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Giuliani: Contradicts Trump Team's "No Collusion" Claims; Cohen Says Trump Directed Him To Pay For Poll Rigging, WSL: Computer Specialist Says Cohen Agreed To Pay Him $50K; WSJ: Computer Specialist Says Cohen Agreed To Pay Him $50,000 To Rig Polls For Trump Only Paid $12-13K; Interview with Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI). Aired 8-9p ET

Aired January 17, 2019 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:15] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

A lot of moving parts to the program tonight and a few non-moving parts -- the Air Force jet, for one that is supposed to fly House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as part of a congressional delegation to Afghanistan. President Trump today denied her the use of it so she and the other Congress people are grounded. His answer it seems to her letter asking him to reschedule the State of the Union Address claiming security concerns in light of the shutdown.

You could call it the latest in a game of political hardball, except for so many people around the country, this is no game, whether it's a woman in Wisconsin rationing her insulin or the FBI actually setting up food banks for unpaid bureau employees.

Also tonight, Michael Cohen, the one-time fixer for the president who says the news is fake and pulls a rig talks now about faking the news and rigging polls, and then allegedly stiffing the contractor. The direction was for the sole benefit of his boss. You can't make this up, though according to Michael Cohen, the Trump campaign did try.

We begin though with the shutdown, the speaker and the president.

Jim Acosta starts us off in the White House.

Where do things stand tonight between Pelosi and the president?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, I just checked in with a White House official a few moments ago who said at this point the president still plans to deliver his State of the Union Speech on the 29th up on Capitol Hill, as was planned before all of this got started. But, Anderson, it's hard to figure out how exactly that's going to take place when you take into consideration this very deeply personal battle that is going on between the president and his new foil here in Washington, the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

That letter that the president fired off earlier today essentially cancelling, I suppose they're saying postponing this delegation trip that Pelosi was going to take over to Afghanistan to visit with American troops, and on the way stop in Brussels and meet with U.S. military commanders. You know, that's playing hardball obviously here in Washington, but it was in response, it was in retaliation, we're told to what the House speaker did just a day earlier when she said that the president could postpone his speech on the State of the Union night as a result of the government shutdown.

Anderson, at this point, there is really no -- I guess there is no light at the end of the tunnel as to how both of these sides come together and resolve all of this. I talked to a source close to the White House earlier this evening who said that they want to see how this measure that the president took earlier today sinks in up on Capitol Hill and whether or not that motivates the House speaker, motivates Democrats to come to the negotiating table.

One thing that is interesting that happened, Anderson, is that while it was pointed out that the president was blocking members of Congress from flying on a government aircraft because of the government shutdown, he was allowing members of his administration to go on this upcoming trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, the treasury secretary, the secretary of state and so on. The president earlier this evening scrapped that trip altogether.

So, there are now consequences on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue for this government shutdown.

But as you were saying, Anderson, the people who were dealing -- the federal employees, the 800,000 federal employees who are dealing with all of this, they probably don't care very much about these theatrics, this cannon fire going back and forth, up and down Pennsylvania Avenue. They want to know hen they're going to be paid, and that goes for the Secret Service people that we run across over here at the White House on a daily basis.

COOPER: Jim Acosta at the White House -- Jim, thanks very much.

It's a busy night. Joining us, Hawaii Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono.

Senator, thanks for being with us.


COOPER: Should Speaker Pelosi have expected some form of retaliation after telling the president to postpone the State of the Union because of security concerns? She pulled a lever at her disposal. Now the president pulled one at his.

HIRONIO: It's never a surprise when Donald Trump does something very childish. But let's not forget who began this train wreck of an unnecessary and harmful shutdown. It's Donald Trump when he changed his mind about supporting a bill that was passed by the House, bills passed by the Senate, I should say, in December and expected to be passed by the House when he changed his mind after getting yelled at by some folks on Fox News.

So, he is one of the people who can end this shutdown right now, but I don't expect him to because he has taken 800,000 people hostages. The other person is, of course, Mitch McConnell, who should start acting like the Senate is a separate branch of government, that Congress is a separate branch of government, and he should just bring those Senate past bills to the floor for a vote so that we can end this shutdown, and then the president will be given a chance to make his pitch on the substance of a wall.

And let's face it. It's clear he can't justify this wall. That's why he has to take people hostage in order to get his way.

COOPER: I read a tweet that you sent earlier today about Mitch McConnell. You said last year Mitch McConnell called for bipartisanship, accusing Democrats of putting partisan politics ahead of the country. Clearly, you are -- are you surprised by his relative radio silence during the shutdown?

[20:05:02] HIRONO: Mitch McConnell is basically a person who will -- who's very facile, I should say, in getting what he wants. So if he wants to end this shutdown, he can do so, because he has used his powers time and again to get votes, such as the $5 trillion tax break for the richest in our country, screwing the middle class, bringing to the floor a bill that would undo the Affordable Care Act and just throwing millions of people off of health care.

He had no problems bringing those bills, not to mention changing the rules so that it would take only a bare majority of senators to put Supreme Court justices on the court. So he has used his power time and again.

Why can't he use it to help 800,000 people who are working women, many of them, without paychecks?

So the ripple effect of all of this harm from this train wreck was started by Donald Trump who said oh, yes, I'll take responsibility for it, but of course not.

COOPER: I understand you blame the president for it. In fact, the president said he would carry the mantle of the shutdown.

HIRONO: Yes. But forget that.

COOPER: But does Speaker Pelosi share any of the blame as well? She is claiming security concerns based on the shutdown for saying that president shouldn't do the State of the Union. But that seems a little hard to believe.

HIRONO: Anderson, frankly, I think we should get our sights back on who can end this shutdown. So this back and forth, et cetera, you know ,I don't think the president should be giving a state of the state, State of the Union speech so that he can for 45 minutes carry on about all the great things he has done at a time when the government shut down.

We should be focusing on reopening the government. Who can do that? The president. Forget that. And Mitch McConnell.

That's why the president of our country are awakening to that responsibility that Mitch is running away from, and there billboards now in his own state saying where are you, Mitch. Do your job.

COOPER: Senator Lindsey Graham, your Republican colleague tweeted today saying one sophomoric response does not deserve another. He doesn't like what the president did, but he doesn't like what the president did, but he doesn't like what the speaker did either. I mean --

HIRONO: So, I don't want to spend a lot of time arguing about that back and forth. I want to focus like a laser beam on who can end the shutdown, who has the power to do that, who should have the will to do that, and that is Mitch, and he's not doing it.

COOPER: If Speaker Pelosi had gone to Afghanistan and it was five-day trip, wouldn't that have delayed any possibility of ending the shutdown for at least five more days?

HIRONO: You know, when we have these trips set, having gone to Afghanistan and Iraq and China and all these places, it's a lot of work, and I know she was going there to meet with our troops to see that their needs were being met, and, of course, to go to Brussels and reassure our allies that there are many of us who think getting out of NATO would actually be very detrimental to our national security.

But let's set that aside. Really, the person who could end this -- do you think she would go on a trip if Mitch McConnell said I am going to bring the Senate -- the bills that we already passed in the Senate and passed by the House, he will bring these bills to the floor. Do you think she would go on a trip?

Nobody would be going anywhere. We would all be here voting for that legislation to reopen government. There is no question in my mind.


Senator Hirono, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.


COOPER: Two perspectives now on the Trump/Pelosi standoff and policy implications, what drives the two personalities involved. President Trump as you know probably by now has been described as a counterpuncher. As for Speaker Pelosi, she seems to be renting space inside the president's head at the moment.

Here to talk about it, "New York Times" White House correspondent, CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman, and retired Navy rear admiral and former Obama era Pentagon and State Department spokesman John Kirby.

Maggie, I mean, you certainly covered the president for a long time. Does this move -- I mean, this seems straight out of his playbook?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, NEW YORK TIMES WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: His playbook is actually straight out of the New York political playbook. This reminds me very much of the kind of thing we would have seen Mayor Rudy Giuliani do as opposed to current lawyer to the president, Rudy Giuliani. This is a form of smash mouth politics that Donald Trump lived in for a long time, if not practicing himself.

It was very predictable. The problem is it's different when you're president doing it, and I think it risks for him coming off as petty. There is no question that what you said about how it is a little hard to believe there are actual security concerns related to his speech, State of the Union speech that Nancy Pelosi is concerned about.

She was clearly efforting brinksmanship and trolling him, frankly, and he had to do something to appear dominant, because that's usually what these exchanges are about for him, and he was returning fire.

I do think that this is going to become a messy back and forth. We are well past the point where the president is listening to people around him who are concerned about him appearing presidential. He has shattered norms over and over.

They have said to him you are now in your reelection window. You know, assuming that he does run for reelection, this is going to be the kind of politics that you're going to see over and over again. It is how he won.

COOPER: Who is he listening to in the White House?

HABERMAN: Mostly himself. He has his son-in-law. He has his daughter.

He does listen to his chief of staff. He does listen to Kellyanne Conway. He does listen to Sarah Sanders, but, you know, he is increasingly guided by what he wants to do.

And remember, there are very few people in the White House left. There is a lot that has been boiled down. And you have a very small core group, many of whom, not all, but many of whom share his impulses or agree with his impulses, or at least don't want to try to regulate his behavior the way John Kelly and Reince Priebus attempted to.

There is no point. They don't see the effort. So, I don't think there was a ton of trying to hold him back here. I think yesterday they were very surprised by what Nancy Pelosi did, and they went quiet, as they sometimes do when they don't know how to respond.

COOPER: They were trying to figure out?

HABERMAN: They were trying to figure out what to do. What I think was silly was how many White House aides were saying oh, he wasn't bothered by this. He didn't think about it. He of course saw all of the coverage last night and all day today, as he always does, and saw that it was in Nancy Pelosi's favor, it seems, at least in the coverage. And that bothered him so he had to get back.

COOPER: Admiral Kirby, you're familiar with how these trips work. Was it a good idea for speaker Pelosi to go in the first place? And what do you make of what the president did?

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), FORMER PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Well, look, as a veteran, I would far prefer to see both sides put somewhere in a room with a box of donuts and not come out until they solved the shutdown. I think it's abominable that we got coast guardsmen protecting our maritime borders and we have more maritime borders than terrestrial without getting paid. And I think that's disgraceful for the country.

I would prefer everybody stay in town and get this solved. That said, these CODELs are serious business. I'm accompanied several. I've helped host of some of them on the other end.

They do a lot of work. It's important for them to do this. They have a right and a responsibility to talk to troops and commanders on the ground, to figure out what's going on and to help the -- devise the policy going forward.

COOPER: You're saying this isn't just some sort of junket that the politicians are taking?

KIRBY: No, no, it's insulting to call it a CODEL an excursion. I've seen them at work. This is serious business.

And I have no problem that she would want to go to Afghanistan and talk to our leaders about what's going on. The president just a couple of weeks ago, Anderson, decided to cut the troops in half in Afghanistan with no other statement about what the strategy was going to be or how the strategy that was in existence was going to change.

This is serious business, and it directly affects our national security. So, I don't have a problem intrinsically with her leading a CODEL to Afghanistan. I would prefer, though, that the policymakers stay in town and fix this shutdown.

COOPER: It is interesting, Maggie, the president -- I assume it was the president -- chose to cancel the trip of some of his secretaries to Davos.

HABERMAN: I mean, I think they felt they had to. Initially they were going to keep on track. Remember, Davos has gotten stale scaled down. They had said weeks ago, to be fair to the White House, they had said many weeks ago the president himself was very unlikely to go if the shutdown was still going and they were preparing for a lengthy one.

They tried having a delegation going. Look, people like that trip to Davos. Frankly, so does the president. I think they were trying to preserve it and I think they see a value in it.

There was really no way to go ahead with it once you canceled this CODEL earlier today. There has to be one uniform plan here.

COOPER: Right, it would be hard to argue you shouldn't take this trip during the shutdown if you're going to Davos.

HABERMAN: That's right. There are some people who have made the argument to me in the past couple of hours that the president might have been better off actually letting this Nancy Pelosi CODEL go ahead, and then you could criticize her if you wanted to, if you were him, while she was overseeing and say come back, I'm here, negotiate with me. It's a little harder to do when you're visiting a war zone.

COOPER: She is being videotaped, photographed with military personnel.

HABERMAN: Exactly. But it still would have been a potential opportunity. And instead he just brought the hammer down in a way that felt very personal and very intended to sort of do it and pull the rug out right before they were to leave.

COOPER: But it is all personal with this president.

HABERMAN: It's mostly personal. Or at least it's about, look, this -- the last 48 hours has taken this away from being about how do we get the government reopened and how do we get to a deal, either from the president's perspective on a wall and from the Democrats' perspective on doing something that they would -- reopening the government or then getting something in exchange for that, some kind of border security money. And it is now just become a personality tit for tat.

And you're right that that is -- that's Donald Trump's comfort zone. I think the problem is Nancy Pelosi has generally had the upper hand because the president does personally like her, and he has been sort of confounded on how to deal with her. And I think when you get into the just throwing mud portion of our program, he's generally going to win that. So, I just -- I'm not sure where we go from here.

COOPER: There is also 800,000 people --

HABERMAN: That's what I mean, right, is we've gotten away from the high ground about what is actually the impact of this shutdown and now it just looks like a tit for tat.

COOPER: Admiral Kirby, even if there was a way for senator Pelosi to get on a flight to Afghanistan, I mean, from the security standpoint -- I guess the president has blown her cover.

[20:15:05] She is second in line to the presidency. She would have to have protective detail to say the least in Afghanistan, a very large one, to say nothing of a military presence.

KIRBY: Yes. Look, so there is two things. One, you know, yes, she could get to Kabul, but you're not going get off the airport grounds without military escort, military support. It's that dangerous a situation there.

So, there is no way she and that delegation can visit the troops in Afghanistan or even the commanders in Kabul without military support.

Number two, he has now made effectively any kind of future trip, at least in the near term, impossible for her because he outed the fact that she was going. That to me is also just utterly disgraceful.

But I want to make one other point here --

COOPER: Disgraceful because you're saying it puts her security and the security of any other member of Congress --

KIRBY: Absolutely. I mean, you're putting people at risk, not just the principles that are going.

COOPER: Military personnel.

KIRBY: The people protecting them now. That's all at risk. So she can't go any time soon.

Look, another point that we make here, Anderson, the argument that cost is the factor here is just ridiculous. The U.S. military, certainly the active military and the military that are forward deployed in Afghanistan are not affected by this shutdown whatsoever. It's the coast guard that's not getting paid, but the rest of the military is on duty and getting paid.

So I think this whole argument is just specious to begin with.

COOPER: Yes. So, I, again, come back to the 800,000 people sitting at home tonight or wherever they are, wondering, how does this end?

HABERMAN: Or in some cases being forced to work without a paycheck.

COOPER: Right.

HABERMAN: There are all variations of this. The short answer is who knows. It is really hard to see an end to this right now. It is going to require two people who have zero political incentive to approach one another to doing it.

COOPER: Except a lot of political incentive not to.

HABERMAN: Correct, with their base. However, I do think folks in the White House had said for a while that their general opinion is shutdowns are not good for anyone. And I think there is something to that.

I do think the public opinion polls have shown the president is taking an outsized ownership of this in the mind of the public, but that's I think in part because he said I will proudly own this shutdown, and a lot of people have seen that video and are aware of it, and because he has done all sorts of other things to reinforce that.

And they haven't had a consistent message on what they are trying to do. I think, if anything to your point about the personal is all with him, now he has sort of found a groove that he can head into, and I think it is going to be -- if the Democrats want to try to claim that back from him, they're going to have to try to find a way to turn this into something about the workers and not back and forth with the president.

COOPER: Maggie Haberman, thank you. Admiral Kirby, thank you as well.

Away from the fighting in Washington, of course, is the real story of shutdown. As we've been talking about the people, 800,000 Americans not getting paid and the ripple effect that has. We're trying to keep our focus on them in all of this.

Last night on the program, we spoke to a woman named Mallory Lorge who works for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She was already having some bad luck. She was on medical leave but was still being paid until the shutdown hit.

She was diabetic. Last night she told us how she started rationing insulin because she couldn't afford the co-pay. Tonight, I'm happy to report in the last 24 hours since she's been on the program, she's gotten 50 offers for insulin, more than 100 since last week.

She says she is all set now, has insulin and can't keep up with the messages. She has this reminder for her and for all of us how many good people there are in the world.

Just ahead tonight, Rudy Giuliani conceding what he previously denied that maybe the Trump campaign did collude with Russia. And then he said, no, that's not what he really said. So, the question, what was he really saying or trying to say? We're keeping him honest on that.

Also tonight, Michael Cohen's latest bombshell, his claim of campaign dirty tricks, poll rigging online polls and another man's claim of cash in a Walmart bag. The bizarre, seamy details ahead on 360.


[20:23:01] COOPER: Well, the president's TV lawyer went on CNN last night and conceded what the president has always denied, that members of the campaign colluded with Russians. Rudy Giuliani now says he did not mean to send new signals last night to Chris Cuomo. He says he was misinterpreted.

But before we get into that, here's what he actually said. You can interpret it for yourself.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: I never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign.


GIULIANI: I have no idea. I have not. I said the president of the United States. There is not a single bit of evidence the president of the United States committed the only crime you can commit here, conspired with the Russians to hack the DNC.


COOPER: Chris's face says it all.

Keeping him honest, every part of what you heard Giuliani just say is false, wrong, it's a lie. You can call it whatever you want to call it. The last part first -- as numerous experts have pointed out, whatever else you may think of the president and the allegations against him, the Russian attack on the 2016 election was multifaceted, and so is the potential legal exposure.

To his first point, though, that he never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign, Chris was quick to jump in. But instead of Chris telling it, perhaps it would be better to let someone else have the floor. Rudy Giuliani, perhaps.

Take it away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it still the position of you and your client that there was no collusion with the Russians whatsoever on behalf of the Trump campaign?

GIULIANI: Correct.


COOPER: That was last July. It sounds pretty concrete. No collusion whatsoever on behalf of the campaign, except as he showed again, and again, being a TV lawyer means never really having to be consistent or exactly clear, and yes, it does kind of make your head spin. And yes, maybe that's the point.

In any case, July 31st, 2018, no collusion whatsoever. Yet as far back as May 2016, he seemed to be leaving open the possibility while saying it wouldn't be a crime. Then it was back to a flat denial, then back again.

So, we're very indebted tonight to "The Washington Post," which put together a timeline on how the story has changed.

So, November of 2016, spokeswoman Hope Hicks said, quote, there was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.

[20:25:05] Now, we know that's not true, many times over.

In February 2017, Sarah Sanders then repeated that lie, but added, to the best of our knowledge. So inserting some wiggle room there.

Then that March, Donald Trump Jr. told "The New York Times" -- well, yes, I did meet with Russians, but nothing was set up, and he wasn't representing the campaign. That was a lie, as was the claim that the meeting at Trump Tower was primarily about adoption.

By December of 2017, the president's other TV lawyer, Jay Sekulow, moved the goalpost again, telling "The New Yorker's" Jeff Toobin: For something to be a crime there has to be a statute that you claim is being violated. There is a not a statute that refers to criminal collusion. There is no crime of collusion.

By May of last year, the line changed again and the goalpost moved with it. Here is Rudy Giuliani saying there is nothing wrong with collusion.


GIULIANI: When I ran against them, they were looking for dirt on me every day. I mean, that's what you do. Maybe you shouldn't, but you do it, nothing illegal about that. And even if it comes from a Russian or a German or an American, it doesn't matter.


COOPER: Germans, Russian, it doesn't matter. Yet he later circled back again to no collusion, period. And then he circled back on TV last night, tried to square the circle with a tweet late today, quoting: My statements on collusion haven't changed, he writes. The misinterpretation has changed. The point is I represent the president, not the campaign.

But from both perspectives, there is no involvement in collusion with Russians. On the e-mail hack, the only possible crime.

OK. That's gaslighting or smoke blowing. The misinterpretation hasn't changed, whatever that even means. The story, the narrative from Giuliani, that is what has changed.

And this whole Rudy round-about routine is not new. He's done it before when trying to get ahead of some damaging yet unseen piece of news.

Here it is letting it slip that candidate Trump was, in fact, deeply involved in the payoff to Stormy Daniels during the campaign.


GIULIANI: It's not campaign money, no campaign finance violation.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: So, they funneled it through a law firm?

GIULIANI: Funnel it through a law firm and the president repaid it.

HANNITY: Oh, I didn't know. He did?



COOPER: Oh. Was his latest statement last night to Chris on collusion something like that, what the Nixon White House once referred to as a modified limited hangout? Was the TV lawyer doing what lawyers on TV sometimes do, hinting at what's coming up in the next act?

And if that's what he is doing, getting ahead or getting out ahead of Robert Mueller's next move, how is Giuliani in a position to know? We'll talk about that and much more tonight. For that, we're joined

by former Hillary Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook, former Trump White House lawyer Jim Schultz, and former Justice Department counsel, Carrie Cordero. She currently teaches at Georgetown and is a CNN legal analyst. Carrie, certainly a lot to wade through. But I want to start with the

president's legal concerns. Does the evolving message on collusion tell you what his legal team might be thinking about his potential exposure? How do you interpret this?

CARRIE CORDERO, SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY: Well, I tend to distinguish between what his legal team that is behind the scenes does. So the legal team that's actually going through documents and reviewing information and talking to other people involved in the case and coordinating with the special counsel, I just distinguish between them and what Rudy Giuliani does on TV, which I believe is running a counter impeachment strategy.

So, I think when Rudy goes on TV, his audience is the president's political base, and it's Republicans on Capitol Hill where he is trying to get out what the messaging is, and it's a political strategy more than a legal strategy. But his point about the DNC hack being the only crime that's an issue, of course, is the major point in what he said, which is not true, because the special counsel's investigation is much broader than that, and the potential exposure for the president and other members of the campaign is much broader than that.

COOPER: Jim, does it make sense to you that the president seems to know more about Jeff Bezos' divorce than he does about what his campaign aides were up to during the campaign, which was run out of Trump Tower?

JAMES SCHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: Look, the candidates typically don't get into the weeds on campaigns. That's not what they do. They're out there -- he is out there going to rallies. They're running grassroots operations, doing operations, research operations, doing all those things, television, commercials, those kinds of things.

But no, I'm not surprised that he wouldn't know about what's going on the every day-to-day operations during a campaign.

That being said, I agree with Carrie on the issue of Rudy Giuliani. Him out there talking is really political statement, because at the end of the day, this is a report that's likely to go to Congress. And it's not something that's going to get before a judge or a jury as it relates to the president. It's going to be something that's used in Congress as an impeachment tool if the Democrats so choose to use it.

So, I think that's what Rudy Giuliani is out there trying to do. The lawyers behind the scene are doing what lawyers behind the scene do, and that's responding to request from Mueller and I assume respond to the request from Mueller --

COOPER: Do you think Giuliani knows that he's contradicting what he --

SCHULTZ: And handling all the legal matters.

COOPER: Do you think Giuliani knows that he's contradicting what he previously said and what the president has been saying all along?

[20:30:00] JAMES SCHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: Well, that's also the danger about coming out and talking about facts relating to an investigation before the investigation is completed. Sometimes that can cause you problems down the road as the facts come out into the public from -- as a result of the facts that are generated as well as the result of the investigation. It's a dangerous thing to do as it relates to the legal case.

But in this matter, again, it's going to be a political issue, not so much a legal issue when it gets to Congress. So he's out there doing the political bidding for the President, not necessarily the -- not necessarily the lawyering for the President as it relates to what he says on T.V.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Robby, I mean, essentially, he is -- I mean, he is contradicting what he previously said and whether, you know, OK, maybe he didn't know the facts, but he was sure acting as if he did know the facts back then. I mean, was he lying then? Is he lying now? What do you make of it?

ROBBY MOOK, FORMER CLINTION CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, the Trump apparatus has been lying about the campaign's relationship with Russia the entire time. You know, I was on CNN with Donald Trump Jr. back during the convention in July of 2016, and he called me a liar when I said that Russia was the one who hacked into the DNC and that they were doing it to help Donald Trump.

That was a few days I believe or maybe weeks after he had met with an agent of the Russians to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. So, the idea that they're lying about any of this, you know, that's been going on forever.

I think what's scary for our country is that you're exactly right, Giuliani is trying to introduce this into the bloodstream. He is trying to telegraph what's coming ahead, but it's not just sending talking points to Republicans, they're trying to boil the toad here, right? They're just trying to turn up the temperature a little bit. Hey, maybe there was collusion with the campaign, so when it comes out people don't care anymore.

And this is what's been going on for years now is every time something new comes out, they just shift the goalpost a little bit. So I remember during the campaign it was, my god, Russia would never steal e-mails from the DNC, and then they did. They moved the goalpost. Then it was, "Oh, well, the campaign would never have any communications with Russia." Then they did. They moved the goalpost again.

And we're going get to the point now where I believe it will probably come out the President did know what was going on with the DNC and they're going to try to clear the field so nobody cares anymore. And that's where I think we need to all step back and realize this is a really big deal.

COOPER: I want to continue this conversation. We're going to take a quick break. We're going get more into that, including more on the mixed messages sent by Giuliani when it comes to the subject of collusion in the Trump campaign.

And then later, another fascinating story, President Trump's former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen says he did pay thousands of dollars back in 2015 to rig online polls to favor Donald Trump. It's a story first reported by "The Wall Street Journal." Details on that ahead.


[20:36:20] COOPER: More now on the conclusion confusion from the President's T.V. lawyer, perhaps a confusion or strategy Rudy Giuliani on what appears to be his attempt to clear things up. We showed you what he said. We showed you his explanation of what he said and it wasn't especially surprising that only some of what he said raise eyebrows. If nothing else, whenever Giuliani speaks in public about this, it's been an experience. Here's a bit of how his statements have evolved over the months and years.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: They never used it as the main. They never used it. They rejected it. If there was collusion with the Russians, they would have used it.

The collusion part, we're pretty comfortable with because there has been none. No evidence of collusion.

I don't even know if that's a crime, colluding about Russians.


COOPER: Back now with Robby Mook, Jim Schultz and Carrie Cordero. Jim, I just want to pursue what I'd asked you before, which is -- I mean, when you look them on that (ph), was Rudy Giuliani confused or confused last night or not -- or saying something different last night as part of a strategy?

SCHULTZ: Look, he's had a history of being imprecise, no question about that. Yes, the motivation is behind that. Whether there's motivations behind that, whether he is forecasting something, whether he is spinning something, it's hard to tell, and it's been hard to tell.

But I also think it's -- you know, one thing he could have been doing, look, you saw the Manafort -- the fact that Manafort sent the polling data over to the Russians that was campaign polling data.

And some of that is maybe he's anticipating spin that some of these actions that I think based upon the fact that he was not charged with conspiracy, meaning Manafort to conspiracy and there was no charge, that there's probably no connection to the campaign associated with this. Maybe he's just giving the fact --

COOPER: Well, he was the campaign chairman at the time.

SCHULTZ: No, no, I get that. But there was no charge against anyone else. There was no charge in connection with --


COOPER: Right. But he is still cooperating.

SCHULTZ: -- over the Russians. There's no conspiracy charge whatsoever as it relates to anything. So there's -- that leads to the conclusion the Justice Department is not looking at it from the perspective of, you know, him working with other folks on the campaign to turn this over for the benefit of the campaign.

I think this could be some spin because that's out there. The Democrats are going to spin that the way they want to spin it. The fact of the matter is he could be -- he could have been just doing it to save his own tail and had nothing to do with the campaign and nothing to do with trying to win the campaign, but that he was acting outside the scope of his duties as campaign chairman.

COOPER: Right. It does seem -- I mean, Carrie, that like -- or maybe this is one better to go to Robby. I mean, since you've been intricately involved with this that the goalposts do seem to shift a lot. Like, you know, they've originally was no connection whatsoever, there was no collusion whatsoever. Now it's, oh, yes, the campaign chairman was actually in contact, but it didn't have anything really to do with the campaign. That's for Robby.

MOOK: Oh, sorry. Yes. I mean, look, let me just level set what we're talking about. The campaign chairman is sending polling data to Russians. So first of all, that's a really weird thing. I was not in the practice as a campaign manager of sending our internal strategic polling to foreigners, just in general. So let's just put that.

COOPER: No Russians? No Syrians? No Iraqis?

MOOK: No Syrians, no Mexicans, no French, you know, so let's go there. But we are contorting ourselves. Jim's having to do gymnastics here to explain how the campaign was not colluding.

So I just, again, what's disturbing to me here is we're not asking ourselves how did this -- how was this even able to happen, what does it say that our President was elected, you know, hand in hand with a foreign power, not to mention one that is probably our most hostile enemy out there today. We're getting in the ticky-tacky details.

That's exactly what Giuliani is trying to do here is we're trying to speculate on all of his -- you know, on all of his rantings and not actually looking at the real issue, which is that our President is probably compromised and has demonstrated that.

[20:40:10] COOPER: Carrie --

SCHULTZ: Look, it's a little self-serving of Robby --

COOPER: Go ahead, Jim.

SCHULTZ: I think it's a little self-serving of Robby on this one given the fact that he was campaign manager for Hillary Clinton and there's probably some sour grapes there. But what he is saying -- I mean, there are a lot of things that go on in campaigns and Robby knows that he didn't have his finger on everything that was going on in that campaign certainly.

MOOK: Jim, we were not sending data to the Russians.

SCHULTZ: Look, you were little embarrassed by the fact, Robby, that you guys were rigging it against Bernie the entire time and working with the DNC. You were embarrassed by those e-mails. I get that.

MOOK: Jim, we were never sending data to foreign people.

SCHULTZ: But, no, I said -- look, I get that you're a little embarrassed by that and you're making a political statement here. And I get what you're doing. And the fact that Manafort --

COOPER: But isn't that -- yes, it seems like we're just like --


SCHULTZ: -- sent this polling data over the Russians is clearly disturbing. And I'm giving a legal analysis to this. And Robby, you're making political statements and I get that. That's what you do.

MOOK: No, I think you're --


CARRIE CORDERO, SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY: Well, here's what's odd -- here's what's odd from a counterintelligence perspective. If we were to take Rudy Giuliani at his word that the President didn't know anything about what Paul Manafort was doing, the reaction after the fact to that information being revealed publicly has been sort of odd, because the reaction hasn't been, "Boy, I would have never had wanted my campaign chairman to be coordinating or to be providing --


CORDERO: -- information about my campaign to a foreign power that has adversarial interests to the United States of America. So, that reaction is odd. It's clear that Rudy Giuliani is trying to limit the scope of what people think the President has exposure to.

But on the conspiracy point that Jim mentioned earlier, the entire special counsel's theory of the case is that the Russian influence effort was to -- was conspiracy to defraud the United States. And so anything that falls under the Russian influence activities, that campaign personnel, including the president, may have been involved in would fall under that broad umbrella.

COOPER: Carrie Cordero, appreciate it, Jim Schultz, as well, Robby Mook, as well, appreciate the discussion. Coming up, there's new reporting tonight says that at the same time candidate Donald Trump claimed over and over the polls were rigged, his fixer was behind the scenes trying to rig polls. Michael Cohen says he did it at the direction of Donald Trump. Details next.


[20:46:06] COOPER: As you know, the President had said for years that the polls are rigged and the news is fake. Now, new reporting for "The Wall Street Journal" shows his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, hired company to rig polls and make fake news. And then he allegedly stiffed them.

The journal says that Cohen hired a small tech company to manipulate online polls about Trump, one on CNBC and one on the Drudge Report. Cohen said today that he did this at the direction of and for the sole benefit of Donald Trump who has made his opinion of polls pretty clear over the years.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think these polls, I don't know, there's something about these polls. There's something funny.

Watch the polls, because this is part of the crooked system. It's part of the rigged system.

They even want to try to rig the election at the polling booths.

You know, polls are fake, just like everything else.


COOPER: During the presidential race, Cohen also asked this company to create a Twitter account "Women for Cohen," which described Cohen as a sex symbol and tweeted about Trump's candidacy in Cohen's look.

The man who runs the tech company said Cohen paid him about $12,000 or $13,000 in cash in a Walmart bag and also gave him a boxing bag that Cohen said was worn by a Brazilian mixed martial arts fighter for some reason. Cohen denied the vague thing and says she's paid by check.

In any event, Cohen still owed the guy about $37,000. According to "The Journal," Cohen was reimbursed for the full amount by Trump, $50,000, but never paid the company what it was owed.

Joining me now, USA Today Columnist Kirsten Powers and Washington Post Columnist Max Boot, author of " The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I left the Right."

I mean, Max, a candidate repeatedly talking about polls as rigged now rigging online poll. I mean, online polls are meaningless. I mean, you know, that anyone won't take an online poll seriously. But the fact that according to this reporting, he is paying for this. MAX BOOT, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST. : Right. I mean, that's a sign over the fact that, you know, Donald Trump is deeply cynical about politics because he has engaged in deeply cynical manipulations over the years.

What this really brings home to me, Anderson, is that Chris Christie is right. He's got this new book out in which he says that Donald Trump attracted to him amateur, grifters, weaklings, convicted and un- convicted felons who were hustling on the jobs they were never suited for, sometimes seemingly without as much as a background check.

And Michael Cohen is a great example of that. He is obviously not an upstanding individual. I mean, there is an allegation here that he defrauded this I.T. consultant of tens of thousands of dollars that he got from Donald Trump.

COOPER: Right. Essentially stealing money, according to the reporting, you know, money that Trump paid him, he kept most of it, he didn't pay --

BOOT: Right, exactly. But it's not a coincidence that Donald Trump attracts something like that because those are the kind of people he is comfortable with because that's basically the kind of person that he himself is.

COOPER: But I mean, Kirsten, what's so interesting is -- I mean, to Max's point, you look at how the Trump organization operates here. The money is paid largely out of Trump's personal account after a handwritten note from Cohen saying he needed $50,000 for tech services.

The President can say as much as he wants that Cohen, you know, was a bit player and wasn't close to him, but he was certainly highly trusted by Trump because he's just, you know, based on, you know, a little handwritten note, he gives him $50,000.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, it's also -- there are other reports of the Trump operation acting this way in terms of having agreements that aren't really, you know, binding. So they're not done in the normal way, like sort of corporate way or I think the normal way most people would do, so they're not traceable, paying in cash.

There are other stories of them paying in cash as well, which is really the only people who are known for this kind of behavior are drug dealers and the mafia. You know, so that says a lot about this organization that that's how they operate.

And I think the idea of the rigging the polls is that probably the reason that Donald Trump thought to do this, which Michael Cohen says he did this at Donald Trump's direction, is because they're the only polls that could be manipulated. That you're not going to be able to manipulate the CNN poll, right?

COOPER: Right. POWERS: So, they're going to go and manipulate this and even though they're completely meaningless and most people don't pay attention to them, it would be something that Donald Trump could point to in his favor.

[20:50:09] COOPER: Right. It's something -- I mean, you know, he probably watched the CNBC and, you know, reads the Drudge Report as many people do. So it would makes sense that it would give him a boost to see even if it's a rig thing and he knows it's rigged and it was paper, you know.

And the Giuliani saying, well, look, he knew nothing about this if this even occurred. But just the way it occurred, it's just like -- it's like the Stormy Daniels payments. I mean, it's all these denials about what's happening.

BOOT: Of course, right. I mean, there's a whole pattern of this elicit conduct and you could say those are just turning the stuff rigging a poll and nobody cares about. But in otherwise, you can say this is kind of a trial run for colluding of the Russians to rig the 2016 election.

And as you were discussing, Rudy Giuliani last night basically was saying, "Well, maybe it is possible that the campaign was involved in this collusion." All he is saying is that Trump himself didn't know about it personally. But it's hard to even credit that because what we've seen is that Trump himself has been very involved in this sort of machinations with Michael Cohen saying and I believe him that he -- that Trump knew all about this attempt to rig the polls.

We certainly know that Trump was deeply involved in paying off Stormy Daniels, something he adamantly denied just as he later denied collusions. So, you know, this particular fact point, Anderson, I would say is a small one but you added up and it's a very consistent pattern of elicit conduct by the President of the United States.

COOPER: Yes. I'm sorry, we're short on time tonight. I got to wrap up here. Max, thank you. Kirsten, thank you so much.

I want to check in with Chris to see what he is working on for "Cuomo Prime Time" at the top of the hour. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, buddy. So, the point of the exercise for Rudy Giuliani last night was --

COOPER: Yes, I got to say I just not -- I mean, I just got to interrupt. I know it was extraordinary and watching your face during it was extraordinary.

CUOMO: That's why I don't play poker, by the way. So, look, what they are doing is getting ready for a PR battle. They're not getting ready for court. Rudy is too smart to give away a defense on television. And what he's doing is getting the base ready and trying to get the American people ready to dismiss the idea that anything is here. And they've had to retreat into this one corner. Forget about nobody did anything. Forget about it was the campaign, just the President, that's who I defend, he didn't know anything, he didn't do anything. The problem with that is, the President has a pattern of susceptibility to bad behavior and we're going to lay that out tonight and talk about what it could mean to the probe.

COOPER: Yes, and people around them. I mean, not great characters in one of the cases. Chris, thanks very much. See you at the top of the hour. That's about eight minutes from now.

A day after four Americans were killed in the suicide attack inside Syria, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces say it will increase its military operations against ISIS. Just ahead, how the firefight is playing out on the front lines. Our CNN Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward has incredible report from the battle field, next.


[20:56:59] COOPER: The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces says it will escalate military operations inside Syria. That's, of course, a day after four Americans were among those killed in the suicide attack in a Syrian city extensively not under ISIS control. CNN's Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward is inside Syria tonight and takes us to the front lines.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The battle against ISIS is still raging. As the U.S. allied Syrian Democratic Forces, known as the SDF, push in of the last sliver of territory under the militant's control. Here are the fighters prepared to move into the village of Sha'fa. Flares turn the dark night into day. A coalition aircraft circle overhead finding crushing airpower. By daylight, they push further in.


WARD: "This is where ISIS ends," SDF Commander Simko Shikaki tells his men. Later, panic breaks out. ISIS launched a counterattack. The SDF fire back and Sha'fa was quickly liberated.

We traveled down to the front line as they approach the next village. Our escorts insist on taking an armored vehicle, even liberated territory is far from secure.

(on camera) These roads are still dangerous, especially early in the morning because there are ISIS sleeper cells in the area. They come out overnight and they plant road side bombs.

(voice-over) We stopped at a house that the SDF took from ISIS just days earlier. Mortars are fired up at militant's positions. Commander Shikaki takes us up on to the roof to show us the front line.

(FOREIGN LANGUAGE) WARD (on camera): So the next village over Sousa is where the front line is now and they're hoping that they'll be able to liberate that by tomorrow.

(voice-over) American forces provide assistance from just a few hundred yards away. The commander warns the battle is not over.


WARD: The pressure we had militarily is ending, he says. But the fundamental war is eradicating the ideology of ISIS.

That will be a much tougher fight to win and support for ISIS still lingers here. On the way back, we passed through another recently liberated area.

(on camera) This is what is left now of the town of Hajin. You can see it's basically been completely obliterated. And to many of the people who were living in areas like this and others, this is what liberation looks like, miles and miles of rubble.

(voice-over) Many here fear that buried in the destruction, the seeds are being sowed for another war. Clarissa Ward, CNN, Sha'fa, Syria.


COOPER: Clarissa and her team obviously took great risk to bring us that report and we thank them and hope they stay safe.

News continues, I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?