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Michael Cohen Arrives At Manhattan DA's Office In Sign That New York's Investigation Into Trump Org Continues; Rep. Debbie Dingell (D- MI) Discusses About White House Handling Of President Biden's Classified Docs; CNN: House GOP Lays Groundwork For Mayorkas Impeachment. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired January 17, 2023 - 15:00   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: It is the top of the hour on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Victor Blackwell.

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

BLACKWELL: Just in to CNN, Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney to former President Trump is meeting with prosecutors at the Manhattan DA's office.

CAMEROTA: This is a very strong indication that the sweeping investigation into the Trump Organization is continuing. And perhaps the focus has returned to those hush money payments to Stormy Daniels.

CNN's Kara Scannell is following this story for us.

So Kara, what did Michael say when he went in? What's happening there?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Yes, Alisyn. So we have some video, I think you played it of Michael walking into the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, just the building over my shoulder, where he's meeting with prosecutors for the first time in more than a year.

Now, Cohen said that he could not comment on what the topics that they would be discussing would be but he might have more to say when he is leaving. But this is the first time Cohen has been in since this investigation has been led by the Manhattan District Attorney, Alvin Bragg.

He'd previously been in to meet with investigators 13 times over the previous years as this investigation evolved from the hush money payments and became one that was looking at the accuracy of the Trump Organization's financial statements.

Now, sources tell me that the investigators have refocused back to the hush money payments. Of course, Michael Cohen was central to that. He helped facilitate those payments. Those are the payments that were made to Stormy Daniels, so she wouldn't go public with an alleged affair with former President Donald Trump just before the 2016 election. Trump has denied that affair.

Now, another source tells me that prosecutors have reached out in recent weeks to another attorney, Keith Davidson, who was involved. He represented Stormy Daniels in the hush money payments. So these are two indications that prosecutors are starting to pick up the pace of this investigation and when I spoke with Alvin Bragg, the DA, last Friday after this Trump Organization was sentenced on the tax fraud charges, he said that that closed one chapter and the next chapter was now beginning.

And I think we're starting to see the fruits of that with Cohen coming into the DA's office today this afternoon just a few moments ago to sit for another interview. And this, of course, under the investigation led by the DA, Alvin Bragg, who's been in office for about a year. Alisyn? Victor?

CAMEROTA: Really interesting to see that another chapter is opening. We'll see if Michael Cohen says anything on his way out. Kara Scannell, thank you.

BLACKWELL: The White House is defending its rolling disclosures about the classified documents found on the properties of President Biden. The latest discovery, five more pages in his Delaware home was revealed to the public over the weekend, even though they were discovered last week. This is part of that drip, drip of revelations that has Republicans condemning the White House for lack of transparency.

CAMEROTA: CNN Chief White House Correspondent, Phil Mattingly just finished up in the White House briefing. Phil, your takeaways?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think after more than a week of kind of, as you guys noted, rolling explanations for what was happening, incomplete information, shifting explanations to some degree, one thing you can really pick up at this point in time as the White House seems to have settled on a response and is trying to get its footing underneath that that response will not include answers to a number of the questions that are still outstanding.

White House officials making very clear that so long as this investigation by the special counsel remains underway. They believe that they are very limited in their ability to respond. But the White House also saying that despite those frustrations that some have held about the scale of the response, how things were actually addressed, the President still maintains his confidence in his team. Take a listen.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I can tell you this, the President has confidence. I can tell you this that the President and his team rightfully took action when they learned that the documents existed. They reached out to the Archives. They reached out to the Department of Justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MATTINGLY: And that has been a position that has been maintained throughout that the belief that this was done and handled the right way, despite how it may have appeared publicly, despite the limitations to what they were willing to say publicly.

Now, when it comes to those investigations that Republicans, House Republicans have launched on Capitol Hill, White House officials have really tried to turn the tables to some degree, trying to make those investigations very political matters, saying that they are very hypocritical and the fact that these same individuals were not trying to investigate the former president, who's dealing with his own very different classified documents issue.

And to make it very clear, they will engage on good faith efforts as they call it, but not willing to necessarily say they will comply word for word with everything that Republicans have addressed up to this point.


One thing though that has also been made very clear is the President and his team are trying to the extent that they can to maintain some semblance of business as usual. We had Golden State Warriors coach, Steve Kerr, Steph Curry, the all-star point guard coming in and speaking to the briefing room today.

You see on the screen right now, the President will be celebrating their World Championship from 2022. And just a short while the President not engaging on this issue in the last several days trying to stay focused on the schedule as it is and as it was, frankly, before any of this came to light guys.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Phil Mattingly, thank you very much for the latest on that.

We also have brand new reporting to tell you about senior House Republicans are laying the groundwork to build a case against Homeland Security Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas to potentially impeach him.

BLACKWELL: But that plan could trigger backlash from GOP moderates. CNN's Melanie Zanona joins us now from Capitol Hill. Melanie, you have to break this Mayorkas reporting, what are you hearing?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, House Republicans are beginning to build a case against Mayorkas, which could serve as eventual prelude to impeachment proceedings. And so far, there are three House committees who are planning to hold hearings on problems at the southern border. That includes the House Judiciary Committee, which is where impeachment articles would originate.

In fact, a GOP source told me that there could be a hearing as early as later this month or early February. So that's something to look out for very soon.

Then there's also House Homeland Security Committee, that has jurisdiction over the border and the Chairman there told me he has a five-phased plan to look into these issues at the southern border. And finally, the House Oversight Committee whose Chairman, James Comer told me that he believes Mayorkas is a prime candidate for impeachment.

So clearly, this is not just isolated to the fringe wing of the GOP. It is something that is gaining steam more widely in the conference. And even speaker Kevin McCarthy is leaving the door open to potential impeachment proceedings. Take a listen to what he told reporters a little bit ago.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): We can investigate and then that investigation could lead to an impeachment inquiry. I don't predetermine, because I'll never use impeachment for political purposes. But if the person is a derelict in their duties, and they're harming Americans and Americans are actually dying by the lack of their work, that could rise to that occasion.


ZANONA: Now, even though Kevin McCarthy is leaving the door open, he knows that he can only afford to lose four Republicans. So he is going to need to get nearly his entire party on board in order for impeachment to work. And so far, they do not have the votes yet because a number of moderates, particularly those Republicans in Biden-won districts are expressing reservations about impeachment, they're worried about being seen as overreaching. So this is going to be a process but clearly Republicans are ready to get the ball rolling.

CAMEROTA: So Melanie, tell us about these two House GOP members. They're quite controversial. They've now gotten committee assignments after they were booted off committees in the last Congress.

ZANONA: Yes. So I am told that both Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar did receive new committee assignments today, I'm told that Greene is going to serve on the Homeland Security Committee, which as we mentioned, could potentially play a role in impeaching Mayorkas. And Gosar is going to serve on the House Natural Resources Committee.

They are still determining other committees, so there could be more committee assignments to come. And as you may recall, Gosar and Greene were kicked off of their committees in the last Congress, because of incendiary remarks. And both of them, we should point out, spoke at a white nationalist conference last year. But Kevin McCarthy in part of his bid to become speaker promised to restore both of them to committee assignments, and now he's making good on that promise.

One other member that he's promised to give committee assignments to is George Santos, the embattled freshman member who admitted to lying about his resume. But sources told our Manu Raju that the GOP is currently really debating about where to stick him because several chairs have said they don't want Santos on their committee.

So we will be watching very closely today to see where Santos ends up. Victor? Alisyn?

BLACKWELL: Can't sit here. Melanie Zanona, thank you so much.

Let's turn now to Democratic Congresswoman of Michigan Debbie Dingell. Congresswoman, it's good to have you back.

I want to get to this reporting about Mayorkas in just a moment. But first, let's start with the document discoveries and the White House - our reporting is as the President is a bit frustrated by the handling of especially the communications element from the White House. I want you to listen to former senior adviser to former President Obama, David Axelrod, let's listen.


DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But on this particular story, they just don't look good. The essence of crisis communications is figure out where the story's going, get there as quickly as possible, get there as thoroughly as possible.


BLACKWELL: He says they don't look good. What do you think about how the White House has handled this?

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): I sort of listened to the whole reporting by Melanie and nothing is surprising me right now as though some of you say it's a surprise because people have been very clear that they were going to go after investigations and try to procure any fire that was out there.


The fact of the matter is anybody who handles classified documents should take it seriously. I do believe that the President has been very clear that he's going to cooperate with the Special Counsel, when the lawyers were notified these documents had been found, they immediately contacted the Archives, and the Justice Department, the Biden - President Biden himself has said that he's going to cooperate, we need to get the facts.

And then after we get the facts, quite frankly, we need to figure out how you handle classified documents going forward, what happened, but I do think we get to different situations that we're dealing with between two presidents and I think a lot of people are trying to throw kerosene on a - they're trying to make this very political. I think everybody needs to take it seriously there - I hope - right now too many people are trying to make it one more political let's pick people against each other.

BLACKWELL: Sure. But let's isolate the Biden situation. I haven't mentioned the former President Trump, but you brought up the comparison. But should the White House have you talked about notifying National Archives and DOJ, should they have notified the American people before last week considering the first documents were found in November, then more in December, then some last week. When should they have told all of us that these documents had been discovered?

DINGELL: I wasn't part of legal discussions. I know that when you are in these kinds of legal situations that you listen to the lawyers, you listen to the Justice Department, you listen to what the Archives have said. I think it's important that going forward, we make sure that people are communicating as directly and transparently as they can.

But remember, this is now part of a Department of Justice investigation and they are ...


DINGELL: ... very clear on what can be discussed and not discussed or shouldn't be discussed.

BLACKWELL: So that's the legal element. Let me ask you about the political part of this. The expectation was that near the start of this year, the President would announce his decision on a run for reelection. You, before the midterms, you said, "Ask me that," whether you would support a reelection run, "Ask me that question after we kept the House, which we will and the Senate in November, and then we'll start looking at 2024." Democrats kept the Senate, of course. So here we are, after the 2022 midterm, do you want to see the President run again and how much does this play if at all into that decision?

DINGELL: So quite frankly, if the president runs again for re- election, I will be a very strong supporter of him. I think he has gotten more things done in the last two years that have been done in decades and that we don't talk enough about that.

So I'm very concerned about the political environment that we are in right now. The way that instead of trying to get things done for the American people, I'm home, I'm listening to what's on people's minds, they don't want to see this partisan victory. They want to see me work with Republicans across the aisle and keep addressing the problems that are keeping them awake at night and that's what I want to do.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you about these ...

DINGELL: (Inaudible) ...

BLACKWELL: ... these investigations that could as we heard from the Speaker, lead to an impeachment inquiry of the Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas. Do you think that the Secretary is in any real danger of impeachment?

DINGELL: I think that the Republicans are going to do everything that they can, not all Republicans, but there are a number of Republicans in the House that are going to try to create political controversy on a significant number of investigations.

And by the way, I don't think Republicans are going to keep that majority, if that's all they do. I think - as I've just said, the American people or a lot of people in these communities are really worried about getting things done. I'm going to tell you, I know the Secretary of Homeland Security. I represented one of the most difficult populations, largest populations of Arab-Americans who - and he sat down and listened to the Jewish community, he understood the anti-Semitism. He's met with them.

We need comprehensive immigration reform and we have failed for decades as Republicans and Democrats to do anything about getting comprehensive immigration reform. I will stand up for him. I think they're going to try to embarrass him in any way that they can. But I think he's been an outstanding Secretary of Homeland Security.

BLACKWELL: Even considering the massive influx at the border, you say he's been - he's done an outstanding job?

DINGELL: Do you know we've been looking at this influx and why - how we need to act as a Congress in a bipartisan way as Democrats and Republicans, and address the issue. And because it's so complicated, it's so political, neither we can't bring ourselves together and yet there are people on both sides that are saying we need to do something about this.


DINGELL: That we need to send a message to many people, we're not taking people in.


But small businesses ...


DINGELL: ... businesses are crying for employees. We've got people that are escaping from horrific situations. I've met with Christian organizations that are telling me ...

BLACKWELL: And they ...

DINGELL: ... we need to do something.

BLACKWELL: ... they certainly have been for quite a long time. We'll see if there's anything in this environment and in this Congress that's get done on immigration.

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan, thank you.

CAMEROTA: I hear her frustration.

BLACKWELL: Yes, certainly hear that.

CAMEROTA: With us now is Norm Eisen. He's a CNN Legal Analyst and a former House Judiciary Special Counsel in President Trump's first impeachment trial. We also have Olivia Troye. She's a former adviser to Vice President Mike Pence. Great to have both of you.

So Norm, let's just start with the Mayorkas thing for a second. In terms of impeachment, it would require a high crime or misdemeanor. Do you think that there's anything that Republicans could charge Secretary Mayorkas with that would rise to that?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Alisyn, having myself gone through a year of impeachment proceedings, where there were high crimes and misdemeanors. I don't think there's anything that Ali Mayorkas has done, that comes up to that constitutional standard. He's dealing with a very difficult situation at the border, but he's made policy choices that are within the range of reason.

So to compare that to Donald Trump 10, Bob Mueller found 10 instances of obstruction of justice or the shakedown of the Ukrainian president, Zelenskyy, that ultimately, those were the two bases for the ultimate impeachment where there were legal violations, there's nothing like that in the case of Ali Mayorkas. This is politics pure and simple. And having lived through an impeachment myself, I don't think that the American people will stand for it.

And Alisyn, I don't think that those approximately 20 members from the districts, that Biden one who are going to have to vote for this impeachment on the floor of the House are going to be too pleased about it, either.

BLACKWELL: Olivia, let's turn now to the documents. Listen, there's no evidence, no indication that the President knew that these documents were there. We're just learning about the discovery about a week ago now. But what is your concern? How urgent are your concerns about the security of these documents?

OLIVIA TROYE, FORMER ADVISER TO VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Well, I think first and foremost, I think we just need to figure out and the investigation will do this, and figure out was there any contact with the documents outside of where they were stored, who potentially saw these documents, what the documents contained and what the risk is to our national security again in terms of the posture in what this impacts, were there any sources and methods revealed and things like that.

And so I think it's important to get to the bottom of this. I also think it's part of the greater conversation, even though this is certainly being spun with all sorts of disinformation out there, and which is unfortunate. I think we really need to be having a serious conversation within the Intelligence Community during presidential transitions on what happens to these documents when they're in a rush to move out of the White House, perhaps, and figuring out whether do you take everything to a secure location and have - give people the time to go page by page.

Because I think this is something that happens, classified spills happen. I do give Biden credit thus far from what - the recording that it's about self-recording. It's the acknowledgement that once they found these documents, they came forward, they reported it and said, okay, we have a problem.

CAMEROTA: Yes, great point. I mean, there does seem to be a systemic problem now that it's happened to two presidents in a row, basically. Norm, who should be in charge now today of searching the rest of Biden's properties to figure out if there any more out there.

EISEN: Alisyn, it should be done in consultation with the Department of Justice with the Special Counsel Robert Hur, a representative of Biden's legal team should be present, the legal team can and I think will say, hey, here's the protocol. They'll consult.

And then the special counsel will make a decision how they want to work that out. Often over my career, 30 years of practicing criminal law, you deal with different situations for document review, with a special counsel in place. They ought to be able to work that out. That's the difference between the Biden case and the Trump case.

Biden has been cooperative from the beginning and continues to try to cooperate. There's been some questions, legitimate questions about the PR angle of it. But in terms of the law, they've handled it by the book and they'll continue to do that, I think.

BLACKWELL: All right. Norm Eisen, Olivia Troye, thank you.

CAMEROTA: And we do continue to follow breaking news out of Massachusetts right now. A murder warrant was just issued for Brian Walshe. That's the husband of the mother of three who has been missing since New Year's Day. What - we're following all of the latest developments, we'll bring those to you.


BLACKWELL: Also ahead, this shocking security video of a toddler in a diaper here waving a gun, landed his purported father in jail. We have details for you next.



CAMEROTA: We continue to follow our breaking news. In Massachusetts, Brian Walshe will be arraigned tomorrow morning on murder charges now in the disappearance of his wife, Ana. Ana Walshe has not been seen since New Year's Day.

BLACKWELL: Her husband has been in custody on charges of misleading investigators and those charges were upgraded just a short time ago with an arrest warrant for murder.

Joining us now, Jason Carroll and CNN Law Enforcement Analyst, John Miller.

Jason, let's start with you with the reporting. What are you hearing?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, just the latest coming into us now from the District Attorney's office on all of this, Victor. Apparently now the arraignment time is unknown. Initially they had said that the arraignment for Brian Walshe on this murder warrant would take place tomorrow at 9 am.

[15:25:01] That was depending upon whether or not his defense attorney could get up and running. Now, we're just getting an email from them from saying that that now is TBD, to be determined.

But the headline here, of course, is that, that murder warrant has gone out for Brian Walshe in connection with the disappearance of his wife, Ana. As you know, he was already in state custody facing charges of misleading police in their investigation. He pleaded not guilty to that during another arraignment last week.

Investigators had a number of great deal of circumstantial evidence in this particular case that we saw that they released evidence of a hacksaw that was found at a trash facility in North Boston, in addition to that bloody material found at that trash facility, blood on the basement floor, a knife found as well.

In addition to some of the very highly suspicious statements and things that Brian Walshe had done, following the disappearance of his wife, that internet search, where he allegedly searched for information and on how to dispose of a 115-pound body and how to dismember a body.

The prosecution has also told us that at this point, the DA's office says that they expect more information about this case to be released during his arraignment whenever that in fact does happen. We were waiting for information about test results on some of the items that were found, for example on that hacksaw.

But the big question here is why, what is the motive for this. And, perhaps, during this arraignment, we'll get some sense of why he allegedly did that. But that is certainly the big question here for many people on the ground, why did Brian Walshe allegedly murder his wife, Ana, the mother of their three small children. Back to you, guys.

CAMEROTA: Okay. So John, listen to what the Norfolk District Attorney just said moments ago.


MICHAEL W. MORRISSEY, NORFOLK, MA DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Really in this investigation, the police developed probable cause to believe that her husband, Brian Walshe, age 47, had misled police investigators on material matters important to the search for Ana Walshe. He has pled not guilty to those charges and is currently being held at the Norfolk County House of Correction. A continued investigation has now allowed police to obtain an arrest warrant charging Brian Walshe with the murder of his wife.


CAMEROTA: All right. Johnson, so what was the probable cause that they had today that they didn't have two weeks ago?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, this grand jury has been sitting for days a week from nine in the morning till one in the afternoon. And last week they were - there was a deluge of testimony but mostly from investigators saying, this is what we found in the basement. There was a bloody knife. There was evidence of blood there. We searched where the trash that we believe went from the home to a trash bin near where Brian Walshe's mother lived to transfer station in Peabody, Mass where we found more items with biological evidence and so on.

So the grand jury had all that going into this holiday weekend. The last witness they were supposed to hear from was from the State Police Crime Lab. And that was the last witness to testify. So what that witness' job would have been would be to tell the grand jury the biological evidence doesn't match to the victim, that the evidence at the scene match to what was found at the transfer station, and to tie this whole thing together. Which, of course, is a pretty good sign that the circumstantial case led that grand jury to an indictment that allowed this arrest warrant.

BLACKWELL: All right. John, thank you.

CAMEROTA: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Jason Carroll there in (inaudible), thank you.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much.

BLACKWELL: The death toll is rising in the Ukrainian City of Dnipro after the Russian missile strike that decimated and apartment complex. The latest on that and the fight on the front lines, that's next.