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From Fixer to a Defector; Michael Cohen Peels President Trump's True Color in Public; Great Economy in Exchange of Denuclearization. Aired 11-12a ET

Aired February 27, 2019 - 23:00   ET



[23:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Slamming the president as conman, racist, and a cheat, accusing him of engaging in illegal activities before and after his election.

Republicans doubling down on their attacks on Cohen repeatedly reminding him that he is a convicted felon who will soon begin a three-year prison term for lying to Congress, among other crimes.

Here is some big moments from Cohen's testimony.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. 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 conman, and he is a cheat.

SEN. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: So, let me make sure I understand. Donald Trump wrote you a check out of his personal account while he was serving as president of the United States of America to reimburse you for hush money payments to Miss Clifford, is that what you are telling the American people today?

COHEN: Yes, Mr. Chairman.

REP. KATIE HILL (D), CALIFORNIA: Did the president call you to coordinate on public messaging about the payments to Miss Clifford 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.

REP. PETER WELCH (D), VERMONT: You testified, you're actually meeting with Donald Trump in July of 2016, when Roger Stone happened to call and tell Mr. Trump that he had just spoken to Julian Assange, is that correct?

COHEN: That is correct. It was a short conversation, and he said, Mr. Trump, I just want to let you know that I just got off the phone with Julian Assange and in a couple of days there is going to be a massive dump of e-mails that's going to severely hurt the Clinton campaign.

WELCH: So, Mr. Trump was aware of the upcoming dump before it actually happened.


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 are about justice that you are the person that somebody would call at three o'clock in the morning. No, they wouldn't. You are a pathological liar. You don't know truth from falsehood.


COHEN: Sir, I'm sorry.

GOSAR: No, this is my time.

COHEN: Are you referring to me or the president?

REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: How long have you worked for Donald Trump?

COHEN: Possibly a decade.

JORDAN: All those bad things, I mean, it's that bad, I can see you working for him for 10 days. Maybe 10 weeks or maybe even 10 months. But you worked for him for 10 years. Mr. Cohen, how long did you -- how long did work in the White House?

COHEN: I never worked in the White House.

JORDAN: That's the point, is it Mr. Cohen?

COHEN: No, sir.

JORDAN: Yes, it is.

COHEN: No, sir.

JORDAN: Yes, it is.

COHEN: No, it's not, sir.

JORDAN: You wanted to work in the White House.

COHEN: No, sir.

JORDAN: You didn't get brought to the dance. COHEN: My loyalty to Mr. Trump has cost me everything. My family's happiness, friendships, my law license, my company, my livelihood, my honor, my reputation and soon my freedom.

CUMMINGS: It's very painful. You made a lot of mistakes, Mr. Cohen. Hopefully, this portion of your destiny will lead to a better, a better, a better Michael Cohen, a better Donald Trump, a better United States of America and a better world.

And I am hoping that all of us can give back to this democracy that we want and we should be passing to our children so that they can do better than what we did. We have got to get back to normal. With that, this meeting is adjourned.


LEMON: There you go. So, I want to bring in now Ryan Lizza, Shimon Prokupecz, Susan Glasser, and Elie Honig. What a day. What a day. Hello, everyone. So, we spent last night coming through this testimony, we got it and he read everything that we got last night. What was the biggest thing for you today?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: For me was that the Southern District of New York, the SDNY is continuing to investigate things that I think what was -- what should be more worrisome for the president are things that Michael Cohen cannot talk about because of the ongoing investigation by the Southern District of New York.

I certainly did not expect him to even intimate in any way that he's continuing. He basically said he's continuing to cooperate with the Southern District of New York. He was providing information. There was a point when he was discussing a conversation that he maybe to have with the president after the raid, two months after the raid or someone --


LEMON: I can't talk.

PROKUPECZ: I can't talk about it.


[23:04:58] PROKUPECZ: -- because it is under investigation. Those were the shocking moments today.

LEMON: Yes. So, Elie, let's talk about that. Does the president face potentially more legal exposure, maybe potentially criminal charges here if you have listened to what Michael Cohen said today?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I don't think the southern district is going --


LEMON: If it's true. HONIG: -- to buck the DOJ policy against indicting a sitting president. But I do think DOJ can do a lot of damage and can pass their findings onto Congress and potentially can lodge an indictment under seal to be sealed when his term in office ends.

But I think in a lot of sort of structural way the southern district poses a more serious threat to Mueller. Look, Mueller is running out of time. Just as a political reality. I think we all know that. He's in the process of wrapping up. It's been reported by Shimon and others.

The southern district is going nowhere. They'll be there for a long, long time. Mueller is cabin in what he can look at. He can look at Russian interference and related issues. The southern district can look at any financial issues, inaugural or Trump org wherever the evidence takes the southern district they can go. Coming out of that office, I know that that office is relentless.


HONIG: And won't quit till they get their target.

LEMON: Susan, I know you were struck by Cohen's repeated admission that Trump never told him to lie. Why is that?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, look, I mean, I think it points out one of the challenges for anybody who's hoping to pin Trump down. Now, again, the president we presume is not going to be indicted while he's in office following the Justice Department policy. So, the question is whether Congress will ever get so far to pursue proceedings against him.

But, you know, Michael Cohen on the one hand painted a devastating portrait of Trump and Trump world. Right? On the other hand, he said that's not how Trump works. He said it over and over again. He doesn't just tell you -- Don, lie for me.

LEMON: Right.

GLASSER: Right? You know, he makes it clear. He said, Michael Cohen said he speaks a code and I know what the code means.

LEMON: Well he just gives you the talking point. Right?



GLASSER: He says, I love that tie, that's the best tie that ever was.

LEMON: Yes. That's the best tie that ever was and people should wear those ties, wear a red and blue tie. And they know those are the marching orders and those are the talking points go off and --


GLASSER: Right. But that's not necessarily easy to prove --


GLASSER: -- which is why, you know, the fact that he finally produced some documents that he showed these two checks with Trump's signature on it for while Trump was in office.

LEMON: And you're reading to him the text book. Because I want to ask him about that, let's talk about the checks. So, let's put it up, OK? This is August 1st of 2017. There is a lot going on that day. The mooch had been fired the day before. That was by John Kelly. Seriously.


LEMON: The story about dictating Don Junior --


LEMON: -- Trump Tower statement from Air Force One had just broken. There was an awful lot going on. Meanwhile, the president, President Trump was in the White House that day apparently signing this check to reimburse hush money or bribe money, whatever you want to call it, for a porn star.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Very busy summer of 2017. Well --


LEMON: That was a priority. He got to sign this check, whatever, there's all this stuff going on.

LIZZA: Yes. We've really never seen anything like this the president, you know, paying off a debt to someone who's later convicted when this is part of a criminal plot. I mean, just to take a step back, though. I think -- I don't think there was any one single thing that Cohen brought today that was a knock-out revelation.

I think it was just the enormity of the detail that he added to all the investigations that we know have been going on. Right? He added new contexts to the Stormy Daniels situation and put Trump more of the center that then we knew. Right, with the checks that he shows.

Added more contexts in Trump's role in the Wiki -- in what he knew about WikiLeaks. A little bit more meat on the bone about what he -- how he told and how he directed or indirectly told Cohen to lie to Congress. So, we know that story a little bit better now.

And a little bit more about his role and finally something new which is potential fraudulent loan obtained from Deutsche Bank. That's a whole new box that has opened today. And so, and then he just gave a general sort of devastating character take down of someone he knows intimately.

And at the same time, I think there's one thing we haven't talked about today is he also cleared up some of the really kind of far out stuff that all of us as journalists have been chasing for a long time.

LEMON: What do you mean?

LIZZA: And if you believe Michael Cohen, he shot down a lot of stuff that had been tantalizing a lot of the press.

PROKUPECZ: The tape.

LIZZA: The infamous tapes in -- what did you call, Shimon?

PROKUPECZ: The P tape.

LIZZA: The infamous tape from Moscow. He said he doesn't think that exist. This tape about an alleged incident in an elevator, right, with Melania. He said he doesn't think that exist.

LEMON: There's no one ever talked about it. I don't even -- I don't ever quite frankly remember hearing about it.


LIZZA: It's the first time it's become public.

LEMON: I had never heard about that. And I actually don't believe that. That would be --


LEMON: -- well, those things happened.


LIZZA: Well, that's what he said, he didn't believe it.

LEMON: But I don't see him as that kind of person.

LIZZA: But a lot of people have -- that's been circling for a long time. So, I think that, you know, that's useful that he shot some of that stuff down as well.

LEMON: Yes. But here is the thing. OK, so, and you said he gave some clues to well, this is going to be an investigation. The check that is evidence. That's receipt. But how much of what he said can be corroborated.

[23:10:02] PROKUPECZ: So, when it comes to hush money payment, it's very clear that prosecutors have a very strong case. You have checks, he recalls specific conversations he had with the president with his CFO over the Trump Org, Allen Weisselberg.

That is pretty damming evidence against the president and that he was involved in the scheme. The Southern District of New York have said that they basically implicated the president on that.

The things where it gets a little murky in terms of the evidence is the Roger Stone conversation, the Don Jr. and his recollection about whether or not the president remembered or the president knew about the Trump Tower meeting. It gets a little murky there because really, outside of perhaps the president and Michael Cohen, there is no one that can corroborate it.

LEMON: See, you guys are saying, but, I mean, let me ask the evidence guy here. What if they -- what if they got phone records?

HONIG: Yes. I got a follow-up checklist to share it with Congress, right?

LEMON: Right.

HONIG: Let's take the call, alleged call from Roger Stone about WikiLeaks and get that phone record, right?

LEMON: Right.

HONIG: If Cohen is able to put it within a couple of days span in July of 2016. If there is a record showing Roger Stone calling into Trump Tower, great. Talk to the secretary. I think people can identify him on phonograph. She was allegedly there too.

There are things you can do to follow up. Some of these there is nothing you can do. The conversation that Cohen said he overheard were Donald Trump, Jr. went around the desk -- there's -- unless there is a hidden video camera, that will never be corroborate a bull. But some of the -- some of the stuff --


LEMON: No, they can track their cell phones and see where --

HONIG: Yes, right, and step by step. But the other thing is, and Ryan mentioned the bank loans. Right.


HONIG: And Cohen I thought this was interesting, gave evidence about how Trump would inflate his asset, inflate his income when he was trying to get bank loans. That is just a bank fraud 101. That's the kind of case you would get in your second year at the U.S. attorney's office.

LEMON: He provided documents to show that.


HONIG: And pull those records.

LEMON: I got to get this in before we ran out of time. I just want to play this, because Susan -- Susan was struck by Cohen talking about threatening people. Right? Let's play some of that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you even seen Mr. Trump personally threaten people with physical harm?

COHEN: No. He would use others.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He would hire other people to do that?

COHEN: I am not sure that he had to hire them, they are already working there. Everybody's job at the Trump Organization is to protect Mr. Trump. Every day, most of us knew we are coming in and we were going to lie for him on something. And that became the norm. And that's exactly what's happening right now in this country and it's exactly what's happening here in our government, sir.


LEMON: What does that say to you, Susan?

GLASSER: You know, that was one of the most powerful moment for me today. Because I think overall, as Ryan said, it was an overall devastating portrait of this toxic culture of lies and misdeeds inside the president's world essentially.

And there was no one single revelation is the idea that the president of the United States is coming to us from a business organization that operated like a crime family. That we were threatening so many people at it.

At a different point in questioning, Michael Cohen was asked how many times did you threaten people on behalf of Donald Trump? Fifty times? No. A hundred times? No.

LEMON: Two hundred.

GLASSER: Two hundred times? No. Five hundred times is where he ended up testifying under oath.

LIZZA: One final thought.

LEMON: Yes. Quick. Quick, quick, quick.

LIZZA: I think to be honest, though, I think the most shocking thing to me today is we all know a lot of this stuff about Donald Trump.


LIZZA: A lot of it is not surprising. The most shocking thing is that there was not a single Republican --


LIZZA: -- on the panel who seemed to care.

LEMON: Very good point. That's a very good point.

And also, we got to talk about Matt Gaetz. Remember?

PROKUPECZ: Yes. LEMON: He threaten exposing some sort of women or whatever he was saying --


PROKUPECZ: Walking a lot of the facts on track --

LEMON: Yes. Alleged girlfriends. Apologizing, saying he says that "leave the Cohen family alone."

PROKUPECZ: Yes. So, he --


LEMON: I'm sorry. Come on. Can you believe this guy.


PROKUPECZ: But it's a little too late.

LEMON: Come on. And then he shows up today like high-fiving people.

PROKUPECZ: I think people were sympathetic to Michael Cohen today.


PROKUPECZ: And I know that he necessarily was ready for that. I think Michael Cohen came off sympathetic, certainly when he spoke about his parent, his dad a Holocaust survivor and he talked about his family. I mean, he cried.

LEMON: Can I ask you something? So this is beyond -- everyone talks about credibility issues, was he believable?

PROKUPECZ: For me? I thought he was.

LEMON: Was he believable?

LIZZA: He was absolutely believable. And he's done what a lot of people who get in trouble don't do. He's apologized and he's going to pay a price for it.

LEMON: Believable?

GLASSER: He was. And I'm wondering how angry Donald Trump is sitting there in Vietnam at these Republicans on the committee who didn't defend him today.


GLASSER: He can't be surprised that they just talked about Michael Cohen and not about Donald Trump.

LEMON: Was he believable?

HONIG: Yes. I've seen a lot of cooperating witnesses. I think he is believable. I don't think the Republicans laid a glove on him other than one point over and over. You've been convicted of lies, we got it. By the 14th time we heard it, we got it. They didn't touch his testimony other than that.

LEMON: It is interesting I think that you pointed out that he was not ready for people -- he didn't think that people would be so sympathetic towards him.

PROKUPECZ: I think the Republicans were a little surprised.

[23:15:01] LEMON: People can change, right, rather they are forced to or whatever, if you come to some sort of epiphany about doing the right thing people can change, so.

PROKUPECZ: Absolutely.

LEMON: Thank you. I appreciate it.

LIZZA: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Michael Cohen told Congresswoman Jackie Speier that Donald Trump asked him hundreds of times -- we just talked about it, did threaten people hundreds of times, 500.

I'm going to talk to the congresswoman, next. That as President Trump is meeting with Kim Jong-un in Vietnam. Kim directly questioned journalists about whether he was willing to denuclearize and responding quote, "If I'm willing to do that, I won't be here right now." I wouldn't be here right now. President Trump says this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We ultimately have a deal that's really good for Chairman Kim and his country and for us. I think ultimately that's what's going to happen. That's where it's all leading. It doesn't mean that we're doing it in one day or two days but it's all leading towards a very big success.

I really believe that with this great leadership, I really believe that North Korea is going to be successful, and economically, it's going to be something very, very special.



LEMON: One explosive revelation after another for Michael Cohen's testimony today. But this moment really stood out.


REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: How many times did Mr. Trump asked you to threaten an individual or entity on his behalf?

COHEN: Quite a few times.

SPEIER: Fifty times?

COHEN: More.

SPEIER: A hundred times?

COHEN: More.

SPEIER: Two hundred times?

COHEN: More.

SPEIER: Five hundred times?

COHEN: Probably.


LEMON: Wow. Congresswoman Jackie Speier is here. Congresswoman, that was you. Thank you so much for joining us here. That was one of the moments at Cohen's testimony today that gave us a glimpse into the Trump Organization, Cohen's role. Why did you want to expose that?

SPEIER: Well, I think it was really important for us to appreciate that that's how Donald Trump operates. And he threatens and the lies and the fact that was the job of Michael Cohen kind of fits into this whole process whereby he was the fixer.

He was the fixer when it came to the two women that had to be hushed up, both Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. And I'm sure and he actually alluded to the fact that there were probably others. We weren't able to determine exactly what they were.

But, you know, this is a man who is basically immoral. He doesn't play by the same rules that all of us play by. And he had Michael Cohen do his dirty work.

LEMON: You know today was a day that was going to be talked about and studied. You know, we look back into the history book for years from now, people are going to talk about this day, what did you learn that was new?

SPEIER: What was new that in fact, his testimony was edited by two of President Trump's counsel. And that would suggest to me that this was all art of a conspiracy by Donald Trump, his White House counsel and Michael Cohen to prevent the intelligence committee from knowing that the Moscow Trump Tower project went on all through the election year when Donald Trump said he had no business with Russia when in fact he did have business with Russia.

He had a letter of intent that was in place between 2015 and 2016. Furthermore, I think what we heard from Michael Cohen was there were efforts for tax evasion and probably bank fraud, both in terms of how he manipulated his earnings and assets and liabilities.

And also, the fact that he ended up using Trump Organization to pay back Michael Cohen for the hush money. So, on top of everything else, he probably took a business deduction--


SPEIER: -- for that particular transaction. It's pretty egregious.

LEMON: Can we talk more about the lawyers editing that statement, because this you were talking about Cohen testified that lawyers for Trump saw and edited his false statement on how long Trump push for that Trump Tower Moscow project. Right. And he named him. He said it was Abby Lowell and he said it was Jay Sekulow that they were the lawyers. What are the implications for the president and the attorneys here?

SPEIER: Well, I think they are serious. You actually have two attorneys now that were manipulating his testimony, and creating a story that wasn't true. So, I think their -- I think their legal status should be reviewed by the bars in their respective states.

LEMON: OK, so this is the statement, Congresswoman, from Jay Sekulow, OK? They released that "Today's testimony by Michael Cohen that attorneys for the president edited or changed statements to Congress to alter the duration of the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations is completely false."

It is carefully worded. Give me your take away.

SPEIER: So, what the committee, the intelligence committee had was documents that ended on January of 2016. We now know that those negotiations went on all through 2016 and even after the election because Felix Sater was sending e-mails to Michael Cohen.

The fact that these attorneys reviewed his testimony that he was going to give and edited is pretty I think -- it's pretty damming.

[23:24:55] And I asked Michael Cohen to give us a copy of his original statement and then we can compare it to the statement he actually gave to the intel committee and that will provide us, I think ample evidence of who is telling the truth.

LEMON: So here is what you said after the hearing today. You said that there was growing evidence. You said there was growing evidence for impeachment but more needs to be evaluated. What more do you need to evaluate?

SPEIER: So, we need the benefit of the Mueller report. He has much more information than we have at this point. He's been able to look at those 100th tapes. Something we haven't had the benefit of. He's talked to many people.

And I think that's going to be important. And what's also going to be important is for us to bring back Donald Trump, Jr. and Roger Stone, and probably Steve Bannon to testify again. Because there is a reason to believe that they weren't telling the truth.

LEMON: So, can we expect to see more of these possible public hearings? SPEIER: I think you we'll see more public hearings and I think you

are going to see potentially more persons being charged with lying to Congress.

LEMON: Wow. Congresswoman Jackie Speier. Congresswoman, thank you for your time. I appreciate it.

SPEIER: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: Thank you.

Michael Cohen is going to prison for lying to Congress, among other things. But as he points out, a lot of the people he's testifying against like the president are known liars. So, who do you believe when everyone is a liar?


LEMON: Liar, liar, pants on fire. That's what one poster said behind Republican Congressman Paul Gosar today at the hearing on Capitol Hill with Michael Cohen. The congressman even said it out loud.


REP. PAUL GOSAR (R), ARIZONA: Liar, liar, pants on fire. No one should ever listen to you or give you credibility. It's sad.


LEMON: Well, that is a good playground comeback there. But it's true. Cohen admits that he lied to Congress in 2017, and he will be going to jail for it among other things. But here is the thing. Michael Cohen is not the only one who has not told the truth. When it comes to the Russian investigation or Trump's business practices or hush money payments, there had been a lot of lies told by a lot of liars. And when almost everyone involved is a liar, what do you do?

Michael Cohen testified today that he personally overheard a conversation between Roger Stone and Donald Trump about Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER LAWYER FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone. Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that, within a couple of days, there will be a massive dump of e-mails that would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign.


LEMON: Roger Stone responded with the statement telling CNN, "Mr. Cohen's statement is not true."

OK, except that denial carries no weight. It carries no weight because special counsel Robert Mueller indicted Roger Stone one month ago for lying, for obstruction of justice of obstruction, and witness tampering. A month before that, Roger Stone settled a defamation lawsuit over spreading lies on InfoWars about a Chinese businessman and was ordered to take out ads in major newspapers admitting he lied and apologizing. That's' the last two months for Roger Stone.

Donald Trump Jr. called Michael Cohen a liar today. This is what Michael Cohen said about him.


COHEN: Donald Trump Jr. came into the room and walked behind his father's desk, which in and of itself was unusual. People didn't just walk behind Mr. Trump's desk to talk to him. And I recall Don Jr. leaning over to his father and speaking in a low voice, which I could clearly hear, and saying, "the meeting is all set." And I remember Mr. Trump saying, "OK, good. Let me know."

Mr. Trump had frequently told me and others that his son Don Jr. had the worst judgment of anyone in the world. And also that Don Jr. would never set up any meeting of significance alone.


LEMON: So, all day, Don Jr. tweeted or re-tweeted dozens of tweets disputing what Cohen had to say. Trump Jr. did point out that Michael Cohen was not accurate when he suggests that he never wanted a job in the White House. CNN is reporting from back in the early days of the administration. It suggests that Cohen did want to work in the White House.

But Donald Trump Jr's fierce defense on everything else, so fierce that it was more like offense, would be much more believable had he not lied about the Trump Tower meeting from the very beginning. Trump Jr. said it was mostly about adoption when his own e-mails reveal that it was set up because the Russians wanted to deliver dirt on Hillary Clinton, which brings us to the big man himself, the biggest liar of them all, and that is President Trump, the man who, according "The Washington Post," has made about 8,000 false or misleading claims in his first two years as president, 8,000.

One of those claims that he knew nothing about the payment of hush money to Stormy Daniels. Today though, Michael Cohen brought a check to Congress, a check signed by Donald Trump. Cohen says that that was reimbursement for the hush money payment to Daniels, a payment that the two of them had discussed on tape.


COHEN (voice-over): I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David, you know, so that -- I am going to do that right away. I've actually come up --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (voice-over): Give it to me and --

COHEN (voice-over): I've spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with funding with --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (voice-over): So what do we have to pay for this?

COHEN: Yes. And all the stuff -- all the stuff because, you know, you never know where that company, you never know what he's going to be --

TRUMP (voice-over): Maybe he gets hit by a truck.

[23:35:00] COHEN (voice-over): Correct. So, I'm all over that.


LEMON: Looks like Cohen has the receipts. So when it comes to all the lies with many liars, the big question is, who do you believe? That is the question. Mike Shields and Rick Wilson are both here to try to answer it. That's a lot of pressure, guys. That's next.


LEMON: So Michael Cohen admits he lied to Congress. But today he told the truth about a long list of things involving President Trump, and he brought receipts for it, but what about all the other lies by the president and the people around him? Who can we believe?

[23:40:00] Seriously, who do you believe? Let's discuss now. Mike Shields and Rick Wilson are both here. Rick is the author of "Everything Trump Touches Dies." Gentlemen, good evening. Mike, when everyone is a liar, who do you believe?

MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think that today was an example of why the American people hate Congress and why they don't believe anything anymore. And I think it starts with the media's lack of credibility and that has been going on for 25 years.

And I think you have Democrats who used to hate Michael Cohen and think he was the worst thing ever and suddenly venerating him and saying he's the truth-sayer of all truth-sayers because that fits their narrative and that's the partisan, you know, tribal world that we live in where he is on their side now, so he is telling the truth, even though we know he is a liar and even though he is a terrible witness.

LEMON: Even if he brings evidence?

SHIELDS: If you are going to believe some of what he said, then you have to believe all of what he said. No one is going to do that, right? So he said there was no collusion. He said he was not asked to suborn perjury. He said a lot of things today that we're going to pick and choose the things that one side wants to believe and the other side doesn't want to believe.

His one mistake, I think, the Democrats made. This is their first witness since they have Congress. They clearly -- a lot of Democrats want to impeach the president. And this was their rollout. This is the big thing to get Americans' attention -- LEMON: Hold on. I think Elijah Cummings cleared that up at the end. He said it was not their first witness.

SHIELDS: The first one that they brought forth to put on television, they got live coverage of the American people, the average person who's not paying attention says, oh, the Democrats may want to impeach the president. And then the first person they bring out is someone that on law and order, you would say, this is a terrible witness, we can't have this person come out here.

LEMON: Yeah. Usually when people flip, usually they lied before. Isn't that kind of how the system --

SHIELDS: And that makes them a terrible witness. If they have been convicted of lying, they're not a good person to put on the stand.

LEMON: So Rick, what do think? You wrote "Everything Trump Touches Dies." Michael Cohen is trying for reincarnation in Capitol Hill, it looks like today.

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: A little bit. But I disagree with Mike's point on this basis. Americans understand that when you are picking apart a criminal enterprise whether it is a mob family or whether it is a drug cartel, you are not going to be bringing witnesses out who are, you know, civic-minded, goodhearted people that you want to have over a barbecue. A lot of these people have morally questionable backgrounds and criminally questionable backgrounds.

And prosecutors understand how to question them, how to talk through their evidence, how to sort out the truths and the lies. Americans understand that when you are doing something like this with a complex set of criminal-leaning behavior, a complex set of conspiratorial behavior, you are not going to get angels coming to testify.

Now, what Michael Cohen did today was opened up a whole bunch of new venues for people who aren't going to go to jail, who aren't, you know, as edge case as Michael Cohen is, guys like Weisselberg, who understands the mechanics of the Trump's scheme inside of his organization and on every front from paying off the girlfriends to the charity fraud to the way that Donald Trump does business to the fact that he and Stone were making phone calls when Stone denied it and he denied it consistently.

I think there is a lot of new evidence here today that could be run down because of Michael Cohen's testimony. He doesn't have to be a perfect witness. He doesn't have to be a good dude to be credible.

LEMON: Listen, very times, I don't know if there are any perfect witnesses, but some of the things -- many of the things he said cannot be corroborated at least as of now. We don't know that. But I got to ask you.

If you -- I mean, objectively, Mike, if you were sitting there and you watched these hearings, the Republicans seem like they were obsessed with whether Cohen is going get a book deal. They're uninterested largely and trying to figure out if the stories were true and what the evidence meant. Was that a mistake?

SHIELDS: I think what they are looking at is they believe the Democrats are going to try to impeach the president. Their leadership is saying, no, we are not going to do that. They are not going to have a choice. The Democratic base is going to force them into something.

Look, I worked for Newt Gingrich in the 90s. I saw how this happened. You end up going too far, you get pushed too far by your base. And so the Republicans on there are already saying let's talk about the credibility of this witness if it is a court case. They have every reason to do that because he's a terrible witness.

LEMON: I understand what you're saying. Should they be trying to strike down the evidence instead? Well, that check is -- whatever you think about it -- instead of just hammering -- I thought it was a bad look. On the Democratic side, I did think, it was like, God, who wrote these questions for them? They were terrible, terrible questions.

SHIELDS: Again, this is why Americans are sick of Congress. They don't think today had anything to do with their lives, making their lives better. Meanwhile, the president is trying to negotiate a peace deal overseas. Normally, that's something that's good. This was staged directly at the same time that looks incredibly partisan and political. I think a lot of Americans just say this is what I can't stand about.

LEMON: The president did schedule his trip because --


LEMON: Yeah.

[23:45:00] And also remember Michael Cohen is going to go to jail. They have to do this before -- before he went to jail. Listen, no one else in nearly two years, Rick, has been able to take the spotlight away from President Trump like Michael did today. Do you think that's the thing that's going to bother this president the most?

WILSON: I think Donald Trump has been obsessively watching. I think he watched the Cohen coverage today without a blink because he understands that Michael Cohen knows where the bodies are buried. For everyone, I want to say Michael Cohen is a horrible, horrible human and a scumbag and the lowest of the low.

He was a guy that worked for Donald Trump for over a decade, dealing with Donald Trump's most sticky and disgusting personal problems. He was a guy who for a decade was a key Trump adviser and ally. He was a guy on the campaign trail who -- look at any damn picture in the campaign, he was hovering over Donald Trump's shoulder the entire campaign. He was a key surrogate for Donald Trump. He was a key spokesman, a defender of Donald Trump.

This is not some stranger that Donald Trump didn't know who this guy was from the beginning, so it does speak to the old Donald Trump question of I hire the best people. Well, Michael Cohen is the best kind of person that you hire. What does that reflect on Donald Trump? You know, Emerson said that institution is a lengthened shadow of a man. I am curious if Donald Trump agrees with that.

LEMON: Yeah. OK, last word. Thank you. I appreciate it.

WILSON: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Rat, mobster, patsy, just some of the words used at Michael Cohen's hearing today. It sounds more like a mob movie than a congressional hearing, doesn't it?


LEMON: Michael Cohen's hearing today sounded a lot like a mob movie. Take a listen.


COHEN: Mr. Trump called me a rat for choosing to tell the truth, much like a mobster would do when one of his men decides to cooperate with the government.

REP. JIM COOPER (D), TENNESSEE: Have you ever seen Mr. Trump personally threaten people with physical harm?

COHEN: No. He would use others. People didn't just walk behind Mr. Trump's desk to talk to him. I'm talking about a man who declares himself brilliant but directed me to threaten his high school, his colleges and the college boards to never release his grades or SAT scores. I have been smeared as a rat by the president of the United States.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: How many times did Mr. Trump ask you to threaten an individual or entity on his behalf?

COHEN: Quite a few times.

SPEIER: Fifty times?

COHEN: More.

SPEIER: A hundred times?

COHEN: More.

SPEIER: Two hundred times?

COHEN: More.

SPEIER: Five hundred times?

COHEN: Probably. Everybody's job at the Trump Organization is to protect Mr. Trump. Every day, most of us knew we were coming in and we were going to lie for him on something.


LEMON: Is that an accurate portrayal of working for Trump? Here to discuss: Michael D'Antonio is the author of "The Truth About Trump" and David Cay Johnston is the author of "It is Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America." I love the titles. I'm going to get a book. I want one now. It will be "The Chronicles of Don and Donald: How We Both Keep Each Other Awake Until Midnight."



LEMON: He watches me and I'm talking about him. There you go. You in?

D'ANTONIO: I'm in.

LEMON: You think it would sell?

D'ANTONIO: I'll help you. I'll hook you up with a publisher.

LEMON: Hello to both you. Listen, there is a lot to talk about, especially these mob tactics during today's hearing. Is that how Trump does business, Michael?

D'ANTONIO: It's exactly how he does business. Don't you remember how he had his goon pushed Jorge Ramos out of a press conference? He likes physical intimidation. People were physically intimidated on the sidewalk in front of Trump Tower during the campaign. Their placards were taken out of their hands and thrown away. He likes to have people intimidated reputationally, financially, you name it. He'll use the trick to go after somebody.

LEMON: David, you say that Trump operates like a white collar crime family?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Yeah. Well, Michael is right. We've seen these examples of him having his bodyguards push people around. Donald is really in the business of ripping people off using a pen. And reputational threats are absolutely at the core of this. I watched Donald Trump marched into The New York Times' newsroom one day with a whole flank of lawyers and PR people.

I knew exactly why he was there. It was to try and persuade the Times that I shouldn't be allowed to write about him because he only wanted people writing about him who didn't understand that whatever he says, it's almost always not true.

LEMON: I got to ask you, Michael, about Matt Gaetz. The Florida Bar Association - the Florida Bar is now investigating him for his threatening tweet to Michael Cohen. Today, Gaetz -- you saw it, right?


LEMON: He showed up at the Oversight Committee, and he just showed up there, telling reporters that he was going to ask questions, even though that wasn't happening because he's not on the committee. What is the point in this move? Why is he there? What's the point in this move?

D'ANTONIO: This is Trump-style thuggery now in the United States congress, now being practiced physically by this member of Congress. I think what he did was reprehensible. This is exactly what's wrong with what's going on in the country today. It's exactly what Chairman Cummings was saying when he said we're better than this. We are better than this. This is not something you would do in high school or junior high school, let alone in the United States Congress.

LEMON: Well, he took it down and then, you know, the tweet that he said, and then said oh, let's leave the Cohen family alone.

[23:55:00] This is after, right?

D'ANTONIO: Right, after I disrupted the Cohen family.

LEMON: Exactly. So David, Michael Cohen was also asked about Trump's not releasing his tax returns because he feared that the public scrutiny would lead to an audit and tax penalties. That is a very, very different take than what we have heard from Trump.

JOHNSTON: Oh, it's absolutely different. The bottom reality is Donald doesn't want anybody to see his tax returns for several reasons. First of all, if we got him for the last 10 years, for some of those years, we would see that his reported income was less than $500,000. We know that because he got something called the star property tax credit in New York, and you only get that if you report an income of less than $500,000.

It's also going to reveal things about his sources of income although that would require some further digging, depending on how he's organized the returns. But trust me, there is nothing Donald Trump wants more to keep out of the public record than his tax returns.

And the IRS does not investigate people because of a change Congress made in the law based on news accounts. They use a computer score and that's almost all of it unless you're up for something like a security clearance or become wrapped up in a drug investigation.

LEMON: Well, Democrats say they're going to subpoena. They say they're going get their hands on the tax returns.

JOHNSTON: And they have the absolute right to do so. Congress in 1924 passed a law that says they have the right and they routinely look at many tax returns every year of corporations and individuals.

LEMON: That means stay tuned. Thank you, both. I appreciate it. And thanks for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.