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CNN Exclusive: Ex-playmate's First TV Interview on Her Alleged Sexual Affair with Donald Trump; President Trump Replaces National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster with Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired March 22, 2018 - 21:00   ET


[21:00:00] MCDOUGAL: I was watching the Republican debate with a friend named Johnny. He's one of my good friends from many years ago. He said, you know, this story is a big story. I said, no way. It's not going to happen. I go, you know where I stand on this, Johnny. I will never say anything. We dropped it.

COOPER: Your friend Johnny was saying this story, meaning the story of your relationship with --

MCDOUGAL: Right. Of course -

COOPER: Your alleged relationship with Donald Trump.

MCDOUGAL: Right. And, of course, Johnny is a Democrat but I'm a Republican. So --

COOPER: You're a Republican?

MCDOUGAL: I am. I voted for Donald, yes, I did. There you have it.

Yes. Diehard Republican.

So, we dropped it, but then later , maybe a week or two later, an ex- friend or an old friend of mine started on social media talking about my relationship and she was part of that, she knows everything. She had started putting it out there. So, it was being seen.

So I came to Johnny one day and I said, Johnny, look what she's doing. I said, do I need to worry about this? He's like, absolutely, you do.

He said, you need to get ahead of the story now before everyone else takes your story and manipulates it any way they want to manipulate it and make it this very ugly thing. You need to control your story, and you need to tell your truth.

I said, yes, you're right. So, that's what we decided to do. And that's where Johnny one day comes over and he's like, you know, our mutual friend that we have found this guy named Keith and he's going to help you share your story.

COOPER: Keith Davidson.

MCDOUGAL: Yes, correct.

COOPER: An attorney.

MCDOUGAL: Yes, correct.

COOPER: An attorney who also was an attorney for Stormy Daniels.

MCDOUGAL: I didn't know that. Yes.

COOPER: And others in this business.

MCDOUGAL: Clearly.

COOPER: So, what did you do then? You contacted Davidson?

MCDOUGAL: I didn't. Johnny did. Johnny and the mutual friend contacted Davidson. Within a matter of couple days, Keith came out and we all had lunch together and he wanted to know details. So, we sat down at lunch for a couple of hours. I gave him details. And Keith is like, this story's worth many, many millions. And I'm like, hmm, OK.

So, we talked about it and that's when Keith brought it to AMI.

COOPER: So did you know that Keith, your attorney, was going to go to AMI, which is the parent company with "National Enquirer" and other magazines?

MCDOUGAL: He said AMI. I didn't know what AMI was to be honest. He said AMI, we have this company that, you know, they'll probably want to hear your story. So --

COOPER: And what was the thought of selling this story in your mind?

MCDOUGAL: To get my truth out there. I wasn't looking for money, clearly, but when he said it's worth many millions, I'm like, you know --

COOPER: That was something it was hard to pass up.

MCDOUGAL: Sure. Of course. But if you fast forward, I ended up not wanting to do that deal. So, we were going to ABC and tell the story just to get the story out there, and for nothing, there was no pay.

COOPER: Did Keith have a meeting with AMI? Did you have a meeting with AMI?

MCDOUGAL: We did. We had a meeting with AMI.

COOPER: You told them your story.

MCDOUGAL: We told them the story. They actually didn't think it was very credible. Even though off the record, they said, Dylan believes your story, but clearly when they came back, they said it wasn't believable.

COOPER: Dylan being?

MCDOUGAL: Dylan Howard, he's with AMI.

So, they had like a 12-hour window to -- I'm probably skipping around, I'm sorry. They had a 12-hour window to accept whether they wanted the story or not. They didn't want the story.

COOPER: Did -- at the time, had they of -- named a price of what they might be willing to pay? Or had Keith just said --

MCDOUGAL: Keith had just thrown out number, yes. Keith had just thrown out numbers. Many millions, not just millions. Many millions.

So, when they turned it out, I said, OK, that's fine, but I, you know, I still have to get in front of the story because it's still getting put out there.

So, we went to ABC. They were very interested in the story. They knew everything. They know everything. And I just got cold feet, I said, I can't do this.

COOPER: You actually met with people from ABC News.

MCDOUGAL: Yes, we met with people from ABC News. They were very interested in the story. When it came down to it, I just got cold feet. I didn't want the story coming out of my mouth. I didn't want anyone to know what I had done. I didn't want anyone to know, you know, from his side, what he had done. I wanted to keep it a very private matter because it was very private between us at the time.

COOPER: Did you still feel a sense of loyalty to Donald Trump?

MCDOUGAL: Absolutely. Yes, absolutely. Of course, I did. I don't want to hurt him or anybody. Yes, absolutely. Yeah.

COOPER: Then what happened? You decided not to go ahead with ABC.

MCDOUGAL: I decided not to go with ABC. I told them, you know, I got cold feet, I -- my mother wouldn't be happy with me for sharing story. Again, I always put my mom in the mix, but I just backed out. I just backed out.

Well, then, the Republican -- he won the Republican nomination, and AMI was interested in the story again.

COOPER: Once Donald Trump won the Republican nomination --

MCDOUGAL: Right, correct.

COOPER: You're saying AMI suddenly came back to you with interest in the story?

MCDOUGAL: Well, to Keith, yes, to us for the story, yes.

COOPER: Why do you think it was after Donald Trump was the Republican nominee that they came back? MCDOUGAL: They wanted to squash the story.

COOPER: You're saying they wanted to protect Donald Trump?

MCDOUGAL: I'm assuming so, yes. But the offer, which we didn't discuss yet or haven't discussed, was, you know, they had offered a big, you know, contract for work, for modeling, and fitness and things like that. My life has always been health and fitness. So --

COOPER: They said they were going to have you be a columnist, you would write columns about health and fitness?

MCDOUGAL: Correct. They said I'd write columns. I would get one article per month in "OK" magazine, one article per month in "Star Magazine" for two years, and then four columns per month on "Radar Online" for two years.

On top of that, two magazine covers and their reasoning was, like, you know, you've been successful model, fitness, et cetera, we want to help you continue and we actually want to rebrand you. And, you know, you're older now, so, we want to jumpstart into a new career for you and really get you out there to work. And I'm like, this is perfect. Like, who doesn't -- what model wouldn't want that? Especially as an older model like, you're like, oh, this is great, right?

So, yes, but then the side deal was, oh, we're squashing the story. OK. It's win/win for me. Like, I get to work and my story doesn't have to come out.

COOPER: Did you know that they were buying the life rights to your story?

MCDOUGAL: I did. I knew I could never talk about him. Sure.

COOPER: So, that was -- for you, this wasn't a nondisclosure agreement. To you, this was a great business opportunity. You're going to get paid. You're going to be able to write columns. You're going to kind of launch a new aspect of your career. You're going to get the cover of some magazines.

And on top of it, you're going to sell them your story, but they're not going to publish it and, therefore --

MCDOUGAL: Correct.

COOPER: -- there's going to be any ramifications --

MCDOUGAL: Correct.

COOPER: -- for the story getting out.

MCDOUGAL: Absolutely. I mean, who wouldn't want to get this work? And then that work could lead to other work or to other work k. Who knows where it could lead? Of course, I was excited.

COOPER: So, in essence, you were happy to have the story killed? MCDOUGAL: Yes, of course. Like I said, I never wanted to come forward.

COOPER: And you were going to get $150,000 for it. For having it killed and launching potentially a new career.

MCDOUGAL: Well, more importantly I looked at it as I was doing work, the columns, the covers, and I'm getting paid for that -- oh, my life story is like never has to be shared. It was more about the way it was presented. It was more about protecting me, it was more about, we don't want to tarnish your image. We want to keep your brand wholesome and whole.

So, I'm like, that's awesome. You know, that's great. So, that's the way I perceived this contract. It was a win/win, like I said.

COOPER: Had you ever heard the term at that point, catch and kill?

MCDOUGAL: No, I had not.

COOPER: Do you know what catch and kill is now?

MCDOUGAL: I do now, yeah, I do now.

COOPER: What's your understanding of a catch and kill is?

MCDOUGAL: Catch is -- from what I'm learning, a catch and kill is somebody for, say, yourself, for example, taking a story about somebody you like or care about, have a friendship about, and they squash the story so it doesn't hurt you or hurt them.

COOPER: So, the allegation -- AMI which says they don't do catch and kill, but a number of former employees of AMI have told the "New Yorker" that routinely, they have done catch and kill. They have purchased the rights to a story, done an interview in your case with you, get your story about Donald Trump, but then they never publish it.


COOPER: And they own the rights to it and you can't tell it to anybody else. So, the story is effectively killed as a favor to, in this case, Donald Trump.


COOPER: Did you know that that's what was going -- that's the allegation of what's going on here. Did you -- did you realize that at the time?

MCDOUGAL: I knew the story wasn't going to be printed. Yes.

COOPER: Why do you think they squashed the story?

MCDOUGAL: Back then or now?


MCDOUGAL: They didn't want to hurt him.

COOPER: You think it's because of a personal relationship with a guy who runs AMI, he's friends with Donald Trump?

MCDOUGAL: Correct.

COOPER: Do you think -- I mean, you wouldn't know this, but do you think Donald Trump would have been aware of this -- of this deal? That they were doing him -- that they were allegedly doing him this favor?

MCDOUGAL: I wouldn't know, but based on what I'm learning as we're all learning together as we read, and one of the big complaints with why I think my contract is illegal is because his attorney was talking to my attorney. So --

COOPER: Michael Cohen -- you're saying Donald Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen --

MCDOUGAL: Correct. Speaking with Keith --

COOPER: -- was talking to Keith Davidson, your attorney.

MCDOUGAL: -- without me even knowing, without my knowledge. I would assume that maybe he knew. I know his attorney did. I can't say that he knew but his attorney --

COOPER: How do you know that Michael Cohen and your attorney, Keith Davidson, were in communication?

MCDOUGAL: I didn't know. I'm just learning this as you're learning this. It's been reported, and my attorneys, they know.

COOPER: And to you, the idea that Michael Cohen would be in communication with your attorney at the time, theoretically, there would be no reason for Michael Cohen to be having communication with your attorney because this was a deal between Keith Davidson, you, and AMI.

MCDOUGAL: AMI. Right. So, why was he involved in my deal? And why wasn't I told that he was involved in my deal?

That's not fair. And it's, quite frankly, illegal.


MCDOUGAL: It's wrong.

COOPER: How quickly was the AMI deal done?

MCDOUGAL: Once we agreed upon the jobs, the financial payment, things like that, it was done very quickly in a matter of a day or two. Basically, I was going out of town, and I said, I'll get back to you in a week, when I get back into town. They said the deal really needs to be done now. I'm like, OK. So I think it was done within that night or the next day.

COOPER: How -- do you remember what day this was or what -- when this was in the presidential race?

MCDOUGAL: It was in August. I signed the deal August 6th. So it was probably August 5th or 4th that I -- we, you know, finalized and then signed on the 6th. But I can't tell you, I don't remember where the race was. So --

COOPER: So, this was in the last month or two of the presidential race.

MCDOUGAL: Yes, yes.

COOPER: Do you think the presidential race had anything to do with this deal getting done?

MCDOUGAL: When I'm looking back at it now -- possibly, yes.

COOPER: How so?

MCDOUGAL: Well, as an American citizen, we know that if you don't put all your evidence out, so to speak, that you know or if you're paying to squash stories, or if you're given illegal campaign funds, we know it's illegal. So, I'm -- like I said, I'm new at this. I'm learning -- you all probably know this but I'm learning this stuff and --

COOPER: Would it have been potentially damaging if your story had come out in the last month or two of the presidential campaign?

MCDOUGAL: You know, I don't know how damaging it would have been. You've seen the other stories about him that didn't hurt him. So, could it have been damaging politically speaking? Probably not.

However, I think it could have damaged maybe family. I don't know.

But, I mean -- it depends on who you ask. It definitely could have damaged, I don't know. I mean, with the illegal campaign fund, I think that definitely would have damaged. But the rumor of, you know, somebody's rumor, or someone saying you had an affair or a relationship, does that really damage people?

COOPER: The thought, though, of telling your story to AMI, some people hearing that are going to think, A, you wanted money, and, B, you wanted to damage the president.

MCDOUGAL: I voted for the president. I voted for Donald. Why would I want to damage him?

That's my party, Republican Party. That's my president. I did not want to damage him or hurt him in any way, shape or form, but I also didn't want to put out the story because I didn't want my reputation to be damaged. I care about myself as much as I care about anyone else's reputation or personal life.

But like I said, I was more excited about this modeling contract, this big deal of writing for these magazines and who knows where that could have went. You know, I love fitness, I love health, and that's where my focus was.

COOPER: Had -- when you first went to AMI, and Keith Davidson was telling you, they're going to pay millions for your story, had they said, OK, yes, we're going to run this story and we're going to pay you $2 million, would you have gone with that? Would you have done that?

MCDOUGAL: Probably not.

COOPER: Really?

MCDOUGAL: I mean, it's hard to say, but probably not.

COOPER: It's a lot of money.

MCDOUGAL: It's a lot of money, but you also had your conscience. Like I said, I'm a different girl today. I've, you know, returned to my roots of my faith, spirituality. I'm going to church. I'm involved in ministry.

It's not where I want that to go. You know?

COOPER: If Donald Trump hadn't been running for president, do you believe this deal would have been made with AMI, knowing what you know now?

MCDOUGAL: Probably not, no. Probably not.

COOPER: You're pretty convinced -- you're convinced now this was an effort to do a favor for Donald Trump in the last few months of the presidential race?

MCDOUGAL: Unfortunately, yes.

COOPER: When you heard that "Access Hollywood" tape come out, just on a personal level, I'm wondering what you felt.

MCDOUGAL: You know what, I was disgusted.


COOPER: More of her answer to that question next.

Also, she talks about the legal consequences she could face for speaking out and how she feels about that possibility when our exclusive conversation continues.


COOPER: Before the break, you heard Karen McDougal say she voted for Donald Trump. She voted for him despite all she says transpired between them. She voted for him having heard the "Access Hollywood" tape. I asked her about it during our conversation.


COOPER: When you heard the "Access Hollywood" tape come out, just on a personal level, I'm wondering what you felt.

MCDOUGAL: You know what, I was disgusted. I had not seen that in him at all. Like when our relationship was going on, I didn't see that side of him at all. Like I said, he was very respectful. He was a gentleman. When we were out in public, I even had friends go, wow, he's really respectful to you when he's out in public, and, you know, his hand's always on your back or your shoulder, he always introduces you.

I didn't see that side of him until I started watching TV and, you know, that's not the man that I knew. So I was kind of disgusted on those comments. I have brothers. I've heard my brothers say things, but that was pretty bad.

COOPER: It wasn't just locker room talk as he said.

MCDOUGAL: No, I mean, I've heard my brothers' locker room talk and, you know, did he mean to say it? He said it. Would he really do it? I don't know. I've never seen that side of him, but --

COOPER: When you heard other women coming forward alleging inappropriate touching, inappropriate behavior, I'm wondering what you thought.

MCDOUGAL: Again, I was kind of mortified. I was like, wow, is he capable of that? Because I didn't see that.

But clearly, you know, women have their stories and their opinions, and if they were violated like that, they should come forward.

COOPER: AMI has put out a statement saying that you can talk to the media, that you're free.

MCDOUGAL: Yes. I saw that statement, too, but according to their attorney, I can't. There will be financial ruin.

COOPER: They still own the life rights to your story.

MCDOUGAL: They do.

COOPER: They can transfer, according to the contract you signed, they can transfer those life rights to some other publication, correct?

MCDOUGAL: I don't recall that part, but I'd have to see the --


MCDOUGAL: It's been a while since I read it.

COOPER: I understand that 10 months after the election, David Pecker actually had lunch with you. What was the genesis of that? What was the point? MCDOUGAL: I was told that David Pecker wanted to have lunch with me

because he was happy about the way I answered my interview in one of the article's magazines. I don't remember which one. I'm sorry. He wanted to thank me and he wanted to thank me for my loyalty.

COOPER: Loyalty?

MCDOUGAL: Loyalty. He said loyalty is everything to him.

COOPER: Loyalty to AMI, loyalty to the president?

MCDOUGAL: I thought to AMI. I don't know exactly what he meant by that but I think it's probably maybe a combination of both. I don't know.

COOPER: Do you know what happens next with AMI? And, I mean, now that you're speaking here?

MCDOUGAL: There could be a big lawsuit, like against me. There could be financial ruin. But that's why I have really good attorneys to make sure that doesn't happen.

Am I scared? Like do I feel threatened? Absolutely.

But I feel I had to protect myself, I had to stand up for myself and, you know, I almost feel violated in the fact that I didn't know what was going behind -- going on behind the scenes. So I'm quite mad at that. I'm angry.

I feel taken advantage of in a sense. And I just want the right to be made. I want it to be right.

COOPER: You filed a lawsuit but you are speaking to us. So what is the point of the lawsuit?

MCDOUGAL: Why did I file a lawsuit?


MCDOUGAL: I want my rights back. I mean --

COOPER: You want the rights -- the life rights to your story.

MCDOUGAL: I want my life rights back. You know, it's been -- yes, I want my life rights back. I feel like the contract is illegal. I feel like I wasn't presented correctly. I was lied to and everybody involved in this deal.

I want the rights back and I want to share my truth because everyone else is talking about my truth, which their -- I need to share my story. Everyone else is talking about it. I've never talked. Since the day it happened, I have refused to speak publicly, privately even. I -- my friends know, my family know, but nobody else knows.

I wanted to keep it quiet. But now that it's out, I need to control it. I need to control it. COOPER: Do you feel better having spoken?

MCDOUGAL: I do in a sense. I do because I'm actually standing up for myself now and I really didn't do that before, and now, people know my truth. I'm not a liar. I'm perceived as a liar or this nut, all these bad names.

I did what I did. I'm not proud of it. And I feel terrible about it, but I'm a new woman, new creation. And I'm standing up for myself.


COOPER: When we come back, Karen McDougal's answer to this question.


COOPER: If Melania Trump is watching this, what would you want her to know?



COOPER: Karen McDougal says she was paid for the exclusive rights to her story by AMI. Her lawsuit alleges that the agreement was simply to spike the story. The practice something the "New Yorker's" Ronan Farrow first reported is known as catch and kill.

Ms. McDougal is seeking to be released from the agreement which, of course, raises questions about what more she may hope to gain from speaking out.


COOPER: You know, some people hearing that are going to say, look, you want -- this is -- you're in it for the money. They're going to say, OK, obviously we are not paying you for this interview, we don't pay for interviews, but you may go from here and write a book or make a movie or whatever it may be. To that, you say what?

MCDOUGAL: Bottom line is though, I've offered to give the $150,000, even though I only got 55 percent of that. I've offered to give back the $150,000, just to have my story rights back.

The story's out there now. I'm not telling the nitty-gritty details as you can see. I'm very selective in what I'm saying about our relationship. I'm not out to make money on this. I'm out to get my rights back to prove a contract was illegal, that I was taken advantage of then go back to my life, period.

COOPER: Does it anger you, I mean, is part of this because people at the White House have said, you're lying, you're not telling the truth?

MCDOUGAL: I don't -- no one likes to be called liar. But, no, it's more about the illegal portion of the contract and them not fulfilling what they promised me. They promised me this work. To date, there are only ten articles in "OK" magazine, 10 articles in "Star" magazine and maybe seven on "Radar Online". "Radar Online", I'm supposed to get four per month. I mean, the two years is up in August. I've gotten nothing out of this.

COOPER: So, you think that whole talk of helping you relaunch kind of new -- a whole new phase of your career --

MCDOUGAL: They were fake. They didn't want to help me.

I thought they wanted to keep my reputation clean from what they said. They wanted to re-brand me. They wanted to -- you know, I'm an older model now. They wanted to make something a new start. You know, they promised me all these wonderful, beautiful things.

Even when I met with David Pecker and Dylan and Keith in New York after -- this is back last August -- they offered me many more opportunities. But I haven't seen anything yet. Not that -- that's not part of the contract.

But my point is, they keep dangling the carrot. I' not playing that game anymore.

COOPER: Are you aware or have you spoken to any women with similar stories who have come forward?

KAREN MCDOUGAL, FORMER PLAYBOY MODEL: No. I haven't spoken to anyone. I know other -- I've heard other stories from other people. But it's hearsay. It's not like the girls directly to me. But, no, I can't comment on that.

COOPER: Would you have come forward publicly if Stormy Daniels hadn't come forward? Do you think it made an impact on you?

MCDOUGAL: I definitely think it made a little bit of an impact on me. It gets you more -- it takes a little bit of the fear away. However, I probably would have just because as I'm learning about this contract and the people involved and the way I was treated and all the behind the scenes things that I wasn't aware about. And all the work I'm not getting which I contracted for. Yes, I probably would have come forward. If you didn't get what you were told in a contract work wise, wouldn't you say something? Of course.

COOPER: Do you have any regrets about the relationship that you say you had with?

MCDOUGAL: Back then?


MCDOUGAL: The only regret I have about the relationship that I had with Donald was the fact that he was married. If he weren't married, I wouldn't have any regrets because he treated me very kind. He was very respectful as I told. It was a good relationship while it happened.

Now, had I known at the time there were supposedly all these other women, no, I wouldn't have been in the relationship. But I didn't know that at the time. So, no regret except the fact that he was married.

COOPER: If Melania Trump is watching this, what would you want her to know?

MCDOUGAL: It's a tough one.

COOPER: What will you say to her?

MCDOUGAL: Yes. What can you say except I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I wouldn't want it done to me. I'm sorry.


COOPER: Karen McDougal. Reaction now from our panel, Dana Bash is here, David Gergen, Kirsten Powers, James Schultz, Jennifer Granholm, Scott Jennings, and Attorney Mark Geragos.

Mark, let me just ask you just in terms of the lawsuit she has filed, is it clear to you what legitimacy it has?

MARK GERAGOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't understand it. I'm perplexed by it. I don't understand why she's going out and do an interview with apologies to you. I think that it could have been handled differently. And it's just inexplicable to be. I don't -- you know, the idea that suing Keith Davidson as well for not telling her that he was talking to Michael Cohen, and my guess is, and I haven't talk to Keith about this, my guess is, Keith thought he was doing something good. I mean, he is talking to Michael Cohen to leverage a deal with AMI because if Michael Cohen did not bless it, I'm sure AMI was never going to pay her the money in the first place. So --

COOPER: Mark, she says she wants her -- the life rights back from AMI. That that's essentially what they own in that contract. Is that something she can actually sue to get back?

GERAGOS: Yes. She can sue to get that back. But when you say you want your life right back and you're not in this for the money, that's another thing that is perplexing to me. So, I don't understand what the end game is here. It's probably above my pay grade. But it doesn't make a lot of sense unless she's just out there and wants to increase, you know, her fame quotient or she figures that this is good way to get her out there and reinvigorate the career because they promised her that. I mean I can see where that might be the case.

But in terms of a legal case, you know, most judges that I know are going to rule that she violated this. She got what she was supposed to get which is 150 grand. There may be something where they would have had, I think, a better case if she hadn't violated. If she said I was supposed to get these other appearances, I was supposed to write columns. But some judges could have say, "Well, you had a way to enforce this, you didn't do it." And going out violating the agreement is not the solution.

COOPER: Governor Granholm, how do you see this? What do you say?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean this was an astonishing interview. I feel like I'm trying to grasp. I feel like I almost want to take a shower only because have we ever seen something like this when we're talk about the President of the United States? I mean, she was totally credible. I am confused about, a little bit about what her legal strategy is. But I do know that what she has described in, you know, in her suit being double dealt, I can understand why she wants -- why she's mad about that. That she feels like she was -- it was underhanded.

COOPER: You believe the affair itself was absolutely existed?

GRANHOLM: I mean she was -- she had very specific -- you know, she knew his number, she knew the name of his assistant. She have specific dates. I mean, I don't think there's a question about that. You know, to me the fact that AMI who did this catch and kill thing is a real question about whether this is a contribution to the campaign. And that issue is obviously before the FCC which is a problem because that's probably not going anywhere.

[21:35:11] And then the only other sort of recourse on the campaign finance saying whether, you know, is this a violation. Is it illegal? Did the President act illegally or his team act illegally or AMI give a contribution like that. That is to be resolved through the Department of Justice which would mean the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles would have to file some sort of action, right? And the U.S. attorney is appointed by Jeff Session, an interim U.S. attorney.

COOPER: I mean, that's one of the things that interest me in her stories. I mean, look, affairs is one thing, people have affairs and, you know, it is what it is. I hadn't realized about the catch and kill thing which AMI says, officially they don't do. Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker had interviewed a number former AMI employees, who have said yes, that is absolutely something they do.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, I agree with the Governor Granholm. This is -- First of all, I couldn't take my eyes off of it. It was such a compelling interview, Anderson. You and she because she was so -- this is going to sound maybe weird but she very relatable. She was very relatable just as a human, not in terms of what she did but just as human being, because she gave some honest answers about feeling of guilty.

And so she came across as somebody who was sympathetic in that way. Certainly there are a lot of people who are going to say there's no sympathy here. I mean, you were a mistress and you were messing around with a married man. But just in terms of the legality, you know, we'll see what she does just from my perch looking at this in terms of politics. I'm not sure how much this moves the ball to the President's detriment because this is more meat on the bone of what we already knew that he had affairs and he never hid that.

GRANHOLM: Except that, you know, she was so credible. And he has denied it, right? So, what do people in the, you know, in the religious community say about it? I mean, is there something -- and then there's going to be this other interview on Sunday. It's a boom, boom. So nothing was ever --

BASH: Can I just tell you that because some of these things came out --


BASH: -- before he was elected.

GRAHOLM: Right, but he denied.

BASH: And the answer -- yes. But even just hearing what he said on the Access Hollywood tape. The answer in the evangelical community which supported him in a big, big way was we're keeping our eye on the ball which is the Supreme Court, the court, his policies and what he promised. And so far he's delivered that.

COOPER: And we're not electing pastor here?

BASH: And we're not electing a pastor.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And another thing they have said is that it was a long time ago and maybe he's a different person now. And this was a long time ago. So, I think it falls into the same category with them. And look, we have had a President that this happened to. It was Bill Clinton. I mean, he had an affair and he said it didn't happen, you know, with Jennifer Flowers. He lied about it.

So, I don't think that this is something that we haven't seen before. And I'm just going to be consistent. When it was Bill Clinton, I said it didn't have any bearing on anything. It was between him and Hillary. And I think this is between Melania and Donald Trump. And I don't really understand what Miss McDougal is trying to accomplish. I mean, even the catch and kill thing she sat there and said, she was happy they didn't run the story.

So, she said she didn't want the story to come out. She says that she doesn't want to hurt Melania or the family. And yet she sits here and has this hour long conversation talking about this. So, I'm just in a total loss to understand what, again, what is the end game here. What is she trying to do?

JAMES SHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: In terms of the lawsuit, this is the bogus lawsuit. There was an offer, acceptance, consideration. She didn't like the deal. And I have to disagree with you governor respectfully, in that there's no way there's an FEC violation here. This is even more attenuated to this Stormy Daniels issue. There was a payment by a company, a payment that goes -- that people admit happened time and time again. It's consistent with what happens in the industry. To say that's a pay off to influence the outcome --

COOPER: It is entirely illegal to have a contract between, in the case, this magazine and her that may benefit Donald Trump, but he is not necessarily named it in it. That's entirely illegal.

SCHULTZ: Correct. Right, there's no indication that this is an FEC violation, whatsoever.

GRANHOLM: Well, except for the timing is a little suspect to don't agree. I mean you have to agree that a couple of months before the general election, they don't want her talking. And they pay off to have this story killed. That is a benefit to him, that the benefit is quantifiable.


SCHULTZ: -- made these types of payments that happened with other individuals?

GRANHOLM: How often has AMI executive -- chief executive been a friend with Donald Trump and how often have they done it on behalf of a President? Probably never.

POWERS: Because that is made as donation though, I think --

SCHULTZ: Just right back to John Edwards. That was settled with John Edwards, it's settled now. There's no FEC violence.

GRANHOLM: It's different from John Edwards.

COOPER: Scott.

[21:40:00] SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I think if these things had come out during the campaign, it wouldn't have made a lick of difference here. I think he would have still won the election by the same margin. I see somebody in the interview tonight who have very much had an affection for Donald Trump, was in love with Donald Trump. Maybe thought they were going to get married. I think still has an affection, I voted for him. I never saw that side of him that we saw on the "Access Hollywood" tape. I still see someone who has warm feelings.

On the politics of this today, if you look at where the polling was in December and where it is today, both Trump and the Republican Party are in better shape.

In mid-December he was sitting in the high 30s today among register and likely voters. He is sitting at 42. He has take up in the last two weeks, Reuters has it 44 today. The Generic Ballot is about a six-point spread right now. And in a couple of polls that have come out recently, it's even less than that.

There have been people asking is this hurting Donald Trump. Is this hurting the Republican Party? Not, according the polling right now. I think these interviews may change the public relations dynamic. But this has not hurt the President one shred.

COOPER: David?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I will start. I thought the interview was very well done. But I must say, I found it painful to watch. Just let me go back to Jennifer's point, having the President of the United States have his life -- the intimacy of his life. We have had other presidents have had affairs.

John Kennedy, you know, get barely go three days without having a relationship with somebody. He told that to the British prime minister. So to have all that out there is just sort of like he's demeaning for the republic. I think this lowers our sense of what politics we're just down in the muck.

Having said that, I thought she was very credible on their relationship. You know, the details and very importantly the fact that her lawyer called the President's lawyer. He wouldn't have made that call did he not believe it was absolutely true that this was happened. He believed that was credible. I think she's much less credible on why she's going on television.

COOPER: And by the way, she said, that's what she has read, we've not been able to confirm that call we can keep --

GERGEN: Yes, but she's -- well, that's a good point. But I think on the question of why she did this interview, given the fact and you were saying she said she signed the agreement with AMI because she wanted to kill the story. It wasn't catch and kill in the way we've been led to believe. She wanted to have it killed. And she was said, that's part of the deal I like it, why she has turned around like this?

You know, there are many different explanations. I think though that -- listen, there's a certain repugnance to all of this and it I don't know how it can play on politics, but it ain't going to help.


GERGEN: You know, because we're paying right into a year when women voters are going to be extraordinary important to the 2018 election. And I think you've got series of these stories coming out and a lot of women are going to say, yuck.

COOPER: We got to take a quick break. One quick note before we do, as we mentioned in the interview, AMI, the National Enquirer's parent company has released statement about Karen McDougal's contract and her allegations about efforts to keep her from speaking. And I'm quoting here quote from AMI, "Karen McDougal has been free to respond to press inquiries about her relationship with President Trump since 2016. Thus, the suggestion that AMI silenced her is completely without merit. Rather, Karen, signed a contract that gave AMI the editorial discretion to publish her life story, and she promised to write health and fitness columns and appear on the cover of two magazines."

Statement began to say, "AMI has a valid contract with Ms. McDougal and we look forward to reaching an amicable resolution satisfactory to her and to AMI."

We should also note about what Ms. McDougal said regarding communications between Keith Davidson and Trump's attorney Michael Cohen, we reached out to both of them, have not received a response. So that particular communication, we did get a statement from Mr. Davidson yesterday saying client privilege -- attorney client privilege prevents him from discussing the case in detail, but that he allegation is not "fair and accurate description of the situation."

And finally, as we've noted throughout the program, the White House denies any allegation that any affair occurred.

Back more with the panel and tonight's other breaking news, McMaster out Bolton, a newly name national security adviser John Bolton says his past comments are behind him. Well, here are some of those comments when we talk to the panel about what this means.


[21:47:02] COOPER: Another change tonight what seems like a never ending shake up in the White House. National security advisor, H.R. McMaster is out. John Bolton is in. Shortly after this was announced, Bolton acknowledged that he has written countless opinion pieces, given countless speeches and interviews. But he told Fox News that his past comments are behind him. Here just a few of those past comments.


JOHN BOLTON, NEW NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: There is no united nations. The Secretariat building in New York has 38 stories. If you lost 10 stories today, it wouldn't make a bit of difference.

But our biggest national security crisis is Barack Obama.

And we have to know facts here. And it's not at all clear to me just viewing this from the outside that this hacking into the DNC and the RNC computers was not a false flag operation.

I think the only diplomatic option left is to end the regime in North Korea by effectively having the south take it over.


COOPER: Again, Bolton says those comments are behind him. What matters is what the President says and the advice he gives him.

Back now with the panel. How big a change is this for the White House?

BASH: Well, it is a big change. Look, John Bolton is somebody who, I'm told, had very good meetings with the President. They -- after those meetings, kind of clicked personally, which as we know from the way the President has been operating lately is become more and more important to him.

COOPER: Right, which all the reporting was he didn't really do that with H.R. McMaster.

BASH: He didn't at all. He didn't like his style in every way but particularly I was told his briefing style. And with John Bolton it was different. Having said that, they could not have more different world views when it comes to the big things which are -- which is, let's just say Iraq. COOPER: Bolton was a big supporter of --

BASH: And still is. He still to this day, does not say it was a mistake. He said, you know, basically that they would have done it again and the President campaigned aggressively on the idea that he thought it was a terrible idea.

And he's much more of a hawk. He's much more of an internationalist. Having said that, he is not working for somebody who doesn't share those views and there's no question. Well, it's hard to believe that they didn't have those conversations about their differences and how that would work if he were talking about national security --

COOPER: Scott, you work for Bush 43 as did Bolton in the recess appointment, I'm wondering what you made of this.

JENNINGS: Well, I'm a John Bolton fan. I'm comfortable in more hawkish win in the Republican Party. I think and I've said many times on the step changes. I think the President deserves to have a staff that he get along with and that he trusts and that he can have actual exchanges with in the Oval Office that it might lead to the best possible outcomes.

I heard Ambassador Bolton say tonight that it's his job to lay out multiple option and help the President make the best decision. They have different world views, but he was very clear about understanding his role as a staffer and not someone who is out there actually setting the policy.

So if the President's more comfortable with this, I think that's good. It is interesting though the President's posture on North Korea right now is far different than what Ambassador Bolton posture has been as recently as February when he was advocating, you know, the possibility we might go ahead and attack them.

[21:50:08] So he's going to have to adjust his world view on North Korea as we head towards these meetings I think in May.

GERGEN: Scott is absolutely right. The President deserves to have the people around him, and he has the right to have the people around him that he wants. But to suggest this is not going to make a difference when they come right down and have a counsel and a meeting of the NFC with the President, I think these appointments had to stay and that the NFC have both moved the center of gravity towards a much harder line position on both North Korea and on Iran. I'll be really surprised now. It looked like the President was tilting toward getting out of the Iranian agreement. I think the chances are just gone up a lot, this going to get out of the Iranian agreement.

And they're going to go in with lower expectations on the North Korea talk. Yes, we can put his -- John Bolton is a very smart man, and he's had a lot of interesting statements. He can put a statement by -- but his not going to put his believes behind. He's not going to be a neutral arbiter. He's got views that he will advance, he's done that all as like that's what he does, you know? And so he's going to be trying to advance his policies. And I think, it's really significant now that the President, a series of big personnel -- everything has moved towards a harder line, a more combative line whether it's trade or North Korea or Iran. You can go down -- just get down in the whole series and even his personal lawyers are more combative --

COOPER: But, I mean, there had been controversial people in this position. I mean, Henry Kissinger, you know, had very strong views --

GERGEN: Absolutely. He had a huge impact on policy. You know, it's the rare national security advisor. Brent Scowcroft is one of them, who saw himself as a, you know, you collect all the views, present them fairly to the President, he don't push your own agenda. John Bolton doesn't come from that. That's just not this person who he is.

COOPER: Right.

POWERS: But the also hasn't really even a serious foreign policy player for a long time. I mean, the last job that he had, I think, was in the Bush administration and he was Under Secretary of State. He is really -- this is the President, you know, sort of again looking to this conservative infotainment, you know, people that he thinks are policy people. And, you know, I just think that there's just that problem. And then also he does savor extreme things. I mean he wrote the forward to Pamela Geller's book. I mean she is a top of the line islamophobe. I mean there's no question.

COOPER: Right.

POWERS: So, I mean, I think he takes really extreme positions on things. I think he said a nuclear striking on North Korea. This is not somebody who's on the margin. I mean, he's a hard liner. And so, I think it says something that this is the kind of person the President wants to have around him in this position.

GRANHOLM: And to me, I mean, everything that he has written, this aggressive interventionist is totally opposite of what the President campaigned on. And so I give it 10 months.

SCHULTZ: I agree he's a hard liner. I agree he's a hard liner. He's hawkish. But I also heard on night tonight on the news channels folks talking about how the President keeps pointing yes man and people were going to yes. I don't -- I submit, Pompeo is not a yes man. Pompeo has his own strong thoughts. And everyone here, around this table agrees --

COOPER: -- he does seem to be a very much in line, Pompeo.

SCHULTZ: Philosophically they can be in line and they can get along. But that doesn't mean that they're not going to disagree in a civil way in the Oval Office. I think he's put in good people in place that he trusts.

COOPER: It is interesting the television aspect which you raised on this. I mean, you know, one goes back to where he talks about the generals, you know, that he learned from watching on television, and which was sort of an offhanded remark and some made fun of at the time, but I wondering how much that is actually playing into this. I mean, is his familiarity with John Bolton --

POWERS: I think hugely --

COOPER: -- in watching him on television.

POWERS: I don't think there's any question. You see a lot of other staffers there ending up there because they're on T.V. You know, whether it's Mercedes Schlapp or whether it's, you know, Larry Kudlow, you know, now getting a position there. So, I think that he, you know --


POWERS: Yes. And I mean, you know, Sam Stein from the "Huffington Post" made a joke, something like, you know, the Chyron operator at Fox & Friends has more power than anybody in the White House.

Foreign policy, I mean, and that's, you know, we know he looks to Fox & Friends, you know, every morning just sort of get his ideas. So, I think him seeing John Bolton who's on Fox all the time has definitely played a huge role in this.

SCHULTZ: That just because you're good at messaging and a good messenger doesn't make it a bad policy. And I think the President is right. He's going into a 2018 year with midterm elections coming up and he's looking to folks who can carry that message.

COOPER: Right and that's what Maggie Haberman was saying in the last hour too, which is that he feels that there's not enough people talks -- saying what he wants on television, pushing his agenda.

JENNINGS: Yes, regardless of what advice he's getting from this people. He views the world through (inaudible) we can't communicate it publicly whenever going to get better. And so he clearly didn't like the way McMaster was communicating in the Oval Office. He wasn't a T.V. presence. He likes the way Kudlow talks. He likes the way Bolton talks. They can make an argument, engage in a debate. So I agree with you.

[21:55:09] They can be good on policy and they can be good arbiters of policy, but if the White House never finds a way to communicate all the good things they're doing, it will be hard for him to ever to get up closure to 50 percent, which where we want them to go.

GRANHOLM: So he makes his legal team in the same kind of way, I mean he's pushing out people who are more moderate or at least seem to be willing to work with Mueller and bringing in hard liners, not to change the subject and a bit it's the similar, you're going to have a bunch of bulldogs and there are a whole bunch of them. And while he wants people who are going to be aggressive and muscular, they also have ideas that may not be consistent with one another. So, it's going to be interesting to get the internal dynamic --

COOPER: We're going to take a quick break. Thanks, everybody. We'll be right back. More news ahead.


COOPER: Thanks for watching 360. Time to hand it over to Don Lemon. "CNN Tonight" starts right now.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. Here's our breaking news, H.R. McMaster out, John Bolton in.