Return to Transcripts main page

New Day

Former FBI Director James Comey's Memoirs Released; Michael Cohen Reveals One of His Clients is FOX News Host Sean Hannity. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired April 17, 2018 - 8:00   ET


[08:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: That's the president of the United States, and that's who's saying it. There's no reason for you to cloak any of this.

But let's talk about why he's doing this. Comey did him a favor, OK. Trump likes to go low. He likes to keep it personal. He likes to make it a battle of egos. Why? Because it makes sense to people and it allows him to ignore the facts and subtleties and complexities of situations. James Comey did help him out in this one regard, Josh, by talking about his orange face and the white circles and his hands and his hair. He's making it a little tawdry, and by doing that he reduced himself to a position of potential vulnerability to make this a battle of egos opinions about the other guy, did he not?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: No, I disagree with that. If you look at the book, I think that's a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of what's in the book, actually. And that's obviously the salacious part that's going to get the headlines. So I set that aside.

I think what we see is when someone is being criticized, and I know this from personal experience, unfortunately very recent personal experience, that when someone is trying to discredit you and doesn't even know you or is presenting a set of fact, when is it your time to tell your side of the story? Look at James Comey and all that he's gone through since June of 2017 since that hearing when he's essentially been silent writing this book, working on this piece.

So now is his time to speak out, number one. And number two, look what we tell our kids. You treat everyone with kindness, you treat everyone with respect, but you don't let the bully get away with those actions. Sometimes you have to stand up to the bully, and I think what he's doing here, he's looking at someone he considers a bully, someone he considers that lied about him, and he's standing up to him.

And let me say one more thing if I can. If you look at what Jim Comey is doing right now, this book isn't the typical, standard Washington, look how great I am book. It's not that. What he's doing is sounding the alarm. He's saying that our system right now, we are in a situation where things are dangerous, where we have norms that are being destroyed, these important foundations on which our country sits and stands. And if we don't go to the ballot box, if we don't speak out in the public square, these things are going to take root and we're going to become numb to them. So you tell me, when is the best time to do that? When is the next best time to do this, after the next election? You tell me.

CUOMO: We'll short on time. Keep it tight.

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: So I can answer that. It's not during a current, ongoing investigation of which he's not just a peripheral witness, he's the central witness too. Second of all this, James Comey had nine interactions with the president. In none of those meetings did he push back, and that's why I go to the feckless leadership part. He didn't go back and say I'm sounding the alarm. I'm going to the attorney general. He waited now. It's helping him sell books. It's not a good look, Josh.

CUOMO: Jimmy and Josh, let's take it up on Twitter. We'll keep the conversation going.

CAMPBELL: That's never a great place to have a good debate.

GAGLIANO: I agree with Josh there.

CUOMO: It is as long as it's you guys. How people respond to it is something different. And we'll have you back here as well. Josh, James, well argued, thank you.

We are following a lot of news -- almost unbelievable amounts. So let's get after it right now, OK?

Good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY. A big legal showdown in the federal government's criminal case against President Trump's personal attorney. A judge gave a very evenhanded decision. There were small wins for all parties involved, but overall there will be a delay because we still don't know what material will be allowed into the investigation or excluded because it is protected by attorney-client privilege.

This comes as Cohen's legal team revealed something that really popped a lot of eyebrows in court. One of his stated clients is Trump's staunchest and his, one of his staunchest supporters, FOX News host Sean Hannity.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, the James Comey media blitz continues today with several new interviews. The fired FBI director taking more swipes at the president and defending his own decisions during the 2016 campaign. So let's begin our coverage with Brynn Gingras over the legal battle over Michael Cohen's records. It was quite a day in court, Brynn.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very dramatic day, Alisyn, an escalating legal showdown over seized records from Michael Cohen's office, his home, and hotel room, and a stunning revelation, as Chris laid out, in court about who his unknown client is. A lot of developments in the criminal investigation into President Trump's personal attorney.


GINGRAS: A federal judge rejecting a motion by President Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen to stop investigators from reviewing records seized by the FBI last week when they raided Cohen's home, office, and hotel room. CNN has learned that federal agents took 10 boxes of documents and as many as a dozen electronic devices from Cohen.

Sources tell CNN they could include records related to the hush money payment Cohen made to porn star Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about her allegedly affair with President Trump. The judge allowing Cohen's and Trump's legal teams to determine what they believe should be protected under attorney-client privilege before investigators go through it. The judge indicating she may be open to allowing an independent lawyer to review the records.

[08:05:00] The legal showdown overshadowed by a bombshell revelation in court. Audible gasps when the judge ordered Cohen's attorney to reveal the identity of his third unnamed client as one of the president's most ardent supporter, FOX News host Sean Hannity. Cohen's two other clients, President Trump and Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy who acknowledged paying a "Playboy" model $1.6 million, a deal Cohen arranged. In response to the media frenzy, Hannity denies retaining Cohen as an attorney but admits seeking his legal advice about what he says were mostly real estate matters.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Michael Cohen never represented me in any legal matter. I never retained his services, I never received an invoice, I never paid Michael Cohen for legal fees.

GINGRAS: But earlier on his radio show the FOX News host suggesting those conversations were protected under attorney-client privilege.

HANNITY: I might have handed him 10 bucks, I definitely want attorney-client privilege on this, something like that.

GINGRAS: On a nightly basis Hannity repeated blasts the special counsel's investigation.

HANNITY: We have now entered a dangerous new phase, and there's no turning back from this. Mueller is out to get the president and it appears at any cost. This is now officially an all hands on deck effort to totally malign and if possible impeach the president of the United States.

GINGRAS: But Hannity has never disclosed his connection to Cohen. Law professor Alan Dershowitz schooled Hannity last night on his show.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, HARVARD LAW PROFESSOR EMERITUS: You could've said just you asked him for advice or whatever, but I think it would have been much, much better had you disclosed that relationship.

GINGRAS: The drama didn't stop there. Stormy Daniels swarmed by the press as she walked into the courthouse, Daniels telling reporters after --

STORMY DANIELS, ALLEGES AFFAIR WITH DONALD TRUMP: For years, Mr. Cohen has acted like he is above the law. That ends now. My attorney and I are committed to making sure that everyone finds out the truth and the facts of what happened, and I give my word that we will not rest until that happens.

GINGRAS: Her attorney shocked by the Hannity revelation now says it's just a matter of time before Cohen turns on the president.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: If I had to place a bet right now on the sun coming up tomorrow or Michael Cohen ultimately flipping on the president, I would bet on Michael Cohen flipping on the president.


GINGRAS: The U.S. attorney's office says it's been working on this criminal investigation into Cohen's business dealings for months, but now a bit of a slowdown as investigators can't look at those seized documents until all parties meet again in court which really could be weeks from now. Chris?

CUOMO: There's certainly going to be a delay. People aren't going to get answers as quickly as they want them. But that's always the case. The process has to go at its own speed. Brynn Gingras, thank you very much.

So fired FBI director James Comey speaking out today in a series of new interviews about President Trump, defending decisions Comey made during the 2016 campaign specifically. CNN's Abby Phillip live in West Palm Beach, aka the White House annex there in Florida with more.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Chris. We really pulled the hardship assignment down here in Florida, but this morning is the day, this is the real day that the Comey book is out. And after days and days of attacks going back and forth between President Trump and the former FBI director, we are now getting even more reaction from Comey. This morning he sat down for an interview in which he responded to some of the attacks President Trump has been lobbing again him on Twitter, namely this weekend President Trump said that James Comey should be jailed for what the president accused him of, crimes the president accused him of committing. Here's what Comey said on GMA this morning in response to that accusation.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: That is not normal. That is not OK. First of all, he's just making stuff up, but most importantly the president of the United States is calling for the imprisonment of a private citizen as he's done for a whole lot of people who criticize him. That is not acceptable in this country. I hope people read the book and see why the rule of law is such an important will value in this country, and key to that is that the president doesn't get to decide who goes to jail.


PHILLIP: But it's not just the president that James Comey has angered with some of the assertions he made in his book. In addition to Republicans, it's also a lot of Democrats who are saying that Comey made some poor choices during the 2016 campaign, specifically when he decided to hold a press conference in June of 2016 to say that the FBI wasn't bringing charges against Hillary Clinton but sharply criticizing her in very personal terms. Now Comey is responding to the then Attorney General Loretta Lynch who said he should have raised those issues with her before putting himself out there at the forefront of this investigation and side lining her. Here's how Comey responded to Lynch's criticism of his decisions in that press conference.


[08:10:00] COMEY: Loretta is a person I respect and like very much, but that isn't the problem I faced in that investigation. The problem I faced in late June was that she announced she wouldn't recuse herself without checking with the FBI to see whether we had a view on it, but would accept my recommendation --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You should've gone to her directly and not wait to be asked?

COMEY: To my boss?


COMEY: Maybe, but I really don't think so even in hindsight. There should have been a discussion about whether she should be involved in the matter. What she did is I'm going to stay involved, but I'll accept his recommendation which put me and the FBI in a terrible spot.


PHILLIP: So Alisyn and Chris, there's plenty here for everybody to digest. And of course President Trump will be here all week. The White House is none too happy with James Comey and they're saying that he is not someone who has any credibility in this situation whatsoever, Alisyn and Chris.

CUOMO: Abby, thank you very much. Let discuss with CNN political analyst Jonathan Martin and Josh Green. J. Mart, let's just start with this kind of overall look at who's winning the battle of credibility here right now between Comey and Trump?

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think if you took a survey of most Americans they would certainly come down the side of the former FBI director rather than the author of "The Art of the Deal." That's a pretty safe assumption. The problem, Chris, is we're in a polarized country. Folks have gone to their political corners, and Comey is no longer somebody who is seen as an above the fray law man. He's now basically weaponized himself, and he is now advocating in personal terms as you pointed out, against President Trump. And so that has now given the Trump allies an open to paint him as part of team blue, he's wearing the team blue Democratic jersey now. It's not a great fit, that jersey, because we know why, his role in the 2016 campaign.

But I think the issue for Comey is that because he's sort of going after Trump in a personal way and because he's now choosing this sort of politicize himself, he's now coming down from his perch as apolitical G Man.

CAMEROTA: So Josh, in all of the things that Comey has said since Sunday night, what jumps out at you?

JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: What jumps out to me is the way he personalized his fight with Donald Trump both in the book and in his TV appearances. Again, I agree with John that takes away from the image of the objective G Man just doing his job, and, by the way, a Republican, to somebody who is clearly out there trying to provoke a fight with Donald Trump to goose his book sales, and by all evidence he's succeeding on both fronts. So that puts Comey very much in the news. It put his criticisms, many of which are valid of Trump, in the news. But it also changes the nature of Comey's role in this discussion in a way that I think is going to change things going forward.

CUOMO: He allows Trump an opportunity to do what he does best, which is to lower a conflict to the most basic ideas and notions about the two opponents, right? By talking about the guy's orange face and the white circles or whatever the purple pose he used about the president's visage, he made it a battleground for Trump, Jonathan.

GREEN: What he's doing is he's poking Trump with a stick. He talks about his orange skin and he talks about his little hands, all the things --

CAMEROTA: No, bigger than he expected. He said that his hands -- that the president's hands were bigger than he expected. The president should be happy.

GREEN: He said they weren't quite as small. We're on CNN debating the small size of the president's hands, so Comey is not exactly elevating the discussion here.

CUOMO: That's the point, isn't it, Josh? Thank you for that. John, in terms of what this was supposed to be about, these were really weighty decisions, whether or not the president was actively trying to obstruct justice with what he did with Comey and Flynn, et cetera, whether or not the decisions he had to make regarding Hillary Clinton were necessary and were done to burnish the reputation of the FBI as opposed to doing the opposite. Those are very weighty things that aren't about who's the biggest liar or what color someone's face is. That was the risk he did by indulging some editor or whatever impulse led him to make those things in his book.

MARTIN: Yes, and in fairness, we have a story today in the paper about this question, and the Comey folks, his coterie of advisers, say, look, you guys are focusing on one small portion of the book. The fact is he offered vivid portraits of Bush, Obama, and Trump and he has served, and he talks about his entire career in great detail.

The problem with that argument, though, is that Comey himself and his book people are smart enough to know if you do talk about the orange skin, if you do talk about the hand size at all, of course that's what folks are going to take away because that is, Chris, as you pointed out, the kind of plain that Trump wants to fight on. And so of course that's the kind of stuff that's most topical, kind of newsy. So, yes, that's a small portion of the book. But you're putting it out there, and by choosing to do that, you are choosing to sort of fight Trump on his terrain.

And so, I think he is basically become by his own choosing a political combatant and the irony of that is that he does not want to be seen that way. He really wants to be seen as kind of above the fray, apolitical figure. But by engaging in kind of personal attacks like that, he's bringing himself to the sort of Trumpian plain.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANHOR: OK. Josh, next topic. The spectacle that was the court hearing yesterday for Michael Cohen.

You know, Donald Trump loves a good reveal and there was one yesterday in terms of who Michael Cohen's mystery third client was and when the lawyer said Sean Hannity, there were audible gasps in the courtroom because nobody saw that one coming. So, that's all very interesting, but do we know what any of this means for the investigation --


CAMEROTA: -- into anything with President Trump?

GREEN: No. We don't but it's certainly intriguing. I mean, on the one hand, right when that came out, you know, shortly afterwards, Hannity confirmed he had sought legal advice from Michael Cohen, and then an hour or so later on his radio show, began to kind of walk away from that and say, no, I was never a client of his.

So, it's strange from two stand points. One, Cohen clearly believed that Sean Hannity was his client enough so that he tried to protect him in court and failed. And two, that Hannity would claim on the one hand why he wasn't really my client. You know, on the other hand, there seems to be a claim of privilege here so you can't really have it both ways.

To me, though, what is most intriguing about all this is that, you know, the basis of this court case, this legal action by Michael Cohen, was to try and protect some of the materials seized by the FBI from falling into the prosecutors' hands, and the fact that felt the need to try and protect Hannity on this makes me wonder, is there something in that seized material that involves Sean Hannity? I mean, we don't know what it might be but Cohen by all reports likes to tape his phone calls with important people.


GREEN: So, who knows maybe there's some kind of material in there that involves Sean Hannity.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we'll see. I mean, look, a little bit of this is subtle. Cohen's lawyers are trying -- here's how so. One, we did learn something about the investigation. It's going to slow down, and it's going to slow down because Senior Judge Kimba Wood from the Southern District was very fair and deferential to the sensitivities involved, which casts a very bright light on the idea that this is not a witch hunt. It is not a hoax. It was not done unfairly to hurt the president. Quite the opposite came out in these rulings.

Kimba Wood could have very easily and with easy jurisprudential justification shutdown Cohen and the president's attorney. She chose not to.

But it also gets a little subtle because, J-Mart, it comes down to, you know, what is this that's going on here? Obviously, we now know that Sean Hannity has very good reason to defend Michael Cohen the way he does and to defend the president the way he does. He has a close relationship with them. That's not that big a surprise. But at the end of the day, will this change the nature of how he is perceived?

MARTIN: How Sean Hannity is perceived or Cohen?


MARTIN: Oh, I don't think this is going to sort of stun Hannity observers. I think people sort of get the deal that, you know, he is very much a partisan advocate of President Trump.

But, Chris, you make a really important point that I want to echo and that is that on the one hand, Judge Wood is really helping the president by being fair and being deliberate and sort of coming off as somebody who wants to be judicious as it were on this question, but she's also prolonging the story and that's where it's going to become excruciating I think for President Trump and his allies, whether it's the judge in New York, whether it's Mueller here in Washington, this sort of, you know, day after day, week after week, leak after leak investigation that does not seem to end. I think is really gets to President Trump in days ahead.

CUOMO: You know, another thing that's out there that's just not true is the idea that, well, this judge forced Hannity's name out there to embarrass him and therefore by extension the president. She gave the lawyer a choice. He could have handed it on a piece of paper. He didn't have to say it out loud.

This judge was more than fair in this situation.

CAMEROTA: OK. Gentlemen, Josh Green, Jonathan Martin, thank you very much.

MARTIN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: So a bipartisan group of senators are now pushing a bill to protect the special counsel Robert Mueller. How would there be do that? Will Congress go along?

CUOMO: Plus, James Comey just answered the question of what he would do if he could just wave a magic wand. The answer -- next.


[08:23:06] CAMEROTA: President Trump's long time personal attorney, Michael Cohen, ordered to reveal in court that he also represents Fox News host Sean Hannity.

How significant is any of this?

Joining us now is Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware.

Good morning, Senator.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Good morning, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: How do you think this search of Michael Cohen's home and these documents that have been seized and devices that have been seized and the revelation about Sean Hannity, how does this change any of the investigation?

COONS: Well, it doesn't directly effect the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into potential Russian collusion into the 2016 election or potential obstruction of justice by the president or folks in the Trump campaign organization. What it does do, I think is pose serious legal risk for the president as every law student knows, attorney/client privilege is very important. It's a fundamental principle of our legal system, but if there's evidence that an attorney is engaged in or concealing crime or fraud that attorney/client privilege can be pierced and that's what happened here.

The Southern District of New York U.S. attorney's office will be moving forward on this investigation and any resulting prosecution and given that President Trump before he was elected had decades of a tabloid existence in New York back and forth, lots of different changes in marital status or allegations, and that his personal lawyer was described as Mr. Fix-It, I would think he might face significant legal risk.

CAMEROTA: OK, in the meantime, as far as we can tell, Robert Mueller's investigation continues a pace. How worried are you that the president would take some steps to have Mueller removed?

COONS: I'm very concerned. I know many of my Republican colleagues are confident that the president won't take this very serious and very unwise step, but I'm encouraged that Senator Tillis, Senator Graham have joined with Senator Booker and me to introduce a simple bill, a -- what I call an ounce of prevention bill that would prevent a constitutional crisis.

[08:25:05] CAMEROTA: How does it do that?

COONS: Well, it takes existing Department of Justice regulations that prohibit the firing of the special counsel for anything other than just cause and it makes that into statute and clarifies what the relief would be if the special counsel were fired, it would freeze his work product and give him ten days to appeal to a three judge panel and if they decided he was improperly fired, he could be reinstated to resume leading the investigation.

CAMEROTA: And if this going to be become law, what's the appetite for moving this ahead in Congress? COONS: Well, it is now going to get a hearing -- excuse me, it had a

hearing last fall. It's now on the agenda for the Senate Judiciary Committee which I think is a big step forward and I think this is going to become a subject of intense discussion between colleagues. I spoke to several Republican colleagues over the weekend and I think they see as I see, that the president's tempo and tenure after the Michael Cohen raid has changed significantly and there's no longer the question of if he take some action against this investigation but when. Whether it's firing Rod Rosenstein or trying to pressure the attorney general to resign or doing something more direct right at the special counsel.

CAMEROTA: OK. Next topic and that is Syria. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley went on the Sunday shows and made an announcement that there would be sanctions on Russia, Syria sponsor, because of this chemical weapons attack.

Let me play for everybody what the U.N. ambassador said on Sunday.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: So you will see that Russian sanctions will be coming down. Secretary Mnuchin will be announcing those on Monday if he hasn't already and they will go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons use.


CAMEROTA: OK. That was supposed to be happening yesterday. She promised -- that was, again, that was unequivocal. You will see Secretary Mnuchin announcing this. That was supposed to be yesterday. Now, crickets.

So, we hear that the president has decided to go in a different direction and not do these sanctions. Why?

COONS: Well, Alisyn, that's the million dollar question. Since he was a candidate, as long as he's been president, President Trump has had a truly puzzling, even mystifying hesitation to take appropriate action against Russia. He ordered a military strike on Syrian chemical weapons facilities but then he hesitated and then reversed direction on advice from his most senior advisers on taking sanctions against companies that helped facilitate that deadly chemical weapons infrastructure by Syria. Deeply puzzling.

Jim Comey in his new book out today suggest that's he can't answer the question whether or not the president is compromised by something the Russians have on him. It is concerning that we don't have a clear strategy in Syria, that we don't have a clear strategy with regards to Russia and while I respect that the president thinks it would be better for us to have a good relationship with Russia, I think president's both Republican and Democrats for decades have recognized that in confronting Russia and their aggression, we need to be strong first and pursue diplomacy second.

CAMEROTA: Senator, what are we to make that the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. is on such a different page than the president?

COONS: Well, it's another example of the disconcerting disconnect between some of the president's most senior advisers and what the president himself chooses to do with regards to Russia. This isn't the first time this is happened.

And I'll remind, it's just three weeks ago that the president was publicly saying we should pull out of Syria, the change in direction, that's a whipsaw from we're about to withdraw from this country to we are launching military attacks on it and later today, Alisyn, all senators are going to be briefed by the secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs on what's happened in Syria.

But although we will press for it, I will ask for it, I don't expect to hear a coherent strategy for what to do with Syria. This really puts us at risk. It's important that we have a coherent strategy from this administration about where we're going not just in Syria but with regards to Russia and Iran and North Korea.

CAMEROTA: All right. Please keep us posted on what comes out of that meeting. Senator Chris Coons, thank you very much for being here.

COONS: Thank you, Alisyn.


CUOMO: All right. President Trump claims the FBI search and seizure of Michael Cohen is an attack on our country. Is that even close to true? We discuss with Mark Geragos, next.