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Trump Considering Rejoining TPP; Cohen Expected in Court; Cohen Taped Conversations; U.N. Meets on Syria. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired April 13, 2018 - 09:30   ET



[09:33:54] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, investors getting their first chance to weigh in this morning after President Trump says he is willing to take another look at the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that trade agreement, a deal he backed out of his first week in office, although maybe he's backing off of his flip-flop now, at least a little bit. It's complicated, but the market's up.

Who better to help us understand, CNN chief business correspondent, star of "Early Start," Christine Romans.

What are we seeing?



ROMANS: I mean, remember, I mean, we could play an hour of tape of the president saying how stupid this trade deal was and how stupid it would be for the United States to be in it. And now it looks as though he is having his trade representative and his chief economic advisor take another look. Maybe the best way for the United States to take on China is to join those 11 other nations in the TPP.

Remember, this was designed, beginning in the Obama administration, as a blunt, a leverage, as a block to together stand up to China and to be a better, you know, a better counterpoint to China and its growing clout in the region.

Last night the president tweeted this, would only join TPP if the deal were substantially better than the deal offered to President Obama. We already have bilateral deals with six of the 11 nations in TPP and are working to make a deal with the biggest of those nations, Japan, who has hit us hard on trade for years.

[09:35:09] I mean the idea here, though, is that bilateral trade relationships together don't really help you against China. You all have to stand together against China.

Now, the prime minister of --

BERMAN: New Zealand, right?

ROMANS: New Zealand basically said, look, this is already signed. We're already moving forward here. You know, so, you know, the United States might have to have some work to do to get back at the table. And actually has less negotiating clout now than it did before, right, because they've already backed away and this train has already left the station.

BERMAN: The sentiment might matter here. The facts of actually getting in might be much more complicated than anyone's anticipating.

ROMANS: But the United States is a big weight (ph) here. I mean 40 percent of global trade would be represented if the United States goes in here. The 11 nations alone are something like 14 percent. So there is that added benefit of all speaking with one voice when you're talking about China deals. You know, maybe that is a selling point to these other nations.

BERMAN: Christine Romans, great to have you. Have a terrific weekend.

ROMANS: You too.

BERMAN: All right, CNN has just learned that the president's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, will appear in federal court next hour. Our Shimon Prokupecz outside the court with the breaking details.

Shimon, always great to have a terrific court reporter with sources there.

What's going on?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: That's right, John, we're told by court staff here that they do expect Michael Cohen to appear here perhaps within the hour. There's a hearing scheduled for 10:30.

Now, late last night we got word that his lawyers had filed a motion, last minute here, to try and prevent the government from using the evidence that was recovered in that search and those search warrants that were executed at his home, his office, and also at the hotel that he's been staying at. We don't know exactly what that argument -- what argument they're going to uses, but it's clear at least from this -- what we expect today and from this filing that should be unsealed at some point today that they, Michael Cohen's attorney, at least expect some kind of criminal activity, perhaps a grand jury proceeding of some kind, where some of this evidence could be presented and they are trying to prevent the government from using the materials, the documents, we've heard some of the videos perhaps -- some of the audio material that may have been recovered, the cell phone that was taken from his home, and yesterday we had reported there was possibly some audio recordings that the FBI may now have.

So all of this, it appears, that his attorneys are trying to get ahead of it and trying to prevent the government from going ahead and using this as evidence in a potential criminal case. BERMAN: All right, very interesting. Be very interesting to see what

is actually said out loud inside that courtroom because it could provide the clearest details yet on what was going on in those searches.

Shimon Prokupecz, we are lucky to have you there.

Again, that hearing appears very shortly. We'll bring you the new details when it happens.

And then after the break, we're going to have even more on Michael Cohen. What the FBI may have found during those raids that have the president's allies frightened this morning.


[09:42:02] BERMAN: All right, the breaking news. We now know that Michael Cohen is expected to be in a federal court next hour for a hearing concerning the raids conducted by the FBI earlier this week. That will be fascinating to hear what happens inside that courtroom.

Now, what we don't know is what the FBI might have found, which has led to a big question this morning, does the FBI have in their possession tapes? Taped conversations that the president's personal lawyer might have made perhaps with the president himself, perhaps with Trump campaign workers?

Our Kara Scannell joins us now with the details on this.

Kara, friends of Michael Cohen, associates, say he taped conversations often.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: That's right, John. I mean sources tell Gloria Borger, Sara Murray and I that Michael Cohen routinely taped conversations before the campaign and during the campaign. These sources tell us that Cohen often played those conversations back to candidate Trump.

And a lot of these conversations, we're told, had to do with how Trump was being perceived in the media. And they also involved conversations that Michael Cohen was having with other -- in the political sphere.

Now, what's very interesting is that, you know, it's very likely that these conversations were scooped up in the FBI raid on Monday. And this is something that a lot of Trump allies are concerned about, were they recorded? It was kind of known within -- those within the campaign that they were warned and kind of secretly discussed among themselves that if they were in Cohen's office, perhaps they would be recorded.

And I think this is why we're seeing the drastic and very unusual action taken by Cohen's attorney to file a temporary restraining order. And, of course, you know, as Shimon was reporting, we're going to start to hear those arguments in court in the next hour.

So, John, I do think there is some concern among Trump allies that these recordings, since no one knows what they are, is something that will be in the hands of the FBI. And that's really going to be the focus of this court hearing today.

BERMAN: All right, Kara Scannell, thank you very much. Terrific information there.

Let's try to understand it some more.

Joining me is Kendall Coffey, former Florida U.S. attorney.

Kendall, thank you so much for being with us.

First, on the subject of the tapes, a couple questions. If they exist, number one, wow. And, number two, a guarantee they would be admissible or useable in an investigation?

KENDALL COFFEY, FORMER FLORIDA U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, it's a double wow in terms of the existence of tapes. And with Cohen's reputation as something of a recording artist who was taping a lot of people, that could be a major focus of the FBI's early interest. I don't think too many of them are going to be privileged unless he was recording Donald Trump, assuming he was recording third parties, and there's not going to be a privilege issue there. And we all know that very few things are as probative, except perhaps for video, than an audio recording. Witnesses just can't deny it. So everybody that's spoken to Michael Cohen in the last group of years has got to be pretty nervous this morning.

BERMAN: And just to be clear, the conversations with the president would only be privileged if he was acting as his lawyer on the subject they were discussing, a, and, b, assuming there wasn't this crime fraud provision that they were plotting some furtherance of a criminal activity, correct?

[09:45:09] COFFEY: Two very important points. If he's talking to the president just about politics, if he's talking to the president just about frustrating, vetting -- venting, then that's not going to be privileged. It's got to be legal communications and legal subject.

And the crime fraud exception is going to be a very tricky subject. It's pretty gray. But it's obviously something that the government intends to pursue here and that could be one of the things that's explored in the hearing today, how are the determinations going to be made about privilege, and will there be a judicially active process, because not everything is privileged. A lot of things are. And that's got to be determined judicially at some point. Maybe not now, but certainly down the road.

BERMAN: All right, Kendall, we just learned about this hearing this morning. Our Kara Scannell, a terrific legal reporter, calls it a drastic and unusual act by the lawyers for Michael Cohen to place -- to try to argue for a restraining order on some of this evidence that has been collected.

Now, there's so much that we don't know about what they have in their hands and also exactly what Michael Cohen's attorneys will be doing. But what do you see here?

COFFEY: Well, what I see is that Cohen is, you know, to use a legal term, freaked out. And he knows -- he knows better than any of us all the things that are in there. And it's something of a longshot because the government has a right to execute search warrants. It's already been judicially approved or the warrant wouldn't have gone forward.

So when you file an action to enjoin the execution of a search warrant, you know that isn't going to keep -- that isn't going to happen. What you're really trying to do is get some information about what they've got, about what they're looking for, and perhaps to put some restrictions or some system to have the materials reviewed and have judicial determinations made about privilege issue rather than let the FBI look at everything.

Of course there's a separate taint team that's supposed to be separate from the prosecution team going through these documents. But most people in Michael Cohen's position are not only extremely worried right now, but they don't trust the idea that a taint team of people separate from the investigation is going to make an accurate determination about attorney/client privilege issues.

BERMAN: Very quickly, Kendall, Michael Avenatti and Stormy Daniels, this other civil case, there's a deadline for some filings on that. Is it likely now that there's clearly some kind of criminal investigation happen, that that will be delayed or put on the back burner?

COFFEY: Well, for sure there's a criminal investigation. And, yes, Cohen has got to take the Fifth. He'd frankly be reckless not to. That's going to affect the civil case. But it could just mean that the civil case goes forward in other respects but doesn't count on the testimony of Michael Cohen, who will be taking the Fifth, I suspect.

BERMAN: Kendall Coffey, great to have you with us to understand these legal machinations that are happening this morning before our very eyes. Appreciate it.

COFFEY: Thanks for including me.

BERMAN: All right, now this morning, we're learning that top military officials have warned the president about the risks of getting more involved in Syria. We have a live update from the Pentagon, next.


[09:52:33] BERMAN: Just moments from now, the U.N. Security Council will meet to discuss the way forward in Syria. A meeting called for by Russia. This as top military brass, including Defense Secretary James Mattis, apparently warned the president about the potential risks of any military action in Syria.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, with us with the latest details.



Well, the secretary and top national security officials met with the president late yesterday and, of course, we are learning now that they talked about the risks of military action. But what is so fascinating is Jim Mattis actually forecasts his hand publicly, earlier in the day, testifying on Capitol Hill, warning about the risk of escalation if the U.S. conducted military strikes.

Here's what's so important. Mattis almost never shows his hand publicly. He made a point in an open congressional hearing yesterday of saying that one of his strategic concerns is that military action could lead to escalation and everybody knows what he's talking about. He means a reaction from the Russians. And that would be extremely serious, obviously.

So that calculation now being looked at again today by all accounts. More meetings across Washington about what they want to do. What would a target list look like? Do you want to just go for the same kinds of targets as you did a year ago, air fields? Do you want to go after the chemical weapons? That could cause civilian casualties. Mattis, we know, is concerned about that. Do you want to go for a broader set of targets that could involve the Russians? Obviously, a good deal of concern.

And, still, secretary Mattis publicly, again, yesterday, saying the intelligence was not nailed down. They believe it was a chemical attack. Sources say there's every reason to believe it was chlorine and nerve agent. But as of yesterday, in public at least, Secretary Mattis saying the intelligence was not absolutely nailed down about what was used and that is something they very much want to know before they make a decision if and when to proceed, John.

BERMAN: Barbara, any sense that a decision, let alone action, could happen as soon as today?

STARR: That is, in fact, the $10 million question that the world is waiting to see. We know that the U.S. is continuing to collect intelligence. We know that the U.S. military and the allies would have everything in place if the order came to conduct strikes. It does appear that right now it is up to the president on how he wants to proceed. And it will be in consultation, we are told, with the British and French authorities. How the leaders and the governments in those two countries want to proceed also part of the equation perhaps later today. We really just don't know, John.

[09:55:21] BERMAN: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, watching things there for us.

Barbara, appreciate it.

An all-out rhetorical battle between a fired FBI director and the president of the United States, saying things that go beyond rated PG, shall we say. We're going to have much more from the first public comments from James Comey on his explosive new book and the president's explosive response, next.