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Michael Cohen to Testify Publicly before Congress; Mueller Met With Trump Pollster and Manafort Associate; Trump May Almost Definitely Declare Emergency. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired January 10, 2019 - 21:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo. And welcome to PRIME TIME. So if Mueller is looking at polls are misleading public statements including those to the press as proof of obstruction of justice as was just reported the President of the United States has trouble.

We have two men who know the law and how to prosecute obstruction cases for the government. And they're here for Cuomo's Court. And to tackle the meeting between Mueller and one of Trump's campaign pollsters. How big a deal is it, that Manafort gave polling to a connected Russian.

Plus the big news that Michael Cohen, the President's personal lawyer is going before Congress and Mueller said he's free to talk about whatever they want.

And another big headline, the President now saying he will almost definitely declare a national emergency to build more wall. Here's the big question. Where will he get the money? Wait until you hear where and whom he may take it from. A big night. Let's get after it.

All right. We learn that the Mueller report is already in the process of being written and a potential battle is already brewing before the probe even wraps up about how public that report may become.

CNN sources say the special counsel has been reviewing the President's changing stories as well as conflicting statements by his team as a possible way to show corrupt intent in an obstruction probe. Has there been an effort to influence witnesses and obstruct justice through misleading statements? Here's what he said about his dealings with Russia. The President.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals in Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we've stayed away.

We had a position to possibly do a deal to build a building of some kind in Moscow. I decided not to do it.


CUOMO: Inconsistent? Yes. Misleading? Yep. Proof of obstruction? I never would have said yes until what was reported today. If Mueller sees it that way, what will he think about what the President said about firing Comey?


TRUMP: Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it. And, in fact when I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.


CUOMO: Now, remember in context. He had said publicly before that, no, it was Rosenstein that gave me the memo. That's why we did it. Then, a few days after the tweet on your screen, I never fired James Comey because of Russia. Inconsistent. Misleading. Meanwhile, Mueller is giving Michael Cohen the green light to testify before Congress next month and he says he's glad to. In public for the first time since flipping on President Trump, who tried to play off if t news today as no big deal.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think of that? Are you worried about this?

TRUMP: And I'm not worried about it at all. No.


CUOMO: Cohen has already implicated his former client if federal crimes. The President may say he's not worried but should he be, what else might we learn from his former lawyer?

Let's get Cuomo's Court in session tonight. We have former Acting Solicitor General Walter Dellinger and John Malcolm, former deputy assistant attorney general.

Gentleman, perfect night for both of you. Thank you for being available.


CUOMO: All right, Walter, let me start with you. The idea of public statements being taken seriously by the Mueller probe as proof of intent to obstruct, do you buy it?

WALTER DELLINGER, FORMER ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL UNDER PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, sure, of course, a public statement can be a part of the evidence. You know, the President's allies pick up bits and pieces that they apparently learn from witnesses who are asked questions and Russia out and say that Mueller's got to prosecute the President for one statement or another or for firing Comey. That is not going to be the case. If he makes a case for obstruction of justice, he's going to have many, many elements to it before Mueller would go forward.

And, you know, if the president says, publicly, I will pardon anybody who will agree to testify falsely before the grand jury on my behalf that of course is part of an element that can be used --

CUOMO: But he didn't say that.

DELLINGER: -- evidence of one of the element. Now, I understand that but -- we don't know if anything he did say would be in itself a basis for a prosecution but if a president makes or anyone else makes false public statements that is some evidence if they have something to hide just one piece of evidence. It doesn't establish criminality. It's not the elements of a crime.

CUOMO: Right.

DELLINGER: But before we go running off worried about it. I think it's just going to be one piece. And it's a perfectly acceptable, visible piece of evidence.

[21:05:07] CUOMO: A piece of evidence. You know, John, I would have pushed back harder on it. But the team sent me some history that Ken Starr, which I had forgotten, had really put it to then President Bill Clinton about a tie he was wearing on the morning that supposedly they were talking to Monica Lewinsky, and he was talking to them as whether or not he had been using it as a public signal. So if they were going to take that kind of public gesture seriously, why wouldn't Mueller make real interviews and real statements from the President on material matters from his probe?

MALCOLM: Well, I don't disagree with anything that Walter said. I mean, any statement or action that the President takes, either spoken, written or gestural as in wearing a particular tie that it may have significance to somebody, can be probative of somebody's intent. Public statements by themselves would certainly not support an obstruction of justice.

CUOMO: Right.

MALCOLM: Charge of anything --

CUOMO: That's the worst part of it, John that you are bringing up, if they use them as evidence that is probative of intent, that's the whole part of making the obstruction case in the first place with anybody as whether or not they had corrupt intent. So you believe that that's what it can go to?

MALCOLM: Well, look, I don't know how close or how far away Bob Mueller is making an obstruction of justice charge or any other charge for that matter against Donald Trump. However the way you prove intent is by people's actions and by people's statements.

CUOMO: Right.

MALCOLM: And now would include any public statement. CUOMO: Right. And that's why we see, Walter, his lawyers have always pushed back on this as obstruction by tweet. Give me a break but given this reporting, let's look at some of these tweets because it's not just what the President said about material matters, it's what he said relevant people, you know, how he rewarded people for saying they wouldn't testify against him, how he condemned people for testifying in way that were critical of him. Could those be relevant as well?


DELLINGER: Yes, that would be -- sure, it can all be relevant. It's, you know, you could have -- I think it's important to have very concrete proof when the President exercises one of his constitutional powers. I think we would agree on this very concrete proof of a corrupt motive. You wouldn't want to surmise an improper motive on a President's exercise of a constitutional authority like this charging a cabinet member or pardoning someone but if you've got that proof, if a President says, here's my plan to obstruct justice to this allies, and it's on tape, I think you can use those statements.

CUOMO: Let me ask you something, John.


CUOMO: A couple other big topics here. We also find out that Mueller met with one of Trump's pollsters, a guy named Fabrizio. Why did he met with him? Well, sensibly he met with him to talk about what he knows about Manafort that Manafort shared polling data and now we must surmise that we weren't talking about Googling Rasmussen poll or a Quinnipiac poll.

It was proprietary stuff that he shared with someone who is certainly has connection to Russian intelligence and Mueller's meeting with that pollster. OK, so he takes it seriously. How seriously do you take it? Do you believe that this is proof of collusion?

MALCOLM: Well, I certainly don't think any of it is proof of collusion. It's certainly suggested the fact that the internal polling data has been turned over to Russian businessman or supposedly --

CUOMO: What's the difference between proof and suggested?

MALCOLM: You need to have people explaining what those actions were and why they were taken. What was Manafort understanding about why he was turning over that information? How did Kilimnik handle that information? What did the Russians do with that information? Did Donald Trump know about any of this? I mean, Paul Manafort had all sorts of reasons for his own personal gain to provide information to people like Konstantin Kilimnik, he'd been doing business with Konstantin Kilimnik --

CUOMO: True.

MALCOLM: -- and Russian oligarchs and been paid tens of millions of dollars four years -- CUOMO: Right.

MALCOLM: -- to certainly going to them and saying, look I'm the greatest consultant in the world and here it is I'm running the campaign if somebody was likely to win.

CUOMO: Sure.

MALCOLM: He is feathering his own nest as well.

CUOMO: Sure.

MALCOLM: But, you know, perhaps there was something more. I don't know the other evidence that Bob Mueller has. I was a prosecutor, myself, I wouldn't want to speculate as to what he has. So it's suggestive, it's a tantalizing tidbit. But it's hardly definitive proof of collusion or conspiracy of any kind between the Trump campaign particularly and particularly Donald Trump and the Russian government.

CUOMO: I hear you.


CUOMO: So Walter, on the side of -- well, maybe it's not as big a deal as some are making it, we have, well, Mueller didn't charge him with it. And truly it's his mandate is what decision he makes in terms of prosecuting and his declinations as well, what he declines to prosecute. But he didn't charge him with this. But then, there is what I think we do know that, John is leaving out.

When they change that plank and the party platform at the convention, it made no sense to us until we learned about these things and that's not something that Manafort could have done by himself or did do by himself. Because the reporting is clear. When the original plank came out, Trump people from the campaign reportedly were in the meeting, rejected it, scripted new language and got it passed. Relevance?

[21:10:08] DELLINGER: Yes, Chris, here's what's important about CNN's reporting on the Manafort polling data. We now have information that would suggest that coordination with both ways. That is to say the Russian lawyer close to Vladimir Putin in the June meeting at the Trump towers providing information or offering to provide information to the Trump campaign.

And now, we have the Trump campaign manager providing sensitive internal data back to the Russians. So, you know, the idea that there has been no collusion. So, it's getting more and more afraid. And I think we're now down to the two remaining questions. John suggested, which are what did the President know and when did he know it?

CUOMO: And that convention, I'm telling you, we're going to hear more about that because that's not something that Manafort --

DELLINGER: Yes. CUOMO: -- could have done all by himself.

All right then, the last big headline tonight. Michael Cohen, given the green light by Mueller to talk about whatever the hell he wants to, and he is only too happy to oblige. He's going to go before the Senate Judiciary Committee. He's going to before the House Judiciary. He's going to before the House Intel. Schiff had said it would be closed. But now Mueller gave the green light so they could both be public. Level of concern, if you are the President or one of his attorneys, John?

MALCOLM: Yes. Well, I want to go on the record I don't agree with everything that Walter just said about the establishment of collusion. But with respect to Michael Cohen, look, I would be surprised even the Mueller has told him that he can testify, whether he's going to allow Cohen to speak freely about his dealings with Trump hotel Russia. I suspect that we're going to hear an awful lot about Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal and perhaps other business dealings that he had when he was Donald Trump's so-called fixer. But, you know, look, we'll hear what he has to say. He has been locked down. He's testified numerous times in front of the grand jury.

He is hardly an untainted witness. He's pled guilty to lying, including lying before Congress. He did have a cooperation agreement. He is cooperating on some matters. But presumably, there are other illegal conduct he knows about but he didn't feel like sharing with prosecutors. So, he is, you know, he damaged goods but he may have some very interesting things to say.

CUOMO: Well, he was damaged goods until he wasn't, right? Mueller came forward and said, "This guy being incredible to us. He's told the truth to us. He's been helpful to us." So, you know, many men have different facets to them. We'll see what is said by Michael Cohen and what can be demonstrated as true. Walter and John, you guys were so helpful on a night when we need it. Thank you, both.

MALCOLM: Good to be with you. You're welcome.

CUOMO: The President did his nice photo app at the border today. Day 20 of the government shutdown. We're on the verge of being longest shutdown we've ever had. We're also on the verge, according to the President, kind of, of his declaring a national emergency to build the wall. Now, we keep hearing this phrase, but what is it mean and how would it work? There's some big questions and steps I got to laid out for you, next.


[21:16:24] CUOMO: All right, just so that we have the latest reporting. The President just said in an interview, I can't think of any reason why I wouldn't declare a national emergency with respect to the border if we can't get a deal done. It is kind of different than what he's been saying because he's saying I'm 100 percent. And if I can't get a deal and there seems to be no deal to be made.

The self-professed greatest deal maker we've ever had as President as he told us has once again gotten nowhere making the deal with Congress. So, declaring a national emergency may be the President's best option for more wall as he sees it. Take a listen to this.


TRUMP: I haven't done it yet. I may do it. If this doesn't work out, probably, I will do it. I will almost say definitely.


CUOMO: Probably, almost, definitely, what is that mean? Well, look, this hasn't been through like so much that comes out of the White House. It's like an instinctive and feel in the moment like the border visit today. More hype than hard planning. The only part that seems clear to the President is that declaring an emergency would be a slam dunk.


TRUMP: I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency. I have the absolute right. I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency. This is a thing that the lawyers tell me is 100 percent. The lawyers tell me 100 percent.


CUOMO: Do they? Would a lawyer tell him it's 100 percent? That doesn't sound like a lawyer. Why? Two problems. All right. The law here is the 1976 National Emergencies Act, all right? It does create a low bar for declaring an emergency. But the President still has to make a case. And because the President keeps getting caught, misleading or lying about the realities on the border, the White House is rushing everybody they can in front of a camera to make the case for him.


TRUMP: This is a crisis.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: A crisis on our southern border.


UNIDENTIIFIED MALE: Undeniable crisis at our southern border.


SANDERS: We have a national crisis.

TRUMP: This is a tremendous crisis at the border.


CUOMO: Yes. The crisis is all the people living in abject poverty just on the other side of the border waiting to get process to try find a way in. But that's not what he's talking about. So, there can certainly be a legal challenge. But we're on the 31 emergencies right now. So, there is latitude for a President in that regards.

In that said, that will give you complete information. There has been a test of this. And it was of a big one. And it was of president using this power back during the Korean War. And that was President Truman. And he got smocked down by Supreme Court for trying to privatize the steel industry. I won't bore you but it's called the Youngstown steel case. You can look it up.

The court said his power grab was a job for the national lawmakers, not the commander in chief. So, could that come in play here as well? Maybe. But I don't think the big challenge is legal. I think the real problem is where the President will get money for his law.

CNN has learned the Trump administration is looking at siphoning away Defense Department Disaster recovery money. What does that mean? Well, I'm going to take this on the closing argument. And I'm going to layout some of the places that Congress has appropriated money but it hasn't been used. But it's been appropriated for really serious things, people who desperately need help.

So, the President can fulfill his farcical promise of a wall but he will be doing on it on the backs of people that you will not believe. That's coming up. But, if communities are cheated, we know this right away. There's going to be a legal challenge from Congress, those states, those communities and that's going to take us to the Supreme Court.

[21:20:07] And that's where Trump's biggest victory could be his biggest problem. That newly cemented conservative majority, they are not -- they are big fans rather of the separation of powers. The President's kind of stepping on that with his move. So he may be undercutting his own legal argument about the urgency when he says, he prefers to work with Congress. How will the Supreme Court hear that?

Now after all, emergency powers are designed to be used only when the situation is so urgent that a President doesn't have time to do anything else. And here, that is clearly not the case. So those are facts for you.

Here's another one. The shutdown has to end. Should the President do it or should he go around the Congress? Right for a break debate, we'll going to have it next.


CUOMO: All right. Here's the state of play. The President says, I want 5 point, whatever billion for the wall. The Democrats say, no, we're not giving you that money. So, now he's saying maybe then I'll declare a national emergency. And I say, well, maybe then. But he's much less definitive than that. He's like almost certainly probably maybe. He's all over the place because he's thinking it through in real time. Can he do it? Probably. Should he do it? That's a great starting point for a great debate. We have great debaters, Jennifer Granholm and Rick Santorum.

Good to have you both. Let's just start off with the first obvious question. Jennifer Granholm, do you think the President should declare a national emergency?

[21:25:00] JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, of course not. I mean there isn't a national emergency. It was just contribute to --

CUOMO: Is the government back open, if he does it.

GRANHOLM: Oh, well, that's an emergency. But that's an emergency of his making. So he could fix that. Is that --

CUOMO: But I'm saying if he declares a national emergency, Jen, you'd probably get the shutdown over like that.

GRANHOLM: OK. But you declare a national emergency and then you set a precedent that says that anytime the President doesn't get his way. He can go around Congress and declare a national emergency. Can you image how Republicans would do that as a Democratic President said, hey, we've got a national emergency on gun violence, I want to appropriate a bunch of money to Chicago to help there or we've got a national emergency on climate change or on health care.

That is such a terrible precedent and none of the national emergencies that have been declared since the act that you described in 1976 have been about anything like this, going around Congress because the President doesn't get his way. Terribly dangerous.

CUOMO: Rick.

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I love those words of Jennifer. The President going around Congress to get his way because --

CUOMO: I know you are thinking of DACA all at the moment.

SANTORUM: I'm thinking DACA.

CUOMO: I know you.

SANTORUM: And the President got slammed down --

GRANHOLM: But that wasn't the National Emergency Act.

SANTORUM: Well, but it's the same idea. The President, you know, couldn't get his way. And so -- and I opposed the President doing it. And I'm not comfortable with the President declaring this. There is actually much more, as Chris said, there is much more legal framework supporting the President's ability to declare a national emergency than what President Obama did with DACA. There is a statute that gives the President actually broad authority. There was -- CUOMO: But they're not apples to apples either. It's not apples to


SANTORUM: That's not apples to apples. But it's the same, same tenets that, you know, if the President gets it his way, I'll do something executive action --

CUOMO: But either way you don't like the round --

SANTORUM: I don't like it.

CUOMO: You don't like it. Do you think you should deal with Congress?

SANTORUM: No, I don't. And I don't like it. And I don't like it not because -- well, in part, because of the whole Presidential powers. But secondly, I don't like it because I don't think that gets you where you want to go politically. I think that facing down the Congress and getting Nancy Pelosi to come together and to get a deal, he's a dealmaker. He should put a deal on the table --

CUOMO: Right.

SANTORUM: -- and if Nancy Pelosi does what she did yesterday which she say, no money, absolutely under no circumstances. She's in an untenable position.

CUOMO: Right.

SANTUROM: You can't continue to say, I won't give you anything --

CUOMO: Right.

SANTORUM: -- when he she -- even members of her party say, yeah, you know, fencing is an integral part of this whole border security.

CUOMO: Well, she's not saying, I won't give you anything. So let's turn to the facts.


CUOMO: All right, because I hear the point you're making --

SANTORUM: To give no money for a fence such as that.

CUOMO: No, she's saying, I'm not giving you 5 point, whatever billion for --


CUOMO: They've put money into the omnibus bill. They had a deal, let's call with Schumer and Pence. Not really a deal because nobody is allowed to negotiate except the President, right because he went bad on that deal and anything else --

SANTORUM: But there is still no money through -- CUOMO: -- that he didn't like at the moment.

SANTORUM: -- for a fence or a wall or a barrier, whatever you want to talk?

CUOMO: I am told that that is not accurate, that there is money that can go for bollard fencing. What they don't want is the amount and what they don't want is to reward the President for a farcical promise. But let's see if we can agree on some facts here, OK? There was a big part of the promise which is who was going to pay for it? And the President said today, you know, you guys are taking me way too literally on Mexico paying. I didn't say what you think I said. Here's his statement today.


TRUMP: When I say Mexico is going to pay for the wall, that's what I said. Mexico is going to pay. I didn't say they're going to write me check for 20 billion or 10 billion. Obviously they're going to write a check. I said they're going to pay for the wall.


CUOMO: Now the facts matter on this. Here is the proof that he is completely off on this.


TRUMP: We will build a wall, and you know who is going to pay for the wall? Mexico. They're going to pay for it. Who is going to pay for the wall?

CROWD (simultaneously): Mexico.


CROWD (simultaneously): Mexico.

TRUMP: By the way, 100 percent.

You know the politician say they'll never pay 100 percent. They're not going to write us a check about pay. They'll pay in one form or another, and may even write us a check.


CUOMO: I want you to know, Rick, he's ruined the phrase 100 percent, for me, and my kid. My 13-year-old got 100 on a quiz. And he actually asked me, if it's a good grade. This is where we are in America right now.

But, look the point is, we remember the argument about remittances and the two-page memo from Trump. He said they will going to cut him a check for $5 billion. And I want people to remember that number because I don't think it has ever come from DHS or CBP or anybody. I think it came from the White House. I think it's a number he likes for some reasons. I don't think anybody ever gave it to him. But he did say they're going to pay for it. As a matter of fact, Rick, shouldn't he own that?

SANTORUM: Look, I -- when he did this campaign thing saying Mexico was to pay for the walk. I always chuckle because I -- to me, this was just, you know, puffery and trying to rally the troops. But I never thought that Mexico was going to pay for the wall. I don't think most --

CUOMO: Yes, I know because you know that it was BS. But --

SANTORUM: Yes, well that's right. And I think most of people who even shouted Mexico, it was just, you know,--

CUOMO: It got him elected.

SANTORUM: -- it's just the bravado that is Donald Trump. And so --

CUOMO: It got him elected. Shouldn't he have to own it, if he's the big promise keeper?

SANTORUM: No, it's got him elected but I think the bravado got him elected not Mexico paying. But look, I agree with you. He did say that and he is not saying the now. He is not consistent with what he said during the campaign but I didn't take him serious during the campaign. I'll think most people, did he?

[21:30:10] CUOMO: But they elected him. Jennifer, today he said --


GRANHOLM: No, no, I mean --

CUOMO: -- we need the wall, Jennifer. It's a matter --

GRANHOLM: I printed it out -- I printed it out too --

CUOMO: He said today as a matter of fact ,Jennifer.

GRANHOLM: -- because I couldn't believe that he was saying this.

CUOMO: Yes. You know, what he says matters. You know, his expression he has. I consider that just words. What? So he said today, as a matter of fact, we need the wall because it will stop the illegal drugs. Jennifer, you know, damn well that the -- the overwhelming majority of illegal drugs come into this country through ports of entry in vehicles.


CUOMO: Not though illegal entries on foot across the southern border. Is that something that you think is going to matter in this debate down the road?

GRANHOLM: Well, he's certainly making this case. He is trying to put this into -- I -- you know, do -- when Lindsey Graham tonight, when he put out a statement saying that the President should declare a national emergency. I think he was setting the President up for this, I do think the President is going to declare it. And I think he's going to try to use the opioid epidemic and the drugs coming into the -- and through Mexico as --

CUOMO: It is a real epidemic.

GRANHOLM: It is an epidemic.


GRANHOLM: But the point is a wall doesn't fix that problem?


GRANHOLM: A wall is the least effective way of addressing it because they're all coming through ports of entry. And by the way, Chris, I mean the fact that only six people only, six came through Mexico who were on the terror watch list and seven times that many came through Canada and double the amount of Canadian visa extensions, who come through, by the way, ports of entry as well are in the United States, more than Mexico, why -- you know, are we just talking about the southern border, I say that as a Canadian, not that I want to build a wall.


SANTORUM: -- speaking against your country people, Jennifer.

GRANHOLM: No, but I'm saying that the point is that this is a fake crisis, that he is manufacturing. The Democrats are willing to shore up border security in a smart way. And what he is putting out there is merely this campaign promise blotter that he cannot get from his own party when they were in control fully, he's not going to get it from the Democrats. The Democrats and I think the Republicans want to do something smart.

CUOMO: All right, let's leave it there with both of you. Rick, Jennifer, well argued and thank you.

House Democrats have just made their first major move to investigate the President now on their watch and power in Congress. They're calling Michael Cohen, his former personal lawyer to testify and he says I'll do it and I want to do it in public and they say great but we have to talk to Mueller and Mueller says talk about whatever you want, kid. It's a big move. And we have some big investigative minds to tell us where it could lead us next.

Well, one mind and Mudd.


[21:35:50] CUOMO: President Trump says he's not worried at all about what Michael Cohen has to say. Congress, however, is very anxious to talk to him. He was the man's personal attorney for many years, privy to the machinations of Trump's inner circle and all the moments that Mueller is mulling over. How big a deal? Phil Mudd and Michael Isikoff, join me now.

Phil, you didn't laugh when I was making funny before -- there's no -- there's no fun in that if you don't make, you know, you don't laugh when I say it, it makes me feel bad I said it the first place.

Let's move on.


CUOMO: I said that we have one great mind and Mudd. I thought it was funny. You gave me the gas face. We move on.

MUDD: A greater mind is what you meant to say.

CUOMO: I did, I did. I take it back. All right, so, the import of Cohen going before Congress. Two schools of thought. Phil, the one is, well, you know, we know what he knows already. That's why Mueller is letting him talk. Do you subscribe to that?

MUDD: I sort of do. Look, I think there is two courts here. One is a court of law, one is a court of public opinion. There is now way a cooperating witness who Mueller has already declared has been completely cooperating is going to go in front of the Congress in a public forum and say something different than way told Mueller. Chris, I think the significant piece of this, is that the American people are going to get a picture on the Mueller investigation that they've never got before.

I don't think it relates to the legal part of this. I think it relates to whether or not the Americans look at Michael Cohen and say, wow, this guy was the personal attorney and this is the amount of dirt he saw and is willing to talk about. That the story is public court, it's not the court of -- it's not a sort of federal court.

CUOMO: I think you are 100 percent right, Mike that's what makes it so scary, is that this is going to come down to a political judgment, reflective of the court of political of public opinion. How big a deal could Michael Cohen be?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO NEWS: A huge deal. Look, this is the first time we're going to hear a public testimony from a major fact witness in the entire Russia investigation. All the hearings so far conducted the last two years have been behind closed doors with the fact witnesses, we've never had a top person like this testifying public. It's going to be and there is so much you can testify about.

Let's start with the campaign finance stuff coming first hook on this was that Trump reimbursed Cohen for those payments to Stormy Daniels.

CUOMO: According to Rudy, his lawyer.

ISIKOFF: In 2017, you know, those were debts to Cohen that were not reported on the President's financial disclosure form. Something he was required to disclose. The nature of those payments, themselves, they were made in the closing days of the election what were the conversations that Trump and Cohen had about making those payments? Was it explicitly about silencing Stormy Daniels during the campaign? If so, that makes the campaign finance violation. If it was something more ambiguous, then the President may have an escape patch on that one.

COHEN: And you have the man that Mueller says has been credible, and helpful and he is 100 percent motivated not to lie and this dovetails at the same time that we find out today, Phil, that Mueller is looking at public statements if the President has made as potential proof of obstruction or of probative of his intent to obstruct. Those two things go together rather nicely at this particular time, no?

MUDD: They do. But, I think we need to look at two different baskets. We started down this path Chris, let's be clear, with a question about whether the President or his associates had inappropriate cooperation with the Russians and whether they lied about that. I don't think Michael Cohen will speak about that. There is a second question, that I think as your suggesting is link to that. Whether people involved in the campaign for the President, including the President, himself, are truthful. I think that's where Cohen is critical. This is not going to be a conversation in front of the Congress and in front of the American people about Russia.

[21:40:05] It's going to be a conversation about whether there is credible information from the President's lawyer, about whether he is a liar and I'm going to suggest to you regardless of what you think about Michael Cohen. Your going to walk away saying, the President is dirty. That's a half a step away from saying the President is campaign or dirty about Russia. We will get that, we'll get half a step away.

CUOMO: Michael?

ISIKOFF: Yes, I got to disagree with Phil there --

CUOMO: Dude, I love it. Why?

ISIKOFF: If you -- well those of you have start out reading Chairman Cummings statement today. He said he is intends to consult with Mueller's office. So he can ask Russia questions and I think it's critical that they do and it's critical for the American public to hear the answers at this point.

You know, I was talking before about the campaign finance issues and the disclosure. But look, there's also the Trump Tower Moscow project. Which Cohen has pled guilty to lying about. Something he was pursuing with a Kremlin official during the campaign. The details of that, you know, are so critical.

CUOMO: Right.

ISIKOFF: What were those conversations --

CUOMO: And he said that he worked with members of the administration and figuring out what he would say to Congress. So people knew what he was going to do then.

ISIKOFF: Look. Just to point out, he has testified to Mueller. He has told Mueller everything he's got to say. If Mueller really needed him for some future case down the road, they never would have never gone to sentencing last month. And so at this point there is no reason to withhold anything to do with Russia from the American public.

CUOMO: Hey Phil, let me get a quick take from you on the Manafort stuff while I have you. I believe it's much --

MUDD: Yes.

CUOMO: -- bigger than people don't think. I don't think just that what we know is proof of collusion as an activity. But when we find out, who knew and who were the people who helped him get that plank changed during the convention, because it is an echo effect of what he was talking to his Russian buddies about. That's going to go to the depth of this campaign and who knew what Manafort was up to and who helped him.

MUDD: Chris, it's a rare moment. I'm half a step away from agreeing with you. I mean write this down in the bad book. Look, people are not paying enough attention to this. We're dealing with the question of whether the campaign cooperated inappropriately and potentially illegally with people affiliated with Russian intelligence. You have the campaign manager who is in debt to some of those people, passing information about that campaign.

In this case, private polling information to people who were paying him. Why did he pass that information, Chris? Because he wanted to? Or because he thought those people could use that information to, to influence the American political campaign. Chris, let me cut to the chase.

CUOMO: Please.

MUDD: We're half a step away from finding that somebody close to the campaign cooperated with a foreign security service or somebody affiliated with a foreign security service to effect American political campaign. Can you get bigger than that?

CUOMO: I agree with you. I think this matters and the truth will come out sooner than later.

Phil, Mike. Thank you, gentleman. You made us smarter tonight. And I appreciate it.

All right, big quote. We can't restore our civilization with someone else's babies. When was that, in the '50s? No. The words of the United States congressmen who later told me, he meant exactly what he said.

Steve King, views on race are now main stream within his party. But there's reporting from today that a sitting congressman said, you won't believe. Next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:46:57] CUOMO: So House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy is calling out one of his own tonight saying that Congressman Steve King's language is "reckless, wrong and has no place in our society." What's he talking about? There was an interview King gave to "The New York Times," came out today, where he was asked, white nationalists, white supremacists, western civilization. How did that language become offensive? That's what he said.

He added, why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization? Let's bring in D. Lemon.

I got two problems with this. First of all, Steve King, I've interviewed him many times afternoon, the congressman from Iowa. He is welcome on the show to defend these comments. I made the invitation several times. It remains opened. Now, McCarthy says it's got no place in our society. I agree but it has a place in his party. What Steve King took and over from Tancredo in that party some years ago with this fringe talk is not fringe anymore. The President calls himself a nationalist.


CUOMO: Good people were down there, too. Marching.

LEMON: Fine people on both sides. Let me say, Chris, you know, you're such a racist. You are such a racist, man. I know that you're not. I'm just doing that to prove a point because that's what people say on who believe in that when we point out the racism in our society. And we point out the racism in culture. By the way, I know that you're not. So if someone tries to use this clip to say that I'm actually calling you racist --

CUOMO: Too late, but go ahead.

LEMON: Yes. But you know what I'm saying. Listen, Kevin McCarthy has a -- not Kevin McCarthy. Representative Steve King has a long history of this. As a matter of fact this whole border wall thing is exactly -- he's exactly where the President got this idea from.

CUOMO: Sure.

LEMON: Right? It call came from him. And he has said many controversial things when it comes to race. Some of it gone -- have gone -- has gone unchecked in the Republican Party. I think it's -- I think it's great.

CUOMO: We're not going to maintain our civilization with somebody else's --

LEMON: There you go.

CUOMO: It's such anathema to America who is somebody else when you are a melting pot. LEMON: Well, the only people that we can say somebody -- I mean listen, Native Americans can call us somebody else, right, because we all came over here after them. And anyone who -- if anyone has any priority to have -- to actually claim that America is theirs, it's the Native Americans.

But I think it's great that he is being called up by Kevin McCarthy. But I think people need to do more than just send out a statement or a tweet. I think they need to act upon it. I think there needs to be some sort of censure or something to had happen to them, so that the party can show that they're not standing for this because they give lip service and the next person does and they get lip service, and they know that they have to say it. But do you mean it?

CUOMO: Right. See, that's the problem. McCarthy knows or the leadership knows they have to say something. But what was Steven King's defense? You know, he said, hey, you know, I don't like what those words mean. Well, whatever, they were his words, but then he said I'm a nationalist.

[21:50:02] Do you know why he said that? Because he is now able to stand under the arms of the --


CUOMO: -- president of the United States who calls himself the same damnable thing. And that's the problem. With when you say stupid things like that, you give cover to people who believe it, in a way that makes it a reality. And that's what we're dealing with now. But again, maybe I have it wrong and the Congressman is welcome on the show to make his own case.

LEMON: You're welcome to come on. I just have to say there's one group that said and I was looking for the quote, but that said basically that he had become --

CUOMO: Oh yes, a white supremacist.

LEMON: -- a white supremacist. Yes. He'd become openly racist.

CUOMO: The guy's name is Angelin, A-N-G-E-L-I-N.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: He's part of this white supremacist group and he said, he's taking us mainstream, thanks. And by the way, they're saying the -- said the same stuff about the President.

All right, I got to jump, Don.

LEMON: I got to tell you what's on, real quick.

CUOMO: Please. Hurry up.

LEMON: So -- listen, a member of Congress is going to join us to talk about Michael Cohen testifying in front of them, what they expect to hear from him. And you want to hear what he has to say, trust me.

CUOMO: Hundred percent.

LEMON: See you.

CUOMO: All right. So tomorrow, hundreds of thousands of federal workers are going to feel the pain in a very real way. Tomorrow is the first pay cycle since the shutdown. So there will be no check and people will now be existing on their savings if they have it.

A national emergency declaration by the President could potentially end the shutdown. But where will he get the money for the wall? I can't even believe he would consider what I'm about to show you. Next.


[21:55:23] CUOMO: All right. So let's say the President declares a national emergency. Likely, some kind of legal battle then occurs. Whatever the outcome, the real problem will then be in the President's lap. How to pay for his wall?

I put it in quotes because you know what I think. The wall is a farce. He keeps making it more and more like the bollard fencing that's already there and saying, look, my wall is being built. He never intended to do this. It was in a race that he never intended to win. But now he thinks he's got to make good on it. The hype has come back to haunt.

And here's the scary thing. While the President may be fumbling with this idea of an emergency, he does seem to have an idea about how to pay. And his idea is really problematic.


TRUMP: If we don't make a deal, I mean, I would say 100 percent, but I don't want to say 100 percent because maybe something else comes up. But if we don't make a deal, I would say it would be very surprising to me that I would not declare a national emergency and just fund it through the various mechanisms.


CUOMO: Forget about all the other stuff. Mechanisms? What does that mean? Reportedly, it means title 10 of the U.S. code. It says in part that the Pentagon can perform construction projects under a declared emergency, but they may be undertaken only within the total amount of funds that have been appropriated for military construction and have not been obligated.

What does that mean? It means there are billions for disaster recovery projects that haven't been paid for yet. So that money is there. But communities in more than a dozen states were promised that money. Lots and lots of people's jobs and their day-to-day realities in their communities are counting on that. Like what? Some pork public works boondoggle? No, six projects in Puerto Rico devastated by Hurricane Maria. You know that. Projects to protect infrastructure there from flooding again.

Several projects in Texas could be at risk including billions for levees and seawalls. It's the only way they can protect and fix and help communities before another Harvey happens.

Levees in Mississippi, dams in California, fire protection in California. Dozens of projects in Florida aimed at hardening what was destroyed in the past year. All those are projects that are easy pickings, let's say, but if the administration opts to strip money from projects that are already under military contract but not paid for, they're vulnerable, too, and there are billions more there that he could get he's going to need it to fulfill the amount of wall he says he needs to build.

So what loses there? Fire station at Quantico. A child development center at Joint Base Andrews. Improvements to Navy SEAL. Combat training facilities. Now who knows if he takes that money if Congress would appropriate more funds to save those projects? And who knows if that is something the President even gives a damn about.

Is it unfair for me to stay he doesn't give a damn? No. Because if he's considering taking money from these people, and he is, if he really isn't worried about the shutdown because someone told him many of the affected workers are Democrats then he doesn't care about their welfare. He doesn't give a damn.

Let's be clear. The President is already doing all of this for a farcical wall that will never be built. All that would happen is that he would use all this money to fulfill the requirements that DHS has laid out for where they need bollard fencing and other barriers and technology. There is no Trump wall. There never was going to be. There never will be.

Now, he might raid these other projects to get the money to convince people that he did something big. Sure, he could do that. But that would be the President putting his political future before the safety of you and your family. Why? Because a wall no matter what he wants to build is not a cure-all.

How? The overwhelming majority of terrorists, drugs, and illegal entrants, don't come across the southern border on foot. He is sacrificing all the other begged for fixes by those who keep us safe, putting all of his effort into this wall, a wall he made up as a stunt during the election. You have to understand that.

That's why he focuses on the wall. Because he thinks it's good for him. He knows it's not a cure-all. How do I know he knows it ? He's been told that. Don't question his intelligence. Question his motivations. Question his ability to tell you the truth about why he's doing things.

Thank you for watching. "CNN TONIGHT" with D. Lemon starts right now.

LEMON: Did you watch the photo-op today?

CUOMO: I did. LEMON: And what do you think?

CUOMO: I thought that was a nice white hat he had on.