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President Trump Undermines Rudy Giuliani, Saying He Will Get His Facts Straight; Interview with Representative Charlie Dent; Michael Cohen Took Lines of Credit for President Trump's Campaign; School Safety Discussed. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired May 4, 2018 - 20:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. We begin tonight "Keeping Them Honest" with President Trump's claim that someone else doesn't have his facts straight and that people should really think before they speak.

Pot meet kettle. It's all part of the damage control from the damage control over the president's payments to repay the payment for Stormy Daniels' silence. And as confusing as that might sound it is actually -- it's a model of clarity compared to where all today's damage control leaves our understanding of actually what happened.

So it all became necessary as you know when Rudy Giuliani, who, remember, was brought in to help clean up the president's legal mess, made a bigger and more rambling mess out of the Stormy Daniels story. Until now at least Michael Cohen's story was clear. It wasn't plausible, it wasn't believable but it was at least relatively coherent.

To recap, Michael Cohen and his surrogates on TV had been claiming for months that Michael Cohen, the president's attorney, facilitated as Cohen put it $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels who says she had an affair with the president 12 years ago.

Now the money came out of Cohen's pocket allegedly taken from a home equity line of credit we were told. The president had not repaid it. In fact, Mr. Trump knew nothing about it they claimed and despite coming as it did in the closing days of the campaign the payment supposedly had absolutely nothing to do with the election. Nothing to do with squelching an embarrassing story just 11 days before the election.

Then on Wednesday night Rudy Giuliani went on FOX and said this to Sean Hannity about the Daniels payoff.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: It's not campaign money. No campaign finance violation. So --

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

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

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



COOPER: The president repaid Cohen, he said, so that that was the damage control. And it's a sign of how well it played that Mr. Giuliani was back on FOX the very next morning to try to clean up his mess, except he didn't, he made an even bigger mess because he blew a hole in perhaps the most important claim that Michael Cohen had been making, that the original hush payment had nothing to do with the election. Cue legal eagle, Rudy Giuliani.


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


COOPER: Imagine, imagine if it came out then, just like that Michael Cohen's claim that it was just a coincidence this happened less than two weeks before the election became even more laughable. Remember, Cohen had said he could have made the payment months before but just happened to do it when he did it.

Just a short time after that FOX appearance as all this was blowing up Mayor Giuliani told CNN he had, quote, "carefully coordinated with the president on his Hannity appearance." Quote, "You won't see any daylight between me and the president," he said.

So then yesterday the president put out that string of tweets which were in very lawyerly language expanding on what Giuliani had laid out. Today, though, the coordination broke down. First on the South Lawn and then at Joint Base Andrews, the president knowingly or not made a stunning admission, his surrogate while nice enough had his facts wrong.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He started yesterday. He'll get his facts straight. He is a great guy. But what he does is he feels it's a very bad thing for our country and he happens to be right.

I will tell you this, I will tell you this, when Rudy made the statement, Rudy is great, but Rudy had just started and he wasn't totally familiar with every -- you know, with everything and Rudy, we love Rudy, he is a special guy. What he really understands is this is a witch-hunt. He understands that probably better than anybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: So the president of the United States sent out his lawyer who didn't have the facts straight who had just started to clean up the mess with full confidence. He did not say exactly about what Rudy Giuliani did not have his facts straight about and Giuliani did not clarify matters with a statement late today. Quote, "There is no campaign violation," it reads. "The payment was made to resolve a personal and false allegation in order to protect the president's family. It would have been done in any event, whether he was a candidate or not. My references to timing were not describing my understanding of the president's knowledge but instead my understanding of these matters."

Now maybe it's because I did not go to law school, but I have no idea what that last sentence means. Quote, "My references to timing were not describing my understanding of the president's knowledge, but instead my understanding of these matters."

Giuliani was apparently referring to his claim on "FOX and Friends" yesterday that the president only fully learned about his repayments to Cohen, monthly bills totaling nearly half a million dollars, very recently.


GIULIANI: He didn't know the details of this until we knew the details of it, which is a couple of weeks ago. Maybe not even a couple, maybe 10 days ago.


COOPER: OK. Wait a minute. So Rudy Giuliani is saying that neither he nor the president explained -- I mean, they neither explained how it could be that the president who is not known as someone who throws his money around loosely or sometimes at all could have been paying all that money without knowing what it was for and didn't learn about what it was for until 10 days ago?

[20:05:16] So when the lawsuit was filed against him and Michael Cohen, he never asked anyone about what had happened when he watched Stormy Daniels on "60 Minutes" along with some 20 other million people, he never asked anyone if he had repaid Michael Cohen? That just seems hard to believe. This morning the president refused to clarify.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: When did you find out what the retainer was being --

TRUMP: You're going to find out because, you know, we're going to give a full list and people know and virtually everything said has been said incorrectly and it's been said wrong or it's been covered wrong by the press. Just like NBC and ABC yesterday covered the story wrong. But you will be finding out. It's --

(CROSSTALK) TRUMP: Wait a minute. It's actually very simple. It's actually very simple. But there has been a lot of misinformation really, people wanting to say -- and I say, you know what, learn before you speak. It's a lot easier.


COOPER: "Learn before you speak, it's a lot easier." The president says it's actually very simple. You would think if it's so simple Rudy Giuliani would have cleared it up in his multiple TV appearances or his multiple published statements. At least you now know the president is someone who believes in thinking before speaking that not having the facts is a shortcoming, except of course when it comes to more than 3,000 false or misleading statements he's made since taking office according to the "Washington Post," including this one just today.


TRUMP: In all fairness Bob Mueller worked for Obama for eight years.


COOPER: That's Republican Robert Mueller nominated as FBI direct by Republican George W. Bush who subsequently served five years in the Obama administration. Always good to have your facts straight.

Now it seems he cannot even keep his story straight. Sources tell us that the White House legal team is calling Rudy Giuliani's performance a fiasco, though apparently they're using stronger language than that, the word they're using rhymes with hit show.

And here is the cherry on top, the one person other than the president perhaps who truly knows everything says Rudy Giuliani doesn't know what he's talking about, we're talking about Michael Cohen talking to his friend Donny Deutsch. According to Donny Deutsch, quote, "He said, look, there are two people who know exactly what happened, myself and the president, and you'll be hearing my side of the story."

More on how the White House is handling all of this or mishandling, CNN's Pamela Brown joins us with that.

So, Pamela, I mean, the president saying Giuliani needs to get his facts straight. According to your sources how prepared was he before he went on FOX?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, not prepared at all. Anderson, I'm told by a source familiar with the matter that he had very little information before he went out on FOX to discuss the Stormy Daniels matter. That he wasn't fully briefed up on all the details, he hadn't looked at paperwork surrounding the case, surrounding these payments and repayment. And so essentially he was winging it and flying blind in a sense without having all of the facts.

But as you pointed out, Anderson, Rudy Giuliani said that he had coordinated this with the president but yet then the president came out today and undermined Rudy Giuliani, saying that he needs to get his facts straight before he goes out there and talks. He wasn't specific on how he needs to get his facts straight and, you know, whether he really did coordinate with Rudy Giuliani.

He also sort of tried to explain it away, Anderson, by saying he just started. Look, he is brand-new, he went out there, just started, give him a break kind of thing. Well, look, he started a couple of weeks ago, Anderson, he's already met with Robert Mueller's team. Rudy Giuliani didn't just start when he gave that FOX News interview.

COOPER: Also, I mean, there's no -- there was no reason he had to go on FOX News on that day to do this.

BROWN: Right.

COOPER: So you would think if they're choosing to send him out on FOX News, that he would have read some papers about it. What is behind -- I mean, do we know what's behind the shifting stories?

BROWN: Right. And on top of that let's remember Rudy Giuliani isn't -- wasn't brought on board to be part of the Stormy Daniels case. I mean, all of that dealing with Michael Cohen, the payment, so forth, that's run out of New York. Rudy Giuliani was brought on to represent the president in the Robert Mueller investigation which makes it even more puzzling that he would go on and just bring up these details that only added confusion.

It does seem like there are shifting stories. The president came out today and said the story hasn't changed at all, but best case scenario is it just created a lot of confusion because the president had said aboard Air Force One he didn't know about the payment Michael Cohen made to Stormy Daniels, then you have his attorney going on FOX News a couple of days ago saying that the president had repaid Michael Cohen for that payment and then we just saw cleanup ever since with that interview raising questions about whether the president lied and whether this was a campaign finance violation because it wasn't reported to the FEC.

[20:10:07] And then you had Rudy Giuliani himself attempting to clean up with the statement he released today, Anderson, saying that there is no campaign violation, that it would have been made whether the president was a candidate or not. And then going on to say the references to the timing were not describing my understanding of the president's knowledge but yet he said he coordinated it with the president -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, it's -- it's baffling.

Pam Brown, thanks.

Two legal views now from Harvard Law School's Alan Dershowitz, also Obama White House ethics czar and former ambassador the Czech Republic, Norm Eisen. Professor Dershowitz is author of many books, most recently "Trumped Up: How Criminalization of Political Differences Endangers Democracy." Professor Dershowitz, I mean, every day there is a shifting

explanation and just more confusion when it comes to the Stormy Daniels payment. Is it even clear to you at this point what the president's official story is and has this back and forth with Rudy Giuliani opened him up to even more legal exposure?

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Well, it certainly exposes him to criticism. They have not been speaking with one voice or presenting one clear narrative. I think the best narrative they have, I don't know whether it's true or not, is that this guy Cohen was on retainer, he was the fixer, he was paid $35,000 a month to fix up all the problems and at the end of the year they would true up and find out if he paid more than he got and the president didn't want to know specifics about any particular cases, he just wanted everything to be fixed. You know, that really does create more political problems than it does legal problems.

COOPER: I mean, he has put his client in greater legal jeopardy and also I just don't even understand and I'm not sure they even understand what their stories are. Giuliani says absolutely this had to do with the campaign, then today he said, you know, no, it didn't and then he said also yesterday that the president only found out 10 days ago, which is just ludicrous.

NORM EISEN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS CZAR FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA: The campaign finance argument, he exposed Trump now to being part of a conspiracy with Michael Cohen. He even hinted that it had to do with the election when he went on "FOX and Friends" and talked about how it would have looked if it came out in October.

He exposed Mr. Trump to a felony charge for filing false presidential financial statements because he admitted that there was a debt to Mr. Cohen, that Mr. Trump knew about it, paid it back. It wasn't on his forms that he filed. And then perhaps worst of all, most telling of all on the obstruction front he came up with a third and yet a different story that Trump wanted Comey to exonerate him. Well, that's pressing for a change in the investigation before it's done. That implicates on obstruction as well as the changing stories. So what a disaster.

COOPER: Yes. Professor Dershowitz, I mean, to Giuliani's point that this -- you know, that making this payment and if it had been known during the campaign that, you know, it would have been -- it would have been terrible for the campaign, that flies in the face of everything that Michael Cohen has said, Michael Cohen's supporters have said, their whole line has been all along as incredulous and ridiculous as it sounded when they were saying it, this had nothing to do with the campaign even though this deal was done 11 days before the election.

DERSHOWITZ: Well, nobody would believe that. That's not credible. The only credible story they could tell which would be helpful would be to say, look, mixed motives. He obviously didn't want his wife to find out about this, he didn't want his children to find out about this and he didn't want the American public to find out about this. So all of these things were relevant to why Cohen paid the money so that she wouldn't announce, but it was 15 days before the election and the idea that maybe they didn't tell the president about this 15 days before the election, here is an event that could undo his campaign, and he doesn't get to know about it, it just flies in the face of credulity.

COOPER: Also, Ambassador, the idea that Michael Cohen is on this sort of permanent retainer, the president said he did very little legal work for Mr. Trump, that he is on this permanent retainer, he just gets this money, and that Mr. Trump doesn't know anything about what he is a he doing. I can understand maybe not wanting to get involved in the details as they're happening but the idea that his attorney would not at least call him up and say, you know what, that Stormy Daniels issue we took care of it, it was only $130,000, there is this other thing -- I mean, the idea that he wasn't informing him along the way now just seems ludicrous.

EISEN: Anderson, it's just silly. They've tied themselves into a pretzel in order to cover for the president's statement on Air Force One standing there in the doorway of the cabin unequivocally that he didn't know about the payments. Now they have to tie themselves into a pretzel. They are simultaneously saying that the president, who once won a "Spy" magazine contest for the cheapest celebrity in America.

[20:15:04] I believe he cashed a check for 13 cents, that he's going to dish out 35 grand a month without knowing why? It's absurd.

I want to give Alan some credit because in acknowledging how ridiculous it is that the president wouldn't know about this event from the get-go, he's playing it straight. Of course the president knew about this, the problem is that, as Alan admits, the reality puts the president in deep, deep legal jeopardy.


EISEN: Giuliani violated -- Alan, Giuliani violated the first rule you taught me almost 30 years ago.


EISEN: First do no harm.

DERSHOWITZ: No harm. But, Norm, don't give me credit. I'm not on Trump's side. I'm not trying to help Trump. I'm trying to tell the American public what the law is and what the truth is. I have to tell you that I really do think that if they had played this straight from the very beginning what he did was probably not illegal.

When you get to hear that there is this kind of come out before the election and you know it will hurt your family, you know it will hurt your standing, if the president had been straight and paid the money directly in order to avoid this coming out, there would be no crime here. There would be no violation of election laws, there would be no violation of any other kind of laws.

It's the story that gets them into increasing difficulties because they don't have a single voice. And the other thing I hope I taught you is when you're representing somebody in a very complicated case, you have to speak with one voice. It has to be a single narrative. It has to be clear and unambiguous. It should be in writing. It shouldn't be off the cuff.

It shouldn't be Hannity on television and it shouldn't be this guy saying one thing and the people in the White House learning about it by watching it on television. This has been terribly mishandled.


DERSHOWITZ: But I'm not admitting anything, Norm, I am saying it because I am not on his side.

COOPER: Professor Dershowitz, Ambassador Eisen, thanks very much.

Well, there is a political dimension obviously to all this that is making even Republicans a bit queasy, at least retiring moderate Republicans from traditionally blue states. Pennsylvania Congressman Charlie Dent for one. Let's put the shoe on the other foot, he said yesterday, quote, "If a Democratic president had paid off a porn star to keep quiet while he was president I suspect we'd have oversight hearing and I suspect there should be some oversight hearings to get to the bottom of this."

I spoke with the congressman earlier this evening.


COOPER: Congressman, I know you think Congress should hold hearings to get to the bottom of the payment to Stormy Daniels. Can you explain why you think it's Congress' business to investigate?

REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, Anderson, I would clarify what I said the other night. I said had the shoe been on the other foot, had a Democratic president, you know, paid off, you know, a porn star for $130,000 I'm sure we as Republicans would be holding hearings ad nauseam. And I'm not really crazy about the idea of hearings, although I think there's probably some level of oversight, committees may want to inquire about what exactly happened here.

The bigger issue in my view is credibility. On the one hand, you know, the administration had repeatedly stated that Michael Cohen did this on his own, when frankly very few people believe that. I know very few people who thought that Michael Cohen out of the goodness of his heart paid the settlement out of his own pocket without the expectation of reimbursement. Then it was divulged by Rudy Giuliani and I believe exactly what he said which was that he was in fact -- Cohen was in fact reimbursed. So I think this is a really bigger credibility issue for the president.


DENT: More than anything else.

COOPER: The president this morning said that when it comes to Rudy Giuliani he'll, quote, "get his facts right." The president didn't clarify exactly what Giuliani had gotten wrong. I'm wondering how you interpret what the president is saying.

DENT: You know, that's kind of -- that's a bit of a head spinner to me. I've known Rudy Giuliani for many years. By full disclosure, I was one of the first people to endorse him members of Congress when he ran for president in 2008. I have a high regard for the mayor, great job he did in New York City when he served there. And so I think Rudy Giuliani was basically speaking truth as he understood it.

You know, maybe he didn't say it as artfully as he did in his statement today, but I'm not sure exactly what Rudy Giuliani said the other day that was incorrect.

COOPER: Well, you know, and then he released another statement today, I guess in an effort as he put it to clarify what he had said over the past three days, which if you have to release a statement to clarify what you've been saying for the last three days, that's never a good thing. But he said, quote, "My references to timing were not describing my understanding of the president's knowledge but instead my understanding of these matters."

Does that clear up anything for you? Because I've now read that several times and I still don't quite understand what it means.

DENT: Well, I was trying to understand that, too. I mean, I think the basic issue that he conveyed the other night and then -- and then again today, he didn't change it, which was this, that Michael Cohen received reimbursement for the payment to Stormy Daniels.

[20:20:06] That's the fact. But the truth is the president and others in his administration, press secretary and others, had stated just the opposite, that he had no knowledge and the president made a statement on Air Force One that he didn't seem to have any knowledge or awareness of the whole situation. And so I think that's really what the issue is, is it comes back to the credibility issue.


DENT: Why would he have not -- why would they have denied any knowledge of this when, in fact, they did know.

COOPER: What do you -- I mean, just kind of big picture what do you think is going on here? I mean, is the president lying? Is Rudy Giuliani lying? Are they both lying? I mean, it just seems they've twisted themselves into pretzels here.

DENT: I think Rudy Giuliani was being truthful the other night. Maybe he wasn't -- again, it wasn't as artful or as delicate as he needed to be in his presentation, but, again, the bottom line is that Michael Cohen was reimbursed apparently by the president with individual money, not campaign money or corporate money, but his personal money. He reimbursed Michael Cohen. I mean, that's the story. And I always felt that was the case and I don't know anybody -- I can't imagine many people in the country actually thought that, you know, Michael Cohen was going to pay a settlement on behalf of his client without the expectation of reimbursement.


DENT: I just never heard of any lawyer who would do that.

COOPER: Congressman Dent, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

DENT: Hey, thank you, Anderson. Great to be with you as always.


COOPER: All right. We'll have more on this after the break including the big picture from legendary investigative reporter Carl Bernstein who's been out ahead of this story from day one.

And later, a live report from Hawaii's big island where a large earthquake just hit and a volcano conditions to erupt. Extraordinary images we'll show you ahead.


COOPER: We're talking tonight about how little we still know about the circumstances surrounding the deal to silence Stormy Daniels, the shifting accounts, the statements clarifying nothing and the larger sense of chaos surrounding it.

A source familiar with the situation telling CNN the team is, quote, "calling it one play at a time," and says that the players are executing the plays on their own.

Joining us to talk about it CNN political analyst, best-selling author and investigative reporter, Carl Bernstein.

So, Carl, the third point in Giuliani's statement today was about the president's firing of James Comey.

[20:25:02] Giuliani wrote that the dismissal of Director Comey and in theory as executive officer was clearly within the president's Article II power. While that's certainly true earlier this week Giuliani said that Comey was fired because he wouldn't publicly acknowledge that the president wasn't under investigation.

I'm wondering what you make of the evolving explanation here.

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that what we're seeing all together is lying, covering up, cover stories and contempt for the rule of law again by the president of the United States, now by Rudy Giuliani, by Mr. Cohen, and it's indicative of this president and this presidency's approach to everything having to do with the Mueller investigation and the consequential Stormy Daniels investigation coming from the Mueller investigation as it were.

And we are looking at lie after lie after lie and cover story after cover story after cover story invented by the president, invented by Giuliani, invented by Mr. Cohen. The question is when is the president and the people around him going to say, hey, we're here to tell the truth, here is what happened about Stormy Daniels, but more importantly in the Russia investigation.

COOPER: I mean, the president certainly is no shrinking violet when it comes do going after Comey but if he and his legal team weren't worried about Comey's firing do you think Giuliani would have included that line in his statement today?

BERNSTEIN: Rudy Giuliani is capable of being so reckless as we have seen throughout the campaign and as we are seeing now that it's very difficult to parse what he is doing and saying, except that he's trying to throw bombs into the Mueller investigation. And that with his partner in this, the president of the United States, he's trying to satisfy what the president of the United States wants him to do to help undermine and discredit the Mueller investigation, the Stormy Daniels investigation, where they come together.

The object of the president of the United States who has lied on a scale that no president in modern times that anybody has heard of about all things big and little, but particularly about this investigation of his conduct and the question of Russian collusion and the cover-up that has been going on in the White House, whether it's an obstruction of justice or not, that's the bottom line issue in all of this, including what we've seen on Hannity with Giuliani there and including what we've seen in these attempts to walk back these cover stories. It's all about lying and contempt for the rule of the law.

COOPER: And, I mean, this morning the president said that Giuliani will get his facts straight when it comes to Stormy Daniels and --

BERNSTEIN: That means a cover story. Another cover story.


BERNSTEIN: What does it mean his facts straight? I can't believe, as the congressman just noted, I know of no serious Republicans that I've talked to who believe anything about the nondisclosure story.

COOPER: Yes. Carl, I got -- I'm sorry, I got to interrupt. Hang on one second. There's breaking news. We'll come back to you.

Right now on Michael Cohen and money, it comes from the "Wall Street Journal's" Michael Rothfeld, the headline, "U.S. probes Cohen over cash he built up during campaign. Trump's lawyer took out lines of credit to secure access to as much as $774,000 as race heated up."

Michael Rothfeld joins us on the phone.

So, Michael, this is literally just been posted, I haven't been able to read the article. Explain what you have learned.

MICHAEL ROTHFELD, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Hi, Anderson. What we reported is that Michael Cohen doubled his home equity line right as Donald Trump was in the height of his political fortunes rising and going into the primary campaign in February 2016. So he closed off his existing home equity line of $255,000 and took out a $500,000 home equity line, and we know that he's said he used part of that to pay Stormy Daniels nine months after that and furthermore Rudy Giuliani said this week that Michael Cohen settled other things for Donald Trump. We don't know whether he used the home equity line for that as well.

COOPER: So it's interesting. I mean, again, Michael Cohen has all along said that, you know, he did this on his own without consultation with Donald Trump. This does sound, though, like a far more organized and premeditated, pre-thought out plan to get a pool of money. Is that a correct reading?

ROTHFELD: It certainly seems that way. I mean, he, as I said, he -- he took out an additional $250,000 in ability to borrow against his apartment right at the time when Trump was going into the Republican primaries and successfully he had been holding a lead against his, you know, more experienced rivals. So it indicates that Cohen may have been looking to have a stash of cash on hand essentially to settle problems with throughout the campaign.

And we've reported that tonight also that the Southern District is looking at that more broadly in terms of Cohen's ability to raise money, like how was he raising money through his own personal assets, like in taxi medallions and real estate potentially to use that for settling problems for Trump and whether any laws were broken in that regard.

The other thing that we reported in this story is that in November of 2015, Cohen cosigned with his in-laws a mortgage in which they took $529,000 in cash out of an apartment at a Trump building. So, essentially they got $500,000 three months earlier than that. We don't know how that money was used. But, again, the prosecutors are kind of looking at Cohen's cash flows generally speaking, and how he used the money that was available to him.

COOPER: Obviously you were just reporting what you know and I don't want to go down the road of speculation here. But it just is -- it seems highly unusual. I mean, it was highly unusual when Michael Cohen said that he took out a home equity line of credit for the $130,000.

It seems even more unusual that an attorney for somebody -- for a -- a billionaire like -- like Mr. Trump would stockpile his own money during a campaign if, I mean, if the idea was to have this pool of money in order to handle things. It sounds like the pool of money would be to handle things without any association directly to Mr. Trump.

ROTHFELD: Yes, and that's what's being investigated, essentially. Like, was Cohen doing these things, kind of, to keep anyone from finding out? And, I mean, he has said -- I mean, yes, you're right. It's absolutely an unorthodox way to do things, I mean, period.

A lawyer, you know, taking money off a home equity line to pay a former porn star is obviously not something that most lawyers would do, especially when -- I mean, they essentially send their client a bill and say you have to pay this money. So that's definitely unorthodox. But, you know, it -- it appears that Cohen was -- at least what's being investigated is what was he doing, you know, secretly essentially.


ROTHFELD: I mean, so that's -- that's where we are.

COOPER: Right. And -- and if it's unusual for an attorney to -- to take $130,000 out for a particular deal, it's even more unusual for an attorney to, in advance, you know, re-finance his life basically in order to get a pool of money for whatever else may be coming down the pike during an election. I mean, it's -- it's really unheard of. I've never heard of an attorney let alone doing one deal using a home equity line. But -- but sort of stockpiling money for an effort is just extraordinary.

ROTHFELD: Yes, that's right. I mean, but, you know, again we have to say we don't know. It's that we know he -- what he said, he used $130,000. That would have allowed him another $100,000 and change on the home equity line. We don't know how that money might have been used and whether he used it for anything other than that ...

COOPER: Right.

ROTHFELD: ... that you might traditionally use for a home equity line.

COOPER: Yes, Michael Rothfeld, fascinating from the Wall Street Journal online now. Thank you. Carl Bernstein, what do you make of this? Again, this is just breaking as -- as we've been talking.

CARL BERNSTEIN, AMERICAN INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Once again, the key to all of these investigations is follow the money and follow the lies, and particularly when it comes to Michael Cohen and his relationship to the President of the United States. It's clear by now from what we know, that Cohen is absolutely essential to what Muller investigation is doing as well as the Southern District investigation in New York that his use of funds on behalf of Donald Trump is going to be a big part of an ongoing story.

And there's something else of great significance and that is the role of the Wall Street Journal here. We keep hearing about fake news from the President of the United States throughout this investigation. In fact, the Wall Street Journal with The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN -- but the Wall Street Journal, which is owned by Trump's friend Rupert Murdoch, has done great reporting, not fake news, throughout this year. And I think we need to take a look at that too as part of the story, right now, tonight.

Because what we are seeing is the effort by Donald Trump while these investigations are closing in on him, in New York, in Washington with Mueller to undermine, and throttle and overwhelm the duly constituted rule of law and investigations by the special prosecutor. And now, here again we see where these investigations appear to be going. And that includes the suggestions that we have of collusion.

And we don't know if Michael Cohen figures in the investigation of collusion or not. We know ... COOPER: Yes.

BERNSTEIN: ... his travels are being looked at in eastern Europe by the special prosecutor, so enough of the fake news.

COOPER: Yes. Coming up next, more from Carl, we'll also be joined as well by Gloria Borger. Later, the president speaks to the NRA just a few months after he said he was open to changing gun laws in the wake of the Parkland shooting, obviously a much different tone today. We'll hear what he said, plus speak with two of the Parkland school survivors, next.


COOPER: Before the break, we spoke with the Wall Street Journal's Michael Rothfeld who has just been reporting that Michael Cohen was stockpiling money, expanding his home equity line of credit, building up more than $750,000 (ph) during the campaign to fix problems for candidate Trump. We know at least of the Stormy Daniels payment, it's unclear what the other money was for.

Back with Carl Bernstein and joining us as well is CNN's chief political analyst Gloria Borger. We should say, we don't know what he used the rest of this money for whether it was something it was something relating to President Trump or -- or not. But -- but certainly, the timing of all of this is really interesting.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. That's what's the most interesting thing to me, aside from the -- large amount of the sums, of course, of money here, is the timing in the Wall Street Journal piece which is that the money that Cohen started receiving was around February 2016, which, as we both know having been there, was when his fortunes and his poll numbers started to rise as a presidential candidate.

We know that he won the New Hampshire primary on February 9th, for example. And he became, suddenly, a serious candidate out of all of these 17 candidates.

COOPER: Right.

BORGER: And nobody was dismissing him anymore. So the question you have to raise is that, well we thought this with the campaign and I've been told this by people in the campaign, "You know, we never expected to win. We never expected to win."

And suddenly, when he became a serious candidate, well, maybe they did expect to win. And maybe there were other things that had to be dealt with. I mean we -- I'm jumping to a conclusion here and I shouldn't because this is not my reporting, but I think you have to ask the question about why anyone would need access to the cash. And I think they're going to be looking into, according to the Wall Street Journal, you know, bank fraud about whether (inaudible) was misstating the reasons he needed the money.

COOPER: Right, I mean Carl, if - if the money was for him, we know $130,000 of that home equity line was for the Stormy Daniels payment ultimately which - you know but if - if the money was for other things related to candidate Trump, it does raise the question why was this attorney doing this with his own money instead of just having Mr. Trump set aside a certain amount of money for him to operate with? And I assume the answer to that would be to have some deniability between the two.

CARL BERNSTEIN, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: This has from "The Wall Street Journal" account all the appearances of a campaign slush fund to pay for nefarious acts that the candidate did not know - did not want known and the payments were made through his fixer. That is what "The Wall Street Journal" story points toward. And it's very interesting because in Watergate the key to Watergate that really broke everything open was the discovery of a slush fund that was used for nefarious purposes, that was meant to be hidden, and it carried out the wishes of the candidate.

Now that - I don't want to speculate on where this is going to go, what it means, but it is all part of a pattern that we are seeing in this investigation and why from the beginning Michael Cohen has been key to everything having to do with nefarious activities in the Trump campaign and also figures in the Russian investigation.

And so these matters are coming together now as more and more reporting is being done by "The Wall Street Journal" and other news organizations...

COOPER: But - but let me...

BERNSTEIN: the special prosecutor.

COOPER: Let me just push back on that a little bit. (Inaudible) used the term nefarious. We don't know, I mean signing an NDA with Stormy Daniels, that's not necessarily, that's not nefarious. So we don't know what beyond the $130,000 for Stormy Daniels for the NDA, we don't know what...


COOPER: ...the rest of this money was actually for.

BERNSTEIN: But I -- but I think we could characterize given what we know about the NDA with Storm - Stormy Daniels that this would fall into the nefarious category certainly until shown otherwise. All I'm suggesting here is is the presence of what "The Wall Street Journal" would seem to have identified as what really looks - has the appearance of a slush fund.

BORGER: And - and you know by the way Anderson, when - when Michael Cohen said he paid for the $130,000 out of his own - out of his own pocket, this "Wall Street Journal" story may actually prove that that in fact he did and that in fact he may have taken care of other business with this. I mean we don't know the reasons he took all this money out but it may prove his point.

COOPER: The assumption all along was that he took out a home equity line of credit in order to raise the $130,000 to pay Stormy Daniels. But again, this seems to indicate this was done before and raised a lot more money than $130,000.

BORGER: And raised a lot more money for what reason?

COOPER: We don't know.

BORGER: It could have been personal...

COOPER: Right. We don't know. Carl Bernstein, thank you. Gloria, we're going to talk more about this with you - with you next in the next hour. Coming up what the President said to the NRA and what two survivors of the Parkland shooting think about what he's saying now.


COOPER: The President reassured the NRA today that he's on their side. He spoke at their annual meeting today, the first time he's addressed the group since the shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school left 17 people dead. In a moment we're going to talk to two of the student survivors but first let's remember after the shooting what the President promised - promised to get tough possibly expanding background checks and raising the minimum age for buying certain types of rifles.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It doesn't make sense that I have to wait until I'm 21 to get a handgun but I can get this weapon at 18. I don't know. So I was just curious as to what you did in your bill? You don't address...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn't - we didn't address it Mr. President...

TRUMP: You know why? Because you're afraid of the NRA, right?


COOPER: Well fast forward to today, here's what the President said at the NRA convention in Dallas.


TRUMP: Democrats and Liberals in Congress want to disarm law-abiding Americans at the same time they're releasing dangerous criminal aliens and savage gang members onto our streets.

Your Second Amendment rights are under siege but they will never, ever, be under siege as long as I'm your President.


COOPER: No mention of those changes he had once called for after the shooting. Here's what he said about Parkland.

(BEGIN VIDEO) TRUMP: We're working to improve early warning systems so that when the police are called, when the community sees the red flags which they saw in Parkland all over the place, there has never been a case where more red flags have been shown. Swift action is taken by the authorities.

I recently signed legislation that includes more than $2 billion to improve school safety including the funding for training and metal detectors and security and mental health - mental health is a big one. They don't like to talk about mental health. Mental health - that was the number one example in Parkland (ph).


COOPER: Joining me now Stoneman Douglas high school students David Hogg and Cameron Kasky. Thanks for being with us. So Cameron, we heard from the President shortly after the shooting at the high school. Obviously he struck a very different tone than he did today. Back then I talked to you; you thought he was heading in the right direction when it came to gun control. What do you think today?

CAMERON KASKY, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT AND ACTIVIST: Well you know he was saying some things that implied that he was stepping forward into the right direction for gun safety in this country and then he had a meeting with some NRA officials - a private meeting - and afterwards he came and claimed that the Second Amendment was under siege and he was going to defend it. So as to whether or not the NRA meeting changed his views, that's kind of up to speculation but I will tell you that is hopefully the first Russian- funded group he has met ith.

DAVID HOGG, MARGORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT AND ACTIVIST: And I would like to say I think it really shows what he is doing right now proves where his heart and his wallet are and that's in the exact same place. One of the interesting things I thought Trump brought up was how we don't talk about mental health yet in one of the recent spending bills that they had they cut mental health spending for schools by over $25 million. That doesn't sound like improving the mental health care system for schools to me.

COOPER: Cameron, you know when the President was in that meeting with Democrats and Republicans, he castigated some of the Republicans saying you're scared of the NRA. Do you believe today that he's showed that he's scared of the NRA?

KASKY: I think he is very interested in the money that the NRA will bring him and that the NRA in turn gets from gun manufacturers. You know the gun - the NRA used to boast itself as being an average Joe coalition of Americans who are trying to protect their Second Amendment rights and now you'll see that they are getting a lot of kickbacks from gun manufacturers. So I don't necessarily think Trump is scared of the NRA, I think Trump is very enamored with the financial support that the NRA gives him.

HOGG: I think the people in this situation that are really scared would be the NRA. This is the first time that they've had the president and the vice president at the same time come out to the annual convention for the NRA. And I think what they're seeing here is like they're -- they are very worried because of the support that we've been getting and the support that we're going to have in midterms.

Because like it or not, we don't care if you're Democrat or Republican, if you're supported by the NRA you don't stand with the kids, you stand with the gun manufacturers and the people that are trying to make money off this fear and tragedy that is perpetuating itself.

COOPER: And David, that's where your focus is now. Because there was a lot of -- you know, concern, I think, among, you know, supporters of -- of gun safety, of gun control and people who were at the march that after the march, that your interest would wane. Your focus is on midterms, is that right?

HOGG: Exactly. And right now what we're trying to do -- we have the ambitious goal of getting 90 percent of high schoolers registered to vote by June. And that's a big goal that we have set out but I think it's something that we can do. There's over 26,000 high schools across America and we need every one of them to sign up through HeadCount to create their own voter registration drive to ensure that kids can get out and vote regardless of their opinions.

Just make sure -- I think one thing that we can all support here on both sides of the aisle as Americans is more voter participation. Because right now, 18 percent of -- I think it's 18 to 24 year olds participate in midterm elections and that's unacceptable (ph).

KASKY: And the thing is, this is just simply about doing your civic duty and voting. And we can get a lot of people registered to vote but the thing is, they don't show up at the polls when they need to.

So another thing we're focusing on is making voting more accessible, easier, and making sure people are more educated with their vote, making sure that they use the resources that we can so easily access to know who they're voting for, to follow the money, to follow everything that their candidate is doing and have an educated and effective vote to make sure that we're going in the right direction.

COOPER: Well, Cameron Kasky, David Hogg. Guys, I appreciate your time tonight. Thanks for being with us.

KASKY: Thank you very much.

COOPER: Up next, we have more breaking news. A disaster erupting on Hawaii's big island. A volcano spewing fiery lava, toxic gas. Strong earthquakes in the area are only making matters worse. We'll have the latest from Hawaii when we continue.


COOPER: Well we have breaking news from Hawaii's big island, a dangerous one-two punch. Stunning erupting volcano and adding to the danger, a series of strong earthquakes, including a magnitude 6.9 tremors just hours ago. The latest now from Stephanie Elam who's in Hawaii tonight (ph).


STEPHANIE ELAM, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Volcanic eruption spewing molten rock, ash and toxic gases onto Hawaii's big island. The eruption stemming from a series of crack in Pu'u 'O'o's rift zone, miles from the Kilauea volcano. Video from earlier this week shows walls of smoke billowing as the vent on Pu'u 'O'o collapses, leaving behind a red rocky surface, similar to that of Mars with gaping holes giving us a glimpse of the orange liquid magma smoldering below.

And this time lapse shot last week shows gushing rivers of lava flowing as night turns to day. Residents are fleeing from their homes as forests burn and roads break open.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can feel the heat coming from the ground. Yes, there's -- there's heat coming up out of this (ph).

ELAM: Officials warn that the sulfur dioxide levels are extremely dangerous. They've closed large sections of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. More than 700 structures and 1,700 people are within the mandatory evacuation area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now we have about 100 people up here at the facility, at the shelters. We just got another wave of them that got evacuated because the volcano and -- and (inaudible) erupting more up on the streets.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lava is coming out in Leilani, so this is real.

ELAM: At the center of the activity lies the community of Leilani Estates. A resident there captured this lava fountain shooting over 100 feet into the air.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Came down the road, all we heard was a boom (ph). What is that? And then all of a sudden you smell -- you smelled the sulfur. Sulfur dioxide. We knew something was happening. Within minutes, we seen smoke and now we see all this lava coming across the street and it's -- it's pumping right now. So this fissure is opening up and this is -- this is our next eruption.

ELAM: The eruptions are part of a massive geological event set off by the collapse of the Pu'u 'O'o crater floor. That collapse led to hundreds of earthquakes this week which continue to jolt the big island.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tough part about this eruption is that it's unpredictable. We don't know which way the lava is going to flow and we are planning actively for every contingency that we can think of.


ELAM: And that's a really important point there, Anderson. Officials are saying that even the most experienced people who study these volcanoes cannot know where the next fissure may rupture and they are already dealing with a fourth one that opened in the last couple of hours here. And because of that last 6.9 earthquake, some 1,400 people lost their power.

They're working to get that power back on in those places but at the same time, they have to watch out for the air quality and also those earthquakes and of course if any more fissures open up, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Just incredible to see that. Stephanie Elam. Thanks very much. Up next, an update on our breaking news tied to the White House. The Wall Street Journal reporting that President Trump's attorney Michael Cohen was stockpiling money as he sought to fix problems for his boss during the presidential campaign.