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Schiff: Cohen Says Trump Personally Signed Off on Trump Tower Meeting; U.S. Economy Sees Strongest Growth in 4 Years; North Korea Returns U.S. Servicemember Remains. Aired 11:30a-12n ET

Aired July 27, 2018 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[11:31:46] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: We just heard from Congressman Adam Schiff saying Donald Trump's former personal attorney might have brought the issue of collusion, quote, right to the president's feet." Sources tell us Michael Cohen says he witnessed Donald Trump personally sign off on the Trump Tower meeting between members of his campaign and Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Joining us to discuss, CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza, CNN chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, CNN political analyst as well as a White House reporter for the "New York Times."

Chris, you came out with a big analysis this morning saying this could be the most consequential news of this presidency. Explain.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTERS & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: It "could" is the key word, Ana. What we don't know is what the Congressman acknowledged, which is does Michael Cohen have the goods? Can he corroborate it? If he can, then what you are looking at is a meeting that Donald Trump said he didn't know about, that he did know about, that was between Russians and the top brass of his campaign with the goal of passing along dirt on Hillary Clinton. That's a very big deal. It's also a very big "if." That's important to note. Michael Cohen is not the world's most reliable figure. Neither is Donald Trump. I think that's one of the real challenges in this story is that neither of them have a terribly long record of telling the truth. The Trump campaign has said a number of things that are incorrect about that Trump Tower meeting in particular. It's tough to figure out who is telling the truth.

CABRERA: Julie, Congressman Adam Schiff says that they did ask Cohen questions about that Trump Tower meeting in their House Intel testimony that they had that was behind closed doors. He wouldn't elaborate beyond that. Wouldn't say whether he believed Cohen was telling the truth to them or whether it is consistent with what we are learning. It was the 'New York Times" that broke the news of the Trump Tower meeting about a year ago. Since then, we have seen more than 15 denials by different members of Trump's orbit, including the president himself.

We can put that up. And we'll scroll through that.

But how do you see this playing out given it is now Trump's word versus Cohen's word?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's going to be very important that, as the congressman pointed out, we haven't seen a transcript of what Michael Cohen told the committee. We don't know whether he simply did not address the issue of whether President Trump knew in advance about the meeting or afterwards, or whether he lied about it or presented committee with a different story than he is apparently telling sources now that the president did know about it.

Also, let's not forget, the credit for this meeting was an e-mail that made it very clear that it was sources in the Russian government that wanted to help Donald Trump be elected, and this is why the meeting was coming to fruition. If he knew, as Chris said, that would be a very significant thing.

The other thing that this does is it brings together two sort of troubling threads. We did learn about this meeting about a year ago. While the president has consistently said he didn't know about or the White House said that's the case, there have been a variety of shifting explanations from the White House and people around the president about what this meeting was for, how it was billed on the front end. Initially, they said it was about adoptions. We learned there was a proffer of potentially damaging information about Hillary Clinton. Because both Michael Cohen and the president have been such unreliable narratives here, there are a lot more questions than answers at this point. But there's the big potential that this could be damaging if what Michael Cohen said is provable.

[11:35:24] CABRERA: How damaging, is the next question, Jeffrey. Is this evidence of collusion if what Cohen is saying is true?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, it is. But we don't know if what Cohen is saying is true. This meeting, especially given the e-mail that set it up, from Rod Goldstone, which is very clearly indicates this meeting was about the Russian government helping the Trump campaign defeat Hillary Clinton. The e-mail couldn't be clearer about that. If the president knew that this meeting was taking place and approved of it, that means he was approving of collusion between the Russian government and his campaign. But that has not yet been proven. There remains significant circumstantial evidence that Michael Cohen's news story is true. Why would Donald Trump not -- Donald Trump Jr not tell his father if this information was as exciting as he seems to make it seem in his e-mail back to Rod Goldstone? Why did Donald Trump announce that he was giving a big speech about Hillary Clinton's misdeeds immediately before this meeting took place, and then when the meeting turned out to be a bust, canceled the speech. All of that suggests that Michael Cohen now might be telling the truth, that Candidate Trump did know. Is it proof? Absolutely not. That's what everyone needs to figure out, whether there's any proof of which side is telling the truth.

CABRERA: The other big Cohen news this week is that tape.

Chris, we know there's not a tape in this case, according to our reporting. Something else caught my eye. Sources saying that several others were

in the room when Trump was told about this meeting, according to Cohen.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

CABRERA: That's interesting. They could be corroborating witnesses.

CILLIZZA: That's the key here. Who are these people? Will we find out who those people are? Does Bob Mueller know who those people are? Are they telling the same story that Michael Cohen is telling?

Look, what Michael Cohen's legal team, led by Lanny Davis, is selling is that he has had a conversion experience. Yes, he didn't tell the truth a lot in the past. He may not have told the truth to House and Senate -- the committees that he testified before. But he is telling the truth now. Maybe. It's possible that that exists. He could be trying to get a pardon from Donald Trump. He could be trying to get a better deal from Robert Mueller. But regardless, right now, it's his word as filtered through sources against Donald Trump's word and Donald Trump Jr's word. Those several other people are absolutely critical in what they say, if they say anything, I think is sort of where -- to Jeff's point, where we either get proof or we wind up coming short of that measure.

CABRERA: Everyone, thank you.

Jeffrey, one last -

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: Briefly, Michael Cohen wants a deal. He wants to get out of being prosecuted. So if he can tantalize prosecutors with, "look at all the great information I have," that helps him get a deal. That --

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: Do you think this is helping his case?

TOOBIN: Yes. Because I think he -- this is potentially very important information. Prosecutors are not going to buy a pig and a poke, as the saying goes. They are going to try to corroborate this before they commit to giving him some good deal in return for his testimony.

CABRERA: All right. Thank you all for joining us. We really appreciate it, Julie, Chris, and Jeffrey.

CILLIZZA: Thanks, Ana.

[11:39:00] CABRERA: Coming up, it's one of the best economic reports in years. U.S. GDP growing 4.1 percent last quarter. Can it continue? We will discuss, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CABRERA: It's considered the scorecard of the economy and this morning looks like good news. The economy is robust. New numbers showing the gross domestic product, GDP, grew at a rate of 4.1 percent last quarter. That's the strongest growth we have seen in nearly four years.

CNN Money and politics correspondent, Cristina Alesci, is here to break it down for us.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN MONEY & POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Definitely a strong quarter, but the big question is, will it continue for the rest of the year? President Trump promised that to the American people today. He also made it sound like this is some historic record, that we have never seen this growth before. That's not true. We have hit 4 percent under the Obama administration. We have hit 5 percent on a quarterly basis under the Obama administration. Most economists are projecting lower growth during the second half of the year. But I don't want to take away from the fact this was a strong report. If you look at some of the underpinnings on that report, the sectors driving it, exports was a huge part of that. Exports were up about 9 percent. Many economists are questioning whether or not that is a one-time deal because a lot of international customers bought a lot of soy beans from the U.S. before the Chinese tariffs went into effect. There was a huge rush of orders for soy beans. The other important number is, business growth. About more than 7 percent. That's because businesses feel more confident under this administration. They got their tax cuts, regulations have been reduced, so they are putting more money to work. Anything could disrupt that number. You are talking about a potential trade war, any geopolitical unrest, that will cause CEOs to pull back on that investment number.

This is a strong quarter. It's very good for Trump going into the midterms. Keep in mind, we're going to get another GDP report before the midterms. We will see how that plays out.

[11:45:33] CABRERA: A number on top of low unemployment, to your point, that's giving a lot of people a little confidence.

Thank you very much --

ALESCI: You're welcome.

CABRERA: -- Cristina Alesci, for that.

Exactly 65 years after fighting stopped, North Korea has returned the possible remains of American servicemembers. Could this lead to bigger breakthroughs between the two nations? More on that coming up.

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CABRERA: Every week, we honor an everyday person doing extraordinary work to help others. We find these people through your nominations. Earlier this year, we recognized Dr. Rob Gore, an emergency room physician doing anti-violence work in New York. Meet the woman who helped turn him into a "CNN Hero."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED CNN HERO: I nominated Dr. Gore to be a "CNN Hero" because we grew up together. Then I saw him doing this wonderful community work.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED CNN HERO: I'm very familiar with "CNN Heroes." I'm a fan of the show. As I was volunteering here, I said to myself, wait, "CNN Heroes," Dr. Gore, perfect match. And here we are. I'm so proud of my friend to see him excel in this way and show the world what he does. So surreal, so exciting, so rewarding.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Got to love her. Find the rest of the story at CNNheroes.com and tell us as well who you think should be a "CNN Hero." Nominations close Tuesday night.

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[11:52:00] CABRERA: North Korea has handed over the possible remains of 55 Americans killed during the Korean War. They arrived in South Korea this morning on the 66th anniversary of the armistice.

President Trump tweeted a thank you to North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-Un, and this morning, thanked him for keeping his word.

Now the long process of trying to identify those remains can begin.

Joining me is Duyeon Kim. She specializes in Koran affairs and U.S. nuclear policy at Center for A New American Security.

Thank you so much for joining us, Duyeon.

DUYEON KIM, ADJUNCT SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY: Thank you.

CABRERA: Despite numerous delays, we have North Korea finally following through on this. How significant is this move?

KIM: Sure. This is significant. It's good news. It's very important that U.S. remains are returned. As you said, they will have to be examined to see if they truly are American remains from the war. But at the same time, you know, as positive as this news is and it's the right thing to do, it still complicated overall negotiations. It could complicate negotiations because now the North can say, look, we've upheld half of our end of the bargain from the Singapore summit, it's your turn to deliver on our demands. And their demands, as you remember, the first two points in that Singapore statement were a new relationship and the establishment of a peace regime. These are tricky and complex issues for the U.S. to just automatically provide for North Korea.

CABRERA: Now, Defense Secretary Mattis says this sets a positive tone for more important things. You say we're right where North Korea wants us to be, but what leverage do the North Koreans really have?

KIM: Their number-one leverage is their nuclear weapons. We've seen them grow increasingly confident. And I suspect that their confidence now to push their top demands is really because they've achieved so much technologically on the nuclear and missile front. Until now ,in past negotiations, there was an explicit understanding in writing and in practice that negotiations would proceed in the sequence of we negotiate denuclearization first and then the North gets security guarantees and a peace regime. Now the North is trying to flip that order and is pushing for what it wants, the big stuff, which is the security and peace.

CABRERA: You know, just this week the U.S. administration as well as some other organizations that monitor North Korea's nuclear activity reported seeing the North dismantling a missile test site. Again, that is this week. Now we have these remains being brought back. Could all this suggest that they really are serious about their commitment to denuclearize?

KIM: Well, it sets a positive tone, so to speak. But I would not call the steps they've taken so far as real denuclearization steps. Because they're basically getting rid of facilities and things that they say they don't need anymore. So Kim Jong-Un has said he does not need to test parts of nuclear weapons anymore. He says that he will just mass produce nuclear weapons this year. In that sense, if he's getting rid of facilities that test nuclear weapons parts, then getting rid of them really is not a genuine step towards denuclearization.

[11:55:23] CABRERA: Duyeon Kim, as always, we appreciate your expertise. Thank you for joining us.

KIM: Thank you for having me.

CABRERA: Coming up, who's lying, the president or his former personal attorney Michael Cohen? That's the question as Cohen claims President Trump knew in advance of that infamous Trump Tower meeting in 2016 during the campaign. We're getting new reaction from the president and his team, next.

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[12:00:11] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day.

It is a --