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Sources Say, Trump Facing 30-Plus Counts Related To Business Fraud; Sources Say, Donald Trump Expected To Turn Himself In Tuesday; Michael Cohen Reacts To Donald Trump Indictment; Grand Jury In Manhattan Votes To Indict Donald Trump Over Hush Money; Former Congressman Lee Zeldin And Congressman Adam Schiff Interviewed Regarding Trump's Indictment. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired March 30, 2023 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And the idea that he's going to be smeared, he's going to be attacked, this whole idea that he's George Soros-sponsored, most people don't know, that goes into some very tricky territory in some parts of the right-wing that focus on the fact that George Soros is Jewish.
There's a lot of nasty stuff began to swirl here against this D.A., against this prosecutor and he needs to be defended and protected. Until we find out what's actually going on, he needs to be defended.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. I want to thank my panel. Our coverage continues right now.
It's about 10:00 P.M. here in Manhattan, where the -- by this time next, Tuesday night, if the schedule holds, Donald John Trump, child and product of New York, will officially be defendant in a New York criminal matter. In our exclusive interview last hour with former Vice President Pence, here's some of what he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer about today's historic indictment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: When you have an attorney general in New York and a Manhattan, D.A. that targeted one particular American in their campaigns, I think that offends the notion of the overwhelming majority of the American people who believe in fairness, who believe in equal treatment before the law, and this appears to be just one more example, Wolf, of the kind of two-tiered justice system that the American people have had enough of.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: That's the former vice president in our last hour. In this hour of our live breaking, historic coverage, a conversation with the one figure who has been key to first the scandal, then the investigation and now the charges against former president Donald Trump, his old boss, Michael Cohen, former Trump attorney and fixer, who himself paid Stormy Daniels the money that is apparently at the center of this indictment.
COOPER: First, though, the very latest on the history made in lower Manhattan tonight and the planned pushback from team Trump, CNN's Kristen Holmes joins us now. What are you hearing, Kristen?
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson. So, what we do know is that down at Mar-a-Lago, former President Trump and his team were caught off guard by the timing of this indictment. They had been planning for the last two weeks essentially sitting on pins and needles expecting this to come. But because of the media reports about a planned hiatus about the grand jury not meeting over this hush money case, they believe that they had some time.
So, now they are kicking into gear. We have learned from a number of sources telling me that they're going to be rolling out surrogates. We've actually already seen it starting tonight. I'm talking about Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz. They are all over conservative media. They are going to be doing podcasts. They're blasting themselves out on Twitter essentially attacking Democrats, Alvin Bragg, calling this a witch hunt. And Trump's team is keeping track of who is responding and who is defending him and who isn't.
They are putting out every potential 2024 GOP contender and their defense of Donald Trump. They are monitoring all of the congressional House members, Republicans seeing what they're saying about Donald Trump, and this is going to continue. And, of course, we're going to continue hearing from the former president himself after he released that lengthy statement. He has continued to lash out on social media, and we expect that to continue as well.
But one thing to keep in mind here's, Anderson, they're operating a lot of this in the dark. They learned about the indictment from media reports. They continue to learn about the timing, the number of charges, all of that from media reports. They are second here behind what they're seeing and reading.
So, they're operating a bit here in the dark, but they are trying to come up with a plan to take control of the narrative as they move forward, which is something, as we know, it is very important to the former president.
COOPER: Yes. Kristen Holmes, I appreciate it.
Now, former Trump Attorney Michael Cohen, he is the Author of Revenge, How Donald Trump Weaponized the U.S. Department of Justice Against His Critics, he's also the Host of two podcasts, Political Beatdown is the first, the other is called Mea Culpa. He's talking tonight with CNN Anchors Alisyn Camerota and Don Lemon. Alisyn, Don?
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, thank you very much.
And we do want to bring in, Michael Cohen. Michael, thank you so much for being here with us. Don and I obviously have a lot of questions for you, as do the American people.
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: It's nice to see two of you back together?
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: We appreciate you joining us. What a day it is for you. COHEN: What a day.
CAMEROTA: Yes. And so, this took a lot of people by surprise, including the amount of charges against the former president. So, this is expected to be a 34-count indictment, 34 felony charges. Do you understand why so many?
COHEN: Yes, I understand. I can't go in and I can't discuss it. However, 34 is a pretty significant number. It certainly goes well past the Stormy Daniels hush money payments.
CAMEROTA: Are some of these because you received multiple payments?
COHEN: Again, I can't go into any of the specifics of this case. It's just not right to do to the prosecutors. This is their case. One of the things that I continue to say is that, at the end of the day, there is a presumption of innocence. And, you know, we do have to respect the due process clause and this case will ultimately be known to all of us.
We will have the entire set of documents because there's no doubt in my mind that the former guy will end up releasing him.
LEMON: According to the reporting, each check that 34 counts, 34- count indictment, but each check is one indictment.
COHEN: I don't know that to be true, but even if it was, that would be 12 -- it was actually 11 checks because one of the checks, January, February, were combined.
LEMON: The reporting today had to do with Karen McDougal and also I want to talk about Robert Costello, because Donald Trump's team sent Robert Costello indirectly to try to counteract what you were saying. What does this say about the importance of the significance of what they saw in his testimony?
COHEN: It was a mistake. You know, Bob Costello provided clearly nothing. There was no testimony that he gave that I was even needed to rebut. That's all been reported. They had me there waiting for about two hours to be a rebuttal witness, but I wasn't needed, which means that the information that he provided was worthless.
In fact, he did something interesting as well. He put all that information out for the entire world to see. And I was receiving dozens of phone calls from journalists all turning around and saying to me, I've read all 300-plus documents, and I'm trying to understand what Bob Costello was doing. It didn't make any sense because there's nothing in there that contradicts anything that you're saying.
LEMON: If I can just follow up on the witnesses since we're there right now, let's look at the witnesses who have testified, okay? David Pecker, that's the Karen McDougal, catch and kill right. Dylan Howard, work for Pecker, correct?
LEMON: Alright, Deborah Tarasoff worked at Trump Org.
COHEN: She did.
LEMON: Jeff McConney is the assistant controller, worked directly with Allen Weisselberg, correct?
LEMON: Donald Bender, is an accountant.
LEMON: Kellyanne Conway worked closely with Donald Trump, allegedly knew about the Stormy Daniels payment. Is that correct?
COHEN: Let's just say that she worked for Trump. I don't want to get into what she does and doesn't know.
LEMON: Okay. Hope Hicks worked closely with Donald Trump.
LEMON: And you.
COHEN: I feel like being grilled again by the D.A. Yes.
LEMON: So, one should not be surprised by the reported charges if you look at this list of witnesses. Why?
COHEN: Because it lays out what has already been reported over the years. I mean, many of this -- much of this information is not specifically brand new. I mean, it's been talked about over and over again for years. Let's not forget this April, it's five years since the raid on my home, hotel, the -- my law office. So, this is a long time coming. This is not been like what they did to me with the Southern District. They gave me 48 hours to plead guilty. They were filing an 80-page indictment against me and my wife, right? Very, very different scenario here, this is five years to hold this man accountable.
Now, I do have to acknowledge that during that time period, he still was president of the United States.
CAMEROTA: Yes, but during that time period, you did, as we understand it, 22 interviews with prosecutors. And did it change? I mean, help us understand what you were telling them those 22 different times? Was their line of questioning different each time?
COHEN: It wasn't exactly the same but there was a lot of overlap between when I first met with the district attorney's, I was in Otisville, and then they came back two additional times.
CAMEROTA: You were in prison when they first approached you.
COHEN: I was in prison.
LEMON: This was under Cy Vance you met three times in Otisville. They came to Otisville?
COHEN: Yes. And then in additional ten times once I was released, I had met them with the Pomerantz team and the Kerry Dunn, yes. Then ten additional times with Alvin Bragg's team.
LEMON: Bragg took over in 2022. You met with them numerous times and specifically since January, how many times?
COHEN: About ten.
LEMON: About ten times, so a total of 22 times.
And so what Bragg's investigation proceeded significantly faster at the end of 2022 and the beginning of 2023, between 2023 now, did you know something was up when you look at the speed of the questioning and the witnesses who were going in?
COHEN: No. I mean, this is Alvin Bragg's office. He will operate this case the way he deems fit. To be honest with you, I had no idea that it was dropping today myself. I was surprised.
In fact, if you start to listen to all of the talking heads that are out there, you know, these marvelous pundits that create scenarios, at the end of the day, in all fairness, they've been wrong. What they're trying to do is they're trying to guess what's inside the Christmas box but they have absolutely no idea. And that's a mistake. We have to allow the prosecutors to do their job.
I get it. People want to see accountability and we've all been waiting for this accountability.
That doesn't mean that Alvin Bragg or this team -- and they're incredible, these prosecutors. They're really incredible prosecutors. I can only tell you that they know all -- they have all the evidence. They know everything by heart. And I do truly believe that this case is very different than the way that so many of these talking heads wanted declared.
I mean, how many people have been on this station sitting there? Michael Cohen is a convicted perjurer. Yes, that happens to be accurate.
COHEN: Right? I did. I pled guilty to thousand and one violation.
CAMEROTA: And does that make the case more on more flimsy grounds?
COHEN: No, no, why? Well, first of all, you have to finish the sentence. And what's the sentence? The sentence that you have to finish his, which I did at the direction of in coordination with them for the benefit of Donald J. Trump. So, yes, I was in the camp. And, yes, I made a misstatement. I lied.
However, what was the lie? The lie was the number of times that I spoke to Donald Trump about the failed Trump Tower Moscow deal. I had told the Senate permanent select committee on intelligence that it was ten times -- I'm sorry, three times when, in fact, the real answer was I had told him ten times.
CAMEROTA: You know who else is talking about this? Donald Trump. So, today, he put out a fundraising email, tonight, I should say, after this information came out and he basically said in this email to his supporters, Alvin Bragg is relying on the testimony of a convicted felon and a disbarred lawyer. So, what is your response to Donald Trump tonight?
COHEN: Well, he's right. I am a convicted felon. I am a disbarred lawyer, but I also brought the documents. There's plenty of testimony, corroborating testimony to go around. And come Tuesday --
CAMEROTA: How do you know that? How do you know that all of these witnesses were corroborating your testimony?
COHEN: Let's just say I know. I was there 22 times, so there's things that I know, things that I believe corroborate. And at the end of the day, we have an indictment today. So, clearly, that means that the information provided was more than enough for the grand jury to come back with the determination for an indictment. By the way for Donald, since we're talking about convicted felons, see you on Tuesday, pal.
LEMON: So, listen, considering what you just said about that, about your credibility, about what Donald Trump says, given the issue of credibility, and you're an attorney, you know how these things are, and you knew from the questioning what they were targeting. And don't tell me he didn't because I know that I know that you did. What kind of documentation are we talking about here? Are we talking text messages? Are we talking emails? Are we talking -- what are we talking about?
COHEN: Also you have emails, you have text messages, recordings, they have all. They have all the information.
CAMEROTA: So, this case does not hinge on your testimony?
COHEN: No. I believe that the documents speak for themselves and I do believe that we're all kind of jumping the gun just a tad in the fact that we don't even really know what these 34 counts are. It's a lot of counts, no matter how you want to slice it. 34 is a lot of counts. So, let's see what these charges are and then we can all come back and we can all sit and try to figure out more information.
LEMON: You know what the pundits and the analysts are saying that this is a weak case Why this one? Georgia is a much stronger case. If folks are saying that this is this is not a weak case, they don't believe it's a weak case, and that in -- that Georgia could actually go first. They're saying that they don't coordinate, right? They don't coordinate what happens with the justice system. They can coordinate court dates because defenders can't be if there are multiple indictments in different jurisdictions. They can coordinate court dates, but they don't coordinate indictments and they have to go when they have to go where the evidence leads. And there are things like the statute of limitations or what have you.
But, technically, Fani Willis in Georgia, if she does indict, could go first. They could coordinate and allow her to go to trial first, and this could go second. So, that theory means nothing.
COHEN: Who cares? I mean, this notion of, oh, this is a weaker case than the January 6th. I acknowledge that. January 6th was an insurrection like we haven't seen in, what, 150 years in this country, where they attacked the Capitol, wanting to kill the vice president, wanting to kill the speaker, Nancy Pelosi. Yes, that in and of itself is a worse crime than this, but it doesn't make this any less of a crime.
You know, I always call this the Capone theory, the Al Capone theory. They couldn't get him on murder, extortion, racketeering, bootlegging, et cetera, they got him on tax evasion. If that crime, Don, was enough for me to be charged, fined, convicted and sent to prison, why am I any different than Donald Trump, right?
CAMEROTA: Michael, we've also learned today that the D.A. was looking into the payment to Karen McDougal. So, she is the Playboy model who also alleges that she had an affair with Donald Trump.
So, did you provide documents and testimony about that as well?
COHEN: Yes. I can't tell you what I provided but I can tell you that that is an accurate statement.
CAMEROTA: You're looking into both?
LEMON: How about your conversations with between yourself and David Pecker?
COHEN: Like I said, I really don't want to go into some substance of any of the conversations, the documents and so on other than to say, again, these prosecutors, they've been working on this case a long time. Not only did they work themselves incredibly hard but there was a significant amount of information that was left over from the previous investigation. They're very, very knowledgeable about all of the alleged counts against Donald Trump.
CAMEROTA: There is an audiotape of you speaking with Donald Trump about these payments. So, let's remind everybody about that conversation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David. So, I'm all over that, and I spoke to Allen about it, when it comes time for the financing, which will be --
DONALD TRUM, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Listen, what financing?
COHEN: We'll have to pay for your -- No, no, no, no, no, I got no, no --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Michael, honestly, it doesn't sound as though Donald Trump is giving you instructions there. It sounds like you're giving him instructions. You're saying, here's how it's going to go. I have -- you know, he says is it going to cash, you say, no, no, I've got it all covered. So, were there more payments made like this.
COHEN: Right. Again, you're going into some substance of conversations that I may or may not have had with the district attorney's --
CAMEROTA: Well, this is not Donald Trump. You have -- how many conversations like this did you have Donald Trump?
COHEN: One. It's the one and only recording that I ever had of Donald Trump.
CAMEROTA: But conversations, forget the recorded part?
COHEN: I've had many conversations --
CAMEROTA: About payments to --
COHEN: -- with Donald Trump. Again, you're going, in a very clever way, Alisyn, you're going into, again, conversations that I may or may not have had with the district attorneys. And to be very honest with you I don't want to provide Donald or his team with any insight yet into what's coming. I want him to be able to enjoy it whenever it will arise.
LEMON: But you did provide Congress with some insight and this is what you said about so-called catch and kill schemes. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: These catch and kill scenarios existed between David Pecker and Mr. Trump long before I started working for him in 2007.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, if this long before you started working with him in 2007, what was different about the arrangements made during Donald Trump when he was running for president if this happened long before 2007?
COHEN: Again, were going right back into the same sort of scenario. These are potential topics that I may or may not have had with the district attorneys. Let me say that I stand by that statement that I made to Congress, to the House Oversight Committee, that this catch and kill methodology existed between David Pecker and Donald Trump well before I started working for the Trump Organization in 2007.
CAMEROTA: So, let's -- tell us this, because you've lived through this. So, you have been indicted and arraigned. What will it look like next week, which is the timing we hear is happening, what will it be like --
LEMON: And you went into prison, he went to prison.
CAMEROTA: And you went to prison.
CAMEROTA: So, what will it be like next week for former President Trump?
COHEN: You know, he's right now trying to play the tough guy. Oh, I'm going to, you know, make a spectacle out of this. First of all, the grifter in chief is going to try to do exactly what he's been doing, and that's to fundraise off of it. I think he made over $2 million. Who these dummies are that are giving their hard earned dollars for a guy who gets indicted, I'm not sure. I didn't see anybody throwing that kind of money when I end up getting indicted. It makes no sense to me at all.
However, we do have to acknowledge that he is a former president. And there is a certain amount despite whether you think he should or should not receive that benefit. He is a former president of the United States and there's a certain way that we should handle this.
First of all, there're a whole slew of issues. Yes, he still has Secret Service protection. Putting handcuffs on somebody who's in the custody and care of Secret Service is not simple.
CAMEROTA: So, it's going to be different than your experience?
COHEN: Let's just say much different.
LEMON: Yes. I don't think he's going to be handcuffed. According to sources, they said he's going to have an expedited arrangement, right, because of the unusual circumstances. There will probably be -- the mug shot is still up in the air. There will be handcuff.
COHEN: No. That I believe he's going to have to. He has to be processed.
LEMON: I'm hearing the mug shot is up in the air.
COHEN: I think that would be wrong. Handcuffs, he doesn't need because there's no reason. On top of that, it creates all sort of security issues to have the former president who, again, in the custody and care of Secret Service, to have his hands behind his back.
LEMON: I'm told he won't spend any time behind bars, that he will definitely be fingerprinted. COHEN: Why would you say -- you mean when he's --
LEMON: Because of the unusual -- so, yes, he won't be in --
COHEN: And, by the way, Don, personally, I don't want to see him paraded that way. Remember, because he's a former president of the United States, because I actually care more about the office of the presidency of the United States than he does. I don't want to see this made into the laughing stock of the world. He is still the former president.
I mean, these aren't the things that -- these are the things that you see from other countries, like Venezuela, right? I mean, you don't expect to see the former -- this is a first time ever in the history of this country that a president, a former president, has been indicted. This is unprecedented. And the more that we keep this, we'll call it classy, the better it is for our position in the world.
CAMEROTA: Well, on that personal note, Michael, obviously, you know or knew Donald Trump very well, worked with him very closely for many years. What's he doing tonight? Behind the scenes, how is he handling something like this tonight?
COHEN: He's seething. And to the world, he wants to, again, appear to have this thick skin. He's not thick skinned, right? I think we've also saw that during the -- what was it -- the correspondents dinner. He is not fixed skin. He's actually very thin skin and he has a very fragile ego.
This is his biggest fear that he will be mug shotted, and that, you know, he's going to now have an F, a felony, next to his name. These are not things that Donald Trump ever thought in his entire life, nor I for that matter, that he would ever be confronted with.
He's seething right now because of all of the mistakes that so many people that were around him have made, from Jared all the way to Steve Bannon, Steve Miller, you know, this whole clown car of, you know, constituents that paraded around him. He's seething because all the advice that they gave now landed him here.
And as we all know, Donald is not a person who likes to accept accountability. It has to be on somebody else always. Unfortunately, he's the one that's going on Tuesday, right, in order to get fingerprinted and mug shotted.
LEMON: If you want to know how this is going to happen, all you have to do is look at high-profile cases like this, especially Steve Bannon. The indictment of other high-profile individuals for an example of what this is going to be like. Process while he's being processed, I noticed with Steve Bannon. While Steve Bannon was being processed, the district attorney was holding a press conference. Then the arraignment happened. And then the judge unsealed what the indictment was about. It was expedited and that will probably happen with this president as well. Bragg's office will probably not ask the judge to unseal the indictment until the arraignment happens. You should know that because it happened with you. My question is --
COHEN: Well, no, they didn't because I never had that.
LEMON: Okay. Do you feel vindicated?
COHEN: No, this isn't an issue of vindication. I tried to explain that before. I'd really --
LEMON: It's called revenge.
COHEN: Yes, but it's -- is it revenge by him or revenge on me? How Donald Trump weaponized the United States Department of Justice against his critics, so it's a sort of a play on words.
This isn't about vindication. This is about accountability. This is about the adage that no one is above the law. This is also about that whatever laws that sent me to prison should send him to prison. We're all supposed to be looked at in the eyes of the law the same, right? Lady justice wears the blindfold. It's not supposed to matter you know about your race, religion, creed color, whether your former president or not. If you break the law, you have to be held accountable.
LEMON: Are you worried or nervous about your safety?
COHEN: I don't really think about that. To be honest with you, at this point in time, I'm here in New York. We have the greatest -- and that's one of the questions that a journalist had asked me today, how I think this is going to play out in terms of, similarities to January 6th if he's going to call, as he did, for protests and violence. And that's just Donald Trump. Don't play with New York Police Department. I mean, we have the finest in the world.
LEMON: What I mean you, not just in New York police, not just the violence that could possibly happen on the street. We hope it doesn't happen. Every New York City police officer has to report for duty. As you said New York City police, they don't play law enforcement here, but for your own personal safety.
COHEN: Look, I worry for my safety every single day. Whether it was, you know, during this indictment, post the indictment or even pre- indictment. So, you know, I'm not changing anything in terms of my life. When my routine as a result of this, no.
CAMEROTA: Michael, have you let yourself imagine what it would be like to testify against Donald Trump, within there?
COHEN: No, I'm not concerned about it. I have continuously told the same story. I've been shouting for five years from the rooftop.
The lies by the Southern District of New York against me for the tax evasion, I actually hope it comes out. I have all the documents to show. There was no tax evasion. I've never in my life tax evade. I've never filed the late tax return. I've never been audited. I've never received, you know, letters from the IRS. I have never had an opportunity going into meet with an agent and none of this is accurate.
CAMEROTA: No. You haven't telling the same story to us, certainly when we've interviewed you, but I mean looking at Donald Trump in the face.
COHEN: Oh, I have no problem with that, because I am standing as truth to power. This has kind of been -- if you think about over the five years, it's like a David and Goliath sort of scenario, right? It's very biblical if you think about it. And at the end of the day, yes I am the smaller guy, I am the David, but somehow or another, Goliath is on his back.
CAMEROTA: Michael thank you very much for your time. We really appreciate talking to you tonight.
COHEN: Good to see you both.
LEMON: We really do. It's been an incredible interview. Thank you, Michael.
CAMEROTA: All right. Let's go back to Anderson.
COOPER: Alisyn and Don, thanks very much.
Next, our legal team weighs in on what you just heard and later two politicians on opposite sides of the aisle on tonight's news, former New York Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin and current California Democrat Adam Schiff.
TAPPER: We just heard from Michael Cohen. He's the one who made those payoffs to adult film star and director Stormy Daniels, the payoffs that are apparently at the center of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's case against the former president.
As far as we know, that is, there have been more than 30 charges. Sources tell CNN with a court date expected on Tuesday, which is when we expect the indictment to be unsealed. Here's just part of what Michael Cohen just told Don Lemon and Alisyn Camerota about the former president's characterization of him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: I am a convicted felon. I am a disbarred lawyer, but I also brought the documents. There's plenty of testimony, corroborating testimony to go around and come Tuesday --
CAMEROTA: How do you know -- how do you know that all these witnesses were corroborating your testimony? COHEN: Let's just say I know. I was there 22 times so, there's things that I -- that I know, things that I believe corroborate. And at the end of the day, we have an indictment today. So, clearly, that means that the information provided was more than enough for the grand jury to come back with the determination for an indictment.
Talking about convicted felons, see you on Tuesday, pal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: That last comment aimed at the former president and his former boss. I'm back here with Laura Coates and Andrew McCabe on the criminal justice side and with all their latest reporting and insights on the indictments. Abby Phillip, Jamie Gangel and Gloria Borger. All right, let us unpack what Mr. Cohen had to say through our excellent anchors, Don and Alisyn there because he seemed to be suggesting that there's a lot more to this case than people know, more than people even suspect.
He said, first of all, that all of the witnesses were there, corroborating his testimony and vice versa. And some of those witnesses include Kellyanne Conway.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Correct.
TAPPER: Hope Hicks.
TAPPER: David Pecker, the former head of the National Enquirer.
GANGEL: Let me just say a big correct.
GANGEL: I think he was a very important witness. We will see, but I think the most important word that we heard Michael Cohen say, is documents. These prosecutors, YouTube will -- they are not depending on Michael Cohen for their evidence. Alvin Bragg, he knows what the stakes are with this case and everything we've heard about how tricky it may be. He doesn't want to fail.
Also, Lanny Davis, Michael Cohen's lawyer, was on our air earlier today, and he said that, sorry, the documents speak for themselves. Remember what we don't know, meaning what hasn't been made public yet. We've said over and over tonight, there are a lot of things we don't know, but I think these references to documents are not an accident.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, the key to this is corroboration because you obviously have Michael Cohen who admitted himself today, well, I might not be the most reliable witness, but I keep reminding people he did go to jail. So, when you talk about corroboration as Jamie is talking about, we know about the signed check, et cetera.
But then there were questions about Karen McDougal, the other person with whom Trump was apparently involved, and the catch and kill that went on at the National Enquirer. So, you establish some kind of pattern, and maybe there were people at the White House who knew at some point what was going on after he was elected as the payments continued. So, then you sort of try and bring in people that way.
So, you know, you're not -- I mean, these are experienced people. This is a former president of the United States. I don't think they can just rely on Michael Cohen.
TAPPER: Yeah. And we should note, Kellyanne Conway and Hope Hicks both worked at the White House, and both also worked on the Trump campaign. So, why would they be called to testify? You know? I mean, I'm not -- I'm not asking you because we don't know, but --
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Right. Exactly. And they would be, I would think, in a position to know more about those things. To me what struck out about Michael Cohen's comments tonight was that there is a question of scope and scale here that we can't answer until we know more.
And if it goes well beyond what we're talking about here, just the Stormy Daniels and, you know, the 100,000 or so that was transferred between the them, I think that that really puts -- potentially puts this in a different category and we just don't have the answers to that.
TAPPER: So, okay, let's go to the people who, the lawyers. What did you hear in that Michael Cohen because, you know, he showed a little leg there. He told us a couple of things. What did you hear and do you agree with our conclusions here that there was probably a lot more going on here than just this one hush money payment or even that other one, to Karen McDougal?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Absolutely. And I will say this for Michael showing a little bit of leg. He is in a position to do that because every single time you bring a witness in to ask some questions about a matter you're investigating. You are telegraphing to that witness what you're interested in.
By nature --
TAPPER: And what other witnesses told.
MCCABE: That's right. You are -- but simply by the questions you ask them, they begin to develop an understanding of what you've heard from other people, what you're interested in, what other information you've already had access to. He was in front of these guys 22 times. So, he probably has a pretty good understanding not only of what he's told them, but where they're going, what sort of things they're asking for and what they're interested.
TAPPER: And just the catch and kill, it's a phrase we've heard and we've all been covering Donald Trump so long that we know what it means. But just in case people at home don't, catch and kill is the idea that somebody is out there selling a story that's going to be nasty about me and I call my friend who runs the National Enquirer and he pays that person for their story and then he -- that's catching -- and then he kills it. He throws it in a safe.
LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: Right.
TAPPER: That is -- we heard, Michael Cohen testifies before Congress that David Pecker, head of the National Enquirer and Mr. Trump had this relationship for a long time before Michael Cohen showed up. Is there a crime there necessarily?
COATES: No. I mean, you have the right as a journalist to obtain exclusive rights and then use your discretion about how you want to publish it or if at all. If it's something more nefarious, it's a different story here. But when I was watching Michael Cohen, I was looking at it as a prosecutor thinking to myself, I've got to overcome the very obvious point. This man's got an ax to grind. You obviously cannot stand. Donald Trump.
Look at the camera and told him to, you know, almost equivalent, buckle up pal. It's coming for you, wanting him to enjoy whatever comes on Tuesday. But you know what? I actually never met Mother Teresa. I never had her as a witness in any of my cases and the people who did see things, guess who my witnesses were? Seedy characters. So, the idea of someone not being, you know, top shelf on the up and up, was not fatally undermining the cases.
And frankly, what can actually rehabilitate someone who does not have a whole lot of credibility is consistency. It's the other C word. So, over time he had told the same story multiple times to different people, and it's not as far as we know, ever shed any of the truth.
BORGER: It's also a remarkable dramatic story. When you think back over the years of Michael Cohen's relationship with Donald Trump, I remember sitting in Michael Cohen's office and he was idolizing Donald Trump.
TAPPER: Oh, he loved him.
BORGER: Pictures of Donald Trump. And he was, you know, this is the man I want to be like. He's everything to me. And now it's Shakespearean in a way that he tried to live up to some expectation of Donald Trump. And in the end -- that Trump had of him -- but in the end, Trump didn't bring him to Washington. Trump never put him on the White House staff, and then he ended up in jail because of what he did for Donald Trump, as he says. So, it's kind of a remarkable arc of a dramatic story.
PHILLIP: And one that he's not alone in. I mean, Allen Weisselberg is perhaps not in the idolization, but someone who has devoted their entire lives to this man, to Donald Trump. Trump wants loyalty from people who work from him more than anything else. He doesn't really give it back, but he wants that, and that's what Michael Cohen and Allan Weisselberg did.
And both of them spending time in jail as a result, and -- but they are also key to these cases and the manhattan D.A. is using these people who spent their lives around Trump being nurtured by him, protecting him to make a case against him, and that will be key to find out what they -- what they've said to him.
TAPPER: All right, Anderson?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: With me here as they've been in throughout the night, Elie Honig, Jessica Roth and John Miller. Elie, should Michael Cohen be on television talking if he is going to be testifying?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely not. This is the last thing prosecutors want. And it doesn't help that Michael Cohen's lawyer, Lanny Davis, is out there doing the same thing. Michael Cohen is going to be a central witness in this case. Every word he says is fair game for cross examination. And one of the points that's going to be made is that Michael Cohen has a major, deep seething hatred for Donald Trump, and we could see it in that interview right there.
You could list some of the worst words in the world. Michael Cohen has used them to talk about Donald Trump. Now, people say -- may say I understand why he feels that way given what he went through for Donald Trump, but still, it's going to be open season for the defense lawyer to paint Michael Cohen as a biased witness with a personal ax to grind, and every one of these media appearances gives the defense more ammunition on that.
JESSICA ROTH, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: He also repeated during that interview his denial that he is guilty of some of the crimes he already pled guilty to in the Southern District of New York, it's under the tax fraud crimes in particular. And so, that just shocks me that we have somebody who is going to be an important witness for the government in this case brought by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office who is now saying that he, under oath, pled guilty to crimes that he now says he didn't plead guilty to. So, that's just on top of the bias. A huge problem --
COOPER: The Karen McDougal aspect of the story, she was somebody who said she had a relationship with the former president before he was -- before he was president, and that the National Enquirer, David Pecker, caught and killed her story. Unclear whether there will be charge -- do you think there's going to be charges related to this?
ROTH: I'm having a hard time seeing what the charge would be based on the payments to Karen McDougal because those were made by AMI. I imagine instead that that would be part of the evidence that the district attorney would have presented to the grand jury and ultimately would present to a jury, about sort of the background of this relationship with AMI and with Michael Cohen and Trump's way of dealing with these stories.
But because the payment was made by AMI and as far as we know, wasn't reimbursed by Trump or his organization or by Michael Cohen, I'm not sure how it in and of itself becomes a charge. HONIG: And I think the relevance of it will be to show Donald Trump's knowledge. Knowledge of what was happening. His knowledge that this was a pattern. Happened at least twice with Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal and they have to tie Donald Trump to not just those payments, but to the way they were booked. I can't stress that enough.
It's not about that Donald Trump know the hush money was paid. It's did he know that the records, the internal records were falsified. That is the crux of the question and perhaps the McDougal facts can help with that.
JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT & INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: I mean, this is where -- this is where the case ran into trouble, at least as far as we're told from people who are watching it in the grand jury, which is when Robert Costello, a former law partner of Rudy Giuliani, who was appointed to be Michael Cohen's lawyer when he was under investigation by the feds for hush money payments, he came in and testified. He said, you know, Michael Cohen told me he was handling this, that he got a home equity loan $130,000, but that's where the money came from that he set all this up.
Meaning, what Costello's point to the grand jury was and a lot of this has been now said by Castello, which is how we know it, is that Michael Cohen was the driver of this plot and that he was handling it for Donald Trump. It's meant to remove culpability from Trump as he's being presented by prosecutors as the one who is pulling the levers and directing all of this.
ROTH: Yes. And apparently, Pecker has information about communications directly with Trump about these payments for the purposes of influencing the election.
COOPER: It's not a coincidence that Pecker was brought in after --
MILLER: Not at all. It was damage control.
ROTH: And it's worth reiterating that AMI, which Pecker worked for at the time, entered into a non-prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors when they were investigating Michael Cohen for these payments as --
COOPER: Which is why David Pecker is cooperating.
ROTH: Which is why he's cooperating and we get that he was granted immunity by federal prosecutors personally. But in that non- prosecution agreement AMI admitted that these were violations of the campaign finance laws and that they were made to influence the election. That was the Karen McDougal payment, but they were all part of the same scheme.
COOPER: So, AMI, David Pecker has said that this was for campaign --
COOPER: -- this was campaign related.
ROTH: And that's I believe why he was brought back.
HONIG: And one of the key pieces of information that we don't know about, but I'm going to be looking for is, is there some evidence, some reliable witness beyond Michael Cohen who can say Donald Trump knew about how we were accounting for these payments? Could -- we don't know, but we heard the list of witnesses who went into the grand jury, right?
Kellyanne Conway, Hope Hicks, David Pecker, if one of them can corroborate, bolster Michael Cohen's testimony and say, not only, of course, Donald Trump knew about the hush money payments. But he was involved in the way that those payments were logged on the internal Trump Organization records. That is a difference maker.
COOPER: Elie Honig, Jessica Roth, John Miller, thank you. Coming up, former Republican congressman who spent years defending former president and Democratic congressman who spent years investigating him, their reactions next.
TAPPER: Again, our breaking news. Sources telling CNN that former president Donald Trump is expected to appear in a Manhattan courtroom next Tuesday for his arraignment on more than 30 charges related to business fraud. This was the scene earlier outside Donald Trump's residence at Mar-a-Lago and Florida supporters of the former president after news of the indictment came out earlier.
We heard from former Vice President Pence speaking with my colleague, Wolf Blitzer. He called the indictment an outrage. Republicans tonight criticizing the case and the Manhattan D.A. behind it. I'm joined now by former Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin of New York who has long defended Donald Trump. Congressman Zeldin, good to see you. Thanks so much for joining us. Let's start off. What's your reaction to this unprecedented indictment?
LEE ZELDIN, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE, NEW YORK: Well so far, we only know what's been reported. Based on this information, I believe that this is a political persecution and, in my life, like many of us, we have people who are on the right, who maybe are center right, center left or further to the left, and I think, what's most informative some of my conversations with people who are center right center left, they are also commenting. Even people who might not even like President Trump, that they feel like this is a political persecution. We'll see what the indictment says.
TAPPER: To that point, you tweeted tonight, quote, "If Alvin Braggs -- that's the Manhattan district attorney -- if Alvin Braggs newly secured indictment of President Trump looks like a political persecution, sounds like a political persecution, and reeks like a political persecution, and that's exactly what this is and precisely how most of America will view it," unquote.
But obviously, we need to see the full indictment before we have the facts of this, right?
ZELDING: Yeah. We can only comment based off of what we know, what's been reported. And, you know, it's interesting. You had a great interview just now with Michael Cohen, which ends up peeling a layer back because what's being reported is that he is a star witness in that case. So, some of the confirmation that he provides to what his conversations are with the D.A.s office confirms that reporting that you've been discussing on air.
TAPPER: Yeah. I mean, I think what's key is the documentation that Michael Cohen alleges that he brought forward. Let me just -- let me just ask you just to get some sort of semblance of what your take is on this crime. Donald Trump says that he had no relationship with either Stormy Daniels or Karen McDougal, both of whom who have come forward. Stormy Daniels under oath and said that they did have relationships with Donald Trump, that both of these relationships apparently at, you know, relevant to this case. Do you -- do you believe him when he says he never had a relationship with either of those women?
ZELDIN: Well, I don't I don't know the nature of his relationship with either of the two women. So, it's hard for me to comment about what exactly -- what kind of relationship they might have had. I just -- I just don't know. I mean, we are talking about something that allegedly happened many, many, many years ago. This happens to be a case that has not been prosecuted to this level until right now.
I saw a tweet from Nancy Pelosi a couple of hours ago where it talks about how Donald Trump has the right to prove his innocence. And that's not how this works. There is a presumption of innocence and what happens inside of a grand jury room that isn't a situation where the defense is able to put on their case to cross examine witnesses, and the burden of proof is a lot less and you're making a decision based off of the guidance that you're getting of what the law is and what the theory is of the prosecution.
So, there will be apparently a day in court to come and what -- we'll see. What was interesting when Alisyn and Don Lemon were questioning Michael Cohen just now about the one recorded conversation. As they pointed out, Donald Trump in the recording says, are you going to pay in cash? And it's Michael Cohen responding about how there's, you know, this other way to make a payment as far as what the additional background is on that recording, we don't know, but that's an interesting point being the only -- the only recorded conversation.
And using that as an example, was that brought up inside of the grand jury? Was the person who was talking about it being questioned -- cross examined? Because I think Michael Cohen, in many respects, was having a hard time with the cross examination of Don Lemon and Alisyn Camerota tonight. You know, what happens when it's the defense's attorney putting on their case if he is their star witness?
TAPPER: Yeah. Well, let me ask you because one of the things Michael Cohen said is that he went to prison in part because of this payment to Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet, $130,000. And it was definitely done after the "Access Hollywood" tape came out in, I believe, that was August of 2016, after that tape came out. And it was done to influence the election to keep that story of from going public.
And he basically said, if I had to go to prison in part for that, why should Donald Trump not? He's the one that directed me to do it. That's what the indictment said. Donald Trump is, you know, if were a country of laws, not men, nobody is above the law.
ZELDING: Well, first off, if I was Michael Cohen's attorney, or if I was Michael Cohen himself, you know, maybe there's a different decision as opposed to pleading guilty and going to prison. If you feel like you're being wrongfully accused, well, then you fight that charge and you have your day in court. I don't know what else was -- you know, I don't know what we don't know about the Michael Cohen case, but what we know is that he pled guilty to those charges, and he went to prison for that.
Donald Trump, President Trump is deciding that he is going to fight these charges and he'll have his day in court and have -- the prosecution will have to prove their case. Now, I think one of the other flaws in this situation is that with Alvin Bragg, you know, he's not someone who is a consistent law and order guy who is enforcing laws across the board. As a matter of fact, what -- he's received a lot of criticism for, is that, his first day that he was in office, he put out a memo that said all these different laws across the board, my prosecutors are not allowed to prosecute and all of these other offenses you have to charge as lesser included offenses.
So, when that decision is made to not really do your job on all these other crimes that a lot of people believe are far more serious subjectively, then that causes an issue when that center right or center left American. I'm not the person who absolutely loves Donald Trump or absolutely hates him or they are hardcore Republican or hardcore Democrats, the middle of America.
I do believe that a lot of them are going to see that this is in fact, a political persecution and I also think that they're going to see that this prosecutor is somebody who before he even took the oath said that he was going to be making this case a high priority personally, while he was just not going to prosecute at all, all these other crimes that are far more serious to many New Yorkers.
TAPPER: All right, former Congressman Lee Zeldin Republican of New York, good to see you again. Thank you so much.
ZELDIN: Thank you.
COOPER: Jake, thanks very much. For reaction from Democrats, I want to bring in someone who led the first impeachment of former president in the House and also participated in the roughly 18-month long investigation by the House Select Committee into the January 6th riot, California Congressman Adam Schiff. Congressman Schiff, appreciate you joining us. First of all, just to what former Congressman Zeldin was saying, the criticism about the district attorney in New York who brought these charges, Alvin Bragg, what do you say to that argument because we're hearing it from a lot of Republican members of Congress right now, that this is a district prosecutor who said he wouldn't prosecute a number of what people say are serious crimes and yet is going after what they say is less serious campaign finance crime.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, I think that argument is really beside the point. The key issue is, is Donald Trump being treated the same as other people similarly situated that is other people that have committed business crimes? Is he getting the same treatment? There's no reason to think that he isn't and that ought to be the standard. The rule of law should apply equally to everyone.
Whether Alvin Bragg is handling other aspects of his job the way some New Yorkers would want or don't want is a completely separate issue. There's a lot more at stake here than the fate of Donald Trump. This is, I think, an affirmation of the principle that no one is above the law. That the law should apply equally, and you follow the evidence where it leads. The Manhattan grand jury believes it led to Donald Trump and it led to criminal activity.
If that's the case, then Manhattan D.A. believes they can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. He should be prosecuted like anyone else.
COOPER: Do you have concerns about, I mean, there's a lot we don't know. Obviously, we don't know what the, you know, this indictment is sealed. We don't know what all the accounts of it are. We have some sort of broad sense perhaps. But are you concerned that this may not be the strongest case?
SCHIFF: Well, I'm concerned frankly, that the case that is the most significant, that is that federal case involving Donald Trump's effort to overturn the election, his incitement of the violence on January 6th, all the things that we referred to the Justice Department, the Department has taken far too long to investigate and potentially prosecute. Those cases really should have gone first.
In a system in which you try the most serious cases for which of the strongest evidence first, but we're in a federal system. The states operate on their own timetable, as do local prosecutors and the Justice Department only has itself to blame for its slow pace when these events took place more than two years ago, and it should have brought I believe more urgency to the task.
COOPER: Your Republican colleagues in the House, I mean, as I said, critical of the D.A.s investigation. Speaker McCarthy said tonight, quote, "The House of Representatives will hold Alvin Bragg and his unprecedented abuse of power to account." What do you interpret that to me?
SCHIFF: Well, I think we're seeing the same thing we saw out frankly, during the Ukrainian preservation, when your last guest --
(TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES) -- Donald Trump's criminal defense counsel. That's what Kevin McCarthy is now doing. That's what Jim Jordan is doing. They're threatening to interfere with the Manhattan D.A. to subpoena the D.A. or other prosecutors past and present, to try to subpoena documents from the district attorney's office, basically to try and get discovery that, you know, Donald Trump's criminal defense lawyers, that's what they were hired to do, not members of Congress.
But that's I think what he has in mind, it's what, you know, in a different form, the governor in Florida has in mind, that is to try to turn this to their political benefit.
COOPER: Were you surprised that that this happened today, that this happened at all?
SCHIFF: You know, I was surprised that happened today only because I've been following the press as you have, and it appeared that the grand jury was going to go into recess for a while. I have to say I'm impressed that the grand jury kept this as quiet and a secret for as long as they did when obviously this is among the most significant legal actions going on at the moment.
But I'm not surprised that at the end of the day if justice required a person who was directed in a campaign fraud scheme to go to jail, that the guy who did the directing should also be held to account. That's the way it should be.
COOPER: Adam Schiff, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
COOPER: Before we hand things over, take a look. Live pictures, Palm Beach International Airport on the left. Trump Tower midtown Manhattan. In many ways, they are the touchstone to the former president.