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Iranian Forces Fire Rockets At Israel Territory; Columbus Nova Takes Steps to Distance Itself from Russian Oligarch; Sources: Cohen Pitched Himself During 2016 Election Promising Access to Trump; AT&T Says It Provided Information on Cohen to Mueller Last November And December; Trump Officials Prepare For Singapore Summit with North Korea; CIA Director Nominee Vows Not to Start Interrogation Program. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired May 9, 2018 - 21:00   ET



[21:00:14] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We do begin this hour with breaking news. A spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces says more than 20 rockets were fired in Israel from Syria believed to be fired by Iranian forces. This of course comes the day after President Trump announced the United States would leave the Iran nuclear deal. It was to say the least a controversial decision with some concerns being it could light a fuse in the Middle East. The hope tonight is that the fuse has not been lit.

Our Oren Liebermann joins us now from the Golan Heights. Oren, describe what's happening right now, what are you learning?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, over the course of the last couple of hours here in the Golan Heights overlooking Syria here behind me we have seen dozens of rockets fired from Syria into Israeli territories here.

We've also seen some interceptions from Israel's Iron Dome air defense system. On top of that we've seen Syrian anti-aircraft firing what appears to be Israel surface to surface missiles. On top of that we have also heard sounds like artillery fire from Israeli territory targeting Syria.

It has been a very busy night and all of that is on top of what you pointed out shortly after midnight local time there was a report from the Israel defense forces, that 20 rockets have been fired from Syria into Israel.

So the Israeli military says they are responding. We have seen part of that response. But the response is expected to continue. And we expect more information on what that response was, who the target was, although, John as you pointed out Israel says it was the Quds Force on elite division of the Iranian revolutionary guard stationed in Syria.

BERMAN: So they have evidence of that or what evidence I should ask, Oren, do they have that it was the Quds Force?

LIEBERMANN: So they haven't said specifically what intelligence leads them to believe that it was the Quds Force that Iranian Revolutionary Guard Force firing the missiles. But we know yesterday the Israel military had said they detected irregular Iranian activity in Syria. And we know that Israel has been expecting some sort of Iranian response over the last few weeks and perhaps even months. That's because there have been a number of strikes in Syria targeting Iranian positions that Syria and Iran have blamed on Israel. So Israel is very much expected a response it appears that this maybe at least part of that response. Israel has been on high alert. If opened up bomb shelters throughout the Golan Heights though.

At this point the Israel military has not instructed people here to go in the shelters.

BERMAN: Oren, I'm not sure about the freedom of movement you have right now but do you have any information about casualties or damage?

LIEBERMANN: So far in this information is a few hours old we are waiting for another update but the Israeli military said that there is some damage here. It is light damage and there has been no information on any casualties whether injured or killed on this side.

We have heard from the Syrian military or rather Syrian state media they say they have intercepted a number of Israel missiles fired at Syria. The information at this time is limited on both sides in terms of the damage that has been done. But we have seen very much first hand the firing back and forth whether its rockets coming from Syria into Israel or artillery firing back the other way.

John it's worth pointing out that Israel and Iran have very much danced closer to each other, moved closer to each towards direct confrontation over recent weeks and months given what we have seen tonight this is at least part of that first direct confrontation between Israel and Iran if it is indeed the Quds Force firing the rockets.

BERMAN: All right, Oren Liebermann at the Golan Heights. Oren, please stay safe.

Joining me now is Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Congressman thanks so much for being with is.


BERMAN: This is a development over just the last few hours right now. This increasing conflict in the region between, you know Iranian forces it appears and Israel as well. Do you believe that if it was the Quds Force it was a direct response to the U.S. pulling out of Iran deal?

KINZINGER: Well, yes. I mean, if the Quds Force got in Iran two days ago then yes, but they've been there for a long time. They've been 150,000 rockets that have been smuggled in the Hezbollah territory. Iran has been building a land bridge in Syria frankly since before President Trump. So, this is Iran's attempt to continue to antagonize Israel as they said, they want to wipe Israel off the map at some point you have to take them seriously. And the Israelis as we would if something was happening on our border are taking them very seriously. I think they have taken measured responses and limited targets.

But if in fact tonight there were 20 rockets fired from actual Iranian Quds Force and not Hezbollah, Hezbollah is bad enough but from actual Iranian direct command elements this is a major escalation. I frankly would expect that the Israelis will begin clearing the decks of Israeli targets in Syria probably fairly soon.

BERMAN: One of the concerns about the United States pulling out of the Iran deal, the nuclear deal when it did is that -- as we said, it would light a fuse in a region that is already so highly combustible now. Do you have concerns that it has shaken up this region even more?

KINZINGER: No, I mean again this was announced a few days ago. Even if people suspect that Iran didn't determine that they were going to get involved in Syria because we might pull out of the Iran deal. Frankly they got the resources from the Iran deal to go into Syria.

[21:05:02] And so, yes, I mean, people can disagree on the President's decision, I happen to think it was the right one because now he is kind of refilled the arrow quivers, the sanctions quiver to actually negotiate a deal that goes beyond the nuclear agreement and includes what they're doing in Syria. The Iranian regime with the Russians and especially with Bashar al-Assad, are responsible for 500,000 dead Syrians, 50,000 of which are children. And they have a lot of blood on their hands.

BERMAN: One of the things Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary for the U.K. said that is that there -- he has seen no plan B by the administration. I know you have said you're supportive of the move but you want to see a comprehensive strategy from the Trump administration to replace the Iran deal, have you seen that comprehensive strategy?

KINZINGER: Yes. I've had discussion with state department. Part of their first initial part of the strategy is the process of reinstating sanctions. They're not snapping them back tomorrow. They're actually going to work with our allies to understand what investments they have in Iran that they need to begin to extricate themselves from. What these sanctions being re-imposed are going to mean? And then the hope is we can compel Iran back to the table and say, look, let's get a deal. But that has to go beyond.

The only reason we're concerned about Iran's nukes is because Iran's broader behavior. And so let's encapsulate the whole broader behavior.

Look, America is very powerful country. We sometimes underestimate the power that our economy and our leadership has and while diplomacy is an art form it's not science. I think this is the right thing to begin to reign in Iran's broader behavior. Because again, you know, yes, there may have been a temporary freeze on Iran's nuclear behavior but look what they've done in Syria and on the border of Israel today. And that's unacceptable.

BERMAN: Israel says they are launching missile. The Quds Force launching missiles in the Golan Heights. You suggested that Israel might respond very forcibly over the next few days. What do you think the U.S. role should be over the next few days?

KINZINGER: Well, I think we'll going to back up our ally Israel. I don't necessarily think we're going to join in the strikes but I think we'll make sure that we defend the territorial integrate of Israel. If Iran escalates then I think the U.S. may be involved at that point.

But look, you have to imagine, if you lived in Israel and you had 150,000 Hezbollah rockets pointed at you and the people in Hezbollah and Iran backers have repeatedly said they want to wipe you off the map you'd be ludicrous to not take that seriously. And I think the prime minister has taken very measured responses and today if Iran decided to fire 20 rockets into the Golan Heights I expected that there was going to be massive retaliation as it should be.

BERMAN: One more foreign policy question while I have you here tonight. Of course these three Americans on the way home right now, the ones who had been detained in North Korea they should land in the United States sometime in the next few hours. If you're North Korea, and you're looking ahead to this summit between the Presidents and you see what the United States did with the Iran deal, would you approach these negotiations differently? Would you have concerns or hesitate about putting your faith in the United States?

KINZINGER: I would have concerns because I know the deal I struck would have to be iron clad and would lead to me never be having nuclear weapons in North Korea. I actually think that us say that this a flawed deal, since a strong message to Kim Jong-un, who I think was scolded by his Chinese counterparts and compelled by American actions to say you're not going to have nukes ever again. And so if he ever thought he could build a loophole with this President, I think he is going to be sorely mistaken, that's going to send that message.

BERMAN: All right, Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois thanks so much for being us. I appreciate your time.

KINZINGER: Anytime, you bet.

BERMAN: We're getting new information tonight about Michael Cohen's money trail, according to multiple people familiar with his conduct after the election. The President's personal attorney aggressively pitched himself with potential clients and landed lucrative consulting deals. This strike with new reporting about payments made to Cohen's shell company after the election.

MJ Lee joins us now with the very latest. MJ you're learning a whole lot more about Cohen and how he would pitch himself and offer access to President Trump. What can you tell us?

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: That's right, John. You know, we have known Michael Cohen as Donald Trump's lawyer but tonight we're seeing the different picture of Michael Cohen emerge, a man who suddenly became the attorney to the President-elect he acted pretty quickly to try to capitalize on that.

We're told that Cohen went around pitching himself to companies and to try to land these lucrative consulting deals. And what he promised was access to President Trump. Remember, Cohen has been Trump's lawyer for many years. He was known as Trump's right-hand man and fixer. So what he did was remind these companies that he is very close to his boss that he could help these firms navigate the new White House.

So I just want to give you one example of what this would have looked like after the election we are told Cohen approached a pharmaceutical company called Novartis and landed a one-year deal with them promising them access to the White House on things related to health care policy.

Now the interesting twist here though is that apparently Novartis and Cohen had an initial meeting and the company realized actually Cohen can't really help us much on health care policy. However they still paid him for that full contract anyway, 100,000 a month for a year for a total of $$1.2 million.

[21:10:00] BERMAN: $1.2 million for one meeting. Has Michael Cohen or the White House responded to this story at all, MJ?

LEE: Well, Michael Cohen has stayed silent about all of this. And I think fair to say the White House doesn't want to touch this one either. We saw White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders being asked about these payments to Cohen multiple times today. And she said repeatedly that reporters should relay the questions to Trump's outside counsel.

She was also asked more specifically whether Cohen is qualified to advise corporations on the President. And I thought her response was telling. She said I'm not going to get into anybody else's qualification that essentially this is for the companies to decide not her. So the White House is definitely not going out of its way to defend Cohen. Even though this is a man who has said he would take a bullet for Donald Trump and of course the huge question now is whether Cohen is going to maintain that loyalty to his boss. We know that he is under tremendous pressure right now John, as he confronts the consequences of a criminal investigation.

BERMAN: And again, we Robert Mueller and his team were asking about some of these deals as far back as last November and December. MJ Lee thanks so much for being with us.

Coming up we're going to continue to follow the Michael Cohen money trail as a firm that made payments and tries to distance himself from a Russian oligarch with which it had long had ties. New reporting on that when we come back.


BERMAN: An American company linked to a Russian oligarch is scrubbing its website with any links to the Russian investment company that he controls. As we reported Mueller's team questioned the oligarch Viktor Vekselberg about payments the American affiliate made to Michael Cohen, the President's attorney.

[21:15:08] The company Columbus Nova insisted Vekselberg had role in the decision to hire Cohen. We have plenty to talk about with the panel tonight with me, David Gergen, Kirsten Powers, Steve Cortes, Paul Begala, Rob Astorino and Anne Milgram.

David, you know, I want to start with you. And just to lay it out because there is a lot of Russian link and Russian this and to this, that. This is a company -- an American company that is linked to a Russian oligarch. Pretty directly linked and this company paid Michael Cohen $500,000.


BERMAN: Now look, you know, presidential hangers on or it's hangers on, it's nothing new. But getting $500,000 from a company linked to a Russian oligarch when there is a Russia investigation going on. Is that suspicious or just stupid? Or all of the above?

GERGEN: It doesn't pass the laugh test. I mean, listen, I think there is a distinction to be made between this company and the companies like Novartis and AT&T. There is a reason why they need to know what's going on in the White House. And conceivably might going although I think it was in terrible taste on everybody's part.

But this company has no business that really is at hand at stake. And a $500,000 looks like it's a pay off or it's a bribe or it's something that really crosses a legal line as well as an ethical line. It's clearly unethical. You know, and the influence peddling. If you are going to go work with a company in Washington you do it as a lobbyist and they call you as a lobbyist or try to call the White House sources. They don't give the President's, you know?

BERMAN: Personal lawyer.

GERGEN: Hit man or fixer $500,000.


GERGEN: That's a hell of a lot of money.

BERMAN: Let me read you because I had a statement here. I can read it to you what one Republican strategist describes as Cohen sales pitch. Cohen would apparently tell people I don't know who has been representing you but you should fire them all, I'm the guy you should hire. I'm closest to the President. I'm his person lawyer. Not a lot of ambiguity there, Kirsten?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Look, what David said is exactly right. I think if you're an American company you obviously are trying to get access to Donald Trump when he came into office a lot of people were panicking frankly because you couldn't go to the regular key street lobbyist and get access to the President. He didn't have a lot of people and Michael Cohen would have been one of them. I'm not endorsing this. I'm just saying this is unfortunately how Washington works. And so -- but he would need to register as a lobbyist if he is -- you know, if he is just giving advice to them and not arranging any meetings that's one thing but --

BERMAN: He doesn't need to register --

POWERS: But for that amount of money that would suggests they want it a little more than just what is Donald Trump like and probably wanted to get some access to the White House. If he arranged any meetings and he does needs to be registered. So I think that -- yes, it's very suspicious, it's very swampy. I think that's the biggest take away I have from which is Donald Trump said he was going to come and clean up the swamp. And this is just the swampiest behavior of all.

STEVE CORTES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: By the way, I agree it's incredibly swampy. And guess what? They got no where. They wasted their money. The Russian wasted their rubles on this, which I think actually speaks to validity of the Trump 2016 revolution, meaning that -- how do I know because the Russians what did they get in exchange, they got sanctions, they got war in Syria.

POWERS: No investigation into the --

CORTES: They got us, army, the Ukraine so these were rubles terribly spent in terms of AT&T. They got -- they had to go to court to sue the federal government in terms of Novartis big pharma didn't get anything it wanted. So I have no doubt that Michael Cohen was really terribly trying to influence peddle. And that's a terrible thing and he was acting very slummy. But here is the reality and the great reality for Donald Trump is it didn't matter. He was selling a false bill of goods because swamp tactics are done in this White House. We now have a citizen President, someone with no government experience before, a mogul who can't be bought and wasn't bought even though perhaps his personal attorney tried to sell him.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he sure can be rented.


GERGEN: Good boy.



BEGALA: Why did Russia -- why would sanctions against --


BEGALA: You gave your commercial let me give some facts.

CORTES: That's not a commercial.

BEGALA: This Russian connected company gave a $500,000.

CORTES: It's American.

BERMAN: Hang on Steve, hang on. BEGALA: It's Russian connected company gave a $500,000 not really to Michael Cohen but to a limited liability corporation he set up called the Essential Consultants. And he has told us that Essential Consultants was set up to pay Stormy Daniels hush money. Now, if in fact others are reimbursing Mr. Cohen that like Russians reimbursing it.


BEGALA: And AT&T and --

CORTES: So we're seeing AT&T is reimbursing Stormy Daniels.

BEGALA: What they are getting is leverage on our President. The President has from the beginning seemed very compromised by Mr. Putin.

CORTES: Do you think have leverage? Why is he even so tough on Russia?

BEGALA: He hasn't but --

POWERS: He hasn't tough on Russia.

CORTES: He slapped sanctions on the very -- on the very oligarch who supposedly bought him for $500,000 million.

BEGALA: Oh my God, Steve, no look, I like your filibuster of course, I'm not going to let you lie anymore tonight.

[21:20:03] CORTES: I'm not lying. Did not slap sanctions on the very oligarch?


CORTES: No he didn't?

BEGALA: He was forced to by Congress.

POWERS: Yes, Congress made him do it.

CORTES: OK, did he send cruise missile into a Syrian air base where Russian fighters where stays in?

BEGALA: Would you stop.

CORTES: Did he arm the Ukraine?

BEGALA: Does he ever once criticize Vladimir Putin?

POWERS: Yes, exactly.

CORTES: I don't know.

BEGALA: I do. Never.

CORTES: I care more about the -- BEGALA: He has attacked his own attorney general more than he attacked Putin he is in Putin's pocket.

CORTES: They wasted the rubles immensely.

POWERS: John? Here is the thing --

BERMAN: Kristen go ahead.

POWERS: Don't start yelling over me when I start talking. There's been no investigation into the hacking of American election. That is a major thing that has not happened. So I don't think it's fair to say that he has been tough on the Russians. And I'll answer Paul's question. He never ever criticizes Vladimir Putin. And you know that. You can point to a couple of things. The sanctions are not fair because Congress made him.

CORTES: A couple of things --


CORTES: -- raining cruise missiles on the air base for a couple of things.

BERMAN: First of all, Steve you're saying he is a whole step further which is saying the Russians didn't get anything out of the investment into Michael Cohen, which, you know, to be fair, I'm sure we know a 100 percent yet, but that doesn't change the fact that they went after him and maybe Michael Cohen that President's personal lawyer solicited this. We know he solicited Novartis. We know he solicited Novartis, Do you know the President has sanctioned that? Do you know the President didn't sanction that?

CORTES: Of course, I can't prove that negative.

BERMAN: But I don't know either. We don't know that tonight which is why these questions are so interesting and hang on -- hang on. Anne Milgram, I'll bring you in the conversation right now. Another thing he no is that the special counsel has been asking questions about this dating back months.

ANNE MILGRAM, FORMER NEW JERSEY ATTORNEY GENERAL: We do know that. We know that the special counsel has talked to the Russian oligarch, we know that they've been asking a lot of questions about these payments that there were conversation with Novartis. So we know it's a piece of the conversation that they're having in the investigation.

And one other things just to talk about the investigation to the election hacking, Mueller's team is clearly investigating Russian involvement and whether the Trump campaign had any -- there is an investigation into that question of whether the Trump campaign was colluding -- I hate that word, expiring, aiding and betting the Russians in that.

What hasn't been done is the deeper question of, you know, have we taken any efforts to stop American elections from being hacked in the future? And I think that's where we really have problems.

BERMAN: Hang on, one second, Rob, I want to let you jump in. But David, go ahead.

GERGEN: I just want to come back to this notion, the fundamental argument you may is the Russian made a terrible investment and haven't gotten anything for their money. We don't know that yet. We do not know that until we figure out how much of meddling they did in the election and how much of an influence they had on the voting. And it's just way pretty matures has they got nothing --


CORTES: Can I respond.

BERMAN: Go ahead.

CORTES: Voters in Wisconsin and Michigan, all right, who decided to elect him blue collar people who have been the forgotten workers of America, they didn't vote because of Russia. They voted because Donald Trump spoke to their anxiety --

BERMAN: I don't want to take talking about Wisconsin and Michigan, you know, and the 306 electoral votes tonight that the President always talk about.

CORTES: Well, it's pretty important.

BERMAN: Well, no because the payments to Michael Cohen happened after the election. So in this case they're not important one.

So Rob, what I want to ask you, you know, one of the things that we heard a little bit there from Steve we're also hearing from Trump affiliates and associates right now, is the beginning of throwing Michael Cohen under the bus. And is it plausible that there is separation? Can you separate Michael Cohen from this President?

ROB ASTORINO, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I think first of all, Michael Cohen is a casualty of war in this. Mueller is going after Trump obviously and he is going to use anyone in the path to try to get to Trump. So Cohen now is part of the psychological warfare that Mueller is using against Trump.

But you know, the interesting thing I think everyone here is seems like they're on the board of directors of Columbus Nova and they think to know what Columbus Nova is going to do in the future or what kind of investments they have. Nobody knows anything what they were looking for out of Michael Cohen or advice -- just like AT&T or Novartis. I mean you are making assumptions here.

But the one thing that hasn't been discussed here, there has nothing to do with Donald Trump, nothing has anything to do with the President.

GERGEN: This is the man's attorney.

ASTORINO: Nothing.

GERGEN: It is his fixer --

ASTORINO: No, no, no.

GERGEN: You are saying that it had nothing to do with Donald Trump?

ASTORINO: If he is transitioning money -- if he is making money because he has insight he is one of the 11,400 registered lobbies --

BERMAN: Although he should be -- he is not registered in anything.

Hang on. Hang on. One second Rob. One second.

Everyone reload for a second here. We're going take a quick break here. We have much more to discuss. We're going to continue this whole conversation.

Also ahead, the new danger in Hawaii where a volcano is erupting again, speaking of eruptions. We'll go there in a little bit.


[21:28:12] BERMAN: We are talking about the money trail involving the President's lawyer Michael Cohen and the sweet sales pitch he is said to have used after the election according to one Republican strategist. Cohen courted, the company is saying I don't know who has been representing you but you should fire them, I'm the guy you should hire. I'm closest to the President. I'm his personal lawyer.

Now it may have worked with at least several companies. Who we learned paid Cohen after the election. One of the companies that paid Cohen was AT&T. At least $200,000 for what it called insight into the new administration. AT&T is trying to acquire CNN's parent company Time Warner. The Justice Department sued to prevent the merger in November of last year.

Tonight we did learn the special Counsel's office contacted AT&T about Cohen in November of 2017. The company says they cooperated fully.

Back now with the panel. David Gergen, you alluded to this before what AT&T says it was looking for was insight and information into the Trump administration. Novartis after being contacted by Michael Cohen wanted in on health care. What do you make of companies trying to use this type of figure to get close to the White House?

GERGEN: I think this happens a lot. People do -- when they leave the White House they often set up lobbying companies with somebody there who is a top Republican, somebody who is a top Democrat and one of the things they do is they can interpret for you what's going on inside if you're worried about a regulation coming down or something like that it's been done since time immemorial.

I think what we're looking at here is not that though it's distinguishable by the fact that there are no registered hobbyist. Cohen never lobby, registered as he should have. I think this is a short of slimy proposition. But I come back to the Russian related company. There's no obvious corporate reason why they want to know what's going on. I mean, do you guys -- do you not think it's at least suspicious -- do you think it's suspicious, $500,000 then went to Cohen, do you think that's all suspicious?

[21:30:05] CORTES: I absolutely do David.

GERGEN: So you think that the Mueller --

CORTES: And I think they wasted their money because they got nothing from team Trump.

GERGEN: Do we know that?

CORTES: It's not just corporations.

GERGEN: How about --

CORTES: Yes, the reason I know that is because the way Donald Trump has publicly taken on Putin and Russia and also it's not just corporations let not be negative about this. It's not just American corporation who try to buy access it's the world. OK, global countries try to buy access. And I know this because some of them by the way came to me OK, and I said no. It's scummy I don't want to partake in that.

GERGEN: Good. You also think it's scummy. OK, that's good.

CORTES: Apparently Cohen said yes come on in. But I think foreign lobbying and foreign money in the sphere of the swamp is a terrible aspect of what Washington is at its worst. The point is they can't buy Trump.

BERMAN: Kirsten.

BERMAN: If interests any possibility that a foreign country is trying to influence the United States government you have to register. OK. So it doesn't matter this wasn't actually a foreign company. The fact that they had a relationship with a foreign company and appeared to be trying to influence the government, he should have registered. So there is something that's very, very shady about this. And you keep saying that he didn't get anything for it and we just don't know that. And you just said he is constantly -- I can't remember your exact words like confronting Putin or something like in what universe is that happening?


BERMAN: Hang on, hang on Steve, Steve let me ask you a question. If the President as you say is the ultimate swamp drainer like the beacon of all swamp draining in the universe he knows Michael Cohen's number. You know, why wouldn't he call up his personal lawyer and fixer and say hey, pal, you know, stop sell access.

CORTES: John, do you really think he was aware of the details? I mean do you really think that? I mean, this man who is running the United States government, do you really think --

BERMAN: What we know, hang on, you know who told me he was aware of some of the details involving Essential Consultants LLC? Rudy Giuliani.

Hang on, hang on, Rudy Giuliani has been all over T.V. the last few weeks telling me that Donald Trump reimbursed through this retainer Essential Consultants LLC. So there is a direct connection with knowledge of these payments between the President and --

CORTES: No. But you're mixing apples and oranges. That's talking about pre-election.

BERMAN: We don't know what's in the fruit basket at all.

CORTES: That's pre-election problem fixing or whatever you want to call it. This is post election apparently access selling.


BERMAN: The attorney for Michael Cohen we show clips from an interview that he did with Erin Burnett before was bragging about how he was sitting with Michael Cohen and President Trump would call him just to shoot the breeze on many subjects. I have no idea. All I know is what we've within told from Michael Cohen before which is it that they're often close. He had dinner at Mar-a-Lago. I don't know what they discuss.

CORTES: They're close a and I'm not trying to diminish that. They are. They are close and have been for many years. I will say this. Trying to focus on this on Michael Cohen in my view apparently acting in a very inappropriate manner, OK seems like it I'll be the first to say that. I'm not defending Michael Cohen. I think it's also an attempt by the mainstream media to deflect from the massive great news that is going on in the world right now from North Korea, to North Dakota to North Carolina.

BERMAN: We spent hours. We spent hours the last few days on the release of the hostages in North Korea not to mention the removal of the Iran nuclear deal.

BEGALA: Paul, go ahead.

BEGALA: For example, here is something Russia got. The Mueller people by the way, apparently interviewed this oligarch connected to these American company six seven months ago, never leaked never out. That's a buttoned up shop. That's a really professional ethical investigation. So I admire the Mueller folks for never leaking this. But I also admire them for looking into it.

We have a right to know, the timing will be critical. When was Mr. Cohen paid? Did he ever reach out? There will be phone records or logs that might indicate that. For example, one year ago tomorrow May 10th, our President brought Sergey Kislyak. A reported Russian spy into the Oval Office and according to published reports gave him classified information. That's treason. By way, classified information --

BERMAN: Rob is on your team let him respond.

BEGALA: Classified information that was reportedly provided to us by our allies in Israel who, as we speak are under attack from Mr. Putin's allies in Iran.

ASTORINO: The arbiter of all good things, Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels throws this out there and everyone eats it up eats up, eats up the chum. And he draws the line from Russia to this company for Stormy Daniels. But why don't we draw another line just for argument sake here. AT&T which has an -- probably more at stake than anything that that other company or Russia would want, AT&T with a merger potentially with Time Warner, parent company of CNN, is it possible that they would say, hey we got a big old thing coming up. Here is some money. Can you just help us maybe say we're a good company or lobby or give me some insight? Now am I going to draw a line that says, they're paying Stormy Daniels' bill. Come on.

[21:35:06] BEGALA: Yes.

POWERS: Why not.

ASTORINO: Oh, seriously.

BEGALA: Because that's absurd.

ASTORINO: They paid it to Essential Consultants --


ASTORINO: So the headline is AT&T pays off Stormy Daniels?

2BERMAN: Is there a qualitative difference? And if you're Robert Mueller I suppose who talked to all of these entities would their interest in Victor Vekselberg be different than their interest in AT&T and why?

MILGRAM: So I think if you're Robert Mueller you want to understand Michael Cohen plays a role in going to Russia and trying to get a Russian real estate development for Trump Tower.

BERMAN: In 2015.

MILGRAM: Yes. And so there is a lot of reasons why Robert Mueller would be looking at Michael Cohen. Just related to this investigation, you would start pulling bank records. There is always been a question as to the motivation for the relationship with Russia and you know we know or we have reason to believe that there was even outreach potentially for members of the Trump campaign to Russia. And there is back and forth and efforts to get information.

So Mueller is asking the question of what are the lengths? In the course of that he is going to look at all of Michael Cohen's bank records. The fact that there is Russian -- that there is a connection to one of oligarchs who has been directly connected to the Russian election hacking has been to be significant, has to be someone he needs to speak to. And he wants to know from the oligarch who are you talking to, what are you doing, what are you will go for? There is a ton of questions.

The fact that AT&T and Novartis happen to also be art of the bank records would be a question of what else is he doing? What's happening here? I don't think it necessarily falls in the same category as Russia. But it's still of interest because there is no -- it's in this account. There is a lot of questions.

BERMAN: Quick last word, David, then we take a break.

GERGEN: Yes, I want to -- look there is every possibility that this money is not about buying access, the $500 but is a pay off for past services. We don't know that for fact. But one of the things that's really important and goes back to Paul's point is that Mueller was interviewing these folks six months ago and guess what happened then. They raided the offices Cohen because they thought a crime had been committed. They thought they had evidence of crimes being committed. It's not just a neutral fact when they go into the guy office, taking the hit that they got publicly for doing that.

BERMAN: I'm pretty sure the story is not over.

GERGEN: Exactly.

BERMAN: I'm pretty sure this discussion is not over guys. Stand by we're going to take a break.

The latest on the Israeli reports that rockets have landed in the Golan Heights. Plus three Americans freed from North Korea on their way home. All those developments evidences of new world order. Are they under President Trump?


[21:41:17] BERMAN: The major developments overseas, news tonight of violence in the Middle East, Israel says some 20 rockets were fired into Israel by what is believes to be Iranian forces and of course, this does come today after the United States pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.

Meanwhile, three detainees are on their way home tonight from North Korea with a summit on the way.

Back now with the panel and joining the conversation former CIA North Korean Analyst Sue Mi Terry. Sue, we come to you in just one second but David, first, of this violence in the Golan Heights, we see missiles flying, you know, from Syria, presumably the Israelis say by the Iranian Quds force into the Golan Heights, Israel striking back in a somewhat measured way we've been told so far. But this is a really, really dangerous area.

GERGEN: It's very dangerous. And unfortunately we are at a point with the United States is not in great speaking terms with its European friends and other countries about how to handle the Middle East. So, you know -- I don't think that you can say the President's announcement touched this off. I think that goes too far based on what we know.

But what I think is obvious is that what's really been important here -- the President pulls off this North Korean deal give him credit. But on the Iranian deal, there are four big decisions that the President has made that have directly spit in the eye of our long-term friends and allies, pulling out of Paris climate change, going through the -- pulling out of the Transpacific Partnership, putting on the economic tariffs and now on Iran.

And so there has been an -- that's a historic change and we're moving toward a different order. Maybe a disorder from anything we have known before. And that's real. We don't know what's causing the rockets tonight.

BERMAN: We don't know. I mean, and again the Quds Force has been as you point out in Syria for some time. You know, the Iran nuclear unlikely to be the impetus exactly for this launch.

Dr. Terry, if I can focus on North Korea for a moment I can.


BERMAN: These three American detainees they're on their way back. They took off, they landed in Anchorage Alaska for a week, feeling stuck, landed in Washington D.C. in just a few hours. What do you think this means for this upcoming summit that we believe will take place in Singapore between Trump and Kim Jong-un?

TERRY: You mentioned, back to negotiation between Pyongyang and Washington are going well pretty well because North Koreans are now trying to -- this is a good will gesture. And they are looking for a bigger prize when Kim Jong-un is sitting down with President Trump. I think some sort of grand bargain is what North Korea is looking for now. So this is a good will gesture. They shouldn't have kept the Americans in the first place. So it's not a big -- I don't think it's a big deal for them to do so. And so they're trying to lay the groundwork for a good meeting.

BERMAN: So not a major concession do you think?

TERRY: I don't think it's a major concession. I think Kim Jong-un has a strategy here. He knows what he is doing. I think in the last few months we have seen his actions. It's very astute, smart and I think he has a strategy. He is looking for to get something bigger out of Washington when he has his meeting with President Trump.

BERMAN: Kirsten, I want to read you something that Secretary Pompeo said in a toast last night in North Korea. He said, for decades we have been adversaries. He went on to say, now we are hopeful we can work together to resolve this conflict. Take away the threats to the country and make your country have all the opportunities your people so richly deserve, the secretary said. You know, that's pretty historic for a U.S. secretary of state to be standing in North Korea making that toast to the North Korean leader. POWERS: It feels a little premature to me. I think that of course it's wonderful that these people have been able to be returned to the United States. I think we should also remember that there are four Americans in Iran right now who are probably in much worse situation because of the President pulling out of the Iran deal.

So you know, in balance we still have obviously some problems with hostages. But I think that you have to remember that North Korea has been will go for a meeting like this for a long time. And so we don't know what kind of agreements were made to get this meeting. We don't know what's going to happen at the meeting. And the worst case scenario is of course that they use it to somehow make themselves look more legitimate on the world stage. And we don't get what we want.

[21:45:10] So I think we have to wait and see what actually happens. It's not like they never were willing to sit down before. It's just the United States didn't feel like they could sit done yet.


ASTORINO: Well, the Americans who were in Iran have been detained they've been in a while.


ASTORINO: But why did Obama sign a deal and not make them come home. I mean, that's a big issue.

POWERS: I think that's a fair criticism.

ASTORINO: It's a huge issue.

POWERS: Yes, that's a fair criticism.

ASTORINO: At least the President is --

BERMAN: There were U.S. hostages who did come back at that time basically --

POWERS: But not all of them.

ASTORINO: They'll going to give them what they gave them everyone should have come. And if this was such a great deal President Obama would have sent this to the Senate for ratification. I still remember Chuck Schumer, my senator here in New York screaming and yelling about how bad of a deal this was. And he was right. One time I think I ever agreed with Chuck Schumer.

BERMAN: So Paul what we are seeing, you know, whether you like it or not right now, is President Trump driving the world agenda. I mean he is forcing events on this world stage.

BEGALA: He is. And any American President can. Back to Dr. Terry's point, Kim Jong-un, has strategy apparently and I think she is right, the expert. I really want my President to have a strategy too and I'm terribly worried for all of his bluster about what a great negotiator he is. He is being hornswoggled here. This --

CORTES: Not hornswoggled.

BEGALA: These men should never have been held.


BEGALA: And so Kim gives him back. Well, that's fine. He is making a big thing and the President is very happy. Oh, he is going to stop testing. The site where he tests is a mountain that is collapsing from all the previous tests. He is not giving anything. And the President thinks he is getting a lot --

BERMAN: I want to get Dr. Terry's take with the Ph.D. here. Dr. Terry hornswoggled is an accurate term? Is the United States getting hornswoggled.

TERRY: I think that remains to be seen. I think the administration is clear eyed maybe not President Trump but I think Bolton and Pompeo are very clear eyed about this. But what President Trump has done by pulling out of the Iran deal is now he setting himself a very high bar. So we'll see what he accomplishes with North Korea because he just basically said to the world and to Americans that deal was not good enough. So whatever deal he is going to make with Kim Jong-un that will be very tough, that's going to be complete irreversible, very viable, dismantlement of the North Korea weapons.

COOPER: All right, thank you so much everyone. When we continue the nominee for CIA director Gina Haspel went before Senate committee today and not surprisingly a lot of the testimony was about torture. I'm going to speak with a member of the committee who was part of that.


[21:51:14] BERMAN: Gina Haspel faced some tough questioning before the Senate Intelligence Committee today on the CIA, use of torture in her bid to become the new director of the agency. She told committee members she would not sanction it.


Gina Haspel, CIA Director Nominee: I would not a CIA to undertaking activity that I thought was immoral, even if it was technically legal, I would absolutely not permit it.


BERMAN: Idaho Republican Senator Jim Risch was one of the committee members who question Haspel. I spoke with him a little earlier.


BERMAN: Senator Risch, as you know Gina Haspel for 10 years, you've met with her in the field. Why do you think she is qualified to run the CIA? SEN. JAMES RISCH (R), IDAHO: Well, this is a woman who dedicated her life to doing it. She is been over 30 years with the CIA. She started as a covert agent right at the bottom, worked her way up, worked in the operations side of the agency, has been in the management side of the agency. She knows it backward, forward. She's been in through some of the tough times. Look, we on the intelligence committee, we hear a lot of things everyday that make us not sleep very well at night. With her as the head of the agency, I'll sleep better at night.

BERMAN: So many of your Democratic colleagues did raised concerns today about her involvement in the enhanced interrogation program. I know you made it clear, you do support her no matter what, but can you at least understand why your colleagues have these concerns?

RISCH: Sure, they hate anything that Donald Trump does in this town. So --

BERMAN: Well, in this case Senator --

RISCH: Wait, can I just --

BERMAN: In this case, Senator, this happened during the Bush administration, this has to do with things that happened 15 years ago. This doesn't have really anything to do specifically with the current President.

RISCH: All right, if I can finish the answer to the question.

BERMAN: Go ahead.

RISCH: The people in this town, many of them hate Trump so bad that no matter who he nominates they're going to raise anything they can you just hit the nail on the head. And that is that the interrogation had nothing to do with her. She's trying -- they're trying to get her to answer for this one. No, she was not involved in that. So, no, I don't understand, in response directly to your question, I don't understand they're raising that. This is a woman who is incredibly qualified to do this. She will be a great head of this agency. I am looking forward to seeing her confirmed. Like I said, I'll sleep better at night.

BERMAN: She was involved to the extent that one of these black sites, one of the sites in Thailand it was going on and this was a site that she was running. And she was involved to the extent that she oversaw the instruction of some videotapes of interrogation. Again, I'm just stating that for the fact here. And that's what the question, one, for instance, you know, Senator Kamala Harris of California had this exchange with her today. Let me just play that for you.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: It's a yes or no answer. Do you believe the previous interrogation techniques were immoral? I'm not asking do you believe they were illegal. I'm asking, do you believe they were immoral? HASPEL: Senator, I believe that CIA did extraordinary work to prevent another attack on this country, given the legal tools that we were authorized to use.

HARRIS: Please, answer yes or no. Do you believe in hindsight that those techniques were immoral?

HASPEL: Senator, what I believe sitting here today is that I support the higher moral standard we have decided to hold ourselves to.

HARRIS: Could you please answer the question?


BERMAN: So Senator Risch, you heard the exchange. Then you hear it again now, her answer or non-answer this pivot question is, was that immoral, are you OK with the non-answer?

RISCH: What I'm OK with is the long discussions I had with her. Her view is exactly the same as mine and that is that torture is wrong, it's not the American way and furthermore that program has been gone long before I ever got here. It's illegal in the United States, I have every confidence she won't do anything that will go anywhere near that kind of a program.


[21:55:06] BERMAN: And she made that clear as part of hearing today as part of her testimony.

RISCH: She did. Thank you for recognizing it.

BERMAN: Senator Risch, thanks so much for being with us. I appreciate it.

RISCH: Thank you.


BERMAN: Up next, breaking news from Hawaii the new danger from an erupting volcano, this incredible video that's hot lava bubbling over there near a home. We'll have the very latest in just a moment.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's live. Unbelievable.

BERMAN: How about seeing that in your back yard, more breaking news tonight, this is coming from Hawaii's big island. Authorities say a new lava fissure has formed in the area of the volcanic eruption. And like the others, it's emitting hazardous fumes. This brings the total number of lava event on the island to 15. The lava, the stunning pictures too, now covers 116 acres. At least 26 homes have been destroyed so far, evacuations still in effect in some areas.

Also tonight, Hawaii's governor has asked President Trump to declare the island a major disaster. This would free up federal dollars. So far the governor's office estimates the cost could exceed about $3 million. Again, the latest from the big island there.

That's all for me tonight. I'm John Berman. Thanks for watching 360. Time now to hand it over to Don Lemon, "CNN TONIGHT" starts now.