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Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen Under Criminal Investigation; I.G. Report on McCabe Firing Out. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired April 13, 2018 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: There's a lot of information here that has been redacted by the government. But it does say that one of the things they're looking at is that the fact that he had very few clients. So this question of whether or not this -- the information that was taken from his hotel room, from his offices, the records, his electronics. Whether or not that is protected by attorney/client privilege they say it's really not that relevant because, again, he has very few clients. Doesn't bill anybody. So all of this has to do with his -- or largely has to do with his personal business dealings for which he's under investigation. The court documents also say that this did come partly as a referral from Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

But it also says this is an investigation being done by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan and is proceeding independently of the special counsel. Underscoring the fact this is now two separate investigations that we have going that have an impact on President Trump, which is why you see President Trump's own attorney showing up in court.

Also, from the court documents, again, some of it redacted and we can't tell what has been seized in this -- in the series of raids that were carried out. They say there was some concern that some of these records could have been deleted. It doesn't say specifically what records, but it does mention that some of the electronics as some of my colleagues have been reporting. The FBI did is believed to have seized some of the recordings that Michael Cohen may have made over the last couple of years, and so there was some concern, at least according to the federal prosecutors here that if they didn't do this raid, they would have -- some of these records might have been lost. Might have been deleted in the course of time.


PEREZ: Again, we're going through the documents, Brooke. But the headline here, obviously, underscoring this is a -- you know, he's a target of a criminal investigation for his personal business dealings.

BALDWIN: OK. Evan, thank you so much.

I've got Joe Moreno and James Gagliano here with me.

Let's back up. When we talked about the raids earlier this week and the way in which an aggressive way to go about going through and grabbing, the FBI, his hotel, and office one piece of clothes there was something there for them to do this, for them to find. And the notion now that we're learning that Trump's personal attorney is under criminal investigation now. Surprising? What's the next move?

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Not surprising me at all. When you go to the lengths of appointing a special prosecutor. I'm been keptive on the Russia collusion thing. If you bring to bear special prosecutor in limited oversight. This is an FBI special. He probably has a minimum of 10, 15, 20 agents working on this. He has some of the best and finest attorneys, former DOJ attorneys working with him on it. If you sic a special prosecutor on somebody, even if there's no "there" there with the president, the people in his orbit, when they fall in that scrutiny, this is not unexpected.

BALDWIN: What Evan noted that probably the timing of the raids, they were worried that there could be electronics that could go and be deleted like that.

GAGLIANO: That's why they went that route.

And I'll leave it to my esteemed lawyer colleague here.

But that's why they went that route. They had to have feared there was going to be the destruction of evidence. Otherwise, you have to use every other means possible to gather that intel, other than using a no-knock warrant.

BALDWIN: Go ahead, Joe.

JOSEPH MORENO, WHITE COLLAR DEFENSE & INVESTIGATONS ATTORNEY, CADWALADERS: This is the other shoe that dropped. Right. We could have speculated giving Mr. Cohen the full benefit of the doubt on the Monday when the raid happened perhaps it was an aggressive move. Perhaps they were grasping at something. The fact that, as Evan confirms, it could be a target. Not a surprise. It was an aggressive move. It's not one that is utilized often raiding the records of an attorney. It seems par for the course it would move in this direction.

BALDWIN: Can we turn the page and have the next chapter of questions, which is then could SDNY -- this is unrelated to the Mueller investigation, but I don't know if you know where I'm going. In the sense that they have this potential criminality. We don't know what it is. They say to Cohen, I've got this on you and this on you. If you don't start talking and telling me what you know about Donald Trump, the man, what you have been involved with, we're going to throw you away for a bunch of years unless you help Mueller.

GAGLIANO: The echoes of the mid 1990s and the investigation into Bill Clinton and his associates. It is reminiscent here.

To your point, Brooke, yes. But I'll caveat by saying Susan McDougal went to jail and didn't say a word. I'm sure someone facing -- I hate having the term House counsel, it's pejorative, but by the same token, somebody that's been Donald Trump's right-hand man --

[14:35:10] BALDWIN: No. He said he would take a bullet for the man. It's hard to imagine him flipping on Donald Trump.

GAGLIANO: That's hyperbole. But when people are facing still time, I'm here to tell you, after 25 years in the FBI, it changes their calculous.

BALDWIN: I want to continue on. We have to hit pause. We have to get a commercial break in.

Also, a reminder. Amid all these breaking headlines this Friday afternoon, we're waiting for Sarah Sanders to take the podium at the White House briefing. It should start any minute now. It's one of those days.

We'll be right back.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[14:39:45] BALDWIN: All right. We got more breaking news for you this Friday afternoon. It involves Andy McCabe, who was, remember, the number-two at the FBI, who was not too long ago fired after some 20-plus years working with the FBI. Fired by the A.G. Jeff Sessions. And so this whole thing has been under review by the I.G., the inspector general. We have the full report back from the I.G.

Let me read the first graph. This is key here. "The I.G. report serves a basis for McCabe's termination 26 hours before he was scheduled to retire with the full law enforcement officer pension and health insurance." Here is what they say. "The rush to judgment, the rush to terminate Mr. McCabe was unprecedented, unseemingly, and cruel. His treatment was far more harsh and far less fair than he deserved, and his reward for the loyalty he showed to his country over the course of his career was a truncated form of administrative due process including the lack of any right to appeal outside the DOJ."

James and Joe.

To you, sir.

GAGLIANO: I'm conflicted. We talked about this before.


GAGLIANO: I know McCabe. McCabe worked for me as a young SWAT agent. I believe in being a man of good character. I think he made some mistakes. Lack of candor is a term we use in the FBI. It's dressing up lying. Mischaracterizing something. There are lies of commission and omission. What he's been accused of is making this disclosure to the "Wall Street Journal" that didn't fit under the public interest exception and it was made to advance his own personal interest at department leadership. If you're a probationary agent with one day out of Quantico and you lie, bye. If you're a deputy director, two days from retirement, and you're accused of lying by a nonpartisan I.G. appointed under President Obama who, by every stretch of our imagination, does the right thing and not affected with politics, sorry, bye.

It's a sad thing that it had to happen. But deputy directors and probationary agents have to be held to the same damn standard.

MORENO: I can't argue with that. Prosecutors would be in the same boat. It's really difficult. People get upset about the idea that those at the top get treated than those at the entry level. You have to be consistent. And I'm totally with James on this. Candor is so important. Especially when you have a position in public trust such as an FBI agent or a federal prosecutor.

BALDWIN: Let me move back to the other piece of news.

I want to bring in two other voices, Tara Setmayer and Brian Karem.

I want to get back to the other piece we learned as we were talking to Evan Perez a second ago about Michael Cohen. People called him Trump's fixer. He said I'll take a bullet for President Trump. This is a guy we know, as a result of the raids on his office, hotel, and home earlier this week, the FBI raids, he's now officially under criminal investigation.

Brian, again, you know, it's a little busy around these parts lately.

BRIAN KAREM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it is. A very busy day.

BALDWIN: This is -- again, I think we have, you know, this is a man who has been so extraordinarily close to the man Donald Trump, the candidate Donald Trump, President Donald Trump, and now the guy is under criminal investigation.

KAREM: I think the key is if he ever pleads the fifth, we'll know where it's going in a heartbeat. I think that it's obvious where it was going when they raided it. It was a very serious move that they made. Cohen is under observation and investigation very obvious reasons. And I go back to what you said earlier, Brooke, when you were quoting Trey Gowdy, "If you're not guilty, start acting like it."

And the other characterization that Gloria said, I think, about being flailing about. Those are terms that described Trump every day of his administration. And I think it's exacerbated by the fact that now Cohen is involved in it and this is a man, like you said, his trusted advisor. It was his fixer. It was his go-to guy. People I know that have known Cohen for many years say he's been a wannabe lame light lover. Now he's getting his shot. What he does is going to be up to him. If Mueller puts his feet on the fire, we'll see how long and how hard he's attached to Donald Trump.

BALDWIN: OK. Tara, I want to go to you in a second.

Let me bring in our senior justice correspondent, Evan Perez. He broke the news on Cohen being under criminal investigation.

Now, you have more news on this Cohen hearing underway in federal court. What's up? PEREZ: We've been reading these documents, Brooke, and the

extraordinary thing here is the prosecutors are saying essentially Michael Cohen is not much of a practicing lawyer. They say, in fact, witnesses and prosecutors have talked about -- have indicated that Michael Cohen said he has one client and that client is Donald Trump. And they also say that, you know, he's -- the prosecutors say that the FBI previously had obtained a secret warrant to go through Cohen's e- mails, the first we're hearing about this. There were the raids earlier this week. But they said they had already gone through Michael Cohen's e-mails using a secret warrant that is only now become public. And they say that after going through the e-mails indicates that Cohen is, in fact, performing little to no legal work, and that zero e-mails were exchanged with Donald Trump.

[14:45:30] It's important to bring up Donald Trump simply because, you know, there's a claim that attorney/client privilege has been violated. That's what Michael Cohen is in court to argue. And one of the things that prosecutors are pointing out is that Michael Cohen has publicly said that he never told President Trump about the payment to Stormy Daniels. Therefore, there is no protection. No attorney/client privilege protection for those interactions. Again, if he never told his client about the payment, then it's not protected. It's something that is not protected by attorney/client privilege. It's a big deal for Michael Cohen's argument. It means that prosecutors can go through, the FBI can go through everything that has to do with the payment to Stormy Daniels. If there's any tax fraud or bank fraud that occurred as a result of that, that can be pursued and there is no protection whatsoever.

BALDWIN: Sure. Even taking it a step further. The president was on Air Force One the other day and asked about --


PEREZ: Exactly.

BALDWIN: The president was like I don't know what you're talking about. And then what did he say? Ask Michael Cohen.

PEREZ: Michael Cohen. And, by the way, they mentioned that exchange in a footnote in these court papers -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: No kidding?

Evan, thank you. Stay on it. We'll bring you back.

Let's go to your colleague, Shimon Prokupecz, who has been outside the federal courthouse monitoring this hearing that has been underway.

Shimon, what do you have?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN JUSTICE & CRIME REPORTER: Well, I just walked out of the court. The judge adjourned this, yet again, to 4:00. And the question that the judge has, at this point, she wants to know what other clients Michael Cohen had that could be potentially affected by the seizure, by the search warrant that the FBI conducted at his home, at his office. And put it really to his attorneys, to Michael Cohen's attorneys, tell me what other clients does he have? Did he have that may have been affected by this. Or who could argue there's some privilege violation. And simply, Brooke, his attorneys, Michael Cohen's attorneys, could not do so. At one point, saying his attorney basically saying he doesn't know the answer to that. And that he thinks this is now Michael Cohen's attorney saying he thinks he had individual clients, other individual clients but he didn't have the answer for the judge. But the judge here was frustrated, and she basically said, well, maybe perhaps you should have your client here, Michael Cohen, so he can answer some of the questions.

Now we've adjourned to 4:00 because the judge, I mean, she's trying to move it along. She makes the point, the judge here, this is an emergency relief that was filed by Michael Cohen. They're the ones that are asking that the judge issue this restraining order. But, yet, all these answers and issues they say could come if the government started going through the documents they have yet to be able to answer.

So now we'll be back here at 4:00, hopefully, with some answers here from the judge as to what exactly is Michael Cohen asking for? We don't know. Because the judge seems certainly not getting the answers she wants -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: OK. All right. You'll be back at it at 4:00.

Let me turn to these, my new best friends on the set.

We've been talking through the different stories coming at us and listening to that. Understanding what is going on in that courtroom. Where is Michael Cohen? His lawyers, as we talked about earlier the president's lawyers, which surprised everyone jumping in and trying to jump in and claim privilege. Translate that for us.

MORENO: Brooke, since we learned about the Cohen raids, you know, four days ago, I've been thinking about whether there's a silver ling here for the president. I'm not seeing one. It confirms now effectively Michael Cohen is off limits as a surrogate, as an advisor, as a counsellor. The president is most likely losing one of his inner most members of his trusted circle.

BALDWIN: What happened? He's under criminal investigation. What happened?

GAGLIANO: It's a great point. It could be anything. Again, special prosecutor. All those dedicated investigators. They're going to turn that light upside down. They'll go through all the digital. They'll go through anything he dealt with from the IRS. All those things will be subpoenaed and they're going to be looked at. Here is the thing, it defies credulity. When you have somebody who is your house counsel and they're making a payment and you start talking about it or tweeting about it and you answer something in the press in the back of Air Force One you say something else here. Your lawyer, Michael Cohen says something different. Investigators are taking notes. They're putting that together. This is going to turn out to be, as I read the tea leaves, federal campaign violation. (CROSSTALK)

[14:50:21] BALDWIN: But I've had people say, no big deal. You know, this is if -- if this weren't the president we're talking about and hush payments. Who cares? Why does this matter?

MORENO: Financial crimes matter. You make a transaction with an individual to keep certain information private, in exchange for money, that's not illegal. Whenever you think about the ethics with an arrangement like that, you can do that. The problem comes in how are you accounting for that transaction? Where are you telling the bank the money is originating from? How is it tracked on the books and records? That's where the problems come in.

Campaign finance, I mean, they can be difficult cases to prosecute but they can also be tremendously damaging.


MORENO: And, you know, when I heard about that angle of the Stormy Daniels payment I said, gosh, a potential payment that keeps someone quiet is one thing. If there's a campaign finance angle to it --

BALDWIN: To keep it quiet from the American public because they want the man to become the next president of the United States, that's another.

MORENO: Yes. And using campaign finance funds to do that, you can have potential problems here.

GAGLIANO: It could be looked at as a political campaign donation.

BALDWIN: Right. Exactly.

Shimon Prokupecz, he has more new information in downtown Manhattan, back with us.

What do you have, Shimon?

PROKUPECZ: This is from the court documents unsealed by the prosecutors here, by the judge, as well. And it goes to those Air Force One comments that you were just talking about moments ago that Donald Trump made. It seems those comments are coming back to haunt him.

In terms of the Stormy Daniels issues, the prosecutors say, the government here said that the government that the Clifford matter is not covered under attorney/client privilege because of the president's comments aboard Air Force One. They go on to quote among other things President Trump has publicly denied knowing that Cohen gave Clifford and suggested to reporters that they had to ask Michael about the payment.

And remember, we had talked about this for some time after the president made those comments. And now that could potentially cause him harm. And in doing so, it seems that is what is going on here. This is a key issue for the government in their argument here for why they should have access to some of the information. You know, for a long time, the president's attorneys and other legal experts said the president's comments he should not be commenting about this stuff. Certainly, it come back to hurt him. Here we see a case from the government's papers where that is happening here -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: OK. Shimon, thank you.

It's funny, I thought of this, as well. We have the tape. So this is what we keep referencing, and clearly referenced in the court document House. The exchange that the president had on boards Air Force One within the past week. Roll it.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did you know about the $30,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What else? Then why did Michael -- why did Michael Cohen make it if there was no -- if they're allegations?

TRUMP: You'll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. You'll have to ask Michael.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you know where he got the money? To make that payment?

TRUMP: I don't know.


BALDWIN: OK. Joe, Moreno, that's the key piece they're now referring to for attorney/client privilege wouldn't cover the Stormy Daniels payment because the president commented on Air Force One.

MORENO: The argument it's one thing if it's a client set something in motion and the attorney executes. If the lawyer is going rogue. If the lawyer is engaging in transactions and the client had no idea what they were doing, he was acting on his own funds and decisions and I didn't know. It's hard to kind of say it's still attorney-client confidential because there was no communication, there was no privilege. It's an aggressive argument but a logical argument.


MORENO: And counsel will have a hard time pushing back on this.

BALDWIN: That's the legal piece of this.

Let me go back to the political piece of this, back to Tara and Brian.

Tara, I want to hear from you. Wow, the president's own remarks, the president's own words on Air Force One, it sounds like, open this thing wide open, Tara? [14:54:39] TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Is that someone

you would take a bullet for? I mean, we talk about how Trump values loyalty. It's mafia-style loyalty until it isn't. This is a perfect example. We know Michael Cohen is as close to Trump as anyone outside his own flesh and blood. With those remarks, he threw Michael Cohen under the bus and opened up this whole thing. So if that's the case, that Trump didn't know anything about it. Michael Cohen allegedly went rogue. Does anyone believe that? OK, let's say he did, now we're in a legal territory where those words and those actions matter from a legal perspective. Because now we understand why Trump is freaking out. Why he's so obsessed with this. Because it's not attorney-client privilege information anymore they found. That means that federal investigators are able to look at all of this. We know that, Michael Cohen is privy to where all the bodies are buried for Trump. And apparently, he's been doing it for other people.

Something else that came out in this filing today is that Michael Cohen was receiving $500,000 from a powerful lobbying law firm in D.C. It's a big law firm. But for doing what? Having a strategic alliance. Basically introducing the potential clients to them. He had no mail with the law firm. It was completely separate. He had his own office, but it was separate. That's a strange arrangement. I've been in Washington a long time and never heard of anything like that. Michael Cohen has his hands in a lot of things that are questionable. And having this level of scrutiny on him is not a good day for the president of the United States.


KAREM: And Brooke --

BALDWIN: And the other piece, if I can, quickly if people hadn't been watching the last 45 minutes. One of the pieces of news M.J. Lee was fronting was that Michael Cohen helped secure $1.6 million in payment to a woman, a former playboy playmate, who apparently was impregnated --

KAREM: That's right.

BALDWIN: -- by a top Republican fund-raiser who helped, you know, then Candidate Trump raise a lot of money.

SETMAYER: Seems like a pattern to me.

BALDWIN: Go ahead, Brian.

KAREM: The pattern, to extend it further, after that, on Air Force One. I'll remind you that, Tuesday, in the press briefing, when Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked if Cohen was still the president's attorney, she said you'll have to ask Cohen. So, I mean --

BALDWIN: Which was a change of tone.

KAREM: Yes. Not only did he push him under the bus, he backed it over the guy a couple of times. It's the movement of the president that has opened him up to the scrutiny. And Cohen, if he's been the loyal soldier, I said be careful. The president has to be careful. If you see Cohen take the Fifth, you'll know what's up. And the bottom line, it's not good for the president. And the president has to quit acting like he's guilty.

The scary part, Brooke, is that if the president is guilty of obstruction of justice for any other crime, then you understand his actions. But if he is not guilty, which is a possibility, if he committed no crime, what he's done is be a rich spoiled guy and hasn't gotten his way, and he's tearing asunder the Department of Justice and the Constitution merely because he hasn't gotten his own way. And that's even more frightening than being a criminal.

SETMAYER: It's scorched earth.


SETMAYER: Everything Trump does is scorched earth. And this is another example. Including those close to him.

I find it hard to believe that Michael Cohen would take a bullet proverbially for this president when he's facing this kind of criminal investigation. He has a family and children. I just don't think that when he gets squeezed, ultimately, he's going decide to go to jail for the president of the United States given the way he's behaved. I just don't believe that.


BALDWIN: That will be a future chapter. We'll discuss. That is all up to Michael Cohen.

Let me ask you two, to standby.

Let me go back to Shimon, who has more news.

Shimon, you've been reading through the court documents. What else have you seen?

PROKUPECZ: We're learning a lot here. We know why the FBI and why the U.S. attorney here, perhaps, may have needed to do this the way they did it. We've been saying it's been pretty aggressive move to serve these warrants on an attorney, on the president's attorney. What we've learned is that the government says they were concerned, they have some concern, they're not saying what the concern is, that records could have been deleted without the search of Cohen's property. We talked about this. We have said there was something that concerned the government here. Why do they go in early in the morning on Monday and conduct a search? We may have our answer now. Clearly, there is some concern here. Perhaps they obtained some information that indicated there was some discussions or whatever it may be, or some level of concern here. Very cleanly stated in the court documents that needed -- that required them to go in to Michael Cohen's properties and to his home and to his office and into the hotel as they did, so aggressively.

[14:59:48] BALDWIN: OK. Shimon, thank you so much.

Sara Azari is sitting with us. Another voice here, a lawyer.

And all of this is going on in this Friday afternoon. The notion that everyone -- yes, Shimon is right, in one sense, it felt a little bit aggressive, the way in which the FBI went in on Michael Cohen's office and home and hotel. On the other hand, now it sounds like we have a window into why.