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CUOMO PRIME TIME
Prosecutors Connect Trump to Two Crimes; Mueller: Russian National Offered Cohen "Political Synergy." Aired 9-10p ET
Aired December 7, 2018 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The news continues, I want to hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME."
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: It is all in the delivery, Anderson.
CUOMO: It's all in the delivery.
All right, thank you, my friend. Have a good weekend, all right?
All right, I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.
A big first tonight. Federal prosecutors have, for the first time, accused a President of involvement in not one, but two crimes. And we now know more than ever about what Mueller has and what it means going forward.
Multiple people around the President appear to be in his sights, more contact with Russians than we knew about and in Manafort's case, Paul Manafort, some really big, wide line moments involving a key Russian and the Trump administration. There is so much to process, but we're all over it, so let's get after it.
All right. The Mueller and prosecutor memos are out. The President has never been more wrong than when he tweeted tonight that the new documents from prosecutors totally clear him. In fact, he has never had more to deal with, which is probably why he's attacking the probe and misleading people about the findings.
We now know a lot more about where Mueller is heading and who must be next. What did Michael Cohen do to get on such a bad side of prosecutors here in New York? And how did he help himself with Mueller? We have answers.
And then Paul Manafort lying about contacting Russians during the campaign and about his contacts with the administration after the campaign. Multiple alleged crimes concerning multiple people and questions about what might connect them. We have the perfect people to look through all of these pages. We have former U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal, and Michael Isikoff, Chief Investigative Correspondent for Yahoo! News and Co-author of "Russian Roulette."
It's good to have you both. Thank you. All right. I got my stack of papers. Do you have yours? I say we start with Michael Cohen. Let's start with the southern district and go from there. I believe the big headline has to be -- I mean, well look, we can get into the weeds about how this office was just all over Michael Cohen about his financial crimes. That's what their specialty is. But I think the big headline is they say in no uncertain terms, Neal, the President was involved in Michael Cohen's crimes when it came to campaign finance violations. Is there any other way to look at it?
NEAL KATYAL, FORMER U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: That's exactly right. You know, some would call this huge news. I mean, this is a big, big deal. This is southern district prosecutors. Remember, Trump has been gambling on, oh, I can take down Mueller, accuse them of being democratic operatives and so on. This isn't that. This is southern district prosecutors. His own Justice Department, Trump's own appointees saying that you, Mr. President are directly implicated in federal felonies and they have to do with federal finance allegations. That's another thing. Trump has been gambling on. Oh, I can see no collusion, no, collusion with Russia and what this document says is, you know, there is a whole separate thing going on here, campaign finance violations. All of us know you can't give more than $2,700 to a campaign.
Here you directed your own personal fixer, Michael Cohen to do this stuff and he was doing it at your direction. That's what the filing today says. And then it goes on to say the purpose of that was -- the principal purpose of that was to hide these payments and for you to win the -- to influence the election and to win it.
And then it goes on even further to say this is a huge violation of law. This is not some minor technical thing. This is the core of what our democracy is about. If I'm the President tonight right now and I can read, which, you know, it's unclear whether he did read any of this stuff, but once he reads it, if he reads it, it is devastating.
CUOMO: And once again, Michael, it is about the others. With Michael Cohen, it is that he worked and coordinated actions with one or more members of the campaign in furtherance of these campaign finance violations and that he was approached by somebody who had good connections to Russian intelligence that wanted to try to get access into the campaign, who said it would be good for the business interest, who said it would be great politically for the President. I mean, we have never heard this stuff before. What does it mean to you?
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO! NEWS: Well, you're certainly right. There is a lot of new information here and a lot for us to process. But, you know, there is different ways of looking at this. In the case of Michael Cohen, you know, he had pled guilty to these campaign finance violations before. But what leapt out at me in the main Cohen sentencing memo from the southern district is they're throwing the book at him.
[21:05:06] CUOMO: Yes.
ISIKOFF: And they are making clear they don't believe him on many matters. In fact -- CUOMO: The southern district, not special counsel, the southern
ISIKOFF: Right. Even after he agrees to cooperate or proposes to cooperate and tells them all this stuff about the President and the campaign finance violations, he then clams up when they ask him about his some aspect of his own criminal conduct and some of those sentences leapt out at me when I read them, Page 15, Cohen repeatedly declined to provide full information about the scope of any additional criminal conduct in which he may have engaged or had knowledge.
Page 16, Cohen specifically declined to be briefed on other uncharged criminal conduct. Cohen's efforts fell well short of cooperation as that term is properly used in this district. So think about this for a moment, Chris. Yes, he is pointing the finger at the President saying he's the one that directed me to make these illegal campaign contributions. But the very prosecutors who are relying on him on that are also saying that he has a long trail of lying to them.
ISIKOFF: And is still not being forthcoming. So that really taints Michael Cohen as any potential witness in any further prosecution or proceeding.
CUOMO: Right. But, you know what? To be fair to the disposition of that particular set of cases, Neal, Cohen has it all going against him. His accountant turned against him. You know, Weisselberg, the CFO, Trump turned on him. David Pecker, you know, the head of the parent company there with the Inquirer turned on him. So they're all throwing him. So they're all throwing him under the bus for those schemes and what happen and then they asked all the financial crimes. So the southern district is coming after.
But when you turn to the special counsel and their reckoning with Flynn, it was, we like this guy. He's been really good. We don't think he should go to jail, OK.
CUOMO: They said that in different ways. With him they say no position. And the only nice thing they say is he's been helpful to us and we think whatever sentence he gets on our charge should run concurrent, which means at the same time with sentences for other ones which would amount to no additional jail time. But certainly he's got his problems. But when you look at it in terms of what it means to Trump, what it means to the President, what it means to the around him, I mean, you know, I didn't know before -- maybe you guys did -- but I didn't know that Michael Cohen had contacts with people in the campaign about what he was doing to help pay off these women. I didn't know that. I thought it was a side dish.
And I had never heard that there was someone who came to him who said, hey, you got to help me get in the campaign. I've got great contacts. I can help with Putin. I was thought it was Felix Sater. This is somebody else. KATYAL: Yeah. That's exactly right. So I think, you know, it's
important to think about Michael Cohen in the ordinary presidency, the fact that a President's top lawyer is pleading guilty to all sorts of crimes would be headline stories for weeks. But in the Trump presidency, there is always more at stake and today is really puts that pedal to the metal because here you have a circumstance in which the real story tonight is not Michael Cohen, who has done all these bad things, but Trump's direct implication in all this.
And you are absolutely right, Chris. In these documents today, Cohen -- the prosecutors say Cohen had contacts with the White House in 2017, even in 2018 having to do with these allegations. And, so, this is a very, very different story than the one that the White House has been pitching for the last couple years and it is a real resounding statement about truth and the prosecutors and institutions.
I know a lot of Americans have, for the last couple years, felt like there is no one protecting the rule of law and so on. And tonight the southern district of New York prosecutors, career prosecutors and Trump's own Justice Department said, you know, in no uncertain terms, Cohen you committed a felony and the man that directed you to commit that felony is Donald J. Trump.
CUOMO: They clearly believe that. There's no other way to read it. People can look at the memo for themselves. And I'll tell you what, let's put up the language of what Cohen and obviously was corroborated somehow by the special counsel, which is why they find it credible and say it in there, they collaborated it.
In around November 2015, Cohen received the contact information for and spoke with a Russian national who claimed to be a trusted person in the Russian federation who could offer to campaign political synergy and synergy on a government level. And he went on to say that the person said this would be great for business, too. You know that deal you want to do there in Moscow? You know, you get Putin to sign off on it, it is all but done. Lucky for the President of the United States, according to Cohen and any other information that Mueller has, Mike, that meeting never happened.
But Mueller goes on in his own memo here for Michael Cohen to say, again, that he helped us, too, with contacts that he had with White House personnel before and after the election.
[21:10:06] Now, again, the President's lucky. Mueller didn't ask him about anything that happened after the election. But again that is more avenues into more people about more things that we know they believe to be criminal behavior.
ISIKOFF: Right. And this trusted person in the Russian federation who Michael Cohen had contact with, my understanding is it's a guy named Dmitry Peskov who is an Olympic weight lifter. This guy was written about by BuzzFeed last year. It was actually Ivanka Trump who suggested that Michael Cohen make contact with him or accept messages from him, and he did. This was all in the context of that Trump Tower Moscow project that they were talking about during the campaign. So this adds yet another layer of contacts between the Trump
organization and the Kremlin during the course of the Presidential campaign. So it makes that filing a week ago, it seems so long ago now, in which we first learned about how Michael Cohen was in direct communication with the office of Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary to Vladimir Putin during the campaign, this adds yet another layer of those contacts.
All the more reason, by the way, Chris, that this needs to be fully fleshed out, fully aired. I think I said the other night on your show, you know, it cries out for Congress to start calling these key witnesses like Michael Cohen before the committees and get the full story under oath in public so that we can all get the details.
CUOMO: Yeah. And this time he's got to tell the truth. You know, he went before Congress the last time, but now he's in a different place. And of course we want to see how all this stuff telescopes out into the rest of the administration, the President and those around him. But be very clear about one thing. They threw the book at Michael Cohen. He's getting more time than anybody else we have heard about until this time. Let's hear about Manafort. They're pretty pissed at him, too right now coming from special counsel's office. But they're recommending four years plus for him with very little mitigation of circumstances for his cooperation. And that's a heavy sentence compared to the other things that we have heard so far.
ISIKOFF: Well, in large part because Cohen was not fully cooperative, those sentences I read before are a red flag, yes.
CUOMO: In the southern district's opinion, yes. They are obviously mad at him. They are mad at him for not fully cooperating. They don't like him. They don't like what he's about. They don't like his narrative, and they really don't like his financial crimes. And, you know, I don't know how much you guys deal with the southern district, but that's their specialty there. They deal with a lot of that. They pick up on it and they do not really appreciate people making them work for it. You know? Because they're so good at it that if you make them work, you pay. And he's going to pay.
Go ahead, Neal.
KATYAL: That's exactly right, Chris. You know, that is exactly right. I would add one other thing, though. The southern district also does national security cases. And this is not just about financial crimes. This is about a President who said I have no dealings with Russia for years, including during on the campaign trail. And then low and behold, you know, it turns out they had dealings every day it seems like, you know, Russians everywhere.
CUOMO: Yes. Why lie? That is the question.
KATYAL: And they keep on lying about it.
CUOMO: Why lie? If it doesn't matter -- there are two reasons you lie. One is because it does matter. And the other one is because I think you think it's matters and I don't want to give it to you. So I lie to you because I don't want to give you anything. So it's one of those two things, Mike.
ISIKOFF: Exactly. You're 100 percent right, Chris.
KATYAL: 100 percent right but I would say, one other thing, which is once you lie and the Russians know you lie, you are a huge target for blackmail.
CUOMO: And that's why Sally Yates said that --
CUOMO: -- because they knew they had something on you.
CUOMO: Maybe they thought they had something on Pence because they didn't know and neither do we. What pence knew and did not although by all indications, if there is an innocent in any of this, it may well be the Vice President. So that takes us to dovetail with Manafort.
And now we're back in the world of redactions. So what does that mean? We know there is more to come, and once again, there's something that's going to be surprising to people, even if they have been following it closely. I did not expect Kilimnik, if that's the proper pronunciation of his name, Mike. I didn't expect him to loom as large for the special counsel as he does.
Clearly, they think that he matters enough as a man who obviously Russian name, Russian national, has connections to Russian intelligence, has connections to Paul Manafort in his prior business dealings and all the way up to the President, and he was actually seen by the special counsel as part and parcel of Manafort's efforts to witness tamper. All right?
So Kilimnik definitely in deep with Manafort. But Manafort lied a lot about his dealings with Kilimnik, Mike. And it seems to be, reading from the redaction redactions, it has to do with meetings that have been reported previously that Manafort had all but confirmed to "The Washington Post" and others that he did meet with him several times. He talked to them about Russian interference, he talked to him about WikiLeaks but lied about it and they caught him about it.
[21:15:16] ISIKOFF: Right. And exactly. There was a filing last year by Mueller's prosecutors that identified Kilimnik as somebody who was associated with Russian military intelligence, the GRU. And I think that -- when you put that together with what's spelled out here, it makes it all the more serious that Manafort -- this was a guy, Kilimnik the Russian military asset according to Mueller's team who was working for Manafort on his project consulting and for the pro- Russian political party in Ukraine.
And clearly even after he agrees to cooperate, even after he's convicted and knows he's facing heavy jail time, Manafort continues to lie about his contacts with this Russian military intelligence asset. And that does raise all sorts of questions as to why he's lying, what he's trying to conceal here, what the Russians know about Manafort's own dealings.
To me, that was one of the big takeaways from the Manafort filing. The other one, by the way, which is worth mentioning, is that even after he's indicted and going to trial, Manafort is still in contact with a senior administration official and there were multiple people in the administration who were still communicating with him.
ISIKOFF: That really leaps out like how can a senior administration official be in contact with somebody who is indicted for multiple frauds, who is squarely in the sights of Robert Mueller and is going to trial? You know, again, we deserve to know more about who that senior administration official is and how they explain their contacts with Paul Manafort?
CUOMO: And it's more than one, right? Mueller says that they know that he was in contact, Neal, with administration members and that he had appointed -- you know, he had said, yes, this person can speak to different people in the administration for me. So it was still going on. And again, this was stuff that I don't know about you, Mike, in your reporting but they lied to me about this on a regular basis about whether or not they were talking to Manafort.
CUOMO: I used to ask people all the time and they say, oh, no, we ghosted him. We haven't talk to him at all, no, no. And then, coming from his side also, you know, oh, no, I haven't talked to anybody. They're all lying.
KATYAL: Do the allegations --
CUOMO: The question is why, Neal. And I just want to say, just a couple of specific points about this, and I want you to put meat on the bones of this, and you know, as you are watching coverage about this stuff, anybody was talking into TV all the time hasn't done their homework. You have to read this stuff. There's too much there. So when it comes to Manafort with Kilimnik, Mueller says that you're lying about having met him during election that you talk to him about WikiLeaks and then what kind of depth. And then a lot of gets redacted.
He lied about the number and content of meetings with him. All of that winds up starting to be redacted, which means there is more there, which means there has to be a continuing effort that we're going to see more of this. That's also true with something I starred here. The payment structure. There is a whole segment in this memo, Neal, about payment structure with Manafort. And it explains it, you know, bank one, bank two, all the stuff, and all of a sudden company A, company B and then it is redacted and it's gone.
CUOMO: And it makes me wonder what might have happened with the movement of money to Manafort that is obviously part of something they're still investigating. Neal?
KATYAL: Yes. That's really interesting. You know, it is very hard to tell because of these redactions, as we talked about the other night. It's kind of like worst act task and one thing I'd add to what you're pointing to is the news today that Giuliani, the President's lawyer, is saying that Mueller believes that Manafort lied about who was at the Trump Tower meeting and whether or not Trump knew about that.
And the reason why I think this is significant is because we can talk about these little -- you know, these micro events that are in this paper tonight, but one important thing that I think everyone is wanting to know is telescoping out what is going to happen next and where is this going? And Jared Kushner and the President's son, Donald Trump Jr. are both alleged to be implicated in that whole Trump Tower meeting, what they knew about and the like. And so I suspect over the next week or two, we will going to hear a lot of news, not just about Donald Trump but about his son and his son-in-law.
CUOMO: All right, and also, look, I mean, not to play favorites here, Mike, but Jared Kushner has a lot more tentacles. He was calling for Manafort to be brought in earlier. I don't even know how he knew Manafort. You know, Kushner is a young man. He has really never had an exposure of politics before. Manafort is an old political hand. The guy is like me growing up around.
[21:20:01] You know, I have known who Paul Manafort is for 30 years of my life. But he wanted him brought in. Why? He was at the Trump Tower meeting, true, but he was participating with Michael Flynn and talking with Kislyak. He had a second meeting with the Russian ambassador and other business people. Why? You know, what did Manafort and he have in common that would make this operable for him? So there are questions there about him. Crime? Who knows? Probably not but questions.
ISIKOFF: Right. But look, I should point out because, you know, there is a tendency for us to get a little worked up over every iteration here. And, you know, some of the things I was looking for in here are not in here. And, you know, they could be as meaningful as some of those that are not.
CUOMO: Like what?
ISIKOFF: Well, the Trump Tower meeting. We -- Michael Cohen, according to some reports, including on CNN, was going to implicate the President in the Trump knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting.
CUOMO: The story changed. Once he started to have --
ISIKOFF: The CNN did not retracted but in any case --
CUOMO: Well, because the sourcing was solid on it. But people decide to change their stories when there is different type of pinches put on them.
ISIKOFF: I understand. But what I want to say here is Cohen testified to the Senate and the House that he had no knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting and didn't learn about it until he read it in the newspaper.
ISIKOFF: Which mean, he could not have implicated the President --
ISIKOFF: -- in the Trump Tower meeting. He is not charged with lying when he denied any knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting. So that tells me that those reports of those people expecting Michael Cohen to point the finger at the President on Trump Tower are likely going to be disappointed because there is nothing in here that points to that. Similarly, you remember the sensational allegations in the Steele dossier that Michael Cohen flew to Prague to meet with Russians about communications during the campaign. He adamantly denied that, repeatedly denied that, including under oath before the Senate and the House, and he is not charged with lying about that.
CUOMO: That's not just a matter of his word. He has documentary evidence, travel manifests and receipts and contemporaneous communications that show where he was and when.
CUOMO: That's why that's not there. In terms of the other matters, another thing in this is what the President knew about WikiLeaks and whether or not somebody had told him and whether or not Michael Cohen was there.
ISIKOFF: That's part of the ongoing investigation into Roger Stone, yes.
CUOMO: And I think you have a couple avenues you have to look at here. Neal, help me out with this because you did this kinds of cases. Maybe it is not in here because of what you're suggesting that Cohen couldn't put it there. Or maybe when Michael Cohen has to be solely relied on as a source or something they got shoddy.
And if it's not something that they could triangulate with other factors -- because remember what Mueller said in his earlier paper about Cohen. I believe him because I have documents that prove what he's now saying, which is that he lied and here is the proof that he lied because he was still talking to these people and hear the communications that we have.
He lies because he proves it. It's one of those, I know it because I can show it. And I wonder, Neal, if it comes to what Michael Cohen says he has seen and heard with all those hours in the office during the campaign when it was being run out of his office essentially at Trump Tower that they need to corroborate it in order to move on because they won't go on his word alone. KATYAL: Well, it's 100 percent right. Mueller is the most
conscientious, careful prosecutor. He's not going to put something in to a document today unless it can be corroborated and backed up particularly because he is dealing with people who are, by their own words, liars. So, you know, that evidence alone can't be enough. So that's why when he says something like, you know, the President directed Cohen to make these payments to Stormy Daniels and the other woman, you know, that's not just Cohen's word. He's got to have other evidence to support that.
KATYAL: And so one reason why, I think, you don't see some of the stuff Michael is talking about maybe because you don't have corroboration on it. Another, maybe some of those -- there are just details and not that important whether or not he went to Prague I don't know matters very much. The whole point of that was to demonstrate there were ongoing contacts between Russia and Cohen in the Trump campaign. And that's been demonstrated all through in a gazillion different ways by Mueller. So, you know, the Prague thing alone I don't think becomes that important.
There are two other reasons why sometimes you don't have stuff in prosecutorial statements like the filings today. One is because you struck a deal with them not to charge certain things. And that's probably true in the case to Flynn in which they said we're not going to charge everything. You are going to plead guilty to one thing. The other is because you have an ongoing investigation.
And so it could be that there are some details including a couple of the things Michael has mentioned in omissions today, which might be intentional omissions because -- or it might be in the redacted portions of what we can't see. But the important point is those redactions are now given to a judge. And so even if this fake Attorney General Whittaker tries to shut down the special counsel or the southern district in New York. Now at this point some independent judge has that full record of what Mueller is saying, the unredacted version.
[21:25:30] CUOMO: Well, look, here's what we know for sure, there has to be more to come otherwise it wouldn't be redacting things the way they are. And you have Flynn and now Cohen and Manafort all clearly were not solo acts. They were all dealing with the campaign. They were talking to people. So people knew what was going on about the things that got these men in trouble. Who? How much did they know? Did they tell the truth about it when they were asked? Those are the big open questions and they matter more now than ever. Why lie? It keeps haunting me in this situation and it becomes more central question every time.
Michael Isikoff, Neal Katyal, I could not ask for better guys. I just wish, Neal, I could say your last name, say your last name the right way so I remember it forever.
KATYAL: Cuomo, Katyal. Thank you. CUOMO: You're too handsome to be a Cuomo. You're too smart and too handsome. You can't be one of mine. It is great to have you both. Thank you so much. You have been a real benefit to my audience again.
All right, so the President says something that's just demonstrably false. I've been cleared. His lawyer says, there's nothing in these memos that link him to collusion. Fold up the tent, he says. Mueller is not only looking at collusion. We know from these memos that the President has much more than that to be aware of. We're going to bring in Cuomo's Court in session. Good legal minds on big questions next.
CUOMO: Tonight the White House is pushing back hard on the court filings in the Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen cases. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders brushing off a filing from Mueller insisting, "The government's filing in Mr. Manafort's case is absolutely nothing about the President. It says even less about collusion and is devoted almost entirely to lobbying related issues." Not true.
"Once again, the media is trying to create a story where there isn't one." Demonstrably false and I'm about to prove it to you right now. However, the President taking a similar approach tweeting, totally clears the President. Thank you. And point of fact, this is the first time we have seen prosecutors directly accuse the President of the United States of being involved in criminal activity. It happened for the first time in Michael Cohen's sentencing memo from the southern district of New York tonight.
Cuomo's Court is in session. We have Asha Rangappa and Jim Schultz.
The idea from Sarah Sanders that there is nothing to see here in any of this, none of it is irrelevant to the President, your take?
ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Are you taking to me, Chris?
CUOMO: Always first.
RANGAPPA: Yes. I mean, there is so many things here that have to do with the President. You have already discussed at length with Neal and Michael about basically a direct implication that the President was conspiring with his lawyer to commit a campaign finance felony.
But with the Manafort filings specifically, I find it odd that people can read anything about Manafort and not see that there is a very troubling Russia connection. He is in contact with a Russian GRU military asset or officer. We know the GRU was behind the DNC hack and GRU officers have been indicted. And he's also trying to conspire with this GRU asset to tamper with witnesses so that he won't be convicted of being a foreign agent.
So this person, you know, Manafort was before subject to FISA warrants, he is working with a foreign government and acting as a foreign agent and directing the Trump campaign. This is clear from the filings coming before us right now.
CUOMO: And the Russian guy, Kilimnik, was helping him tamper with these witnesses, which is also of interest.
CUOMO: Of course he lives in Russia. He is out of reach of the special counsel. So Flynn, Manafort, Cohen all have the same question, Jim, why lie? Why lie about these contacts with Russians and what you did and what you talked to them about if it doesn't matter? Why did they all lie?
JIM SCHULTZ, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it matters to Manafort because Manafort was under investigation and pled guilty to the violations and is going to be sentenced to those. And I think that's where the rubber hits the road on this. It is more about the foreign agents registration.
CUOMO: Which is all the redacted stuff?
SCHULTZ: Well, we don't know. I mean, that's a very good question.
CUOMO: But it doesn't have to do with fair stuff.
SCHULTZ: That could also be related to that. It could also be related to counter intelligence issues. We don't know if it has anything to do with a campaign and collusion as it related to the Trump campaign. It's just not in there.
CUOMO: Well, except it is in there. It is in there because it says on all of these fronts with Cohen and with Flynn and with Manafort that they weren't solo acts. Each and all say, and I was in contact with the administration. I was in contact with the campaign. I was talking to people about this. I was coordinating. They knew. So it's going to come down to what did those people say?
SCHULTZ: Not what they were talking about. We don't know what contacts they were making under what circumstances --
CUOMO: Cohen says it was about the deals with the women at a minimum. Manafort we don't know, Flynn we don't know.
RANGAPPA: And Chris?
SCHULTZ: I'm talking about Manafort issue. I'm talking about Manafort right now. So as it relates to Manafort, we don't know what those contacts were about. The Michael Cohen, they spelled that out explicitly as it related to the payments to the women. And that's clear. But also there is a big question. Just because he pled guilty to campaign finance violation doesn't mean it was an actual campaign finance violation. We talked about this some time. This goes back to the John Edwards case where he was not convicted of campaign finance violation under similar circumstances.
RANGAPPA: Yeah. I just want to make clear because there is always this red herring thrown out that well, it doesn't mention collusion, but it might be about FARA or might be counter intelligence. Collusion is the counter intelligence way of describing conspiracy. OK? Collusion is when you are secretly agreeing to work with somebody to get to some goal. If that agreement is about a crime, it is conspiracy.
But if you are working with a foreign government to execute their intelligence operation in the United States to defraud the people of the United States, that's collusion. And that also makes you, if you are working on their behalf, a foreign agent. So when we hear these words, FARA and redacted things that may deal with counter intelligence investigations, that is all what collusion is about.
SCHULTZ: Yes, FARA is about lobbying and being a foreign representative --
RANGAPPA: That's not true. Jim, that's not true.
SCHULTZ: Having to register --
RANGAPPA: The Lobbying Registration Act covers lobbying.
SCHULTZ: I understand. But you're representing it for purposes -- of being their agent to go before various entities in the United States.
RANGAPPA: That's not true. Jim, it is not limited in that way. It is whether you are acting at the direction or control of a foreign power for any purpose. It is not limited to that. But it's not limited to lobbying either.
SCHULTZ: Correct. But in the context of Manafort --
RANGAPPA: You could be a spy.
SCHULTZ: Well, OK. That may be the case. But the bottom line is as it relates to the facts that are in this pleading, the redacted portion, we don't know what they say.
[21:35:05] CUOMO: True.
SCHULTZ: We do know what Manafort was doing on behalf of foreign governments or at least we know some of what Manafort was doing on behalf of foreign government --
CUOMO: We don't know why he was meeting with Kilimnik and why he had to lie about it. And we do know that he met with him --
CUOMO: -- he says, he admitted eventually when he talked about WikiLeaks.
SCHULTZ: And it could be because he was violating the law.
CUOMO: But he admitted eventually.
SCHULTZ: We don't know.
CUOMO: -- WikiLeaks and you know that the guy's contact -- is connected to Russian intelligence. And again just because it doesn't say the President's name or individual one, as he's become known as in all these documents, that the idea that because he's not in it that it means it doesn't matter to him. You know, the idea that this is about criminal exposure for the President of the United States is a very deceptive premises.
We all know here and anybody that has been following here that the chance that anybody is allowed to prosecute the sitting President of the United States is very, very small. This is a political trial. This is going to be a political assessment. And he is all over this, Jim, because these are his people who keep lying up to the closest echelons of him. And it's not even over yet how can it not matter to the President.
RANGAPPA: Chris, can I have one more thing.
CUOMO: Sarah Sanders said that. This has nothing to do with it. We're making up a story. We're not making it up. Read the memos. It's right there.
Go ahead, Asha.
SCHULTZ: There is no question that there are witnesses and people around the President that are part of these issues. And we have seen that by way of these filings. But that doesn't necessarily mean that the President is directly --
CUOMO: I'm not saying it does.
SCHULTZ: And you're right. It is going to be a political discussion. It's going to have to go to the House and maybe the Senate if the House acts and decides to take oversight.
CUOMO: I don't know that everybody is going to move on impeachment I haven't seen it yet.
RANGAPPA: Chris --
CUOMO: Asha, go ahead.
RANGAPPA: Yes, I mean look, as an investigator, one of the things you learn is that people behave in patterns. In other words, you see a certain way they are behaving over and over again, it is highly unlikely that they're going to stop doing that in another context. We know that the southern district has evidence that the President directed Michael Cohen to make these payments. He was in the weeds on that.
We know that from the special counsel filing that Michael Cohen was talking to Donald Trump during the Moscow tower deal. He was in on that. He says his lies to Congress were deliberate and premeditated. I find it incredibly hard to believe that he would prepare a written statement in front of Congress without Trump being in on that. I mean, you know, you have a campaign manager
SCHULTZ: The fact that the Trump organization --
RANGAPPA: -- a national security adviser, a foreign policy adviser all having contacts with Russia, and the President doesn't know anything about it? I mean, it doesn't fit in with what we know to be true about him in a lot of other contexts. And I think at some point we start to need to use our deductive logic skills and not just pretend that everything that you can see only not redacted is what is the only facts we know.
CUOMO: That's true. And there is more to come, Jim, give me for the final word.
SCHULTZ: We're going to know very, very soon, I would think, when the Mueller report as it relates to collusion as to what they found, you know, in connection with any of the President's activities. We're also going to hear a lot about what happened during that campaign cycle. But for us to speculate right now is irresponsible.
CUOMO: Nobody is speculating. Give me one piece of speculation. I said it is going to come down to a political analysis and a political question. I have never talked about the President being exposed to illegality. I don't know how they would do it. I don't know how operatively they would do it. But I'll tell you what, he's got a really dangerous proposition right now and he's lucky that he has the lawyers around him that he does. Because what they're banking on is that the special counsel in writing up their report says, boy, was this guy clueless.
He had no idea what these people were doing under his nose. How could he have let them do all this reckless stuff? That's what he's banking on right now, and that's not going to play well for the American people. But that's all it is right now and we'll see what comes next. No speculation. No speculation. Deduction.
Asha, thank you very much. Jim, as always? I appreciate it. So, again --
SCHULTZ: Thank you.
CUOMO: I keep asking the question, not coming to a conclusion, why keep lying about Russia if you have nothing to hide? It is plaguing the probe. And we're going to take it up in the great debate next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [21:40:59] CUOMO: It's not the crime. It's the cover-up. And the bombshell Manafort and Cohen filings it was revealed that Mueller and New York prosecutors for the southern district office believed that Cohen and Manafort lied to them. The top takeaways Manafort lied about his contacts with Trump administration officials and the extent and exposure and interactions with a Russian intelligence connected source and Cohen lied about his dealings with Russia in 2015, about a big deal that he was trying to get done for Trump.
And Trump was telling the same story he was, which has been found to be a lie. You know what that means. So the question becomes again, very simple, if you have nothing to hide, why do you continue to lie about the same thing?
Let's debate. Paul Begala and Amy Kremer. Thanks to both of you, especially on a Friday night. I appreciate it. It is not the crime. It's the cover-up. I know that gave you chills when I said that Begala. So in this situation, do you believe that that states the main -- you know, the main question in this situation, why they keep lying about this if there is no exposure.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think this may be a case where it is not just the cover-up, it is the crime, right? I think the Senate for American Progress Action Fund has counted 94 contacts between Trump and his allies, Trump associates, Trump campaign and the Russians.
Now, I helped ran President Clinton's campaign, OK. I didn't have 94 contacts with my wife and we had a baby in the middle, I know that like because I made them count. But you never see in this politics where a campaign is talking to the Russians 94 times. And we're learning today these bombshell reports from the southern district and Mueller that in fact Manafort was in contact with someone connected to Russian intelligence. Cohen was talking to people in Russia about political synergy, which is just a $5 word for collusion. So it could be that they're lying because they're guilty.
CUOMO: So, Amy, I mean look, you have been on this show plenty. You know I'm not a big fan of jumping to conclusion on things. We try to go things and you make the argument on the basis of what we know. And that's why I keep posing this question. I don't think it's fair to say, hey, stop saying the President is in trouble because of this. I haven't said that. I haven't seen any reason to see the President has criminal exposure because I don't know how nay could prosecute a President. What I'm saying is, it is never good, Amy, when the guys around you are lying as much as his guys were and often about the same thing. Fair point?
AMY KREMER, CO-FOUNDER, WOMEN FOR TRUMP: Yes, but Chris, they're lying about things that have nothing to do with Russian collusion. They're lying about transactions that involved financial things, tax evasion, campaign finance things. They're not lying about Russian collusion. There was no Russian collusion.
And anybody that was part of that campaign knows that. I mean, it was one foot in front of the other with President Trump, with his airplane in his phone and going from state to state and campaigning nonstop. I mean, there was no Russian collusion. And we're into this Mueller investigation now 569 days. I think if there was something on the President, we'd know it by now.
CUOMO: But I'm not -- again, it doesn't have to be about the President, Amy. Again, I think that's a false focus.
KREMER: But the lying? You have to talk to Manafort and Cohen about that. Donald Trump doesn't control those guys. They're lying to cover their own behinds. That's why they're covering.
CUOMO: Michael Cohen lied to cover up the President. He paid those women to cover the President and it ruined his life. OK?
KREMER: This is the thing about Michael Cohen, he's a self-admitted liar, I mean, it's so funny because the press loves him, you know, when he's bailing on Donald Trump and he's going to tell everything. But when he's defending Donald Trump, they hated him. I mean, it's such a flip-flop. And how do you know when the guy is telling the truth and he's not?
CUOMO: When you can prove it.
KREMER: I mean, he's lying one day. He's not the next.
CUOMO: When you can prove it.
KREMER: I mean, how do you determine a self -confessed liar?
CUOMO: That's how you determine it. I mean, we just saw it from the special counsel. And just to be clear, anybody that has been watching me since I came to CNN I would go round and round with Michael Cohen during the campaign as well better than anybody but I've always been fair to him because that's what the job demands.
[21:45:07] And here, if he's shown to be a liar, he's lying. Same thing with the President of the United States, by the way and none of these guys have told more non-truths or lies thus far as the American President has. It's not to the same issues. But the special counsel made it very clear, Paul, we believe Cohen on these things because we have proof and corroboration of the same. They know it because they can show it.
And when Amy says there is no collusion, one, we don't know. Two, there is a reason they keep lying about these things. Cohen was lying about a business deal. If you were doing a deal and being nice to Russia because you were doing a deal, that's collusion. Now, is it a crime?
KREMER: That's not true, Chris. That's not true.
CUOMO: Of course it is.
KREMER: How is that collusion? If he was doing his job with a real estate company of Trump reality or whatever it's called and that was his job and it had nothing to do with the campaign, that's not collusion.
CUOMO: First of all, Mueller connected it and second of all, if the President didn't tell us the truth about him trying to get a deal done at the same time he was being soft on sanctions with Russia, including some of the financial institutions, he may have needed to do that deal in Russia. And if he was being soft, which is so odd and out of character for him with Putin because he didn't want to spoil his relationship, it is not collusion and interfering in the election, but it is still behavior that is wrong. You see what I'm saying? That's why you need to know why they lied.
KREMER: You are talking about a real estate deal that was in the beginning of 2016. Then you are talking about the sanctions.
CUOMO: No, they're going on a long time.
KREMER: Wait a second -- OK, so 2015/2016. But then you are talking about going soft on sanctions when he had already won the election and now they're in the transition phase?
CUOMO: No, he was being soft before that's I raise it in.
KREMER: No, I don't think so.
CUOMO: Of course you do. Of course you do. Then when all the trouble he had with sanctions, having Flynn talk to Kislyak about sanctions, what do you think that was about?
KREMER: That was after he won the presidency.
CUOMO: All right. Paul, what is your take on that?
BEGALA: Well, first off, the Trump Tower meeting was collusion. The President's son, the President's son-in-law, the President's campaign chairman met with Russians who promised them, who promised Mr. Trump Jr. particularly dirt on their opponent to affect the election. Trump Jr., we have documentary evidence says if it is what you say it is, I love it. That's collusion with Russia to affect the election.
Today Mr. Mueller reveals that Mr. Cohen in addition to or maybe probably coincidental or along with the Trump Tower Moscow Project was seeking what Mr. Mueller calls political synergy with a trusted person in the Russian federation. That is collusion.
By the way, it was collusion when Donald Trump stood up in front of god and everyone in July of 2016 and said, Russia, if you are listening, I want Hillary's e-mails. You will be rewarded by the press. Please that's collusion. It is collusion if Mr. Manafort as Mueller alleged today talked to this guy, Kilimnik, who is allegedly associated with the Russian intelligence agency, the GRU that in fact hacked the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton's campaign chair. So this collusion of plenty, it is just not allowed. I mean, you say, but it is just not true anywhere. It was at the beginning of this --
CUOMO: But it doesn't mean it is a crime. It doesn't mean it's a crime. But that's the point. BEGALA: I'll leave that to the judge and jury.
CUOMO: And I think that's part of Amy's point not to make your own points for you. I'm just saying as a service to the audience, I try to keep it straight. And just the way it would be unfair to say the President is going to jail, and I know there are people on television that say it all the time, now they got him. Now they got him. I never said it. I don't believe it. I don't even understand it legally how we would get to that point.
However, it is equally wrong to say there is nothing there. This is all about nothing. It is unrelated. It is just not true. We won't know the facts until they all come out. I appreciate you making the arguments on the show, and it is always helpful. Amy, thank you. Have a good weekend.
KREMER: Thank you. You too.
CUOMO: Begala you've been better looking than I remember. Thank you.
KREMER: You all have a great weekend.
CUOMO: He once reportedly called the President a bleeping moron, and now former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is giving the truth behind what has been speculated a lot about in the press. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REX TILLERSON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: The President would say, here's what I want to do and here's how I want to do it. And I would have to say to him, Mr. President I understand what you want to do, but you can't do it that way. It violates the law. It violates a treaty. You know, he got really frustrated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Here is how the self-declared counter punching President responded. Rex Tillerson didn't have the mental capacity needed. He was dumb as a rock, and I couldn't get rid of him fast enough. He was lazy as hell.
Let's bring in D. Lemon. Don, this is the Presidential version of the I'm rubber you are glue response to Tillerson but, you know, to hear him confirm what was speculated about at the time and reported on -- and the President always said it wasn't true. People around him said it wasn't true. He doesn't like to read. He doesn't pay attention to the briefings. He's frustrated by details. He'd rather tell you how he feels. And he got frustrated by Tillerson saying to him, you can't do that. It's illegal. You can't do that. It violates a treaty. I mean wow.
[21:50:22] LEMON: Yes. It wasn't speculated on. I mean, even he says he doesn't like. He says he goes with his gut. He knows more than the generals. It's not the Presidential version of I'm rubber and you're glue. It's the Presidential version of projection. Everything he says usually negative about someone else is what we can confirm about himself.
CUOMO: It reminded me of during the debate with Hillary Clinton. You know, this guy's Putin's puppet. All of a sudden, you see the President go, puppet? I'm no puppet. You're the puppet. I'm no puppet. You're the puppet.
And look, that is this kind of reflexive, you know, instinct of his. But, look, it was just confirming once again that what we feared is true. This is a job that has always been occupied, literally without exception in the modern era, by people obsessed with information, control, detail, understanding, leverage. We do not have that now.
LEMON: I tell you what. It's shocking to me when people leave the administration, and they say, well, I couldn't believe this and this happened, and oh, my gosh, he didn't like to read, whatever.
All of these supposedly really smart people, and they didn't know that beforehand, and they made excuses for this President? Then they should just be on their own.
Listen, my own mother, who worked for Exxon for 30-some years, who worked with Rex Tillerson, would not understand from the very beginning why Rex Tillerson would want to get himself involved with that. She has no political leanings, doesn't know anything. And if she can, as a layperson, say, why would he want to get himself involved with that, and then you see the outcome, I'm just saying, you know. As they say, Stevie Wonder could have seen that.
CUOMO: Right. And, look, you could say Tillerson has got sour grapes or whatever.
CUOMO: Nobody has ever criticized him as being stupid or not having the mental ability for any job. The guy basically ran a country when he was running Exxon.
LEMON: Have you seen Exxon's profits? Have you seen how successful Exxon is?
CUOMO: It's literally like a country.
LEMON: OK. Well, he should be learning something about business, not just about politics, meaning the President from Rex Tillerson. So there you go.
Bad week for this President, you know, all the best -- as you said, I'm rubber, you're glue. For me, it's all the best people, right? All the best people. We're going to hire all the best people. We're going to do all of this vetting. It's, you know, extreme vetting, best people. And very fine people on both sides. One of those very fine people convicted today, first-degree murder. So how much does he really know about judging people?
CUOMO: Hmm. Good point. D. Lemon, see you soon.
LEMON: Come back on my show. See you soon, buddy.
CUOMO: All right. So Mueller is still building his case. That's what we know, all right? These ideas that this is about to wrap up, I don't know how that could be true. With all these redactions and all the different people involved, I just can't see how it's true.
Today's memos certainly indicate that there is much more to come. The President is as far from cleared as he has ever been. The closing argument on what matters and what's next.
[21:56:04] CUOMO: All right. The President said tonight in response to the Mueller memos, totally clears the President. Thank you. Another example of what we now know for sure is the central question going forward. And we've been asking it here for weeks, and we get more answers to it all the time, or pieces to the answer. Why lie?
We all know the President has problems telling the truth. But he knows he's lying with his tweet, and the reason why he's lying here, this is a simple one. He's playing you for a sucker and hoping you don't read any of these memos, and if you do read it, you don't believe it.
He's been connected to the commission of two crimes. It's the first time that happened tonight. We've never seen the prosecutors do that in any way here. And his campaign and people close to him are increasingly exposed to charges that they met with, contacted, and/or communicated with Russians.
And so much about lying about those same situations. Why? If there is no entanglement, no collusion, no impropriety, why did so many people around this President lie about the same thing? Even if the President did not know about any of the dealings of those around him and reading the Cohen and Manafort papers, that is now more of an open question than it was to this point, he still is clearly at the top of an organization and an administration that was open for business, open to help, and open to suggestion from Russians during and after the election.
Remember, the President was not asked about anything that happened after the date of the election in those written questions by Mueller, and that's a good thing for him because clearly people in his administration were talking to Cohen and Manafort. And we know at least in the case of Manafort, he lied about those conversations.
Are there more crimes to come? It depends. It depends on who lied and about what. But we know those prospects are not the product of mere speculation. Flynn, Cohen, and Manafort, the mendacious trio, all say they were talking to people in the campaign, in connection to what they were lying about. OK? They were not rogue. They were not solo acts. And the special counsel believes two of those three about that. Michael Cohen has been found credible by the special counsel. He's
said it more than once. General Flynn, same thing. There seems to be a consensus that many high up in the campaign and/or the administration were aware, assistive, and maybe even evasive about Russian contacts and illegal campaign contributions. But the President just writes it off. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a total witch hunt. It's a democrat hoax. They have this witch hunt. That was a democratic hoax. It's a witch hunt. Phony witch hunts. It was a hoax. It's like a witch hunt. It's like a witch hunt. This is a hoax. The witch hunt continues. I call it the Russian hoax. The Witch Hunt as I call it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: You heard Rex Tillerson, right? What he said, the former secretary of state. He doesn't like to read. He doesn't want to pay attention to details. He doesn't like to be briefed. Maybe that's why he thinks it's a witch hunt. He doesn't know what he's talking about. But here's what we know. The prosecutors have a lot of witches, people conjuring up lies, working together to brew up contacts and business and opportunities and access with Russia for the same man, the man now known most commonly as individual one, aka the President of the United States.
And he is now hoping that prosecutors believe him to be clueless and generally ignorant about these contacts, payments, business deals, WikiLeaks conversations, his duties as President, his range of powers because if they believe otherwise, that he had knowledge and awareness of what was being done around him and said to him and done by and said by him, he could be facing an epic beat down in this Mueller report.
Thank you for watching. "CNN TONIGHT" with D. Lemon starts right now. There is a lot of news to unpack.
LEMON: What a week. This is a like maybe two weeks in one day with everything that came out today, don't you think?