Return to Transcripts main page


President Donald Trump Went Off Script Delivering The Longest Speech Of His Presidency At CPAC For More Than Two Hours; Big Day For Bernie Sanders Today As He Officially Kicked Off His 2020 Bid In Brooklyn; Trump Organization Officials May Face Congressional Scrutiny Of Their Own After Michael Cohen Suggested In His Congressional Testimony They Could Have Knowledge Of Potential Crimes; Michael Cohen Described Working For Trump Was Like Working For A Mob Boss; The Son Of Osama Bin Laden Is The New Leader Taking Over Al-Qaeda. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired March 2, 2019 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: What a guy. And you can nominate someone you think should be a CNN Hero right now at

Top of the hour. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Thank you so much for staying with me. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

We begin this hour with the President seeking to rebound after a week marked by defeat. The President went off script delivering the longest speech of his presidency at CPAC for more than two hours. His remarks were scheduled to last just 50 minutes. He launched an expletive laid (ph) scorched earth campaign against the Robert Mueller investigation, even mocking his own infamous calls for Russia to find Hillary Clinton's emails.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Unfortunately, you put the wrong people in a couple of positions and they leave people for a long time that shouldn't be there. And all of a sudden, they are trying to take you out with bullshit. OK?

Robert Mueller never received a vote and neither did the person that appointed him. And as you know, the attorney general said, I'm going to recuse myself. And I said, why the hell didn't he tell me that before I put him in?

No, if you tell a joke, if you are sarcastic, if you are having fun with the audience, if you are on live television with millions of people and 25,000 people in an arena and you say something like, Russia, please, if you can, get us Hillary Clinton's emails, please.


TRUMP: Please get us the emails. Please.

CROWD: Lock her up. Lock her up.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CABRERA: The President there in his element after a week that included President Trump's former attorney naming names and even handing over financial documents on Capitol Hill.

New explosive reporting that the President forced the approval his son-in-law's security clearance. And walking away empty-handed at that summit with North Korea's leader in Vietnam.

I'm joined now by CNN White House correspondent Boris Sanchez.

Boris, the President was talking to clearly a very friendly audience there. We know the President feels reenergized when he gives speeches like this. What more did he say?


Yes. President Trump clearly felt energized by the crowd there at CPAC. It's a friendly audience. And the President, as you noted, gave the longest address of his presidency, well over two hours.

President Trump bashed some members of his administration, current and follower. He also went after Robert Mueller, hinting at some deep state conspiracies that he has pedaled in the past about why these investigations were launched. At one point using an expletive that I won't repeat on television to describe the circumstances surrounding the Russia investigation.

The President also gave us a bit of a preview of what we might hear from him going into the 2020 campaign. The President attacking Democrats for what he called a radical agenda, bashing the green new deal, saying that Democrats wanted a government takeover of health care and a massive tax increase. Listen to more from President Trump.


TRUMP: Democrat lawmakers are now embracing socialism. They want to replace individual rights with total government domination. This is the new Democrat platform for the -- I don't want to talk them out of it. I don't. I don't. I swear, I don't. This is a killer. I got to get off the subject. I want them to embrace this plan. I want them to go and sell this plan. I just want to be the Republican that runs against them.


SANCHEZ: And President Trump repeated a line that we heard during his state of the union address that drew massive applause saying the United States would never be a socialist country. The President was all over the map during the speech. But you really got the sense that after such a tough week, everything that you noted from Michael Cohen's testimony to the failure to get a denuclearization deal with North Korea and news about security clearances for Jared Kushner, he had a lot to get off his chest. He is eager for that 2020 battle - Ana.

CABRERA: Hey, clearly. Thank you, Boris Sanchez at the White House. And while that crowd cheered at CPAC, the President, let me remind you

once again is coming off a rough week. We had the Michael Cohen explosive testimony, the summit with Kim Jong-un, it failed to bring any kind of nuclear deal, the clash with Otto Warmbier's family in fact.

I want to bring in Ron Brownstein now, senior editor at the "Atlantic" and Olivia Nuzzi is a Washington correspondent for "New York Magazine."

Ron, that was a marathon of a speech, the longest of his presidency. More than two hours long. What stood out?

[16:05:07] RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, it was at points re-associating. There was enormous grievance. But I think actually the speech gave you a very concentrated understanding of how he thinks he is going to run for reelection.

You know, there was one point in the speech where he was talking specifically about the second amendment but which I think actually kind of was a window into his overall vision. And he talked about the second amendment being quote "under siege but I will protect you."

And that is the essence, those six words are the essence of President Trump's messaging. He tells his audience that they are under siege from an array of forces that are either threatening them or contemptuous of them. Elites that, you know, that he says look down on them. Minorities and immigrants who threaten them. Democrat, people in Congress who hate America, and that he will protect them. That in effect, he presents himself as a human wall, as human equivalent of the wall against all of the changes that he portrays as threatening his audience. And amidst all of the other elements today, that strand ran through very clearly and sort of reminder that it will be essential to how he envisions himself winning a second term in 2020.

CABRERA: So you say he wants to be the protector. He was also the attacker today. I want to play something else the President told the crowd today. Listen.


TRUMP: Right now, we have people in Congress that hate our country. You know that. We can name every one of them if they want. They hate our country. Say it. Sad, it is very sad. When I see some of the things being made, the statements being made, it's very, very sad. And find out, how did they do in their country? Just ask them. How did they do?


CABRERA: Olivia, was this just crowd pandering or is the President ratcheting things up in response to all these congressional investigations?

OLIVIA NUZZI, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: I think it's probably a bit of both. You know, as you noted, he had a pretty terrible week. It might as well have been an infrastructure week on the White House schedule. A number of things went wrong for him at home and abroad, obviously, in Vietnam. And I think that when he does these long free sensitive speeches, it's kind of a way for him to regain his footing, to feel like the narrative as we say is back on his terms. He is setting the terms of what the conversation is about him, at least for the moment, at least for that day. So I think that's what this speech was really about.

And I think he did - he want to feel like he had that crowd on his side. He wanted to kind of stoke the outrage against certain members in the new Congress. And I think it was very effective. People there at CPAC, after the speech, were talking about how great it was, how interesting it was. How great it was to be in the room. But it wasn't that different from how he ran in 2016.

If this is a preview how he is going to run in 2020, it's pretty much the same pitch that he had in 2016, except now, of course, he is going to try to claim that they need him to stick around. They don't need him to come office to protect them from various forces in the country that are - it is allegedly attacking the second amendment and other things that his base cares about. But they need him to stay there to continue to as Ron said be a human wall against all those names.

CABRERA: I mean, clearly, he was all about his base today, Ron. He certainly knew his audience there. We saw him hug the American flag as soon as he got out there on stage. I mean, is this President really worried about losing his conservative base or should that be the least of his concerns?

BROWNSTEIN: You know, it's a really a question. Because not only the substance, the message, I will protect you, but the style of the speech I think betrayed a lot about the kind of political calculus that he has going into 2020.

Because basically, all of the belligerence and the calculus use of vulgarity which is extraordinary for a sitting U.S. president is really to send a message to his core supporters that he will break any rule, he will break any order of the corium of behavior in order to protect them. And I think that is, you know, that is the hope of like turning out more and more blue collar evangelical, none urban whites the voters are most threaten.

The problem is, is that that same style is what drives away so many of the white collar voters who are thriving economically, who broke an enormous numbers towards the Democrats in 2018, gave them this House majority by flipping suburban districts all over the country.

I mean, he basically is saying once again today if this is in fact, and I think it is, the tone that he will be setting for 2020, he is betting again on turning out more of his core supporters at the price of alienating more of these voters are doing fine economically but simply consider him unfit in kind of morals and personal behavior to be President. And he gave them plenty to recoil from over those -- was it only two hours?

[16:10:0] CABRERA: Two hours and two minutes to be exact as what it was recorded at.

Olivia, we know the President loves FOX News. We know about his cozy relationship with Sean Hannity. But now, there's a comment from Sean Hannity related to the hush money payments that has picked the interest of House Democrats.

Here is Hannity talking about a conversation he had with Michael Cohen regarding the hush money deal. Listen.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: I can tell you personally he said to me at least a dozen times that he made the decision on the payments and he didn't tell you.


HANNITY: Told me personally.

TRUMP: He did. And he made the decision. And remember this, he is an attorney. Whatever decision he makes, you are supposed to rely on an attorney to make a decision.


CABRERA: Olivia, House Democrat now says he wants that FOX News host, Sean Hannity, to come testified. Do you think that will happen?

NUZZI: I can't see that happening, but who knows? I think anything could happen over the next year in Congress and with this presidency.

But one of the interesting things that Michael Cohen said during his testimony was that he had other tapes, other recordings of his other clients. As we know, he had very few clients other than Donald Trump and one of them was Sean Hannity. So something that I would like to know is does he have tapes of Sean Hannity? And what were they discussing?

We don't know anything really about their relationship other than he allegedly advised Sean Hannity on matters regarding real estate. So I would be very interested to know what the actual content of their conversations was and whether or not it coincides with what Sean Hannity just said. Did they really talk about those things? Did they talk about the hush money payments? I don't know. But I would really like to know.

And Sean Hannity I think we should remember is really close - personal friends with the President. They talk all the time. They talk on the phone. He is one of the key outside advisers for the President. So it's very strange, you know, to see him doing an interview like that, which he has obviously done before as though it's journalism. And it is really something else. I don't know what you would call it. But he is kind of an outside almost communications person working for this White House.

CABRERA: I got to say, I got leave it there, guys. But I do wonder if he were called before the committee if -- he couldn't rely on executive privilege, I don't think, in terms of if he were asked about some of the conversations with the President given he is not a formal member of the White House or of this administration. It would be interesting to pick his brain.

Olivia Nuzzi, Ron Brownstein, thank you very much.

NUZZI: Thank you.

CABRERA: Big day for Bernie Sanders today as he officially kicked off his 2020 bid in Brooklyn. Why this event featured some of his most personal public remarks ever?


[16:16:44] CABRERA: Senator Bernie Sanders reintroducing himself today as a candidate for President. He held his first rally of the 2020 campaign in Brooklyn. A stone's throw from where he was born and raised. He talked about something he doesn't normally talk about. Sanders shared more of his personal story. His modest upbringing, the struggles of his parents. But then text with Bernie (ph), he called out large companies by name, promising to end their free ride.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We say to the one percent in large corporations that under a Bernie Sanders administration, you are not going to be getting more tax breaks. Quite the contrary. We are going to end your tax breaks and your loopholes. You are going to start paying your fair share of taxes.


CABRERA: CNN's Ryan Nobles is there in Brooklyn for us right now.

Ryan, the senator got pretty personal in this speech.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he really did. And that's perhaps the best example of how things are going to be different in 2020 than they were 2016 because the Sanders campaign realizes - well, he did pretty well four years ago. He did not do well enough to win. Not even enough to win the Democratic nomination. So things have got to be a little bit different for him this time around. And they hope that by him showing that personal side and juxtaposing his personal life experience with that of Donald Trump's that that will resonate with voters. And voters will have a better idea of how he connects with them and does so much better than Donald Trump does. In fact, it turned out to be most powerful moment in the speech when he was talking about his upbringing here in Brooklyn. Take a listen.


SANDERS: My experience as a child, living in a family that struggled economically, powerfully influenced my life and my values. I know where I came from. And that is something I will never forget. Unlike Donald Trump, who shut down the government and left 800,000 federal employees without income to pay their bills, I know what it's like to be in a family that lives paycheck to paycheck.


NOBLES: And Ana, honestly, Sanders' advisors were concerned that maybe he wasn't going to feel comfortable with talking about list personal life. And they were hoping that he would stick to his prepared remarks. And in that one section where he said to the crowd almost screamed at the crowd, I know where I came from, that was not a part of his prepared remarks. That was him going off the cuff. And it turned out to be one of the most powerful moments of the speech -- Ana.

CABRERA: Interesting. Ryan Nobles in Brooklyn for us. Thanks so much.

A trio of Trump organization executives are now under scrutiny. Who are they? And what might they know about potential crimes involving the President? We are following the money next.


[16:24:19] CABRERA: President Trump complaining on twitter about the intensifying scrutiny of his finances after Michael Cohen's testimony to Congress this week. Cohen specifically mentioned three Trump corporation executives who House investigators may now want to talk to.

Here is Sara Murray.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS REPORTER (voice-over): Some little known Trump organization officials may face congressional scrutiny of their own after Michael Cohen suggested in his congressional testimony they could have knowledge of potential crimes.

REP. ALEXANDRA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: To your knowledge, did the President provide inflated assets to an insurance company?


OCASIO-CORTEZ: Who else knows that the President did this?

COHEN: Allen Weisselberg, Ron Lieberman and Matthew Calamari.

[16:25:01] MURRAY: At least one of those officials, Trump organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg has already been southwest up in the investigation led by the U.S. attorney's office for the southern district of New York. Weisselberg was granted immunity for providing information on Cohen's role in hush money payments to women alleging affairs with President Donald Trump. Trump denies those affairs. But Weisselberg's limited immunity deal doesn't guarantee he will be

spared from inquiries from Congress or prosecutors looking into other matters. And he could be a treasure trove of information. Weisselberg knows where all the financial bodies are buried, a source previously told CNN or as Trump put it in one of his books, he has been with me for 30 years and keeps a handle on everything.

TRUMP: Another man who has done a great job for me is Matthew Calamari, my chief operating officer. Matthew --.

MATTHEW CALAMARI, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: You know I don't care for Jen very much. Got to be honest with you, because -- wow. Because -- I'm not doing too good.

MURRAY: Aside from that awkward moment in the limelight in the 2004 live finale of NBC's "The Apprentice," Matthew Calamari has kept a relatively low profile. Trump liked how Calamari dealt with some hecklers at the 1981 U.S. open tennis tournament and hired him as a security guard. Calamari climbed the ranks to become Trump's personal bodyguard and eventually chief operating officer.

TRUMP: I have some of the best people in the world. I have guys lined up, believe me.

MURRAY: In his role overseeing Trump's security team, Calamari has come under scrutiny for reportedly allowing lax policies and using questionable force, particularly when Trump was using his private security team to deal with journalists and protesters during his 2016 Presidential campaign.

The third official, Ron Lieberman, joined the Trump organization after leaving his gig in 2007 at the New York City department of parks and recreation. Now Lieberman works closely with Weisselberg on financial matters, a source tell CNN. Since joining the company, he has helped Trump land high profile contracts with the city, like the ferry point golf course in the Bronx, a particularly sweet deal for Trump that caught the eye of at least one lawmaker this week.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Taxpayers spent $127 million to build Trump links in a quote "generous deal" allowing President Trump to keep almost every dollar that flows in on a golf course built with public funds. And this doesn't seem to be the only time the President has benefitted at the expense of the public.

MURRAY: Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.


CABRERA: Joining us now, Caroline Polisi, a defense attorney who specializes in federal and white collar crimes and Larry Noble, CNN contributor and former general counsel for the federal election commission.

Caroline, one of those three executives, Allen Weisselberg, aka the man who knows every deal, has been granted limited immunity by federal prosecutors in dealing with the hush money payments and the probe that they had in the case against Michael Cohen as well as the involvement of AMI in all of this.

Now, I'm curious though, if he comes before a House investigative committee, are all bets off? Could they ask him any questions? Is he fair game?

CAROLINE POLISI, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: So potentially, the question is what is the extent of that immunity? Certainly, it's going to have an implication on his right to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination because the underpinning logic behind that ability to invoke it is if you have the fear of a criminal prosecution.

So the questions and reporting hasn't been clear whether he was granted transactional immunity or use immunity. And the difference is whether or not they can prosecute him for the underlying crime.

Oftentimes, prosecutors will give a limited immunity, which just means they can't use the actual statements that he gave them at the time. So it's really a question and it's up in the air. But I think we are going to hear a lot of very interesting answers from Mr. Weisselberg because as it was noted, if you thought Michael Cohen knew where the bodies are buried, I mean, this guy really knows where the bodies are buried.

CABRERA: That's what we keep hearing from people because he has been with Trump many, many years, longer than Michael Cohen had been with Trump.

Larry, we also saw physical evidence this week, copies of a check personally signed by Trump after he took office that Cohen says was part of his reimbursement for the hush money he paid to Stormy Daniels during the campaign. Cohen also produced this other check signed by Weisselberg and Donald Trump Junior.

Now does this amount to a smoking gun for campaign finance violation or are prosecutors going to have a hard time proving that Trump wasn't just out to protect his relationship with his wife or maybe his brand?

LARRY NOBLE, FORMER GENERAL COUNSEL, FEC: Well, it takes us very far towards a smoking gun. You know, before what we had was this theory that Trump had paid Cohen back for money paid to keep Stormy Daniels quiet. Trump a year ago is denying that these payments never happened. Here what we have is real hard evidence that there were checks written, that they were payments to Cohen. And Cohen says they were to pay him back for the money that he paid to Stormy Daniels.

Now if he paid money to Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet during the election, then that is a campaign contribution from Michael Cohen. And if Trump paid it back, you then have Trump making a contribution in the name of another. You have reporting violations. You have excessive contributions by Michael Cohen. So this is a very serious matter.

Also, the fact that they tried to hide it as shown by the checks suggests that it was a knowing and willful violation which can make a criminal does it prove it. The checks don't have any memo line on in words says to pay Stormy Daniels. So there is going to be some, I guess, a debate about that.

But it does fit into the narrative about those payments. It does tend to support the argument that Trump knew about the payments and that Trump wanted to pay Stormy Daniels to keep her from talking during the election. And it was for the purpose of influencing the election. So I think it is very, very important evidence.

[16:30:45] CABRERA: Cohen says all three of those executives mentioned in Sara's piece, Weisselberg, Calamari and Lieberman, would have knowledge of Trump allegedly overvaluing his assets for insurance purposes.

Here is an example from the hearing.


OCASIO-CORTEZ: The President claimed in financial disclosure forms that Trump national golf club in Jupiter, Florida was worth more than $50 million. He had reported otherwise to local tax authorities that the course was worth quote "no more than $5 million."

Mr. Cohen, do you know whether this specific report is accurate?

COHEN: It's identical to what he did at Trump national golf club at Breyer Cliff manor.


CABRERA: So Caroline, is the key now for those investigators to get their hands on Trump's tax returns? Could they subpoena them?

POLISI: Absolutely. And it sounds like ways and means is already taking one step closer to doing that.

Look. I think the real issue that we are seeing come out here is that this is the red line that Donald Trump so vehemently opposed. And it turns out that potentially, the biggest crimes that he could be accused of committing have nothing to do with collusion and have everything to do with just garden variety regular financial fraud.

CABRERA: And therefore, may have nothing to do with Mueller's investigation as it stands now when Mueller's report comes out.

POLISI: Exactly.

CABRERA: Maybe it's a different often SDNY, as they say, other jurisdictions where they are going down this road.

POLISI: Yes. The southern district - there are certainly have been rumbling at the southern district is sort of poised to indict the President sort of the day after he leaves office. Of course, we know that many federal prosecutors believe that you can't indict a sitting President. So that's kind of a theory floating around in the ethos that, you know, they are building a case essentially for these financial crimes. As we know, every single aspect of Trump's financial life is under the microscope at this point. And it certainly sounds like there are some questionable business practices.

CABRERA: Remember initially, the President said, I will release my taxes eventually. We still haven't seen them. And his answer reason is because they are under audit. And let me remind you, what he has said over and over and over again.


TRUMP: I'm releasing when we are finished with the audit. I have to say the IRS has been very professional.

As far as the tax returns, as soon as the audit is complete.

When the audit is complete, I will release my returns. I have no problem with it. It doesn't matter.

I'm not releasing tax returns because as you know, they are under audit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But every President since the '70s --

TRUMP: I never heard that.


CABRERA: And yet, here is Cohen's explanation this week for what was really going on.


COHEN: What he didn't want was to have an entire group of think tanks that are tax experts run through his tax return and start ripping it to pieces and then he will end up in an audit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So could you presume from that statement that he wasn't under audit?

COHEN: I presume he's not under audit.


CABRERA: Larry, who do you believe?

NOBLE: Well, I tend to believe Cohen on this, but he might not really know. But it is an important factor. The fact that you are under audit, doesn't stop you from releasing your tax returns.


NOBLE: Your lawyer may recommend you not release your tax returns if you are under audit. But he could have done it. He had been lying about this all along.

CABRERA: Red flag?

NOBLE: I'm sorry? CABRERA: Are those red flags?

NOBLE: Yes, I think they are red flags. But we have known he doesn't want to release his tax returns. And I think it is because he doesn't want financial experts, he doesn't want tax lawyers, he doesn't want reporters looking through his tax returns and finding out really what is going on with him. How much he is worth, which is a big issue, and the value of his various assets. And one of the things Cohen accused him of is raising the value of his assets when he was making insurance claims and then lowering the value of them when he was paying taxes. It also raises the question of what value he has been putting on them when he filed federal forms when he ran for President about his assets.

So I think there's a real problem for him if he does release his taxes. And it looks like now that at least the house is going to be able to get a copy of his taxes.

CABRERA: Larry Noble, Caroline Polisi, good to have both of you with us. Thank you.

NOBLE: Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: A tale of greed, loyalty and intimidation. Michael Cohen describes why working for Trump was like working for a mob boss. How did that dynamic come about? A Trump biographer weighs in next.


[16:39:12] CABRERA: A boss who demands loyalty, silence, obedience and protection. Crime experts say that's how the mafia works. And according to the President's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, that's also how it was working for Donald Trump.

CNN's Brian Todd reports.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Through the eyes of Michael Cohen, working for Donald Trump is a lot like working for Tony Soprano.

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

TODD: Members of Congress are calling it a mob mentality, comparing the accusations Cohen made against the president to the same tactics used by organized crime.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many times did Mr. Trump ask you to threaten an individual or entity on his behalf?

[16:40:03] COHEN: Quite a few times.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Five hundred times.

COHEN: Probably.

TODD: Trump himself hasn't held back on insulting Cohen.

TRUMP: He is a weak person. And not a very smart person.

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

TODD: In his testimony before the House oversight committee Wednesday, Cohen described an environment inside Trump tower focused entirely on the boss, someone everyone calls Mr. Trump, a place where Cohen didn't have to be told what to do, because everyone speaks the same language.

COHEN: He doesn't give you questions. He doesn't give you orders. He speaks in a code. And I understand the code because I have been around him for a decade.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it's your impressions that others who work for him understand the code as well?

COHEN: Most people, yes.

ED MCDONALD, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Mob bosses will not utter words that likely to get them in trouble. They will do things by inference, by suggestion. And people who have been around them in their crew or they hangers on or the people who are their fixers, they know exactly what is meant.

TODD: Ed McDonald would know. He spent 12 years going after mobster as a prosecutor in the federal organized crime task force in New York. McDonald played himself in a movie "Good Fellows" striking a witness protection deal with mobster Henry Hill.

MCDONALD: I think you understand.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know anything.

MCDONALD: Come on. Don't give me the babe in the woods routine, Karen. I have listened to those war in taps. And I heard you on the telephone.

TODD: It's that distinction between the President giving Cohen a direct order such as allegedly encouraging him to lie while testifying before Congress or Cohen assuming he was doing what the boss wanted that could define if Trump committed a crime or not.

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR, THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP: This is what Michael Cohen was getting at when he would say, well, I understood what I was supposed to do. You were a better servant to Donald Trump if he didn't have to tell you, cheat this person, lie to that one and betray this one. It was all automatic. And that made him a good (INAUDIBLE), it made him a good conciliar in the Trump mob family.

TODD: McDonald says after watching how mob bosses operate, he thinks the President seems to almost relish the comparisons.

MCDONALD: We have a President who seems to go through life trying to imitate John Gotti, the former boss of the Gambino crime family. He starts off with the strut. Every time I see him, and even in warm weather, he seems to be wearing the overcoat, the open overcoat. And he has the strut, the scowl (ph) his face. And the whole demeanor that, you know, we don't take nothing from nobody.

TODD: The larger comparison is cultural, according to Cohen and Trump biographers. A culture they describe inside the Trump organization of threats, betrayal and one way loyalty.

D'ANTONIO: Donald Trump, like most mob bosses, doesn't feel beholden to the people beneath him. If he were loyal, he would have given Michael Cohen a job in the administration. He would have given him a pretty good job. I believe that Michael Cohen did not get a job because his children, Donald Trump's children, saw Michael as part of a servant class. They saw him as a guy who was good at being a thug.

TODD: The White House has not weighed in on the comparisons to the mob. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders has called Michael Cohen a disgraced felon and said quote "it's laughable that anyone would take a convicted liar like Cohen at his word."

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


CABRERA: Joining us now, Gwenda Blair. She is a Trump biographer and author of the book, "the Trumps, three generations of builders and a President."

Gwenda, good to have you here with us. We just heard there all about this culture around President Trump being compared to the mob. Based on your own experience and observations, is that a fair comparison?

GWENDA BLAIR, TRUMP BIOGRAPHER: No paper trail. That's what the people who work for him told me. No paper trail. No memos. Everything oral.

CABRERA: Really?


CABRERA: And why was that? Were they just paranoid or was there something sketchy going on?

BLAIR: Well, I think maybe some of both. But it was indeed this sort of utmost loyalty regime. People were expected to be completely loyal, completely available 24/7. And this was before -- this was back when he was starting out in New York and in the casinos. I mean, this was before cellphones were, you know, made everybody in the world available 24/7. They were expected to be available 24/7.

I think one of the things that Michael Cohen said during his testimony that was interesting and didn't get picked up much was he said, in a way, it was kind of exciting. You were working for this guy who was going outside the rules and doing something different. And you felt like you were on this express train. And that's what a lot of people told me.

And so, they were doing things that were unconventional, untraditional. Some of it didn't have the background that you would have expected for the jobs that they had. That was very intoxicating. And in the course of all that, did they go over the line? I think we are seeing the evidence of that. Sure.

[16:45:11] CABRERA: I wonder, how much of Trump's world and sort of way he went about things comes from Roy Cohen, the infamous attorney who is best known for how is sort of being Joseph McCarthy's right- hand man.

BLAIR: Quite a bit. School of Roy, school of dad, Fred, be tough as nails, don't give an inch. Everything for you. Nothing for the other guy. Tough, tough, tough negotiator. That's dad. School of Roy was whatever you can get away with. That's the only bright line. That's it. And all the things we have become familiar with, you know, punch back, never apologize, never back down, come back harder, they accuse you, you throw it back in their face, that's all Roy. But it is -- I think to me that all boils down to what you can get away with. That was very much what was going on.

So school of dad, school of Roy, school of Norman Vincent Peel who was not a tough guy but he had that emphasis on seeing yourself as only successful. If you do it, it is successful. He didn't suggest that you obliterate any opposition.


BLAIR: He didn't suggest breaking the law. But that focus on the power of being completely, totally sure of yourself as successful which we are seeing with Trump. If he does it, it's successful. If somebody flops, it's somebody else's fault. It is never his fault.

CABRERA: It's this idea of like show no weakness. I'm always right. Even going so far as to say I never said that when something is caught on tape. It is like his word or the highway and do not back down is the strategy that he comes at so much with using.

I want to ask you about something else we heard from Cohen this week because he spoke of the way Trump allegedly inflated his wealth when it was convenient when it came to insurance claims or he deflated it when it came to tax purposes. Is that something you witnessed or have any observation common on?

BLAIR: Well, the real estate business is a famously, to be generous, flexible situation where much depends on the owner, the developer's estimate of what something is worth. His father was very, very good at estimates, getting federal subsidies, where he would get a federal subsidy based on an estimate. Then when the actual cost came in, what do you know, they were less. Amazing. And he would keep that original federal subsidy.

So Donald was the original apprentice with his dad. Saw that flexibility of real estate. And to be, you know, fair, it's not just the Trumps. That's that world. It's very much involved with something is worth what you say it's worth. So that was something that he earned -- learned early on and the taxes that you pay depend on a lot -- a significant extent on those estimates.

CABRERA: That's right.

Gwenda Blair, really appreciate your insight. Thanks so much.

BLAIR: Nice to be here.

CABRERA: All right. Following in his father's footsteps. The terrifying new report from the state department about Osama bin Laden's son and his plans for the future.


[16:52:49] CABRERA: There's a new leader taking over Al-Qaeda. And you will recognize his last name, bin Laden, Hamza bin Laden, the son of Osama bin Laden. The man behind the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil, September 11th. The state department just announced it is offering $1 million for information of his whereabouts. And official say Hamza bin Laden was already broadcasting messages vowing revenge on America for killing his father.

CNN's Jake Tapper reports.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Like father, like son. Osama bin Laden's son is now one of the state department's most wanted. The U.S. offering $1 million for information on the whereabouts of the Hamza bin Laden, man said to be emerging as a new leader in Al-Qaeda.

MICHAEL EVANOFF, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR DIPLOMATIC SECURITY: It's a heads up that we are looking for you and we will get you.

TAPPER: Hamza's terrorist pedigree not just from his famous last name, video released by the CIA in 2017 showing his Hamza's wedding in 2009 to a senior Al-Qaeda leader's daughter in Iran. And Hamza has appeared in Al-Qaeda propaganda videos since he was a child. U.S. officials say documents recovered from the 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden, indicated he was grooming Hamza for a leadership role.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: His father was writing him very sensitive letters when he was on the run. He was supposed to be in the compound in Pakistan where bin Laden was killed the night of the raid.

TAPPER: And it's that 2011 raid that may be driving Hamza.

EVANOFF: He has threatened to attack the United States in revenge for the May 2011 killing of his father.

TAPPER: The U.S. officially designated Hamza as a terrorist in 2017. And now all of United Nations members are required to freeze all of Hamza's assets.

The intelligence community warns that Al-Qaeda, which perpetrated the 9/11 attacks, is rebuilding. Attacks that led to the U.S. war in Afghanistan, the nation's longest war, continuing today, with 14,000 U.S. troops still in the country.

Al-Qaeda has been weakened in recent years. And the U.S. has been focused on the threat from ISIS in Syria and Iraq. But Al-Qaeda's rebuilding and wants to reestablish itself as the leader of a global extremist movement.

[16:55:04] DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Al-Qaeda is showing signs of confidence as its leaders work to strengthen their networks and encourage attacks against western interest.

NATHAN SALES, AMBASSADOR-AT-LARGE AND COORDINATOR FOR COUNTERTERRORISM: Al-Qaeda retains both the capability and intent to hit us.

TAPPER: One of the last major Al-Qaeda attacks on the west was the 2005 London bus and subway bombings killing 52 people. However, Al- Qaeda affiliates have been carrying out attacks more recently. In January of this year, al-Shabaab killed 21 in an attack on a Nairobi hotel.

In response to the state department's actions against Hamza, at his home country of Saudi Arabia, revoked Hamza's citizenship. The U.S. state department now says they believe Hamza is somewhere on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border and could possibly cross over into Iran.

BERGEN: Somebody like Hamza, a younger guy who has been in the group since basically he was a child is I think a significant threat.

TAPPER: Jake Tapper, CNN, Washington.


CABRERA: Now as we head to break, just a quick programming note. Fareed Zakaria shares the story of Saudi Arabia, a kingdom of secrets, tomorrow at 8:00 p.m. eastern here on CNN.

We will be right back.