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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
President Trump Has Declared Mission Accomplished After Coalition Airstrikes In Syria; Trump: "Perfectly Executed" Strike in Syria; Cohen Under Criminal Investigation; Cohen Ordered To Appear In Federal Court On Monday. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired April 14, 2018 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:15] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: The President declared mission accomplished on Syria. The question is, what does that mean in the weeks and months to come? What does it mean to the U.S.' role and credibility in the region? How does it fit into a larger strategy? And above all, what if anything will it mean for the people of Syria?
We will talk about all that in the hour ahead. But first, CNN's Barbara Starr joins us with the latest.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A message from Donald Trump to Bashar al-Assad and his Russian masters. Firing more than 100 missiles into the heart of Syria's chemical weapons program.
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: I spoke to the President this morning. And he said if the Syrian regime uses this poisonous gas again, the United States is locked and loaded.
STARR: Defense secretary James Mattis, in a late night Pentagon briefing, not shutting the door to future military action, but also not saying what would lead to more airstrikes.
JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Right now this is a one-time shot. And I believe that it has sent a very strong message to dissuade him, to deter him from doing this again.
STARR: It was shortly after these horrific videos emerged of an April 7th chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb that the Pentagon began planning for military strikes. The target list, a chemical research center in Damascus, and two chemical weapons and equipment storage facilities located west of Holmes.
After first light, as the damage emerged, the Pentagon said there were no reports of civilian casualties and all the military objectives for this strike were achieved.
LT. GEN. KENNETH MCKENZIE, JOINT STAFF DIRECTOR: I believe that we took the heart of it out with the attacks that we accomplished last night. I'm not going to say that they are going to be unable to conduct a chemical attack in the future. I suspect, however, they will think long and hard about it based on the activities of last night.
STARR: The strike on Syria began at 4:00 a.m. with a barrage of 105 missiles launched by the U.S., French, and British militaries. It was carried out by three U.S. warships and a U.S. submarine. The French also launched missiles from a frigate ship. In the air, two b-1 bombers launched strikes along with French and British fighter jets. One site, the Barzah chemical research and development facility is located in Damascus. Missiles made it past heavy air defenses without being shot down.
MCKENZIE: As you can see, it does not exist anymore. And we believe they have lost a lot of equipment. They have lost a lot of material. And it's going to have a significant effect on them. So I think the words "cripple" and "degrade" are good accurate words.
STARR: But as Bashar al-Assad calmly walked into work today, it's unclear if he is hearing those words.
COOPER: And Barbara Starr joins us. Where do we know - I mean, where does it go from here?
STARR: Well, this is a difficult question. I think everybody is wondering right now what is President Trump's new red lines? What would cause him to order military action again? Another chlorine attack? There have been dozens of those and no U.S. military response. A nerve agent? That is the two-time this in a year ago when the U.S. did take military action.
Unlikely Bashar al-Assad thinks he is totally deterred even if the U.S. hopes he is. So the question is, when will there next be military action and what will provoke it? Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, secretary Mattis council caution in the run-up to this. Can you talk about the feeling now at the Pentagon? And what you are hearing from people there?
STARR: One of the things behind the scene for the last 48 hours has been the very significant worry here that you would see Russian military forces in Syria act, that there would be some kind of escalation. So far there hasn't been. A lot of angry words from Moscow but no military reaction from the Russians. That's the good news.
But this is one of the calculations. This is a very limited strike. You want to do enough to try and send a message to Bashar al-Assad, but not so much that you are going to unsettle Vladimir Putin and he feels he has to step in. That's the fine line that defense secretary of defense Jim Mattis is walking right now. That's really part of the debate he has with the White House. How much do you want to do? And as always with the U.S. military, how much risk are you really willing to take -- Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. Barbara Starr. Barbara, thanks.
The President, meantime, spoke with allies today and, of course, tweeted. More on that from CNN's Jim Acosta who joins us now from the White House.
So what has the President had to say since last night?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, he did talk to British Prime Minister Theresa May earlier today and Emanuel Macron, French President. They again talked about next steps in holding Syria accountable for its use of chemical weapons.
But it was the President's tweet that got everyone's attention obviously earlier this morning when he tweeted the words "mission accomplished." I talked to a Trump adviser earlier today who said in not so many words, I can't quote this person directly because I'm taking out the "f" words, but essentially was why would they allow the President to tweet something like this, because obviously when the President tweets mission accomplished, that conjures up memories of 2003 when George W. Bush flew on to that aircraft in the flight suit and declared that the war in Iraq was essentially wrapped up. That they had accomplished their mission. And that war dragged on for eight more years.
Now over here at the White House, they did have a conference call with reporters earlier today. They did say definitively they believe it's incontrovertible that Syria used chemical weapons against civilians that prompted this response that you saw from the U.S., the U.K. and France last night.
But Anderson, one very interesting comment that was made by one official essentially saying, if this step does not correct Syria's behavior here, that the U.S. will be prepared to do something again. And that exactly goes back to this question that Barbara was talking about earlier, which is where is the red line drawn and how many times can they essentially enforce that red line, as Nikki Haley was saying earlier today, before the Russians feel like they have to respond. That is the big question moving forward.
[20:06:12] COOPER: Yes. And Jim, just reminding our viewers, you were referring to the banner behind George W. Bush saying "mission accomplished" on that aircraft carrier.
ACOSTA: That's right.
COOPER: Do we know anything more about the conversations that the President has had with British and French leaders?
ACOSTA: Not at this point. We do know that they were essentially all on the same page. And as you know, Anderson, the President has a very good relationship with French President Emanuel Macron, has not always had a good relationship with Theresa May. And so, it is notable that all three of these countries were able to work together sort of a mini coalition of the willing to hold Bashar al-Assad accountable here.
But at the same time, as each of these instances arise, the question is going to be, you know, can these governments again come together to hold Bashar al-Assad accountable? We do know the President is going to be having a state visit from Emanuel Macron later on this month, in a couple of weeks. They definitely have a good relationship. And the French were certainly out in front on all this.
But the question moving forward, the President is going to be meeting with Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of Japan, down at Mar-a-Lago later on next week. And the President is supposed to have a press conference. The question is going to be asked of this President, where is this red line drawn? How do you define mission accomplished? And that what point is it become mission grief which is obviously a question that every administration deals when they start getting involved in interventions overseas. It is question that can cause lots of headaches, lots of problems for any White House. And obviously, President Trump are trying to avoid that, It is unclear whether or not he will be able to avoid it with Syria because he has drawn this red line so brightly -- Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. The same questions the Obama administration faced.
Jim Acosta, thanks.
Reaction now from Moscow itself, CNN's Sam Kiley is there for is.
Sam, what is the latest? How that is the Kremlin responded?
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Kremlin has responded, Anderson, in a rather predictable way, saying that these airstrikes are a violation of international law, conducted without mandate from the United Nations Security Council. And minions of the Kremlin, the people lower down the food chain from Vladimir Putin have even suggested that there would be some kind of payback.
But I think we really need to see that as rhetoric. What else could they say following an attack on their ally in Syria? The truth is that behind the scenes, these very limited attacks, very, very limited indeed, made absolutely no difference whatsoever to the military capabilities of Bashar al-Assad or his Russian allies.
And I think the test will be the extent to which they continue their attacks on civilians when it comes to their next target which inevitably would be the rebel-held area of Idlib where most of the rebels are now concentrating -- Anderson.
COOPER: What do we know about the communications between the U.S. from Russian, are they before or after the airstrikes?
KILEY: They have a very complex communications system to try to de- conflict over the operations of the allies led by the United States in the fight against the so-called Islamic state. So that route was used to and is used, but was used before and after these attacks, to make sure that the airspace was clear, that there couldn't be any accidental clashes.
But the Pentagon has said and the Russians have confirmed this, there was absolutely no communication directly about the imminent attacks on the chemical facilities, the cruise missiles attacks bit United States ay the United States and her allies. That was a quote-unquote "surprise" although it had been telegraphed by none other than Donald Trump since the Tuesday before, Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. Sam Kiley, appreciate it, from Moscow. Thank you.
More now, the bigger picture, where the strike fits into a larger strategy for Syria, if in fact it fits at all. CNN's Fareed Zakaria has a perspective for us tonight. He is, of course, the host of "GPS" on Sundays on CNN.
Fareed, the President saying "mission accomplished," you know, is a phrase we have all become used to, of course, for better or worse. I mean, is he right? Was the mission accomplished?
[20:10:13] FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, GPS: Well, the mission by the administration was defined narrowly. They actually were very careful about it. The President was careful about it. It's about chemical weapons. It's about making Assad pay a price for the use of chemical weapons. And in that sense, the mission is accomplished. The message was sent. The punishment was inflicted, if you will.
But the mission was not accomplished in a larger sense which is the Syrian civil war continues. It continues to spiral out of control. And more importantly, Assad continues to win. Assad is more firmly in control and in power than he was two years ago, than he was four years ago. So in that sense, it's a more complicated story.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, if you are Bashar al-Assad, I'm wondering if you are relieved today. It seems like this could very well be the extent of the strikes, at least for the time being, if chemical weapons aren't continued to be used.
ZAKARIA: I think you are right. That if you are Assad or if you are the Russians, there must have been some level of relief, particularly given Trump's rhetoric, the tweets, the mercurial character and nature of Donald Trump. The strike was actually remarkably restrained, in some ways even more restrained than the first one last January. It didn't target Russians. It was not in any way targeting the regime. It didn't have the element of trying to cripple the regime or even in some way, you know, induce the beginnings of regime change. No, it was very tight, very focused, very limited. And I think that the way Assad looks at it as probably exactly. This is not over. Now we are on. And I'm still running Syria, by the way.
COOPER: I just want to play what the President had to say about Russia's involvement in Syria last night. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To Iran and to Russia I ask, what kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children? Russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path or if it will join with civilized nations as a force for stability and peace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: He also criticized Russia directly for, he said, not living up to a promise they made in 2013 when they got involved in Syria about limiting chemical weapons. Were you surprised to hear him, you know, have words directly to Russia?
ZAKARIA: I was very pleasantly surprised. I thought he did it very well. It was the right moral tone to strike. I think it's somewhat naive to believe that, you know, you are going to shame Vladimir Putin into, you know, better behavior internationally. That isn't, you know, Putin does. But I think it's important for the President of the United States to speak out for these -- on these kind of issues and speak out for these values. And yes, it was nice to hear Trump doing it, particularly with a country and a President who he has been reluctant to criticize for a long time.
COOPER: I mean, it does seem to be again, from the administration the difficult they have to walk when you are in the United States, sending some kind of a strong signal that chemical weapons attacks won't be tolerated while at the same time not really getting and wanting to get involved in the actual civil war, not calling for regime change or trying to effect regime change.
ZAKARIA: This is the dilemma the United States has faced. And in that sense, you know, ironically, Donald Trump is morphing into Barack Obama, which is, Obama faced exactly this dilemma and came to pretty much the same conclusion, that while the United States was going to do things to damage Assad, to help whatever few good guys you could find who ended up being the Kurds, to try to, you know, usher in a political process that got rid of Assad, it was not willing to pay the price. The enormous price that it would take to actually dislodge Assad from power, to, you know, occupy Syria, to in some way, you know, shape the future of this country. That that was just not a price worth paying, it was too complicated, too risky. And so while you had preferences, you didn't have the -- you were not going to pay the price. In that sense Donald Trump's strategy looks remarkably like Barack Obama's.
COOPER: Yes. Fareed Zakaria, thanks so much.
We will talk about this more with our panel especially the political dimension, possibly even the Obama comparison, right after a quick break.
[20:18:17] COOPER: So, was it one and done for now, as the defense secretary said or the start of a sustained campaign, as the President said, a military diplomat or economic? And is President Trump's Syria strategy more of Fareed Zakaria put it before the break in to a clone of President Obama's? The questions for the panel.
Ryan Lizza, Paris Denard and Paul Begala.
So Paul, were you surprised to see the words "mission accomplished," first of all, in the President's tweet this morning? PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, that was really
unfortunate. And I say this as somebody who thinks it was the right thing to punish Assad for using chemical weapons.
But it obviously calls to mind something that President George W. Bush later regretted. He said so as he was leaving office. That that it was one of the few regrets he had while he was President, was standing there, overstating the case that the war was over in May of 2003. My goodness. And that banner which will haunt the Bush legacy for the rest of his life. It was really unwise for President Trump to associate himself with that.
COOPER: Paris, I mean, do you think the President stepped on his own message there as well as the success of last night's strike by using that phrase?
PARIS DENARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look. I think at the end of the day, the President feels that the execution of the airstrikes in Syria was a successful event and that the mission that he set out with the coalition that did it, the mission was accomplished.
Now, there is a political message about what happened with President Bush who I was proud to work for. But the whole story of that issue was that the ship and the troops that were there on that ship had a long history of working, and they had accomplished their mission. And so what happened was the banner was interpreted as matching the words of President Bush saying that the war, the mission of the war was over and accomplished and won. And so, it was sort of a convoluted message.
But I think for President Trump, if he used the term "mission accomplished," I think he meant it because that it was a successful mission. It was a coalition of the willing who believed that this regime in Syria cannot continue to use chemical weapons. And it was a strong signal. They crossed the red line and he dealt with it and he accomplished what he set out to do.
[20:20:24] COOPER: Ryan, I mean, to Paris points, no doubt that the President, you know, meant it when he said it. The question is, do you think he was aware of the connotation connected to the phrase, Ryan.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Look. I think Paris is right. The carrier in the Bush situation had accomplished its limited, specific mission. But of course it became a metaphor for the fact that Iraq was a complete and utter disaster. And of course the mission was not accomplished at that moment. And so it looked silly for Bush to give that speech below that banner.
Similarly here, the specific narrow mission of these limited air strikes on these facilities allegedly associated with chemical weapons, that mission has been accomplished. But the idea that we should be celebrating in any way a mission accomplished with respect to Syria which is one of the greatest humanitarian disasters in the modern era, I think it sounds a little tone deaf. And we don't really have a specific strategy, a long term goal or a Syria policy. We have this very limited, narrow policy of, if you use these very specific weapons, we will in a very targeted, limited way strike you.
And so the only way to really know if the mission is accomplished is if Assad doesn't use chemical weapons again, right? Because the only goal here was to deter him from using chemical weapons. So we won't know if that mission is accomplished unless we see him not use them.
COOPER: And Paul, I mean, Ryan brings up the difficulty, frankly, that the Obama administration faced as well, which is, you know, U.S. really has no appetite to get involved in the war in Syria, with the intrusion of troops on the ground, or even, it seems, regime change, no matter how many civilians or innocents are killed by the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and despite all the hundreds of thousands of people who have died over the last seven or so years.
BEGALA: Right, this is part of the legacy of the war in Iraq. Donald Trump was bitter in his denunciation of that war and remains bitter in his denunciation of it. And so that's why the politics of this actually is not so much Republican versus Democrat as it is within the Republican party. The Trump Republicans against the traditional Republicans.
Donald Trump in front of Jeb Bush, remember in the debate, said that President Bush did not keep us safe and the Iraq war was a disaster. John Bolton, his new national security adviser, was one of the chief architects of that war. But, I think, and this may upset the President, if it like, as Fareed was saying, it's a lot like President Obama. I think every President needs to be chastened by the catastrophe of Iraq, 15 years in, thousands dead, and no geostrategic gain, in fact, a huge geostrategic disadvantage. So I think it's admirable that just like Barack Obama, President Trump does not want to invade, conquer, and occupy huge countries that are really no direct threat to the United States. But I think --
DENARD: Yes. I think the difference, looking at what President Obama did in 2013, he said if you cross a red line and use a lot of chemical weapons, then we are going to act. That didn't happen. You know, he punted to Congress and then Congress did, you know, took over a year before actions took place. I think what President Trump said, when he sees this horrific action taking place, he acts and he does it. This is the second time that he has done that.
We can look back, and Paul, you know this quite well, that President Clinton in how he horribly botched -- not even botched, just didn't intercede when it came to the genocide that was going on in Rwanda and it came back to haunt him terribly, forcing him to apologize for it.
President Trump, I believe, does not want to look at humanitarian things like this happening, chemical weapons on these children, seeing those images, and looking at and saying, I did not do anything about it. I didn't wait for Congress. I didn't wait for anything I consulted with the coalition of the willing, I listened to my generals, and we acted. And I think that was the right thing to do in this limited form. LIZZA: Well, Paris, if President Trump really, really was deeply
concerned about the humanitarian crisis in Syria, I think he would do a number of things. One, he would have some kind of refugee program and allow some of the refugees to come to the United States. Two, he would look at much, much broader policies for intervening and trying to alleviate some of the suffering. I don't think any of the choices are very good, but at the very least he would reconsider the refugee policy.
I want to make one other point. If you listen to Nikki Haley today at the U.N., she didn't frame this as Obama screwed this up and Trump is making it all right. It was the opposite. She said in 2013, Obama was going to go to attack, he then backed off, agreed to a Russian plan to get all the chemical weapons plan out of the country. And what she argued was that Trump in these attacks, both in April of 2017 and yesterday, was essentially enforcing that Obama era agreement. Assad said he would remove the chemical weapons and would never use them again, so it was proper for the United States to respond to that.
[20:25:34] COOPER: Yes. Ryan Lizza, Paris Denard, and Paul Begala, thank you. Appreciate it.
Up next, we are going to focus more sharply on the Syrian people. The war obviously continues, including the survivors of the attack last week. Hear what they think about the airstrike? Do they thing last night's military action will make a difference to them? When we continue.
[20:29:29] COOPER: Again, President Trump has declared mission accomplished after coalition airstrikes in Syria. The military action came in retaliation, as you know, for suspected chemical attack one week ago in Duma where more than 40 people were killed. The survivors have evacuated the city. They had no choice. Too dangerous for them to stay. Most of Duma now is in ruins. I mean, residence are now in the refugee camp near Syria's border with Turkey.
CNN's Arwa Damon is there talking with some of them about the airstrikes and their ordeal over the past week. She joins us now.
So what are you seeing? What are you hearing on the ground?
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Anderson, it's the kind of fear and horror that people can't even put into words. There is perhaps best described by the experiences of the children no matter how they are trying to cope with it. We are talking to one mother who said when this alleged chemical attack took place, she felt as if she lost control of her body and was trying to crawl upstairs with her two young twin daughters, just 7 years old.
[20:30:11] When they were packing up to leave, one of her daughters put their little doll inside a box and was talking to the doll, saying you might suffocate in here but at least you'll be safe from the bombing. Her children, when they arrived at the refugee camp, began digging a trench for the ants that were outside of their tent so that they too could stay safe from the bombing. And that just gives you a little bit of an idea of the trauma that these people have been going through.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, living with this war this seven -- six or seven years, the refugees you've spoken with, what are they telling you about these airstrikes?
DAMON: You know, there is a sense that these air strikes are not necessarily meant to protect them but that they're a lot more part of a broader chess game, a power play that's happening between Russia and the U.S. and the Syrian regime. They do largely feel abandoned because they say that there is no long-term strategy here. Yes, the air strikes might, at least, temporarily stop the regime from carrying out these chemical attacks but they're not really going to stop their regime from using the rest of their arsenal. There's nothing to protect them from the air strikes, the artillery, and the barrel bombs. And there's nothing that's going to ensure that even in these refugee camps, Anderson, that they're actually safe.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, it doesn't -- I mean, as long as the U.S. -- as far as the U.S., and Great Britain, and France really is concerned, and it may sound harsh to say that this, as long as Bashar al-Assad doesn't use Sarin and chlorine, that's even a question. He can continue to kill people as much as he wants and there's very little chance of an intervention.
DAMON: Yes. And people are very aware of that. And this has been a sentiment that has been growing over the years. When you go and you talk to them, a lot of them say, why should we talk to you? We've been crying out for so long, we've been begging for someone to somehow to stop the violence, just bring about some sort of enduring solution, and that hasn't happened. And they really feel as if these global leaders and the other powers are just toying with their lives and have absolutely no consideration whatsoever for their own wellbeing. And you talk to parents, and they are beside themselves, because they don't know how to protect their children.
Every single family, Anderson, that we spoke to inside this refugee camp had lost someone who they loved. And just to remind people as well, this particular area that they fled from outside in Damascus, Ghouta, Douma, in and of itself, this is the same area that was hit in the 2013 chemical strike when then President Obama's red line was crossed. This is an area that has come under constant bombardment. The last four months, people have largely been living underground to such a degree that they were saying that just going outside to feel the sunlight was something of a luxury, but also a risk because the bombings did not stop.
COOPER: Ye. And it's so incredible when you see those pictures of Douma and what is left of that city. It's stunning that anyone was able to live amidst that wreckage for as long as they have. Arwa Damon, appreciate you being there. Thanks very much.
Coming up back here, the pressure grows on the president's attorney, Michael Cohen, as you know who's under criminal investigation. He's had his office, his home, his hotel room raided. A closer look at the president's fixer and what he has or has not fixed, next.
[20:35:36] COOPER: A judge has ordered Michael Cohen to be in court for a hearing on Monday as lawyers for him, the president, try to stop federal prosecutors from using some of the records they seized in that raid on his home, the office, and hotel room. Yesterday, it came to life that Cohen has under criminal investigation for months. We don't know yet what specifically Cohen is under investigation for. We do know that he has been the president's fixer for years. Gloria Borger tonight has more.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: In the soap opera in which a porn star accepts a payoff to keep quiet about her affair with Donald Trump, there's got to be a guy who gets it done.
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY OF STORMY DANIELS: Where is Michael Cohen? Where's Mr. Cohen? Where is this guy? Where is this guy?
BORGER: Michael Cohen is where he's been since 2007, standing behind Donald Trump, or closer -- in his back pocket.
SAM NUNBERG, TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: Michael was -- I'd always like to say the Ray Donovan of the office.
RAY DONOVAN, FICTIONAL CHARACTER: I'm going to take care of it.
NUNBERG: He took care of what had to be taken care of. I don't know what has to be taken care of, but all I know is that Michael was taking care of it.
DAVID SCHWARTZ ATTORNEY OF MICHAEL COHEN: He's the guy that you could call 3:00 in the morning when you have a problem.
BORGER: Do you know stories of Donald Trump calling him 3:00 in the morning?
SCHWARTZ: Donald Trump has called him at all hours of the night. Every dinner I've been at with Michael, the boss has called.
BORGER: But Cohen did not call the boss, he says, when he decided to pay Stormy Daniels $130,000 out of his own pocket. 11 days before the election.
AVENATTI: I think it's ludicrous.
BORGER: So you believe 100 percent Donald Trump knew?
AVENATTI: One hundred percent.
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, TRUMP BIOGRAPHER: There's not a meeting that takes place, there's not an expenditure that is authorized, that he doesn't know about it. BORGER: Cohen wouldn't go on the record for this piece. But his friends claims it's all part of his job in Trump world, giving the boss deniability and protection.
SCHWARTZ: If you know the relationship between the two people, he took care of a lot of things for Mr. Trump without Mr. Trump knowing about it. That's part of the overall structure, is that Michael had great latitude to take care of matters.
BORGER: In Michael Cohen, Trump hired his consigliore, a version of his long-time mentor, the lawyer Roy Cohn, a controversial pit bull and aggressive defender of all things Trump, no questions asked.
After D'Antonio finished his book on Trump, he got the Cohen treatment in what turned out to be an empty threat.
[20:40:01] D'ANTONIO: Then he got mad. It was, "You just buy yourself an effing lawsuit, buddy. I'll see you in court."
BORGER: In 2011, Michael Cohen described his job this way.
MICHAEL COHEN, ATTORNEY OF PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: My job is I protect Mr. Trump. That's what it is. If there's an issue that relates to Mr. Trump that is of concern to him, it's of course concern to me. And I will use my legal skills within which to protect Mr. Trump to the best of my ability.
BORGER: Cohen, a sometimes Democrat, first came to Trump's attention after buying apartments in Trump developments. Then went to the mat for Trump against one of his condo boards and won.
SCHWARTZ: Trump loved him for it. That was the beginning of it. And then after that, they became close. It was much more than an attorney/client relationship. It was something much deeper, almost father and son kind of thing. Always hot and cold. Donald Trump could be yelling at him one second and saying he's the greatest person in the world the next second. Donald Trump knew that Michael always had his back.
BORGER: For Trump, it wasn't about pedigree. Cohen, who is 51, got his degree from Western Michigan's Cooley law school and had some initial success in the less than genteel world of New York taxicab medallions.
NUNBERG: If you look where Michael came from in his legal career, before he started working for Trump board, it wasn't like he came from a white shoe law firm. He came from a hardnosed New York trial firm. Trump has an eye for talent. And this was somebody that, I mean, he used to call him his bulldog, his tough guy.
BORGER: At the Trump organization he's done a bit of everything. Running a mixed martial arts company, securing real estate branding deals, and even taking care of transportation.
NUNBERG: The famous Trump plane, there was an engine issue that he actually took care of and got a really good deal on. SCHWARTZ: Watching him is -- it's like a reality show. He's got three phones. He's got the hardline. He's got two lines. He's texting. He's on the computer.
D'ANTONIO: You can almost say this is Donald Trump's mini-me. For a guy who started really in the middle class, on Long Island, to now be quite wealthy himself, known internationally, and yes, he's in a bit of a jam with the Russia scandal.
BORGER: In the eye not only of Stormy, but now under criminal investigation in New York. And also of interest to the Special Counsel Bob Mueller and Congress.
COHEN: I look forward to giving all the information that they're looking for.
BORGER: During the campaign, when Trump said he had no contact with Russia, Cohen was privately trying to cut a deal for a Trump Tower Moscow. It never happened, but Mueller has asked about it.
NUNBERG: The sad reality is that Michael pursuing that Trump Tower deal in December is just another factor that goes into this whole Russian narrative.
BORGER: Cohen's name was also in the infamous dossier which alleges he traveled to Prague to meet with Russians. He's completely denied it and is suing BuzzFeed which published it.
SCHWARTZ: It's immeasurable, the damage that has been caused to him, to his family.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will faithfully execute.
BORGER: When Trump became president, he did not bring his brash wingman to Washington. Do you think he wanted to be in the White House, be White House counsel?
D'ANTONIO: There must have been a part of him that was dreaming of a great job at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But he's also the guy who not only knows where all the bodies are buried, he buried a lot of them himself. And that ironically disqualified him.
COHEN: They say I'm Mr. Trump's pit bull, that I am his right-hand man. I mean, I've been called many different things around here.
BORGER: Now he may be called to testify. With the Stormy Daniels case in federal court.
SCHWARTZ: I know Michael Cohen for over 21 years. And I know that he will not rest. He will not sleep. He doesn't sleep anyway, right? Until he recovers every single penny from Stormy that's due the LLC.
AVENATTI: I've seen a lot of attorneys use intimidation tactics. The problem is, is if that is your speed, and if you are a one-trick pony, and you use that in every case, when all of a sudden you run up against somebody that doubles down and that isn't intimidated, well then you're lost.
BORGER: Cohen flew to Mar-a-Lago to dine with the president the night before Stormy Daniels appeared on "60 MINUTES." Because if you're Michael Cohen, you're the ultimate loyalist.
COHEN: The words the media should be using to describe Mr. Trump are generous, compassionate.
[20:45:03] BORGER: And you still believe Donald Trump will be loyal.
COHEN: Kind, humble, honest.
BORGER: To you. Gloria Borger, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: What kind of legal trouble could Michael Cohen actually be in? What are the implications for the president? And what happens next? We'll talk about all of that when we come back.
COOPER: As we reported, Michael Cohen has been ordered to be in court for a hearing on Monday. Now, the justice department says he's under criminal investigation, has been, in fact, for months. Attorneys for Cohen and for the president are fighting in court to try to stop prosecutors from using some of what FBI agents seized in that raid on Cohen.
I'm with New York CNN legal analyst and defense attorney, Mark Geragos. Former federal prosecutors, Anne Milgram and Michael Zeldin.
So, Mark, the New York Times reported that the President Trump's legal advisors have come to the conclusion that the Cohen investigation poses a greater and more imminent threat to President Trump than Mueller's. Do you agree with that? And what exactly do you think his legal team should be doing right now?
MARK GERAGOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST AND DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I do agree with that. I think that this is -- especially if it's a DOJ investigation that's been going on for months, and the southern district is not just the taint team, so to speak, that would give me pause if that were my client. I think what they're doing right now make some sense, although obviously I would have had him there on Friday, because I think the judge wants to hear from him.
One of the problems with this setup, if you will, on search warrants that are executed on attorneys' offices is in the federal system, they don't have the same kind of system that they do in some states. For instance, if this were California, in the state court, they would have had what's called a special master, an independent lawyer or retired judge come along with the cops to sit there so that you could assert, Michael Cohen can say, wait a second, this stuff that you just scooped up, this is attorney/client, and this may be from another client, this may not be from the president, blah, blah, blah, and be able to identify that stuff. [20:50:08] COOPER: Michael, and just because President Trump's believes the Cohen investigation is more dangerous than Mueller's, it doesn't mean that it doesn't pose a threat, obviously to the president as well.
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right. What we don't know, Anderson, is really what it is that is at issue in the investigation of Cohen. Cohen clearly has a lot of legal problems from this affidavit. The affidavit, the search warrant says that this is a month's long investigation and quote, sounds in fraud in evidences a lack of truthfulness. So -- and then there's two full lines of redacted information about the charges that he's under inquiry of.
What we don't know for sure is how Cohen relates to citizen Trump in his private dealings. We know that the government does not think that Cohen has been acting as a lawyer, but rather as a business person. So the search of his office is really not a search of a law office, the ordinary sense that Mark Geragos was mentioning earlier, but rather more of a businessman's office who happens to have a law degree. So we have a fraud investigation against businessman Cohen who worked for Donald Trump, but we don't know yet what the nexus is between Cohen's respective criminality and the Trump organization. That's what we have to wait and see.
COOPER: But, Anne, I mean, is that fair? I talked to professor Dershowitz about this yesterday, who raised the idea that a lot of lawyers today, the actual legal work is being done by people under them and the lawyers are there for deal making. Is it fair -- I mean, if Michael Cohen was involved in business stuff or negotiating a hush agreement or negotiating some sort of payment of something. Even if it is not technically -- I mean, just the fact that he's a lawyer does that mean that it's covered by attorney/client privilege as long it is not illegal?
ANNE MILGRAM, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Right. I mean, that's, I think the right question here which is that just because he is a lawyer, doesn't mean it's all covered by attorney/client privilege. And so we've talked about this a little bit that attorney/client privilege only covers legal advice. If you're asking for guidance or advice on the law. We have a lot of indications here. I mean, the best one in my mind is the fact that you've got Michael Cohen paying $130,000 to Stephanie Clifford's/Stormy Daniels' out of his own pocket. That is not what lawyers generally do. And there are other instances in which it certainly feels like he's not acting in a legal capacity for Donald Trump. He's acting as a member of the Trump organization, as a businessman.
So to me, I think the first question of the judge has to answer is, was he acting as a lawyer? Because if the answer is no, then it's exactly, as Michael says, it's just the same as any other search warrant and the documents would not be privileged. The second question will be, if he was acting, it may be a mix of the two that he was on some occasions acting as a lawyer, then that's where the taint team comes in and would have to review all the documents to see what was privilege. ZELDIN: Just to pop on one and said, the judge was asking Cohen's attorney tell me the clients on whose behalf he was working as his lawyer and there were no answers. So he has not been able to present any clients with respect to which he may have provided legal advice that implicate the attorney/client privilege. That's why I think he's going to lose his motion.
COOPER: Mark, how was it possible that -- I mean, with all the time Michael Cohen has had to assume talk to his attorneys that they would not be able to say who his clients were if he actually had any clients?
GERAGOS: Well, see, this is the problem I think in one of the flaws of the federal system. If this were the state system what you would be required to do during the hearing is after they come in and they do the search, then you have the opportunity to do a list. And that list is called a privilege log, where you name what it is, who the client you're doing it on and you assert the privilege. You say, judge, this is precisely why you can't get this. This base numbers stamped or however you want to refer to the documents. This document is privileged because I'm working on it for this client. And you get to do a laundry list of all of that. I think the judge's frustration was is that you're in here, meaning she's telling the lawyers, you're in here, you're asking me to take some kind of action. You're telling me that you don't want me to let the government have the return on the documents that they've already gotten a judge's sign off on and if you're going to do that, then I need you to do a privilege log or I need you to assert what clients they are.
The one other thing that I would say though is this idea that there's a mix between lawyers and businessmen, every large firm in the world right now has a mix and when they give advice, whether you're representing Apple versus Samsung or whether you're doing any kind of litigation. In fact, law firms always -- almost advertise themselves as bet the company litigation. That's almost a promotional device by all of the big firms.
[20:55:06] COOPER: And you don't often don't have attorneys though who are representing themselves as fixers or Mr. Fix It man or #RayDonovan.
MILGRAM: That's exactly right. And I think the example that Mark is giving is very different than the example that we're seeing here with Michael Cohen. And I would also just note that, the president has said he didn't know anything about these transactions. So it's really -- his client was the president and the president has said, I didn't know anything about it. So it does look like Michael Cohen was sort of doing a job separate from a job as a lawyer for the president of the United States and some of this.
And again, I think the right question is, was it all of it? Was it a part of that? But there are certainly, to me -- I mean, it just doesn't feel like he's doing legal work in a lot of these questions that are being raised.
COOPER: Yes. Michael Zeldin, Anne Milgram, Mark Geragos, thanks so much. Fascinating stuff. We'll be right back.
COOPER: A quick programming note before we go. Just before the break, we talked about President's Trump personal attorney, Michael Cohen and all the issues swirling around him. At 10:00 tonight, make sure to watch special in depth look at all of it. it's called "Hush Money: Trouble for Trump?" And again, it airs at 10:00 p.m. Eastern tonight.
First though, the live news continues in this very busy weekend with "CNN NEWSROOM" and Ana Cabrera.
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Global fallout. It was on this show one week ago --