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Trump Discussed Playmate Payment on Cohen Tape; Duck Boat Tragedy; Middle East Violence; Iraq Protests; Trump Administration Defends Putin Invitation; CNN Freedom Project. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired July 21, 2018 - 03:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Donald Trump's former lawyer secretly recorded one particular conversation they had and the tape is in the hands of the FBI.

Plus prayers for those lost in Missouri, as a thunderstorm sinks a tour boat and 17 people never make it back to shore.

Plus we will be in Gaza, where our correspondent is monitoring reports of a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas after a fresh round of violence.

Live from the CNN Center here in Atlanta, I'm Cyril Vanier. It's great to have you with us.


VANIER: So it turns out the man once touted as Donald Trump's fixer, long-time personal lawyer Michael Cohen, made numerous recordings of his conversations with Mr. Trump. Those recordings are now in possession of the FBI.

According to a source familiar with the matter, at least one of the recordings made just two months before the election is of Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen discussing buying the rights to the story of Karen McDougal, screen right.

She is a former "Playboy" model, who says she had an affair with Mr. Trump in 2006, something he denies. We get the details now from CNN's Jessica Schneider.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Michael Cohen secretly recorded multiple conversations with Donald Trump, sources tell CNN. And those tapes are now in the hands of federal investigators.

Two months before the election, Cohen recorded a conversation with Trump, discussing a payment to the former "Playboy" model, Karen McDougal. That's according to Trump's current attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

McDougal claims she had nearly a year-long affair with the president right after Melania gave birth to Barron in 2006.

KAREN MCDOUGAL, FORMER PLAYMATE: I was attracted to him, yes. He's a nice-looking man and I liked his charisma.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): McDougal has said Trump tried to hand her cash after their first night together.

MCDOUGAL: After we had been intimate, he tried to pay me and I actually did not take that.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Did he actually try to hand you money?


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Trump denies the affair. McDougal says she didn't take the money that night but McDougal eventually sold her story to the "National Enquirer" for $150,000. The tabloid never published it.

Giuliani told CNN that Trump didn't know he was being recorded during that discussion. But on the tape, Trump and Cohen discussed buying the rights to McDougal's story from AMI, the parent company of the "Enquirer."

Trump advised Cohen to pay by check so that it could be documented, according to Giuliani. The recording was one of several seized by the FBI during a raid of Cohen's hotel room, apartment and office back in April.

There are other tapes of Michael Cohen and other powerful individuals that the FBI seized, beyond the president, that could be embarrassing for the people on the tape and for Cohen, according to a source familiar with those tapes.

Prosecutors in New York City are examining possible election law violations related to payments Michael Cohen made to women who alleged sexual encounters with Trump. Adult film actress Stormy Daniels received $130,000 to keep quiet about an alleged affair. She has since sued Trump over that agreement.

Daniel's attorney is now urging Cohen to release the recordings.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: If Michael Cohen, in fact, is a true patriot, as he wants the American people to believe and as Lanny Davis wants the American people to believe, then Michael Cohen should release all of the audio recordings.

And I will tell you for a fact, there is more than one. There is multiple recordings. And all of them should be released for the benefit of the American public.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): For now, Michael Cohen isn't commenting. He's been seen on the streets of New York City but has stayed mostly silent, at least publicly. He sat down with ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos off camera earlier this month, signaling his willingness to work with special counsel Robert Mueller, stressing his family, not the president, comes first.

And late last night, after a week of twisted words from the White House regarding Russia, Cohen quoted the legendary broadcaster Walter Cronkite and said, "It has never been more important than it is now for everyone to distinguish between innuendo and fact" -- Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.



VANIER: We're joined now by Michael Moore, former U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Georgia.

Help us understand this.

What do we need to take out of this?

Let's start with this, what are the possible scenarios depending on what was said on that tape?

MICHAEL MOORE, U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I mean, you can have a situation where there is a campaign finance violation that could be if Trump knew the money was being spent and Michael Cohen was spending the money to affect the outcome of election. That could be a violation.


VANIER: So a reminder, the money was spent by the "National Enquirer" to buy the rights of Karen McDougal's story. If Donald Trump knew that the "National Enquirer" was buying her rights that could be campaign finance --


MOORE: Well, we know he's friends with the "National Enquirer" owner.


VANIER: Right, the owner of American Media Inc., that owns the "National Enquirer."

MOORE: And these things don't just happen in a vacuum. And so my guess is that there may be some testimony or some evidence, if they pursue a campaign finance violation, that Trump had some knowledge or involvement in making those arrangements.

They may have been made through a third party, somebody like Mike Cohen, who was his fixer as we know, but if he had some involvement in that, you may have a problem.

VANIER: Reportedly, the content of the conversation was not that. In fact, according to the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, it helps the president's case because nothing in that 2-minute or so conversation shows that the president knew about that payment made before it was made.

So it would help their case?

MOORE: Well, and we're very early in understanding what these tapes are.


MOORE: And what's contained in the tapes. And I think that history has taught us, as we have listened to Giuliani, that we may need to wait until the rest of the story comes out. And so at this point, what we need to do --


VANIER: But is it a possibility that this actually -- ?

MOORE: Well, I don't know that I would ever think that anytime your lawyer is recording you and he's giving that information over, and the information is recovered and reviewed by the FBI, that's a positive thing for a client.


VANIER: We got interesting information from several CNN sources, that the president waived privilege on the recordings. So those recordings, that recording was protected by client privacy. It couldn't be used in court, that means.


MOORE: Well, the recording itself may not have been admissible in court because of attorney-client privilege but we also have an indication at this point that Michael Cohen is watching out for Michael Cohen.

And it may be that he cooperates and talks about things that went on or he was directed to do by the president outside of the recording itself. There is an exception to the attorney-client privilege and it means it doesn't allow an attorney and a client to conspire to commit a crime.

So if, in fact, that was going on, that would be something that wouldn't be covered by the privilege. The communication itself, because it was within the attorney-client relationship, the recording itself may have been held aside by this special master.

But in this case it may also be that Michael Cohen says, wait a minute, there is more to the story than just the fact there was a recording.

VANIER: But if they waived the privilege, they had the privilege; waived it, doesn't that strongly suggest that they think this works in their favor? MOORE: I don't think so. I think they don't really have a choice at this point. We already have -- we know the tape is out there. We've got Michael Cohen, who could be a cooperating witness for the Mueller investigation. I don't know necessarily that saying we're going to go ahead and let people listen to it, I don't know that it works in their favor as an indication.

Otherwise they just may have gotten caught with the fact that the tape in fact exists. I mean, this is an administration who has denied payments, who has denied knowing people, who has denied having involvement.

Well, suddenly now that's not true. And most of the times these things come out and they are an attack or they tend to shine discredit on somebody's credibility.

Here, I think, the statements that have been made, statements by the president, statements by his counsel, those things are -- the credibility of those has already been brought into question as they stand.

VANIER: There is also -- and this is very big, an important part of the story -- there is a story behind the story, which is that Michael Cohen is recording people and including one of his main clients, Donald Trump.


MOORE: That's right. And I think that's the big story here, is, in fact, that the president's lawyer was recording him. And this is an indication that Michael Cohen is going to begin to watch out for himself. He may, in fact, be cooperating.

But anytime a lawyer is recording a client and those things may be being held to say, look, I need to have a get out of jail free card. I may need something to protect myself down the road. So I'll have this tape. My guess is that's why the recording was made.

VANIER: Michael Moore, former U.S. attorney for the middle district of Georgia, thanks for joining us.

MOORE: Good to be with you. Yes, absolutely.


VANIER: We're learning more about a tour boat accident that killed 17 people, including nine people from the same family. Several vigils were held Friday to mourn those who lost their lives.

The so-called duck boat sank Thursday with 31 people onboard. It happened near the popular U.S. tourist town of Branson, Missouri. Our Miguel Marquez has more on the reaction and details about the investigation.



MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cell phone video capturing the unthinkable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it's going under.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): A tour boat full of families disappearing beneath the swells on Missouri's Table Rock Lake. Fewer than half the people on board would make it back to shore alive; 17 passengers, from ages just 1 year old to 70, including the boat's driver, Bob Williams, are now gone.

MIKE PARSON, GOVERNOR OF MISSOURI: One lady lost nine members of her 11 members of her family.

MARQUEZ: Oh, dear.

PARSON: So I had a chance to talk to her and it's difficult to find the right words to say.


MARQUEZ (voice-over): It is one of the deadliest duck boat accidents in history.


MARQUEZ (voice-over): As strong weather rolled in Thursday evening, the waters on the lake became treacherous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never seen it quite this bad. Boats can't get in, boats can't get out.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): This video from a man who had a ticket for the duck boat and turned back, tweeting, "We saw high winds and bad weather roll in. So I decided to get a refund and leave with my wife."

Severe thunderstorm warnings for the area were first issued at 5:45, then again at 6:30, just before the accident.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Welcome aboard Ride the Duck.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Still, two duck boats continued with their advertised tour. Radar shows the fast-moving storm heading toward Branson, hitting the lake with 63 mile an hour wind gusts, just as the boats tried to turn back at 7:00 pm. Only one made it to shore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's going to make it.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): The first emergency calls for the other came in at 7:09.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Western units, we need a water rescue. Will be north of the show boat. Will be a duck that has capsized. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there is somebody out there with a video of this, please send it to our Stone County Sheriff's Office Facebook page.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): As investigators pour in to Branson to find answers, the president of the duck boat company tells CNN, this never should have happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was perfectly calm and we had a high-speed wind system that just came out of nowhere. Obviously, we shouldn't be out there in severe weather. We're absolutely devastated and we couldn't feel -- we feel terrible.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): For so many here now, grieving such sudden loss, terrible is just the beginning.


VANIER: We want to find out more about what role the weather played and whether or not this could have been predicted and perhaps avoided.



VANIER: A shaky cease-fire in the Middle East. Why the U.N. has warned there could be another Israel-Gaza war -- when we come back.

Plus, around the world, millions of men, women and children are victims of modern-day slavery. One group is digging into the numbers. We'll tell you what they found.




VANIER: A cease-fire is reportedly back on between Israel and Gaza militants. Hamas and a diplomatic source say that a truce was restored after more fighting on Friday. Israel says it hit dozens of Hamas-linked targets after an Israeli soldier was shot and killed. For the latest, CNN's Ian Lee is with us from Gaza City.

First of all, Ian, is the truce holding at this hour?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it appears to be, Cyril. You know, looking around, it was, at this time yesterday, quite tense here. People were talking about the possibility of another war.

But what we heard from Hamas officials is, behind the scenes, there was a lot of activity with the United Nations, with the U.N. special coordinator for Middle East peace, Nickolay Mladenov, working with the Egyptians to try to bring calm back to this coastal enclave. Nickolay Mladenov tweeted out he told everyone to step back from the

brink and do not let this turn into a war. And they seem to be successful at that so far. But this is just still a very tense time. Even though there's a cease-fire, I've got to say, Cyril, it is still quite tense.

VANIER: And it's difficult to be confident that the truce will continue to hold because fighting has been on and off since March.

LEE: That's right. And actually just last week at this time, there was also ramped-up tensions. Over 200 rockets and mortars were fired from Gaza into Israel and Israel responded with dozens of airstrikes, the largest bombing campaign since the 2014 war.

And that was -- tensions were brought back down because of those efforts by the U.N. and Egypt.

But we've seen this. It just spikes every so often. And this has been since March, when they had this March of Return, these protests along the border that separates Gaza and Israel. And these tensions have just festered week and week. And at times you get the spikes of violence.

And yesterday --


LEE: -- we saw another spike in violence.

But if you don't have a permanent solution, a political solution for the Palestinian political process, where you have the Palestinian Authority controlling the West Bank, Hamas controlling Gaza, if you don't have reconciliation there, if you don't have a permanent agreement with the Israelis and the factions here in Gaza about alleviating the situation here in Gaza, it really is hard to see that this situation isn't just going to continue. It likely will see another uptick in violence -- Cyril.

VANIER: Ian Lee, reporting live from Gaza City, thank you very much.

Two more people have been killed in protests across Iraq. For weeks, people have been demanding the basics. That's clean water, electricity and jobs. In all, 10 people have been killed since the demonstrations started.

Protests spread from Basra in the south of the country to other parts of Iraq and that includes now the capital, Baghdad. Iraqi officials say they've increased security across the country to protect the protesters as well as government institutions.

U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo says another meeting between President Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin makes enormous sense. The planning for a meeting this fall in Washington is already underway.

But four days after the Helsinki summit, we still know very little about what the two leaders actually said to each other when they met privately. Matthew Chance reports from Moscow.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Details on what exactly was discussed at the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki remain sketchy. Neither side has given a full account of what Presidents Trump and Putin talked about.

But Russian officials have revealed several key aspects of the talks. Russian president Vladimir Putin said useful agreements were made there.

According to media reports, he told ambassadors here in Moscow that he made a proposal to President Trump to hold a referendum in Eastern Ukraine but then agreed not to discuss the plan publicly, said the U.S. could consider it. U.S. officials have since ruled out that proposal.

The Russian ambassador to the U.S. said Trump and Putin discussed concrete measures for Eastern Ukraine. Now the Russian defense ministry say the Helsinki talks also focused on international security matters, including a discussion of the New START Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

Defense officials in Moscow say cooperation in Syria was also discussed, including the reconstruction of the country. And a joint U.S.-Russian plan to return refugees to their homes.

Moscow is one of the few places outside the White House, where the Helsinki meeting has been highly praised. The Russian foreign minister called the talks "magnificent, better than super," were his words.

The Kremlin has rounded on critics of President Trump, accusing them of sacrificing ties with Russia for political gain. It's a hint that, behind the smiles in Moscow, that how well the summit went, concerns are growing here that a backlash in the United States could actually make the tense relationship with Washington even more strained -- Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


VANIER: About that backlash, facing criticism, Mr. Trump has claimed that he is the toughest president ever on Russia. Let's examine that claim. I asked Russia expert Jill Dougherty to weigh in, especially on the sanctions that Mr. Trump has imposed on Russia.


JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is no cohesive approach to Russia.

These are the things that he talks about; sanctions, yes. But he was really pretty much pulled, kicking and screaming, into doing those sanctions. So overall, his administration takes very strong steps sometimes but

the president himself is not the person who apparently is pushing for that or, at least, if he is, we don't know about it.


VANIER: Russia is not likely to like the latest move by the U.S. The U.S. military is giving $200 million in security assistance to Ukraine. That money will go to Ukraine's training programs and military operations needs.

This comes just days after Russia's defense ministry said it was ready to work with the U.S. Defense Department on a range of security issues. Russia invaded and annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, a move NATO called a violation of international law and an attempt to destabilize Ukraine.

A new report on modern-day slavery is giving us a better look at the staggering scale of the problem. This year's Global Slavery Index shows us that, despite advances in technology, trade, living standards across the world, tens of millions of people are being deprived of freedom. CNN's Zain Asher explains what's behind those growing numbers.


ZAIN ASHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In these streets in Italy, young women are in an open-air prison. Trafficked for sex, many of them from Nigeria --


ASHER (voice-over): -- forced into slavery to repay debts incurred to pay for their travel.

They are among the estimated 145,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in Italy, according to the 2018 Global Slavery Index, which reports startling jumps in figures this year due to a new methodology.

It's at least a 15 percent increase from previous figures and that increase is actually fairly low compared to some of the other developed nations.

Researchers say their access to more data sources paints a more complete picture. The new index estimates that there are 403,000 slaves in the United States, which is seven times higher than previously believed.

And in the U.K., estimates there are 136,000 slaves, 12 times higher than previous figures. The index, published by the Walk Free Foundation, defines modern slavery as an umbrella term that refers to situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, abuse of power or deception and includes forced labor, sexual exploitation, child labor and forced marriage. Another top headline from the new report, North Korea: it remains one

of the most secretive nations, sharing only images of strength to the outside world. But the index interviewed 50 North Korean defectors to build their estimate and concluded that North Korea has the highest prevalence of modern slavery in the world with 2.6 million people, an estimated one in 10 forced to work -- Zain Asher, CNN.


VANIER: Plastic waste is threatening to choke the oceans, kill wildlife and destroy tranquil beaches the world over. Here's what some of it looks like up close, up very close.


VANIER (voice-over): Waves of garbage being pushed onto a beach. This was in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. You can't even see the water. Look at the garbage.

More than 500 people have been working to clean up the trash. Each day, however, brings more and more and more of it. Authorities say, in five days, they have removed some 60 tons of trash.


VANIER: Here's something else that you don't see every day. In fact, you never see it. Video has emerged of the last member of a previously uncontacted Amazon tribe.


VANIER (voice-over): This shows the tribesman swinging an ax at a tree in Brazil. Take a look.

The video reportedly was shot in 2011 and was released by the Brazilian government agency that works to protect native people. It says farmers killed the rest of his tribe back in 1995. He is the last one.

The agency put out an ax, a machete and seeds so as to help him survive. But the man is apparently not interested in having contact with the outside world.


VANIER: Thanks for joining us. Thanks for watching. I'm Cyril Vanier. I've got the headlines for you in just a moment.