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Rudy Giuliani's Strategy or a Nail in the Coffin for Mueller's Team; Giuliani Brings Headaches for Trump; Fox News Not Being Friendly with Trump for Once. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired May 3, 2018 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: This is CNN tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
So much for the new Trump legal team sticking to the script. Sources tell CNN Rudy Giuliani has thrown the White House into an uproar. Some of the president's legal advisers complaining they were blindsided when Giuliani went rogue over the past 24 hours, and they fear he was just winging it.
But Giuliani himself, tells CNN he coordinated carefully with Trump himself, saying, quote, "You won't see daylight between me and the president."
So let's recap some of the bombshells Giuliani dropped. Acknowledging that Trump reimbursed his fixer Michael Cohen for that $130,000 hush money payment to Stormy Daniels. Contradicting the president's claim that he knew nothing about it, contradicting the president again when he said the real reason for James Comey's firing was his refusal to say the president was not a target of the FBI investigation into Russia's election interference.
And contradicting Michael Cohen by calling the FBI agents who conducted last night's raid storm troopers. Cohen himself told me those agents were polite and professional.
Lots more on all of that in just a moment. So please stand by. But let's look at the big picture here. The big picture. We have all been lied to. And not just today. The ugly truth is that President Trump and his aides have deliberately deceived the American people with false statements and shifting explanations.
More than 3,000 lies since this president took the oath of office, lies about Stormy Daniels when President Trump on Air Force One claim he didn't know about the hush money Michael Cohen paid to silence her. Listen to -- this is what Sarah Sanders, her trying to dance around Jim Acosta's question about that just today.
JIM ACOSTA, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: You said on March 7th there was no knowledge of any payments from the president and he's denied all these allegations. Were you lying to us at the time or were you in the dark? SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president
has denied and continues to deny the underlying claim, and again I've given the best information I have at the time. And I would refer you back to the comments that you yourself just mentioned a few minutes ago about the time line from Mayor Giuliani.
ACOSTA: But that's the--
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: More lies about North Korea when President Trump tweeted that the Obama administration was unable to get three Americans released, even though two of those Americans were detained with Trump in the White House. Even lies about the size of the inaugural crowd.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, FORMER UNITED STATES WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration. Period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: that was the first day. Remember that? As the Washington Post reports today, quote, "It has become standard operating procedure for Trump and his aides to deceive the public with false statements and shifting accounts." In other words, lies.
You are being deceived almost every single day. There's a long list of president's -- the president's false statements from the Washington Post. The president claimed that he passed the biggest tax cut in history. That's not true.
He claimed Democrats don't care about DACA. Not true. He claimed his promised border wall is already being built. That's a lie. He took credit for three million jobs created since the election including 300,000 new jobs in manufacturing. Even though he didn't take office until almost three months later and the number of manufacturing jobs created in his presidency is about 260,000.
He claimed he is has essentially gotten rid of Obamacare. He hasn't. He claimed the United States has spent $7 trillion on wars in the Middle East. That's a made-up number. He claimed the U.S. trade deficit with China is $500 billion. It's $300 billion.
He claimed he accomplished more in his first year than any other president, even though he actually signed fewer bills in his first year than any president since Eisenhower. And the list goes on and on and on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the president so often says things that turn out not to be true, when the president and the White House show what appears to be a blatant disregard for the truth, how are the American people to trust or believe what is said here or what is said by the president?
SANDERS: We give the very best information that we have at the time. I do that every single day and will continue to do that every day I'm in this position.
LEMON: But facts matter. They used to. They should. This administration is not giving you the facts. The question is, do you care? Are you OK with being conned by this White House? Being lied to by the people whose salaries you pay?
The people who are supposed to put the interests of the country first, not the personal interest of the president with one mess after another to be cleaned up. Are you OK with that? Think about that.
[22:04:58] I want to bring in now CNN's chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta, CNN political analyst, April Ryan, CNN counterterrorism Philip Mudd.
I could have gone on and on -- good evening, guys -- with the lies. His approval numbers are similar to those of other presidents. That's a lie. The U.S. gave Iran $150 billion under the Iran agreement. A lie. When the Iran agreement deal expires, they're free to create nuclear weapons. That is a lie.
There's more human trafficking and slavery in any other history -- in the history of the world. That's a lie. He's happy with his legal team. That's a lie. Obama wiretapped him in the Trump tower. That's a lie. And on and on and on.
Jim, how do you guys deal with this every single day? How do we ever know if they are telling the truth?
ACOSTA: Well, Don, I wish I could install a B.S. meter inside the White House briefing room. Unfortunately, I think it would be going off all the time and it would be hard to hear the press secretary attempt to tell the truth on a daily basis.
You know, this is the fourth press secretary I've dealt with over here at the White House. Jay Carney, Josh Earnest, Sean Spicer who I think might still be in the bushes over there. And Sarah Sanders. And unfortunately, they don't know really how to tell the truth other here. And it's an ongoing problem for us over here at the White House to try to decipher what is real and what is fake.
And you know, for all the president's complaints of fake news, when they lie to us on a daily basis and through the course of our reporting, unfortunately, we report and repeat some of those lies on a daily basis, the end result is in some cases fake news.
And it just makes it incumbent upon all of us, especially on press world freedom day like it is today to try to get through the fog of lies and deceit that we deal with on almost a daily basis over here.
LEMON: April, I was watching the briefing today. And I want to play your exchange with Sarah Sanders and then we'll talk on the other side.
APRIL RYAN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Right.
RYAN: Why didn't you talk to the White House press office about his impacting statements about what was happening?
SANDERS: The White House press office wouldn't coordinate with the president's outside legal team on a legal strategy.
RYAN: Blindsided, you said yourself you were blindsided.
SANDERS: I actually didn't use that term.
RYAN: Well, I said it but you were blindsided from what you said.
SANDERS: With all due respect, you don't know much about me in terms of what I feel and what I don't.
RYAN: I understand how this operates.
SANDERS: Right. I think we'll get--
LEMON: What was that all about?
RYAN: You know, I think she's feeling some kind of way. She's catching feelings from this weekend and I guess I was her whipping post, but I'm not a whipping post. She's 35, I'm 50. I've been at the White House for 21 years to her what one? If that.
I've seen impeachment during the Bill Clinton years. I've seen how the attorneys had to give some information to the White House staff to make them aware of what was -- the broad stroke of what was going on, versus getting in the weeds.
They had no clue as to what Rudy Giuliani was going to say. Sarah Huckabee Sanders herself in that briefing room said she learned of it as that interview was happening on Fox News. So, I was not making this a personal statement of her. This was fact that she spoke from that briefing room just moments before or minutes before I asked my questions.
Now if she's upset about that, that's fine. And I understand that people in the White House are very upset and they battling with Rudy Giuliani. There was a phone call this morning that Rudy Giuliani said I'm not giving you any information. So maybe that could be some of it.
LEMON: Yes. RYAN: But what I will say to you is that for her to say, for Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the presidential spokesperson, the mouthpiece for the president of the United States to say you don't know me. In certain quarters in this nation, that starts a physical fight. I was very shocked. It was street. I will even go beyond that. It was gutter.
And there is no room, no place for that in that White House briefing room. And you know what, she can be mad at what I say right now, tough.
RYAN: I'm a reporter who's going to continue to ask questions. And there was nothing wrong with that question.
RYAN: Am I a little upset about it? Yes. Yes, I am. I am. I am.
LEMON: Well, Phil, you know, you saw the exchange with April there. You heard what Jim said. I've seen Jim.
PHILIP MUDD, COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST, CNN: Yes.
LEMON: He's been a bit contentious with him at times. Lie after lie after lie. It's a pattern. And it's deliberate, is it?
MUDD: It is. I mean, let's cut to the chase, Don. The American people elected a liar. We knew that when he took office. He lied about the ratings for his TV show. He's lied repeatedly about things like whether the former president had an accurate birth certificate.
But there are characteristics here of lying that have more significant implications. For example, I don't think -- this is just my personal judgment, that he will ever go into a meeting with the special counsel Robert Mueller.
[22:09:56] If you lie to the special counsel, that's a federal violation. That's what we call a 1001 violation. That's a violation of federal law. You can be charged for that. Let's assume the special counsel does not believe that he could charge the president of the United States.
He will -- that is, Robert Mueller's special counsel -- capture in a document what he's learned in the investigation. He will give that document to the deputy attorney general. I think that document will end up in the hands of the Congress. They're going to have to decide what to do if the special counsel determines that the president has lied.
Is the Congress going to conduct hearings? We call that impeachment. There is one final element about lying here, Don, that I think is really significant.
In a week and a half, we're going to hear comments from the president of the United States. Does he believe that the Iranians are in compliance with a nuclear agreement that the Americans agreed with along with other people, including the Europeans. We're going to hear the president comment on whether he thinks we have a clear agreement with the North Koreans on a path forward on their nuclear program.
If the president of the United States does not think he believes, for example, the Iranians are in compliance, do we believe him? Or do we think he's making a political statement. I can tell you, I for one am going to look for other people in the cabinet -- the secretary of state, secretary of defense, if at that point, we have a CIA director, to see what they say. There are national security implications here beyond Stormy Daniels. When will the president stop lying? Will it stop at national security? I don't know.
LEMON: Yes. Listen, I wonder if when, you know, the channel that, you know, boosts him or in many of the shows where he can do no wrong. Maybe it's when they start -- those shows start actually telling people the truth.
Because Jim, Neil Cavuto over there, he wasn't having the president's changing story today either. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST, FOX NEWS: Let me be clear, Mr. President, how can you drain the swamp if you're the one who keeps muddying the waters. You didn't know about that $130,000 payment to a porn star until you did.
You said you knew nothing about how your former lawyer Michael Cohen handled this. Until acknowledging today you were the guy behind the retainer payment that took care of this. You insist that money from the campaign or campaign contributions played no role in this transaction. Of that you're sure.
The thing is, not even 24 hours ago, sir, you couldn't recall any of this. And you seem very sure. Now I'm not saying you're a liar. You're the president, you're busy. I'm just having a double of a time figuring out which news is fake.
Let's just say your own words on lots of stuff give me, shall I say, lots of thoughts. I guess you're too busy draining the swamp to ever stop and smell the stink that you're creating. That's your doing. That's your stink. Mr. President, that's your swamp.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Jimmy, he also went through an example after example of the president's false and misleading statements on policy, on staff changes, even calling out the president for pumping up his own poll numbers. What do you think of that?
ACOSTA: I think, you know, when you've lost Fox News, you're starting to lose the Fox News viewership. And you know, a lot of people call Fox News state TV. There are cracks. The jamming radar is not quite working. On the top of the Fox News headquarters tonight if Neil Cavuto is calling the president out in that fashion. I think that's a very welcome sign.
Listen, when, you know, when Rudy Giuliani says well, the president only found out about this 10 days or two weeks ago, and yet the president is tweeting this morning that Michael Cohen is being repaid through a monthly retainer, presumably monthly payments that go back always, those facts just don't line up.
When the president is asked a month ago and he doesn't know about it and Sarah Sanders is asked about it two months ago and says he didn't know about it. The fact just don't line up. And so, you know, kudos to Cavuto for calling the president out.
My guess is, Don, is we're going to be seeing more of that. You're going to see more defections from what I call the state supported media in this country the MAGA-phone as I call it that some of this conservative media outlets that just pump out what the president wants to say on a daily basis.
At some point there's a challenge to one's conscience to want to scream out the truth. And I think you're going to see that slowly but surely across the conservative media spectrum because there are people who are just saying, you know what, this just doesn't add up anymore and we're not going to play along with this.
LEMON: Well, we'll see. I mean, we'll see. Certainly the lawmakers and that -- those are the folks who really should be. That's where the jamming device is.
ACOSTA: That's right.
LEMON: Over the capitol building and that's the one that needs to be turned off.
Thank you all. I appreciate it.
ACOSTA: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: Stay strong, all of you.
RYAN: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: When we come back, Rudy Giuliani has a message for Jeff Sessions. Shut down the Mueller investigation. But will pressuring the attorney general work? We'll talk about that.
[22:15:02] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Rudy Giuliani taking a page out of the Trump playbook putting pressure on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to shut down the Mueller investigation.
I want to bring in now CNN contributor John Dean, who was the Nixon White House counsel, and CNN law enforcement analyst Josh Campbell, who was a special assistant to James Comey when he was FBI director. Gentlemen, good evening.
Josh, I'm going to start with you. This is Rudy Giuliani expressing disappointment and frustration with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: I've got to go there and Jay Sekulow and the Raskins, we have got to go there and prepare him for this silly deposition about a case in which he supposedly colluded with the Russians but there's no evidence of that? I mean, everybody forgets the basis of the case is dead. Sessions should step in and close it. And say enough is enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So Josh, he is putting pressure on Jeff Sessions to step in and close the investigation. Do you think that will work?
JOSH CAMPBELL, LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST, CNN: I don't. I think this is disgraceful. I mean, this is someone who is an attorney, he was an officer of the court, he was a former government official that was a U.S. attorney in the southern district of New York where all of this is taking place. He was someone who was rumored to be a cabinet official and now he's attempting to inappropriately influence a U.S. counterintelligence investigation.
It's important for him to remember that he doesn't have just any client. His client is the most powerful person in the world. So when he's attempting to signal to the attorney general that a case should go away that's something that should give all Americans great pause.
[22:20:05] You know, we've seen this change with Mr. Giuliani. I remember 9/11. I remember him being America's mayor. I grew up in rural Texas. But he was my mayor. The problem for him now is that the first line of his obituary is not going that he's someone who brought the nation to a national tragedy and someone who strengthen our institutions. It's going to be someone who led the charge to destroy those institutions.
LEMON: People don't realize those before 9/11, Rudy Giuliani didn't -- his rating wasn't that good here in New York City. That sort of that helped him--
CAMPBELL: Yes. And I'm not even talking about politics. I don't care about politics. I talk to people I was getting in earful with the men and women in the FBI and I hope we can talk about his comments about them.
CAMPBELL: I mean, they don't talk -- care about partisan politics. But if you look at what they're doing as a matter of principle, attacking our system of justice, it's something that we should all stop and really focus on. It's incredible.
LEMON: So John, why -- why would Giuliani give these interviews, apparently with the blessing of the president? What is the strategy here?
JOHN DEAN, CONTRIBUTOR, CNN: I can't believe it's a strategy, Don. It really, I think it's just totally ad-hoc. It's Rudy sort of showing off his newfound power and he's really pushing the envelope when he's doing it. The whole scene in the newsroom today made me flash back on Ron Ziegler, who was Nixon's press secretary during Watergate.
Ziegler had a real thing about not going into the press room and losing the confidence through dishonest statements to the press. And when he didn't feel he could brief, he didn't go out. He went out -- he sent one of his deputies out. And when he realized he had all of his facts wrong, he declared everything inoperative, and tried to keep some honor. And as you know, he survived it and came through it all with a good reputation.
LEMON: Josh, you ask for it so let's -- I'm going to play this. This is Rudy Giuliani appearing to compare the federal agents who raided Cohen's office in their investigation to Nazi storm troopers. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: All the possible violation there would be was it a campaign finance violation? Which usually would result in a fine, by the way. Not this big storm troopers coming in and breaking down his apartment and breaking down his office.
That was money that was paid by his lawyer the way I would do out of his law firm funds or whatever funds, it doesn't matter. The president reimbursed that over the period of several months.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS: And he had said--
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So these are agents from the Southern District of New York, the same jurisdiction that Rudy Giuliani once led. And when they raided Michael Cohen, he said that were polite and professional. How are these words being received by those men and women?
CAMPBELL: They're not being received well. Michael has been blowing up to the last 24 hours with former colleagues in the FBI who are irate at these continuing attacks. I mean, set aside the investigation.
For one, someone to attack an investigation, that's par for the course. Defense attorney do that all the time. But this is yet another pattern of, you know, a campaign to discredit those who are investigating a very important case. And they're doing so by attacking the institutions of justice.
And the issue is, is this isn't someone who slipped up or someone who's senile. And the reason we know that is because if you look at the Daily Beast interview with him today, he doubled down on this notion, comparing the FBI agents to Nazis. That's something again that should give Americans great pause.
Now the FBI, they're not infallible, they make mistakes. They're human beings. But you know, they're the kind of people that when they make mistakes they're going to admit them. If you look at the last year a lot of the major mistakes, it's been the FBI stepping up and saying hey, we screwed this up or handing over documents. That we have problems, you know, within our own house that need to be looked at.
So to look at them and, you know, compare them to some kind of authoritarian regime, this jack blue thugs that are out there busting down doors, again, it may give you short-term political gain, but it's going to destroy the institution. And it's going to ultimately impact our national security if the American people do not trust FBI agents.
LEMON: Well, the man, John, who once head the FBI, James Comey fired back today, tweeting, "I know the New York FBI. There are no storm troopers there, just a group of people devoted to the rule of law and the truth. Our country would be better off if our leaders tried to be like them rather than comparing them to Nazis."
What do you think, John?
DEAN: I think it's very appropriate statement. In fact, there is a letter circulating right now that almost 1,000 former alum of the Department of Justice have signed to call upon this administration to honor the rule of law. And these are people who feel very strongly, who devoted their own professional careers to the Department of Justice and seeing justice done.
Justice is, of course, blind. And we're not seeing -- we're seeing a man trying to influence that impartial justice right now. And it's kind of pathetic.
LEMON: John, did Rudy Giuliani give the special counsel a gift with all these comments?
[22:24:57] DEAN: I think he -- I think he did. You've got to remember, he is the attorney for the president is his agent. He's speaking same as the president, himself were speaking. And the president might be held accountable. Rudy Giuliani may lose his law license before this is all over as well.
LEMON: John, Josh, thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it.
When we come back, sources tell CNN the president's legal team was blindsided by Rudy Giuliani's comments last night, including the latest one. One of many explanations for why FBI Director James Comey was fired. More on the legal headaches Giuliani may be making for his boss.
LEMON: Sources telling CNN Rudy Giuliani's media blitz has blindsided the rest of the president's legal team. Not only did he reveal that President Trump reimbursed Michael Cohen for the Stormy Daniels hush money, he also changed the White House story on why James Comey was fired as FBI director.
So what does this mean for the Mueller investigation and what does this mean for the White House? Let's discuss. Jack Quinn is here, who was the White House counsel to President Clinton, Laura Coates, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, and Philip Lacovara who was the counsel to -- was counsel to the Watergate special prosecutors.
[22:30:04] Good evening. Welcome to the program. Glad to have you all here. Laura, this is now the third justification - third that we have heard for James Comey's firing.
First the president said Comey was fired over his handling of the Clinton e-mail investigation. July 11, (Ph) justifying that it was written by Rod Rosenstein. Then the president said this in his interview with Lester Holt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it. And, in fact, when I decided to do it, I said to myself, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And then last night, Giuliani weighed in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: He fired Comey because Comey would not, among other things, say that he wasn't a target of the investigation. He's entitled to that. Hillary Clinton got that. And she -- he couldn't get that. So he fired him and he said I'm free from this guy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So why does he think the rationale in Comey's firing and why can't they get their stories straight, Laura?
LAURA COATES, LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: Well, it seems as though they're always trying to figure out how they can make themselves be presented in the best light. What they're doing with all the different variations of these stories, all the different iterations and discussions and explanations/confessions, all they do is the equivalent of saying, Don, do not think of the pink elephant.
Now all you can do is think of a pink elephant. If you're Robert Mueller's team and you're wondering why was James Comey fired, and they kick on you all the different explanations, well, guess what. You have brought a magnifying glass on the very top of their head to say is there a reason you can't get your stories straight?
And normally it's because a lie just sounds like a lie. The truth sounds like truth. When you have variations of it, it's a problem. Also you have the shift of different legal teams. And everyone trying to have a legal strategy that matches the court of public opinion and P.R. campaign, and when that is your focus the P.R. campaign in court of public opinion you often make missteps that you would not make in a court of law. That's what you're seeing here.
LEMON: So Phil, what about it, how important are these changing explanations for the Mueller investigation?
PHILIP LACOVARA, FORMER WATERGATE COUNSEL: I think it's important. I've already written that I think the president's interview with Lester Holt last year completed the circle in establishing the elements of an obstruction of justice charge that Mueller is investigating.
This latest comment by Giuliani simply adds one more piece of damning information to it. Because it, again, adds a corrupt explanation for the president's decision to fire Jim Comey. And that's simply not permitted under federal criminal law.
LEMON: So, Jack, then you heard Phil -- what Phil said. Do Giuliani's comments bring Mueller closer to an obstruction of justice charge?
JACK QUINN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT CLINTON: Sure. This is another brick in the wall. And you know, I think frankly that as a result of the raid on Michael Cohen's office and residence that Giuliani was trying to do some clean-up work. But the clean-up man made a big mess. He made a huge mess as Laura and Philip pointed out on the obstruction case.
I mean, this comment he made about, you know, the reason he was -- Comey was fired was because he wouldn't declare the president not to be a subject of the investigation, that was a disaster. And I'm sure we'll talk about it later.
QUINN: But, you know, he was similarly disastrous in terms of the Daniels case.
LEMON: Yes. So Laura, let's talk about that because--
LEMON: What did you -- did you want to say something, Phil?
LACOVARA: Yes. I wanted to just pick up on what Jack just mentioned. The other part of what Rudy did that undermined his client's position is that he made his own client as well as himself a likely witness in connection with the Cohen investigation because the explanation that Rudy gave is inconsistent with the public story that Cohen has been giving about how the Stormy Daniels deal was done. And if Cohen has said anything like that to the FBI, then both Rudy
and his own client, the president, would be offering contradictory and exculpatory evidence against Michael Cohen.
LEMON: And Cohen said he had not -- initially, he had not been reimbursed. But Laura, listen, Giuliani's explanation also contradicts the president himself who has said Comey told him on three separate occasions that he was not under investigation. Comey has even confirmed, he's confirmed that. So this not under investigation is still not different than not being a target of the investigation?
COATES: Well, it is. I mean, semantics is more than the issue here. If you're a target, it means that there's likely evidence that could link you to a crime. If you're the subject, it means that your conduct is under the scrutiny or in relation to the grand jury's overall investigation.
[22:35:03] The two is distinct, but it's fascinating to me, Don, that Rudy Giuliani would be asking for Donald Trump to get the Hillary Clinton treatment.
Remember, one of the things that the Hillary Clinton treatment included was that if you were to alert the public about an ongoing investigation or that they were a target, then you had the triggering obligation to then tell the court or the Congress or the American people that they are no longer a target or if that changes again back to back.
But the president's lawyer asking for that particular, you know, allowance to say, I would like the Hillary Clinton treatment would actually say that if there was to be a change between that very thin line between a subject and a target, that we should all be alerted every single time, which is not at all what Donald Trump was asking for when he allegedly asked statements about loyalty.
It's not at all what he would want. It's not what a reasonable person would want to do to have that constant clarification, validation or confirmation that they are in the eye of the Mueller investigation.
LEMON: All right. I want all of you to stick around. When we come back, why did Rudy Giuliani reveal that the president repaid Michael Cohen? Was it part of the strategy or was it a slip-up?
[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: More questions tonight about Rudy Giuliani's stunning admission that the president was aware of the payments to the porn star Stormy Daniels. Was that revelation part of the legal strategy?
Back with me now, Jack Quinn, Laura Coates, and Philip Lacovara. OK, so Laura, you know, we repeatedly heard from the White House said that President Trump had no knowledge of the payments to Stormy Daniels. Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There was no knowledge of any payments from the president and he's denied all of these allegations.
RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: The president strongly, clearly and has consistently denied these underlying claims.
SANDERS: The president has denied the allegations. We've spoken about this issue extensively and I don't have anything else to add.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you know about the payments to Stormy Daniels?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payments to Stormy Daniels?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?
TRUMP: No, I don't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So do you think there's a legal strategy behind Giuliani revealing that the president did repay Michael Cohen?
COATES: Only if stupid is the litigation strategy, if not then no, there was no strategy behind it. Because what he did was give more exposure to the president of the United States.
Remember, Don, if it was a loan, it's still an excessive campaign contribution that needed to be reported to the Federal Election Commission that the president would have repaid the loan, that would also be part of the reporting requirements. If this was not part of their reporting requirements why would there ever be campaign finance laws?
All you would have to do if you're a member of the campaign is say give me a loan I'll pay it back after the end of the election. No one has to be any wiser about this and we'll circumvent everything. They still had reporting requirements.
And Rudy Giuliani's comments that this money was funneled, that's the word he use, funneled through a law firm indicates that maybe it was willful and intentional which now sound but more like a criminal violations than simply an FEC issue.
LEMON: He maintains, in that interview he maintains all along that there's not, it's not a campaign violation. But Jack, you say Giuliani doesn't understand the law. Why do you say that?
QUINN: He doesn't understand the law. I mean, I have this image of the president and Rudy sitting around talking about how, you know, well, we didn't use campaign funds. That's not the issue. It never has been the issue.
As Laura points out, the issue was whether there was a contribution either in the form of a loan or a donation. If so, if that contribution was excessive, the limit for someone like Mr. Cohen would be $2,000. This was $130,000 and it applies to a loan as equally as to a cash donation.
LEMON: But even with that, what is the exposure. Let's just say it is just for the sake of saying it.
QUINN: Laura -- Laura put her finger on that, too. Because the use of the term funneling the money really speaks to the fact that they were aware of this.
LEMON: But, no, no, I got that. But what I'm asking is, is it jail time? Is it a fine? What -- is it that big a deal? I mean, what is it?
QUINN: Well, it's a felony. It's a felony. OK? Now, I'm not saying that a felony will be demonstrated here, but Rudy Giuliani described circumstances that could easily lead one to the conclusion that a felony was committed.
LEMON: OK. So Phil, what if it was -- what if it wasn't related to the campaign. Can you say in this case that it's not related to the campaign, that it was something you did for a friend?
LACOVARA: I think it's pretty hard to justify that kind of rationale. And that even wasn't the case that Rudy was trying to make last night. I think his mouth just got disengaged from his brain.
A friend of mine who was the U.S. attorney before Rudy, identifying himself as the U.S. attorney before television. And his point is that Rudy loves being the center of attention on TV. And after he left the mayoralty, he was in the vast waste land where he had very little public identity. Now he's been called back from oblivion and he relished going on the Hannity program and I think he just let his mouth get away from him.
LEMON: All right.
QUINN: And Don--
LEMON: Hold on, hold on. Because, I think this will help everyone make the point. Because he -- Rudy Giuliani told the Washington Post that he paid Cohen with his personal funds because they never considered this a campaign payment. But he also said this. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: Imagine if that came out on October 15th, 2016 in the middle of the, you know, last debate with Hillary Clinton.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right, so to make it go away they made this--
GIULIANI: Cohen didn't even ask. Cohen made it go away. He did his job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUINN: Case closed.
COATES: So to make it go away--
QUINN: And one of the thing, I mean--
COATES: -- because the campaign was going to be impacted. He decided to help the campaign by giving it a $130,000 benefit that's called a contribution. That's called one you make to donate to a campaign.
COATES: That statement, even if he had the discombobulation that you're speaking of last night between last night and this morning, you made the case even stronger by talking about it being a campaign issue.
[22:45:04] QUINN: And--
LEMON: Go ahead, Jack.
QUINN: And remember, you know, the alleged affair took place 10 years before that.
QUINN: So, six weeks before an election, they have this felt need to take care of a 10-year-old affair. It's just not plausible.
LEMON: So have -- Phil, have Rudy Giuliani's comments made things worse for Michael Cohen? Do they matter--
LEMON: How so?
LACOVARA: You know, I think -- I think they do. Because he basically said that what Cohen was doing was arranging for a fix of the political problems that the president was having during the election.
And one of the things that struck me -- and I think it was probably a Freudian slip from Rudy who made his bones as a racket buster in the U.S. attorney's office, even before he was the U.S. attorney. He used the term describing Michael Cohen's job, which was to find a problem and make the problem disappear.
Exactly the kind of language that I'm sure Rudy used on any number of racketeering prosecutions when he was describing the way the mob eliminated problems that were had to be made to disappear. I can't think that there's any good impact from Rudy's comments last night in advancing his client's cause.
LEMON: Great conversation.
COATES: The only thing -- sorry.
LEMON: Yes, go ahead, quick, if you can do it.
COATES: I can. I was going to say, the only thing I can think he was trying to want to throw him a lifeline. I think he was trying to say that the payment was coincidental and that he would have gotten his retainer anyway. And that fail, of course, because he then said that it was made for services not rendered and given profit and tax benefit as well.
So even an attempt to say this was a coincidental and benign transaction was undermined by Rudy's following statement. It's a mess.
LEMON: I would not want you to be my prosecutor. You know way too much, Laura.
COATES: So does Mueller, apparently.
LEMON: Can we get another prosecutor. She's too smart. Batting down every argument. Thank you. I appreciate it.
COATES: Thank you, all.
LEMON: When we come back, from America's mayor to Trump's top defender. How Rudy Giuliani has changed over the years. I'm going to talk to someone who knew him well. Or knows him well, next.
[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Rudy Giuliani's bombshell comments causing even more chaos than an already chaotic Trump White House.
Here to discuss, CNN political commentator Margaret Hoover, a former White House staffer for George W. Bush, and political analyst John Avlon, and editor in chief of the Daily Beast. We'd like to call them 'hovelon.' That's what's your Instagram account, right? JOHN AVLON, POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Yes.
LEMON: So you know Rudy Giuliani. Can I tell you a story before I get to you?
AVLON: Yes, sure.
LEMON: I covered Rudy Giuliani's first day in office.
AVLON: No kidding.
LEMON: I was a film producer for Fox 5 News here in New York City and I watched David Dinkins, (Inaudible) David Dinkins--
LEMON: I watched him become mayor and covered his first day in office.
AVLON: Ninety four.
LEMON: He's not the same guy that I knew back then. So you have done, you've known him for a long time.
AVLON: Yes. Yes, look, I had the honor of working with him at the city hall. I was his chief speechwriter in his second term and went with him through 9/11 and remained incredibly proud of having work for him and the work he did to save New York City. Even before 9/11. I mean, he utterly transformed the city. And I think open the door to a revival of reverberate America that he deserve an enormous amount of credit for.
And I think folks who are fired up about this stage and his defense of Trump and disagree with it, we've grown apart politically. But look we're in a big family feud as a country right now. And good people can disagree. But I think also you've got to see the guy's career and everyone's career in full context. And what at he did as mayor was extraordinary and I was proud to play a small, small part of it.
LEMON: But my essential question is though, is he the same guy because this is -- this is beyond -- when I look at him I just wonder, like, what is he doing? You can be a supporter of the president and still--
LEMON: -- go on television and not, you know, say the wrong things.
HOOVER: I don't think anybody -- maybe it's easier for me to answer this question. Maybe it's not. I work for Rudy Giuliani for a brief time when he ran as president. I will always thank him for running for president because if he hadn't run for president I wouldn't have met my husband.
AVLON: So my best-- HOOVER: But you know, we thank him, that was the lasting legacy in his presidential run. But aside from that Rudy also was going to be a different kind of Republican and lead the Republican Party in a different direction.
Remember, he was a pro-LGBT Republican, he was a pro-choice Republican, he was an urban conservative, somebody who reformed urban areas through conservative means if you think public policies produced by think tank like in Manhattan.
LEMON: So how do yu explain this?
HOOVER: And so -- and so but when he ran for president he became a different kind of candidate than he even was for mayor. And by the way, at some point he had survived cancer, gotten through 9/11. Things happen in people's lives that change them sort of fundamentally as your life goes on. So he was a different person that I worked for than - than he had been when he was a mayor when you covered him.
HOOVER: And probably is now.
LEMON: Yes, when we watch, was it Andrew with--
LEMON: You remember that?
LEMON: That was pretty funny. So, listen, today the former Whitewater federal prosecutor, Solomon Wisenberg spoke to Dana Bash and he called Giuliani in the interview, he said in that interview was a murder suicide. Watch this.
DANA BASH, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Just broadly, what do you make of Giuliani's latest strategy here?
SOLOMON WISENBERG, FORMER WHITEWATER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I liken it to a murder-suicide. He metaphorically murdered the president and committed suicide with respect to his own reputation as a criminal defense attorney.
BASH: That's pretty stark. How so?
WISENBERG: It was an incredibly embarrassing interview.
LEMON: Pretty brutal. What do you think? AVLON: Yes, look, you know, it's a good line. But clearly the
president doesn't feel murdered. If anything he affirmed what Rudy said. And I think when hearing Rudy speak last night you did get a sense of what the conversation apparently is behind closed doors.
Look, I don't necessarily -- last night was not Rudy's best obviously, but he seems to think he's doing what's right and serving this president. And he gave us I supposed the gift at the end of the day of blowing through all the pretense--
AVLON: -- of if Stormy Daniels lies we've been said today. Did he create more legal problems for the president, more problems for Michael Cohen? Is there's a strategy here?
AVLON: That's TBD because there's a lot of riffing.
[22:55:03] LEMON: I want to get this in, Margaret. I want to -- this is - he was really mean, particularly mean to Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: The whole Clinton machine is one lie after another. She did everything she could possibly do to show that she had intent to violate the criminal laws.
She didn't know that c on a government document meant confidential. Well, if he didn't know that she was just too stupid to be secretary of state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Too stupid?
LEMON: Too stupid to be president because he did not know of her husband's affair, he said, with Monica Lewinsky and I just -- that's what--
HOOVER: Look, I mean, look, you're pulling something's like highlight of campaign rhetoric--
AVLON: A low light.
HOOVER: -- which are ugly like the low lights of campaign rhetoric which were uglier than ugly in 2016. I was there before. And it's true that Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton have been political foes for more than a decade. I mean, that, remember they were going to run against each other in 2000.
AVLON: Yes. There's not a lot of love lost between him and Hillary Clinton that motivated a lot of the enemies in the campaign.
HOOVER: In a 2008 campaign as a woman I don't like hearing it.
HOOVER: It's totally inappropriate.
LEMON: See, this is what I don't get about politics when people say that like everything that's on -- that happens on the campaign trail you're supposed to forget about that when people say really nasty ugly things that's part of their personality. If you can stoop that low that means that you will stoop that low. It's exactly what it is.
AVLON: Politics have been bad (Ph) but you're responsible for what you say when the microphone is in front of you.
AVLON: Responsible for what you stand for. And look, there are people who are really disagree with Rudy's strategy with ways he conducts himself around the campaign and his defense to the president today. I would just say try to view, out of the spirit of charity careers in their full context. You don't judge them by their lowest moment or their highest moment. But I think in the full ledger Rudy Giuliani still deserves our thanks for the work he did as mayor of New York even if you deeply disagree with his defense to the president today.
LEMON: Don't you think though he should think about his own legacy?
AVLON: I certainly--
HOOVER: No, but he's more than that.
AVLON: Look, and I don't think he's doing his legacy any favors but I think that will be to not only to his detriment but to our detriment in terms of the historical memory how he turn around here.
LEMON: Thank you both. I appreciate that.
AVLON: All right.
LEMON: When we come back, why Stormy Daniels' lawyer says he was stunned by Rudy Giuliani's bombshell. Michael Avenatti is here. Hhe joins me next.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)