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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Manafort Found Guilty On 8 Counts, Mistrial On Other Charges; Michael Cohen Pleads Guilty, Implicated Trump. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired August 21, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:14] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next breaking news, the President's longtime personal lawyer saying President Trump ordered the hush money payments, the major blow to the President. How will he respond?
Also more breaking news tonight, Paul Manafort found guilty on eight counts. Trump still insisting the Manafort verdict has nothing to do with him. How badly, though, is the President damaged by this?
And an Iowa college student missing for more than a month, now an undocumented immigrant has been charged with first degree murder in her death. A lot to get to. Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening everyone, I'm Poppy Harlow in tonight for Erin Burnett. And OUTFRONT tonight breaking news, guilty, a stunning day on two fronts. Two people in the President's inner circle either pleading or found guilty.
President Trump's former longtime attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, pleading guilty to eight counts of campaign finance violation, tax fraud and bank fraud, including an importantly hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. The hush money payments that Cohen said then candidate Donald Trump directed. Cohen's stunning words today, and I quote, "in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office."
Also breaking tonight, the President's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, found guilty on eight counts. The judge declaring a mistrial on 10 other counts after the jury failed to reach a verdict. We have a lot to get to.
Let's begin with Kara Scannell, she is OUTFRONT in New York outside of the courtroom where Cohen pleaded guilty. And, Kara, you were in there today. You heard it first hand from Michael Cohen's mouth essentially naming the President as a co-conspirator.
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy. Michael Cohen side guilty today to eight counts. He spoke very forcefully and very directly when he described to the judge exactly what crimes he has committed. He explained the tax evasion charges and also for filing false information to a bank.
But where he really nailed in on the President here without naming him by name was when he described those campaign finance violations, that those violations have to do with payments that were made to Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniel.
And precisely what Cohen said was he had done this in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office. We know at the time he was working for President Trump. And he said he did it, "for the principal purpose of influencing the election."
So, Poppy, right there is really, you know, effectively naming the President here without naming him and implicating him in this crime that Michael Cohen just plead guilty to. And, of course, these are Michael Cohen's words, his allegations that this was at the direction of the President. But in court under oath he says that he committed campaign finance violations at the direction of the President.
HARLOW: Hush money to, you know, a porn star and director and a former "Playboy" playmate of the year to mislead the American people leading up days before the election. It is stunning and significant. Thank you very much Kara for your great reporting on this since the moment that it broke.
Let's talk about all of this. Shan Wu is with me, former Federal Prosecutor, he is also the former attorney for Rick Gates, Manafort's associate. Harry Sandick is here, a former AUSA for the Southern District of New York, very relevant tonight. April Ryan, White House Correspondent for American Urban Radio Network joins me and Frank Bruni, New York Times Columnist. Thank you all for being here.
And Harry, let me begin with you because as a former AUSA in the Southern District, the same team that just got this guilty plea from Michael Cohen that is significant. Again, in Michael Cohen's own words he did this, he coordinated hush money payments in the days leading up to the election with a porn star and with a former "Playboy" playmate of the year to mislead the American public, "in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office." We now know that person is the President of the United States. How damaging for the President?
HARRY SANDICK, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: I think it's very damaging. A plea allocution is a very solemn thing. A person goes in, he admits that he's committed to crime at the beginning. He's put under oath. He's told he's under penalty of perjury.
SANDICK: And it was under penalty of perjury that he made this very serious accusation. He is somewhat who is known the President for years and what he said essentially was, "I committed a campaign finance violation at the direction of the President several days before one of the closest elections in the American history." I think it's dramatic.
HARLOW: And Shan, to you, I mean, this is someone who had said he would take a bullet for the President, the President's fixer. But today under oath, as Harry rightly and importantly notes, he said, look, the President is and tell me where the co-conspirator on this. He did not take a bullet for the President tonight. Unprecedented?
SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Quite unprecedented. I think the President has fair warning. I think Cohen has been begging for some attention and I think Cohen would have been happy to have enter this plea bargain several days ago. He really has wanted to have some kind of way out of this and he hasn't have one.
WU: And I think it is quite unprecedented for him to basically --
[19:05:01] HARLOW: Right. But let's be clear, Shan. I mean, he said plea bargain. At this point, our reporting from our team in Kara Scannell is that there is no plea deal yet with prosecutors in the Southern District or with Mueller's team. I mean, there's no formal cooperation here saying, you know, "I'm going to -- you're going to go easy on me, give me a sweet deal and I'm going to give you all the goods here."
WU: Right. I think there's a distinction to be made between a cooperation agreement as you're pointing out, which oftentimes says very specific and explicit terms about the cooperation.
When there is a plea bargain, and I haven't seen this document but I'm assuming it's still considered a plea bargain and that they could have brought other charges, he's not just pleading straight up to it, he is under an obligation as Harry said, to tell the truth, both in that allocution and in the future during that entire process.
He is in no position to try to withhold information at this point. If he's asked further questions, he's going to have to tell the truth about it.
HARLOW: So, Frank, the President is trying to distance himself from Cohen more and more recently, but he still says he's a good man. I mean, let's just listen to how the President has weighed in on Michael Cohen from April through June.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Michael is my attorney.
So I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys, a good man.
I can tell you, he's a good guy.
TRUMP: I haven't spoken to Michael in a long time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is he still your lawyer?
TRUMP: No, he's not my lawyer, but it was.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your personal lawyer? TRUMP: But I always liked Michael, and he's a good person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: A good person, a good person, a good person. How does the President spin this, because he avoided reporter questions tonight when they asked him.
FRANK BRUNI, NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST: This is a very hard one to spin and I think it's probably a very hard one for him to absorb. I mean, what you're hearing in all these comments is a reflection of the fact that for 10 years, for a decade, they had a very, very close relationship.
And so Harry very eloquently talked about the kind of legal ramifications here on what this means legally. What does this emotionally for the President, you know what I mean? He has all these investigations going on. He feels a sense of the world closing in.
And someone who was one of his closest aides and a very good friend for over a decade or about a decade just plead guilty to federal crimes and said, "I committed this federal crime at the direction of the President of the United States." Didn't name Donald Trump, but Donald Trump is someone that he was talking about.
There's no way Donald Trump isn't feeling this emotionally in a very raw way and I think we're going to see that come out at the rally in West Virginia tonight.
HARLOW: Sure. I mean, the President speaking in just moments in West Virginia. We're obviously monitoring it very closely.
April, you've covered the White House day in and day out. And, you know, the people that the President works most closely with and the President himself repeatedly denied knowing anything about these payments to Stormy Daniels. Let's just listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the President and Michael Cohen talk about this payment at any time during the campaign or thereafter?
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Not that I'm aware of. I'd refer you to Michael.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?
TRUMP: No. No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then why -- why did Michael (INAUDIBLE) if there was no truth to her allegations?
TRUMP: Well, you have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney and you'll have to ask Michael Cohen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?
TRUMP: I don't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: There you go. Today we do know because Michael Cohen answered that question, "You'll have to ask Michael Cohen," in court today and said it was at the behest of the President.
Rudy Giuliani said in May on another network, you know, "Yes, he knew about these payments and, you know, he paid him back." How does the White House handle this? What does Sarah Sanders say at the podium when you and other journalists ask her?
APRIL RYAN, W.H. CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Well, let's not even go to Sarah, that would be tomorrow. Let's talk about tonight. The White House, from what I'm understanding from our Republican sources are -- White House staffers are very upset tonight and they're very concerned about what the President could say tonight in West Virginia, so that's the first step.
And then tomorrow, you know, we always hear Sarah Sanders do President explaining, pres-plain as they call it. You know, he said this but he meant this. You know, this President and Michael Cohen are polar opposites on the truth as it relates to what happened with these payments. But -- and there is a credibility issue on both sides. But at the same time, you have tapes, sex lies and videotape and audiotape now. So that's the issue, the proof.
And Michael Cohen apparently understands that he's condemned a damned man for him to plead guilty to this because there is evidence. So we have to wait to see what the President has to say, because earlier today when the President disembarked Air Force One, he talked about Paul Manafort, but his silence was deafening on Michael Cohen.
HARLOW: Right, yes. You just heard he just was walking. I was wondering if he's going to turn around, going to answer, because he sometimes does when reporters keep shouting at him. He did not.
Harry, Rudy Giuliani when he was on Hannity on May 2nd, I believe, and he was asked about all of this and this is what he disclosed, that the President paid him back, paid Michael Cohen back for the $130,000. And even Sean Hannity was like, what?
[19:10:00] But when it comes to the issue of could it be campaign finance violation, here's how Rudy Giuliani, the President's personal lawyer, responded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GUILIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: Was it a campaign finance violation, which usually would result in a fine, by the way, not this big storm troopers coming in and breaking down his apartment and breaking down his office.
(END VIDEO CLIP) HARLOW: Right. That horrible storm troopers comment aside, is this just some little thing that Rudy Giuliani is saying? He's like a campaign finance violation. If that's it, not a big deal.
SANDICK: No. Here's the key distinction, if you commit a campaign finance violation by mistake, let's say there's a limit and you exceed the limit and you didn't know you made the mistake, that you get punished with a fine. If you willfully, in other words, intending to violate the campaign finance law do so, then that is a crime. And you can be prosecuted by the way.
SANDICK: It is a felony. You can be punished. I think it's a five- year maximum and it's a serious crime. So the distinction, though, is it by accident or is it intentional and willful?
HARLOW: And so, Shan, the thing is it is pretty much settled and some contest it. I just hear, you know, Senator Blumenthal contesting it with Wolf. But, legally, you know, you can't indict a sitting President, right? If that's the case, then this is political. This is in the hands of Congress at this point, Shan, or do you see it differently?
WU: I think ultimately it is going to be political. I think Mueller is a conservative prosecutor. I think the Southern District is not going to try to make any new ground by trying to indict the President. And I think it does end up being the question of, does this add to the impeachability of Donald Trump. And I think an interesting question related to that is ultimately when Mueller's report comes out, which is not about this particular case.
WU: How does he handle this information? Does he need to include it in it as well? And I think that's, you know, probably a question for him.
HARLWO: I mean, Frank, to you, isn't the best case scenario here tonight for the President, the best case, that at the very least he didn't hire the best. That at the very least the President hired admitted and convicted felons. Did I miss anything? I mean, that's what keeps reverberating in my head.
BRUNI: No. I'm just laughing, but we also need to say one other thing about Michael Cohen which we haven't, which is we do not know for a fact that he's not yet going to cooperate in some measure with Robert Mueller. That was sort of left out there. It's not part of this agreement. It certainly seems less likely than it did a month ago.
But if you follow the reporting on this closely, it remains an open question as to whether Michael Cohen will talk to Robert Mueller whether (INAUDIBLE) and whether Mueller would then turn around and recommend a lighter sentence. So that chapter of the story is not over -- HARLOW: Good point.
BRUNI: -- and the President remains exposed in that fashion.
HARLOW: So, April Ryan, to you, the also -- the President, remember, was calling all of this a witch hunt over and over again. He said it on April 9th when Michael Cohen's, you know, apartment was raided by the FBI.
Well, now this is a "witch hunt" according to the President with a guilty plea and an admission in front of a federal judge by Michael Cohen. Will the President continues this language tonight afterwards? Does it work for him politically?
RYAN: Well, you know, it works for his base because the President's poll numbers are very high with his base as it relates to Russia. But, again, I've said it over and over again. This is not about theater. This is not about a reality show that's played out, produced by the White House on taxpayer dollars. This is about the rule of law.
And this is about an election process that has been going on for hundreds of years and now has been tampered with by Russia and then also maybe with some of those who are close inside the camp of the Trump circle to pay off, to get loans, to pay off a porn star and a "Playboy," whatever you call her, to pay these women off to try not to influence an election with information that they may have. These are serious allegations.
And the President could indeed, as he calls this a witch hunt, could be named an unindicted co-conspirator to this election issue that Michael Cohen is facing, as simple as that.
HARLOW: Thank you all. Don't go anywhere because there is a lot of breaking news tonight. Next, we're going to talk about Paul Manafort, the former chair for the Trump campaign found guilty, the jury could not reach a verdict on 10 of the 18 counts but came down with 8 guilty counts. Will Trump try to claim a victory on that front tonight?
Also, new details on the President's thinking this evening as two Trump insiders join the list of people facing these charges. What happened to only hiring the best?
Also we do have other breaking news, police have arrested an undocumented immigrant in the murder of that Iowa college student. We'll bring you the latest.
[19:18:09] HARLOW: President Trump's former Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort convicted on eight counts of financial crimes. He's found guilty on five tax fraud charges, two counts of bank fraud, one charge of hiding foreign bank accounts, all felonies. The Jury though, unable to reach a verdict on ten other accounts. President Trump reacted just moments ago to the verdict.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: This is a witch hunt, and it's a disgrace. I feel very badly for Paul Manafort. It was not the original mission, believe me. It was something very much different. So had nothing to do with Russian collusion, we continue the witch hunt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Evan Perez outside of the courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia for us tonight. Evan, thank you for being here, let's go through the first, the eight guilty verdicts. And then, this mistrial on ten other counts, what does this mean for Manafort?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, one of the first things you have to look at is that Paul Manafort was found guilty of two of these counts of bank fraud. Those each carry up to 30 years in prison. And so, look, his tax fraud -- the tax fraud charges, which each carry three years or five counts in those in which he was found guilty. And then, there's the one count of not declaring foreign bank accounts. And that carries a five-year term possibly.
Look, in a worst case scenario, Paul Manafort could spend the rest of his life in prison. We don't know what the sentencing details will be. The judge has not indicated when sentencing will come. But the prosecution, you can bet are looking at trying to get the maximum against Paul Manafort. Keep in mind Paul Manafort has another trial coming up in the next few months in September.
PEREZ: At least in the District of Columbia Federal Court which has to do a lot more with his activities in the campaign. So we don't know, you know, right now what Paul Manafort would get. But, you know, we're looking at possibly the rest of his life in prison.
[10:20:09] HARLOW: Right, that upcoming trial in just a few weeks in September having to do with money laundering among other accounts. Before you go, Evan, how is Paul Manafort responding? What is his family saying?
PEREZ: Right. He had no reaction immediately in court. When he was leaving he gave a nod and a wink to his wife as he was exiting the courtroom. One of the things the judge did was directly address Paul Manafort telling him he had been found guilty of these charges. He looked straight ahead, Poppy.
When he was leaving the court, his lawyer stopped by the microphones and said he was exploring all his options. We do not know whether that means there's going to be an appeal. Again, he has another trial coming up in just a few weeks.
HARLOW: Right. You know, cooperating, I suppose, still an option for him. Evan, thank you very much.
With me now, my guests are back. And, Harry, back to you, a former AUSA with the Southern District. Eight guilty counts against Manafort, ten counts they could not reach a verdict on. Who won tonight?
SANDICK: The Special Counsel Mueller and his team, Greg Andres, the prosecutor, didn't have standing job at trial. They want the ten counts on which the jury was unable to reach a verdict. Those are just open counts. They'll sit out there perhaps forever if the government feels they're not necessary for sentencing.
And at sentencing, under a quirk of our constitutional laws that currently stands, the conduct for which that related to the hung jury counts can be considered as part of sentencing. So the sentence could be the same as if he were convicted on all of accounts.
HARLOW: Shan, the President as you just heard from him moments ago, was saying that this is a witch hunt, and he's saying this had nothing to do with his campaign, et cetera. But if you read through the charges that Manafort was found guilty on, specifically charge 25 and charge 27, they were about bank fraud, bank loans that extended into March of 2016. March of 2016 is when Paul Manafort began his work with the Trump campaign. Significant?
WU: I think it is significant. There's no way for the president to avoid the taint of what this conviction does. I think I do slightly disagree with harry. The defense did an outstanding job, too. I mean, they identified the weak points in the case. And I think kudos really have to go to the jury.
I mean, this was a really sharp jury. They focussed right in on the most important things right from the get-go. But there's no way the President can escape the taint of this conviction.
HARLOW: So, again, to the President distancing himself, Frank, again and again, from Paul Manafort. You can't deny that you hired the guy and he ran your campaign, one of the most critical points for five months leading up to the convention, getting the delegates, et cetera. But, but we have polling, recent polling in the last few days that shows that Republicans are not fans of Mueller and how he's handling the probe, 66% disapprove of how he's handling the probe. Only 22% approve.
So did today change anything at least politically for the president's based in those Republicans? Those the guilty verdict make a difference to them?
BRUNI: I don't think it's going to make a big difference with the heart of the base. But there are still a lot of people in the middle, you know, who are kind of smelling something bad from the Trump administration, who are feeling like this climate is wrong, this administration is unethical. And there's no way today's verdict doesn't move them further toward those beliefs and maybe even get them out to the polls.
And also, the President when he says rigged witch hunt, rigged witch hunt. He gives the impression there's no wrongdoing out there that the wrongdoers and wrongdoing are completely made up. In this case as a result of Mueller's investigation, the work still being done, a group of jurors, independent, obviously not stacked with partisan Democrats said Paul Manafort is a criminal. This investigation that began with Mueller did lead to the exposure of criminal activity and the conviction of a criminal.
And so when Donald Trump now says rigged witch hunt, rigged witch hunt to fair-minded people that has less power and relevance than ever before.
HARLOW: They think I could have been one of those average Americans on that jury.
BRUNI: That's right. We're talking about a man who essentially defrauded the government out of millions of dollars. This is not a fine man as Donald Trump has said over and over again.
HARLOW: And said tonight, April Ryan, the President said tonight, "Paul Manafort is a good man" and that he feels "sorry" for Paul Manafort. He has never ruled out possibly pardoning Paul Manafort, which he can do because these are --
HARLOW: -- all federal charges. Listen to what he said just last Friday on this question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I don't talk about that now. I don't talk about that now. I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad. When you look at what's going on. I think it's a very sad day for our country. He worked for me for a very short period of time but you know what? He happens to be a very good person. And I think it's very sad what they've done to Paul Manafort.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: So, April, a presidential pardon possible? Probable? Out of the question?
[15:25:00] RYAN: Well, I'm not going to say it's out of the question because what he said once again leaving Air Force One, he felt badly for Paul Manafort. That is key right there.
Paul Manafort has been, I guess, held the line with the President. He's not done a Michael Cohen, if you will, using Michael Cohen as a verb, which he have done back and forth with him. But Paul Manafort has kept his mouth shut, has not really gone out in the press, talking against the President or putting anything out there.
So in the President's eyes he looks good. But according to my Republican sources, as of two weeks ago, there was no paper or anything as it relates to a possible pardon of Manafort. But that doesn't necessarily mean anything with this President because he can wind up once there's a conviction, turn around and say, hey, you know, we're going to do this. We're going to change things.
But you got to remember that this President does not like anything as it relates to this Russia investigation. But what we're forgetting is, when we talk about this tax issue that Paul Manafort has been found guilty on with these eight counts, that money that he received came from this oligarch who had links to the Kremlin. And that's --
That's a very important. That's a very important point in the work he get for Ukraine --
RYAN: That's a very important point, yes.
HARLOW: -- was for the Yanukovych regime which, you know, propped up by the Kremlin and by Putin. It's an important point.
Harry, to you. Look, the President, one thing he said tonight that stood out to me that isn't getting the headlines but it's important. And I quote. He said, "This is nothing to do with where they started out, meaning Mueller's team. It was not the original mission, believe me." The thing is, that's just wrong. I mean, when Rosenstein said Mueller do this probe. You can do this probe. It can be as broad as you need it to be and your tentacles can reach where they need to, right? Lead this where it may. And the President is saying that's not the case.
SANDICK: Yes. And it also -- I think even more than that, it did actually touch up against the campaign in ways that became apparent through the evidence. So there was testimony relating to some of the bank fraud issues about a job offer to someone in the administration who helped get a large loan for Manafort.
HARLOW: Well, Department of Justice in this case actually showed an e-mail that was sent from Paul Manafort to Jared Kushner, the President's son-in-law that said, "Hey, I recommend you hire the head of this bank that by the way, Manafort is trying to get 60 million dollars in loans from to be the secretary of the army. It never happened but there was an attempt.
SANDICK: Absolutely. And it part of the bank fraud. And so, this clearly did touch upon the campaign. Not as directly as Michael Cohen statement in court today, but it absolutely grew out of the campaign and also grew out of, as you point out, the investigation that was conducted.
And if you come across additional crimes in the course of the investigation, should the prosecutor just bury his head and say, well, sure we found serious crimes but because they don't prove collusion or something, we're going to ignore them? That -- no.
HARLOW: 30 seconds for, Shan, to you first. What hurt or who hurt the President more today, Michael Cohen or Paul Manafort?
WU: I think Michael Cohen hurt him worse and also poses a far greater continuing danger.
BRUNI: I think I can say as the combined force of the two of them. And once again, we have to kind of reckon with who Donald Trump associates himself with and what kind of behavior he tolerates or turns a blind eye to.
HARLOW: Like my mother taught me when I was young, you are who your friends are, right? You are who you associate with.
BRUNI: That's a bad aphorism for Donald Trump.
HARLOW: All right. Thank you all, one and all. I appreciate it.
OUTFRONT next, Congress calling for Michael Cohen to come back again to testify. I'll speak with Congressman Mike Quigley who sits in the House Intelligence Committee . Does he want to hear from Michael Cohen again?
Also, President Trump likes to claim that he only hires the best people. How do you explain then Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn and others? Next.
[19:32:38] POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: Breaking news. You are looking at live pictures tonight out of West Virginia. President Trump is there at a campaign rally in Charleston waiting to see if he addresses the big news today that his former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight -- excuse me, that his former campaign chair Paul Manafort pleaded guilty to eight counts, including tax fraud and also Michael Cohen pleading guilty to these counts as well that he at the behest of the president paid off Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.
Let's go to Jim Acosta. He joins us from the rally in West Virginia.
So, Jim, obviously, you are listening to see if the president addresses this tonight. What about what the White House is saying leading up to now?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so far, pretty quiet in terms of official comments coming out of the White House. They're referring us to outside lawyers in these cases we've been focused on all day long. You heard the president when he landed in West Virginia described Paul Manafort as a good man, seized on that verdict in that case to go after the Russia investigation, calling it a disgrace and a witch hunt.
But I will tell you, Poppy, the plans, the political plans at the White House, the president's supporters, they have been dashed in terms of how they're going to respond to this -- at least thus far. I talked to a source close to the White House earlier today who said, listen, the plan over at the White House was in hopes of a favorable verdict in the Paul Manafort case and if they'd gotten a not guilty verdict or some kind of mistrial, they were going to seize on that to go after the Mueller investigation. They obviously did not get that.
As for the Michael Cohen case, they were planning to go after that as having to do with Michael Cohen's business dealings in New York, taxicab business dealings in New York.
HARLOW: Right. ACOSTA: That obviously did not pan out as well. And so, Poppy, what you are seeing is they are responding to all of this in real time. You heard the president earlier this evening trying to distance himself from Paul Manafort.
But I am talking to a number of Republicans sources this evening. I've talked to a source close to the White House just in the last several minutes who told me this Michael Cohen case and the plea agreement he entered into up in New York sounds, quote, terrible for the president. And this is somebody who has been advising the White House on legal and communications strategy on how to deal with all of this.
ACOSTA: And I also talked to a key Republican source up on Capitol Hill who essentially said they're just trying to catch their breath up there.
[19:35:05] So, this whirlwind of events, this avalanche of very negative legal news for the president, it is definitely hitting a lot of Republicans, top Republicans hard tonight but so far, the president not really weighing in at this rally. He is sort of sticking to his greatest hits in terms of what fires up the crowd at these rallies, Poppy.
HARLOW: For now. We'll see.
And I should clarify, of course, it was -- it was Michael Cohen who pleaded guilty here and Paul Manafort who was found guilty on those eight counts. A lot of news tonight.
Jim, thank you.
ACOSTA: That's right.
HARLOW: OUTFRONT now, Democratic congressman from Illinois, Mike Quigley. He sits on the House Intelligence Committee.
It's an important night to have you and I'm glad you're here. Thank you for joining me.
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Thank you. Glad to be here.
BURNETT: So, tonight, we heard Michael Cohen say in his own words in this federal courtroom that he committed felonies at the behest and direction of the president of the United States. Your reaction?
QUIGLEY: A shocking day. I've got to tell you, it reminds me of the president of the United States saying he was only going to hire the best people. Well, two of those best people could conceivably have a reunion in jail. Extraordinary moment.
The president called it a sad day because he was sympathetic to Manafort. Obviously, it's a sad day for the United States of America, because some of its top leadership are extraordinary criminals at best.
HARLOW: So, assuming a sitting president cannot be indicted. If you stand with that belief, this becomes a political matter. I mean, this is in your hands. This is in the hands of Congress and this could be referred to Congress, this high crime and misdemeanor. And then Congress has to decide what to do.
Given the developments tonight, and you have been one of the Democrats who said don't jump too quickly towards articles of impeachment, given all of this, given the fact Michael Cohen says it was at the behest of the president that he organized these hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, if Democrats retake the House, would you support at this point moving forward with articles of impeachment against the president?
QUIGLEY: I want to be fair and consistent. What I told my colleagues months ago was let the Mueller investigation take its course. If they had gone forward with impeachment months ago, they wouldn't have had any of this information.
And I think this investigation has a lot more information to bring out. I think there's a long way for the Mueller investigation to go. So, it would be just as wrong for me to say let's wrap it up now.
When you're doing an investigation, the most important investigation of our lifetime and, obviously, I'm old enough to remember Watergate, you let it take its course. It doesn't need to be political on either side.
But toward that end, the speaker of the House needs to step up. If it wasn't a call for profiles in courage before, it certainly is now. He let the chairman of the intel community shut the investigation down. In the meantime, they hampered that investigation. They work with the White House to obstruct the investigation. I think today is a call for them to reconsider and allow the American public to find out what happened.
HARLOW: Let me --
QUIGLEY: Remember, this investigation was on the House side, not just about what Mr. Mueller's investigation. It was about how to prevent the Russians from doing this again and who else was involved.
And look what we saw overnight, that Microsoft discovered the hacking of all of these different think tanks, et cetera, by the Russians.
Let me get you something Maggie Haberman of "The New York Times" is just reporting. She just tweeted, quote, Trump folks are worried about impeachment more than before. The thinking goes like this. This is something tangible, not theoretical. And it didn't come from Mueller. Does not mean it will happen, but this has moved things into a different stage in their mind.
And she's speaking to the president's folks, Trump folks on all of this.
Should the president be more worried about impeachment than before because of what has happened today?
QUIGLEY: Oh, I think he should, and I think he is. I think when we see this investigation take steps forward, the president reacts with his tweets in kind. It's extraordinary. It's a little edgy.
My concern is that the president reacts and begins beyond just obstructing the investigation. I think he starts talking more seriously about pardons. I think he starts talking more seriously, what did he say just yesterday? That he can take over this investigation.
This is a president who did whatever he had to do to acquire power. Why would anyone imagine he wouldn't do anything to maintain that same power?
HARLOW: He said in that "Reuters" interview, I could run, meaning the Mueller probe. I'm going to leave it alone for now but I could if I wanted to.
Look, Michael Cohen testified before your committee, before the House Intel Committee behind closed doors. And a lot of it was about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting with the Russians. Our CNN reporting is that Cohen did not testify to you and your colleagues behind closed doors that Trump had advance knowledge of that meeting.
[19:40:02] Now, according to our reporting, Cohen is willing to testify that Trump did have advance knowledge of the meeting. Do you think Cohen lied to your committee?
QUIGLEY: I said a long time ago that there were new facts. There was new information. There were new documents that should dictate that Mr. Cohen come back and speak to our committee.
QUIGLEY: I think that's what the Senate leadership on the intel committee there was referring to today.
HARLOW: It is.
QUIGLEY: I think there are a lot of serious questions. Was he in Prague in 2016 meeting with the Russians or any place else for that matter? In 2017, did he act as an intermediary with the Russians on lifting sanctions between the Ukrainian connection and General Flynn? And, of course, the question raised just earlier, what was that $500,000 payment for from the Russian oligarch with ties to the Kremlin? What was that for if it was the same shell account used to pay off Stormy Daniels?
HARLOW: Clearly, you want him to come back and testify before your committee again. Clearly, you have more questions. But very quickly before I go, do you think he lied to you?
QUIGLEY: I think he lied, and I think he withheld information.
HARLOW: Congressman Quigley, I appreciate you being here tonight. Thank you.
QUIGLEY: Thank you. Any time.
HARLOW: OUTFRONT next, President Trump vowed to hire the best. How does he explain Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn and others? We'll dive in.
Also, Iowa police arrest an undocumented immigrant in the murder of college student Mollie Tibbetts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mollie grabbed a hold of her phone and said you need to leave me alone. I'm going to call the police. Then she took off running. He in turn chased her down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:45:39] HARLOW: Breaking news: President Trump speaking right now at a rally in West Virginia. So far, though, he has not mentioned the eight guilty verdicts against Paul Manafort or Michael Cohen pleading guilty to these felonies. A source close to the president admitting today was, quote, a bad day for the home team. And that the president has been, quote, stewing all day.
Let's talk about this because it was a big day.
OUTFRONT now, Paul Begala, former White House counsel to President Clinton, and Jason Miller, former senior communications adviser for the Trump campaign.
Gentlemen, nice to have you. Important day to have you both.
Jason, you worked so closely with the president, with this team. How bad of a day was it for him?
JASON MILLER, FORMER SENIOR COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER TO THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Well, this is obviously a pretty bad day for the team, but I think also it's important to keep things in mind when it comes to the full context. I mean, so far, we've only heard when it comes to Michael Cohen one side of the story. And the one side of the story that we heard so far is from someone who is now an eight-time felon who did not pay their taxes for five years.
And I think it's also important to keep in mind that this is someone who is supposed to be the president's lawyer. And what lawyers are supposed to do is tell you where the very clear bright lines are about how you're supposed to go forward and operate within the construct of the law. And so, you have someone who clearly is not able to operate in the legal, ethical standards, and then also is not able to give you very good legal advice. I think that when the president in his legal team come forward and
tell their side of the story, I think you're going to see that this is far from being over.
HARLOW: Well --
MILLER: But to your initial point, yes, these are very serious allegations. I don't want to seem as though I'm dismissive.
HARLOW: OK. Two points on that and then I want to get you on here, Paul.
First, you know, the legal team already has set out the president's side of this. Secondly, as recently as June 15th, the president called Michael Cohen a good guy. And, frankly, Jason, it sounds like you're saying a man running for the highest office in the land to be leader of the free world doesn't need to know about campaign finance laws. It's up to his lawyer to tell him if this is right or wrong. I mean, that he doesn't need to know that perhaps it's wrong to request hush money payments to a porn star and former Playboy playmate of the year to mislead the American people.
Is that what you're saying?
MILLER: Well, what I'm saying here is that a lawyer in a situation like this -- and again I'm learning about this from the public reports so I don't have any inside knowledge into this and so I know the same amount of information here that you do -- is the fact that Michael Cohen from the information we're getting today is portraying this image as though he was some poor, hapless sap who basically was just taking direction from the president in implementing some sort of course of action.
And I think to go and say as a lawyer that he just took some course of action and went and did something illegally, I think that's really a stretch for a lawyer who is supposed to be in good standing to act as if the woe is me, I was just happened to be here. I think that's really going to be tough to prove in the court of law. That's just my take from reading these public reports.
HARLOW: All right. He already pled guilty to it.
PAUL BEGALA, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: Well, what's astonishing, Poppy, is that Michael Cohen, the man who said he would take a bullet from Donald Trump, is now holding a gun to his head. This is the worst day of the Trump presidency, but I have to tell you, there are worse days to come.
Mr. Cohen knows where all the bodies are buried. He will have a powerful incentive to coordinate. I was shocked that he stood in court today under oath and accused the president of the United States of felonies, right? He said I acted in coordination with and at the direction of the candidate for federal office, meaning Donald Trump. So, he says yes, I broke the law. He's a felon now. And he said I
did it with the coordination and at the behest of Donald Trump. Now, he's not going to say that unless there's more evidence to back that up, documentation, maybe even tapes. Goodness knows Mr. Cohen was maybe unethically taping Mr. Trump from time to time.
So, this is not -- this is the worst day so far but I've got to tell you, Jason, buckle up because there's worst days coming.
HARLOW: To that point, Jason, let me get your take on what Maggie Haberman of "The New York Times" just tweeted. He's been talking to folks in Trump world and she said Trump folks are worried about impeachment more than before. The thinking goes like this, this is something tangible, not theoretical. And she goes on.
[19:50:02] Is she right? Should the president be more worried about impeachment now at almost 8:00 p.m. tonight than he was at 8:00 a.m. this morning?
MILLER: I think if the Democrats get control of the House, they're definitely going to push for impeachment. But I would have said that last week and I definitely would say that today and I'll say that tomorrow. I think the Democrats are -- that's clearly what their mission is going to be.
HARLOW: We just heard from a Democratic member of Congress who said, you know, not yet. Wait for the Mueller report to play out.
MILLER: No, no, the Democrats are going -- they're going to go for impeachment. They're going to go all the way and try to take out President Trump or at least try to mortally wound him in advance of 2020.
And I actually go back to the previous guest you had on a few minutes ago, and notice how it's kind of funny how the Democrats will cherry pick when they want to go and give perfect credibility to someone like a Michael Cohen, but then also point out and say he's a lying liar from liarsville. I think this -- to this point, regarding Michael Cohen, you can see where there are going to be some very serious issues to a witness like this, especially -- I mean, the fact that he doesn't have a cooperation agreement, I think goes to the point that he is viewed as so toxic that there's no way they're going to go and give someone like this a cooperation agreement.
BURNETT: It's a fair point that there are credible questions. We'll see if a cooperation agreement does come forth.
To you, Paul, right now tonight, the president has not once brought up Paul Manafort or Michael Cohen. But the crowd in West Virginia, some of them are chanting right now, lock her up, lock her up. I mean, you laugh, but does it not speak to the strength of the president's base when you have our polling just a few days ago that shows among Republicans, 66 percent disapprove of how Mueller is handling the Russia probe, only 22 percent approve?
BEGALA: Yes, but that's not all Americans. The president has his base, as did Richard Nixon. It didn't do Nixon any good.
The problem that the president has is that most Americans are turning on him. Of course, most Americans voted against him in the election anyway, but there are an awful lot of people who voted for Donald Trump who are now having buyer's remorse, who are looking for a check and a balance. This could very well be a brake pedal election where voters say, you know, hey, let's just kind of check this guy and balance him.
HARLOW: Maybe his approval rating overall has been sticking throw through all of this at around 42 percent. I have 30 seconds.
BEGALA: Forty-two percent, which sucks.
HARLOW: I need to know on the pardon -- it's actually, you know, in a better position than Jimmy Carter or and some others at this point in their presidency.
Real quickly to you, Jason, pardon. The president has not ruled out pardoning Paul Manafort. Would you advise the president to pardon Manafort?
MILLER: I don't like any of the talk about pardons.
HARLOW: There you go. Even got it within my time limit.
Thank you both.
BEGALA: Thanks, Poppy.
HARLOW: OUTFRONT next: breaking news, an Iowa college student missing for more than a month, now police have charged an undocumented immigrant with Mollie Tibbetts' murder.
[19:56:58] HARLOW: Breaking news tonight, an undocumented immigrant has been arrested in the murder of an Iowa college student. Her name, of course, you know by now, Mollie Tibbetts. Officials say the suspect, Cristhian Rivera, led them to the body that they believe to be Tibbetts. Tibbetts went missing on July 18th while jogging, and police say surveillance video played a key role in helping solve this case.
Let's go to Ryan Young. He is OUTFRONT in Montezuma, Iowa.
And, Ryan, beginning tonight, what can you tell us about this man, the suspect, and how police tracked him down?
RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know he's an undocumented immigrant. And, of course, he was arrested after the video that police saw him on and had a conversation with him, and apparently, he was talking to investigators. They believe he's lived in the area for the last four to seven years and he's kept a small footprint here. They also believe he worked for a farmer, not sure what his occupation
was. But what we're told is a neighbor turned over some video. And detectives have been going through that for days, and when they went through this video, they saw a dark colored car, and they also saw Mollie running by.
And eventually, when they caught up with this man, they started talking to him. He says he was following along with her, trying to talk with her. At some point, he got out of his car and was running alongside of her when she said she was going to dial 911.
Now, get this. He said he blacked out and then the next thing you know, he put her in the trunk, and days later, he led investigators to her body that he put in a corn field and tried to cover with corn stalks.
HARLOW: Oh, Ryan, the outpouring for Mollie Tibbetts I can just imagine that community tonight.
YOUNG: Yes. You know, we cover these quite often, and one of the things that is scary about this situation is, you saw people from the small community showing up because they wanted to hear what happened to this young lady. As we were driving in, you could see her posters all over, even large trucks had her picture on the side of the semis.
And people were captivated by this case. They wanted to know what happened to this young lady. And we're showing you this video. This is friends who showed up, people in the community who were concerned about her.
They started crying in the news conference. So much pain here, as you heard the details about this man apparently blacking out and talking about taking her to a corn field -- details that maybe they shouldn't have heard, but they wanted to know what happened to this young lady.
HARLOW: Of course.
YOUNG: And your heart obviously pours out to them.
HARLOW: You know, watching her family speaking to news outlets over the past month, just praying and hoping that she was still alive, and then to get this news. It's devastating. Are you hearing anything from authorities tonight there, Ryan, about a motive?
YOUNG: Well, that is something that we kept asking questions about. Obviously, this investigation is still fresh. They said there may be more that they can't share right now, and even when we got the affidavit, we learned a detail about him placing her body in the trunk.
We're not even sure if he took the body to the corn field right after he apparently killed her. Of course, this is just the conversation. His first court appearance will more than likely happen tomorrow. So, maybe we'll learn more in the next few hours -- Poppy.
HARLOW: Ryan Young, my heart, all of our hearts are with her family, that entire community in Montezuma, Iowa, tonight. Thank you, Ryan.
Thank you so much for being with me tonight. I'm Poppy Harlow in for Erin Burnett.
"AC360" starts now.