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Cohen Resumes Testimony After Explosive Day Of Revelations, Cummings: Another Shoe To Drop In Trump Investigations, North Korea Holds Rare News Conference After Talks Collapse, Trump Defends Kim Jong-Un Over Death Of American Citizen. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired February 28, 2019 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:29] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN NEWSROOM: You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being here. Here, you see the President of the United States there addressing troops in Alaska. This is during a fuel stop on his way home from Vietnam where nuclear talks with North Korea collapsed. We'll get into all of that in just a moment.
But, first, for the past few days, Michael Cohen has been a fixture in Washington, shuttling between the House and Senate while giving Congress an up close look at his decade working at the top of the Trump empire. And today, that all comes to an end after Cohen finishes testifying before the House Intelligence Committee. And while he may be sitting there behind closed doors today, Cohen is clearly still top of mind for his former boss who weighed in on the spectacle from thousands of miles away at his summit in Vietnam with Kim Jong-un.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: 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. And I said, I wonder why he didn't just lie about that too like he did about 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 bit impressed by that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Joseph Moreno is a former federal prosecutor. Joe, good to have you on. Let's just dive right in here. CNN has learned that multiple Hill committees will split up the various allegations from Cohen, including inflating the President's net worth. And Cohen said Trump won't release his tax return because he's afraid of an audit and possible penalties. But candidate Trump claimed that he was under audit, saying that that is why he couldn't give up the documents. So here's the question, in your mind, what are the main areas of exposure that the President now faces?
JOSEPH MORENO, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: So, Brooke, there's so much to unpack, right, from yesterday. But, number one, it's the campaign finance angle. This is no longer a hypothetical, right? Michael Cohen is going to jail in two months in part because he committed campaign finance fraud. He directly implicated the President in that criminal behavior. And what we heard yesterday was further evidence, not hypotheticals but evidence, in terms of testimony and documentation that the President personally directed him to do this and even signed one of the checks. So that to me is the most imminent of the many threats that are now swirling around this President.
BALDWIN: You know, I was reading this morning one legal analyst said this seriously that there was essentially no one smoking gun on anything related to Russia that this person heard from Cohen. But when you look at all of it together, might it be used, the whole thread, you know, to charge someone, the President, with being a co- conspirator?
MORENO: Certainly a possibility. So, Brooke, if there's any silver lining in yesterday, it's what President Trump just picked up on, right, which is that Michael Cohen could not help connect the dots with respect to Russia collusion, which is a very general term. It doesn't even have its own legal significance. That's all I saw as far as the silver lining now. I don't see how any objective legal mind could have watched what happened yesterday and not come away saying, this was a really bad day for the President. The only question is, how bad?
BALDWIN: Right. Who may know is a name who kept coming up, who is Allen Weisselberg, the CFO of the Trump Organization who was granted immunity in the SDNY probe into Cohen last fall. And Cohen was telling investigators that Weisselberg was involved in discussions on how much to pay the hush money and to reimburse him.
So here is Chairman Cummings. This is what he said after the hearing about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. Chairman, what do you think --
REPORTER: Are you going to talk to Allen Weisselberg, Donald Trump Jr. in order to investigate the hush money payments, Weisselberg, Donald Trump Jr.? Will you talk to them?
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, D-MD: Yes, we probably will. There are certain areas we've got to be careful with because Special Counsel and Southern District of New York and others have basically said that there are things that they are looking into. There are a number of areas that we couldn't even get into and didn't get into that they're looking into. This is - I think that there are still a number of shoes to drop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Still a number of shoes to drop as part of that, Joe. I mean, is the money trail the key here?
MORENO: Yes. I mean, that - and this is exactly what the prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, right, where you're sitting, they're really good at this. I mean, they have brought major white collar prosecutions, whether it's organized crime or narcotics or Wall Street crimes. They're really good at following the money. They were like bred for this. So that is definitely the biggest concern here.
And I've said this for a long time. When Michael Cohen's office was raided last year, that was the biggest danger of this Presidency because there's no telling where the evidence could take them.
BALDWIN: In the midst of all of the mudslinging and the partisan finger pointing from yesterday, there were some lawmakers who actually focused on why Cohen said he came before Congress, and one of them was New York democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ, D-NY: To your knowledge, did the President ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?
MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP'S FORMER LAWYER: Yes.
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Who else knows that the President did this?
COHEN: Allen Weisselberg, Ron Lieberman and Matthew Calamari.
OCASIO-CORTEZ: And where would the committee find more information on this? Do you think we need to review his financial statements and his tax returns in order to compare them?
COHEN: Yes, and you'd find it at the Trump org.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: So, Joe Moreno, that was just a sliver of what the Congresswoman put forth in all these, you know, questions, no grandstanding, no long speeches, just like this laser focus on Trump's finances and lay the groundwork for where this committee goes next. How effective do you think she was in that hearing yesterday? Do you think her colleagues should take notes?
MORENO: Well, think about some of these high profile congressional hearings we've seen this past year, right, Peter Strzok, Matt Whitaker. We've seen how difficult it can be to use your five minutes effectively. And Congress people often fall in one of two traps. Either one, they spend the entire five minutes making speeches, sometimes they're good, sometimes they're bad, but they lose their opportunity. The second problem is they ask questions but they're not good questions. They don't ask follow-ups. They don't really lay the predicate for any kind of future action.
The Congresswoman did not fall into either one of those traps. And for a freshman, that's impressive, right? She got to the point. She laid the predicate for future action. She said, who should we talk to, what should we look at and what would be productive in Congress's investigation further. And she got some good information which she can now take and say, this is the basis for why we should take further actions, whether it's with the bank fraud allegations, about possibly fraudulent bank statements, whether it's the tax returns, whatever else. So she did a really nice job. Whoever prepped her did a fantastic job.
BALDWIN: Joseph Moreno, good to see you, thank you very much on all of that.
Let's talk about the democrat who oversaw Cohen's hearing, House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings. He said today that if Cohen mentioned your name, expect to hear from his committee one way or another. And some of the names that Cohen mentioned, names from Trump's inner circle, we have not heard before.
CNN Politics Reporter and Editor-at-Large, Chris Cillizza is with me. And, Chris, Michael Cohen may have been, you know, the star of the hearing, so to speak, but there were many names he brought up. So who did he talk about?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes. It's fascinating. You thought - just when you thought you knew all the players in this massive game, now there's more. So let's go through some we heard before, some we hadn't. Okay. So let's go through it.
Allen Weisselberg is a name we have heard before. He was granted immunity by the Southern District of New York to talk about Cohen and the laws that Cohen broke. So that was in relation to Cohen. Allen was a very interesting guy. He started working for Fred Trump, Donald Trump's father, is in charge not just of Trump, Inc.'s finances but also Donald Trump's personal finances. So this might be the key player here, but a great immunity for Cohen but nothing more.
Okay, Eric, Ivanka and Don Jr., obviously, we know these people. But what we learned from Cohen yesterday was these two in particular, the eldest, it's a great picture of Don Jr., the eldest son and eldest daughter of Donald Trump were the ones that were Cohen's contact on this Trump Tower Moscow project, that he met with them ten times to brief them on where they were, so intimately involved.
Obviously, we know these two, Eric and Don Jr. run the Trump Organization. Ivanka, obviously, a senior official in the White House.
Okay, moving on, Rhona Graff. So this is someone who we know of. She even kind of sort of played a little bit of a role in The Apprentice, the TV Apprentice, this is sort of the gatekeeper to Donald Trump, been with him for a very long time, secretary, personal assistant, the person that you don't get to Donald Trump unless you go through her. So, again, she and Weisselberg, we kind of had heard of them but not all that much, and Cohen mentioned them, which your point logic, Cummings is worrisome [ph]. Okay. Now to my favorite two, okay, down here, Ron Lieberman and Matthew Calamari. Now, both of them are sort of senior executives in the Trump Organization with very vague titles.
I want to focus on my guy, Matthew Calamari. When Cohen mentioned Calamari's name, the internet went insane because they assume that was a made up name, like who could possibly be named Matthew Calamari, just making of a name for like an extra in The Sopranos. No. Calamari exists in real life. He was Trump's chauffer and bodyguard, and like many people in that organization, rose up through the ranks. Why, because he was unflinchingly loyal to one person, Donald Trump.
So we're going to get more - we're already familiar with this group, get familiar with Weisselberg, although I don't know if he'll talk. Same thing with Rhona, I don't know if she'll talk. These two guys are sort of interesting. Both of them close to Trump for an extended period of time, and we really haven't heard much about either of them just yet.
Back to you, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Matthew Calamari, yes, that is his name. Chris Cillizza, thank you very much. So you just heard Chris run through those - some of those names.
Coming up next, we'll talk to someone with inside knowledge about the Trump Organization, a woman who was a former executive there and worked with the likes of Weisselberg.
Plus, the other major story today, no deal, President Trump walking away from the Kim Jong-un talks and the North Koreans moments ago holding a rare news conference, hear what they say. And one former republican senator calls It reprehensible, the President giving Kim cover on the death of an American citizen.
You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
[14:15:28] BALDWIN: As you were watching Michael Cohen's testimony, it was the Trump executive name you could not miss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: Allen Weisselberg. Allen Weisselberg. In the office with me was Allen Weisselberg. So Allen Weisselberg is the Chief Financial Officer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Allen Weisselberg, as you just heard Cohen there mentioned, is the top money man within the Trump Organization. He handles not only the company's finances but he oversaw the President's personal transactions, like his checks, his tax refunds. Weisselberg, in fact, signed one of the checks. The bottom signature seen here that Cohen presented his proof that Trump reimbursed him for hush money Cohen paid to silence the story alleging an extramarital affair with Trump.
Federal prosecutors have given Weisselberg limited immunity in the hush money case but what does that for Weisselberg's role regarding the other allegations Cohen brought up i.e. Trump misusing his charity or filing false information to avoid taxes are all questions certainly people will be exploring.
So for some insight, Barbara Res is back. She wrote all alone on the 68th floor how one woman changed the face of construction. She was an Executive Vice President at the Trump Organization working for Donald Trump for 18 years.
BARBARA RES, : On and off, yes.
BALDWIN: On and off for 18 years. It's great to have you back.
RES: Thank you.
BALDWIN: Let's just run through some of these names. We just talked about Allen Weisselberg, who you overlapped with for a number of years. At that time, he wasn't the big kahuna, so to speak. He was - what was he --
RES: He was the guy - well, he came from Brooklyn and he did the billing and paying the bills, I mean, basically, those two functions, like a chief accountant. And, basically, I think that's what he did at Trump Tower when he first moved over there. And he moved over there in the period between '84 and '87 when I was gone. I left and came back. So --
BALDWIN: Anything about him that stand out? I mean, obviously, the now President must trust him enough to give him the promotion.
RES: Yes. Well, like I said, he went back to Fred in Brooklyn. He was not in the inner circle at that time, to be honest with you. He was the kind of guy that would be called into Donald's office and say, yes, Mr. Trump. You know, (INAUDIBLE), yes, Donald. You know, that kind of thing.
BALDWIN: He was a Mr. Trump?
RES: He was a Mr. Trump guy. But it looks like that changed.
BALDWIN: That changed and it also changed with Matthew Calamari, who I just also want to ask you about, I mean, all the color and all these different people that you worked with. So this guy, Matthew Calamari, who Chris Cillizza was just talking about, and, yes, that is his real name, who you used to call --
RES: The big squid.
BALDWIN: The big squid is now the COO of Trump Org. And this is also a name that we heard from Cohen. And at the time he was brought in as --
RES: He was working at the open on - like for the --
BALDWIN: The U.S. Open?
RES: U.S. Open. Donald was there in the stands and he saw this big guy come and chase some kids that were sitting in seats they didn't belong in and pulled them up by the scruff of their neck, and Donald was impressed by that. So we went over to him and got his number and he came in the next day or the day after he told me, call this guy, I want to put him on Trump Tower in charge of security. I said, "Donald, I don't need somebody like that and, you know, he just got out of college." Hire him, hire him. He's a great guy. So I did.
I put him on the staff of the general contractor and he worked for me and he did a good job. He rose to the occasion. I mean, you know, he made sure that people were not stealing things to the extent that you can on a construction job.
BALDWIN: It all goes back to loyalty, doesn't it?
RES: Well, yes. Eventually, it does, yes. I mean, he ended up being Trump's bodyguard.
BALDWIN: And then now?
RES: Well, he went through a few iterations, but now, he's COO.
BALDWIN: COO. What about Michael Cohen said, nothing happens in Trump World without Trump knowing about it, and he brought some of these checks. Michael Cohen brought some of these checks, right, to the Hill, including checks from the President himself after he had become the President paying him back for the hush money. And he also said one of the checks was made out in Don Junior's name. What do you think of that and how --
RES: You know, I don't know what to make of Don Jr. But as far as Trump paying his own checks, for something important like that, I think even if you said you could sign it, I think they'd want him to sign it just so that they would have his name on it because that was a big deal. But, yes, in Trump World, Trump knew everything. Nothing went on without him. That's why when this meeting in Trump Tower with the Russians came up, they asked me, is it possible that Donald didn't know. I said, no, that's not possible.
Everybody reported to Donald, even the highest person. And I don't think Don Jr. in that, you know, echelon.
BALDWIN: Cohen also said that Trump threatened people hundreds of times.
Were you ever threatened?
RES: Cohen actually called me right after I wrote an op-ed piece in the Daily News. I had just started out. And it was not a bad piece. It was kind of nice, I mean, actually. And he started talking words like defamation and libel. And I said, "Gee, Michael, I've got to go. I have people here and I'll call you back."
BALDWIN: Michael Cohen was the one doing the threatening?
RES: Yes, Cohen, yes, yes. Now, as far as Trump threatening, I mean, a quick funny story is he used to keep a picture of Roy Cohen in his desk drawer and when we would have meetings with contractors that wanted to get their final payments, Trump would say, "I'm not going to pay. I'm going to sue you. And here's my lawyer." And he brings it up. But threatening to sue was a definitely big deal. He threatened to sue everybody.
BALDWIN: How about this whole conversation that's been going on over whether or not Donald Trump is racist? Cohen said he is recalling an incident when Obama was President in which Trump said, black people would never vote for him because, to quote, they were too stupid. Cohen pointed out that there are no black executives at the Trump Organization. Is Donald - you've known Donald Trump off and on for years and years. What's true?
RES: It's hard for me to say he's racist and then being that I worked for him for all that time. I mean, it was a different period of time and words like the N-word were used frequently. They aren't ever used now. So, yes.
BALDWIN: By Donald Trump himself?
RES: Well, I don't remember. To be honest, I won't say that he did because I don't remember. I remember hearing jokes, there were always black jokes going back and forth and he told them too. You know the expression, once you go black you never go back. The first time I've ever heard it, it was Donald that said it, and in a joking way. So, I mean, it was certainly a light-heartedness not only black people and Jews and things like that.
But I remember we were picketed by --
BALDWIN: So hang on. Hang on. I'm just still letting that sit for a second. So no one in the room when Donald Trump or others would make these inappropriate jokes would say, sir, not appropriate?
RES: People didn't do it at that time. Everybody joked. And people - I mean, I'm going to be honest about it. People laughed at it. This was 1981, '82, '83, and that's almost 40 years ago. And people sort of laughed. They laughed at all those jokes. And by the way, they weren't as mean intended back then. It was more or less kind of racism was like accepted. It wasn't like, oh, I hate black people. It's just this is the way people are and this is the way we talk.
BALDWIN: Which we all know it is never accepted, but you are full of stories --
RES: Oh, yes, I am.
BALDWIN: -- from all of those years. Barbara Res with Donald Trump, wow, thank you, Barbara Res, very much.
RES: My pleasure.
BALDWIN: President Trump once again under fire for embracing a brutal dictator, Kim Jong-un, Erdogan, Putin, the Saudi Crown Prince, some of the names of strong men and notorious leaders the president has praised. A republican senator joins me live. And a heated clash over allegations of racism during that Michael Cohen hearing, this is what we were just talking about, when a republican used a black woman to stand up and defend the President, but there are some past remarks from that particular congressman that is fueling the flames.
We'll be right back.
[14:27:32] BALDWIN: The President is making a refueling stop at an Air Force base in Alaska after abruptly cutting his critical meeting with Kim Jong-un short. President Trump says talks fell through after the North Korean leader insisted the United States lift all sanctions.
But that's actually not the only big headline coming out of his trip to Vietnam. Let me give you two words, Otto Warmbier, the American college student who was imprisoned in North Korea for more than a year and returned home in a coma and died days later. Warmbier's parents were guests of the President at his 2018 State of the Union Address.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You are powerful witnesses to a menace that threatens our world and your strength truly inspires us all. Thank you very much. Thank you.
Tonight, we pledge to honor Otto's memory with total American resolve. We need only look at the depraved character of the North Korean regime to understand the nature of the nuclear threat it could pose to America and to our allies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: But when the president came face-to-face with Kim Jong-un in Vietnam, he gave him a pass, even defending the dictator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: He felt badly about it. I did speak to him. He felt very badly about6 it. He knew the case very well but he knew it later. And, you know, you've got a lot of people, a big country, a lot of people. And in those prisons and those camps, you have a lot of people. And some really bad things happened to Otto, some really, really bad things. But he tells me - he tells me that he didn't know about it and I will take him at his word.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana is with me now. Senator, welcome back.
SEN. JOHN KENNEDY, R-LA: Thanks, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Otto Warmbier, sir, he was a 22-year-old American citizen. How do you defend that comment from President Trump?
KENNEDY: I don't know whether Kim Jong-un knew or not, I don't know that it matters in this sense. Kim is responsible for North Korea. He's responsible for the prison system. He's responsible for the inhumanity in the prison system. Whether he knew or not, to me, it would be interesting to know. I don't know how we'll ever know, but he's responsible.
And it's just that simple. He is a barbaric authoritarian.