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Cohen Claims Trump Knew Of Trump Tower Meeting; Northern California Fire Turns Deadly, Forces Evacuations; Roseanne Barr Speaks Out About Racist Tweet; Democratic Party Debates Moving Left In 2018. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired July 27, 2018 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Gentlemen, between us we have two law degrees, so I'm going to try to stay out of this to the extent that I can and let you have at it.

Professor, let me start with you and I want to pause for a second on the issue of Michael Cohen's credibility. Pause on that Professor, because you say even if what he says is true, it still is not evidence of any crime -- explain.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, AUTHOR, "THE CASE AGAINST IMPEACHING TRUMP": Well, in my book, "The Case Against Impeaching Trump," I actually take this issue on. I take it on as a hypothetical because Cohen hadn't yet provided this information.

But I argue that if the president knowingly -- even affirmatively sought dirt that was already obtained illegally by Russia -- knowing it was obtained illegally and then used it in his campaign, that would be no different under the First Amendment than "The New York Times" publishing the Pentagon Papers, "The Washington Post" publishing Manning and Snowden.

The First Amendment protects the use of information illegally obtained, as long as you have nothing to do with obtaining the information. As long as you don't tell the source 'go get more'.

If somebody comes and hands you, in an envelope, dirt that was obtained illegally, if you're a newspaper you can use it, if you're a politician you can use it.

Now, there is a statute that prohibits obtaining things of value from a foreign government during a campaign but that has to be construed to be constitutional. It deals primarily with money and other material facts. And if it were to be construed to cover information, it would probably run afoul of the First Amendment.

So I think this is a political sin, as I argue in my book, but not a federal crime.

BERMAN: Jeffrey?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: You know, Alan is defining what may have gone on in an extremely narrow way, just like the passing of an envelope. The question here is what was the relationship between the Trump campaign and the Russian government or people affiliated with the Russian government?

If all the president did was receive an envelope, I agree that would not be a crime.

However, if there was coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government -- if there were dealings, if there were negotiations, if there was collusion -- in the word that's become so familiar over the past year -- then I think that could be construed as a crime. A conspiracy to defraud the United States, aiding and abetting, hacking -- all of that would come into play.

As usual, the facts matter more than the law. What actually happened is what we all want to know, then we can figure out what the legal implications are.

BERMAN: Professor?

DERSHOWITZ: But the law matters, too, and it's not a crime to collude.

In my book, I give the most extreme hypothetical.

I say Donald Trump (this didn't happen) calls Vladimir Putin and says hey, Vlad, do I have a deal for you. I want to be president.

I know you want to get rid of the Magnitsky sanctions. You know I don't like those sanctions and if you help me become president -- if we collude together and you help me become president, there's a much better chance that the Magnitsky sanctions should be eliminated.

How is that different than any politician talking to a woman who wants him to support expanded abortion rights, saying if I help you get elected to Congress, you will then help me support a woman's abortion rights?

That kind of quid pro quo, if it's done without exchange of money and if it's done without explicit promises, has never been deemed to be a federal crime. And it doesn't become a federal crime just because it's a foreign government.

BERMAN: Jeffrey -- yes, I --

DERSHOWITZ: You don't stretch the criminal law --


DERSHOWITZ: -- to target people and that's what I think Jeffrey is trying to do. He's trying to find a crime. And, you know, if you look hard enough --

BERMAN: I don't think -- look, I wouldn't blame this -- I wouldn't put this on Jeffrey. I wouldn't put this on Jeffrey.

DERSHOWITZ: -- maybe you can find a crime, but he's searching for it hard.

BERMAN: I wouldn't put this on Jeffrey. I think there are a lot of people trying to figure out what happened in terms of the --

DERSHOWITZ: Right -- of course.

TOOBIN: No, I think Alan is clearly wrong --

DERSHOWITZ: Of course.

TOOBIN: -- about that. I was -- I was with you on the envelope full of information but I think this --


TOOBIN: If that hypothetical is true -- which, obviously, we don't -- we don't believe it to be --

DERSHOWITZ: Obviously, not.

TOOBIN: If there is -- if there is that sort of active collusion, it's very similar to the case that Mueller already charged in the -- with the social media operation. That the social media operation in Russia that was putting up the Facebook posts in violation of the law that said foreign governments cannot be involved and foreign entities cannot be involved in American political campaigns.

I think that is -- that is a crime and that would be a crime if the Trump campaign was involved.

BERMAN: Professor, let me jump in here if I can.

DERSHOWITZ: I think you are misstating the statute.

It doesn't say involved. It doesn't say involved. That would be unconstitutional to say involved.

It's much more specific. That's a statutory --

BERMAN: Professor, let me -- let me jump in here --


BERMAN: -- and talk about another legal aspect of this.

Once again, if what Michael Cohen says is true, then the president's team lied publicly -- and I'm talking about --


BERMAN: -- Jay Sekulow, I'm talking about the president himself, I'm talking about Sarah Sanders.

I'm talking about anyone who has talked about what the president knew or didn't know about this meeting. They lied publicly. And then, Donald Trump, Jr. lied under oath. [07:35:05] That would be a problem, yes, Professor?

DERSHOWITZ: First of all, we don't know that Jay Sekulow knew anything. Jay's a very decent, ethical lawyer. I can't imagine that he would knowingly lie.

Lawyers only know what they're told by their client, so it's always possible that he was told something that wasn't true and he simply repeated it.

And, of course, lying under oath is a crime. You'd have to see what the nature of the lie was.

Remember, this was apparently a vague meeting. Nobody knew for sure what the subject was going to be. It was going to be dirt on Hillary Clinton, which is a perfectly appropriate subject to discuss.

But the contents -- Jeffrey is absolutely right. This is very, very, very fact-specific.

We also have to know did Cohen make a memo of this meeting. He says that he recorded things because he doesn't like to take notes so he would use a tape recorder to record. Did he make a tape recording of this -- of what he claims he saw at a meeting?

So there will be credibility issues, they'll be specific fact issues. Let's not rush to judgment.

TOOBIN: Right.

DERSHOWITZ: You asked if it's evidence. It might be evidence but it's certainly, in itself, not criminal behavior.

TOOBIN: OK, and just -- but, Berman, just to respond to your question.

If Michael Cohen is telling the truth about Donald Trump, Sr.'s knowledge of this meeting, that does call into legal question the denials by Donald Trump, Jr., under oath, that that took place, and anyone else who was either interviewed under oath or informally by the FBI.

So the -- this is why the FBI and U.S. attorneys often charge false statements rather than the underlying crime because they're a lot easier to prove.

DERSHOWITZ: Absolutely.

TOOBIN: And, you know, Alan doesn't like that but that's -- I mean, that's how the FBI operates frequently.

DERSHOWITZ: And that's, of course, why the president is unlikely to sit down and have a meeting. When you have a meeting with prosecutors -- ask Martha Stewart -- bad things happen.

Prosecutors aren't meeting with you because they want to help you. They're meeting with you because they want to give you an opportunity to commit perjury.

And it's rare. I haven't in 53 years ever advised a client to sit down with a prosecutor and I expect I'll go to my grave without ever advising that. The only time you do it is when you have no option. When they're going to subpoena you and ask you harder questions in a dark room --

BERMAN: We have --

DERSHOWITZ: -- without any lawyer present.

BERMAN: We have about 30 seconds left, so 15 seconds each on the issue of Michael Cohen's credibility. Professor, you first, then Jeffrey.

DERSHOWITZ: I have no idea. Michael Cohen was trusted by President Trump for a long period of time. I'm sure he often tells the truth.

He kept recordings of a lot of conversations -- their corroboration.

But sometimes when you're squeezing somebody you not only make them sing, you make them compose. You make them exaggerate the story. So that's the risk involved here.

TOOBIN: Yes. To me, the big issue is corroboration. Is -- are there e-mails, are there texts, are there recordings that corroborate what he says.

And also, he says there are other people present at these meetings where Donald Trump, Sr. knew about -- was informed about the purpose of this meeting. What do they say? Do they reinforce Cohen's testimony or do they refute it?

BERMAN: Professor Alan Dershowitz --

DERSHOWITZ: I completely agree.

BERMAN: -- Jeffrey Toobin, gentlemen, thank you very much for being with us. An illuminating discussion. I appreciate it -- Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: John, there's other news, including an update on the massive wildfire in Northern California. It has turned deadly. So we're live where neighborhoods are now being evacuated.


[07:42:13] CAMEROTA: All right, we are following some breaking news right now.

We now know what caused that fast-moving Carr fire in Northern California. That wildfire has now jumped the Sacramento River overnight and it now threatens people and homes in Redding, California.

CNN's Dan Simon is live there for us right now. What's the status, Dan? DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Alisyn. What a terrible situation.

We are in the Lake Redding Estates subdivision and the fire destroyed many homes in this area. You can see the flames still going here at this particular house.

We can't even tell you exactly how many homes have been destroyed. Officially, the tally is at 15 but firefighters say it's going to go up significantly once they have a chance to assess the area.

This fire advanced so quickly that residents really had no warning. They had just a -- really, a few minutes to get out.

We know that one person, Alisyn, died as a result of this fire. This was a bulldozer operator -- a private bulldozer operator who was trying to combat the flames.

And at least three firefighters have also been injured. We've also been told that there have been some civilian injuries as well.

And get this, we know that some babies at the nearby hospital who were in the NICU unit -- they were evacuated as a matter of precaution.

And unfortunately, the outlook for the next few days does not look very good. At this point, this fire just six percent contained.

But the problem is, in terms of getting that containment number higher, it's supposed to be 110 degrees today and the area's under a red flag warning. So it's going to be very hot and very windy today.

We know that this fire started on Monday. It stayed in the outskirts for a few days. Firefighters thought maybe they had a handle on it but then the wind pushed it past the Sacramento River and came to this area.

So a really difficult situation and hopefully, firefighters can make some progress, but the weather not looking good.

John, we'll send it back to you.

BERMAN: All right, Dan Simon for us in Redding. And again, you will be careful with that fire burning behind you. Thanks so much, Dan.

Roseanne Barr made her first television appearance since she was fired from ABC after a widely-condemned tweet about former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett.

This is what she told Sean Hannity last night.


ROSEANNE BARR, COMEDIAN: I was so sad that people thought it was racist. And then I went into the whole thing about the whole discussion of racism and that blew my mind because it's so much a part of what the show I was doing was about. And I'm like why can they not see my work?

And then I got really messed up thinking in this world it seems as if words matter more than actions. But in the real-life world, actions matter more than words.

The thing that broke my heart the most -- I have to say this -- is that I have African-American children in my family and in my loved circle.

[07:45:00] SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST, "THE SEAN HANNITY SHOW": In your immediate family?

BARR: Yes, and in my loving circle -- and Asians, too, and Hispanic people. And Jews get around. Let's put it like that.

But I felt so bad for those kids because I love them and I don't want them to think of me like that, you know.


BERMAN: It didn't really seem as if Barr ever gave a full apology during that interview. She called the situation a misunderstanding.

She went on to say again, she did not know that Valerie Jarret was black and also insisted the tweet was political and not racial in any way.

CAMEROTA: You know, that is fascinating and I think that it fastens on something that we see all the time, which is in your personal life you love your neighbors, and you love your colleagues, and you love your family members. But in your language and in your bigger life you still feel that people are others and you still can have sort of hateful rhetoric towards others.

And that's what -- I mean, that's what she's saying. That in her personal life she's one person, and then on Twitter and on YouTube she's this other horrible ranting, raving person. And why those two aren't married -- why she has such a disparity, I don't know.

BERMAN: It's also hard to imagine someone who's clearly as intelligent as Roseanne Barr is did not know that what she was saying was racist. It's hard to believe that if you read the words.

CAMEROTA: All right. We will have much more ahead on what President Trump knew about the infamous Trump Tower meeting or at least what Michael Cohen, someone who knows him extremely well, says Donald Trump knew.

And we have Van Jones to discuss that, as well as what are the Democrats doing? That's next.


[07:50:43] CAMEROTA: Sources tell CNN the president's longtime personal fixer Michael Cohen is prepared to talk to Robert Mueller and tell him maybe many things but primarily, that Donald Trump did know beforehand about that infamous Trump Tower meeting, you'll remember, in 2016, where this Kremlin-connected lawyer promised dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Here now to talk about this, as well as what the Democrats plans to do about all of this, is Van Jones, CNN political commentator and host of "THE VAN JONES SHOW."

Van, great to have you, as always.


CAMEROTA: Michael Cohen, the president's most loyal servant --


CAMEROTA: -- who would take a bullet for Donald Trump, is now spilling the beans.

JONES: Spilling the -- spilling the beans, the tea, the macaroni and cheese, and anything else he can find in the kitchen.

CAMEROTA: How big of a deal?

JONES: I think it could be a very big deal. Part of the thing is that -- though, I think Democrats have to be -- not be distracted by this.

We spend so much time as Democrats talking about Bob Mueller and the -- Bob Mueller is not Harry Potter. He is not the guy where he's going to just like make it all better tomorrow and give us the country that we want.

We've got to stay focused on the midterm elections and the hard work people have to do. And when I'm out there in red states and red counties and swing districts they're not talking about this stuff.


JONES: They're talking about jobs, they're talking about education, they're talking about the price of gas.

And just sometimes I think Democrats get so gleeful that President Trump is disqualifying himself that they're not -- we're not qualifying ourselves to be a worthy replacement.

BERMAN: Let me ask you this, though.

You say that Russia isn't what people care about and you don't want -- you won't want Democrats to make Russia the central theme of the investigation.

But I've talked to Democratic strategists -- and there's a mixture of opinion on this -- who say that we should make Trump the center of this campaign. Is there a difference there?

JONES: Look, I think that that's overstated. I mean, I -- listen, if you haven't figured out by now that you like Trump a lot or you don't like Trump a lot, you're just not paying attention and you're not likely to vote in the midterm election.

The people who are going to vote in the midterm election who matter in the 33-34 seats where a Republican is in Congress but they voted for Hillary Clinton, that's really where the action plays out.

If you talk to those swing voters, they are still trying to figure out who is going to help me tomorrow with these health care bills, with these education bills. Listen, we got more jobs. I got two or three of them and I still can't get decent health care.

That's the kind of conversation I want to make sure that Democrats stay on top of.

Of course, you've got to beat the president up when he's doing terrible stuff, but you've also got to let people know he's bad for you but here's why I'm good for you. I'm not hearing enough of that from Democrats.

CAMEROTA: There are some interesting polls that have come out. These are some new NBC-Harris (ph) polls. Basically, they show that blue wall that Trump managed to hurdle over, interesting things are happening there.

So, in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, basically, his job approval numbers are underwater. Thirty-six percent approve of the job that President Trump is doing in Michigan and Wisconsin, 38 percent in Minnesota. Fifty-four percent disapprove.

But then, to your point, isn't all you need to know -- the famous James Carville quote, "It's the economy, stupid?" If the economy is doing well two years now, he wins again.

JONES: Yes. Listen, I mean, there could be a recession in the cards -- that most things are in the cards.

I think a lot of times Democrats forget.

Listen, if President Obama had come out and said look, I've got 3.7 percent unemployment, the stock market is up 40 percent, everybody gets a tax cut, North Korea is not throwing missiles around the Pacific Ocean, Democrats would have had a parade on those numbers.

And so, the economy is coming up. The problem is that society is coming apart at the same time based on the same leadership. And so, how you square that?


JONES: You've got to acknowledge that some of that is positive -- a lot of the continuation of Obama. But your life may not be getting better and your community might be coming apart.

That's a tougher message for Democrats. I think we can get that across.

But if you think just saying Trump is bad, Trump is bad, Trump is bad is going to win in these swing districts, you are not paying attention.

BERMAN: All right. There is a separate discussion going on within the Democratic Party now about the path for Democrats going forward, and Democratic socialists -- so-called Democratic socialists are a big part of that discussion.

The discussion basically is are they pushing the party too far to the left?


BERMAN: Is that what you are seeing in some areas?

JONES: Listen, I -- on "THE VAN JONES SHOW" this weekend, tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. eastern, we're going to have three Democratic socialist women -- young women who are running for Congress in Pennsylvania and we're going to have the conversation.

[07:55:08] We also have someone who's running in West Virginia on a much more moderate ticket. Actually, a Democrat who voted for Trump who is running.

And so, what I think is -- listen, you should run as a Democratic socialist if that's what people in your district want. But you should run as a blue dog or whatever else if that's what people in your district want.

I think the problem in the midterm election is we are generalizing concerns that we might have in Indiana or concerns that we might have in Ohio and saying well listen, nobody should run the way that they're running in Brooklyn and the Bronx.

I don't know -- run for your district and if in your district you have a strong left-wing voice they deserve a voice in Congress. But if you're a Democrat and your base that you're running for doesn't like that stuff and they want something more moderate, they deserve a voice in Congress.

In the midterm election you should let people run toward the people that they're serving. Not to the left, not to the right, but toward the people.

CAMEROTA: That's interesting. So you're saying that the party is big enough for all of these different permutations of the Democratic Party.

JONES: Look at the -- look at the Republican Party. The Republican Party has people in there like Lindsey Graham and then you have some of those hardcore right-wing libertarians and others and they somehow make it work.

I think in the midterm election, let a thousand flowers bloom. Let's figure out who can win and what arguments work and what don't. Then once you get into the primaries then you've got to think about who can in on a national basis.

BERMAN: But what you see is you see the other side trying to use it when there are Democrats who come out and say that ICE should be abolished, you then have the Republican Party saying look, when you elect the Democrats and Democrats get to power this is what will happen.

JONES: Both parties are going to have a tendency to say listen, I'm going to run against Nancy Pelosi and socialism because that's what the big conversation is about.

But in that district, in that grocery store, in that laundromat, the people you're trying to get to vote for you may not care about any of that stuff.

Similarly, on the Democratic side. They may want to run against Trump and racism and these bigger issues, but in that same laundromat, in that same grocery store, people may not care about that as much.

And so I just think you've got to -- in a midterm election you better be talking to the people on those -- at the bus stop and in those community centers. And if they care about Democratic socialism, great. And if they don't, don't worry about it. Make sure you're representing your district.

CAMEROTA: All right. Tell us more about what we'll see on your show.

JONES: Oh, my show going to be amazing.

First of all, we've got the people I just told you about.

But we also have Carmelo Anthony, the legendary basketball player. He is an amazing human being.

And he's not just a hero on the court. He's got gold medals from the Olympics. He's not just a hero on the court, he's a hero off the court.

He's actually doing stuff in South Africa, Puerto Rico, Baltimore -- helping people. Nobody hears from these guys when they're doing good.

They get a DUI, they're all on television. They help a bunch of kids, nobody cares.

But when you hear this guy's heart for the kids in Baltimore and people he's helped it's going to melt your heart. It's going to be a great show.

BERMAN: All right. Well, since you made him sound so heroic for those things, I won't bring up the stuff I was going to bring up.


BERMAN: Well, no. About defense --

CAMEROTA: Were you going to bring up his wife?

BERMAN: Defense and passing. I was going to bring up defense and passing. I'm glad that he convinced me that that's not what's important.

Van, the show sounds fantastic. Thanks so much for coming on. We really appreciate it.

JONES: Tomorrow night -- appreciate you.

CAMEROTA: So be sure to tune in to "THE VAN JONES SHOW" tomorrow night at 7:00 eastern right here on CNN.

BERMAN: All right, there is some breaking news.

The president just responded to the news about what Michael Cohen wants to tell a special counsel. A lot of news, so let's get to it.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CAMEROTA: All right, good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Friday, July 27th, 8:00 in the east.

And there is breaking news this morning because sources tell CNN that President Trump's longtime former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen has begun spilling the beans. Cohen claims that then-candidate Donald Trump knew in advance and approved of that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting in which Russians promised dirt on Hillary Clinton.

And, sources say that Cohen is prepared to tell this to special counsel Robert Mueller.

BERMAN: All right. Let me tell you what the president just wrote about this. And again, this is breaking news. It just crossed.

A statement from the President of the United States.

"I did NOT know of the meeting with my son, Don Jr. Sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam (taxi cabs maybe)? He even retained Bill and Crooked Hillary's lawyer. Gee, I wonder if they helped him make the choice!"

Again, that's the response just in from the president.

But how did we get to that point?

Joining us now, chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto, part of the team that broke this story, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and CNN law enforcement analyst Josh Campbell.

Jim, let me start with you. We have this statement from the president. Remind us what Cohen now is willing to say. JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: So, in effect, it's the president's word against his former longtime personal attorney's word based on the sources myself and Carl Bernstein are speaking with.

But to summarize, what Michael Cohen says that he's prepared to tell the special counsel Robert Mueller is a number of things.