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NY Times: President Trump Chief of Staff to Give Jared Kushner Top-Secret Security Clearance; Trump Admin. Sources: Special Counsel Regulations Protect Trump. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired February 28, 2019 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:19] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

It is not over for Michael Cohen on Capitol Hill, and now lawmakers want to talk with other people in the president's orbit as well. We'll have the lightest on all of that coming up.

But we begin with breaking news about the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. "The New York Times" is reporting that despite concerns by intelligence officials and the White House's top lawyer, the president ordered his chief of staff to grant Jared Kushner a top secret security clearance. It's something the president denied doing. It's something his daughter Ivanka is on record of saying never happened.

Maggie Haberman shares the byline on this. She joins us now on the phone.

So, Maggie, you walk us through what happened here based on your reporting?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES (via telephone): Sure, Anderson. This has been going on for quite some time, as you know. Jared Kushner's background check has been a problem for him and by extension for the White House since he joined the administration. His initial application was lacking a bunch of key meetings and contacts that he had with foreign officials in various capacities.

You know, they said there was a clerical error that was being updated. He was operating with a provisional clearance for some time. It was downgraded at least once, and it was downgraded in February of 2018 at a time when they were reviewing a bunch of security clearances.

And this is very frustrating to Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, both who reported at the time felt as if John Kelly and Don McGahn, the White House counsel, were targeting them. But the FBI and the CIA had concern about the extent of foreign contact by Jared Kushner and by his involvement with his family business, his real estate business.

By May, the president, you know, the White House counsel had at that point written a memo expressing concerns about what was going on, and he had said that he did not think that there should be a clearance given, but the president ordered John Kelly to give one. The reason we know this is John Kelly wrote that into a memo that he wrote to be filed at the White House.

COOPER: The fact that John Kelly wrote a contemporaneous memo to be filed, what does that say? Is that a normal thing to do?

HABERMAN: I think that, look, what happens with personnel files and matters I think is beyond my level of expertise, but I do know that writing contemporaneous memos and taking extensive notes about what is going on and interactions with Donald Trump has become something we've seen time and time again.

There is a reason that Michael Cohen had tapes, or had a tape of himself and the president, you know, in my estimation, just from watching this over time, and it's because people have gotten used to the president saying that events that happened didn't happen. And so, I think that John Kelly wanted documentation of how this was done, and this has become more of an issue, Anderson, because of the timing, because the Democratic controlled House already was planning on looking at clearances, but also because at the time this clearance was granted, Abbe Lowell, Jared Kushner's lawyer, went on television and said this was a standard process.

This went through a normal route. When I asked the president in the Oval Office a few weeks ago if he had ordered people to give his son- in-law clearance, he said no, he didn't get involved and didn't even think he had that power.

COOPER: Right.

HABERMAN: Ivanka told ABC News that her father didn't get involved. So, he legally has the authority to do it, and it was frankly a questions that they all said yes, this is what happened.

COOPER: Yes, he point-blank denied having any interaction on Kushner's security clearance. And to your point, Ivanka Trump as well in a television interview said, you know, that it was a completely normal process.

HABERMAN: Correct. They painted this as a sort of standard operating procedure. I think Ivanka Trump's explanation to ABC was that there is, you know, many, many hundreds of thousands of clearances that are delayed through government, and that is true, but not at their level. Not for assistants to the president. Not -- and in the West Wing, there is an ability to expedite clearances.

And again, the president could -- a universe in which the president could say you know what? This is the person who I have assigned to deal with Mideast peace, to deal with a high range meetings, I want him to have a clearance and you're just doing it all upfront. The fact that it involved so many versions of false statements publicly about this process is of course going to raise questions.

COOPER: Yes, Maggie Haberman, I appreciate the reporting.

[20:05:02] I want to show you something that we referenced earlier, or just now, Ivanka Trump a few weeks ago talking about security clearances for her and her husband. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IVANKA TRUMP, FIRST DAUGHTER: The president had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband's clearance.


COOPER: OK. So that's not true, according to "The New York Times."

Joining me now is Philip Mudd, Laura Jarrett, Gloria Borger, Kirsten Powers, and David Urban.

Phil, as somebody who has a security clearance sitting in this table, what do you make of this?


PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I do. I still have a top secret clearance. Let me make this really simple. The president threatened my clearance in August. He withdrew the clearance of John Brennan --

COOPER: He threatened yours because of something you said?

MUDD: Because of something I said. I had a security clearance. I still do. I've now had it for 35 years. If you have a question about a security clearance, it's about what you did. Did you declare where you got money? Did you declare if you talked to a foreign official?

John Brennan had his clearance withdrawn because of what he said. I had my threatened about what I said. The question I have about Jared Kushner is not whether the president has the right to give him a clearance. He does.

What was the problem? It wasn't what he said. Did he have money he didn't declare? Did he have people he contacted he didn't talk about? That's what can get a clearance withdrawn. That's what I think Jared Kushner didn't talk about. What was the problem?

COOPER: And Jared Kushner has had a web, obviously, of business interactions.


COOPER: His father's company had a building that was in financial trouble that he was trying to get international money for from Qatar and other places.

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: We don't know if that's part of this.

BORGER: Well, I think the whole issue, look, he submitted his security clearance form four times. The first time he submitted it, and Maggie was talking about it a little bit, we were told in our reporting it was a premature draft because he did not -- he did not categorize or list any foreign contacts.

We know his real estate business has lots of foreign investors. We know that Jared Kushner set himself up as the so-called back channel with Russia and other countries during the transition. None of this appeared on his form. Submitted it four times, and his attorney at the time said to us it was properly submitted, reviewed by career officials, and it was a normal process.

COOPER: Right.

BORGER: Today, he kind of had to say, wait a minute. A spokesman said at the time we relied on the White House basically, and they told us it was handled in the regular process with no pressure from anyone, and they said that was conveyed to you guys in the media at the time. New stories, if accurate, do not change what was affirmed at the time. In other words, it wasn't our fault. This is what we were told, and this is what we told you. And obviously now, we know.

COOPER: Right, and this is a position Sarah Sanders has been in a number of times.

BORGER: Exactly.

COOPER: Saying something only to later not saying it quite so succinctly at that.

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: Laura, the fact that Don McGahn and General Kelly felt moved to write this down and write about and certainly Don McGahn's case objections, it tells you something.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: I think that's one of the more significant parts of the story. It is not as if there were some disgruntled career officials who wanted to be perhaps more conservative and say oh, I see some issue here is. You know, being more persnickety perhaps than McGahn and Kelly.

But the fact that Trump's hand-picked White House counsel and chief of staff said no, we have a problem here. And Kelly went the extra step of deciding to memorialize it for whatever reason, we don't know. And what exactly he said, we don't know. But those show you that there were real concerns here.

And to Phil's point, it's just kind of a vacuum about what were the issues that led the CIA to say, we still have questions here.

COOPER: I mean, Kirsten, another argument is that, look, this is the person the president had picked to deal with Middle East peace, working with China, a whole host of issues. And if that's the person he wants, he is the president. He is allowed to do this.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: But ideally, the president would listen to the people who are doing the security clearances if they raise a concern. This is one of the problems also with the president having a family member I think working for him, because I think if it was another person, maybe he would have dealt with it differently. Maybe not, because it's Donald Trump.

But the point is they raise serious concerns about this, and then you have -- I think like Ivanka and Jared might say well, John Kelly didn't like them and that's why he was doing that. I don't think they can really say that about Don McGahn, who is a pretty straight shooter by all accounts, and you have him saying he doesn't think he should have gotten this clearance. And so, I think Phil has hit on it. What was the specific issue of why they didn't feel comfortable? Because it's actually not that common for a White House official to be denied a security clearance.

COOPER: I want to get to David in just a second.

[20:10:01] But, Phil, in your experience, have you ever heard of a president overruling intelligence officials, his White House counsel to give somebody the security clearance?

MUDD: I have not. I only spent 25 years, so I missed a few things.

I heard of pressure, for example. People saying this guy is a White House official. We should move forward expeditiously on this. I think the president had a right the say, hey, he is my guy in Middle East over and overrule this.

I don't recollect ever hearing somebody say the president says give somebody who has questions, where we have questions about his background, overrule that. I don't think so. I might be wrong.

COOPER: David?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: A lot to unpack here, right? As Phil knows, there are two different things being debated here as well. There is a TS, a top secret, and there is an SCI. SCI is specialized compartmentalized information, which is handled by the CIA. The TS is handled by the FBI.

TS was granted. The SCI was not, is still not granted. Phil knows this, I filled this out. I held the clearance before. When you fill out the SF-86, it is not a small document.


URBAN: You have to go back and list. And as you correctly pointed out, Anderson, Jared is a guy with a vast web of international contacts, and you have to go through your rolodex, and every contact, whether you shook the guy's hand or the woman's hand, you had tea with somebody to where you had an actual financial transaction must be listed.

And if it's not, you can't just simply update it. You have to file an amended SF-86. So there is an incredible sequence and dance that goes through here. And if you're like Phil that's been doing this for 35 years, it's pretty easy because you started and then you updated every year. I met one person in a conference. I did this.

When you have to go back for 15, 20 years and list it, it's a pretty dogging task.

BORGER: But his first form was blank.

URBAN: Settling it is no mean feat. That's not saying it's an excuse, but it's a little more in-depth than people might understand.

COOPER: What does that have to do with the president overriding?

URBAN: It doesn't. That explains some of the holes, why it wasn't done. I think there is no objection. The president should have said listen, this is my person who is doing Middle East peace. I determined he is necessary for this job, and just say it.

COOPER: But if it is business -- look, he was meeting with Chinese companies trying to get a bailout for 666, the building in New York, he is the guy who is dealing with Qatar in Saudi Arabia and Middle East peace and China. If he is and his dad's company are in searching for money, isn't that a conflict or a potential conflict?

URBAN: And that's the unknowable point in this juncture. What is there? Is that there money? Is there loans? Is there something outstanding that somebody has a lien on 666, right, that they're going the call if something doesn't go their way? That just -- you can't know at this point.

And no one knows exactly, to Phil's point, how many of these clearances are done. You don't know how many times people in the White House have said hey, let's move this along. This person needs this clearance. I mean, I would think it happens more frequently than people may think.

COOPER: Right, but moving it along -- again, this isn't even moving it along. I'm not listening to you guys. I'm going to do this, and the White House council saying like --

URBAN: I don't know what's in General Kelly's memo. It maybe a little bit of, you know, we're leaving. I'm going to be gone at some point. I want to memorialize what went on here. Same with Don McGahn.

I don't know there is a nefarious motive. Maybe it's simply factual.

POWERS: But, also, what you're saying -- but the sort of excuse your making for him having to fill out all this paperwork, you're acting like no one else has ever filled out this paperwork there are people much older than him.

COOPER: He would also have to pay an attorney, which is expensive.


POWERS: That's true. But, no, if you're getting a job doing international affairs, you typically have had a lot of contact with international people and transactions, and like I said, people who are much older and have much longer careers than him and managed to do this. So why is this so difficult? BORGER: But he had to amend it four times. The first one was blank

because they said mistakenly submitted. And they continued having to update and update and update. So the interim clearance went on for months.

URBAN: Let's not forget the person who ran the security office was replaced. I believe that the person who granted these clearances wasn't the person who originally began the clearance process as well. Robert Klein.

COOPER: Is it normal for people -- I've never heard of after talking to Kirsten, I don't run and memorialize what Kirsten said because I'm concerned she is going to deny it the next day. Does it say something to you that, you know, you have Don McGahn and chief of staff memorializing stuff?

URBAN: Yes, of course. Listen, this is a -- if you're talking about giving somebody as high profile -- listen, I am certain that General Kelly and Don McGahn thought there is a possibility that some day the house may flip, the Senate may flip, and someone is going to wonder and ask questions about this.

[20:15:03] So I'm going to write it down and put it in the personnel file so that somebody can come and read it and understand for themselves.


COOPER: Which "The New York Times" now seems to have done.

URBAN: Here you go again. How do they get personnel records from the White House? How do they get memos that are maybe classified or otherwise?


COOPER: Well, we have to move on. There is so much going on tonight.

Up next, more breaking news on the long anticipated Mueller report and whether it could actually be made public or not. What some Trump administration officials are actually telling CNN.

Plus, why the chief financial officer for the Trump Organization could soon be grilled on Capitol Hill.


COOPER: There is more breaking news to tell you about tonight, and this is about the long-awaited Mueller report.

[20:15:02] The big question is when Robert Mueller completes his investigation, what does the Attorney General Bill Barr do with the confidential report.

CNN is now learning tonight that some administration officials we have spoken with believe that the way the special counsel regulations are written will protect the president from any negative information being released if he is not charged with a crime.

CNN's Pamela Brown and Evan Perez join me now with details. What have you learned, Pamela?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, I've spoken to several administration and White House officials that includes that, and their view is that the special counsel regulations as they are written actually provide protection for President Trump. They say the plain language and the rules don't authorize or even contemplate a summary of the confidential report that Mueller will provide Barr to Congress.

Now, obviously, if there is information already in the indictments, it's already public, then that's not the issue in their view.

But here is part of the rules that officials point to. This is what they're focused on. It says if you look at the rules, it simply says Barr is required to tell Congress when the special counsel probe ends, and any requests the special counsel made that were denied. It also says the attorney general can release that information to the public, but the language is ambiguous according to these officials and that gives the president's team confidence that the confidential information in the report won't be made public. As one Trump administration official I spoke with tonight said, the public interest to release Mueller's confidential report cannot overcome the regulations, and in their view, the regulations do not require Barr to hand over the confidential report or anything from it.

COOPER: Evan, the regulations they believe don't require it, but the law doesn't prohibit it either, is that right?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The rules give the attorney general a lot of discretion. Keep in mind that this means that the attorney general could then follow the Justice Department's general rules about releasing information about people who aren't charged with crimes. We saw the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein discuss this issue just since the last week. He seemed to be laying the groundwork for none of this information becoming president. The president obviously cannot be charged with a crime under the Justice Department's guidelines.

And it's interesting to note, Anderson, that during his confirmation hearing, the Attorney General Bill Barr was not asked about the release of any information to the public that could be used for impeachment proceedings. That never came up.

COOPER: Stick around, because I want to bring in Neal Katyal, the person who actually drafted the special counsel regulations way back in 1999.

Neal, were you like 13 when you drafted them? I'm not sure how that's possible.

But, Neal, what do you make of the White House using the regulations you drafted as a reason to give Congress and the American people as little information as possible? NEAL KATYAL, FORMER U.S. ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL, OBAMA

ADMINISTRATION: Well, I'm just hearing this for the first time, Anderson, but boy, it sure seems like the Trump folks are reading the special counsel regulations the way they read the constitution, which is to look for a loophole here and a loophole there. And it's not going work. And if they try this and try and squelch the Barr and Mueller reports, I do think it will be the end of the administration.

And I say that for three reasons.

Number one, it's totally inconsistent with the special counsel regulations, which are all about at their heart providing public confidence in the administration of the rule of law. There is even a provision we wrote in there to make sure the attorney general can make the reports public. So that's number one.

Number two is that the president himself, his lawyers have been saying that he can't be indicted because he's a sitting president. And every scholar who takes that view also says to make sure a president is not above the law, the remedy is impeachment. That Congress has to be able to do its function. And the only way of course for that to happen is for them to have all the information. So whether or not it's in the bar report or not, Congress will just subpoena it, and they will get it no matter.

And then number three is the public. I mean Nixon tried this. It didn't work out so well for him. And I suspect the Supreme Court result would have the same result as they did back in 1974. You know, ultimately, the genius of our system transparency and checks and balances, and hiding information about presidential wrongdoing, it's not going to work.

COOPER: You said it would be the end of the administration. When I ask you what do you mean by that, because during his confirmation hearing, William Barr said of the report that his, quote, goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law. Based on what Pamela and Evan are reporting, does it sound like Barr intends to live up to that goal?

KATYAL: Well, I sure hope and I didn't take their reports to be sourced to Barr or something like that. I think Barr sounded a note of disclosure in his confirmation hearing. I'm sure the Trump administration White House officials would like to take some of that back. But that is what Barr said.

And when you read that language, Anderson, you just did that Barr said, consistent with the law and regulations, there is nothing in the special counsel regulations, even under the most crazy over-reading of the Trump administration can give it that says that information is precluded from becoming public. And that was your question to Evan a moment ago. And that's exactly the right question.

We can debate about whether it's 100 percent disclosure or 90 percent disclosure and the range of discretion in between. But nobody can debate that the regulations don't preclude disclosure. And when you're talking about something like this, high level allegations of wrongdoing by the president of the United States, of course, that information has to come out in some way or the other.

COOPER: I know Pamela and Evan have some questions for you as well.

BROWN: Hi, Neal. So obviously you wrote the regulations. What does it require in terms of the information that Barr should provide to Congress from the confidential report from Mueller in your view? And can you point me specifically to the regulations and which section in that that requires Barr to provide information from the confidential report?

KATYAL: So I'm just hearing all this now, so I don't have the regulations in front of me. But it's either 600.8 or 600.9. I think it's 600.9.

BROWN: We have the full screen.

KATYAL: Which requires a report in three instances. One, when a special counsel is appointed, when a special counsel is removed, and at the conclusion of the investigation.

And yes, the White House is right to say there we did specify if the attorney general interfered with the investigation of the special counsel in any way, that triggered a specific report about that, about that piece of what he did.

But overall, in the commentary that was published alongside it says the whole goal here is public confidence in the administration of justice, avoiding a cover-up, to put it simply. And if Barr did something like this, which I can't imagine he'd do, he obviously sounded a very different note at his hearings, it would not just be inconsistent with the regulations. It would be consistent with the overall spirit of this country since the founding, since United States versus Nixon, the 1974 unanimous Supreme Court case and the like. I can't imagine that he would do this. Again, I know the wishful thinking.

BROWN: I don't see anything as I'm looking at the regulations that specifies or anything laid out saying that Barr must provide a summary of the confidential report.

KATYAL: So the regulations, again, say that at the conclusion, he has to provide a report, and then the commentary to the regulations say that public confidence will require in certain instances that report even to be made public. And obviously, this is the height of those concerns. This is not a special counsel appointed for, you know, some cousin of the president or something like that, which is obviously something we contemplated the special counsel regulations being used for.

But this is the heart of the most foundational question the American republic faces, which is how do you investigate the chief executive, the president of the United States. And obviously, that is the number one case for public disclosure.

BROWN: Evan? PEREZ: Well, Neal, back when these regulations were drafted,

obviously this was after the Ken Starr report and this idea that perhaps there was too much information being released as a result of that. Do you look back now and think that perhaps these regulations overcorrected and maybe that the way to fix this is for Congress to pass new rules that would require an attorney general -- it's not up to his discretion what is released? Do you think you overcorrected when you wrote those rules?

KATYAL: Well, look, I think we're too early to figure that out.

I would say this. If the president tried this or Barr tried this, I actually think it would backfire because a limited Barr report to Congress will just empower Congress to investigate through all of their committees, will empower the southern district of New York and other federal prosecutors to investigate their current ones for the Trump organization campaign finance and the like. And indeed, state and even perhaps local investigations based on what Cohen said yesterday.

So, a limited report in many ways, and this is what I said in "The New York Times" last week could be the worst of all worlds for Trump. It might get him a short-term bump, but in the long-term, this is a very dangerous thing to be, basically fomenting these other investigations because we can't trust the central one that's happening in Washington, D.C.

COOPER: Neal Katyal, I appreciate your time. And getting in here to comment on this, Pamela and Evan Perez as well.

Thanks very much.

Up next, there is breaking news about Michael Cohen's testimony today behind closed doors on Capitol Hill, and a House committee also wants to speak with Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg. If you think Michael Cohen was close to President Trump over the years, Weisselberg has been there from, well, with Donald Trump's father. The president's money man for decades.

We'll talk about that ahead.


[20:33:23] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: More breaking news tonight. The House Intelligence Committee plans to bring in the man who knows all about the President's money, all about it.

Tonight, we learn the committee is expected to call this man, Allen Weisselberg. He is the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization who also handled Trump's personal accounts.

Weisselberg was granted immunity by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York in their investigation of Michael Cohen, the President's prison bound former lawyer and fixer.

The committee isn't done with Cohen either. He testified behind closed doors today. He is scheduled to return for more testimony next Wednesday, which will be exactly two months before he is scheduled to begin a three-year prison sentence.

Joining me now is a member of the House Intelligence Committee Congressman Jim Himes, who Cohen appeared before today. Also Congressman Gerry Connolly, member of the Oversight Committee who asked Cohen questions yesterday in that public hearing.

Obviously, Congressman Himes, you cannot get into specifics. It's a closed door hearing. How much -- was there information that Michael Cohen provided today that just was it filling in blanks on things you already knew or was it new avenues that -- of things you didn't know (INAUDIBLE)?

REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: I would say a little bit of both. I think he was more comfortable and the proceedings were a lot less adversarial. There were no cameras surrounding. Nobody had to score political points for the camera, so there was both a lot of filling in of points.

But, yes, there was also new material that took me a little bit by surprise and I don't mean to be cryptic or flirtatious about that, but enough so that one day of testimony was not enough and he kindly agreed to come back for another day, next Wednesday.

COOPER: So he is coming back because everyone didn't have a chance to ask him questions or because there is so much more -- there is so much information, there is just more information.

[20:35:04] HIMES: It's all of the above. Again, because -- we interviewed very differently than the open hearing. We had one hour per side. And as a consequence, we were really able to get into the details.

COOPER: So when you say one hour per side, one for the Democrats, one hour for Republicans and then back and forth?


HIMES: -- 45 minutes and that allowed us to get into the details in a way you just can't do within five minutes.

COOPER: So when it's behind closed doors, you know, obviously yesterday Republicans really didn't ask really hardly any questions. They just were pummeling him on trying to attack his credibility. They weren't actually asking questions about what he had actually said or about alleged crimes the President, according to Michael Cohen.

Do people make declarations? Like when a Republican behind closed doors is asking questions, do they make a declaration? Do they go after his character or is it specific questions?

HIMES: No. Again, when you see the transcript, and you will see the transcript, it's a -- it was a lot more content rich, but also boring. I mean, there weren't performances. My colleagues in the minority party, the Republicans didn't do the sort of, you know, public castigating of Michael Cohen that they did so much of yesterday. But it was a very -- again, the chairman said this in his public statement today. It was a very, very fruitful hearing in which we learned a lot.

COOPER: Congressman Connelly, you spoke to -- in the hearing yesterday. We learned today from the chairman of your committee, the Oversight Committee, that -- Elijah Cummings, that he wants to have all of the people that Michael Cohen mentioned yesterday in testimony appear before the committee. Ivanka Trump, who is mentioned, Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Allen Weisselberg. What do you want to hear from them?

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D), VIRGINIA: Well, I hope we will tread carefully about hearing or compelling testimony from members of the family. I think the optics of that are very dangerous.

COOPER: You think that could backfire --

CONNOLLY: I think it could backfire.

COOPER: -- just from a PR standpoint.

CONNOLLY: And what we heard yesterday in open session, remember, was two of those people are subjects of a criminal probe that's ongoing by the Southern District of New York. It may be better to let that play out before we have them. But Mr. Weisselberg certainly is definitely in our sights.

COOPER: Allen Weisselberg knows everything.

CONNOLLY: He knows everything. He's been there 40 years. And, you know, he has the keys to the kingdom.

COOPER: And would bringing him in -- I mean, that would seem to cross just about every red line that the President has talked about in terms of family finances, charity finances, Trump Organization finances. But all of that is stuff you are interested in?

CONNOLLY: Yes, that's -- you know, the President gets to set whatever line he wants, we don't have to respect it. I think, you know, the bottom line we heard from yesterday that is maybe the most troubling is that the Trump Organization is getting awfully close to it, but it hasn't crossed the line of being a criminal enterprise. That's really the bottom line testimony.

COOPER: You believe that?

CONNOLLY: I absolutely believe that. And we already know that from other data. You know, don't forget the Trump Foundation and the Trump University.

COOPER: Right.

CONNOLLY: And we had New York officials describing this fraudulent and illegal activity. So, that's not just Mr. Cohen's opinion, that's actually backed up by data from New York State. COOPER: Some people might not know much about Allen Weisselberg, but I just want to play some clips from yesterday how often Allen Weisselberg was actually mentioned, because it's kind of illuminating.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Weisselberg is Executive-1, correct?

MICHAEL COHEN, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S FORMER ATTORNEY: Yes. The bottom signature I believe is Allen Weisselberg's.

I was asked again with Allen Weisselberg.

I was instructed by Allen.

In the office with me was Allen Weisselberg.

Mr. Weisselberg for sure.

Allen Weisselberg.

Allen Weisselberg.

Allen Weisselberg.

Allen Weisselberg.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who would know the answer to those questions?

COHEN: Allen Weisselberg.


COOPER: I don't know where Allen Weisselberg was yesterday, but if he was watching, I can only imagine him being like, oh, again? Are you kidding me with this? I mean, 40 years. Your committee now has called him, is that correct?

HIMES: I understand that to be true. We hadn't decided when we left, but certainly lots of people are reporting that.

COOPER: Would that be a behind closed doors testimony?

HIMES: That the decision that hasn't been taken yet. Again, the chairman really wants to do as much of this as we can in the open. Now, as we've discussed -- as we discuss tonight, that has this downside. When cameras are on, people play to the cameras. But I know that the chairman wants to do as much of this as openly as we can. And so I think that's yet to be determined.

COOPER: I know that some of the folks have some questions.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I would like to just ask you, Congressman. Obviously you're not going to tell us what went on behind closed doors, but having spent a day now with Michael Cohen, do you think his importance to you is more about his business dealings or about Russia and Russian collusion? Because yesterday obviously he said he didn't have direct evidence of collusion. So is it about business?

HIMES: You know, you ask sort of a jurisdictional question. Obviously to the intelligence committee, the question about any Russian nexus, any international problem would be, you know, relevant. The Judiciary and the Oversight Committee is more so.

But, look, when -- this is -- I come out of these two days with at least -- I was tallying them up, five or six areas in which there is very credible evidence of crimes being committed.

[20:40:07] I'm going to start with the check that was brought to Gerry's committee, a check that the President apparently signed in the White House to reimburse Michael Cohen for paying a woman hush money.

Remember, it wasn't that long ago, mid-'90s, a president was impeached for an inappropriate relationship in the White House and lying about it. Apparently this President has lied about it, but the president who was impeached never wrote hush money checks in the White House. That's just the start.

There is four or five other areas that I think are really legitimate questions about -- Gerry use the word criminal enterprise, exactly what this group of people is doing.

BORGER: But what about Russia, is what I'm asking about?

HIMES: Well, that's of course what's interesting to my committee. We will, as you might imagine, continue to pursue hard exactly what happened around Trump Tower in Moscow.

BORGER: Right.

HIMES: Again, the full story hasn't been told there, and that doesn't mean that I'm saying there was clearly untoward activity, but everybody lied about it. Michael Cohen is going to jail for lying about it.

CONNOLLY: Can I also just add? It's not surprising that Cohen didn't really know much about Russia and collusion, because Trump style like a criminal enterprise is to compartmentalize. So what you know is not what he knows and that's deliberate. Only one person knows the whole story. So it's not at all surprising that there were gaps in Mr. Cohen's knowledge. That's by design.

COOPER: Do you think -- the President pointed out that Michael Cohen said no collusion. He didn't actually say no collusion. He just said he had no direct evidence of it, though he had suspicions. Do you think the fact that he upfront said he had no direct evidence actually adds to his credibility?

CONNOLLY: I think it does. And I think the President's statement today really undercut the entire Republican strategy yesterday, which was to try to discredit this witness.

COOPER: Because he pointed out that --

CONNOLLY: Yes. Even Trump liked some of what he had to say and corroborated that that must be true, because that's what I like.

HIMES: But remember, too, the question of collusion. Collusion is this imprecise term. Remember what Michael Cohen said in Gerry's committee. He said he was on a conference call, and that's obviously needs to be corroborated. He was in a conference call where Roger Stone said that WikiLeaks is going to release information.

Now, that opens up a whole bunch of other lies. And then a few days later, the President goes on national T.V. and says, "Russia, if you're listening." Again, a lawyer will determine whether that's conspiracy to defraud, but there is a case to be made that that is evidence that the President, knowing that something's about to happen that would benefit him on the part of WikiLeaks or the Russians and saying, "Do it. Go ahead. Please do it."

CONNOLLY: Publicly, in broad daylight.

COOPER: I want to play what the President said today about Michael Cohen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He lied a lot, but it was very interesting because he didn't lie about one thing. He said no collusion with the Russian hoax. And I said, I wonder why he didn't just lie about that too like he did about everything else. I mean, he lied about so many different things and I was actually impressed that he didn't say, "Well, I think there was collusion for this reason or that." He didn't say that. He said no collusion.


COOPER: Laura?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: You know, one of the things that Michael Cohen revealed yesterday that we hadn't heard before was the idea that the Southern District of New York is actually investigating the President for something beyond collusion, something that we have not heard anything about. Without telling us what he said behind closed doors, did he shed any more light today to your committee about what those might be or provided any glimpse into it?

HIMES: Yes. And you should ask Congressman Connolly that question as well, because I think there's been a lot of dancing around a number of subjects and that has been the reason. You heard the chairman in his statement today after our meeting saying that there were certain investigative equities in areas in which we -- in which our witness didn't want to go. Other than that, he cooperated fully. So, I think that's --

COOPER: So even behind closed doors, he would not go down certain roads because of ongoing investigations?

HIMES: I think it's fair to say that in both investigations -- in both hearings there were areas in which Mr. Cohen didn't want to go.

JARRETT: Did he give you any new names that we didn't hear yesterday?

HIMES: Again, I don't want to get into the substance and facts of what was said. The transcripts will be made public and (INAUDIBLE).

PHILIP MUDD, COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Yes, just one moment here. He did make reference to ongoing investigations to illegal activity. For example in his response to Representative Ocasio-Cortez on illegal activity potentially related to taxes, I only have one question, I'm going to try to make it yes or no. Did you hear references to illegal activity that we did not hear yesterday, potentially illegal activity?

CONNOLLY: In his hearing.

HIMES: In my hearing.

MUDD: Yes.

HIMES: I know you wanted a yes or no answer to that question. Let me just say we learned new information that is not in the public realm.

MUDD: All right. That's pretty good. That's close.

COOPER: And, Congressman, it's interesting. I mean, Michael Cohen yesterday said that he was called upon to intimidate, you know, in phone calls, you know, threaten lawsuits more -- some 500 times over the course of 10 years. I think -- I have to look at again, but I think at some point -- I think right after he was asked about physical intimidation, and he said no that I think he said there were other people for that.

CONNOLLY: Who did that? Donald Trump didn't do it personally. That's what he said.

[20:45:01] COOPER: Right.

CONNOLLY: And that was chilling.

COOPER: But nobody -- it was interesting to me nobody followed up on that, because I was -- I'm curious what exactly does he mean by that. Is he indicating, you know, actual physical intimidation, which is something that Stormy Daniels had alleged? There's no direct evidence of that. She had told some people around that time. That's also something that sort of would be interesting to hear Michael Cohen more on.

CONNOLLY: Absolutely.

COOPER: I want to thank you both for being with us.

CONNOLLY: Thank you for having us.

COOPER: Well, President Trump and Kim Jong-un disagree in Hanoi in their second summit meeting ends abruptly. Just ahead, I'll talk it over with former director of National Intelligence General James Clapper, get his reactions to President's defense of the North Korean leader over the death of American Otto Warmbier.

And a quick programming note, the new CNN Original Series, "The Bush Years" premieres this Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Take a look.


GEORGE BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would like to introduce you to my family. The fact is I'd be nothing without them.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think it's hard to imagine any family that have been more significant to American politics.

BUSH: I can hear you and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bush family going back generations believe in public service in helping their fellow man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People refer to the Bush family as a dynasty. That's what it is and that's what it was.

BUSH: I'm running for President of the United States. There is no turning back, and I intend to be the next President of the United States.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "The Bush Years," Sunday at 9:00 on CNN.



COOPER: President Trump in North Korea as Kim Jong-un abruptly broke off discussions at their second summit in Hanoi. The President said that North Korea wanted all U.S. sanctions removed in their entirety, "We just couldn't do that." For their part, North Korean officials said they only asked for a partial lifting of those sanctions in exchange for removal of nuclear material at a key location in the North.

There was another key moment in Hanoi. Before the President headed home, he again sided with the North Korean dictator over the death of American student, Otto Warmbier back in 2017.


[20:50:00] TRUMP: He felt badly about it. I did speak to him. He felt badly about it. He knew the case very well, but he knew it later.

He tells -- he tells me that he didn't know about it, and I will take him at his word.


COOPER: Joining me now, retired Lieutenant General James Clapper, former director of National Intelligence and the author of "Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence."

Does it make sense to you that this President seems to constantly take authoritarian leaders at their word when they -- whether it's Vladimir Putin or now Kim Jong-un?

LT. GEN. JAMES CLAPPER (RET.), CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, not only does it not make sense, but it's -- I think it's perilous to do this as a matter of practice. And I might say in this case with Otto Warmbier, having had some experience with hostage releases in the last administration, that the North Korean hierarchy is very aware of the status of those hostages.

COOPER: The idea that Kim Jong-un wouldn't have known.

CLAPPER: Didn't know about it contemporaneously, that's incomprehensible.

COOPER: In -- I mean, in North Korea, Kim is everything?

CLAPPER: He's it.


CLAPPER: He is the ultimate decision maker. But to suggest that he didn't know about it until after the fact, whatever the circumstances were of Otto Warmbier's death is absurd.

Moreover, I thought it was really insensitive for the family, the parents of Otto Warmbier to have a president say that. And I noticed former Ambassador Nikki Haley, to the U.N., put out a tweet I think, which is an attempt to kind of soften that.

COOPER: What do you think it is about the President that for a guy who, you know, patterns himself and talks about himself as being this tough, you know, tough guy that when face to face with dictators and, you know, others he seems to crave their approval or publicly at least, you know, has repeatedly praised them.

CLAPPER: I don't know whether it's a case of intimidation or gullibility or combination thereof. I don't understand it, this deference, particularly to dictators. And that too is dangerous over time.

COOPER: Especially if you're meeting -- insisting on meeting one-on- one with them.

CLAPPER: Yes. And if you're going to accept their word over what your own intelligence community is telling you, again, that's the president's prerogative. He can do that, but I would argue that doing that repetitively as a matter of habit over many issues, ultimately is perilous for the country and perilous for his presidency. COOPER: You know, in terms -- the fact that the summit ended without a deal, is that actually something, you know, that the President should get credit for? Because, you know, there's nothing worse than a bad deal and rather than, you know, a failed summit.

CLAPPER: To his credit, and he walked away from it. And that's, you know, as you eluded, no deal is better than a bad deal.

COOPER: And just politically, you know, certainly there's -- you know, he's gone all the way over there. There's certainly a lot of pressure to -- given what's going on back home to, you know, have something to say is a big sense (ph).

CLAPPER: That was exactly my concern, that he would do a counter distraction by giving away something or conceding something like agreeing to pull our troops off of the peninsula which would have been, in my opinion, a huge blunder. Well, he didn't do that.

COOPER: Right. The -- I want to ask you about "The New York Times" reporting tonight that the President ordered John Kelly to grant Jared Kushner top security clearance over the concerns of not only intelligence officials but even Don McGahn, the White House Chief Counsel.

CLAPPER: Well, again --

COOPER: Unprecedented.

CLAPPER: It's unprecedented. I've never heard of it -- a case of it. May have been, I just know about it, but in my 50 years in intelligence, never heard of such a case where the President got personally involve in somebody's clearance. And, again, it's his prerogative to do that.

COOPER: Right, legally he can do that.

CLAPPER: Exactly.

COOPER: But was it -- it raises concerns for you?

CLAPPER: Well, it does. I mean, what -- as I recall, Jared Kushner had some difficulty. Several times he had to amend his Standard Form 86, which is a big long background investigation form you fill out about his foreign contacts. Well, that is always a concern to people who are making judgments about whether to grant a clearance or not. So this appears to be, if "The New York Times" article is accurate, this appears to be a case where, again, he overturned or overruled the recommendations of the professional.

COOPER: Yes. Director Clapper, always good to talk to you. Appreciate it.

CLAPPER: Thank Anderson.

COOPER: Thank you very much.

I want to check in with Chris to see what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: This is all very heady and heavy stuff. We're not just talking about him lying about his weight and his height anymore. This President is calling into question real processes and institutions of this democracy. You're having the right conversation as always, Anderson, with Jim Clapper there.

[20:55:05] Tonight we have a special guest. Governor Chris Christie is coming on tonight. He supports this President. He knows the law and he knows the reality of politics. His party has been awfully shy in the face of what we're learning to be facts.

He's going to come on tonight. We're going to take the time to layout all the major situations and potential crisis and see what case he can make for this President and where he will not make a case.

COOPER: It's going to be fascinating. I mean, he's been very, you know, vocal about his opinions on what the President is doing wrong as well as what the President is doing right.

CUOMO: He has. And I will give the governor credit where due. He is saying more than most, but more needs to be said. I think we are at a difficult and different time. These last two days have been very instructive of where we are in terms of trust of the American presidency on matters of specific judgment and we're taking that on.

COOPER: All right. Chris, about four minutes from now.

CUOMO: Thank you.

COOPER: We look forward to that. President Trump is back in the United States (INAUDIBLE) after his flight home from Hanoi. Up next, what he faces now that he's back in Washington.


COOPER: Air Force One landed at Joint Base Andrews a few minutes ago. The President Trump -- and President Trump is back at the White House after that cut short summit in Hanoi with North Korea's dictator Kim Jong-un. (INAUDIBLE) he faces a ramped up political turbulence.

As we mentioned earlier, his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, is scheduled to return next week for a second closed door session before the House Intelligence Committee. Again, that's going to be a closed door session.

A one time business associate, a Russian national name Felix Sater is also set to testify before the committee and will be at least a partially public hearing. Sater used to actually have an office in Trump Tower on the same floor as President Trump.

Again, the President's long time chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg, is also expected to be called before the House Intelligence Committee. All of that in the days and weeks ahead. News continues right now, I want to had it over to Chris for Cuomo Primetime. Chris?