Return to Transcripts main page
Giuliani: No Contradictions Between Cohen & Trump; Trump Says He'll No Longer Meet with Putin at G-20; Trump Downplays Cohen Plea and Revelations. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired November 29, 2018 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:31:37] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: We are getting more breaking news here in this entire Mueller investigation as it pertains to what we saw today with Michael Cohen and what he says he lied to Congress in January of '16.
New information coming in to our senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown.
Pamela, what's the new nugget now?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the big question is, what did the president respond to Robert Mueller prior to this revelation today from Michael Cohen that he lied to Congress on a number of facts as it pertained to the Trump Tower Moscow meeting. I spoke to Rudy Giuliani, the president's attorney, who said there's no contradiction. Here is a quote. Let me just find the quote that I have. "As far as he knew, there was a proposal. He did discuss it with Michael Cohen and signed a non-binding letter of intent and it never went beyond that."
That is what he said the president responded to in that set of questions recently about the Trump Tower Moscow. He said it was one of several questions, there were subparts of the question, but that the president's answer was more broad, that, yes, he was aware of the proposal and he signed the letter of intent but it never moved forward. So he's saying there's no contradiction. He said it doesn't contradict what we're hearing from Michael Cohen today.
There's a question whether Robert Mueller's team was waiting to get the answers to the questions before having the plea deal announced today. Rudy Giuliani said he doesn't know if that was the case or if they were trying to be sneaky. He says that didn't work. It's very clear the strategy here is to attack Michael Cohen's credibility. He kept saying, look, this is a guy, who is now a proven lying. He pleaded guilty today to lying to Congress. That is something that the president and his team are really seizing on today as they try to frame the story.
BALDWIN: OK. Pam, thank you.
Asha Rangappa is back with me. We're all digesting all of this together. If Giuliani is saying there's no contradiction between what Cohen has told Mueller and what Trump said to Mueller vis-a-vis his written answers, how does it explain Trump this morning?
ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It doesn't. This is a Jedi mind trick. Cohen's timeline is the true timeline. We know this because Mueller has e-mails backing it up. He's filed an information, which means he's able and willing to corroborate and substantiate it. As you said, Trump attacked Cohen this morning for being a liar. If Trump's answer of the same as Cohen's, why would he call Cohen a liar, A.
RANGAPPA: B, if Trump maintained this deal was going on the whole time, why would he have allowed Cohen to perjure himself in front of Congress? None of this makes sense. I think the only way for Giuliani to put his money where his mouth is to show the public the question that was answered and the answer that was given. Otherwise, fixer, this didn't happen, if where I come out it.
[14:35:07] BALDWIN: Fixer, it didn't happen. Yes. He may say one thing, maybe the answers indicate something else. At the end of the day, I'm like only Robert Mueller knows. And Trump all along during the campaign could have been transparent. He said he was. P.S., he wasn't on this whole Moscow project.
RANGAPPA: Correct. That's the whole point. I don't even think the public heard about the Moscow project until Mueller's investigation started. In fact, the fact that this was so underground, just to bring this into a different aspect of Mueller's investigation, the obstruction of justice thread on why Trump fired James Comey, did he obstruct justice, this starts to get to what did he not want uncovered. And it begins to add more meat to a motive behind wanting to do that. So that's another way that this is putting a nail in the coffin for the president.
BALDWIN: Jedi mind trick.
Asha Rangappa, thank you very much.
BALDWIN: Thank you.
Much more on this.
Plus, President Trump met with Vladimir Putin earlier this year after Russia interfered in the U.S. election. But now Trump is cancelling a G-20 meeting because of a conflict with Ukraine? Is there a lack of consistency here? We'll discuss.
[14:40:33] BALDWIN: President Trump has abruptly cancelled his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires. The president writing this: "Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia, I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting in Argentina with President Vladimir Putin. I look forward to a meaningful summit again as soon as the situation is resolved."
But this is what the president said moments before sending those tweets out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I probably will be meeting with President Putin. We haven't terminated that meeting. I was thinking about it, but we haven't. They'd like to have it.
TRUMP: I think it's a very good time to have the meeting. I'm getting a full report on the plane as to what happened with respect to that and that will determine what I'm going to be doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Fareed Zakaria is with me, host of "FAREED ZAKARIA, GPS."
Is this about Ukraine?
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA, GPS": I think at times Donald Trump is just planning a reality TV show. It doesn't seem to make much sense. If you're worried about Ukraine, it would make sense to have the meeting to press President Putin on the issue. Are you cancelling it to protest? Has the United States made certain demands of the Russians? Frankly, it doesn't make any sense to cancel the meeting to me. You'd want to have the meeting precisely because there's a crisis in Ukraine, you want to get the Russians to understand what they can do, maybe act as an honest broker between the two sides. Donald Trump is so unpredictable that sometimes you think that there's a plan, there's a predictable unpredictability. He knows, as you say, keeps us all watching and interested and at the edge of our seats.
BALDWIN: The Kremlin learned about this through the president's tweets. A spokesperson at the Kremlin said, "We are flying actually. So far, we've only seen Trump's tweets in media reports. We don't have official information yet. If this is the case, we'll have extra couple of hours for other useful meetings!" From Russia.
How is this playing at the Kremlin, do you think?
ZAKARIA: I think everyone has found that dealing with Donald Trump is much more difficult than they have thought. I have better contacts with the Chinese government and they started out thinking, this is fine Trump attacks China but he's a businessman. He wants a deal, there are things we want to ask in return. What they have been surprised by is the utter unpredictability. It's not clear what he wants, it's not clear if an offer made on Monday is still valid on Tuesday, will it be reneged on, on Wednesday? It's the chaos that Donald Trump seems to enjoy. As I said, that does seem to be part of the "let's keep everybody watching," scenario. It's part of the foreign policy. They're sitting there thinking, wait a minute, what exactly does he want. I know that with the Chinese trade negotiations, they keep saying, we're just not sure what it is he wants, we don't know that we can deliver, but first, we need to know, what is it he wants, we want it to be clear and predictable.
BALDWIN: That's a whole other conversation if he even tries to get any other kind of deal done if he's down there with Xi. But we'll stick with Russia today.
Fareed Zakaria, thank you so much as always.
Don't miss "FAREED ZAKARIA, GPS" Sunday, 10:00 a.m., right here on CNN.
Good to see you.
ZAKARIA: Thank you.
[14:44:06] BALDWIN: More to come on the breaking news today. The man who once said he'd take a bullet for Donald Trump now says he lied to Congress. What that means for the Mueller investigation and the man the president trusted the most?
BALDWIN: As Michael Cohen discloses more and more details about the president's business dealings in Moscow, President Trump is downplaying these revelations. He says the proposal for a Trump Tower in Moscow was a very well-known project at the time. But news flash, that's just not true. The proposed deal only came to light after Trump took office and long after the deal was cancelled. It was first mentioned, in passing, in a "New York Times" piece in February of 2017. We only learned more about this whole Moscow project when Cohen testified on Capitol Hill in August of last year, where now he confesses he lied about certain details in order to remain loyal to the president.
With me now is investigative reporter, David Cay Johnston. He's the author of "It's Even Worse Than You Think, What the Trump Administration is Doing to America." He has been reporting on Trump's finances for nearly 30 years.
David, we were chatting in commercial break. You wrote this piece. You predicted this, right? You know the Trump finances better than most. Do you think Trump was telling Cohen keep at it, keep pursuing this Moscow project?
[14:49:56] DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER & AUTHOR: Oh, yes. I mean, Donald has been trying to get a Moscow project for several decades, and his loophole in his comment today is that there were past failed efforts to do a project. But when you look at this in the context of what's happening, it's very revealing. The Cohen plea to a charge none of us knew was coming is after Donald Trump answered the written questions. It's after Donald indicated that he heard that they were yelling at people to give answers. I believe what happened here is that Manafort's lawyer, who was a double agent here in effect, working with Manafort and with prosecutors and helping team Trump, got tricked here into thinking that the Mueller team did not have certain facts. And that shaped Trump's answers. And of course, it is absolutely established law in America that police and prosecutors can lie to you and mislead you to get at the truth. The Cohen thing today blows up and significantly Cohen's statement, his written statement and his court statements do not tell the last date on which this Moscow Trump Tower was discussed. Don't be surprised if it turns out to be after January 20th, 2017 when Trump took the oath of office.
BALDWIN: Really? That late, that late. How much -- so you say that Trump most definitely would have said to Cohen keep at it because he wanted it so badly. How much power did Michael Cohen have to cut deals like this on behalf of the Trump organization?
JOHNSTON: I think the written document makes it very clear that he was authorized and he reported back regularly to Trump and Trump associates, who in standard government parlance are identified as people like assistant one and principal person one. But for more than a decade it was Cohen who did these deals, set up deals, and he was invited to Russia during this period by the Russian government. And who is he in contact with? Not some nobody but the spokesman for Vladimir Putin.
BALDWIN: That's not a nobody.
Here is how the president reacted to all of this news that was breaking this morning on Michael Cohen. Here he was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We had a possibly do a deal, to build a building of some kind in Moscow. I decided not to do it. The primary reason, and there could have been other reasons, the primary reason was very simple, I was focused on running for president. There would be nothing wrong if I did do it. I was running my business while I was campaigning. There was a good chance that I wouldn't have won, in which case, I would have gotten back into the business. Why should I lose lots of opportunities?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: So he says, David, nothing wrong with doing business while I was running for president. Explain to all the viewers at home why that might be a problem using his own candidacy as a marketing ploy.
JOHNTON: Yes. It depends on whether there were things of value provided to the Trump campaign. The WikiLeaks disclosures could be things of value. Money for a deal could be a thing of value. Those would all be criminal offenses. And if they're part of a larger conspiracy, and we now have the Russia conspiracy right at the door of the White House with this morning's plea, then absolutely those would be questionable. And anything done after he took the oath of office can be seen as violating his oath to faithfully execute the laws and uphold the constitution of the United States.
BALDWIN: I was talking to a former special agent at the top of the show, and she said, absolutely, this Cohen news is a national security issue. The Kremlin could have had something on Trump, perhaps something financial. You know better than anyone, what might that have been?
JOHNSTON: First of all, there's the question of the tape that exists, which was brought up in the Steele dossier, which is looking better and better as more charges are brought and more people around Trump confess to crimes that are connected to Russia. But it doesn't necessarily have to be blackmail. Donald is someone who is very, very amenable to putting money in his pocket. Think about how he talks about the Saudis. They put so much money in my pocket, why wouldn't I like it? It blinds him to all over considerations. I would be cautious, Brooke, about thinking about this as necessarily being blackmailed. This could be cultivating someone through favors, flattery and money.
BALDWIN: Got it. Got it.
David Cay Johnston, thank you very much. Thank you.
JOHNSTON: thank you.
[14:54:46] BALDWIN: More on our special coverage here on CNN. After a chaotic week that was in the Mueller investigation, it is clear there are at least three major areas in which the special counsel is looking directly at the president. We'll talk you through all of them ahead.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BALDWIN: It is a huge news day. Thank you so much for tuning in to CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
A blockbuster development in the Russia investigation. For the very first time, we are seeing cooperation between perhaps the last two people President Trump wants working together, the Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Cohen, Mr. Cohen, Mr. Cohen. Can you just talk to us? Mr. Cohen, just --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[14:59:58] BALDWIN: Mr. Cohen is the man who has known the president's deepest secrets for years and years.