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Giuliani's Role in Defense; AT&T Cohen Payments; Trump Threatens Iran; Rocket Attacks in Golan Heights. Aired 8:30-9:00a ET

Aired May 10, 2018 - 08:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[08:30:00] VICTORIA TOENSING, INFORMAL LEGAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Now ready to fight and I think that's a very good thing.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: I'm sorry, I didn't -- couldn't hear you. She's showing the president is what?

TOENSING: Now ready to fight.

CAMEROTA: And are you happy that Rudy has -- that he said on national TV that President Trump reimbursed Michael Cohen. We hadn't known that before. And that he said that he funneled money to Michael Cohen through a retainer -- a monthly retainer? Were those things --

TOENSING: I don't do Cohen and I don't do Stormy, so I love Rudy.

CAMEROTA: This is Rudy. This is Rudy.

TOENSING: And I think Rudy is really great out there fighting for the president. So I'm very happy with him.

CAMEROTA: OK. Victoria Toensing, thank you very much for being here.

Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, as part of what we now understand about Michael Cohen and his affairs, AT&T confirming it did pay him consulting company -- through his consulting company $200,000. The move is raising a lot of questions. What is AT&T's explanation? Their defense, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: AT&T confirming it did cooperate with the special counsel, Robert Mueller, in connection with payments it did make to President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen. AT&T disclosing it paid Cohen more than $200,000 last year for, quote, insights into understanding the new administration.

[08:35:08] We should note, AT&T is obviously trying to acquire CNN's parent company, Time Warner, but we have to report on this.

Joining us now is CNN's senior media correspondent Brian Stelter and CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin.

Let's start with the law and then transfer into the PR.

Michael Zeldin, paying Michael Cohen money, when is it illegal?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, when it's done for a corrupt purpose. And here we don't see any evidence of a corrupt purpose. It may have been money poorly spent. It may have been money that should have been disclosed in some way because of Cohen's status as a politically exposed person. But on the facts presently known, AT&T was buying information relevant to what it felt was its business -- best business interests. So I don't see a law violation. Maybe there's a public policy about paying people closely affiliated with presidential campaigns that is unseemly, but not illegal.

CUOMO: All right, from a PR perspective, you're paying, Brian, Donald Trump's personal attorney to get insights into what may happen with your deal. Does it look good?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: It looks very bad. It may not be illegal. It certainly is not illegal from what we know. But it looks bad. It has the stench of the swamp. And that stench effects both Trump and Cohen, but also AT&T and the other companies that were working with Cohen.

Now the view from AT&T headquarters is, hey, every time a new president comes to town, we hire outside lobbying firms and agencies, people who know that president because the company has a lot of business before the government. For example, net neutrality regulations, issues involving tax reform and, as you said, the AT&T/Time Warner deal.

The difference I think with Trump is that he didn't have a lot of folks in his orbit. Of course he didn't have establishment lobbying firms and all that that were close to him because he was this outsider, this rebel. So what do you do? I guess you hire Michael Cohen.

But there are some unanswered questions here. How did AT&T know to hire Cohen? Who put the two men in touch? How was the deal done? A lot of that is still unanswered.

CUOMO: Well, and, look, those are questions that a Brian Stelter would have. Bob Mueller had questions also. What would they go to, Michael Zeldin?

ZELDIN: Well, it's not clear to me what they went to because we don't know enough about what Cohen is under investigation for. If Cohen is under investigation for some sort of illegal influence peddling or corrupt activity stuff, then anyone who's participating in that enterprise, whether it be an AT&T or Vekselberg or anybody else, Mueller is going to want to know what he can about those transactions. So it may be just in the ordinary course of an investigation of Cohen for financial crimes, anyone who paid him money is going to be inquired of to see what was at the, you know, heart of those payments. But I don't know that there's anything there that Mueller would be looking at with respect to criminal responsibility on AT&T's part. CUOMO: Well, he talked -- you know, look, AT&T says they cooperated

with Mueller. That means that Mueller came to them about something. And I'm sure he wasn't coming to them because he was just -- had a passive interest in this as something.

STELTER: And it happened six months ago. Can you imagine, six months ago Mueller knew about this. Once again, more evidence that his team is not leaking. He's running a very tight ship and he knows a lot more than the rest of us. It's just remarkable to me.

ZELDIN: That's right, where Cohen is probably the -- where Cohen is the target of his inquiry or the target of, you know, what was referred to the southern district by Mueller.

CUOMO: Right.

STELTER: It sure seems like Cohen knew how to cash in the millions of dollars, and that's all we know about so far. It makes you wonder that other deals he had that, again, Mueller might know about but we don't know about.

CUOMO: Right. But, look, even if it's not criminal, it does tell us something that's very specific. AT&T, a very savvy organization, like Novartis, you know, like all of the big names that we've heard connected to Cohen so far. Who knows what else is there that we don't know.

They were told something about and by Michael Cohen that made them think it was worth a lot of money.

STELTER: Exactly.

CUOMO: People are not free and easy with money when it comes to hiring --

STELTER: Right, $50,000 a month according to Michael Avenatti. And we know these payments were for -- for entire almost the entire year of 2017. That would suggest it was a lot more than $200,000. AT&T won't say exactly how much was spent. But this is one of these situations where we're seeing how Washington works, we're seeing how Trump world works and it stinks. This may be how the world works and maybe how D.C. always worked, but it stinks.

CUOMO: You know, AT&T pays this money, obviously you're looking for any road in to figure out what the Trump administration is trying because, let's be honest, Michael Zeldin, from a legal perspective, this was an unusual type of merger to challenge. These types of mergers usually go through. So we get their point of curiosity.

Democratic senators have a point of curiosity also. They want to take a look at this. What would be the thought there, Michael Zeldin? What would they be looking for?

[08:40:01] ZELDIN: Well -- well, this, again, is the corruption angle, whether or not this money was being paid to Cohen so that Cohen could influence the president's thinking about the AT&T/Time Warner merger. So if there was an effort there to corruptly influence the decision making around that anti-trust action, that would be actionable, potentially, and that's what -- something that a federal prosecutors or Congress or somebody like an IG should look into. And, of course, if you're an AT&T shareholder, you're going to want to know about that as well because you don't want your company that you're a shareholder of engaged in conduct like this that could lead to exposure by the SEC or otherwise that will -- you know, redown (ph) to the detriment of the company that you're a stockholder of. So there's issues here for sure that has to be inquired of.

CUOMO: And we have them on two different levels, because we have the southern district investigation, which was given in whole or in part concerning Michael Cohen from the special counsel to that branch of the Department of Justice, and you have Mueller's team itself talking to AT&T about this. So clearly there's some avenues of interest.

STELTER: Worth noting, AT&T says it considers the matter with Mueller now closed because there hasn't been follow-up in the past six months. However, I think investors will have questions about this.

CUOMO: Sure.

STELTER: And AT&T also says Cohen didn't do any lobby work. Again, that indicates he was not trying to influence the deal. But, hey, we don't know for sure.

CUOMO: What did he promise them as value, that's an open question.

ZELDIN: And --

CUOMO: Michael Zeldin, we've got to go.

Brian Stelter, thank you very much.

ZELDIN: Right.

STELTER: Thanks.

CUOMO: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: President Trump threatens severe consequences for Iran one day after ditching the nuclear deal. Our next guest helped to negotiate that historic multi-nation agreement. You'll hear what he thinks, next.

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[08:45:45] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I would advise Iran not to start their nuclear program. I would advise them very strongly. If they do, there will be very severe consequence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: President Trump with a warning for Iran just one day after pulling out of the nuclear deal. This comes as the White House just released a statement condemning Iran's rocket attack into the Golan Heights and supporting Israel's right to defend itself.

Joining us now, former U.S. secretary of energy under President Obama, Ernest Moniz. He played a key role in negotiating the Iran nuclear with former Secretary of State John Kerry in 2015.

It's good to have you.

ERNEST MONIZ, FORMER SECRETARY OF ENERGY UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good morning.

CUOMO: All right, first, let's take a step back and then we'll take a couple of step forward.

The president says I had to get out of this deal. It was a lousy deal. Why was it lousy? Because it was going to allow Iran to get back to making nukes in the short-term. We couldn't look at their military sites. We didn't get enough. They got too much and it allowed them to keep creating chaos all over the region. Fair points?

MONIZ: Not really. Most of them are frankly incorrect. Certainly the statement about not having access to military sites is simply untrue. Any site is -- that is suspect is fair game for the international inspectors. And what that really says is that the United States and Israel and others must maintain our strong intelligence activities to make sure we can direct the inspectors to those sites.

That verification regime, according to the -- our country's leading nuclear scientists, is the gold standard. Secretary Mattis just said a couple of weeks ago how robust it is. The verification regime is the real strength of this accord.

So the accord also limited Iran for 15 years in terms of what it could do, most especially took their ten tons of uranium, enriched up to 20 percent, down to very low enrichments for 15 years. That is a period in which we would be building on that foundation to address the future nuclear program and all of these others regional issues that give us so much problem. But I want to make it clear that even when those nuclear restrictions go away after 15 years, we are not back to where we were at all because we have the verification regime.

And the last point I'll make, Chris, is, if you think about it, if Iran is going to resume a nuclear weapons program, they're not going do it in the open. They're not going to do it at the sites that they declare to the international inspectors. So it is the forever commitment to allow inspectors to go anywhere and to do so within a fixed time period, that is a unique verification measure and we certainly don't want to jeopardize that. I'm afraid the president's action did just that.

CUOMO: Not enough is what the president says. They got too much money back from the United States. They had too much freedom and that's why we're seeing the chaos in the region.

So he gets out of the deal and literally, right after that, we have Israel say, Iran is behind missiles that landed in the Golan Heights. They return fire in Syria at what they believed to be the Iranian led sources of that, you know, that incursion into their sovereign space. Do you see a connection and do you believe that we are getting closer to an ugly reality?

MONIZ: Well, first of all, the issue about all this money being -- coming from the United States to Iran, we should make clear that apart from a settlement of a long-standing litigation to return funds to Iran, the -- mainly the funds are releasing funds that Iran could not access having sold oil and the like, not --

CUOMO: Right, but the money you give them is money they can use for bad purpose. That's the theory.

MONIZ: Sure.

CUOMO: But let's try and focus now, Ernest, on where we are and what just happened. Do you believe it's an extension of the move by the president? Is this -- are we going to see more of these types of provocations from Iran right now?

MONIZ: Well, first of all, I think there's no question that we all oppose Iran's regional activities. And I believe, as the president said, that Israel has plenty of reason for concern with Iran's foothold in Syria and with their supply of weaponry to Hezbollah. It's a long-standing problem. And Israel has the right to defend itself. And I believe we, and our allies, as shown by the joint missile strike on chemical facilities a few weeks ago, should be pushing back on these.

[08:50:17] The problem is, and I think you're implying it I think correctly, that the action taken by the president on the Iran deal certainly opens up the possibility of a slippery slope towards direct military confrontation that is unlikely to be in any way stabilizing for the region or in the interest in the long-term, the interest of the United States or Israel. So I think this will, frankly, turn out to be a strategic error and we have to work very hard to hopefully see Iran and our allies continue working the deal until we can find a way to perhaps address these other issues together and continue with the nuclear restrictions that we have.

CUOMO: Ernest Moniz, appreciate your perspective, as always. It's always been about what comes next if you get out of this deal. We're waiting on that answer. Be well.

MONIZ: Yes, and no -- and no plan d (ph) at the moment.

CUOMO: All right. How about this. We're Friday adjacent here on Thursday. How about some "Good Stuff"? We have it for you, next.

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[08:55:10] CUOMO: All right, time for "The Good Stuff."

One man with an appetite to make everyone feel special. That's Mike Hamas (ph). He's there in the center. He and his friends stopped by a Chicago restaurant to get a bite to eat. No surprise there. After dinner, he visited the staff and started handing out the Benjamins just to say thank you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just down the line, one, two, three, four, five, all the way down, everyone, dish washers, food runners, the pastry corner, people downstairs, just everyone. Everyone got one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: It's like "Daddy's Home 2." You're a winner, you're a winner, you're a winner. In all, Mike shelled out $1,700 plus a $200 tip. The gesture lifting everyone's spirits.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He just wanted to make everybody feel appreciated at the end of the day, you know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Why do we tell you? To remind you that when you have, you give. And what a great reward to the giver, not just the givee, in this situation.

That's "The Good Stuff."

CNN "NEWSROOM" with John Berman and Poppy Harlow right after the break.

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