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Trump's Loyal Fixer; Mega Merger Trial Resumes; Anti-Trust Laws to Target Amazon; North Korean Leader Visits China. Aired 8:30-9a ET
Aired March 28, 2018 - 08:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:30:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Attorney Michael Cohen. Cohen has admitted paying the porn star $130,000 of his own money just days before the 2016 election in exchange for her silence. One of many moves that he's made over the years, he says, to try to protect his famous client.
CNN's Gloria Borger has more on President Trump's loyal fixer.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST (voice over): In the soap opera in which a porn star accepts a payoff to keep quiet about her affair with Donald Trump, there's got to be a guy who gets it done.
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: Where is Michael Cohen?
Where is Mr. Cohen?
Where is this guy?
Where is this guy?
BORGER: Michael Cohen is where he's been since 2007, standing behind Donald Trump, or closer, in his back pocket.
SAM NUNBERG, TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: Michael was, I'd always like to say, the Ray Donovan of the office.
LIVE SCHREIBER, ACTOR, "RAY DONOVAN": I'll take care of it.
SAM NUNBERG: He took care of what had to be taken care of.
I don't know what had to be taken care of. But all I know is that Michael was taking care of it.
DAVID SCHWARTZ, ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL COHEN: He's the guy that you could call at 3:00 in the morning when you have a problem.
BORGER (on camera): Do you know stories of Donald Trump calling him at 3:00 in the morning?
SCHWARTZ: Donald Trump has called him at all hours of the night. Every dinner I've been at with Michael, the boss has called. BORGER (voice over): But Cohen did not call the boss, he says, when he
decided to pay Stormy Daniels $130,000 out of his own pocket 11 days before the election.
AVENATTI: Well, I think it's ludicrous.
BORGER (on camera): So you believe, 100 percent, Donald Trump knew?
AVENATTI: One hundred percent.
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, TRUMP BIOGRAPHER: There is not a meeting that takes place, there's not an expenditure that is authorized that he doesn't know about it.
BORGER (voice over): Cohen wouldn't go on the record for this piece, but his friends claim it's all part of his job in Trump world, giving the boss deniability and protection.
SCHWARTZ: If you know the relationship between the two people, he took care of a lot of things for Mr. Trump without Mr. Trump knowing about it. That's part of the overall structure is that Michael had great latitude to take care of matters.
BORGER: In Michael Cohen, Trump hired his consulari (ph), a version of his long time mentor the lawyer Roy Cohn, a controversial pit bull, an aggressive defender of all things Trump, no questions asked.
After D'Antonio finished his book on Trump, he got the Cohen treatment in what turned out to be an empty threat.
D'ANTONIO: Then he got mad. And it was, well, you just bought yourself an f'ing lawsuit, buddy. I'll see you in court.
BORGER: In 2011, Michael Cohen described his job this way.
MICHAEL COHEN, PERSONAL ATTORNEY TO THE PRESIDENT: My job is, I protect Mr. Trump. That's what it is. If there's an issue that relates to Mr. Trump that is of concern to him, it's, of course, of concern to me. And I will use my legal skills within which to protect Mr. Trump to the best of my ability.
BORGER: Cohen, a sometimes Democrat, first came to Trump's attention after buying apartments in Trump developments, then went to the mat for Trump against one of his condo boards, and won.
SCHWARTZ: Trump loved him for it. I mean that was the beginning of it. And then, after that, they became close. It was much more than an attorney-client relationship. It was certainly -- it was something much deeper, almost father and son kind of -- kind of thing. Always hot and cold. Donald Trump could be yelling at him one second and saying he's the greatest person in the world the next second. Donald Trump knew that Michael always had his back.
BORGER: For Trump it wasn't about pedigree. Cohen, who is 51, got his degree from Western Michigan's Cooley Law School and had some initial success in the less than genteel world of New York taxi cab medallions.
NUNBERG: If you look where Michael came from in his legal career, before he started working for Trump Org, it wasn't like he came from a white shoe law firm. He came from, you know, a hard-nosed -- a hard- nosed New York trial firm. Trump has an eye for talent. And this was someone that, I mean, he used to call him his bulldog, his tough guy.
BORGER: At the Trump Organization, he's done a bit of everything, running a mixed martial arts company, securing real estate branding deals, and even taking care of transportation.
NUNBERG: You know, the famous Trump plane, there was an engine issue that he actually took care of and got a really good deal on.
SCHWARTZ: Watching him is -- is -- it's like -- it's like a reality show. He's got three phones. He's got the hard line. He's got two lines. He's texting. He's on the computer.
D'ANTONIO: You can almost say this is Donald Trump's mini me. For a guy who started really in the middle class on Long Island to now be quite wealthy himself, known internationally and, yes, he's in a bid of a jam with the Russia scandal.
BORGER: In the eye not only of Stormy, but also of interest to Special Counsel Bob Mueller and Congress.
[08:35:04] COHEN: I look forward to giving all the information that they're looking for.
BORGER: During the campaign, when Trump said he had no contact with Russia, Cohen was privately trying to cut a deal for a Trump Tower Moscow. It never happened, but Mueller has asked about it.
NUNBERG: The sad reality is that Michael pursuing that Trump Tower deal in December is just another factor that goes into this whole Russia narrative.
BORGER: Cohen's name was also in the infamous dossier, which alleges he traveled to Prague to meet with Russians. He's completely denied it and is suing Buzzfeed which published it.
SCHWARTZ: It's measurable the damage that has been caused to him, to his family.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will faithfully execute --
BORGER: When Trump became president, he did not bring his brash wingman to Washington.
BORGER (on camera): Do you think he wanted to be in the White House, be White House counsel or --
D'ANTONIO: There must have been a part of him that was dreaming of a great job at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But he's also the guy who not only knows where all the bodies are buried, he buried a lot of them himself. And that ironically disqualified him.
COHEN: They say I'm Mr. Trump's pit bull, that I am his -- I'm his right-hand man. I mean there's -- I've been called many different things around here.
BORGER (voice over): Now he may be called to testify with the Stormy Daniels case in federal court.
SCHWARTZ: I know Michael Cohen for over 21 years, and I know that he will not rest, he will not sleep -- he doesn't sleep anyway, right -- until he recovers every single penny from Stormy that's due the LLC.
AVENATTI: I've seen a lot of attorneys use intimidation tactics. The problem is, is if that is your speed and if you are a one-trick pony and you use that in every case, when all of a sudden you run up against somebody that doubles down and that isn't intimidated, well, then you're lost.
BORGER: Cohen flew to Mar-a-Lago to dine with the president the night before Stormy Daniels appeared on "60 Minutes," because if you're Michael Cohen, you're the ultimate loyalist.
COHEN: The words the media should be using to describe Mr. Trump are generous, compassionate.
BORGER: And you still believe Donald Trump will be loyal --
COHEN: Kind, humble, honest --
BORGER: To you.
Gloria Borger, CNN, Washington.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK. Now to another story.
Top media executives grilled on the stand as the high-stakes merger battle heats up. The unusual argument made in court, next.
[08:41:41] CUOMO: The AT&T-Time Warner mega merger trial is heating up. The lead lawyer for the media giants making an unusual argument against the government's lawsuit to block the deal involving CNN's parent company.
Let's bring in CNN senior media correspondent and host of "Reliable Sources," Brian Stelter, and CNN Politics media and business reporter Hadas Gold.
Hadas, what happened?
HADAS GOLD, CNN POLITICS MEDIA AND BUSINESS REPORTER: It's really interesting. It almost felt like we were in the upside down yesterday in court because what we were hearing was AT&T and Time Warner's lead lawyer pretty much arguing that Time Warner content is not that popular, is not that important. And that's because AT&T -- that's because the government's lawsuit against AT&T and Time Warner rests on this idea that Time Warner content is so important, it is must-have content, things like live sports, live news, what we are doing right now, that if AT&T got ahold of it, they would have too much leverage over other companies, over other distributors, and, therefore, it should not be in their hands.
So what AT&T's lawyer was saying was, hey, not -- in the top 500 most watched shows are any of them Turner content? And the answer is no. Now, their competitors, like a Dish TV executive who was on the stand, said, but, we're looking at most hours watched and Turner does very well in most hours watched.
So it's an unusual argument that AT&T is trying to make in court that, hey, they're not that popular. But it's all part of this legal strategy to -- for AT&T to try to prove the case that Time Warner should be a part of that company.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and then on the flip side, the Justice Department is talking about how important, how must-have CNN and other Turner channels are. It's a little bit amusing to me given that the president of the United States likes to call this channel fake news and yet lawyers that work for his Justice Department are arguing how important -- which I would agree with them, by the way -- how important CNN is, how important these channels are. But it's interesting given that, you know, this is another case where the president's rhetoric doesn't line up with his government's lawyers.
CUOMO: Well, look, there's a big difference between the court of public opinion and, you know, the court of law.
STELTER: That's right. That's right.
CUOMO: You only know what you show at this trial.
CUOMO: And they're trying to satisfy a burden, the government lawyers, that is unusual, because mergers like this --
CUOMO: Historically haven't been shot down.
And as to why they are having to make this burden, that takes us to where the president's head is on these things.
CUOMO: He says, I've always felt deals like this were a problem. We don't have a real clear record of that. But he certainly has a problem with us. And he has a problem with "The Washington Post," which is owned by Amazon, which is owned by Jeff Bezos. And we do know from Axios now in a report that he has been talking about ways to get at Bezos. STELTER: At Amazon, yes.
CUOMO: Because, why? Well, the legitimate reasons would be that people are telling him, they're killing our bricks and mortar stores and they're killing mom and pop shops. So maybe he's thinking, the president, according to Axios, that there's something he can do with taxes. But there's another agenda here as well, right? We're not hearing this kind of thing going after anything that Rupert Murdock owns. And there's a reason for that as well.
STELTER: Yes, it's really interesting reporting from Axios today that at least -- that five sources have said -- have told Axios that the president's talking this way, wondering how the use anti-trust law against Amazon. Now, that can partly be against the company, as you're saying, against the company because it does have an incredible amount of market power. However, we know the president has tweeted against Jeff Bezos, criticized Bezos' "Washington Post." So this is another case, just like AT&T-Time Warner, where you wonder if the president is doing this because he is motivated by important marketplace reasons or more by personal animus.
[08:45:03] CUOMO: Hadas, thank you very much.
Brian, as always.
STELTER: Thank you.
CAMEROTA: OK, listen to this story. All 22 women in the U.S. Senate, Democrats and Republicans, demanding a vote on that stalled congressional sexual harassment legislation. In a letter to Senate leadership, the women expressed, quote, deep disappointment in the Senate's inaction. The bill would update the current law from 1995 streamlining the process for reporting sexual harassment and providing new resources for staffers filing complaints. The House has already passed this measure.
CUOMO: China and North Korea's secretive meeting catching the U.S. off guard. Is there a united front a message to Trump ahead of his meeting with Kim Jong-un? We're going to get that in "The Bottom Line," next.
CAMEROTA: North Korea and China apparently shoring up their rocky alliance. They had this secretive meeting. What does it mean for President Trump's still unscheduled meeting with Kim Jong-un?
[08:50:04] Let's get "The Bottom Line" on this and more with CNN Politics executive editor -- director, forgive me, Mark Preston.
He's going to have me fired later.
Mark, hi. What is the buzz in Washington about this meeting with Kim Jong-un and President Xi?
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Well, a couple things. One, I think Ambassador Pickering, who you had on a short time ago, was right in saying that it's good that we're having these meetings, that the dialogue is happening and that China is involved. For this to be fixed, the United States and China is going to have to do it coequally.
What was not a very smart move, though, was for President Trump to allow the South Koreans to be the ones who were to go to the White House and then come out and announce that this forthcoming meeting between Kim Jong-un and President Trump was actually going to take place.
But when you look at overall what the American people think about it, they support the idea. They support the idea that these talks between President Trump and Kim Jong-un come through and they support it pretty healthily. It's about 62 percent of Americans in the most recent CNN poll.
So, look, a discussion means that we're not launching nuclear warheads at one another. So I think we should be happy about that.
CUOMO: So that's on the positive side.
CUOMO: On the negative side, they've got these mounting litigations, or attempts at litigation --
CUOMO: Of the personal variety coming at the president. What are you hearing about their level of concern and their concern as to whether or not he'll stay quiet?
PRESTON: Right. So silence is deafening, right? And we have not heard President Trump come out and talk at all about Stormy Daniels, certainly not by Twitter.
What I found interesting in the past couple of days, and you guys tell me if I'm wrong about this, is that Stormy Daniels had one sexual encounter with the president. It wasn't a long-term relationship necessarily. This other woman, Karen McDougal, seemed to have a very long relationship, but yet our focus is on Stormy Daniels. And the reason being -- two reasons, one, she is obviously an actress in the pornographic industry, right? She's an adult pornographic actress. And Michael Avenatti is doing a really good job of marketing his case right now. So that's why the focus is there.
CUOMO: They're also alleging an illegal payment --
CUOMO: And that there were threats and potential duress in the making of that NDA. PRESTON: Right.
CUOMO: So, you know, they have a couple more irons in the fire than McDougal does, who's basically going after AMI.
CUOMO: You know, she had a different financial relationship with someone not related to Trump. So, you know, it's a little bit different.
PRESTON: It is a little bit different, but it is interesting, though. But our focus is on Avenatti and Avenatti hasn't necessarily proven anything. Although, let's face it, what's $130,000 payment from Michael Cohen to Stormy Daniels for? I mean that's certainly not just because they're friends. So, I mean, let us just put aside the charade that obviously President Trump is trying to cover up something. Can we at least acknowledge that?
CAMEROTA: No, we can't.
PRESTON: And what's frustrating is that most people don't want to acknowledge that.
CAMEROTA: But -- well, we can't acknowledge that because they -- Michael Cohen says that he was doing it to protect his dear friend, Donald Trump.
PRESTON: From what? From what? Protect him from what, though, Alisyn?
CAMEROTA: From a false accusation.
PRESTON: Well, but you can take care of that in the court of law. And we know that -- that Donald Trump and Michael Cohen are very litigious when it comes to that. This payment was done right before the election. I mean obviously there's a reason for it. So --
CUOMO: What have you got for that?
CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, I think that a lot of people would say that it's easier to pay $130,000 than to go through the litigation. Look, I'm just telling you what Michael Cohen is.
CAMEROTA: We haven't been able to connect the dots to Donald Trump and that he definitively knew about it or directed it.
PRESTON: Well --
CUOMO: Right, but he doesn't -- he doesn't have to, except for campaign finance purposes. So you have two different things. The FEC thing I've always felt is a little bit of a red herring. At the end of the day, it results in, what, a fine?
PRESTON: Right, you're toothless -- toothless. CUOMO: So -- so that's it. But if he knew, and there's a lot of --
CAMEROTA: But, still, it's a -- it's a law. I mean it's a crime if you --
CUOMO: I know, but I'm saying, well, what's the exposure, right? That's why I keep saying the word "exposure" as opposed to "consequence," because if he pays a fine, it doesn't change anything for him. But it does make him a really pronounced liar in a chain of events where there were lies and there was a pattern of tactics and you can --
CAMEROTA: Right, but we're not there yet.
CUOMO: That's why the -- but I'm saying, that's why it matters.
CAMEROTA: Right. But I'm --
CUOMO: But he's saying the timing looks bad. And, of course, it does.
CAMEROTA: Yes. I understand. I mean circumstantially I get it. But I'm saying that those dots haven't been connected yet, Mark.
PRESTON: Absolutely. Look, there are two courts right now. There's the court of law and there's the court of public opinion. And right now the court of public opinion is on Donald Trump's side. Fifty-one percent of Americans, just a bare, slim majority of Americans are saying now that it's OK for these women to break their contracts, their non-disclosure agreements and move forward. That's not a very high number.
But what's important for Donald Trump right now is that 68 percent of evangelical voters still support Donald Trump regardless of all this information.
CUOMO: Even though more of them believe the women than believe Donald Trump.
PRESTON: Correct, correct, correct, correct. So, you know, that's the court of public opinion. Donald Trump seems to be doing OK there. In the court of law, this is a very difficult thing for him to really get pinned down on. And we'll just see what Michael Avenatti does going forward. But he is getting to the point, I think, of jumping the shark. Like, he's got to start showing evidence and not just trying to tease it out because at some point people are going to lose interest.
CAMEROTA: OK. Mark Preston, thank you very much for your "Bottom Line."
PRESTON: Thanks, guys.
CUOMO: All right, what's today?
[08:55:00] CAMEROTA: I have no idea. I mean, really, I don't --
CUOMO: Is today Wednesday? CAMEROTA: Is it Wednesday?
CUOMO: Is it? Anybody -- we have Columbia students in the house.
CAMEROTA: Wednesday. Yes.
CUOMO: It is Wednesday. Good. I knew it. How about some "Good Stuff" for hump day, next? Now that we've figured that out, everything else --
CUOMO: "Good Stuff."
You're about to meet some real life hero. Brenda Fender (ph) and Melissa Cauley Chambers (ph) miraculously came across a horrible accident in Virginia. Listen to this.
Wallach Harding (ph) was thrown from his tractor.
CAMEROTA: Oh, gosh.
CUOMO: He was pronounced clinically dead, OK?
CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh.
CUOMO: But these two women are both nurses.
CUOMO: They were not together.
CUOMO: They were coming from opposite directions. Both came upon the scene and immediately began CPR and brought Wallach back to life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: God used us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We didn't just get to witness a miracle, we got to be part of one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: True. Wallach says Brenda and Melissa will always hold a special place in his heart.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Heroes. Angels. They'll always with my angels. Always.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: True again.
CAMEROTA: Yes, they are angels.
CUOMO: The chances.
CAMEROTA: How could he be looking so good and doing so well when he was -- had that brush with death?
[09:00:01] CUOMO: A strong man.
CUOMO: If you work on a tractor, you're hearty.
But the luck, nurses, opposite places coming, same time, two at the same time on the same scene and they rush into action, take the initiative. Amazing.
CAMEROTA: Devine intervention.
Thank you very much for that "Good Stuff."