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THE SITUATION ROOM
Michael Cohen Gives Documents to House Panel that Allegedly Show How a Trump Lawyer Edited His False Testimony in 2017; Interview with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D) Connecticut about Cohen Testimony; Homeland Security Chief Warns of a Humanitarian Catastrophe at Border, Defends Family Separations; Satellite Images Show Activity at Missile Site Days after Failed Trump-Kim Summit. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired March 6, 2019 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST (voice-over): We are following breaking news. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We are standing by for President Trump's former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen to emerge from an hours-long closed door House Intelligence Committee hearing.
CNN has learned that Cohen provided new documents, showing edits to the false statement he delivered to Congress back in 2017 about the Trump Tower Moscow project.
He claims another Trump lawyer made the changes to that statement. Let's go straight to Capitol Hill. Our Senior Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju, is outside this closed door hearing.
Manu, Michael Cohen provided this new investigation. What are you learning about the changes that were revealed in these documents?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We'll hear from Michael Cohen momentarily. His attorneys just left this closed door session. We expect him to make comments. We'll see how much detail he provides.
But we have learned from multiple sources that Cohen provided this committee with documents showing that the statements he made to this committee back in 2017 had edits and this came after he alleged in a public setting last week that the president's attorneys had changed his statements that he made to Congress that turned out to be false. He pleaded guilty to lying about the Trump Organization's pursuit of the Trump Tower Moscow project back in 2017.
He said that at the time that the discussion ended in January 2016 but then he acknowledged they occurred through June 2016, related knowledge that candidate Trump played a larger role than what he testified to previously.
We have been told these documents give a further explanation about why he made that allegation in a public setting. We don't exactly know what the edits say and all we are hearing from Trump lawyers who are still pushing back at Cohen's testimony last week. They contended that it was a false statement made by Michael Cohen, that the Trump attorneys edited the duration, the timeframe that they discussed the Trump Tower Moscow project.
They are still standing by the denial. But these documents have been a source of discussions today behind closed doors. We'll see, if Michael Cohen comes out, if he decides to discuss anything he said privately.
We'll see potentially from Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman, who would not comment about this earlier today. We'll see if they say anything about where they stand right now, on the second day of testimony before this very committee and the fourth time he has been on Capitol Hill in the last 1.5 weeks.
BLITZER: Do you believe that Cohen also faced questions behind closed doors about whether he actually discussed a possible pardon with the president's lawyers?
RAJU: I have been told that had been the subject of conversation through the course of today. The extent to which there were discussions about pardons after Cohen's properties were raided back in 2018. At that time it was unclear whether or not Michael Cohen was going to cooperate with investigators or still stand by this president.
The question that Democrats have in particular is whether the president moved in any way to essentially convince Michael Cohen not to cooperate by suggesting there could be a pardon, whether there were discussions with the attorneys to have those about a possible pardon.
Republicans we have raised concerns that Michael Cohen may not have been truthful in his House Oversight Committee testimony when he said he did not personally seek a pardon. There have been reports about Cohen's lawyers discussing pardons with other of the president's attorneys.
So that has also been a line of questioning. Going forward, we'll see how much more light he sheds on that. But those two topics the Trump Tower Moscow pursuit as well as discussions the president may have had with Michael Cohen after the raid, all subjects over conversations behind closed doors today.
BLITZER: We expect Cohen to make a statement once he emerges from that room and we expect the committee chairman, Adam Schiff, to make a statement as well, maybe answer questions.
I want to bring in our Senior Justice Correspondent, Evan Perez. Cohen, as we know, he lied to the committee before he is about to begin two months from today a three-year prison sentence in part for lying under oath before Congress. What evidence did he bring today potentially that could back up his
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: According to the reporting from Manu and our team on Capitol Hill, he brought the documents. And --
PEREZ: -- the documents he says show the edits that were made by particular lawyers.
Now if you listen to the president's lawyers, they say that there were obviously some conversations between the lawyers, Michael Cohen's lawyers and the president's lawyers, discussing his testimony.
If you remember the president's lawyers said that the only thing they had records of were discussions of the Moscow tower project through January of 2016. It emerged later on those discussions extended much later.
The question is then who made those edits?
Were they substantial edits?
That seems to be the point of disagreement right now. We know Michael Cohen talked a little bit about this on the Hill. I think we have that sound bite, if we can play that now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: You need to know that Mr. Trump's personal lawyers reviewed and edited my statement to Congress about the timing of the Moscow Tower negotiations before I gave.
It was made clear to me through his personal statements to me that we both knew to be false and through his lies to the country that he wanted me to lie. And he made it clear to me because his personal attorneys reviewed my statement before I gave it to Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PEREZ: And, Wolf, we obviously talked to the president's lawyer, Jay Sekulow, in particular, who is one of the lawyers that Michael Cohen talked about in his testimony last week.
Sekulow said in a statement last week, they say they stand by the statement.
They say, quote, "The testimony by Michael Cohen that attorneys for the president edited or it changed his statement to Congress to alter the duration of the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations is completely false."
Again, they are sticking by this previous statement. So it will be a test to see whether or not members of Congress believe Michael Cohen today and whatever documents he is producing to show those edits and whether or not they believe those edits, those changes were substantial and essentially helped Michael Cohen tell a lie to Congress, which of course Michael Cohen has admitted to.
BLITZER: Michael Cohen says he knew it was a lie when he made those statements. But he was honoring his commitment to Donald Trump. And he keeps talking about lawyers, not just a lawyer, with Jay Sekulow, he keeps mentioning lawyers.
Could those lawyers be in trouble if they knew what they were editing and changing in a statement was false?
PEREZ: Yes. If you know that someone is lying and you helped them -- knowingly helped them make that lie, tell that lie to Congress then you also could be in trouble. I think this is where it is going to fall, is the issue of whether or not you believe Michael Cohen, whether or not there's any way to prove who made those changes to the documents.
I assume Michael Cohen and his legal team believe that they have documentation to show who may have made the changes to the documents. That would be a big deal if the president's own lawyers, in this case, Abbe Lowell, who represents Jared and Ivanka, who was part of this conversation and who allegedly made some of these changes, according to Michael Cohen, whether they end up being in trouble, I think, will be up to the Democrats on the Hill to see whether they want to hear from those people in the coming weeks.
BLITZER: The whole notion of whether or not a pardon was discussed between Cohen's lawyers and the president's lawyers at a time when Michael Cohen, his office, his hotel room, his home had just been raided by the FBI. The president was angry about that and supposedly shortly thereafter there were conversations about a possible pardon.
PEREZ: I think this is a fascinating part of this investigation. The question is, is there someone who broke the law here?
Did the president or his attorneys or anyone else break the law by having this discussion?
What we know is that the president obviously has primary power over pardons. That's his power. So what is unusual here is for the president to be the subject of an investigation. That's not usually part of the discussion.
So talking to the president's lawyers and people around him, they say there's nothing wrong for the president to be having a discussion about a potential pardon and this is just the Democrats trying to create a crime where there isn't one.
We don't know where prosecutors in New York are on this. Cohen seems to be suggesting there is an investigation in the Southern District of New York that is looking into this. We know the Democrats are very interested.
But I think the question of whether or not it is inappropriate for the president to have a conversation like this, I think it is very much up in the air. I think we'll have to see whether there are more facts that are brought out that show the president violated any kind of law here.
BLITZER: I want to go back to Manu.
Manu, we're standing by waiting to see Michael Cohen emerge from the closed door hearing with the House Intelligence Committee and the Chairman, Adam Schiff, is expected to emerge --
BLITZER: -- make a statement, answer some reporters' questions.
All of this happening as "The New York Times" is reporting on six checks the president signed while President of the United States. We're showing our viewers those six checks right there. Tell us why this is significant.
RAJU: Yes. You'll recall at that testimony before the House Oversight Committee last week, Michael Cohen provided one of those signed checks from August of 2017. After the president was sworn in, when he has been president for several months, showing that the president, in Michael Cohen's words, was engaged in this criminal conspiracy involving this hush money payments, keeping quiet these allegations of affairs that were about to come out right before the elections.
He tried to make the case that the president was directly involved, signed at least one of those checks that we saw last week from his own personal bank account. "The New York Times" got its hands on several other checks, six checks, showing that the president was more deeply involved than he has certainly let on personally and that essentially backs up what Michael Cohen had been alleging in his testimony.
This is going to be one big focus of perhaps not this committee that's meeting right now with Michael Cohen and finishing up its discussion with the House Intelligence Committee but I can tell you the House Judiciary Committee, the House Oversight Committee, both of those two panels want to make this one key aspect of their investigation going forward, as earlier this week when Jerry Nadler, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, he sent letters through to 81 people connected to the Trump world.
He also was focused on trying to get information about these hush money payments that were going on, including from David Pecker, who was the parent, the head of the parent company of "National Enquirer," which was engaged in the so-called catch to kill scheme to silence one of those stories involving the president and his alleged affair with former model Karen McDougal.
All those matters are bound to be part of the investigation by Democrats and other committees. We'll see how much they discuss of that here. They had their hands full dealing with all the Russia questions today. But those questions still bound to consume what Democrats want to look
for going ahead. We'll see how much cooperation they get in getting any new documents they have been asking for, in particular some of those who've been involved in these hush money payments, including potentially the eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., whose name was signed on one of those checks that Michael Cohen provided last week.
I'll have you stand by, Manu.
Evan, stand by as well. We are waiting to see the witness, in this particular case, Michael Cohen, emerge from the closed door hearing. We're told he'll make a statement.
Joining us now Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. He's a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Senator, thanks so much for joining us.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), MEMBER, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Thank you.
BLITZER: If I interrupt, you'll understand we want to hear what Michael Cohen has to say, what the congressman, the chairman, Adam Schiff, has to say. I'm sure you'll understand.
But let's talk about Michael Cohen for a moment. He claims the president made it clear to him he was expected to lie under oath to Congress about that Moscow Trump Tower deal and then his legal team reviewed and actually edited the statement ahead of time.
Do you expect these documents to support that claim?
BLUMENTHAL: These documents certainly are expected to support it and provide corroboration. Michael Cohen obviously has some problems with his own credibility, having lied to Congress. And now he is explaining that lie and involving not only the president's lawyers but the president himself in his contention that the president, by code, by implicit encouragement, led him to lie.
And the important point here is we are reaching a moment of reckoning for the lawyers who are normally protected by attorney-client privilege; if there's a fraud or a federal felony, that privilege goes out the window. They going to have to have answers now they will have to give to congressional committees and to grand juries.
BLITZER: What should Congress do with this information?
BLUMENTHAL: Congress has to hear from those lawyers. It has to review the documents because they provide essential corroboration. There is other corroboration, like the checks that have been produced without Trump's signature, the statement about the timing of those checks while Donald Trump was actually in the Oval Office as President of the United States.
So the reliability of Michael Cohen's testimony has been vastly bolstered by documents that he's now producing and others that he may offer in the future.
BLITZER: Could this evidence be used in a potential impeachment hearing?
BLUMENTHAL: This evidence can be used in a potential criminal file, in a potential impeachment proceeding, in any proceeding where it can be offered with a chain of custody and other legal --
BLUMENTHAL: -- conditions and requirements that have to be imposed. But it is certainly usable in any legal proceeding.
BLITZER: You're a former prosecutor.
How do you think the special counsel, Robert Mueller's team, is handling this evidence?
BLUMENTHAL: Robert Mueller knows everything that Michael Cohen is telling to Congress because he has very, very comprehensively had Michael Cohen answer questions. And so Robert Mueller is handling this evidence, giving it the reliability it deserves, with great care, close attention and using it.
And now it will be for Congress as an oversight mechanism to establish that members of the president's team may have condoned, encouraged, suborned improper conduct, indeed, perjury before the United States Congress.
BLITZER: Which is a serious potential crime.
From a legal perspective, Senator, does it matter that these edits were allegedly made by the president's lawyers and not the president himself?
BLUMENTHAL: What needs to be established is what the president knew and when he knew it and what conversations took place between the president and his lawyers.
But remember, Wolf, it's not only edits or changes; it's the mere review of that testimony with knowledge that it is false.
In other words, if they let Michael Cohen go ahead or encouraged him to give that testimony, knowing it was false, they can be held responsible legally. It's not the edits or changes or even the conversations with the president. But the president may be directly implicated if he knew, simply if he knew that his lawyers were going to suborn.
BLITZER: Do you think the members of the president's legal team as a result could be in legal jeopardy?
BLUMENTHAL: They definitely could be in legal jeopardy because there's no defense for a lawyer to say he was simply representing someone if he or she is suborning perjury. There's no attorney-client privilege, there's no executive privilege, there's no privilege whatsoever. Nobody is above the law.
BLITZER: What about these checks that Donald Trump -- President Trump as president reportedly signed to Michael Cohen?
He did so while he was president. That's what "The New York Times" is reporting.
What's your analysis and what's your reaction when you see these six checks?
BLUMENTHAL: The analysis has to be these checks are very, very powerful corroboration. That is support, circumstantial evidence that Donald Trump knew about the payment of hush money, that he was involved in the potential fraud.
Obviously Michael Cohen's testimony last week opened a Pandora's box for Mr. Trump because it implicated him in potential bank fraud ad insurance fraud in New York. Those matters under investigation by New York authorities and by potentially the Southern District of New York grand jury.
But those checks further bolster Michael Cohen at a time when Republicans have no defense. They offered none except the potential lack of credibility for Michael Cohen. So overall they fit into this mosaic, pieces of a picture that, coming together, show that the walls are closing in on President Trump.
BLITZER: As we await Michael Cohen to emerge from that room, we see a Capitol Hill police officer emerging right there.
I want to quickly get to other important news we are following. CNN has learned President Trump pressured White House staff to grant his daughter, Ivanka, security clearance over the objectives of career professionals.
What concerns if any does that raise for you?
BLUMENTHAL: For me, that story is of equal concern to the Michael Cohen testimony because it is deeply dangerous and wrong for the president to overrule the security clearance professionals and his intelligence community that essentially said Ivanka Trump cannot be trusted with this top secret or classified information.
There's a system in place that is there for a reason, to protect the nation's security. And I actually raised these concerns more than six months ago. I asked that Kushner's security clearance be reviewed. Then in a separate letter with a number of my colleagues, asking that this interim security clearance be suspended because of his contacts with the Russians, his financial dealings with others, his financial debts, a number of red flags, public even then.
And now we know the president personally overruled his security clearance professionals with respect to both Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
[17:20:00] BLUMENTHAL: I think there's a lesson here, which is the president's apparently vast authority over security clearance needs to be constrained. There need to be legal constraints on the president's security clearance powers to overrule his professionals.
BLITZER: But he controls security clearance. He has the legal right to give anyone top secret security clearance if he so deems.
BLUMENTHAL: Good point. That's the reason why I think Congress needs to begin an investigation of what happened here and what can be done to prevent these kinds of dangers to our national security.
Remember, as you well know, our intelligence professionals risk their lives to protect our nation. Those secrets that they gather, including their sources and methods, are of tremendous value to our enemies and adversaries.
Simply talking about them in the wrong place at the wrong time can imperil our nation's security or our military men and women in harm's way or others who are gathering that intelligence. So there are sweeping ramifications to overruling the intelligence community when it says there are red flags here; security clearance should be granted.
BLITZER: Senator Blumenthal, thanks so much for joining us.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
BLITZER: I want to bring in our legal and political experts. We are waiting for Michael Cohen to emerge from this closed door hearing. He has been there since this 9:30 this morning. The fourth time he has appeared before a congressional committee, three times behind closed doors, once in open session before the House Oversight Committee.
How significant is the new documentary evidence that he brought to the committee today?
SUSAN HENNESSEY, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY ATTORNEY: I think it is quite significant because Michael Cohen isn't somebody with a lot of personality credibility. He has a significant allegation right where he has essentially said that the president was aware that he was going to submit false testimony to Congress and that the president encouraged him to do so, not directly but by having these lawyers edit it and having him then send it to Congress.
So I think that it's significant that he is now proving, you know, look, these lawyers edited it in a particular way. I can actually demonstrate precisely what they said and did.
So we still would need to follow that to know the president was aware of the content of that statement. We would still need to know that by returning those edits to the president or the lawyers intended to encourage Michael Cohen to actually submit that testimony. It's a common-sense conclusion but we would still need to establish it. So it's not all the way there but I do think what we're starting to see is meticulously building the pieces of corroboration for Michael Cohen's bombshell story.
BLITZER: Potentially it could be obstruction of justice.
Is that what we are talking about?
HENNESSEY: Yes. So it potentially is obstruction of justice. Cohen said that the president did not directly say, I want you to lie to Congress. But suborning perjury, it doesn't require actually that direct command, right?
If the president was aware Cohen was preparing a false statement and if he did anything to encourage Cohen to submit that to Congress, that is suborning perjury and is precisely the type of obstruction of justice that resulted in Bill Clinton's impeachment.
BLITZER: Phil, I have to assume that Robert Mueller, the special counsel and his team, they know everything that's going on right now behind closed doors.
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Yes. There's a couple basic questions you have here that I wish I knew that they know already. We are trying to judge what's going on. Let me give you one.
We have multiple checks here signed by the president of the United States. He didn't cut those checks. I assume somebody like Mr. Weisselberg, the CFO of the Trump Organization, cut those checks.
If you're doing an investigation, let me give you one question.
Mr. Weisselberg, why are there repeated checks for $35,000?
He will tell you, those checks are or are not to pay off a porn star to keep her quiet. So we can speculate about this. The special counsel knows this already. Let me give you another specific example.
Let's say there's an interview between Jay Sekulow, who allegedly interfered with the statement made by Michael Cohen, an interview with special counsel. And he says I never had anything to do with statements made by Michael Cohen.
And now you find out there's an edited version of a document that suggests that Jay Sekulow lied?
That's a problem. So what I'm saying is I think the special counsel has a lot of evidence we don't know that takes us one way or another, guilty or not guilty.
DANA BASH, CNN SR. U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and the special counsel knowing it and having it is one thing. The new House majority, which may or may not be building a case toward impeachment, obviously, that would be the most extreme decision that they make and, in the shorter term, building a case for what they consider basic oversight that has been lacking, is something quite different. The other thing is that it's still unclear, even if Mueller has this
information, which it's hard to imagine he does not, Congress would get it --
BASH: -- because we're not sure what is going to happen with the Mueller report with regard to how it is written but also all of the materials that went into his investigation, whether anybody in Congress could see it.
So they believe this is not just their right but their obligation to get this --
BLITZER: Because Mueller would submit the report to the new attorney general, Bill Barr, and it's up to Bill Barr to decide what to make public from that report.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The difference between the impeachment lane and the Mueller lane is very important because the White House and the president's lawyers have been making an argument that the president didn't break the law technically, that he didn't do anything wrong according to the sort of ink on the paper, the letter of the law.
That may or may not be true. I think that's not going to be adjudicated in Congress. What is going to be is whether the president is believable. I think there's a lot of evidence that he is not and that even if people don't know whether or not he actually broke the law by encouraging Michael Cohen to lie to Congress or doing any other thing, there could be this perception that is put out there by all of these questions being raised, that the president is involved in an elaborate scheme of deception.
And I think that it is problematic politically. It may or may not lead to impeachment but it's certainly grist for the mill for that process as it goes forward in the next few years.
BLITZER: Because the Justice Department guidelines are that you can't indict a sitting president but there's no such guidelines for the House of Representatives to begin impeachment proceedings if they want to do so. You could begin impeachment proceedings for a sitting president.
HENNESSEY: Right. Exactly. So the name of the game here was always going to be impeachment. Ordinarily Congress doesn't consider impeachment unless they believe the president has broken the law. Historical impeachment, that said, whatever they're deciding the president broke the law, they aren't trying to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt in court.
They are trying to determine for their own purposes whether or not the law was broken. So I do think what we are going to see with this new House is sort of more muscular oversight. We see right now the president's lawyers attempting to use some sleight of hand.
They are saying Michael Cohen, we deny that we edited this statement to change the duration of the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations. That's not what Michael Cohen accused them of. He accused them of editing the document in which he lied about the duration of that.
So any kind of involvement, whether or not they inserted a lie substantively or overnight, the mere fact that they were aware that the president's former attorney had drafted a false statement that he intended to submit under oath, that involvement is enough to meet, I think, the, you know, the common sense sort of threshold that Congress will be deciding whether or not they think it could be proven in a court of law.
BLITZER: What's Congress going to do?
These lawmakers, what are they going to do with this new evidence that Michael Cohen brought to the House Intelligence Committee hearing today?
BASH: Exactly. I think what we're talking about, potentially build the case -- there is Michael Cohen.
BLITZER: All right, here he comes. Here's Michael Cohen. Let's listen and see if he stops.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Cohen, the --
COHEN: The hearings went very, very well. I believe that all of the members were satisfied with the statements and the responses that I gave to them. I told them that any additional information that they would want, they should feel comfortable to reach out to my counsel and I would continue to cooperate to the fullest extent of my capabilities.
So thank you all very much for being here. Thanks so much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- January 2016?
BLITZER: There you see Michael Cohen, Dana. He is making a brief statement. This supposedly was his last formal appearance before a congressional committee. Two months from today he's supposed to begin a three-year prison sentence.
BASH: That's right. And what he just said there is a reminder that what happened last week with his initial testimony behind closed doors and, more importantly, for the public grist, the public hearing, that he sent Congress out on so many different threats, investigative threats, to go down.
And what he endured the whole time from Republicans was, well, wait a minute, you're not credible. And you know, they have a point in that he is going to jail in part because he lied to Congress.
COHEN: Thank you all so much for coming.
BLITZER: He is still talking.
COHEN: Everything went very well. I believe that they are happy with my responses. It has been a long day. It has been a long couple of days. But, again, I believe they are happy and I have given them my assurance that any additional information that they need, I'm here to cooperate and will continue to cooperate. So thank you all very much.
BLITZER: There is Michael Cohen, followed by his lawyer, Lanny Davis, emerging a second ago, a block of reporters waiting up on Capitol Hill to get --
BLITZER: At first he said the lawmakers were satisfied. Now he says they are happy. This is an extensive process that everyone is going to be going through right now, especially White House officials who are watching this so carefully.
PHILLIP: I noticed that Michael Cohen said everyone was satisfied. I doubt everyone was satisfied. There are republicans on that committee who are not particularly happy with him. And, yes, the White House is going to be not only scrutinizing what he said last week but talking to the members that they're close to on the committee about what they need to be aware of going forward.
But it's been interesting to see the White House not really getting into the nitty-gritty details on this. They are not disputing the facts of what happened or what might not have happened, and that's very telling. They are going after Michael Cohen as a person. They are trying to attack his credibility as a person. The President is pointing people to this book manuscript that he tried to peddle over a year ago.
But they are not dealing with the substance. And that can be a problem for them. Because as we've been discussing, Michael Cohen threw a lot of things out there and it's enough really to fuel several committees for many, many months to come with oversight --
BASH: Which is why coming back with what he says is evidence to back up some of the things that he was talking about last week. It is really critical because of the kind of witness that we all know he is, the Congress knows he is, but also given all of the different elements of investigatory, you know, pursuits that democrats who run the House already are taking and running with. Never mind what we know that they're working on with the Justice Department.
BLITZER: We expect the Committee Chairman, the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff, to immerge momentarily and also make a statement then answer reporters' questions. We'll see what he has to say.
So where do you think this is heading? HENNESSEY: Look, I think that Dana is absolutely right, right? Congress is now off on a million different investigative threads and we're going to see where we wind up.
You know, I think one thing, it's important to sort of take a step back and realize that this is an incredibly difficult moment. The President's former personal lawyer, someone who was very much in the inner circle, has sat down under oath after already having been sentenced to three years in prison, the person who understands better than just about anyone, the consequences to lying to Congress and accuse the President of committing multiple crimes while he was President of the United States.
So while we have seen that the House of Representatives has tried to be very, very restrained, Nancy Pelosi has really not wanting to get out over their skis in terms the talk of impeachment. At some point, they are going have enough evidence before them that they're going to have to make a decision about whether or not this is an individual that is fit to continue to serve as the President of the United States and whether or not we do need to move, you know, towards impeachment.
BLITZER: It's interesting. Today was the day, March 6th, he was supposed to begin his three-year prison sentence. But that was delayed for two months in part because he had shoulder surgery recovery [ph] but also in part because of the hearings up on Capitol Hill.
MUDD: Yes. And everybody is happy and satisfied for a guy who has lied in almost every testimony he had before the last week. If any congressman comes out and says they are happy or satisfied, let me play, Wolf Blitzer, let's go, let's talk.
Let me give you one specific example. He talks about the payments to Stormy Daniels and he lays out document, as he should, because nobody should trust the guy. One question for Congress, and this is why we trust Mueller and we don't trust Congress. Mueller is going to talk to a hundred witnesses and Congress is going to talk to one and say, he gave us this story we like so we'll listen.
One question, did you subpoena the Chief Financial Officer, did he speak to you from the Trump Organization and did he explain why he cut those checks, as I mentioned a moment earlier? If they walk out and say they are satisfied after a man who's a perpetual liar spoke before them, I want to say, that's why I don't trust process, that's why I trust Mueller. I don't believe these guys.
PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, it's a really important point about the process here. The Democrats have to thread a needle. They cannot just simply take Michael Cohen's word just because, right at this moment, it's convenient. If they are not laying out a process that seems to be thorough and seem to be actually seeking information and not just trying to make political points, they are going to lose public trust as well.
The Mueller investigation went on as long as it did and the trust in the Mueller investigation even eroded over time as the President continued to attack it. So there is risk here for democrats and they have the thread very carefully.
BLITZER: Well, other committees, Dana, in the House, they are seeking evidence, statements, emails, records from 81 individuals and entities, including Allen Weisselberg, the Chief Financial Officer, for some 40 years of the Trump Organization.
BASH: That's right. And the question is whether or not they're going to be able to get the answer to that legitimate question, an important question that Phil put out there, which is what about all of the other players who are less inclined to talk than Michael Cohen?
You know, they subpoenaed this information, interviews, documents, what have you, it doesn't mean they are going to get them. There could be and probably will be a lot of court fights that will go down the road with a lot of these individuals, probably including maybe even especially Trump organizations since that is and always has been the President's red line.
And he is going to -- the people that work there understand they're going to have to go kicking and screaming to giving information over the Congress. Mueller may be one thing, Congress maybe another.
BLITZER: At some point, they are going to release the transcripts, according to Adam Schiff, the Chairman of this committee, of what he said, Michael Cohen, behind closed doors. And that will be fascinating, reading, what, seven, eight, nine hours of closed door testimony.
HENNESSEY: Right. So, once, I think -- I don't Cohen has likely to have revealed new information, right. He has told his story pretty publicly at this point. At this point, the name of the game about corroboration, what can he prove, what can investigators actually identify.
You know, to Phil's point, I think it's important that we understand that Mueller job has different job than Congress. Mueller's job is to investigate, to find any criminal behavior and to see if any individuals should be charged with specific crimes. That's - not only is he limited in sort of his subject matter mandate.
The actual job he is doing is a more limited job. Congress has a completely different responsibility before them. They have much larger set of crimes that are -- or potential crimes or inappropriate behavior that they have to investigate. And they, of course, are not meeting that --
BLITZER: Hold on a second. Here is Adam Schiff, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), C.A.: Good evening. I just want to make a brief statement about Mr. Cohen's testimony today. We had a very long day with Mr. Cohen. This was, of course, the second day before our committee. He answered every question that was put to him by members of both parties. He was fully cooperative with the committee. We had requested documents of Mr. Cohen. He has provided additional documents to the committee. There may be additional documents that he still has to offer and his cooperation with our committee continues.
So I think the members found it an enormously productive session and we are grateful for the time that it went on obviously a lot longer than anticipated. We expected to have one day of Testimony. But there was more than enough questions for him to last well through a second day.
So, again, a very productive day. We will fill you in on further witnesses and testimony that we anticipate, but two long hard days. And, again, we appreciate very much his cooperation. Thank you.
REPORTER: [INAUDIBLE] perjury?
REPORTER: The original date on the original draft is January 2015?
BLITZER: Clearly, Adam Schiff, Dana, very pleased by what he heard today in the second day of testimony behind closed doors from Michael Cohen. He said several times a very, very productive day.
BASH: Very productive day. But Phil made an important point earlier. Look, these are still partisan politicians. They just are. And so the question is whether or not he comes out and says that. Presumably, the top republican will say something quite different. And at the end of the day, in order to have a really credible process, the facts are going to have to speak for themselves. He is not ready give the facts but facts have to speak for themselves.
And, you know, it would be wonderful -- I know this sounds super Pollyanna [ph], but it would be wonderful if these political figures could find a way to come together and do this in a way that would give the American people more satisfaction that there is credibility and it's not just, you know, a partisan investigation depending on where you stand, that's where you sit.
HENNESSEY: Well, let's keep in mind, for the two years, sort of shifts, partners on the other side of the aisle.
HENNESSEY: And doing absolutely everything they can to avoid investigating these actual issues, instead trying to divert attention to investigating the FBI, the Hillary Clinton email investigation. And so now, really, for the first time, we're seeing the congressional investigations, which may have formally existed for two years at this point. They really are, in a meaningful sense, only a couple of months and weeks old.
And so I think what we're seeing now is these members that have spent so long, feeling very, very frustrated about not being able to pursue those leads, not being able to get answers. Part of their satisfaction certainly isn't the substance of finding out the sort of potential wrongdoing but instead sort of finally actually being able to get answers and hopefully produce them to the American people. BLITZER: Adam Schiff is the Chairman of this committee. Devin Nunes is not the Chairman of the Committee anymore of the republican. As a result, there is a whole new game in town.
Manu Raju, you're there outside that committee meeting. What are you seeing? What are you hearing?
RAJU: Yes. Adam Schiff coming out just moments ago, not taking any questions but making it pretty clear, Wolf, that he has been satisfied with these two days of closed door testimony with Michael Cohen, saying that he expects additional cooperation from Cohen going forward. They say he acknowledged getting new documents from Cohen, said that he expects additional documents going forward.
He would not respond to any questions, which is unusual. He usually does take questions. But I tried to ask him if he had any concerns about the President's attorney's role in the editing of the statement that later turned out to be false to the same committee back in 2017.
We do know, of course, now that there were those edited documents provided to this committee, which they went over in great detail today, I'm told, through the course of the day's session. And questions whether or not Schiff or democrats believe there's anything wrong with what they saw, whether they were -- they believe any action needs to be taken or whether they need to investigate that further. This has been something that Schiff wanted to look into heading into today's session. He would not respond to that. So we'll see what he ultimately decided to say.
They do say they plan to release a transcript of today's closed-door session and last week's closed-door session. That could take several weeks to get to. But we also do know, Wolf, that there was a substantial discussion today about any decision about -- discussion about pardons after Michael Cohen's properties were raided by the FBI last year and whether the President moved and anybody to do that [ph], whether Cohen sought a pardon, even though he said last week he did not in his open testimony. Those are the questions that the members pursued.
I tried to ask Cohen if the President offer him a pardon. Cohen did not take any questions and said that he will continue cooperating. So we'll see how much more information he has to give this committee before he has to report to jail in a couple of months. But the word from democrats, they feel pretty good of what they have heard behind closed doors today, Wolf.
BLITZER: It's interesting that Adam Schiff, the Chairman of the Committee, said that he will have announcements about further witnesses, further hearings down the road. He didn't mention that Felix Sater, originally, was supposed to be testifying in open session before the House Intelligence Committee next week. And there are some rumors out there that may be delayed. Is that what you're hearing?
RAJU: Yes. You know, there is discussion that that's possible, that it could happen in a later date. We don't have that confirmed at the moment. But we do think that's a possibility. Oftentimes, these witness interviews do get rescheduled from time-to-time for various reasons.
Even Michael Cohen was supposed to come before this very committee early in early February. That got delayed to late February. And then, of course, the second testimony today, that's possible. Felix Sater next week is possible with other witnesses going forward.
But it's taking some time to schedule these witness hearings, schedule which ones they want to have in the open, which one they want to have in private, which ones who will refuse to come to the committee will force a subpoena fight. So this investigation, while the democrats want to prove pretty rapidly, it takes a lot of time to pursue these targets. So we'll see how quickly they can move and whether they can schedule these witness interviews any time soon and how many of them will ultimately be in the public setting, Wolf.
BLITZER: Good point. Manu, I want you to standby. I know you're collecting more information.
We're going to be speaking shortly with a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Democratic Congressman Jim Himes. He is going to be joining us very soon. Much more on all the breaking news right after this.
[17:47:19] BLITZER: We're following breaking news after Michael Cohen wrapped up another day before the House Intelligence Committee. The Committee Chairman, Adam Schiff, called Cohen's testimony very productive.
Also up on Capitol Hill today, the Homeland Security Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, warned lawmakers there is a humanitarian crisis along the border with Mexico. She also repeatedly defended the Trump administration's treatment of the thousands of migrants seeking asylum here in the United States.
Let's go to our justice correspondent Jessica Schneider. Jessica, House Democrats, they grilled Secretary Nielsen over the administration's child separation policy, even calling her, at one point, a liar. What's the latest?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: They did call her a liar, Wolf, and they also hammered into her on a number of issues, including the asylum policy. Also the zero-tolerance policy that resulted in those children being separated from their parents last summer, causing some chaos at the southern border.
Democrats also grilled into Secretary Nielsen as to whether or not President Trump's emergency declaration to build the wall at the southern border was really warranted. Secretary Nielsen said it was. She defended the President.
And then she also reiterated the administration's stance that this is not a manufactured crisis. She says that it is a true emergency, and then she gave the numbers that she says prove it.
She says that if these numbers stay on track through the end of the year, we're looking at about 900,000 immigrants crossing illegally over the southern border. Those are the numbers that Kirstjen Nielsen gave. But Democrats kept going back to the Trump administration policies and just hammering into her about how exactly they were executed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE COMMITTEE ON HOMELAND SECURITY: Just yes or no, are we still putting children in cages?
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: To my knowledge, CBP never purposely put a child in a cage if you mean a cage like this.
THOMPSON: Purposely or whatever, are we putting children in cages as of today?
NIELSEN: Children are processed at the border facility stations that you've been at. Some of the areas --
THOMPSON: And I have seen the cages. I just want you to admit that the cages exist.
REP. NANETTE BARRAGAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Any asylum seeker who comes to a port of entry, you basically have just said --
NIELSEN: They are allowed to make a claim.
BARRAGAN: OK. Well, let me tell you, Madam Secretary, either you're lying to this Committee, or you don't know what's happening at the border.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: So some tough words from the Congresswoman there. She was referring to her recent trip to the border where she says she saw an asylum seeker turned away. And, Wolf, it is true that under the Trump administration, it has become more difficult for those asylum seekers, and that's because the administration is only processing a certain number of asylum claims every day -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Is she going to be called to come back before the Committee for more testimony?
[17:50:00] SCHNEIDER: Well, she could be. You know, the Committee itself said that they haven't gotten all the documents that they want from her. And they also pushed the point that this is the first time that she's been before the Homeland Security Committee in nearly a year.
So it's very possible they could call her back, but they also want more documents explaining a lot of these policies. And Secretary Nielsen also couldn't give some of the numbers for, for example, the unaccompanied children who are still in detention. That, for sure, will be something the Committee wants as well, Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm sure they will. All right, Jessica Schneider, up on Capitol Hill. Thank you.
Other important news we're following -- satellite pictures now suggest North Korea has resumed activity at an important missile facility. The discovery coming right on the heels of President Trump's walkout from his summit with Kim Jong-un. The President says he'd be very disappointed if that's the case.
CNN's Will Ripley is monitoring the latest developments. He's joining us from Beijing. So what are you learning, Will?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the satellite launch site that we're talking about, Wolf, is one of North Korea's most visible facilities. The North Koreans know it is under the constant watch of spy satellites, which means whatever they're doing there right now, they want the U.S. to see it.
RIPLEY (voice-over): New satellite images show North Korea appears to be restarting work at a key missile site. A site Kim Jong-un had pledged to shut down before leaving last week's failed summit in Vietnam empty-handed. These images, taken two days after the Hanoi summit.
A South Korean lawmaker tells CNN, spy agency NIS is seeing signs of restoration activity and increased vehicle movements at the Sohae satellite launch facility in Tongchang-ri.
JENNY TOWN, RESEARCH ANALYST, THE STIMSON CENTER: They had started to dismantle the facility. By August, they had already taken off two of the walls and the roof. It stayed this way for almost -- you know, for several months until about February of this year. Then we started to see things move in. And by March 2nd, they had rebuilt the walls.
RIPLEY (voice-over): U.S. and South Korean intelligence now face an urgent question -- is Kim preparing to send a defiant message to the U.S. and President Trump? Today, Mr. Trump warned Kim Jong-un against a provocative move.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would be very, very disappointed in Chairman Kim. And I don't think I will be, but we'll see what happens. We'll take a look.
RIPLEY (voice-over): Could it be fallout from what sources call a humiliating snub in Hanoi, President Trump abruptly walking out of talks, even canceling a working lunch with Kim? A move sources say left the North Korean leader bewildered, ordering his Vice Foreign Minister to tell reporters he may have lost the will to negotiate.
DEAN CHENG, SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Are we going to see a renewal of past Kim family tactics -- provocations, missile tests, nuclear tests? RIPLEY (voice-over): Kim signed a pledge to permanently close Sohae
back in September. Work began to dismantle parts of the site used for missile engine testing and satellite launches, like this one in 2012, launches that openly defy U.N. Security Council resolutions banning ICBM technology.
RIPLEY (on camera): What can you say to the world to prove that this is not a ballistic missile program in disguise?
RIPLEY (voice-over): When I visited North Korea's Satellite Control Center in 2015, scientists told me their space program is not a threat to the U.S. Some analysts caution new activity at Sohae does not necessarily mean a launch is imminent.
TOWN: I think it's more of a political signal of frustration, a reversal of decision on these unilateral confidence-building measures.
RIPLEY (voice-over): Two U.S. think tanks that monitor North Korea say work to rebuild Sohae's launch pad and missile engine test stand began sometime in the last 2-1/2 weeks. Some analysts wonder if Kim is trying to warn the U.S. what could lie ahead if diplomacy hits a dead end.
RIPLEY: And the failed diplomacy in Hanoi may also be affecting North Korea's relationships here in China. I've been chatting with sources in Beijing who say one of the reasons Kim Jong-un wanted to take a train trip through China was a potential meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping after the summit. Obviously, that meeting didn't happen, Wolf.
BLITZER: There's a lot of speculation that he returned to Pyongyang, Kim Jong-un, feeling that the President of the United States humiliated him by not even going forward with that luncheon that had been scheduled, and that was embarrassing to his own people. What are you hearing?
RIPLEY: That empty table was a symbol, really, of the wasted opportunity and humiliation that Kim Jong-un faced here in Hanoi, Wolf. And now, he has to prove within his own country that he still has the power to try to stand up to President Trump. A lot of people wondering if he really has what it takes.
BLITZER: Will Ripley joining us from Beijing. Thanks very much.
Coming up, breaking news. Michael Cohen emerges after a day behind closed doors with the House Intelligence Committee where he presented documents allegedly backing his claim that his false 2017 testimony was edited by one of the President's lawyers. The Democratic Committee Chairman calls the session enormously productive. Does Cohen have anything left to offer?
[17:55:13] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[17:59:51] BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Bringing receipts. Michael Cohen gives Democrats more evidence in their probe of the President, offering documents showing his false 2017 testimony was edited allegedly by another Trump attorney. Cohen speaking out just moments ago after a daylong hearing.