Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Do Russians Have Compromising Information on President Trump?; Sean Hannity Revealed as Michael Cohen's Client in Open Court. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired April 16, 2018 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:00:10]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: OK, we have got some breaking news for you.

We're now getting word the lawyer for the president, Michael Cohen, has just disclosed in court that the client who had requested to remain unnamed was Sean Hannity of FOX News.

This explosive information, as we now know, porn star Stormy Daniels, she is sitting in that very same courtroom, as is Michael Cohen, the man who paid her $130,000 to keep her mouth shut about that alleged affair with the president.

Cohen asking on behalf of the president to get the first look at what the FBI swept up in that massive raid last week.

So, Shimon Prokupecz is the man who has been covering this hearing who just dropped the bomb.

So, for people who are just tuning in -- I know -- I'm looking at your face -- mine's the same. People who are just tuning in, what the heck happened?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: So, these were arguments that are ongoing all morning, and Michael Cohen's attorneys tried every which way not to release this name, at one point claiming it was embarrassing, another point saying that it was privileged information.

And the judge each time basically shot them down. We even are -- the media here, "The New York Times," us, CNN, other folks, we had our lawyer get up and argue. And the judge agreed, agreed that this name should not remain sealed, that it was a name that needed to get out, that just the mere fact that you represent someone, a client, does not make it privileged information.

And in stunning fashion, she ordered Michael Cohen's attorney to say the name in court. He at one point offered to put it in an envelope and give it to her. He wanted it to remain sealed. She said, no, I'm ordering you to release the name. And he stood up and he said the name, Sean Hannity. And there was

obviously a lot of reaction from people in the courtroom. I mean, really, most of the people in the courtroom is press. There are some spectators, obviously Stormy Daniels sitting in the back of the courtroom next to her attorney, Michael Avenatti.

But I can tell you certainly that name shocked everyone. Several of us got up from the media got up, walked out to just get out here and try and report this information.

Now, to be clear, we don't know what connection, in what way Michael Cohen was representing him. But it was a recent representation because it relates to some of the material perhaps they were arguing that may be privileged. And that's why his name shouldn't be out there.

And they wanted to review these records before the FBI and prosecutors here started reviewing them. And then I have some other information just about the case, Brooke.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: No.

PROKUPECZ: But we can get into that.

BALDWIN: OK. Let's get into that in a second, because I want -- I have questions for you.

OK, so let's back up. So, you said that that this judge said to the lawyer that this client who was unnamed needs to be named out loud. The envelope isn't good enough.

When this Cohen attorney is standing there, how did he say it? Was it like Sean Hannity, or was it like loud in court for people to hear? And how did -- you say a lot of press is in court. How did Stormy Daniels respond?

PROKUPECZ: So, I didn't see her response. She was sitting in the back kind of to the right.

I think, for most of us, I mean, he said it clearly. He just came out. There were two attorneys there arguing on behalf of Cohen. One is Mr. Ryan, who is here in Washington, D.C. And there's a Mr. Harrison, who's a New York attorney. Both of the attorneys for Cohen made every attempt to argue with the judge, make their arguments that this name should not be released.

And then the prosecute, the U.S. attorney in this case, Mr. McKay, got up and basically said that they were not taking a position on this, and they wanted to make it clear. And then moments later, there were some other arguments.

And then basically Mr. Ryan, who's representing Mr. Cohen, just said the name. And that is when there was reaction, visible reaction from people in the courtroom. And then that's when several of us got up and left. And that's when I came down here -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Do you have any idea, outside of the name Sean Hannity, what matter it was involving between Michael Cohen and Sean Hannity?

PROKUPECZ: No.

The only thing that we know is, during the arguments, Mr. Ryan, Cohen's attorneys argue that this was a person who had some notoriety, obviously, and that's why they didn't want the name getting out there. There was always concern of embarrassment.

They said that several times. But as to what their dealings were, in what way or what he may have been doing for Sean Hannity, that was not made public.

BALDWIN: OK.

PROKUPECZ: And I don't expect that to be made public. But, certainly, there's going to be a lot of questions. Arguments are still ongoing.

Mr. Trump's attorneys, the president's attorneys, have yet to argue their case. They filed a motion this morning trying to prevent the FBI, asking in fact that the president himself and his attorneys review these documents that the FBI seized.

[15:05:10]

The judge, you know, as of right now has not ruled on that. It seems the prosecutors feel that Michael Cohen and the president want unfair treatment. There's every indication, at least from the judge even, that the case law is just not on their side and that, really, the parties here, Mr. Cohen and the president, are asking for special treatment.

The prosecutors at one point talking about that, saying how what the president is asking for here is special treatment, and that should not happen, that we need to keep this fair and treat this like any other case.

BALDWIN: OK. What was the other bit? Did you have another nugget from the hearing you wanted to pass along, before I bring in my lawyers?

PROKUPECZ: Yes, Brooke.

They talked, the prosecutors. There's this whole issue about how much of this material is privileged. Again, the prosecutors, the judge seemingly frustrated that Michael Cohen can't give them any -- the number of documents perhaps that may contain privileged information, that could be affected by privilege.

At one point, the judge asked the prosecutors, how much material do you have here? And he gave us a window into it. He said he couldn't be very specific, because, some of it, they have not been able to go through. But what we've learned is that the FBI recovered 10 boxes, 10 boxes

that they removed in total from the three locations that they searched. We also learned that there are hard drive devices that they imaged from some of the locations.

So, essentially, they didn't even take the hard drives. They just basically copied them. Whatever was on there, they then put it on their hard drives and also other electronic devices that they have.

And then a couple more details about the case, Brooke, in that this really -- they're saying, the prosecutors, is that this does not center around Michael Cohen's legal work, that the investigation here centers around his personal dealings, his business dealings and his financial dealings, as an argument as to why this whole notion of privilege should not apply.

Really, in the end, Brooke, what is happening here is, this emergency relief that Michael Cohen has filed is slowly backfiring on him, because now everything that they did not want to do, certainly releasing Sean Hannity's name, has happened.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes, Shimon, let's get you back in that courtroom. Thank you so very much, Shimon Prokupecz in Manhattan.

Turning to all of my fantastic lawyers, who have all been reacting with me to all of what he just dropped, first being the Sean Hannity news, Areva, that the judge wanted this lawyer to say it out loud. He wanted to slip it in, in an envelope.

What do you make of all that?

AREVA MARTIN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: It's really shocking to me how Michael Cohen and his lawyers are handling this entire case.

We have seen this from the beginning, from the negotiation of the settlement to the handling of the information that came out about the settlement. It's shocking to me that they -- they must know that the names of the clients are not privileged information, and that a judge was going to require them to release that information once they filed the motion, asking essentially that the search warrant be converted to a subpoena, which is what they're asking a court to do.

They're saying, Your Honor, we want the right to review all of this information. We want the president and his team to review all of this information.

BALDWIN: Before any of you can take any look at it.

MARTIN: Before anyone, before the FBI. And that's not what a search warrant allows the party that has been searched to do.

And they know they are asking for extraordinary relief. And they're putting themselves in a worse situation. Now they have had to reveal yet the name of Sean Hannity, which I'm sure he's not going to be too happy about. I'm sure Michael Cohen's lawyers, as they were trying to get this

secret done through this envelope, which the judge rightfully rejected. So they're just making a bad situation worse.

And this seems to be the pattern with Michael Cohen and his team in terms of how they're handling this entire matter. Just kind of shocking.

BALDWIN: Mimi?

MIMI ROCAH, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I agree with everything you're saying, especially -- what is shocking too is, why was so Sean Hannity so embarrassed, if that's what it was about, to have it be known that Michael Cohen was his attorney?

What does say either about the matter -- and we don't know yet what kind of subject matter he was being represented on -- and/or about Michael Cohen, the attorney general, right?

And this the attorney that these people have chosen, that the president in his previous life chose to represent him on so many matters. It doesn't speak very well, and it doesn't speak to what kind of lawyer he was, because he really wasn't acting as a lawyer.

And that's what this comes down to, this whole motion, this whole litigation. And what the government is trying to say is just because -- if you're someone with a law degree doing dirty business dealings, which is what I think Michael Cohen was really doing, you don't get the protection that lawyers get.

You don't get to claim attorney-client privilege just because you have a law degree, if really what you're doing is being a businessman, and especially if what you're doing is being a dirty businessman, which I think is what Michael Cohen is doing.

BALDWIN: And this is just the three clients that we know of. right?

Paul Callan, correct, but I read somewhere where they were saying up to 10 different people. And then the top three, of course, you have president, you have the man who we talked about on Friday who had paid out some $1.6 million for impregnating a former Playboy Playmate, and now number three is Sean Hannity.

[15:10:14]

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, and the truth of the matter is that even a small law firm, maybe a solo practitioner, wouldn't have 10 clients. He would probably have 1,000 clients or 700 clients or 500 clients.

So, only 10 clients is a very, very small number of clients. Certainly, at the very least, those 10, those records are going to be in contention, and possibly disclosed.

It's not privileged. People don't understand, haven't heard this because it rarely comes up, but the names of clients that a lawyer represents are not protected by the attorney-client privilege.

Now, what those clients said to the lawyer might be protected by the attorney-client privilege. But it depends. On the other hand, if one of those people turns out -- let's say Sean Hannity was doing business with Michael Cohen, buying a condo or something, well, that wouldn't be a privileged relationship.

But on the other hand, if Hannity retained him for another purpose, maybe it would be attorney-client-privileged material.

BALDWIN: OK.

CALLAN: That's why you have these taint teams from the Department of Justice who come in and they look at this material, and then they separate out the stuff that really isn't relevant to the lawsuit.

And by making this motion, Cohen has pushed them out of the way, and said, Judge, let's do this in open court.

I think he never thought for a minute that client names would be revealed today in open court. But that's what he set off.

BALDWIN: Boy, oh, boy. Surprise.

CALLAN: Yes. Yes.

BALDWIN: I want to hit pause on this conversation. I know we have so much more to get into. You mentioned the team that sorts through all these documents and hard drive copies.

We know that the Cohen team wants referred to as a special master. So much more to talk about, about what's happening in this court hearing that is under way right this very moment here in Manhattan involving the president's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, and this big new development, including one of his clients who was just named in court, Sean Hannity.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:16:11]

BALDWIN: We're back on the breaking news here, as you see live pictures outside that federal courthouse in downtown Manhattan.

Michael Cohen is sitting inside, his lawyer. Stormy Daniels is in there as well.

We just heard was from Shimon Prokupecz, who just broke the news that an additional client Michael Cohen's was just named out loud in that courtroom, the client by the name of Sean Hannity.

I have got another little nugget for you that we just learned in the last couple of minutes. This is Gloria Borger from a source familiar with Hannity's legal relationship with Michael Cohen. "Michael Cohen has never represented Sean Hannity in any other matter involving a third party. Hannity has occasionally asked Mr. Cohen's questions concerning the law the Mr. Cohen indicated would be privileged."

So, meaning, when you hear no matter involving a third party, how do you interpret that? Why are they getting out there?

ROCAH: It sounds like they're trying to put out there that this did not involve a woman and a nondisclosure agreement.

BALDWIN: Yes.

ROCAH: Whether that turns out to be the case and what he really did represent on, too early to say. But that's clearly what they're trying to put out there.

BALDWIN: You agree?

MARTIN: Yes, I agree.

What we know about Michael Cohen's legal practice is that it's pretty small. He has a small number of clients. We know he's not a litigator. He doesn't appear to be a transactional lawyer. So he doesn't do the things that traditional lawyers do.

We know he calls himself a fixer for the president. So when hear a legal client, what we associate him doing in the law is negotiating nondisclosure agreements, hush agreements to keep women quiet who have information about affairs with these men who are in the cases that we have seen are his clients.

I think he's trying to say to us that this isn't a nondisclosure agreement, this isn't a hush agreement. And we will see if that is in case -- the fact.

BALDWIN: So, Paul Callan, if this whole hearing is all about Michael Cohen and the FBI raids and the documents and the electronics seized and he who gets to get their hands on them first, then why is -- why is Stormy Daniels sitting in that courtroom?

CALLAN: That is a great question.

(LAUGHTER)

CALLAN: Well, her records are in play here. And I guess the court felt that if she has skin in the game, as they say -- maybe that's a bad phrase to use -- that she should have the right to go into court and observe.

Now, sometimes a judge will say, is this attorney, is Mr. Avenatti, Ms. Daniels with respect to -- or Ms. Clifford, which is her proper name -- is this matter?

But mostly I think it's just a publicity ploy. And just finishing up on that, on some great thoughts on Sean Hannity, Hannity is such sort of an intermediary between the FOX network and the president, it wouldn't surprise me that he may be calling up Michael Cohen to say, hey, what does the president think about this?

This legal issue came up about Mueller today. What's the word on that?

BALDWIN: Talk me through it.

(CROSSTALK)

CALLAN: It could be that Cohen is sort of feeding information from the president for Hannity to use on his show.

ROCAH: But that wouldn't be privileged, right?

(CROSSTALK)

CALLAN: No, no, it wouldn't be privileged, but it would explain why maybe there's a notation or something in files that happened to be seized by the FBI in this raid.

BALDWIN: He's a high-profile person, so maybe that would be, from their perspective, one of the reasons.

MARTIN: And we're hearing about Michael Cohen and these recordings, that he's recording the individuals that he's having conversations with.

So, again, is he recording these conversations he may be having with Sean Hannity about what's happening in the Mueller investigation or what's going on with the president and these various probes that he's involved in?

BALDWIN: That was his M.O., according to our reporters, that he would do on a lot of conversations. Question is, what do they have?

And one of the things that came out last week was the reason why the FBI went in when they did is they had information that he would soon be deleting some of it.

MARTIN: Yes. And that's important to note that the raid is because they didn't believe either that he would turn over all of the information that may have been sought through subpoena or perhaps he would try to destroy information.

[15:20:03]

You don't raid someone's office if you think you can get the same amount of credible information if you issued a subpoena. So, I think that's important to note. There was a raid and a search warrant for a reason, not to annoy or disrespect, as we're hearing from Michael Cohen and his team.

There was a really solid reason that that happened.

BALDWIN: Thank you all so much very for being with me for that. We have more on our breaking news.

Plus, FBI -- fired FBI Director James Comey attacking the president's morality and say that it's possible the Russians have compromising information on the president. We will promote the details of Comey's controversial interviews as he promotes a tell-all book.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:25:11]

BALDWIN: This war of wards between the president and the FBI director who he fired at an all-time high today, as James Comey launches this massive media tour to promote his new book, "A Higher Loyalty."

And among some of the developments here, Comey suggests the Russians may have dirt on President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Do you think the Russians have something on Donald Trump?

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I think it's possible. I don't know. These are more words I never thought I would utter about the president of the United States, but it's possible.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's stunning. You can't say for certain that the president of the United States is not compromised by the Russians?

COMEY: It is stunning, and I wish I wasn't saying it. But it's just -- it's the truth.

At least in my experience, he won't criticize Vladimir Putin even in private, even a meeting with three people in the Oval Office. He is arguing that he gave a good answer when he said, essentially, we are the same kind of killers that Putin's thugs are. And that struck me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Joining me now, CNN law enforcement contributor Steve Moore. He's a retired FBI supervisory special agent.

So, Steve, welcome.

STEVE MOORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks for having me.

BALDWIN: All right, so here's James Comey, makes this extraordinary claim that it is possible that Russians could have dirt on the president.

But he makes this claim. He doesn't cite any specific evidence. Was it, Steve, appropriate to put that out there in the middle of this ongoing investigation?

MOORE: Well, I think it's probably not the wisest thing to talk about, unless you have some kind of indication that it could be true.

All FBI agents know that if you're going to go overseas to a country like Russia, that there will be attempts to compromise you, there might be attempts to compromise you. You don't leave your computer in the room. And you don't believe women who come up and say you're very attractive, because, likely, there's going to be an attempt on it.

And the problem is, once they have your -- once they have something on you, they own you. And so we know that's possible. But unless he has some kind of direct information, might not have been something I would want to say.

BALDWIN: Critics -- that's interesting to note. Critics point out also this contradiction where, on the Clinton e-mail probe, Comey says he had to get out there, he needed to talk about it in order to preserve the integrity of the FBI, the Justice Department.

But then, on a separate issue, when it came to what he and former President Obama knew, when it came to Russia and meddling in the election, he operates to -- he mentions politics and operates in a world where he knew poll numbers were up for Hillary Clinton, with this presumption that Trump would lose. And then they both thought Russia's efforts were wasted, and maybe that factored into how much attention they really wanted to draw to that.

Can you understand why people say, well, how can you have one without the other?

MOORE: Oh, absolutely I do.

And one of the things, and James Comey has a very good reputation for truthfulness within the FBI. However, the FBI -- for the FBI, politics is radioactive. You just don't go there. It's not good for anybody.

And so if you say something about one presidential candidate, especially if you're not going to indict them, and you decide to bring out everything negative about the investigation, you are now obligated to talk about everything.

It's kind of like bringing candy to class. Do you have enough for everybody?

If you talk about one, you have got to talk about them all. And that's what's put him in this scary position of everybody saying, well, why didn't you say this, why didn't you say that?

BALDWIN: Steve Moore, thank you so much.

I want to remind everyone that Jake Tapper is sitting down with James Comey this Thursday at 4:00 Eastern. Do not miss "THE LEAD" and that live interview.

Ahead, back to our breaking story out of this courthouse, federal courthouse, in Manhattan, where we are expecting to see President Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels walk out any moment, this as we have learned in the last couple of minutes that that unidentified third client of Michael Cohen's is actually FOX News host Sean Hannity.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)