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President Trump's Personal Attorney Michael Cohen Due in Federal Court on Monday; Interview with Representative Steve Cohen. Aired 10:34-11p ET

Aired April 14, 2018 - 22:34   ET


[22:35:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. You've been watching the CNN special report, "HUSH MONEY: TROUBLE FOR TRUMP?"

Just this evening we've been watching the president's fixer Michael Cohen out and about in New York City. Our camera spotting him going into a Manhattan restaurant. He didn't answer any questions on whether he had spoken to his lawyers or the president today but at one point you can hear a woman saying, "bad man" to Cohen to which he quickly responds, "good man."

I want to bring in the host of the special, CNN national correspondent Sara Sidner, CNN political analyst Ryan Lizza and Caroline Pelosi, a -- Polisi, I should say, a defense attorney specializing in federal and white-collar crime.

So, Sara, I want to begin with you. What do you see as the biggest takeaway from everything you recovered in your reporting?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: My goodness, that is a mouthful, Ana. There are many different things. I think some of the details of the raid and what our sources are telling us were captured in that raid including conversations that were taped, that Cohen potentially taped of him having conversations with another attorney who has been involved in many of these confidentiality agreements that have to do with the women who have allegations against the president so a direct line to the president.

Also that President Trump's name was on one of the warrants as they went in. I mean, these are big details and a very big deal. I think the raid really is a game changer depending on what the FBI finds, of course. Of course Cohen says he has done nothing wrong, he has broken no laws. But he has to be worried no matter what you see him doing now, this is really troubling.

I can also tell you that we learned some new details about how some of these deals were put together. We talked about the fact that basically the money that was paid when it came to Stormy Daniels was paid not 11 days from the election but 13 days from the election. A lot of people will say, well, wait, I thought it was 11. Indeed we looked at paper work of the payment, it was paid two days before the contract was even signed. And that has to tell you something about trying to get this deal done fast -- Ana. CABRERA: I want to play what President Trump told reporters on Air

Force One when he was questioned about that $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?


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

TRUMP: You've got to ask Michel 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: No, I don't know.


CABRERA: So, Ryan, now federal prosecutors are saying the president's own words there could come back to haunt him.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, this is pretty dramatic that the prosecutors actually mentioned this statement from the president in the filing this week. So this is -- and, you know, as other people have pointed out, there's a real decision here that Trump and Cohen have to make is -- when Cohen goes into court on Monday and he's supposed to give Kimba Wood, the federal judge, this list of who his clients are.

Is Trump his client or not? Sara Sanders at the White House briefing said the other day that she couldn't really answer that question. And so a lot of how the documents are processed and the prosecutors do with them will depend on how he characterizes his relationship with President Trump both past and currently, and it does make you wonder if Cohen and Trump have been coordinating or not. We know that Trump called Cohen on Friday. That's been reported.

CABRERA: Right. Exactly.

LIZZA: Was that the president's -- you know, the president doesn't always say things that are accurate. Was he being accurate there when he said he didn't know about the money or --

CABRERA: And as you point out the president in that same statement we just played said, talk to Cohen, he is my lawyer, which seemed to imply that he is still his lawyer.

[22:20:08] LIZZA: And he directed people to talk -- you know, to act.

CABRERA: Caroline, what's the significance of investigators finding that Mr. Cohen really had been doing little legal work and that Trump was his only client?

CAROLINE POLISI, FEDERAL AND WHITE COLLAR CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Right. Well, to both of these points, one of the key issues at the hearing yesterday in front of Judge Kimba Wood, in the Southern District of New York. The issue specifically was, Cohen and his team had asked for a temporary restraining order to be placed on the materials that were raided by the FBI from his home, office and hotel room. And of course the issue there is the attorney-client privilege.

Now if Cohen were operating only in his capacity as a businessman, obviously the privilege wouldn't apply there. There also are certain exceptions that would apply even if he were operating in his capacity as an attorney. One of those being the crime fraud exception we've all been talking about. You cannot ask your attorney to help you perpetrate a crime. That simply eviscerates the privilege.

President Trump's attorneys were there as well asking for more time to review these materials because they felt like there could be an infringement on the attorney-client privilege. It's a key point but the fact is there are policies and procedures built into the United States attorney's office manual, to the FBI to go through these materials on their own from the government and sort out these things. It's called a taint team. We've all been talking about a clean team.

The FBI officials that raided Michael Cohen's home and apartment and hotel room, those are not the people that are going to actually be prosecuting him. They are going to be going through that material with a find toothcomb, and then turn materials over that are not privileged or that perhaps the privilege has been eviscerated because of the crime fraud exception, they're going to turn that material over to prosecutors, over to federal investigators that can then proceed with that information and make a case.

CABRERA: Ryan, you mentioned the White House sort of distancing itself.


CABRERA: From Cohen on Friday. Let's play it.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I know that the president has worked with him as a personal attorney. Beyond that, I don't have anything else to add.


CABRERA: So it's very brief when she addressed it.


CABRERA: President's personal attorney, nothing to do with the White House sort of idea. It seems to be unclear exactly what the president's relationship with Cohen is like right now but as you mentioned they are still talking. LIZZA: They're still talking. Called him on Friday which most

lawyers, I'm sure you would agree, will tell you, would do that? Why put himself at risk to call someone whose office has just been raided and to the prosecutors are saying he's being accused of many crimes?

CABRERA: This is a man that the president is very, very close with because what we have been told from the reporting from the sources with our White House team is that this has taken the president --


CABRERA: -- furor to a whole another level.

LIZZA: Look, a lot of people in the White House will say about the Mueller investigation, well, that obstruction of justice investigations, it's never going to go anywhere because it's such a hard case to make, you know, you can't indict the president for obstruction of justice for actions he took that were legal at the time like firing personnel or -- right, so it's a difficult case there. They'll say about the collusion, if there's some kind of criminal collusion it would have been leaked because all the people involved in the intelligence community hate Trump, and so there's been a sense that the Mueller investigation, as scary as it is, it will never really takes -- affect Trump in any criminal way or something that lead to impeachment.

Whether they're right or wrong about that, that is not the way they see this case. Michael -- they are scared about this case because Michael Cohen knows all of Trump's most private information. He knows about his children. He knows about his marriages. He knows about the Trump Organization. I mean, he has been the keeper of secrets for Donald Trump for many, many, many years. And now the federal prosecutors have everything that he knows.

CABRERA: Including some recorded conversations.

Sara Sidner, you mentioned this earlier, this news that Cohen's taped conversation with Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal's former lawyer who helped facilitate these hush deals for them. Do we know how these tapes could impact their current legal proceedings?

SIDNER: We don't yet know because we don't know what the conversations are that have been recorded. We do know that those recordings are between Mr. Davidson, according to our sources, Keith Davidson, and remember why he's important. He has now done three different deals, all of which were worth more than $130,000 each deal. One was with $130,000, that was the Stormy Daniels deal, the other one a $150,000. That was the Karen McDougal deal.

And now we've discovered the third deal that he was involved with when it comes to Michael Cohen and that was a deal made for Mr. Elliott Broidy who is a top GOP donor. And so what is happening here is if he talked about any of those cases and got into details with any of those cases with Michael Cohen and they -- and Michael Cohen has all that on tape, they have a plethora of information about how those deals got done. [22:45:09] We just don't know what exact conversations they were able

to obtain in that raid but they are important because you're going to hear Michael Cohen in his own words. You're going to hear Keith Davidson in his own words and it is unlikely they were just, you know, shooting a breeze. They are dealing with these very confidential cases that are surrounding the president. So there is likely something in those conversations that the FBI is going to be honing in on for certain.

CABRERA: All right, everybody, thank you so much. Caroline Polisi, Ryan Lizza, and Sara Sidner, I appreciate it, guys.

Just how big of a threat is the Cohen investigation to President Trump. Up next, we'll talk about it with the congressman who once called Trump, quote, "the most despicable man who lives in the White House."

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


CABRERA: I want to talk more about Trump's personal attorney under investigation. Joining us now Democratic congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee, a member of the House Judiciary Committee.

Congressman, thanks for staying up late with us. I want to ask you about "The New York Times" --

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

CABRERA: -- reporting that Trump confidants actually see this Michael Cohen probe as a bigger threat to Trump than Bob Mueller's massive Russia investigation.

[22:50:09] How do you see it?

COHEN: Well, it probably is. The Mueller investigation I think is going to show conduct with his campaign in Russia that is indeed illegal and going to show emoluments clause violations, that's going to show attacks on the press and on the judiciary that are harmful to democracy. But those have to be judged by the Congress. And right now with the Republican majority he would not be convicted.

In New York state and the Southern District of New York, he would be judged by a criminal jury eventually and I think that that's more likely a place where he would found guilty. So there are activities that he engaged in there and it's pretty well known that activities in his business world over the years, whether it's been the casino business or in the building business have certainly come close to crossing the barriers of legal and illegal, going to the illegal side. And he's --


CABRERA: I'm hearing you cross those barriers, though, and suggesting that you know something in which he definitively did have some kind of criminal wrongdoing. Do you know some evidence that Robert Mueller may have that hasn't been made public yet?

COHEN: No, I can't say that. And I've just done lots of civil cases where he's been found to be responsible and have been judgments taken against him, not just bankruptcies and not just Trump University, but there's all kind of civil case where there's preponderance of the evidence that he violated a duty that he owed to his fellow person -- fellow man and there are situations that are similar to that that it could be present in New York and be within the records of Michael Cohen. And the issue about attorney-client, you've got to have a client to be an attorney. And I don't know, I guess he passed the bar. I'm not sure.

CABRERA: Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein apparently signed off on this raid of Cohen's properties. We've seen the increased tax on Rosenstein by the president and his allies this week. What would happen if Rosenstein were fired?

COHEN: Well, he would put a straight jacket on Mueller, I'm sure. There's a man named Francisco who I think will be next in line who I've read is an honorable, straight-up gentleman, and maybe he would continue to allow Mueller to go where he thinks the evidence leads as truth dictates and justice demands. But the issue -- Rosenstein has done nothing wrong. He's a career Justice Department official who's had nothing but accolades. And he's an honorable person who's done good at this case job at the Justice Department and done good in overseeing Mueller.

And when he was in the state of Maryland he was highly respected. And it's a shame that anybody that gets close to Trump that doesn't do exactly what he wants to protect his -- I can't say protect his name because his name really isn't good, but to protect him, period, ends up getting sullied, whether it was McCabe, whether it's Comey, whether it's Rosenstein.

People who get close to him get sullied and end up being hurt and that's because he demands total fealty. And he doesn't respect people for ethical standards, for rectitude, for knowledge. You know, he came out, Trump, and said attorney-client is dead. What does Donald Trump know about attorney-client that Rosenstein doesn't? It's not even a game.

And you have a federal judge who decided they should issue those search warrants, and you have a U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York who went to court to get the search warrants issued. These are people who are learned in the law and knowledgeable and know about attorney-client privilege. And if attorney-client privilege is in question, you challenge it in court and you go in and you try to ask the judge to rule, to limit the evidence --


CABRERA: Right. Which is exactly what is happening. And this is what -- that what we know is happening.

COHEN: Exactly, but Donald Trump doesn't have a clue about any of it.

CABRERA: Let me ask --

COHEN: Donald Trump doesn't have a clue of any of it.

CABRERA: Let me ask you about Rosenstein a little bit more because --

COHEN: He comes out with -- please.

CABRERA: We learned on Friday that Rosenstein has been consulting with an ethics adviser within the Justice Department on whether he should recuse himself from the Mueller investigation because there have been questions about his own involvement in the James Comey firing, given he had put out a memo with what he thought was some wrongdoing on Comey's behalf in terms of how he handled the Hillary Clinton investigation, for example. But Rosenstein apparently has followed that individual's advice with the Ethics Department.

Does that give Rosenstein cover, do you think, with Republicans who've been critical of his ability to oversee the Mueller probe?

COHEN: I think the only reason Republicans has been critical is because Trump wants him to be critical. And he's having a trial of public opinion and trying to sully the investigation.

[22:55:04] The first time I had any encounter with Rosenstein, it was in a group meeting. And the issue came up about Comey's firing and he couldn't talk and he wouldn't talk about it, and people wondered why is he not talking about it. And then it kind of came on like a light and we realized the reason he wasn't is because he could be called as a witness and there was a conflict there. And he has showed probity that is commendable. And not any actions that would be questionable. I think the man is a paragon of virtue.

CABRERA: Congressman Steve Cohen, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

COHEN: You're very welcome. Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: Still ahead, President Trump declares mission accomplished after the U.S., Britain, and France launched more than 100 missiles at Syria. Our top military analysts take an objective look at just how much damage was done.

Live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Don't go away.


CABRERA: It is 11:00 Eastern, 8:00 p.m. out west. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

The United States and Russia blaming each other tonight for keeping global tension high. It's a day after missiles and war planes from three different countries took out strategic targets in Syria, the U.S., France, and the United Kingdom launching more than 100 missiles from air and sea and destroying several facilities linked to Syria's production of deadly chemical weapons. The same type of chemicals allegedly used to kill dozens of --