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Cohen to Face Indictment; DNC Lawsuit over Conspiracy; Trump's Concern About Flynn; Trump Adds Legal Team Members; Trump Not a Target in Cohen Probe. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired April 20, 2018 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:05] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.
We start with some breaking news and new revelations in a federal court today as Michael Cohen's attorney says his client could be indicted in the next 90 days. That came out during a hearing that's going on in Los Angeles right now. And Stormy Daniel's lawsuit against Michael Cohen and against President Donald Trump.
Our national correspondent, Miguel Marquez, is joining us live from Los Angeles.
A little bit of drama unfolding right now. What are you hearing from inside the courtroom, Miguel?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think drama is one thing that you can always count on in this case.
The lawyer and the judge now trying to sort through that criminal case in New York and the civil case here in Los Angeles. The lawyer, Brent Blakely, for Mr. Cohen, saying at one point that he expected -- he needed this day. This day was absolutely imperative in this case because he felt his client could be indicted possibly in the next 90 days. He then sort of motioned to Michael Avenatti, who was sitting a few feet away, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, and said, well -- and at least that's what Mr. Avenatti's been saying publically as well. The judge then sort of shut things down at that point and said, look, I know that a lot has been said in the media, I know this is an intense case, I know there's a lot of drama, but I want all that stuff in the media left in the media, and I only want matters that are relative to this court discussed here.
There was one other thing that Avenatti said that was interesting so far in this hearing that is still ongoing, saying that even if Michael Cohen took the Fifth Amendment right -- and this is a lot of what they've been discussing in the courtroom today, why Michael Cohen has not declared definitively that he would take the Fifth here in Los Angeles, meaning that if he was on the stand or if he was deposed, he wouldn't say anything other than that I plead the Fifth. The judge and Michael Cohen's lawyer seemingly coming to a conclusion
that they would be filing that, or at least they would talk to Mr. Cohen to see if he wanted to file a declaration that he would be pleading the Fifth here in California. That would change the nature of the proceedings here.
Avenatti coming back and saying, look, even if he takes the Fifth, it doesn't really matter. There are plenty of others that could talk -- that could talk and could testify in this case. The bank that wrote the check. Mr. Cohen's assistant. He even at one point said, Mr. Cohen's spouse could be called to the stand as well depending upon what that relationship is.
So the judge really grappling, trying to understand how this case overlaps with the New York case. They are still talking in there to figure out whether that stay would be implemented today for 90 days as the Cohen team is asking, perhaps shorter if the judge decides that. If it -- if there is no stay at all, or in the unlikely possibility that Cohen drops the entire case, and Stormy Daniels is free to say whatever she wants.
BLITZER: Well, we'll watch the drama unfold over the next few hours. You'll bring us the latest as soon as you get it. Miguel Marquez out in Los Angeles, thanks very much.
Let's bring in our CNN legal analyst, Laura Coates.
What do you make of this development that the lawyer representing Michael Cohen, Brent Blakely, says that perhaps in the next 90 days Cohen himself is going to be indicted. He's under criminal investigation, a federal court in New York City?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it seemed he may have been a bit of being a little tongue and check and taking a pot shot at Michael Avenatti to say, well, you clearly would agree with my intention to delay this case because you yourself have told people in the media that he may be indicted. So, obviously, you're going to sign off on this. Your honor, this is not a contested proceeding in that respect. And the judge will look at whether the other side is opposing the motion or not, decide whether it's good to do so because they don't want to do something that's against the parties' interest.
The second part of it, however, is that overlap. The term overlap is so key here. If there is, in fact, testimony that's going to come out or an indictment coming out, out of New York, out of the District in New York and southern district in Manhattan about Michael Cohen that my impact the litigation in California, every judge will think about that and consider it because they don't want to have an unproductive proceeding and say, if you're going to sit here in California and never answer a question simply because you fear an indictment in New York or vice versa, then we won't have a fruitful, productive occurrence. We'll just have somebody who's wasting the court's time and they don't want that.
So it's an interesting turn of events. We have to still wait and see what happens.
BLITZER: We're going to keep you here, Laura, because there's more breaking news we're following. The Democrats now making a federal case out of hacked e-mails and an alleged conspiracy. The Democratic National Committee now suing the Trump campaign, Russia and WikiLeaks, and several others. The hacking and publication of the DNC e-mails at the heart of this lawsuit.
Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny. He's joining us from West Palm Beach in Florida, near the president's Mar- a-Lago resort.
So, specifically, Jeff, what is the DNC alleging?
[13:05:06] JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, certainly an interesting lawsuit today from the Democratic National Committee accusing the Trump campaign of a conspiracy for working with WikiLeaks in the release of e-mails and working with the Russian government.
Now, this is a 66-page lawsuit that was filed in Manhattan earlier this morning, and this is really essentially reviving, you know, much of what we have learned over the last year or so about how, you know, these meetings in Trump Tower with Russian officials.
But what it is doing, Wolf, in an interesting legal strategy, is essentially accusing the Trump campaign of being a racketeering enterprise, going after them through an old Rico (ph) statute. That, of course, was used through organized crime cases.
Now, it's an open question if a judge will allow this to proceed. It's an open question if this will ever be litigated or not. But it certainly raises the stakes here. It's not naming the president directly, but, Wolf, it is naming everyone else directly from his son, to his son-in-law, to his former campaign manager. If you'll remember, all of the people who were at that June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower. So it is going through in great detail a lot of things we have learned.
Republicans are saying this essentially is a midterm election year stunt. Unclear how this will play out in races. But, Wolf, no question, this is something that Republicans will have to defend. President Trump will have to defend. There's no word yet from the White House, their reaction to this lawsuit.
BLITZER: Yes, let's see what happens on this lawsuit. A significant -- a potentially very significant development.
Jeff Zeleny, down in Florida, thanks very much.
Let's get back to Laura Coates. She's still with us. Also joining us, our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto, and our political correspondent, Sara Murray.
Jim, first of all, your reaction to this DNC lawsuit?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, I've spoken to DNC officials about this lawsuit and one question I asked is, do you have any new evidence of this conspiracy? And they said, no, but their argument is they're bringing together the pieces of information, many of which have already been out there, in a way that hasn't been brought before a judge. Things like, you know, alleged cases where Trump advisers had advanced notice, for instance, of what WikiLeaks was going to put out, the Roger Stone tweets, the president's comment egging the Russians on to release or hack those e- mails. So they're bringing it together in a way.
And the time pressure was that the statute of limitations on the applicable law here was coming up to its two-year window, and that's why they were doing it. Beyond, of course, the obvious political timing.
BLITZER: And they're hoping that they will allow it to go forward, the courts, so they can do some depositions and get some more information. What do you -- what do you sense?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean it kind of looks like a political stunt to me. Look, nothing that they're going to be bringing up or going to be talking about is not information that Robert Mueller is already looking at. I mean there's not really a lot that seems to be new here. I also think it opened up -- opens up some risk for the Democrats again because they're going to be asked to provide information as well and they're going to be questioned again about why they didn't take steps to secure their server when it was brought to their attention that there could be hacking attempts. I mean this was a criticism throughout the campaign that when it was brought to their attention of Republicans that there may be security breaches there or potential security breaches, they took steps to lock things down in a way the Democrats did not and they were more resistant.
So, I mean, mostly it just smells like a political stunt at a time when people are already paying attention to these issues.
BLITZER: And, Laura?
COATES: Well, you know, just like the 13-count indictment or 13 different nationals from Russia who were indicted through a talking (ph) indictment by Robert Mueller, knowing he wasn't able to bring them back. In many ways this feels like a talking lawsuit that is geared towards calling out the House Republicans on the Intel Committee who chose to do nothing in spite of the evidence. And you have the Democratic backlash saying there was more than enough evidence at least to proceed with the investigation. I think that's part of it.
Also, this is also a monetary-based lawsuit, unlike what's happening in a criminal probe where you're having jail time as a potential outcome of it. It's talking in a specific way about the idea of forcing the hand of continuing to have this at the forefront. But just like Michael Cohen is facing with Avenatti in Stormy Daniels'
claim in California, here a court will look at this and say, what is -- are the risks of having the overlap in a way that makes unproductive discussion. It's a talking civil suit, nothing more at this point.
BLITZER: And, Sara's right, there's a lot of politics involved right now as well.
BLITZER: There's other news we're following. We're following new revelations from memos written by the fired FBI Director James Comey about his interactions with President Trump. Comey writes that the president expressed serious reservations about the former and fired national security adviser, Michael Flynn. But in a tweet today the president blasted Comey and defended Flynn. He tweeted this, quote, so General Mike Flynn's life can be totally destroyed while shady James Comey can leak and lie and make lots of money from a third rate book that should never have been written. Is that really the way life in America is supposed to work? I don't think so, closed quote.
Sara, Comey writes that the president had concerns. Clearly the president had a lot of concerns about Michael Flynn that was reflected in the Comey memos, but he wound up firing him.
[13:10:06] MURRAY: Well, look, I think a couple things. One, the president is venting about Michael Flynn in the Comey memos. We know that he does that about anyone who's ever worked for him. So it's hard to take that too seriously.
Yes, ultimately their concerns did led the White House to fire Michael Flynn, but it was quite a bit of lag time before these concerns were brought to them that Flynn could be lying, he could be compromised by the Russians, and the president's ultimate decision to decide to fire him. And we know that almost instantly when he made that decision, he started to feel a little bit guilty about it. He started to wonder about what this would mean for Michael Flynn. He asked James Comey if he would consider letting this whole thing go.
And this has been one of the sort of hallmarks of the president as he's watched this play out. He feels bad for the people who get caught up in litigation because he feels like the only reason they're in this position is because they supported him and worked for him during his campaign, and then Michael Flynn into the White House.
BLITZER: How do you see it, because this tweet from the president basically saying that Michael Flynn's life could be totally destroyed while shady James Comey can lie and leak.
SCIUTTO: Well, he continues the all-out attack on James Comey and along with it the FBI as being biased for their involvement in this. And an interesting change over the last several months where he has defended Michael Flynn. There has raised some hopes in the Flynn camp that perhaps the president might, at some point, be able to do something. There are some certainly in that world who were -- who were pushing for the president to pardon Michael Flynn. The president has that power. We'll see what happens.
BLITZER: If he wants to pardon him, the president can pardon Michael Flynn, and see if he can get his life back in order.
COATES: Absolutely. But remember two things. Number one, Comey didn't leak in the same of the legal sense of giving over classified information.
COATES: So that term in and of itself is really a misnomer in this case.
Number two, with the issue of Michael Flynn, remember, he's the one who pled guilty. There is a personal accountability and responsibility the court will look at to say, your life may have been ruined or in some way tarnished, but that was largely of your own making and you've admitted to that in a court of law. So I think on both counts the president has missed the mark. But certainly, Wolf, he has the power to pardon him on a federal crime.
BLITZER: Jim, like all of us, you've now read those Comey memos that have been given to Congress, immediately leaked to all of us. We've gone through them. And I just want to get your thoughts on the salacious details from the Steele dossier that were referred to in those Comey memos.
SCIUTTO: Well, it's interesting, because the president -- it's not the first time we've heard this from Comey, that the president seemingly not being able to help himself bringing that up. Whether the golden shower thing -- as he refers to this salacious tape that, you know, we have no proof that exists, but there's been a lot of talk about that, you know, without prompting from Comey, the president bringing up women who have alleged sexual assault against the president. And then you have in here a reference to something that just, you know, brings us into a, you know, further into this mysterious world that we've entered over the course of the last year, but -- but that President Putin apparently saying that Russia has the best hookers in the world.
This has led to perhaps the strangest official comment from the Kremlin, at least in my time covering Russia and things Russia, but the Kremlin forced to respond to whether the Russian president said Russia has the best hookers in the world. This coming from Dmitry Peskov just today in response to a question from CNN. President Putin could not say such things and did not say it to President Trump, taking into account that they had never communicated before Trump became president. As for the main content of the book, I do not presume to judge. We did not read it.
I doubt that they didn't read it. But I should -- I should note that in a press conference President Putin, not Trump to our knowledge, but did say in public he made a reference to Russia having the most beautiful hookers in the world. Whether that happened in this private sphere, we'll only know based on (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: He used another phrase -- he used another phrase for hookers in that statement public.
SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes. Beautiful women of questionable moral refute (ph).
BLITZER: Yes, something like that.
You covered all of this for us as well.
There had been, Sara, some conflicting statements from Donald Trump earlier, before he was inaugurated, whether or not he had ever spoken to Putin.
MURRAY: Yes, there was this sort of back and forth. At one point he said he said he had spoken to him and then he later said that they've never had a conversation. I mean I think this is one of those sort of confusing elements where this is a president who tends to frequently change his story. I don't think we should be surprised by that. And, you know, now, here we are, talking about golden showers and Russian hookers. How did we get here?
BLITZER: All right, just reporting the news, guys. Thanks. Stick around. There's more news we're following.
Just ahead, stunning new tapes revealed, reportedly of the president posing as his alter ego. Also he could get on the Forbes 400 wealthiest list. We've got the audio. We'll play it for you.
Plus, Rudy Giuliani is the latest to join the president's legal team. His role, bring the Mueller investigation to an end.
And he's been one of the president's favorite targets.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He does not have the temperament to be doing this. He is choking like a dog.
Ted cannot get along with everybody. He's a nasty person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: But now it appears Ted Cruz has actually moved on. He's written an ode to the commander in chief and he's getting mocked for it.
[13:19:14] BLITZER: President Trump adds a very prominent name and a long-time supporter to his personal legal team. The former New York City mayor and former U.S. attorney, Rudy Giuliani, says his role will be limited, but Giuliani isn't the only new addition to the team. The president is also bring in a husband and wife duo.
Let's go to our justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, she's got details.
Jessica, first of all, what do we know about this couple? JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf,
well, Rudy Giuliani may be the most prominent name when it comes to that national recognition. The husband and wife joining the president's team, they are big names in legal circles. Marty and Jane Raskin. They run a law firm specializing in white collar criminal defense based out of the Miami area. And they've also had a long resume of experience as federal prosecutors.
So first with Marty Raskin. He worked out of the U.S. attorney's office in Miami for the majority of his career before moving to private practice. First he was the chief of the criminal division for the U.S. attorney's office and he was also a special attorney with the organized crime and racketeering section for the Miami strike force.
[13:20:14] Then there's his wife, Jane. She also has a long list of federal prosecutorial experience as well. She worked at the Department of Justice as the counsel to the assistant attorney general of the criminal division. She also served in the organized crime division and racketeering section out of Boston. She spent a lot of time in Boston in her career as well.
And what's interesting is I talked to several attorneys who knows this couples. One of the attorneys put it this way. He says, when it comes to Marty Raskin, he is a skilled lawyer, he knows the system and the ins and outs. And then he said this, he will represent the president well if the president listens to him. So, of course, that's key, will the president listen?
Now, the White House hasn't disclosed exactly how Rudy Giuliani or the Raskins will be serving on the president's legal team, but those attorneys who know the Raskins says the president might be best served if the Raskins focus on the investigation coming out of the southern district of New York in the wake of the Michael Cohen raid, given their extensive experience defending against financial crimes and, of course, Wolf, knowing the ins and outs of U.S. attorneys' offices.
BLITZER: Yes, I've spoken with experts in Miami as well. They have very high regard for the Raskins as attorneys. So we'll see how that unfolds. Jessica Schneider, thanks for that report.
Rudy Giuliani says his main role on the Trump legal team will be to act as a liaison with the special counsel, Robert Mueller. He tells CNN that Mueller's Russia investigation needs a little push to get to its conclusion.
For more on Giuliani's role in the Russia probe, let's bring in CNN political analyst Michael Shear. And let's bring back our legal analyst Laura Coates.
What do you think, Michael, about Giuliani's addition, in addition to these well-known, highly respected lawyers down in Miami?
MICHAEL SHEAR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he brings sort of two things that Trump desperately needs. One is a sort of public relations boost here, right? I mean the president needs to push back, not on a legal sense, but to get against a sort of forming public opinion. The deeper that Mueller digs and the more that the Cohen raid has sort of prompted a new sort of sense of danger around the White House, you need somebody who's sort of bigger than life, that can push back against that. And Giuliani is certainly bigger than life.
The other thing, though, is the legal aspect to it. And this is a -- this is a guy who knows the southern district of New York. He was U.S. attorney there. And he's got a relationship with Mueller. And so, in both cases, the hope is that he can sort of help push this to a conclusion, although I think everybody that we've talked to suggested that this idea that it's going to be wrapped up in a couple of weeks, even given Giuliani's, you know, assets, it seems really unlikely.
BLITZER: Because he does have a relationship with Mueller. He speaks very highly of Mueller, Giuliani does, has great regard and he thinks maybe in two or three weeks they can at least get a sense if this -- if this can be wrapped up and what would be the terms of a presidential interview.
COATES: Well, if his focus is going to be on trying to kind of navigate how this one on one or this interview -- this voluntary interview will go with Mueller's team, then perhaps the assets that Giuliani brings will be useful. If his role is somehow to expedite a federal investigation of this magnitude with the hopes that his mere relationship as formally the person who was in office on 9/11 and Mueller being the person who was in the FBI at that time, if that's the basis of it, that their personal or professional interaction will guide that, he's in for a real shock because I'm sure that Mueller's able to compartmentalize. And, if anything, he will have zero influence, if anything, on the idea to expedite a federal investigation.
But on setting the parameters of the meeting, sure. Remember, John Dowd was the point contact person for a long time. Now that he's gone, there has been no one to fill that void. I suspect he'll step in for that exclusive point.
BLITZER: And amidst all of this, Michael, the source has told CNN that the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, when he met the other day at the White House with the president, told the president he was not a, quote, target of the investigation into Michael Cohen, the criminal investigation that's underway in New York. What do you make of that?
SHEAR: Well, look, in some ways that's a reflection of what the president has long wanted in all of these investigations is some sort of public assurance that he wasn't personally under investigation, wasn't personally the target. And, remember, that's a lot of what the president and Jim Comey talked about that's described in those memos.
I think, though, that if the president takes that and believes that that somehow means that this is all over for him and that there's no legal danger, or no political danger, I think he's -- he's really deluding himself because the fact is that he can potentially not be a specific target of that investigation, and there still would be lots of danger in what's unearthed in that investigation, on all of the documents that Michael Cohen had that related to the president, that related to these other investigations. And so there's still a lot of danger for him, even if he's not technically a target.
[13:25:08] BLITZER: Yes. And the -- and he may not be a target but Michael Cohen --
BLITZER: Is under criminal investigation. He's clearly a target of this investigation. We'll see what happens over the next 90 days or so as lawyers on both sides of the Stormy Daniels' case are now suggesting he could be indicted. Let's see if that actually happens.
All right, guys, thanks very much.
Up next, they've had a complicated relationship, to say the least.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Donald, Donald, relax.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Go ahead. I'm relaxed.
TRUMP: You're the basket case. Go ahead. Go ahead.
CRUZ: Donald --
TRUMP: Don't get nervous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now Senator Cruz is getting roasted over his glowing tribute to the president. We'll update you on that when we come back.
[13:29:59] BLITZER: An about-face for the Texas senator, Ted Cruz, now lavishing enormous praise upon President Trump. Senator Cruz wrote this in "Time" magazine for its 100 most influential people list just out.