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President Trump Distances Himself From Cohen as Probe Consumes Him; Storm Daniels Attorney Files Motion on Seized on Cohen Documents. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired April 26, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:05] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

I've got to tell you, it's hard to know where to begin tonight.

President Trump's pick to run the V.A. steps aside in a cloud of allegations, which he denies, of drunkenness, toxic management, and giving out pills like candy.

A jury convicts Bill Cosby, the man once known as America's dad, of drugging and sexually assaulting one of his many female accusers.

The president phones in a long list of grievances to Fox News, in the process making a key admission in the Stormy Daniels matter, and suggesting he's thinking about forcing the Justice Department to drop the Russia investigation and start prosecuting his political opponents.

Also and for the first time in a decade, the leaders of North and South Korea are about to meet.

We're going to cover all of that tonight, starting with the president's remarkable phone call with Fox News specifically concerning Michael Cohen, his long time personal attorney, as well as the alleged affair and hush agreement that Cohen arranged with Stormy Daniels.

Now, keeping them honest, on both matters, the president today seems to be trying to have it both ways. Michael Cohen was in federal court today, a judge deciding how to handle material the FBI seized from Cohen's home, office, as well as the hotel room, some of it to do with Daniels.

Now, at the time, remember, the president went ballistic. Attorney/client privilege is dead, he tweeted. He sent attorneys to argue in essence that he and Cohen had been legally joined at the hip for years. So, that's one thing. The other thing directly concerns what he knew about the hush agreement and the $130,000 payment that Cohen says he facilitated just days before the election, an agreement that Cohen's attorney, David Schwartz, has said that the president knew nothing about, an agreement he claims Michael Cohen did on his own with his own money, because he's just so loyal to Mr. Trump.

Well, this morning, in a single one minute piece of conversation on "Fox and Friends", President Trump did serious bodily harm to both those claims, one that he's got a close attorney-client relationship with Michael Cohen, and two, that he knew nothing about Cohen's effort to hush up Stormy Daniels.



BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Let's talk about Michael Cohen. Yesterday, through his attorney, he's going to be taking the Fifth. What's your reaction to that being that you work with him for a couple decades as your attorney?


KILMEADE: What's at stake for you, Mr. President?

TRUMP: Brian, you know -- Michael, Michael's been on your show, I'm sure, a lot. You know, Michael --

KILMEADE: We know.

TRUMP: -- he's a good person. Let me just tell you that Michael is in business, he's really a businessman, a fairly big business as I understand it, I don't know his business. But this doesn't have to do with me. Michael is a businessman. He's got a business. He also practices law, I would say probably the big thing is his business.

And they're looking into something having to do with his business. I have nothing to do with his business. I can tell you, he's a good guy.

KILMEADE: But isn't his business as your attorney, Mr. President?

TRUMP: Well, I have many, many -- just so you understand, I have Mr. Attorneys, I have attorneys -- sadly, I have so many attorneys you wouldn't even believe it.


TRUMP: Michael is somebody --

DOOCY: Mr. President, how much of your legal work was handled by Michael Cohen?

TRUMP: Well, as a percentage of my overall legal work, a tiny, tiny little fraction. But Michael would represent and represent me on some things. He represents me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal. He represented me and, you know, from what I see, he did absolutely nothing wrong.


COOPER: So, Michael Cohen is just a guy, he says, a guy who sometimes practices law, a tiny fraction of Mr. Trump's legal work. The problem is, at the same time, his attorneys are arguing to keep as much Cohen/Trump material as they can away from investigators because after all, they're such a broad and close attorney/client relationship there.

Lawyers for the government actually used the president's words today against him in court because of how neatly his words undercut the attorney-client privilege claim. In any case, keeping them honest, Michael Cohen and Donald Trump, however complicated their relationship is now, have had a long professional relationship. Cohen was until recently, executive vice president of the Trump Organization and citizen Trump's fixer, his Ray Donovan, something he was quite pride of.


MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP'S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: I protect Mr. Trump. That's what it is. If there's an issue that relates to Mr. Trump, that is of concern to him, it's of, of course, concern to me. And I will use my legal skills within which to protect Mr. Trump to the best of my ability.


COOPER: And in that capacity, less than two weeks before the election, Michael Cohen has claimed all on his own, he arranged a six figure payout to Stormy Daniels and drew up an agreement with a blank line where the president's signature using a pseudonym, was meant to be, all without the president's knowledge, ostensibly to keep candidate Donald Trump as far in scandal as possible.

Now, whatever you think about the ethics of that, or just the believability of it, the claim that this was done on the president's behalf without his knowledge to keep at arm's length from it, today on Fox, the president put a dent in any deniability he may have had.

Meantime, many of the parties were in federal court today in Lower Manhattan.

CNN's Brynn Gingras is there for us now.

So, the special master who was selected today, explain exactly what she'll do and who she is.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, Barbara Jones is the name of this former federal judge who will serve as the special master in this case.

[20:05:06] She served on the bench for about 17 years, appointed to that position by President Bill Clinton in 1995. She has a lot of experience here in the Southern District. She has a lot of experience with white-collar crime. And really her position or appointment was applauded on all sides.

And, basically, what she's going to do is be reviewing those documents that were seized in the raid of Michael Cohen's home, his offices, and also his hotel room, and really decide if attorney-client privilege is an issue here, could it be compromised? Once she makes that final decision, she will then move those documents over to investigators so they can continue the criminal investigation that is going into Michael Cohen's business practices.

COOPER: And the appointment of a special master, is it a win for either side here?

GINGRAS: It's really not a win or lose for either side. If you remember, Michael Cohen's attorneys wanted a special master from the very beginning. The government was opposed to it. Then really right before this hearing happened this afternoon the government rescinded their objection, basically saying they were OK with appointing a special master, basically citing in part President Trump's tirade on Fox News. You played it there for your viewers.

Basically, the government said, you know, we've said all along he's not been -- you know, Trump and Cohen have not really had a ton of legal work amongst themselves, and so, there's really not a lot of privileged documents here. So, really, if you think about it the government is a little bit happy in this and they hope that the special master will speed up this process so that the investigation can continue.

COOPER: Do we know, in terms of the evidence being turned over, do we know what it includes?

GINGRAS: You know, this was a really interesting part that happened in court today because we certainly knew there was a lot of documents, a lot of electronics that were seized in that raid of Michael Cohen as properties. But we learned really in detail that eight -- or rather seven of eight boxes now have been turned over to Michael Cohen's attorneys for their review. And today, rather, four cell phones, one iPad was included in what was turned over. And then tomorrow, another 12 cell phones and iPads are also expected to be turned over.

And then in the future, Anderson, even more electronics are expected to be turned over to Cohen's attorneys after they are able to get some information off those devices. So, really, it gives you an idea of the scope of how many electronics were seized in this FBI raid.

COOPER: All right, Brynn, thanks very much.

Again, Stormy Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti has an interest in the materials seized from Michael Cohen. He was in court. He joins us now.

So, I was wondering what was going through your mind when you were listening to the president this morning on "Fox & Friends" because for weeks we have heard from representatives of Michael Cohen publicly, Michael Cohen in print interviews, saying that he did this all on his own, the president didn't know about it, it was all Michael Cohen's money from a home equity line of credit, the president didn't need to sign the contract because the president wasn't aware of it, Michael Cohen could do it, it was a deal between Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels. Today, the president seemed to indicate, and I guess there's some

wiggle room in how you interpret it, but seemed to indicate that Michael Cohen represents him in the Stormy Daniels matter and represented him in the Stormy Daniels matter.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: Well, I don't think there's any wiggle room at all, Anderson. I think he -- I don't think he put a dent in it. I think he punched a hole big enough to drive a Mack truck through, quite honestly. All I could think about was sitting in this very chair on a number of nights on this show during which David Schwartz, who is Michael Cohen's attorney and friend --

COOPER: Attorney in another matter, but yes.

AVENATTI: Appeared on this show and debated me and constantly asserted on your show and other shows, countless other shows, that Michael Cohen did this on his own, that Mr. Trump never knew anything about it, Mr. Trump knew nothing of the agreement and nothing of the payment.

Then, you have the Air Force One comments on April 5 or 6, and now you have the comments today. When I heard it, I thought it was a dream because I couldn't -- I could not even fathom that the president would go on "Fox and Friends" and make these assertions which are directly contrary to everything else we've heard over the last six or seven weeks.

COOPER: Does it affect your case at all? Basically the president saying this. I mean, I know the lawyers for the government were already using this in court today.

AVENATTI: Well, they used it and we also used it, this afternoon when we had a filing in our case.

It strengthens our case in the following ways. First of all, I think it makes it much more likely that we're going to be able to depose the president in connection with our case because now we have contrary statements -- contrary statements by Michael Cohen and by the president on Air Force One and now this morning.

We need to be able to test those statements. We need to be able to put Mr. Trump under oath. And he's got to pick one. They all can't be true. It's impossible.

So, we're going to argue this further strengthens the foundation for our motion to take a deposition of the president. So, it certainly strengthens it in that regard. It also strengthens our case in that Mr. Trump trying to claim that he didn't know anything about this agreement in our case is going to be completely undercut by his statements to "Fox and Friends."

[20:10:11] COOPER: Some legal experts talking to the "Washington Post" said that you could read the president's statement, and I want to get this right, as him implying that it's likely Cohen could have done this on his behalf without saying that he definitely did this on his behalf. Do you think -- do you shade it that way? AVENATTI: No, I don't shade it that way at all. I think -- I think

the president is making it up as he goes along. I think Michael Cohen has made it up as he goes along, and this is what happens. You can't keep the facts, the fraudulent facts straight and you trip up. That's exactly what we saw today.

COOPER: The president also seemed to throw Michael Cohen under the bus. I mean, he said he was a good guy but that mostly he's a businessman and he does his -- a lawyer as well, but he only does a sum total of Mr. Trump's legal needs, he only does a tiny, tiny fraction. That does seem to argue against what the president's attorneys and what Michael Cohen's attorneys have been arguing in court saying their attorney-client relationship is so deep and wide, in fact, he's just one of three clients and the other client Sean Hannity has said, no, it was just some conversations and the other was a Republican donor who had another hush agreement and that doesn't seem like it would have taken very long.

AVENATTI: Let's assume that moments before the "Fox and Friends" interview, Anderson, the sphere of attorney-client privileged documents was this big. OK? Immediately after that interview it shrunk to this big, which means that all -- everything else that's now excluded will be free game for government investigators, prosecutors, and perhaps us in our case for discoverability, meaning we're going to get a chance to look at these documents. That is a major blow to the defense of Michael Cohen and potentially the president in the criminal matter as well as our case.

It was -- it was beyond stupid for him to go on "Fox and Friends" and make those comments. He may be able to get away with that in a political campaign. You cannot get away with that when you are a litigant in litigation. Period.

COOPER: You filed -- you tried to intervene today in the case. You made a claim that the FBI recovered communications from Keith Davidson, who was Stormy Daniels' former attorney, who was the one who was involved in this agreement, and Michael Cohen, and you were requesting access to those communications. The judge initially granted your request and then turned it down.

AVENATTI: Well, no, not exactly. The judge indicated she was inclined to grant our request. The government said they had not had an opportunity to review it. They wanted a chance to review it, to meet with us and talk about it, so that they could determine whether they're going to oppose it or not.

I'm confident that we're going to be able to work it out with the government. And if we're not able to work it out with the government, I think the judge is going to grant us a seat at the table, standing to make sure these documents are protected.

I will say this, Anderson. We are -- we are very concerned about the lack of an arm's length relationship between Mr. Davidson and Mr. Cohen as it relates to my client and the communications that took place not just around the negotiation time period of the agreement but as equally important or more importantly recently. It's our understanding that Mr. Davidson and Mr. Cohen had consistent

communications in the last four, six, eight weeks relating to my client. That's very troublesome to us. We want to get to the bottom of it.

COOPER: Keith Davidson's attorney put out a statement denying any inappropriate relationship with Michael Cohen saying any characterization of Attorney Davidson's relationship with Mr. Cohen as anything other than adversarial yet professional is false.

AVENATTI: Well, I mean, I think the facts speak for themselves. I mean, there's no question this was a very unusual relationship. The level of communication --

COOPER: That's an allegation also that Karen McDougal had made against Keith Davidson.

AVENATTI: Correct. And in fact, you need only look at the interview that Mr. Davidson gave to CNN a few weeks ago when he commented on the fact that he was communicating with Mr. Cohen, who was encouraging him to go out and do interviews and disclose attorney-client privileged information that he had on my client and others, as well as communications with Mr. Cohen after the interview to make sure that it went OK.

I mean, that's not an arm's length adversarial relationship.

COOPER: When you took on the Stormy Daniels case, did you have -- I guess there's no way you could have envisioned all the -- where you are right now in this case.

AVENATTI: Well, I don't think -- if we scripted this out and tried to sell it in Hollywood, they'd laugh us out of the office. No one would even buy it because they would say it's so farfetched. No one could have anticipated what's happened in this case. I mean, we've anticipated a number of things successfully.

But the beauty of this case, Anderson, is with each passing week or day, the case gets better and better and a lot of it is due to the missteps of the other side.

COOPER: Michael Avenatti, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, we'll dig deeper on this with lawyers Alan Dershowitz and Norm Eisen and talk as well about what some are saying is a veiled threat the president made to pull the plug on the Russia investigation.

Later, jury speaking Bill Cosby now a convicted sex offender.

[20:15:01] His profane reaction and the reaction of another one of his many accusers ahead.


COOPER: The president covered a lot of ground today on Fox News, contradicted himself more than once, had nice things to say about last night's CNN town hall and not so nice things to say -- no surprise -- about the people investigating him. He also made what could be seen as a veiled threat.


TRUMP: They have this witch hunt going on with people in the Justice Department that shouldn't be there, they have a witch hunt against the president of the United States going on. I've taken the position, and I don't have to take this position, and maybe I'll change, that I will not be involved with the Justice Department. I will wait until this is over.

So, I'm very disappointed in my Justice Department. But because of the fact that it's going on, and I think you'll understand this, I have decided that I won't be involved. I may change my mind at some point because what's going on is a disgrace. Our Justice Department, which I try and stay away from, but at some point I won't.


COOPER: At some point, I won't. I spoke about that, the Russia probe and Cohen-Daniels case with two distinguished attorneys, Harvard Law School's Alan Dershowitz, author of "Trumped Up: How Criminalization of Political Differences Endangers Democracy. And Norm Eisen, former Obama White House ethics czar, former ambassador to the Czech Republic.


COOPER: Professor Dershowitz, the president saying about the Justice Department, quote, I try and stay away from, but at some point I won't. He also went on to say he won't be involved with the Justice Department. He's going to wait until this is over.

What do you make of that? What do you think he meant?

[20:20:00] I mean, was he talking about not testifying in front -- or not interviewing with Mueller? Is he talking about not firing people? Some people saw it as a threat. How do you hear that?

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: How do you ever interpret statements made by Donald Trump? Obviously, he made a vague general statement intended to convey different points to different people. It may have been just musing about whether he has the power to do things with regard to the Justice Department but he's not going to exercise that power.

I don't know what he thinks he gains by making statements like that. I don't think he picks up support among his followers with these kinds of statements. I don't think he increases his legal vulnerability. But he certainly doesn't seem to help his case when he makes statements like this.

COOPER: Ambassador Eisen, I mean, he's saying he won't be involved with the Justice Department until this is over. I mean, it's his Justice Department. He is involved with it obviously.

NORMAN EISEN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS CZAR FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, Anderson, he's talking out of both sides of his mouth, because he says he's not going to be involved with it until he is. He made a threat that he may decide to get involved. I thought that was very ominous, and I thought it was another step in the direction of obstruction of justice.

Now, I'm not ready to rule. That's for Bob Mueller to decide whether an obstruction of justice case has been made.

COOPER: Did you see it as a threat, Professor Dershowitz, or a possible brick in the road of obstruction of justice?

DERSHOWITZ: I do not. I think it would go down a very bad road for us to start parsing the president's words to determine whether or not the president of the United States is exercising his authority under Article II or violating the law.

Now, obviously, if the president were to say this is a message to you, Mr. Cohen, if you don't testify against me and you're held in contempt, I will pardon you. That would be an obstruction of justice. Not the pardon but the offering of the pardon.

COOPER: Professor Dershowitz, don't you think it's kind of surreal that we are in a place now as a country where we're like oh, don't listen to the president like he's a crazy person on a park bench with an onion tied to his belt just mumbling incoherently? I mean, isn't -- you're saying --

DERSHOWITZ: I don't think --

COOPER: -- don't parse his words. You're saying essentially, don't listen to him, don't pay attention to the words that come out of his mouth because they really have no meaning. I mean, that's really what you're saying.

DERSHOWITZ: I'm making -- I'm making a different point. I'm saying that the words of a president have special authority under the Constitution. He is entitled to express views. He's entitled to speak to the public. And we shouldn't be making crimes, obstruction of justice or any other crimes, out of the words he speaks unless they're unambiguous and very clear.

COOPER: Right.

DERSHOWITZ: Now, this particular president, I agree with Norm, speaks in a way that sends conflicting messages throughout. And I wish as an American citizen he wouldn't speak in this way. And if I were his lawyer, which I am not, I would advise him not to speak in this way.

COOPER: But, Professor Eisen, it was like, I mean, like listening to the rantings of Richard Nixon on the tapes except this is on live television. He's calling in screaming, yelling into the telephone.

EISEN: Anderson, it was extraordinary -- DERSHOWITZ: I'm not going to defend that.

EISEN: He lost control. You could hear the emotion. You could hear the passion.

Words do matter. We know that in the law, threatening words, for example, can create liability. But we're not just talking about words. He fired Comey apparently -- now we need to let the Mueller investigation play out. But there's substantial evidence that he fired Comey because he wouldn't take his loyalty oath, because he wouldn't see his way clear to letting the Flynn investigation go.


EISEN: If he did that with corrupt intent, I believe that is actionable.

COOPER: Right.

EISEN: In our country, no man is above the law --

DERSHOWITZ: I don't agree with that.

EISEN: -- especially -- especially the president.

COOPER: Professor Dershowitz --

DERSHOWITZ: I wish you were right that no man is above the law. But as you know, senators are above the law. Justices are above the law. They have exemptions. It's the law that gives certain exemptions under Article II, Article III, and Article I to the leaders of our three branches of government.

And one of the privileges that a president has is to speak in this way. I don't approve of what he's saying. But to turn what he's saying into crimes -- of course, if he threatens. That's one thing. But he had the right to fire Mueller -- to fire Comey. He would have the right to fire Mueller.

He had the right to fire him for -- to stop the investigation. He had the right to fire him because he didn't take an oath of loyalty. He had the right to do all of those things. That's a good reason for voting against him. But he has all of those rights under Article II of the Constitution.


COOPER: Coming up, history being made. A huge moment for the first time, a North Korean leader will step into South Korea. It's about to happen as North Korea's Kim Jong Un set to meet with South Korea's president in the DMZ for a historic peace summit.

We'll take you there next with Christiane Amanpour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:28:51] COOPER: Breaking news: there you see Kim Jong Un, leader of North Korea, who's going to be for the first time stepping over into South Korea. It is morning on the Korean peninsula, a historic one at that.

The leaders of the North and South are about to meet to negotiate a peace settlement and denuclearization. President Moon shaking hands with Kim Jong-un.

Extraordinary moment to see these two leaders there. Kim Jong Un stepping over into South Korea. That has never happened before. Posing there for more photographs on the South Korean side of the DMZ, an area traditionally full of tension. The setting for the summit, the Peace House which is on the on the southern side of the demilitarized zone.

CNN's Will Ripley and Christiane Amanpour join us now.

Christiane, I want to start off with Will Ripley, who's actually near the DMZ. Will as we continue look at these pictures it's really extraordinary to see these two men continuing to hold hands and now having a discussion.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the first time in the history of North Korea that a leader has stepped foot on the south side of the DMZ. And it shows really a new willingness on the part of Kim Jong-un to try and engage with South Korea and really ultimately engage with the United States. This has been a carefully orchestrated thaw that began with North Korea's last missile launch, their intercontinental ballistic missile launch in November. Kim Jong-un and President Moon Jae-in using the Olympics to really kick off this new era of diplomacy, which is such an abrupt U-turn from the military escalation that we've been reporting about for much of the last couple of years.

I've been to North Korea many times when they've launched missiles, I've been there just after nuclear tests and to seek here and now and to see Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in walking together in Panmunjeom towards the Peace House, it is really almost words can't describe what this moment means. I'm here on a rooftop about 5 miles from the demilitarized zone and all around me there are Korean citizens and journalists who are completely silent at this morning, they're watching the live stream on their phones.

Earlier they watched President Moon's convoy as he drove across the unification bridge towards -- towards Panmunjeom, and there were cheers, people were waving. There is really an electricity and an optimism in the air here on the peninsula. But it's certainly as a cautious optimism, because we've been down this road before where they have been summits between the leaders of the north and south, agreements have been made for denuclearization, for peace and then it all went horribly wrong.

Will this time be different? That's certainly the hope here. But people are skeptical and of course worried about what could happen if this summit doesn't work out and if the upcoming talks with President Trump don't work out because there's some huge differences between what the North Koreans want and what the South Koreans want and what the United States wants certainly had it comes to the issue of denuclearization.

COOPER: Yes. Christiane, I mean even if nothing substantial comes out of this meeting, is the fact that this summit is happening significant enough?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it is. Look, let's not -- let's just not forget that this comes after many, many months of the most heightened rhetoric that we've really ever seen between North Korea and the west. The whole business of the nuclear tests, the intercontinental ballistic missile test, the fire and the fury from President Trump at the podium of the United Nations.

The, I have a button on my desk from Kim Jong-un in his New Year speech to the world. The, I have a bigger button from President Trump. The fact this region and the world trembled for weeks and months potentially on the brink of even what the United States was calling a bloody nose message to North Korea. This has changed that rhetoric at least for the moment.

And as you see this on a guard, as you see the red carpet, as you see frankly Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in acting like dads with their arms around two children and flowers being given and handshakes and smiles, this is for this moment an extraordinary change. And that's why it's important because it shows that there is a possibility of changing the dynamic from headlong into conflict to potential negotiation.

And of course this meeting will be the precursor to a maybe meeting between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. Although, yesterday I spoke to the foreign minister and she told me there will be that meeting. And of course after this summit between the two Korean leaders ends and wraps up this evening they hope for a written, a written commitment from Kim Jong-un to denuclearization. They say the foreign minister told me that her President will be in a meeting on the phone to the U.S. President to discuss the tone of the meeting, to see whether enough has been achieved to recommend that the United States goes ahead with its planned summit.

But the foreign minister told me she was quite convinced that would happen. Of course, just to be completely realistic, denuclearization at this point may mean two different things to two different sides.


AMANPOUR: President Trump and the South Koreans have said it must be verifiable destruction and dismantling for any, even the beginnings of the removal of sanctions and the onward motion. We're not sure exactly what Kim Jong-un means by it. In the past it means including the United States and the removal of forces and a much bigger, bigger interpretation. But we'll see. We'll see what happens by the end of this one-day summit.

COOPER: And Will just heard briefly, do we know how long the meeting between these two men is supposed to last? RIPLEY: Yes, they're going to have a couple of different sessions lasting several hours a piece. They'll have a morning discussion and they'll break for lunch. Kim Jong-un will actually cross back into the north. When he comes back in the afternoon there will be ceremonial tree planting where they're going to bring soil from both North and South Korea to plant this tree. They're going to bring water from the Taedong River and the Han River Taedong in the North Han and the South, they're going to water the tree.

[20:35:13] I mean all of these photo-ops are very symbolic, and they'll be shown live around the world. But those discussions inside the Peace House won't be televised, and those are going to be the hard discussions about whether these two sides can actually come together.

COOPER: Will Ripley, Christiane Amanpour, we'll continue to monitor events.

Coming up Dr. Ronny Jackson is out of the frying pan, Scott Pruitt is in the fire. The President pick the head of the VA withdraws, the EPA chief gets grope (ph) on Capitol Hill, what they're both saying today about allegations them, next.


COOPER: Dr. Ronny Jackson is no longer the nominee to run the VA. Jackson withdraw this morning embroiled in a series of allegations ranging from drinking on a job to freely doling out prescription pills to creating an abuse of work environment. In a statement Jackson said the allegations against him were completely false and fabricated. And on Fox this morning the President complained about the way Jackson was treated.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Doc Ronny. You know, we call him Doc Ronny, well call him Admiral, he's an admiral, highly respected, a real leader. And I watched what Jon Tester of Montana, a state that I won by its like over 20 points, you know, really they love me and I love them. And I want to tell you that Jon Tester, I think this is going to cause him a lot of problems in his state.

[20:40:04] He took a man who was just an incredible man, an incredible man, respected by President Obama, gave him his highest rating. You saw what President Obama said.


TRUMP: President Bush, he was the doctor to President Bush, to President Obama and the family. He's been my doctor, and he runs a fantastic operation. You know they have many doctors and they run a fantastic operation. And honestly I said it to him, he didn't come to me, I said, you know, Doc you run a great operation. How do you think you'd do at the VA?

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Well Jim Acosta joins us now from the White House. The President certainly still stunning by Dr. Jackson. I mean claiming he runs a great operation.


COOPER: A number of the 20 people, I think -- it seems like most of the 20 people according to Senator Tester who made allegations against the doctor, who have spoken to Senator Tester on Capitol Hill. Have said he doesn't run a great organization.

ACOSTA: That's right, Anderson. There are people over the years who worked with Dr. Jackson, who feel he wasn't running a tight ship over the White House doctor's office. You heard the President in the Rose Garden surrounded by children of reporters and staffers over here at the White House, earlier today saying that the doctor is a hell of a man.

So the President obviously feels very strongly about him, but at the same time getting back to what he was saying about the Montana Senator Jon Tester bringing up these allegations, the President essentially threatening today on Fox News to go after Jon Tester in his state as he goes for re-election. My guess is Anderson, is you're going to have a lot of Democrats saying moving forward here if this becomes a lingering issue that they might have spared veterans across the country from having a VA pick who just wasn't qualified.

And remember the President himself admitted at that press conference with the French president just a couple of days ago that essentially Ronny Jackson did not have the qualifications to be the VA secretary despite the fact the White House press secretary here tried to say that the President didn't say that. But the President did raise his own questions about the experience level that Ronny Jackson was going to bring to the VA.

COOPER: I mean in terms of White House staffers, do we know how they feel about all of this?

ACOSTA: I talked the staffers today, they feel very badly for Ronny Jackson, they like him. He's a well liked guy around here, I can tell you not only among White House officials but among member of the press. They've been on foreign trips with him and so on. And people do feel badly for the ordeal that he's gone through, but at the same time Anderson, I've talked to sources close to the White House just this evening who said that the White House obviously did not do the proper vetting of Ronny Jackson and they send -- essentially sent him into battle. Because any nomination fight is that, it's a battle here in Washington especially under this administration.

And they felt that they sent him in there unprepared and that the White House simply not ready to deal with these accusations when they came forward because a proper vet wasn't done. And that remains responsibility of the White House and the people working around Dr. Ronny Jackson, not the Democrats up on Capitol Hill, not members of it press. It's up to the administration obviously to vet these individuals before putting them forward. COOPER: Yes, Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

Meantime in other hot seat news EPA administrator Scott Pruitt was up on Capitol Hill today, facing questions about the multiple scandal he is been in question, two separate House committees questioned him about the first class travel, the spending, the regulation role backs, the ethics controversies that have been dragging on for weeks. Phil Mattingly has more.


SCOTT PRUITT, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: Let me be very clear, I have nothing to hide as it relates to how I run the agency the past 16 months.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In two hearings on Capitol Hill EPA administrator Scott Pruitt.

PRUITT: Allegedly what has been target towards me and my team has been half truths or best stories that have been so twisted, they did not resemble reality.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Fighting against allegations of abuse of power. It was a pitch that carried little weight with Democrats.

REP. FRANK PALLONE, (D) NEW JERSEY: There's so many outstanding questions that we need truthful answers to today, but because so far we've only gotten untruths this leading answer is or outright falsehoods, your unfit to hold public office and undeserving of the public trust.

REP. ANNA ESHOO, (D) CALIFORNIA: I may be elected but I'm not a fool. That's really a lousy answer from someone that has a high position in the federal government.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): And even brought some skepticism from Republicans.

REP. GREG WALDEN, (R) ENERGY & COMMERCE COMMITTEEE CHAIRMAN: These issues are too persistent to ignore.

REP. RYAN COSTELLO, (R) PENNSYLVANIA: Someone in the IG's office has not found some of the personal security concerns that you've -- that you have proffered in relation to the enhanced security that you've received to be either warranted or credible.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Pruitt has been plagued for months by an unending array of allegations and scandal. A few weeks ago he had this to say about exorbitant raises given to close aides.

PRUITT: I did not know that they got the pay raises until yesterday.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): That seemed to change today.

PRUITT: I think with respect to the raises --

REP. PAUL TONKO, (D) NEW YORK: Is that true? I have five minutes so I have to move along.

PRUITT: I was not aware of the amount, nor --

TONKO: Not the amount, aware of the raises.

PRUITT: I was not aware, nor I wasn't aware of that -- of the bypassing or the PPO process not being respected.

[20:45:00] MATTINGLY (voice-over): Pruitt also refusing to take the blame for the $43,000 soundproof booth installed in his office.

PRUITT: I did have a phone call that came in of a sensitive nature and I did not have access to secure communication. I gave direction to my staff to address that and out of that came a $43,000 expenditure that I did not approve.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Congressional Republicans several aides say are increasingly frustrated with all the allegations, but they're unified in support of Pruitt's deregulatory agenda.

REP. DAVID MCKINLEY, (R) WEST VIRGINIA: The public, I think this has been a lot of a classic display of innuendo and McCarthyism.

REP. JOE BARTON, (R) TEXAS: Mr. Administrator, you're not the first person to be the victim for lack of a better term, Washington politics.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Looming large over both hearings and Pruitt's public turn in the spotlight, the reality that a White House including the President himself will be watching, and it may determine his very unclear future.

SARAH SANDERS, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: We're evaluating these concerns, and we expect the EPA administrator to answer for them, and we'll keep you posted.


COOPER: And Phil Mattingly joins us now. You've been talking to Republican lawmakers, what are they saying as far as Pruitt standing after his testimony?

MATTINGLY: You know, interesting thing Anderson, is when you talk to Republicans they basically say that there's almost been a perfect storm that has kept him in the job. It kind of breaks down in three categories. First what he's actually done at the agency. He's kind of considered a rock star for what he's done in dismantling President Obama's legacy at the EPA. Those deregulatory actions. That has been a huge reason he's still around. Obviously a huge reason, that President Trump have said.

Other than that we also have outside conservative groups. These people have major sway on Capitol Hill, and the White House, advocates, big donors who've really have considered him a superstar not just since he's been at the EPA but beforehand, when he's Oklahoma attorney general. They have been impressing upon people both -- on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue, keep him in the job.

And finally I think this is interesting, but perhaps the most important reason, logistical. You talk to Senate Republicans and they point to other nominees, a nominee like what Jim Acosta was just talking about, over at the CIA, the State Department fight that they had to get Mike Pompeo in, they recognize how difficult it is. Whether or not they've had the bandwidth or perhaps even the support to ever get another EPA administrator through, because of that at this moment he's still on the job. Well that last, as one top Senate aide told me, well we just keep our eye on the President's Twitter feed, Anderson.

COOPER: Phil Mattingly, thanks very much.

Coming up, disgraced comedian and TV icon, Bill Cosby now a convicted felon, found guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home, the jail time he could face, and another accuser of he, joins me -- her reaction when we continue.


[20:51:36] COOPER: Tonight Bill Cosby, once nicknamed America's dad, is convicted of three counts of aggravated indecent assault. The case centered around the testimony of Andrea Constand who said the Cosby drug and sexually assaulted her at his home in 2004.

Lili Bernard, you see over there in all white, is one of dozens of other women who've accused Cosby of attacking them. Using crime being comforted outside the court room after the verdict was read. Here's what she said at short time later.


LILI BERNARD, COSBY ACCUSER: I was just full of joy, full of gratitude for the prosecution, for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, for Andrea Constand and the five prior other witnesses, my survivor sisters who courageously stood on that stand. I was also just shocked. I didn't expect this kind of verdict. The jury has restored my faith in humanity. And I feel like I'm dreaming and I need to be pinched to be woken.


COOPER: Well, the 80-year-old Cosby is under house arrest as he waits to be sentenced. The prosecutor had asked for Cosby's bail to be revoked, fearing he would flee the country. That's when Cosby stood up and yell the prosecutor, telling him, he quote, "Doesn't have a private plane, you a-hole".

Cosby could face 30 years in prison. More than 50 women have publicly accused Cosby of sexual misconduct stretching back decades. Joining me tonight another accuser, Patricia Steuer, she says Cosby assaulted her twice more than 30 years ago when she was an aspiring singer.

Patricia, when you heard today's verdict, I wonder -- first of all, just what went through your mind? PATRICIA STEUER, COSBY ACCUSER: First I couldn't quite believe it because I really expected either an acquittal or another hung jury. These cases are so difficult to prove. And after the disbelief, I put myself right in front of my very large husband, and he put his arms around me and I started to cry. And he cried too. And my husband doesn't cry. So the two of us stood in the pharmacy where we were picking up prescriptions crying together.

COOPER: How did you hear the news?

STEUER: Actually because we were crossing the sierras from Nevada to California when this all broke, we didn't get the news until quite a bit after it happened by text from someone. So that's how we got the news.

COOPER: I mean you've been carrying the weight of what Bill Cosby allegedly did to you for more than 40 years now. I mean is that -- what is the feeling, a sense of -- is there a sense of relief? Is there joy? Is there sadness, anger? I mean what is it?

STEUR: I think it's a mixed bag, Anderson. I think there's joy, there's relief, there's definite sadness for the years, especially the first 25 that I carried it alone, not at all aware of anyone else who had had the experience that I had.

COOPER: You didn't know that there was anyone else. You -- until Andrea Constand came forward in 2005, you had no idea that this had happened to anyone else?

STEUER: That's right. I thought I was the only one.

COOPER: Have you and Ms. Constand ever spoken, ever shared thoughts or experiences?

STEUER: We have not shared our experiences. We have spoken by phone twice. She was advised at that point not to talk about her experiences with Mr. Cosby, and I just took the same tact with her, so we really just talked about our lives and our gratitude for being in each other's lives.

[20:55:11] The fact that she had the courage to come forward, the fact that, you know, she knew she wasn't alone, and I knew I wasn't alone anymore.

COOPER: They clearly were trying -- the attorneys for Mr. Cosby were clearly trying to paint her as a liar, as somebody who was making something up who wanted money, who had ulterior motives.

STEUER: Apparently that's true. I think that's sort of a playbook when you have a defense like this, they try to discredit the witness or the primary person who's making the complaint. That's not my experience of her. I was telling someone today how much she practices equanimity and serenity and how kind-hearted she is. And how introverted she is. And that's not my sense of her at all. I can't claim to know her well but I do know her heart a little bit from the conversations we've had. COOPER: Mr. Cosby was demonstrably angry in the courtroom today. Do you think that he feels any sense of remorse?

STEUER: I haven't detected any. I can't really speak about what he feels inside, but he hasn't displayed any. He's a very, very fiercely proud person, so it doesn't surprise me that he's reacted with defiance.

COOPER: Is this something you ever forgive somebody for?

STEUER: I forgave Bill Cosby years ago for me, because carrying resentment for someone like that for an event that took place so long ago wasn't hurting him at all. It was simply hurting me. So I forgave him for me.

COOPER: Well Patricia, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us.

STEUER: Thank you for inviting me.

COOPER: Well, coming up next, President Trump trying to distance himself from Michael Cohen, and there's new reporting tonight under their shifting relationship.