Return to Transcripts main page


Michael Cohen Invokes Fifth Amendment Rights In Stormy Daniels Case. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired April 26, 2018 - 07:30   ET



[07:30:40] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right.

Michael Cohen, the president's longtime personal attorney, says he's going to assert his Fifth Amendment rights in the Stormy Daniels civil case.

This comes as sources tell CNN the president's new lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has met with Robert Mueller to explore the possibility of Mr. Trump doing an interview with Mueller's investigators.

And, the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, talking about executive privilege and the president pardon ability. So there's a lot to cover.

Let's bring in CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutors Michael Zeldin and Laura Coates. So, Michael also served as Robert Mueller's former special assistant that the DOJ -- full disclosure there.

So this is actually kind of complex as a legal tactic. You could say it's a no-brainer. You've got an open criminal investigation.

Plead the Fifth in the civil case. It will hold it in abeyance -- it'll keep it quiet.

But it's a little tricky legally because in the civil case, pleading the Fifth can have, with a jury, a negative inference but that's really about legal tactics.

The main optical problem here for Michael Cohen -- and I'll start with you, Laura Coates -- is what his boss says that pleading the Fifth means. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Have you seen what's going on in front of Congress? Fifth Amendment, Fifth Amendment, Fifth Amendment -- horrible -- horrible.

The mob takes the Fifth. If you're innocent why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?

When you have your staff taking the Fifth Amendment -- taking the Fifth so they're not prosecuted, I think it's disgraceful.


CUOMO: Did he think it was disgraceful when he pled the Fifth in 1990 to avoid a deposition? All right, but that's about hypocrisy. Let's deal with the optics.

Laura Coates, pleading the Fifth, bad, bad. It means you did something. What's the rebuttal?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, the rebuttal is that you have every right to assert that particular privilege, particularly if you were exposed to both criminal and civil liability.

And you're right, Chris. It really is a tactic. It's a way of saying listen, your honor, there may be overlaps here and the testimony I give in one will impact the testimony that I can give in another or will expose me to greater legal jeopardy.

And if that's the case I would like to have the opportunity to prioritize the one that could lock me up in jail as opposed to the one that could give me a monetary penalty of some sort. And the courts are using helpful in doing that.

The difference here though, Chris is this judge in California is trying to assess whether or not a negative inference can be drawn from his failure to try to answer any questions about the non-disclosure agreement and that may lead the judge to draw a negative inference that may ultimately help the Stormy Daniels case and hurt his claim that the NDA should stand --

CUOMO: Right.

COATES: -- should stand and be viable.

CUOMO: Right. I mean, look, Michael, a little bit of this -- and Laura, perfect analysis. Thank you very much. I had to read up on it last night. You know all this instinctively.

It's a little in the weeds for people in terms of what this means. And the civil case has its own problems.