Return to Transcripts main page


Michael Cohen on Capitol Hill to Start 3 Days of Testimony; Cracks Emerge Among Republicans over Trump's Emergency Declaration Ahead of Votes; Interview with Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI). Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired February 26, 2019 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] DR. ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: There are a lot of different measures of drug price indexes and are they going up or down? One of them said there was a tiny little drop but other indexes say there has been big increases in drug prices.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Important questions for the CEOs to answer.

Thank you for being on top of all of it.

And thank you all for joining me today. I'm Poppy Harlow. You will see Jim Sciutto live from Hanoi tomorrow morning.

I'll hand it over to Kate Bolduan. "AT THIS HOUR" starts now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

It is a week of remarkable split-screen moments. On one side of the screen, you have the man who said in 2017 not so long ago that he would take a bullet for President Trump. Michael Cohen, Trump's longtime personal attorney, on Capitol Hill for the first of three days of testimony behind closed doors and in public, all having to do with President Trump. The first time Cohen, who is about to report to prison for, among other things, lying to Congress, the first time he will detail in public Donald Trump's role in some of his crimes. So what will he say?

And then on the other side of the split screen, you have the president just landing in Vietnam, arriving in Hanoi for his second summit with the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-Un. After weeks of lowering the bar for success and lowering expectations, what will come of the meeting and how will headlines here at home impact what the president does overseas?

Let's get to it. CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill for us.

Manu, there's a ton going on there right now. Michael Cohen, let's talk about him. What is he telling Congress? What is he expected to tell Congress?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This hearing has been happening behind me in a closed-door setting with the Senate Intelligence Committee has been going on for about 90 minutes or so. Republicans and Democrats are eager to hear why he lied to this very committee about a range of issues, but namely about the Trump Tower Moscow Project that occurred in late 2015 into 2016, and why he discounted it at the time. We have now since learned, after Cohen's guilty plea, that he did so to, according to Cohen, protect the president. But why did he do that? What was the extent to the president's involvement? All questions that Republicans and Democrats plan to push Cohen on in his private testimony.

Quickly, I was able to catch up with Richard Burr, the chairman of the committee. He said this when asked about what he wanted to hear from Cohen.


RAJU: What do you want to hear from Cohen?



RAJU: Now, he also went on to say that he has a, quote, "questionable track record" when asked about whether he can trust Michael Cohen testifying. That is something the White House has jumped on, too, this morning, criticizing Cohen for pleading guilty to lying and saying he can't be trust. Sarah Sanders saying, in a statement, it is laughable that anyone would take a convicted liar, like Cohen, at his word and pathetic to see him giving yet another opportunity to spread his lies.

We do know, Kate, that tomorrow will be a pretty dramatic moment, in which Cohen will detail a number of activities that he did with the president, alleging the president's involvement in some of these crimes and providing new detail that we have not seen before. The question is, how much corroborating evidence does he provide. The committee wants to hear some of that as well.

And Elijah Cummings, who is chairman of the committee, told some of us last night that he has been in consultation with the southern district of New York, which was involved in the investigation of Michael Cohen and the president's involvement in this hush money payments to silence women in the 2016 campaign. Cummings said he has been in consultation with them and with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team to determine what questions they plan to probe.

So while Russia may not be the dominant focus, it is behind closed doors today, and tomorrow we will hear more about Trump Organization activities and those hush money payments and what the president did and did not do, according to Michael Cohen -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: I think that is fascinating information that you are getting from Cummings.

Manu, great reporting. Thank you so much.

Joining me right now, CNN political commentator, Mia Love, a former Republican congresswoman from Utah, Tim Roemer, a former Democratic congressman from the great state of Indiana --



BOLDUAN: -- and also CNN legal analyst, Jennifer Rodgers, a former federal prosecutor with the southern district of New York.

Thank you all so much for being here.

Can I just start with what Manu just told us about Elijah Cummings said? That he has been consulting, Jennifer, with SDNY and the special counsel's office as to not interfere with what they are discussing. And also a little more from his reporting, it says, "In addition, there are no topics that are off limits in Cohen's testimony today behind closed doors before the Senate Intelligence Committee," according to a source familiar with his testimony.

I find that fascinating. What does that tell us?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's interesting. I was one of the people, Kate, who thought maybe we wouldn't hear a lot of exciting things from Cohen tomorrow because there are ongoing investigations.

[11:05:05] BOLDUAN: Right.

RODGERS: And likely prosecutors wouldn't want him to talk about those. If you believe Cummings and his list, it looks like the testimony can beep quite broad and hit all sorts of areas, hush money payments, the Inaugural Committee stuff, Trump Organization misdeeds, his lying to Congress and the reasons behind that, and who may have coordinated with him.


RODGERS: We'll see. It concerns me a little bit. If southern district and the special counsel's office really don't care what he says, does that mean that they are not planning to charge anyone else? That is the possibility or they just don't care. They are getting ready to charge. Everything is kind of out there in the public eye and it doesn't bother them that someone who may be charged will kind of know from the testimony that Cohen provides information against them. We don't know, but all of those topics, according to Cummings, are on the table so we'll see.

BOLDUAN: As Jennifer points out, in a world where we read into everything, we should try to avoid reading into it because we don't know exactly what the special counsel or SDNY means by it. But it is still fascinating.

I wonder, if there's a glaring topic that is avoided by members of Congress, by Cummings specifically, does that mean that is something that the special counsel and SDNY, that's where they are actively investigating and focusing on? What do you think the big question will be? MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think, first of all, there

will be tough questions. Obviously, you have members of Congress that just want to get information on the record.

Now, one of the things that we have to be very clear about, there's one word that is associated with Michael Cohen and that is lies. Lie, lie, lie, liar. I think that there's a credibility issue in terms of information that he provides. He is obviously to be looking out for himself.

The other thing, in my experience that everyone needs to watch out for is that this is going to be a moment for members of Congress to try to find areas where they can make some sort of like viral moment happen with social media.


BOLDUAN: This is the definition --


LOVE: This is like a show.


BOLDUAN: I wouldn't call it a combo deal. What do you, Ambassador, Congressman, whichever I'll call you at this moment --


BOLDUAN: -- for all of us to have a resume to choose which title to use.

It's a dog and pony show. It's a moment for members to make a moment. But it's also really important. I don't know if those two things can exist at the same time on Capitol Hill, but the hearing is important. It's the first time publicly that someone with Michael Cohen's knowledge of things to detail what he says went down and what the president directed him to do. So I'm not sure what --

TIM ROEMER, (D), FORMER CONGRESSMAN: You talk about an impressive resume, Kate, you come from Indiana where I had --


ROEMER: -- my first political job.


ROEMER: The Olympia Candy Store --


ROEMER: Look, both can take place at the same time. As Mia said, Republicans are going to say this is a liar going to prison for lying to Congress. But, on the other hand, you have Democrats and responsible Republicans who are going to say, we have heard a lot about Paul Manafort bringing jeopardy to the president of the United States. This guy really potentially brings jeopardy to the president because he's on the inside. He's the so-called fixer. He may have documents. He may have tapes. He may have all kinds of incriminating evidence there. And then furthermore, Kate, we may hear reports that some reporting might come in from him saying that Alan Weisselberg, the CFO of the Trump Organization, was also part of the hush payments. Was he directed from above for that? Does that introduce jeopardy to the president?

BOLDUAN: And when it comes to someone who has been convicted and who has admitted to lying to Congress, he has a credibility question there. But if he has a document, if he has tapes, if there's more to come, do you think even if he has something like that, do you think there's any openness amongst Republicans right now to have their minds changed by what they will hear from Michael Cohen tomorrow?

LOVE: I think that it depends on how open minded they go into the hearing. Most of the time, when you go into the hearings, you are prepared.


BOLDUAN: Once you decide it.

LOVE: You either decide it or you know exactly what you want to get at. I don't think you will find in this hearing, I would be very surprised if you see any Republican break ranks and say, oh, this is the smoking gun. For the most part, there are people that are honest on both sides. They just want to get to the truth. Then you have some people that are just trying to make as much noise as possible, get some sort of clip that they can play in their districts.

ROEMER: Right.

LOVE: This is going to be something that is going to help them and help their --


[11:10:01] BOLDUAN: We also get to motivation. This is where I'm stuck. Someone in Michael Cohen's position, at this moment, he is about to report to prison in May for what he's pleaded guilty to in his crimes, is he, do you think, is there more motivation to lie? Is there more motivation to tell the truth? I don't know -- in your experience, where is the motivation when someone is in a position that Michael Cohen is in?

RODGERS: Michael Cohen is not a traditional official cooperator. He didn't sign a cooperation agreement because he wasn't willing to disclose all of his own --


RODGERS: -- and other's criminal activity. His incentives are to tell the truth, and here is why. He still has an opportunity if he chooses to pursue it to get from the prosecutors a post-sentencing cooperation letter that allows him to get time off of his prison sentence. If that is what he is going for, he has to do what he decided not to do previously, which is come clean on everything, tell the truth about everything. The prosecutors will verify all of that information. If they decide he is being truthful and he's willing to cooperate going forward, they will write him that letter. That's his incentive. His incentive is to tell the truth for other reasons, too. He is not the only one with information about this stuff. These hush money payments, even the testimony to Congress, there will be other people who are involved in all of these schemes, certainly the Trump Organization, corporate malfeasance, lots of other people who know about this. If he lies, it comes out.

BOLDUAN: There's another thing I want to ask you about, Congressman. My colleague, Pam Brown, has a really interesting reporting that his aides will be overseas and watching this closely. The president is likely, they think, going to stay up overnight to also watch the Michael Cohen testimony from his perch in Vietnam. Do you think, as former ambassador, do you think what happens on Capitol Hill and what will be happening, do you see it influencing what he does or what happens in Vietnam with this meeting with Kim Jong-Un?

ROEMER: Certainly, our reputation abroad and how we're received on Capitol Hill is extremely important to our allies, especially a democracy like India.

The second thing I'd say, back to your question to the congresswoman about the hearings, as you know, one will be in public, which will probably be like a circus, a caravan of people getting in front of the cameras. Two others are behind closed doors. They have moments, Kate, where hopefully we'll see a Howard Baker moment or a Sam Irvin (ph) moment from Congress where people step up and put union and country before party and they're trying to get to the bottom of the facts here.

Lastly, your question about the southern district of New York, this is fascinating because, just as the Mueller investigation seems to be wrapping up, we may have this one just starting up again.


ROEMER: The president has two punches coming at him for an undisclosed length of time here. I don't know how he deals with that and how our allies watch from this overseas.

BOLDUAN: Honestly, I think everyone just buckle up and watch with us today and tomorrow as this plays out and the split screen moment here in the states in Washington and overseas. And yet, again, proving with two people proving with Goshen in their past, proving --


BOLDUAN: Goshen, Indiana --


BOLDUAN: -- proving it is the center of the universe.



BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, as the House prepares to vote to stop the president's national emergency for the southern border, cracks emerge among Senate Republicans. Will there be enough opposition to override a Trump veto? It would be the first of his presidency.

Plus, as President Trump lands in Hanoi for the second summit with Kim Jong-Un, CNN has new reporting on what happened between Trump and Kim when they met face-to-face the first time. We'll go live to Vietnam for the details.

We'll be right back.

Thank you, guys. Thank you.


[11:18:19] BOLDUAN: A major rebuke of the president and a major first for this White House all over the president declaring a national emergency to go around Congress to get more money for the border wall. The House will be voting soon on a measure to cancel the emergency. And when that passes, it will force the Senate to do the same. This issue is already dividing some Republicans.

Republican Senator Thom Tillis, of North Carolina, wrote in an opinion piece for the "Washington Post" that he cannot support the president's actions here. He said, "Although Trump certainly has legitimate grievances over congressional Democrats' obstruction of border security funding, his national emergency declaration on February 15 was not the right answer. And as a U.S. Senator, I cannot justify providing the executive with more ways to bypass Congress."

If the Senator does manage to pass the Senate, it sets up a first for the president. He promised to issue the first veto if it makes it to his desk.

Let's discuss it and much more. Joining me now is Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, of Michigan.

Congresswoman, thank you for coming in.

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL, (D), MICHIGAN: Good to see you.

BOLDUAN: We will talk about all of this in just a moment. But this is the first time that we have had the chance to speak since your husband, Congressman John Dingell, the longest-service member of Congress on record, since he passed away a few weeks ago. I wanted to see, how are you?

DINGELL: It's hard. We had a love affair. But I can hear him in my ear telling me, get back to work, woman, there's lots to do. I'm back at work. We have a lot of things we have to do. He was pretty clear in his last day, he wrote about the challenges we face. I'm committed to doing just that.

[11:20:00] BOLDUAN: One-hundred percent. I do want to get to that. But the tributes that I have heard and that I've read and were told to me on air following his passing have been so moving. Perhaps the most, I think, was written from your friend from the "Washington Post" about our marriage and there's one line in there that I read a few times. It gets me every time. "They were unabashed in their affection for each other, a rare and sentimental display. Friends teased that they made every other couple in the nation's capitol look uninspired and humdrum."

I love hearing that. I absolutely love it. Does it feel different being back in Washington now?

DINGELL: It's hard. I'm not going to lie to you. I'm trying not to cry.

BOLDUAN: I'm sorry.

DINGELL: No, no, no. That's OK. He is the man that I loved. We had a love affair that most people never had. We should have never gotten together and we somehow did. We were a couple. We were a team in every sense of the word. We are still a team. I know his spirit is in me. I miss him. It's really hard. I'm not going to lie. I think sometimes everybody tries to be tough and pretend everything is OK. Everything isn't OK. I have a new normal and I'm working into that new normal.

BOLDUAN: Our new normal has got to be we are not going to cry on TV anymore. I mean, you and I --


DINGELL: That's right --


BOLDUAN: We are going to stop this right now because I know, he is telling you in your ear and he's tweeting at me, OK, enough, guys, let's get back to business.

Let us talk about --


DINGELL: You know him well from interviews.


BOLDUAN: So let's get back to that business. Let's talk about the big issue at hand today before the House. And what is going on today is you are a cosponsor on the resolution to stop the president's national emergency. Let's say it passes the House, which is very likely, and let's say it passes the Senate, but it doesn't pass Congress with a veto-proof majority, what was this all about then? DINGELL: I believe that we are at a constitutional crisis. Our

forefathers wrote a Constitution that had a very strong system of checks and balances. I have talked to a lot of Republicans. I don't know how many will end up voting with us today so I don't know if it will be veto proof. I think that this is the first test that has many members soul searching about what our role is and what our function is. I do believe it will pass the House and the Senate. I think there are enough votes. People may not have publicly said it. The question is, can they override the veto? There are different issues here. I don't know anybody, Republican or Democrat, that doesn't care about national security in this country. How we keep us safe is a legitimate discussion. We listen to each other's perspectives and we work it through. It is very clear what the role of Congress is and what the role of the executive branch is. There are three branches, each with clear roles. And I hope that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle are going to look at what that is and understand what their responsibility is to the American people and to this democracy.

BOLDUAN: It's going to be a moment to watch, to see if the president will be issuing his first veto of his presidency and what comes of it. If there's not a veto-proof must just majority, do you think the House Democrats should file a lawsuit?

DINGELL: I think it's almost certain that this will end up in the court.


DINGELL: I think that the American people are going to be talking to a lot of the Republicans about what this is. I think that the first round of votes in the House and Senate will not be the end of this. I think people are engaging and looking at the question and they are understanding of it. It is important to separate what this vote really is about. This is a constitutional issue. It's about protecting our democracy. And that's what this vote is about for me today.

BOLDUAN: Michael Cohen is testifying on the Hill. He will be testifying tomorrow on the Hill for three meetings starting today. He will be testifying about what he says is potentially -- speaking publicly about the president and the president's role in some of his crimes. I do -- he has pleaded guilty and said that he is guilty of lying to Congress. How much do you trust -- how much trust will you be putting in his testimony?

DINGELL: I think it is important that we have oversight hearings. I think it is important that we understand -- oversight is an important function of the Congress, too. I don't know if this man knows what the truth is and what it's not. I think we'll see what he has to say. He will be testifying under oath. I'm not even sure under oath -- as I don't mean to cast dispersions -- but we need to know what the truth is. We need to investigate Russian interference in our elections. The most of I'm going to say to you that while this is an important part of our function we need to get on with people's business. And there are a lot of things we need to be working on and proactively delivering on legislation for the American people, as well. [11:25:25] BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, it's great to see you back.

Thank you for coming on.

DINGELL: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much. We really appreciate it.

Coming up for us here, does President Trump trust Kim Jong-Un? CNN has new details from their first closed-door meeting in Singapore, the first time they met. What does this new reporting tell us about what will happen when Trump and Kim sit down now in Hanoi? That's next.