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CNN Exclusive: CNN Obtains Secret Trump-Michael Cohen Tape. Aired 11-12a ET
Aired July 24, 2018 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon, 11:00 p.m. here on the East Coast. Live with all the break breaking news and it is a CNN exclusive.
The secret tape of candidate Donald Trump talking with his fixer, attorney Michael Cohen, about how they would buy the rights to a Playboy model story about an alleged affair with Trump years earlier. Hear for yourself what they said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: Quick poll by the way. Big time.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And your guy is a good guy. What's happening? Can we use any more?
COHEN: Oh yes, we told him (inaudible) --
TRUMP: I don't mean that. Black burn, can we use --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Richard just called. We had a chance. (inaudible)
COHEN: We got served from "The New York Times." I told you this. Unseal the divorce papers with Ivana. We're fighting it. Kasowitz is going to Donna Brazile
TRUMP: Never deal.
COHEN: Never. Never.
TRUMP: He'll never be able to get that done.
COHEN: Kasowitz said they'll never be able -- they don't have a legitimate purpose.
TRUMP: A woman that doesn't --
TRUMP: How long?
COHEN: Two, three weeks.
TRUMP: All you have to do is delay it.
COHEN: Even after that, it's never going to be opened. There's no purpose for it. Told you about Charleston. I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David so that -- I'm going to do that right away.
TRUMP: Give it to me.
COHEN: I've spoken to Alan Weiselberg about how to set the whole thing up.
COPPINS: Yes. And it's -- all the stuff, because here you never know that company --
Correct. So, I'm all over that. I spoke to Alan about it. When it comes time for the financing --
TRUMP: Listen, what financing?
COHEN: Well, I have to pay --
TRUMP: Pay cash.
COPPINS: No, no, no, I got -- no, no, no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So let's bring in now Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels attorney with reaction to our breaking news. Listen, I've spoken to you about this case. I've spoken to you about meeting Stormy Daniels. And I've spoken to you about the Karen McDougal case as well. For the questioning that I want to ask you about, I just want to play what I think is the key part of this conversation and then you and I will discuss this, between Donald Trump and Michael Cohen. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: I spoke to Alan Weiselberg about how to set the whole thing up with funding?
Yes. And it's all the stuff --
Because here you will never know where that company --
TRUMP: Nobody gets hit --
COHEN: Correct. So, I'm all over that. And I spoke to Alan about it when it comes time for the financing which will be -- TRUMP: Listen, what financing?
COHEN: Well, I have to pay --
TRUMP: Pay cash.
COHEN: No, no, no, no. I got -- no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Listen, I know that you represent Stormy Daniels. Just as an attorney, tell me what you're hearing here.
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIEL'S ATTORNEY: Well, I'm hearing these two coconspirators trying to figure out how they're going to make this payment which appears to not be unusual, frankly, Don. You know, I have kind of a different take than some of the people that I've heard comment on this. When Michael Cohen says financing, I don't think he is referring to financing in the form of they're going to go get a loan for this. I think he is just using that term to describe, you know, how are they going to make the payment to be clear?
Now, there's no question in my view that Donald Trump is the one that first raises this issue of cash. It has yet to be seen whether that is green backs or some other payment mechanism, although he feels the need to later clarify or use the term check. But, look, from my perspective, it doesn't matter whether it's cash or check or some other form of payment. I mean, what I'm hearing is Michael Cohen, being the sycophant that he is for the President, the cheerleader, if you will, and they're talking about something that occurs evidently on a regular basis between the two of them.
LEMON: So, this -- apparently this tape is from -- allegedly it's two months, right, before the election. And a couple times on the tape, on the longer version it talks about, well, you just have to delay it for a few weeks, delay it for a few weeks. What do you think is going on here? What do you make of the timing?
AVENATTI: They are clearly concerned about what information is going to come out before the election. You know, I also think -- and not a lot of people are commenting on this.
[23:05:00] I think the reference to "The New York Times" effort to unseal the divorce file, I believe that relates to the unsealing of perhaps the deposition or other documents relating to that deposition that was given or the allegation of spousal rape that was made at one point in time. Not a lot of people are talking about that right now.
But I think that is what is being referred to relating to "The New York Times" trying to unseal that file. So all of this is in the context -- this entire meeting is about the election and what's going on in connection with what information is going to be disclosed prior to the election.
LEMON: So, Lanny Davis says that this is about paying Karen McDougal, not your client Stormy Daniels, but how do these tapes play into your case or do they have anything to do with your case? Does it help prove your case?
AVENATTI: Well, Don, we have reason to believe -- let me back up. First of all, as I have said before, there's multiple tapes -- there's more than one tape. Alan Dershowitz told me I didn't know what I was talking about. It turns out he doesn't know what he is talking about. There are multiple tapes. I think, Lanny Davis confirms that now. There's over 12, by the way, recordings, well over 12 recordings. Hopefully Lanny Davis is going to do the right thing, and released all of them and Michael Cohen. But I doubt they're going to do that. I am happy to get to that in a minute, but we have reason to believe that there are tapes relating to the payment to my client, including tapes between Michael Cohen and Keith Davidson.
LEMON: So, I want to get your response to this. This is something that I asked. I spoke to sources as this interview was going on, and I called some of Michael Cohen's friends. And they say that it certainly looks like he wants to tell the truth and this is from them, too. The most important person in America right now seeking the truth about Trump and that is Mueller. And then I asked Lanny Davis about that Michael and he said, I can't answer that question, Don. There's a reason I keep saying the truth is on our side. He says. And who most wants to hear the truth from Michael Cohen? I have to leave that unanswered. What do you think about that statement?
AVENATTI: Don, you know, look, I think Lanny is a very good attorney, but I think he is playing a game, him and Michael Cohen, with the public. I mean, there is nothing stopping Michael Cohen from coming clean right now, disclosing all of this information and all of these tapes. There was nothing stopping Michael Cohen from issuing a statement tonight, about what really happened during this meeting. You know, I mean, Lanny was hired to do one thing and he wasn't hired to represent Michael Cohen before the Southern District. That is Mr. Parillo's job.
He wasn't hired to represent him in connection with defending our cases. That is Mr. Blakely's job. Lanny was brought in to try to change the narrative and push the reset button about the optics relating to Michael Cohen. But you know what, I mean, Lanny may be able -- he may be a good makeup artist. He may be able to put a lot of lipstick on that pig, but guess what, it's still a pig. And the fact of the matter is that Michael Cohen is coconspirator who participated for months and years in this, what I will call criminal conduct.
And eventually he is going to have to come clean and he can't continue to just claim he is a patriot and love of country without providing the goods.
LEMON: I'm sure you'll remember this denial. Let's play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?
TRUMP: No. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then why did Michael Cohen make it --
TRUMP: Well, you have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney and you'll have to ask Michael.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?
TRUMP: No, I don't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So he denied that and then referenced Michael Cohen, saying you'll have to ask his attorney Michael Cohen. So, do you think that this new recording, does it to you show that he did have an affair and he tried to cover it up or that he knew about it?
AVENATTI: I think it is certainly circumstantial evidence that Donald Trump knew about each of these payments and knew what was going on in the months prior to the election day of what payments were being made and how they were being structured and Michael Cohen was consulting with him. And I don't know how you reconcile this tape, Don, with Michael Cohen's denials and the denials by David Swards and others acting on his behalf when we first filed this case in March, April and May.
I mean, how many times did we hear Michael Cohen and people on his behalf claim that the allegations were false and that him and Donald Trump, that he and Donald Trump were innocent? We have continued to hear that. And you know, which is it? And the bottom line here is if they have information and evidence they need to come clean and they need to do it now.
LEMON: I have to ask you one quick question. Because you said coconspirator. I wanted to make a great point -- Michael Cohen has not been charged with anything. So, what do you mean by coconspirator?
AVENATTI: Yes. Well, He hasn't been charged yet, Don. There's no question he is going to be indicted. I've been saying this for a while. There's no question he is going to be indicted for some very serious charges. I think he knows it, I know it, Lanny Davis knows it, anybody else who is involved in this case knows it's about to happen. I mean that is one of the reason why you're seeing what you're seeing. Is that they want to try to change the public perception of Michael Cohen, but I don't think the American public is going to buy it.
[23:10:05] LEMON: Michael Avenatti, thank you for your time. I appreciate it.
LEMON: When we come back. Much more on our CNN's exclusive, The Trump Cohen tape could it be become evidence in a court of law? We are going to dig into it with our legal experts. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Back now with Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels's attorney. Michael, I have one more question for you I needed to ask. Seeing this reporting that you requested a meeting last week with Michael Cohen and one of his lawyers to discuss a possible settlement, tell me about that.
AVENATTI: Well, that is not what happened, Don. Look, I want to set the record straight on this. About three to four weeks ago we began a dialogue with Michael Cohen's counsel. Mr. Blakely wasn't even involved in that. Relating to the potential -- of potentially resolving the litigation against Michael Cohen provided that he would come clean and provide us with the information that he had relating to the intimidation of my client in Las Vegas, the payment of the $130,000.
[23:15:10] Basically, Don, the deal was going to be contingent on Michael Cohen doing the right thing and coming 100 percent clean with information and cooperating. So, it was a lengthy process, a lengthy dialogue. We ultimately had a meeting set up for Monday yesterday at 4:00 p.m. We learned, I learned on Sunday morning after appearing on the ABC show with George Stephanopoulos that Michael Cohen did not have any intention of doing the right thing, did not intend to provide the information and come clean to the American people. And so I made it known to Lanny Davis that we weren't going to proceed with the meeting period and that is exactly what happened.
LEMON: So that is where it stands now, you have not discussed any of it with him, there have been no further discussions?
AVENATTI: There's been no further discussions and there's not going to be any further discussions until and unless Michael Cohen does the right thing and comes clean. He needs to get off the fence and stop --
LEMON: So what happened, then? What was the break down, what happened?
AVENATTI: Well, the break down was that it became clear to me that Michael Cohen wasn't going to provide the information and wasn't going to do the right thing. Look, I'm not gonna -- we're not going to negotiate with people that want to continue to cover up and lie to the public, period.
LEMON: All right. Thank you, Michael Avenatti, I appreciate it.
LEMON: Now to our explosive breaking news, a CNN exclusive. Candidate Donald Trump and his attorney Michael Cohen heard on the tape talking about how they would buy the rights to a Playboy model's story about an affair that she says Trump had with her years earlier back in 2006. The President's attorney Rudy Giuliani is reacting tonight.
And I want to bring in now CNN Legal Analyst, Michael Zeldin and former U.S. Attorney, Harry Litman.
Gentlemen, good evening to you. So, a whole lot to get to tonight. You heard what Michael Avenatti said and you heard some of the tapes, the entire tape we played here on CNN. So, Giuliani appeared Harry, on Fox News earlier tonight. Here's what he said about the tapes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GUILIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: In any event, I don't think anyone can suggest that this represents anything where the President did anything wrong. And that is the reason why we waived it. Would we have put it out had it not been leaked, no we wouldn't have put it out. I've dealt with much worse tapes than this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Is that all just spinning from Giuliani? Is that the reason why they waived privilege on this tape?
HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: It is lousy spin and, you know, it's lousy spin on top of lousy spin, because when it came out Friday, he told two whoppers about the tape that we now know aren't true. Nobody could believe -- a prosecutor could believe that this is clearly the President and his -- and Cohen conspiring to pay hush money in violation, not only of election law, but also wire fraud and bank fraud. And they just waived it, because it showed he did nothing wrong. That is really hogwash. I think almost certainly now we know why they waived it.
They waived it, because under the law, you can't have privilege for a conversation that is itself advancing a crime. And they realized or the United States made clear that they -- the United States would argue that this was advancing a crime. And if the special master agreed, that would be tantamount to a judgment that this shows the President in criminal activity. To avoid that judgment, they said, OK, no privilege.
LEMON: OK. Harry, let's go over this. Because you said conspiracy, they're conspiring, is that what you said? And then you mentioned quote, -- for what crimes again, tell me?
LITMAN: OK. So, yes, certainly we come in in the middle of the story. Trump and Cohen are clearly in cahoots. So, the big -- it's clear whatever Cohen is liable for Trump is. What has he done wrong? Probably, for a prosecutor, these are the charges they'll look at and they look likely. He is violated campaign finance.
LITMAN: He engineered this money to get around having to report it and took something very valuable in kind.
LITMAN: He almost certainly in the structuring of it lied to a bank about what was going on. And, therefore, committed a form of bank fraud. And he very likely committed fraud using the wires against McDougal herself, maybe with the help of the lawyer that he set up to represent her. That would be wire fraud, but the big point is -- and this makes all the stuff about is Cohen a bad guy, good guy kind of secondary. It's really clear that any of the criminal liability here extends equally to the President as a potential unindicted coconspirator.
LEMON: Michael, you have the floor now. Is that how you see it?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, not at all. Actually, I don't see that.
[23:20:02] What I hear on this tape are two people having a conversation about purchasing assets from American Media International, setting up a limited liability corporation to pay for those assets, having that deal not go through and that is the end of it. I don't see this as evidence of criminality. I don't hear the word cash, which I think the President said. I don't hear the word cash as meaning greenbacks. I hear it as meaning a liquid form of payment, a non-financed form of payment. And I just don't see how this really implicates criminal --
LEMON: What do you mean non-finance, are you talking about -- wiring?
ZELDIN: Yes, Michael Cohen says -- they're talking about -- he says -- the President says what financing? And that, I think, is implying, how are they going to pay for this? And of course setting up a limited liability corporation to pay American Media for the assets that it has, the McDougal story and/or others. They're probably going to send a wire. They are going to send it wire through limited liability corporation which is lawful. The limited liability corporation may be set up in order to make one step of separation between Trump and the payment, so that may be indication of some intention of keeping them separate, but I don't see any of the crimes that Harry is talking about.
LITMAN: May I? 2
LEMON: Hold on, I will. We know that they set up one for Stormy Daniels. Would this be a different one?
ZELDIN: Well, we don't know. He said, we are talking -- we can play the tape again, Don. What he said -- what they say in the tape is -- I have spoken to Adam or a name like that to set up --
LEMON: The short version, the little 30-second version of it. Let me know if we have that and then Harry, I promised I will let you respond.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David, you know, so that -- I'm going to do that right away.
TRUMP: Give it to me.
COHEN: And I have spoken to Alan Weiselberg about how to set the whole thing up with --
TRUMP: How are we going to pay --
COHEN: Funding, yes. It's all the stuff -- you never know what company --
Correct. I'm all over that. I spoke to Alan about it when it comes time for the financing --
TRUMP: Listen, what financing?
COHEN: Well, I have to pay --
TRUMP: Pay cash.
COHEN: No, no, no, I got no, no, --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, I mean, it sounds to me like he said cash. And he says, no, no, no, check. Cash is cash.
ZELDIN: Well, no, cash is not necessarily cash in a greenbacks sense of the word. Cash could mean just as easily a non-financed, if you will, not a loan. A payment --
LEMON: What's the difference? That is what I'm trying to figure out. What's the difference between that and -- how does that make a difference?
ZELDIN: The point that Lanny Davis was making to Chris Cuomo was only drug traffickers and mafia use cash. He was using that word in the context of greenbacks, money in a briefcase or in a bag. I don't hear it that way. I hear it as a financed or non-financed deal.
ZELDIN: Whether it's by check or wire or otherwise. Trump seems to be saying, I don't want it financed. And so the bottom line here, though, is the payment was never made, so there's no, you know, wire fraud in the payment.
LEMON: I got you.
ZELDIN: And therefore I don't see it as criminal as Harry does.
LEMON: Go ahead, Harry.
LITMAN: OK. Michael, the cash versus non-cash is a trivial issue. What's -- you talk about this you saw the man transaction --
ZELDIN: That was the main point that Lanny Davis was making at 9:00. That is on the radio.
LITMAN: People are -- OK, it's a trivial issue. People are seizing on it. It doesn't matter. It's certainly secondary. You talk about this as if they're setting up some real estate transaction. It's expressly clear from the point that Don just made, they are paying hush money to cover up an affair and they're doing it and they're doing this as part of many deals. They're doing it in the shadow of the election. They want to hold off for a few weeks. It's what they are paying off and the reason they're doing it that makes it criminal. Not whether it's cash or not, but whether they are trying to hide a campaign finance --
LEMON: But Harry, they never made the payment.
LITMAN: Well, so that would go to whether it's an attempt or not. It would not vitiate conspiracy. And the main point of what's going on here is the hush money payment, not just to McDougal, but to others. Remember Cohen says, well, we have to set up this whole organization, the CFO of Trump organization could get hit by a bus.
[23:25:15] LEMON: Yes.
LITMAN: The issue is --
LEMON: Got to go, guys. Make your point. Go ahead, finish your point then I have to go.
ZELDIN: The only thing --
LEMON: No, Harry first.
LITMAN: It's an overall conspiracy to pay hush money to someone who could harm the election prospects for him straightforwardly.
LEMON: Quickly, Michael, please.
ZELDIN: The only theoretical crime that is here is the possibility of failure to report a payment by AMI for the influence of an election.
LEMON: All right. Thank you both.
LITMAN: Wait for the SDNY. They'll settle this.
ZELDIN: All right, Harry.
LEMON: Thank you, guys. When we come back much more on the Trump Cohen tape a CNN's exclusive. Rudy Giuliani say the president is disappointed over the tape, but how much will all of this matter to voters?
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: We're back now with our breaking news and it's a CNN
exclusive. The secret recording between then candidate Donald Trump and his attorney Michael Cohen discussing how they would buy the rights to a Playboy model's story about what she says was an affair with Trump years earlier.
Here to discuss, CNN's Senior Media Correspondent, Brian Stelter and CNN Political Commentator, Matt Lewis, Alice Stewart, and Amanda Carpenter, who is by the way the author of "Gaslighting America: Why We Love It When Trump Lies To Us."
So great to have all of you on this evening. Thank you so much.
Brian, you first. I want to play the key part of the Trump-Cohen audio and then we'll talk. Here it is again.
MICHAEL COHEN, ATTORNEY, (voice over): Um, I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David, you know, so that -- I'm going to do that right away. I've actually come up and I've spoken --
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (voice over): Give it to me and get me a --
COHEN (voice over): -- to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with --
TRUMP (voice over): So, what do we got to pay for this? One-fifty?
COHEN (voice over): -- funding. Yes. Um, and it's all the stuff.
TRUMP (voice over): Yes, I was thinking about that.
COHEN (voice over): All the stuff. Because, you know, you never know where that company -- you never know what he's --
TRUMP (voice over): Maybe he gets his by a truck.
COHEN (voice over): Correct. So, I'm all over that. And, I spoke to Allen about it, when it comes time for the financing, which will be --
TRUMP (voice over): Wait a sec, what financing?
COHEN (voice over): Well, I'll have to pay him something.
TRUMP (voice over): Don't pay with cash.
COHEN (voice over): No, no, no. I got it.
TRUMP (voice over): Check.
LEMON: Brian, so when he says all that stuff, that's what we've been talking about.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
LEMON: It's all that stuff, what -- what does that mean?
STELTER: What is he talking about? They seem to be referring to my friend, David, meaning David Pecker, the chairman of American Media, Inc. That's the owner of the National Enquirer and a bunch of other supermarket tabloids. We all know Trump and Pecker are old friends, they go way back. Pecker has been buying up stories, trying to bury them to protect his friend, Donald Trump, for many years. This is called catch and kill.
So we know they were trying to catch and kill the Karen McDougal story. But what else was Pecker catching and killing? On the tape, you hear Cohen saying all of the info. We need to buy up all the info, all of the stuff. It is a mystery, Don, about what else Pecker could have been buying up and what else Trump and Cohen wanted to buy from Pecker because you hear Trump say there, what if it gets hit by a truck?
He seems to be saying what if my friend, David Pecker, gets hit by a truck? That's my interpretation of what Trump is saying there. We need to buy up the secrets so that they don't get out. That's how it sounds. And of course I've asked American media about this. I was able to reach the spokesman tonight right as Cuomo was airing the tape. Ever since then they're not responding to requests for comment.
LEMON: And I talked to Chris about the same thing that you said. What are they talking about, all of what material? Is there a treasure trove of material between, you know, Donald Trump -- are there other catch and kill stories? That's --
STELTER: That's the mystery.
LEMON: That's the mystery. Amanda, I want to bring you --
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Don?
LEMON: Go ahead. Go ahead, Alice.
STEWART: I just want to say obviously they're trying to get back the information that McDougal gave to them. I dealt with their friend, David Pecker, during the presidential campaign when they were creating this nonsense story about Ted Cruz's father killing JFK.
STEWART: And I can assure you there is zero daylight between David Pecker and Donald Trump when it comes to stories that -- quashing stories that are negative of Donald Trump and promoting stories that are negative of his opponents.
And the fact that we are now hearing that the president knew about this long ago is not a big surprise, but we're hearing this and there is no surprise in his voice. The only surprise is that Rudy Giuliani -- LEMON: Finish your thought. For time purposes, we got to go quick. Go on.
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Let me just say the media angle is fascinating -- the legal is fascinating but we have to talk about the treatment of women. I don't want to hear Michael Cohen called the fixer anymore. He is the silencer.
We need to pay attention to the beginning of that tape where they reference the deposition with Ivana. In that deposition, she accused President Trump of raping her. That deposition has been stopped. The only reporter to write about it is a guy named Harry Hurt who wrote it in a book called "The Lost Tycoon."
When it came up during the presidential election, when a reporter from The Daily Beast asked Michael Cohen about it, he trotted out this ridiculous denial, denial, denial, saying that Ivana was only raped in the figurative sense, not in the literal sense. That created a firestorm. This is Michael Cohen's bailiwick.
If you think that somehow this tape makes him seem better in the public light, no, he stopped that story about Ivana, he's stopping the story about Karen McDougal, and he's stopping the story about Stormy Daniels which I find very interesting that Michael Avenatti continues to raise the idea that someone physically intimidated her to silence her. That piece of the story was not going away.
LEMON: Matt, you're up.
MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: OK, so look, first of all, if this was a normal politician, a normal president, what happened today would be an explosive bombshell. As it stands with Donald Trump, the rules have all changed. So this is not the biggest story this week probably, but what I think it could be is the beginning of who knows what. What we know is that Michael Cohen had these tapes.
[23:35:01] Clearly, what was it, like 11 or 12 of them we're told. Lanny Davis is going to be potentially leaking tapes to try to cut a deal so that his client can maybe flip on the president of the United States.
LEMON: OK, so, stand by, everyone. You just -- that's what I want to talk about in the next segment. This is just the beginning. Did Lanny Davis lead with his most explosive or is he building up here, building suspense? We'll be right back.
[23:40:00] LEMON: I'm back now with Brian Stelter, Matt Lewis, Alice Stewart, and Amanda Carpenter. We're been talking about this tape where you can hear then candidate Trump and Michael Cohen, his attorney/fixer, making a deal about Karen McDougal, about that alleged affair that happened back in 2006.
So I said before the break, Matt -- Amanda, you brought it up or was it Matt, saying that there was more -- there's 11 or 12 other tapes. And I'm wondering if Lanny Davis is leading with his best stuff or is there more to come that's even bigger and more explosive. What do you think of that, Brian?
STELTER: You know, 12 tapes that we know of -- last week, some of which might be with members of the media, Cohen, the way this tape sounds, sounds like he was taping all sorts of things. This is a profound betrayal of his client, Donald Trump. I mean, on one level, isn't it a betrayal of his client?
LEMON: Well, I mean --
STELTER: Walking around like he's wearing a wire?
LEMON: It's not illegal to record. I don't know if it's --
STELTER: Not illegal. And I suppose the innocent explanation would be, you know, my boss Donald Trump, he gets a lot of things messed up. He's confused a lot of the time. I need to record our conversations so that I can get my job -- so that I can do the right thing for my client. That would be the innocent explanation. He was recording his boss in order to make sure he was doing his job really well. That would be the innocent explanation.
But it sure sounds strange. It sure seems strange. And you have to wonder if we've heard one tape, we know there's 12 at least, there have to be a lot more than 12.
LEMON: Yes. All right, so, listen. This is -- I got to play this, Alice. Sarah Sanders was asked about Karen McDougal at yesterday's press briefing. I want to play that exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Counsel still deny that he ever had a relationship with a woman named Karen McDougal.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Once again, the president maintains that he has done nothing wrong. And I would refer you to Rudy Giuliani for all questions on that matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, She didn't address --
LEMON: -- affair. She didn't say -- he did nothing wrong is what she said, Alice. What do you think?
STEWART: I think that's their story and they're going to stick to it. We could have videotape, heaven forbid, and they'll still say he did nothing wrong. And the reality is, look, what we're going to see if we trotted all these tapes, this is nothing more than Lanny Davis and Rudy Giuliani saying, look, who can pee up higher on the wall than the other? Because we -- this is nothing new. We knew that Donald Trump had an affair. We knew that he was going to lie about it. We knew that he -- Hope Hicks was not truthful about it. All of that is really between he and Melania. The truth is, from a Republican standpoint, they knew about a lot of this before. They voted for him anyway.
What I'm concerned with, was this a campaign finance violation and that is the crux of what we need to get at. All of this other stuff, in my view, is disgusting, but it's personal between he and his wife. I want to know about whether or not any laws were violated.
LEMON: Amanda, you're shaking your head.
CARPENTER: Yes, I mean, the new information, and Alice was getting to that point, is that there is evidence of an election crime. There is a new question for Sarah Huckabee Sanders at her new White House press briefing and that's, why was the president of the United States discussing with his lawyer and then RNC deputy finance chairman the creation of shell companies to hide undisclosed payments and the purpose of helping Donald Trump in the presidential election?
That's what they're discussing, shell companies with ease, a subject they have discussed before. I mean, this is a conversation that was not the first one. They were continuing somewhere where they had left off before. And think about how easily it came. They do this like they're getting a cup of coffee, like, oh, yeah, set up that shell company.
You good with that? Yep, good. I mean, this was very normal and everyone was on the same page in that room, which I may remind everyone, there are other witnesses to that conversation because you can hear other ambient people talking.
STELTER: I love when Trump says, get me a coke in the middle of this really important conversation.
LEMON: Yes. One would assume, right, he's recording, he's on a telephone, but it sounds like everybody was in the same room.
LEMON: I got to ask you about this, Matt. This is a tweet from a Washington Post reporter, Robert Costa. He spoke with Giuliani tonight. He said, Giuliani on Trump's reaction tonight says they hope -- excuse me -- says they spoke. He's disappointed. Angry? Bob, I didn't say angry, I said he's disappointed. He's disappointed his own lawyer recorded him, discouraged. Will POTUS speak out? He has Twitter. What do you say to that, Matt?
LEWIS: I would not be surprised if Donald Trump starts going after Michael Cohen. This is not a way to get a pardon, but it might be a way to cut a deal with Robert Mueller. It seems like that's the direction that Lanny Davis has decided to go with this. I think once you cross the Rubicon there, it's hard to come back.
I don't blame Donald Trump, right? I mean, Michael Cohen was supposed to be his guy who would take a bullet for his client, and who knows how often he was recording the president, then not the president, but his client, without his knowledge. It's pretty scummy actually what he did. I mean, there's a lot of scumminess to go around here obviously.
STELTER: As friends of Cohen have said, he feels an obligation to the country.
[23:45:01] He feels a responsibility to the country.
STELTER: It's popular to say nobody cares about this. You know who does care? Trump's opponents. Trump's opponents heading into the midterms. I think these kinds of stories really mobilize and energize the resistance.
LEMON: Yes, Guy Petrillo is his criminal attorney, by the way. We haven't heard much from him. We've only been hearing from Lanny Davis who is not really -- he's representing him, I guess, as his attorney in the media, but not --
STELTER: Media spokesman.
LEMON: Yes, media spokesman, but he's not his official attorney. We have much more to talk about. There are other things on that tape. They mention the divorce between Ivana. They also mention some of the reverends there who are supporters of Donald Trump. What were they saying? We can't use him anymore. What's going on with all this? We'll be right back.
[23:50:01] LEMON: Back now with Brian Stelter, Matt Lewis, Alice Stewart, and Amanda Carpenter. So I just want to play -- listen to another part of this tape. Here it is.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice over): (INAUDIBLE) -- when you have a chance, he had an idea for you.
TRUMP (voice over): OK, great.
COHEN (voice over): Wed got served from The New York Times. I told you this -- we were --
TRUMP (voice over): To what?
COHEN (voice over): -- to unseal the divorce papers with Ivana. We're fighting it. Kasowitz is going to --
TRUMP (voice over): They should never be able to get that.
COHEN (voice over): Never. Never. Kasowitz doesn't think they'll ever be able to. They don't have a --
TRUMP (voice over): Get me a Coke, please!
COHEN (voice over): They don't have a legitimate purpose, so --
TRUMP (voice over): And you have a woman that doesn't want this.
COHEN (voice over): Correct.
TRUMP (voice over): Who you've been handling.
COHEN (voice over): Yes. And --
TRUMP (voice over): And it's been going on for a while.
COHEN (voice over): For about two, three weeks now.
TRUMP (voice over): All you have to do is delay it for --
COHEN (voice over): Even after that, it's not ever going to be opened. There's no -- there's no purpose for it. Um, I told you about Charleston.
LEMON: OK, so they were talking about all different things. They were talking about Charleston and then as what Amanda said, they were talking about the divorce records between him and Ivana Trump. "The New York Times," I think, he said wanted to release them. He said that should never happen and that his attorneys were working on it. The response, as you said, Amanda, is that she said that it wasn't physical, right?
CARPENTER: Well, what happened in the deposition, which to my analysis has only been recorded by a reporter named Harry Hurt who wrote a book called "The Lost Tycoon" in which he recount the story, he read the deposition. And in that book, he said, Ivana said that she was raped in her divorce deposition. They got in a horrible fight after Donald Trump had a bad surgery on his head to adjust his hairline by a surgeon that was recommended by Ivana.
He came home in a rage, ripped her hair out, threw her on the bed, and raped her. That's what she said in her papers. And then through the course of the divorce, through the reporting, when he was going to go to publication with that story, he got a letter from Trump's lawyers that Ivana had signed that said, when I said the word "rape," I meant it in the figurative sense, not in the literal sense.
LEMON: Emotional, right? That was emotional rather.
CARPENTER: Yes. And then you can call that as a classic non-denial. Ivana reportedly got $14 million after that, never talked about it again. In that language that literally she was raped figuratively, not literally, came up during the election when a Daily Beast reporter asked Cohen about this story that was recounted in this book and Cohen flew into a rage.
The reporter later posted that audio online when he was working for NPR. And so this was sort of out there during the election. No one has got the full story beyond what was written in that book. And clearly, they don't want it to come out.
LEMON: In this part, they are also saying that, you know, talking about delays. They said two or three weeks. There should be a delay in this. One would assume that means for the campaign. This apparently happened two months before the campaign, but they're talking about delays. The timing, Matt, is important here.
LEWIS: Well, it could be if they go down the campaign finance reform angle. I really hope they don't because I do think that there's a slippery slope there and that this could open a -- set precedent that -- I mean, look, at what point can you pay hush money to your mistress, right?
If you have done it six months earlier, is that a campaign finance violation? But if it's a week before the election, then it suddenly is a campaign finance violation. So, you know, I don't know where that might lead us ultimately. I'm not defending what Donald Trump did.
STELTER: Buy their secrets and then launder it that way? It's messy. The key part of that tape about Ivana is the line about saying, we have to keep this going for a few weeks because it doesn't --
LEMON: I also think, Brian, it's important because right here he says, you know, I've spoken to Allen Weisselburg about how to set the whole thing up. I wonder if this opens the door for some investigation into Trump order?
STELTER: The attorney generals in New York and other states would certainly be interested in that. We have to be careful about Ivana. She's been supportive of Donald Trump over the years. She seems to back away from those claims about violence in their relationship.
But it is notable that one of the many tasks Michael Cohen had in the weeks before the election was trying to stop the divorce records from coming out. This is the kind of ugly sordid stuff that happens behind the scenes of the campaign while, at least at this Trump campaign, that we are now hearing about.
LEMON: It shows how the sausage is made --
STELTER: It really does.
LEMON: -- and you never want to know how the sausage is made, Alice.
STEWART: Don, another thing you glean out of this is the nonchalant cavalier way that they're talking about it like it's nothing. It just begs the question, is this the kind of conversation they've had many times before, and it will also open up the questions about are there others like this?
LEWIS: Was it just me or did Donald Trump actually seem quicker and sharper when talking about how to pay the hush money than he does on his normal job?
[23:54:58] It's almost like that there was an old "Saturday Night Live" skit where Reagan, you know, the whole there they go again, was this mastermind. If you go back and listen to that tape, I know we probably don't have time, Trump is actually talking very quick and --
CARPENTER: Creation of shell companies and high payments, yeah, that's very interesting.
LEMON: Do you think that this was a warning to the president by team Cohen? Anyone, quickly, yes?
CARPENTER: It's a food fight. I don't think anybody wins on this. They worked and hand glove together on very shady things that are going to court for a long time.
STELTER: Seventh or eighth warning, the ninth warning is coming next.
LEWIS: I think it's a message to Robert Mueller. It's a desperation plea. Let me flip on this guy now. Give me a deal.
STEWART: Cohen lost points but Trump gain points with Mueller with it.
LEMON: Yes. OK, thank you all. Very interesting evening. What's going to happen tomorrow? You don't know. So you need to stay tuned. Our coverage continues.
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