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Trump Gives First Interview to FOX after Cohen Sentenced; First Lady Favorability Rating Plummets 11 Points in 2 Months; Designer Reissues Coat After Pelosi White House Performance This Week. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired December 13, 2018 - 13:30   ET

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


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[13:32:23] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: President Trump just sat down for first interview since his longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, was sentence to prison. The president chose friendly FOX News. And here's a clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS FAULKNER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR, FOX REPORT: Why did you hire Michael Cohen?

(CROSSTALK)

FAULKNER: That was his title, a fixer.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First of all, he was a very low-level worker.

FAULKNER: Why did you need him?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He did more public relations than he did law. But he did -- he was on television, he was OK on television. But years ago, many years, like 12 or 13 years ago, he did me a favor. He was on a committee and he was so responsive and so good and I said he's a nice guy. I should hire him.

FAULKNER: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. That was the favor?

TRUMP: Years ago.

FAULKNER: People have been asking, what is the favor that he did the president. He was on a committee?

TRUMP: Well, he was on a committee. It was a condominium committee many years ago and he was a very big supporter of mine on that committee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: I want to bring in CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, and CNN political commentator, S.E. Cupp.

Harris Falkner not buying his explanation.

But let's talk about this defense that he came out of the gate with. We heard this before when other associates have been charged, they were a low-level employee, they did low-level work. He said this about someone in charge of his campaign. Was Michael Cohen, Dana, a low-level employee?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, the answer is when you are talking about the Trump Organization, you had Donald Trump and you had his children and a few other people. So it depends on how you look at it. The reality is anybody who maybe during that time got a cease-and-desist letter from Michael Cohen, because he was an active lawyer, fixing legal problems, other than the people who he had alleged affairs with, but legal problems most business men have, or anything of the type would assume he has anybody other than a low- level employee. The fact that he was put on with you on CNN and others on CNN as somebody who knows him well also flies in the face that was claim.

KEILAR: Also that he is known as a bit of a pit bull. It's hard to believe that an important person's pit bull is a low-level person.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR & CNN HOST, "S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED": Pit bull is putting it kindly, if you have to -- if you had to get to Trump, you have to go through Michael Cohen. We all had our run-ins. I was told by Michael Cohen, I will end you if you ask the president -- he was not the president at the time, this was many years ago -- but if you ask Donald Trump tough questions. You don't send someone out to be that aggressive with people on your behalf if you don't implicitly trust them with your business and your live and your family. To say that he was sort of a tertiary figure in the Trump orbit is simply not true. Anyone who knows the Trumps or had to work with them over the years knows that.

[13:35:26] KEILAR: Let's listen to the interview. Donald Trump was asked by Harris Faulkner about the hush payments to AMI, the parent company of the "National Enquirer." Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FAULKNER: The "New York Times" is saying that a tabloid publisher's deal to hush money is now endangering Trump even more. I'm paraphrasing a little bit. As you look at this, what do you want the nation to know about --

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Well, let me tell you --

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I don't think -- and I have to go check, but I don't think they paid any money to that tabloid. OK? I don't think we made a payment to that tabloid. I was asking the questions. I don't think we even made a payment. Then you have the other situation and every lawyer - look, Trump didn't violate campaign finances and neither did the president's, Trump ex-aide. So they're saying that --

FAULKNER: Wait. I interviewed him on my program the other day.

TRUMP: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Here's another one. Michael Cohen pled guilty to something that is not even a crime.

FAULKNER: So --

TRUMP: Wait a minute. These are campaign -- nobody except for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: S.E., I know you are having a laugh at some of that. What's your reaction?

CUPP: First, and I will react to that, but can we say, for the record, that was not an interview. That was an infomercial allowing the president to provide his evidence. See, look what this paper said and look what this person said. To ask the president how he feels about his good approval numbers. I watched the whole interview. It wasn't journalism. That was an infomercial. I'm not sure we learned much about the investigation or China or tariffs or anything else going on. All we heard was what Trump wanted to say, and what FOX wanted us to hear. I don't put a lot of stock in what the questions asked and what his answers were. But he was trying to rewrite and spin the story which is very unbecoming. And he knows whatever he is saying is in front of a friendly audience. He is not getting real push back on whether or not he made a payment to this tabloid, A/K/A, one of his best friends.

KEILAR: I hear you. I totally hear you on your assessment of the interview.

I also wonder, even though it's a friendly audience, Dana, it doesn't give him -- maybe it gives him a chance still to kind of step in it here.

BASH: Yes, exactly.

KEILAR: Because he is -- he goes on to say at one point no one would be treated like this over campaign finance violations but him, but key there is he is back to denying he ever made these payments. He is getting all of his facts crossed.

BASH: Right, that he was in the comfort zone that I think you're right. The question's aside. S.E. is 1,000 percent right. He was in a comfortable place where he maybe said things that weren't right. For example, the payment -- wasn't that the whole premises of that recording that Michael Cohen made? We need to talk about the money to our friend, David. The assumption and the reporting is that was David Pecker. Or maybe they had a code name for somebody else. That was what it seemed to be. And yes, he is going back and forth on the payments. Did he not make them? His attorney, Rudy Giuliani, back in May, went on FOX and surprised everybody by saying that he did, because he knew that this was going to come.

KEILAR: Dana, S.E., stand by.

[13:39:02] Melania Trump details the hardest part about being first lady. This, as new polls show her favorability has dropped dramatically in the last two months.

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KEILAR: Released moments ago, a new CNN poll shows a significant change in sentiment towards the first lady, whose factorability stood at 54 percent in October and now slipped to 43 percent, a drop of 11 points in two months. Additionally, they 36 percent of those polled found her unfavorable, which is a rise of six points since October.

We have White House reporter, Kate Bennett, here with me, back with S.E. Cupp and Dana Bash as well.

These numbers, something's going on. Why? Why the drop?

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Something is going on. The only thing we can really think is, for a long time, Melania got to hide in the obscurity of being a private person and we didn't hear from her and people made their own narratives about her. Recently, she has been more aligned with the president. We hear her talk about her feelings on the "Me Too" movement and immigration and certain other events of the president and the first lady feels sympatico with each other. And I think that, in a way, brought her into the people who are on the fence, Democrats and women, mostly college-educated women we've seen in this poll have dropped off a more. As it becomes more clear she is very much like her husband in terms of her policy standpoint and perhaps this is why we are seeing a large drop. His numbers are still 40 percent.

(CROSSTALK)

[13:45:10] KEILAR: Sure. Hers have always been better than his.

BENNETT: Always. Now she's only three points apart.

KEILAR: That's significant.

What was interesting was when she opened up about being criticized and the hardest part about being first lady. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I would say the opportunists who are using my name or my family name to advance themselves, from comedians to journalists to performers, book writers.

UNIDENTIFIED ANCHOR: Does it hurt?

MELANIA TRUMP: It doesn't hurt. The problem is they writing the history and it's not correct.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: What did you think about that? Did that tell you anything you didn't know?

BENNETT: Not for me, because I know the thing that bothers Melania Trump the most is people being dishonest about her. We're always heard from here

KEILAR: From her perception -

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: Yes.

BENNETT: Exactly. So when Ivana Trump wrote the book and said she was the real first lady, Melania Trump came out and she said, uh-uh, you're just trying to sell books. When "Fire and Fury" came out. When she feels people are being untruthful about her personally, that's when she fights back.

It's interesting that she was saying gossip and nonsense. I wish there had been a follow-up, like is she referring to the news yesterday with the president. When she says talk about substance, does she consider that substance?

KEILAR: S.E., what do you think? When I hear her talk about comedians and journalists writing about her husband, that's par for the course, no matter who the president is.

CUPP: It's a little blinded to suggest that the president and his family would not be the subject of scrutiny and criticism, even jokes sometimes. Certainly, she has to be used to that. But I think, case in point, we like to fantasize about Melania maybe in private sort of giving Trump the business, standing up to him and maybe being his governor. Over the past few weeks, we have seen her defend him, defend his tweets, saying that sometimes you need to defend yourself. Complaining about the media. Sounding very much like he does. Using a public forum like Twitter to get someone in the White House fired. All of that sort of dinged this fantasy -- it might have been wrong - this image we had of her as being really strong, standing up to him and swatting his hands away. I'm not sure it's that contentious of a relationship, in fact.

KEILAR: Guys, stay with me.

Next, how a fashion choice went viral and may have helped solidify Nancy Pelosi's future as House speaker.

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[13:52:24] KEILAR: Who knew a viral moment could change of course of the House speakership race, but Nancy Pelosi's face-off in the Oval Office this week may have done just that, along with the help of sunglasses and a very specific rust/orange coat. Dana Bash, Kate Bennett back with me now.

Dana, after trying to quell a revolt among some of her Democrats, she came back after this sort of viral moment of being the woman kind of talking straight and factually in the Oval Office to really a lot more support.

BASH: The coat is my favorite story of the day thanks to Kate's amazing reporting. And I'll let you talk about that and I'll chime in.

But let's be clear, the reason she was able to push back against critics and was able to make this deal, which she agreed to some term limits, is because of her actions. And, like you said, the way she handled Donald Trump in that meeting. And her whole thing, going into the election and, since, as she's been trying to get her votes together to become speaker when the vote happens on the floor January 3rd is, never mind that I'm the only woman in the room in these meetings, which is a big thing for her, also, I'm the best qualified, and I'm not afraid to say it. I have the experience and the ability, the strength and courage to stand up and go toe to toe with not just the president but everybody else there, and there's nobody else who has that experience, both on a legislative level and a tactical level to do that.

KEILAR: And you covered that very well in your series, "The Bad Ass Women of Washington." Which is worth checking out because you interviewed Pelosi for that.

The coat, I mean, the coat got the attention. Explain this reissue to us. But it got the attention because she had this moment, walked out of the White House in the coat, putting the sunglasses on.

BENNETT: And it caught on. That's a meme on social media. She wore this coat in 2013 at Obama's second inaugural. No one really paid attention to it. But the way news travels. It had that sort of funnel neck, which looked kind of cool, and it was that bright, burnt orange color. Max Mara, who creates the coat, the coat was from six years ago, almost six years ago, and now they're going to reissue the coat because of all the hub-bub. That's pretty rare in fashion. It's usually done for iconic collection, bringing something back that was very popular, something from 20 years ago, like J. Crew has done with their piece or Versace has done. It's sort of unusual and really interesting. And it shows the power of Nancy Pelosi and of fashion. People tease me about tweeting about fashion sometimes but it can make or break certain things.

(CROSSTALK)

[13:55:10] BENNETT: And we saw it happen with this coat.

BASH: And that image of the burnt orange coat and the sunglasses right there, that's the picture equivalent of a mic drop. That's why I think

(CROSSTALK) BASH: That's why I think it went to viral.

KEILAR: And it is now the power coat. And we'll see it again on a lot of people next year I think

BENNETT: It may be in different colors.

KEILAR: Exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: We'll see a lot of it.

BENNETT: But I think it's going to be a little pricey so start saving up now.

KEILAR: That's right. It sure will be.

Dana Bash, Kate Bennett, thank you so much.

And that did not take long. President Trump unloading on Michael Cohen after his former fixer was sentenced to prison.

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