Return to Transcripts main page


Cohen Trial Decision Coming Soon; Should Trump Testify Or Not; Rudy Giuliani Expresses His Concerns On The Trial; Donald Trump Jr. And The Russian's Meeting; Helicopter Crash Killing One. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired August 20, 2018 - 6:00   ET


[06:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: So, I'm refreshed, let's get started.

White House Counsel, Don McGahn, taking -- talking to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigators. CNN has learned that McGahns's attorney did not give Mr. Trump's lawyers a full account of what he told Mueller's team.

President Trump says McGahn is not rat and insists he allowed McGahn to testify. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump's long time personal attorney, Michael Cohen, could learn his legal fate soon. CNN can report that prosecutors are in the final stages of their investigation and could be preparing charges against Cohen by the end of the month.

"The New York Times" reports, that Cohen is being investigated for bank and tax fraud, in excess of $20 million in loans for his taxi business.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: So, I want to make one correction to something you just said.


BERMAN: It's not Monday.


BERMAN: You said it's Monday. I'm declaring it's not Monday and it's not because I say it's not. I'm giving myself this new presidential power that Rudy Giuliani just created yesterday. Monday isn't Monday. They sky is not blue, water isn't wet and truth is not truth.

The president's lawyer actually declared this in the latest edition to the things said out loud file. He said it trying to explain why he doesn't want the president to testify to the Special Counsel.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMPS ATTORNEY: I'm not going to be rushed into having him testify so that he gets trapped into perjury and when you tell me that, you know, he should testify because he's going to tell the truth and he shouldn't worry, well that's so silly because it's somebody's version of the truth, not the truth. He didn't have a conversation about --

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS HOST: Truth is truth. I don't mean to go like --

GIULIANI: No, it isn't truth. Truth isn't truth.


BERMAN: Truth isn't truth. That was said by the president's lawyer, out loud.


GIULIANI: No it isn't truth. Truth isn't truth.


BERMAN: Truth isn't truth, he said, as if intentionally trying to create some new world of relative factuality. That world is like the misbegotten spawn of Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking-Glass," and George Orwell's 1984, a freaky, twisted and potentially dangerous world.

Actually, we should leave Orwell out of this. All he said is, ignorance is strength. He won't have the guts to say truth isn't truth. That's too much for Orwell. But, but, Giuliani's creepy new no-truth world does have equally terrifying siblings.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: You're saying it's a falsehood and they're giving Sean Spicer, our Press Secretary, gave alternative facts.


BERMAN: So truth isn't truth fits nicely in the same solar system as alternative facts. Actually, I shouldn't use the phrase solar system, because we all know there is no sun. And even if there were, the earth would not revolve around it. Instead it would orbit a stellar mass of obfuscation like this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What you're seeing and what you are reading is not what's happening.


BERMAN: It isn't happening. Pay not attention to the man behind the curtain, he is not there. Neither is truth, it's nowhere. Now, what's so important about this is, that this is not an argument about the facts, this is the repeated assertion that there are no such things and that is, wow. Which is, why it is not Monday.

CAMEROTA: Whoa, whoa, whoa. I believe it is Monday and I am going to give you my rebuttal right now, to what you just said.

BERMAN: Okay Monday girl.

CAMEROTA: Okay, Rudy said -- he said all of that. True. But, I don't think he meant all of that. I don't think he was going full Mad Hatter on you. You're omitting his explanation. Rudy Giuliani went on to say this.


GIULIANI: Donald Trump says, I didn't talk about Flynn with Comey. Comey says, you did talk about it. So, tell me what the truth is.


CAMEROTA: Yes, Mr. Tuesday. His point is, we can not know what the truth is in that situation when there's only two people in a room and they say different things. That's why jurors are not instructed to find the truth, they're instructed to find proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and this morning I'm giving Rudy Giuliani the benefit of the doubt. Yes, there are concrete facts out there, of course, but the truth is sometimes harder to determine.

BERMAN: Now if this was some vacuum, maybe perhaps --

CAMEROTA: A one off?

BERMAN: -- I'd be inclined to agree with you a tiny, little bit. However, Giuliani's the same guy who said the truth is relative, he's the same guy who says they have a different version of the truth --

CAMEROTA: Are you rebutting my rebuttal?

BERMAN: And -- I'm just sort of rebuttal, rebuttal. And again, like Kellyanne Conway has said things before, the president's said things before, this is a pattern.

CAMEROTA: Oh, it is a pattern. I agree with you, it is a pattern. But, I do think that in this one case, because he gave that example, that it will be hard to know if James Comey says one thing and if the president says one thing and they were the only two people in a room.

But you know what? Luckily, we have experts. We have truth experts, we have our truth squad, here. Let's bring in former FBI Special Agent, Asha Rangappa, she's a CNN Legal and National Security Analyst and truth teller.

[06:05:00] CNN Legal Analyst, Ross Garber, who is an expert on impeachment proceedings.

BERMAN: Yes, well let's see where that fits in on the truth.

CAMEROTA: And CNN's Senior Political Analyst, John Avlon, an expert on truth.

John, I'm going to start with you because you know Rudy Giuliani and who's right? Is there -- do I -- is Rudy right that in that situation, how can one know the truth?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The reason I think what Rudy said yesterday is indefensible and I'm on team Berman on this one, is that Rudy, long time, as a prosecutor, as mayor, one of his go-to phrases is real simple. The law is a search for the truth.

He has believed that his whole career, it is bedrocked his world view and is the opposite of what he said yesterday. Under the auspices (ph), I believe, of providing a vigorous defense for his client in the court of public opinion. But, it's inconsistent with what he's said over a long period of time and we can't slide into this world of moral relativism.

Rudy's also made that point over and over again, and the fact that it does fit in within the defense, that the administration has been forced to make for the president, because they're basically trying to cover up for someone who seems to have a truth telling problem.

BERMAN: So, Ross, you are my impeachment lawyer.

CAMEROTA: I thought you're on team Camerota.

ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: How about this? I'm going to tell the truth, which is that you're all telling the truth. You really are.

So, it is true, this is all about the search for the truth. We want to get at the truth. The search is right and it is true that, ultimately in the universe, there are truths; the earth revolves around the sun.

But, you're also right, that knowing, knowing what the truth is, is difficult and especially in a situation like this, where, like you said, there are two people in a room -- there are two people in a room, there are different, potentially, perceptions of the truth.

I've had lots of cases where those two people in the room will both being telling their truths, what they remember happened, but then what is actual truth of what happened. And that can be hard to get at.

BERMAN: That's why when there are things like, say, contemporaneous notes, the likes of which that James Comey would believe to a core or a contemporaneous conversation at the likes of which James Comey apparently had and people will testify to, they can somehow play into this and that's why when Rudy Giuliani, in July, gave a version of this meeting where he says that President Donald Trump asked James Comey to back off the investigation of Michael Flynn. That too matters. That is sort of a pattern of facts here.

Asha, you want to take one more bite of this, before we move on to the other astounding news of the morning?

ASHA RANGAPPA, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Yes, I think this actually leads right into that. Look, Rudy Giuliani is not Socrates, he's not sitting in a town square, you know, navel-gazing and contemplating truth and beauty, he's, right now, trying to, as you said, obfuscate what's real and what's not, because they have a bit problem.

If this were truly one version versus another, he wouldn't have a problem with his client sitting down. It would really be something that would be unverifiable.

What he is worried about is that the FBI and Mueller actually have concrete evidence, whether it's multiple narratives saying the same thing, contemporaneous notes, other kinds of evidence and without knowing that, he can't advise his client on how to navigate that very narrow road, that's getting even narrower, or even what that road looks like to get away with his version, whatever that is.

So, I think the tale here is he's not letting his client sit down with Mueller. And I think here, one of the pieces that Mueller is going to have in his pocket, we now know, is the White House Counsel, Don McGahn, and what he knows about the entire unfolding of events surrounding the firing of James Comey.

BERMAN: Okay, I will say, she say's Giuliani's not Socrates. The Giuliani version of that is Socrates is not Socrates. I just want to put a button on that.

CAMEROTA: Don't you want to ask that as a question, pose as that a --


CAMEROTA: -- question? All right, meanwhile let's move on to what Don McGahn, sitting down, Ross, means. So, he sat down, apparently, over the course of 30 hours we now know. "The New York Times," has now reported, with Mueller's investigators and the president says this was sanctioned by he himself.


CAMEROTA: That he gave permission and so isn't this, let's give the president and his team the benefit of the doubt, isn't this a good sign that he said yes, of course, speak to my lawyer? Have at it.

GARBER: Yes. I've got to tell you, so we knew that Don McGahn sat down with the government.

I think we didn't know the extent of it or the timeframe of it and even when we first learned that McGahn sat down with the government, I was honestly surprised that early on in the investigation, the White House Counsel, somebody entrusted with secrets, who has at least an executive privilege, maybe and attorney, client privilege too, would sit down.

I was surprised about it, and so I think what it probably showed was, number one, incredible confidence by team Trump, there's nothing to see here.

[06:10:00] And two, also, we've got acknowledge a bit of recklessness because even when I have clients who are completely confident in their innocence, allowing their lawyer to sit down is an extraordinary move. It was - yes. BERMAN: You know this - admit it. This make you (ph) break out in hives.

GARBER: Yes, it -

BERMAN: As an impeachment lawyer who's job is to get politicians off scot-free if you can -

GARBER: I'm bound (ph) to search for the truth.

BERMAN: I understand, but the idea of an official lawyer testifying for 30 straight hours, that must make you bonkers.

GARBER: Well, especially before you know what the playing field looks like, before you know what's going on. I mean, this is a complicated situation. Maybe, maybe, maybe - although I've never done it - you consider it at the end if it's completely necessary.

The government comes to you and says, "look, we can close this down if." But to do it at the beginning and over and over, I mean, it really is an extraordinary -

CAMEROTA: It also sounds, John, like Don McGahn came to the realization that he, himself, wanted to do it because he feared he was going to be John Deaned. He though that he was going to have to take the fall for something that had happened in the White House, so he decided to go and defend himself against what Ross is talking about, which normally he would respect an attorney client privilege where he decided, like, this might be every man for himself.

AVLON: Right, so the opening seems to be, listen, this is open. Come on. We've got nothing to hide here, people, but we're going to put Don Mcgahn forward. But then he's afraid he is in that position.

You know, famously, Nixon told John Dean go home and write a memo of everything you know about this whole Watergate mess, and Dean realizes that was just an invitation to entrapment in effect.

GARBER: Right.

AVLON: And so, then he flipped. So in that context here, Mcgahn 30 hours and what's really stunning is one of the things we've figured out is that the White House's - the president's lawyers didn't fully get a sense of what McGahn said over those 30 hours. That is a minefield for the president potentially.

BERMAN: Yes. Just to bring people up to speed on what the New York Times is reporting, we're going to have Maggie Haberman on later, who is one of the reporters who has written now two stories on this in the last two days. These stories, according to the Times, have alarmed the White House, Asha.

You know, as of Saturday, the White House legal team did not know that McGahn had talked at such length to the Special Counsel or that they still don't know, as far as we know, what he said. And Maggie's reporting from over the weekend is that the president was in Bedminster, all over the phone trying to figure out how to handle this because he was surprised and nervous. Why do you think that would be the case?

RANGAPPA: Absolutely. You know, let's look at what McGahn was in a position to offer Mueller's team. He was there when, for example, the initial draft of the memo that was later revised was circulated in terms of the reasoning that was given for - to fire James Comey.

He knows the discussions that took place about that. He knows the president's reaction to when Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, recused himself. I believe McGahn was even alleged to have been a part of an effort to try to get sessions to not recuse himself.

He has information, potentially, about what the president said about Flynn - Mike Flynn and his concerns about that. And I think importantly here by not asserting any privilege, and I think they could have had a colorable claim definitely for executive privilege over certain pieces of the conversation, McGahn was able to tell Mueller's team the legal advice that he gave to Trump.

And let's go back a year. Remember that originally one of the defenses was, "oh, he doesn't know what's going on in government. He doesn't understand all of this stuff. He doesn't realize that this interference could be obstruction." You know, if he was being advised that it was, indeed, obstruction, that goes to a state of mind of how knowingly he was engaging - Trump was engaging in certain kinds of actions.

BERMAN: All right, guys. Standby if you will because we've been talking about the official White House lawyer - the White House Counsel here. But the president's former personal attorney could be in some new, hot water. We're learning that Michael Cohen could be charged - hit with federal charges in the next few days. I'm so glad you're back by the way.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. I'm so glad -

BERMAN: It's so nice you're back.

CAMEROTA: I'm feeling refreshed.

BERMAN" I'd say that (ph).


[06:15:00] BERMAN: President Trump's long time personal attorney, Michael Cohen, could learn his legal fait soon. CNN has learned the prosecutors in New York are preparing charges against Cohen that could come within the next few weeks.

We're back with Ross Garber, Asha Rangappa, and John Avlon. Asha, this is serious. I mean, Michael Cohen, the New York Times reports, could face charges dealing with $20 million worth of bank fraud. This has to do with his taxi cab company, the medallions he owned. But these are serious, serious charges. RANGAPPA: They are serious charges. So these involved potential bank fraud by misrepresenting his assets in trying to obtain bank loans for his taxi business, not reporting the income from his taxi business. This goes to tax evasion or tax fraud. And then, of course, the pieces that relate to potential illegal campaign finance contributions because of stories that were being silenced, and that appears to be the piece that could overlap in terms of the charges with the Trump campaign.

I think it remains to be seen whether he has - A, has information, and B, is credible or valuable enough to either Mueller's team or even this other district for other things related to -

BERMAN: Right.

RANGAPPA: - you know, criminal activity that he knows about that might be able to get him some kind of cooperation plea deal.

CAMEROTA: Well, Lanny Davis, a famous lawyer, was saying the same thin to Politico. I'll read it to you. "I reached out to my old friend John Dean." John Dean is a fiend on this show, OK -

BERMAN: Everywhere.

AVLON: Oh yes. Where isn't John Dean?

CAMEROTA: - "because of what he went through with Watergate, and I saw some parallels to what Michael Cohen is experiencing. I wanted to gain from John's wisdom. I certainly don't want to raise expectations that Mr. Cohen has anything like the deep level of involvement and detailed knowledge that John Dean had in the Nixon White House as a witness to Nixon's crimes, but I did see some similarities and wanted to learn from what John went through."

AVLON: I mean, why in the world would invoke John Dean's name five times in a statement to the media if I didn't want to raise any expectations as Michael Cohen's lawyer? Crazy talk. Look, I mean, John Dean parallels aside, we can do Watergate parallels all day long.

[06:20:00] It's a fun part of working with. This particular legal problem having to do the notoriously dodgy business of taxing medallions looks like he's a whole heap of hot water. Very little to do with the Russia investigation, unless it is about getting him to flip further which he's already shown an openness to do. And then they have questions and payments to Stormy Daniels and company (ph).

GARBER: He's showing an openness to do. I mean it -

AVALON: I may be underselling that.

GARBER: Holy cow. I mean Lanny Davis over and over and over. And now with this John Dean comparison - I mean he is begging to be able to be useful to the government.


GARBER: Begging to.

CAMEROTA: And why wouldn't they take him up on that offer?

GARBER: Well for one thing it may be a credibility issue, maybe he's got that. Maybe they think he doesn't have that much to offer. But there's another - there's another possibility and it's that they want to have him dead to rights.

Dead to rights before they even approach him, because they don't want to do much negotiation with him. They want to make clear they're not going to put up with any slipperiness. They may want to just make sure they have him nailed and then bring him in and see what he has to say.

BERMAN: I think this does explain perhaps why we saw that leak, where ever it came from a few weeks ago suggesting that Michael Cohen wanted to sing about the Trump Tower meeting here. It think the legal term is flailing. Michael Cohen and his legal team there flailing about here. Trying to find a way out for him because they know how dire the situation is. And they're trying anyway they can Asha to dig there way out of it.

RANGAPPA: Yes. I mean he's in a heap of trouble. We knew from the time that they - that the FBI executed the search warrant and the high standards. That such a search warrant would entail given that it could implicate privileged information that the government had a lot of vary incriminating information already.

And remember he's not protected here in terms of what the president is doing on other fronts. This is in the southern district of New York. What ever happens with Muller is not going to affect this case. It's going to precede a pace (ph). It doesn't look like in terms of the path that he's taking that he's expecting or that I think Trump would be inclined to pardon him.

So you know he's got some limited options. And I think if he doesn't have something to offer could be looking at a pretty bleak outcome.

CAMEROTA: But John, I'm so confused. I thought that the tax - the taxes business was like a golden goose of money? Why did he need $20 million in loans?

AVALON: I think it's about how you finance those medallions and how you move the money that comes from medallions. For a long time owning a tax medallion in New York City was incredibly valuable, also very expensive because it threw off a lot of cash. The rise of Uber and Lyft changed those dynamics.

But then there's the question of the folks who were also in the taxi business. But $20 million in loans probably not accurately reported to the IRS. Maybe a best practice in that part of the industry, there's an icarus (ph) problem. The higher you get, the further you got to fall.

GARBER: Can I go back to truth?

BERMAN: Oh, please.

CAMEROTA: If you must.

BERMAN: Let's.

CAMEROTA: You seem to be a stickler for truth (ph).

GARBER: I know I'm obsessed with this idea that maybe there is such a thing as truth. Because in this same interview where Rudy Giuliani declared the truth isn't truth.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said something that was in fact -


GARBER: False.

CAMEROTA: There are false hoods. I will grant you, yes.

GARBER: Right, all right.

CAMEROTA: Or watch (ph).

AVALON: Or is your concession by team two (inaudible).

BERMAN: Well that's true.

CAMEROTA: Yes, no let's not test it.

BERMAN: OK, if we can, if we can get hold of this I want play it. Because Rudy Giuliani was talking about the Trump Tower meeting, the one where Donald Trump Jr. was told that he would be provided dirt from the Russian on Hillary Clinton, from the Russians. And Donald Trump Jr. was told he would be meeting with a Russian attorney.

CAMEROTA: I remember that.

BERMAN: This is what Rudy say's.


RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY: The meeting was originally for the purpose of getting information about Clinton. The meeting turned into a meeting -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which in itself it's attempted collusion. I under -

GIULIANI: No it's not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just said it. The meeting was intended to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from a Kremlin lawyer.

GIULIANI: No it wasn't. No, no. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was the intention of the meeting. You just said it.

GIULIANI: That was the original intention of the meeting. It turned out to be a meeting about another subject and it was not pursed at all. And of course any meeting with regard to getting information on your opponent is something any candidate's staff would take. No.


BERMAN: He goes on to say he didn't even know that he was meeting with the Russian lawyer. When in fact inside the e-mails Donald Trump Jr. was told the Russian attorney is in court until three, I was just informed. Would it be possible to move the meeting to tomorrow?

Also I was asked to schedule a meeting with you and the Russian government attorney.


GARBER: Right. Well and that's one of the difficulties. Truth is not truth, can not mean it is OK to misstate things. It's OK to lie. I don't think Rudy lied here. I think he didn't know the facts. But I think that's the point. Truth is not truth can not mean that. I can mean sort of the high minded discussion we were all having a few minutes ago.

BERMAN: Very high minded.

CAMEROTA: Very high minded, Socratic (ph) in that.

AVALON: And - or the case of Rudy he can go deep on St. Thomas to quite us. But this is not that. This is just one other reality check about that, the idea that all campaigns were taking oppo (ph) on an opponent.

[06:25:00] Right, that is not true when it is the Russian government offering with oppo (ph). That's a bright red line.

CAMEROTA: Right and he said that - he's saying she was a regular civilian, he didn't know it was the Russian government. Yes they did, yes, they did.

BERMAN: Yes they did.

CAMEROTA: So this is a fact. Facts exist.

AVALON: I'm so glad you understand that.

CAMEROTA: Truth is different.


CAMEROTA: But we will dissect more of that. Also it's day three of the deliberations for Paul Manafort and we'll get into that later. Thank you very much panel. So we also have an amazing survival story to tell you about. This woman went overboard on a cruise ship. And after 20 - sorry 10 hours of treading water at sea they found her, and she lives to tell about it next.


CAMEROTA: We are following some breaking news out of Iraq. That's where a U.S. coalition helicopter has crashed in a remote area north west of Baghdad. Killing one service member and injuring several others.

Military officials say the helicopter was part of a counter terrorism mission. There's no indication that the crash was caused by enemy fire. The fallen service member has not yet been identified.