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"Wall Street Journal:" Michael Cohen, the President's Attorney and Fixer Gained Access to More than $750,000 During the Campaign; President Trump Praises Judge Who Said Mueller Aims to "Hurt Trump;" "New York Times:" Trump is Said To Know Of Stormy Daniels' Payments Months Before He Denied It. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired May 4, 2018 - 21:00   ET



[21:00:20] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Even as the President and Rudy Giuliani team up to try to make the Stormy Daniels story as clear as mud. There is breaking news on the man who paid her. The Wall Street Journal reporting tonight that Michael Cohen, the President's attorney and fixer gained access to more than $750,000 during the campaign.

He raised the money, according to the journal's reporting in a pair of transactions. Two people familiar with the transactions tell the Journal they could factor into the investigation of Cohen business fair being by Manhattan Federal prosecutors and the FBI.

And again, this capped an already chaotic day at the White House. CNN's Jeff Zeleny is there for us.

So what do we know about why there have been so many shifting stories about Michael Cohen, Stormy Daniels and President's role. Because Rudy Giuliani said, he had been reporting an inclusive with the President on this. Today the President said he didn't have the facts straight?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a fascinating day here where I think it ends the week, a very complicated and chaotic week. But even more questions about what exactly the relationship business wise was with the President and Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels?

I mean, we started out the week, for months we've heard the President saying he had nothing to do with that. Now we know of course Rudy Giuliani said he did in fact have that.

Now, we're learning this new information tonight by "The Wall Street Journal" reporting. I think it simply highlights the fact. This is a very unorthodox business arrangement with the President and Michael Cohen. They've had it a long time.

Rudy Giuliani obviously trying to explain that this week. Trying to get it out all in the open which he says was a strategy discussed with the President clearly did not work. I think it speaks to the fact very complicated, very murky here. Certainly not an ordinary relationship with the President and his lawyer.

COOPER: And Jeff, what are you learning about what kind of prep Giuliani had before the Fox interview?

ZELENY: Anderson, we know that Rudy Giuliani -- he has been working for the President for at least 15 days officially on the payroll as one of his lawyers. Of course they've been friends a long time. The President has been looking for a lawyer for a long time. Rudy Giuliani met with the President about two weeks ago at Mar-a-Lago, decided to agree to come onboard. So they've talked about this. They had conversations about how this exactly would work. Rudy Giuliani wanted to get this out in the open. But today on the south lawn of the White House when I asked the President, how is Rudy doing? I was surprised by the President's answer. Let's watch.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He started yesterday. He'll get his facts straight. He's 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 statements -- Rudy is great. But Rudy 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 that this is a witch hunt. He understands that probably better than anybody.


ZELENY: So we heard a lot about a witch hunt of course. What we saw there is undermining. The President was essentially throwing Rudy Giuliani under the bus for what he did not like obviously was the media coverage. The President initially praised Rudy Giuliani's defense of him. But then as we have seen so many times before he sees how this plays out, he sees that the White House is you know accused of changing stories which in fact they did. He didn't appreciate that at all. So essentially throws Rudy Giuliani under the bus. The problem here, the credibility crisis is ratted in the President and the Oval Office not his new lawyer.

COOPER: Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much.


COOPER: I want to bring in the panel, Maria Cardona, Jason Miller, Kirsten Powers, Gloria Borger, Laura Coates and Paris Dennard.

Gloria, first with "The Wall Street Journal's" reporting, all along Michael Cohen has said I got a home equity line of credit to pay $130,000 for Stormy Daniels. I did this, it had noting to do with the election. I did it because I'm a loyal guy to Mr. Trump. He didn't even know about it.

Giuliani has now said it did have something to do with the election because it would have been bad. Then he stepped back from that. He said the President repaid Michael Cohen through the retainer system. Now "The Wall Street Journal" was saying it wasn't just the $130,000 that he got through his home equity line of credit basically through two transactions he built -- he gained access to about $700,000 --


COOPER: Right, as the campaign started to heat up. We don't know what he used the rest of the money for. We don't know if it was for the President, we don't know if it was for other deals, for business deals Michael Cohen was involved in but --

BORGER: We don't know why he got the loans. I mean, we really -- we have no idea. We have no idea. What we do know is that the timing is interesting because as soon as the President started taking off in February of 2016 was when Michael Cohen started doing all these transactions. But as you've been saying we don't toe why Michael Cohen didn't respond to "The Wall Street Journal."

COOPER: But we know he did pay of that $130,000 to Stormy Daniels which is highly unusual in and of itself. And all along people have been saying, I've never heard of an attorney who would do this.

[21:05:06] BORGER: Right.

COOPER: Now, there is an attorney who has raised even more money we don't know why.

BORGER: And in ordinary times -- I don't remember what that is anymore. But in ordinary times if you were going to do something for a client of yours, you would tell them, number one. And you would just say bill the client for it. Number two.

In this particular case, say with Stormy Daniels, the President originally said I knew nothing about it. And Cohen said I do this on my own and I do it all the time for him. And Rudy Giuliani said sort of the same thing. So all of it kind of hard to put together. And parts of it are really hard it believe particularly because it was so close to the election. I mean, how could you not tell the candidate?

COOPER: Laura Coates you're a legal analyst. It's unusual for any lawyer to pay the $130,000. But the idea that a lawyer would on his own without informing a client.


COOPER: Build up even more money, what do you make of this?

COATES: It's preposterous. I mean, you have ethical violations about not informing your client about action that will bind him or possibly creating more legal exposure for him if not jeopardy and peril. You also have the notion that, well, there is a President has already said that he had a very minuscule amount of legal work that he performed for the President. So to build up a reserve for non-legal matters at the bulk of your work is not lawful or not law related is very, very odd. What I think you're seeing here however was that if "The Wall Street Journal" was able to uncover this information one of the things that has been bouncing is that perhaps Giuliani was trying to get ahead of information that was going to be coming out of whatever information was raided from Michael Cohen's home, his office, his hotel room. And if "The Wall Street Journal" was able to come across this surely a thorough investigator who has the weight of the SDNY behind him will be able to uncover as well and perhaps, they were trying to create a narrative, although to all of us it's all absurd.

COOPER: Paris Dennard?

PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm still going back to the thought of Russia collusion which I don't see here. And I thought that was the point of this. And I think that the danger that we see is that when you have -- I keep saying this Anderson over and over again, a special prosecutor with such a wide scope, we're going down things that I don't care -- Gloria with all due respect to you, why he would seek out the loan? I don't care how he got the line of credit. It's none of my business, it's none of your business. It has nothing to do with the campaign. It has nothing to do with President Trump.

COOPER: Even though -- wait, you're saying -- we don't know if this happened, but you're saying if an attorney for the President set up a slush fund to deal and with things that might be you know, damaging to the President, that's not of interest to you?

DENNARD: Or other things.

COOPER: I'm saying, we don't know if that's the case. But that's one possibility that wouldn't be of interest to you?

DENNARD: Well, no it wouldn't. Because I looked at a "Wall Street Journal" article by the former head of the FEC, the chairman of the FEC and he said that just on face value, the $130,000 payment was not a campaign violation.

Now I'm not a lawyer. I didn't work in the FEC but I would trust the former head of FEC more so than political pundits right now who are trying to act like they are --

COATES: Well, I was -- I am a lawyer. And I was a voting rights expert for the voting vision and through --

DENNARD: That's not the FEC.

COATES: No, that is and that's why I'm clarifying the point. But the interesting notion and the irony of your statement is that you cannot care about it but Robert Mueller hasn't carried about it either. He is not taking over what's happening in the New York case. He has farmed it out to a team and said this is not under the purview of mandate. And so in that respect he is already concluded that perhaps it doesn't have to do with collusion. But why it's important is because you have a candidate -- we do have FEC violations potentially that you point out, the distinction between the civil rights division and the notion that if you have contributions that are excessive and potentially for the purpose of contributing a campaign and you don't report it, or you don't disclose on a federal ethics form well, then it's of interest to American people who care about Democratic transparency which I know you do.


BORGER: And if the President was aware of this and there were some kind of bank fraud being committed, isn't that relevant?

DENNARD: He, the President said that he wasn't -- I just I don't understand why you can't -- it's called plausible deniability.

COOPER: But Rudy Giuliani said the President wasn't aware of any of this until 10 days ago. I mean, come on.

DENNARD: And now he walking that back. We don't know what the PR campaign that Rudy Giuliani was doing.

COOPER: Right.

DENNARD: The President clearly was not pleased with that.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: When the news originally broke we sat -- I don't know which Trump supporter I was siting with but I did it every single night and we were all told we were insane that we thought that Michael Cohen was lying about -- you know, when it was so obvious what had happened. Everyone saying clearly, he didn't just do this and didn't get reimburse for it.

And that we were all told we were completely crazy. And I say, I feel like you are doing it again.

[21:10:00] They are like just again, trying to say there is nothing to see here. And I would say even if there isn't a FEC violation I think it matters that the President lied. I'm still -- I may be the only person in America that still gets upset when he lies. But the fact that he flat out lied and Rudy Giuliani went on there and said all of this and Trump stood by him that matters. I don't understand why it doesn't matter.

DENNARD: The President didn't lie. First of all, the didn't lie about it and even if you want to go with Rudy Giuliani's timeline --

COOPER: Have you ever heard the President lie, not personal to you I mean to the American people?

DENNARD: Have I heard the President lie?


DENNARD: I can't -- off the top of my head I can't recall.


DENNARD: Not off the top of my head, no.


DENNARD: But what I will tell you --

COOPER: So you believe like millions of illegal immigrants vote in California and that's why Hillary Clinton won the popular vote?

DENNARD: No, I believe that Hillary Clinton lost the election because she did a horrible job.

COOPER: OK. That's what Trump said.

DENNARD: But the point --


JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think there is also a risk here that we're jumbling a whole bunch of different things together. I mean, Michael Cohen clearly took out a line of credit which $750,000 whatever that is in New York. And we're talking in the property world in New York that's basically getting a shoe box. We know that Mr. Cohen --

POWERS: It's still a lot of money. I mean, come on let's not pretend --

MILLER: We know that Michael Cohen is in the taxi cab medallion business. He has apartments in town houses and all these different things. What we don't know is where exactly that money was taken out for.

COOPER: Right.


MILLER: So I think there is a temptation I think by a lot of folks to go and take that and immediately jumble that into what this is have to do.

COOPER: Right. I've been clear we don't know.

POWERS: I don't think anybody said that. But the point is --

MILLER: The point to bring that -- hold on, one other thing, I think going back to one other thing. I think one thing that Trump world did smart this week was to go and actually establish or get going with the fact they have now this outside council where they can start handling this. Because for in past year I think if they had an outside apparatus where these things were being directed and this wasn't the responsibility of the White House, I think they'd be much better off and I think that it was good that mayor Giuliani got in front and started -- if there is news like this rather than wait for the "Washington Post" or "New York Times" to go and break this type of news go and get it out there.

Now, clearly there is some discrepancy with --

BORGER: The President say, he didn't know what they're talking about? I don't understand.

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He did the President a favor by doing what he did on Sean Hannity? Because if that's the case then why did Trump come out and throw Giuliani under the bus saying, he is not prepared, he is like of an intern that started yesterday.

MILLER: I think it was smart with the President because when the President said, hey, we're going to come out and have a statement with the President essentially did then was cut off any of the drip, drip, drip that the media wanted to go to because they were never going to be satisfied with any answer that Mayor Giuliani gave.

CARDONA: What President continues to do is to continue to slice off any remaining if there is any remaining credibility from this White House and from him, which to me and to many Americans he has zero credibility. And so when he comes out and muddles things more, than they were before then it makes things worse.

And I agree with Kirsten. It's important and it matters.

COOPER: All right, we got to take a break. More on this and also why a judge in one of the legal proceedings involving former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort now seems to be the President's favorite judge. And what he said to Mueller's team that did not bode well for Mueller's team.

Later the man James Comey said was the one who suggested he briefed the President on the now infamous Steele dossier. Former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper joins us.


[21:16:59] COOPER: We're talking about Michael Cohen money, Rudy Giuliani repaying payoffs, truth and lies and more welcome to Washington on Friday night. Back with the panel.

I mean, Jason just in terms -- I mean, you're a great communication expert. Just if terms of you know communications, what do you make of just kind of the rollout of Rudy Giuliani. Because he was saying he coordinated with the President. But then if you you've got to correct the stuff the next day and then the next day to another statement, that's never a good sign?

MILLER: Well, a little bit of a unique vantage point here that I worked for mayor Giuliani on his 2008 presidential race and obviously worked for President Trump on his 20016 race. And so I know both men very well.

There is a massive difference in being a principal yourself and then also speaking on behalf of a principal. And especially when you're speaking on behalf of the principle, someone is, you know, the current President of the United States, one of the greatest speakers that's out there. And so there is always going to be that little bit of a -- a little bit of a daylight between them even though you might say that there is no daylight between the person that you speaking for and the principle there is always going to be some.

And so I think that when mayor Giuliani went out for I think the first interview was good. I think they probably had one or two interviews too many. But, again, this is part of the challenge again when you're speaking on before of say, the President of the United States. Because not only you're speaking but then also when you have the legal dynamic.

COOPER: Right.

MILLER: Because that -- well, no because that's the point --


POWERS: -- and said that everything he said was wrong. I basically talked about him the way like your grade school gym teacher talked about you. Like, he made a good effort. You know, and he doesn't --


MILLER: Hold on, but this is the point I made in the last segment. What the President did when the President went out he essentially cut off any of the talk of the drip, drip, drip or people going at the timeline or trying go and try to poke holes in anything that they were saying --

POWERS: But he said -- what he said was not right. So how can you be saying that Giuliani is doing a good job?

MILLER: Mayor Giuliani has thick skin.

POWERS: You know, here's the thing --

MILLER: He is fine. He knows --

POWERS: He brought them in.

MILLER: He is good enough friends with President Trump if there is a little bit of a love tap or pump Rudy is going to be fine.

BORGER: But here is the thing. It's not a communications problem.


BORGER: It's a truth telling problem it's a legal -- no, but it's legal problem. They don't have a legal strategy. So first of all, they are getting together a new team.


BORGER: They had an old team that didn't work out so well. So now they have a new team. They don't have a legal strategy. That is why they don't have a great press strategy because they don't have a clear message. So you can't blame it all on sort of the press person because if there were a clear message, maybe someone would be giving it. And I've been told they are looking for somebody to sort of be the person out there giving the message.

MILLER: This goes to my point -- this goes to my point that they should have some place a year ago. So I'm glad that they're now getting it, that Mayor Giuliani, that Martin and Jane Raskin finally they're getting these people into place. They're getting Emmet Flood in there.

BORGER: But don't you think you ought to be read in before you become the spokesman?

[21:20:00] COOPER: Paris.

DENNARD: You know, this is how I think this happened. This is exactly how I think things happened with Cohen. He goes -- Donald I got this don't worry about it I'll take care of it. Don't you worry about it, gives him plausible deniability. He goes out and he does what he does specially with Stormy Daniels.

Rudy Giuliani says Mr. President listen, I'm on the team now I'm a New Yorker, Avenatti is a New Yorker. You need somebody at the pit bull out there, the media that offend you and do it from a legal basis. I got it don't you worry about it. And he goes your my guy got you do it. That what Rudy goes and does it and he says, oh wait a minute that's not quite what I thought you were going to do. You were actually wrong. And that's what you saw today the President said.

COATES: But the reason why that's a problematic is who did Giuliani replace?


COATES: He replaced Ty Cobb. Ty Cobb is not the personal attorney of the President of the United States. The role of that --


COATES: I know and I agree that's the point I'm making. He is not the personal attorney of the United States. He is somebody to protecting the office not the incumbent. And the reason why I think it's so problematic when you have inconsistency coming on behalf of that office is that it exposes the actual office holder later on down the line to legal precedents that could harm others.

You remember Clinton and Nixon were 20 years apart. So for a 20-year period of time you had this separate Supreme Court precedent that didn't imperil the office. Now suddenly you have greater exposure. That's really the flaw in the communication strategy if there one.

MILLER: What the President does have no now is he does have some bulldog surround him or actually get out there and defend him. This is been the things that's been missing for so long whether on the legal side or be on the communications side.

Yes, again, Martin and Jane Raskin. He has Emmet Flood coming --

(CROSSTALK) MILLER: The President deserves to have some people out there defending him. That's --

COOPER: But didn't the bulldog just make a bigger mess on the paper. I mean, this like --

COATES: That's my point, that's exactly right.

COOPER: He basically -- I don't want to use the term throwing the bus because it's such a cliche. But Michael's Cohen entire argument all along has been -- had nothing to do with the election.


COOPER: And Rudy Giuliani goes out in the next day after Sean having said, oh yes, actually it -- of course it had something to do with the election.

CARDONA: Imagine if this thing had come out in the middle of it.


MILLER: Clarified it a little bit today.

BORGER: Clarified it then?

CARDONA: But then Trump comes out and says Giuliani has none of this fact right.

MILLER: Oh, he didn't say it's none of it. He said, he is getting all --

CARDONA: He said he needs to get his fact straight.

MILLER: But he did not say -- but Maria you can't say, he had none of them right.

CARDONA: Come on Jason.

MILLER: The President didn't say that.

CARDONA: Here is the problem.

MILLER: Did the President say that? No.

CARDONA: The President said that Giuliani does not have all the facts.

MILLER: No, that he is going to get all of these facts.

CARDONA: He does not have all the fact -- what does that mean, it's the same thing Jason, come on.

COOPER: Jason, doesn't have --

CARDONA: And when you have to split hairs like that, you know you're in trouble. Because -- but here is the other problem, Gloria and Anderson and everybody on the panel. So Trump comes out. He used cliche, he throws Giuliani under the bus. Says that he is not up to speed that he is getting facts. But yet he tweets himself supposedly himself the facts that or facts that Giuliani talked about during the Sean Hannity interview in terms of what this payment was and what it was for.

BORGER: It was called clean up. He was trying to do a little bit of cleanup for his own attorney which by the way should never happen. So --


BORGER: So he brought in Giuliani, our reporting is, he brought in Giuliani, A, because he likes him and he feels comfortable with him. He brought in the Raskins because he knows they're really good lawyers but he wanted a star.

DENNARD: Emmet Flood.

BORGER: Giuliani is a star, Emmet Flood is somebody the White House counsel, Don McGahn wanted in there, may be one day will be the White House counsel if Don McGahn leaves. So finally he has got his team together. But the team hasn't gotten its act together. And so Giuliani goes out there. Maybe the President said, Rudy, I want you to go out there. Everybody else was shocked.

CARDONA: Didn't they speak before hand?

BORGER: Rudy said they did but who knows when. And the rest of the lawyers were acting like I was told he throw a grenade into the room.


COOPER: Let's take a quick break. Coming up next, a judge questions Robert Mueller's case against Paul Manafort. The President weighs in on it. Details ahead.


[21:27:25] COOPER: Special Counsel Mueller's legal and investigative juggernaut hit a speed bump. Today, a federal judge in Virginia questioning Mr. Mueller's motivations in the fraud prosecution of former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort. The judge saying it was aimed at getting him to flip on the President.

Lawyers for Manafort argue that the charges are outside the scope of the special counsel's authority. Today speaking in Dallas, the President singled out the judge for praise.


TRUMP: Judge T.S. Ellis who is really something very special I hear from many standpoints he is a suggested person. Suggested the charges before the U.S. district court for the eastern district of Virginia were part of Mueller's designs to pressure Mr. Manafort into giving up information on President Donald Trump or others in the campaign. Then how does this have anything to do with the campaign, the judge asked? Let me tell you, folks? We're all fighting battles. But I love fighting these battles. It's really a disgrace. Thank you.


COOPER: I'm back now with the panel. Certainly, I mean that -- a big set for the Mueller team?

BORGER: Yes. It was a set back. Yes. I think what the judge was saying was, look, I need justification for where you're going in this lawsuit. And so what he wanted to look at is the unredacted version, you know Congress got the redacted version. He wants to look at the unredacted version of what Rosenstein wrote about the scope of the -- where the special counsel can go.

COOPER: Right.

BORGER: And so the judge I think -- it's a very legitimate question for a judge to ask. He asked it in kind of a snarky with a -- but I would -- you know?

COOPER: Gloria, the judges was basically like look, you don't really care about these charges against Manafort, he was trying to get him the flip?

BORGER: Right.

COATES: That's largely because that has been the narrative people assume when talking about Manafort that the Justice Department always wants -- the special counsel always wants a bigger fish than the one they have on the hook. But often times that's so incorrect that people are often looking at the person they're targeting and the person they're charging if there are end game. But judges are almost notorious I know it's not normally said. But they're almost notoriously difficult on the federal prosecutors because this is a great deal of way of the United States versus someone's aim and they are pointing out, you got to have proof in this.

COOPER: But the judge is rising the point -- Paris, that you made at the beginning which is, wait a minute this is supposed be collusion in Russia.


COOPER: That's not what -- where Manafort seems to be.

DENNARD: Exactly. And this is why a lot of people that are supportive of the President are skeptical at the direction that this investigation is going, especially as it weighs into Michael Cohen and now it's going deeper and deeper into his finances and it seems to be going further and further away from what the original -- what we thought the original scope was about.

[21:30:09] And so all the judge did was just clarify from the bench what a lot of people are starting to feel. And this is why it's so important that the Mueller investigation is free from any sense of political -- politicalization. You know, the Democrats that are on there and the people who had tweeted about Hillary Clinton -- or tweeted negatively -- excuse me, about President Trump. That's what -- even though he fired them and get rid of them, this is what people are talking about. And he just confirmed it for a lot of people.

COOPER: So Laura, if the Mueller team cannot convince this judge that this is within their scope and that they are legitimately interested in the charges against Paul Manafort just on the face of it, is it possible the charges just be tossed out which is what the Manafort team wants?

COATES: Well, it's possible. Remember he raised this same argument in Washington, D.C. And in response that court sound no, no we're going to go forward because although the people believe that the directive of Mueller was simply that focus on the collusion and the campaign, Rosenstein also expanded it and said you are also able to look into the finances of Paul Manafort. And that's part of your directive as with well.

So in that expansive notion of why they are targeting Manafort in particular it would fall under that same thing. What they're hoping to do is -- this is not somehow a vindictive as the President calls witch hunt against one person or that they're trying to get him to flip. Bank fraud cases though are largely sided on paper. It's not even the heavy witnesses' case, it's about whether you have the documents or you do not. So the combination -- the documents Rosenstein's memo, the unredacted version I think will give further clarity to the judge. But he may have been speaking largely to an audience of one.

BORGER: Don't forget where Manafort was doing business. You know, it wasn't like he was doing business in the Bronx.

COATES: Right.

BORGER: He was doing business with in Ukraine.

COOPER: Right Russian President.

BORGER: Yes, with the -- right with a pro Russian President. That is relevant.

COOPER: Did this give you hope today? I mean, did you see this as a good development, Jason?

MILLER: Well, I think it's a -- it's an affirmation I think for a lot of Trump supporters think, that this investigation is well beyond of scope of what it's about. I think the comments today regardless of anything else that happens, you'll going to see the comments played over and over or at least the words read out.

I mean, these are pretty tough comments from the judge for the prosecutors. Saying that -- or questioning why they were going after Manafort and was the goal here just to try to get at President Trump.

Keep in mind, yes, there is the legal dynamic. Obviously they are in the courtroom and they're going after Paul Manafort here.

There is a political dynamic here as well because, say, if this does gets further down the road, if Democrats were get the House back and try to push forward with impeachment or things like that, and there is a very strong political dynamic here. You'll going to see those comments from the judge brought up over and over. And I have never seen a federal judge throw it down like that in such purely political terms and say what the heck are you guys doing? I'm not a lawyer so I'm not this that world. But you're going to see these comments. It was pretty shocking.

COOPER: Did you -- Maria, I mean, obviously you're a Democrat, did you think the judge went too far?

CARDONA: I'm not a lawyer so I don't have -- obviously that legal expertise but from what I have been hearing and you let me know Laura -- but you can't really assume what a judge ultimately is going to do by what they say. And the kind of comments that they make.

I actually believe that it's good that he did this. Because I agree that this should be a very high bar. Because at the end of the day if the case -- if the judge does let the case move forward then the skepticism -- there is no where to go with the skepticism. If he doesn't then I'm sure that the Mueller investigators are going to go on in another avenue because I really do believe that the scope has everything to do with financial issues. With the bank issues, the finances, even as it goes back maybe 10 or even more years. I've always said that if you can go back and follow the money and everybody talks about following the money, if Trump is beholden to the Russians in any way shape or form because of any money they gave him in the past then I think that is an issue now that he is President of the United States.

COOPER: Kirsten, the President did continue to kind of distance himself from Manafort today. He called him a nice guy but only worked for him a couple of months?

POWERS: Yes. I mean, he was the campaign manager. So -- it's interesting because when I was listening to it I thought -- I actually thought the judge sounded like he was auditioning for a job in the Trump administration. I mean, is this normal behavior?

COATES: Well, it's normal in the sense that a judge will be critical and not going to just give cater blanch to a deferral prosecutor to give you overwhelming power. In fact, the judge said we as a society don't like to just hand over the reins to anyone in particular.

But you have to give Manafort counsel credit here because Manafort -- they originally tried to bring these same charges and lump them into the D.C. case and say, listen it's easier for us to streamline everything together. You know you are facing the 12-page indictment in Washington, D.C. Why must we go across the river and do it there?

And Manafort's counsel says, oh no this is not part of that original stuff. It doesn't stem from the same particular side of facts, therefore I want it over where we would have had banking. [21:35:09] And in doing that, they did a very good strategic step to have this even be questioned. Had they net done that? This wherever it would have come out, the judge wouldn't have had opportunity to be critical. And so what you're seeing is -- unlike perhaps other legal strategies of other Trump surrogates including Trump, you have a strategic effort across all fronts to say, I'm attack about the scope. I'm going to attack about nature of the charges. They're actually pretty smart it won't be successful but they're pretty smart.

COOPER: Paris.

DENNARD: What the judge did was -- there has been so much of speculation and this could be -- the judge just said show me the facts. Be accurate.

And here is the problem. The American people heard you just say, it's like he was auditions for a job in the White House and you said he was talking to audience of one, meaning president Trump -- no he was doing what he was supposed to do.

COATES: Actually, I met the audience of one. I was referring to was actually Robert Mueller because when he said I want ensure that you're not just out to get the President, the person who is charge with that role according to everyone special counsel to investigate the Trump campaign in this orbit is Robert Mueller. I wasn't making denigration about Donald Trump or a federal judge in article three but your point is, well taken that many people believe he was talking to.

COOPER: Guys, we got to get break.

CARDONA: The point about this was that he was reading from a CNN report. We're no longer fake news.

COOPER: All right, thanks everybody. Up next the President and his allies continue pushing the narrative that the President was right to fire James Comey. And keep coming up with new reasons why. Coming up next, we'll hear from James Clapper who was Director of National Intelligence when this all started.


[21:40:16] COOPER: This week saw another few bricks in the wall of explanations for the firing of James Comey. The latest according to the White House being the President doesn't need a reason but his lawyer Rudy Giuliani is giving another one anyway.

Retired Lieutenant General James Clapper was the Director of National Intelligence when this all started. Comey says he was the one who suggested he briefed the President about the now infamous dossier. Director Clappers joins me now.

I'm just wondering what you make of -- the sort of evolving explanations from this White House about why Comey was fired?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, you've really know, Anderson, what to make of it. I do think it's perhaps a reflection of trying to avoid either the appearance or the substance of obstruction. And, again, I'm not the lawyer here. But I do wonder about that as these changes occur, explaining why Comey was fired. And then of course the press secretary is just saying well, we don't have to explain it. Well, maybe technically they don't. But I think just as an obligation to the American public, there should be an explanation.

COOPER: And the -- of course the question also is how does Robert Mueller view all of these changing explanations? And we don't know the answer to that.

CLAPPER: Well, that's a great question. And I'm sure he is wondering as well what actually was the motivation? You know, I guess I would go with the one that the President offered himself, which was because of the investigation.

COOPER: When you heard Rudy Giuliani the other day on television talk about FBI agents who -- raiding Michael Cohen. And Michael Cohen said that they were courteous and professional, describing them as storm troopers. I'm just wondering -- I mean, it seems like down is up and up is down that you have a Republican who use to be known as a law and order guy calling FBI agents who are doing their job lawfully executing search warrants that have been approved by a judge nazi storm troopers?

CLAPPER: Well, I thought that characterization is reprehensible in and of itself. And again, this is part of I think the general assault on our institutions, notably law enforcement and perhaps lesser extent the intelligence community, which is not good for -- it's not good for the country. And it's certainly not good for the people in it. And the great men and women of the FBI that I know and have worked with over many years and to have them referred to that way by a member of the President's team as storm troopers is really reprehensible.

COOPER: I want to ask you about North Korea, because, you know, because there is -- Rudy Giuliani said that he believes the three Americans were being held are going to be released. Hopefully that is certainly the case. You actually went over to North Korea under -- during the Obama administration and got the release of two Americans at the time.


COOPER: And that was all the Americans being held at that time. Can you just talk about what that was like? I know you carried a letter from President Obama. You didn't meet directly with Kim Jong-un, right?

CLAPPER: No, I did not. Well, first was -- for me it was pretty stressful. Because North Koreans have their own arcane processes for actually -- the actual administrative release of these prisoners. And it wasn't -- when I went to retrieve the two that I did on November 14 it wasn't until the last minute whether it was for sure we were going to get them.

COOPER: Do they say in advance of you going that there is a good chance? Or are you just going on kind of the --

CLAPPER: Well, yes, the expectation was in my case that they would be released. But they -- what they expected was a -- to use their term, a breakthrough, since I was the first cabinet level official to visit North Korea since Madeleine Albright have been there in the year 2000 --

COOPER: They wanted a high level official to come?


COOPER: And they ask for that and with the promise that they would get our two citizens out. But then when I didn't show up with a big breakthrough promise of peace negotiations, peace treaty whatever, they were bitterly disappointed and then they kind of played games with us for a couple of days.

All to say I think the lesson here is the less said the better. And it makes me nerves apprehensive when, you know, for pr purposes we are talking about the release of these Americans and that could give the impression to the North Koreans if they're contemplating the release that they are being taken for granted.

COOPER: Is it like negotiating with a rational actor? I mean, is it like a just a regular business negotiation? Or is it punching into a marsh mallow that you don't know exactly what the ripple effects are?

[21:45:10] CLAPPER: The North Koreans are rational. And that was certainly reinforced when I engaged with them. And they are very smart. And they have their own narrative and they are very -- when I went there, very committed to it.

As long as you understand that and you can deal with the narrative and can push back on them in a somewhat respectful way they're OK. We got our two people out. And that was the main purpose of the mission. I always felt a little frustrated though when I left that we didn't use that opportunity to engage with them more.

COOPER: General Clapper fascinating, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up, a story of -- well actually we'll just -- more news ahead. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Well, certainly not a slow Friday night. There were more breaking news, just breaking now goes straight to the heart of much what we have been talking about. It's in "The New York Times." Maggie Haberman has broken the story. She's on the buy line.

Here is the lead of the story. "President Trump knew about a six- figure payment that Michael D. Cohen, his personal lawyer made to a pornographic film actress several months before he denied any knowledge of it to reporters Aboard Air Force One in April according to two people familiar with the arrange.

[21:50:09] Now just to remind you, here is what he said on Board Air Force One.


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

TRUMP: No. No. What else?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then why did Michael Cohen make those if there was no truth to her allegations?

TRUMP: Well, you'll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. And you'll have to ask Michael Cohen.

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

TRUMP: No, I don't know. No.


COOPER: Now a marine directly from New York Times story that were saying, it was not immediately clear when Mr. Trump learned of the payment, which Mr. Cohen made in 2016 at a time when a news media outlet were poise to pay for story about an alleged affair. Three people close to the matter said that Mr. Trump knew that Mr. Cohen had succeeded in keeping the allegation from becoming public at the time that the President denied it.

Laura Coates, what do you make of this? Essentially, the reporting from Michael Shear, Maggie Haberman, Jim Rutenberg and Matt Apuzzo is that the President was not telling the truth there, that he actually knew about it months before that though the exact date is not clear?

COATES: Well, you can certainly lie to the press and have credibility crises. But you cannot lie and put yourself in the position for more legal liability and expect not to have criminal exposure.

The problem with telling lies is you have to keep them all straight and you have to remember the date that you gave. If you don't there are opportunities for the very thing the President has feared.

He talks about perjury traps in an interview with Mueller but here, he has created his own with Stormy Daniels case by saying what he knew and when he knew it. But I'm still waiting on the real big question here, and that is, it's one thing to have known about the payment, but the federal campaign finance laws require that you knew about it and that it was made for the purpose of trying to influence, contribute to or somehow be a part of an election or the campaign. And I think you're seeing a web of lies that are webbing around that exact thing.

COOPER: The President can always make the argument that he was doing -- you know, that he -- yes, he knew about it but it was really about protecting his family. It was about -- he didn't want to cause his wife public embarrassment and therefore had nothing to do with the campaign. It's an argument frankly in the John Edwards case, which took place I think it was like a year before the actual election. That was an argument that certainly people in --

POWERS: Yes, it's a little strange though that Rudy Giuliani whose representing him said, obviously this happened because of the election, right? I mean, and this is -- you know, we're going to assume that Rudy Giuliani is somewhat familiar with Donald's thinking on this -- I mean Donald Trump's thinking on this. And so, I think that's a problem.

COOPER: This also directly contradicts what Rudy Giuliani just said on Fox & Friends in the morning that the President just learned about this, 10 days ago.

POWERS: Right. Yes, and also it's just -- it's the old, why are you lying thing. They just keep making up different stories and if it was just as simple as that why wasn't that just the story in the first place? Why not just say yes, this happened and I was protecting my family. So it just becomes increasingly hard to really believe anything they say when they keep changing their story.

COATES: And remember the President or anyone is the actual candidate can donate as much one as they want to their own campaign. That's not illegal to do. What's illegal and can be illegal is if you make the donations and fail to report them or you somehow try to circumvent campaign finance laws but having somebody issue a loan that you repay following the election and not to have to disclose information which maybe the case here.

COOPER: And we should also point out earlier "The Wall Street Journal" I mean earlier like 45 minutes earlier or so that it seems like a year go broke a story that Michael Cohen -- all along we knew Michael Cohen had said that he paid $130,000 to Stormy Daniels out of a home equity line of credit from his bank. Wall Street Journal has learned that in two transactions he actually was able to amass more than $700,000 exactly what 774,00 -- the exact purpose of all that money is not at this point clear.

CARDONA: That's right. But now that we've learned this yet another lie upon all the lies that have been told, people are going to assume that that is a slush fund because Michael Cohen called himself a fixer. What else do you have to fix? I mean, are there other porn stars out that you're going to have to pay off?

COOPER: I will tell you that David Schwartz, an attorney from Michael Cohen in another lawsuit, which is now since been dropped but also a friend of Michael Cohen said to Erin Burnett -- and I don't know why I'm such a story house of this campaign knowledge --

POWERS: I wonder why.

COOPER: My career has taken a very strange turn -- but I remember, David Schwartz saying something to the fact to the Erin Burnett that Michael Cohen, this was his per view, this was his -- he didn't specify what that meant, but that he had sort of carte blanche to do this without necessarily inform the President.

CARDONA: Well, but also let's remember he called himself, he describes himself as the Tom Hagen of the Trump administration or of Donald Trump.

COOPER: I believe it was #RayDonovan?

[21:55:00] CARDONA: Ray Donovan. Well, my gosh, so which is worse?

Then here is the thing, you brought up a plausible explanations, which I did this to protect my family. The reason why that does not pass the small test is because of the timing of this payment, which was the month right before the election.

Let's remember that the Stormy Daniels story was about to come out in 2011. She had given the story to "In Touch" magazine. So he was so worried about the effect the story would have on his family, on his wife, on Malanaia, why didn't pay her off --

MILLER: And again the story had just broken so, I got about 3.25 away through the story before we came back on the air.

But the story at least (INAUDIBLE) was able to read does not say that President Trump knew all of the details about what was going on at the time Michael Cohen was --

COOPER: Right. It just as he knew about these months before the Air Force One comments.

CARDONA: So, it's true he lied, right?

MILLER: But hold on a second. No. But hold on.

CORDONA: No, really?

MILLER: Because if he has asked the question about did you know about -- what the deal was? Or what it was put together or how the financial structure that was set up about the payment. And again because we don't --

CARDONA: He lied.

MILLER: That could be accurately. Maybe he didn't know exactly what was being put together or the whole conflicts so the president could very much be telling the truth. He might not have known what the heck Michael Cohen was doing.

COOPER: All right.

MILLER: Both things be can --

CARDONA: Or he could have lied.


COOPER: We got to take a break. But thank you everybody in the panel. We'll be right back.