Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Michael Cohen, Trump's Personal Attorney Has Indicated To Friends And Family That He's Willing To Cooperate With The Federal Investigation, House Republicans Are Moving Forward With What They See As A Compromise On Immigration. Aired: 10:30-11a ET

Aired June 15, 2018 - 10:30   ET

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


[10:30:00]

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, the President is really trying to explain that this is about protecting jobs of the future, the technology sector, you heard him there. And on his trade agenda, just moments ago, he says the US isn't the one who started a trade war.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The trade war was started many years ago by them and the United States lost.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you're saying we're on the losing end of it.

TRUMP: There is no trade war. Well, no, there is no trade war. They have taken so much. So last year $375 billion in trade deficit, with China. We had over $800 billion over a period of years, each year close to $800 billion in losses on trade. Not going to happen anymore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: He's talking about just goods, when you look at goods and services. That is still $335 billion trade deficit with China, a number that the President hates. So, the China tariffs are back on. The President says the trade with China is unfair, it is not sustainable, he's targeting technology that China has vowed to dominate.

Xi Jinping's Made In China 2025 initiative, that's really clear here. It will be a 25% tariff on 1,100 different product categories where the US calls industrially significant technologies like aerospace equipment, tech, manufacturing, medical supplies. US companies will pay the tariff, Poppy, to the US government when they import the goods and then the companies can either absorb the higher price, the cost, or pass it along to consumers.

The tariff tiff has been on and off and on again. The White House first unveiled this list in march. Multiple rounds of trade talks with China, a tariff cease-fire, remember the cease-fire that was called in May. Then the recent summit with North Korea, that was seen as a big win for China, but then today, $50 billion in tariffs anyway. The Chinese vow retaliation. The White House vows more tariffs,

Poppy, if China targets farmers or hurts American companies in China. And you heard the President, he said this is punishment for China stealing trade secrets, for forced technology transfers from American companies, for cyber theft, and it fulfills Trump's pledge to cut that trade deficit or at least try to.

And the White House has been saying for several weeks now that they think the US economy is so strong that it can absorb the trade agenda here, no question. They say that they simply have to. It is America first.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Maybe not, because the President's former Chief Economic Adviser Gary Cohn said it does the exact opposite just yesterday. Christine Romans, thank you. It's great to have you on all of this. All right, we have a lot of breaking news ahead. Stay with us. We'll be right back.

[10:35:16]

HARLOW: Good morning. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York and we have more breaking news now on the President's former personal attorney Michael Cohen, our reporter Kara Scannell who broke the news, she's with me to explain what it is. Also with us, CNN legal analyst, former Federal prosecutor, Renato Marriotti. This is significant walk us through what you've learned, Kara.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, we've learned that Michael Cohen, Trump's personal attorney has indicated to friends and family that he's willing to cooperate with the Federal investigation.

And part of the reason for that is that he's become angry as he's told his friends about the way that President Trump and his new attorney Rudy Giuliani have treated him and that anger and that treatment has made him feel isolated and more open and willing to cooperate as part of this investigation.

HARLOW: We learned earlier this week that Michael Cohen was seeking new representation, new legal counsel, indicating that his strategy may be changing and that ties in here as well.

SCANNELL: Right. Cohen is looking for new lawyers and specifically we're told he's looking for lawyers that have once worked with the US Attorney's office in Manhattan, that's the office that is investigating him, that's not that uncommon. You want someone who knows how that office works, how the judges work.

So he's seeking out that specialty and that knowledge where they might have relationships with prosecutors who are working on this case.

HARLOW: Explain why Cohen cooperating could be a liability for the President.

SCANNELL: Well, Cohen has been Trump's fixer, right? He's worked for Trump for ten years at the Trump organization. He is his personal attorney, and he facilitated that $130,000.00 payment to Stormy Daniels, which we know that investigators are looking at. That's one of the things that they looked for when the FBI raided Cohen's home.

HARLOW: And whether or not that was hush money.

SCANNELL: That's right. Whether the money was paid to stop Stormy Daniels from coming forward with an alleged affair she had with Trump, a decade earlier, the White House has denied an affair ever took place.

HARLOW: The month before the election, that's the issue, it's not illegal to pay someone that money, but if you're using it as hush money with political intent, you've got a legal problem there.

SCANNELL: That's it. A month before the election and Trump then reimbursed him, was that a campaign donation.

HARLOW: Thank you for the (inaudible) on all of it. Stay with us. Renato, to you, what is your read on this?

RENATO MARIOTTI, AMERICAN ATTORNEY, LEGAL COMMENTATOR, AND FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, one thing I find unusual is why Cohen is talking to people about this, obviously he's used to being part of the Trump team, he feels isolated right now. He's concerned that he's going to be vulnerable, left out to dry. He isn't going to get a pardon.

What I wonder is whether or not he's putting out this news in order to communicate to the Trump camp. I mean, he may be using all of us here to try to send a signal to them that he wants to -- he needs assurance from them that he's going to get a pardon or he is going to be taken care of or else he's going to do this.

[10:40:16]

HARLOW: Well, he did not get that -- I was just going to say, sorry to interrupt, he didn't get that this morning. Let's just take a moment to listen to what the President said this morning because he was asked by this gaggle of reporters. One of the question asked was about Michael Cohen. Here is the exchange with the President on that.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I haven't spoken to Michael in a long time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is he still your lawyer?

TRUMP: No, he's not my lawyer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Dismissive, right?

MARIOTTI: Exactly, right. I think he said at one point during that interview that he liked -- past tense -- using the past tense, that he liked Michael Cohen. Not that he currently had any feelings towards him, definitely trying to distance himself. He had had a prior interview, I believe on fox and friends where the

President said, you know, Cohen had his own business dealings, he was very much trying distance himself from Cohen. You know, Michael Cohen is a man who defined himself in many ways by his relationship with Donald Trump.

He had that in his signature on his e-mails, that he was the personal lawyer to the President. So I think he feels isolated and, you know, usually you want to cooperate, you don't put the news out, you don't spread that news to all of your associates, family and friends to leak, what I wonder is whether or not he is trying to get -- trying to play both sides here, trying to get a pardon or something from the President in the interim.

HARLOW: Kara, after the FBI raid of Cohen's apartment, which was in all ways legal, even though the President indicates otherwise, they appointed basically a special masters and a legal entity body to look through all of the documents that were seized and to determine which if any of the documents were protected by attorney/client privilege, some of them a very small number have been.

How does that all play in here in terms of what Michael Cohen could actually say to investigators and are there things that he could not say because they would be protected by that privilege?

SCANNELL: Well, right, so if the only privilege holder, that would be the President, can waive attorney/client privilege, but if he was engaging in some sort of crime, then that would nullify that agreement.

HARLOW: That's a really important point, that attorney/client privilege only holds unless it is indicative of a crime.

SCANNELL: That's right.

HARLOW: Especially a Federal crime here.

SCANNELL: That's right, and that document review, the deadline for that to finish is today, and so then we'll see if Cohen finds new legal advisers where that development goes, but the government will start to get the fruits of the raid as they have been, has been rolling into them and that will continue as this plays out.

HARLOW: Again, the breaking news, Michael Cohen, the President's personal fixer as he's declared himself before, former personal lawyer, indicating sources tell our Kara Scannell that he is frustrated with the President, doesn't feel backed up by the President, and has indicated to family and friends that he is willing to cooperate with Federal investigators to alleviate that pressure on himself that he is facing.

Major development, Kara, thank you for the reporting. Renato, appreciate the analysis as well.

So, President Trump says that he hates -- he said this morning, he hates seeing these children separated from their parents at the border, but he is pointing his finger at Democrats blaming them for an action by his own administration that has led to this.

We'll have more on that ahead.

[10:45:00]

HARLOW: This morning, the President weighed in on the immigration debate and he said that he hates seeing children taken away from their parents at the border. Then he pointed his finger at democrats, blaming them for his own administration's zero tolerance policy on this. Let's listen to the President.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I hate it. I hate to see separation of parents and children. The Democrats can come to us as they actually are, in all fairness, we are talking to them, and they can change the whole border security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Meanwhile, House Republicans are moving forward with what they see as a compromise on immigration. It would include part of it that would keep the families together, but importantly, the President said this morning that he's not signing that and that matters a lot. Democrat Ted Leiu from California is with me now. Thanks for being here, Congressman, I appreciate it.

REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you, Poppy.

HARLOW: There is a lot to get to, but I just want your reaction to the President this morning blaming you and fellow Democrats for undocumented children being separated from their parents at the border. What say you?

LIEU: Today is Friday. That means Donald Trump is lying again and he told a pretty big whopper. There is no law requiring the separation of children from parents, and how do we know this is a new change? Because Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a big deal of announcing this new Trump policy earlier this year.

Trump could stop this today by simply reversing that policy.

HARLOW: Let me play you something else we heard from the President, Congressman, this morning, on North Korea and specifically human rights. Here is the exchange with a reporter.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've spoken so passionately about the circumstances that led to Otto Warmbier's death. In the same breath, you are defending now Kim Jong-un's human rights records. How can you do that?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know why? Because I don't want to see a nuclear weapon destroy you and your family.

(CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And by the way, you declared the nuclear threat

from North Korea is over.

TRUMP: Because I don't want to see a nuclear weapon destroy you and your family. I want to have a good relationship with North Korea. I did a great job this weekend.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: He also said, "I have solved that problem," Congressman, regarding the North Korean nuclear threat. But do you believe the President, do you agree with him when he said essentially that these two things are mutually exclusive, but he can't address these human rights concerns fully with Kim Jong-un and also reach a nuclear agreement?

[10:50:16]

LIEU: There is no reason you couldn't talk about both issues. North Korea he has one of the worst human rights records on the planet. The leader of North Korea has killed people, poisoned them.

If you do something wrong, they take three generations of your family and put them into forced labor camps. So, certainly, it is something that could be talked about.

In terms of the summit, keep in mind that right now North Korea has not gotten rid of a single nuke and any of its missiles, any of its chemical weapons. So, we don't know if this is a success or a failure. It is going to take a while before we know.

HARLOW: I want to get your take on some of the key findings of this IG report, Mr. Horowitz's report about how the DOJ and FBI handled the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation.

One of the things that it found is this newly revealed text message between two FBI agents, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, that were working on the e-mail probe and then subsequently for a time on the Mueller- Russia probe.

Lisa Page texts, "Trump's never going to become President, right? Right?" Peter Strzok writes back, "No, no he won't. We will stop it." So, the President responding to that, Congressman, this morning, saying, "It doesn't get any lower than that." Do you agree with the President on that front, that text messages between FBI agents working on both of those probes are wholly inappropriate?

LIEU: I agree that the FBI agents should not have been using their official cell phones to express their personal opinions, but the key finding of the IG investigation as stated by FBI Director, Christopher Wray yesterday is that none of the personal biases of any of these people affected the investigation in any way and that was a major conclusion of the IG report.

HARLOW: However, as you know, there is also this conclusion, from the IG report, on Page nine. Let's bring it up, "We did not have confidence that Strzok's decision to prioritize the Russia investigation over following up on the midyear investigation, which was the Clinton related investigative lead, discovered on the Weiner laptop, was free from bias."

He's saying they cannot definitively conclude that the decisions made in which investigation to prioritize in the days before the election was completely free from bias. Concerning to you?

LIEU: It is somewhat concerning, but what actually happened is that James Comey disclosed the Hillary Clinton investigation to the American public which hurt her campaign, the FBI investigation on Donald Trump was not disclosed until after the election and, again, what the IG report showed is that the FBI's actions in fact hurt Secretary Clinton and by not disclosing Donald Trump's investigation, it helped Trump win the election.

HARLOW: But you concede you are concerned by the fact that the IG could not completely rule out whether it was free from political bias, the decision to move forward on one probe at potentially the expense of another, correct?

LEIU: That's correct. That's also why special counsel Robert Mueller removed that FBI agent as soon as he learned of this information.

HARLOW: But that FBI agent is still working at the FBI in a different capacity. Let me get your take on the findings of this report on ex- FBI director James Comey, finding that it was "Extraordinary and insubordinate for Comey to handle the Clinton e-mail investigation news conference et cetera and not telling AG Loretta Lynch et cetera the announcement he was going to make." They found it extraordinarily insubordinate for Comey to do so.

So, in response this morning, the President says, "Look, this IG report is evidence," he believes that he was completely right in firing James Comey. We also know he told NBC News that it was because of "this Russia thing," the Russia probe. But do you think the President did a great service to the American people by firing James Comey as he asserted this morning?

LIEU: The issue when it comes to obstruction of justice is intent, and if the President fired James Comey because he deviated from agency policy and hurt Secretary Clinton, that would be fine. But as you stated, that's not what the President said.

He went on national TV a few days later and said, he fired James Comey because of the Russia investigation. That is textbook obstruction of justice.

HARLOW: Thank you very much, the Mueller probe continues. Looking at potential obstruction. We will see what happens. Congressman Ted Lieu, appreciate your time this morning.

There is a lot to digest with our panel, joining me now, CNN's political commentators, Tara Setmayer and Joe Trippi. It's nice to have you both here. Thank you both for being here. As conservatives, can I just get your read -- good to be with you --

who work for a Republicans for many, many years, Tara, and for you Joe on the left, can I get your read, Tara first as a conservative on what we heard the President say this morning in that wide ranging Fox interview and the wide ranging gaggle with the press, pointing the finger at everyone but himself and saying when it is my fault, I'll let you know. What is the strategy here?

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the strategy is to continue to gas light the American people and to continue to feed this propaganda nonsense about President Trump being the victim on every front to his base.

You know, I am a conservative that has not supported Donald Trump because of exactly what we saw today. He has a problem telling the truth. He has a problem with telling things accurately. He has a problem also with seemingly -- the seeming affinity for authoritarianism which would scare the hell out of anyone who considers himself a Constitutional Republican or a supporter of what Americanism is, what freedom and the Oval Office that the President takes.

There are so many things that this President does on a regular basis that overshadow some of the good things he's done. There has been some. But overall, the way in which he approaches the presidency is -- it is problematic on a number of levels.

This morning that was an example. He completely misrepresented what the IG's report said were there troubling aspects of things that the FBI did and Comey? Yes. Did it have anything to do with the Mueller investigation? Not at all. But yet the President came out there and said it exonerated him. It did no such thing. That was a complete lie.

What he said about North Korea, that, you know, North Korea, we don't have to worry about it anymore, he's concerned about North Korea nuking us, that's why he was -- he praised North Korea and Kim as being a strong leader and not addressing the human rights issues, actually downplaying them.

Those things are just not true. That's not what happened in this North Korea agreement, but yet the President continues to do this because his people on the right...

HARLOW: So, let me get Joe in here...

SETMAYER: They accommodate him.

HARLOW: Let me get Joe in here on that, because Joe, you know, we have seen some really strong polling for the President in his own party. I mean, his polling has gone up a few points just overall, and his polling is relatively strong on North Korea right now, but in his own party, at the 500-day mark, he held 87% approval. Is this a President emboldened?

JOE TRIPPI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he may be emboldened in his base and certainly supports him and that is, in the end all these things that he says that are not true, his base will believe what he says, and that's why he goes out and does these things.

The fact is on the border with families being separated, he could change that policy with a stroke of a pen or by just picking up the phone and telling Jeff Sessions to change it. It is just not true that this is Democrats' fault.

We can go through the litany of what was just said, but that wasn't true, but the fact is his supporters, his base believe that that's the problem, that's why you don't hear more Republicans speaking out against any of this, because what we have seen in recent elections, Mark Sanford, losing his seat, in the primary, just for speaking out against the President, you know that is why you're not seeing any Republicans step -- or not enough Republicans step forward.

SETMAYER: And that's a shame. There should be. republicans are supposed to be the firewall here.

HARLOW: Look, as you know, Tara, heading into the midterms, every member of Congress is facing pressure from the voters on immigration, right? And finding a solution, what are you going to do about DACA and what are you going to do about the Dreamers. It was largely overshadowed with all the other things he said this morning, but it is significant that the President made clear that he wasn't going to sign and approve this relative compromise bill that Republicans are set to vote on in Congress.

SETMAYER: Look, the President doesn't -- I believe strongly the President doesn't want a solution. This is lip service.

HARLOW: Why?

SETMAYER: Because if he has a solution, he doesn't have the boogie man of immigration anymore to use to rile people up. Immigration, the fears of immigration, the anger over that, that's what fueled his Presidential run. So if that problem is solved, then what? So I think he's playing games here. It is unfortunate because there are a lot of lives that are being affected by this negatively, both for the illegal immigrants who come here and what is happening and also what happens here along the border and in the United States.

So that's why you see Congressional Republicans finally trying to get something done, because their constituents want something done and I don't think the President is a good partner in this.

HARLOW: We have 30 seconds left on this, Joe, you know, the President pointed his finger this morning at Democrats, saying that the Democrats are to blame for frankly his own administration's policy, which is resulting in this separation of children from parents at the border. Is it politically -- is it going to work for him among voters though?

TRIPPI: No. It is not going to work and the reason it is not going to work is because the majority of American people are -- do not want to see families broken up like this, and that's pushing Republicans in the corner where they're actually going to do something about it.

SETMAYER: Republicans control everything.

HARLOW: We're leave it there. We're out of time, Tara Setmayer, Joe Trippi, nice to have you both. Thanks for being here. Thank you, all, for joining us for all of the breaking news this morning. I am Poppy Harlow in New York. Have a great weekend.

[11:00:16]