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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Cummings After Cohen's Testimony: "It Appears" Pres. Trump May Have Committed a Crime; Interview with Congresswoman Katie Hill, Democrat of California; Trump About to Meet with Kim Jong Un. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired February 27, 2019 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:24] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: A racist, a con man, a cheat. That's a description of the president of the United States from the man who was his attorney and fixer for a decade.
Good evening. Thanks for joining us on a big day here in Washington, D.C., where Michael Cohen testified publicly for the first time today about the president's alleged role in some of the crimes that are sending Cohen to prison in a few months.
There were a number of big takeaways from the day. The first, Cohen says the president asked him to pay off the porn star, who says she had sex with Trump and to lie to his wife, Melania about it and sign checks, checks he showed the committee, to reimburse Cohen after Donald Trump became president.
The second, Cohen said candidate Trump knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about WikiLeaks releasing stolen DNC e- mails. Roger Stone denies that, setting up, as he said -- a he said/he said between two known liars, essentially, with another known liar in the middle.
Another. Cohen said conversations about the Trump Tower project in Moscow went into the summer of 2016 and that the president directed the negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it.
A fourth, he brought Don Jr. much closer to wrongdoing in a number of ways, saying the president's son was briefed multiple times about that Moscow deal and strongly implied the president's son told the president about the infamous Trump Tower meeting promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. He also said that Don Jr. signed at least one of the hush money payment checks.
Cohen also hinted at other investigations or avenues of current investigations we don't know about, saying his last conversation with the president after his home and offices were raided were part of a Southern District of New York investigation and that he's aware of more wrongdoing, but can't talk about it, because of ongoing investigations.
Cohen also mentioned that the president said black people would never vote for him because, quote, they were too stupid, and that the president used money from his so-called charity to refund a fake bidder for a portrait of himself, all of which is pretty remarkable, if you stop and really think about it, but honestly, that's kind of a nightly thing these days. What makes today different and possibly significant is that what we heard today could spell big trouble for the president, because after the hearing, Chairman Elijah Cummings says it appears the president may have committed a crime while in office.
We begin with just a few of the many noteworthy moments from Cohen's day of testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: I am ashamed of my own failings and publicly accepted responsibility for them by pleading guilty in the southern district of New York. I am ashamed of my weakness and my 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. And he is a cheat.
REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: You made some very demeaning comments about the president that Ms. Patton doesn't agree with. In fact, it has to do with your claim of racism. She says that as a daughter of a man born in Birmingham, Alabama, that there is no way that she would work for an individual who was racist. How do you reconcile the two of those, Mr. --
COHEN: As neither should I, as the son of a Holocaust survivor.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: If this statement back here doesn't say it all, Cohen's consciousness of wrongdoing is fleeting, his remorse is minimal, his instinct is to blame others is strong. There's only one thing wrong with that statement. His remorse is nonexistent!
He just debated a member of Congress saying, I really didn't do anything wrong with the false bank things that I'm guilty of and going for prison for.
COHEN: Mr. Jordan, that's not what I said and you know that's not what I said.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will the gentlemen yield?
COHEN: I said I pled guilty and I take responsibility for my actions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentlemen's time has expired.
COHEN: Shame on you, Mr. Jordan. That's not what I said. Shame on you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman --
COHEN: That's not what I said. What I said is, I took responsibility and I take responsibility. What I was doing is explaining to the gentlemen that his facts are inaccurate.
I still -- I take responsibility for my mistakes, all right? I am remorseful. And I am going to prison. I will be away from my wife and family for years.
So before you turn around and cast more aspersions, please understand, there are people watching you today that know me a whole lot better. I made mistakes.
[20:05:01] I own them and I didn't fight with the Southern District of New York. I didn't put the system through an entire scenario. But what I did do is I pled guilty and I am going to be, again, going to prison.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Was Mr. Stone a free agent, reporting back to the president what he had done? Or was he an agent of the campaign acting on behalf of the president and with his apparent authority?
COHEN: No, he was a free agent.
SCHULTZ: A free agent that was reporting back to the president what he had done?
COHEN: Correct. He frequently reached out to Mr. Trump and Mr. Trump was very happy to take his calls. It was free service.
SCHULTZ: Roger Stone says he never spoke with Mr. Trump about WikiLeaks. How can we corroborate what you are saying?
COHEN: I don't know, but I suspect that the special counsel's office and other government agencies have the information that you're seeking.
REP. PAUL GOSAR (R), ARIZONA: So let's go back at this credibility. You want us to make sure that we think of you as a real philanthropic icon, that you're about justice, that you're the person that somebody would call at 3:00 in the morning. No, they wouldn't! Not at all!
You saw Mr. Comer dissect you. Right in front of this committee, you conflicted your testimony, sir. You're a pathological liar! You don't know truth from truth -- from falsehood.
COHEN: Sir, I'm sorry, are you referring to me or the president.
GOSAR: Hey, hey, this is my time! When I ask you a question, I'll ask for an answer.
REP. KATIE HILL (D), CALIFORNIA: Did the president call you while you were having a meeting with a reporter?
HILL: Did the president call you to coordinate on public messaging about the payments to Ms. Cliffords 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, with me now is the lawmaker you just saw from today's hearing, Congresswoman Katie Hill, Democrat of California, a member of the Oversight Committee. Thanks so much for being with us.
HILL: Thank you.
COOPER: I want to get to your question in just a moment, but after the hearing, Chairman Cummings said that he thinks that the president may have committed a crime while in office related to hush money. Do you agree?
HILL: I mean, that's certainly what it sounds like. And there are checks that would indicate that. I think that the next steps are finding corroborating evidence and seeing where it takes us from there.
COOPER: To find that corroborating evidence, who do you want to talk to most? Was it like Allen Weisselberg, the CFO of the Trump Organization?
HILL: That's certainly one that's on my list.
COOPER: Because it seems like he knows -- I mean, Michael Cohen was there for ten years. Allen Weisselberg was there this entire time, goes back to the dad.
HILL: Yes, I think that Allen Weisselberg is absolutely someone that we need to talk to. And I think Donald Trump Jr. is someone that it's looking more and more like is someone that we need to talk to. So, I think that we need to go back through all of the testimony that happened today, the lines of questioning, digest it and strategize kind of from here. It was a lot to take in.
COOPER: But you want to call Don Jr. and Allen Weisselberg?
HILL: I would like to. You know, I don't get to make that call, ultimately, but I think that that's certainly where my head is at right now.
COOPER: Just in terms of what stood out to you today, I mean, obviously, your vantage point is different than the viewers at home, what did you think were the most important takeaways?
HILL: I guess it depends on what you're looking for. I mean, one of the -- one of the big takeaways for me was that it really does look like a sitting president committed a crime, very serious crime, while he was in the Oval Office. And you know, all of the other pieces --
COOPER: And that crime is, is going through the with the hush payments, reimbursing Michael Cohen.
HILL: Correct, and directing somebody to lie to cover that up.
COOPER: Although he was directing him to lie to the press and the American public, which is not a crime.
HILL: Right, but to me, that still is kind of showing the intention to mislead the American public, specifically around the fact that he made these payments. So I think all of that is incredibly relevant and the fact that it happened and it was continuing to happen while he was in office is really, really problematic.
And we have to investigate that fully. That's our job. That's the oath we took.
COOPER: Obviously, the Republicans today, it was all about, you know, attacking Michael Cohen's credibility, which is obviously easy to attack, because he has lied repeatedly. It was interesting to me, you really didn't hear, maybe one Republican, but very few Republicans actually asking any questions about -- either defending the president or asking any questions about any potential illegalities or even the idea of the president paying hush money.
HILL: I think that's something we should read into on a couple of different fronts. The first is that they weren't explicitly defending the president's actions, which is pretty interesting. The second is, I have a really hard time with this, because as I mentioned in my statement, I come from a very long line of service members. Every single generation of my family has served all the way back to the revolutionary war and the oath that they take to the commander in chief is one that every single one of them has told me about, has talked about the importance and significance of it.
[20:10:07] And the Republicans -- my dad's a Republican, I come from half-Republican family -- they're supposed to be the party of patriotism and of loyalty to the Constitution. And you see my colleagues on the other side of the aisle who seem to be completely willing to brush that aside and make excuses and draw attention away from probably one of the most serious crimes that could be committed from the most powerful person in our country.
COOPER: Talk to me a little bit -- I mean, I think a lot of viewers at home and certainly even me watching, you know, online and on TV, get frustrated at, you know, some of the Congress people making a statement, not actually really asking, even on the -- I'm talking about on the Democratic side, not really even asking questions.
One of the things that stood out about you, and which is why I want to talk to you tonight, you actually zeroed in, in a very -- not in an attorney, but in a very lawyer-like away and got some interesting answers. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did the same thing in terms of actually getting answer, and others did as well, but there were a lot of just statements and repetition. It's frustrating.
Isn't stuff worked out in advance in terms of who's going to talk about what or focus -- or like ask, you take the Trump Tower meeting, you take -- that doesn't happen?
HILL: We do. We certainly try. I do think that sometimes, especially because there was a change in scope after we got his prepared testimony -- or his written testimony the night before, so suddenly more was on the table than it was previously. And I saw a lot of my colleagues, including myself, there's an initial temptation, oh, I want to talk about Russia now that Russia is back on the table, but I think because of that, there was a lot of, oh, how can I fit that into my questioning and I think people were sort of stepping on each other's toes around that.
But I decided that I wanted to stick to what is the potential crime that was committed in office and what evidence do we have around that? So, you know, I think it's hard when there's so many people to wrangle. The committee staff does as great as a job as could possibly be done in terms of making sure that all of the different questioning lines are hit, but each member has their priorities.
And there's so much kind of moral outrage around a lot of the things that have been done and they wanted to get that out in the open, as well.
COOPER: Well, you got some answers, which a lot of people didn't.
HILL: Thank you.
COOPER: U.S. Congressman Katie Hill, thank you very much.
HILL: Thank you.
COOPER: Plenty to talk about tonight. With me are David Gergen, Carl Bernstein, Abby Phillip, Gloria Borger, Jeffrey Toobin, Carrie Cordero, Kirsten Powers, and Rick Santorum.
Gloria, let me start with you. You know, I guess I'll run through with everybody, what are the headlines?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the headline, it comes from the congresswoman's questions, obviously. You know, what Michael Cohen described today was an Oval Office crime. And with Cohen saying that the president called him and said, look, I want to make sure that you say that I wasn't knowledgeable about these payoffs. Then we saw the incontrovertible evidence, signed by Donald Trump, $30,000.
That check is very meaningful. And there are a lot of things that strike me. You know, the Roger Stone apparently calling to talk about WikiLeaks. But one other thing that we also ought to keep in mind is that Cohen kept referring to Southern District of New York investigations. And he couldn't answer some questions about the president because they're being investigated by the Southern District. That would cause chills to me.
COOPER: Abby, Roger Stone calling the president saying, oh, I talked to Julian Assange. He may very well could have said that, it doesn't mean he actually spoke to Julian Assange. We all know that Roger Stone has an inventive imagination.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And Roger Stone uses that as part of his defense, that he's a person that sometimes makes things up or exaggerates situations. So that's one of the difficulties that Michael Cohen talked about in his testimony today. But I also think that some of the ambiguities about what Michael Cohen discussed in terms of how Donald Trump speaks and when Trump tells someone who works for him that he wants them to do something, what does that actually mean? Did the president actually direct you to do "X" or did he just repeat something and then you repeated it back to him?
I think that's a really important thing, because as we go into the political aspect of this, it's going to be difficult for Democrats to pin Trump down on that. I think Trump allies recognize that this is how the president behaves. He doesn't necessarily direct people to do things in an explicit manner. And it's going to be very difficult to make a case that Trump knew about certain things or that he told someone to act on his behalf because of the way that he speaks. And Michael Cohen made that very clear in his testimony.
COOPER: Jeff Toobin, from a legal standpoint?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: The evidence about his involvement with Michael Cohen's crimes is really strong. It's really strong. And most importantly, as Gloria said, it's corroborated. It's not just corroborated with one check, the one Donald Trump signed.
[20:15:05] It's with the other check that is signed by Donald Trump Jr. and Allen Weisselberg. What did they think they were signing for? And, you know, the fact that it was multiple checks, instead of being paid back all at once, suggests that they knew, as Cohen said they knew, that this was wrong. And they divided up the money so that it would not look as obvious a payback.
And all of this leaves the Democrats with a dilemma, which is, how far to go with this, because there are lots more areas to investigate if they want to go forward. If they want to see, does Federal Express have records of the checks going back and forth? Do they want to call Allen Weisselberg? If the Weisselberg and Donald Trump Jr. take the Fifth, do they want to give them immunity? I mean, and doing an investigation is hard and tedious and could take a long time.
And, you know, Elijah Cummings and the leadership is going to have to make these decisions. But, there's clearly a grounds for a much more extensive investigation.
COOPER: Carrie, just from a legal standpoint, what do you do?
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, one of the things that I'm most interested from a legal and a national security standpoint is the interaction with WikiLeaks. And Michael Cohen said today that he believed that Donald Trump had advanced knowledge, regarding the release of hacked information, so it relates to the crime of hacking the DNC and unauthorized access into Hillary Clinton and her campaign's e-mails. Cohen says Trump knew in advance.
And what's happening is that there is a two-week timeline in July of 2016 that is now becoming more clear when we connect information that is in the special counsel indictments of the Russian agents, combined with now other information that was revealed, including this new data point from Cohen today, that indicates that there really may have been back and forth communication between Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, Roger Stone, and multiple officials on the Trump campaign, including Trump himself.
COOPER: Senator Santorum, you're the only one shaking your head "no," so I don't want to --
RICK SANTORUM (R), CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMEENTATOR: First off, just to make a comment. There used to be a day, looking at David Gergen, when a president was in a summit, talking about nuclear arms, that we wouldn't do anything to undermine the president here at home. This is as -- I can't think of a worse undermining at a president, at a time when he's sitting with a foreign leader who has nuclear weapons. And no one seems to care about this.
The idea that they couldn't put Michael Cohen's testimony off a few days, so he gets back into the country, is reprehensible. Period. Stop. Full stop. It's reprehensible.
Now, to the points that were made. Number one, the idea that we're going to get an impeachment on a campaign violation reporting requirement, that even if it was true, the controlling precedent was that these types of payoffs were not campaign finance violations. Take the John Edwards case.
So I don't know how you have intent to do something if the only case on the matter shows that there is no campaign finance violation in doing so. So I don't think there's a crime -- there can't be a crime --
BORGER: Well, Trump Org could be accused of a crime for cooking their books, for example.
SANTORU: Well, they can be accused of a crime for cooking books and doing things, but they can't be accused of a crime, of violating a campaign finance law, when the only precedent out there at the time was that you're not -- it's not a violation of the campaign finance law, and one of the conditions of breaking the law is the knowledge you're breaking the law. So, you can't really have a crime.
COOPER: Kirsten, what do you --
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I feel this is the legal thing, actually. I mean --
CORDERO: So just to pick up on that point, so -- so I think Rick is correct in that there is not a wide body of settled law that the particular payments in question are campaign finance violations. The Justice Department is clearly taking the position that it is, because they charged and Michael Cohen pled guilty to that.
SANTORUM: The Edwards case says it wasn't.
CORDERO: But the Edwards case had different facts.
SANTORUM: Similar facts.
BORGER: Is it the right thing to do?
COOPER: David Gergen?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Let me first come in on the international point. I have been surprised, frankly, that the White House hasn't provided counterprogramming. I mean, the whole point of this trip was to get big headlines for the president, so I think there was some foundation for the Congress moving ahead on its side of things at the same time.
But why hasn't the White House had some announcement from there? They've been there and they had one full day --
COOPER: Well, frankly, does the White House know what the president and Kim Jong-un are talking about? We still don't know -- it's not clear they know what he talked about with Putin, it's not clear, you know, he's meeting with Kim Jong-un alone for a time.
GERGEN: Well, but you would think he would come out of this and instead of turning on television to watch this Cohen, that he would sit down and they would have some plan.
[20:20:06] In fact, they would have had a plan going into the meeting on what they wanted to come out. So I just think it was -- I have to tell you, I think they didn't serve the president well.
SANTORUM: I don't disagree with that. That doesn't put aside the fact that they did this hearing at a time --
GERGEN: You've got so many issues concerning Trump, you could spend almost any day you pick out, there might be some reason why you don't want to do it.
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, the whole spectacle today, that I think is very determinative, and that is for the first time, we get a feeling and get to see a massive presidential cover-up unraveling in front of us. In New York, with the Southern District, in today's testimony, in what Mueller knows, and all of these strands are starting to pull this ball of yarn. And we're going to learn an awful lot.
There are three road maps, at least. One in the southern district, one in the Congress of the United States, one in the Mueller investigation. There's also the Intelligence Committee meeting tomorrow.
COOPER: But can you really say that? We don't really know the details of the Southern District. And certainly, we don't know much on Mueller.
BERNSTEIN: We don't know exactly what it is that Trump has been lying about all these months, except that always he lies about Russia, as do those around him, asking about Russia. But what has been clear is that there's a cover-up going on.
SANTORUM: Where does he tell the truth?
BERNSTEIN: I ask you that.
SANTORUM: He lies about Russia, so where does he tell the truth? In your mind, he doesn't tell the truth about anything ever, so why is that inconsistent?
BERNSTEIN: Well, that's really significant.
SANTORUM: Well, there you go.
BERNSTEIN: That goes to the other thing about today's hearing, which it goes to questions about his fitness in terms of his character.
COOPER: All right, we've got to take a quick break. We're going to continue, a lot more ahead, obviously. We're going to check in half a world away where the president is meeting with North Korea's dictator. It's sure to have at least one eye on his former fixer's testimony. Jim Acosta is in Vietnam. He joins us next.
Also, today was not the last of Cohen's testimony on the Hill. Tomorrow, he appears before the House Intelligence Committee. We'll hear from two members of that committee, Republican and Democrat, about what they want to know.
[20:26:13] COOPER: So, the president claimed back in April that he didn't know about the $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about the sexual encounter she said she had with the president, then citizen Trump, husband Trump, father of a newborn Trump.
The president, of course, did know about the president. He's on record discussing it with Michael Cohen and according to evidence presented by Cohen today, the president wrote a check reimbursing him for the hush money after he took office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: And I'm 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. And this is exhibit 4 to my testimony.
Mr. Trump directed me to use my own personal funds from a home equity line of credit to avoid any money being traced back to him that could negatively impact his campaign. I am providing a copy of a $35,000 check that President Trump personally signed from his personal bank account on August 1st of 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 word used by Mr. Trump's TV 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The president is in Vietnam, meeting with North Korea's dictator.
CNN's Jim Acosta is there in Hanoi and joins us now.
So has the president responded to all of this, at all?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, surprisingly, no. If they have a war room for dealing with Michael Cohen's testimony, we haven't seen any signs of it. It's been more like a bunker in that the president hasn't really responded to Michael Cohen's testimony. We haven't gotten any kind of response from the White House.
The president's legal team, his outside legal team, has weighed in on parts of this, but not really in whole in terms of what Michael Cohen had to say and that damaging testimony, that explosive testimony that he delivered up on Capitol Hill.
Anderson, it is interesting, because just before Michael Cohen testified, the president put out a tweet saying that these things that Michael Cohen is in trouble for, bad things, unrelated to Trump, well, then Michael Cohen testified in front of Congress that this has to do with bad things very much related to Donald Trump. And then when reporters tried to ask the president a question about all of this, before he had dinner with the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, the president did not answer those questions and then those reporters were punished for asking those questions. Some of those reporters who were in that pool spray with the president when they tried to ask that question were blocked from the next pool spray.
So, the White House clearly was trying to punish those reporters for asking that question, and that all sets up the events of the day. The president is going to be meeting with Kim Jong-un shortly for their second summit here in Vietnam, to follow up on what they tried to hammer out in Singapore a year ago. It's not clear at all as to what the president is going to accomplish here on the nuclear arsenal front, when it comes to the North Koreans.
But no question about it, Anderson, he is going to be asked these questions about Michael Cohen's testimony and my guess is he's not going to be able to clam up like he did last night.
COOPER: All right, Jim, thanks. We're going to keep our eyes on the arrival of President Trump and Kim Jong-un. We'll bring that to you shortly.
Back now with our team.
I want to pick up on a conversation that Senator Santorum and Carl Bernstein were having before the break, questioning why people in the Trump orbit continue to lie about Russia. I mean, does it -- is there an explanation for you in this? Just the number of lies related to Russia, senator?
[20:30:01] RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I guess the point I was trying to make to Carl is the President doesn't tell the truth about a lot of things fairly consistently. And so the fact that he's not telling the truth about Russia fairly consistently, at least in the eyes of people around here, why is that any different?
I mean, it's not like he's doing something out of character with the Russia investigation that he's not doing in any other areas. So, that's -- so you make the point, "Oh, he lies about Russia all time." Well, according to what I hear on this roundtable and the network, he lies about everything all the time.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Is that really -- is that really the best defense you can come up with?
SANTORUM: No, but you're talking about --
TOOBIN: The fact that -- well, he lies about everything, your honor.
SANTORUM: No, no. Jeff, no, wait, stop.
SANTORUM: Because what he's saying is, and what the argument is, he's acting differently here than he is otherwise. In my point, it's not.
TOOBIN: There's a real --
SANTORUM: I'm not saying any of it's good, but the point is, he's not acting differently.
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There's a real specificity to his lying about Russia. There's a specificity to him drafting that statement on the plan. There's a specificity to almost all of the lies that try to contradict whatever that day's breaking news is, very specifically. He's on point. It's a very careful denial when it comes to Russia. There is a difference.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I have a somewhat different view from Carl, he and I don't usually agree on a lot of this, and that is I don't think that there was any knockout blow today, which is what the anti-Trump forces hoped.
GERGEN: And in regard to Russia, in fact, you know, it was a disappointment to the anti-Trump forces because what Cohen said -- everybody thought, "Well, maybe Cohen can implicate him and make him tie him to this." And so Cohen says, "I have no direct knowledge, I have suspicions." Well, that doesn't really add very much. It doesn't really add much weight to the Russian thing. You begin to think, "Who does know and where is the Mueller investigation?"
Now, I think what Cohen did was very helpful to the Democrats because he put a lot more fuel in their tank to do further investigations, because the Democrats had not advanced a coherent portrait of Trump and why they ought to have multiple investigations if the Mueller thing doesn't wind -- if its winds down. And now, I think he's pointing a painting portrait of -- credible portrait of Trump as a conman.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Kirsten, do you think he did himself a favor today by saying, "Yes, actually, I don't know anything on the Russia stuff. I have suspicion, but I don't know any facts." And even on the whole, like elevator tape question --
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
COOPER: -- he said, "Look, I don't think Mr. Trump would do that."
POWERS: Well, I think it undermined the idea that he's just there to say whatever the Democrats want to hear. That he is somehow has had this -- you know, he's decided that somehow it's going to be helpful to him to come and tell these stories about Donald Trump that they say are not true.
If that was the case, well, what would the Democrats want to hear more than anything else? They would have wanted to hear something relating to collusion and Russia. So I think to me it seems more genuine, frankly, that he has -- that he has actually had sort of a moment of awakening and realizing, looking back at his life and there's a lot of things that he's, you know, ashamed of. And at the same time, he's -- but he's not going to make up things.
COOPER: Although the flip side of that is he did say he didn't want to work at the White House, and based on numerous reporters and reporting and in the Trump kids tweeting, he did.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: He did want to work at the White House. And, you know, that's -- look, he would have liked to be White House chief of staff. He would have liked to work in the White House counsel's office. Trump had a conversation with him saying, "I'd like you to come over," but I think Trump knew that that wasn't going to occur because the children were not in favor of it and I don't even know if Donald Trump was in favor of it.
But to your point, Kirsten, I do think he balanced out the way he was so partisan at the beginning of his testimony where he said, you know, Trump is a conman, he's a cheat, he's a racist. And then at the end of his testimony, in his prepared comments, he also took on Trump in a personal way. I don't think that helped Cohen.
I think if Cohen had just stuck to the facts and what he knew and what he didn't know and then said, you know, "Donald Trump would never hit Melania," that was honest. That was honest. The beginning of it left me a little cold, because I felt like he just had to get his digs in there and I think for the general audience it may have been, "Oh, he's just part of the resistance." And that shouldn't be the case.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He did open up some interesting lines of questioning that might seem smaller in the context of the Russia investigation, which is so big and so all- encompassing.
But issues related to the charity, issues related to his businesses' tax returns, the insurance fraud issue, there were all of these little crumbs that were being dropped, that frankly the questioning could have explored deeper and never did that raise a lot of questions about the practices of Donald Trump as a businessman going back.
And while that may not be the purview of Congress over the next two years, it is approaching that red line that the President said is a bright line for him in terms of his businesses and his tax returns.
[20:35:10] And for Congress, for the Democrats, it does give them some reason to say, "Well, maybe we do need to look at these tax returns. Maybe we do need to go down further on some of these roads."
COOPER: I do want to play a line of questioning from a Republican Congressman Justin Amash. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JUSTIN AMASH (R), MICHIGAN: You've suggested that the President sometimes communicates his wishes indirectly. For example, you said, "Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress. That's not how he operates." Can you explain how he does this? And it's your impression that others who work for him understand the code, as well. What is the truth that you know President Trump fears most?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Kirsten, because out of the 17 Republicans today, it seemed like he was the only one who actually expressed some concern about the President's actions.
POWERS: Yes. He's kind of an outlier congressman, though, to a certain extent. He's somewhat libertarian-ish. He's very principled and I think that he -- and he's not a Trump supporter, either. So, he comes from a district that's kind of half and half, you know, half Democratic, half Republican.
So I think -- but that's an important point just I think about -- to say about the other Congress people that none of the Republicans seemed particularly interested in anything but discrediting Michael Cohen, which it kind of works both ways. If you're going to discredit Michael Cohen as being this absolute reprobate that you can't, you know, you can't trust anything he says. Well, he was the President's closest confidant and lawyer for 10 years.
COOPER: Right, for 10 years.
POWERS: So what is that mean?
COOPER: He picks the best people.
SANTORUM: Here's what I would -- I don't think there's any -- you take everything that Michael Cohen said, with respect to what used to be the four walls of this investigation. There's nothing of concern to me in anything he said, even, well, that Roger Stone said he talked to Julian Assange. Well, Assange said he didn't talk to Stone. Stone said he didn't talk to Assange. Trump said he didn't hear from him, and then you have Cohen.
OK, maybe there's some information -- even if he knew it, there's no -- how many times did a presidential candidate -- did someone come up to me and say, "Hey, I've got this really juicy bit and you need to go with it."
COOPER: Yes, I mean --
SANTORUM: The reality is you get this all the time. So I just don't believe that this is a problem.
COOPER: There were a lot of Democrats today, you know, with bags of popcorn expecting to see the crumbling of the Trump presidency. That, I mean --
TOOBIN: It didn't happen. And, you know, there was not a lot of progress made on the Russia investigation. I mean, the conversation with Roger Stone, if it took place, was somewhat ambiguous and Roger -- and you know, as far as I can tell and I've talked to Roger Stone about this, I actually believe they did have a conversation, but I don't believe that Stone spoke to Assange. I mean, both of them deny it. Assange is not someone you can just like call on the phone easily.
His conversation, he talked about with Donald Trump Jr., where he said overheard a conversation behind the desk, as he acknowledged, it was very vague. He thought it might have been about the Trump Tower meeting. But, I mean, he -- it was not something that I think you could say was incriminating.
You know, it's all well and good to say, well, it was just -- it was just the campaign finance violation. A, that's a crime. B, it's a crime that the Southern District has already said is a crime. And C, it may have tipped the election in the final days.
SANTORUM: The only reason the Southern District got that conviction, they could have gotten him to plead guilty to far worse things than a campaign finance reporting violation, but the only reason they got him to do that is so they could bring in Trump. Let's just be honest about this, that's the only reason they wanted to do this. TOOBIN: Not because he was guilty of a crime.
SANTORUM: Because can I tell you, every campaign finance violation that I've ever heard of, and I've been aware of a lot of them, get fines. You don't get indicted for a campaign finance violation. You get a little fine.
COOPER: But isn't this a kind of a special kind of campaign finance violation.
SANTORUM: Well, they're making it a special kind of campaign finance violation, when in fact I don't believe there is one. If you look at the (INAUDIBLE), there isn't.
COOPER: But, I mean, how many times is it a candidate paying off a porn star to be President of the United States?
SANTORUM: Well, at least one other -- well, not a porn star but, you know, somebody else it does. But here --
BERNSTEIN: Well, I mean, it takes place several days before the election, the most crucial period.
SANTORUM: OK, but what is the most important requirement? It did take and that's very important, why? Because according to campaign finance laws, they would not have had to disclose that payment until after the campaign. That's the time frame they had to disclose it. So it would not have had any impact, even if they did file (INAUDIBLE).
COOPER: All right, we've got to take a break. Michael Cohen is not finished on Capitol Hill. He's scheduled to appear tomorrow before a closed-door session of the House Intelligence Committee.
Coming up, we'll talk to two members of the committee, Republican and a Democrat, about what they expect to hear. And more on today in a heated moment where one member accused the other of using a guest in the room as a racial prop. It did not end there. We'll show you what happen.
[20:42:31] COOPER: Michael Cohen isn't finished on Capitol Hill, not quite yet. He's set to appear tomorrow behind closed doors before the House Intelligence Committee, which now, of course, has a Democratic majority.
Joining me here tonight, Illinois Democrat Mike Quigley and Utah Republican Chris Stewart, both members of that committee. We're going to have a busy day tomorrow. Thanks so much both for being with us.
Congressman Quigley, you heard -- I assume you watched today's testimony. Is it going to influence your approach tomorrow?
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D), ILLINOIS: No, I don't think so. I think what you'll see is a lot more detail, a lot more corroboration. COOPER: Unfortunately, we won't see it, you'll hear it.
QUIGLEY: Well, eventually you'll see it and a lot more discussion. I think about Russia and Trump Tower Moscow.
COOPER: That's going to be the focus, you think, Russia, Trump Tower Moscow?
QUIGLEY: I think there'll be a lot more focus on those things than what you saw today. There'll be other things, a lot of what you saw today, but the details of it following up with documentation.
COOPER: Congressman Stewart, when -- first of all, what are you hoping to get out of tomorrow?
REP. CHRIS STEWART (R), UTAH: Well, I didn't watch it today and I chose not to watch it and it turns out I had a busy day anyway. I wanted to go into this and make my own observations to be able to see him face to face and make some evaluations and not have it filtered through other, you know, other people. There are certain things that I certainly want to ask of him.
The first and most obvious is can you share with us any observations regarding collusion or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, which was the genesis of this investigation and the thing that Intel is hopefully focused on. I want to know, did he travel to Prague, can he verify any information that was the accusations made in the Steele dossier, for example.
I'd like to ask him this, and I think this is critical, and I think all of us would agree with that, and that is, are you telling us anything different or anything new that you haven't told Mr. Mueller, because I'm relying heavily on the Mueller investigation. He can do things, he has resources, he has capabilities and time that we haven't had.
And last thing, if I could, and this is a personal thing. The one thing I did hear him say is how he described President Trump as being this hateful, bigoted person. And I would ask him, why did you keep working for him if that's the way he was and why didn't you tell anyone. Why are you telling this is now and not two years ago before the election?
COOPER: But, I mean, some of those things he answered today. I assume you'll, you know, you'll be briefed on or will follow up in advance on. You know, he said he wasn't in Prague. He said he doesn't know much about the collusion stuff. What's interesting, though, about your questions is, you actually have specific questions for him today, one of the really stark things was Democrats had, you know, statements to make and also then questions.
[20:45:03] The Republicans really were just going after his credibility, trying to knock that down, not actually really asking a lot of questions. So I think, is that the -- I mean, it seems like when it's behind closed doors and the cameras aren't present, it's a different kind of hearing. STEWART: This is a very different kind of hearing. And I didn't mean to jump, you can answer this as well. But, A, it is very different, which is one of the reasons that many of us love the work we do on the interior committee.
STEWART: The format is different. We take it in one-hour block, one hour, one hour, 30 minutes, 30 minutes and anyone can ask a question. You can take as much time as you want.
COOPER: It seems like -- today, what was frustrating I think for a lot of viewers is oftentimes on the Democratic side somebody would make a statement for --
STEWART: Five minutes.
COOPER: -- five minutes, almost, of their five minutes, it seemed like. And, you know, you couldn't help but feel some of that is just for the cameras or for local news back home or something.
STEWART: Some of it, really, you think?
COOPER: Well, I'm trying to be polite. I mean, you know, I want to be respectful.
QUIGLEY: I think he did reference two points to deal with collusion and conspiracy, when he talked about Roger Stone having discussed a conversation with Julian Assange and here come the -- we're going to get this information that's going to nail Hillary Clinton.
COOPER: But that's Roger Stone saying he discussed -- I mean, Roger Stone says a lot of things, doesn't mean it's true.
QUIGLEY: But it's Cohen reference, Oh, but let's add the fact that Roger Stone said those things, too, publicly, right? Mr. Podesta is next in the barrel. He bragged publicly in Florida about his relationship with Julian Assange. So I don't think you take one element of this investigation and believe it. And then he also referenced the discussions about the son referencing --
COOPER: Right, Don Jr.
QUIGLEY: -- the meeting in Trump Tower, that meeting is going to happen. He also said something that's absolutely critical that Steve Bannon referenced, that there is absolutely no way things happened of this magnitude through the Trump organization then and now the Trump presidency without him knowing about it.
Steve Bannon said, there's no way that Trump Tower meeting takes place without the son going straight to the dad afterwards. That's the thing I believed the most in his testimony today.
BORGER: There's one thing I want to know that wasn't asked today. And I'm wondering if you're going to ask it or if you're going to ask it. Are you going to ask whether Michael Cohen was offered a pardon? STEWART: Yes, I'd be happy to answer that.
BORGER: Yes. Well, go ahead and then tell us.
STEWART: Pretty sure I can speculate on the answer on that. But I want to come back on what Mr. Quigley said and this is the challenge we have. And we have I think a better opportunity to do that and that is you have to evaluate the entirety of the evidence. The fact that Mr. Cohen said it today does not make it true, surely you know that. Surely you know that the fact he said it today does not make it true.
COOPER: Of course, given his past record.
STEWART: Given his past history. And you have to evaluate that against what we do know is true, what other witnesses have said, the other evidence that we have against that. And, again, we have a much better opportunity to do that because we can do it in one-hour blocks and compare transcripts before, et cetera, et cetera, that you just couldn't do it today.
PHILLIP: But, Congressman Quigley, do you have reason to believe that Michael Cohen knows more about those two incidents? For example, the conversations with Roger Stone about WikiLeaks and the Trump Tower meeting? I mean, do you have reason to believe that he actually has more concrete information about these things than he shared today?
QUIGLEY: Well, we're going to find out. There's documentation that he's going to be sharing, communications that he had. So I anticipate that will be along those lines. I just want to add, I think the testimony today accentuates and fits very well with what we have learned so far. If you took everything that we have seen and heard for over two years now in this investigation, the testimony today was even more believable, because it fit in time and sequence.
What happened just shortly after that discussion that he referenced today when Roger -- when he was on the phone with Roger Stone. What, seven days later, he makes the pronouncement, "Russians, if you're listening, let's go after those 30,000 e-mails." And he put it in concert with all the other testimony and witnesses we've had, it's starting to make sense. The puzzle is starting to fit. And it's one of collusion and conspiracy.
TOOBIN: Can I ask that you both have been steeped in this investigation for some time. This is not the first witness you're going to hear. Do you think Donald Trump was a Russian asset?
QUIGLEY: I believe that the President of the United States had one of two things taking place. Either he was compromised, and I believe it will be financially, or he was using -- and this may be what's more scary. He was using his candidacy and the notion that he could become president to personally profit and the greatest questions tomorrow in that mind will be about Trump Tower Moscow. Because what was taking place?
We now know that that deal was on -- was out there through the campaign. So while he's questioning the credibility of NATO, using Putin's talking points, and while he's seeking relief of sanctions for the Russians, he is pursuing a deal that required the relief from those sanctions that would profit him millions and millions of dollars. I think that's the question.
[20:50:10] COOPER: Congressman?
STEWART: Look, Mr. Quigley is a friend of mine. I respectfully disagree. I think if you think and are supposing, based especially on testimony today, that Mr. Trump was a Russian asset, I think you frankly have lost entire perspective on this. And I think the best evidence of that is once again, I go to Mr. Mueller, who I've always supported, who I think is doing a professional job on this, and I ask you, what accusations has he made against any U.S. citizen and Russian collusion or Russian conspiracy? And the answer is zero.
And I think anyone who would make that accusation is saying, this President is a Russian asset, in a serious way, has been so corrupted by their dislike for this President. And, if I could, I have to come back to this point. Mr. Mueller has not made any accusations regarding this. And you can say, well, perhaps he was running to enrich himself.
Well, A, it may not be a good idea, it's not a crime. And, B, dozens of people have done it. How many people have run for president knowing that they would not win, but they wanted to increase their own credibility, their own public perception --
QUIGLEY: Yes, but this is a lot more direct.
COOPER: There's also a difference between increasing your potential speaking fees on a lecture circuit by running for president than there is potentially building a, you know, profiting hundreds of millions of dollars --
STEWART: Well, how does he profit --
QUIGLEY: The special counsel has --
COOPER: According to Michael Cohen.
QUIGLEY: Special counsel has teed this up for you. He has referenced in court filings as other districts have, the Manafort direct contacts with a Russian where he's giving him polling data and he's talking about a Ukrainian peace deal that would benefit the Russians.
STEWART: OK, I've got to answer this --
COOPER: We've got to go, but very quickly, I want you to response.
STEWART: OK, very quickly. Tell me a policy, not a statement, a policy this President has done that favors Russia, because he's far harder on Russia than any president has been.
QUIGLEY: He slow balled the sanction, the rollout of sanctions. He has continually --
STEWART: He's increased funding for NATO, sending kinetic weapons to the Ukraine.
GERGEN: What happened in Helsinki?
STEWART: Energy policy. All of those are meaningful things that hurt Russia.
COOPER: All right. Appreciate both of you and I know you have a busy day tomorrow, so thank you.
Let's check in with Chris to see what he's working on. Chris?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good for you, Anderson, having Quigley and Stewart there. Let me tell you, that showed a unity of commitment to dialogue that we did not see at all in the hearing today. And in fact, I think it belies the road ahead.
What we're going to do tonight is take a forensic look at the challenge for each side. The challenge for the Democrats is they obviously have theories they want to proceed on. Where is the proof? How will it come? When would it come?
For the Republicans, they're all about credibility, but you couldn't hear any of them today defending what this President has said and done. And they're going to have problems going forward, but the opposition is clear. So we're going to break down what the future holds.
COOPER: All right, that's seven minutes from now. Chris, I'll see you then.
Right now, I want to show you live pictures from Hanoi, Vietnam. President Trump, North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-un have arrived at a hotel for another meeting. There'll be translators from both countries in the room for the bilateral meeting.
Earlier, the President praised the dictator as a great leader whose country has tremendous economic potential. When asked whether he planned to declare an official end to the Korean war, the President said, "We'll see." We will see.
Coming up next, the heated exchange between a Republican and Democrat on the Oversight Committee today and accusations of racism.
[20:56:10] COOPER: Well, the accusation from Michael Cohen today that the President is racist led to some heated moments and one person's appearance in the committee room was connected to the drama.
Longtime Trump organization employee, Lynne Patton, who now works at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, was a guest from Republican committee member, Mark Meadows, sitting behind Meadows. Obviously, Meadows is one of the President's allies in Congress, a Republican. At one point, Meadows went after Cohen by using Ms. Patton. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: You made some very demeaning comments about the President that Ms. Patton doesn't agree with. In fact, it has to do with your claim of racism. She says that as a daughter of a man born in Birmingham, Alabama, that there is no way that she would work for an individual who was racist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, hours later, a Democrat who was on the committee took issue with that moment. Here's Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib when it was her turn to talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D), MICHIGAN: The fact that someone would actually use a prop, a black woman, in this chamber, in this committee, is alone racist in itself. Donald Trump is setting --
MEADOWS: Mr. Chairman, I ask that her words be taken down.
TLAIB: I reclaim my time.
MEADOWS: Mr. Chairman, I ask that her words when she's referring to an individual member of this body, be taken down and stricken from the record. I'm sure she didn't intend to do this. But if anyone knows my record as it relates, it should be you, Mr. Chairman.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The Democratic Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings stepped in, asked the Congresswoman if she wanted to rephrase what she said, she insisted that it was the action of Meadows that she found racist, not that he himself is racist. And Meadows had his own rebuttal (INAUDIBLE).
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TLAIB: I do not call Mr. Meadows a racist. I am trying as a person of color, Mr. Chairman, just to express myself and how I felt at that moment. And so just for the record, that's what was my intention.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: All right. Is that all right? Mr. Meadows?
MEADOWS: Mr. Chairman, there's nothing more personal to me than my relationship -- my nieces and nephews are people of color.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, tonight the controversy isn't over. Video and audio from years ago is now being seen in a new light, something Congressman Meadows said about another president.
Sunlen Serfaty joins us from Capitol Hill with that. So it seems like this was settled during the meeting. What are you learning now?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, certainly some new scrutiny over things that Mark Meadows has said in the past. This is first and foremost something that he said seven years ago, back in 2012, about then President Barack Obama.
It was something at the time that was quite controversial and it was reported on by many outlets, but certainly given that very emotional back and forth, an high-profile back and forth at the Cohen hearing today, it certainly is getting a fresh look today. Here's first what Mark Meadows said back in 2012.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEADOWS: What we're going to do is take back our country. 2012 is the time that we're going to send Mr. Obama home to Kenya or wherever it is. We're going to do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SERFATY: Now, in the aftermath of that comment, he was asked about this at the time, and he attempted, it seems, to walk it back. He told "roll call" in an interview in 2012, of those comments, it was a poor choice of words on my part, more than anything else. I believe he's an American citizen that, of course, in reference to Barack Obama.
And today we did reach out to Mark Meadows' 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, of course, ask -- keep asking them and we'll let you know when we get a response.
COOPER: Yes. We should also point out that Congressman Meadows and Congressman Cummings both expressed their close friendship today. We'll continue to follow it.