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AT THIS HOUR
Michael Cohen Testifies Behind Closed Doors to House Intel Committee; Interview with Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD); Trump Leaves North Korean Summit with No Deal; Trump Believes Kim Jong-Un Saying He Knew Nothing of Otto Warmbier's Dire Condition; Cohen Testimony Escalates Trump's Legal Peril in New York. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired February 28, 2019 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Jim, great coverage. We'll see you back here next to me on Monday.
Thank you all for being with us. I'm Poppy Harlow.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.
Michael Cohen back on Capitol Hill and serving up another dose of revenge. Right now, Donald Trump's longtime personal attorney is testifying behind closed doors one day after publicly accusing the president of committing crimes while in office. Today, Cohen faces the House Intelligence Committee. And those lawmakers could have new lines of questioning after his explosive seven-hour-long testimony before another House committee yesterday. That was huge.
But also wasn't all of it. Overnight, in Vietnam, President Trump walked away from his second summit with Dictator Kim Jong-Un with no deal, walked away without even having lunch. And also making a breath-taking declaration, saying that he believes Kim that he knew nothing of Otto Warmbier's dire condition. We have much more on that in a moment.
But before boarding Air Force One to head home, the president took time to hit back at Michael Cohen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He lied a lot, but it was very interesting because he didn't lie about one thing. He said no collusion with the Russian hoax. I said, I wonder why he didn't lie about that, too, like everything else. I mean, he lied about so many different things. And I was actually impressed that he didn't say, well, I think there was collusion for this reason or that. He didn't say that. He said no collusion. And I was a little impressed by that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: So he believes him sometime apparently.
CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill with more on this. Manu, Michael Cohen testifying behind closed doors right now. I see chairman of House intelligence walking past you right there, Adam Schiff. Tell me right now what you think lawmakers want to ask him today.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is just breaking up for votes. We are expecting a very long day. So far, we're not getting clear sense of how much new they have learned. They have really been in the room for about 90 minutes so far. The way the questioning has been going is that Democrats get an hour and Republicans get an hour and it will go back and forth for some time.
What Schiff told me was that he wanted to drill down on a number of subjects that were not fully explored, including how it came about that he went about lying to Congress, this very committee, about the pursuit of the Trump Tower Moscow Project. The president -- Cohen said the president was more involved than he initially let on. Initially, Cohen alleged Trump's attorney had personally edited that statement that led to the false testimony. They'll ask a range of questions about that. Schiff said he wants to learn if there was a White House role. And he wants to know about the allegation that Cohen made that Roger Stone told the president in his presence that Stone had just spoken to Julian Assange and that there was going to be a big dump of e-mails to hurt the Clinton campaign, something that the White House and Stone have denied for some time. There's expected to be a lot more questions about that.
The moment lawmakers just getting in ready for a very long day of questioning. Ultimately, we'll see how much more light he sheds on all of this. But we're getting an early sense right now it's going to take some time -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: Absolutely. If yesterday is any precursor, we know how long it can be.
Great to see you, Manu. Thanks so much.
Once Cohen is done on Capitol Hill, what are the next steps for the committees investigating the president?
Joining me now Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin, of Maryland, who was one of the lawmakers questioning Michael Cohen yesterday.
Congressman, thanks for coming in.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN, (D), MARYLAND: Happy to be with you.
BOLDUAN: After yesterday, do you believe Michael Cohen that the president committed crimes while in office?
RASKIN: Absolutely. He brought documentary evidence with him. So he clearly was involved, directly involved in supervising the hush money payoffs to the various mistresses. Yesterday, we also learned that the president's lawyers reviewed the testimony that Michael Cohen gave to Congress, which was false and perjurious, and which he's going to prison for. We set the table for the Intelligence Committee today to follow-up on that, to figure out exactly which lawyers we heard from. Michael Cohen and Jay Sekulow were involved and what they did to alter or doctor his testimony to change the dates about the Moscow Project. Because remember the Republicans who were jubilant in reviewing the fact that Michael Cohen is a convicted liar failed to tell everybody what he was convicted of lying for. He was lying for the president in saying that the president had stopped being involved in the Moscow Tower negotiations in January of 2016, when it went all the way through the summer, I think it was. So it appears like the president himself, through his lawyers, was involved in the decision to commit that false testimony.
[11:05:13] BOLDUAN: I have another question about the Moscow Project in a second. But if you believe that the president has committed a crime, and this relates to the hush money payments during his time in office, what do you do next?
RASKIN: That's a great question. That's the dilemma that the Congress and the country face right now. We have a president who clearly is trying to turn the government of the United States into a money making operation, as Mr. Cohen described it. He has been a cheat, fraud, tax fraud, committed insurance fraud, all of these various crimes. But on the standards of the Republicans in the Clinton administration, we would be clearly running full-fledged into an impeachment campaign. They impeached Bill Clinton over telling one lie about sex. But we have a standard.
RASKIN: No, I think we have a higher standard here. Just because you committed statutory crimes, doesn't mean these are high crimes and misdemeanors demanding impeachment within the meaning of the Constitution. We want to see that these are offenses against the character of the republic and our ability to govern as a democracy. That is a hard question that the Democrats soberly are going to confront.
I was very proud of the way the majority behaved yesterday. We were much more civil and composed. The Republicans, all they can do is call Michael Cohen a liar. As I said, they are not upset that he lied to Congress. They are upset that he stopped lying to Congress. He stopped lying to Congress for the president and yesterday he told us the truth.
BOLDUAN: Importantly, though, as you mentioned the concept of impeachment, from what your heard yesterday, do you see, do you believe, did you hear anything yesterday that you believe you should be investigating as an impeachable offense of the president at this point?
RASKIN: I think it is very serious that the president was involved in committing campaign finance offenses while in the Oval Office, that he was involved in sending himself checks for hush money payoff payoffs and organizing the hush money payoffs through various campaign and corporate devices. All of these are campaign finance violations. That's serious business in terms of getting yourself elected president of the United States. And they do begin to go to the character of what kind of republic we are going to have. I think we are just scratching the surface in terms of knowing what all of the various
RASKIN: And we're trying to get to bottom of each of the lines of inquiry.
BOLDUAN: You are not necessarily there yet. Not there yet.
You talked about Jay Sekulow and the Moscow Project. This comes down to this moment where Michael Cohen says that his statement to Congress, which he lied and he has admitted he has, he said the White House looked over it and worked with him on it. Let me play for you that moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RASKIN: Which specific lawyer's reviewed and edited your statement to Congress on the Moscow Tower negotiations and did they make any changes to your statement?
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER PERSONAL ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: There were changes made, additions. Jay Sekulow, the one --
RASKIN: Were they changes about the timing?
COHEN: There were several changes that were made, including how we were going to handle that message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Sekulow denies. He said it's completely false that he had any hand in changing the timing, the duration that the Moscow deal was being discussed. Who do you believe?
RASKIN: First of all, there may have been other lawyers involved as well as Jay Sekulow. This is what we have to get to the bottom of. Unfortunately, of course, we are limited to five minutes questioning. I think I hit the buzzer right at that point when we were getting to the heart of the matter. I think that my colleagues on the Intelligence Committee today will follow-up with that, I hope. I know that we on the Oversight Committee will follow-up with it. We need to know: Did the president's lawyers --
BOLDUAN: When you follow up, do you mean do you want to hear from Sekulow? Do you want to bring Jay Sekulow up with other attorneys?
BOLDUAN: Is that -- do you expect that to happen before your committee?
RASKIN: Sure. Well, again, I'm not the chair of the committee. I'm just one member of the committee. We absolutely need to know, were the presidents' lawyers directly involved in the decision to lie to Congress. This is what the Republicans were so upset about yesterday that he had lied to Congress. We want to know everybody involved in that plot. I think it is very unlikely that Michael Cohen decided to do it on his own. He was clearly acting as an agent of the president. I tend to believe that the presidents' lawyers coached him in the right direction and helped to shape the message that was in the testimony.
BOLDUAN: There's almost unanimous reporting, Congressman, that Michael Cohen wanted a role in the Trump White House. This was somewhat of a focus in the hearing yesterday. Did he want a job in the Trump White House? He says he did not. Michael Cohen denied it over and over again yesterday under oath. Do you think he perjured himself?
[11:10:15] RASKIN: No. First of all, that whole question is an irrelevant distraction. The things he was talking about, he brought documentary evidence to support --
BOLDUAN: It more leads to credibility.
BOLDUAN: If he wants to quibble or lie about something like this, then what else do you believe?
RASKIN: He has no incentive to be lying at this point. Everything he said was perfectly consistent and coherent. Remember, the Republicans are upset because he stopped lying for the president. There are so many people in the president's circle now who are going to jail who have been indicted and faced convictions. And look at Manafort and Page and look at Stone and so on and so forth. They are not upset about those people. It is when you go against the president that they get upset. They don't want to call him a liar. They want to call him a renegade or a traitor. They want the people to remain completely loyal to the president and walk the plank with him.
I was impressed by this guy. He was a hard-core Republican. I think he was the vice chair for finance on the Republican National Committee who said I'm going to stop lying --
BOLDUAN: He is not a hard-core Republican. He was a Democrat. He couldn't vote for Trump in New York --
RASKIN: Well, well --
BOLDUAN: -- because he had not changed his party affiliation.
RASKIN: Doesn't he have a position at the Republican National Committee and --
RASKIN: And he was vice chair of the Republican --
BOLDUAN: He became a Republican only in order to hold that position.
Yes, I agree with you --
BOLDUAN: -- it is slightly confusing. I just want to be clear.
RASKIN: It's not very confusing to me because the guy was a loyal Trump partisan for more than 10 years. My point is, I would love it if some Republicans came with us and said, let's ask him questions to find out what happened. None of them were asking questions about President Trump. They were all meant to try to beat up on Michael Cohen. I thought it was an absurd and embarrassing exercise on their part.
BOLDUAN: It sounds like you have a lot more questions now. I'm interested to see what moves your committee makes next.
Congressman, thanks for coming in.
RASKIN: Delighted to be with you.
BOLDUAN: Thank you.
Right now President Trump is on his way back from Vietnam after that abrupt end to his high-stakes nuclear summit with North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-Un. The two leaders canceling a working lunch and cutting short their visit after failing to broker any agreement on North Korea's nuclear program.
President Trump said it all had to do with sanctions. But despite that, said the talks ended on good terms.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: He is quite a guy and quite a character. I think our relationship is very strong. But at this time, we had some options and, at this time, we decided not to do any of the options. Sometimes you have to walk. And this was just one of those times.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: CNN's Michelle Kosinski is in Hanoi with much more on this.
Michelle, it was a very surprising end after all of this lead up. What happened?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: I know, it's hard to believe. We know that the North Koreans have been dug in over sanctions for a very long time. Kim Jong-Un's New Year's Day message said as much. I guess the hope, knowing that this whole thing was planned, was that they were making this incremental progress, even though this was a very compressed timeframe for those lower-level meetings. But you would have thought that coming here and having something called a signing ceremony on the White House public schedule that they had something organized, but obviously not. What a surprise ending to this most Trumpian of cliff hangers, that the big thing that both sides were willing to give up was nothing.
I think the most telling piece of reporting comes from a U.S. official telling CNN Trump's closest aides were telling him, look, North Korea seems dug in, we don't think they are going to budge on this but the president still felt that meeting face-to-face was going to change it.
This has been the biggest criticism of Trump's approach here. He insists on a top-down approach. His critics say, no, that is never going to work. You need to have something laid out before the leaders can sign on the line. And this happening yet again seems to prove that -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: It will also be almost as surprising if President Trump changes his kind of position and strategy when it comes to talks with Kim Jong-Un after this.
Very importantly, also from this, put the nuclear talks aside. The president declared that he takes Kim Jong-Un's word when it comes to the treatment of American student, Otto Warmbier --
BOLDUAN: -- an American student who was held and released in a coma and died days later when he returned to the United States. What is the president saying here?
KOSINSKI: This is just shocking and reminiscent of things he said believing Vladimir Putin, believing the Saudi crown prince over the Khashoggi murder. He just keeps going on these rifts, talking about he doesn't think that Kim was personally responsible. That might be true. He goes on and on about the terrible condition of the crowded prisons in North Korea, as if Kim Jong-Un didn't have a hand in this. He said he takes this dictator, this murderous dictator who has killed members of his own family, at his word.
[11:15:12] Now we are hearing from former ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, who also clearly didn't like what she heard here. She tweeted just now -- hold on, let me find it: "Americans know the cruelty that was placed on Otto Warmbier by the North Korean regime. Our hearts are with the Warmbier family for their strength and courage. We will never forget Otto."
I think that's one thing, when you were hearing this going on, you thought of that family and how this must register to them, as well as to families of other people that are held by similar regimes around the world -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: If anything happens in North Korea without Kim Jong-Un signing off on it.
Michelle, it's great to see you. Thanks so much. Great reporting. Coming up for us, why would President Trump trust Kim Jong-Un when it
comes to Otto Warmbier? We will ask someone who has negotiated with North Korea for decades for some perspective on this.
Plus, Michael Cohen revealed President Trump is being investigated for more potential crimes but not by Robert Mueller. So what could these investigations entail now and how much trouble is this for the White House.
We'll be right back.
[11:20:39] BOLDUAN: One of the biggest moments from Michael Cohen's seven hours before Congress yesterday is when he declared that he knows of more wrongdoing by the president that is currently under investigation, and not by Robert Mueller. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN: Is there any other wrong doing or illegal act that you are aware of regarding Donald Trump that we haven't yet discussed today?
COHEN: Yes. Again, those are part of the investigation that's currently being looked at by the Southern District of New York.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: And because of that, Cohen said he wouldn't go into it any further. Now we have many more questions.
Joining me now CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, and CNN legal analyst, Jennifer Rodgers, former federal prosecutor with the Southern District of New York.
Great to see you guys.
Jennifer, what is your best guess? I know you love it when I make you guess. What the Southern District is investigating that is not to do with Russia?
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: We know about the hush money payments, which got buttoned up yesterday with the provision of the checks and the additional information that every time Cohen was talking to Keith Richardson, Stormy Daniels' lawyer, who would get Trump's OK and all of that, that is buttoned up and done. Of course, we know about the Inauguration Committee. They're investigating that. They issued subpoenas about that.
The other two categories that we don't know much about are the Trump Organization itself, so corporate malfeasance there, tax fraud, accounting fraud, bank fraud --
(CROSSTALK) BOLDUAN: That is one of the interesting things that came up late in the hearing yesterday was talk of deflating assets for tax reasons and insurance reasons.
RODGERS: That's the other category. There's the Trump Organization stuff. That I would put in the bucket of Trump's personal things.
RODGERS: So we have the Deutsche Bank financial statements that he allegedly submitted in order to get a loan. That is called bank fraud. For Trump personally, you are talking about potential tax fraud and bank fraud. We heard something about insurance fraud. I think they are looking into all of those categories.
The other problem for the president is that we have some state entities looking at him, as well. We had news yesterday that the D.C. attorney general had subpoenaed the Inaugural committee for documents and information. We have the district attorney in Manhattan indicating he is charging Paul Manafort. That shows a willingness to back-stop the charges to make them pardon-proof. We have the attorney general with an investigation going on of the Trump Foundation. Lots of problems swirling on the legal front for Trump and his folks.
BOLDUAN: Dana, I have this thought in my head of, if there's a crime here, when it comes to the president committing a crime while in office, and this comes to the hush money payments, what do people do with that? I guess what I mean is politically. What do people do with that if there's a crime committed while the president is in office - I was asking Jamie Raskin about that and he started wondering if it reaches to the level yet of a high crime or misdemeanor. Does everyone just move on or is this a turning point?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I thought your interview with Jamie Raskin earlier was really telling. It was in keeping with his approach and his answers, very cautious on the political impeachment front and what I'm hearing from members of the Democratic majority this morning, now that they have been able to digest all of the potential crimes laid out there in the studio. There's a lot. You didn't talk about the potential for campaign finance crimes, which might be part of the potential crime committed while in the Oval Office. He talked to Michael Cohen about the ongoing payments while in the Oval Office, or certainly in the White House. So the caution that Jamie Raskin used is telling because it is -- when I say it, impeachment, is a political decision. A political decision by the House majority, the Democrats to say, does this reach a high crime and misdemeanor. Do we want to go forward with this for a president who is going to face voters in November of 2020? I was told from one senior Democratic source this morning is, as of now, post big hearing yesterday, the reaction and action will be keep digging up all of these things inside that Oversight Committee, not necessarily jumping to impeachment.
[11:25:09] BOLDUAN: Fascinating.
One piece that you mentioned, Jennifer, is the big piece of evidence that Cohen brought forth, the check. This comes to the hush money payments with the check that he received from Trump since Trump has been in office. Is that evidence of a crime? Because I've heard Republicans during the hearing and after of couldn't that just be the retainer that the president was paying him to be his personal attorney? What do you see?
RODGERS: Anytime you have a cooperating witness and he is not technically signed up for the role Michael Cohen is playing here, you are trying to corroborate them with evidence that supports what they are telling you. We have him telling us that he had this deal. There was no written retainer agreement, remember, that would be in place, you would think, if there was a legitimate retainer situation going on. So he says, here I have this check that supports what I'm saying. They'll dig around and try to see whether there's anything else that it could be, but it is definitely supportive of what he is saying. If you have other explanation, they can bring that out and the fact finder would decide that. But it is definitely corroborative and supportive of what he says. We have that throughout the whole time. On that basis, too, it is squarely in what Michael Cohen was saying.
BOLDUAN: Yes. So many more questions from that hearing, especially since it was seven hours long.
It's good to see you, Jennifer.
Dana, great to see you. Thanks so much.
BASH: Thanks, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expecting to face charges. We'll have the latest for you from Jerusalem, next.