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'National Enquirer' Publisher Gets Immunity to Share Details on Trump-Cohen Hush Money Payments; Sen. Graham: Trump Could Replace Sessions After Midterms; Interview with Rep. Eric Swalwell; Hawaii Braces for Flooding from Hurricane Lane; Congress Wants Cohen to Testify Again; Indicted Congressman Appears to Blame Wife for Misused Funds. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired August 24, 2018 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- business, supersedes friendship.
[07:00:03] JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: "The Enquirer" was an organ of support for Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president said that he has not lied.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president is an unindicted co-conspirator.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Republican majority ought to be pursuing the truth.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I put in an attorney general that never took control of the Justice Department.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the ultimately irony. Sessions has done more to advance the Trump agenda.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It undermines the rule of law and undermines respect for the Department of Justice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a man of integrity, and I wish him the best.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, I'm ready.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: I can see that.
BERMAN: All right. Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY.
The White House has a new worry this morning, a safe, an actual, literal, real safe. The Associate press reports "The National Enquirer" kept a safe of secrets with damaging documents pertaining to the hush-money payments that led to Michael Cohen who pleaded guilty this week.
Cohen testified under oath that he, Donald Trump and the tabloid were involved in buying the silence of women who say they had affairs with the president. David Pecker becomes the third close ally and one-time friend of the president -- I don't know if turning on him is the right phrase, but certainly willing to talk and testify to federal prosecutors about what he knows.
CAMEROTA: And on your screen are the three loyalists who just this week seem to have flipped, or turned, or at least challenged their loyalty to Donald Trump. So that man there on the right of your screen, David Pecker, is reportedly getting immunity from federal prosecutors in exchange for information on those hush-money payments.
How does President Trump feel about all of this? Well, the president often uses an allegory. It's a poem about a snake that perhaps has particular relevance now. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: On her way to work one morning, down the path along the lake, / a tenderhearted woman saw a poor, half-frozen snake. / His pretty colored skin had been all frosted with the dew. / "Poor thing," she cried, "I'll take you in, and I'll take care of you. / She stroked his pretty skin and then she kissed and held him tight, / but instead of saying, "Thank you," that snake gave her a vicious bite. / "You know your bite is poisonous, and now I'm going to die." / "Oh shut up, silly woman," said the reptile with a grin. / "You know damn well I was a snake before you took me in."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Just to be clear: In the metaphor here that we're trying to extend, the new snakes would be David Pecker, Omarosa, and Michael Cohen.
CAMEROTA: I don't know what's happening right now.
BERMAN: And the woman in this case would be the president. The president obviously has an issue with the idea of betrayal, and as we know, he thinks that flipping should almost be illegal.
CAMEROTA: Yes, but also there's so much in there. I didn't know until we cut that together that he had cited that same poem so many times. I didn't know that that was a go-to.
BERMAN: He's talking about immigration.
CAMEROTA: I think so.
BERMAN: But also betrayal. He has -- the larger notion there the president's clearly tapping into is deep feelings of betrayal.
Let's bring in CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin --
TOOBIN: And poetry scholar.
BERMAN: Poetry scholar. And CNN political analyst Jackie Kucinich, who hopefully will ground us in some reality. Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast." CAMEROTA: It's up to you, Jackie.
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I've got goals.
BERMAN: Yes. To move away from the poetry to the actual issues that may be really problematic for the president, David Pecker, a man whom you've written about extensively, in the "Enquirer" and "Catch and Kill."
TOOBIN: No, I haven't written in "The Enquirer." I've written --
CAMEROTA: About him.
BERMAN: About him in "The New Yorker" about this. Now has immunity, according to "The Wall Street Journal," and is answering questions about Michael Cohen and the president's role. And apparently says the president had knowledge of these payments.
TOOBIN: You know, it is such a fascinating area here, because, you know, there is certainly nothing inappropriate about a magazine owner --
CAMEROTA: Hold on, we're having a hard time with your mic.
BERMAN: Speaking of my microphone.
TOOBIN: Oh, it fell. Behind the scenes here.
CAMEROTA: Did the snake take it off and --
TOOBIN: Could be --
CAMEROTA: -- rip it off of you?
TOOBIN: Could be.
CAMEROTA: I think she did.
TOOBIN: How disappointing. The -- what were we discussing? The -- David Pecker. The -- magazines are more than entitled to support the candidates of their choice. The --
CAMEROTA: Where does it become illegal?
TOOBIN: The interesting is when there starts to be financial relationships between the magazine and critics of -- of the candidate of choice. And here, of course, the issue is did they pay people to be silent about Donald Trump? That's not journalism. That is campaign contributions. And that was part of Michael Cohen's guilty plea.
[07:05:09] And now the question arises were there other payments that American Media, which is the parent company of "The Enquirer," did they pay other people for their silence? And is that a law enforcement question at all? Presumably, that's what Pecker is talking about in his immunity deal. CAMEROTA: Jackie, look, there's been so many days that there's been
controversies or events, call them what you want, that we've covered on our program. But does this week feel differently -- different in Washington? Does just the confluence of things, as we've been seeing, the Michael Cohen plea deal, the Omarosa turning on him, now David Pecker getting immunity, it has something -- has something shifted?
KUCINICH: It feels different, but it's always hard to say whether it's going to make an impact. Because it's President Trump.
Now, Michael Cohen, you can -- there is a sort of visceral reaction to him that was kind of a slow burn. I think all of us expected Trump at that rally in West Virginia earlier this week to really sort of let loose, and you didn't have that.
But we've seen it build over the course of the week and, in fact, the president is tweeting at all hours of the day and really seems agitated -- is agitated behind the scenes; and some of the language he's used about Michael Cohen over the past week. I mean, you can see that this has made a deep impact. You know, Michael Cohen, the man who only worked for him a couple year -- ten years, and he may or may not have passed him in the hallway a couple times. I mean, trying to distance himself, which is impossible in this case.
TOOBIN: I, like many people, have been very wrong about the impact of news on public opinion.
TOOBIN: In fact, one of the great stories of the Trump year and a half in office has been the fact that public opinion hasn't changed, no matter what the news is.
However, what Michael Cohen did today was -- this week was the beginning of his story, not the end. All we got from Michael Cohen this week was two words: "cooperation with" and "at the direction of" Donald Trump. He didn't elaborate on that. What did that mean? That's what we're going to start to hear over the next months. He will tell the story, and --
CAMEROTA: And I'm just curious. Where will he tell the story? How will we --
TOOBIN: That's an interesting question. I mean, according to Lanny Davis, one of his lawyers, he's willing to tell it to anyone who's willing to listen: Robert Mueller, Congress, public hearings, the U.S. attorney here in New York. Knowing who Lanny Davis operates, which is always in a cable news context, I don't believe that this will all remain silent. That Michael Cohen will tell his story in public, one way or another; and we will see, perhaps more importantly, does he have cooperation.
BERMAN: Well, that's where David Pecker comes in. That's where David Pecker comes in.
TOOBIN: Right. BERMAN: You have this witness, this person who was central to all of this who is apparently answering questions from federal prosecutors. And the idea of David Pecker answering questions was alluded to by the federal prosecutors when Michael Cohen made the plea here.
They have back-up on these things that they're saying, Jackie, and this back-up is coming from someone who's been very close to the president for a very long time, who the president has relied on for a very long time.
KUCINICH: And that's true. I think, and -- as we know, loyalty is incredibly important to this president.
The other piece of this that really hits to the heart of what the president cares about is the potential involvement of the Trump Organization. That was another part of the Michael Cohen plea deal where you -- it alluded to the fact the Trump Organization was kicking in money here. So what kind of -- what would happen to them? What's their exposure in all of this?
The president values his business very much, and with it his family, which is obviously very connected to the business. This is -- Jeffrey's absolutely right. This is just the beginning.
CAMEROTA: Let's talk about that, Jeffrey. So the Manhattan district attorney's office is now looking at the Trump -- the Trump Organization, possibly criminal charges. That's reportedly. So what does that mean?
TOOBIN: Well, remember, the New York City district attorney, Cyrus Vance, is not beholden to the federal government, to Donald Trump at all.
CAMEROTA: And these would be pardon proof.
TOOBIN: And any -- any -- you know, the president can only pardon individuals for federal offenses, not state offenses. So that's true.
However, it's a very interesting story in "The New York Times" that there is an initial investigation. It's not clear to me what crimes may have been committed here. And I think we need to be very cautious in saying, yes, there appears to be some preliminary investigation. But it's not obvious to me what state crimes --
TOOBIN: But payments in and of themselves are not necessarily illegal.
BERMAN: The -- if there was a crime, it would be in the misreporting or altering of documents that had to do with state taxes that were --
TOOBIN: Some sort of state frauds and state taxes, that's true.
[07:10:03] BERMAN: It's unclear whether they can make a case or not. But they are looking into it in state agencies. TOOBIN: And this is the first time that we know for sure that a
pardon-proof investigation is under way. You know, there's been talk about various state attorney -- attorneys general, but this is apparently, according to "The New York Times," which I believe, an actual investigation, and it is pardon-proof.
BERMAN: I want to talk about one thing the president seems to do whenever he's getting hit with attacks or problems on one side. It seems to be he goes after Jeff Sessions. He always has that Jeff Sessions well to dive back into, Jackie.
And yesterday, it was extraordinary. We heard him go after his attorney general in ways he never has before. Equally, perhaps more extraordinary, was the fact that Jeff Sessions responded, finally, he said, you know, "I did take control the day I got into office."
And then the third element of it, and perhaps the most, most extraordinary side, is that Republican senators who had been defending Jeff Sessions, standing up and saying, "Hey, don't get rid of him. We stand by what Jeff Sessions is doing."
That wall began to crack a little bit. Lindsey Graham suggesting out loud that maybe soon it will be time for Jeff Sessions to go. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Really, Attorney General Sessions doesn't have the confidence of the president. After the election, I think there will be some serious discussions about a new attorney general.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: I don't know if Lindsey Graham is just sick of fighting. I don't know if he's taking the president's side here. I don't know what's going on here. What do you see?
KUCINICH: There's a lot to unpack here.
The president has always viewed the Justice Department as -- as someone that needs to protect him. He sort of doesn't see that it's actually this vast organization that does a lot of other things. He's seen it in terms of his own -- of being protected by Jeff Sessions. And he's -- he hasn't felt like he's been able to do that. It's very -- very closed world view on that front.
When it comes to the Senate, there are some other things going on here. Jeff Sessions has been butting up against his former colleagues on criminal justice reform, and they're not too happy about that. And look -- but they did say, you did have other senators like John Cornyn, who's in Senate Republican leadership, say that this is something that the president couldn't do immediately because it would -- that would end up being chaotic. He would have to do it after the election, after the midterms.
And who knows who's going to control the Senate? Now, that's looking good for Republicans, but that, in and of itself, is a little bit of wishful thinking at this point.
TOOBIN: And remember how significant this would be. Because if there's a new attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who is now supervising the Mueller investigation, would not be in charge any more, because --
CAMEROTA: It reverts back to the --
TOOBIN: That's right. There would -- there wouldn't be a recused attorney general, and that person would be responsible.
CAMEROTA: Is that a no-brainer to do for the president?
TOOBIN: Yes, but remember, I mean, that -- he can't do that with absolute discretion, because the Senate has to approve that person and, obviously, the issue of who's supervising Mueller will be front and center.
BERMAN: Might come up in the hearing.
TOOBIN: It might, indeed, Berman. Yes.
BERMAN: All right. Jeffrey Toobin, Jackie Kucinich. Jackie, we thank you most of all.
KUCINICH: Thank you.
BERMAN: You've been most helpful this morning. CAMEROTA: So there.
BERMAN: We have breaking news out of Hawaii. That state bracing for significant flooding as Hurricane Lane bears down on the island. Parts of the big island now submerged. Look at that. Oh, my.
More than 19 inches of rain falling in that region over a 24-hour period. The state's governor is warning that some areas could see up to 30 inches of rain and 20-foot waves. The hurricane was downgraded overnight to a Category 3 storm, with winds sustained of 125 miles per hour.
Miguel Marquez is live in Hawaii with more -- Miguel.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, I can tell you this has been dumping it down for much of the evening. We are now in a period of relative calm here, but the rain on the big island has just been unrelenting from this very slow-moving storm.
It is now a tropical storm warning for much of the big island. And one of the big areas here was on the eastern side of the island just below Hilo. Hilo got hit very hard, as well. But they get rain quite a bit there.
But that area of the Puna District in Pahoa, those areas that were hit very hard by the volcano just a couple of months ago, now they are dealing with a whole other sort of natural disaster: water, and tons of it. The question now is where will Lane go? It is making a northward turn
and it is moving toward other Hawaiian islands. They are still under a hurricane warning. Oahu is the big concern. Honolulu there, some 400,000 people on Honolulu. Will it come close to Honolulu. The governor of Hawaii telling citizens to be prepared to be cut off for two weeks. A lot of folks are heeding that. Some aren't, but they are watching very carefully where this storm goes -- Alisyn.
[07:15:04] CAMEROTA: All right, Miguel. Be careful, and please keep us posted as to where the storm does hit. Thank you very much.
MARQUEZ: Thank you.
[07:15:00] CAMEROTA: So in light of everything we've learned this week lawmakers, not surprisingly, would like to interview Michael Cohen again. They want to call him back before Congress. We have a member of the House Intel Committee telling us what the next move is, next.
CAMEROTA: After Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight federal crimes this week, lawmakers want him to testify again, certainly, before the Senate Intel Committee. And Cohen's own lawyer, Lanny Davis, told NEW DAY this week that he believes his client is willing to testify before any congressional committee without immunity.
So joining us now to talk about this and more, we have Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. He serves on the House Judiciary and the House Intel Committees.
Good morning, Congressman.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Good morning, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Do you think Michael Cohen lied to your committee?
SWALWELL: Well, it certainly looks like he wasn't forthcoming with us. But the only way to, you know, really test that is if he comes back. There are a number of witnesses, not just Michael Cohen -- Roger Stone, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner -- who gave inconsistent accounts that we've later learned through press reporting.
[07:20:07] But the Republicans closed down our investigation. The best thing they can do for the country is to reopen the investigation and bring these witnesses in under oath, under subpoena, and allow us to look at the documents that third parties hold to test their stories.
CAMEROTA: Help us understand this. The chairman of your committee, Devin Nunes, closed down the investigation, said it was over and done with, no more needed to be known about any of these matters.
Now that it appears that Michael Cohen misled your committee or lied outright to your committee, why wouldn't the Republicans on your committee want to make that right? SWALWELL: Well, Chairman Nunes from the beginning has sought to
protect Donald Trump, not to protect the ballot box. And so it's not surprising. You know, they took out the shovels as soon as this investigation began and buried as much evidence as they could.
And Alisyn, when witnesses would come in, just so you understand the construct, they were asked, "OK, did you guys collude? No? OK, next." They didn't test the stories. They didn't subpoena any documents like phone records, hotel records, bank records. And they didn't allow the Democrats when we asked to subpoena those records or put those witnesses under subpoena. They didn't let us do that.
So it was a sham investigation. It allowed us to really tell the American people zero about the Trump team and the relationships with Russia. And now that the investigation has been closed, we're learning that Cambridge Analytica was working with WikiLeaks. We've learned that Roger Stone has updated his testimony a number of times. We've learned that Michael Cohen may not have been straight with us.
So the right thing to do is to reopen this investigation.
CAMEROTA: But I mean, obviously, you don't have the power. And so what can Democrats on your committee do?
SWALWELL: The American people have the power, and in 74 days, they'll go to the polls. And they're going to say that they want their healthcare to be protected, their paychecks to go up, and the corruption to end. And if the corruption's going to end, that means we're going to have to do the right investigations that the Republicans weren't willing to do.
CAMEROTA: I want to ask you about one of your colleagues, Republican Duncan Hunter. He is accused of, and his wife, of mishandling lots and lots of campaign expenses.
Let me just put some up on the screen for people. I mean, this -- I just have to read some of this. Spending $14,000 on a family vacation in Italy, $6,500 on a family vacation in Hawaii, going to Las Vegas. Paying 250 or an airplane ride for the family pet; 350 for bachelor party drinks. I'm not sure that that -- the Election Commission approves of that. Eight hundred and thirty-five on "Riverdance" tickets, Steelers tickets to the tune of $1,900. Costco groceries, they did some damage there: $11,300.
Here is who Congressman Hunter blames for the misuse of some of these funds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: The first time I gave her power of attorney, and she handed my finances throughout my entire military career, and that continued on when I got into Congress, because I'm gone five days a week; I'm home for two. So -- and she was also the campaign manager.
So whatever she did, that will be -- that will be looked at, too, I'm sure. But I didn't do it. I didn't spend any money illegally. I didn't -- I did not use campaign money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: If you're wondering who that rogue campaign manager is that he's throwing under the bus, it's his wife. What do you want to see happen to Congressman Duncan Hunter?
SWALWELL: I'm already trying to make that happen. I've been down there with our candidate, helping him. And the best thing we can do, again, in 74 days is to claim that seat. That is Ammar Campa-Najjar who's running against Duncan Hunter down there.
And that is to just really scrub out the corruption that we're seeing across the country. You know, we had Congressman Chris Collins who literally conducted an insider trader deal on the lawn of the White House last year. Now --
CAMEROTA: He's accused of that.
SWALWELL: Well, there -- you're right, he has a right to a trial. But there's a phone call. There's a picture of him on the phone, and people sold stocks at the time that he was making those calls.
Now, you could say that the White House has created a permissive environment where, if they're cashing in on the Oval Office, why shouldn't the members of Congress who they invite over do the same, literally on the grounds?
CAMEROTA: I mean, in terms of Duncan Hunter's defense, do you think the "My wife did it all. She was in charge of these expenses. I didn't do anything. I didn't know anything about that," do you think that that flies?
SWALWELL: No, it doesn't fly. And trying to deflect responsibility also does not fly. You know, his name is the one who is on the office, and I think he's the one who's going to be held accountable, either by his voters or by the law.
CAMEROTA: Or by his wife.
SWALWELL: Yes. Yes, he's got to answer to that, too. But I'll -- you know, that -- I'll let him deal with that at home.
CAMEROTA: Fair enough. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, does he survive in his job past Labor Day? Does he survive past the midterms?
[07:25:02] SWALWELL: You know, Alisyn, I'm conflicted on this, because I called on Attorney General Sessions to resign a long time ago because of his failure to be forthcoming about Russia. And I get the argument that, if you get rid of Sessions, then it allows someone else to come in who could fire Mueller.
But I don't think you can keep someone in there who has their own issues. You can't say, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." I think you have to put this squarely at the feet of the Senate and say, "Do not confirm somebody who would fire Bob Mueller." And so I actually think Sessions should go, too, for different
reasons, but I don't think the next attorney general should be allowed to do anything to undermine the Mueller investigation.
CAMEROTA: Congressman Eric Swalwell, nice to talk to you. Thank you --
SWALWELL: My pleasure.
CAMEROTA: -- very much for your perspective -- John.
BERMAN: All right. President Trump issuing a new demand to his embattled attorney general. Former attorney general Alberto Gonzales joins us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I put in an attorney general that never took control of the Justice Department, Jeff Sessions. Never took control of the Justice Department, and it's sort of an incredible thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: President Trump there, leveling new attacks against Attorney General Jeff Sessions. And now the attorney general has responded in a fairly extraordinary statement, saying in part, "I did take control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in. While I am attorney general, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations."