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President Biden in Georgia; Interview With Michael Cohen. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 29, 2021 - 14:00   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: NEWSROOM continues with Alisyn and Victor next.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Hello, and thank you for being with us. I'm Victor Blackwell.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: And I'm Alisyn Camerota.

President Biden arriving in Georgia moments ago, where he's set to visit former President Jimmy Carter. He's on the road to publicly pitch his big plans to transform the middle class. But Biden's already getting pushback from even within his own party.

And we have new details about the Fed's raid of Rudy Giuliani's apartment.

First, we're just watching the first couple there get into the transport.

So, Rudy's apartment and office were raided. President Trump's one- time fixer and personal attorney, Michael Cohen, tells us that he thinks this was about much more than just Ukraine.

And Michael Cohen is going to join us live just ahead.

BLACKWELL: There is also this global tragedy that is getting worse by the hour in India. Some streets are now lined with makeshift crematoriums, as the case -- the count, rather, of deaths continues to surge.

We will take you live to New Delhi in a moment.

But, first, let's get to the president's big pitch.

CNN chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins is traveling with the president in Georgia. And CNN chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju is getting reaction on Capitol Hill.

Kaitlan, to you first.

How is the president using this trip to promote and push all that we heard in that first address to Congress? KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, of

course, it's notable he is here in Georgia, the state that has given him that slim majority that he has in the Senate. So, he is there, going to speak to the Carters, who he, of course, has not seen, because they weren't able to attend his inauguration because of the pandemic.

But then he will be here hosting that drive-in rally, touting that plan. And they have already got the signs up about the 100 days, saying that they want to get America back on track.

And so that's going to be the way that you see President Biden pitch that plan here to voters and to Georgians here in just a few hours. Of course, this is a massive, transformational proposal that the president is putting forward.

It's just one step in several other spending plans that he's also put forward, in addition to that COVID relief bill that has already passed.

But, with this one, what you're seeing from President Biden is, he really wants to rethink the government's role when it comes to education, and childcare and paid family leave.

And the way he's framing it and the way we're seeing him make this argument, of course, comes on the heels of this pandemic and the economic disaster that followed and trying to basically reshape the way Americans see the role of the government, given what happened to so many last year, with those job losses, with those unemployment numbers that followed the pandemic and the restrictions that came alongside it.

So, that has really been the way that we have seen him argue it. It's the way we saw him argument it last night, saying that we don't want to just get back -- get back to normal. He wants to revamp what normal looks like.

And so, of course, whether or not that is a gamble and a proposal that pays off with voters still remains to be seen. There's no polling, of course, on his American Families Plan, since he just unveiled it last night.

But that is certainly going to be the first stop on the road tonight -- or today here in Georgia. He's also going to make several more stops, not only tomorrow in Pennsylvania, but also next week, as well as some of his top aides, including the vice president, Vice President Harris, as well.

CAMEROTA: So, Manu, President Biden's plans or proposals are expensive, I mean, in the trillions of dollars. So what's been the reaction on Capitol Hill?


Well, on the Republican side, it's actually been opposition stiffening. There's very few Republicans who are signaling a willingness to go anywhere near the scope of what Joe Biden is proposing.

On the Democratic side, that's where you're hearing openness, some outright supporting, some concern. And that is a concern for the Biden administration as it tries to work this through Congress.

One very important Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who is a key swing vote in the 50/50 Senate, told me earlier today that this is a very expensive proposal, and he said that Congress will have to scrutinize this, as he held out supporting this until he dives further into the details.


RAJU: Are you concerned about this push for a more expansive government?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Oh, most certainly, yes, I am. And -- but I want to see the details, as we talked before. But we can't over -- overreach to the point to where we stymie investments, we stymie basically growth for 2022, '23, '24 and on. So, we are going to look at all that.

RAJU: And when you look at the overall price tag of all these proposals, I mean...

MANCHIN: It's a lot. It's a lot.


MANCHIN: We're talking trillions and trillions of dollars.

Here's the thing. We have got $1.93 trillion that hasn't gone out the door yet, we just passed, the American Rescue Plan.

RAJU: Do you think it needs to be fully paid for?

MANCHIN: We need to pay for it. We do. We're at $28.5 trillion, almost $28.25 trillion. Now, that's not sustainable. In anybody's book, it's not sustainable.

RAJU: I wanted to ask you, is that -- there's a push to do it by Democratic votes alone, by reconciliation.

MANCHIN: I'm not for that. I have never been for that. And I have told them I'm not for that.


The bottom line is, this place has got to get -- have a chance to work.


RAJU: And that is the key decision that Democratic leaders will have to make in the weeks ahead, is whether or not to try to continue to negotiate with Republicans, as they're doing right now on the infrastructure package, or whether or not to try to go it alone through a budget process that allows them to pass things along straight party lines.

They were able to do that to enact the $1.9 trillion relief law. But will they do that here going forward? Still an open question, as they're keeping that option open.

But one Republican who approached Joe Biden on the floor of the House yesterday was Senator Rob Portman. And I'm told from a person familiar with the exchange with the president and Portman, Portman told the president, "Don't leave us out," so a plea from a Republican senator to continue those negotiations.

We will see if it leads to anything. And we will see what Democratic leaders ultimately decide -- guys.

BLACKWELL: Manu Raju for us there.

Thank you so much, Manu.

Kaitlan, stay with us.

I want to bring in now Evan Osnos. He's a CNN contributor, staff writer for "The New Yorker," and author of "Joe Biden: The Life, the Run, and What Matters Now."

Evan, thanks for being with us.

I want to start here on the breadth of what we heard from the president last night and put it in the context of what he said during the campaign. He said: "I view myself as a bridge, not as anything else," a transition to a new group of Democratic political leaders.

But the plans he proposed last night speak more to a leader who is not just in transition, but willingly and intentionally wants to be more than that.


I mean, what's interesting is, alongside him saying that he initially thought he would be a transitional president, he then also felt very much the weight of history coming to bear on him. I mean, I was talking to him last summer about it. And he would say: I feel like I'm in a similar position to what FDR was in after facing the Great Depression in 1933, '34.

And you heard him reference Roosevelt last night, talking about how it's really on all of us, we all have to play a part. And that really was one of the messages that sort of came through. They were driving this home over and over, where they said, doing nothing is not an option.

He's situated at trying to put this into perspective, saying, look, we are facing challenges at home, challenges abroad that are so substantial, that we really don't have the luxury of being locked in the same old arguments, being locked in the same old systems.

And he sort of put out for a couple of examples. He said he wanted people to decide, does this sound right to you that 55 of the largest American companies paid no federal income tax last year? Does it sound right to you that black men and women are dying in encounters with police at the rate that they have been?

He wants to make people say something feels wrong, and it's time to make changes. And now, of course, the hard part is, how do you find the political pathway to do it?

CAMEROTA: And that brings us to Kaitlan.

Kaitlan, Biden is kind of getting credit for bringing boring back. But these proposals are not boring. I mean, these -- what he's talking about is bold. And so where is he getting the notion that he's going to be able to pull off something transformational?

COLLINS: I think what he sees here is really an opening, because even what he is talking about now, what he's proposing is not the way you heard him speak as a candidate.

He was really talking then, as you were talking there, about being a transitional candidate. At one time, he said that people wanted results, not a revolution, of course, a nod to his counterparts that were running against him to the left.

But I do think something that we have seen in Joe Biden since he was vice president, when he was toying with the idea of a presidential run has been this sense of a populist streak. And you heard that break through many times last night, especially with what Evan was just talking about, with this notion of fairness when it comes to taxes and the way he wants to pay for these plans.

But I also think the pandemic and what followed opened up a chance for him, he feels like, and his top aides certainly feel like, to get something like this passed.

And so that is what he is saying when he is invoking someone like Roosevelt. He is saying, this -- these are the kind of problems that Roosevelt also had to deal with. And we are facing a similar challenge. So he says, we need a similar response.

And I think the question is whether or not he can galvanize supporters and voters around that message and to build support for that.


COLLINS: And that is really the big unknown. We don't know that yet. As Manu was alluding to, we don't know what the end result of this bill is going to look like, given, of course, Senator Manchin and others are going to be weighing in on what they want to include here.

So are people like Senator Sanders on the health care aspects that they want to see, potentially drug prices, things of that nature? And so I think that remains to be seen. But I think, if you look at the bottom line, what President Biden is

counting on is that Americans realized last year just how close they can be to a precarious situation when it comes to their finances.

And he wants to restructure that and change that going forward, not just return to where they were in the months before the pandemic hit. And so that is why he's making stops like the one he's making here in Georgia today. He wants to talk to voters about it. He wants to sell it in the way that he did to lawmakers last night and on television.


And so that's something you're going to expect to continue to see him doing for the next few weeks and next few months.

BLACKWELL: Kaitlan, you're there in Georgia.

The president dedicated a lot of time last night to urging Congress to pass legislation on climate and infrastructure, jobs, and family leave, free kindergarten as well, pre-kindergarten.

But I wonder. He's heading to Georgia. And he reserved just a few seconds for protection of voting rights. Georgia has not moved on. Has the White House?

COLLINS: I don't think the White House has moved on, per se. We are told that he is going to be meeting with Stacey Abrams while he's here. She's going to be at this drive-in rally with President Biden.

And so I think the question is really a reflection of what we saw from President Biden at that first press conference, which -- press conference, which is his list of priorities and how he sees this. And, of course, COVID and the economy have been number one and number two all along.

And though these things have popped up, where they have gotten a ton of headlines and a lot of attention from President Biden's supporters, like here in Georgia when it comes to voting rights, that isn't something the White House has referenced, but it was not a pillar of his speech last night.

His main point of that last night was to sell that American Families Plan. I do think we will hear a lot more from President Biden on voting rights when he's actually here in Georgia...


COLLINS: ... speaking on the stage behind me in just a little bit from now, though.

But you do have a good point. The question is, how big of a priority does the White House make it? How much do they push for? Because they have only got so much leverage, and he wants to use it for this American Families Plan and the infrastructure plan right now.

CAMEROTA: Kaitlan Collins, Evan Osnos, thank you both very much for all of the insight.

BLACKWELL: Now, President Biden has weighed in on the raid of Rudy Giuliani's home and office. He says he was not given a heads-up and does not want to be briefed on the matter.

CAMEROTA: Plus: President Trump's other personal attorney who had his home and office raided by the feds.

Michael Cohen is going to join us live for his first interview since hearing the Giuliani news and what Giuliani should expect next.



BLACKWELL: So, the Biden White House says that it was not given advance notice of the federal raid of ex-Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani's home and office yesterday.

Now, this stunning move by the Justice Department is rooted in a long- running investigation into Giuliani's activities in Ukraine through the Trump presidency.

CNN senior legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid is with us now.

Paula, we're now hearing from the president on this. What is he saying?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, he says that he wants to preserve the Justice Department's independence.

So he was not briefed, nor was even given a heads-up about yesterday's raid. Let's take a listen to what exactly he said.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I learned about that last night when the rest of the world learned about it, my word. I had no idea this was under way.

This last administration politicized the Justice Department so badly. So many of them quit. So many left, because that's not the role -- it is not the role of a president to say who should be prosecuted, when they should be prosecuted, who should be not prosecuted.


REID: He appears to be making a reference to former President Trump, who often meddled in the Justice Department's affairs and would even call for specific people to be investigated.

Now, we are learning new details about what happened yesterday at Mr. Giuliani's home and office. We have learned that seven FBI agents showed up to his home, but even more went to his office, where they seized a computer belonging to one of his executive assistants. And she has also received a subpoena to appear before a grand jury next month, suggesting Mr. Giuliani's legal troubles are far from over.

CAMEROTA: Paula Reid, thank you very much for all of those developments.

So, before Rudy Giuliani, only one other personal attorney for a U.S. president had ever had his home and office raided by federal agents, and that was Michael Cohen in April 2018.

Four months later, he pleaded guilty in federal court to eight criminal counts, including tax evasion and campaign finance violations. He received three years in prison. Today, he is still on house arrest.

And he joins us live.

Michael, thanks so much for being here.


CAMEROTA: It's good to see you too.

What did you think when you heard the news of the raid on Rudy Giuliani's home and office?

COHEN: Well, two things came straight to mind. First is that I'm no longer the only one.

And, two, my parents always told me it's not nice to gloat, but, Rudy, I told you so. I told you so.

This is exactly...

CAMEROTA: What do you mean? What did you tell him?

COHEN: Well, I -- what I told him was that Donald Trump doesn't care about anyone or anything, that he will be the next one to be thrown under the bus.

And that's exactly what's going to happen.

CAMEROTA: We now know, as you just heard from Paula, that seven agents came to his apartment very early yesterday, and they seized his electronic devices, as they did with you.

You predict they're going to find a lot of interesting correspondence on there beyond whatever the communications were with Ukrainian officials.

Like what?

COHEN: Well, who knows what Rudy was involved with.

What we're going to find out is, there are text messages, there are e- mails, there are different types of communication apps that the FBI knows how to reestablish, even if Rudy, who I don't think is technological, tried to -- tried to delete or what have you.

It doesn't make a difference. And what happens is, they may be starting the investigation looking at things like the Ukrainian conversations between himself, Lev Parnas and others.


You may end up finding that Jared Kushner was involved or Don Jr. or a host of other individuals in Trump's orbit. And what happens then is that the Southern District, they end up expanding the probe.

Look, look what happened, for example, with me. They took 14 million documents out of all of my various different electronics. Now, most of them, if not 10 million, belonged to my wife and children, with the bulk of it being photographs from the time my children 25 years ago were first born all the way to date.

But they're going to find from -- in Rudy's the same sort of thing. And that expands the investigation. And Rudy was always involved. I mean, Rudy's been shady for a long time. And what you're going to find is that it's going to expand the investigation into other areas that Rudy doesn't even possibly remember, or, if he does remember, he certainly didn't want it released.

CAMEROTA: I mean, you say that, in your experience, they find things that you thought you had long ago deleted.

I mean, how far back do they go when they seize your electronic stuff, literally decades?

COHEN: I mean, they -- there were some things that I absolutely am certain were deleted. They weren't relevant to anything.

I mean, remember, I was -- I ultimately was charged as a result of the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels. And it expanded out into other areas, where they then decided they wanted to talk about some of the contracts that I had with overseas entities.

But my overseas entities were private companies. They weren't governments, like with Rudy. You're going to start to see a multitude of documents. My only -- you may even find out that Rudy was involved with Bill Barr in the remand of me the second time to prison, based upon a Donald Trump communication.

We have no idea how expansive that this investigation is going to ultimately reveal itself, because Rudy's an idiot. And that's the problem. Rudy drinks too much. Rudy behaves in such an erratic manner that, who knows what's on those telephones or what's on his computers?

CAMEROTA: Michael, having been through this experience yourself, you have seen the tactics that the federal prosecutors use when they want you -- when they want information, when they want you to give them some kind of information, not even just about yourself but, say, perhaps, about former President Trump.

So, what do you think Rudy is going to do? I mean, since you have been through this ringer, do you think that he would offer up information about President Trump, in other words, turn on Donald Trump?

COHEN: First of all, you have to understand, there really is no relationship, nor has there ever been, between Rudy and Donald. Prior to Donald becoming president, Rudy didn't like Donald, and Donald certainly didn't like Rudy.

So, do I think Rudy will give up Donald in a heartbeat? Absolutely. He certainly doesn't want to follow my path down into a 36-month sentence for something as innocuous as a hush money payment, right, to a porn star, at -- and I want to state here and again, at the direction of and for the benefit of Donald J. Trump.

What's ironic here is the fact that these tactics of the Southern District of New York, in terms of bullying you into a plea deal, were created by Rudy Giuliani going back 30 years ago. And it's just ironic that the tactics that he created for that office are now going to be employed against him, in terms of making him plead guilty and, certainly, at the least, turning over information about Jared, Ivanka, about Don Jr., about Donald himself, about all of these individuals in that garbage can orbit of Donald Trump.

CAMEROTA: And so, having lived through this, Michael, what is going to happen next for Rudy Giuliani?

COHEN: Well, I think he starts to sweat more.

And, hopefully, he's taken the stuff out of his hair that turns it black, because it's going to be everywhere. He's nervous. There's no doubt that he's nervous. And he's rightful. He's -- he's -- it's fair. And it's rightfully so that he's nervous, because he knows the power of the SDNY is unlimited, and they use that power.

They use it the way that they want to use it. And he -- look, he's been involved in some very, very shady stuff, and now all of it is going to come out. And it's a bad...

CAMEROTA: And what -- but, specifically, what shady stuff?

COHEN: It's a bad place for Rudy to be in.

CAMEROTA: But what shady stuff are you referring to?

COHEN: Well, all of the relationships that he had with foreign countries, as he was running around the world basically telling people that: I am Donald Trump's right hand, that, if you need something, I'm the guy who's going to be able to deliver it for you.

I mean, I remember sitting with Rudy many years ago, prior to even my -- to the raid on my home and my law office. And Rudy was talking to me about potentially joining with him to Giuliani Partners.


And he was talking about the game plan and how it would give tremendous access, the proximity to Trump, and having the ability to go to world leaders and to travel the globe, in terms of building a business.

And, you know, we spoke for a very short period of time about me possibly even joining him.

CAMEROTA: So, Michael, what advice do you have for Rudy Giuliani today?

COHEN: Well, my advice to him -- and, look, he doesn't need my advice on this.

This is the guy that squoze people in the 1990s very, very hard as he was head of the Southern District of New York. He knows exactly what's coming down the road. He knows how to avoid what the ultimate consequence is going to be.

And I believe that he's going to start -- he's going to start talking one, two, three. And he's going to do something that I didn't do. He's actually going to make an agreement with the Southern District of New York for a 5K1 agreement in order to cut him slack.

I refused. I truly didn't believe that I had done anything wrong, that I disputed, of course, the entire tax evasion or the misrepresentation to a bank. I disputed it in my pre-sentencing report, and I dispute it on this show.

But I was involved in the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels, and I knew that that was going to cause me a real problem, that, even if I beat the government on the issues of the tax, as well as the misrepresentation to a bank, it would make no difference.

I was still guilty, and I accept that, for the hush money payment to only Stormy Daniels.


Yes, Michael, if you would, stick around. We have many more questions for you, because, right after the break, we want to talk to you about Donald Trump's reaction to the raid and what it means for the former president.

We will be right back.