Return to Transcripts main page


Trump's Former Fixer, Michael Cohen, Departs For Prison; House Judiciary Sets Wednesday Vote To Hold Barr In Contempt; Duchess Meghan Of Sussex Gives Birth To A Boy. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired May 6, 2019 - 10:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Well, this, a remarkable moment. Just moments ago, the President's longtime lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, is heading off to prison for three years. This is him leaving his New York apartment. He had comments directed, it seemed, at the President, as he goes to prison for three years for crimes including a crime that he has implicated the President in, that is using campaign funds to silence some of the President's accusers of having affairs with him. I imagine this is not the last we've heard from the President's longtime lawyer and fixer, Poppy.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: I imagine you are right, and he has said as much this morning. Let's going to Kara Scannell. She is right outside of Michael Cohen's apartment there in midtown Manhattan. A short statement, but, boy, did it say a lot.

Oh, I can't hear Kara. Guys in the control room, can you hear Kara Scannell?

SCIUTTO: There she is.

HARLOW: All right, Kara, really significant what we hear from --


HARLOW: I can. Very significant what we heard from Michael Cohen this morning.

SCANNELL: That's right, Poppy. We heard from Michael Cohen addressing the press where he had said that he hoped he returns from prison in three years from now, that he will be a country without xenophobia, without injustice, and without lies at the helm of the country. He also said that there still remains much to be told, and he looks forward to the day when he can share more information.

Now, Michael Cohen had been President Trump's personal attorney for ten years. He pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, the only person in the course of this two-year investigation to implicate the President directly in these crimes. Now, Michael Cohen is going to head up to now 75 miles northwest of New York City to Otisville, New York, where the prison is, and there, he will enter into the prison population. He is expected to be assigned a job. He will live a very regimented lifestyle. He will wake up 6:00 A.M. and have lights out 11:30. He will also have some leisure time. And in this prison camp, particularly, there's a minimum security element of it in which that he will have access to basketball courts, tennis courts.

Now, we do have the sound of Michael Cohen speaking. I want to throw to that now so people can hear Michael Cohen speaking in his own words.


MICHAEL COHEN, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S FORMER ATTORNEY: I hope that when I rejoin my family and friends that the country will be in a place without xenophobia, injustice and lies at the helm of our country. There still remains much to be told. And I look forward to the day that I can share the truth. And thank you all very much.

SCANNELL: How are you feeling today, Michael?


SCANNELL: Now, this is a remarkable fall from grace for Michael Cohen, who was at Donald Trump's side for years. Now, he is heading off to prison to Otisville, New York, where he will begin serving that three-year prison sentence. Poppy, Jim?

HARLOW: Okay. Kara Scannell, thank you for being here.

Let's talk about this. Bianna Golodryga, our Contributor, is with us, also former federal prosecutor Gene Rossi, who is also a Former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Good morning to you both.

Bianna, let me just begin with you on just -- this is the culmination of quite a few years for Michael Cohen. How big is this?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, this is a big moment for his life and for his family, no doubt. You think about this man who just a few years ago said he would take a bullet for the President and stood by his side, clearly not an objective outlier here. But that having been said, I recall his testimony before Congress. And when he spoke directly to republicans and said listen, I was in your shoes. I was where you are right now. I was drinking this President's Kool- Aid, I'm telling you it will not end well for you. The fact that he says there is more to be told, you know, perhaps a book. I don't think him being in prison will make his voice unheard over the past few years -- over the next few years.

SCIUTTO: He's going to prison in part for a campaign finance law violation, in which he has implicated the President. That is paying off Stormy Daniels and Karen Mcdougal to influence an election. That's against the law. He's implicated the President in that. So not only is this not over for Michael Cohen. It's not over for the President, is it?

GENE ROSSI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I have a witness in the Michael Cohen matter in the Southern District of New York, Stormy Daniels' former attorney, and I sat across the table from the four prosecutors. And for hours and days, and I can say this, they're brilliant, they are relentless and they are tough.


And put aside the Mueller report, another big cloud over the President's head and his presidency is the possible indictment of the President for campaign violations. And but for that Office of Legal Counsel memo, if his name were Donald Smith and not Donald Trump, he would be indicted.

SCIUTTO: And that could still happen after he leaves office?

ROSSI: Yes, because the statute of limitations ends five years after the check that Donald Trump signed in August of 2017, the last payment to Michael Cohen for this undercover deal, if you will.

SCIUTTO: Quite a prospect, Poppy.

Stay with us because we have a lot of news to process here. Bianna and Gene are going to stay with us.

Other news this morning.

HARLOW: The constitutional war of wills between House Democrats and the Trump administration has crossed a dangerous and significant line. We're now one hour past the deadline and apparently last deadline for Attorney General Bill Barr to give the complete and unredacted Mueller report to the House Judiciary Committee. Since he did not, the panel plans to meet on Wednesday to hold the Attorney General, Jim, in contempt.

SCIUTTO: Just in the last few moments here, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee announcing that that vote will come on Wednesday. Of course, democrats have a majority on that committee so that vote likely to happen. The other question is, will Bob Mueller come to testify? They have set the date for the 15th of May. That is next Wednesday. The President had said he doesn't object until yesterday when he decided, quote, Bob Mueller should not testify.

CNN's Phil Mattingly is on Capitol Hill. So a contempt vote, assuming it happens, and I have to assume it does, since democrats have the majority of that committee. What happens next and what does Trump's objection mean for Mueller?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Look, it's an interesting question, right, because if you look into recent history, an Attorney General has been held in contempt before. Eric Holder back in 2012 by the republican-led Congress, and Eric Holder continued to serve as Attorney General, continued to even come up here on Capitol Hill and testify in the wake of that vote. But what it means more broadly is just a very clear escalation. Gone, Jim and Poppy, are the exchanges of letters, the exchanges of caustic comments through the media or the kind of back and forth. This is an escalation. Contempt, a court fight soon to follow, most likely, is what we're going to see here. And I think it underscores right now that this moment which has been building, really, since democrats took the majority in the House in January is kind of reaching a peak at some point, at least on this issue specifically. And it could only grow, as you mentioned, the idea of having the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, come in.

As you noted, democrats have been negotiating with the Special Counsel's team at the request of the Justice Department. The 15th was the date they have been tentatively setting. It hadn't been set in yet. The big question now is will the Attorney General, who has said repeatedly over the course of the last two weeks, if Bob Mueller is called to testify, I have no problem with it at all, if he decides to change course.

Keep in mind, Bob Mueller, currently an employee of the Justice Department, won't be for that much longer. So, eventually he will be a private citizen. But this is just kind of another level, guys, of this battle that just seems to be escalating by the day.

HARLOW: Yes. And this isn't the only one. I mean, you've got a huge tax battle and you have the deadline today, the second deadline for the President, Phil, to turn over -- treasury, rather, to turn over the President's tax return information to the House Ways and Means Committee, six years of it. That certainly hasn't happened yet and I'm just not holding my breath for it to happen. So now what?

MATTINGLY: Yes, you would probably run out of air if you tried to hold your breath, frankly, on any deadline or letter that's been sent or any document request. Guys, more than 35 document requests have been lodged by democrats over the course of the last couple of months, none have been fully complied with. This most certainly will not be complied with. You've seen the Treasury Department kind of lay the groundwork and their responses to these requests, the two deadlines that have been missed so far, laying out that they have serious concerns.

The next steps here are going to be very interesting. The Committee Chairman can either subpoena, they can sue outright, but the kind of not unlike what you're seeing over the Judiciary Committee, the Ways and Means Committee, things are moving to court and things are escalating quickly, guys.

SCIUTTO: Phil Mattingly, thanks very much. There can be a lot of time in court coming up these next few months. Lawyers are certainly working in Washington.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, should he or should he not testify to Congress? President Trump, as recently as Friday, left it up to the Attorney General, Bill Barr, to decide. Barr had already said he was fine with it. Things changing, Poppy.

HARLOW: Things changed in 48 hours. The President seemed to totally reverse course here after he said he had no opinion, he Tweeted this. Quote, Bob Mueller should not testify. Why the change?

Let's go to our White House Correspondent, Kaitlan Collins. So he was fine with it, now he's not. Why?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Just days later, the President changed his mind. And people who have been speaking with the President say a lot of that had to do with after Bill Barr testified last week, the President was complaining about the way democrats had treated the Attorney General, who the President has been praising in private. And now, the President seems to be making this decision, saying Bob Mueller should not testify.


Of course, this puts all the attention back on Bill Barr and whether or not he is going to make the decision because up until now, the President has said it would be up to the Attorney General. So now, the Attorney General is facing even more pressure, even more than what Phil just laid out for you there by saying that it's the President overruling him, it seemed to be, saying that he shouldn't testify any longer.

Now, the question is what republicans are going to say about this because it wasn't just democrats who wanted to speak to the Special Counsel. Republicans wanted to talk to him too, including Doug Collins on the House Judiciary Committee, who put out a statement saying that he should testify as soon as possible, essentially.

Now, the question is what are they going to do now, because a lot of democrats wanted to talk to Mueller even more intensely after Bill Barr testified because they say, what we are seeing is this dispute between the Attorney General and the Special Counsel who have a personal relationship that dates back decades over what the conclusions were that Robert Mueller came to.

And you can see Bill Barr in that testimony essentially saying he did not agree with some of the moves the Special Counsel took. So now, the President seems to be going back on saying it's up to the Attorney General. Whether or not what Bill Barr decides, that is where you should be watching this week, what he's going to say about Robert Mueller and whether or not he should go before Congress.

HARLOW: Okay. Kaitlan Collins, let us know if the position changes again. Thank you very much.

Our experts are back with us. So, Bianna, to you, why do you think, I mean, as an observer and an expert on this stuff? What's the likelihood Mueller comes to testify in march -- that would be two month ago -- May 15th over the House Judiciary?

GOLODRYGA: Well, what's interesting is you see how the chain of command works, right? You had Bill Barr say last week that Bob Mueller works for me, I am his boss. Now, we see the President sort of overriding Barr, saying, well, listen, I'm Barr's boss and I don't think Bob Mueller should testify. I have spoken to many people who think that the republicans and democrats, especially the democrats, should avoid pressing Barr even more. This man is an expert in testifying before Congress. This is the second time around. He said his piece the last couple weeks, the last few months. We're not going to hear more from him.

When it comes to Mueller, however, that is where many sources say they expect to hear from him and expect him to want to show up, especially given what we know played out between him and Barr with these two letters and then a phone call. Bob Mueller, over the past two weeks, worked diligently on this report, not a peep from him or his colleagues and other prosecutors, now come to find out after all of this work, there're still controversies surrounding how it's to be interpreted. I would expect there would be a lot to be heard from him that he would want to testify.

That having been said, republicans are going to have to tread lightly, because unlike the President, you haven't heard many republicans speak ill of Bob Mueller. In fact, they were supporting his nomination.

HARLOW: Except for the President who called it a witch hunt.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, exactly. So republicans not wanting to look completely partisan are going to have to tread lightly as opposed to what we saw play out with Bill Barr.

HARLOW: That's a good point.

SCIUTTO: It's interesting. Now, Bill Barr himself started to lay some fire in Bob Mueller's direction in that testimony. You know, like it was his fault. He didn't make a decision. It's interesting to see how far republicans would go.

Gene Rossi, I have to ask a question. This is a across the board strategy from the White House to say no to everything now. Just for the sake of the viewers, who drives the bus? What does the constitution say if Congress says, we are subpoenaing the Mueller report? If Congress says, we want the Attorney General -- we want the Special Counsel to come testify, as far as U.S. law is concerned, who is in the right here?

ROSSI: Well, there's two things that the viewers have to be aware of. One is the executive privilege doctrine, which was set forth on many cases, including the Nixon Tapes case. The other is federal criminal procedure 6(e), where grand jury testimony cannot be divulged to the public.

SCIUTTO: But they're just saying no to everything. I mean, I know that early on, they're like, well, just grand jury. Now, they're saying the investigation is over, no one go testify, no one give them anything. I mean, that --

ROSSI: Well, that's a political decision.

SCIUTTO: Fine. So what's the law going to say then?

ROSSI: The law is going to say that the executive privilege has been waived.


ROSSI: When they interviewed McGahn and all the others and did that report and Barr testified, I say, less than candidly before Congress, there's a waiver of the executive privilege. Assuming there was a privilege, it's a qualified privilege. It can be outweighed by the strong congressional interest in getting to the bottom of this mess.

Now, the federal criminal procedure issue on grand jury, the Attorney General can go to a court today and get permission by a court to release any grand jury testimony. It's done all the time.

SCIUTTO: Understood. Gene Rossi, I think we're going to be covering some court time, Poppy, in the next few weeks, months, years, decades. Just my guess.

HARLOW: I'd put some money on that wager. I think so.

SCIUTTO: Bianna, Gene, thanks very much. A lot of news to cover.

Still to come, the Duchess of Sussex has given birth to a baby boy.


Prince harry spoke about it all just moments ago. We're going to have a live report all the way from Windsor coming up.



SCIUTTO: We continue to follow breaking news from across the pond, and it's good news. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are the proud parents of a new baby boy.

HARLOW: This is exactly the assignment you want to be on. Our Royal Correspondent, Max Foster, is with us and Our Royal Commentator, Victoria Arbiter, joins us now.

Max, let's begin with you. What more do we know about this sweet baby boy?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: He's more than seven pounds. He's healthy, we're told, and his father, as you'll hear from this little sound bite he gave us, is pretty elated.


PRINCE HARRY, DUKE OF SUSSEX: It is amazing, absolutely incredible. And as I said, I'm so incredibly proud of my wife. And as every father and parent would ever say, your baby is absolutely amazing. But this little thing is absolutely to die for. So I'm just over the moon.

(END VIDEO CLIP) FOSTER: They're keeping the location of the birth private. All the speculation is that they wanted a home birth here just down the road in Frogmore Cottage where they live in Windsor. It could have been in a hospital. They're not confirming that. They're trying to tread this line between giving the public the information they're desperate for and all the details and having a private occasion. So that was interesting that they're not revealing that. But certainly very happy and all seems to have gone as planned, guys.

SCIUTTO: Victoria, so you already have an American Duchess. This baby will have dual nationality based on his mother being an American. An American prince, possibly, depending on how the queen comes down on that. But how big a deal is that and how is that being received in the U.K.?

VICTORIA ARBITER, CNN ROYAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think people are equally excited on both sides of the pond. Meghan has really ignited a passion for the Royal Family. People have long admired the queen that there was a huge love affair with Diana, and by extension, people over here have always been very fond of Harry. They viewed his antics in Las Vegas very differently to perhaps how the queen viewed those. So I think people are delighted on both sides of the pond.

And as Max was saying, it was sort of seeing an extension of Harry's happiness here. This feels like the happy ending he's longed for. He's made no secret of his desire for a family. So today is very exciting day as it would be for any parent.

HARLOW: You know, Max, just looking at the smile on his face when he came out and made that rather surprise announcement and everything, it's like he couldn't contain his joy. And, of course, he's a father for the first time, and he praised his wife as being so proud of her. It looks like this was a home birth. I mean, they're doing so many things their way, which is refreshing.

FOSTER: It is. And there's no expectation of them necessarily. It's not quite senior up enough in the Royal Family to do things in a certain way, they have been able to choose to do things differently. So having a home birth was a tradition before Diana's generation came along anyway. So you could argue they're reverting back to tradition on that.

To Victoria's point that this is, you know, a happy ending, I think it really is. I mean, the enduring image of Prince Harry as walking behind his mother's coffin, people -- the British people, I think people around the world, wanted a happy ending to that story. That in part came here to St. George's Chapel when he married Meghan Markle and found his Duchess.

But also he's very connected with children. Whenever he go to public events, he kneels down, goes to the children first. he desperately wanted children and he's now got a baby boy, a complete family unit. And that's going to be very endearing to the British public and there's a huge amount of goodwill for him. So a big moment, waiting for the pictures, expecting them, guys, on Wednesday, I think, if all goes to plan. SCIUTTO: You know, Victoria, of course, Diana was a different kind of princess, and that was part of her appeal, right, back to the marriage and through the years. And Meghan Markle, a different kind of duchess, you know, her own person, her own woman, right? And it seems like you could draw a line between the two.

ARBITER: You could. I think that's why Meghan has been so widely applauded. She's done what works for her. And yet she's done so very carefully because she hasn't actually broken any traditions and protocols. There's been a lot of talk since the marriage that she's done things differently. She's shaking up the monarchy. She really isn't, when she's worn a one-shoulder dress, you can Google one- shoulder dresses and there's the queen and Margaret and Diana. I think that she's drawn so much attention to the royal family.

Yes, she is new in the terms of the fact that she is American, she happens to be biracial. She has been married before. But these are all things that reflect modern society. And I think that's what makes her so exciting to watch is that the Royal Family has been catapulted into the 21st century, some would say long overdue. But now, I think, we have a little baby that has joined the family that millions around the commonwealth can identify with. And that's what helps maintain the relevance of the Royal Family.


HARLOW: It's a beautiful thing. I love reporting great news like this. Thank you so much, Max Foster, for being there and, Victoria, for your expertise. We appreciate it, and we'll be right back.


HARLOW: All right. So this morning, Russia says it will not ground its fleet of Sukhoi Superjets despite one of the planes bursting into flames during a crash landing.


SCIUTTO: This video is just incredible and harrowing to watch.