Return to Transcripts main page
WSJ: Cohen Used Same LLC to Pay 2 Women; Cohen Shuts Down Story on Alleged Trump Jr Affair; Trump Lawyer in Court over FBI Raid & Stormy Also Appears; Comey: Trump Wouldn't Even Criticize Putin in Private. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired April 16, 2018 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:33:11] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: As we await the appearance of President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen -- he's now inside that federal courtroom -- a new report in the "Wall Street Journal" says Cohen used the same Delaware limited liability company to facilitate secret payments to two women.
The "Wall Street Journal's" Michael Rothfeld is one of the reporters who broke the story. He's joining us from New York right now.
Michael, thanks for joining us.
What can you tell us about all those payments made through that Delaware company?
MICHAEL ROTHFELD, REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: This company is Central Consultants. Michael Cohen first established it in 2016 and he used it to pay Stormy Daniels, the former porn star, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, $130,000 to cover up her alleged affair with Donald Trump. And so we reported on Friday that he also negotiated a nondisclosure agreement for venture capitalist, Elliott Broidy. So we've learned that the first installment of the payment Elliott Broidy made to Michael Cohen as his fee for this deal went to Central Consultants, the same company that was used with Stormy Daniels. Then when Elliott Broidy found out that Central Consultants was used for Stormy Daniels deal, the total fee was $250,000, he made the first $62,5000 to Central Consultants, and he said, hey, I don't want to use this anymore, so I'll pay the rest of the money to you directly.
BLITZER: "The Journal" also is reporting -- you guys have been way out in front on a lot of these stories -- a new story about an alleged affair with Donald Trump Jr, the president's son, was shut down with the involvement once again of the president's long-time personal attorney, Michael Cohen. What can you tell us about that?
ROTHFELD: This first came out after Donald Jr's wife filed for divorce. There were some tabloid reports that he had had an affair with a "Celebrity Apprentice" competitor, named Aubrey O'Day, a member of a singing duo, back in 2011-2012. We reported that in 2013, this story almost came out in "US Weekly." They had a solid source on it. They were planning to report it. They called the Trump Organization and got a call back from Michael Cohen. He was on the phone with editorial staffers at "US Weekly." Basically threatening legal action and going on and on, cursing. So it went on so long, they put him on mute and they were all sitting around the speakerphone listening to Michael Cohen. Ultimately, they decided it wasn't worth it because, at the time, it was Donald Trump Jr. Donald Trump was kind of a fading reality star, so they didn't want to have any litigation and they just spiked the story.
[13:35:44] BLITZER: Very quickly, Michael, how does all this fit in, if it does at? Stormy Daniels is about to enter that courthouse momentarily. Michael Cohen is inside. The president's new attorneys are inside also. How does all this information -- you guys at the "Wall Street Journal" are reporting fit into this? Because the FBI has been investigating Cohen now, we're told, for months.
ROTHFELD: What we understand is one of the things they're looking at is was there a conspiracy to cover up issues before the election? In general, Michael Cohen certainly was the fixer for Donald Trump, so was there any conspiracy, were there any laws broken in terms of trying to conceal information from the public?
BLITZER: Important information, indeed.
Michael Rothfeld, of the "Wall Street Journal," thanks very much.
ROTHFELD: Thank you.
BLITZER: We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, we'll go back to that federal courthouse in New York City. It could be pretty lively. Stormy Daniels is about to show up with her attorney, Michael Avenatti. The president's long-time attorney, Michael Cohen, is already inside. The president has three new attorneys who are representing him before this federal judge today as well. Much more of our coverage after this.
[13:41:13] BLITZER: Following breaking news. Some live pictures coming in from New York City. The president's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, just arrived in the federal courthouse in New York. The hearing getting underway in just a few minutes. Cohen is hoping to review the documents seized by the FBI of his home, hotel and office, to make sure criminal investigators don't seem material covered by attorney-client privilege. In an unusual move, President Trump's legal team is now joining that same fight against the Department of Justice, adding to the tension in this federal courtroom.
Also expected, by the way, at today's hearing, if that were not enough, Stormy Daniels, the porn star Michael Cohen secretly paid $130,000 to stay quiet about her alleged affair with Donald Trump.
CNN's Brynn Gingras is outside the courthouse in New York City.
Set the scene for us, Brynn. What do we expect today? BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're about less than an hour
away from this hearing. And we know that Michael Cohen is inside. We did see Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, go in the courthouse but then he left again, and we have yet to see Stormy Daniels, who is a spectator for this particular hearing.
When court gets under way, a federal judge is going to do just what you said, review whether or not their prosecutors, U.S. attorneys, are allowed to go through these documents seized in the raid of Michael Cohen's home, his office, his hotel room just one week ago today. Of course, we know that Cohen's attorneys say that's protected under attorney-client privilege, they shouldn't be allowed to go into it, asking for a special master, what it's called, to go through those documents to make sure attorney-client privilege is protected.
But U.S. attorneys are fighting on two fronts. As you just mentioned, Trump's attorneys, late last night, filed a different motion saying it should be Trump himself that gets access to those documents before investigators can go through them. Very unprecedented move that the U.S. attorney's office has already filed paperwork saying it really doesn't make any sense because they already know that e-mail correspondence they have seized in that raid, there is none between Michael Cohen and Mr. Trump. And really that would be unprecedented and set a bad precedent if they allowed Trump's move, by attorneys, to move forward. The judge has a lot to consider here. We know the hearing starts at about 2:00. We don't know how long it will take before she makes her decision, but we do expect it to come today -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Yes, it will be quite a scene, no doubt about that.
Brynn, thank you very much. Brynn Gingras, in New York.
Joining us now to discuss this, the Justice Department prosecutor, Joseph Moreno.
Joe, thanks very much for coming in.
Set the scene, from your perspective, as a former Justice Department prosecutor. How do you expect this to unfold?
JOSEPH MORENO, PARTNER, CADWALADER COLLAR DEFENSE & INVESTIGATIONS GROUP & FORMER DOJ PROSECUTOR: Wolf, this is going to be an uphill battle for Michael Cohen's attorney. We have very strict processes in place to protect people's due process when it comes to the attorney- client privilege. So the use of taint teams, or filter teams, which are unassociated FBI agents or prosecutors to review documents for exactly that, attorney-client privilege. It's a well-established practice. So to deviate from the practice is a really high bar. I've noticed a distinction, too. Last week, Mr. Cohen's lawyers were advocating only he or the president's lawyers can take the first crack. More recently, in filings leading up to today's hearings, he seems to be holding out the opportunity for a special master to do that task. That's probably a nod to how difficult it's going to be for him to get his way. BLITZER: The FBI, they've been collecting documents for months and
months leading up to the actual raids the other day. I went through the documents submitted to the federal judge, Kimba Wood, by President Trump's new lawyers. The three lawyers who actually signed this document. So the president has new lawyers. What's intriguing is the president's lawyers, Michael Cohen's lawyers, are in the same page against the U.S. Justice Department, the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York. How unusual is that?
[13:45:17] MORENO: It's unusual to have basically three parties duking it out. And just because Mr. Cohen's lawyers and the president's lawyers are on the same page right now does not mean that there might not be some daylight between them going forward. So I could absolutely see situations in the future where there could be documents where Mr. Cohen's lawyers want them revealed but Donald Trump's do not, or vice versa. It should be an interesting battle going forward.
BLITZER: We'll watch it every step of the way.
Joseph Moreno, thanks for coming in.
MORENO: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Appreciate it.
Once again, take a look at the live pictures coming from that federal courthouse in New York City. Michael Cohen, the president's long-time personal attorney, is in that courtroom already. Stormy Daniels expected to arrive any moment now. We'll have live coverage.
Also, a new report suggests the president was livid after he learned that the U.S. expelled a lot more Russian diplomats than France or the United Kingdom or other countries in Europe.
Plus, the arrests of two black men inside a Starbuck's in Philadelphia sparking protests. And now breaking details about the store manager who actually called police.
[13:50:46] BLITZER: We have more on the escalating war of words between the former FBI Director James Comey and President Trump. Comey now commenting on the president's relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and what he heard Trump say and not say about the Russian leader. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: At least in my experience, he won't criticize Vladimir Putin, even in private. Even in a meeting with three people in the Oval Office, he is arguing that he gave a good answer when he said, essentially, we are the same kind of killers that Putin's thugs are. And that struck me.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Joining us now, CNN military analyst, retired major general, "Spider" Marks.
Spider, what do you think? How does that jive with, in more recent days, the president mentioning Putin by name? He's gone ahead, authorized expulsions of 60 Russian diplomats, sanctions. He seems to have changed his position in terms of being willing to speak publicly about Putin, at least in some points.
MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think, more importantly, than what he says is what he does. The expulsions are impactful and, at this point, very meaningful in terms of our relationship, emerging, I would say, relationship with Russia.
But I need to say there are opportunities for the United States and Russia to try to figure this thing out so it's not so vitriolic and, in many cases, black or white. We try to over simply our relationship with Russia going forward.
What we did in Syria here over the past 48 hours is significant. Sends a very powerful message to Russia. But within that chaos that exists in part of the world, there's an opportunity for the United States to figure out what's next.
BLITZER: They announced some new sanctions against Russia, the U.S. in the coming days as well. Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. suggested that yesterday. We're also told the president was so angry when he realized that the U.S. was expelling 60 Russian diplomats, some of them being accused of being spies from the United States, compared to the small number European countries were expelling. He though the U.S. should not have gone that far. He was taken by some of his national security advisers.
MARKS: Again, comparison is the thief of joy. You're trying to compare yourself with other nations in Europe and you're trying to establish some quantifiable standard. The United States clearly has, is a larger presence for the Russians. And I think it's fair to say that every Russian in the United States that's affiliated with their embassy is a spy. I don't think that's a stretch by any means. And it's important for us to lay that down. But for the United States to say, look, other nations need to step up and get rid of more Russians --
BLITZER: Every time the president says he wants U.S. troops out of Syria very quickly, let others take care of it, doesn't that embolden the Russian presence there, the Iranian presence there, and the regime of Bashar al Assad, if they know at some point, five months, six months down the road, the U.S. troops will be out?
MARKS: Again, you don't always want to telegraph your moves, and the president has in this case. I can't get into the president's head, and I won't try. But his comment the week before last saying, look, we're going to get out there, it belongs to someone else, it's time for everyone to come home. I think the really good news is that our national security apparatus stepped up and said, there needs to be a more measured presence.
Look at the op-eds that are popping up in the "Wall Street Journal" and "The New York Times," today in "The Post." It's important the United States maintain a military presence and an overarching, more importantly, diplomatic presence in that part of the world. We cannot evacuate. We cannot evaporate in terms of our presence there if we want to try to have something that's lasting to our advantage.
[13:54:43] BLITZER: The president wants them out, not only in Syria but in Iraq and Afghanistan. He wants to bring them all home. He doesn't want to spend any money spent over there. He wants the money spent here.
Take a look at these live pictures. Stormy Daniels is arriving at the federal courthouse in New York City right now. We have a bunch of cameras over there. You see all the photographers chasing her as she's trying to make her way. I assume she has good security there. There she is in the pink walking in there. She has security as she's being escorted into the federal courthouse. What a scene this is going to be. We're going to stay on top of that, and, you know, it's a moment.
Joseph Moreno is still with us. Joseph is a former Department of Justice prosecutor.
You dealt with a lot of these kinds of cases -- not these kinds of cases. It's pretty extraordinary what's going on in New York right now.
MORENO: Thankfully, not these kinds of cases, Wolf. Mr. Avenatti, Ms. Daniels' lawyer, is exceptional at keeping this story in the media. It's really unprecedented. He's battling in the court of public opinion. I don't know how much value Ms. Daniels is adding at this hearing, but she certainly keeps our interest. And it's a reminder, you never know where a case like this is going to go. It made big headlines months ago. We heard about these payments. It could wind up being significantly more legal jeopardy than even the special counsel.
BLITZER: We're going to watch it every step of the way.
Guys, thank you very much.
Much more of our news after this.