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THE SITUATION ROOM
Michael Cohen Under Criminal Investigation, Fighting Use of Evidence Captured in Raids; Cohen Arranged $1.6M Pay-off to Model for GOP Fundraiser; White House Calls Comey a 'Partisan Hack'; Trump Pardons Scooter Libby; Comey: Trump Fixated on Disproving Lewd Parts of Dossier; Trump Lashes Out At Comey: "Weak And Untruthful Slime Ball". Aired 5-6p ET
Aired April 13, 2018 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:13] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news. Criminal investigation. The president's personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, is under criminal investigation and has been fighting a day-long court battle to limit evidence seized in FBI raids that may include recorded conversations.
Playmate payoff scandal. CNN confirms the president's lawyer secured a $1.6 million hush-money deal with another Playmate who said she became pregnant by a top GOP fundraiser.
Slinging slime. President Trump launches an extraordinary attack on former FBI Director James Comey, who's unleashed blistering criticism of the president in a shocking new book and interview.
And all options. The White House says all options are on the table following a deadly chemical attack in Syria, but while the president vowed a quick response to that horror and the evidence is mounting, the U.S. is still weighing how to retaliate.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news, as an all-out war of words escalates between President Trump and James Comey over the former FBI chief's eye- popping revelations, there are stunning new developments.
The Justice Department says the president's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, is under criminal investigation as Cohen goes to court to suppress evidence seized in FBI raids.
And President Trump pardons former Bush administration aide Scooter Libby, convicted of lying in a CIA leak case. Many see this as a signal by the president to his own former aides caught in the special counsel's web that he has the power to protect them.
I'll speak with Congressman John Garamendi. And our correspondents and specialists are standing by with full coverage. But let's begin with the president's personal lawyer and fixer,
Michael Cohen, now revealed in court documents to be under criminal investigation. Cohen has gone to court today to suppress evidence seized in FBI raids against him, possibly including recorded phone conversations.
Our justice correspondent, Evan Perez, is here. CNN crime and justice correspondent Shimon Prokupecz is at the federal courthouse in New York.
Shimon, a marathon session there today with lots of surprises. What's the latest?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf. It was a session that started at 10:30 and kept getting adjourned and finally ended a short time ago with really no answers.
But what we have learned, what we have learned is that there have been several developments in this investigation. As you said, Michael Cohen, the Justice Department, the U.S. attorney here confirming that he's under criminal investigation. In court papers that they filed, they also say that this has been a months-long investigation and also a grand jury -- a grand jury has been impaneled, and that all that is ongoing.
This while they're trying to get their hands -- the government is trying to begin to review the materials that they seized from his home, from his office, from his safe deposit boxes and from his phones where there may, as we've been reporting, be these audio recordings.
All of that the government says -- and they said this in court, that they need access to, for their investigation. But that is being delayed because Michael Cohen's attorneys are arguing that it's privileged material. And then also today we learned all of a sudden, and sort of a last-minute effort, the president has hired attorneys. He hired them on Wednesday and they, too, have now asked the court to consider that some of the information that the government has now is privileged because it belongs to the president. It's the president's communications, and because Michael Cohen was his attorney at the time, these materials are privileged and only he -- only the president would be able to waive privilege.
Now as sort of a side note here, Wolf, Michael Avenatti, as you know, is Stormy Daniels's attorney. He was here in court. He was going to speak this afternoon, but he decided not to speak before the judge. And we've also been told by him that he's likely -- he may have his client appear here on Monday, when Michael Cohen has now been ordered to appear before this judge, because she's looking for answers on who Michael Cohen's clients are. There's been an all-day battle here between the defense attorneys and prosecutors, because they want to know who Michael Cohen is claiming has privilege to this information and reasons for why they should not have access to it.
But so far, Michael Cohen's attorneys have not been able to provide that information to the court. BLITZER: Shimon, did the recorded phone conversations that Michael
Cohen had with various people -- he would routinely record these phone conversations -- did that come up during the court hearing today?
[17:05:07] PROKUPECZ: No, Wolf, that did not come up in the court hearings. The only mention of anything concerning electronic devices, that was mentioned in court papers, but the prosecutors did not specify what they were referring to. There has been no mention of that in court. Really, the government never discussed any of their evidence in court.
Everything we've learned was filed in these court documents and, really, it's an extraordinary and unprecedented thing for the government, for the Department of Justice, for the U.S. attorney's office to go ahead and publicly admit that someone is under criminal investigation.
But, you know, it really appears that what Michael Cohen here, by filing this last-minute -- this last-minute effort to try and get the government from not seeing any of this so-called privileged information, may have backfired on him in that we now have a better sort of inside look into what the government has, what their case is about. You know, the government in their core papers saying that this has to do with his business dealings, and not so much as his activity as an attorney. But really about his business dealings, Wolf.
BLITZER: I want to bring Evan into this.
How much trouble is Michael Cohen in right now? Because if you read the document that the U.S. attorney presented to the court today, the first sentence out of there was that a federal judge found probable cause to believe that the premises and devices searched contained evidence, fruits and instrumentalities of conduct for which Cohen is under criminal investigation.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The answer, Wolf, is a whole lot of trouble. And as Shimon sort of alluded to just now, I think some of the trouble that he's in is because of things that he has said and that the president has said. They are, in essence, making their own case worse off for themselves.
And in the -- in the court papers that were filed today, the government mentions this video from the president, essentially telling reporters that he had no -- no information from Michael Cohen, knows nothing about this $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels, that essentially, he was not consulted about this.
And so what -- the importance of that is that it is not covered by attorney-client privilege. It means that Michael Cohen and his lawyers cannot really protect that information from the government's eyes.
So look, I think they're going to end up losing in court today. And it's going to be clear that not only is he in a lot of trouble but made the case worse for himself in order to try to keep the government from seeing some of this important evidence that he says the government has now.
BLITZER: And Shimon, as you know, there's a word that President Trump actually spoke to Michael Cohen today on the phone. Does that further complicate this case?
PROKUPECZ: It certainly can. We don't know if those communications and Michael Cohen is under a wiretap of some kind. He is under investigation. There is a grand jury that has been impaneled here in the southern district in New York, in Manhattan, that is now investigating Michael Cohen.
Certainly, his communications could still fall under the surveillance -- under surveillance, because what the government revealed today is that they have had Michael Cohen under surveillance. There was what they call covert methods to obtain his e-mails. We don't know if they've obtained or they've recorded any of his conversations or if they wiretapped him. We have no indication of that in the court filing.
But certainly, the president talking to someone that is under criminal investigation, that a grand jury is now listening to evidence about, is a problem and should concern everyone.
The government here is still fighting to get access to this information, and as Evan said, I think that Michael Cohen is going to lose here, because the judge has certainly given a lot of indications today that she was extremely frustrated with his attorneys. She kept asking them all day, really, for information about who his other possible clients were. She gave them an opportunity to -- at 4 p.m. to come back from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. to provide this information. They did not provide that information.
And now she's giving them, really, until Monday to tell her who his clients are so that the government can then determine, perhaps, who is affected by this privilege in some of these documents and this information that they've obtained.
BLITZER: And amidst all of this, Evan, there is the report now -- and CNN has confirmed this report -- that Michael Cohen was actually involved in working out a $1.6 million hush -- hush-money agreement with another Playmate on behalf of a major Republican fundraiser.
PEREZ: Right. We're talking about Elliott Broidy. He was a deputy finance chair for the Republican National Committee, and now he has acknowledged that Michael Cohen helped arrange this $1.6 million payment to a "Playboy" Playmate that apparently, as a result of the relationship, she got pregnant and she -- she ended the pregnancy.
[17:10:14] ]We now know that the RNC says that he has resigned from the RNC. But Broidy and Cohen together -- he helped get Cohen a position on the RNC in the past year. So he's a very big donor for the Republicans. He actually just -- in the past month helped host a fundraiser for the president in California. So he's somebody who is very important and very close to a lot of people in the Trump world.
And, you know, just to -- just to add to what Shimon just talked about just now, Michael Cohen, the video we're showing, is, you know, him smoking a cigar with a group of men on a bench outside his Manhattan hotel while his lawyers were essentially trying to argue to protect him, while the judge seems to be very frustrated that he is not there to provide answers as to who exactly are his clients. And according to government, he has only got one -- really one client, and that is President Trump.
So that video shows what Michael Cohen was busy doing while his lawyers were in court, trying to protect him, essentially, from this investigation.
BLITZER: His friends were smoking cigars. Was he spoking a cigar, as well.
PEREZ: He was smoking a cigar, 80-degree day. He was chatting with the photographers. He looks really good, said he wanted to get some of these photos the photographers were taking of him so that he could provide them to his mother. Not a care in the world, apparently.
BLITZER: Yes. Very interesting.
All right. Shimon, Evan, I know you guys are working your sources. We're going to get back to both of you.
Meanwhile, President Trump echoed by a spokesperson has unleashed a torrent of insults at James Comey, at the same time maybe trying to divert attention from Comey's revelations with an extraordinary show of presidential power.
Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, for the latest.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the White House is escalating its attacks on James Comey in response to the allegations in the former FBI director's news book.
But the president is facing plenty of new questions of his own after he pardoned a key official from the George W. Bush administration, an action that Democrats believe is a signal to witnesses cooperating in the Russia probe.
ACOSTA (voice-over): At the White House, a steady series of insults for former FBI director James Comey.
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The American people see right through the blatant lies of a self-admitted leaker. This is nothing more than a poorly-executed P.R. stunt by Comey to desperately rehabilitate his tattered reputation and enrich his own bank account by peddling a book that belongs in the bargain bin section instead of a dedicated servant in the pursuit of justice.
Like so many other colleagues at the FBI, Comey will be forever known as a disgraced partisan hack that broke his sacred trust with the president of the United States. ACOSTA: White House press secretary Sarah Sanders channeled a furious
President Trump, who is said to be outraged over the flow of damaging anecdotes in Comey's new book.
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I honestly never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but I don't know whether the current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013. It's possible, but I don't know.
ACOSTA: The president fired back, tweeting, "James Comey is a proven leaker and liar. Virtually everyone in Washington thought he should be fired for the terrible job he did until he was, in fact, fired. He is a weak and untruthful slime ball. It was my great honor to fire James Comey."
(on camera): You've probably seen this tweet. It was a tweet that you posted this before the election in 2016, when you're attacking FBI agents because you're under criminal investigation and you're losing. What do you make of that now? I mean, isn't that --
SANDERS: The rank-and-file FBI are some of the greatest people in this country. We've repeated that time and time again. And certainly have the full support of this administration.
I think that we've been very clear, though, how we feel about some of the leadership at the FBI. Particularly James Comey.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The president is making other waves, announcing a full pardon for Scooter Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. Libby was convicted of perjury in the investigation into the outing of former CIA agent Valerie Plame, whose husband, Joe Wilson, tried to sound the alarm about the faulty case used by the George W. Bush administration about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
VALERIE PLAME, FORMER CIA AGENT: My personal sense is that I didn't think my contempt for Donald Trump could go lower, but he surprises me each and every day.
ACOSTA: It's an odd move for the president, given his past comments about the Bush administration during the campaign.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You call it whatever you want. I want to tell you. They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none, and they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction.
ACOSTA: Libby's attorney, Victoria Toensing, and her husband, Joe diGenova, recently considered joining the president's legal team in the Russia investigation. DiGenova is also a fierce critic of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, slamming Comey --
[17:15:00] JOE DIGENOVA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: James Comey is a dirty cop. He is a completely dirty cop --
ACOSTA: -- and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Russia probe.
DIGENOVA: Rod Rosenstein is so incompetent, compromised and conflicted that he can no longer serve as the deputy attorney general. And Jeff Sessions now has an obligation to the president of the United States to fire Rod Rosenstein.
ACOSTA: Democrats are accusing the president of using the Libby pardon to send a signal to witnesses cooperating in the Mueller probe.
REP. STEVE COHEN (D), TENNESSEE: I think it does telegraph what he'll probably do with Flynn and Manafort, and he'll be using his pardon power like he did with Arpaio. He doesn't use it in the most discrete way. He does it for political purposes, and he wants to cover his people.
ACOSTA: The White House insisted there is no connection.
SANDERS: One thing has nothing to do with the other.
ACOSTA: The president also tore into former top FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, pointing to a new inspector general report that says McCabe was not candid with investigators who were looking into comments that he made to a reporter about a probe into the Clintons. McCabe's lawyer says his client is the victim of a rush to judgment.
But in a tweet the president compared McCabe to Comey, of all people. That is -- obviously compares to a lot of people raising questions about. But, Wolf, if you look at that tweet, it's another sign all the capital letters there, all the exclamation points, uses by the president there, that this investigation is getting under his skin. He's starting to feel very under siege by the FBI and the top officials at the Justice Department -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Jim, thank you. Jim Acosta at the White House.
Joining us now, Democratic Congressman John Garamendi of California.
Congressman, thanks so much for coming in. Let me get your quick reaction to the breaking news, the president's longtime personal attorney and friend Michael Cohen, federal prosecutors now confirm in this court document he is under criminal investigation. Should the president be concerned?
REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D), CALIFORNIA: Absolutely. We should all be concerned.
Wolf, just stand back for a second. Consider what's happened to America. Consider where we are after just what, 14 months of this presidency. This nation is in deep, deep trouble because the leadership in this nation is in trouble. And causing trouble.
The whole history of Trump, all TV coming out. If only this had happened during the course of the campaign so the American public would have been aware of what was coming down on us. You look across the world. We're national -- international on this show. The world is looking at this and going, oh, my God what's happened to America. This president has so debased the office of the presidency and in the process, debased America.
BLITZER: As you know, you just heard us report the president actually spoke on the phone with his attorney, Michael Cohen, today, depending on what they discussed. Could that place the president in some sort of legal jeopardy?
GARAMENDI: Well, he's certainly in legal jeopardy to begin with. He is not the target. He is the subject, whatever difference that might mean.
But one more thing, stepping up when he should have known or could have known that his personal attorney was under -- I guess this criminal investigation. To speak to him -- where does all of this go?
Well, it is clear that it is becoming closer and closer to Trump. Capital letters on every tweet now. Tweets coming out not just early in the morning but throughout the course of the day and all of the in the context of a possible war in Syria. So where are we as America? Where is this country? We're under the siege of a leader that is just helter-skelter.
BLITZER: Well, given his anger right now and clear frustration of what he sees going on, are you worried that he could handle a life- and-death decision like retaliating for those chemical attacks in Syria?
GARAMENDI: I'm terribly concerned, and that is why many of us, myself included, want to make sure that there is an actual authorization to use force, military force. And act of war.
BLITZER: But that's not going to happen between now and the next few days --
GARAMENDI: It could --
BLITZER: The commander-in-chief could give the order.
GARAMENDI: Of course he could. And he probably will. And attacking a country. This is not attacking ISIS. This is attacking Syria.
Now certainly, Syria should be held accountable. But that needs to be done with allies. That needs to be done with a strategic plan. That needs to be -- the forethought, not just anger, and quite possibly, not just to divert attention from what was going to be Comey's weekend, explaining his book.
He's going to be on every station in the world explaining what's in his book. And so is the president going to use an attack on Syria to divert attention? We don't know. But we'd hope not.
BLITZER: You're on the Armed Services Committee and you actually spoke with the defense secretary, James Mattis, yesterday. Are they -- are they concerned over there at the Pentagon about what's going on?
GARAMENDI: Of course they are. They're the ones that are going to have to fight the war.
BLITZER: But are they concerned about the president and his state of mind right now?
[17:20:05] GARAMENDI: Secretary Mattis is an extraordinary individual. He is a soldier. He is a soldier's soldier, and he understands the command structure. The president is the commander-in- chief. He gave no indication of that.
But I got to believe that he and other top generals are going, we need to be very, very careful.
BLITZER: Did you hear those type of concerns in your briefings?
GARAMENDI: They said General Mattis knows how to present himself in a way that doesn't give away what his personal thoughts are, or where they are going to go. He did say that there is no decision has been made, perhaps that's a signal. He did say that all of the issues are on the table. That's another signal. I don't know. I think we best be very, very concerned.
BLITZER: But is there a specific plan right now as far as you know to -- to get rid of the Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles?
GARAMENDI: No. I'm unaware of any such plan, and I don't think there is a plan that could actually do that. Of more concern is what is the strategy? Not just one-off attack, as we did a year ago on an air base, but a one-off attack on a chemical supply place --
BLITZER: Is there a strategy that you see?
GARAMENDI: There is no strategy.
BLITZER: Well, when you make that point to the defense secretary, what does he say?
GARAMENDI: He said that -- he didn't answer the question.
BLITZER: You said no strategy --
GARAMENDI: He didn't say there was no strategy. But many of us say what is the strategy? Where are our allies? How are you dealing with Turkey? How are you going to deal with Iran? They have people there.
Russia has people there. And attack what's going to come if you happen to take out Russian soldiers, and we already have. The Russian soldiers or little green men actually were in a unit that attacked an American position in northern Syria, and they were seriously trampled by the American and the Kurds.
Many Russian lives were lost in that. That's just one small indication of what could come here. It's possible that, if we do not have a comprehensive strategy, one that involves the allies, one that takes into account Turkey, Iran, Russia, Syria, and all of our allies, we could wind up in a very, very serious problem there.
So slow down. Go to Congress and get our permission.
BLITZER: You think they will? Because it sounds like they're bracing for some military action.
GARAMENDI: They probably -- they may very well. But they will do that without annunciating a strategic strategy to deal with all of the w problem, not just the current horrific chemical attack but the other things that are going on there. Without a strategy this is only going to get worse.
BLITZER: Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
GARAMENDI: Thank you.
BLITZER: John Garamendi of California.
Much more on the breaking news. Now under criminal investigation, the president's lawyer, Michael Cohen, goes to court to suppress evidence gathered in the FBI raids against him. Does that evidence include recorded phone conversations?
And former FBI chief James Comey unleashes scathing criticism of the president, who's hitting back very, very hard. Closer look at Comey's extraordinary revelations when we come back.
[17:27:39] BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories, including an all-out war of words between the president and the former FBI director, James Comey. Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is here. And you've been looking at these extraordinary revelations, the criticism of the president in Comey's new book and in this interview. What are you hearing?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: We witnessed just a jarring exchange of deeply personal angry attacks between a sitting president and the man who was, until less than a year ago, the nation's top law enforcement official, James Comey.
And today for the first time, we heard those criticisms of this president directly from Comey's mouth. The president that he calls a liar and compares to a mob boss.
TRUMP: He's become more famous than me.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): It is a blistering critique of a sitting president by the former FBI director and longtime law enforcement official, James Comey.
COMEY: I was floating above myself look down and saying, "You're sitting here briefing the incoming president of the United States about prostitutes in Moscow." SCIUTTO: In an interview with ABC News, Comey details interactions
with the president laid out in his book, including when Comey first informed Trump about the existence of the so-called Steele dossier, which included unproven allegations that, while Trump was in Moscow for the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, Russian authorities videotaped him watching prostitutes urinate in a hotel suite.
COMEY: I started to tell him about the allegation was that he was involved with prostitutes in a hotel in Moscow in 2013 during a visit for the Miss Universe pageant and that the Russians had filmed the episode. And he interrupted very defensively and started talking about it, you know, "Do I look like a guy who needs hookers?" And I assumed he was asking that rhetorically. I didn't answer that. And then I just moved on and explained, "Sir, I'm not saying that we credit this. I'm not saying we believe it. We just thought it very important that you know."
SCIUTTO: Comey says Trump raised the incident with him unprompted on four separate occasions, attempting to convince the FBI director that the incident he referred to as "the golden showers thing" never happened. Crucially, Comey says he president then asked him to have the FBI investigate the allegation. He claimed to convince his wife Melania it wasn't true.
COMEY: He says he may want me to investigate it to prove that it didn't happen and then he says something that distracted me, is he said, "If there's even a 1 percent chance my wife thinks that's true, that's terrible."
[17:30:00] And I remember thinking, how could your wife think there is a one percent chance you're with prostitutes in Moscow. I'm a flawed human being but there's really zero chance that my wife would think that was true.
SCIUTTO: To date, there is no evidence that the incident actually occurred or that Russia possesses a video tape of it. In public, Trump has repeatedly dismissed the account as false.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Be careful. Because you don't want to see yourself on television. Cameras all over the place. And again, not just Russia, all over. Does anyone really believe that story?
SCIUTTO: Still, Comey says he simply doesn't know if he believes the president.
COMEY: I honestly never thought these words would come out of my mouth but I don't know whether the current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow, 2013. It's possible, but I don't know.
SCIUTTO: While the salacious allegations occupied the bulk of the president's attention, Comey said that Trump showed little interest in Russia interference in the 2016 election. When Comey briefed Trump on the intelligence community's assessment about the interference, Comey was struck by his and his staff's complete lack of concern. COMEY: President-elect Trump's first question was to confirm that it
had no impact on the election, and then the conversation to my surprise moved into a P.R. conversation about how the Trump team would position this and what they could say about this. They actually started talking about drafting a press release with us still sitting there. And the reason that was so striking to me is that, that's just not done. What's the future look like -- it was all what can we say about what they did and how it affects the election that we just had.
SCIUTTO: Beyond the many official encounters, Comey adds personal jabs at the president's personal appearance. "His face appeared slightly orange," Comey wrote, "with bright white half-moons under his eyes where I assumed he placed small tanning goggle, and impressively coifed bright blond hair, which upon close inspection looked to be all his. As he extended his hand, I made a mental note to check its size; it was smaller than mine but did not seem usually so."
In his book, Comey also discusses the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a personal e-mail server. He says, in the books, "we had a full criminal investigation open focused on the secretary's conduct." He also had this section, Wolf, which caught our attention. He said, he refers to a classified development still unknown to the America public to this day, that he says racist questions about Loretta Lynch's, of course, then Attorney General Loretta Lynch's "independence in connection with the Clinton investigation." Not clear what that classified development is but of course -- you know, the discussion about this book has been very much about Trump and his criticism of Trump and he goes back to the investigation, and is attempting, really, to show here that he took a very hard look at that e-mail use, and that the investigation in his words was a real one and a criminal one.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Very interesting, indeed. All right. Thanks very much. Jim Sciutto, with the very latest on that front.
Coming up, we're digging deeper into today's court hearing on the FBI raid targeting Michael Cohen, the president's personal attorney. Also, more from former FBI Director James Comey's eye-opening new interview and the furious response from the president and the White House.
[17:38:00] BLITZER: We're covering multiple breaking news stories including today's revelation that President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, is under criminal investigation. Let's bring in our experts to discuss. Jeffrey Toobin, give us the significance of this discovery that we all learned today in this official U.S. Attorney's document submitted to the court.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's immensely significant. I mean, here you have the man closest professionally to Donald Trump, the man who keeps his secrets, who negotiated with Stormy Daniels, who was in charge of protecting, you know, his secrets, is under criminal investigation, without doubt at this point, and has been for months. That's the other thing that is so important about this, about what came out today. So, it's not just Stormy Daniels that is related to this criminal investigation. Stormy Daniels may not even be part of the story. It relates to earlier business relationships that the -- that Michael Cohen has. And the -- and the surveillance of him going back months, e-mail covers -- you know, they've been reading his e-mails and we learned that they searched his safe deposit boxes too today. So, Michael Cohen is in a world of trouble and that's what we learned today.
BLITZER: And we also learned -- Gloria, you actually learned that the president of the United States spoke on the phone with Michael Cohen today. That seems to fly in the face of potentially what his lawyers would be telling him, you know what, he's under criminal investigation right now, it's not very smart for you to be talking about it.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: When was the last time the president actually listened to his lawyers. I can't remember that. So, he and Michael Cohen are very close, and it is clear that the president's probably watching television and seeing -- and seeing what's going on over at the courthouse. And don't forget he had Michael Cohen at Mar-a-Largo a couple of weeks ago and I think that the president was probably checking in on him to make sure he's OK -- but it is not a smart thing to do. Just like it wasn't smart for the president to say the other day that, that he publicly denied knowing that Cohen paid Clifford, and suggesting to reporters that they ask Michael about the payment, since that is now mentioned in a footnote here because the question is: how can you claim attorney/client privilege when the client says he knows nothing about -- what the attorney was doing. So where is the privilege if there was no conversation, didn't know anything about it, and so I think every time the president speaks on this stuff, and he is clearly being advised not to, he gets himself in trouble.
BLITZER: You know, in this document, Ryan, it seems to suggest that the president is Michael Cohen's only client -- legal client. Does that suggest potentially that Cohen's possible criminal conduct could involve the president of the United States?
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it does. I think one of the headlines today is a line in there that suggests they're looking at two things, they're looking at potential crimes that do relate to his relationship with the president, and very obviously stuff that has nothing to do with Trump and has to do with Michael Cohen's financial businesses. They say the searches are the result of a month-long investigation into Cohen and seek evidence of crimes -- many of which have nothing to do with his work as an attorney but rather relate to Cohen's own business dealings. So, if many have nothing -- so one, if they're basically saying here that the only client they know of is Trump, but then they're also saying many of the crimes; they're looking at crimes -- plural -- have nothing to do with his work as a lawyer. So, that suggests to me that they're saying -- this is a pretty broad investigation that includes his work for Trump and other things.
BLITZER: And you know, it's interesting, Sabrina, that if you read this document, it shows that most of the allegations in this document are separate from the Robert Mueller investigation. But at some point, perhaps, they could all be brought together.
SABRINA SADDIQUI, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: Certainly if the U.S. Attorneys' Office were to uncover documents that are relevant to the Russia investigation, then those would be referred back to the special counsel, and it's notable that Robert Mueller is investigating the Trump organization's business dealings overseas and is said to be particularly interested in Michael Cohen having solicited a donation from the Ukrainian oligarchs. So, there could perhaps down the road -- overlap. I do think the separation protects Mueller from being seen as stepping outside of his purview by looking into this hush money that's still standing to benefit from the documents that were seized in this --
BORGER: But look at what was in the warrant. I mean, don't, don't forget what was in the search warrant because that's important here. Because obviously, a lot of the search warrant related to this question of Stormy Daniels but we know from our reporting that the search warrant also included questions about Michael Cohen's taxi medallion business, for example. So, that may be what Ryan is referring to.
[17:43:06] BORGER: I mean, there are other businesses that they, that they want to look at that go beyond the sort of hush money with women and this is clearly part of that.
BLITZER: Let me quickly get Jeffrey here to talk about the other breaking news today. The president pardoning -- giving the full pardon to Scooter Libby who was the chief of staff to then Vice President Dick Cheney. The suggestion among a lot is that the president was sending a signal to those who may be round up in this overall Mueller investigation. Scooter Libby was convicted of perjury in the outing of Valerie Plame, the CIA clandestine officer. Was the president sending some sort of signal today?
TOOBIN: Well, I don't know what he intended but he sure looks like he's sending a signal. And remember, as Gloria was saying, he called Michael Cohen today. You know, when you put all of these events together, he calls Michael Cohen who's under criminal investigation, he pardons Scooter Libby saying that his conviction was the result of the special counsel acting inappropriately. He shows loyalty to a Republican insider, in a pardon that didn't even go through the Justice Department, which has an established pardon office. I mean, all of these signs suggest: Paul Manafort hang in there, you may get a pardon. Michael Cohen, hang in there, you may get a pardon. Papadopoulos, hang in there, you may get a pardon. I mean, this is the message that's sent whether it's intentional or not.
BORGER: Don't you think it was also, like, a poke in the eye, for James Comey, who's the least favorite person of the day? Because, of course, Comey was the person who appointed the Special Counsel Fitzgerald in this particular case. BLITZER: In the Scooter Libby case. All right. Everybody, stick
around. There's more breaking news including new details from today's court hearing where we learned that President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, is under criminal investigation. And also, ahead, President Trump and his team fight back against the blistering allegations made by former FBI Director James Comey. I'll be joined live by the White House principal deputy press secretary, that's coming up as well.
[17:49:55] BLITZER: More on today's breaking news, President Trump on Twitter as well as through the White House press secretary amping up the criticism of the former FBI Director James Comey. CNN's Brian Todd is here. He has more on the president's inclination to hit back, went confrontive with some embarrassing news, seems to be a definite pattern here.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it is a life-long pattern. Trump biographers tell us the president has never been able to simply let public insults go unanswered, that what we're seeing now between him and James Comey is evidence of Donald Trump's notoriously thin skin.
TODD: President Trump tonight calls James Comey a "weak and untruthful slime ball". Even before excerpts of Comey's new book came out, Trump publicly slammed the man he so famously fired, often calling him a leaker and a liar.
TRUMP: I fired Comey. Well, I turned out to the right thing, because you look at all of the things that he's done and the lies, and you look at what's going on at the FBI with the insurance policy and all of the things that happened, it turned out I did the right thing.
TODD: Tonight, Trump is venting his strongest anger toward Comey, after Comey published details of how Trump asked him to investigate allegations that Russian authorities recorded Trump watching prostitutes urinate in a hotel suite.
COMEY: He said, if there's even a one percent chance my wife thinks that's true, that's terrible. And I remember thinking, how could your wife think there's a one percent chance you were with prostitutes peeing on each in Moscow?
TODD: Trump biographers tell CNN that what may be at the crux of this war between Trump and Comey is the simple fact this episode has personally embarrassed the president.
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR OF "THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP": I think the president is deeply wounded when he's humiliated. His whole life has been about promoting how big and powerful and competent he is. The thing he regrets the most is being shown up to being described as less than. TODD: Biographers say, it's a lifelong pattern. Former Vanity Fair
Editor Graydon Carter, for years, publicly insulted Trump's physical traits, firing off quotes calling Trump a short-fingered Bulgarian. During the campaign, Marco Rubio got in on it.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), REPUBLICAN: Have you seen his hands? They're like this. And you know what they say about men with small hands.
TODD: And Trump couldn't help himself.
TRUMP: And he referred to my hands. If they're small, something else must be small. I guarantee you there's no problem, I guarantee.
TODD: One of Trump's most notorious embarrassments was at the hands of President Obama at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner.
BARACK OBAMA, 44TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No one is happier, no one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than the Donald. And that's because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter like did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?
TODD: A seething Trump never even attempted a smile.
MARC FISHER, AUTHOR OF "TRUMP REVEALED": And people who spoke to him afterwards said, it was as angry as they've ever seen him. In fact, he immediately began talking much more seriously about challenging the president about running for president himself.
TODD: But so far, Trump hasn't publicly attacked Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. There had been only denials from the White House. But those accounts of alleged affairs would appear to have embarrassed him. Why hasn't he attack them?
D'ANTONIO: We have to think about whether they may know more than they've revealed so far. This is a president who is sensitive to his wife's experience of all of this.
TODD: Trump biographers say, it's possible that the president could personally go after Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal, or other he's had relationships with if they cross certain thresholds. If they produce photographs or documents embarrassing to the president, if they corner him somehow, if they cross the all-important thresholds of actually humiliating Donald Trump in public. Wolf?
BLITZER: And Brian, there's one person that's a huge influence on Donald Trump who really fueled his inflammations to fight back in public.
[17:54:07] TODD: That's right, Wolf. Roy Cohn, the legendary New York Attorney himself, a notoriously ruthless and brutal figure. Cohn was a mentor to Trump in 1970s. Trump biographers tell us it was Cohn who taught Trump that you don't just absorb these attacks quietly, you hit back harder than you've been hit. Roy Cohn always used to tell Donald Trump: hit back 100 times harder than you've been hit. That's what we're seeing now.
BLITZER: It certainly are. All right. Brian, thank you. We're going to hear more from James Comey next week here on CNN when the former FBI director is interviewed by Jake Tapper on "THE LEAD". That's next Thursday, 4:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.
Coming up, breaking news, the president's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, under criminal investigation, now fighting to suppress evidence. And President Trump and his aides launch an extraordinary attack on former FBI Director James Comey, author of a shocking new book. I'll speak with the White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah.
[17:59:45] BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news, under investigation. Federal prosecutors reveal that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is the focus of a criminal probe. We're getting new information from a late hearing as the Trump team fights to suppress evidence from FBI raids.
Paying off a playmate. A new bomb shell tonight about Michael Cohen's efforts to silence another playboy model. This one had an affair with a Republican donor. How many hush money deals has Cohen arranged?