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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Cohen Delays Testimony Out of Concern Over Alleged Trump Threats to Family; Pelosi Says No to Trump's State of the Union Plans. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired January 23, 2019 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:00]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brooke Baldwin. Special coverage of all these breaking stories continues.

"THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The state of our union is a complete mess.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Breaking news: President Trump looking for someplace else to give his State of the Union address, after House Speaker Pelosi earlier today said he was no longer welcome in the House, and as the hardball in D.C. leads to more hard times coast to coast.

More breaking news. Paul Manafort essentially now saying that special counsel Robert Mueller is the one who's lying. We have his response to Mueller's claims that Manafort did not tell the truth.

Plus, choice of a new generation? Another Democrat, an openly gay veteran, jumps into the 2020 race and suggests most of his opponents are just too old to get it.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: And welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin with breaking news.

Just minutes ago, President Trump revealed he will give a speech next week, just not one in the U.S. Capitol, an alternative to what was supposed to be his State of the Union address in the House chamber.

Earlier this afternoon, President Trump all but dared House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to officially uninvite him from delivering the address in the House chamber Tuesday. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, well, she took him up on it, telling him that as long as the government is shut down, he was not welcome.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House with this breaking story.

And, Kaitlan, President Trump just now sounding off about Speaker Pelosi and preventing him from giving the speech in the House chamber.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake.

And the president says that the reason she's canceled this until the government has reopened is because, in his mind, Nancy Pelosi doesn't want to hear the truth.

Now, the president is meeting with conservative leaders right now talking about his proposal to reopen the government, speaking with them here at the White House. And in that room while the reporters were in there, he said and pointed to the fact that Nancy Pelosi invited him to give the State of the Union after the government was already shut down in early January.

Now, Nancy Pelosi addressed that in her letter to the president today, informing him he won't be addressing Congress, saying that, when she did invite him around January 2 or 3, I believe, that she didn't think the government would still be shut down so many days later.

Now, the president said he's exploring other alternatives to his speech on Tuesday night. But, Jake, one thing we know for sure, that the president will not be addressing Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president of United States!

COLLINS (voice-over): The State of the Union officially off, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi telling President Trump he won't be officially invited to address Congress until the government has reopened, writing in a letter: "I look forward to welcoming you to the House on a mutually agreeable date for this address when the government has been opened."

Reporters breaking the news to the president during a health care roundtable at the White House today.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not surprised. It's really a shame what's happening with the Democrats.

They have become radicalized. They don't want to see crime stop, which we can very easily do on the southern border. And it really is a shame what's happening with the Democrats.

COLLINS: Pelosi pulling the plug after the president dared her to disinvite him earlier in the day, writing in a letter that he was moving ahead as planned because: "There are no security concerns regarding the State of the Union. Therefore, I will be honoring your invitation and fulfilling my constitutional duty."

In that scathing letter, the president added, "It would be so very sad for our country if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, on schedule and, very importantly, on location."

Sources tell CNN White House officials weren't expecting Pelosi to push back. KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: It would be I think remarkably petty of the speaker to disinvite the president of the United States to address the nation that they both serve at the highest level.

COLLINS: Sources tell CNN the president hasn't spoken to Pelosi or Senator Chuck Schumer since he stormed out of their shutdown meeting two weeks ago, his public feud with Pelosi coming amid the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, now on day 33, and starting to take a toll on federal workers bracing to miss their second paycheck.

MAGGIE VALENTIN, FEDERAL WORKER: This is not fair to us. It's not. He needs to fix this and fix this fast.

COLLINS: And the president's top economist making a stunning admission today, predicting there could be zero percent GDP growth in the first quarter because of the shutdown.

QUESTION: Could we get zero growth? I just want to nail this down.

KEVIN HASSETT, CHAIRMAN, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: Yes, we could. Yes, we could.

QUESTION: We could. OK, wow.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: So, Jake, just to essentially sum up where we are, Nancy Pelosi says the president can't give his State of the Union address until the government has reopened.

[16:05:01]

The president and Nancy Pelosi, who have the power to reopen the government, haven't spoken in two weeks. And those two competing proposals that are going to be brought to the Senate floor tomorrow are widely expected on Capitol Hill and inside the White House to fail, which pretty much tells us that day 33 of the shutdown is going to turn into day 34, Jake.

TAPPER: Yes, at the very least.

Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Let's talk about it with my experts.

Karen Finney, let me start with you. You heard President Trump say that he thinks that Speaker Pelosi resending the invitation until the government is open will be a blotch, in his words, on her record.

Is it possible that this could hurt Pelosi?

KAREN FINNEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Not at this point. Maybe -- I think it's hard to know down the future -- down the road in the future how we're going to view all of this, other than just bizarre and chaotic. But I think if we take a look at what's happening in the moment, polling-wise, again, as we have said, Trump seems to be taking the hit for this. And I think it was wise of her to just very much simplify and say, open the government, and then come talk to us, right?

And they from the beginning have been very clear about trying to separate out those sort of border issues -- and I think they're going to vote later this week on border security -- with reopening the government.

So at this moment I think Pelosi looks very strong, very tough, and frankly like a better negotiator than Trump.

TAPPER: All right, so let's take a listen to what President Trump just said about a possible new venue for the State of the Union address next week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We will do something in the alternative. We will be talking to you about that at a later date.

But I have to say...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: What do you think it's going to be, David Urban, a speech at the border, a speech in a very supportive venue with a lot of red hats, et cetera?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, look, I have no idea.

I think that the speaker, by not doing it -- I obviously disagree with Karen, not surprisingly. I think it's a bad look for the speaker, right? If you're saying, listen, we're serious about negotiating,we're serious about all the stuff, the State of the Union has been a political speech since basically -- since its inception, right?

I mean, you get the television. The president gives a speech, whoever it is, and then the opposing party sits on their hands while the president's party stands up and claps. I mean, it's this political theater that we have been doing for years and years and years.

And so for this year to somehow say it's different because the government's closed, I mean, it's a little bit -- it's a little bit of a stretch.

(CROSSTALK)

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Let's remember it's not just this year. There's nothing magical about date of January 29.

Barack Obama in 2013 gave the State of the Union on February 12. You can give the State of the Union any day of the year that it is that you want. (CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: From time to time.

(CROSSTALK)

FINNEY: Why not do it when the government is open?

(CROSSTALK)

SIMMONS: So, wait until the government's open. Wait until the people who are in charge of our security have a chance to do it. Wait until the people...

(CROSSTALK)

SIMMONS: Let's wait until the people who in our government are back to work and being fed and not standing in lines at Jose Andres' restaurants trying to eat.

(CROSSTALK)

TARA SETMAYER, CNN ANALYST: Can I say something, as someone who has actually suffered through seven straight State of the Unions as a coms director on Capitol Hill?

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: But also your family, your husband is a federal employee who has been furloughed.

SETMAYER: Yes. Yes. That's correct. My husband is a federal law enforcement under...

(CROSSTALK)

SETMAYER: Under Department of Homeland Security, and he is working without pay. And so, yes, this directly impacts my family.

And, thankfully, we're in a position where we're not at food bank lines. My husband or I, we do not have to drive an Uber, like many federal workers are trying to do now.

Look, as much as I never thought that I would see the day that I actually was enjoying Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House, I think what she's doing, to Karen's point is, it's right.

Listen, the government's not open. We're not going to give you your pomp and circumstance political theater, so you can go on and on and disparage us and disparage Democrats or do whatever you want to do in front of this camera -- in front of the camera, while hundreds of thousands of federal workers are suffering -- they are suffering -- because...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Tara, please finish.

SETMAYER: Yes.

The point I was trying to make here is that there are real people that are hurting. Most people outside of the D.C. area don't care about the State of the Union. This is something that the president wants because it puts the focus on him.

He has yet in all of this back and forth mentioned the hundreds of thousands of families who are suffering, the millions of federal contractors who will not get their money back, even though federal workers will eventually. But that doesn't matter.

This has become a tit for tat in a very narcissistic way for the president of the United States. And Nancy Pelosi said, we're not going to do it. Put them back to work. Then we will talk.

TAPPER: Trump in his letter to Nancy Pelosi earlier today when he was basically during her to disinvite him, wrote: "There are no security concerns regarding the State of the Union address. Therefore, I will be honoring your invitation, fulfilling my constitutional duty to deliver important information to the people and Congress of the United States, blah, blah, blah.

[16:10:03]

But that's an allusion to the fact that Pelosi initially, when she suggested that they postpone it, had alluded to, among other reasons, security concerns.

FINNEY: Because they're not getting paid, because the Secret Service is the security umbrella.

(CROSSTALK)

FINNEY: And they are currently working and not getting paid.

(CROSSTALK)

SETMAYER: But also, because, having suffered through four, maybe five States of the Union, as we have talked about, it's not just about the members of Congress.

There's a much larger entourage of VIPs that have to be taken care of. But can I just make one other point on this, Jake? I think if the president tries to give a State of the Union address anywhere other than the House, it sends the strongest message about the actual state of our union, when people are not working.

And I do think that part of the reason he's hurting it in the polls is he, as Tara said, has not shown one iota of empathy. None.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: So when the president...

(CROSSTALK)

SETMAYER: So, what is he going to say? The state of the union is awesome, even though people are unemployed?

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: I get your point. My turn.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: So, when the president says here's my bar -- here's where I would like to start, right, this is where I don't negotiate, when you negotiate, then the other side makes a counteroffer. Then you make a counteroffer and you move closer to that.

When the speaker doesn't show up at negotiation sessions, right, says I'm only going to get X amount, and doesn't send -- she sends staff rather than the principals to negotiate with the vice president, says when asked if you will negotiate on a border, on a wall, on a fence, call it what you will, says, no, I'm not going to do that, why would you reopen the government?

(CROSSTALK)

SIMMONS: What about when the president walks out of a negotiation and stands up at the table, and walks out like a little kid throwing a temper tantrum?

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: Not a great look.

SIMMONS: Let me just say, let's finish this point about the security issue.

Maybe we missed the FBI agents' press conference yesterday saying that we're not pursuing cases, we're not actively working on problems.

TAPPER: We did a whole segment it.

(CROSSTALK)

SIMMONS: Right, but this is an issue that, if we're talking about security, it's not just that the Secret Services says it's OK.

URBAN: I would like to see the government open tomorrow, right?

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: OK, well, tell the speaker to show up.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: Show up.

SETMAYER: Here's the thing. Here's the thing. I worked on Capitol Hill for seven years, and I have been through the

negotiations with...

(CROSSTALK)

SETMAYER: When people have -- recently?

URBAN: Yes. I was chief of staff for five years.

SETMAYER: Great.

So then you understand that the negotiations for a policy dispute happen in committee hearings. They happen in rooms on Capitol Hill. They don't hold political -- they don't hold federal employees hostage for a political promise that the president wants for his base. This is not how you do it.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Hold that thought. We're going to keep talking. We have got a lot of breaking news.

President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort trying to turn the tables on Robert Mueller. He says he's the one who's lying, Mueller.

Plus, there's more breaking news in the Russia investigation. President Trump responding to Michael Cohen's latest claim that the president threatened him and his family.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:17:15] TAPPER: President Trump just moments ago weighing in on Michael Cohen, his former fixer postponing his public testimony before the House Oversight Committee. Cohen cited threats to his family from President Trump and Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani.

Presumably including this comment from the president's lawyer on "STATE OF THE UNION" on Sunday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: The president is repeatedly calling publicly on Judge Jeanine show, on Twitter, he's repeatedly calling for an investigation into Michael Cohen's father-in-law ahead of Michael Cohen's testimony before Congress. By your own definition, isn't that obstruction, or attempt to intimidate, or what is --

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: No.

TAPPER: So it's OK to go after the father-in-law?

GIULIANI: Now -- of course, it is, if the father-in-law is a criminal. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, as well as campaign finance violations and other financial crimes.

CNN crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz joins me now.

Now, Shimon, what threats from the president is Cohen specifically referring to?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Right. So, you have this over the weekend on your show on Sunday with Rudy Giuliani, but there have been many instances in which the president himself has alluded to the fact that Michael Cohen's father-in-law could be in trouble. It was just in a tweet recently that he was retweeting something, quoting something from Fox News, where they were talking about a "Wall Street Journal" story about potentially his father-in- law and then he says, quote, that Michael Cohen was lying to reduce his jail time and then the president says watch father-in-law.

Now, of course, this isn't the first time that the president has done this, and we know that Michael Cohen has all along been very protective of his family, has been worried that his family could be in some kind of a jeopardy here. And it certainly, it seems that after Sunday when Giuliani appeared on your show, that his concerns were only heightened by some of what he was hearing.

TAPPER: Well, you know, it's an interesting point, Shimon, that if actually his father-in-law does have ties to organized crime as Rudy Giuliani alluded to, that would be a dangerous thing for Michael Cohen if Rudy Giuliani were to bring that up, but presumably the organized crime figures would not be happy about that.

But moving to another breaking story, Robert Mueller, special counsel, has been talking about Paul Manafort and what a liar he is. We've just heard from Paul Manafort's legal team responding to these claims from the special counsel. What do they have to say?

PROKUPECZ: Right. And so, their argument here's which is what it was has been all along, is that Paul Manafort was simply confused, recalls certain things when he met with the special counsel's office. They write in their court filing that much of the evidence presented by the office of the special counsel merely demonstrates a lack of consistency in Mr. Manafort's recollection of certain facts and events.

[16:20:04] Obviously, their argument he didn't deliberately lie. He just didn't remember.

And just one other point I want to make in this court filing, a lot of what we've been talking about is this Russian operative long-standing relationship with Paul Manafort, Konstantin Kilimnik. Paul Manafort gave him the polling data, there was a lot of talk from the special counsel that he wasn't honest. Paul Manafort wasn't completely honest about his interactions with this Russian operative, but his lawyers, Manafort's lawyers are saying simply he was confused during those conversations and that's why he didn't recall certain things. A lot was going on. They were talking about a lot of different things and he just simply was confused.

TAPPER: All right. Shimon Prokupecz, thanks so much.

Let's turn back to Michael Cohen because just moments ago on Capitol Hill, the new chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland, spoke about Cohen publicly, announcing that he was postponing his testimony. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Be American (ph) -- we cannot allow anyone, no one to block witnesses and whistleblowers from coming to our committee. If we do that, if we do that, then we might as well pack up and go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So, Michael Cohen a whistleblower or a witness -- he's definitely a witness, I don't know that he's a whistleblower. I guess he could be theoretically.

What do you make of this, Cohen saying he's not going to come before the committee after all?

SIMMONS: Jake, here's what's interesting to me, the president of the United States is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States in many respects. He's supposed to be the person in charge the FBI, the Justice Department, as he likes to portray himself. Instead of -- if he has information about Michael Cohen's family being involved in the mafia, instead of going to the FBI and having him deal with it, he's using it as a way as tactic to intimidate a witness.

Like we have to kind of pull back from the little tactics that are taking place and take a look at this. He's the president of United States. Why is he trying to intimidate witnesses?

TAPPER: David, you're an attorney.

URBAN: I play one on TV.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: So, interestingly, just kind of take a big thing on this listening to the Manafort piece, you know, it's interesting. In the day of technology, the FBI doesn't record interviews. They didn't record them. You have an FBI agent writing notes down and --

TAPPER: It is weird.

URBAN: It's a little weird, right?

TAPPER: Yes, I agree.

URBAN: Like why would an FBI record an interview and just simply put a tape back and say here's what you said this day, here's what you said the next day? There's no dispute, rather than FBI taking notes, then another guy comes takes notes and says, oh the notes -- our notes don't match what you think you said. So that's a little -- I've always been --

TAPPER: Are you suggesting that they do it --

URBAN: Listen, I'm not -- I'm not -- I have no idea --

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: I have no idea what Paul Manafort said or didn't say --

TAPPER: Yes.

SETMAYER: Apparently, he doesn't either.

URBAN: My simple point is, it's a thing (ph) to me -- it's always struck me as really bizarre that the modern -- all the technology the FBI has --

SIMMONS: But here's the question. The question is --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Guys one at a time. One at a time.

URBAN: Cohen should testify.

TAPPER: Cohen should testify.

URBAN: They could subpoena him.

(CROSSTALK)

SETMAYER: And the president United States should not be tweeting out threats against a potential witness and his family, correct?

URBAN: Threats? It's not a threat.

TAPPER: Look at his father in law, look at his father in law.

SETMAYER: Come on.

URBAN: So I don't know -- how is that a threat to him?

(CROSSTALK)

SIMMONS: The former Atlantic City casino owner that is now in the White House is trying to intimidate a witness to keep him from testifying against him.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: I want to play and sound for you. Here's Donald Trump, President Trump on Fox News over the weekend talking about Michael Cohen. Here's one of the threats that Tara was referring to.

SETMAYER: Right.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP: He should give information may be on his father-in-law, because that's the one that people want to look at. Because where does that money, that's the money in the family. And I guess he didn't want to talk about his father in law -- he's trying to get his sentence reduced.

So, it's pretty sad. You know, it's weak.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

FINNEY: I mean, so on the one hand, there's this threatening a witness, like using media to do so. On the other hand, I think it's also throwing out another shiny new object, right, to say, well, it's not -- it's not about this. It's about the father-in-law, right, to sort of make us -- hopefully make everybody go kind of scrum in that direction.

But I just have to point out the irony here that Michael Cohen, the guy who used to be the one to issue the threats on behalf of Donald Trump, is now being threatened. I mean, karma, you know, is a little scary. I think part of the problem though in all of this --

SIMMONS: It's a word that rhymes with wish.

TAPPER: Yes.

FINNEY: One of the things that you know is that we continue to see however and even with Michael Cohen, I mean, he was the one who originally said and some folks called him a liar, turned out to be true, that Trump actually did know about the meeting at Trump Tower. So --

TAPPER: Wait, wait, we don't know that to be a fact.

FINNEY: I thought it had been verified that Cohen was the one --

TAPPER: No, he said, he said -- we don't know the Trump knew about the meeting of Cohen. But he did say that was true was that President Trump knew about the payment to Stormy Daniels, that part rather to be true. I don't -- maybe I'm wrong.

SETMAYER: I think he insinuated that there was no way that Trump didn't know given that Don Jr. tells Trump everything.

[16:25:04] There was some insinuation --

(CROSSTALK)

SIMMONS: We also know that Trump called verified (ph) a false statement. FINNEY: But also, Trump said, he didn't know about it, but then actually turns out he helped work on the statement with his son on the statement --

TAPPER: Sure.

FINNEY: -- by pointing that there are things that I feel like Manafort is the one person in this where it seems very clear that they are sort of cross clarifying and in multiple points, at least from what we've what we've heard, right that, they are trying to verify things with multiple points of information, not just what one person said, not just what Manafort said, not just what Cohen said.

So, A, I think I trust -- I think I just you know the special counsel more than I trust Manafort. But, hey, if he wants to go back and say, I didn't really like --

SETMAYER: Manafort's a problem. He is a huge problem for the campaign and his ties to Russia and his -- he's indebted to these oligarchs. That's where the collusion part comes in. So, obviously, the Trump folks are trying to --

TAPPER: We will see. We will see what Mr. Mueller has.

As President Trump says, he's going to do the State of the Union outside the Capitol. Nancy Pelosi is sending a message in private to Democrats and we'll tell you what that is.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)