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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Trump Calls Michael Cohen Raids a "Witch-Hunt;" White House Official: Trump Watching T.V. as News of Cohen Raids Broke; Trump On Whether He'll Fire Mueller: "We'll See;" Cohen's Past With Trump; Trump "Upset" About Cohen Raids By FBI; Interview with Rep. Ted Lieu (D), California; Interview with Sen. Joni Ernst (R), Iowa; Interview with Larry Kudlow, White House Chief Economic Adviser. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired April 9, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We'll see where it goes next.
Preet, thanks very much. That's it for me. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, we have breaking news. It's an extraordinary evening. developments unfolding as I speak.
The FBI raiding the office of President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, the agents armed with multiple search warrants and we understand there were up to a dozen of those agents, seizing e-mails, tax documents, business records, and other communications between Trump and Cohen. And the president tonight, livid, speaking out about the raid and Bob Mueller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys. 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. And it's a real disgrace. It's frankly a real disgrace. It's a -- 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. 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: Well, not sparing any words. And here's what we know about the raid. It stemmed partially from a referral from Mueller's office. This is according to Cohen's lawyer, Stephen Ryan.
Now, Trump was asked, then got a question, whether he would fire the special counsel given what you just heard him say about this being the most biased group of people. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Why don't I just fire Mueller?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, just fire the guy.
TRUMP: I think it's a disgrace what's going on. We'll see what happens. But I think it's really a sad situation when you look at what happened. And many people have said, you should fire him.
Again, they found nothing. And in finding nothing, that's a big statement. So we'll see what happens. I think it's disgraceful and so does a lot of other people. This is a pure and simple witch-hunt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: A White House official says Trump is watching news reports about the raid and that he did know about it before the story broke. It is impossible to overstate how significant this development is. Keep in mind, Michael Cohen and Donald Trump go way back. Anyone who has interacted with Trump knows about Cohen. They've been working together for about 12 years. Cohen has been referred to as Trump's pit bull. He's defended him on everything from business to personal matters.
Cohen has also come under scrutiny in the Russia investigation, he's been called in front of Congress to testify for his role in trying to build a Trump Tower in Moscow and questions about communication with the Kremlin. Keep in mind, and this could be very central to what happened today. He also paid $130,000 in hush money to Stormy Daniels, the adult film star who said she had an affair with Trump.
Let's get to Pamela Brown with this breaking development at the White House. Pamela, the president, livid tonight, not mincing words, not with a few word response. Going on there for over a minute.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right, Erin. He is visibly angered by this. And just to set the scene here, he was at the table surrounded by his top military brass. They were there to meet about Syria in the wake of the apparent chemical weapons attack there.
But unprompted, without even being asked or questioned by reporters, the president laid into the FBI, to his own attorney general, and to Robert Mueller, calling the entire probe a witch-hunt, saying it is a disgraceful situation. Even going as far as to say this is an attack on our country.
And he even left the door open, Erin, to firing Robert Mueller. He said many people have said, I should fire Robert Mueller. We'll see what happens. He left that open more than we have seen before.
He's of course called the probe a witch-hunt, but in this case, he's saying, look, we'll see what happens. For context, though, Erin, Robert Mueller referred this to authorities in New York. What happened here was he found this information, whatever it was, in the course of his investigation, went to the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Rod Rosenstein would have made the decision that the jurisdiction was in New York.
So this isn't even something that Robert Mueller was controlling. So it's pretty extraordinary to see the president go after him and the FBI in this fashion.
[19:05:05] And this is, as we know, related to Stormy Daniels, what's surrounding that, according to my colleague Gloria Borger, that was sort of the premise of the search warrant, a search warrant that would have had to be signed off by a judge, Erin. The authorities would have had to go to the judge, show probable cause that a crime had been committed and that the evidence was here at the scene. But the president kept saying that the FBI broke into the offices of his attorney, which is simply not accurate, Erin.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Pamela. (INAUDIBLE) to point out, not accurate because they had multiple search warrants to do so signed off by a judge. That is not a break-in. That is lawful. That is how it works.
Evan Perez is OUTFRONT in Washington. And Evan, I know you have a lot more details about the FBI raid or raids, I suppose, as the word may be in multiple locations.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right, Erin, we know of at least a couple of locations. The law office that Michael Cohen has at 30 Rockefeller Center, and as well as a hotel there in Midtown Manhattan where he's been living. We also are told, according to the Wall Street Journal, that there was another search that was conducted at Michael Cohen's home.
So at least, according to Stephen Ryan, his attorney, there were multiple search warrants that were issued, that were conducted today as part of this investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan. And according to sources who have talked to Gloria Borger, a lot of this had to do with Stormy Daniels. This had to do with payments that were made to Stormy Daniels, the $130,000 that was done right before the election.
It also -- they also were looking for communications specifically between Michael Cohen and the president, Michael Cohen and people involved in the campaign, all of this relating to election laws. And that's important because this $130,000 payment was not just a fix by Michael Cohen, a long-time personal lawyer of the president. This was potentially a violation of federal election laws, because it constituted some payment for the benefit of the president.
So there's been a lot of multiple explanations by Michael Cohen as to exactly why this money was paid, whether the president was aware of this or not. Again, a lot of open questions, we know, Erin that when this payment was made, the bank actually flagged it as a potential suspicious transaction.
So, a lot of reasons why this was done. And now, let me just add one last thing. To Pamela's point, this is a raid that was actually authorized by the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, Geoffrey Berman, who is President Trump's own pick for that office. He hasn't actually been officially nominated to fill that job, replacing Preet Bharara, as you know.
So, we'll see whether or not that nomination actually goes ahead, having signed off on a raid of the president's personal attorney.
BURNETT: Pretty significant question that you raise and of course significant point that you make, right. This is the president's own man, his appointee, going ahead and saying this should happen. Someone who I believe, Michael Zeldin will give us more details, but also worked with Rudy Giuliani, an ally of the president.
Thank you very much, Evan. And I want to go to Paul Callan, former prosecutor, Chris Swecker, former assistant FBI director for the Criminal Investigative Division, and Michael Zeldin, Robert Mueller's former special assistant at the Department of Justice.
Paul, since you're with me, let me start with you. We understand here, multiple warrants. You heard Evan going through at least three different locations. And the warrants were about, quote, seizing the privileged communications between Cohen and his clients. How significant is this for the president?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's very significant. It's extraordinarily aggressive for the Justice Department and FBI to engage in such activity. And the reason I say that is, normally when you have an attorney's office, you don't hear of attorney's offices getting raided because there's the attorney-client privilege that protects the documents in the office. And these documents may be documents relating to the president of the United States, who is Cohen's primary client.
There is, however, an exception to the attorney-client privilege rule, and it's called the crime-fraud exception. If an attorney engages in criminal or fraudulent conduct with his client, then their communications are not privileged and can be seized. So I'm just wondering what the federal judge was looking at when he authorized a raid on an attorney's office. It sounds to me like crime-fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege.
BURNETT: Michael, what do you say? Crime-fraud exception? Because, you know, that the reality of this is, a judge did sign off. And to do so, as Pam and Evan were laying out, they would have had to believe that there was probable evidence that a crime had been committed.
MICHAEL ZELDIN, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO ROBERT MUELLER, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: Well, that's right. But, Michael Cohen is a complicated figure in relationship to the analysis of attorney-client privately. That is to say, if Cohen was operating as an in-house counsel for the Trump Organization, and it's hard to figure out what exactly he was. Sometimes he's called personal attorney. Sometimes he's on the Trump letterhead.
[19:10:02] If he's an in-house counsel, and he is providing business advice, that's not privileged. If he's providing legal advice which is intended to be privileged, then that's privileged. So, it might be that he's not actually being -- you know, the evidence being taken from him is not exactly client-attorney privilege communications.
Plus, a lot of this evidence will be segregated. It'll be analyzed by what we call a clean team, people who are not associated with any part of Mueller's investigation. They may create a privilege log and look at documents that can be reviewed by the court to determine whether they are in fact attorney-client privilege protected in which case they wouldn't be used against Cohen.
So there's a lot to be sorted through at this early stage of the investigation.
BURNETT: It is pretty incredible though, Chris, you know, that what we're talking about here is personal attorney. Whatever technical role he might have been, I've known Michael Cohen for a long time. You know, the relationship was such that the president at that time, a businessman, would call him in his office and ask for something to be done, and Michael would present a bullet point sheet of paper, because they never used e-mail and then Trump would either do it or not.
I mean, this was a very much personal one-on-one relationship. And Cohen knows a lot. And we now know there were at least a dozen FBI agents involved.
Chris, what does that say to you, a dozen agents, and at least we know three locations searched.
CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIVE DIVISION, FBI: Yes, it's an extraordinary event. In my 25 years as a special agent, two as head of the criminal division of the FBI, I've only seen a handful of these types of warrants. If you read the U.S. Attorney's manual, I consulted it briefly before we came on -- there are extraordinary authorities that you have to get to get a search warrant for an attorney's office. There's privileged material as was pointed out by Michael Zeldin. There'll be a tank team probably that will take custody of the evidence and make sure and go through the evidence and make sure that there isn't legitimately privileged information in there.
So this is highly extraordinary. There had to be a strong showing of probable cause that there was evidence there, evidence of a crime, and as was pointed out, possibly even evidence that the attorney was participating in the crime for the agents to go in there and do that.
BURNETT: And Paul so, you know, the significance of all of this, you're talking about -- you know, the president trying to say, you know, witch-hunt and plenty of people agree with me and it's a disgrace and they're all these biased group of people. There's a certain number of people I'm sure who will just believe it when he says that.
But let's just remind everyone. The deputy attorney general is the one who made the decision to refer to the southern district of New York. The person there in charge is the President Trump's appointee, that's the guy who signed off on doing this.
CALLAN: That's right. Trump's appointee and --
BURNETT: Trump 's own guy, not Preet Bharara, the guy he fired.
CALLAN: Right, and Giuliani's former law partner, so someone with strong ties to the Republican Party.
BURNETT: I mean, which is extremely significant when you think of it that way. And, you know, Chris, let me ask you, when you say you haven't seen anything like this, you know, a couple times in your entire career. The last time in this investigation we heard of anybody being raided by the FBI is Paul Manafort. And obviously right now, things are looking horrific for Paul Manafort. Is that an appropriate parallel to draw?
SWECKER: Yes, I think it is. Most of the time, these things are handled in a very sort of genteel fashion. When you're dealing with attorneys, you ask for the evidence, turn it over, or you might use a grand jury subpoena. In this case, to go directly at it multiple locations, unannounced. I had heard something about a no-knock. That's even more extraordinary if that were the case.
And note also that, this is not the special counsel --
BURNETT: When you say a no-knock, they just barge in, right? Because they're worried someone could flee or hide something?
SWECKER: That's correct.
BURNETT: OK, sorry, just to clarify. Go ahead.
SWECKER: That's correct. Correct. And I'll just point out that this is not the special counsel's investigation apparently. He's punted it over to the southern district of New York via the attorney general's office. So this is a separate investigation. and you could see the president's anger was directed towards the special counsel.
All he did was pass the information on that he came across during the course of his investigation, obviously. So there's a separate investigation up in New York, in the southern district.
BURNETT: All right, thank you all very much.
And more on the breaking news, the long history between Cohen and the president. Just who is Michael Cohen, the man called Trump's pit bull.
Plus, more breaking news, Trump just meeting with the senior military advisers, saying the United States will retaliate for the chemical weapons attack in Syria. And a damming new budget projection. Trump, truly the king of debt, his top economic adviser Larry Kudlow is my guest.
[19:18:13] BURNETT: Breaking news, President Trump livid tonight, ripping into the FBI, criticizing the agency's raid on the office and hotel room and home of his personal lawyer Michael Cohen, calling it a witch-hunt and disgraceful.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys. Good man. And it's a disgraceful situation. It's a total witch-hunt. I've been saying it for a long time.
It's frankly a real disgrace. It's a -- 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Of course we should keep in mind that the attorney who requested this is President Trump's own appointee. Just to make that very loud and clear, replacing Preet Bharara, the man he fired.
Now, agents were seizing information related to Stormy Daniels, as well as private communications between Cohen and his clients. Of course, the biggest, the most prominent of which is the president of the United States according to a source. Now, Cohen has stood by the president for 12 years, and during that time he became known as Mr. Fix-it. Any sort of a problem, he was right there.
Jason Carroll is OUTFRONT. And Jason, you know, having seen these two together over many years, to say they are tight was an -- would be an understatement of the relationship that they had.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I mean, there's so much more to this man than simply making that $130,000 to Stormy Daniels. I mean, he's as close as one might be able to get to Donald Trump and the Trump family without being family.
[19:19:59] One friend described him this way. He said, he is the man if you ever are in trouble at 3 a.m. in the morning, and you need someone to help, this is the man to do it. He gained a reputation throughout working it within the Trump universe as being the pit bull, the man who could get things done. And he's been getting things done with the Trump business empire since 2006.
Prior to being Trump's personal attorney, he was executive vice president of the Trump Organization and for a certain period of time, also worked in Trump Entertainment. The bottom line, Erin, he knows the business side of the world. He also now knows the political side of the world as well. Erin? BURNETT: And Jason, you're standing outside, I believe, of the hotel, one of the locations that was searched, where he was believed to have been staying, as this happened, Michael Cohen, that is?
CARROLL: That is correct. Apparently at his home, he was having some sort of plumbing issues. So he was staying here at the Loew's Regency. This -- early this morning is the place where the FBI agents came in, apparently there's about a dozen agents, they were here for several hours. Unclear what material they took from this location, but this is the place where Michael Cohen has been staying at least for now, Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Jason, thank you very much.
And OUTFRONT now, Joan Walsh, national affairs correspondent for the Nation, former Republican Senator Rick Santorum, and April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks.
Senator, let me just start with you. You know, I don't know if you heard the prior conversation, but, you know, a head of the FBI, criminal investigation unit -- investigative unit for 25 years, Chris Swecker said he's only seen this a couple of times in his entire career. Something of this significance.
What's your take-away about how important of a night this is?
RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, we don't know yet. I mean, the -- obviously, the target of all this is the president's lawyer. We assume that it has to do with the president, obviously probably does. The question is, you know, what did the president know and was he involved in this?
And, you know, this -- if this man is as he is portrayed, as someone who sort of fixes things, the president may not know anything about this. I mean, it would be probably normal for the president to not know of the sort of things that are problems in his life, the things that he would like to have go away, you have people take care of them. He had people take care of them and actually don't bring them to your attention for a lot of different reasons.
So, this may be a situation where he fixed it, and he fixed it in a way that ran afoul -- potentially afoul of campaign finance laws and there could be problems as a result of that.
JOAN WALSH, NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, THE NATION: Senator, what did he fix that the president didn't know about? I don't have anybody going around fixing things for me that I don't know about. I mean, the way -- I know you're --
SANTORUM: Well, you're not Donald Trump.
WALSH: -- but the way you're defending him actually raises more questions than it answers. I mean, we have a situation right now -- first of all, I was stunned and kind of saddened for the military people in that room when the president came out and used what should have been a statement about our national defense, to defend himself, to defend his lawyer, to attack Robert Mueller and all of these law enforcement people. I don't know how those men -- I think they were all men -- sat there and had to take that at a time when we're really supposed to be thinking about, how do we respond to Syria.
It was such a typical Donald Trump, self-serving, self-pity party move. And I -- you know, I just look at this and I think this is a big night and I will agree with the senator on one thing. We don't really know what they have, but I would say they have a lot.
BURNETT: We don't know what they have. The one thing we do know is that a judge would have found probable cause to think that a crime have been committed, whatever the crime may have been, that that would be what allowed them to authorize these raids.
April, about this moment though, surrounded by his national security team, we're talking about a crucial moment for this country and the world in Syria, and he's making a decision about whether to strike Syria imminently, and yet he decides to go off for well over a minute impugning the FBI, Bob Mueller, and everyone else a bias, including I guess his own appointee.
Jeff Zeleny is reporting that no one in that room had any warning, that nobody expected him to do this. This was completely off script, is that what you're hearing?
APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Yes. You know, you don't even need reporting to know this. This president goes by knee-jerk reaction. Whenever it's something that attacks him or makes him look in a bad light.
And when he went off, he went off because, number one, the man that's closest to him, that he talked about, he did not know that he did this payment, one, common sense is, when you're dealing with this kind of investigation that's looking for the trail of money, you don't do a lot of talking. I've talked to former prosecutor Chris Darden on the O.J. Simpson trial, he said, look, the president talked too much. They talked too much, and you know, you don't taunt the very people that are upholding your freedoms.
[19:25:01] So -- and then Chris Darden also said a couple weeks ago, and this is very poignant for this moment, and it reminds you of the impeachment of Bill Clinton. They were looking at Whitewater, and it wound up being an impeachment over a lie about Monica Lewinsky.
BURNETT: Well, a lie about sex, which of course is the parallel -- possible parallel to this.
RYAN: Exactly. But here's the thing with this Russia investigation and this is what Chris Darden said to me. He said, look, it's like, someone, a police -- police officers going into raid a home for drugs. You go to get the drugs, but you see the wife being beaten, you don't leave the wife there. You bring it all in.
So, this is what's happening. They're following the trail of money and now Michael Cohen's properties have been raided and they're seizing information. They've taunted the FBI and they talked too much and it's happening now.
BURNETT: So, Senator, what happens here? I mean, is the president going to go ahead and fire Mueller? I mean, let's just play again. He was asked about that today after he went off on the tirade about the FBI and everybody else involved in this. So he was asked and let me just play it again for you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Why don't I just fire Mueller?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, just fire the guy?
TRUMP:: Well, I think it's a disgrace what's going on. We'll see what happens, but I think it's really a sad situation when you look at what happened. And many people have said, you should fire him.
Again, they found nothing. And in finding nothing, that's a big statement. If you know the person who is 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: What do you make of this, Senator? Of course, Rosenstein, who he's holding up there as someone who did the right thing, is the guy who referred this to the southern district of New York, where then Trump's appointee went ahead and went for this search warrant. What do you make of his response to the question?
SANTORUM: Look, I think the president is frustrated that the attacks keep coming and that everything he's trying to do in running the country, like dealing with the issue of Syria, keeps getting side tracked with more and more investigations. I understand -- frankly, I sympathize with the president's frustration with Jeff Sessions' recusing himself. I don't think there should have been a special counsel. I've said that on this network for over a year now, because they can be endless, as we saw with Ken Starr and a lot of others.
This will go on and on and on --
BURNETT: Yes, but you got, what, 16 people charged? I mean, certainly they found something. It's hard to say it wasn't worth doing.
SANTORUM: Well, with all due respect, Erin, none of them with respect to what the investigation was all about.
BURNETT: -- collusion with the Russians, I believe.
RYAN: Elections -- issues with elections violations and money to --
SANTORUM: I'm talking about collusion with the Trump campaign. That's what this investigation was supposed to be about. And so far, we have no evidence of any collusion, and certainly no charges with respect to any collusion. And that's the frustration this president has.
WALSH: So you cannot say one over the other.
SANTORUM: That's why I don't like special counsels.
WALSH: I think listening to the president say they've found nothing, trash people, say he did the right thing in firing Jim Comey, just brings home how serious this is, and how he is defending the indefensible at this point, and trashing law enforcement people who all, by the way, happen to be Republicans. This is not a partisan witch-hunt.
BURNETT: Well, of course, we don't know that individual politics of those involved today, but it shouldn't matter if you're an FBI agent doing a raid.
WALSH: -- they've given money to Republicans, that's all we know.
BURNETT: Thank you all very much.
And more on our breaking news, the president calling the Michael Cohen raid a witch-hunt, slamming the special counsel. A top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee is OUTFRONT to respond.
And Trump moment to go, promising the chemical attack in Syria will be met forcefully. That's a crucial thing. What does that mean? My guest, Senator Joni Ernst.
[19:32:17] BURNETT: Breaking news, President Trump furious over the FBI raid on his longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen. Trump focusing his anger on Robert Mueller and his team and also on his Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The attorney general made a terrible mistake when he did this and when he recused himself and we would have used they put a different attorney general in. So, he made what I consider to be a very terrible mistake for the country. But you'll figure that out.
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 and he was right about that. He was absolutely right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu who's on the Judiciary Committee, obviously front and center when it comes to Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein.
Congressman, the president went on to call the FBI raid a disgraceful situation. He called it a witch-hunt. He said the group of people involved are the most biased group. He refused to rule out firing Bob Mueller.
REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: Yes. Thank you, Erin, for your question.
The president's comments are un-American and disgraceful. Fundamental to American democracy is a rule of law and what the U.S. attorney's office for the southern district of New York did today was a vindication of the principle that no one is above the law, not the president, not his attorney, no one.
BURNETT: So, the big question tonight is of course what this raid was about. Here's what we know: about a dozen agents were involved, at least three locations were involved, a lot of documents were taken from bank documents to communications between Trump and Michael Cohen, and a lot of this related to Cohen's payment to Stormy Daniels.
So, the question I have for you, Congressman, is do you think Mueller's investigation has expanded too far, but this is proof that it expanded beyond its limits and that that's why this had to be referred to the southern district of New York and Mueller himself couldn't do it?
LIEU: This is a great example of Robert Mueller knowing his limits. He realized that whatever this is about Michael Cohen who was not within his jurisdiction, so he sent it to the U.S. attorney's office for the southern district in New York. It was their decision to request the search warrants and then an independent federal judge had authorized the search warrants.
And, by the way, last month, Congresswoman Kathleen Rice and I wrote a letter to the FBI asked them to investigate Michael Cohen because that $130,000 payment looked like a massive violation of campaign finance laws.
BURNETT: Is that what you think this is all about, campaign finance laws? That's going to be the extent of it?
LIEU: It's certainly possible. The public reporting shows there may have been bank fraud dating back several years.
[19:35:01] We don't know, but we do know that the judge thought that Michael Cohen either was not going to cooperate or would have destroyed evidence and authorizing these search warrants because one of the first requirements is that the U.S. attorney's office has to show they could have gotten this information another way.
BURNETT: Right and, of course, you know, the Cohen has said he's been cooperating there. Obviously, they felt they didn't have that that -- they didn't have a cooperation at all. You heard what the president said there, Congressman. The attorney general made a terrible mistake when he recused himself. We would have put a different attorney general in. He made a very terrible mistake for the country.
Trump obviously livid at his attorney general and talking about biased, witch-hunt, disgraced referring to Bob Mueller's team. Is Bob Mueller's job at risk right now or not?
LIEU: It's possible. I really don't understand why Donald Trump is acting the way he is, because Robert Mueller is the only person that can clear his name. And if Donald Trump, in fact, did nothing wrong. He would want the investigation to proceed forward and to conclude and then to see if his name gets cleared.
But the actions and statements by Donald Trump show evidence of guilt. It shows consciousness of guilt because an innocent person would not be acting the way our president is.
BURNETT: The president finally just last week broke his silence on the Stormy Daniels issue, which again I just want to point out we know was at the core of what was they were seeking today, among other things. But Stormy Daniels was at the core. And he was asked specifically, did he know about that payment?
Here's how he answered the question on Air Force One.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?
TRUMP: No. No. What else?
REPORTER: Then why did Michael Cohen make it if there was no truth to the allegations?
TRUMP: You have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney and you'll have to ask Michael.
REPORTER: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?
TRUMP: No, I don't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Obviously said that to reporters he didn't say it under oath. Do you think he told the truth?
LIEU: "The Washington Post" has documented that Donald Trump has lied over two thousand times since he got inaugurated. So, I don't have any idea whether Donald Trump told the truth or not. But I do know that this Stormy Daniels $130,000 payment looked like a pretty clear violation of campaign finance laws, where the maximum contribution or payment would have been $5,400.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Congressman Lieu. I appreciate your time tonight.
LIEU: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: And next, President Trump calling the raid on his lawyer's office an attack on America. I'm going to get reaction from Republican Senator Joni Ernst.
And the United States on a potential collision course with economic catastrophe owing more money than we make. Are Trump's tax cuts and tariffs to blame?
[19:41:18] BURNETT: Breaking news: President Trump angry tonight over the raid on his personal attorney's office. A source close to the president telling CNN this seems to have struck a nerve unlike anything we have seen so far.
Tonight, the president declaring the raid a, quote, witch-hunt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys good man and it's a disgraceful situation it's a total witch-hunt. It's an attack on our country in a true sense. It's an attack on what we all stand for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT tonight, Republican Senator Joni Ernst.
And, Senator Ernst, thanks so much for your time tonight.
You know, just to be clear, of course, it wasn't a break-in, right? The FBI had had multiple search warrants for these locations and they had obtained these from a judge which felt there was probable cause, who felt there was probable cause for a possible crime.
The president called the raid on Michael Cohen's office in his words a, quote, attack on our country. Do you agree with that, Senator?
SEN. JONI ERNST (R), IOWA: Well, I can't speak for the president, but what I would want to know is what is the tie-in with the investigation? What are we talking about? Is it Russia? Is it elections collusion? That's what I would want to know.
And so, I want to know what the tie-in is with this addition to the investigation. I really want to know, was there collusion with the elections process? That's what we need to correct before we see any more involvement of Russia in our election cycle. That's at the heart of the matter.
BURNETT: It is at the heart of the matter. I just want to make sure I understand though if Bob Mueller uncovered something related to Stormy Daniels or bank fraud or something else, we do understand that some of these seizures were related to Stormy Daniels, and therefore referred it to another jurisdiction because he felt it was outside his purview.
Would you be OK with them pursuing it if indeed it was a crime and it was committed with perhaps the president's knowledge?
ERNST: If he had found actual evidence that there was something wrong, certainly that's fine. But going back to Robert Mueller, we really want to get at the heart of Russia in their investigation there with our elections process. So, anything other than that is kind of an aside and let that go where it may. But certainly from my perspective in Congress, I want to know about Russia and our election cycle.
BURNETT: And the president, of course, Senator, was asked whether he would fire Bob Mueller over this. He sidestepped the questions and said would I -- would I fire Bob Mueller, you know, sort -- didn't dismiss it, didn't answer in the affirmative though.
The Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has put out a statement warning the president not to do it and in saying in part, quote: The president is thinking of using this raid the fire special counsel Mueller or otherwise interfere with the chain of command and the Russia probe. We Democrats have one simple message for him: don't.
Obviously, Senator, you speak as a Republican tonight, do you agree with Senator Schumer? Should Mueller be off the table or would you be OK if the president fired Bob Mueller now?
ERNST: Well, the president has the ability to do that, but I don't see him doing that. I think we have come too far in the Russia investigation. And again, I think that that needs to be investigated fully and once Robert Mueller has come to the conclusion, whether there was collusion, wasn't collusion, how Russia was involved in the election cycle, then that means to be wrapped up and presented to Congress.
BURNETT: Senator, I want to turn to the other breaking story tonight. The president obviously all of this in the midst a meeting with his national security team on a crucial decision for this country, which is whether to strike Syria with missiles and whether such a strike is imminent.
Here is what he said about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[19:45:02] TRUMP: It will be met and it will be met forcefully. We're going to make a decision tonight or very shortly thereafter, and you'll be hearing the decision. But we can't let atrocities like we all witnessed and you can see that and it's horrible -- we can't let that happen. In our world, we can't let that happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Senator, the president said that he's going to be making a decision tonight or very shortly thereafter do you have any sense of how imminent this is. Could a decision and a strike come tonight? ERNST: I think a decision could come very soon and I know that the president will take the advice of his military commanders very seriously. The images that we see coming out of Syria are heartbreaking -- innocent men, women and children have been killed and thousands of others injured in this chemical attack. We need to take that seriously here in the United States, and I do believe that the president will act soon.
BURNETT: You know, and you talk about those images they are hard to watch. But it's important for people to see them to understand what we are talking about, to understand that these are human lives, these are children, these are people who have undergone horrific suffering in what appears to be a chemical attack. We know at least people are dead many more injured, perhaps the gas being so heavy that it sunk down into the basement where children and families were seeking refuge.
Senator, you know, you've served in the armed forces you've spent a long career doing so, you've spent time in the region. Do you support another strike?
ERNST: I do and I supported the president's strike last year about this same time as well. It is important that when these atrocities are committed that we act swiftly, and I believe the president will do that as a veteran, as the chairwoman of the emerging threats and capabilities, subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee. It is important to understand what is going on in Syria and then also, what are the connections with Iran and Russia? Those are also some of my concerns.
They continue to prop up the Bashar al-Assad regime and we can't have them involved in this region, especially when we see that they are not following through with getting rid of chemical weapons in Syria. We can't continue to see these types of deaths occur in an innocent civilian population.
BURNETT: Senator Ernst, thank you so much for your time tonight.
ERNST: Thanks, Erin. Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, Trump has called with great pride himself the king of debt. Is that how he's now running the United States of America?
My guest with the answer -- Trump's top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow.
[19:50:42] BURNETT: New tonight, President Trump proving he is the self-proclaimed king of debt. Trump's tax cuts and spending bill in part driving the debt level to the highest level since World War II. Now, this is according to the Congressional Budget Office which tonight predicts that America's debt is surging to reach about 105 percent of GDP by 2028.
In English, that means we will owe more money than we take in as a country than we create as a country, and it's shocking this is due to Trump's policies given what he said about Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You know, our national debt has doubled, doubled, since Obama became president. And a bad factor, we haven't done anything.
During his regime, during President Obama's regime, we doubled our national debt.
We owe $20 trillion dollars right now, doubled under Obama, and we haven't done anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Larry Kudlow, the White House chief economic adviser.
Larry, great to talk to you.
So, look that the forecast here -- more debt than economic output for the United States of America. In anyone's personal life, that would be a disaster.
LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Well, I don't know. A lot of people have debt. But let's take your thing. The CBO, God bless 'em, their various lowball economic growth estimates last I looked and I have not studied this report, but last I looked, they were slightly below 2 percent growth for the next 10 years. We don't believe that.
Our view is, you know, is lower tax rates, particularly business, create incentives to invest and work -- I think we're going to pick up productivity in wages. So, that gives you an entirely different baseline.
Now, I'm not saying the government is sufficiently limited. I don't think it is. I'd like to see a much more modest role for government. That's always been my view.
But, you know, I would take a somewhat larger deficit in order to finance long term growth in the economy, which is how I look at this.
BURNETT: So, you know what's interesting, Larry, in 2009, when the CBO said that the debt would reach 68 percent of GDP by 2019, and, of course, now it's saying 105 percent. So, we're way out of that that range. But in 2009, the prediction was 68 percent and, of course, you weighed in on it and here's what you said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KUDLOW: The families of America take a look at this budget and these humongous deficits and the doubling of the debt and so forth and the out-of-control spending, OK, you can't really deny, Bob Reich depends on economic terms, but it is a fact. People say -- this is like a pinball machine on permanent tilt, Steve Moore. This is like completely out of a line. This is the most unbalanced fiscal story coming out of Washington, really in our history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: What's changed, Larry?
KUDLOW: Well, I'll tell you what's changed. I mean --
BURNETT: Other than Reich and Moore switching sides?
KUDLOW: No, Bob Reich is a great friend of mine, so is Dave Moore. So, look, the trouble I had with the Obama program was it was all spending. It was all spending and most of it was not spending for infrastructure. Most of it was spending for welfare programs and social spending, that's not a growth prescription. It's just spending.
BURNETT: Trump just signed a spending bill.
BURNETT: Trump just signed a big spending bill. He said he didn't like and wouldn't do it again, but he signed it.
KUDLOW: Yes, well nothing like the Obama stimulus package which was, what a trillion dollars at the beginning. So, I'm just saying, look, I'm not happy with the government as it is now. I think spelling's got to come down.
As I said, we need more limited government, much more modest government. I agree with all that.
But I think again, with respect to the Obama years, if he had a growth program, A, we would all be more prosperous today, and, B, I wouldn't have fretted about the deficit. I mean, he had a chance to lower taxes, it was under discussion, but he never did.
BURNETT: So, in the context of your concern though that you've had in the past about humongous deficits, to use your words, out-of-control spending, my question is whether you have real faith in the man you work for and his belief on this issue? Because here is what he has said in the past, Larry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I'm the king of debt, I'm great with debt. Nobody knows debt better than me. I've made a fortune by using debt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Are you really on the same page with him, Larry, when it comes to this?
KUDLOW: Yes, of course. That's private-sector stuff, I'm not going to go there.
Look, it's spending that troubles me. [19:55:02] And I will just say this, Erin, we are looking at very significant what I will call enhanced rescission actions, which will lower spending by a significant amount. I can't give you details yet. It's under consideration.
BURNETT: So, this is something not yet to be rolled out, but you're saying that would curb the spending?
KUDLOW: Well, it would help. I don't know that it'll curb, not the end-all, but yes, it will help and will help too, you know, that lousy spending deal. President doesn't like the deal, as he said he wished he hadn't signed it, but he did.
BURNETT: But the reason that there's been a problem here obviously since the tax cuts right you got a jump and then there's been a challenge, and we all know part of the reason for that is tariffs and a mixed message on tariffs and whether they're going to be imposed and whether they're not.
The threats between the U.S. and China have a lot of farmers in -- they're really, right? I've spoken to a few of them. Here are two.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I grow more than a hundred thousand bushels a year, so a 50 cent reaction is $50,000. So, that's a big deal.
BURNETT: How much will these tariffs cost you, Tim?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, the U.S. sells $1 billion worth of products, pork products to China. That equates about $7 per heard marketed in the United States. So, our farm markets about 50,000 head a year. That would equate to about $35,000 for our farm.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETTT: So, Larry, I don't know if you could hear him clearly, but he said $35,000 for his farm. That was a hog farmer. The soybean farmer said $50,000 a year for his farm.
Look, this could be devastating for a whole lot of people. What do you say to them?
KUDLOW: You know, look, with all respect to that gentleman, I don't know how he arrives at that position, and I don't know what kind of economic growth projections he's got for the farm area. That's going to matter a lot.
Our secretary of the agriculture has said farmers are patriots, if it came down to that. But let me just go back for a second, there are no tariffs --
BURNETT: But what did you mean? (INAUDIBLE) saying the great patriots, so you're just going to -- (CROSSTALK)
KUDLOW: There are no tariffs. Let me say this, there are no tariffs at the present time. There are proposals. There are discussions, but there are no tariffs at the present time.
We'll see in a couple of months whether our tariff issues work out or not. We'll see if China responds. So far, they've responded unsatisfactorily.
But I hate to predict the future and I hate to see you and others make the case that the worst is going to happen. We don't know any of that just yet, on the economy or at the disposition of this conversation will be.
BURNETT: Larry, before we go, part of the reason I ask you this though is you've always been such an honest person and a person of integrity, and on a night when the market went up and then the president threatened $100 billion in additional tariffs on China, you were asked about it the next morning when did you find out, you took a long pause, we just play it so people can see it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: When did the president first tell you that he was going to announce these additional potential $100 billion in tariffs?
KUDLOW: Last evening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: You took that pause and you answered the truth, Larry. That's the kind of person that you are. But my question to you is --
KUDLOW: Thank you.
BURNETT: -- do you have confidence, do you have confidence that the president doesn't really want these tariffs, that he's going to listen to you, that he's going to do the right thing?
KUDLOW: Well, I'm not necessarily -- let me just back up again.
KUDLOW: Look, China has had unfair and illegal trading practices for two decades or longer, and particularly in the technology area, as you know, force technology give ups, unlawful transfers of intellectual power, we can't let that. You can't steal our intellectual authority.
So, something has to be done, OK? When you say tariffs, I don't know if it'll be tariffs, but the president is correct. He's got a backbone, prior administrations would not do anything with China.
And Trump is out there saying, wait a minute, we are going to unveil this and unmask this. If you negotiate with us, we may not need the tariffs. But Trump may use tariffs. I want to make that very clear. And I think he's in the right. China's broken all the laws of the trading and in WTO, you know that, too, Erin. Somebody in some place has got to say, we are the most innovative, entrepreneurial country in the U.S., but you can't just steal our technology. You can't just steal that. So, we have to do something about it.
So, I will tell you honestly -- yes, I heard the announcement. It was late that evening, OK, fine. It doesn't matter to me.
In terms of the overall program, I think Trump's on absolutely the right track here and at the end of this, I call it the end of the rainbow. There could be a lot more economic growth with more real free trading conditions which we don't have.
More growth, not just for the U.S. but for the whole world, including for China.
BURNETT: All right. Larry Kudlow, thank you very much. I appreciate your time tonight.
KUDLOW: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: And thank you all for joining us. Don't forget, you can watch the show anytime. You just have to go to CNNgo.
"AC360" with Anderson begins right now.