Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Comey Slams Trump's Jail Threat "Not Normal, Not OK"; Michael Cohen's Mystery Third Client Is Sean Hannity; W.H. Walks Back Haley's Russia Sanctions Announcement; Supreme Court Partly Overturns Mandatory Deportation For Convicts; Interview with Rep. Ted Lieu. Aired 10:00-10:30am ET

Aired April 17, 2018 - 10:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:00:40] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman. So behind door number three, Sean Hannity. Michael Cohen's secret third client revealed. As the President's lawyers and the Department of Justice battle over sees records. We'll have much more on that in just a moment.

But first, James Comey with a new defense of himself, his words, his writing, on what is sort of day three of his book tour, listen to what he says about the President's comments that he should be in jail.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FIRED FBI DIRECTOR: The President of the United States is accusing people of crimes without evidence, and pronouncing them guilty and saying they should be in jail. That should wake all of us up with a start. But there's been so much of it that we're a little bit numb and that's dangerous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Make America numb again. The words from James Comey right there. In just minutes, House Speaker Paul Ryan, he will take questions. Will he address the James Comey book? The James Comey comments? Will he address tensions around his own job and whether he should stay in the speakership? We're monitoring all of this for you.

But first, I want to go to Florida right now. Kaitlan Collins is there near the President's Mar-a-Lago resort. Kaitlan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, and John if things couldn't get more complicated in this news cycle, now James Comey is weighing in on Michael Cohen, the President's attorney. Of course, after FBI agents raided Michael Cohen's house, hotel and office, you'll recall that President Trump said he thought it was a disgraceful and an attack on our country. And James Comey, in his opinion, said that that means the President doesn't understand how the United States justice system works.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) COMEY: It shows me he doesn't know or doesn't care what the rule of law looks like. Nobody broke into anybody's office. It doesn't happen. The FBI gets a search warrant from a federal judge and conducts itself professionally, completely, and politely by the counsel of the people involved. So, it's a total distortion of the way things work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Now, though the President was emphatic of his criticism of that raid, of course, Michael Cohen himself that he believed the agents who did -- who carried out the raid were polite and courteous in that sense. But we're largely overall seeing this feud between the President and James Comey continue.

And what's interesting here, John, is there was certainly a sense of anxiety in the White House before this book was released. Of course, it officially released today. But what we are seeing now is that certainly it seems like what's going on with Michael Cohen, the President's attorney, is certainly taking up the attention of the President more so than James Comey's book, and all of this is going on while we are here in Palm Beach, Florida. The President is awaiting the arrival of the Japanese Prime Minister. But certainly Michael Cohen is something that is on his mind, John.

BERMAN: And will be on his mind for some time. Kaitlan Collins, thank you very much.

Two hearings down. Many more to come in the battle over documents taken from Michael Cohen's office. But for sheer spectacle, it will be hard to top the proceedings yesterday in that federal court has here in New York. Stormy Daniels was there, vowing on the courthouse steps to make sure everyone finds out the truth and we learned the name of Michael Cohen's client number three, who insisted on TV, radio and Twitter that he wasn't really a client, though he got some legal advice there. Is there a distinction?

CNN's Brynn Gingras here with what it all means. Brynn.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, everyone thought the Stormy Daniels, Michael Cohen being in the same courtroom was going to be a drama. It wasn't.

Anyway, let's talk about what happen in court. Essentially here, the federal judge in this case giving all sides a bit of what they wanted without making a final determination about how investigators will be able to review the seized documents from last week's raid on Michael Cohen home, his office and his hotel room. Now the U.S. attorney's office is going to hand over copies of the seized material to Cohen's legal team. And a judge, the judge, has asked them to get an idea of the volume of documents they believe is protected by attorney-client privilege. Remember, this is why this whole hearing was happening. The government is also going to do the same.

Remember, the President also filed a late motion wanting access to all those records as well and the judge authorized Cohen's team to give Trump's lawyers whatever material pertains to the President and the Trump organization. So as you can imagine, that's a move that Trump's legal team is probably pleased with. But all of this, somewhat, overshadowed by the fact that we learned in court Fox News host Sean Hannity is a client of Michael Cohen's.

[10:05:05] And this really came out in dramatic fashion in court after the judge insisted Cohen's attorneys hand over a list of his clients. That short list, we know about Trump, RNC fund-raiser Elliott Broidy, who Cohen helps negotiate the payout to a Playboy model after getting her pregnant and then this unnamed third client, who is Hannity. Now, Hannity claims he only sought legal advice from Cohen and wasn't actually his client. Here is what else he said on his show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, IDENTIFIED AS COHEN CLIENT: Michael Cohen never represented me in any legal matter. I never retained his services. I never received an invoice. I never paid Michael Cohen for legal fees.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRAS: Of course, right after that, and today, all of that up for debate. Back to this criminal investigation into Cohen's personal and business dealings which is ongoing. You know, it's new to us, the government revealed in court though that it's been working on this case for months but in some aspects it will now slow down just a bit until all sides do come back to court. The judge makes her final ruling regarding the seized documents and we're learning, John, that that actually could take several weeks.

BERMAN: All right, Brynn Gingras for us, thank you very much.

I do want to note that moments ago, Stormy Daniels did arrive at ABC. She is appearing on "The View." There is her attorney Michael Avenatti arriving. I believe Stormy Daniels is with him or not. No? There is Michael Avenatti. There is Stormy Daniels right now, walking into "The View" with her attorney Michael Avenatti.

The reason we're showing you is they claim they're going to release the composite sketch of the person that Stormy Daniels says threatened her back in 2011 to not go forward with her story about her relationship with the President. So that's going on today as well.

Joining me now, CNN Legal and National Security Analyst Asha Rangappa. Asha, thanks very much for being with us. I want to start with Hannity-Gate as it were. And Sean Hannity's claim that Michael Cohen performed no legal work for him, he never paid him in that Cohen's not his lawyer, but at the same time, there is some attorney-client privilege there. What gives?

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, John. Who needs Netflix? We can just watch this proceeding unfold. So what is coming out here is that, first, Michael Cohen has gone into court and said that the government has seized all of these documents, thousands if not millions of which might be privileged. And so the judge came back and said, well tell us who your clients are and then we can go see which of these communications are privileged.

And as you just mentioned, it turns out there is three clients. The third one is Sean Hannity. Now, in saying publicly now that Michael Cohen never represented him, and that he wasn't a client of Cohen, he's essentially also admitting that the communications therein were not privileged. Even if he consulted him on, you know, a narrow legal matter once or twice and those are privileged, that doesn't equate to thousands of millions. So this is kind of an odd situation where you have these two parties saying kind of opposite things.

BERMAN: Yes. This is maybe in the end more on Cohen legally than it is on Hannity. Hannity's got a mountain of journalistic questions to answer there. But legally speaking, Cohen is the one that chose to claim that Hannity was a client there, and that was just frankly odd. You also bring up a point of what is privileged, what evidence might be privileged there the government said something interesting, that they did uncover any communication. At least e-mail communication between Donald Trump and Michael Cohen, which isn't surprising in a sense that we know Donald Trump doesn't use e-mail.

RANGAPPA: Yes, and that could end up being a big problem for the President. So even if Michael Cohen was representing him on a matter, if Trump was allowing a third party to see the communications from Cohen, respond to him, that is essentially a waiver of the privilege. That Trump's employee, that he's, you know, giving access to these disclosures. And it might be that what he's trying to do is create plausible deniability that he's associated, but it's going to cause problems. Because either he was a client in which case he knew about everything that's going on, including in this Stormy Daniels civil case or he didn't and there is no privilege.

BERMAN: So what did we see ultimately yesterday from this courtroom and Judge Kimba Wood who seemed to slow things down a little bit, but also make fairly clear that much of this evidence will be accessible to investigators. She said there will be a review process here, but I don't think you can expect the review process to keep a lot out.

RANGAPPA: Right. So she basically didn't give in to Cohen and Trump's attorneys' requests that they be the ones to go through and sift and decide which of these communications are privileged.

[10:10:06] She did ask the government to give them the communications. But what she's saying is she's going to think about perhaps having a special master, which is kind of a neutral party go through and determine this as opposed to a group of prosecutors who would be the taint team, to clean up anything here.

What she said was that she thinks that this might be warranted in the interest of fairness because the fairness has been contested here. But I think that's, you know, it will be interesting to see how she comes out on that, because obviously all defendants think that these searches are unfair and the President, of all people, is probably getting the most dotting of the i's and crossing of the t's by the prosecutorial team than anyone, I would imagine.

BERMAN: She's setting a high bar here so that when much of this stuff might be admissible, they can say that it met that high bar. It seems that's what's going on here.

RANGAPPA: Absolutely.

BERMAN: Asha Rangappa, Asha, great to have you with us. Thank you very much.

RANGAPPA: Thank you.

BERMAN: Let's talk now with Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu about this. He joins us from Capitol Hill.

Congressman, I know you are a lawyer, you have a long legal history. I also don't expect you're much of a Fox News viewer. Yet I've seen you commenting quite actively about Sean Hannity here. Do you have legal questions for Sean Hannity about what was revealed yesterday?

REP. TED LIEU (D-CA), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Thank you, John, for your question. Let me first say congratulations on completing the Boston marathon and raising money for the boys and girls club. You looked great.

In terms of Sean Hannity, what struck me was that he failed to disclose that he had a special relationship with Michael Cohen, he always says friend. He got free legal advice from Michael Cohen and viewers have a right to know was Sean Hannity upset at these raids of Michael Cohen's office because he thought there was some legal issue or was he upset because Michael Cohen was his friend. And when Sean Hannity hides that fact from his viewers and doesn't let Fox News know about it, then that's a breach of journalistic ethics no matter how you call it.

BERMAN: OK, that's a journalistic issue. And I appreciate you being a fan of your journalism there, but there isn't anything legal there, correct?

LIEU: That is correct. The reason that I'm interested in Michael Cohen issue, last month, Congresswoman Kathleen Rice and I, both former prosecutors, we wrote a letter to the FBI asking them to investigate Michael Cohen as well as the National Enquirer because both of them made large monetary payments to silence two women who had negative stories about affairs about Donald Trump during a presidential campaign. That was a violation of campaign finance laws and I think that's one of the things that the FBI is looking at right now.

BERMAN: It seems as if maybe your letters were after the fact. It does seem as if the FBI and this other district may have been investigating Michael Cohen for at least other issues long before that.

Just final, one more final question on Michael Cohen, what do you make of Judge Kimba Wood's decision to slow things down a little bit and create this review process for the evidence that was seized? Would you like to see it be reviewed by investigators right away or are you OK with the more careful approach? LIEU: I support Judge Wood's decision. And ultimately what she did yesterday, she upheld the rule of law. She rejected Donald Trump's and his attorneys' requests to have these documents not reviewed by the prosecution, the judge rejected that. What she did say is she might appoint a special master to assist both the prosecution and the defense, but make no mistake, the prosecution is going to review all the documents and it shows again that no one is above the law, not the President, and not his attorney.

BERMAN: The defense will get to see them, though. And I imagine that is actually something they were keenly interested (ph) as well, just to get a sense of exactly what the FBI has here. Because I'm not sure that they were able to really fully ascertain what evidence was seized.

But to shift here is to James Comey, Frank Rooney, a friend of mine and columnist for The New York Times, he assesses the James Comey situation as such. He goes, "With the way that Comey has written his book, which charts every last tremor of his conscience and the staging of his appearance and promotion of it, he has embedded his own transformation from a crucial witness to a character in a serial drama of nonstop spectacle of Trump's life." That drama only serves Trump. The question is, you know, and I'm sure you would be critical of Comey and also supportive of Comey over time as well, do you think that the way that James Comey has written his book and gone about these interviews has helped or hurt his overall argument about the President's fitness?

LIEU: That's a great question. Comey is a complicated figure. And while I disagree with his policy judgments regarding Hillary Clinton's e-mails and disclosing that investigation to the American public, I was able to interview him as part of the House Oversight Committee in 2016 when he came to Capitol Hill. I believe that he is a man of integrity. Well I don't agree with what he has chosen to do, I don't have anything to doubt what he is saying about the President. And I believe his recollections are true and I think that ultimately he's helpful to the American people.

[10:15:02] BERMAN: He is in recollection about the hand size and the hair color and maybe some of the salacious details, that too, that included?

LIEU: I would not have written a book that way, but I'm talking more about his recollections and conversations about Michael Flynn, and obstruction of justice. I have no reason to doubt that that is not true.

BERMAN: Paul Ryan -- Congressman Ted Lieu, thank you so much for being with us and thank you for your comments about the Boston marathon. You said I looked great. That is, in fact, not true. Fact check false, but thank you nonetheless. I do appreciate it.

Paul Ryan is taking questions right now from reporters as he briefs them -- OK, we're monitoring this. He's not taking questions just yet. We'll have much more on this coming forward.

New Russia sanctions, so are they in or are they out? Mixed messages from the administration. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[10:20:00] PAUL RYAN, SPEAKER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Well, I won't get into what sanctions should be applied other than we should be applying Russian sanctions. We've been applying Russians sanctions in multiple ways this year. I think the President's strike was called for. I think it was the right thing to do. And I think he -- I was also impressed with the fact he made a multilateral effort, that the French and the Brits joined us in this attack.

We need -- the peaceful democratic nations of this world need to stand up and speak against and act against the spread of these horrific weapons. So I think the President did the right thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: All right, House Speaker Paul Ryan not really answering the question about what happened when U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said that new sanctions against Russia were coming, she said that on Sunday. And then Monday they did not happen and it seemed The White House backed off them at the direction of the President.

Joining me now, CNN National Security Commentator, Former Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers. Mr. Chairman, thank you so much. Let's just walk down memory lane, go to the way back machine, way, way back on Sunday when the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley clearly not freelancing made this announcement on the Sunday shows.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: 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 used.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So there are really two issues here. I would like you to address each one. Number one, should there be more sanctions on Russia yesterday as Nikki Haley announced there would be. And what does it tell you that an important spokesperson for the administration makes that announcement on Sunday, and then apparently gets her legs cut out from under her on Monday?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Well, it tells me that there were likely conversations about sanctions. I don't think she did that completely on her own. And the consensus of their national security team was to go forward with sanctions that targeted Russian companies in the chemical attack, which I think is the right answer.

And I think it was just, again, a misfire about their ability, the Trump administration's ability to have a strategy, have a plan, you know, they always say develop the plan and then work the plan. They missed the work the plan piece. And so I think they're still going to come back. I think there's a lot of voices out there now in the national security space saying, hey you need to do this. How it looks.

But I'll tell you why this is important, John. Last night I was with some very senior leaders from one of our allied countries who are expressing frustration on just that lack of consistency across the board. And I think this fits into that. So I'm hoping that once you get Pompeo in, you get John Bolton in, you'll get a little more consistency in the message. You won't have your NATO Ambassador saying one thing on a Sunday and then the actions of the administration happening something different on a Monday. And likely they'll correct themselves by the end of this week would be my guess.

BERMAN: Maybe. And Chris Stewart, the Congressman from Utah, Republican, who says there have been some discussions about the sanctions and they aren't dead yet. But what it looks like from the outside, and based on some of the reporting is that, you know, Ambassador Haley announced these sanctions, and it's the President who said back off. You know, I'm not sure I want these. So it's every one of the administration wanting to be tougher on Russia than apparently the President does, at least for the time being.

ROGERS: Yes, I think -- again, I think this is the time being. And you have to look back, this is the interest thing about the Russian narrative. The Trump presidency has been really tough on Russia. They gave offensive weapons to Ukraine. They have done a round of sanctions, they expelled the diplomats. I mean, that's pretty tough.

That's tougher than we've been in the last 10 years on Russia. That part has been good. And I don't know what to make of this, other than as I explained, I think that there is misfiring going on between what the policy cooking is, at the National Security Council and then what comes out at the end. Again, I doubt that Nikki Haley went on a Sunday show on her own and decided that she was going to talk about those sanctions.

BERMAN: Yes.

ROGERS: As a matter of fact, she said if they're not done already, which means she likely talked to the Secretary of the Treasury. So somebody did yank it out. Maybe the President -- again, this has been their problem in delivering a consistent national security message to our friends and allies and adversaries as well.

BERMAN: So I know you've been disappointed with James Comey in the rollout of his new book and the way he has chosen to address different things. But in some of the rounds of interviews, he does say something interesting that I want to get your take on. He told NPR, this is after the President said that he should be in jail, Comey should be in jail, Comey says, "The president of the United States just tweeted that a private citizen should be jailed. And I think the reaction of most of us was Meh, it's another one of those things."

Comey goes on, "This is not normal. This is not OK. There's a danger we'll all become numb and stop noticing the threats to our norms." Aside from your criticism of how he approached his book and maybe some of these interviews, does he have a point there?

I mean, has the President made America numb again? When the president of the United States is, you know, talking about jailing a citizen, you know, can that slide at this point?

[10:25:08] ROGERS: Well, you know, listen, I've been equally critical of Donald Trump's tweets. I think they're unpresidential in many cases. I mean, one day he'll deliver a national policy strategy by tweet and the next day he's insulting somebody personally. And I think all of that is bad. And I think we should not take that as a norm.

But candidly in this case, you know, we kind of know what we have with President Trump. I expected more of the FBI Director. He joined into that. He -- you know, the personal references to the President, the fact that he's disclosing conversations he had as director of the FBI with the President of the United States and his answer -- I thought he had a duty to correct the President. He didn't take it.

And now, you know, I just -- I think it's bad for the FBI, I think it's bad for the director and it allows people to run to their corners and say see, the FBI is bad, they're political and trying to -- and that's the worst outcome for an institution that I think is incredibly important for the United States, the FBI.

BERMAN: Mr. Chairman, Mike Rogers, thank you so much for being with us. Appreciate it, sir.

ROGERS: Thanks.

BERMAN: We have breaking news out of Supreme Court. Our Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider joins us now. This is a ruling about immigration and the breakdown. Fascinating.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: It is, John. You know, just minutes ago, the Supreme Court ruled here they invalidated a federal immigration law that allowed for the deportation of immigrants on the basis of a crime of violence. That was the definition. The Supreme Court here saying that that crime of violence, it was unconstitutionally vague, it is a clear definition to allow for the deportation.

But what's particularly interesting here is the way this decision came down. This was a 5-4 decision. And the newest justice here at the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, of course a conservative, he sided with the liberal justices here. Now that may seem surprising, but it goes exactly in line with Neil Gorsuch's judicial philosophy.

He believes in textualism, he believes in reading statutes exactly as they're written and not reading too much more into them. So of course the fact that he found this crime of violence provision in this deportation statute unconstitutionally vague, it basically just means that the statute didn't have enough that definition. And of course, John, Neil Gorsuch, of course, his mentor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, that's likely exactly how justice Scalia may have ruled here.

So, again, the Supreme Court invalidating a federal immigration law that allowed for deportation for crimes of violence and of course here the conservative justice really casting the deciding vote, siding with those liberals. A little bit surprising. John?

BERMAN: All right, Jessica Schneider for us at the Supreme Court, thank you very much.

James Comey says he was not making fun of the President when he was described the President's skin as orange in his new book. So why then did he write it? We have an explanation coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)