Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Michael Cohen Sending Signal to Trump?; President Trump Set to Announce Supreme Court Pick. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired July 9, 2018 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:02]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Also of note, according to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, he has been reporting in recent hours that Brett Kavanaugh is gaining more attention for his 2009 piece in which he -- he wrote that the indictment and trial of a sitting president would cripple the federal government.

The Supreme Court pick here kicks off a huge week ahead for this president. After he shapes the court's future tonight, President Trump moves on to critical meetings with NATO, the British prime minister, queen, and first his stand-alone summit with Vladimir Putin.

So, with me now, CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel and CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, a White House adviser to four previous presidents.

Good to see both of you.

Jamie Gangel, first to thank.

We were chatting a bit about this earlier. And you said, looking ahead tonight, you said there are two things that President Trump wants to come out of this, surprise and positivity. Explain.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right.

We know he loves suspense. Right? And so this is playing out. We're guessing. And he's thrilled about that.

But he also wants it to be positive. The expression you're hearing is Gorsuch 2.0. What was the best day of his presidency? The day Neil Gorsuch was picked, he would like that again. We're also hearing that he's concerned that it be a good, safe, easy confirmation, and that he had this conversation with Mitch McConnell.

So, going into this, that's a big factor as well.

BALDWIN: I want to come back to the Mitch McConnell conversation.

But to you, sir, listen, we know that Kavanaugh and Hardiman physically in Washington today. But that doesn't mean that someone couldn't hop on a plane from Indiana, Michigan. Do you have a prediction?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Hardiman.

BALDWIN: Hardiman.

GERGEN: Yes.

BALDWIN: Why?

GERGEN: Well, first of all, the reporting seems to suggest that it's narrowed to two from the four. Judge Barrett is no longer in the running, as Kethledge may have gone a day or two again. The president apparently found him boring in the conversation.

And it left it to Hardiman and Kavanaugh. And of those, Mitch McConnell has said, look, if you want to have a smooth confirmation, something we win, Hardiman is your guy. And given that, I think...

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: He's not an Ivy League guy.

GERGEN: He's not an Ivy League guy.

And, very importantly, he's from Pennsylvania. And I think that matters to this president in terms of thinking about his own future politically. It would help him in a key state. And it's the fact that his sister is supporting him and that Hardiman came in number two.

He was the runner-up to Gorsuch. There are all sorts of things that I think sort of would favor Gorsuch (sic). Kavanaugh is -- is more controversial within the conservative base. And I think that that makes one more reason why you want to go for something that's safe and easy.

I don't think this has as much drama as the Gorsuch rollout, which I thought it was -- I thought -- you're right. It was the best rollout they've done of the presidency. But what does have is stark significant. This is historically more significant because it's going to create this conservative majority.

GANGEL: One of the reasons I don't think -- I agree with David that it hasn't had as much drama as Gorsuch, but there's been more chaos.

With Gorsuch, we had the sense that he made the decision and moved on. Up until this morning, and certainly over the weekend, we were hearing names coming up, going down, that we weren't sure that he really knew who he was going to pick.

BALDWIN: Why do you think -- interested that you say Hardiman. Why do you think -- for conservatives, to David's point, why would Kavanaugh be a problem?

GANGEL: So, this has been fascinating because all four of these nominees are very conservative.

They are going to be to the right of Kennedy. But it's clear that there's been a split among Republican conservatives and who they like. And there are some people who simply do not like Kavanaugh and have been lobbying against him.

And the other factor here is what I call the Bush factor.

BALDWIN: David is nodding.

GANGEL: Judge Kavanaugh worked for George W. Bush. And that is, we know a, lightning rod for Donald Trump. That is not something that -- that is going to tip him in. It's going to tip him out more than anything.

BALDWIN: What about looking ahead? He has this huge Supreme Court tonight, NATO summit, England, queen, Putin. One week, this is this president. He's already been ripping NATO. We know that. Does NATO survive this Putin/Trump meeting?

GANGEL: NATO would like to know if it's going to survive.

BALDWIN: What do you think, David Gergen?

GERGEN: Look, I think he's under cross-pressures within his own administration.

His ambassador, Kay Bailey Hutchison, former Texas senator, to NATO, along with his Ambassador Jon Huntsman, both want him to come out of the NATO meeting emphasizing positivity, strength, being united.

[15:05:14]

The president's own instincts are to go in there and start throwing hand grenades.

BALDWIN: You saw what happened with the G7.

GERGEN: Exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: And nobody thought that a president would walk into the G7 and basically blow it up, which is what he wound up doing.

And so the feeling is that he won't listen to his aides, he will go in and start throwing hand grenades. He just told a big rally, I'm going to go in and tell these NATO people they are not paying up enough or no more free riding. And they either got to pay up or we're going to split up.

And I think then going on to see Putin, as widely believed within the national security community in this country, if he goes and attacks our allies...

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Forgive me, David.

Here is the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: ... will join an otherwise evenly divided court and immediately obtain the ability to affect the laws of the United States and the rights of its citizens for generations to come.

Enormously important issues hang in the balance, the right of workers to organize, the pernicious influence of dark money in our politics, the right of Americans to marry whom they love, the right to vote.

Two issues of similar and profound consequence are the fate of the affordable health care and a woman's freedom to make the most sensitive medical decisions about her body. These two rights, affordable health care and a woman's freedom to make sensitive health care decisions, hang in the balance with this nominee.

The views of President Trump's next court nominee could very well determine whether the Senate approves or rejects this nomination.

Now, President Trump has already made up his mind. President Trump -- President Trump has repeatedly said that he believes Roe was wrongly decided. He has promised in his own words to nominate only pro-life judges whose selection will result in the automatic overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Those are his words, pro-life judges, automatic.

He also said that Chief Justice Roberts has been an absolute disaster, his words, for voting to uphold the health care law, and said his judicial appointments will -- quote -- "do the right thing, unlike Bush's appointee John Roberts, on Obamacare" -- unquote.

It is near impossible to imagine that President Trump would select a nominee who isn't hostile to our health care law and health care for millions and millions and millions of Americans, who isn't hostile to a women's freedom to make our own health care decisions.

We can be sure of this because President Trump, during the campaign, asked Leonard Leo, the founder of The Federalist Society, to assemble a list of possible Supreme Court justices for him to pick from.

Mr. Leo was not only aware of candidate Trump's preference for a Supreme Court that would reverse Roe v. Wade. He himself spent his career in pursuit of it.

And that's not just my view. According to Edward Whelan, one of the most prominent legal conservative activists and scholars and bloggers, said -- quote -- "No one has been more dedicated to the enterprise of building a Supreme Court that will overturn Roe v. Wade then The Federalist Society's Leonard Leo."

"No one has been more dedicated to overturning Roe v. Wade than the very man who chose the list of 25. That's what we're up against here. And that's why America is on tenterhooks, so worried about any choice from this list.

Let me repeat again. Mr. Leonard Leo is the man who assembled Trump's list of potential Supreme Court nominees. And no one, no one has been more dedicated to overturning Roe v. Roe -- Roe v. Wade than Leonard Leo.

Now, normally, in the Senate, we have a process of advise and consent on the Supreme Court. In the old days, the president would consult with Republicans and Democrats in the Senate on a qualified judge, and then after careful deliberation, nominate a jurist that could get bipartisan support.

[15:10:03]

What we have here is the exact opposite. The president has gone too two far-out-of-the-mainstream hard-right groups, the Heritage Foundation and The Federalist Society, and asked them, not the Senate, to advise and consent on a Supreme Court nomination.

Whomever the president selects tonight, if that nominee is from the preapproved list selected by Leo and the Heritage Foundation, everyone ought to understand what it means for the freedom of women to make their own health care decisions and for the protection for Americans with preexisting conditions. Those rights will be gravely threatened.

Mr. President, now, we're going to hear a lot this summer about precedents. The traditional question on these matters has been, will the nominee defer to precedent? Nominees will be asked if they respect settled law.

This is known as the principle of stare decisis. The nominee always answers that, yes, he or she will respect and defer to precedent. And senators nod their heads, having received this rickety, vague assurance that the nominee will not rock the judicial boat and turn the clock back decades.

But, for two reasons, this standard, settled law, stare decisis, is no longer an adequate standard by which to judge nominees. Why? Well, first, we have ample example from the past several years of judges who have sworn in their confirmation hearings to respect precedent, and then reversed their stand once on the court.

For example, in his confirmation hearings, then Judge Gorsuch said that -- quote -- "Precedent is like our shared family history of judges. It deserves our respect" -- unquote.

Last week, just last week, now Justice Gorsuch voted to overturn 41 years of precedent in the Janus decision, relying on flimsy and fabricated legal theory. It was so flimsy, in fact, that Judge Kagan wrote in dissent that the majority overruled precedent -- quote -- "for not exceptional or special reason, but because it never liked the decision, subverting all known principles of stare decisis."

Justice Roberts, another person who swore he would obey precedent, he said he called balls and strikes as he saw them, rather than interpret law -- rather -- sorry. Justice Roberts said he would call balls and strikes as he saw them, that he would interpret law, rather than make it.

Of course, it was Justice Roberts who was then responsible for overturning 40 years of precedent in the Citizens United decision that so set back our politics, that so deepened the swamp that so many Americans despise, by allowing huge amounts of dark money, unreported, to cascade into our political system.

On two of the most important rulings in the history of the Roberts court, a cumulative 81 years of precedent were thrown out the window, despite the earnest promises of Justices Roberts and Gorsuch at their hearings.

So, when they say they will obey settled law, you can't believe it. You can't believe it, because it just hasn't happened in this new conservative court that is so eager to make law, not interpret it.

And there's a second reason, maybe even more important, why the principle of -- quote -- "I will follow settled law" no longer works.

And that's President Trump. We already know that President Trump's nominee will be prepared to overturn the precedent of Roe v. Wade and NFIB vs. Sebelius. We know that because President Trump has said so.

When the president has a litmus test for his nominees, and only chooses from a preapproved list of nominees designed to satisfy that litmus test, it is certainly not enough for a judge to prove his or her moderation by invoking stare decisis.

[15:15:07]

Stare decisis and respect for precedent have become an almost meaningless bar to set for a Supreme Court nominee.

At this critical juncture, with so many rights and liberties at stake, U.S. senators and the American people should expect an affirmative statement of support for the personal liberties of all Americans from the next Supreme Court nominee.

The American people deserve to know what kind of a justice President Trump's nominee would be. President Trump is the one who made the litmus test for his nominee, not us. The onus is on his nominee to show where he or she might stand.

Considering the ample evidence that President Trump will only select a nominee who will undermine protection for Americans with preexisting conditions, give greater weight to corporate interests than the interests of our citizens, no what matter what president says, and vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the next nominee has an obligation, a serious and solemn obligation, to share their personal views on these legal issues, no matter whom President Trump selects tonight.

Now, briefly, on another matter, the ongoing negotiations with North Korea over their nuclear...

BALDWIN: All right, you have been listening to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer there.

Already, as Jamie Gangel was saying, as were chatting while listening to him, the fight has already begun. And we don't officially have a name, although as we've been listening to Leader Schumer, we now know -- and, Jamie, I will bring you in for our reporting -- that the president has now officially selected his pick.

GANGEL: Right.

We've been told -- CNN has two sources at the White House who've told our colleagues that he has made the pick and that plans are now under way for his selection and their family to be at the White House this evening for the announcement in -- I had to laugh at our report at the end.

It said that a White House official said President Trump may tweet about it beforehand, but he won't give away the name. Classic, stay tuned. After the commercial, you will get the rest.

BALDWIN: The other bit of reporting, the president has been fielding calls throughout the day on the pros and cons of some of the leading contenders, but a person close to the process said the decision-making is over.

David Gergen, first to you, just listening to Chuck Schumer. Do you think he knows who it is?

GERGEN: I have no idea. I don't think so. I doubt it, because it would leak like that. And I don't think the White House would tell him.

And I think he's throwing down the gauntlet in advance of the speech, which shows how much our politics have changed on all of this.

It's really interesting to hear the president has been fielding all these calls. He's been talking to his friends, talking to people on the golf course. He's been talking to Republicans. He has not been talking to Democrats, but, more importantly, he's not been talking to the American Bar Association, which traditionally and historically has been the group that has vetted nominees for the court.

And you want to get their views about the quality of the judge. Instead, we now we have the Federalist Society essentially serving the same purpose.

And I think that just underscores. If it was a Democratic president, we would probably see the same thing with some Democratic group. We just weaponize the court. We have made it a political institution. And that's deeply troubling about the future of the court.

BALDWIN: The president knows. The world waits -- 9:00 this evening, stay tuned, where he will reveal his nominee to become the next justice of the Supreme Court.

Jamie and David, thank you so very much.

GERGEN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, is President Trump's former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen sending some sort of signal to the president? What we're learning about Michael Cohen's state of mind.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:23:17]

BALDWIN: We are back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Sources close to President Trump's former attorney and confidant say that he is -- quote -- "hitting the reset button" in the federal case involving his finances and possibly the president.

I'm talking about Michael Cohen. He has hired a new attorney, who is lashing out against the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. This is what Rudy Giuliani told CNN's Dana Bash.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I don't know what he has to flip over.

What I do know is, there is no evidence of wrongdoing with President Trump. So, we're very comfortable.

If he believes it's in his best interest to cooperate, God bless him. He should cooperate. I think the man has been horribly treated by the people he's going to cooperate with, but that -- you know, sometimes, you have no other choice.

I do not expect that Michael Cohen is going to lie. I think he's going to tell the truth, as best he can, given his recollection.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: In response to that, let me read you a tweet from Lanny Davis.

This is Cohen's new attorney -- quote -- "Did Rudy Giuliani really say on Sunday shows that Michael Cohen should cooperate with prosecutors and tell the truth? Seriously? Is that Trump and Giuliani's definition of truth? Trump/Giuliani next to the word truth equals oxymoron. Stay tuned."

Let me bring in Gloria Borger, our chief political analyst, and Glenn Kirschner. He's a former federal prosecutor.

Just to go through all of this. And, Gloria, you have all this great reporting, right? You have been your working sources who are telling you that Michael Cohen is seconding a clear signal to Donald Trump. What is that? GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the signal to

Donald Trump is, the truth is not -- as I was told, the truth is not you or your client's friend.

And I think what Michael Cohen is trying to say through his emissaries and sources is, in fact, that they believe they are kind of being bullied by Rudy Giuliani.

[15:25:02]

And they believe that Rudy Giuliani and the president are trying to send him a message. And that message would be that if Cohen were to cross them, then they will continue their attacks on him and on his character.

And they believe that they want Cohen to mimic what the president wants him to say. And the clear message is, I was told that Cohen will not be a punching bag for anyone's defense strategy.

BALDWIN: OK. Taking all that in, Glenn, let me go over to you for a second. What's your read on Cohen's state of mind in this whole signal the truth is not you or your client's friend, meaning the president?

GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Brooke, based on my 30 years of experience as a prosecutor, I tend to agree with everything Gloria just said, because I can't tell you how many times I have listened to either covertly recorded conversations or even more frequently jail calls.

And I have had so many defendants say to witnesses, now, listen, you need to tell the truth and let everybody know I didn't do this. The message is clear that the defendant is saying, look, I did do it, and you need to stick up for me.

And I will say, even if it we look back to what seems like ancient history, Paul Manafort, just a few weeks ago, he was caught in messages saying things like, listen, you need to say that we never lobbied in the United States, which is the truth. And, of course, there was evidence that it wasn't the truth.

And that ended up resulting in additional charges being brought against Paul Manafort, and he got stepped back into the jail to boot. When I hear Mr. Giuliani say things like, well, we just want Michael Cohen to tell the truth, that to me sounds like basically encouraging Michael Cohen to tell the same truth that the president tells, or else there could be repercussions.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Let me come back to you on another point.

But, Gloria, why do you get the sense that Michael Cohen is angry?

BORGER: Well, you can just read through our story on CNN.com and you will see that his associates are sort of saying, look, this is somebody who publicly said he would take a bullet for this president, who was the ultimate loyalist for this president, who has taken hits time and time again for him.

And I think he feels that he has been sort of cast aside by the person that he has protected so many times over the years. I think we should also say that we have absolutely no knowledge of whether prosecutors are interested in Michael Cohen, about whether Guy Petrillo, his attorney, has even met with prosecutors.

We don't know the answers to the questions, nor do we know, quite frankly, what, if anything, Michael Cohen would have to tell the prosecutors, because our sources are not telling us. So there's a lot of unanswered questions here.

There's a lot of kind of signals going back and forth, but we just don't know what the attorneys know and what they are saying to prosecutors, if anything.

BALDWIN: Got it.

Moving to another piece of Giuliani on the Sunday shows, he also contradicted the president on whether or not the president months ago asked James Comey to stop the investigation into Michael Flynn.

So first let me just play for you what Rudy Giuliani said and then jogging back to what the president has said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: He didn't direct him to do that. What he said to him was...

(CROSSTALK)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Comey says he took it as direction.

GIULIANI: Well, that's OK. Taking it that way, by that time, he had been fired. And he said a lot of other things, some of which have turned out to be untrue.

QUESTION: Did you at any time urge former FBI Director James Comey in any way, shape or form to close or to back down the investigation into Michael Flynn? And also...

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, no. Next question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: So, Glenn, could Giuliani's remarks yesterday morning at all end up hurting his client the president?

KIRSCHNER: Well, I don't think those remarks can help, but one thing that we have to keep in mind is that an attorney's comments, particularly when they are in this sort of public relations phase, are generally not admissible evidence at trial to prove that his client acted in conformity with the comments. But words do matter. And I think, because Mr. Giuliani has been

fighting in sort of the arena of public opinion more than in the arena of court of law, those sorts of statements could come back to hurt the president.

And when it comes to what statements the president actually made to Mr. Comey, you know, words matter. Presidential words certainly used to matter.

And what -- what we have is, when you have a president, who is the chief law enforcement officer of the country, telling the director of the FBI