Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Trump Top Economic Adviser Gary Cohn To Resign; Porn Star Stormy Daniels Sues President Trump; Witness With Ties to Emirates and Trump Team Cooperating with Mueller. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired March 6, 2018 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The Cohn news was just a beat or two away from breaking when the President was saying this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just said that the White House has tremendous energy. It has tremendous spirit. It is a great place to be working. Many, many people want every single job. I read where, oh, gee, maybe people don't want to work for Trump. And, believe me, everybody wants to work in the White House. They all want a piece of that Oval Office. They want a piece of the West Wing. So many people want to come in. And I have a choice of anybody. I could take any position in the White House, and I'll have a choice of the 10 top people having to do with that position. Everybody wants to be there, and they love this White House because we have energy like rarely before. OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: But just moments later, the Cohn story broke. Now, the adviser who nearly resigned over the President's kid glove hand link of neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville quit instead over steel and aluminum tariffs and in doing so, added fuel to the notion of a White House in, yes, chaos. CNN's Boris Sanchez starts us off with the latest from the White House. Boris, what are you learning about the Cohn departure?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting John. White House officials are publicly saying that this is something that Gary Cohn has been discussing privately with the President for several weeks. They say that Gary Cohn was looking for the appropriate time to leave the administration. Despite that, just a few weeks ago, sources were telling CNN that Gary Cohn's name was being floated as a possible replacement for Chief of Staff John Kelly when it was rumored that he was leaving the White House.
The timing of this announcement is telling, John. It comes as there is an impasse between the President's top adviser on trade and the President and others within the administration when it comes to these tariffs. One source telling CNN that Gary Cohn felt boxed out by others within the administration, that he felt like he lost the argument on trade and that there was nothing else that he could do. We should note that as you mentioned, rumors about Gary Cohn leaving the administration have long been swirling after the riot in Charlottesville when the President said there were very fine people on both sides of a riot that was sparked by white supremacists. CNN reported that Gary Cohn drafted a letter of resignation that he ultimately never handed in to the President. Sources tell CNN that their relationship soured at that point and was never the same.
Now, President Trump has already taken to Twitter to share his thoughts on a possible replacement for Gary Cohn. He writes, "We'll be making a decision soon on the appointment of new chief economic adviser. Many people wanting the job. Will choose wisely." It appears that there will be a flood of resumes and applications hitting the White House soon, John, because as you heard the President say, everybody wants a piece of this administration.
BERMAN: Boris, what kind of impact do you think this will have in the inner workings of the West Wing?
SANCHEZ: Well, John, we've heard from several sources that are taking the news of Gary Cohn's departure harshly. One source actually telling our colleague, CNN, that Gary Cohn was the only good guy left, that this is going to traumatize the Oval Office. And it won't just be felt here at the White House. I spoke to one Republican lawmaker earlier who has been engaged in trade policy talks with the White House recently, who told me that this is bad news. That it indicates that there is still chaos and instability within this White House.
And this is really going to be felt globally. Dow futures plummeted after this news came out. So it will be interesting to see if we see any kind of statement from the White House or the President to try to stabilize markets if they open poorly. John?
BERMAN: All right, Boris Sanchez at the White House tonight. Markets have been down across the globe on this news. We will see where they head over the coming hours.
Joining me now, Alice Stewart, Bakari Sellers, Michael Caputo and Maria Cardona. Michael, I want to start with you, only sort of half in jest. I'm not even sure if he's even half in jest. You were close to this White House. There are a lot of jobs that seem to be open. Any that interest to you?
MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: You know, I haven't know this kind -- I'm not waiting by my phone. You know, as someone who's in these Russia hearings, I doubt I'll ever be offered a job in this White House, but I would work there, and I know a lot of people that would work there, and especially in the economic adviser job. I think there are -- and we've heard about Larry Kudlow. We've heard about the elevation of others in this White House, into that position. I think the national economic adviser wanted that there are a lot of people lined up for.
BERMAN: What about this dichotomy. Gary Cohn had written a resignation letter, was talking about leaving after Charlottesville, after the President said there were good people on both sides of that debate, and one of the sides was neo-Nazis and white supremacists. That didn't get Gary Cohn to quit, but tariffs did. So did he lose the moral high ground there, Michael?
CAPUTO: Well, I don't know about that as much as -- you know, the President is an economic nationalist. He's been talking about tariffs since the 1980s, and the fact that Gary Cohn who came along late in the campaign came in and, by the way, steered a very successful campaign to cut taxes. He should be very proud of that. He played a key role in that. But the President was always going to drop tariffs, especially on steel and aluminum. We've seen other tariffs dropped on other issues like the Chinese solar panels.
[21:05:06] Gary Cohn, if he's against that, he's against the President's economic and nationalist agenda. And I think he has also been talking about leaving for a whole. He has a lot to be proud of, and the President deserves to have the people around him that he wants.
BERMAN: Look, I do think the issue is that I think Gary Cohn and Wall Street thought that ultimately they could convince the President to do otherwise, and they couldn't.
Alice, I want your take on another story tonight. We reported in the 8:00 hour, Kaitlan Collins saying that the President Green lit or permitted or allowed Anthony Scaramucci to go on T.V. repeatedly and just trash the Chief of Staff John Kelly, calling him General Jackass among other things and saying that John Kelly should quit. Does that surprise you?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It doesn't surprise me. I mean I don't think Scaramucci would wait for permission to go on T.V. and call anybody names like that, and he wouldn't stop if someone did tell him to.
I think going on national television and criticizing the Chief of Staff, I think is extremely inappropriate. And hearing that the President is condoning it is even more so.
Look, I think General Kelly's doing a great job in terms of streamlining the information flow into the President, being more of a gatekeeper to the President and making sure that only information that he needs to get gets there. And the President doesn't want General Kelly there. He should go in there and tell him that he doesn't want him there. And he shouldn't go about doing it in this roundabout way. I think it's really unprofessional.
BERMAN: And Maria Cardona, I haven't seen this before. But we have seen turnover in other White Houses, in other administrations. You're nodding. Is this a different level?
MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, my goodness, John, is it a different level? It's a different stratosphere. We have never seen anything like this. I think that the turnover in this is twice as much as it was in George Bush's administration, three times as much as it was in Obama's administration. And I have heard from so many of my Republican friends who have said the last thing that they would ever do is go work in this White House. So people are not ling up. I mean I think if you lined up, you probably would be the first and maybe the only one in line.
But to the President's notion today that this is not a White House in chaos, it absolutely is a White House in chaos. It is a White House off the rails. It is not great energy. It is the kind of energy that you get from a black hole, which sucks people in. It essentially, you know, derails people of their own morality, and it doesn't let the President or the Oval Office focus on the important things.
I mean, you just talked about a couple things. You talked about Gary Cohn leaving. We have the General Jackass. We have the mystery man from Seychelles. We have Trump's personal lawyer complaining that he hasn't been reimbursed for his payment to Stormy Daniels. We have Kellyanne Conway who apparently violated the Hatch Act, which in any other administration, John, would be the scandal of the month, if we were in any other administration.
So, all of this would be funny if it wasn't so damn depressing, scary, and dangerous, not just to the economic welfare of the country but to the global welfare and safety and the national security of the United States.
COOPER: Michael, I know you're nodding your head here, but I want to have Bakari weigh in if I can either on the -- is this a different level of chaos, or to an extent, at least policy-wise, is this what the President promised? I mean, Michael has a point here at least on tariffs and the President always said, he was going to do this?
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think the President's always been misguided on tariffs. And I think that one of the things when comparing it to China solar panels that Michael was not being forthright about is that it's different from having open- ended tariffs and targeted tariffs. But that's neither here nor there. It's very difficult for the White House to have an economic message that you can hear about that resonates with the American public because you have all of these other incidents around it.
To Maria's point, we've replaced the chief of staff, the chief strategist to deputy chief of staff becomes director not once, not twice, but three times, the national security adviser, the chief economic adviser and the press secretary. I mean, that does not happen in a White House over a four-year term, let alone in a year and a half that we are here today.
And so I think that the President enjoys this chaos. Let's not get this wrong. But even more importantly, I think this White House and the individuals in it, they take on Donald Trump's personality. They take on Donald Trump's aura. And for most people, they take on Donald Trump's stink.
You know, this is what happens. I mean if you go in, Gary Cohn is never going to appreciate the same reputation he had before going to this White House because for many of us, he doesn't get a pat on the back. We don't lift him up and say all of a sudden, he displayed some fortitude. We remember him as being the coward who refused to stand up against xenophobia, bigotry and racism. But all of a sudden, man, those damn tariffs, man, they make me feel some sort of way.
I mean, like who says that.
STEWART: The tariffs were a bridge too far for Gary Cohn but he did speak out against --
CARDONA: But racism, white supremacists wasn't.
[21:10:01] STEWART: He did speak out also. He was opposed to the pulling out of the Paris climate accord. I think Gary Cohn has done a good job with regard to the tax cuts. I've been at million roundtables at the White House where he was really the chief salesman in that and clearly he couldn't do it with regard to tariffs. He didn't support it. He realized that it might help the steel industry now, but it's not helping those who need steel down the road. He couldn't do it and said enough is enough.
BERMAN: Michael, you're nodding your head so much, I promise --
CAPUTO: I'm shaking my head.
BERMAN: I guess it's a good point. Shaking your and not nodding. But shaking your head in disagreement, you've been wonderful not cutting in. We're going to get to you as soon as we get back from the break. We've a lot of more to cover when I talk more about Gary Cohn's departure and why he chose not to leave over a disagreement with the President that was arguably more significant.
Also tonight, the latest twist in the saga of the President, the porn actress and the payment and now the lawsuit, Stormy Daniels suing the President.
And breaking news in a primary election that could say a lot about the midterm as they get closer every single day.
BERMAN: As we mentioned at the top of the hour, Gary Cohn stepping down as President Trump's top economic adviser. The reason, differences with the President's aluminum and steel tariffs. But as we mentioned before the break, this was not the first instance of Cohn differing with his boss. The back story now from 360's Randi Kaye.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After the white nationalist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, President Trump's lead economic adviser had almost had enough. Gary Cohn, who leads the national economic council, is said to have written his resignation letter after Trump blamed both sides in the protest that included white supremacists and neo-Nazis.
[21:15:14] TRUMP: I think there's blame on both sides. You look at both sides. I think there's blame on both sides.
KAYE: Cohn had told the financial times that the Trump administration can and must do better to condemn hate groups. Cohn said his wife and friends urged him to resign but then said, "As a Jewish-American, I will not allow neo-Nazis ranting 'Jews will not replace us' to cause this Jew to leave his job."
Before joining the Trump administration, Cohn was a titan of finance and President and Chief Operating Officer at Goldman Sachs. An incredible accomplishment considering Cohn was reportedly diagnosed with dyslexia, a reading disorder, at a young age. Teachers wrote him off as an idiot. Some telling his parents he'd be lucky to find success.
One reason he stayed on this long at the White House, CNN learned, may have been because he was hoping to be the next Chairman of the Federal Reserve. After they smoothed over the Charlottesville rift, Cohn and Trump had some success. He was a key architect of the President's tax reform plan.
GARY COHN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF ECONOMIC ADVISER: Over 100 companies have announced policies that will create jobs, benefit our workers, and grow our economy.
KAYE: But Cohn had many more battles along the way. Former top Aide Steve Bannon and his allies were known for mocking New Yorkers like Cohn, referring to them as the Democrats.
Meanwhile, it seems Cohn and President Trump rarely saw eye to eye. In his best selling book, Michael Wolff writes about an e-mail from April purporting to represent the views of Gary Cohn circulating around the White House.
"It's worse than you can imagine. An idiot surrounded by clowns. Trump won't read anything, not one-page memos, not the brief policy papers, nothing. He gets up halfway through meetings with world leaders because he is bored."
According to Wolff, the e-mail also said, "Trump is less a person than a collection of terrible traits. No one will survive the first year but his family. I am in a constant state of shock and horror."
On CNBC, the White House denied Cohn made those comments. Then came the President's plan to increase tariffs, and Gary Cohn had had enough. Trump promising to impose a 25 percent tariff or tax on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum, something Cohn was strongly against.
Behind the scenes, Cohn was trying to demonstrate how tariffs would fail U.S. manufacturing. Instead now, he's packing his bags. Randi Kaye, CNN.
BERMAN: All right, back now with the panel. Michael, one of the questions that people are asking tonight is, you know, who's left to give the President advice? Who will be the Trump whisperer? Gary Cohn had a lot of influence in this White House in different ways over time. Hope hicks, God knows, had a ton of influence in different ways in this White House over time.
Jared Kushner had a lot of influence over time, now has a lower security clearance than the calligrapher. We don't know how much influence he has left. So who is the Trump whisperer?
CAPUTO: I don't know the individual personality, but I can tell you that, you know, Hope Hicks had been talking about leaving for a while. She's been with the President since before he came down that escalator in 2015. And also at 29 years old is worth a lot of money and is, I think, going to go out there and make some. Gary Cohn has been talking about leaving for a while.
BERMAN: But that's a different question, you know, why they left or when they made that decision is a different question than who's left and --
CAPUTO: I can't answer that question. I know John Kelly is right there. I know that Peter Navarro is right there. These are people that I trust implicitly. But I can tell you this, all this hand wringing over chaos in the White House, I mean, when I was working for the President, he got joy out of what he called the battle of ideas.
This is what -- when I worked for Jack Kemp, Jack Kemp called it the battle ideas. He'd assign the same speech or the same writing to two different people and clash.
Now, let me tell you something, the Trump family right now is cringing because they heard me invoke Jack's name in the context of Donald Trump. But it's a very similar dynamic. There's a battle of ideas. You look at the discussions between Cohn and Navarro and the contemporaneous reporting on that right now. The President sat them down, listened to them all, and made his choice. And that's how he approaches the advisory roles of all of his aides.
SELLERS: Jack Kemp was --
CAPUTO: He was brilliant.
STEWART: He would roll in his grave if he heard you say that.
SELLERS: Regardless of the political differences, Jack Kemp was brilliant. He did things like prepare for the daily work at hand. I don't think that is a direct line of correlation between the two men.
You asked a very request question. The answer to that question is the same people who were Donald Trump when he run for office at the beginning of this episode are going to be the same people there with him at the end. He only trusts two people or two groups of people, himself and his family. That's absolutely it.
CAPUTO: So who among the first people in the campaign are there now?
[21:20:00] CARDONA: Ivanka. SELLERS: Ivanka, Jared --
CAPUTO: The vast majority of the people who are --
CAPUTO: -- if you look at the telephone directory, you don't recognize anybody from the campaign.
SELLERS: But that's what I'm saying.
STEWART: That's the point.
SELLERS: That just my point. You're making my point. It's a revolving door for everyone --
CAPUTO: You're saying only the original people will be there in the end.
SELLERS: No, no. His family. That's it. Only his family is going to be there at the end.
And you know, the problem with Donald Trump and his collection of bandits and merry men is that he gets these individuals who do not appear to have the abilities necessary to carry out the everyday work. They may be nice people, but they don't have the cognitive assets to be very good at their job. That's why the White House --
CAPUTO: That's insulting, though.
SELLERS: It may be, but it's a fact.
CAPUTO: It's not a fact. Peter Navarro has got, you know, scads of credentials.
SELLERS: For every Peter Navarro --
CAPUTO: You know General Kelly is highly qualified.
SELLERS: For every Peter Navarro, you have Omarosa.
CAPUTO: Omarosa is not there.
SELLERS: For every John Kelly, you have a Scaramucci.
CAPUTO: And that's true of every administration.
CARDONA: And you talked about how you trust John Kelly. Guess who doesn't trust John Kelly? Donald Trump doesn't trust John Kelly.
CAPUTO: I don't agree with that. That's what the leaks say. That's not true. If he didn't trust John Kelly, he wouldn't be there.
CARDONA: Well, who knows how long he's going to thereby? He could have been fired by now.
CAPUTO: People been talking about --
CARDONA: As far as we know.
CAPUTO: You've all got to settle down and understand that you can't believe everything you read and these leaks that come out of the White House.
STEWART: I think, look, we all knew that the President ran his business with crisis management. We all knew that he ran a campaign on chaos. We all knew the administration was going to be an administration of chaos.
Today he flat out admitted, I like conflict. I like this. But he says there's no chaos. There's chaos there. That being said, the average person across America, I know Republican voters. I've spoken to them across the country. They don't care about the palace intrigue. They don't care with the drama. They care about tax cuts. They care about jobs. They care about making sure that they can put food on the table. They really don't care --
CAPUTO: You want to see chaos, go to the veteran's administration. There's a really problem there.
CARDONA: It is something that Republicans should care about, and many Republican strategists are caring about it going into the midterm elections because while you might say that, his approval ratings are on the floor. And midterm elections are up for grabs.
BERMAN: One thing that hasn't been mentioned tonight, and I do think she deserves credit for being there is Kellyanne Conway.
BERMAN: She was the campaign manager at the end when President Trump -- when she is the senior adviser inside the White House who has survived.
CAPUTO: And the one who violated the Hatch Act.
SELLERS: Let's talk -- I actually have a great deal of respect and admiration for Kellyanne Conway in being able to do what she did in the campaign and navigate the Trump aura.
But you just held Kellyanne Conway out as someone who still has that level of credibility. On the same day, we find out that she violated the Hatch Act. That makes our point.
This is the problem with this White House. Either they don't have the ability to do the job necessary, or they don't even care about the parameters in which they have to do it.
And then you talk about all of these people who don't care about this, and I actually agree with you. And that is my fundamental problem with the direction that we're going in this country right now. Because you have good people, who simply don't care anymore. I mean you have all of these evangelicals and other voters who talk about the spirit of America and then the headline today is, porn star sues President.
BERMAN: We're going to have much more on that coming up. Thanks guys. Thank you very much.
Quite a segue. Plenty more happening today in the wake of quite a Monday. Former campaign aide Sam Nunberg had his day on cable news yesterday, saying again and again he would not comply with the subpoena to appear before the special counsel and a grand jury.
Now he is off cable news and seems to have changed his mind. Still some of what he said has drawn the interest of congressional investigators. Here's an example from Nunberg's phone conversation with CNN's Jake Tapper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Let me ask you about that Trump Tower meeting. What do you make of it as somebody who has worked for President Trump?
SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: You know, I've attended that meeting. I don't think there's anything wrong with it. You're going to disagree with me.
TAPPER: I don't know what happened at that meeting. Do you think that Donald says -- President Trump says he knew nothing about the meeting? Do you think that that's true?
TAPPER: You don't think that's true?
NUNBERG: No. It doesn't -- and, Jake, I've watched your news reports. You know it's not true. He talked about it a week before, and I don't know why he did this. All he had to say was, yes, we met with the Russians. The Russians offered us something, and we thought they had something, and that was it. I don't know why he went around trying to hide it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: I'm joined now by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, who is on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Senator Wyden, thanks so much for being with us. Thank you very much for your patience this evening as we have so much to discuss. Congressman Schiff yesterday on the House side says he wants Sam Nunberg to testify before the House Intelligence Committee. Do you need to hear from him in the Senate?
[21:25:01] SENATOR RON WYDEN (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I think it would be very helpful, but he would not be my first choice of a witness at a public hearing. I think my first choice of a witness at a public hearing would be Michael Cohen because Michael Cohen is the President's go-to money man. Of course we've heard a lot of rumors over the last few days about his involvements with various people that the American people are pretty curious about.
But the bottom line for me is the key issues are what are called the "follow the money" questions. And the Republican leadership in neither the House nor the Senate are getting into it. That's why I put Michael Cohen as my first public witness in the Senate.
BERMAN: All right, let's follow up on that because "The New York Times" happens to be reporting tonight -- actually it's "The Washington Post." I'm getting my big breaking news confused here because there is so much of it.
"The Washington Post" is reporting that the special counsel is now asking questions about Michael Cohen, specifically some deals having to do with Russia, one that happened just after the campaign and one that happened before the campaign. What specifically do you want to ask to Michael Cohen?
WYDEN: I want to ask him about a host of issues. As you know, there are published reports about the prospect of a Trump Tower in Russia. I mean the fact is we have been looking at a host of issues. The President's purchase of a piece of property in Palm Beach. Magically he sold it later for tens of millions of dollars. Everybody in Florida thought it was suspicious. We're looking at Alexander Torshin of this Russian oligarch. We can't get direct answers to whether or not the NRA took money from the Russians or Russian nationals.
BERMAN: Is the fact, though, that if the reports are true that the special counsel is now at least asking about Michael Cohen? And we know Michael Cohen's name was on that subpoena list given to Sam Nunberg that went so very public yesterday. But given the special counsel is now asking questions about him, are you encouraged that some of your concerns are being addressed?
WYDEN: Certainly Bob Mueller works on the criminal side. We work on the civil side. It's our job to tell the American people what happened with respect to Mr. Torshin and the NRA, for example, if these reports are true. I find it very improbable that Mr. Torshin was interested in promoting skeet shooting in America. There are substantial questions with respect to these issues.
BERMAN: All right. The President was asked about Russia today, and he did give an answer. Let's listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, the Russians had no impact on our votes whatsoever. But certainly there was meddling and probably there was meddling from other countries and maybe other individuals.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But are you worried about Russia trying to meddle in the midterm elections? TRUMP: No, because we'll counteract whatever they do. We'll counteract it very strongly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Several parts of that answer. Number one, I'll highlight the fact that he said that other countries meddled. Number two, highlight the fact that he said it's been proven that Russians didn't change votes. I do not think anyone has come out with a conclusive statement on that. And number three, he said that there are strong measures being taken to protect the next elections. Do you agree with any of those statements?
WYDEN: I certainly don't agree with his judgment about the past election. For example, the intelligence community has said they didn't look at influence operations by the Russians. They didn't look for the hack of the DNC e-mails. They didn't look at fake news. Then today in a very important development, there are serious questions about the integrity of these voting machines. I have been particularly troubled about the fact that they installed software that would provide remote access. What that means is you're talking about a dream for foreign hackers. I've written today, and I think it's a matter of considerable urgency, that we find out whether or not these voting machines have software that could make them particularly susceptible to foreign hackers.
BERMAN: Senator Ron Wyden, thanks so much for being with us. A lot going on tonight.
WYDEN: Thanks for having me. Thank you.
BERMAN: We're going to take a quick break.
And when we come back, Porn Star Stormy Daniels sues President Trump. Her reason why next.
[21:32:51] BERMAN: In case you were wondering if it was possible, I have even more breaking news tonight, you need not be concerned. There is. Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress who alleges an affair with the President back in 2006 and who received a payoff from the President's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, well, she is now suing the President.
CNN's Sara Sidner has just taken a look at the legal filing and joins us now with more. Sara, what are you learning? What's behind this suit?
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is so much detail here. I don't even know where to begin at this point. But on the very first page, the lawsuit says that Donald Trump, who also goes by the alias of David Dennison, so that was one new detail we learned.
On page two, we see for the first time in public court records that Stormy Daniels who was also named in the suit by her legal name, Stephanie Clifford, did have a relationship with Donald Trump in 2006. And well into 2007, the lawsuit says the porn star and adult filmmaker wanted to go public with her story of the affair with Mr. Trump, and her desire to go public came to the attention of Mr. Trump and his campaign.
This is the first time we're seeing in public court records that Mr. Trump may have known something about this particular deal.
Now, she said that she wanted to come forward after the now infamous "Access Hollywood" tape came out. That, as you remember, is where Donald Trump can be heard making comments about grabbing women in the most private of parts and kissing them without asking.
Now, as soon as Mr. Trump got wind of the plans according to the lawsuit filed, she didn't want her to tell his story. Neither did his attorney. The paperwork says he, with the insistence of his attorney, Michael Cohen, aggressively tried to silence Ms. Clifford. Thus as it says in these court documents, helping him win the Presidential election.
But it is the third page of the lawsuit that begins to unravel allegations that if true, show that Donald Trump has violated federal campaign finance laws. It said that Mr. Cohen prepared so-called hush agreement. That agreement was worth $130,000 to impose various conditions and obligations not only on Ms. Clifford but also on Mr. Trump and the lawsuit says that Mr. Trump signed the agreement.
[21:35:07] Now, we don't know if he signed the agreement with his name or the alias name Dennison, but I want to read you something that is quite interesting. It seems like every single page of this, by the way, John, is -- has news in it. Literally every page.
This one says that there was an agreement that was drafted, that the money was paid to Ms. Stormy Daniels to a trust account, but that she did not actually sign this account. And then later on in this lawsuit, it says that while this agreement was written and the money had been paid, that in January of 2008, there were details of this draft that were emerging in the news media. You remember "The Wall Street Journal" broke that story.
And it says that there was some sort of truth in this. But then she says she was coerced into filing a false statement wherein she stated that reports of her relationship with Donald Trump were false.
Now, I want you to remember this because this is where Michael Cohen sent us all, and all of us got a copy of it, a statement he says was signed by Stormy Daniels that said there was no affair whatsoever.
She said she was coerced into that. At least that's what this lawsuit says. We will want to know more about this. There are many more details, but I do want to say this is the first time that we have seen publicly that there was a relationship between the two of them in court documents and that the documents say that this was all about the election. And that is a problem for the federal election campaign laws.
BERMAN: Sara Sidner, a lot there. Thank you very, very much.
Panel members Alice Stewart and Bakari Sellers are back. And joining us we got some councilor here. Legal and National Security Analyst and former FBI Special Agent Asha Rangappa.
Asha, you know I just got a hold of this and we've all just going hold of this and been poring through it. I don't know if you've had a chance to look at this right now. What strikes you?
ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, so this lawsuit is about a declaratory judgment. She's not looking for money. What she wants this court to do is basically say one of two things. That this contract was never completed. It was never formed because Donald Trump, under his alias or as Donald Trump never signed it. There were three parties to the agreement. Stormy Daniels, Donald Trump, and this LLC, and one of those signatures is not there. Or alternatively she says if it was formed, it's not enforceable because Michael Cohen has spoken publicly about it and essentially breached it.
But what is really going on here is that she's used this lawsuit as almost a vehicle to basically lay out everything that's happened in both the forming of the contract and what she says about it last month when -- sorry -- in January when these things came out.
And as an attachment, she's included the actual nondisclosure agreement itself. So it's kind of now putting out into the public domain whatever the judge decides to some extent her side is now out there in public record.
BERMAN: Indeed. I mean, one of the first lines here is Ms. Clifford began an intimate relationship with Mr. Trump in the summer of 2006. You know, so the idea that there's a nondisclosure agreement seems relatively moot.
RANGAPPA: It's kind of disclosed.
BERMAN: Because of what's in this document right now.
SELLERS: Well, I think that there are a few things. First and foremost, I think that no one believed Michael Cohen from the beginning, or at least anyone who practices law believes that you just ethically can't pay $100,000 out of your own pocket for a client's settlement. I mean, that's just something that you can't do.
But in here, there are four very interesting people that we need to figure out who they are. Mike Moshi (ph), Angel Ryan (ph), Gina Rodriguez (ph), and Keith Monyun (ph). This document attempts to bind them as well because they apparently -- and she goes by Peggy Peterson, but they have knowledge of this incident as well or this confidential information. And this attempts to bind them from talking as well. So there are a lot of interesting pieces out there that Donald Trump and his legal counsel are going to have to figure out how to deal with. But, again, the headline reads something very interesting, one that we've never seen before like this new Trump administration always seems to surprise us. Porn Star sues President. And nobody seems to blink.
So I don't think this is going to have any repercussions or play out. What I do want to see happen at the end of the day is -- and I would pray this would happen, is a Donald Trump deposition. A Donald Trump deposition on this matter would just be pure.
BERMAN: Well, it's hard to know what a judge is going to make of this because it's hard to know exactly what they're asking the judge. I think what Asha's first analysis here is right. This seems to just be an effort to get all this out on paper, which they've now done.
RANGAPPA: John, I think what it does do, if she gets what she's asking for, which is that this is not -- you know, ever a completed agreement or it's not enforceable. She's now inoculated herself by being able to talk freely about it without any legal threat against her.
BERMAN: Sorry, Alice.
STEWART: And he basically has talked freely about it by putting all the information in there.
[21:40:00] And there's two concerns here. There's the political and really there's the personal. You look at it politically. If this money was used -- campaign money was used to pay off, that is a political legal liability that the President will have to deal with.
SELLERS: See John Edwards. Yes.
STEWART: And personally I'm not a lawyer, but you don't pay hush money if there's nothing to hush. So I believe there has to be something to this story, and there has to be something to her allegations or this money would never have exchanged hands.
BERMAN: What Michael Cohen has said, and what he has said here has changed and was seemingly deliberately misleading at first. What he now says is it doesn't have to be true to be damaging. He wanted to keep this from coming out because it would be damaging even if it was not true. And the official White House response to the Stormy Daniels affair has been the President denies a relationship took place, not -- not -- no relationship took place.
Again, guys, we're just getting our hands on this right now. We're pouring through it. I will note that the President has a new pseudonym David Dennison to go along with John Baron and John Miller.
We're going to take a quick. We'll be right back to talk about this more.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: All right. We are talking about an Adult Film Actress, Stormy Daniels, suing the President and the complications that could ensue.
Back now with the panel. Alice Stewart, I do not believe that the President in a public setting, either in an interview or in a press conference, has been asked about Stormy Daniels directly. It now seems to me when you have this huge court filing, it's inevitable. And I'm sorry. That's a problem for any President.
[21:45:13] STEWART: Sure. Sure it is. But I would imagine when he is asked this question directly, he will address it like he has all the other ones, and he will cast it off as these women are making up these stories, and this isn't true, and I haven't done that. And that's the way he handles all of these cases. And he has said before, when you're a man of wealth and means, women will come forward with allegations like this, and that is something he's dealt with for many, many years.
So I believe when the time comes, he will answer this just like he has before. My concern is what's going to happen now. This is back in the news again, and every time this comes up, we see Melania, the First Lady, exercising her independence and going off and doing her own thing on her own schedule. This has to hurt. I mean, this has to be not fun to have this continually brought up in the news, and I'm anxious to see -- curious to see how Melania responds to these latest revelations.
BERMAN: If he is asked and does deny or go on the attack, does that then abrogate whatever confidentiality or disclosure agreement would happen there. Would that then open the floodgate for Stormy Daniels to say whatever he wants, Asha?
RANGAPPA: Well, I think then she would have an additional claim of breach of contract for the underlying agreement to the extent that it exists even though he didn't sign it apparently.
But, you know, I do think that this is a great example of how -- you know, these kinds of -- this is really an outgrowth of Kenneth Starr in the sense that Paula Jones lawsuit was allowed to continue even while he was in office. And you know, the courts decided that he's still liable to have to deal with this.
Now Trump is left with the legacy of that. So as long as this lawsuit continues, he will have to, you know, continue to respond to it in a court of law. And I think as you mentioned, that is going to continue to play out.
BERMAN: And again, Michael Cohen is named now in the news two days in a row for two different reasons. His name is on that list, that Sam Nunberg list of people that special counsel Robert Mueller wants communications about and from. And "The Washington Post" is reporting that the special counsel is asking questions of Michael Cohen. We have no information that he's asking questions about this, about Stormy Daniels. But Cohen's, you know, got some issues he's going to have to deal with. SELLERS: Well, in all honesty, some of those campaign finance issues, I'm not sure what reasoning any lawyer could have to say that they would not be in the purview of the special counsel.
I mean I think that the special counsel has been looking at a wide array of things that involve the campaign, and I can honestly see him asking a question or two about the source of these funds.
How did they get from one account to another because people always want to bring up Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. But people forget that Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, that all started because of a Whitewater land deal that ended up all the way with Monica Lewinsky and obstruction of justice or a perjury charge. And so my last point on this is where I always go when it comes to Donald Trump. Like when is enough enough? When are people going to actually stand up and say that, you know, this whole porn star affair thing may be the straw that broke the camel's back.
BERMAN: I think one thing is clear is that you can see how the stakes here would get very high very quickly from what is a strange and somewhat frivolous headline just on its face. It could get seriously as I said.
All right, guys, thank you so much for helping us try to understand this. Asha, stick around because we need your expertise on yet more breaking news.
An adviser to the United Arab Emirates, someone with ties to current and former aides to President Trump, is now cooperating with the aforementioned special counsel, Robert Mueller. Take a breath.
[21:52:54] BERMAN: More breaking news tonight in the Russia investigation, where the special counsel, Robert Mueller is getting cooperation from a Middle East specialist with ties to the Trump team.
Two people tell CNN that George Nader went to secret meetings between the United Arab Emirates and Trump Associates during the Presidential transition.
In December 2016 Nadar was at a meeting between Emirati officials and members of Trump's inner circle. And then a month later, at a meeting in the Seychelles, Islands, with Emiratis and Trump associate, Erik Prince. These sources also saying Nader was there when Prince met with a Russian banker.
With me now, CNN Legal and National Security Analyst, former FBI Special Agent, Asha Rangappa. We've been covering a lot of ground tonight. Why not cover this. When you hear that this man who has contact with the U.E. is now cooperating with the special counsel, what does that mean to you?
RANGAPPA: Well, this saga has more characters than "war and peace." So we had to place him where he fits in. You know, he's a missing link in a lot of these sketchy meetings, apparently, that were taking place during the transition. You mentioned the one in the Seychelles, this one between the UAE and the Trump campaign, that was not even known to the Obama campaign. It was a government --
BERMAN: The Obama administration.
RANGAPPA: The Obama administration, yes.
And also in the backdrop, which Nader may not have been a part of, but just so we have the context, we have the back-channel between Moscow that Kushner was trying to establish, Flynn talking to Russia about sanctions. So he can start to fill in some of the missing pieces about what these meetings were about, what was being discussed. A lot of these individuals that were a part of these meetings were associated with some of the banks that were being sanctioned, for example, how that was playing in.
BERMAN: And we know a little bit about the urgency with which Mueller's team wanted to talk to him. Apparently, they stopped him at Dulles, at the airport near outside of Washington, D.C., when he was returning from an overseas trip. They took his phones, they took images of his phones right then and there. That seems like an aggressive move.
RANGAPPA: It is. And according to "The New York Times" reporting, they had a search warrant to get the information that was on some of those devices, to seize them.
[21:55:05] And remember that a search warrant is issued when you can demonstrate to a federal judge that the device may contain evidence of a crime.
So, clearly, Mueller is investigating some potential crimes associated with maybe these meetings. You know, it could involve campaign finance, foreign contributions, for example. It could involve maybe any kind of quid pro quo for business opportunities, for policy decisions. Those are just some of the things that have been surfacing in other areas that may be tied into this.
BERMAN: Very quickly, I get about 30 seconds left, to the fact he's cooperating -- we don't believe he's been charged with anything or struck a plea, per se.
RANGAPPA: That's right.
BERMAN: So what does cooperating mean in this case? Any idea?
RANGAPPA: Well, he's going to provide information and he is going to be truthful about it. And remember, that this meeting in the Seychelles involved Erik Prince, who has testified to the House Intelligence Committee. So that's somebody else who could get caught in this net if he lied to Congress and Nader could show that or give information that Mueller has somebody else potentially in his cross hairs.
BERMAN: Yes, I said before tonight, doesn't look like this investigation is getting smaller or closer to being finished. RANGAPPA: No.
BERMAN: Asha Rangappa, great to have you with us. Thank you so much.
RANGAPPA: Thank you.
BERMAN: We'll be right back.
[22:00:05] BERMAN: Thanks so much for watching "360." I'm John Berman. Time now for Don Lemon in CNN Tonight.