Return to Transcripts main page
Two Former Trump Allies Who Helped Get Him Into The White House Are Now Facing Decades Of Prison Time, How Their Cases Could Impact The President; The Latest Crackdown On Disinformation From Facebook And Twitter, They Are Shutting Down Hundreds Of Accounts For Malicious Content And They Are Blaming Two State Actors; Time To Say Goodbye, The Emotional Family Reunions For Those Separated By The Korean War Come To An End. Aired: 3-4a ET
Aired August 22, 2018 - 03:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN HOST: Two former Trump allies who helped get him into the White House are now facing decades of prison time, how their cases could impact the President. The latest crackdown on disinformation from Facebook and Twitter, they are shutting down hundreds of accounts for malicious content and they are blaming two state actors. And later, time to say goodbye, the emotional family reunions for those separated by the Korean War come to an end.
Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church, and this is "CNN Newsroom."
Well, the man who once claimed he would take a bullet for Donald Trump may have put a knife in his back. The President's former lawyer, Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight charges, including campaign finance violations, and said he acted under Mr. Trump's direction.
But Cohen was not the only former Trump crony making legal headlines. A jury in Virginia has found former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort guilty of eight financial crimes. It is the first case special counsel Robert Mueller's team has taken to trial. The jury could not reach a verdict on 10 counts against Manafort, but they did find him guilty on five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of hiding foreign bank accounts. The 69-year-old Manafort faces up to 80 years in prison.
What happened in a New York court room could have much bigger implications for President Trump. Michael Cohen says Mr. Trump directed him to pay hush money to two women alleging extra-marital affairs with the future President of the United States. The President's current lawyer, Rudy Giuliani issued this statement, "There is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the President in the government's charges against Mr. Cohen. It is clear that as the prosecutor noted, Mr. Cohen's actions reflect a pattern of lies and dishonesty over a significant period of time.
CNN's Brynn Gingras as more now on Cohen's plea.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
BRYNN GINGRAS, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Michael Cohen implicating President Trump as he pleads guilty to eight charges of tax evasion and violating campaign finance laws.
ROBERT KHUZAMI, DEPUTY US ATTORNEY FOR SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: These are very serious charges and reflect a pattern of lies and dishonesty over an extended period of time.
GINGRAS: Though not mentioning either by name, it was clear through evidence and a dollar amounts that Cohen was referring to payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels and former "Playboy" playmate, Karen McDougall when pleading guilty to the campaign finance violations.
He also didn't mention Trump by name but said to the judge that payment regarding McDougall was quote, "For the principal purpose of influencing the election." Cohen also said in court that he kept information from becoming public quote, "In coordination and the direction of a candidate for Federal office." CNN has reached out to the President's personal attorneys for comments, the White House declined to comment.
Cohen is facing 65 years in prison. He posted a $500,000.00 bond and will face sentencing on December 12th. Cohen is not required to cooperate with the government as part of his plea agreement according to one source. The President's attorney turned fixer has been under Federal investigation for months. Authorities have been looking into his business dealings including $20 million in loans involving his taxi business. Brynn Gingras, CNN, New York.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
CHURCH: CNN legal analyst Laura Coates joins me now. Always good to have you with us.
LAURA COATES, LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: Thank you. Glad to be here.
CHURCH: Two of Donald Trump's men facing justice Tuesday. In Michael Cohen's case, his guilty plea directly implicates a sitting President.
CHURCH: Cohen says he paid women hush money at the direction of candidate Donald Trump and this is what Cohen's attorney Lanny Davis tweeted. "Today, he stood up and testified under oath that Donald Trump directed him to commit a crime by making payments to two women for the principal purpose of influencing an election. If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn't they be a crime for Donald Trump?" Wow. So what's your reaction to that? Is he right? Did Donald Trump commit a crime here?
COATES: It certainly says he did. That's according to the allocution, the statements made by Michael Cohen. I cannot impress upon you enough the gravity of this. You have a sitting President who wanted his right hand man, who knows him best of all, known as his fixer has come out in the court of law to say that he acted with the direction and in cahoots with the President of the United States to commit a felony offense and more than one. Well, this goes back to the understanding of what the executive branch
does. The President of the United States oversees the Department of Justice. It is his job to ensure that he is abiding by the laws of the land and to have somebody say and implicate him in this crime is astounding. Having said that, the campaign finance laws here in the US are quite clear. There is a cap on the amount of money you can give to an election campaign. There is also a reporting requirement that corresponds with whatever money you give. And you cannot simply try to circumvent those laws by having somebody pay it in advance and then you pay them back later through a loan before or after the election.
If you did that, there would be no point of having the election campaign finance laws because you can just wait until you win in order to have that money be shielded. So what you're seeing here is the President of the United States being taken to task for actions and activities that influenced the Presidential election and that is shocking.
CHURCH: So, if President Trump committed a crime here, what happens next? Because you can't indict a sitting President.
COATES: Well, there is a policy in the Department of Justice and of course, the policy is not necessarily the rule of law. It doesn't come with the same Presidential value as if a Supreme Court decision actually decided that issue.
But what it does say is that, under the DOJ policy, the Department of Justice, we don't want to throw the government into complete chaos by having a President be indicted and sitting in a criminal trial. But the notion here is very nuanced. It must be a sitting President. It does not mean that if impeachment proceedings were to come about, and impeachment were to be the result, you could not then indict a no longer sitting President.
So this is ironically very similar to what happened in a way like Watergate, where you had Richard Nixon who was named as an indicted co-conspirator based on that same policy that you could not indict a sitting President. Now, ultimately, he didn't face the criminal charges because of what happened next in America, but certainly a President could have the political consequence and could, once he is not the President of the United States still face those same charges. But really, we are in unchartered territory here.
CHURCH; And this is the situation, isn't it, because two legal blows for the President of the United States, Michael Cohen and of course Paul Manafort, now those two legal blows fueling this chatter about of possible impeachment, but what would the process be next? Because surely, Cohen would need to prove he was directed by Mr. Trump and Mr. Trump at this stage could say, he's a liar.
COATES: He could. Now, there is the court of law where you've got felonies and misdemeanors that correspond to different levels of charges, then under the impeachments there, you've got high crimes or misdemeanors. They don't necessarily correspond to your normal viewpoint of what's a felony and what's a misdemeanor. These essentially are crimes that are committed that undermine the power and the credibility of the office and includes things certainly like trying to get involved in campaign finance violations or any felony offense.
And so the process normally for impeachment is that you have Articles of Impeachment that are drafted in the House. Meaning, the House serves as a kind of a jury, a grand jury to say, "We think that there has been a wrong -- a high crime or a misdemeanor equivalent -- and we would like this person to be tried for impeachment." Then it goes to the Senate and they have a kind of trial like proceeding.
That is all incumbent of course on a willing House and a willing Senate to do either of those two things and that normally has a partisan affiliation to it. As you know, here in the States, it's run by the Republicans on both the House and the Senate sides, so there's not a whole lot of incentive to drop the actual Republican Party particularly before the midterm elections.
Now, if that were to shift this coming November, perhaps, it's a different incentive to do so, but ultimately, it all rests with the political process and one final thing, Mueller, his job as special counsel is to write a report to Rod Rosenstein who is acting in place of the recused Jeff Sessions. He will write a report that then goes to Congress to recommend all of his findings, and you can be sure that part of it will be that the President of the United States was implicated in committing felony crimes in the state of New York with somebody who was his right hand man. That will be part of the calculus that they will then consider in Congress about whether or not to impeach a sitting President.
CHURCH: So you would see Robert Mueller getting involved in this, not all legal analysts agree on that particular matter.
COATES: Well, Mueller did farm out the case to the southern district of New York because the crimes that were alleged with Michael Cohen did not come out necessarily of his directive of collusion. Looking into collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russia. Michael Cohen may have been the right hand man of Donald Trump, but he wasn't technically part of the campaign, although we are seeing campaign finance violations that came out of it.
And so he farmed it out. Now, because you farm out a piece of it, it doesn't mean he hasn't retained some greater authority in the long run to reclaim portions of it, and ultimately, he will have the task of drafting a report the encompasses all the different aspects of this case. Now, the case involving Michael Cohen came out of his mandate in the sense that if you think about the collusion investigation, being like, "Well, they have the directive to be able to investigate a murder in a home." And the process of looking into that murder, they pass by a coffee table with a mound full of drugs. They are not required to walk by that mound full of drugs, ignore it and not press charges simply because their ultimate directive was the homicide investigation. Michael Cohen in many ways is that coffee table lined with drugs to
say, we saw this, we've presented somebody else to more effectively deal with it, but they can still incorporate it because it fell under the umbrella of things that I was entitled to look at under my mandate, and because of that, it will be included in the report.
CHURCH: That's a good analogy there. Laura Coates, we thank you always for your legal analysis.
COATES: Thank you. I appreciate it. Thank you.
CHURCH: Thank you. And we did want to show you how some of the biggest newspapers in the United States are covering Paul Manafort's conviction and Michael Cohen's plea deal.
The "New York Times" headline says, "Pleading Guilty, Cohen Implicates President." It also includes a quote from Cohen that the acted in coordination with -- and the direction of a candidate for Federal office.
"The Washington Post" headline reads, "Convictions tighten squeeze on Trump." "The New York Daily News" front page says, "All the President's Henchmen," and the "New York Post" reads, "Don's Cons. Full court press as two Trump associates face jail."
And we'll take a short break here, but still to come. Ahead of the US midterm elections, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft crack down on malicious content and discover the problem goes way beyond Russia.
Plus for Tehran, the US is the great satan, but what about every day Iranians? What's their opinion of America? We'll find out on the other side of the break. Stay with us.
CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, three big tech companies -- Twitter, Facebook, and Microsoft -- say they are taking major steps to remove fake and malicious content. Let's start with Twitter. It announced it has identified and removed hundreds of accounts for quote, "Engaging in coordinated manipulation," working with law enforcement and other companies, it found many of them originated in Iran.
Facebook announced it removed 652 pages, accounts or groups that it says were part of a coordinated disinformation campaign. Some originated in Iran or in Russia.
Facebook says they were spreading misinformation in the US, the UK, Latin America and the Middle East while posing as a group called Liberty Front Press. Meantime, Microsoft says it has taken control of six phony websites created by hackers tied to Russian military intelligence. The sites were designed to fool users into thinking they belonged to US conservative think tanks or the US Senate.
Well, as it always does, the Kremlin has denied any knowledge or involvement. Our Alexander Marquardt has more. (BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: With just three months before the midterm elections, Russian hackers have hit again. The same Russian military intelligence unit behind the attack on the 2016 Presidential election, now targeting the US Senate and conservative think tank groups.
The Russian hack attack which was unveiled by Microsoft comes as President Trump continues to question the intelligence communities' unwavering assessment that the Kremlin orchestrated the 2016 election attack.
Today Microsoft announcing it took control over six new websites designed to fool users in what's known as spear-phishing attacks. The group behind it, most famously known as "Fancy Bear."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRAD SMITH, PRESIDENT, MICROSOFT: There is no doubt that they were responsible for these six sites. There is no doubt that they were responsible for really the most serious attacks in 2016 and the attacks that we saw in France in the Presidential election there last year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT: It was Fancy Bear's members who were indicted by the special counsel for the 2016 DNC hack. Now, going after Republicans as well. Two of the sites created by the Russian operatives designed to look affiliated with two conservative think tanks who have been highly critical of Russia, including the Hudson Institute.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEN WEINSTEIN, PRESIDENT AND CEO, HUDSON INSTITUTE: We have a tough line on Russia as do many of our peers. I think our work has gotten underneath their skin because of our focus on kleptocracy and on the circle around Vladimir Putin and I think it's clearly gotten to them.
MARQUARDT: The International Republican Institute was also targeted. It has Russia hawks on its Board of Directors like Senators John McCain and Marco Rubio as well as Mitt Romney, all aggressively vocal in their criticism of Russia.
Three of the other phony websites also included the word "Senate" in an apparent attempt to target Senators, though it's unclear who. Senator Claire McCaskill, the vulnerable Missouri Democrat running for reelection with the target of an almost identical attempted attack last year by the same Russian intelligence unit. Neither that operation nor these latest ones have been successful.
Still President Trump continues to downplay Russian interference telling Reuters Monday about the Russia investigation, "If it was Russia, they played right into the Russians' hands." No response from the White House today, but the Kremlin not only claimed it was unaware of the operation, but quote, "From the US, we hear that there was not any meddling in the elections." In apparent reference to President Trump's waffling on the issue during his summit with Putin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. The legendary John Bolton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT: National Security Advisor John Bolton says he will raise the issue of election meddling when he meets with his Russian counterparts in Geneva this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: I'm sure will have a discussion about it on Thursday. I had a discussion about it myself with President Putin when I went to Moscow originally to prepare the groundwork for his meeting with President Trump. President Trump raised it with President Putin. We'll keep raising it and will see what their response is.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
CHURCH: And many thanks to our Alexander Marquardt for that to report. Let's bring in CNN's senior international correspondent, Fredrik Pleitgen who joins us live from Moscow. Good to see you, Fred. So the Kremlin denies any involvement, but the evidence seems to suggest the opposite. How much longer can Moscow keep denying its involvement?
FREDRIK PLEITGEN, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, I for a very long time. I think one of the things that we have to keep in mind, Rosemary is that the Kremlin is really going beyond just denying all of this. They are saying that they have absolutely no idea what the US is actually talking about.
I mean, if we look at for instance, yesterday, the conference call with Dmitry Pescov, the spokesman for the Kremlin, he gets asked about these things all the time. He said, "Look, we have almost a traditional response to this now and that's we want more information from the United States." they say it's not sufficient. they say they've never heard of Fancy Bear. They say they have no idea what sort of intelligence services would be involved because they don't know anything about this Fancy Bear group.
One of the things where they are saying they want to be part of investigation, they want more information from the United States, but of course the US is not going to do that because all of this is also part of US intelligence operations and they wouldn't want the Russians to know what exactly their sources are. So, as long as that there's some sort of inroad into that, it seems as
though this way of handling these things is going to continue for very long time. It was very interesting to hear yesterday Dmitry Pescov on that press call, almost being bored of this subject and saying, "Look, we've answered this so many times. As long as don't get more information for instance also from Microsoft as to what exactly this group is, what the parameters are, what sort of information they've gotten, the Russians simply are not going to comment on this." And that goes beyond even the denial.
They are not even saying, "We didn't do this." They are saying, "We have no idea what you're talking about." Rosemary.
CHURCH: And Fred, President Trump continues to question the assessment of US intelligence that Russia meddled in the 2016 election and it's that very stance that's giving Moscow a green light to continue meddling, right?
PLEITGEN: Well, I mean, they have as you say, that they're not meddling, but it is certainly the case that we are seeing out of the Russians out of Moscow, them, really criticizing for instance the US intelligence community, also large parts of the US political community, but very often taking President Trump out of the criticism, and in fact, even citing President Trump on certain ways when they defend themselves.
For instance, one of the things that we thought was quite interesting yesterday was a statement they came out pretty late in the evening from the Russian Foreign Ministry also obviously saying they have no idea what's going on. They denied being part of everything, but they also for instance called the Mueller probe a witch hunt, which is of course the same rhetoric that President Trump uses as well.
Interesting also, we had that in Alex's report just now, the Russians saying, look they heard from the US that there was really no meddling apparently referencing some people think, some of the things that President Trump said at the Helsinki Summit.
So you do see Russian officials, you do see Russian politicians very often criticizing the US, criticizing the investigations that are going into Russian alleged meddling, Russian alleged hacking, Russian alleged influence operations and very often taking President Trump out of that criticism.
Whether or not that emboldens them is something that's obviously up for question, but it does certainly seem as though they seem to be aware of the fact the President Trump does not see eye to eye with his intelligence community and also with large parts of the American political community as well, Rosemary.
CHURCH: All right, many thanks to our Fred Pleitgen bringing us that live report from Moscow where it is 10:23 in the morning. Thanks so much.
Well, now to Iran, and its complicated relationship with the United States. While both governments are at odds with one another, Iran citizens have a different view and it's a lot more positive than you might expect. Our Nick Paton Walsh reports.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICK PATON WALSH, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: The lights still sparkle in Tehran, sanctions be damned. Nobody here chants "Death to America." Rather, the design is from California, the clientele from Iran's worldly elite.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most of the Iranian people, they travel, they used to travel to America. Now, with the sanctions, I'm not sure, but they are fed up with the politics, yes. But the Americans, no
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH: Take away the head scarves, add a few real cocktails and you could be in Europe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People just like Americans, they like Americans and Iranians always try to create -- recreate like American look.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think they hate Americans at all.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who knows what's going to happen in the next 15 years, we don't even know what's going to happen tomorrow because every day is something new.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH: Here, you can't help think Iran and America's people ought to get to know each a little better. Don't tell that to both their leaders. Their decades of animosity on display in the ghoulish remain of the US Embassy. American diplomats were held hostage by Iran here and the coups plotted by the CIA. The museum filling this top secret spy room with dummies.
Now, the Trump administration is really doing all that it can to try and drag the image of the United States here in Iran back decades to a time of espionage, subterfuge when the United States was doing again all it possibly could to undermine or change the Iranian government.
President Barack Obama, well, he saw that in the age of the iPhone, there was an opportunity to improve Iran's economy and persuade its people that its future lay with the outside world.
It has been better way back when, too. Jim and Gladys Drain (ph) from Riverdale, New York first came here for their honeymoons in the '50s. The love affair is still going.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLADYS DRAIN (ph), TOURIST: People are wonderful. They are friendly. They are welcoming. They offered us roses. Lovely.
JIM DRAIN (ph), TOURIST: We're disgusted with our President. Our President is misbehaving.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH: Across town in southern Tehran is the Iran that gets up early. This day begins long before the sun's heat . There is far less money here, but still articulate views on how the White House messes with their lives. "I don't have a deep a understanding," he says, "But the US don't act justly. We don't count to Mr. Trump's eyes. He has problems with the government, but what is my sin?"
The poor, the clerics who guide Iran, the young conscripts in an army which regional grip has expanded. "When we chant "Death to America," he says, it is the government of America, the people are respectable and we have no problem with them. I haven't fought in Iraq or Syria, but if our military hadn't gone there, we'd be fighting ISIS on the streets of Iran cities.
Sanctions are already felt here. Less animals are slaughtered with each delivery, each lamb less profitable. "I've got things to do," he says, "I don't have time to chant "Death to America." Yet not all rising prices like a 40% jump in housing costs they complain of here are blamed on America. "It's got nothing to do with the USA," this man says. "They don't translate to the present, they don't provide me with my bread. They are not here." He added, the protests, like Iran has sporadically seen this year, were futile. Yet the ebb and flow of Washington and Iran's enmity make daily choices here harder. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Tehran . (END VIDEO TAPE)
CHURCH: We'll take a short break here, still to come. President Trump insists, his former campaign chairman is a good man, but that good man is now facing decades of prison. The fallout from Paul Manfort's conviction. Plus, President Trump's former personal attorney was also in court, the legal implications of Michael Cohen's plea deal.
And for Korean families, the emotion of reuniting after nearly seven decades was overwhelming, but perhaps nothing compared to separating from them once again.
CHURCH: Let's return now to our top story. Michael Cohen, the man long known as Donald Trump's fixer could face roughly five years in prison for his guilty plea on Tuesday, but that sentence could depend on whether Cohen chooses to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller.
As of now, there is nothing to suggest he will do that, and cooperation is not part of Cohen's plea deal. Cohen pleaded guilty to five counts of tax evasion, one count of false statements to a bank, one count of causing an unlawful corporate contribution, and one count of excessive campaign contributions.
The Deputy US Attorney says the charges reflect a pattern of lies and dishonesty that are especially significant when done by a lawyer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KHUZAMI: Mr. Cohen pled guilty to two campaign finance charges; one for causing an unlawful corporate contribution and a second one for personally making an excessive personal contribution, both for the purpose of influencing the 2016 election. In addition, what he did was he worked to pay money to silence two women who had information that he believed would be detrimental to the 2016 campaign into the candidate and the campaign.
In addition, Mr. Cohen sought reimbursement for that money by submitting them for invoices to the candidate's company which were untrue and false. They indicated that the reimbursement was for services rendered for the year 2017, when in fact those invoices were a sham.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: Several hundred kilometers away at nearly the same time as Cohen's plea, a jury found President Trump's former campaign chairman guilty of financial crimes. Jessica Schneider has that.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: A guilty verdict for Paul Manafort. The former Trump campaign chairman who faced a 12-DAY trial for financial crimes. The six men and six women on the jury finding Manafort guilty on five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and one charge of hiding foreign bank accounts. But the judge declaring a mistrial on 10 other counts.
As the verdict was read, Paul Manafort remained stone-faced while his wife Kathy sat a few rows behind him, expressed no emotion, her hands clasped in her lap. Manafort's defense team had projected optimism throughout the four days of deliberation.
KEVIN DOWNING, PAUL MANAFORT'S DEFENSE TEAM: Mr. Manafort is disappointed of not getting acquittals all the way through, or a complete hung jury on all counts.
SCHNEIDER: This jury considered 18 complicated counts of tax evasion, bank fraud and hiding foreign bank accounts, the jury asked for clarification on accounts just twice. Last Thursday, they asked the judge for further explanation about the standard for conviction, beyond a reasonable doubt. Tuesday morning, they ask what should do if they couldn't reach a unanimous decision on a single count. The judge instructed them to go back to the jury room and try again.
Hours later they emerged with their verdict. Prosecutors made their case against Manafort, with 27 witnesses, and more than 300 documents, explaining that Manafort made more than $60 million from his lobbying work in Ukraine, and that he allegedly hid it in 31 foreign bank accounts. They also showcase Manafort's extravagant purchases including five homes, spanning from Manhattan to Virginia, a $15,000.00 ostrich coat and a $10,000.00 karaoke machine, but they acknowledged, "We are not in courtroom today because Manafort is wealthy, it is because Mr. Manafort filed false tax returns, it is not a crime in this country to be wealthy."
The defense did not present any witnesses, and Manafort himself did not testify, but during their closing arguments, the defense pointed to Manafort's decades of work as a political consultant for President Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford and President Trump.
PAUL MANAFORT, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Today at around 7:30, Mr. Trump will officially be the nominee of the Republican Party, so we are excited about that.
SCHNEIDER: The defense team also argued Manafort was a victim of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russian investigation, telling the jury no one seemed concerned about Manafort's dealings with bank until the Special Counsel showed up and started asking questions, saying "Clearly their goal was to stack up the counts."
Manafort's is the first case brought to trial by the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, a probe often dismissed by the President as a witch hunt, but now, one of his former top aides found guilty. The President so far has been quiet when it comes to offering his former campaign chairman a pardon, but he has made his disdain for the trial known.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is a very sad thing that happened, nothing to do with Russian collusion.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
CHURCH: Our thanks to Jessica Schneider for that reports. So, let's bring in former Federal prosecutor, and CNN legal analyst, Michael Zeldin, who also worked with Robert Mueller at the Department of Justice. Thank you so much for being with us.
MICHAEL ZELDIN, LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: My pleasure.
CHURCH: So two of Donald Trump's men facing justice, Tuesday. Michael Cohen's case, the biggest story with him pleading guilty and implicating a sitting President. Cohen says he paid women hush money at the direction of a candidate, that of course being Donald Trump, this is what Cohen's attorney, Lanny Davis, tweeted.
"Today, he stood up and testified under oath," he is talking about Cohen there obviously, " ... that Donald Trump directed him to commit a crime, by making payments to two women for the principal purpose of influencing an election, if those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn't they be a crime for Donald Trump?" Is Cohen's attorney right there? Did Donald Trump commit a crime, and will Cohen will be able to prove he was directed by Mr. Trump in this instance?
ZELDIN: That is the $64,000.00 question. Cohen's side of the story is that Donald Trump directed me to do this, it has to be verified that is the case that is the story that Cohen said under oath in court while entering his plea of guilty. If it is able to be proved to be true, then yes, Donald Trump would be aiding and abetting, or conspiring with Cohen, to violate campaign finance laws, and candidate Trump would have an additional charge of filing a false campaign report with the Federal Election Commission that left out that payment, and that is a separate five year lying to Federal officials crime. So if provable, this is serious stuff.
CHURCH: So how big a problem could this prove to be for President Trump? And will this be something that Special Counsel, Robert Mueller's investigation will look into?
ZELDIN: I don't think it would be in Mueller's, you know, bailiwick, it's mostly going to be in the Southern District of New York's ambit, however where this falls for the President is, because the President of United States by Justice Department policy cannot be indicted himself, this becomes a political evaluation by the House of Representatives, to determine whether or not this activity amounts to something that should invoke an inquiry into impeachment.
CHURCH: You think it would go that far?
ZELDIN: Well, you know, in a Republican-controlled House of Representatives, it is not likely to go that far, in a Democratic House of Representatives, I would think that they would open an inquiry, whether it goes there, you know, all the way through to the end remains to be seen, but it is serious stuff when you encourage somebody to lie about the, you know, authenticity of your election.
CHURCH: How concerned do you think Mr. Trump would be right now?
ZELDIN: I think he should be concerned, it is not, you know, something that one would feel comfortable with when your lawyer says under oath in a Federal court that Mr. Trump told me to commit a crime, that can't make you comfortable, that in fact if you look at Giuliani, Trump's legal representative, who speak to media's statement on this, he said, "Well, Cohen did not say that we committed a crime, he just said ..." and he is trying to you know, deconstructs somehow, 'that we were involved.'
So, he is really parching words Giuliani to keep the President sort of clean in this case, but it is really not going to be that way.
CHURCH: And as if this isn't enough Mr. Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort has been found guilty on eight counts of financial crimes, how will that likely impact President Trump?
ZELDIN: So, what do I think? What a day, within one hour of one another, his personal lawyer and his campaign chairman each are found guilty of felonious conduct, that can't make you feel comfortable? Whether or not that Paul Manafort case involves the President will be determined on whether or not Manafort now, having been convicted and facing another trial on almost identical charges in the district of Columbia, will decide that it is time for him to cooperate with Robert Mueller, and if he has something to say, like for example, that he, Manafort, can testify that the President knew about the June 9th meeting when the Russians came over to give dirt on Hillary Clinton, then maybe he has a bargaining chip with Mueller that Mueller will accept in exchange for some sort of reduced sentence.
CHURCH: So two of the Presidents men in a lot of trouble here within hours of each other, where does all of this leave the US Presidency, and of course, what are the optics?
ZELDIN: Well, I think the optics are terrible. Where it leaves the presidency is that those who are supporters of the President, I think are not going to be discouraged, nothing seems to have shaken their confidence, in him, I will be surprised if this does, too.
ZELDIN: What will be interesting is whether or not any of the House Republicans who are running for reelection find themselves needing now to distance themselves from this President, and if so, that could be a bit of a game changer for the President as he moves forward in his presidency.
CHURCH: Michael Zeldin, thank you so much for your analysis. I always appreciate it.
ZELDIN: Thank you very much.
CHURCH: Porn star, Stormy Daniels, now feels vindicated after President Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance law, as we heard earlier, Cohen implicated Donald Trump in the illegal payment of $130,000.00 to silence her over an alleged affair, and now Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, told CNN's Chris Cuomo that he is coming after Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIEL'S ATTORNEY: I know for a fact that Michael Cohen is cooperating in providing information to Federal prosecutors, there is no reason that they wouldn't have entered into the plea agreement that they did, were he not cooperating. Michael Cohen has a lot of information.
CHRIS CUOMO, ANCHOR, CNN: So, you don't need a cooperation deal to be cooperating?
AVENATTI: Exactly. And I think that point you just made it critical. You don't have to have it in writing, in the documents, in order for those to have an agreement in place. I am highly confident, in fact I know. Michael Cohen has been providing information, prosecutors in SDNY are expecting him to continue to cooperate, because if he doesn't, they have the ultimate hammer, and that is at the sentencing stage, which for Michael Cohen is going to take place in December, they can ask for either an upward departure, or the maximum, they have a significant hammer in their toolbox in the event that Michael Cohen does not cooperate.
CUOMO: Same with Manafort?
AVENATTI: Same with Manafort. We have a pending motion to depose Michael Cohen and Donald Trump, I think there is zero chance we don't get a deposition of Michael Cohen, and I think there is a significant likelihood that we are going to get a deposition of Donald Trump. And so, what is that going to mean is, that I am going to have an opportunity to ask Michael Cohen and Donald Trump questions under oath, under oath, you know, it is one thing to lie to you or other members of the press, it is entirely different to lie under oath.
I am getting a chance to ask some very difficult questions of Michael Cohen and Donald Trump about what they knew, when they knew it, what they did about it, and what they did to cover it up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: And with Michael Cohen's guilty plea, we are witnessing an extraordinary U-turn in his relationship with Donald Trump. CNN's Randi Kaye has more now on the man who proudly defended and protected Mr. Trump for years until now.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Michael Cohen's loyalty to Donald Trump seemingly unmatched, once telling "Vanity Fair" magazine he would take a bullet for his boss.
MICHAEL COHEN, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: They say I am Mr. Trump's pit bull, I am his right hand man.
KAYE: Right-hand man until the relationship went south. For more than a decade, Cohen was the top attorney at the Trump organization, Trump's go to when things got ugly. His fixer when things needed cleaning up.
COHEN: I will use my legal skills within which to protect Mr. Trump to the best of my ability.
KAYE: Case and point, Cohen threatening an NPR reporter in 2015.
COHEN: I am warning you, what [bleep] I'm going to do you do you will be disgusting. Do you understand me?
KAYE: But today, Cohen is persona non grata, ever since his office was raided by the FBI, the White House has been downplaying his role, putting some distance between Cohen and the President.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President has many attorneys. This is not his only one.
KAYE: But the facts tell a different story, of a cozy relationship. Michael Cohen had dinner with the President Trump back on March 25th at Mar-a-Lago, the night before Stormy Daniels interview with Anderson Cooper on "60 Minutes." Cohen had paid the porn star, $130,000.00 for her silence during the campaign. Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani says, Trump later reimbursed Cohen.
And on April 13th, President Trump called Michael Cohen to quote "check in," before Cohen appeared in court regarding his office raid. Before Trump became President, there was nearly constant contact between the two men.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Believe me, Michael Cohen got calls at three in the morning, Michael and I would be at dinner, the boss would be calling. All the time.
KAYE: Those days are long gone, replaced by a bitter feud, magnified after Michael Cohen released a secret audio recording in which he and Trump spoke about a payment related to a "Playboy" model story about her allege affair with Trump.
COHEN: When it comes time for the financing.
TRUMP: What financing?
COHEN: We will have to pay ...
COHEN: No, I've got -- no.
KAYE: To Donald Trump, it was the ultimate betrayal. The President tweeting, "What kind of a lawyer would tape a client? So sad." The relationship soured even more after a revelation that Cohen was prepared to tell Robert Mueller that then candidate Trump, knew in advance about the June 2016 meeting Trump Tower where Russians were expected to offer dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Trump denied it all on Twitter saying, "Sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam." Jam or no jam, Michael Cohen's deal with the government certainly won't help heal this relationship. Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
CHURCH: And as if Tuesday didn't have enough surreal moments, President Trump held a rally with supporters in West Virginia. He didn't seem bothered that two of his former aides were likely get prison time.
That's right, it was infamous, pre-election shot against Hillary Clinton. Trump spoke about almost everything at that rally touching on his favorite themes, but not a single word on Manafort or Cohen.
Reunited for just 12 hours after more than six decades apart, Korean families have now hugged and kissed their relatives for what could be the last time. We'll be back with a live report on that.
CHURCH: After briefly reuniting in North Korea, 89 families separated by war have now hugged and kissed their loved ones for what will probably be the last time. They spent 12 hours together over the past three days not nearly long enough to make up for almost seven decades apart.
The South Korean relatives are now returning home and thousands of others is still hoping to live long enough for their own chance at one of these long-awaited reunions. We turn now to our Paula Hancocks who is live in Sokcho, South Korea.
So Paula, this latest round of family reunions has come to a tearful end. Are there any plans now to make these events more available to the 57,000 people still waiting to reunite with their loved ones?
PAULA HANCOCKS, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, Rosemary, this is really the heart breaking part of these family reunions that at the end of three days, just 12 hours in total that they spent with their loved ones, they have to part. Now, you can see the Red Cross behind me here in Sokcho getting ready to receive those buses once again, 89 families are going to be on board those buses and they will be in a very different mood than they were just on Monday, leaving here.
There was excitement. There was anticipation. They were going to see relatives they had not seen in decades and you saw those incredibly emotional images from North Korea reconnecting in just that very short amount of time, trying to catch up on almost 70 years that they had missed with each other, in many cases, they didn't even know if their relatives were still alive. So here in Sokcho, shortly, we will be seeing those buses come back, but it is a very different reality.
We heard from the Red Cross that there was a 2014 report that said that 27% of those that came back from these reunions did have a feelings of depression. You can imagine knowing that that is likely the last time you're going to see your loved one. That's from a South Korean point of view. They would like to have these reunions far more frequently, but it's really up to North Korea.
We've heard from the South Korean President Moon Jae-in saying that he is part of a separated family himself, he is a son of North Korean refugees, he was part of one of these reunions in the past. He said it is his top priority from a humanitarian point of view, he wants to have more of these.
The UN Secretary-General has said he wants to see more of this, the Red Cross head that I spoke to here in South Korea has said that he is suggesting different places to meet with their North Korean counterparts, so that there could be more people involved, there could be more reunions, but it is really up to North Korea. If North Korea does not have the will to make these happen, then it won't happen, and it hasn't happened for the past three years. Rosemary.
CHURCH: And Paula, when will we see the next round of family reunions like this?
HANCOCKS: Well, there is another part of this reunion which happens Friday, Saturday and Sunday, this is the North Korean counterparts, who have actually requested to find their South Korean counterparts, that will be the second part of this, so there will be another element, and there will be dozens of South Koreans going to that as well, but it is a fraction of the amount of people who would like to reconnect with their families across the border, that actually get the chance to do this.
Fifty seven thousand families or 57, 000 people in South Korea are eligible for these reunions, but it is only 89 in this case that were actually able to go. And of course, everybody is getting older, they are in their 80s, they are in their 90s, these families were torn apart in the Korean War, which was in the 1950s, so you can imagine just how long ago it was that these families were torn apart.
Now I can see some buses coming here now, you can see the Red Cross that is actually waiting for these buses of the families to return here, after those three days when the families have actually been reconnected with their loved ones. And it does appear as though they could be coming back now. There were 14 buses in all that went up to North Korea, and certainly these families are going to be in a very different frame of mind then when they left.
You can see the Red Cross members there and representatives waiving to them, welcoming them back to South Korea, but certainly the images we have seen of them having to say goodbye to their loved ones, are just heartbreaking. They are utterly gut-wrenching, that they know that is the last time there likely to see their loved ones, but these are still considered the lucky ones.
A round of applause there you can hear from the members of the Red Cross. And certainly this is a very emotional time, you can see just coming up the line here, this is the President of the Red Cross here in South Korea, he is the man we have spoken to a couple of days ago, he is the man who had been trying to negotiate with his North Korean counterparts, to have more of these reunions, to maybe change the location, what North Korea has said in the past, that as it is in (inaudible), they can only accommodate a certain amount of people, he has suggested that they could have it in Kaesong, which is an industrial complex which could have a far greater number of families reuniting.
You can see some of the families there waving, to the line of Red Cross members that are welcoming them. And this will certainly be an emotional moment for them as well, they have had their very brief visit to reconnect with families. That they haven't seen for long time. I just caught a glimpse there of Lee Kumsum, she is a 92-year- old woman, who we have been following, who had been reconnected with her son, but all waving and some smiling, Rosemary.
CHURCH: Paula Hancocks, as you have reported, covering the story, it is a bittersweet moment for these relatives that are coming home having met up with their loved ones after so many decades apart. Thank you so much, reporting there from Sokcho in South Korea as those family members return to South Korea from North Korea. We will take a very short break here. We are back in just a moment.
Well, acronyms are supposed to make easy shortcuts of those long titles in organizations, but sometimes politicians, including the leader of the free world, just can't keep all the letters straight. Here is Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: This is the right way to say it.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: CBP.
MOOS: Three cocky letters that stand for Customs and Border Protection, but in paying tribute to CBP, President Trump slipped up.
TRUMP: Heroes of ICE and CBC.
MOOS: CB --what?
TRUMP: CBC officers.
MOOS: Despite the fact that CBP was written on the teleprompter, President Trump blew it seven times.
TRUMP: And CBC, CBC prevents -- CBC to attack ICE and CBC.
MOOS: Who would want to attack the CBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation? Or maybe the President had the Congressional Black Caucus in his mind. Acronyms are supposed to make things easier, but they can be treacherous. What a difference a letter makes, while attending the APEC summit. President George W. Bush complimented OPEC.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A fine host for the OPEC summit, I appreciate APEC summit though ...
MOOS: Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson had the opposite problem, he blank when asked what he would do about Aleppo.
GARY JOHNSON, LIBERTARIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And what is Aleppo?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are kidding?
MOOS: Aleppo, a Syrian city that became synonymous with refugee calamity.
JOHNSON: I was simply thinking that this was an acronym. And I was trying to think of American, Latin.
MOOS: Acronyms can be mystifying, Hillary Clinton asked, in an e- mail, "By the way, what does "fubar" mean?" That would be f-word up beyond all recognition. George Bush didn't fubar the acronym OB/GYN, but the sentence he used it in became a classic Bush-ism.
BUSH: Too many OB/GYN's aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country.
MOOS: No wonder, when an unfamiliar acronym rears it head, the President treats it like an eye exam.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN.
TRUMP: Our LGBTQ citizens.
MOOS: New York.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
CHURCH: He needs to practice that one. Thanks so much you for your company this hour, I am Rosemary Church, remember to connect with me anytime on Twitter, I love to hear from you and the news continues now with Max Foster in London, you're watching CNN, have a great day.