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Republicans Shuts Down Russia Investigation; Stormy Daniels Not backing Down Her Fight. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired March 12, 2018 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] (JOINED IN PROGRESS)
DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: ... busy day in Washington. First up, major developments in the Russia investigation. Republicans on the House intelligence committee tonight handing the president exactly what he wanted, saying they found no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. And that they're shutting down their investigation.
The president reacting just the way you'd expect, tweeting in all caps, quote, "The House intelligence committee has after a 14-month- long in-depth investigation found no evidence of collusion or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election." Again, in all caps.
The president failing to note that it was the Republicans on the committee who reached that conclusion, ignoring the intelligence community's assessment that Putin was trying to help the campaign over Hillary Clinton.
The intel community could not have been clearer. And this is a quote. "Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. Democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for president-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments." High confidence in these judgments. High confidence. That from the very people charged with protecting our democracy.
And there's more. The office of the Director of National Intelligence putting out a statement tonight, standing by their assessment. So are Republicans on the House intel committee more concerned with protecting the president than protecting our democracy?
In a moment, I'm going to talk to a top Democrat on that committee. And I'll get the former national -- director of national intelligence to weigh in on all of this, as well.
Plus, we'll have the latest in the saga of the president and the porn star. President Trump really seems to have met his match with Stephanie Clifford, aka, Stormy Daniels.
CNN hearing that a source believes the situation is a bigger threat to Trump's presidency than the Russia investigation. But not only is Stormy Daniels not backing down, in a movie that could have come straight out of the Trump playbook, she is doubling down. Saying she'll give back $130,000 in hush money so she can talk about her alleged affair with Donald Trump.
But she says she'll wire the money directly to an account designated by the president, not to his attorney, Michael Cohen, who says he paid Daniels out of his own pocket.
Also tonight, new questions about the validity of the hush agreement. In just a few minutes, I'm going to ask Stormy Daniels' attorney the key question. Did the porn star have a relationship with the president?
I want to get right now to the latest on the Russia investigation, though. Joining me now is CNN's chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, and CNN's senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju. Good evening to both of you. Manu, you're up first. Who is making the decision to shut down the House investigation and what's the basis?
MANU RAJU, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, the Republicans are united behind this. Republicans on the House intelligence committee. You have heard Republican after Republican for weeks now telling me, telling other reporters and making it very clear, very publicly that they don't believe that this investigation can go on.
They believe that they have reached the essential conclusion, that there was no collusion between the Trump associates and the Russians. And they feel that they have reached a dead end, they have gone every which way and that's the conclusion they've reached.
And they're getting support not just from the rank and file members on that committee, but also the Republican who's running the Russian investigation, Mike Conway, and the Republican Chairman, Devin Nunes, who even though he temporarily step -- temporarily stepped aside amid controversy last year, has kept a foot in this investigation. Has been very influential behind the scenes, and certainly wants to see this investigation come to an end.
But in addition to that, Don, the House Speaker, Paul Ryan, has been very supportive of the Republicans on this committee and of their decision to shut down this investigation. They believe they've done what they could, they've concluded that Russia did interfered with the elections, but they have not come to the consensus that there was any sort of effort to help President Trump become President Trump.
That's something that the intelligence community has concluded, but not the Republicans on this very committee, a significant break and Democrats, of course, Don, saying tonight, there is just so many areas that they have not investigated in order to come to a real -- do a thorough investigation, but Republicans tonight rejecting that, Don.
LEMON: Dana Bash, I want to bring you in now. Good evening to you.
DANA BASH, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Hi.
LEMON: Does this report have much credibility, given how partisan this committee has been, basically from the beginning? BASH: You know, the answer to that would and should come when we
actually see the report. Because what we have now are top line conclusions, initial conclusions, that the Republicans on the committee briefed reporters like Manu on and then have since put out a press release on. But the underlying report, we have not yet seen.
And so, look, I think your point is exactly right. This has been the most partisan, the most dysfunctional, frankly, just disappointing for anybody who wants to really know what happened vis-a-vis, Russia, and more importantly, how it can be stopped in the future.
[22:05:02] And so, there are a lot of people around town, Republicans and Democrats, saying, good riddance. Let's get this out. Let's move on, and let's -- and let's focus on the Senate intelligence report and more importantly, perhaps the Bob Mueller investigation.
BASH: But just to sort of hone in on one thing that Manu said. The idea that the Republicans said that they didn't find conclusion. You know what, maybe Bob Mueller won't find collusion.
The thing that is most surprising is the fact that this Republican report explicitly says, according to these top line conclusions that they have released, that the primary goal that the Russians had in 2016 was to sow discord. Fine, but also, that they saw -- that they do not believe that Putin was trying to tip the scale in favor of Donald Trump.
That explicitly flies in the face of what the intelligence community said in their report in January of 2017. And still right now, today, say that they stand by, done by not political people, but career professionals. And that is going to be the very, very interesting thing to see how, when we see the full report, these Republicans on the committee back that up.
LEMON: Manu, do we know why that is their finding?
RAJU: Well, I actually pushed Mike Conway on this in a briefing with reporters earlier, trying to understand why, how they came up with this assessment. All they would say right now, Conway would say is that the evidence that they have seen in a classified setting, poring over the documents, the underlying assessment, they said that the underlying intelligence backing up that assessment just does not support the conclusion that was drawn in January of 2017.
They contended that they need a more thorough investigation about this than the intelligence community, because they said the intelligence community did it in a short window, right after the elections, but they spent months and months and months poring over the documents.
Now, we'll have to see if that's actually the case, as Dana said, when this report eventually comes out. Because the process is, this is classified right now, it has to go through a declassification process. And we'll see what exactly they're referring to, because the intelligence community tonight, President Trump's intelligence community tonight, is still standing by that assessment.
RAJU: The House Republicans just are not.
BASH: And can I just add one thing, Don? I spoke to a Republican member of this committee who has seen all the intelligence tonight. And this member insists that based on, just like Manu was saying, based on what he has seen, it's a lot more gray than what the intelligence community put out in their report in January of 2017.
However, this Republican member did not dispute the notion that Vladimir Putin, that the Russians were trying to hurt Hillary Clinton. So, you know, perhaps it's just phrasing. If you hurt Hillary Clinton during a contested presidential election, that effectively helps Donald Trump. So whether or not they were trying to make Donald Trump president or trying to make sure that Hillary Clinton wasn't, it has the same result.
LEMON: Dana, Manu, thank you very much. I appreciate it.
RAJU: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: Joining me now is CNN national security analyst, James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence. Director Clapper, thank you so much for joining us.
The president just tweeted in all caps, "The House intelligence committee has after a 14-month-long in-depth investigation found no evidence of collusion or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election." Is that the conclusion you would draw?
JAMES CLAPPER, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, CNN: Well, first of all, on collusion, in our intelligence community assessment, we had nothing in there about any collusion. And as I've said before, at the time I left on January 20th of 2016, I didn't see any direct evidence of collusion. And I really can't comment on what's been turned up, if anything, since then. So, you know, I don't know.
I guess I could argue that as a candidate Trump, when he exhorted the Russians to go find Hillary Clinton's 30,000 e-mails or praised WikiLeaks, which CIA Director Pompeo was aptly called a hostile non- intelligence -- non-nation state intelligence service, I guess that is a form of collusion. I think collusion is kind of a...
LEMON: Nebulous term.
CLAPPER: ... nebulous term. And it doesn't have any real legal implications.
LEMON: I want you to respond to this. This is Congressman Chris Stewart, he's a -- who is on the House intel and told CNN, this is a short time ago, the intelligence community, and this is a quote, "misinterpreted key intelligence when it concluded that Putin had a clear preference for Trump." He also said this about your earlier comments today, about how the
Russians had animus for Clinton and favored Trump as a better option. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[22:09:57] CHRIS STEWART, (R) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: I agree and then I disagree with the former DNI. I agree that they initially were just trying to sow discord, to break down the foundations of trust. No questions about that.
But I have done something now that he has not done. And that is, I have spent a couple of days out to the CIA actually reading the raw intelligence. Actually reading what we were basing this on. And when we released that report, we're going to be able to show, you know what, the CIA just got it wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: What's your response, director?
CLAPPER: Well, first, I have great respect for Congressman Stewart. He's an air force veteran as I am. And I think this is a case where maybe reasonable men can agree to disagree reasonably. I did not -- it's true. I didn't troop over to the CIA and sit down and read the reports. What I did do, though, is review with John Brennan, the director of CIA, in great detail, the veracity of that reporting.
Moreover, there was a lot of other evidence of Putin's active direction over this. If you look at the aggressive and the magnitude of the propaganda campaign on the R.T., a network that's controlled by Putin, if you read the indictment of the 13 Russians, and if you understand the nation of the Internet Research Agency getting $1,250,000 a month. Well, these things don't happen, particularly when they're amounting what is essentially warfare against the United States. That's not going on without the knowledge and blessing of Vladimir Putin.
LEMON: I want to ask you about these reports out of conservative media about you -- about the president, that you leaked that the president had been briefed on the dossier. Do you want to respond to that?
CLAPPER: Well, I'm figuring it out, frankly. It's a little nonsensical to me. What happened here, just the sequence of events was, on the 6th of January is when the four of us, it was Director Brennan, then the director of CIA, Director Comey, then director of the FBI, Admiral Mike Rogers, still director of NSA and I went to Trump tower to brief the president-elect on our findings in the intelligence community assessment which we then put out publicly that afternoon.
The following Tuesday, the 10th, the president-elect had a news conference in which he berated the intelligence community for -- as Nazis, for putting out or issuing this dossier, which we didn't. It's absurd. We didn't do anything of the kind. It was already out there. It wasn't an intelligence document.
It was in -- it was already held by the media. I didn't have any contact with the media until after I left the government on the 20th of January. So I don't quite understand at least what I've read that somehow I leaked about the dossier.
LEMON: So let me get -- so you didn't leak anything about the dossier to any media?
CLAPPER: No, not -- I mean, I talked about it after I left the government. But not during that period. And not -- certainly not between the 6th of January and the 10th when the president-elect himself talked about it.
LEMON: So you're saying that president-elect himself is the one who put it out there?
CLAPPER: Well, it was publicized, if I remember the sequence, it came out after our Trump tower briefing. And you know, all our purpose there was to inform him that it was out there. And I've often wondered, because it's kind of controversial, now, that we brought this up, that had we not told him about it, and then he learned about it and he learned that the intelligence community knew about it and didn't tell him, well, there probably would have been -- we would have gotten tweets for that, too. So I don't understand this -- you know, I leaked it to CNN.
LEMON: Yes. Director Clapper, you say now the only game in town is Robert Mueller. What about the Senate intelligence committee...
CLAPPER: Well, I have great hope for the Senate intelligence committee, which has sustained its -- at least, the optic, if not the substance. And I guess there is substance there, to bipartisanship. And that is really the only way, that in my opinion, and I've been around since these two committees were stood up in 1976 and '77. I was in the intelligence community then. And the only way that oversight is ever effective is when it's bipartisan.
And so far, the Senate intelligence committee has sustained that. I hope they can see that through and complete their report on a bipartisan basis, unlike the House intelligence committee.
LEMON: Does this finding today give the president political cover to get rid of Mueller in some form or fashion?
[22:14:56] CLAPPER: Well, I don't know about that. It certainly does play to the president's narrative and the president's tweets about, you know, this being a witch hunt and all that sort of thing. So, yes, it does, it certainly butters his narrative.
LEMON: The deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, just gave an interview in which he defended Robert Mueller's investigation. He says, "I don't believe there's any justification at this point for terminating the special counsel." What do you think is behind Rosenstein's public backing of Mueller at this time?
CLAPPER: Well, I don't know, but I guess, perhaps there's a correlation between that and the revelation about the ending the House intelligence committee investigation. I don't know. But I think for whatever reason, is a timely and appropriate statement and I'm glad he made it.
LEMON: Director Clapper, thank you.
CLAPPER: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: When we come back, more on the House intel committee. Republicans announcing the end of their Russia investigation without consulting Democrats on the committee. Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking member, weighs in, next.
MACDONALD: Republicans on the House intelligence committee announcing tonight that they found no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia and that they are shutting down their year-long investigation without consulting Democrats on that same committee.
I want to bring in now Congressman Adam Schiff. He's the ranking member of the intelligence committee. Congressman, we appreciate you joining us here this evening. How did you find out that the investigation is shutting down and this Republican report is finding no collusion by the president?
[22:20:02] ADAM SCHIFF, (D) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: Well, and this is sort of typical these days. I found out by reading in the newspaper. The Republicans leaked it to the press before even informing us.
But Don, it doesn't come as a complete surprise. The Republicans have said for some time they're under immense pressure to shut down the investigation. And it was apparent, really, from the very beginning, from last March when our chairman went on that midnight run to the White House, that their real object was protecting the president. It wasn't doing a credible investigation.
And so they went through the motions of bringing witnesses in, and we learned a great deal through those witnesses. But when we needed to compel them to answer questions, when people like Steve Bannon would stonewall or Corey Lewandowski or others, all too often, they are willing to accept no for an answer.
They would ask, you know, very conclusive questions like, did you conspire, did you collude? And if they said no, the Republicans were content to leave it at that. That's not conducting an investigation. That's going through the motions.
So the fundamental problem from the beginning was that my colleagues viewed their job as protecting their client, the president, rather than getting to the truth and I think that's a grave disservice to the country. LEMON: So what happens? I'm sure you voiced your concerns about that.
Democrats on that committee, did they not voice their concerns? Did you voice your concerns? And how was it received?
SCHIFF: Of course, we voiced our concerns. We've given the majority the names of witnesses that were key individuals that were never brought before the committee that we needed to bring in. We gave them a list of documents that we should be subpoenaing. Records, for example...
LEMON: Do you have any examples of what you -- of any of what you just said, what you needed to bring in?
SCHIFF: Yes, no, absolutely. There are witnesses, for example, who are aware of the Trump tower meeting before it took place. That would be natural to bring in before the committee. What did you know? How did you find out about it? Who communicated to you what the purpose of the meeting was?
There were phone records associated with that meeting that would identify potentially whether the president's son talked to the president about that meeting. There are contradictions between witnesses.
Just this week, for example, it was revealed that George Nader had informed the special counsel that he facilitated this meeting or these meetings in the Seychelles that Erik Prince had with this Russian banker as a way of setting up a secret back-channel. That contradicts the sworn testimony of Erik Prince before our committee.
But the Republicans have decided they would just rather not know who is telling the truth. They don't want to pursue any further this investigation, if it may lead to something that would harm the president and their party. And that's, you know, I think deeply regrettable.
And we'll continue to do the investigation to the best that we can. We continue to have people cooperating with us who want to share information with our committee. But, obviously, it's going to be a great impediment to our learning the full facts that they're trying to shut this down this way.
LEMON: Let's talk a little bit more about what you have been saying. Because when this -- when this first started, almost from the beginning, Devin Nunes has been working to undermine the investigation. Characterize what his role has been. Do you think that he scuttled this investigation? Was he the one behind this or was it a group effort?
SCHIFF: Well, the short history of this is almost one year ago, March 20th, we had the first open hearing of our investigation. That hearing was with James Comey. I laid out in my opening statement all of the allegations that needed to be investigated. And I posed the question, could we do this in a bipartisan way? And I pointed out that the national interests really called upon us to do this in a bipartisan way.
In that hearing, James Comey dropped the bombshell that the Trump campaign had been under investigation since July of the election year for possible collusion with Russia, for counterintelligence purposes.
And the Republicans found that hearing, they told me thereafter, was a -- was a -- was a tragedy for them, was a terrible development for them. And I'm sure the White House came down hard on the chairman of our committee, because it was the very next day after that hearing that the chairman went on that midnight run. That they are after...
LEMON: You think that -- you think that Nunes was acting at the behest of the president?
SCHIFF: Well, he was certainly acting in the interest of the president. And has all along. Even when he was forced to step aside from the committee, he continued to do the bidding of the White House, by attempting to impugn the credibility of the Department of Justice and the FBI, but taking up basically the story line, the narrative that the president wanted to tell. And that continued through the release of that partisan Nunes memo and it's been a continuing problem.
The only tool that Democrats have had, the only tool that I have had to force the majority to bring any witnesses in, to seek any information, is be by pointing the public spotlight on how they were conducting the investigation. That was the only tool we had.
[22:25:06] We, I think, used it effectively at times, but it's no substitute for having a subpoena.
LEMON: I've got to ask you a quick thing. One of our intelligence experts here on CNN said that both you and Republicans spent, he said d you spent too much time on CNN and that Devin Nunes spent too much time at the White House and that this investigation, as it relates to Congress really had no chance, because it was partisan from all along, from the beginning. How do you respond to that?
SCHIFF: You know, there's always a tendency in the interest of appearing to be non-partisan to say a pox on both houses, but really, I think that just avoids the hard work of assigning responsibility.
Yes, we have gone on television to say the Republicans need to bring Steve Bannon back in or Don Junior made a false claim of privilege, because it was the only way to hold the majority accountable. It was the only way to force them, at times, to do the work that needed to be done.
And I think that was important for us to do. It's how I think the country learned where the administration was stonewalling the committee and where the majority was really not living up to its constitutional obligation.
So I think it really is all too easy and a bit of a copout to say a pox on both their houses. The reality is, the mission of the chairman from the beginning was to protect the president, not follow the facts wherever they would lead. And that was a fundamental problem that we had to deal with. And it left us in the position of either going along with essentially a whitewash, or calling out the majority every step of the way. And that's the course I think we were forced to take.
LEMON: Congressman Adam Schiff, we appreciate your time. Thank you so much.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: When we come back, who is a bigger threat to Donald Trump's presidency? A source close to the president thinks it's Stormy. I'm going to ask her attorney what he thinks about that, next.
[22:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: So we have breaking news in a saga, the president and the porn star. A CNN source believes that the Stormy Daniels situation potentially poses a bigger threat to Trump's presidency than the Russia investigation.
That as Daniels says that she wants to give back the $130,000 payment she received to keep quiet about an alleged affair with Donald Trump. And there are new questions tonight about the validity of that hush agreement.
I want to talk about it now and other developments with Michael Avenatti, he's the attorney representing Daniels. Good to see you. Thank you for coming in.
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: Thanks for having me.
LEMON: There's a lot of new developments here, and also, you sent something to the president, right? And you have not heard back from them?
LEMON: We'll get into that. Let me ask you, we've learned that the president has asked in confidence how he should handle this Stormy Daniels situation. He's being told to keep quiet. And according to a source close to the president he's being told he should not fight the breaking -- breaking the confidentiality agreement because it would make him look guilty. What's your reaction to that news?
AVENATTI: You know, quite honestly, I think that my reaction is, they can run, they can hide, but we're not going home, Don. I mean, sooner or later, the president is going to have to answer three very basic questions. And it's -- they are the same questions we've been asking for a week now.
And I don't care if it takes a week, a month, or a year. We're going to get answers eventually to the following questions. And the White House, they say they've answered the questions, they haven't answered the questions. LEMON: What are the three questions?
AVENATTI: The three questions are, did he know of the agreement around the time it was being negotiated, in the waning days of the 2016 election? Did he sign the agreement? And what was his involvement, if any, in the payment to Ms. Daniels? These are three very simple questions. We've asked them repeatedly. We can't get answers to them. And quite honestly, I don't know what they're hiding. What is the complication?
LEMON: So let me ask you these three questions. Do you think he knew?
AVENATTI: There's no doubt in my mind that he knew.
LEMON: And he didn't sign, obviously, it's not there.
AVENATTI: Correct. And I think that there's a reason why he did not sign. And I think it was so he would have the deniability that we're now seeing from the White House.
LEMON: So what was his involvement, do you believe?
AVENATTI: I think that he knew exactly what was going on, at all times, this was a critical point in time in connection with the 2016 presidential election. It's a couple weeks to go in the election. I would find it incredible that he did not know. I find this explanation from attorney Cohen to be laughable.
I've run out of superlatives to describe this explanation that we've heard from Mr. Cohen, who now expects the American people to believe that he took a home equity loan out on one of his homes in order to pay $130,000 on behalf of a billionaire running for president.
LEMON: OK, so let me ask you this. And I want to be clear. Was there a sexual relationship between Donald Trump and Ms. Clifford?
LEMON: There was?
LEMON: And you have proof of that and so does she?
AVENATTI: Well, I think the American people, if she's permitted to talk, if they don't restrain her from speaking, and again, this is remarkable to me that now we have reports that perhaps they are considering bringing an injunction and a motion for an injunction against 60 minutes to prevent an American citizen from coming forward and exercising her First Amendment rights to talk about her recollection of events.
Our position, Don, has been very simple and very straightforward. And it's not complicated. We want her to be able to tell her version of events. To the extent that President Trump or Mr. Cohen have separate version of events, they can come on your show, they can go on 60 Minutes, they can hold press conferences, they can do whatever they want to do.
They can describe their version of events and then we're going to let the American people decide who's being honest, who's not being forthright, and who's covering up facts and evidence.
LEMON: You're talking about the interview, of course, with my colleague, our colleague here at CNN, Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes. Obviously, he works there, as well. And they have held the interview, pending that -- figuring out what they're going to do with it. But you would like that interview to be able to air. Yes.
[22:35:04] I want my client to have the ability to speak to the American people. I have trust and she has trust in the ability of the American people to make decisions after they have full and complete information.
LEMON: Let me ask you about the Texas secretary of state's office, opening an investigation on the notary who handled the hush agreement. According to a spokesman, Secretary of State's office, "The notary, Erica Jackson, did not sign and date the 2016 agreement. She also didn't provide a certificate reflecting of the signatures being witnesses."
I know you weren't Stormy's attorney then, but does that mean -- what does that mean to you in this case now? Anything?
AVENATTI: Don, it means nothing. It's a red herring. Look, there's a tendency in a case like this for individuals to do what I call getting over the tips of your skis, OK? You take it a step too far. And right now there's a tendency on the left to take it a step too far and to get over the tips of your skis.
This notary issue is a red herring. It means nothing from our perspective. We are not arguing that the agreement is invalid because of the notary signature. My client is not disputing the fact that she signed the document. The notary has nothing to do with the arguments that we're making.
Our argument is really simple. Eight point six of the agreement, paragraph 8.6 and California law -- not Texas law, not New York law, not some of these other state's laws, 8.6 of the agreement makes it clear all parties have to sign. Donald Trump did not sign. There's no notary issue relating to Donald Trump. Therefore, there was no valid agreement.
LEMON: So let me ask you, I want to be clear about this as well. You're asking for the opportunity for your client to be able to tell her story. And you say you want your client to be able to do it your client to talk about the alleged affair, and publish any texts, photos, or videos that exist. Do texts, photos, and videos exist?
AVENATTI: I'm not going to comment on that.
LEMON: Why not?
AVENATTI: Because I think that's my client's position to comment on. And it's not for me to say one way or the other. I'm not going to confirm or deny it.
But what I will say, Don, is this. Here's what I will say. When and if the White House and the president, and Mr. Cohen, have to face the American people and actually answer these questions, and eventually, it's going to happen. Because like I said, we're not just going to pack up and go home. When that day comes, they better be truthful and they better be honest. That's what I'm going to say.
LEMON: So speaking of Michael Cohen, you have given -- you have set a deadline for noon tomorrow, for either Michael Cohen or the president. What happens if they do nothing?
AVENATTI: I mean, if they do nothing, we're going to march forward in this case like we would any other case. And that's going to involve discovery, we're going to be aggressive, we're going to be prepared, we're going to be diligent, and we're going to get to the bottom of this.
So that is why I am urging Mr. Cohen and the president to agree to the offer that we've put forward. Let my client tell her story to the extent that they have a contrary version of events that they wish to tell, so be it. Let the chips fall where they may.
LEMON: So have you spoken or communicated at all with Michael Cohen?
AVENATTI: Not directly, no.
LEMON: Not but through...
AVENATTI: Through his counsel.
LEMON: ... intermediaries.
LEMON: Through his counsel.
LEMON: Because it's easy to get Michael Cohen, just call him up. I mean, you can ask any journalist in this building, they have Michael Cohen's cell phone. You can call him up and speak to him or send him a text. You have not done that? Is that not appropriate to do when you're an attorney?
AVENATTI: Well, maybe what I should do is, it appears to be far easier when you're a journalist as opposed to when you're opposing party or counsel. Maybe what I should do is call up and identify myself as a journalist and then maybe I'll be able to get through. Because, thus far, we haven't been able to get any response whatsoever.
And what we're hearing, Don, is that they're going to allow this offer to lapse without any response whatsoever, which effectively means that they will reject the offer. The offer of a settlement. And we believe the offer of a settlement, right down the middle of the road, is very reasonable.
It basically, it basically, Don, what it does is, it puts the parties back in the position that's called status quo ante. In the law it puts them back in the position that they were in, in October of 2016, to the extent the president and Mr. Cohen have a version of events, let it take -- let them take it to the American people and we're going to do the same.
LEMON: One more question for you, unless something arises in your answer. Why? Why, does she want to take the president down? Does she want money from the president? What does -- why do it? Just so she can tell her story? Why?
AVENATTI: Yes. And I know that it's rather remarkable, but I think that when my client is ultimately provided an opportunity to speak to the American people, the American people will believe that she's being sincere.
[22:39:59] When she talks about the fact that she wants to set the record straight, there's been a lot of misinformation peddled out there by a lot of different sources, including Mr. Cohen and, in fact, the administration directly and indirectly.
My client wants the ability to speak to the American people. She believes in the American people. And she believes in their ability to call a ball or a strike.
LEMON: People think she may not have any credibility because of her profession. What do you say to that? Or she doesn't have much.
AVENATTI: What I will say is this. I've been practicing law a long time. I've had the good fortune and I've been blessed to have a tremendous amount of success, long before I ever met Stormy Daniels.
I would not have landed my reputation and my work and the resources of me and my law firm to Ms. Daniels if I did not 100 percent believe in her and find her to be credible. I will tell you this. The veracity of this woman and her credibility is going to shock people, when and if she's able to tell her story. There is no doubt in my mind that the American people will believe her.
LEMON: Thank you, Michael. I appreciate it.
AVENATTI: Thank you.
LEMON: We'll be right back.
[22:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Breaking news, President Trump asking confidants for advice on how to handle the Stormy Daniels situation. And he's being advised to keep quiet about it. Daniels now wants to return the $130,000 that she got to silence her about her alleged affair with Trump.
Here to discuss, CNN political commentators Charles Blow, Scott Jennings, and Ana Navarro. So much to get through, so let's go through these topics quickly. What's your reaction what you heard from the attorney, Ana?
ANA NAVARRO, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Look, you know, I think he comes across as frankly a very good attorney. Committed to his client, committed to getting this done. And I think the Trump administration, I think, Trump, I think, Cohen should take him very seriously. Because this guy does not look like he's joking around. She got herself a good attorney, finally.
LEMON: Scott, is there anything the president could do to make this story go away?
SCOTT JENNINGS, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Yes. I mean, you could tell the truth. The reality is, given the level of investigations that are going on on multiple fronts and given the facts that these folks are clearly not going anywhere, it strikes me that it's highly likely that all the facts are going to come out some day anyway.
So the only question is, do you want them to come out sooner rather than later because it's going to come out. As a public relations person, I might say, getting them out soon and on your terms would be advisable.
But I don't know all the facts and there may be things that they can't legally talk about right now. But just as a purely P.R. matter, it strikes me getting on top of this and not letting it drip out over the next several months would be wise.
LEMON: Charles, I want to talk to you about -- talk to you about this, but also in the context of your latest column, which is called Melania knew, you write about that and you say, "Melania knew exactly the kind of man she was getting, adding that -- excuse me -- that's their marriage, they clearly have some sort of understanding, some emotional elasticity or financial dependency that is beyond my comprehension." How do you know that? Why do you say that?
CHARLES BLOW, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, Donald Trump is on the record for about 45 years of his life outlining how he thinks about women, including the period of time when he meets Melania. In fact, when he meets her, he's on a date with another woman who he sends off to the bathroom so he can talk to Melania and get her number, right.
So, I mean, and at that time, he's in the middle of divorcing Marla Maples, his second wife, who he cheated on his first wife with. So, I mean, this is -- this is who he is. She knew it at that moment and she refused to give him her number because she says she knew his reputation.
So I was just establishing a fact to say, that part of it doesn't really interest me. Because who knows what goes on in a marriage. You have your own relationship, you have your own rules, you play by it, you stay together, that means you like or at least tolerate on some level.
What is more important to me, is that over that 45 years, his view of women is incredibly problematic and does not change over that period. He seems to look at women as kind of opportunities and also what we've learned through these last reports, he seems to want to rob them of voice. In every occasion.
And that is through nondisclosures, which also, Ivana, his first wife, had to sign. In her court -- in her sworn deposition, she says, he raped me. After the NDA, she said, well, not literal -- it's not in the criminal sense of -- I mean, I don't know how you slice the rape up. But that's what she says, right.
So all of a sudden that is shut down. And we now realize that he is using nondisclosures not only on her, but on other women who he has been with. And that says a lot about whether or not you believe that women should have a voice in America.
Should they -- do they own that part of their life that they spent with you? Or do you believe that because you have wealth and power, that you own it? And that is what he has been exercising. Using money as power and exercising that power over women. That's problematic.
LEMON: And Scott, we'll get your reaction right after the break. We'll be right back.
[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Back now with Charles, Scott, and Ana. Charles was saying before the break, Ana, that this is a pattern, the pattern and practice of Donald Trump to try to quiet women through nondisclosure agreements, what's your response?
NAVARRO: Look. Donald Trump is Donald Trump. I don't think you change a man, certainly not at 70 years of age. And I think people knew what they were getting with him in the sense that, you know, they heard him boasting about his sexual pursuits on tape. They heard him. They heard him in his own voice. And they still, you know, voted for him.
I agree with Scott. I think he should just let this go. I think he should talk about it, I think he should tell the truth, and I think he should leave Stormy Daniels alone.
And the reason is simple. Listen, his base doesn't care. We know that he was having an affair with a porn actress and a playboy bunny at the same time. And his base are saying, let's give him a mulligan, let's give him another mulligan.
Republicans in Congress are not going to investigate. There are legal issues, there are campaign issues which might be very serious here.
But while Republicans are in Congress we know they're going to look the other way and they're not going to investigate. And the rest of us, the rest of us who are not cult members or Kool-Aid drinkers, we already know this is who he is.
So, I don't understand why he is spending so much effort, so much time, you know, in trying to silence this woman. It is making this a much bigger story and giving it much more oxygen because of how far he is fighting. (CROSSTALK)
LEMON: Are you saying why he's spending so much time pretending it didn't happen, when most people believe it did, right?
NAVARRO: Right. And his base shrugs and the rest of us say, we already know he's a dog.
NAVARRO: Tell me something I didn't know.
BLOW: There's one big difference, though. There's one big difference, which is, you know, the justice story you can always die (Ph) a story. In the NBA, they say there are text messages and pictures.
BLOW: That is a big difference. That makes a whole lot of difference. When Al Franken got in trouble, his indiscretion with women, it was the picture that made the biggest difference.
BLOW: That people could not get over with the picture. Donald Trump himself was on Twitter commenting about how powerful the picture was and that Franken had to go. That changes things.
[22:54:58] BLOW: In a kind of visual social media world. If there's actual evidence of him saying salacious things to these women or them in some sort of compromising photograph, it is a big difference.
NAVARRO: Charles, we heard him say salacious things. We have seen pictures, not of him naked, but we've seen pictures of him with Stormy Daniels, we've seen pictures of him with the playboy bunny. I mean, I really -- it's like, you know, again, where is the news in this?
JENNINGS: The difference between Franken and this case is of course, this is a consensual relationship. And so that is a core difference here. Actually...
LEMON: Any sexual relationship, the other one was not a sexual relationship.
JENNINGS: Yes. I mean, the issue here, I think Ana is right, there's no price to pay. People have already priced into his image, his candidacy at the time, you know, who he is. His history with women, that's already priced in.
Where he was able to beat the politicians in 2016 was by saying, I'm not one of them because I'm always going to tell you the truth, they're liars, I'm authentic, no matter what it is, I'll tell you the truth.
On this one, they're bleeding a little credibility. Because they're trying to maintain the facade that maybe the relationship didn't happen. And maybe, look, being honest and maintaining that non- politician authenticity that he has cultivated during his whole rise, to me, is paramount to him winning re-election, which is why being honest here ultimately is probably better than trying to dodge it.
LEMON: Scott, he's one of the least honest people, probably the least honest...
JENNINGS: That's the image...
NAVARRO: Scott -- Scott -- Scott, Donald Trump is not going to win...
JENNINGS: That's the image he was -- that's the image he's cultivated.
BLOW: But I have one...
NAVARRO: Donald Trump is not going to win re-election based on honesty. That much I can tell you. Look, in the last...
BLOW: But there's one thing...
NAVARRO: No, but let me just say, in the last two months we have seen him on live TV...
JENNINGS: But he successfully made himself look like a non-politician by not handling things the way a politician would usually handle them, he's handling this the way a politician would handle it.
LEMON: I've got two seconds, Scott.
BLOW: Well, I'm just going to say this. It is the timeline around this. Melania is pregnant when he's doing. I mean, there's a tawdriness here that is an insult to a human being that is different on another level. She's pregnant. And if those text messages how him doing things while she's preparing to give birth to that child, it's just so deeply painful and hurtful on a human level that I think it's a different level of thing. LEMON: We'll be right back.
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