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Report: Michael Cohen Says Loyalty Goes to Family Before Trump; Cohen Says Will Not Be A Punching Bag; Trump Intrigued About Picking Woman for Supreme Court; U.S. Intelligence Believes North Korea Is Not Denuclearizing; Trump Is Interviewed for Potential Supreme Court Justices. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired July 2, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Hello, and thanks so much for being with us. I'm Jim Sciutto in for Brooke Baldwin.
He once said he would take a bullet for the president. Today he fired his own warning shot that his loyalties could lie elsewhere. Michael Cohen, the president's former personal attorney and fixer, speaking out for the first time since the FBI raided his home, his office, and hotel room this past April. He's seeming to suggest that he could cut a deal with feds. Cohen telling CBS news, quote, my wife, my daughter, and my son have my first loyalty. And I always will put my family and country first. He's also slamming the president's attempt to discredit the Russia investigation, saying, quote, "I don't like the term witch-hunt."
A source tells CNN that Cohen's friends have been encouraging him to quote get his voice out there as prosecutors investigate his finances and his business dealings. Agents seized more than 3 million items during those raids in April. While we don't know the specifics, we know that Cohen has been involved in Trump's finances for more unanimous a decade. He often touted his loyalty to the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, PERSONAL ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: I will use my legal skills within which to protect Mr. Trump to the best of my ability. I will do anything to protect Mr. Trump. I'm obviously very loyal and dedicated to Mr. Trump of one thing that Donald Trump is, he is a compassionate man. He is a man of great intellect, great intuition and great abilities. He is an amazing negotiator, maybe the best in the history of this world. I would say I'm definitely a cheer leader. I have said this so many times, he will ultimately go down in history as the greatest president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Well, we'll see if that loyalty lasts. Joining me is CNN political reporter, MJ Lee. CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Jennifer Rodgers, and Elie Honig, he's a former federal prosecutor as well for the Southern District of New York, that of course is the same office that is investigating Cohen. Thanks very much for all of you being here.
MJ, you have new reporting about what may have prompted Cohen's change of heart or at least in terms of his public statements.
MJ LEE, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER; Only Michael Cohen can speak to why he did this interview and what his intentions are. I think you do get the tense that he is throwing us a pile of tea leaves and begging us to read them. Keep in mind prior to this interview we had a good sense of where his mind was at. We knew because of things that he had been telling his friends that he was very unhappy with the president, feeling isolated, very alone, and was even sort of talking with friend & associates whether he could potentially cooperated, whether there was something at some point that he could offer investigators especially had he it came to information he has about Donald Trump.
But I am being told that friends were encouraging him to speak out because they felt like he had become a punching bag on national TV and that it was important for him to get his voice out there, especially in a case like that this because they felt like the court of public opinion was so important. Cohen has largely been silent in the last months. People around him have not. Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels's lawyer has been speaking out. Donald Trump hasn't been silent either, Rudy Giuliani, his lawyers. You can think about Michael Cohen looking around and saying I have a family to protect, I also need to fight back and say something although it's not specific.
SCIUTTO: Forgive me to ask a cynical question here. There are a lot of lawyers using the air waves to make cases for their clients. And in some ways, he is his own client. Could he be floating a pardon request to the president saying listen I could flip on you.
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST AND FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Who knows what he's doing. I do think MJ is right. He is trying to get his side out there. He doesn't need to float a pardon through the public air waves. His lawyer could call the president's lawyer. That's how you would do it through a more direct route. We have to wait and see. It's still early for him to come in to cooperate with the southern district. He doesn't yet know what he is facing. We are going to wait until there are charges on the table or at least his lawyers have been told what he is facing. He can't make the final decision until he knows that.
SCIUTTO: OK. Elie you with Jennifer used to be with the Southern District of New York. I imagine you know some of the prosecutors involved here and worked with them before. Base on what you have heard so far, and again you haven't seen the discovery here and so on but based on what's been publicly reported how much legal jeopardy is Michael Cohen in?
ELIE HONIG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Clearly in legal jeopardy. He has been the president's fixer for over a decade. When you are considering cooperation that is one of the most important and major decisions that any person can make in their life. There are a lot of different aspects to it. There is a personal aspect, a financial aspect, a legal aspect.
[14:05:00] To me the most telling thing that came out of the interview was that one sentence where Cohen said my loyalty is with my children, with myself and my children and my country. And it ultimately comes down to where it is your loyalties lie? Does it stay with the people you may have been committing crimes with or does it shift over to your family? We have seen that case over and over again. Sometimes people do stick with their co-conspirators. But the ones who are smart and I am sure his attorney is telling him this, the ones who do the best are the ones who put their family and themselves first.
SCIUTTO: You might expect that his wife is exercising some influence on that decision as well. MJ, you have more than a million documents that were
collected in the FBI raids, a lot was made of what was privileged information. Now there has been a special master appointed and each side has made their case. Only 2 percent has been seemed possibly privileged communications here. When you look at that, that could include communications with the president, could it not?
LEE: Yes, and I think that the lawyers who are working on Michael Cohen's behalf want to be careful and preemptively say they have taken a lot of documents, literally millions of documents, audio files, other things have been taken from Michael Cohen as a part of that raid and they want to make sure that anything that could be protected is protected. I want to say on that note, one other thing that I thought was telling was actually Michael Cohen saying that this isn't just about indicating rather that this isn't just about the Stormy Daniels case. Right? I think he wants that known and wants that to be sort of a reminder to the public.
Because keep in mind that of the millions of files that were taken not all of it is going to be about Stormy Daniels. That is the sexy headline. There is NDA, the porn star, the hush agreement. But I think he wants to signal and remind people that look there is information that I have that could be damaging to President Trump. Emphasizing this is speculation at this point and reminding people this is not just about Stormy Daniels. There is a lot of other sort of legal jeopardy he could be in. If the time comes, perhaps he has information he could offer to investigators.
SCIUTTO: He worked for the president for more than a decade. He worked on a lot more than that one payment to stormy Daniels. Conceivably there could be something beyond that. Jennifer, when you look at the documents, if something is discovered in there, communications with the president before he was the president, will the president's lawyers make the case that this cannot be made public, I'm president of the United States now? Is there any protection for those communications because of his office?
RODGERS: It's unlikely. Right? I mean there is executive privilege of course but that wouldn't cover things before he was president and had nothing to do with the presidency. They are obviously part of this litigation over the documents. They are also the Trump organization and the president himself are going to be asserting privileges as well. They will try to keep those within the attorney/client privilege veil but if they don't get it under that it is probably not going to stay secret. The special master is excluding things she is calling highly personal. Something like that may be held back but if it is just that it's embarrassing, it shows that he committed a crime, something like that, it's going to come out. SCIUTTO: That's the thing. If it's evidence of possible criminal wrongdoing that's an easy call for a judge.
RODGERS: It is but that means he goes over to the prosecutors. It's not that these documents are going to be made public, it is just the prosecutors will be able to use them in the investigation.
SCIUTTO: And there some aggressive prosecutors in New York.
We have two former ones right here, Elie and Jennifer and MJ, thank you very much.
Just in now, CNN is learning some new insight about who President Trump is considering to nominate for the Supreme Court. CNN's Jeff Zeleny joins us now from the White House with more reporting. Jeff, what are you learn being who the president is considering?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We are learning that of course a week from tonight the president will be making that announcement. I am told by talking with three specific officials close to the process who have spoken with the president in recent days, he is increasingly intrigued at the idea of choosing a woman to be on the Supreme Court, the first in his view true conservative female Supreme Court justice. Of course, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was appointed by President Reagan so many years ago. But in the president's view this will be the first female conservative justice.
He is interviewing candidates this week. He is talking to a variety of people. It is certainly not a settled matter that he would decide on a female candidate. He is talking to at least a couple of them, we are told. Jim, one of the women that he is looking at is a federal judge from Chicago.
[14:10:00] You can see on the screen there the list of people. And she is someone who is very intriguing to him. Justice Amy Coney Barrett. She is a mother of seven. She is a catholic. She went to Notre Dame. She is someone whose profile I'm told by officials is intriguing to the president. There are other women also being considered, and other men as well. But we are told, given this is the year of the woman the president is increasingly focused on the optics of this. And this is one of the calculations going into this decision.
Certainly not the only calculation. But as he makes his decision over the next week we are told by people when he is speaking with this he will like the idea of appointing a woman to the supreme court, a conservative justice. In the words of one person who was spoke to him over the weekend he said can you imagine? He was smiling apparently because of that. Of course, that would be a storyline here in the year of the political woman that would be slightly different than Democrats of course would like. Jim, that is something that the president is working on all week long. Next week, Monday evening, next Monday evening, he is planning to make what is essentially a big reveal. And that of course is to fill the pivotal sit of retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. SCIUTTO: Imagine some questions during the confirmation hearing about
their opinion on Roe V Wade. Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much for that word from the White House.
Coming up next, a month after declaring that the nuclear threat from North Korea was over, U.S. intelligence is now casting doubt on whether North Korea will actually abandon its nuclear weapons program. Is Kim Jong-Un playing President Trump? Do new satellite images reveal what is really happening on the ground in North Korea?
Also, some breaking happy news. A youth soccer team rescued alive after spending nine days trapped in a cave. Flood waters had trapped them inside. How rescuers finally found them alive. That's next.
[14:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
SCIUTTO: The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency that serves the Pentagon says that North Korea has no intention of giving up its nuclear program right now. That despite President Trump's repeated claims that the North Korea nuclear threat is now over. This also comes as researchers say that new satellite images from North Korea show new construction at a missile plant there. Let's get to Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. What does this intelligence show here?
BARBARA STARR; CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: This is the Defense Intelligence Agency that gets information from allies, satellite imagery, electronic intercepts, operatives who work on behalf of the United States. This is a compendium of everything that they know about North Korea right now. What they have found is this this intelligence those shows them they believe North Korea is not going to engage in full public disclosure of full nuclear denuclearization at least any time soon. That Kim Jong-Un has made a decision the hold on to what he has to some extent and hide it away.
Missiles, war heads, nuclear fuel capability. There is satellite imagery out there that does show activity at several plants and locations. Even that's not really what DIA is so concerned about. What a satellite can see, Kim knows it can see. That's not as worrisome to them right now as what it is that they don't know. That's the big concern. They think Kim is determined to still hide things, determined that that will be his safety net against the United States. Jim?
SCIUTTO: Remarkably contradicting the president's public assessments. We are also learning that an official telling CNN the Trump administration perhaps in response to this is going to give North Korea a detailed list of steps it must take to begin denuclearization. Do we know what kind of steps we expect to be on that list?
STARR: Yes. Nobody exactly revealing that kind of information publicly yet. This had been brewing for some time. The State Department is expected, maybe even at the level of Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo -- we don't know -- to meet with the North Koreans in the come days. And this will be the next step, the so-called to-do list, to hand them a list of here's what you really need to know to show us that you are serious about this. Whether it involves declaring sites where weapons may be, procedures for allowing inspectors in, a commitment to let verification take place over several years to let somebody in to get their nuclear weapons out of there. All of that is on the table.
SCIUTTO: No question. We have new sound from the president here, speaking. Let's have a listen.
MARK RUTTE, PRIME MINISTER OF THE KINGDOM OF THE NETHERLANDS: Good afternoon.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hello, everybody.
RUTTE: Big group.
TRUMP: Big group. Academy Awards. Bigger. Thank you very much. It is a great honor to have the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of The Netherlands. That's the official title.
[14:20:00] RUTTE: Absolutely.
TRUMP: It sounds very elegant and beautiful. But it is a great honor to have you. We've worked together and have a very, very close relationship. I think the relationship with the Netherlands that never been better than it is now. We will be meeting over the next two weeks again at NATO.
TRUMP: And we will be discussing that today also. And we are discussing trade, and the EU, and lots of other thing. Tremendous numbers are coming out on the United States and our government, our economy is very good.
TRUMP: Probably the best it's ever been. And we are very close to making some very good trade deals, fair -- I don't want to say good. I want to say fair. Fair trade deals for our taxpayers and for our workers and for our farmers. A lot of good things are happening. I think the EU -- we are going to be meeting with them fairly soon. They want to see if they can work something else. That will be good. If we do work it out, it will be positive. If they don't it will be positive also. We just think about the cars that pour in here and it will be positive. Again, it will be positive. Mr. Prime Minister it's good to have you here.
RUTTE: Can I add to this. The relationship between the Netherlands and United States is over 400 years old, we are allies, always been friends, always been friendly working closely together. Our talks today will no doubt concentrate on jobs and on security. The president and I we are both convinced as leaders our prime task is to make sure our countries are safe and stable, and we have an economy that is providing the jobs and future growth for the people. There are so many opportunities for the Netherlands and the United States to do more both this the area of security as well as in the opportunity to have more jobs and more trade and investments. Almost 1 million people, 825,000 in a job in the U.S. because of Dutch investments. And a quarter of a million people in a job because of U.S. investments in the Netherlands. Our aim is to increase those numbers to be more successful. I look forward to our discussions.
TRUMP: That's a great honor. I will say that I just spoke with the President-elect of Mexico. We had a conversation about a half an hour long. We talked about border security. We talked about trade. We talked about NAFTA. We talked about a separate deal, just Mexico and the United States. We had a lot of good conversation. I think the relationship will be a very good one. We'll see what happens, but I really do believe it's going to be a very good one. He had a very excellent election.
Did I would say even better than anticipated. I told him a number of years ago when I saw him campaigning for a different race, frankly, a different year a different race, I said he will be -- some day he's going object the president of Mexico. So, he remembered that. And it turned out to be correct. We had a great talk in the morning during the morning. I interviewed and met with four potential justices of our great supreme court. They are outstanding people. They are really incredible people in so many different ways, academically and every other way.
And I had a very, very interesting morning. So, between the president of Mexico and also the -- I guess you would call him the president- elect, but I think he is going to try to do very hard, I think he is going to try and help with us the border. We have unbelievably bad border laws, immigration laws, the weakest in the world, laughed at by everybody in the world. And Mexico has very strong immigration laws. So, they can help us until we straighten out our immigration laws which have been bad for many, many years, decades, and we are going to have them taken care of. But very interesting, was my four meetings.
I will be meeting with two or three more and will make a decision on the United States Supreme Court, the new justice, over the next few days and will be announcing that on Monday. And I look forward to that. I think the person that is chosen will be outstanding. Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I'll be announcing that on Monday. Monday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to quit the WTO?
[14:25:00] TRUMP: WTO has treated the United States very badly, and I hope they change their ways. They been treating us very badly for many, many years, that's why we were at a big disadvantage with the WTO. We are not planning anything now. But if they don't treat us properly, we will be doing something. Thank you, everybody. Appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you.
RUTTE: Is it always like that?
SCIUTTO: We have just seen the president making comments there after meeting with the prime minister of the Netherlands. He was asked about the WTO and his promise of U.S. action against allies saying that the WTO has treated the U.S. very badly. He says as well he now has met with four potential nominees to the Supreme Court. He also said he spoke with the new president-elect of Mexico that they discussed NAFTA, the border, and he expects the president to quote have a very good relationship with Mexico.
When we come back we are going to get right back to the big news on North Korea and evidence from the Defense Intelligence Agency that North Korea could be cheating again.
And is the U.S. trade war becoming a reality? Canada, one of America's strongest allies is striking back now in retaliation as a key Trump ally warns that this president could be going too far.
Also, a chilling terror plot foiled on U.S. soil. The suspect accused of plotting an attack on July 4th. The details of that plot. We'll get to them after this.
[14:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
SCIUTTO: Welcome back. New concerning evidence from North Korea possibly restarting their nuclear program. I want to bring in Duyeon Kim, a visiting senior research fellow at the Korean Peninsula future forum in Seoul, thanks very much for joining us today. We now have America's own intelligence agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency --