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Michael Cohen Ready to Spill Trump's Beans to Robert Mueller; Giuliani Questions Former Defender's Credibility; Trump Tower Infamous Meeting; Meeting with Russians in June of 2016; Michael Cohen Claims Donald Trump Knew in Advance about the June 2016 Trump Tower Meeting with Russians. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired July 26, 2018 - 22:00   ET



[22:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: I knew exactly where you were going with that, Chris. I want to talk to you about what you just discussed. You're talking about credibility. So stand by. Let me reset for the audience and then you and I will talk. Because the story you just broke now is huge, it's really huge. And we've got to talk a lot more about it.

This is CNN TONIGHT, everyone. I'm Don Lemon.

The big headline, sources telling CNN that Michael Cohen, the president's former personal attorney, is prepared to tell Robert Mueller that Donald Trump knew and approved of that infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russians in June of 2016.

His attorney, Rudy Giuliani, you just saw him on with Chris, challenging Cohen's credibility in that interview just a short time ago.

Thank you for that, my friend. So now let's talk about credibility. Who do you believe, who does the special prosecutor believe? Mueller and his team? For all these years, Michael Cohen has been a fixer for Donald Trump. He has his issues with credibility, as have some folks. And the president has his issue with credibility and truth.

So who do you believe? It's important, though, and you keyed in on it, there are other people who were in the room who can corroborate it, correct?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: If the meeting is anything like what Michael Cohen, through sources, suggested, that he was at a meeting where others were present, then yes, you're right, and the key will be in the corroboration.

LEMON: So with Rudy Giuliani saying, again, I got the -- this was my assessment of the interview, by the way very good interview with Rudy Giuliani.

CUOMO: Thank you.

LEMON: Again, don't believe what you see and hear, this is the correct version, our version is the correct version.

CUOMO: Well, that's Rudy's job.


CUOMO: I mean, you know, Rudy is a very capable counsel. He has done well for the president on this story more often than not. And he's right to focus in on credibility. And he is exposed and vulnerable to his client's credibility. And the idea that the president has never lied about anything is demonstrably false.

LEMON: Michael Cohen has been lying all week, he says.

CUOMO: He says he's been lying for years. He says that the tapes that they have -- remember, they have the tapes. Privilege goes to the president, the attorney/client privilege. So they've been vetting everything that was seized from Cohen. So Rudy is hinting to having proof, because he might.

LEMON: OK. But he's been lying for years, he said?


LEMON: What about the president saying they broke into my attorney's office, which they didn't, Michael Cohen will tell you they did not. He's a good man. So if he's been lying all these years, then why keep him as your personal attorney?

CUOMO: That is a great question. The way Rudy handled it is by saying, people get to see they make bad errors of judgment, people get too close to them, don't see them for what they are.

Look, is that an argument? Yes. Is it a compelling one? That's going to be up to other ears, it's going to the people watching your show and mine and Mueller and his investigators. And there is no question that this is a two-pronged attack for the president. One is, prove it, which is legit. The other one is that this is a hoax.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: And Rudy's argument tonight, look, again, he's a capable counsel, but the idea that the president has always backed the fact of Russian interference is poppycock.


CUOMO: And he -- we saw what happened in Helsinki. And we've seen what happened many times before that. And now we know he's trying to rehabilitate himself on that point. But his credibility is going to be an issue. He is lucky, though, that Michael Cohen is someone who may often introduce credibility issues for the special counsel.

LEMON: Well, demonstrably, though, this president you can, you know, even there is a fact checker for "The Washington Post" who, you know, checks the president's credibility and of the statements, the credibility of his statements, I should say. One more point before I let you go, Chris, I think Congressman Eric

Swalwell made a really good point, because if it turns out to be what Michael Cohen is saying through sources, then a candidate for the presidency of the United States knew about a meeting for information on Hillary Clinton or an opponent with a foreign source. That's huge.

CUOMO: Yes, and an inimical foreign source, which is relevant for the legal analysis. And also, there's a distinction that people have to draw. Is it a crime, maybe, maybe not, probably not. Is it proof of a crime? Yes, potentially. Yes.

So don't say it doesn't matter, even if it's true, just because it wouldn't on its face by itself prove a crime. It doesn't mean it's not relevant. That's not the way prosecutions work. Rudy Giuliani knows that better than I ever will. It's always a mosaic, it's always a tapestry.

The idea that I got you with the gun in the closet with the note and the eyewitness is the exception, not the rule. So proof matters even if on its face it's not enough by itself.

LEMON: Well, get some rest. You've got one more day before the weekend.

[22:05:02] CUOMO: I'm done.


CUOMO: This was too long a week already. I leave it to you, my friend.

LEMON: Yes, well, you never know what can happen. As I said to you last night, you know, tomorrow is another day and it's going to be another headline. Chris, thank you.

CUOMO: That's why we always have hope, Don.


CUOMO: We always have hope. Have a good night.

LEMON: We'll talk about that later. You're going to have -- you're going to have to work on me on that one. Thanks, Chris, see you soon.

Now I just want to bring in now CNN's Chief National Security Correspondent, Jim Sciutto, and CNN Contributor, John Dean, as well.

Good evening, gentlemen. Thank you so much. You heard the breaking enws, John, you there, can you hear me?


LEMON: John Dean, you can you hear me? OK, great.

DEAN I can hear you.

LEMON: John Dean and Jim Sciutto here. Again, good evening. So Jim, what are you learning? Talk us through this.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Let me tell you the headlines of the story reported jointly by myself and my colleague Carl Bernstein. We were told by sources with knowledge that Michael Cohen claims that then-candidate Donald Trump knew in advance about the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower in which you'll remember Russians were expected to offer his campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Crucially, we should add, these sources tell us that Cohen is willing to make that assertion to the Special Counsel Robert Mueller. So, more details here. Cohen alleges that he was present along with several other people when Trump was informed of the Russians' offer. Who was he informed by? He was informed by Donald Trump, Jr., his son.

By Cohen's account, Trump approved of going ahead with that meeting with the Russians. I should note this as well, Don, our sources are telling us that Cohen does not have evidence such as audio recordings to corroborate this claim.

And I should also add that the source familiar with Cohen's House testimony, you'll remember, he testified on the Hill, said that he did not testify at that time that Trump had advanced knowledge. And that the reports filed by both Republicans and Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee did not mention these claims.

LEMON: OK. So then what about the president's side? What's the response?

SCIUTTO: Ok. So we reached out to everyone involved here. Let's start with Alan Futerfas, he's the attorney for Donald Trump, Jr. He tells CNN the following, I'm quoting, "Donald Trump, Jr. has been professional and responsible throughout the Mueller and Congressional investigations. We are very confident of the accuracy and reliability of the information that has been provided by Mr. Trump Junior and on his behalf."

We also contacted one of Cohen's attorneys, that is, Lanny Davis. He declined to comment. As you mentioned, Don, Rudy Giuliani, of course, the president's latest attorney, he called Cohen's credibility into question. Here is what he had to say.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: He's been lying all week. I mean, or for two weeks. He's been lying for years. I mean, the tapes that we have demonstrate any number of very serious lies by him back a year and a half ago, including he's fooling people, hiding tape recordings, telling them they weren't recorded, lying to their face, breaking faith with them, taping his client, which is a disbarable offense. I don't see how he has any credibility.

I mean, this is basically if he had a trial, and there won't be a trial here, but if he had a trial, you would say, which lie do you want to pick, you want to pick the first lie, the second lie, or maybe some new lie? There's nobody that I know that notion that hasn't warned me that if his back is up against the wall, he'll lie like crazy because he's lied all his life.


SCIUTTO: And that seems to be the consistent message there from the Trump camp, is basically attacking Cohen's credibility.

LEMON: And Jim, that's not the only denial we have heard from the president or his team denying that he knew about this meeting. There are many.

SCIUTTO: No, it's been going on for years, since this meeting was first revealed. One claim, the claim has been consistent, that the president had no knowledge of the meeting beforehand, that he wasn't told about it afterwards, and that he only learned about it a year later, that's when "The New York Times" went to the president with knowledge of the meetings including e-mails from Donald Trump, Jr.

Responding to the meeting offered by saying I love it, I love this idea that the Russians had this dirt. And we should also note that the president himself has, when asked about this, denied knowledge of this meeting.

He said on July 12th, 2017, that he, quote, "only heard about it two or three days ago. A week later he repeated that meeting, saying, again, I'm quoting here, "he didn't know anything about the meeting," because, again, quoting, "nobody told me about it."

Cohen saying that he's willing to go to the special counsel and testify that's not true, that the president did know about it, he was told about it by his son and that he approved of that meeting, Don. That's what Michael Cohen is claiming to know.

LEMON: All right. So John Dean, let me bring you in here. John, we had a similar conversation about the recording, remember, earlier in the week.

DEAN: Yes.

LEMON: Now we have this. So first of all, before I ask you, give me your assessment of what -- of this new information.

DEAN: Well, I would like just one more bit of information. On the way over, MSNBC is reporting that Lanny Davis said they did not release this, that they found it very interesting that the Trump camp had released it, which adds another dimension to the story.

[22:10:06] I don't know if Jim has heard that or not.

LEMON: I think -- I think they discussed that. Did Rudy and Chris discuss that?

SCIUTTO: Well, Don, I won't comment on what MSNBC is saying about the reporting. I'll just say that we're very confident in our sources and their knowledge of Michael Cohen's knowledge and what he's willing to testify to the special counsel. LEMON: Yes. So, any -- but just -- thank you for that, John. But your

overall assessment, what do you think of this? This is now, as I said with Chris earlier and as Congressman Eric Swalwell pointed out, you have someone who is a candidate for the presidency of the United States trying to get information through a foreign entity about their opponent. What do you make of it?

DEAN: It's a big story. It's a big story. Particularly if he can corroborate it. But even if he can't, if he can put this testimony into play for whoever wants the testimony, probably Mueller, most likely, this is very damning for Trump. It puts him in, depending on if he had knowledge in advance of where the Russians were getting the information, it could make him an accessory to the Russians' conspiracy.

If he didn't have that knowledge but approved the meeting, it could put him in a Campaign Act violation. We don't have all the facts. But just the details are important and what his exposure would be. But it certainly does look on its face like a conspiracy charge.

LEMON: That's what I was going to ask you, because you said depending, it has to be corroborated, but it won't just be Cohen versus Trump on the credibility part, because there will be other evidence, right? There were other people there.

DEAN: Yes.

LEMON: Hope Hicks, right? There was Donald Trump, Jr. whoever may have been in the meeting. The folks who were around the president and the folks who were said to have been in that meeting. And you look at them across the screen there.

So they -- that's part of the folks who would be there. Also the telephone call, remember, that he called that number that was private or what have you and it wasn't listed. But the thing is that conspiracy, I'm told, doesn't have to be successfully completed in order to get a legitimate conspiracy charge, correct?

DEAN: That's correct. There is an agreement to conspire to commit what is a criminal act. They don't have to do it, but if one overt act is taken in furtherance of the conspiracy, it becomes a viable conspiracy. And then there's liability.

For example, if you and I agree to rob a bank and you decide to back out and didn't tell me but I go ahead and rob the bank, you're still in the game.

SCIUTTO: Don, I would just add too, in effect we're talking about two meetings here. Because we're talking about that famous Trump Tower meeting in June--

LEMON: Right.

SCIUTTO: -- where the Russians got the meeting claiming to have this evidence. In our reporting, we are told of a previous meeting which is the

meeting that Michael Cohen claims when the president was informed about the Russians' offer and this upcoming Russian meeting in Trump Tower.

And that crucially, there were other people in that room besides President Trump or then-candidate Trump and Michael Cohen, which presents an interesting possibility here that there are other witnesses to this that investigators may want to speak to.

LEMON: Yes. So can we talk, John, can we talk a little bit more about credibility here, right? Because that's sort of -- it's going to rely a lot on that. Donald Trump has a history of lying, we know that, right?

DEAN: Yes.


LEMON: Michael--

DEAN: He has a serious credibility problem, yes.

LEMON: So Michael Cohen has been his fixer, the man who was his spokesperson. You know, I don't know, but does that necessarily mean he lied for him? Or does it mean he was just sort of his agent, in a sense, or someone who spoke for him? But does that necessarily mean he has a credibility issue when it comes to lying?

DEAN: It means nothing. What it's going to mean is, you know, if he has a history of lying and they can document it, that could be a ding against his credibility.


LEMON: I'm just trying to think of, on the record, a concrete example of him lying. I mean--

DEAN: Well, I was thinking--

LEMON: He will admit he has -- he has on tape that he would take a bullet for the president and that he stands by the president and that, you know, he loves the president. But I don't know of an example of him lying specifically. That's all I'm saying. But we have many examples of Donald Trump lying, specific examples.

DEAN: Yes, we do.


DEAN: We have thousands of examples of Donald Trump lying, sadly. But what we have with what I suspect the Trump camp is doing, is listening to the recordings they have as a result of the raid on Michael Cohen's offices, they got access to that material.

[22:15:03] And they may be looking for him dissembling with reporters who apparently he recorded, or any other recording where they can use that to help discredit him.

You know, Don, when I became a witness, there was a huge effort to discredit me. And I had -- you know, it was just my word against Nixon's until the tape came out. And they worked mightily to try to discredit me.

And they also floated what they thought would be my testimony, which was not my testimony. And so it really didn't happen until I actually delivered the statement, that they know what it was.

LEMON: So how does this work? I've got a lot more to get to, but, so, John, then how does this work, having gone through something similar to this, what is next? You get this drip-drip-drip of information. Is this not boding well for the president?

DEAN: Well, I don't think it is boding well for the president. It's clear, as I read the situation, that Michael Cohen is looking for a deal. And he is upping the stakes. Lanny is out there putting information out, forcing the Trump people to -- the president's people to respond. He's made it very clear that he has had a reset and he's now determined to tell the truth. He, as some prosecutors say, is ready to play on team America with the federal government and get the things out.


LEMON: But how does giving this information out on the president, how does that, how does he get a deal from that? Shouldn't he be--

DEAN: Well--

LEMON: -- one would think he would be in direct talks with the special prosecutor or with the -- or excuse me, with the Southern District of New York where the case is. Wouldn't that -- don't you think that would be se, rather than putting out information on--


DEAN: You would think he would have what they call a queen for a day session.

LEMON: Right.

DEAN: Where he comes in and talks about all he knows. Apparently he has not been offered that yet. We don't know what his status is.

SCIUTTO: Don, to our knowledge -- to our knowledge at least, we don't believe that Michael Cohen has yet been interviewed by the special counsel.

LEMON: Right.

SCIUTTO: So it seems, based on the sources we've been talking to, that Michael Cohen wants to make clear what he knows and what he would be willing to testify to. So perhaps you could read this as a public message through the airwaves of what he's willing to testify to, based on people he's talked to.

LEMON: All right. Jim, I want you to listen to this, this is Donald Trump, Jr. on Fox.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Did you tell your father anything about this?

DONALD TRUMP, JR., DONALD TRUMP'S SON: No. It was such a nothing, there was nothing to tell. I mean, I wouldn't have even remembered it until we start scouring through the stuff. It was literally just a waste of 20 minutes, which was a shame.


LEMON: So Jim, what about Don Junior?

SCIUTTO: Listen, I mean, this has been the somewhat thin defense that you've heard consistently from Don Junior and the Trump camp since this meeting was revealed, and that is not that it was wrong to take a meeting with Russians, nationals from a hostile nation who we've since learned had ties to the Kremlin, that wasn't what was wrong.

What was wrong was that the Russians who came to the meeting didn't deliver the promised dirt, that they just -- they just talked about the Magnitsky Act, the sanctions on Russian oligarchs, et cetera, and that's why it was a nothing, as Donald Trump, Jr. there said, so in effect it was the disappointment, that it wasn't what they promised, to which, you'll remember, based on e-mails, Donald Trump, Jr. had applied I love it to when he was told that that's what the Russians were going to come in for.

So it's something of an odd defense, saying that, you know, would it'd have been a something more than nothing if they had delivered on their promise to deliver dirt on Hillary Clinton which, you know, by some measures is an illegal, to accept help from a foreign entity. So it's always been an interesting defense, to say the least.

LEMON: Another question, John, that this race has to do with the drafting of the statement about the Trump Tower meeting by Hope Hicks and President Trump aboard Air Force One.

So, to keep that in mind, as I read the headlines. This is from the Washington Post, it's from June 1973, the story was written by Carl Bernstein, OK. And it says Dean alleges Nixon knew of cover-up plan. Are there similarities here, John?

DEAN: That's the sort of thing that was leaked out. I never met with Carl until long after Watergate was over. But I learned 40 years after the fact that one of my lawyers was leaking to Carl and Bob.


DEAN: And as I say, they withheld that for 40 years before I learned about it. LEMON: Yes. Well, he didn't give up his sources, but go on.


DEAN: That may be what's going on here.

LEMON: Yes, it could be.

DEAN: That may be what's going on.

[22:19:55] LEMON: Yes. So as I have been reminded, Jim, that Michael Cohen did say he handled the whole Stormy Daniels thing on his own without knowledge of the president, and that turned out not to be true. How much damage can be done here to the president, Jim, by Michael Cohen?

SCIUTTO: Well, it's a fair question. And listen, the credibility issue is a reasonable one, right? Because you have evidence of misleading statements on both sides, right? Certainly from the president's team and also from Michael Cohen in the past, including when he was making statements on the president's behalf and defending him.

But Michael Cohen was someone who was very close to the president, spent a lot of time with him, was indeed in a lot of meetings with the president. So he's a witness. Then it becomes a question of the credibility of the witness and are there contradictory witnesses.

And that's a key question, why this meeting that Michael Cohen claims to have been present when then-candidate Trump was informed about the Russians' meeting, that there were others present. So that would, if that is true, that would give investigators, if they choose to go down this path, other people to talk to.

LEMON: Thank you, gentlemen. Fascinating. This is big news. I appreciate your time.

When we come back, much more on our breaking news, and it is a bombshell. Sources telling CNN that Michael Cohen claims that Donald Trump knew in advance about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians and those sources say Cohen is prepared to tell Robert Mueller.


LEMON: So here's our breaking news tonight on CNN. Sources telling this network that Michael Cohen claims candidate Trump knew in advance about the June 2016 meeting with Russians in Trump Tower and he is willing to make that assert to special counsel Robert Mueller.

President Trump has repeatedly denied any knowledge of that meeting.

So, joining me now to discuss, CNN Legal Analysts, Laura Coates, and Renato Mariotti, both former federal prosecutors. Thank you so much for joining us this evening. So Laura, just flat out, the same question I asked, what is the

strategy here from Michael Cohen? Is he, maybe it's both, is he sending a signal to the president, the only thing the president can do is pay his legal bills and pardon him, right, if there -- but he has not been charged for that. Or is he sending a signal to Robert Mueller and the Southern District of New York, I have information, I'm ready to talk, let's cut a deal? What is happening here?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it's both. I think what you're seeing here is he has not been run over by a bus but run over by Air Force One. He's trying to figure out a way out of it, he feels like he's drowning. He's trying to catch some air.

He's looking to two different life lines. Number one, he knows the presidential pardon power is there. He hasn't gotten any indication that it's coming for him. They've been far more dismissive of him. They're setting a 10 foot pole trying to distance themselves from him, even going as far as tonight to attack his credibility.

His other lifeline is to say I have something valuable to offer, I know there may be a grand jury that's now convening, trying to decide whether I'll be charged on federal criminal charges, please allow me the opportunity to do what prosecutors do, which is to give the best plea offer or the best cooperation agreement before all the work is complete.

He's hoping that this, through the court of public opinion, through the media, he'll have that opportunity. And it sounds like right now, Don, he probably has not already had a chance to have that meeting, to have this discussion about tell me what you know and what would be good for the government to be able to use you, are you an asset or not. He's trying to show that he might be.

[22:25:00] LEMON: OK. So Renato, could this -- could this indicate something has gone wrong with negotiations that were already underway?

RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I will tell you, it does not make sense to me as a negotiation strategy with the government. If I represented Michael Cohen and he told me he wanted to flip, I would not be on television, I wouldn't have him do an interview with George Stephanopoulos, I wouldn't be on chatting with Tom Arnold and all these other folks.

What I would do have very private conversations with the United States attorney's office, talk to them about what I know. And I wouldn't seem so eager to flip. You know, it is -- when you're in any kind of negotiation, whether you're trying to negotiate to sell a car or trying to negotiate to get a date with somebody, you don't want to seem too eager. You want to seem like--


LEMON: But is -- maybe it's just play in the media, is this maybe just about his reputation, or he sees himself in the media, you know -- quite honestly, I hate to say this, as appearing to be Donald Trump's lackey and he just does not want that being his legacy? MARIOTTI: You know what I would tell him, if he told me that, Don, if

he told me, if I was his lawyer, and he said, I'm concerned about my legacy, I would tell him, get over yourself, man, you're looking at time in federal prison, that's way more important than your legacy or how you appear on TV, you'll write a book and do a book tour later. For right now we need to get you out of this problem and anything else is secondary to that. You need to see--


LEMON: So you don't see anything he's done helps him at all, you don't see anything positive in what he's done, you know, the interview that was supposed to be televised, at least on camera with George Stephanopoulos? It ended up being questions--


MARIOTTI: You know what the help is?

LEMON: Go on.

MARIOTTI: Sure. Yes, you know, the help is with the president seem, frankly. Now it doesn't seem to be working. We saw Giuliani last hour trashing Cohen. But what I think, the only way to make sense of this strategy, to the extent it's a strategy, is that it's meant to tell the president's team, look, if you don't pardon me, and he can pardon Cohen before he's charged, he can pardon him at any time.

If it you don't pardon me, I've got the goods on you and I'm going to make your life very difficult, so I'm trying to get your attention here and let you know that I'm very serious. That's the only way I can make sense of the strategy that doesn't seem to make sense otherwise.

LEMON: OK. So Laura, do you want to respond to that? Because I have another question for you.

COATES: Well, I can say certainly, this is very in artful, the way it's going down. But remember, he's not going to gamble on that crap shoot of whether the president of the United States' ear will bend to his request for a pardon.

We already see the president does not follow even the formal pardoning process of things. Albeit, there is the Kim Kardashian West in the Oval Office who has been able to articulate a reason to pardon somebody justifiably.

But normally speaking, he has not followed the protocol. I doubt that Cohen or his legal counsel is trying to bank on that effort. I think what's happening here, realistically, and it's a stretch to try to get into the mind of this particular person.

But I think what he's counting on, remember, it's not something that can be a two-way street. A prosecutor has to actually be interested in giving you a plea offer or a deal. You can't solicit that opportunity and if you do try to do that, it has to be worthwhile. It may very well be everyone that what Michael Cohen has to offer is

not what they would like to purchase. Remember, it's not Mueller who has an interest as of yet in the investigation in New York, he handed that over. And so, perhaps his audience of one he's going for is Robert Mueller. But who he needs to be speaking to is the SDNY team--

LEMON: Right.

COATES: -- who's actually overseeing it, and maybe it's helpful for that reason.

LEMON: Can -- can -- go ahead, what would you -- did you want to say something, Renato? No?

MARIOTTI: What I would say is, I just think those conversations are better had in private.


COATES: Of course.

MARIOTTI: And have in a more artful way.

LEMON: Let me ask you guys this.

MARIOTTI: Yes, we all agree.

LEMON: Can Michael Cohen be sued or stopped by the president in any way if he's seen to be breaking some sort of attorney/client privilege, Renato?

MARIOTTI: No, if he did that, if the president wanted to do that, he would be putting the truth of all these matters at issue in that lawsuit. So if I was advising the president, I would tell him, stay very far away from that.

LEMON: And we have to remember, Michael Cohen has not been charged with anything, that's if he is charged with anything, right, then it will play out the way that we've been -- that you guys have put forward here.

COATES: Right. And Don, also, remember, he can't assert the privilege now for some of these cases. I mean, he already -- Rudy Giuliani and his team, especially with result to the cash versus check telephone conversation that was recorded, when in a state that you can actually do that in a one-party-consent jurisdiction, and one of you can agree to it. They waived it.

And so he already preempted that ability to do so, which is probably the most interesting strategy choice of all to say, go hell it all out there. So he has foreclosed some of his legal avenues as the president of the United States.

LEMON: Don't think I didn't get that run over by Air Force One thing you said in the beginning.


COATES: There are track marks now on Michael Cohen right now.

LEMON: That was brilliant.


LEMON: Thank you both. I appreciate it.

When we come back, more on our huge breaking news. Sources telling CNN that Michael Cohen is willing to tell Robert Mueller that then candidate Trump knew in advance about the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russians.

[22:30:04] Max Boot will weigh in. He's already said there is evidence of collusion. I'm going to ask him what he thinks now.


LEMON: So here is the breaking news tonight. Sources telling CNN that Michael Cohen claims the then-candidate Trump knew in advance about the June 2016 meeting with Russians in Trump Tower, and he is willing to make that claim to Robert Mueller. President Trump has denied any knowledge of that meeting repeatedly.

And so I want to bring in now CNN Global Affairs Analyst, Max Boot, a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a columnist for "The Washington Post." Good evening, sir.


LEMON: You've already said to me and you have said to many other people, and you've written about it. You think there's already evidence of collusion. So give me your take tonight.

BOOT: Well, I wrote this morning that there was evidence of collusion. But I think this makes it much stronger, because there has been a lot of evidence that has emerged about contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russians, at the same time that the Russians were working very diligently and very successfully to help elect Donald Trump.

We know there were 82 contacts. That's just what we know. There may have been others, 82 known contacts between the Trump campaign and representatives of the Kremlin in 2016 during the campaign. That in itself is fishy as hell. That is not normal for any kind of campaign. But while we've known that people like Donald Trump Jr. and Roger Stone and others in and around the campaign were in contact with the Russians or their emissaries such as WikiLeaks.

Until now, we have not had a smoking gun that placed Donald Trump Sr., the President himself, in the center of the conspiracy showing that he actually knew in real time about these contacts with the Russians. If this Michael Cohen evidence stands up, if Michael Cohen does testify to this and if he is a credible witness and if there are other witnesses who can come forward to corroborate this, this is potentially huge.

This is potentially something that can prove the President colluded. And that is an impeachable offense.

[22:34:53] LEMON: So and that is -- is that how you think this affects the Mueller investigation?

BOOT: It's potentially huge, I mean again...


LEMON: It could be he said-he said. But also give me -- I want to see the picture of the folks who were reportedly in that meeting. But go on.

BOOT: Yup. I don't think it's necessarily going to be he said-he said. Because remember, you know if -- the key here is Michael Cohen willing to go under oath and testify to this, and then is Donald Trump Sr. going to go under oath and deny it. I mean he is very wary of going under oath. And there are a lot of other people involved as well.


LEMON: These other people, and if they've been interviewed, it depends on what they said. I mean they could have lied or they could have corroborated any of this. So it wasn't just when we say he said- he said. It wasn't just -- it's not going to be just Michael Cohen and the President. There are others.

BOOT: No. And keep in mind that everybody has been lying like crazy about this June 9th meeting. They are all acting guilty as hell from the get go, because they denied the meeting happened when -- last summer it came out that this meeting had occurred. The President himself orchestrated a cover-up, claiming the meeting was about adoptions.

They have lied each and every time, but the lies are peeling away. The lies are being dispelled and the truth is coming out. And it's highly, highly damning for the President.

LEMON: This -- about to make the Magnitsky Act. This was supposed to be about the Magnitsky Act.

BOOT: Supposedly about adoptions and all this kind of stuff, yeah.

LEMON: So the people who are up there, those were the people who were reportedly in the meeting, right.

BOOT: Get them all under oath. Let them all testify.

LEMON: But we don't know if those were the people who were there when according to Michael Cohen the President was informed you know -- got knowledge of this meeting.

BOOT: Presumably, if Cohen is going to testify, he can testify about whom else was there. And let's see if anybody is willing to perjure themselves or whether they're going to tell the truth. By the way, remember, that we also know that Donald Trump Jr. called a blocked number three times before and after this meeting.

And guess what, his father has a blocked phone number. So already, the circumstantial evidence that the President knew about this was already pretty strong.

LEMON: Well, it's just interesting, because this -- within, you know -- we had the Karen McDougal thing where the President denied, denied, denied.


LEMON: You can hear him on tape talking about it. Then you have Air Force One, where he denied, denied, denied Stormy Daniels having any knowledge of it. And then all of a sudden, it comes out that he did have knowledge of it. Deny, deny, deny this, and now Michael Cohen is saying he knew about it, right?

BOOT: The President is not a credible witness, Don. He is a pathological liar. He lies an average of 6.5 times a day according to the Washington Post. So -- and he has lied consistently about everything to do with the Russia case, with the collusion charges, everything. He'd denied it. But the cover-up is crumbling.

LEMON: Yeah. In your piece, you also say that -- and the Putin Republicans give the impression that they couldn't care less if the President plotted to win. Is that the right (Inaudible) -- (Inaudible) to win power with the help from a hostile foreign state. Do you think there's going to be increased pressure on him now?

BOOT: There will be increased pressure. I mean just think about what's happened in the last day, with on the one hand, you have growing evidence of Trump collusion. And it's not just this, by the way. I mean the way that Trump behaved with Putin last week lends further credence to the collusion charges, and led people like Jim Clapper to say that the Russians have something on him.

So let's keep that in mind. The case against Trump and the Russians grows stronger. And at the same time, the Republicans are going into overdrive to protect him. They're trying to impeach Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General, and the shameful attempt to obstruct justice on the part of house Republicans.

So they are really putting themselves out there. I mean that's why I call them Putin Republicans, because there is an element of the Republican Party that is really tying themselves to the mast, and aligning themselves not just Donald Trump but with Vladimir Putin, because they're doing everything they can to impede an investigation of this Russian attack on America.

LEMON: It's really interesting, the hypocrisy that's going on. You hear people, especially the President's supporters saying you know you should stop it with this impeachment thing because that doesn't work, and you shouldn't use it as a political tool. And then they're saying, oh no, but Rod Rosenstein should be impeached. They're talking about out of both sides of their mouth.

BOOT: I mean the hypocrisy is off the charts here. And of course, they're also saying you can't indict a sitting President. So if you can't indict him, the only option is to impeach him.

LEMON: Yeah. Thank you, Max.

BOOT: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Appreciate it. When we come back, much more on our breakdown news, sources telling CNN that Michael Cohen claims then-candidate Donald Trump knew in advance about that infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russians. Is Cohen a bigger threat to the President than Robert Mueller?


[22:40:00] LEMON: Here's the breaking news. Sources telling CNN that Michael Cohen is prepared to tell Robert Mueller that Donald Trump knew in advance about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians. Rudy Giuliani, the President's attorney, had a lot to say about that tonight to CNN's Chris Cuomo. And I would to bring in now CNN Politics Editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza, and also Political Commentators, Scott Jennings, and Simone Sanders.

So here we go, you all. OK, so I just want to play another -- this is a clip from Rudy Giuliani's interview with Chris Cuomo. Watch this.


RUDY GIULIANI (R), DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I know that he's walking into a situation, in which there will be no corroboration. Gosh almighty, why didn't he tape it? He taped everything else. He's got a hundred tapes. Why didn't he tape that? Maybe he did. Maybe he's got a tape of that that he erased. Ever think of that?


GIULIANI: You don't think he would erase a tape?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. Maybe he would.



LEMON: By the way, good evening, and welcome to the program. So listen, Chris, this is for you. So the President's lawyer is simultaneously saying that there will be no corroboration of this claim, and then in the next breath suggesting that Cohen may have taped the meeting and then erased it. The meeting that he is saying didn't happen. So make some sense of this for me, please.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR: Gosh, Don. I have to be smarter than I am to do that. Remember, this is also that same interview, Rudy Giuliani says that Michael Cohen is a liar. He's been lying all week. He's been lying for years, which is odd given that he was Donald Trump's personal lawyer and the guy who fixed Donald Trump's problems.

[22:44:57] LEMON: Wait, hold on.


CILLIZZA: -- a month ago.

LEMON: They broke into my personal attorney's office, Michael Cohen, good man, right?

CILLIZZA: Would never flip on me.

LEMON: Yeah. But go on.

CILLIZZA: I mean so there's a lot of contradictions there. I mean what Rudy Giuliani sets up, I think, at the end of the day is the important question, which is, does Michael Cohen have some proof of this, that Don Jr. told the President of the United States, although at that point just a candidate for President, that he told him about this meeting in advance.


CILLIZZA: Is that a tape or is that another witness? Does he have that and does Bob Mueller find Cohen's testimony, evidence, compelling and credible or not? Everything hinges on that question.

LEMON: Yeah. Do you think, Scott, does this explain why many people close to the President have felt for a long time that Michael Cohen may pose a greater threat to the Trump presidency than Robert Mueller?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, absolutely. I mean, I think there's been this great fear that this is one of the handful of people that knows everything that happened during the campaign time and even before the campaign time. And obviously, now Cohen feels like a barrister scorned, and he's unleashing fury on the President in the form of tapes and these kinds of sky writing trying to get Mueller's attention.

I think what Republicans are going to seize on in the CNN story -- and by the way, this is a well-reported story. And because it is a well- reported story by CNN, we need to focus on two important points that you've brought up. Number one, Cohen in this story has said not to have any evidence of this. And number two, he has said to be floating this to try to get Mueller's attention to lessen his own legal troubles, which means that Cohen has already concluded that he's going down for something that he personally did.

This reduces the credibility of Cohen's claims, I think. At least that's the way Republicans are going to see it. I think there are other issues here that if it this all turns out to be true, there are much larger than the Cohen matter. But as per Cohen personally and his own credibility in this, I think the CNN story has got two important paragraphs that we should not overlook. LEMON: OK. That said -- and listen I will concede that point. But

again, if it turns out to be true, than what does it matter if Cohen is guilty of whatever.


JENNINGS: Absolutely. If it's true, it's a huge deal, no question.

LEMON: Yeah. Yeah. So Simone, the story for months and months has been that the President knew nothing about this meeting. Now, Michael Cohen says that is a lie and other people were in the room when the President was told. The question is, you know, again, as we said, can Cohen corroborate his claim, or will the other people who were supposedly there corroborate it?

SIMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean we -- at this point, we don't know. I think we need to hear more from Michael Cohen. I think this is interesting. And it shouldn't be lost on folks that the President's, the President's former attorney is now coming out and basically what he's saying that the President and many people around the President, perhaps Michael Cohen included, lied.

And oftentimes, we hear time and time again from folks associated with this White House and inside this White House, one thing, and then the truth comes out later, and it's not the same thing we heard from the White House. And I think we need to call a thing a thing. But we do not know at this point, Don. What we do know is Michael Cohen was in trouble for some other stuff, and he is doing everything he can to save his skin right now.

Perhaps we will get the truth through Michael Cohen's desperate attempts to save himself.


JENNINGS: Don, can I just -- to Simone's point, I do think it is important that we know at least two things related to that Trump Tower meeting that the Trump campaign and Trump more broadly didn't tell the truth about. Number one, they did not tell the truth about the nature of the meeting. Remember, it was just an adoption meeting.


JENNINGS: No, we did not -- it comes out later that dirt had been promised, not delivered apparently, but had been promised. The other thing is, remember that we were told by Donald Trump's lawyers that Donald Trump had no knowledge of and nothing to do with the statement from Donald Trump Jr. that was given to the New York Times in response to the meeting.

Well, now it turns out that Donald Trump, we've learned, Donald Trump dictated that statement. He not only knew about it. Those are his words dictated and put in his son's mouth. So that doesn't mean that what Michael Cohen -- that doesn't corroborate what Michael Cohen is saying. But to Simone's point, it does suggest that there is a lot of mistruth, untruth that has already happened around that. (CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: And Don...


LEMON: Lies. Just say lies. I'm going to keep you guys for another segment here. But I just have to say, this is me in the role of Rudy Giuliani. And I read this. I mean I played this at the top. So he says, gosh almighty, why didn't he tape it? He taped everything else. He's got a hundred tapes. Why didn't he tape that?

[22:49:47] Maybe he did. Maybe he's got a tape of that that he erased. Did you ever think of that? No, you don't think that he would erase a tape. Maybe he would. I don't know. Again, if you are saying the meeting never happened and then you are conceding that he taped the meeting that never happened, what sense does that make? We'll be right back.


LEMON: Our breaking news tonight. Michael Cohen's claims that then- candidate Donald Trump knew in advance about the Trump Tower meeting with the Russians. What does it mean for the President's eldest son? What does it mean for Donald Trump Jr.? Chris Cillizza, Scott Jennings, Simone Sanders, back with me, OK, Scott, I am coming to you.

So you know what the Trumps want us to believe is that Don Jr. set up this meeting all by himself without ever consulting his father. Do you believe that at this point?

JENNINGS: Well, I know what they've said publicly and I know what they've also said under oath. And Simone said something before the break. And your question kind of gets that out of this. The story they've been telling publicly and then what we know they've said under oath released in testimony to some committees. If at some point, these stories start not to match.

So Donald Trump Jr. has said versus what Sarah Sanders has said publicly versus what other people have been interviewed that we don't know about have said. At some point, if all those stories don't match, than somebody's going to be in trouble over this. If Cohen is to be believed and if Cohen is viewed ultimately as a credible person and a lot of these investigatory situations, people don't go down for the overlying crime.

They go down for an underlying -- you know obstruction or you know perjury or lying to a committee or something like that. And so this whole thing has been unfolding. That's what I have been wondering about is, who has said what to what committee or under oath.


JENNINGS: And are those stories matching.

LEMON: OK. Let's just put aside tonight's breaking news, right? And you consider the different stories that have been told about this meeting and then the President saying I didn't -- you know I didn't you know -- denying that he had anything to with the drafting of a letter of Air Force One, Hope Hicks and on and on and on.

So my question was do you believe any of this at this point, their explanations, do you believe the President did not know anything about this meeting?

JENNINGS: I don't know who to believe. I've heard a lot of different explanations about this meeting and shifting stories. I don't personally find several of the people involved in it all that credible of what they have said publicly about this thing. So I don't know what to believe. But I do know this.

When you put your hand up and testify under oath in front of the special counsel or a congressional committee, you damn well better have told the truth because they will figure it out. I hope they all have.

LEMON: All right. Before -- I need both of you to weigh in, Chris, you first.

CILLIZZA: I mean I think -- the most important thing about Scott's point there is that Donald Trump Jr. in front of the senate judiciary committee -- granted it was a closed door hearing, but they released the transcript. It said no, I did not take this to my dad. I thought it would be a waste of his time. So if Michael Cohen is saying Don Jr. told his dad beforehand about this meeting, someone is not telling the truth.

[22:54:55] The problem you have there is that Michael Cohen is not terribly reliable. This is a guy who you know through -- one of the ways that he got to where he gotten in the Trump world was he was willing to say and do whatever it took to get problems to go away. Donald Trump is not terribly reliable. Max Boot made the point in the last segment. The Washington Post has said that he lied more than 3,000 times of his first 466 days in office. So I think (Inaudible) with two unreliable narrators. Who do believe?

LEMON: Yup, Simone?

SANDERS: Well, I think, Don, this makes a bigger point. If we can't believe the President and his allies and his family about something as small or even as big, depending on how you look at it as a meeting. What else -- what can we believe them about?

What the President said matters and, who the President is matters. And what the people who speak on behalf of the President saying matters as well, and we have found that none of these folks are credible, that we can't believe anything that is being said. So for instance, when the President says that he's giving $12 billion bail out, quote on quote, to farmers and then he's going to do something about these things.

Can we believe him? When the President says I did not discuss x, y, and z, with Putin in Helsinki, can we believe him? We cannot believe the President of the United States.

LEMON: Yeah.

SANDERS: That is an issue.

LEMON: All of this...


CILLIZZA: The only person...

LEMON: Go on.

CILLIZZA: The only person who has said anything about this under oath that we know about, that we have the public transcripts of is Donald Trump Jr. So he did go in and knowing full well of the ramifications of telling the truth or not said he didn't tell him. Now Cohen has not said anything under oath. We have no sworn testimony.

LEMON: Yeah. Yeah. So I got to go. But Scott, I think you said you know -- you get the prize for this one.

JENNINGS: I don't know who to believe.

LEMON: That is a problem. Top of the hour, we'll be back.


LEMON: This is CNN TONIGHT. I am Don Lemon. Just a little bit before 11:00 p.m. here in the East Coast, live with all the breaking news for you. And it is a bomb shell, sources telling CNN that Michael Cohen, the President's former fixer, is prepared to tell the Special Counsel Robert Mueller that then-candidate Donald Trump approved of that infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russians in June of 2016.