Return to Transcripts main page
President Trump Denies Changing Story on Stormy Daniels After Rudy Giuliani's Comments; Aired 10:30-11a ET
Aired May 4, 2018 - 10:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:30:00] KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He was telling the reporter to go back and look at what he said. Of course, John and Poppy, we both know that on that flight he denied knowing anything about the payment to Stormy Daniels from Michael Cohen and also denied knowing where that money came from. But there the president is saying go back and look at what I said. Something we can easily do. We do have it on tape. And he said no, he did not know about that payment.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Kaitlan, stand by at the White House.
As we said, there has been so much that has developed just over the last few minutes. Want to bring in our political director David Chalian.
Not only has the president sort of undercut the legal strategy his new lawyer seems to have put out, but he walked across the tarmac there at Joint Base Andrews with his chief of staff John Kelly, talked about how great their relationship is despite the consistent reports that there is tension there. And then something I haven't seen before with the two of them, John Kelly goes to the microphone to affirm what the president is saying, and as he puts it, note how brilliant the administration has been. What did you see there, David?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. It made me wonder, how much longer is John Kelly going to be in this job? It's like right -- the next moment after the big hug like that. It makes me wonder, as you said, John, with all that reporting about their relationship just how much longer John Kelly stays there.
But to your first point about the undercutting, John, we got to go back to that interview that Rudy Giuliani did on FOX News, he went on with Sean Hannity, the friendliest environment, to in his own words what he told reporters afterwards was to implement and execute on a deliberate strategy that this is something he and the president discussed, that he was going to get this information out there, that Trump had made the repayment at some point as soon as he saw the opportunity to do so.
This is something that was cooked up between the president and Rudy Giuliani. And that he went with full blessing and then Giuliani, remember, reported that the president was very pleased with his performance. This is a complete reversal of that. This is a statement coming out
soon, to give you proper facts, because Rudy Giuliani doesn't have his facts right, said Rudy Giuliani's client, the president of the United States. It's astonishing.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: It is astonishing. And David Chalian, the president even said it's actually very simple, explaining the payment to Stormy Daniels, although he wouldn't explain them to the reporters, he said there is a lot of misinformation and then he said, quote, "learn before you speak. It's a lot easier." But to your point, these two men strategized at a meeting before he went on Hannity --
BERMAN: Allegedly. I mean, that's their story. What can we believe? How do we know we can we believe any of it now?
HARLOW: It's a very fair and important point. I mean, what -- do you think there is any strategy now from the president in the White House on this one or is this just muddy the waters, muddy them, muddy them, muddy them, scream fake news and hope people forget?
CHALIAN: It's hard to discern a strategy other than they seem to be playing catch up. They're behind developments. So I think what you see now is the president responding to the overall coverage he's seen about Rudy Giuliani's comments and realizing that whatever their goal was to try to clean things up and perhaps wall off the president from the Michael Cohen investigation and the Southern District of New York, that didn't seem to work well, and so here's the president sort of saying, you know what, I'll get out there and I will have to clean this up myself which, of course, is a position that no White House likes to see the president in.
But this president, as you know, believes he's his best advocate and his best communications specialist to get out there and try to clean this up himself.
BERMAN: You know, insofar as there may be a strategy here, it's facts be dammed. I mean, you know, Rudy Giuliani may not have the facts right, will present another set of facts. You determine what you will. But, you know, we will go partisan here.
HARLOW: Yes. Yes. That's a great point.
BERMAN: You know, we will bring up the facts that we believe that the Mueller investigation is tainted.
HARLOW: With Mueller.
BERMAN: It's something we hear every night from Sean Hannity and I don't think it's any coincidence that you're hearing it from the president, you know, the morning after he gets the Hannity notes here. That is, you know, it is a political strategy and maybe that will work, David.
CHALIAN: It is. And by the way, John, it is working. I mean, we have seen how Republicans are responding in the polls.
HARLOW: Yes. You're right.
CHALIAN: And looking at the Mueller investigation. This constant hammering and politicizing this investigation, it does seem to be working with the president's supporters and beyond that a little bit inside his party which is key. But what I do think is important to note here too is that the president seems committed to a strategy on fighting back on the obstruction of justice charge, the potential charge, that he laid out in January when, remember, he met with reporters in John Kelly's office in a sort of stop by, and he -- we're still in the same place all these months later, he calls what he did fighting back. And he thinks that's what investigators are calling obstruction of justice and he still seems committed to a strategy that that is the case he's going to make, that that is simply just fighting back.
[10:35:10] HARLOW: We have seen so much shake-up is an understatement on the legal team. So Emmet Flood is now coming into the team and what's interesting about Emmet Flood is that Giuliani said in that interview on Hannity that Emmet Flood was going to be dealing with things like immunity, et cetera. So you have the president just saying now to reporters, if I thought it was fair, the investigation, I would override my lawyers. He just said I will not listen to any of my lawyers. I will make the ultimate decision, which is why John Dowd left. That was significant to me.
CHALIAN: Hugely significant, Poppy. But of course, in the same breadth, he's saying it is not fair. Right? To your point about the partisan argument, he's saying this is stacked against me. It sounds to me he's determined that at the current moment he doesn't think it's a fair setup. So therefore one would follow his logic to say well, then he won't sit down with Mueller. But of course, he doesn't want to rule out that possibility and he doesn't want to invite the scrutiny and the potential, you know, ultimate perhaps constitutional crisis at the court over it so he's leaving over the possibility. But all his other words indicate that he's saying this is not a fair investigation.
HARLOW: He all but called Mueller a Democrat. He tried to did that. He said only thing he said about Mueller is that he worked for Obama. He forgot that Mueller is a registered Republican --
BERMAN: And was appointed by --
HARLOW: By Bush.
BERMAN: By Bush.
HARLOW: Unanimously confirmed by the Senate.
CHALIAN: I think he said he worked for Obama for eight years.
BERMAN: For eight years. That's a math thing. I've give him a pass on the math there. I mean, it was wrong.
I want to bring in Shimon Prokupecz who covers the investigation for us, the Mueller investigation, for us right now. Any sense where they are in the negotiations, you know, between the
Mueller team and the president's new legal team on this interview. The president keeps on saying he loved to do what his lawyers are saying, you know, I'm not sure if we can even believe that because it's a good political argument to say I want to do it.
HARLOW: But they won't let me.
BERMAN: But my lawyers say no. But where do things stand right now, Shimon?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: I think it's fair to say, John, you're absolutely right. You know, this is a political argument for him. This witch hunt, this whole idea that he doesn't want to -- that his lawyers don't want to do what he wants to do. But we know that negotiations are under way. Certainly things drastically changed after the Michael Cohen raid. He felt it was extremely unfair. It caught his team, the president's legal team off guard.
But the bottom line is, John, and really is that this investigation cannot come to a close without the president's participation. It's clear that the special counsel wants to talk to him, the FBI agents there, the prosecutors there, want to talk to him, right? We know that also because they threatened a subpoena if that was necessary. That is not something his legal team -- the president's legal team wants to go through as well.
So it is an ongoing negotiation. And as far as we know, those talks continue. Whether or not he actually agrees to sit down with the special counsel, of course, that's still up in the air. His legal team we know does not necessarily want him to sit down before the special counsel because they're just concerned about some of the things he may say and that is the other thing, there are still not a whole lot of agreement on the team about what to do next.
There are some who want him to sit down and there are some who don't. And certainly bringing Rudy Giuliani into the mix now has thrown everything for a loop because no one there seems to know what is going on. Some are saying to us that Rudy Giuliani and the president are doing their own thing. And it's clear, and now the president comes out and essentially is saying that what Rudy Giuliani has said may not all be accurate.
We have also heard that Michael Cohen has had some issues with some of what Rudy Giuliani has been saying. So it's really unclear, John, in the end, when this interview is going to happen. But the fact is that this investigation, as much as the president wants it to end, probably cannot come to a conclusion without his participation.
HARLOW: And Kaitlan Collins -- Shimon, thank you, stay with us. Kaitlan Collins at the White House. I know, Kaitlan, you have something to add on Giuliani here.
COLLINS: Well, Poppy, it was very interesting the way that the president talked about Rudy, because though he did praise him, he said he was a great guy, he did seem to throw him under the bus a little by saying that he had just started, even though he was hired two weeks ago, he said he didn't have all of his facts straight. He was still learning the subject matter. Heavily implying that Rudy Giuliani got something wrong when he made his comments on FOX News Wednesday night, those explosive comments about the president.
The president also said they'd be publishing a full list regarding the payments that he made to Michael Cohen, of course, the president tweeted yesterday that there had been this monthly retainer, but he did seem to be sending a message to Giuliani, one of the latest additions to the president's legal team by saying that, saying he hasn't gotten his facts straight, he's still learning the matter, he's not totally familiar with everything and they're also saying that if he decides that Robert Mueller is fair, he's going to override his lawyers and sit down with him.
[10:40:04] So certainly the president did seem to be sending a message there to Giuliani.
BERMAN: I will say, he didn't just throw Giuliani under the bus. He threw him under the bus at the White House then ran over him again at Joint Base Andrews.
HARLOW: That's true.
COLLINS: Backed up. Yes.
BERMAN: He brought it up twice. Independently. This was a choice by the president to make sure that we heard it the first time, so this is clearly a message from him. One other point I'll make, he said that Rudy Giuliani will be coming out with a statement, they're going to put some official version of this together. So not only do we not know the truth at this point we don't even know what their version of events is right now to assess it.
HARLOW: And it's a great point. It's not just about the Stormy Daniels payment. Rudy Giuliani said something incredibly significant about the reason that the president fired James Comey.
BERMAN: And that's a great point to bring up. And Michael Zeldin, if we can bring you into this discussion on that point, the president brought up the issue of obstruction. He continues to say there was no obstruction, the whole investigation into obstruction is a fraud. Maybe what was in his head is when Rudy Giuliani said that the president fired James Comey because Comey wouldn't publicly exonerate him.
The president says, you know, I'm just fighting back. They think it's obstruction. Is there a fighting back exemption to the notion of obstruction of justice?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, not in law. Maybe in politics. You know, this -- Giuliani was dammed by faint praise. There's just no question about that, which the president did. But as it relates to the Mueller investigation, remember, Giuliani was supposed to be brought in here for his gravitas and his prior existing relationship with Mueller in order to help facilitate, you know, an interview and then, you know, a sort of closure.
And the president said Rudy Giuliani knows about witch hunts better than anybody. So essentially Rudy Giuliani is confirming the president's belief that this is a witch-hunt, and yet he's supposed to be the emissary to Mueller to negotiate the terms of an interview which I think has to occur as Shimon said before this investigation is over and which the law probably will be on Mueller's side to demand. So I just don't understand strategically what Rudy Giuliani is doing that can be seen in any way as helpful to the president's legal cause. He's just not helping.
HARLOW: David Chalian, let me bring you back in here and let's remind people that Rudy Giuliani in an interview with the "Washington Post," said he sat down with the president, they discussed a few days ago that they were going to reveal the details of the reimbursement, because as Giuliani has since confirmed, the Southern District has these documents because of the raid, right? And they're going to get out there at some point. And then here is a quote from Giuliani to the "Post."
Quote, "He," meaning the president, "was well aware that at some point when I saw the opportunity I was going to get this over with." So now doesn't the president essentially have to say Rudy Giuliani was lying in that if he's going to walk back what Giuliani said?
CHALIAN: Look, the president -- Poppy, I think the president clearly stated Rudy Giuliani did not have his facts right. He said he's going to get his facts straight. That implies his facts haven't been correct at this point according to the president. And so two things you have to ask there, either Rudy Giuliani was not telling the truth to the "Washington Post" about this being a strategy.
CHALIAN: And that the president agreed and the president was pleased with this and wanted this out there, that that's one possibility or the other possibility is the president didn't like the coverage of what he saw after Rudy Giuliani made those comments and is now shifting and trying a different approach here in order to explain to the American people in a way that he thinks might be more acceptable. We'll see when we get the Giuliani statement about what Donald Trump claims the facts are here.
One of those two things here are true. Either Donald Trump is shifting stories after the fact, or Rudy Giuliani wasn't accurately portraying what the strategy was going in. I'm not sure, you know, Sean Hannity, when he's posed with whether or not he believed what Rudy Giuliani told him or what the president tells him now, it will be curious to see how he tries to adjudicate that situation between two guests that appeared there on friendly turf, but there is a clear contradiction right now.
BERMAN: All right, guys. Stick around if you will. There is so much more to discuss. The breaking news, if you're just joining us, the president of the United States just did a full walk back, undercutting his new attorney, Rudy Giuliani, saying Rudy is a nice guy, but he just started a day ago. He will get his facts straight eventually, indicating he doesn't think he has them straight now. So much more to discuss. Stay with us.
[10:48:41] HARLOW: Breaking news, if you're just joining us, the president just completely undercut his attorney Rudy Giuliani and walked back just about everything Giuliani said about the president's payments to a porn star and the reasoning for firing his FBI director.
It has been a remarkable 48 minutes since the president chose to speak to the press. Just listen to what the president said to reporters at Joint Base Andrews moments ago about the payments made to Stormy Daniels.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why did you change your story on Stormy Daniels?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're not changing any stories. All I'm telling you is that this country is right now running so smooth and to be bringing up that kind of crap and to be bringing up witch hunts all the time, that's all you want to talk about, you're going to see --
TRUMP: Excuse me, excuse me.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You said on Air Force One that you did not know anything about the payment.
TRUMP: No, but you have to -- excuse me. You take a look at what I said. You go back and take a look. You'll see what I said.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You said no when I asked you, did you know about the payment?
TRUMP: Excuse me. Excuse me. You go take a look at what I said.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: "You go take a look at what I said, you will see what I said."
HARLOW: It's a good idea. So we did.
BERMAN: It's a great idea. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?
TRUMP: No. No. What else? UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Then why did Michael Cohen make those if there
was no truth to the allegation?
TRUMP: Well, you'll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney and you'll have to ask Michael.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you know where he got the money for that payment?
TRUMP: No, I don't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[10:50:06] BERMAN: All right, if you parse, I suppose, the question and the answers there, the president was asked, did you know about the payments to Stormy Daniels? He said no. The question is, when is did in that case. The other issue, other question was, where did Michael Cohen, do you know where Michael Cohen got the money, he said no to that.
Let's bring back our panel to discuss.
You know, Caroline Polisi here, we are going to get a new version, we are told, from the White House, maybe from Rudy Giuliani, about exactly what happened with the payments to Michael Cohen, specifically the hush money payments from Michael Cohen. It seems to me they're going to have to have a pretty airtight case both legally and politically to bring all of these different versions of the story together in one place.
CAROLINE POLISI, FEDERAL AND WHITE COLLAR CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: They are. And, I mean, Stormy Daniels notwithstanding, the fact is if there this much of a breakdown between Giuliani and Trump on this issue, imagine how this is going to spill over into the Mueller investigation. I mean, you can live in this alternate reality, where facts don't matter sort of on air and into the press, but that doesn't fly in a courtroom. That doesn't fly to prosecutors. And Mueller, I mean, if we're talking about the president, the possibility of the president sitting down for an interview with Mueller, I mean, this type of behavior is not going to fly. It's not going to get him very far.
HARLOW: David Chalian, the parsing of words that John rightly mentioned there, this seems like another depends what the definition of is is moment.
CHALIAN: It does. And I long studied that tape and I agree with John, that you could see the avenues of opportunity to parse language and have an is is moment and Donald Trump can say, I did not know it at the time, I did not know about the home equity line at the time. It doesn't answer the question of reimbursement, when did you learn of this?
CHALIAN: Did you know you were paying him back for this money that was paid to Stormy Daniels? Rudy Giuliani seemed to start answering those questions this week and clearly now we're learning in a way that Donald Trump doesn't think works for him or doesn't comport with what he believes his version of the facts are. That's why as you're saying this statement we're going to get from Giuliani, because he has spoken so much and at length over the last 48 hours, with so many new fact patterns in there, it is hard to imagine that one single statement is going to be able to both keep the president's language on Air Force One as still operable which the president believe it is and square that with anything that Giuliani said over the last two days.
BERMAN: Right. He's going to force us to believe -- go ahead, Michael, but let me just add. He's going to force us to believe that somehow the president was paying Michael Cohen and didn't know why he was paying him and then we need to know when he started paying him and then we need to know when he did know why he was paying him.
Fascinating to see if we get those answers.
ZELDIN: That's right. And the thing -- the irony of all of this, from my point of view, is that Rudy Giuliani went out on his own and did this. Maybe he talked to the president, maybe he didn't talk to the president. But he clearly did not know what the law and the facts were related to the Federal Elections Commission and they have right there as the White House counsel Don McGahn who is a federal election law specialist. That's what he knows better than any other area of law. And all Giuliani had to do was to say, hey, I talked to the president, this is how we want to come out with this, how does this implicate his legal standing as a matter of Federal Election Commission and the Department of Justice. It is stunning. Just stunning.
HARLOW: You know -- you know, Kaitlan, just as you say, I'm thinking about the press briefing, I'm thinking about Sarah Sanders, I'm thinking about her credibility problem after yesterday. How does she square this today?
COLLINS: Right. We can talk about Sarah Sanders and what she said and what she didn't say and what she knew and what she didn't know and also about Rudy Giuliani and what he's going to say in this statement and how he's going to clear things up. The president there making clear that he thinks Rudy Giuliani needs to get his facts straight. The president also saying here on the South Lawn before he headed out that you need to learn before you speak.
COLLINS: But this all goes back to the president himself, who said on Twitter yesterday, that he did pay Michael Cohen a reimbursement for what he paid Stormy Daniels.
COLLINS: This is the president himself. That was the president there on Air Force One saying on Air Force One that he didn't know about that payment to Stormy Daniels. So the person who doesn't have their facts straight here is the president himself. We can talk about Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Sanders and everyone who works in this White House all day long, but it's the president who said this, and the president who is changing his story now even though right there being questioned by reporters, he said he didn't want to talk about that.
HARLOW: Look, the reporter who asked him, great point, Kaitlan, why are you changing your story is the same reporter that asked him that question on Air Force One.
BERMAN: Shimon, very quickly, the Southern District of New York investigating here. This all has to do with the Michael Cohen investigation. In 20 seconds, where is that investigation today?
PROKUPECZ: Well, they're still going through giving -- handing over documents. And really, I think, John and Poppy, it's important to think that really everything that the president, everything that Rudy Giuliani has said, really affects Michael Cohen. Right? Because as of right now, there is nothing to indicate that the president is facing any kind of charges or would face anything or any criminal liability in the Southern District case.
[10:55:05] And what does this mean for Michael Cohen and how does Michael Cohen feel? I mean, this is his, you know, friend, his personal lawyer, his fixer, whatever it may be. What does this present for him and what is the president now and what is Rudy Giuliani now doing by saying all of this? That's the big thing here. And this is going to hurt Michael Cohen in the end.
BERMAN: What does Michael Cohen feel may be one of the most important questions over the next few months facing this presidency.
BERMAN: You know, Kaitlan Collins, David Chalian, Shimon Prokupecz, Michael Zeldin, Caroline Polisi, thank you so much for being with us again on an extraordinary morning.
HARLOW: An extraordinary morning, our coverage of this breaking news continues with Kate Bolduan right after this.