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Trump & Kim Jong-un Meet For Face-To-Face Negotiations; Michael Cohen: Trump Broke Law In Office; Cohen Says SDNY Investigating Other Illegal Act By Trump. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 27, 2019 - 21:00   ET


[21:00:00] SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: --office in light of this additional scrutiny on those past comments, first just getting more of an explanation also hearing what they think about this old video now going viral, they have not responded, Anderson.

We'll, of course, ask - keep asking them.


SERFATY: And we'll let you know when we get a response.

COOPER: Yes. Should also point out that Congressman Meadows and Congressman Cummings both expressed their close friendship today. We'll continue to follow it.

News continues right now. Want to hand it over to Chris Cuomo for CUOMO PRIME TIME. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, CUOMO PRIME TIME: All right, thank you, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME. We have some breaking news.

We're getting our first look at the Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un and the President of the United States. They've been giving comments and we're going to give them to you.

Now, of course, we have big breaking news about Michael Cohen. We've assembled an amazing team of guests to go through it legally and investigatively.

But we do want to take this live news for you, get these first comments from the President, and the Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong- un before we get to Cohen.

But we're going to have members from both sides that was in the - in that hearing today. What did they test? What did they miss? And what does it mean for the rest of us?

What do you say, my friends? Let's get after it.




CUOMO: All right, so big news on Michael Cohen today. Was this what the Democrats expected it to be? Was this a finale or was it just a first step?

The big headline is that he does seem to have had proof to back up the suggestion that the President of the United States was complicit in a felony, that campaign finance violation.

How far will that go with lawmakers? We're going to test that tonight on the basis of the proof. But we have our first sighting tonight of the President of the United States and the Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un. They were speaking, literally sitting side-by-side just moments ago. Here's a piece.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I go first (ph)?




CUOMO: All right, we're going to have to get the tape right, and you'll hear what the President said. Now, did he say anything about the hearing or Michael Cohen? No, OK?

It's about just how friendly they're being, and how well they're getting along, and what a nice dinner, but it's still important to hear the President of the United States elevating this man on literally equal seating, and what the prospects are going forward. So, when I get that, I'll bring it to you.

However, from Washington D.C. tonight, we are live because we've got new perspective on the President from the mouth of the man who made his problems go away for a decade. Should we believe what we heard today from Michael Dean Cohen?

Republicans in the room tried their hardest to dismantle his credibility. It's about all they did. They showed almost no curiosity about him connecting the President with proof to a felony, explosive claims among them, that the sitting President broke the law while in Office, reached out to help cover it up. Listen.


MICHAEL DEAN COHEN, DONALD TRUMP'S FORMER PERSONAL ATTORNEY: 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.


CUOMO: All right, that was the first hit. What will that mean? We'll go through it legally, investigatively, politically. The second one was something where Michael Cohen said he couldn't talk about it. Now, that's controversial, and we'll go through why.

But when asked about, "Hey, can you tell us more about this money? Can you tell us about what's going on with this, and what he - the President may have known? What he said to you?" he said, "I can't because the Southern District is looking into it."

Now, what does that mean? How many probes does the Southern District have going on? And why didn't lawmakers push him for an answer? We'll get into why they should have done that.

Now, the biggest question is what did today mean. We know what it means about where we're headed. So, forget about the pundits. Forget about the Left and the Right telling you who won and who lost today. Forget it. Let's focus on what we know and what it shows for the path forward.

What a great group I have for you to do this tonight! Michael Isikoff, Neal Katyal, who just argued before the Supreme Court today, wonder if we're going to wind up in a forum like that anytime soon. We also have Laura Coates, and Garrett Graff.

Couldn't ask for a better panel, thank you for making yourselves available. Mike, let me start with you, and we'll go down the line.


CUOMO: What was today, and what was not there today?

ISIKOFF: Riveting testimony. It's hard to remember a - a witness before Congress who just was laying out a case against the sitting President of the United States. You'd have to go back to John Dean, of course.

When you go through the - the - certainly, the testimony about the campaign finance violations, the payoffs to Stormy Daniels, that's the one clear federal crime that President Trump has been implicated in.

[21:05:00] But does it go all the way? No, because Cohen did not, when he described his conversations with Trump about this, did not say that it was explicitly about the campaign, which would - you'd need to prove a campaign finance violation.

The timing is helpful. But if you want to make a case against the President, you need that direct testimony.

And I thought what was interesting in Chairman Cummings' opening statement, in his opening questioning, he wanted to craft it not as a campaign finance violation, but he focused on Trump's financial disclosure form, failure to report the debts to Michael Cohen.


ISIKOFF: There they've got the President dead to rights. CUOMO: Right.

ISIKOFF: He clearly had - was making these payments while President--

CUOMO: Right.

ISIKOFF: --to reimburse Cohen for those. Those were obligations he had. Didn't report them on his financial claim (ph).

CUOMO: Not the crime but the cover-up.


CUOMO: That's his play.


CUOMO: But Neal, just a quick point of law. We learn from the John Edwards case, you know, Edwards obviously found not guilty, but there was an interesting precedent in that case, where you have to show that you did this because of your campaign, but it doesn't have to be the only reason.

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: You got it exactly right. Most people get it wrong, including some guests on CNN just half hour ago. So, it is - doesn't have to be the only reason, just a reason. And I disagree a little bit with my friend, Michael.

I don't think that that's what we were expecting today. This is after all a Congressional hearing. It's the first one the Democrats have convened since they've taken - taken power. There's a criminal investigation going on in the Southern District, and that's where you're going to hear stuff about these kinds of legal things.

To me, the big thing that happened today was to refocus the American attend - public attention not on Mueller. We've all been obsessed with Muller and Russia. I've been saying for a year, "I think the Southern District is where the scary stuff is."

And today, boy, we really saw it. We saw these checks with that silly Donald Trump signature saying, you know, effectively that the President was completing his payoff regime while he was a sitting President, and it's not just criminal, it's also political.

Remember, this President said, he was asked in April last year, "Did you know about these Stormy Daniel payments?"

CUOMO: Said "No."

KATYAL: Answer, "No." And--

CUOMO: "Go ask my lawyer, Michael Cohen."

KATYAL: --and, boy, this - and, you know, we can pooh-pooh this. And some Republicans try to and say, "Oh, this is some minor campaign finance thing." Uh-huh. This is arguably the most significant campaign contributions--

CUOMO: Right.

KATYAL: --ever in the history of the United States.

CUOMO: Look, I want - I begged you to come on today because even though this won't, I believe, wind up in a legal forum. I don't see it. I know the Southern District is still looking at things.


CUOMO: But I just think because the DOJ guidance and dealing with a sitting President, I think this winds up becoming a political trial of anything. However, the legalities will still guide that process.

And today, it was a tough haul for the GOP because they were all about credibility, right, crushing Michael Cohen's, but they couldn't defend the President's credibility. And that's going to be tough here when he's been lying about the same stuff that Michael Cohen was, until he decided to tell the truth about the payments.

So, what does that set up in terms of opportunities going forward?

COATES: Remember, impeachment as a political process really requires a decrease in the President's popularity. We saw the reverse being true when it came to Bill Clinton, and about trying to begin impeachment proceeding, when he is very popular.

Well, if you have the notion that this President of the United States has committed some crime while in Office is no longer about the witch- hunt that he claims to have happened with Mueller. Now, it's the other rock to his hard place and, essentially, thematically the same thing.

You're trying to take away the power of the American people to decide for themselves with all the information they need, who they'd like to be the President. That includes campaign finance, it's the reason you actually have it.

But one thing that did not satisfy me, Chris, in this is that what we didn't hear. And I think you alluded to this, Michael. We didn't hear the direct conversation that the President would have said to make it clear that he was directing and coordinating the payment.

Now, why that's not satisfactory? Why it would lead to the public there - and the political discussion is because if this is a matter of Michael Cohen not being a yes-man, following orders, but rather somebody being a people-pleaser, and saying "Well, I assumed what you want by our conversation and maybe the gazes you've given me," well you have a harder role trying to say his popularity will go down, the interest in impeachment goes up, and you have the plateau we've been at for a while.

CUOMO: Right. Although I must say, it was a point in favor of Michael Cohen's credibility. He had opportunities today to take an axe to the President of the United States.


CUOMO: "Oh, yes. He directed me to do it. He knew all about it. Roger Stone, I heard the whole conversation. The President said, "You know, is this about Hillary Clinton?" He said, "Yes." Oh, I heard Don Jr. tell him about that meeting. He said it was with the Russians."

Michael Cohen was blank on all three of those. He gave a lot of spread to the President on that, which I think, Garrett, went to his credibility. Now, the missing pieces, if Mike is right, Neal's right, that this wasn't supposed to be the be-all end-all, well then what space does it leave for the Mueller probe?

Garrett wrote the - the book on - on Mueller as far as the operative diary, where I'm concerned right now. And what space is there that they would be waiting for?

[21:10:00] GARRETT GRAFF, JOURNALIST, AUTHOR, FORMER POLITICO MAGAZINE EDITOR, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, so Neal, and I think is right that the - the - we're so obsessed with the Mueller report and the end of the Mueller probe, and what that's going to bring. That, by my count, is one of 17 or 18 different investigations focused on the Trump World right now.

So, if Bob Mueller hangs up his, you know, his report tomorrow, and heads out golfing, there are 17 other federal prosecutors and state prosecutors digging into Trump's orbit. That's an incredible criminal liability.

And just to sort of put a little bit of sort of step-back context about what we're talking about, we're talking about today. We saw evidence, convincing credible evidence that the President of the United States was engaged in federal felonies--

CUOMO: Right.

GRAFF: --while in the White House. We're just not really sure that they were sort of surprising enough felonies today that we should be really concerned about them.

CUOMO: Well, look, listen - look, Coates is the lawyer, but - well, Neal, you too. But - frankly, you too. But--


COATES: That's funny, Neal.

CUOMO: The - you were in Supreme Court today. Is that really anything?


CUOMO: The idea of well what - what's your standard here, and them saying, "Well, we don't care about the felony." This is a political contest, to Laura's point, I'm saying, as opposed to a legal standard. They had no interest in it. They had no curiosity--

ISIKOFF: Yes. CUOMO: --in that felony today--

KATYAL: Well--

CUOMO: --until we got to the Southern District. Now, I just want to introduce this sound because, to me, I'm with Mike Isikoff.

What you're about to hear made my jaw drop. Play Michael Cohen in response to one of the Members of Congress playing on his reticence and bringing up the Southern District of New York, and what may be going on there.


SUBRAMANIAN RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI, (D) U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FOR ILLINOIS'S 8TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT: Is there any other wrongdoing or illegal act that you are aware of regarding Donald Trump that we haven't yet discussed today?

COHEN: Yes. And, again, those are part of the investigation that's currently being looked at by the Southern District of New York.


CUOMO: Now, look, I know Mike Cohen, OK? And he is very worried about messing up, OK?


CUOMO: He's volunteering to come into these things. But the last thing he wants is more trouble. He knows they can pick up the phone and ask the Southern District if there's anything going on, so he's not going to lie about it.


CUOMO: But then, I was waiting for that guy to say, "With all due respect, I'll take care of what the Southern District is worried about and not--

ISIKOFF: Yes. Yes. That - that answer--

CUOMO: --you're here. They haven't told us not to. Give it up."

ISIKOFF: --should have infuriated the - the Members of the Committee because the fact is the Southern District - we know what the Justice Department policy is.

CUOMO: Right.

ISIKOFF: You cannot indict a sitting President.

CUOMO: Right.

ISIKOFF: So, there is nothing the Southern District can, at the end of the day, do about Donald Trump. It is the obligation of Congress to investigate crimes by a sitting President--


ISIKOFF: --and take action. That's their Constitutional obligation.

CUOMO: Neal--

KATYAL: I could--

ISIKOFF: So, they have no reason to let an answer like that stand. They'd say--

CUOMO: Well especially - especially, when they're trying to advance their own agenda.

ISIKOFF: --"Sorry, not good enough. We demand to know the answer."

KATYAL: Yes, right.

CUOMO: But, Neal, you could not be more uncomfortable sitting where you are right now.

ISIKOFF: Yes, yes (ph).

CUOMO: What's wrong?

KATYAL: Yes, I do not think that's right at all. So--

CUOMO: Tell us how?

ISIKOFF: Well, you know what the Justice Department policy is, Neal, and - and it has to be changed.

KATYAL: So - so two things. One is that Justice Department policy, I don't think, covers crimes like this, which go to whether or not someone committed a crime to get - while in the Office in the first place.

ISIKOFF: Excuse me--

KATYAL: That's number one. Number two is that even if that were true, I'm sure Cohen's testimony to Congress was negotiated with investigators and prosecutors to make sure that he doesn't stray into active investigations of which--

CUOMO: Right.

KATYAL: --this is one. So, it shouldn't have infuriated them. What's not surprising in all of that, that's the answer that you would get from Michael Cohen. And even if you thought a sitting President couldn't be indicted, there would be all sorts of things you could do. You might have an indictment lying in wait--

CUOMO: Can be impeached.

KATYAL: --or something like that. ISIKOFF: That - that is the only remedy here.

CUOMO: I mean that's Mike's--


ISIKOFF: That's the only remedy.

CUOMO: --I mean that's Mike's point.

ISIKOFF: And there's no proviso in the Justice Department--

KATYAL: Dean is not the case for that.

ISIKOFF: --OLC opinions that say, "Well you can indict if it's about concealing evidence from the voters."

KATYAL: It just doesn't cover that.

ISIKOFF: What, it doesn't--

KATYAL: It just doesn't cover it, so.

ISIKOFF: --address the issue.

COATES: Well it may--

ISIKOFF: Its conclusion's clear.

CUOMO: Judge Coates.

ISIKOFF: You can indict a sitting President.

CUOMO: Who is right on this? Can you indict a sitting President for crimes committed to get into Office?

COATES: It's unsettled, quite frankly. The Office Legal Policy - Counsel actually is a - is a guideline. It's not set in stone. And there hasn't been contemplated the full remedies you're talking about. However, why it should not perhaps infuriate the SDNY is for this reason.

Remember, Michael - Michael - well Michael--

ISIKOFF: The SDNY, Members of Congress.

COATES: --Michael Cohen has already infuriated the SDNY, which is one of the reasons--


COATES: --he's going to find himself in jail in May by being not forthcoming enough about information, not wanting to cooperate holistically, and instead, withholding information.

Now, if he goes before the - the Congress right now, and says, "I'm going to further tick them off," knowing that there is - it's a Hail Mary chance, but there's still opportunity for him to come back and say, "You know what, your Honor, we'd actually like to re-allocute in terms of being able to say, maybe a later sentence."

He had - he knows what side of his - of his bread is buttered. And that's one of the reasons.

But I do see your point as to why in a political arena, it would not satisfy the people who were asking the questions on behalf of the American people to say, "OK, so this isn't - isn't a public hearing fully. If it's going to be public, tell us everything you want to know or at least make the facade like you cared enough to."

[21:15:00] GRAFF: Well except that I think that the Democrats are making a very smart play in this that they're letting the legal process lead the way that they - they understand, at the end, this is a political issue that this is a political process that they need to work through.

But the Democrats want to make sure, particularly on this Committee, that this doesn't come across as a partisan exercise, that they're going to let the legal process play out in the Southern District, in Mueller's report, and - and all of these other investigations, and then, they will see what that outcome is, and then take action.

And - and I think that that's one of the things that's really clear about the SDNY case.

KATYAL: And I think that's a beautiful point because I think, as Americans, we keep hearing different things about Trump. He did this wrong, that wrong. And we almost get inured to it a little bit.

And, you know, we don't ask a serial murderer, when they're - when they kill someone, we don't say, "Oh, well we already knew he was a serial murderer, you know, so let's let that one go."

And so, doing this in a legal process, slowly, carefully, the facts coming out first, I think is a very smart move. And, after all, that's what they're criticizing Trump for doing.

COATES: You know--

CUOMO: I'll tell you what - I'll tell you what didn't - didn't bode well, Laura. Tell me if you're right. Then, Mike, I want to wrap up from you, and we have to go, is this is an actual felony that Cohen pled to--


CUOMO: --and certainly the Southern District New York thinks he is guilty of, this campaign finance, there was zero buy-in by the Republicans.


CUOMO: So, if the obvious demonstration, and I really believe it is obvious, it stands to reason and every fact we know that not only did he lie about it, but was obvious that he knew about it, the payment system is clear, and it was fraudulent, and it was obvious, OK?

So, if this does nothing to generate political sport, to your point, at this point, all right, but there was zero buy-in today by--


CUOMO: --any Republicans. How high will the bar need to be, Laura Coates, for them to say, "Even I must vote for this."

COATES: There should not have to be Herculean efforts at this point in time. When Michael Cohen said today - by the way, Individual Number One is actually the President of the United States. He - he very explicitly said he's an unindicted co-conspirator in case.

CUOMO: That's right. And not a single role--

COATES: Not a single person looked at that.

CUOMO: --well - well I'm - I'm Amish, ask some questions about--

GRAFF: Yes, yes.

CUOMO: --that he had some curiosity. But I think no one else did.

Quick wrap from you, Mike.

ISIKOFF: Well, yes, well, just to--

CUOMO: What do people need to know?

ISIKOFF: --come back to the Mueller investigation, which is really what began all this, I thought it was interesting that Cummings made it clear that Mueller had no objection to Cohen testifying about all matters relating to Russia, which is another sign that he's wrapping up that they're not waiting for some big to make - some big case to drop, in which Cohen's testimony is essential, that's important.

He made some important - fleshed out some new facts relating to the Trump Tower Moscow Project, Trump saying half a dozen times, "How's it going in Russia?"

But answers about collusion, questions about collusion, says "He didn't have direct evidence," and he denied one of the most sensational allegations in the Steele dossier that he had been to Prague to meet with Russian agents, he said, "I've never been to Prague."

CUOMO: True. Let's do this. I think after we hear the lawmakers tonight, there's going to be a need to go through some of this again, in terms of what the obvious strategies are, so I'm going to ask some of you to stick around or we can fight it out in the break.

But thank you each and all for making really good points to help us understand where we are - and where we're headed. Now, to help you understand, and to help myself, actually, the team

got together and focused us on what happened today. What are the allegations that Cohen made against the President? What did he have proof for? And which ones, if any, allowed Democrats to go down the road with possible impeachment?

We've laid it out for you, next.








CUOMO: What we saw today was a pivotal moment in the Presidency of Donald John Trump. We know what Presidents - what Democrats now see as their path for scrutiny.

The President of the United States may have broken the law while in office. Listen.


COHEN: A copy of the 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 to prevent damage to his campaign.


CUOMO: The suggestion is a sitting President played an integral role in a felony. Now, on Cohen's side, he has the receipts and common sense.

The checks, 35 grand, dated in 2017, and as you know, that is Trump's signature, just as striking, the complete lack of interest in criminal behavior by a sitting President, even when Cohen said this.


KATHERINE LAUREN HILL, (D) U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FOR CALIFORNIA'S 25TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT: Did the President call you to coordinate on public messaging about the payments to Ms. Clifford's in or around February 2018?


HILL: What did the President ask or suggest that you say about the payments or reimbursements?

COHEN: He was not knowledgeable of these reimbursements and he wasn't knowledgeable of my actions.

HILL: He asked you to say that?

COHEN: Yes, ma'am.


CUOMO: That's obviously a Democrat asking the question because almost no GOPer followed up with any curiosity about what appears to be a felony while in Office. There was only condemnation for the mere assertion.

But not that the - you know, the Congress isn't the only ones who have heard this from Cohen and others. And apparently, the Southern District of New York has much more appetite for where this could lead.

Listen to what Cohen said.


KRISHNAMOORTHI: Is there any other wrongdoing or illegal act that you are aware of regarding Donald Trump that we haven't yet discussed today?

COHEN: Yes. And again, those are part of the investigation that's currently being looked at by the Southern District of New York.


CUOMO: I was really hoping they would have pushed Cohen for more information about what's going on in the Southern District because they can't go after the President. Only Congress is really going to make anything happen here, but didn't happen.

We did see, however, a lot of avenues of exposure for the President, taxes, corruption at the Trump Organization, and the one guy who knows that he has an immunity deal.


COHEN: Allen Weisselberg.

Allen Weisselberg.

In the office with me was Allen Weisselberg.

So, Allen Weisselberg is the Chief Financial Officer.


CUOMO: CFO has been counting money for Trump since it was his father running the business. Now, when there are this many politicians talking in front of a camera, all right, it's going to be telling not just what they say but you have to start listening for what isn't being said.

On the Republican side, like I said, no curiosity about what Cohen was saying, no pushing for information on wrongdoing. Not one of them, however, was able to defend the actions of the President of the United States. All of them called Cohen unbelievable entirely.

Even though, remember, Cohen took several opportunities today to bootstrap their defense of the President. He admitted he had no proof of collusion. He wouldn't say that Trump told Stone to talk with WikiLeaks. He said "Mr. Trump would never hurt his wife."

And as for the major theme for GOPers today, all that counts is credibility, and Cohen has none, listen.



MARK RANDALL MEADOWS, (R) U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FOR NORTH CAROLINA'S 11TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT: Everything's been made of your lies in the past, I'm concerned about your lies today.




CUOMO: Here's the thing. If you're so into lying, how do you explain loyalty to the President that you zealously defended today?

Everything Cohen is accused of lying about, his money, his contacts with foreign companies, his role in the hush-payments, these are all the same things that the President lies about.

The only real difference is that only one of the two has admitted to the lying without forcing others to prove it. That is so far. So, those were the high points today that kind of show us a path forward for Democrats and the resistance by Republicans.

So, now what? We have two lawmakers who took part in today's hearing for this story. We're going to go to both and test both, next.








CUOMO: So, what are the possibilities? Cohen's testimony could very well open up more lines of inquiry into the things that matter most to Trump, his family and his family business. Here's why.



COHEN: Don Trump Jr., and Ivanka Trump.

DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, (D) U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FOR FLORIDA'S 23RD CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT: If Mr. Trump and his daughter Ivanka and son Donald - Donald Jr. are involved in the Rump - in the - in the Russian Trump Tower deal, is it possible the whole family is conflicted or compromised with a foreign adversary in the months before the election?



CUOMO: All right, you don't have to be a lawyer to see what's going on, Democrats digging into what the Trumps, plural, knew and when, in light of facts that the President's business dealings with Russia extended far into his Presidential campaign, something that would mean that the President has not told you the truth about.

Congressman Stephen Lynch, you were there. Thank you very much for being here--

LYNCH: Thank you.

CUOMO: --after a very long day.

LYNCH: Good to be with you

CUOMO: Two big questions.


CUOMO: First, did you believe Cohen? And, if so, on everything or what?

LYNCH: I found unbelievable. And - and as - as you've noted before, there were - if he was going to just do a hatchet job on - on Trump, he would not have stopped at the point of saying, "No, I - I can't say there was collusion."

There were a couple of points in his testimony where he actually defended the President when he was unfairly accused. So, I think that all lent to his credibility. I think he did a very good job. Remember, he's going into a very tough a hostile environment. You get all the Republicans calling him a liar multiple times. And then, I - I still think he - he withstood a lot, and - and he came out of it looking better than I ever thought he might.

CUOMO: The main criticism was, and this is unusual--


CUOMO: --that the Democrats are leaning on a guy who is an admitted liar as a key component in the first big Oversight hearing.

LYNCH: Lied to Congress. He lied to Congress.

CUOMO: Lied to Congress.


[21:30:00] CUOMO: Lied to this Body. And this is how you come out of the gate and trying to find out what to do with or to the President of the United States? Fair criticism?

LYNCH: No, not really. Look, this is the beginning. This is one witness, one day. None of this happened for the last two years. The Republicans swept everything into the Intelligence Committee, where it's a classified setting, so the public knew nothing.

Here we have one witness who said, "Look, I'll - I'll come in voluntarily without a subpoena, and I'll testify, and I'll tell the truth." He's also under the threat of, if he lies, of a longer sentence of - of, you know, spending more time in jail, heavier penalties.

So, I think there were a lot of incentives there for him to tell the truth. And I actually think, if you listen to that testimony today, I think you'd be hard-pressed to argue that he did not - he did not tell the truth.

CUOMO: Well there were plenty arguing that in the room today, all of them Republicans.

LYNCH: But they called him a liar. But they never questioned his testimony. They, you know, they said, "Oh, you've been convicted of lying before." But none - all of them said, "You're a liar." But nobody ever said--

CUOMO: Right.

LYNCH: --took - try to take his testimony apart.

CUOMO: What's the point of asking about the kids? So, what if they did know about it? They never - they're - they're not in a position of Elected Office. None of them ever lied to the American people. And even if they had, who cares?

LYNCH: Well, we want witnesses, right? They were in that - those meetings. So, we're - we're looking for people who were also - can corroborate Mr. Cohen's testimony or - or - or dispute it. But--

CUOMO: But that is like real dynamite. You bring in the President's kids--


CUOMO: --you're asking for a war, you're not?

LYNCH: I think we have one. The - the - the thing is here that the President said, "Look, I had nothing to do with the negotiation of the Trump Tower." Remember, the - the - the debates against Hillary, "We have no business in Russia. We have no deals."

He was actually directly instructing Mr. Cohen on the negotiations on the - the Trump Tower, while he was doing that. So, we - we want to find out who was - who was there.

We - we - we did not know if it was only Donald, if it was only Ivanka. There might have been others that we could bring in as well. So, we want to know who, what, when, try to - try to get the facts right on this.

CUOMO: If everything that Cohen said today about the President committing a felony of campaign finance violation during his Presidency, if it's true that he knew about Roger Stone going to WikiLeaks, if he knew about the Trump Tower meeting, if he knew about all of those things, do you think this President would be impeached in this political climate?

LYNCH: We don't have to make that decision because we're only part way done with this investigation. There's another aspect of this too.

Michael Cohen today said that he went to the White House, and the President and his attorneys instructed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, to lie to the FBI. So, is that - is that a heavier claim of obstruction of justice?

He says that they told them, basically, what the message was and that--

CUOMO: But you know the law.

LYNCH: --he had to deliver it.

CUOMO: You know the law. I - I see why you say obstruction of justice, and not suborning purchasing - perjury, because if you don't have the talismanic phrase--

LYNCH: Right.

CUOMO: --of you need to go lie, Michael Cohen was very careful today to say, he says it without saying it, you're not getting him for suborning perjury then.

LYNCH: Look--

CUOMO: But you think you might get him for obstruction.

LYNCH: And--

CUOMO: But many believe he can't obstruct as President.

LYNCH: Well he can't be then be indicted. But, remember, his attorneys crafted the message that they sent Michael Cohen back with. So, I think there's greater complicity there than under the normal circumstances.

CUOMO: After today, what avenues do you think require pursuit?

LYNCH: Oh, I think they're a half a dozen to go back over--

CUOMO: True.

LYNCH: --back over to meetings. We were also given documents, not just the - the Trump's - President Trump's personal check, and the Trump Foundation check, but also financials that Michael Cohen delivered, so we think that Mr. Neal of the Ways and Means Committee will have to look at that.

If those are inconsistent with other filings that the President has made, it might give grounds for a court to say, "You know what? We need to see your tax returns. We need to - we need to compare these."

And - and, you know, if - if that comes, if there's a judicial decree that says that Congress has a right to your - to your tax returns, I think that opens up a whole new avenue of inquiry.

CUOMO: Thank you very much, Congressman.


CUOMO: I appreciate you coming in. You said it was a long day but a good day.

LYNCH: Yes, thank you.

CUOMO: Let's see the - it winds up being good for the American people. Thank you, Sir.

LYNCH: Good to be with you, Chris, thank you.

CUOMO: All right, so, now we want to get the opposite perspective. We've got Louisiana Congressman, Clay Higgins. I asked him to come back after, and he kept his word. Sir--


CUOMO: --pleasure to meet you in person.

HIGGINS: And I - I - I promised you a gift, and I brought them for you.

CUOMO: Oh, very nice, not until after this show though.

HIGGINS: Yes, that's right.

CUOMO: People think I had a few before every night. Let's so - let - let me not give them any more reason for speculation. So, you heard what Congressman Lynch said.

HIGGINS: Yes, my esteemed colleague.

CUOMO: He believed--

HIGGINS: Brilliant Gentleman.

CUOMO: --that Michael Cohen seemed credible today. To you?

HIGGINS: Well I think there's a - a divided, you know, measure of his - of his performance today is, I think, if you ask most Americans, they'll say at moments, he seemed credible, and sometimes, he did not.

[21:35:00] And my overall impression was that he's a deeply troubled man, and he's going through quite a disturbing period of his life, and it's reflective in everything that he does.

Most of his testimony was very carefully scripted. And I personally I felt for him. I think he's a man in a trap. And he's--

CUOMO: Did you believe him?

HIGGINS: --he's looking for a way out. I believed him sometimes. You know, I believe that--

CUOMO: Did you believe him about the President committing a felony while in Office and enabling his payments to these women and reimbursing him fraudulently?

HIGGINS: I believe that sometimes he believed that. I think other times he was--

CUOMO: But did you believe that it happened?

HIGGINS: --other times, he was, I believe, he was speaking scripted statements that were - that were designed for this venue, and - and for this particular hearing and setting. I should tell you that the--

CUOMO: But you were an investigator. So, you've done the work, Congressman. That's why I'm asking you.

HIGGINS: --yes, the most solid thing that he presented that - that has any meaning - I mean to - to present, you know, screenshots of tweets is - is yes, I would say, less than a credible piece of evidence that - but no one (ph) argue about.

CUOMO: What about the check with the signature on it, $35,000?

HIGGINS: Yes, the two checks were - the two checks were the - were the - the things he presented that had the most - it has the most impact. However, those - those checks - those, you know, those were disclosed in the President's financial disclosures from 2016 as a side note in his disclosures.

CUOMO: Right.

HIGGINS: And they were looked at by the Acting Director of the Office of Government Ethics at the time--

CUOMO: Was amended.

HIGGINS: --which was an Obama-appointee by the way.

CUOMO: Right. But it was amended.

HIGGINS: It - it was--

CUOMO: The financial disclosure was amended.

HIGGINS: But this does happen. But the point it was - it was disclosed and looked at, no. It doesn't mean that America doesn't deserve for it to be looked at further. And this is the - this is the nature of an investigation.

It - it moves forward of its own volition, and as evidence is presented, or perhaps, determines, a second look should be taken, and this is how our judicial process, imperfect though it be, is the best in the world, and - and everyone has - has a right to have their side of the story presented.

CUOMO: Well this is Congress, right? So, this isn't about a legal determination. It's going to be a political one. And it doesn't matter how strong or weak the case is, if men and women in Congress want to vote for or against, that's going to be their right, and their ability.

So, it's a little bit of a different situation. Your crescendo today was a back-and-forth about your concerns about Mr. Cohen's proof, and how he brought it to be. I just want to play it for the audience.


HIGGINS: You know, I'm quoting you close I can. Earlier you said I spent last week looking through boxes to find documents that would support your accusations. Where are those boxes, good sir?

COHEN: I'm sorry?

HIGGINS: Are they - where are those boxes are - in your garage or?

COHEN: They're in the storage.

HIGGINS: And they're - are - are these not boxes that should have been turned over to investigative authorities, during the many criminal investigations you've been subject to?

COHEN: Sir, these are the boxes that were returned to me post the raid.

HIGGINS: If they - if they include--


CUOMO: I didn't understand this because, look, I thought that you were very sympathetic. You actually set the tone that way.

I believe you were the first to say, in your opening statement, in your introductory remark to him, "Hey, I feel for your family. I'm sorry for what they're going through." And then, others followed you after that.

Kudos to you for doing that, a little civility goes a long way.

HIGGINS: Yes, sir.

CUOMO: But I didn't get this because he says, "I turned all this stuff over. They then gave it back to me. So now, I went through it to give you these things." So, he didn't keep these things from the Federal Authorities by at least--


CUOMO: --by the dent of his answer.

HIGGINS: Chris--

CUOMO: What were you getting out there?

HIGGINS: --with all due respect, I didn't take anything that Mr. Cohen said today at face value.

Just because he said something does not make it so. I mean the man's about to go to prison because he'd made false statements. And - and - and - and, again, I feel for him for that.

But it's - it's quite contrary. First of all, that small segment was time that was yielded to me by a colleague--


HIGGINS: --at a very short, short period of time, to get that - that question in, and then I followed up on it in my further statement as I questioned him about it.

It's very unlike in an investigation to - to - to seize evidence from the field, to harvest evidence from the field, and then return that evidence, while there's some ancillary investigation ongoing.

And the way he presented it, it was as if he had - he had searched through boxes somewhere, and that - and - and what was the - what was the - the nature of this evidence that so--

CUOMO: Yes, but, look--

HIGGINS: If there's evidence out there, we want it is my--

CUOMO: Yes. I got you.

HIGGINS: --is my point.

CUOMO: And he brought it to you. One of two things are true. Either, he just lied to Congress about what proof he was looking at, which means he's crazy, because he just set himself out to go to jail for longer.

HIGGINS: I surely didn't accept that at face value, and it's--

CUOMO: Well--

HIGGINS: --it's completely, unlike any investigation to--

CUOMO: But if he's telling the truth then you--

HIGGINS: --to seize evidence--

CUOMO: --you kind of beat up on him for no reason.

HIGGINS: --and then - and then return it. That's not the way things--

CUOMO: But if that is what happened, Congressman--

HIGGINS: --especially prosecutors (ph).

CUOMO: --then you made it look like he was doing something dirty when he wasn't. And this whole environment today was so stained by politics I was just surprised to see you go there. That's why I'm asking you about it.

[21:40:00] HIGGINS: Well the bottom line is that what we were - what we were looking for was - was - was truth, and it was within a - a venue that - that - that was quite politically charged.

CUOMO: A 100 percent.

HIGGINS: And - and - and the - and the Gentleman was making statements quite --quite anecdotal about his observations, and his quite conclusive, this is not the way court works, thank God in America. Both sides should be presented. Then - and we - we have the right, you know, to do so, and to be considered innocent until proven guilty.

Mr. Cohen today struck me as a man that was struggling to find a way out of a trap. And he - he allegedly was going to present some condemning evidence. And what - and the - he presented a great deal of - of documents that were quite meaningless with the exception of the checks.

It was never pointed out that these checks had been looked into by the - by - by the government prior by them - an Obama-appointed Director of Office of Government Ethics, and had been cleared. Now, again, that doesn't mean that America doesn't deserve that this should be looked into further. CUOMO: Right. Because it does - we don't know that they understood what they were.

HIGGINS: This is just the way the system works.

CUOMO: Here's one other thing I want to ask you about, then I'll let you go, and I appreciate it after such a long day. It was not surprising that the Right side of the aisle went after him for credibility.

Here's what I don't get. I think that you're right to go after credibility. But there is an obvious disconnect going on. The things that Cohen has lied about are the same things that our President has lied about in the past, and continues to do so. I've never--

HIGGINS: Well that's - that's your allegation.

CUOMO: Well I - I could go - we could go through--

HIGGINS: No, again, he has - he has the right--

CUOMO: --we could go through three of those six packs with me laying out--

HIGGINS: --we - we might do that.

CUOMO: --all the different lies.

HIGGINS: Perhaps we will.

CUOMO: But what I'm saying is--

HIGGINS: The - the point is we - we have the right to disagree about it.

CUOMO: A 100 percent.

HIGGINS: And that's what courts are for.

CUOMO: A 100 percent. But this isn't a court. This is Congress, it's Oversight, and it's fine.

What I'm saying is I've never seen outrage about what the President lies about like any of the outrage I saw from the Right today about Michael Cohen. Is that hypocrisy?

HIGGINS: Well I think you have to look for belief. And - and if - if we believe that that Michael Cohen, in our heart of hearts, was orchestrated into this - into this presentation today, which he was, by Lanny Davis, and I - unfortunately, I believe that our Chairman, who is a highly esteemed Gentleman I greatly admire, I believe he was - he was pulled into this thing.

I think the only - listen, I don't think America won today. I don't think it was any good for Michael Cohen. I don't think it helped - I don't think it - it - it helped to condemn the President in any way. And I do think it injured the integrity of the Oversight Committee.

And I think the only guy that perhaps won was Lanny Davis. His name has been dusted off again, and he's back - he's back in the--

CUOMO: He's a side figure on Cohen's team.

HIGGINS: --the focus--

CUOMO: He's not telling Cohen what to do.

HIGGINS: He - people watching him again now.

CUOMO: Well, he's watching because you guys--

HIGGINS: He's relative again.

CUOMO: --you guys brought him up as relevant. That's why. But Congressman--

HIGGINS: I am - I am not (ph).

CUOMO: --I appreciate you take - I think it's ironic that today, you guys went through this, on your wrist, you have a bracelet that says redemption on.

HIGGINS: Yes. I believe that. I think you feel that in my spirit.

CUOMO: Well--

HIGGINS: And I - and I seek the truth. We all should. The - the vitriol and division in our - in our nation, my friend, we must overcome. It's why I'm - I'm in your studio with you today.

CUOMO: I'm happy to have you here.

HIGGINS: That's why I brought you a cold beer.

CUOMO: And I'll tell you what, if you wait till the end of the show, there will be a few less.

HIGGINS: Thank you. God bless you, Sir.

CUOMO: Thank you for doing this. America need--

HIGGINS: Let's get to the bottom of this.

CUOMO: Absolutely. America needs more of you guys working to get their work done.

HIGGINS: Thank you.

CUOMO: So, thank you very much, Sir. Appreciate it.

HIGGINS: Yes, Sir.

CUOMO: All right, ahead, Cohen's warning for the President's loyalists in Congress. If you don't open your eyes, you're going to end up just like me. What did that mean? Next.








[21:45:00] CUOMO: All right, it was a big day no matter what color of partisan you're wearing these days. The American people, all of you, got to witness over seven hours of testimony from the President's disbarred former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. And the White House says, "Don't believe what you hear."

But Cohen wasn't just there to correct the record. He came with a warning to the people now in the President's inner circle. He said this. "You are going to suffer the same consequences that I am suffering."

Let's bring back Michael Isikoff, Laura Coates, and Garrett Graff.

Not so much for what he was talking about there. I didn't even really understand the point of the warning. But after listening to Higgins--


CUOMO: --and listening to Lynch, and understanding where their heads are on this, what do you see, Michael, as the chance of what happens going forward?

ISIKOFF: Well I do think the - the Democrats have to be careful here because, you know, Cohen's testimony was kind of scattershot.


ISIKOFF: You know, there - it was all over the map. And I think if you want to build a case against the President, you got to focus on exactly what you - that case is.

And, you know, if it's the campaign finance, that's fine. You know, we've been, although for the last two years, it's been Russia. So, I think that they have to sort of, you know, work through what it is.

But can I say, there were a couple of nuggets in Cohen's testimony that nobody has talked about yet which I want to--

CUOMO: Please.

ISIKOFF: --I want to bring up. First, the Trump Foundation. You know, he has this testimony, amazing testimony about this $60,000

painting that Trump wants, a portrait of himself, and he has a fake bidder bid on it at a Hampton auction. He uses the Foundation to pave - reimburse the fake bidder, and then he takes it for himself, clear- cut abuse of a tax-exempt charity.

The other one is his tax returns. Nobody's really talked about that. But there was a nugget in - in Cohen's testimony about how Cohen - about how Trump showed him at one point, about a $10 million IRS tax refund that Trump got in 2008.

Now, we've never heard about that before. But I think that's an - a really intriguing clue as to why Trump has not released his tax returns. You know, everybody thinks, you know, there are all sorts of reasons.

But if he's been getting refunds from the government, a multi-million, if not billionaire, that wouldn't sit well with voters, and that could well explain one of the biggest mysteries of the Trump Presidency.

CUOMO: Although I think those are the people who most often get the biggest tax refunds. So, look, could there be things there? Yes, it's all are going to be about getting the facts.

Now, Laura, you are the lawyer here. However, what you heard in Higgins there was reflective of the complexion of that entire room on the Right side of the aisle. "We don't believe it. And we are not going to be curious about it because we think this is all a mess on the American people."

Where do you go from there? How could any political process wind up yielding consensus?

COATES: Well it's really astonishing they took that particular road because you would think, just for the sake of saving face, to acknowledge the fact that there is somebody who has named the sitting President of the United States as a - essentially an unindicted co- conspirator in a felony, you would think it would give somebody pause to say, "You know what? I have to acknowledge it. I have to ask and follow this line of questioning."

[21:50:00] It's also problematic because its credibility game about who is more truthful or who's going to be the bigger liar. You've got quite a track record on both sides for with the President of the United States and Michael Cohen about these very issues.

What you don't have in terms of the credibility consensus about Trump versus Cohen is receipts. You have not just Congress is believing him. You have the SDNY who has used him as a cooperator.

CUOMO: Right.

COATES: You've got Mueller's team who's used him as a cooperator, which tells you that they're not going to say, "I'll take your word for it." They actually have information to corroborate it, particularly if you have a credibility issue. So, fact that Congress and a parallel investigation is simply

unwilling to yield on the issue of credibility when you've got very seasoned prosecutors, one of whom is on autopilot in New York, and the other who is part of the Mueller team, it's really disconcerting and unproductive.

CUOMO: More clear than ever that when Mueller ends, it is really just the end of the beginning.

GRAFF: Yes, and I think to disagree a little bit with - with Michael, I - I actually think that Michael Cohen, one of the things that he did for the American people today was to begin to put this together as a cohesive, credible narrative that we sort of talk about this, as WikiLeaks, the Trump Tower meeting, the campaign finance violations, the Trump Tower Moscow project, it's all the same thing.

It's all of the same people that - that one of the things that sort of Michael Cohen did today was sort of pierce this facade, where we sort of pretend that the Trump Organization and the Trump campaign is a Fortune 100 company with thousands of people and dozens of offices, and there - there's a chance that the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing, and that's just not true.

It's a bunch of people sitting in sort of the same office suite, most of them have the last name Trump, or are married to a Trump, and that one of the things that Michael Cohen began to say today is that the key players are all the same and--

CUOMO: Right.

GRAFF: --to add to what Laura's saying--

CUOMO: But I got to tell you this, I got to leave it there, but I'll just - just one little prediction that is a guarantee. If they start hauling in the President's children, you are going to see a different level of animosity--


CUOMO: --from him that we have ever seen before. And they have to make that calculation. They're not just other witnesses. They're not just other people with information. They're his kids.

Now, I know people will say, "I don't care. They were adults. He made the decision." If you're parents, you know what I mean, and it's going to matter even more in this context.

Michael, Laura, Garrett, thank you very much. What are you dying to say?


CUOMO: You all right?

ISIKOFF: No, I'm good.


CUOMO: All right.

ISIKOFF: We can set it out (ph).

COATES: Lost your chance.

CUOMO: Good. I was - let him the best - the last word--


CUOMO: --because he's the better mind.

All right, a few more reflections of what we learned today, OK? And there is a message for Congress in today, and I don't know that they're hearing it, but I'm hoping they get it when I say it, and I hope you echo it loud and clear, next.








CUOMO: You saw it today. Congress is all about opposition. The only vantage point by too many of these men and women is add vantage.

The partisan pandering, craven, and complete, as ugly as it is obvious, so much so that it has to make the term "Term limits" the rallying cry for a successful man or woman in the next national election. Let's come back to them.

We also learned things today that matter, not about Cohen and his remorse, or the President's character or lack thereof. I doubt many of his supporters ever really believed he was a man of integrity. His flaws made him a match for the flawed place they were sending him, and today, that showed.

What we learned is where we are headed. The Democrats are apparently pursuing two theories, trying to show the President participated in a felony by covering up payments made to Cohen as reimbursement for the hush-money paid to women to protect the campaign, a potential felony.

Impeachable? Hard to fathom how Republicans would get on board with that with the unanimous dismissal of it today. Not one of them offered up anything to prove the President did nothing wrong or actually did something right. But they all were on script insisting that "Cohen? Nothing to

believe." Now, the irony is both said that lying or that they used to lie in service to the same master, the President.

The second thing we learned is that the real ambition here is to show that the President knew about those around him contacting bad guys, lied about the same, and then frustrated the probe to keep it hidden.

But if Cohen were the ace in the hole on that, the Democrats have a garbage hand at this point, unless the Southern District is holding some big-time faceguards that show things to be real that are now largely speculative.

And then, the biggest challenge. There was no smoking gun today, but it's early, OK? I'm not sure what significant peril the President may face from today's events.

But there's still Mueller's report, the SDNY, New York State, additional oversight, all to come. And Republicans are saying nothing else can get done because of this obsession with Trump and Russia and impeachment.

Let's take that on. That's wrong. The reason nothing is getting done is because of their opposition. Proof of the problem. Today, the Democrats in the House passed Universal Background Checks. Eight Republicans voted with them, two Democrats voted against, so it's largely party line.

Now it goes to the Senate where it is assumed to be a dead letter. Why? The GOP cites that existing law is already sufficient. Remember that, because they put up a bill to make it illegal for doctors to kill newborn babies.

We don't have laws covering that already? Nonsense! You need to protect babies from doctors even though there's law at every level making it a crime to hurt a newborn? But you don't want to do background checks because of existing law, which does not cover every instance.

Come on. Stop the madness. Make a different choice. We all know Robert Frost - Frost's famous poem, right, The Road Not Taken. Two roads diverged in a wood. I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

We've been down the road of opposition. The country can't take much more of it. Our Congress has to work. You can fight over how bad a person the President is and do the work of the people at the same time.

You're right. There is other work to do. Today, we saw resistance to doing that work. Take the less traveled road by you people these days, do your jobs.

Thank you for watching. Let's give it right to CNN TONIGHT and Don Lemon right now right next to me. DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR, CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON: You sound like Elijah Cummings, his closing remarks, "We're better than this." We are better than this.

CUOMO: But he is part of that dynamic. And I thought today, look, you have to look at the Right. They had no curiosity about anything Cohen had. They get on the high box of "Credibility is everything," when they're backing a President, who certainly doesn't have good credibility.

The Democrats, though--