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Trump Blasts Cohen After CNN Gets Secret Audio Recording; Secret Audio Suggests Trump Knew About Deal To Silence Ex-Playmate; Soon: Trump, Ryan, McConnell Meet Amid Bailout Backlash; Soybean Growers Group: Farmers Want Trade Not Aid. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired July 25, 2018 - 11:00   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello on this Wednesday. I'm Ana Cabrera in for Kate Bolduan. Let us begin with a secret audio recording that is secret no more. CNN has obtained taped conversations between then- Candidate Donald Trump and his attorney, Michael Cohen, who recorded it just two months before the presidential election.

It appears to confirm that Trump knew about the plan to pay hush money to a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal about their alleged affair. Now here's some of that conversation provided by Cohen's attorney, Lanny Davis.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP LAWYER: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David? So that I'm going to do that right away. I've spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with funding. All the stuff. All the stuff. I'm all over that. I spoke to Allen about it. When it comes time for the financing which will be --


COHEN: We'll have to pay for --


COHEN: No, no, no, no.


CABRERA: Now the president this morning calling attention to that abrupt edit of the audio at the end and taking a jab at Cohen asking what kind of lawyer would tape a client? Remember, Donald Trump and his handlers have long denied any knowledge of a payoff just days before the election.

His spokeswoman, Hope Hicks told the "Wall Street Journal," quote, "we have no knowledge of any of this," she said Miss McDougal's claim of an affair with Mr. Trump was totally untrue.

CNN's M.J. Lee has details for us. Now, M.J., help us break down what both sides are claiming this tape says and does not say.

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, Ana, because this is a secret recording, the audio quality is not great as you just heard. We are already seeing a significant dispute on one of the parts of the tape that we heard at the very end. If you listen carefully, you heard Donald Trump saying the words -- pay with cash. Then Michael Cohen responding, no, no, no.

Now the two sides, Donald Trump's camp, and Michael Cohen's camp, are offering their different interpretations of what exactly was said in that moment. Take a listen to Rudy Giuliani and Lanny Davis, the lawyers for Donald Trump and Michael Cohen, offering their explanations of what we actually heard.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY (via telephone): I agree with you that the tape is a little bit hard to hear, but I assure you that we listened to it numerous, numerous times. The transcript makes it quite clear at the end that President Trump says, quote, "don't pay with cash." Cohen then interrupts and says, no, no, no, I got it. Then you hear distinctly, if you're careful and you slow it down, check.

LANNY DAVIS, MICHAEL COHEN'S ATTORNEY: Mr. Trump used the word cash and he lied about it by having Giuliani accuse Cohen saying the word cash. Now we put the tape out and you decide whether I'm telling you the truth because this -- the tape says what it says. But this is about the big topic in America today, a president of the United States who consistently lies. Now he has Giuliani lying about the lie.


LEE: So, you can tell, Ana, this cash versus check debate is clearly going to be a sticking point and sort of in the big picture at the reason this tape is so potentially problematic for Donald Trump is because we now hear on audio Donald Trump discussing this payment to this former Playboy model with his lawyer at the time when previously, remember, the campaign denied that they had any knowledge about any of this.

CABRERA: First knowledge of this tape was interesting and now we hear the tape itself. Why did Cohen's team release this tape?

LEE: Look, I think that Michael Cohen is no longer the man who once said that he would be willing to take a bullet for Donald Trump. This is a new Michael Cohen. That is at least according to his new team that he has brought on. Remember, he has hired some new lawyers in the last couple of weeks, including Lanny Davis. Take a listen to what Lanny Davis said about the new Michael Cohen.


DAVIS: This man has turned a corner in his life, has hit a reset button and he's now dedicated to telling the truth. And the reason why Giuliani is attacking him so viciously, rewriting what everybody hears with their own plain ears, is they are afraid of him because Donald Trump can't stand the truth, to quote a famous movie, and the truth will come out.


LEE: The question, of course, is what is Michael Cohen's version of the truth? And what else could be on these recordings, e-mails and documents that were seized by FBI. And most importantly, Ana, does Michael Cohen believe he has incriminating information about Donald Trump.

CABRERA: M.J. Lee, thank you so much. Joining us now, CNN politics reporter and editor at large, Chris Cilizza, Caitlin Huey-Burns, national political reporter for "Real Clear Politics," and CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan.

[11:05:10] So, Chris, let me start with you. What does this move tell us about Cohen's relationship with Trump?

CHRIS CILIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Well, Ana, that there isn't much of a relationship anymore. I think last night at 9:00 p.m., you had the open declaration of war by Michael Cohen on Donald Trump as communicated by the tape and Cohen lawyer, Lanny Davis.

There is no way to overstate how close their relationship once was. Michael Cohen was a guy who Donald Trump's problems that no one else could fix or no one else is willing to fix. That's how he remained so close. That he was so loyal to Trump. That's why the relationship was so important to Donald Trump and why Cohen turning on Trump to protect himself, in truth here.

Let's be honest. Michael Cohen's office, hotel and home were raided by the FBI. We believe there is potential at least of criminal charges against him so some of this is designed solely to protect himself. It comes at the expense of Donald Trump.

The real question is what does Michael Cohen have beyond this tape, what else does he have on Donald Trump? Is it potentially legally perilous for Donald Trump? Is it just embarrassing for Donald Trump or is it nothing, as Rudy Giuliani seems to want us to believe?

CABRERA: Caitlyn, remember just before the election, Hope Hicks came out with this statement saying we know nothing about this. That tape was September of 2016. A couple of months before that statement. Was she lying?

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "REALCLEARPOLITICS": Well, that's what's significant about actually hearing this audio and listening to what Cohen has been talking about, which makes very clear that they knew what was going on then. And so, this is a question that we've had for some time, who knew what and when. A basic question about this issue. That it seems to be answered by this tape at this point.

CABRERA: Paul, is that tape exculpatory, as Giuliani said it would be is it?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is a funny thing because tapes, sometimes both sides try to claim it is exculpatory. I don't think it is exculpatory for the president, though, because it shows that first of all he was well aware that Cohen was setting up companies to make payments to whom?

Well, in this case it was to David Pecker at the "National Enquirer" to kill the Karen McDougal story. So, we know from the tape that the president knew about this. It wasn't a surprise to him. So, I think it hurts the president more than it hurts Cohen.

CABRERA: What do you make of the legal strategy of putting this tape out there for everybody to hear?

CALLAN: I think when the lawyers look at this, but let's take it from the president's stand point. We don't know for sure where this conference took place, but it sounds like it is around a conference table with somebody comes in delivering a Coca-Cola. There's back talk going on.

So, the attorney-client privilege only gets protected if the communication is really done in private. If you've got somebody else sitting at the conference table and somebody else is delivering a Coca-Cola to you while you are with your attorney, there may be no attorney/client privilege.

So, I think the presidential lawyers had decided eventually they would lose the attorney/client privilege. So, they may as well not oppose it being released. Cohen on the other hand feels that it helps him.

And I think he really answers the question that the president asks this morning, what kind of lawyer would tape a client. The answer is, the kind of lawyer Donald Trump would hire to handle his personal matters, Michael Cohen.

What does it say about the president? Do you really think the president was unaware that Cohen from time to time taped conversations? It makes me wonder, did the president -- what was the extent of the president's knowledge in this area? The whole thing just wreaks of sleaziness on both sides. I think in the end it helps neither man.

CABRERA: Of course, there is this argument over what was actually said. We played the tape. We don't put up a transcript because we want you to decide for yourself. There are parts of the tape, Chris, that are a little bit harder to understand. But regardless, if Donald Trump says, "pay with cash" or "don't pay with cash," those are two very different things. Bottom line is this tape is now proof he was not kept in the dark about the deal involving Karen McDougal.

CILIZZA: That's right. That debate, while not immaterial, is not, I don't think, essential to what we are talking about here. Donald Trump, through a campaign surrogate, Hope Hicks, said they knew nothing about any sort of deal. Remember, we've heard this before. Donald Trump didn't know where Michael Cohen got the money to pay $130,000 to Stormy Daniels, the porn star who also alleged an affair with Donald Trump. This is not new.

[11:10:02] And it is not new that Michael Cohen, by the way, would set up a company to kind of mask that payoff, which is what they are talking about, which no one disputes they are talking about in the McDougal tape.

I think that there's two things at work here, Ana. One is, big whoop. We know Donald Trump has a casual relationship with the truth. Sure. But point two, he's the president of the United States.

So, if he is not telling the truth about this and we know he, at best, obfuscating what he knew about Stormy Daniels, and we know he exaggerates, uses hyperbole in any number of other ways, the question is, can you trust him on anything?

What is his word good for? Won't matter to some people who are with him no matter what. Won't matter to some people who are against him no matter what. But he didn't win just with people who are with him no matter what.

That group who is kind of on the fence who wound up voting for him who didn't love him but voted for him, that's the group that really matters here.

CABRERA: It is interesting to see how he is responding to the release of this tape, Caitlan, because his tweet came about 12 hours after the tape got out there and in it there is no denial. There's no new argument of defense, but he is playing the victim card.

HUEY-BURNS: Right. Going after Cohen, of course, his long time -- who he thought was a long-time ally of his. This kind of prompts me to wonder what the president will do next with this. We know that there have been efforts, of course, to distract from these kinds of controversies, whether in rhetoric or in policy announcements.

We'll see what he does, but I also am curious about what the political fallout or consequences for him will be. I think Chris makes an important point which is that there is a segment of the electorate in this midterm election, a segment that Democrats are targeting.

Those soft Republican voters who might look at this in the aggregate of everything else and be disaffected by it further. But you also have a dynamic going on in the mid-terms where the more these kinds of reports come out, the more Republicans who are on Trump's side feel more endeared to him and feel like they're part of this battle.

So, I'm interested to see kind of how that plays out. We don't quite know the answer, but I think there are different political dynamics at play when we are assessing the fallout of it.

CABRERA: Very quickly, if you will, Paul, is there a legal smoking gun here? CALLAN: No, there isn't a smoking gun here. It really is just a re- affirmation of something that we knew before, which was the Trump administration -- or the president -- was using the catch and kill technique with the "National Enquirer" of having the magazine kill bad stories about him. So, we really haven't learned anything new here. It's just a confirmation of prior information.

CABRERA: Thank you, everybody. Paul Callan, Chris Cilizza, Caitlin Huey-Burns, I really appreciate it.

Coming up, soon President Trump will face off with the president of the European Commission. This is the same man who recently called Trump's tariffs "stupid." Will they reach a deal?

Plus, the new comments from President Trump getting comparisons to George Orwell. Stay with us.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: What you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening. Just stick with us. Don't believe the crap you see from these people.




CABRERA: Just minutes from now, President Trump will be meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan. They have at least 12 billion things to talk about. Namely, a $12 billion bailout for farmers feeling the sting of Trump's trade policies.

At least one farmer telling CNN this aid package is a band-aid on a broken leg. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill, including many Republicans, are not happy. Senator Ron Johnson calling it a move toward a soviet type of economy. The president is urging them to be patient, suggesting the pain will in the end be worth it.

Meantime, he's also set to meet with the head of the European Commission today to talk about trade deals. CNN's Abby Phillip is at the White House to fill us in on all of this. Abby, it is a big day for trade. What is the latest?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, a critical day for trade. This is the moment when the Trump administration appears to be acknowledging that its trade policies are going to put some strain on America's farmers, so they proposed a $12 billion package with being a potential stimulus to aid farmers who are being hurt by the retaliatory tariffs being placed on U.S. products by other countries, namely China.

But this is also coming at a time when the president has that meeting with the president of the European Commission. President Trump has accused the E.U. of ripping the United States off on trade on opposing barriers and tariffs. In response the E.U. has imposed their own tariffs on U.S. products.

But it is also his meetings with Republicans that are also going to be at the front of mind here. He is meeting with Republican leaders at 11:30. White House tells me that that's going to be about a slew of legislative priorities.

But you can bet that one of the main issues Republicans have right now going into the mid-terms is the effects of these tariffs. Many Republicans, especially Wisconsin's own Paul Ryan, the House speaker, has a big issue with the president's policy on this front.

They also have an issue with this narrative that the White House is responding to it by imposing what Republicans and Democrats are calling Soviet-style politics and policies. So, the White House is really trying to manage the fallout from this. The president's simply asking for more time and more patience, but it is not clear how long is he going to get from Republicans -- Ana.

CABRERA: Abby Phillip, keep us posted on those talks. Thanks so much.

Joining us now Republican Congressman Rodney Davis of Illinois. He represents a lot of farmers affected by these tariffs. Congressman, you are also on the House Agriculture Committee. So, this escalating trade war is starting to hit home. Farmers in your state we know are hurting. What do you plan to do about it?

[11:20:09] REP. RODNEY DAVIS (R), ILLINOIS: Well, Farmers don't want to hurt. This package that was announced yesterday, I hope never has to be used. I hope we start to see some results out of the Trump administration's negotiations so that our farmers can do what they want. They want to sell their products overseas. That's what we hope the end result is, but we have to start seeing results.

CABRERA: You mention the deal the president announced yesterday, this $12 billion in aid. We mentioned the farmer who said this is like a band-aid on a broken leg. We also have the president continuing to tweet -- tariffs are the greatest. Do you have any clue where this is really headed?

DAVIS: You know, I don't think any of us do, but I can tell you I talk to a lot of my local farmers. As a matter of fact, a couple weeks ago, I sat down with one of might have state legislators, Representative Tim Butler, with his ag advisory committee and I talked to them about my worry in regards to trade negotiations, in regards to these tariffs, in retaliatory tariffs.

And then I asked all those farmers, the producers, do you believe that the president and his administration are working on your behalf and are going to get you a good deal? Every hand in that room went up except two. A lot of farmers in Middle America invested their vote in the Trump administration and they believe that he's going to get them a better deal. CABRERA: What happens if he doesn't? What happens if you don't start seeing those results you are waiting to see before the midterm election? What does this mean for Republicans?

DAVIS: Well, it means a lot less politically to me than it does potentially personally to many of the farmers that I'm blessed enough to represent. It is not just the farmers and producers. It is the agri small businesses and agri business giants that employ many of the people that I represent.

I don't want it to hurt the economic growth and wage growth and the economy that we've seen in Central and Southwestern Illinois. And I know there is potential for that. I certainly hope to see those positive results that the administration expects and that our farmers expect, too.

CABRERA: So, as you wait for answers there, we have more questions than answers when it comes to the meeting that happened in Helsinki between President Trump and President Vladimir Putin. We know Mike Pompeo will be on the Hill likely today facing questions about that meeting. What questions do you have about what was discussed?

DAVIS: Well, I personally am not one to trust any dictator, let alone Russia, North Korea, Kim Jong-Un, Vladimir Putin. I don't think they are going to live up to agreements. But this administration clearly believes that better relations between those two countries is beneficial to the United States of America.

However, I also don't trust the mullahs of Iran. Not too long ago the previous administration sent hundreds of millions of American dollars over to Iran to stop them from developing a nuclear weapon. That clearly has not worked.

I like more of a peace through strength doctrine like the Reagan doctrine. It wasn't too long ago when I was growing up that Ronald Reagan was told by the political wisdom in Washington, D.C., don't say Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall. Well, that wall is gone, and Ronald Reagan's statue stands in its place.

CABRERA: Let me fast forward, though, for a moment because we are talking about the current administration and we don't have specifics from the Russian summit. What about that lack of transparency and add in this fact part of the Helsinki news conference is now missing from the official White House transcript, the part where Putin says he wanted Trump to win the election. Does that concern you?

DAVIS: It is very concerning that Russia meddled in our election process.

CABRERA: I'm talking about the actions of this administration and lack of transparency and in fact the fact that there are now parts of transcripts from a press conference into we all heard live that are missing and we didn't have anybody in that room to give us a direct readout of what was discussed between these two leaders?

DAVIS: I certainly hope we can see positive impacts of the meeting in Helsinki. I believe the president walked back some of his comments. I think it was the correct thing to do. Again, I differ from this administration on trusting Vladimir Putin anyway.

I would like to see us take a harder line, but we can't lose the facts either, Ana. The facts are this administration has been pretty tough on Russia. We in Congress have passed sanctions that this administration has implemented.

This administration has provided lethal weapons to the citizens of Ukraine to fight Russia aggression and has made sure that they enforce the red line set by the last administration in Syria. This administration is pushing back with Russia and I don't think it is enough credit for it.

CABRERA: The president also tweeted that the Russia interference investigation is a big hoax this past weekend when I was on air, that tweet came out, even after he had walked back. He seemed to flip it and reverse it once again. We are also learning the White House is planning to no longer give read-outs on calls from foreign leaders. No reason given there. How do you explain that?

DAVIS: This is a new age where we are constantly asked something that happens on Twitter.

[11:25:05] I want to just see the results and the facts, and the results are that we are in a better spot today to face any potential election meddling from any foreign country, including Russia, because of the investments that Congress has made and because we are working closely with local election officials and with the Department of Homeland Security.

CABRERA: I hope you are right. Congressman Rodney Davis, thank you very much for your time. We really appreciate it.

DAVIS: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: Moments ago, a hearing for an accused Russian spy just wrapped up in Washington. Now her lawyer is claiming she will be vindicated. That's next.