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Cohen Talking to Mueller; Kavanaugh Accuser May Testify. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired September 20, 2018 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[18:00:10]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: Cohen cooperating. New reporting tonight that the president's former lawyer may have spent many hours talking to Robert Mueller's team about Russia, possible collusion and more. Could this be a huge turning point in the investigation, if both Cohen and Paul Manafort are telling all?

Prepared to testify. The woman accusing the president's Supreme Court nominee of past sexual assault says she's willing to tell her story, after all, with conditions, and not on Monday. Her lawyers trying to negotiate the terms tonight.

Measured response. The president has managed to avoid attacking Brett Kavanaugh's accuser, and we're told he's been bragging about the positive response to his restraint. Will he continue to hold back at a big campaign rally tonight?

And fourth quarter. The fired FBI Director James Comey's thinks the special counsel may be in the last phase of his Russia investigation. How soon will Robert Mueller make his final play?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following two major breaking stories, including new information about Michael Cohen's cooperation with prosecutors.

ABC News is reporting that the president's former lawyer has been interviewed by the special counsel's team multiple times for hours and hours on the president's Russia dealings, possible collusion and whether anyone from the Trump camp spoke to Cohen about a pardon.

Also breaking, Brett Kavanaugh's accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, wants to testify about her allegations against the Supreme Court nominee next week, if -- if the terms are fair, but she's ruling out an appearance at a Monday hearing.

I will talk with former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara and former Obama administration official Jake Sullivan. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go to our justice correspondent, Evan Perez, and our reporter Kara Scannell.

Evan, first of all, tell us more about this new report on Michael Cohen.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, ABC News is reporting a pretty big development, that Michael Cohen, the president's former personal lawyer and someone who for a long time said he was willing to take a bullet for the president, has now gone in for what was hours of interviews with special counsel Robert Mueller's team.

Now, this is a big deal because according to the ABC News reports, and they they're citing sources briefed on these conversations, they say that these were interviews that were focused on potential contacts between people in the Trump campaign and Russians, as well as things having to do with President Trump's financial affairs and his business dealings.

And more significantly is the potential here for questions, according to ABC News, questions about whether or not anybody discussed a pardon with Michael Cohen. Michael Cohen pleaded guilty last month, Wolf. He's awaiting sentencing. And this is something obviously he has talked about in the press. He's talked about possibly going in and talking to Mueller.

And now, according to ABC, he has already done this for hours of interviews with the special counsel's team. We're trying to still confirm this report. We have not been able to confirm it. And we have now reached out to the special counsel, Robert Mueller's office. They have declined to comment.

BLITZER: It's interesting, because, as you know, Kara, Michael Cohen for a decade was very close to the president, his personal lawyer, his so-called fixer

How much of a threat potentially does all this represent to the president?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It could be a very big threat.

Michael Cohen has been close to the president for decades. He was there when Trump had the Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow. And he invited President Vladimir Putin to attend it. He also -- Michael Cohen was involved in trying to establish a Trump Tower in Moscow at the very start of Trump's presidential campaign.

So he's known him a long time. And, of course, when he pled guilty last month, he pled guilty to committing campaign finance violations in coordination with and at the direction of the then candidate to pay off Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal to silence them about their allegations of an affair.

So Michael Cohen knows Donald Trump very well. He could end up providing a lot of information to Mueller's team. And it doesn't even have to be something that results in a criminal action, but Mueller's also composing this report that they're going to issue to Congress. So we could learn just a lot more about how the Trump Organization

works and Donald Trump himself and their various contacts with Russians over the decade.

BLITZER: I texted Michael Cohen's lawyer Lanny Davis to get a response. He texted me back.

He said: "Lanny Davis, attorney for Mr. Cohen, declined to comment. No inference should result from this no-comment."

But what, if any, reaction are you getting from the Trump camp?

PEREZ: Well, so far they are not commenting on this.

[18:05:00]

But, Wolf, one of the things I heard from people close to the president is simply that they are not surprised that this would happen.

In fact, they say that they're not concerned at all. Obviously, that is something you would expect the president and his team to say. But, look, I think they know that the potential here is problematic. The president and Michael Cohen were very close. Michael Cohen knows a lot, as Kara was saying, things related to his business dealings, especially any dealings with Russians over the last few years.

So, this is something that interests not only special counsel Robert Mueller, but also potentially others, including the New York state attorney general, which we know has reached out to Cohen over the last few weeks. And allegedly they were simply just waiting to finish his cooperation with the federal authorities before they got a chance to talk to him.

BLITZER: Yes, lots going on right now.

Evan, Kara, guys, thank you very much.

Joining us now, our senior legal analyst, the former us attorney Preet Bharara.

Preet, thanks very much for joining us.

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Sure.

BLITZER: And let me get your reaction right away.

How valuable is Michael Cohen potentially as a witness in the Mueller investigation?

BHARARA: Well, he's potentially incredibly valuable. And I will say that with one caveat that I will get to in a second.

As your other panelists have been saying, Michael Cohen knows a lot about the Trump Organization, a lot personally about Donald Trump in multiple areas. He knows about his dealings with Russia. He may be witness with respect to obstruction of justice.

And most, I think, dramatically, as we talked about some weeks ago on the show and everyone in the country was talking about it, Michael Cohen got up in a court in the Southern District of New York and, in connection with his own guilty plea and cooperation agreement, said that the president of the United States directed him to commit a crime.

And so depending on how credible that his to the Mueller team, and depending on what corroboration there is for that conclusion and that testimony, he's quite a valuable witness.

The caveat, on the other hand, though, is depending on what purpose you want to use Michael Cohen for, whether he is going to be part of sort of a narrative that's in a report that gets sent to Congress on the one hand, or someone you would want to testify in court with respect to a charge against Donald Trump, if it's the second thing, the caveat about Michael Cohen is, he's a proven liar over and over and over again, and an admitted liar in connection with the cooperation agreement.

So he has credibility problems of his own, but, on balance, I think an incredibly important witness.

BLITZER: We do know, Preet, that the president and Cohen, they actually stayed pretty close to throughout the first year of the Trump presidency. And that only changed after that FBI raid on Michael Cohen in April of this year.

How does that play into Cohen's role in the possible of obstruction of justice portion of this Mueller investigation?

BHARARA: It depends on what Cohen knows. And it depends on what Donald Trump told Michael Cohen.

With respect to the obstruction portion of this investigation, as people have been saying for many months now, the critical piece is not so much what the president did, although that helps to develop the narrative on obstruction, but what was the president thinking when he did those things?

And he probably doesn't have e-mails or a journal in which he said, I'm doing this thing to obstruct justice. Instead, you glean what his mental state was from conversations he had with other people. So if Michael Cohen had a series of conversations, hypothetically, with Donald Trump where they talked together about engaging in action to stop the Russia investigation or to get the heat off people who are his allies, or put the heat on people who are his adversaries, then that can be very powerful, again, with the caveat that I mentioned earlier that Michael Cohen has credibility problems.

BLITZER: ABC News is also reporting, Preet, that Michael Cohen is cooperating with the New York state authorities, as you point out, on an investigation into the Trump Organization and the Trump family charity.

What does that tell you? Could charges be coming against the president's businesses or family members?

BHARARA: It could be.

The fact that Michael Cohen is talking to everybody in the business of taking a look at Donald Trump is certainly bad news for Donald Trump. But it's sort of standard operating procedure. When I was U.S. attorney, we had a valuable collaborating witness in a mob case. And we were looking at one part of a mob family, the Gambinos, for example.

And the Eastern District of New York was looking at another part of that same mob family. We would put our sort of feuding and good- natured rivalry to the side, and you would share information.

And so Michael Cohen, in connection with his cooperation and pleading guilty in the Southern District of New York, is supposed to make himself available to other law enforcement organizations and agencies. And that seems to be what he's doing.

And, obviously, as we know, the same attorney general's office, if it's able to bring a charge against anyone, whether it's someone close to Donald Trump or otherwise, that's not pardonable by the president.

BLITZER: The fired FBI Director James Comey now says he thinks that the Paul Manafort cooperation deal might actually signal that the Mueller investigation is in what he calls the fourth quarter.

[18:10:03]

Do you agree?

BHARARA: Well, I might counter with a different sports metaphor.

In some ways, this is not like football, where there's a clock, you only have a certain number of minutes per quarter. I don't know if there's only 15 minutes left.

A better analogy might be baseball. And maybe we're in the seventh inning. And sometimes when you're in the seventh inning, the last couple innings go very quickly. It could be three up, three down. But you can also have a hitting streak, and you can bet around the order in the eighth inning. And it can take a little bit longer.

So I don't know that the Mueller team is on some precise clock, although they have to be sort of cognizant of the electoral situation, the election in a few weeks. But I think they're going to just hunker down, try to get as many hits as they can, and swing at as many pitches as come across the plate, because that's their job.

And they're not on any artificial timetable, I don't think.

BLITZER: In baseball, you can go extra innings as well.

All right, stand by, Preet.

There's more I need to discuss with you. I want to turn to the other big story that's breaking this hour.

Christine Blasey Ford now says she is willing to testify next week about her allegations against the U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, but with conditions.

Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, first of all, any reaction from the president?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Not yet, Wolf.

He did leave the White House a short time ago for this rally that he's going to have later on tonight in Las Vegas. He did not answer reporters' questions.

A top the White House official here, though, the deputy chief of staff, Bill Shine, did tell reporters that the White House still stands firmly behind Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee.

And the White House, like much of us, Wolf, they're all watching this unfold up on Capitol Hill. The White House really not having much of an effect in terms of what's taking place inside the Senate Judiciary Committee.

But, today, there was a very significant development, as the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, said she could we be prepared to testify next week. That announcement came after we reported that the Senate Judiciary Committee could be flexible with its deadline, saying that Ford could make her decision by tomorrow morning or later if she wanted to.

It sounds like she has made her decision, though it's not exactly what the Republicans on the committee actually want.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): The battle over the fate of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is escalating once again, with protests on Capitol Hill and demands flying back and forth, the latest, an e-mail to the Senate Judiciary Committee from the legal team for Kavanaugh's accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.

The e-mail states Ford is willing to sit before the committee next week, adding: "She wishes to testify, provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety. A hearing on Monday is not possible."

That was in response to a letter from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, who has set a Friday morning deadline for Ford to decide whether she would appear at Monday's scheduled hearing, but sources told CNN that Friday deadline is negotiable, saying Ford has time to weigh her options.

Democrats wonder, what's the rush?

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: As a prosecutor, you know you cannot rush something like this. You have to have people investigating it, as the Democrats on the committee have asked for. This rush to judgment makes you wonder, what else are they trying to hide?

ACOSTA: Ford's attorney say their client wants the FBI to investigate her accusation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while they were in high school.

But Republicans are refusing that demand, even though Grassley himself was receptive to an FBI probe into Anita Hill's allegations against justice Clarence Thomas in 1991, accusations he described as an 11th hour charge.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: When the FBI has completed its work, every committee members should be notified and have access to that report, and a determination by the committee should be made as to how we need to proceed with any allegation. A rule like this should ensure once and for all that even an 11th hour charge like yours has been fully considered.

ACOSTA: With her attorneys warning Ford has received death threats, her family released a statement showing support for Kavanaugh's accuser, saying: "We know how difficult this is for her. Chrissy is not someone who chooses to be in the spotlight."

Her accusation promises to have a major impact on the upcoming midterm elections. Republican Congressman Ralph Norman mocked the accusation facing Kavanaugh at a debate in South Carolina.

REP. RALPH NORMAN (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Did all you hear the latest late-breaking news from the Kavanaugh hearings? Ruth Bader Ginsburg came out, and she was groped by Abraham Lincoln.

(LAUGHTER)

ACOSTA: It's no wonder, Democrats say, Ford is reluctant to testify.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: I do hope that she testifies, but I deeply respect her hesitation, given the ways in which her life and her family's life have already been disrupted by attacks, by disrespect, and by death threats.

ACOSTA: As for Kavanaugh, the judge stayed behind closed doors at the White House, prepping for a possible hearing that may exclude any other witnesses, as aides to the president said Mr. Trump has been bragging about the way he has handled his latest Supreme Court pick.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[18:15:09]

ACOSTA: And the Senate Judiciary Committee is now weighing its next move in how to respond to these demands coming from Ford's legal team.

The committee could potentially hear from Ford later on next week, as she is indicating through our attorney, if the GOP members in charge of that panel agreed to her terms. Wolf, that is very much up in the air.

And, as you know, the Senate is not in session right now. Many of these Republican lawmakers who have to decide on this, they have all gone back to their individual states. So a lot of talking, a lot of discussions, that has to go on before a final decision is made in terms of how all of this could play out next week, Wolf.

BLITZER: Lots of unanswered questions. Good point.

All right, Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

I quickly want to check in with our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly. He is getting new information.

Phil, as Professor Ford is offering to testify, what, there's now a new move by Democrats on the Judiciary Committee? What are you learning?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's exactly right.

Democrats, all 10 Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee sending a letter to the FBI over concerns about threats that have been directed towards Professor Ford, that letter saying in part: "We're increasingly concerned by reports of alleged death threats against her, the hacking of her e-mail and the harassment and intimidation she has faced since being forced into the spotlight late last week."

Basically asking the FBI to ensure that they investigate any of these threats. And this is a key point, because if you think back to the letter that was sent by Christine Blasey Ford's lawyers, she said not only did conditions have to be met for her to testify next week, but also her safety would have to be ensured.

Now, in terms of what's going to happen next, Wolf, I'm told just after 5:00 p.m., the legal team for Professor Ford, Democrats on the Judiciary Committee and Republican staff on the Judiciary Committee got together for a phone call, breaking an impasse of sorts, silence from Professor Ford's team to Congress, and also an impasse between Republicans and Democrats.

I'm told it's the first substantive interaction those two sides have had over more than a week. Where this all ends up remains an open question. Shortly after the e-mail was received by Professor Ford's legal team, one congressional source texted me saying, negotiations are officially starting.

The real question right now is, Wolf, given how much of a firm line Republicans have set that there will not be an expanded background investigation, that the hearing must be on Monday and they would not be willing to have more witnesses, will there be any negotiations at all, or will there actually be a hearing next week, Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, lots of good stuff from Phil Mattingly.

Thank you very much.

Let's bring back Preet Bharara, our senior legal analyst, former U.S. attorney.

So, Preet, what do you make of this Democratic attempt now to open a formal FBI investigation into the threats, including death threats, against Professor Ford?

BHARARA: I mean, it's not surprising. I think that there's a lot of concern on the part of I think reasonable people that, given how charged this information is and the allegations are and how much is at stake, because it's involving a Supreme Court justice who might change the balance of the court, that everyone wants to take every precaution.

I spent four-and-a-half years working on that very committee as a staff member and worked through two Supreme Court confirmation hearings, and they're always charged and they're always sort of very dramatic events, because so much is at stake.

So I'm not -- I'm not surprised by that at all.

BLITZER: What do you think a fair hearing would look like?

BHARARA: A fair hearing, whether you're talking about in Congress, where it's not always so fair...

BLITZER: The Senate Judiciary Committee. What do you think a fair Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on these allegations from this professor against the Supreme Court nominee, what would that look like?

BHARARA: Yes, so, obviously, it's not a court of law.

The point I was trying to make was, you want certain basic principles of fairness to be observed. And among those would be hearing from the accuser in a way that is respectful, but probing, and full and extensive.

You also want to hear from the person who has been accused, in this case the nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. You also want to hear from any other what we call percipient witnesses, people who have some knowledge of whether or not the charge being made is likely to be true or likely to not be true.

And that includes Brett Kavanaugh's friend Mark Judge, and I think there has been suggestion that there were some other people there as well. I think it also makes sense to have an inquiry going on outside of the hearing, so that the people who come to the hearing are prepared with information and facts and circumstances surrounding the allegations, so that the questioning is not just a shot in the dark, it's not a fishing expedition.

It can be focused and controlled and respectful. I also think that possibly -- this has been suggested by I think the Republican side and by some other people, including former staffers on the Judiciary Committee -- that maybe the question should not be done directly by senators. Senators are very loathe to give up their moment in the spotlight. But given how charged everything is and how much emotion there is on all sides in this, grandstanding senators may not be the best people to be putting questions to these folks at an open hearing next week, given what we saw 27 years ago with Anita Hill.

BLITZER: Important points, indeed.

Preet, as usual, thank you very much for joining us.

[18:20:01]

BHARARA: Sure.

BLITZER: There's more breaking news ahead on Michael Cohen and his cooperation with Robert Mueller. Is this the beginning of the end of the Russia investigation?

And will Christine Blasey Ford testify about Brett Kavanaugh? And if she does, could she derail the president's Supreme Court nominee?

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Breaking tonight, the president's former lawyer and fixer for a decade reportedly has spent many hours talking to Robert Mueller's team over the past month.

[18:25:00]

ABC News says much of the questioning of Michael Cohen dealt with Mr. Trump's dealings with Russia.

We're also following breaking news on the president's U.S. Supreme Court nominee. Brett Kavanaugh's accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, says she's willing to testify next week if the terms are fair. She also says she won't do it on Monday.

Joining us now to discuss all of this, Jake Sullivan, a former top adviser to both Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. He is currently a lecturer at Yale Law School.

Jake, thanks very much for coming in.

JAKE SULLIVAN, FORMER ADVISER TO HILLARY CLINTON: Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: So, you worked with Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign, when the Russians engaged in cyber-warfare against that campaign.

You think Michael Cohen could shed some serious light in his interviews with Robert Mueller's team about any possible coordination, conspiracy, collusion, whatever you want to call it, between the Trump camp and the Russians?

SULLIVAN: Of course he could.

I mean, given how close he is to the president and the president's family, he could shed light on what the Trump campaign knew about the hack of the DNC, what the Trump campaign knew about the hack of John Podesta, what the Trump campaign knew about the information operations through social media that the Russian intelligence agencies were conducting, and the extent to which the Trump campaign was either encouraging those things or facilitating them.

And so I think all of that is something that Mueller should be fully exploring. And, ostensibly, Michael Cohen will have to tell the truth because he will be talking to federal law enforcement.

BLITZER: And do you think potentially he has information on another aspect of the Mueller investigation, obstruction of justice?

SULLIVAN: This is another area where he is going to be an absolutely key witnesses.

As Preet Bharara was saying in the last segment, this ultimately comes down to the president's state of mind. Did President Trump decide that he was going to fire people, that he was going to make decisions with the express purpose of frustrating the investigation into what happened in 2016?

It certainly appears that he did. And Michael Cohen would be the person who could shed light on the president's state of mind.

BLITZER: Let's get to some other sensitive issues.

Google is just now revealing that foreign government hackers have now been targeting the private Gmail accounts of us senators, Senate staff of both parties.

Is the government, the federal government, prepared to confront this ongoing threat?

SULLIVAN: I think the short answer is no. And you don't have to take that from me.

Various intelligence officials have testified before Congress that they do not have all the tools they need to be able to push back against and counter Russian interference in our political process.

And that's no small part because the president of the United States simply will not take this threat seriously. As somebody who was the subject of these attacks in 2016, I know how relentless they can be, and I know what the results can be, as we saw from the leaked information from the DNC and John Podesta.

BLITZER: You say you were the subject personally or the campaign?

SULLIVAN: Both the campaign, and I was the subject, as has been reported, of phishing attacks during 2016, when they tried to hack my e-mail, just as they were hacking John Podesta's and others.

BLITZER: Was any of that phishing successful in your...

SULLIVAN: We don't believe that it was.

BLITZER: In your case?

SULLIVAN: No, we don't believe that it was.

But the point is that you can see quite clearly what the Russian playbook is and how they will try to execute this against people they believe are opposed to the president or opposed to their positions.

And the United States government should be doing much more to combat it than...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: So when Google says that foreign government hackers are trying to go after the private Gmail accounts of senators, Senate staff, is that the Russians mostly or other countries?

SULLIVAN: Look, there's a history of other governments, including the Chinese, trying to get into the e-mail accounts of prominent political figures.

The Chinese have tended to do it simply to gain information about policy issues or who's important as an adviser to a presidential candidate, that kind of thing. The Russians do it to weaponize it, to leak it in an effort to influence the outcome of the election.

My guess is that, when Google talks about that, they aren't just talking about Russia, but Russia is number one on the list in terms of the hostile foreign powers coming at us.

BLITZER: On the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court, from your perspective -- you spent a lot of time studying this -- what would a fair hearing involving the accuser and the accused look like?

SULLIVAN: Well, first of all, it's very difficult, in a charged partisan environment, especially when you have got 10 men occupying the Republican side of the aisle...

BLITZER: Eleven.

SULLIVAN: Eleven men. My apologies.

BLITZER: Ten Democrats, 11 Republicans.

SULLIVAN: Right. And all 11 Republicans are men -- to have a fully fair hearing.

That being said, I think, as long as the accuser, Dr. Ford, is allowed to give her story fully and fairly, and not be badgered or berated, or a lot of the things that Anita Hill was subject to a quarter-century ago, then it is possible that we could have a fair hearing here. And, of course, Judge Kavanaugh should have the right to respond to that as well and to answer tough, probing questions about what he recalls from the incident.

BLITZER: With hindsight, did Senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, make the right move in waiting until now, at the very end, a week or so ago, even though she knew about these accusations back in July?

SULLIVAN: I think it's hard for any of us to answer that question right now, because we don't know the full circumstances of what exactly Dr. Ford communicated to her and the degree to which she had leeway to bring this out publicly or bring it to the majority. So until we get the full story of what it is that kept Senator Feinstein from staring this information, it's hard to pass judgment.

BLITZER: Well, what she says and what Dr. Ford says is that Professor Ford asked her not to release this information, but she just wanted her to be aware of it.

SULLIVAN: Right. And as long as that's the case, it's a little hard to criticize Dianne Feinstein for honoring the wishes of the person who came forward. But I think over time we'll get the fuller context of what exactly transpired.

BLITZER: Yes, I suspect you're absolutely right. Jake, thanks very much for coming in.

SULLIVAN: Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: Just ahead, our analysts are getting ready to weigh in on what it means for the Russia investigation that Michael Cohen has spent hours and hours with the special counsel over the past month.

And we could also know in the coming hours if Brett Kavanaugh's accuser and U.S. senators are able to agree on terms for her testimony.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:35:56] BLITZER: We're following breaking news. The White House has just released the text of a letter from Judge Brett Kavanaugh, agreeing to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, but we still don't know if there will even be a hearing.

Let's bring in our analysts to discuss this letter. Gloria Borger, it basically makes the point he's ready to fully cooperate since the moment, he says, "I first heard this allegation, I have categorically and unequivocally denied it. I remain committed to defending my integrity." And he's ready to appear on Monday.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. He's ready to appear on Monday. He also says that he was interviewed by the committee on September 17, on Monday the 17th. I presume that's by the Republicans on the committee. I doubt the Democrats participated in that. And that he twice requested committee hearings for the following day.

So, you know, now -- now we have Professor Ford saying that she is willing to come and testify, although she would prefer an investigation first, but she didn't demand it today. She said she can't do it Monday. So it seems to me that they're not going to have a hearing with just Brett Kavanaugh there alone.

So I think what we're moving towards is some kind of -- jump-starting some kind of negotiation here where maybe they will end up with some kind of a hearing next week at some point. I don't think it's going to be on Monday.

But Kavanaugh, clearly, is eager, by putting out this statement, after Professor Ford, to say, "I'm ready to go whenever you are, and I want to go as soon as possible to clear my name."

BLITZER: Professor -- Professor Ford, Abby, makes the point she's ready to appear before the committee but not on Monday. But she also wants it to be a fair hearing.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think she wants to get some concessions out of Republicans before next week. It's not clear that she'll be able to do that.

But her attorneys are trying their best to get her something -- get her more witnesses, more expert testimony -- so that she's not there out on an island.

And I think what you're seeing with this letter from Kavanaugh, which frankly, I don't think adds a whole lot of new information, but what it does do is helps to further juxtapose her hesitance to testify as is and his willingness to testify. And that's what the White House and congressional Republicans think is critically to their advantage right now. They think that that has put Ford and Democrats back on their heels and has called into question the truthfulness of her allegations.

I don't know that it does that. All it does is say that she's probably rightfully hesitant to be put in a really big national spotlight after all that has transpired this week, including what we now know: threats to her family and things of that nature.

BLITZER: Yes, it's awful that she'd be getting threats, her family has been getting threats. They've had to move out of their house in Palo -- death threats they've been getting out of Palo Alto, California.

You know, Phil Mudd, do you think realistically -- at one point in your career you worked at the FBI -- a full investigation into these charges can be completed within a week?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I don't know about a week, but pretty quickly. Look, remember, we're talking about the predigital age. You're not looking at text messages. You're not looking at 35-year-old phone calls. You're talking about -- to a limited number of people who were high schoolers, presumably drinking beer, trying to recollect something that they may not have even seen more than three decades ago.

I don't think it would take that long to go through a list of interviews, partly because I think the interviewees would be limited in number.

That said, I think the question is becoming moot. If they go to a hearing next week, I don't know why you would conduct an FBI investigation in the wake of a hearing where both critical parties appear in public.

BORGER: Right. And nobody's promised to do it. She wants it, but the committee hasn't requested it. The president hasn't requested it. The Democrats want it. But --

MUDD: Not going to happen. There's not going to be an investigation.

BLITZER: What do you think, Joey? How do you see it from the legal perspective?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I see that calling it a hearing is a misnomer. When you talk about a hearing, you talk about a search for facts. You talk about a search for the truth.

You don't talk about a sham whatever you want to call it proceeding whereby Judge Kavanaugh comes and he says, "I vehemently deny anything. I vehemently denied it from the beginning. This is an outrage. It's the 11th hour" and then she states her piece. That's ridiculous, right?

[18:40:07] We have a system, and that system is designed to find facts.

Now in addition to what Phil Mudd rightly points out with regard to who the witnesses may be, there is, most respectfully, a lot more than that. Right? There's not only people who were at the party who could attest to being there, what occurred, was the judge there, 17 years old at the time, was he not there? Was he inebriated? Was he not?

But there are things called recent outcry. To what extent did the fine doctor, who was 15 at that time, tell a family member, a friend? We know later on there are notes. Those notes are significant because a therapist's notes, and they were taken way before she would have had any motivation to lie.

So if you're going to have a proceeding, make it matter. If you're going to have proceeding, just don't do it as a show. Do it so that you can get to the truth to determine whether it's fact or fiction. And absent that, I think it's just really pulling the wool over the eyes of the American people.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Abby, because the president so far has been uncharacteristically restrained in reacting to all of this.

PHILLIP: Because he knows that he can't mess this up. This is the reason -- as he pointed out this week, this is the reason he was elected. Because Republicans trusted him to nominate and put people on the courts who would advance their agenda for a generation.

And that is the one thing that, for the last two years, since he's been president, he has allowed the professionals in the Republican Party in Washington to take full control over.

And I think what we're seeing here this week is actually no different from that. It's the president saying, "You're right, I'm going to just go with the game plan here."

And the game plan was pretty clear. It was create the opening for her to testify, defend Kavanaugh but don't create more problems by attacking an alleged victim. And I think that the fact that he agreed to that is evidence that he understands the stakes here for his legacy as president.

BLITZER: Yes, the stakes are clearly enormous.

Everybody, stick around. There's a lot more news we're following. We're going to talk about the other breaking story, new reporting on Michael Cohen's cooperation with Robert Mueller and what it means for the Russia investigation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:46:45] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're back with our analysts on the breaking news on the president's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, ABC News reporting he spent hours talking to Robert Mueller's team in multiple interviews over the past month.

And, Gloria Borger, we're just getting the "New York Times" basically reporting the same thing, Maggie Haberman, Matthew Rosenberg, both of whom are CNN contributors, write this, Michael D. Cohen, President Trump's former personal lawyer has been interviewed repeatedly in the past month by prosecutors from the special counsel investigating whether the Trump presidential campaign, conspired with Russian operatives in the 2016 election, according to two people with knowledge of the sessions, potentially very, very significant.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, very significant. It makes a lot of sense that Mueller would be talking to Cohen. Cohen was sending up flares for the past month saying that I have a lot of information here that I can share with you. What we don't know, and according to the ABC story -- what we don't know, the ABC story says he has had no guarantee of leniency here for his cooperation, which I think is an interesting point if that is indeed the case.

And it makes sense that Mueller would want to question him about Russia, because, of course, don't forget that it was Michael Cohen who tried to get a letter of intent for building Trump tower Moscow for candidate -- then candidate Donald Trump who said he had nothing to do with Russia. He's worked for Donald Trump for over a decade. He's worked for the Trump Organization. And he's in a lot of trouble in the southern district of New York.

So, it makes an awful lot of sense that not only would he be interviewed by Mueller, but perhaps also, of course, by the Southern District of New York. Because this is a man who has run out of money and he's worried about his family, and he wants to reduce any jail time he's been facing. But again, what was interesting to me about the ABC story was that it said there's no guarantee of leniency, so we'll have to see.

BLITZER: No guarantee, potentially, but Joey Jackson you're our legal expert in this case. If somebody has pleaded guilty to eight felony counts, awaiting sentencing on December 12th. Wouldn't it make sense to go out of your way to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller, the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York, and maybe even the attorney general of New York who is looking at the Trump Organization, Trump charities, to maybe get a letter during the sentencing to the judge in New York saying, you know what, he's been really helpful to us and maybe help him a little bit in the leniency.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, absolutely. Look, if you want guarantees, right, you buy a refrigerator. The federal government is not in the business of giving you a guarantee because once you get the guarantee, you're going to be savage.

To your point, he's pled guilty to eight things. So, if I'm a defense attorney, I don't care, you pull up a couch, he can spend all day, all night, sleep over with the special counsel but look at it right there. And look at cross-examination, so, sir, you pled guilty to tax evasion, right? Wasn't the first time you lied, right? You didn't lie twice, you didn't lie three times. You lied five different times.

And you didn't stop there, did you, because you gave false statements. And the president told you, you did a little finance campaign, you know, wrangling. You did that, too, but you're telling the truth now?

So the issue with me is not the amount of time he's spending with the special counsel, it's the reliability and accuracy of the information, so last point, Wolf, and that's this. If he doesn't have corroboration, that is, there's not another person or people who could substantiate what he's telling them or there's not a document or documents which otherwise substantiate what he's telling them, it means nothing because his credibility is challenged. If he does have other people who can come forward to say, you know what, that's true, and -- you know, or documents that corroborate what he's saying, then you know what? It changes -- it's a game changer.

BLITZER: Very quickly, Phil.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think Joey's dead on but I would say there are a lot of documents from the FBI raid. I suspect a lot of cooperation and conversation is about, where's that money, was it from Russians and explain that transaction. That's what happened to Paul Manafort. I think that's what's going to happen here.

BLITZER: Everybody, stick around.

There's more breaking news that we're following on. This new report on Michael Cohen's cooperation with the special counsel and the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee, says he's planning to be at a hearing on Monday. What about the accuser? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:55:42] BLITZER: CNN is going to the front lines of the battle against one of the most feared street gangs in America, MS-13. It's the focus of the season premiere of "THIS IS LIFE" with Lisa Ling that airs this Sunday.

Here's a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LISA LING, CNN HOST, "THIS IS LIFE" (voice-over): Armed with tactics of seduction, coercion, and threats, MS-13 has had no shortage of potential recruits. Over 100,000 unaccompanied minors have arrived in the United States since 2014, and most are vulnerable to recruitment. Under the cover of night, I met one such target. A young teen recently reunited with his mother after a decade apart.

(on camera): How old were you the first time you saw someone get killed?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nine.

LING: You were nine years old? Did a lot of your friends join MS-13 in El Salvador?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Ten of my friends joined MS-13.

LING: What happened to their lives?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two of them are dead already.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Lisa Ling is joining us now, the host of "THIS IS LIFE."

Lisa, thank you so much for your great reporting. As you know the president often points to ms-13 in his calls for immigration reform. How big of a threat is MS-13 really and what influence has American policy had on the gang?

LING: Well, you're right, Wolf, the Trump administration would like us to believe that MS-13 is a transatlantic criminal enterprise, but the reality is that even though there are large numbers of them, it's a very disorganized collection of street cliques. The West Coast doesn't get along with the East Coast MS-13 and even in communities here on the East Coast, the cliques don't get along.

The reason why this gang has been making headlines over the years is because of the savagery they use in their murders. Just devastating. And they have these new recruits as you just saw in the clip, these thousands of unaccompanied minors who have arrived here, many of them don't really have relationships with their parents because they've been separated for so long. They feel isolated, and they're looking for a place to fit in and they are preyed upon by the gang. And for the most part, you know, the question is often asked, how

dangerous is MS-13 to our national security? And the truth is, not very dangerous. They're very dangerous to their own communities. And they're really preying on these young kids.

BLITZER: In this episode, Lisa, you highlight the role of teenagers in MS-13. Explain the dynamics that are going on.

LING: Well, they are teenagers perpetrating the crimes because they are, in many cases, pressured by gang members, but they're perpetrating their crimes on other teenagers. Again, since 2014, there has been this massive wave of unaccompanied minors and they are prime targets for the gang. The gang has been here, been in the United States since the '80s, but it was relatively dormant for a while and when this wave of unaccompanied minors came into this country, it provided the gang with throngs of new possible recruits.

BLITZER: Tell us a little bit more about what else we can expect in this new season.

LING: Well, I just also want to point out, Wolf, as far as the kids are concerned, what these kids really need is they need social services. They need help dealing with trauma, and there are ways to overcome this. Law enforcement is important, but those are things that we just can't overlook.

Also in this season, we explore gender fluidity. More and more young people these days are not feeling like they can check the entirely female box or entirely male box. It's a fascinating episode and it's a gender revolution being led by young people.

We also explore the scourge of methamphetamine use throughout the country, especially in states like Oklahoma.

BLITZER: Lisa, thank you very much for your great reporting.

And to our viewers, be sure to tune into an all new season of "THIS IS LIFE WITH LISA LING ". It premieres this Sunday night, 10:15 p.m. Eastern right after "ANTHONY BOURDAIN: PARTS UNKNOWN".

Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.