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Special Counsel Says Michael Cohen is Telling the Truth; Kremlin Responds to Court Filing By Special Counsel Mueller. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired November 29, 2018 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[12:30:00] SEN.MARK WARNER (D), VICE CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: You know, this is a pattern and remember, this is about a then candidate for president of the United States basically with his personal fixer trying to do -- cut a deal that would require significant approval from senior Russian leadership about a business deal while you are a candidate for the United States -- candidate for president of the United States. It's pretty remarkable.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: If Cohen is now telling the truth, then the president lied. Then candidate Trump lied repeatedly throughout the campaign and President Trump lied this morning when he said the deal was done earlier. Are there any ramifications for that?
WARNER: Well, listen, let's see how this plays out. We also -- let's see what else Mr. Cohen has shared with the special prosecutor. This was an individual that was affiliated with Donald Trump for many, many years. And as you -- your terminology, not only his lawyer but his fixer. He may have other stories to tell and I think the sooner those stories get out, the sooner the special prosecutor can continue to lay out his case I think the better for the American public.
Again, we had a White House that's constantly said attack the Mueller investigation, constantly says there's no there there. They got nothing to hide but it seems like now that Trump has actually produced some of the answers to Mueller, every day comes out with a new indication of these close affiliates either lying or dissembling and often times with either direct connections with Russians or Russian agents like Julian Assange.
KING: The documents filed in court today, Michael Cohen admits that he kept Mr. Trump, individual one as he's referred to up to speed about the conversations about Trump Tower which he says didn't end in January and actually he says they went through June 2016. Conversations about the possibility of a Trump Tower in Moscow.
He also says he kept family members involved. The president's son, Donald Trump Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee last year that he knew, quote, very little about that project.
Any reason to believe that Donald Trump Jr. perhaps not telling the truth? Do you have evidence of that?
WARNER: I'm not going to speculate on that at this moment. Obviously, Mr. Cohen was one of the individuals, we have a series of individuals we still need to see in our investigation. But we also have individuals like Michael Cohen that we want to have back. So that again, we can finish our counterintelligence investigation into collusion.
But, the notion -- I think there may be some -- not coincidence in timing that Mr. Mueller waited for this plea to be announced and this circumstance to be announced until after Donald Trump submitted answers to his questions.
KING: You don't think that was a coincidence? That's probably a wise hit.
You mentioned at the top, Senator that your committee has a working relationship with the special counsel. Can you help me understand that a lot better? Does the committee have information that Michael Cohen was not telling the truth and therefore sent this, referred this to Robert Mueller? Or did Robert Mueller reached out to the committee and say I need everything you have on the Trump Tower Michael Cohen testimony because I'm looking into that? How did it work?
WARNER: John, all I'm going to tell you is that, we're appropriate, we have shared testimony that we thought would be a value to the special prosecutor. I'm not going to go beyond that and I can't say while we got a working relationship we hear very little back from the special prosecutor. And this is -- that's been the tightest ship I have ever seen run in Washington.
But I'm anxious like many frankly on both sides of the aisle for the special prosecutor to continue to lay out his case and bring forward some of the plea agreements and also all of the facts from the host of people. From General Flynn, his national security adviser to more information from Paul Manafor, the president's campaign manager, Rick Gates, the deputy campaign manager, Michael Cohen, the lawyer, and fixer. They all at one level or another working with the government. And I hope that Mr. Mueller has a lot of product from all of them.
KING: Senator Mark Warner is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Appreciate your time, sir on this important day. We'll keep in touch.
WARNER: Thank you, John.
KING: Thank you, sir.
With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, Julie Pace with the Associated Press, Olivier Know with Sirius XM, Toluse Olorunnipa of Bloomberg, and Jackie Kucinich with Daily Beast.
We started with the legal minds, now we've got the reporting minds here. When you think about this and you've watched the president's reaction today, Michael Cohen is a liar. But to be clear, the special counsel now only has Michael Cohen's testimony, he backs it up with some documents and e-mails here. The president is nervous about where this is going because it's getting closer. JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, it's getting closer and it's getting to Trump's business relationship with Moscow, with Russia which is then something that has been really -- there's been a lot of uncertainty about that. He has denied repeatedly that he was still having conversations through his business with Russian officials during this campaign late into the campaign. He's denied that during the campaign, denied that since he's been in office.
[12:35:01] Michael Cohen now stretches this timeline into a problematic area for the president. And again, it reminds us what we say often which is that we don't know what Mueller knows. Mueller has so much more information. He was clearly waiting it appears until Trump put his own accounting of this timeline on paper and gave it to the special counsel, and now we're starting to see that Trump -- we're starting to see what Mueller has that could potentially contradict what the president put.
KING: And starting to understand the president's even increased rage at the special counsel. The behind bars, the treason, the tweets that have taken constant rage and escalated even more because you mentioned this, new information about business dealings Michael Cohen lays out. And a new conversations about possible collusion in the whole focus on Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi, and were they talking with WikiLeaks, and did they get a heads up that the e-mails were coming.
TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: Yes, and it's a big question about why the president, why the White House spent so much time putting out a false narrative saying that he never had any conversations with any Russians and obfuscating about why types of relationships the president has had with the Russians, what type of business deals he has had. He's been very categorical saying I have no deals, I have no business with Russia.
If that wasn't the case, why the misleading statements, why the long trail of statements that now have come back to bite the president and have come back to bite the White House? So that leaves us wondering sort of what are they trying to cover up?
JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: And not only the president and the White House, and you were getting to this in your conversation with Senator Warner, his son Don Jr. Who -- we don't know if what he said behind closed doors. We don't know what Mueller could possibly have on him. And that gets to the president's family which is arguably the most important thing to him right now.
OLIVIER KNOX, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, SIRIUSXM: Yes, this document individual one, there's no mystery about who individual one is, there's not really any mystery about who individual -- what individual one's organization is. There's not really a mystery about what individual one's political motivations were alluded to in these documents.
And I think one thing that's really -- must be driving them crazy at the White House is how much, how personal this is regarding Donald Trump. Not just his family but he's not cast center stage by these documents in the Cohen conflict.
KING: The employee of a Manhattan-based real estate company.
KNOX: That's right.
PACE: Who could that be?
KING: Quick break. When we come back, this is the kind of story this is. A reaction not only from Capitol Hill but the Kremlin.
[12:41:43] KING: Welcome back.
Just moments ago, we received the court transcript of this morning's proceedings where Michael Cohen, the president's long-time lawyer and fixer admitted he lied to Congress and the conversations about a Trump Tower Moscow extended well into the 2016 presidential campaign.
Our Shimon Prokupecz going through the transcript. Shimon, what jumps out?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. So I just -- to give, you know, our viewers certainly and give some folks some context on exactly what went on in court when Michael Cohen stood up and admitted that he was made these lies to congressional investigators. One of the excerpts I find really interesting here is it's (INAUDIBLE) some of what was going through Michael Cohen's mind at the time that he chose to make these lies.
And what he says is, by 2017, though he was no longer employed as special counsel to the president, to the organization, to the Trump Organization, he had served and he was still engaged on matters involving the organization and in matter -- and involving the president. And what he says is that, as he had in years before the election, I continued to follow the day-to-day political messaging that both the president and his staff and advisers repeatedly broadcast, and I stayed in close contact with these advisers to the president. As such, I was aware of individual one, which is the president repeated disavows of commercial and political ties between himself and Russia. His repeated statements that the investigation of such ties were politically motivated and without evidence.
So really that just tells you why, you know, Michael Cohen there in his own words explaining to the court, to the FBI, to the special counsel why he chose to lie about his meetings with the Russians, certainly about this whole Moscow deal. Certainly gives us some color in sort of Michael Cohen's frame of mind. And not only that, other individuals, people associated with the campaign and people close to the president at the time during the campaign.
KING: Shimon Prokupecz outside the courtroom. Again, appreciate the reporting.
We heard the president react only this morning. He says Michael Cohen is a liar. A lot of reaction from Capitol Hill. Just moments ago, the Kremlin responded to these morning's court filings from the special counsel.
In the criminal information submitted today by Robert Mueller, it says Michael Cohen e-mailed Vladimir Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov's office asking for help on the Trump Tower Moscow project. Let's bring in CNN's Matthew Chance live from Moscow.
So, Matthew, what does the Kremlin spokesman say?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, basically, he changed his story a little bit. I think part of the problem the Kremlin's got is that, you know, it's been trying to be very carefully, you know, tiptoeing around the statements that have been made on the U.S. side about what took place, making sure that it doesn't contradict the position of President Trump or any of his surrogates.
The problem with that is as that side of the story starts to crumble, as it appears to be doing now with this amended testimony of Michael Cohen, Trump's personal lawyer, the Kremlin is being court tagged on previous statements he's made. And so this is the reaction that they sent to me and to others at CNN about this revelation that there was a response to Michael Cohen by the Kremlin when he was talking to them about business dealings much later or even during the presidential campaign.
[12:45:08] They said this, "They sent an e-mail to our office saying that they wanted to develop a project of a Trump building in Moscow, and for that reason asking for a meeting with myself", that's Dmitry Peskov, the press spokesman, "and the chief of the administration. Later we called and asked why they wanted to have meetings with the presidential administration and explained that we have nothing to do with the construction issues in the city of Moscow."
It goes to say one of dozens of e-mails of the kind that they get. But just last year, the Kremlin gave a completely different statement. They said this, I want to repeat again. Well, we got these e-mails they acknowledge after they said this. "We do not react to such business topics. This is not our work. We left it unanswered."
And so, they previously said they didn't answer these approaches by Michael Cohen, now they're saying actually they got back to him and asked him what he wanted to discuss.
KING: It seems like everyone's story is changing a little bit. Matthew Chance live from Moscow, appreciate that important reporting there as well.
Up next, when we come back, remember when Michael Cohen said he would take a bullet for Mr. Trump? That wasn't all that long ago.
[12:50:29] KING: Welcome back. The president on his way to a big international summit on this day where he learned his long-time lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen changing his story, now admitting in federal court that he lied about when conversations about building a Trump Tower in Moscow ended. Michael Cohen previously said it was early in the presidential campaign year of 2016. Now he says it extended through June.
The president responding, angrily calling Cohen a liar then getting on Marine One to Air Force One, he's on his way to Argentina for the meeting of the G20. We know the president since boarding Air Force One has said he will not meet with Vladimir Putin. On the south lawn of the White House he says that was a good time to meet with Putin. He changed his mind on that.
We're also learning other meetings will be significantly scaled back. A planned meeting with the South Korean president and the Turkish President Erdogan will now be pulled aside meetings which means to bring it into the room. They will be close to the press.
So, is what the president -- is the president scaling back his schedule and scaling back his availability?
PACE: I think there's two things happening and certainly he seems to be scaling back his availability which means that there'll be fewer opportunities for reporters to ask him questions about what Michael Cohen pled to today. I think the Putin meeting could be slightly different though. There was a lot of criticism about that first meeting that he had with Putin in this year in Helsinki and not just from the usual cast of characters. There are a lot of Republicans who were deeply uncomfortable with the president's posture toward Putin, and a lot of concern within the administration about how Trump will handle this second meeting. And I think those concerns are only heightened in light of what we're now learning about the president's business relationship with Russia.
KING: And in Congress with a lot of Republican support just rebuked the president on Saudi Arabia and a lot of those same Republicans think what they see happening between Russia and Ukraine is more evidence of Putin aggression and they didn't want the president (INAUDIBLE) with the president in the room with him at this moment.
KNOX: Yes, and we expect the Saudi crown prince MBS as he's known to be at this gathering. There's nothing on the schedule at this moment, as of wheels up, but as you pointed out, things are changing pretty quickly for the president's pack (INAUDIBLE) schedule. Still some really interesting meetings though including one with Xi Jinping, the leader of China which I would have argued before wheels up was probably the most important meeting just because of the trade war and because of the ultimatums coming out of this administration and president imposing a whole new round of tariffs
But now, if we watch this (INAUDIBLE) -- I mean, let's see what sticks to the schedule. He's got a couple of ones, the Japanese prime minister, the Indian prime minister, Merkel as she heads for the exits. Let's see. KING: And any president, you know, travels with his or her domestic baggage if you will or domestic triumphs when they head to these big meetings. It was striking listening to the president on the south lawn talking about how Michael Cohen was weak. And talking -- and there watching other people who've been brave he said standing there. In an interview I think with the New York Post yesterday, he also talked about the brave Paul Manafort, the brave Roger Stone, the brave Jerome Corsi. Those who are viewed as standing up to the special counsel, you're brave. If you cut a deal, testify, give damaging information about the president, you're weak.
OLORUNNIPA: Yes, it's remarkable to see the president, the leader of the executive branch basically say that people who cooperate with federal investigators are weak and people who defy federal investigators and members of his own government are brave and are standing up for what they believe in. It's really remarkable to see the president do that now that he's going to South America for this summit?
The president is carrying a lot of this internal baggage and this domestic baggage, and a lot of the Republicans are worried that the president's business interests are conflicting with his interest as the leader of the federal government. Now we're hearing from -- about this Michael Cohen plea and how the president and his administration or his campaign were essentially working on business deals at the same time that the president was opening up his campaign to the Russians. Saying, you know, this is -- we want to have a better relationship with Putin, we want to do deals with Putin as president during the campaign. Now we know that at the same time he was doing business deals or thinking about doing business deals with Russia.
And that's part of the reason Republicans are really worried that the president is conflicting his role as commander-in-chief potentially with his own business interests.
KING: And how does that play out? His mood if you will which is a bad mood about Robert Mueller if you just look at Twitter, look at what he said this morning with the important business. You mentioned the Xi meeting, the trade, the tariffs, the economics of this country, never mind the strategic interest at stake, it's the biggest -- most would argue the biggest relationship in the world right now. And the president said, well, we have a potential deal on the table, but I'm not sure I want to do it.
KUCINICH: It can definitely affect what comes out of this. I think there are going to be a lot of frantic staff work frankly going into these meetings. But at the end of the day, I mean, this is a president who is very emotional and lets that emotion play into, you know, every facet of the presidency. So, it will be an interesting couple of days.
[12:55:00] KNOX: He surprised the Pentagon by announcing the transgender ban on Twitter the same day that the FBI raided Paul Manafort's house. So, they're not unconnected.
KING: He has a history of doing things without telling the staff to try to change the subject.
PACE: That doesn't mean they won't try.
KING: That doesn't mean they won't try.
Thank you for joining today in INSIDE POLITICS through all the breaking news. Don't go anywhere. Brianna Keilar starts after a quick break. Have a great day.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar live from CNN's Washington headquarters. And we begin with the breaking news bombshell in the Russia investigation.