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Trump Organization Finance Chief Subpoenaed; Trump Trade War Impacting Big American Companies; Facebook Stock Tanking. Aired 3- 3:30p ET
Aired July 26, 2018 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: So, we will have more on that in just a second.
But, first, let's get straight to this really explosive piece out of "The Wall Street Journal" today. A major financial player in Trump's private life has just been subpoenaed in another investigation.
This is a man by the name of Allen Weisselberg. You may not at all know his name. This guy is key because he is considered a gatekeeper to Trump's personal finances. And he is now being subpoenaed to testify in the Michael Cohen criminal case.
A source tells CNN Weisselberg knows -- quote -- "anything and everything" about Donald Trump. And Cohen, the president's former personal attorney, can actually be heard talking about Weisselberg in that newly released secret recording.
Listen for Cohen mentioning Allen Weisselberg's name.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL TO DONALD TRUMP: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David, you know, so that -- I'm going to do that right away. I've actually come up and I've spoken...
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Give it to me and (INAUDIBLE)
COHEN: And I've spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with...
TRUMP: So, what do we got to pay for this? One-fifty?
COHEN: ... funding. Yes. And it's all the stuff.
TRUMP: Yes, I was thinking about that.
COHEN: All the stuff. Because, here, you never know where that company -- you never know what he's...
TRUMP: Maybe he gets hit by a truck. COHEN: Correct. So, I'm all over that. And, I spoke to Allen about
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BALDWIN: All right, so let's chat about this.
CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger is with me, national political reporter M.J. Lee, and CNN legal analyst Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor.
So, M.J., straight to you on your reporting. Tell me more about Weisselberg and why he is such a key piece here and being subpoenaed.
M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, remember that Weisselberg has been with the Trump Organization and working for Donald Trump for many, many years.
So, a part of it is that sort of like the length of time that he has worked for Donald Trump is so long. And then in his position at the Trump Organization, he basically knew anything and everything. This is what a former Trump Organization employee told me, anything and everything you might want to know about the company's finances.
This former Trump Organization employee says: "Allen knows where all of the financial bodies are buried. Allen knows every deal. He knows every dealership. He knows every sale," anything and everything that's been done, anything you can think of," this person says.
That just goes to show -- and I want to make clear when this person is referring to financial bodies, they're obviously thing, if there are financial bodies to be buried, this is the person that would know. And the fact that he has been subpoena, I think it's also important to note that we don't know what he has, if anything, told investigators so far.
We don't know what he plans on telling investigators or what information he might have. But I think the point is that this is the person, if there is anything to know about the Trump Organization or Michael Cohen's dealings with the company, especially in terms of the exchange of money, this is the guy that would know.
And as demonstrated in that tape that you just played, he is specifically mentioned by Michael Cohen in that conversation that Cohen has with Donald Trump as the guy he consulted with in trying to figure out this payment to this woman that they were trying to keep silent.
BALDWIN: Gloria, all right, given everything that M.J. just set up in the financial bodies, if there were said bodies, how nervous would this make the president? And compare it to the nerves that -- knowing that Cohen may cooperate?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, if Michael Cohen hasn't made him nervous, this will probably make him a little bit more nervous. Weisselberg was senior to Michael Cohen. Weisselberg is the person that Donald Trump left in charge of the Trump Organization, along with his children. He's been with him for decades.
According to "The Wall Street Journal," he's just a witness here. We don't know if he knows everything, honestly. Maybe Michael Cohen and Donald Trump concocted something and went to Weisselberg with a different story. We have no -- we have no we have no knowledge of that.
BORGER: But what we do know is that Weisselberg has been a loyal Trump person for many, many years, and that he does know a lot of things, as M.J. says.
You know, the thing that's interesting to me is I'm not quite sure when exactly he was called to appear before the Southern District of New York. Obviously, we know about this now in the wake of the Michael Cohen tape in which he mentioned that he went to Weisselberg. So we don't know if he testified before or we don't know if the SDNY is just upset about this tape and brought him in now.
We don't know, but the timing of the story is very interesting.
BALDWIN: OK, so, Renato, on the legal piece, and we know that Cohen mentions Allen in the tape that we played. According to "The Wall Street Journal," it isn't clear Cohen spoke to Weisselberg about the plans to buy the rights of Karen McDougal's story.
But they are crystal clear in the Stormy Daniels case and the $130,000 that she accepted that Cohen provided her. And they're clear in this piece that guess who provided Cohen with the repayment, in the sense of a $35,000 retainer per month. Allen Weisselberg.
Follow the money.
RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, absolutely.
And what I think this tells us is that, originally, there was some talk from the president's team that, well, Michael Cohen has a lot of separate business dealings, separate and apart from the president. Maybe his legal troubles are related to his own business issues.
And the fact that Weisselberg is being subpoenaed and the fact that we heard earlier this week on the recording that CNN had between Trump and Cohen, it's pretty clear that whatever Cohen is in trouble for, the various things that he's in trouble for, that the prosecutors are looking at in New York, are all -- are related to what he did at the Trump Organization.
The Trump Organization is part. That is definitely an issue for the president, because that means that the finances of his own company are going to be intertwined in this trial. And it makes perfect sense why prosecutors would want to talk to Mr. Weisselberg, because he can help them understand.
I will tell you, when I was a federal prosecutor, we often had thousands, hundreds of thousands of pages of documents. He can help them pinpoint exactly what they need, interpret the documents, help them understand what's going on.
BALDWIN: Let me stay with you. I want to pivot to the "New York Times" piece, the headline, "Mueller examining Trump's tweets in wide- ranging obstruction inquiry."
And when you read the piece, it talks about how, so far, if there is no slam-dunk piece of evidence, that they then -- in a particular obstruction case, then they often search for a larger pattern of behavior. How would -- Renato, how would those tweets fit in as far as obstruction is concerned?
So it's very hard in a case involving intent, a white-collar case, where it's not a -- it's not like somebody robbed a bank or murdered somebody...
BALDWIN: Had a crowbar.
MARIOTTI: Yes, exactly. You're talking about a pattern of behavior and you're trying to prove, did this person have the intent to obstruct justice?
You almost always are going to be looking at a wide range of evidence to try to piece together what is in somebody's mind, because we don't have a magic telescope that tells us what somebody's intent is.
So what Mueller is going to do is look at all the things that the president said and did over a long period of time. That includes his tweets. It includes his verbal statements. It includes his actions. And try to piece them together to paint a picture of what the president was thinking when he, for example, fire James Comey.
Was he doing it to protect his friend, or was he doing it because he thought Comey was a bad FBI director? And that really is something that those tweets do shine a light, because the president for a long time offered a lot of very candid thoughts about tweets and has continued to ratchet up the heat on the investigation in recent weeks and months.
BORGER: Brooke, though, the question is this -- and maybe Renato can answer this. Can you obstruct justice publicly? I mean, Rudy Giuliani's argument, which is interesting, and it's one that I have been thinking about, which is that the president did this out in the open. These tweets were not secret.
BORGER: And he was taking down Jeff Sessions, maybe trying to get them to quit, who knows, taking down Comey publicly. So would that mean that he was obstructing justice with all of us watching him do that?
BALDWIN: Like in broad daylight.
BORGER: In broad daylight.
BORGER: Can you do that?
MARIOTTI: I will tell you, first of all, that has no -- that has no meaning legally. I mean, it sounds good. Obviously, it's not good enough that we're talking about it on television. But I don't think that has any legal meaning.
But what I will say is, Mueller's not going to charge the president or suggest or make recommendations, I should say, to the Congress saying that he knows this tweet is itself obstruction. What he's going to do, I believe, is say these tweets are evidence of the president's intent.
So when he did X or Y actions, for example, when he made these -- when he pressured Sessions to recuse themselves -- or -- excuse me -- to un-recuse themselves, or when he fired Comey, you know what his intent was, because look at these three months' worth of tweets afterwards.
BORGER: So they use it -- so they use it to bolster their argument.
BALDWIN: It's part of this narrative arc.
BORGER: And I will also remind you that in the 40-plus questions that Mueller allowed to Trump's attorneys that the president might be asked, there were questions about tweets.
BORGER: There were questions about, what was the purpose of the September and October 2017 statements, including tweets, regarding an investigation of Mr. Comey?
What was the purpose of your July 2017 criticism of Mr. Sessions, which came in a tweet? So Mueller has indicated before that he intends to look at the president's intent when it comes to what he was typing with his thumbs.
BALDWIN: Gloria, Renato, let me ask the two of you to stand by. I'm going to come back to you in a little bit.
But I want to get to Michael Cohen, because now we're also learning that the newly revealed audio here may complicate any deal Cohen could receive. His attorneys did not notify federal prosecutors before going public with this clip, according to multiple sources to us here at CNN.
So CNN's Erica Orden, the reporter behind these new details.
And so who are -- how are prosecutors feeling at SDNY, now that this thing's been out and they didn't know about it?
ERICA ORDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, generally speaking, prosecutors don't find it helpful when aspects of their investigation are made public
BALDWIN: They like the control.
ORDEN: They do like control and they also want to avoid situations where potential witnesses or if people under investigation are talking to each other about pieces of evidence and other things like that, because that could sort of affect the course of their investigation.
And so in this case, what Cohen and his attorneys chose to do was to make public a piece of potential evidence in this investigation. And that probably is not considered what the prosecutors wanted to happen.
BALDWIN: OK, Erica, thank you so much.
ORDEN: Thank you.
BALDWIN: Welcome to the CNN family, by the way.
ORDEN: Thank you very much.
BALDWIN: Does this hurt his case? We will discuss that.
Plus, new reporting on what led to Cohen's decision to turn on Trump.
And the Trump administration just hours from a deadline to reunite hundreds of migrant parents with their children, and there is no chance that they will be able to meet that. We will take you live to the U.S.-Mexico border to explain why.
And, later, Sacha Baron Cohen at it again, more controversy, depicting one Arizona town as racist in his new Showtime series. We will talk to the mayor of that town and she will explain why she thinks he got it all wrong.
You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
We are learning more about what led to Michael Cohen releasing that secret recording of Donald Trump, which involves a growing isolation from the man he served for more than 10 years as Trump's personal attorney and fixer, a term Cohen gave himself.
The details will leave you wondering exactly who betrayed whom. From Trump Tower to the campaign trail, Cohen was Trump's die-hard supporter who warned of what could happen to opponents of Mr. Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: Mr. Trump truly cares about America. He loves this country. He cares about the American people. He knows what it's going to take to fix it.
Donald Trump is this uber-billionaire real estate developer, possibly the greatest negotiator in the history of this planet. I don't see any other scrutiny being thrown at anybody to the extent that you're throwing it against Donald Trump.
You attack Donald Trump, he's going to come back at you twice as hard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: We have Gloria Borger and Renato Mariotti back with us.
And so, Gloria, we were talking to Jeremy Diamond, who has this reporting on just pulling back the curtain of how Cohen was feeling, right, for those months, how he'd apparently been in agony over getting the silent treatment from Trump and this administration.
Tell me more about this agony and then smoke signals he was sending out.
BORGER: Well, look, first of all, as the clips show, Michael Cohen is the ultimate loyalist.
And in dealing with Michael Cohen during the campaign, as a lot of us did, there was nothing you could say about Donald Trump, nothing, that he wouldn't throw back at you and tell you that this man was, A, going to be president, and, B, was the most brilliant person that he had ever met and should be president.
And I think what's occurred over the last months is that after the Stormy Daniels thing came out and Karen McDougal and everything else, he did make a trip Mar-a-Lago. The president did have him down to Mar-a-Lago, you will recall.
And they spoke. But I think he has felt increasingly isolated, not only from the president, but from the president's family, for whom he also did legal work. And he's been angered by Rudy Giuliani in particular, because Rudy has been out there, he believes, and his people, his friends believe, disparaging Michael Cohen.
And Cohen didn't like it. And he felt that that should have stopped, particularly given his previous relationship with Trump. I mean, he idolized Trump. He was on call 24/7 for Donald Trump for over a decade.
BALDWIN: Well, it's fine to be on call for a boss.
BALDWIN: Renato, Renato, we were talking to Tom Hamburger of "The Washington Post" last hour. He was on the byline of a piece where they broke this news too. We talk so much about the audio that was released to CNN between Trump and Cohen.
He said that the government has seized more than 100 of Cohen's recordings, and that the one we heard this week was the most damaging. What does that tell you?
MARIOTTI: Well, a couple of things.
First of all, the fact that there's that many tapes is not a good -- is not good news for either Cohen or Trump. The more that they're saying, the more the prosecutors, the worse for them, I would say overall.
But the fact that this is the most damaging means that there isn't going to be some bombshell smoking gun. I mean, look, the recording that came out this week was bad for the president. There's no way to spin out of that. Anyone who tells -- who suggests otherwise is not being fair.
But, that said, it wasn't, in and of itself, a massive smoking gun. So, that may mean that there's nothing of that sort in the -- in the mix, which is not altogether surprising. I mean, it's rare that people have conversations and say things that would make your jaw drop.
But just like we talked about a few minutes ago, I have never had a trial with one exhibit, OK? So prosecutors always have pieced together lots of pieces of evidence. They're going to look at all those tapes. They're going to cut all the best pieces of them, they're going to put them together, and they're going to tell a story of what happened.
And that's not good for either man. And just in response to what Gloria said, one bizarre thing that I don't understand is, if there's a man who has something on you, why you would isolate him, why you would try to distance yourself and undercut him publicly, I don't completely understand.
BORGER: Well, I think that's a really good question. I mean, the case can be made -- and you're a lawyer, I'm not -- that Trump communicating with Michael Cohen could be misinterpreted eventually as Trump trying to quiet Michael Cohen or get their stories straight.
And Michael did go to Mar-a-Lago at one point. But -- so maybe his lawyers advised him, you really shouldn't -- you really shouldn't be communicating with him. I mean, that's a -- that's possibility, isn't it?
BALDWIN: Makes sense. Makes sense, right?
MARIOTTI: For sure.
I would -- I would have all the communication between lawyer to lawyer,so then that wouldn't be an issue. But why did Trump go on "FOX & Friends" and distance himself from Cohen and say, well, he had his own activities and this and that?
I don't know why the president felt the need to distance himself from Cohen. Dangerous thing to do, when the guy is under investigation and could potentially cooperate against you. It makes no sense to me.
BALDWIN: We can't even begin to understand why this president says and does things on a day-to-day basis. So, we will leave it there.
Renato Mariotti and Gloria Borger, thank you so very much.
BALDWIN: Coming up next: Facebook, Facebook stock tanking today on what may be the single biggest loss in stock market history. So, more on that. What's behind that?
Also, major brands like Coca-Cola, Whirlpool, Ford taking hits because of the president's tariff policy. Might that be the reason why he is a deal-making mood all of a sudden?
BALDWIN: By day's end, Facebook could make history. Its stock is taking a beating of such a giant proportions that, by the close of trading today, Facebook may lose $120 billion.
Let that sink in, $120 billion in market value. That would be the biggest wipeout in stock market history.
Linette Lopez is back with us today. She's a senior finance correspondent with the "Business Insider."
Yikes. LINETTE LOPEZ, SENIOR FINANCE CORRESPONDENT, "BUSINESS INSIDER":
BALDWIN: Their whole -- the idea of choosing privacy over profit is killing them.
LOPEZ: It is. It is.
But this is kind of something that was a long time in coming. People have been warning Facebook about fake news, about predators on their Web site since 2011, I think was the first time I remember Hillary Clinton going to the Senate and testifying about how bad actors are using Facebook.
LOPEZ: What this has done is, this has chased users away from the News Feed, which is the most profitable part of Facebook's advertising scheme.
And now users are going more toward Instagram Stories. And what we heard on Facebook's call yesterday is that Instagram Stories is just not as profitable to advertisers and not as profitable to Facebook as the News Feed.
So Facebook is going to have to invest in cleaning up its News Feed. But I think that in all of the testimony that we have heard from Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, we haven't really heard that they have a plan that they're going to say, this is fake news, this is not fake news.
Last week, Mark Zuckerberg wouldn't even say that Holocaust deniers were not welcome on the News Feed.
BALDWIN: Right. We talked about that.
LOPEZ: And I think that does not....
BALDWIN: Bode well.
LOPEZ: That does not make people feel secure.
LOPEZ: So there are security measures being taken in Europe, which took a big chunk out of European revenue, a bigger chunk than Facebook or any Wall Street analyst expected. And maybe a few people did, but this certainly caught them by surprise.
And Facebook knows that, if they don't make these changes themselves, then regulators and the government, they're going to step in and make them for them, which could be even more painful. The question is, where do you draw the line on what is truth and what is fiction? How you show the American people that you're doing it right.
BALDWIN: Speaking of profit, or lack thereof, on trade and all tariffs that this administration has imposed, we are now seeing mega- mega-brands taking hits over this -- these tariff war.
Automakers, Whirlpool, Coca-Cola. We were talking yesterday due to a poor farmer, and I was asking him about this $12 billion bailout for farmers as a result of those tariffs.
How do you see this going? Juncker, the E.U. Commission president, meeting yesterday, negotiating with the president. Is this moving in a positive direction? How do you see it?
LOPEZ: It's unclear to see exactly where this is moving.
This is unprecedented. Both parties here in the United States don't like what Trump is doing. Republicans were going out and saying, farmers don't want a handout. They want their markets. They want to earn their money fairly.
And this is not what I think they saw -- saw happening. But what the Trump administration is probably trying to do is close down a few fronts on the trade war. You can't fight Canada and Mexico for NAFTA and fight China