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Michael Cohen Claims Trump Knew About Trump Tower Meeting; Trump Organization Official Called to Testify in Cohen's Probe; Interview with Representative Katherine Clark. Aired 10:30-11a ET
Aired July 27, 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] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: -- that reporting.
Let's talk about it. With me now is Shan Wu, our legal analyst and a former federal prosecutor, also CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, who's worked for four administrations, and our political analyst David Drucker. Thank you all.
David Gergen, let me begin with you on this. All right. Here's what else we know. MJ laid out the reporting. And sources tell CNN that Michael Cohen doesn't have tape recordings of this, doesn't have any audio of this to back it up.
We also know from Jim Sciutto's reporting that when Cohen testified behind closed doors in front of the House Intelligence Committee, he did not say as much. And we don't know if he said it to the Senate Intel Committee. But we know at least to the House, he didn't say as much. So to the issue of credibility and who you believe this morning, you know, who will Mueller's team believe? Who will the American people believe, the president or Michael Cohen?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No one in this story has a great deal of credibility, I'm afraid. But I do think in fairness to the president, if Mr. Cohen has information which he can corroborate, come forward, then his credibility will go up and the president will be in hot water, as will his son Donald Trump Junior who after all has testified to Congress that the president didn't know anything about it. And if that testimony was false, he could go to jail over that. He can be prosecuted over that.
So the president's son is very deeply involved in this, too. But, you know, Cohen doesn't -- keep changes his story. I think Rudy Giuliani last night on CNN had a very good point that he's known to be a chronic liar. But it's also true that the Trump -- the Trump people themselves have lied about this meeting. They've continually changed their stories. And now we know that they have misled the public about the payments to one of these women.
So, you know, you've got -- I don't think anybody here is exactly up on a pedestal and saying, wow, we got the god's given truth here coming out of anybody.
HARLOW: You've also got the issue, Shan Wu, of Donald Trump Junior's testimony under oath. And here is just some of what he said to the Senate Judiciary Committee behind closed doors. Question, did you go up and talk to your father about it? Regarding the meeting. No, I wouldn't have wasted his time with it. Later he said, I never discussed it with him at all. And then I think most definitively he said in the testimony, he, meaning his father, wasn't aware of it. He didn't know anything about the meeting. I mean, this is under oath. So if Michael Cohen is right, he is in a pickle.
SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's exactly right. I think David's right on point there. First up in the sights is going to be Don Junior. If Cohen's statements turn out to be credible, I think he is going to be number one. Getting the culpability heightened on the president takes a little bit more work. There's some hints of how that might happen with some of the recent references to witness tampering in the tweets. But absolutely first up with a big problem is going to be Don Junior.
HARLOW: David Drucker, remind the American people this morning who -- you know, a fair amount have accepted that the president lies and still support him. But remind the American people why it is so important because this meeting was about dirt on Hillary Clinton from Russians.
DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. So what this meeting stands for conceptually and symbolically in this long-running saga now about Russian interference in the election and did or did not the president or his associates try to collude with the Russians to beat Hillary Clinton is that this is the one piece of definitive evidence that there might been an attempt at collusion. And I think that's why this meeting stands out and can be very important, and it's why Michael Cohen's revelation could be very significant.
But I agree with David Gergen that his credibility is not high here. And I have to say as a political matter, Poppy, the president wins politically in a sense as long as there is confusion and disagreement. In other words, if it's Cohen's word versus the president's word, then there's no reason for people that support the president to ever rethink how they feel about this idea of Russian interference and the possibility that the president's team may have colluded with Vladimir Putin and his intelligence services.
HARLOW: You know --
DRUCKER: And -- however, I would add this, and I think this is also important.
DRUCKER: We've had two stories this morning. Right? We've been talking about this scoop from CNN, which is very important. And we've been talking about the GDP numbers at 4.1 percent.
DRUCKER: And if we're talking more about the GDP numbers at 4.1 percent as a concept of economic growth, it's a better day for Republicans and they have a better chance of holding Congress in the midterm elections. If we're talking more about this, even though I don't think that the president loses his base.
DRUCKER: And I don't think he loses the party en masse, where the battle for the House is going to be fought in suburban districts where the president is in trouble with female voters, this is another death by 1,000 cuts move that could really be a problem for Republicans.
HARLOW: David Gergen, to you.
[10:35:01] What our sources tell us, and Jim Sciutto is reporting and Carl Bernstein last night, is not only that Cohen was present when he alleges then candidate Trump was told about this upcoming meeting with the Russian lawyer at Trump Tower, but that several others were present. That would mean several others heard this as well. If they corroborate Cohen's story, is that enough to tip the balance in his favor here in the eyes of prosecutors and the eyes of Mueller's team?
GERGEN: Sure. If somebody else flips and says that they were there and that there was an agreement and it was approved, that's going to give a lot of weight to Cohen's argument. Absent somebody coming forward, I think his argument is going to be seen by the public as Rudy Giuliani was arguing as less than truthful. It says, here's a guy who has ever reason to sing in order to get away with a minimal punishment for whatever he may be held accountable.
GERGEN: And so you've got to take that into account in determining whether you think he is credible or not. Now Mueller has to sort of weigh that. Does he want to give him a lighter punishment, which means he has to -- Cohen has got to have a believable story or Mueller may say, listen, buster, everybody else says something else. I just can't believe you.
HARLOW: Yes. And --
GERGEN: You better come up with some other tale if you want to walk out of here.
HARLOW: And Shan, quickly, why would Michael Cohen be motivated to potentially lie about this?
WU: He's clearly trying to send out some sort of signal that go easy on me. He hasn't talked with Mueller yet from reports that we're hearing. So he's hoping for a deal at this point. Also to the point of the credibility, prosecutors build the credibility piece by piece. So they, of course, will talk to anybody else he claims was in the room. And also, more attenuated is how reliable will his testimony and statements be about the tapes?
If those all prove to be very reliable, if the tapes are reliable evidence, they kind of add piece by piece to Cohen's credibility.
DRUCKER: And Poppy, I would just point out one last thing here.
HARLOW: Thank you -- I've got to -- I'm so sorry. We're up against a break. And I have a lot of other news to get in. But you'll all be back.
David Drucker, David Gergen, Shan, thank you, guys. Have a nice weekend.
The Trump Organization's top money man may be forced to tell all next.
[10:41:52] HARLOW: Welcome back. If the criminal probe ensnarling his former lawyer is a headache for President Trump, what just happened in the words of a former Trump Organization employee is, quote, "the ultimate nightmare scenario."
The company's chief financial officer, this is him, he's a man named Allen Weisselberg, has reportedly been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors in New York.
Cristina Alesci joins me now. And you have been talking to multiple sources who know him well, who knows what he did in the Trump Organization. Why is he so important that having him subpoenaed would be an ultimate nightmare scenario?
CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN MONEY AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: I can't overstate Allen Weisselberg's important to the Trump Organization. This guy knows everything there is to know about the intimate business dealings of the organization and possibly of Trump personally. Now one former employee tells our colleague MJ Lee, quote-unquote, "Allen knows where all the financial bodies are buried, Allen knows every deal, he knows every dealership, he knows every sale, he knows anything and everything that's been done, he knows every membership, anything you can think of."
Poppy, and that is certainly reflective of all of the reporting that I have. And it's very clear that the prosecutors in New York have now crossed into Trump's business. Right? We don't know why they're there, right? We're not saying that there's anything nefarious going on in the Trump Organization.
HARLOW: That's important. Because this is the Southern District -- you know, the team of prosecutors that are investigating Michael Cohen right now.
HARLOW: And what you're saying is now this has bled over into the Trump Organization. "The Wall Street -- maybe.
HARLOW: The "Wall Street Journal" reports this morning that Southern District prosecutors are subpoenaing Weisselberg.
HARLOW: Why? Do we know why?
ALESCI: Well, we know prosecutors have been looking at Cohen for potential bank fraud, for potential campaign finance violations. And they've been looking at Michael Cohen for months and months and months.
HARLOW: And they want --
ALESCI: And now they want Weisselberg. Part of the reason maybe because we heard on the tape that Michael Cohen mentioned Weisselberg in the conversation between Michael Cohen and President Trump about potentially -- or setting up a company to potentially buy Karen McDougal's story. And that's where Allen Weisselberg's name really comes into focus, into public view. And now we learn that federal prosecutors want to talk to him.
HARLOW: And one of your sources says that Weisselberg knows the most about President Trump's business outside of his children. I mean --
HARLOW: I mean, he was hired by the president's father a long time ago.
ALESCI: Possibly more than the children. So the way that the Trump Organization works, based on all my reporting on it, is everyone kind of goes off on the business side and does their own deals, goes out and finds licensing opportunities. But there are very few people in the organization that know what everyone is doing. There's a handful. Trump, when he was there. Allen Weisselberg and maybe one other executive. And when Trump left, the White House, to go to D.C. he entrusted the business to Don Junior, Eric and Allen Weisselberg.
HARLOW: Yes. Keep digging, I know you will. Thank you for the reporting, very much.
Straight ahead, polling suggests Democrats do have a solid chance of flipping the House in November.
[10:45:02] But what's their message? Especially given the strong economy and the strong economic numbers this morning. We are talking to a lawmaker who is running for a leadership position in the party. What message does she think the Democrats need to send, next.
HARLOW: Welcome back. Republicans likely to use today's impressive economic report to boost their platform heading into the midterms. How are Democrats going to play their hand in November on this?
Democratic congressman of Massachusetts, Katherine Clark, joins me. She's announced this week that she's running for vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus.
It's nice to have you.
[10:50:03] REP. KATHERINE CLARK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Poppy, it's good to be with you.
HARLOW: So you see the GDP report, 4.1 percent. That is good. The deficit is coming down. That is good. This is a good news story for the president and for the Republican Party. We know a lot of people vote on the economy. How are Democrats going to play this?
CLARK: Well, I think what we have to ensure is that this good economy is impacting those folks at home. And I can tell you what I hear from families around the country and certainly in my district. They are concerned about their wages and that their paychecks aren't going far enough anymore to cover increasing gas costs, groceries, the rent. And we have to make sure that this economy instead of closing the winner's circle to those who are already wealthy and to large corporations, that we open it and it trickles down to make sure that we are not just sprinkling some of this economy on American families, but we are giving them opportunities to have a good quality of life and a good paying job.
HARLOW: We -- look, we have unemployment near an 18-year low. Factory production is up, as the president talked about. Wage grown is an important point, 1.2 percent wage growth, which is not as strong as many would like it to be. But this is overall a very, very strong economy.
So when it comes to what you should run on, and that message you just bring up, as you hope to be more of a leader within the party, what about the Russia probe? Because there's some interesting new CNN polling. And what it shows us is that the American public, not just Democrats or Republicans, the entirety of the American public, their confidence in how Mueller is handling the Russia probe has fallen from 48 percent in March to 41 percent now. That's the lowest it has been in our polling.
Is this something that Democrats should look on and consider as they are running and not run on Russia and not run on the Russia probe and instead focus on other issues like immigration, like health care?
CLARK: I can tell you what the focus of Democrats are going to be on. And that is what matters to families at home. Overwhelmingly what we hear our people's concerns about health care and making sure that they have coverage that covers pre-existing conditions and a allows them to afford prescription drugs.
HARLOW: So not Russia --
CLARK: Americans are worried --
HARLOW: Is what you're saying, right? I mean, it sounds like you're saying it's a mistake for Democrats to run on this, to run on Russia. Talk about other things.
CLARK: I think that Democrats are focused and rightly so. The reason we're seeing this energy that's out there is because our candidates are connecting with voters on the issues that they talk about around their kitchen tables.
HARLOW: Let me get your --
CLARK: Now we have to make sure that we protect the Mueller investigation and that we allow it to run its course. But the issues that --
HARLOW: So let me get your take on something related to that. I'm just getting it in my ear. And I'm sorry for interrupting.
HARLOW: But it is that the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders has just said that, yes, president Trump is open to the invitation that Vladimir Putin made to him to go to Moscow, pending, you know, certain -- pending a formal invitation. But the president is open to going to Moscow. Should he go?
CLARK: Listen, with this president and what happened in the meeting back in Helsinki, we have seen a president who has been an apologist for Russia, who has chosen to take Russians' words over their attacks on our elections and democracy, over that of our own intelligence community. But I can tell you that the focus of this midterms, while we're going to do everything we can to protect the integrity of the Mueller investigation, it's going to be on the issues that matter to families at home.
CLARK: And that's the connection with voters that we're seeing and it's driving the energy for Democrats around the country.
HARLOW: On your desire to be more of a leader in the party, what you're running for, you wrote this recently. Quote, "The diversity of our caucus is our greatest asset. And we are stronger as a caucus when every member has a chance to contribute."
We all know the makeup of Democratic leadership right now and it is largely old and white. Is it too old and too white?
CLARK: I can tell you what I'm seeing is, you know, the enthusiasm, the people who are coming out, not only to vote but help these candidates be successful because they understand that we're talking to their needs. That we're talking to what their aspirations are for their children, for their lives.
HARLOW: But I'm asking you if leadership is reflective of the diversity of your constituents?
CLARK: And what I'm saying to you is that the diversity of this caucus and what we are hoping to do, job number one is to win the majority because we want to reflect and put those values of working families back on the table in Washington.
[10:55:10] And the diversity of our caucus and our leadership is one that I think reflects the American people. As we go forward we're going to have a lot of new members of Congress.
HARLOW: Congresswoman --
CLARK: And I think we're going to see a lot of people running for leadership positions that are very diverse.
HARLOW: Thank you. Thank you for joining us. We're up against this hard break. We'll have you back. I appreciate your time.
HARLOW: Thanks very much, Congresswoman Katherine Clark.
CLARK: All right.
HARLOW: Thanks for being with me today. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.
Still ahead, Vladimir Putin has invited the president to Moscow. We just heard what the White House said that he is open to it. Our coverage continues after this.