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Cohen Plea Reveals How Hard We Worked to Protect Trump; Docs Reveal How Cohen Worked to Kill Bad News about Trump; Trump: Stock Market would Crash if I'm Impeached; Ohio State Suspends Urban Meyer. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired August 23, 2018 - 10:30   ET



MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: On election meddling, National Security Adviser John Bolton has been tough on Russia. Some consider him to be a Russia hawk. He has spoken out harshly against Russian bad behavior many, many times in the past. So when you get him in this kind of scenario, they are in Geneva, he is with his Russian counterpart, you feel certain that he is going to raise it, that he is going to say something like that. And he made it pretty clear there that he said it's not going to be tolerated. We're going to do something about it. Do not mess in our elections.


JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Of course not. I mean that's a silly question. And I just spoke to him literally a few minutes ago. And we have performed here in exactly the way I think the two leaders would have expected us to. And you know, honestly, have a little faith in the American people who elected him president.


KOSINSKI: OK. That sound was in response to a question from a BBC journalist at this little press conference where they asked if President Trump is a security risk. So you heard John Bolton there say, you know, no, have faith in the American people, they know how to pick a president. That's a silly question. And with that, the press conference ended, Poppy.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Michelle, thank you for walking us through all of it this morning. Good to see you.

Up next for us, it is called catch and kill. This morning, we're learning new details about just how far Michael Cohen went to protect his client when Trump was running for president.


[10:37:15] HARLOW: Welcome back. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

And with Michael Cohen's guilty plea, new details about the "National Enquirer's" relationship with the Trump campaign have come to light. Cohen admits that he worked with American Media Company. That's a huge media conglomerate. They owned the "National Enquirer." He worked with them for a sole purpose. The purpose was to bury stories that made then-candidate Trump look bad. OK? It could have hurt him in winning the presidential election. We have now learned that this so-called catch and kill strategy was conjured up just after then-candidate Trump entered the race, all the way back in 2015.

Brian Stelter is with me. He is our senior media correspondent, host of "Reliable Sources." This is your reporting. Walk us through how extensively we now know Michael Cohen worked with AMI to bury this stuff.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know we've heard about catch and kill for several months now. But it all had been based on media reports. Now for the first time, Michael Cohen in his own words is admitting to this behavior. That's part of the guilty plea. There's of course so much detail in these government court filings. And some of the detail does involve this media company that was acting more like a political advocacy group than a newsroom. The "National Enquirer," everyone knows "National Enquirer." It's a supermarket tabloid.


STELTER: But it does employ journalists. It does report real news sometimes along with a lot of spin and a lot of gossip. And it's incredible to think that behind the scenes "Enquirer" was hearing about bad news for Trump and then burying it with the help of Michael Cohen. This was a partnership behind the scenes where the "Enquirer" was weaponized to help Trump and to hurt his enemies.

HARLOW: What about David Pecker, the guy at the helm of all of this? It appears now from "The Wall Street Journal" reporting that he is really cooperating extensively with prosecutors.

STELTER: Yes. That's the new development that I think makes you wonder about the friendship between Trump and Pecker. Pecker has been CEO for a long time of this supermarket tabloid company. According to "The Journal" he provided prosecutors with details about the payments Cohen arranged with women who alleged sexual encounters with Trump, including Trump's knowledge of the deals. So that means when Pecker was subpoenaed earlier this year, he cooperated. He handed over apparently a lot of information to prosecutors. That would indicate -- that's one of the reasons why the government was able to get Cohen to plead guilty, because the government had a lot of evidence.

HARLOW: We know that the president loves, I think is a fair word, really loves the "National Enquirer." Let's just jog people's memory about what he has said about the "Enquirer" over the years.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The "National Enquirer" did a story. They actually have a very good record of being right.

I have always said, why didn't the "National Enquirer" get the Pulitzer Prize for Edwards and O.J. Simpson and all of these things?

I mean, you can't knock the "National Enquirer." It's brought many, many things to light, not all of them pleasant.


[10:40:03] HARLOW: Yes, that's true.

STELTER: And that was true, especially about Trump's enemies and opponents. The "Enquirer" will publish some flattering stories about them during the campaign.

HARLOW: Also, just flatly untrue things. Remember Ted Cruz's father and --

STELTER: Ted Cruz, exactly. This Pecker and Trump friendship -

HARLOW: Right.

STELTER: You know in the past, Trump has said, hey, Pecker should run "Time" magazine. Pecker is a great guy. There are all these tweets in Trump's past about his friend David Pecker. They are Palm Beach buddies. But now that we know that Pecker cooperated in this case against Cohen, it makes you wonder, is Trump going to speak out? Is he going to turn against Pecker?

HARLOW: Let me ask you this because I know one other new development from Michael Cohen's information is that there could be more people within the Trump campaign that were involved in squashing these stories.

STELTER: And this is still the mystery. This is the part we don't know. The Court filings say that Cohen and Pecker worked with one or more members of the Trump campaign in this partnership to keep bad news out of the news. So we don't know how many of those campaign members were involved and who they were. That is an unknown. But we do know this started just two months after Trump's campaign started.

According to the government, this collaboration started in August 2015. And it makes you think, you know when Trump is bashing the so- called fake news, attacking real journalists, think about his record here. He's had a media company essentially in his pocket helping him during the campaign. He seems to have an interesting relationship with this particular source of news.

HARLOW: Right. Thinking, I did it then, why can't I do it now?


HARLOW: He can't. Thank you, Brian.

STELTER: Thanks.

HARLOW: Appreciate it.

Embattled Congressman Duncan Hunter set to be in court later today on charges that he and his wife misused thousands and thousands, a quarter of a million dollars in campaign funds is the allegation. Well, why? To buy big things, nice trips to Hawaii and Italy, luxurious vacations and even an airline ticket for the family pet rabbit.

Hunter maintains he is innocent. He calls the charges dirty tricks brought on by Democrats. Sources tell CNN - sources to CNN confirm that the decision to file charges was made by a U.S. attorney appointed by Republican Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The president says the stock market would crash if he were impeached. One of Trump's former economic advisers weighs in on that next.


[10:46:41] HARLOW: So, this morning, President Trump is weighing in on the calls from some Democrats to impeach him. That would only be if Democrats take the House back in November. The president warns, don't go down that road. And here is how he explains it. Listen.


TRUMP: You know, I guess it's something like high crimes and -- I don't know how you can impeach somebody who has done a great job. I will tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash. I think everybody would be very poor. Because without this thinking, you would see -- you would see numbers that you wouldn't believe in reverse.


HARLOW: All right. Let's talk about that. With me now is Stephen Moore. He is the senior economics analysts for CNN. He also advised the president on all things economy during the campaign. Good to have you here.

We're going to get to China tariffs in the U.S. in a moment. But I just had to get right to you to ask you to weigh in on that statement, please. Can I just read it again? That you know if he were impeached, the market would crash and a lot of people would be very poor. Really?

STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMICS ANALYST: Well, look, I mean this is a president who has phenomenal economic record since the day he was elected. There's no question. The stock market is up about 40 percent since the election of Donald Trump. The economy is firing on all cylinders. I think that if Trump was removed from office, I don't think that's going to happen, but if it did happen I think it would cause a lot of problems for the stock market.

HARLOW: But Mike Pence would be president then.

MOORE: Well, that's a great point.

HARLOW: With the same policies. Come on, Steve.

MOORE: All right. Well, that's a fair point. But you know I'm going to make another point that's really related to this. You know I made this point a couple months ago on CNN and got a lot of blow back but I'm going to say it again. Richard Nixon probably would not have been impeached or had to leave office if he had been presiding under a strong economy. And I'm not excusing anything about what Richard Nixon did with respect to Watergate. What I'm saying is that President Nixon could not withstand the political heat because Americans felt like the direction the economy and the direction of the country was going in the wrong direction at that time.

HARLOW: Would you extend that analogy then to President Clinton and the economy then?

MOORE: Yes, exactly. That's exactly where I was going with this. One of the reasons Republicans got nowhere in terms of trying to impeach or remove Bill Clinton from office was because the economy was doing wonderfully. The stock market was through the roof. And Americans said we don't care about this stuff. As long as the country is going in the right direction, as it is now, people -- look at --

HARLOW: That's essentially you saying the co-equal branch of government -- the Congress doesn't care at all about you know its responsibility to check the executive branch.

MOORE: I'm not saying that. I'm just saying --

HARLOW: Well, you are saying as long as the economy is good it doesn't matter what the --

MOORE: No, I'm not. That's not what I'm saying.


MOORE: I'm saying that when the economy is doing really well, as it is doing right now, and you know look what's happened to Donald Trump's approval rating with the American people. Even as these -- the Russia story and the story with Manafort and Cohen have evolved. Donald Trump's approval rating has gone up, Poppy. How do you explain that?

HARLOW: Well, it's 42 percent. It's not great. But it is above -


[10:50:00] I'm going with our poll. We're on CNN. We're going to use our polling. OK? I can speak to the methodology there. 42 percent is not great but to your point, it is above where presidents Clinton and Reagan and Carter were at this point in their presidency. All right, we shall see.

Let me get you on this. And that is what's happening right now, midnight overnight these new tariffs, 25 percent tariffs, taxes on $16 billion in Chinese goods kicked in. China retaliated, doing the exact same thing to us. This has all transpired in the last few hours. This as the Federal Reserve warned yesterday that if this escalates, it is going to depress the economy. It is going to hurt the soaring economy. Has the president miscalculated on this one? MOORE: I think actually Trump is winning on this trade war with China. I think you are seeing China starting to show signs of real panic. Look, your general point is right that if this trade war escalates, that's going to be bad for the economy. There's no doubt about that.

But if Trump wins here and he gets real concessions and capitulation from China, which I predict is going to happen before the end of the year. Then I think the economy is even stronger. So, yes, this is a risky strategy. It's a high-stakes game of poker Trump is playing. But I think in the end he's going to win because China is in a bit of a panic.

HARLOW: Can you help me understand why? Because you are saying this -- my guest last hour who is a business owner, supportive of the tariffs about to testify before Congress tomorrow said this. But you are just predicting. I mean can you point me to one piece of evidence that shows you that Xi Jinping is bending?

MOORE: Well, look at what's happened to the Chinese stock market. It's down about 20 percent this year. You are seeing a lot of disinvestment in China. The growth rate has been cut in half. And my sources -- I do have you know sources who follow the Chinese economy, tell me that there is a real sense of panic. And that's not just me.

"The Wall Street Journal" has reported this, "The Washington Post" reported it, that there's a real sense of panic. They don't know how to deal with Donald Trump. And they can't withstand a trade war. I mean, I made this point before and I will make it again.

If we can't trade with China, would it hurt the U.S. economy? Absolutely it would hurt us. But if China can't trade with the United States, it throws their economy into a recession. They can't withstand this trade war. Then I think they're going to back down. I really do.

HARLOW: I think all American people, regardless of their politics, hope that you are right and hope that this does not depress the economy. We got to see. Stephen Moore, it's nice to have you on. Thanks for being with me, my friend.

MOORE: Thank you, Poppy.

HARLOW: So, Ohio State has suspended its football coach -- head football coach Urban Meyer for mishandling abuse allegations involving a former assistant coach that worked under him, a domestic abuse against his then-wife. You're going to hear from Meyer next.


[10:57:20] HARLOW: Welcome back. Ohio State has suspended their head football coach Urban Meyer for the first three games of the season. Lindsay Czarniak is with me for more on the "Bleacher Report" this morning. Some people blasting this this morning saying, that's it?

LINDSAY CZARNIAK, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Taking a lot of heat already. This is actually a partial suspension. So what that means is the final two weeks of the suspension, Urban Meyer is able to come back and coach during the week. He is not allowed though to coach the game. This "Bleacher Report" brought to you by Ford, going further so you can.

It took the board of trustees 11 hours of discussion to come to this conclusion. The main topic they were discussing, Meyer's response or lack thereof to spousal abuse allegations against former assistant coach Zach Smith. The board found Meyer failed to take, quote, "sufficient management action" against Smith despite having knowledge of those accusations. Meyer offered an apology to fans but this was his response when given an opportunity to apologize to the victim.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What message do you have for Courtney Smith?

URBAN MEYER, OHIO STATE FOOTBALL COACH: Well, I have a message for everyone involved in this. I'm sorry that we're in this situation. I'm just sorry we're in this situation.


CZARNIAK: So, failure to acknowledge her directly has also gained some heat for him. Meyer admitted that he knew about a 2009 abuse allegation made by Smith's ex-wife but he said he was not aware of a 2015 incident until last month. Zach Smith has denied the abuse allegations. He was fired from the team in July.

Smith's attorney told CNN that his client should not have married Courtney Smith adding, quote, "Vengeance against her ex-husband regrettably resulted in collateral damage to Urban Meyer, Gene Smith and The Ohio State University."

So, all of this, Poppy, happening also at the same time, the United States Department of Education pursues a federal investigation into Ohio State's response to allegations of sexual abuse against former athletic doctor, Richard Strauss.

Shifting gears now, the long awaited, much anticipated head to head match play showdown between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson is on. For Thanksgiving weekend round in Vegas, it's for high stakes. The grand prize will be for a whopping $9 million, winner taking all. They are billing this like a heavyweight title fight in boxing. And that's basically what it is. Two of the game's best squaring off and you know that there's going to be a lot of trash talking involved, but there are also some cool opportunities.

"Bleacher Report" is going to be at the forefront giving unprecedented access, really. Live coverage will be available on "Bleacher Report" live app as well as DirecTV. They're going to mike these two. And it's going to be very interesting.

HARLOW: Really? Is there a seven second delay? No profanity.

CZARNIAK: That's a great question. I don't think so. So I would watch out if I'm following -- HARLOW: No trash talking. I appreciate it. Thank you all for being with me today. I'll see you here tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. "At This Hour" starts now.