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CNN TONIGHT

Only Hours Away from Michael Cohen's Public Testimony Before the House Oversight Committee; Interview with Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA); Trump's Conduct as Businessman and Presidential Candidate to be Exposed; Michael Cohen's Prepared Testimony Released. Aired 11-12:30a ET

Aired February 26, 2019 - 23:00   ET

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


[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

We are just hours away from Michael Cohen's public testimony before the House Oversight Committee about his years as Donald Trump's personal lawyer and fixer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I look forward for tomorrow to being to, in my voice, to tell the American people my story and I am going to let the American people decide exactly who's telling the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So here what the White House is trying to do. The White House is trying to downplay Cohen's testimony. But it is going to be a moment that makes history. Just as big as John Dean's congressional testimony during Watergate, possibly, a testimony that riveted the nation decades ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN DEAN, FORMER PRESIDENT NIXON'S WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I began by telling the president that there was a cancer growing on the presidency. And if the cancer is not removed, the president himself will be killed by it. I also told him that it is important that this cancer be removed immediately.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Then there was the Iran Contra scandal in the 1980s. A defining event during President Ronal Reagan's presidency, and was Oliver North's congressional testimony.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLIVER NORTH, U.S. MARINE CORPS: As I told you yesterday that I was going to tell you the truth, the good, the bad and the ugly, well, this is the truth. I did probably the grossest misjudgment that I've made in my life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And of course, the Russia investigation. And questions about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia have consumed Donald Trump's presidency for more than two years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FORMER UNITED STATES FBI DIRECTOR: I don't think it is for me to say whether the conversation I have with the president was an effort to obstruct. I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning but that's a conclusion I'm sure the special counsel will work towards to try and understand what the intention was there and whether that's an offense.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Is the special counsel investigation taking too long? Has he deliberately slowed his pace? And when his world is done will the American people look back it and view it as a waste of time.

ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: Sir, I can assure you that Director Mueller is moving as expeditiously as possible consistent with his responsibility to do it right.

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: If the president committed obstruction of justice, fire the director of FBI to negatively impact or to shut down our investigation of Russia's malign activity and possibly in support of his campaign, as a counterintelligence investigator, you have to ask yourself why would the president of the United States do that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Very interesting. I want to bring in a man who knows all about this. You saw him in the clip just a little bit earlier speaking during Nixon and the Watergate's hearing.

Let's bring in Mr. John Dean now.

John, thank you very much. I'm sure this takes you back. So, offer us some insight. Michael Cohen testifying in public to the House tomorrow, you have been in this position, what is it like to be in the spotlight testifying against a sitting president?

DEAN: Well, it is not a comfortable seat. I had -- I actually had some comfort in the room I was in because I've worked as a committee counsel so I knew both what was behind the table and in front of the table. I have been in both positions.

It's actually was friendlier than two weeks in court where they have rules of evidence. There were no rules of evidence before the House or the Senate.

But I hope he sits there alone and he doesn't lean on counsel. And that he just -- I'm sure he's going to tell the truth because there is absolutely no reason in the world that he would lie at this stage. He's already admitted to that. He's apologizing to the Senate for it. I'm sure he'll do the same for the House.

And I think he's in a good position to tell us a unique story and insider story of this president and the early days of his presidency and plus the path of his business history.

LEMON: Yes. Do you think that -- because it's been said that people have been questioning or wondering for years, what was more damaging to this president, was it the actual nitty-gritty of the story or was it your testimony that took people behind the scenes to see the sort of character that the person who is sitting in the Oval Office had and the way he conducted himself and the business of the country.

[23:04:58] DEAN: I think a couple of things happened, Don. First of all, the president denied all my testimonies. And said he had known nothing about the cover up until I told him on March 21st that there was a cancer on his presidency, which I knew it was a gross lie but I didn't really have a lot of evidence to disprove it.

He thought in his memoir that he could deal with that. What he couldn't deal with was that I was very aware of the atmosphere in which this had happened. I had been involved in everything from trying to shut down a prior breakdown or -- excuse me, a break-in at the Brooking Institute, an insane plan to get papers out of there directly ordered by the president as we know on the tapes today to more mundane things about like his enemies list.

LEMON: Hey, John --

(CROSSTALK)

DEAN: All of which he said -- yes.

LEMON: I want to play some of that. I'm going to let you finish. But this is when -- this is the testimony to some of it that you are talking about. Watch this.

DEAN: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEAN: And after I was told that I had been taped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who told you, Mr. Dean?

DEAN: Mr. Smith (Ph), my lawyer Mr. (Inaudible) told me that he had received word from the prosecutors that I'd been taped. And I thought there is only one occasion where that could have occurred that I was aware of where I had a direct conversation with the president because all the circumstances seem to indicate that, and that was on this April 15th meeting.

I don't know for a fact whether I was or was not taped that suggested that the government may want to listen to that tape. Because if they listen to that tape, they'd have some idea of the dimensions of what was involved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: I'm sorry to cut you off mid-sentence. I hope you didn't lose your chain of thought. But I thought it was important.

DEAN: Np.

LEMON: I can play that in backup what you say would help what you're saying. Go on.

DEAN: Yes. I did. That was one of the things I put in my testimony at the last minute that I thought I had been recorded based on remarks that Nixon had made to the prosecutors that he said I made a false statement to him that I had immunity when in fact I did have it.

And he said he had it on tape. It just clicked at that moment that indeed, that and probably other conversations were recorded based on his behavior which I was grilled on some extent during my testimony and later was it corroborated when Alex Butterfield came up and reported to the Senate. Yes, indeed, Dean, probably all of his conversations were recorded as were many others.

So, I would think Michael Cohen would be wise to put little things in as well as big things. I didn't speculate on it very much. That was the only thing I speculated on. It was kind of a bootstrap because I knew it was my word against Nixon and many others. So, I obviously, nobody who thought they were taped would lie about those conversations, which I didn't.

LEMON: I want to play a clip of something you said when you testified before Congress during Watergate. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEAN: The fact that I assisted another perjured testimony, the fact that I made personal use of funds that were in my custody is far easier to talk about these things myself than to talk about what others did.

The president told me I'd done a good job and he appreciated how difficult the task it had been. And the president was pleased that the case had stopped with Liddy.

I responded that I could not take credit because others have done much more difficult thing than I had done. As the president discussed the present status of the situation I him that all I have been able to do is contain the case and assist and keeping it out of the White House.

I also told him that there was a long way to go before this matter would end and it certainly -- I certainly could make no assurances that the day would not come when this matter would not start to unravel.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: A similar question to what I asked you before, John, but you

told the world what it was like inside the Nixon administration. Do you think we're going to get that detailed look inside the Trump's world tomorrow?

DEAN: I do. I think that's one of the things that we are going to have in a man who works for this president for 10 years before he became president. Only had incidental dealings with him after he became president. But I think he's going to tell exactly what it's like to deal with this man and the way he operates.

And it's not a highly professional organization I think we're going get in a peek into. Because, and they've moved the sort of the family business into the White House now. And I think we'll see lots of similarities in what Cohen can report about his real estate business and the way he runs the White House.

LEMON: So, one more question for you, as I think about this, an official told CNN that Cohen is a man without a country, right? The night before your testimony, how were you feeling? How do you think he's feeling?

[23:09:54] DEAN: Well, I think that, you know, those cheap shots don't really register. You know what the other people are doing. That was done to me because (Inaudible) was coming to the United States the weak my testimony was scheduled. They delayed it for a week and used that week to do nothing but attack me.

As a result, it just built up the audience for the testimony. Eighty- five million people ended up tuning in. And I'm sure that hurt the president more than it helped him.

LEMON: John Dean, pleasure. Thank you, sir.

DEAN: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: Thank you. Let's bring in Shimon Prokupecz and Ryan Lizza. He knows.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: He knows.

LEMON: Good evening. He was there. What do you think of what he said?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's fascinating. I think this, I mean, he is the person we all want to hear from tonight absent Cohen himself. Because there has never been since John Dean's testimony in the Nixon era, there has never been someone as close to with such intimate knowledge of a president who is going before Congress and testifying in an adversarial way.

It didn't happen with Clinton, it didn't happen with Obama or George H.W. Bush, Reagan, nothing like this.

LEMON: Yes.

LIZZA: Most people don't have fixers. Right? If you have a fixer you're involved in --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: That means something is broken.

LIZZA: -- some shenanigans, right?

LEMON: Something is broken so he needs to fix it, right?

LIZZA: Exactly. And if you have a fixer and they worked for you for as long as Cohen worked for Trump, that is not a person you want as an adversary going up on the Hill while you are president. So, at the very least we'll know the full details of what happened with Stormy Daniels and we'll get the answer to the question of whether he was directed to lie to Congress.

LEMON: So, let's talk about today first and then we'll talk about tomorrow. So, he testified today behind closed doors to the committee. What do we know?

PROKUPECZ: So, he was apologetic. That was one of the big things that came out of the meeting that people were willing to share is that Michael Cohen apologized for lying. This is the committee that he was -- that he pleaded guilty and admitted that he lied all in an effort really to protect the president about the Moscow project.

So, he went in there today he apologized to them for lying. And he was there for several hours being grilled essentially by staffers from the committee who really -- these are the people who really for the last two years have been digging in on this investigation and really know almost entirely everything about this investigation and they were the folks that were grilling him today.

Look, we saw him come out afterwards, he seemed tired. You almost seen -- you could see in his face, like he was happy to be there but there was I think a sense of relief I think from him. But the fact that he came and he spoke to cameras and he thanked people for being there and he knows tomorrow is going to be a big day.

And there is a lot that he's facing because of his credibility issues. So, we'll see how he does and, you know, Republicans certainly have already set up -- set this up where they are going to go after him on everything.

LEMON: But as you know, if you are someone who is in the public spotlight, you have to perform. It's often more harrowing and fearful before you actually do it.

PROKUPECZ: Yes.

LEMON: Once you sit there and you are comfortable and you start to, you're like, well, this isn't as hard as I thought.

PROKUPECZ: Yes.

LEMON: And so, I think he might be going through that right now, sort of performance anxiety.

PROKUPECZ: Yes.

LIZZA: Yes.

LEMON: Right? But he's getting hit by a lot of people, right? You saw what Matt Gaetz did.

PROKUPECZ: Yes.

LEMON: And this is what Rudy Giuliani is calling Cohen a liar, a rat and scum. But he under -- he never explains why the president would keep someone who's a liar, a rat, and a scum for 10 years. What does he expect him to do for him?

LIZZA: What is a rat?

PROKUPECZ: Well.

LIZZA: A rat is a term that a criminal organization uses for someone that turns against him. A rat in the vernacular that Giuliani speaking --

(CROSSTALK)

PROKUPECZ: Perhaps sticking (Ph), I mean --

LIZZA: Yes. Look, Giuliani prosecuted a lot of mobsters so it's unusual for him to be using that term. A rat is someone who breaks the code.

PROKUPECZ: That's right.

LIZZA: That's a term that the mob uses. So, it's bizarre for the Trump's lawyer to be saying he's a rat. Right? That suggest this guy knew stuff, he has stuff on us and now he's going out there and telling everyone about it.

PROKUPECZ: And he does have a lot of information, he's by the president's side for 10 years. He talked to him all the way through the election and into the White House. So, he does have a lot of information.

LEMON: And look, you know, this is what you do every day. So, you know, we sit here and people talk about well, you know, it was a porn star or whatever -- listen, a lot of this information came from that, him, aboard Air Force One, lying, and the FBI confiscating the records of Michael Cohen.

A lot of this information especially the Southern District of New York all rolled out because of --

PROKUPECZ: Well, and because of the raid, but it really started with the Mueller investigation. Right?

LEMON: Right. PROKUPECZ: And really, and then we also --

LEMON: But we learned a lot of information that we know publicly now.

PROKUPECZ: Well, and because of what Michael Cohen came into court and also a lot of the good work that the FBI did in terms of gathering.

LEMON: Right.

[23:14:59] PROKUPECZ: There is a lot of corroborations outside of when Michael Cohen have said this. They said this in a court documents that he's implicated. And tomorrow I think we are going to really hear the intricate details of how all of this was devise, the scheme to pay off these women and how Michael Cohen was brought into it.

And I think that's going to be, you know, and any administration any other presidency, this would be the biggest scandal ever, right? The fact that the president was involved in something like this.

LEMON: Let's stop. Virginia had a big scam and people want to downplay it, but it's not -- I got to go, quickly.

LIZZA: No. I was just going to say one interesting thing to watch for, is Michael Cohen pled guilty to the scheme, this campaign finance scheme to pay off the women. Right? And we know that Trump isn't mention without his name in the indictment.

Now, we know that some of the back stories Cohen did not, was not anxious to plead guilty to that. A lot of Republicans don't believe that this is a crime, right?

LEMON: Right.

LIZZA: That's an argument that we hear on the right. So, I'll be watching for how much does Michael Cohen cap to the fact that yes, this was a crime or does he, you know, does he express any reluctance that he pled guilty to that. And believes that it is as serious as the prosecutors do.

LEMON: It is --

(CROSSTALK)

LIZZA: Because he was not -- because in the run up to that obviously, he was a little reluctant.

LEMON: It is my belief that a lot of this will play in a moment tomorrow.

LIZZA: Yes.

LEMON: And we'll be able to figure it out. I don't even -- I would bet that he probably is not sure how he's going to answer these questions.

PROKUPECZ: That's right.

LEMON: But in the moment, we're going to learn a lot.

PROKUPECZ: Yes.

LEMON: Thank you both.

PROKUPECZ: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Millions of people will be listening as Michael Cohen testifies tomorrow, likely including prosecutors for Southern District of New York. So, what could we all learn?

[23:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Michael Cohen's public testimony tomorrow could give us a rare glimpse into what the Southern District of New York is investigating when it comes to the president's businesses and the Trump inaugural committee.

Elie Honig and Jennifer Rodgers both here to discuss. Good evening to both of you. It's nice to be here in D.C., right?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes.

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Very nice.

LEMON: Boy, what a day tomorrow is going to be. We are going to learn, he's probably going to talk a lot about the SDNY, right? We're going to learn more about this than we know, do you think?

HONIG: Yes.

LEMON: Through this?

HONIG: This is an unusual and sort of awkward position in some sense for the Southern District of New York because like he said we know that southern district has major investigations going right now of The Trump org of the inaugural fund.

And now we are going to have a witness tomorrow while the southern district is in the middle of its business in front of the whole world detailing some of the misconduct potentially, and potentially crimes of those two organizations.

And it's a very strange position as a prosecutor. Usually when you are investigating something, it is tightly under wrapped. And the idea of having somebody who's a witness who is on the inside announcing things and giving details is really unusual and potentially problematic.

And one of the things we were discussing before is how could the southern district be OK with this? My theory is the southern district has progressed far enough beyond what Michael Cohen has.

LEMON: So, do you guys think they were -- OK, that's a good one, hold on. HONIG: Yes.

LEMON: No, he's talking too much. Why do you say that?

HONIG: Because otherwise you would not sign off on it. Right? There is a memo out there within the committee saying we consulted with the Department of Justice including the southern district and they are OK with us processing on these basis including the financial end of it.

And if I am a prosecutor and someone comes to me and says, we'd like to call this witness who knows other stuff about your investigation. I say, no way, that's a conflict. He is going to out what we're doing unless I'm already way beyond it, unless I've already got documents and I don't need him anymore.

LEMON: But Elijah Cummings who is the chairman of the committee says he consulted with SDNY and discussed about the parameters of the hearing. So, do you think they are still worried even if they're beyond some of this as Elie says?

RODGERS: I think they must have been OK with it. Otherwise they would have said that he can't go forward. So, you know, the question is especially in this public hearing which is going to be kind of circus- like atmosphere, how much is he going to have time to say, will the questions be the kind of questions that can actually get to information that we don't know yet. You know, those are the things the structure things that we won't know until we see it happen tomorrow.

LEMON: Elie, we talked a little bit about this. The other night after you were on the show --

HONIG: Yes.

LEMON: -- about questioning, right? It's all in the questioning. If you were advising the committee, the Democrats on questioning, what would you tell them?

HONIG: So different advice for the two parties. For Democrats, I would say stick to the facts. Right. We don't have to get, this shouldn't become Michael Cohen telling tales about mean things that Trump did, distasteful things that Trump did, sort of, you know, gossipy things. Let's stick to the facts.

And in particular, let's stick with what's corroborated. What does he have documentation of, what exist in the financial records, the e- mails. Keep it straightforward. You don't have to make the whole world love Michael Cohen if you are the Democrats. You just have to make the world believe him now.

LEMON: OK.

HONIG: Republicans --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: For Republicans. HONIG: -- would only the flip side of that. Don't do this garbage that Matt Gaetz did today, right? Let's not get personal, let's not hit below the belt. Focus entirely on credibility. You have a guy with a long record of lying. he's pled guilty to lying. And I would just say to them hammer the theme of credibility.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: They can't help themselves.

HONIG: I know.

LEMON: They can't help themselves.

HONIG: I know but when I saw the Gaetz's tweet, it is exactly what they should not be doing.

LEMON: Yes, go ahead, Jennifer.

RODGERS: The other thing that Republicans should do if they really do want to catch him out as a liar, is they need to craft their questions very carefully. And if they think that Michael Cohen is in there tomorrow lying to them and they ultimately want to refer a perjury charge, then they have to craft their question carefully so that's a clean question and clean answer so that he's saying something factual so that if they prove that it's not that they can come back --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But if he's just telling the truth then --

RODGERS: Then they won't have the perjury charge and they won't have their, you know, big bang for the buck. But that's what it's all about in the hearing. Right? They don't necessarily need that afterwards. They just kind of want the spectacle on this.

LEMON: So, let's talk about these hush money payments. Because he's likely to be asked about the two Trump organization executives who approved reimbursing him for the money that he paid to Stormy Daniels and also Karen McDougal was somewhere in that, but this one is about Stormy Daniels. Do you have any idea of who those executives might be? Either of you.

[23:25:00] RODGERS: Well, Allen Weisselberg is supposed to be executive number one, right? And then executive number two is the person who had to give the OK for Weisselberg to make those payments. So, the big question is, who is executive two, right?

LEMON: But aren't those the two people that Michael Cohen and Weisselberg, I think the two people you don't want testifying.

HONIG: If you're executive two.

LEMON: Right.

RODGERS: Exactly. HONIG: Yes. I mean, look, who is executive two we don't know.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: That means if you're Trump.

HONIG: Yes. I mean, we know that Trump org was controlled by a very small group of individuals including members of the Trump family. But this is one of the big mysteries that I think we should have a very clear answer to tomorrow.

LEMON: Go on, did you want to say something? Yes?

RODGERS: No.

LEMON: No?

RODGERS: I mean, yes, but not about that.

LEMON: But I mean --

(CROSSTALK)

HONIG: We still have a lot of thought.

LEMON: But executive two, so no idea?

RODGERS: Well, you know, it's got to be someone who's over the CFO in some fashion. It's going to be one of the higher-level executives. It's going to be one of the, probably one of the children, right? Eric, Donald Junior, or potentially Ivanka.

LEMON: The investigation into the Trump inaugural committee came out of the raid of Cohen's offices. The committee, do you think they're going to ask about that?

RODGERS: It's not clear to me how much Cohen will know about this. You know, there's one donor that he has some involvement with. They'll probably ask about him. He wasn't part of the campaign formally. He didn't go in at the administration. So, I think they probably will try to ask about it in a little bit but it's not exactly clear what Cohen will know.

HONIG: Yes. But that's a bit of a fishing expedition. We already know pretty specifically about the hush money payments and about the false testimony. The inaugural is something that I would guess he has some information about. He was right there in the mix. He gets record of that executive.

So, I would take a shot there, I would see what he knows and give us any information about potentially donations from foreign nationals. But part of what will happen tomorrow I think is very targeted and part will be sort of fact-finding.

LEMON: Good advice. Don't grandstand, let him speak and craft your questions carefully, right? Thank you both. I appreciate it.

HONIG: Thanks, Don.

RODGERS: Thanks.

LEMON: We're only hours away from Michael Cohen's public testimony before the House Oversight Committee. We're going to ask the member of that committee what he expects to hear from Cohen. Congressman Ro Khanna is next.

[23:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: It is the eve of Michael Cohen's public testimony in front of the House Oversight Committee. And one Republican congressman is threatening Cohen with a tweet. Let's discuss now. Congressman Ro Khanna is here. He'll be questioning Michael Cohen tomorrow as a member of the House Oversight Committee.

Good evening, sir. So good to have you on.

REP. RO KHANNA (D), CALIFORNIA: Good evening.

LEMON: Thank you so much. You know what I am talking about, this threatening tweet from Matt Gaetz. Is he trying to intimidate Cohen? What do you think of this?

KHANNA: Absolutely. I mean, it was outrageous. Matt Gaetz is someone who has talked about reforming Congress. He should be for every witness being able to testify, he's threatening Cohen with revealing information about alleged girlfriends. I mean, it is totally inappropriate. It's not protected by the speech and debate clause and it is beneath the dignity frankly, for anyone in Congress.

LEMON: What was your response when you saw it?

KHANNA: Well, I saw it. I tweeted at him because Matt had voted with us actually to help stop the war in Yemen. I have talked to him before and I said, man, what are you thinking? Why are you doing this? I mean, this is just totally inappropriate and it is undermining everything you talked about reforming Congress or the institutions.

LEMON: Did he respond to you?

KHANNA: He hasn't yet.

LEMON: You haven't heard from him.

KHANNA: I have not heard.

LEMON: So, this sounds, I mean, it sounds like something out of a mob movie. Have you ever heard of a sitting congressman doing something like this and do you think that he should be censured by the Ethics Committee?

KHANNA: I think the Ethics Committee and others should look into it. I don't think it is protected by the debate and speech clause but I think there needs to be a full investigation in that kind intimidation and zero tolerance for that.

And it is -- you know, what I don't understand is what do they have to gain? I mean, it is not like Trump is employing them. Sometimes you wonder whether Republicans realize we are a separate branch of government, a co-equal branch of government. We don't work for Donald Trump.

LEMON: Yes, but don't you think, I mean, if you watch him on television, he is in essence a surrogate for the president. In his speech and his response, rarely if ever that I can recall criticizing the president because no one is perfect. We all deserve to be criticized some times, right.

It is warranted -- never does. So essentially, a surrogate for the president. My question is though, it has been reported that they communicate all the time, he and the president. Do you think the president could have encouraged him to do something like this?

KHANNA: I think he needs to answer that question. And it is one thing to be a surrogate for the president on policy if he wants to defend the president's tax policy, foreign policy. It is another thing to advocate your constitutional responsibility to be an independent branch of government and to coordinate in defending the president and obstructing the inquiry of Congress. That's a very serious matter.

LEMON: Let's talk about you and the House Oversight Committee.

KHANNA: Yes.

LEMON: You're going to be questioning -- tomorrow is going to be historic. What do you want to ask him, Michael Cohen?

KHANNA: Well, I want first, like you previous guest, I have to stick to the facts. I want to have Michael Cohen tell us what did he communicate with the White House about his testimony previously to Congress? Were there people who instructed him to lie?

What does he know about the president's criminal conduct that the public does not know because the Southern District of New York, as you know, said that he was not fully cooperative in telling them everything he knew? What was it that he did not tell?

But my view on Michael Cohen is this, he's obviously made a lot of mistakes. He has committed crimes. This is a chance for him to come clean to level with the American people to stick to the facts, to tell us the story, and a moment for redemption for him and frankly for healing for this country. Let's get the facts out.

LEMON: Gloria Borger is reporting that Cohen is going to bring some documents. He may bring some documents that prove the payments of the president's alleged mistresses. If he does, will those be made public?

[23:35:00] KHANNA: They absolutely should. I mean, obviously, he'll share those documents as testimony as public, I don't see any grounds under which he would not be able to make them public especially because the Special Counsel Mueller and Southern District of New York have already signed off on all of his testimony and what he's going to be presenting. So, there is nothing that will impede the ongoing investigations.

LEMON: So, no grand standing tomorrow. I'm sure there will be some, but everyone who has come on, this is about the American people.

KHANNA: Yes.

LEMON: The American people want to hear from Michael Cohen and not necessarily a congressman talking or grilling or asking questions.

KHANNA: You know what I said to my colleagues? I said no one in the country really knows who we are nor do they care what we will have to say. What they want to know and what they will judge is Michael Cohen. They're not going to say what question did Ro Khanna asked? They're going to evaluate Michael Cohen.

What is he saying? Is he believable and is he putting the facts out. And we need to let him tell the story and let the facts speak for themselves, not to try to score political points, which will undermine some very serious evidence about the president's wrongdoing.

LEMON: It's a real pleasure.

KHANNA: Thank you Don.

LEMON: Please come back.

KHANNA: Thanks for having me.

LEMON: Thank you. After over a decade at the president's side, just how much does Michael Cohen know? Will the president see his testimony as the ultimate betrayal?

[23:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Michael Cohen was known as Donald Trump's fixer for over a decade. But what did he do to earn that title? Cohen will probably be asked about that tomorrow.

Joining me now is Michael d'Antonio. Michael is the author of "The Truth About Trump." Garrett Graff is here as well. He is the author of "The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller's FBI and the War on Global Terror."

Gentlemen, I am so happy to have you on this evening. So Michael, you literally wrote the book on Trump. How much does Michael Cohen really know about President Trump?

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, actually to quote Donald Trump, he knows everything. That's what the president, then businessman Donald Trump told me. He said, bring your questions to Michael Cohen, he's got all the answers. So, this explains why the president will be staying up late to watch Michael Cohen's testimony. It explains why this is really his worst nightmare, to have a person

who was present for 10 years inside every real estate deal, inside every endorsement arrangement he made inside "The Apprentice." He saw and heard just about everything so he'll have a lot to say.

LEMON: What about the president's children, Michael? How much does Cohen know about them and their skeletons?

D'ANTONIO: He was as devoted to the children as he was to the man he called Mr. Trump. So, when he said I would take a bullet for him, I think he had the same feeling for Eric and Don, Jr. and Ivanka. Now, the question is how much do they have to hide?

They, I think, were sheltered from sordid details when they were younger. But I believe that by the time the president became the president-elect, all of the secrets were in their hands. So, this is perilous for them as well.

LEMON: Garrett, Michael mentioned Donald Trump, Jr. He's likely to come up tomorrow. We know he is connected to that infamous Trump Tower meeting in July of 2016. That plans for a Trump Tower, he knows about that in Moscow, and he was in touch with WikiLeaks. So how worried should he be about being indicted?

GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, he should be nervous for two reasons, actually above and beyond that which you said. The first is that Mueller has not interviewed him. He has not sought out an interview. He has not tried to sit down for questions with Don, Jr. And at this point in a prosecution and a probe like Mueller's, that's actually a danger sign. That's not a good sign.

That's more likely to mean that you are the target of the investigation rather than an innocent bystander to it. And then second is as we were sort of talking about earlier tonight, the challenge for Don, Jr. it appears to be in some of his own Congressional testimony, you know.

Robert Mueller has already shown that he's willing to prosecute people for lying to Congress. He did so with Michael Cohen. That's going to be one of the things that people bring up with Michael Cohen and his credibility tomorrow.

But we have sort of reason to believe that Democrats on Capitol Hill believe that Don, Jr. shared some of those same lies about the Trump Tower-Moscow deal with the Congressional committees during his own hearings and that those transcripts were handed over from the House Intelligence Committee to Robert Mueller's probe just in the last couple of weeks.

LEMON: Let's talk about the "National Enquirer" reportedly kept a safe containing document on hush money payments, other damaging stories it killed as part of his relationship with Donald Trump. Will we learn if there were other women tomorrow, Garrett?

GRAFF: Well, so this is going to be the really an interesting question here, right. No one sitting in this room tomorrow is going to take Michael Cohen at his word. Remember, prosecutors have seized 292,000 documents, texts, e-mails, telephone calls, recordings from Michael Cohen in that April raid last year. And that Michael Cohen is going to be showing those documents.

[23:44:56] Remember, both Michael Cohen's own attorneys and the Justice Department have a vested interest in making sure that every single thing that Michael Cohen is saying tomorrow can be backed up with evidence because they need to be preserving Michael Cohen's credibility as a future witness in possible trials.

And so, you can be sure that anything that Michael Cohen says verbally tomorrow, there is document back up that the Justice Department or Michael Cohen's own counsel have signed off on to ensure that there is solid evidence.

LEMON: Michael Cohen was loyal to the president for a long time even after we found out about the hush money payments. And now a sitting congressman is going after him. Michael d'Antonio, you are up next right after the break. We'll talk about that.

[23:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: All right, here is the breaking news. We have gotten some information from our Shimon Prokupecz, the breaking news on Michael Cohen's testimony -- also with me, Elie Honig, Jennifer Rodgers, Michael d'Antonio, Garrett Graff. So let's go through it.

I find it very interesting, OK. I'm going to let you do this, but he talks about -- he addresses the chairman. He says Ranking Member Jordan -- Chairman Cummings, Ranking Member Jordan, and he says, "I've recognize that some of you may doubt and attack me on my credibility.

It is for this reason that I have incorporated into this opening statement documents that are irrefutable and demonstrate that the information you will hear is accurate and truthful." Those documents are?

PROKUPECZ: Well, he has a check. One of the things he says is that he has a check that the president himself paid him for the hush money. It was part of the payment, part of the plan. This is his opening statement. It is 20 pages that he intends to read, Michael Cohen, tomorrow before members of Congress. I mean, he's not holding back here, Don.

LEMON: Let me read this. "I am providing the committee today with several documents. These documents include a copy of a check Mr. Trump wrote from his personal bank account after he became president to reimburse me for the hush money payments I made to cover up his affair with an adult film star and prevent damage to his campaign." what does that mean for him legally?

HONIG: Boy. It means he's liable for those cover-up payments, right? And there's documentation of it. It means it was a personal transaction between the president and there is some aspect of it that wasn't even funneled through the Trump org. to try to cover it up. There is all sorts of stuff in here. I mean, the other thing that jumps out at me is the Julian Assange WikiLeaks.

LEMON: That's in --

HONIG: -- sttuff on page two, right. So --

LEMON: Well, first of all, he goes to this. He goes, "I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is." This is Michael Cohen speaking tomorrow. This is his testimony. "He is a racist. He is a con man. He is a cheat. He talks about that. He was presidential -- was a presidential candidate who knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of the Democratic National Committee e-mails." And then he goes on -- talk about that conversation. Go ahead. Read that.

PROKUPECZ: On page 10 he says, "In July 2016, days before the Democratic Convention, I was in Mr. Trump's office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the phone. Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone. Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that within a couple of days there would be a massive dump of e-mails that would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign. Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect, "wouldn't that be great."

LEMON: Go ahead.

HONIG: When Stone was indicted -- sorry -- a couple of weeks ago, the big question was who in the Trump campaign was directing him, right? There were these anonymized references in the indictment that people were directing Stone to get in touch with WikiLeaks. Looks like Michael Cohen's ready to answer that question. One of the people was Donald Trump.

LEMON: Go ahead, Jennifer.

RODGERS: You know, the other thing that's in here, we've been wondering about his testimony to Congress, the false testimony to Congress. And he says, in here he's talking about Trump's involvement in that and he says, you know, "to be clear, Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump-Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it, did not directly tell me to lie to Congress, that's not how he operates."

But then goes on to say that "Trump's personal lawyers reviewed and edited his statement to Congress." So, implying that, you know, Trump and his lawyers were all over the statement that he made to Congress that the president knew was false. So, he's answering that question too.

LEMON: "He asked me to pay off an adult film star with whom he had an affair and lie to his wife about it, which I did. Lying to the First Lady is one of my biggest regrets. She is a kind, good person. I respect her gratefully and she did not deserve that.

I am giving the committee today a copy of the $130,000 wire transfer from me to Ms. Clifford's attorney during the closing days of the presidential campaign that was demanded by Ms. Clifford to maintain her silence about her affair with Mr. Trump. This is exhibit 4 in my testimony."

HONIG: He's got receipts.

LEMON: "Exhibit 5 of the testimony shows I am providing a copy of the $35,000 check that President Trump personally signed from his personal bank account on August 1, 2017, when he was president of the United States, pursuant to the cover-up which was the basis of my guilty plea to reimburse me.

The words used by Mr. Trump's T.V. lawyer for the illegal hush money I paid on his behalf. This $35,000 check was one of 11 check installments that was paid throughout the year while he was president. The president of the United States thus wrote a personal check for the payment of hush money as part of a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws.

[23:55:05] You can find the details of that scheme directed by Mr. Trump in the pleadings in the U.S. District court of the Southern District of New York."

PROKUPECZ: Yes. So, this is going to be devastating to say the least.

LEMON: Wow.

PROKUPECZ: Here's more even -- that goes to the personal attacks against the president. This is what's going to really, I think, sting the president. He talks about him being a cheat. He's so -- he's giving the committee financial statements from 2011 in one of the exhibits to 2013, which he gave to Deutsche Bank, right.

We've been hearing a lot, Deutsche Bank was one of the biggest lenders -- was the biggest lender to the president when everyone else wouldn't loan him money because obviously he had financial issues. This bank continually lent him money. So, he's giving the committee, he says, these financial statements to -- where he asked -- he sent -- Trump sent financial statements to Deutsche Bank --

LEMON: Read that first, though.

PROKUPECZ: It said, "Mr. Trump is a cheat."

LEMON: Is a cheat.

PROKUPECZ: And then he says, "as previously stated, I'm giving you these financial statements," which he gave to Deutsche Bank to inquire about a loan to buy the Buffalo Bills and to Forbes. "And these are exhibits in my testimony." Then the other thing that he talks about is how --

LEMON: Wait, wait, can I read this? "It is my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes such as trying to be listed among the wealthiest people in Forbes and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes." And he is producing exhibits for testimony of him deflating and inflating his financial interests. Go on. HONIG: The use of exhibits in this document is masterful and clearly

was put together by I think someone who has experience in court because what they're doing is the exhibits are sort of fence posts and they will support and prop up what Michael Cohen's saying.

And when he gives this story of the hush money payments, for example, it is one thing for Michael Cohen to just say let me tell you what happened. It's another thing every couple sentences to say, and here's a check, and here's a financial record, here's a bank record.

PROKUPECZ: The records he kept on the president over the course of the 10 years, my gosh, I mean, he's talking about how he has letters that he wrote to schools about his SAT scores. I mean, as I mentioned, he says here, "I'm giving the committee today copies of a letter I sent at Mr. Trump's direction threatening schools with civil and criminal actions if Mr. Trump's grades or SAT scores were ever disclosed without his permission."

And then he writes "the irony wasn't lost on me at the time that Mr. Trump in 2011 had strongly criticized President Obama for not releasing his grades." I mean, the records he kept, the financial statements from 2011, all these years.

RODGERS: That's the other interesting thing. It's such a mix of really meaningful things, right? That could be crimes and the documentation to back those up with kind of the personal, like the guy's really a dirt bag and here's why and he even lied about his grades and, you know, I think the mix of all that is really interesting and it comes off seeming kind of less petty because he's mixing it in with all these other, you know, truly improper things.

LEMON: OK. Let me read this because I think this is important. And I read it once and I'll read it again. And he says, "as I earlier stated, Mr. Trump knew Roger Stone -- knew from roger stone in advance about the WikiLeaks drop of e-mails." OK?

"In July 2016, days before the Democratic Convention, I was in Mr. Trump's office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the phone. Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone. Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that within a couple of days there would be a massive dump of e-mails that would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign. Mr. Trump responded by stating the effect of wouldn't that be great."

And then he goes on to say, "Mr. Trump is a racist. The country has seen Mr. Trump court white supremacists and bigots. You have heard him call poor countries shitholes. In private, he is even worse. He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn't a shithole.

This was when Barack Obama was president of the United States. While we were once driving through a struggling neighborhood in Chicago, he commented that only black people could live that way. And he told me that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid. And yet I continued to work for him." HONIG: I think we need to make one more quick point about the Trump

Tower meeting. He does raise that in here on page 17. He said that. "In the summer of 2017, I read all over the media there had been a meeting in Trump tower in 2016 involving Don, Jr. and others from the campaign with Russians, including a representative of the Russian government and the e-mail setting up the meeting with the subject line "Dirt on Hillary Clinton."

He then says, "Something clicked in my mind." This is Michael Cohen speaking. "I remember being in the room with Mr. Trump probably in early June 2016 when something peculiar happened.

[24:00:04]

People didn't just walk behind Mr. Trump's desk to talk to him.

"I recalled Don Jr. leaning over to his father and speaking in a low voice, which I could clearly hear, and saying, 'The meeting is all set.'

"I remember Mr. Trump saying, 'OK, good, let me know.'"

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: He's going to need more than just a gut feeling. He's going to be questioned about the meeting.

(CROSSTALK)

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This testimony is kind of a road map. So prosecutors know all of this stuff already. He's told them this already. What they have been doing with this testimony we're going to hear, is they're going out and trying to find more things.

When he talks about phone calls, they're looking for phone records. When he talks about a conversation, they're thinking about who has been in the room to give them corroboration of that. They try to fill in the gaps.

LEMON: Stand by, everyone. This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. This is the top of the hour. We have just received the prepared testimony from Michael Cohen that's going to speak today publicly. He's going to testify live in front of the House Oversight Committee and we're going through the testimony now.

We have a bunch of people here that can help us out with that, including Shimon Prokupecz, Elie Honig and Jennifer Rodgers, also Michael D'Antonio and Garrett Graff. I'm interested to hear what Michael has to say because Michael wrote the book on this and Michael has sort of said this is what we would be finding out.

You saw it coming. So let's talk about this. We're going to read a lot of it. We're going to go through it and then break it down with our attorneys. Back here in the studio in Washington. By the way, we're live in Washington in anticipation of that testimony in the morning. So here we go.

It starts off. It says, "Testimony of Michael D. Cohen, U.S. House of Representatives, February 27th, 2019."

Read along with me.

"Chairman Cummings, Ranking Member Jordan and Members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me here today.

"I have asked this Committee to ensure that my family be protected from Presidential threats and that the Committee be sensitive to the questions pertaining to ongoing investigations. Thank you for your help and for your understanding.

"I am here under oath to correct the record, to answer the Committee's questions truthfully and to offer the American people what I know about President Trump. I recognize that some of you may doubt and attack me on my credibility.

"It is for this reason that I have incorporated into this opening statement documents that are irrefutable and demonstrate that the information you will hear is accurate and truthful.

"Never in a million years did I imagine, when I accepted a job in 2007 to work for Donald Trump, that he would one day run for president, launch a campaign on a platform of hate and intolerance and actually win.

"I regret the day I said 'yes' to Mr. Trump. I regret all the help and support I gave him along the way. I am ashamed of my own failings and I publicly accepted responsibility for them by pleading guilty in the Southern District of New York.

"I am ashamed of my weakness and misplaced loyalty -- of the things I did for Mr. Trump in an effort to protect and promote him. I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump's illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience.

"I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a con man. He is a cheat."

PROKUPECZ: Strong opening.

LEMON: That's how he starts. But then he goes on and this is where the rubber meets the road.

He says, "He was a presidential candidate. He was a presidential candidate that knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of the Democratic National Committee emails."

Lawyers, talk to me about that.

PROKUPECZ: I'll say this. Roger Stone has denied that he had any kind of communications with WikiLeaks. Obviously he's under investigation. He's been indicted for lying to members of Congress that asked him these questions.

But this is really interesting to hear this, obviously from Michael Cohen, to say this, to say that the president knew about this. And we were making this point before, what does he have to back this stuff up?

But these are very strong accusations that have been at the center of what the entire Russia investigation has been about.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. So they have to get that phone record, first of all. He talked about the call when he was in the office and Roger Stone calls in and I think he puts a month on it. I wrote, "Get that phone record." That's the kind of corroboration we're talking about. This is proven out.

All the cries of no collusion are going to have to fall away because now you have the president saying, collude with the Russians, collude with WikiLeaks --

[00:05:00]

HONIG: to get these emails and put them out there.

Could it be a crime?

Sure. It could make the president and others who were part of this, part of a conspiracy to hack, including the followup, part of a conspiracy to defraud the United States, to undermine the United States' governmental function. Robert Mueller already charged that. So we could be moving beyond no collusion chorus here.

RODGERS: Or at a minimum, you're talking about foreign impact on -- like foreign contribution to an election, right?

So he's accepting help from WikiLeaks. He's using it strategically. He knows that WikiLeaks is getting those things from Russian intelligence. That was known by the time this was happening.

So if nothing else, it's the same kind of campaign finance contribution from a foreign source that's illegal that we have been talking about, which is less serious but still a violation of federal law.

LEMON: I want to bring in Garrett Graff and Michael D'Antonio.

Michael, this is the thing that, the sort of thing that you have been telling us over the last few years, having written the book, "The Truth about Trump." Michael Cohen is echoing what you're saying, that nothing goes on in the Trump Organization or anything that has anything to do with Trump and his businesses without Donald Trump knowing about it.

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, that's absolutely true and I think we have to consider what does Michael Cohen have left to lose?

Absolutely nothing.

And what does he have to gain by this exercise? And I think he has to gain his self-respect and his sense of dignity. You know, this is, beyond the legal issues, a dramatic statement about the president's character. And as far as I am concerned, Donald Trump's entire life has been leading to this moment.

He has been a cheat and a con man and a liar all of his life. And he has finally been caught out by the one person who I think has access to what is essentially a second set of books.

So with every mafia organization there are the books and then there are the real books. And I suspect that Michael Cohen has not only the evidence that he is going to present tomorrow but vast amounts of additional evidence.

As Garrett mentioned, there's 250,000 pages. That's millions of words that have been obtained by prosecutors. This is a very bad moment for the president and we could be at the peak of the summit and the snowball is going to start rolling downhill.

LEMON: OK. I just want to read this. This is for you, Garrett.

Michael Cohen says, "To be clear: Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it. He lied about it because he never expected to win the election.

"He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project. And so I lied about it, too -- because Mr. Trump had made clear to me, through his personal statements to me, that we both knew were false and through his lies to the country, that he wanted me to lie.

"And he made it clear to me because his personal attorneys reviewed my statement before I gave it to Congress." -- Garrett.

GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes and as I was saying a few minutes ago, that's the type of thing that you can guarantee that Michael Cohen isn't saying in front of Congress under oath tomorrow unless he has shown Justice Department prosecutors evidence that could back that up.

That's the type of thing that he is not just freelancing saying in an opening statement. And that is exactly the type of thing that Donald Trump could begin to be painted into a conspiracy, that you have sort of this business deal going on one track; you have these sanctions negotiations going on this other track.

You have WikiLeaks going on a third track. And suddenly, you have something that begins to look a lot like collusion.

I think the other thing that stands out to me in reading through this opening statement is that, you know, this is someone who knows Donald Trump, you know, better than almost anyone.

So he knows how to mix the devastating political with the insulting personal. He has sort of this jag he goes on, on page 16, about how it was his job to cover up for Donald Trump's purportedly suspicious medical deferments in Vietnam.

And he quotes the president as saying to him, "I wasn't stupid. I wasn't going to go to Vietnam." And then Michael Cohen says, this is on the literal day of the big

summit, "Mr. President, I find it ironic that you're in Vietnam now."

So he has --

[00:10:00]

GRAFF: -- a message direct for the president in his opening statement tomorrow or later today, depending on which time zone you're in.

LEMON: Stand by quickly. I want to get to someone very important on the phone. I want to ask you a couple of things that Garrett said. He said he wouldn't be testifying if he couldn't prove it to investigators.

RODGERS: I'm not so sure about that. He has brought some things with him. I think if he had real documentation or proof that he would probably be providing that. His testimony is his proof and the problem is going to be does anyone else back that up.

What you would do in a mob case is if you had evidence where someone said he didn't need to say it because he looked at me and said we don't have any business in Russia and then, oh, how's it going in Russia, you would have other people saying that's how he functioned. That he did the same thing to them. That's what they may be looking to do to corroborate that.

HONIG: It's a mix of his testimony, which the Republicans surely will say you can't believe it. But when you support it every so often by documents, that helps. There's an important indicator of credibility in here.

I think it would be a more effective piece if he took out some of the personal stuff and the cheap shots about his grades and things like that. But when you look at the false testimony of the Senate, Cohen says Trump did not directly tell me to lie. He gave me these signals.

And it shows me that Cohen is not leaning out too far to try to put too much on the president. He could easily say, yes, Trump called me into his office and said I need you to lie. That was that. That would be if he was making it up. It's more complicated and more credible to say, well, it wasn't quite so clear. Here's how I knew.

(CROSSTALK)

HONIG: Especially with the Assange WikiLeaks stuff, that's been the missing link all along.

PROKUPECZ: But he admits a lot of this is off of his suspicions.

He says, "Questions have been raised about whether I know about direct evidence that Mr. Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia. I do not. I want to be clear but I have my suspicions."

And then he goes into the Trump Tower stuff and other things. One thing that troubles me is we know what the special counsel has

been looking at. There's been no evidence suggested by the special counsel at this point, we're two years into this, that Julian Assange communicated directly with Roger Stone.

There's no direct evidence or suggestion from the special counsel that the president knew anything about the Trump Tower meeting.

So there's a lot of things here that he's basing off of suspicion that -- he has exhibits for some things and he's talking about how he knows and he has evidence and pictures --

LEMON: We don't know.

Didn't he say special counsel has some of this information?

He said it in the beginning of this?

We don't know what the -- maybe they have phone records.

PROKUPECZ: They have also put out a statement, remember after the BuzzFeed story denying some of this, that they had any direct evidence.

HONIG: And that's consistent with this. He says that he didn't directly talk to me about it.

LEMON: Stand by. I want to bring in Congressman Eric Swalwell. He's on the House Intel Committee.

You're going to question Michael Cohen on Thursday.

As you're sitting here and getting this prepared testimony and you're reading it as well, what do you think, Congressman?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: (INAUDIBLE) is that Michael Cohen has very, very little incentive to lie. He has already lied to Congress. He's going to jail for a number of years because of it. He has to know that Paul Manafort is facing longer jail time because he continued the lie to the Mueller team. So it's not in his interest to lie.

They're already looking at him and if he lied to Congress, he could face even more years. So I think there is going to be a lot that we'll have to listen to just because his motivation is nothing other than to tell the truth.

Second, very interested in some of the color that is now being provided around what Donald Trump knew about Roger Stone's work with WikiLeaks. And it always seemed like this was something that Roger Stone would have shared with Donald Trump.

We have evidence that Roger Stone and Donald Trump talked all the time throughout the campaign so it makes sense that this was going on and that Donald Trump was informed of it. Third, same thing with Don Jr. and his father (ph) as it relates to

the Trump Tower meeting. We have evidence that Don Jr. and his father throughout the campaign always talked.

So it just rings up true for Cohen to say he comes into the office around the time that the meeting is set up, that's around the desk. Again, it's the little details you're looking for that stand out that someone just couldn't and wouldn't make up.

But again, going back to, I think he's credible because he doesn't want to go to jail for a longer period of time. The Mueller team is already looking at him. It's not in his interest to lie.

LEMON: Yes. We have been, you know, the documents that came out from Mueller that we saw, Individual-1, he talks about that.

He said, "Yet, last fall I pled guilty in --

[00:15:00]

LEMON: -- "federal court to felonies for the benefit of, at the direction of and in coordination with Individual-1."

And then he says, Congressman, "For the record, Individual-1 is President Donald J. Trump. It is painful to admit that I was motivated by ambition at times."

He goes on but he is confirming what everyone thought about Individual-1, possibly the person that may have directed and so on in the Mueller documents that were revealed.

SWALWELL: It looks now more than any evidence we have before that there may be an indictment waiting for the president of the United States when he leaves office, which is something that is quite disturbing to think about and also it is worrisome for what the president might do to escape that criminal exposure.

But second, this shows the shadowy way that his boss and the Trump Organization a candidate and (INAUDIBLE) president operated. (INAUDIBLE) look at how he did his taxes, how he did his businesses and whether or not he worked with the Russians.

LEMON: When you hear about it -- listen, I'm reading this and I'm going through it live here on the air.

But I also read the piece about Julian Assange, that in July 2016, "...days before the Democratic convention, I was in Mr. Trump's office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the phone.

"Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone. Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that, within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign.

"Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect of, 'Wouldn't that be great?'"

What do you think of that, Congressman?

SWALWELL: Well, can't you hear him saying that?

I can close my eyes and hear him saying that.

But also, (INAUDIBLE) Donald Trump's public statements about, you're going to learn more about Hillary Clinton, there's more information to come and then he's inviting the Russians to hack more.

And so this (INAUDIBLE) right into that. But he also has given us a witness. Rona Graff (ph) is the (INAUDIBLE) was candidate Trump's secretary at the time. She is someone that we interviewed on the House Intelligence Committee and she is someone now who can be interviewed again by multiple committees. And perhaps the Mueller team to see if this indeed occurred.

LEMON: Yes. Congressman, I appreciate your time. We look forward to having you on after you have questioned Michael Cohen. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

SWALWELL: All right, thanks.

LEMON: So let's get to this, folks here in the studio, I just want to talk about the information that we have regarding what they have.

So he says, "I am providing the committee today with several documents. These include: a copy of a check Mr. Trump wrote from his personal bank account -after he became president -to reimburse me for the hush money payments I made to cover up his affair with an adult film star and prevent damage to his campaign; copies of financial statements for 2011-2013 that he gave to such institutions as Deutsche Bank; a copy of an article with Mr. Trump's handwriting on it that reported on the auction of a portrait of himself -- he arranged for the bidder ahead of time and then reimbursed the bidder from the account of his non-profit charitable foundation, with the picture now hanging in one of his country clubs; and copies of letters I wrote at Mr. Trump's direction that threatened his high school, colleges and the college board not to release his grades or SAT scores."

RODGERS: Wow.

LEMON: Well?

HONIG: So the fourth one is just -- we're laughing. It's silly.

LEMON: Well, it's important. I don't think it's silly. It's important because as he goes on to state that he pressured and really ridiculed the former president for not releasing his college grades and then he is doing the exact same thing -- or worse.

HONIG: Yes. There's a fine line between color and irrelevancy. I think this could be cast as color, sort of characteristic of certain behavior. The third bullet here about the use of the nonprofit charitable organization to purchase that portrait through a shell bidder, the New York attorney general's office had a civil suit that was settled.

When they brought the suit this past summer alleging exactly this. Alleging that Trump and his family used the charitable organization for non-charitable purposes and as a shell corporation to funnel money.

When the lawsuit was first announced, the Trump people said, we'll never settle this, this is a bogus lawsuit and three months later they settled it up. So this is corroborative as well.

[00:20:00]

LEMON: OK. Let's talk about Trump Tower Moscow, shall we?

He said, "There were at least a half-dozen times between the Iowa Caucus in January 2016 and the end of June when he would ask me, 'How's it going in Russia?', referring to the Moscow Tower project.

"You need to know that Mr. Trump's personal lawyers reviewed and edited my statement to Congress about the timing of the Moscow Tower negotiations before I gave it.

"To be clear: Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it. He lied about it because he never expected to win the election. He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project.

"And so I lied about it, too -- because Mr. Trump had made clear to me, through his personal statements to me that we both knew were false and through his lies to the country, that he wanted me to lie. And he made it clear to me because his personal attorneys reviewed my statement before I gave it to Congress."

Jennifer.

RODGERS: Yes. So the lying during the campaign is not the problem. It's the testimony. It is the supporting perjury and encouraging perjury when the first time that Michael Cohen went in front of Congress and lied.

So the question is, what did Trump do in connection with that?

And he is saying he was involved in it. He knew he was lying about that. He knew he caused me to lie about that because his personal lawyers edited my statement to Congress.

So you know, one of the big questions we had coming into this is, is he going to put Donald Trump in the middle of his perjury?

And he has done that.

PROKUPECZ: So the Trump Tower Moscow thing, there's still so many questions, I think, surrounding that and exactly what the president's role was, who else was involved. This is something that the special counsel obviously has been looking into. Michael Cohen was charged with lying to members of Congress.

Remember -- and all he did was to -- all he ever did throughout his life or the last 10 years of his life was protect the president and he says he's coming here tomorrow, well, later today now, he's no longer protecting the president. He's letting it all out and he's making it very clear.

He says he's been smeared by the president. The president called him a rat. And then he goes on to describe his life. But the Moscow Tower project, I think their questions around that are going to linger for quite some time.

HONIG: I want to know which personal lawyers we're talking about.

PROKUPECZ: That's the thing, too. That has always been the question, what lawyers were involved?

What did the lawyers know?

Did they in anyway I guess help suborn perjury, right, would be the thing?

HONIG: And they could be in trouble if they knew these statements were false. We have a clue of this. DOJ already signed off on this. If you look back at Michael Cohen's plea documents, what DOJ says in one of the sentence memos is that Cohen provided cooperation about, quote, "the circumstances of preparing and circulating his response to the congressional inquiries."

So we know that DOJ knows that there was a process, where Cohen circulated his false testimony and now Cohen is saying, Trump's personal lawyers, we don't know exactly who that is, were the ones involved with this.

LEMON: Let's go on.

RODGERS: What's interesting is, you know, he really obviously goes after Trump. He puts Trump into a whole bunch of things in this document. He doesn't implicate anybody else.

So is he going to tell us who Executive-2 is?

And who else was involved in this conduct?

Will he answer questions about that?

I don't know. He may fall back on, there's an on going investigation, I can't. He may not -- we still have to wait and see.

LEMON: The infamous Trump Tower meeting. "Sometime in the summer" -- this is page 17.

"Sometime in the summer of 2017, I read all over the media that there had been a meeting in Trump Tower in June 2016 involving Don Jr. and others from the campaign with Russians, including a representative of the Russian government and an email, setting up the meeting with the subject line, 'Dirt on Hillary Clinton.'

"Something clicked in my mind. I remember being in the room with Mr. Trump, probably in early June 2016, when something peculiar happened. Don Jr. came into the room and walked behind his father's desk -- which in itself was unusual. People didn't just walk behind Mr. Trump's desk to talk to him.

"I recalled Don Jr. leaning over to his father and speaking in a low voice, which I could clearly hear, and saying, 'The meeting is all set.'

"I remember Mr. Trump saying, 'OK, good, let me know.'

"What struck me as I looked back and thought about that exchange between Don Jr. and his father was, first, that Mr. Trump had frequently told me and others that his son Don Jr. had the worst judgment of anyone in the world and also that Don Jr. would never set up any meeting of any significance alone -- and certainly not without checking with his father.

"I also knew that nothing went on in Trump world, especially the campaign --

[00:25:00]

LEMON: -- "without Mr. Trump's knowledge and approval. So I concluded that Don Jr. was referring to that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting about dirt on Hillary with the Russian representative when he walked behind his dad's desk that day -- and that Mr. Trump knew that was the meeting Don Jr. was talking about when he said, 'That's good, let me know.'"

Michael D'Antonio.

D'ANTONIO: Well, this is consistent with everything I saw in Trump Tower. It's consistent with what I witnessed actually. Nobody went behind Donald Trump's desk. It actually is a difficult thing to do. There's a window right behind it. This would only have been done to communicate something sotto voce, under the breath, and something that was delicate.

We also know that Donald Trump Jr. really didn't make a move without consulting his father. And it has always been preposterous for anyone to suggest that the then candidate, now President Trump, didn't know that that Trump Tower meeting was happening. It was happening within feet of the candidate himself.

So we have got here in Michael Cohen's testimony an accurate portrayal of how this organization operated -- and I'll say one last thing, I do believe him when he says that he understood what was expected of him.

This is classic operating style for Donald Trump. He didn't have to tell you explicitly that I'm going to lie and you swear to it. It was expected and it was a condition of Michael Cohen's employment. LEMON: This meeting has been part of your reporting as well, Garrett.

GRAFF: Yes. We held up this facade that the Trump Organization or the Trump campaign could be these big, sprawling things where there's lots of moving parts that Mr. Trump doesn't understand at the middle. But as Elie and Jennifer were talking about last hour when you start talking about Executive-1, Executive-2, there just aren't that many people involved in these organizations whose name isn't Trump.

So the idea that you have this campaign meeting taking place that involves Paul Manafort, Jared and Don Jr. and all three of these people are working on the campaign, working in the same building that the president is in and that this meeting is taking place in that building, that they're in constant contact with him.

They all happen to have this meeting with these Russian officials in the midst of the campaign without mentioning it to Mr. Trump at all, I don't think that's ever really been believable. And Michael Cohen is beginning to tell us that it's not.

LEMON: Here's the interesting thing for me, that this president -- and the reason that a lot of people voted for this president is because they believed what he said, he was the ultimate dealmaker and business man. "I alone can do it," he said.

I want to read this, "As previously stated, I am giving the committee today" -- first of all, he starts by saying, "Mr. Trump is a cheat. As previously stated, I'm giving the Committee today three years of President Trump's financial statements, from 2011-2013, which he gave to Deutsche Bank to inquire about a loan to buy the Buffalo Bills and to Forbes. These are Exhibits 1a, 1b and 1c to my testimony.

"It was my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed among the wealthiest people in Forbes and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes.

"I am sharing with you two newspaper articles, side by side, that are examples of Mr. Trump inflating and deflating his assets, as I said, to suit his financial interests. These are Exhibit 2to my testimony.

"As I noted, I'm giving the Committee today an article he wrote on and sent me, that reported on an auction of a portrait of Mr. Trump. This is Exhibit 3A to my testimony.

"Mr. Trump directed me to find a straw bidder to purchase a portrait of him that was being auctioned at an Art Hamptons Event. The objective was to ensure that his portrait, which was going to be auctioned last, would go for the highest price of any portrait that afternoon.

"The portrait was purchased by the fake bidder for $60,000. Mr. Trump directed the Trump Foundation, which is supposed to be a charitable organization, to repay the fake bidder, despite keeping the art for himself. Please see Exhibit 3Bto my testimony. "And it should come as no surprise that one of my more common responsibilities was that Mr. Trump directed me to call business owners, many of whom were small businesses that were -- that were owned money for their services and told them no payment or a reduced payment would be coming. When I advised Mr. Trump of my success, he actually reveled in it, and yet, I continued to work for him."

[00:30:32] PROKUPECZ: And then he goes on to say, "Trump --"

LEMON: "Mr. Trump is a con man."

PROKUPECZ: "-- is a con man."

HONIG: The bad business man thing is important politically and because, as Michael Cohen says, it paints him as a fraud.

But it's also important because there could be a criminal element to that. Inflating your assets for purposes of putting in for bank loans, that is what bank fraud is. So there could be another sort of new financial element opening up here.

LEMON: Yes. It is going to be very interesting to watch his testimony today. Thank you. I mean, this all came out as we were -- we were preparing to go off the air. And celebrate my friend's birthday. Where is he?

(LOOKS OFF-CAMERA) Happy birthday, brother. Everybody say happy birthday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Happy birthday.

PROKUPECZ: Happy birthday.

LEMON: It's serious business but, listen, we're all people; we have lives. We have a lot of people around us who support you, and so we -- who support us, and so we want to support them. And so drinks on me after this.

Thanks for watching, everyone.

A huge day of testimony beginning in just hours for Michael Cohen. Our breaking news tonight: we now know some of what he is going to say, including calling the president a racist, a con man and a cheat; saying that Donald Trump was aware of Roger Stone's efforts to reach out to WikiLeaks in advance of his release of damaging information about the Clinton campaign; and saying he's providing the committee with a copy of a check Trump wrote from his personal bank account, after he became president, reimbursing Cohen for hush-money payments, money payments to Stormy Daniels.

The full text of Cohen's prepared statement available right now on CNN.com.

We're going to take a break now, and after that our coverage will continue with Anderson Cooper and "AC 360." Good night everyone.

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