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"Washington Post:" Comey Compares Trump to a Mob Boss, "Lying About All Things, Large and Small;" Michael Cohen Seeking Delay in Stormy Daniels' Lawsuit Due to Possible Fifth Amendment Violations; Sources: Trump's Lawyer Pull Back Proposal for President to Talk to Special Counsel Mueller; Reports: Ex-Trump Doorman Was Paid $30K in Hush Money Case; CNN Exclusive: White House Prepping Talking Points to Undermine Rosenstein's Credibility in Russia Probe. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired April 12, 2018 - 21:00   ET


[21:00:04] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: A President who is unethical and untethered to truth, the words of FBI Director James Comey by way of "New York Times" tonight.

On the table his new book Leaking Out and he has plenty to say about the President and the presidency itself.

Also, will the President talk to Robert Mueller? We have breaking news on that and what could be the last word.

Breaking news as well on the Stormy Daniels case, why the President's personal attorney is seeking a delay and what is Daniels' attorney has to say about it. Michael Avenatti joins us with that.

We begin with the Comey memoir and the window it may offer into what makes the President tick and perhaps what keeps him up at night. CNN Chief National Security Correspondent, Jim Sciutto has been going over the excerpts joins us now with us more. So what does Comey in the book about how the President runs the White House?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, he says he runs it in effect like a mob family. This is based on "The Washington Post" excerpts.

He describes a cocoon of alternative reality that he was busily wrapping around all of us. He describes him in blunt terms as a congenital liar and unethical leader, devoid of human emotion, driven by personal ego.

According to "The Post" excerpts Comey likens his interaction with the President. As I said to quote, " -- flashbacks to 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 world view. The lying about all things large and small."

Really remarkable words there, and the result the Post says Comey writes in the books, "The forest fire that is the Trump presidency." And I got to tell you, the line, Anderson, there about likening it to a mob family, mob boss is really one of the most striking that I saw in there.

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

SCIUTTO: That's right. Comey making very particular observations about his appearance. He writes that when he met Trump at a pre- inauguration intelligence briefing, the 6'3" President-elect looked shorter Comey said than he did on television.

He write, "His face appeared slightly orange, with bright white half moons under his eyes where I assumed he placed a small tanning goggles, and impressively coifed, bright blond hair, which upon close inspection looked to be all his."

The Post says, Comey also observed the President's hands often a topic of discussion during the campaign. He writes, "As he extended his hand, I made a mental note to its size. It was smaller than mine but did not seem unusually so."

So I mean, kind of unusual there you have the former FBI Director look looking at all the things that have been something have -- you know, talk of -- you know, water cooler talk size of hands, tan, is it his hair, Comey making his own observation in person there.

COOPER: Yes you can't help but feel it's sort of a personal poke at the President there.


COOPER: Comey also writes about speaking to President Obama about how he handled the investigation to Hillary Clinton's emails before the election.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and this is clearly something that it's sits with him. He wrote that he met with President Obama in late November 2016 of course after the election. And that Obama said to him, "I picked you to be FBI Director because of your integrity and ability. I want you to know that nothing -- nothing has happened in the last year to change my view."

Remember, Comey was widely criticized for how he handle the investigation. Hillary Clinton herself and many of her supporters blame him almost outright for her loss. And he describes it in the book that he got tearful when President Obama in effect you might say let him off for that saying that there was nothing he did to disappoint him.

COOPER: Comey also writes about the President's reaction to the dossier compiled by former British intelligence officers.

SCIUTTO: That's right, of course the dossier that the President has and continues to dismiss is totally made up. According to the "Washington Post" excerpts from book, Comey writes in the book that Trump wanted him to investigate the more salacious allegations in the dossier. Comey writes, "He brought up what he called the golden showers thing adding it bothered him if there was even a one percent chance that his wife Melania thought it was true."

The paper goes on to say that Comey wrote, "In an apparent play for 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?" And of course the larger issue here of the President in effect using the FBI to investigate a claim he claims is false to please his wife, just shows you the way he looks at law enforcement, the President.

COOPER: Come did also write about Chief of Staff John Kelly's alleged reaction to Comey's firing?

SCIUTTO: Yes and this you can certain is going to sparking a storm particularly if the President is watching now or reads this excerpt. He says that at the time of Comey's firing John Kelly who of course was then the secretary for Homeland Security, "The Washington Post" says Comey wrote, "He said he was sick about my firing and that he intended to quit in protest. He said he didn't want to work for dishonorable people who would treat someone like me in such a manner."

[21:05:10] Comey reportedly went on to say that he urged Kelly not to quit because "the country needed principled people around the President there. Of course, that's many months ago. John Kelly did not quit he went on to be the President Chief of Staff. Pretty remarkable use of terms there, dishonorable people, which seemed to include the President.

COOPER: Yes, and obviously more to come in the days ahead. Jim Sciutto, thank you very much.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

COOPER: Reaction now from someone who likes James Comey spent years -- decades in fact, in the national security community former CIA Director and Air Force General Michael Hayden. He is a CNN National Security Analyst.

General Hayden, I'm not sure exactly where to begin. But I mean according to Comey the President wanted the FBI to investigate the salacious allegation to prove it was a lie, to give that information to his wife. Is that a proper use of law enforcement resources?

MICHAEL HAYDEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: No. Of course not. And it indicates something which Director Comey and I think a lot of folks like me have troubles with regard to the current President in that he does not seem to be governed by the norms that have routinely governed the office. It's hard for me to imagine other Presidents making that kind of request to the director of the FBI. I mean, that's the nation's law enforcement agency over here. It's not designed to do what it was the President asked him to do.

COOPER: In Comey's book, according again to "The Washington Post" he writes then President-elect Trump and his team were briefed on the Russian meddling and the election they, "had no question about the future Russian threat might be," rather they were brain storming immediately about how to "spin what we just told them for the public."

HAYDEN: Yes. That's one of the truths that I think Jim points out in the book. And again Anderson I have not read it but I have seen excerpts. And this obsession with self, this tendency to look at the world through the singular lens how it affects the personality, the person, the individual of the President, I think we have seen throughout the administration -- and I think that's something that Jim points out that I think is of great value that something we have to reflect on.

So he gets -- he gets what is essentially a threat briefing with regard to the Russians and what they have done to the American electoral process. And the result -- based not just on Jim's book. But I've talked to others folks who have been in the room -- is a conversation about how to spin this politically so that it doesn't do damage to the Trump campaign, to the Trump presidency. And then even latches on to an untruth, asking Jim Crapper to say -- and you need to tell folks this didn't have an impact on the election. And of course Jim says, we can't say that because we don't know that.

COOPER: And that's of course an argument that they have continued with really to this day.

HAYDEN: Exactly.

COOPER: Rightly or wrongly. The idea that John Kelly called Comey after he was fired to say he was sick that he wanted to quit and protest and "didn't want to work for dishonorable people." I mean, I can't imagine how that's going down in the White House with John Kelly as the chief of staff. Does that sound like something John Kelly would say that -- I mean, you know him?

HAYDEN: Yes. Let me make it worse for John right now by saying that's exactly the person I believe John Kelly to be. That sounds exactly like the John Kelly that I know.

COOPER: Comey writes about -- doesn't reveal classified information in regards to then Attorney General Loretta Lynch and according to ABC, Comey writes that in early 2016 the government obtained information regarding Lynch that he fears critics would use to raise doubts about the investigation into Hillary Clinton, "the source and content of the material remain classified as I write that." Does it surprise you that Comey is writing -- I mean, about classified information in a way -- without, I mean he is not revealing it. But he is talking about something that nobody really knows about but basically paints a kind of a Loretta Lynch in a bad light clearly?

HAYDEN: Yes. So I pointed out in one of the issues people like Jim and I and Jim Clapper and Phil Mudd and others have is that the President does not seem to be constrained by norms, Anderson.

One of the great dangers we have in pointing that out and arguing against it, we are tempted to break the norms of our own profession as well. And here is an example where I think Jim overreached. So he put that out there. It's not a question of classification. It's a question of he put this dark cloud over the former attorney general and since it remains classified she has no ability to identify or push back against this apparent accusation. I just think that's an unforced error and that it should not have been in the book.

COOPER: Director Hayden, always good to have you on. Thanks so much.

HAYDEN: Thank you.

COOPER: I want bring in our panel, Molly Ball, Anne Milgram, Stephen Moore, Karine Jean-Pierre, Alice Stewart and Frank Bruni.

Molly, what stands out to you in this?

MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So much. But I mean to me it's the overall portrait that Comey paints and the things that General Hayed was talking about, you know, the salaciousness is getting attention.

COOPER: Right.

BALL: Trump's own obsession fuels that. He is the one who is always obsessed with what seems like the personal aspect of this. But it's -- so much of in is stuff we heard from Comey before in the testimony or that we heard from others about the Russia threat and the degree to which Trump seems uninterested in the threat to actual national security versus the threat to his image from all of this.

[21:10:20] But the basic respect for the rule of law, the basic respect for institutions, the basic understanding of the independence of law enforcement, that I think is the larger take away in terms of the picture that Comey seems to painting.

COOPER: Also just -- I mean, and sticking to the substance of it, I mean, describing the White House essentially as kind of a mob family, or that's how it it's set up or that's how the President -- I mean that's stunning for the former director of the FBI to say.

ANNE MILGRAM, FORMER NEW JERSEY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Yes, it certainly -- that's a bold and big comment to compare the current President in the White House to a mob family. And you know, again I have read it but I'm eager to read it to see where those comparisons get drawn. But he is definitely talking about loyalty and sort of this idea that everybody is part of one family. You know, I worked a number of mob cases I've had pretty interesting experiences with them. I have never thought in my mind that the White House is similar to them. And so I'll be interested to read the details myself.

COOPER: Steven do you find it rich for Comey to be talking about loyalty when he is writing a book in which he is revealing all these conversations and things with the President?

STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMICS ANALYST: Well, I think what we learned here is hell has no fury like an FBI director scorn. I mean, Trump fired him and this is his way to stab at Trump. From that excerpt you've read it sounds kind of creepy actually. I mean -- it sounds like Comey come out too well. I mean, the stuff about -- you know, he had smaller hands than I did and so on.

COOPER: In fairness, those are the kind of things that when they leak stuff out those are the things grabbed on. This is -- you know, how many hundreds of pages of book --

MOORE: But it does point the fact that he is out to get Trump. It is kind of vendetta against Trump. I don't think anybody would deny that.

And the other point I make is look, I remember during the email scandal when he said that they were going to reinvestigate, I mean every liberal was saying he is the biggest jerk in the world. And now all the sudden we're holding up this some kind of liberal icon. And which is it.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, NATIONAL SPOKESPERSON, MOVEON.ORG: Well, I mean, at the end of the day this is a prominent Republican who is making these statements who was appointed by George W. Bush, who is making the statements about a Republican President. I mean that's the reality and that's where we are. And he is saying that this President does not respect law, the law. He is abusing his power. That's some pretty powerful stuff.

MOORE: You don't think there is any -- that he is -- there is a vendetta here? I mean --

JEAN-PIERRE: By James Comey?

MOORE: Yes. I mean, he was fired by Trump. He was humiliated by Trump and he uses the press --

JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I can't get into his Comey's brain and mind but this is all the -- a lot of the stuff we've heard already, he is going into just more detail when he was -- you know, he was during the hearing.

MOORE: And by calling him a mobster and that's pretty low.

JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I'm just talking about the substance here. I'm just focusing on the substance and who this is coming from. And the other thing too, the mob family that's not all that surprising. I mean, if you look at the Trump organization. And he has, loyalty is big for Donald Trump. That is not surprising.

And the only crazy thing about that is he wants to run the White House like the Trump organization, like people have set around him, who worked for him. But this is an organization that --

COOPER: It does seem like -- I mean it always fascinating when people say loyalty is big to Donald Trump. I mean, it seems like it's a one way street often -- you know?

JEAN-PIERRE: It is really a one-way street. And the people who are not loyal to him they find out how Trump feels about them very quickly.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Really what this is to Stephen's point, this is a man who is fired by the President and this is his way of settling the score and getting back.

He has always view the President as someone in some way he has as a brazen undermining for law enforcement institutions and clearly Comey has a problem with that and this is his way of pointing out, look, here is the problem with the President. He is forcing people to be more loyal to him as opposed to the truth. And forcing people to take loyalty pledges, and the audacity for him to have me drop the case against Michael Flynn. He has a problem with that. So he is settling a lot of scores.

I think it's interesting that he did go to the extreme to point out that President Obama said what you did was announcing that Clinton investigation was OK. And there is a litany of Democrats who don't agree with that. Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Bernie Sanders and all of them. I'm sure he doesn't mention those. But he clearly making the case for himself to settle the score for being fired by the President.

FRANK BRUNI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: This does not have to be either or. He can be settling scores and also telling an important truth. This can be a vendetta but it can also be a book of great import when you pay attention to Molly's point. Is he a flawed messenger? He is a very flawed messenger. And I think we're going to be talking about that over the course of the next week. It doesn't mean the message that he brings us is wrong and it doesn't mean we don't need to pay careful attention to it.

COOPER: Do you think -- I mean as more comes out -- I mean, do you think liberals are going to continue to react in the way that -- you know, to Stephen's point that sort of embracing him now? Because he does writes about Hillary Clinton, that he actually -- he was sort of wrestling with the idea of was his judgment based on the fact that he thought Hillary Clinton was actually going to win the presidency and that actually impacted his judgment about announcing that they were reopening the investigation?

[21:15:17] BALL: Well there is -- there is apparently in this book quite of o a bit of him sort of wrestling with self-doubt about the questions and examining what he might have been thinking at the time. And that quite self-serving moment where Obama sits him down and forgives him for whatever he may have done.

Talking to my Democratic sources listening to the conversation on Twitter, there is quite a lot of Democrats who have not forgiven him for what they see as a double standard that he applied. So it is very interesting to see partisan on both sides attacking Comey for his actions. The Democrats who believe that he is responsible for Hillary losing the election or the Republicans who are mad what --

MOORE: I never answered your question about this. This was an appropriate book. You know, should the FBI director putting out? It's essentially -- look, look I haven't read it, just seen some of these excerpts. It just sounds like this kind of kiss and tell book which is not really appropriate for someone who is one of our chief lawmakers and you know supposed to be adjudicating the law at the FBI. I hope this isn't the direction we're going with.

COOPER: The other question is how does the President respond to this? I mean, you know, we have heard it's going to be the RNC kind of a responding point by point. The idea that this President is not going to be responding to this --

STEWART: He won't have to respond really because he does as you say the RNC many members of Congress on the Republican side have his back. They are going to excoriate James Comey. They're going to criticize him for a lot of what he has done with regard to contradictory statements with regard to violating some DOJ norms, with regard to what he has done leading up to the election. So President Trump doesn't need to respond. I don't see how he will get through without doing it. But he would be best served not tweeting him this, ignoring questions on this which will not happen.

COOPER: Go ahead.

JEAN-PIERRE: It's not going to happen. It's not going to happen. We're seeing some epic tweets from Donald Trump next week. And he is probably going to help James Comey sell some books.

MOORE: I would agree.

COOPER: Coming up, another deadline looms in the Stormy Daniels case, one involving Michael Cohen's -- Stormy Daniels Attorney Michael Avenatti is here to help us sort that out next. And later, did the parent company of the "National Enquirer" pay to bury story about a rumored affair the President had with the housekeeper at one of Trump's building, that story ahead.


[21:20:11] COOPER: It is yet another night of just a ton of breaking news, new breaking developments tonight now have to do with adult film star Stormy Daniels lawsuit against the President and his lawyer Michael Cohen.

There, we are learning that Cohen plans to ask for a delay in the lawsuit because of overlapping criminal investigation and implications for Cohen's Fifth Amendment rights.

Joining me now is Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti. So explains what's going on here, they want a delay. I assume you do not want a delay. And you're -- I've heard you say that Michael Cohen is going to plead the fifth. How do you know that? Why?

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: So we received a call earlier today from Michael Cohen's attorney who notified us that it's his intention if our case proceeds, to plead the Fifth Amendment in response to every question that we may ask in connection with the case.

COOPER: In a deposition? AVENATTI: In a deposition or otherwise as it relates to him defending himself in the case. And asked us to agree to a stay or delay in the case. We said we don't believe a stay or delay is appropriate.

COOPER: Why would they want a stay?

AVENATTI: Well, they want a stay because they want to avoid having Michael Cohen answer questions and potentially plead the Fifth Amendment in response to questions that we may pose.

COOPER: And I just want to be clear on this, you heard this directly from Michael Cohen's attorney?

AVENATTI: Yes, Mr. Blakely there's no question about it.


AVENATTI: He said this is their intention. We said we oppose it. They're going to file a motion tomorrow seeking to stay the case and they're going to cite the fact that if the case proceeds it is his intention to plead the Fifth Amendment which is a stunning development, Anderson.

COOPER: One of the interesting things about that, and impactful things, which I've been reading up on the law since I read this breaking story -- is that in a civil case a jury can take into account a defendant pleading the fifth as a negative where in a criminal case it doesn't mean that they're -- it's not to be taken one way or the other. But in a civil case a jury can think he is pleading the fifth because it's -- he doesn't want to answer it for because it makes him look bad.

AVENATTI: That's correct. In a federal civil matter, if a witness pleads the fifth or invocation the Fifth Amendment or her Fifth Amendment right, the fact finder, whether be a judge or jury, is entitled to infer a negative inference if you will, which is they are entitled to infer from the invocation of the Fifth Amendment that the witness is guilty of whatever is asked, or that there is something negative that would result if the witness answered the question. It's a very powerful inference it would hold in our case.

They want to delay the case. We don't want to delay the case. But what's stunning about this, Anderson, is seven days ago -- I mean, it feels like it's seven years ago. But seven days ago, the President stood on Air Force One and he was asked questions about the agreement and the payment. And he was -- he directed the media and the American people to his attorney Michael Cohen. Basically said ask my attorney. He will answer your questions.

Seven days later we now learn that Michael Cohen will not answer the questions. It's his intent to plead the Fifth Amendment against self- incriminations. It's a stunning development, not just in the history of this case but I would venture to say in the history of the nation over the last 50 years.

COOPER: Let me ask about these tapes that according to the latest reporting out of "The Washington Post" Trump allies are concerned that Michael Cohen who has a history apparently according to "The Washington Post" of recording conversations, that some of the recorded conversations may have been seized in this raid?

AVENATTI: Anderson, I can't begin to tell you how surreal this is. If I scripted this out no one would buy it because they wouldn't believe it. I mean, this is unbelievable that in fact you would have an attorney representing a prominent individual like Donald Trump recording conversations and keeping those conversations. I mean, this is like dumb and dumber but worse.

COOPER: I mean, you've obviously been critical of Michael Cohen and his legal judgment all along.

AVENATTI: What judgment? There is no judgment.

COOPER: The dumbest move yet.

AVENATTI: You know what, every night I come on the show and your viewers are probably -- you know, they probably think I'm full of it because I always say the same thing. But it's a constant drum beat of incredulous action. I just can't believe that we're here tonight talking about the fact that Michael Cohen may have recorded conversations.

2COOPER: It would -- because it's the most incriminating thing possible. If there are illegalities being discussed on tape, that's --

AVENATTI: I don't think it gets any better than that. In fact, I know it doesn't get any better than that. And if that's true, if the FBI has seized recorded conversations between Michael Cohen and Mr. Trump or Michael Cohen and others, I mean we know from prior reporting about some of the threats and the language and intimidation tactics that Michael Cohen has used in other instances. If that's on tape as it relates to countless examples. I mean, Katie bar the door I can't even begin to tell you how bad that is.

[21:25:10] COOPER: Michael Avenatti, I appreciate it. Thanks very much.

AVENATTI: Thank you.

COOPER: We also have new reporting tonight about the likelihood of the President sitting for an interview with the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, Gloria Borger joins me now with the latest on that. How has the raid on Michael Cohen's office impacted the efforts to get the President to sit down with Mueller?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Pamela Brown and I reporting that this is now in complete purgatory. It's really kind of -- it's an odd story, Anderson.

The President's attorneys were sitting down in a meeting getting ready to go over to Bob Mueller's office and meet with his team with a proposal about the President testifying. It may have been the first shot across the bow. But they actually had a proposal under certain circumstances the President would testify. These are the kinds of questions he would answer, et cetera, et cetera. They were ready to do it because they felt like they were dealing in good faith.

They're sitting in offices, and suddenly they get news of the raid and Michael Cohen's office. And all hell breaks loose. They debate whether in fact they should meet with the Mueller team later that afternoon, which they did, because it was preplanned. But I can tell you from talking to my sources they believe that this was a major breach of trust, that they were fundamentally misled and so it's really a question now of whether this laps of trust is surmountable or not.

COOPER: But I mean the President could still be subpoenaed by Mueller.

BORGER: Sure. Yes. He could absolutely be subpoenaed by Mueller. And they know that very well. And that's happened in the past with a President named Bill Clinton. And of course you could take it all the way to the Supreme Court and make it a constitutional issue. But right now I've been told nothing has been ruled out. They are not saying in no way is he --

COOPER: It's not -- you're not saying 100 percent the President is not going to try to sit?

BORGER: No. And they refused and they -- you know, they refused to say that. But they are angry. They believe that this raid takes this investigation in a whole different direction because what they were proposing was one single interview. Well, what if the President then has to be interviewed in regard to other things that they found in Michael Cohen's office. And so they felt completely blind-sided by this. They had no heads up on it. And they are -- it's clear that they have got a client who is now very, very angry about it.

COOPER: Yes. Gloria Borger, thanks very much.

Up next, a new report of an alleged catch and kill story by the "National Enquirer," by the parent company, AMI. They reportedly paying to bury a rumor about the President, an affair that allegedly resulted in a child. We'll tell but that.


[21:31:18] COOPER: It's another alleged instance of the parent company of the "National Enquirer" buying a story and then burying it to allegedly protect the President.

Ronan Farrow reports at "The New Yorker" that AMI, the parent company of "National Enquirer" paid a former doorman for his story about a rumor affair between the President and former housekeeper to Trump building, an affair that the doorman allege result in a child. I spoke with Ronan Farrow earlier tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RONAN FARROW, REPORTER, THE NEW YORKER: Throughout the reporting of all of the stories sources have said over and over again, including sources close to AMI we're 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 may be playing out in their eyes with the President.

COOPER: They allegedly use dirt on other celebrities to get the 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 times, but obviously the stakes are different when this is a sitting President of the United States.


COOPER: Back now with the panel.

I Frank, this is just the latest case now of payments that we have learned about -- I mean not just -- there is obviously the Stormy Daniels payment, which was from Michael Cohen to Stormy Daniels allegedly. But Michael Cohen admits to facilitating it wherever the money actually came from. But also the Karen McDougal which AMI paid $150,000, do you expect this to be the last? I mean, I wonder just how many files AMI has on Donald Trump and what that gives the head of AMI what power that gives?

BRUNI: That's right. I mean, it seems unlikely that it's just these two incidents. And I think Ronan hit the nail on the head which is, what are the national security implications here? If there are all of the secrets out there or these accusers out there, if Trump and the people around him are willing to pay money to make them go away who has power over him how are they using the power? I mean this is sort of what we've been asking about Russia all along, right? We've been asking if there is something that Russia has on him, whether it's financial or otherwise that has giving them an unfair advantage and leverage over him. We're now asking that same question about AMI in this other sphere.

STEWART: And this is where we get into this no longer about sex with a porn star or playmate. This is about cash payment to hush people up and this is about money to hide these stories and to the degree to Media Company like "National Enquirer," David Pecker his friend, what kind of influence do they have over the President now? What kind of -- what do they want in exchange for this? Not only have they paid money to hush people about actual affairs, they have printed stories about fake affairs involving Ted Cruz.

So -- and they have a lot of stories that they have done and catch and killed to benefit Donald Trump. What is he going to do for them in return? That's a question --

COOPER: What's also interesting Karine, I mean -- you know, AMI was secretly paying hush money to keep negative stories out, even though the public is saying they didn't find this person credible they still paid $30,000 according to Ronan's reporting they were working aggressively on the story. They gave a lie detector test to this person, which the person allegedly passed. Again, not admissible in court, obviously very fallible, but if they're paying $30,000 through story that the public is saying is they don't believe him, I mean it's --

JEAN-PIERRE: Yes. It's quite intriguing and also complicated as well, as 2you just laid out, Anderson. I mean, it goes back to if you think -- I mean, what's so powerful about this is that the President of the United States is now extremely vulnerable to blackmail, right? Whether by the "National Enquirer," AMI, I mean that is one of the things that this story tells me.

And the other part about it too is we're talking about potential bank fraud, wire fraud, serious campaign violations. There is so much in this that is incredibly problematic that it really does blow your mind. And it's not, again, like you said it's not about the affair, it's not about the sex. It's about all of these potential legal issues with this.

[21:35:04] COOPER: Stephen, I mean if the head of AMI does have all the information in files going back years and years and years, does that concern you at all? That it gives him certainly sway over power or you know if he has some business he wants done or whatever he wants?

MOORE: Well, you know, again, I think all of this womanizing by Trump was really adjudicated in the election. I mean people knew.

COOPER: So you don't think it gives any power of somebody over the President?

MOORE: Well, I don't know. I mean, I can't answer that but I can say this. I mean, we even see with the Stormy case, the public is turning against the prosecutor in this. It's like why in the world --

COOPER: Where do you see the public turning against the prosecutor?

MOORE: Well, there are polls out suggesting that the people are kind of tired of the witch hunt against Trump with respect to one thing after another.

COOPER: What witch hunt?

MOORE: At the same time, I mean, you opened the show by saying there is so much news to talk about today what about the fact that the Dow Jones was up 300 points, what about the fact that we had the best manufacturing numbers in years and years. What about the fact that we've got the lowest number of people, you know --

COOPER: The President's personal attorney for the last 10 years and his fix it hatchet man has been raided may have audio recordings of the President of the United States talking about god knows what with him and who else knows -- you think that's not --

MOORE: But don't you think some of the incredible economic news is coming out about this incredible revival deserves some attention?

COOPER: The former head of the FBI has called the President a mob boss. I mean --

MOORE: What people cared most about in the election was the economy getting better and jobs and we got that -- you know, and nobody wants to talk about that.

COOPER: There is news outlet and you know --

BRUNI: That's really selective. We can talk about the news of the day, we can talk for the things you're talking about. We can also talk about the fact that he said he is taking us out of TPP and now no one maybe is going to be revisiting that.

MOORE: Well, that's good news isn't it?

BRUNI: No, my point is your read on the news of the day about Trump is highly selective.

COOPER: Also Stephen --


COOPER: I got to say I also find it disingenuous you're the very probably smart person that you say OK, I don't know if a guy -- a businessman having tons of files with salacious and damaging information on Trump Donald Trump that they clearly didn't want.

MOORE: I don't know the information they have. So I can -- I mean -- I just don't know.

COOPER: Well, you know what some of the allegations are?

MOORE: That's not a source that I usually took when I was at the Wall Street.

COOPER: Right. But apparently it's somebody that the President turns to because he is very close friends with this guy. But as an intellectual exercise you don't believe that gives a person power if they files on somebody?

MOORE: I don't know enough of the details to know how much power they have.

COOPER: Anne, I mean, do you think it gives power?

MILGRAM: So, you know, I feel I have the same concerns about the homeland security piece that were raised. And I think the way to think about this is even remember the conversations about Michael Flynn at the beginning when there was an understanding that he had publicly lied.

And the deputy attorney general going over to the White House to basically say look he is now compromised because the Russians know he is not telling the truth about the conversation. And he is at such a high level that if he is compromised that is particularly bad for American security.

Now, obviously the President of the United States doesn't get a security clearance. But if he did and I would argue we should be worried about it the same way.

COOPER: He wouldn't be able to get a security clearance. I mean, let's just be frank.

MILGRAM: And these are the kinds of things that basically all the generals and all the people in the military and the intelligence community they worry greatly about. And now it's not clear yet I think why this money is being paid. But it is particularly troubling. And I would want to know a lot more about the kind of information that it seems like they may have on the President.

COOPER: Molly?

BALL: I do think Stephen has a point though and that we don't see all of this scandal hurting Donald Trump's approval rating very much.

MOORE: Not with conservatives.

BALL: Because people didn't think much of his character to begin with. Everybody decided before they voted for him but they didn't like the guy very much --


STEWART: They didn't think he was a very good person. They didn't think he was very honest, they didn't think he was truthful. And a lot of people found reasons to vote for him or to support him. Anyway, and he is continue to do that.

MOORE: Because they thought he could get the job done.


STEWART: And to Stephen's point about polling -- Quinnipiac just did a poll and it show that 73 percent of people say this is not that big of an issue for them to move forward.

MOORE: Which, Stormy?

BALL: Because they may have already --

STEWART: Yes, the Stormy Daniels issue isn't important to them and Donald Trump ratings have gone up as a result of this.

BALL: But I think this is --


STEWART: It's not moving the needle.

COOPER: But also, I think the same was said about Richard Nixon through the bulk of Watergate, you know, polls were saying people they were sick of the tie raid. They don't think it matters and then until it does. And then you know, and I'm not comparing -- you can say it's apples and oranges.

BALL: But the actual importance of it, it doesn't depend on whether people think it's material, right? It can be important anyway. But to the blackmail piece of it, how much power can you have over someone when all the stuff is already out there, right?

COOPER: Yes, fair enough.

BALL: I mean, the idea that someone could be compromised because a normal person who has a squeaky clean image then yes, they're going to do whatever they can to preserve that. But what image does Donald Trump still have to protect when all of this stuff is already out there.

COOPER: Fair point.

BALL: I wonder how much he can be compromised.

[21:39:51] COOPER: Having just talked about catch and kill we'll talk next to potentially the smirch and kill. What CNN has learned about White House talking point for discrediting Rod Rosenstein, the man supervising the Russia investigation?


COOPER: Well tonight breaking news this one almost got lost with CNN exclusive which takes on greater significance given all the speculation lately about Rod Rosenstein's job security or lack thereof.

CNN has learned that the White House is preparing talking points targeting the deputy attorney general. The play calls some presidential allies to cast Rosenstein as too conflicted to fairly oversee the Russian investigation, a point that Professor Alan Dershowitz made in the last hour. A White House spokesperson denied the swipes that Rosenstein were part of any coordinated effort. The Justice Department declined to comment.

Alice, I mean, is this a wise idea to sort of you know sent send out marching orders to people? It's not all that unusual?

STEWART: No, I don't view it as wise. If the President has done nothing wrong. Rosenstein and Mueller, Sessions will be -- all the people that will help to clear his name and get to the bottom of this. And I think they should -- as they say they're doing fully cooperate.

But even if the White House doesn't coordinate a campaign against Rosenstein many Republicans are doing so. They're trying to say that he is not reigning in Mueller's investigation if he doesn't have the President's back and he needs to reign in the scope of this investigation more on Russian meddling and not on other stuff.

COOPER: They are also saying he is a witness in the Comey firing because he is the one who wrote the letter and therefore inherently conflicted?

STEWART: Right. In my view that is -- it's wrong to go against Rosenstein and Mueller and Sessions let them do their investigation and let the facts lead where they may. And if the President is innocent like he says the truth will set you free and the conclusion of this investigation is the best way to do that not undermine those that are overseeing it.

COOPER: Anne, I mean what do you make of that legal argument that he is conflicted?

MILGRAM: Right, so the U.S. attorney's manual has rules for when people have to recuse. He clearly has some information here. But that doesn't necessarily mean that he has to recuse, right? And there are certain categories where you have a mandatory recusal and then times where -- you know, it's an ethical decision for the individual prosecutor to decide.

[21:45:14] And so I'll tell you my bet here which I have no information on but my bet is that he would have had that conversation with one of the ethics officers and been cleared to continue to work on this.

COOPER: Right. Jeff Toobin made the point in the last hour which is the potential conflict was known from the very beginning.

MILGRAM: Exactly. Completely.

COOPER: And you would think it would have been addressed if it was a concern to the Republicans who are raising it now why wasn't it raised back then?

MILGRAM: Completely.

COOPER: Yes. Stephen?

MOORE: Trump wants this investigation over, right? I mean, and I think you know --

COOPER: Do you think he should be fired?

MOORE: Pardon?

COOPER: Rosenstein, do you think he should be fired?

MOORE: No, but I do think Trump -- you know, if I were advising Trump I'd wold say, especially after the overreach by Comey with the raid which I think just was so outrageous. And I think most fair minded Americans agree with that, that I think Comey overplayed his hand. And if I were Trump I would say --

COOPER: Mueller you mean?

MOORE: I mean Mueller. Mueller. I think what I would do in that case is Trump should say, look, this is -- we not fire him but say you have two or three months to finish this up. Get it done. Show us what you have. And I think that's something I think he couldn't rally the American people around firing Mueller. But I think he could say this has gone on 15 months it has to come to a conclusion show us what you got.

JEAN-PIERRE: It just blows my mind because there is only one person to blame for Donald Trump's problem and that's Donald Trump. We got to remember how this all started.

MOORE: Sure.

JEAN-PIERRE: He fired James Comey. And that's how the Mueller investigation started. That's why Mueller was brought in as special counsel to do this.

MOORE: Yes, but they keep --

JEAN-PIERRE: Wait a minute, let me finish. Let me finish. Let me finish.

MOORE: They keep changing what this investigation is about.

JEAN-PIERRE: First, and then the other part of my argument before you try to interrupt me here is that Rosenstein is a Republican, appointed by Donald Trump. And it's just all of this is so insane. And also Donald Trump all of his actions this past year has not been an action of an innocent man. He tried to obstruct this investigation at every turn. He hasn't behaved as someone who is like I'm innocent of this. No. He is behaving as someone he wants to protect himself.

COOPER: Frank, we actually don't know that the investigation has change that this move from one thing to the other. We don't really know what they started out, looking at. I mean the team that Mueller assembled was pretty deep and wide in terms of their expertise on money laundering and white collar crime on a variety of things?

BRUNI: And a lot of things we learn we learn after the fact. So we're talking about them as if they're new but they're going on.

Listen, there's been one thing that's been consistent throughout this and the latest Rod Rosenstein talking points piece of news goes with it which is that Donald Trump decided long that the best way to inoculate himself against whatever is found is to discredit everyone involved in the process. To portray all of them as -- as you said, Monday the most biased people on earth, or whatever. If he can convince the American public that whatever fruit comes from this tree is utterly poisoned and he needn't worry about the fruit it bears.

COOPER: It's also interesting, I mean, in his argument just the other day that Frank was referencing, he talks about them as all Democrats when in fact they are -- you know, whether it makes a difference or not they are pretty much all Republicans.

BALL: Well, I mean it's clear that when -- what biased means to Trump is against him in some way, whether that is factual or not, right. It remind me of the Judge Curiel on the Trump university case back during the election. And Trump's argument was basically this person doesn't like me therefore he is against me and can't be fair to me.

So he really seems to think that anybody who has any kind of oppositional position to his cannot possibly be right because Trump must be right and therefore everyone is biased.

COOPER: We got to take a break. I want to thank everybody. I'm talk with top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Jerrold Nadler and get his take in all of this, as well as the question of impeachment if Democrats win the House in November. Is that something Democrats should run on?


[21:52:18] COOPER: In case someone forgot, all the breaking news out of Washington, all the wrinkles of the Russia probe and the Presidential reaction to it, all of it takes place against the backdrop of midterm elections and as part of the campaign, Republicans are warning that if Democrats win control of Congress in November they'll immediately move to impeach President Trump.

Earlier tonight I spoke about it as well as the Rosenstein talking points with Congressman Jerrold Nadler, the top Democrat on the White Judiciary Committee, which traditionally takes the first vote on articles for impeachment.


COOPER: Congressman, what do you make of this reporting that the White House is preparing talking points to be used to undermine Rod Rosenstein, do you think that's laying the groundwork for him to be fired?

JERROLD NADLER (D), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, I hadn't heard that, but it certainly would sound as if that's the case.

COOPER: You introduced legislation to protect Robert Mueller today which is a companion bill to the Senate's legislation. Do you think it would be equally egregious for the President to fire Rosenstein as it would be to fire Mueller?

NADLER: Yes, because the purpose of firing Rosenstein would be to put in someone else who would either fire -- who would either fire Mueller or who would constrain the investigation.

As Congressman Jamie Raskin said, at that point it could be the guillotine, fire Mueller, or the straightjacket, put him in a straightjacket then constrain why he can investigate or the way he can investigate it. And that would be an improper purpose.

COOPER: You have no doubt that the only reason to fire Rosenstein would be to either constrain the investigation of Mueller's investigation or to fire Mueller?

NADLER: I have no doubt of that, and the President has telegraphed that. He's made it very clear in his recent comments that he thinks that the investigation is, as he calls it, a witch hunt, that he thinks it's improper and wants to stop it and he's threatened to fire Rosenstein and Mueller for just that purpose.

By the way, if he did so for that purpose, that would be -- if he fired Rosenstein or Mueller at this point, I think it would be safe to say that would be very clearly a crime, it would be an obstruction of justice because he's already told us the motive. The motive would be to hinder an investigation of himself.

COOPER: There are supporters of the President who said firing Rosenstein would be appropriate because Rosenstein was involved -- wrote the letter justifying the firing of Comey and, therefore, is a witness in that?

NADLER: Well, first of all, he was involved in a letter about Comey but nobody thinks that's the real reason he would be fired. The President's made very clear the real reason to be fired is that the President is frustrated and angry and wants to stop this investigation.

COOPER: There are --

NADLER: And that's an improper and criminal purpose.

COOPER: There are growing concerns inside the White House among Republican leadership the Democrats are going to immediately seek to impeach the President if they gain control of the House this November. You likely become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee should that happen. Are Republicans' fears warranted?

[21:55:06] NADLER: No. I don't think they're warranted. We would not automatically seek to impeach the President. I think before that would happen, we'd have to see what the report of the special counsel was, what the evidence is, and what crimes, if any, we thought were committed, what impeachable offenses, if any, we thought we're committed. And that would be a judgment that would have to be made in light of information, which we don't have now. And that's one of the reasons you have the investigation that's going on.

COOPER: I talked to Tom Steyer, the other day, a Democrat who as you know has funded a $20 million national ad campaign calling on Congress to impeach the President. Do you think Democrats in the midterms should -- excuse me -- should run on the idea of impeaching the President or could that end up backfiring?

NADLER: No, I don't think Democrats should run on the idea of impeaching the President. And frankly, I don't think so from a -- it would not be the right thing to do. We have to see what the evidence is first. We have to have a lot more information before such an act would be justified.

The other thing, once we are in control, if we are in control, god willing, I think the first thing that we would do, we'd want to be to get as much information as possible out to the American people what the findings, if they've been released to us of the special counsel are, and other investigations because ultimately, whether you're going to impeach the President or not, the American people are going to have to be satisfied that you've made the right judgment and that you've made it for the right patriotic reasons, not for political reasons.

COOPER: Congressman Nadler, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

NADLER: You're welcome.


COOPER: When we come back, a late breaking development, news of a Presidential pardon for a controversial figure. We'll tell you who that is ahead.


COOPER: Some breaking news from who else Maggie Haberman at "The New York Times", it's both a blast from the past and perhaps things to come. Maggie is reporting that President Trump plans to pardon Scooter Libby, served as chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. He was convicted a perjury in connection with the leak of the CIA officer's identity, the Valerie Plame case.

That's it for us. More on that ahead. Thanks for watching "360." Time to hand things over to Don Lemon. "CNN TONIGHT" starts now. See you tomorrow.