tv CNN Newsroom with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto CNN February 22, 2019 6:00am-7:00am PST
a very good friday morning to you. i'm jim sciutto in washington. could be a newsy friday. >> it might be. don't go anywhere. good morning. i'm poppy harlow. washington is bracing for special counsel mueller's final report on the russia investigation. this report could come at any moment. first this. "empire" actor jussie smollett is digging in just hours after bonding out of jail. he was back on his set, the set of "empire," gathered his fellow castmates and crew members and apologized. >> but instead of coming clean like many expected a person in the room said jussie smollett once again said he's innocent, didn't stage the assault and blasted the legal system in what he called unfair media coverage.
joining us now, ryan young from chicago. he's been following it from the beginning. a lot of words come to mind here. mind boggling is one of them. he's still saying he didn't do it. >> this is really playing out like a bad reality tv show to a certain extent. this played out on this show yesterday live when the superintendent of police comes out and uses very strong language. to give you an idea of not only how angry the police department is but the fact of all the investigative hours they put into it. they started detailing this. let's show the video again of him leaving jail. to me that put this in a capsule. all the cameras focused on him and you hear maybe on set he's doubling down saying everyone should believe him. at this point you almost want to ask after all that's been put out there, what evidence could he have to double down? i can tell you investigators went a step further.
when the assistant district attorney in the department came forward and said, look, we have communication between all three men. they believe they went and located the area where they wanted to do this, prescouted it. then they said he gave them $100 to buy supplies. we have video of the brothers buying the supplies at a beauty supply store. and the fact that he asked for the noose and he wanted to have gasoline poured on him. they decided to go to bleach instead. there was even the detail that he showed up late for the attack. the brothers had to wait on a bench for him to arrive before going through with the attack. they wanted him to rough him up but not go too far. i have heard so many tips about the story but didn't know we would get that detail yesterday. then apparently the motive is he was upset with compensation. it just doesn't make sense. you hope you will get more.
don't forget. three weeks from now we have to go to court again. he's out on $100,000 bond. this story doesn't end. >> the police said yesterday the wounds were self-inflicted. wonder if they have proof of that, too. >> let's talk about the legal implications here with the criminal defense attorney sara azara. this is fascinating and confounding. your reaction first as an attorney to jussie smollett digging in here. >> well, look, first of all i'm astonished at the strategy of his lawyers. if my client came to me and he had messed with the police and led them on a wild goose chase that caused thousands of dollars in an investigation that's a hoax, the last thing i would do is throw the police department under the bus and the media. i would go in behind closed doors, do damage control, placate, mollify and beg for a break for my client. what they have done is bad, bad, bad. secondly, jussie smollett as we
speak is presumed innocent. his lawyers need to go through this evidence, look at the text messages. were they sent from phone to phone or are they screen shots? the $3500 payment, was it issued by him? was it for this faux attack or other services? one of the brothers was his personal trainer. a full, complete investigation has to be done into the evidence. if jussie smollett did this crime he has to be a very disturbed man. what we do as criminal defense attorneys is look into what our clients are suffering from. what is it that led them to do the bad act? he needs help. he needs to go away, get help, come back and make amends to the african-american community, the gay community, the maga supporters and the world. everyone is outraged. >> to your point about
presumption of innocence, everyone has that until found guilty in a court of law. >> right. >> we didn't hear about that at all from the chicago police superintendent. i mean, his press conference was live on our show yesterday morning. jim and i were so struck by what we heard from him. what was your read on that as a criminal defense attorney? if you are sitting there listening, representing jussie smollett, what are you thinking? >> to an extent it's typical for the police to treat people like they are guilty just because there is accusations being made. it is our job to step in and remind everybody, hey, my guy is innocent. the other part is this police department is pissed off. they have been led down a wild goose chase for weeks on a hoax. they're upset. the city is upset. listen, citizens lie to police officers. in recent years this is criminalized. in this case it's being prosecuted. the police also frequently lie in investigations.
so we have to let it unfold. as bad as it looks for jussie smollett, there is still an independent investigation that his lawyers need to do. if he's innocent their job is to prove his innocence. the police department is largely their reaction is they are so upset at this. they are presenting him strongly as a guilty man, but he's not guilty. >> finally sara, if this thing goes to trial, if he continues digging in, saying he's innocent, if this goes to trial he seems like someone who would want to take the stand and testify in his own defense. if he were to do that he has to tell the truth or he could be guilty of perjury. >> absolutely. has to tell the truth or he would be guilty of additional crimes such as perjury. if this evidence checks out it's not a good idea for him to go to trial.
if he goes to trial and loses he's getting up to the maximum. not on the low end of the sentence. again, it is too early to determine whether he should go to trial or enter into plea negotiations. the best thing is for him to get out of the spotlight, voluntarily get out of his job. go away, get the help he needs, come back and hope people won't be disgusted to hear his name. >> appreciate your expertise from los angeles this morning. thank you very much. in washington, d.c. this morning robert mueller is about to unveil one of his last major court filings, maybe the last one before he hands in his final report. that's a big reason -- a big deal for two reasons, jim. >> we could learn a lot from this filing on the big picture here. today's sentencing meghan marmol manafort is likely to spell out in rich detail the extent of the special counsel's findings in this case.
the court filing is a public record. it will be on the web right away. the judge in this case is the same judge who yesterday threatened roger stone with jail. if he says another public word about the case. the key here is in this sentencing memo, the prosecutor has to tell us why he wants manafort to go to jail for a certain period of time. in doing so he would lay out his theory of the case. >> we can learn additional information. we look to see where mueller stands on this. this memo is his opportunity to say -- the judge already knows the crimes paul manafort pled guilty to and was convicted of. now mueller can write out the bigger pick -- picture of the case. it can be more narrative and fill in blanks. >> facts and manafort and also
possibly trump's involvement with him, et cetera? >> it's possible. we have seen mueller do it in other filings. especially in manafort's case. with the whole process we went through in the past few weeks of him violating the plea agreement. manafort wasn't charged but we learned he lied about contacts he had with konstantin kilimnik, someone the fbi says has associations with russian intelligence and lied about conversations during the campaign that goes to the core of mueller's investigation and people communicating with russians. we'll look closely to see what details mueller lays out here. it's the chance to tell more information about this. we are expecting the report to be filed any day now. that will be the final statement from mueller. all eyes on the document today to see what we'll learn. >> possibly just a bigger sense of what he turned up in terms of
conspiracy, cooperations and russia. >> this can include a lot of information learned from rick gates, manafort's deputy. it's been part of the filings we have seen to date. dribs and drabs. this could be big picture. >> people are used to dribs and drabs. this could give us the big picture. not to mention the final work being done from the special counsel. everybody's on pins and needles. >> everyone certainly is. stick with us for that and more news this friday. high stakes hearings days from now as michael cohen gears up for intense text message on the hill. he'll face a grilling from three separate committees. what will he say? also, north carolina calling for a redo, declaring a new election in that contested house race at the center of a fraud scandal.
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socks! & you could send him a coupon for that item. before he heads to prison for three years, michael cohen, the president's long-time fixer and lawyer is pretending to spend three days before three separate congressional committees. >> two of the sessions before the house and senate intelligence panels will be behind closed doors. but on wednesday, the self-proclaimed fixer will appear in public before the house oversight committee. evan perez has a preview. it will be remarkable. you saw michael cohen tweet i'm ready and excited to share my
story and words with the american people. he was on the hill yesterday. we don't know what happened. maybe you do. what was that about? >> it was a bit of a mystery. the reporters didn't expect him to show up. we started following him around. we do know he spent several hours and most of the day, in fact, behind closed doors in the secure rooms in the senate intelligence committee where they keep the classified documents. one possibility is he was looking over his previous testimony. as you remember, michael cohen has a little bit of a challenge there. he's pleaded guilty to lying in the previous testimony. perhaps he was making sure he gets the story straight before next week. we have three days of michael cohen. one of them would be on wednesday which is going to be public. the tuesday one will be interesting, too. it's behind closed doors. we'll see members of the committee showing up.
not just staff doing the questioning. that will be interesting. the public one will be a spectacle. the president will be overseas in vietnam doing the summit meeting with the north koreans. there is a list of things the house oversight committee want to ask michael cohen not only about the money and the president's business. one thing that stood out to me was the potentially flauj le ll practices of the trump foundation. that goes to his family, his business. another one is the president's compliance with campaign finance laws which goes to payments to the women and the thing that michael cohen pleaded guilty to which was violation of the campaign finance laws in the payments. poppy and jim? >> one thing it makes clear is on the mueller investigation you have numerous investigations that will continue even after mueller's work is done.
joining us now, paul cowan and lisa lehrer. lisa, if we can begin with cohn's testimony next week, he won't be able to speak about the russia aspects of the investigation. he can speak to other issues including the issue of payments and debts related to the 2016 election. hush money payments. tell us the significance of the testimony. not only in terms of being embarrassing for the president but legally damaging. >> it's definitely going to be deeply embarrassing for the president. don't forget that there are tapes. you remember, of course, prosecutors raided mr. cohen's office, home, gathered tons of information. some of it was about hush money payments. we have seen other investigations spin off such as a look at how the inauguration was funded.
mr. cohen was taping his conversations with the president who was not the president at the time. so it's likely the committee and the democrats will play the tapes and air them in public and that's certainly going to be embarrassing for the president. definitely incriminating in some ways. >> paul, yes, beyond the embarrassing, there is the real issue of credibility here. i mean, you're going to see committee members poking holes in michael cohen every which way because he's lied to congress before. how significant is it that the special counsel team said in court a month ago michael cohen has been credible and consistent with other evidence obtained. he's got that going for his credibility. he's got a big knock on it as well. >> he does have that going for him. that's important because at least mueller's credibility has been good with the american people and with congress. however, he remains the achilles
heel of donald trump, i think. as his personal attorney, his so-called fixer, the potential for severe embarrassment is enormous. whether he's able to reveal something that would constitute an impeachable offense, i have my doubts that we'll see anything new in this area. the reason i say it is because mueller and southern district prosecutors gave him sort of a limited credibility endorsement. they didn't give him something called a 5-k-1 letter which you get a substantial reduction in sentence. they felt he wasn't fully cooperative. he held back information. they still didn't trust him. so i think whatever we listen to from michael cohen we have to listen carefully. i think you will see a strong attack by the president's advocates on credibility. >> lisa lerer, the moment yesterday with roger stone in
court, another associate of the president was remarkable. just to see the difference between his public proclamations via twitter full of victim and vigor and then there for the dressing down by the judge he suddenly is full of apology which he didn't accept. tell us the significance of that. this is also involved in the manafort investigation. >> it was a fascinating moment. there are a couple of things here worth getting into. first of all, roger stone is trying to raise money. this has been a way in the past we have seen the self-proclaimed dirty trickster. he uses this inflammatory rhetoric to raise funds. but what's interesting here is he is the third trump associate to run afoul of the court. risk their own personal freedom, their own legal cases to say the kinds of inflammatory things
that we know the president likes to hear from his spoupporters. you have to wonder why. are they trying to woo the president for a pardon or help in some way or is it just the eco-system that the president and people around him have been in for a long time, sort of the rhetorical worlds in which they exist and thrive. we don't have the answer to it. it is notable that roger stone isn't the only aide to the president we have seen take this kind of risky tactic before the court and before the judges. >> backfiring, getting scolded and walking away with his tail behind his legs. remarkable difference. >> totally. paul, to you, we had kara explain the sentencing meghan markle we'll get from mueller's team in the manafort case today. what are you looking for that could be significant for others in the trump orbit. >> you have to jump back to the
primary purpose of the mueller investigation. that was demonstrating the existence of or the lack of connections between the trump campaign and the russians. manafort has been viewed by mueller as a key link in the investigation because of manafort's extensive contacts with russian sympathizers in ukraine. this is an important document. we'll see hints of where the ultimate mueller report will go. how strong were the russian connections? how strong will the collusion case be ultimately if he launches collusion charges against the campaign. >> nice to have you on the show. thank you both very much. jim? north carolina is headed for a second house election after documentation of ballot fraud with the possible involvement of the republican candidate. this is a remarkable and important story. we'll have more coming up. (vo) parents have a way of imagining the worst...
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a dramatic and shocking turn of events overnight in north carolina. in an extraordinary case of apparent voter fraud involving a republican candidate for congress. the state election board decided to throw out the 2018 results for the house seat there in the 9th congressional district and hold a new election. it follows a months-long probe stemming from a political operative hired by mark harris's campaign. state investigators say that man, leslie mcray dallas was behind a scheme to illegally collect and tamper with absentee ballots tilting the election in his favor. dallas said it is not true, but harris who insisted throughout four days of testimony he had no knowledge of wrongdoing made this statement to the board
yesterday. >> neither i nor any leadership of my campaign were aware of or condone the activities involved in this hearing. through the testimony i have listened to i believe a new election should be called. >> diane gallagher has been following this. she joins us from raleigh, north carolina. he himself says a new election should be called. that's a dramatic about-face. do we know what led to this? >> well, poppy, first let me tell you what harris and his attorneys say led to this. for the last two and a half months urging the board to certify him as a congressman and calling accusations of election frud liberal conspiracies. they say he came into the hearing with an open mind and the testimony was compelling starting with the first witness, a, woer wrker who said she was
forced to sign ballots as a witness she didn't witness, forge ballots. it was likely the testimony of his oldest son john harris that was the most damaging both emotionally and likely in the eyes of the board. john harris is an assistant u.s. attorney. he testified that he had repeatedly warned his father about this operative and the risks he may be taking by having anything to do with him. there were e-mails that dated become two years of him warning his father and laying it out. it dismantled harris's public acknowledgments of denials. >> i love my dad. i love my mom. okay? i certainly have no vendetta against them, no family scores to settle, okay?
>> so, look, poppy, those e-mails may have played another role. mark harris admitted due to medical issues he's been dealing with, he had two strokes in january, he may have said something untruthful before. he apologized to the board and quickly called for a new election. we'll learn when the new election is. hopefully in the coming weeks. the board will set the primary and general elections. the 9th district is a do-over in the coming weeks. >> thank you very much for the reporting. >> no question. we'll see. he didn't speak truthfully about it in court about whether they shared all the e-mails including from his son warning him. >> mr. goodwin, thanks for joining us. >> my pleasure. >> this is a stunning reversal from harris. he appears to have sought out the help of the operative after this operative's success in 2016
in an election harris then lost using similar methods which seems to speak to some knowledge of what he was up to. in your view should harris in addition to a new election, should he face legal consequences? >> this is shocking, ripped from the pages of a grisham novel. we have admission before a state agency of fraudulent activity that appears to be intent in knowledge. it will be up to officials to determine what to do and whether to do anything further. in the end with the hearing so far, democracy won, justice reprr revailed and we'll have a full and fair election. this is not over yet. >> should he face more of a consequence in your view than having another election here? one question is should he be allowed to run. >> from what i have heard through the media, he hasn't
decided whether he'll run again or not. i'm not aware of a prohibition to keep him from running. there is a clamor on the republican side to find a plan b. i have not heard the north carolina republican party disavow harris or his campaign yet. but it will be interesting to see what happens. as for your initial question, there must be accountability for this. we must not have election fraud. we should not have the fair and free elections called into questions by our voters. >> no question. one of the details from the hearing in the last couple of days is that harris confessed to knowing that his legal team did not share under subpoena an e-mail from his son who we saw testifying there warning his father about what appeared to be possibly illegal activities by this operative here. so he knew about it.
knew his team apparently didn't share it and then said, well, my memory was compromised because of health reasons. is that a sufficient defense in your view? >> i don't know what he knows. i know what he testified to. there were hundreds of pages of documents not provided that had been requested months earlier by subpoena from the state board of elections. as an attorney myself, i know it is very concerning whenever there is not a response to a subpoena. so there will be accountability regarding that, i expect. the authorities, whomever they may be will weigh these admissions, weigh the facts and determine what accountability actions would be taken. it should be of concern to everybody involved. >> a key detail here, this election decided by 900 votes or so. so the false votes