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Trump Issues Full Pardon to Scooter Libby; Aides Worry What "Angry" Trump Could Do; Rep. Steve Cohen Talks Comey Revelations, White House Strategy to Fight Back; WSJ: Cohen Arranged Settlement Over GOP Fundraiser's Alleged Affair. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired April 13, 2018 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: And the Patrick Fitzgerald character was the equivalent of Robert Mueller. So if you're saying to these people, I believe there was a scapegoat or a witch hunt of sorts about a particular person and I'm going to rectify that wrong and show you how I believe the past will be prologue, there you have the new game Donald Trump is playing.

But the key thing here is, Wolf, he has absolute presidential pardon power in federal crimes. As I said before, the Mueller investigation has diversified to state level as well as the attorney general in New York. There is EDDA, a Virginia crime. SPNY in New York. That diversification of the different challenges and investigative channels makes all these separate investigations virtually go on auto pilot, especially on the state level. I think it is a commentary about how he views witch hunts, but the larger irony in addition to what he's trying to say to these people, is this is a man who is very, very vocal about his disdain for leaking, his disdain for people who lie. He even called James Comey "Lying Comey." I guess that's not the real issue he has. It's whether they wear a pointed hat and call it a witch hunt.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right. So Scooter Libby, receiving a full pardon from the president. We have to follow breaking news.

We have to take a quick break. We'll be right back.


[13:35:30] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. The president has just issued a full pardon for Scooter Libby, who was convicted of perjury back in 2007. At the time he was chief of staff to the then-Vice President Dick Cheney. The president at the time, President George W. Bush, later gave him clemency from jail time but refused to give him a full pardon. Now all these years later, President Trump has done so. He says, "I don't know Mr. Libby" -- in a statement released by the White House -- "but for years, I've heard he was treated unfairly. Hopefully, this full pardon will help rectify a very sad portion of his life."

Representative Chris Collins, of New York, is with us. He's a Republican. The first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump for the presidency,

Congressman, thank you for joining us.

REP. CHRIS COLLINS, (R), NEW YORK: Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: What's your reaction to this decision, in effect. rejecting the recommendation, rejecting what President George W. Bush did at going ahead and giving Scooter Libby this full pardon?

COLLINS: Clearly, a lot of years have passed, and it's the prerogative of the president to do this. He had already had his law license restored, his right to vote restored, so this is, obviously -- folks came to President Trump and said, here's why we think you should pardon Libby, and he listened --


BLITZER: What about the timing now to go ahead and give someone convicted of perjury, obstruction of justice, to give this individual the pardon right now. You know what's going on with all the president's inner circle now being investigated, some already pleading guilty, others are awaiting trial, like Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman. The timing is raising questions.

COLLINS: I wouldn't look at the timing. It is what it is. And some would say there is a timing issue here.

BLITZER: Is the president sending a signal to some, saying, you know what, I'm going to protect you if you get into deep trouble. Just be loyal and take a look at what I did with Scooter Libby?

COLLINS: I would not read that into it. I'm sure others may be trying to read that into it. I would say this is a one-off and would not read anything into it any more than a lot of years have passed, and many folks thought Libby was convicted inappropriately, as some of your other guests just reported. I for one would not read anything else into it.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about what's going on right now. You heard Gloria Borger reporting the president is livid, he is so angry, not only angry at the fired FBI Director James Comey but also what's going on in New York, these FBI raids against Michael Cohen's residence, his hotel room, his office, his long-time personal lawyer, his so-called fixer and friend. And the president seems to be so, so angry right now that some of his aides are worried this is a dangerous moment, and you don't want a president of the United States in a state like this right now.

COLLINS: Well, it's clear that Mueller has exceeded anything to do with Russian collusion and interference. They're going down every other path.


BLITZER: You mean by referring this case involving Michael Cohen to the southern district of New York? COLLINS: Yes, exactly. What started out as a special prosecutor to

look at the potential of Russian collusion, which we're clear there was none, it's now taken on what looks to be a witch hunt.

BLITZER: We don't know what Robert Mueller and his team have collected. There have been no leaks. We have no idea how much substantive information they may have.

COLLINS: Right. I -- I --

BLITZER: They're still in the midst of this investigation.

COLLINS: As someone, myself, still pretty close to the campaign, I can tell you I'm convinced there was never any collusion.

BLITZER: But you don't know what Mueller has or doesn't have?

COLLINS: No, I certainly don't. But it's clear he's just going off the reservation.

BLITZER: Why is he going off the reservation? If he sees there are potential crimes that may have been committed, what's wrong with referring it to the acting U.S. attorney in New York?

COLLINS: He was appointed to look into the potential of Russian collusion and Russian involvement in the election, and to go down these other roads, I think, is inappropriate.

BLITZER: Let me read to you what he was appointed to do. This is Rod Rosenstein, who is the deputy attorney general, because Sessions recused himself. He was in charge. But he was specifically told that he's got various missions, including, alleged collaboration or cooperation conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians, but if other issues come forward, he is clearly authorized to go and look at that as well.

That's in the official letter that he received.

[13:40:05] COLLINS: I think many of us would say this is an overreach. Many of us were stunned by the fact that Trump's personal attorney, his office was raided, things hauled off. Clearly, nothing to do with Russia because this was done by the U.S. attorney in the southern district of New York. It just would appear, if there was something there --


BLITZER: But a federal judge approved these raids by the FBI. There must have been some good reason, knowing that this isn't just Michael Cohen a lawyer, this is Michael Cohen, the president's lawyer for a decade. You got to have some evidence to justify that and --

COLLINS: Well, you do. And my guess would be the allegations have nothing to do with Trump himself, otherwise this would not have been approved. I believe this has to do with the potential of Cohen having done other illegal activities, potentially not related to Trump. Otherwise, it would not have occurred. So we'll have to see how this plays out, as we have a manner of things playing itself out. I think it should run its course. Mueller, Rosenstein, I don't think either one should be fired, because that would be a firestorm in and of itself. Let's let it play out. It's been going on for a long time. I, for one, am confident there won't be Russian collusion linked in here, but only time will tell, but let's let it run its course.

BLITZER: I think you're right. Let's see what happens. These investigations are certainly continuing.

Appreciate it very much.


BLITZER: Representative Chris Collins, from western New York.

COLLINS: There you go

BLITZER: Including not too far from my old hometown of Buffalo.

COLLINS: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you very much for coming in.

Up next, taking on the president of the United States. I'll speak with a Democratic member of Congress about the James Comey revelations, the White House strategy to fight back, all that, and more.

We'll be right back.


[13:46:07] BLITZER: We're following lots of breaking news, including President Trump's decision to offer a full pardon to Scooter Libby, who was the chief of staff to then-Vice President Dick Cheney.

Representative Steve Cohen is joining us. He's a Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. He represents the district in Tennessee.

Congressman, thank you very much for joining us.

REP. STEVE COHEN, (D), TENNESSEE: You're welcome.

BLITZER: I want to get your reaction to several events, but first, what's your reaction to the Scooter Libby pardon?

COHEN: I think it does telegraph what he will 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 discreet way, he does it for political purposes and he wants to cover his people. Next, he could pardon Liddy and Hunt and McGruger (ph). He wants to go back to the people he thinks were persecuted unfairly and pardon them because it's a precursor to his people being pardoned.

BLITZER: You think he's, what, sending a message, sending a signal? COHEN: I think he's sending a message.

BLITZER: Yes. But you don't have any evidence of that, you're looking at the timing. A lot of people making the same conclusion.

COHEN: Yes. It's a signal.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little about the decision -- the James Comey book. The president fired him, and you actually criticized his firing by President Trump. But before the election, you were no great big fan of James Comey, either.

COHEN: Well, I wasn't. I think he was wrong to give as much information as he did back in June or July concerning Hillary Clinton. It wasn't the job of an FBI director to go into analysis and a determine and state of what he thought what went wrong and come to conclusions. He's just supposed to state facts of anything. Then when he came out 10 days or 11 days before the election, during a period we're prohibited to talk about things that can affect an election, and he brought up information on the e-mails on Anthony Weiner's laptop --


BLITZER: Do you think he helped contribute to Hillary Clinton's defeat?

COHEN: I definitely think he did. And I was asked on one of these shows and I said I think it will be a factor in the election and cause her to lose it.

BLITZER: And what do you think about his decision to write this tell- all book and release it, including salacious details, unverified, unconfirmed, in that so-called Steele dossier?

COHEN: I think the book was a good think he wrote. I think he has a lot of information to give the American public. I think James Comey is a man of high rectitude. But occasionally, his judgment is not perfect. Nobody's is. I would take the book with a lot of credibility. I think his opinions of the Trump team are accurate.

BLITZER: What do you think of all these efforts to undermine the credibility of the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who oversees this whole Russia probe investigation by Robert Mueller?

COHEN: I think it's despicable. Everything the president has done to attack FBI and Justice Department people, Comey, Rosenstein, McCabe, has been done to protect himself. It's been a big game to make his base, in particular, and anyone who will fall for it, to think he's been railroaded and taken advantage of and it's, quote, unquote, "a witch hunt." It's not. They are all Republicans. They're all people he hired or had some input in hiring. They're all respected, professional, lifetime, judiciary people who have great reputations, who he has tried to ruin.

BLITZER: You just heard Representative Chris Collins, Republican from New York, the first supporter of Donald Trump for the presidency, say he doesn't think that Rod Rosenstein or Robert Mueller should be fired.

COHEN: And I agree with him, they shouldn't be fired. And maybe the president will listen to people like Chris Collins and some others who told him that -- I guess Grassley said it was suicide and some others, it would be a critical mistake, and he probably has a better chance with impeachment in the House and the Senate than he would otherwise, because I don't think Mueller can take it to a grand jury. But I think the information that Mueller has, if and when it comes out, will be enlightening to a lot of people. And I think there are a lot of people that support Trump now that, when they see the activities -- and I think there are activities with Russia involved in the election, and there are other activities in New York and being involved in some of the crooked politics. The man has a record of shady deals, taking advantage of people and skirting the law. When it comes out, what he has and what he has done, I think people will see him in a different perspective.

[13:50:31] BLITZER: We'll see what the conclusion of the investigations come up with.

Thank you so much, Congressman Cohen, for coming in.

COHEN: You're welcome, Wolf.

BLITZER: There's more on the other breaking news we're following. The president's lawyer is making an unexpected appearance in a hearing in New York City for the FBI raids involving the president's personal attorney, Michael Cohen. We'll have that and more when we come back.


[13:55:14] BLITZER: We're following another breaking story involving President Trump's long time personal attorney, Michael Cohen. According to the "Wall Street Journal," Cohen arranged another settlement to quiet rumors of an affair, but the reports say the arrangement involved a Republican fundraiser.

Let's go to our national political reporter, M.J. Lee, in New York for us with details.

So update our viewers, M.J.

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Wolf, this is breaking news about Donald Trump's long time personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. The "Wall Street Journal," as you said, is reporting he was involved in setting up a $1.6 million payment to a former Playboy model to be quiet about what she claims was an incident in which she was impregnated by a prominent Republican donor based in the west coast. His name is Elliot Brodie. As a part of the agreement and getting this payment of $1.6 million, "The Journal" reports she could not discuss the content of her relationship with the GOP fundraiser.

I want to read for you a statement that we have from Elliot. "First, I would like to apologize to my wife and family for the hurt I've caused. I acknowledged I had a consensual relationship with a Playboy playmate. At the end of our relationship, this woman shared with me that she was pregnant. She alone decided she didn't want to continue with the pregnancy and I offered to help her financially during the difficult period. We have not spoken since that time."

He goes on to say that he believes it's unfortunate that this personal matter between him and this former Playboy model has come to the national attention because of Michael Cohen's involvement, but this should not be a shock to him. Because Michael Cohen has been in the headlines so much.

As you know, Wolf, it was a couple of days ago that federal agents raided the home, hotel room, and office of Michael Cohen, trying to gather a lot of information and various involvements he had over the years, some of which has come to light in the last couple of months. We know he has been involved in various hush agreements, including with Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougall. The fact that "The Journal" was reporting he was involved in another hush agreement is potentially significant -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Do we know how Michael Cohen got involved in this?

LEE: We don't know the details of that yet. And we're, obviously, still trying to report out the details.

But I will say one thing that it also important, one other name, is Keith Davidson. This is the lawyer who has previously represented Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougall. They both now have different representation. But "The Journal" is reporting that Keith Davidson also is representing this former Playboy model who claims to have had this affair with the Republican fundraiser -- Wolf?

BLITZER: We'll continue to watch the story unfold.

M.J., thank you very much.

We'll have more news right after this.