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Another Trump Attorney Involved in Stormy Daniels Case; U.S. Hits Russia with Sanctions for Election Meddling; Democrats Divided as Senate Votes to Relax Banking Rules; Paul & Feinstein Oppose Trump's Picks to Lead CIA, State Department. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired March 15, 2018 - 11:30   ET


[11:33:40] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And now the latest twist in the Stormy Daniels saga. CNN getting new documents that establish a direct connection between another Trump Organization employee and the effort to keep the porn star quiet about her alleged affair with Donald Trump. These documents could contradict Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen's claim he acted alone when he paid her $130,000 in hush money and that neither the Trump Organization nor the campaign were involved.

CNN's M.J. Lee is following the story.

And, M.J., you have more details. Tell us about them.

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Brianna, these documents are significant because they suggest a deeper link between the Trump Organization and the Stormy Daniels saga. Now, these documents are dated February 22nd of this year. They're very recent. And they name a woman, Jill Martin, as representing E.C., LLC. You'll remember E.C. is Essential Consultants. This is the company that Michael Cohen set up back in 2016 to facilitate the payment of $130,000 to Stormy Daniels.

Now who is Jill Martin? Her official title is vice president and assistant general counsel at the Trump Organization. And the document shows her address is the Trump national golf course of Los Angeles. You might remember that she spoke on behalf of Candidate Trump throughout the 2016 election, so she's not just some any lawyer working at the Trump Organization. And she would be now the second employee of the Trump Organization with a direct involvement in this Stormy Daniels related legal matter.

We did get a statement from Jill Martin yesterday, and I spoke with her briefly on the phone, and she insists that she made these filings, these court documents, in her private capacity as a lawyer and that, with the exception of herself, the Trump Organization is not involved in any way with Stormy Daniels or anything related to Stormy Daniels. But even though she says that, these documents certainly raise further questions about Michael Cohen's previous statement that he acted alone -- Brianna?

[11:35:36] KEILAR: Certainly does raise some questions.

M.J. Lee, for us in New York, thank you. I want to talk more about this now with CNN contributor, Larry Noble,

a former general council with the Federal Election Commission, and now with the Campaign Legal Center.

So, this is the latest link, right? Even though you have this lawyer saying, with the exception, right, this is the latest link between the Trump Organization and efforts to silence Stormy Daniels. Can you explain the significance of having this Attorney Jill Martin's signature on the arbitration documents?

LARRY NOBLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right, when it came out that Michael Cohen was involved, his answer was, I was doing this on my own, nobody in the Trump Organization knew about it. And then the e-mails came out from Michael Cohen using his Trump Organization e-mail. He said, well, people do that, they do it personally, the organization had nothing to do with it. Now we find out that Jill Martin signed the document in the arbitration, representing the consulting firm, the LLC, and used the Trump Organization address.

And her only job, as far as we know, is in the Trump Organization. She doesn't take cases on the side. So this raises the question of whether or not the Trump Organization is much more involved. One time, with one lawyer, maybe with one e-mail, you would say, all right, on his own, he did it. I never really believed that. With Jill Martin, it makes it look like the organization is involved.

KEILAR: So CNN asked Martin just, so you know the process, why is your signature on this arbitration document? The reaction actually comes from the Trump Organization. Right? It comes from the Trump Organization, despite the assertion that they're not involved. And this is what it says, that "She's working in a private capacity on behalf of Cohen's attorney. The Trump Organization is not representing anyone and, with the exception of one of its California- based attorneys in her individual capacity, facilitating the initial filing, the company has had no involvement in the matter."


NOBLE: No. It is also contradictory. It starts off by saying the Trump Organization has not been involved. And then it says with the exception of Jill Martin's involvement, the Trump Organization has not been involved. So they seem to be trying to play it very carefully. And they seem to be acknowledging there that she was working on behalf of the Trump Organization. When you say, "with the exception of this person, we haven't been involved," it means if you include that person --


KEILAR: There is an inclusion, that's right. That's a very good point, in terms of logic.

So her signature, at this point in time, when you look at the date, doesn't imply she was part of the initial transaction. That's important to note. The initial transaction of giving $130,000 to the porn star, Stormy Daniels, to be quiet. That would be consistent with Michael Cohen's original claim. There is this outstanding issue of, is this payment a violation. Right? Is this a campaign violation, a donation in kind? Does her involvement change anything about that, or the parties that could be in trouble because of that?

NOBLE: It increases the possibility that the Trump Organization is in trouble. Michael Cohen denied the Trump Organization paid for -- paid the $130,000, but now we're seeing that they have been a little bit more involved in this than we thought it initially. If this is a campaign contribution, and the Trump Organization was involved in it, then, yes, they could have made a prohibited corporate contribution.

What is -- what comes out of this is that a sense of -- this is a family organization. It is a family business, and they all move around and do different things, but when faced with what the law requires, they come out with statements that are very carefully worded to try to say they're not involved. But I can't believe the Trump Organization wasn't involved or that Trump didn't know about this. And so -- each time they deny it, something else comes out and they have to explain, except for that.

KEILAR: Larry Noble, thank you very much.

NOBLE: Thanks.

[11:39:17] KEILAR: Really appreciate your insight on this.

Coming up, President Trump's picks to lead the CIA and the State Department already facing a tough road to nomination. Republican Senator Rand Paul vowing to block both of them. We'll have details ahead.


KEILAR: We're following breaking news this morning from Washington. The U.S. hitting Russia with fresh new sanctions, all in an effort to punish Moscow for its attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee. He's also vice ranking member of the Financial Services Committee.

I want to ask you about Russia first. When you see these sanctions out from the Treasury Department that are geared towards these entities and these nationals that have been indicted by Mueller's team, by the special counsel, how do you react to that?

REP. DAN KILDEE, (D), MICHIGAN: First of all, I agree with proposing the sanctions. Back in August, early August of last year, Congress acted to authorize increased sanctions on Russia. We wrote -- myself and a few other members of Congress, wrote to the president in January and said, hey, why aren't you implementing these sanctions? Some of these individuals have actually been indicted by the special counsel. So while I support them, it does sort of beg the question to the president, where have you been all this time?

KEILAR: Some people are saying, "At last." KILDEE: Yes.

KEILAR: It sounds like you're saying, "Too little too late?"

KILDEE: No. I mean, I'm not sure it's too little. It is certainly late in the game. It sends a message that the president has been dragged into doing what most people would assume would be the right thing to do in the first place. His instinct did not seem to be to punish Russia for their nefarious behavior, whether it's elections or other sorts of behaviors. And at long last, after Congress, a special counsel, his own administration, members of Congress have said, look, you've got to do this, he comes around to doing it.

[11:45:25] KEILAR: There is also -- it came out in this one-two punch. We've got the sanctions, the joint statement from the U.S., France, Germany and the U.K. There was this question about a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in England. The U.S. is joining these other countries saying -- pointing the finger at Russia. What do you say to that?

KILDEE: Well, obviously, it is the case. We trust our friends in the U.K. that they have come to the right conclusion after all this occurred on their soil. But it is interesting that even the president's own words would be more helpful, to hear the president actually speak to the camera or speak to the American people and denounce Putin, denounce the Russian government for the steps that they're taking, would be, I think, far more powerful.

KEILAR: I want to ask you about this financial bill before Congress. It rolls back some of the protections that were put in place after the financial crisis by Dodd-Frank. It is moving through the House. You're opposed to it. Why?

KILDEE: I am. I think it goes a bit too far. The initial plan was to provide significant relief to community and regional banks. But this raises the threshold to banks with assets of $250 billion, which 25 of the 40 largest banks, many institutions of that size, are systemically significant. That's why Dodd-Frank applied the regulations, these additional scrutinies to these institutions because the effect they could have on the economy. So, for me, it is not so much that we shouldn't provide relief to smaller banks. This just goes too far and, I think, undermines much of what we intended in Dodd-Frank in the first place.

KEILAR: Sixteen Senate Democrats, including Heidi Heitkamp, voted for this. Let's listen to what she said about it.


SEN. HEIDI HEITKAMP, (D), NORTH DAKOTA: They don't understand where we live. They don't understand who we are. They don't understand that we live in communities and that we support and protect each other. Instead, they write one regulation that is supposed to be one- size-fits-all.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: Congressman, I want you to comment on that. As you just said, this raises the threshold. So it's beyond just community banks. You know a thing or two about this. You founded Michigan's First Land Bank, which is really a regional bank that Senator Heitkamp is talking about there. How do you react to what she said?

KILDEE: Look, I agree with what she's saying. I just don't think sentiments apply to an institution that is essentially a national institution that, you know, engages in the kind of risky investments that could have $220 billion, $230 billion, $240 billion in assets. We saw some institutions of that very size precipitate the crash of 2007, 2008, which threw this economy into the greatest recession since the Great Depression. I agree with what she is saying. And I think much of --


KEILAR: You think the bill doesn't mesh with what's she saying?

KILDEE: The bill just goes far too far. We get into larger institutions -- again, 25 of the 40 largest banks are not small community banks that are really intended to serve a community or a particular market. They're large institutions. They're systemically significant.

KEILAR: Congressman Dan Kildee, thank you for being with us in studio.

KILDEE: Thank you.

KEILAR: Coming up, more breaking news, this time, coming to us from Capitol Hill. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein raising new questions about the president's pick to lead the CIA. We're going to have details for you after the break.


[11:53:09] KEILAR: President Trump's picks for secretary of state and CIA director could face opposition from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Republican Senator Rand Paul is one of those folks. He is already making it clear he's a no vote on both. Now Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein sounding the alarm about the president's CIA director pick.

I want to bring in CNN congressional correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty.

Sunlen, tell us what Senator Feinstein wants to see. What information does she want to find out?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She wants information specifically, Brianna, about Gina Haspel's time at the CIA in the past, her role in overseeing some Bush-era interrogation tactics. The fact she ran a, quote/unquote, "black site prison." So Dianne Feinstein is writing a letter to Haskell and the CIA, calling for them to declassify documents that detail her role. The Senator saying in a letter today she wants a full accounting of Haspel's role, a complete picture, she says, of her involvement in the program as they consider her nomination to be at the top of the CIA.

KEILAR: And what are Rand Paul's concerns?

SERFATY: He has the voiced a lot of the same concerns. He said he wants a full accounting of what role she played in that program. He's been pretty vocal in recent days. Yesterday, he was on Capitol Hill likening her role to that program as a role in torture. He called her a cheerleader for waterboarding. Of course, Rand Paul not only voicing concerns and saying, point blank, he will vote against Gina Haspel. But also raised serious reservations and said he cannot vote for Mike Pompeo to be secretary of state. He's concerned about his stance, as he says, in the past about Iraq, Iran, and also Mike Pompeo's defense of enhanced interrogation techniques. So Rand Paul making it clear he is creating some big roadblocks for the administration in getting potentially both of their nominees through -- Brianna?

[11:55:06] KEILAR: It's clear that this nomination process, certainly for the CIA director, is -- it was going to be tricky. Right? There were going to be some moments, some testy moments. But what are the possibilities that she might not be concerned? Is there a real possibility with that or with Pompeo as secretary of state?

SERFATY: That's right. You note Republicans up here on Capitol Hill have a very slim, 51-49, majority, so that means they can lose very few Republicans when these nominees are voted on. The fact you have Rand Paul speaking up and saying he's a no to both of those. You also heard concerns from Senator McCain. Unclear if he will actually vote against them if, indeed, he would vote. So the question is about the math here. At this point, it seems likely that they could get through, but we don't know if other Republicans will join him -- Brianna?

KEILAR: It's too soon to say but it will keep things interesting.

Sunlen Serfaty, on the Hill for us. Thank you.

The Trump administration slapping Russia with a new round of sanctions over election meddling. The Kremlin is now preparing its response. We'll have details ahead.