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Matt Gaetz Associate Claims in a Letter the Congressman Paid for Sex; Rudy Giuliani Denies Wrongdoing After FBI Raids Home and Office; Biden Leaves White House to Pitch Big Plans Directly to Americans; Pence Navigates Relationship with Trump As He Weighs 2024 Bid. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired April 30, 2021 - 09:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Now this including with a minor who was 17 years old at the time. We should note that CNN has not seen the letter, cannot verify those details. A spokesperson for Gaetz is denying those allegations and Joel Greenberg's attorney has declined to comment. But all of this sure to fuel fresh questions for Gaetz. He is at the center of a known Justice Department investigation over allegations involving both sex trafficking and prostitution. We will have much more on that in a moment.

But there's also this news. Rudy Giuliani speaking out. He is denying wrongdoing after federal agents executed search warrants on his Manhattan residence and office, this as the "Washington Post" has learned that the FBI directly warned Giuliani that he was the target of a Russian influence operation, disinformation.

CNN's Paula Reid is following the latest on Congressman Matt Gaetz and Joel Greenberg.

So, Paula, walk us through what this letter proports to show.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Well, Joel Greenberg wrote a letter admitting that he and Gaetz paid for sex with multiple women including a minor who was just 17 at the time. Now the letter was drafted after Greenberg asked Roger Stone, a close ally and friend to former President Trump, for help in obtaining a pardon during the final months of the Trump administration.

Now in an earlier draft to this letter obtained by the "Daily Beast," Greenberg claims that he and Gaetz thought one woman was 19 years old but later learned she's actually underage. Greenberg reportedly claims that when he learned of this he immediately called the congressman and warned him to steer clear.

Now CNN has not seen the letter and can't verify the details. But we have spoken to several women who were involved with these men and we have reported Greenberg paid women on behalf of Gaetz after some sexual encounters.

Now CNN's own Chris Cuomo spoke to Roger Stone last night. Stone says he doesn't recall any letter. He says that he never heard Greenberg implicating Gaetz and that he never tried to get Greenberg a pardon. And Stone told the "Daily Beast" he never nor received any money from Greenberg.

SCIUTTO: All right. Tell us at Gaetz's response to this?

REID: Well, a spokesman for Gaetz responded with a statement saying in part Congressman Gaetz has never paid for sex nor has he had sex with a 17-year-old as an adult. The story goes some way to showing how Representative Gaetz was long out of touch with Mr. Greenberg and had to interest in involving himself in Mr. Greenberg's affairs.

But Mr. Greenberg is very much involved in Mr. Gaetz's affairs. Greenberg is currently in jail. He's facing 33 federal charges including sex trafficking, and sources tell CNN Greenberg has been cooperating with federal investigators since last year and he has shared information with them about encounters he and the congressman had with women who were given cash or gifts in exchange for sex. And Mr. Greenberg is expected to finalize his plea deal in the coming weeks.

SCIUTTO: His cooperation could be notable for Gaetz. Paula Reid, thanks very much.

Former Trump attorney, personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, he's speaking out after federal agents raided both his Manhattan home and office. This as the "Washington Post" is reporting today that the FBI directly warned him that he was the target of a Russian influence operation.

CNN's Kara Scannell is following this. So, first, Kara, what is Giuliani's response to this search? I mean, it's difficult for judges to approve warrants like this one. They need some sort of, you know, evidence or potential for evidence. So what's Giuliani's response?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Jim. So Rudy Giuliani gave his first interview since the search warrant on his apartment just behind me occurred on Wednesday morning. And, you know, this investigation has been going on for two years. Prosecutors are investigating Giuliani's efforts in Ukraine including his push to remove the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.

She is someone that people have been critical of in Ukraine including Ukrainian government officials because of her strong anti-corruption stance. And prosecutors here are examining whether Giuliani was acting on behalf of his then client, then President Trump, or on behalf of those Ukrainian officials. Giuliani denied that he was ever working for Ukrainians. Hear what he had to say.


RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP'S FORMER PERSONAL LAWYER: I can tell you I never ever represented a foreign national. The search warrant is purportedly based on one single failure to file for representing a Ukrainian national or official that I never represented.


SCANNELL: Now, Giuliani also is teeing up the possibility for a long fight over the electronic devices that were seized. He also told FOX that he believes his constitutional rights were violated because prosecutors had obtained his iCloud account in 2019 when he was preparing the president's impeachment defense -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: All right, so the other part of this, perhaps a broader part of this story.


The "Washington Post" reporting that the FBI warned Giuliani personally that Russia was attempting to meddle in the 2020 presidential election and through him, in effect, and yet as we know, he went on to meet with a Ukrainian known to be tied to Russian intelligence. So what details are you learning and is there legal exposure here?

SCANNELL: Well, Jim, so you're right. The "Washington Post" reporting last night that Rudy Giuliani was warned by the FBI counterintelligence agents in 2019 that he could be part in receiving information from a Russian disinformation campaign. That defensive briefing came in 2019. And then after that briefing Giuliani continued to travel to Ukraine and to meet with a number of these officials he was warned about.

Now this is not part of the current criminal investigation. But it is something that the intelligence community has flagged as recently as in a recent briefing where they outlined a number of efforts by Russians to push for disinformation about Joe Biden during the 2020 election. You know, at this point, it is not part of this investigation. There is no evidence that Giuliani was working and part of this, you know, conspiracy or something that we had seen in some of these other investigations -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Understood. Kara Scannell, in New York, thanks very much.

Let's speak now to former federal prosecutor, Jennifer Rodgers, to understand all this.

Jennifer, always good to have you. I want to begin if I can with the "Washington Post" reporting, just in terms of the FBI giving Giuliani a warning in 2019. Say, listen, the Russians are going to interfere again and they're going to try to use you. After that, Giuliani still goes ahead and meets with the Ukrainian, quote-unquote, "politician" but who the U.S. believes is tied to Russian intelligence and accepts a whole bunch of disinformation, right, targeting Biden. I mean, is there potential legal exposure for that?

JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: You know, Jim, in theory, there could be. I mean, the reason that intelligence officers warned targets like Giuliani is to change their behavior. Right? To get Giuliani to stop meeting with these people, to report to U.S. intelligence agencies if he does so, to try to kind of work on the intel side.

But it also of course puts Giuliani on notice. And if in fact they propose something to Giuliani that Giuliani understands is proposing some sort of criminal conspiracy, criminal agreement, then in theory, if he joins that conspiracy then he could be liable.

SCIUTTO: Understood. OK. So let's talk to the subject of a current ongoing investigation which they've now searched his apartment and his office for. It appears the focus here based on Giuliani's own description of what was in the warrant, that this is focused on a violation of the FARA Act, in other words, if you're going to be working for a foreign national for folks at home that don't understand, you know, lobbying U.S. government, et cetera, you've got to report that. And the allegation it seems is that he did not report that.

I mean, based on what you're looking at here, does that appear to be the scope of this investigation? The real focus?

RODGERS: Well, that's what we're hearing. That's what Giuliani's lawyer also said and that's what some of the reporting has said. You know, there are other potential crimes for Giuliani including bribery, around the Ukrainian scandal.

But it does seem like the FARA violation is what they're looking at, and that's effectively that he was serving two bosses, right, at the same time he's there on the president's behalf trying to oust Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador, to try to clear the way for dirt on Ukraine, he's also working for Ukrainians who have that same goal in mind.

SCIUTTO: That's a great point about that because Yovanovitch is involved in here. By the way, she was someone who stood up to Trump as he's trying to withhold aid to Ukraine to, you know, force them to investigate Biden in the run up to the election. So you have so many layers here that folks I think have to understand.

All right, so Giuliani goes on television last night, a friendly network, and says that the warrant was illegal because to get a warrant like this you would have to have evidence that he might destroy the evidence, e-mails, et cetera. But he says, you know, I've had them for two years, didn't destroy them. What do you think of that argument he's making?

RODGERS: I think it's been a long time since Rudy Giuliani has actually practiced law, at least if you're trying to forget his entree into the courtroom this past fall about the election. He doesn't know the legal standards or he's misrepresenting them. You don't have to show an imminent destruction of evidence. All you have to show is that what you're seeking actually contains evidence of a crime. And you, you know, they do that by showing the court what their probable cause is.

So to the extent that they did search the iCloud account of Rudy Giuliani, they also would have obtained information from third party --- other third-party service providers, probably e-mail providers. They would have used that to demonstrate to the court that there likely is more evidence in the devices they were seeking from Rudy Giuliani.

SCIUTTO: Understood. OK. Yet one more investigation, this involving possibly Republican congressman -- well, it involves Matt Gaetz. We now have this "Daily Beast" reporting about this letter in which Joel Greenberg who we know is cooperating with federal investigators, in effect documents to sort of back up his cooperation with investigators that Gaetz or alleges paid for sex with multiple women including a minor who's 17 at the time.


How troublesome is that development, if it proves to be true, for Gaetz?

RODGERS: You know, this all kind of falls under the category with Giuliani, too. If you're under criminal investigation certainly if you're facing criminal charges as Joel Greenberg was at that time, do not speak, do not write except through your lawyer. You know, Matt Gaetz -- you know, listen, this letter cannot come in as evidence against Matt Gaetz at least until and unless in certain circumstances if Joel Greenberg actually testifies against him but it can be used against Joel Greenberg.

And there's no reason for, you know, even if he was trying to get himself a pardon, you don't have to phrase it in that way. You could say, I want to be pardoned for everything alleged in my indictment and all, you know, other investigations stemming for that. There's no reason to kind of write out this confession. And by the way, the notion that he was trying to buy a pardon is yet another potential offense that I don't know whether or not federal authorities that he's now allegedly cooperating with knew about.

So this is just an own-hole in so many ways and it could come back to bite Matt Gaetz if in fact Joel Greenberg does end up taking the stand against him.

SCIUTTO: To your point, yes, in case folks at home aren't aware, he wrote this letter trying to get a pardon from the president. I just wonder, the detail he put in there, and by mentioning Gaetz, was that part of the sales pitch saying, hey, Mr. President, your pal here is involved, you better come to my aid? I mean, is that how you read that?

RODGERS: It's a very interesting part of the reporting because the reporting also said that Gaetz declined to support the pardon and that, you know, apparently Greenberg got fairly close to getting it and then Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, kind of took him off the list. So you kind of wonder whether in fact Gaetz, you know, by not taking part in the pardon ended up, you know, hurting himself in the end.

SCIUTTO: Interesting. All right, Well, Jennifer Rodgers, lots to throw your way, thanks so much.

RODGERS: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Still to come this hour, President Biden speaking out this morning about his big plans for the country and the big price tag. Will any Republicans get on board? Does he have all Democrats lined up?

News that Moderna may have a vaccine for teenagers, those 12 and up, ready by this summer. What that could mean for opening schools this fall. Could be a big deal.

Plus we spoke to supporters of former President Trump who don't accept the proven science behind vaccines but go all in on debunked election conspiracies. It's happening in this country in 2021. Trust me, it will alarm you.



SCIUTTO: President Biden certainly has a big legislative vision for the country, but that big vision carries a big price tag. So far, his plans total cost would be $6 trillion. That's a thousand billion dollars for each of those trillions. Soon, he leaves the White House again to take his sales pitch directly to the American people.

Today's stop, Philadelphia. Jeremy Diamond is at the White House. Jeremy, more Americans support certainly means more leverage with Congress in negotiating. But what strikes me is that not only do you have a unified Republican front against these plans, but you have folks like Joe Manchin and other Democrats, you know, getting some sticker shock here.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Joe Manchin, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire both of them in the wake of that State of the Union speech having that sticker shock as you talked about.

But this is what today is all about as President Biden heads to Philadelphia for -- to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Amtrak, he is going to be looking as he has every time he heads out into the country to tout this infrastructure plan and to try and build on the public support that the White House believes that they frankly already have from much of the public on this. The president also making the case this morning that these are the kinds of things that only government can do. Listen to him this morning in an interview with "NBC".


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't have any inordinate faith in government. But there are certain things only the government can do. We rank number 8 in the world in terms of infrastructure for God sake. Is the private sector going to ground and build billions of dollars with the highways, ports, airports, bridges, are they going to do that? And so these are things that only government can really do.


DIAMOND: And now as for that sticker shock that we were just talking about, Jim, I mean, the president also responded to that in that interview where he talked about the fact that, listen, even though Republicans and even some Democrats are saying that this economy that is rebounding back to life undermines his case for these trillions of dollars in spending, the president arguing that it is the investment, $1.9 trillion from the Coronavirus Relief Bill for example, that is responsible for that economy coming back to life. And that if we want that to continue, the U.S. should continue investing.

And he does say that he sees an opportunity here for the country to not only rebound, but to come back even stronger and better than ever before. So, we will see the president make that case today. But again, most of this is going to happen in Congress, those negotiations between Democrats and Republicans --


DIAMOND: Set to continue for weeks, if not months. Jim?

SCIUTTO: And within the Democrats too on some of these questions. Jeremy Diamond, thanks very much. With me now to talk about President Biden's push for bipartisanship, if that still exists is a man who knows how to compromise on Capitol Hill, former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent. Charlie, good to have you back on this morning.



SCIUTTO: So, you say -- and by the way, you're not alone in this, that Biden is overestimating his mandate here, right? That he campaigned as a middle of the roader, but when you look at the expanse of these plans here, it's a pretty big expansion of the federal government. On the flipside, a lot of these plans, they're frankly popular, right? I mean, people like getting stimulus checks. People like, you know, child care benefits and child tax cuts and that kind of thing. So, how do you square those two?

DENT: Well, I think the president needs to move in a more incremental nature on some of these plans. Look, you're right, many of the things that he's advocating are popular. But this sticker shock is real, not just for Republicans as you pointed out in the previous segment.

So, I think it's imperative that he enter into a bipartisan agreement. Shelling more capital is key here. He should enter into a real deal on infrastructure, it would be smaller than $2 trillion paid for by user fees. They should do the same thing on police reform. Because the best thing to help Democrats coming forward in the mid-terms will be bipartisan agreement.

It's hard to -- it's hard for Republicans to savage the Democrats on policies that many of their own members would have voted for. So, I think, you know, Biden has to become much more incremental. This election that we just went through, I mean, people voted for Joe Biden, but then they also voted for a check by electing all these Republicans down ballot. They have to keep that in mind. Biden's tone was very moderate the other night, but his program was not so moderate.

SCIUTTO: Let me though play devil's advocate here on the desire for bipartisanship. Because you know the political incentives as well as I do that in most of these districts, Republicans, they don't only not get a benefit from working nicely with Democrats, they get punished if they do, right?

And listen, we saw it going back to the Obama administration, I mean, McConnell said, and I'm going to make this guy a one-term president. I mean, is there genuine Republican interest in effect helping the Biden agenda here, right? Even if you compromise, get a bipartisan deal, at the end of the day they're voting for a President Biden legislative opportunity. I mean, you know, is there actual Republican desire for a compromise?

DENT: Well, you're absolutely right that the political incentives, you know, make members of both parties frankly tack hard to their base --


DENT: And see -- in seeking consensus and compromise. But there are voices there. I mean, the problem solvers caucus is working right now on an infrastructure plan just like they did at the end of last year on COVID relief that became the foundation for the ultimate agreement.

I think they need to do the same thing now. There are people who want to do infrastructure on both sides, and they should let the Senate, you know, the Capitos, the Manchins, the Fitzpatricks and the Josh Gottheimers of the world, let them negotiate a deal. And the leaders should embrace it.

But the leaders are also very afraid of their own bases in many --


DENT: Respects. They get a lot of pressure from -- their conferences, their caucuses, and the Senate has to really drive this thing. If they do --


DENT: I think we could see some results.

SCIUTTO: Yes, Chuck Schumer, I mean, he's got his own challenge within his party, right, in 2022. So, he's got to be conscious of the base as he's making these deals. I mean, you know, we'll see. We'll see. It may -- it may be a necessity for Biden, right, because he might not have the, you know, the Democratic caucus in line, he may have to, you know, reduce. I want to ask you about Mike Pence because we heard from him again for the first time in a while sense -- according to the Pence's own aides, the president ignored him, abandoned him on January 6th, right? And he was upset, right? He was there with his daughter when that happened. The president didn't seem to care. But in his speech, we had him touting the Trump-Pence administration.

He said "among other things, in 48 months, the Trump-Pence administration achieved the lowest unemployment, the highest household incomes, the most energy production with the most pro-American trade deals, the most secure border, strongest military in the history of our country." We could fact check several of those because frankly not all of them are true. But he's basically tying himself to Trump. Do you respect that?

DENT: No, I really don't. I mean, I think Mike Pence has learned the hard way that with Donald Trump loyalty is a one way street. Mike Pence couldn't be more loyal, and then to have the president turn on him and stick a mob on him and was seeking to hang him, and then still turn around and then try to ingratiate yourself with the president, I don't think it's very helpful to Mike Pence. He was a good and decent man and I've served with him.

But I think that all these candidates who are simply trying to attach themselves to a twice impeached, such a seriously flawed individual who I believe will become a diminishing figure certainly in a general election, I think is a real political error.

SCIUTTO: Well, Charlie Dent, it's always good to get your view from your experience on the Hill. Thanks so much.

DENT: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Parents, if you've been wondering when children, 12 and up might be able to get a coronavirus vaccine. We have some new details next. It's coming soon.



SCIUTTO: This morning, some good news again on the COVID pandemic, promising new data from Johns Hopkins University which tracks this, shows the weekly average for COVID-19 deaths here in the U.S. has hit an all time low for 2021. The 7-day average is now around 680 deaths per day. That is due in part to the effect of vaccinations, mass vaccinations around the country. Joining me now, CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. Next step, 12 to 16 or 17-year-olds. What is the timeline for when they might be authorized to get the vaccine?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, I'll tell you, this is a timeline I personally I'm following quite closely as the mother of a 14-year-old, I want to know when she can get her vaccination.