Return to Transcripts main page
President Trump's Optimistic View on North Korea; Michael Cohen's Testimony Dominates the Airwaves; Tensions Spark Between Pakistan and India; Cardinal George Pell Landed in Court; Hours Away Form First Trump-Kim Meeting In Vietnam; Michael Cohen, Trump Knew About WikiLeaks Contact; Venezuela In Crisis. Aired 3-4a ET
Aired February 27, 2019 - 03:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
[03:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.
ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church.
We are following bombshell revelations and testimony that will be delivered by the U.S. president's former attorney Michael Cohen in just a few hours.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And I'm Will Ripley, live from Hanoi, Vietnam where we're also following major developments in the U.S. relationship with North Korea. This could be a turning point here. The second summit between the U.S. president and North Korean leader, so much at stake but so much destruction for President Trump back at home, Rosemary.
CHURCH: Right. Thank you so much, Will. We'll join you in just a moment.
Let's start with this top story that we've been covering, the lawyer who was once President Donald Trump's right-hand man is hours away from delivering an explosive statement about his former boss.
Michael Cohen has already testified behind closed doors on Capitol Hill that was on Tuesday. But his prepared statement for the public hearing later Wednesday, well, that is stunning. He will say Mr. Trump aggressively pursued a project in Moscow during the presidential campaign and indirectly told Cohen to lie about it.
And the man who previously said he would take a bullet for the president is expected to describe the president's character this way. "I am ashamed because I know what Trump is. He is a racist. He is a con man. He is a cheat. He was a presidential candidate who knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee e-mails."
Well, Scott Lucas joins us now from England. He is a professor of international politics at the University of Birmingham. Thank you so much for being with us. SCOTT LUCAS, POLITICS PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM: Fine morning to you, Rosemary.
CHURCH: So, in an interview later on this program, we do cover the revelation that Michael Cohen plans to table a copy of a check that Mr. Trump wrote from his personal bank account after he became president to reimburse Cohen for the hush money payments made to cover up his affair with an adult film star.
We also look at Cohen's claim that Trump knew that Roger Stone reached out to WikiLeaks, we just mention that about the hacked DNC e-mails. And we also look at Cohen's claim that Don Junior apparently told his father about the Trump tower meeting with the Russians, all explosive stuff. But the problem for Cohen is his credibility and the lack of evidence of these last two conversations that he claimed to have taken place.
So, given that, what are the legal ramifications of all this do you think?
LUCAS: Well, first of all, let's throw away the shoot the messenger line. It's going to be the strategy of the White House. We saw it yesterday with Sarah Sanders statement. It's going to be the strategy of Trump's allies.
Matt Gaetz, the representative with his tweet last night to say this is all about Michael Cohen's character and to try to avert people from the substance of what Cohen says. And that's what I'm concerned with here.
So, to address your question, we got several areas where the question is whether Cohen -- Cohen's evidence is credible. We will hear today not only about the allegation that a Trump campaign adviser, Roger Stone was in contact with Trump about WikiLeaks producing Russian material damaging to Hillary Clinton.
But there is a timing element to this, Rosemary. Cohen claims that that conversation between Stone and Trump took place a few days before the Democratic National Convention. That's only 25th of July when the convention opened.
On the 27th of July, two days later, Trump publicly called on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton's e-mails. Now, is that criminal activity? That's probably on the Robert Mueller side of the investigation.
But on the other side, where you are talking about non-Russian material Cohen has said that Trump was involved in criminal activity a federal election violation by directing the payoffs to Stormy Daniels. And, indeed, he is going to produce the evidence the checks which come in Donald Trump's name that reimburse him for that.
Is that sufficient evidence in a court of law? That will be a question. And the third case that you raise, again on the Mueller side of the investigation is whether Donald Trump knew about the meeting between his son and three Russian linked envoys in early June 2016 about material damaging Hillary Clinton. But remember, this is only the tip of the iceberg. That Michael Cohen
can only say certain things in public and that far more will have been said yesterday to the Senate intelligence committee and tomorrow to the House intelligence committee. So, who knows what we could be discussing if all of this (Inaudible)?
CHURCH: Yes, exactly. But it does all come down to evidence, proof of all of this, as you mentioned the check. We do know that that's going to be tabled the check that President Trump before apparently signed.
[03:05:07] So how likely is it do you think looking at all of this that Mr. Trump could be indicted on the basis of any of this testimony when he leaves office given Cohen's lack of credibility and of course, as you mentioned, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders pushing this point over and over again that he is a convicted liar?
LUCAS: Well, I think Robert Mueller on the Russian side of investigation has indicated, or his team has indicated that they will not indict Trump while he is still in office.
So, that would be something that awaits his departure be it in 2020 or one or later, whether other prosecutors, federal or state prosecutors would dare indict Trump. We haven't even gotten into that territory, including allegations by the way against Trump's charity and the Trump organization.
But, no, I don't expect an indictment. Instead, I think there is going to be a shift. That with these hearings, Rosemary, you really are going to see an outreach by Democrats to weigh up whether there is enough here for an impeachment process.
Now that impeachment process would likely fail in the Senate but the Democrats may calculate that it is enough to at least impeach Trump to highlight the seriousness of these charges and to, in effect, carry out this process as a reminder during what will become the campaign for reelection by Trump in 2020.
CHURCH: And I do want to just refer to another section of that statement that Cohen will deliver before Congress.
To be clear, he says, "Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it. He lied about it because he never expected to win the election. He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project."
And Cohen will also say apparently that Mr. Trump implicitly told him to lie about this. But where is the evidence? Again, and again, we asked this. He has credibility issues as we mentioned, and of course, what about the Republicans, where will they likely stand.
We saw Congressman Gaetz with his intimidating tweet about Cohen. So, we certainly know where he stands but that's going to be the big question as well, isn't it?
LUCAS: Well, let me clear that one. I mean, the Republicans are just going to try to attack Cohen. And the question will be whether you in the media and whether others who really look at this keep a focus on the evidence rather than on character attacks.
Now that question you asked about Trump tower Moscow is a tip of the iceberg question. Michael Cohen says in his prepared testimony that Trump did not directly tell him to lie to Congress about how long the negotiations took place, rather the message came through Trump's personal attorneys.
That will probably get Trump off the hook in terms of the specifics. But, again, remember, that the issues of possible financial links between the Russians and Trump's organization and indeed the Trump campaign go far beyond Trump tower Moscow and that will be within the space of Cohen's closed-door testimony and the Mueller investigation.
So, it's going to be a watch the space issue. But I do think that the allegations about Trump's overall between his business interest his campaign and then his transition, they are serious.
CHURCH: All right. Just a few hours from now and we will find out if maybe some more evidence is tabled by Cohen possible tapes, we don't know.
Thank you so much, Scott Lucas for joining us and we appreciate your analysis. Many thanks.
LUCAS: Thank you, Rosemary.
CHURCH: While Michael Cohen testifies, Donald Trump is in Vietnam for a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. We are just over three hours away from the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders in Hanoi.
So, let's get back to our Will Ripley who is live this hour now in the Vietnamese capital. Will, back to you.
RIPLEY: Hi, Rosemary. Yes, 6.30, local time that is when the U.S. President Donald trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are scheduled to be in the room together for about 20 minutes with only their interpreters.
It's their first time face-to-face since Singapore since that vaguely worded agreement that basically offered a lot of big promises that so far really have yet to be delivered or at least the biggest promise which is to work toward the complete denuclearization of North Korea and the Korean peninsula as a whole.
Here in Hanoi, President Trump signed a trade agreement with Vietnam. He met with the Vietnamese prime minister, the president, and also some of their top officials. But the big meetings are really still to come.
He will be at the Metropol Hotel meeting with Kim Jong-un, again, 20 minutes face-to-face then a small intimate dinner with just a few of their top advisors. Present Trump tweeted first thing this morning saying that North Korea has, in his words, "awesome potential for economic prosperity just like Vietnam if only they would denuclearize." And he echoed those comments here a short time ago. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a very big dinner tonight, as you know, and meetings with North Korea with Chairman Kim.
[03:10:03] And we talked about very good about having this very important summit in Vietnam because you already are as an example as to what can happen with good thinking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RIPLEY: Vietnam is a country that has kept its socialist system but opened up its economy after normalizing ties with the U.S. The U.S. opened an embassy here in 1995 and in the years since Hanoi and many other cities across this country have enjoyed great prosperity, lots of jobs, lots of food exactly the kind of thing that Kim Jong-un says he wants for his own people.
I want to go now to CNN's Ivan Watson who was also here in Hanoi. Ivan, you've been speaking with Vietnamese officials. You had an exclusive interview with the prime minister and you're also on the ground with regular people What are you seeing and hearing?
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, we were outside Metropol Hotel which is down this road here. It's cordoned off by security and that's where in a matter of hours President Trump and Kim Jong-un are expected to have a one-on-one dinner at this old French colonial hotel built more than a hundred years ago.
Their first encounter face-to-face since the historic first summit between the U.S. and North Korea in June of last year. So, there -- it is attracting attention not only the media but also Vietnamese and foreign tourists coming through. I saw one who had a t-shirt on for peace showing the faces of President Trump and Kim Jong-un.
And we even saw some Koreans, some Korean defectors from a South Korean reality TV show and they're here clearly a segment in connection with this moment of high diplomacy here.
So, a lot of eyes on Hanoi right now as these two leaders are poised to meet face-to-face. Will?
RIPLEY: It really is remarkable, Ivan. And I know in a little bit you'll be heading to the barbershop where they're offering free Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump haircuts. I'll be curious which one is more popular. I know you won't get one though. Ivan has probably the best hair of anyone at CNN. But Ivan Watson on the ground here, thanks for following it all for us. I want to talk to a guy who knows North Korea better than most people. Chad O'Carroll, he's the CEO of the analysis firm Korea Risk Group and the founder of NK News which is a vital source of information for a lot of us who follow daily developments on the peninsula.
So, Chad, we were in Singapore together. We were in Pyongyang after Singapore together and now we're here. And you have some new reporting about what potentially could be in this agreement that Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un are going to start negotiating in the coming hours.
CHAD O'CARROLL, CEO, KOREA RISK GROUP: Yes. So, we're hearing there is going to be a sort of reemergence of the four main principles of the Singapore statement but there's been no progress really on the core denuclearization negotiations, thus far, which is a bit of a worry this close to the summit.
But we heard there will be new fifth pillar added to this joint declaration what is to come out tomorrow which is that pledged towards a better economic future for the North. So, it will be interesting to see how that plays out.
RIPLEY: So, what you're saying is basically it's going to be up to Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un to try to negotiate specifics about the most important part of the deal from the U.S. perspective which is getting North Korea to get rid of nukes.
O'CARROLL: That's correct. And that makes sense when you think about the North Korean perspective where in working level officials have very limited authority and autonomy to discuss issues in pre- negotiations. As you know North Korea has a very tough down driven system, and so Kim is really the only person that can make those decisions.
RIPLEY: You know he had a couple of days on a train, a pretty relaxing journey, whereas, President Trump who is facing all of this turmoil at home looked pretty jetlagged and tired when he got off Air Force One.
I mean, as these two men walk into a room who is going to be better prepared and what is the danger if, for example, Donald Trump is distracted as he's likely to be with the Michael Cohen testimony?
O'CARROLL: Well, yes, you're right. Donald Trump has a lot of other issues in his mind and I think his personal level of preparation for this is going be much, much lower than Kim Jong-un's. We even saw on North Korean state newspaper today, a great photo of Kim Jong-un having a cigarette preparing with his top officials here.
And you know, Kim Jong-un has the advantage of doing this much, much longer than Donald Trump. He knows the U.S. negotiation system quite well, and so, I think they'll be in the North Koran are better prepared.
RIPLEY: Some of the members of Kim's delegation here in Hanoi help to negotiate the 1994 agreed framework. These are people who spent their entire careers doing this and Kim Jong-un undoubtedly has been studying hard.
You had an interesting piece of reporting that you've just put out about alcohol restrictions inside North Korea while Kim is out of the country.
O'CARROLL: That's right. We heard this first in January. Sources told us in Pyongyang that the local North Korean partners were refraining from drinking. One said it's like when father leaves the family home, we should not have fun until he comes back.
[03:15:02] We heard from some others that this is back again and while Kim is here in Hanoi senior officials are really refraining from too much alcohol. And that's partly because Kim Jong-un got very upset in the past when during a previous summit, North Korean officials were on the boot squad.
RIPLEY: You know a lot of people wouldn't understand unless you've been to North Korea just how much pressure there is to try to make Kim Jong-un happy which is why he was able to essentially snap his fingers and do this diplomat U-turn from a race towards nukes to now this economic race that he says he's involved in now.
O'CARROLL: That's right. And it's going to be interesting to see how the North Koreans present the outcome of this summit, in particular with regards to denuclearization which is obviously the top U.S. priority.
RIPLEY: I want to talk a bit more because you actually had heard months ago that this train journey or at least weeks ago that this train journey was a possibility.
What are the reasons that Kim Jong-un would choose to travel by train? Because in Singapore he had to borrow a jet from China which might not have been the best optics for him.
O'CARROLL: Yes, two sets of reasons. The first is that borrowing another jet from China would probably not look great. The second reason is that Kim Jong-un's grandfather, Kim Il-sung came to Vietnam decades ago by train.
And as you know he has tried to look as much like his grandfather as possible and so it's a possibility that his decision to come by train is to replicate that look and feel of his grandfather for the North Korean people.
RIPLEY: You've been covering the story a long time, do you see North Korea delivering what the United States is hoping for at this summit or any frankly, future summits on the issue of denuclearization?
O'CARROLL: I think, yes if the Americans are prepared to give North Korea concessions that North Korea thinks are representative or equal to the steps that Washington wants.
RIPLEY: Like what?
O'CARROLL: I think, for example, sanctions relief. The North Koreans had made it clear that they'd like significant economic sanctions relief and end of war. That operation is pretty meaningless versus the cash dollars that come from being able to sell coal and trade with the outside world.
But the problem is the Americans keep saying that they can't do that until full denuclearization. So, you have this chicken and egg situation and it seems neither side are going to like to budge on that cool disagreement.
RIPLEY: Which really does mean that it's going to be up to Kim Jong- un and Donald Trump in a few hours when they decide of what they're going to do, that they are going to be these were negotiators. Nothing has been decided at this point.
Chad O'Carroll, thanks very much for joining us. Rosemary, it's hard to imagine how President Trump is going to be able to walk into this meeting with the focus that he is going to need when he is sitting across the table from one of the most shrewd (ph) negotiators on earth, Kim Jong-un.
CHURCH: Yes, particularly since he's apparently going to pull an all- night to listen to the testimony of Michael Cohen. We'll see what sort of impact that has. Many thanks to you, Will. We will come back to you very soon.
Well, surprisingly, a cardinal convicted of abusing children may not have been the most hated man at his pre-sentencing hearing. Why comments by George Pell's lawyer has spark outrage. We'll go to that in just a moment.
[03:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CHURCH: Well, we are following a dramatic increase in tensions between two nuclear rivals in South Asia. Pakistan says its armed forces shut down two Indian aircraft inside Pakistani airspace after the Indian Air Force cross the line of control.
India has not yet commented on the Pakistani claim.
So, we turn to CNN's New Delhi Bureau chief, Nikhil Kumar to get a little bit more on this. So, Nikhil, what's the latest information that you have on this increase of tensions between two nuclear armed nations?
NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Rosemary, right now all the information we have is coming from the Pakistani side. They have, as you said, they've said that they have shut down two Indian aircrafts inside Pakistani airspace. They said this happened when these two jets cross the line of control that's the de facto border between these two nuclear armed countries in the disputed Kashmir region.
Now, all of this comes of course a day after India said that it had conducted airstrikes across the line of control on the Pakistani side hitting a terrorist training camp what they said was a terrorist training camp. Pakistan at the time denied that any such strike has occurred.
They said that where this Indian jet had crossed the line of control, something they viewed as an aggression, they were pushed back by Pakistani forces. Today, they're saying that they've hit back at Indian jets that cross after they crossed on this side in retaliation really to yesterday's action.
But as I say, we still don't have the narrative from the Indian side. What it is though, it is another escalation in the tensions on this -- in this region in South Asia where these are both nuclear armed countries.
And the concern is always that however a conflict begins whatever the start of it might be and over here on the 14th of February, Indian forces in the disputed Kashmir region were hit by a car bomb. Forty paramilitaries died. The worst attack on Indian forces in several decades. That's what led to all of this.
However, it starts, the concern always because both of them have nuclear weapons that nobody knows where it might end where the escalation might go and that's the main concern. Now everyone is watching very, very carefully for India might say. India hasn't yet commented. Will India again say something different to Pakistan what happened yesterday which leaves room open for de-escalation or will this spiral even farther.
We're watching very closely to work out what exactly happens. Rosemary?
CHURCH: It has many people certainly in the region on edge. Nikhil Kumar, thank you so much for bringing us the latest on that story. I appreciate it.
Well, the most senior Vatican official ever convicted of child sex abuse is no longer a free man. Cardinal George Pell was taken into custody after his bail request was dropped in an Australian court.
He was convicted in December of sexually abusing two choirboys in the 1990s and now faces sentencing on March 13.
Chrissie Foster is an activist and the mother of two girls abused by a different priest. Here's how she reacted to the news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISSIE FOSTER, CHILD ABUSE ACTIVIST: This is an amazing fantastic thing that's happened, justice being served. Its wheels of justice turning, and it's a great day for victims and the people (Ph).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: Well, for more, CNN's Anna Coren is in Melbourne, Australia, and Vatican correspondent Delia Gallagher is live in Rome. Welcome to you both.
So, Anna, I do want to start with you. And talk about the shocking way that Pell's lawyer downplayed the charges against his client. What all did he say and what has been the reaction to his words?
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's right. Defense barrister Robert Richter probably the most notorious criminal defense barrister in the country. He was arguing for a lenient sentence for his client but he used some shocking language which deeply upset Chrissie Foster who you just played there and other families of victims of clerical abuse, and obviously of survivors.
He described Pell's case as a 'plain vanilla' case of sexual penetration of a child.
[03:24:58] Now for everyone who is standing inside the courtroom it was standing room only, they were shocked. They were shocked that his defense barrister was using this sort of language.
As far as the prosecution is concerned, they are pushing for the toughest of sentences. They said this was a complete breach of trust that Pell was responsible for these two young choirboys who were in the cathedral that the attack was humiliating and degrading and that Cardinal George Pell has shown no remorse.
Now we should note that cardinal maintained his innocence and has appealed. But the judge he has indicated he will not be handing out a lenient sentence. He said that his crime was utterly brazen and that Pell thought he could get away with it, in his mind he possess a sense of impunity because of the position he occupied.
But as we know, Rosemary, he was driven from Melbourne county court a few hours ago to the Remand Centre, and this is where will spend his first night in prison.
CHURCH: Thanks so much for that, Anna. Let's go to Delia now in Rome. And Delia, how is the Vatican responding to the jailing of Pell ahead of his sentencing for child sex abuse and what impact could this have on the church that are now embroiled in the scandal.
DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, the news out of the Vatican this morning is that Cardinal Pell is out as the Vatican's finance minister. This news was relayed in a tweet late last night, Rome time, and tweet from the Vatican spokesman. That tweet says "I can confirm that Cardinal George Pell is no longer Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy." That's the Vatican's title for finance minister.
Interesting that this came out in a tweet. It's highly unusual for the Vatican especially considering they did release an official statement in the morning on the case but they hadn't yet made obviously any decision about what was happening with his post as finance minister.
And that was one of the key things that people were looking at in terms of the Vatican's reaction because Cardinal Pell, of course was hand-picked by Pope Francis to come over here and be the finance minister. He had been on a leave of absence to go back and fight the charges in Australia.
So that was an important communication from the Vatican. The next step, Rosemary, is what is going happen to Cardinal Pell as cardinal and as priest. And the Vatican in their statement yesterday said that they are awaiting the appeals process. And obviously, depending on the outcome of that appeal then they will have to make their next steps, which is what people are also looking for.
Zero tolerance for survivors means that a convicted pedophile priest is removed from the priesthood, and so that would likely be the Vatican's next steps in the event that the appeal is not successful. Rosemary?
CHURCH: All right. So, we will continue to watch where the story goes. Delia Gallagher live in Rome. Anna Coren in Melbourne. Thank you to you both.
And we will head back to Vietnam after a very short break for the latest on Donald Trump's summit with Kim Jong-un. How the U.S. president hopes to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear program.
We're back in just a moment.
[03:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN Newsroom. I'm Rosemary Church. I want to check the headlines for you this hour.
Donald Trump has been meeting with Vietnamese leaders ahead of his second summit with Kim Jong-un. The U.S. president and North Korean leader will have dinner in a few hours before a day of talks on Thursday. Mr. Trump praised Vietnam as an example of what North Korea could be if it gives up nuclear weapons.
In Washington, the U.S. House voted to overturn President Trump's declaration of an emergency at the U.S. Southern Border. A resolution now moves to the Republican controlled Senate for consideration. Mr. Trump has said he will veto it, if it makes it to his desk.
Nigeria's president, Muhammadu Buhari, has won another four years in office. His main challenger has rejected the result of Saturday's election and is calling for a fresh vote. Monitor groups say at least 39 people were killed in election related violence.
President Trump's former attorney is hours away from delivering explosive allegations in a public hearing on Capitol Hill. In his prepared statement, Michael Cohen calls Mr. Trump a conman and a cheat who knew about contacts with WikiLeaks over hacked e-mails damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign.
Political analyst, Michael Genovese joins us now from Los Angeles. Good to have you with us as we of course, work through this copy we received to Michael Cohen's prepared statement to Congress. So, let's start with the new material he plans to table. This is what he says, "I'm providing the committee today with several documents. These include a copy of a check Mr. Trump wrote from his personal bank account after he became president to reimburse me, being Cohen, of course, for the hush money payments I made to cover up his affair with an adult film star and prevent damage to his campaign."
So, what are the legal ramifications for the president if this check was written for that purpose? And just how explosive could this prove to be?
MICHAEL GENOVESE, POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, if true, and in Mr. Cohen does have the check, it was written by the president after he was in the White House, what that means is that he would be implicated very clearly in the felony that Michael Cohen is going to go to jail for having committed. For having admitted to.
And so, this raises questions about, can we indict a president, a sitting president? Can a president pardon himself? This is only one of the big bombshells that Michael Cohen is going to talk about. But this is the one that has a direct connection to Cohen himself and to the actions of the president to support a felony.
CHURCH: Right. And Cohen also says that -- Mr. Trump knew that Roger Stone reached out to WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, about the hacked DNC e-mails. Here's what Cohen actually says. In July 2016, days before the Democratic convention, I was in Mr. Trump's office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the phone.
Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone. Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of e-mails that would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign.
So, Roger Stone has always denied he had anything to do with WikiLeaks' Julian Assange. What might this mean for Stone and more importantly for the president? And how reliable is the word of Cohen on this given his credibility issues?
GENOVESE: Well, we have to preface everything with if true. Michael Cohen is an admitted liar. If he lies to Congress now, he commits a further crime, he would then be subjected to more time in prison. And so, the odds of him lying about these things diminish, because he'll be under a microscope. Every word he says is going to be looked at and scoured. And so for him to lie now, it just adds to his prison time.
[03:35:00] So, what he is trying to do is trying to become the sort of redeemed Michael Cohen. In a similar way to John Dean's testimony in Watergate, where John Dean testified and read his statement of accusing the president -- in that case, Nixon, of a variety of crimes. That is what Michael Cohen's position is now.
And so the old, if true becomes the key. There's reason not to believe Michael Cohen, because we know he is a liar. Has been a lair, but coming clean now is his effort to sort of revive his reputation and his family. And if he lies now, he'll spend many more years in jail.
CHURCH: All right. A lot to get through, because there was another quote, I want to read out from Cohen's testimony. This time on the Trump Tower meeting and Cohen said this directly, I remember being in the room with Mr. Trump, probably in early June 2016 when something peculiar happened. Don Jr. came into the room and walked behind his father's desk, which in itself is was unusual.
People didn't just walked behind Mr. Trump's desk to talk to him. 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. I remember Mr. Trump saying, OK, let me know.
So, what does this tell you in terms of possible collusion with the Russians? And again, it is just Cohen's word with no evidence to prove this exchange ever took place.
CHURCH: So, again, how reliable is it?
GENOVESE: Well, we'll start with the WikiLeaks situation when there is one stream move from Russia. This is a direct connection if true, between President Trump and the Trump Tower meeting with the Russians designed to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. President's son responding saying, we would love it if that were true.
The president also is a participant in a fabricated story about that meeting. And so, if the president knew about it, he is directly implicated in the lies about it, he's directly implicated in the knowledge and the planning of it and it is a direct connection to Russia dirt on Hillary Clinton and that means collusion.
And so again, the key question for us tomorrow will be, to what extent does Mr. Cohen provide documentary evidence, supporting evidence, material evidence? We cannot rely simply on his word. We need to have more information. So the question is, does this open a Pandora's Box and others will follow and release more or does Michael Cohen have the goods on the president? We know that Michael Cohen does a lot of taping of conversations and he may very well have the goods on the president. We'll know tomorrow.
CHURCH: Yes. That's the key, isn't it? Because if he doesn't have any of these evidence either in documents or taping as you say, because we know the White House Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders, talked about Cohen on Tuesday saying he was a disgraced felon, Michael Cohen is going to prison for lying to Congress and making other false statements.
Sadly, he will go before Congress this week and we can expect -- we can expect more lies. So, this is the problem for Cohen, isn't it? The White House already have their story on this. They are going to be over to say he is a liar. Why -- particularly with those conversations he overheard. There is no proof unless he can deliver these tapes which you say is possible.
GENOVESE: Well, you'll recall -- you're too young to recall, but I recall John Dean in Watergate when he made very bold accusations against President Nixon. He had -- didn't have the evidence to support it. We later found out that there were tape recordings that prove the president was a criminal. In this case, Michael Cohen has been saying all along, you enough kept
a lot of records, I've kept a lot of material, that's going to be the test. Does Michael Cohen have the goods? If he doesn't have the goods -- it's just Michael Cohen saying his things, it will be largely dismiss except by the more anti-Trump folks around, because he's going to be saying some really bold things. The president is a racist. He's a conman. He's -- he has committed felonies. If he doesn't have supporting material, he's word will probably be discounted. And so, like john Dean and Nixon, is one of these he said, he said,
let's see where the evidence is.
CHURCH: Yes, need supporting material and of course, it will be interesting to see how the Republican respond to all of this explosive testimony. Thank you so much for joining us, Michael Genovese, I appreciate it.
GENOVESE: Thank you.
CHURCH: You can watch Michael Cohen's public testimony right here on CNN. We will have special coverage and analysis starting at 9 a.m. on the U.S. East Coast and that is 2:00 p.m. in London.
While Michael Cohen testifies in Washington, Donald Trump is in Vietnam for his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
[03:40:04] And we are just a few hours away from their first face-to- face meeting in Hanoi. So, let's go to CNN's Will Ripley, who is live in the Vietnamese capital. Over to you, Will.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Rosemary, it's just hard to imagine what must be going on the mind of Donald Trump right now as he's trying to get constant updates about Michael Cohen and at the same time he has to focus.
He has to focus on this very important meeting in less than three hours with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to try to convince him that it is in his country's best interest to get rid of a nuclear arsenal that they have been developing and perfecting for years. An arsenal that arguably has gotten into this point. Now a second sit-down meeting with the sitting U.S. president.
Earlier President Trump was talking about Vietnam, the host country and the economic miracle that they have had here as a result in large part did a normalize ties with the United States. An economic miracle that President Trump says could be possible for North Korea, if they are indeed willing to start taking steps to denuclearize.
Tomorrow we are going to have a full day of talks here between Mr. Trump and Kim Jong-un. And there really is a lot of pressure on both sides to produce tangible results, especially after the Singapore Summit back in June which delivered a statement that many saw as full of bait promises and not much else in terms of substance.
CNN's Ivan Watson has been on the ground here in Hanoi, and he had an exclusive interview with the Vietnamese Prime Minister who is hopeful that the North Koreans will learn a lesson from what has happened in this country which were covered and basically built itself up from the ashes after war with the United States. And now, you can see the signs of growth all around us, Ivan.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there's clear symbolism here that both the U.S. and the Vietnamese hosts want to play up and that is Vietnam's own unique history, it's unique relationship with the U.S. and where it is today in Asia. A communist country, single party rule with heavy censorship and punishment for people who step out of line, criticizing the government, but also enjoying fantastic economic growth. All points that the Prime Minister kind of hinted at in his excusive conversation with me. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NGUYEN XUAN PHUC, VIETNAMESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): For the peace of the world, for a connected and developed world, for citizen's rights, let's shake hands.
WATSON: It must have been very difficult for Vietnam to make peace with the U.S. after the terrible war, you lost very close relatives during that war with the U.S. What lessons can you bring from your personal experience to perhaps share with Chairman Kim?
XUAN PHUC (through translator): We don't forget our past, our history, but we need closure in order to look to the future. Millions of Vietnamese died throughout years of resistance wars to protect the country our independence and freedom, more than ever we value peace based on mutual respect for each other's independence and sovereignty. We don't interfere with each other's politics.
WATSON: How much of a role did making peace and improving relations with the U.S.? How did that contribute to your economic growth and do you think that North Korea could benefit similarly if it improves relations with Washington?
XUAN PHUC (through translator): We can say that the U.S.-Vietnam relationship is a role model for comprehensive and collaborative development from enemies we have become good friends and partners.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WATSON: Now, Will, the American president has written -- if North Korea can denuclearize it could perhaps thrive the way Vietnam has economically and we expect that that may came up in a couple of hours that argument when the two leaders meet in their historic Metropole Hotel. You can see the white and green facade there of the French colonial building, built more than a century ago. The lines of security there in front as well and we've learned from Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House spokesperson that this will be an intimate affair, that President Trump will be accompanied by Mike Pompeo, he's Secretary of State, by his acting Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney and that Kim Jong-un will be coming with Kim Yeung Chol, the vice chairman of the Central committee of the workers party who just last January was in the Oval Office with President Trump and with Ri Yong Ho, the foreign minister. There's a lot of media here, tourists gawking and I saw a guy with a
Korean sign saying, lift the sanctions make way for peace. For some of the color here, as these two leaders are expected to gather here within a matter of hours. Will?
RIPLEY: Things are really going to be picking up there at the Metropole which is hosted Jane Fonda, George H.W. Bush and soon two unlikely leaders, a lot of people never thought that the second summit will happening, and here we are, Ivan Watson, live here in Hanoi. Thanks so much.
[03:45:08] You know, Rosemary, even negotiating, Mueller's going to be on the dinner menu for Kim and Trump. Tonight was quite a challenge we are hearing, because the U.S. didn't want the menu to be too extravagance, so they are mixing some Western cuisine, some Korean cuisine. If they're having a hard time negotiating what's for dinner, just imagine what the negotiations are going to be like about the key issue of the denuclearization.
CHURCH: You do have to wonder that you. Will, thank you so much, we will talk to you soon. I appreciate it.
And still to come, deadline in doubt, Prime Minister Theresa May offers lawmakers a chance to delay Brexit. We are live in the U.K. to get more information on that. Plus, when Venezuela's self-declared interim president knows he could be arrested or worse, if he returns home from neighboring Columbia. So, what will he do? CNN's conversation with Juan Guaido, that's coming up.
CHURCH: Well, throughout the back-and-forth over Brexit, only one thing had remained constant, the U.K. was going to leave the E.U. on March 29. We now know even that is certain. Prime Minister Theresa May says, if lawmakers reject the deal by March 12, she will offer a vote on a no-deal Brexit and if needed yet another vote to extend the deadline. CNN's international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, joins me now from Belfast Northern Ireland. Good to see you, Nic.
So, when you look at the numbers on this what's the most likely scenario and where does the second referendum fit in to all of this? Is it still a viable option with some MP's moving in that direction? Would they be enough support for him?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There isn't enough support for a second referendum yet. It does remain now a viable option, the possibility of an extension makes it more likely, but they would need to be some political maneuverings to allow that to happen, when none of that position yet. Theresa May, were we stand today is unlikely, as you say to get the withdrawal agreement, that first option or the no-deal Brexit approved, because there isn't support for that.
On the fundamental for that is the one thing that hasn't changed so far despite the fact which is now talking about the extension as a third option here. The one thing that hasn't changed is the issue of her need to get support from Brussels, from the European Union on the backstop. The thing that affects the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to the south.
[03:50:12] On that, the principal party here in Northern Ireland supports her majority, her slender majority without their support of the Democratic Unionist politicians here in Northern Ireland, she won't be able to get anything from through House of Commons. Or it will be made much more difficult, let's put it that way at least.
They met with her yesterday, they said that she still needs to get these legally binding changes from the European Union. The European Union and we saw it on the weekend in (inaudible) is in no position to be about to do that, so, that impasse on that remains why. That's where we stand today when you look at it in terms of the politics and concerns in Northern Ireland.
Yesterday, I spoke to another Unionist M.P., the Unionist MP's here want to remain strongly connected with mainland Britain, art of the United Kingdom, the Union, that's their point of view. And they come in two stripes if you will, those hardline Unionist, a Democratic Unionist party who supports Theresa May needs, and the other Unionist block. And I spoke to one of their leading MP's, who used to lead the party.
And remember, this is the party, the UUP, the moderate Unionist if you will, who signed up to the Good Friday agreement, 21 years ago. The Democratic Unionist Party that supports Theresa May -- supports Theresa May right now didn't sign up to it. And he explains very clearly now what is at stake here in Northern Ireland. This is how he puts it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE NESBITT, FORMER ULSTER UNIONIST PARTY LEADER: Twenty one years ago, The Belfast Good Friday Agreement said, we all self-defined and we can be British or Irish or we can be both on there's no hierarchy.
Being British is not better than being an Irish. And what a lot of Irish nationalists in Northern Ireland believe happened in the Brexit referendum was that English nationals came in over their head, denied them their sense of European-ess and left them feeling diminished.
And the consequences that the constitutional question, the status of Northern Ireland as part of the U.K. is black on the political agenda for the first time in 21 years. It doesn't mean United Ireland is inevitable, but it does mean that Brexit could possibly be the biggest own rule by unionism in the hundred years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: And that constitutional question is the one that underpins all the possibilities of leading to trouble the Northern Ireland witness in the past reemerging, whether Northern Ireland remains a strongly part of Britain, or whether it tends towards a United Ireland. So, he's point there being Unionist scoring an own goal, that this could lead to the one thing, the one thing above all else that they wouldn't want to happen, Rosemary.
CHURCH: Yes. Absolutely. Nic Robertson, joining us there live from Belfast, Northern Ireland, where it is coming up to 9:00 in the morning. Many thanks.
We turn now to Venezuela, where the self-declared interim president says he will exercise his duties as president, as soon as he is back home. Now, Juan Guaido has been meeting with regional leaders in Columbia, hoping to drum up international support and find ways to get aid into Venezuela. He also sat down with our Nick Paton Walsh.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After an important meetings here in Bogota with Vice President, Mike Pence, the opposition leader, the self-declared interim president of Venezuela, Juan Guaido, had a stark choice to make. Was he going to stay here and drop international support, to fight a leader in exile or go back to the country he says he is president. I asked him, what his choices is going to be, when I caught out with him earlier on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATON WALSH: Thank you for your time, sir. Do you intend to go back to Venezuela this week?
JUAN GUAIDO, SELF-DECLARED ACTING VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Yes. We are going to return to Venezuela this week. We had a very interesting international agenda this week, the humanitarian community in Cucuta, the meeting of the Lima Group here in Bogota with important results. They were able to see that the crisis is evident, but that the regime denies it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PATON WALSH: Now in that interview, he said that ESC did fair rest when he landed and he did fair for his own safety, but of his own life, compared to his potential risk to the plights of thousands of Venezuelans every single day, many he said dying from lack of basic medicines. He also said that if anything happened to him, the price would potentially be too high for the Maduro governments to pay.
Still in the days ahead we will learn how is going to do this and certainly within Maduro government let him in freely and safely to quote the words and the demands of the U.S. special representatives to Venezuelan crisis, Elliott Abrahams.
[03:55:00] CHURCH: Well, President Trump and North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un will soon come face-to-face again for their second summit. We will go live to Hanoi in just a moment.
RIPLEY: Welcome back to CNN's special coverage of Trump-Kim 2.0 here in Hanoi, Vietnam. Just about two half hours until the two cheerleaders are set to have their first face-to-face meeting since they met in Singapore back in June. A meeting that could really set the tone for these crucial talks. The U.S. trying to convince North Korea to take crucial steps in the U.S. view to give up the nuclear arsenal, but from what we've been hearing over the last few hours from analyst and experts it is not going to be easy.
Kim Jong-un has a large team of shrew negotiators, who are going to try to get the best deal they can out of President Trump. A president who is distracted by crisis and controversy at home and maybe we will be pulling an all miter to watch the developments unfolding in Washington. Thanks for joining us. I'm Will Ripley.
CHURCH: And I'm Rosemary Church here in Atlanta. The news continues next with Max Foster in London. You are watching CNN.