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Michael Cohen Gives Interview to George Stephanopoulos; Potential of Michael Cohen Testifying against President Trump Examined; Leftist Lopez Obrador Win Mexico's Presidential Election; Analysts: North Korea Satellite Images Show Missile Plant Construction; Trump Administration Drafts Bill To Abandon Key WTO Allies. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired July 2, 2018 - 8:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] MARIA HIAASEN, WIFE OF "CAPITAL GAZETTE" SHOOTING VICTOR ROB HIAASEN: Lord knows I know that today. But that's the goal, to put out as close as you can. And the truth and Rob Hiaasen, every Hiaasen who has ever been a journalist, every Hiaasen knows that. I wish everybody understood that, that that is the way it works. Sometimes the news is good, sometimes it's not. We're just trying to be truthful, and correct as I've said before, when we're not right the first time.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Those are the tenants of journalism, you're right. And it is always a good reminder that these are real stories about real people with real families and real children and they are not just statistics. And that's what we try to keep in mind every day when we report these stories. Maria, thank you for sharing part of Rob with us and for sharing your family story, and obviously we will be -- we'll be watching as you celebrate Rob's life tonight. Thank you very much for being with us.
HIAASEN: OK, thank you.
CAMEROTA: So they have children in their 20s, and they now have to live without their dad and try to make sense of why this happened.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And there is no way to make sense of that, nor for the four other people killed there. I will say that Maria Hiaasen, I had a chance to speak with her, too, she put me at ease, which just shows what a giant she is. And one of the things she told me the lesson of Rob is to remember your humanity. Remember your humanity, which is such a lovely sentiment.
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And she did a beautiful job communicating that sense of humanity and telling other people stories is at the heart of journalism, it's about character and characters. And the other folks who died, John McNamara and Wendi Winters and Gerald Fischman, amazing stories about them, Rebecca Smith. One story jumped out at about Gerald Fischman. He cared about a city council race in Annapolis, treated it like a presidential race. This is the heart and soul of journalism, and that example will live on and hopefully inspire other folks for a long time to come.
CAMEROTA: We are following a lot of breaking news this morning, so let's get right to it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.
CAMEROTA: And good morning, everyone, welcome to your new day. It is Monday, July 2nd, 8:00 here in New York. John Avlon joins us this morning. And we do have so much news to get to. It's been a busy weekend. So this is a major development in the -- possibly in the investigations surrounding the president. Here's what's happening this morning. His long time personal attorney Michael Cohen is breaking his silence, and he's suggesting that he would be open to cutting a deal of some kind with the government. Michael Cohen telling ABC News my wife, my daughter and son have my first loyalty and always will. I put family and country first.
BERMAN: And when asked what he would do if it comes to protecting the president or his family, Cohen said his family. His family is his first priority, adding that when he learns what charges may be filed against him, he will lean on the guidance of new counsel. So does this mean that Michael Cohen is sending a signal that he is ready to flip on the president?
CAMEROTA: OK, let's discuss this. We have Michael Shear, CNN political analyst and White House correspondent for the "New York Times," and Jeffrey Toobin, CNN chief legal analyst and staff writer at "The New Yorker." Jeffrey Toobin, you speak this language.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I do.
CAMEROTA: When you hear Michael Cohen start to say these things, that I put my family first, I want my reputation restored, I will do whatever is good for the country, what do you as a lawyer hear him saying?
TOOBIN: That he is open to cutting a deal with the prosecutors. Now, that doesn't mean he will cut a deal. He would certainly welcome getting immunity from the prosecutors because he has such great information. Prosecutors given the fact that they searched his premises, meaning they had probable cause to believe there was evidence of crime there, will be unlikely to give him immunity.
CAMEROTA: Why not? He knows Donald Trump the best. Of anybody, he's been with him the longest, he's his fixer. Why not give this guy immunity?
TOOBIN: Because prosecutors are in the business of prosecuting crime. And if there is evidence that Michael Cohen committed crimes, simply to give him immunity because you want to get someone else, that is both bad tactics and borderline unethical. So the question is, will Michael Cohen admit to wrongdoing, to criminal conduct of his own, and then cooperate? It sounded like he was open to that possibility, but since we don't even know precisely what crimes he is suspected of, much less whether he'll be charged or whether he'll plead guilty, there's a lot still moving parts here that are yet to be resolved.
BERMAN: I think the one thing we do know is that Michael Cohen is trying to send a very public message right now. CAMEROTA: To whom?
BERMAN: I think to Donald Trump and I think to the world that he will not be pushed around. Remember, there have been whispers, behind the scenes whispers and sometimes more than whispers that dragging down Michael Cohen for people close to the president here.
[08:05:08] And Michael Cohen said this to George. I want to read this to you. He goes "I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone's defense strategy. I am not a villain in any story and won't allow others to try to depict me that way." Michael, you've been covering this and watching this very closely. You know this comes at an interesting time. This comes at the conclusion of the review of all of the evidence seized on the searches of Michael Cohen's residence and office, and there isn't all that much that's privileged there. Why might that have led to Michael Cohen opening up like this?
MICHAEL SHEAR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think you're right, it's very interesting. To the extent that Michael Cohen might have originally thought as a lawyer a lot of materials and conversations that he had with his clients, primarily Donald Trump, that if those were privileged, then you can take a tougher stance, you can say I'm not going to cooperate because a lot of that material can't be used against me. But we know now that most of that material was not privileged and can be used against him, and so I think that may have led to this new posture by him.
I think for Donald Trump, the political -- the biggest political danger is the merging of these two investigations, the Mueller investigation into the Russian meddling and the potential obstruction, and this investigation into Michael Cohen which the Trump associates have long tried to say, look, that's a separate investigation. It doesn't have anything to do with the president. It's all about business dealings of Michael Cohen's that didn't involve Trump or Trump associates. But you get the sense that there's a real sort of intertwining of the two investigations. And to the extent that that's true, that's probably a real political danger and legal danger potentially for the president.
CAMEROTA: And John, cast our memory back to what sort of started this, I think, which was Stormy Daniels. And so that comes up. George Stephanopoulos asks him about Stormy Daniels, I asked Cohen if the president directed him to make that payment or promise to reimburse him. There were different stories as you'll recall. Giuliani had one, Michael Cohen had one, and Donald Trump had one. In past Cohen has said he acted on his own initiative. Not this time. He said I want to answer, one day I will answer, Cohen said, but for now I can't comment further on the advice of my counsel. That's what started all of this.
AVLON: A very different tune from Michael Cohen. The cadence of conversation from this crew always comes flat denial, maybe there's some truth, did it but it was entirely innocent and of my own accord, the first lawyer in the history of humanity to voluntarily pay hush money on behalf of a client without expectation of compensation, and now I look forward to telling my truth, but on advice of counsel you're going to have to wait.
BERMAN: Along those lines, just listen to the change in tone in how Michael Cohen talks about the investigations. It's unique to hear someone in Trump world say this for instance, about the FBI. Cohen 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. On Russian meddling Michael Cohen says simply accepting Putin's denial is unsustainable. I choose to believe our intelligence agencies. Jeffrey, it's a miracle of timing that Michael Cohen is endorsing the Mueller investigation, endorsing the intelligence agencies findings that Russia meddled in the election.
TOOBIN: It is a very different political perspective than his former patron, Donald Trump. Again, what I find so interesting and peculiar about the situation is, yes, we know he was involved in the Stormy Daniels transaction. Yes, we know that the explanation of how that transaction took place has changed over time. Whether any of it was illegal remains very much in doubt. It's sleezy, it's creepy, why would someone pay $130,000 to this woman except if there was some sort of untoward business going on. But it does not -- I mean, yes, there is that potential federal election violation that it was an unlawful campaign contribution. That has never struck me as much of a basis for a criminal investigation.
BERMAN: We don't even know that the Stormy Daniels is the center.
TOOBIN: Exactly. Michael Cohen had many complex business dealings. He was involved in the taxi industry in New York, which is notoriously corrupt, but there's no evidence that he did anything wrong yet there. We'll just have to see.
CAMEROTA: Michael, I think it's very notable that Michael Cohen has not spoken. So the people, as you know -- other people around the Russia investigation, let's just separate that out, the Carter Pages and the Sam Nunbergs, they have been going public and speaking out. But Michael Cohen has been silent, OK. So what are we to make of the timing of -- did he just get frustrated with other people telling his story? That's a human -- that's an understandable human impulse, you're sick of people talking about you and you want to have the last word, or do you see something in the timing of why he's breaking his silence today?
[08:10:04] SHEAR: Look, a lot of this we don't know because we don't know what the prosecutors have been describing to them in terms of how their investigation is moving forward, and obviously you're going to make different choices about what you say publicly depending what level of legal threat you think you're under.
I think the one thing we still haven't seen, Michael Cohen was not just a lawyer who worked on a case or an issue for Donald Trump. He was the fixer and confidante, and legal confidante and business confidante. And so the question that I think still is out there is when it comes to the issues that threaten Donald Trump, how much is there in conversations and documents and memos and e-mails between Donald Trump and Michael Cohen that could help to sort of explain and fill out the stories that we don't know about the meeting in Trump Tower and about other things that are not necessarily directly related to Michael Cohen but that he has information on that prosecutors would want? And that's the stuff we still don't have answers to.
BERMAN: We're waiting to see if President Trump chooses to respond to all of this. I wouldn't want to put myself in the place of the lawyers, John Avlon, but it would seem to me this would be a good day to tell President Trump, you might not want to call Michael Cohen little Marco or little Michael Cohen or lying Michael Cohen. You may want to lay off today.
AVLON: Yes, and we had any example Donald Trump would listen to those voices. The president is compelled to punch back personally and professionally against the advice of counsel. But Michael Cohen is in a very different place in the Trump orbit. This is the keeper of secrets who's now telegraphing to the world that he is no longer particularly interested in keeping those secrets. And what I think is so fascinating that Michael Shear raise is how have the local issues that SDNY is presumably looking into, are they intertwining with the federal investigations, because the Feds are interesting in tax dalliance. How is the Russian investigation potentially intertwining with this purview in addition to presumably just the level of conversations they presumably had, there may be records.
CAMEROTA: Jeffrey, if he's telegraphing to the world that he's open to cooperating, why not just pick up the phone and call the prosecutors and say I'm open to cooperating?
TOOBIN: Good question. I don't know why he's doing this interview at all.
CAMEROTA: That's my point.
BERMAN: It's a cry for help.
TOOBIN: People like to talk to famous journalists. And I think this was, as a strictly legal matter, a pointless enterprise for Michael Cohen. I don't understand why he's doing this. I think he wants to hang out with George Stephanopoulos. But there is a reason people under criminal investigation tend to shut up.
CAMEROTA: And that's what he had done. So I feel like something has changed. Maybe he's not getting any traction with the prosecutors. Maybe he's trying to move the ball forward.
TOOBIN: I guess. Why people speak to journalists, why people leak is a great subject. We all take advantage of it. But it's not always a completely logical process. It is often against the advice of counsel. So I know how New York lawyers operate, who is Michael Cohen's lawyer now, they usually say, shut up and let me deal with the prosecutors. I suspect this was against his lawyer's advice. But thank goodness people go against their lawyer's advice and talk to us because we all count on it.
BERMAN: Jeffrey and Michael, thanks very much.
We Are following breaking news at this moment. The FBI has announced they've arrested a person for allegedly planning an attack on the fourth of July in downtown Cleveland. The suspect will be charged with attempted material support of a terrorist organization. The FBI is expected to reveal more details in a news conference about one hour from now. We'll watch this very closely over the course of the morning and tell you when we learn more.
CAMEROTA: Thank goodness for good police work.
Meanwhile, there's a big change in Mexico overnight. Who's the new leader?
CAMEROTA: We do have breaking news in Mexico. The country's leftist presidential candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, sometimes called AMLO, riding a populist wave to become the country's next president.
CNN's Leyla Santiago is live in Mexico City with more. What a night, Leyla. Tell us what's happening there.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, what really has been made clear by voters is that they are looking for someone to tackle corruption and violence in Mexico. That was made very clear by the choice of AMLO, that was his platform.
But also, what's very clear is that this could be a big change in the U.S. and Mexico relationship. I mean, last night when he spoke of the U.S., he says he wants friendship and cooperation in development. He wants mutual respect between the two countries.
President Trump also making a statement, he took to Twitter saying, "looking forward to working with you," but there's some pretty big issues to tackle here. Immigration, I mean, AMLO wrote a book called, "Listen Trump," in which he really spoke out against this idea of Trump's wall, saying that is not a solution to anything.
Then you have NAFTA, that free trade agreement that has been going back and forth for months now. And initially, AMLO was very critical of that and he sort of softened his tone with some pressure of the business leaders here throughout the campaign.
But he is much like Trump in saying this is not the best deal for my country. I want a better deal. And he is saying Mexico first, a lot of analysts have said that this is Mexico's Trump. So, it will be interesting to see the dynamic change in this relationship and where it will go from here.
BERMAN: Leyla Santiago for us in Mexico City. Joining us now, our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour. Christiane, this is a land fly victory. We can talk about what it means for Mexico.
[08:20:03] But if you look at this from a bigger picture, whether it's from the left or the right, around the world for the last 12 months we really have seen the up-ending in some ways of the entire world order.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right. In fact, for more than two years it started with Brexit here and traveled to the United States with Trump and now it's in Latin America, not just Mexico, it's Colombia's recent election and obviously in Europe as well.
So, yes, this is a big sort of seismic shift. The real question, real question is whether these populists or nationalists, whatever you call them, can actually deliver the promises that they have made.
And in the case of AMLO using his acronym, he obviously breaks with decades of tradition. The two main parties are out of the picture for a moment and he's a leftist leader for the first time in decades in Mexico.
He has a coalition that somewhat unweirdly very far right conservatives, very sort of left wing unions and religious groups as well. And he's promised big, big promises. Like taking on corruption, which is incredibly important and vital for people's daily life and business and health of the country.
Tackling the violence, which is endemic and constant and of course, the poverty that springs up in many pockets of Mexico, but there is no set plan or nothing we know about how he's going to pay for all of this.
On other hand, as Leyla was talking about, he's going to have to figure out how to thread that needle in his relationship with Donald Trump's America and with President Trump himself.
Because yes, the president sent out a nice tweet, but he has to really sort of straddle the line. How do you stand up for Mexico and refuse the wall, refuse to pay for the wall?
Don't look like Donald Trump's puppet or lap dog and at the same time, don't antagonize your big neighbor to the north that it back fires on you. So, a huge amount of balancing act and no clear design at the moment of how they are going to do it.
But this is replicated now, Canada, Europe, all over the place, people trying to figure out how to deal with this massive disruption and dislocation that's happening now in many parts of the world.
CAMEROTA: And it's just all happening so fast. We see it cascading from country to country. Let's talk about North Korea. They don't appear to be denuclearizing at any rate that was anticipated perhaps by President Trump. They seem to be beefing up some of their facilities. What do we know?
AMANPOUR: Well, again, you're absolutely right. Look, we were all there in Singapore several weeks ago and reported on this summit and there was a lot of good will and it looked like potentially there might be a psychological break with the old order, that potentially Kim Jong-un was going to take on a new vision for his country. But we all were skeptical because at that time, the basic minimums had not been delivered. A declaration of the missile and nuclear technology and assets, a time line of how, what, when and where they were going to do it and any specific promises from North Korea.
Some could say it was early and just a meeting but even now three weeks later we're not any clearer. As you say there are significant numbers of reports that cast doubts on what North Korea is actually doing right now.
Are they building up more nuclear assets? Are they really going to admit to the secret size they have that the United States knows and intelligence knows about? Are they going to destroy that engine test site that President Trump claimed they were going to do immediately on the return home?
They have not and there are reports that they are actually building more nuclear assets rather than decreasing them. So, a lot of questions still out there. And at the same time, you've had President Trump's officials, backers over the weekend talking about regime change and sort of -- in Iran.
So, these two nuclear balls up in the air look very, very complex. And some people in the United States trying to seek an alliance with the MEK, otherwise known as national resistance, which they know nothing about, which is like Iran's version of Marxist (inaudible) cult.
A (inaudible) Marxist cult that is not by any means democratic. So, a lot of balls in the air and we don't know where they are going to land.
BERMAN: Christiane, overnight there's a piece of news in the United States, the president wanted to draft a bill to rundown the WTO and it reminds us in the last two weeks he's made moves to perhaps undermine the E.U. saying France to withdraw from the E.U.
And then, of course, there's NATO. He has a big NATO conference just before he meets with Vladimir Putin and there are signs that he's not perhaps looking at America's long-time allies as America's greatest friends going forward.
AMANPOUR: This sends seismic waves of terror, I don't think that's too strong a word -- of real worry amongst America's European allies. On the one hand according to the military, according to various different politicians, you know, the alliance continues on the ground.
On the other hand, from the very top, again, this flame throwing going on, and we don't quite know why. We do know that the president insists all of the NATO members pay out their 2 percent of GDP.
That, though, has been a demand of the United States going back at least to 2014, the last major -- a big NATO summit and made a declaration that the United States absolutely wants all the rest of the countries to pay their fair share. To be fair, some countries are moving towards that. Then we don't know what President Trump is going to say to President Putin and we don't know whether they are going to create some kind of a deal over Syria, that's been in the press.
And we know that President Trump is taking a lot of advice and foreign policy direction from the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu and from the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, known by acronym, NBS.
And so, what they are trying to do, we understand, is seek Russia's help in getting rid of Iran, getting them back out of Syria, in return potentially for allowing Assad to stay in place.
So, all of these weird balls are up in the air again, nobody quite knowing where they are going to fall. Of course, NATO does not and cannot afford the European alliance cannot afford another disruptive summit so closely on the heels of the disrupted G7 Summit in Canada.
So, there's a lot going on and of course, it's really odd to see President Trump beating up via Twitter on one of the key linchpins, main leader of the European alliance and that's Angela Merkel, who is facing a very tough time right now.
CAMEROTA: John -- thank you, Christiane, very much. John, you've been listening -- nodding your head.
AVLON: Pointed out ably, this is stunning, we have the president of the United States, leader of the free world consistently seeming to take aim at international institutions that protected the free world sense the second world war.
These are the larger stakes and of course, over the weekend, National Security Adviser John Bolton basically sounding like the southern bell of the ball saying don't get the vapors when it comes to this upcoming --
CAMEROTA: Very Scarlet O'Hara.
AVLON: Mustachioed Scarlet O'Hara. But that's the least disturbing part of what's maybe coming down the pike.
BERMAN: I saw the midnight showing of that film, never be same again.
All right, 2,000 kids separated from their parents by the U.S. government. Where are they? We keep asking and the government will not tell us.