Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Rudy Giuliani Joins Trump's Personal Legal Team; Michael Cohen's Lawyer: Cohen Could Be Indicted Soon; Stormy Daniels' Legal Fight Heads Back To Court. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired April 20, 2018 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE PRINCIPAL DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Again, the president has been pretty clear about his view that Mike Flynn hasn't been treated fairly, but that doesn't mean that he did anything inappropriate or doesn't mean he obstructed in any way, shape or form.

[16:30:05] The president said from day one there has been no collusion with the Russian government and his campaign. There's been no obstruction and there's going to be no finding of wrongdoing.

So, we'll let this matter play out. But James Comey has never actually laid out facts that would present anything that was done that was inappropriate. And frankly, he's the FBI director. If he had a problem or wanted to raise an issue or felt anything the president was doing was inappropriate, he could have raised it directly with the president, could have raised with the attorney general, could have raised it with anyone.

He didn't wait until after he was fired and now, when he's trying to sell books and make millions of dollars off of this to raise these concerns.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Comey recalls the president told him he began -- to doubt Flynn's judgment when after the election Flynn didn't tell him, didn't tell President-elect Trump about a congratulatory call he'd gotten from Vladimir Putin and then scheduled the president to return that call to Putin a full six days later.

Comey says the president got heated with Flynn and that, quote, in telling the story, the president pointed his fingers at his head said, this guy, meaning Flynn, has serious judgment issues.

Why would President Trump be angry about six days of a delay for returning a call to Vladimir Putin?

SHAH: Well, he was the president-elect and he is the president and I don't -- I don't know the facts to be true, but obviously you want national security officials to convey to you messages that should come from a foreign government.

I'll tell you what, though, the person with a real judgment issue is James Comey. He is the person that has thrown around mob personality accusations at the president of the United States, when it is his hand-picked consigliore Andy McCabe, the deputy director of the FBI, who's been fired in disgrace for leaking information, lying about it, and now faces a potential criminal probe from the Department of Justice. This is a person who the president in these memos you're citing raised serious concerns about and James Comey vouched for, and now he broke FBI policy -- violated FBI policy and is now potentially facing a criminal probe.

This is a stain on James Comey's -- frankly his judgment when it comes to law enforcement issues and personnel matters.

TAPPER: Raj Shah from the White House, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Is President Trump just listening to his own advice in the art of the deal? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:36:24] TAPPER: And we're back with our politics lead, continuing the conversation with my panel.

Some news yesterday, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani will be joining President Trump's legal team. He says he can use his past relationships to help speed up and end the Russia investigation.

We should point out he hasn't actually tried a case in more than 20 years.

Is this actually going to move the ball forward for the president?

ALICE STEWART, FORMER TED CRUZ COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: No. It won't. Look, this investigation is going at Robert Mueller's pace and only his pace. And as we learned at the end of the last year when Trump's attorneys repeatedly says trust me, this will be done by Thanksgiving and then by Christmas and New Year's and by Valentine's Day. No one will dictate the end of this except for Robert Mueller.

And I think that's the way it should be. If the president is innocent like he said he is and I want to give him the benefit of the doubt, there was no collusion and no coordination, let the facts play out. Let Robert Mueller investigate this at his own pace, on his own timeline and exonerate the president in the end.

And I think Giuliani is good and that it gives the president peace of mind, someone that is tough and that could get in there legally, but this will play out at Robert Mueller's timeline.

TAPPER: And so, "New York Times" along those lines, "New York Times" Maggie Haberman reported, quote, there is a belief Giuliani was like the Kool-Aid man, bursting through a wall to join the Trump team and four people close to the White House however say he resisted joining, but Trump wanting a big name who he is comfortable with, pushed for it. I really have a tough time seeing how this changes anything other than maybe Rudy could go on TV and talk about the case.

MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And that I think comports with Maggie's reporting and also Giuliani afterward sort of clarifying, minimizing his role, saying he's just an unpaid adviser, he's not officially joining us like a paid member or a lawyer in full standing, right?

TAPPER: An actual lawyer.

BALL: Right.

TAPPER: Or paid.

BALL: But, you know, Trump is sort of casting about in desperation because his legal team has been so hollowed out and because he wants someone who will fight for him and he doesn't feel like any of his lawyers are being adequately pugilistic. And so, theres' some tension there between what Giuliani is saying where he's saying, I'm going to negotiate an end to it, which implies a rather friendly or conciliatory stance with Mueller and Trump stance that he keeps taking, which is that we've got to fight this thing tooth and nail and not give any ground.

TAPPER: And we should point out, Robby, and I love to hear what you think as the former campaign manager for Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani just a few weeks before the election in 2016 had FBI sources suggesting to him something and he went on Fox News to say it before James Comey revealed that they were reopening the Hillary Clinton e- mail investigation. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: And then I think he's got a surprise or two that you're going to hear about in the next few days. I mean -- I'm talking about some pretty big surprise.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I heard you say that this morning. What do you mean?

GIULIANI: You'll see.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stay tuned.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Two days after that, then FBI Director James Comey who Giuliani was referring to said he reopened the Clinton e-mail investigation. Now, Giuliani said something was coming but then tried to walk it back on CNN saying he didn't know what he was talking about, he was -- you know, just speaking vaguely.

What do you think Giuliani was referring to and how do you think he knew?

ROBBY MOOK, FORMER HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, all of these folks know each other, right? Giuliani used to work with Mueller. Giuliani used to work with Comey.

TAPPER: Former U.S. attorney. MOOK: Correct. And so my assumption is either the New York field

office knew something and told that to Giuliani and that was the source of a lot of leaking during the campaign, about Hillary Clinton's investigation, or maybe Comey told him. I don't know.

And that is where this choice is really interesting. The Russia investigation -- I assume -- is completely separate from James Comey.

[16:40:02] But the fact that Giuliani is a big player in Trump's world, he may have been part of meetings or discussions with Russia was brought up, he may have connections with James Comey and we now see that the White House is trying to investigate James Comey's handling of information.

I don't know that Giuliani is the best person to help him on a legal front. I think he for the president is probably a very nice safety blanket. I love the Kool-Aid analogy. I'm sure he was excited to be back on center stage and is going to relish this opportunity but, look, everybody involved in this, it is coming back to haunt them. You know, it's investigation after investigation, I don't think Giuliani's hands are clean.

TAPPER: And also to put a point on this, Comey said in his book tour that after Giuliani said that, he ordered an inspector general review and investigation to find out who was leaking to Giuliani about this.

Giuliani, we should point out, very loyal to Donald Trump. After the "Access Hollywood" tape, he was one of the few people that would go on TV to defend President Trump. I think on "STATE OF THE UNION", I think I had him three weekends in a row.

STEWART: He was front and center, when people were not, behind the curtains, and look at Reince Priebus who's basically telling, encouraging the president to drop out of the race, Giuliani was a strong supporter. One thing that does concern me about him now being legal adviser for he president is there is talk he may try to encourage the president to interview or testify with Robert Mueller. I think that is a big mistake given the president's loose association with the truth, I think that will get him into trouble. Hopefully, we don't get to that point and that is not an issue but I do think that Giuliani -- as you say, he's a safety blanket for the president and we'll give him a reassurance but certainly not going to speed things up.

TAPPER: Molly, I want to just play a little bit more of the John Barron sound just because it amuses me so much. This is a sound from the former "Washington Post" about a talk between "Forbes" reporter Jonathan Greenberg and Trump's spokesperson John Barron from the 1980s.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

"JOHN BARRON": Most of the assets have been consolidated to Mr. Trump, you know, because you have down Fred Trump and I'd like to talk to you off the record if I can just to make you think easier.

JONATHAN GREENBERG: OK, sure.

"BARRON": Is that all right?

GREENBERG: Yes, that's fine.

"BARRON": But I think you could use Donald Trump now and just consolidate -- I think last year somebody showed me the article and I think you had 200 and 200 and it is pretty well consolidated now.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TAPPER: That is supposed to be -- that is supposed to be a spokesperson for Donald Trump. It is quite obviously Donald Trump. And I guess one of the bigger questions is, is this part of a larger problem with President Trump and his relationship with the truth?

BALL: Well, this is also the kind of character that Trump was at that time, right? In the New York of the '80s, he was this sort of personality who was sort of working the refs and getting gossip planted about himself and stuff put on page six and this is his game and the other thing I think was funny, you mentioned before that Barron is also the name of his young son. This predates Barron's birth by several decades. So, he didn't name the character after his son. He named the son after the alias, which I think is kind of hilarious.

TAPPER: He loved John Barron so much, he named his son after him.

Everyone, stick around, we got a lot more to talk about. Could President Trump's personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen be facing criminal charges? The shocking statement that was just made in a Los Angeles courtroom next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

1645

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00] TAPPER: And we're back with our "NATIONAL LEAD." President Trump's personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen could be indicted in the next 90 days. That was at least the argument leveled in court by Cohen's own attorneys who are seeking delay proceedings in a lawsuit filed by adult film actress Stormy Daniels. Daniel's real name is Stephanie Clifford is of course suing to dismiss the $130,000 nondisclosure agreement that she signed with Cohen on behalf of President Trump just days before the 2016 election. CNN Miguel Marquez is outside the court in Los Angeles. And Miguel, Cohen is under federal criminal investigation in New York. Did the judge have anything to say about that?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, all of that case was underlying what happened out here in Los Angeles today. In a moment of sort of quiet exasperation the judge said, you know, this case is kind of exploded since it was filed back in March and boy, was he right, understatement of the year perhaps. The case much of the discussion today on whether or not Michael Cohen would plead the Fifth, take his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself here in California.

So whether he was deposed or took the stand out here in California, would he simply say I refuse to answer these based on the Fifth Amendment because I'm would be in jeopardy of the criminal case in New York. So much of this was centered on why hasn't Mr. Cohen filed a declaration with the court here in Los Angeles that he intends to take the Fifth. Mr. Cohen's lawyer said he would discuss that with Mr. Cohen and the judge gave them until Wednesday of next week to get back to him with that declaration so that he could then rule on this issue of whether this proceeding here is stayed for 30 or 60 or 90 days, as Mr. Cohen's lawyers are asking, or if it goes forward as Michael Avenatti would like to see. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Miguel Marquez, thanks so much. Let's talk it over with Stormy Daniel's Attorney Michael Avenatti right now in his first interview since the hearing. Michael, how does today's proceeding impact the client's case?

MICHAEL AVENATTI, LAWYER, STORMY DANIELS: Well, I think we're very pleased with the hearing and how it proceeded, Jake. You know, the federal judge, Judge Otero who's very learned and diligent and a no- nonsense judge, you know, basically called out Michael Cohen and Donald Trump for submitting a motion that he described as having, "gaping holes in it." They hadn't done what they needed to do to relating to the declaration. And the reason for that, Jake, is very clear. You know, it's very similar to why they have Donald Trump sign the agreement so they would have deniability -- sign the NDA.

They haven't wanted to submit a declaration to the court acknowledging the seriousness of what is transpiring in the Southern District of New York and acknowledging it is Michael Cohen's intention to plead the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination. And if we take a step back and we think about, that is a very, very big deal. I mean, this is the President's right-hand counsel who has been with him for many, many years who only a couple of weeks ago the President referred the press, you and others and American people to as relates to what happened on this agreement and this payment. And now come to find out he's going to take the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination. I mean, this is a big deal.

[16:50:56] TAPPER: You said this week that you don't think President Trump will serve out his entire term. Where does that come from? That is a pretty -- that's a pretty wild claim.

AVENATTI: Well it's really not wild. My record thus far has been spot on. I don't think I've been wrong about anything yet in the last five to six weeks and I stand behind that claim that I made yesterday. Jake, you know, there's a lot of evidence in this case, there's a lot of shoes yet to drop. Michael Cohen is not going to hold up. I've been saying that for weeks and now others are repeating it and getting on the band wagon. Michael Cohen is going to flip on this President and he knows where the bodies are buried or at least many of them. And I do not think that the President will last through the balance of his term. I just don't. Now we're going to find out if I'm right or wrong, but I think he's going to ultimately resign the presidency.

TAPPER: What -- when you say he's going to flip on him, that implies that he has evidence that the President either conducted wrongdoing or knew of wrongdoing being conducted on his behalf. Do you have any evidence that shows that Cohen knew of anything that he could testify against the President about?

AVENATTI: Jake, we have substantial evidence and now you're going to ask me what it is and I'm going to tell you that we're not in a position to release it because we're not. I mean, we're going to be strategic and diligent. But what I will say is this, again, I haven't made any promises that we haven't kept over the last five to six weeks. We've delivered on everything we've said and I've been fairly consistent in my predictions and I do not believe the President will survive through the balance of his term. I just don't.

TAPPER: Because of your case, though, you're saying that, not because of the Mueller investigation or the Russia investigation. Because of your case and the Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney investigation into Michael Cohen, that is what you are saying.

AVENATTI: That is exactly what I'm saying. You're correct.

TAPPER: But they would have to be -- I mean, it would have to be a really shocking crime I would think. I mean, it couldn't just be President Trump Talking trash about this or that. President Trump has been known for all sorts of let's just say non-traditional actions but you're suggesting a crime that the President participated in or knew about being participated in on his behalf. That is an explosive allegation.

AVENATTI: Well, I don't want to you put words in my mouth. I want to be really clear about what I'm saying. What I am saying is this, we're talking about the President's right-hand person attorney. He's going to take the Fifth Amendment. He will be charged with very serious offenses, I am highly confident of that. And I am also highly confident that he has detailed information relating to efforts that he undertook on behalf of this President across not just 2016 but many years prior to that. And I am highly confident that he's going to disclose that information to prosecutors, et cetera and the only out that the President will have, the only out will be to resign the office. That is my prediction. And we're going to find out if I'm full of it or if I'm accurate.

TAPPER: Have you had any luck identifying the goon who allegedly threatened Stormy Daniels and her daughter in that -- in I think it was Las Vegas in 2011 so she wouldn't talk about her alleged affair with President Trump. You released a police sketch, it seems like six months ago but I think it was Tuesday. Have you had any luck identifying that person?

AVENATTI: I mean, we've made progress in the last -- it's only about 72 hours. I know that a day, in this case, feels like a month or a year sometimes, but it is only 72 hours. We've made some progress and we're going to continue to make progress. A lot of people have submitted some very valuable credible leads and again, we're going to get to the bottom of it.

TAPPER: You've argued that your client has been threatened with millions in fines for breaking the nondisclosure agreement, but let's be blunt, she gave an interview to 60 Minutes, she spoke outside of the court on Monday, she was on The View this week, she seems to be disclosing quite a bit.

AVENATTI: Well she has disclosed quite a bit but that doesn't stop them from continuing to threaten her. And Jake, I want to go back and remind your viewers of something. Weeks ago at the early stages of this case, we made what I believe to be a very fair offer and that was that we would return the $130,000 if they would agree all parties can walk away from the NDA. She would be free to speak out threat of a million dollars fine per instance and they could tell their story. They refused that offer, that demand. And Jake here is another prediction. That will go down in the history of U.S. litigation as one of the worst decisions ever made by any party to litigation. It's going to go in the same bucket of Bill Clinton refusing to settle the Paula Jones case before he was deposed. There's another prediction and I'm as confident in that one as I am the first.

TAPPER: All right. The Nostradamus of the legal scene with his predictions.

AVENATTI: Hey, so far so good, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Michael Avenatti, thanks so much. Have a good weekend.

AVENATTI: Thanks.

TAPPER: It's been a few Fridays since Trump fired someone. Tick- tock, stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)