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CNN Special Report: Hush Money, Trouble For Trump? Aired 11-12a ET
Aired April 27, 2018 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The following is a CNN special report.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He has been called Donald Trump's Pitbull.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Cohen as someone said to me knows where all the bodies are buried, because he may have buried a lot of them.
SIDNER: The ultimate Trump loyalist.
MICHAEL COHEN, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: I protect Mr. Trump.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Michael Cohen's job was to keep Donald Trump secrets.
COHEN: I never come across a situation where Mr. Trump has said something that is not accurate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Happening now, breaking news, Trump's lawyer raided.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The agents armed with multiple search warrants.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: They stuck their foot on the door, so he couldn't close it.
TOOBIN: The FBI now has access to every e-mail, every communication.
SIDNER: How big of a deal is it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a huge deal.
SIDNER: What were they searching for?
JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: They're looking for evidence of hush payments to women.
SIDNER: Is it a pattern of pay offs to protect a billionaire? KAREN MCDOUGAL, PLAYBOY MODEL: The side deal was I'll wish-wash the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any violation of the federal campaign finance laws that is done knowingly and willfully is a crime.
COHEN: I'm not worried.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Breaking news, in the legal fight over Michael Cohen's record.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Michael Cohen has just disclosed in court that the client who had requested to remain unnamed was Sean Hannity.
SIDNER: Controversy rains down on President Trump's self-proclaimed fixer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stormy Daniels is arriving at the Federal Courthouse.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We discovered Michael Cohen is involved in another confidentiality there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael Cohen is the common glue that sort of runs throughout this.
SIDNER: Tonight a CNN special report, "Hush Money, Trouble for Trump?"
Mid-April in Manhattan and it's a circus outside the Federal Courthouse downtown. Featuring the President's self-proclaimed fixer Michael Cohen and the woman he tried to silence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Daniels, do you have a message for the President?
SIDNER: The porn star known as Stormy Daniels.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is porn star Stormy Daniels in that courtroom today?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a great publicity opportunity.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here she is. She is going through security.
SIDNER: The hearing wasn't about Daniels.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stormy, we love you.
SIDNER: But fallout from stunning FBI raids on Cohen in early April. Cohen claims some of the material taken was covered by attorney-client privilege and was asking to review it before the Feds. It's a hearing that went from circus to shocking.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I'm looking at your face. Mine's the same. What the heck happened? SIDNER: What happened was lawyers for Cohen had just told the court
that Fox News host Sean Hannity was a Cohen client. Meaning some of the communication between the two could be privileged.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael Cohen's attorneys tried every which way not to release his name. And the Judge said, no, I'm ordering you to release the name and he stood up and he said the name Sean Hannity.
TOOBIN: When they said Sean Hannity's name in the courtroom, there was a gasp. And I gasped, too, not because I thought it was illegal. Because it's certainly not. But it's just so weird.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you, Mr. President?
TRUMP: I'm very good.
SIDNER: And surprising in part because Sean Hannity reports on the President all the time. Until this day he'd never revealed he had relationship with Mr. Trump's personal attorney.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Michael Cohen never represented me in any legal matter. I never retained his services. I never received an invoice. I've never paid Michael Cohen for legal fees.
SIDNER: But earlier on this radio show he made it clear he expected some of their conversations to be covered by privilege.
HANNITY: I might have handed him $10. I definitely want attorney- client privilege on this, something like that.
SIDNER: Following another hearing the Judge assigned a so-called Special Master, an independent former Judge named Barbara Jones who will review the seized materials to determine what prosecutors can see and what is protected by privilege. Attorneys for both Cohen and Trump are getting copies of the seized material to review and say the president is willing to assist if needed.
But based on what Mr. Trump told "Fox and Friends," there may not be that much for him to look at.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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.
[23:05:00] But Michael would represent me and represent me on some things. He represents me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal.
SIDNER: The Judge appointed the Special Master to review the seized material with the hope of speeding up the review process.
TOOBIN: The review of the proceeds of the search could slow things down for a few weeks, but it's important to remember the government is going to get the vast majority of this stuff. SIDNER: The stuff was scooped up on Monday, April 9th, at the iconic
30 Rock Building in Midtown Manhattan where Cohen had an office, and at a Posh Park Avenue Hotel where Cohen was staying.
LEMON: They stuck their foot in the door so he couldn't close it. He was holding his phone. They immediately took his phone away from him.
TOOBIN: The first thing they do when they walk into a room today is they say, give me your phone. They're very polite, but they tell you go sit over there and don't touch anything, because your possessions are our possessions now.
LEMON: There's a source close to investigation I spoke to, who told me what they took. And it was financial documents, computers, files, it was an extensive and exhaustive search.
SIDNER: And extraordinary.
TOOBIN: There's been such a torrent of news under Donald Trump that it's been easy to miss just how significant a search of Michael Cohen's office is. Michael Cohen's job was to keep Donald Trump's secrets. If there's anything Donald Trump was involved in that was remotely controversial, Michael Cohen knows what it is.
So the fact that the government now has the keys, literally, to Cohen's office and his e-mail and his phone and his safe-deposit box means they are in the heart of Donald Trump's heart.
SIDNER: Which could explain why the President was acting as if he was wounded.
TRUMP: They broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys, good man. And it's a disgraceful situation. It's a total witch hunt. It's, frankly, a real disgrace. It's an attack on our country in a true sense.
SIDNER: The warrant had President Trump's name on it. According to sources familiar with the matter, it's the first known direct mention of the President in a warrant. It also referenced an investigation into wire fraud, bank fraud, and campaign finance violations.
BLITZER: A source says some of the documents seized have to do with the porn star Stormy Daniels.
SIDNER: CNN has learned they were looking for information related to a payment Cohen made to the adult film actress. Daniels says she had sex with the President in Lake Tahoe in 2006.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Did you want to have sex with him?
STORMY DANIELS, PORNSTAR: No, but I didn't say no. I'm not a victim. I'm not --
COOPER: It was entirely consensual?
STORMY DANIELS: Oh, yes. SIDNER: The White House denied Trump ever had a relationship with
her. But Michael Cohen set up an LLC and then used it to pay Daniels $130,000. He claims the money was his own, pulled from a home equity loan. The payment which Daniels says was to keep her from telling her story to the press was made 13 days before the election, which could be a violation of campaign finance law.
In addition to the information about Daniels, sources tell CNN agents were also looking for other ways, Cohen may have tried to suppress negative information before the election, including material connected to Karen McDougal.
McDougal is a former playmate who told CNN's Anderson Cooper she'd had a ten month affair with Trump in 2006, which the White House says he denies.
COOPER: Were you in love with him?
KAREN MCDOUGAL, PLAYBOY MODEL: I was, yes.
COOPER: And do you think he was in love with you?
MCDOUGAL: He was, yes. He always told me he loved me.
SIDNER: CNN has learned, the agents who raided Cohen also sought communications between him and the president regarding that now infamous "Access Hollywood" tape.
TRUMP: And when you are a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the (BEEP). You can do anything.
SIDNER: The tape surfaced in October 2016, a month before the election.
TOOBIN: The timing of the release of the "Access Hollywood" does give rise to certain suspicion.
SIDNER: It went public about 4:00 p.m. on October 7, 2016. One half- hour after the Justice Department blamed Russia for hacking the DNC and one half-hour before WikiLeaks began tweeting links to hacked e- mails from Hillary Clinton's campaign chair John Podesta.
[23:10:03] TOOBIN: Now, the question may be, did Trump or anyone with the Trump campaign do something with WikiLeaks, with the Russians who hacked into the Clinton campaign's e-mails to get that stuff released and distract from the release of the "Access Hollywood" tapes?
SIDNER: It's something federal investigators may be able to determine after the material is screened for attorney-client privilege. What else they might learn is unclear, but CNN anchor Don Lemon spoke with Cohen after the raid and says the lawyer is concerned.
LEMON: He is worried not because he thinks he did anything illegal. He thinks in the end that it will be proven that everything he did was legal. He is worried, because he thinks that they will look for something to charge him with. SIDNER: What about the President? If Cohen ends up charged with a
crime, could the fixer flip on Mr. Trump?
TOOBIN: The criminal justice system is full of people who begin with tremendous bravado. I'll never flip, I'll protect my friends. But the prospect of years in prison focuses the mind in a way that bravado doesn't.
SIDNER: The President's tweeting seemed to reflect that concern. He bashed Maggie Haberman of "The New York Times," who reported that Mr. Trump has verbally abused Cohen for years, and the President's lawyers are concerned the behavior could lead to Cohen flipping.
"The New York Times" and a third rate reporter named Maggie Haberman, who I don't speak to and have nothing to do with are going out of their way to destroy Michael Cohen and his relationship with me in the hope that he will flip. She has covered Trump for years.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that it was very hard for him to read that it is possible that Michael Cohen could flip and it is possible that he could have helped do something to make that happen. And to be clear, people don't flip unless there is something to flip on.
SIDNER: The President also tweeted that Cohen is someone who I have always liked and respected. And later that day he sent a random tweet about the possibility of pardoning a long dead boxer just days after pardoning Scooter Libby, chief of staff for former Vice President Dick Cheney.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He just out of the blue completely issued this pardon four days after the search warrant execution. Looks to me he is sending some sort of message there.
SIDNER: When asked directly, if he was considering a pardon for Cohen, he said --
TRUMP: Stupid question.
SIDNER: Even if Cohen doesn't flip, the raid on his house could yield trouble for the President. A source familiar with the matter tells CNN, Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, has told the President, he is not a target in the investigation of his personal lawyer, but that doesn't mean much.
TOOBIN: What seems clear, Donald Trump is the subject. Subjects sometimes become targets and indicted sometimes become witnesses and are led on.
SIDNER: What's clear is that this investigation is unlikely to go away. Court documents show the FBI was looking into Cohen months before the raid and was able to get a warrant to secretly monitor his e-mails.
Ahead, who is this man and how is he connected to him and her and her? And her and this guy? And why does it matter?
[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
SIDNER: The photographers who follow Michael Cohen want pictures, but federal prosecutors are looking for evidence. They want to know whether Cohen was part of a coordinated effort to squash negative stories about Donald Trump in the lead up to the 2016 Presidential election.
Sources tell CNN that among the material scooped up in the FBI raid were voice recordings. Michael Cohen talking to this man, Keith Davidson. There are three publicly reported negative stories people close to Mr. Trump seemingly tried to kill in the lead up to the election. Davidson is connected to two.
One is Stormy Daniels. Her so-called hush agreement started with a call to Davidson from Michael Cohen.
KEITH DAVIDSON, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR DANIELS AND MCDOUGAL: He said, hey, remember that matter we dealt with in 2011, it's resurfacing again. Can you find out what's going on?
SIDNER: In 2011, Davidson said, he worked for Daniels to successfully remove an online story about her and Donald Trump.
DAVIDSON: It's been reported that she wanted a story that was written about her on a tabloid website taken down.
SIDNER: Was that story involving Donald Trump in the alleged affair?
SIDNER: The White House denies there was ever any relationship between Trump and Daniels. But both Daniels and Michael Cohen agree she was paid $130,000 just before the 2016 Presidential election. Daniels says it was to keep silent about their alleged relationship.
This is the nondisclosure agreement she is now suing to get out of. It's a civil court case now delayed, because Michael Cohen intends to take the Fifth, due to the ongoing criminal investigation in New York.
STORMY DANIELS: Hi, everyone.
SINGELTON: But while Daniels may not be free to disclose she is already been disclosing plenty including appearances on "60 Minutes."
STORMY DANIELS: The exact sentence he used was they can make your life hell in many different ways.
SIDNER: And on "The View," where she released a sketch of a man she said, threatened her in 2011, if she spoke about the alleged affair.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that the person that threatened you?
STORMY DANIELS: Absolutely.
SIDNER: The second negative story about Trump that Davidson is connected to involves Karen McDougal, the former playmate who says she loved Donald Trump and dated him for ten months in 2006.
COOPER: Did you think maybe this would lead to a marriage?
SIDNER: The White House denies the affair.
[23:20:00] McDougal says the company called American Media Incorporated, the parent company of the National Enquirer, gave her a $150,000 contract in August of 2016 ensuring her silence after passing on her story earlier in the year. Her attorney for that deal, Keith Davidson.
COOPER: You're saying, AMI suddenly came back to you?
MCDOUGAL: Well, to Keith, yes.
SIDNER: McDougal says she thought she was signing onto a deal that would buy her silence, but allow her to publish a few health and fitness columns for AMI Publications. She now believes there was a larger conspiracy at work.
SIDNER: They have accused you of being part of a nexus that you and Michael Cohen and, you know, AMI were all colluding to keep her story out of the press. Is that a fair and accurate representation of what happened?
DAVIDSON: Yes. Anything that Karen and I discussed along the way is covered by the attorney-client privilege and I'm prevented from communicating on it.
SIDNER: He may not be allowed to discuss it, but it does raise questions.
SIDNER: Let me ask you about these coincidences. Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels both in situations where they both had deals that involved allegations of an affair with Donald Trump. Both of those deals were silenced. It just seems like an awfully strange coincidence that they both landed in your lap, don't you think?
DAVIDSON: No, not at all.
SIDNER: Why not?
DAVIDSON: I mean, I have a very active practice. There are few attorneys that would go against large corporations, powerful celebrities. That is one thing I'm known for. And these two ladies came to me from two different completely different places.
SIDNER: Davidson does seem to have a niche practice involving celebrities and sex scandals. But that does not explain why after he sealed the deal between McDougal and AMI in 2016, he called Michael Cohen.
DAVIDSON: I think I called him as a professional courtesy, to let him know that a matter was resolved and as a professional courtesy that it may or may not have involved his client.
SIDNER: Was he involved in the deal at all?
DAVIDSON: Certainly was involved on our end. And there's no basis for me to believe that he was involved or had communication with AMI.
SIDNER: Karen McDougal's current attorney, Peter Stris, doesn't buy it.
Keith Davidson, told us that after the deal was done he contacted Michael Cohen, saying he was just calling as a professional courtesy. Does that sound right to you?
PETER STRIS, KAREN MCDOUGAL'S ATTORNEY: To put it nicely it does not sound right. Because the whole point of this contract is that -- that it was a confidential agreement between Karen and American media where the value of the story to American media supposedly is that it's kept under wraps.
SIDNER: The word collusion is a loaded word right now. Is that the proper word? Is that the word you want to use?
STRIS: I'm very comfortable telling you that personally, I'm very troubled by Mr. Davidson, Mr. Cohen, their relationship and the work that they've done together. And I do view the things that they've done as collusive.
SIDNER: A spokesman for Davidson says any characterization of Attorney Davidson's relationship with Mr. Cohen as anything other than adversarial yet professional is false. Stris has now negotiated a settlement between McDougal and AMI.
STRIS: They don't own her story anymore. She doesn't have to worry that they're going to sell it.
SIDNER: If she does, AMI will get a small cut. But stress says any such sale is unlikely.
STRIS: She has no plan in doing that. There was never the objective here. All we sought in this lawsuit was to void the contract. This wasn't a lawsuit for money.
SIDNER: Someone you may hear from again, Keith Davidson. A spokesman says Keith now cooperating with the federal investigators behind the Cohen raid.
Now, there is a third publicly known attempt by someone close to Trump to kill a negative story about him in the lead up to election. This time the person reported to be behind it, is a man named David Pecker, a Trump supporter who is also the wealthy owner of AMI.
Reporter Ronan Farrow writes in a New Yorker Magazine that Pecker was instrumental in killing an unsubstantiated 2015 story from a long-time Trump door man, who claimed he heard Trump had a child out of wedlock with one of his employees in the '80s. RONAN FARROW, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "THE NEW YORKER": Really the crux
of this for any of the sources that stepped forward was reporting was halted they alleged on direct orders from David Pecker.
SIDNER: As for AMI, it says the suggestion that David Pecker has ever used company funds to shut down this or any investigation is not true. These claims are reckless, unsubstantiated and false.
[23:25:09] The question now is are there more women out there with agreements that keep them from speaking publicly about alleged relationships with the President? Stormy Daniels' current attorney says, he is sure of it.
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIEL'S ATTORNEY: From everything we've seen there's a number of MDA's out there that were executed over a significant period of time. My client was not alone. I'm sure there are is a number of women that have found themselves in the same situation.
SIDNER: Ahead, Keith Davidson, Michael Cohen, and this man, Elliot Brody. What's the connection between the three? More hush money.
SIDNER: It would be an understatement to say that Michael Cohen was having a bad week. Raided by the FBI, e-mails and recordings relating to payments made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal confiscated according to a source familiar with the matter and then --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A new reporting that Cohen reportedly negotiated a $1.6 million settlement for a top Republican fund-raiser involving a 2Playboy, playmate.
SIDNER: Yet another hush agreement involving President Trump's personal lawyer. But that isn't the only similarity. The initial attorney for the playmate, Keith Davidson, Stormy Daniels' former attorney.
The names on the contract, the same aliases that were used in this 2016 contract with Stormy Daniels, David Dennison and Peggy Peterson. Even the payment made from essential consultant, LLC, the company Cohen created that shelled out the money to Stormy Daniels.
KEN VOGEL, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Michael Cohen is the common glue that sort of runs throughout this.
SIDNER: This agreement was for Elliott Broidy, a major GOP fundraiser and wealthy investor who owns a stake in a defense contracting company. Ken Vogel is a Washington reporter for the New York Times.
VOGEL: He was originally an investor where he invested pension funds and other sort of institutional client's money. But he's gotten involved in defense contracting where he's worked with foreign governments to help them with private intelligence collection. This has put him into contact with this sort of high-flying world of international intrigue.
PETER STRIS, ATTORNEY FOR KAREN MCDOUGAL: He's a very influential man in the business world and in a political sense.
SIDNER: Would you say powerful?
STRIS: I think anyone including he would admit that this is a powerful man.
SIDNER: In addition to representing Karen McDougal, Attorney Peter Stris now represents the woman who had a relationship with Broidy.
STRIS: I represent a woman who has had painful information about her life thrust into the public involving -- and I want to say public figures, plural. It's not just Mr. Broidy. It's Mr. Cohen as well.
SIDNER: After the reports emerged, Broidy acknowledged the payments and the affair, but he didn't admit to being the father. In a statement, he said, quote, it is unfortunate that this personal matter between two consenting adults is the subject of national discussion just because of Michael Cohen's involvement. I retained Mr. Cohen after he informed me about his prior relationship with Mr. Davidson.
STRIS: I thought his statement was fascinating. Because what his statement said was, Mr. Cohen contacted him and said there is a matter involving you. And the lawyer for the other party has reached out to me and I know him. That's what we know has happened.
When you think about that or when the public thinks about that, they have to think about it in the context of everything else we know. This isn't Jane Doe and John Smith, in which case, you know, you give people the benefit of the doubt, you don't jump to conclusions. This is Michael Cohen and Keith Davidson.
SIDNER: This may have been the first time Broidy hired Cohen as counsel, but they'd both been in Trump's orbit for some time.
VOGEL: As we understand it, they met through the campaign and they appeared to have forged this bond as a result of working on the finance committee for Donald Trump.
SIDNER: Until recently, Broidy served with Cohen as deputy finance chairman for the RNC. Broidy was also one of the first major donors to back Trump.
VOGEL: At a time when Donald Trump didn't have a lot of institutional support from the elite Republican donor class, he got in very close to Donald Trump and became a finance chair for his campaign.
SIDNER: Broidy has a bit of a checkered past. In 2009, he pleaded guilty in a New York pension fund bribery case. But that wasn't enough to prevent Trump and Cohen from working with Broidy.
VOGEL: He could raise a lot of money quickly, and he did that for the Trump campaign. Trump was happy to have that.
SIDNER: After Trump's electoral victory, Broidy was quick to tout his connections to the president-elect to propel his business.
VOGEL: Broidy was quite overt in advertising his connections to Donald Trump and that got them into meetings that they wouldn't necessarily have had.
SIDNER: Broidy thrived in Trump's Washington.
VOGEL: What's so significant here is the blurring of the line between Elliott Broidy's fund-raising and Elliott Broidy's business.
SIDNER: Multiple sources tell CNN one of Broidy's business associates, George Nader, has been pulled into the web of Robert Mueller's special counsel.
VOGEL: Mueller is interested in Nader because of his visibility into the potential flow of money from the Middle East into efforts around Trump, potentially including political efforts.
SIDNER: While Nader cooperates and keeps a low profile, Cohen and those entangled with him are under the glare of the spotlight including Sean Hannity.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: I said many times on my radio show, I hate the stock market. I prefer real estate. Michael knows real estate.
[23:34:57] SIDNER: Despite reporting on Michael Cohen for years and deriding the raid on Cohen's office, hotel room and home, Hannity never disclosed his connection with the president's attorney. That connection to Cohen remained murky until the court hearing where Hannity was revealed to be Cohen's third client. Then The Guardian published a bombshell.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: New tonight, Sean Hannity trying to fight back after a report that he's linked to a series of shell companies which spent $90 million to buy nearly 900 homes across the country.
SIDNER: Dozens of the properties were purchased in 2013 at a discount caused by foreclosures. At the time, Hannity repeatedly criticized former President Barack Obama about the foreclosure rate.
HANNITY: And the dream of owning your own home has been made a nightmare under Obama for many Americans.
SIDNER: Some of Hannity's properties were reportedly purchased with mortgages backed by the U.S. Department for Housing and Urban Development, which Hannity did not disclose when he had HUD Secretary Ben Carson on his show in 2017.
With each passing day, the Trump orbit grows larger. Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal, Keith Davidson, Elliott Broidy, and now Sean Hannity with Michael Cohen as the common thread.
Coming up, how did Michael Cohen wind up Trump's attorney?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": That is I think when he caught the president's eye in a real way. He felt that Michael Cohen was in effect a pit bull.
[23:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
SIDNER: Donald Trump's fixer, Michael Cohen, grew up in Long Island, New York. He left home to attend American University in Washington, D.C., and then Cooley Law School in Michigan. He married Laura Shusterman, a Ukrainian immigrant. Long before he ever met Trump, Cohen was a successful personal injury lawyer with a thriving business.
HABERMAN: Michael Cohen actually had never wanted to be a hot shot lawyer. He was very (INAUDIBLE) celebrity culture, (INAUDIBLE) politics.
SIDNER: Trump biographer, Michael D'Antonio, says Cohen was also a prosperous businessman.
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN COMMENTATOR: He had a taxi business where he owned a bunch of medallions which up until 10 years ago were worth a great deal.
SIDNER: According to some reports, Cohen's taxi medallions were worth millions. That is until ride share companies like Uber and Lyft came along. In 2003, Cohen tried his hand at politics, running for a city council seat.
Among the accomplishments he touted in this voter guy was, quote, when the coffee shop in my neighborhood got lazy about its trash, i hectored them into obtaining a state-of-the-art disposal system. He lost that election, a minor setback for a man with a thriving real estate business.
D'ANTONIO: As a young man, he read "The Art Of The Deal" avidly. I think he said that he read it more than once. At the very moment when he first could do it, he bought a unit in a Trump building. And then all of a sudden, his relatives were buying units in Trump buildings.
And then Michael Cohen was buying multiple units in Trump buildings and on the board of one of them. I think that this looks like a fellow who was pursuing Donald Trump.
SIDNER: In 2006, Trump was battling to regain control of the condominium board at Trump World Tower. Cohen owned one of the condos and came to Trump's defense, according to The New York Times.
HABERMAN: That is I think when he caught the president's eye in a real way. He felt that Michael Cohen was in effect a pit bull. Cohen started working in the Trump Organization.
MICHAEL COHEN, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: (INAUDIBLE) Donald Trump --
SIDNER: Cohen would work for Donald Trump on much more than real estate deals.
COHEN: One of the heavyweights in real estate --
SIDNER: There was also MMA, mixed martial arts.
COHEN: Mr. Donald Trump.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Thank you very much, Mike.
SIDNER: Trump bought a stake in affliction entertainment.
TRUMP: I will say these are tough looking guys.
SIDNER: In 2008, Michael Cohen was named chief operating officer. Affliction set its sight on competing with the MMA powerhouse, the UFC.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think that it will take over the UFC?
TRUMP: It probably will. I mean it's doing very well. All the fighters want to be with us, and I think it probably will take over.
SIDNER: Affliction folded in 2009. A year later, Michael Cohen created a website. Shouldtrumprun.com.
COHEN: If in fact Mr. Trump elects to run, there's already a grassroots in place for him at that time.
SIDNER: Trump did not enter the 2012 campaign, but soon he was preparing for 2016, and so was his ever loyal attorney slash fixer.
D'ANTONIO: His devotion to Donald Trump is so great that when I met him a year or two before the presidential campaign began, he weighed about 50 pounds more. And there were orders that went out in Trump Tower that everyone is going to look their best by the time the boss declares.
And wouldn't you know that Michael Cohen was 30 or 40 pounds lighter and he continued to lose weight and bought new suits and he looks really sharp. So this is a guy who is so devoted to the boss that he'll go on a pretty tough diet in order to comply with an order.
SIDNER: In 2015, in the early stages of the Trump campaign, Cohen acted as a spokesman.
COHEN: What he's saying is resonating with the people. Mr. Trump never made any derogatory or disparaging remarks about Mexican immigrants. I've never come across a situation where Mr. Trump has said something that's not accurate.
SIDNER: And then there was the class action lawsuit against Trump University. The real estate seminar that promised you, too, could get rich just like Donald Trump.
TRUMP: If you don't learn from the people that we're going to be putting forward, and these are all people that are handpicked by me.
SIDNER: But he did not handpick them. Just one of the fraud claims made by former students. Once again, Michael Cohen went on the attack.
COHEN: So when they talked about frauds and scams, why don't you ask like the 14-year-old boy who went with his mom and ended up making a million dollars?
[23:45:09] SIDNER: He seemed confident Trump would prevail.
COHEN: Mr. Trump is doing incredibly well in this lawsuit.
SIDNER: But after a five-year battle, Trump settled, agreeing to pay $25 million to former students. Then in the late stages of the campaign, Cohen paid Stormy Daniels to keep quiet.
TRUMP: So help me God.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, Mr. President.
SIDNER: Michael Cohen's years of fierce loyalty would not be repaid by a position in President Trump's administration, yet he has remained a fierce supporter. In March of 2017, Cohen the sometimes Democrat tweeted this photo, saying he once again was a Republican and, quote, it took a great man to get me to make the switch.
D'ANTONIO: You can almost say this is Donald Trump's mini me.
COHEN: Thank you all.
D'ANTONIO: I think Michael Cohen is amazed that his life has gone the way it has and that he's gotten as far as he's gotten.
SIDNER: Ahead, so what's the big deal about the raid of a lawyer's office?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It's when the story takes a quantum leap into something unknowable and very different.
[23:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?
TRUMP: No. No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did Michael Cohen make this, if there was no truth to her allegations?
TRUMP: Well, you have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney and you have to ask Michael Cohen.
SIDNER: Michael Cohen had been the president's virtual vault. The keeper of secrets in his business and personal life.
TOOBIN: The idea that the FBI now has access to every e-mail, every communication, every phone call that Michael Cohen made, the fixer, the Ray Donovan, Trump's closest aide for his most sensitive, dicey material, it's that big a deal.
SIDNER: The raid signaled a major turning point in the Justice Department's investigations into Trump and his associates.
TOOBIN: The Cohen search is almost like the day white water turned into Monica Lewinsky. It's when the story takes a quantum leap into something unknowable and very different.
SIDNER: Reminiscent of an even greater political scandal involving an American president, when a White House staffer revealed one of Washington's most damning secrets.
ALEXANDER BUTTERFIELD, DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON: That's correct.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Butterfield, are you aware of installation or any listening devices in the Oval Office of the president?
BUTTERFIELD: I was aware of listening devices, yes, sir.
TOOBIN: I would say the closest Watergate parallel is when Alexander Butterfield, a relatively unknown official, went before the Senate Watergate Committee and said there are tapes. There are tapes of conversations in the White House. That just changed everything.
SIDNER: Yet it seems there's never been a raid like this one in history, one that targeted a president's personal lawyer.
TOOBIN: I have to believe that a search like this, which is so intrusive on a lawyer, on the president's lawyer, would only be allowed if there were serious crimes.
JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Each financial transaction could be its own crime.
SIDNER: Jennifer Rodgers is a former federal prosecutor. She said investigators will be looking hard at seized evidence to see if Cohen broke any laws.
RODGERS: I think they're also looking at associated bank fraud and potentially money laundering crimes where these payments were funneled through shell companies, a home equity line of credit was obtained to pay off Stormy Daniels as has been reported.
If in getting the $130,000 line of credit, Michael Cohen told the bank that he was obtaining that to say do improvements to his home, that's a lie. You're not allowed to lie on federal forms to FDIC insured banks. That's a crime. So that would be a crime of bank fraud.
He was committing (INAUDIBLE) violation by giving the benefit to campaign of the silence of Stormy Daniels. And in the course of doing that, he wired the payment to her or to her lawyer to pay her off, then that would be a wire fraud.
SIDNER: Financial crimes can lead to years behind bars.
RODGERS: The bank fraud, mortgage (ph) fraud, money laundering crimes are very serious. Each of those counts is a 20-year maximum. That's the statutory max, people don't tend to get that much jail time, but it's a very serious charge.
SIDNER: Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli says the raid was over the top.
KEN CUCCINELLI, FORMER VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: If you are interested to know where the money went, you can get that via banks, you can get that via tax statements. The necessity of raiding a lawyer's office, home and hotel is not apparent. This creates all sorts of fourth, fifth, and sixth amendment problems.
SIDNER: Questions have been raised as to why the Cohen raid was peeled off from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigations. The searches were carried out as part of an ongoing grand jury investigation conducted by the U.S. attorney's office in the southern district of New York and the FBI, separate from Mueller.
RODGERS: It's important for two reasons. One is that Mueller has been criticized for expanding his mandate. He's supposed to investigate Russian interference and anything that coms from that like obstructing that investigation. To the extent that he starts to kind of edge beyond and start to look at the Trump Organization's business and that sort of thing, Trump and his allies are going to say he's overreaching.
[23:55:00] SIDNER: And Rodgers says keeping Mueller on the Cohen case may have smacked of being political.
RODGERS: It's in southern district of New York. It's headed by a Trump appointee, a Republican who just came in January, so there is no reason to believe it's a witch hunt.
SIDNER: So, if Cohen is indicted and is offered a deal to testify against the president, would he flip? The stakes are high for Trump's right-hand man.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I think in the end, Michael Cohen will do what's best for his family. I know he is loyal to the president. But I'm not sure if that loyalty to the president outweighs the love he has for his family.
SIDNER: At this point, nobody knows exactly what investigators have on Cohen or how he will react if they have enough to charge him.
CUCCINELLI: I don't know that there is a whole lot here. It certainly looks a lot more spectacular when you got the FBI going in and that's all sorts of problems when you're going in after someone who is the private lawyer of the president.
TRUMP: So I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys --
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the president is enraged by this on a lot of levels. And I think that he's already enraged by the Russia investigation. He's already enraged by Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.
If you're the president, you are thinking this might be a tipping point for you. What are these guys doing, what are they trying to get at, and what does this have to do with Russia? He believes this has crossed the red line. What he's going to do about it remains to be seen.
TRUMP: Thank you, press (ph).
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