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Sen. McCain's Casket Arrives Ahead of DC Services; Bloomberg: Pres. Trump Says He'll Keep Sessions Until November Elections Despite "Illegal" Probe. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired September 2, 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] JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: All right. John Berman here in for Anderson tonight.

You're looking at live pictures from Joint Base Andrews, where the military jet carrying the casket with John McCain has just landed. You're looking at the McCain family, along with Defense Secretary James Mattis, greeting members largely of Senator McCain's Senate staff, some 75 people, part of his extended family. Also, some members of the Senate there, we see Jeff Flake and Lindsey Graham in that lineup right there.

Washington, D.C., the second city on this three-city memorial tour, this week-long remembrance of the life and heroic contributions of Senator John McCain.

The day was spent in Phoenix, Arizona, in a way, the place where John McCain felt the greatest peace. Now in Washington, D.C., in Washington, D.C., where I think Senator McCain found the greatest joy. I think he was at his happiest in the U.S. Senate.

And then Sunday, he will be buried at the U.S. Naval Academy in Indianapolis, a place where perhaps he felt the greatest pride. So, this week, everything chosen has a deep, deep meaning to Senator John McCain and his family. Let's watch for a minute.

(SEN. JOHN MCCAIN'S CASKET ARRIVAL CEREMONY)

BERMAN: Again, what you're seeing hear is the hearse carrying Senator John McCain. It will head to a funeral home in Washington for the evening. Tomorrow, the senator will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol, just the 31st person to do that.

Joining me now, CNN presidential historian, Douglas Brinkley. Also with us, retired Lieutenant General, Mark Hertling.

Doug, to you -- again, this is a week-long rolling, in some ways, memorial to Senator McCain, the likes of which I don't think we've seen. You don't see this for anyone other than a U.S. president, perhaps Robert Kennedy, the one exception to that. Maybe not since Robert Kennedy have we seen this outpouring of emotion for a U.S. senator.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN (via telephone): I think that's exactly right. I mean, the very fact that Senator McCain's going to be lying in state in the rotunda in the U.S. capitol building. He's one of only 31 others to have had that honor. It's usually, we do it for presidents or Supreme Court justices.

The country has fallen in love with John McCain this week. We always -- we always loved him and admired him, but the more we're learning about his lifelong career in politics and military service, the more we're kind of nostalgic and longing for the virtues that he had. And they did a beautiful job in Phoenix, Cindy McCain, that's where she was born and raised. The ceremonies today and the eulogies were deeply inspiring, particularly Joe Biden, who was able to say, I'm a Democrat and McCain's from a different age, a long-ago age where we would bury our differences and senators could be great friends.

And all around, it's been remarkable, how the country is really recognizing what a giant, a giant for the ages John McCain was.

BERMAN: You're looking at Defense Secretary James Mattis there. And you know that this is a very meaningful time for him, as well, a retired marine general. He said of John McCain, we have lost a man who steadfastly represented the best ideals of our country.

With us also, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.

And, General, it seems to me that this week, we've seen this moment that we're looking at right now, much of it's about John McCain and reverence for everything that he gave this country.

[20:05:04] But I think one of the reasons it has been such an emotional week is because of where we are as a country.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), U.S. ARMY (via telephone): Yes, definitely, John. And what I'd say is the comments by Secretary Mattis, retired General Mattis, hit the mark. Because what we've talked about and what all the speakers talked about in Senator McCain's ceremony this afternoon was his character, how he reflected a presence of leadership.

And I think where we are right now, we're all yearning for that, for a character of honesty, standing up for the idealism of our country, the values that our nation holds dear, what is represented in the constitution and that people who are in government service pledge to support and defend that piece of paper with such great ideology. It's caused many of us to reflect a little bit and say, boy, we sure have been missing some of that recently.

So even in his death, Senator McCain, who, you know, there are -- you don't have to agree or be on the same side of everything that he said or did, and certainly, many people aren't, but you can't debate his character or what he stood for or how much he gave to our nation. And, you know, I think, perhaps this afternoon was a reminder that we've got to start polishing those things again, a little bit. They've become dulled. And we ought to go back to that selfless service to our nation, because that's what true patriotism is all about.

BERMAN: The song that was played at the end of the ceremony in Arizona was Frank Sinatra's "My Way." I don't think anyone would dispute that John McCain did it his way. But I think the message, perhaps, he was sending, is that my way should be our way, the American way. And to remind us what that way should be.

On the idea of "My Way," he certainly planned this week in a very unique way. It's not everyone who could have former Vice President Joe Biden and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald speak at a ceremony, just days before a Republican president, George W. Bush, and Democratic president, Barack Obama, again, Doug, very significant and poignant.

BRINKLEY: Absolutely. And Larry Fitzgerald, the Arizona Cardinals wide receiver was just marvelous today. He talked about the differences. He's white, I'm black. You know, I'm an athlete and he was in the military.

And he went on and talked about all of their differences. But in the end, they were great friends. And I thought it was poignant that Senator McCain in his last days asked Larry Fitzgerald to be one of the eulogists, because we are so divided by race in this country. And here were two people, one white, one black, different generations that became great pals. And he did a remarkable job today, as well as Joe Biden.

BERMAN: And again, there is the hearse. It is now departing Joint Base Andrews. The casket will go to a funeral home tonight. Tomorrow, the senator will lie in state in the U.S. Capitol. There will be a ceremony tomorrow at the U.S. Capitol, the Capitol Rotunda. Then on Saturday, a memorial service at the national cathedral before the burial at the U.S. Naval Academy on Sunday. And every step of the way, there will be more remembrances and more speakers.

We saw the family, they're in the cars right now, but we saw the family deplane moments ago. And I saw smiles on their faces occasional, which was nice to see, because they are in the middle of what has to be a searing, emotional week. But they've been given, I think, some solace and some strength by the words that we heard, including from Vice President Biden, who I think really spoke to them, General, directly today.

HERTLING: Boy, he sure did. Not just Vice President Biden, but all of the speakers today. I thought the vice president was particularly good, but as Douglas just said, Larry Fitzgerald was also phenomenal. You know, I was watching that ceremony with a group of other people and they -- not condescendingly, but they say, boy, this is like a "Star Wars" bar scene of various political figures all coming together to honor an individual who was sometimes grumpy, sometimes testy, but always had a love of life and a love of country.

And it was pulling so many people together. And I think the vice president, in using his humor the way he did, really bonded with the audience and showed how people with two different ideologies, political ideologies, can still come together and find the best way ahead for our great nation. And I think we all need to be reminded of that often. And we should, as opposed to the divisiveness we have seen recently, we need to start pulling together and have those conversations and laugh a little bit more and have a beer with one another to talk about what separates us and what might unite us a little bit.

[20:10:10] BERMAN: Senator McCain would certainly endorse the beer notion, that's for sure. General Hertling, Doug Brinkley, thanks so much.

Before this, as Doug mentioned, we saw this powerfully emotional memorial service back in Phoenix. This is a look at some of the most poignant moments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound --

GRANT WOODS, FORMER MCCAIN CHIEF OF STAFF: And for some reason John McCain asked me to be his chief of staff when he got elected. So, on my first day at 7:00 a.m., John McCain picked me up at my house and I went to the car and I said, well, do you want me to drive? He said, no, no, I'm going to drive.

So I said, well, maybe I can sit in the backseat. I'm no expert on this, but I thought the staff drove. He said, no, get in the car, boy, get in the car.

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: The time will come, because what's going to happen is, six months will go by and everybody's going to think, well, it's passed. But you're going to ride by that field or smell that fragrance or see that flashing image and you're going to feel like you did the day you got the news. But you know you're going to make it when the image of your dad, your husband, your friend crosses your mind and a smile comes to your lip before a tear to your eye. That's when you know. And I promise you, I give you my word, I promise you, this I know, that day will come.

(BAND PLAYING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say good-bye to a man who's meant so much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: John McCain back in Washington, D.C., tonight.

As all of this unfolded, there was other breaking news today, a new interview with President Trump. We'll tell you about it next, including his thoughts on the Russia probe.

And then later, today's other big story. New reporting, Maggie Haberman's reporting, on just what Michael Cohen might have been trying to "National Enquirer's" publisher, what could be more dirt on the president than just Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.

We'll tell you all about it ahead on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:17:08] BERMAN: It has been a day of moments to remember, whether it's John McCain's solemn final journey or this. More breaking news on what the president is now saying about the Russia investigation, about his attorney general's job security and about a range of other subjects that almost certainly will be tomorrow's headlines.

Mr. Trump talked about all of it when he sat down with "Bloomberg News".

"Bloomberg's" senior White House correspondent, Margaret Talev, she was in the room. She joins us now. She also happens to be a CNN political analyst.

Margaret, I want to start with this. You asked the president whether he would comply with a subpoena from Mueller, but he didn't give you a clear answer on that. What exactly did he say?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, he really didn't. What he said is that he thought the investigation itself was illegal. And this is very interesting. What does it mean three, four months going forward? He wasn't explicit about it.

But when we asked him the question, he said, well, I would answer that in a different way or I don't agree with that being sort of the point of the question. He said it was improper or because of all of that elements that he believe have been revealed to be sort of hinky about the investigation. He has complained about that before, we know that. But for him to come out and say that he thought it was illegal, seemed to me to be a turn.

BERMAN: All right. The investigation is illegal. We'll come back to that.

You also asked the president about Attorney General Jeff Sessions' job security. Let's listen to what he said.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just like to have Jeff Sessions do his job, and if he did, I'd be very happy. But the job entails two sides, not one side.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BERMAN: Now, not part of this audio, Margaret, you really seemed to push him on how long he has that job security. And it didn't seem like the president was willing to give him one second past the midterm elections.

TALEV: No, and I do think it's important that the president probably, the Republican like can sigh a big sigh of relief. It sounds like the president is now committed or resigned or whatever to saying, all right, le$ me set my concerns aside through November. That's something that Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham and basically every Republican have wanted to hear him say out loud and he said it.

But the next, the follow-up question which is, OK, what about after the midterms, he didn't want to touch. Maybe it's to his credit he didn't want to touch it. He didn't want to tease it. He didn't want to have that become the news.

But he really didn't say, oh, no, this is all overblown, everything's fine. Instead, he turned back to this idea that -- and you could just see throughout the conversation that he's still frustrated with Jeff Sessions. He feels that that's why there is this ongoing probe of him.

BERMAN: Not unrelated, I understand the topic of impeachment came up, as well. Did he seem worried that it was a possibility if Democrats take back the House?

TALEV: No. Actually, his answer on the impeachment question was very interesting. I asked him, if Democrats pull it off and take over the House, you know, do you think that it would hurt your ability to govern if they proceed with impeachment?

[20:20:04] Or do you think it would actually help you to get re- elected? And he said, I don't know. He said, I don't think they can.

And his reasoning was for why he said they couldn't is because he's done a great job, is what he said. But also, he said, essentially, if they do that to him, it will create a new precedent where every president will face impeachment when the opposite party takes control of the House.

BERMAN: Hmm. All right. You also asked the president point-blank, did he think he messed up on how we handled the passing of Senator John McCain. What did he say about that?

TALEV: He said "no." I asked him, do you think you screwed it up? You could have united the country. And he said, no, I don't.

He said, I did everything they asked me to. And he said that he respected Senator McCain's contributions to the country. But he also went on to talk on his own terms about how deeply they disagreed on so many issues. He made pretty clear their policy and personal animus.

And we asked him whether he thought John McCain would have been a better president than Barack Obama. Notably, he declined to answer the question.

BERMAN: A lot to chew over there. And I know there's more in the interview, as well.

So, Margaret, stick around. Stay with us.

I want to bring in CNN political analyst, Maggie Haberman. She's also got a great piece in today's "New York Times," which we'll get to in our next segment.

Also with us, CNN legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. And on the phone, Harvard law professor, Alan Dershowitz, author of "The Case Against Impeaching Trump."

So, Jeffrey, I want to start with that first headline that we got from Margaret there. The idea that the president said that the Mueller investigation is illegal. I'm guessing that's not the last time he's going to say that.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: It may not be. But it's not true. I mean, I think we need to -- you know, everybody -- as Senator Moynihan liked to say, everybody's entitled to their own opinion, but they're not entitled to their own facts.

And, you know, Robert Mueller's an employee of the Department of Justice. He's a prosecutor like any other. The idea that he is an illegal, that there is something fundamentally improper about this relationship, about this investigation is completely wrong. And not supported by the law or the facts.

Now, it may be that Mueller is doing a bad job. It may be that he's brought inappropriate cases. We can have those disagreements. But the idea that he is an illegal actor is just a talking point for the president's base. It is not based on anything real.

BERMAN: So, Alan Dershowitz, Professor Dershowitz, you were on the phone with us.

The president says he is basing that notion on what he has heard from great scholars. Now, I'm guessing that he means you. I think he watches you on TV quite a bit. And you have said there never should have been a special counsel. But I don't believe you have said that Robert Mueller is doing an illegal investigation.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, HARVARD LAW PROFESSOR (via telephone): Quite the opposite. I've said that I disagree with my friend, Steven Calabresi, who is a great scholar, and has written a very powerful article arguing the case of the appointment of the special counsel and giving him essentially the rule of the U.S. attorney, without being confirmed by the Senate, is illegal. It's a plausible position, but here I agree with Jeffrey Toobin.

And I've always said that I thought that the appointment of the special counsel was lawful. I thought it was unnecessary. I thought the southern district and other districts could handle it. I thought that it raised serious policy questions that there's really no check and balance effectively on a special counsel. I've been critical of special counsel.

But if the president meant me, I would be flattered if he called me a great legal scholar, but I think he must have meant Steven Calabresi, because I've never ever taken the position, I've taken the contrary position, about whether or not this is a lawful investigation. It's lawful, but in my view, misguided.

BERMAN: All right. So, if the president is watching this live, or if he catches on TiVo later, just Mr. President, you should note, Professor Alan Dershowitz, a great scholar, does not any it's an illegal investigation.

Maggie Haberman, to you, the president was asked by you many difference way about when and if and how he would fire Jeff Sessions. And he seemed to rule it out until Election Day. It seemed as if that's where we were headed all along, but he really wouldn't give him one minute past.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: He doesn't like Jeff Sessions. This is not new. I know that there has been a lot of reporting about the fact -- and whether you think that what he's saying about the both sides, he should investigate about whether that's a fair assessment of how an attorney general ought to do his job is based on a political consideration as opposed to not, that's a different question. But he has been frustrated with Jeff Sessions for over a year now. This has been going on since March of 2017.

And so I think it is -- I think that Lindsey Graham has a point when he says that this is relationship that is dysfunctional. It is clearly dysfunctional. I think that to Margaret's point, you know, to the president's credit, he didn't try to dress this up as something different. He did say that this is where it's going.

[20:25:02] What I think is happening is, he is having some kind of discussion with members of the Senate about who could get confirmed and under what circumstances you could get Jeff Sessions to leave. This president does not like firing people, for all of his talk about what a bad job he's doing, and he got the option of firing him. He got a resignation letter from him last year and then got that back. But I think that their hope is that they can get Sessions to resign, and they might.

BERMAN: Doesn't seem like they want to have it happen before the midterms.

HABERMAN: No, because they don't want anything to happen before the midterms.

BERMAN: The only thing that's protecting Jeff Sessions right now is the midterms.

Jeffrey, hang on, if you will, because I do want to move on with Margaret to another subject that was discussed, because there are a lot of interesting nuggets in this interview.

Margaret, I understand that Allen Weisselberg, the CFO of the Trump Organization, who was granted immunity in the Michael Cohen investigation, you asked him about -- you asked the president about that. What did he say?

TALEV: Well, so, what we wanted to know from the president was, did he feel that Mr. Weisselberg had either betrayed him or put him in a legal jeopardy by this arrangement that he had entered into in the Michael Cohen case, and the president said, absolutely not. He said that a hundred percent, his friend, Allen Weisselberg had not. That he's a very good friend and whatever says, you know, discussions were, has been very short in terms of anything he would have told the prosecutors.

So the president seemed to be saying that he didn't feel that Weisselberg was doing anything to hurt him or to try to hurt him.

BERMAN: Interesting.

Jeffrey, so the president seems to have some knowledge or at least claims to have at least some knowledge of the Weisselberg testimony right there. Could the president be right, that it's limited to a very specific period of time? Or, should he be concerned that Weisselberg will say more?

TOOBIN: I mean, I would not be surprised if Weisselberg's attorney spoke to Trump's attorneys and told him what he was asked about and what he answered. I mean, one of the great unanswered questions, and I don't know the answer to it, is, is the southern district, which obtained the guilty plea from Michael Cohen, where Michael Cohen said, I did these illegal acts at the direction of President Trump, then candidate Trump, are they following up on that? Are they doing more investigation?

I don't know. I don't know the answer to that yet. It may be that Weisselberg's testimony was directed to getting the guilty plea, which was successfully completed. But will they go back to him and say, what more can you tell us? I don't know.

Maggie, do you know?

HABERMAN: I don't know. And I would like to know.

TOOBIN: OK.

BERMAN: We're going to talk more about Allen Weisselberg in our next segment, when we talk about, Maggie, your bombshell article about "The Enquirer" here.

But, Professor Dershowitz, while I still have you on with us, this subject of Allen Weisselberg, and you from the beginning have said that Michael Cohen investigation is a bigger threat in your mind than the Russia investigation. Weisselberg, he's the guy who knows where, quote, all the financial bodies are buried.

Should the president be more concerned about him?

DERSHOWITZ: Of course he should be. And, you know, he should be especially concerned if he thinks that it's enough that Weisselberg may not have said anything incriminating. That's not the issue. The issue is, did he say anything that fills gaps in the prosecution's case. You can have a long interview or short interview and come away and say, I said nothing that's going to hurt the president, but you don't know what gaps there are.

Weisselberg may have told them about a meeting or an encounter, something that they didn't know, that could lead to other issues. So I think the president should be concerned about Weisselberg, I think he should be concerned about Cohen. I would expect that his legal team is concerned. He may be putting forth a positive face on this, but he should be deeply concerned.

I've always said, they should all be concerned, the southern district, where he doesn't have constitutional defenses, than the Mueller probe, which is about his presidency, where he has constitutional defenses. They may not be perfect, but they're better than the situation he's in in the Southern District.

BERMAN: All right. Alan Dershowitz, thanks so much.

Margaret Talev, thank you for bringing your reporting to us. Margaret, Maggie, and Jeff, stick around.

Up next, the latest reporting -- Maggie's latest reporting on what could be decades of dirt on Donald Trump. New reporting on what candidate Trump and Michael Cohen might have been talking about in that secret recording that you've probably heard here on CNN, but might still have questions about. New evidence they were talking about buying more than just the silence of Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:32:54] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The phrase, "catch and kill" just got catchier. When CNN got hold of that tape of Michael Cohen and candidate Donald Trump talking about a pay off to the "National Enquirer's" publisher, we did not know that he and Cohen may have been seeking a far bigger purchaser of caught and kill stories that just the ones on Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. Now, it appears we do. This blockbuster report and today's New York Times, pointed the way Karen the headline, "National Enquirer" had decades of Trump dirt, he wanted to buy it all. And as I mentioned, there were hints to that striking possibility on a very tape that we obtained, take a listen and when you do, watch for the phrase, all the stuff.

(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE)

MICHAEL COHEN, FMR DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David, you know, so I'm going to do that right away. I've actually come up and spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: So what we're going to do?

COHEN: -- the funding. Yes. And it's all the stuff. All the stuff. Because here, you never know where that company, you never know what he's --

TRUMP: If he gets hit by a truck.

COHEN: Correct. So I'm all over that. And I spoke to Alan about it when it comes time for the financing which will be --

TRUMP: What financing?

COHEN: We'll have to --

TRUMP: Pay and so -- again. COHEN: No, no, no, no. I got -- no, no.

How are you?

(END AUDIOTAPE)

BERMAN: So that's the candidate and his fixer a couple months before the election, all the stuff, Cohen says, in case he, meaning David Pecker, gets hit by a truck. Remember, a former "National Enquirer" editor tell CNN that Pecker kept an old fashion safe full of sensitive story files. The question was, do some of the "Enquirer's" national stories include more dirt on Donald Trump? This reported the "Time" certainly suggests so.

Maggie Haberman shares about by-line, she joins us in a moment. This is the money quote. "He and his lawyer at the time, Michael D. Cohen, devised a plan to buy up all the dirt on Mr. Trump that the "National Enquirer" and his parent company had collected on him dating back to the 1980s according to several of Mr. Trump's associates."

[20:35:04] This dirt according to the "Times" includes older stories and notes about Trump's marital woes, lawsuits, tips about alleged affairs and golf. The "Times" also reports that the purchase plan was never finalized. So now, we know there could be a whole lot more about his private life that the President wants to conceal. But, "keeping them honest," wait a minute, haven't he and his surrogates been saying there is absolutely nothing to conceal? No truth to any of this? Why, yes, yes, they have.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARAH SANDERS, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: The President has addressed these directly and made very well clear that none of these allegations are true.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he know about the payment at the time?

SANDERS: Not that I'm aware of. As I just said.

And as we have addressed on a number of times, the President has denied these allegations. And I don't have anything else further to add.

Look, the President denied the allegations. We've spoken about this issue extensively and I don't have anything else to add beyond that. Anything beyond that, I would refer you to the outside counsel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels

TRUMP: No. No.

SANDERS: The President has denied and continues to deny the underlying claim.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BERMAN: Suddenly the White House nor the President has budged from that denial of the underlying allegations even after the Cohen tape came out. Even after Cohen stood up in court and admitted to working, he says at the President's direction and with his coordination disclose the dirt. And again, who will you going to believe? That, the tape, all the reporting including the "New York Times" latest or this from the President just yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP: We do everything straight. We do everything by the book.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: So whether or not the President does everything by the book, Maggie Haberman and Jeffrey Toobin sure do, they're back with us now along with CNN political commentator and former Republican presidential candidate and Senator Rick Santorum.

Maggie, you've been sitting here politely the whole time while I've been talking about you and your reporting. So thank you for that.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Thanks.

BERMAN: So, since you're here coincidentally, what I'm talking about your reporting, walk us through it. The President and Michael Cohen, you're saying wanted to buy decades of dirt.

HABERMAN: Sure. So, when my colleague (INAUDIBLE) and I first wrote about the existence of that tape, we didn't have the audio, it was described to us by people on both sides or familiar with it in the very narrow context of Karen McDougal and reimbursing her. And that was really what everyone focused on and we've been working on this for weeks that's why we had today that it -- you know, turns out that actually, there had been this discussion about obtaining everything, because there was a concern that David Pecker was going to leave AMI. And then they would be leaving this information in the hands of somebody they didn't know.

As you said, this was a grab bag of information. Some of it may not even have been anything, you know, fleshed out or anything real or anything that was actually confirmed, it was some tips, it was a random stories, it was things about golf. But it was this pile about Donald Trump and we know he likes to control.

And this, you know, clearly, you can see from this grab bag of stuff, David Pecker had been at AMI for a really long time. This was pretty clear from the audio and from our reporting this was not some plan that Michael Cohen had dreamed up, this was and he said this in court, what he was told to do by Donald Trump is go deal with this, so he was going and dealing with this. In the court papers, you know, there's a reference to the candidate, he's not named. There are clear references on that tape to Allen Weisselberg, who was given immunity in order to testify to this. But they all have some connection to this. Where this leads, I don't know, I'm not a campaign finance lawyer. It's possible the President would then say look I was buying these things for years and burying these things for years. And it had nothing to do with the election. I think that becomes more complicated with the Cohen guilty plea.

BERMAN: Jeffrey Toobin, coincidentally or perhaps not so you done reporting on David Pecker and President Trump in their long, long relationship. If there is information that David Pecker has on the President, it could be a lot of it.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, you know, David Pecker, the American media -- American media actually published an in-house magazine for the Trump hotels. I mean they were business partners with Trump in certain ventures, that's how close they were. And what I thought was so fascinating about Maggie's story was how, as long as David Pecker was there, everything was going to be fine. You know, they could keep -- and that certainly what Pecker said to me in very explicit terms, is like yes, we bought Karen McDougal story because we wanted to protect our friend, the President. And that apparently was the guiding principle for all of the editorial decisions at the "National Enquirer."

What's so fascinating about this story, is that they were so concerned that Pecker might leave. So they wanted to get their hands on all the dirt so that Pecker, you know, even if he was gone, they'd still be protected.

BERMAN: And it's not like you're speculating about that. Because we heard it on the tape.

HABERMAN: No, they say it.

TOOBIN: Right.

BERMAN: They said it out loud.

[20:40:01] TOOBIN: What did he say, if you get hit by a truck, which is a very New York --

HABERMAN: New York optimism (ph).

TOOBIN: -- a New York way of putting it.

BERMAN: We're guessing it's a euphemism. As Senator Santorum, you've been listening to this. I am old enough to remember that Senator Santorum who perhaps would have been deeply concerned about decades of dirt and maybe scurrilous dirt on a presidential candidate and a person who is now ultimately president. But I'm guessing at this point that the President supporters, doesn't move them at all. Because, I imagine, this is what you're going to tell me, that they already baked it into the cake, you know, the "Access Hollywood" tape didn't move it, nothing else will move.

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well look, I mean I -- I've been listening to this and it's -- you know, it's -- I'm having a hard time keeping my dinner down. I mean this is just -- this is not a very pleasant conversation and -- to talk about the President of the United States and all of these potential scurrilous types of activities, and the -- and his concern about having that that those types of things come out is, you know, it's not fun to listen to. And I don't think many of the supporters like listening to it. But you do come back to the point well, OK. We understand the President has a sordid past and he had, you know, did a lot of things that were a lot worse than even what maybe he was trying to protect himself from. And they voted for him anyway.

And so I don't like it and I find it to be, you know, a compounding effect of the character of the man, but at the same time, I think that, as you just said, has been baked into the cake.

BERMAN: So Rick, isn't it really the case that he's going to -- you know, we're going to have --

TOOBIN: The Kavanaugh hearings on next week, he's a promised to appoint judges who's going to -- who were going to overturn Roe v. Wade. Here comes Judge Kavanaugh, soon to be Justice Kavanaugh. Donald Trump could hang on the ceilings having sex with anybody he likes, as long as he gets Roe v. Wade overturned, you don't care, right. Isn't that the way it works?

SANTORUM: Well, we're talking about things that he did prior to him being president, and as you know Jeffrey, I don't think there was any question in then minds of any voter about Donald Trump and his personal activities. I think that was pretty much made clear. And -- and so, what they're assessing him now and will continue to do is his performance as president. And I think if they look at the policies he's made and the appointments he's made to the judiciary, I think most conservatives are very happy about it.

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: I think they are still very concerned about his behavior.

TOOBIN: All that talk about character we heard about Bill Clinton and the role model to Americans, that's all nonsense, right? You don't care about character, you care about winning?

SANTORUM: Excuse me. I think I just said that it's very disturbing to me and I don't like it, and it's something that I find reprehensible. But the issue -- the issue is with Bill Clinton, as you know, Jeffrey, very well, Bill Clinton wasn't impeached because of Bill Clinton's behavior in the White House, he was impeached because he committed perjury.

BERMAN: All right, hang on one second --

SANTORUM: So let's just get to the reality of it. Quit trying to confuse the issue.

BERMAN: And whether this President has told the truth or not may become an issue as well. Maggie, I want to give you the last word on this. It was your story.

HABERMAN: I appreciate that. No, look, I actually think that will -- the focus of our story was not the dirt or --

BERMAN: Right.

HABERMAN: -- sorting through it. The focus of the story was about the interactions between President Trump, then a businessman and a hedge fund owned newspaper that was taking losses at that point, burying stories because of its relationship with the President, and then an effort to try to get hold of all of that apparently on the order of the President. That's what it's about. It's not about --

BERMAN: Right.

SANTORUM: A private citizen.

BERMAN: Right, but -- but --

HABERMAN: OK.

BERMAN:: -- if it was to sway the election, that is what investigator have --

HABERMAN: Correct, and that's the issue.

BERMAN: -- and did the President order Michael Cohen to do it, as he testified in court under oath, again, that's the key question here. Senator, Jeffrey Toobin, Maggie Haberman thank you very much.

Let's check in with Chris Cuomo to see what he's working on now for "CUOMO PRIME TIME" at the top of the hour. Sir?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Spicy little bit of moral relativism you got going on the docket tonight my brother. Interesting conversation to be sure. We're going to bring in a key player from all of this Michael Avenatti. Because he sees it differently, because his lens is what does this information mean to his litigation, to his efforts and how he now sees it as a part of the overall investigation in Russia probe. So we have him on the show.

We're also going to have a big debate about what matters in this kind of situation and what doesn't. So we have a good show coming up for everybody. And we're going to take on this story about what's going on at the border. Can American really be denied a passport on the basis of where they live?

[20:45:04] BERMAN: Chris Cuomo, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, the President is now claiming, without any evidence at all, that an interview he did more than a year ago, admitting why he fired James Comey was somehow fudged. We're "keeping them honest," next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: The President went on another one of his early morning Twitter rampages this morning much like a drive time radio DJ, he ranted a bunch, played some of the old hits that the fans can't get enough of and debuted an all new beat. There was this new spin on the classic rail against the free press tweet, "I just cannot state strongly enough how totally dishonest much of the media is. Truth doesn't matter to them. They only have their hatred and agenda. This includes fake books which come out about me all the time. Always anonymous sources and are pure fiction, enemy of the people."

High (ph) as now book are fake too according to the President. And as Maggie Haberman use on Twitter, you have to wonder if the President has some anxiety about the upcoming book from Bob Woodward. So in a tweet avalanche, the President ranted about all the usual suspects including CNN and then he came out with this new beat.

All right, what's going on at CNN is happening on different degrees in other networks with NBC News being the worst. The good news Andy Lack is about to be fired for incompetence and much worst, listen to this. When Lester Hold got caught fudging my tape on Russia they were hurt badly.

Now we're not even going to dignify the first part of that. But keeping them honest, Lester Hold did not get caught fudging his tape on Russia. The President is referring to a now infamous interview he did shortly after he fired James Comey, in which he admitted on camera to Lester Hold that impact he fired James Comey because of the Russia investigation. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP: Oh, I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.

LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: So when?

TRUMP: He made a recommendation, he's highly respected. Very good guy, very smart guy, and the Democrats like, the Republicans like him. He made a recommendation. But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good good time to do to it.

[20:50:02] And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: So now more than a year later, the President says Lester Hold fudged the tape. There's of course no evidence of any fudging. Repeat, no fudging for the part that is potentially damning, the President is on camera in the middle of a sentence. No cut-aways, no edits. Add to that the fact that an extended version of the interview has been on the NBC News website since May 11th, 2017. But for this President and for some of his followers, evidence just doesn't matter. All that matters is what the President says no matter how many times he lies, contradicts himself, or simply makes things up. It all seems to be part of his pattern of trying to discredit words that he doesn't think are good for him even if they came out of his own mouth. He's doing it now. He did it with the "Access Hollywood" tape when he bragged about sexually assaulting women.

When it came out, he apologized for using what he called locker room talk. Then more than a year later, you started suggesting to people, including at least one senator, that it wasn't even his voice on the tape. And now what he wants you to believe, what Lester Hold said on camera, was somehow fudged. Let's not forget he flat-out instructed his followers on this just a month ago. Don't believe your own eyes and ears.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP: Just stick with us. Don't believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news. And just remember what you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: Keeping them honest, what you're seeing and what you're reading is happening. No matter how many times the President says you shouldn't believe even actual footage of him talking or books. We'll take you back to the radio analogy, in the words of radio head, this is really happening.

Joining me now, CNN global affairs analyst and "Washington Post" columnist Max Boot. So, Max, we just heard the President say what you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening. So for him, once again, he's attempting to discredit a recording of himself.

MAX BOOT, GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Right, John. I would say that Donald Trump is revealing himself to be a Marxist, not Karl Marx, Groucho Marx, who said, who are you going to believe? Me or your own eyes? And clearly he wants his followers to believe him rather than their own eyes. I mean saying that would you can see him saying on tape is not true. I mean this is taking it to a whole new level. This is basically denying reality in the way that authoritarian dictators always try to do with their followers and to just rewrite the script.

BERMAN: Any guess about why he might be doing it now, why he might be choosing to say that this tape where he talks about Russia being a reason for firing James Comey, why he's saying he didn't say it?

BOOT: Why he might want to explain a way a tape on which he confessed obstruction of justice? You know, the only issue really is why it is taking him so long to try to make these kinds of ludicrous claims. I mean I think what you see with the President is really getting worse because the facts are turning against him so markedly. I mean last week, remember, we can't forget this. His own attorney implicated him in two federal crimes. And as a result of that, you see a spike in his tweets about the so-called rigged witch hunt. He is feeling the heat, and so he is lashing out. And because the facts are so unfavorable to him, he is trying to challenge the very validity of the facts and if reality itself and complaining yesterday, why is Google producing search results that aren't all about pro-Trump? Because the news is not pro-Trump, but he can't handle it.

BERMAN: While you're here, I do want to ask you something about the President told Bloomberg about North Korea, I'll read this right now. I'm seeing just for the first time. He said, he can be patient with Kim Jong-un. The quote, I have greater patience than any human being in the world. People don't understand that about me. Do you think that having patience with Kim is the right path here?

BOOT: No. American Presidents have had patience with North Korean dictators going back to the 1990s, and they've been hornswoggled at every turn. Donald Trump promised that was not going to happen to him, but it has. I mean he is basically John in the position of somebody who spiked the ball on the 50-yard line, and now he doesn't know what to do. Does he pretend that he scored a touchdown or does he go back to work and try to move the ball down the field? And you see both of those impulse is kind of it war with one another.

BERMAN: He's sort of saying it's a field goal. He says, you've had no missile testing, you've had no rocket testing. We got back our hostages. There have been no nuclear tests, and that's pretty good.

BOOT: Right, but remember what he said immediately after he got back from Singapore. He said there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea, and that is just nonsense because everything we've learned since then is that North Korea is actually expanding their nuclear program, expanding their missile program. They're not dismantling it. And that's the reality he's dealing with. That's why last week he told Mike Pompeo not to go to Pyongyang because the North Koreans were not delivering. But at the same time as he's admitting that the deal that he agreed to is basically falling apart and is meaningless, at the same time he's trying to pretend he still has a great relationship with Kim Jong-un.

[20:55:10] Everything is going just great. So you have these competing impulses at war with one another in almost everything that he says.

BERMAN: Max Boot, great to have you with us. Hopefully we'll see you again soon.

BOOT: I'm glad to be here.

BERMAN: Reminder. Don't miss "Full Circle" 360's daily interactive newscast on Facebook. When you pick some of the stories via coverage, you can see it week nights, 6:25 eastern at facebook.com/andersoncooperfullcircle.

Up next, more on a hero's journey to his final resting place. Senator John McCain's casket arrives in Washington where he will lie in state tomorrow at the capitol.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: The day ends as it began, mourning Senator John McCain, a hero's journey to his final resting place. The senator's casket arrived at Joint Base Andrews a little more than an hour ago after a moving service in Arizona earlier today. Tomorrow there will be a ceremony at the capitol rotunda, and the Senator will lie in state and members of the public can pay their respects. As former Vice President Joe Biden said today about his friend and colleague, (INAUDIBLE) a brother, he paraphrased Shakespeare, we shall not see his like again.

[21:00:06] The news continues. I'll hand it over now to Chris in "CUOMO PRIME TIME".

CUOMO: All right, thanks J.B. I am Chris Cuomo, welcome to "Prime Time".