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American in Moscow On Radar Of Senate Investigators; Michael Cohen Meets With Senate Intel Ahead Of Testimony; Cohen To Testify Publicly, Covering Vast Scope Of Trump Actions; CNN: DOJ Preparing For Mueller Report As Early As Next Week; Coast Guard Officer Accused Of Racist Mass Killing Plot; GOP Candidate Admits He Ignored Son's Warnings. Aired 1:30-2pm ET

Aired February 21, 2019 - 13:30   ET



[13:30:18] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: The Senate Intelligence Committee wants to speak to an American businessman in Moscow as part of their investigation into Russian election tampering. David Geovanis has ties to President Trump dating back more than 20 years to a failed project to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

CNN's Nina dos Santos is in London. Nina, tell us about this businessman and why Senate investigators are interested in his story.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN EUROPE EDITOR: Hi there, Brianna. Well, it's interesting because we haven't heard his name raised thus far in this various investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections. And his ties, as you're saying before, go back two decades with Donald Trump.

He's also worked for other key figures in the Russian investigation. Most notably, he ran part of Oleg Deripaska's company. Oleg Deripaska, of course, his ties to Paul Manafort is being closely scrutinized.

Now, it was the 1996 visit by Donald Trump to Moscow during which David Geovanis showed him around along sides two real estate moguls, Howard Lorber and also Bennett LeBow who went on to become big donors to Trump's presidential campaign. That appears to have pick Senate investigators interests.

They have also multiple witnesses I've spoken to during testimony they've taken from them about Geovanis' personal and professional relationship with Donald Trump and also they have obtained some written testimony that alleges directly that this could be a key figure they should be speaking to, should they wish to get information to unravel finally the mystery about whether or not Russia has any potentially embarrassing material on the President.

All of this, of course, coming with speculation that Robert Mueller's probe is set to wrap up at a time when, of course, this individual remains in Russia and hasn't been back to the United States since 2017. That, of course, means that Senate investigators haven't yet had the chance to question him fully, Brianna. KEILAR: And as you said, he hasn't been on the radar, but Nina dos Santos putting him on the radar. Thank you very much.

We have Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen joining now us. Thanks for being us to discuss this today, sir.


KEILAR: You're a Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. David Geovanis has deep ties as you just heard Nina explaining to Oleg Deripaska who is a Russian oligarch and a close Putin associate. Is this -- is Geovanis someone who's been on your radar?

COHEN: Not until it's already brought to Senate and the intelligence committee had learned in their interest in saying him. It seems that he has knowledge of what Trump has been trying to do for over 20 years in investing in Moscow.

Trump has an interest investing in Moscow like most red-blooded New Yorkers have with the history of Yankee Stadium or Madison Square Garden. Why he didn't direct his interest there rather in the Moscow is very curious because there's a lot of danger in investing in Moscow, and at one time it wasn't a safe place physically or economically to invest.

But for some reason, Trump has got a fixation on Moscow and this man seems to know about it. And he also might have some knowledge of things that occurred that might have been less than welcome to the public eye from Trump's perspective.

KEILAR: Well, Michael Cohen, no relation to you, Congressman, is going to testify before the House Oversight Committee next week. So when you're listening to Michael Cohen, what are you going to be listening for?

COHEN: Well, I'm going to listen to obstruction of justice and abuse of process, but mostly obstruction of justice. The campaign finance laws were before Trump became president, but it's pretty clear his payoffs to Ms. McDougall and to Ms. Stormy Daniels were to violate the campaign finance laws and to hush them up to help him win the election. And I think Michael Cohen is going to testify to that.

He will also let us know about the Russian investments and his interest in getting to Trump Moscow deal and how far it went in to the election. His earlier statements indicated they went way beyond what Trump had said and even beyond what he said in his earlier testimony to the Congress and then what right up to Election Day.

It's such a fascination that he has with Moscow and he continues to have, because the only leader who he is totally true to is Putin. He likes other despots and authoritarians as well, but when Putin seems to be hi favorite. And when he's around Putin, he acts like Arthur Miller around Marilyn Monroe.

KEILAR: I cannot unsee that, sir, but your committee, the judiciary committee, wants -- do they want? Do they want to hear from Cohen? [13:35:02] You're going to see him publicly once. Do you want to hear from him publicly or even privately?

COHEN: I would like to hear Michael Cohen come before our committee, because I think he can tell us a lot about what Trump did, even after the election, while he was President in interest and pursuit in Moscow and also about his -- some of his positions concerning Comey and other things.

He confided to Michael Cohen. He was in essence his consigliere and he told him things that he wouldn't have told anybody else and Michael Cohen apparently wants to get it off his chest and come clean and want to be viewed in history as a good guy, a John Dean type who came forward. So I think it's important that the judiciary committee hear from it.

You know, what this alleged -- allegedly the Mueller investigation coming to a close, it's all very concerning to me because there are angles that I think still exist concerning foreign banks that Mueller's team was taking to the Supreme Court to get access to records. That might have been passed off to somebody else, but that hadn't been completed.

There are other people that I think are pertinent to the meeting at Trump Tower with the Russian agents that would need to be interviewed, and 0whether they have been privately or not is another issue.

It seems like possibly Barr has put an end to the Mueller investigation, and I think Barr was sought out by Trump probably with the federalists to find somebody who would do his bidding. And I'm afraid he will give us very three little insight into the report and we will have to subpoena Mueller and/or the report.

KEILAR: That is a big allegation. One of your judiciary committee colleagues shares that view with you, Sheila Jackson Lee, questioning the timing here with the Attorney General Bill Barr recently just coming into that position, and now the knowledge that DOJ is expecting to announce as early as next week that they've gotten the Mueller report. Do you have evidence, evidence to back that up that Bill Barr, as you say you believe, is ending the Mueller investigation before it's fully been exhausted?

COHEN: Well, they're just parts of the Mueller investigation that apparently have not been completed, and it does seems more than a coincidence as soon as he comes in that the investigation is going to be ended and Mr. Rosenstein is going to resign the following month.

You know, unless you're Judy Holliday and you were born yesterday, you can put together the dots. And the fact is Trump -- and you can see it when he says it's up to the attorney general. He's a tremendous man. He's a tremendous person. You know, you can -- Nancy Pelosi's daughter said when she saw his -- her expression toward Trump when she gave him applause --

KEILAR: Can I ask -- let me ask you.


COHEN: -- that she knew what that meant.

KEILAR: I want so zero in on this, Congressman, because it's really important. So, you were saying that you just feel like it's too much more of a coincidence and that there are parts that need to be wrapped up.

But Robert Mueller, as he has already done and can continue to do, and actually we saw boxes of documents going out to other prosecutors this week, an indication that perhaps things are being spun off into other probes, things that may be outside of his mandate but still need to be investigated. Might he just be handing off some of that unfinished business as you see it?

COHEN: Well, he's -- sure, he's doing that. Robert Mueller is not going to leave anything undone. I suspect Judge Jackson or the relevant judge, federal judge over the grand jury in which he's been operating has -- or the grand jury has much of what Mueller would like to see the public know.

I don't think he's going to allow Barr to put hiatus on his work over the last two years, which I'm sure he sees as relevant to the democracy and rule of law in our country, and to have that shut out from the Congress which might needed to look into high crimes and misdemeanors and/or other offenses and knowledge of what the President's activities are that he would allow that to be the thumb put on it, in essence by Trump because Barr is acting at Trump's behest.

Trump looked for somebody who wouldn't be like Jeff Sessions and he could do what he wanted to do, which is to shutdown the Mueller investigation. And I'm sure he put the word out to the federalists or somebody to find me the guy that can do it and they brought him the man, that's Bill Barr.

We are in a serious situation, congressional constitutional crisis with what I expect to be a very limited disclosure of Mueller's important revelations and important information.

KEILAR: OK. Well, to that point, I do just want to make clear. This is you speculating about the timing here. We're not hearing specific evidence coming from you, but you do have this concern that when the report is in Bill Barr's hands, you're not going to see the full picture coming to Congress being put out in public. What can Congress do to try to compel the Justice Department to make that available?

COHEN: We can subpoena the report. We can also subpoena Robert Mueller to testify before our committee and we will take those actions.

[13:40:02] I'm sure they will be fought tooth and nail, because what's in there concerning Russia, and there will be much more information, I believe, than we've seen already, although we've seen enough that should satisfy any level-headed, open-minded American that there's been involvement with Russia. All the things with the Moscow Trump Tower, the Manafort and his money that he owed Deripaska, the removal of -- from this Republican platform of offensive weapons for Ukraine, the meeting at the Trump Tower, not about adoptions, but about the relief of sanctions and the meetings with Klindikoff (ph) and sharing campaign data, polling data. There is enough there to really get anybody understanding that this is a serious issue, and Mueller probably has more to reveal.

KEILAR: All right. We will see as you're talking about maybe subpoenaing Robert Mueller or asking him to come and testify before Congress. So we will be looking ahead to see what happens there. Congressman Steve Cohen, thank you.

COHEN: You're welcome, Brianna.

KEILAR: Any moment now, we are expecting a news conference about the racist coast guard officer accused of creating a hit list of Democrats and journalists. He's in court now. We're going to bring you that live as soon as this happens.

Plus, the Republican leading in a hotly disputed congressional race in North Carolina brought to tears as his son testifies against him, about a voter fraud scheme that may have benefited his campaign.


[13:46:03] KEILAR: Developing news right now. A hearing underway for a coast guard officer and marine veteran accused of planning a massacre. Authorities describe a chilling plot that they say Christopher Paul Hasson was preparing to carry out.

In court documents prosecutors write out, "The defendant intends to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country. He must be detained pending trial." Authority say Hasson is a domestic terrorist and a self-proclaim white nationalist to a massive arsenal that includes 15 guns and more than a thousand rounds of ammunition.

They say he had a hit list that included Democratic politicians and journalists from CNN and MSNBC. Pentagon Reporter Ryan Browne has more on this and we're expecting the U.S. attorney to come out and speak as soon as this hearing wraps up.

First, though, explain, Ryan, how authorities uncovered this plot and what's going to happen next.

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Well, Brianna, we're still learning new details about exactly how Hasson was discovered and particularly how this intent he had, this clear intent to commit domestic terrorism according to prosecutors.

Now, the investigation was led by the Coast Guard Investigative Service. The coast guard issuing a statement saying that they've kind of taken upon themselves conducting investigation and that there was someone discovered on these guns and weapons charges -- working with the FBI as part of that. But we're also learning from court documents that he actually used his work computer. Now, he was assigned to the coast guard headquarters here in Washington, D.C., and according to court documents, he used his work computer to research white supremacist groups and to compile a hit list using a spreadsheet with, as you said, prominent Democratic politicians, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer, as well as several presidential candidates and several media personalities from CNN and MSNBC.

At his work computer, he used the spreadsheet to compile what prosecutors are describing as a hit list. He also had drugs on him at work, something that prosecutors are saying. So, a lot of questions remain how someone could be at the coast guard headquarters doing this kind of work with all this going on.

KEILAR: Indeed. Ryan Browne, thank you for that.

And moments ago we saw Roger Stone walking back into court to face the judge that he appeared to threaten on social media. Stone has apologized, but will the judge send him to jail?


[13:52:48] KEILAR: Republican Mark Harris takes the stand in the hearing on a voter fraud conspiracy in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District. The state's elections board has not certified his victory in the midterm election because of "a coordinated unlawful and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme." That was the board's assessment of what happened.

Harris admitted he put his trust in a political operative who was also a felon and he ignored warnings from his son and attorney about that operative. He said he didn't take the warning seriously because he thinks his son is arrogant.

CNN's Diane Gallagher is in Raleigh, North Carolina. Mark Harris was on the stand for several hours. What did you hear?

DIANE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Brianna, essentially this is a candidate who claims that he just never really followed up on any of these things. He didn't take the warning from his son seriously. He says he didn't even find them to be warnings, as you said, because he thought his son was arrogant. But he also said, "You know, he's never been to Bladen County. My son has never met McRae Dowless," this operative who is kind of at the center of all of this.

During the testimony yesterday, he became very emotional, Mark Harris, and his son, John Harris, who isn't just an attorney, he's an assistant U.S. attorney for the eastern district of North Carolina. He said that, look, I warned my father. He produced the e-mails multiple times. I think this guy is a little shady. But his father said he just didn't take it seriously. Take a listen.

KEILAR: All right. I think -- do we have that sound bite, guys? All right, we don't have the sound bite, Diane. Take it away. GALLAGHER: So we don't have it right now, but basically he talked about the fact that, "I didn't think about it in a bad way. And then I was just thinking about the fact that all these other people who had won elections recommended him to me and they were elected officials and I trusted them."

Now, look, Mark Harris has other issues at this point as well. His committee apparently did not turn over all of the evidence that was subpoenaed when it was due, and late last night the state board of elections said that it received additional documents, including this text message, where it appears that Mark Harris is asking to be introduced to McRae Dowless.

[13:55:05] KEILAR: Yes. It's drama like you do not ever really see. Diane Gallagher, thank you so much, in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Any moment, "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett is set to appear in a Chicago courtroom to face the stunning police accusations that he staged an attack on himself, lied about it and left a trail of evidence behind. Stay with us.