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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Federal Judge Sides With House Dems on Subpoena, Orders President Trump's Accountants to Turn Over Financial Records; Michael Cohen Told Lawmakers That President Trump's Attorney Jay Sekulow Knew Cohen's Testimony on Trump Tower Was False. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired May 20, 2019 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:28] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And good evening.
Whether it's a federal judge saying that President Trump is subject to the same legal standards we all are, or new word that the president's former attorney may have implicated one of his current attorneys, and perhaps the president himself in a serious crime, the breaking news hit hard late today, and frankly it's still playing out tonight.
Newly released testimony of Michael Cohen telling a House committee that Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow knew Cohen's testimony to Congress about the Trump Tower in Moscow negotiations was false. That news landed just as a D.C. district court judge gave the president's accounting firm seven days to hand over years of his financial records to the House Oversight Committee.
The judge refusing to stay the order pending appeal writing, I'm quoting here: the president is subject to the same legal standards as any other litigant, which speaks to several other big stories which could fill the hour, not to mention a court docket or two, signs the president may be getting ready to issue more pardons, this time to at least two, and possibly more, alleged war criminals.
And the White House directing former White House counsel Don McGahn to defy a subpoena to appear tomorrow before the House Judiciary Committee.
President Trump on his way to a rally in central Pennsylvania was defiant if not entirely accurate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we've been the most transparent administration in the history of our country. We just went through two years of Bob Mueller with 18 people that hated Donald Trump. They were angry Democrats as I call them. We've been through it for two years. They spent almost $40 million on it.
We had I think 500 people testified. We had 1.4 million or 1.5 million documents. At the end of all of that, he said there's no collusion. Now what happens is the Democrats want a redo and we've had enough and the country's had enough.
There has never been ever before an administration that's been so open and transparent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: OK. So that's not true. Keeping him honest, it wasn't true when the president's advisors were stonewalling Congress, refusing to answer questions, even while declining to assert executive privilege, just deciding not to answer. It wasn't true when he himself was refusing to sit down with Robert Mueller or later when he refused to give House investigators anything at all or when he refused to answer written questions about obstruction of justice. He and his lawyers have adopted what amounts to open and massive resistance to House oversight.
Now to be sure, the president has, as all presidents do, no small amount of legitimate power. The executive is, after all, co-equal branch of government. That's not the issue. The issue here, whether it's pardoning rich, crony criminals who write suck up books about him or defy federal judges, contemplating pardons of alleged war criminals, dangling pardons in front of witnesses against him, defying congressional subpoenas, stalling court ordered action and more is how he chooses to exercise the enormous power any president has.
The other issue is whether he's seeking in all he does to expand that power in ways no president has or at least that none has gotten away with. And that, of course, depends on what the other co-equal branches can and will do about it.
First, the courts and the ruling late today on the president's financial records. CNN's Kara Scannell joins us now with the latest on that.
So, what are the key points of this ruling? Obviously, it's a setback for the president?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson. It's a big setback for the president. In this case, the judge is saying that Trump's accounting firm must turn over his financial records dating back to 2011 pursuant to a subpoena by the House Oversight Committee. And the judge here is rejecting the arguments from Trump's legal team that the Congress had no legislative purpose and only wanted these documents to harass the president.
In his 41-page opinion, the judge conclusively goes by point by point by the Trump team saying that Congress has complete authority to do this because of this issue of the two branches of government and co- equal branches of government here.
So, the judge ruling decidedly in the House favor. These documents, Trump's documents will end up before the committee as soon as in seven days.
COOPER: So, even if they appeal, the judge is refusing to stay his decision or their decision until an appeal?
SCANNELL: That's right. So, there was an agreement that they would not turn over the records until seven days after the judge's initial opinion. The judge is saying that because he does not believe that this case would win on the merits, that he would not grant this stay pending appeal. Now, it is possible that an appeals court could step in in the meantime and say that they will stay it, but at this point, these records could end up in the hands of lawmakers within seven days.
COOPER: And the judge went so far as to cite Watergate as far as Congress's duty to investigate the president, which is a huge precedent. It's also a huge third rail for politicians of both parties.
SCANNELL: It is. And the judge really goes through history here, citing not just Watergate but the Whitewater investigation, and the Tea Pot Dome scandal as saying that Congress does have this authority as a co-equal branch of government. I'm going to read a line from his opinion where he gets straight to this point, where he says that history has shown that congressionally exposed criminal conduct by the president or high ranking executive branch official can lead to legislation.
And this goes to the key point in here where Trump's team is saying that Congress doesn't have a legislative purpose and the judge is saying he doesn't have to decide what the legislation's going to be, he just have to see that it's something that Congress could legislate about.
COOPER: All right. Kara Scannell, thanks very much.
I want to bring in CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin from our new 360 world headquarters here, high atop Manhattan's Hudson Yards. Also with us is John Dean, White House counsel during the Nixon administration.
How big a deal is this?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: This is a really big deal for one particular reason. The accountants don't work for Donald Trump. They are not part of the government. So, if there's a court ruling requiring them to turn over documents, they're probably going to turn over documents.
The president can't order them the way he can order parts of the government to keep appealing, to be found in contempt. They really are going to produce these -- these documents if there's no stay entered by the court of appeals.
COOPER: And what is the likelihood that there would be a stay entered by the court of appeals?
TOOBIN: I don't think -- this is a very tough case. Some of these are complicated. We're going to talk about the Don McGahn issues.
Those are actually difficult legal issues, I think, and I think judges could go either way. But the idea that Congress simply doesn't have the right to get these documents I think is an almost frivolous argument. The idea that Congress doesn't have a legislative interest in these, you know, no judge has held that kind of -- made a ruling on those grounds for decades. So, I just don't think there is much grounds for the president's people to appeal on this one.
COOPER: John, this is clearly a significant win for Democrats on the House Oversight Committee or at least potentially. It's interesting that the judge cited the Watergate investigation as Kara just laid out. I'm wondering what you made of this? Do you agree with Jeff that it's a big deal?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I do agree with Jeff on that. In fact, it's a very well-reasoned opinion. The judge kind of interestingly, he lays out an overview in the first few pages of what he's going to do and I kept saying, where is the law for this?
But as you get into the opinion, you see he's really backed up what he's saying and it's very solid law he's relying on. So, I think they're having a lot of trouble appealing this or getting a stay and this looks like the Oversight Committee's going to get their documents.
COOPER: So, what's the next step in this?
TOOBIN: Well, the next step is Trump's lawyers will go to the court of appeals and ask for a stay. If they don't get a stay there --
COOPER: And that can happen immediately?
TOOBIN: They can do that right away. Since this seven day clock is running, I'm sure they will do that right away. If the stay is denied there, they could ask the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay. That's very unlikely. But then the accountants will have to decide whether they want to go into contempt and as a private party, I just find it very unlikely they would be willing --
COOPER: Do we know how much information these accountants have?
TOOBIN: Well, presumably it's all the tax returns. I mean, you know, accountants keep copies of tax returns. Now, the irony here is this whole big fight is over tax returns that every other president has already released since the 1970s, but it's something, you know, Donald Trump has fought for ages to keep secret. But that's really what this case is about.
COOPER: Would -- would the accountants -- would it be clear in those documents whether or not the president was actually being audited?
TOOBIN: I -- probably, but not definitely. I don't know.
COOPER: That would be interesting if he had been lying about that the whole time, too.
TOOBIN: I mean, I would have to look at the wording of the subpoena, but I think the wording of the subpoena just calls for the returns themselves.
COOPER: John, I mean, in terms of the White House blocking former White House counsel Don McGahn from testifying before the House Judiciary committee with his memo from the Justice Department, in your opinion does the legal argument hold water? As Jeff was saying, it is a complex issue.
DEAN: I don't know quite how they're going to do it. McGahn has got to be willing not to testify. He's got to be willing to be in contempt of Congress potentially. They have no other -- they have really no leverage over him. It's McGahn's call. While the president doesn't want him to testify, what -- what is left out of the opinion by the Department of Justice is the so-called fraud crime exception where there is a criminal activity, and that's what the Congress is most interested in.
[2010:05] And they don't even address that issue in their memo.
COOPER: It's interesting, Jeff. I mean, if it's up to McGahn, I guess part of it feels -- is how McGahn feels about the president because the president has been bad mouthing McGahn.
TOOBIN: That's the fascinating wild card because if you read the legal opinion, it's all about, Congress can't force Don McGahn to testify but it doesn't address the question at all of what if Don McGahn wants to testify. I mean, I asked John, the last time we were on together is like how did he testify in the face of these issues? And he just said, I showed up and testified. Now, Don McGahn may show up and testify.
DEAN: I asked for a subpoena actually.
COOPER: You asked for a subpoena?
DEAN: I did ask for a subpoena.
TOOBIN: But -- but the White House couldn't stop you. I mean, they -- they wouldn't -- didn't want you to testify, did they?
DEAN: They did not, but we wanted to test -- we wanted a subpoena so that it was required I be there and hopefully set a precedent that if you get a subpoena, you've got to honor it, even if the White House doesn't want you there.
TOOBIN: McGahn is a loyal Republican. And he's loyal to the conservative cause if not to Trump in particular, so I doubt he's going to show up -- he's going to show up tomorrow, at least until this plays out a little more.
But, you know, he is risking contempt and, you know, as a lawyer, as a serious person, he probably does not want to be held in contempt, but that's his only choice.
COOPER: But he could essentially play it out with the White House, let them kind of run their legal arguments.
TOOBIN: Right. And let it go before a court and have a court force him to testify as opposed to going in voluntarily. I think that's more likely to -- how it will play out. So I don't think anything is going to happen in the immediate future with McGahn.
TOOBIN: But, you know, there is a measure of mystery of what he is going to do.
COOPER: Certainly the tax documents are the most fascinating thing.
TOOBIN: I think that's an easy legal issue. The McGahn stuff is harder.
COOPER: And how much detail will be in those documents will be fascinating. Jeff Toobin, thank you. John Dean as well. Jeff is going to stick around.
Coming up next, more breaking news. We mentioned at the top, Michael Cohen telling a House committee about being offered a presidential pardon and how clearly he said the president's lawyer Jay Sekulow spelled out what it was for. See what it could, and I say could, say about the president's no obstruction claim.
[20:16:48] COOPER: We have more breaking news tonight and it goes straight to the question of whether the president or the people around him obstructed justice, specifically we're talking possible pardons. Now, it's just the latest in potentially most explosive data to emerge in roughly 400 pages of newly revealed House testimony.
Our Evan Perez joins us.
Evan, you've been pouring through these documents. What have you learned?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, one of the explosive charges that Michael Cohen makes is surrounding this issue of pardons and he says that the White House raised the issue of pardons and specifically because they wanted to essentially shut down the Russia investigation.
I'll read you just a part of the exchange that happened in the 15 hours of testimony that Michael Cohen gave to the House. He said, quote -- the question to Michael Cohen is: Is it your testimony that whatever discussions that Jay Sekulow had regarding pardons was done with the knowledge and authority of the president? Cohen says, I believe so.
Jay Sekulow, of course, is the president's personal attorney who was handling a lot of these inquiries, Anderson. And then there's a second part of this where the question goes, was it something that you sought from the White House or they raised with you? Cohen says they raised the topic and what they were doing, including publicly, they were dangling the concept of pardons and the purpose, of course, was to keep everybody part in the joint defense team.
According to Cohen, this was a joint defense team that was essentially only verbal. There was no written language to support the idea that there was a joint defense agreement between Cohen and some of the other people, of course, who were part of this investigation, Anderson.
COOPER: So specifically what did he say about Jay Sekulow? Because Jay Sekulow was one of the president's attorneys.
PEREZ: Right, exactly. He says that in particular, Jay Sekulow had a lot of these conversations with him and one of the accusations that he makes is that Jay Sekulow suggested to him that he give false testimony in particular about the Trump Tower Moscow project. You remember that Michael Cohen falsely testified that all of those discussions ended in January of 2016 as a way to essentially get away from the presidential campaign. Well, it turns out those discussions happened way into the year, much longer than Michael Cohen had first testified.
And so, according to his newer testimony, he says that Jay Sekulow helped coordinate that false testimony. Now, if you believe Sekulow and the White House, they say that, of course, Michael Cohen cannot be believed and the reason why they gave the January 2016 date, Anderson, is because that's all of the documentation they had.
From looking at the documents, that's the last they ever saw any mention of the Trump Tower project in Moscow.
COOPER: I mean, these are pretty explosive allegations obviously particularly against Sekulow. Does Cohen have any proof?
PEREZ: He does not. He has very little to corroborate what he is saying here. And again, that's the weakness of some of this testimony. He makes a lot of allegations and a lot of it is either him inferring, if you see that exchange about what he believes the president would have known simply because he says Sekulow would have been talking to the president.
Now, he doesn't know what those conversations were.
[20:20:01] And so, he's making a lot of leaps in some of this testimony and, again, I think the White House believes that you can't -- the fact that Michael Cohen is now in prison in part for lying to Congress they say is proof that he should not be believed.
COOPER: All right. Evan Perez, thank you.
Joining us now, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Elliot Williams and back with me here, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Elliot, how does this transcript reconcile with the trail already laid out in the Mueller report and the president's tweets about Trump Tower Moscow?
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Right. So, it's interesting, we -- in a normal world, we would have every reason to disbelieve Michael Cohen as a not particularly credible witness because he's already pled guilty to a lying offense. The problem is, we now have a long pattern laid out in section two of the Mueller report of the president engaging in largely similar conduct, of trying to get people to at best be cute with their stories and at worst lie and we've seen it again and again and again, and it's sort of happened multiple times.
And so, to some extent, Michael Cohen's statements are at least supported and at best corroborated by some of the conduct that we've seen throughout the Mueller report. So, again, you know, this is piggybacking on something Evan had said. He's not wonderful witness, to put it charitably, but again, we've just seen this pattern from the president once again and it should surprise no one.
COOPER: Yes, but, Jeff, I mean, there's a difference between the president and Jay Sekulow. Jay Sekulow is an attorney. He's obviously very smart about what he can, should or should not say legally. He did publicly say something that was not true.
He said he was given -- he had the wrong information when he said the president did not dictate the response about the Russian meeting on Air Force One. That turned out to be not true. This one is essentially putting Jay Sekulow -- I mean, again, there's no direct evidence of it, but if it's true, it's a pretty big allegation.
TOOBIN: But it is similar to the other situation that you just described in that Sekulow is dealing with information given to him by his client. I mean, Jay Sekulow doesn't have independent knowledge of when the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations ended in 2016. He seems to be trying to convince Michael Cohen to line up his story with Donald Trump, but that doesn't mean that he knew the story was false.
And as for the issue of pardons, I mean, it sounds to me -- I mean, I read the testimony, too. It's sufficiently general that it does not seem like it's an outright promise, but the falsehoods here seem to come more from Donald Trump than from Jay Sekulow. Sekulow does not seem to be engaging in any improper conduct.
COOPER: Elliott, in one of the transcripts that was released Cohen testified that, quote, virtually all my conversations were referred back to the client. Jay wasn't going to speak on behalf of the president. He was relaying messages back and forth. So, if Sekulow isn't giving counsel but instead acting as a mouthpiece, is he still -- I assume he's still protected by attorney-client privilege?
WILLIAMS: He is. Now, again, the question is attorney-client privilege can't be a total shield for criminality if, in fact, you know, he is concealing criminal conduct. The question is, what did he know? This is what we're talking about. Was he aware he was directing an individual to tell an untruth on behalf of the president of the United States?
Now, again, this piggybacks on what Jeffrey said. There's a lot of speaking in generalities but also in, you know, pattern of behavior from the president of the United States. And so, the generalities and the winks and the nods that seem to characterize so much of the behavior from the president of the United States. So, again, there's a lot of conduct that we're seeing once again, you
know, in this testimony tonight that steps up to the line of propriety, maybe doesn't step over it, perhaps can't be charged, probably can't. But again, is it appropriate conduct for the president of the United States?
Again, I'm saying president of the United States. His attorney is acting as his agent so I don't want to suggest that Sekulow's hands are entirely clean with respect to misconduct if he is in fact acting as an agent of the president.
COOPER: Isn't all of this stuff that Mueller would have seen?
TOOBIN: Yes. Basically the story that Michael Cohen is telling here is consistent with the Mueller report.
TOOBIN: One, this is -- this whole area is one of the areas of possible obstruction of justice. This just underlines why it's important to have live witnesses and actual testimony about these things rather than just the Mueller report itself, which -- people -- it's all based on Mueller's conclusions, but if the witnesses come forward, either in transcript or better yet as live witnesses, people can make up their own minds about who is telling the truth.
COOPER: There is a big difference between reading a report which frankly most Americans had not read at 448 pages single spaced and seeing somebody on television in their own words.
TOOBIN: That's why Don McGahn's testimony, Mueller's testimony is so important. Most people get their information through television, through video and the notion that the Mueller report is good enough, it just doesn't comport with the reality of modern life.
COOPER: Yes, Jeff Toobin, Elliot Williams, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
From the first time since suggesting that the president committed impeachable offenses over Twitter, Republican Congressman Justin is now talking. Next, we'll tell you what he just told us about his own party's leadership on this issue.
[20:29:25] COOPER: Neither President Trump, the head of the Republican Party, nor primary challenge, will deter Justin Amash. On Saturday, the Michigan congressman became the first Republican to discuss impeaching President Trump. The blowback was immediate. The president called Amash a loser and as he often does call people, and they, quote, a total lightweight, end quote.
And a Michigan state lawmaker announced a primary challenge. Earlier today, State Rep Jim Lower said in a statement that Amash was out of touch and had united with radical liberals. None of that appears to have affected Amash, though. Today, the congressman was back it. He spent ten tweets knocking down the most common rationale cited by the president's allies for why there is no case.
[20:30:00] For instance, he wrote, "If an underlying crime were required, the prosecutors could charge obstruction of justice only if it were unsuccessful in completely obstructing the investigation. This would make no sense."
Moments ago, reporters caught up with Congressman Amash. They asked him a range of questions about his Republican colleagues in the impeachment process. Here's a sample.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you have to feel about Kevin McCarthy saying that you vote more times with Nancy Pelosi than you give Republican?
REP. JUSTIN AMASH (R-MI): Well, I think everyone knows he's lying. That's typical Kevin.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And when you say you're going to review impeachment proceedings as a process, what do you exactly mean by that?
AMASH: Well, it's a process. It's not like the resolution is just drawn up overnight. It's a process and you have to come to the right conclusions about how to draft something.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you would like to see them start at some point?
AMASH: I think it's appropriate to do so. Speaker Pelosi is in charge of that, not me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you feel having the primary going (ph) now? And now, (INAUDIBLE) she's running after your tweets about the impeachment.
AMASH: Yes, it's not serious.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you feel like you're safe for two more years after this?
AMASH: I feel very confident in my district.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, joining me now, "USA Today" columnist and CNN Political Analyst Kirsten Powers, also former Trump campaign aide, Michael Caputo.
Kirsten, what do you think the congressman's political calculus is here and do you think this could actually give other Republicans cover to do the same thing, although no one seems to be standing up at this point?
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I don't think you can read too much into what Justin Amash has done in terms of what other Republicans will do because he's always kind of stood alone. He is a conservative, but he's a libertarian. He's very principled and he's willing to buck the party.
He's criticized Trump before, you know, really in a party where nobody criticizes President Trump. So I think that he -- I don't think he's honestly really that worried about the political calculus.
You know, I've interviewed him before and I've talked to him about his district and he feels like he has a really great relationship with the people in his district. It's about half and half in terms of Republican and Democrats.
And so he's used to navigating the waters of people who think differently. And he has always felt very confident and I assume even based on what we just saw that he still feels very confident in his relationship with his voters.
COOPER: Michael, I mean, is it realistic to think that any other congressional Republicans would break with the party and President here?
MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: I think that we have a lot of independent minded Republicans in the House and the Senate, but Justin Amash is a totally different person entirely. He's never supported the President. And I talked to him.
You know, he came in on that Tea Party wave in 2010. Ever since 2010, he's got one bill with his name on it. He renamed the post stop. He's not really done much. And Michigan 3 is, you know, the President won 52-42 in 2016.
I think it's important to realize, if I haven't seen the President's victory map in the campaign headquarters for 2020, but certainly Michigan is on one or another of the versions of it. And he needs Michigan 3. That Grand Rapids area is very pro-Trump. Michigan 3, he won 52-42.
So, I think Representative Lower's probably got a good shot at unseating him. But, actually, I think Amash has got something else in mind.
COOPER: What do you mean?
CAPUTO: Well, I think he plans to run against the President as a libertarian, as a third party candidate. We know the host of, you know, never Trump Republicans who, you know, lost their magazine and weekly standard, have been meeting on a regular basis trying to find a third party person to come in and Ross Perot, the president this time around, and I think Amash is doing a tryout right now.
COOPER: Kirsten, over the weekend, a Michigan state representative said that this tweets led him to launch a primary challenge against Amash. And if history is an indication, sitting congressional Republicans publicly criticizing the President can be the downfall of their careers. We saw Senator Flake and Corker -- POWERS: Yes.
COOPER: -- essentially forced retirement. Do you agree with Michael that this could be kind of testing the waters of some sort of challenge to the President?
POWERS: I mean, it could be but it's not really new for Justin Amash to be doing things like this. I mean, he has a long history of being very independent minded, and being willing to criticize his own party, and being willing to criticize Donald Trump.
And, you know, Kevin McCarthy criticized him but what he left out is often when Justin Amash wasn't voting with him, it wasn't because he was liberal, it was because he was coming at him from a conservative standpoint saying we're spending too much money on this, we're not cutting enough back. He's a member of the House Freedom Caucus. He's actually quite conservative.
So -- and by the way, just as a matter of fact, he votes more with Republicans than he votes with Democrats. But he is somebody who has a history of doing this. So, you know, if he was going to run against Trump, that could be another factor. But I honestly think he would do this regardless of that because he just has such a long history of doing being -- doing things like this.
COOPER: Michael, the congressman did actually read the Mueller report. He says few members of Congress have actually read it, the unredacted version that their minds were made up base on their partisan affiliation.
[20:35:03] Does that seem like a fair point to you? I mean, shouldn't members of Congress actually read the entire 448 plus pages?
CAPUTO: Well, they should, in fact. And now it's out in a couple of different paper back versions, too. So there's no reason not to read it. But, you know, I think painting Justin Amash as a member in good standing of the freedom caucus is a miscalculation.
I talked to Michael Johns, one of the founders of the Tea Party, back in 2009, 2010 who campaigned on behalf of Justin Amash in that Tea Party wave of 2010 and he says it's united among all Tea Party leaders now that they want their freedom caucus which they help found to throw Justin Amash out. Remember, he voted against --
POWERS: Why though? But, why? But, why, Michael?
CAPUTO: Because he's not conservative.
POWERS: Because he's criticizing Donald Trump.
CAPUTO: He voted in favor of -- well, no, he voted in favor of funding for Planned Parenthood. He voted against the wall. He voted against the state of emergency.
POWERS: But he has a reason for that and you know that that he has from a libertarian. Look, I disagree with him on a lot of things, so I don't want to be like I'm the defender of Justin Amash.
POWERS: But the reason that he voted that way is because he doesn't think that you should be singling out Planned Parenthood. That if you wanted -- if you want to make defunding of health care services across the board, fine. But constitutionally speaking, he doesn't think you can single out a single entity. It's just a constitutional argument. It's not really even about abortion.
CAPUTO: Understood. And he's a chapter and verse defender of the constitution. He knows it well. He's a University of Michigan Law School grad. But, you know, the freedom caucus was against the funding for Planned Parenthood. He should be drummed out of the freedom caucus. I think we'll see that fairly quickly.
COOPER: Kirsten, I mean, the bottom line here, Democratic leaders in Congress continues to be skeptical when it comes to initiating impeachment proceedings. It's unlikely that one Republican would actually move the needle on that.
POWERS: Oh, definitely not. I mean, first of all -- like I said, we cannot read anything into Justin Amash's behavior into the broader Republican Party because --
POWERS: -- I just don't think -- I mean, we've seen how reticent people are to criticize Donald Trump and he's had no problem doing that and he's, you know, gone his different ways on various things even -- but even if you were to get a handful more Republicans, it would take more than that, I think.
I think right now what the Democrats are doing is they're just going through the investigation and trying to, you know, build the case that that's the direction that there's going to go and that's really all they can do at this point.
COOPER: Yes. Kirsten Powers, Michael Caputo, good to see you both. Thank you very much. Stay with us. A lot more ahead, including perspective on that just released closed door testimony by former Trump lawyer, Michael Cohen.
[20:41:19] COOPER: Returning to our breaking news. One of the things that Michael Cohen told the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors was that one of President Trump's attorneys had raised the issue of possible pardons for Cohen. Now if true, those claims by Cohen are clearly profound when it comes to Jay Sekulow, the attorney in question.
Joining me is former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, CNN Legal Analyst Preet Bharara, who is also the author of the new book, "Doing Justice: A Prosecutor's Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law." Preet, the President of the U.S. was, according to Cohen, effectively offering up pardons to close down the investigation. A, if true, is that obstruction? And, B, does that matter given he is the President?
PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, those are two very good questions and as I often say on this program, the devils in the details and it depends on how it was said. It depends on the exact words used. It depends on what the intentions was of the people making the statement. And it depends on what the understanding was of the person who received the statement.
So, you can have a suggestion that's kind of cute and say, look, as I saw from some of the transcript that was released today just before I walked in here, look, everything is going to be OK. The President likes you.
That's not as explicit as, look, if you tell this thing that is not true and that you and I both know is not true, I can guarantee you that there will be a pardon at the end of the ordeal for you, that's one end of the spectrum, which is much more severe and much more obviously a thing that you need to be worried about criminally, I think. I don't know that we have that here.
COOPER: If the allegation is true though and Cohen is obviously an admitted liar, the President's lawyer was somehow involved in Cohen's false testimony to Congress about Trump Tower Moscow, what would that mean for Sekulow? I mean, there's obviously -- those are a lot of ifs and -- I mean, if Sekulow is just a messenger sending messages that he doesn't know whether they're true or not, does that matter?
BHARARA: Yes. I mean, obviously when you're trying to make an allegation about anyone, whether it's a criminal allegation or an ethical allegation or some other kind of allegation of impropriety, especially against the lawyer, it's important to know what was in that person's mind, what that person's intent was.
And as happens in other circumstances, both with lawyers and also with press spokespeople, and you can fault them for this for not getting the real truth, but they only know what the clients tell them. And if it's the case that a lawyer like Jay Sekulow or someone else just didn't have the knowledge, then I don't think it means that much.
And also as a practical matter, it doesn't mean that much for him because the person who has looked at all of this and was going to make a determination about all of this fell straight into the wheel house and the Hartland of what Bob Mueller was looking at and he chose not to take action. Part of that was because I think he had trouble talking to the lawyers because of the attorney-client privilege.
But then separate from all of that, just what I had read both in "The Washington Post" report and based on some of the testimony, with respect to the issue of the Trump Tower deal, you know, it could be argued that Jay Sekulow was somewhat suggestive.
But I think, you know, we're getting really ahead of ourselves to say that he did something, approaching something unlawful, especially when you know that Michael Cohen, you know, has credibility problems, which is not to say that Michael Cohen hasn't told a lot of things that are truthful and I believe a lot of things that he has said.
But if you're going to take the step of making an allegation, then you need a little bit more than what I've seen.
COOPER: Based on this judge's ruling that this accounting firm has to release documents, the President's financial documents within seven days, it's very likely obviously the President is going to appeal it. Do you think these documents will get out before any kind of appeal is filed or ruled on?
[20:45:04] BHARARA: That seems unlikely, although the judge didn't issue a stay so, you know, I have to go back and read it again. I will suggest to the audience though, I read it quickly on the play when I was coming down here, it's a good opinion. And I think it sets a very good bedrock framework for how all of these skirmishes between House committees and the White House are going to go.
The President's lawyer have seem to decided to take an extreme view as the judge says going back to President Buchanan in 1880 that says that the Congress has no role in investigating anything, whatsoever. It seems to repudiate the idea that even Whitewater was lawful and appropriate for Congress or even the committee to investigate Watergate was lawful or appropriate.
That's obviously not the case. That's obviously not how the constitution works and it's not how I think judges who are appointed by either Democrats or Republicans I think are going to view it.
I don't know that we'll see the next -- in the next few days, but the other thing that's heartening that I've been wrong about is that some of these things are going to get through the courts fairly quickly.
This judge in D.C., you know, heard the matter quickly, had a proceeding quickly, wrote a 41-page opinion very, very quickly. And so I think this will get up to the Courts of Appeals and maybe to the Supreme Court fairly soon.
COOPER: Wow, fascinating. Preet Bharara, appreciate it.
Just ahead, the Democratic candidate does a town hall on Fox News. The President doesn't like it, like at all, and not at all. That's on "The Ridiculist" coming up.
[20:50:33] COOPER: We just move into a bigger office complex. Now, it looks like we're going to need a bigger boat. On that note, let's check in with Chris for a fish story and also to see what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time." What have you got?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: We are taking on the very big breaking news tonight. We had a court say that the President's tax prep folks have to comply with oversight and now we know more about why Congress is so hot on this trail. It's so exciting. It's made me lose my voice. COOPER: Is your voice finally breaking, by the way?
CUOMO: You know, well, look, you know --
COOPER: When it's time to change, you got to rearrange.
CUOMO: I don't have a beard yet, but I'll take it as it comes. And what we're learning is that with this new testimony from Michael Cohen, they haven't release this before. Now, we'll argue about why they're releasing it now as the pressure more, you know, more disclosure.
But, you learn things about Michael Cohen about the President's son, about one of the President's attorneys that really doesn't inform us as to why Congress is acting with such confidence in terms of getting more depth into Trump's affairs.
COOPER: The other thing, I don't know if you're going to cover this, I know you're a big fisherman, we say you are, but -- did you hear about the great white that was tracked off at Long Island sound this weekend?
CUOMO: Yes. I'm going to forgive the dig and I will say that there is believed to be a hatchery near Montauk and we have been seeing juvenile white sharks for years.
COOPER: Wow. Yes.
CUOMO: In fact, to tell you quick one, now you want to play, now I'm going to need up your time. So, there was a boilie bait and we were fishing on it. And there was an explosion and we thought that it was a thresher shark that used their tales to smack bait and then they eat it. But this one came flying out of the water, we didn't know what it was. It was about five feet long, it was a white shark.
COOPER: OK, I'm sorry, because I lost you. You lost me at the thresher. But, listen -- I'm sorry to interrupt you. But I understand you met up with Don Lemon this weekend out on those waters. And we have some photographs, and I'm putting out right now.
CUOMO: Is that me holding him like ketch?
COOPER: It is. Yes. Don -- here's Don's version of events. And I'm quoting, "We met up with him for a sunset cruise. He is terrible boat captain. He almost rammed my boat."
CUOMO: First of all, that's even better than I would usually give him credit for in terms of accuracy and English. Here's what happen. He is a new boat owner. And as --
COOPER: Oh, he's a new boat owner. OK.
CUOMO: That's right. And as you might imagine --
COOPER: Yes, OK.
CUOMO: -- you know, so that's right. So, I was helping him out. He wanted to see a sunset. I said, "I know a magical place for a sunset."
COOPER: That's sweet.
CUOMO: He then came when I noticed that his boat had not just his fiancee, but his two dogs with life vests on. I pushed him away from my vessel because of the violation of sea and man law. That's what happened.
COOPER: Putting life vest on a dog is a violation of man law?
CUOMO: 100 percent.
CUOMO: It's a violation of everything that is good and holy.
COOPER: All right. Well, Chris, thank you. I appreciate it. I'll see you just in a few minutes.
CUOMO: I'm going to enjoy that.
COOPER: "The Ridiculist" is next.
[20:56:59] COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." And tonight, the world's biggest most elegant cable news fan has gotten his Fox's lots to tell in a twist. That's right, President Trump, a man who thinks journalism is an hour long phone call where Sean Hannity's spoon feed some topics I pre-chewed (ph) cream of wheat cream of wheat is on a tirade against his most favorite network.
Their offense, Fox's actual news division, not their morning zoo crew or primetime propaganda pact, invited a Democrat to appear on its air and it wasn't like some weekend to Bernie situation, it was an actual living Democrat with an actually pulse.
The President tweeted yesterday in part, "Hard to believe that Fox News is wasting airtime on Mayor Pete, as Chris Wallace likes to call him." Does that sound like a jealous 15-year-old boy to you Snapchatting his bestie late at night unsure of exactly what he is feeling and why he feels the way he does?
Oh, my god, it's hard to believe Jenny would be wasting time on Pete or Peter as Chris likes to call him. Oh, the betrayal. When the network you love and rely on for advice and supports suddenly gives a platform to someone else, they give a standing ovation, someone who is young, a national road scholar, somebody who went to war with a veteran?
The President -- how could they? The President continued his mean by texting, probably to his best friend Corey, "Gee, he never speaks well at me. I like Mike Wallace better. And Alfred E. Newman will never be president." That's what I imagine him saying -- giggling after he writes Alfred E. Newman.
First of all, Mike Wallace, the late great "60 Minutes" legend, who is a friend of mine, passed away in 2012 and is therefore unavailable for interviews. I think his response would be, "come on," that was one of Mike Wallace's favorite response if someone said something absurd. Chris Wallace is a very fine journalist in his own right.
Also the Alfred E. Newman bit that President Trump keeps doing trying to compare Pete Buttigieg to a fictional "Mad" magazine cartoon character from 1956 with a gap tooth only underscores that the President's stock pile of fossilized nickname nuggets seems to running as low as his credit line with anyone other than Deutsche Bank. Soon, he's going to be making references to like Doris Daley, who just passed away, or I don't know, Beetle Bailey.
By the way, here's how blind President Trump's devotion is to Fox News. He thought it would be good idea to appear on a Fox weekend show airing last night opposite the "Game of Thrones" finale. And, no, it actually wasn't the President's islamophobe in arms judge in the impero (ph), but don't worry, she was still on air this weekend doing her best impression of that Amtrak seatmate you just cannot get away from.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST: Grab your popcorn, Junior Mints or whatever makes you happy. The real show is about to begin. This will be true reality T.V. No scripts, no rehearsals, just a gang of criminals pointing fingers at each other to save their own hides. A version of true crime and the reality show "Survivor."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Wow. Who wrote that? Biting. Talk about a way to turn me off Junior Mints. Anyway, Judge Jeanine thinks real life is like "Survivor," which is interesting because her show is sort of like law and order when a suspect represents herself at trial and then punches the (INAUDIBLE) in the throat.
It's hard to imagine the President would actually boycott Fox News, though. I mean, surely, he'll be back on the phone with Hannity sometimes soon like one of those overnight -- you know, late night talk radio callers riffing about area 51. If there's anything that calms an angry President Trump, it's being fed like a bird by Fox News primetime on "The Ridiculist.
That's it for us. The news continues. I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?
CUOMO: Well done and thank you, Anderson.