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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
New Revelations Emerge on Michael Cohen Raid; Interview With Stormy Daniels Attorney Michael Avenatti. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired April 11, 2018 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Explain exactly what they are telling you.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Sure.
Jake, this is a pretty lengthy search warrant, as we understand it. Among the items in it was a request for communications related to the "Access Hollywood" tape, the now famous tape that went public in "The Washington Post" on the weekend of, I think it was October 27, 2016, that featured then candidate Trump -- actually, he wasn't a candidate then -- it featured then private citizen Trump doing an interview with Billy Bush of "Access Hollywood," where he made all kinds of stark, surprising remarks about women, that appeared to be bragging about sexual assault, and that were very worrisome to the president at the time.
This is seeking that, plus any potentially -- any communications around negative information related to the president, which appears to be any other stories that could have been problematic for the president.
What it looks like they're looking for is either evidence of pressure around the "Access Hollywood" tape or evidence of a payment of some kind. But it is among the more puzzling pieces of this.
TAPPER: And I guess the big question is, how might this tape, even if it has to deal with Michael Cohen trying to suppress it, how might this be relevant to this particular investigation?
Look, given that this particular investigation, remember, this is the Southern District of New York, as opposed to the Mueller investigation, even though it appears to have begun in part with a referral from Mueller.
But this is a broader investigation, it looks like, into Cohen, into roles that Cohen played with Trump and into Cohen's own finances. And it also asked, among other things, for information about any official or unofficial role that Michael Cohen on the campaign.
We know that Michael Cohen didn't have an official role in the campaign, but he certainly did raise money for it. This is more about Cohen. Now, whether the goal is to pressure Michael Cohen so he will at some point testify potentially against Donald Trump, I can't know what the investigators are going for. But this really is about a broader investigation about him.
TAPPER: According to your reporting, we know that FBI agents were now after evidence related to the "Access Hollywood" tape, records about Cohen's hush payment to Stormy Daniels, records on the deal between the "National Enquirer" publisher and Playboy Playmate of the year Karen McDougal.
And is there any information about how they could all be related beyond Michael Cohen trying to protect Donald Trump?
HABERMAN: There could be a number of different issues at play. And, again, I don't want to get ahead of the reporting and suggest we know more than we do.
But it does appear that it is about potential campaign finance violations, whether things were in-kind contributions, wire transfers, bank transfers, and then I think a pattern therein. That is what you are seeing asks related to "Access Hollywood," related to Karen McDougal, related to Stormy Daniels.
They are looking at a broad spectrum on how these things weave together I think as part of a larger package.
TAPPER: All right, Maggie Haberman from "The New York Times," great reporting. Thanks so much for joining us.
HABERMAN: Thank you.
TAPPER: So how might the infamous tape tie into the investigation into the alleged hush money and cover-up. Stormy Daniels' will join me to respond next.
TAPPER: We're back with the breaking news, "The New York Times" reporting that FBI agents who raided President Trump's person attorney Michael Cohen's office were also looking for records tied to the now infamous "Access Hollywood" tape and documents and evidence that Cohen tried to bury other potentially damaging information about Mr. Trump during the 2016 campaign.
That's on top of any information related to the alleged hush money payout to porn star Stormy Daniels.
And joining me now is Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels' lawyer.
So, what is your reaction to the news that the "Access Hollywood" tape and information about that is also part of what the FBI is looking for?
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: Well, Jake, I'm surprised, quite honestly, as it relates to that angle, but I'm not surprised that they are looking at the FEC violations and the other issues.
Those are the same issues that we have been talking about now for the better part of five weeks. I do want to comment. One of your last panelists seemed to downplay the seriousness of potential FEC violations.
I would like to remind your viewers, we're talking about felonies. Felonies. Not misdemeanors. Not some bogus charge. These are very serious matters.
And so any effort to downplay a potential felony or felonies associated with the FEC, I think that is a dead-bang loser. These are very serious matters.
TAPPER: Do you think there could be any connection between your client, Stormy Daniels, and what was said on the "Access Hollywood" tape, or might this be another kind of possible cover-up, money that should have been declared as an in-kind contribution to the Trump campaign being used to suppress information?
AVENATTI: Well, my speculation -- and it is just that, but my speculation relating to this "Access Hollywood" tape is that it may lead to additional thuggery conduct on behalf of Michael Cohen or others.
If these individuals knew about this tape and threatened individuals, like they did my client and others, then that may be what they are looking at, attempts to intimidate people and keep that "Access Hollywood" tape under wraps. That is my best guess.
TAPPER: I want to get to that intimidation in a second, but I do want to talk about this breaking news that today a judge ordered your legal team and Michael Cohen's attorneys to meet and work out your differences by Friday.
What might that mean?
AVENATTI: Well, that is not exactly what he ordered. What he ordered was for us to conduct what is called a meet and confer, which is a common occurrence relating to various motions.
We're supposed to have a meeting, talk through the issues, and see if we can reach agreement.
Hope springs eternal, but I doubt at this stage -- the two sides are pretty well staked-out as to their position. We want discovery. We want an expedited jury trial.
We want to avoid a secret arbitration hidden from the American people. And the other side feels just the opposite. But we're going to obviously comply with Judge Otero's order. We're going to do what is required of us.
And if we are not able to work out our differences, we are going to have a hearing in May, and, hopefully, the judge will make a decision at that time in our favor.
TAPPER: You say you and your client are cooperating with federal investigators. What does that mean? Have you met with investigators? What do they want to know?
AVENATTI: Well, I'm not at liberty, Jake, to get into the details of that.
But what I will say is, we're going to do everything in our power to cooperate and be as user-friendly and responsive as possible to the Southern District of New York office of the U.S. attorney.
It is an exceptional office, as you know, some of the best and brightest U.S. attorneys in the nation. It is an aggressive office. And I'm confident that with, that office at the helm, they are going to get to the bottom of what happened here.
TAPPER: You said that there is a sketch drawing of the person who allegedly threatened your client. And you said you would release it.
But this morning on CNN, you said you wouldn't be releasing it because of events that happened over the last 48 hours. Cohen's office was raided during that time period.
How does that impact the release of this sketch of somebody who allegedly threatened your client?
AVENATTI: Well, my client met with Lois Gibson, who is the foremost forensic artist in the world. She happens to be based in Houston, Texas.
She met with her at length, and this composite sketch was created. We were on the verge of releasing it in connection with a reward that we were going to call for. There is some information that has come to light in the last 48 hours that has caused us to pause the release of that. We were requested not to release it at this time.
And we're going to follow that request. I don't know how long the delay is going to be. It ultimately may not need to be released, because we may have a positive identification. But we are not in a position to announce that quite yet.
TAPPER: So, just to clarify here, somebody said, please don't release this and there might be a reason because it is clear who the person is and we might find out who the person was? There might be -- was the person who asked you not to release it with law enforcement?
AVENATTI: I don't want to get into that. I'm not at liberty. I would like to get into the details of who asked us to do that. I'm not at liberty to do so, Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Michael Avenatti, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.
AVENATTI: Thank you.
TAPPER: The White House just giving an unexpected answer about Russia and military confrontation.
That is next.
[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Moments ago, the White House said all options are on the table when it comes to confronting Syria even if that might mean tangling with Russia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the White House prepared for the possibility of direct military engagement with Russia?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: Once again, all options are on the table and I don't have any further announcements about --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to be clear --
SANDERS: It sounds like all options are on the table and a final decision hasn't been made but we'll keep you posted once it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Earlier today, President Trump stunned many even in his own party when he tweeted "Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria, get ready Russia because they will be coming nice and new and "smart." You shouldn't be partners with a gas killing animal who kills his people and enjoys it." Let's bring in CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. And Barbara, the White House further called out Russia in the briefing just moments ago.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: They did, indeed, Jake. The spokeswoman, Sarah Sanders, you know, remember, you just heard her say she has nothing to say on a decision but making it clear a decision it going to be made one way or the other, our understanding the person in this deciding on when, if, how, he wanted to strike inside of Syria. The big question now is can they lockdown all the intelligence and get everything lined up on a fairly quick basis. She had more to say about this at the White House briefing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what has changed over the last handful of hours from when the Defense Secretary said we're still assessing the intelligence and now to where you clearly point the finger at Russia and Syria?
SANDERS: As I just stated to both Jeff and Jonathan, Russia holds some responsibility in the fact they guaranteed that Syria wouldn't use chemical weapons again and they did. They've also hold some responsibility in the fact that they have the six U.N. resolutions that they vetoed to help protect Assad. Both of those things lie at Russia's feet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STARR: You are seeing a lot of signaling here from the White House directly to Vladimir Putin that they are holding him responsible. They're going to lockdown what kind of chemical agent they really believe was used here so they could speak to the world about this if and when the air-strikes happen, of course, to try and prove their case but making it very clear. And what they are really telling Vladimir Putin, missiles are coming and get your troops, get your equipment out of the way. We're not interested in striking you. We hold you responsible but they will be going after Assad and whatever has been used to conduct those chemical attacks. Jake?
TAPPER: All right, Barbara Starr, thanks so much. We're back in continuing the conversation with the panel. Jen Psaki, former Communications Director for the Obama White House, isn't Sarah Sanders fundamentally correct, Russia is responsible for protecting as Assad, Russia did guarantee that there would be no more chemical weapons, and any confrontation with Syria might also include Russia.
JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I agree on the first two absolutely and I think they've been a bad actor who should have been held accountable longer with more implementation of sanctions, more unification of the international community which only the United States can do. I think the issue that I have and I think others will have with her comments and the tweet of Trump today is that it's treating military action very flippantly. Military action is a very serious decision. If he takes a strike -- limited strikes on Syria, I don't think there is an outcry of opposition to that -- I could be wrong -- but even from Democrats. But it is going to an entirely new place to threaten military action against Russia as well. There are a lot of things that we can do, no question they are a bad actor. They haven't even done all the things that we can do.
[16:50:08] TAPPER: David Urban, you were once in the U.S. Army, do you agree that this is kind of flippant?
DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I don't think the President is flippant. I spent time with the President. I think he takes the military very seriously. He takes sending our young men and women into harm's way extremely seriously. I know that from discussing it with him on numerous occasions so I take umbrage with that and that notion. And I think what he's saying to the Russians is if you had a hand in this and we can find it, we're going to punish you. You're going to be punished with -- in a very serious way. And you know, we complain about the President not being tough enough on Russia, and now the President is too tough on Russia. You know, you can't have it both ways. In this case, they've done some really horrific things, crossing a red line in the sand that was your former -- your former boss' red line in the sand and which was crossed and never responded to. This President did it once, he's going to do it again with a bigger hammer this time.
TAPPER: Jen, do you want to respond to that?
PSAKI: Well, I would say the President's pick for National Security Adviser John Bolton also oppose military action, and part of the issue we had was Congress couldn't get their act together and act on it at the time. And there were people like him who are out there advocating against it. There was a lot of politics involved. As I've said, I think on Jake's show, I think the targeted military action in Syria, there are many people I worked with in national security team that didn't speak out against them, in fact, supported them last year. It doesn't have to be a partisan thing. But I think there's a difference --
TAPPER: You actually went farther to your credit. I mean, you said you that you wish President Obama had done that.
PSAKI: Sure. But -- and then I think many other people also said that. But I think there is a difference. It doesn't have to be either/or military action is a very serious issue and it doesn't have to be you have to have a more nuanced answer when you go to the podium.
URBAN: Nobody is talking about putting troops in red square here. That's not what's being discussed. This is still -- there's a wide range of options that will be presented to this President and with General Dunford, Secretary Mattis, lots of folks --
PSAKI: But David, we don't know that. When they say --
URBAN: No, I'm sure we do. Of course, they do.
PSAKI: You may know that because you spent time at the White House today, but the American public and other people don't know that and it's important to be specific and take away options.
TAPPER: Mary Katharine, I want to ask you a question, speaking about having things both ways. President Trump both as a just a regular guy, regular business developer and as a candidate said one of his hallmarks was going to be you don't telegraph when you are going to take military action. I could -- I could list 15 tweets for you right now, but just take my word for it, they're there. He is telegraphing military action. Is this hypocrisy, is this the world looks different from the Oval Office, how do you see it?
MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I wish it was the world looks different from the Oval Office. I'm not very convinced that there is like a cohesive strategy and that is the reason that he's doing this. Look, he could telegraph or he cannot. And if he doesn't, there needs to be a rational and there needs to be discussion with all this guys and there needs to be a case made for American interests if this gets a little deeper involved. And my issue with the former administration is not so much whether to go in or not because that's a huge decision and it doesn't have to be partisan, but it was the victory lap about the idea that we had gotten all of the chemical weapons out, out of John Kerry's deal and when most, of course, most of us knew and said that that was naive and that's not going to be the case. And it turns out that is not the case. We still have this intractable problem that is really tricky and I'm afraid that we are not having the right discussions especially with Russia being so -- URBAN: The Assad regime, the Assad family, this isn't something new,
right? His father Hafez al-Assad, you know, wiped out the entire city of Hama in 1982. So to think that somehow this is going to go away, this is a bad actor, bad regime. You know, it's not going away any time soon. We should you know, really think about changing the leadership there.
TAPPER: I do wonder though if there is a boy who cried wolf quality to this. Listen to President Trump about 48 hours ago talking about the decision he was going to make.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are meeting with our military and everybody else and we'll be making some major decisions over the next 24 to 48 hours.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: That is about now. I mean, there should be a decision made. And one of the things I heard a Republican member of Congress say was that he's more concerned with the fact that there might not actually be follow-through from the tweet this morning than the actual tweet, the idea that the President does a lot of bluster on Twitter and doesn't actually follow through.
PSAKI: Yes, and I think and we've seen this as a pattern in how he's been out there on national security issues without really consulting with all of the right people about -- internally about how this would work, how the military would implement it, how the State Department would approach it, and that's a problem because either -- it is hard to deliver on it. Your allies may be aren't with you as you need them to be. Maybe the military can't deliver on it. If he does limited strikes they certainly could but there are other options that he's throwing out they may not be able to deliver.
URBAN: So the President made the comment surrounded by you know, his war cabinet for lack of a better word, right? So I doubt that he was ill-informed at that point in time. And you don't know, a decision may be made. Maybe we're waiting for zero visibility, no moon. We don't know that the tactical and operational aspects of this that are being laid in place as we speak. I mean, ships are steaming to certain places, things have to be moved so I don't know. The President may be in fact 100 percent truthful, we just don't know in that case.
[16:55:15] TAPPER: Everyone stick around. We got a lot more to discuss after this quick break.
TAPPER: So it turns out we're all out of time. So thank you so much to our great panel. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. That is it for THE LEAD, I now turn you over to one Mr. Woif Blitzer, he's right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching. WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, Access Hollywood records.