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Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen Breaks His Silence; Leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador Wins Mexico's Presidential Election; Trump Administration Drafts Bill to Abandon Key WTO Rules; Trump to Announce Supreme Court Pick in One Week; Interview with Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D), New York. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired July 2, 2018 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:02] ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, I'm Erica Hill, in for Poppy today.

President Trump's attorney Michael Cohen, the man who once said he would take a bullet for the president, seems to be hinting his days as a loyal fixer are over. Cohen making it clear in an interview with "Good Morning, America," his family matters most, even more than the president, saying, quote, "My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will. I put family and country first."

CNN National Political Reporter, MJ Lee joins me now with more.

So he's under criminal investigation. We know he has been for months. The fact that he is speaking out now surprised a lot of people. What more did we learn here?

LEE: That's right. I mean, the fact that he is breaking his silence in order to send the message that he is not going to put his family -- or he's not going to put Donald Trump, rather, before his own family. And he was asked about the issue of loyalty a number of times in this interview, whether he would put Trump first, whether he would go out of his way to protect his former boss. And very telling was this one thing that he said about how he is not going to be used anymore and he is not the bad guy in this story.

Take a look. He said, "I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone's defense strategy. I am not a villain in the story, and I will not allow others to try to depict me that way." Now very striking because up until this point, especially since the FBI raided his home and office a couple of months ago, he has not been saying a lot. So the fact that he is now purposely coming out to say this is where I stand and I'm not going to be the guy that takes a bullet for President Trump, that tone of defensiveness is very, very interesting.

HILL: His tone when it comes to the FBI and the Russia investigation also very interesting.

LEE: Very interesting that he is distancing himself from President Trump on two major issues. First as you said is this FBI raid when they came in and raided his home, his office, his hotel room. Trump, of course, was very critical of this at the time. You might recall that he said this was disgraceful, this was an attack on our country. Now Cohen is saying he supports the FBI doing this and sort of going through due process.

He says, "I don't agree with those who demonize or vilify the FBI. I respect the FBI as an institution as well as their agents." He even went as far as to say that the agents were respectful and courteous when they did the raids. He also is speaking out on the Robert Mueller Russia investigation which, of course, President Trump has repeatedly had said is a witch hunt, that he doesn't agree with sort of the motivations behind this investigation.

Cohen is saying this. He says, "I don't like the term witch hunt. As an American, I repudiate Russia's or any other foreign government's attempt to interfere or meddle in our democratic process. And I would call on all Americans to do the same." He also said, "Simply accepting Putin's denial is unsustainable. I choose to believe our intelligence agencies."

So of course, the underlying suggestion here in all of this is that Michael Cohen is not on the same team as Donald Trump. He is, of course, under criminal investigation. There have been no charges that have been brought so far. But what we don't know right now is whether he is willing to strike a deal and whether investigators will want that. So the context and the tone of all of this is very interesting heading into all of that.

HILL: Gives us lots to talk about so you teed it up perfectly.

LEE: That's right.

HILL: MJ, thank you.

I want to bring in now CNN Legal Analyst, Paul Callan. There is so much, Paul, to look at here. But the most surprising, I would argue, is the fact that Michael Cohen sat down for this interview at all. I would imagine that as his counsel, you would say, not the best idea.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. It's really shocking development, and I say that because defense attorneys always say to their clients, do not speak to the press because you never know what's going to happen in an interview. And the client can get himself into trouble. But I think the other interesting aspect of the interview is that while on the one hand, he is disassociating himself from major themes of the Trump administration, i.e. that we can't trust our intelligence sources about the Russians, that the FBI is inherently corrupt and non-trustworthy.

And of course he is embracing these agencies in his statement. He is emphasizing that he is well aware of, you know, his family and his need to be loyal to them and not anybody else. So it looks to me, Erica, like he is firing a warning shot across the bow of President Trump. And at the same time, he is trying to clean up his public image and create sort of a warm and friendly Michael Cohen.

HILL: Yes.

CALLAN: Which hasn't been his image previously. HILL: No. It has not. It's interesting in terms of that warning

shot, too, very clear that family comes first. But it also stood out to me that he said, after going through his wife, daughter, his son, "my family and country, I put family and country first." That's a clear message as well.

CALLAN: Yes. That's an absolutely clear message. But I'll tell you one other clear message that I'm reading in this statement. That as of this moment, he is not cooperating with federal prosecutors. And I say that because when a witness is cooperating with federal prosecutors, the first thing they're going to tell him is, keep your mouth shut and talk only to us.

[10:05:06] You notice, we didn't see General Flynn making public statements, we didn't see Papadopoulos making public statements when they made deals to cooperate with prosecutors so -- or Gates for that matter as well. So I think that's sort of an indication he is shopping a deal but he doesn't have one yet.

HILL: So shopping a deal, maybe letting prosecutors know and also the president know as well. It's fascinating, too, when we look at this because we know we've heard from President Trump in the past tweeting just a couple of months ago his very clear thoughts on anyone who was going to decide to, in his view, flip, saying that, "ultimately these people would just be liars, I'm paraphrasing here, saying people will flip if the government lets them out of trouble, even if it means lying or making up stories. Sorry, I don't see Michael doing that."

I'm not clear if he says he doesn't see Michael Cohen lying, he doesn't him working with the government. Jeffrey Toobin, though, was pretty clear that the government does not entice people to lie as some sort of an arrangement. And it's important that we reiterate that.

CALLAN: Well, I saw Jeffrey this morning when he made that statement, that federal prosecutors don't lie. I do a lot of defense work. I think they do lie from time to time. Now I don't think they set out to lie, though. They choose to believe what will help their case. Like a lot of prosecutors do. And sometimes they make mistakes and they accept the testimony of somebody who is lying as truthful.

So let's just say they might make a mistake, OK, and endorse the testimony of a liar. I don't give federal prosecutors a clean bill of health all across the board. But I think -- you know, and Jeffrey talked about another thing I think when he spoke that's very important. Cohen is being investigated by the Southern District of New York for local charges. And they probably, I think, have to do with his taxi medallions.

There's been a huge scandal and controversy with taxi medallions and their fight with Uber in New York. And there's a lot of financial pressure on the companies that own those medallions and Cohen was involved in that industry. So I'm betting the Southern District investigation is focused on that. And I wonder how much information he really has to give about Trump as president. Most of his information is probably Trump as businessman before he became president. And that might be Trump's Achilles heel, things that went on in the Trump Organization before the president was running.

HILL: So many questions about that. Also just want to get your take on this real quickly. He was asked about that $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels. He replied, "I want to answer. One day I will answer. But for now, I can't comment further on advice of my counsel." He was asked whether the president had directed him to make that payment or promised to reimburse him. We know that that question is not going away. What does his non-answer say to you, Paul?

CALLAN: Well, the non-answer says to me that that's the one area where Cohen knows that there are pending federal cases. Remember, Avenatti representing Stormy Daniels' has filed several actions involving Cohen. And if Cohen is out making public statements about the lawsuits, the stay could be lifted on these lawsuits and Avenatti, the attorney for Stormy Daniels, could go into court saying well, he is revealing his testimony publically. Why can't I take his deposition?

So very wisely his attorneys have said, keep quiet, completely, about the Stormy Daniels controversy just to keep yourself out of court for the present time.

HILL: Not keeping quiet on the other stuff, though. Paul Callan, always good to see you, my friend. Thank you.

CALLAN: Good seeing you.

HILL: Happening overnight, Mexico's next president Andrews Manuel Lopez Obrador winning in a landslide.




HILL: The left-wing former mayor of Mexico City promising sweeping changes including a new relationship with the United States. It's his relationship with President Trump, though, that has many wondering, uncertain at this point, how the two will get along. Both leaders far apart on certain issues when it comes to the border wall, even NAFTA.

Joining me now from Mexico City is CNN's Leyla Santiago with the very latest.

Leyla, good morning.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Erica. Yes, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, he is known as AMLO here, as you mentioned, the former mayor of Mexico City. He's run for president of Mexico twice before this. But this round, his message really resonated with voters because for them, this was about corruption, tackling that big issue, along with violence. Mexico at an all-time high on homicides right now. 2

Also a big factor here is the fact that this will change the dynamic between Mexico and the United States with this new president. Now Mexico's president-elect AMLO as he's known here, has said that he wants a friendship with the U.S., cooperation for development and mutual respect on both sides.

[10:10:01] President Trump also tweeted congratulating him last night saying he is looking forward to working with him. Two very polite initial statements as they launch this new relationship. But I got to tell you, there's some big issues on the table right now that could become very contentious. I mean, there's immigration. AMLO wrote a book called "Oye, Trump," if translated that means "Listen Trump." And he really fought back on Trump's idea of the wall, saying there's no way this is going to resolve any issues. And he is very much against it.

And then when it comes to trade, NAFTA, that free trade agreement between Canada, Mexico and the U.S., AMLO originally was very critical of it. Now with the campaign and some pressure from business leaders here, he has said that he plans to keep it in place. But much like Trump, he has said that this deal needs to be better for his country. A lot of analysts really say that these two leaders are actually very similar in terms of being in line of their country first.

AMLO has said it is Mexico first. So we'll have to see how this new dynamic plays out as they move forward with some very big issues.

HILL: Leyla Santiago, with the latest for us, thank you.

As we know, trade, a source of growing tensions between Mexico and the United States. Well, now we're getting a closer look at the White House's thinking on U.S. trade policy. An official telling CNN the Trump administration has drafted a bill that would move the U.S. away from World Trade Organization principles and give the president more power to change policies on his own.

Here's CNN Chief Business Correspondent, Christine Romans.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Erica, that shows exactly what this White House is thinking about these big global trade agreements and big global trade obligations. The United States has spent the last 30 years pursuing. The president is mistrustful of them and he thinks America can get a better deal on its own.

Now people close to the president think that it's unworkable and unrealistic to actually pull away from the WTO. But what is that? It's 166 nations or so who together have collective rules about trade, about discriminating against trading partners, and about tariffs and how high they can be set and limits on tariffs.

Also the United States goes to the WTO when there's a complaint. And more often than not, the United States wins its complaints when it goes to that governing body. But the president is distrustful of the WTO. And we've seen that in many other of the big global alliances that the president questions. This comes in a really important week here. And the word of the week

is escalation. And maybe retaliation. Those two big words. Yesterday, you saw Canada retaliate against the U.S. in its steel and aluminum tariffs and impose $12.5 billion of tariffs on its own. Some big tariffs on 40 plus steel products and 10 percent tariffs on maple syrup, toffee, coffee beans and the like. And then this week, you will hear by the end of the week we will know and see exactly the United States putting tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods. And the Chinese say they will retaliate as well. So again, retaliation and escalation. And the big part of the story, so important to watch, the Trump administration has ordered an official investigation into national security and imports of foreign automobiles.

And you could see this be a really big new front in the trade war. Already, the Europeans have said, if the U.S. tries to restrict imports or raise tariffs on imports of foreign cars into the United States, then there would be retaliation, up to $300 billion on other U.S. goods. So on several fronts here this is a very big week in a potential global trade war -- Erica.

HILL: All right. Christine, thank you. Christine Romans with the latest for us there.

Still to come, it is T minus seven days. The countdown is on. Countdown for what? President Trump announcing his pick for the Supreme Court. He says he'll announce on July 9th. Just ahead, how the battle for Justice Anthony Kennedy's replacement is reviving the debate over abortion rights.

Plus stunning new details from the intelligence community. One agency now says North Korea has no intention of full denuclearization.

And LeBron James no longer California dreaming. He is making his way to the city of angels. But do they really have their king?


[10:18:27] HILL: President Trump set to make a decision seven days from now that could set the course of American law for decades. He says he will announce his pick to succeed Justice Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court on July 9th. That of course is one week from today.

CNN's Abby Phillip is at the White House. And Abby, we hear he is working the phones. Have there been any in-person interviews that we know of at this point?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, we don't have any indication that the president actually interviewed anybody yet. He did say to reporters on Friday that he would. But I'm told by a source that that didn't actually happen.

The interviews are expected to happen this week, in part because there's simply not very much time, just seven days between now and when the president expects to announce this pick before he leaves for Europe. And he is -- has narrowed his original list of about 25 potential candidates down to about five. He said that he may interview up to seven for this post. But clearly, the White House moving as quickly as they can to get this done and over to the Senate.

On that list of people are several people who have ties to Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is leaving his post on the Supreme Court. One that has ties to Justice Scalia who died a few years ago. And these are people with top pedigrees, frankly, in the legal world. The president, according to "The Washington Post," telling his aides, he wants his potential nominees to be exceptionally qualified. He wants them to have top tier legal and educational pedigrees. And he also wants them not to be weak in his words.

[10:20:00] But one of the main issues that we're also looking at here is the issue of abortion. Now this is one that is central to a lot of Democrats who are worried about who the president might pick. But also to some moderate Republicans, including Republican Susan Collins from Maine.

Collins spoke to CNN's Jake Tapper on Sunday. And she said she believed "Roe versus Wade," that foundational Supreme Court decision that establishes a right to abortion in the U.S., she believes that that is settled law. She said she would vote against a nominee who indicated that that person would seek to overturn "Roe versus Wade."

Now President Trump hasn't said explicitly that he would ask about this issue of "Roe v. Wade," but we do know that the president is picking from a list of Supreme Court candidates who have all been vetted by a slew of conservative groups. It is very unlikely that any of those candidates are personally or professionally in support of abortion. And so for a lot of people on the conservative side, whether this question is asked or not, it's almost a moot point. They believe that all of these candidates would be strong in their view on that issue of abortion -- Erica.

HILL: Abby Phillip with the latest for us from the White House. Thank you.

Joining me now to discuss further, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York, ranking member on the Judiciary Committee.

We know obviously these things happen in the Senate. But I just heard your reaction there to Senator Collins saying -- her take on all this when she spoke with Jake yesterday. You laughed a little bit when she said, you know, I want a justice who looks at this as settled law. The president himself has said when it comes to marriage equality, I look at that as settled law.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: It's nonsense. The Supreme Court just ruled 5-4 a week and a half ago to overturn a 1977 decision that was settled law to hinder labor unions. So they can talk about settled law. Anybody on that list from the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society is going to vote to overturn "Roe v. Wade," they're going to -- they're going to vote to make abortion illegal, they're going to vote to make union organizing terrible, they're going to vote to -- probably to ban states from any kind of reasonable gun legislation.

They're going to vote to use the First Amendment, religious liberty clause to say you can't enforce public accommodations laws for gay people and others. They're going to gut much of what we have learned. They're going to use the laws we've seen on the Affordable Care Act. They started down the road of restricting the commerce clause and the spending power so that most of legislation for minimum wages and for economic regulations is going to be declared unconstitutional, too. They're going to go back before the new deal.

HILL: Those are all a lot of the concerns. The reality is, the chances of a justice not only being nominated on Monday but being confirmed in the Senate prior to the November midterm elections, very high. There's not a lot Democrats can do at this point. This is going to be very powerful for the Republicans in terms of energizing the vote.

Are you concerned that it could have the opposite effect on Democrats for November?

NADLER: No. I think it will certainly energize -- Democratic voters are very energized right now. It's energized for a lot of reasons. It's energized because of the savage brutality of the Trump administration with respect to immigrants, with family separation. It's energized because for a lot of -- because of the Trump administration's attacks on the press and all the institutions that support a free society.

So our vote I think is very energized. I think the statistics and the (INAUDIBLE) elections are bearing that out. The Republican vote, they're going to try to energize it by three things. They're going to try to energize it by saying that President Trump is on the ballot, he'll be impeached if the Democrats get elected, which is not at all certain. Number one. They'll try to energize it by the savagery at the border, by the racist -- by appealing to racist, anti-immigrant sentiment. And they'll try to energize it by the Supreme Court pick.

HILL: Right. Which -- and it will be interesting to see how they are successful or not on any of those points. When it comes to immigration, you were at a rally, in a march over the weekend here. There were chants of abolish ICE. Do you support abolishing ICE?

NADLER: Well, I think that's a distraction. I think the main point is that we have to oppose the racist and the savage anti-family and anti-immigration policy of the Trump administration. ICE is a tool which is being misused by the Trump administration. And yes, there are things you ought to reform about it. There are powers it shouldn't have and so forth. But the main -- and we can really change it. But the main thing is the policy of the administration, what they're doing.

HILL: And that as we know --

NADLER: That's where we're going to keep our -- keep our eye on ball.

HILL: And you called for more on that. But so you're saying, I just want to be clear on your answer. Do not abolish ICE.

NADLER: No, I'm not saying that .

HILL: But there's room for improvement?

[10:25:03] NADLER: I'm not saying that. I'm saying that I think frankly whether you abolish ICE is not the main question.


NADLER: You've got to change it so it can't be misused the way it's being misused. But the main thing is to change these policies.

HILL: Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez here in New York, she could join you obviously in Washington.

NADLER: She will join us.

HILL: Very progressive policies. She's much younger. She said over the weekend the Democratic Party is a big tent party. We have grown for lots of different people. And yet there is this push toward more progressive policies. Is there room for everyone in there? Where do moderates go at this point?

NADLER: Well, there's certainly room for everyone. I'm a very progressive person. I always have been. And so I'm very happy with the trend in the party toward more progressive policies. I've been a member of the progressive caucus in the House caucus my entire tenure in Congress. But yes, we have more moderate people on the caucus, too, and they have their say. And this balance shifts from time to time.

But I think the country is basically going in a more progressive direction. People want better health care. They want policies that will make sure that the increasing economic growth doesn't -- only to the benefit of the corporations and the people at the top, which is what's been going on.

HILL: Do you think your fellow leadership sees it the way that you do? That there is room for different ideas, that there is room for new blood, there is room for more progressive policies?

NADLER: Sure. I think so.

HILL: Because (INAUDIBLE). As you know, not just with the leadership in Washington but also within the party, that there is sort of stranglehold on this party that is not unified around a clear message, especially moving into November.

NADLER: Well, it's very hard to unify around a clear message when you don't have the president or the majority leader in either House.


HILL: But is that -- that sounds like an excuse. Why can't you? NADLER: Because you can't control what people say. People will say

different things. And the press will pick up on people saying different things. So it's very difficult for a party that is out of power to be perceived as having a clear message. I think we have several clear messages. Universal health care is one clear message. Use the government to make sure that all the benefits do not go to the top is another clear message. Oppose tax cuts that -- well, the Republican policy, we all oppose to, which is basically have huge tax cuts almost all the benefits of which go to the top 1 percent. Then use the resulting deficit as an excuse to say we've got to cut back on Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, which is what's coming, what they're doing now.

I think the Democratic Party is unified in opposing that kind of politics and in saying that we want a politics where the tax burden is less on low income people, more on high income people, more on corporations where you have higher economic growth but where the benefit of that growth is broadly distributed not only to the top.

HILL: We will be interested to see how that message works out moving forward. Always appreciate you taking the time to come in. Thank you.

NADLER: Thank you.

HILL: Just last month, the world watched as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signed a denuclearization agreement with President Trump. Well, now there is new intel that Kim has no plans to live up to that deal.