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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
FBI Raids Office and Hotel Room of Trump Lawyer, Michael Cohen; Stormy Daniels' Attorney Reacts to FBI Raids; Stormy Daniels' Attorney: It's Outrageous for President Trump to Attack FBI; President Trump on FBI Raid: "It's A Disgraceful Situation;" Trump on Whether He'll Fire Mueller: "We'll See;" Trump on Syria Attack: "It Will be Met Forcefully." Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired April 9, 2018 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:08] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
The news simply does not come much bigger than this. With President Trump weighing military action against Syria, the FBI takes action against his personal attorney and President Trump lashes out big-time at the FBI, at his own attorney general, his deputy attorney general, the Russia investigation, and the man who's running it.
FBI agents raided Michael Cohen's office and hotel room, and now, Robert Mueller's job may be in jeopardy. That's what a source tells us.
And that's what the president also told us tonight during a moment with reporters unlike any the country has seen until now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Why don't you fire Mueller?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Why don't I just fire Mueller?
REPORTER: Just fire the guy.
TRUMP: Well, I think it is a disgrace what's going on. We'll see what happens. But I think it's a sad situation when you look at what happened.
And many people said, you should fire him. Again, they found nothing. And in finding nothing, you know, that's a big statement.
If you know, the person who's in charge of the investigation, you know all about that, deputy Rosenstein, Rod Rosenstein, he wrote the letter, very critical of Comey.
One of the things I said I fired Comey. Well, I turned out to do the right thing, because you look at all of the things that he's done and the lies, and you look at what's gone on at the FBI with the insurance policy and all of the things that happened. Turned out I did the right thing. But he signed, as you know, he also signed the FISA warrant. So, Rod Rosenstein, who is in charge of this, signed a FISA warrant
and he also signed a letter that was essentially saying to fire James Comey. And he was right about that. He was absolutely right. So, we'll see what happens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, that was far from all the president said. As you'll hear in just a moment. First, CNN's Chief Political Analyst, Gloria Borger joins us.
First, just break down for us what we know about these raids, Gloria.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we know there were raids on his office and on his home and hotel room. And we know that the search was largely I was told by a source familiar about Stormy Daniels. And there were a bunch of requests in it which were all kind of subsections of the stormy case, about the payments to her, about his communication with the president, about those payments and his communications with the campaign.
I was then also told that the search mentioned election laws. And, you know, there have been questions raised about whether this money was used improperly.
And then smaller issues about other investments that could or could not be related to the Stormy issues, the sources weren't clear. And so, I think that it was broad in one sense, but we do know that it's largely related to the Stormy Daniels case.
COOPER: Let me just clarify something you said, Gloria. You said according to your source, there was -- some of the things being looked at were communications between Michael Cohen and the president --
COOPER: -- or the campaign about the payments. Is your source saying that the president knew about the payments or the campaign knew about the payments? Because that -- Michael Cohen has said, you know, he didn't tell anybody.
COOPER: The president just last week said he didn't know anything about it either.
BORGER: Right. And the president also announced Michael Cohen is my attorney, so you would assume that would be protected by attorney- client privilege. That's the big question. You just hit on it, Anderson.
Were there communications about covering this up if the president has said he didn't do it? Is that a crime if they talked about it? I mean, we don't -- you know, we really -- we really don't know.
But I think that's one of the things they're trying to get to the bottom of. And the special counsel says, look, this isn't in my jurisdiction, this is somebody else's jurisdiction, so I'm just going to -- I'm just going to hand it over to them.
And I think what we saw today, Anderson, was a president, and I was told, who was much angrier at Rosenstein, Rod Rosenstein, and Jeff Sessions than he actually is at Bob Mueller on this.
COOPER: Gloria, a lot to learn still. Appreciate that.
More now on what the president said and just what to make of the entire scene in the cabinet room. CNN's Jim Acosta joins us from the White House.
So, Jim, just talk a little more about what the president said today about those FBI raids because he went on for some time and -- I mean, it was extraordinary to watch.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It was extraordinary, Anderson. And we were watching the president's thought process in all of this in real time. He was meeting with these military leaders this evening to talk in part about what to do about the situation in Syria.
But you could see the gears turning in the president's head just as to what he should do, how to respond to this FBI raid into the offices of Michael Cohen, some of these other places associated with Michael Cohen.
[20:05:01] And I talked to a source close to the White House earlier today who pretty much I think previewed what the president had to say later on in the evening, and that is Mueller has gone rogue, they feel like even though the U.S. attorney's office took this over and had this FBI raid carried out, that this is essentially a manifestation of the special counsel investigation going rogue.
And you heard some of that from the president himself later on in the evening. Here is more of what the president had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys -- a good man. And it's a disgraceful situation. It's a total witch-hunt. I've been saying it for a long time. I've wanted to keep it down.
We've given I believe over a million pages' worth of documents to the special counsel. They continue to just go forward and here we are talking about Syria, we're taking about a lot of serious things with the greatest fighting force ever. And I have this witch hunt constantly going on for over 12 months now and actually much more than that. You could say it was right after I won the nomination it started.
And it's a disgrace. It's frankly a real disgrace. It's an attack on our country in a true sense. It's an attack on what we all stand for. So when I saw this and when I heard it, I heard it like you did. I said that is really now in a whole new level of unfairness.
So, this has been going on. I saw one of the reporters who is not necessarily a fan of mine, not necessarily very good to me. He said in effect that this is ridiculous, this is now getting ridiculous. They found no collusion whatsoever with Russia.
The reason they found it is there was no collusion at all. No collusion. This is the most biased group of people. These people have the biggest conflicts of interest I've ever seen.
Democrats all, or just about all, either Democrats or a couple of Republicans that have worked for President Obama, they're not looking at the other side. They're not looking at the Hillary Clinton horrible things that she did and all of the crimes that were committed. They're not looking at all of the things that happened that everybody is very angry about, I can tell you, from the Republican side, and I think even the independent side. They only keep looking at us.
So they find no collusion and then they go from there and they say, well, let's keep going. And they raid an office of a personal attorney early in the morning. And I think it's a disgrace.
So, we'll be talking about it more. But this is the most conflicted group of people I've ever seen. The attorney general made a terrible mistake when he did this and he recused himself or he should have certainly let us know if he was going to recuse himself and we would have used a -- put a different attorney general in.
So, he made what I consider a very terrible mistake for the country. But you'll figure that out. All I can say is after looking for a long period of time, and even before the special counsel, because it really started just about from the time I won the nomination, and you look at what took place and what happened, and it's a disgrace. It's a disgrace.
I've been president now for what seems like a lengthy period of time. We've done a fantastic job. We've beaten ISIS. We have just about 100 percent of the caliphate or the land. Our economy is incredible.
The stock market dropped a lot today as soon as they heard the noise of this, you know, nonsense that's going on. It dropped a lot. It was up -- way up and then it dropped quite a bit at the end, a lot.
But that we have to go through that, we've had that hanging over us now from the very, very beginning. And yet the other side, they don't even bother looking. And the other side is where there are crimes.
And those crimes are obvious, lies under oath all over the place. E- mails that are knocked out, acid washed and deleted. Nobody's ever seen, 33,000 e-mails deleted after getting a subpoena from Congress and nobody bothers looking at that. And many, many other things.
So, I just think it's a disgrace that a thing like this can happen.
END VIDEO CLIP) ACOSTA: Now, a couple of things we should point out. One is the president said at one point that they found that there was no collusion with Russia in this investigation. Anderson, point of fact, Robert Mueller's team has not issued the findings of its investigation.
The another thing, when it comes to this decision that the president apparently has to make at this point, thinks he may want to make at this point, and that is whether to fire the special counsel Robert Mueller or push out Rod Rosenstein, which could in effect put Robert Mueller out of a job.
I talked to a Democratic lawmaker earlier this evening, and you're starting to hear this from other Democrats up on Capitol Hill saying if the president does that, they will start moving in the direction of impeachment in the House.
Now, of course, the Republicans control the House, and Anderson, people are saying that firing Robert Mueller is the whole ball game. I don't know if that's necessarily the case. Anderson, I think the entire ball game is what Republican leaders up on Capitol Hill ultimately decide to do if the president fires Robert Mueller. We're not getting clear answers from leaders up on Capitol Hill as to whether or not they would go ahead along with their Democratic colleagues and move toward impeachment if the president does something like this.
2And one of the reasons why you might not see that happen is what we're hearing from our sources close to the White House, inside the White House, earlier this evening. If they can make the case that Robert Mueller has stepped outside the bounds of this investigation, they may use that as a political argument not to act, and you can't have a constitutional crisis if the legislative branch of government decides not to act -- Anderson.
COOPER: You know, Jim, you heard Gloria's reporting about who the president was angry with, namely Attorney General Sessions and it seems like mostly Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Are you hearing at all from the White House that this might have crossed a line and could actually lead to the firing of Mueller? I mean, something certainly that's been discussed for a long time.
ACOSTA: Yes, I think that based on what we are hearing tonight, Anderson, that they feel as though this is no longer about the Russia investigation, that this is no longer about Russian collusion.
Anderson, they know all too well what the Clinton impeachment was about. It was about a real estate transaction that came under investigation that eventually turned into sex and an investigation whether or not Bill Clinton lied under oath when he was being deposed in the Paula Jones matter. And they're seeing some shades of Whitewater in all of this quite honestly.
The question becomes, Anderson, does the president -- was the president just venting earlier tonight? Was he once again opining about the possibility of firing Robert Mueller or does he ultimately do that? And, of course, that just conjures up this huge potential for a constitutional crisis in this town.
But, Anderson, that just depends on if the Republicans decide to act. If the Republicans stand by and allow the president to fire the special counsel or the attorney general, the deputy attorney general, and then nothing happens and this case is dropped, then it just may eventually be a matter for the voters come November to decide, whether or not any of that was appropriate, lawful, and so on. So, a whole slew of questions that needs to be answered in the coming days.
But no question tonight, the president is deeply upset, angry about this. People around him are saying that Mueller has gone outside the bounds of this investigation. The question ultimately is, what does the president do now? Anderson?
COOPER: Yes, Jim Acosta, thanks very much.
The U.S. attorney overseeing the Cohen case, we should point out, is a Trump appointee. He succeeded CNN Senior Legal Analyst, Preet Bharara, whom the president fired. That's what the disclaimer and the reason to get his take in all of this.
You heard the president's remarks. I mean, it certainly sounds like a preamble to firing Mueller or firing somebody.
PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it sounds like, you know, what we've been hearing for a long time, he is angry. When any prosecutor starts to investigate anything touches him, or anyone close to him and, you know, his lawyer is pretty close to him. He's been close to him for a long time.
So, he's obviously angry. He is saying a lot of things that are probably better for him not to say, because the more he says about what he doesn't like with respect to an investigation, it adds to the narrative that he is trying to put a stop to something, which starts to fill in the vessel of obstruction.
COOPER: Could he, just in terms of firing Mueller, if he wanted to, he could fire Mueller --
BHARARA: Well, the procedure -- there's a procedure by which he's supposed to do it. It has to be done by the deputy attorney general. But he could find someone to replace the deputy attorney general. So, most people think to effectuate the firing of Bob Mueller, there has to be some domino effect that will cause that in the future.
COOPER: Domino effect in terms of?
BHARARA: You've got to get rid of --
BHARARA: -- Rosenstein. Or you've got to get a new attorney general who would not be recused --
COOPER: Which yet again he was talking badly about the attorney general.
BHARARA: He does that all the time. He has no shortage of ill comments about a lot of lawyers except his own.
COOPER: The -- so Michael Cohen allegedly reportedly being investigated for possible bank fraud, campaign finance law violations, some of the materials released to -- related to Stormy Daniels. How could that agreement that Michael Cohen claimed he facilitated the $130,000 coming from what he said was a home equity line of credit and that payment, how would that lead to those possible charges? I get the campaign finance violations. That would be considered an in-kind contribution to benefit a campaign.
BHARARA: First of all, I want to say -- think it's important to say I have no personal knowledge of any of this. The second thing I think it's important to say is that we don't know what kind of charges are being looked at and maybe no charges will ultimately follow.
[20:15:00] But, you know, if you were going to speculate, you know that Michael Cohen has said among other things that the way he was able to get the money together to make the payoff to Stormy Daniels' lawyer was by refinancing his home. And that's a form of a loan that you have to do through a bank. So, who knows what kinds of representations he made to the bank to get that loan?
You know, I guess if he was straightforward, he'd say, well, I'm getting this money, I'm refinancing my home for a $130,000 payment to give to a porn actress who claims to have had an affair with the president. That's probably not what he put on the loan document. So, if you lie to a loan officer and lie to a bank, that's a potential crime. That's pure speculation on my part, but those are the kinds of things that --
COOPER: There was also a suspicious activity report sent out by the bank on that.
BHARARA: Yes. It could be for a variety of reasons. You know, banks are supposed to report when activity occurs that's not in the norm and that's how a lot of criminal investigations start and that may have been what happened here.
But, you know, the other thing that's important -- the reporting is so fresh, it is unclear to me who's really running this investigation. The reporting suggests that it's the southern district of New York, U.S. attorney's office which is where I used to work and I used to be the U.S. attorney myself that approved the raid.
And according to the U.S. attorney manual, for a search to be done on a lawyer's residence or office, it is an especially sensitive kind of search that has to be approved personally by the United States attorney in consultation with the criminal division in Washington. And if that's all true, the sitting United States attorney right now is a man by the name of Geoff Berman who was hand-picked by the president of the United States to take over for my successor Joon Kim. And so, it's an act of independence on the part, if this is true, of the person who is now in charge of my old office.
So, I don't know how you can complain the way the president did about, you know, politics or anything else. The Justice Department is run by his people. The special counsel was appointed by his people. This U.S. attorney is his person who I'm told he actually met with before appointing him to the position.
And what I've seen so far is that the Mueller team referred this portion of the investigation to the southern district of New York through Rod Rosenstein. And maybe that's true. It is also true by the way that if the Mueller team needed to do an investigation that involved property records in New York City, which is part of the southern district of New York, that they would need to get a search warrant even in connection with their own investigation.
And to do that generally you have to go through the local U.S. attorney's office. So, in lots of instances my office would have been involved with getting the search warrant because the property that was being searched was in the southern district of New York, even though it was someone else's case. I'm not saying that this is a Mueller special, but until I see more reporting I think that's possible.
COOPER: All right. Preet Bharara, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
BHARARA: Thank you. Thanks.
COOPER: There's a lot more to get to on this raid of Michael Cohen's office. Also his hotel room. Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, joins us, coming up next. He has plenty to say, not just about everything that happened late today.
Later, the president's decision on Syria, which he now says will be made tonight or, quote, shortly thereafter. He is make it apparently in an anger over other things. We'll explore the implications tonight.
[20:21:54] COOPER: We're learning more about the stunning raids on the president's personal attorney Michael Cohen today.
According to new reporting by CNN's Shimon Prokupecz, they were conducted by the FBI's public corruption unit. Agents searched rooms at Loews Regency Hotel here in Manhattan where Michael Cohen was staying as well as his office at the law firm Squire Patton Boggs in New York -- and as Gloria Borger said a moment ago at his home as well.
The warrants apparently stem from a matter referred by the Russia special counsel and are being overseen by a Trump appointed U.S. attorney from Manhattan area and connected it seems to the Stormy Daniels case.
Her attorney, Michael Avenatti joins us now.
So, Michael, first of all, I mean, these raids -- just from your rather unique vantage point, what do you make of what went down today?
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: Well, Anderson, this is a very, very serious matter, needless to say. And as I predicted last week, it appears that the noose is tightening around Michael Cohen. I think the president has considerable reason to be concerned.
A lot of faith and confidence has been put in Michael Cohen. I think the expectation was that he was going to be fall guy. This is a very, very serious matter.
There's no question that it stems from our case and the amount of attention that our case has attracted over the last six weeks. But make no mistake about it, there's going to be a lot of sleepless nights at the White House from here on out.
COOPER: You know, others have reported bank fraud being looked into, wire fraud, possible FEC -- Federal Election Committee violations, election violation. I mean, from a legal standpoint, what exactly do you think the southern district of New York is interested in when it comes to the Stormy Daniels case. I mean, because just FEC violations -- I mean, wouldn't a raid like this be an extremely aggressive move?
AVENATTI: Well, it would be. But let me say this, I think the president's accusations relating to Mueller and the alleged witch hunt, et cetera is an absolute red herring in this case. There's nothing suggesting that it has anything to do with Mueller's investigation. It could be headed up by the U.S. attorney of the southern district of New York. The charges or potential charges could have been referred to him. He is a Trump appointee. So, the idea that this was somehow politicized is a bunch of nonsense.
Now, moving to the purpose of the raid, Anderson, I will tell you and we have announced this previously, we have substantial reason to believe that when Michael Cohen opened the bank accounts at First Republic Bank for the purposes of wiring this money, that he was not truthful and honest with the bank as to the purpose of those accounts and what they were designed to be used for. We've never stated that publicly. I'm going to state it publicly tonight.
That could be one basis for the raids. But again, I think this is a very, very serious matter. There's a strong likelihood in my opinion that the U.S. attorney's office or special counsel will be able to pierce the attorney client privilege between Michael Cohen and Mr. Trump based on a crime fraud exception. And I can't overstate the seriousness of this at this point.
COOPER: I mean, that's one of the things I think a lot of people don't realize about attorney/client privilege, that if there is some sort of illegal collusion or fraud being perpetrated between a client and an attorney, the attorney-client privilege can itself be pierced.
[20:25:12] AVANETTI: That's correct. You can't use your attorney to effectively carry out a crime and then claim that the communications with the attorney are privileged and out of bounds based on the attorney-client privilege. In a nutshell, that's the rule. And I think there's a high likelihood if in fact there were
communications between Michael Cohen and Donald Trump around the time of this payment, around the time of the negotiation of the agreement or shortly thereafter, I think there's a very good argument that the crime fraud exception applies. It's something that we've been talking about for a number of weeks. But this is a stunning development. And it does not bode well for Michael Cohen.
COOPER: But if the president was aware of the payment -- I mean, last week he came out breaking his silence as you well know for the first time saying that he knew nothing about the payment, this is was all done by Michael Cohen, when Michael Cohen has said that all along. If it turns out that the president did know about the payment and was involved with it or authorized it in some way or ultimately reimbursed Michael Cohen, that's not illegal, is it?
AVENATTI: Well, it may be. I mean, that could constitute a felony under the federal election laws relating to if Michael Cohen and Donald Trump conspired to hide this payment and to not report it, I think that may very well constitute a felony and it could be a very, very serious matter both for the president and Michael Cohen.
You know, I think, Anderson, you know, frankly, the problem here is, is that the president has put a lot of faith on the shoulders of Michael Cohen and his ability to withstand a considerable amount of heat and take a lot of heat, potentially lose his license, et cetera. Michael Cohen does not strike me as the kind of guy that at the end of the day will do that. In my experience, Anderson, any time a guy has to repeatedly tell you how tough he is and refer to himself as Ray Donovan, that's really not a tough guy at the end the day. That's more like a purse puppy.
COOPER: A, what? A purse puppy?
AVENATTI: A purse puppy.
COOPER: I never heard that term. Sorry.
I just want to replay for you what the president had to say tonight because it's pretty extraordinary the way he described this FBI raid.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just heard they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys, a good man, and that it's a disgraceful situation. It's a total witch hunt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I mean, it's interesting that the president of the United States said the FBI broke into the office of one of his attorneys. There was no breaking in. The FBI had a fully legal search warrant in order to conduct those raids. I mean, any time the FBI is going to raid a lawyer's office, particularly a lawyer for the president of the United States, you would think they would have every T, you know, crossed and every I dotted. AVENATTI: Anderson, you are correct. And you can be assured that
I want to set the stage for what happened here. On Thursday, afternoon the president made statements on Air Force One basically directing people to talk to his attorney relating to this $130,000 payment.
Less than 36 business hours later, the FBI conducted a raid at that attorney's office and his home, as well as another location. That is a stunning development.
But for the president of the United States to cast aspersions as to the good members of the FBI, hardworking law enforcement people that are only trying to do their job, that are executing a valid search warrant is outrageous for him to cast aspersions on these folks. These folks are trying to do what we've been trying to do, and that is to engage for the search of the truth and get to the bottom of what happened here.
And for the president to cast aspersions, it's completely uncalled for, Anderson, and better yet, it's not smart. Where I come from, if you are a target of a federal investigation or if people around you are targets of a federal investigation, search warrants and the like, the last thing you want to do is start casting aspersions and criticizing members of law enforcement that are doing their job. That's just not smart. I don't care who you are.
COOPER: You -- I think it was this morning you announced you plan to release a composite sketch of the man that Stormy Daniels says threatened her back in a parking lot in 2011. I just want to play something you said this morning on "NEW DAY".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AVENATTI: A composite sketch has been produced. We are going to be reducing -- or we're going to be releasing that tomorrow, along with a significant reward, asking that the public come forward. We are close to identifying this individual.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And I'm wondering, given all that happened today, sometimes news overtakes, you know, the best laid plans, is that still your plan to release that tomorrow?
AVENATTI: Anderson, the short answer is I don't know. If it's not released tomorrow, it will probably be released within 48 hours. But, obviously, we did not expect that -- expect the events of this morning and what's transpired. We have a lot to sort out in connection with this.
COOPER: Just, how much of what happened today do you think relates to your case and relates to all of the things you have brought out in your case over the last several weeks? AVENATTI: Well, I don't say this to be egotistical, but I think it's
pretty clear it has a lot to do with the amount of scrutiny and -- amount of attention that we've brought to this case, and the issues including your interview on "60 Minutes" of my client. Your use of the expert related to campaign finance law, et cetera. I think there's no question that it has a lot to do with our case.
You know, the other development that I think is important, is we've made an application to take the deposition of Michael Cohen. And the deposition of the President. I think at this point, if we do get the deposition of Michael Cohen, the likelihood of him taking five or pleading the Fifth Amendment is very, very high, I think it's unlikely that he will not plead the Fifth Amendment in connection with questions that I made post to him, if we get that that position.
And, imagine the irony of that. The right hand of the President, the personal attorney to the President, that the President has referred the American people to, as it relates to the facts of this, potentially taking the Fifth Amendment, when asked under oath questions about the details concerning the agreement and the payment. This whole thing stinks, Anderson.
COOPER: Michael Avenatti, appreciate your time. Thank you very much. An incredible day.
COOPER: Up next, our legal experts weigh in on today's remarkable raids. Plus, more of President Trump's heated words on the actions taken against his personal attorney and confidant.
COOPER: Our breaking news tonight, the FBI raids on President Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen, a source familiar with the raids, tell CNN, that documents seize were related to Stormy Daniels, Cohen has submitted, paying the adult film star $130,000 to keep quiet about an affair she alleged that she had with then citizen Donald Trump in 2006.
[20:35:13] Now the White House denies the affair. President Trump is outrage he says by today's actions. Once again, he's taking aim at his own Department of Justice.
TRUMP: But this is the most conflicted group of people I've ever seen. The attorney general made a terrible mistake when he did this and when he recused himself, or he should have certainly let us know if he's going to recuse himself. And we would have use -- they put a different attorney general in.
COOPER: All right, there's a lot to start it through. Joining us now is Jeffrey Toobin, Anne Milgram, John Dean and Josh Campbell. First of all Jeff, what did you take away from what the President said and how he said it today?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it was really one of the more remarkable statements in this remarkable presidency. I mean, the idea that he is calling this a witch hunt and denouncing his own Justice Department.
COOPER: I think the FBI broke into his lawyer.
TOOBIN: Remember -- remember what happened here. We have not just Robert Mueller, we have Jeffrey Birman, the U.S. appointed from the southern district. Appointed by Donald Trump, personally interviewed by Donald Trump which is very unusual. Both of them, authorized the application for the search warrant and then a judge, a magistrate judge signed that warrant saying there is probable cause to believe that in these searches, evidence of a crime will be found. So the idea that he is calling this a witch hunt when you have all of these people including neutral judges involved is really a shameful, shameful episode.
COOPER: Now Ann, I mean this could be something that Mueller stumbled across and then felt it's not in his purview and therefore gave it to the southern district or it could be somebody in Mueller's purview that the southern district, they're the ones who executed the search one.
ANNE MILGRAM, FMR FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Right, that's right. I mean, I think that is possible. Although the thing I would sort of say big picture is that a lot of the reporting it's been pretty clear when it is Mueller's folks and there's a lot of reasons why the people in the southern district would have gone out of their way to say look this is Mueller's job, not ours right now.
COOPER: So you believe, this is something that Mueller's team would have passed over?
MILGRAM: You know, it's hard to know, right now. But, the -- my first instinct is yes, that its something where Mueller's team is looking through evidence. They've collecting evidence and they find evidence of a potential crime, that isn't core to the worth that they're doing. And even if it's allowable under the special counsel's mandate they make a decision that, hey it makes more sense for us to refer this out. You could think anytime, think about a law enforcement officer being called to a home with a domestic disturbance, finds tons of fentanyl or heroin. They might call him the drug squad.
COOPER: So, what's the President is talk about Robert Mueller in this it maybe just completely misplaced.
MILGRAM: So first of all, they have nothing to do with Robert Mueller, other than Robert Mueller making a criminal referral which by the way people do all the time. And then it would be up to the sitting U.S. attorney to decide is there something I'm going to go into court on. COOPER: The seating U.S. attorney appointed by the President.
MILGRAM: Exactly. And this is what -- I mean, I think Jeff is rightly pointing out what is so strange about this is the President is sort of, you know, drawing this conspiracy theory. But all the conspirators are his people. Right? There something about that really doesn't makes sense, his U.S. attorney, his FBI right now.
And so you know, I don't believe that the U.S. attorneys or the FBI are bias. But if under the President furious, he believes people are politically motivated, it makes absolutely no sense.
COOPER: Josh, I mean that you're formerly with the FBI. What also stuck out to me is how the President characterized this raid saying that the FBI broke into Cohen's office, you know, the FBI had a warrant issued by a judge here.
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: That's correct and that is the major point. I mean the United States of America, the FBI can't just go in and snoop around, and gather whatever they want. I mean this comes to the fact that you had a detached magistrate that an FBI agent went before and swore an oath and said that the document that I'm presenting to you here, an affidavit and support of this search were contains facts that there was evidence of a crime at this location. And the judge look at it, and says, yes, I agree there was probably cause.
I think for those who were saying that this is evidence that Robert Mueller is out of control, they couldn't be more wrong. This is the opposite of that, think about that. Love the criticism that Mueller's team has got is that, you know, they're secretive. We don't really know what they're doing, this step that we saw today is Mueller actually broading that, bringing it -- yet another independent party, the southern district of New York, the U.S. attorney. And saying look, you take this information that I presented to you and you determine if there's a crime here and go forth.
And when you're an FBI agent, when you're an prosecutor, my colleagues here in the panel know, you simply can't turn a blind eye to crime. You have to go with the facts take you. And sometimes, that's not a good thing for the defendant, but that's how it works in America.
COOPER: And John Dean, I mean remarkably this wasn't just a raid on an office, it was a raid on Michael Cohen's office, it was raid on the hotel room that he happens to be staying at also, according to the reporting, a raid on his home as well.
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's right. And that decision was made not in Washington, that was made in the southern district. But those who know federal law enforcement know that the southern district is very unique in the U.S. attorney's office. It thinks for itself, it makes decision for itself. It sometimes actually conflicts with what happens in Washington.
[20:40:16] And I think this is a clear example of where they decide how to handle this. They did it the way they wanted to. They -- and with great specificity had to get this warrant to go in. And so they have to ready to swear under oath what might be there, what they thought would be there. So this is -- this is a southern district operation.
COOPER: Well, we should also talk Jeff, just about the documents seize here. Documents related to Stormy Daniels e-mails, tax documents, business records, also communications, between Cohen and the President.
TOOBIN: Right. And, you know, one of the things that I think people need to understand how unusual this is, is the -- it's very unusual to get a search warrant for a lawyer's office. There are separate procedures.
COOPER: Because of attorney/client privilege.
TOOBIN: Because of the really complicated issues of attorney/client privilege and the documents you might see. And the Justice Department is reluctant to do that. If the unusual circumstance when they're investigating lawyers, they usual proceed by subpoena. They ask the lawyer to produce documents.
COOPER: Right, because Michael Cohen's attorney, say, look we've been cooperating.
TOOBIN: Right. So the fact that they had the evidence to go forward with the search warrant, not a subpoena suggests not only that they feel there's very serious evidence of wrongdoing but there was some time urgency. They were worried about the documents being destroyed. So the search warrant of an attorney is jumped out.
COOPER: We got to take a quick break, we're going to have more with the panel.
Ahead on tonight's breaking news. The FBI raid on Michael Cohen and the President's reaction.
COOPER: We're talking about the President's extensive reaction to news that the FBI raided his attorney Michael Cohen's office and hotel room. And we're told house as well. He called it among other things and attack on our country. The source told CNN, authority sees documents related to the adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who Cohen paid or facilitated, that sees $130,000 payment right before the election, 11 days to be exact to keep her quiet about her alleged affair with the President years before.
[20:45:01] In the department there is an old tweet for every occasion which usually refer to something the President tweeted. Tonight, Michael Cohen is getting into the act, he posted this during a Democratic presidential primary back in 2015. Tonight at resurfaced, "Hillary Clinton, when you go to prison for defrauding America and perjury, your room and board will be free. Back now with the panel.
So if Jeff, the President decided he wanted to get rid of special counsel Mueller as a lot of people seem to think he has wanted to for a while and obviously given today's statement, he can't just directly fire him.
TOOBIN: Right. I mean he could fire the Secretary of Veteran's Affairs which he did the other day. The way the regulation is worded is that he would have to direct his supervisor in the Justice Department that is Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein to fire Mueller. If Rosenstein resigned rather than do it, the next person in line, the associate attorney general, that person would then have to decide whether to do it. That is the pattern that went on in the Saturday Night Massacre when Richard Nixon fired Archibald Cox, you had the Attorney General Elliott Richardson refuse to do it. You have the Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus refuse to do it. And finally Robert Bork, the solicitor general did it.
Basically, the President would have to work his way through the hierarchy in the Justice Department until he found someone to do it but he couldn't do it directly himself.
COOPER: Ann, just kind of big picture, how stunning is today.
MILGRAM: I mean, it's an extraordinary day I think for a number of reasons. One is, you know, we've been watching all these things unfold related to the Mueller investigation, and then today we did see the President's personal attorney and somebody who's worked as a lawyer for the President really for over a decade. Having a search warrant executed.
COOPER: I wouldn't say a regular lawyer, a guy who has described himself as, you know, a fix-it man.
COOPER: Others, his friend Dave -- Mr. Schwartz and (INAUDIBLE) the President's fixer.
MILGRAM: Right. Which basically means that they're looking -- there's no way that they're looking for things that don't connect to the President in some way. Right. I mean --
COOPER: Right, and say he's done.
MILGRAM: For the past, you know, 15 years, 10 or 15 years has been related to the President. And so obviously, some of it could concern Stormy Daniels. The President tangentially we think involved in that. But, you know, it really is an unbelievable day when you start to think about what's happening, what we're going to see next.
COOPER: John Dean, is there any way you can imagine the President firing Mueller that doesn't provoke some sort of a constitutional crisis?
DEAN: It's very difficult to imagine. In fact, I think he might have been somewhat defanged today. I wouldn't be surprised we later learned he was tipped off maybe during the raid that was taking place as a courtesy. He is after all the head of a branch of government this is something happening in his branch that could affect him. And I suspect there might have been a courtesy call. But can he just turn around and you build this into a case to fire Mueller, it is going to be very tough, because as I said earlier, I think this is a lot of the southern district's own doing in how this was handled.
COOPER: Josh, I mean this is -- I mean a lot of this come back to the President's firing of FBI Director Comey last May. I mean again, the President kind of revisited that firing again today going on about how he did the right thing.
CAMPBELL: He did. And there was obviously a lot in that statement today. I think the one thing that stood out for me is indicating that he would have actually removed the attorney general had he had known that Sessions was going to recuse himself, which I think is stunning to think about that, you know, here you have a department leader, an official on government indicating that I'm conflicted here, therefore I'm going to remove myself. And then for, you know, the chief executive to then say well, that's causing up for me to fire you, is incredibly stunning.
COOPER: Yes. And that's something he said before, I mean months ago, as I recall and the fact that he's going to revisiting that kind of revisiting all the greatest hits. I want to thank everybody in the legal panel.
The President's on camera comments tonight, were mostly about the raid on Michael Cohen, but the meeting he was speaking from was actually about the situation in Syria. The President said the chemical attack over the weekend will be met forcefully and the decision will come as soon as tonight. The latest from inside Syria, next.
[20:52:22] COOPER: President Trump says there will be a big price to pay for the suspected poison gas attack that killed dozens of civilians, many of them children, and wounded scores more in the Syrian city of Douma. He met with top military commanders and his national security team at the White House tonight and said a short time ago that the U.S. had a lot of military options and will make a decision soon.
As we tell you the story, first we have a warning the images we are about to show you are incredibly disturbing. But we do think it's important we show them so you can grasp the horror that's happening in Syria. It's been happening for seven years, in fact. These are sadly just the latest.
Local and international activist groups say that barrel bombs filled with toxic gas were dropped from helicopters over the town on Saturday. Some of the victims choked, they say, then died of suffocation. We should say that CNN has been unable to independently confirm either the images or the account in part because Syrian government forces surround the city. We want to bring you the latest now from inside Syria. CNN's Fred Pleitgen is the only western journalist right now in Damascus. TV journalist. He joins us now.
So, what are we learning from your sources about what people on the ground experienced in Douma?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well they said it was absolutely awful, Anderson. And I can tell you from having experience what exactly was going on there, is that they started with a huge amount of air strikes over the Douma area which was encircled by Assad forces, but still held by the rebels at the time. And then apparently those helicopters showed up and they dropped canisters. The opposition is now saying. They say shortly after those canisters were dropped, they see a toxic gas was released and that's when people started to have severe respiratory problems.
They say hundreds of people had a lot of trouble breathing, a lot of them, of course, trying to seek medical aid which in itself was almost impossible in those besieged areas. That's also where some of those horrifying images came from of children having trouble to breathe. People then lying on the floor, people with oxygen masks trying to get help some way. And then, of course, they say dozens of people were killed. We still don't know the exact death toll, but even after all this has happened, the Russians, Anderson, are still saying they believe that all of this is a hoax. Anderson?
COOPER: And what's the Assad regime saying?
PLEITGEN: Well, that's interesting, because the Assad regime does say, that they were pressing an offensive on the area at the time, but they said look, that's offensive was moving forward so quickly that they really didn't need poison gas to move any quicker. They also say the areas that were hit were in the rear echelon. It was nowhere in either front line. And that in those areas, the rebels actually had some pro-government prisoners that the Assad regime would have been scared to hit, themselves.
So, they say essentially that they had no reason to use any sort of poison gas. But the important thing is, Anderson, I think is that that area, Douma, has since actually fallen into the hands of the Syrian government. The remaining rebels have been bused out. And the force that's now on the ground providing security there is the Russians.
[20:55:14] So, the Russians really have no reason to say that they don't want an international investigation in that area. They certainly have the means to allow international investigators in there, if that's something that they really want to do, Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Fred Pleitgen, appreciate it.
Coming up, the FBI raids the offices of the President's lawyer, Michael Cohen. President describing it as a witch hunt saying the FBI broke into this lawyer's office, called it a disgraceful attack on the country. The latest from the White House, next.
COOPER: Continuing our breaking coverage, what the President calls an attack on our country where it was in fact where FBI raids on the office, hotel rooms, according to the "Wall Street Journal", also the home of his personal attorney Michael Cohen. So in the table tonight, how it went down, as well as how the President's displeasure just about everything to do with it.
Also new reporting by "The New York Times'" Maggie Haberman on another story on money from a Ukrainian tycoon to President Trump's foundation. And later, a decision which the President says, could come within hours or minutes on a possible military action against Syria after this weekend's alleged poison gas attack.
[21:00:00] Also a question, to impeach or to not even talk about it? You'll hear from the guy that's been buying all those T.V. ads calling for impeaching the President, as well as David Axelrod who says, that kind of talk could be toxic to Democrats.
First, the very latest on Michael Cohen from our Gloria Borger.