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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Trump on Payments to Women: "They Came From Me;" Trump Claims He Knew of Cohen Payments "Later On;" Murder of Mollie Tibbetts. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired August 22, 2018 - 21:00   ET

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


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right. Thank you, Anderson.

I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

We have new information about what may be next for Michael Cohen if he's going to deal with any more authorities.

And the president's latest legal misstep. Trump has twisted his story once again about the payments made by his lawyer to help his campaign. And this latest one has him tied up in knots.

We have Trump's former lawyer, whom he called for advice about how to handle the Cohen situation. What he thought then and now.

And you know the president is on his heels with what just happened because he whipped out his what-about defense. What about Obama? He did it too.

No, he didn't. We have the facts ahead.

And a convicted felon gets some very high praise from the president, raising a question. Will Paul Manafort soon be getting a pardon?

What do you say? Let's get after it.

(MUSIC)

CUOMO: The president has basically said it all when it comes to the payments. I deny the women. I deny knowing anything. I deny knowing before. Now, he says I only knew after. And I made the payments, so there is no problem.

These comments coming just one day after Donald Trump's former personal attorney pleaded guilty to eight criminal counts and said in front of the judge and at risk of losing his plea deal, which seems to make the most sense. Trump directed him to do it all.

Let's bring in Trump's adviser and attorney for over 20 years, also a former prosecutor, and author of a forthcoming book, "The Courtroom is My Theater," Jay Goldberg.

Welcome, Counselor.

JAY GOLDBERG, LONGTIME TRUMP'S ADVISER/ATTORNEY: How are you, Chris? CUOMO: I'm doing well. Well, the title of your book --

GOLDBERG: How are you, Chris?

CUOMO: I'm doing well.

The title of your book wraps well into what we're dealing with here, which is the theater of the absurd.

What do you make of the situation with Michael Cohen and how did you know it would come to this?

GOLDBERG: Well, I said to the president as early as April, after it was announced that there would be a -- that there had been a search and a seizure, that Michael Cohen would turn into a government witness, that Donald had to be careful, that there would be tape recordings and that it would be very dangerous, that the public might not understand the role that a government witness seeking to win the favor of the government plays in our criminal justice system.

What disturbed me is that the people take at face value the fact that Michael Cohen will say certain things, but it's been a verity (ph) in our system that people who seek to win the applause -- or cooperation of the government generally and often change their testimony to satisfy the government. And I want the public to know that Michael Cohen can't be counted on to tell the whole truth simply because he's testifying for the government.

CUOMO: Well, listen --

GOLDBERG: He's likely to say things that will -- yes.

CUOMO: Listen, I understand that in the system people often will play to advantage. And if it helps them get a better deal for themselves, they're more inclined to say certain things. But as a former prosecutor you know, you're not supposed to front-run false testimony. They have a duty to figure out whether or not Michael Cohen is believable on these same matters.

And at least with respect to the idea that the president knew what Trump -- that President Trump knew what Michael Cohen was doing when it came to paying for Trump's own peccadilloes, that makes sense and he has a tape to prove it, Counselor.

GOLDBERG: Well, I think that is firmly established and that can't be contested.

CUOMO: Well, the president just contested it today. He just contested it today. He said I only knew after, which flies in the face of what we played our audience on the tape.

GOLDBERG: I think we're beyond that. I think the issue now is the question of collusion. Whether there was an arrangement with anybody from the government -- from the Trump campaign to secure information from the Russians.

CUOMO: Well, but Michael Cohen just pleaded guilty --

(CROSSTALK)

GOLDBERG: -- that we have to face.

CUOMO: Well, I think you got to deal with both of them. I hear you on collusion. But I don't want that to be a distraction or an excuse to get away from what is also wrong, which would be lying about criminal conduct.

And the president's former lawyer did just plead guilty to campaign finance violations that stem from what he says he was directed to do for the president. The president says that's not true --

GOLDBERG: Yes, Chris --

CUOMO: -- but there's a tape that proves the president is not telling us the truth. Doesn't that matter?

GOLDBERG: Yes. Yes. The question is, should he be punished for the falsehood that he said, for example, on the plane? The answer is it wasn't under oath. It wasn't given to an FBI agent. It's not punishable.

CUOMO: But it's still wrong, isn't it?

GOLDBERG: It's simply something that -- it's wrong, but it's not punishable. It has to be under oath or it has to be given to an agent of the government.

CUOMO: But doesn't it bother you if the president of the United States is lying to the American people about criminal conduct, lying to them again and again about something like this?

GOLDBERG: Well, that should concern the public, that the president can't be counted on to tell the truth. I agree with you. I mean, I'm a good friend of the president, and I don't condone lying to the public. That I'll agree with.

CUOMO: So when --

GOLDBERG: And so I say that --

CUOMO: Go ahead, Counselor.

GOLDBERG: Go ahead.

No, I say he deserves the hostility of the public to the fact he can't be counted on to tell the truth.

But getting to the issue of why the special counsel was appointed, the question of collusion and whether there was an arrangement is the central feature of Mueller's task. And this case of involving Trump started with Comey back in mid-2016. And so far, there hasn't been one witness who has testified to collusion between the president and the Russian advisers. And that's something that I think is very important.

Now, I guarantee you, Chris, even though he cooperates, he's smart enough, Michael Cohen, not to say that he was present at any meeting in which the president said I have an arrangement with the Russians. Witnesses don't do that. If the --

CUOMO: Why not?

GOLDBERG: -- question of collusion is on a scale of 1 to 10, 10, he'll move it up to 7. He'll say, well, the president says he has a good arrangement with the Russians. But he'll never say that the president said that he had a collusive arrangement with the Russians.

CUOMO: Well, but I mean, that's not the standard, counselor. What if he were present for a meeting where somebody gave the president information about something that was going to happen that was a function of the hacking and the president therefore knew about it at a time when he said he did not know about it?

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: What if the president winds up to have known about meetings that he says he didn't know about and Michael Cohen can say I know he knew, I was there when he found out? Doesn't that matter?

GOLDBERG: That would be punishable, Chris. That's punishable. If he relies on information he knows was illegally obtained. That he can't escape.

But if someone gives information to a member of his staff and doesn't say it's the product of an illegal hacking, there's nothing wrong with that.

CUOMO: Right. But that's a big if. That's a big if.

GOLDBERG: Absolutely nothing wrong.

What is wrong -- what is wrong -- well, I don't know that they're going to be able to prove that he knew the information he received was illegally obtained. I question whether they're going to be able to demonstrate that he had knowledge that this was from stolen information.

CUOMO: Let me ask you something, one more thing, counselor, while I have you, and then I'll let you go, and I appreciate your time.

The idea of why the new legal team for the president doesn't want him to do an interview, what is your level of confidence that Donald Trump could sit across from these types of investigators and tell the truth the whole time?

GOLDBERG: Well, I'll throw it back to you. What is the chance that the prosecutor is not engaged or will not be engaged in a perjury trap?

(CROSSTALK) CUOMO: You know, I'm surprised to hear you say that as a former -- as a former prosecutor. You know, that is -- that is suggesting that prosecutors are up to no good, that they're there for a form of entrapment. And you know that the president has plenty he can talk to these men and women about that are of a legitimate fact-finding nature in this probe.

GOLDBERG: As a prosecutor, I can tell you that prosecutors when they can't make a case on a substantive level, will resort to the possibility of a perjury trap or a conspiracy --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: But they can only get you if you lie to them. They can only get you if you lie to them, though --

GOLDBERG: No, that's not true.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: But they're going to have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that what you said was a lie.

GOLDBERG: Now, if -- the question is did something happen on Tuesday? And Trump says it happened on Wednesday. If Michael Cohen says it happened on Tuesday and the government has some support for that proposition --

CUOMO: It's got to be material.

GOLDBERG: -- Trump will be involved in a perjury trap.

CUOMO: It's got to be material.

GOLDBERG: Of course, it's got to be material.

CUOMO: What I asked you, though, Counselor -- you did a nice job there twisting it around on me. I'll give you that.

But let me pull you back with the original question. Do you believe he could sit in the chair and tell the truth the whole time?

GOLDBERG: I think there's a question whether, from past experience, I could count comfortably on him testifying. In fact, when I spoke to him in April, I said to him do not testify. Do not submit to questioning.

The prosecutor and his chief deputy -- you know, we say that Mueller is the head of the operation. But it's run by his chief deputy. His chief deputy is a specialist in perjury traps and conspiracy charges. And I worry whether he could safely sit across the table from people who are interested in getting information or people who are interested in getting him. I think the latter is what we're involved in.

CUOMO: Jay Goldberg --

GOLDBERG: And it would be too risky --

CUOMO: Jay Goldberg, I appreciate your time and you making the case to my audience. Thank you, sir.

GOLDBERG: And thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. So there you hear his friend, self-described, and counselor for many, many years saying, yes, he's not telling the truth about what he knew about the payments but we have to now focus on the bigger question.

Think about that. His friend, a counselor who knows him, says yes, I think there's an issue about whether he'd be able to tell the truth the whole time sitting across and he's concerned the prosecutors are out to get him. Think about that.

Now, what does this tell us? Well, if the president is going to say this now, he's going to now argue in the alternative, even if I did know about the scheme to pay off my own peccadilloes, I still did nothing wrong.

And what is the alternative theory? Obama is the real campaign criminal. Many are covering these as competing claims. Not here. No false equivalency allowed. Facts ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: All right. We did a lot of scrubbing on the facts for you tonight. Why? Because we knew President Trump wouldn't admit to what his former lawyer Michael Cohen made clear in court, that Trump directed Cohen to commit crimes.

We knew he was going to go bad on Cohen personally. But there's another line of attack that may be his weakest yet. Remember we played you the tape on this show that made it clear that Trump was aware of what Cohen was doing before he did it.

So -- and you heard his lawyer just say yes, he's lying about that. So the new line is this: Obama did the same thing. In fact, he likes this excuse so much, so nice, he used it twice -- once in a tweet and then this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They didn't come out of the campaign. They came from me. And I tweeted about it. You know, I put -- I don't know if you know, but I tweeted about the payments.

But they didn't come out of campaign. In fact, my first question when I heard about it was, did they come out of the campaign? Because that could be a little dicey. And they didn't come out of the campaign. And that's fake.

But they weren't -- that's not -- it's not even a campaign violation. If you look at President Obama, he had a massive campaign violation but he had a different attorney general and they viewed it a lot differently.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: All right. Here, we don't just listen. We test.

First off, the only thing that Trump is right about is that there was a violation involving the Obama campaign, a big one. You've got to remember, every conspiracy theory, like every lie, they're all fed by a kernel of truth. But this story that he's telling is all cob except for that one kernel.

Obama didn't do anything personally. His campaign, OK, Obama for America, they did plenty. They failed to report 1,300 contributions within 48 hours as required by law. And that campaign received some contributions that also exceeded allowable limits.

In total, the contributions amounted about $2 million. So, the campaign paid a percentage, $375,000 in fines. It sounds like a lot. And it was.

But relatively, in the words of one election attorney, Obama was the first billion-dollar presidential campaign. So, proportionally, it's not that out of line. Regardless, it was still wrong.

And Trump and anyone else who says this type of violation is nothing needs to remember how little control we have on campaign contributions to begin with. So, reporting really counts.

All right. I'm digressing. Here's what really matters here. OK?

Now, what happened here in the Cohen case is a different animal entirely. This has nothing to do with the campaign apparatus and everything to do with Trump, his lawyer, and their sneaky scheme to avoid more damage to his campaign. Cohen admitted to making illegal campaign contributions, quote: for the principal purpose of influencing an election.

And he tied it directly to the president, saying he was acting at the president's direction. He said someone then running for federal office. Obviously, it's Donald Trump. When he paid off Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels.

So the president's argument that Cohen didn't commit a crime just isn't true. How do we know? Title 52 of the U.S. Code. All right?

Now, you compare that to the Obama campaign violation. It's like comparing apples to, you know, elephants. The Obama matter was settled as a civil matter with the FEC. All right? Cohen intentionally committed a crime and is going to prison.

And, by the way, if the president wants to compare his campaign to Obama's, this is why I popped this up. Trump's team also got in trouble in 2016 for improperly handling campaign contributions. About 1,100 donations were made to Trump's campaign in violation of campaign finance laws including donations that exceed the allowable limit in a year. So not only did Obama not do what Trump did, but yes, Trump did do what Obama's campaign did.

Now, Cohen paying his peccadilloes, for his peccadilloes. Him saying he didn't know. The real problem here is lying.

So, first, Trump said I know nothing about these women, I know nothing about what Cohen did. Then he said, well, all right, I know a little something but I didn't know anything before, I only knew after. That's what he's saying today.

But we know about the tape. The tape that we got here on this show that makes it clear that at a time before Cohen made a payment, Trump clearly knew and was directing him. Listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David, you know, so that -- I'm going to do that right away. I've actually come up and I've spoken --

TRUMP: Give it to me and --

COHEN: And I've spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with --

TRUMP: So what do we have to pay for this?

COHEN: -- funding.

TRUMP: One fifty?

COHEN: Yes. And it's all the stuff --

TRUMP: I was thinking about that.

COHEN: All the stuff. Because here you never know where that company -- you never know what he's going to be --

TRUMP: Maybe he gets hit by a truck.

COHEN: Correct. So I'm all over that that. And I spoke to Allen about it. When it comes time for the financing, which will be --

TRUMP: Wait a second, what financing?

COHEN: We'll have to pay him something --

TRUMP: We'll pay with cash.

COHEN: No, no, no, no. I got -- no, no, no.

TRUMP: Check --

(END AUDIO CLIP)

CUOMO: That was before he made the payment. You hear Trump. He knows what's going on. He's lying to your face when he says he didn't know until after.

So, now, he's saying you know what, forget about what I said about what I knew or what I didn't know and when, I paid all of it back. So -- first of all, we don't know that for a fact. But let's assume it. Let's give the president the benefit of the doubt.

I paid all of it back, so no one contributed anything for me. I call this going the full Buckley versus Vallejo, for you SCOTUS scholars. That's a case that says you can spend as much of your own money as you want on a campaign. Money is seen as political speech.

But even if that were true, the president still didn't report it. Anywhere. And that alone would trigger the statute and put him in violation of the law.

So then he says, please, no one gets prosecuted for that. Tell John Edwards. His hush money scheme was handled in similar fashion and he was tried. He was prosecuted. He was acquitted but after a full trial.

And then today, Trump's Sarah Sanders took it a step further. Not only did Trump do nothing illegal, as Cohen accuses, but listen to this.

No. I'm not going to play it for you.

She says he did nothing wrong. OK?

So, lying to you is not wrong. Lying repeatedly about criminal conduct is not wrong.

I showed you the facts. You can conclude quickly that this Trumpian bar of no crime means I did nothing wrong, that my friends is wrong.

So what is going to happen with all this politically? The Democrats are playing it in an interesting way. OK? They're not talking impeachment. They're saying no, no, no, we're not ready for that, let's see what happens.

But they are now using it as a way to perhaps stop Trump's Supreme Court pick. Is that going to work here? We're going to be talking about that and see if the Cohen-Manafort developments are a game changer the way Chuck Schumer says they are.

What do you say? A great debate for you, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: The president says he didn't know about Michael Cohen's payments to women until later on. But remember, we've already played you a tape that shows this cannot be true. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

INTERVIEWER: Did you know about the payments?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Later on I knew. Later on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

COHEN: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David, you know, so that -- I'm going to do that right away. I've actually come up and I've spoken --

TRUMP: Give it to me and --

COHEN: And I've spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up --

(END AUDIO CLIP)

CUOMO: There they listen. Here we test.

That was before Michael Cohen made the payment. The president is in the room. He's speaking. He's listening. He's directing.

The president told you, don't believe what you're reading or seeing. Is that because what you're seeing and hearing prove that he's lying?

Let's ask our great debaters to take it on, Jennifer Granholm and Steve Cortes.

Steve, let's see if we can go 2 for 2 on the candor meter. His former attorney says you've got to focus on collusion, but in terms of whether or not he's lying about these payments, yes, he's lying and the public has a right to be upset about that. Will you own that reality as well?

STEVE CORTES, FORMER HEAD, TRUMP HISPANIC ADVISORY COUNCIL: Well, listen, we have to be very careful about the facts here. And Chris, when you keep playing that tape, you're misrepresenting the facts because that tape is talking about the payments to Karen McDougal which were made by American media and assuming that David is David Pecker in that tape, the fact of the matter is neither Trump nor Cohen ever paid them.

So, you're conflating two stories. The Stormy Daniels payment is totally different from the Karen McDougal payment. So Trump can truthfully say that he didn't know about that --

CUOMO: No, no, no.

CORTES: -- because there was no payment.

CUOMO: No, I give you that they are different payments. I never said anything else, by the way. I've always represented that was about Karen McDougal and David Pecker.

However -- and also, you're assuming that David Pecker doesn't say the same thing that Michael Cohen does. You'd better check your facts. However, the point remains the same, Steve. I'll bounce it over to you, Jennifer Granholm. He says he didn't know

--

(CROSSTALK)

CORTES: Wait, it doesn't mean the same though. Trump did not pay David Pecker. He didn't pay American media. He didn't pay Karen McDougal.

CUOMO: It's about what he knew about what was being done on his behalf. That's why Michael Cohen had to plead guilty to two counts. One for --

(CROSSTALK)

CORTES: They were discussing paying for something and they never paid for it. Facts are important here, Chris. They discussed paying. They never did in that case.

CUOMO: No. You are making a distinction that makes no difference in the analysis.

CORTES: It makes all the difference in the world. I can talk about buying a house. If I don't buy it I didn't buy it.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Did you know that we were considering you buying a house and how to do it? Did you know or not? That's --

CORTES: That's not material. The point is --

CUOMO: It's absolutely material.

CORTES: He's not lying because he didn't do it.

CUOMO: That's not the standard of whether or not he's lying about knowing about what was going on.

Jennifer Granholm, what's your case?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean, really, Steve, bless your heart for trying to get Trump out of this soup, but he knew that he was paying off women. That's the bottom line.

And it's a good thing that we've got evidence other than Michael Cohen's testimony. There's the tape. And who knows what other evidence that the Mueller investigation has that's documentary evidence or testimonial evidence from other people. What is Allen Weisselberg saying?

We don't have any idea what's behind the scenes. But as to this notion that Trump did not know, that it is totally belied by the tape.

CUOMO: And the idea of even if he knew doesn't matter he's not a crime. And I paid all the money that was put out by Michael Cohen so nobody contributed anything for me. There's still the recording requirement in the statute, Steve.

GRANHOLM: Right.

CUOMO: So there would still be a legal aspect --

CORTES: Hold on, Chris. That's not true. That's not true.

If -- and you have to -- again, we have to be careful here. Election law is clear. If an expenditure would have been made, irrespective of the campaign, that's the phrase that's used in election law, if it would have been made anyway then it is not deemed --

CUOMO: But Michael Cohen said he made it to help the campaign.

CORTES: Michael Cohen -- Michael Cohen the felon and dishonest rat said that.

GRANHOLM: Come on.

CORTES: And we're going to take his word as gospel truth --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: The president sure disagrees with you about what Michael Cohen is. He said he was a good man, an honorable man.

CORTES: He's suddenly George Washington who can't tell a lie.

Look, Michael Cohen was facing decades in prison because he committed really serious crimes that had nothing to do, totally unrelated to Mr. Trump, then Mr. Trump, now President Trump. Because of that, the prosecutors were able to squeeze him and put him in the corner as they often do and get him to admit --

CUOMO: Because of what he did they were able to squeeze him.

CORTES: And get to admit to a non-crime because it's not a crime. There are many --

CUOMO: You spend money on your campaign and you don't record it, it's a crime.

Now, I'm not saying that they're going after the president for it. I don't think they can. Not just in substance but in style. I don't think they can do it with him in office. And I think that's why they didn't even use his name in the information.

But it does go to lying. I give it to Jay Goldberg for being honest about that, that the president's not telling the truth.

Now we have the question before I let you guys go of the implications. I get having this argument, Jennifer Granholm. I don't understand using it as leverage on the Kavanaugh nomination.

GRANHOLM: Really?

CUOMO: During the Clinton situation, you had Stephen Breyer come up and he went right through in the process. It wasn't used as a bargaining chip.

Why use it as one now?

GRANHOLM: Yes, but this -- because this particular nominee has an unusually expansive view of executive power. He was selected by Donald Trump because Donald Trump picks people who are going to help him. They went through his entire record, and they know that this particular nominee believes that presidents should be above the law, immune from prosecution, immune from subpoenas. He even went so far as to say that the unanimous Supreme Court decision that called for the release of the Watergate tapes shouldn't have come down that way.

So, this particular nominee was selected by Donald Trump because Donald Trump knew the Mueller investigation was coming. This nominee does not like independent counsels.

So, you've got to look at all of it in that context, that he was picked out by Trump for the purpose of protecting himself because he knew that a Mueller potential case was going to come to the Supreme Court.

CUOMO: Steve Cortes, I'm short on time but in the interest of fairness give me a button.

CORTES: There's a lot of conjecture from Jennifer.

Look, if you want to stop a Supreme Court nominee, control the presidency and the Senate.

GRANHOLM: Look at his record.

CORTES: The Democrats have -- the Democrats have done neither. So, to me, that's the way if you want to stop a nominee. Not by making up wild accusations only from Michael Cohen that are totally uncorroborated --

GRANHOLM: No, well, just look -- no, no, no. You've got to look at his written -- his written record. I'm not talking about wild accusations --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: We've got to look at all of it. Jennifer's right about that.

GRANHOLM: His words.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: We've got to -- hold on. We've got to leave it there. But we will look at everything. They're going to have the hearings. We're going to be testing it here. And I'm going to be using you two to help the audience understand the issues better. Steve, Jennifer, thank you.

GRANHOLM: Thanks. You bet.

CUOMO: All right. Troubles for President Trump extend beyond campaign finance violations. Why? Because Cohen's lawyer says his client has information he can share with people like the New York attorney general, who may be looking at the Trump Foundation, like the Mueller probe. Maybe information on what the president may have known about the fruits of Russian hacking. OK?

We're going to see what a former top spy thinks about the potential here. Former CIA Director Michael Hayden, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: The Cohen plea, all lies, says Trump. The Manafort decision, witch hunt, says Trump. Really?

A jury verdict from 12 Americans is a witch-hunt? Your former lawyer who you always said great things about is now just a complete liar? Our next guest says the real witch hunt is Trump pulling clearances from valuable public servants. In fact, he's even on the list.

Let's bring him in. Former director of both the CIA and the NSA, General Michael Hayden.

Good to see you, sir.

MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA AND NSA DIRECTOR: Hey, Chris.

CUOMO: So the simple question is what now? Because of these verdicts and this plea agreement what does this mean? How does this advance the ball at all?

HAYDEN: Well, it demonstrates the ability of American institutions -- and I want to underscore that. Despite pressure from the White House, despite the language from the president and some of his surrogates, what you've got is a relentless series of steps by the institutions of the American government, the Eastern District of Virginia, the Mueller investigation, the Southern District of New York, and they appear to be peeling this back one layer at a time so that we find the truth.

And, Chris, I was struck listening to other parts of the show and some of the things that the president's been saying, it reminded me of an instant 30 years ago when I was the military attache in the People's Republic of Bulgaria during the communist period. I was talking to a Bulgarian communist, political officer, actually. We got into an argument about something. I've forgotten the topic.

And I simply said to him at one point: Colonel, you've got to tell me, what is the meaning of truth to you? And he came back to me: Truth, Michael, is what serves the party.

And I think we're seeing a dose of that here in North America that I never expected to see. CUOMO: Well, look, you just heard his self-described friend, his

counselor of over 20 years, someone he called about how to deal with the Cohen situation, say, yes, he's lying about what he knew about the payments. And the people are going to have to judge him for that. But it's not a crime.

I mean, it's just an afterthought for people who seem to know the president that yes, he's lying, that's what it is. That's a new thing for us to deal with.

HAYDEN: No, it really is. And that's why I was reminiscing about this experience in a communist country. I saw it there. I never expected to see it here.

Now, we're talking about moving forward on the investigation with Michael Cohen. And I've heard several of your guests point out you can't rely on what he says because he's under duress, the government can coerce him. And without trying to draw too close a parallel here, Chris, we used to hold some folks at CIA too that we were trying to pressure to tell us things that we needed to know.

And I will tell you, the most powerful tool we had in making sure they were telling us the truth wasn't our ability to put pressure on them. The most powerful tool we had was all the other things we knew because we could use that knowledge then to keep them off balance, to press them and to make them tell us more than they would otherwise be willing to tell us.

And I think when it comes to Michael Cohen in terms of collusion and other things that Mr. Mueller and others are investigating, I think they know an awful lot. And so I think they will actually be able to get to the truth no matter how much Mr. Cohen is incentivized to embellish his story for his own personal gain.

CUOMO: You know, a guy I consult with all the time who's a retired former prosecutor said to me: don't be so simple in your analysis, don't make it sound like everything has to rest on Michael Cohen. He can just be a corroborating asset for investigators.

HAYDEN: Right.

CUOMO: That other people were in the room, they'll go to those people, they'll push on those people. They'll see if they corroborate what Cohen does. They may see it coming, they may not.

So there's a lot of different ways this may go, especially if he's willing to cooperate and supposedly he is.

General Hayden, you are always a plus, sir. Thank you for the value added.

HAYDEN: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. Let me ask you a question. What matters more, the murder of a young woman or the legal reckoning the president suffered yesterday? What a horrible question. Why would anyone even dare to compare those two things?

Well, some are doing exactly that. Let's see it for what it is, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: I want to show you a picture of Mollie Tibbetts. She was just 20 years old. She should have been just starting her second year in college. By all accounts, she had everything going for her and was well-liked.

And one night, she goes out for a run last month. Never comes home.

Yesterday, investigators were led and they found her body. They were led there by the man they suspect of killing her. His name is Cristhian Rivera.

Officials say he is in the country illegally. And now what was done to her has been co-opted for political purposes, including the president who seized on yet another murder to make the point that his immigration position must be embraced.

Let's bring in Don Lemon.

This isn't the first time we've seen this. And it's very powerful stuff, because the murder is wrong. The murder is heinous and ugly. And but for the fact that this man was in this place illegally, it wouldn't have happened.

But how it's used and what it is set up as is a dividing line is also an ugly situation.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Yes. Listen, my heart goes out to Mollie -- first of all, Mollie Tibbetts and her family. It should not have happened. It is awful, Chris.

And -- but it's -- you know, we can want to fix our immigration system without demonizing immigrants or illegal immigrants.

And I just want to say that this is -- 2015 National Academy of Sciences study found that immigrants are in fact much less likely to commit crimes than natives. And the 2017 study found that illegal immigrants are 44 percent less likely to be incarcerated than natives. Legal immigrants are 69 percent less likely to be incarcerated than native, meaning native Americans.

Listen, we have problems with crime. And that's committed by people who are American, who were born here, people who are here illegally, that should not happen, and unfortunately, there are people who are here illegally who commit crimes as well.

But we should not use those people as a political pawn and not use the facts. We can want people to come here legally. We should want them to stay within the law, just as we would want our president to stay within the law as well and to tell the truth. We can want all of those things at the same time.

CUOMO: True.

LEMON: Doesn't preclude the other.

CUOMO: Give me a quick taste, what do you have coming up?

LEMON: Dan Rather to talk about everything that's happening now. He lived it. He lived Watergate.

CUOMO: Yes.

LEMON: I want -- of course, I'm going to ask him, does this, you know, history doesn't repeat itself, but it often rhymes. If this is rhyming or just repeating itself.

So, Dan Rather, to me, is a legend. He used to sit in one of these chairs for a very long time through some of the, you know, most tumultuous times in American history and want to get his perspective of what's going on.

CUOMO: It is good to hear from those who know.

Don Lemon --

LEMON: Always good to see you, sir.

CUOMO: Pleasure.

LEMON: See you in a minute.

CUOMO: Look, we're going to talk about this more. I'm going to make it part of the closing argument because there's no question that Mollie Tibbetts and her family deserve justice. Her life mattered. Her story should be told, but not manipulated for political purposes.

That's why we have to make a closing argument about this, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Seventeen thousand two hundred and fifty people were murdered in 2016. Did you know that? That's the most recent FBI data to go on. The number is up 8-1/2 percent from the year before, up twice that since 2012.

And you don't hear about it that much. Plenty of the victims are young people, young women, college aged. But you don't see them adopted by the right as targets of national attention, except when the killer is what they like to call an illegal alien or something worse.

Kate Steinle, now Mollie Tibbetts. They put their faces out there almost like campaign posters. And the political pitch follows soon thereafter. If you're not with the president on how to deal with illegal entrants and really, his hostility toward all immigrants, you are disrespecting these victims and their families and you're putting others in danger. I don't accept that.

Now, I do agree, of course, these murders are horrible. They do show a good reason to prevent illegal entry. Because, yes, but for the killers being here illegally, that is the fact and these two young people would be alive if not for that fact. So would a lot of other people who are not young white women who have been murdered by illegal entrants.

However, the idea that murder is a likely consequence of illegal entrance is bogus. It is a flawed premise, and it is an ugly premise. Why? There is no good data that shows illegal entrants are more of a threat to hurt you. In fact, the data shows they are less of one.

Now, Trump pulled a number out: 63,000 victims since 9/11. A lot of you echo it to me. It is B.S., it is as exaggerated as the larger point that he and his folks want to make. Demonizing people because of their decision to take a shortcut and get here the easy way. And that is what causes illegal entrants most of the time.

I wonder if these sympathizers would be as full throated about these tragedies if the killers were white citizens, if the victims were not young white women. If that were the case, would we see a video like this from Trump today?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mollie Tibbetts, an incredible young woman, is now permanently separated from her family. A person came in from Mexico, illegally, and killed her. We need the wall. We need our immigration laws changed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Permanently separated. Obvious as it is offensive.

So, he cares about Mollie Tibbetts more than people who don't believe in separating kids from parents? Or treating undocumented immigrants like dogs? Please.

What that tells you, that even in this moment, talking about Mollie Tibbetts, he still has to play to political advantage and proof that he still doesn't want to own what he did to those kids and many of them are still waiting to get back with their parents. We have not forgotten.

The president still doesn't think it is wrong. And he thinks grandstanding about Tibbetts gives him high ground.

Well, it does not. Nor do the people covering this like some kind of gotcha have high ground. Why? These are the same people that tamp down some police use of force cases, and say those cases are being politicized.

They mitigate facts. They play the coverage very close to the vest because we don't want it to be about politics, but then they do this. They put families like the Tibbetts, like the Steinles, like the Rich family in the glaring.

Seth Rich, remember him? His death, his murder, all about Democrat deviousness, until it wasn't. Until the family said, stop doing this to us, there's to proof of what you're saying, go away.

And once the political intrigue ran out of the story, did you see dogged coverage by the same people about what happened to Seth Rich? These victims matter, all of them, because they were stolen from this world and they will never be replaced by their family.

But the argument is this: the murders matter, period. Not because of who committed them.

That's my closing. Thank you for watching.

"CNN TONIGHT" with Don Lemon starts right now.