Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview with Senator Jim Risch of Idaho; Trump Lawyer Used Trump Org E-mail In Stormy Daniels' Deal; Florida's GOP Governor Signs Gun Reform Bill; 313,000 Jobs Created In Feb; Strongest Since July 2016. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired March 9, 2018 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SEN. JIM RISCH (R), IDAHO, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: He wants to talk.

[16:30:01] And he will do some things in the meantime, not the least of which is to quit testing. And that's a big deal. And I think he is going to have to be held to that as a precondition. I think he knows that or he wouldn't have said it.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: I want to you listen to something else that Sarah Sanders said at the White House today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: For the first time in a long time, the United States is actually having conversations from a position of strength. Not a position of weakness like the one that North Korea finds itself in due to the maximum pressure campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Senator, the CIA director has said that North Korea is months away from being able to hit the U.S. with the nuclear weapon. That sounds like position of strength. Not America's right now.

RISCH: Well, we have to remember that you're dealing with a country that, although it has the nuclear weapons, its abilities compared to the United States' abilities is like hamster facing an 800-pound gorilla. I mean, it's a huge difference.

Do they have more strength handle they've ever had? Yes. So does United States of America.

BASH: Yes, but you're talking about that in the context of war. I just mean in the context of negotiations and diplomacy.

RISCH: Sure. Well, in that context, I think that what you need -- the most important element here is that both parties agree on an objective. And right now, you have the president and America and the world who's had denuclearization of the peninsula as goal and you have now heard Kim Jong-un say that's his goal. The statement that came out of the last night, that came out of the ambassador to the United Nations was crystal clear in that regard.

And it would behoove everyone to read that. Not necessarily believe it. It stated that our goals are the same.

So, we don't to have start with what are our goals. But we need on work towards is, how do we reach those goals?

BASH: Yes or no question, I'm out of time. Do you trust the North Koreans in these or any negotiations that they will do what they say?

RISCH: Of course not. And they're not going to trust us. Each side needs to verify just like we do when we deal with the Russians.

BASH: Senator Jim Risch, Republican of Idaho, thank you so much for joining me. Appreciate it.

RISCH: Thank you.

BASH: And President Trump's personal lawyer says Donald Trump and his organization had nothing to do with his payoff of porn star Stormy Daniels. But newly obtained e-mails suggest a different story. Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:37:08] BASH: New evidence involving the president's long time personal lawyer that $130,000 payment to adult films actress Stormy Daniels. New emails suggests that Trump Attorney Michael Cohen didn't tell the truth or at least not the whole truth when he said he had acted alone to pay off Stormy Daniels. The e-mails first reported by NBC News show Cohen used a Trump Organization email account to help facilitate the payment.

But three weeks ago he insist that had the Trump organization and the Trump campaign had nothing to do with the payoff.

Let's get straight to Drew Griffin.

And, Drew, I want you to explain to our viewers why it matters. What would it mean and what does it mean that Cohen used this Trump Organization e-mail account for this payoff?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, it's more circumstantial evidence that Stormy Daniels' lawyer says proves Michael Cohen was acting on behalf of Donald Trump's company and therefore Donald Trump when he tried on buy the silence of Daniels.

What the e-mails show, and here they are. A bank sending Michael Cohen this note saying the funds have been deposited into your checking account and Michael Cohen forwarding that message to Stormy Daniels' attorney. What this shows Michael Cohen using his Trump company e-mail to conduct all this business.

The question remains, did the president know 11 days before his election that his personal faithful attorney, and at the time, employee, was conducting this transaction on his behalf in an effort to secure the election and does that violate election law if true?

BASH: And, Drew, tell me about the law firm that is involved now and was involved in the Trump campaign?

GRIFFIN: Yes. So the law firm, it is a small New York firm. They were paid with $114,000 from the Trump campaign over the last two years. Most of it was in 2016, then another check in late 2017.

Larry Rosen is a partner in that firm. He is also representing Michael Cohen in this Stormy Daniels dispute. He is telling CNN, the money from the Trump campaign has nothing to do with Stormy Daniels. And here's a quote: Nor have we ever represented the Trump campaign in any way related to Ms. Clifford. Rosen using Stormy Daniels' legal name, Stephanie Clifford.

He declined to say what that Trump campaign paid the law firm to do last year, Dana.

BASH: Drew Griffin, thank you so much for that report.

I want to bring back our panel.

Look, I mean, it's probably not a big surprise that Michael Cohen goes to a lawyer he knows, because he's done a lot of work with him in the past. For him to go to a stranger at this point is not a big surprise. Agree?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I'm not terribly surprised by that. I think what sort of animating this story and how I'm watching is that Stormy Daniels is sort of playing a Trump game.

[16:40:01] She's revisiting the story over and over again. She's using the media. She's going to court with him and that is what will not allow to it rest, right?

So, I think it will continue to be a problem for them. The question is, is it enough of a problem? I don't think the affair is enough of a problem to make his voters who understood who he was that mad and I'm not sure that an FEC violation is enough of an issue to bring him down. Stranger things have happened though.

BASH: Yes. No, right, and you're right. It's using the tools that she has of the legal system, as you said, to get this in the ether and she's doing it.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And she's being helped by the fact Michael Cohen is a bad lawyer. I'm not a lawyer but I wouldn't want him to be my lawyer. I mean, he -- not only as you said did he take some sloppy steps recently. But also when he opened the shell company, he signed his own name on it.

So there are steps that leave this long trail of evidence. Circumstantial evidence at a minimum that ties it potentially back to Trump. And the unraveling of that is also what's making this pop back into the news.

BASH: And I want to read to you what Michael Cohen said in his initial statement last month.

He said: Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly. The payment to Ms. Clifford was lawful and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone.

Now, aside from the morality issue, or maybe even the ethical issue, as lawyer whether that is OK to do it without telling your client, isn't this another potential conflict of interest?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Of course, it is. And the idea of -- so the use of the Trump.org e-mail gives more credence to the idea that this could be an FEC violation. I know it's not -- you know, it's not murder or anything, but it is relevant and it is unethical to not follow the rules when it comes to an election.

Now, have the voters known about this before the election? You don't know. He could have been still elected. A lot of this was built in with Donald Trump as a candidate. That said --

BASH: When you say it is an alleged affair. This is pre-payoff.

KUCINICH: Right. An alleged affair pre-payoff.

BASH: Yes.

KUCINICH: That could have been built in. The cover-up might be worse than the actual accusation.

HAM: It has brought down a lot of important dudes.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: Good point. You mentioned payoff. Excuse me, you mentioned cover-up.

I want to you listen to what Stormy Daniels' lawyer told CNN about the notion of President Trump actually knowing about this payment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Why do the American people need to hear from Stormy Daniels?

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORENY: Because cover-ups matter. You have Attorney Cohen claiming that Donald Trump never knew anything about this. You have the White House claiming that Donald Trump never knew anything about this. That will be shown to be patently false.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: OK, communicator here. This is your job. Is it --

PSAKI: I think one of the big challenges to state the obvious is that Donald Trump has a very weak relationship with the truth, and so, he has a long history of lying about all sorts of things. And the story as you hear it isn't believable to the average person. If you put aside FEC questions, if you put aside, was the affair good thing -- of course, it was terrible. But the fact Donald Trump's personal lawyer used his own money to pay off a porn star and Donald Trump didn't know about it fundamentally doesn't sit right. And that's where the rubber meets the road here.

BASH: But what he is saying, he is suggesting he has evidence that the president did know. So let's go with that and assume that evidence comes out at some point. Is it going to matter?

HAM: Well, I mean, that's the question. I think the question is how far it gets legally. I'm not sure that politically in this environment, it actually makes a difference. And I would add to the evidence that the president I would likely say knew about this is the fact that throughout the Trump administration and the campaign, the people under him have not been great at protecting the principal from knowing about things, right?

Like you've had these sloppy interactions where people have told him all the things, that he's been closer to the action than he should have been. And this is I think likely another one of those cases.

KUCINICH: Here's where it could matter. It could matter in the midterm elections, and here's why you say that. Voters who are sick of the drama, they just want things to get done. And members of Congress, and senators who don't want to talk about this stuff anymore.

That's where voters who are kind of on the fence, who are over it, could say enough already. That's where it could. I'm just saying this is totally hypothetical if, in fact, there is evidence. That may be a line that could be crossed.

HAM: I would love people to run on boring.

BASH: It's funny. I'm saying as you say that, about some of the key races coming up in November. And some of the areas, obviously, one of the big fights is going to be in the suburbs across the country. And women, female voters tend to help people win or lose the suburbs.

[16:45:00] I remember going to Philadelphia, the suburbs there, right after the Access Hollywood tape broke and the women who were going to vote for Trump, they didn't care about it. But it's a question about whether or not that translates now that were you know, two years hence but also, other candidates who they're thinking about him whether they think, we need somebody else in there just to sort of balance out the drama.

PSAKI: And this may be the right or the wrong strategy but Democrats, including in special elections are not running on Trump's you know, issues on the personal side. They're running on other issues which tells you something about what their polling says, about what people actually care about. Now, that might be slightly horrifying -- slightly horrifying to me but it also tells that you this may not break through in the same way that people think. Now -- KUCINICH: But I think -- but I'm not saying that this going to be the

one thing that people cast their votes for Democrats rather than Republicans, I'm saying that the cumulative of all the drama.

HAM: Well, and I think cumulative effect -- the principal part that you used to talk about and what we have to worry about is these sort of exurban and suburban college-educated women where that can build up stories like this and they turn off.

BASH: Everybody, thank you so much. Happy Friday! I appreciate it. And be sure to tune in to CNN tonight. Stormy Daniel's attorney Michael Avenatti will join Anderson Cooper at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. What Florida's Republican Governor just did that could be a game changer in Congress for gun legislation. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:50:00] BASH: And we're back with breaking news. Minutes ago the Florida Governor signed a gun reform bill less than a month after the Parkland shooting. A remarkable political feat for a Republican Governor in a swing state, considering all the pressure he has gotten from the NRA. The bill raises the age to 21 to buy all firearms and adds a three-day waiting period. It also bans the sale and ownership of bump stocks. But it also allows some teachers to be armed in schools if the local Sheriff's Department and the School District approve it. Joining me now is Athena Jones. Athena, you were there in Tallahassee. The Governor made it clear, he's not totally on board with it but he is signing it.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Dana, that's absolutely right. The Governor has been vocal for several weeks now. He's been vocal about his opposition of the idea of arming teachers and other school staff. He has said repeatedly that teachers should teach. He said it again today, but he also talked about the compromise that were necessary to get this bill to his desk. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: There are things in this bill that I oppose and I've been pretty open about that. I still think a law enforcement officer should be the one to protect our schools. I've heard all the arguments for teachers to be armed and while this bill was significantly changed on this topic, I'm still not persuaded. I am glad, however, that the plan in this bill is not mandatory.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: So there you heard him expressing his concern about this program. But he -- this is certainly the most controversial part of the bill. In fact, the Florida Education Association, which represents some 140,000 teachers and other school staff across the state, had urged the Governor to veto, use his line out of the veto power veto power the funding $67 million that had been set aside for this program which is called the guardian program. The Governor argued that what he instead wanted to do was talk with the legislature about using any leftover money. If that $67 million isn't used, he wanted to make sure that some of that money could be redirected to increasing law enforcement presence in schools. And so, he didn't want to veto the funding because then the money wouldn't be available. Dana?

BASH: And Athena, just a political question. Governor Rick Scott has a high A-plus rating with the NRA, made no secret about the fact that he probably wants to run for the U.S. Senate, what is the NRA saying about this new law he signed?

JONES: Well, Dana, the NRA is not happy about this law because of the gun restrictions included some of those restrictions that you just spelled out, about raising the age and the three-day waiting period. They are not happy with this. But the families of the Parkland victims, two of the fathers spoke after the bill signing and said this is an important first step in the direction towards making school safer. And they urge more states to follow in -- follow Florida's lead in making schools safer and hardening schools to prevent another strategy like the one in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Dana?

BASH: Athena, thank you so much for that report. I appreciate it. And up next, something that really puts a smile on the President's face. Plus, a special look at the most powerful man in history.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] BASH: And we're back with our "MONEY LEAD" now. The Dow finished up 400 points today after the release of a strong jobs reports this morning. The President tweeted about the release of the February report saying, "jobs, jobs, jobs #MAGA." Hiring surged in February with the U.S. economy creating 313,000 jobs. It's the strongest month since July of 2016. The unemployment rate held steady at 4.1 percent, a 17-year low.

As more people entered the labor force, wages grew at an annual pace of 2.6 percent, not as strong as expected. And be sure to tune in to CNN "STATE OF THE UNION" on Sunday morning. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ron Johnson are on the show. It all starts at 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon Eastern. Again, that's Sunday morning. And that's it for THE LEAD, I'm Dana Bash in for Jake. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer now in "THE SITUATION ROOM."