Return to Transcripts main page
ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Cohen's Mystery Third Client is Sean Hannity; Judge Rejects Team Trump's Bid to Block Feds From Reviewing Seized Documents in Cohen's Raid; Comey Slams Trump, Claims He's Morally Unfit to be President; "Washington Post:" Trump Nixes Russia Sanctions Announced by Haley; Interview with Rep. Jackie Speier (D), California. Aired: 7- 8p ET
Aired April 16, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever anybody says, in the end, he's on his own track.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: That's certainly true. All right, guys, thanks very much. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, Michael Cohen's secret client. Why is Sean Hannity seeking legal advice from the president's personal lawyer?
Plus, a setback in court for Cohen's legal team involving all those documents, everything seized by the FBI. Just how damaging could the case be to President Trump?
And Trump reportedly backing off a plan to hit Russia with new sanctions, a day after his administration promised they were coming today. Why?
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news. President Trump's lawyer facing a judge in federal court today. Stormy Daniels was there, but that was not the bombshell of the day. No. That honor goes to what we learned about Michael Cohen's clients.
Cohen claiming in federal court today that he has three legal clients. One, two, three. Just three. Now we know one as President Donald Trump, because he says so himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys, good man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: We know another is top RNC donor, and until last week, top RNC official, Elliott Broidy. Former, because on his behalf, Cohen negotiated a $1.6 million payment to a pregnant playmate. And today Cohen claimed that there is this third client. Cohen trying to protect the identity of this person. His lawyer telling the judge the name should be protected because of attorney-client privilege and that that person would be embarrassed to be outed as a Cohen client.
OK, the judge refused and said, too bad. Put it out there. And so there he is, Sean Hannity. The same Sean Hannity who raced to Cohen's defense just one week ago, the day FBI agents raided Cohen's home and office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: We have now entered a dangerous new phase, and there's no turning back from this. It is clear as I have been warning, Mueller is out to get the president and it appears at any cost. Here's what happened. Upon referral from special counselor Robert Mueller, the FBI has raided the office, the home, and the hotel room of Michael Cohen, the personal attorney of the president of the United States.
Keep in mind, Cohen was never part of the Trump administration or the Trump campaign. This is now officially an all-hands-on-deck effort to totally malign and if possible, impeach the president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: No disclosure there about any relationship with Cohen. In fact, today, Hannity says, guys, what is all this about, because there's just nothing to see.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
HANNITY: Michael never represented me in any matter. I never retained him in the traditional sense as retaining a lawyer. I never received an invoice from Michael. I never paid legal fees to Michael. But, I have occasionally had brief discussions with him about legal questions about which I wanted his input and perspective.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: Brief discussions. OK, that just does not fit with Cohen's story, right? Which is that this relationship should be protected by attorney-client privilege, because Hannity was one of just three legal clients.
Again, one of whom is the president of the United States. So, you know, it's a pretty impressive, important group of three, right? OK, Cohen is the kind of lawyer who deals with problems. His own attorney told me he's the kind of lawyer that you call at 3 a.m. with a problem.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID SCHWARTZ, MICHAEL COHEN'S ATTORNEY: Believe me, Michael Cohen got calls at 3:00 in the morning, Michael and I would be at dinner, the boss would be calling him all the time.
BURNETT: I'm sure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Now, of course, we know one area of Cohen's expertise was paying off women who allegedly slept with two of his clients, including Stormy Daniels allegedly with President Trump and an unnamed playmate with Elliott Broidy. Now, there's no reason to think that is the issue with Hannity, but that track record makes it clear why Hannity today immediately said his interactions with Michael Cohen, quote, dealt, almost exclusively about real estate. And said their discussions were, quote, de minimis.
All right, here's what we know. Hannity and Cohen go way back. This is a tweet from Sean Hannity. He sent it out himself. It's him in casual attire with Cohen, using the hashtag, Trump phenomenon. That goes back to August 2015.
And at the president's inauguration, Hannity said he and Cohen have been, quote, friends for a long time. The bottom line is this. We need to know the full nature of Sean Hannity's relationship with Cohen, because Hannity is Donald Trump's single greatest advocate on the mass air waves.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: I don't hold back that I'll be voting for Donald Trump in November. For all the accomplishments of the president, keeping his promise, checking off his list.
Take a look on your screen right there. Here is a list of President Trump's accomplishments for 2017.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: He said it's a list too long for him to even read.
[19:05:00] And that is a praise that President Donald Trump generously returns. Tweeting in part, quote, big show tonight on Sean Hannity, that was just last week. The president obviously already well aware of Hannity's show rundown that night, which is when Hannity slammed Bob Mueller as part of a, quote, crime family.
In fact, the president regularly shows his love for Hannity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I will say this, you have been so great and I'm very proud of you. And Hannity! How good is Hannity, do you say? How good is Hannity?
And he's a great guy. And he's an honest guy. Hannity, who's a really nice guy, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: Sean Hannity is not a journalist. He is an advocate. His love/love relationship with the president is not news. Obviously, they're open about it.
But the president's personal attorney is now under criminal investigation and he claims today that Sean Hannity is one of only three legal clients. If the conversations between Hannity and Cohen were, as Hannity claimed today, so, quote, de minimis, then why would Cohen describe Sean Hannity today as one of only three clients and seek attorney-client privilege to protect those conversations?
That is the big question tonight. What is the nature of this relationship? And why does Michael Cohen want to keep it private?
Let's go to the courthouse where Brynn Gingras is OUTFRONT. And Brynn, unexpected drama in the courtroom today, Sean Hannity.
BRYANN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Erin, and it was really dramatic fashion in which Sean Hannity's name came out inside the courtroom. It wasn't like the judge asked for the name and the lawyer said, Sean Hannity.
What happened leading up to that was really many, many minutes long. You know, as you've already laid out for your viewers, Cohen's attorney said this would be embarrassing to disclose this third client's name. At one point, they even offered to the judge to hand her a note, a sealed note with Sean Hannity's name on it and the judge wasn't accepting any of that. And that's why Sean Hannity's name eventually came out.
So it certainly does beg this question of why did they take such care and concern to conceal Sean Hannity's name, so certainly in the after- effect of Sean Hannity saying he only asked for legal advice from Michael Cohen. But getting back to exactly why we were here today, of course, that's because of all the documents that were seized in that FBI raid last week, of Michael Cohen's home and his office and his hotel room. And essentially, the judge made somewhat of a ruling today, and that ruling was really in favor of all parties involved. The U.S. Attorney's Office is now going to have to hand over all of those documents to Michael Cohen's attorneys, and they're told by the judge to sift through them, see what the volume is of those that are protected by attorney-client privilege. And the prosecutors are going to do the same. They're going to reconvene and determine that volume and how this now moves forward.
So really, not a major ruling today. The big drama was certainly around Sean Hannity's name. Erin?
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Brynn.
And let's go now OUTFRONT to David Gergen, former adviser to four presidents, including Nixon and Clinton, Laura Coates, former federal prosecutor, and John Avlon, editor-in-chief of "The Daily Beast."
You know, Brynn describes the drama around this. I mean, it's hard to describe, you know, in a world where one can no longer be surprised, how surprising this moment was for so many of us today. Cohen is trying incredibly hard to keep any communications he had with Sean Hannity private, claiming attorney-client privilege.
JOHN AVLON, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: It is -- it was a spit take in the courtroom. I mean, the last name you expected to hear on the protected third client was Sean Hannity. Now we know they're all incredibly tight, this is an incestuous crew but we never imagined that the president's personal fixer was also representing his number one advocate on T.V. It just -- it's the kind of stuff if it was in a script or a novel, it'd get thrown out for being implausible. But it's there.
And now Hannity is saying, oh, he was never my attorney. That creates additional problems for Michael Cohen, who claimed of attorney-client privilege going forward.
BURNETT: Yes, I mean, David, here's the thing. The two stories simply just do not square. Michael Cohen saying, I've only got three clients. One of them is the president. One of them is the other guy with the playmate payoff. And one is Sean Hannity and I want attorney-client privilege. And Sean Hannity is going, oh, you know, it was a couple of real estate conversations.
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: I agree. Listen, Michael Cohen's lawyers argue that in the front of the court. It would be embarrassing to have the name revealed, it is embarrassing. It looks very suspicious, it looks very incestuous as John has suggested.
And I think a lot of people who've been listening to Comey over the last few days, as he's arguing, the flashback as he first started talking to the president was, he's dealing with a mob scene, he's dealing with a mob. He's dealing with people who have a network of relationships and Sean Hannity has got to get himself out of that situation so he's not attached to it. I think Fox has a real responsibility to get to the bottom of this and go public.
BURNETT: I mean, this is the thing. Laura, and again, it just doesn't -- it doesn't make sense. If there's nothing to hide, why is Michael Cohen trying so hard to hide something?
Well, we said it's very embarrassing. Perhaps he meant, it'll be very embarrassing to confirm that this is actually not my client and i needed to have a third name to have the appearance they had a more credible client list. You see, normally the accidental client is a lawyer's worst nightmare.
LAURA COATES, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, we said it's very embarrassing. Perhaps he meant, it will be very embarrassing to confirm that this is actually not my client and I needed to have a third name to have the appearance that I had a more credible client list.
[19:10:08] You see, normally the accidental client is a lawyer's worst nightmare. Somebody who thinks that you are my client and I don't think we're actually in a relationship. Well, here you have the opposite, you have a attorney who thinks that we actually had an attorney-client relationship. Why that's so important, Erin, is because the only person who can control the disclosure of information is the client. If the attorney wants to tell everything they know and the client says no, they can't do it. But the reverse happens as well.
And here you have Hannity saying, oh, he wasn't my attorney. Say whatever you want and you've got Cohen saying, please, please say that we are an attorney-client, because I need to protect this information. It's very suspicious.
BURNETT: I don't understand, though. If you're -- one of your clients is the president of the United States, why does it look any better to have two or three? It doesn't! I mean, I'm so -- I mean, I'm just -- you know, you said I got one and it's the big guy, OK.
AVLON: It's as big as they get. But the problem is the second one we now know is an RNC donor, you know, former member of the finance committee, who he paid off a playmate for, $1.6 million. This is not a lawyer you usually call for real estate advice. This guy is a fixer.
And the problem is, there is no attorney/consigliere privilege, as Michael Daly wrote last week. This is a fundamental problem for Cohen and for the attempt to keep these documents private.
GERGEN: Sean Hannity's story has been shifting throughout the day, later on today, at first it'd appear that he was arguing, I never sought attorney-client privilege, just assumed it, but later on today he said, no, I aggressively sought it. I wanted to make sure that my conversations with him were protected. So he, himself -- this wasn't just sort of some casual real estate, maybe I should invest in a condo somewhere. There was something more serious going on.
BURNETT: And Laura, that does open the question, something more serious. Again, you're talking about the president's single-most powerful and most vocal advocate in mainstream media.
COATES: You know, it's so important, Erin, to think about that context. Because essentially it tells you that there may be somebody who was a conduit for false information, which again is a very big concern for the American people, and also one that raises other issues for an underlying investigation. Because remember, in order to get that search warrant in the first place, a judge had to be persuaded that there was enough there to show there was not going to be privilege at the end of that tunnel. That there was enough information and evidence to suggest that there was something nefarious or criminal going on.
So if a judge is asking Michael Cohen's attorneys, please explain to me why this should be out of the grasp of the government who already got a warrant against you, you got to come with something more than simply a hope and a prayer that there was a conversation over cocktails.
And it's so important to talk about the person that you were talking about, unlike an attorney who is bound by the ethical obligations. You had Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels' case talking about, well, did he involve Donald Trump or did he not? And if he didn't, was it a violation?
You yourself named Sean Hannity as somebody who was not a journalist and wouldn't be bound by the same ethical constraints as an attorney or perhaps a journalist. So all that comes into play for a judge who already has her eyebrow raised.
BURNETT: And John, the bottom line is, it opens the door. It opens the door to what was there? What were these conversations? What was this information that was being given to Sean Hannity? What was he doing with it, and what was the nature of this?
AVLON: That's right. And the answer is we don't know, but I will be shocked if it's a casual real estate advice. That's not what, you know, that's not what Michael Cohen specializes in. And that information, especially if he has been recording conversations, as has been reported, that could be explosive, because we know they're sharing talking points. You know, but what else have they been sharing.
GERGEN: I don't think we know for certain that there's anything really illegal or inappropriate, but there's something terribly suspicious. And it does look incestuous and Fox and Hannity have to come clean on exactly what it's all about.
BURNETT: Right. Well, you just wouldn't put him down as a third client unless there was something there, period.
All right, thank you all very much.
And next, more on the breaking news. A judge rejecting Michael Cohen's attempt to block prosecutors from starting to go through everything that they seized from his home and office. Just how damaging could the case be to Trump?
Plus, the president backs off a plan to hit Russia with new sanctions the very day they were promised. Why?
And new revelations tonight from Jim Comey as Trump unleashes new attacks on the fired FBI director.
[19:17:57] BURNETT: Breaking news. A federal judge rejecting team Trump's request to block prosecutors from immediately going through information seized in the raids of the president's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen's home, office and hotel room. But the judge did say she's considering appointing a person to review the documents along with prosecutors and she said team Trump can have copies of what was seized, then it's going to set up a debate over what's allowed to get out and not.
Andrew McCarthy is former chief assistant U.S. attorney in New York. White House reporter for "The New York Times" joins me, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, and former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean. Thanks to all.
John, how significant is this ruling by the judge not allowing there to be a delay here. They can go through immediately.
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I think it's a partial win for the White House, in that they get at least a log. It will tell them where --
BURNETT: What's in there?
DEAN: What's in there? Give them a hint. So it's not a total loss. But they didn't have a good day in court. They're not happy to be in this court, either.
BURNETT: No. I mean, certainly not, and given what we've had with the whole Sean Hannity situation, not at all.
Andrew, this also comes as the New York Times says, fine, you have this very aggressive warrant and all of this, but Michael Cohen has been under investigation for months.
ANDREW MCCARTHY, FORMER CHIED ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, NEW YORK: Right.
BURNETT: And people close to the president say that this is a more imminent and bigger threat, this investigation, to the president, than Bob Mueller's.
MCCARTHY: Yes. Well, Erin, two things about that. Number one, the fact that they've been investigating for as long as they have, as the government says, makes the raids of last week almost an afterthought. Because the attorney-client communications have been a live issue for months. We haven't known about it, because the investigation wasn't revealed the way it was last week, up until now.
But even if the government had given them everything back from the raids, you'd still have this issue with the attorney-client privilege, because of the way the investigation has been conducted. Apparently, with monitoring of his e-mails.
BURNETT: All right, they have been monitoring him.
MCCARTHY: Right. So that's ongoing.
BURNETT: So, you know, you've worked, obviously, on these sorts of things in the district. Is this the biggest threat to the president?
[19:20:01] MCCARTHY: Well, I would say so. For this reason, Mueller's investigation, first and foremost is a counterintelligence investigation. It's got this important component of whether there was collusion in Russia's effort to interfere in the election. It's got this obstruction angle, which is legally very debatable. But it's a counter intelligence investigation, first and foremost, which means Russia would be the main interest in it. Whereas in the southern district, the case is flat-out a criminal investigation and warrants would not have been issued, had there not been probable cause found by a judge that there was evidence of crimes in these locations.
BURNETT: You know, Julie, Stormy Daniels' attorney, you know, was at the courthouse today. I mean, there was all these, there was the Sean Hannity talks, Stormy Daniels was there, her attorney was there and he said, these documents that we -- you know, all these documents that were seized, which they can now start going through, could be a major problem for the president and here's how he put it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: Depending on what is contained within those documents, I think there is significant danger to the president. The president trusted -- the president trusted Mr. Cohen as his fixer for years. He trusted him with his inner most secrets and I think that the chickens are about to come home to roost.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Julie, what are you hearing from your sources about the president's reaction to what happened today and to this Cohen criminal investigation?
JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, listen, he's incredibly concerned. He's very angry. He has been lashing out, as you've seen, actually, on Twitter about how unfair it was that, you know, these documents were seized in the first place. Privately, there is no question he does see this as a major threat to himself, because as your guests are pointing out, this is an actual corruption investigation, a criminal investigation. It's not about, you know, a legal debate of, was something obstruction or was it not obstruction?
This is live and it's in court now. And a lot of the concern on the part of the president's side is, they don't necessarily know what all the -- that the investigators now have. And that was part of the reason behind this filing today. They need to know what they have, before they can figure out how they're going to respond to it.
And as Michael Avenatti pointed out, outside the courthouse today, he has -- Cohen has worked for Donald Trump for many, many years. So, there is the possibility that they have a lot of information about things that Donald Trump would not want out, and obviously, potentially, some, you know, some fairly serious charges of crimes that were committed, in which he may or may not have been involved. And so, I do think that he continues to be incredibly concerned and angry about the way this is playing out.
BURNETT: I mean, John, you know, what's interesting here is, back to the point of -- if Michael Cohen is saying there were three clients and one of them is Sean Hannity, and we don't have any idea what that means or does not mean, the big one was Donald Trump, for at least 12 years, all right? And I know from many conversations with Michael Cohen, you know, in a way they would communicate because the president did not use e-mail ever was, he would come in with a sheet of paper and a sharpie and write bullet points of his ideas on whatever the matter was, and hand it to Donald Trump, and Donald Trump would look at it. So there's possibly lots of evidence and pieces of paper even if it's not in e-mail form.
DEAN: It's very possible it is in e-mail form too. It's possible that Michael --
BURNETT: Kept his own notes.
DEAN: -- kept his own notes and dictated things or passed things onto others in e-mails, and made records that way. But I think his biggest worry is that we're in the southern district and people understand the kind of crimes that are prosecuted up here in the southern district. Counterintelligence is kind of nuanced, and, you know, a president can fudge that a lot. Say, well, I'm being tough on Russia, and I'm not really in Putin's pocket. Whereas if they catch him in something up here in money laundering or some of other activity that Michael Cohen's involved in, they'll understand that.
BURNETT: And Andrew, here's the thing. Michael Cohen is Donald Trump in a lot of ways, right? Every single thing he did, almost every single thing he did is going to go back to the president, whether he was doing it with his direct knowledge or not, these are the questions that are out there. Michael Cohen has been a passionate defender of the president. I mean, even as things started going south for him. But here's just a few of the examples even here on the show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP PERSONAL ATTORNEY: They're looking for leadership. They're looking for somebody that can actually do it for America what only Donald Trump can do.
Donald Trump is presidential. He looks presidential, he speaks presidential. He wants to be the president of the United States of America because he knows that he can fix the country's problems. He knows he can really make a difference for so many people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Does he turn on Trump un-Trump on the president?
MCCARTHY: Well, you know, if he turns on him, or what I always say when people ask a question like that is, it depends on whether he has criminal -- incriminating evidence on him, right? So he could have an incentive to turn on him. And he could have done 99 things for him, but if 99 or 98 and a half of them were completely legit and one of them was a little fuzzy, you know, it really depends on the most important thing is, what are they investigating, because it's not a crime for Donald Trump to retain a lawyer, and it's not a crime to have him work on matters.
[19:25:07] But if he worked on something where they worked together that it's criminal, that's problematic.
BURNETT: And people say but -- you know, they say OK, well, the president could pardon him so Cohen will never turn. Of course, that's federal, this is southern district of New York. Are we at a point where there could be a state the president would not have the ability to pardon and that would have increase the incentive.
DEAN: No, it's still federal --
BURNETT: So still at this point --
DEAN: -- but the state could be looking right over their shoulder, where they can be sharing information, and they're being very careful on those cases not to create a double jeopardy situation. So things can be passed off. That's true in both the Mueller and I think the southern district, as well.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much. I appreciate it. Andy, John, Julie.
And next, the White House once again with a strange Russia decision, backing off sanctions. New reporting tonight on why the White House is hitting the breaks on new sanctions that were promised for today.
And Michael Cohen's collaborator. How he and another lawyer brokered the agreements with names some of the names you now know, like Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, and others that we are just learning about tonight.
BURNETT: Tonight, the president not backing down on his attacks on Jim Comey, tweeting in part, quote, Comey drafted the crooked Hillary exoneration long before he talked to her, then based his decisions on her poll numbers. Disgruntled. He, McCabe and the others committed many crimes, exclamation point.
The comments just hours after Comey's interview where he of course was scathing in his criticism of Trump, including saying Trump is morally unfit to be president of the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I don't think he's medically unfit to be president, I think he's morally unfit to be president.
A person who sees moral and equivalence in Charlottesville, who talks about and treats women like they're pieces of meat, who lies constantly about matters big and small , and insists the American people believe it, that person is not fit to be president of the United States on moral grounds.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, former FBI special agent, Tim Clemente, and former assistant secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, Juliette Kayyem.
Tim, let me start with you. Has Comey gone too far or not?
TIM CLEMENTE, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: I think he's gone into the gutter here and he didn't need to. Unfortunately, when Mark Twain had a famous quote about -- when you argue with an idiot, they bring you down to their level and then they win because of experience. And if you think Trump is that kind of a person, why do you want to get into this petty debate with them, why write a book about the personal, the hand size, the marital problems Trump might have, rather than writing a book about your career in the greatest law enforcement agency in the world and what you did as a prosecutor and what the FBI does. That would have been something that would inspire people to follow Comey continuously rather than to look down on him now.
I mean, I talked to a lot of former agents, friends of mine, they all kind of feel the same way. This was really going into the gutter for him. And there's no reason for it.
BURNETT: Juliette, to what Tim is saying, some of the thing the president said about Comey in the last week, I'll just read a few of them. This is just the past week, OK? So, I could have gotten much longer, but I'm being, you know, specific. Slippery, out of whack, worst FBI director in history, proven leaker and liar, weak and untruthful slime ball.
OK, that is petty, that is juvenile. I don't think anybody would disagree with that.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes.
BURNETT: OK, here is what Comey has said about Trump in his book and in interviews, so again, over the past few days -- unethical, untethered to truth, slightly orange up close, morally unfit to be president, Trump's hands, quote, were smaller than mine, was smaller than mine, one hand, I guess, the hand he was shaking with, which obviously, you know, is a reference to the whole Marco Rubio thing and hand size.
Is Comey in the gutter here too?
KAYYEM: I think he is, at times. And I think we're all searching for a single narrative about someone, like, are day good or bad? Are they a savior or, you know, the devil? And I think just the way to look at Comey now is, as an FBI director, he clearly was flawed. As a person prone to self-reflection, I think the jury is still out. I didn't think he was very good in sort of telling us about 2016.
As a witness so obstruction of justice, I find him very credible. But finally, as a person relevant to what's going on in the nation right now in terms of this investigation, I would say he's dated. I mean, it's been a year, the Mueller investigation has disclosed layer upon layer of information, of which Comey wasn't privy to.
And so, in the end, I just don't think he's going to be that relevant. It's just a fight between two men, which is sort of background noise to the Russia investigation.
BURNETT: Right, noise, and, of course, can create institutional damage, I guess is what you're raising. There's a clip that didn't air last night I want to play for both of you. ABC released it today. Comey is talking about right after the elections. He meets with President Obama. He goes into the Oval Office, and he
tells President Obama he's dreading working for Trump. At this point, he is the sitting FBI director, he has not yet met President Trump, but here's what he says he told Obama. Here's Comey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: And also, I told him that I dread the next four years, but in many ways, I feel great pressure to stay, to try to protect the institution I lead.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS HOST: What were you dreading?
COMEY: Well, I had some sense of the nature and character of the new president of the United States. And I worried very much that there would be an effort to erode the independence of the FBI.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Does he convince you there? He's saying I was concerned about my institution. That's why I was dreading it, not because it was a political point of view.
CLEMENTE: I don't know. I don't understand why it would be "dread." I mean, I can see that you can have some concern that the president might disagree with you on some things. I mean, Louis Freeh in his career as the FBI director had issues with Bill Clinton and only met with him one time. Louis used to sit in the hallway outside the Oval Office and wouldn't be allowed in for meetings that he had been invited to.
CLEMENTE: So, you know, there's obviously conflict, sometimes, between presidents and the FBI director. But again, why is James Comey getting to this level, talking about this? It doesn't matter. It's -- it is, as just mentioned, is history.
And it doesn't help the debate now for him to be saying these things, because the American people, or at least half of them, voted for this man to be president. You can disagree with him, politically. You can disagree with the color of his skin and whether or not he uses a tanning booth, but it doesn't have anything to do with the mission of the FBI. The mission of the FBI is to find the truth regardless of where it hides and hopefully that's what Bob Mueller is doing now.
BURNETT: Juliette, what do you make of that sound bite when he says, I told him I dread the next four years?
[19:35:01] KAYYEM: You know, I came out of that interview thinking, it's all about Jim Comey. I was somewhat sympathetic to him, what he had to encounter and how he was fired, less sympathetic to him about his judgment calls in the 2016 election.
But I think Comey has a history he wants to write and one in which he's the hero and I think most people just aren't buying it. BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much. And, of course, now
it's coming down to a duel between those two men and as you know, that should not be where the Russia investigation is right now.
Next, Trump abandoning a promise by his administration to hit Russia with sanctions. In fact, it was promised, if they weren't done yesterday, you know, already, they were going to be done today. But then they weren't.
And the president's attorney, Michael Cohen, apparently had some help in hatching those alleged hush payments to woman after woman, three instances have already popped up. Could there be more?
BURNETT: Tonight, President Trump hitting pause on sanctions against Russia. "The Washington Post" reporting that Trump is holding off, reversing what his own U.N. ambassador, the administration's rising star, Nikki Haley, promised yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: So you will see that Russian sanctions will be coming down. Secretary Mnuchin will be announcing those on Monday, if he hasn't already, and they will go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons use.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:40:00] BURNETT: Michelle Kosinski is OUTFRONT.
And, Michelle, Haley was extremely, sanctions against Russia, they were going to be announced yesterday. Today, Monday, at the latest. What happened?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: I mean, this is hardly the first time we've heard mixed messages coming from this administration. But Nikki Haley made it sound like this was such a done deal, it might even be announced while she was speaking. She's outspoken, most of the time, but she's not one to usually be out of line with the White House, either.
But then these sanctions just never happened. There was this odd silence today on this -- from the State Department, from the Treasury Department. Then the White House said no decision has yet been made.
Now, we know as of last night, there was a list already drawn up of potential targets for sanctions. These are more than a dozen Russian companies and banks that are seen as helping Syria with its chemical weapons program. And as of last night, there was still some questions about who exactly on that list would be sanctioned today, because many expected this really to happen today.
Also, some questions, though about whether U.S. allies would jump onboard with these sanctions, based on the evidence that is there. But tonight, "The Washington Post" is reporting that it was the president himself, even though his administration would have been comfortable moving forward with at least some of this, he didn't feel like now is the time.
So, this is, of course, raising more questions about an administration who's been accused of delaying sanctions, against Russia, specifically, in the past -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Michelle.
As Michelle says, the list was already drawn up, and "The Post" is reporting the president himself is the one who put the brakes on it.
OUTFRONT now, Democratic Congresswoman, Jackie Speier, who's on the House Intelligence Committee.
Congresswoman, you know, you just heard Nikki Haley, it was a done deal, right? As Michelle said, it could have been announced while she was in that interview. Well, not only was it not announced, but the reporting tonight from "The Washington Post" is the president himself who chose not to go ahead with these sanctions and wasn't ready to do it. Why not?
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, the administration is once again showing that it's a circus. That what is agreed to one day is disagreed with the next. Now, there's no way that Nikki Haley went out there and in such a clear, decisive manner, spelled out the sanctions and which companies would be sanctioned without getting the OK from Mnuchin and the presidency.
So, there's something here that we have yet to ferret out.
BURNETT: All right. So, that report, right, that "The Post" is saying that it was the president himself that made that decision, whatever his reason may be, we don't know. Another "Washington Post" report out today details the president's angry over the United States expelling more diplomats than European countries, which, of course, we all know is in response to the Russian poisoning of that spy in the U.K. "The Washington Post" says, quote, we'll match their numbers, Trump instructed, according to a senior administration official. We are not taking the lead. We're matching.
And then it goes on to say, growing angrier, Trump insisted that his aides had misled him about the magnitude of the expulsions. There were curse words, the official said, a lot of curse words.
Congresswoman, can you think of a logical explanation on why the president would, A, not want to lead, B, not want to expel more diplomats, and, C, throw around so many curse words when he found out that the U.S. did, in fact, lead and expel more diplomats?
SPEIER: Kompromat, that's the only thing I can come up with. You know, the truth of the matter is, when we shut down the Seattle consulate for Russia, it was a small consulate. How did the Russians reciprocate? They shut down our offices in St. Petersburg, one of the largest consulates we have around the world. So, there is -- there is no equality here. The Russians have been far
more aggressive in shutting down our functionaries in their country than we have here in the United States.
BURNETT: So you said kompromat. And I want to play for you what the former FBI Director Jim Comey said in his interview when he was specifically asked whether the president could have something to blackmail the president, right? About this issue of so-called kompromat and here's how Comey responded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think the Russians have something on Donald Trump?
COMEY: I think it's possible. I don't know. These are more words I never thought I'd utter about a president of the United States, but I think 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. It always struck me and still strikes me as unlikely. And I would have been able to say with high confidence about any other president I dealt, but I can't. It's possible.
BURNETT: Congresswoman, what was your reaction when you heard those words, you investigated Russian meddling in the election, do you have any reason to believe the Russians actually have material that could compromise or blackmail President Trump?
SPEIER: I think that's very feasible. I mean, that's what they specialize in.
[19:45:00] When U.S. businessmen and women go to Russia, they are observed during their entire visits, they are looking for kompromat. Now, the fact that Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner, both very close to the president, early on in the administration, were trying to create a back-channel with Russia, suggests to me that there's something going on here that we still haven't gotten to the bottom of.
BURNETT: All right. Congresswoman, appreciate your time. Thank you.
SPEIER: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, Michael Cohen's cozy relationship with the lawyer who represented the women. So, the two lawyers are buddies, but the people are on opposite sides? Smells funny, doesn't it.
And Jeanne moos on why former FBI Director Jim Comey tried to run, but could not hide.
BURNETT: Tonight, at least three women who received payment in return for their silence were all represented by the same lawyer. His name is Keith Davidson. And when Davidson negotiated their payments, he negotiated them with Michael Cohen. It's interesting, three women who were different, don't know each other, they all end up with the same lawyer?
Porn star Stormy Daniels and playmate Karen McDougal said they had affairs with President Trump.
[19:50:02] An unnamed Playboy model who had an affair with the top RNC donor and official Elliott Broidy, all three women linked to Trump or a top RNC official using the same lawyer. Could this possibly be coincidence?
Sara Sidner is OUTFRONT.
SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The tie that binds these two men could spill trouble not only for President Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen, but the president himself. CNN has learned some of the cases that the FBI is investigating involved not just Cohen but also Los Angeles-based attorney Keith Davidson, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation.
KEITH DAVIDSON, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR DANIELS & MCDOUGAL: I get involved in a situation when a relationship has gone bad.
SIDNER: Now, everyone knows about the two big cases two women who say they had sex with Donald Trump both initially represented by Keith Davidson.
(on camera): Both of those deals were silenced. It just seems like an awfully strange coincidence that they both landed in your lap, don't you think?
DAVIDSON: No, not at all.
SIDNER: Why not?
DAVIDSON: No. I mean, I have an active practice and when there are very -- there are few attorneys that would go against large corporations, powerful celebrities and that's one thing that I'm known for.
SIDNER (voice-over): But there are three other cases involving both attorneys, like big time Republican fundraiser and vice chair of the Trump Victory Fund, Elliott Broidy. In 2017, Davidson represented a former Playboy model who says Broidy got her pregnant during their affair. Cohen represented Broidy, and Cohen and Davidson negotiated a deal to pay her $1.6 million and to keep quiet about the deal.
And then there's the case of television executive Chuck LaBella who worked with Trump on "The Apprentice" and his beauty pageants. According to a source, Cohen connected LaBella to Davidson, who filed a cease and desist letter on his behalf. After actor Tom Arnold wrote a barrage of unsubstantiated tweets about him. And a source says Cohen also steered another strange case to Davidson involving a GoFundMe account set up for a homeless woman who was trying to protect Donald Trump's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Someone ran off with the money collective for her, and Davidson represented the Trump supporter who set up the account.
All these cases hint at a coziness between Donald Trump's attorney and Keith Davidson, and that's exactly what Karen McDougal is alleging in a lawsuit against AMI, "The National Enquirer's" parent company. She believes AMI conspired to kill her story with the help of Davidson and Cohen.
Davidson admits he called Cohen after brokering the deal with AMI, even though Cohen was not an official partner to the case.
(on camera): It just seems odd that you would pick up the phone to call Michael Cohen and say, hey.
2DAVIDSON: I understand. I understand the questions and I understand, you know, why you may think that or other people may think that, but that's just simply not the case.
SIDNER: Now, I want to remind you of our exclusive reporting that we have learned that the FBI seized voice recordings made by Michael Cohen of his conversations, at least some of his conversation with Attorney Keith Davidson. Remember that four of the five cases that you just learned about -- well, they involve, of course, or at least are connected to Donald Trump -- Erin.
BURNETT: A lot to be a coincidence. Thank you so much, Sara Sidner.
And next, Jim Comey, all 6 feet 8 inches of him, recalling efforts to stay out of the president's sight. Jeanne Moos on that tall tale, next.
[19:58:00] BURNETT: Tonight, avoiding President Trump and how Jim Comey's attempts completely failed.
Here's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You are looking at the former FBI director trying to blend in with the curtains to avoid the notice of President Trump. It's a story we have been hearing about for months, attributed to a friend of James Comey's. But now, it's coming straight from the horse's mouth.
COMEY: Right next to me is this blue curtain. And I'm wearing a blue suit. It doesn't match perfectly, but close enough. MOOS: The original story inspired one cartoonist to portray the president joining Comey behind the curtain. People tweeted pictures of their pets, someone even wrote a haiku. A tall wimpy man stands by the White House curtain. Trump pulls down the shades.
But who needs a haiku when we have Comey himself.
COMEY: So, I'm thinking, how great is that? I got a little camouflaged. So started moving over and I pressed myself against the blue curtain.
MOOS: A conservative commentator tweeted, lyin' Comey trying to hide in a blue curtain, prompting a Comey supporter to scratch back. He is not hiding anymore.
Some compared Comey in a curtain to former Press Secretary Sean Spicer hiding among the bushes, as well as the curtain coming down on Obama's portrait, with the president engulfed in greenery. The blue curtain didn't save Comey.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's become more famous than me.
COMEY: My family had a lot of fun watching my face as I walked across because they know that's my "oh no" face.
MOOS: Or as his wife puts it -
COMEY: She says that's Jim's (AUDIO GAP) face.
MOOS: Comey says he avoided a hug with a handshake, as President Trump whispered, I really look forward to working with you.
COMEY: When the president fired the FBI director, it was curtains for Comey. But he will always be remembered for trying to blend into that curtain. All 6'8" of him.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BURNETT: Pictures like that really throw me. I mean, Donald Trump is a tall guy and that is bizarre.
All right. Thanks for joining us.
"AC360" starts now.