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White House Struggles With New Stormy Daniels Story; Sources: Trump Legal Team Felt Blindsided by Giuliani; Stormy Daniels' Attorney Weighs In; Giuliani: Ivanka Trump Is Off Limits, Kushner Is 'Disposable'; Will Ivanka Trump Be Called As A Witness?; Are GOP Lawmakers Seeking To Share Russia Files With WH?; Sources: Trump Legal Team Felt Blindsided By Giuliani; Will North Korea Release 3 American Detainees Soon?; Confusion Over Status Of 3 American Detainees In North Korea; House Chaplain Rescinds Resignation. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired May 3, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:08] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

Quite a day. Even more than most. And keeping them honest, at the end of it, we are left even more than most days, with fresh evidence the White House is neither being truthful nor transparent with the country, nor it seems especially concerned about either transparency or the truth.

Some of the key stories we've been told by the president and his people have now shifted. Some of what we have been told we now know was untrue. And many of those lies reveal just how little we know about the president of the United States and how much was hidden from view when voters elected him.

Where we left you last night, you may remember the president's new attorney, Rudy Giuliani had changed the official story on both Stormy Daniels and the firing of then-FBI Director James Comey.

On Daniels, he admitted the president had, in fact, repaid attorney Michael Cohen the money he used for a hush agreement with Daniels. On Comey, Giuliani gave a brand-new justification for his firing. Oh, he possibly exposed his clients and old friend to greater jeopardy.

So, in addition, Giuliani called Jared Kushner using his word disposable and Ivanka Trump untouchable. This morning, he promised that three Americans held captive in Korea will be coming home today, even though he has no stated foreign policy role at the White House or even apparently the necessary security clearance.

At the same time, Mayor Giuliani has doubled down on Stormy Daniels and tried to spin this as a new White House legal strategy, even though we have new reporting tonight from our Gloria Borger than other members of the legal team are, and this is not actually a legal term, freaking out. Sources telling CNN the legal team felt blindsided by Mayor Giuliani.

Now, meantime, the president has weighed in with series of legalistic sounding and very un-Trump sounding, yet potentially self-damaging tweets on Stormy Daniels, admitting for the first time he repaid Michael Cohen for making the hush agreement and making it even more unlikely that Michael Cohen's claim that he did this all on his own without the president's knowledge, nothing to do about the election, could possibly be true.

Then at the White House briefing this afternoon, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders gave a series of non-responsive answers on the subject, on question she either could say little about or perhaps was only told little or nothing about.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We give the very best information that we have at the time. Again, we give the best information possible at the time, and again, I've given the best information I had at the time. Again, I gave you the best information that I had. I gave you the best information that I had. Again, I'm giving the best information I have, some information I am aware of and some I'm not.


COOPER: So, she repeated that phrase as you see over and over instead of answering all the questions her boss and his new attorney prompted, starting last night with this about the $130,000 hush payment to Stormy Daniels that Michael Cohen allegedly made out of his own pocket or facilitated in his own words.

Now, remember, until now, we've been told by a variety of people that neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign had anything to do with it. Here's what Giuliani said last night on Fox News, apparently to take the campaign off the table, even though it potentially puts his clients deeper into the soup.

Also, pay attention to the look on Sean Hannity's face as Mayor Giuliani made unanticipated news.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRES. TRUMP'S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: That money was not campaign money. Sorry, I'm giving you a fact now that you don't know. It's not campaign money. No campaign finance violation.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: So, they funneled it through a law firm.

GIULIANI: Funneled it through a law firm and the president repaid it.

HANNITY: Oh, I didn't know -- he did?


HANNITY: There's no campaign finance law.


HANNITY: So, the president --

GIULIANI: Just like every -- Sean, --

HANNITY: So, this was made by --

GIULIANI: Everybody, everybody was nervous about this from the very beginning. I wasn't. I knew how much money Donald Trump put into that campaign. I said, $130,000? He can do a couple checks for $130,000.

When I heard Cohen's retainer of $35,000 when he was doing no work for the president. I said that's how he's repaying -- that's how he's repaying it, with a little profit and a little margin for paying taxes for Michael.

HANNITY: But do you know the president didn't know about this? I believe that's what Michael had said.

GIULIANI: He didn't know about the specifics of it, as far as I know. But he did know about the general arrangement that Michael would take care of things like this.


COOPER: Notice, Hannity didn't say, did the president know about this? Which is the kind of question that the reporter would ask, not telegraphing to the interview subject how he wanted the subject to answer. Instead, Hannity said, but you know the president didn't know about this. Giuliani doesn't say, of course, the president didn't know about this, which is what Cohen supporters have been saying all along.

Mr. Giuliani said, as far as he knew, Mr. Trump didn't know about the specifics of it, but did know about the general arrangement that Michael Cohen would take care of things, a general arrangement to funnel money to cover up an alleged affair. The president knew about the general arrangement, for Michael Cohen, according to Mr. Giuliani, to take care of things.

Words that don't exactly shout propriety, the word funnel, by the way, in connection with possible financial wrong-doing is never a great choice. In any case, back in February, Michael Cohen issued a statement, denying that any funneling took place.

Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly. Now, notice he said nothing about the president reimbursing him, though Mr. Cohen's surrogates on TV did say the president knew nothing about it.

And here's what the president said on Air Force One.


REPORTER: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, no. What else? REPORTER: Why did Michael Cohen make this if there was no truth to her allegations?

TRUMP: Well, you have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael's my attorney, and you have to ask Michael Cohen.

REPORTER: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?

TRUMP: No, I don't know.


BURNETT: The last statement, as Nixon press secretary Ron Ziegler once said about another lie is no longer operative.

This morning, the president fired of off a spring string of tweets, which sounded very lawyerly, very nuanced, a lot of commas, not the kind of language that Mr. Trump is known for. Not an exclamation mark in sight.

Quoting now: Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA. These agreements are very common among celebrities and people of wealth. In this case, it is in full force and effect and will be used in arbitration for damages against Ms. Clifford, Daniels.

The president's alleged tweet continues, the agreement was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair, despite already having signed a detailed letter admitting that there was no affair. Private to its violation by Ms. Clifford and her attorney, this was a private agreement. Money from the campaign or campaign contributions played no role in this transaction.

So, there it is, in addition to saying that this is all about rich and famous people stuff, the president is admitting for the first time that he repaid Michael Cohen for the $130,000 Cohen spent, or facilitated, as he first said back in the closing days of the campaign to buy Stormy Daniels' silence. The monthly retainer payments that he and Mayor Giuliani referred to begun last year.

Yet today, he also told Fox News this.


GIULIANI: The president indicates he understood it. He didn't know the details of this until we knew the details of it, which is a couple weeks ago, maybe not even a couple of weeks, maybe ten days ago.


COOPER: So, according to Mayor Giuliani, the president has been making monthly payments to Michael Cohen for months and months, previously, Mr. Giuliani said he wasn't really doing any other legal work for him, but did not know the details until ten days ago. Something else mayor Giuliani said about the hush money was paid

stands out.


GIULIANI: Imagine if that came out on October 15th, 2016, in the middle of the last debate, Cohen didn't even ask. Cohen made it go away. He did his job.


COOPER: His job. Just days after the "Access Hollywood" tape came out was keeping voters from knowing about Stormy Daniels' allegations.

Here's what so kind of stunning about that statement. All this time, Michael Cohen and his surrogates on TV have been saying this actually had nothing to do with the election. Zero. It was just a pure coincidence they say the deal was done less than two weeks before the Election Day. Michael Cohen said it could have been done months before, which has always clearly been not true, but now Rudy Giuliani confirmed it.

Quote, imagine that came out October 16th, in the middle of the last debate, he said. Cohen made it go away, he did his job.

More now on the Michael Cohen payments, the question surrounding them, CNN's Jim Acosta asked one of those questions that we alluded to a moment ago on seeming inconsistencies, even now the White House's new story. He joins us now from the White House.

So, you pressed Sarah Sanders on whether or not she knew about the president's reimbursement of the Stormy Daniels' repayment, what did she say?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson, because on March 7th of this year, Sarah Sanders said in the briefing room, I've had conversations with the president about this as I outlined earlier that this case has already been won in arbitration and that there was no knowledge of any payments from the president. He's denied all of these allegations.

I simply asked Sarah whether she was lying to us when she made that comment. Here's what happened.


ACOSTA: Why can't you answer yes or no whether you were in the dark. I think it's a fairly simple question.

SANDERS: I think it's a fairly simple answer I have given you actually several times now. I gave you the best information they had. I'm going to continue to do my best to do that every single day.


ACOSTA: Now, of course, she didn't really answer the question as to whether or not she was left in the dark, but clearly, she was left in the dark, Anderson, if you want to believe that Sarah Sanders was not lying to us a month ago.

But, you know, I talked to a source close to the White House earlier today, who is normally pretty defensive of Sarah's performance in the briefing room. This person said, look, this was absolutely brutal, but, of course, you don't need a source inside the White House or outside the White House to tell you this. You just need your own eyes and ears.

It was a performance that the president may not care about, because he may not care very much about whether or not we get the facts or the truth from the White House press secretary. But the rest of the country is relying on the White House press secretary to do just that. We didn't get that today or a month ago, a couple of months.

COOPER: At the very least, I mean, if she's -- you know, she wasn't actually lying or actually, you know, being untruthful, she's not very well-informed or doesn't ask questions of the president, or isn't able to ask direct questions of the president or thinks it's better not to.

[20:10:17] ACOSTA: That's right. And this is my fourth press secretary I've dealt with. I've dealt with Jay Carney, Josh Earnest, Sean Spicer, now Sarah Sanders. Here's the problem, Anderson, when you as a White House press secretary begin to lose the faith and trust of the reporters in that room, it is very difficult for you to continue to do that job.

And as I was watching Sarah's performance today, it felt as if her credibility was crumbling right before our eyes. If the best answer she had today was, well, I'm giving you the best information I have, I think our viewers can figure out at home, they're smart enough to figure out at home, that's not exactly telling us the truth. And it calls into question this day forward and really calls into question a lot of things she said in the past as to whether or not she's giving us the straight story.

That is why, not only did she reveal this during the briefing today that she found out about this last night, this repayment last night. But we heard from a slew of White House officials all over the White House that they were simply blindsided by all of this. They didn't see this coming. They didn't know what Rudy Giuliani was up to.


COOPER: So, this wasn't something that the White House approved in advance? So, yes, Rudy Giuliani is going to go out, this is part of the new strategy?

ACOSTA: Well, you know, there were some indications that Rudy had designed this rollout of this information with the president. He has been saying things of that nature with various reporters, including our own Dana Bash. But here's the question, Anderson, why would Rudy Giuliani, in addition to rolling out that information last night, also refer to FBI agents as he did last night as stormtroopers? Why would he -- why would he describe Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law as disposable?

There were a lot of things that Rudy Giuliani said that no communications expert, no White House press secretary would ever want the president's lawyer to say. And so, of course, this is obviously another situation where the gang can't shoot straight and they certainly weren't shooting straight with us earlier today.

COOPER: All right. Jim Acosta, thanks very much. More now on the legal ramifications of the Daniel case, and a lot more, full docket. Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti is going to join us shortly.

Joining us right now is CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and former Trump White House lawyer, Jim Schultz.

Jeff, just -- first of all, the thing that Rudy Giuliani said that surprised me probably the most besides admitting that the president did repay, which we all kind of knew he must have. Although, that's not something that went public and Michael Cohen seemed to indicate that wasn't the case, is that Rudy Giuliani clearly said, imagine the damage this would have done, this was in -- you know, this was -- I mean, he didn't say this. It was 11 days before the campaign if it happened in the middle of the debate, is what Rudy Giuliani says. That flies in the face exactly what Michael Cohen and his supporters have been saying all along. This had nothing to do with the campaign.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: This is extremely incriminating what Giuliani said about this payment because the issue, the legal issue surrounding this, putting aside the moral issue of the entire White House lying about this for weeks, the legal issue is whether this was a campaign expenditure. And the article, the argument that's been put out so far is that even though this sexual encounter took place 10 years earlier and had been released in a tabloid five years earlier, it's just a big coincidence that in October before the election, that's when it was --

COOPER: Michael Cohen said that all along, he said, I could have done this months ago, years ago.

TOOBIN: Exactly. Giuliani put the lie to that. Giuliani made the mistake of telling the truth about that, which is that, of course, this was designed to help the Trump campaign. That's legally significant because that money then becomes campaign expenditure, which was neither reported by Donald Trump on his own personal expenditures, which he is required to do or by Michael Cohen, who is also obliged to report campaign contributions.

So, Rudy Giuliani, by mistakenly telling the truth about the timing here, put both Trump and Cohen in bigger trouble.

COOPER: But it -- can't the president argue cleverly that, well, look, I wasn't paying Michael Cohen this $130,000 for this deal, I was giving him a retainer for unspecified legal work. He has a wide portfolio to deal with I guess unsavory stuff that I don't want to know about.

So, I give him this monthly retainer.

TOOBIN: I mean, you can argue that. It's not credible. If it's also innocent, why did they set up this, you know, this after the fact retainer? Why didn't he just write him a check?

I mean, the atmosphere of suspicion and the fact that they've lied about it for weeks and weeks certainly suggests that they knew they were doing something wrong and they were.

COOPER: Jim, do you have any doubt that this was done with the election in mind?

[20:15:02] I mean, this agreement was signed 11 days before, Rudy Giuliani said.

JIM SCHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: There is no indication the outcome may have been that it kept it out of the public realm during the election season.

COOPER: Do you think that's just a coincidence?

SCHULTZ: I -- in the legal sense of this, the outcome might have been that. This was a personal expenditure. This is no different -- I go back to this all the time. The John Edwards case, where payments were made to take care of a campaign staffer whose child John Edwards had fathered. The FEC took a pass on that.

So, these aren't the type of gifts that need to be reported because they're personal in nature, right?

COOPER: Right.

SCHULTZ: And then it went -- then it went to the DOJ.

COOPER: Right, but there are two differences with that. I believe, if memory serves me correct, John Edwards payment was done about a year before the election and also there was a child involved who needed support, and you could make the argument that that's what that money was for. It was not -- and that's probably what the jury believed, that it was not for to influence the election.

SCHULTZ: Or to keep it away from his wife or his other family members. No different than here.

And Rudy Giuliani said, these types of -- are the types of things that Michael Cohen does and gets paid for, kind of alluding to the fact this is something he does when accusations happen, he takes care of them. That's a part of his job.

If he has a pattern and practice of dealing with those types of issues in the past, outside of the election cycle, I think it lends to the credibility of a legal argument that these are just personal expenditures. Period.

COOPER: Wait a minute, I mean, A, what does it say if have you to have a full time lawyer whose portfolio is non-disclosure agreements, hush payments to porn stars? I mean, that's --

SCHULTZ: Like Rudy said last night, he -- Rudy Giuliani said last night, the celebrities do this all the time, right? They have a --


COOPER: They have full time lawyers --

SCHULTZ: -- to deal with this when accusations are made.

COOPER: They have full time lawyers on retainer who have access to a pool of money?

SCHULTZ: That's what Giuliani said last night.

And to the extent that that's a necessary thing for someone to have and the payments need to be made, that doesn't mean, I'm dealing with the FEC issue here.

COOPER: Right.

SCHULTZ: I don't believe there is an FEC violation here or an FEC case to be made.

COOPER: You don't think it benefitted the campaign?

SCHULTZ: It doesn't matter if it benefitted the campaign. It may have had the results of benefitting the campaign, and I think that's what Giuliani is getting at. But the fact of the matter is, it was a personal payment for a personal issue.


COOPER: If this was just an innocent expenditure that celebrities do, why did Trump lie about it? Why did Cohen lie about it? Why did Sarah Sanders, who presumably was just told false information, why was everybody lying about something if the whole thing was so innocent?

SCHULTZ: Because people don't want this in the public domain, the reason is you have reputational issues. It doesn't necessarily have to be a campaign expenditures.

TOOBIN: But the reputational issue had already been announced. I mean, everybody knew that she had been paid this money. So, the reputational issue was already out there. The question was who paid the money. So why didn't they say immediately? Well, we reimbursed them. Instead they engaged in this incredible series of lies.

COOPER: If the reputational damage was so much, why didn't, you know, eight years ago, Michael Cohen said I should arrange for this nondisclosure agreement with Stormy Daniels and lock that down so that this never gets out in the public realm? It just so happens that he's like 11 days before the election, it was like, oh, yes, I forgot about that, let's do that?

SCHULTZ: Well, she's threatening to come forward at this point in time, right? And I'm sure people have threatened to come forward on other issues in the past, from what Rudy Giuliani has said. And if that's the case, granted, we're talking solely the FEC issue here. Certainly, there are credibility issues here that need to be repaired. But as it relates to the FEC issue, I don't believe the legal jeopardy that you're talking about, Jeffrey, exists.

COOPER: All right. Let's leave it there. I appreciate it. Thanks very much, Jim Schultz and also Jeff Toobin.

Coming up next, Stormy Daniels attorney Michael Avenatti joins us. He weights in on what we've been talking about.

And later, the reality of three Americans still held captive in North Korea as we wait perhaps shortly for their release.


[20:21:44] COOPER: Our next guest tonight, safe to say, watched Rudy Giuliani with more than a little interest. Michael Avenatti, as you know, represents Stormy Daniels. He squared off against Michael Cohen. And so far has had plenty to say about each new development in the case, including Mayor Giuliani's revelation last night about the president repaying Michael Cohen for the hush money to Ms. Daniels.

Michael Avenatti joins us now.

First of all, how in your opinion -- we were talking about whether it was damaging for Rudy Giuliani to say that Michael Cohen did this because can you imagine if the attack would have been in the middle of the last debate 11 days before the election?

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: Well, I think it's incredibly damaging. I think it's a shocking admission by Rudy Giuliani, namely that he has admitted the exact opposite of what has been said time and time again over the last four months. The American people, whether it be by Michael Cohen, David Schwartz on this show many times, individuals associated with the White House, the president, himself, there is no question this was done in connection with the campaign. No question about it.

COOPER: Did -- does it make sense to you -- I mean, we don't know, what is not clear from the White House or from Rudy Giuliani is when Mr. Trump allegedly knew about this agreement. I mean, they're saying, essentially, he was paying a retainer on an ongoing basis for months to Michael Cohen, but may not have known about the details until ten days ago.

AVENATTI: Well, that doesn't make any sense, Anderson, because we filed our case in the first week of March. So there is no question that he would have had to have known about the allegation or the payment as of that date.

Let's back up even before that. The "Wall Street Journal" did their article I think in late January or sometime in February, relating to the disclosure of the agreement and the $130,000. So, I can't imagine he didn't know about it at that time. Then you also look at the statement by and I think you put it up for

your audience earlier, the statement by Michael Cohen about facilitating the payment where he denied being reimbursed by the Trump Organization.

TRUMP: Or the campaign.

AVENATTI: Or the campaign. And we've talked about that before. I pointed out I thought it was interesting at the time it did not include Mr. Trump.

It appears that at the time that statement was drafted, there was an agreement in place relating to reimbursement or reimbursement had already occurred, because otherwise it's just too, it's too much of a coincidence to allow that carve out.

COOPER: But Giuliani is essentially arguing the president has given his attorney, Michael Cohen, kind of an extended general authorization just to deal with anything, I guess, in this realm. Is that standard operating procedure for some wealthy clients?

AVENATTI: I've never heard of such a thing. As you know, I practice in Los Angeles, I've been involved in a number of celebrity cases on both sides, plaintiff and defendant. I'm not aware of another high profile individual that had an attorney on retainer and provided that attorney with a slush fund to pay women that come out of the woodwork that accuse that individual of extramarital affairs.

This -- the whole idea of this story, namely, that you have somebody that came out of the woodwork a couple weeks before the election, according to them, that was not credible, that was a complete liar, and they just threw $130,000 at her to make her go away so that he could win the election, even though they knew that she wasn't telling the truth is a bunch of nonsense.

[20:25:09] COOPER: You've said all along that regarding the non- disclosure agreement, the hush agreement, that it would have been unethical for Michael Cohen to have entered into that with the LLC that he set up without the president being informed at the very least about it, even though the president didn't sign, even though there was a line for the president to sign. Do you -- if you believe that, do you believe it would have been unethical for Michael Cohen to be in charge of this, you know, to have this portfolio to deal with these kind of cases without ever informing Donald Trump like, oh, you know, that Stormy Daniels thing told you about, I settled it, it's done, it was $130,000?

AVENATTI: I'm going to call it what it is, if it's true, which is a slush fund. But, yes, I do believe it would be unethical for Michael Cohen to be administering the extramarital affairs slush fund and not telling Donald Trump on a consistent basis as to how those moneys were being paid and what they were being paid for.

COOPER: Earlier today, there was a report, NBC saying federal investigators have wiretapped the phone lines of Michael Cohen. They later issued a correction saying they had a phone log for phones associated with Michael Cohen.

You were on NBC. You said it wasn't just wiretaps, but also, they were reading Mr. Cohen's text messages? Do you know for a fact that they were reading Mr. Cohen's text messages?

AVENATTI: Yes, I know that separate and apart independently from the NBC reporting. I want to be clear.

COOPER: So, you believe they -- because I mean, NBC says they were not wiretapping the phones. Do you still believe they were?

AVENATTI: OK, there is a difference. When you conduct electronic monitoring of communication, you have to get authorization to do e- mail, a separate authorization for text message. And a third authorization in order to conduct a wiretap of audio communications.

The NBC reporting dealt with audio communications. I already had knowledge to the first two, the e-mail and the text messages. I know that was going on for a fact.

COOPER: The -- earlier today, you said you were getting closer to the revelations coming out. We still haven't gotten to the bottom of this. What -- can you elaborate?

AVENATTI: Well, I want to be careful on what I say, but there is a considerable amount of evidence that's going to come to light in connection with this case. I think that's one of the reasons why you saw Mr. Giuliani appear on a very friendly show, on a very friendly network to try to get out in front of some of this, because they knew it was only a matter of time that either we were going to reveal it or the U.S. attorneys or investigators from SDNY were going to reveal details relating to this.

I mean, this was a bombshell. I know I've used that term a number of times, but it continues to be the dropping of bombshells in this case. I mean, I could not imagine, I was shocked when Mr. Giuliani made these admissions last night. I was doubly shocked when he followed it up this morning and did himself and Mr. Trump more harm this morning.

COOPER: Why do you think he did more harm this morning?

AVENATTI: Well, because he tightened this up as it relates to the election. I mean, last night on Sean Hannity, he did not tie to the election as clearly as some like me would have hoped. And this morning, lo and behold, he gave the reference to the last debate in the October time frame of the election. I mean, he tightened it up better than we probably ever could.

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

AVENATTI: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up, will the special counsel call Ivanka Trump in for questioning? There's probably nobody closer to the president and the White House and Mr. Trump's business life. She's the president's adviser, obviously, daughter and executive in his company. She no doubt knows a lot.

But a new report says that the Mueller team may be holding off her questioning for now. We'll talk about that next and hear the strange thing that Rudy Giuliani said about it.


[20:32:01] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: At the special counsel's investigation continues, there is a name that hasn't come up much, which is Ivanka Trump. She's not just the President's daughter, she's an adviser, has played a key role in the Trump Organization. An article in Politico suggest the Mueller team may be holding back, calling her and for questioning for -- or holding back on calling here for questioning for now, because they're waiting for the last possible moment, knowing the President will not take it well if they called her in as a witness. Rudy Giuliani was asked about the idea the Mueller team targeting Ivanka Trump in anyway. Here's what he said.


RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP'S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: If they do to Ivanka, which I doubt they will. The whole country will turn on. They are going after his daughter?

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: What about his son-in-law, they talked about him.

GIULIANI: I guess Jared is a fine man, you know that. But men are, you know, disposable. But a fine woman like Ivanka? Come on.


COOPER: With me is Jennifer Rodgers and Michael D'Antonio.

Do you think its -- Jennifer hearing Rudy Giuliani saying that, do you think that's a warning to special counsel Mueller? Do you think it's just a statement of his belief?

JENNIFER RODGERS, COLUMBIA LAW SCHOOL: Well, I think it's a little of both. I mean I think that they want to get this notion out there that it's beyond bounds to go after the family and, you know, I think Hannity said something like I fear for our country or something like this. I think they are trying to start this narrative of that this is out of bounds. And they shouldn't go there. But I -- you know, I just think they're all for us just -- you know, trying to lay things down for what they want to happen.

COOPER: Michael D'Antonio, I mean Ivanka Trump's role in the Trump Organization it can't be overstated. Right?

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, she knows just about everything that's been on for at least 10 years, maybe 20. This is a person who's been closer to Donald Trump, I think than anyone for longer. She knows far more than the President's wife knows about his activities of all sorts. So this is a huge step for the special counsel to consider. But it's also an example of how the President likes to have everything ever which way. So he'll have someone be in his administration sort of in the Trump organization sort of, but also in his family.

COOPER: You think Ivanka Trump knows more than the first lady knows about business?

D'ANTONIO: By far, by far, yes. She's had an office in the Trump Organization. Her whole adult life. And has been involved in projects abroad, projects in the United States, her own businesses, the furnishings and fashion lines. So this is someone who knows everything.

COOPER: You know, Jennifer, Michael talks about the President wanting to have it both ways. I mean on one hand, Ivanka Trump is his daughter, and, you know, family members, children, usually would not be sort of, you know, discussed in the media as Ivanka Trump is. But she's also has a role in the White House. I mean she has an office in the White House, she's moved there along with Jared Kushner. So, she is a player in the political life of the President.

RODGERS: She, I mean, you know, an adult child who was present for important matters might actually be called as a witness. And there she's not necessarily off limits just because she, you know, if she didn't have a role.

[20:35:05] But the fact that she does have a role means a couple things. You know, one it means she is kind of more within bounds of what people would think it's reasonable for this special counsel to do. But it also means she's more likely to have been an actual participant in some these meetings and we know from reporting that she actually was present for some of the important matters here. So, you know, that they have a reason to want to call her to hear what she has to say.

COOPER: Michael, do you think she is vulnerable in that sense?

D'ANTONIO: Well, I think she is. But, I think it's also interesting to notice the complex role that she's played. She was sent to Korea for the Olympics. She was in Europe for the diplomatic meetings. This is a person who's almost been a cover for the President. She emerges when he needs someone to make him look good. Look softer and what Mr. Giuliani was talking about, how she sort of is untouchable. Because the American people love her, is sort of the intent all along. I wonder now if this wasn't part of the reason why the President wanted to keep her close.

COOPER: Jennifer, does it make sense to you that Rudy Giuliani called Jared Kushner disposable.

RODGERS: I do not know what that means at all. I mean, you know, blood relatives, are your closest relatives of course. I mean I think that there are reasons that he can expect Ivanka to be more loyal to him than Jared would be. You know, one thing is of course they're actually related, the other thing is if Jared has some legal exposure than Ivanka doesn't have at least as far as we know. So, I can see why Jared would be more disposable than Ivanka, but to say that men were disposable. I can't really say I know what that was about.

COOPER: Strange. Jennifer Rodgers, thank you, Michael D'Antonio as well.

Coming up, there are some conservative lawmakers seeking access to Justice Department files in the Russia investigation. In order to share that information the White House. I'll talk a member of the House Intelligence Committee, next.


[20:40:28] COOPER: There was a remarkable story tucked away in the "New York Times" piece last night about Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. As you know, he and members of the conservative House freedom caucus were squaring off. Some reportedly want to impeach him. They say he and the Justice Department have refused to turn over key information on the Russia probe on a timely basis. Their reporting at "Times" suggests a motive for Mr. Rosenstein's reluctance and its pure hardball politics.

According to "Time's", Rosenstein and senior FBI officials suspect that some lawmakers have used -- have used -- are using oversight authorities to gain information about the investigation and then funneling it, there's that verb again, to the White House.

Joining me to talk about this is Democrat Congressman Eric Swalwell, a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, are you aware of House Republicans sharing information they received from the Department of Justice regarding the Russia probe with the White House?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL, (D) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Good evening, Anderson. This is certainly something we have seen in the past. And, you know, the origin of it was when Devin Nunes went to the White House, of course the day after Comey testified. The memo that they wrote was actually asking the Department of Justice for information that they would ask the White House to sign off on about an ongoing investigation. The FISA warrant for Carter Page.

And the concern I had there was your reading in individuals who were subject to an investigation and giving them the authority to sign off on what would be released. When we were interviewing Steve Bannon, we were very concerned that Steve Bannon's lawyer had been receiving the transcript of his testimony and then taking it back to the White House, because he also represents Don McGahn, the White House counsel.

And now you see the Republicans in Congress who are essentially acting as Mr. Trump's fixers in Congress by trying to obstruct Mr. Rosenstein's investigation by asking for information about an ongoing investigation. Anderson, you know it is long standing protocol in our country, you do not tell anyone about the details of an ongoing investigation because you don't want to jeopardize it.

COOPER: Do you think it's appropriate for Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein to withhold documents from Congress based on suspicions, but not necessarily hard evidence?

SWALWELL: Yes. I think it's appropriate that only the investigators know about the evidence in the case. And I would say that whether it was a Republican or Democratic administration being investigated. Because, you don't want witnesses to have information about the case. So that they kind of cook up a story or tailor their answers to what they know is already out there.

And you saw this with Rudy Giuliani coming forward last night on "Hannity". He -- it looks like they knew that a wiretap was out in place. And so they started being more forthcoming about why Donald Trump, you know, was so involved with the Stormy Daniels' payoff. And so, when witnesses know the information that investigators have then they start to either destroy evidence or change their stories.

COOPER: The "New York Times" has also reported that Democrats fear that their request for documents from Republicans are meant it's a trap either Rosenstein hands over everything request, it would break protocol by the way, and allies the President could potentially use that information to undermine the Russia investigation, or he denies their request and that can be use as cover to fire him. Do you believe that?

SWALWELL: Yes. I do think that the effort here is either is to get information in the hands of the President and his team who are under investigation. Or to just, you know, do all they kind to give Donald Trump the cover to fire Rod Rosenstein. Both are obstructive behavior the best thing we can do is to put in place the bipartisan legislation that was just passed in the judiciary committee in the Senate that would protect Bob Mueller and his team. So we can get to the bottom of this. And so that the whole country can move past this Russia mess that the President has gotten us in.

COOPER: Congress is supposed to provide oversight of Department of Justice. Is the relationship between the House and Rosenstein salvageable?

SWALWELL: It is. It's not salvageable, though, with Devin Nunes as the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and its not going to be salvageable if they continue to make these efforts to undermine this investigation. You know, Anderson, this is about the rule of law. And of course we want to have oversight on, you know, privacy as it relates to FISA warrants. Of course we want to know that the Department of Justice is not violating anyone right. But we never have done this during an ongoing investigation.

So I can only view it as just an effort to undermine his work and if Republicans care about the rule of law, they will step back and understand that there are greater principles at stake here than their President at the White House.

COOPER: You talk about Rudy Giuliani, on "Hannity" last night, his exposure that he paid back Michael Cohen for his hush money payment to Stormy Daniels. What's the one thing that jumps out of you about this whole thing? Because today, he also seemed to indicate at leas that this was to do with the election. [20:45:03] SWALWELL: Yes. Well, one, it shows me that, you know, Donald Trump is not being straight with the American people. Two, that he's willing to act as a shadowy operator. And so, I don't really give a rip about what happened with Ms. Daniels. What's more important to me are the real questions around his involvement around the Russians, whether, personally, politically or financially. And if he wasn't straight, what the country about, what happened with Ms. Daniels, I think we can conclude that he's probably acted in a shadowy way, in an operative way and payoffs with other individuals around what's happened with Russia.

And so he should sit down in Bob Mueller's chair, come straight with the American people, so we can move on beyond.

COOPER: Congressman Swalwell, appreciate your time. Thanks very much.

Just ahead, well three Americans detained in North Korea, actually be released. There were conflicting messages on that today, all coming from the President's team. We'll tell you about that and get a reality check from the region.


[20:50:01] COOPER: The fate of the three Americans detained in North Korea remains a mystery tonight, that's despite Rudy Giuliani now President Trump's personal attorney trumpeting the news in "Fox & Friends" this morning that freedom was close at hand. Today in fact he said.


GIULIANI: And we got Kim Jong-un impressed enough to release three prisoners today.


COOPER: Well, a couple things about that. First, when Sarah Sanders was asked about it at the press briefing about the remark, she said, they can't confirm, "the validity of their reports". Second, Rudy Giuliani as I mentioned as the President's personal attorney, not a secretary of state, not his deputy secretary of state. So, he doesn't have a White House job or as far as anyone knows a security clearance to be how and why Mr. Giuliani was talking about North Korea at all came up in today's press briefing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Watching us talking with Giuliani about the North Korean prisoners, given that he doesn't have a high level clearance?

SARAH SANDERS, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: I'm not aware that they spoke about that. So, I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was he aware that Giuliani was going to be talking about it on TV during the (INAUDIBLE)?

SANDERS: Again, I'm not aware of that they spoke about it, so I can't answer that.


COOPER: So there's that, which brings us to the third and perosomus (ph) curious part of all this, and that's what the President himself tweeted last night about three Americans. "As everybody is aware, the past administration has long been asking for three hostages to be released from a North Korean labor camp but to no avail. Stay tuned".

Well, it sounds good, but it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. That's because two of three hostages in question were actually taken hostage during this President's administration. Jonathan Karl asked Sarah Sanders about the disconnect.


JONATHAN KARL, POLITICAL JOURNALIST: We talked about the prisoners in North Korea, you said the previous administration had been, you know, failed to get them out. This two of them were taken prisoner while Donald Trump was President.

SANDERS: When it comes to North Korea there -- I think could you also look at Otto Warmbier who was detained during a previous administration, as was one of the current detainees. And so that would reflect the President's comments that he made.


COOPER: Well, Otto Warmbier, who returned to the U.S. in a vegetative state and died less than a week later. That does question aside just where does that leave things with the current American prisoners. That is the most important thing after all.

So for that I'm joined now by CNN's Paula Hancocks, who's in Seoul, South Korea. Paula, do we know actually anything concrete about the current status of the three Americans in North Korea?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Anderson, what we know is from officials who is actually dealing with this ongoing negotiation, and they say that the release of the three detainees is imminent. Now, they don't give any more specific timing than that. The word they use is imminent. And they also say that this has been months in the making. The North Korean Foreign Minister Ri who went to Sweden back in march. Sweden handles all the diplomatic issues for the U.S. with North Korea. And that he proposed that they release these three detainees.

Now, at that point U.S. officials said they didn't want to linked to denuclearization. They didn't want to lessen the impact as well of denuclearization. But beyond that, the official says that they can't confirm these reports that potentially these three have actually been moved from labor correctional facilities, closer to the capitol, ready for release, so it's very difficult to get any kind of clarification on that.

COOPER: Do we know, have their families been notified of anything happening?

HANCOCKS: The families know nothing at this point. So we've been in touch with them, and they have said that they've heard nothing new. Now, in recent days and weeks they have been quite hopeful thinking that if this summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un is going to go ahead, then potentially there is a very good chance that these three detainees could be released as what the White House and the State Department of course, a potential good will gesture. So certain they're hopeful, but they have heard nothing today. They heard nothing specific about timing. And clearly this would be very difficult for them.

COOPER: Has there been any more clarification of where Rudy Giuliani got the information that Kim Jong-un was "releasing three prisoners today".

HANCOCKS: There's no clarification from the Korean peninsula. This information as far as we can tell did not come from here, but the fact is, even the White House and the State Department say that they couldn't clarify or confirm that statement as well. So there are some heads being scratched at the moment, trying to figure out what exactly that kind of timing that was usually in this situation, you would get more of an indication and more of a word of mouth that something was about to happen, which we simply haven't had today.

COOPER: And has there been any reaction from the North Korean regime, publicly?

HANCOCKS: There's been no reaction whatsoever. We did hear from Kim Jong-un on Thursday. He met with the Chinese foreign minister and was talking about his firm position is denuclearization. This was all through the foreign ministry in China. But he didn't mention detainees at all. So, we've heard nothing from the North Korean side. And it's unknown how they would take this kind of speculation as well.

COOPER: All right, Paula Hancocks, thanks very much.

Back in Washington, an update to a story we brought you last week. The House chaplain is getting to keep his job after all. Father Pat Conroy was -- has rescinded his resignation, is not something you hear everyday.

[20:55:04] And House Speaker Paul Ryan says he can stay. Ryan asked him to step down last month for reasons that are still a mystery aside some type of feedback about pastoral care. Lawmakers from both parties questioned the request for him to step down. In a letter to Ryan today, Conroy said that Ryan sent his chief of staff to ask for his resignation. And the chief of staff said something dismissive like maybe its time we have a chaplain that wasn't a catholic. The chief of staff says he disagrees with Conroy's recollection of the conversation.

In a statement, Ryan says, he'll sit down with Conroy earlier this week, so the quote, we can move forward for the good of the whole house.

Up next, Giuliani throws the rest of President Trump's legal team into some disarray. More on the impact of these comments, about the hush money reimbursement from Michael Cohen when we continue.


COOPER: As our Jeff Toobin puts it, the President's new lawyer Rudy Giuliani accidentally tells the truth about the hush money payment right before the election to Stormy Daniels. Political and legal turmoil follows on a table.

Tonight, a White House legal team tested by what Giuliani revealed that the President repaid Michael Cohen, and that Cohen acted to fix the Daniels problem just days before the election.

Also, new reporting on a perennial question. Are House Republicans working handing glove with the White House to undermine the Russia probe. And later, the new and apparently harder White House line on firing James Comey, the President didn't need a reason.

[21:00:04] We begin with what Giuliani said and what the rest of the White House and the President's legal team knew about it. CNN's Pamela Brown joins us with the latest.

So, its safe to say, is the word blind sided a correct word to apply here for how the rest of the legal team is the --