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Cohen Postpones Testimony Claiming Threats from Trump; Trump Essentially Dares Pelosi to Disinvite Him to The Capitol; Baldwin Interviews REP. Katherine Clark (D-MA). Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired January 23, 2019 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Giuliani, as recently as this weekend, Mr. Cohen's appearance will be postponed to a later date. Let's start with what we know. I've got Manu Raju. We have Dana Bash up here with me. What sort of threats? We have seen some of them on Twitter and on TV.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and this came as a major surprise for Democrats and Republicans. They had been in discussions with Cohen's representatives with the special counsel's office about this testimony going forward. With no expectation that this was going to be delayed in light of these concerns when Michael Cohen is a representative saying threats to Michael Cohen's family in light of the President saying, raising questions about Michael Cohen's father-in-law, Rudy Giuliani doing the same thing. Remarkable that Michael Cohen is saying that because of the President's statements, his family's security is an issue here and the reason why he's scrapping this high-profile hearing scheduled for February 7th.

Now yesterday Elijah Cummings, a top Democrat, the chairman of this committee, I asked him about concerns that Republicans had raised that this testimony would not be able to detail much about what's going on because of ongoing investigations. But Elijah Cummings made no mention to me this could be postponed. He told me last night they were still in discussions with Mueller's office about exactly what Michael Cohen could tell them in an open session. And Adam Schiff this morning made clear he wanted Michael Cohen to come before his committee, the House Intelligence Committee, to talk about everything that pertains to the are Russia investigation, the Trump tower Moscow project, the President's push for that and discussions about that when he was a candidate. He said he was prepared to subpoena Michael Cohen if he did not agree to come voluntarily. So, this statement a huge surprise ahead of a high-profile hearing. The question is what do they do next? They may not have time before he goes to jail in March.

BALDWIN: So not only is he not testifying in front of committees, he's not testifying on February 7th. And I know you have talked so much to Rudy Giuliani. Part of this is because of the incoming from Rudy Giuliani. And we have that sources say that these threats are not only aimed at Michael Cohen, but also his father-in-law and his wife.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I just pulled up a transcript from what Giuliani said to Jake Tapper a few days ago. In the meantime, the gist is Giuliani brought up unsolicited the notion that he is -- that his father-in-law is Ukrainian and Jake said that's not a crime. And Giuliani's response was, well, he's got millions of dollars and the reason it's important Giuliani said is he may have ties to something called organized crime. They went back and forth on that. That was not an accident. I think that combined with a tweet somewhat recently from the President going after Michael Cohen and then at the end of that tweet saying watch the father-in-law, that's what this is about for Michael Cohen. It's real. They are concerned about that. And he said something at the end there which is really important. The window is closing. Michael Cohen is going to jail. There's about a month left to play with to convince for Democrats to convince Cohen that his family is OK and will be a target whether it's what kind of target, we don't know. Whether it's a target with regard to prosecution, a target otherwise. And so, if they can't convince him before he goes to jail, Giuliani and Donald Trump can say, mission accomplished because there's no question that's what they were it doing here. They were trying to intimidate him and it worked.

BALDWIN: Here's what I want to know. Let me turn to our legal brain Michael Zeldin. Does this constitute witness tampering?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It could be, but there's a separate crime of threats. And you can create threats. Rudy Giuliani said when I was a prosecutor, what you said to people was I'm going to break your bones or whatever. That's actually not true. You can say things like I hope you will see it my way or you should be concerned about the wellbeing of your family. You should take account of these things. All these things can be evaluated by prosecutors as threats and witness intimidation. So, Giuliani's words are going to have to be parsed carefully by the justice department to see whether they do rise to the level of legal threats. Surely, they are political threats.

[14:05:00] Maybe that's all that it will turn out to be. It's unacceptable from somebody who was a former United States attorney and mayor.

BALDWIN: Who would be looking into those threats to determine what they constitute?

ZELDIN: It could be the U.S. Attorney's Office here in the District of Colombia. It could be the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York. I don't know where Giuliani has been when he made these threats. They are made over the wires, meaning communications devices and they are interstate so that covers the federal jurisdiction for these things. So, lots of different sort of divisions of the justice department that could look at this if they felt it was legally actionable. We have o to wait to see the words you put up to see what he said. But it does not have to be as he said, I'm going to break your leg if you testify. It could be what he's talking about here.

BALDWIN: Sure. We were just reporting yesterday I was talking to Jessica Schneider about how so many people have been waiting for this February 7th testimony. And what he could say. Then the news came down he would only be able to talk about a sliver of what we thought. What then became off limits?

BASH: It sounds like up to now, what's off limits is anything that would collide with the Mueller investigation. You have the Mueller investigation, which is a lot of what you could hear from Michael Cohen. But then also he's also under investigation or was under investigation presumably that since it's done, those issues are things he could talk about. There's certainly rich. Just the whole question of what happened with the payments with the hush money, presumably that's not off limits. Russia, the Moscow project, things that are currently actively being debated in public and certainly being investigated in private on this Mueller investigation, which is not done, would have been off limits.

BALDWIN: Manu mentioned Elijah Cummings, the Chairman of House Oversight, who was the committee to whom Cohen was to testify, we were also planning on talking about the progressive Congresswoman who have now been named as part of this committee such as Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez. Can you talk about their presence on such a huge committee?

BASH: The Oversight Committee has been a political platform, a policy platform for members of all stripes in both parties. I mean Darrell Issa made his name being the chairman of this committee back when Republicans took over during the Obama years. So, did a lot of other rank and file members. These are people who have already made names on other issues and this is going to be a giant platform and would have been or still could be if they reschedule this date. In particular, because this would be the first time, we would see them in action as legislators. We saw them on the campaign and lots and lots of statements and tweets. We know them as cults of personality in particular AOC, as she is called. This would be, OK, what are you going to do as an actual member of Congress?

BALDWIN: Still back on your point how the window could close.

BASH: If I may, I just pulled up at the end. But the point that Giuliani continued to make with Jake on Sunday is that he said it is his responsibility as somebody who is defending his client, the President of the United States, to point out character flaws with somebody who is going to testify against him. And he said that is what he's doing. So, the question is whether or not as Michael said, he can be, and as you posed, looked at as having engaged in witness tampering, or as Giuliani said, when somebody testifies against your client you look at what's wrong with them. Why are they doing it if they are not telling the truth. And Giuliani, again, said that maybe he shouldn't testify because of his father-in-law because of repercussions that would happen with his father-in-law. Clearly, intimidation. He was pretty transparent but explained why on CNN.

BALDWIN: As we have been talking, Manu is on Capitol Hill. I hear you have new reporting.

RAJU: Steven Lynch, a senior member of the Oversight Committee. [14:10:00] He said he expects Elijah Cummings to issue a subpoena for

Michael Cohen's testimony before he does head to jail. According to Steven Lynch, he said he has spoken with Cummings and the overwhelming consensus among members of the committee is Cohen should be subpoenaed. He said that Lynch said that Cummings was still having discussions about the way forward and was aware of the concerns about Michael Cohen's security threats to his family and the concerns that he's been raising, but still they do want to hear from him so they plan to expect to perhaps some effort to try to compel Michael Cohen to testify in public. What does he do at that point? Does he fight that? Not comply with that? He's going to jail. He doesn't need to listen to that subpoena. Perhaps he maybe will decide to come forward. We just don't know that yet. Now Elijah Cummings himself left the House floor. Reporters tried to ask him for comment about these developments. He declined to comment. He said he would issue a statement later today. He did tell me last week when witnesses are intimidated, that is a major problem. He made issue with a stern warning to the President about intimidating any of his witnesses. So, some very strong feelings in the House chamber among Democrat, but potentially we could be looking at a subpoena being issued by at least this committee to compel some testimony perhaps next month.

BALDWIN: I'm told we have some sound. Go ahead, roll it.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The President is repeatedly calling publicly on shows, 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?

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR THE PRESIDENT: No, if you made that obstruction, I can't defend anybody. You're telling me -- wait, Jake.

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

GIULIANI: Of course, it is. If the father-in-law is a criminal, his father-in-law has millions of -- he's from Ukraine. He may have ties to something called organized crime.


BALDWIN: So that is what we were discussing as Giuliani was on with Jake over the weekend as it pertains to threats to Michael Cohen's father-in-law, that playing out over live television. What about Manu's reporting on this House oversight subpoena?

ZELDIN: Let me go back one second to say that sound bite that we just heard to me, I would want to look into that because the words of the statute of witness intimidation are hinder, delay, prevent testimony. When you say if you testify, your father-in-law could be in jeopardy, that seems to me hindered delay or prevent testimony. As to your question, Manu is right that the committee can subpoena Cohen. If he hasn't yet gone b to prison, it's a simpler proposition. People come in from prisons to testify all the time in trials and throughout the United States. Just look what's going on in the drug trial for the Mexican drug lord. People are coming in from prison all over. It's not as simple as walking in from your apartment to New York, but they can compel him. They have to figure out to fight a subpoena. Remember, in your first year after sentencing, you can have the prosecutor reduce your sentence further. So, Michael Cohen, to the extent he wants to cooperate, can be working on a further reduction in his sentence. So, it is in his interest to testify, but apparently, he's not going to do so if it's going to be threatening to his family.

BALDWIN: Could he plead the fifth?

ZELDIN: It depends on what they want to ask him, but if it jeopardizes his legal standing, Yes.

[14:15:00] BALDWIN: Michael and Dana and Manu, standby.

President Trump daring Nancy Pelosi to disinvite him to give his State of the Union at the capitol next Tuesday evening. This is happening as protests erupt outside mitch McConnell's office. We'll have a live report for you, live picture there. We'll be right back.


[14:20:00] BALDWIN: I double dare you. That's what the President of the United States just said to this the Speaker of the House. It's all over the State of the Union scheduled for six days from today. It was Speaker Pelosi who first told President Trump he shouldn't give the speech to Congress. President Trump said he wouldn't dream of missing the speech, saying I look forward to seeing you on the evening of January 29th in the chamber in the House of representatives. It would be so sad for our country if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, on schedule and very importantly on location.

Certainly, this isn't the only faceoff gripping the nation. There's also the government shutdown. Now in its 33rd day. And tomorrow on day 34, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and minority leader Chuck Schumer will take to the floor in the bid to end it. And I say so called because neither one of their dueling proposals is expected to pass.

How do Americans feel about all of this? According to a new poll, a majority of you, 71 percent, says the border wall is not worth a shutdown. And that is not good news for Trump and neither is this. Nearly half of voters say Pelosi is doing a better job negotiating on the shutdown. That's compared to 35 percent who say the President is the icing on the cake, CNN learned that Pelosi and the President haven't spoken in 14 days. Let me bring in CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash, who has not moved very far from me. Is this the President saying essentially Madame Speaker, I dare you to disinvite me from my own party, my own speech?

BASH: And listen, it's been a week plus, I guess since the President has responded. He hasn't even responded to the initial letter from Nancy Pelosi saying we have security concerns, maybe we should do it the old-fashioned way and you can write it in or phone it in. This is a game of chicken. Very high stakes game of chicken. It's a game of chicken played both of us who have familiar are familiar with the taunting that's going back and forth. It's unfortunate.

But that's exactly what this is. We know from multiple sources that the White House advance team and communications team are looking at alternative location locations. They are look at it to make a point on the President, I'm going. To do this even though the House Speaker says thanks, but no thanks, we're not going to do this right now. One other thing that's interesting is I was communicate ing with House Republican earlier today who said there's some talk now about whether the President should finally take the executive action that you and I talked about.

BALDWIN: The national emergency.

BASH: Maybe not a national emergency, maybe something different from that, but would give him access to pots of money, particularly at the pentagon, to go ahead with the wall. It's something he's clearly being urged to do by some of the more conservative members. Again, we talked about this three weeks ago when they came back from break and thought that was going to be the way he would go. He was urged not to do it. But it's gone on so long that that consideration is coming back.

BALDWIN: Thank you very much for that. We'll stay on this. And talk about how House Democrats are showing any signs of strains. Speaker Pelosi urged Democrats to stick to the plan. During a private meeting this morning, she says the party has more power when it's united. But one member of her caucus in an interview says, give Trump the money. I'd give him the whole thing and put strings on it so you make sure he puts the wall where it needs to be. Why are we fighting over this? We're going to build the wall any way at some time. With me is Vice Chair Congresswoman Katherine Clark of Massachusetts. Welcome, nice to see you.


BALDWIN: So, before we get into shutdown, we have to talk about this Trump letter and Speaker Pelosi. She did start it saying this is my House, you're not coming. Trump responds this is my town. I'm coming unless you disinvite me. My question for you is what is Speaker Pelosi's move? What would you like to see?

[14:25:00] CLARK: Well, I would agree with the way you set that up. Trump started this by shutting down government. Telling our federal workers, they are no longer going to be paid. Often for key security positions that they perform to protect the American people. When Nancy Pelosi said to the President think about those people who are going to be protecting members of Congress, the Supreme Court, the Senate, the President himself. If we have the State of the Union during the Trump shutdown when they won't even be paid. I think a proposal is a simple one. Let's find other mutually agreeable dates when government is open.

BALDWIN: It's my understanding that Speaker Pelosi told members of the caucus this morning not to invite your families to the State of the Union next Tuesday. What was the implication there?

CLARK: I think the implication is we simply don't know when this President is going to acknowledge the pain that this shutdown is causing and do the right thing.

BALDWIN: Do you think that meant we're not having one or he's not coming here?

CLARK: I think it meant she did not want people investing in travel when we were unsure when this President is going to open government. And what we have seen is the Democrats, we have taken our tenth vote to reopen government. We tried to give the Senate the bills they had already passed. Now we are responding to House Republicans who said let's pass our compromised bills. We just did that. So now it's really up to them. It's up to the House Republicans.

BALDWIN: Hang on. To be fair to both sides here, the Republicans would disagree saying Trump over the weekend put forth a three-year protection on DACA. That's something he hadn't in 2017, but still, they see that as their compromise and your party didn't even counteroffer.

CLARK: Because we have been very clear from the beginning. We are willing to compromise, we are committed to enhancing border security. We want to do it in the most effective way possible. But the way we do that is with an open government. What we cannot tolerate is the current situation where the President is asking federal employees, key people, FBI, the Coast Guard, TSA, air traffic controllers to come to work without pay.

BALDWIN: Congresswoman --

CLARK: Without any acknowledgment.

BALDWIN: I talked to a woman yesterday and she puts the blame on Trump. What about Congressman Peters says that Speaker Pelosi should do? He says give the money to Trump. Build his wall. Make this stop. A lot of freshmen Democrats agree with him. Do you think there are cracks forming in your caucus?

CLARK: Absolutely not. I think this caucus is very unified. And that we need government to be open. And what we have here is a situation where if we pay the ransom for this wall, which is a medieval form, it's ineffective border security. Let me give you a great example. In my home state of Massachusetts, the opioid crisis is still raging and claiming lives in towns across my district and across our state. We want to make sure that we are interrupting the flow of heroin and fentanyl into this country, so let's fund ways that will do that effectively. The wall in a desert does not do that. Those are the type of border security issues that are so critical to American families and American security ask to hold us hostage to this idea of one project of this President creating security --

BALDWIN: He would say it's a bit more than a pet project. However, you want to label this wall, the left and the right, so totally disagree. What we can all agree is the hundreds of thousands of people that the real-world impacts, we'll put the scroll on the screen. To showcase all the people and its affected by the shutdown. I don't have to tell you this. We know how painful this is. I talked to a woman yesterday with two children who suffer from asthma and she's rationing their medication. When they see Trump and Speaker Pelosi haven't spoken in 14 days, and the only communication they have is bickering over the location of the State of the Union, they would ask where are the substantive conversations? What about the Democrats? Where will your party give an inch? I hear you on reopening the government, but before that, where do you give?

[14:30:00] CLARK: There's an easy route to compromise here. Let's look at the effective ways to protect our southern border. Let's use technology. Let's strengthen our ports, where we know most of the illegal drugs coming into this country come directly through. Let's improve that infrastructure. But none of this conversation can be done while government is shutdown. It took two years of Republican control in the House and Senate and White House. They never made this the emergency until December 20th as Democrats were poised to come into control of the House. Our message has been clear. We are willing to come to the table. We want to talk about effective border security. But you cannot use the bludgeon to the American people of a shutdown as your tool to getting there. Open government. Open it for a short period of time. Keep pressure on all parties to come to the table. But let's have that negotiation with government open.