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AT THIS HOUR
Giuliani: Trump Repaid Cohen's Hush Payment To Stormy; Giuliani: Trump's Payment To Cohen Is "Perfectly Legal"; Christie On Contradictions: "Rudy Has To Clean It Up"; Giuliani Contradicts Trump And White House Denials On Stormy Payment; Giuliani: North Korea To Release Detained Americans Today. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired May 3, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Welcome to the department of contradictions today. This morning, radical changes to what the president knew and when about the secret hush payment to Stormy Daniels. One of his lawyers blowing up the old narrative saying the president did pay for that settlement by reimbursing Attorney Michael Cohen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: They funneled it through a law firm. Funneled through a law firm and the president repaid it.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I didn't know he did.
HANNITY: There is no campaign finance law.
HANNITY: Did you know the president didn't know about this?
GIULIANI: I didn't know about the specifics of it as far as I know. But he did know about the general arrangement, that Michael would take care of things like this, like I take care of things like this for my clients. I don't burden them with every single thing that comes along. These are busy people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: So, why does this all matter so much? Well, because just three weeks ago, the president said he knew nothing about the payment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels? Then why did Michael Cohen make it if there was no truth to the allegation?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: You have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. And you'll have to ask Michael.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, I don't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: And the contradictions don't end there. Just this morning, the White House says now it cannot talk about basically any of it because it deals with ongoing litigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Mayor Giuliani is part of the president's legal team, he's got visibility and insight into this issue, he has spoken about this at length both last night and this morning.
I would refer you back to his comments, particularly given the fact this is ongoing litigation. It is something we at the White House can't comment on and I would refer you both to his comments as well as the president's tweets from earlier this morning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: But just in March, Sarah Sanders had no problem discussing this case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: Yes, I had conversations with the president about this. And as I outlined earlier, that this case had already been won in arbitration, and that there was no knowledge of any payments from the president and he's denied all of these allegations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: But, wait, there is more. Again, Trump Attorney Rudy Giuliani.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: He fired Comey because Comey would not, among other things, say that he wasn't a target of the investigation. He's entitled to that. Hillary Clinton got that, and he couldn't get that. So, he fired him, and he said I'm free of this guy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: So, he did fire Comey because of the Russia investigation. But, wait, that is exactly the opposite of what the president said in his very own words, like this tweet. Comey, he says, "was not fired because of the phony Russia investigation." It seemed, my friends, someone isn't telling the truth today. So, who is it? CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House where the president is about to take part in an event to mark the National Day of Prayer. Kaitlan, there's a lot to pray about today. What are you hearing from the White House?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Kate, the president directly contradicting what he said on Air Force One, less than a month ago, when he said he didn't know about that payment to Stormy Daniels and he didn't know where the money came from.
This morning on Twitter, the president sending out a string of tweets that reiterated what his latest lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said last night during that explosive announcement that he did know about the payment and that the money came from him.
So, of course, in those tweets, also the president arguing that since he did reimburse Michael Cohen, his personal attorney for that $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels, it is not a campaign violation and also continuing to deny his affair with Stormy Daniels.
Now, of course, the White House this morning seems to be scrambling for a response to this, saying that they cannot respond to ongoing litigation, even though they have responded to questions about Stormy Daniels and the payment before, saying that the president didn't know about it.
So, a slew of contradictions here, of course. Kate, we are now in the Rose Garden waiting on the president to come out with this national prayer event, where more likely than not he is going to be asked shouted questions by reporters that hopefully he'll answer when he found out about that payment, when he was reimbursing Michael Cohen and all the other things he said before -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Let us see. Kaitlan, thank you so much. Great to see you.
Joining me right now, Larry Noble, former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission, and Carolyn Polisi, defense attorney specializing in white-collared crimes. Larry, Larry, Larry, your expertise is needed more than ever today. From a campaign finance law perspective, what did we learn from Rudy Giuliani?
LARRY NOBLE, FORMER GENERAL COUNSEL, FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION: We learned that the stories make no sense. We learned that somebody or more than one person has been lying. But from a campaign finance standpoint, he didn't help himself at all. What he said was, here is a fact, this wasn't campaign finance violation, the question is why did they pay Stormy Daniels to be quiet at that time?
[11:05:03] And if they paid her to be quiet, because they were afraid it would affect the election, or it would be used in the debate with Hillary Clinton, then it was a campaign finance expenditure, it should have been reported, and it wasn't.
And if it -- if it came from Michael Cohen, a loan from Michael Cohen originally, then it wasn't a legal loan from Michael Cohen it was excessive and should have been reported. The payment from Trump should have been reported. So, in no way did he get himself out of trouble, in fact, Giuliani's statement creates more problems.
They have implicated the law firm in the transaction. It raises questions of whether Trump violated the ethics laws with his personal financial disclosure report by not putting down money that he owed. They really just keep digging themselves deeper and deeper. We still have the core campaign finance issue, which he's done nothing to minimize.
BOLDUAN: Caroline, Michael Cohen, in his first statement about all of this, said that neither Trump or the campaign was party to the transaction, and, quote, "neither reimbursed me for the payment either directly or indirectly." Rudy Giuliani just contradicted that. So, what does this mean for Michael Cohen?
CAROLINE POLISI, FEDERAL AND WHITE COLLAR CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think what you're seeing is a real breakdown in communication on the part of Michael Cohen and Team Trump. Of course, We know Michael Cohen is under federal criminal investigation from the SDNY. They're likely monitoring his conversations.
We know Trump had one call, you know, after the raid of his home office in a hotel room. But likely they haven't been in contact, so they can't get their story straight. I think it speaks to --
BOLDUAN: That's the point.
POLISI: Obviously, Trump is worried about what they found in that raid. The documents seized or what it says about this payment. Giuliani, I have to think that Giuliani is trying to get out in front of this. I just don't see him being sort of that stupid, but by releasing this type of information for no reason other than to get him to a whole bunch of mess.
BOLDUAN: I want to bring back -- if this is a strategy or not, I want to bring this back up. Larry, Rudy Giuliani also said last night that Donald Trump repaid Cohen through his retainer. The president on Twitter said this, this morning, that Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign, and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into through reimbursement a private contract between two parties, none -- known as a nondisclosure agreement or NDA.
First of all, way too many commas in there for that to be Donald Trump actually tweeting, but regardless, is a retainer a reimbursement?
NOBLE: Normally, no. Normally you pay a lawyer retainer for expenses that come up for the lawyers' fees that will come up. You normally don't use a retainer as a reimbursement. If Cohen laid out this money and Cohen wants to get paid back, you owe him a debt and you pay him.
That is not the normal use of a retainer and it also -- you usually when there is a retainer, you understand how the money is going to be used. For them to say Trump didn't know the money was going to be used to pay Stormy Daniels doesn't make any sense.
They're trying to fit this into some type of structure that it just can't fit into and it is also just very contradictory. This is not the normal use of retainer. I doubt very much that there was a retainer that was like this that he could just use to pay off any -- for any nondisclosure agreement. It makes you wonder how many they're entering into if Trump is doing the retainer.
BOLDUAN: And, wait, there's more. Larry Noble, thanks. Caroline, to your point that you think this is trying to get ahead, maybe they're trying to get ahead of it. Giuliani, why he did put this out there as a huge question. Former U.S. attorney, New Jersey governor, Chris Christie has a theory, he thinks as you think, it is strategy. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: There is an old saying in the law, hang a lantern on your problems. He comes in, knows there has been different stories being told about this payment and how it was made.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not just different stories. The president said he knew nothing about it.
CHRISTIE: The fact is that Rudy has to go out there now and clean it up. He goes out there, he puts it out, rather than having some reporter give breaking news that the president reimbursed it. So, it is a typical -- it is a typical thing to do, and it wasn't surprising at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Isn't it typical -- hang your lantern on your problems. I like that. I'll use that whenever I feel like. Is it a strategy?
POLISI: It definitely is a strategy on the part of criminal defense attorneys. You want to get the bad news out there before, so you look credible, sort of, in public opinion. But again --
BOLDUAN: You think that this isn't just Rudy Giuliani spouting off. You think this is -- they think there is something out there in terms of communications that will be found out, and will be disclosed, and that's what they're doing now.
POLISI: Specifically, I think that they are intimating that what -- the FBI and the SDNY obtained through that raid of Michael Cohen's home, office and hotel room, I think they know it's going to show out in perfect order exactly how this went down.
So, they're getting out in front of it. I think there are interesting implications in the Michael Avenatti civil suit out of California as well. We could be seeing President Trump go to a deposition here. We have a president which says that sitting presidents are not immune to civil litigation of this nature when it pertains to things outside of the oval office.
[11:10:11] So, Avenatti, again, playing his hand to his advantage.
BOLDUAN: Larry, finally, if Donald Trump did file or the campaign did file a fraudulent SEC report, what is the penalty?
NOBLE: Well, you know, normally filing -- (inaudible) leaving something off a report, in a normal situation, it might just be a civil penalty. But what's happened here is they have taken what might have been an FEC civil penalty for misfiling report or not file a full information report.
And they seemed to be admitting that this was intentional. That they funneled the money in a way to avoid knowing the source of the money and that brings it up for knowing and willful violation, which is a potential criminal violation.
And also, if they lied to the FEC and others about this in an investigation, you have potential 1001 violation. They have taken what was a serious violation, reporting violation, public has a right to know these things, and possibly -- and they turned it into a scheme to hide the source of the funding and that makes it more serious.
BOLDUAN: Overall, I feel like we know less today than we did yesterday. That just seems to be the way it goes. Larry, Caroline, thank you so much.
Coming up, imagine if the Stormy Daniels story had come out at the end of the 2016 campaign, Rudy Giuliani is wondering that aloud just today. We'll take a look at what was going on then and the political fallout now.
Plus, are the three Americans currently detained in North Korea, could they be on their way home? President Trump tweeted stay tuned, Rudy Giuliani speaking about this as well, went further, saying it is happening today. Details on that ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: It wasn't true. However, imagine if that came out on October 15th, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, to make it go away, they made this --
GIULIANI: Comey didn't even ask. Comey made it go away. He did his job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Wait, what? I thought this had nothing to do with the campaign, remember? That this was all personal. No is now the answer? Well, for context, since Rudy Giuliani raised it, imagine if it had come out at that time.
Here is some of, just some of what was going on back in the final weeks of the campaign when this payment was made, the Trump campaign was gaining momentum. October 28th, that's the day James Comey told Congress he found Clinton's e-mails, more Clinton e-mails and reopened the FBI's investigation into her.
And then, of course, in October, and November, because it keeps coming, Trump was able to hammer again and again on the Podesta e- mails leaked out by Wikileaks. November 6th, Comey told Congress they didn't discover anything new in the Clinton e-mails and that Trump was able then, of course, Comey closed the investigation but Trump then could say the system was, quote/unquote, "rigged" against him.
What does this all mean now? With me to discuss, CNN senior political reporter, Nia Malika Henderson, and CNN's senior political analyst, Mark Preston. So, Mark, other than walking down, you know, memory lane with all of this, what is Giuliani doing here?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, certainly he's trying to clear out the house before some of these things will break in the news and revelations will come out. I mean, the whole idea, I do think is for them now to try to control the narrative.
Think up to this point, up to this point, we have seen President Trump say that he is more than willing to sit down with Robert Mueller. In fact, at one point, he said 100 percent he wants to do it.
But as we go further into this investigation, and as more things are breaking, you can clearly see the Trump campaign and Trump advisers, Trump lawyers are pulling back and Donald Trump himself as well.
And Rudy Giuliani what we saw last night, was to try to push out all the bad news and at the same time try to discredit the investigation. That is what we're seeing right now.
BOLDUAN: Nia, right now, it seems also that Sarah Sanders is just paralyzed. She says I can't discuss ongoing litigation, but she was very comfortable doing just that a month ago, not saying I envy the position that she's in right now. What does this -- what does the White House -- how does the White House get out of this jam?
NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: You know, I guess it is just more cleanup duty for Sanders. We'll see if the president is asked questions at this event, which comes on National Prayer Day. Does he answer any questions about it? And you'll see what Sanders says today.
She, of course, wants to kind of compartmentalize all of this stuff and highlight all of the good she says the administration is doing. But that's going to be hard. As you said, she's already commented on this before and their stories just keep changing.
Can you imagine that other information will come out at some point, right? If you look at what happened here, with Rudy Giuliani, apparently some folks in the White House were caught by surprise, by some of the things that he said.
And a lot of the details are still unclear, when was this reimbursement made, was it 2017, 2018? Were there conversations about this in 2016 as Rudy Giuliani seemed to suggest in that first interview and then later he said, well, they didn't really know about it until more recently.
So, you know, this idea that he came out to get everything out, it looks like he's muddied the water even more. Even people on Fox News were, like, we got to have a better explanation for this and it kind of calls into question Trump's credibility as well as Giuliani's credibility.
BOLDUAN: I mean, the less is more strategy clearly not being applied here, Mark. I mean, Giuliani is -- let us not forget, reps Donald Trump in the Russia investigation and how they respond to the Russia investigation. All he's doing here is making news on the case surrounding Stormy Daniels. How is this helping his client?
PRESTON: Well, what I think he's trying to do, though, is really -- I think we're at the point right now at a very critical point in this investigation, where things are becoming very public, very quickly. And what I think we're seeing from Giuliani is to try to push out, as I said at the top, let's try to get anything damaging out right now, let us put it out there.
[11:20:10] Let us try to weaken that so it is not a big bombshell as this investigation, you know, turns from, you know, the team right now, looking into what is happening to it now becoming a very public confrontational fight between whether the president is actually going to sit down for an interview or not. There is absolutely no way he's going to.
BOLDUAN: I mean, I hear you on that. I love when you read the tea leaves like that, but it is not like this is an October surprise-type of situation, that there is a deadline and election date we're talking about. I mean, this is just going to continue.
So, the fact that they think like get it out now versus when, like get it now or should have been, like, the day that Stormy Daniels -- that this whole thing actually started coming out. Regardless, Nia, Giuliani said something that I cannot make heads or tails of. So, I'm giving it to you to do that, about the president's daughter, Ivanka. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: Ivanka Trump, I would -- I think I would get on my charger and go right into their offices with a lance if they go after Ivanka. If they do Ivanka, which I doubt they will, the whole country will turn on them. They're going after his daughter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about his son-in-law? Talked about him.
GIULIANI: I guess Jared is a fine man, you know that, but men are, you know, disposable. But a fine woman like Ivanka, come on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: What is he doing there? Like, hanging Jared out to dry, drawing a red line with Ivanka? I'm truly confused.
HENDERSON: Puzzled by this. The idea that somehow because Ivanka Trump is a fine woman, I don't know if the emphasis there should be on fine, or woman in terms of why she is off limits to the justice system, it is very bizarre.
And this idea that somehow he's going to go in and be the chivalrous man and protect the virtuous and fine woman is insulting and bizarre and misrepresentation of what the legal system is, that somehow women are too delicate to be questioned or something like that and the whole country apparently will just explode in an uproar if anyone goes near Ivanka Trump.
It is very, very bizarre. And, yes, he clearly doesn't care much for Jared Kushner there and basically said, well, something happens to him, who cares. As long as they don't touch the fine woman that is Ivanka Trump. I don't know what to make of it.
PRESTON: Kate, as the father of a teenage daughter right now, if my friend, if my lawyer said that about my daughter, that would be very creepy.
HENDERSON: Creepy is a good word.
BOLDUAN: Either Rudy Giuliani went in with a strategy to say something, which was regarding Stormy Daniels. So, he's the freaky genius with the strategy or he's sitting back, he's too comfortable in these interviews and just kind of letting the cat out of the bag. Which is it on this one?
PRESTON: Well, you know what, I was watching this unfold last night as I was working here and just seeing how it all unfolds. A couple of things, one, he was very lucid. It was as if he was talking to another one of Trump's consultants, who was --
BOLDUAN: He's not a political novice though, guys. He knows when a mic is on you and a camera is on you.
PRESTON: Absolutely, but he was relaxed. He knew the message he was delivering. There were subtle messages. He said, we'll push Jared in front of the bus. So, Jared, be careful who is standing behind you if you're walking in the street in order for this to go away. That's one.
Two, he said he should have become the attorney general, he should have taken the job because Jeff Sessions should have never recused himself and put Rod Rosenstein into that position. If Rudy had been in that position, we would not have this investigation. That was mind blowing last night.
BOLDUAN: There is no personal motivations in that for Rudy Giuliani. Great to see you, guys. Thank you.
Coming up, could the three Americans detained in North Korea be headed home? And if so, do they have President Trump to thank for it? We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BOLDUAN: Are three Americans being held in North Korea on their way home? It seems that depends on who you talk to right now. President Trump hinting at a big development saying stay tuned in a tweet last night. Rudy Giuliani taking it quite a big step further, though, saying it will happen today.
No matter when, it would be a huge win for President Trump and welcome news for the families, of course, of the three men, and here who these men are, 59-year-old Tony Kim, he's been detained for more than a year. He was in North Korea to teach at Pyongyang University and reportedly was doing humanitarian work with orphans. North Korean state media accused him of trying to overthrow the government.
Then there's 55-year-old Kim Hak-Song, he was detained just a couple of weeks after Tony Kim. His wife told CNN he was also working at the university teaching about growing rice so North Koreans could feed themselves. The government accused him of committing, quote, "hostile acts" against the regime.
And then there is 64-year-old American businessman, Kim Dong-Chul. He's been held since October 2015. He told CNN he was arrested for spying for South Korea, but that could be said under duress as North Korean officials were with him during the interview. He's serving 10 years hard labor. What happens now?
Joining me right now, CNN global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott. So, Elise, do we know how close these men are to freedom?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, listen, U.S. officials are saying that they have no verification of these reports, that we have seen the other days that the three men have been released from custody and are now at a Pyongyang hotel.
I will say that we expect their release to be imminent sometime before the upcoming summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un. U.S. officials have been negotiating their release. In fact, when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went to North Korea over the Easter weekend, as CIA director --