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Reports: Former Trump Atty. Michael Cohen Has Spoken Repeatedly With Mueller Team; Republican Women Weigh In; Sources: Ford Could Potentially Testify Thursday; Source: Ford Doesn't Want To Be In Same Room As Kavanaugh; "This is Life" Premiers Sunday On CNN After "Parts Unknown". Aired 8-9p ET

Aired September 20, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:10] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

We've intended to bring you an exclusive interview with a member of Professor Christine Blasey Ford's legal team just hours from tomorrow morning's Senate Judiciary Committee deadline for her to signal her intentions about testifying against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Late today, citing active efforts to reach agreement with the committee, her lawyers canceled the interview. They told us they believe it might harm the process by engaging with the media and their entire focus is ensuring a safe and fair hearing which, of course, makes perfect sense. We certainly look forward to having them on in the future.

Right now, though, there is breaking news on a conference call they had with staffers for the Judiciary Committee.

CNN's Jim Acosta has the details for us. He joins us now.

What are you learning?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson. This call wrapped up just a short while ago. It involved aides for the Senate Judiciary Committee on the GOP side, Democratic side, also attorneys for Christine Blasey Ford.

And they were basically going through some of the stipulations that the Ford legal team has for how this is going to work if she is to participate. One of those stipulations being they do not want to do this on Monday.

According to a source that I spoke with who is familiar with what happened on this call. She's pretty adamant about this. Christine Blasey Ford does not want to testify on Monday. And now, that sounds like an open question.

This hearing could happen later on in the week. Anderson, the source described the call as having some agreements, some disagreements. There was also some talk about these threats that have been made against Christine Blasey Ford and her concerns about her safety, her legal team's concerns about her safety and how they might be able to deal with all of that.

Anderson, one thing we should also note, and it's something you just mentioned a short while ago, that is that one of the reasons why Christine Blasey Ford's legal team is canceling some of these interviews that they had set up is that they wanted to show some good faith to the other side and according to this source that was a welcome sign. It signaled to them that there's sort of a commitment there to get this done. And according to this source, in the words of this source, quote, we want to work this out.

Anderson, one other interesting prospect in all of this that I think really needs to be underlined and highlighted, and that is that the conversations are continuing inside the Senate Judiciary Committee to have a female attorney, a prosecutor or litigant of some kind to represent the all-male GOP side of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

I was talking with a source earlier this evening who said essentially they don't want to have the image out there to the American people of a group of aging men on the Senate GOP side quizzing and questioning and interrogating Christine Blasey Ford. They would rather see a female prosecutor do that -- Anderson.

COOPER: Is there any reaction tonight from the White House on the possibility of a hearing or a late hearing?

ACOSTA: Well, the president as you know left for this rally that's going to happen in Las Vegas later on this evening. But the deputy chief of staff Bill Shine spoke to reporters just briefly and said the White House stands behind judge Kavanaugh 100 percent. He has been engaged in these prep sessions all week long.

I talked to a source familiar with these prep sessions who said that Judge Kavanaugh was ready on Monday, he was ready on Tuesday, he was ready on Wednesday. He's ready to go. He wants to clear his name.

And in fact, the White House did put out a statement from Judge Kavanaugh earlier this evening saying he wants to do just that. He continues to maintain he's innocent in all this.

COOPER: All right. Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

ACOSTA: You bet.

COOPER: Joining us now, someone who's seen this before and all that comes with it in the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas face-off, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents the District of Columbia.

Congresswoman Norton, in the letter from Ford's attorney, it says that Ford is willing to testify provided they can agree on fair terms. What would fair terms look like in your opinion assuming -- because initially they had talked about having an FBI investigation. I'm assuming that's not what they're discussing at this point.

REP. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D), DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Well, I hope that's what they're discussing. If we could have an FBI investigation at the Anita Hill hearings, I don't know what's the difference here. I think they're making some progress with a neutral lawyer asking the questions so that neither side gets to grandstand here.

But I'm not sure why we aren't engaging in regular order here. There needs to be some investigation. You don't throw people cold into a hearing. You don't have a swearing contest. You try to get at the truth.

And the way to do that is to do an investigation. Now, the Anita Hill investigation was too short. But at least it was an investigation for several days.

They need to -- they need to negotiate about the FBI and what they're going to learn from the FBI, and it's sharing with both sides.

COOPER: If there is no FBI investigation, which again, there's no indication that there is going to be right now, it seems like the discussion is about what day this may be and any security concerns that Ford may have.

Do you expect Chairman Grassley to agree to hold a hearing late in the week rather than on Monday?

[20:05:02] HOLMES NORTON: Well, I certainly expect later in the week because they've been able to come up with a reason why it has to be on Monday. So, I believe that the time is really not the issue now. It's really the circumstances of the hearing, what's going on, what should go on. And I believe that's what's being discussed now.

For example, who has interviewed the therapist who Dr. Ford went to? Shouldn't she be talked to? It's interesting that Dr. Ford has gone so far as to take a polygraph. I wonder if Judge Kavanaugh is willing to take a polygraph.

She's done a lot, it seems to me, to reinforce her credibility -- credibility that was not at issue when she took these steps. It seems to me that the FBI ought to be investigating that and telling the committee what they found.

COOPER: CNN, we're reporting that Republicans are looking to bring in a female outside counsel to question Ford if the hearing happens. Beyond just the optics of it, could it also be more effective in terms of getting closer to the truth and do you think that person should also ask questions for the Democrats or do you think Democratic senators should ask questions?

HOLMES NORTON: No, I think what starts for the goose will go with the Democrats as well, if you'll forgive me. And I think having an outside counsel, given how sensitive this is. Remember what we're talking about, Anderson. We're talking about an allegation. And her side has used these words of "attempted rape".

We don't need anybody making points back home, whether on the Democratic side or the Republican side if what we're trying to do is to find out what happened, because we're talking about a lifetime appointment. We won't be able to do anything about it afterwards. We've got to do it now.

COOPER: It doesn't seem like there's anyone on the Republican side, though, on the committee talking about bringing in any other potential witnesses other than these two.

HOLMES NORTON: Well, Anderson, you've got to do one of two things. You've got to have the FBI investigate these witnesses. For example, Mark Judge. Someone's got to talk to him, or you've got to have a real hearing where these people come before the public. Those are really the only two alternatives.

Somebody's got to investigate those witnesses who are relevant to this hearing. You can have the FBI do it. They can then work with the committee. Or you can bring those witnesses before the committee.

Now, if there's any other alternative, as a member of Congress I don't know what it is.

COOPER: As someone who advocated for Anita Hill, if Ford did end up testifying what advice would you give her going into it?

HOLMES NORTON: I think she has been able -- I think Dr. Ford has been able to tell her story to professionals, that is to say, to a therapist. She apparently spoke to her own congresswoman and told her story there. She is herself apparently a very intelligent professional.

So I would just say to her tell it straight. Tell it the way you've been telling it to all those who say they believe you.

COOPER: Congressman Norton, appreciate your time. Thank you.

I want to broaden the conversation. Back with us tonight is former Federal Judge Nancy Gertner. She's now a lecturer at Harvard University's Law School. Also, CNN political analyst Gloria Borger and David Gergen.

Judge Gertner, when you hear these new details about negotiations between the committee and Professor Ford's lawyer, how much do you read into that? It's still up to Chairman Grassley whether he'll push back the Monday hearing.

NANCY GERTNER, FORMER FEDERAL JUDGE: Well, I mean, I think that it's good that she's saying she's going to come to the hearing. She left herself open when she said without X or Y, without the FBI investigation she's going to come.

But I want to -- I want to underscore what the congresswoman said, which is that a hearing without other witnesses and a hearing without investigation sounds like an appeasement to the #MeToo movement. In other words, it sounds very much like hey, we'll hear from you, now let's vote. In other words, there's no -- there will be searching entry of her, but it becomes he said/she said more than it already is, where there may be other witness that's you're not going to.

So, it then relies on, you know, a high status male being accused by a lower status female. And that really, forgive me, is an empty ritual at this point. Having other witnesses is one thing. Having an investigation is another thing.

This is really thank you very much for appearing, now let's vote.

[20:10:03] COOPER: Gloria, the notion that Republicans on the committee might retain a female outside counsel to question Ford and, again, unclear whether that would be in public or in private. How much political strategy would be behind that move?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, it's all political. I mean, they're not dumb. They understand that you have all of these white men who would be questioning this woman, that there is no female to ask questions, and that it would -- the optics of it would look terrible.

And you know, from the other point of view, you know, if I were Professor Ford, I might rather be questioned by the committee, to be honest, in many ways because perhaps she would be able to handle the political questions just with her story whereas a practiced attorney might be better at it than the members of the committee. So, you know, it's kind of interesting. I mean, they have to on this phone call today, and I've been talking to a couple of sources about it, it was a good call but there are lots of issues that need to be resolved.

I mean, if there is an attorney on one side, will there be an attorney on the other side, for the Democrats, for example --

COOPER: Right.

BORGER: -- who would go first? How long would they be given? You know, there's still a lot that needs to be resolved. And there's no way -- and everybody knows it that they could have done it by Monday.

COOPER: David, it certainly seems there's no appetite on the part of Republicans to have an FBI investigation at this point.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: None. Zero. I think what we do know, Anderson, is they have entered negotiations and both sides seem to want to get the yes.

So I think chances are much higher tonight that she's actually going to come and testify.

COOPER: Even if it's later in the week.

GERGEN: Even -- and I assume Chairman Grassley as part of that would do it later in the week. But there's no indication on any give of witnesses coming in. And very important -- no give on the idea of having a real investigation before you get there.

It's just hard to know how you can put two people and conclude what's the truth, if you have no real information about what other parties say. You know, you need to hear from a variety of people under oath. So I think it does come down to he said/she said, which means they're going to vote and he's going to win. I do think also, on the outside, the outside counsel it's important to

distinguish. This is someone they're bringing in who's going to be on their side who's trying to impugn and to discredit --

COOPER: Right, this would not be a neutral --

GERGEN: This is not a neutral arbiter. Right, they're looking for somebody who can do -- so the Democrats would be advised to do that. On the other hand, they've got people who are experienced. They've got women of their own who can ask questions.

I'm not sure they need to duplicate that. But what also is really striking is the disproportionate amount of power coming into this. I mean, here Kavanaugh goes into the White House every day and he has hours and hours of prepared testimony. He's got a whole -- the Republicans on the Hill.

COOPER: Right.

GERGEN: They control a lot of this. In some ways it's going to be a David versus Goliath or Christine versus Goliath. That will be tough for her but she may be a more sympathetic character as a result.

COOPER: Judge, I mean, one the things that remains unclear tonight is whether or not any investigation -- I mean, it doesn't seem like there will be any investigation into the allegation allegations.

GERTNER: That's significant. I want to step back and say there are three choices here.

One is to have an investigation. And no one in any court ever gets on the stand without a private investigation, depositions, discovery. Nobody except on "Judge Judy" does that. So, that would be one option which they've now rejected.

The other would be to have other witnesses so it is not just he said/she said. And that's rejected.

Now you're talking about sort of the classic troubling scene where yes, you're having her testify, having him testify, but as David Gergen indicated, this is unequal at the start. And there's no outside context. I can't emphasize enough how unusual it is to simply have people, you know, confront their accuser with no other evidence other than essentially their own words.

Maybe there is no such evidence out there. But it seems to me we have to look at that before we proceed with this. I also have to admit that this stuff about talking about the optics. We should be talking about getting to the truth.

BORGER: Right. I totally agree with you. But you've also got to presume that the staffs of the committees are doing their own internal investigations. The outside groups are doing investigations. They're digging as hard as they can to find whatever they can.

And I would presume that if the Democrats do their own questioning, that there will be -- they will have their own information that they will then ask Judge Kavanaugh about.

[20:15:16] So, what I think we would see coming out of this hearing would be sort of information that people have culled while we've been waiting for this to get started without really an official FBI investigation, which is what they should have had in the first place.

GERGEN: I think there's a real chance that each side will introduce ideas or conspiracies about the other side that are unresolved, but that push the public in one direction or another. And we do know that the White House forces are very clever at this.


GERGEN: And that's why I think she's -- I mean, it's extraordinarily brave of her to come in and do this because she's paid this personal price already. But the odds of winning this kind of argument, unless she can appeal to people's sense of she really is a victim here, she really is being ganged up on.

COOPER: Yes. We're going to take a break, continue the conversation.

Also, we're going to talk more about the details of when, where, how we'll hear from Judge Kavanaugh and his accuser which are very much in flux. The latest on what we know.

Also ahead tonight, breaking news on the Mueller investigation. New word tonight about the time the Mueller team is spending with the president's former Attorney Michael Cohen and what they're talking about.


[20:20:30] COOPER: Continuing the conversation, the breaking news, the parameters still evolving of new testimony in the Brett Kavanaugh fight.

Back with Judge Nancy Gertner, David Gergen and Gloria Borger as well.

Gloria, I understand you have some new information.

BORGER: Yes. Manu Raju also has some new information and I do as well, that Professor Ford really doesn't want to be questioned by outside counsel. We were talking about that earlier. And she would like senators to question her instead. She doesn't want it to turn into some kind of trial where she's being questioned by an attorney like that.

And that she does not want to testify in the same room as Judge Kavanaugh. She doesn't want to be in the same room with him at the same time. And that -- and Manu is also reporting that she wants the committee to subpoena Mark Judge and these other alleged witnesses.

And so, those are just some new details we're both learning this evening.

COOPER: Judge, what do you make of that? GERTNER: Well, I mean, I think that the -- candidly, with all due

respect to the senators, they're not as good questioners as a lawyer would be. Even though -- the senators who are lawyers are not as good questions as someone who's a litigator would be.

So, I mean, that's an interesting choice. You wind up with less probing and more awkward questioning that way --

COOPER: Do you think there's a reason -- what do you think her reasoning would be on that? I mean, you can make the argument that A, she doesn't want an accusatory prosecutor type on the Republican side asking her questions.


COOPER: The other side of it is some might argue she wants the visual of, you know, male senators of a certain age asking awkward questions.

GERTNER: Right. I mean, if it's the latter, then it's a political decision. If it's the former, I can understand it as an issue of comfort more than anything else.

But, you know, the other thing is what we're heading for is a hyper- partisan hearing without a judge. I hate to sort of tout that but there's no one there to say hey, that's an inappropriate question or that's going too far except the partisans on both sides.

BORGER: Well, let me just add this, Anderson, from a source I just heard from. One of the reasons I believe she doesn't want to be questioned by outside counsel is that she believes senators should be accountable for the questions that they're going to ask, and that the burden should be on them to ask the questions they want to ask and not an outside counsel who is a professional at doing this and let them be accountable to the American public. She is going to be accountable to the American public for what she says they should be accountable as well.

COOPER: David?

GERGEN: I just don't know how this is going to be seen as anything other than a trial. Both are going to be -- have to make persuasive arguments. I just don't agree with her on that point.

It does seem to me there might be a compromise and that is each side can select three senators or four senators to represent anybody -- everybody. The stories are not that long. It's not going to take that long to question these people.

I think a more relevant question is, what is the order? You know, I would think it's probably advisable to go second if you can. But then if the first person questions and then the other person goes, then do they get rebuttals? How do they keep each other out of the room at the same time? Do they take recesses and bring people back?

I think those are going to be important questions as well.

COOPER: I mean -- go ahead.

GERNTER: As are the questions about subpoenaing other witnesses. Again, you make this -- this is already a he said/she said. But you make it a stark he said/she said when all you have are the two antagonists and not other witnesses in other circumstances.

COOPER: We're also learning that according to CNN that she wants no time limit on her opening statement. Gloria, is that what you're hearing?

BORGER: Yes. Actually, that's Manu's reporting. They have to choreograph these things, as you know, down to the minute, or else you know, everything can go awry. And clearly, in telling her story it would seem to me, reading between the lines on Manu's reporting here, is that she wants to be able to tell her story as she recollects it and tell everything about it and tell how it has affected her life.

[20:25:09] And so you know, usually in congressional hearings there are time limits about testimony. And I think this is -- this is one of the things she and her advisers have said. If she's going to do this and she's going to appear before Congress and the world, she wants to be able to tell it all.

COOPER: David, we're learning also, the "Washington Post" is reporting that Thursday is a potential date.

GERGEN: That seems to be a fair compromise. It's good for Senator Grassley for moving in that direction. But having said, that it's going to be Thursday. You know, there are several days now between now and Thursday when they could be doing background investigations.

COOPER: Right.

GERGEN: And they could be collecting evidence under oath. That's still the relevant question.

COOPER: But if it was to be an FBI investigation that would be something that would have to come from the White House.

GERGEN: Yes. And it would have to come right away. But it gives you ample time. If it took three days to do the Anita Hill background investigation, why can't they do this essentially in three days?

COOPER: Yes, Judge, do you think there is -- if they do say Thursday, then pressure builds to try to have some sort of background investigation?

GERTNER: I think so. It also is the fairest approach. This is what I was saying before, is there are three alternatives here, which is FBI, witnesses, or just one on one. And they've chosen the least fair approach to either side.

COOPER: Gloria, I mean, OK, so Thursday the potential date. No time limit we're hearing. The professor would like no time limit on her opening statement. I assume if that was the case judge Kavanaugh would have no time limit on his opening statement. David raises the point, though, about rebuttals, would they be able to respond and who goes first. There are still many questions to be worked out.

BORGER: Yes, these are -- these are things that need to be worked out. And I think David raises a great point, which is while you're working out all the logistics, why not actually have the investigators talk to witnesses. You know, this happened a long time ago. More than 30 years ago. It's not like you have to go through 5 million text messages between kids.

You know, this is -- this is a more limited kind of investigation. So, while they work out one thing, why can't they do two things at the same time? I mean, it would seem to me that they're able to do that if the president would say yes, maybe we ought to do it, rather than letting that go by the boards because she has made it very clear that this is what she would prefer. But if she doesn't get that, it seems to me she wants to be able to tell her story in full.

COOPER: Gloria Borger, Judge Nancy Gertner, David Gergen, thank you very much.

Coming up next, tonight's other breaking story. Reports that Michael Cohen and Robert Mueller's prosecutors have been talking a lot about a lot. Late details, the possible legal impact and more, when we continue.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: There's more breaking news tonight. Could be very big indeed because the person at the center of it was for a crucial period so close to Donald Trump. I'm talking about President Trump's former attorney, fixer, confidant Michael Cohen reportedly speaking with Russia special counsel Robert Mueller's team recently and repeatedly according to the "New York Times" citing two people with knowledge of the sessions.

Now, talking according to ABC News about some of the President's hottest of hot button issues and reddest of red lines including his financial and business dealings and any allegations about collusion with Russia by the Trump campaign in the election. In a moment, perspective from a former top federal prosecutor.

But right now on the phone CNN political analyst, "New York Times" White House correspondent Maggie Haberman.

Maggie, what more do you know about the scope of what the Mueller team had been talking about with Cohen?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: My understanding, Anderson, is a pretty wide range and I think has covered areas related to the campaign. Has covered areas related to President Trump's business. Now, remember, Michael Cohen was not on the campaign that he said extremely little time there. He was not welcome by most of Trump's campaign advisers. But he certainly has a window into a bunch of the Trump campaign -- excuse me, the Trump business activities. Among them a Trump Tower Moscow project that he himself had tried to get off the ground at one point that was scuttled at the beginning of 2016. But you know, typically speaking in these kinds of meetings that witnesses have had with the special counsel's office there have not been limits certainly on the kinds of things that they're being asked about, and Michael Cohen I think can provide a variety of information. The question is going to be whether Cohen finds it -- excuse me, Mueller finds it valuable. Whether Mueller believes that it either provides new information or whether it backs up other information that he's already received. But, you know, it's yet another brick and that what seems to be this case that Mueller is building toward a likely report to Congress.

COOPER: I can't imagine that this comes as much of a shock to the President.

HABERMAN: I don't think so. I mean Michael Cohen's adviser Lanny Cohen had been -- excuse me, Lanny Davis, this is quite (INAUDIBLE) for me in terms of name. Lanny Davis had been on TV making very clear that Cohen had information that he was willing to give Mueller, that he had stories to tell. They were all that, you know, pick up an auction paddle saying talk to me, both before and after the plea.

So, I don't think this surprises anyone. And I think there's a question if Cohen provides valuable information for any of these investigations could he see a reduced sentence? So I think that is certainly something his advisers are looking toward. But no, I mean I think that -- I think the President feeling under siege by a lot of these things. But I don't expect this is a surprise.

COOPER: We've also read to extent to leave out their relationship between Michael Cohen -- sometimes tortured relationship between Michael Cohen and citizen Donald Trump.

HABERMAN: Yes -- look, President Trump as Roger Stone, another Trump long-time adviser, had put it to me, the first story I did several months ago. President Trump went out of his way to treat Michael Cohen like, quote unquote, "garbage". Now, Trump is not exactly easy on anyone, as we all know from our reporting. But he could be particularly tough with Cohen. Trump's allies and current advisers would say that's because Cohen had, you know, made some errors and made some mistakes that the President was having with then candidate Trump and then before that businessman Trump was unhappy with.

But he was very tough on him. And, you know, unfortunately, Trump has this sort of one-way loyalty that he exhibits with his aides. He expects it and he often doesn't give it in return. And I think that you are going to see potentially some of that playing out in cooperation with investigators.

[20:35:17] COOPER: Maggie Haberman, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Let's get some information from CNN senior legal analyst Preet Bharara. Before being fired by President Trump he served as U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York where Michael Cohen took his guilty plea.

With Cohen cooperating with Mueller what doors does this open for Mueller? I mean we don't know what if anything Cohen has on President Trump.

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: We don't. But we have some, you know, basis to think that there's a bunch, in at least three categories. We have, you know, what he said at his plea agreement. His plea proceeding where he said basically I committed a campaign finance violation at the direction of the President, Trump.

We also know that he might have some information or at least we can suspect he might have some information that may not carry the day on whether or not Donald Trump obstructed justice. If he was close to his lawyer and we see had from some recorded conversations that he had a lot of discussions with his lawyer about things he might not have talked about with other people. There's that bucket.

And then there's what is been reported that Michael Cohen may know a lot about Donald Trump's endeavors, business and otherwise, in Russia. So, you know, we don't know --

COOPER: Right.

BHARARA: -- but we know he's talking a lot and he has some reason to try to provide as much information as possible because it helps him.

COOPER: I mean it is particularly remarkable, especially on the heels of Paul Manafort cooperating, also obviously Michael Flynn, Gates, I mean all -- Papadopoulos, all these people who had been around the President. I mean the sheer number of people who Mueller has turned is pretty extraordinary.

BHARARA: I think he's basically gotten everybody. I've said recently that based on the Mueller track record -- I don't think Mueller goes after someone unless he knows he has the goods. And if you read the documents in these cases, they're really strong. You know, not just giving in a little bits of information about why someone is guilty of a crime. They're what we call speaking charges, speaking indictments.

And they are even the ones against the folks like for example at the GRU, the folks in Russia who were charged with various crimes, who were never going to be in the country, never going to be able to slap cuffs on. The detail in these charging documents is such that I think Mueller appreciates even more than the average prosecutor the importance of the public having confidence that he's bringing cases that are well grounded in fact.

COOPER: According to this report also they have discussed whether or not anyone around the President had broached the idea of a pardon.


COOPER: And if a pardon was broached, what is the significance -- I mean is that a possible obstruction?

BHARARA: I mean look, we have -- you have to be careful what conclusions you draw from the questions that prosecutors ask. And I know everybody wants to jump to the conclusion. But I'll tell you, when we were in conference rooms with cooperating witnesses and the people who work for me were doing the same thing you go through a checklist and you ask about the thing that you think is most likely true. Right?

And -- but then you go, you know, concentric circles around -- this where the core of what you're looking at with that person. I'm not saying this is that. But you ask a lot of questions of people that may be a little bit out of left field just to make sure that you've covered your bases. And so it is possible that they're close to bringing some kind of case that involves obstruction and that's at the heart of what they're looking at and what they're asking Michael Cohen about.

But it's also possible that it's at the periphery and they're just covering their bases because I think it would be irresponsible -- I think any witness that comes across their desk they have to ask questions about obstruction. You see you have to do that for exhaustive purposes.

COOPER: But Cohen's participation this has been voluntary. Why -- what's in it for him --

BHARARA: That's sort of odd. Given that he's sort of playing around in three jurisdictions. You don't have that that often. You know, it happens from time to time, you share a cooperating witness. But --

COOPER: Meaning you think normally he would try to get something out of it before cooperating?

BHARARA: Yes. You usually have a deal with the office with whom you're trying to cooperate. And usually you work all that out. If there are multiple offices who have a basis for an investigation, in a organized crime family or in a corporate fraud or anything else, usually that all gets worked out in advance or everyone knows what the promises are, everyone knows what they can expect, everyone knows what the prosecutor's going to argue for even if the prosecutor can't guarantee a lenient sentence because that's up to a judge.

COOPER: The fact that Cohen has had these interviews, does it make it any less likely or more likely that the President might actually sit down with Mueller? I mean there would seem like the more Mueller knows the less it would be likely the President would sit down.

BHARARA: Yes, I mean I think, my sense of -- we're talking about likelihood in the sort of 1% to 2% range.


BHARARA: I think the likelihood of the President sitting down is fairly close to zero. I don't know if that, you know, particular factor would play in it at all?

COOPER: Preet Bharara, fascinating. Thank you

BHARARA: Thank you.

COOPER: Well coming up, back to other breaking story. The emerging details around the possible testimony Professor Christine Blasey Ford. The reaction to the story from a group of Republican women in Florida. You might be surprised what they have to say. You'll hear from them next.


[20:43:52] COOPER: More now on tonight's top story, what Christine Blasey Ford's legal team wants as conditions for her testimony against Brett Kavanaugh. They want Thursday as the date not to have Judge Kavanaugh in the room with her at the same time, and questioning by senators, not outside counsel. Of course the question hanging over all of this will be about credibility and believability.

Our Randi Kaye spoke with a group of Republican women in Florida.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on-camera): A show of hands. How many of you believe Judge Kavanaugh when he says this didn't happen?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe him too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do believe him.


LOURDES CASTILLO DE LA PENA, REPUBLICAN VOTER: How can we believe the word of a woman from something that happened 36 years ago? This guy has an impeccable reputation. Nobody, nobody that has spoken ill will about him. Everyone that speaks about him. This guy's an altar boy, you know, a scout. You know, because one woman made an allegation, sorry, I don't buy it.

IRINA VILLARINO, REPUBLICAN VOTER: But in the grand scheme of things, my goodness, you -- there was no intercourse. There was maybe a touch. Can we -- really? 36 years later? She's still stuck on that? Had it happened?

GINA SOSA, REPUBLICAN VOTER: I mean, we're talking about a 15-year- old girl, which I respect. You know, I'm a woman. I respect. But we're talking about a 17-year-old boy in high school with testosterone running high. Tell me what boy hasn't done this in high school. Please, I would like to know.

[20:45:07] KAYE (on-camera): Why would she come forward if this wasn't true? Because it has basically destroyed her family. She's had to move, she's gone undercover. She's gotten death threats. So if she's lying, why come forward?

VILLARINO: She's also destroying his life, his wife's lives, his children's lives, his law career. I mean, why didn't she come out sooner if she's telling the truth?

ANGIE VAZQUEZ, REPUBLICAN VOTER: Why didn't she come out when he was going into the Bush White House? When didn't she come out -- he's been a federal judge for over a decade.

KAYE (on-camera): Why not have a thorough investigation instead of just the two of them he said/she said?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It doesn't matter. It does not matter what everyone else has to say.

KAYE (on-camera): This is what happened, though, with Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill. The FBI investigated. It took three days. Done. Why not now?

DE LA PENA: This is not the same. This is a high school kid. I mean there's no Anita Hill story.

KAYE (on-camera): Does something that allegedly happened some 30-plus years ago matter today?

DE LA PENA: You can't judge the character of a man based on what he did at 17.

VAZQUEZ: And I would hate to think that 30, 40 years later somebody's going to destroy your life because someone at some party you -- it's not right. But maybe you touched somebody the way you're not supposed to --

SOSA: And who brought the alcohol for these kids?

KAYE (on-camera): And as women, though, do you have some sympathy for her for what she's going through?

DE LA PENA: No, I have no sympathy. And perhaps maybe she at that moment she liked him and maybe he didn't pay attention to her afterwards and he went out with another girl and she got bitter or whatever the situation is. They're kids.

KAYE (on-camera): It if it is true, would it be OK with you if he became a justice on the Supreme Court?

DE LA PENA: As long as that's an isolated incident, yes.

SOSA: He was 17. He was not even an adult. And we all make mistakes at 17. I believe in a second chance.

VILLARINO: I'd be more than OK with him being Supreme Court judge.

DE LA PENA: If the person made a mistake and they move on and they have been a good human being, you know, who are we to judge?


COOPER: Well joining me now for perspective, CNN political analyst and "USA Today" columnist Kirsten Powers. Also Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network which supports the Kavanaugh nomination.

Kristen, I'm wondering what you make, what you heard from that group of women who believe Judge Kavanaugh.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean I just want to say this idea that any 17-year-old, you know, has done this is just completely incorrect. Its not -- I went to high school. I actually went to a private Jesuit high school. It wasn't all boys the way Georgetown (ph) was. It was coed. But, you know, this was not the way the boys that I went to high school with behaved. And it's not normal behavior. So we have to be very careful about saying, that especially to teenagers today. We don't want them to think that this is normal behavior for teenage boys.

I do agree that you don't want to hold a person to everything they've done as a teenager and that people absolutely can do bad things when they're teenagers and turn into great members of society. I don't question that at all. But if this happened, I do think that it's not -- the Supreme Court is such a rarefied position, to be a Supreme Court justice in this society, and you are being a judge on the highest court in the land and you are held to a different standard than other people are. So, I think you can both say that yes, someone can make a mistake when they're 17 years old and it doesn't have to haunt them for the rest of their life and also say -- but, you know, they probably shouldn't be on the Supreme Court.

COOPER: Carrie, I mean what do you make of the woman who said tell me what boy hasn't done this in high school? Did that concern you?

CARRIE SEVERINO, CHIEF COUNSEL, JUDICIAL CRISIS NETWORK: That is a little concerning. I fear, though, it's all too common. I've had friends who had similar experiences happen to them. But I still don't think -- if this was attempted rape going on that obviously is something that should be taken very seriously and not discounted simply because it's old. That said, I think all the evidence is pointing to the fact that Brett Kavanaugh did -- was not involved here. I mean what the experience she describes is horrible.

But I think we've seen more and more people coming saying you know, the people that have been identified there so far. We had another one, P.J. Smith, who said I was identified as being at that party and I can tell you I was never at a party like that with Brett Kavanaugh, this is not like what I knew him to be. So that -- you know, and of course you couple that with all of the dozens of women who said they knew him at the time. It doesn't add up with him. His repeated adamant and very confident denials saying this was not me. I think it's -- you know, the evidence points to the fact that it actually wasn't.

COOPER: You know, Kirsten, one of the arguments that some of the women that Randi talked to made is that why now? Why didn't she come forward with this earlier? Brett Kavanaugh has been, you know, in the public eye. He's gone through confirmation hearings and had background investigations in the past.

POWERS: Yes. It's distressing to me to hear people saying that after what we've gone through with "Me Too" because I feel like this issue has been covered so thoroughly, that this is very standard for women who have been victimized through, you know, sexual trauma -- I mean and sexual harassment for that matter that they feel ashamed, they feel like something is wrong with them, they feel that maybe they caused it, they fear they won't be believed. They fear that they'll be ostracized if they come out.

[20:50:14] And so there's a lot of fear involved. And there's a lot of good reasons actually to not bring it up. And we have to remember that especially during this era. It just was absolutely not an environment where a woman or girl would feel like she could bring this up and be heard and taken seriously.

COOPER: Carrie, I wonder what you make of the reporting tonight. That we're hearing that Professor Ford does not want an outside counsel by the Republicans to be the female like counsels to be person questioning her or even a staff counsel that she wants the questions to come from senators. Do you see that as reasonable? Do you see that political?

SEVERINO: You know, I'm not sure what the logic is. There are several of those and we just had reports of all the different demands she's making. That one -- that one I'm not sure I understand, because if you watched those hearings previously and frankly any confirmation hearing, senators having the senators do it, means you don't have a continuous line of questioning, you've got people overlapping, its very -- its very hard to follow.

Frankly, the senators aren't very good questioners. And I think some people have suggested what it's going to be harder questioning from a lawyer. I'm not sure that's clear. We seem -- we saw some very aggressive questioning at the Kavanaugh hearing. Recently, I like the idea and then I think the first I thought was Senator Collin suggesting in the couple days ago saying, let's have her lawyers question Kavanaugh and let's have Kavanaugh's lawyers question her. And I think that would probably provide a more coherent line of talented questionnaires.

But I do know that Chairman Grassley has been tried to be as accommodating as possible of all of her request and his -- you know, he's offered so many different ways, whether its hearing, whether its confidential, whether its public, whether it's in California or in D.C. or -- you know, with cameras without. So, I'm sure they will make every effort to be as accommodating as they can.

COOPER: Going to go. Kirsten Powers, thank you. Carrie Severino, as well.

One quick note now about a CNN Special, you don't want to miss especially now. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One year ago, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. The President claims the recovery efforts were a huge success.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: CNN has the real story.

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CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, MAYOR, SAN JUAN: The truth is people that died because the Trump administration did not pay attention.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: CNN Special Report: Storm of Controversy, What Really Happened in Puerto Rico. Tomorrow night at 10:00 p.m.



[20:56:45] COOPER: This Sunday, the CNN Original Series "This is life with Lisa Ling" returns to an all new season. Lisa takes us to the front lines of the battle against MS-13, one of the most feared street gangs in America and gang of violent animals how President Trump often described them. His pledge to dismantle and deport members back to Central America where it has some of its roots.

Lisa Ling joins me tonight with more details.

In this episode, you look at MS-13 and you particularly tell the story of a young girl from Virginia who was murdered by MS-13. It's so -- I mean the ages of the people involved on, you know, the victims and even the people in the gang these are young people.

LISA LING, "THIS IS LIFE WITH LISA LING" HOST: Yes. MS-13 has been around for a long time. It's a gang that started in the '80s and has been on the east coast since then. What's different now is over the last couple years, there's been this wave of unaccompanied minors who have showed up on our border and they're vulnerable kids. Most of them have experienced severe trauma, because their home countries have been decimated and are devastated by street gangs like MS-13. They come here, some of them haven't been with their family members for years and years, they don't fit in, and they're just looking for a place to belong.

COOPER: And they're placed in communities whether it's Virginia or Long Island and --

LING: Parts of Boston, and they're not able to deal with these population. And so, these gang members come to exploit those vulnerabilities. And yes they are -- they are very young. Its kids attacking kids.

And the Trump administration would like us to believe that MS-13 is this transatlantic criminal enterprise, but the reality is, that while there are many members of MS-13, it's very disorganized, they don't actually make a lot of money. There -- you can't even compare them to sophisticated drug trafficking organizations. And they prey on young vulnerable kids.

COOPER: Yes. And the violence I mean which seen in some communities in Long Island is horrific.

LING: It's horrific, it is horrific.

COOPER: What are some of the other things you're going to be focusing on this season.

LING: So, we'll be looking at the scourge of methamphetamines that have been overtaking many states including Oklahoma. We have an episode about gender fluidity. And I'm really, really excited about that one, because we are in the midst of this unprecedented gender revolution that's being led by kids. And these kids are very open about the fact that they don't feel entirely male or female. They sort of like this -- this third gender.

And if they're -- they just -- they speak about it very insightfully and their family members, the one we profiled at least have been so accepting. So it's a really fascinating and exciting kind of episode and movement that's happening.

COOPER: Yes. Well I look forward to the whole season. Lisa, great to see you.

LING: Thank you. Great to see you.

COOPER: Lisa Ling. Don't miss the season premiere of "This Is Life with Lisa Ling" on Sunday evening after "Anthony Bourdain Parts' Unknown".

A quick reminder. Check out our "Full Circle", our daily interactive newscast on Facebook that we just started, where you pick some of the stories we cover. You can you see it week nights, 6:25 p.m. eastern at

The news continues, I want to hand it over to Chris, "CUOMO PRIME TIME" starts now. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thank you Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to "Prime Time"

[21:00:02] Two big developments that change our understanding of two major stories. First Christine Blasey Ford accuser of Judge Kavanaugh, now indicating she will testify even without an FBI probe, but --