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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Interview With New York Congressman Lee Zeldin; Federal Agents Raid Offices of Trump Attorney. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired April 9, 2018 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There is nothing normal about this. So, let's not normalize any of this. It is crazy.
RYE: We were just -- Bill, I hate to air you out, but just confidentiality talk, on the commercial break, we're talking about how this is like something out of a thriller movie.
This is insane. I feel bad for you all, because you do, to his points, creative points to you, but you guys have to contort yourselves into unbelievable ways just to even make any of this make sense. And it doesn't. It gets worse.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's get to the point. No, it is great. I love it.
Let's get to the point that Josh was making, though, that you would agreed with, David Urban, is this being a special -- the term you used, Josh, a SIM.
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: A sensitive investigative matter.
TAPPER: Sensitive investigative matter, that you would really want to cross all your T's and dot all your I's before you raid the office of the president's attorney, let alone, as Gloria Borger reminded us, and Bill Kristol just underlined, President Trump just a few days ago had a dinner with him and made a show of his loyalty and support for him.
That is aggressive.
DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't disagree.
But why did Mueller feel like he had to punt it down to the Southern District?
TAPPER: Because it was outside the scope of his investigation.
URBAN: His investigation is obtuse.
TAPPER: Josh, go ahead.
And let me just point out also one thing that we're missing here is that the Department of Justice will referee investigations all of the time.
When you look at various districts throughout the country, it is not unusual for one investigation to impact another. And so this isn't something that the DOJ is not used to doing.
I think this further makes the case, what Bill was saying earlier, that this is a bigger deal maybe than we're thinking, is because if the DOJ looked at this and said that this is not going to impact Bob Mueller's investigation, go forth and prosper, then that shows us that we're off to the races. And it's a new line of inquiry.
URBAN: Or maybe it's less important.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: I think we should not loose sight of a couple of things. With this case, there's a lot of unanswered questions? Where did the money come from? Mr. Cohen has offered different explanations.
TAPPER: This is for the Stormy Daniels payment.
PEREZ: This is for the Stormy Daniels payments. And we don't know about other things that they may have uncovered as part of this investigation.
And we also know that the payment itself in the Stormy Daniels matter generated a suspicious activity report.
TAPPER: By the bank.
PEREZ: By the bank. The bank kicked it over to law enforcement and said, there is something strange here that merits looking at.
So there is plenty of there there for them to investigate.
URBAN: But let's put a fine point on this. An FEC violation is a far, far cry from a criminal investigation.
TAPPER: Angela, go ahead.
RYE: But it is also important to note, Evan, you brought up the payment, that the bank also sent an e-mail to the Michael Cohen's Trump Organization e-mail, which also was a different trigger and probably the reason why all of this is happening.
I think the last point on this, we didn't talk much about the tax aspect of this. Maybe he won't have to release his returns, but there will be something we finally learn about Donald Trump's...
TAPPER: And I want to bring in Gloria Borger right now. And after here, I will bring in Dana Bash.
Gloria, you have some new information.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
Well, look, I was just communicating to with who suggested to me who is knowledgeable about this that reminded me that, of course, Michael Cohen was never part of the campaign and made a point always of saying, I'm not a part of the campaign and I didn't join the campaign.
And so Mueller's investigation in terms of so-called collusion with the Russians, et cetera, is really about people who worked for the campaign. Michael Cohen not for the campaign. So perhaps this is a second investigation. We don't know.
TAPPER: We don't know.
But, Gloria, the person you spoke with, one of the big questions about President Trump, you know this better than anyone, is why, until recently, has he been reluctant to criticize Russia. Now, we should point out that has changed in the last day or two because of the chemical weapons attack.
But why, and also why won't he release his tax returns, with a lot of speculation about business ties that Michael Cohen might know about.
BORGER: And Michael Cohen might actually have his tax returns, by the way. He is his personal attorney.
BORGER: And that I believe is probably -- and, again, I'm speculating here, but one of the reasons he never officially joined the campaign.
He's a political guy. I think he wanted to go into the White House. That did not happen. And he remains Donald Trump's personal guy. So I think, when you look at the Stormy Daniels payment, with an LLC, you might be likely look at other real estate deals over the year that Michael Cohen has done for Donald Trump, branding deals or real estate or whatever it is, and you might to look at how those deals were financed.
And, again, since the special counsel is looking at the campaign, Michael Cohen is not a part of that. We see here this picture. He did testify before Congress. I -- as of last week, I was told that he had not yet appeared before the special counsel. I don't know if that has changed or not, but that is sort of -- I think five days ago, as of five or six days ago.
But, again, it could be separate. It could be a new thing.
TAPPER: I want to bring in Dana Bash and then, David, I want to get your reaction.
Dana Bash, you know Michael Cohen. You have been reporting on this. What is your take?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first and foremost, the fact that Michael Cohen's lawyer in the statement that they just released said explicitly that the FBI seized the privileged communications between my client, Michael Cohen, and his clients, is going to send his most important client, his most famous client, the president of the United States, probably going bonkers.
And that is something that not only am I saying from watching the president and how he reacts when the feds, Mueller or anyone else, get close to him. But I'm just communicating with some people who are close to the president, who know the way he reacts, who are bracing for that.
So we don't know exactly what the FBI got, but what we do know is that the president of the United States is -- it is kind of on a tinderbox when it comes to being investigated, by Mueller or anybody else in the Justice Department.
And the fact that his personal attorney, who Gloria reminded us, the president referred to as his personal attorney just last week, had his offices raided and documents seized having to do with his clients is just looking at Twitter and certainly and certainly the president's allies are looking at Twitter, wondering and probably talking to him behind closed doors right now, wondering what he is going to do, because you never know with this president.
BORGER: And let me add to Dana I just heard from another source who has a little more knowledge about this, said that he does not believe this is about other real estate deals.
So I asked what it was about and I haven't heard back yet. But he believes that it is more -- it is more limited than that, which leads me to question, is this about Stormy and the way that money was paid?
TAPPER: I want to bring in -- we don't have to talk on the phone with a source close to Trump who knows President Trump. We have one right here on set.
How might -- do you think that his attorney, Michael Cohen's attorney putting that statement about the president's -- that Michael Cohen's privileged communications being seized, you think that was designed to wake President Trump up and maybe say something about this?
URBAN: I think this is a game of three-dimensional chess here, right?
You're looking -- let's think about what is moving forward, what is happening in the next few weeks. Right? Next week, Jim Comey has his kickoff of his book. Comey is going to be in the press nonstop from the 15th forward telling his side of the story.
A decision has to be made whether the president is going to go and sit down with the special counsel. Right? This makes me think, if I was the president, why sit down? What is the upside of sitting down with the special counsel at this point?
The kind of tactics that are being undertaken, if I was the president, I would look at and say, what is the upside? It is only going to get me in trouble sitting down and talking to him, so why bother? Send me some written interrogatories. I will respond to them. But I'm not going to sit down with you.
And I think what is happening right now. You see kind of Mueller pulling that thread. I agree with Dana. This got his attention, I assure you, and the White House and they are talking about it at this very moment.
TAPPER: When we come back -- we're going to take a quick break.
When we come back, we are going to talk to a New Yorker, an attorney and a Trump supporter, Congressman Lee Zeldin of New York, and get his take on all of this.
We're going to squeeze in a very, very quick break. Stay with us. We will be right back.
TAPPER: We're back with the breaking news.
CNN has confirmed that U.S. attorneys' employees have raided the offices of President Trump's longtime lawyer Michael Cohen.
Stephen Ryan, Michael Cohen's lawyer, released this statement to CNN -- quote -- "Today, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York executed a series of search warrants and seized the privileged communications between my client Michael Cohen and his clients."
Of course, one of his clients is the president of the United States.
"I have been advised by federal prosecutors that the New York action is in part a referral by the office of special counsel, Robert Mueller."
CNN's Jeff Zeleny joins me now.
And, Jeff, you're learning that President Trump, he is watching right now? JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Jake.
I'm told that the president has been watching news coverage of this development this afternoon from the White House. I'm told by a White House official this was not coming as a surprise to the president.
He had a head's up in some way that this had happened earlier today. Of course, he's dealing with much on his plate today, potential strikes on Syria, other matters here. But the president, I'm told, has been watching news coverage this afternoon on this, has been being briefed on this.
Jake, what we do not know is if the president has spoken directly to Michael Cohen. But you would certainly believe they probably have or they will.
It is important to point out, as you have been mentioning, the president has been a long-term client. Michael Cohen is an adviser, a confidant of his.
Just last week on Air Force One, on Thursday, the president was asked directly for the first time about Stormy Daniels, and he referred reporters to Michael Cohen. He said you will have to ask Michael Cohen about this. You will have to ask him about this payment of the $130,000, so the president, as we know, is in routine of communication with Michael Cohen.
He's at Mar-a-Lago. He's been at the White House several times. He talks to him on the phone frequently. But, this afternoon, Jake, we do know the president has been watching news coverage of this, certainly is paying very careful attention to all of this here.
That's all we know at this point, that the president indeed watching. Unclear if he's spoken to Michael Cohen -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny for us, thank you so much.
I want to bring in Congressman Lee Zeldin, Republican from New York, a supporter of President Trump.
Your reaction, sir, to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York raiding the offices of the President's Attorney Michael Cohen?
REP. LEE ZELDIN (R), NEW YORK: Well there's so much information that we just don't have yet. I've been sitting here listening over the course of the show and following some of the news here coming in on Twitter and what not while listening to your coverage. So there is a lot of unanswered questions. And I will say, taking off my Congress hat and putting on my attorney hat for a second, it's really hard to go after an attorney when you have a lot of attorney-client privilege, not just related to obviously Mr. Cohen's highest-profile client, but really all of his clients. So there is a lot to learn that I don't have the answered to but it is -- it is a little concerning though to be hearing news of going after the attorney and acquiring raiding so much of the attorney-client privilege. TAPPER: Well, and that's what's so stunning about it. If it were a
business partner of President Trump, it would be -- it would be shocking and it would be a big news story, but the idea that there would be a sign of one presumed for a special case like this from the Justice Department for the raid of the offices of the President's attorney, either this an egregious violation of attorney-client privilege and civil rights, or there is a mountain of evidence suggesting that the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office have to do this right now.
ZELDIN: Right. And that's a big question that I don't have the answer to, either. And I'm sure we'll learn more without too much delay. But you know, there's been a debate in this country with regards to the scope of Director Mueller's probe and some of the reporting that's coming out here is that Bob Mueller is choosing to make a referral to the southern district. We're starting to see -- and I was -- at the beginning of the process, when Director Mueller was first appointed as the special counsel, there was a very narrow focus related to the2016 election and collusion, the Russian and cybersecurity with the hacks of the DNC and DCCC, John Podesta, looking at election day itself and what kind of cyber efforts were done by the Russians to try to test systems around election day, so that was a -- that was -- that was a different type of an investigation than what we're seeing with the indictments that have been coming out. And then you know, today's raid, a lot of this stuff is way beyond the mandate of why the special counsel is created in the first place.
So I think that while we are awaiting to learn additional information about what happened today, this is only going to fuel more energy to that debate of exactly what is Director Mueller's endgame here? What exactly is the limit to the scope of what he's doing? What's the chain of command and where are we going because I don't want a President -- when you get elected to face this, with a political opposition or just -- the way the system is set up that they operate their entire presidency under a cloud where anyone connected to the President for the term of this presidency -- and anyone is going -- anyone and everyone faces the possibility of an investigation or indictment for anything going back no matter how far in the past as well. So you know, I think that's the next level of this conversation, way beyond just guest getting to the bottom of what happened today.
TAPPER: All right, Congressman Lee Zeldin, Republican of New York, thank you so much for your time, sir. I appreciate it. Let's go back to CNN's Gloria Borger who has more news. Gloria, what are you learning?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST : I do. From a source familiar, it seems like that this was I'm told about Stormy Daniels and that the documents they were looking for were apparently about Stormy Daniels. I asked the question whether that also might include other payments to other women, and my source would not say -- would not say anything else. But the source wanted to wave me off the notion that we -- that I had been talking about previously which is the sort of Trump Tower aspect of any of this, real estate aspect of any of this. And that may answer the question about why Mueller thought this was completely out of his purview because of course, his purview is not -- is not Stormy Daniels in any -- in any way, shape or form. And that's maybe a reason he referred it. But my source says narrower in scope and that's what it was about. And the payments then, would this be over an FCC violation? I mean, this seems like an awful lot to do over an FCC violation. So we'll have to let this unravel a little bit.
TAPPER: All right, Gloria Borger, thanks so much. CNN's Even Perez is back with me. So this was a referral by Mueller's office, this is not part of the special counsel investigation. Apparently, Bob Mueller and his team found out some information that was not related to their purview, tell us about the regulation that dictates to Mueller and his team what they should do next.
[16:50:13] EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. The regulations that govern special counsel says that you have to go and get permission from the Attorney General, in this case, it's Rod Rosenstein who is the Acting Attorney General for the purpose of this investigation. And I'll read you a part of what the regulations say. It says that if the special counsel comes across information that suggests -- that require additional investigation, that is outside of their purview, it says here he or she shall consult with the Attorney General who will determine whether to include additional matters within the special counsel's jurisdiction or assign them elsewhere. In other words, Rod Rosenstein would have the power to say, Mueller, you continue to do this and you know, you investigate this.
Again if it has to do with Stormy Daniels, this is now part of your jurisdiction, or he could say, we're going to kick it over to Manhattan in the U.S. Attorney Office which has a very large and very robust and criminal white-collar practice there and they can do this type of investigation. This is the kind of thing that they do day in and day out. And it looks like that's exactly what has happened here, is that Rod Rosenstein has determined that we're not going to have a repeat of Ken Starr where you begin with a real estate deal in Arkansas and end up at a blue dress, right? We're going to keep Mueller on the straight and narrow because that is frankly a criticism from the people close to the president --
TAPPER: And you just heard Congressman Lee Zeldin raising the issue as well.
PEREZ: Right. And I think they've been harping on this idea that you know, Mueller is going far afield when in this case it appears that Mueller has decided we're going to stay on the straight and narrow and Rod Rosenstein signed off on that.
DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Or maybe Rod Rosenstein constrained him to that. Also, I think as a part of the special counsel's statute, it does say, and I could be mistaken but you can read it again, Evan, I think it says, the special prosecutor has to conclude the prosecution before issuing his report. He put this outside of the scope of that. This could continue down its own path. If you noticed, the prosecution of Manafort and Gates is taking place this summer pretty quickly on an expedited kind of fast track for a fall, perhaps a fall referral of the rest of the matters.
TAPPER: Yes, hold that thought. We're going to talk about much, much more on this breaking news story, the FBI raiding the office of Michael Cohen, the personal lawyer, and confidant of President Trump. We're going to squeeze in one more quick break. Stay with us.
[16:55:00] TAPPER: And we're back with the breaking news. The FBI has raided the offices of Michael Cohen. He's the personal lawyer and confidant of President Trump. Cohen's attorneys has confirmed that news to CNN saying that the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York has executed "a series of search warrants as part of a referral from Special Counsel Robert Mueller." That does not mean that it is part of the Mueller Investigation. It means that Mueller's team found something and decided it was not in the scope of the investigation. They told the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about it and he recommended that they refer it to the Southern District of New York for further investigation. My panel is back with me. Angela Rye, you were saying the series of search warrants that were executed today suggest to you that it might not just be Stormy Daniels, they might be other things that they're looking into.
ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I would just be interested to know what about the tax documents that they seized have to do with the Stormy Daniels payment. I'm interested to know again the Trump Organization e-mail was used to confirm that the payment was received by the bank, the e-mails make sense. That sounds like it is in the scope of the Stormy Daniels' piece but I feel like there has to be something else. I don't have anything other than a sneaking suspicion because all we have is a couple of breaking news stories and the facts are a little sparse.
TAPPER: They are. They are indeed. But David Urban, you're an attorney, and you went to the great temple -- you're an attorney as well. You went to the great Temple University -- I'm sorry, I was just trying to get in a Philadelphia plug. What could -- this seems really big for a Federal Election Commission crime, for an election law crime.
URBAN: Look, again, Director Mueller is playing hardball here. We saw it again as I talked about with Josh, you know, your supervisory FBI agent, guns drawn, kicking the door down, no-knock raid of Manafort's house, pretty heavy headed tactics. I mean, everyone who looked at that from the New York Times, every legal person that I had seen who wrote about that said, he's sending a message that he's wasn't messing around and maybe this is another message. Maybe this was another message that we're concluding here. We're going to wrap this up and again, we're not -- we're not messing around. I mean, I don't know, we don't know as Angela said, what they're looking for, what they found. Attorney-client privilege is pretty -- is pretty substantive and we'll see what they could use in the court moving forward.
TAPPER: They're going to have to have a special team to go through documents --
TAPPER: -- and if you'll often decide, which is privileged.
URBAN: In camera, yes.
TAPPER: This is -- this is -- but this is huge.
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think it's -- I mean, my instinct -- obviously I don't know. My instincts, it is big for this reason. A judge had to conclude that it was reasonable to believe that unless they went into him this way, documents would possibly be destroyed, right? Because otherwise -- there's a strong presumption against busting into lawyer's offices and seizing all of these documents and they have to be gone --
URBAN: But Bill, they did it -- they did it in the Manafort case as well. They convinced the judge the same thing.
KRISTO: And he was right. And you know why -- and you know, why they convinced the judge of the same thing, because probably -- there was good reason to believe that Paul Manafort might not have preserved documents.
TAPPER: Listen, Angela's point --
KRISTOL: The President a's personal lawyer, a judge believed that the President's personal lawyer might well have destroyed documents and he believed this and the same week the President of the United States had dinner with that personal lawyer. I just think--
TAPPER: Angela's point, you keep bringing up Manafort as an example and that's not a good example.
RYE: How many charges, right? I mean, like I come out --
URBAN: All I'm saying is I don't know what proof is there that he was going to destroy records, right?
RYE: But there is a fear.
URBAN: All I say - all I say to you two is that when the FBI comes to you, to your house, I hope that you don't push back against them --
RYE: The FBI is not coming to my house. It's not going to happen.
TAPPER: My guess is the FBI is going to come to none of our houses.
URBAN: Everybody is innocent until proven guilty.
TAPPER: Until proven guilty. That is true and let us end it on that sense.
URBAN: The presumption of innocence. TAPPER: Something we can all agree on. Thank you so much. That's it for THE LEAD. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" with more on this big breaking news story. Thanks for watching.