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Raid Sought Records of Payments to Women; Warrant Included Taxi Medallions; Trump's Anger over Raid; Signing off on Raid. Aired 1- 1:30p ET
Aired April 10, 2018 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:30] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington, 6:00 p.m. in London, 8:00 p.m. in Damascus. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We begin with breaking news.
CNN has learned that the search warrant used by the FBI included a search for documents related to two women who claim they had affairs with Donald Trump.
Let's quickly go to our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, who's doing serious reporting on this.
This all involves the raid on the home, the office and the hotel room of the president's long-time personal attorney Michael Cohen in New York.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, Wolf, we knew last night that a large part of the warrant was related to Stormy Daniels. And the president's conversations perhaps with Cohen about it, the payment, et cetera.
What we now know is that the warrant also wanted information on the records regarding Karen McDougal, who, as you recall, was interviewed -- was interviewed by Anderson Cooper on CNN. And that they also -- the warrant also referenced American Media, which is the company that paid Karen McDougal but never ran her story. It doesn't mention in particular the owner of that company, but it does mention the company itself.
And as we've -- as we've reported earlier, and Shimon knows a lot about this, the warrant also included some of Michael Cohen's business issues, right?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: That's right. Well, these are the taxi medallions. He's been an owner of taxi medallions. Those lucrative yellow taxi medallions in New York City. Apparently, we're told, that the FBI, during their search of this -- of the -- of his office, his home, perhaps even the hotel room, they were looking for documents relating to that business. Clearly -- it's not clear to us why they're seeking that. He is known
for this -- for running this kind of a business. But the fact that they're now looking for information regarding that just shows you -- and we've been told this -- how broad this investigation is.
BLITZER: The fact that they're going into these taxi medallions, which are really permits to own taxi cabs in New York City --
BLITZER: Suggests that they're really looking through his entire personal business venture.
PROKUPECZ: So what perhaps may have started as an investigation into Russia meddling, into collusion by the special counsel has clearly now broadened out because we know that the people who have come before the special counsel, people like Sam Nunberg, others, they have been asked questions about Michael Cohen's business dealings, about Stormy Daniels. Sam Nunberg has said that himself. So clearly what has started out as one thing has now expanded with the special counsel, with Bob Mueller referring these cases to the U.S. attorney now in New York.
BORGER: And, you know, what the president, I was told this morning by a source close to the president, what he's the most upset about on this, obviously Michael Cohen is a good friend and has been his personal attorney since 2006, but he sees this as a clear violation of attorney-client privilege.
You'll recall on Air Force One just recently, the president went out of his way to say, Michael Cohen is my attorney. He invited Michael Cohen to Mar-a-Lago. Made a show of having him there. And so now the president -- and you heard him yesterday in no uncertain terms say that he was furious about this because of attorney-client privilege. And the question we all have is, of course, where does this lead? Who does he blame? Does he blame Rod Rosenstein? Does he blame Jeff Sessions? Does he blame Bob Mueller? And what does he do with that? We know that he's furious.
PROKUPECZ: What's obvious here is that Rod Rosenstein is really in charge of all of this and that he's the one ultimately who decided that this needed to go to the southern district. He's the one that would have ultimately approved this. So the pressure kind of falls there.
You know, he could definitely be in the president's crosshairs now and the president may want to do something about that. But it's -- everything that Bob Mueller has done, that the special counsel has done, has to get approved by Rod Rosenstein.
BLITZER: And I want to bring in Kim and Julie in a moment.
But just to get back to the late development that they were looking for information not only involving the $130,000 hush money agreement that Michael Cohen worked out with Stormy Daniels' attorney --
BORGER: Right. Right.
BLITZER: But also the $150,000 hush money agreement, if it was a hush money agreement, that Karen McDougal, a former playmate, worked out with American Media, the parent company of "The National Enquirer." That was done in August of 2016, two months before the election. The agreement with Stormy Daniels was done 11 days before the presidential election.
BORGER: Before -- well --
[13:05:15] BLITZER: So they're presumably looking to see if these were violations of campaign finance law.
BORGER: Well -- well, and I've been told that in the warrant, election law was mentioned.
PROKUPECZ: And then, Wolf, the people who are running this investigation are public corruption investigators.
BORGER: Exactly. The FBI in New York and at the U.S. attorney in New York, these are public corruption investigators. So, presumably, yes. I mean this is some of this stuff.
BLITZER: And, clearly, Julie, the president is deeply, deeply irritated about what's going on.
I want to put on -- put up on the screen five men who are leading this investigation right now. Let's put it up on the screen if we have it.
There you can see Jeff Sessions. He's recused himself. He's the attorney general. You see Christopher Wray. He's the director of the FBI. Rod Rosenstein is the deputy attorney general. He's overseeing the investigation because Sessions recused himself. Geoffrey Berman is the interim U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York. He's taking a look at Michael Cohen. He was the one who authorized the raid on his home. And Robert Mueller, who's the special counsel.
Now, Julie, what do all five of these men have in common?
JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well --
BLITZER: They're all Republicans. I'm answering my own question. They're all Republicans --
DAVIS: Very good, Wolf.
BLITZER: And they were all named to their current positions by -- during the Trump presidency, during the Trump administration. So when the president says this investigation is a bunch of Democrats who are all biased and anti-Trump, these are all Republicans. They were all named by his people.
DAVIS: Well, absolutely. And we should point out that Mr. Berman, I believe, were -- my colleagues are reporting that he has also recused himself from this particular matter. But it's true that these are all Republicans. It's true that they're
all appointed during the Trump administration. It seems, talking to people around the president, that that almost makes it worse in his mind. He feels like he should be being protected by these people. This has been his beef with Jeff Sessions all along, that why isn't he protecting me from this? He's my attorney general. I'm the one who put him there. And he's made it very clear that that's how he sees these folks.
Now, he can argue, and the point has been made, that there are some people on Bob Mueller's team of investigators who maybe have a history of giving to Democrats. But what this -- what these raids did yesterday and what this whole sort of tangent of this investigation now does is make it much more difficult for the president to argue that this is all a witch hunt against him about Russia.
This is clearly a much broader case. They're delving into much broader matters. And they had to satisfy authorities in order to get the warrant to do these raids in Manhattan, that there was probable cause to believe that crimes had been committed here. So this is not -- it's very difficult to dismiss this all as a partisan witch hunt when you have this many tentacles out and you have, at the highest levels of the Justice Department, people saying, we sign off, there is probable cause to look into this stuff.
BLITZER: Kim, you're a former assistant U.S. attorney, former associate independent counsel during the Whitewater investigation. You're a professor of law at the University of Baltimore.
When the president tweets this morning, as he did, a total witch hunt, attorney-client privilege is dead, does he have any point at all?
KIM WEHLE, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: It's extraordinarily disturbing actually to hear that come out of the president of the United States. First of all, as was mentioned, there were so many hurdles that had to be overcome by career prosecutors, career FBI agents, people both from the southern district of New York, as well as from main Justice, as well as Rod Rosenstein, that there are a lots of procedures in place to ensure this is not a witch hunt. A witch hunt meaning just a purely political vendetta. That's not the case.
And I want to make a point with respect to the scope of the investigation. I mean Jeff Sessions is still in charge of the rest of the U.S. attorneys in the United States. So when we talk about some of the things that were within the scope of this search, we've heard maybe taxi medallions that Mr. Cohen owned, that would not -- that could potentially have been within the scope of the jurisdiction of the southern district of New York. For all we know, they already had investigations ongoing with Mr. Cohen, and maybe a piece of it was sent from Mueller, and those investigations would still fall under the authority of Mr. Sessions. So Mr. Sessions could be part of this whole scheme.
BORGER: Well --
WEHLE: The second -- just -- with respect to attorney-client privilege, to answer your other question, that is completely erroneous. The attorney-client privilege is not this blanket that covers every time you talk to your friend who's an attorney, everything is confidential. It has to be. For the purpose of giving and receiving legal advice, it has to be confidential. No third party involved. And there are exceptions. You can't use it to bury the body, so to speak, and then say, oh, I can't talk. So it can't be crime fraud related.
BORGER: And let me ask you this. You know, there's a question in legal circles, and you're the lawyer, I just play one, that -- why Mueller chose to do it this way. And, you know, there are some who say this is a total subterfuge and it's actually part of the investigation into the president. He's going to use Cohen, Michael Cohen, his good friend, try and roll him up and get to the president. There are other people who argue that it is separate and that, in fact, he said this is not within my jurisdiction and that I am doing this -- I came across this and I'm handing it over to you guys in New York because you can investigate it better than I can.
[13:10:23] PROKUPECZ: There's also indications from Michael Cohen's attorney that this case -- this was handed to the southern district based in part by -- because of Bob Mueller. He gave it to them. But they seemed like they had other information they had already been working on something regarding Michael Cohen. So perhaps maybe the special counsel just decided it's just better to send everything --
BLITZER: All right. Hold -- I quickly want to go to Jim Acosta, our chief White House correspondent, over at the White House.
You're getting more information on how angry the president is, Jim.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
He was furious last night. Apparently he is still stewing over this, still fuming over this, we're told. The president, obviously, is deeply upset about this raid in the offices and other areas related to his personal attorney Michael Cohen. This is obviously going to be the subject that dominates the briefing today with Sarah Sanders.
We should also report that the president was asked about some of this as he was meeting with the emir of Qatar just a short while ago. He's going to be saying goodbye to the emir here in the next several minutes. There's a possibility that we'll get another chance to shout a question at him. But so far he's not commenting on it, after that very long, extraordinary statement that he made last night, which was sort of a stream of consciousness inside the mind of the president as to how he's feeling about all of this.
But from all appearances, Wolf, he is very upset about this.
And we're also just getting a sense of the chaos that just keeps on churning over here at the White House. The president earlier this morning scrapping this trip to the Summit of the Americas down in South America that was supposed to take place later on this weekend. The White House said that the president is not going because he wants to plan to be available and able to respond to what happens in Syria. The White House all but telegraphing that the president apparently is going to take some kind of action in Syria later on this week.
And then, of course, there's the departure of the top national security aide over here at the White House, Tom Bossert, which is completely unrelated, obviously, to what's happening with the Mueller investigation as far as we know. But, I mean, it just goes to show you, even with this Michael Cohen raid and the president's furious response to it, there is so much other chaos churning over here at the White House that this is just adding to it. And, obviously, the president spending a lot of time behind closed doors watching TV coverage of all of this. That -- put all that together and you have some aides to the president behind the scenes who are sort of unsettled and uncertain about where things are going right now.
BLITZER: Yes, Tom Bossert, the homeland security adviser over at the White House, he's out, as you correctly point out. All of a sudden he's out. Others are out.
Stand by for a moment.
I want to bring in CNN political analyst, "New York Times" reporter Michael Shear. He's also doing, with his colleagues at "The New York Times," some very serious reporting on all of this.
So walk us through what you've learned, Michael, about the investigation now, the search warrants, not only looking into Michael Cohen's relationship with Stormy Daniels, the legal -- the legal relationship, the payment of $130,000 to her to keep her quiet 11 days before the election, but also Karen McDougal, $150,000 payment to her two months earlier by a close friend of Donald Trump, the owner of American Media, the parent company of "The National Enquirer."
MICHAEL SHEAR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right, Wolf. I mean I think, look, that -- the revelation that this investigation, whatever else might be in it, and it does seem to be a very broad investigation into Michael Cohen, but that it is focused, at least in part, on women and payments that were made to women who have alleged affairs with the president and in an effort to keep them quiet.
Now, you know, part of the thing here is that these issues have been political problems for the president for a long time, dating to before he was elected and during the campaign. You'll all remember, of course, the "Access Hollywood" videos and questions about -- swirling around the president about his treatment of women and involvement with women.
What this shows, though, is that these are moving from a political problem into a very serious potential legal problem for the president. And when Sarah Sanders comes to the briefing and sort of dismisses our questions about Stormy Daniels, about Karen McDougal and says, well, these have been asked and answered and the president's denied all of these, it becomes much harder to do that now because these are the subject of a -- of a public corruption investigation being led by federal officials in New York. And as you all have talked about already here in the last few minutes,
the -- this is not something that's being done by the president's political adversaries, his enemies, the Democrats. This is being approved and led and pursued by the president's own Justice Department and law enforcement team. So it makes it very hard. It's not just a political problem anymore, it's a legal one. And that's going to make it a lot tougher for the White House to dismiss.
[13:15:13] BLITZER: Well, just to be precise, Michael, are they looking to see what the relationship was, what communications may have taken place between Michael Cohen, the president's long-time personal attorney, and, for example, David Pecker, the owner of American Media, the parent company of "The National Enquirer," that led to that $150,000 payment to Karen McDougal.
SHEAR: I mean I think we're still learning a lot about the specifics of this. The owner that you mentioned was not named specifically, as far as we know, just the company itself. But we do know that one of the things that was seized was communications between Michael Cohen and his clients, among them Donald Trump. So you can surmise that part of what the government is looking to examine and what we know from our reporting is that the subject matter they're looking at are these payments that were made in one case by American media and in another case by Mr. Cohen himself in the hopes of keeping the stories of these affairs out of the press.
And so, you know, obviously the -- what the investigators are looking to see is what can they learn about why these payments were made, what was the motivation, who knew about the payments before they were made and after they were made. And all of that's going to be part of an investigation that becomes a bigger and bigger headache for the president the further it goes on.
BLITZER: And, Gloria, the -- at issue is whether those payments were legal.
BLITZER: If they violated campaign finance law because there's certain limitations on how much individuals can contribute to politicians.
BLITZER: These were huge sums.
BORGER: You know, and I also think there's an issue -- you know, he set up these LLCs, and I think he's done that numerous times. And I think there's --
BLITZER: Michael Cohen.
BORGER: Michael Cohen. And I -- and don't forget, these payments were red-flagged. The payment to Stormy Daniels was red-flagged by the bank. And he has apparently set up LLCs in a number of cases. I don't know if he did it in the Karen -- in the Karen McDougal case. I think that is of interest to the banks. And also don't forget, we have the president on the record denying
that he had had an affair. Now, I don't know if there's nothing illegal about lying to the media, but you do have that out there.
One more thing I want to add to what Michael is saying, is that I was told by a source, look, Michael Cohen has represented the president in dozens and dozens of legal cases over the years. Not just Stormy Daniels and not just Karen McDougal, but a whole host of things, and that potentially opens up the president as well.
BLITZER: You know, Julie, which raises the question whether there were other hush agreements that Michael Cohen worked out with other women over the years.
DAVIS: Well, it raises that question. It also raises a whole host of other questions about what other potential deals or matters that, you know, Donald Trump could be worried about, you know, being sort of caught up in this investigation.
The thing about taxi medallions that's intriguing to me is that they're not just about taxis, they're about money. And so if there was an enterprise going on that Michael Cohen was at the center of and Donald Trump knew about or helped direct any of that, I mean these are all issues that they will be looking into just by dent (ph) of having seized all of these records of Michael Cohen's. And I think that's what's most bothersome to the president, is this is going to open up a whole host of issues that now prosecutors will have a pretty clear look at.
PROKUPECZ: And there could also be, Wolf, where the FBI could come into some of this, is there's state lines, right? Stormy Daniels, there's allegations of intimidation, perhaps extortion here. All of that would fall under the purview of the FBI. So that could be some of what they could -- and those are much -- those are extremely serious charges when you start heading in that direction. But definitely all of that, it's fair to say, is part of what they're looking at.
BORGER: And does Michael Cohen have the president's tax returns? He's his lawyer. I don't know the answer to that.
BLITZER: Yes. Well, if the -- if Robert Mueller wants those tax returns, I'm sure he could go to the IRS and subpoena -- and subpoena those tax returns.
DAVIS: He probably has them. Yes, he probably has them by now.
BLITZER: He probably has those tax returns. Just guessing.
BORGER: But, I have no idea.
DAVIS: We don't know.
BLITZER: Everybody stick around. We're not going everywhere. We're following the breaking news, including of why Robert Mueller would have handed this investigation, at least part of the investigation, over to the southern district of New York. And take a look at this. Live pictures coming in from the White House.
We're going to have the first briefing from Sarah Sanders on these raids into Michael Cohen's home, his office, his hotel room. That's coming up a little bit later.
Much more right after this.
[13:23:45] BLITZER: We're learning new details about the FBI raid on a home, the hotel room, the offices of President Trump's long-time personal attorney Michael Cohen. But, still, many questions remain unanswered, exactly how this raid happened. We know the special counsel, Robert Mueller, actually handed off jurisdiction for at least part of the investigation to the southern district of New York, the acting U.S. attorney there. The big question now is why. Who had to sign off on these raids?
Joining us now to walk us through it, former assistant U.S. attorney Kim Wehle.
Kim, explain how this all unfolded.
WEHLE: So typically in this instance the prosecutor would go to a judge to get a warrant. That did happen. But because we're talking about information from a personal attorney, there's a whole additional set of procedures that kicked in under Department of Justice guidelines.
So, number one, it had to be -- it had to be kind of a last resort. Other ways of getting this information had to have been exhausted and the determination was made, we're not going that way.
Number two, the U.S. attorney in the southern district of New York had to clear it with either the acting attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, or in this instance, Jeff Sessions. We don't know which.
Number three, it had to go through the civil -- excuse me, the criminal division of the Department of Justice. Then again to the federal court for compliance with the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
[13:25:04] And in addition there has to be a separate team, a privileged team, that is sort of siphoned off from the actual investigators or prosecutors that would go through the materials and decide, listen, does a privilege protect these? If so, we're not going to let the investigative prosecutorial team even see it.
And then -- then they would turn the information over to the southern district prosecutors.
BLITZER: And so explain why Mueller would refer this to the southern district of New York, the acting U.S. attorney there, instead of handling it himself with his own team.
WEHLE: So, a couple things. Under the regulation that defines post Whitewater the scope of a special counsel's investigation, if new matters come to light, Mr. Mueller can go to Rod Rosenstein and say, hey, do you want me to cover this, do you want me to do it, or should -- do you want to send it to someone else? And so, in that instance, that might have been triggered, and Mr. Rosenstein would have made the decision to send it to the southern district of New York.
Alternatively, the southern district could have already had an investigation ongoing of Mr. Cohen or affiliates of Mr. Cohen and the decision was made under traditional Department of Justice guidelines that, listen, the southern district has more interest in this, they have more expertise because it occurred in New York. This is kind of their turf. This is their bailiwick. And the evidence is there. So we're just going to basically delegate this and spread the word and let Mr. Mueller focus on his core jurisdiction in the investigation.
BLITZER: And the fact that you're dealing with the president of the United States, you're dealing with his long-time personal attorney, the issue of attorney-client privilege comes up. All of these steps would have had to have been approved at the highest levels of the Department of Justice.
WEHLE: Absolutely, both because we're talking about someone as close to the president as he is, because he is an attorney, a personal attorney of the president, and because of, you know, the national political significance of this. And, don't forget, we do have a third party here, a federal judge, who made the determination that there was potential evidence of crimes in all three of these locations. So this is not a political person, this is someone, a magistrate, but his boss, his or her boss, would have life tenure and salary protection under the Constitution. Can't be thrown out on political reasons. That's the reason we have the federal judiciary that way because they are neutral.
BLITZER: An FBI raid -- a no knock FBI raid. That is a huge, huge deal to begin with.
BLITZER: Kim, thank you very much for that excellent explanation.
BLITZER: Coming up, I'll speak live with a Senate Democrat to get his reaction to the raid against Michael Cohen. CNN reporting that Democrats are huddling right now to plan for a potential, potential firing of Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general.
Plus, we're moments away from two major live events. The White House set to respond on the raid to the president's lawyer's home, his office, his hotel room.
And another event we're watching right now, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, he's getting ready to be grilled by lawmakers on -- up on Capitol Hill on that massive data breach.
Lots of news. We'll be right back.