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STATE OF THE UNION

Interview With Oklahoma Senator James Lankford; Interview With Ohio Governor John Kasich; Interview With Stormy Daniels Attorney Michael Avenatti; Trump, GOP Must Hold The House To Avoid Impeachment; Kanye West Defends Trump Praise In New Song; Jake Tapper's "The Hellfire Club". Aired 9-10a ET

Aired April 29, 2018 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:15]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Rousing rally.

AUDIENCE: USA! USA!

TAPPER: President Trump skips a big D.C. dinner for his own party with a friendly crowd in a lesser known Washington -- Washington, Michigan.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Is this better than that phony Washington White House Correspondents...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: Attacking his critics.

TRUMP: Well, I know things about Tester. And if I said them, he would never be elected again.

TAPPER: Republican Governor John Kasich is here in moments.

Plus: historic summit. President Trump touts his own diplomatic efforts in the Korean peace talks.

TRUMP: It's certainly something that I hope I can do for the world.

TAPPER: And says he's ready to meet with Kim Jong-un.

TRUMP: I think that something very dramatic could happen.

TAPPER: But is Kim Jong-un really interested in peace? Senator James Lankford of the Homeland Security Intelligence Committees is here next.

And Trump talks. The president weighs in on the Stormy Daniels case, but might his comments have legal implications?

MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: The president once again made a critical mistake. TAPPER: Stormy Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, is here ahead.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is attempting to rally after a long night.

President Trump was in a different Washington last night holding a campaign event with supporters in Washington, Michigan, instead of attending the annual White House Correspondents Association Dinner in Washington, D.C.

As members of the press and his administration attempted to honor the First Amendment and journalism, President Trump made use of his freedom of speech, attacking the news media and his political foes, and touting this week's talks between North and South Korea, saying he is not getting enough credit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They were saying, what do you think President Trump had to do with it?

I will tell you what. Like, how about everything.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: President Trump also attacked his latest target, Montana Senator Jon Tester, suggesting that he has dirt on the Democrat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Well, I know things about Tester that I could say too.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: And if I said them, he would never be elected again.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Before we get to our first guest, I do want to note, we did ask the White House to provide us with a representative to join us this morning to discuss North Korea and more. The White House declined our invitation.

Joining us now from his home state of Oklahoma is Republican Senator James Lankford. He is a member of the Senate Intelligence and the Senate Homeland Security Committees.

Senator, first of all, I know that you're at an event right now honoring the survivors and the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing. Tell us briefly, if you would, just about that event. SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA: Yes, April 19, 1995, we lost a 168

Americans here at the federal building bombing.

It was domestic violence and domestic terrorism that happened here. Every year since then, we have what we call the Memorial Marathon. It is what we call a Run to Remember.

This year, they're 25,000 runners all coming to remember what hatred and what violence, when that spills over, what that really does to lives and families. There are literally runners from all 50 states that are here, 13 countries.

So, it's a very significant event. We're right in the middle of it right now.

TAPPER: And our thoughts and our hugs are going out to the people of Oklahoma today.

Let's turn to the news, if we can, sir.

The White House says that the accusations brought forward by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee against Rear Admiral Jackson, they're not true. Republican Senator Johnny Isakson, who chairs the committee, says he has no problem with how Senator Jon Tester, the Democrat that is on the committee, how he released this information. But the president is on the attack.

What do you make of this controversy?

LANKFORD: Yes, this is a back and forth.

Obviously, this is a part of the normal vetting process that the Senate does. The Senate takes every individual that has been nominated by the president, no matter who the president is, goes first through the committee process, makes the nomination decision that they choose to make on what they're going to do, what's called advice and consent from the Senate.

This particular nominee never made it through actually the committee itself. The committee did its work, and then never made a recommendation to the floor. So -- and, obviously, Dr. Jackson has now pulled his nomination entirely.

TAPPER: So, it doesn't sound like you have a problem with it either.

President Trump is now out there on the campaign trail suggesting that he has dirt on Jon Tester. You say Jon Tester was just doing the normal advise and consent role of the Senate, doing vetting of this nominee that the White House -- you didn't say this, but I will say it -- the White House apparently did not do.

[09:05:03]

Is it inappropriate for President Trump to say, "I have dirt on Senator Tester"?

LANKFORD: Yes, obviously, the president can choose to say what he chooses to say on it.

The pushing back and forth, this is part of the political world in D.C. But I would say, I'm not on the committee of jurisdiction there. Obviously, the committee does its initial work. Then it comes to the full Senate. So, I couldn't even tell you the rest of the details on this.

I can't tell you, he has served honorably for three different presidents. That does change the dynamic significantly, when you have got somebody that served in the White House for three different presidents of two different parties to then go through this process.

TAPPER: Another breaking story this weekend, Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer from that infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016, she told NBC News that she has closer ties to the Kremlin than originally disclosed.

She now calls herself a -- quote -- "informant" for the Russian government.

President Trump talked about this last night. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Now, all of a sudden, she supposedly is involved with government.

You know why, if -- if she did that? Because Putin and the group said, you know, this Trump is killing us. Why don't you say that you're involved with government, so that we can go and make their life in the United States even more chaotic?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: It's an interesting theory.

But more to the point about the role of Natalia Veselnitskaya, you're on the Senate Intelligence Committee. What do you know about the role she plays with the Kremlin, if anything?

LANKFORD: Well, the role she plays with the Kremlin is, if you're an attorney at any point in Russia, and you're especially in Moscow and working with any individuals of the oligarchs, you are going to have some connection with government.

And they -- you may not know, as an American, what that is. It depends on the contracts, depends on the individuals that she had the opportunity to be able to work with. But there will be some sort of connection at someplace in that.

The interesting thing is to be able to actually see the meeting that she was a part of. We have done extensive investigation, walked through multiple interviews with everybody that was there to try to get the full information and the full details about that meeting, how it happened, what happened there, what happened afterwards.

So, we will have that in our final report, because we have done a very extensive look-through of that meeting.

TAPPER: Was any so-called dirt on Hillary Clinton shared with the Trump campaign at that meeting, as far as you know?

LANKFORD: Well, that was the implication of the meeting itself, when they -- they said that they were bringing some things to that meeting.

Actually, the topic of that meeting was never about dirt from Hillary Clinton once the actual meeting actually occurred. And we have corroboration from multiple individuals that were actually there at the meeting and around it.

The big challenge there, though, is, obviously, she was trying to come to be able to institute something in this conversation about getting more Russians to have sanctions removed from them. There was none of that. And there was no agreement about that at all and no real conversation about that in that meeting.

Again, we will have the play-by-play and the walk-through of that meeting in our final report. We're very focused on releasing a bipartisan report with all the facts and information and findings about that.

TAPPER: Senator, let's turn to the other major news this week, the summit announced between North and South Korean leaders and -- and one that took place.

President Trump said last night that he will meet with Kim Jong-un the next three or four weeks. Just a few months ago, I think it's fair to say no one would have expected this, a promise to shut down their nuclear sites by next month, end the declared state of war.

You yourself were just in the DMZ, the demilitarized zone, between North and South Korea just a few months ago.

Do you give President Trump credit for this?

LANKFORD: Well, he's part of the journey. There's no question on that.

President Trump has put in a set of sanctions that has actually brought North Korea to the table on it. They have isolated diplomats around the world for North Korea. They have been kicked out of multiple countries where they have been for a very long time.

They've been very isolated in their shipping out. They've been very isolated in moving energy. They have -- we have had -- on board ships where they were actually in the ocean trying to transition to other ships their materials and supplies. They're shutting that down.

So, North Korea is more isolated than they have ever been with sanctions, with very aggressive sanctions. So, there's no reason for us to be able to doubt that President Trump and the leadership of the State Department has made a big effort for that.

Clearly, South Korea and Japan have also made a big effort on that. And China has also stepped in, in a very big way. So, this international effort is bringing North Korea actually to the table, where they should be.

TAPPER: President Trump called Kim Jong-un -- quote -- "very honorable" this week.

As I don't need to tell you, Kim Jong-un has committed horrific human rights violations against his own people. He's executed top aides, ordered the murder of members of his own family. An international judge who survived Auschwitz says North Korean prison camps could be even worse than those.

Would you ever use the word honorable to describe Kim Jong-un?

LANKFORD: I would never use the word honorable to describe Kim Jong- un.

I think he's better to be able to just call him Rocket Man and to be able to stick with that than honorable, just because he is a ruthless dictator that does public executions of anyone who disagrees.

The reason that everyone in North Korea agrees with him is because he kills anyone who disagrees with him. And he has literally starved his own people to be able to help the elites.

[09:10:00]

So, it's entirely appropriate that we try to resolve this, not just for North Korea, but for the people of North Korea that have to live under this kind of dictatorship.

To kind of break this open would be a very significant international event.

TAPPER: One final question, Senator.

President Trump has said he's running for reelection in 2020. He held a campaign rally in Michigan last night. Will you back his reelection bid?

LANKFORD: I would, actually.

As we walk through this process to see what's happening in the economy, the taxes and what's -- what's occurred with the tax reform is making an incredible difference. I am encouraging the president to get things resolved on trade. If we can get the trade issues, that will be a very significant issue for manufacturing and for agriculture.

It's been no secret I have disagreed with the president on some of his moral choices, some of the ways that he says things. I don't speak the way he speaks, and I don't encourage my children to speak the way that he speaks.

But we also have to get policy implemented that's going to help Americans and America to be able to move forward. TAPPER: Senator Lankford, always a pleasure to have you on. Thank you so much.

Please tell everybody in Oklahoma we're thinking about them today.

LANKFORD: I will. Actually, it's a very significant day here for us.

TAPPER: Thank you so much, sir.

President Trump in full campaign mode last night, but still several Republicans are not ready to officially back him for reelection.

Might that leave an opening for a primary challenge?

One man who is considering it, Governor John Kasich, is here next.

Stay with me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:15:08]

TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

President Trump is in full campaign mode, rallying his supporters to turn out and vote for Republicans this November and projecting confidence about his party's chances to hold its control of Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We got to go out, and we got to fight like hell, and we got to win the House and we got to win the Senate.

And I think we're going to do great in the Senate, and I think we're going to do great in the House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Polls indicate that the president is right that his party is going to have to put up a fight. Just this week, Republicans got another worrying sign, after a Republican candidate in Arizona won, but by a slim margin, in a district that Trump carried by 21 points in 2016.

Joining me now to discuss this and much, much more is Republican Governor of Ohio John Kasich.

Governor Kasich, always a pleasure to have you.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Yes.

Congratulations on your award last night.

TAPPER: Thank you so much.

KASICH: And I noticed it took four of you to win it. So... TAPPER: Well, you know, we're getting old. We're getting old.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: So, I want to ask you about the midterms.

Republican congressional leaders increasingly worried that a Democratic wave is coming, that they will lose the House, they might even lose the Senate.

President Trump doesn't agree. He's confident in his abilities. He's confident that the Republicans are going to hold the House and Senate.

You're out there in real America in Ohio. How concerned should Republicans be, how concerned should President Trump be?

KASICH: I think that the Democrats are more energized than the Republicans.

And then the Republicans are going to have trouble in a lot of these suburban districts, because a number of people who live in the suburbs, including women who have been traditionally voting Republican, are very uncomfortable with what they see.

So, in that race in Pennsylvania, which is an area I'm really familiar with because I grew up there, this young man Conor Lamb, he won in a district that no Democrat had really won. So, you're beginning to see the intensity factor.

Now, where the Democrats fall short, Jake, is, I have no idea what they're for. I mean, they're really betting on the Republicans just bouncing the ball off their foot out of bounds, and that they will win the game that way.

So, I believe it will be a decent Democrat year. But it could be a big year if they stood for something, but -- and, you know, look, they're all screwed up too, because the left wing is really dominating them, just like the right wing is dominating the Republican Party.

It's an amazing situation.

TAPPER: When you say that suburban women voters who normally vote Republican are trending the other way because that -- they don't like what they see, what do you mean? Do you mean President...

KASICH: Harsh language.

TAPPER: President Trump?

KASICH: Yes, they don't want -- they don't like harsh language. They don't like division.

And, Jake, here is what is going on in our country. Look, you got the hard left and the hard right. They only absorb that that they agree with. God bless them. Maybe we can come back and rescue them later. But there's a big ocean of people in the middle who are up for grabs. And these are people who are objective. These are people who are rational. And these are people who seek the truth.

Last night, people come up to me, "Well, I'm a Democrat, I'm for you" at the dinner. "I'm a Republican." I said -- "I'm for you."

I said, forget it. Don't identify yourself. Be yourself. Be an American and care about being rational, objective and seeking the truth, because we're almost in a post-truth environment.

What does that mean? A post-truth environment means that somebody would argue, I'm not even on the set with you. We have to get our facts right. We have to seek the truth. And if we have a difference between liberals, conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, we can mediate those differences, if we can agree to the facts, the basic facts.

TAPPER: And let's talk about that.

Last night was the White House Correspondents Association Dinner. You were there for some of it. President Trump was not.

There was a new poll this week that I found, as a journalist, rather alarming. It showed only 38 percent of Republican voters say the news media...

KASICH: I saw that.

TAPPER: ... is -- quote -- "an important part of democracy."

Most Republican voters in this poll, 51 percent, agree with President Trump's view that the media, the press is a -- quote -- "enemy of the American people."

KASICH: You know...

TAPPER: This is your party.

KASICH: Well, Jake, this -- these are people, OK?

TAPPER: Right.

KASICH: And here's the thing.

The press is such a critical foundation of freedom in our society and all over the world. The first thing that people do when they want to assume power, these autocrats in Central Europe, now is, they shut the press down.

And here's the question people have to ask themselves. If you don't want to trust the press -- and the press has a responsibility to not go just for hype -- but if you don't trust the press, who are you going to trust? A politician?

I mean, that's the last group of people I would trust, are politicians.

So, as you absorb information -- a lot of people say to me, how am I supposed to know what to believe? Well, sample everything. And then you use your good brain to figure out what you think is true. But don't just keep absorbing that that you agree with, and getting more and more angry with people that say something that you don't agree with.

How are we supposed to unify in this country if we only want to consume and agree with things that we like? It's just -- life doesn't work that way. And let's not teach our children to do that either.

TAPPER: Last night, at his rally in Washington, Michigan, President Trump said that nobody has been tougher than he has on Vladimir Putin, so much so, he says that Putin is now trying to sabotage his presidency through various ways.

But the larger point is what I want to ask you about.

[09:20:00]

Do you think that the Trump administration has been tough enough on Vladimir Putin's Russia?

KASICH: Well, look, it's been getting better since the poisoning of that of -- that former agent in London.

Putin has been able to unify the West, unlike what we have seen, Jake. So, there have been sanctions. There probably could be more sanctions.

But the fact is, is that the French, the Germans, the Brits, the Americans, we're all now beginning to say that Putin is a thug and that we need to push back on him.

So, Putin inadvertently has done more to unify the West than the West has done to unify itself.

TAPPER: You say there could be more sanctions, but, generally speaking, it sounds like you're supportive of President Trump when it comes to how he's been handling Russia.

KASICH: I think -- well, look, I think he's taken action lately that has been good. Give him credit for that, the same way that I give him credit for the pressure that he's put on the North Koreans.

I mean, look, my job is not to be a critic of Donald Trump. People don't understand that. I am not speaking out because somehow I want something politically. I'm worried about my country, and I'm worried about the divisions and the constant effort to continue to polarize us.

But, at the end, when the president deserves credit, when Donald Trump deserves credit, I'm going to give it to him. Why not? Be fair.

TAPPER: So, let me ask you about that. You talked about North Korea as a place where maybe he -- an area where President Trump maybe deserves credit. In December, you wrote an op-ed on the topic, saying -- quote -- "This increasingly hot war of words does nothing to bring us closer to where we need to be on North Korea" -- unquote.

It sounds like you were talking about President Trump's at times -- a lot of people were concerned about it.

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: Yes. Well, I think...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: The rhetoric used.

But, looking at it now, was -- did he have the right approach?

KASICH: Well, I think the idea that he stood up -- and I have talked to many experts about this. And I served on the Defense Committee myself for 18 years.

There was a point at which the rhetoric needed to stop. No, I think what has pressured the North Koreans have been the sanctions which have been brought together by the world.

Look, there are many factors involved. And part of it is the pressure that Donald Trump put on the North Koreans. But it's also -- also the rest of the world that joined in, including the Chinese, to say, we're going to sanction them.

Jake, no one quite understands why un is doing the things that he's doing. But, fortunately, he's moving in the right direction.

Now, the United States -- and I think the administration has said this -- I give them credit for this -- don't ease up. You know, this is like the whole Charlie Brown thing. I have got the football, go and kick it, you know?

TAPPER: Right.

KASICH: And they pull the football away.

You can't just trust the North Koreans. You have got to be very careful. And you have got to go to a phased implementation of any relief we give them, based on what they're willing to give us.

TAPPER: All right.

Lastly, your favorite topic. Senator -- several Senate Republican lawmakers have said that they're not ready to back President Trump...

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: I'm not ready to back -- this is what... (CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: ... in 2020.

KASICH: Tell me what is going to happen in the next five minutes.

TAPPER: OK, but it's unusual...

KASICH: Yes, it is. It is.

TAPPER: It's unusual for senators to say, I'm not there yet.

KASICH: I was surprised. Yes.

TAPPER: Senator Lankford did offer his support, but a lot of -- a lot of senators have not been.

Do you see an opening there for Republicans maybe wanting an alternative brand of leadership for 2020?

KASICH: I think it's too early to say, Jake, but here's what I do believe.

You have a department store that's red and a department store that's blue, and neither of them right now are providing products to the great middle. And you know what happens? That's how another store opens up in the neighborhood.

In other words...

TAPPER: Are you going to open up that store?

KASICH: I'm still a Republican. And I want to pull my -- look, I didn't leave the Republican Party. The Republican Party left me. In my state, we have balanced budgets, surplus. We're up a half-a- million jobs. And then people say, well, Kasich is not a conservative.

What does that mean? Does that mean I have to be anti-immigrant, anti-trade, in favor of debt? I mean, what -- party, come on home. Come home to where we basically live. We're pro-immigrant. We're pro-trade. We're pro-growth. We worry about that. We should care about people from top to bottom, not just those at the top, but everybody.

I can bring that party back. That's what I'm going to do in one way or another, Jake.

TAPPER: In one way or another.

KASICH: I don't know what that -- that's just one of those openings.

TAPPER: In one way or another.

KASICH: I told Jake Tapper's wife last night, who I met, going on the set with Jake Tapper is like having a laser fight in a "Star Wars" movie. We go back and forth.

And you thought you had me there, but you didn't have me anywhere. I'm sorry.

TAPPER: Governor John Kasich, thank you so much for being here.

(LAUGHTER)

KASICH: Always good, Jake.

TAPPER: Always good to see you, sir.

He once bragged he would take a bullet for the president. Now a judge says it's likely Michael Cohen will be indicted.

Will facing jail time turn Cohen against his boss?

Guess who's here? Stormy Daniels' lawyer -- next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:29:13]

TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

New video of President Trump's embattled personal attorney Michael Cohen leaving his hotel in New York Saturday.

This week, President Trump tried to distance himself from his personal attorney in a phone interview with "FOX & Friends."

Take a listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "FOX & FRIENDS")

QUESTION: How much of your legal work was handled by Michael Cohen?

TRUMP: Well, as a percentage of my overall legal work, a tiny, tiny little fraction.

But Michael would represent me and represent me on some things. He represents me, like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal. He represented me.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TAPPER: Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, says those comments were a -- quote -- "critical mistake."

Here now to discuss is Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti.

Thanks so much for being here, Michael.

You said the president implicated himself with that comment. How?

[09:30:03] AVENATTI: Well, there's no question about it, Jake.

The way he implicated himself was, he directly contradicted what he said on Air Force One, and he directly contradicted the nonsense that Michael Cohen has been trying to sell the American people for the last few months.

And that is that Michael Cohen went out, did this agreement on his own and arranged the $130,000 on his own, and that Mr. Trump never knew anything about it. How could Michael Cohen have represented the president if the president never knew anything about it?

I mean, it's a critical mistake. And this is what happens when you're undisciplined in litigation. You may be able to be undisciplined in politics. You may be able to lie to the press and the American people. But you can't lie in litigation. It comes back and bites you every time.

TAPPER: So, you're suggesting that President Trump saying that Michael Cohen represented me in this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, or the language that he used, is an acknowledgement -- that's him acknowledging that he knew Michael Cohen was doing it.

Is it not possible that he just meant, Michael Cohen represents me, and now he knows because of media coverage about that?

AVENATTI: No, I don't -- I don't think that's possible and I don't think it's probable.

And I think, at the end of the day, we're going to be able to prove that the president knew about the agreement and knew about the $130,000.

TAPPER: On this show two weeks ago, you predicted the Michael Cohen would be indicted within 90 days by the U.S. attorney's office in the Southern District of New York. Trump's legal team used that prediction to help their argument to delay the hearing. And the judge agreed, halting the lawsuit until this happens.

Did you hurt your own case by saying that Michael Cohen is likely to be indicted?

AVENATTI: No, not at all. And, in fact, they tried to use it, but the court rejected their attempt to use my particular public statements in that effort.

I think the judge erred on the side of Michael Cohen's Fifth Amendment rights. We're going to take that up in front of the Ninth Circuit likely this week. We don't want our case delayed. If we thought it was only going to be delayed 90 days, it would be one thing. We're concerned about delay beyond that.

And we want to get to the bottom of this and have the truth exposed for the benefit of the American people.

TAPPER: Reports have indicated the Michael Cohen negotiated a $1.6 million hush money payment on behalf of a major Republican fund-raiser who used to be a vice chair of the RNC Finance Division, Elliott Broidy, after his alleged affair with a Playboy model who became pregnant.

You have been out there publicly suggesting that maybe Elliott Broidy wasn't actually Michael Cohen's client in this deal. What do you mean? What are you suggesting?

AVENATTI: Well, I made a statement on "Morning Joe" to Mika, one of the hosts, about that.

And we're in the process of actually getting to the bottom of this $1.6 million payment. Some information has come to light that I think calls into question the circumstances around that payment and, in fact, whether it was made on behalf of Mr. Broidy.

I find it very, very curious Jake, at a minimum, that Michael Cohen represented Mr. Broidy in connection with that. My understanding is that Michael Cohen had no involvement, no knowledge of Mr. Broidy during this time period.

And that's from a very good source and someone with details relating to this transaction.

TAPPER: You think it's somebody else that maybe impregnated this Playboy model?

AVENATTI: Well, I think it may be.

TAPPER: Are you suggesting it's President Trump?

AVENATTI: I'm not suggesting anything right now, but I'm going to tell you this. We're going to get to the bottom of that, just like we're getting to the bottom of the NDA agreement.

TAPPER: You just tweeted out the cover of "The National Enquirer" in which the supermarket tabloid seems to be going after Michael Cohen.

There's the headline, "Trump Fixer's Secrets and Lies."

It's no secret, obviously, that the publisher of "The National Enquirer" is an ally and friend of President Trump. People who have been in President Trump's sights frequently end up being attacked on the front page of "The National Enquirer." It happened during the election with Ted Cruz and others.

What do you make of that, and why are you tweeting it out that "The National Enquirer" is going after Michael Cohen?

AVENATTI: It's very clear to me, Jake, what's going on here is, is that Mr. Trump and the administration have concluded what I have been saying for weeks, that Michael Cohen is in a lot of trouble and he's going to flip on the president.

So, this is the first effort on their part to undermine Mr. Cohen's credibility, so that they can claim, when he does flip, that he's a liar, that he has no credibility, et cetera.

I want you to recognize this is only one week after Mr. Trump last weekend sent out his tweet effectively coming to the defense of Michael Cohen or attempting to send a message that he had his back.

And here we have AMI less than a week later putting this on their cover. It's pretty transparent what's going on here. Mr. Trump realizes he's in a lot of trouble, and he's in panic mode.

TAPPER: But you don't know that Trump or his people suggested that to David Pecker and AMI and "The National Enquirer." You're just assessing based on how AMI has behaved in the past.

AVENATTI: I don't know if the sun going to come up tomorrow either, but it's a pretty safe bet that it will.

And it's a pretty safe bet that Mr. Trump and the organization and the administration knew everything about this cover.

TAPPER: All right, Michael Avenatti, thank you so much.

AVENATTI: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: We always appreciate your being here, taking the questions.

Several high profile Republicans seriously concerned about losing the House and maybe even the Senate in the midterm elections. But is President Trump listening? We'll discuss with our panel next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:38:57]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We have to keep the House because if you listen to Maxine Waters, she goes around saying, we will impeach him. We will impeach him.

The people said but he hasn't done anything wrong. Oh, that doesn't matter. We will impeach the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: President Trump speaking at a rally last night in Michigan skipping the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner to rail against the House Democrats winning back the House because they will try to impeach him. My panel is here with me.

And, Congressman Jeffries, let me start with you. Doesn't he have a point? I mean, isn't it true that if Democrats recapture the House there's going to be an effort to impeach the president?

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), NEW YORK: Not at all. He has no point. Obviously desperate times call for desperate measures. He has historically low approval ratings. The congressional Republicans have even lower ratings.

He obviously doesn't have an agenda to run on. He can't talk about the GOP tax scam (ph). It was a failure. Eighty-three percent of the benefits go to the wealthiest one percent.

[09:40:00]

He can't talk about Trumpcare, incredibly unpopular, an effort to take away 23 million Americans' health care. He can't talk about the fake infrastructure plan which would do nothing to fix our nation's bridges, roads and tunnels. He can't talk about his own budget where he threatened to cut $2 trillion from social security, Medicare and Medicaid.

And so, of course, he is talking about impeachment when we as Democrats have no interest in going down that road. We want to strengthen the Affordable Care Act. We want to lower the cost of prescription drugs.

We want to make a middle class tax cut permanent. And we want to invest $1 trillion in infrastructure.

TAPPER: David, you're giggling.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Obviously this is why Hakeem Jeffries is going to be, you know, governor, mayor, president. He is a very smart Democratic member. Lots of his colleagues -- you know, lots of your colleagues in the House -- look their (ph) articles of impeachment already drafted and submitted to the House. Is that not correct?

JEFFRIES: The House Judiciary --

URBAN: You know, they have -- they have --

(CROSSTALK)

JEFFRIES: Hold on.

URBAN: -- yesterday, right?

JEFFRIES: No, no. I serve on the House Judiciary Committee not a single member of the House Judiciary Committee has gone down that road. And you know that's the committee of jurisdiction --

(CROSSTALK)

JEFFRIES: -- has been very clear --

URBAN: But, Congressman Jeffries, you know better than I do, or equally as well as I do, that your party is not going to be able to resist going after the president like that. There's going to be so much pressure from outside groups. You're not going to be able to resist.

TAPPER: Patti, what do you think?

PATTI SOLIS DOYLE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think it is a clear play to the president's base. You know, Democrats are outperforming.

URBAN: It's the truth. It's the truth.

SOLIS DOYLE: No. It is not. Democrats are outperforming in every race, ever special election that has happened thus far.

URBAN: No, I don't think so.

SOLIS DOYLE: Even in the races they've lost -- even in the races they've lost they made ground. You know, Arizona two weeks ago --

URBAN: But you lost.

SOLID DOYLE: -- in a district that Trump won by 21 points --

URBAN: The Democratic base is energized.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: The base is energized but --

(CROSSTALK)

SOLIS DOYLE: -- and the only hope -- wait the only hope that the Republicans have is to energize the Republican base. And this talk of impeachment is the way to do it for --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Let me ask Amanda Carpenter --

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: If you guys are talking about --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: I want to hold up.

Amanda has a book coming out on Tuesday. It is called "Gaslighting America: Why We Love It When Trump Lies To Us." Amanda, we wish you to best of luck with this book available now on Amazon as of Tuesday at local bookstores.

Tell me what you think. Is it true -- I mean, obviously President Trump is using this to rally his base but is it not also based in fact that some Democrats do want to impeach the president?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Donald Trump loves to create an enemy to energize the GOP base against and in this case a lot of Democrats are making it all too easy.

You have Tom Steyer on the airwaves across America making the case for impeachment. You have the DNC filing this lawsuit against the Trump campaign which I feel steps on the Mueller investigation.

So some Democrats are stretching it, overplaying their hand making it all too easy for Trump to say, look, everyone against me. They all hate me. It's us versus them.

TAPPER: What do you think of that DNC lawsuit?

They are suing a number of individuals. They are suing the Trump campaign. They are suing, I think, WikiLeaks of Russian government.

I mean, they're -- it's a very broad government. I've heard Democrats say they don't think it's helpful. You heard Amanda say it kind of steps on the Mueller investigation.

What's your take?

JEFFRIES: Listen, I think there was an apparent conspiracy to cooperate with Russian spies to sell out our democracy and what we have seen time and again is an effort to cover that all up.

We should allow Bob Mueller's investigation to proceed. That's the most important thing. But a civil lawsuit at the end of the day, if it helps to uncover facts that can be presented to the American people is not a bad thing.

URBAN: But do (ph) you think Director Mueller is not going to get that done? It that what you're saying?

JEFFRIES: No. I absolutely think that Director Mueller is going to get it done but I think that the reason why you guys are raising it is because it's a distraction similar to the whole notion as it relates to impeachment. Because, you know, when Doug Jones won in Alabama, and when Conor Lamb, a great new member, won in Pennsylvania it scared the living daylights out of you.

(CROSSTALK)

JEFFRIES: And that's why all of this --

URBAN: -- candidates matter.

CARPENTER: Yes. Here is why I think the whole impeachment thing is a loser. The conditions possibly maybe near possibly -- we are talking about things like conspiracy, obstruction of justice, but at the end of the day even people who detest Donald Trump I think recognize what a horrible thing impeachment would be for the country, to have the possibility of a sitting president drag out of office is not good for America.

URBAN: You heard what Jim Comey said, right? Go to the ballot. Right?

CARPENTER: Right.

URBAN: Even Comey -- (INAUDIBLE) said Impeachment is not the correct method.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Can I ask -- I want to -- go ahead.

SOLIS DOYLE: I was going to say I agree with Amanda. I don't think the Dems should overplay it and we have done that before. But if we continue to do what we have been doing which is run candidates in districts that really speak to the constituents of those districts and to maximize on the energy that we have I think 2018 is going to be a very, very --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Are you worried about 2018?

URBAN: No. I'm not worried about it.

Listen, it's -- this is -- no secret people presidents -- party in power loses seats in the midterms. Shocking. No one is going to be shocked when that happens.

It's not going to be -- it's not going to happen. Patti is right. We got to pick good candidates Doug, Northam (ph), Conor Lamb, great candidates.

But you know what? Blue dog Democrats don't exists anymore. And I was surprised the party went that direction.

The party is being pushed far to the left and progresses. If they continue to look for good candidates that fit the districts it's going to be much closer.

[09:45:00]

TAPPER: Let me ask you a question. I want to ask you a question because earlier today John Kasich who has certainly been critical of President Trump and the Republican Party he said the party left him. He says that Democrats are not out there presenting an alternative agenda. They are just sitting back and letting Republicans explode and hoping for the best.

Do you understand why people would think that?

JEFFRIES: Well, I mean, I think that, one, a lot of the attention is focused on the latest chaos, crisis and confusion that comes from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that takes up a lot of air out there in the country and the universe.

But at the end of the day we rolled out for the last several months a better deal economic agenda focused on better jobs, better wages and a better future for the American people. If we are given the opportunity to govern we're going to strengthen the Affordable Care Act, keep what works, adjust and fix what doesn't.

We are going to dramatically work to lower the cost of prescription drugs. We are going to invest $1 trillion in infrastructure which would create 16 million good paying jobs. We are going to strengthen social security and Medicare.

These are all things, by the way, that Conor Lamb and Doug Jones successfully ran on and we've got candidates all across the country, great women, great veterans, great nurses, great doctors who fit their districts -- we're going to be successful.

TAPPER: Congressman Jeffries is here saying this but to be completely candid we have trouble booking Democrats a lot. Not Congressman Jeffries. He's great. But we have trouble booking Democrats a lot especially Democratic senators.

And I have been told one of the reasons is when your enemy is blowing themselves up get out of the way and that's what a lot of Democrats, obviously you accepted, take.

SOLIS DOYLE: Look, there's a lot of truth to it. There's a lot of blowing up going on at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

We've got the Russian investigation. We've got Michael Cohen being investigated criminally.

We've got, you know, vetting problems. We've got swamp problems in the administration. We've got --

URBAN: Yes. Peace in the Korean Peninsula. Economic -- economic boom --

(CROSSTALK)

CARPENTER: Hopefully. Fingers crossed. Fingers crossed.

URBAN: That's not -- it's not all doom and gloom. You guys heads are going to explode when Donald Trump is awarded the Nobel Prize, I mean, for --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Do you really think that's going to happen? Lindsey Graham said that -- said that this week.

URBAN: Ian Bremmer from -- Ian Bremmer not David Urban. People who are far smarter than me said, this president deserves a Nobel Prize.

Barack Obama was awarded Nobel Prize -- the nominations went in 11 days after he was president. Eleven days.

TAPPER: Speaking of prizes I want to deviate from this -- the discussion for second to bring up this new song from Kanye West.

He addressed his support of President Trump and the backlash he has experienced -- and the backlash all celebrities who (ph) (INAUDIBLE) conservative viewpoints in his view show -- the song is called "Ye vs. the People."

Take a listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

KANYE WEST, RAPPER: Bruh, I never ever stop fighting for the people actually wearing the hat is showing people that we equal.

T.I., RAPPER: We got to see the vantage point of people , what makes you feel equal makes them feel evil.

WEST: See that's the problem with this damn nation, all Blacks gotta be Democrats, man, we ain't made it off the plantation.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TAPPER: So, Congressman, I just want to ask you, Kanye has been getting a lot of backlash for his support of President Trump. And in this song the rapper T.I. challenges him over giving legitimacy to Trump's policies.

Where do you come down in this debate?

JEFFRIES: I mean, listen, you know, we believe in the First Amendment. That was great celebration of it last night. He's entitled to his own opinion.

But, you know, the Republicans have increasingly become the party of Bannon (ph), Moore (ph), Trump, diamond and silk, right? It's a five ring circus and Kanye West apparently wants to get in on the act.

(CROSSTALK)

JEFFRIES: So, I think we've got --

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: It's not fair.

CARPENTER: Can I say one thing?

URBAN: No, no. That's not what it is.

CARPENTER: It is refreshing -- it is a little bit refreshing.

I think Kanye's point is uniquely American not that he's expressing support for Trump but nobody likes to be told what to think or do. And I think Kanye is more about the power of celebrity and that's --

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: Listen --

JEFFRIES: But that's exactly the point. He wants in on the celebrity act.

TAPPER: He wants to be (ph) on (ph) the (ph) action (ph).

URBAN: Listen, John James, fellow West Point grad running for Senate in Michigan, African-American, very conservative Republican, you have to admit African-Americans aren't monolithic in their political views. I think that's Kanye's expressive (ph) --

TAPPER: Last thoughts?

SOLIS DOYLE: My kids are going to roll their eyes at me. But who cares what Kanye West supports?

You know, clearly the president cares. I think he is very excited that he has a celebrity endorsing him other than Scott Baio and --

URBAN: Thirty million people follow him on Twitter.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: All right.

URBAN: Thirty million Twitter following --

TAPPER: Thanks one and all. Appreciate it.

A political take down, a drunken car crash. I could be talking about the headlines this week but I'm not. I'll explain next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:53:46]

TAPPER: Welcome back.

Washington, D.C., home to conspiracy theories and sex scandals and back-room deals, political shakedowns, secret societies. Nothing new, of course.

Take yourself back to the 1950s. That's what I try to do in my new political thriller "The Hellfire Club" which hit shelves on Tuesday.

The book is fiction. The heroes of the novel are an invented freshman World War II hero congressman and his strong zoologist wife.

But there is a lot of political history packed into the novel for all you political junkies. It takes place in 1954 at the height of the Red Scare when Senator Joseph McCarthy was at the pinnacle of his power. Lying and smearing his fellow Americans.

McCarthy is a prominent character in the book along with Senator Margaret Chase Smith, the first woman to serve in both Houses of Congress, and Senator Lyndon Johnson, the Kennedys, Roy Cohn, McCarthy's chief counsel who went on to serve as a lawyer and mentor to Donald Trump. They say history doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes. I heard a lot of rhyming when I did research for this book. Themes that repeat themselves today.

Whether about the Washington swamp or a prominent politicians smearing his opponents. But mostly I hope the book is fun.

So I would be honored if you would check out my new novel "The Hellfire Club." It's available on Amazon.com or at your local bookstore.

I also want to take a moment today to say thank you to my intrepid executive producer, Melanie Buck, she has been on my staff since we launched "THE LEAD" in 2013, and then she took over STATE OF THE UNION last year.

[09:55:03]

She has done an amazing job, such a great job in fact she is so in demand, she is now headed to run Chris Cuomo's new prime time show. Chris, good luck with her, treat her well.

Mel, we love you. We will miss you. We all wish you the very best.

I'm going to talk more about "The Hellfire Club" with my esteemed colleague Fareed Zakaria coming up next on his elegant show where his other guests are much, much better than me.

Stay with us.