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Rudy Giuliani Claims President Trump Reimbursed Michael Cohen for Payment to Stormy Daniels to Sign Nondisclosure Agreement. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired May 3, 2018 - 8:00   ET


[08:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: It's a big morning here. There's a lot of news to get to. Good morning everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Thursday, May 3rd, 8:00 in the east.

So here's our breaking news. President Trump is fighting back and he's changing his story after a bombshell revelation from one of his lawyers, that being Rudy Giuliani, who said late last night that President Trump did reimburse Michael Cohen for that $130,000 in hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels. President Trump tweeting this morning, saying that Cohen, quote, "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 nondisclosure 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." Stormy Daniels. "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. Prior 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." As we have pointed out, that's an awfully lawyerly way to speak.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely, other than one word being misused in a way that would echo of how Trump often tweets, role r-o- l-e very r-o-l-l. That's not a spelling error. It's word choice. Other than that, this is prove the president is lawyered up. This is proof that people like Rudy Giuliani, his mind isn't on impressing you politically the way it was during the campaign. It's about limiting legal exposure. You may not believe what you're hearing and you may not believe it with good reason, however, credibility, that's about politics. They're worried about legal exposure. Just moments ago on FOX News, Rudy Giuliani again said that the president isn't changing his story.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: Didn't know the details of this until we knew the details of it, which was a couple weeks ago. Maybe not even a couple, maybe 10 days ago. Remember when this came up -- October, 2016. I was with him day in and day out then. I can't remember the details of what happened.


GIULIANI I know $135,000, I don't want to demean anyone, but $135,000 seems like a lot of money. It's not when you're putting $100 million into your campaign. It isn't pocket change but it's pretty close to it.


CUOMO: Again, Rudy Giuliani making a case that maybe pervasive with prosecutors who would have to meet a burden of proof to show that they know certain things. But in the court of public opinion what seems obvious is this story is changing, and when it changes it lowers the level of credibility.

And Rudy Giuliani also had a nice pearl for people who were watching, which is North Korea will release three imprisoned Americans today ahead of president Trump's summit with Dictator Kim Jong-un.

Let's bring in CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and CNN legal and political commentator Ken Cuccinelli. Ken Cuccinelli, that's a nice little gold coin to be able to drop when you're having to justify a legal position in saying, by the way, we're going to get the Americans back from North Korea, which, by the way, is great news if it happens. But it doesn't distract from what's going on here. I learned from men like you, Ken Cuccinelli, when a story changes, it hurts the veracity of that story. Is what we're seeing here preparing to go against prosecutors who are trying to meet a burden of proof but obviously covering for the fact that this story has changed?

KEN CUCCINELLI, CNN LEGAL AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think as they get closer to the time where he has to engage on this in the legal arena as opposed to politics that they recognize the need for accuracy and specificity and that this wasn't going to hold up.

So I do think -- by the way, Chris, you mentioned prosecutors, but they'll be an open question as to whether this is an election law violation which is civil, so the burden of proof in that consideration is going to be substantially lower than in any criminal --

CUOMO: Unless they see it as willful or constructive fraud. If it's willful or constructive fraud then it could be a felony.

CUCCINELLI: Well, right. I'm not suggesting that they're exclusive of one another.


CUCCINELLI: But the FEC civil side has a relatively low standard of proof to establish violation of federal election laws. So it wouldn't surprise me at all if that complaint filed more or less as we speak when the FEC opens later today, and that they consider the question about whether the president used his own money in a way that would have been reportable under election laws.

[08:05:02] CAMEROTA: Jeffrey, you were smiling.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's very easy to get bogged down in what the federal election laws are. We spent weeks if not months hearing from Donald Trump, Michael Cohen, Sarah Sanders that the president knew nothing about the payment to Stormy Daniels and didn't reimburse Michael Cohen for the payment to Stormy Daniels. That turns out to be a complete lie, that he did reimburse Michael Cohen for the $130,000. I think that's kind of amazing.

CAMEROTA: But what if it was reimbursed, Jeffrey, sorry to interrupt, through a retainer, a month retainer that he was paying his personal lawyer $35,000 a month and so he didn't know what that was going to. That's what Rudy Giuliani is saying.

TOOBIN: That's what he's saying but it's ridiculous. It is absolutely --

CUCCINELLI: It gets harder to maintain.

TOOBIN: It gets harder to maintain is an elegant way of attorney general Cuccinelli to say that. But it's just ridiculous. Come on. You either know it or you don't. And I'm sorry. I don't care how much money you're putting into your campaign, as Rudy said during that interview, $130,000 to a porn star, it kind of gets your attention, it's kind of memorable. And I think it's different from paying for posters. People know whether they're paying hush money to a porn star.

CUOMO: Right, but remember the basis of analysis, though. Jeffrey anybody who knows Trump knows that he's as tight as two coats of paint. He knows where his money goes. The idea he wouldn't know this, even Judge Napolitano said it on FOX, which is a little bit of an indication of why they're starting to use somebody else to be a hammer against everybody who seeks the truth instead of Napolitano. But Ken, it's a different standard. When we hear it, it doesn't smell right. It smells like B.S., it smells like a fabrication, but it's a different standard because to the prosecutor, even someone when you were A.G., they'd said, well, prove I knew. Prove that I meant this as a campaign contribution. Prove it, because I don't have to impress you about whether I'm telling the truth. You have to make the case. The burden is on you, not me. That's the play here, isn't it?

CUCCINELLI: I agree with you that is the play here, and to flesh it out a little bit, the argument is going to be, look, this is embarrassing enough. I didn't want it out at all, campaign or no campaign. Yes, might it have hurt then, but that's when she was looking to take it out, maybe the case. So it'll be interesting some of the questions will return back not in a harsh way but in a curious way to Ms. Clifford there, and we'll be asking what did they think you were about to do, because I think that will effect the plausibility of the president knowing or not knowing the details of this at the time. It was a busy month.

CAMEROTA: So Jeffrey, Rudy Giuliani is talking. He was talking last night. He's talking again this morning. So here he is explaing why Michael Cohen would pay $130,000 out of his own pocket for a nonexistent affair.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: This was for personal reasons. This was the president had been hurt personally, not politically, personally so much, and the first lady by some of the false accusations, that one more false accusation six years old, I think he was trying to help the family. For that the man is being treated like some kind of villain, and I think he was just being a good lawyer, a good man.


CAMEROTA: Jeffrey, your thoughts?

TOOBIN: You know, it is not -- like everything in that sentence you should have a "not" in front of it is so completely false. First of all, it's unethical for a lawyer to pay a damage judgment or pay a settlement or pay anything on behalf of a client without telling the client. So the idea that he was being a good lawyer by not telling his client that he was doing this is the inverse of what's true.

In addition, it's not believable. It's not believable that Michael Cohen would make this payment to Stormy Daniels, not tell Donald Trump, be reimbursed by him, and still not tell him. How stupid do they think we are?

CUOMO: It's really how much do they think the prosecutors can show. And on Stormy Daniels that's one bucket. Another bucket is what's going on with James Comey. Ken, I want your take on this, because the initial story was Rosenstein gave us this memo, Comey screwed up the Clinton investigation, he had to go, and, by the way, I'm the boss. I'll get rid of him for whatever reason I want, unless if it's for bad reasons/corrupt intent.

Now we've heard the president say to Lester Holt, I was going to get rid of Comey anyway. This Russia thing is a joke. Now we just heard Rudy Giuliani say the president went to Comey, said tell the people that I'm not a target, Comey refused. He's gone. Silence cannot be a response, Ken.

[08:10:09] CUCCINELLI: We do get more pieces as it goes on. I think really the more comprehensive one is the Lester Holt interview, and so the Rudy Giuliani addition is pretty small in this regard. I think the real question is for Mueller is on the obstruction front.

I also, by the way, think the fact that this is a subject of consideration should already have Rosenstein recusing himself from being the person to whom Mueller reports at the Department of Justice. I've been a bit mystified why he has stayed in the role he has stayed in this matter. So I don't know that there's any more harm to the president than happened after the Lester Holt interview, but the more this goes on, oddly enough, the more it looks like Rosenstein is going to be a witness or is a witness and needs to be out of the loop, and that hasn't happened.

CAMEROTA: How about that, Jeffrey, should Rosenstein recuse himself?

TOOBIN: Why are we talking about whether Rod Rosenstein should have recused himself? The question is, did Donald Trump admit and did his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, admit that he was obstructing justice by firing James Comey? If he's firing James Comey because James Comey won't exonerate him in an ongoing investigation, that sounds to me like evidence of obstruction of justice. That's very important, whether the president of the United States in the Oval Office was obstructing justice. Whether Rod Rosenstein recuses himself or not is a side issue. What's relevant here is Rudy Giuliani is incriminating his client on national television for obstruction of justice.

CUCCINELLI: I would say the way the president's legal team has operated through this whole thing has, just as a lawyer, been very curious to me. This is obviously part of a public strategy. And we mentioned Michael Cohen, Michael Cohen I think has been held out as a pretty lousy lawyer in public, although I think the latest revelation suggests, well, he wasn't just flying out there on his own anymore. And I frankly, it would be a hard thing to be the president's lawyer because ultimately he's going to have to answer questions, and you know how undisciplined he is. And today just becomes one more installment of questions. And it's another dozen. And that's very difficult for the president to handle. It will be very difficult for the president to handle --

CUOMO: Maybe that's why they keep leaving. You keep seeing a shedding of talent around him because it gets hard to justify things that you know aren't true and you know are at best counterproductive.

And that takes us to another important point. Rudy Giuliani has every right in representing his client to make the best case for him for legal exposure and even to spin it for credibility reasons. However, he made another choice, Jeffrey. He talked about the people who searched Cohen's home, people that Michael Cohen said were professional, respectful, did their job the right way, people that Rudy Giuliani has celebrated for decades, called them storm troopers. I don't think he was talking about "Star Wars." I think he was talking about the way we understand that term from the Nazi era. That is really ugly and that's not a legal strategy. That's playing into the hate parade that Trump is doing, trying to destroy the institutions of democracy.

TOOBIN: And remember, who those storm troopers were. Those were FBI agents acting pursuant to a search warrant that had been signed by a federal judge. So these -- there's a word for what these FBI agents were doing. It's called doing their jobs. They were doing their jobs as authorized by a federal judge. Doing their jobs by the book. And the idea that Rudy Giuliani, who has been living off his 9/11 celebrity for all this time, is now calling FBI agents storm troopers is really loathsome.

CAMEROTA: Ken, what do you think?

CUCCINELLI: Yes. I get the spin. I really do not like to see anybody on any side of an argument wander into language of the Nazi Germany era. It does nothing constructive to help the discussion, nothing constructive to help the discussion. And as his lawyer, as the president's lawyer, Giuliani and all the others, Dowd before him and so on, they do not have the option of just coming out on TV and making up a story. They are -- they have ethical obligations to have a basis for what they're saying. So, you know, this may be how they're presenting it now, but the contrast involving two lawyers Cohen on one side and Rudy Giuliani on the other does not help the legal team their own credibility separate from the president. And they do have their own credibility separate from the president.

And as this process goes on as they're making arguments in front of judges and so forth, that comes very important to maintain because it is a factor whether any judge ever admits it or not, we talk about the burden of proof all the time. I talk about the burden of persuasion. It's still a human being that has to make a decision and these sorts of statements and the extreme element of them add up and they detract from the credibility of the legal team.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: That's an interesting perspective. Thank you very much.


CAMEROTA: There you go. On that note of agreement, Ken Cuccinelli, Jeffrey Toobin, thank you.

Rudy Giuliani contradicting the president in more ways than one in the past 12 hours. We have much more for you, next.


CAMEROTA: OK. President Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, revealing that the president reimbursed Michael Cohen for the $130,000 worth of hush money made to Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election. Giuliani's comments directly contradict months of denials from the president, the White House and Cohen himself.

[08:20:05] Joining us now is Michael Avenatti. He is Stormy Daniels' attorney.

Michael, good to see you.


CAMEROTA: What did you think last night when you heard Rudy Giuliani say that, yes, Michael Cohen had been reimbursed that had $130,000 from President Trump?

AVENATTI: I was stunned. I was speechless. I'm still stunned this morning.

There has been lie after lie told to the American people relating to this transaction, the agreement, the payment. You have the president of the United States standing on Air Force One and stating that he knew nothing about the agreement, nothing about the payment. We now know that that was an absolute lie on videotape aboard Air Force One and I think it's an absolute disgrace. CAMEROTA: Of course, lying to the American public is not a criminal

act. You can do that, so where's the criminal violation?

AVENATTI: Well, I think it's very likely that there is criminal liability associated with how this repayment was structured relating to what was disclosed from a campaign finance perspective. You know, Rudy Giuliani says, well, no campaign funds were used, so therefore there is no campaign finance violation. That's not how the law works. It just isn't.

CAMEROTA: Explain that. So, what he's been saying is $35,000 a month was paid from President Trump to Michael Cohen his personal attorney on retainer. So, as you well know, lawyers sometimes are kept on retainer. So, how is that a violation of campaign finance laws if that was the money that was then used to pay Stormy Daniels?

AVENATTI: If they structured this repayment, this $130,000 repayment, if they structured it in a way to avoid detection or in an effort to make it appear to be something that it was not, namely, a retainer payment as opposed to $130,000 reimbursement that may involve money laundering depending on how it was handled. There also may be tax issues related to the deductibility of those expenses. If they were deducted as legal expenses for tax purposes when in reality it had nothing to do with legal services rendered but instead was the reimbursement of the $130,000, that too is going to be a problem.

And I think what you're seeing here is that Rudy Giuliani was sent out there to try to hang a lantern on this in an effort to get out in front of it because they know that we were about to get to the bottom of it and/or the information was ultimately going to be disclosed because it was obtained by way of the FBI raids.

CAMEROTA: Rudy Giuliani didn't say money laundering but he did use a curious word when he described this money, he said it was funneled. It was funneled through Michael Cohen's law firm or through the retainer. Did your ears perk up like mine did when you hear the word "funneled"?

AVENATTI: Absolutely. When I saw Michael Cohen's denial, written denial, many months ago where he talked about facilitating the payment and he also stated that it had never been reimbursed by the campaign or the Trump Organization. That was lawyer speak then in that he was hiding the fact that, in fact, it was reimbursed by some other organization or Mr. Trump himself.

CAMEROTA: Here's the tweet that the president sent out this morning about all of this. It says Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign from which he entered in to through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties known as a nondisclosure 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, Stormy Daniels. The agreement was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair despite already having a signed a detailed letter admitting there was no affair prior to this violation, Ms. Clifford and her attorney, you, oh, this is a passive turn I think. There was a private agreement, money from the campaign or campaign contributions played no role in this transaction.

AVENATTI: Well, first of all, the president did not write either one of those tweets.

CAMEROTA: How can you tell?

AVENATTI: Well, I think it's obvious. Secondly, whoever the attorney is that wrote those two tweets is an absolute moron because now what he or she has done is create additional significant liability for the president, and then third, they don't even know how to tweet. I mean, that's almost unintelligible or unintelligible.

CAMEROTA: Or unintelligible, to prove your point.

You said last night that this revelation, what Rudy Giuliani said last night, means that President Trump will not serve out his term. He will ultimately be forced to resign. How do you get to that conclusion?

AVENATTI: Well, I've been saying that for a couple weeks and we're getting closer and closer by the day with each passing day, and additional revelations of fact that are coming to light. This is a very serious issue. Very serious issue. I mean, there's going to be significant liability that's going to flow from this.

And we still haven't gotten to the bottom of it. They're making it up as they go along. They're digging a hole deeper and deeper. He's not going to be able to withstand it. And we're going to tell over the next months and perhaps years as to whether I'm correct or not, but thus far, I think my record's pretty decent.

[08:25:03] CAMEROTA: But listen, you know the president's a fighter. How's he going to resign over this? I mean, this is all just part of the fight. He says it was a monthly retainer, he didn't know anything about it, he didn't have an affair with Stormy Daniels. How is that all going to all make him resign? Just connect those dots.

AVENATTI: I think there's significance evidence that's going to come to light and I don't think he's going to be able to withstand it. There's no question that Michael Cohen is going to have no choice but to rollover and flip on the president.

You know, all I can think about last night was, how do you think Michael Cohen is feeling sitting at home? I guarantee you that he didn't know that Rudy Giuliani was going to go on national television and effectively throw him off the cliff, which is exactly what he did.

I mean, Michael Cohen cannot be feeling very good about his loyalty and friendship with the president this morning.

CAMEROTA: But he had said that he was not reimbursed by the Trump Organization or the campaign. AVENATTI: Correct. This was all a ruse. This entire thing has been

a ruse. He said that he facilitated the payment --

CAMEROTA: And that to you means that there's three people, when you use the word facilitate, why are you zeroing in on that?

AVENATTI: And I'm zeroing in on it for months now, is because why not just say I paid it? Facilitates seems to suggest that there's some other party that's reimbursing you and now, in fact, we find out that that's true.

CAMEROTA: What does Stormy Daniels think what she heard what Rudy Giuliani said last night? Have you spoken to her yet?

AVENATTI: Well, with each passing day, she feels more and more vindicated. Every time a piece of information comes out that is consistent with the claims in our case and is consistent with what we've been saying now for months, she feels more and more vindicated, she feels empowered and she's not going to stop this fight and neither am I until we get to the bottom of this and all the information comes to light.

CAMEROTA: Any developments, quickly, on what was happening with the sketch of the man who she says threatened her in the parking garage?

AVENATTI: It's been a pretty active 12 to 18 hours as it relates to this revelation so we don't have any update on that this morning.

CAMEROTA: All right. Michael Avenatti, thank you very much for coming.

AVENATTI: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: With all of these developments.

AVENATTI: Thank you.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We have to hear from the White House. How are they going to respond to repeated denials about the story, the Daniels' hush money, was one way they didn't know about it and now it looks like a big old lie? What are they going to say? First, they're going to blame us but then what will happen? Next.