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Trump Unhappy Over FBI Raid; Warrant Included Medallions; Response to Syrian Attack; Trump With Emir of Qatar; Trump Cancels Trip; Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired April 10, 2018 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[12:00:10] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Kate.
And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing another very busy news day with us.
The president is described as in a rage. This after federal agents seize records from long-time Trump attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, including material related to the porn star Stormy Daniels.
Plus, warships are on the move and the Pentagon preparing military options for response now to that chemical attack the president blames on the Syrian regime and its Russian patrons.
And the FaceBook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, faces Senate questions today about Russian election meddling and misuse of personal data. His prepared opening statement, which includes an apology, let's just say it's not getting a lot of likes from lawmakers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The apology tour or contrition sonata simply will no longer work. There has to be a commitment to change the business model.
These repeated apologies again and again and again over many years simply fail to excuse the fact that they monetize information, they sell it, and there need to be rules that protect privacy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We begin the hour with the president described by friends and advisers as furious and enraged, but also by one as, quote, clearly a little shaken. The anger is hardly confined to the phone calls the president makes and takes while watching cable news. Attorney-client privilege is dead, the president tweeted this morning. A total witch hunt.
The rage, of course, follows Monday's dramatic search and seizure at an office and hotel room used by the president's long-time personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen. The payment to the porn actress, Stormy Daniels, is one of the issues under investigation. The records seized include bank records and Cohen's communications with clients, including the president. It's important, very important, to remember the process here. The
number of steps taken and the high bar of probable cause needed to serve a search warrant on an attorney. The special counsel took evidence to the deputy attorney general. He decided that evidence was credible. And he decided it was best to pass it along to federal prosecutors in New York. They, then, took the evidence to a judge, who approved the warrant. That's the process. The president, though, does not see this as law and order.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys. A good man. And it's a disgraceful situation. It's a total witch hunt. I've been saying it for a long time. I have this witch hunt constantly going on for over 12 months now. And it's a disgrace. It's frankly a real disgrace. It's a -- an attack on our country in a true sense. It's an attack on what we all stand for. So when I saw this and when I heard it, I heard it like you did, I said, that is really now in a whole new level of unfairness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: You can hear the president's frustration there.
With me to share their reporting and their insights this day, Eliana Johnson of "Politico," CNN's Jeff Zeleny, CNN legal analyst, former federal prosecutor, Michael Zeldin, and CNN's Sara Murray.
Michael, I want to start with you.
The president calls this a witch hunt. He says they broke into his attorney's office. I want you to lay out -- you're a former federal prosecutor. You've worked on special counsel investigations. How high is the bar to go in and say, we want to serve a search warrant on an attorney, on an attorney who happens to represent the president of the United States.
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Pretty much as high a bar as can be set in the criminal justice system. First, of course, the Justice Department recognizes the importance of the attorney-client relationship, and so they have a series of regulations that govern when that can occur and how that can occur. And it is the last step that in an investigative process that allows it. So you have to minimize, meaning, look for other things first that get you the same evidence.
Then it has to be signed off on by the attorney general, the United States attorney for the district in which the search is going to taking place, the assistant attorney general for the criminal division, and probably involvement of senior people at the FBI. So that whole group has to look at this thing and say, is this the right thing to do? That is, do we have probable cause to believe that a lawyer may have committed a crime and that the evidence of that crime is in his office? After that, they have to take it to a judge and say, judge, this is
our belief, what do you think? And the judge has to sign off on it and then they proceed.
KING: And so you have the special counsel, goes to the deputy attorney general, who goes to the acting U.S. attorney in New York, who goes to a federal judge, and the president calls it an attack on our country.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And he called it a break-in, none of which are true.
ZELENY: Obviously this is something that is very methodical. It is something that likely would not have been done if it hadn't been warranted. But the president, as we know, is fuming about this. And he's canceled his trip to South America later in the week. He was supposed to leave on Friday.
[12:05:07] He is dealing with this. We'll see how he deals with this. But there's no question that this, of all the moments we've had, of all the inflection points that we've all sat here and covered, this, I believe, we could see it on the president's face yesterday, he's the angriest and most people believe he will do something about it.
What is that something? You know, potentially firing Rod Rosenstein. Potentially firing Jeff Sessions, which he's been reluctant to do. Less so Robert Mueller, you know, because he does not have that direct authority.
KING: Well, the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, came up again yesterday as the president -- he's at a meeting with military leaders. He's in the middle of what could be one of the most consequential decisions of his presidency, how to respond to the use of chemical weapons. We know a year ago he launched tomahawk cruise missiles. We know military options (ph) are coming. The president decides during this meeting with military leaders to talk about this. And among his targets, as you noted, the attorney general.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The attorney general made a terrible mistake when he did this and when he recused himself, or he should have certainly let us know if he was going to recuse himself and we would have used a -- put a different attorney general in. So he made what I consider to be a very terrible mistake for the country. But you'll figure that out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: This -- it's hard to describe when you talk to people about this. The president, again, on phone calls, he's venting, he's raging, he's threatening to fire everybody. That doesn't mean anything, what he says in those phone calls we often know. But to the idea that he goes back to his default, this is Jeff Sessions' fault. We've seen this from day one of the administration. The president has to know, there is nobody closer to the president
than Michael Cohen. There's nobody who knows as much about the president than Michael Cohen. To the point Michael Zeldin just made, for them to get a search warrant on a personal attorney to the president of the United States to seize his phone, seize computers, seize bank records, the president has to be a little rattled by this.
ELIANA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "POLITICO": Well, what I think is so interesting is that Bob Mueller referred this to the southern district of New York because it was outside of his purview investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election and about the Trump campaign's involvement in that. So this could open up an entire new avenue in -- where the president and his associates, his personal lawyer, is being investigated. So the president is now being hit from another side, and I think he has got to feel incredibly under siege.
KING: And to that point, we have some new reporting now on just what the FBI was looking for in Monday's raid at Michael Cohen's office.
Our crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, joins us now with new details.
SIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, John. So as we've been reporting, there were -- the FBI executed these warrants. They were searching for information relating to Stormy Daniels.
But we've now also learned -- our team here has now also learned that the FBI was seeking documents related to Michael Cohen's ownership of taxi medallions. And these are these highly coveted -- used to be pretty lucrative medallions for yellow taxis in New York City. He apparently owns several of these. The FBI, we're told, was seeking information regarding his ownership of this, perhaps the financing, financial documents and business records in connection with this. We don't exactly know why they would be looking for this information, but for whatever reason, the FBI and the southern district there in New York, the U.S. attorney, has decided that that is also now part of their investigation, John.
KING: Shimon, appreciate the new reporting.
As this fans out, we learn this in these investigation. Again, Trump allies are going to say, what is taxi medallions? What is the financial -- what are Michael Cohen's personal businesses have to do with President Trump? But the special counsel came into this investigation, brought it to the deputy attorney general, who said, apparently, this isn't your purview. I'm going to turn it over to the feds in New York.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, right. And, look, if you were Bob Mueller and you are investigating Russian collusion and potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian officials and you run across another potential crime, Bob Mueller -- it's not in his mandate, but it's also not in his persona to just turn away and pretend like that didn't exist. And so, you know, if you look at the regulations that regulate the special counsel, he did everything that you are supposed to do, assuming all the reporting is correct on how this went, which is to then take this to Rod Rosenstein and say, how would you like me to proceed?
You know, the other thing that's pretty disingenuous about the president's anger toward Jeff Sessions is that, you know, if Michael Cohen did something wrong, if the president and Michael Cohen did something wrong together, that's on the two of them. That's not on Jeff Sessions. Again, Jeff Sessions is the attorney general of the United States. He's not the president's personal attorney. He's not there to protect President Trump from being held accountable for anything he might have done wrong or protect the president's associates for being held accountable for anything they might have done wrong.
And that is one of the thing that this president still cannot understand. He sees everything like this as a personal attack and he sees the people he put in these jobs as people who should be loyal to him and to protect him, not to people who should be loyal to the United States of America or to the Constitution.
KING: Right. And to that point -- to that point, the president says it's an attack on -- it's an attack on our country. It's out of bounds, he says. You know, there's a process for this. Michael Cohen's attorneys can now go to court. They can challenge this warrant. They can go before a judge and say, this is out of bounds. They have no right to this privileged information. They can air their case.
[12:10:10] Paul Manafort has done that, saying that the special counsel is outside of his bounds here. Well, the response was -- and you look at this. It's hard to see on television. You're going to see 27 pages here with a lot of black in the back. You get to the back of these documents. This is evidence presented by the United States government to a judge, but blacked out for us. There's 20 plus pages of this. Paul Manafort challenged the indictment saying, what does this have to do with Russia? And the special counsel filed this motion with all of these redacted pages saying, actually, I'm also looking into things you did as Trump campaign chairman.
So when you push back, you run a risk, don't you?
ZELDIN: Yes. And, in fact, in this case, one of the safeguards built into this system is that when evidence is seized from an attorney's office, it's seized by a special team, a privileged team, of the FBI. They look at those documents and make determinations as to what is privileged or not privileged. They can go to court for a court to look at it as well. And then, as you say, John, the defense attorney has the right to look at it. And once all that is settled, then the evidence, which is culled -- you know, sort of clean or unprotected evidence goes to a team of untainted prosecutors who then can proceed with the case.
And the other thing I wanted to make sure that we follow is that Shimon's report that this involves medallions and perhaps other financial crimes makes this much more sensible. On a one-off, $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels as hush money, it doesn't seem like you'd need this big a stage of activity. And so this implies to me this involves Michael Cohen, his business operations, his work, perhaps not as personal counsel to Donald Trump, but for a corporation Trump Organization. And so we may just be seeing the small bit of what this is really about.
KING: I just want to circle back before you leave us to the point that there will be people out there, understandably so, saying, wait a minute, the president does have a right, whether you agree or disagree with the president of the United States, he has a right to legal counsel. He should be able to have sensitive, privileged conversations with his attorney.
You are confident there's a process in place, that there's nobody abusing sensitive, privileged document. That there's a process in place that if there are papers from the president that might have something that investigators would love to see but they have no legal right to, that that will be protected?
ZELDIN: That's exactly right. The -- the way the privilege works is, first, there has to be a communication between the client -- let's pretend it's Donald Trump here -- and his lawyer, Michael Cohen. That communication has to be for the purpose of obtaining a legal opinion. It's not for, should we buy this piece of property or not buy this piece of property? And then court will look at those communications and say, are they privileged? And if they are attorney-client privilege, then the prosecutors cannot breach that privilege. There's a sacrosanct rule about that and that's what the court will figure out.
KING: Appreciate your insights. Everybody else stay put.
When we come back, the president's personal fixer now in legal jeopardy. Why the president cannot say Michael Cohen is say just the coffee guy.
[12:17:01] KING: Welcome back.
The president today abruptly canceled plans for a trip to Peru this weekend, saying he needs to skip the Summit of Americas to stay home and deal with Syria. That news caught a lot of White House aides off guard. So did this. The White House Homeland Security adviser, Tom Bossert, announced his resignation today. And sources telling CNN it was not voluntary. Bossert now the second senior administrator official to quit after being told the new national security adviser, John Bolton, wants to bring in his own team.
This turmoil comes at a very delicate time. The president weighing military options after promising the Assad regime in Syria will pay a big price for again using chemical weapons on its own people. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham offered this advice last hour.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Trump says he's going to pay a big price. If at the end of the day he doesn't pay a big price, then President Trump becomes like Obama, weak in the eyes of our enemies and unreliable in the eyes of our allies. So this is the most consequential decision he will make. He said Assad's going to pay a big price. That big price has to include the destruction of his air capability and putting him on the target list. Anything less I think is not a very big price.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon.
Barbara, we're about to hear from the president in the Oval Office. But as we wait for that tape, what options are on the table?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, it starts with getting those coalition leaders on board. The president talking to the British leader, Theresa May, and the French leader, Emanuel Macron. He definitely wants them to be part of any military action. We know that.
Now, the big question is, what targets would the U.S. and these countries hit inside Syria? If they are going to go after the airfields, as they did last time. This latest -- this latest attack was done by helicopters. Shutting down airfields by cratering them with bombs isn't going to do very much. Helicopters can move around.
If you're going to go after the chemical storage sites, it is going to be tough. That could lead to dispensing chemical agent in the air.
So the big question is, are you going to go further? Are you going to go downtown Damascus and try and go after what Assad holds cherished, his command and control, his intelligence structure, his ministries? That is the big question.
KING: A very big question. And, Barbara, continue your reporting.
We're going to listen now into the Oval Office, the president and the emir of Qatar.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much.
It's a great honor to have the emir of Qatar with us. He's a friend of mine. I knew him long before I entered the world of politics. He's a great gentleman. He's very popular in his country. His people love him. We're working on unity in that part of the Middle East, and I think it's working out very well. There are a lot of good things happening.
Also, we have a gentleman on my right who buys a lot of equipment from us, a lot of purchases in the United States, and a lot of military airplanes, missiles, lots of different things. But they've been great friends in so many ways. And we're working very well together. And I think it's working out extremely well.
[12:20:02] So, emir, thank you very much for being here. Appreciate it.
SHEIKH TAMIN BIN HAMAD AL THANI, EMIR OF QATAR: Thank you very much, Mr. President. I am very happy and honored to be here. Thanks for this invitation.
Our relationship between Qatar and the United States has been more than 45 years. It's a very strong, solid relationship. Our economic partnership is more than 125 billion, and our aim and goal is to double it in the next coming years.
Our military cooperation is very solid, very strong. As everybody knows, that the heart of fighting terrorism is from our (ph) base and thank God it's been a very successful campaign against the terrorist groups around our region. Lately, before I come here, I was in Tampa. I visited the CENTCOM. And we met with the generals. And it was a very important visit. And it shows how strong our cooperation is between the armed forces.
Of course, we speak today and we see the suffering of the Syrian people. And me and the president, we see eye to eye that this matter has to stop immediately. We cannot tolerate with a war criminal. We cannot tolerate someone who kills more than half a million of his own people. And this matter should end immediately.
Thank you very much, Mr. President.
TRUMP: Thank you.
And Tamin and I have been working for a number of years now, actually, even before the fact, on terrorism and we're making sure that terrorism funding is stopped in the countries that we are really related to, because I feel related. But those countries are stopping the funding of terrorism. And that includes UAE. It includes Saudi Arabia. It includes Qatar and others. A lot of countries, were funding terrorism and we're stopping it. It's getting stopped and fast. Very important. And you've now become a very big advocate and we appreciate that.
THANI: Thank you, president.
We -- I want to make something very clear, Mr. President. We do not and we will not tolerate with people who fund terrorism. We've been cooperating with the United States of America to stop funding terrorism around the region. We do not tolerate with people who support and fund terrorism.
I would like to also thank the president for him being involved personally in solving the GCC crisis. He's been very helpful. He's been supporting us during this blockade. And I would like to also thank the American people for being very supportive. And his role is very vital to end this crisis in our region.
Thank you, sir.
TRUMP: Thank you, emir.
THANI: Thank you.
TRUMP: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, everyone. (INAUDIBLE) .
TRUMP: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're leaving now. Thank you! (INAUDIBLE). Thank you, all! We're leaving now.
TRUMP: Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Thank you, all! Thank you, all!
KING: You see the president there not open to taking any questions from the pool of reporters brought into the Oval Office. He's meeting there with the emir of Qatar. The emir, a, number one, saying he sees eye to eye with the president on the Syrian crisis. Number two, thanking the president for United States intervention resolving some disputes between Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia as those tensions still continue. We'll leave that conversation for another day.
Sahil Kapur of "Bloomberg" joins our conversation.
The big issue before the president -- and this is one meeting in which we'll discuss is, is what to do. He laid out the term big price. Those are the president's words. And he said he would have an answer within 24 to 48 hours, which means sometime today we expect him to get a briefing on military options.
At a time of turmoil, the president now not going to the Summit of the Americas, deciding he needs to stay here, stay in Washington. You reported he didn't really want to go anyway. So -- but as the president looks at these options, what is his test? What -- how does he define big price?
JOHNSON: Well, I think there are a couple things at play. The first is that the president drew sort of his own red line a year ago when he said that the use of chemical weapons by Assad was unacceptable, and that he, unlike Obama, was going to respond in this case. And he sees it as a way to distinguish himself from the previous president, which is something he likes to do.
So now he's sort of boxed in. When Assad uses chemical weapons, there's video of it, and he seemed -- but that said, he seemed OK with that. He seemed to want to respond to this. And he said we'll pay -- he'll pay a big price but didn't define that. So I think we don't know what the president means by that.
There was a principles committee yesterday among the president's top advisers where they discuss what sort of a response we're going to get. And I anticipate that it will come at some point tonight, though we're hearing about a potential bombing. But that was not effective last time. So I think that the White House is grappling with how to do something that will have an impact in deterring this sort of behavior from the Syrian president going forward.
SAHIL KAPUR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "BLOOMBERG": The president's in a very tough place, you have to say. It was just last week that he talked about, you know, the need to unwind these wars, the need to bring -- pull back U.S. presence in the Middle East. He campaigned on that. It has a lot of resonance on the left and the right after two decades of what seems like an endless war. He said we've gotten nothing in return for it. And this kind of red line that he's drawn, that the United States is not going to stand for these chemical weapons attacks.
[12:25:20] So whatever he does -- I think if he does, you know, put some action out on the table, he's caught between the same puzzle that bedeviled President Obama on this, how do you take down Assad without having ISIS grow in strength, while countering Iranian influence and, you know, boosting what we call the modern opposition, this disparate coalition of people that are not really together in the first place. No one's been able to solve that puzzle.
KING: No. and the president inherited a mess. And this is one of the world's biggest intractable problems. So as even Trump critics out there, you've got to take a deep breath. They are -- there are no good options for the president. But he's also raised the bar for himself saying that Moscow should pay a price as well for being the patron state of the Assad regime.
I want you to liven here. This is Robert Ford. He was the ambassador to Syria under the Obama administration. Now, a lot of Republicans are already saying, well, what did they do in Syria. That's a legitimate point. But Ambassador Ford making the case here that, yes, the president should respond, but he should be prepared when he responds to invested in this for a while.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT FORD, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SYRIA FROM 2010-2014: He uses chemical weapons because of his manpower shortage. He has a military incentive to use chemical weapons. We have to make him pay a military price in order to compel him to think twice or three times before using chemical weapons again. Establishing deterrence will probably take a series of strikes over the coming weeks and months in order to get Assad to understand we really mean business this time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Weeks and months. We really mean business this time. I get the policy point and the ambassador's probably correct about sending a message to Assad and sending a message to Putin that the United States is serious about this. But that runs counter to this president's instincts and publically stated desires to get out, right?
MURRAY: Well, that's right, he does want to get out. And we also, as we say a lot, he doesn't really invest in these kinds of issues over the long term. I mean he went and he did the missile strikes and said he was extremely moved to -- and horrified to see chemical weapons used against, you know, civilians and against children in specific. And now, you know, we're sort of in the same boat all over again and it looks like they're considering a lot of the same options. But how do you get a different outcome if you're just looking at the same options over and over again?
Now, this is a president that we know is inclined to point to the previous administration and say, you know, you got me in this mess and that may very well be true, but he's the president of the United States now. And so if he wants to differentiate himself from President Obama, he's going to have to do something different. Whether the willpower is there, I think is the question.
ZELENY: And I think also important to point out, we can't separate this, the president is very much distracted and focused on something else now. He's focused on the Justice Department. So there's every reason to believe that he will accept the advice and recommendations from his military leaders who were sitting in the room stone-faced yesterday. But they are working hard on presenting this. I agree with you on the timeline. This evening certainly would fall into what he was talking about.
So I do not believe he's focused squarely on this. He knows he has to deal with this, but he is not going to pick an option out of left field here. I believe he will pick an option out of one that's presented to him.
KING: Well, and the question -- the menu is, what are the options today and what is the outlook for next week, next month and beyond? We'll keep an eye on that as, everybody notes, it could be a consequential several hours ahead of us today.
Up next there, though, back to the FBI's extraordinary raid of Michael Cohen's office and the attorney's very long relationship, friendship, with the president.