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Special Counsel: Trump Deputy Campaign Chairman Knowingly Talked with Former Russian Intel Officer During 2016 Campaign; NYT: Trump Lawyer Floated Idea of Pardons for Flynn, Manafort; President Trump Fires V.A. Secretary Shulkin, Taps White House Doctor to Replace Him; Federal Judge Says Lawsuit On President's Personal Business Profits Can Proceed; Stormy Daniels' Attorney Seeks to Depose President Trump, Michael Cohen; Protests Continue After Police Kill a 22-Year-Old Unarmed Black Man. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired March 28, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:05] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

We begin tonight, keeping them honest with two new developments in the Russia probe. One goes the question whether the campaign had links to or connections with Russians attempting to influence the elections, something as you know the president strenuously denies.

However, a new court filing from the special counsel says the deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates was in contact in the fall of 2016 with an associate with alleged ties to Russian intelligence. So, that's one story tonight.

The other goes straight to the question, did the president through his personal attorney try to secure the silence of Gates' boss, Paul Manafort, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn by offering what only a president can deliver, namely pardons? Tonight, the White House is responding, but the way they're responding does leave a lot of questions unanswered.

The story broke today in "The New York Times", the headline: Trump's lawyer raised prospect of pardons for Flynn and Manafort. Here are two key passages from their reporting, quote: the discussions came as the special counsel was building cases against both men and they raised questions about whether the lawyer John Dowd who resigned last week was offering pardons to influence their decisions about whether to plead guilty and cooperate in the investigation.

The report continues, quote: the talk suggests that Mr. Trump's lawyers were concerned about what Mr. Flynn and Mr. Manafort might reveal were they to cut a deal with the special counsel.

Well, "The Washington Post" meantime has more on the timeframe, reporting that Dowd floated the pardon idea to attorneys for Manafort last summer, and what else was John Dowd doing right about that time you might wonder?

Well, keeping them honest, he was denying he was doing with "The Times" and "The Post" today reported he was doing, discussing pardons.

Take a look at CNN's coverage from last July 21st of last year.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "The Washington Post" reports the legal team for the president is also investigating or keeping a look at issues related to pardoning potentially his aides and family members if necessary and the report does say that the president has even inquired about the ability to pardon himself. Well, this morning when asked about it, the president's lawyer called that reporting, quote, nonsense.


COOPER: Well, that lawyer was John Dowd. He issued the denial to "BuzzFeed". Now, at the time, "The Post" reporting did not mention floating the prospect of pardons to potential witnesses, however, his denial to "BuzzFeed" was categorical.

Quote: There's nothing going on on pardons, research, nothing. It's not happening, never has happened, he said. Nothing going on on pardons, he said.

Now, if "The Times" and "The Post" reporting bears out, that categorical denial last July would not be true, which may be why today's White House briefing, Sarah Sanders appeared to be especially careful to only speak about pardons in the present tense. Listen.


REPORTER: Are pardons on the table for anyone involved in the Russia probe?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, I would refer you back to the statement from Ty Cobb in the report that you're asking about, when which he said I've only been asked about pardons by the press and have routinely responded on the record that no pardons are under discussion or under consideration at the White House.

REPORTER: Can you say unequivocally that no one here has discussed pardons in this case?

SANDERS: I can say that Ty Cobb is the person that would be most directly involved in this, and he's got a statement on the record saying that there's no discussion and there's no consideration of those at this time of the White House.


COOPER: So, just to point that out. The question was, so, can you say unequivocally that no one here has discussed pardons in this case? Sarah Sanders answered with, there is no discussion and there is no consideration.

So, the question is, does the lady present-tense too much? You can decide for yourself or Sarah Sanders so often says, ask someone else, not her. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: For specific details on any search process outside of the White House, I would refer you to his outside counsel. Outside of the White House, I would refer you to Jay Sekulow. Anything beyond, that I would refer you to the president's outside counsel and his attorney David Schwartz.

Once again, I would refer you to the president's outside counsel. Anything beyond that, I would refer you to the outside counsel. Look, I would refer you back to the statement from Ty Cobb.

Any new questions, I would refer you to the president's personal counsel. And I'm not going to get into a hypothetical question and I would refer you to Michael Cohen on that matter.


COOPER: Well, perspective now from Mark Mazzetti, one of five "New York Times" correspondents on the pardon story today.

Mark, can you just walk us through your understanding of how these pardoned conversations came about?

MARK MAZZETTI, WASHINGTON INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": What we reported today was that last year, the president's lawyer at the time, John Dowd, reached out on at least two occasions to two different lawyers for Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn. This happened middle of last year before, first of all, Michael Flynn accepted a plea agreement with Bob Mueller and before Paul Manafort was indicted.

The exact substance of the conversations is still a little unclear. We know the subject of pardons was broached. But what we don't know is how much these pardon offers were made as a offer of perhaps both witnesses in the investigation perhaps not cutting a deal with Mueller.

[20:05:09] COOPER: And that's really critical in terms of the meaning of this, whether this was a quid pro quo, the suggestion being made, you know, you don't cooperate, the president will give you a pardon.

MAZZETTI: That's right and there's still more we need to learn about this. As we report today, at the very least it shows that there was concern in the White House and concern within president Trump's legal team about what Manafort and Flynn might tell Mueller if they were to cooperate with the special counsel. There's seem to be concerned that, you know, Mueller at this time, of course, was building cases against both Flynn and Manafort, and if the two were to flip and cooperate, there seemed to be concern of the White House about what they might have to say about the president and the president's advisors.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, you're also reporting questions about pardons have also come up during interviews with the special counsel's investigators. MAZZETTI: That's right. In witnesses -- witness interviews in the last several months, Mueller's investigators have asked various witnesses about conversations in the White House about pardons. We reported also that President Trump raised the issue with the White House counsel's office sometime last year, during which he sit -- you know, asked about his pardon powers. He was asking about what authority he does he have two pardon.

And so, this was a topic of conversation and it clearly is something that Mueller's team is at least asking about with other witnesses.

COOPER: Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe I read also in your article that Dowd later expressed surprise that that Flynn had accepted a plea deal, is that correct?

MAZZETTI: Right, that he was believed to have thought that the case against Flynn was flimsy and, you know, he didn't need to do a plea deal because you know there wasn't a good case. So, this was other conversations Dowd has had with other people where he has expressed that.

COOPER: Dowd, as well as the president's current lawyers they're pushing back on your reporting. Despite that, you still stand by, is that right?

MAZZETTI: Yes, absolutely, we're very confident in our reporting.

COOPER: Mark Mazzetti, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

MAZZETTI: OK, thank you.

COOPER: So, there's that.

There's the Rick Gates story as well. And just to elaborate on that a bit, it broke last night in a form of a court filing. It was a sentencing memorandum concerning another cooperating witness. Now, in it, the special counsel's team report said they've connected Gates who's a former associate obviously of Paul Manafort's, to a person with ties to a Russian intelligence service. And this is important -- they alleged this connection continued while Gates worked as deputy campaign chairman for President Trump.

Now, according to the filing, Gates and this individual were in touch in September and October of 2016, and that this was, quote, pertinent to the investigation.

Joining us now, three CNN political analysts, Gloria Borger, David Gergen, and Carl Bernstein, none of whom have ties as far as I know to Russian intelligence.

Gloria, the optics of this -- of the pardons are -- obviously, I mean, they're political third rail. They also color how people view the president's legal team. I know you've been talking to sources about that particularly about John Dowd who recently quit and is that the center of this new reporting. GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, look, I have to say that there is a great deal of consternation on the people -- by the people who are left on the president's legal team about John Dowd, without even talking about Mark Mazzetti's reporting, they were upset at the way he left the legal team. Some of them raised the question with me whether it was unethical, whether in fact he put the president in legal jeopardy, by quitting the way he did so publicly.

And now, of course, they're on a search to try and replace him and get another attorney or two in there and they're having a great deal of difficulty even doing that. I mean, they say, you know, there's no rush. We can -- we can do this anytime.

But, clearly, they understand and -- you know, as one source said to me, look, we understand particularly if the -- if the Democrats win the House, we need to have somebody who may have some familiarity with impeachment, for example, and other constitutional issues.

And so, they're, you know, they're angry at Dowd. They have to figure out how to replace him. And in the meantime, they're proceeding to deal with Mueller.

COOPER: Carl, I mean, it is interesting. Michael Flynn shows a plea deal. Paul Manafort, who faces the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison so far as chosen to fight he's very serious charged in court -- obviously, a big role that does for Manafort, unless he thinks, you know, that the government has overstated their case.

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Or he thinks maybe he will be pardoned. That could also be part of it.

Let's look at the big picture here, which is that we know that President Trump has presided over a cover-up of all things Russian for more than a year now. The question is, is it a criminal cover-up, as was Nixon's a criminal cover-up in Watergate? And these developments today make it look more and more definitive that it probably is a criminal cover-up by the standards of most legal experts.

[20:10:04] We don't know that for sure, but we're tying together both the question of the president's actions in relations to promising things that will, in fact, impede and obstruct Mueller's investigation and also, we are seeing in the Gates developments which also affect Manafort because they were business partners, Gates and Manafort, and the Russian intelligence agent -- intelligence agent alleged worked for both Manafort and Gates.

And we're beginning to see the outlines perhaps of a real, quote, collusion case with the Trump campaign and members of the Trump entourage. Not definitive. But now, we're in territory where the outlines of what Mueller is trying to build look more involved -- more and more apparent and why Donald Trump is so determined to preside over this cover-up and probably a criminal cover-up at that.

COOPER: David, I mean does bear repeating in the times is reporting today, they don't have anything on whether President Trump communicated with John Dowd. I mean, John Dowd denies this conversation took place. There's no reporting on whether the President Trump, if they did take place was aware of them or directed him to or if John Dowd inform the president of this. They don't have reporting on that.

Nor is there really reporting on the actual words used in the conversation if it did occur between John Dowd and the attorneys for Manafort and for Gates, and in the conversation, that the words used matter tremendously.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: They do matter a lot. I want to go back to some -- I echo a lot of what Carl said. But let me just go back to the small fundamentals. We have a situation here whether it's a president's personal attorney who is in the spotlight, not his legal team in the White House.

The president clearly went outside the normal channel that you would normally work through your legal counsel if you wanted to have communication with the lawyers in this Mueller case. Instead he chose John Dowd. Dowd says he never talked to these people.

But here, "The New York Times" comes along. They have three sources for the story. "The Washington Post" independently verified it through two sources. You've got these two major news organizations both quite confident enough to run the story.

It's -- that heavily suggests that John Dowd has been lying about this all along, and that they were dangling pardons. This also comes around the time that you may remember the sheriff Joe Arpaio out in Arizona when the president pardoned him and a lot of people thought that was sending a signal to Manafort, to Flynn, and to others, if you hang tough, I am very willing to use my pardon power, even in a great controversy. And I think we're seeing a lot of that here.

Now, I wanted to -- I disagree with Carl on one point, and that is that lawyers seem to be divided about whether the president would be doing something illegal --


GERGEN: -- by dangling a pardon. There are some who say he -- that it -- he has full powers and he can do anything he wants with the pardon power. Others say, no, no, no, it'd be illegal.

It's -- but the point is, Anderson, just because something is legal does not mean it's right.


GERGEN: And it is not right to be dangling pardons in front of -- in a really sensitive case, unless you have something you want to cover up.

COOPER: And by the way, Gloria, just so you know, we're going to be talking to Professor Dershowitz from Harvard obviously and Jeff Toobin on that exact matter. But go ahead.

BORGER: Right. You know, we don't know whether John Dowd was freelancing doing this in some conversations with attorneys he knows, or whether he was doing it at the urging of the president. We know that in the past, he has done things at the urging of the president. But we -- you know, we don't know whether he did that, you know, in this particular case and I think that's also -- that's also quite relevant.

COOPER: What's so interesting about that is this is not a situation where he would have attorney-client privilege, because it's not a conversation with the president himself. There's no privilege between, you know, attorney John Dowd and the attorney for Manafort, or the attorney for Gates.

BORGER: Exactly.

COOPER: So he would have known that going in that this is not a privileged conversation.

BORGER: Right, and also --

COOPER: So, if he did have that conversation --

BERNSTEIN: I don't think there's any question -- if I can interject, I don't think there's any question that Mueller now is in a position to call John Dowd into his shop and questioned him extensively.


BERNSTEIN: And, yes, the president of the United States has almost absolute powers to pardon and can do it perfectly, legally. It's not at all clear though that the president of the United States can, quote, dangle pardons --

COOPER: Right.

BERNSTEIN: -- in front of someone as a means of obstructing a legitimate inquiry. And that appears to be what's happened here.

COOPER: And also, you know, whether the words floated were exact that Dowd used in this meeting, I'm sure John Dowd, who's a clever lawyer, had a means of speaking if this indeed happened the way "The Times" and "Post" described it, has a means of speaking that suggests certain things and perhaps keeps him on the legal side of the line.

[20:15:02] But there seems to be from the reporting, little question that he dangled these pardons and it's part of a larger cover-up directed by the president of the United States.

BORGER: And I want to -- I want to remind everyone that in the case of Manafort and the case of Flynn, the president's attorneys were out there publicly saying this has nothing to do with the president. These are -- these are separate issues and Flynn has nothing to do with the president. Manafort's business had nothing to do with the president. COOPER: Right.

BORGER: So, at the same time, this may have been occurring, they were distancing themselves publicly.


GERGEN: One last point. The question is whether Dowd acted at the behest of the president, the instruction -- we don't have to debate that. It's very clear he would not act without the president's blessing.


GERGEN: Very clear.

BERNSTEIN: We're also talking -- just one quick point --


COOPER: We'll come back to you.

David, Carl, Gloria, thank you very much.

Next, as mentioned, two legal heavyweights join our own Jeff Toobin and his professor, legendary defense attorney Alan Dershowitz.

Also later tonight, with protests breaking out in California, in their -- in the state capitol there, across the country, we'll bring you the very latest in the wake of the deadly police shooting of the man in his grandmother's backyard.


[20:20:04] COOPER: Well, with the White House apparently parsing its words on whether former presidential attorney John Dowd discussed pardons with two big potential Russia witnesses, we wanted to dig deeper now on the question of what significance this might have, as David Gergen brought up.

The bottom line if the reporting turns out to be true and if it turns out that some kind of offer was dangled, what are the implications?

Joining us, a pair of Harvard University legal minds, Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, and his former student, CNN Chief Legal Analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeff, the fact that Ty Cobb's statement is in the present tense, that's not actually rebutting "The Times" and "The Post" reporting, which is about conversations last year, Sarah Sanders basically referred to that statement, how big a deal is this?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's potentially a big deal but I think -- you know, it's important that we put "The Times" story in proper perspective. There is nothing unlawful about a lawyer's discussing pardons. That is a power of the presidency. Where there could be trouble is if there was some sort of promise

implied or given to witnesses in the Mueller investigation that if you don't cooperate, you will get a pardon.

COOPER: Professor Dershowitz, do you agree with that? I mean, can the president pardon someone or have his lawyer float the idea to pardon someone if the intent is to obstruct or interfere with an ongoing federal investigation?

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Well, I think there are two issues. The president can pardon unequivocally.

President George W. Bush pardoned Caspar Weinberger in order to stop the investigation. The special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh accused him of doing that to stop the investigation. It did stop the investigation. So, the act of pardoning can't be a crime in my view.

But if you negotiate a pardon in exchange for something of value, then you may very well have violated a criminal statute not by giving the pardon but by accepting or negotiating for something of value. I cannot imagine that sophisticated lawyers of the kind that are involved in this case would ever have that conversation in which the quid pro quo is mentioned. In exchange for this, we will give you a pardon, but if you don't do this, we won't give you a pardon. It is inconceivable to me that sophisticated lawyers would have had that conversation.

COOPER: But if that -- professor, if that conversation, if it's implied that you don't cooperate, we give you the pardon, is that illegal?

DERSHOWITZ: Well, you know, it really depends very much on how the conversation occurred if it occurred. The president doesn't have to offer a pardon. Remember Manafort said he wouldn't accept the pardon. That's not his power.

President can pardon you whether you like it or not. President can pardon you even if you don't accept the pardon. The Supreme Court ruled that in opinion by Justice Holmes many years ago.

So, if the president wanted a pardon, he could easily just have pardoned. I don't understand why you would have negotiated a pardon. If he gave a pardon, then there'd be no incentive for the folks on the other side to, in any way cooperate because there would be no leverage over them that would force them to cooperate and obviously they prefer not to cooperate than to cooperate.

So, the story doesn't really ring true to an experienced criminal defense lawyer like me.

COOPER: Jeff, I mean, if Mueller wants to question John Dowd about whether he floated pardons, could Dowd simply decline to talk about it, citing attorney-client privilege?

TOOBIN: Well, it depends. I mean, the attorney-client privilege only covers John Dowd's conversations with his client, with Donald Trump. Donald -- he would have no privilege regarding conversations he had with other lawyers or other witnesses.

You know, I found myself in uncharacteristic agreement with most of what Alan said.

DERSHOWITZ: It's about time.

TOOBIN: Well, it would -- but, you know, you're taking a harder line, Alan. I mean, the idea that you know negotiating over a pardon to help your own legal situation, that is -- that is problematic. Where I disagree is the pardon itself I think could also be evidence of obstruction of justice.

But certainly, you know, using the pardon to try to get yourself out of legal trouble is I think problematic. But at least "The New York Times" story so far doesn't suggest that he did that or at least they don't have evidence that he did it.

DERSHOWITZ: Well, I'm glad you're changing your mind now because previously you said that the act of granting a pardon could become an obstruction of justice. Now, you're backing away from that and saying it could be evidence of a conspiracy to obstruct justice. That's a very different position.

I stick to my position. Professor Jack Goldsmith of Harvard agrees with that in "The New York Times" story today saying the act of granting the pardon, the act of firing Comey, any act which in and of itself is constitutionally authorized cannot form the basis for a criminal charge. Evidence of a conspiracy --

TOOBIN: Well, you just lost me there, yes.

DERSHOWITZ: OK, well, if I lost you, you're not going attention because I think what I said was very clear.

TOOBIN: No. I mean, the core -- the core obstruction of justice issue here has always been, did the president fire James call me in order to forestall, stop, interfere with the investigation of himself. That is a crime.

[20:25:03] DERSHOWITZ: And that doesn't matter, what the president did it for. That doesn't -- no.

You see, it can't be a crime to fire Jim Comey. No matter what the motive is. If, on the other hand he did something illegal in the process of doing that, that would be different. But you cannot commit a crime by engaging in a constitutionally protected act.

TOOBIN: The world is full of crimes that are take innocent or protected acts and make them criminal because of criminal intent.

DERSHOWITZ: Not by a president.

TOOBIN: It's certainly not criminal to sell stock, but it is criminal to sell stock with inside information. That is --

DERSHOWITZ: Bad analogy. TOOBIN: Well, it's a good analogy.

DERSHOWITZ: We're talking about the president of the United States who has constitutional authority as the head of the executive branch to hire and fire.

COOPER: Let me just ask you, Professor Dershowitz, before we end. The president is having trouble it seems and getting a team of attorneys. Does that surprise you? I mean, you were on the -- you know, legal dream team of O.J. Simpson. He was able to get, you know, a range of attorneys -- very smart attorneys representing him. Does it surprise you the president of the United States seems to be having issues?

DERSHOWITZ: Well, first, I think there are a lot of conflicts of interest around Washington. Second, I'm told that he did not offer the job to Bob Bennett. Remember, I've said publicly that offering the job to the man who walked President Clinton into a perjury trap would be the worst possible judgment. And the president is indicated that that was not offered to Bob Bennett, that that news story is not accurate.

There are conflicts. There are matters of whether you want to get somebody who is an outsider, an inside guy, bad cop/good cop -- it's not easy to assemble the perfect team when you're trying to play both good cop/bad cop. But I'm confident the president will be able to put together a very strong legal team.

Already, I think some of the people on the team very strong. Dowd resigned, I don't know the reason for it, but I think the president will be well-represented.

COOPER: Professor Dershowitz, Jeff Toobin, thank you.

DERSHOWITZ: Thank you.

COOPER: Well, there's another possible legal problem for President Trump looming. When we continue, a lawsuit alleging that payments by foreign officials who stay at the Trump international hotel in Washington may actually violate the U.S. Constitution.

Also coming up, another White House cabinet member is out. This time, it's the V.A. secretary. We've got breaking news, surprising new details about how his replacement was chosen.


[20:30:52] COOPER: Breaking news from the White House tonight, President Trump late today fired his Secretary of Veterans Affairs, David Shulkin and is nominating his own personal White House physician, Dr. Ronny Jackson to replace him. Perhaps one of the least surprising firings from the Trump White House. Shulkin of course was one of the few high level holdovers from the Obama administration and taking a great deal of fire lately in a lot of different fronts.

Our Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta joins us now. So what does the White House saying about why the firing is happening now? And do the President himself actually do it?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it sounds like the news was delivered, Anderson by the Chief of Staff John Kelly. But, White House officials stressed to me just earlier this evening that David Shulkin was not fired by tweet. As, you know, the President tweeted this announcement this afternoon. So there was no #FBT for David Shulkin, but there were some big concerns inside this White House about that recent inspector general's report that criticized Shulkin's trip to Europe last year in which, you know, this was an official trip but he spent a lot of time really just being a tourist over in Europe. And those distractions I'm told by White House officials just became too much. They felt like it gotten the way carrying up the President's agenda.

COOPER: Dr. Ronny Jackson is the doctor who back in January said, you know, gave the update on the President's health and the President have quote, "incredible genes." I'm wondering, what exactly are his qualifications to head the V.A.? And I know he was the doctor to the last two Presidents, I believe, but in terms of running, I mean, it's a massive organization. It's a massive management task.

ACOSTA: Well, Anderson, first of all, I think it does always help to praise the boss and I don't think that's a remote possibility that this was part of this. I was told by a White House official earlier this evening that part of the President's decision making here was Dr. Jackson's performance at that briefing. You know, they want to be cautious over here, they're saying and they're insisting that Dr. Jackson did not get this job because he was heaping praise on the President's health for example saying that if the President only eat better, he could live to be 200 years old, that was something that Dr. Jackson said at that briefing. But that the President liked the way Dr. Jackson handled himself with reporters and that was certainly part of it.

Now, as with the doctor's qualifications, a White House official did pushed back and say hey, wait a minute, Dr. Jackson is qualified to run the V.A. if you take a look at his military and medical background. Those officials was arguing that's perfect for the V.A. and also pointing out Dr. Jackson was praised by previous administrations, the Obama administration did have good things to say about Dr. Jackson.

But, Anderson, I don't think it ever hurts you to praise the boss and we heard a lot in that briefing about that. And apparently, the President liked what he heard at the briefing and that was a big part of the reason why Dr. Jackson is getting this very big job. But I think it will be interesting to watch how the confirmation process goes. Because as you mentioned, Anderson, he does have a lot of serious questions to answer about just how he is going to take care of this very large, very important agency.


ACOSTA: Anderson.

COOPER: Jim Acosta, appreciate it. Now to another legal fight for President Trump, it isn't going away at least for now, emoluments, it's a fancy word that most Americans never heard of it. So President Trump was wanting to often office. It's generally defined as compensation, meaning a salary or fee a profit for services from employment or in an office.

Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the constitution says in part that, no person holding any office shall without the consent of Congress accept any present emolument, office, or title of any kind whatever from any King, Prince or foreign state. Again, a lot of big fancy words but it all basically means, it's illegal to profit from being President.

But attorneys general from Maryland and the District of Columbia filed suits months ago as you may remember, alleging the President has done just that, because foreign officials have paid to stay at Trump International Hotel in Washington.

A federal judge says that lawsuit can actually proceed the Trump organization. A statement to the "Washington Post" says that the decision "does significantly narrow the scope of the case."

Joining me now to discuss it, is Norman Eisen, former Ethics Czar for President Obama. He is also the Board Chair for a watchdog group called "Citizens Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, CREW" which joined in that litigation.

[20:34:59] So, Ambassador Eisen, I know -- as I said, you were involved with this lawsuit. The CREW is co-council. We've got lawyers from Maryland and D.C. To you, what are the implications of this lawsuit actually proceeding?

NORMAN EISEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Anderson, thanks for having me back. The implications of this lawsuit are now, that the judge has said the District of Columbia and Maryland have standing. That is they have sufficiently alleged an injury in respect to President Trump taking these benefits, cash swag emoluments justice in 18th century word for swag.

And the President is raking it in. Just a few blocks from the White House, Anderson, and the court has said OK, bring it on. D.C and Maryland can litigate this case they have standing.

COOPER: I mean, is the allegation, you know, obviously the President has business interest, would any business interest in your opinion be a violation of the emolument clause or is it that people are intentionally staying -- some people are intentionally staying at this hotel to curry favor with the President.

EISEN: That's exactly, Anderson. The reason that the founders of our country and the framers of the constitution put this probation on foreign government cash and benefits or cash or benefits from American domestic governments flowing to a President because they thought it would bend his judgment.

And what's happening over in the Trump hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue is an outrage. People are openly saying, diplomats in governments are openly saying, of course, we're going to stay there to tell the President that we did that to try to get in good with him. And so this is just what the founders and framers feared and it's a very serious problem.

COOPER: So does this mean the way the court has already ruled now, does this mean that other states and other businesses near Trump properties around the country could also have legal standing to do the same thing claiming that a Trump property has cutting into their, you know, other hotels who will say, look, people are staying at that hotel to curry favor, they're not staying at our hotel it's hurting our business.

EISEN: Anderson, that's one of the most important aspects of this case, the court set out a set of standards that any state that has a Trump property, any competitor, any individual being harmed similar to D.C. and Maryland, anywhere in the country can proceed against the Trump Institution and that's the right decision, Anderson. It's crazy that we have a President who is nakedly exploiting the Oval Office, spends a third of his time as President at his own businesses, the Trump Hotel and else where around the country, no wonder we're seeing this administration surrounded by scandal.

When the President, the tone at the top sets forth that I am going to profit. The constitution for visits and the court has recognize now that the D.C. and Maryland have standing and many others --

COOPER: Right.

EISEN: -- under the principles the court laid out.

COOPER: Ambassador Eisen, I appreciate your time, thanks very much.

EISEN: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: The attorney for adult film star Stormy Daniels is filing new legal motions today, seeking to depose both President Trump and his attorney Michael Cohen and open court. That's coming up when we continue.


[20:40:05] COOPER: Michael Avenatti, the attorney for Stormy Daniels, the adult film star says to having affair with President Trump has filed a motion in federal court seeking to depose both the President and his attorney Michael Cohen to ask both of them about the $130,000 payment that Cohen made to Ms. Daniels just before the 2016 election, seeking to ensure her silence about the alleged affair.

And once again, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders fielded another question about it at today's briefing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You haven't answered the substantive question about whether the President was aware of the $130,000 payment that was made honor and agreement from which he is explicitly named to keep Stormy Daniels silent. Can you answer that question we ask three weeks ago today, so were aware -- are you aware now?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, the President has denied the allegations. We've spoken about this issue extensively and I don't have anything else to add beyond that. Anything beyond that, I would refer you to the outside counsel.


COOPER: I'm joined now by Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti. Thanks for being with us. What is the, you know, the Michael Cohen's people want this to be an arbitration. They don't want it to be in open court and that's what they said the contract calls for. They're tried to move it to federal court which has a history of pushing thing more into arbitration. How is that affecting what you are doing today in terms of pushing forward to be able to depose the President to be able to depose Michael Cohen?

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIEL'S ATTORNEY: So what we filed just after midnight, this morning, Anderson, was a preemptive motion. And what we've asked for is a number of things. We've asks for two-hour deposition of the President, a two-hour deposition of Michael Cohen, some limited document request where we can ask for specific documents to be produced and then we want to expedite a trial date on the issue as to whether an agreement was actually entered into.

Now, why is that important? Because before their motion to compel arbitration can be heard, a fundamental question must be answered. And that question is whether there was an agreement to begin with.

COOPER: Right.

AVENATTI: Whether the party is actually reached the media undermine (ph) and had an agreement. Without that agreement, you never get to the motion to compel arbitration and that's under what's called the Federal Arbitration Act. So we had this motion in the can for a while. We were expecting them to move to federal court. They did. And we've now filed this motion and we're highly confident that the court is going to grant it.

COOPER: So if the President is not a signatory to the actual contract that was signed by Michael Cohen for the LLC and Stormy Daniels, why try to depose the President, what's -- what are the questions you want to put to him?

AVENATTI: Well, I mean, we want to find out what the President knew, when he knew it and what he did about it if anything.

COOPER: You're now talking about the -- are you talking about the actual allegation on number (ph) of affair, or did he knew that Michael Cohen was doing this, that he ask Michael Cohen to do this, is this, you know, essentially an incoming campaign contribution or it was the President involve in somewhere.

[20:45:02] AVENATTI: We're focused on the formation of the agreement and the terms of that agreement and what the President knew and when he knew it. We're not interested in what the White House spokesperson or deputy spokesperson has to say. We want to put the President under oath and we're going to ask him some very simple questions. Normally you're permitted seven hours under the federal rules. We've only requested two of him and Mr. Cohen.

You know, it's one thing, Anderson, to lie to the press. It's another thing to potentially perjure yourself under oath. So we're going to ask those questions, we're highly confident in the motions.

COOPER: Why are you -- you say you are confident in the motion? What -- is there precedent for this? I mean, is this is an accelerated schedule you're asking for.

AVENATTI: Well, this is not just some crazy notion that we thought up overnight. I mean, we've been looking at this for a number of weeks. We've been prepared for this. We've done our homework. There's extensive precedent in the Ninth Circuit. The President may not like the Ninth Circuit court of appeal --

COOPER: So you're speaking a lot about the Ninth Circuit?

AVENATTI: Yes, I happen to look the Ninth Circuit court of appeal. It's a circuit in which I practice quite a bit. I think those -- I think the judges are very learned and able to say the least. And there's extensive precedent within the Ninth Circuit for the granting of this motion. It's really almost black letter law what we're asking for. And I don't think quite honestly the President's team thought through this process of removing the case to federal court. They certainly did not see this coming.

COOPER: Do you know how quickly you will get a ruling on this?

AVENATTI: Well, we've asked for a hearing on April 30th. And we're going to before Judge Otero. I have some experience before Judge Otero. You know, he is a very smart, no nonsense federal judge. And when I say no nonsense, I mean, no nonsense. And I'm confident that he is going to hear the motion on April 30th and he's going to issue decision shortly there after. And if the motion is granted, Anderson, I can envision us taking the deposition of Michael Cohen and the President within 30 or 45 days of the end of April.

COOPER: All right, Michael Avenatti, we'll see, thanks very much.

AVENATTI: Thank you.

COOPER: I appreciate it.

Coming up, outrage in Sacramento after police killed an unarmed 22- year-old man, Stephon Clark. Protesters have blocked highway shown up outside basketball games in the city council meeting. We'll get the latest in a live update, next.


[20:51:24] COOPER: There's more breaking news tonight. Protests continue in Sacramento, California, after police shot and killed an unarmed 22-year-old African-American man, Stephon Clark, in his grandmother's yard. At the White House today, Sarah Sanders was asked if the President had anything to say about the case.


SANDERS: Certainly a terrible incident. This is something that is a local matter and it's something that we feel should be left up to the local authorities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What does he say about weeding out bad policing when you continue to see these kinds of situations occur over and over again?

SANDERS: Certainly we want to make sure that all law enforcement is carrying out the letter of the law. The President is very supportive of law enforcement, but at the same time in these specific cases -- in these specific instances, those will be left up to local authorities to make that determination and not something for the federal government to weigh into.


COOPER: Well, the protests in Sacramento have spilled over into a city council meeting and multiple protests during NBA games at the arena where the Sacramento Kings play with another plan for tomorrow.

Dan Simon is there, joins us now.

Dan, what's the situation?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well hi, Anderson. For the last hour or so, we've been marching along with these protesters in downtown Sacramento. They've really been clogging the streets and creating problems for people trying to get home from work. I've been in Sacramento for the last week, and I have to say that the anger is not dissipating over this issue. If anything, it has gotten even more intense. Take a look.


SIMON (voice-over): Sacramento's chaotic city council meeting, the latest example of the escalating tension over the police shooting death of an unarmed 22-year-old black man named, Stephon Clark.

STEVANTE CALRK, BROTHER OF STEPHON CLARK: The mayor and the city of Sacramento has stood all of you.

SIMON (voice-over): Clark's brother has called the police officers murders. His interruption forced the mayor to halt the meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Enough, enough.


CLARK: And the mayor wants to talk to me. The chief police got my brother the killed.


CLARK: He doesn't care. He shows no emotion at all.


CLARK: We are going to --



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to recess the council meeting and resume in 15 minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Show me your gun.

SIMON: It all begin with this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Show me your hands, drop your gun.

SIMON: Two Sacramento police officers, one of them black, responding to a report of someone breaking car windows, fired 20 shots at Stephon Clark in his grandmother's backyard. Police firing after thinking the 22-year-old was pointing a gun at them. Instead, only a cell phone was found nearby.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody, take out your cell phone.

SIMON: Activists seized on that troubling fact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Direct the cell phone to the council. Does this look, as you point this to our council -- does this look like a gun?

SIMON (on camera): Bottom line, were the officers justified at all in this shooting?

CHIEF DANIEL HAHN, SACRAMENTO POLICE: Well, that was what this investigation has to come to a conclusion of at the end. And until all the facts are in and until we finish that, I can't answer that.

SIMON (voice-over): Sacramento's police chief has pledged complete transparency, while also announcing that the investigation will be overseen by the state's Department of Justice.

Part of the community anger stems from a puzzling moment caught on the body camera video.

Just moments after the shooting, the officers turned off their microphones. It's allowed under department policy if officers, for instance, have a confidential conversation. But it's not clear why they would have shut the mikes off here. The chief acknowledging it raises the suspicion that the officers had something to hide.

[20:55:00] HAHN: It might be and probably is a time to not allow that anymore.


SIMON (voice-over): The family has hired high profiles Civil Rights attorney Benjamin Crump. For now, all they say they want is justice.


SIMON: A wrongful death lawsuit almost certainly be coming, while protesters continue to take to the streets.

On Tuesday, for the second time in a week, they blocked the entrances to the Sacramento King's basketball game, leaving the stands almost completely empty.


COOPER: Dan, I understand that Clark's memorial service is tomorrow and that there's another basketball game tomorrow night. Are police preparing to shift their strategy when it comes to protesters?

SIMON: Well, there is this memorial service tomorrow, Anderson, and they're expecting as many as 500 people to attend. It is a public service and --


SIMON: We apologize --

COOPER: There we go, meet some of protest. Dan Simon, thanks.

You saw Benjamin Crump there in Dan's piece. We'll talk to Mr. Crump in the next hour.

Coming up, new questions tonight, about whether the President's lawyer floated the idea of pardoning Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort. We'll have the latest reporting next and what the White House is saying next, which seems carefully worded.


[21:00:00] Did the President's personal attorney try to secure the silence of two key figures in the Russia probe by offering Presidential pardons? On the table new reporting that suggests the answer may be yes. Some very carefully parsed answers from the White House aren't exactly dispelling suspicions.