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New Revelations Emerge on Michael Cohen Raid; Will U.S. Attack Syria?. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired April 11, 2018 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: In that taping released a month before the presidential election, or perhaps, as they would have liked it, not to have been, but, on top of that, the other piece of breaking news that's just been turned around, this involves the federal judge in the whole Stormy Daniels case.
So, let me just read you a bit of this. This federal judge in California -- this is Judge James Otero -- ordered attorneys for Stormy Daniels, Michael Cohen, Donald Trump and Essential Consultants, LLC -- that was company that Cohen established to paid off Daniels and that $130,000 -- they're now to meet and to figure all this out by Friday, April 13, which is two days from now.
So, M.J. Lee has just sat down. She's going to tell me a little bit more about this. Paul Callan with me, Jennifer Rodgers.
And they were saying this is pretty typical. It's called a meet and confer. But tell me exactly what this judge has asked of these lawyers.
M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is basically -- you summed it up pretty well, that he would like the legal representations of both sides to get together and basically hash things out, because there's been a flurry of filings in court, both sides wanting different things, obviously.
And in the big picture, I think the easiest way to understand this is that the lawyers involved in representing Donald Trump, Michael Cohen, they want things to go to private arbitration. They do not want all of this playing out in the open. Already, a lot of this has been discussed in public, but they would like to keep everything behind closed doors as much as possible.
What Stormy Daniels and her lawyer are arguing for is, they want as open a process as possible and they are asking for things like an expedited trial and expedited discovery process. And so a lot of the paperwork that you're going back and forth, it's very complicated.
And you can all assess that better, but this is sort of the big disagreement right now, the big picture disagreement.
BALDWIN: But this whole notion, Paul, have you watched "A.C. 360" lately with these two lawyers on TV screaming at each other and calling each other thugs? This is what you're getting from these attorneys on live national television. How are they supposed to hash this out?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: I'm surprised they all haven't been held in contempt of court by the federal judge who is handling the litigation.
I have never seen attorneys fighting about a case one on one on television, with Jeffrey Toobin acting as the referee.
BALDWIN: Right. Right.
CALLAN: So, it's a strange sight.
But this is an indication why the judge I think is getting fed up, because this meet and confer requirement is whenever you do something major in a federal case, you're supposed to sit down with your adversary, have a conference and try to work it out, so you don't have to go to the judge.
But obviously the temperature has gotten so hot, these guys are fighting with each other so much, the judge now has said sit down, hammer this stuff out before you come to me with motion practice. So, I think you have got an angry federal judge saying figure it out yourself before you come to me.
BALDWIN: Speaking of Avenatti, I want to play some sound.
This is Avenatti reacting to Don Lemon reacting to his phone conversation with Michael Cohen last evening. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: It's moronic under the circumstances. And it really shows...
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: That Michael Cohen should be saying anything?
AVENATTI: Any experienced attorney would tell a client not to be speaking to the press the day after the FBI executes three search warrants on your homes and your offices. This is just crazy. It's ludicrous.
When I heard that he had spoke to Don Lemon, I didn't believe it until I saw Don's report. And lo and behold, I believe, Don, that it happened. It's beyond stupid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: So, Jennifer, the fact that Michael Cohen did hop on the phone with our friend over here at CNN Don Lemon, said that he was respectful, understanding what the FBI was doing, frightened him, frightened him for his family, but Avenatti calls him moronic for having this conversation with Don.
Was it moronic? JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: I think any lawyer
would counsel his client. And now in this position, Michael Cohen is a client, not a lawyer -- would say don't talk to the press, don't talk to anyone, let's go to ground for a little bit and see what we're facing and then kind of make some decisions from there.
Yes, I think moronic is strong, but I think any lawyer would counsel that Michael not speak to the press.
The other piece of news that we have been discussing -- and Jeff Zeleny, our senior White House correspondent, can help us sort of piece this together, is the news that also dropped just a few minutes from "The New York Times," the fact that all and part of this raid involving Michael Cohen earlier this week reportedly also was looking for evidence related to -- and how it's related to, we don't know yet -- but that "Access Hollywood" tape that dropped a month before the presidential election.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, this is very interesting.
Certainly, what it says to me is that the authorities, the prosecutors are trying to get a better sense into what the exact role that Michael Cohen was playing in the Trump campaign in the final days leading up to the election.
It clearly -- that, of course, was a bombshell that came out in October back 2016. It seems like a long time ago, of course. But it seems to me they are trying to piece together a bit of what was going on in those days leading up to the election, because we do know -- we didn't know at the time, of course -- that Michael Cohen was the person who was leading the effort here for the hush money.
ZELENY: He was writing the check of $130,000 through that illegal entity he set up.
So, it seems to me they're trying to create more of a better sense of what was going on in those days, what Michael Cohen exactly was involved in. It certainly speaks to why the president may have been angry earlier this week when he found out about that, because this, of course, was a dark period of his campaign.
Many people thought it would end his campaign. It didn't, of course. But Michael Cohen, we don't know if played a role in the "Access Hollywood" tape or not. He was working for the president at the time, of course, Mr. Trump, of course, before he became president.
But it certainly signals to me they're isolating that period of time. We will have to find out exactly what else they were looking for. But we do know that know it was a variety of things they were looking for in his office, in his hotel room, not simply this, the payment to Stormy Daniels and the other person as well there. So, certainly one more piece of detail here, perhaps explaining a bit
why the president was so unglued the other day -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: So furious. Jeff, thank you so much.
Paul Callan, I haven't heard from you on this. But, again, just reminding people, when we talk about Michael Cohen, he's not just a lawyer. He's -- like Kaitlan was saying earlier, he's like the president's pit bull. And to know -- and, again, the key line in this "New York Times" piece, it's not clear what role if any Mr. Cohen played, but the fact that the agents were seeking documents related to the tapes revealed this new front in the investigation.
What are you thinking?
CALLAN: Well, I can see why the president has been upset, because Cohen has sort of been his right-hand man for a long time, way before the presidential election, fixing problems that the president had, fixing -- negotiating nondisclosure agreements with women who allege intimate relations with the president.
Now, how could he tie into the "Access Hollywood" tape, AKA, the Billy on the Bush tape.
BALDWIN: Billy on the bus.
CALLAN: Billy on the bus tape.
CALLAN: But -- well, I suppose -- I don't want to go that road.
CALLAN: But, in any event, the tie could well have something to do with something the president said, which was -- remember, there were rumors coming out of the White House that the president was saying that's not his voice on the tape, that the tape was tampered with.
BALDWIN: Even though he apologized.
CALLAN: Yes, he did subsequently apologize for it.
But now, retrospectively, he's wondering whether it's his voice on the tape. Now, I'm wondering, did Michael Cohen get involved in some negotiations relating to that tape? Did they come across information about the tape? There's got to be something there, because if that tape is specifically mentioned in the federal search warrant, that means a federal judge heard evidence and had probable cause that something related to that tape was criminal in nature.
Now, it's totally speculative at this point, but obviously it has something to do with Cohen's role as a possible fixer for the Trump administration. BALDWIN: You're nodding.
RODGERS: Well, I agree to some extent.
I also think, though, that it meets a pattern. Right? He has a pattern of these, what ultimately are campaign finance violations, giving benefits to the campaign, with the Stormy Daniels silence, the Karen McDougal silence. This may be part just of kind of establishing that pattern.
It didn't succeed here because the tape came out, but maybe this is just a plan for evidence of OK a similar pattern of activity or a conspiracy to violate the campaign laws, something like that.
BALDWIN: OK. OK. Stand by, everyone, because the White House will certainly be asked about these new developments coming up at the White House briefing in just a little bit. Of course, we will take it live, as we do.
Also ahead, Russia responding to President Trump's taunt over Twitter. Trump saying, get ready, his words, missiles are coming. The president catching both enemies and allies off-guard with that comment. Did Trump just break his own rule by telegraphing next military moves?
And is a U.S. attack on Syria imminent? What the defense secretary, James Mattis, just said from the White House. We will have a live report next here on CNN.
BALDWIN: We are back as we wait for the start of today's White House press briefing, the president taunting Russia and Syria today, telling them to get ready for missiles, more specifically -- quote -- "nice, new and smart missiles" after the alleged chemical attack in Syria.
The defense secretary meeting with the president this afternoon over at the White House. Here what's General James Mattis just said earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Have you seen enough evidence (INAUDIBLE) Assad regime (INAUDIBLE) a chemical attack? Have seen enough (INAUDIBLE) to make that assessment?
JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We're still assessing the intelligence, ourselves and our allies. We're still working on this.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. military ready right now to conduct a counter -- retaliatory strike if ordered?
MATTIS: We stand ready to provide military options if they're appropriate as the president determines. But thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Let's go straight to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, there.
And just hearing from the defense secretary. Also, we know the Pentagon doesn't comment on future military action, but what are they all thinking? What are they all sharing with you on the way the president dropped all of this on Twitter?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, that was our own Ryan Browne getting that information out of the defense secretary earlier today, and really honing in on the fact that, apparently, when this tweet came from the president early this morning, it caught everyone, including the Pentagon, by a bit of surprise, because a decision hasn't been made.
That's what Mattis is telling us there, final decision not made. We do know that they are working on it. We know that they are working on fine-tuning options and being able to present them to the White House, to President Trump for decision.
So the president saying that smart missiles are going to be used, that's pretty interesting. And that shows a lot of his hand to Vladimir Putin.
These, of course, would be Tomahawk cruise missiles most likely being fired out of the Mediterranean. And that gives the Russians an idea of where to focus their anti-air, their radars and their own missiles and Syrian missiles that could shoot down any incoming missiles.
But what's most fascinating, of course, is the political statement that the president is making, because this is the guy who for years has said he doesn't telegraph his moves to the enemy. And there he is bright and early this morning tweeting out that smart missiles are going to be used. The Russians took it all in. They know exactly what the president is referring to, Brooke.
BALDWIN: All right, Barbara Starr, thank you at the Pentagon.
Let's talk now to Fareed Zakaria, host of "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" here on CNN.
And, yes, I get it. The president tweets, aides are surprised almost every morning. But does this not take it to a different level? Barbara was talking about the specific reference to smart missiles, the fact that he's taunting war on Twitter?
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, it does take it to a new level and it does suggest, I don't know, a kind of lack of discipline even on something as serious as war and peace. But it obscures the kind of larger issue, which is that we still don't
have a Syria policy. We still don't know what we are doing in that country. But our policy seems to be a kind of series of reflexes, and Trump in a way exacerbates that problem, because all he has are reflexes.
He doesn't want to sit down and ask himself, what exactly is the goal? What is the strategy here? What will even 50 missiles do? How will it change the balance of power? Will it do anything ? None of these questions are being asked.
We're going to have this -- presumably this show of force that will make us feel good. I'm not saying I'm opposed to it. But if it were in support of then some larger strategy, it would make sense.
Assad is clearly in control. We don't have a force that can topple him, so what are we doing there?
BALDWIN: Well, you remember, a year ago, the same sort of missiles taking out the Syrian air base. And he got a lot of praise for that, big strikes.
But the criticism later was, well, now what? What is the plan? What is the strategy?
Do you think, though, any of this bellicose rhetoric via Twitter is scaring Assad or Putin at all?
ZAKARIA: No, of course not.
ZAKARIA: Look, Assad has essentially won in Syria.
He has now -- he has fully consolidated power. The possibility of kind of regime change has been vanishingly small. The Russians are entrenched. The Iranians are entrenched. Those are the people who are running Syria now.
So, the question we have to ask, the United States has to ask is, what is the strategy? Is there a strategy for some kind of diplomatic settlement that will bring peace and stability and maybe provide some aid and assistance to some people outside of Assad's area? Is it to actually try to topple Assad?
Just another 50 missiles, as I say, maybe you have to do something to demonstrate that this violation of this international norm is unacceptable, but it sure feels like it's a reflex in search of a policy.
BALDWIN: It's not like the U.S. is acting unilaterally over there. Right? It is a U.S.-led coalition.
And the fact that the president not only surprised some of his own aides with these tweets, but he surprised U.S. allies as well, from our allies' perspective on this and just also looking ahead, why should they trust the U.S.?
ZAKARIA: Yes. It's hard for them to understand. It is not even just a question of trusting. It is hard for them to understand what American strategy is. What are we trying to achieve in Syria? What are they signing themselves up for?
I think they will all be happy to do a one-shot punitive deal that, frankly, is not very costly for the United States either. But it's always struck me -- and this goes beyond Trump. This was true for President Obama as well. The Russians have a strategy in Syria. Their strategy was to support Assad, to ensure that he is not toppled, to widen his area of control.
They have put their resources behind that. That's what they achieved. We don't have a strategy. We're against Assad. We're against ISIS. We're against al Qaeda. We're against everybody. What are we trying to achieve? Until we can answer that question, it not just the allies. Nobody understands what we're doing.
BALDWIN: So, as we've been talking, we have just learned that Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Putin that it will not allow Iran to have military presence in Syria.
Iran was at T-4, right, which is where the strikes...
ZAKARIA: Yes. Iran already has a military presence in Syria, probably has the most entrenched land presence there. It's Iranian militias that have won many of the battles, consolidated power for Assad.
The Israelis are nervous about this and are trying to demonstrate that they don't like it. But here's the problem. Israel and the United States are trying to intervene in Syria from the air.
Now, there's only so much you can do from the air. You can punish, you can use missiles. The Iranians are on the ground.
ZAKARIA: They are not just on the ground in the sense of Iranian militias.
They have political allies in the Assad government. They have political allies in Shiite and Alawite forces that ally. That's how you have long-term influence in the region. They're playing the long game.
We're sitting there 30,000 miles -- feet in the sky dropping a few bombs here and then waiting for -- when the dust settles, the Iranians are still on the ground.
BALDWIN: Fareed, thank you very much.
Breaking news on two front regarding Trump's attorney here, Michael Cohen. A judge ordering him to work out his differences with Stormy Daniels' attorney.
This is happening as we're getting new details about what the FBI agents were actually looking for when they raided his office, his hotel earlier this week.
Stay with me for that. You're watching CNN.
BALDWIN: More on the breaking news involving the FBI raid on President Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen earlier this week, all apparently involving that "Access Hollywood" tape. They're seeking records to see what if any role he played in that. That was the month just before the presidential election.
The other piece oft breaking news involves that federal judge in California and the whole Stormy Daniels case. Judge Otero has now ordered attorneys on both sides to meet to work out their differences. In legal talk, it's referred to as a meet and confer.
So, Sara Sidner has been following this case very closely.
And, so, Sara, talk to me first about -- I was saying earlier the notion of getting these attorneys all in one room. We have seen what they're like on national television, and this judge is saying, work it out.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Yes.
I think he's speaking to them through his order, basically saying, I am ordering you to come together. Stop sending all these different filings and motions to the court. You haven't done the one thing I have asked to you to do. Now I'm ordering you to do this, come together, and figure out what all the substantive issues and procedural issues are that you want us to tackle, that you want the court to tackle.
And he said, look, before you file another motion, you better have both signed on. So this is a missive to all the attorneys involved, Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Cohen's attorneys, all of the attorneys involved, Donald Trump's attorney, stop filing all these motions, come together, as what normally happens in the normal process of the court, and work out the substantive details that you want us to tackle, instead of doing all these filings.
It seems like -- and according to some of the attorneys I have spoke to who have been before the judge, Judge Otero, here in California -- it seems as if he's throwing the gauntlet down and saying, I need to you do your legal due diligence and can get this done, so that we can move forward and the court doesn't have to deal with all this back and forth, seemingly talking about all the different motions that have been sent to him that were not agreed upon by either party.
BALDWIN: OK. SIDNER: Brooke.
BALDWIN: Caroline Polisi -- Sara, thank you -- is with me too.
And we will get into the raids in just a second. But just on this note, we know that team Trump has wanted to -- they want to keep it quiet through arbitration. Avenatti has been out there nonstop and obviously wants to drag this thing out publicly. How do you see this whole thing going down?
CAROLINE POLISI, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I see it really -- Avenatti has been playing his hand to his advantage brilliantly at every move.
And what we're really seeing is, he's getting some vindication here. This is working. I think you can't talk about this without now talking about the recent developments with the raid of Michael Cohen, because that is going to blow the top off of this whole thing.
BALDWIN: OK. Let's get into that.
POLISI: Yes, let's.
BALDWIN: So, on the raids, and the piece from "The New York Times" is that they were reporting that they were looking for any sort of records pertaining to that now infamous grab them by the you know what tape.
BALDWIN: You make this fascinating point, which is, this was all the New York district attorney, right?
POLISI: Southern District of New York, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, yes.
BALDWIN: Not team Mueller. He referred it to them. They go in. They raid.
But it's possible that this could all -- whatever they find on Cohen could be used against him, could help Mueller as leverage. Explain why.
So, I have been saying for a while now that, as salacious as the details of the Stormy Daniels alleged affair are, the really interesting legal aspect of it is the way that it could intersect in the Mueller probe in really interesting ways.
You mentioned correctly this was a referral from special counsel's office Robert Mueller to the SDNY. They executed the search warrant. But that doesn't mean that they can't share the information that they receive with Mueller. And the issue here is that Mueller can then use that as leverage.
Michael Cohen knows where the proverbial bodies are buried in world Trump for the past decade.
He has a lot of very valuable information for the special counsel and they're going to be very interested in that. If Robert Mueller can use the threat of a criminal indictment, hang that over the head of Michael Cohen, he's going to have a lot of pressure on him. He may flip.
This is a tried-and-true aspect of criminal prosecutions. Prosecutors do this all the time. And it works. It works.
BALDWIN: Even for someone who has been in Trump orbit forever and has been loyal, loyal, loyal.
I mean, look, he's been loyal to a T. But I think, as Michael Avenatti said, there's one thing saying that you will take a bullet for someone, and it's another thing when the gun is locked and loaded.
So, we will see how he stands up to it. I think he could end up flipping, just like, look, Mueller flipped Gates. He flipped Flynn. He's trying to do it with Manafort. That's exactly what he's trying to do with Manafort. It works. And I think it's going to work here.
POLISI: You know, so interesting.
BALDWIN: Wow. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.
Again, we're watching and waiting for that White House briefing to begin any moment now. Has President Trump made a decision on whether the U.S. will be striking Syria in the wake of that apparent chemical attack?