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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Special Counsel: Cohen Provided Relevant And Useful Information Concerning Contacts With Persons Connected To The White House; Mueller: Russian Offered Trump Campaign 'Political Synergy' In 2015; Mueller: Manafort Lied About Interactions With Associate Who Has Ties To Russian Intelligence; NY Prosecutors: Cohen "Acted in Coordination With and at the Direction of" Trump on Hush Payments; Comey Questioned by House Committees Behind Closed Doors; Trump Picks Heather Nauert, State Department Spokeswoman and Former Fox News Host, to Replace Haley as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired December 7, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Our special coverage continues with "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT".
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, breaking news, two bombshell court filings tonight from the special counsel, Robert Mueller. One on Michael Cohen and just how he has helped Mueller, the other on Paul Manafort, and his lied. Details about contacts with Trump administration officials.
Plus, the president's tweets that he's in the clear tonight. Is he in denial or purposely muddying the water?
And then Rex Tillerson versus Trump. Did the former secretary of state reveal one of the most damning details about Trump and the law yet? Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, Mueller dropping a major bomb on Trump in a new court filing and we've got a few of them here tonight. In a new filing, Mueller says President Trump's former attorney general, Michael Cohen, has, "Gone to significant lengths to assist the special counsel's investigation."
Mueller goes on to say Cohen helped in multiple, "significant respects." OK, so multiple significant respects. And in this filing, we learned that there are multiple Russia related issues that are core to the investigation. So, let me read to you Mueller's words here to that effect. This is from page 6 of the seven-page filing. "Cohen provided the SCO," that's the special counsel's office, "with useful information concerning certain discrete Russia related matters core to its investigation that he obtained by virtue of his regular contact with company executives during the campaign."
Matters, plural, core to the investigation. Also, the timeframe, something very, very important here, could be changing tonight. Mueller saying Cohen's help, including discussing contacts with people connected to the White House as recently as this year, just be clear, that's 2018. So again, I go back here, to page 6, and Mueller's words. "Cohen provided relevant and useful information concerning his contacts with persons connected to the White House during the 2017-2018 time period." And also, in this filing, specific contacts with a Russian, a Russian, it appears that we did not know about. You're going to hear a whole lot more about that in just a moment.
But it comes as the Southern District of New York also filed a court today about Michael Cohen, recommending a substantial prison sentence for Trump's former personal lawyer. Even as prosecutors said that the president of the United States himself, basically, it could have -- we're going to talk about exactly what this means, committed a felony by violating campaign finance law with that Stormy Daniels payment.
President seemed well aware today that big things were about to drop, going on a Twitter tirade against Mueller, witch hunt, Robert Mueller's big time conflicts of interest, five tweet long rant. Look at it on your screen there with multiple unfounded and some inaccurate just on the facts of it accusations against Mueller.
Let's begin here with Evan Perez OUTFRONT in Washington. Evan, we're here just talking about Cohen. Of course, we've got all these Manafort filings as well. I want to ask you though, here, Mueller talking in this seven-page document about the significant areas of cooperation by Cohen. What's most important to you?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they take about -- Erin, they talk about these four areas that Michael Cohen was very helpful with the special counsel and one of them has to do with this contact with Russians about the so-called Moscow project. It's a project to build that Trump Tower in Moscow. And there were others connecting with Russians, trying to make contact.
There were other Russians trying to make contact with the campaign and in particular they talk a little bit about a trusted person, a Russian national, who was suggesting a political synergy campaign and we'll tell you a little bit more about that.
Second thing that they talk about that the special counsel says is that there's information related to Russian related matters, obviously, that were core to this investigation, that you said, you were pointing to the fact that these were things that he learned from interacting with the Trump Organization. That's a big deal as this information -- as this investigation goes forward. And then of course, the special counsel points out that Michael Cohen describes people he was talking to close to the White House through 2018. That is this year.
Again, when the president talks about this is an investigation that is looking way, way back, what the special counsel is saying is that they're looking at information that came in this year and then there's finally, how he was coordinating with people close to the president on some of his false statements.
Now we've seen that in some of his -- in some these court filings but it's very important for us to keep in mind that Mueller wants to know how the lies came about and whether or not the lies were essentially an effort to obstruct this investigation.
But back to the Russian. We, you know, we don't know a lot about this person, but this person apparently is someone who is close to the Kremlin and we know that Paul Manafort -- that we know -- we know that Michael Cohen had been working on this Moscow project. This appears to be a separate project, Erin.
[19:05:03] BURNETT: And we understand, you know, from looking at this, Evan, to your point, you know, it would seem significant that we are now entering a new, it seems, a new Russian into this who was close to Putin.
PEREZ: Right. Exactly. I mean that's what's interesting about this is that we've seen some of the other characters that Michael Cohen was talking to. We know that he had been in touch with Dmitry Peskov, who is the spokesman, someone very close to Vladimir Putin. We know he was also working through somebody who -- a Russian national, somebody who has U.S. citizenship, who was trying to be an interlocutor with the Russians.
This appears to be a totally different character that we have not seen before and it tells us that the special counsel has more information about this person and maybe we'll see this in more information that comes forward in this investigation.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Evan. We're going to talk much more about this person. You know, talking about multiple times, about a meeting between Putin and Trump. We'll get to those details in a moment.
I want to go through the Southern District of New York's filing on Cohen because that was also hugely significant, you know, especially when we talk about whether the president of the United States committed a felony by violating campaign finance law by the Stormy Daniels payment.
MJ Lee has been covering and going through this filing. And, MJ, you know, we hear the special counsel say Michael Cohen's been very cooperative but in the southern district, oh, not the same point of view at all.
MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right. If you just look at this SDNY filing, it is bad news for Michael Cohen. No question about it. It is actually asking the court to give Michael Cohen a substantial term of imprisonment, only a modest amount of leniency from the few years that he could get. Of course, this is bad news for Michael Cohen, whose lawyers have actually been asking for no jail time for him when he is sentenced next week.
This filing from SDNY lays out how he evaded taxes, how he lied to banks, and also how he illegally tried to affect the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. This last point, of course, is the most relevant for President Trump. These are the payments that we have been talking about all year to Karen McDougal and to Stormy Daniels, two women who alleged to have had affairs with Donald Trump. Not only -- this is really interesting -- not only does the filing just lay out how Michael Cohen tried to affect the outcome of the election by coordinating these hush payments to these two women, it also goes to some length to say how Michael Cohen was effectively hurting the Democratic process, how he was deceiving the American people and American voters and how he orchestrated secret and illegal payments to silence two women who otherwise probably would have gone forward, gone public with their stories about Donald Trump.
And even though, Erin, the filing doesn't actually come out and say that Michael Cohen was delusional or perhaps in denial, the suggestion is at least there. It says that he has a rose colored view of the seriousness of his crimes, and that he is asking for extraordinary leniency even though the crimes that he committed are the so, so serious.
And I just want to quickly read a key passage from this SDNY filing that sums up the seriousness of all of this. It says, "After cheating the IRS for years, lying to banks and to Congress and seeking to criminally influence a presidential election, Cohen's decision to plead guilty rather than seek a pardon from his many fold crimes does not make him a hero."
Now, that last piece, I'm betting, is going to be a bit of a gut punch for Michael Cohen because again, his strategy has been recently to present himself as a new man who wants to deliver the truth to investigators and to cooperate and to get no jail time, that is their goal, clearly, Erin, SDNY does not agree.
BURNETT: Clearly not. MJ Lee, thank you very much. As they are requesting three and a half years of prison time for Michael Cohen.
OUTFRONT now, John Dean, Nixon White House counsel during Watergate, Harry Sandick, the former U.S. assistant district attorney for the Southern District of New York, April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Media Networks and author of "Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House", and Greg Brower,, former FBI assistant director.
OK. Thanks very much to all of you. So much to talk about here. I want to talk, specifically, first about Cohen and the Mueller filing from the special counsel.
John Dean, Cohen provided useful information on multiple Russia matters, we learn here, right, including information about contacts with White House officials that were going on as recently as 2018. Which, you know, as Evan and I are emphasizing, could be a significant change here or new look that we're talking about a very different timetable. This could mean the investigation is bigger than we thought, John Dean?
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: It does mean that. There's that very real potential. With Michael Cohen, it appears, given the fact he went to the, apparently, initially, to the special counsel, didn't -- wasn't truthful with them as a footnote shows. [19:10:05] And then went up to the Southern District and had sort of a partial cooperation up there, that he was slow in realizing that he had to come forward. And that's why this information is kind of dribbled out, out of him.
And I think what's going on, he's got a very savvy lawyer, principal criminal lawyer, as well as one who is sort of handling the public side of this. And I think he's relying on what's called rule 35 where after he testifies, he can go back to the court and say, listen, here's all the information I have supplied, I'd like a reduced sentence. That's, I think, his hope.
BURNETT: Which could be, and of course, obviously, Southern District asking for a long sentence, right, more than three and a half years here.
DEAN: They are.
BURNETT: Greg, let me ask you, though, in this filing from Mueller, it is very clear, from what they are saying in here, that Cohen is playing a role in the Russia investigation, which is beyond, above and beyond the Moscow tower, right? We're talking about Russia related matters, plural, core to the investigation, contacts with persons connected to the White House from 2017 and 2018.
GREG BROWER, FORMER HEAD OF FBI'S CONGRESSIONAL AFFAIRS OFFICE UNDER COMEY: Right. These -- all of these recent filings, the Manafort filing, the Cohen filings, and the Flynn filing, all are stunning in that they come as close as we've seen so far at pointing directly to the president in terms of implicating him in this Russia connection to the campaign.
And so, the fact that Cohen and Flynn in particular are cooperating with the special counsel to the extent they apparently are, can't mean anything good for the president. And I assume that we're going to see a lot more detailed information to come in terms of what both of them have been able to provide to Mueller's team.
BURNETT: Right, Harry, because of course obviously, they are tipping their hand in one sense, right? They're saying multiple Russia issues core to the campaign, the timeframe seems to be changing, they're adding another Russian here but obviously this is still ongoing so they're not giving us details on what all these Russian related matters are.
But what about this Russian? We have all these details here. This person reached out to Michael Cohen around November 2015. So, you know, Trump announced in June. By November, this person, who as you heard Evan say, could be a totally new person close to Putin that we did not know about, offers the campaign, "political synergy and synergy on a government level." Repeatedly proposes meetings between Trump and President Putin, and says, a meeting could have a phenomenal impact in political and business dimensions. These details are all in here.
HARRY SANDICK, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Yes. And you read this, and how can anyone say with a straight face, no collusion or no contacts with Russia. This is through Michael Cohen, someone who was very close to the president for many years, and different from the Moscow project. Now, it does say the meeting did not happen, but it says in the --
BURNETT: Between Putin and Trump.
SANDICK: That's right.
BURNETT: That's it does say that meeting did not happen.
SANDICK: Right. And it also says that Cohen did not pursue his dealings with this Russian, but that was only according to the Mueller filing because Cohen had other contacts with Russia that he thought would be more productive than this new Russian figure. So there's contact with Russia everywhere. I mean I don't want to take the entire hour listing all the different connections between Trump and Russia, but this is a very serious addition to that list.
BURNETT: And, April, you know, the other question is, how much Michael Cohen knew about Trump's activities, you know, what he really knew. I mean, right? Obviously, it looks like from what we're learning here tonight, he knew a lot more than we thought.
APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Yes. You know, Cohen is connecting the dots. No matter the fact that he has lied in the past and he is considered a liar by the U.S. Attorney's Office, but Cohen has tapes. He's got proof that is nailing this down.
You know, the president just talked about no collusion. Well, Cohen is maybe bringing something else to the table saying that may not be true, Mr. President, and also the fact that, you know, obstruction of justice is on the table as well. Cohen was someone who said he would fall on the sword for the president. He was loyal to the president.
BURNETT: Take a bullet, right? Those were the words. Direct quote.
RYAN: Yes, take the bullet. Take the bullet.
RYAN: Fall on the sword. But take the bullet, yes, for this president because he was loyal to him and there was a payoff at that time.
RYAN: The payoff is over. Now he's fighting for his own life. He is giving up all the information that could really connect the dots to the Oval Office, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, if indeed it's true, 2017 and 2018 are in play as well.
BURNETT: So, Greg, you know, in the filing from the Southern District, and this is the crucial part MJ was referring to, right, obviously they're taking a very tough line against Michael Cohen on his cooperation. But they are saying, in a court filing, right, for the first time, right, they are saying that the president of the United States, you know, knew about this payment to Stormy Daniels.
[19:15:07] Is this saying the president of the United States committed a felony?
BROWER: Yes. It's hard to read this document without interpreting it as just flat-out implicating the president of the United States in a couple of different felonies relating to campaign finance laws. I don't know that there's any other way to read that. And so, I think that's the takeaway from that filing.
BURNETT: I mean, Harry, I know you think that the one -- the one out could be did he know that it was a violation, the knowledge.
SANDICK: That's right. That's right.
BURNETT: So, here's the question, though. What happens? If we are at a point where we're saying the president of the United States committed a felony and then OK, he had no -- what are they going to do about it?
SANDICK: Well, they're -- it's not clear that they're going to do anything about it, for a few reasons. Number one, there are DOJ policies that say that whatever the circumstances, the president can't be indicted until after he leaves office, and it seems as if the prosecutors in the Southern District and on the Mueller team are going likely to follow that rule.
The second issue is that because Cohen did not go all the way as a cooperator, did not tell the government everything he knew, did not sign a cooperation agreement, the U.S. attorney's office in the Southern District doesn't have him available to call as a witness. They have a specific program for cooperators. They've had it for many, many years, and as they say in their brief, Cohen didn't follow it.
BURNETT: And yet, John Dean, we are at a point, if you look at that filing and you say that this is a felony, campaign finance violation, and the president knew about it and directed it, that, again, is a new stage here to be so formally at that point, right? This is a court filing in which that is the clear implication.
DEAN: That's true and that's exactly what Michael Cohen said in court when he pled. He -- in his allocution, he implicated Trump directly, that he was doing his instructions that's why the payments were made for his benefit.
I don't know that this will forever disappear into some dark hole of unprosecutable presidents. I think will -- it will resurface in the Congress. I think what this totality of today's filings show that the House is going to have little choice the way this is going other than to start impeachment proceedings.
BURNETT: And obviously, I just point out what everyone watching knows, you now have a Democratic controlled House, not in the Senate but, you know, you have a real question now of whether you're looking at a Bill Clinton-like moment where you actually get that impeachment vote.
April, something clearly on the president's mind and I want to make a point here because the president is, you know, over time vacillated between Michael Cohen, my friend and an honest broker and a liar. The special counsel very clear here on page two of the filings, referring to Cohen, the information he's provided has been credible and consistent with other evidence obtained in the ongoing investigation. They are making it clear we've corroborated all this. We know it's true.
RYAN: Yes. I mean, you know, Michael Cohen has been proven to be a liar, but when you have tapes that they have found that may not have been edited, what have you, and you have voices, clearly having conversations, audio tapes, video tapes, whatever tapes, that nails the coffin shut to a certain extent. And then other people who, I guess, if they have evidence on or to talk to, to say, look, we've got this, give us the information. It's not about their word now. It's about the evidence that's in front of them. And Michael Cohen has given them the evidence to prove certain things.
So this president, I mean, when he goes out and tweets, he's got to be very careful, because we don't know. I mean, he doesn't probably know a lot that's on the table as well. He may have answered questions. If there are things that we are still finding out, and many who are involved in this are still trying to figure out.
BURNETT: All right. We're going to continue our breaking coverage here, obviously, of this filing, also the breaking news on Paul Manafort.
We've got a new filing here tonight and there's quite a bit of new information in it, how Paul Manafort lied to investigators about five major issues are detailed in here, including his contacts with Trump administration officials. We've got the new details in here, some crucial developments on a couple of those areas.
Plus President Trump and the White House just responding to tonight's bombshell court filings. The president is responding at this hour. We're going to talk about that.
And Chief of Staff John Kelly, not speaking with the president anymore. He and the president not on speaking terms. This as we are learning that Kelly has now spoken to Bob Mueller's team about the investigation.
BURNETT: Breaking news, the special counsel, Bob Mueller, detailing just how former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort lied to prosecutors, breaching his plea agreement. This is coming the same day Mueller revealed that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen has taken significant steps to help the investigations.
We've got a new Manafort filing 10 pages. Sara Murray has been going through that. Sara, now Mueller is coming out and telling us what Manafort lied about, what are relearning?
SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And Mueller's team is saying Manafort lied about five issues. And I think the most interesting one is that prosecutors say he lied about his contacts with members of the Trump administration. You know, when Paul Manafort was supposed to be cooperating, he said he wasn't in contact with any members of the Trump administration currently serving in the White House. Prosecutors say they have evidence that he was in touch with administration officials through February of 2018 and in May of 2018.
That's, of course, after Manafort was facing these charges. Now, that's just one of the things they say he lied about. They say he also lied about his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, who prosecutors say has ties to Russian military intelligence. They said Manafort lied about how and Kilimnik may have worked together to try to tamper with witnesses, that he lied about a wire transfer to a firm that he had hired and he also lied about information pertinent to another Department of Justice investigation, so we don't know what that is.
And this document also sort of shows us the scope of Manafort's interactions. He had about 12 interviews with the special counsel's office and other in law enforcement entities. And, Erin, we're learning for the first time that Manafort actually testified before the grand jury, and he did that on two occasions. And what's really interesting is those occasions happened just days before Mueller's team went to Manafort's people and said, look, we think your guy is lying.
BURNETT: All right. Sara, thank you very much. As we go through this, Sara giving us those crucial, you know, takeaways here, let's go back to our guests.
[19:25:09] Let me start with you, John Dean, again, we hear about 12 meetings with the special counsel, Sara referred to, nine of those happening after the plea agreement, Manafort lying multiple times. They're going through all these areas in which he lied, five areas. What could possibly have prompted him to do that? They clearly had actual proof. Would he not have realized by this point that they wouldn't with asking questions they didn't already know the answer to?
DEAN: You would think so. You would think we was certainly sophisticated enough to realized that, but he also is a man who apparently his entire life has been scamming people and lying right to their face. The fact that he would do it under the circumstances he found himself, I'm sure his lawyers braced him and told him, but I also think the fact that his lawyers did also meet with the White House raises a question that implicates them. And before this is over, I suspect they'll be called to testify somewhere about their ongoing meetings with the White House.
BURNETT: Right, we do understand that there was some sort of, I guess, communication -- I don't want to use the word coordination -- but communication between Manafort's legal team and the White House's legal team, which as we've reported would be unusual if not unprecedented once you've already reached a point where you're in a plea agreement to cooperate with prosecutors.
Greg, these two areas here, information pertinent to another Department of Justice investigation and Manafort's contact with the administration officials, that he lied about both of these things. What is the significance of that, Greg, when you look at contact with administration officials?
BROWER: Well, it could be very significant. And I'll just say that all of this lying, including the apparent lying about Russia and Russian connections, can't be about nothing. I've thought, and maybe I know too much, given my experience at DOJ, but I've thought for a long time that this idea that there's no evidence of collusion, that the Mueller team hasn't produced any evidence of collusion with Russia, is laughable.
And in light of these recent developments, it's beyond laughable. And that brings me to a point that I think is important to make. You know, with the president continuing to criticize Robert Mueller via Twitter in the way that he has, when are congressional Republicans going to stand up and say something about that and defend the special counsel and the work he's doing? The fact that we don't hear that, despite all of this unwarranted and frankly inappropriate criticism is just stunning to me.
BURNETT: And, Harry, on this point about we're going to talk about those tweets in just a moment because there's a bunch of them and I want to get into detail about that. However, I want to ask you about what these lies were about, because to the point Greg's making, there's so much here. We haven't been provided any specific evidence of collusion. He's saying he thinks it's there and that's what all of this sound and fury is about. But it signifies something, not nothing.
Rudy Giuliani was on CNN this morning. He said Mueller's team thinks Manafort lied to them about the Trump Tower meeting. OK. That's not in here. So, let me ask you a question. Why would Giuliani say it if it's true but Mueller didn't have to tell us about it? Why would Giuliani tell us about it now?
SANDICK: Well, it's very hard to deduce Giuliani's motivations and incentives, but there are some comments in this document, which is partly redacted. There are some comments also that additional materials to prove the nature of Manafort's lies could be provided to the court ex parte under seal, meaning it will not come to us. It wouldn't even go to Manafort's lawyers, but the court could see it. And the reason for the secrecy is it because it relates to ongoing investigations.
So it may be that Giuliani somehow knows about that through some discussions with the special counsel, even if it's not on the face of the document.
BURNETT: And, April, let's be clear. When Rudy says that Mueller's team made it clear to him that they believe Manafort lied about the Trump Tower meeting, let's just be clear what we're saying here. What he's saying is that Trump knew about that meeting, right? He knew a lot more about that meeting than what he has said, which is, by the way, that he knew nothing.
RYAN: Right. And then that kind of changed, you know, in trying to help craft this statement by his son about that meeting. You know, this has gotten to the point where the players you can't trust, you can't trust what they're saying because the evidence is coming out saying something different.
And of course, they've tried to play this, Rudy Giuliani especially, has tried to play this in the court of public opinion, to try to sway the public towards the president's side.
But now, as we see, what's happening tonight and what we expect to come, it doesn't look good and it looks like it could be totally different from what Rudy Giuliani and the president have said.
BURNETT: Greg, what do you make of the fact that Paul Manafort says he's going to cooperate? He's been convicted. Not of all counts but of some counts. He's been convicted, says I'm going to cooperate, meets with them nine times after that, continues to lie about things that they have text messages to prove are untrue.
What do you make, Greg, of a witness who would so brazenly lie at a point at which he would know for sure that they would know he was lying?
GREG BROWER, FORMER HEAD OF FBI'S CONGRESSIONAL AFFAIRS OFFICER UNDER COMEY: It seems to be classic Manafort, you know? This is the ultimate too clever by half move by someone who just thinks he can outsmart the government and has obviously failed miserably. The impression that I think most have, and I certainly have, is that he thought that by lying, he might not be able to convince the Mueller team, but he might be able to convince the president that he's owed something because of his attempt at being loyal.
The president has, as we've seen, made comments as inappropriate as they are, about those who refused to cooperate and refused to talk as being -- as having, you know, courage, and maybe that's what Manafort was trying to play into.
BURNETT: Right. Owed something, John Dean, owed a pardon?
JOHN DEAN: That's exactly right. We know one was dangled, and it looks like he's got the signal, and so he very blatantly not only lied but communicated with the White House and probably got that information that he had the president's back to the White House somehow.
So, it's a dangerous game. I think he's going to be beyond pardon at some point because there's some state offenses that he's involved in that Trump cannot pardon him from and it may stack up so heavy that just in the federal case that the president can't touch it either.
BURNETT: And what do you make, Greg, of the fact that we're finding out here, when you take these two filings together from Mueller, about the timing here? We're talking about Manafort, that they're saying in here that Manafort had text conversations with administration officials, much into this year, and we're also learning that they're looking at Michael Cohen's communications with White House officials last year and this year.
What do you make, Greg, we're seeing that in both filings now, that we are not talking about just prior to the -- during the campaign, during the transition, and even up through the Comey filing. We could be talking about who knows what, but we are talking about contacts that continued for years after that.
BROWER: That's right, Erin, and I think we can assume, and this is good evidence of the fact that the Mueller team has a lot of information, text messages, e-mails, documentary information, information that will contradict what they will be hearing or may have already heard from certain witnesses that is going to jam up those witnesses and it's the classic case of Mueller and his team probably know the answers to every question they're asking these witnesses and inevitably, some witnesses just don't understand that and end up committing a false statement violation and if nothing else, they're charged with that.
BURNETT: Which is, you know, interesting, Harry, because at least two people who have been interviewed by Mueller that I have spoken to on and off the record have said they knew absolutely the answer -- and it was very clear to these individuals. But when I look at this Mueller filing, page nine, text exchange from may 26th, 2018, Manafort authorizing someone to speak to the administration.
So, that implies not just contact, coordination, but we're talking all the way through may of this year now.
HARRY SANDICK, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Yes. Absolutely. I mean, look, between the lies and the coordination, Manafort is now essentially in a cell of his own making. He had an opportunity to cooperate. He threw it away. The only way out of this, really, would be a pardon.
BURNETT: And, April, when you take both of these filings together, where are we as it pertains the president of the United States who's looking at all of this tonight? Obviously, defiant on Twitter, but he's not even speaking to his chief of staff. He's looking at these filings tonight.
What's he see?
RYAN: He's upset. The president is upset. When he goes on these twitter rampages, he's upset. He sees this.
And, Erin, I think back to when the president was saying, oh, Paul Manafort's issue has nothing to do with me. This is about his taxes and other things. Well, it does. You know, just knowing that the Manafort team had been in contact with the president of the United States, at the very at least that's unethical. At the very least, it's unethical. [19:35:01] And now the president is saying, oh, he was a good boy, I'm
going to possibly keep the issue of a pardon on the table. At first, they didn't know what to do. He was like, they weren't thinking about it. Now, I'm thinking about it. And now that's probably even changed now with what we're hearing today with these filings.
And then with this Cohen issue, the president needs to be worried, because there is evidence out there, not only does the president need to be worried, but those who bear his name need to be worried because they are involved as well with that -- the Russia meeting. You know, and all of these payments. This does not bode well for the president, and it's going to be a slow process, I'm not even going to say impeachment right now but trust and believe, come January, Democrats, especially in oversight and government reform, they're going to be dealing with these issues.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much.
And I think that the bottom line point here that everyone is making is they're making it clear here to everyone watching, they have the evidence. They have the text messages, they have the proof. It isn't just taking the word of someone who lied that they're going to now say they're not a liar. They've got the actual evidence and the proof on all of this that they say and have filed under seal, obviously, in the case here of Paul Manafort.
Next, President Trump saying that he's in the clear. He is fighting back. Angry as April said. He's upset. So has he read the court filings? U.S. attorney's office saying Trump directed and coordinated with Cohen to commit felonies.
And James Comey spending six hours behind closed doors on Capitol Hill today. We didn't even get to that yet. That's coming up.
[19:40:30] BURNETT: Breaking news, the White House now weighing in on the special counsel's filings on Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen. The president already tweeting tonight after the Cohen filing was released saying, quote, totally clears the president. Thank you.
Now, another filing in New York says this, quote in particular, and as Cohen has admitted with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of individual one, which refers to Donald Trump and obviously the payments we're talking about are to Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels.
Let's go to Kaitlan Collins at the White House.
And, Kaitlan, and the response here from the White House, the president obviously fired up, and what is the formal response we are getting from the White House this evening?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, we typically don't get statements like the ones I'm about to read you from the White House on Russia investigation news, but they sent these out to reporters tonight, one on the Manafort filing and one on the Cohen filing.
I'll start with the Manafort one because in that one, Sarah Sanders says essentially that this filing has absolutely nothing to do with the president, she said that it's even less about collusion and devoted almost entirely to lobbying related issues. She says once again the media is trying to create a story where there isn't one.
Erin, she doesn't reference the fact that this filing actually says Paul Manafort was in contact with administration officials and lied about those contacts to prosecutors, including one, a senior administration official, in February of 2018, including authorizing other administration officials to speak on his behalf.
Then, on Cohen, she said, quote, the government's filings and Mr. Cohen's case tell us nothing of value that wasn't already known. Mr. Cohen has repeatedly lied and as the prosecution has pointed out to the court, Mr. Cohen is no hero. Of course, Erin, no one is saying that Michael Cohen is a hero here, but you cannot ignore that that is wrong because this filing directly names the president, referring to him as individual one, and later stating that he became president of the United States, and it emphasizes the fact that Michael Cohen implicated the president in a crime, saying that he was the person who directed him to violate those campaign finance laws.
But Erin, what that is likely speaking to is a larger concern from President Trump. We know about Michael Cohen over Paul Manafort, because he sees him as more of a threat to his presidency because he is cooperating with prosecutors and he can give them access to so much information. So, that's their response right now, not a surprise that they are trying to down play it tonight.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Kaitlan.
And I want to go to Evan Perez and Harry Sandick were back with me. And also, joining the conversation, Jen Psaki, former Obama White House communications director, and Marc Short, former White House director of legislative affairs for President Trump.
Evan, all right, we go through these filings. Look, there's new information in here. B, they're talking about core matters to this, Russia, contacts with the administration and the White House, all the way to this year, and you're also learning more about the payment, the Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal payments in these filings.
And so, to say that the president is totally cleared is, frankly, absurd, if not almost humorous.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. And, look, I mean, despite what Sarah Sanders is saying, I can tell you, behind the scenes, the president's lawyers, they know it's far from that. They know that the Michael Cohen matter is what they call a kill shot, is an attempt by the Justice Department to go after the president.
And, Erin, they knew this when Michael Cohen stood up in court a few months ago and pleaded guilty the first time and said that he was directed -- that he did the campaign finance violations that he was admitting to, he did it at the direction of the president. Now, that wasn't in the court documents that the prosecutors wrote, but Michael Cohen stood up and said that in court, and that was the first time the president's lawyers were like, uh-oh, we know what this means.
And so, today is the first time that we see prosecutors actually using the same language that Michael Cohen used in court, and it really just affirms to them that they believe that the Justice Department is now firmly going for the president, and look, they can't charge him with a crime, but this is definitely something that the Democrats and the Congress can take up once they have their hands on this come next year.
BURNET: So, Marc, George Conway, Kellyanne's husband, who obviously has come out multiple times, right, to call the president out on various Russia-related matters and others but he is a conservative, respected lawyer, has already gone on Twitter about the specific issue of the payments, right, which come up in the Cohen filing from the Southern District.
[19:45:03] Taking issue, the president saying, you know, scot-free, right? Free, we're over this.
And he goes, except for that little part where the U.S. attorney's office says that you directed and coordinated with Cohen to commit two felonies. Other than that, totally scot-free.
So, Marc, is the president totally in denial here or does he think he can muddy the waters enough to win the court of public opinion?
MARC SHORT, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS: I don't think the president's in denial, Erin. I do think that the president does believe that this is, in his terms, a witch hunt and that it's something that is less about collusion with Russia and more about other crimes that perhaps Michael Cohen or Paul Manafort committed. But I think we have to keep in mind that Michael Cohen does have every incentive at this point because he's under prosecution for other crimes he's committed and tax evasion, other dishonest comments, to want to work with the prosecution to go after somebody else, if that makes his sentencing more lenient.
BURNETT: Right, for sure, but I just want to make the point, mark, you're right about that, of course, but they are saying that his -- the information he's provided has been, quote, consistent with other evidence. They're making a point we're not taking him at his word.
SHORT: I hear you that but we don't know what that information is that he's consistent on. It may be something substantive, I don't know, but it might be something that's not substantive.
BURNETT: Of course, Harry, this is a guy, Michael Cohen, who recorded conversations. When it comes to these payments, I mean, this felony issue could be extremely significant. The president, you've pointed out, at the time, Donald Trump, would have needed to know that this was a violation of campaign finance law.
If they are saying this in a court filing now, that he directed someone else to commit felonies, what, then, are the next steps? He is a sitting president. You're now talking about a sitting president and a felony.
SANDICK: So, as we heard John Dean say a few minutes ago, if this is not something that can be handled by the prosecutors because of the Department of Justice policy or at least it couldn't be handled while Trump is in office, perhaps you could envision charges after he leaves office.
SANDICK: Before that time, it would be a matter that could be taken up by the House of Representatives considering whether this crime, if he committed it, he committed it actually to obtain the presidency, which is exactly what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they said, we need to have a power of impeachment and the House could take that up as impeachment.
BURNETT: So, Jen, you know, what do you think the significance is here of this particular part? Right, this is the payments, right that Trump directed Cohen, Cohen said the before but they're saying it in a court filing throw that Cohen was directed by Donald Trump to make these payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal to influence the election.
JEN PSAKI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, look, I think that this is just the icing here -- not the icing but it's just the tip of the iceberg is really what I mean to say. Remember, we have never really -- we haven't focused a lot on the campaign finance violations. We've talked a lot over the last year and a half for understandable reasons about the accusations of collusion and obstruction of justice.
So, any time, of course, a president of the United States is accused of committing a felony, that's serious business. That's something I'm certain the House will look further into. And whether or not he can be indicted while in office, that's for lawyers to decide, but it's never a good place to be.
And remember, he was accused -- this situation came about because he was covering up for hush money payments he made to a Playboy playmate, you know, and the whole story here tells you a lot about who President Trump is. That's the troubling piece of this.
But there's a lot more to come, and this is really, again, the tip of the iceberg, I think.
BURNETT: So, Marc, let me ask you. The president, you know, you've got these two statements coming out from the White House where they are, you know, more statement-like things, and then you have his tweets, which are his tweet-like things, seven of them today. I'm sorry, then there was the eighth where he just said, he's totally vindicated.
A few of them, Robert Mueller and Leakin' Lyin' James Comey with best friends, one of Mueller's conflicts of interest. Then he goes on talking about crooked Hillary and that report.
Is anybody minding the shop there? And I say this, Marc, in the context of, we're learning -- Kaitlan Collins is reporting that John Kelly, the president's chief of staff, and the president are not even talking. So is anybody -- not that anyone's ever in charge of him but is anybody minding him right now?
SHORT: Look, Erin, Kaitlan is a great reporter and I trust her reporting that John Kelly and the president aren't talking today but there's been a lot of reporting about John Kelly will be out any day and maybe that's to be determined too. But we've been down this road a few different times.
The president clearly believes that his ability to tweet is his direct ability to communicate with the American people and get around the mainstream media and he continues to do that. That's been the case from day one. It was the case on the campaign and it's not going to change.
BURNETT: Well, now -- go ahead, Jen.
PSAKI: I was going to say, it is not normal for a chief of staff and a president of the United States to not be in contact. Aside from all of the controversy and scandal around President Trump, he remains the president, and in order to govern the country and function, he needs to have a working relationship with the chief of staff.
[19:50:04] I would suspect that given the reporting that he has been talking to Mueller and that they're not talking, that this may be actually real this time. He may actually be leaving. My question is, actually, why is he still there if all of this is going on?
SHORT: I think if John Kelly had a conversation with Mueller's team, the president would know about that. That's not going to be secret. It's something that would have been coordinated.
BURNETT: All right. We don't know if the president knew but we do know, of course, that John Kelly was interviewed by Mueller's team this year.
Thank you all.
And next, President Trump lashing out at the man he calls leaking lying Jim Comey, charging he dodged questions during a hearing with Congress. So, that went on for hours and hours today. Comey now hitting Twitter. What happened in that meeting is next.
And Trump's choice for U.N. ambassador is a former Fox News host Heather Nauert. We'll tell you about her.
BURNETT: Former FBI Director Jim Comey wrapping up six hours of testimony before the House Judiciary and Oversight Committee behind closed doors. Republicans trying to press Comey on a number of issues, frustrated by his refusal to answer some questions.
Comey spoke to reporters after the testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Two things are clear to me. One, we could have done this in open setting and two, when you read the transcript, you will see that we're talking again about Hillary Clinton's e-mails, for heaven's sakes.
[19:55:01] So, I'm not sure we need to do this at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Phil Mattingly is OUTFRONT.
OK, Phil, this was hours and hours. What happened behind closed doors?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Erin. More than six hours and while Republicans were mostly tight lipped as they came out of the closed door hearing, I'm told from members in the room, there were a series of issues they touched on. The types Republicans have been investigating for a series of months, questions of bias in the FBI against Donald Trump, trying to figure out the genesis or origins of the Russia investigation and also trying to peg in on how surveillance of certain Trump administration aides came to be.
As Jim Comey noted, I'm also told there were a lot of questions about Hillary Clinton's e-mail investigation, particularly Jim Comey's decision not to recommend criminal charges. Democrats have said it was waste of time. They said it was a fishing expedition.
But Republicans plan on having him back again. The reason is some of the questions he was unable to answer. Justice Department attorneys because they were ongoing investigations saying he could not. That frustrated a lot of Republicans. He'll be back in two weeks.
What did Jim Comey have to say about this? Well, you heard some of his words, he's also taken to Twitter, tweeting today wasn't a search for the truth but an attempt to find anything that can be used to attack the institutions of justice investigating this president. They came up empty today and will try again in the long run, because facts are stubborn things. That's where things stand now.
Another hearing in two weeks. Keep in mind, House Republicans only hold the majority for a couple more months. This investigation will be coming to an end soon whether Republicans like it or not.
BURNETT: All right. Phil, thank very much.
And also tonight, Trump picking a former Fox News host to replace Nikki Haley. The new ambassador to the United Nations is State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert. Not Trump's first choice, according to sources, but the president naming her and touting her as, quote, very talented and, quote, smart.
Democrats meanwhile already questioning her job qualifications ahead of what could be a tough Senate confirmation hearing.
Michelle Kosinski is OUTFRONT.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Heather Nauert, two years ago, was a breaking host on "Fox and Friends".
HEATHER NAUERT, THEN-FOX NEWS HOST: What do you need to do to win?
KOSINSKI: Now, after weeks of mulling a decision, the president names her the nominee for U.S. ambassador to the U.N.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She's very talented, smart, very quick. I think she will be respected by all.
KOSINSKI: The backlash, though, came quickly.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Listen, our foreign policy is a mess and the president was laughed at in his last salespeople before the U.N. and I'm not sure anybody would advise him the way to correct all his mistakes is to put a "Fox and Friends" anchor as our top ambassador to the United Nations. She has no experience as a diplomat. She has no meaningful experience in government. She's clearly not qualified for this job.
KOSINSKI: The conservative "Washington Examiner" ran an op-ed saying she's not remotely qualified to serve as our ambassador to the United Nations. From former Obama senior administration official Brett Bruen: She's like the poster child for an administration that's put people in places they have no business being.
A current senior official told CNN Nauert is respected and knowledgeable, though twice emphasized that Nauert represents the president's goal and has a clear understanding of the president's positions.
Nauert has worked as a journalist for two decades, almost all at Fox News. She joined the Trump administration as State Department spokesperson but was kept out of the inner circle by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. When he was fired, Nauert also became acting under secretary for public diplomacy. In one year's time going from news anchor on Fox, to the number four person at State where her at times combative style seemed perfectly tailored to Trump.
NAUERT: I have seen since taking on this role, inaccurate and sloppy reporting. Sometimes I think it's intentional because of bias. So, fake news, I hate the say, but is a real thing.
KOSINSKI: Other times generating frustration at the infrequent State Department briefings that used to be daily and sometimes head scratching comments from the podium. NAUERT: We have a very strong relationship with the government of
Germany. Tomorrow is the anniversary of the D-Day invasion. We have a long history with the government of Germany.
KOSINSKI: One senior diplomatic official says of the choice, this is extraordinary, especially in the footsteps of the former ambassadors. They include Nikki Haley who was a governor. John Bolton, with extensive government experience, Susan Rice, Madeline Albright, George H.W. Bush. Now, Heather Nauert will join their ranks, if that is she is confirmed by the Senate.
KOSINSKI: So, we know from sources that Nauert as a pick was supported by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. This is something of a win for them especially since not everybody in the administration felt that way.
Now, let's see if Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gets his way and has this job downgraded to no longer be a cabinet position as it was with Nikki Haley in the role -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Michelle.
And thanks to all of you for joining us.
Anderson starts now.