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Offices of Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen Raided. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired April 9, 2018 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Something we can agree on. Thank you so much. That's it for THE LEAD. Turning you over to Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM with more on this big breaking news story. Thanks for watching.
[17:00:11] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. FBI raids Cohen. Federal agents raid the office of President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. Cohen's attorney says the action follows a referral by the special counsel, Robert Mueller. And a source says the records seized include documents relating to porn star Stormy Daniels.
Trump's fixer. CNN has learned the president was aware of the raid before the news broke tonight. A source tells CNN the president is watching developments play out on television.
Atrocious attack. The president condemns what he calls an atrocious and barbaric chemical attack on innocent Syrians, vowing everyone involved will pay a price. He says a decision on the U.S. response and a possible U.S. strike will come in the next 24 to 48 hours.
And meeting Kim Jong-un, President Trump predicted a very exciting summit with the North Korean leader, saying plans are well underway. We're learning those plans include secret direct talks with the communist regime.
I'm Wolf Blitzer, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news. The FBI raids the office of President Trump's personal lawyer and long-time fixer Michael Cohen. A source says some of the documents had to do with the porn star Stormy Daniels. Cohen's lawyer says the raid stems from a referral by the special counsel, Robert Mueller. And President Trump says he'll decide shortly how the United States will respond to what he calls a heinous chemical attack and Syrian civilians. He's vowing that everybody responsible will pay a price, saying that could include Russia's Vladimir Putin.
I'll speak with Congressman Ruben Gallego, Armed Services Committee. And our correspondents and specialists, they are all standing by with full coverage. But let's begin with the breaking news. The raid on President Trump's lawyer's office. Let's get straight to CNN justice correspondent Evan Perez.
Evan, update our viewers on what you're learning?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're learning from Stephen Ryan, the attorney for Michael Cohen, the FBI carried out a series of raids against Michael Cohen, trying to seize documents.
Now, he says some of these documents are attorney-client privileged material. We don't know what exact locations were searched by a federal agent, but we do know, according to Stephen Ryan, that these raids were carried out with the authority of the U.S. attorney in Manhattan who had gotten a referral from the special counsel, Robert Mueller.
What this means, Wolf, is that now we have at least two investigations that are now squarely affecting the president of the United States. Obviously, Michael Cohen is the personal information and long-term personal attorney for President Trump. And I'll read you part of what Stephen Ryan says as part of the statement today. The U.S. attorney's office for southern district of New York executed a series of search warrants and seized the privileged communications between my client, Michael Cohen, and his clients.
I have been advised by federal prosecutors the New York action is, in part, a referral from the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Wolf, what this means is that Robert Mueller found some information as part of his investigation and determined that this was outside of the jurisdiction of his office.
This is something that he would do in consultation, talking to Rod Rosenstein, who is the attorney general that is overseeing -- supervising this investigation, and they determined that the right place to -- to investigate this matter is the Manhattan U.S. attorney.
Again, it falls outside of the jurisdiction of Russian meddling, 2016 election, which is what Robert Mueller is said to be investigating.
I'll continue reading a little bit more from Stephen Ryan's statement on behalf of Michael Cohen. He says that "The conduct of this investigation for the search warrant is completely inappropriate and unnecessary. It resulted in the unnecessary seizure of protected attorney-client communications between a lawyer and his clients. These government tactics are also wrong, because Mr. Cohen has cooperated completely with all government entities. Of course, Michael Cohen has gone in and talked to congressional investigators. So far as we know, he has not yet spoken to Robert Mueller's investigators. And that's been a big question, Wolf, of why that is. There's a couple of reasons why that is. Perhaps the special counsel believes that he may be a person greater than a witness, somebody who's a subject of the investigation. And so they don't necessarily need to talk to you, because you could be in criminal jeopardy as a part of this investigation.
So there's a lot of reasons why Michael Cohen has not yet, at least according to people close to him, has not yet spoken to the special counsel. Now, they have the option. They could have easily called up Stephen Ryan and said, "We would like you to turn over these documents. We would like you to turn over all of the following information."
But they chose to do a raid against multiple locations connected to Michael Cohen, and that tells us they are willing to use very, very aggressive tactics, Wolf, most likely because there was a concern about the destruction of evidence.
[17:05:14] BLITZER: And I take it, Evan, there's no statement yet from the U.S. attorney in Manhattan or from the special counsel?
PEREZ: We reached out to the attorney's office, the FBI and the special counsel. All declined to comment. Again, the only reason why they would make this referral from the special counsel, Robert Mueller's office, too, the Manhattan U.S. attorney, because they believe that it is something that is not within the four corners of what this special counsel is supposed to be doing.
BLITZER: It's pretty extraordinary, Jim Sciutto, that they raid the office of the president's long-time lawyer and so-called fixer.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question. A tactic that they used with the former campaign chairman Paul Manafort in his home in Virginia. The reflexive refrain from Trump and his supporters since the start of this investigation, whenever charges have come up, this has nothing to do with the president. No connection to him.
In fact, we know that's just belied by the facts. Here you have, based on Gloria Borger's reporting, that some of the documents seized from Cohen's offices there relates to Stormy Daniels, of course, someone who is alleged to have had an affair with the president and was paid off days to the election. You look at Rick Gates as his former deputy campaign chairman. The criminal charges he faces, yes, dealing with business dealings in Ukraine prior to the election, but it's our own reporting that, actually, Mueller wanted to get information from him, as well, as the question of collusion.
Michael Flynn, his crime, lying, some will say just lying but about conversations he had during the transition before joining the president's national security team. So these investigations are connected to the president, whether they lead to wrongdoing by the president we don't know it, but you know, you can't say this has nothing to do with Mr. Trump.
BLITZER: I want to bring in Josh Campbell, our CNN law enforcement analyst, former FBI supervisor agent.
Josh, this is not an easy decision for the special counsel, Robert Mueller, or for the U.S. attorney in Manhattan to go ahead and authorize a no-knock raid like this on the office, the office of the president's long-time personal attorney.
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: It's not. And an enforcement action of this magnitude is going to start at the highest level of the Department of Justice. It's going to be signed off by senior DOJ officials. In fact, it's a matter of policy, because when you're dealing with an elected official or someone that falls under the category of a sensitive investigative matter. That goes straight to the top.
Now, FBI agents swore (ph) out warrants in front of judges all over the country every single day, but something of this significance is going to be coordinated. Now let's walk through the time line, because this whole idea and some of the talking points that we've heard as far as this being privileged communication and somehow off- limits. And, you know, the FBI agents in New York are going to gobble up all this information they're not entitled to.
Let's walk through how that works. Once the green light is given from DOJ, the U.S. attorney's office in the southern district of New York will work with the FBI and craft an affidavit based on the facts that they have, which will then be presented to a judge. And it's up to that judge, an independent magistrate, to look and say this is something I see probable cause. I'm going to authorize this warrant, and in a warrant, you have to specify exactly what you're looking for.
Now in some cases if you're looking for, for example, a weapon or a computer, that's easier to see. If it is a document, then, you know, when you walk into a law firm and you see thousands of documents, you don't know what you have.
And here is why the whole argument that is somehow off-limits, I don't think passed the smell test, because the FBI in cases of this significance, when you have sensitive investigative matters, they'll create what they call a clean team, and that is a set of FBI agents who aren't part of the original investigation. They're not going to take this to prosecution or to trial. Their job is to come in and without knowing that -- you know, the underlying facts to look and say, "Does this document in our possession fall within the four corners of the affidavit, and is this something to which the government is entitled?"
If that's the case, then that information will be handed off to the team that's working the investigation, and they're off to the races. If it doesn't fall within the scope, the people that are working the investigation never see that information, Wolf.
BLITZER: I want to bring in Anne Milgram. She's a CNN legal analyst, former New Jersey attorney general, a federal prosecutor. It sounds to me, Anne, and you know better, a lot more about this than I do, that if they go with a no-knock raid like this against the president's attorney, he would be more of a target of this investigation, as opposed to a subject. A subject that might or might not eventually be charged with a criminal crime. A target almost always is.
ANNE MILGRAM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, just to -- just to be clear and sort of using the legal terms that the Department of Justice would use. At the point which you would actually want to target. That's the point at which you have evidence that you believe it's sufficient to charge them with a crime.
What usually happens with a search warrant, with the legal requirement for a search warrant, is that you have probable cause to believe that a crime was committed and that, if you execute the warrant, that there will be evidence of that crime that is found in the location. It's certainly -- does mean that Mr. Cohen is in serious legal jeopardy and in trouble.
There's no question about it. You do not go for a search warrant lightly. It's one of those things you need to have sufficient evidence, as Josh just said, where you have someone who is actually going in front of a judge, an assistant U.S. attorney based on law enforcement information to say, "Look, we believe this crime has been committed, and here's the evidence of it."
So it's at a high level. It's a very serious matter, for sure.
BLITZER: Yes, Joey Jackson is with us, as well. The attorney for Michael Cohen, Stephen Ryan, says this was an unnecessary seizure of protected attorney-client communications between a lawyer and his clients, and clearly, the president of the United States is his major client, has been for at least a decade. Now, what's your analyst?
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, my analysis is as follows. Good evening to you, Wolf. Good evening to Anne Milgram, who I worked with many years ago.
Look, here's the facts. From a defense attorney's perspective, you're going to talk about privilege, right? And the fact is, is that communications between attorney and client are, indeed, privileged, and they're not to be touched. And that has to be respected. Why?
Because when you meet with a client, you want to ensure that the conversations are clear that they're accurate and your client tells you everything. Now, let me pivot for a minute. To the extent that any communication may be predicated upon fraud, there's something called the crime fraud exception. And that would take it out of the privilege.
What does that mean? In the event you have conversations about destroying evidence. No privilege applies. In the event a client has a conversation with you about suborning perjury, no privilege applies. In the event that a client has a conversation about hiding or concealing assets, no privilege applies.
So we could talk about Michael Cohen and his liability, but the bigger liability we don't know. That's why there are warrants. That's why there's the gathering of information. They're looking at the conversations, what if any conversations he had with the president of the United States. This is his lawyer.
And so there would be some kind of track record, presumably, and forensic analysis done on e-mails, text messages, phone calls, whatever there is, to determine what the nature of those conversations were or are. And if there are any type of fraudulent activities in there, it extends well beyond Michael Cohen, it extends to the president himself.
So this is a very significant development, Wolf.
BLITZER: And if -- they're also investigating the U.S. attorney now, based on the referral from the special counsel, the $130,000 payment, the hush-money payment from Michael Cohen to Stormy Daniels. They're investigating whether that was legal under the law. I assume they're looking into potentially a campaign finance violation.
MILGRAM: Yes. I -- I believe that they're potential campaign finance violations that they could be looking at.
And I would just add, to Joey's point, which I think is an important one, that what is protected and what isn't protected also would depend on what role Michael Cohen was playing.
I mean, this is a really unusual situation, and I don't need to remind anyone watching, but lawyers usually do not pay $130,000 for their clients. So in many ways, Michael Cohen is actually not acting as a lawyer here. He is really acting as a member of the organization, and where that falls when it comes to attorney-client privilege, I don't know yet.
But I think there are real issues of what was actually going on in these communications and what role Michael Cohen was playing.
BLITZER: You know, Evan, it's also interesting. That the attorney representing Michael Cohen says this really wasn't necessary. because Michael Cohen was fully cooperating with House and Senate committees, fully cooperating with other government entities, including providing -- he says, Stephen Ryan, thousands of nonprivileged documents to the Congress and sitting for depositions under oath.
PEREZ: Right. And I think we have to remember that Michael Cohen is not just any lawyer. I mean, this is not just an attorney-client privilege or an attorney-client relationship with the president. He was very close and involved with the Trump Organization. He -- we've seen communications that have been produced part of the investigation showing that he was involved in pitching this Trump Tower deal in Moscow.
So he's more than just a regular attorney who might have that privilege protected. But let me just add real quick, we've now heard from the law office, which was raided this morning.
BLITZER: Which law office?
PEREZ: This is the law office of Squire, Patton, Boggs in New York, at 30 Rockefeller Center. That's where at least one of the raids occurred. According to Stephen Ryan, there are a series of raids. We don't know the other locations, but we have a statement now from the law firm, Squire, Patton, Boggs, which had reached an arrangement from Michael Cohen.
BLITZER: We're renting out space, office space in the law firm.
PEREZ: They said that the firm's arrangement with Mr. Cohen reached its conclusion mutually and in accordance with the terms of the agreement. We have been in contact with federal authorities regarding their execution of a warrant relating to Mr. Cohen.
These activities do not relate to the firm, and we're in full cooperation. What they're trying to make sure that everyone knows is that this law firm, Squire, Patton, Boggs, is not at all connected to whatever Michael Cohen is under serious legal jeopardy over, Wolf.
And I think I -- underscoring what we've already talked about a little bit here, that the president relied on Michael Cohen, again not just for legal advice but as part of this larger business arrangement that they had. And so that's the reason why, if federal authorities believe that -- as part of that legal work that he was doing, that that violated the law, that that is part of an investigation, and that is reason that is not protected by attorney-client privilege.
BLITZER: You know, and Jim, the fact that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, referred this to the U.S. attorney in Manhattan said, "You know, there may be a serious criminal problem here. You guys investigate." That's a really big deal.
SCIUTTO: Well, Robert Mueller, who's a capable prosecutor in his own right, found his team, and he found evidence that they thought was important enough to pass on to the authority that they believe -- of course, the New York district attorney that would be right to pursue that information.
The other thing I would say is that we just -- it bears mentioning in the context of this. This is happening. The president's personal attorney, his office raiding -- raided as the president himself is considering military action overseas. Right?
I mean, arguably his -- his, you know, most difficult decision, his -- his most sacred duty, using U.S. military action abroad in response to this attack in Syria.
And what we know about the president, based on his 14-some-odd months in office, is that you might say there are questions about how well he can compartmentalizes. But you have a serious decision to make here about a U.S. military action abroad in the midst of something, which affects his personal attorney and, therefore, could very well affect him, as well.
BLITZER: It's interesting. And let me ask you. Because when he took the job, Robert Mueller -- Rod Rosenstein gave him his instructions to the deputy attorney general. He was in charge, because the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, had recused himself.
He was told, "You have to investigate any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump and" -- this was the most important part -- "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation."
So even if there's something, a potential criminal act having nothing to do with a coordination between the campaign and the Russians, they could go ahead and investigate and do a referral along these lines.
MILGRAM: Well, I think the first point is that where we've seen that Mueller's work is happening really does focus on this question of was there a conspiracy with the Russian government to influence the American election? And then the things related to that, like obstruction of justice, lying to investigators and so on. Where I think Mueller would do exactly what we've seen here is, if he
came across, in the course of that legal investigation, if he came across evidence of another crime that's not related to the really core fabric of his investigation.
It makes sense to me to do exactly what we've seen here, which is basically to say, "Look, there's potential evidence of criminality, but it's not part of my core mission, so I'm going to refer it to a local U.S. attorney's office." And they do handle all types of federal criminal matters on a daily basis.
So it strikes me that he's probably trying to stay within the heartland of his mandate, and that this is probably something where he legitimately got evidence as a result of the investigation he's doing that then made him believe there was criminal -- evidence of criminality beyond -- beyond the clear scope.
BLITZER: That's a good point. What do you think, Joey?
JACKSON: You know, I think what happens is we have to be mindful. When investigators investigate, they uncover critical things. And the fact is, is no matter what your mandate, if there's something else that comes up, Wolf, you just -- you just don't ignore something that may be critical or something that may be criminal.
And so notwithstanding the fact that the core focus of the investigation has to do with collusion, has to do with what, if any, obstruction or whatever could be having, if there are other information is, you know, out there regarding any criminality, they're going to either investigate it itself as part of their mandate or like here. They're going to refer it to a responsible U.S. attorney's office within the district that bears the allegation of the crime.
And so look to this and, in the course of the investigation, what other matters could arise. But I have to tell you that this is very significant in light of the fact that there are communications between Mr. Cohen, perhaps, and the president of the United States. What they say, what those communications are about are important.
Final point, Wolf, and that's this. I'd also like to know how and what he was acting as? Was Michael Cohen acting as the attorney to the president? Was he acting as a family member? We've heard a lot about their relationship. Father-son relationship. You know, a person who's very important to the president and his family. The fixer.
And so was he acting as his attorney? If not, there's another issue and reason why the privilege may not apply to the information that was taken by the federal government.
PEREZ: I think it's important -- it's important also to remind people that there's a lot of unanswered questions here. There, the bank that flagged this payment when it was made, because they thought that it could be some --
BLITZER: The payment to Stormy Daniels. PEREZ: The payment to Stormy Daniels, $130,000. They flagged it to
the Treasury Department's criminal arm to make sure to see if there was anything wrong here. And so that's the first thing.
And beyond -- we cannot diminish the importance of election law, but this also brings up IRS, the -- you know, your tax information, because the way -- the way this payment was done, it could -- it could be a gift to Donald Trump for his benefit, and if that wasn't, you know, accounted for properly, there could be tax laws that could have been broken here.
[17:20:17] So again, there's a lot of questions that have been raised and Michael Cohen has frankly given a variety of answers. So I think that's the reason why you see the U.S. attorney in Manhattan going through the parts of this to make sure that, if there is any criminal violation, that they would be the ones to investigate and prosecute if there is one.
BLITZER: We're staying on top of the breaking news. The federal agents raid the office of Michael Cohen, the president's longtime personal lawyer and fixer. A source tells CNN the president was aware of the raid before it actually happened. He's been following developments. He's watching cable television.
And President Trump condemns what he calls a barbaric chemical attack on Syrian civilians. He says he'll decide soon how the U.S. will respond and vows that everyone involved will pay a price.
[17:25:37] BLITZER: Following the breaking news, we're just now hearing about President Trump's reaction to today's FBI raid, targeting his personal attorney, long-time fixer Michael Cohen.
Let's bring in our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny. You're working your sources. What are you hearing?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we know that the president was aware of this before it became public this afternoon. Not before the raid happened, but before it became public.
And the reality here is important to point out. Michael Cohen is essentially a family member of this president. Fewer people are closer to him who have been at his side longer than Michael Cohen.
Only four days ago on the back of Air Force One, the president referring questions to Michael Cohen about Stormy Daniels, about that payment of $130,000.
The president talks to him all of the time. He meets with him frequently. I am told this afternoon the president was watching news coverage of this happen in the residence of the White House. He is now in the West Wing. Of course, he's following many other things, potential strikes in Syria, as well.
But this is something that is captivating the president's time and attention, and it's also likely sparked anger from him. This is signed off, of course, by the Department of Justice, by Rod Rosenstein.
We know that the president has been furious at the widening scope in his view of this Mueller investigation. So it is going to be critical to watch how he reacts going forward here to see if he blows up in fury about this whole Mueller probe or not.
But we do know the president was advised in some capacity. We don't know how. After the raid happened, before it became public and he was watching this news coverage this afternoon. I do not know if the White House official is saying he has spoken with Michael Cohen or not. But it's hard to imagine he would not have, Wolf. They talked all the time, I'm told.
BLITZER: And not last weekend but the weekend before, Michael Cohen was down in Mar-a-Lago, the president's resort in Palm Beach, Florida, and they had dinner, right?
ZELENY: Exactly. And this is, you know, an example of how close they are. As all of this is going on, of course the president has so much on his plate, but this Stormy Daniels matter -- other personal matters also important to him. So he is very close to Michael Cohen, one of his top advisers.
So this is the closest any type of an investigation or raid has gotten to the president. Important to point out how the president will react to this. We don't have any of his reaction, if he's angry, but we do know that he was watching all of this unfold and he had a head's up about it before it was in the press, Wolf.
BLITZER: And presumably, he's going to be pretty angry at the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who we're simply assuming authorized this -- they wouldn't go ahead with this kind of move unless he approved it.
ZELENY: Certainly. And this is something that the president has been already quite upset about, as he views a broadening investigation into the Russia probe. We've always talked about that red line. Would there be a red line that the Justice Department and Mueller's team went over if it went beyond the Russia investigation into his finances. So the president, only the president can answer if this crosses a red line to him. The White House has not saying anything at this point.
Up until now, the White House has been referring many things to Michael Cohen himself, and now he, of course, is the subject of this. So as this unfolds, key to watch the president's mood in all of this.
And if this perhaps sets him off even more about the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who of course, is serving -- overseeing all of this, because Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, recused himself, which is why the president is still furious at his own attorney general.
BLITZER: Once you get a statement, if we get a statement from the president or from the White House, let us know. Jeff Zeleny reporting. Thanks very much.
And joining us now, Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego of Arizona. He's a member of the Armed Services Committee, an Iraq War combat veteran. Congressman, first of all, what's your reaction to this development involving the president's long-time fixer and attorney, Michael Cohen, his office raided by the FBI?
REP. RUBEN GALLEGO (D), ARIZONA: I wish I could say I'm surprised. This president came to Washington saying he's going to drain the swamp, and it seems like he just brought the swamp with him with all the cast of characters that are being indicted or investigated around him, you know, and more importantly, I think we just have to reiterate. You know, Rod Rosenstein has to stay in his job.
I know the president is going to take this personally, but he is doing a professional job. And we need to continue making sure that he stays independent and is not influenced by the president.
BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, because now the president is going to have to deal with not just one, Robert Mueller Russia probe, but a second probe underway by -- undertaken at the referral of the special counsel in New York, the U.S. attorney now investigating this other development, including the Stormy Daniels matter. The president is not going to be very happy about this.
[17:30:18] REP. RUBEN GALLEGO (D), ARIZONA: No, he's not. And I just want to remind the viewers, it's only Monday, so God knows what's going to happen this week and when your lawyer, your personal lawyer needs a lawyer to defend itself, it's probably -- you're probably in a pretty rough patch.
But again, this is the kind of drama the president brings with him, and this is the kind of instability he's bringing with him and, at this point, I'm not even surprised.
BLITZER: Not one but two federal probes. How do you think the president will respond?
GALLEGO: Well, I'm sure we'll be looking and seeing the 5 a.m. tweets in the middle of the night, but the most important thing that matters to me is that he does not go after Mueller. He does not try to replace Rod Rosenstein and that we allow these investigations to go forward in the independent manner that they're supposed to and for everyone else to comply with the FBI and not try to do any cover-ups, and that's what I think, at the end of day, matters for me.
BLITZER: This no-knock raid on Michael Cohen's office in New York means federal officials had to convince a federal judge there's probable cause, evidence that a crime existed. What do you think a Congress should do in response to this?
GALLEGO: Again, you know, right now Congress, Republican-led Congress has not actually had the fortitude to actually stand up to the president and to reinforce Mueller's position to assure that he doesn't get taken off this case. So right now Congress at a minimum should make sure the president
doesn't interfere, that we continue to message those willing to message that we want Special Counsel Mueller to stay in his spot. And again, to not interfere. And then that's what I largely worry about.
We've seen these kind of kangaroo-court investigations have been started by the House Intel Committee and other committees to basically interfere and to throw up dust in the air, but at the end of the day that is not helpful. We want to see justice to come through and let -- just the investigation go through and see what comes out at the other end.
BLITZER: All this is happening, Congressman, coming in the wake of this widely suspected Syrian chemical attack that killed a lot of people, including a lot of Syrian kids. President Trump says he'll have a decision on what the U.S. will be doing over the next 24 to 48 hours. He says all options are on the table.
What sort of response would you like to see from the president, from the Trump administration?
GALLEGO: First of all, all options are not on the table. He doesn't have full authority under the current AUMF to attack a non-terrorist country or another entity. So I disagree with that. He needs to inform Congress what his plans are.
Second, I think this is -- goes back to him not being a good leader. Two days ago he's talking about leaving Syria, it's not a coincidence then, all of a sudden, that there's this very aggressive action by the Syrian government. And now he wants to turn around and commit us more into Syria.
He needs to calm down, work with his defense -- his defense analysts and his defense advisers to come up with a plan, talk to us, talk to your allies and actually be consistent about what you're going to do. This inconsistency is the problem. It creates this vacuum. It creates this leadership vacuum that allows actors such as Syria and such as Russia to act in such an aggressive manner that, you know, really destabilizes that area.
BLITZER: Congressman Ruben Gallegos, thanks so much for joining us.
GALLEGO: Thank you.
BLITZER: Coming up, we'll have more on the breaking news. Federal agents raid the office of President Trump's personal lawyer, and a source says records seized include documents related to the porn star Stormy Daniels.
[17:38:29] BLITZER: We're following breaking news. FBI agents raided the office of the president's long-time attorney and fixer Michael Cohen today after New York prosecutors received a referral from the special counsel, Robert Mueller. A source says documents containing information about the porn star, Stormy Daniels, were seized. Our experts and analysts are standing by. First, let's go to our
chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. You're over at the White House. What are you hearing over there, Jim?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is starting to sink in in Trump world, and Trump world is not pleased obviously, in all of this. I talked to a source close to the White House who is saying that, based on his own conversations with the president of the last several months, and knowing full well that the president still made decide ultimately to fire Robert Mueller or fire Rod Rosenstein, that in the words of this source, Mueller has gone rogue.
Now keep in mind, as we've been saying, the special counsel's office referred this to the U.S. attorney, and that is how this raid on Michael Cohen's office came about. But that is not sitting well inside Trump world. They see this as Robert Mueller, the special counsel, going outside the lines of the investigation, going outside of the Russia collusion investigation, Russian meddling investigation and bringing in just about anything possible into this case.
And I think that is ultimately something that the president is probably very closely thinking about right now. What should he do as a result of all of this? And obviously, you know, people who advise the president from time to time feel very strongly that the special counsel has essentially gone rogue here and gone outside the boundaries of the investigation.
[17:40:08] The question, of course, becomes what does the president do about it? What can he do about it?
And of course, we've talked about this time and again. If the president decides to fire Rod Rosenstein, that obviously opens the door to removing the special counsel, but of course, we've heard from lawmakers up on Capitol Hill even inside the president's own party saying, "Wait a minute. If the president does this, he is risking impeachment." He's risking members of Congress going and passing legislation to appoint their own special prosecutor.
And so, you know, this -- this is very much game on right now, is the very first initial impression that I'm getting from Trump sources, that they feel very strongly that Robert Mueller has gone outside the bounds of this investigation -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And Dana, how significant is it? FBI agents show up at Michael Cohen's office in New York with a search warrant, a no-knock raid. They go in, and they take all these sensitive documents, including documents involving the president of the United States.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I mean, you just can't underscore how remarkable this is. And what a moment this is.
This is the president of the United States, his personal attorney, somebody who is not just his attorney but somebody who -- as, you know, we've been talking about, who's very, very close to the president and his family and have been for quite a while. The fact that the FBI went into his office, we believe, perhaps where
he's been living, and seized this kind of information and, according to Cohen's lawyer, seized privileged documents, privileged communication with his clients, it says a lot.
Now also the fact that Robert Mueller referred this to the -- to the New York attorney general suggests that he saw something that was perhaps non-Russia related but something that he thought really deserved to be looked at, and that's why they went in with guns blazing.
But I agree with what Jim was saying. I have heard from Trump sources over the past hour plus that they are just holding their breath, waiting to see how the president reacts to this, because this goes incredibly close to home for him.
BLITZER: Yes. You can only imagine how he's going to be reacting -- Chris.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: A couple things. One, we know -- and Dana touched on this -- we know that the Mueller probe, broadly speaking, we know that that is a sensitive topic area for him and one that he is prone to take to Twitter or other public venues to express his discontent.
Then, let's not forget, Donald Trump is surrounded by less people he trusts today than ever before in the White House. Now, I know it's 15 months. It's not like he's been in the White House for seven years. But that is important. No Hope Hicks, no Rob Porter. Now Johnny McEntee. His family, yes, still involved, Ivanka and Jared. But not totally clear sort of where they stand on it.
John Kelly, the chief of staff, I mean, this is everything that we've heard about Donald Trump. This is a president alone. This is a president without strictures on him, without real close confidants and advisors to trust.
And Dana touched on this. One of those people -- I think Jeff Zeleny talked about it, too, in the previous segment -- was Michael Cohen. That he could sort of talk to. Well, he can't -- now you can't talk to him.
So isolated and the fact that you're dealing with, I think, something we know bothers him. A dangerous concoction.
BLITZER: Carrie, the lawyer representing Michael Cohen, Stephen Ryan, says they took privileged documents, privileged communications between my client, Michael Cohen, and his clients, one of his clients being the president of the United States.
You can only imagine the scene. They show up, all these FBI agents, with all these boxes and just start throwing documents and tapes or whatever into those boxes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't know what they took. All we know is his side of it. What we do know this is not Mueller versus Trump. It's likely a judge approved this. The attorney general -- U.S. attorney of New York approved this. Also, Rosenstein approved this. This is not just Mueller. It's like, probably three people with legal authority deemed this a search worth doing. So I think it's important -- this is not a random search. It suggests Cohen is under some legal jeopardy and that, you know, whatever Trump tweets will probably not be the most accurate description of this.
But in reality, this is a huge legal situation for him and one I would argue is not just about what Robert Mueller is doing.
BLITZER: And you know, Dana, they had to prove probable cause --
BLITZER: -- to go for a raid like this. And, you know, we're also learning -- Gloria Borger, Pamela Brown -- they took all sorts of bank documents, bank records in the process.
BASH: That's right. Look, there are the Russia issues and Russia questions, which clearly, this is not directly related to or else Robert Mueller would have done this himself because that's directly the purview of his investigation. And then there's the Stormy Daniels situation which Michael Cohen obviously is knee deep in.
According to sources who Gloria and others are talking to, the Stormy Daniels -- either information about it or how the money got to her, perhaps others were part of this dragnet. So the question is how is this -- what does this mean for not just the Mueller investigation, but for perhaps other investigations that we didn't know about or didn't even occur until Mueller found whatever it was that allowed the -- or encouraged the judge and others to do this raid.
BLITZER: Authorized the raid of this.
BASH: Authorized the raid.
BLITZER: Everybody stick around. There's a lot more we're following on the breaking news. We'll have much more on the target of today's FBI raid. The man known as the President's fixer.
[17:50:42] BLITZER: Our breaking news, today's FBI raid targeting Michael Cohen. Cohen not only serves as President Trump's personal attorney, at least for a decade, he's also known as the President's fixer.
CNN's Brian Todd is joining us. Tell us more, Brian, about what Cohen actually does for his boss.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're told there's virtually nothing Michael Cohen wouldn't do for his boss. Today he endured an FBI raid, but he's also been known to threaten, to cajole, to cut any deal he needs to to get his top client out of some pretty serious jams.
MICHAEL COHEN, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: The next president of the United States of America.
TODD (voice-over): Michael Cohen says he will always protect his client, Donald Trump.
COHEN: He's a good man. He's a man who cares deeply about this country.
TODD (voice-over): For 12 years, Cohen has been Trump's personal attorney, or, as many call him, Trump's fixer. One former Trump campaign official says Cohen is a less cool version of Ray Donovan, show time's fictional Hollywood fixer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Oh, Jesus, Ray.
TODD (voice-over): But if Cohen is less cool than Donovan, observers say he's every bit as tenacious.
MARC FISHER, CO-AUTHOR, "TRUMP REVEALED": Michael Cohen is not averse to threatening people, he's a guy who carries a pistol in an ankle holster. He makes it clear to people that he's a tough guy.
TODD (voice-over): From sometimes ruthlessly maneuvering against people who have damaging information on Trump to trying to facilitate business deals for his boss, observers say Michael Cohen consistently doggedly displays the one characteristic Donald Trump values most.
FISHER: There's very little in the world that's more important to Donald Trump than loyalty and Michael Cohen has shown for more than a decade that he will hold confidences and that he will fight for Trump in the way that Trump likes and that is to hit hard, to always hit back harder than you've been hit.
TODD (voice-over): Cohen recently said he used his own personal funds to, quote, facilitate a payment to the porn star shortly before the 2016 election without Trump's knowledge or reimbursement. Something legal experts say is almost unheard of.
MARK GERAGOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is extraordinary and I would tell you that probably 99.9 percent of the lawyers in America would never even contemplate doing this.
TODD (voice-over): In response, Cohen tells CNN his legal arguments and documents in the Daniels case are airtight and that he believes its Daniels who's now liable for millions in damages based on her conduct. But Cohen's also being criticized from a pure public relations standpoint.
MICHAEL RUBIN, CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS SPECIALIST: I think the entire thing was either reckless, naive or completely incompetent.
TODD (voice-over): Crisis Communications Specialist Michael Rubin says it was a bad idea to believe paying Daniels off would make her go away. What should Cohen have told Trump? RUBIN: Tell him this isn't going to work. That's what he really should have done. There was nothing they could have done to make this go away. So dealing with it honestly is pretty much the only choice they have.
TODD: Cohen defends himself on that score as well, telling us that he hopes Daniels and her attorney are enjoying their 15 minutes of fame, that he thinks that will diminish significantly when a judgment is entered against her. Now as to the allegations of an affair, Mr. Cohen reiterated his strong denial of the affair on several separate occasions.
BLITZER: Brian, has Michael Cohen been pressed on why he facilitated a payment to Stormy Daniels if he didn't believe the accounts of the affair were true?
TODD: He's been pressed repeatedly on that, Wolf, including by us. Cohen says even though he doesn't think the encounter ever occurred, he said he made the payment as kind of a defensive maneuver. A couple of months ago when he acknowledged making the payment or facilitating that payment, Cohen said in a statement, quote, just because something isn't true, doesn't mean that it can not cause you harm or damage.
BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Brian, thanks very much.
Coming up, the breaking news, new details emerging right now as federal agents raid the office of President Trump's personal lawyer. Sources say they've received documents relating to porn star Stormy Daniels. What role did the Special Counsel Robert Mueller play in triggering this extraordinary raid?
[17:59:19] BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Trump's lawyer raided. The FBI seizes records for Michael Cohen apparently including documents related to his hush payment to Stormy Daniels. Why did the Special Counsel get involved and help green light the stunning move?
Trump's storm clouds as his battle with the porn star escalates. What are the legal perils for the President? Could he wind up as a witness or something more in multiple investigations?
Paying a price. The President vows to punish everyone behind the suspected chemical attack in Syria whether it's Bashar Al Assad or even Vladimir Putin. Is the U.S. preparing to launch air strikes? We're standing by to hear from the President with military leaders this hour.
And ethics review. A federal watchdog alerts the EPA that its boss may be using his office for personal gain as the scandal surrounding Scott Pruitt gross (ph), why is the President still defending him.