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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Trump Falsely Suggests That Hush Money Payments Weren't Crime; Davis: Cohen Has No Information that Trump Had Prior Knowledge of Trump Tower Meeting. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired August 22, 2018 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:16] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
From the people who brought you the notion that truth isn't truth, here's something new -- crime that isn't crime, non-crime, by the way that, President Trump says he never committed even though at least some of his argument is undermined by his own voice on tape.
And the surreal little nugget is just part of the picture as the president and his people try to spin the cold reality that two more of his former associates are felons and one of them, attorney Michael Cohen, has directly tied him under oath to pair of crimes. His attorney Lanny Davis joins us momentarily.
As for the president, he responded today by slamming Mr. Cohen on Twitter saying, quote, if anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest you don't retain the services of Michael Cohen.
A bit less than an hour later, the president turned to the fact and law twisting portion of his morning, quote: Michael Cohen plead guilty to two counts of campaign finance violations that are not a crime. He tweeted: President Obama had a big campaign finance violation and it was easily settled.
Well, keeping them honest, very quickly on the second point, first, the president appears to be referring to a 2008 Obama campaign which was fined $375,000 by the Federal Election Commission for missing certain reporting deadlines. The matter didn't rise to the criminal level because there is no evidence that the misreporting was actually deliberate.
By contrast, Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to a pair of violation that's not only were deliberate but also according to Cohen's statement were done, and I quote, in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office. He bought the silence of Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal just weeks before the election and he pleaded guilty to it.
As for it not being a crime, well, perhaps Mr. Cohen should try telling that to the judge at his sentencing. But beyond this legal claim which we'll discuss shortly with Jeff Toobin and professor Alan Dershowitz, the president also say that he did not have advanced knowledge of the hush payments, that those payments were lawful.
Here's what he said to Fox. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
INTERVIEWER: Did you know about the payment?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Later on I knew. Later on.
But, you have to understand, Ainsley, what he did and they weren't taking out of campaign finance. That's a big thing. That's a much bigger thing. Did they come out of the campaign? They didn't come of the campaign. They came from me.
And I tweeted about it. You know, I put -- I don't know if you know, but I tweeted about the payments. But they didn't come out of campaign.
In fact, my first question when I heard about it was did they come out of the campaign because that could be a little dicey. And they didn't come out of the campaign. And that's big.
But they weren't -- that's not a -- that's not even a campaign violation. If you look at President Obama, he had a massive campaign violation. But he had a different attorney general and they viewed it a lot different.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, again, the Obama campaign violation certainly drew a hefty fine but was a misdemeanor not a felony.
As for the claim that the payments he made were personal and therefore kosher, that's not how career professionals in the Southern District of New York saw it. As for not knowing about the Daniels payment and McDougal deal until later on as the president told Fox, it's not like he's on tape or anything about talking about one of those arrangements before the fact, the one to silent Karen McDougal, I mean, because if he were on tape, he would know it would undermine his whole argument, right?
Apparently not. Cue the tape.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: 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 --
TRUMP: Give it to me and --
COHEN: And I've spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with --
TRUMP: So what do we have to pay for this?
COHEN: -- funding. TRUMP: One fifty?
COHEN: Yes. And it's all the stuff --
TRUMP: I was thinking about that.
COHEN: All the stuff. Because here you never know where that company -- you never know what he's going to be --
TRUMP: Maybe he gets hit by a truck.
COHEN: Correct. So I'm all over that that. And I spoke to Allen about it. When it comes time for the financing, which will be --
TRUMP: Wait a second, what financing?
COHEN: We'll have to pay him something --
TRUMP: We'll pay with cash.
COHEN: No, no, no, no. I got -- no, no, no.
TRUMP: Check --
COHEN: Hey, Don. How are you?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, I guess in a world where truth isn't truth and crime isn't crime, your own voice on tape isn't your voice on tape.
This is where we are tonight. The president is obviously trying to absorb a body blow, and he doesn't seem to have any good answer because there may simply be none, which might explain why his press secretary this afternoon could only offer a string of non-answers when asked about the Cohen case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: As the president said we've stated many times, he did nothing wrong. There are no charges against him. And we've commented on this extensively.
As the president has stated on numerous occasions, he did nothing wrong. I'm not going to get into the back and forth of the legal part of this. I would refer you to the president's outside counsel on that.
The president has expressed his views on that. I don't have anything further to add. Once again, I commented on this pretty extensively. For anything beyond that, I would refer you to the president's outside counsel.
[20:05:00] Once again, I have addressed this a number of times just because you continue to ask the same questions over and over. I'm not going to give you a different answer. If you want something further, I would refer you to the president's outside counsel.
We have addressed this a number of times. The president has addressed this a number of times. I addressed all I'm going to say on the Cohen issue. Once again, the president has expressed his views on this matter and I have nothing else to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: By the way, just for the record, saying you addressed something, that's not saying you've actually answered something. It just means you responded to it like you saw the person's lips moving and you responded, you didn't actually answer the question.
But the only correspondent who managed to press Sarah Sanders today, or really press, was CNN's Kaitlan Collins. I just want to play the interchange she had with Sarah Sanders, so you get a better sense of the moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: In his interview, the president said he found out about the payment that's Michael Cohen made later on. But he's on tape discussing how to make one of the payments with Michael Cohen. So before the payment was made. So, how do you explain that?
SANDERS: I commented on this pretty extensively. What I can tell you about this is that the president did nothing wrong. There are no charges against him. There is no collusion for anything beyond that. I would refer you to the president's outside counsel.
COLLINS: Rudy Giuliani is not a taxpayer funded spokesperson for the president. You are. So, how can you not explain the president said today on the grounds of the White House that seems to contradict an audio that has been confirmed that it is of the president saying that.
SANDERS: Once again, I have addressed this a number of times. Just because you continue to as the same questions over and over, I'm not going to give you a different answer.
The president has done nothing wrong. There are no charges against him. There is no collusion. That's what I can tell you about this.
If you want something further, I would refer you to the president's outside counsel.
COLLINS: Does the White House maintain -- does the White House maintain the president did not have affairs with Karen McDougal or Stephanie Clifford?
SANDERS: We addressed this a number of times.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Kaitlan Collins joins us now. Kaitlan, I mean, it's pretty incredibly that the briefing today, Sanders refusing to give one straight answer about anything having to do with Michael Cohen and the president.
COLLINS: Anderson, she was completely unable to mount any kind of defense in light of the claims that Michael Cohen made. It was a bit like reading the back of a shampoo bottle., said the president did nothing wrong. There have been no charges, repeat, to every single question she was asked, no matter which way it was asked about what Michael Cohen has said implicating the president in a crime.
But, Anderson, you could see why Sarah Sanders would say something like that because you remember back in March when she came out and definitively stated that the president didn't know anything about those payments made to Stormy Daniels, citing a conversation she had with the president where he denied it, she could have easily had one of those today where the president denied that he directed Michael Cohen to make those payments only to later be contradicted by the president.
COOPER: In terms of the sort of the mood in the White House and people working there, what do you hear? What are you learning?
COLLINS: Well, it's a little dark, because the president is in a very bad mood. He did not see what happened with Michael Cohen coming. His top lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is currently out of the country. And those who know the president best and work with him every day say that he seems like he is backed in a corner and they truly, Anderson, don't know what it is that the president is going to do next in response to all of this.
COOPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins, thanks very much.
Now my conversation with the public face for the moment of Michael Cohen, Lanny Davis' credentials as a crisis management expert and attorney are well known. Tonight, his expertise is being used to address a question of his client's credibility because regardless of whether you put any credence in Mr. Cohen's critics or not, he doesn't exactly have a reputation in the past as a truth teller. I asked Lanny Davis about it just before air time.
COOPER: Lanny, the central push back tonight from the president's allies is that Michael Cohen lied about these payments, that he's a liar. He told "The New York Times" back in February that either the Trump Organization or the Trump campaign was a party with the transaction of Ms. Clifford and need to reimburse me for the payment either indirectly or directly. That was a lie. He also said payments to Ms. Clifford was lawful and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure. That was a lie.
Why should the public believe him now?
LANNY DAVIS, MICHAEL COHEN'S ATTORNEY: Well, first of all, he's admitted to lying and he has taken a course he hopes shows he's taking responsibility. Secondly, the prosecutors did a thorough job of investigating the facts. And what he said in what is called the allocution where he is talking to the judge about what he is admitting to, on the key issues involving President Trump. He said that he was, according to the words of the allocution, that he specifically was directed and coordinated through president Trump's direction the payment of this money to Ms. Daniels and he took responsibility under oath and said that that was a -- an illegal act because it had a primary political purpose which is the criminal violation of the campaign finance law.
COOPER: But you could understand why some people are skeptical.
COOPER: He's doing this under oath. I know you said you started working with him because he convinced you he really wanted to start telling the truth.
[20:10:05] He did though have his own friend and attorney David Schwartz go out on television time and time again. I mean, I interviewed him multiple times repeating the lies that Cohen was telling back at that time.
I don't know if he lied to David Schwartz. I mean, did -- did he lie to David Schwartz? And if he lied to Schwartz, couldn't he be lying to you?
DAVIS: Of course. It took me a while to talk and get to know Michael and his decision to change his life and as he said to me, hit the reset button and recognize you can't get a redo in life when you make mistakes and some of the things that he did for Mr. Trump he talked to me about and not being particularly proud of or things that he said that weren't true on camera. He is not particularly proud of that.
COOPER: But isn't that a change of heart only after his offices are raided and he realizes he is facing possible serious jail time?
DAVIS: Sure. But when we talked, it was mostly about his feelings about Mr. Trump, his positions on issues, his conduct of the presidency, and what I found after quite a long period of time talking to him, a sincere conviction that Mr. Trump represented a danger to the country. And would I help him tell his story which I guess I'm known as a crisis manager to get facts out and to no matter what you've done up to a point to take responsibility for your mistakes. And --
COOPER: But I mean that is such a huge change of heart for this guy. He was the guy that said he would take a bullet for him. Anything Mr. -- he was on CNN during the campaign --
DAVIS: Take the bullet.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, take -- you know, saying things which were, you know, probably demonstrably false but he would -- you know, he was an attack dog for the president to now suddenly say he believes the president's a danger to the country? I mean, that's more than a 180. I don't even know what that is.
DAVIS: Well, there are people in life who have transformative experiences and they're sincere and there are people who continue to lie and are opportunists. You have to judge which is which when you use your instincts, when you get to know someone. I took a while in making the judgment that he was ready to talk about Mr. Trump and his knowledge about Mr. Trump and the disadvantages that he now saw that as a businessman were very dangerous as president.
Now, whether he's telling the truth or not is anybody's judgment. And your skepticism is certainly not only entitled but founded on what he did in the past. I made the judgment that I believed him. And I would believe him based on his words and his deeds.
COOPER: On -- sorry. Go ahead.
DAVIS: I mean, so far I still believe he's telling the truth.
COOPER: On "Good Morning America" today, you said that Michael Cohen and I quote, can now speak completely the truth without the shadow of the potential prosecution hanging over him. You said you thought he'd be willing to speak without any guarantee of immunity.
If that's true, why doesn't Michael Cohen hold a press conference tonight or tomorrow morning and just speak the truth? I mean, if he has no shadow hanging over him, doesn't care about immunity, why doesn't he just stand up in public and say everything he knows right now?
DAVIS: Well, several reasons. First of all, the criminal case in the Southern District is not over. There is still a question of sentencing and assessing under the guidelines. He --
COOPER: But wouldn't that speak in his favor if, I mean, if he's told the prosecutors everything he already knows, why can't he just now tell the public everything he already knows?
DAVIS: I can only tell you, Anderson, to complete the thought he hasn't finished his lawyer has not finished the discussions with the prosecutors who he's been very respectful of and until those discussions on all the details including he has a wife and two kids, period of incarceration that he is facing, his lawyers have given him advice that he's got to wait. He also has the special counsel who he's either going to be talking to or has talked to. I won't be able to tell you which.
DAVIS: But there are a lot of moving parts in a very tragic situation that there will come a time as I said in "Good Morning America" when the shadow of uncertainty becomes certainty. He's going to be incarcerated. He's going to leave his family behind quite traumatized that he wants to turn his life and tell the truth. COOPER: You were just on with Wolf Blitzer. You said that Michael
Cohen was present for a meeting with Donald Trump and his Don Jr. about the Trump Tower meeting. This is obviously an incredibly important issue. You also said that Michael Cohen testified truthfully to the Senate Intelligence Committee and according to the chair and vice chair of the committee, he told them he had no knowledge of the meeting until he saw it in the press.
[20:15:05] How can both of those things be true? Either he knew about the meeting or he didn't know about the meeting.
DAVIS: Well, I think the reporting of the story got mixed up in the course of a criminal investigation. We were not the source of the story. And the question of a criminal investigation, the advice we were given, those of us dealing with the media is that we could not do anything other than stay silent.
COOPER: So can you say now whether in fact Michael Cohen has information that President Trump was aware either before the Trump Tower meeting that Don Jr. was part of with Russian attorney from the Kremlin with dirt on Hillary Clinton, either that Michael Cohen has information that president knew about it in advance or knew about it immediately after?
DAVIS: Senator Burr and Senator Warner read the answer to the question about his testimony which is that he said he was not aware ahead of time. And did not hear anything to the contrary and that was the testimony before the Senate as well as the House Intelligence Committees and he said that testimony was accurate.
COOPER: So, Michael Cohen does not have information that President Trump knew about the Trump Tower meeting with the Russians beforehand or even after?
DAVIS: No, there's not.
COOPER: I know you won't say if you spoke to Mueller's team. I'm obviously not going to press you on that. You said last night that you believe Michael Cohen, quote, has knowledge about whether or not then-candidate Trump knew about the computer crime of hacking and whether or not Mr. Trump knew ahead of time about that crime and even cheered it on.
Do you stand by that tonight?
DAVIS: I think I was a little bit more tentative on that. I think what I said was that at some point, Mr. Cohen might be able to be useful to the special counsel about whether President Trump knew ahead of time about the hacking of the Hillary Clinton e-mails. And it's not a certainty the way he recalls it. May or may not be useful to Mr. Mueller and I don't want to go beyond my intuition.
COOPER: Right. I know you have to be careful.
DAVIS: I used the expression that I think what he can say would be useful. And that's the way I have to leave it.
COOPER: There are two fascinating details in the charging document that haven't gotten a lot of attention. One is on page 16 of the criminal information document, I should call it. It says that Cohen, quote, coordinated with one or more members of the campaign including through meetings and phone calls about the fact, nature and timing of the payments. Talking about the payments to Stormy Daniels and McDougal.
We know one person was the president. If, in fact, there was another person involved in the campaign who he was talking about this with, e- mailing, discussing, do you know who that other person was?
DAVIS: No, I don't. And, you know, unidentified in -- you're reading from the information document.
DAVIS: -- underlying the plea. And I do not know that. And if I did, I would not be able to discuss that because he's still in the process of dealing with the prosecutors on all of the issues that still remain.
COOPER: Can you say if there is another person from the campaign or even who is now in the White House?
DAVIS: I can't say.
DAVIS: I can't say.
COOPER: Did you ever ask Michael Cohen that question?
DAVIS: I've talked to Michael Cohen about a lot of things but the specifics until the information came out, I was not aware of the details of what the government was saying and who was involved in the chain of command on the decision to pay the -- what looks like an illegal campaign contribution that he has owned up to under oath which Mr. Trump has not. But, no, the answer is I don't know the identity of a number of individuals that are not identified in that information.
COOPER: Because obviously, the reason I'm pushing, if there is another individual who had information about these payments who was part of the campaign and who maybe even is still part of the White House, that would obviously be extremely important and a new detail and a fascinating one.
The other detail in the documents is that Michael Cohen charged the Trump Organization $50,000 for what he listed as text services which according to the court document was, quote, related to work that Cohen solicited from a tech company during and in connection with the campaign.
Now, previously Michael Cohen had -- supposedly had no role in the campaign. Can you say what company that was and what services were rendered or was that another payment to protect then candidate Trump?
[20:20:02] Or can you even say if Michael Cohen was involved in the campaign?
DAVIS: I just learned all this in the last several days. As you know, the final plea agreement and the final statement in court was just a couple days ago. So I haven't gotten the ability to find out the answer to that question either. I believe that Mr. Cohen referenced that contract as something that he was doing to assist the campaign. But I don't know too much about that either. Sorry.
COOPER: But officially Michael Cohen was not part of the campaign. Isn't that --
COOPER: So if, in fact, he was -- if he was telling the truth in what billing was, he -- he was claiming to the Trump Organization that he was actually doing work for the campaign which heretofore had not been known?
DAVIS: Well, I think just reading it without knowing the details, I just read what you read, it appears that he had a contract to provide technology support and he supplied that vendor to the campaign and passed through the expense. But I'm just reading something that I don't know much about. I have not talked to Mr. Cohen about so I'm just speculating.
COOPER: Lanny Davis, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
DAVIS: Thank you.
COOPER: Well, just ahead, we're going to break this down with our own legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, as well as Harvard's Alan Dershowitz, who compared the campaign finance violations facing the president to jaywalking. We'll explain that, ahead.
And later, Stormy Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti and all that transpired on the last 24 hours, some of which he predicted and where things may go from here for his client and his one time adversary Michael Cohen.
[20:25:51] COOPER: Before the break, you heard Michael Cohen's attorney Lanny Davis defend his client's credibility in the face of allegations of what he said under oath in court yesterday is not to be trusted. He also said that Mr. Cohen did not have information that candidate Trump had prior knowledge of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians, but he continued to maintain that Michael Cohen does have information that might be useful to Robert Mueller's investigation.
In any event, what Mr. Cohen has already said has set off tremors in Washington, triggering an eruption from the president about a man he thought was a standup guy.
Back in April, the president tweeted: Michael is a businessman for his own account lawyer who I have always liked and respected. Most people will flip if the government lets them out of trouble, even if it means lying or making up stories. Sorry, I don't see Michael doing that despite the horrible witch hunt and the dishonest media.
That as they say was April a long, long time ago.
Joining us is Harvard University's Alan Dershowitz, author of "The Case Against Impeaching Trump", also with us, his law school student, CNN's chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
So, Jeff, I want to go back to this thing which is, I mean, if -- Lanny Davis is saying that Michael Cohen is unburdened. He doesn't care about immunity. He wants to speak the truth. Can he just speak the truth?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Sure.
COOPER: I mean, he's raising money for people to pay him to speak the truth and fund him. Can he just hold a press conference?
TOOBIN: He could. I mean, he is also under the thumb of the prosecutors at this point. And they may not want him to go public at this point. I mean, they may want -- they may continue their investigation. They don't want his story out there. That's possibility.
COOPER: You mean the Mueller prosecutors?
TOOBIN: Mueller prosecutors or the -- I mean, particularly the Southern District because that's where his case is.
TOOBIN: So I don't know what the play has been between Cohen and the prosecutors. But certainly as a legal matter, there is nothing stopping him from telling a story right now.
COOPER: Professor Dershowitz, you said that the White House, that the assertion the White House made that president committed no crime here -- I mean, do you -- do you think Michael Cohen committed a crime here?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, HARVARD LAW PROFESSOR: Well, it all depends. These campaign finance laws are so confusing that even Justice Scalia with the help of four brilliant law clerks said he couldn't figure them out. For example, a president or a candidate is entitled to make millions of dollars for contributions to his own campaign. And if he himself, if President Trump paid the hush money, hush money is not illegal, it would not be a crime.
COOPER: If he did it through his corporation -- DERSHOWITZ: No, no, put aside the corporation, for a second.
COOPER: But that's how the money was paid back to Cohen.
DERSHOWITZ: Well, you know, the question is what was his state of mind at the time if he directed the person to do it? If he directed the lawyer to do it and if it came from his own money, that would be lawful.
COOPER: Right, but --
DERSHOWITZ: But if Cohen himself made the contribution, we'll see. Cohen himself made the contribution, that would be a crime by Cohen. But that wouldn't make Trump an unindicted co-conspirator, because you can have a crime committed by Cohen, but even if he's directed to do it by Trump, if Trump had the authority to do it and it really depends on where the money came from, it depends on a variety of issues.
COOPER: But I'm asking if you it came from the Trump organization. You seem to be avoiding what Cohen has himself has said.
TOOBIN: Can I answer your question in one word?
DERSHOWITZ: What we know there are contributions that are made by corporations and we know that the Supreme Court has had a terrible time figuring all of this out. And you don't use complex, subtle, confusing criminal law as the basis either for charging or impeaching a president. That's why people are mostly fined violating these very, very complex laws.
TOOBIN: You know, it's helpful to Donald Trump to think this is all that complicated. It's not that complicated.
Did Michael Cohen commit a crime? You bet he did. Let's think about why campaign finance laws exist at all, right? The reason they exist is so that we know who finances campaigns and we know what they spend the money on.
The Trump campaign and Donald Trump lied about both of those things on an incredibly important subject, because they didn't -- they wanted to spend the money to help Donald Trump get elected president and they wanted to keep secret how they were spending the money because the public might not have liked $280,000 spent in hush money for women that Donald Trump apparently slept with. That's what happened here.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, HARVARD: That's absolutely right, that's absolutely right. But tell me -- let's stop there. It's a crime under certain circumstances. It's not a crime under any other circumstance. A President would have the right to do the following. He'd have the right to pay the hush money. Keep it secret until the next reporting time which may be after the election. Direct his lawyer to pay the money. None of that would be a crime.
TOOBIN: But he didn't do that. That's very interesting --
DERSHOWITZ: Wait a minute.
TOOBIN: -- but that's not what happened.
DERSHOWITZ: We don't know -- we don't know what he did. You say that Cohen committed a crime. It all depends --
TOOBIN: Yes, so does Cohen.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Actually Cohen said he committed a crime and the judge said he committed a crime.
DERSHOWITZ: I understand that.
COOPER: But when you seem to be avoiding -- you don't believe that the Trump Organization was billed by Michael Cohen? And that Trump Organization paid back Michael Cohen?
DERSHOWITZ: There is a dispute about the facts. The President said today that he paid the money out of his own pocket. I think that's not true.
COOPER: He just said he paid.
DERSHOWITZ: And if it was a corporate -- if it was a corporate contribution, that's very different. Look, the law is so unclear after citizens united --
COOPER: You're saying that's a problem?
DERSHOWITZ: Of course. Well, look, it's all a problem. I'm not here to defend Trump. It's a problem. It's a problem because --
COOPER: When the President is saying it's not a problem.
DERSHOWITZ: It's a problem. I'm not here to defend the President. I'm here to say that it's a complicated issue. And that if a candidate makes a contribution on his own to pay hush money, that sounds terrible. It's a political sin. I'm here to say you have to distinguish between political sin and federal felonies. And I think a lot of the commentary so far has failed to do that.
COOPER: He compared this to jay walking. You said that all candidates running for --
DERSHOWITZ: Let me tell you what I compare to jay walking.
COOPER: -- you said that all candidates for president violate campaign election laws.
DERSHOWITZ: Let me tell you what I said. Don't tell me what I said, let me tell you what I said.
COOPER: Well I have the quote right here.
DERSHOWITZ: I said failing to report -- well, yes. Failing to report a lawful contribution is the political equivalent of jay walking. Every campaign --
COOPER: So he committed violated election law --
DERSHOWITZ: Every political campaign does that all the time. And they should be punished for it.
TOOBIN: And how many of those -- Alan, let me talk for a second, for God sake.
DERSHOWITZ: It's a crime for the campaign.
TOOBIN: I mean -- and you know, so like oh everybody does it. How many campaigns do it with a $130,000 to one woman and $150,000 to another woman in hush money --
DERSHOWITZ: Nothing illegal about that. Nothing illegal about that.
TOOBIN: If it comes from a campaign?
DERSHOWITZ: It's perfectly OK. Well that's the issue. That was the issue in the Ed Wood's cases, the jury refuse to convict in the Ed Wood's case. That was the issue in other cases. This is the most complex array of laws, relations and rules, but the simple part of it and the simple and most important part of it is a candidate may pay for any reason --
COOPER: Like your saying out of his own pocket. But there's no evidence the President paid out of his own pocket.
DERSHOWITZ: He may do it to prevent embarrassment in his family.
TOOBIN: All right.
DERSHOWITZ: If that's what happened, then there is no crime here.
TOOBIN: But even if he does it out of his own pocket, he has to report that he did it out of his own pocket. And that was not done here.
DERSHOWITZ: That's exactly right. That's exactly right and that is a violation. That is a violation.
TOOBIN: OK, so (INAUDIBLE).
DERSHOWITZ: It is regarded as a minor violation. Certainly not an impeachable offense to fail to report a lawful contribution. You find me any case where failure to report -- willful -- it has to be willful, first of all.
TOOBIN: Of course.
DERSHOWITZ: But second of all, failure to report is a crime against the campaign, not against the candidate. You show me any case where a person was actually charged criminally and sentenced to prison for failure to report an entirely lawful campaign contribution?
TOOBIN: You what Alan, I don't have a lot of --
DERSHOWITZ: This is existing laws and targeting somebody who none of us likes and who none of us voted for and that's the most dangerous thing can you do in the criminal law, stretch it to target --
TOOBIN: I know.
DERSHOWITZ: -- somebody who is unpopular with those who are doing the stretching. That's what I'm talking about.
TOOBIN: It's a heartbreaking treatment of Donald Trump who is so sympathetic --
DERSHOWITZ: It's not heartbreaking.
COOPER: I mean Jeff, nobody is forced the President of the United States to repeatedly lie about this time and time again, to lie to --
DERSHOWITZ: It's not a crime to lie.
COOPER: Well, I'm not saying it's a crime Professor. I'm just saying --
COOPER: -- it's really not easy. That the President of the United States --
DERSHOWITZ: I'm only talking about crimes --
COOPER: Well, I'm talking now. And I'm saying it's really sleazy. It is sleazy that Michael Cohen lied repeatedly about it, publicly, that he got his own attorney to come on television and either lie about it knowingly or accidentally and it's sleazy that Sarah -- that he'd allegedly seemed to lie to Sarah Sanders about it.
[20:35:17] TOOBIN: Alan, let me talk.
COOPER: You don't have to talk all the time. Let Jeff talk for a second.
TOOBIN: Alan, there is -- it is undoubtedly true that sleaziness is not a violation of federal criminal law. Sleaziness is in the eye of the beholder. And I don't think there's any doubt that there was sleazy behavior here. But it is misleading to say that federal campaign laws are so complicated that you can't know what they are. The whole reason why they paid this money in this convoluted way was to avoid -- was to break the law. Because they knew how bad it would look.
So it is not a terribly complicated story. It is a willful violation of the law.
COOPER: I got to wrap it there Jeff Toobin, Professor Dershowitz, always, thank you very much.
Just ahead, Republican reaction that can only be described as hands off in the wake of the Cohen guilty plea and the Paul Manafort conviction. I'll talk with a ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Virginia's Mark Warner.
[20:40:05] COOPER: More on our breaking news tonight, CNN's Phil Mattingly reports from Capitol Hill the days for Republican members of Congress are saying that short of firing special counsel Robert Mueller there's nothing that's going to split GOP senators and House members from President Trump despite what transpiring in court yesterday.
It's a position certainly highlighted by House speaker Paul Ryan's spokesperson who is you may remember made this statement yesterday, "We are aware of Mr. Cohen's guilty plea to these serious charges. We will need more information than is currently available at this point." To be clear when that statement was made, Michael Cohen had entered his guilty plea and all the information was out.
Virginia Senator Mark Warner is the ranking Democrat in Senate Intelligence Committee. I spoke to him just before air.
COOPER: Senator, the response from your Republican colleagues has been pretty deafening the silence of the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn't said one single word about what's been going on with Michael Cohen or Manafort. What do you make of that? I mean is there anything that could make them possibly speak out?
SEN. MARK WARNER, (D) VIRGINIA: Well, let's see how this proceeds. But what can they say if they're trying to defend the President when the President's campaign manager guilty on eight counts and has got another trial in less than a month that will explore his ties to Ukraine, pro Russian leaders and oligarchs that could even be war damaging to the President. And the President's lawyer and fixer not only pleading guilty and accusing the President of breaking the law around campaign finances, but voluntarily saying he's got information from Mueller and my understanding is his lawyer at least said even come before our committee and give information as well.
We've got questions about what he knew about Trump's knowledge of the hacked e-mails and how they were used to hurt Clinton and help Trump. We've also got questions from Mr. Cohen about his involvement in the proposed Trump Tower and Moscow, a lot of unanswered questions there. So we would welcome his appearance.
COOPER: I mean if Democrats were to take the House, obviously, a lot of them, you know, talking about the idea of possibly impeaching the President, is that something that the Democrats should pursue if in fact they do retake the House?
WARNER: That -- I'm not going to get down the line. I still -- we still got work to do before we reach our conclusion. We're the last standing bipartisan committee that's looking into this investigation. We're still trying to follow the facts.
COOPER: You know, Michael Cohen's attorney, one of his -- Lanny Davis, says that Michael Cohen wants to tell the whole truth to the American people. That he's maybe even willing to do -- speak without any immunity guarantees and that he no longer has this cloud, this legal cloud hanging over him. What I don't understand is if Michael Cohen wants to tell the truth so badly, what's preventing him right now? I mean couldn't he just hold a press conference right now and --
WARNER: He could go on your show.
WARNER: And -- yes. I don't -- again, the -- I think it's safe to say that the cast of characters that are around this President are unusual to say the least. I think we shouldn't be surprised. Remember, Mr. Trump was a business guy that no American major bank would do business with because they didn't think he paid his debts or honored his word. So I guess we should not be this -- that surprised although I'm frankly still fairly shocked that we got all of these guilty pleas and another 30 indictments coming out of the Mueller investigation as well as every Trump security official saying Russia is still an on going threat, yet the President still denies that threat and doesn't have anybody in charge of election security at the White House.
COOPER: The President claiming today that he found out about the payments only after they occurred. That's in direct contradiction to Michael Cohen's plea not to mention the recording of the President talking about making the payments or buying the life rights from AMI about McDougal's story.
When Sarah Sanders was asked today if the President lied to the American public about it, she basically just -- she refused to answer. Said it was a ridiculous question. I would think that would be easiest question of all for her to answer. WARNER: Well, I think the American public, even some of the President's strongest supporters, have got to be questioning at this point. And the idea that Mr. Trump always tells the truth, I think that has been refuted on our most daily basis. And when you've got live video of him saying one thing and then another thing. Again, Mr. Cohen has got his own credibility problems. But in this case in terms of the payments, boy, the time line, the recordings, the video of Trump denying even knowledge of this person all to me is pretty compelling that in this case at least I would bet on the fact that Mr. Trump knew and was deeply involved in this inappropriate payoff.
COOPER: And just lastly, Sarah Sanders would not rule out a pardon for Paul Manafort. You said that any attempt to pardon Manafort would be an abuse of power, would require a Congressional action. What kind of Congressional action exactly. I mean isn't pardon power absolute?
[20:45:01] WARNER: Well, I started putting this marker down last Christmas saying firing Mueller, firing Rosenstein, or starting to pardon family members or close associates would push us over the line. Everything since then from his performance in Helsinki where he cow towed to a Russian President in a totally inappropriate way, when he starting to threaten members of our national security community would taking away their security clearances because of people exercising their First Amendment rights, if this President now starts pardoning people that might have the goods on his bad deeds, even the most ardent supporters of this President, I hope that would make him stand up and stand for rule of law and not for rule of Trump.
COOPER: Senator Warner, thanks very much.
WARNER: Thank you Anderson.
COOPER: Coming up, I'm going to talk with Stormy Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti. More news ahead.
COOPER: The attorney for adult film star Stormy Daniels as he's still working toward putting Donald Trump under oath in the wake of Michael Cohen's guilty plea yesterday in federal court, Michael Avenatti, says its clear as day that the President violated campaign finance laws despite the White House assertions that did he nothing of the sort. Michael Avenatti joins us now.
[20:50:02] Hey, so, Michael, so first of all what went through your mind when you heard President Trump today claiming that despite everything we learned from Cohen yesterday, he didn't know about the payments until after they occurred?
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: Well, it's absurd, Anderson. I mean we've heard every story known to mankind from Donald Trump and Michael Cohen for that matter over the last six months. Welcome to the Alice in wonderland presidency. Here, Anderson, truth is not truth, a crime is not a crime, and Alan Dershowitz is not on television to defend Donald Trump.
COOPER: Earlier -- this year somebody else who was on television defending Michael Cohen was his lawyer in another matter and his friend David Schwartz. You were on with him multiple times. David Schwartz repeatedly said all the things that Michael Cohen was saying at the time, which we now know were lies. Whether -- we don't know if David Schwartz knew Michael Cohen was lying or if he was lied to as well. We reached out to David Schwartz to ask him, a, to come on. He declined.
But he also said, and I want to make sure I get this right, that he was only repeating -- he was "merely repeating the public positions that were in the public domain at the time." Was Michael Cohen do you think lying to his own attorney back then?
AVENATTI: Well, I don't know, Anderson. But that statement that you just read from David Schwartz is absolutely false. David Schwartz made numerous statements on your show and others where he stated that he'd had discussions with Michael Cohen in detail and he was laying out vehemently positions that we know now were absolute lies. I mean we had very spirited debates on your show. I know you remember them. I know I remember them. And now we find out that everything that was being espoused by David Schwartz was a complete fabrication.
COOPER: You know, I've asked the question a couple times tonight, why Michael Cohen if according to his attorney now Lanny Davis says, you know, he's free from the burden of the shadow hanging over him, he's free to tell the truth and he doesn't care about immunity. Why he doesn't come out and hold a press conference. I know you've been pushing for him to release any tapes he may have.
Jeff Toobin raised the possibility that well maybe, you know, the prosecutors still have something they want from him and he doesn't want to hurt their -- another case they may have. Do you believe he could come forward and just start talking?
AVENATTI: There's no question that he could, Anderson. And I've been demanding that for weeks, ever since Lanny Davis got involved and tried to repair the reputation of Michael Cohen, which frankly cannot be repaired. I've been stating for weeks that he should just come out, disclose what he knows, release the tapes, come clean with the American people. And if he wanted to do it right now, he certainly could.
COOPER: Lanny Davis said I think it was on "Good Morning America" or "Today" show this morning that -- I want to get the quote right. "Michael Cohen needs the American public's help to tell the truth". Basically, that he has a website and he basically is hoping to fund- raise, get donations to pay legal expenses for Michael Cohen. It's a lot of chutzpah on Michael Cohen's part that, you know, a guy who defrauded the taxpayers of $1.4 million according to the government to now be asking taxpayers to fund him so that he can then tell the truth.
AVENATTI: Well, it's outrageous, Anderson. You're absolutely right. I am highly confident that if Michael Cohen and Lanny Davis wanted to have a press conference or come on your show or any other show they wouldn't have to pay in order to do it. You don't have to be paid money in order to figure out a way to tell the truth. It's a pretty simple concept.
COOPER: You said you believe that Cohen's plea has increased your chances of being able to depose the President. How so?
AVENATTI: Well, because now we have a factual predicate for our allegations as set forth in the amended complaint that we filed in the case. You know, for many, many months we were told by Michael Cohen and his attorneys that our case was frivolous, it had no basis. Mr. Trump and his lawyers have said the same thing. Now we know all of those were lies. They were complete fabrications. We know that the allegations in our complaint are on solid footing. And we're going to lay that out for the court in Los Angeles.
I'm going to take a deposition of Michael Cohen under oath. I'm going to ask very pointed questions. And then I'm going to move on to a deposition of the President of the United States. And he may want to lie to the American people. But we're going to find out if he's prepared to lie under oath.
COOPER: Michael Avenatti, I appreciate your time. Michael, thanks very much.
AVENATTI: Welcome to the Alice in wonderland presidency.
COOPER: Yes, through the looking glass. Michael, thanks.
New questions in the murder of 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts as a suspect is arraigned in Iowa. The present Republican leaders are focusing on the case, trying to further their immigration agenda. We'll have the details, the latest on the case ahead.
[20:58:55] COOPER: In Iowa City tonight a vigil to remember Mollie Tibbetts, the 20-year-old student who went missing last month and whose body was found yesterday. Today the man accused of killing her, who was in the United States illegally, was arraigned on a first degree murder charge. The suspect worked in the Iowa dairy farm. It say, the co-owner of that farm said they've just learned that he gave false identification papers when he applied for the job.
President Trump and his allies have been highlighting her murder as an example of why they say there needs to be a change in immigration policy. Mollie Tibbetts was studying psychology at the University of Iowa.
Tonight people gathered to honor her life and her memory. Her family put out a statement thanking people from around the world who sent their thoughts and prayers. They said they'll carry Mollie in their hearts forever and are asking for time to process the devastating loss. Of course we'll continue to follow that story.
A reminder, don't miss "Full Circle", our daily interactive newscast that just started on Facebook. You pick the stories that we cover. You can see it weeknights 6:25 p.m. eastern at facebook.com/andersoncooperfullcircle.
Right now the news continues. I want to hand it over to Chris Cuomo for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thank you, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to "Prime Time."
[21:00:02] We have new information about what may be next for Michael Cohen. If he's going to deal with any more authorities. And the President's latest legal misstep.