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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Polls Close in Four States, Votes Still Being Counted; Stormy Daniels' Attorney: Cohen Received Approximately $500K After the Election from Company Linked to Russian Oligarch with Ties to Vladimir Putin; Mueller's Team Questions Russian Oligarch about Payments to Cohen; CNN Projects Don Blankenship Comes in Third Place in West Virginia GOP Senate Primary. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired May 08, 2018 - 21:00   ET



[21:00:24] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We're watching elections in four states tonight. Primaries are happening in Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina and West Virginia. Right now, we can bring you these results from Indiana. CNN projects Vice President Mike Pence's brother, Greg Pence, has won the Republican nomination for his congressional bid. It's the first time Greg Pence has run for office seat was previously held by, of course Mike Pence.

We're also keeping a close eye on an election in West Virginia. I want to get the latest on that from John King. John?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader and Donald Trump, the President of United States at the moment breathing a bit easier. Remember they intervened to try to stop this man, Don Blankenship, a convicted coal executive, a race in this campaign or a race bid or anyway through his campaign ads and there was a big laid concern. He was surging in the West Virginia Republican Senate primary as of now with 30 percent of the votes in. He is running third. So we'll still count the votes to see as we go through but right now, the Republican establishment finds with either Attorney General Patrick Morrisey or Republican Congressman Evan Jenkins.

They were worried about Don Blankenship, worried that if he won the nomination that Democrat Joe Manchin would likely win in November and then keep in that scenario in Democratic hand, the seat the Republicans is very much think they can pick up this week. Despite all the talk of a blue wave, Donald Trump won West Virginia by more than 40 points.

So they got very worried about Blankenship, only 20.3 percent right now. Again we've got a lot of votes to count, but if you watch this play out, you see some of the Morrisey votes up here in the northern part of the state. I point this out he is running for -- if this is where he lives. He's actually originally from New York but he's living in West Virginia for some time. He lives here in Jefferson County where he is winning big, and you see his support tends to be in the northern part of the state. He again, he's running 35% state wide for far.

Jenkins, this is his congressional district. He is a Congressman and his congressional district forms a belt around the southern part of the state. That's where he's winning, all these counties down here. Only a couple of smaller counties where you see Don Blankenship winning, you see it's 140 votes here, you see it's only 40 votes here.

So far Blankenship getting votes everywhere but only leading in a couple of tiny counties. Again, Anderson, we'll come to the end but the Republican establishment, especially Mitch McConnell, who was mocked in this race, the China people ads, racist ads Don Blankenship were aimed at Mitch McConnell's Asian American wife. He is breathing easier tonight. They think either one of these two candidates will be very competitive, potential being able to take this away come November. Had it been Blankenship, you would see the Republican Party as early as tomorrow pull out on the money. Again, we'll keep counting them, it's not done yet but it's certainly looks like one of the establishment candidates will win the Republican nomination in West Virginia tonight.

COOPER: All right, John King, I appreciate it. Thanks, we'll keep checking the results of those races.

Now, to tonight's other breaking news, CNN has learned that Mueller investigators have questioned a Russian oligarch for hundreds of thousands of dollars of payment from his company, the U.S. affiliate, paid to the President's attorney, Michael Cohen after the election. The purpose of those payments is unclear tonight, but Michael Avenatti, the attorney for adult film star Stormy Daniels is alleging that Cohen received a transfer of about half a million dollars from the U.S. company affiliated with the oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg after the President election.

CNN has reviewed documents that appear to show the payments. We have not independently authenticated those documents. I spoke with Michael Avenatti earlier tonight.


COOPER: We reviewed the documents that appear to show the payments you revealed earlier today. We haven't independently verified them. But the fact that AT&T has now come out saying that the documents at least related to AT&T are correct obviously bolsters the authenticity of the documents. I know you're not going to say what your information is based on but you're obviously very confident in the information that you released earlier?

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: 100 percent, Anderson, 100 percent confident. We would not have released this if we were not 100 percent confident in the accuracy of the information. I believe right before we went live "The New York Times" issued an article where they verified the accuracy of what we've released based on their independent review of other documents, so no question that this is accurate. It took a lot of work. We've been working on this for some time. We've been in this case for a number of months. We've been spending a lot of time on the case. We've got a whole team of individuals that are working on the case back in California. And we're highly confident in the information we've released.

COOPER: Let's begin with the $500,000 paid to Michael Cohen's LLC from this company Columbus Nova, which is this U.S. Company that's affiliated with Russian company owned by this oligarch with ties to Putin. Is it clear to you why this company would have paid Michael Cohen after the election payments up to $500,000?

AVENATTI: It's not clear to us yet, but what we do know is that there was about $500,000 worth of payments that took place between of 2017 so this is after the election that occurred in November 2016 and then up through a approximately August of 2017, so about an eight month time period of payments totally and approximately $500,000.

[21:05:08] We have yet to hear an explanation from Michael Cohen as to why the personal attorney to the President of the United States, who at that time at least for a portion of that time was employed by the Trump organization, would be accepting payments from a Russian oligarch to the tune of $500,000.

COOPER: We should point out that the attorney for the American company, Columbus Nova, which is an affiliate with Russian company. They say that the company made the payment. That this Russian oligarch, Vekselberg did not have any involvement with the transaction or any involvement with the decision to hire Michael Cohen, do you have evidence to the contrary?

AVENATTI: We do have evidence to the contrary. And also you have the CEO, Mr. Intrater, who is the cousin of the Russian oligarch, who is also Russian, obviously Mr. Intratar is. And, look, what's the explanation for the $500,000 worth of payments? I mean, Michael Cohen should not have been accepting money, especially under the circumstances at this time from anyone with Russian ties, quite frankly.

COOPER: This American company, they gave money for the -- for the inauguration funds. They also gave money, I believe, for -- to the RNC and to -- for some campaign stuff. All of which is legal. At the very least, there may be no nefarious reason here at all that this company would have given $500,000 to Michael Cohen. They could have been hiring him for any number of consulting work --

AVENATTI: For what? For his legal skill and acumen? I doubt that.

COOPER: Well, I mean, you know, he does have the ear of the President. So a company might want -- but at the very least, it is moronic for Michael Cohen, who is representing the President of the United States, to be publicly seen as accepting money from a company which has such deep ties to a Russian company with ties to Vladimir Putin.

AVENATTI: Anderson, there is no question about that, but let's back up a minute. You said he may have the ear of the President. Michael Cohen should not be selling access to the President of the United States. I mean, this is a big deal.

COOPER: Do you believe that that is what may have happened here? AVENATTI: Well, from the series of payments, and, of course, there is a lot of talk about the revelation in our report about the payments made by the oligarch or through the U.S. entity of the oligarch, but there are also other payments that have been disclosed. You referenced a couple of them. AT&T, Novartis. There are others disclosed within the report. And it appears this may be your typical pay to play type scenario, where you have someone close to a politician, in this case close to the President of the United States, which is highly unusual, selling access, potential access to the President of the United States.

I don't believe that Michael Cohen is registered as a lobbyist. I don't believe that he's registered as he should be in order to represent any foreign agents or foreign interests. I mean, this is a big deal. I mean he had to have been receiving this money for something. And it's unclear as to what the excuse is, as to why he was receiving this money. And let us remember this, up until at least April of this year, Michael Cohen continued to serve as the personal attorney to the President of the United States. We saw the President the first week of April on Air Force One referred to Michael Cohen as his attorney. In the present sense, you have to speak to Michael. He is my attorney.


COOPER: More now on this from CNN National Politics Reporter, MJ Lee. She joins me. So MJ, what are you learning about the allegations that Avenatti is making about a number of other payments into this account held by Cohen?

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, Anderson, there is a lot to digest here. According to Avenatti, Cohen received significant sums of money from a number of entities after the 2016 election payments that Avenatti says call into question Cohen's business tactic.

Take a look here, we have $500,000 from Columbus Nova, a U.S. company linked to a Russian oligarch. We also have $400,000 from Novartis, which is a pharmaceutical company. There is also $200,000 from AT&T and $150,000 from Korea Aerospace Industries. So that is a significant inflow of money into the bank account of Trump's personal lawyer that we are learning about for the first time tonight.

COOPER: Has there been a response from these companies? I know there has been from some of them.

LEE: That's right. We are starting to hear back from some of these companies. Here is a statement from AT&T. It says, "Essential consulting was one of several firms we engaged in early 2017 to provide insights into understanding the new administration. They did no legal or lobbying work for us and the contract ended in December 2017."

So AT&T here is acknowledging they did pay Cohen for his services and that what they wanted from him was insights into President Trump. As you know, AT&T is trying to acquire CNN's parent company, Time Warner. The Justice Department sued to prevent that merger last year.

And according to Avenatti, two of the payments from AT&T to Cohen were made before the Justice Department sued to block that merger.

[21:10:00] Also Novartis, the pharmaceutical company, sent us this statement. "Any agreements with essential consultants were entered before our current CEO taking office in February of this year and have expired."

COOPER: So just to be clear, this is the same account, this is what is baffling to me, it's the same account that Avenatti says was used to pay off Stormy Daniels, essential consultants LLC?

LEE: You're absolutely right. All of the money that we have just been talking about tonight was sent to a bank account that Cohen created in 2016 to pay off Stormy Daniels. Remember, Cohen paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep her quiet about her alleged affair with Trump. So it is intriguing that according to Avenatti that bank account was also used to receive money after the election.

And I think it's also worth emphasizing why Michael Cohen is such an important figure in all of this. He is Donald Trump's fixer. He was the President's right-hand man for many years. He constantly talked to the President. So any payment to Cohen during this presidency is potentially important. I will note on a final note that Cohen and his attorney have not responded to our request for comment tonight. Anderson?

COOPER: All right, MJ Lee, thanks very much.

We're going to dig deeper in the legal implications for Michael Cohen and the criminal investigations surrounding him.

Also ahead, the very latest from primary voting in four states tonight.


COOPER: Again, the breaking news, CNN has learned that Mueller's investigators questioned a Russian oligarch about hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments from his company's U.S. affiliate paid to the President's attorney Michael Cohen after the election.

[21:15:06] With me now, former federal prosecutors, Anne Milgram, and Jennifer Rodgers, and CNN National Security Analyst, Retired CIA Chief of Russia Operations, Steve Hall.

Jennifer, I mean there is a lot we don't know about this, but -- and we've seen the documents. We haven't been able to independently verify the authenticity of them. Although they do seem to indicate the payments that Michael Avenatti has been talking about. Does it make sense to you that Michael Cohen would accept $500,000 in payments from a company -- an American company whose head, American head is related to a Russian oligarch whose -- who runs the parent company back -- and is very close with Vladimir Putin after the election at a time when the -- his client, the President of the United States, is under, you know, suspicion and a cloud of collusion or cooperation with Russia?

JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I don't know that it makes sense in terms of is that the smartest thing to do at that period of time. Maybe not. This is a period of time that, as reported, he has not been invited to join the President at the White House. He's kind of trying to scramble and figure out what he's going to do. You know, maybe he just sets up this consulting shop and starts kind of taking in money from wherever he can get it.

I mean, I do think the fact of that money coming into him is of great interest to the prosecutors who I think have had this information for a long time. So I'm sure they've already as we speak have been chasing down, you know, where that money came from and more importantly what Michael Cohen did for that money.

COOPER: It's also interesting, Anne, that he would use the same essential consultants LLC, which was clearly set up to facilitate the Stormy Daniels payment, that he would just continue to use that to take money from AT&T --


COOPER: -- from a pharmaceutical company, from this Russian oligarch through his American subsidiary?

MILGRAM: It's strange. And remember that the company, essential consultants, is set up as a real estate consulting company.

COOPER: Right. And by the way poorly set up. I mean, LLC is set up usually to mask the person behind it. He actually signed the formation documents himself as opposed to having another attorney do it?

MILGRAM: Right. That's true. I mean, to the point about what he's doing and why he's doing it. Also, one of the things that I think is interesting is that the Russian oligarch who is pushing in this $500,000 is also someone who is recently sanctioned by the American government for having been involved in the election influencing. And so the question of really where that money is coming from and why seems to be -- it feels to us that there is something more that we want to know.

COOPER: We should point out that the American subsidiary says that the Russian oligarch had nothing to do with it, had nothing to do with the payment, had nothing to do with Michael Cohen being hired for any purposes. But, again, we don't know what that money was used for. You know, Michael Avenatti has raised the specter that, you know -- why are now suddenly companies in the wake of Mr. Trump's election suddenly now coming to Michael Cohen and giving him hundreds of thousands of dollars for his real estate acumen or for, I mean, you know, the American company for this Russian company said that it was, you know, possible real estate or other capital investments?

RODGERS: Well, I do think that there are so many people who want influence. I mean, there are lobbyists who get paid, you know, hundreds of thousands of dollars because they're close to people who are important. So I'm not that surprised that he could make some money off of this. I just think the question of what this money was for, especially given the connections to other Russian oligarchs who have shown up in the Mueller investigation. And that's what we really need to find out here.

COOPER: Steve, what do you make of the alleged involvement of this Russian oligarch?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: You know, Anderson, sometimes the best counterintelligence work is simply looking at patterns and then using good focused common sense, and I think if we do that in this case, things become more clear. So the oligarch that you're talking about, Mr. Vekselberg, is worth $13 billion.

He's not the only oligarch who has shown up. I mean we've seen absolutely Oleg Deripaska has shown up when Paul Manafort, when he was the campaign manager of the Trump campaign offered a private briefing to him as to how things were going up. We've seen other oligarchs pop up in connection with Donald Trump Jr. and others.

So there is a pattern, despite what the administration says, about Russian oligarchs and Russians in general sort of inserting themselves into this story. This idea that the American arm of this company that is owned by the oligarch has nothing to do with Russia is, of course, ludicrous, but common sensically, is it just pay to play? I mean, that's certainly one political answer to this. The darker counterintelligence question I would ask is, you know, the Russians we know were trying to get as many vectors as they could into the Trump campaign, into the Trump team.

This is an opportunity to get Trump's personal lawyer potentially, someone who would be a great access agent to provide information back to the Russians or an agent of influence to try to get the President to do what his personal lawyer wants him to do. So there's a lot of counterintelligence questions here that remain to be worked on. And I think Mueller's team is probably doing just that right now.

[21:20:04] COOPER: Steve, you discount the idea that this American affiliate of this Russian company is independent of it. What makes you discount that out of hand?

HALL: Well, this is something that the Russians are expert at doing, which is taking quaint western and specifically American views about law and order, rule of law, how companies work, corporate responsibility, you know, anything that's connected to Vekselberg, again, a $13 billion, you know, net worth kind of guy. Especially when it's a family member of his that is running this thing. The fact that they have an American arm is designed to make us do exactly what you just did, Anderson. Say, wait a second, is there really that kind of connectivity. In the west, in the United States that's a valid question and in Russia, that's not the way it works. It's all sort of one big Mafia family, if you will.

COOPER: What's interesting about this American arm is they actually gave publicly hundreds of thousands of dollars to the inauguration, to I think to the RNC one point, I mean, they were spreading around publicly. The idea that this was also done on a more private track is also interesting. The payment wouldn't be, Anne, just be of interest to Mueller's investigation, it would also be of interest obviously to the prosecutors in the southern district?

MILGRAM: Yes, absolutely. I mean, I think it's of interest on both sides. For Mueller's team, there is this connection to Russia and questions about, what is that money for? What are they getting from Michael Cohen in exchange for what is really a large amount of money? For the Michael Cohen prosecutors in the southern district, absolutely. And keep in mind, and Jennifer said it, they've been going for months, they've seen all his bank records. They will have understood every single financial transaction that was made. And so this is probably it's news to us but probably not news to them.

COOPER: Jennifer, it's also interesting, I mean Michael Avenatti has made the point that the money was paid, you know, essential consultants is set up $130,000 is facilitated, in his words funneled -- in Cohen's words, funneled to Stormy Daniels attorney and representative and then 75 days later this $500,000 comes in, in several payments from the American affiliate of this Russian company, and refills the coffers. Avenatti's not connecting this as a, you know, reimbursement for the Stormy Daniels payment, but essentially this is the first amount of money that he knows about that comes in, in the wake of the outlay of $130,000?

RODGERS: Yes, that's the big question, you know, what's going in, what's coming out, how are these things connected if at all? I mean, is he really just setting up one company because he can't be bothered to set up more? And he is doing all, consulting this way or is this really something that, as you say, money goes out, money has to come in to replenish it and they're connected somehow. You know, this is what everyone wants to know --

COOPER: You would think also -- I mean a legitimate company like -- you know, these legitimate companies are giving the money would be upset to know that, oh, I'm actually paying this essential consultants, which was used to pay hush money to Stormy Daniels. That's not the kind of thing you put on your business, you know, perspective, I would imagine.

RODGERS: On your business card.

COOPER: On your business card. Anne Milgram, thank you, Jennifer Rodgers as well, Steve Hall as well.

Our political panel weighs in on all of this. We'll get their reaction in a moment.

Also get an update on the West Virginia GOP Senate primary. You're looking live right now at Don Blankenship's headquarters. He is the former coal company CEO. President Trump does not want to win.


[21:27:07] COOPER: As the author Lewis Carroll said about Alice in Wonderland in an entirely different context, the news gets curiouser and curiouser. And what we heard from Michael Avenatti tonight seems to fall into that category. He's talking about a payment of $500 from a company linked to a Russian oligarch to President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen made up the election.

Here to help me unwind this is Kirsten Powers, Ryan Lizza, Tara Setmayer, Jason Miller, Robby Mook, and Alice Stewart.

Kirsten, I mean, do you find it strange that Michael Cohen used the same essential consultants LLC setup to pay Stormy Daniels to take in all of this other money, more than $4.4 million?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, think it's definitely strange and I think there has been a question of how that money was repaid. And so this could be one potential answer. At the same time, there is just so much information we don't have. It's not inconceivable that someone also would pay him money just to find out information about Donald Trump or to get access to Donald Trump. And as much as Michael Avenatti was saying that shouldn't happen, it unfortunately does happen a lot. And so that's what I would say, even if it's not legal, it's very swampy. I mean, this is the swampiest of swampy behavior. The exactly what Donald Trump said was not going to be having. So even best case scenario, which is he got this money to influence Donald Trump, getting $500,000 in one case to do what -- this is exactly what Donald Trump --

COOPER: This is the deepest underwater cave inside the swamp if it all bears out.

POWERS: Exactly.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But this isn't even the first time we've had some kind of mysterious connection between Cohen and Russia. Remember, the dossier, which is an unproven allegation in the dossier denied by Cohen, but it did allege -- the Steele dossier alleged that Cohen was in plague meeting with a Russian official tied to Putin.

Then we have the real estate deal that Felix Sater and Michael Cohen were trying to put together in Moscow, all through 2015, even into the beginning of 2016, and Michael Cohen, remember, e-mails Putin's press secretary trying to get this real estate deal unstuck in January of 2016 on the edge of the Republican primaries and caucuses.

Fast forward to early 2017, Donald Trump is now President. Cohen takes $500,000 from this oligarch-linked company. Within weeks of that, think another thing that has been forgotten here is Cohen and Sater then show up at the White House and present this bizarre piece plan, this pro-Russia peace plan to solve the Ukraine crisis to Michael Flynn, the national security adviser. So there is this two- year trail of Cohen and sometimes involving Felix Sater of relationships with Russians and now we have this big payment in the middle of it. So maybe it's, you know -- I think it's beyond swampy and there is a lot for Mueller to dig into there.

[21:30:00] COOPER: Even if there is nothing nefarious about, just from a political, you know, protecting your client, the President of the United States, it just seems like not a good idea to take $500,000?

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: None of this is a good idea, but this is the way they've operated in business for decades. This is, you know -- there is a lot of swampiness that goes on in New York business, unfortunately, and I just don't think that they realized -- old habits diehard, let's just say that. Michael Cohen isn't exactly the most upstanding businessman as we've seen in a number of instances. But there is even more on top of what Ryan just laid out that makes this even more questionable.

This Russian oligarch, Vekselberg, he has -- the ties in here are really interesting. So this American company, Columbus Nova, that paid Cohen $500,000. They're saying, well, it's an American company. Yes, but it's run by the cousin of this billionaire oligarch. This guy also was the single biggest shareholder at the bank of Cyprus, which was at the time where -- and everyone knows that Cyprus is a known location for a lot of --

COOPER: Wilbur Ross.

SETMAYER: Wilbur Ross was the Vice President of the bank at the time while this billionaire was the single largest investor in the bank of Cyprus. He also attended the inauguration. Who did he get the ticket for the inauguration from? From his cousin, the same person who runs this company that we just found out gave $500,000 to Michael Cohen last year.

COOPER: That company gave $250,000 for the inauguration?

SETMAYER: To the inauguration as well, yes. So you can't sit here and tell me that this is not some kind of sophisticated operation for influence. They know what's going on. These are not people who don't understand how our political system works. So the fact that there is -- if anyone's looking for collusion, these are the kinds of things that are, I would say, point directly to collusion. One other thing, this same gentleman was sitting at that RT dinner famously, the December 15th, 2015 dinner where Michael Flynn was when he went to RT and got that money and Putin was there. This gentleman was there with Michael Flynn sitting next to Putin. So it's very incestuous.

ROBBY MOOK, FORMER CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: And Manafort accused of laundering money through Cyprus for being investigated for that.

SETMAYER: That's correct.

MOOK: So this is all --

SETMAYER: That's right.

JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, so the optics here are obviously pretty terrible. I mean, and again, we don't know if Michael Cohen did anything illegal.

COOPER: Right.

MILLER: And certainly we don't know if anything extended anywhere near the President, but on its face, the optics of this and all of these different funds being jumbled into one pot doesn't look good at all. But I think to the point, Tara, you did a very good job of laying this out, but this is very confusing. It's not clear exactly where this is going. And I think this kind of whole post election collusion argument that tangentially seems to be approaching. I think most people look at it and say, wait, what does this have to do with Donald Trump? We're pushing up on a year that this investigation's been going. Nothing proven that there has been any sort of collusion between the campaign and a foreign entity. I think that's where a lot of people shrug their shoulders and say, well, you know what? We see --

SETMAYER: This come the closest. A billionaire went to the inauguration, Donald Trump's fixer, his personal attorney --

COOPER: Let him finish.

MILLER: We see the President withdrawn from this Iran deal. Seen the good economy, that's what you see -- the President has his best poll numbers of his entire presidency right now because I think a lot of people ---

SETMAYER: Both can be true.

MILLER: A lot of people hear these things and kind of shrug. And like this is confusing, it doesn't seem to deal with the President --

COOPER: It's confusing in general, but it's less confusing, I mean, just the President's attorney took $500,000 from Russian oligarchs, you know, American subsidiary. That's pretty --

SETMAYER: Who went to the inauguration --

COOPER: As you say, the optics are not good.

MILLER: Yes, and the optics are terrible and obviously Michael's going to have a lot of explaining to do. And it sounds like he's getting quite the visit from whether the southern district or the Mueller team. But again, there is a difference between that -- and clearly it looked like he had other business interests and he was trying to make some money from some other entities.

COOPER: Right.

MILLER: Big difference between that and the President.

COOPER: Alice?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think the problem is while the Russia oligarch organization was very sophisticated, I think they found someone who was very unsophisticated to target in order to gain access to the President. And what it looks like, Michael Cohen clearly didn't cross all of his tease and all the dots. And we know he used fund from Russian people to potentially pay off Stormy Daniels and for other purposes. Here is what I think a lots of people watching this are wondering, what does this have to do with me? What does it have to do with the American people? Does it indicate some kind of collusion? I think we have to wait and see. This Russian oligarch was questioned by Robert Mueller. It will be interesting to see what came out of that. And we also have Michael Cohen who obviously was raided by the feds, he is facing mail fraud and potential bank fraud and campaign finance violations, this is so in the weeds it gets curiouser and curiouser. I think people at home want to bring, is this more down the road of Russian collusion or does this just look really bad and potentially there is no illegal activity?

[21:35:00] MOOK: Well, first of all, I mean, let it just be said this is absolutely further evidence that there were not just relational ties between the Trump organization and Russia, but now financial ties. So that's not less evidence of collusion, it's more. But to your point -- actually, the points both of you guys made, I think there is an important nugget here. First of all, there are two kinds of accomplices that the Russians can cultivate here in the U.S., witting and unwitting. And this may be an example of a witting accomplish or unwitting.

COOPER: I believe useful idiot was the term.

MOOK: Willing idiot, whatever you want to call it. And so I think this absolutely affects the American people. The President just withdraw from the Iran agreement today. That's exactly what the Russians wanted. The sanctions were not --

MILLER: Well, as did Israel and Saudi Arabia. They both wanted it, too.

MOOK: The sanctions were not put into place until months after Congress said they had to be. That's absolutely what the Russians wanted. So this is -- and guess what? The Republican Party's platform was mysteriously changed in summer of 2016 to withdraw sections that addressed what Russia had done in the Ukraine. That matters.

STEWART: And there is still an investigation into Russian hacking.

SETMAYER: That's right.

COOPER: Let's take a quick break. We're going to continue this discussion, more on the other side.

We'll also check in with the West Virginia GOP Senate race for the candidate that has done prison time and used racial slurs in his campaign ads is trying to pull out a win tonight.


[21:40:17] COOPER: Talking about the latest twist in the Michael Cohen saga, payments that went out and what we're now learning about some that came in, including what Stormy Daniels' attorney says was $500,000 linked for a Russian oligarch. Back now with the panel. The American subsidiary of this Russian company has come forward and said, look, we were hiring him for business opportunities and real estate opportunities. I'm paraphrasing. The AT&T statement was basically, look, we were looking for, you know, again, I don't have the words in front of me but kind of --

STEWART: Insight.

COOPER: Insight into --

MILLER: The administration --

COOPER: That, to me, makes sense. I feel like that's pretty spelled out. Yes, they wanted to figure out this administration. The idea that this American-linked Russian company that he was the guy that they would go to for real estate advice just seems ludicrous on its face, of all the potential experts in real estate, and business opportunities you just happen to pick the President's attorney?

MILLER: That does not seem so credible.

SETMAYER: No, also that company, Columbus Nova, they're an investment management firm and their number one client is the Russian billionaire oligarch's conglomerate. So for anyone to say that this is like separate company, it's not (inaudible), OK, this is a company that is clearly running the operations and running the money of a Russian oligarch worth $13 billion who is very close to Putin. So it's very --

COOPER: If Michael Cohen was just, you know, promising access, promising insights, there is nothing illegal about that, is there?

LIZZA: There are lobbying laws that could be triggered.

POWERS: If he actually did take something, you know, on their behest to the President of the United States, he would need to have registered under the foreign -- what is it? FARA --

LIZZA: The Foreign Agents Registration Act.

POWERS: The Foreign Agents Registration Act. So you can't -- it's even -- in which you have to actually --

COOPER: Although, for an American company officially --

SETMAYER: Lobbying Disclosure Act.

POWERS: Yes, they have the Lobbying Disclosure Act and that would mean him having to -- you know, we would know that. It would be public.

LIZZA: If in some way this oligarch was using this American company as a way to launder money to Cohen to evade the foreign --

POWERS: Yes. LIZZA: The FARA Act that could potentially have legal implications. And remember Manafort, a lot of the indictment against Manafort was involved with FARA registration violations.

POWERS: Well, because if you have -- if there is any chance that you're representing a foreign government, that's how strict it is --

LIZZA: He did deliver this plan through the White House to Flynn --

COOPER: There is also Elliott Broidy who Michael Cohen supposedly sort of facilitated the hush money agreement that he made to somebody he allegedly have an affair with but there is now a payment from Broidy, I think a of $180,000-something made to Michael Cohen in these --

LIZZA: It seems like a mixed use company. We have, like, three different things here. We have just, like, classic rain making, OK, AT&T giving some money. We'll teach you about Trump.


LIZZA: The payments to women. And then you have this --

COOPER: There are many shingles --

MOOK: But this is actually important, though, when we think about elections and what the political implications. You guys were saying this is confusing to people. We have big Pharma, a major cable communications company trying to acquire somebody. You know, Donald Trump ran on trying to clean up and straighten up Washington. And when it comes to election time, the more of this stuff that starts to come out, the more there is really going to be a case for corruption. It's why I'm surprised he's kept Scott Pruitt around so long because we're seeing the same thing coming up, wasting taxpayer money, lying about it, covering it up. That I think from an electoral standpoint is going to come home --

STEWART: I think though, at the end of the day, we're going to find out -- we're at the very beginning of this. We're going to find someone, Michael Cohen, who wanted to work in the White House, wanted to have an office in the West Wing, did not get that. And his next option, well, I'm going to stay on the outside and make all the money I can get from whoever I can get it from. He didn't know the rules. If he did know them, he appears maybe not be following them. When we get to the end of the road, I believe that's who we're going to find, somebody who didn't get in so he's making all the money --

SETMAYER: It's corruption.

MILLER: The President never offered him a job.

SETMAYER: No wonder.

MILLER: Well, until --

SETMAYER: Would you offer a guy a job in the White House? You have to report everything, you have to go to your financial disclosure. You don't want this guy in the White House.

MILLER: So let's give the President credit where credit is due that he didn't offer him a job.

SETMAYER: He didn't hire the best people for the government, right?

MILLER: He kept him out of there. I think that was good.

LIZZA: The question on the table is this standard pay for play or something far more nefarious?

COOPER: Right. But he also did have him on retainer. I mean, he was paying him a monthly retainer, whether or not he was in the White House or not -- all right --


LIZZA: I don't know why Stormy's lawyer is talking about it. I have no idea.

[21:45:02] COOPER: All right, well, he's proven pretty accurate so far. I mean, anyway. Thanks everyone.

Coming up, the latest from the West Virginia primary race and the controversial candidate who has hurled nicknames at his fellow Republicans and spent time in prison to boot.


COOPER: Votes are still being counted in that West Virginia Senate primary tonight. For Republicans, it is a very big deal. We talked to John King earlier in the hour he referenced some racist, at the very least some race baiting remarks in one candidate Don Blankenship's recent ads. Note that as you watch this remember Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, no friend to Blankenship, who is married to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who is Asian American.


DON BLANKENSHIP, FORMER CEO OF MASSEY ENERGY COMPANY AND CANDIDATE FOR U.S. SENATE: Swamp Captain Mitch McConnell has created millions of jobs for China people. While doing so, Mitch has gotten rich. In fact, his China family has given him tens of millions of dollars. Mitch's swamp people are now running false, negative ads against me. They are also childishly calling me despicable and mentally ill. The war to drain the swamp and create jobs for West Virginia people has begun. I will beat Joe Manchin and ditch Cocaine Mitch for the sake of the kids.


[21:50:13] COOPER: Yes, and he said China family and China people he said. There he also said, Cocaine Mitch, which seems to be a reference to an allegation from years ago the drugs were found on a cargo ship owned by Chao family. It's also worth knowing that Don Blankenship recently spend a year in jail because when he was CEO of a company called Massey Energy, one of its mines collapse killed 29 people. So with all that said let's get the current state of play from John King at the magic wall. John?

KING: Anderson, if Don Blankenship is saying provocative thing tomorrow it will not be a candidate for the United States Senate. CNN can now project he is going to run third in the Republican primary.

You see the results right in here, Don Blankenship just shied 21 percent, the state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey leading at 33 percent. Congressman Evan Jenkins is at 30. We're not sure the winner yet, Morrisey is the leading consistently throughout the night but we're ready to call the winner yet but we do know based on the math, based on our analysis, based on the outstanding vote that Don Blankenship is going to run third, meaning a nightmare scenario from the Republican establishment is over.

President Trump set to take some credit for this tomorrow. Remember he tweeted on election eve, Republicans don't vote for Don Blankenship. If he wins the nomination we will lose this seat in November.

This is now held by Democrat Joe Manchin, it is considered one of the most promising targets for Republicans and otherwise difficult 2018 year. So if you played that ad, he was viewed as a race baiter. He attacked the Republican establishment. It was a disaster at the death of the Massey coal mine. All the Republicans assumed, will be use against him in the fall.

Don Blankenship will not be the nominee. He also told CNN tonight if he runs third he will not follow through on a threat to perhaps run as a write-in candidate. So it appears that Don Blankenship's political career at least in this cycle is over, Anderson. We'll continue to count the vote to see who the winner is. Ask Republicans who they favor of these two, they're fine with either one. They believe Joe Manchin is one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the country. They believe the President's popularity will help them here. He is visited West Virginia several times already and they think either one of these two Republicans again -- establishment Republicans, the attorney general and the Republican congressman will be very competitive against Joe Manchin most of all, Anderson, they are happy on Blankenship in just a little bit when we're completely done with the votes, we'll be done.

COOPER: Yes, John King, thank you very much, I appreciate it.

Joining us now is Chief Political Correspondent, Dana Bash and our Political Director, David Chalian.

So Dana, I mean, how do you see the West Virginia race playing out tonight and the significance of it?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the significance, first of all is according to what John just said, that we are projecting right now is that the man that Republican leaders here in Washington were most worried about is not going to be their nominee. I mean, that's the headline. And the other two depending on who wins, they're fine with because this is a Senate seat that they feel that there is no reason they should not win.

The incumbent Joe Manchin it has been in politics in West Virginia for a very long time. He was governor before he has been senator. But he is also somebody who endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016.

And in West Virginia that is about as bad politically as it gets. The states were Donald Trump won by 42 percent. So what it means is that Republicans are breathing a sigh of relief that this is still in play politically but also sort of morally, frankly they're also very happy that they don't have to deal with the fact that Don Blankenship has been using what they consider, many consider and what just is racially insensitive language and continuing to double and triple down on it, aiming it at the Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

COOPER: And David, I mean, the President tweeted his support, Joe Manchin mentioned yesterday for the other two GOP candidates in West Virginia. There was certainly a concern among many establishment Republicans that they could split the anti-Blankenship vote clearly not happening now, the President's probably deservedly is going to take some credit for defeating Don Blankenship.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: He does deserve some credit. This is different than what we saw in the Alabama primary where he backed Luther Strange, the establishment guy and nonetheless, Roy Moore went on to win that primary. Here Donald Trump is showing some sway inside the party that's taking shape in the mold of Donald Trump in many ways throughout this campaign season, Anderson. And so with him weighing in, remember because Mitch McConnell and his allies in the establishment wanted him to do so.

They -- as Dana was just saying, they were so fearful of a Blankenship nomination that they really ask the President to weigh in here. So he will take some credit.

Now, I will know in that tweet he didn't make anything about the moral argument or the race statements that Don Blankenship said, he made a purely practical political pragmatic statement saying this guy can't win so please don't be with him.

[21:55:00] COOPER: Dana, I mean, administration officials told CNN that Blankenship is, "Roy Moore on steroids" you know, I mean, he said racist disparage comment about Mitch McConnell's family, he points out that its probation after serving only a year in prison and oddly enough at 12:01 a.m. tonight.

BASH: You know, I think what these people here in Washington, what Republican have meant by talking about Don Blankenship as Roy Moore is what David was just saying about the message and the argument that the President made at the 11th hour about Don Blankenship that he's unelectable. There are certainly Republicans who I dislike who is leaving, who argue today, it is not just about Don Blankenship not being able to win, it is about Don Blankenship shouldn't be able to win. He shouldn't be a senator. And so I think that there are some of that there as well.

COOPER: David just moving down West Virginia I know we have a projection in Ohio in their primary there?

CHALIAN: Yes CNN can now project in the Ohio Republican Senate primary there that Jim Renacci, the congressman is going to be the Republican nominee for Senate. He'll take on Sherrod Brown, the Democrat you see it there. He's got 45.7 percent of the vote, inside their vote in primary. So, Renacci will now move on to take on Sherrod Brown again, one of those Democrats running for reelection in state that Donald Trump won in 2016. Renacci started this year actually in the government's race that the Republican candidate dropped out and Renacci came in the end to be the Republican nominee there.

COOPER: All right, David Chalian, Dana Bash, thanks. We'll be right back