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Sources: Cohen Pitched Himself Promising Access To Trump; Scrutiny Mounts Over Payments Made To Cohen After Election; Republicans Move To Force DACA Vote In House; Giuliani Resigns From Law Firm. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 10, 2018 - 12:30   ET




[12:30:43] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She engaged in corrupt pay for play at the State Department. They found a lot of bad stuff. Pay for play. Pay for play. It's illegal.

But this was big stuff. Pay for play. It's illegal. I mean, it's illegal.

Access and favors were sold for cash. It's called pay for play.


JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Tiny little throwback there to the campaign trail when you saw then-candidate Donald Trump repeatedly accusing Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation of participating in what he said illegal or at least corrupt pay for play schemes. Now, President Trump's personal lawyer facing down very similar accusations.

CNN has new details about how Michael Cohen cashed in aggressively -- that's an understatement -- pitching his access to the President while securing lucrative consulting deals from big companies. One GOP strategist says Cohen's pitch went something like this. "I don't know who's been representing you, but you should fire them all. I'm the guy you should hire. I'm closest to the President. I'm his personal lawyer."

Rudy Giuliani who's the President's lead lawyer now says he does not believe President Trump was aware of any of this. Now the company involved said this was fully aboveboard, nothing illegal. But that's not stopping some calls especially from Democrats for new investigation. We also know the Special Counsel is looking into this.

It is swampy beyond belief what Michael Cohen was doing. When you look at the totals of money, the totals involved, some of it is mind- numbing. However, I've been in this town for 30 years. This is not new. This is not new.

After campaigns, the people who don't go into the White House sell their access, sell their influence, sell their contacts. What's mind- numbing here is this, like everything the Trump administration should be on steroids when you look at the amount of money.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS; WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, and -- I mean, if you -- this all takes me back to January of 2017 when there were countless people in this town, lobbyists, policy people, diplomats, who were desperate to get some sort of insight, any sort of insight into who Donald Trump was, does anybody know him, does anyone know anyone who knows him and we're really keen to try to figure out who this President was and how you would be able to work with him or at least figure out what he was going to do or who you needed access to have some sort of sway over him, potentially.

And so it doesn't surprise me that this was going on. What is surprising is the amounts that people were willing, apparently, to offer to a person who had absolutely no experience and no real claim to be able to say, OK, this is what President Trump is going to do and here's when he's going to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well that's the question, right?

DAVIS: Right.

KING: And that is it. This could be just corporations wasting a lot of money on Michael Cohen, or the question that Special Counsel and others want to look into, because of the amounts involved they said this just can't be real. To your point, I want to read this from our CNN reporting because it's a great story at, go to that.

There's other reporting in other newspapers as well. It's just about this, "Post-election, corporate America was on the hunt for anyone who could help them make inroads with the incoming administration. One individual with deep ties to the Washington lobbying world put it this way. Everyone said Trump won't win. Everyone had all of these Hillary Clinton consultants lined up and realized when Trump won, they had nobody."

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: So this is swampy to another level. It's kind of like a New York post tributary in the middle of the swap. Because essential consultant, let's not forget, is where the money for Stormy Daniels came from. That happened before the election.

Now, this was also the same LLC that had payoff money for Elliott Broidy and his paramour in California. So that -- Where did that money come from? That was over a million dollars. Was he using the money from this campaign to -- for hush money? We don't know the answer to that question. So that's a whole another layer to this.

And even if -- It's like another swampy level even for the --

KING: They tried to hide it.

KUCINICH: They've tried to hide it. This was not Michael Cohen, LLC send me money. And just to this point, I will show you somebody's companies. The Columbus Nova $500,000. The reason we say Columbus Nova, that's linked for Russian oligarch. It's an American company but it's linked to a Russian oligarch.

Why are the Russians giving Michael Cohen $500,000? Korea Aerospace Industries, Novartis, $1.2 million. So if you a shareholder, you might want to go to the next meeting. AT&T trying to buy Time Warner, $200,000. so everyone in the swamp including the people trying to buy this company, trying to figure out what's going on with the Trump administration. It's the numbers. Either lobbying firms in town they get $12,000 a month, $10,000 a month, maybe $15,000 a month. This is not chump change.

[12:35:10] ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And I want to just add one element of this which is the secrecy of which the Trump administration has closely held, who the President talks to and when. They don't want to release the visitors' record of who is coming into the White House. The President has the northern White House, the southern White House that are pretty much open to anyone willing to pay $200,000. For a membership you can walk up to him and lobby him in that way.

It's a symptom of a larger problem here which is that corporate America and a lot of other people, whether it's foreign governments and others, have figured out it's pretty easy to get to this President actually because he has a lot of people on the outside who talk to him regularly and he doesn't put up barriers. He doesn't put up controls over the intermingling of his personal lawyer and government business. And so we actually don't know the answer to whether or not Michael Cohen had any influence over Trump, and that's part of the problem.

Like, we should know a little bit more about what kind of policy- making process is actually happening here and to what extent the President was allowing people who have no business being in government have influence over government.

TRUMP: And if you're one of those voters who understandably voted for Donald Trump because you thought he was going to drain the swamp and you thought Hillary Clinton was, you know, poster chart (ph) for Washington status quo, you've said about this. Whether you support President still or not, he not drained the swamp. Just a simple statement there.

Coming up, President Trump and the tennis star John McEnroe with a million-dollar offer from then-businessman Donald Trump.


[12:41:07] KING: Topping our political radar today, a snarky report from the Senate Minority Leader. Earlier today, President Trump struck out at Senator Chuck Schumer, tweeting and calling him crying Chuck Schumer criticizing his contrasting views on the Iran nuclear deal. Schumer's response, one hashtag, #BeBest, which, of course, is the name -- signature hashtag for Melania Trump's new platform which includes efforts to combat online bullying.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley sending a blunt message to any Supreme Court justice even flirting with the idea of retirement, step down immediately. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUGH HEWITT, AMERICAN RADIO HOST: Are you prepping for a Supreme Court vacancy this summer, Chairman Grassley?

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY: I hope it's now or within two or three weeks because we've got to get this done before the election. So my message to any one of the nine Supreme Court justices, if you're thinking about quitting this year, do it yesterday.


KING: But the focus of course has been on the court swing vote. Justice Anthony Kennedy on whether he'll retire from the current time expires next month. Kennedy departure who give President Trump of course the opportunity to craft the more solidly conservative Supreme Court.

A new headline putting the names Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton in the same sentence again. The former White House intern was supposed to attend an event on social change for Town & Country Magazine but says her invite was pulled at the last second when the former President joins the line up. After Lewinsky called out this on Twitter, Town & Country apologized with a tweet, saying it regretted how the situation was handled.

Tennis legend John McEnroe get this revealing he once turned down an job offer from Donald Trump to play in this generation's version of the battle of the sexist. McEnroe a former world number one player know for his so fiery temper on the court told the sports show Trump wanted him to take on either Venus or Serena Williams in exchange for $1 million payout.


JOHN MCENROE, AMERICAN TENNIS PLAYER: I was calling a match and suddenly I get this envelope and it's from Donald Trump, you know, whose promoter galore. Little did I know what was going to end up happen, nor I believe anyone else. If you think some of the things I did was crazy, with the craziest thing in the last 250 years of our entire history in United States is that Donald Trump became president.


KING: Up next, the push to bring DACA vote to the House floor. This push coming from Republicans.


[12:47:44] KING: Fascinating story playing out within the House Republican conference. The House Speaker Paul Ryan saying a move to try to force a vote on the dreamer issue, the so-called DACA legislation, not the way to get things done.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN, HOUSE SPEAKER: We never want to turn the floor over to the minority. And what I don't want to do is have a process that just ends up with a veto. We actually want to solve the DACA problem. Going down a path and having some kind of spectacle on the floor that just results in a veto doesn't solve the problem. We actually would like to solve this problem and that is why I think it's important for us to come up with a solution that the President can support.


KING: The Speaker there making note of the Democratic minority. But it is Republican congressman will heard from Texas, Republican Jeff Denham of California and Republican Carlos Curbelo of Florida who were behind this tactic, trying to go around the Speaker with what's called the discharge position. Basically if a majority of House member sign it, legislation can be brought to the floor and in around the leadership if you will.

So far, this petition has 1900 signatures. Curbelo says lawmakers are frustrated that House refuses to do anything about DACA and says he knows who's to blame.


REP. CARLOS CURBELO (R), FLORIDA: The House has failed to act.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why? Why has -- just got there-- why has the House done nothing?

CURBELO: Well, because our leadership regrettably has spent a long time trying to win the votes within the House Republican conference for a legislation that never have the chance to achieve the 218 votes that are necessary here in the House.


KING: It's an interesting, fascinating fight because immigration has for years been quicksand for Republicans internally. But you have a number of Republicans here who think they're in trouble. These are not the Conservatives' Freedom Caucus pushing these, these are Republicans who are worried that they could lose their seat in November because they have more diverse districts than most half Republicans.

ELIANA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes. And I don't quite think what Curbelo said is true. I think Paul Ryan would like nothing more than to add to his legacy which right is the tax reform bill having move on DACA. He is a supporter of immigration reform. I think the reason they haven't brought a bill to the floor is that they haven't found a solution that the President would sign and that would pass the Senate. That really has been the sticking point all along here.

DAVIS: Right. I mean, the interesting thing about this process is that, you know, I think a lot of us have been saying for months that if a Dream Act bill could get to the House floor, it's very possible it would pass. But Paul Ryan hasn't wanted to put one on the floor for the reason he just articulated with what Eliana just said.

[12:50:04] He doesn't wanted to pass if President Trump is then going to veto it, then he has all of these members who have put themselves on the line, taking a hard vote. Democrats have been able to vote for something that they will be able to campaign on and the President will veto it and that will be fatal for Republicans. But it does look like if there are a few more Republicans who joined this process, we could see that hypothetical action could play out.

KING: And they're watching the election year where it is bad to be an insider, it is bad to have a title, we've learned that again in the primaries (ph) just the other day. And they seems to be the worst title to have right now is House Republican, all political titles whether you're senator, governor or whatever, political titles are bad in the age of Trump. But House Republicans seems to be the most toxic at the moment.

KUCINICH: Which is what we saw this last election day with the exception, I think, of one. All the other House Republicans have been running for higher office, for a different office, lost. And an outsider was chosen instead. So -- And I think most of these members who have signed off on this are all in districts that Hillary won in the last election.

So, yes, they've got to try something at this point because I'm sure they're getting hammered back home on this. And you have to wonder if this is something Mitch McConnell actually might take up. Because he does not have many members that are going to be on the line as Democrats do, these moderate Democrats who aren't going to want to take a DACA vote. So it's not entirely impossible that if they got something pass, that Mitch McConnell will be like, hey, yes, let's do this thing.

KING: But we're back to the question we've been asking for months and months and months and months and months, will the President get involved and lay out clearly and consistently what he would sign because the back and forth with the President is what's made everybody else afraid of this.

PHILLIP: I think the answer to that is almost unequivocally no. He has been all over the map on this issue, has walked to the line of wanting a DACA a compromise and then walked away from it multiple times in this process. That infamous -- that meeting in the cabinet room in which he sat there and said I will sign whatever you guys put in front of me, that turn out to be untrue multiple times after that moment.

So, this is a President who doesn't know where the compromise can be for his base on immigration. He hasn't quite figured it out yet, and I think that we're getting to the point now, and this is maybe Paul Ryan's underlying point, where it's too close to the election for them to take a risk so they're going to put it to the side.

KING: That's fireworks. The Republican Party dealing with immigration is fireworks getting close to the election.

When we come back, Rudy Giuliani says don't believe what you're hearing. His job as the President's new top lawyer is safe. It better be because he just can't lost another one.


[12:56:29] KING: Welcome back. Today Rudy Giuliani's new job is the President's lead lawyer cost him his old job. You might remember Giuliani's leave of absence last month from Greenberg Traurig, that's one of the biggest white collar legal firms in the country. Today, Giuliani made that leave permanent by resigning.

In a statement put out by the firm, the former New York City mayor says the move is in everyone's best interest. Not hard to read between the lines here. Sources say been telling the New York Times, Giuliani's firm was not happy with some of his public comments, especially this one here about how he might have handled the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels.

That money was paid, I'm sorry, I got no sound (ph), I'm going to read this to you. That money was paid by his lawyer the way I would do, out of law firm funds, he said on Fox News. Yes. So that how it works, right?

PHILLIP: It's crazy when he said it. And now you know that actually lawyers don't do that. And, I mean, I wondered when Giuliani said that.

JOHNSON: It must be Michael Cohen.


PHILLIP: Who -- I mean, who is he doing that for, and which law firm is going to authorize their lawyers to pay out hush money payments from the firm's money? I mean -- And I think the other part of this is that Cohen did it without telling Trump, without telling his client, which is another thing that lawyers say is just totally ethically out of bounds.

So, it was --

KUCINICH: In a well-established law firm, those things don't really land well.

KING: Yes.

DAVIS: Right. And certain -- We've been posing these questions for some time after he made those comments about, well, is this actually something that standard operating procedure either for your firm or for Rudy Giuliani? And of course those are uncomfortable questions to how they answer. And, you know, when Trump first said that he didn't know anything about the payment, you know, you have to ask Michael Cohen, the implication was that potentially he had made these payments without the President having known which is unethical and probably grounds for disbarment. So it raised all these legal questions that, you know, Michael Cohen is obviously having to answer for he's under investigation, but Rudy Giuliani is at this well-respected firm. I think they've just felt like it was --

KING: So he loses the job with the firm. He essentially called the President a liar on national television saying the President did know about the payment and reimbursed Michael Cohen for the payment, and he's good, right? He's good?

PHILLIP: I think the other thing with Trump, you know, Giuliani is good for now, but -- I mean, the problem with what he said about Trump is that he has been going back and forth about what the truth is. And even that from a legal perspective is unethical for a lawyer, but it also put the President in a much worse position.

KING: He is also involved in conversations and the Wall Street Journal says they want to have this settled by next week of whether the President is going to sit down with Robert Mueller. We still don't have a firm answer there. Inclination is probably not.

Listen to the Vice President here in an overnight interview saying it's time for Bob Mueller to pack it up.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's been about a year since this investigation began. Our administration has provided over a million documents. We've fully cooperated in it. And in the interests of the country, I think it's time to wrap it up, and I would very respectfully encourage the Special Counsel and his team to bring their work to completion.


KING: It is an interesting moment of what I'll call the parallel presidencies. This giant cloud still hangs over the White House when you're ripping up the Iran deal. You're about to sit down with the North Korean dictator.

JOHNSON: You know, I know others disagree with me but I didn't make much of that. I read that as Pence talking to Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, audience of one (ph).

KING: Hence, trying to keep the (INAUDIBLE).

All right, thanks everybody for coming in. And thank you for watching today in INSIDE POLITICS. See you back here this time tomorrow. Wolf starts right now. Have a great day.