tv CNN Newsroom with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto CNN November 21, 2018 6:00am-7:00am PST
>> you, too. a good wednesday morning before thanksgiving to you. i'm jim sciutto in washington. >> i'm poppy harlow in new york. we're glad you're with us this morning. a vivid reminder that some campaign promises are best kept unkept for much of 2016 donald trump vowed to prosecute hillary clinton if the election went his way. now cnn and "the new york times" this morning are reporting that president trump tried to do just that. by way of reference, the white house counsel under president nixon said, and i quote, this is from john dean, this is what an autocrat does. >> also this morning the special
counsel now has the president's written answers to some two dozen questions on russian collusion, the allegation of such. and on this thanksgiving eve the president tells us one thing he is thankful for. less than a day after shrugging off a cia report, a high confidence one implicating the saudi crown prince in the murder of jamal khashoggi, the president writes thank you to saudi arabia for lower oil prices. i's g that he is ook actuactual. but let's start on what we're digging into here, and that is c cnn at the justice department. the president pressuring the justice department which is meant to be by law independent of the president to prosecute his political enemies. what do we know? >> well, jim and poppy, good morning. for months we have seen the president on twitter publically calling on the justice department to investigate clinton and comey. but we're now learning that
behind the scenes in private he was actually serious, and that he actually had conversations with his then white house counsel don mcgahn about ordering the justice department to do just that. now, our reporting is that mcgahn rebuffed the president. but he actually had a memo drafted up explaining the down sides of this potentially investigating and that it would result in possible impeachment. according to our own reporting, the president had conversations with the deputy attorney general rod rosenstein, as well as the acting attorney general matt whitaker inquiring into existing investigations into the clinton foundation as we have previously reported. there is actually a top prosecutor out in utah who has been deputized to look into investigations surrounding the clinton investigation, surrounding the clinton's ties to a russian nuclear energy
corporation. this is known as the uranium one scandal which has thus far been completely disproven. but all of these conversations raising a myriad of issues about whether proper boundaries have been observed. >> i want to point everyone to read fact checks and who approved that deal and all of the different voices in that and the facts, not the rhetoric around it. before you go, the acting attorney general finances disclosure forms that are fired by the government finally released. as i understand it, after five different revisions, what do we now know? >> yeah. the revisions are quite noteworthy since they all take place after he became the acting attorney general on november 7th. so he turned in the initial disclosure form as he's required to do under the regulations last year when he came in. but then only edits them after he takes on this new job, something that ethics watchdog
officials have been raising questions about. but he also has a vast majority of his income, nearly a million dollars coming from something called the foundation for accountability and civic trust where he served as the executive director. the issue there, poppy, is of course we don't know where any of this money is coming from. all of the donations are anonymous. >> yeah. that presents some issues. thanks for all the important reporting this morning. >> to say the least. president trump has turned in his written answers, the take-home test, you might call it, to questions from the special counsel robert mueller. all those questions related to the investigation of possible collusion between trump associates. joining us now is kaitlyn collins in west palm beach, florida. now the president's answers will be checked against the answers of the many cooperating witnesses in this investigation close to the president. is the white house concerned that the president might be
contradicted by other witnesses in this investigation? >> well, right now the stance of his legal team s hey, we cooperated. the president submitted these written answers after months of negotiations. now it is time for the special counsel to wrap up their probe. whether or not that actually happens is another question, though, jim. we compared it to a take-home test and rudy giuliani did something similar this morning saying there are long questions, multiple questions that followed up, and that is what the president has answered. we know these questions only pertain to russian interference in the election. and what about russian contact with russians from the president's associates and not anything about the president's time as president. no questions of obstruction of justice or any of that matter. that's the question here is what happens going forward now that i
have hasubmitted these question. but what we know from the special counsel's side is that robert mueller hasn't ruled out the idea of a sit down interview with president trump now that he's received these written questions from the president's legal team. he could still want to do that going forward. rudy giuliani, the president's lawyer, says he doesn't believe the president could be compelled to give testimony regarding while he was president. but that's still an open question, and that could be setting us up for a legal showdown over a subpoena for president trump. >> all right. have a great thanksgiving. thank you for the reporting. enjoy the sunshine down there as it gets pretty cold up here. let's talk about all of this with david, who has advised four presidents and paul. gentlemen, to you. david first, listen to this from john dean, former white house
counsel under president nixon, turned watergate whistle blower who said on this network that trying to use the department of justice to persecute political enemies is something that even president nixon would not have done. >> if i had to channel a little richard nixon, i think he'd tell this president he's going too far. this is what an autocrat does. this is a level that richard nixon never went to. >> you also worked in the nixon white house. is he right? >> well, he's right that president nixon, we had no record of him ever ordering the justice department or even thinking about having the justice department prosecute a particular individual, especially a political rival. he didn't try to put in jail the people that ran against him. he did abuse the intelligence agency. he tried to abuse the fbi and cia. so i don't think richard nixon's
record is comparable. i think john is right. but critical to both of these is they emphasize how important it is to preserve our democratic system with all of the checks and balances. our president, today's president, would be a long way down the road toward authoritarian regime when it came to law enforcement. >> i don't think we can sugar coat the steps that we were now aware of that this president attempted to take here. he attempted to get his justice department to prosecute enemies. we know he communicated with matt whitaker in advance of his appointment about his positions on this investigation and other issues. and of course we know that he fired an attorney general in jeff sessions who he felt did not have his back in the investigation and replaced him with someone he does believe has his back there. from a legal perspective, is
that dangerous legal territory, any of those steps there? because it is happening in front of our eyes, it is not happening in secret. we know this to have taken place. >> i think, jim, it is extraordinarily dangerous and the reason it is is because it demonstrates a contempt for the rule of law in the united states. i mean, as the presidency has evolved, one of the things that's always been a check on the president has been the law, the supreme court, the justice department and other things. and the president here seems to be focussed on finding ways to go around the law, finding ways to obstruct the mueller investigation, whether in a legal way or an illegal way. and i think that's unusual. and, you know, john dean's observations about nixon, i don't know that i would necessarily agree with them, that nixon was better than trump on this, but the thing that white house lawyers were worried about with the president trying to issue directions about the investigations going on is that
you have a situation where it could be an abuse of power, and it could lead to an impeachment article relating to that. nixon faced an abuse of power, potential, you know, charge as have other presidents who have faced impeachment. so that's the danger here in what the president is doing. >> but david, to you, we know from this new cnn reporting that the president pressured not only the justice department broadly on, you know, where this investigation on hillary clinton, but specifically from our reporting. that included pressuring and asking these questions of matt whitaker, now the acting attorney general. matt whitaker also, david, wrote an op-ed in usa today a year ago titled, i would indict hillary clinton. okay? the tigtle i would indict hillay clinton. he is certainly welcome to have his own opinion.
but now that we know the facts behind all of this, what is the significance when you tie it altogether. >> i am so glad you brought that up because it raises so many questions that matt whitaker was in the room in the oval office when the president was ranting about this, and we don't know how much emotionality was attached to get these people to say i want an investigation. but clearly he understands exactly what the marching orders are from the president's own mind and what they ought to be. he is in a position right now and less curbed, he's in a position to oerder up a special counsel to investigate hillary clinton and james comey. and i think that makes it highly questionable. pointing back to checks and balances, this illustrates how important it is that the house of representatives is now in the hands of the out party because they can question what was happening in the oval office and who is matt whitaker anyway and
look at this story about strange financing he's gone through. he had a million dollars over three years from a nonprofit with no employees and seemed to be a mailbox. what the heck was going on here? it's good for the democracy no matter what side that you are on that there is now going to be a check, an investigatory check which can hold some of this in bal balance. >> the president's take-home test is in. his answers to robert mueller's questions here. we know that robert mueller has a number of cooperating witnesses who had direct contact with this president and witnessed his behavior, discussions, et cetera. among them his white house counsel who sat down for hours and hours and clearly had differences with the president on things, including his efforts to prosecute his enemies there, as well as rick gates and others. how concerned should the president be that robert mueller will find contradictions, find holes in the president's
territory based on the sworn testimony of these other cooperating witnesses? >> well, i don't think the president has anything to worry about in terms of these written questions that were submitted, this so-called take-home exam as his lawyers like to call it. when i was a college professor, you could look at the book when you went home, but you weren't supposed to ask your friends and lawyers to help you on the test. that's essentially how this take-home exam was conducted. so you can be sure that it's been totally sanitized and there is going to be nothing even remotely incrimcriminatory. will the president be in contradiction to things his own attorneys have said under oath? i would say yes, there is really a strong chance of that. a lot of what the president seems to have done seems to have been against the advice of his attorneys. one of the things just circling back to where we started on this, the president getting involved and saying hillary
clinton should be prosecuted or this investigation should be terminated, historically most presidents set policy directions for the justice department. they might -- obama, for instance said, let's have an increased focus on civil rights cases, but he wasn't saying i want you to go out and prosecute this person. that's where the president confronts problems. >> david and paul, thanks very much. >> thanks, guys. fierce backlash from the president's own party after he defends the saudis and seemingly ignores not only the ci a's assessment but a long-term defense of human rights. will congress take action after the brutal murder and dismemberment of the journalist jamal khashoggi? and also the problems pile up, but mark zuckerberg is not backing down. defiant among reports that the social network tried to conceal early signs of russian election meddling. our exclusive interview with mark zuckerberg is ahead.
there is fierce backlash this morning from top republicaning after the president sided with the saudis over the murder of jamal khashoggi. the president has refused to accept the high confidence findings that the crown prince ordered the killing. >> it's about america first. they're paying us $400 billion plus to purchase and invest in our country. that's probably the biggest amount ever paid to the united states. >> don't you believe this cia? >> they didn't make a determination. just like i said, maybe he did, maybe he didn't. they did not make that assessment. >> we're going to fact check the president there shortly. but first we want to make this point. the president said he will not abandon saudi arabia in order to hold the saudis to account for the brutal murder of jamal khashoggi. the president is creating a false and misleading choice
here. holding saudi leaders to account does not require abandoning saudi arabia. in fact, throughout u.s. history, u.s. presidents of both parties have held allies to account for actions the u.s. disagrees with or condemning while maintaining relationships with those allieallies. the u.s. criticized israel while maintaining a robust military and diplomatic alliance. the u.s. condemned egypt's brake down on protesters, again, while maintaining that alliance. more recently, donald trump himself has repeatedly criticized nato allies were not paying enough for europe's defense while, so far at least, maintaining the nato alliance. the choice here is not between the u.s. and saudi relationship. you could say the alliance would be stronger and the u.s. would be stronger if the president
held firm on american values over saudi values. let's discuss with the cnn global affairs analyst where jamal khashoggi also worked and david sanger. a bunch of things to run through here, david. but first let's fact check the president on this idea that the cia has not made a definitive assessment here. the fact is this was a high confidence assessment from the cia on the crown prince's involvement here, which is as definitive as intelligence reports get, is it not? >> i think what the president wants here, jim, is a sort of in the room hearing him issue the order. that happens on tv. it rarely happens in the world of intelligence. they have got to assemble the best case they've got and then assign a confidence level to it. but the concept that a hit team
of 15 saudis, including saudi military officials, could be sent over and that they were doing this freelancing in an authoritarian state, you didn't need the cia to tell you that. let's go back to your earlier point about the false choice the president is setting up. you mentioned egypt. it is an interesting case because president obama helped push out the leader at the time while holding on to the relationship with the u.s. and egypt. you saw it during the reagan administration, a very close ally of the philippines also pushed out while maintaining a close alliance with the philippines. what made the president's statement yesterday so remarkable and give him credit for the fact he was telling us exactly what he was thinking, is that he was basically saying if you buy enough from the united states, we will never look inside the box of what you do in
your country. >> yeah. we're going to fact check the president on the amount the president claims the saudis are buying in a moment. but jason, you are a journalist who paid a heavy price. you spent months in an iranian prison because they perceived you as an enemy of the state. do the president's words, defending the saudis here, not standing up for u.s. values, is it your view that dictators in the region will see that as open season on their critics, even outside their borders? >> certainly, jim. i think that's the message this sends. it emboldens terrible behavior and at a moment when the entire american establishment on the right and the left is for the first time really pushing back on our oh undying loyalty to sa arabia. he's not doing it. i think -- i'm just shocked,
flabbergasted and, you know, blinded with anger over this stance. >> well, it's understandable. you hear that from republicans as well. david, back to you, the president claimed -- and we did the math here, the actual math on what the saudis have signed to for the u.s. the president claimed $450 billion in arms deals with the saudis. in fact, the memorandum of intent, which is not a deal, it is an intent over ten years not confirmed yet is for about a quarter of that and then only about a tenth of that or a little more have been signed so far, 14 billion. so not $450 billion, $14 billion so far. why is the president here fudging those numbers so obviously? >> well, the $450 billion he said was total investment, which would be different than arms purchases, and we'd have to go back and sort of add up the
refineries, the other investments, but i doubt they're going to come any place close to that number. you're absolutely right on the arms numbers. we only have $14.5 billion in actual arms. the signature of intent to buy is a little bit like when donald trump was in the real estate business and you would sign an intent to develop something. it actually commits you to nothing. now, the saudis don't have a whole lot of choice about where they can buy their arms. they are flying american aircrafts. the american aircrafts are fitted only to work with american bombs, american missiles. so this idea that the president kicks around that if we don't give them everything they want they will pick up and go to the russians and buy their arms there, maybe, but they're going to have to buy an awful lot of new intrastructure first to deliver it. doesn't seem credible to anybody who knows how these systems work. the president also has other investments he's looking for,
including a saudi effort to buy nuclear power. >> jason, the president tweeting this morning and giving the saudis credit for something else that when you check the facts that is not credible, saying that oil prices are in effect a gift from saudi arabia, dropping from 82 to 54 when a lot of this is based on economic fears, et cetera. from your perspective, how is the president's viewed in the region? >> i think it is a green light to saudis and their allies and to iran and their allies that, you know, we're never going to come to a position where we want to see a balance of power in the region. we just want to see your destruction. and, you know, there has been people in this administration that have made that clear over the last couple of years, but i think this is the clearest sign
yet. >> jason and david, thanks very much. >> thank you, jim. i'm so glad that jim laid out that historical context that is so important, remembering when america has held its own allies to account and maintained their relationship. ahead for us, a cnn exclusive. mark zuckerberg defends the social network after a report they did not act quickly enough to counter russian election meddling. take a look at futures here on this wednesday before thanksgiving. pointing higher. maybe we will make up for some losses we have been seeing. we'll keep an eye on it when the market opens in just a few minutes. stay with us. let's begin. yes or no? do you want the same tools and seamless experience across web and tablet? do you want $4.95 commissions for stocks,
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welcome back. i'm poppy harlow in new york. jim sciutto is in washington. dow up 150 here at the open. stocks making up some of those losses. big concerns about tech stocks and a lot of it have to do with facebook. mark zuckerberg under fire and visibly defiant. he sat down for his only interview with our colleague. he says "the new york times" report claiming the social network tried to ignore and conceal russian interference into the election is just plain false. lori has not slept in days. there in california you do the interview. you come back here. thank you for getting it. thank you for being here. what stressed you most in what
he said? sg >> i think maybe he was defiant. this is a company under fire right now. he responded to that criticism, and he also responded to a lot of those specific allegations. take a listen. >> i want to start with some of the revelations that came from the new york times piece. >> sure. >> let's look at russia. did you and other leaders try to minimize russia's role in spreading propaganda on the platform? >> no. look, here is what happened. in 2016, there is no doubt that we missed something really important, right? the russian effort to try to have these coordinated information operations on facebook and also the internet and more broadly was not something we were expecting. elections are always a very high security event, and we were expecting certain types of cyber attacks and we found them. the russians were trying to hack into specific accounts, and we told the people and we told the
fbi and all that. but we weren't on top of these coordinating information operations. so we have spent a lot of the last couple of years now basically building up our systems and strengthening them to be able to address this. but we have been very focussed on this and have invested a lot in it. anyone that wants to say that upon learning about this we haven't been very focussed on trying to both address it and also that we have -- i think anyone who says that we haven't made a lot of progress, i just think that's not right. >> folks talk about transparency, though. this idea that they wanted to produce a transparency paper and russia was taken out, do you regret not being more transparent at the time or not getting -- not being more vocal about it at the time? >> you know, i wish that we understood the issue sooner, right? i wish we understood it before 2016, before the russian tried to do these information operations in the first place. i do think sometimes people say,
well, how did you not know this? i think in some of these cases, you know, it is a really big deal to come out and say that a nation state is behind something. and before our company puts a stamp on something saying that, i want to be really sure that that's the case. >> quite a few revolutions. one is you decided to keep up a trump post that many felt fell under the hate speech post. one of the reasons is they were worried about a conservative backlash. i know facebook is under a lot of pressure. >> no. look, in a lot of these cases -- >> did they in that situation? >> no, they didn't. and i was involved in those conversations. i think it's very important that people have the opportunity to hear from what political leaders are saying. so, you know, in those cases, i don't think that a lot of the
content violated our policies. we also have a specific point in our policies where newsworthy content, we give a special deference to, which certainly some news is a prominent politician going out and making a point fits into that. so, no, i think we did the right thing there. >> i was on the reporter call where you repeatedly denied you knew anything about hiring this opposition group pr firm. you know, i have spoken to so many people within facebook and former employees that say this is mark's company. can you state for the record, did you know anything about this? >> like i said in the column, i learned about this when i read the report as well. but i'm not actually sure that's the most important point. i think your question is right, that this is -- i do run the company. i am responsible for everything that happens here. i don't think that this point was about a specific pr firm. it was about how we act, right? and that's why i think it's
important not just what we're doing in relation to this one firm, but that we go through and look at all of the different pr firms and folks we work with and make sure that we're operating in the way that we want to. >> you know, the pr firm was founded by a republican political strategist and it launched a campaign leaking facebook critics to george soros. this is a common tactic. that's why i think people were so shocked when they found out about this. that was one of the parts of the report that folks had real questions about. does that strike you as stooping low? >> yeah. i wasn't particularly happy about that piece of it, and that's a big part of when i read about this what made me want to look into this more deeply. the intention is never to attack an individual. but there are these lobbying groups of folks out there whose primary purpose is to attack the company. and i do think it is fine to push back on them. >> in this particular scenario, launching, you know, it's not
common for tech companies to hire these types of firms. >> yeah. look, from the review that i have done so far, it doesn't appear that anything that the group said was untrue as far as we can tell. but, again, this really isn't about one pr firm. this is about the standard that we want to hold all of the different folks who we work with. we work with a lot of different pr firms and different contractors and vendors with the company and we need to make sure that we're comfortable and that all the folks that we work with uphold our values. >> do you approve of the way they went after george soros? do you approve of that methodology? >> i don't think this is the type of thing that our company should be engaging with. >> what would be your message to george soros? >> well, i know that george soros has been the target of a lot of really horrendous
attacks, and i can put that as terrible. i certainly wouldn't want anyone who is associated with our company to be a part of that. >> lori is with me now, the only person who could get this interview. he didn't even talk to "the new york times" for their exclusive report. thank you for bringing it to us. he controls so much, not only two billion users on the platform, but he owns 60% of the shares. he's got a huge amount of power, unlike a lot of ceos and he seemed defiant in terms of the fact that he won't step down and the coo's position doesn't look like it's going to change? >> he said i hope i'll work with her for the next ten years. that remains to be seen. but there are a lot of questions about his power. is it too much unchecked power? and i think, you know, there is this rallying cry as we see crisis after crisis to bring more people to shake things up,
to get a different set of eyes in there at this very specific time. >> given that and the fact that the shares are down 40%, investors obviously not happy about that, why is it that he does not think there is room for more at the top? why is it that he doesn't think that there needs to be some new leadership or a lessening of his control as ceo and chairman? >> i think he thinks they have reorganized the organization. you had many leaders from one staff and instagram leave recently. i don't know if that's a good or a bad sign. >> a lot of them left because they didn't agree with how he was running things. >> that could be very problematic. but i think he thinks in his mind he made a lot of these things. they actually launched a third party content organization, so if your content gets taken down from facebook, you can actually go to his third party and if they appeal it, facebook can't say anything.
that is one check. but sit enouis it enough? >> he said to you we have a different world view than some of the folks who are covering us. what does that mean? >> look, i think there is a disconnect sometimes between what's happening inside the walls of facebook and what's happening on the outside. i don't think anyone is denying that facebook has helped small businesses and done a lot of these great things, but there is a disconnect from the outside where you are saying you are doing a lot of these terrible things, enabling a lot of bad things, and this is where they got into trouble in the first place where they didn't see ahead of what was going to happen. >> fascinating. people can watch it online obviously on cnn business. thank you for being here. watch the entire new series. she sits down with all of techs la leaders. so wide-ranging interview and rare to get the facebook
head to sit down and be held accountable on all those issues. cheers to lori. coming up, are you one of the 30 million people traveling for thanksgiving? we'll show you what you are getting into. i think a lot of us are in this list. we want to know. if you're waiting patiently for a liver transplant, it could cost you your life. it's time to get out of line with upmc. at upmc, living-donor transplants put you first. so you don't die waiting. upmc does more living-donor liver transplants than any other center in the nation. find out more and get out of line today.
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million. but when it comes to air travel, if you are one of those people flying, more than 30,000. so more than 30 million people are expected to be traveling by air. and we are expecting records as it relates to air travel. we are here at reagan national airport. this is a good sign. if you were traveling by plane, this is what you want the boards to look like. everything is running, for the most part, on time. there are no significant cancellations and delays. so that is the good news. we do know that today is one of the busier travel days as well as sunday. we have some video from chicago o'hare. you can see the situation there. here at reagan national, again, this is all happening in cycle. so we are in a lull right here at reagan national airport. but they are prepared for this increased volume. again, they are expecting records to be broken for this
thanksgiving holiday travel. airlines, they say they have added staff. they have added flights. they are using larger planes and tsa for their part. they are using k-9s so you can get through the check point a lot faster and also added staff. the good news, again, people are getting out on their flights. not a big issue when it comes to cancellation and noise. >> we will be relying on you to make it all run on time. so stay at the airport. >> that's a lot of pressure, jim. >> yeah. >> all right, rene, thank you. have a nice thanksgiving. ahead for us, granted a restraining order against michael avenatti. of course he made headlines for representing stormy daniels. cnn obtained new details about the abuse allegations that he is facing. piercing headache even if no one else can. it's why we focus only on headaches. nothing works faster.
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welcome back. an aspiring actress has been granted a restraining order against attorney michael avenatti being accused of physical and verbal violence against her, both claims that he denies. >> as you know last week avenatti was arrested in los angeles on suspicion of domestic violence. we didn't know the details but now we know the woman in the alleged altercation, her name is -- she is an aspiring actress
who says she dated him for about a year and lived with him. what we have learned is that she was granted a restraining order against michael avenatti and in that request for that restraining order she makes a number of serious allegations against michael avenatti. she says that among other things michael avenatti called her an ungrateful f-ing b word and he got close to me in a threatening manner that made me afraid and forcefully hit her in the face with pillows and dragged her on the apartment floor. she says it was the day after this incident that when she went back to the apartment to retrieve her belongings that michael avenatti was in fact arrested. as you said, he has denied all of these allegations. he told me a couple of days ago that he had never struck a woman. we also have a statement that avenatti's lawyers gave to the
l.a.p.d., a part of which i want to read. it says they had an argument while in his apartment during which -- he did not inflict corporal injury or cause traumatic condition. they say there are witnesses and surveillance videos that should help support avenatti's statements. >> i know that cnn has made multiple attempts to reach out to ms. minuitti. you did speak to her husband. so she is married? what did he tell you? >> she is still married. i did speak with her husband just yesterday. this is what he had to say about his wife. he says she is a very calm, well mannered respectful individual and a classy woman. and about the alleged incident
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