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Paul Manafort Found Guilty on Multiple Charges; Michael Cohen Makes Statement Under Oath that He Was Directed by a Candidate to Make Payments to Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels to Influence Election; Interview with Democratic Senator from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Senator Elizabeth Warren. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired August 22, 2018 - 8:00   ET

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


[08:00:00] RYAN YOUNG: We believe Cristhian Rivera will have his first court appearance sometime today, but obviously you can feel the community just torn up about this, asking the question why. Everyone wants to know the motive. John?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Ryan Young for us in Iowa. Ryan, thanks so much. And again, feel for that family.

A lot of news this morning, so let's stay on it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a wild day even in Trump world. The president's campaign manager, guilty. The president's personal lawyer, guilty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no question that Donald Trump is at the center of this. His fingerprints are all over the crime scene.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He hasn't been convicted of anything. This is someone who is going to jail accusing him of something.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: MAGA now stands for My Attorney Got Arrested.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Paul Manafort is a good man. This is a witch-hunt. It's a disgrace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Manafort is facing a substantial amount of time. The question is whether he makes the calculation that it is better to cooperate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a tremendous victory for Mueller's team.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're in a Watergate zone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota on John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to NEW DAY. It's already been a long morning. It's Wednesday, August 22nd, 8:00 in the east.

Sources tell CNN that the White House is stunned and blindsided by the news that President Trump's longtime personal lawyer directly implicated the president of the United States as an unindicted co- conspirator of a federal crime. Cohen testified under oath that the president told him to make hush money payments to two women who say they had affairs with the president for the, quote, principle purpose of influencing the election.

BERMAN: The words that Michael Cohen used under oath, under oath, mind you, are that he broke the law, quote, in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office. In other words, the president told him to break the law. And Michael Cohen may not be done. Cohen's attorney Lanny Davis was with us just moments ago here on NEW DAY. He hinted Cohen has information about the Russian attack on the 2016 election and the president's knowledge of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LANNY DAVIS, MICHAEL COHEN'S LAWYER: Mr. Cohen has knowledge that would be of interest to the special counsel about the issue of whether Donald Trump ahead of time knew about the hacking of e-mails, which is a computer crime that was the subject of the indictment of the 12 Russians.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: It's a clear and deliberate tease there from Michael Cohen's attorney Lanny Davis because Davis would not tell us anything near about what that information allegedly is. Davis does say that Cohen is willing to testify without immunity publicly before Congress. And on top of all of this, the president's one-time campaign chair Paul Manafort, he was convicted on eight counts in his financial fraud trail. He faces years in prison. The president says he feels bad for him, but bad enough to pardon him? That's one of the questions this morning.

I want to bring in investigative reporter David Cay Johnston, former federal prosecutor, CNN legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, and CNN political analyst David Gregory. Thank you all for being with us. Jeffrey, since we last spoke, we have a little more information. We heard from Lanny Davis that Michael Cohen is willing to testify publicly under oath without immunity before Congress at any time. That's interesting. You heard Lanny Davis say that he believes there is evidence that the president directed Michael Cohen to make these payments to Stormy Daniels, and you heard Lanny Davis say that Michael Cohen has more to say about the Russia investigation. Your thoughts?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this is, of course, enormously important. And it's already clear that Trump's allies will try to portray Michael Cohen as a liar, someone who is trying to protect his own skin because he's exposed to so many years in prison. And Trump's supporters have a lot to work with. He -- Cohen is a criminal. Cohen has admitted to lying in the past.

But he was also very close to Donald Trump, and he is someone who has documented a lot of his life. And I think one of the most important things we're going to learn in the next few weeks is what -- to what extent Michael Cohen's implicating story about the president can be corroborated. Are there e-mails? Are there tapes? Are there financial records that show that Michael Cohen is telling the truth when he says that Donald Trump committed a crime? That is an enormously important question. We don't know the answer to that yes.

CAMEROTA: David Cay Johnston, here's what Michael Cohen said in open court under oath. "The payment to McDougal was made in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office, he said, adding that it was made for the principal purpose of influencing the election. The Daniels payment was similarly made in coordination with and at the direction of that same candidate for that same reason." Tell us your thought this is morning.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Well, I think that this points directly to a conspiracy, including one under New York state law.

[08:05:04] And my column today at "D.C. Report" is about how Cyrus Vance, the district attorney of Manhattan, and Barbara Underwood, the attorney general of New York, should be going after these issues because some of the crimes that Cohen has confessed to are also state crimes, and this is an opening to get into these matters in the event the Mueller investigation is shut down. But we clearly now have from Michael Cohen statements about the manipulation of this election for a foul purpose. And think of John Edwards who was convicted of just that sort of crime.

BERMAN: He was charged, he was not found guilty of that crime, although there are a lot of people who consider this to be a much stronger case here because there is a witness who will testify in court, Michael Cohen, that this happened, and there also might be a paper trail.

CAMEROTA: Wire transfers and such.

JOHNSTON: And documents. They've indicated there are documents in this case from the raid on his homes and offices.

BERMAN: So David Gregory, we're getting reporting from our White House unit this morning that says that president Trump, while he always was fearful of what Michael Cohen might say, what kind of deal he might cut, the president did not know the extent that Michael Cohen was going to go in open courtroom under oath yesterday, saying that the president directed him to break the law. That's interesting.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it is interesting. And the obvious question is what is the president capable of? This is an impulsive person. And if he feels cornered, what will he do politically or using his power? It's something to watch for.

And I think this is what has a lot of Republicans worried. Core supporters of the president may believe what he's saying, which is, look, this doesn't directly have to do with Russian collusion. It doesn't. Not yet. There may be more to come here. There are other people like Michael Flynn who are cooperating with the special prosecutor, Don McGahn, the president's White House counsel talked to the special prosecutor. There's the question of how the president responded to, interacted with, impacted the Mueller investigation and questions of objection of justice. So all of that is still out here.

But what we know so far is these are people close to the president. This reflects on his judgment. This reflects on what he did, what he said to the American people about Stormy Daniels and other things. So as a political matter, two things. One, Democrats have a big boost of confidence that they could pursue impeachment if they get a kind of mandate, what they see as a mandate in the November election and if they have a report from Mueller that would support pursuing high crimes and misdemeanors.

And also Republicans of all stripes who may not have been hardcore Trump supporters but may have liked other aspects of his potential presidency, or didn't like Hillary Clinton, you have to wonder whether there's eroding support for all the drama, for the corruption, for the judgment questions, all of which are starting to mount for Donald Trump.

CAMEROTA: And so Jeffrey, for Michael Cohen, correct me if I'm wrong, but the campaign finance law conviction carries I think a five year prison sentence. Is there a way for him to avoid any jailtime whatsoever if he continues to give information and cooperates on something else now?

TOOBIN: Absolutely. His sentencing will be up to the judge. In the documents that were filed yesterday, the government suggested that a sentence of approximately four years in prison for all the crimes he committed would be appropriate.

But one thing that federal judges always reward is cooperation. If you agree to testify against others, if you make successfully, honestly other cases, you can get credit from the judge who sentences you. It's a tremendous incentive to cooperate. And if Michael Cohen cooperates and it turns out to be truthful and effective, that could reduce his sentence.

That's also true of Paul Manafort. Paul Manafort so far has shown no sign that he's cooperating, but he's now looking at the prospect of spending many years in prison, he's a 70-year-old man. And he has two more legal anvils hanging over him -- the 10 charges in which they were a hung jury and the case in Washington. So he has got to make a tough decision about whether he wants to reduce his prison sentence if -- by cooperating as well.

BERMAN: David Cay Johnston, you have looked into Donald Trump for years, and the Trump Organization for years. There's a lot here about the Trump Organization. Obviously there was a payment by the Trump organization to Michael Cohen, a reimbursement, for the payment to Stormy Daniels. That's fascinating in and of itself right there. But when you see Michael's Cohen's lawyer Lanny Davis saying not only does he have stuff to say about Russia but he'll answer questions on anything and everything else, what might that entail? What might Michael Cohen have that goes beyond what we've already seen about the president?

[08:10:00] JOHNSTON: Michael Cohen, who traveled with Trump during the campaign, certainly would have information about collusion with the Russians. He would know who was in what room and talking to whom and when Trump was calling him trying to arrange things.

In addition, the involvement of the Trump Organization puts the cooperation itself at legal liability. And we know Trump's chief financial officer has been called before a grand jury. So you put those together, the money trail from the Trump Organization and Michael Cohen's intimate knowledge from his years of traveling with Donald Trump, and Donald Trump's nature, which is he lies, he cheats, he steals, it's just who he is, and that's real trouble for the president.

GREGORY: John, also remember, the president during the Democratic Convention said, he called on the Russians to hack the Democratic Party, find the, quote-unquote, missing e-mails from Hillary Clinton. Later on that day you have the WikiLeaks dump of those hacked e-mails. What the implication was from Lanny Davis is that perhaps Michael Cohen knows something about what the president knew about the timing of all of that. Did he know about what was going to be released beforehand? That's obviously an area that's directly speaking to Russian collusion that the special prosecutor is looking at.

And by the way, while all of this is being discussed and we're focusing on it, the Russians are still at work in the 2016 election as we discussed yesterday and covered yesterday. It continues. It's the Russians and it's others as well.

CAMEROTA: Jeffrey, John Berman has been calling all morning on Trey Gowdy to call him. Somewhat sadly. Has it happened? It hasn't. Not yet. And so I think that his point is that what will Republicans do today? How will -- up until now there's been a pretty concerted voice of, if Robert Mueller had anything we would have seen it by now, let's end this, present your conclusions, fish or cut bait. But today will there be something different said?

TOOBIN: I doubt it. If there's been one consistent theme of the Trump administration, it has been nearly unified Republican support for the president. The only people on Capitol Hill who have uttered critical words about Donald Trump are Republicans who are not running for reelection, like Bob Corker in Tennessee, like Jeff Flake in Arizona. They are very much outcasts, very much out of the Republican mainstream. The Republican mainstream has surrounded and protected Donald Trump. I see no sign that even yesterday's developments will change that.

There are only about two months till the midterms. The Republicans are not going to turn their strategy now. They will say that there was no collusion proven, they will say that Michael Cohen is a liar, they will say that this is all irrelevant to the larger story of a prosperous economy. The only investigation from Capitol Hill of Donald Trump will come if and only if the Democrats retake one or both houses in Congress.

Jeffrey Toobin, David Gregory, David Cay Johnston, thanks so much for being with us.

What will Democrats do about this? What will there say about this now? Will there be a public call for some kind of impeachment proceedings? We will speak to a leader in the Democratic Party. Senator Elizabeth Warren joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:17:25] BERMAN: President Trump's long time attorney Michael Cohen implicated the president in open court under oath saying that Mr. Trump coordinated and directed him to make hush money payments to two women who say they had affairs with the president and that the payments were done to influence the 2016 election.

The question now is, what is Congress going to do about that?

Joining me now is the Democratic senator from the commonwealth of Massachusetts, Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Senator, thanks so much for being with us.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Thank you for having me. I'm glad to be here.

BERMAN: Obviously, you were paying attention like the rest of us yesterday.

WARREN: Yes.

BERMAN: Obviously, you, like the rest of us, took note when Michael Cohen basically said in open court the president directed me to break the law.

So, I pose the question, as I introduced you. What will Congress do about this? Do you think that alone is grounds for impeachment?

WARREN: So, I think that what Congress needs to do right now is we need to make sure that special prosecutor Mueller is fully protected from being fired by Donald Trump. Donald Trump has made clear there's only one thing he cares about and that's protecting his own skin. So, he's talked and talked and talked about the special prosecutor.

This is obviously a serious on going investigation. It's already produced more than two dozen indictments or guilty pleas. So, for me at this moment we what we ought to being down on Capitol Hill, Democrats and Republicans, is passing a law that says the president cannot interfere with that investigation and cannot fire the special prosecutor.

BERMAN: OK, I want to come back to the special prosecutor in one second in Robert Mueller here. This was the Southern District of New York and this is a guilty plea. This is done.

WARREN: Yes.

BERMAN: Michael Cohen will be sentenced in December. This is done. This isn't about the special counsel anymore in terms of Michael Cohen. This is Michael Cohen saying the president directed me to break a law, directed me to break a campaign finance law.

In and of itself, there, is that grounds for impeachment?

WARREN: The question you're asking is about the president of the United States and what I'm saying is we have an ongoing investigation that has been in place that is much more sweeping, that is much broader than simply the one thing that happened in New York court yesterday.

If -- if you really want to look at what Donald Trump has done and what kind of responsibility he should have, let's get that investigation finished as well. Look at -- look at the trial yesterday that yielded eight convictions. It had multiple counts in it because there were multiple acts of wrongdoing.

And this is what prosecutors do all the time.

BERMAN: Yes.

[08:20:00] WARREN: They get all the pieces together and they say now that I've got all the pieces together, I'm ready to bring charges.

BERMAN: I totally understand that. In so far as it relates to the president, there are these Justice Department guidelines that a president can't be indicted so it would ultimately be a political decision about how to deal with the president of the United States.

And what I'm hearing from you, Senator, and what I've heard from you in your interviews in the last few months -- and you're not alone among Democrats here -- is a reluctance to talk about the "I" word directly.

Why would you be nervous to say, hey, I think the House Judiciary Committee should hold hearings and look at this as an impeachable offense?

WARREN: I'm not nervous, I just want to be effective. And the way that any of us are effective is to say, let's get all of the evidence. Let's get all of the pieces out there.

Protect Robert Mueller, let him finish his investigation, let him make a full and fair report to all of the American people. And when we've got that, then we can make a decision on what the appropriate next step is. Yes --

BERMAN: There's a report in NBC News that there's essentially a Democratic -- in case of emergency break glass plan if the president figures out a way to fire Robert Mueller.

Is that true? Are you party to that? What would it be?

WARREN: Let me put it this way, I think there's no doubt that if the president fires Robert Mueller, he creates a constitutional crisis and what that means is that we're going to need people on both sides of the isle to step up and say, no, we are still a nation of laws and no one in this country, not even the president of the United States is above the law.

BERMAN: You this week perhaps not ironically at all have proposed sweepy anti-corruption laws.

WARREN: Yes.

BERMAN: Sweeping anti-corruption laws here. Anything in here that would pertain directly to Michael Cohen or Paul Manafort?

WARREN: Oh, you bet. Absolutely, in fact, to both of them.

Michael Cohen, one of the things that I propose in this bill is we put a halt to the influence peddling that Michael Cohen didn't get charged with because it is perfectly legal. That is if Michael Cohen is going to take more than half a million dollars from big companies like AT&T and Novartis, that he has to register as a lobbyist. And once he registers as a lobbyist, under my law, every interaction he has with an elected official -- that would mean the president of the United States -- has to be noted on a calendar and any pieces of paper or information that he gives them has to be disclosed.

One of the consequences of that would be to try to shut down at least another piece of the influence peddling in Washington that has become so routine that big corporations say, oh, somebody new an office, let's figure out how we can spend our money to influence them. No, if people are going to be elected to public office then by golly they're supposed to be working in the public interest, not in the interest of people who can pay a half million dollars for lobbyists.

BERMAN: I want to ask you --

WARREN: Over on the Manafort side, can I just say on that one?

BERMAN: Yes.

WARREN: My bill says, let's take the worst parts of lobbying and make them flatly illegal. Foreign countries and foreign actors should not be able to hire Americans to lobby the United States government. If they want to lobby the United States government, if they want to influence the United States government, use your consul, that's what it's about.

BERMAN: I want to get one last question in here --

WARREN: Sure.

BERMAN: -- because it's a very important story in the news. It has to do with Mollie Tibbetts, the young woman in Iowa who was murdered. Her body believed to be found yesterday. A person has been charged with it. This person is an undocumented immigrant.

Mike Pence and the president have suggested the immigration laws need to be stronger so that people like this man who was accused of this murder were not in the country. Your reaction?

WARREN: You know, my -- I'm so sorry for the family and I know this is hard not only for the people in her community, the people throughout Iowa.

But one of the things we have to remember is we need an immigration system that is effective, that focuses on where real problems are.

Last month, I went down to the border and I saw where children had been taken away from their mothers, I met with their mothers who had been lied to, who didn't know where their children were, who hadn't had a chance to talk to their children, and there was no plan for how they would be reunified with their children.

I think we need immigration laws that focus on people who pose a real threat and I don't think mamas and babies are the place we should be spending our resources. Separating a mama from a baby does not make this country safer.

BERMAN: Senator Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts, thanks for being with us this morning.

WARREN: You bet.

BERMAN: Alisyn?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, John.

Up next, we have some new reporting on how the White House plans to fight back today against Michael Cohen's claims and his guilty plea connected to the president.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:28:59] CAMEROTA: CNN has learned that President Trump and his team are working to discredit Michael Cohen as a liar and a non- credible witness after Cohen's bombshell guilty plea that implicates President Trump in coordinating and directing hush money payments to two women that say they had affairs with Mr. Trump.

Joining us now is Matt Schlapp. He's the chairman of the American Conservative Union and former political director for George W. Bush.

Good morning, Matt.

MATT SCHLAPP, CHAIRMAN, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: Good morning, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: So, can you just share with us your reaction yesterday when you heard that Michael Cohen had pleaded guilty to paying these two women and that he did so at the direction of Donald Trump to influence the 2016 presidential election?

SCHLAPP: Yes, I come in from out of town and was watching the news first break out on Twitter and then was able to get to a television set, and there's no question it was a news-filled and a fairly shocking day.

CAMEROTA: Does it affect your support of Donald Trump?

SCHLAPP: The fact that Michael Cohen pled to these charges? Not at all. I think Michael Cohen is someone who, like Paul Manafort, who had an elaborate scheme to not pay their taxes and committed a lot of financial crimes.