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Giuliani: Trump Repaid Cohen for Stormy Daniels Hush Money; Source: Release of Americans Held in North Korea is Imminent; Giuliani Lays Out Conditions for Trump Interview with Mueller. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired May 3, 2018 - 06:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[05:59:15] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Thursday, May 3, 6 a.m. in New York. And we do begin with breaking news. A stunning revelation from one of the president's lawyers. Rudy Giuliani says President Trump reimbursed Michael Cohen for that $130,000 of hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels. You'll remember, that was to keep her from going public about her alleged affair with Mr. Trump days before the 2016 election.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Now, we don't know what this is going to mean legally, but factually, it contradicts denials from President Trump and the White House, who repeatedly said the president had and has no knowledge of the payment. OK. Giuliani insists the reimbursement does not violate any campaign finance laws. And this comes as Giuliani discusses the conditions for a potential interview between the president and Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

A former Trump campaign aide who did meet with investigators, did it yesterday and says they are laser-focused on collusion with Russia.

Let's begin our coverage. We've got M.J. Lee, who joins us with breaking details. And this is all breaking detail. But this changes the game, at least in terms of a fact search.

M.J. LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Rudy Giuliani making this bombshell disclosure last night, contradicting President Trump in a major way. The stunning revelation now begs even more questions about what the president knew and what he has said about the Stormy Daniels hush payment.


LEE (voice-over): Rudy Giuliani admitting President Trump repaid Michael Cohen for the hush money given to porn star Stormy Daniels just days before the 2016 election.

RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER FOR DONALD TRUMP: I'm giving you a fact now that you don't know. It's not campaign money. No campaign finance violation. So --

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: They funneled it through a law firm. GIULIANI: Funneled it through a law firm, and the president repaid


LEE: Giuliani's remarks directly contradicting President Trump's own words last month.

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


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you known where he got the money to make that payment?

TRUMP: I don't know.

LEE: In March, press secretary Sarah Sanders also said the president was unaware of the payment.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I've had conversations with the president about this. There was no knowledge of any payments from the president. And he's denied all of these allegations.

LEE: Despite this, Giuliani telling "The Washington Post" that Mr. Trump was well aware he was actually going to disclose that the president did, in fact, pay Daniels. Giuliani suggesting the president did not know the specifics of the payment until recently but that Cohen's monthly retainer was intended to take care of these kinds of situations.

GIULIANI: 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.

LEE: Back in February, Cohen released this carefully-worded statement, claiming that neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and "neither reimbursed me for the payment." Notably missing, President Trump's name.

Giuliani also showcasing Mr. Trump's aggressive new posture towards the special counsel.

GIULIANI: You can't possibly -- you can't possibly not feel, as a citizen of the world, that his negotiations with North Korea are much more significant than this totally garbage investigation.

LEE: Revealing that the odds are the president will not sit down with Mueller and that Mueller's team has rejected submitting written answers to their questions.

GIULIANI: Jay and I will insist that they're going to have to treat him the same way as Clinton. Two and a half hours, we end. We walk out. Give us your questions in advance. LEE: The White House announcing that another lawyer is leaving. Ty

Cobb departing just weeks after Dowd. Emmet Flood, who represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment proceedings, is joining the team. A source tells CNN that Cobb has been clashing with the president in recent weeks over his public attacks on the Mueller probe, which he advised against. Giuliani also slamming former FBI Director James Comey and giving this new rationale for why the president fired him.

GIULIANI: 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.

LEE: Last May, President Trump gave this explanation for Comey's firing.

TRUMP: Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey. And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, "You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story."


LEE: Now Giuliani is insisting that if the president directly repaid Cohen, there was not a campaign finance violation. The legal experts will tell you that it's not that simple. Candidates are allowed to contribute an unlimited amount of money to their own campaigns, but it would have to be disclosed to the Federal Elections Commission. And you also just have to wonder, is there a reason that Giuliani decided to make this revelation last night? With everything that is going on, why now?

CAMEROTA: OK. Great question. Thank you, M.J., for all of that great reporting. Stay with us if you would. We're going to bring in CNN legal analysts Carrie Cordero and Laura Coates.

Carrie, let's just start there. It sounds to us that Rudy Giuliani is basically saying, "Well, President Trump paid Michael Cohen a monthly retainer, and he paid a monthly retainer of $35,000 for no work." First of all, how do I get that job? Second on of all, does that mean it's not violating campaign finance law, because if it's a monthly retainer, then it's not close to the election. It's not related to the election, he seems to be saying.

[06:05:02] CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So there's a few things going on. So first of all, if we take Rudy Giuliani's statements as accurate -- so I think we just need to pause and make sure, you know, are they correct statements?

If we take them as true, then the question becomes, first of all, was this a loan that Michael Cohen made to the campaign? So it changes its status from being a campaign -- potential campaign contribution to being a loan, which was then paid off. If it was a loan, then it would need to be reported normally under campaign finance laws.

But I think perhaps why Rudy Giuliani went ahead and made the statement, because it seemed like it was something he wanted to convey in the interview is because perhaps the president's team is going to push the argument that this had nothing to do with campaign finance at all. This had nothing to do with a campaign donation.

In other words, whether it was a loan, whether it was a payment, it wasn't made to influence the election. That we can also know that it was done a week before the election, but it wasn't done to effect the election. It was done for personal reasons, familiar reasons, you know, for embarrassment reasons. And so if that's the case, if it looks that there was not an intent to affect the election, then -- then it's not a matter of campaign finance law any more.

CUOMO: Well, there are some other things that we know, right, that we have to build into the mix here. One, to the point that he was intentionally trying to do this or even last night, he wasn't even on the same page with Hannity.

You had to believe that Hannity, with his closeness to the White House, would know this was coming. You know, Hannity was talking about a different deal half the time with this. "Oh, so they filtered it through a law firm?" He was talking about a totally different situation. So they weren't even on the same page.

CAMEROTA: Right. Which is why it sounded to me as if it was -- like he did go in with the intention, Rudy Giuliani did, of breaking that news there. It seemed to me --

CUOMO: If Rudy Giuliani went in with that intention, he would have communicated it to Hannity. They would have been on the same page. He's not going to take something like this with someone who's not a journalist and have it be botched in the delivery.

CAMEROTA: Do you think he just slipped? That was just a slip?

CUOMO: No, I think that there may have been an opportunity for him to discuss it. And I have to tell you, it doesn't even sit -- to a lawyer -- this is one of the things we were talking about this morning. You guys, we think about this differently than reporters are going to think about it.

Because to me I'm all thinking about, well, you know, we know that Mueller said supposedly -- we don't know anything. But we heard that he told the lawyers, this is about Cohen, what's going on in the Southern District. It's not about the president, Laura. So if we assume that Mueller and the Southern District knows everything Rudy said last night, why would they say they weren't interested in the president. They're only interested in Cohen.

And you know, just the reporting point, if Rudy wanted to say it. But obviously, he said it, so he wanted to say it. But it clearly wasn't something that was well thought out, because Hannity wasn't even on the same page. Hannity thought he was talking about a totally different deal for half of it. They had to come back from a commercial, Laura, and say, "Let's just get it straight what you were talking about, because I had it wrong."

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: They were not only not on the same page, they weren't even reading the same book. Hannity was saying, "I have to give you a friendly atmosphere. To throw a softball at you." Giuliani did not think it through, because if he had thought it

through, he would have recognized that he now put his client, Donald Trump, into greater legal jeopardy, exposing him far more than Cohen. At least until before last night, Donald Trump at least could say he did not know or have the ignorance defense. Now we're seeing that it's moved from, at the bare minimum, a loan that exceeded the contribution limits, one that should have been reported, one that was not. And now is saying that the president, because he paid it back, somehow it exonerates him.

But you know, that would almost make campaign finance laws completely irrelevant and unnecessary. All you had to do was give a loan to somebody and then not have to be repaid until after the campaign is over, after the election is over?

What I think here Rudy Giuliani was alluding to, and I'm giving -- I'm trying to do a stretch here. Because it went from Rudy to the rescue two weeks ago to Rudy to the ruin at this point in time. And what I'm thinking he may have thought was remember, there was a Republican candidate named Jeffrey Bell out of New Jersey many years ago who ran for Senate a couple times.

He was investigated under the Federal Election Commission, because he had gotten a $50,000 payment from his mother before the actual campaign went down and so -- the election went down. And so I think his thought was because that was successful to say that because there were ongoing payments and ongoing gifts made from one person to the other person, that it wasn't made for the purpose of the election.

Here he tried to say Michael Cohen had this retainer. It was ongoing. It was part of his normal activity. Therefore, it wasn't about the campaign. But he walked into the willful and intentional act by saying the word "funneling." You never want to hear, Chris, anyone say from your lawyer, "Oh, he was funneling it through a law firm." Because that sounds like money laundering.

CUOMO: Laura, you're 100 percent. Except Hannity was talking about the dossier funding. He was talking about Christopher Steele and that guy Coie, C-O-I-E.

And when Rudy talked about the money, Hannity still thought he was talking about that and said, "So they funneled it through a law firm?" And Rudy said yes.

CAMEROTA: Yes, they funneled it.

CUOMO: But they were talking about something else. But the word did wind up getting put in there.

COATES: But Rudy is getting -- Rudy is getting paid not to make that mistake.

CUOMO: That's true.

COATES: Rudy is not getting paid to have the kind of slip of the tongue or to have his client go to greater exposure. I think really, what happened here is he got comfortable. Look at his

posture. He was leaning back. He was on the couch. He was getting comfortable, not realizing that he had to be on his toes. Even if the president cosigned that statement, it wasn't for the client to set the litigation strategy. It was for him to be prudent.

CAMEROTA: M.J., is -- go ahead.

LEE: I was going to say, I agree with both of you, Chris and Alisyn, in that I don't think that Sean Hannity was necessarily expecting big news on Stormy Daniels. As you pointed out, he wasn't actually talking about Stormy Daniels when Rudy Giuliani interjected and suddenly brought up this news and made news on this topic.

But Alisyn, what you were saying, I completely believe that this was not an accident that Giuliani decided to talk about this issue. I think at the very least, the indication we have gotten is that at least the lawyers, at least Rudy Giuliani, has gone through documents and has talked through or has at least thought through what kinds of documentation there might be about this Stormy Daniels payment.

Remember, and I just think that it bears repeating. This is a big deal that the hotel, the office, the home of Michael Cohen has been raided. There are thousands of pages, thousands of documentation --


LEE: -- that show a lot of different things. We know for sure that Stormy Daniels is one of the things that federal investigators now have documentation about. So if lawyers working for Donald Trump have determined there is -- there are papers out there that show a paper trail of this payment, then at some point we are going to have to explain it.

CAMEROTA: But Rudy Giuliani did explain it. He said that when he discovered that Donald Trump was paying Michael Cohen $35,000 a month as a retainer, basically, Rudy Giuliani had an aha moment, like, "Oh, that's the repayment right there." He's the one who's figured out this sort of legal excuse for why you would pay somebody that for no -- little to no work. And that's where he seized on, "Oh, I see, it was for things like this."

But Carrie, my question to you is, do you agree with Laura that this does expose the president to more legal jeopardy, or in Rudy's mind, does it expose him to less legal jeopardy?

COATES: Well, again, it depends on whether or not it was a loan, and it depends, really, at this point if it was the president, then, who was repaying Michael Cohen. Then it depends on what the purpose is.

And so this is another issue similar to the obstruction investigation that we see in the special counsel side as to what was the president's intent? Did the president know in advance about this payment? Or was this something that Michael Cohen just handled for him because maybe he handled other similar things like this? Was the purpose to affect the campaign and the election itself? So

the change that Rudy has made by making this statement pertains to what the purpose was of the payment or the loan, whichever you want to call it.

But Rudy also said a really other significant thing unrelated to the payment issue, which was he also contradicted the president's reason for firing the FBI director. And that piece also could have legal significance in the obstruction case.

CUOMO: And remember, Rudy was there last night to spread red meat around for the base. And that's why he was on FOX. That's why he was on "Hannity." Last night, Rudy Giuliani, who has told me for most of my life that working for the Southern District, working for the Department of Justice, was the proudest moment of his life. They're the best men and women that he's ever been around in terms of integrity. He called them storm troopers last night. And he wasn't talking about "Star Wars."

CAMEROTA: Because they raided Michael Cohen's office?

CUOMO: I don't care what they did.

CAMEROTA: No, I was asking --

CUOMO: He was saying this -- storm troopers coming into Cohen's house. To call those people storm troopers. That is about as ugly a thing as I've ever heard Rudy say about people I know he cares about. So what does that tell us? He's son the team, all right. He's on the team, and he's trying to make everybody look bad who stands in the president's way.

CAMEROTA: All right. So coming up on NEW DAY, we will speak with Stormy Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti. What does he think about this new development? That's in our 8 a.m. hour.

CUOMO: All right. There's actually other breaking news from North Korea. An official with direct knowledge of negotiations tells CNN the release of three Americans currently detained in the country is, quote, "imminent." President Trump hinting there is a development in the case, tweeting last night, "Stay tuned".

CNN's Alexandra Field live in Seoul with the breaking details. What do we know?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Chris. Good morning.

You saw that tweet from the president. He says say tuned. He says the effort to release these three men has been under way since the Obama administration. To fact check that for a moment, one of these men was detained while President Obama was in office. The other two only detained after President Trump took office.

No matter. Their families want them home, and they see this as a politically opportune moment to get this done. [06:15:06] That is, of course, because you've got this upcoming summit

between Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump. It is widely regarded as a show of good faith, of goodwill, if North Korea does, in fact, decide to send the men home.

While the president is indicating that there is a development that is forthcoming, we do have this source that is telling CNN more than that saying that it is, in fact, imminent that these men will be released.

He says that the groundwork was laid some two months ago when the North Korean foreign minister traveled to Sweden and proposed the idea. He was told at the time that U.S. officials would insist that the release of these men would in no way be tied to the larger goal, which is denuclearization. Of course, denuclearization will be the topic of summit between the U.S. and North Korean leaders. But certainly, this is something. This is a gesture that North Korea could put out there in advance of that summit.

We've heard from the son of one of the detainees, the son of Tony Kim. He says he's been given no indication, at this point, of any release, but he and the other family members certainly remain hopeful -- Chris, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Alexandra, thank you. Please keep us posted. This could happen, really, on our watch or at any time. So please let us know. Thank you very much for the reporting.

OK. So Rudy Giuliani is laying out the conditions for a potential interview with President Trump and Robert Mueller's investigators or Robert Mueller. So what are those conditions? We discuss all that next.


[06:20:07] CUOMO: All right. President Trump's new lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, laying out some of the conditions for a potential interview between the president and the special counsel. Take a listen.


GIULIANI: Never more than two or three hours. Never happen.

I think Jay and I will insist that they're going to have to treat him the same way as Clinton. Two and a half hours. We end. We walk out. Give us your questions in advance. He's ready to --


CUOMO: That would all make sense if they were driving the car. That's not how this weeks.

Let's bring back Laura Coates and CNN political analyst David Gregory.

Laura, am I wrong? You don't go marching into Mueller's office and say, "This is how this is going to go, Bobby. You're going to give me two and a half hours. You're going to treat him like Clinton. Let me see all your questions. And get me a cup of coffee." It doesn't work like that.

COATES: Wow, wouldn't that be surprising if it did? And I'm sure it's news to Mueller that he actually is the one driving this bus. Because it's not for Rudy Giuliani or anybody who may be a witness in an investigation to dictate the terms.

And by referencing what happened with Bill Clinton, yes, he did testify for four hours. That was part of the negotiation with Ken Starr. A very different case. Did not encompass all the different topics that are going to be covered and at least the 49 that we've seen so far. The idea that this would be a two- to three-hour discussion, that he could dictate the terms, is laughable.

But it does -- it's actually very much in line with the thoughts that Rudy Giuliani has always had about his professional relationship with Robert Mueller being able to expedite everything. It's not going to work that way. The breadth and the gravity of the conversation will be far more than that. I cannot imagine he'd be in the position to dictate anything when the grand jury subpoena power is in the front pocket of Bob Mueller.

CAMEROTA: All right. Rudy -- David, as you know, Rudy Giuliani said a lot of things that got a lot of attention last night. So here's one about how the president is sort of too busy to be able to sit down for this interview or prep much for it. Listen to this.


GIULIANI: If Mueller said to me tomorrow, bring him in, two hours like you want, no questions that you don't want, and we're pretty much ready to clear him. I could not go to the president of the United States and say, "Take two days off to get ready for that and screw the whole thing with North Korea." I -- how can any American do that?


CAMEROTA: OK. So just for a little context, the president has spent, I think, at last count, 109 days at a golf course since becoming president. So the idea that he's too busy to give up a day or two of his precious time, you know, people have to decide for themselves how that math works.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, look, this is all posturing by Rudy Giuliani, who's clearly playing the role of tough guy here, who wants to get on television, as Chris said before, fire up the base, fire up all of the Trump supporters and to build the political case.

And let's not forget, I mean, this is a legal proceeding, because of the investigation, but this is a political process. Ultimately, if there's impeachment, all of this will play out in the press. It will play out on Capitol Hill. It will play out in a political context. That's what Rudy Giuliani is trying to influence.

And -- and Chris, you made mention to -- it's like Rudy Giuliani thinks that we were born yesterday and we don't remember when he was U.S. attorney in the Southern District, and how he used to, you know, go after people in his investigations and what he used to say and the tactics he were to use. And he talks about storm troopers and he talks about B.S. investigations. I mean, this is just all gamesmanship.

And so the idea, yes, the president has the ability to prepare for this. And he's going to want to prepare and prepare hard. Because if they agreed to do this and if they risk a subpoena if they don't, the president is going to be in a bad way. And you know what? There's a lot of fear around him, because I can't think of a worse potential witness than this president. If I were any lawyer out there or investigator worth their salt, they would love an opportunity to question him, especially given all the interviews they've done.

So I think there's a lot of high-wire act being done here, because this is a pretty high-stakes moment that's coming.

CUOMO: And look --


CUOMO: Go ahead.

COATES: If I could just say, by the way, the Supreme Court in U.S. v. Nixon and Clinton v. Jones already contemplated the busy schedule --

CUOMO: Right.

COATES: -- of the president of the United States. They've already discussed that. First of all, no one is above the law. They don't just mean committing crime. They also mean that you have to prioritize things that are under the actual agency and under the actual branch of government that you are heading out. So you have time to do that.

Also, there's a thing called a cabinet. I know the president's cabinet is -- can be depleted in many ways. However, they have already decided that a president can make time, through the delegation authority it has, to his cabinet members. It can squeeze in some time and do this. So the court has already contemplated this.

Now, I know that was civil in the Clinton v. Jones case. And I understand that Nixon involved the actual document protection. But the underlying rationale is still the same. The president of the United States can make time for justice.

[06:25:07] CUOMO: Right. But look, we also all acknowledge this man, Donald Trump, has singular responsibilities. Does he deserve some due deference? Yes. That doesn't mean that he's above the law. But that's why they have meetings, and they try to be accommodative.

And David, to your point, I've known Rudy Giuliani a very long time. I have tremendous respect for him. It hurt to hear him use the term "storm trooper." I said earlier he wasn't talking about "Star Wars." In truth, you know, God willing, he was talking about "Star Wars," because if he was talking about the Sturmund (ph), you know, the tactical soldiers from the Nazis, I just can't believe he would paint people working for the government that way. So we'll let him answer for that on his own time. But that was ugly.

Now, something of substance last night that they're going to have to unpack. Why did the president get rid of Jim Comey? Was it the Rosenstein memo? Was it something independent of his feelings about Russia or not? Here's what Rudy said.


GIULIANI: 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 he couldn't get that. So he fired him, and he said, "I'm free of this guy."


CUOMO: Hillary Clinton didn't get anything like that. That's a distraction. So we move past it.

Laura, what does this mean, this difference apparent between what Rudy is saying and what we were told to believe?

COATES: If I were to give the benefit of the doubt here, and I'll do it for the sake of argument, Giuliani meant that he had the power, James Comey, to say the president of the United States was not an active target of an investigation. And that's all that he meant, as opposed to trying to coerce him into saying that I'm not a target of the investigation, and perhaps that would be more fair.

Remember, it's very odd here to think that you would want the same treatment as Hillary Clinton. Because Hillary Clinton was first told -- they were told that the investigation had ended. And then, when it reopened, it triggered a responsibility for Comey because he had previously made the statement about whether she was a target or included, to then retrigger a moment to say she now again is so.

And so Giuliani has to be careful what he wishes for. And if that was the basis for why Trump decided to fire Comey, it would have been odd in and of itself. Either way, the president does have the prerogative to fire those who serve at his pleasure. But he can't do so for corrupt intent. And what his statement was yesterday did not undermine, as they needed to, what the president said to Lester Holt about the decision.

CAMEROTA: But David, this also is confusing, because President Trump said that Comey told him three separate times, "You're not the target of the investigation." We've heard that from President Trump, that Comey assured him of that. So how can Rudy say he fired him because Comey wouldn't tell him that he wasn't a target?

GREGORY: Well, presumably, he wanted him to say it publicly. And that's not what he didn't get.

I mean, you know, this is so ridiculous. Because what the president has said himself about why he fired Comey and what we have in meetings that Comey has described. I mean, I think one of the most outrageous parts of the Comey book is these interactions with the president. He's facing someone who's the FBI director who has a 10-year term and has that time frame so that he is independent of political gyrations in our system.

And here is the president saying, "Well," essentially, "do you want to keep your job." You know, he has his job, unless he's going to be fired. And so the president wanted this loyalty from Comey. He made specific requests that were completely inappropriate, and then fires him. So Giuliani is not going to be able to walk that back.

CAMEROTA: All right. David Gregory, Laura Coates, thank you very much for all of the insight.

COATES: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: OK. Now to this news. Nine military members killed in a military cargo plane crash in Georgia. Investigators, of course, want to know what caused this. We have some new details for you next.