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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Giuliani: Mueller Tells Trump Team He Will Follow DOJ Guidance That A Sitting President Cannot Be Indicted; New Information Revealed About Infamous Trump Tower Meeting, Questions Surround A Mystery Phone Call; President Trump Discloses Payment to Cohen, Possibly To Cover Stormy Daniels Hush Money; Ethics Office Refers to Justice Department; "New York Times:" New Details Revealed About Origins Of Investigation into Trump Campaign, Code Name "Crossfire Hurricane;" President Trump: "We'll Have To See" If North Korea Summit Happens. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired May 16, 2018 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:10] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.
There is a lot to get to tonight, new insight on everything from Donald Trump Jr.'s Trump Tower meeting seeking Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton, to the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels over her alleged sexual encounter with the president.
But we begin tonight with breaking news on the question of whether or not special counsel Robert Mueller can actually indict a sitting president and president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, tonight revealing what he says Mueller 2has told the president's legal team about a possible indictment.
For that, we go to CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash.
So, what exactly did Giuliani tell you?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, he told me that Mueller's team informed Trump's team orally, not in a written form, that they have concluded that the Justice Department can't indict a sitting president.
Now, this is a conclusion based on existing Justice Department guidelines, guidelines that have been in place since the Nixon years. At that time, the Office of Legal Counsel inside the Justice Department concluded that because the president has a lot on his plate, that it is not something that should happen. And then the Clinton administration years later reaffirmed those guidelines.
Having said that, it is not -- he's never been challenged, Anderson, in court ever. So, it was not a given that Mueller would follow these guidelines and it was a big question whether he would try to challenge them if he had enough in his quiver that he thought he needed to use to potentially indict the president. But now, what we were hearing and what I'm hearing from Rudy Giuliani is that the Mueller team made clear they're not going to go there.
COOPER: So, the significance of this to the president's team -- I mean, does Giuliani think the president is in the clear here? Because they -- why would they need to interview him if he was not going to be able to be indicted for a crime?
BASH: It's a great question. Look, I mean, to be clear, Rudy Giuliani doesn't -- you know, he would not -- he says over and over again as do other members of the president's legal team, that he did nothing wrong.
But the answer to your question is, this does not mean that the president is in the clear, because -- just because the Justice Department guidelines don't allow for the indictment of a sitting president, it doesn't mean that we won't see the findings that Robert Mueller has that could be pretty incriminating potentially, potentially, against the president.
We understand that at the end of the investigation, Robert Mueller will have to do a report, that he will have to give to the attorney general -- in this case, because he recused himself, it's a deputy attorney general -- and they have to give that information over to Capitol Hill. If it is something that that really requires the attention of the United States Congress, in particular the House of Representatives and because constitutionally they are the ones that would start potential impeachment proceedings, then you might see it go that far. But we're not quite there yet.
But that's the long way of saying the president is in no way, shape or form in the clear, and it is still really up in the air whether this interview is going to happen. The conversations haven't really begun in earnest as to what the special counsel wants to ask the president and the Trump team hasn't been able to get back because they don't know exactly the details of what Robert Mueller wants.
COOPER: It's so interesting because -- I mean, when Giuliani came on board, wasn't he talking about like oh what the kind of in two weeks, we'll get an idea of this? Hasn't it -- it's been two weeks, hasn't it?
BASH: It has and that was his hope and he has said he's told me in the past couple of days that that he thought that that was going to happen, but now, they're clearly in a holding pattern. The Trump team doesn't want any potential interview to happen until after what we expect will be the North Korean summit mid-June. But what they were hoping is at least to get to get the ball rolling in conversations.
Having said all that we know because we've talked about it so much, nobody on the Trump team thinks that Donald Trump should do an interview and that is another thing that they're preparing for, what if the special counsel's team says we demand an interview and they send a subpoena which will be another thing that will have to go to the courts and it will be a lengthy process if that happens. But they don't even know if they're there yet and that really is the important point.
COOPER: Dana, stay with us. I want to bring in John Dean, Carrie Cordero and Maggie Haberman. Carrie Cordero, just from a legal standpoint, is it possible Giuliani is sort of giving this interview and talking about this just to kind of get this narrative out there? Because just from a legal standpoint, I'd heard some legal experts say it is not settled law -- this may have been a Department of Justice guideline -- that a sitting president can't be indicted but didn't somebody during the Ken Starr time right a differing opinion?
CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE U.S. ASST. ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: Right. So, there's the legal piece and then there's the White House public relations piece.
[20:05:02] It's -- we don't know whether what Rudy Giuliani is saying is an accurate representation of whatever conversations that he has had with the special counsel's office. If we take what he has told Dana as correct, that in fact the special counsel's office has told him that they are adopting the view in the prevailing Justice Department legal opinions that a sitting president is not going to be indicted, then I would think that certainly might play into why the president had brought on impeachment counsel recently if that timing matches up.
There are some different opinions in Justice Department or independent counsel memoranda. The prevailing rule is that a sitting president cannot be indicted. But there was -- you're correct, there was a different memorandum that was written during the independent counsel time in the Starr investigation. That memo though was tailored to the specific facts.
And so, it's important to point out that all of these memoranda that were written in the Justice Department are really historical. They were written in the '70s. Some were written in the late '90s. They were not written specific to this specific investigation that is being conducted by the special counsel under the regulations of the special counsel versus under some old independent counsel statute.
So, my question would be, has the special counsel has conducted their own independent legal analysis of whether or not they can indict this president based on the type of investigation that they are conducting now?
COOPER: John Dean, I know you're familiar with the Department Justice precedent that Rudy Giuliani citing to Dana. Indicting someone is one thing, subpoenaing them to talk is another thing. What do you make what Giuliani is arguing here?
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well, I think he's suggesting that -- well, first of all, he's drawing out in those arguments that the Department of Justice is going to follow the existing policy. That policy is indeed historical.
It happened first in 1973 when Spiro Agnew was subject to a criminal charge for bribery as vice-president and he said, you can't indict me, you can only impeach me. And the Department of Justice then issued its first opinion, OLC, the Office of Legal Counsel, saying, no, Mr. Agnew, you're wrong, we can indict, you we can't indict the president, and that's where this started and then it was renewed in during the Clinton administration.
So, Giuliani is putting that out there, that it is not really in his favor because the president theoretically has no reason he shouldn't sit down, this is a counterintelligence investigation as well as potential criminal investigation. So, they really want him for the broadest of reasons.
COOPER: Maggie, I mean, is this paradoxically an instance where Robert Mueller's conservative, you know, conservative past in deference toward addition could actually help the president?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": And that's certainly what the president's people are interpreting this as and hoping for.
I want to echo what Carrie said. I don't know that what Rudy Giuliani said is what happened. I know that that is his presentation of what happened, and it's worth remembering that -- I mean, when I spoke to him and I'm assuming at the same conversation with Dana, he described it to me as -- that when this came up in their meeting two weeks ago or so with Mueller's team, Mueller did not say that they were going to adhere to the DOJ guideline, that it was a -- it was it was one person in the room who said it, was a member of his team and then nobody else seemed particularly thrilled and then a few days later, someone called another lawyer on the president's team and said, yes, that's what we're doing.
So, assuming all of that is true -- yes, I think that the reading that the president's people have had for some time, his legal team and his broader group of advisors, is that Mueller has a history of being cautious. He has a history of being careful and a more conservative reader of the law who is not really going to want to go ahead and break new ground. And they assume based on that people have talked to you tonight, if you can't indict, then you can't issue a subpoena.
And I think the chances -- I know Rudy Giuliani has left open the possibility but there will be an interview, I think that the chances just based on my reporting of an interview actually happening voluntarily are pretty small. So, we will see.
COOPER: You say that based on the latest you're hearing?
HABERMAN: Yes. I mean, what I hear from people is that while Giuliani continues to keep this door open publicly because they don't want to look like they are snubbing Mueller and until they actually have more of a sense of where things are going, that there is literally no one on the president's team except for occasionally the president who thinks he should sit for this interview.
BASH: And can I just add to that? I've definitely heard the same thing and --
BASH: These are -- and these are kind of -- these are connected, the whole notion of a subpoena versus the question of whether the president could be indicted.
[20:10:01] And Gloria Borger talked to another source familiar with the legal plans by the president who said that this was -- this notion, this question of, what do you think and the president be indicted was brought to the Mueller team, just as Maggie said, Mueller didn't just voluntarily say, hey, guess what, I'm not going to -- you're not going to indict the president because we're going to adhere to Justice Department guidelines. This was leading them to this for the explicit reason of trying to make the argument well if that's the case, then you have no right to subpoena him if he says no to an interview.
HABERMAN: Exactly, this is exactly what I heard.
COOPER: So, Carrie Cordero, again just from a legal standpoint, is that a solid argument in order to -- if you -- if there's concern about Mueller issuing a subpoena, the Trump team essentially arguing -- well, if they want to fight the subpoena which obviously it would seem like they would, the arguments to the courts would be, well, you -- there's no need for a subpoena if there's no underlying crime that can be an indictable crime.
COOPER: Is that -- is that a valid legal reason? I mean, could a subpoena be issued even if an indictment is not possible to be -- to be, you know, tendered?
CORDERO: Well, again, as Dana said at the very opening of the show, none of this has ever actually been ruled on by the Supreme Court, whether or not a sitting president can be indicted or received a subpoena. So, because these are actions and indictment as a subpoena or actions that come out of the grand jury, then an argument can be made that they would be linked together.
But I would just also add that the legal analysis that would need to be conducted on either of these issues really is specific to which particular potential crime we're talking about and what role the president was in at the time. So, for example, the analysis would be different if the special counsel is looking at activities that took place during the course of the campaign. This goes to Russian collusion type activities that we sort of call collusion, but cooperation or any kind of coordination that took place with the Russian influence effort on the investigation.
If a different type of analysis would need to be conducted, if what they're looking at is whether or not an indictment can be lodged on obstruction, in particular whether or not the president's exercise of his constitutional authority, of his presidential authority could be abused and so, for example, on obstruction? So, the specific example would be, you know, the firing of Director Comey which the president's team would likely argue was simply an exercise of his authority, whether or not that could be found to be an abuse.
COOPER: So, Maggie, just -- finally, I mean, I just want to have you reiterate what you said basically reporting because dancing is also what she's been hearing that there is nobody currently on the president's team except for occasionally the president himself who talks about actually sitting down for an interview.
HABERMANN: Right. Look, I mean they talked about the idea of keeping things going with Mueller. They want to have a good conversation I think that, look, if Mueller's team came back and said yes we're willing to narrow it down to these three topics as opposed to having it be very broad and open-ended then I do think you might hear a deeper conversation but since nobody there genuinely believes that that is what special counsel is likely to do, they see little value in going forward.
Remember one of the reasons if not the main one that John Dowd, the president's former main lawyer quit was because he did not agree with the president's desire to go ahead with an interview. As far as I understand it, basically, everybody is with John Dowd and there is again just a president who at times sounds a boastful note and talks about wanting to be interviewed, but who I'm told in private seems to get that that's a pretty hot stove to touch.
COOPER: All right. Everybody, stick around. We're going to have more coming up. For the first time, we're getting a look at Donald Trump Jr.'s testimony about that Trump Tower meeting where he was trying to get Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton. The Senate Judiciary Committee has released nearly 2,000 pages of documents from its investigation of the meeting. Details ahead.
Also, the president's new financial disclosure has been released. What it shows about that hush money payment to Stormy Daniels and questions about why it wasn't disclosed previously.
[20:16:27] COOPER: It's a huge day in Washington regarding the Russia investigation. The Senate Judiciary Committee dumped thousands of pages of documents and interview transcripts regarding the now infamous Trump Tower meeting where Donald Trump Jr. and other senior members of the Trump campaign were hoping to get dirt about Hillary Clinton from Russians.
His and the White House's explanations for that meeting change as you know multiple times. But the transcripts released today by the Senate Judiciary Committee are giving new insight into the reality, new insight and new mystery regarding phone calls to at least one unknown person immediately after the meeting was set up.
Chief National Security Correspondent, Jim Sciutto has details.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Senate Judiciary Committee transcripts make clear that at the 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians, Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., was expecting the Russians to supplied dirt on Hillary Clinton. This is despite President Trump, his son and others repeatedly claiming otherwise. A Russian lobbyist present for the meeting told senators that Donald
Trump Jr., quote, was definitely in charge, and after some small talk began by saying something to the effect of, so you have some information for us?
In his own testimony, Donald Trump Jr. admitted that he was, quote, interested in listening to information about Hillary Clinton, adding, quote, I had no way of assessing where it came from, but I was willing to listen.
This is a direct contradiction of the blatantly misleading story put out by the White House and Donald Trump Jr. claiming the meeting was about adoptions. Those interviewed say however that the Russians did not deliver the promised dirt and instead focused on their interest in removing U.S. sanctions on some Russians. Rob Goldstone, a British publicist who was in the room and helped arrange the meeting, says the discussion began to, quote, infuriate Jared Kushner because it was so unfocused.
After a few minutes of this labored presentation, Goldstone said, Jared Kushner who is sitting next to me appeared somewhat agitated by this and said, I really have no idea what you're talking about.
Don Jr. testified the meeting lasted to minutes and at the conclusion, Goldstone apologized to him, quote, for what he believed was wasting our time. Donald Jr. said he believed there to be a, quote, pretty substantial delta between the meetings original purpose and what actually took place.
Asked if he informed his father about the meeting and the Russians offered to supply dirt on Clinton, Don Jr. repeatedly said he did not, explaining that he, quote, wouldn't bring him anything that's unsubstantiated, especially from a guy like Rob, before I knew what it was actually about myself. However, shortly after arranging the meeting, Don Jr. made an 11-minute phone call to a blocked number. Asked if he remembers who that call was with, Trump Jr. said, I don't.
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: My name is Corey Lewandowski.
SCIUTTO: Democrats note however that former Trump campaign aide Corey Lewandowski testified before House members that candidate Trump's primary residence has a blocked number.
A full year later after "The New York Times" first broke the existence of the meeting, the White House initially claimed the meeting was primarily about adoptions, an explanation disproved when an email surfaced showing that Don Jr. accepted the meeting on the premise the Russians were bringing the expected dirt on Clinton.
In his testimony, Don Jr. said he did not know that his father was involved in drafting the initial misleading statement. I never spoke to my father about it, he said, but the White House has acknowledged that the president himself took part in crafting the misleading response.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president weighed in is any father would.
COOPER: Well, Jim Sciutto joins me now.
So, what do we know about the follow-up after the meeting?
[20:20:03] SCIUTTO: Well, we learned from these transcripts that Rob Goldstone, again this British publicist who had a relationship with the Trump's and help helped arrange that meeting, that a number of months later in November, he began emailing the Russians involved and others about setting up a follow-up to the Trump Tower meeting, that's not the only follow-up.
We also know that the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, she's come up in previous reporting who was in that room as well. She reached out to the Trump campaign after the election again to follow up on what was discussed in that meeting.
So, again here, you know, Anderson -- and apologies to folks at home who might have trouble keeping up with the various changing explanations from Trump world, again here, you know, first of all, any contact with Russians was denied by the Trump campaign initially. Then the true focus of this meeting was denied in that statement about it being about adoptions. And then the idea that was just a one-off that appears to be undermined by the fact that several participants in that meeting they looked to arrange a follow-up to that to that meeting at Trump Tower as well.
COOPER: Yes. Jim Sciutto, appreciate the details.
Back now, John Dean, Carrie Cordero and Maggie Haberman.
Maggie, I mean, it is a kind of an ever-changing you know series of stories here.
HABERMAN: It's essentially -- it's funny, I had a different perspective on it. I agree that there were a number of stories that appeared in conflict when we heard them at the time and then "The Times" first reported on the information about that meeting. I didn't see a ton in this transcript at least for Don Jr. that had not been reported previously, whether by "The Washington Post" or by "The New York Times" or by CNN.
But I think a lot of that detail has been out. However, I think what you were going to see a lot of members of the Senate, primarily Democrats focus on is areas where he had no recollection. So, for instance, he had no recollection of whether he spoke to his father about the meeting is the giant takeaway. He had one very specific sentence where he explained he didn't speak to his father in the course of drafting this statement, which his father had a hand in aboard Air Force One in response to "The Times" questions about his meeting, and he said that he didn't do that because I didn't want to involve his father and something he had nothing to do with.
But then at another point, there were questions about a phone call he made to a blocked number, and it has been pointed out that his father has a blocked number.
I think that's where you're going to see a lot of questions remain. And so, that certainly, the transcripts in seeing them -- seeing it in print is very different than what we heard dribbling out from the testimony, but it's going to raise question yet again that have existed for this year.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, John Dean, it is interesting that he's not denying 2that he spoke to his father about it. He just says that he doesn't remember. I mean, that is such a critical question here, whether or not Donald Trump at that point knew about this meeting, knew, because it's pretty significant.
It would be hard to believe that Don Jr. didn't mention it to his father because in that meeting and in the email, he learned that the Russian government was backing his father's campaign, according to that email and had dirt on Hillary Clinton, according to that email.
DEAN: It would be remarkable if he hadn't told his father. Everybody I think just by its counterintuitive to think he didn't tell his father. And I don't recall response is not a good one.
Let me tell you what happened to Nixon's chief of staff who had memory problems and couldn't recall, he got indicted for perjury and they proved that he could recall and he was being evasive and dishonest. And that's the risk you have.
I counted some 60 occasions in this testimony where Don Jr. either could not recall or didn't know and was hedging. So, that's a very poor showing for a witness.
COOPER: Carrie, is it difficult though to -- I mean prove somebody knows if they're saying, look, they can't recall?
CORDERO: Well, of course. I mean, the way that it would be proved is through the testimony of or the interviews of other witnesses. So, for example, as it relates to the crafting of the statement aboard Air Force One that was at first put out, trying to explain the Trump Tower meeting, it's not going to be just Don Jr.'s word for it, there also will be interviews, whether it's from this congressional committee or issues that the special counsel will take up. Hope Hicks was also very involved in that. Former short term spokesman Mark Corallo was involved.
So, there are other individuals who will be or have been interviewed, and what will become clear over time to investigators is whether or not those different interviews people have different recollections or maybe some people have more detailed recollections than others. But it's pretty clear that his interview with this Senate Judiciary Committee was very heavily -- it was a very heavily lawyered interview.
COOPER: Yes, Maggie, this mystery phone call, it does seem to be a pretty convenient thing to forget about.
[20:25:02] I don't know how many people, you know, have blocked number or have friends who have blocked numbers or people that they call regularly that have blocked numbers. I mean, Donald Trump Jr. seemed to remember other specifics about many other matters.
HABERMAN: Right. I mean, it's for the reasons you just said, it is going to raise lingering questions and I think that he is going to continue to get pressed on that issue, although I don't know in what forum.
I do want to say one thing though about something John Dean said before. I agree it is counterintuitive to think that he would not have told his father and we've obviously talked about that a lot.
But the one thing that I think is worth bearing in mind about having Donald Trump as your father is that if you come to him with the condition under which I could see it where he didn't tell would have been that he didn't tell him beforehand and he didn't tell him after because this meeting did not yield anything according to them. If this is meeting as they said it was, if really there was nothing that was actually offered of substance that could be usable against Hillary Clinton, then I could see a world where he did not personally call his father because his father would actually be irritated by that and not pleased by it.
COOPER: Even if his father was just learning that the Russian -- according to this person, the Russian government was backing his campaign?
HABERMAN: I mean, I think that it would not have been offered as just one piece of information in that way. Again, it's impossible to know what was actually said.
HABERMAN: I'm just saying it's not as outlandish a possibility as it seems on the surface. That's all.
COOPER: John, I mean, there's no privilege for Donald Trump Jr. He's not an employee of the executive branch like his sister and the brother-in-law, and there's no privilege for a child, right?
DEAN: No, absolutely none. There's no executive privilege, and I think one of the reasons I lean to the fact that it's counterintuitive is that six days -- between three and six days after this meeting in New Jersey, Donald Trump goes out and promises his audience a big speech of a negative nature on Hillary Clinton. He never did give that speech based on new information he's reportedly to get, and that sort of indicates that he knew what was coming.
COOPER: John Dean, Carrie Cordero, Maggie Haberman, thank you very much. Good discussion.
Next, the president, Stormy Daniels, Michael Cohen and hush money -- a new financial filing by the president just today showing he did indeed pay back Michael Cohen. And now, that filing has already been referred to the deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein. The question, of course, is why wasn't the payment disclosed previously? One question we'll talk about with Stormy Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti, next.
[20:30:52] COOPER: Well, there is more breaking news tonight, a new financial disclosure by President Trump it linked in questions about the hush money payments to Stormy Daniels.
For the first time the President is confirming that he paid back his lawyer, Michael Cohen, the fixer more than a $100,000 and to more $250,000. What the report doesn't say is that the repayment was for the $130,000 that Cohen facilitated with Ms. Daniels in the last days of the campaign and an effort to keep her quite about an affair she says she had with Mr. Trump. Of course, Mr. Trump denies the affair.
Now, there's more, the office of government ethics has already sent the financial document, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, along with the letter that said, "You may find the disclosure relevant to any inquiry you maybe pursuing."
Joining me is Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels' attorney. So Rudy Giuliani told Dana Bash that he first revealed the President Trump reimbursed Cohen on Hannity to get ahead of this filing. Does that make sense to you?
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: Not entirely, Anderson. I think that the reason why he disclosed it on Hannity had little to do with this filing. And had everything to do with the fact that he knew that we had evidence that was going to undercut the prior denials by Michael Cohen. Mr. Trump and David Schwartz and Mr. Giuliani, among others and he also knew that documents had been obtained in connection with the FBI raids that were going to make those previous statements falsities. And they try to get out in front of it, but the problem is, is that they didn't try to get out in front of it when they should have try to get out in front of it, which was months ago before they run all those lines.
COOPER: What's the other thing that Rudy Giuliani has said is that the President himself didn't really learn about the repayment until about 10-days before either it was the Hannity or "Fox & Friends," interview that Giuliani gave back-to-back, which again, we don't know for sure when the President became aware of these payments. The idea though that he only became aware of them 10 days before Giuliani gave that interview, that just seems surprising.
AVENATTI: Well, it is worse than that, Anderson, because according to the financial disclosure that was filed today, the reimbursements occurred in 2017.
AVENATTI: -- by their own admission. And the President signed that under penalty of perjury. So I don't understand how they can claim --
COOPER: I guess Giuliani's claim is that, well he just didn't know what those payments were for. He would have signed that as money he has routinely sends to Michael Cohen? AVENATTI: That doesn't make any sense, Anderson. We have heard story upon story, upon story, upon story and, you know, I was on this show with David Schwartz on many occasions and David Schwartz told you and me and --
COOPER: Attorney for Cohen?
AVENATTI: Correct. And others that the President never knew of any reimbursement that the money was never reimbursed and that Michael Cohen just did this all on his own. I mean, that's all untrue.
COOPER: But there is no evidence at this point of when the President became aware of the payments?
We don't know if the President knew about it as it was happening or about it before, at this point, you have no evidence in your lawsuit that you have been able to come across that indicates exactly when the President knew?
AVENATTI: I don't understand exactly what the argument is that what the President has signed today states that the reimbursements were made during the year 2017 or they are suggesting that the President reimbursed this money but he didn't know about it? I don't understand how does somebody reimburse a payment and not know about it.
COOPER: Well, as I recall from an interview David Schwartz did on Erin Burnett, he said that Mr. Cohen took care of many things like this, this was some of the purview of Michael Cohen, so it wouldn't have been all that unusual for the President to just, you know, that this was also part of a routine Rudy Giuliani has stated?
AVENATTI: Look, I just don't buy it. I don't think the American people are going to buy it. They have heard story upon story now over the last four or five months relating to this payments, relating to this reimbursement. This whole thing doesn't make any sense. Especially -- and also, I think if you think look at Michael Cohen's statement in March of this year where he said that he facilitated the payment and did not receive reimbursement from the Trump organization or from the campaign. I mean, now I guess we know that, that was purposely deceptive because according to the financial disclosure form he had already been fully reimbursed by Mr. Trump individually at that point and time.
[21:35:00] COOPER: The other thing that Giuliani has said, which I don't quite understand the discrepancy, he said and I think it was Hannity or in the Fox & Friends interview that it was total of 460,000 to 470,000 that the President had given to Michael Cohen in various payments, in this financial disclosure really only talks about anywhere between $100 to $250,000. Do you understand that discrepancy?
AVENATTI: I don't understand the math and I don't understand the discrepancy. Again, every time Mr. Giuliani, or Mr. Cohen through his representative give a statement on this, it's always different. It's a constant moving target. The truth appears to be very elusive for some reason. COOPER: Michael Avenatti, I appreciate it. Thanks very much.
Earlier this week, my next guest wrote an op-ed for USA today, arguing that the President needed to come clean about Stormy Daniels debt with Michael Cohen in the financial report. The question is, did he really come clean? Has he gone far enough? I want to talk it over with Adav Noti, who is the former Associate General Counsel for the Federal Election Commission.
So Adav, the fact that the Office of Government Ethics referred the financial filing already to the Justice Department, Walter Shaub, the former Director of the Office of Government Ethics said today that the referral is "tantamount to the criminal referral." Do you agree?
ADAV NOTI, FORMER ASSOCIATE GENERAL COUNSEL, FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION: Absolutely, I mean what the Office of Government Ethics did was sent a letter to the Department of Justice saying, we have looked at the President's financial disclosure, he says that he didn't need to report the debt to Mr. Cohen and we disagree and note that although he provided some information this year, he provided none last year and the Office of Government Ethics sent that to the Department of Justice and said, to the extent you're investigating anything criminally about the President's finances, you may find this to be of interest.
So that is absolutely equivalent to a criminal referral particularly because if the Office of Government Ethics decides what does or doesn't need to get reported, the President doesn't get to decide that and hasn't apparently provided any counter argument as to why the agency's determination was wrong.
COOPER: You heard Michael Avenatti's reaction to the filing tonight. I wonder what do you make of what he said?
NOTI: Yes, I think there are two issues. One is the issue that Mr. Avenatti raised, which is that there is now a discrepancy between the President's sworn statement and his personal financial disclosure, and the varius public statements that have been made the President and his surrogates. So that is one issue. But the other issue is the legal one that, you know, his conduct is being referred to the Department of Justice for potential prosecution, that's strikes me as potentially the much bigger deal here.
COOPER: How common is it that the Office of Government Ethics refers to something like this to the justice department?
NOTI: Not common at all, this entire back and forth between the President and the Office of Government Ethics and then the ultimate letter to the Department of Justice is very, very out of the ordinary. You know, what appears to have happened is that the President tries to sneak in the debt to Mr. Cohen, footnote on page 40-something of his report. And the Office of Government Ethics said, well, no you can't do that, you have to really disclose it but since you provided enough information we'll let it go. But then, of course, sent the letter to the Department of Justice also, saying note that this wasn't reported last year as it should have been. COOPER: Why wouldn't the President have to disclose the exact amount? Because in this -- in that little footnote, it said, it was anywhere between $100,001 and $250,000 then you had Rudy Giuliani saying it total in about $460,000 or $470,000?
NOTI: Well, the use of the range is OK because the form itself only requires debts and assets to be reported in rangers. But the discrepancy is hard to explain. It may be that the number Mr. Giuliani gave included not just the $130,000 repayment but the other legal fees that the President was paying to Michael Cohen for his work. It's clear at all what this is about.
COOPER: Or possible other deals that Michael Cohen was making on behalf for the President. We just don't know.
NOTI: Absolutely, but if that is the case, those should have been reported both today and last year depending on the timing and that would be, you know, a violation of federal law to not report things.
COOPER: Adav Noti, I appreciate it. Thanks very much.
There's a new report of the New York Times that flashes out the secret origins of the FBI's Trump's campaign investigation. And the reported code name for it has ties to a legendary rock band. I will speak with one of the reporters who broke the story, next.
[20:41:56] COOPER: Well, the President likes to end his campaign rallies with a song, "You Can't Always Get What You Want," which is of course, The Rolling Stones song but it's a different song by The Stones that provided the code name for an FBI investigation that help provide the foundation for the case that the key in the special counsel investigation, the code name Crossfire Hurricane. The "New York Times" has a fascinated look of the secret origins of the Trump investigation. Adam Goldman is one of the reporters who worked on the piece, he joins me.
Adam, can you just explain what Crossfire Hurricane was and when it began?
ADAM GOLDMAN, REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Crossfire Hurricane was the FBI's code name of their investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 investigation and interference. And it came from a Rolling Stones Song, "Jumping Jack Flash." Lyrics, "I was born in a cross- fire hurricane."
COOPER: And when did it actually begin?
GOLDMAN: The investigation actually began July three 131st.
COOPER: Of 2016?
GOLDMAN: Of 2016, that's correct and it was given a code name.
COOPER: So I understand that within hours of the investigation opening agents were dispatched to London, correct?
GOLDMAN: Yes, shortly after that, Peter Strzok, who was a key agent in a counter intelligence division of the FBI was on a plane and headed to London to interview an Australian diplomat who had drinks with George Papadopoulos, a campaign adviser to Donald Trump.
COOPER: And this is the same Strzok, obviously who was having text messages with the woman who was dating, which is then calls so much controversy?
GOLDMAN: That is true, yes.
COOPER: Based on your reporting, it doesn't seem like agents who are overlay eager to open up another investigation to a political candidate?
GOLDMAN: No, it's clear from my interviews that FBI agents and others in the bureau were exhausted from the Hillary Clinton slog. It becomes highly politicize and they were not eager to jump back into another politically fraught investigation into a presidential candidate.
COOPER: And was this all initiated by the report about Papadopoulos talking to the Australian official?
GOLDMAN: Yes. That was the genesis of this investigation when George Papadopoulos, you know, had too much to drink and disclosed that he might have information about Hillary Clinton e-mail to this Australian diplomat, the Australians got very concerned about that and went to the FBI and there were high level negotiations and eventually the Australians thought this was too important. And they let an FBI agent sit down with this diplomat and memorialized this person's conversation and what is known as an FBI 302, which is in fact the piece of evidence.
COOPER: And I understand some of the DOJ, the Department of Justice, and the FBI think the agents could have been more aggressive in the investigation, how so?
GOLDMAN: Well, Peter Strzok is an aggressive agent and he wanted to take steps for instance from the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation that others were opposed to.
[21:45:05] They could have taken more overt steps. Perhaps they could have interviewed Papadopoulos earlier, right? Before they interviewed him generally, before the election had ended, they could have interviewed Carter Page again. They had already interviewed him in March 2016. So I think there were discussions about whether they should take steps to do these interviews but the flip side of that is that they were worried they would leak.
COOPER: Adam Goldman, thanks very much. I appreciate it.
Well, when we continue tonight, the latest in the planned summit between President Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong-un, seem like a short thing until it didn't, President Trump weight in today, what said and what David Axelrod and Fareed Zakaria, it all means, next.
COOPER: The Trump administration is still trying to figure out what North Korea mean when its lead negotiator said that his country wouldn't unilaterally give up its nuclear program if the U.S. is trying to drive them into a corner. And this comes as the North threatened to cancel the planned summit next month between President Trump and Kim Jong-un. The President had this response today when asked about the summit standoff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[20:50:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We haven't seen anything. We haven't heard anything. We will see what happens. We'll see what happens. We'll see. Time will tell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, even as he was saying that, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters that the administration was not on the list, caught off guard pronouncements, which seem to put speed bump in the talks between the two nations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What's your reaction to the latest threat from North Korea saying that they're not going to be boxed in to denuclearize?
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, this is something that we fully expected. The President is very used and ready for tough negotiations and if they want to meet we'll be ready and if they don't, that's OK, too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you said, this was fully expected. Did you believe that they would sort of pull back at some point or --
SANDERS: We know that this is kind of, I guess, a standard function that can often happen, and you know, we're not surprised by it, but we're going to continue moving forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Earlier I spoke about this with David Axelrod, a former Senior 2Adviser to President Obama and Fareed Zakaria, host of "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS."
COOPER: Fareed, now that North Korea is saying that they're not going to be forced into unilateral nuclear abandonment, where do things go from here? Because it seems like their definition of denuclearization as we've always said, it's very different than the rest of the world?
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: The crucial thing, Anderson, as what you said, as we've all been saying. The odd thing about this impasse that it was perfectly predictable indeed was predicted. This is why many of us cautioned that perhaps the best way to approach this summit would be to start at lower level negotiations, figure out what exactly they mean by denuclearization which they have traditionally always meant first you end the U.S. South Korea alliance. You get rid of American troops. Then we feel less threatened and don't need as many nuclear weapons, et cetera, et cetera.
COOPER: And that's traditionally the preamble to the summit, I mean, usually there's a lot of league work and meetings before the two, you know, the Presidents or the two leaders get together?
ZAKARIA: Historically, Presidential summits have been the cap stone of a long period of negotiation, not the beginning point because when they are the beginning point you end up in exactly the situation we are in now. If this falls apart where do you go next? How do you start things in it leaves everyone bewildered and it becomes dangerous. It's also why you don't set expectations so high.
Donald trump has been showering praise on Kim Jong-un for absolutely no reason. He became hadn't made any changes in policy. Trump made the big concession which was after 20 years the U.S. President agreed to meet with North Korea before it had denuclearized. So we had already made a big concession, Trump then went on to showered praise on him and when you reach the perfectly predictable impasse nobody seems to know what to do. It looks very much like amateur hour at the White House.
COOPER: David, I mean, President Trump makes it very clear he is undertaking something here that no other U.S. president has been able to do and frankly willing to do. He also hasn't batted down the possibility of winning the Nobel Peace Prize for it how much does he actually have riding on this summit actually taking place?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he -- too much is what I would say. I think that he had -- his behavior has raised the stakes for himself. And one of my big concerns about this whole thing from the moment that he signaled apparently on his own that he was ready to have this meeting is that he now is under pressure to produce something from such a meeting. And Kim is aware of that as well which may be part of why he is -- he is balking, I mean the North Koreans have a long history -- just to paraphrase, a friend of mine they think the shortest distance between two points was is a curve.
So the notion that this was going to be some sort of straight line into very productive negotiations wasn't right. But Trump has put himself in a vulnerable position by raising the stakes so high for himself and standing at rallies being showered with Nobel chance and so on.
He needs to produce something from this meeting. And I think he is creating the sense that maybe he can't walk away from the table.
COOPER: It's interesting what you said though, Fareed about -- that he gave away this big card which the North Koreans have been wanting, which is a face-to-face meeting between the President of the United States and the leader of North Korea without actually getting anything in return.
Tom Friedman from the Times just yesterday was saying essentially the same thing about moving the embassy to Jerusalem that this was something that you know the -- that Netanyahu clearly wanted and the President just agreed to do it without getting anything from Netanyahu in terms of stopping you know the raise -- anymore settlements being built in certain areas of the West Bank or whatever to further the peace process.
ZAKARIA: Exactly and Trump's negotiating style seems far from being the master of strategic approach that he is often acclaimed it is. It seems very impulsive, somewhat emotional, not well thought through. And as David says it raises the stakes. He now has to get a deal. And here is the killer. He needs a deal that is better than the Iran deal because he just rejected the Iran deal which means no nuclear weapon, 98% of enriched uranium has been to be shipped out or destroyed. Plutonium pathway has to be completely dismantled that is a very tough deal to get.
[20:55:15] COOPER: Also David, I mean, how do you even get a deal like that in just a meeting even if it's a day or two with -- between Donald Trump, the President and Kim Jong-un. I mean, you have to have all the people actually know the issues sitting down and hammering this out and in extensive ways?
AXELROD: Yes and the President has it backwards. And, you know, he is approaching this like a television show, like a real estate deal. It's far more complex. And even if he were to strike some sort of deal on coming out of that June meeting, there would be a very complex set of discussions to define what it actually meant.
COOPER: Fareed Zakaria, David Axelrod, thanks.
COOPER: With this, still a great deal to get to tonight including the breaking news on Rudy Giuliani's talk with CNN Dana Bash about his recent discussions with Robert Mueller Russian investigation team.
COOPER: Good evening. Thanks for joining us for the second hour of 360.
One of the many questions that has been looming over the Mueller investigation and the White House, can the Special Counsel team indict a sitting President. The President's lawyer Rudy Giuliani says he got an answer about that.
[21:00:05] CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash spoke with him. She joins us now. So explain what Giuliani had to say?