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Michael Cohen Says He's "Looking Forward" to Giving Public Testimony on Capitol Hill Tomorrow; Interview with Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton of D.C. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired February 26, 2019 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:20] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

After testifying behind closed doors to the Senate Intelligence Committee all day and into the evening, tomorrow, the president's former lawyer and fixer will testify publicly for the first time about what he says was the president's role in the crimes Cohen himself pleaded guilty to last year, and he says he's looking forward to it.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: First of all, I want to thank you all for sticking around and waiting for me. At this point in time, I really appreciate the opportunity that was given to me to clear the record and to tell the truth and I look forward to tomorrow to being able to give my voice to tell the American people my story, and I'm going to let the American people decide exactly who's telling the truth.


COOPER: Now, multiple sources say today Cohen apologized for the lies he told during his testimony in 2017 about how far the Trump Tower Moscow project negotiations went into the campaign. Senator Susan Collins said Cohen was, quote, a very different guy than last time. A source tells CNN Cohen tomorrow will give details when he was a candidate and may have documents to back up those claims.

"The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that Cohen will probably accuse the president of criminal conduct related to the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels, and he will detail the lies, racism and cheating he witnessed while working for Trump for more than a decade. The White House is already trying to do preemptive damage control before Cohen faces that committee to the American public.

In a statement, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders says, quote: Disgraced felon Michael Cohen is going to prison for lying to Congress and making other false statements. Sadly, he will go before Congress this week and we can expect more of the same.

Her statement goes onto say, quote: It's laughable that anyone would take a convicted liar like Cohen at his word and pathetic to see him given yet another opportunity to spread his lies. Sarah Sanders, spokeswoman for President Trump, saying a liar like

Cohen should not be taken at his word. Let that sink in for just a moment. Pot, meet kettle.

"The Washington Post" clocks the false and misleading statements at 8,718, and that's only up to last Sunday. "The Post" fact checker database found the president averaged more than 15 erroneous claims a day during 2018.

Now, keeping them honest, there is no doubt Michael Cohen has lied and lied a lot. He lied about working for Donald Trump or his company. He lied on TV promoting Trump's campaign and he lied under oath to Congress. He's a convicted felon.

The difference between him and President Trump is that Cohen has admitted to lying. The president has not. Cohen has now apparently now apologized for lying. The president's never really apologized for anything except the "Access Hollywood" tape which he reportedly subsequently suggested he never really said those thing, which he did.

There's, of course, an important question we don't quite know the answer to. Why did Michael Cohen lie so much for Donald Trump? He suggested it was out of blind loyalty to another liar.


COHEN: I will use my legal skills within which to protect Mr. Trump to the best of my ability.

I protect Mr. Trump.

I'll do anything to protect Mr. Trump.

I'm obviously very loyal and very dedicated to Mr. Trump.


COOPER: OK. So, that turned out not to be the case either. That loyalty and dedication does not exist anymore, therefore neither does Cohen's motivation to lie for the president. The White House statement ignores that part of its "once a liar, always a liar" contention.

But if that's the standard, then why should we believe anything the president says either after he said this back in April?


REPORTER: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?


REPORTER: Then why -- why did Michael Cohen make this, if there was no truth to the allegations?

TRUMP: Well, you'll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael's my attorney and you'll have to ask Michael Cohen.

REPORTER: Do you know where he got to money to make that payment?

TRUMP: No, I don't know. No.


COOPER: So, I mean, that was a lie. We knew, and we know he knew because he's on recording talking with Michael Cohen about hush money payments involving David Pecker, the CEO of the parent company of the "National Enquirer" which was buying and then killing stories about president's alleged extramarital affairs.


COHEN: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David. It's all the stuff because here you never know whether that company --

TRUMP: If he gets hit by a truck.

COHEN: Correct. So, I'm all over that.


COOPER: Maybe he gets hit by a truck.

Those hush money payments will be a topic with tomorrow's public testimony. As you probably remember, the hush money payment that we know about were to cover up alleged affairs the president had while he was married to Melania Trump, the porn star and the Playboy model.

The only reason I mention the details of that part of it is because wouldn't you know someone else has popped up shouting about kettles and pots and what color they are.

[20:05:07] Here's what a sitting United States congressman, Republican Matt Gaetz, tweeted just a few hours ago. Hey, Michael Cohen, do your wife and father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she'll remain faithful when you're in prison. She's about to learn a lot.

So, let's just think about this for a moment, a sitting member of Congress who's a huge supporter of President Trump, decided it was a good idea to tweet out what certainly appears to be a threat to Michael Cohen. Do your wife and father-in-law know about your girlfriends? She's about to learn a lot.

It's the kind of thing you can imagine like a petty thug or blackmailer saying to someone in a muffled phone call or in a dark alley in a B-movie from the 1940s, or, frankly, something you might have heard Vito Corleone say in "The Godfather".

I wonder if she, your wife, will remain faithful when you're in prison. That's not a threat. That's just tacky and tawdry and completely beneath the dignity of a sitting congressman. And believe me, that bar, it ain't too high.

Gaetz said that tweet was not witness tampering, it was witness testing. OK, mildly clever, but actually meaningless. The thing Gaetz's tweet seems to ignore is it was meant to be a threat or intended to make people sort of clutch their pearls.

You just have to look no further than the president's own alleged conduct. All the pearls are taken. There is no pearl necklace anymore.

When Cohen testifies tomorrow, yes, it'll be a known liar who lied for another known liar because the liar told him to lie and paid him to lie. Michael Cohen might lie tomorrow, we don't know. But you can also argue the liar doesn't actually have to lie anymore because he's already been convicted of lying and he's heading to prison. How much more does he really have to lose?

CNN Chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta is in Hanoi with the president. He joins us now.

Jim, what are you hearing among White House staffers, the mood among White House staffers who are in Vietnam ahead of the Cohen hearing? Because no matter what happens in Vietnam tomorrow, this Cohen testimony is going to be the story of the day.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, publicly, Anderson, they're claiming that they're not worried about Michael Cohen and that hearing overshadowing everything back here in Vietnam. But obviously, they know that Michael Cohen will be a huge spectacle tomorrow, and that it is going to overshadow much of what the president does here with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

Anderson, basically, Anderson, what you're hearing from White House officials, what you just laid out a few moment ago, they are attacking Michael Cohen's credibility at the White House. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders referring to Michael Cohen as a liar. And so, what happens when you have people who don't tell the truth or accusing other people of not telling the truth, I think that's something we'll find out tomorrow.

I talked to a source close to the White House, a Trump advisor, earlier this evening who said this is all about credibility. And in the view of this advisor, Michael Cohen doesn't have any.

But, Anderson, I think more to the point at this juncture, this advisor said that right now, Michael Cohen is without a country. That is how badly he is seen inside Trump world. It's almost as if he's been excommunicated, and it really gets to the heart of how things go down in Trump world. When you're somebody like Paul Manafort who has really existed cooperating with the special counsel's office, you don't get this kind of treatment. But when you're Michael Cohen, it's something out of "The Godfather" had Twitter existed when Michael Corleone was around.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, do we know if the president -- I mean, I find it hard to believe he's not going to watch Cohen's hearings tomorrow. I think it starts at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow. I think that's 10:00 p.m. in Hanoi. He would have to stay up through the night to I guess actually watch it.

But do we know, does he plan to watch it?

ACOSTA: Well, according to our sources, Anderson, yes. White House officials have basically acknowledged the president will be spending some time watching all this.

And the White House officials and the president's legal team will be looking at this as well. I talked to a source familiar with the president's legal team and their thinking who told me earlier this evening that they don't expect to be a whole lot of bombshells to come out of Michael Cohen's testimony, that they don't expect to hear anything dramatically new in terms of what he has to say.

But they seem to agree inside the White House and the president's legal team this is going to be a major spectacle. Keep in mind, Anderson, in previous administrations when you had scandals like Iran Contra, Watergate, Monica Lewinsky, you had hearings in front of the public. You had major figures from administrations testify in front of the cameras.

That really hasn't happened up until this point in the Trump administration. And that is why tomorrow, whether Michael Cohen reveals a whole lot of new information or just comes out in front of cameras and says what he has said before, I think no doubt we're going to be witnessing history when Michael Cohen testifies tomorrow in front of Congress and in front of the cameras.

It's something we haven't seen so far very much during the course of this Russia investigation. I think it's going to be an incredible moment to watch.

[20:10:01] COOPER: Yes. Jim Acosta, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

As we said, Michael Cohen's testimony tomorrow will be public before the House Oversight Committee. Joining me now is a member of that committee, Representative Eleanor Holmes-Norton.

Congresswoman, thanks so much for being with us.

This tweet from your Republican colleague Matt Gaetz to Michael Cohen claims it's not a threat or witness tampering, it's, quote, witness testing. Again, I don't know exactly what that means.

What do you say to that? Is this threatening Michael Cohen?

REP. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D), DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Is the hearing itself threatening Michael Cohen?

COOPER: No, is Matt Gaetz's tweet suggesting that does his father-in- law or wife know about girlfriends?

NORTON: Oh, that has all the signs of a threat. And I don't think it'll affect Michael Cohen, not at this point. But I don't know what he could do about it. Who's he going to tell it to and how credible is he?

COOPER: What exactly do you want to ask Cohen tomorrow? What do you want to hear in detail from him?

NORTON: You know, there's some frustration here because there are two committees, the Intelligence Committee and our committee. So, we may be left with the salacious stuff like Stormy Daniels, and, of course, that gets pretty close to the president. Particularly if the president told Cohen to lie, and we already know there are campaign violations.

But if he lied this close to an election, then it looks like he may have been trying to, of course, influence the election and that gets to be pretty dicey.

COOPER: It's been reported that Cohen is going to be bringing documents with him to back up his testimony. "The Wall Street Journal" reported that. He notified the committee about these documents.

Do you know what they are?

NORTON: I don't have the slightest idea what those documents are except that often when we asked witnesses about their recollection, they pull out something to make it clear that they're being truthful.

COOPER: The White House, obviously, they're attacking Cohen's credibility, saying it's laughable anyone would believe a convicted liar like Cohen. I mean, they're not wrong. He has lied to Congress before. He's lied on television. He's lied for years for then citizen Donald Trump.

Why should people watching believe what he says now?

NORTON: Well, they really should believe what he says now because he can't afford to dig his grave any deeper, and he's already in for three years. So the notion that he would try to make it worse is absurd.

Of course what the White House is doing is playing an offense to try to make him seem untruthful now, that is to say tomorrow because he's been untruthful before. But the fact is he has every incentive to tell the truth now. He doesn't want to be a Manafort who lied once and then came and lied again and look what's happening to him. He may go to prison for the rest of his life.

COOPER: But, I mean, if he -- if Cohen wanted to tell the truth about everything, he didn't make a Cooperation agreement with prosecutors. So there are some things he has not talked to prosecutors about, and I assume he didn't make a full cooperation agreement because he's worried about possible illegalities he was involved with.

NORTON: Precisely. And we may get to ask those questions as to why he didn't make a full offer to agreements considering how much he has in fact told. So why won't he tell the whole thing, the whole story? He's going to jail.

And I don't think he means to go to jail any longer than he is. So, yes, there will be things for us to ask, but remember the intelligence committee has a big part of this as well. And we've been told we can't ask about Russia, for example. We can only ask about those fairly domestic matters which are very embarrassing but do pertain directly to the election.

Keeping Stormy Daniels and that kind of information from the electorate in order that the public not know something that might well influence who would become president of the United States.

COOPER: Are you also interested in information about the Trump Organization itself and any activities they might have been involved with?

NORTON: Very much so. We're interested in how this is part and parcel of the Trump organization. Again, without getting into Russia and some other committees jurisdiction.

COOPER: All right. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

NORTON: Of course.

COOPER: We'll be watching tomorrow.

With me now is CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger and our chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Gloria, you've spoken to a source familiar, I understand, with what Cohen is going to say tomorrow. Any reason to believe this Matt Gaetz tweet could change Cohen's plan?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I don't think so at all. I think he's into deep now. Remember, he pulled back from testifying when he perceived threats from the president of the United States and postponed until tomorrow. I don't think this is going to affect him one way or another.

It may make him more determined, actually, to say what he's going to say.

[20:15:02] And what our sources are telling us is that he's going to portray the president as a liar and a cheater, and he may bring some financial documents with him. But it's going to be a very unflattering portrait, which, of course, the president is very nervous about.

And I just want to point out something that my colleague, Pamela Brown, just found out about from Rudy Giuliani. We know how concerned the president is about this, but Rudy Giuliani told Pam, I don't think Michael Cohen is occupying even 10 percent of the president's attention right now. I think it's got to be a little more than that, don't you?

COOPER: Yes. Wow, OK. Let's just let that ruminate for a while.

Jeff, this tweet from Gaetz, it's a threat. Is it legal? Is it illegal?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I just read the obstruction of justice statute, 18 USC 1512. It could certainly be described as obstruction of justice. However, there is a speech and debate clause under the U.S. Constitution where members of Congress are given broad range to speak about matters that are being litigated. I don't think this is going to wind up to be a legal case, especially because Trump himself has said worse things about Cohen and more threatening things.

It was the president who tweeted, why aren't they investigating Cohen's father-in-law? I mean, he's the one in charge of the Department of Justice. Gaetz is just a junior member of Congress who really doesn't have much authority to do anything. It's much more threatening to have the head of the executive branch talking about your father.

COOPER: I mean, Jeff, what's interesting is Gaetz isn't even on the oversight committee so it's just like he's trying to get in on the game and sort of, you know, please Daddy Trump. I mean, that's essentially, you know, he's just trying to get himself in the headlines and let the president know, you know, he's willing to be, you know, thuggish or threatening or whatever, however you want to call it.

TOOBIN: That's right. And we have to ask ourselves whether we are doing his bidding by, you know, putting this slur out there in public. Frankly, as a member of Congress, I think this is news, and it is worth talking about.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, this is some guy who's just -- you know, he's a sitting member of congress. Just like didn't there use to be some dignity somewhere on Capitol Hill?

BORGER: A long time ago.

TOOBIN: Have you been paying attention? Where you been? I mean, this is like, you know, the way Trump -- the president talks about people who cooperate and --

COOPER: You have Gaetz saying is your wife going to be faithful while you're in prison?


BORGER: Gaetz is threatening to like crash the committee. He wants to go there. He's trying to get permission because he's not on the committee, and he wants to ask his serious question maybe about Michael Cohen's alleged extramarital affairs, which of course have an awful lot to do with the subject matter at hand.

COOPER: The world is waiting to hear about who Michael Cohen has been having sex with. BORGER: Exactly. I have to say, though, Anderson, my favorite line

from Gaetz today was, this is what it looks like to compete in the marketplace of ideas. What idea is this? What idea is this?

TOOBIN: But I don't think we can underestimate just what a big deal this is tomorrow, because, you know, 50 years from now this is going to be these pictures of Cohen talking about what went on, you know, just as we remember Watergate through the lens of John Dean's testimony, we remember Iran Contra through the lens of Oliver North's testimony, this is how American scandals get remembered. And we haven't had anyone talk this way yet.

And, you know, I don't know where it's going to go. You know, I doubt many minds will be changed. But this will be a defining moment in the Trump presidency for better or for worse.

BORGER: And this is absolutely a Shakespearean story. You have somebody who was his greatest defender, I'll take a bullet for Donald Trump who flips on him and now is determined as he says not to be the villain in this story but to tell the truth facing his jail time. So, as you were pointing out earlier, Anderson, it's Michael Cohen's credibility, which we all understand has been shredded. He's admitted to lying to Congress, and he's going to go to jail for it versus Donald Trump's.


COOPER: Not sure it rises to the level of Shakespeare. Maybe like a pulp novel.

BORGER: The betrayal, let's put it that way. The way that Trump feels Cohen --

COOPER: It's not two houses divided.

BORGER: All right, all right. Maybe I'll give you pulp.

COOPER: All right. Gloria Borger, thank you. Jeff Toobin as well.

Much more to come, including what Congressman Matt Gaetz, how he describes his tweet, whether he thinks his tweet Michael Cohen announced to witness tampering.

[20:20:00] Also ahead, former Vice President Joe Biden gets about as close you could get to announcing a run for a presidency without actually announcing a run for the presidency.

And later from anchor Jorge Ramos after an ordeal he and five other Univision staffers were detained at the presidential palace in Venezuela and then kicked out of the country. We'll explain what happened.


COOPER: Michael Cohen has wrapped up a day of testifying privately before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He says he's looking forward to his public testimony in front of the House Oversight Committee tomorrow.

And as we've been discussing, Congressman Matt Gaetz has decided the best way to interject himself into the conversation is to tweet this and I quote, hey, Michael Cohen, do your wife and father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight will be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she'll remain faithful when you're in prison. She's about to learn a lot.

Staying classy, San Diego.

Tonight, the congressman was asked if that is witness tampering.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R), FLORIDA: Absolutely not. It's witness testing. When people come before the Congress with an intent to perpetuate their continuous lies, we have an opportunity and I would say an obligation to test who those people lie to.

We already know that Michael Cohen lies to Congress. We already know that he lies to law enforcement. Now, we're going to find out if he also lies to the people closest to him, and I think that will tell a lot about his ability to tell the truth.


COOPER: By the way, he's not on the committee. He's just going to be watching on TV like everybody else.

Joining me now is Republican strategist Rick Wilson, author of "Everything Trump Touches Dies", and former Trump campaign aide, Michael Caputo.

Appreciate both of you being with us.

Rick, I mean, is this witness tampering? Is this a threat?

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I don't know if it rises to the level of witness tampering, but it speaks to the sort of level of which the Trump world wants to treat Michael Cohen this thing. This is sign not of Matt being some brave warrior here but of how terrified they are that Michael Cohen is bringing the receipts. That Michael Cohen isn't just going to come to committee tomorrow and say bad things about Donald Trump, that he's going to lay it out chapter and verse.

That he's going to say this contract was in this dodgy thing and on this day he asked me to do X and Y, which a violation of the law. They're very, very scared of the fact that Michael Cohen, look, he's a flawed, bad person. Well, Michael Cohen is not a truthful person. He's a guy going to jail so not a good person.

They're afraid the tangible items he's going to bring into this discussion -- the names, the dates, the places. Michael Cohen knows where a lot of the bodies are buried. He can talk about the NDAs, he can talk about the women, he can talk about -- he can't talk about Russia in this thing, but he can talk about a lot of stuff in great detail that can be verified and validated by outside sources.

They're very nervous about this. That's why Matt Gaetz is behaving this way.

COOPER: Michael, do you think they should be nervous? Do you think that Michael Cohen does have receipts as Rick was saying?

MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: I don't think so. I mean, Michael Cohen was one of the utility infielders on the 26th floor of the Trump Tower.

The one thing we can all look forward to on "Saturday Night Live", we're going to see Jon Lovitz come back as Tommy Flanagan, the president of the pathological liars association of American. That should be fun.

COOPER: Right.

CAPUTO: Tomorrow is just Michael Cohen, you know, basically ordering his last meal before he goes to jail. I think he'll say anything he can to try to, you know, reduce his sentence, maybe get out on good behavior.

COOPER: The testimony before will do nothing for his sentence and has nothing to do with good behavior.

CAPUTO: I get that, I get that. He's trying to mitigate whatever kind of damage he's already done to himself. You know, Michael Cohen is going to lie tomorrow like he always lies.

And I don't like the look of the congressman's tweet. But at the same time, tomorrow, Michael Cohen is going to be talking about the president's sex life. I understand where the congressman is going there, but I think it's a pretty bad look, you know?

COOPER: Rick, what is it -- it's easier for the White House, and look, they're accurate when they say he's a felon, he's a liar, he's an admitted liar. But Donald Trump employed him for years I assume because he was a liar, at least in part, and would do the bidding of Donald Trump. I mean, it's hard to get reputable lawyers to, you know, do your hush money agreements.

WILSON: Right. It's not every day -- your every day attorney doesn't go and say, hmm, which porn star are we paying off this week, Donald, and let me call David Pecker at "The National Enquirer" and take care of this and that for you.

So, Cohen's specific kill set, you know, the taken guy that Donald Trump -- he has a very specific set of skills and a lot of them involve things Donald Trump didn't want out there in the world. And he's going to be able to point to these things and say this draws a full picture.

COOPER: But it's interesting to me Michael Cohen has not taken -- has not had a cooperation agreement, so he's not been willing to come clean about everything, I assume to protect a father-in-law or whatever -- whoever he's still trying to protect.

WILSON: You know, the interesting thing is, you know -- in mob cases, they always wrap up the accountant. They've already got the accountant. Weisselberg's testifying.

Then they wrap up the consigliere. Michael Cohen is that figure for the last 10, 12 years of Donald Trump's life. He's been involved in a million different things in Trump's world. There are a lot of webs that he had a hand in, and a lot of those, what you're going to have are things going to peel back and open up new avenues of investigation that they do not want to have opened up.

COOPER: Michael, do you think the fact that he is not a full cooperator means he's still not fully telling the truth?

CAPUTO: I don't think Michael Cohen even knows how to tell the truth. And I understand why the never Trump team really thinks he's some kind of fantasy that Donald Trump's consigliere is speaking before Congress tomorrow, and that his accountant has already, you know, turned state evidence. That's all a joke.

I mean, at the end of the day, this is all going to culminate in a skit on "Saturday Night Live," and we can move on to the next thing. And Michael Cohen can go to jail where he belongs.

COOPER: But, I mean, Michael Cohen has already damaged Donald Trump. I mean, whether one wants to -- whether one cares or not, you know, he recorded Donald Trump talking about, you know, the deal with the "National Enquirer," something the President had denied publicly. So, I mean, Michael Cohen has already done damage, you know, Michael?

CAPUTO: No doubt, but I think it's going to be fun tomorrow for people to sort through what is a lie and what is the truth. It's going to be a full time job for the House select -- Permanent Select Committee. I guess it's a House Oversight Committee tomorrow and, you know, good luck with that.

From my experience, I've known Michael Cohen for a long time, a lot longer than anybody else on this show, and the way you know Michael Cohen is lying is his lips are moving.

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN POLITICAL STRATEGIST: And yet Donald Trump named him as the finance chairman or the co-finance chairman of the Republican National Committee?

CAPUTO: Big mistake.

WILSON: And yet Donald Trump used him as a primary surrogate on the campaign over and over again?

CAPUTO: Not a primary surrogate.

WILSON: And yet Donald Trump continued to have Michael Cohen as part of his circle right up until last year. This isn't something that just fell apart a few days ago. This was a long relationship that Donald Trump felt there was a great utility to having Michael Cohen in his life to do specific things for him.

And what's going to happen, and I know that Michael Caputo here wants to think it's all a fantasy, it's all just an air bubble, but he's going to be able to say the President on this day asked me to do X and then I did that. And he's going to have paper, he's going to have recordings, he's going to have e-mails. A lot of these things are very scary to the Trump world.

COOPER: What's not clear to me, though, is how, you know, in some testimony like I think in Watergate staffers were able to ask -- to interview witnesses beforehand so that when there was actually televised testimony it was sort of focused and, you know, very dramatic, but we have not seen that kind of thing in quite a while. I don't know if that's the case tomorrow if they've already talked to Michael Cohen staffers so that they can be quite specific and direct or if this is just kind of Michael Cohen telling his story.

WILSON: My experience from most congressional hearings of this scope is that there's a lot of pre-game. And they're going to -- they have already explored certain avenues. They already have a lot of his previous testimony from other appearances, so I think they're going to have a more structured thing. But I do think you'll see the Matt Gaetz types of the world try to come in and blow things up and, you know, have shenanigans.

COOPER: Yes. Rick Wilson, appreciate it, Michael Caputo, always. Thank you very much.

Up next, more insight on what could happen tomorrow. I'll talk to Tony Schwartz, who is the ghost writer of the President's memoir, "The Art of the Deal." He actually wrote the book. He's now obviously a critic of Mr. Trump. What Mr. Schwartz expects when Michael Cohen talks about, we'll tell you when we continue.


COOPER: Again, our breaking news, Michael Cohen, the President's former attorney, now convicted felon says he looks forward to testifying publicly tomorrow on Capitol Hill.

[20:35:00] It brings baggage a host of credibility issues after pleading guilty to several chargers, still he could shed light on a number of things. After all he is unique first-hand insight as the top level executive for the Trump Organization for 10 years.

Joining me for now -- now for his take on tomorrow's testimony is Tony Schwartz who wrote the President's 1987 memoir, "Trump: The Art of the Deal," more recently contributor to the dangerous case of Donald Trump. You believe this is a historic moment?

TONY SCHWARTZ, CO-AUTHOR, "THE ART OF THE DEAL": Unequivocally. It kind of gives me a chill when I think I'm old enough, unfortunately, to have been there when John Dean testified before Congress, when Alexander Butterfield revealed that Nixon was doing tapes. And this is -- this is that moment. COOPER: Potentially. I mean, we don't know exactly what Michael Cohen is going to say, but he -- I mean, from what you know of Michael Cohen, he had access to a lot of information about --

SCHWARTZ: Yes. And we already know that he's planning on accusing him of criminal activity, that he's going to accuse him of lying and cheating.

COOPER: "The Wall Street Journal" has reported that.

SCHWARTZ: Right. So, what we know is that it's going to be an accusation that if true would demand that Trump be impeached and convicted. Now, that's a political calculation in the end. But on any legitimate grounds if what Cohen says tomorrow is true, it should mean the end of the Trump presidency.

COOPER: I wonder what -- but, I mean, the White House obviously is not waiting for this day. Sarah Sanders has come out saying, "Look, he's a convicted felon. He's -- and an admitted liar," all of which is true. He was a liar while he was working for Donald Trump. He lied during the campaign when he was defending Donald Trump, and clearly he lied in front of Congress. But she works for somebody who lies repeatedly as well.

SCHWARTZ: Well, yes, that -- even that wouldn't mean that Cohen couldn't be lying again, and he -- and we don't know for sure. But my strong guess is that he's going to produce some pretty considerable documentary evidence that what he's saying is true. What's interesting for the Republicans, and you can see it already, is that the only possible way to go here is to go after his credibility.

COOPER: Matt Gaetz, I mean to answer that question, you know, congressman Republican huge supporter of the President, he prides himself on that, you know, sent out this tweet that we talked about earlier on the program. It's -- when I read the tweet I -- you know, he says it's not a threat.

It's hard to read it as anything other than -- I mean, if you -- there was a movie and there was some blackmailer, you know, saying to somebody on the phone testify tomorrow and, you know, do they know about -- does your father-in-law, does your wife know about your girlfriends? A lot's going to come out tomorrow. I mean, this is sitting congressman. It's just the behavior of a thug.

SCHWARTZ: Well, yes. And, listen, Trump has gathered around him, including to be fair Cohen himself a group of thugs, and miscreants, and grifters, and low-lives for his entire career. And the only people who will stand up and defend him now tend to be those very people who he has always sought out.

COOPER: But something -- to me something about this tweet in particular. I mean, you know, I don't know Matt Gaetz personally. You know, nothing wrong with him being a strong defender of the President. But I mean, he's a career politician. His dad has been a politician. For him, you know -- I still have this idea of some sort of dignity in public service and dignity in the halls of the Capitol and Congress and Senate. And for a sitting congressman to send out a tweet in which one of the lines is, you know, "Do you think your wife is going to stay faithful while you're in prison," what --


COOPER: -- like this is what he's doing?

SCHWARTZ: No. I mean, the incivility that now characterizes political discourse is extraordinary. But we know exactly where that came from. That came from thousands and thousands of words that have come out of Trump's mouth himself. Now, Trump's done very much the same kind of thing. In fact, he himself accused, threatened Cohen's father-in-law. This is the way in which the Trump administration does business because it's really like a (INAUDIBLE) family.

COOPER: The American people are going to have the opportunity to actually just see Michael Cohen talking probably in a way we've never seen him actually talking before, because every T.V. appearance he's been on in the past, you know, he was the pitbull thug. Thug defender of Donald Trump like, you know, wannabe thug, pretend thug.

SCHWARTZ: Yes. You know, I've been thinking to myself -- I thought a lot about the issue of redemption as you can imagine. Having done "The Art of the Deal" with Trump, I want to believe in the capacity of for redemption. I'm talking about myself.

COOPER: You really thought about it personally.

SCHWARTZ: Endless.

COOPER: Like you feel to be like --

SCHWARTZ: Endless --

[20:40:01] COOPER: Because you wrote "The Art of the Deal" you feel you need to redeem yourself for that?

SCHWARTZ: Without question. I mean, I feel that I have -- the reason I come on shows like yours is to try to right some of the damage that I think that book -- I mean, of course, I didn't have any idea that it would do that, but what I did know at the time was that Trump was a bad man, I already knew that. And I made an expedient choice to write that book.

I'm not the same person I was 30 years ago and part of the reason I'm not is because the experience with Trump prompted me to take my life in such a different direction. I am willing to believe -- in fact, my gut tells me that Michael Cohen, however hideous his behaviors have been in the past, really does want to redeem himself. I actually believe that.

COOPER: We'll see tomorrow. Tony Schwartz, always good to talk to you, thank you. SCHWARTZ: Thank you.

COOPER: Well, there's potentially huge news in the 2020 campaign for president. What Joe Biden just said about his entry into the race, next.


COOPER: Well, there's more breaking news tonight. Former Vice President Joe Biden has always said if he receives the blessings of his family he'll run for the Democratic presidential nomination. Well, apparently he's got it.


JOE BIDEN (D), FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's a consensus that I should -- they want, they, the most important people in my life want me to run. I have not made the final decision, but don't be surprised.


[20:45:08] COOPER: Well, CNN's Arlette Saenz was there when he made that kind of announcement, joins us now. So what else did the former vice president have to say today?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Anderson, I've been traveling around the country with Joe Biden for the past few months, and this is the most revealing answer I've heard him give when it comes to his 2020 decision making process.

And he said that he's cleared that major hurdle as the family considerations have been at the top of his list, saying that there is now a consensus among his family that they do want to see him run in 2020.

He did say that he had some concerns about how the President -- President Trump might approach Biden's family during a campaign. But for the most part the Biden family now does appear to seem -- appears to be onboard with the 2020 run. But Biden also noted that he wants to make sure that the campaign isn't a fools errand and that they have all the pieces in place should he decide to run. Take a listen.


BIDEN: I can die a happy man never having lived in the White House. But what I don't want to do is I don't want to take people's time, effort, and commitment without there being a clear shot that I could be the nominee. I think we can. I think that's where we are, but there's still a couple hurdles to go through to make sure we have all this in place. And if we conclude that, I will announce that I'd run for president. And -- but, you know --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my god, just say yes.

BIDEN: No. Well, but I'm not there yet. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SAENZ: So Biden heard those words of encouragement here from a home state crowd in Delaware. And while he seems to have worked through some of those family considerations, Anderson, it's still very clear that there are other factors still weighing on his mind.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, it seems like -- I mean, I guess he's still talking to advisers. Did he describe what exactly those factors were that still weren't in place?

SAENZ: He did. He talked through some of those issues that he wants to see addressed. We really haven't heard him go into that specific detail just quite yet, but he talked about wanting to make sure that social media engagement, that they have a good strategy on that.

He also talked about fundraising, wanting to raise money on his own terms saying that he wouldn't be a part of any super PAC and also noted that he has had some Republican donors saying that they might want to help out a campaign.

Another issue was that he said he wants to make sure that the appeal for a Biden run runs deep. Now, Biden says he's very close to making a decision, but sources that I've spoken to have said it's highly unlikely that any formal announcement will come before April, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Arlette, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

So if in fact the former vice president does decide to announce what then, our Jeff Zeleny is spending the next 18 months or so following the Democratic contenders, for that we thank him and wish him well in advance. So, Jeff, how big a step toward a candidacy you think this is for the former vice president?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, I think those are pretty one for the reasons that Arlette outline, particularly the family. That has been an underlying question here, is his family up for this run? We know one thing Joe Biden wants to be president. This would be the third time that he's running. But he said, you know, flat out that there is a consensus among his family to run. So I think it was a pretty big step today.

But, Anderson, I detected something else that he knows he's a front- runner immediately. He knows that he's going to have all the arrows toward him. So I heard humility from him in saying, "Look, we are trying to figure it out to see if we can mount this type of campaign." I think he was trying to lower expectations there a little bit if he would decide to jump in. All signs are that there is a campaign essentially ready to go once he gives the signal.

COOPER: Did you get any sense if Biden knows how to run against President Trump, because obviously Republicans and Hillary Clinton last time around, you know, thought they knew and didn't work out for them? ZELENY: Well, that is an essential question here, but I think one of the reasons, one of the things he knows is Pennsylvania, for example. That is one of the things that worries the President and his advisers the most. Joe Biden knows how to talk to working class voters. He knows how to sort of bring this coalition together. So I do think he knows how to run against President Trump.

I think the trickier path for him is the Democratic primary. Is he the person who fits the moment, the mood, the energy of this Democratic primary? He is not a shoe in by any means at all. He would have to make the argument that he is the best one positioned to defeat the President and the best one to govern.

But, Anderson, there is a sense talking to voters, I was in Iowa this weekend and a lot of people like Joe Biden. They say, "Look, we like everything he stands for, but is it time for a new fresh face?" So he would have to contend with those concerns long before the idea of taking on President Trump.

COOPER: Yes. Biden also said if he were to run he would not accept money from a super PAC. Is that a move to appeal to Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren voters? I mean, they both made pledges to keep big money out of their campaigns.

[20:50:08] ZELENY: Look, I think it's just accepting the new reality of money in politics. He cannot do it like he used to do, but the question is he will still have to rely on big donors. Can he get small dollar support that Bernie Sanders get? Will people send in $10 every month to support Joe Biden? I'm not sure about that. So, but a super PAC at this point, that is pretty much what virtually everyone is doing. That's easy. The question is, can he raise the money?

COOPER: Right.

ZELENY: It's one of many.

COOPER: Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much.

Let's check in with Chris to see what he is working on. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: I don't think raising the money is going to be the issue for Joe Biden. It's going to be how does he shape a message and become the messenger that his party wants right now.


CUOMO: Will that party wine up deciding that its soul is in a new spot and that it wants to fight a new fight and embrace the diversity of this country as a reflection of the future of the party. And if so, is Joe Biden checking that box or do they say, look, we need to beat Trump? And is Joe Biden checking that box?

It's a very interesting calculation for him personally, because you know in the back of his mind and his heart, Anderson, this is a race that his son Beau may have run. Think about that. Think about how emotionally confusing that is, that he's son Beau, this could have been his raise on the Democratic side.

So, that's going to be a real point of entry going forward. That race doesn't start until Biden decides whether he's in or not. We're going to be taking on Cohen tonight. We have reporting to kind of flush around the context of why tomorrow is going to be a historic occasion.

COOPER: Do you think it will be?

CUOMO: 100 percent. This will be the day that will be a pivot point in this entire situation about when it became clear that this President does or does not have trouble.

COOPER: Chris, we'll look forward to that in about 8.5 minutes. See you at the top of the hour.

Coming up next, Univision Anchor Jorge Ramos joins me in his first interview since being detained in Venezuela. Just released, he was kicked out of the country after interviewing the dictator there. My conversation with him coming up.


[20:56:11] COOPER: Univision Anchor Jorge Ramos and his crew were detained against their will at the Venezuelan presidential palace in Caracas last night not long after they began an interview with Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro.

Ramos said Maduro got up from the interview after he was shown this video shot by Univision of some -- or actually shot by Jorge, of some young people eating out of a garbage truck. Ramos said his team was put in a security room and the lights were turned off. I spoke to him before his first interview just before air time.


COOPER: Jorge, you've just gotten back to the United States after being detained in Venezuela and then basically removed from the country. Explain what happened when you sat down with Maduro.

JORGE RAMOS, UNIVISION ANCHOR: I started the interview with Nicolas Maduro asking him if he was a president or a dictator. He just didn't like that. And then the interview went on for about 17 minutes. It was a contentious interview, I have to admit, hopefully tough questions, that's what I thought.

And then I -- he was saying that the revolution, the Venezuelan revolution had been a success. I told him that was not the case and I show him on my iPad three kids were behind a trash truck eating the trash. And he just --

COOPER: And that's video you shot yourself or your crew shot?

RAMOS: Exactly. The day before -- with my cell phone. We were driving through Caracas and I saw these three kids incredibly hungry. They were eating trash. And then I asked them, "What's happening? Why are you doing that?" And they told me, "We are very hungry and Nicolas Maduro is responsible and we need a new president."

So when I was doing the interview, I just show Nicolas Maduro what had happened and he just couldn't take it. He broke. He stood up. He tried to cover the image and then he said the interview is over. And I told Nicolas Maduro, "What are you saying? Why don't you just simply answer the question? This is what dictators do." And then he left.

And they confiscated our four cameras. The video cards for the interviews were kept. And a few minutes later they confiscated our cell phones. We were detained for two hours. Some agents and bodyguards put me in a little room, in a dark room and they forcefully took my backpack and my cell phone and this was happening in Venezuela. So, he didn't like the interview, so they took our cameras, our video. They detained us for two hours and then they expel me this morning from Venezuela.

COOPER: Was it Venezuelan government or was it U.S. officials or Mexican officials?

RAMOS: No. Yes, we were -- Venezuelan agents were outside of the hotel the whole night, so nobody could come in and we couldn't leave the airport. They wanted to make sure that we were going to go directly to the airport. We were deported actually from Venezuela.

And this is really interesting, thanks to the U.S. Department and thanks to the American embassy in Caracas, and it's an American embassy, Anderson, because even though the relationship between Venezuela and the United States is being broken because of Maduro, the U.S. does not recognize Maduro as the real president. They recognize Juan Guaido.

So, there's a U.S. embassy in Caracas and they helped us into vehicles with bodyguards and the Mexican embassy in Caracas with an extra vehicle to go all the way safely from the hotel to the airport.

It was a difficult moment because we didn't know what could happen. It's a dictatorship so they can do anything they want and we were concerned that at the airport at some point during our journey that they could have kidnapped us or kept us in the country without our permission, obviously.

COOPER: Yes. Well, Jorge, I'm glad you and your crew are - are back and - and safe. But, obviously, your thoughts and our thoughts are with the people left behind--

RAMOS: Absolutely.

COOPER: --in the struggle that is going on there. Jorge Ramos, thank you so much.

RAMOS: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Well the news continues right now. Want to hand it over to Chris Cuomo for CUOMO PRIME TIME. Chris?