Return to Transcripts main page


Report: Jury Note to Judge Suggests They May Be Stuck on One Count Out Of 18; Michael Cohen To Be in Court Soon, A Plea Deal Is Expected. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired August 21, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Here we go on a Tuesday afternoon. We have a lot of breaking stories for you. Good afternoon. I am Brooke Baldwin.

A couple of stories we are keeping a close eye on right now two of which involve individuals who were once central figures in President Trump's inner circle. Michael Cohen, President Trump's former personal attorney and so-called fixer. The same man that once famously said he'd take a bullet for this president. He is now in talks with prosecutors to accept a plea deal. One of the key questions, what would that plea deal look like? What would it involve? And would it actually touch the president?

Also, right now, this notable development in the fraud trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, jury day four of deliberations and they're asking the judge today what happens if they cannot agree altogether on one of the charges. So, we have legal voices on stand by to help answer that question and so much more.

Also, breaking right now, a private jet en route from New Jersey to London. We know that it's now turned around and it's preparing to make an emergency landing after blowing two of its tires during takeoff. So, not a slow news day. Let's put it that way.

Let's start with Michael Cohen. The former presidential personal attorney and fixer may be on the verge of striking a plea deal with federal prosecutors in New York. Cohen as you well know has been under criminal investigation for months and months over possible tax and bank fraud as well as violations linked to secret payments including one to porn star Stormy Daniels.

So, Cara Scannell joins me now on the reporting on Cohen. What do you know on this plea deal, potential plea deal?

CARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: We know that Michael Cohen and the lawyers have been negotiating U.S. attorney's office from Manhattan to strike a plea deal over the investigation that encompasses bank fraud, tax fraud and potential campaign finance violations. We know they are still working on the terms of that. If they reach a deal, it could be announced as early as today we're told by the sources. It is still part of the negotiation. One thing we've been told is it's not a cooperation agreement. This is not Rick Gates to Paul Manafort where we had Rick Gates who was indicted alongside Paul Manafort decide to cooperate and be the star witness at his trial, so our understanding is Cohen is taking responsibility for crimes that he's going to say he committed. But this does not open up a can of worms of him now going on to cooperate against bigger fish in this investigation.

BALDWIN: That we know of yet.


BALDWIN: he That we know of yet. OK. Let's broaden out the discussion and bring in a couple other folks here sitting next to me. I know it's a big day when we have four people at the desk here in New York with me. First, just talking Michael Cohen. Good do see all of you with me. Eli, I start with you. Freshly with the microphone popped on. Nice to see you. Let's roll with just how significant is this news from Cara, period?

ELI HONIG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Huge. We know the damage that Michael Cohen can do to the president if necessary. And we probably only have a pretty narrow view. He can hurt him on the campaign finance with the payments to McDougall and Ms. Clifford. Most importantly, can he bring home the piece on the Trump Tower meeting? It's reported that Cohen will say that the president knew about the meeting before it happened and the big question is, can the prosecutors corroborate that and back it up? If they can he's a grand slam of a witness. They have a lot of work to do.

BALDWIN: Hang on a second. I hear you on all of the possibilities and the juice he could give prosecutors in cooperating. But I am still not hearing from you. I want to be crystal clear on your reporting. I hear you it's quite nuanced. He is not cooperating in the bigger sense yet.

SCANNELL: That's right.

BALDWIN: Yes. So, with that said, doesn't it, Paul Callan, ultimately come -- how do they get him to the next step?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: If there is a next step.

BALDWIN: If there is a next step.

CALLAN: In federal criminal litigation, a lot of people plead guilty and not cooperating and they're not selling information on anybody else. They're just -- they've had an offer from the prosecutor and seems to be better offer than what they would get after trial so they plead guilty. And there's a whole basket of potential charges against Michael Cohen. Remember, he was involved allegedly in the taxi industry in New York. Brokering and being involved in those taxi medallions. There's the Stormy Daniels thing. A whole bunch of other things that have come out publicly about Michael Cohen and this southern district case could involve any one of those. I think right now probably we don't know for sure if he's cooperating. Everybody is always thought, you know, he's the golden goose of the Mueller investigation. If he cooperates. At this point in time, we don't know. [14:05:00] BALDWIN: So, bear with me. I heard Laura Coates on the

last couple of minutes giving a metaphor. Did you hear the cocaine metaphor she gave? Basically, she was on saying almost like Mueller is investigating a homicide and the Michael Cohen in this situation would be the guy with the pile of cocaine in front of him. Mueller looking at the homicide and can't not notice the pile of cocaine. You want to know about the cocaine. Is the cocaine related to the homicide? You following me?

CAROLINE POLISI, FEDERAL AND WHITE-COLLAR CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes. That's a great analogy especially because it's a referral from the special counsel's office to the southern district of New York. If Robert Mueller discovered evidence of a crime, going into a house to investigate a murder and you see a crime being committed, you have an ethical obligation to pursue that. So, Mueller had an obligation to pursue it. Unlike in the Manafort case where he maintained jurisdiction over those charges, because he felt like that really went within his mandate, he referred this to the southern district. That doesn't mean, Brooke, that in his cooperation should he so choose to do it and a guilty plea doesn't preclude the cooperation, he could have a global cooperating agreement.


POLISI: Talk to me about what that would be. So that would --

BALDWIN: Jurisdictional.

POLISI: Just because he's being prosecuted again in Manhattan, the southern district of New York doesn't mean that his cooperation wouldn't be contingent on talking to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. When you sign up with the government to cooperate, you don't get to pick and choose what kind of information you give them. You have to be completely 100 percent truthful on everything in any jurisdiction. Otherwise you don't get that elusive 5k-1 letter to a sentencing judge saying we recommend a lower sentence.

BALDWIN: So, Cara, remind everyone, taking a step back on what exactly -- I mean, this is somebody, Michael Cohen has been with Donald J. Trump for a long, long time. Right? Way pre-presidency and through the transition and into the White House. So what sort of knowledge may he have?

SCANNELL: Michael Cohen goes back to Donald Trump at least a decade. You know? He knows him from real estate, from investing in real estate, buying from Trump Tower, his own apartments. He worked with him at the organization. He was involved in one of the attempts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. He knows all of the actors, how the Trump organization did business and how Trump did business and where he steps in on the potential campaign finance violations because he was striking these deals for Donald Trump.

So, they go way back. You know, Cohen did say he would take a bullet for him. That changed after the FBI raid in April when the Trump distanced himself saying that Cohen had done very little legal work for him and then we've seen this shift in Cohen's mind-set here. So, he knows Trump well. He knows things he has tapes, right? We know that he has -- what must be thousands of hours of tapes but I think the question for the prosecutors here is, you know, Michael Cohen is going to plead guilty to violating the law in potentially a lot of ways.

Is he truthful? Can they corroborate anything? They could really build a case to stand on their own without corroboration because he would be attacked as a witness and we've even seen that with the tape. We saw the Trump -- we saw Donald Trump's lawyers respond and attack Michael Cohen's credibility and that would only play out more at a trial if it were to get to that point.

BALDWIN: To her point, Elie, how do they know that he would be telling the truth? And, and, if you're Michael Cohen and you have some goods to give, do you give up the goods and then take the plea deal? If you do decide to cooperate. Or do you take the deal and then spill the beans?

HONIG: Yes. So, the whole ball game with any cooperator is credibility. As Cara said, if he's cooperating he's going to be a handful to get him corroborated.

BALDWIN: What does that mean a handful?

HONIG: He is going to have credibility issues all over the place because he's doing -- I would presume committing crimes, financial, campaign and otherwise with and for the Trump people for decades. I've done trials where the key witness has been a -- cooperating witness has been a murder. I'm sure you guys have, too. We know how to corroborate that person. Look at the forensics, the body. Does it match up? In a way that's almost easier than corroborating someone like Michael Cohen where so much of what he has to say deals with complex financial transactions and word of mouth.

So. the number one thing that the prosecutors look for, can we bank a trial on him? How's he backed up? I want to hear his tapes, number one. So important. I want to see the bank records. I want to see e- mails and they're going to have to look at that and make a decision. Can we bank on this guy? He is a tough one.

BALDWIN: You were nodding.

[14:10:00] CALLAN: No. I agree completely. These kinds of crimes, if he's paying off people who would cause embarrassment to Donald Trump he's doing it in cash, most likely. Or he's doing it in a way it's not traceable. That's exactly the kind of corroboration you're looking for. You're looking for a bank account which was debited by the same amount of money that was the bribe to give to the witness. If you don't have that, then it's just a he said/she said case and a witness on the stand attacked very aggressively because, you know, he is doing the dirty work and admits to it in the first place. Corroboration is the key.

BALDWIN: OK. We have been talking Michael Cohen. Stand by. You mentioned Paul Manafort. There's so much to get to on the Paul Manafort trial. Day four of deliberations continuing in Virginia. One of the notes apparently passed along, the jury today asking the judge, what happens if they cannot altogether agree on a church? He faces 18 counts. What that very specific question could mean for both sides in this case. We'll dive deep into that. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


BALDWIN: All right. So quick update. We were talking about Michael Cohen. The president's former personal attorney before the break. And now we have just gotten a little nugget from Laura Jarrett here at CNN that there's a proceeding in regards to the Cohen matter today. So, in about two hours from now. According to this southern district of New York. Immediately following the deputy U.S. attorney will make remarks at the entrance of the courthouse. So, I have my lawyers next to me. Elie, you say this means --

HONIG: Almost certainly got to be a plea. The only possible thing other than a plea is they're announcing an indictment of him without a plea. One way or another he's being charged. So. either he's pleading to it today at 4:00 or going in and being arraigned meaning advised of the charges and they will take it from there. I saw footage before showing they got the barricades out there.

BALDWIN: What does that mean? Big deal.

HONIG: They don't have them out every day. Something big is happening.

BALDWIN: Stay with me, guys. Also breaking this hour, the jury in the Paul Manafort trial just indicated they could be close to a verdict on day four of deliberations after asking the judge, just question, quote, if we cannot come to a consensus for a single count how can we fill in the verdict sheet? The judge here, judge T.S. Ellis told the jurors to give, quote, deference to each other and keep deliberating.

Justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider is outside this courthouse in Virginia so she's with me now and just reminding everyone, Paul Manafort, you know, charged with 18 counts, tax evasion, bank fraud, hiding foreign bank accounts. If this jury agrees on all but this one count, did the judge today indicate he would accept a partial verdict?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: So, here's the thing, Brooke. The judge indicated that, yes, he would accept this partial verdict if it came to that. But he did so outside the presence of the jury. He made this comment in the courtroom where the defense attorneys and the prosecutors were present. As well as people within the courtroom. He did not tell the jury that. He did not indicate to the jury that he would potentially accept this partial verdict. Instead, what he did tell the jury was he implored them to go back into the jury room and continue deliberating on the one count, if only one count they were having issues with or to all 18 counts. He said go back and really work at this.

This is known as an Alan charge. Here in Virginia it is a Sawyers charge and the judge gave them a lengthy statement. Five minutes in all and he said, go back in.

Specifically, he said, you should not surrender your honest conviction simply to reach a verdict but then he said it is your duty to agree upon a verdict if you can do so without violating your individual inclination, so the judge said, look, go back in there. Defer to each other. Listen to each other. Talk this out. And really make another go of it to see if you can reach a decision here.

Brooke, right now about 2:20, those jurors are about 2 hours 20 minutes into this deliberation that happened after that judge instruction. And after what seems like a little bit of a second go around here to see if they can reach a consensus. It's a watch and wait out here as we have been doing for four days.

BALDWIN: I know you have. Jessica, thank you. We'll come back to you the second you get more. I have Elie and Paul and Caroline with me. Paul, first, before we even jump into what Jessica was talking about, you have essentially an unwritten rule of however many days a trial goes on equals "X" days of deliberation.

CALLAN: The pattern in high profile cases tends to be one day of deliberation for one week of trial. Now, in this case, we've had about ten days of trial extending a little bit into the third week. Before it got submitted to the jury. So, that would suggest we're at verdict time now today.


[14:20:00] CALLAN: If it extends beyond today it starts to indicate a hung jury. I would think a verdict is in the wind today.

BALDWIN: What's the deal? The jury's -- listen. This is incredibly complex. Bless them for going all through what they're having to go through. But if the jury comes to this judge and says, hmm, if we can't all reach a consensus on this one count, what are you thinking in what are you thinking --

CALLAN: He'll take a partial verdict. By the way, there's nothing unusual about this, at all. Especially in a big indictment with a lot of counts. If the jury comes to the conclusion of 17 out of 18, normally the court will say, all right, I'll take the verdict and the 1 count they haven't agreed on they're hung on that count, the prosecutor might have the right to retrial the defendant on that count if that's a conclusion of 17 out of 18, normally the court will say, all right, I'll take the verdict and the 1 count they haven't agreed on they're hung on that count, the prosecutor might have the right to retrial the defendant on that count if that's a critical, very, very important count but I've been looking through the counts and you can sever all of them from each other.

For instance, the tax counts have to do with tax returns signed in different years. So maybe they have a problem with one year but they don't have a problem with the indictments on the other four years. Some of the bank fraud counts deal with different banks. And different loans. So, it could just be one loan that they thought that was inadequate proof on and can't reach a condition collusion and all of the others they can. So, if you have 17 counts where there's a verdict --

BALDWIN: Is that the functioning assumption and then just asking about one count you think?

POLISI: Reading the tea leaves in the text, there's more to the question they asked to indicate they had come to a consensus on the 17 counts. He delivered the Alan charge which I love. It's so funny. Go back and make a decision and also don't, you know, change your minds so I mean, it is a little bit of a -- the idea to conserve judicial resources, prosecutorial resources. Nobody likes a hung jury. It's not that big of a deal one count the government is going do see it as a huge win with a conviction on 17 counts.

BALDWIN: And this is just further emblematic of this judge keeping the train on the track. Rocket, docket. Like let's roll.

HONIG: He wants to pressure the jury. He wants a verdict on all 18 counts. If you're the prosecutor, you want the judge to tell them, look, you can hang on one count. Give us the other 17 and the fear is they misunderstand somehow and think if they can't get to consensus on 18, they have to throw it all out.

BALDWIN: Which is the prosecutors don't want this.

HONIG: As Paul said, you can have a partial verdict. If you're the prosecutor and 17 counts of conviction, even 10 and 7, 10 convictions of -- you take that every day of the week as a prosecutor.

BALDWIN: If Paul's math is correct, today could be the day. Don't go too far.

CALLAN: We'll see.

BALDWIN: Back to the other breaking news here. President Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, will soon appear in Manhattan federal court. Is he about to accept a plea deal with prosecutors? We'll take you live to that courthouse, next.


BALDWIN: Welcome back. We continue to follow the breaking news of the president's long-time fixer and former attorney. CNN confirming that Michael Cohen who is facing possible criminal charges is in talks with prosecutors for a potential plea deal. Just over an hour and a half, a court proceeding in the Southern District of New York involving Michael Cohen's, quote, legal situation, and Cohen is not only under investigation for possible bank and tax fraud and possible charges related to secret payments including that six-figure payoff to silence porn star Stormy Daniels.

CNN's Brynn Gingras is outside the federal courthouse there in New York, what more do you know?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: At 4 o'clock just an hour and a half or so from now we expect Michael Cohen to appear before a federal judge and because of that we are expecting to hear that if not before that a plea deal has been made between Cohen and federal prosecutors. Now, the details of that agreement we still don't know just yet. You laid out the things, of course, have been investigated for four and a half months since that April raid of Michael Cohen's hotel room and office and home. When it comes to bank fraud, tax fraud, all of these things were under a microscope for Michael Cohen but we're not sure yet what investigators and Cohen and his attorneys have agreed on to plead guilty to.

Of course, when these court appearances happen, they have to go before a judge and Michael Cohen will have to admit to the same charges that he pleads guilty to and probably give a bunch of detail what he's pleading guilty to. We might get names and answers to questions people asking for four and a half months and this is an extremely significant. What we were originally hearing, this is an important thing to note, Brooke. We were hearing as part of this plea deal there was not a cooperation aspect for Michael Cohen. Meaning, he wasn't going to cooperate with other investigations according to our reporting.

But again, that could have changed in the last few hours. Literally everything is fluid up until this point. We know that we're going to hear from the U.S. deputy attorney after that 4:00 court appearance. Unclear to if we'll hear from Michael Cohen himself or his attorneys but like I said we are just standing by waiting for more information. A lot of movement here at the federal courthouse as we learn, wait to learn more. Brooke?

BALDWIN: Brynn, we'll check back with you. Thank you so much. That is happening in about an hour and a half from now. Laura Coates is with me now. Our CNN legal analyst. Laura, Brynn alluded to the key information we could finally learn. Right? Names, crimes, et cetera. What are those key pieces you will be waiting to hear?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I'll be waiting to hear about what is the charge he will plead guilty to and the court may have some point have a discussion of a proffer of what evidence or charges they could have brought against a particular person, Michael Cohen. They probably won't go into great detail about the full scope of charges that were available to them. The full umbrella of it. But they'll focus on the particular charge they know that he'll plead guilty to, he will be on the hook for. The most important thing to watch for is, you know, they may or may not disclose whether he's a full cooperator from different jurisdictions or perhaps maybe some incentive for the Mueller team to keep things close to the vest if in fact he is going to be a cooperator on certain aspects of it. But most assuredly they are going to have information from him about what he is pleading guilty to.