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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Washington Post: Comey Compares Trump to the Mob, "Lying About All Things, Large and Small"; CNN Exclusive: White House Prepping Talking Points to Undermine Rosenstein's. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired April 12, 2018 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[20:00:07] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

Where to begin? The president says a decision on striking Syria is coming, in his words, fairly soon.

Also, and this could be very big, about those raids on Michael Cohen, the president's personal attorney, new reporting that the president's allies are worried the feds may have seized taped recordings made by Mr. Cohen.

That, and this, as well, another alleged Trump-related hush payment comes to light. This one, to a former Trump doorman who told a story about an affair Mr. Trump had with his housekeeper and allegations he fathered a child with her.

Also tonight, CNN exclusive reporting on White House preparations to undermine Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and the Republican Party has just launched a major war against fired FBI Director James Comey in response to his upcoming tell-all memoir.

Then, late today, details from that book began emerging, some revealing, some outright salacious, remarkable scenes from meetings with President Obama and especially President-elect and later President Trump at some of the most critical moments in recent history, including the Russian attack on American democracy.

Our Randi Kaye joins us now with all the latest.

So, what have you learned about the details in this book?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, according to "The Washington Post," in his new book, James Comey says Donald Trump brought up the intelligence dossier compiled a while back by a former British intelligence officer. That dossier alleged that Russians had a so-called pee tape of prostitutes that Trump paid to urinate on each other and his bed in a Russian hotel suite. Comey reportedly writes in the book that Trump wanted Comey to investigate the allegations.

Comey reportedly writes, he brought up what he called the golden showers thing. Adding that it bothered him if there was even a 1 percent chance his wife Melania thought it was true. The paper said that Comey goes on to write, in an apparent play for my sympathy, Trump said that he has a beautiful wife and the whole thing has been very painful for her, he asked what we could do to lift the cloud. The former FBI director reportedly writes that Trump offered varying

explanations and a phone call as to why there was no such tape. I'm a germaphobe. There's no way I would let pee on each other around me. No way -- Anderson.

COOPER: I'm not sure how to follow that.

KAYE: It's a tough one.

COOPER: But there are a lot of Director Comey's personal observations of President Trump in the book as well.

KAYE: Absolutely. Comey does not mince words, writing that when he met Trump at the pre-inauguration intelligence briefing, the 6'3" president-elect looked shorter than he did on television. His face appeared slightly orange, Comey reportedly writes, with bright white half moons under his eyes, where I assumed he placed small tanning goggles, and impressive by coifed bright blond hair which upon close inspection looked to be all his.

"The Post" says Comey observed the president's hands, writing, I made a mental note to his check hand size. It was smaller than mine, but did not seem unusually so -- Anderson.

COOPER: What does Comey say about how President Trump runs the White House?

KAYE: This is interesting. "The Washington Post" says that Comey describes it like this, writing that the president built a cocoon of alternative reality that was he busily wrapping around all of us. "The Post" says Comey describes Trump as a congenital liar, an unethical leader, devoid of human emotion and driven by personal ego.

Now, according to the paper, Comey likens his interactions with the president to flashbacks to my earlier career as a prosecutor against the mob. The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things large and small.

The result, "The Post" says Comey writes is the forest fire that is the Trump presidency -- Anderson.

COOPER: And just getting back to that dossier, what does Comey say about how he was chosen to tell the president about it initially?

KAYE: Well, Comey and James Clapper reportedly briefed president Obama about it first. Then, according to the book, Obama asked, well, who plans to tell Donald Trump? Clapper reportedly said that Comey would. According to the paper, Comey writes in the book that Obama turned his head to his left and looked directly at me, he raised and lowered both of his eyebrows with emphasis and then looked away.

Comey reportedly wrote that he thought Obama's, quote, Groucho Marx eyebrow raise was subtle humor and an expression of concern. It was almost as if he was saying, good luck with that.

Anderson this is a 304-page tell-all. So, this is really just scratching the surface.

COOPER: Randi, thanks very much.

There's late word from CNN's Pam Brown and Jeff Zeleny, as well.

White House officials telling them there are no plans at this point to respond to anything from the book tonight. People familiar with the matter said the White House and the RNC do not plan to respond to each individual report or allegation in the book, largely because they don't have the book and no less about these incidents, in many cases, than we do.

I want to bring in our panel, Phil Mudd, Gloria Borger, Frank Bruni and Alice Stewart.

Gloria, I mean, Comey certainly does not seem to be pulling many punches here. In fact, he seems to be kind of poking the president, talking about his hand size and, you know, the white circles under his eyes from tanning.

[20:05:04] GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think revenge is best served cold, and I think that is partly what this is.

I mean, don't forget, this is a president who fired him. Comey was fired in a way that no one would want to be fired. He didn't know about it. He was halfway across the country.

I think he has some scores to settle here. But moreover, I think it really gives us an important hint about what he has been saying to the special counsel. And what his testimony would be about this question of obstruction.

Here he says, you know, I'm not going to tell you whether I believe this is obstruction or this isn't obstruction, but he does give you chapter and verse about what the president was concerned about in certain -- in certain areas. Largely, also, by the way, it seems the president regarded the FBI as his own sort of personal fiefdom and that he could use somebody like James Comey as his own personal investigator to help him out, particularly on the issue of the tapes and the question about whether Melania would be upset about it, et cetera, et cetera.

COOPER: Yes.

BORGER: So, yes, it gives you a picture of a president that doesn't really understand the appropriate relationship between the -- his office and an independent branch of government.

COOPER: Yes. Phil, I mean, given your experience with the FBI, Director Comey apparently kind of demurred and said it might not look good for the president if people found out that he was asked to look into this.

Does it surprise you, I mean, that's not -- is that appropriate for a president to ask the FBI to do? PHIL MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: It is not. Look, I

-- the indication to me is, you have outsiders, that is the Trump team, coming into Washington, D.C. and thinking that the FBI is somehow going to investigate something for the president because the first lady is concerned.

The FBI is the chief federal investigative agency for the United States government. They investigate based on probable cause, violations of federal law. If the first lady of the United States is concerned about allegations in the press about what her husband has done, it's not clear to me why the FBI director should go down that path.

The indication, Anderson, from that story, to me, is not just about the FBI, it's about a president who comes into Washington, D.C. and whether he's dealing with the Defense Department, the State Department, the FBI or the CIA, looking at them, saying, I should ask you a personal favor because you work for me as president. He does not understand his responsibility as commander-in-chief.

COOPER: Alice, another point in the book, according to "The New York Post," Comey notes that the president said it bothered him that there was a 1 percent chance that Melania thought it was true, meaning the allegations about the stuff in the hotel room in Russia. To which Comey went on to say, quote, in what kind of marriage to what kind of man does a spouse conclude there's only a 99 percent chance her husband didn't do that? I mean, again, that is really harsh.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure. And this is, you know, problem is, this is the kind of marriage that the president has. And to Phil's point, it's not the FBI's responsibility to lift the cloud, with regard to these allegations.

And to Gloria's point, this book, in large part, is about him getting revenge. This is more than anything about him getting revenge against the president for firing him. And while, talk about the prostitutes in the hotel room in the dossier is going to make headlines and sell books and what people will talk about, the big picture, what this book is about, it's not about those details.

In my view, the big picture of the book, we haven't read it, but this is more about Comey's view about the toxic consequences of lying and it's about the problems with loyalty to one person over the truth and his view, as the FBI director, having a president try and get him to drop an investigation with Michael Flynn, which he had a huge problem with.

COOPER: Yes.

STEWART: And that is the overall takeaway from this book. While the other part is salacious and it's what we'll be discussing, I view that as the takeaway.

COOPER: Also, Frank, the FBI director is comparing the president to a mob boss. FRANK BRUNI, NEW YORK TIMES OP-ED COLUMNIST: Yes. No, as was said in

the introduction, there's no minced words here. I think from what we've seen of it, we haven't read it, it's an extremely shrewdly done book, because Comey makes a point of talking about the fact that he worked in three administrations. He makes a point of criticizing people from each of those prior administrations.

It's clear he's doing that so when he then tells you that Donald Trump is violating all the norms of the presidency, that Donald Trump is a danger to the country, that this lying isn't just something casual, but it's a real threat to democracy, he wants you to see in someone who's willing to criticize a wide group of people who comes at this with great depth of experience, with a breadth of view and I think he does a lot in this book to bolster his creditability as he makes this case against Donald Trump.

COOPER: Phil, you're shaking your head.

MUDD: No, I don't agree with that. Look, there are two books here. There's a book by someone who is at the core of decision making by a flawed president, that decision making involved the president trying to intercede in conversations about investigations at his staff and maybe he himself were involved with.

[20:10:05] And meanwhile, we get the former FBI director commenting on the president's hand and whether his hand was small and whether he had a tan and moons under his eyes. If I were the FBI director, I would have said, look, if you want to inform the American people about what's happening in America, stick with the facts and be careful about being seen as partisan.

It's two books and I'm afraid the second book, the salacious stories, is going to divert from the first book. How is this president as a national security leader?

COOPER: Gloria, it does provide ammunition to those who, you know, obviously in the GOP and elsewhere who are going to want to come after Comey hard, to Phil's point. It's not, you know, sort of straight down the middle.

Even the idea of writing a book like this, so soon after serving in an administration, you know, revealing behind the scenes details and stuff, you know, rubs people the wrong way --

BORGER: Yes. You know, I agree with Phil. I think you walk a fine line here, but I think that Comey may appear more partisan than he should want to appear, because these are very serious issues he's dealing with, about separation of power, about the toxicity that he believes emanates from this White House, throughout the government, stemming directly from the president. And those are -- those are serious charges and serious issues.

And then, when you talk about, well, I was kind of looking to see what size his hand was, you know -- it doesn't -- it's just not funny. It's kind of, like, either you're serious or you're not, or you're not serious about this. And I think that Comey is trying to raise a lot of ethical issues

here, not only in the way he was treated, but in the way people have to pay fealty to Donald Trump if they work for him. Even if they believe that he is not telling the truth. And those are really, really important issues. So, the question I have is, again, we haven't read the whole book, so, we need to do that, is, why would you diminish those very serious points with other things?

STEWART: And I think that's part of what sells books, clearly, those details about the hands and the suntan, those were -- those are going to be the things that people pick up on. But in my view, what we're hearing about the overall context, the loyalty, the obedience to someone that has a loose association with the truth, but also, in my view, this is Comey's way of making a stand for the FBI, which, for a president that he viewed constantly undermined the law enforcement arm of the FBI, and many of our law enforcement agencies, and this is his way of setting the record straight about a president that he views has been attacking the FBI.

BRUNI: We also -- we also don't know how much real estate the stuff about the color of his face and hands. We've seen --

COOPER: Right, that stuff is sent out to --

BRUNI: We've seen journalists tease out the stuff that is the most salacious and gossipy, because that's what we put in our articles. That could be a very, very minor portion of the real estate of the book.

BORGER: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: He does go on -- "The Washington Post" quotes Comey as writing, they lose -- talking about liars in the White House, they lose the ability to distinguish between what's true and what's not. They surround themselves with other liars. Perks and access are given to those willing to lie and tolerate lies. This creates a culture which becomes an entire way of life.

I mean, pretty stunning stuff.

BORGER: Right.

STEWART: Yes.

BORGER: I think he thinks it's toxic. I think he thinks it's a toxic administration and he wants to sort of get that across.

What we -- what we also know, and we have to read in this book, is Comey's defense of himself and what he did during the election to hurt Hillary Clinton's chances for re-election, by releasing information about investigations into her e-mail, and I haven't read that yet, but I'm very curious about what he's going to say about himself, because he has been criticized extremely by Democrats on that.

COOPER: Frank?

BRUNI: There's clearly a self-serving dimension to the book because we know that he says Obama turned to him. He recounts Obama turning to him and sort of saying, I know you tried your best. He recounts Chuck Schumer coming up to him with tears in his eyes, saying, you're in an impossible position.

So, for sure, some of this book is going to be read as extremely self- regarding and maybe less credible for it. But I think from what we've seen, it's also this book, equal parts cry from the heart and sort of existential sigh of concern about what he sees happening in the White House and who he sees inhabiting the White House.

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: We've got to take a quick break. More on this, including Director Comey's account of a critical conversation with John Kelly and why he counseled him -- why Kelly counseled Comey -- excuse me, why Comey counseled Kelly to stay on the job.

Later, a CNN exclusive. What we're learning about White House planning to undermine Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:18:34] COOPER: Talking tonight about James Comey's memoir, "A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership". Excerpts have been released. The salacious parts are no doubt getting a lot of attention.

There's also the picture he paints around the president and the people around him. Here's a bit more of John Kelly, then secretary of homeland security. Comey writes, he said he was sick about my firing and that he intended to quit in protests. He said he didn't want to work for dishonorable people who would treat someone like me in such a manner. I urged Kelly not to do that, arguing that the country needed principled people around this president, especially this president.

Back now with the panel.

You know, Frank, it's going to be interesting to see what the response of the president is. I mean, the RNC are the ones officially going to be launching broadsides against Comey, but what is the White House, the president himself going to be saying?

BRUNI: Well, there's no chance in the world that over the next days the president doesn't tweet something about this, because he's clearly shown he's willing to go after James Comey. Just Monday, you know, in that kind of meltdown at the White House about the Mueller investigation, he made a point of digressing to talk about what a horrible person Comey is. I think it's going to be interesting to see what the president's behavior because over the last week, over the last month, federal officials, the FBI, the Mueller investigation, all of it has poked ever deeper into recesses of his life that he never expected to be invaded.

And now, this book comes out, and is telling tales on the White House, and I think it's got to make him feel very exposed and very defensive.

STEWART: He'll be able to have a little breathing room with regard to responding to this, given the -- he's getting a lot of support from the RNC, and members of the Republican Party.

[20:20:02] I talked to a lot of members of Congress who, they have the president's back on this, and they are fully pushing back on Comey. They say that he has a history of contradictory statements. They say he's acted in ways that violate the DOJ protocol, and they were constantly reminding people about the many Democrats who are now supporting Comey that have asked for him to resign when he brought up the Hillary Clinton investigation, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Bernie Sanders, and all of them.

So, Republicans will push back for Trump and I'd like to think he could show restraint and not tweet and comment on this, because he's going to have a lot of cover.

COOPER: So, Phil, I mean, what do you think the objective -- I mean, again, we have not read the entire thing, and again, it's on excerpts and those are often the most sort of headline-grabbing, but what do you think the objective for Comey is in this book?

MUDD: I think there are two objectives. Number one, reporting as the FBI has done since its inception in 1908 about the facts of what he's seen at a historic moment in American history.

I think there's a second objective that I'm still struggling to understand, Anderson, and that is, when James Comey spoke about Hillary Clinton, when he spoke in a hearing and I think there was -- this was an element of his hearing in the spring of last year, about Huma Abedin, months, many months after she had been cleared about her email relationship with her husband, Anthony Weiner, he came across not as just a chief federal investigators, chief federal law enforcement officer in the United States, but as sort of the school principal for America.

I have views on Hillary Clinton. We decided not to charge her. Here are my views on how she treated national security information.

We're seeing the same thing again. He's got views on the president, some of which relate, appropriately, to an investigation. Some of which relate to his personal views on whether he thinks the president was moral or amoral.

I'm not sure I agree with that, but I think we're going to see James Comey as school principal. That's what we got in part of this book.

COOPER: Gloria, one of the things he writes, again, according to "The New York Times," which I thought was interesting, Comey says that he never saw President Trump laugh, a sign, according to Comey, of, quote, deep insecurity, his inability to be vulnerable or to risk himself by appreciating the humor of others, which on reflection is really very sad in a leader, and a little scary in a president.

BORGER: Yes, look, I mean, a lot of us have not seen a lot of self- deprecating humor coming from this president. And he's free -- look, this is a personal memoir, so, he's free to make whatever remarks he wants. That, honestly, is less interesting to me than the questions about what the president said to him when -- about General Flynn and others, and his meeting with Jeff Sessions, which he also writes about, because he clearly told Jeff Sessions, you need to get between me and the president. You know, you cannot leave me alone with the president.

And let me make it -- you know, just one more comment about the context into which this book is now appearing. It's not in a vacuum. We have stories now about his -- the president's personal lawyer's office being raided, which has enraged the president. We have stories coming out in publications about the president's extramarital relationships, Stormy, Karen McDougal, you know, go on and on. We have the president now, we know, asking James Comey to disprove this story about women in Russia.

You put all of this together and then the Comey book coming out, which, the president will hear a lot about, if he doesn't read it, will hear a lot about. And this is going to create this incredible storm inside the White House and inside the president's head about how to react and how to lash out. At the same time, we are clearly considering some sort of action in Syria. The president has a meeting with North Korea coming up. Is he going to testify in his own defense before the special counsel?

And I think when you -- when you put all of this together, it's kind of a stunning maelstrom.

COOPER: Yes, it certainly -- yes, it is.

STEWART: But there's also a little bit about, there's so much, as Gloria says the volume is so much, it's become white noise to people out in Middle America. I speak to GOP groups across the country. It's white noise. They look at it as yet another incident that we knew about the president before he was elected president and he was still elected president. They are concerned with what is he doing to create jobs and to provide tax cuts, and middle Americans really are not super focused on this right now, as long as they're creating jobs and keeping America safe, so, they're really watching what he does with Syria.

COOPER: Yes, thanks to everyone. Appreciate it. Gloria just called it a storm. Feels like it tonight.

Next, did Michael Cohen, the president's personal attorney, make audio tapes of his business on behalf of President Trump? His conversations on the phone. Does the FBI now have them? We have new reporting on that.

Also, a CNN exclusive.

[20:25:00] How the White House is preparing to try to undermine the credibility of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: In advance of the Comey book released in what everyone thought was in advance of it, the Republican National Committee launched a Website aimed it seems at besmirching him. Lyin' Comey is the name of it, no G, just Lyin' Comey.

And on top of that, CNN has learned that the White House is gearing up for war against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Our Sara Murray joins us now with the exclusive.

So, what have you learned about these talking points?

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, sources familiar with this say there was at least a preliminary plan that the White House was developing to try to discredit Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and of course, this comings at a time when President Trump has been weighing whether or not he wants to fire his deputy attorney general in the wake of these raids against Michael Cohen.

Now, they've come up with a couple of different lines of attack against Rosenstein. The broad idea is that he's too conflicted to oversee the Russia investigation. The notion that Rosenstein was behind this memo that President Trump ultimately used to justify his decision to fire James Comey, but somewhat illogically, they also point to another reason, White House made the case that Rosenstein and James Comey are actually good friends, and so the reason Rosenstein has approved this sort of ever expanding probe against President Trump is try to get some retribution for the fact that his good friend Jim Comey was fired.

A source who is familiar with their relationship between Rosenstein and Comey says, yes, they were colleagues, but they weren't exactly besties, they weren't exactly close friends.

When a spoke to a White House spokesperson about this this evening, this person said, look, this effort against Rosenstein, this is not a coordinated effort coming from the White House. They tried to downplay this messaging and say, this is not the same as what you're seeing when it comes to James Comey, which was a coordinated effort with the Republican National Committee.

HERE

[20:30:00] SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: --against Rosenstein, this is not a coordinated effort coming from the White House. They tried to downplay this messaging and say, this is not the same as what you're seeing when it comes to James Comey which was a coordinated effort with the Republican National Committee.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I mean, if that's not true, and this is, you know, coordinated messaging, sending out talking points, it does just sound like they're just trying to lay the ground work for firing Rosenstein.

MURRAY: Well, I certainly think that there are number of White House aides who remember what it was like the day the president decided to fire James Comey, where they essentially had to come up with the reasoning after the fact about how they were going to explain that. I think they've had a number of surrogates, allies of the president outside of the White House who we've seen publicly making the case that the president should fire Rod Rosenstein. They're not all doing that in coordination with the White House.

But, people want to be prepared if the president ultimately decided to go that route, how are they going to justify it, how are they going to explain it. And I think these are sort of the inklings of maybe that reasoning.

COOPER: The question is, will the president read those memos because with Comey, obviously, when the White House came out that night to explain why he had been fired, basically the next day the president completely contradicted what he said that it was about Russia, it wasn't about Hillary Clinton as they've come out that evening so.

Sara Murray, thanks very much.

We get more breaking news from Washington Post. Their headline tonight, "Trump's allies worry that federal investigators may have seized recordings made by his attorney." That attorney of course is Michael Cohen whose office and hotel room were -- and home were raided by the FBI earlier this week.

Josh Dawsey is one of the reporters in the byline joins us now on the phone. So what are you learning about these possible recordings?

JOSH DAWSEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST (via telephone): Exactly. And what we're learning is that, Michael Cohen, the president's longtime personal lawyer worked for him at the Trump Organization, still his personal lawyer, often recorded his conversations. At times, he would even play back recordings of conversations with folks to other people. And he would even play them to President Trump.

And what his allies are concerned about is when they came into his office, his hotel room, his home this week, they took all of his computers, all of his phones, they took all the electronics devices. And in those devices were actually the recordings he's made of different phone calls he's had over the years. That's a concerning idea to a lot of people around the president. Because, you know, you have these recordings, what's better evident for a special counsel's office other than, you know, actual people talking to each other on tape.

COOPER: So, if he made recordings and played them for associates and also for the president or then citizen Donald Trump -- I mean, I guess, was it known that he recorded conversations? I mean, it must have been at least among some people.

DAWSEY (via telephone): Well, among some folks who obviously we spoke to, there's a story of heard him play the recordings, and knew that he did recordings. I don't know that most people spoke to him knew they did it. New York is a one-party consent state on recordings. One person -- both sides do not have to agree in the conversation being recorded.

That said, you know, the recordings could actually prove to back fire here if they show activity that's deleterious. One other thing we reported tonight is that, he often did business transactions to have leverage. He would say to someone, oh, I remember what you said last time. I actually have you on tape.

In political conversations, he would play the recordings of President Trump. He would talk to different people about the president, and then he would show the recordings, and let the president hear. I guess he wasn't the president at that time but now the president hear the recordings. So whether the people on the other end knew they were being recorded or now, it's unclear, it's unlikely but he was recording them.

COOPER: So these were both conversations about politics he might have although he didn't have an official role in the campaign, but also about business and legal matters?

DAWSEY (via telephone): Right. Well, Michael Cohen was intricately involved in the campaign and the president's business relationships. A part of (INAUDIBLE) the amount of influence he's had in the president's (INAUDIBLE). He's been (INAUDIBLE) as obviously we know with the Stormy Daniels pay but other matters. He has given him advice on politics. He's helped him close business deals.

When you look at his projects in Russia, (INAUDIBLE) Trump projects over there, Michael Cohen was the point person. I mean, at every facet of the president's line, Michael Cohen was there, from politics to personal to business. And he sees himself -- he's been quoted as the president's ultimate loyalist, the personal who would do anything for President Trump.

But with these recordings, it could give FBI agents and, you know, the southern district of New York was investigating, it could give them some ammunition.

COOPER: Do you know -- did he record conversations with President Trump, or with, you know, then citizen Donald Trump?

DAWSEY (via telephone): And those one of the answers we don't know. We have no reason to believe hi did or didn't. We've heard in our reporting conversations recorded with others. We do not have in our reporting -- you know, we do not have firsthand knowledge of conversations being recorded with President Trump. So we're not asserting that.

[20:35:00] COOPER: All right, Josh Dawsey, appreciate it. Fascinating reporting tonight. Thank you.

Up next, our legal experts, Professor Alan Dershowitz and Jeff Toobin, give their take in all these. The possible recordings that appears to be a White House preparing for an action or war against Rod Rosenstein.

All of that, ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: More now on our breaking news, the Washington Post reporting that allies of President Trump are worried the FBI has seized audio recordings made by his personal attorney, Michael Cohen. There's also the CNN exclusive reporting that the White House is preparing possible talking points in an effort to undermine Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

A lot to discuss. Two distinguished legal scholars, Harvard Law School's Alan Dershowitz, he's the author most recently of "Trumped Up: How Criminalization of Political Differences Endangers Democracy". Also with us, the professor former student, CNN Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Thanks both for joining us on this very calm, very -- not very busy day.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: A typical day.

COOPER: A typical day.

Jeff, just in terms of the Rosenstein talking points, can there be any justification for the White House doing this other than to undermine Rod Rosenstein leading to a firing.

TOOBIN: That's the purpose. And think about disgraceful this is. I mean, here is the deputy attorney general, who is being investigated by the White House, by the people who employ him, solely because he is doing the job he's supposed to do. Rod Rosenstein is supervising the Mueller investigation in an honorable integrity -- way reflecting his integrity, and that's not good enough for this White House.

[20:40:03] They want to get rid of him.

COOPER: But you say he's a witness and --

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Of course he's a witness, he is the first witness, he is the primary witness. Any decent lawyer calls Rosenstein as the first witness and says, did you right the memo at the time? When you wrote the memo, did you think you were obstructing justice? Do you think there was justification for firing? Did you ask the president whether he had any corrupt motives?

It's a perfect witness and you can't be a witness and at the same time supervise prosecution --

COOPER: But do you really believe that's the -- what the intent of the president is in terms of getting rid of Rosenstein.

DERSHOWITZ: I'm not talking about it. I don't know the intent if there's any (INAUDIBLE) of the president. All I'm saying is that, there's a legitimate argument that could be made for him, a, to recuse himself, and if he doesn't do that, to go court and seek a recusal. There's a big different between recusal and firing. Firing isn't act by the president. I would be very much opposed to that. It would be a terrible mistake. COOPER: You would be against him firing Rosenstein?

DERSHOWITZ: Absolutely, or firing Mueller, or firing anybody. I think there's a big difference between that and his lawyers taking a legitimate legal step that many lawyers would take if seeking recusal.

TOOBIN: Rod Rosenstein has been -- it's been known that he was involved in writing this letter since the day Comey was appointed in last May.

COOPER: Since Mueller was appointed.

TOOBIN: Since Mueller was appointed. Where have they been with their complaints about his conflicts of interests? This is --

DERSHOWITZ: That's a fair point.

TOOBIN: OK, but it's a --

(INAUDIBLE)

TOOBIN: It's a completely bogus pretext to try to get rid of Rod Rosenstein. It has nothing to do with Rosenstein's integrity, has nothing to do with any purported conflict of interest. This is about getting Rod Rosenstein because he is the pursuing this investigation and allowing Mueller to pursue this investigation in appropriate way.

DERSHOWITZ: I'm not even sure if has an advantage for the president. If Rosenstein is recused, somebody else will take over specially now there's a case in New York, there's a case here from the special counsel. So, I think from a tactical point of view, it just doesn't make any sense to try to interfere with the current personnel who are conducting the investigation.

If I were Trump's lawyers, I'd be focusing on defense, I'd be focusing on trying to make a deal with the prosecution to have a minimally intrusive series of questions. That's what I would be focusing on.

COOPER: (INAUDIBLE) if you've done nothing wrong, isn't the fastest way to get yourself cleared, to have Rosenstein to have Mueller complete this investigation and clear you?

DERSHOWITZ: But, you know, the old argument, if you've done nothing wrong, what do you care if somebody searches your premises, why do you care if somebody interrogates you? Innocent people also have some tactical advantages sometimes in taking legal actions. But, a lawyer has to think hard about the balance because when you move to recuse somebody, it can have unintended consequences.

COOPER: This idea that -- about Michael Cohen having perhaps recordings. Jeff, how serious would that be if there are actually recordings with the president, recordings with other attorneys and/or AMI or the National Enquirer, or whomever?

TOOBIN: It's a gold mine for investigators. I mean, there is nothing you want more than contemporaneous records. You know, actual records of what was said by people who are suspects and witnesses in a criminal investigation.

DERSHOWITZ: So long this is not privileged.

TOOBIN: Right. So long as it's not -- I mean, obviously, they are not -- they're not allowed to have access to it if it's privileged. But, you know, when you were an investigator and you go into search somewhere, the more the merrier. More e-mails, more, you know, financial records, and tapes --

DERSHOWITZ: That's the problem. The taint team doesn't deal with --

COOPER: And just explain for our viewers what a taint team is.

DERSHOWITZ: Here's what happens. They go and then the more the merrier, they took up everything, the pick up things that are clearly in the end going to turn out to be lawyer-client privilege information. Then what they do is they give it to a taint team. Who's the taint team? FBI agents and assistant U.S. attorneys.

They get to listen to the tapes. They get to read them --

COOPER: And that team is separate from the investigation?

DERSHOWITZ: They're separate, so -- then they only turnover the non- privileged material, but government agents have listed to your confession to your priest, to your statement to your doctor, to your intimate conversations with your wife, and to your statements to your lawyers.

So I propose legislation, I'm doing a column today and I'm going to be speaking to legislators about it tomorrow to change the taint rules when it comes to lawyer-client privileged communications. Requiring that a judge, a judicial officer, a magistrate be present during the search of any lawyers' office. And before anything can be seized, a preliminary determination has to be made by a judicial officer. Only that judicial officer will listen and watch, and if he determines that anything is privileged, no government agent gets to see it. That way, first of all, no government agent does get to see it. There's no leak because judges don't leak.

And if does leak, we know who did it because there's only one person who read it. What's wrong with that?

[20:45:00] TOOBIN: Lawyers, doctors, priests are not above the law.

DERSHOWITZ: I want to make it the law.

TOOBIN: Let me finish. They are not above the law. Their offices can be searched just like anyone else's. And there are plenty of reasons to search offices of doctors, priests and physicians.

And, you know, to create an additional barrier to these searches, I think is inappropriate. The system is not broken, these taint teams work. Yes, it is true that privileges should be honored, but just because you have a privilege doesn't mean you should be exempt from being under the scrutiny of law enforcement. DERSHOWITZ: I'm not exempting the lawyer or the judge and the priest. I'm talking about the client, the penitent and the patient. It's their rights that are being violated. And there's no reason why any government agent should be able to see that kind of material. There's a way of eliminating it.

TOOBIN: I mean, it's a violation if a judge sees it --

(INAUDIBLE)

COOPER: You trust judges more than FBI agents.

DERSHOWITZ: A, judges are more trust worthy. They don't leak. We know that the Justice Department and the FBI are like a sieve. They leak everything. They have a motive to leak.

Second, members of the taint team with a wink and a nod can communicate effectively. That's how the Oliver North case was lost. We should not be trusting. The ACLU to its everlasting shame, came out today and justified and the defended the search without going into any of these issues. If this had been Hillary Clinton's lawyer, can you imagine the ACLU coming out and justifying this search or defending it?

TOOBIN: I don't know what to (INAUDIBLE) today. I'm not fAMI liar with that. I think this was an orderly fair law enforcement investigation, multiply reviewed by levels of the Justice Department. Let's see what they get. Let's see if there's a case to be made. Then we're --

DERSHOWITZ: You're missing the point. Maybe there is a case to be made but it's too late to undo the fact that FBI agents have seen confidential materials. That's what I'm trying to solve.

COOPER: Professor Dershowitz, thank you.

TOOBIN: Not me.

COOPER: Jeff Toobin as well.

COOPER: Coming up, a new reporting by Ronan Farrow of the New Yorker about another alleged effort by the parent company of the National Enquirer to buy and bury a story, a story critical of President Trump. This time the story involved a rumored affair the president had with a housekeeper in the Trump building. An affair that allegedly produce a child. I'll speak with Ronan Farrow, next.

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[20:51:29] COOPER: Well, tonight, another alleged example of AMI, the parent company of the National Enquirer paying someone to keep a potentially damaging from the story about the president from getting out. This time, it involves a doorman who works at a Trump building a former housekeeper about a rumored affair with Donald Trump.

Today, the doorman said in a statement quote, I can confirm while working at Trump World Tower, I was instructed not to criticize President Trump's former housekeeper due to a prior relationship she had with President Trump who which produced child.

Quite a statement. Ronan Farrow reported the story in the New Yorker. He joins me now.

You're not able to confirm the doorman's story. For you the focus really is this is another example of AMI catching and then killing a story.

RONAN FARROW, THE NEW YORKER: Exactly. As colorful as the underlying claim is, you know, really the crux of this for many of the sources that step forward was reporting was halted. They alleged on direct orders from David Pecker, the head of the company --

COOPER: AMI reporters quote unquote had gone out --

FARROW: Right.

COOPER: -- and investigated the claims made by this doorman.

FARROW: This company, the parent company of the National Enquirer had spent weeks assessing this. There was a positive polygraph results saying that, you know, look, it seems that in their eyes he had been told this by Trump --

COOPER: AMI polygraph?

FARROW: AMI administer the polygraph test. Now, that's not reliable, we should point out (INAUDIBLE). But, in the eyes of the Enquirer reporters that we spoke to, that would usually the turning point where they're double down on reporting. Instead, this transaction happened, at $30,000 payment. And subsequently, in what these sources described as very unusual, Anderson, a million dollar damages clause.

COOPER: Damages clause saying that what that if the doorman spoke.

FARROW: He signed an amendment saying that if he ever spoke about this he would have to pay a million dollars.

COOPER: And that's according to the former AMI people you talked to --

FARROW: According to documentation, according to e-mails and texts we saw. And yes, according to many other sources not a standard operating procedure. So there was certainly an elevated level of scrutiny on this particular story and this transaction.

COOPER: AMI, have they said whether or not they -- I guess they -- have they said that they don't believe him but they (INAUDIBLE) paid this money.

FARROW: They have.

COOPER: So obviously $30,000, I mean, it's much less than was paid to Karen McDougal which is the other story you broke, a $150,000 was paid to her. This came -- do you know that this came directly from David Pecker?

FARROW: That's what we report as a claim from several of the sources involved. You know, they say that he was calling regularly about this. Now AMI, we should point out has flatly denied that. A source close to the White House referred us back to AMI so there's a little bit of an ouroboros here where They're referring to each other.

I think that, you know, with the raids that are happening and the probes that are happening, that FBI raid this week focusing specifically on finding these kinds of transactions and communications related to them with Michael Cohen more may come to light about how involved he was.

COOPER: Did you talk -- I believe you talked to some AMI employees who believe that Michael Cohen may have been in communication with the AMI during this time.

FARROW: That is exactly what they have said. And, again, AMI is denying that. But the sources we talked to who are on the inside did say that that was happening.

COOPER: Which again points to -- I mean, if there are audio recordings taken from Michael Cohen's office and there were communications between Michael Cohen and AMI monitoring, you know, that they were working in tandem to protect Donald Trump, that's extraordinary.

FARROW: During an election cycle, which election law experts have pointed out is suggestive of -- not sufficient to establish, but suggestive of an intent to influence an election.

COOPER: The other question and the bigger question, a, is sort of a pattern emerging of how Michael Cohen allegedly dealt with allegations like this, rumors like this, stories like this.

[20:55:07] We've now seen three examples, really thanks to your reporting. And also, the idea that -- the big picture idea is that if there are more stories out there that AMI and the National Enquirer bought and killed that they have files of, that's pretent -- I mean, that's leverage they have over the president of the United States.

FARROW: Throughout the reporting of all stories, sources have said over and over again, including sources close to AMI, we are concerned about the national security implications because we have seen how this company uses dirt it has on other celebrities to influence them. And that now may be playing out in their eyes with the president.

COOPER: They used dirt on -- they allegedly used dirt on other celebrities to get those celebrities to tell stories about other people?

FARROW: In that case, it would be to tell stories about other people, to participate in exclusives and photo shoots. Banal stuff some of the time but obviously the stakes are very different with this is a sitting president of the United States. COOPER: It was reported that David Pecker visited the White House with a colleague or friend of his who has connections to Saudi Arabia who has business dealings.

FARROW: You know, I'll stick very carefully to what we report and what others reported so far without any speculation. But certainly that has been reported. And a string of close interactions have been reported. And, you know, the sources that we talked to did say we think this was a transactional relationship that got deeper and deeper as the election went on, potentially with mutual benefit.

COOPER: It's a fascinating story. Ronan Farrow from the New Yorker, thanks very much.

FARROW: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up, Former FBI Director James Comey says of the Trump presidency, what is happening now is not normal, it's not fake news, it is not OK. That's a line from his upcoming book. And judging by what has already coming out, there are plenty of bombshells to back it up. That's next.

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COOPER: A president who is unethical and untethered to truth. The words of fired FBI Director James Comey by way of the New York times tonight.

On the table tonight, his new book leaking out and he has plenty to say about the president and the presidency itself.