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Paul Manafort Lied About Konstantin Kilimnik; Four Candidates for Job of Chief of Staff of President Trump; Former Nissan Chairman

December 10, 2018



<Date: December 10, 2018>

<Time: 09:00>

<Tran: 121020CN.V11>

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<Head: Paul Manafort Lied About Konstantin Kilimnik; Four Candidates

for Job of Chief of Staff of President Trump; Former Nissan Chairman

and Top Executive Arrested in Japan; Extreme Weather in Southern Part

of U.S.; CNN Hero of the Year; Nobel Peace Prize Winner. Aired 3-4a

ET - Part 1>

<Sect: News; International>

<Time: 03:00>

<End: 03:59>


[03:00:00] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN HOST: Implicated in two federal crimes. Now U.S. lawmakers from both sides have a blunt message for President Trump. No-one is above the law.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN HOST: Plus, it is a critical weak for Theresa May. In the United Kingdom the prime minister prepares for a final vote on her Brexit deal. We have a live report from London ahead.

CHURCH: Also, the chairman who saved Nissan from collapse has just been indicted. Why his company is also being prosecuted.

HOWELL: We are live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. And we want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I’m George Howell.

CHURCH: And I’m Rosemary Church. This is CNN Newsroom.

Thanks for staying with us. Well, Michael Cohen endeared himself to Donald Trump with his ability to fix things. Now Mr. Trump’s former attorney could go to jail for doing his job as a fixer too well.

HOWELL: Here’s what we’ve learned so far starting with the government court filings related to Michael Cohen’s sentencing. They showed Mr. Trump directed him to pay off two women to keep quiet about alleged affairs. The filings also showed Cohen had more contact with Russia than he acknowledged in earlier statements. All that happened during the 2016 election.

CHURCH: Now it remains to be seen how this will affect the special counsel’s investigation into Russian election interference. Even so, lawmakers are speaking about their next steps should it be proved Mr. Trump did something illegal.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: If it’s proven, are those impeachable offences?

REP. JERROLD NADLER, (D) NEW YORK: Well, they would be impeachable offences, whether they are important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question but they’d be impeachable offences. Because even though they were committed before the president became president, they were committed in the service of fraudulently obtaining the office. That would be the impeachable offense.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: If someone has violated the law, the application of the law should be applied to them like it would to any other citizen in this country. And obviously, if you’re in a position of greater authority like the presidency, that would be the case.

I don’t know what’s going to reach that point or not. We have to wait and see, but my decision on that or my position on that one it would not be a political decision. It will be the fact that we are a nation of laws and no-one in this country, no matter who you are, is above it.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA: The Justice Department basically say that the president of the United States not only coordinated but directed an illegal campaign scheme that may have had an election altering impact is pretty breathtaking, but that was just one of the things we learned from Michael Cohen in this past week.


HOWELL: In the meantime, the revolving door at the White House, the U.S. president busy narrowing down his list of candidates for a new White House chief of staff and trying to turn attention away from all that we’ve learned from the Cohen revelations.

CHURCH: Yes. CNN’s Sarah Westwood is following developments from the White House.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN White House REPORTER: President Trump spent this weekend rallying against the Paris accord, going after his former FBI director and calling for an end to the Russia investigation, and basically talking about anything other than prosecutors linking him directly in court filings submitted Friday to illegal payments his former attorney Michael Cohen made during the presidential race.

Now Trump had attempted to tout these latest documents as vindication because they didn’t contain evidence of Russian collusion, but they did tie the president directly to illegal payments that he had initially denied knowledge of.

Now all of this comes against the backdrop of a major staff shake up at the White House. The president told reporters on Saturday that his chief of staff John Kelly would be leaving the White House, ending months of speculation about Kelly’s future. And the president’s top choice for that job, Nick Ayers, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence will also be leaving the administration after discussing seriously with Trump the prospect of replacing Kelly.

Now Ayers and Trump disagreed on the timeframe for Ayers holding that job. Our colleague Kaitlan Collins reports that Ayers wanted to hold the job on a temporary basis until this spring till the president could find a permanent replacement for Kelly. And Trump wanted a two-year commitment from Ayers. Now the president is considering four different names to become his new chief of staff. One of them may be Congressman Mark Meadows. He is a particularly close ally of the president’s on Capitol Hill.

And CNN is also told that the president aims to make this decision by the end of the year.

Sarah Westwood, CNN, the White House.

HOWELL: Sarah, thanks for the reporting. Let’s get insight now with Leslie Vinjamuri. Leslie is the head of the U.S. and America’s program at Chatham House. Joining us this hour from our London bureau. Always a pleasure, Leslie, to have you on our show.


HOWELL: I’d like to start with the changing of the guard in the chief of staff. General John Kelly on his way out the door. Nick Ayers says he’ll pass on the job.

[03:05:01] And now we’re hearing that Representative Mark Meadows is reportedly being floated as a possible replacement. But the question here, how difficult will it be for this administration to find anyone to step into a role that a short history suggests is a dead-end job from the start?

VINJAMURI: Well, clearly there will be someone. The question is who, with what credibility will they have externally. Because it’s a very -- it’s proven to be a difficult role to fill successfully.

One needs the loyalty of a president who is whimsical, who changes, you know, who’s very emotional, but also needs to be able to have the loyalty to have the support of Kushner, of Ivanka, of a number of people who come first for the president and to manage what’s been a very chaotic White House.

So, you can see why for a lot of very serious people it’s not tremendously appealing, but it’s an important role. And the turnover in this I think is deeply disturbing.

HOWELL: The other big story that we’re following, the president starting this week under the shadow cast by these court filings from Friday on Mr. Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen and his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

It shows that there is a lot of smoke, and even goes as far as implicating individual number one who we believe individual number one, Donald Trump, the U.S. President, in two felonies. But the question here, is there a smoking gun, in your opinion, from these court filings?

VINJAMURI: Well, certainly it seems to link the president to directing the payments, the hush money. But I think this question of whether -- now first of all, who is Cohen cooperating with? He seems to be cooperating very much with Mueller, which leads us to think that there is likely much more to come from Mueller’s investigations.

But it’s not yet clear what the link is on the question of Russia. It’s very clear that, that many Russians have tried -- that tried to communicate with members of Trump’s team his during the elections, during the campaigns. But what they received back from Trump and those around him is certainly lack of clarity on that so far.

I think the big question here is how is this being read by the American public. And if you are watching the commentary and listening to people it’s still being read very much through partisan lens. And the president of course is directing a lot of that partisanship.

So, until there is more that comes out of the Mueller investigation in particular, I think it’s very difficult to know which way this will go. Because, of course, one of the questions a lot of people want to talk about, which is impeachment, is ultimately a very political question.

HOWELL: OK. On that point, you know, we saw what the fired FBI director James Comey had to say to lawmakers through the transcript that was recently released by lawmakers, by Republicans. But we also got to hear from him in front of a live audience at New York city’s 92nd Street Y. Let’s listen to this. We can talk about it on the other side, Leslie.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER UNITED STATES FBI DIRECTOR: I hope Donald Trump is not removed from office by impeachment because it would let the country off the hook, and it would drive into the fabric of our nation a third of the people believing there was a coup. That said, if the facts are there and the legislative -- two Houses of Congress think it’s appropriate, that’s fine.


HOWELL: Leslie, a statement in contradiction, but I’d like to get your thoughts. What do you make of the message there from Comey?

VINJAMURI: Well, I think Comey is making a very important point. When you have an electorate which is deeply divided, which is very polarized in a very partisan context, the idea that a president and the decision of his fate would be made by something other than people I think is potentially very divisive. And this is what Comey is saying. He said, take this to the next round of elections and let the people decide.

It’s not dissimilar to a lot of the arguments being made in the U.K. this week about Brexit. The fear that when a public is so close on a very significant and highly consequential issue, the means through which you choose are just tremendously important.

HOWELL: Leslie Vinjamuri, live for us in London. Leslie, we always appreciate it. Thank you for your time.

VINJAMURI: Thank you. CHURCH: Outrage is growing in the United States Congress about the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Both the White House and Riyadh deny that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is behind Khashoggi’s killing. But lawmakers are not buying it.

HOWELL: That’s right. We’re hearing another Senate Republican breaking rank with the Trump administration and slamming Saudi Arabia. It’s Marco Rubio appearing to push back -- appearing to back, rather, the CIA’s take on who is responsible for Khashoggi’s death at the consulate in Istanbul. Here’s what he told CNN’s State of the Union. Listen.


[03:09:57] RUBIO: We don’t need, you know, direct evidence that he ordered the code red on this thing. The bottom line is that there is no way that 17 people close to him got on a charter plane, flew to a third country, went into a consulate, killed and chopped up a man, and flew back and he didn’t know about it, much less order it.


HOWELL: Key U.S. senators were briefed by the CIA on their assessment of Khashoggi’s killing. They were horrified and said so publicly, and now a source has given CNN a briefing on a transcript of an audio recording of Khashoggi’s final moments, and we do warn you, it is disturbing.

CHURCH: It is. And CNN’s Nic Robertson was provided details of the translated transcript reproduced in this report. It correlates with the CIA finding that the Saudi team sent to Istanbul came with the intent to kill.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: CNN can now reveal Jamal Khashoggi’s last words. “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.”

These previously undisclosed details of what happened that afternoon in October come from a source who has been briefed on the investigation. The source has read a full transcript of an audio recording of Khashoggi’s horrific final moments.

Within moments of his fateful steps into the consulate, Khashoggi recognizes someone, asks why they are there. The answer, “You are coming back.” According to CNN’s source, the Turkish transcript identifies that person as Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, a former Saudi diplomat and intelligence official working for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom Khashoggi knew.

Khashoggi is clearly alarmed and replies, “You can’t do that. People are waiting outside for me.” According to the source, the conversation ends right there. The transcript indicates noises as people set upon Khashoggi. Very quickly Khashoggi can be heard saying, “I can’t breathe.” He repeats it again. “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.”

What happens belies in a short Saudi claim his death was a grave mistake. CNN’s source says it’s clear from his reading of the transcript Khashoggi’s murder was no botched rendition attempt, but the execution of a premeditated plan to murder the journalist. But it is what happens next that is really horrific.

The transcript records many voices and noises. Then says, scream from Jamal. Again, scream. Then gasping. Noises are identified as saw and cutting. Then, a voice Turkish authority identify as Dr. Salah Mohammed Abdah Tubaigy, the head of forensic medicine at Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry. He says, “If you don’t like the noise, put your earphones in, or listen to music like me.”

According to the source, Mutreb, the apparent leader of the team makes at least three phone calls during the murder to a number Turkish officials identify as being in the Saudi royal court. Only Mutreb’s side of the conversation can be heard, but there is no sense of panic or of an operation gone wrong.

Mutreb tells the person in Riyadh, “tell yours,” that the source takes to mean your boss or your senior, “the thing is done. It’s done.”

CNN reached out to Saudi officials to get a response from those named in this report and were told Saudi security officials have reviewed the transcript and tape and nowhere in them is there any reference or indication of a call being made.

A Saudi source close to the Saudi investigation says both Mutreb and Tubaigy deny making phone calls. While the transcript provides no smoking gun directly tying Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the killing, it seems to echo Senator Lindsey Graham’s sentiments after hearing the CIA’s assessment of Khashoggi’s killing. There is not a smoking gun, there’s a smoking saw.

Nic Robertson, CNN, London.

HOWELL: CNN shared our source’s detailed description with the office of the senator who was briefed by the CIA last week, and we were told that the CNN report of the transcript was consistent with the briefing the senator received.

CHURCH: Well, Britain is headed toward a critical vote. Coming up, Theresa May’s warning to lawmakers if they reject her Brexit deal.

[03:15:01] And the question is coming up with Italy following Britain out of the E.U. Supporters of the country’s deputy prime ministers say it’s not out of the question.


HOWELL: Welcome back. This just in to CNN as of the last few minutes. The European court of justice ruling that Britain is free to unilaterally revoke its withdrawal from the European Union if it chooses. That information, again, coming right now. It comes as the British prime minister faces a very critical test this week.

CHURCH: And despite calls for a delayed parliament vote on the Brexit deal Tuesday, and by all indications it will be rejected. Now the prime minister faces opposition from within her own conservative party and from Labour, the liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party, and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Nationalist Party.


STEPHEN BARCLAY, U.K. Brexit SECRETARY: The vote is going ahead. And that’s because it is a good deal. It’s the only deal. And it’s important that we don’t let the (Inaudible) to be the enemy of the good.

[03:19:58] So, the Brexiteers in the party for people like me, we campaigned in the referendum to take back control of our immigration policy, to have a say on things like not sending vast sums of money to the E.U. And this is a deal that does that. But does it, Andrew, in a way that balances the need to protect jobs, to keep the supply of goods flowing.


HOWELL: As it was from the start, there are protesters on both sides of the issue. Brexit supporters say this deal doesn’t do enough to free the U.K. from the E.U. And remainers don’t want Brexit at all.

CHURCH: All right. Let’s get more on all of this. Nina Dos Santos is at Abbington Green and Anna Stewart joins us from 10 Downing Street.

Nina, let’s go to you first. Because of course, now we are learning the European Union’s top court has just ruled that the British government may unilaterally reverse its decision to leave the block without consulting the other member states. What impact will this likely have on the vote and of course on the whole concept of Brexit going forward?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, this is quite significant because what it does, essentially, is enables those who would like to see the U.K. cancel the Brexit process or perhaps have a second referendum. It gives them the choice to voice that voice when, of course, we have the votes in a day’s time more forcefully.

So, it could give cover, if you like, to those who would like to see the Brexit process canceled, the idea being that a no-deal scenario is not necessarily the scenario that the U.K. is facing at the moment if they vote down -- if M.P.’s vote down Theresa May’s deal. If you like, they don’t have a buyer in her choice just between her deal and no deal, they could actually just put Brexit on hold or cancel it altogether.

From the government’s point of view, the government obviously fiercely fought this case. This case was put forward by a number of anti-Brexit campaigners as well as cross party members of some of those parties you mentioned in your introduction who are going to vote down the deal, including the Scottish National Party members.

And essentially, the government has said that this is largely hypothetical because the U.K. will not be planning on cancelling the Brexit process. That is the status quo at the moment when it comes to the likelihood of a second referendum.

Again, Theresa May has consistently said she does not want to call a second referendum. She said that the British people have had their largest exercise in democracy in the best part of the generation and their voice should be heard after they voted for Brexit at two and a half years ago. So where does that leave us now?

Well, as you pointed out before, it is looking as though she will likely lose that vote. The question is over the next 24 hours is how much she will lose it by. If she can try and limit some of the losses to, say, 50 votes, less than 100 votes certainly, then that might give her a chance to stay in her position at least for now and go back to the E.U. to try and get them to soften their stance on the most contentious of issues.

There really is a thing that many M.P.s are against and that is the structuring of the Irish backstop arrangement to prevent a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.


CHURCH: All right. Let’s go to Anna now at 10 Downing Street. I know you’ve got some headlines there. And of course, this news has just come through about the court and the European Union, so that won’t be read into this. But let’s look at how this vote is being received and how it’s being reported on.

ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: Well, Rosemary, increasingly it looks like the vote will happen. Downing Street has been adamant about that. Over the weekend, the reports were that surely Theresa May would delay this vote because she’s almost certainly going to lose it. And the focus is now on the fact that she’s likely to lose it, what will happen to the prime minister next.

And I can show you some headlines we have from The Times, “May to face leadership battle over Brexit deal.” Here we have The Daily Mirror. “End of May’s rein.” And underneath it says, “Labour send blood and Tory rebels plot to ditch her as new vote humiliation looms.”

And the question is how big a defeat are we talking? Are we talking as Nina suggested, potentially 100 seats, something really significant? In which case you could see as these headlines suggest, her own party trying to oust her, it only takes 48 M.P.s to trigger a leadership vote.

Of course, the Houses of -- the House of Commons could also -- the opposition parties could launch a vote of confidence against the government itself, in which case a new government would have to form all. We could see a snap election.

So many different scenarios. If Theresa May is still prime minister by the end of it, and she has been steadfast, and she’s really committed to staying through this Brexit deal, staying through to the next election, but if she does stay, yes, she’s going to have a really tough job on her hands because parliament are likely to send her back to Brussels, and she’s always said that she cannot get a better deal. She’s got the best deal she can. And she’s briefly said it’s this deal or no deal. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Critical time for Britain and, of course, for Theresa May. Many thanks to Anna Stewart and Nina Dos Santos for reporting on that story. We appreciate it.

[03:24:57] HOWELL: Of course, we’ll continue to monitor what happens with the United Kingdom. But as Britain approaches its critical vote, Italy’s new populist coalition government is deadlocked with the E.U. over its proposed budget.

CHURCH: Yes. The dispute is raising questions about whether Italy could eventually follow Britain out of the E.U.

Atika Shubert explains.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A grand entrance for Matteo, leader of La Lega, the league political party and Italy’s interior minister. Though, the soaring score to this thank you rally six months after Italy’s elections suggest bigger ambitions for the man who has made Italians first his rallying cry.

Now this is a show of force by the league and its party leader Matteo Salvini. Remember, they only won 17 percent in the national election. They are actually in a coalition with the five-star movement.

However, since then, under Salvini’s leadership, they have surged in popularity. Recent polls place them at 34 percent. And this rally is a way of consolidating that power.

Salvini has made a name for himself by attacking the E.U. on immigration and defending Italy’s troubled budget. Italian nationalism, he says, will bring Europe back to its, quote, “civilized Christian roots.”

In his speech he said “someone has betrayed the European dream. We will give blood and strength to the veins of a new Europe, founded on respect, work, economic and social progress,” he said.

After Brexit, Britain’s imminent departure from the E.U., could we see an ‘Italexit?’ Well, not yet one of Lega’s youth leaders told me. The immediate goal is to gain more seats at European’s parliament to next year’s election to constrain the E.U. first.


DAVIDE QUADRI, LEADER, LEGA YOUTH MOVEMENT: We are a very good seat in the society, a very good read on the society. And we understand there is a new challenge. It is not only local against the state bureaucracy, but it’s the local against the globalism. It’s a local against globalization and against the European super state that they want to build.


SHUBERT: Not far away, the volunteers at Europe now, a tiny grassroots movement, are trying to convince Roman residents that Italy needs more Europe, not less. Alarmed at the precedent set by Brexit every weekend, they set up their stall and give out E.U. flags.


ERIC JOSEF, VOLUNTEER, EUROPE NOW: It’s a nationalist threat are real. You know, for instance, we say, it’s just rhetoric. It’s not. Brexit is a real effect.


SHUBERT: For some of Salvini’s supporters, leaving the E.U. is no longer unthinkable.


ELEONORA RAFAELI, MATTEO SALVINI’S SUPPORTER: Maybe it could, it depends. It depends what happens in the future. But maybe it could. I don’t know. I’m not against it anyway. I’m not against an exit. I’m not against it.


RAFAELI: Yes. I was very happy about Brexit as well.

SHUBERT: The nationalism that triggered Brexit is similar to the populist way that Salvini is now steering. But while his power is growing, ‘Italexit’ is not likely yet.

Atika Shubert, CNN, Rome.

HOWELL: Still ahead, we continue to follow the Russia investigation and the man who once ran Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is now in hot water over his ties to a mysterious Russian figure. The question, will the trail that leads to Russia lead back to Mr. Trump?


[03:30:00] CHURCH: A very warm welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and of course all around the world. I’m Rosemary Church.

HOWELL: And I’m George Howell with the headlines we’re following for you this hour. Another top U.S. Republican is breaking with the White House, slamming Saudi Arabia for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Senator Marco Rubio said there is no way the Saudi Crown Prince wasn’t aware of the killing and that he very likely ordered it.

CHURCH: The European Union’s top court has ruled that Britain can unilaterally halt the Brexit process if it chooses. That news comes a day ahead of the critical vote in parliament on Theresa May’s Brexit agreement with the E.U. As it stands, it appears lawmakers will reject that deal although the prime minister warns that could leave the country in unchartered waters.

HOWELL: China has summoned the U.S. and Canadian ambassadors in protest over the detention of Huawei executive Meng Hwanzhou. She is accused of helping the tech company circumvent U.S. sanctions on Iran. Meng is being held in Vancouver and faces extradition to the United States. She is asking to be released on bail and Reuters reports she is citing health reasons as a factor.

CHURCH: A drive-by shooting in the West Bank on Sunday left at least seven people wounded including a pregnant woman. Officials said the shots were fired at people standing at a bus stop near the entrance to an Israeli settlement. Nearby soldiers fired at the vehicle but it got away.

The special counsel Robert Mueller is giving us new insight into the alleged lies of President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

HOWELL: That includes Manafort’s contacts with a shadowy figure who Mueller says has ties to the Russians accused of hacking the Democrats before the 2016 presidential election. Our senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen has more now from the Russian capital.

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In the latest court filing by the Mueller investigation where the Mueller team claims that Paul Manafort lied in at least five points. One of the main points is regarding a Ukrainian Russian official named Konstantin Kilimnik. Now, was a very close associate of Paul Manafort. In fact, Paul Manafort onc apparently referred to him as his “Russian brain” because he helped Paul Manafort do a lot of business in Eastern Europe specifically in Ukraine and also in Russia as well.

So, an extremely important individual to Paul Manafort and his business dealings. He did business with the government of Victor Yanokovich, which was of course the pro-Russian Ukrainian government that was in office until 2014 and also with a Russian oligarch named Oleg Deripaska who is reportedly very close to Vladimir Putin. Now, Kilimnik apparently remained very important to Manafort even after the two stopped doing business with one another.

Update hourly