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Report: Some Trump Legal Advisers Feel Blindsided by Giuliani; Trump Lawyer Giuliani Links Stormy Payoff To 2016 Election; Trump Admits Hush Money Deal and Even Though Denying It in Air Force One Interview. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired May 3, 2018 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:00] ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Hello, I'm Erica Hill in today for Brooke Baldwin. The White House briefing is moments away. And you are about to see some major pressure aimed directly at that podium. Why?

There are a lot of questions today about the bombshell that we heard last night and this morning from the president's most high-profile attorney, Rudy Giuliani. And this just in, we're learning more about how much friction there is inside the Trump team, specifically friction being generated by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani now saying the president reimbursed that $130,000 in hush money that was paid out by Michael Cohen to porn star Stormy Daniels. You may remember cents since mid January when the story broke, the White House denied President Trump knew anything about the payout, which again was made by his personal attorney Michael Cohen. Listen, though, to what Giuliani told Fox News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDI GIULIANI, TRUMP ATTORNEY: Having something to do with paying some Stormy Daniels woman 130,000, which is going to turn out to be perfectly legal. That money was not campaign money. Sorry, I'm giving you a fact now that you don't know. It's not campaign money. No campaign finance violation.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: They funneled it through a law firm.

GIULIANI: Funneled through a law firm and the president repaid it.

HANNITY: Oh, he did?

GIULIANI: Yes.

HANNITY: There's no campaign finance law?

GIULIANI: Zero. Sean, Sean, everybody was nervous about this from the very beginning. I wasn't. I knew how much Donald Trump put into that campaign. I said 130,000, he's going to do a couple of checks for 130,000. When I heard Cohen's retainer for 35,000 when he was doing no work for the president, that's how he's repaying it, with a little profit and a little margin for paying taxes for Michael.

HANNITY: Did you know the president didn't know about this? GIULIANI: He didn't know about the specifics of it, but he did know

about the general arrangement that Michael would take care of things like that, 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)

HILL: After that revelation came one of the wordiest tweets the president has ever issued. Didn't sound a lot like the president's normal tweets. 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 known as a nondisclosure agreement, NDA.

Those tweets show the president explaining how he paid back that he purportedly, remember didn't know anything about. Just a month ago this was what the president had to say when he was asked about it on Air Force One

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know about the $130,000 to Stormy Daniels? Then why did Michael Cohen make those if there was no truth to her allegations?

DONALD TRUMP. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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?

TRUMP: No, I don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: Joining me now senior CNN White House correspondent Pamela Brown and CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger. You've both got new information, Gloria, including details on not what we've heard from Rudy Giuliani but how this has thrown a wrench into the Trump legal team strategy.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's like throwing a grenade into the legal team strategy. They were surprised. Some were angered, some were upset by what they heard Rudy Giuliani say. My sources are telling me, and Pamela's sources are telling her that they believe that this was sort of a seat of the pants thing and that it turned into a side show, as one source said. And asked a question why are we doing this? Why are we talking about this Stormy Daniels case right now when we have other things we need to be dealing with the special counsel? [14:05:00] And that Rudy Giuliani was brought on to, yes, be a part of

the negotiations but also to be the messenger, to talk about how the president is being treated less fairly than Hillary Clinton was being treated, how bad a guy Comey is, for example, how badly the FBI has treated him and on and on. And instead what he did was he threw this grenade and kind of blew up the president's and Michael Cohen's stories about the Stormy Daniels case.

HILL: But one would imagine that this couldn't have been done without some communication between Rudy Giuliani and President Trump, especially if Rudy Giuliani was continuing to go on television with this narrative.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. And Rudy Giuliani said that he did coordinate this with the president, that he was fully on board. Here's the problem, though. He didn't coordinate it with the president's legal team. And so that is why the legal advisers sort of feel blindsided and were caught flat-footed by this. As one source I spoke with said why now, they're just getting there to finish this thing, as in the new lawyers, you have Emmet Flood now taking over for Ty Cobb. Everyone's trying to get their ducks in a row and now, as Gloria said, you have Rudy Giuliani going out there and essentially throwing a grenade in everything and bringing up the Stormy Daniels stuff sort of out of nowhere. As one source I spoke to said, look, he was on there too long. The purpose for going on there was for other reasons, including trying to show stability with Emmet Flood going on. Brought this up sort of on his own and has now put this back in the headlines of with Stormy Daniels and making it look like the president may have been possibly lying when he said he didn't know about the Michael Cohen payment, in fact, Rudy said he paid Michael Cohen back.

BORGER: So, this really shows in a way that it's the president running his own legal strategy. Maybe in concert with Rudy Giuliani, but actually the president running his own legal strategy because the Stormy Daniels case, as we know, has been much on his mind. And as one source said to me, look, it's as if this legal team is calling one play at a time without having any overall strategy here and I think that's very reminiscent of the way we see Donald Trump operate.

HILL: And running not just his own legal team but also his own communication strategy. Stay with me. I want to bring in Jim Acosta who is at the White House. Jim, what more are you hearing?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, White House officials here are obviously perplexed, Erica. They do not know how this was rolled out. We talked to a number of sources inside the White House, outside the White House. A lot of people feel blindsided over here and our Dana Bash is reporting some of this, it seems as though Rudy Giuliani coordinated some of the strategy with the president last night, unveiled this information on Fox and then the rest of the White House found out about it. I talked to a source familiar with campaign conversations in latter stages of the 2016 campaign and this person was saying even then, then candidate Trump was denying having any kind of relationship with Stormy Daniels. This person I spoke with earlier this morning was very disappointed to hear all of this news. There are a lot of people inside Trump world right now who feel as though the president has been lying about this as if -- top White House officials have been lying about this. And what we are about to get to the bottom of the briefing here in about 30 minutes for now if they start on time, on the new time that they set for the White House briefing, is whether false information was passed along to reporters knowingly or unknowingly. Because there have been a couple of spokespeople over here over the last couple of months who have said that the president did not know about any payments to Stormy Daniels.

Michael Cohen himself put out a statement at one point saying that he wasn't reimbursed. So, the stories just don't add up and what we are going to try to find out here in about half an hour from now is whether or not the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders can make any sense of it. She's one of those spokespeople who said that the president is not aware of any payments. One thing that we should point out is it is possible when she made that statement that she did not know about any of this because all of this was pretty close to the vest.

But at the same time, I think there is a growing chorus here in Washington that is saying, much of it inside the Republican Party and much inside Trump world that the White House owes the American people some answers about all of this because it does appear we were all like to about all of this.

HILL: It does appear that way. Jim, Gloria, Pam, appreciate it, thank you all. Still to come more on this breaking news as we await as Jim pointed out the first White House briefing since Rudy Giuliani dropped this bombshell about the Stormy Daniels payment. Plus, why is Giuliani morning Robert Mueller to stay away from you Ivanka Trump while at the same time saying men like her husband, Jared Kushner, are quote, disposable. We will discuss.

[00:10:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HILL: As we wait for the White House press briefing to start, where Sarah Sanders will be asked to clarify who knew what when about the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels, despite the new version of events being pushed by Rudy Giuliani and the president, Rudy Giuliani may have contradicted his own efforts to distance that payment from the campaign. Here he is this morning.

[14:15:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're saying that Stephanie Clifford made these allegations, told Donald Trump's lawyer, look --

GIULIANI: Denied them. Said 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 --

GIULIANI: Cohen didn't even ask. Cohen made it go away. He did his job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: Joining me now to discuss, David Chalian, CNN political director, Norm Eisen, CNN contributor and former ambassador to the Czech Republic and former Obama White House ethics czar, and CNN political analyst, April Ryan, who is also White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks. There's a lot to take in here. This whirl wind of contradictions is just the beginning of it. What we just heard it their, David, from Rudy Giuliani, essentially confirming that this was a concern because of the timing. What does that lead us into?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. I mean, this cuts both ways what he said about James Comey last night so he's connecting Donald Trump to these things that they're trying to distance him from. On the Comey thing, Rudy says it actually was about the Russia investigation, he wanted to fire Comey because he wouldn't clear him publicly and now as you said heard in that sound buy, Erica, the Stormy Daniels payment issue completely tied to the campaign because he talks about it right before the election and the impact on the election. Giuliani goes on to say this was all Cohen's doing and he took care of it without Donald Trump's knowledge, but it is completely in the context of aiding the Trump campaign, avoiding damage in the days before an election. Rudy Giuliani just drew a straight line.

HILL: And in terms of that straight line, I'd love it, Norm, if you could way in on this. We heard from Michael Cohen that the Trump organization or campaign were not directly or indirectly party to this. But when the payment was still made, the president was still part of the Trump organization at that point, still part of the Trump campaign at that point. Isn't it fair to say that at least indirectly he was party to what was happening?

NORM EISEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It is fair and of course the telling thing about that statement that it wasn't the Trump campaign or Trump organization, Michael Cohen never said it wasn't Donald Trump who reimbursed him for the payment. Look, when Rudy went on television last night, he violated the first rule of lawyering. First, do no harm. He did harm to his client and he dug the grave deeper this morning when he said what we all know, that of course this payment was made to help the campaign. That's the legal test for campaign finance violation, was the purpose of the payment to assist in the election. We all know that it was. So, Donald Trump's situation is a lot worse legally today because of his lawyer's big mouth.

HILL: And also, the fact that apparently, you know, he's there with the blessing of the president, right? We know this. He's not going to be out there continuing to speak on television if the president wasn't OKing it. And, April, we're learning he said he has the president's blessing. Is there still a sense at the White House, is the president pleased with what Rudy Giuliani did?

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm going to say this, I know White House senior level staffers are not pleased at all. This is taking them by storm. They were blindsided by this and now they're trying to scramble to figure out. As far as the president, you can just refer to his tweet. But what we understand is that that legal team is very upset. They're trying to figure things out. This is not normal. This is not normal. We have to stop making it as such. You know, when you think -- Rudy Giuliani said something to the effect that, you know, if I were the lawyer at the time, I would have done that. This is what lawyers do. No, they don't. You can get disbarred for doing something like this. This is not normal.

But once again, the rule of law has been skirted and there are some people in Washington today saying that this is leading to a constitutional crisis. And this all stems from improprieties on a presidential level before you go into an elections process to thwart someone's campaign, so you can win.

[14:20:00] This is not normal. So, we are going to wait and see what Sarah Huckabee Sanders says today. We understand she's saying this is being investigated, we're not going to talk. This a little too late. The president was talking on Air Force One saying he knew nothing about it. Then Rudy Giuliani said that he paid. The question is who authorized the re-payment if the president allegedly did not know anything about it. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said a while back. Just a few weeks ago Sarah Sanders said this was in arbitration. It's who you believe in this or where is the truth and that truth could be in Mueller's hands following the trail of money. So, this is bigger than just he said/she said.

HILL: I wanted to continue to drill down on this specifically. You brought up this point. Rudy Giuliani saying this is just what lawyers do for their clients, the president setting it up as, well, I gave him this money on retainer, so it was ready for when he needed it. We're going to tackle that after a short break. Stay with us.

[14:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HILL: We are waiting for the White House briefing. While we do that, we're drilling down a little bit more, trying to parse what we mattered from Rudy Giuliani. With us David Chalian, Norm Eisen We were talking about what we had learned from the president's tweets and also from Rudy Giuliani, but the president tweeting about the fact that Michael Cohen was on a retainer and this is normal for celebs to keep people on a retainer and they can take care of things. Norm, could the attorney use a retainer as a way to make payments on a client's behalf? Is that really what a retainer is for?

EISEN: No. When President Trump tweets a statement about the law, you should assume the opposite is true. Clients are entitled to benefit from the ethic rules of the profession and one of the cores of those is informed consent. Look at the trouble that has been created here by Mr. Cohen's payment to Stormy Daniels. That's why the ethics rules require clients to check in -- rather lawyers to check in with the clients. So, no, you're not supposed to be doing this.

Also, Giuliani said the monthly repayment was only starting after the election. You have to wonder if he's trying to squeeze a preexisting stream of payments to make this factual narrative fit into them. Why would over $400,000 be paid to repay a debt of $130,000? The whole thing doesn't make sense and the shifting stories, that's a betrayal of the duty of honesty. What a terrible mess. And Giuliani just made it worse.

HILL: Raises even more questions for so many of us. The other thing that's also a shifting narrative after we've heard more from Rudy Giuliani, David, is what exactly happened when it came to James Comey. Take a look at this.

(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.

HILL: So, David, it's now yet another explanation as for why James Comey was fired.

CHALIAN: So, you remember that Lester Holt of NBC news asked the president squarely and in that interview about a year ago the president said the Russia thing and connected that to the firing of Jim Comey. He said that the recommendation provided by Rod Rosenstein and Jeff Sessions that detail all of James Comey's failings handling the Hillary Clinton situation, he said he was going to fire him irrespective of that investigation. We now have another data point from Rudy Giuliani about the rationale about the president's firing of James Comey directly connected to the Russia investigation. So, this was about the Russia investigation, it's another data point into the case that Robert Mueller is trying to make.

HILL: Never a dull moment. We'll have much more to discuss as we continue to unpack this. Also, just ahead, could three Americans be released from North Korea today? That's next.