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White House: Trump Won Arbitration Against Porn Star; Porn Star Sues Trump, Says 'Hugh' Agreement Invalid. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 7, 2018 - 17:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for watching.

[17:00:09] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Hush fund. The White House struggles to explain whether or not President Trump knew about a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels to help keep her quiet about an alleged affair. But Daniels is suing the president, saying that agreement is now invalid and revealing stunning new details.

Poisoned spy. British police say a former Russian spy and his daughter were deliberately poisoned. Did Moscow have anything to do with the nerve agent attack?

Mueller's new mark. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has a new cooperating witness, a Middle East middle man who sources say attended secret meetings between the United Arab Emirates and Trump associates during the transition.

And chaos incorporated. A day after the resignation of another top White House adviser, the White House defends the extraordinary turnover in the senior staff, saying it is not abnormal. Is chaos normal?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news: an increasingly chaotic White House is grappling with new revelations about the president's alleged affair with a porn star. After actress Stormy Daniels filed a lawsuit against Mr. Trump, declaring a hush money agreement null and void, late today, the president's press secretary at the White House tried to avoid questions about the story but ended up confirming some new details of it.

I'll ask the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff, about those breaking details. And our correspondents and specialists, they are all standing by with full coverage.

Let's begin over at the White House on the defensive after a porn star sues the president of the United States.

Let's go straight to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. Jim, this has got to be a first. JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

Just as aides to the president are insisting there's no chaos going on inside the White House, a new scandal has emerged for the president. This time the storm is not about policy or personnel shake-ups. For the first time, the White House spoke at length about the allegations from a porn star who says she had an affair with the president. A perfect storm, it is not.


ACOSTA (voice-over): The storm clouds have settled in over the White House in the form of porn star Stephanie Clifford --


ACOSTA: -- who also goes by Storm Daniels and alleges she had an affair with the president that Mr. Trump's lawyer tried to cover up with a secret payment.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has addressed these directly. The president has denied the allegations against him.

ACOSTA: White House press secretary Sarah Sanders danced around the question of whether Mr. Trump knew that his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, had arranged a $130,000 payment to Daniels in the weeks before the 2016 election. Sanders also revealed that the dispute between Daniels and Mr. Trump has continued, with an arbitration decided in the president's favor.

SANDERS: There was no knowledge of any payments from the president, and he's denied all of these allegations.

I can share that -- that the arbitration was won in the president's favor. And I would refer you to the president's outside counsel on any details beyond that.

ACOSTA: That's not how an attorney for Daniels describes it. In the lawsuit filed by Daniels, her attorney calls that arbitration bogus, saying it was initiated surreptitiously without even providing Ms. Clifford with notice of the proceeding and basic due process. That attorney says the president had to have known about the payment.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, LAWYER FOR STORMY DANIELS: There's no question the president knew about it at the time. The idea that an attorney would go off on his own without his client's knowledge and engage in this type of negotiation and enter into this type of agreement, quite honestly, I think is ludicrous.

ACOSTA: The White House is also finding itself entangled in a messy fight over the president's plan to slap tariffs on products from key U.S. trading partners. But there are signs the White House is no longer standing firm on the issue, hinting there may be some exceptions.

SANDERS: There are potential carveouts for Mexico and Canada based on national security and possibly other countries, as well.

That would be a case by case and country by country basis. But it would be determined whether or not there is a national security exemption.

ACOSTA: It's the trade issue that prompted the president's top economic advisor, Gary Cohn, to resign. Another example of White House chaos. Unless you ask the press secretary.

SANDERS: If it was, then I don't think we would be able to accomplish everything that we've done. It's not abnormal that you would have people come and go.

ACOSTA: Democrats are seizing on the constant reality TV-style turmoil to push back on the president's claim --

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everybody wants to work in the White House.

ACOSTA: -- that everybody in Washington wants to work for him.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: One of the problems here is the White House is getting hollowed out. And the number of people capable of doing things, doing real things, whether you agree or disagree ideologically, is getting smaller and smaller; and they seem unable to recruit new people to take these jobs.


ACOSTA: Now one thing we should note is that the White House press secretary said today that the president has addressed these allegations from Stormy Daniels directly; made it clear that none of these allegations are true. That is false. The president has not done that.

[17:05:10] And so far the president's outside attorney, who arranged that porn star payment, Michael Cohen, has not yet commented on these latest moves from Stormy Daniels. But in a statement last month, Wolf, Cohen told reporters that this payment to Daniels was lawful and not a campaign contribution. But Wolf, it seems the storm clouds are still here at the White House. They haven't moved on just yet, Wolf.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right. Jim Acosta at the White House. Thanks very much. With her lawsuit, porn star Stormy Daniels is removing the veil of secrecy over her alleged affair with Donald Trump.

Let's go to our national correspondent, Sara Sidner. Sara, first of all, take us through this actual lawsuit.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, we are now for the very first time hearing details that a lot of folks wanted to hear and seeing the documents of this non-disparagement agreement that they say was simply an agreement to shut Stormy Daniels up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SIDNER (voice-over): Donald Trump is referred to as "David Dennison." And the porn star, Stormy Daniels, is referred to as "Peggy Peterson," according to the details of a non-disparagement agreement revealed publicly for the first time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did she have a sexual relationship with the president?


SIDNER: Daniels's attorney, Michael Avenatti, filed a lawsuit against Donald Trump and a company linked to Trump's attorney, Michael Cohen, to invalidate the agreement allegedly created to prevent Daniels from talking about her alleged intimate relations with Donald Trump.

That agreement was signed 11 days before the 2016 presidential election by Cohen and Stephanie Clifford, Daniels's legal name. And Clifford was eventually paid $130,000 to seal the deal.

The lawsuit argues that the agreement is null and void, because it was not signed by Donald Trump. Daniels's lawyer says Mr. Trump purposely did not sign the agreement so he could later, if need be, publicly disavow any knowledge of the contract and Daniels.

AVENATTI: She believes it's important that the public learn the truth about what happened.

SIDNER: Just last month, Cohen admitted to facilitating the $130,000 payment to Daniels from his own personal funds but insisted that, quote, "neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly."

Daniels's attorney won't reveal if there are text messages or photos that could corroborate her story.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She also says, according to this document, that there were tangible items -- photos, images, that she had them. And according to this agreement, she won't turn them over; she will never release them publicly. Does she still have photos, images, text messages, documents that verify this claim?

AVENATTI: That's a question that Ms. Daniels will have to ultimately answer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know the answer to that question?

AVENATTI: I do know the answer, and I'm not at liberty to disclose it this morning.

SIDNER: The adult film star, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, considered sharing her story in 2016 after this "Access Hollywood" tape surfaced.

TRUMP: I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

SIDNER: But the lawsuit said Trump and the campaign got wind of Stormy's plan to reach out to the media and wanted to shut her up.

And then there's this. The lawsuit says Cohen has continued to "intimidate Ms. Clifford into silence and 'shut her up' to order to protect Mr. Trump." Even as recently as February 27, when Cohen filed a bogus arbitration proceeding against Daniels.

But what about these two letters? One give to CNN by Mr. Cohen, the other sent to us from Stormy's manager, Gina Rodriguez, both signed by Stormy Daniels, saying no affair ever took place.

AVENATTI: That was a statement that was demanded that she sign. Mr. Cohen demanded she sign that statement. And as alleged in the complaint, we believe that it's -- that it was done through force and intimidation.

SIDNER: Still, Stormy herself has stayed silence on details about Donald Trump since the nondisclosure agreement. But she did reveal this in a recent sex chat on

STORMY DANIELS, FORMER PORN STAR: I've actually been working on a book for several years now.

The book I've been working on is a collection of really funny but completely true short stories of funny things that have happened on the road.


SIDNER: Now about that arbitration proceeding that you heard Jim Acosta reporting there. Sarah Sanders said that it had already been won in arbitration. Well, we got ahold of Stormy Daniels's attorney, and he said this. "Yes, and he also won the popular vote," referring to Donald Trump, which we know he did not win. That's all he would say. But we certainly will hear more from him later on this evening -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Sara Sidner, reporting.

Joining us now, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

SCHIFF: Thanks, Wolf.

[17:10:00] BLITZER: So you're a lawyer. You're also a former federal prosecutor. Is it possible, do you believe, that President Trump was in the dark about this $130,000 payment that the president's private attorney, Michael Cohen, made to Stormy Daniels?

SCHIFF: That doesn't seem the least bit plausible, that an attorney for a client would go pay hush money and not -- never inform the client about it. It seems far more credible, frankly, that Donald Trump was well aware of this.

And it also I think, strains credulity to think that Michael Cohen didn't expect to get reimbursed for this. I think there's a legal issue and a political issue. The legal issue is, if there was an expectation that he was going to get reimbursed for this and it was in order to hide this allegation during the campaign, that's a campaign expenditure and an FEC violation.

BLITZER: That's an in-kind campaign contribution, supposedly.

SCHIFF: Exactly.

But the bigger issue, I think, is this is a president who ran on a campaign of draining the swamp. And here he is, alleged to have had an affair with a porn star, paid hush money and now lying about it. That's not how you drain a swamp.

And couple with the other allegations of Jared Kushner working on deals in the White House, and Mike Flynn working on deals during the inauguration, and administration people flying first class on private jets on these expenditures. They're not draining the swamp. If anything, they're licensing the swamp and branding with it great big gold letters. That's a real political problem for the White House, for the president. And that may be the lasting impact of the whole Stormy Daniels thing.

And that is, they have completely ceded the ground when it comes to family values. Voters who care about family values can't possibly support this president for what he stands for.

BLITZER: Because if it was, in fact, a $130,000 in-kind campaign contribution, not formally disclosed to the FEC -- you're supposed to disclose campaign contributions -- hat's a crime and that's a felony.

SCHIFF: It would be a crime. Now, I think a very similar crime was alleged against John Edwards, and that prosecution was unsuccessful. So it may be one of those crimes that's difficult to prosecute. And that's one of the reasons why, I think, the political consequences may be far more significant than the legal ones.

But here, I think it's part of a pattern with the president. And that is, he continually emphasizes that the significant thing is denying things. So with respect to Roy Moore, he thought it was important to point out, Roy Moore denies the allegations. Rob Porter denies the allegations. As long as you deny it, Wolf, it didn't happen. And so the president denies knowing about this, denies it ever happened. It's part of a pattern.

BLITZER: Yes. They're not necessarily denying the affair. They're -- I think they're denying that there was any knowledge of a payment, which is a bit of a nuance there.

SCHIFF: You know, you probably appreciate the nuances more than I do. It seems to me they were denying everything, but I may be wrong.

BLITZER: The -- two of your Democratic colleagues, Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu, Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, they say they want the FBI to investigate this whole thing to see if federal election laws were, in fact, violated. Do you agree with that?

SCHIFF: You know, I would -- I would recommend the FBI treat this in the same way they have looked at similar issues in the past. However they treated this with respect to John Edwards, they ought to do it the same way with respect to Donald Trump. They should use the same standard to determine whether it rises to the level of opening a criminal investigation.

I'm just not in the weeds enough to know on this particular issue whether that's been reached at this point.

BLITZER: Do you want to call back Michael Cohen to come before your committee and ask him questions about this?

SCHIFF: Well, we had wanted to have Michael Cohen come back and answer a host of other questions as well as present documents. We've asked for his travel records, stuff that we could uses, frankly, to corroborate or disprove some of the allegations that have been made in terms of his involvement. So we would like him back on other issues. Whether this is really pertinent to the Russia inquiry or not, I'm not sure that it is, but there are plenty of other questions that we still have unanswered.

BLITZER: Potentially, could this -- if there was criminal, let's say, could this potentially fall into the lap of the special counsel, Robert Mueller? Because if you take a look at the instructions he received when he took the job. Any links, of course, between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump. And any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation and any other matters within the scope of their investigation.

Could this fit into Robert Mueller's investigation?

SCHIFF: You know, in theory, yes. But as a practical matter, I think Bob Mueller is going to be far more interested in what was Michael Cohen's involvement in trying to get a Russia Trump Tower going during the campaign at the time the president denied having any interest or deals or anything in Russia? What was Michael Cohen's involvement and travel in Europe? And is there any corroboration of allegations Christopher Steele made or reported in terms of his role during the campaign, vis-a-vis the Russians? That's going to be much more of the core interest of Bob Mueller.

[17:15:12] I would think that, as we have seen with other issues that, yes, have arisen but may not be central to the Russia story, those may be taken by other prosecutors. So there have been allegations, for example, that there's an investigation of the eastern district of New York looking at EB-5 visa issues affiliated with Kushner properties. You could say that arises in the Russia investigation, as well, but I think prudentially, Bob Mueller is more likely to say these other prosecutors should handle those allegations.

BLITZER: Let me ask you about George Nader. He's an American business man who has ties with the United Arab Emirates. There was a meeting that apparently now is being investigated by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, that we had with Trump associates, UAE officials and a Russian banker. What type of information do you think Mueller is looking for here?

SCHIFF: Well, you know, I think the same information we are. And that is, was there this clandestine meeting in December in Trump Tower with Jared Kushner and -- and George Nader and Steve Bannon and others? And what was the purpose of it? Was this as a way of a back channel to Russia? Was this a way of working on a business deal? Was there a discussion of a meeting in the Seychelles, which we would learn that Erik Prince met in the Seychelles with the crown prince of UAE and then had a meeting with a Russian state banker. Was that the result of this initial meeting? These are questions we have. I imagine they're questions Bob Mueller has.

It certainly is inconsistent, I think, with parts of the testimony of Erik Prince before our committee. Now, it's inconsistent with the reported allegations. So I don't know which is correct, but we certainly want to get to the bottom of it if, indeed, this George Nader was at the meeting in the Seychelles with Erik Prince, with this Russian banker, with the crown prince. That's very different.

BLITZER: So who do you believe?

SCHIFF: Well, I don't know who to believe at this point. Eric Prince's testimony is public, and the public can judge it. But clearly, the impression he wanted to give is he wasn't there representing the Trump transition or Trump campaign or the Trump administration. The meeting with the Russian banker was purely fortuitous. He didn't know it was going to happen.

That's a very different story than what is being reported about George Nader. And we have to find out which is true.

BLITZER: Yes, George Nader, apparently is now cooperating fully with the Mueller investigation.

SCHIFF: That's what I'm seeing, yes --

BLITZER: That's what we're hearing.

SCHIFF: -- in terms of the reporting.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much. Congressman Adam Schiff, always good to have you here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

SCHIFF: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: There's more breaking news. Was President Trump aware of hush money payments to a porn star? The White House struggling to explain as the actress, Stormy Daniels, sues the president?

And British police now say a former Russian spy and his daughter were deliberately poisoned. Did Moscow have anything to do with the nerve agent attack? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:22:24] BLITZER: Breaking news, the White House press secretary today saying she doesn't know if President Trump was aware of hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels just days before the 2016 presidential election. Daniels alleges she had an affair with the president back in 2006 and is now suing the president, claiming he never signed the nondisclosure agreement.

Let's get reaction/analysis from our experts. And Laura Coates, you're a former federal prosecutor. You're our legal analyst. Help us make sense of this, the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders saying, "You know what? The president won in arbitration, so it's over."

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: First of all, kind of an oops. You're acknowledging that there was an arbitration in a case you're telling us didn't exist and there was no NDA, although there was an NDA. A little waffling back and forth.

But really, an arbitration they're talking about is not the collective meeting or a conference you're thinking of where both parties to an issue come together and decide what they're going to do, and they have a neutral arbitrator -- hence the term arbitration -- decide outside of a court of law.

Instead, what you have here is a retired judge acting as an arbitrator to essentially say, "I am going to preemptively tell you, Ms. Daniels and your counsel, not to engage and disclose in confidential information."

What presumably probably happened here is that, one, he said, the retired judge, that this was a contract in existence. You had to abide by the terms, and you're going to be enjoined through an injunction to say you cannot violate the terms.

She probably wouldn't have been a party to that discussion. She wouldn't have had to be. And the attorney for Michael Cohen, I'm sure, is trying to show they're being proactive and ensuring that they're getting the benefit of the bargain that they made in October of 2016.

BLITZER: In the lawsuit that Stormy Daniels' lawyers filed, they say this, and I'll put it up on the screen.

"On or about February 27, 2018, Mr. Trump's attorney. Mr. Cohen, surreptitiously initiated a bogus arbitration proceedings against Ms. Clifford in Los Angeles. Remarkably, he did so without even providing Ms. Clifford with notice of the proceeding and basic due process."

Your analysis?

COATES: Well, arbitration takes you out of the context of the general sense of what due process means. You still get to have notice of it and have due process in terms of having the opportunity to have your side of the issue. But it's not the same requirements you have in a court of law.

In fact, when you contract for arbitration, you're giving away a number of rights intentionally. And so an arbitration proceeding is designed to ensure that you don't have the inconvenience of court. You have some of the evidentiary protections, but most of them are lost. And the ultimate goal here is to have confidentiality.

It would be within the prerogative of one person trying to enforce the terms of an arbitration clause in a nondisclosure agreement to say things like, "I can and go do this." I don't know the terms, if he actually went and gave some notice to Stormy Daniels or her counsel and she didn't respond in enough time. But generally speaking, it would be the prerogative of the person trying to enforce what they perceive to be an anticipated disclosure of confidential information.

[17:25:18] BLITZER: Let me bring Gloria into this. Gloria, Lawrence Rosen, attorney representing Michael Cohen, just sent out to a whole bunch of journalists this statement from Michael Cohen. Let me read it to you, and then we'll get some more analysis.

"The settlement agreement contained an arbitration clause that permitted EC LLC to seek an injunction in the event of a breach or threatened breach of the agreement. The designated judge from the arbitration tribunal found that Ms. Clifford had violated the agreement and enjoined her from, among other things, filing this lawsuit. We intend to pursue our recourse in the context of the arbitration, as agreed to by the parties, and continue to categorically refute the claims alleged by Ms. Clifford and her counsel."

So what's your analysis of this? Where are we heading?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I'm not a -- I'm not a lawyer, but I can tell you that they believe -- Michael Cohen and his attorney, Lawrence Rosen -- believe that in the original agreement, there was a clause that said, "We can initiate arbitration whether we tell you about it or not." And that's quite an agreement, if you ask me.

And that when they initiated it, of course she didn't show up, because she had no idea about it. And that it -- the tribunal found that she had violated the agreement.

So they're going to, you know -- they're going to continue to pursue this, in any way they can. And now Michael Cohen, in addition to having an attorney to represent him before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and potentially before Bob Mueller, now also has to have a separate attorney representing him in the case of Stormy Daniels.

BLITZER: Yes, there's a lawsuit there. We're working, by the way, our sources to get the arbitration agreement, to see if we can get that.

Everybody stand by. There's a lot more we're following. Much more right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're back with our analysts and our experts. And let me bring Dana Bash into this.

[17:31:48] Dana, the White House is trying to handle this. But in the process, Sarah Sanders is actually confirming sensitive information that, presumably, they don't want to have to confirm.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. I mean, the whole notion of there being any arbitration at all between anybody having to deal with this Stormy Daniels situation was news today. The fact that she even used that word was news during the briefing.

But I think, you know, Laura and Gloria are understandably trying to kind of get to the bottom of the legal ramifications of what's going on here. But I think it's also important to take a step back and remember, we're talking about a porn star, allegedly -- actually, we know, we have confirmed that she received $130,000 from the president's fixer, from the president's longtime lawyer. Why? Why did that happen? We don't know the answer to that, and that's something that we should keep our eye on.

I'm not saying that Trump supporters, especially after the "Access Hollywood" tape, are going to care, but I think he's the president of the United States, and we should know the answer.

BLITZER: Well, and there was a -- about a month before the election, Bianna, that the $130,000 was transferred to her and, presumably, they didn't want her to be public in making these accusations against then the Republican nominee.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, the timing is questionable, Wolf.

I mean, look, I'm with Dana. We're approaching Silvio Berlusconi kind of headlines and territory here with the president of the United States. And not that there's ever a good time to be sued by a porn star, but now in particular, when you're seeing a real rift between the president and his own party, after his stance on tariffs. When you see one of his top advisors, who the party, for the most part, really supported, Gary Cohn, leave, for this timing now, to have this subject come up when you're already seeing tensions within the party, to have Republican and Republican leadership now answer questions about this. You see how difficult this becomes, not only for the president. You saw how difficult it was for Sarah Sanders, his spokesperson. But now you're going to have party leaders being asked these questions, as well.

Now, look, a cynic may say, well, it takes us away from the tariff conversation. And every day there's a different headline. But one can't imagine how difficult this must be now for a Republican leadership, in particular, but Republicans across the country to have to answer these types of questions and to remain silent.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, Wolf, one thing that was actually confirmed by Sarah Sanders we should mention here is that she confirmed that Donald Trump is Dennison. That wasn't confirmed until she made the statement about there being an arbitration. Until that point there was a blank line with the officials, "D.D.," and a man named Dennison. It was not confirmed it was actually Donald Trump. And now with the statements that she's made --

BLITZER: David Dennison and Peggy Peterson.

COATES: -- she's essentially said, David Dennison, Peggy Peterson. Where was Donald Trump in this? Now you have Sanders saying, "Well, he -- Donald Trump already won arbitration." That's a very, very huge concession to have made.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Gloria.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: The side show is becoming center stage now. You know, we were all sort of scratching our heads and saying, "You know, it's kind of interesting that, in this day and age, this question about a president and a porn star hasn't really bubbled up to become sort of a full-throttle scandal, because there's so much other incoming from the White House on all kinds of issues. Whether it's chaos, whether it's, you know, trade tariffs, you know, whatever." Whatever it is.

[17:35:16] But now it seems to me as if this side show is becoming the main stage. Because it is a question of is this president Dennison? I mean, do we have -- do we have a president that was using a false name in a payoff scheme to a porn star? And where did the money come from? And why was it done? And all those other kinds of questions. And were there more?

I mean this opens an entire Pandora's box. And as Dana said rightly so before, it may not -- it may not matter to his hard base, but what about his evangelical support, which has been so strong? And will the president himself have to address this issue at some point directly?

You know, I think these are questions now that -- that are out there. And it's another headache for him, aside from the Russia investigation.

BLITZER: And we just got a statement. Our Drew Griffin actually just got a statement from the attorney representing Stormy Daniels. The attorney, Michael Avenatti, saying this to Drew, "Earlier today, Mr. Cohen, through his attorney, Mr. Lawrence Rosen, further threatened my client in an effort to prevent her from telling the truth about what really happened. We do not take kindly to these threats. Nor will we be intimidated."

Laure, a very strong refraction her attorney.

COATES: Of course it is. But you know what else doesn't take kindly to people violating it? A firm contract. If it is a valid contract, then people's attempts to try to undermine it fatally and to disclose information in a nondisclosure agreement is also a problem for people.

So you have some prerogatives that are competing on both sides. But you know, Wolf, the idea of this as a side slow is accurate. But

it also dovetails with the larger issue here. There is a reason the American people should care. Not simply because it's about a porn star, and it's salacious. But the whole notion of this is about transparency and democracy. And the idea that people are fighting about whether or not there was collusion with an outside foreign nation like Russia, about the notion of, well somebody trying to influence unnecessarily our democracy.

Well, if you're not disclosing information with campaign contributions that are given, or that things are going to benefit your campaign, what, 11 days prior to a general presidential election, it dovetails perfectly here. It's not just about porn, and I'm not just pornsplaining. But it's also about the notion of trying to ensure there's transparency and democracy; and this is an affront to it.

BASH: And it's not just about breaking a contract. I think at this point it is high level enough that contracts, you know, whatever. We need to know the answers to what exactly happened, and there's enough out there. There are enough crumbs out there that we need to see the full -- the full site (ph).

COATES: And also, Wolf --

BLITZER: And we're going to -- and we're going to see see if the FEC, or the FBI and Robert Mueller, if any of them begin an investigation.

Very quickly, go ahead, Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Well, I would just say, well, one thing we're not talking about is Bob Mueller so maybe that's something that the president would see as a good sign. We're not talking about Russia today.

But then you go back to the larger picture. And so what happens now when you want to interview his top adviser, including family members like Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump. You ask them a question about a porn star. Is she going to say, "Well, I can't talk about that, because it's my father"?

And it goes back to so many of the other issues that we have dealt with. And when you hear Sarah Sanders answer all of these questions with, "Oh, well, you have to deal with this person's individual lawyer" or what have you, it's just unheard of in a White House, an administration, dealing and answering these types of questions.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to have a lot more on this. Hold on for a second. We're going to have a lot more on this coming up. We have to move on. We have an update also coming into THE SITUATION ROOM on an amazing story, a former Russian spy poisoned at a shopping center in the United Kingdom. British authorities are now naming the substance used in the attack, and they now say the man was specifically targeted, as was his daughter.


[17:43:43] BLITZER: British police believe a former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned by a nerve agent. The pair were found unconscious in a public area in southern England, and a police officer who arrived on the scene is also hospitalized.

Let's go live to CNN senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh. Nick is over in London's Scotland Yard. What are you learning, Nick?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a staggering change, frankly, in an event that occurred about 4 p.m. on a lazy Sunday afternoon in a shopping center in a rural town of Salisbury.

Sergei Skripal, a former spy who defected, working for Britain's MI-6, then swapped and found himself in rural England, visited by his daughter Yulia from Russia. Very close, in fact, to the birthday of his son, who died recently, along with his wife. A sad family tale. We've gone from that moment on a bench there to a remarkable revelation from British police. This is what they said just hours earlier.


ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER MARK ROWLEY, METROPOLITAN POLICE: Having established that a nerve agent is the cause of the symptoms, leaving to us believe this is attempted murder, I can also confirm that we believe the two people originally who became unwell were targeted specifically.


WALSH: Now of course, the key question is, who else may potentially have been contaminated? You've heard about the police officer who arrived on the scene there. There were others who have since been released from the hospital.

How was this nerve agent, which the British police are very key -- clear to say they know specifically the identity of, who potentially administered this nerve agent, and where did it come from.

Only a small number of countries potentially have that capability. V.X. or Sarin, too, the potential nerve agents, you could claim, were involved here.

Many, of course, because of the history or Mr. Sergei Skripal, are pointing back towards his former employer, Russia, and that could have massive geopolitical ramifications here in Europe, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Obviously, Britain is going to be taking this very, very seriously. What do you think they're going to do?

WALSH: There's a limited toolbox, frankly. The British Foreign Secretary -- the Commonwealth Secretary of State here, Boris Johnson, said they will, quote, respond robustly if they could prove that a foreign power was behind this.

There's a lot of Russian money, though, here in the U.K. Their relations have always been, frankly, for the last year or so, at a very low point indeed. But they don't have a particularly large amount of options here necessarily. Diminished power, frankly, for the U.K.

But this calls into question exactly why Russia might have chosen to be behind this. As I said, the fingerprints may lead quite clearly back to one particular foreign power supplying a murder weapon of this complexity.

And this isn't the first time Britain has been in this situation. Twelve years ago, Alexander Litvinenko was murdered by a radioactive poison called Polonium 210. That was traced straight back to Russia.

People are asking exactly why they necessarily go through this all over again, just about 11 days before Russia's presidential elections, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll get more information, of course. Nick Paton Walsh at Scotland Yard in London. Thank you.

Coming you, the latest in the porn star payoff scandal rocking the White House right now. Was the President of the United States aware of hush money paid to Stormy Daniels as part of a cover-up of their alleged affair?


[17:51:38] BLITZER: The White House is now scrambling to contain the latest fallout from the Stormy Daniels hush money scandal.

Controversy surrounding Donald Trump's alleged 2006 affair with the porn star has become a headache for the President despite his tendency to boast about his sexual relationships during his many years in the public eye.

So why does the Stormy Daniels scandal now stand out? Brian Todd is working this part of the story for us.

Brian, tell us more.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, with all the allegations of groping, inappropriate advances, and worse from other women, it's Stormy Daniels who President Trump and his attorney, Michael Cohen, spent the most time trying to keep quiet.

Looking at all these cases tonight, we found Daniels has exhibited a unique ability to keep her case in the public eye and to give President Trump and Cohen headaches.


TODD (voice-over): Of all the women who have made claims about Donald Trump, including the 15 who accused him of inappropriate sexual behavior which Trump has denied, Stormy Daniels is the one who seems to drive Trump and his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to distraction. Even though Trump and the porn star had an allegedly consensual affair.

In a new lawsuit, Daniels and her lawyer claim Cohen tried to silence her as recently as last week.

RICHARD LEVICK, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, LEVICK: She may have proof, whereas other women may have come forward and it's their word against his, however credible she may be. She alleges or infers that she's got text, she's got video, she may have pictures.

TODD (voice-over): A key exhibit in Daniels' new lawsuit, the nondisclosure agreement Daniels and Cohen signed shortly before the 2016 election which repeatedly refers to potential texts and images.

LEVICK: People will focus enormous attention on the salaciousness of it, and that will be very difficult for the President to run away from.

TODD (voice-over): The Daniels case also may cause Trump and Cohen more headaches, observers say, because of everything Daniels has done to publicize it.

From capitalizing on the alleged affair with high profile appearances at strip clubs to an interview with "In Touch Magazine" five years before the hush money payment where Daniels gave lurid detail of her alleged encounters with Trump, saying things like the sex was textbook generic.

Trump and Cohen may also be concerned about the other people Daniels told about all this. She confided in fellow porn star Alana Evans.

ALANA EVANS, ACTRESS: I knew that she had met Donald, and she had expressed to me what had happened in the golf tournament.

TODD (voice-over): And there are four other people listed as having been told by Daniels about the alleged affair before the nondisclosure agreement was signed. Could Trump and his lawyer also be trying to control the damage to the President's marriage?

Since the allegations broke, first lady Melania Trump has sometimes taken separate transportation to public events and didn't go with her husband to a conference in Davos, Switzerland.

Divorce attorney Nelson Garcia has handled cases where salacious details have been made public.

NELSON GARCIA, PARTNER, THYDEN GROSS AND CALLAHAN LLP: These situations are very stressful. And the more exposure that there is like this, the more public publicity there is about such actions, even if alleged, do always have an emotional effect.


TODD: Observers say the fact that this alleged affair apparently started just a few months after Melania Trump gave birth to their son, Baron, only compounds the pain and embarrassment for Mrs. Trump and could be another important reason why Trump and his lawyer have tried to suppress as much publicity about this case as possible, Wolf.

[17:55:04] BLITZER: All right. Brian, thanks very much.

Coming up, more on the breaking news. The White House is now struggling to explain whether President Trump knew about the hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about an alleged affair. But Daniels is suing the President, saying that agreement is now invalid and revealing stunning new details.


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news, Stormy's new front. Tonight, the White House is responding to a porn star's new lawsuit against the President.

[17:59:57] Stormy Daniels is now going public with their alleged affair and her claim of being paid hush money. Stand by for a powerful new accusation by her lawyer.