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Report: Trump's Anger Over Raid Surpasses Previous Tantrums; Reports Are Trump Wants to Fire Mueller And Rosenstein; Senate Dems Huddling for Potential Rosenstein Firing; FBI Targeted Records of Payments to Porn Star. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired April 10, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: This is CNN breaking news. Hello, I'm Jake Tapper. This is CNN special live coverage of one of the more consequential days of the Trump presidency. We're going to see the first White House press briefing since the FBI executed a raid on the President's personal lawyer and long-time confidante Michael Cohen. There is breaking news on that front. CNN has learned the FBI was seeking information not just about adult film actress Stormy Daniels but also about another woman. We're going to have much more on that in a moment.
CNN is also learning according to people close to the President, his rage over the raid has surpassed any other anger he has shown over Robert Mueller's investigation. That is according to sources close to the President. Agents seized documents from three locations pertaining to Michael Cohen, his office, his home and his hotel room. And after an epic tirade in front of cameras, today President Trump vented on Twitter saying, quote, attorney/client privilege is dead and, all caps, a total witch hunt. The raids on Cohen clearly occupying President Trump's mind even as he is considering launching military action against Syria over the chemical attack there.
Also, just a short time from now, lawmakers are set to grill Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over the massive data scandal that involves a firm linked to the Trump campaign in 2016. Let us begin with the breaking news on the FBI raid. I'm joined by CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger. And CNN crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupesz.
Gloria, tell us what you've learned since this all broke yesterday.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: We've learned a bit more about the search warrant against Michael Cohen. A large chunk of it involved Stormy Daniels and now we learned that a chunk of it involved Karen McDougal, the "Playboy" playmate who had an affair with Donald Trump and we also know that a reference the media company, Atlantic Media, which bought her story --
TAPPER: American Media.
BORGER: American Media, sorry, American Media which bought her story and then just deep sixed it and never ran it and also there were other issues involved and Shimon knows about this, that included his previous business. TAPPER: Shimon, I guess one of the things that a lot of people
watching this might think is it's not against the law necessarily to give people money to keep quiet about something. What would necessitate a raid like this? Is there any informed speculation or information you have about that?
SHIMON PROKUPESZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: THE only thing I can say about that is it's the FBI's public corruption unit in New York along with the southern district of New York that is looking into this as part of this investigation. That is something telling, as someone who has covered that unit the before, they've done a lot of cases involving politics in New York, election violations, campaign finance violations. It could be somewhere in that world.
The other thing going on here is Michael Avenatti certainly Stormy Daniels attorney has made claims of intimidation, saying some of this happened in California, some payments made across state lines, so this is why the FBI probably would look into this. That the intimidation stuff and extortion stuff all would fall under the FBI and that could be what they were looking at, along with whether there was any kind of campaign finance violation. Remember. the payment to Stormy Daniels was made so close to the elections. So perhaps that is something we're looking into.
We always expected, certainly, the folks on our team here, that the FBI would at some point come into this and have to look at this for many reasons. When have your accusations being made against the President, first of all, they have to make sure no one is trying to extort the President. That's an aspect of this as well perhaps. But certainly, now everything indicates based on the aggressive tactics the FBI has taken here, yesterday morning going to Michael Cohen's home, law office, hotel.
They somehow knew where he was staying. How did they know where he was staying? So certainly, many aggressive tactics here indicate that Michael Cohen now is part of this investigation. And they're interested in a lot of his old business dealings, not just having to do with Stormy Daniels and other payments but his taxi medallions now also seem to be something the FBI is interested in.
TAPPER: His what?
PROKUPESZ: Taxi medallion.
TAPPER: Explain what you mean by that.
PROKUPESZ: In New York City the yellow cabs, it used to be you'd pay a lot of money, it would be lucrative to own these taxi medallions and for whatever reason the FBI is now looking at this, his business dealings in these lucrative taxi medallions. Some of this dates back to 2002. It's not clear why this would be something the FBI would all of a sudden now take a look into. There have been some reports about financing, about money, Ukrainian money, different overseas money that may have gone into this. Maybe that's why. But it really just shows you how broad and how big of a scope the investigation now is into Michael Cohen. [14:05:00] TAPPER: And Gloria just to clarify one other point.
Michael Cohen is staying at a hotel because his home is being remodeled, renovated.
BORGER: Remodeled apparently. The thing with the personal businesses is very interesting because don't forget, in addition to that, they also have documents that deal with dozens and dozens of cases in which he represented the President over many, many years. And I was talking to an attorney who knows something about this and said that could be very worrisome for the President. That's why the President has been saying, you know, this violates attorney/client privilege and the President went out of his way as we discussed yesterday on Air Force One to say Michael Cohen is my attorney. But now they have documents that the President feels very strongly they should not have and that is why he's so angry at someone like Rod Rosenstein or Jeff Sessions because Rosenstein had to sign off on this.
PROKUPESZ: There are safeguards in place, the FBI and Department of Justice. They have a clean team. They come in the FBI takes everything, everything within their scope that's referenced in the search warrant. They take those materials, go to clean team, give them that information, they review it and disseminate, give it to the investigators and attorneys on the case to use for whatever case it is that they're building.
If it's not part of this investigation, technically they're not supposed to be able to see it. So, while the President may have these concerns that this investigation has grown so large and now the FBI has documents they shouldn't have, there are safeguards in place you would expect the FBI and Department of Justice to follow. And they have that team here. They have a separate team that's just looking over all the documents and is only supposed to distribute what it relevant to this investigation.
TAPPER: We'll talk more about this and the extraordinary action of the FBI raiding the office, home and hotel room of a lawyer, very out of the ordinary. It's not that it never happens but it's rare. I want to go live to the White House. Pamela Brown is there. We know that President Trump is fuming over the FBI raid.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. His anger has reached a boiling point. The President views this act, the FBI raiding three place attached to his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, as crossing the line. Speaking to sources around the President, they're shaken by this act by the FBI seeing a strong signal with the search warrant involving payments made to two women who allegedly had affairs with the President.
I am told that the President is really redirecting his ire as he has before but seemingly more so than ever, Jake, as his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who he said once again yesterday was a terrible mistake for him to recuse himself. His Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein approved "The New York Times" is saying approved, signed off on the FBI executing this search warrant.
He also seems to send a warning a shot to Robert Mueller yesterday, saying many people saying he should fire Robert Mueller. We will see what happens. Of course, nothing has happened on that front yet. The President has been upset with this probe before. But this has hit a tipping point. We saw the President tweet just today venting on Twitter saying it is a total witch hunt, saying that attorney/client privilege is dead.
Jake, all of this is going on, all of this is sort of taking the President's attention away from something else very big on the President's plate and that of course is how is the U.S. going to respond to the apparent chemical weapons attack in Syria. That is something that is still very much top of the agenda. The President trying to decide with his national security team how to respond to that. In fact, just this morning it was announced by the White House that the President is cancelling his trip to South America to monitor the response to Syria -- the U.S. response on the chemical weapons attack.
So, a lot going here at the White House, press briefings starting here shortly, Jake. You can imagine a lot of questions will be focused on the raid of the President's personal attorney.
TAPPER: You mentioned the President's national security team obviously a big part of the deliberations into what to do, if anything, militarily, diplomatically, economically having to do with the chemical weapon strike that witnesses say happened in Syria. Amidst all this sturm and drang and everything else going on, a shake- up at the White House on the national security team, the homeland security adviser Tom Bossert has been shown the door. Why?
BROWN: That's right. As you know, it is John Bolton's first day was yesterday as the new national security adviser to the President and this is seen as him wanting to come in and create his own team and pushing Bossert out, so he can bring someone else in to take his place, you know, as he remakes his entire team. Certainly, though, as the President is going to make this big decision on Syria, it does raise questions.
[14:10:00] Because Tom Bossert was viewed as someone who the President really liked. That of course is something that will likely be asked during the press briefing, what the President thinks of this decision of Tom Bossert essentially being pushed out from his role as homeland security advisor.
TAPPER: Tom Bossert, very well respected, a veteran of the Bush White House, also somebody who had been very loyal to President Trump, defending him publicly for the whole presidency up until now. The White House is about to face some questions on all of this and we are going to bring you that briefing live. Also breaking news on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers huddling right now for a what-if scenario. What if the President decides to fire Special Counsel Mueller or the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, one top Republican calling such a move suicide. We are going to go live to Capitol Hill next stay with us.
[14:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: As President Trump fumes over this FBI raid and considers his
next move, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are warning him not to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY, (R) IOWA: I think it would be suicide for the President to fire him. I think the less the President says about this whole thing, the better off he will be. And I think that Mueller is a person of stature and respected and I respect him. Just let the thing go forward.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There would be some serious repercussions.
SEN. JONI EMST, (R) IOWA: The President will say what the President wants to say but I do think it's important we continue with the investigation.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He didn't rule out firing him.
EMST: I don't think he would do that. I don't.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D) CONNECTICUT: Firing Mueller would provoke a constitutional conflagration of historic magnitude, even dwarfing the Saturday night massacre where Nixon's removal was at stake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Reporting from Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. Joining me now CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash, what are you hearing about lawmakers who might be preparing for a what-if situation?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. I have just been kind of walking around up here today and talked to a Senate Democratic source who had just come off the Senate floor who said that there was a group of them huddling about just that, Jake, about a what-if scenario.
Not so much about firing Robert Mueller, the sort of buzz and the feeling up here is -- the concern, frankly, on both sides of the aisle, is the concern about the President potentially firing Rod Rosenstein. Rod Rosenstein you see there is of course the Deputy Attorney General but the guy because Jeff Sessions recused himself in charge of Mueller and effectively this investigation but also as it pertains to what the President is fuming about right now, somebody who gave the OK, apparently for the FBI raid on the President's attorney's house and office and so forth. So, what I'm told Democrats have been doing in the what-if scenario is kind of banding around and talking about what they would have to do if this happened, to be prepared. Things like demanding that documents be preserved if there is a domino effect.
The other thing that they are saying privately is they hope that Republicans who have been saying some of the things that we just heard that Manu got from Senators warning that if this actually happens that this would be a bipartisan effort to try to preserve this investigation, if in fact the President does fire Rod Rosenstein or even Jeff Sessions. There is definitely a sense, Jake, of anticipation up here on Capitol Hill of feeling that something could happen. Not that they know. People up here know well enough to know that the President is very unpredictable but there is certainly an anticipatory vibe up here.
TAPPER: Dana Bash, thank you so much. Gloria Borger is back also with CNN legal analyst Laura Coates, CNN legal and political commentator Ken Cuccinelli. And CNN contributor Norm Eisen who served as the Obama White House ethics czar.
Gloria, let me start with you. If Mueller is fired, what do you think would happen Capitol Hill would do? How would Republicans in the Senate or the House respond?
GLORIA BORGER, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You just heard Chuck Grassley.
TAPPER: Who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
BORGER: It would just explode the place. I think right now what is more likely and Dana was saying this and from our reporting is Rosenstein or Sessions or both at this point, I was told by a source that as of a few hours ago and this is how we calibrate these things these days, as a of a few hours ago the President was told to sort of calm down and was not about to fire any of those people because they believe they now have a good case to make and they believe that Rosenstein is a compromised person, that --
[14:20:00] TAPPER: The Trump people believe this? Compromised in what way?
BORGER: That he is an essential witness in this case because of course he wrote the memo to fire Comey, that Mueller has not yet interviewed him, therefore has kept him away from this and that they believe Mueller can say and you guys are lawyers here so you can tell me, that if he were to be -- that as long as he's not interviewed, Mueller can sort of do whatever he wants.
I mean, their feeling is and I will quote from somebody who said Mueller is now unregulated. There are no checks and balances because Rosenstein can never say no to him. If he says no to him, he's disqualified at Mueller's whim.
TAPPER: The idea being that because Mueller is also looking into an obstruction of justice charge perhaps against President Trump. He is at least exploring the idea and Rosenstein played a role in the firing of Comey --
BORGER: Big role.
TAPPER: And it's true a lot of people have been questioning why Rosenstein isn't recused because of that, it's a legitimate question, in other words the idea being he is in theory doing everything Mueller wants him to do because he's afraid of being charged?
BORGER: Or he's afraid of Mueller saying to him you have to do whatever I say you need to do. In other words, Mueller becomes the boss of Rosenstein. And they've made the case against the FBI and all the rest. You guys are lawyers. I don't know if that sticks but they are challenging the ethics of all of this.
KEN CUCCINELLI, CNN LEGAL AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, there's a lot of material to work with there. This lawyer raid here has absolutely nothing to do with Russian collusion, nothing. Can't possibly. So, let's say it comes up --
TAPPER: Which is why it was farmed out to the southern district to New York.
CUCCINELLI: But it wasn't farmed out. They wouldn't do it. Southern District of New York U.S. attorney is not handling this.
TAPPER: Because he is recused from Michael Cohen.
CUCCINELLI: So then use another one. It should have been moved out of the special investigations purview. It's completely outside of any arguable jurisdiction related to the charge that Mueller originally got. Gloria is right about the sort of circumstantial reversal here. It looks like Mueller is using that, not being a sincere, best actor.
TAPPER: Norm and then you, Laura.
NORM EISEN, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE ETHICS CZAR: Jake, I think these conflicts charges, they've thrown one after another in the White House at Bob Mueller, starting with claiming that he was conflicted. And from beginning to end, including, Gloria, the claims about Mueller pulling the puppet strings on Rosenstein, they're silly. I do conflicts for a living. Bob Mueller does not have a conflict. We've heard these complaints about privileged documents before because some privileged documents were turned over from the Trump transition. It's a total make weight. And the same is true here.
Rosenstein will not need to recuse himself until -- I've litigated these issues -- until he's put on the stand at trial. That is a moment at which he will vanish. I'm not buying it. It's part of the search and destroy, scorched earth mission of Trump to attack his inquisitors but the truth is that Bob Mueller is one of the men of great integrity and you heard it from Chuck Grassley, who doesn't dole out these complaints lightly, so I have faith in him.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I'm simply also not persuaded by this marionette theory. The reason is because you have an actual codified rule of how you could fire Mueller. It has to be for dereliction of duty and good cause. And even if that were to take place, Congress can have hearings to figure out whether or not just cause or due cause is actually warranted.
It's not the end of an investigation if you fire Mueller. It begins in the congressional arm of all of these things. And also, this notion of whether or not it's Mueller playing the figure leaf when it comes to the SDNY. It's in the interest of the narrative you're speaking about, Gloria, to have these two things conflated.
[14:25:00] As if it's not the prerogative of Mueller to go ahead and have Mueller investigate. And I agree with you. This would be almost so damned if you do, damned if you don't scenario, Ken, if he were to investigate and have a raid on Michael Cohen's home and office and hotel room. But what he did is he did a referral based on a different theory and someone else had to sign off on it. A magistrate as well the criminal division's deputy as well as probably Jeff Sessions. So, in order to believe in this marionette theory, and leave all of the strings are being pulled, one would have to believe it was the "Murder on the Orient Express" thing going on and everyone was in on it.
CUCCINELLI: Spoiler alert.
COATES: This was not the case.
CUCCINELLI: Spoiler alert.
BORGER: Talking points are coming out. They are saying this is why you haven't seen Rosenstein called before anybody yet to testify because the moment he does that, then he has to go away.
TAPPER: Then he has to recuse himself. Stick around. We are awaiting two major events about to start. The White House is holding its first briefing since that controversial FBI raid. Also, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg expected to be grilled by lawmakers on capitol hill. Back in a moment.
[14:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) MAJORITY LEADER: Mueller should be allowed to finish his job. I think that's the view of most people in Congress. I haven't seen clear indication yet that we needed to pass something to keep him from being removed because I don't think that's going to happen. And that remains my view, that I don't think he's going to be removed from this office. He shouldn't be removed from the office. He should be allowed to finish the job.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK: Any attempt to remove Rod Rosenstein will create the exact same constitutional crisis as if you fired Special Counsel Mueller. Don't do it. Do not go down this path.
(END VIDEO CLIP)