Return to Transcripts main page


Stormy Daniels' Attorney Reacts To Cohen Guilty Plea; CNN Reality Check: Does President Trump Hire The "Best" People?; Facebook Takes Down 652 Iran And Russia-Linked Pages; Undocumented Immigrant Charged In Missing Student's Death. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired August 22, 2018 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: What they'll say -- what they'll say --


BERMAN: -- is that that's a different story today than was told when "The Wall Street Journal" first reported the story some months ago. So that Michael Cohen has lied about this over the course of time.

DAVIS: Well, there has been an evolution in his loyalty to Donald Trump -- many things that he has said he would like to redo and has regrets about. But I know what he now said under oath was corroborated by Mr. Giuliani and his own legal team.

So on anything else -- and attacking his credibility, which is what Trump does. Rather than tell the truth he attacks other people. He's got to now attack Giuliani who literally called the President of the United States a liar or at least figuratively --


DAVIS: -- when he said well, what Trump said on Air Force One when he denied any knowledge -- oh, it's not a crime to lie.

And, of course, this is a man that says truthfulness is not the same as truthful.

BERMAN: We've got to let you go. Lanny Davis, we really appreciate you being with us this morning.

I suspect there are more conversations to come.

DAVIS: Thank you very much, John.

BERMAN: Alisyn --

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We just heard from Michael Cohen's attorney.

Next up, Stormy Daniels' attorney. He has a demand for Michael Cohen. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [07:35:08] CAMEROTA: The president's longtime attorney Michael Cohen pleading guilty and implicating the president in a campaign finance crime.

Under oath, Michael Cohen told the court that the president coordinated and directed him to make payments to silence two women, Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels, who say they had affairs with Donald Trump.

Earlier this morning, I spoke with Stormy Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti.


CAMEROTA: We're joined now by Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti. Michael, thanks so much for being here.


CAMEROTA: Did you talk to Stormy Daniels last night?

AVENATTI: I did. We spoke a number of times yesterday.

CAMEROTA: What was her reaction to Michael Cohen's guilty plea?

AVENATTI: Well, she was very pleased to learn about it and she feels vindicated.

She's looking forward to this process playing out. She understands that this is a long road. You know, we're in about the second quarter of a four-quarter game.

We still --

CAMEROTA: What do you mean by that? I mean, it seems to us that -- well, to the layperson -- that a guilty plea from someone she had said paid her -- that sounds like a touchdown.

AVENATTI: Well, it is a touchdown. There's no question about it.

But we've got additional quarters to play in another game and that's our civil case. We're going to depose Michael Cohen under oath.

We're going to find out the details behind the facts that were stated in court yesterday. We're going to find out about the specific communications that he had with Donald Trump, what Donald Trump knew, how they covered it up together, what was the agreement relating to the reimbursement. There's a host of information we're going to discover in connection with that case.

And we're also going to depose the President of the United States and we're going to ask him the same questions. I'm going to ask him those questions under oath.

CAMEROTA: And explain how you're so confident that you're going to be allowed to depose the President of the United States. AVENATTI: Well, I think that there's little question that we should get that deposition because these issues go to the heart of the civil case that we filed back in March in Los Angeles seeking to invalidate the NDA on specific grounds, including that it was a violation of campaign finance law.

CAMEROTA: There is a stay on that civil case, but makes you think that that will be lifted?

AVENATTI: We have a hearing set on September 10th where the court is going to review whether it makes sense for the stay to continue. In light of the plea yesterday, I doubt the stay will remain in place and we'll be able to proceed with discovery in the case, including depositions.

CAMEROTA: So you believe today that you will, in the near future, depose the President of the United States?

AVENATTI: I do, and I believe that we will start with Michael Cohen's deposition, hopefully within the next 90 days.

CAMEROTA: And what do you ask the President of the United States if you get your wish?

AVENATTI: Well, there's going to be a number of questions that I'm going to ask the President of the United States, including what he knew about this, what he and Michael Cohen discussed, what the arrangements were relating to the payments, what he did to cover it up, why he lied to the American people on Air Force One.

I'm confident it's going to be a very spirited deposition.

CAMEROTA: You heard Michael Cohen's attorney, Lanny Davis, speaking last night.

What are you calling for? Having heard some of the things that Lanny Davis said, what are you calling for this morning?

AVENATTI: Well, in light of what Lanny Davis said last night and what Michael Cohen stated in open court yesterday, we want Michael Cohen to release all of what I have called the Trump tapes. All of the recordings that he has relating to Donald Trump. All of the recordings relating to my client, Stormy Daniels.

There's no question these recordings exist. There's nothing stopping Michael Cohen from releasing these recordings -- there just isn't. And the fact that they haven't been released for months is very disturbing to us.

We want the American people to hear all of these recordings so they can decide who's lying to them and who's telling the truth.

CAMEROTA: What Michael Cohen pleaded to was that he made these made these payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal and that it was directed by Donald Trump, the President of the United States.

Why did he have to go that far to -- why did he say that portion of it? Why didn't he just say I plead guilty to making these payments?

The fact that he said it was directed by Donald Trump, what does that tell you?

AVENATTI: Well, it tells me that Donald Trump was a criminal co- conspirator in connection with this and that it was important to prosecutors in the Southern District that Michael Cohen admit that -- admit that fact on the record.

And look, this is a momentous occasion in American history. You have an individual that stands up in a court of law and pleads guilty and credibly points the finger at the President of the United States as a criminal co-conspirator.

This is a big deal. This doesn't happen every day.

CAMEROTA: And from where you sit, what does that mean legally for Donald Trump?

AVENATTI: Well, it means the president is in a lot of trouble and it means we're coming for him. That's what it means.

CAMEROTA: But -- hey, look, as you know, the conventional wisdom is that a sitting president can't be indicted. And so, what does that mean you're coming for him?

[07:40:03] AVENATTI: Well, we're going to get all of the facts and all of the evidence. We're going to take his deposition under oath. We're going to lay that all out for the American people and ultimately, they're going to decide the fate of Donald Trump.

CAMEROTA: Do you think there is a possibility that President Trump pardons Michael Cohen --

AVENATTI: I think --

CAMEROTA: -- and make this whole thing go away?

AVENATTI: Well, I think there's a slim possibility -- very, very slim. But I do not agree necessarily that that makes it all go away because I think there's additional state charges that could still be brought against Michael Cohen by the state of New York, possibly by the state of California.

CAMEROTA: Such as? What are those charges?

AVENATTI: Well, they may be bank fraud, wire fraud, other fraud-type charges that could be brought against him at the state level in New York or the state level in California, and Donald Trump could not pardon any of those offenses.

CAMEROTA: You know that some of Donald Trump's supporters will say Michael Cohen's a liar, Michael Cohen can't be trusted. You've heard Rudy Giuliani say he's something like a pathological liar. He's just throwing the President of the United States under the bus to save his own skin. AVENATTI: Well look, neither one of these two individuals -- Michael Cohen nor Donald Trump -- have the utmost credibility -- nor Rudy Giuliani, by the way, I might add. But with that said, I think at the end of the day Michael Cohen is far more believable than Donald Trump.

Granted, he has an incentive to testify at this point against Donald Trump, but I think Michael Cohen is at least smart enough or is around people who have advised him not to lie to federal prosecutors because you can find yourself in a very difficult spot.

CAMEROTA: What did you think of the revelation of how the payments were made?

AVENATTI: So, last night as I was getting ready to go on Don's show, I was witnessing the interview with Lanny Davis. And, Lanny stated -- and I don't know if this is accurate or not but he stated that there is a wire transfer of $130,000 from the Trump Organization directly into the Essential Consultants account that Michael Cohen used to pay my client.

And if that is true, that is a stunning admission -- a stunning piece of evidence and it further tightens the noose on Donald Trump.

CAMEROTA: Why is that a bigger deal than we had heard previously from Rudy Giuliani that there were sort of incremental payments and invoices?

AVENATTI: Because in connection with the incremental invoices they can make an argument that, in fact, perhaps it was for legitimate legal services or other services. This would be far cleaner if it is accurate if you have $130,000 that goes out and then $130,000 that comes into the account.

And I'll also add this. Remember that these funds are all being comingled with funds from other foreign entities and other foreign interests, including some with Russian ties. We previously disclosed that financial information months ago and that further convolutes the situation.

CAMEROTA: And what about what Lanny Davis said last night on a different news program that Michael Cohen may also have information about Russian hacking?

AVENATTI: Well, I mean, I think that's interesting. But I'm going to maintain what I've maintained all along and that is that this case -- this situation relating to the $130,000 payment to my client is far cleaner and far easier to prove than Russia collusion.

CAMEROTA: So what is next? As you sit here today -- I know that yesterday you think that that was a game changer for you and for your case and for Stormy Daniels -- and so now what? What should the American public expect next?

AVENATTI: They should join us in the countdown to me deposing Michael Cohen and the President of the United States and disclosing all of it publicly because we're coming. CAMEROTA: And when do you think that will happen?

AVENATTI: As soon as we are permitted to do so, hopefully in the coming months.

CAMEROTA: Michael Avenatti, great to talk to you. Thank you very much --

AVENATTI: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: -- for coming in to be on NEW DAY -- John.


BERMAN: So many more questions still to come.

So, the president vowed that he would hire only the best people. How's that going? We get a CNN "Reality Check" next.


[07:47:39] BERMAN: President Trump promised to hire the best people during the campaign.

CNN senior political analyst John Avlon gives us a reality check on that claim. Interesting.

CAMEROTA: Best at what? Best at what, John?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It was really an open question offered to the American people Ali, but I think it's fair to say that throughout the campaign and beyond he kept making that same promise over and over and over again.

Let's have a montage.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to use our best people.

I'm going to get the best people.

We are going to deliver. We're going to get the best people in the world.

We don't people that are B-level, C-level, D-level. We have to get our absolute best.


AVLON: Well, I think it's time to see how that's working out. And folks, important to remember this is not a complete list.

We've got Michael Cohen, the president's former fixer, yesterday pleading guilty to tax evasion, lying to a bank, and campaign finance violations which included paying off two women to influence an election, directly implicating President Trump in both payments.

Now, Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, yesterday found guilty of tax fraud, hiding foreign bank accounts, and bank fraud.

We've got Michael Flynn, former national security adviser. He pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.

George Papadopoulos, former senior policy adviser to the campaign, pled guilty to lying to the FBI. His conversation with an Australian diplomat about Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton, that's what started the Russia investigation.

And folks, these are just the convicts.

Then there are the people who have left the administration under shall we say a cloud.

Former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt forced out in the wake of 14 ongoing investigations while torching taxpayer money on everything from first-class travel to his $40,000 secure phone booth. Don't we all wish we had one?

Tom Price, former HHS secretary, forced out after $300,000 in taxpayer-provided charter flights.

Chief strategist Steve Bannon, "Breitbart" firebrand and architect of Trump's nationalist agenda, fired after undermining the president on several fronts and speaking ill of the family.

Omarosa Manigault Newman fired by chief of staff John Kelly for alleged ethical lapses, which we know about because she took the unprecedented step of secretly recording it inside the White House Situation Room.

Now, most Americans do not believe President Trump hires only the best people. In fact, 58 percent don't believe he hires only the best according to a Monmouth University poll.

[07:50:03] Now, with all the White House turmoil and turnover we shouldn't lose focus on the fact that yesterday's near-simultaneous convictions of the president's former campaign chairman and personal lawyer is unprecedented.

And the way we know this is to compare the Trump presidency with past administrations. Spoiler alert -- it doesn't look too good.

For example, within the first 18 months, four members of the Trump campaign or administration had been indicted or pled guilty. Over eight years, the Obama administration had one, David Petraeus, and it was a misdemeanor.

Finally, campaign experts say that thanks to Cohen naming him, President Trump could be considered an unindicted co-conspirator in Cohen's crime. The last time a sitting president held that title was Richard Nixon. And that's your "Reality Check."

CAMEROTA: Gee, John, when you lay it all out like that you make kind of a compelling case.


BERMAN: I think you had the best question. Best at what?

CAMEROTA: Best at what? Pleaded guilty, some of them seem to be good at.

AVLON: Yes. You know, that or miniature golf perhaps.

CAMEROTA: OK. Great job. Great reality check. John Avlon, thank you very much.

Meanwhile, listen to this. Facebook says it has taken down hundreds of pages linked to Russia and Iran that are believed to be part of a coordinated disinformation campaign ahead of November's midterm elections.

CNN's Alex Marquardt is live in Washington with more. What now, Alex?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, global is really the key word here. This now goes beyond efforts to meddle here in the U.S. It goes beyond just Russia's efforts.

Facebook is now saying it took down 652 pages that were trying to spread disinformation in the U.K., the Middle East, Latin America, as well as the U.S.

Now, some of the pages were Russian but many were from Iran -- which we don't hear about a lot -- with ties to their state-run media. And those pages created in Iran, both on Facebook and on Instagram -- which as you know, is owned by Facebook -- they had some one million followers.

Facebook is calling it a coordinated, inauthentic behavior. It's clearly designed to misinform and create confusion.

And then, just after Facebook made this announcement, Twitter also announced it had removed almost 300 accounts, many of those also linked to Iran.

All of this showing how aggressively the tech giants plan on going after this malicious online activity, particularly after all the criticism they've gotten for not being more proactive and vigilant enough. But it also reflects the huge scope of this problem.

Remember, just yesterday at this time, I was talking to you guys about the latest Russian hacking attempts here in the U.S. Microsoft had taken down six fake Internet domains that were linked to Russian military intelligence.

So the private sector, we are seeing now, is trying to step up. But the various countries and groups that are looking to sow chaos are stepping up their efforts as well -- John.

BERMAN: Indeed, they are, Alex Marquardt. An important story. Thanks so much.

President Trump's top economic adviser Larry Kudlow reportedly hosted a white nationalist at his home last weekend. "The Washington Post" says that Peter Brimelow, who publishes an anti-immigrant Website, was a guest at Kudlow's birthday party in Connecticut.

Kudlow says he's known Brimelow forever but did not know about his white nationalist views. If he did, he said, he would not have invited him.


Meanwhile, the missing woman in Iowa has tragically been found dead. Authorities say the suspect is an undocumented immigrant. So, how all of this has turned political, next.


[07:57:32] BERMAN: An autopsy will be performed today on a body believed to be that of missing Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts. She disappeared a month ago. A 24-year-old undocumented immigrant is now charged in her death.

CNN's Ryan Young live for us in Montezuma, Iowa with the very latest -- Ryan.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, this such a difficult story. I think the headline of the paper here pretty much sums it up. You can see it here -- the headline -- it says "Murder."

And a lot of people are just so upset about this. In fact, as we were traveling in the town you could her picture -- Mollie Tibbetts' picture all over the place. It was on billboards, it was on the side of semi-trucks.

People were really hoping for the best here. That did not happen.

In fact, I want to show you this video of some friends and people who showed up yesterday at the news conference as they were just breaking up in tears. They were so upset as they were hearing this information that Mollie has been found and, of course, that she is now -- they believe she is dead. So you can see that pain in their faces.

Cristhian Rivera has been charged with first-degree murder. He has been talking with investigators. He actually led them to a body in a field that was covered with corn stalks.

But this case all broke open because of a homeowner's video surveillance. They were able to give that video surveillance to police. They went through hours and hours of that video and they saw a black car and they saw her jogging.

And what Cristhian Rivera apparently tells investigators he was following alongside of her and eventually he got out of the car and was running with her, and she threatened to call 911. And he says he then blacked out and put Mollie in the trunk.

So, of course, we don't have the details about how this murder happened or what happened after that but, of course, investigators were deeply saddened by the information they provided us yesterday.

BERMAN: It's horrifying Ryan, to be sure, and you do feel for that family.

In the meantime, the case is really becoming politicized already. What have we heard from the Trump administration?

YOUNG: Yes, well, absolutely. Vice President Pence was tweeting about this yesterday.

And you can hear from Trump himself as he was talking yesterday at a rally. He did bring up this case. Listen to what he had to say to that rally.


TRUMP: You heard about today with the illegal alien coming in -- very sadly from Mexico -- and you saw what happened to that incredible, beautiful, young woman. It should have never happened -- illegally in our country.

We've had a huge impact but the laws are so bad. The immigration laws are such a disgrace.


YOUNG: And we believe Cristhian Rivera will have his first court appearance sometime today.

But obviously, you can feel the community here just sort of torn up about this, sort of asking the question why. Everyone wants to know the motive -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Ryan Young for us in Iowa.