he didn't look -- it looks like he's sort of kind of come undone, so probably wore out his welcome.
I have a source that tells me that he actually took up residence in some of the nicest space in the embassy and clearly made himself at home. And I think it's safe to say he wore out his welcome and it was ready for him to go.
Let's talk about the attorney general, Bill Barr, because he asserted that, yes, spying did occur. And the moment is pretty interesting, because he thought about this. This was sort of -- this was something he thought about how he was going to say, and this is what he wanted to say.
What do you make of the fact that he used the term spying, that he didn't use the term surveillance, that he didn't cite specific evidence, and the president immediately tried to capitalize on this?
JARRETT: So I think this was not a gaffe.
If you talk to people who are close to the attorney general, they tell me this was intentional. He knows what he's doing. This is -- he is the attorney general. And this is his second go-round in this. He is very careful with his words.
At the same time, he doesn't think of spying as derogatory, per se. This is what they will tell you. I know you're smiling at me because I think it's...
KEILAR: I find that odd.
JARRETT: It's hard to believe.
KEILAR: Because every legal expert believed it was used pejoratively.
JARRETT: At least their perspective is -- his perspective is, it wasn't pejorative. The question is whether it was predicated.
And if it wasn't adequately predicated, meaning there wasn't authorization for the surveillance, then he thinks that's out of bounds. He thinks, if it's just good old-fashioned detective work, that's one thing.
And what he's saying is, I want to get to the bottom of it. The problem is that he's using a word that has been weaponized by the president for two-and-a-half years. And we have heard this drumbeat. We remember Spygate.
And so by latching onto that word, I think that's where he got himself into hot water. If he had just said, I want to take a look at this as the attorney general, this is a really serious case, I think it would have been a different story.
KEILAR: What do you think? FERRANTE: I'm extremely disappointed in the attorney general for using that term. I think he knows better.
The fact that he did it on purpose is extremely concerning, because I do think it feeds into that conspiracy theory. He's the attorney general of the United States, serving the American people. He of all people knows the difference between spying and the FBI conducting lawful -- using their lawful authorities to further their investigations. Huge difference.
JARRETT: And that's part of the problem is that when he talks about the genesis of the Russia investigation, what does that mean?
JARRETT: Is he talking about George Papadopoulos or is he talking about Carter Page?
If he's talking about Carter Page, that's court-authorized surveillance, including sign-off from his deputy attorney general.
KEILAR: But it's also something that conspiracy theorists have glommed onto, is questioning the veracity of even the foundation of this investigation.
And many people have said that he's playing to that, Barr is, when he looks at that.
JARRETT: Yes. And I think that's a fair criticism.
KEILAR: All right.
FERRANTE: It's very disappointing.
KEILAR: All right, Anthony -- actually, I have one more question for you. Sorry.
JARRETT: Let's keep going.
KEILAR: And much more ahead.
OK. So, Greg Craig, so in this case...
KEILAR: ... that is stemming from the Mueller investigation, we now know that Greg Craig, who is the former White House counsel under Obama, has been indicted.
So, does this cut against the president's claim that this is just a witch-hunt? This is a Democrat.
JARRETT: Well, I don't know about you. I would surmise to guess it will not be enough to -- the president will turn the clock on the 17 angry Democrats that he's tweeted about ad nauseum.
But, look, Greg Craig has been charged with something sort of unusual here, because it all stems from Robert Mueller's work on foreign lobbying. It was connected to his work lobbying on behalf of the Ukraine.
And what he's alleged to have done here is misled investigators, misled federal prosecutors in an effort to sort of cover up his lobbying work. So we will see what comes from it. But he's fighting this, saying he wants to go to trial, he did nothing wrong.
KEILAR: Yes, his lawyers are saying that. We will see if they can make that case adequately.
All right, thank you so much, Anthony and Laura.
And let's get more on all of this now with Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia. He's a member of the Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform Committees.
Sir, thanks for being with us.
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): Great to be with you, Brianna.
KEILAR: Could these developments with Assange lead to new information related to the Russia investigation, or maybe even charges for Assange's role in the 2016 election interference?
Because these charges, actually, this has to do with military secrets. This does not have to do with the WikiLeaks involvement in Russian election meddling in 2016.
CONNOLLY: Well, I think the one goes together with the other.
We know that Assange and WikiLeaks did coordinate with the Russians on the Podesta e-mail leaks. The fact that they had that kind of Russian level of contact makes you wonder, well, what was the comparable, if any, contact with Russians on the military intelligence leaks?
One suspects the Russians were certainly interested in the latter. And one suspects they reached out to Assange and WikiLeaks, even if those -- those outreaches were not reciprocated.
KEILAR: So, as far as we know, Assange wasn't interviewed as part of the Russia investigation. If he's transferred to U.S. custody, do you think that authorities are going to interview him?
CONNOLLY: I hope...
KEILAR: Tell me.
CONNOLLY: I'm sorry. I hope so. I mean, he's been hiding in an Ecuadorian embassy for
seven years in London. A little hard to interview him as part of the Mueller investigation. Now that he's in British custody and hopefully will be extradited to the United States, I think there is an opportunity for prosecutors to interview him and see what he knows and what he's willing to share.
KEILAR: He seems -- he seems unlikely to cooperate, though. You would agree with that assessment?
CONNOLLY: I would.
But I would also point out to you that Michael Cohen said he would take a bullet for Donald Trump and would not ever cooperate with prosecutors. He's more than cooperated with prosecutors and has testified in open session before our committee, frankly, highly critical of the president.
KEILAR: What do you make of the president, when asked about the developments today, saying he knows nothing about WikiLeaks, WikiLeaks is not my thing?
CONNOLLY: Well, you just did a great job showing how that's blatantly untrue, that he loved that WikiLeaks.
He quoted from WikiLeaks. He invoked WikiLeaks. He had little love poems about WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign. So the idea that all of a sudden, I don't know what you're talking about, never heard the name, it's not my thing, simply doesn't even pass the giggle test.
And there's documentary evidence and history that says otherwise. And so he's not to be taken at his word, unfortunately, as is usual.
KEILAR: The president today also praised his Attorney General Bill Barr for saying that he thinks there was spying on the Trump campaign.
We just heard our Laura Jarrett report that this was actually intentional, and he was trying to make the point that the issue was whether this is predicated adequately or not, whether it was basically surveillance that was warranted, but he used the word spying.
So do you believe that, that assertion, or do you think that this was a dog whistle to conspiracy theorists who question the entire Russia investigation, especially this aspect where he says he wants to look at the genesis of the Russia investigation?
CONNOLLY: I think what is shocking to me about Bill Barr, about his whole demeanor and comportment with respect to the Mueller report and what preceded it, is that he -- instead of remembering his oath to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States, he's kind of changed that mentally, and he's here to defend and protect one guy, Donald J. Trump.
And that's what he's doing. And I would agree this was a dog whistle to the alt-right and to the conspiratorial theorists, and at the -- frankly, at the cost of our law enforcement institutions, and the FBI in particular.
I think it's a shameful moment for the attorney general of the United States to use a word that he knows is incendiary and untrue.
KEILAR: Laura Jarrett's reporting out of Barr's camp is that he wasn't using the word spying pejoratively. Do you believe that?
CONNOLLY: I have never known the word spying to be a particularly positive one. It's a necessary function sometimes country to country, but generally it's kind of a cloak and dagger, dark arts kind of place that is hardly a noble word.
And so I think he knew what he was doing. And I think it was shameful, because he did know what he was doing. He did not misuse that word. It was a throwaway word to the right and to the president, at the expense of his own Department of Justice and the FBI.
KEILAR: The attorney general is investigating, as I mentioned, the origins of the Russia probe.
The inspector general for DOJ is already doing that. Is it appropriate for the A.G. to as well?
CONNOLLY: Well, I guess the A.G. can do what he wants. I hope he doesn't step on an independent I.G. report.
Mr. Horowitz is a man of great integrity. I know him personally. He will do a great job. And I think the A.G. ought to let them do that job, instead of injecting partisan political overlays that can only cloud the investigation and inflame an already difficult situation.
KEILAR: Leaders of your party have sent a letter to the attorney general. They're demanding the unredacted Mueller report yet again.
Are you concerned about what Barr is going to deliver to you next week in his redacted version?
CONNOLLY: I was thinking during your reporting that, if it were left up to Attorney General Barr, we wouldn't refer to WikiLeaks. We would just call it Wiki and we would reject the Leaks part.
And so, yes, I really am afraid that, the longer this takes, the more omissions and consequential emissions are going to occur in the report that out to be fully available to Congress, and as much as possible available to the public.
KEILAR: All right, Congressman, thank you so much, Congressman Gerry Connolly with us.
CONNOLLY: My pleasure. Thank you.
KEILAR: Just ahead: What could the arrest of Julian Assange reveal about WikiLeaks' interference in the 2016 election?
Plus, Stormy Daniels' former lawyer slapped with dozens of new charges, including stealing millions of dollars from his clients.
KEILAR: There are questions tonight about what the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will reveal about election meddling in the 2016 campaign.
So let's dig deeper now with our experts and our analysts.
And, Gloria Borger, to you first.
This indictment -- this indictment stems from 2010.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
KEILAR: Could it lead to new information, new charges about Assange's role when it comes to the 2016 election meddling?
BORGER: Well, we don't know. But if he gets extradited to the United States, as a lot of people presume he will, he could face further charges.
And, again, we're just speculating here, but those charges could be related to the 2016 campaign and Russia's efforts to interfere with the election. We just -- we don't know. The way this charge was written, it's very narrow, and it's about hacking. It's not about anything else.
So it circumvents the First Amendment issues, et cetera. But we just -- we all ought to recall that, during the last campaign, that WikiLeaks published stolen material from the Democratic National Committee, and also published personal e-mails of the Hillary Clinton campaign chairman, John Podesta.
KEILAR: Jeffrey Toobin, this may not -- we shouldn't look at this as the entire case against Julian Assange. Right?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, we don't know for sure.
TOOBIN: It does have the look of a kind of placeholder indictment. It's only about seven pages. It only deals with the 2010 Chelsea Manning issues.
But the government shouldn't count on Julian Assange giving them more information.
KEILAR: That's right.
TOOBIN: I mean, he's not -- he's not going to cooperate.
But it attempts, as Gloria said, to elide the First Amendment issues, but they're still there. And this is a legally complicated situation.
KEILAR: Why are they still there in this case?
TOOBIN: Because the accusation is that Julian Assange sort of encouraged the hacking. Collaborated is the term used in the indictment.
But if you read the actual charges, he doesn't seem to have done much with the actual hackers, except sort of tell them how to deliver the material to him. Now, you could argue -- we will have to see how the evidence comes in, in court -- that he helped in finding a password.
But to the extent he just received stolen hacked e-mails, that's a very different situation from hacking itself. And that's what journalists do. We receive information that is sometimes classified, sometimes improperly obtained.
And, if that's criminalized, that would be a different kind of law enforcement than we have seen before.
KEILAR: I was going to say, I don't know -- I don't know journalists who have ever asked someone or suggested to someone how they would go about receiving information and a password...
TOOBIN: Well, what if you, say, use -- I mean, for example, something that I know that a lot of journalists do is, don't call me on the phone, called me on Signal.
TOOBIN: Is that -- but that's telling someone how to convey information to you.
Is that a crime?
BORGER: I think that's...
TOOBIN: I don't...
BORGER: That's just trying to be private.
KEILAR: Does that seem different? That's trying to protect a source.
TOOBIN: How different is that...
KEILAR: That seems to be trying to protect a source.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN COMMENTATOR: Right. KEILAR: The issue of...
SWERDLICK: I think those are a little different -- to your question, Bri, I agree with Jeffrey, right, that, in the end, the First Amendment protects journalists and citizens, not just journalists, from receiving and putting information out there.
The question, as you say, will come down to the evidence, whether or not he helped proactively gather that information.
But I agree, Bri. Yes, Signal, WhatsApp might not be quite that situation, because that's just sort of like, don't call me on my landline. Call me on my cell phone. But I think you're right.
It's a slippery slope.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: What you said about how journalists are treated under the first amendment, that's a policy, that's a tradition. It's not the law. It is -- it would be possible for journalists to start to be prosecuted for a receipt of classified information, for a receipt of stolen information. That has not been done. But there is not Supreme Court decision that prohibits it, there's no law that prohibits it. It's the Justice Department tradition. And you know, bad, unattractive people, like Julian Assange, sometimes lead to the creation of laws and legal rulings that wind up hurting people who are a lot more sympathetic than he is.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM: Let's -- Sabrina, the President, of course, was asked about this today in his Oval Office availability and he had a really interesting reaction. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It's not my thing. And I know there is something having to do with Julian Assange, I have been seeing what's happened with Assange, and that will be a determination, I would imagine, mostly by the Attorney General who is doing an excellent job. So he'll be making a determination. I know nothing really about him. It's not my deal in life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: All right. Let's flashback to 2016 when it was very much his deal in life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks.
This WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable. It tells you the inner heart. You got to read it.
It's been amazing what's coming out on WikiLeaks. This WikiLeaks is fascinating.
This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove.
Getting off the plane, they were hust announcing new WikiLeaks and I wanted to stay there, but I didn't want to keep you waiting.
Well, I love reading those WikiLeaks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: What did you think about that? I mean, it was -- it's par for the course, but it was an egregious example.
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Look, it's not surprising that the President is now going to claim that he is unfamiliar with WikiLeaks given a lot of scrutiny stemming from the Russia investigation when, in fact, he was a big fan of the website when they were publishing hacked democratic party emails that turned out to be beneficial to his campaign.
Now, what that also does is it brings us back to some of the unanswered questions in the Mueller investigation with respect to WikiLeaks and the role of Julian Assange in disseminating those emails from both Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta as well as the Democratic National Committee, one of which is Roger Stone and to what extent there was actual coordination.
We know from the indictment of Roger Stone that he was reporting back about some of WikiLeaks' activities to a high ranking official in the Trump campaign and was anyone, whether it's Stone or someone in the campaign, more intimately involved with the actual process by which these emails were hacked or the timing of the release of those emails. And A lot of that we don't know because haven't seen the Mueller report and what investigators ultimately concluded in terms of the counterintelligence investigation.
KEILAR: Does it hurt his Justice Department's ability to push forward on charging, on prosecuting Assange when the Commander-in-Chief has been so complimentary on Julian Assange --
SWERDLICK: No. I think the President knows now that his supporters will let him get away with talking out both sides of his neck. He does it all the time. Mexico will pay for the wall. I never said that Mexico would pay for the wall. I was for Iraq before I was against Iraq or vice versa. The example that this reminded me of most was his position on David Duke.
20 years ago when he was a possible reform party candidate, he said David Duke is a racist, a bigot, I can't get involved with someone in the reform party. 2016, he tells Jake Tapper, I don't know anything about David Duke, okay?
TOOBIN: I play a lawyer on TV, I don't play a psychiatrist, but there are tells --
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I do.
TOOBIN: Gloria does. There are tells with Trump. And sometimes the more emphatic he is, the more he is lying. Like the idea that it's not my deal, I mean, could it have been more his deal? Also, when he says believe me, which he says often, is often with a lie.
BORGER: Under the thesis, there's a Tweet for everything. I went back and found a Tweet in 2016 from Donald Trump after Wiki. Very little pickup by the dishonest media of
incredible information provided by Wiki, so dishonest, rigged system. It was his thing.
SWERDLICK: Now, he's like I read about him somewhere.
KEILAR: All right. You guys stand by for me. We'll have much more breaking news after a quick break.
KEILAR: We have breaking news. The Wall Street Journal just published a new interview with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is discussing in this the Justice Department's handling of the Mueller report. So let's talk about some of the top lines in this.
He's pushing back on this idea that the Attorney General is trying to mislead, which is something that a lot of democrats have said as they say, look, give us the full report because we don't trust his four- page summary. Here's a quote. He is being as forthcoming as he can. And so this notion, David Swerdlick, that he is trying to mislead people, I think, is just completely bizarre. What do you think of this.
SWERDLICK: I don't think that Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein is a good interlocutor on this subject at all.
First of all, we have been talking more than two weeks about the fact that, look, Congress, the Article One branch, wants this report. Whether or not the Attorney General has the authority to withhold it or to slow roll it is a separate question. Rosenstein is not addressing why Congress can't see it. It's one thing to say the public is not ready for it, why can't Congress see it.
And the reason I don't think he is a good interlocutor on this is because his original entry into this whole discussion was the memo dealing with the firing of James Comey, which he was convinced to produce by Trump and Sessions and then turns out that based on the May 9th letter from the President firing Comey and from the Lester Holt interview, we have good reason to believe wasn't the reason at all. He was just sort of stuck in there. He's been adrift in this process.
KEILAR: What do you think? BORGER: Look, here's the interesting thing about on Rod Rosenstein. He's defending his boss, Bill Barr, and he's saying he is going to be as forthcoming as he can in the release of the Mueller report and we should all wait and see how much is redacted and not redacted.
What he didn't really get into is this question of spying and unauthorized surveillance because don't forget, it was Rosenstein himself who had to sign off on these -- the surveillance, for example, of Carter Page, et cetera, et cetera, and that's exactly what his boss now wants to investigate.
So I think that that may be a problem, but he's certainly out here defending him, correct? I mean, so far as I can see.
KEILAR: Jeffrey Toobin, those eyes, what are you seeing?
TOOBIN: I'm just -- Swerdlick keeps using the word interlocutor, which I think is such a cool word. And I just appreciate that. But the -- it's like he is standing by his boss. And the question that I think will become even more significant is why did this four-page letter come out at all except to help the President because, you know, it is obviously a gloss, to put it charitably, on the report itself. Why not wait the extra two weeks and just release the report.
KEILAR: Well, look, he says -- he actually says so. He says here, it would be one thing if you put out a letter and said I'm not going to give you the report. What he said is, look, it's going to take a while to process the report. In the meantime, people really want to know what's in it, I'm going to give you the top line conclusions. That's all he was trying to do, Sabrina Siddiqui.
SIDDIQUI: Well, the issue is not that the Attorney General released a four-page letter with some top line conclusions. It's that he made his own determination that the evidence was insufficient.
KEILAR: To be clear, he and Rod Rosenstein.
SIDDIQUI: And Rod Rosenstein made their own determination that the evidence was insufficient on the issue of obstruction. And you hear democrats saying that they believe that Congress should be the arbiter whether or not there's sufficient evidence to bring about those charges.
But I do think you're seeing Rosenstein defend his boss and I think it's worth noting that because he was gatekeeper of the Mueller investigation, it's not nothing that he is saying that, look, we're not trying to mislead anyone.
And it's also worth noting that when the Attorney General was testifying on Capitol Hill, one of the items of news that came out of his testimony outside from Spygate was that he signaled that there would be different levels of redactions for members of Congress and for the American public. So that was an olive branch to say that Congress may, in fact, be probably to more information than they previously thought they might have access to in that report.
SWERDLICK: Brianna, can I just go back to what Gloria was saying a minute ago about those FISA warrants?
KEILAR: If you use the word, interlocutor.
SWERDLICK: Yes. So another reason that I don't think he's a good interlocutor, thank you, Jeffrey, on this issue is because there was a moment where he could have stood out and spoke up. He's a Johnny come lately now. If he thought that those FISA warrants were properly should, which so far there's no evidence that they weren't, and could have just simply said, okay, yes, it was a mistake not to include information about fusion GPS, about the Clinton campaign, about the source of that info to the FISA judge, but those warrants were still properly issued, there was a moment in time to say that. Saying it now when we're this far downstream doesn't help.
KEILAR: Gloria, I want to ask you about his role in writing the memo about James Comey. So let's go back to it. This is -- he wrote his, basically, dissatisfaction, it was almost like a very poor employee review, right? Sort of Jim Comey, which, as we know, that can sink you, right? Well, this was what was held up by the President as his reason for firing his FBI Director. And here's what he says.
This article says he stands by the memo, he has few regrets about his time in office. So this is what he said. Quote, if you put something in writing, put your name on it and be prepared to stand behind it, that's been a theme of my career. Read between the lines, Gloria, for us.
BORGER: Well, our reporting shows -- he wrote the memo, he was asked to write the memo. Our reporting has shown and others that he did not intend for it to be used as the President's reason, only reason, for firing Comey.
[18:45:05] He was asked to write this memo and he wrote it and as soon as he was there basically, and he presented it to the president of the United States. And I have been told by a source close to Rosenstein that he felt like he had been run over.
SWERDLICK: Yes, he got rolled.
BORGER: He got rolled. And the president throws it out in the public and says this is why I'm firing Comey, when in fact as we all know, there were other reasons and the president himself stated them on television.
KEILAR: Do you think, Sabrina, he just doesn't want to get into that, if he is going to let that speak for itself? I'm not taking a shot about this.
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He's been reluctant to publicly challenge the president. He stayed on in his role. So, he may not want to relitigate that issue. But as Gloria pointed out, everyone saw the president go on national television and say in fact that Russian thing, those were the words the president used, were in fact a factor in his decision to fire James Comey. KEILAR: All right. You guys, thank you so much. We have an
important reminder, tonight at 10:00 Eastern, CNN's Don Lemon will be moderating a CNN presidential town hall with Democratic candidate Julian Castro. That is tonight at 10:00 Eastern.
And just ahead, embezzlement, fraud, tax evasion. More details about the indictment against former Stormy Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti.
[18:51:02] KEILAR: The attorney who represented porn star Stormy Daniels in her legal battle against President Trump has been indicted again. Michael Avenatti is facing 36 new charges, including embezzlement, fraud and tax evasion that could get him 335 years in prison.
CNN national correspondent Sara Sidner is working the story for us.
And it's of note, Sara, that Avenatti already was facing other federal charges unveiled two weeks ago.
SARA SIDNER, CNN N ATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. He was facing federal charges for what prosecutors say was extorting Nike. Now, he's facing many more charges, some would consider these more serious, and much harder to defend against because it's really based on a paper trail. We're talking about a 61-page indictment, 36 counts, including wire fraud, bank fraud, bankruptcy fraud.
And there's one thing that really stood out, that is that prosecutors here say he actually defrauded his own clients, five clients they say, one of whom was a paraplegic. Michael Avenatti, prosecutors say, got a $4 million settlement but failed to disclose that he had received the money to a client who was paraplegic.
NICOLA HANNA, U.S. ATTORNEY, CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA: The victim who was identified as client one in the indictment obtained a $4 million settlement which the county of Los Angeles paid in January, 2015 to a trust account, controlled by Mr. Avenatti. More than four years later, client one is still waiting to receive his portion of the settlement. As it turns out, within months after receiving the settlement proceeds in early 2015, Mr. Avenatti had drained the entire $4 million payment from his trust account, using significant portions of funds to finance his coffee business, his auto racing enterprise, and his own personal lifestyle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Now, the client they're referring to, his name is Jeffrey Johnson. And Michael Avenatti responded to the accusations saying he is not guilty of any of these things and he should be given what all Americans are given, innocence before he is proven guilty. He has said any claim that money is due clients were mishandled is bogus nonsense. That's what he tweeted out. He says, by the way, he has an example that he put out to his Twitter
followers. He said, here's, look, here's a document Mr. Johnson signed less than a month ago attesting to my ethics.
So, there you have it. But that client, his attorney says that document just shows he was defrauded. He had no idea the monies had been paid in 2015 -- Brianna.
KEILAR: That was a month ago as you pointed out.
SIDNER: That's right.
KEILAR: Sara Sidner, thank you so much for that report.
And just ahead, President Trump says he is open to a third summit with Kim Jong-un, but the North Korean dictator is opening the door for provocative new action.
[18:56:29] KEILAR: There are new developments tonight in President Trump's seesaw effort to get North Korea to denuclearize.
CNN's Will Ripley has the latest.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): South Korean President Moon Jae-in traveling to the White House, facing perhaps his greatest diplomatic challenge to date. Kick start talks between the U.S. and North Korea amid rising tension and uncertainty.
South Korean government sources say Moon is trying to convince President Trump that a small deal with Kim Jong-un may be the only hope of keeping diplomacy alive, after Trump walked out of February summit talks in Vietnam. A tough sell for a president determined to strike a big deal.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would have to see what the deal is. There are various smaller deals that maybe could happen. Things could happen. You can work out step by step pieces, but at this moment, we're talking about the big deal. The big deal is we have to get rid of the nuclear weapons.
RIPLEY: President Trump says he's open to a third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un but he's not willing to budge on lifting sanctions over Pyongyang's nuclear program.
TRUMP: We want sanctions to remain in place and frankly, I had the option of significantly increasing them. I didn't want to do that because of my relationship with Kim Jong-un.
RIPLEY: The North Korean leader is issuing a stark new warning in state media, seemingly aimed at the U.S., saying North Korea needs to deal a telling blow to the hostile forces who go with bloodshot eyes, miscalculating that sanctions can bring his country to its knees. Those words deliberately leave the door open for provocative action
like a satellite launch if Kim doesn't get the sanctions relief he needs. A source tells CNN Kim is still weighing options that include regaining leverage by raising tensions with the U.S. or going the other way, attempting to resume diplomacy.
KENNETH CHOI, INTERNATIONAL EDITOR, THE CHOSUN ILBO: Right now, obviously, he's trying to earn more time. And if he continues to go down this path, then the people will suffer the more. People will probably starve, you know, at the end of the year. The food will not be going in, so he's making a grave mistake.
RIPLEY: Kim is addressing North Korean parliament as his country faces potentially devastating food shortages. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sanctions are shrinking the North Korean economy. But so far, no progress on getting Kim to give up his nukes.
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: We're working, we understand that you need a baseline to begin to denuclearize North Korea and we're determined to get there.
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD): I appreciate the pivot to the question.
POMPEO: We've got to do, Senator.
CARDIN: I understand that. I am trying to focus on North Korea. Do we have international inspectors in North Korea?
POMPEO: We do not.
RIPLEY: The pressure now falls on President Moon, acting as intermediary, trying to keep the U.S. and North Korea engaged, a tough spot for Moon, who sources say hasn't spoken with Kim since Hanoi as inter-Korean projects sit idle, waiting for a compromise some fear may never come.
RIPLEY: Tonight, plans are in the works for Kim Jong-un to travel to Russia at some point and immediate with Vladimir Putin, something the South Koreans fear could further complicate an already complicated situation -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Will Ripley in Hong Kong, thank you so much for that.
I'm Brianna Keilar and thank you so much for watching tonight.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST, "OUTFRONT": OUTFRONT next, feeding the conspiracy theory. President Trump taking his attorney general's controversial words and running wild. Is Barr covering for Trump or not? The Mueller report, of course, coming any day.