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State of the Union
Trump vs. Comey; Trump's Personal Attorney Under Criminal Investigation; President Trump Says 'Mission Accomplished' in Syria; Interview With Stormy Daniels Attorney Michael Avenatti; Interview With Maine Senator Angus King; Trump Lawyer Under Criminal Investigation; James Comey On TV Is the Subject of This Week's "State of the Cartoonion". Aired 9-10a ET
Aired April 15, 2018 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Mission accomplished? President Trump says strikes on Syria were -- quote -- "perfectly executed", and he calls out the Syrian dictator.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They are crimes of a monster.
TAPPER: But does the commander in chief have any strategy going forward?
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: The United States is locked and loaded.
TAPPER: Independent Senator Angus King weighs in next.
And Trump vs. Comey. The president fires back at the guy he fired.
TRUMP: I fired Comey. Well, look at all of the things that he has done and the lies.
TAPPER: As the former FBI director spares no salacious details in his takedown of the president.
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I don't know whether the current president of the United States was with prostitutes.
TAPPER: Can President Trump hold back as Comey talks tonight?
Plus, a legal battle at home. President Trump's personal attorney is the focus of a criminal probe, as President Trump defends his so- called fixer.
TRUMP: Good man. It's a disgraceful situation. It's a total witch- hunt.
TAPPER: Might the president's personal attorney be indicted? Stormy Daniels' lawyer is here ahead. (END VIDEOTAPE)
TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is at war, abroad and at home.
President Trump this morning waging rhetorical battle against former FBI Director James Comey -- tweeting -- quote -- "Unbelievably, James Comey states that polls where crooked Hillary Clinton was leading were a factor in the handling stupidly of the Clinton e-mail probe. In other words, he was making decisions based on the fact that he thought she was going to win and he wanted a job. Slime ball" -- unquote.
This is an apparent reference to a passage in the Comey book where the former FBI director wrote -- quote -- "It is entirely possible that because I was making decisions in an environment where Hillary Clinton was sure to be the next president, my concern about her making an illegitimate president by concealing the restarted investigation bore greater weight than it would have if the election appeared closer or if Donald Trump were ahead in all polls. But I don't know" -- unquote.
Just another distraction for the president, who is also fuming over an FBI raid of his personal attorney Michael Cohen's office and, in the same week, authorized more military strikes in Syria.
Coalition missiles lighting up the skies late Friday night. New video showing the destruction. Military leaders in the United States say precision strikes hit the heart of Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons program.
After the attacks, President Trump declared on Twitter "mission accomplished." It's a term many in President George W. Bush's White House, including Ari Fleischer and Nicolle Wallace, cringed when they saw, recalling the banner that hung prematurely in 2003 on the USS Abraham Lincoln more than a decade before that war ended.
This morning, President Trump defended the use of "mission accomplished," tweeting": "The Syrian raid was so perfectly carried out, with such precision, that the only way the fake news media could demean was by my use of the term mission accomplished. I knew they would seize on this, but felt it is such a great military term, it should be brought back. Use often" -- unquote.
Joining me now is independent Senator Angus King of Maine. He's a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Senator, thanks so much for joining us.
So, the president says it's mission accomplished in Syria. Do you agree? Is it mission accomplished in Syria? And what is the mission?
SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: Well, that was the -- the second question sort of answered the first question.
I think it is very difficult to say mission accomplished if the mission is to deter the use of chemical weapons. We hope that will be the case. But we did a strike a year ago for that same purpose, and it was deemed a success, but the chemical weapons have continued to be used.
So, I think it is impossible to say at this point that the mission has been accomplished. They had -- it was a more significant strike than a year ago. They hit three sites, instead of one, more -- more missiles. It was accomplished apparently with -- with the precision that our military is capable of.
But saying the it has been a success, we won't know until we see whether the regime continues to use chemical weapons.
TAPPER: These strikes were launched because American authorities and others say they have information proving that Assad launched a chemical weapon attack against his own people.
You are on the Intelligence Committee. Did the Trump administration present any evidence to you to support this claim?
KING: They did notify the leadership of the Congress on Friday before the strike, but I'm unaware that they presented definitive evidence of what the use of the chemical weapons was.
We got updated briefings over the weekend from the Defense Department about the strike. And they indicated they had confidence that their -- the chemical weapons had been used, but they didn't supply the evidence.
Now, there are going to be some classified briefings this week. I'm sure we will have more information. But, certainly, they believe that they had the evidence that these chemical weapons had been used.
And I think it is important, Jake, to distinguish between a chemical weapons attack and a general incursion into Syria. The former, chemical weapons have been essentially illegal worldwide for over 100 years, since World War I.
They have been used occasionally. But that really is a red line for most of the world. So, going in to take out chemical weapons capacity, which is what this strike was all about, is arguably within our national interest and justified.
What this strike was not -- and I think it's fortunate that that's the case -- was a strike against the Assad regime itself, an attempt to sort of intervene in the civil war.
So, it was a narrow strike, but, as you say, to go back to your initial question, whether the mission was accomplished, we won't know for months.
TAPPER: Now, you have said, in terms of the back and forth about whether or not Congress should be -- should vote before the United States launches military action, you have said you're OK with these limited strikes, as you just delineated, though, in general, you say you're not comfortable with Congress not playing its role when it comes to the use of force.
Presidents for decades have used military force without congressional approval. You might remember, in 2013, the Senate had to pull back a vote on Syrian strikes after President Obama asked for it, approval.
Isn't really the unspoken fact here that Congress doesn't really want to vote yes or no on war, that they want to cede this authority to the president, so they don't have to go on the record?
KING: It's not unspoken by me, Jake.
I think that's absolutely correct. It isn't a case of presidents over the years taking this power unto themselves. Congress has abdicated the power. Congress hasn't declared war since 1942. There have been several of these authorizations.
But I think you're absolutely right. And I understood late last week that the Foreign Relations Committee was finally going to take up an authorization in the case of Syria. We will see whether that actually happens.
But I think you're right that, generally, Congress' -- what they're really good at, what I guess I have to say now we're really good at, is standing on the sidelines, avoiding making the decisions, and then criticizing the decisions the president makes.
TAPPER: Well, kudos to you for the acknowledgement of that.
President Trump said this on Friday night. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: In 2013, President Putin and his government promised the world that they would guarantee the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons.
Assad's recent attack and today's response are the direct result of Russia's failure to keep that promise.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: The president is exactly right on that.
How do you account for the fact that the Obama administration seemingly trusted Russia to supervise the Syrians getting rid of their chemical weapons? Were they naive?
KING: Well, I think perhaps somewhat naive, but also, going back to that period -- and I remember living through it -- the Russians did in fact -- there was a great deal of physical on-the-ground activity of getting rid of chemical weapons.
I mean, it was -- they were shipping to a destruction site. I mean, it was being monitored. So, it wasn't like it was pure promises. There was in fact activity involved in destroying and cutting back on the capacity.
Now, whether Assad rebuilt that capacity on his own, it's hard to believe he would do anything without the Russians knowing about it. So, I think, in essence, the president was right that the Russians essentially guaranteed that this wasn't going to happen again. And the evidence is, at this point, we don't see -- I haven't seen it definitively, but the evidence, the weight of the evidence now seems to be that they are using chemical weapons.
By the way, Jake, they're killing their people daily. This morning, they're bombing again without chemical weapons and still killing people, their own citizens.
So, yes, getting involved in terms of chemical weapons is an important national interest, but let's not kid ourselves that somehow, if we stop chemical weapons from being used, the horror of what's going on over there is going to somehow stop as well.
TAPPER: Very briefly, I just want to ask you a quick question.
"The New York Times" is reporting that allies of President Trump believe that the criminal investigation into the president's lawyer Michael Cohen out of the U.S. attorney's office in the Southern District of New York, that that is more threatening to the president than special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible Russian collusion.
You know a lot more about the evidence, or lack thereof, any -- of any possible Russian collusion than I do. What do you think? Does the Cohen probe bear more of a threat?
KING: Well, I think it's really important to realize that what's going on in the -- in the district of New York is not under the -- counsel Mueller.
This a separate investigation by a United States attorney's office in the Southern District of New York. So it's a separate deal. Whatever happens to Mueller -- and I hope nothing happens -- it won't affect that prosecution.
I think it's a serious matter, there's no question, because Mr. Cohen's name keeps coming up in connection with all of these things, whether it's the Stormy Daniels or the Russians.
He seems to have some involvement in all of those things.
TAPPER: All right, Senator Angus King, independent of Maine, it's good to see you, sir. Thanks for joining us.
KING: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: President Trump just can't seem to help himself this morning, in a flurry of tweets, taking on James Comey just hours before the former FBI director's first television interview and complaining about raid on his lawyer's office.
Former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara is here to talk about all of that next.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
Comey was fired, and now he's firing back, big time. Former FBI Director James Comey telling all, even publicly humiliating the president, with stories of his encounters with him.
This morning, a preemptive strike from President Trump just hours before Comey's his first television interview, again calling Comey a slime ball and then, in addition, saying -- quote -- "Slippery James Comey, a man who always ends up badly and out of whack, he is not smart. Will go down as the worst FBI director in history by far" -- unquote.
This is sure to escalate this week, as Comey continues to sell his book, including a one-on-one interview with me on "THE LEAD" this Thursday.
Joining me now to discuss all of is a man the president also let go, former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara.
Preet, thanks so much for joining us.
PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Thanks.
TAPPER: President Trump up and at 'em this morning, tweeting -- taking a look at what he just waited as we came on air -- quote -- "Attorney-client privilege is now a thing of the past. I have many, too many, lawyers. And they're probably wondering when their offices and even homes are going to be raided with everything, including their phones and computers taken. All lawyers are deflated and concerned" -- unquote.
What's your reaction? It obviously is an incredibly bold move for the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of New York, an office you used to hold, for them to raid Michael Cohen's office.
So, when he said all lawyers are deflated, I'm not deflated. I think that you have to trust that that office is doing things by the book and crossing every T. and dotting every I.
I don't think that Donald Trump has a decent understanding of what the attorney-client privilege is and how it can be pierced.
The people who are doing the investigation the Southern District of New York, I know very well. I know the person who's in charge of the investigation, Robert Khuzami, who's the deputy U.S. attorney, because the U.S. attorney himself refused himself.
He's a professional. I worked alongside him for a number of years. He's a person who knows how to do a prosecution. He was a career prosecutor in the office for a number of years.
The three assistant U.S. attorney whose names appear on the brief opposing the TRO that Michael Cohen's lawyer sought are all people who are professional, who know what they're doing, who do things by the book, all three of whom I hired, in fact, over the last number of years.
So, I have great confidence in their ability to do things right, to do things that make sense. In addition, by the way, the decision to do the raids, the searches on Michael Cohen, putative attorney's home, hotel, and office were approved also by an office, a career office in the Department of Justice called OEO, the Office of Enforcement Operations.
So, in addition to Rod Rosenstein, who is a Republican who oversees the Mueller investigation, there are career professionals in Washington and New York alongside a judge who have to approve all of it to see if those searches were OK.
And, by the way, if you read the brief that my former colleagues filed in the Southern District of New York in front of Judge Wood, who is also very fine, well-respected jurist in the Southern District of New York, they're very meticulous in explaining all the reasons why they felt they had to engage in this process.
Among other things, Michael Cohen, from everything you see in that brief, is barely a lawyer.
TAPPER: Right. He's a fixer, is the argument made by the government.
TAPPER: While the president is waging war on that front, he is also waging war on the Comey front.
I want you to take a listen to what Comey had to say this week about the unconfirmed allegations from the Steele dossier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: I honestly never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but I don't know whether the current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013. It's possible, but I don't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: "It's possible, but I don't know."
Now, Comey is being criticized by people, saying, "It's possible, but I don't know," is the same thing as saying I have no evidence to confirm that it is true.
Isn't Comey, these critics say, putting himself out there for criticism by phrasing it that way?
BHARARA: I suppose.
Look, there are a lot of strong feelings about Jim Comey on both sides of the aisle. And there's -- on certain occasions, people like him because they think he is engaging in a practice that is hurting a political opponent of theirs, and on the other side of the coin, people think the opposite, depending on what is going on at the time.
My view of Jim Comey, separate and apart from what you think of his book, which I haven't had a chance to read yet, or what you think about the things he did with respect to the Hillary Clinton investigation, which reasonable people can absolutely have an objection to and not be happy about.
But the one thing I believe to be true about Jim Comey is, he is not a liar. He doesn't make stuff up. He has a good memory. He has a keen understanding of how the law works and what investigations are supposed to be about, whether or not he has spoken about them in a way that went beyond what maybe a reasonable person should have done.
So, when he says that the president asked for his personal loyalty, another thing that the president has tweeted about this morning, I believe that. I credit that.
TAPPER: What do you make of President Trump having another tweetstorm and attacking Jim Comey this morning?
I mean, I suppose, I'm sure he has advisers around him saying, all you are going to do is make this another bestseller and give the book more oxygen, have shows like this one talk more about Jim Comey than we were originally planning on doing so because you are talking about it.
Having interacted with President Trump, what do you think?
BHARARA: I interacted with him one time in person and a couple of times on the phone. And then I refused to take his phone call, which remains something that I'm very proud of, given how he talks about other interactions of politicians and law enforcement people have.
I find it very hard to get into the president's head. I think a lot of people do a lot of speculation about what goes on.
Clearly, the Jim Comey experience has gotten under his skin. He doesn't like someone getting airtime who is critical of him. And the way he deals with it is, he lashes out on Twitter.
My guess is that his lawyers don't want him to go about it that way, that there's lots of evidence, not necessarily in this tweetstorm, but in other tweetstorms, that will be bad for him if Bob Mueller ends up coming around to bringing some kind of case together, either in a report or otherwise, relating to obstruction.
Every single time the president makes clear that he doesn't like an investigation of him or his associates, and wants that investigation to stop, that adds to the narrative that, when he takes an action that actually can cause the investigation stop, that that was intentional and is potential obstruction.
I'm not saying it is instruction, but it adds grist for people to find that to be true.
TAPPER: On Friday, President Trump pardoned Scooter Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney who was convicted of perjury in 2007 during an investigation into who leaked the identity of a CIA officer.
This investigation at the time was spearheaded by a special counsel who was appointed by none other than James Comey and also is a very close friend of James Comey's.
Do you think the president was taking a shot at Comey? Do you think he was sending a signal that he doesn't consider lying to the FBI a serious crime, he is willing to pardon people for it? Do you think he was trying to send a signal, hey, hang in there, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, I'm willing to exercise my pardon power?
How do you interpret it?
BHARARA: Look, that's certainly the impression that is given.
There's not much other explanation for, out of the blue, in that time frame, to decide to pardon Scooter Libby. He went outside of the process of the Justice Department. It's not clear to me -- and maybe I missed it -- it's not clear to me that Scooter Libby's lawyers were advocating in this particular time frame for their client to be pardoned.
Even President Bush, for whom Scooter Libby worked indirectly, decided to only commute the sentence, and not give a complete and total pardon.
President Trump himself says that he barely knows the guy. So, given how many thousands of people are out there -- and my office used to process these requests on a regular basis -- how many thousands of people are out there who may have been prosecuted in a way that was -- that was overaggressive, where charges were piled on, who want to get on with their lives in a way that maybe the president can help by issuing a pardon, none of those people have gotten a pardon.
But this person that the president doesn't know, who it allows him to make a political statement and also to send a message, as you suggest, to people who are currently in the hot seat with respect to the Mueller investigation, I find it very difficult to come to any other conclusion that he's sending a message. And it's true that the pardon power is something that the president can exercise in any way, shape or form pretty much he wants. But it's kind of abusive, I think, if you're using it to send a political message to people who may be in a position to testify against you.
TAPPER: All right, Preet Bharara, thank you so much.
TAPPER: Really appreciate your time.
Do not miss it. I will sit down with the former FBI Director James Comey for his first live interview. That will be on "THE LEAD" Thursday at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. Don't miss it.
A CNN exclusive. The FBI has seized secret recordings of conversations made by President Trump's Michael Cohen. How big of a problem might this be for President Trump?
Stormy Daniels' lawyer will be here next to weigh in. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
From hush money payments to a porn star and to a former Playboy Playmate of the year, to questions swirling around the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape, now CNN has learned that the FBI seized tapes of conversations between the president's personal bulldog and attorney Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels' former lawyer.
And, according to "The New York Times," those close to the investigation see the investigation into his so-called fixer, Cohen, as a bigger threat than even the Russia probe.
Joining me now is Stormy Daniels' attorney general, Michael Avenatti.
Let's start, Michael, if we could, with the bombshell news that the president's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who you're currently suing, is now under criminal investigation by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
What do think is going to happen with Cohen? Do you think he might even be indicted?
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: Jake, I do.
I strongly believe that, within the next 90 days, we're going to see an unsealing of an indictment against Mr. Cohen for a host of very serious offenses.
And I believe, Jake, that is going to be a significant domino that's going to fall in connection with this.
TAPPER: Do you have any specific examples of things Mr. Cohen has done that you or the U.S. attorney's office believe to be criminal?
AVENATTI: Well, I think there's a number of possibilities, Jake.
I think he could be indicted for bank fraud, wire fraud, campaign finance violations. I think there's a whole host of potential criminal conduct that could be charged.
You know, according to his attorneys, the FBI seized thousands, if not millions of pages of documents in connection with the raids going back some 30 years.
This guy is radioactive right now. And this is not going to end well, Jake.
TAPPER: A source tells CNN that investigators have also seized recordings of conversations between Cohen and a lawyer who represented Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal before you began representing Ms. Daniels.
I want you to take a listen to what Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said about Cohen recording conversations.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Michael Cohen is an idiot.
To be taping -- if he did tape conversations with his client, that's stupid.
But I don't know what kind of legal advice Michael Cohen gave Donald Trump. I'm not really impressed with him as a lawyer, just to be honest with you.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
TAPPER: Lindsey Graham, not just an attorney, a former JAG with the military.
Do you agree with his assessment of Mr. Cohen and the notion that it's idiotic for him to record conversations?
AVENATTI: Well, Jake, it's exactly what I have been saying as well for the last 72 hours, as soon as this story broke.
I have an enormous amount of respect for Lindsey Graham. He's a very, very intelligent man, very experienced attorney. And I couldn't agree with him more than to say that.
I mean, it's outrageous. It's beyond stupid. And what is amazing is, is that this is the guy that the president put at his right hand. This is the man that the president basically trusted his secrets to. It is astounding.
TAPPER: Earlier today, on the show, Senator Angus King, independent of Maine, who is on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that Cohen seems to be cropping up, whether it's with the Stormy Daniels hush money payment or with the Russia investigation.
Do you know of anything that might link the two or anything that Michael Cohen might have done involving Russia?
AVENATTI: Well, I'm not at liberty to get into a lot of those details, Jake.
But suffice it to say as follows. On Friday, while we were all in court trying to deal with this TRO and the judge was asking questions of his counsel, and the counsel, unfortunately, did not have answers to these simple questions -- the judge wasn't happy about it -- Michael Cohen was videotaped and photographed sitting with a number of men on the Upper East Side, I believe it was.
And we believe that a number of those actually have ties, Russian ties, as crazy as that sounds. So, this story just gets more strange and more strange by the day. You couldn't even make this up if you wanted to.
TAPPER: Do you -- can you shed any more light on what you said?
I mean, I saw a picture of one of the people he was sitting with, and he has ties to one particular Russian wealthy individual. What else are you talking about?
AVENATTI: Well, again, I don't want to say too much this morning, but you can't make this stuff up.
I mean, I just -- I don't understand what he is doing, what Michael Cohen is doing, with each passing day. This is getting worse and worse for him and it's going to get worse and worse for the president.
TAPPER: President Trump's lawyers and Cohen, as you noted, went on court on Friday to try to prevent any of the material seized by investigators from being read, claiming attorney-client privilege.
The U.S. attorney's office responded by saying that Cohen has -- quote -- "exceedingly few clients and a low volume of potentially privileged communications" -- unquote.
You're a lawyer. Doesn't Michael Cohen have some sort of standing to make this claim of attorney-client privilege?
AVENATTI: Well, he has standing to make the claim.
But if it's shown that these communications were not in furtherance of providing true legal advice or true services a lawyer, they are going to blow a hole through the privilege big enough to drive a Mack truck through, Jake.
And the fact that he's been called to court at 2:00 on Monday is also a problem. As I stated on Friday, right after the judge made that order, we could see Michael Cohen plead the Fifth Amendment in open court on Friday, depending on what questions are posed to him. I'm going to be there at 2:00. I can announce that we got comfortable with a security plan last night from my client. She's going to attend at 2:00 on Monday.
I think Monday afternoon could prove to be very interesting.
TAPPER: Stormy Daniels is going to be in court on Monday with Michael Cohen? Is that what you're saying?
AVENATTI: Yes, she will attend at 2:00 in New York on Monday.
TAPPER: Is that intended in any way to provoke him, to get into his head?
AVENATTI: No, not at all.
It's intended to send the message that this is a very, very serious matter for her, and she wants to make sure that the American people know that she's behind efforts to -- to bring to light as much information and documents as possible.
She also wants to ensure that she is heard and that she's represented at the hearing. It has nothing to do with getting in his head at all.
TAPPER: All right, Michael Avenatti, the attorney for Stephanie Clifford, AKA, Stormy Daniels, thank you so much for your time, sir. Appreciate it.
AVENATTI: Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.
TAPPER: Ahead of James Comey's first television interview President Trump unleashing on Twitter against this former FBI director calling Comey a liar. Saying his memos are fake. All of that and the panel coming up.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT DE NIRO AS SPECIAL COUNSEL ROBERT MUELLER: Is your name Michael Cohen?
BEN STILLER AS MICHAEL COHEN: Yes.
DE NIRO: And you're a lawyer -- ish?
Did you have -- did you make a payment of $130,000 to Stormy Daniels?
DE NIRO: And did President Trump know about it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: That was Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller reprising their roles from "Meet the Parents" except this time they are Michael Cohen and special counsel Robert Mueller.
My panel is here with me. Bill, we are in unchartered waters now. I mean, honestly just taking a step back. The president's personal attorney Michael Cohen, one of his closest advisers, his fixer, his friend is under criminal investigation, had his office raided.
I mean, it's stunning whether you support Michael Cohen or, you know, you have concerns about the FBI raid or not it's stunning.
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: It is stunning and of course the FBI and New York had to get the judge's approval so they had at least some reason to believe there are important things to discover in that office.
I'm struck by the last few days. It's also kind of funny and bizarre that one forgets the sort of serious underlying facts. I guess, if I'm not mistaken the Scooter Libby pardon was announced or at least released -- the news of it was out Thursday night.
Friday morning I think we know President Trump spoke with Michael Cohen on the phone. Friday afternoon Michael Cohen is yucking it up in that now famous photo smoking cigars outside of his office building while kind of ignoring a federal judge. Or I think wanted to maybe speak with him.
TAPPER: Why is Cohen so confident?
KRISTOL: I really think the pardon power is going to end up being a bigger part of the story. We are all focused understandably on firing Rosenstein and firing Mueller. I think the president's pardon power could be a big part of the story as we go forward.
TAPPER: Are you concerned at all about that? You heard Preet Bharara earlier saying that he thought the only reason President Trump would pardon Scooter Libby because it didn't go through normal process is to send a signal to people who might testify against him I'm here for you and I can pardon as presidents can.
RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I certainly hope not. That would not be -- that would not be something I would like to see out of my president. But it certainly lends this kind of discussion.
SANTORUM: And, I mean, just the whole idea, the fact that we're discussing this, you know, a couple of days after a major attack in Syria and -- which is a very important national news story. But the president isn't talking about that this morning on Twitter. He's talking about something else.
And then we have this going on with Michael Cohen. And it is the continual frustration of those of us who support President Trump and the things he wants to accomplish including the actions in Syria that the president chooses not to talk about any of his policy accomplishments. He chooses to talk about things that are personal to him.
And that continues to be a frustration. We applaud and you hear this all the time in Republican circles. We love what the president is doing from a policy point of view. On a variety of different fronts we wish he would talk about those things and we wish he would focus on those things instead of focusing on things that are more personal to him.
TAPPER: The "New York Times" reporting that those close to Trump are more concerned about this investigation into Michael Cohen from -- out of the U.S. attorney's office for the southern district of New York than they are about the Mueller probe.
JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean, really, what kind of lawyer is recording stuff? What is he doing with those recordings if not to perhaps play them back to Trump when he is trying to put the squeeze on somebody so they can -- he can show him what a, you know -- what a mob like character he is which is exactly what those images on Friday.
And Trump plays right into it. What a -- this sort of very not subtle pardoning of Scooter Libby is just like right out of the mob.
I mean he's -- it's so -- and then -- and then Cohen it turns out at least McClatchy has found that he is in Prague. And so what does that mean in terms of him saying he had nothing to do with being in Prague to do negotiations with the Russians. So not only is it all these business dealings and not only is it the hush money but it also end credence to the collusion investigation.
TAPPER: Just to put a point CNN has not confirmed that report. And in fact, we were told in 2017 that the Michael Cohen that went to Prague that one day which is not to say a different Michael Cohen on a different day but that was not the same Michael Cohen.
I take your point McClatchy is reporting that.
Let me ask you. President Trump tweeting about Cohen writing -- quote -- "Attorney Client privilege is now a thing of the past. I have many -- too many lawyers and they are probably wondering when their offices, and even homes are going to be raided with everything, including their phones and computers taken. All lawyers are deflated and concerned."
You're somebody who cares a lot about civil liberties. Does this raid on Michael Cohen's office, home, hotel, his safe deposit boxes, his electronic items, does this concern you at all?
NINA TURNER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: A little and maybe, I mean, if there is something really there, you know, then we'll -- that remains to be seen. But certainly throughout the history of this country especially when it comes to African-American folks, Black Panthers, you know, Dr. King, Malcolm X, other civil rights freedom fighters you can see that sometimes the government can go too far in its effort and be skewed one way.
Now that's not to say that the Cohen incident is parallel to that. But as American citizens we should have some concern for how this goes even if it is against somebody we don't like. It's not about like or dislike. It is about how we operate as a government.
TAPPER: In fact when James Comey was FBI director he used to keep on his desk a letter sent by the FBI surreptitiously --
TAPPER: -- telling Martin Luther King, Dr. King --
TURNER: That's right.
TAPPER: -- to commit suicide --
TURNER: That's right.
TAPPER: -- and he left it there to remind himself of the abuses.
TURNER: That's right. They wired -- you know, you're talking about taking down statues. I mean, to have a building named after Hoover for God's sake, J. Edgar Hoover, you know, we should think about that as a country.
GRANHOLM: But then on the other -- the flip side of that, of course, is that you now have a president who is disparaging law enforcement at the highest level.
This attack against Comey and the attack against Rosenstein is an attack against Mueller. And he's trying to conflate it all.
And, you know, Comey in his book I mean, believe me I certainly had issues with how he handled the Hillary Clinton thing. That was a difference of opinion.
I'm not saying that he liked. I'm saying that it was -- it was totally inappropriate to release all that information while there is also an investigation going on into Trump and none of that came out during the election.
TURNER: We can talk about both of those things.
GRANHOLM: No. We can't -- we can talk about that. My point about that is just saying that Comey even in his book, so it's a really important thing which is that those who are standing by and allowing this president to attack someone like Bob Mueller are really accomplices and he is really referring I think to the people like the Republicans in Congress who are allowing this to happen. TAPPER: Let's -- while you are talking about Sarah -- about the White House and the president attacking Comey let's take a listen to what I think under any circumstances was an unusual attack from the White House podium against the former FBI director by Sarah Sanders this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The American people see right through the blatant lies of a self-admitted leaker. This is nothing more than poorly executed PR stunt by Comey to desperately rehabilitate his tattered reputation and enrich his own bank account by pedaling a book that belongs in the bargain bin of the fiction section. One of the president's greatest achievements will go down as firing director James Comey.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: What do you think?
SANTORUM: I tend to agree with everything she said.
TAPPER: Appropriate to be --
SANTORUM: I don't -- I agree with everything she said. I'm not sure it should be said from the White House press room.
But, look, I think everything she said is substantively correct. I mean, this is a -- this is a book of someone who provided no light at all from everything we -- all the excerpts that we've heard. No lighted to anything that actually happened This is a man who is a narcissist. Who has gone out to -- who has gone out to try to attack this president.
I mean -- I saw your previous clip where he was talking about, I don't know whether he really did this thing with the --
SANTORUM: -- with the folks -- I mean, this is just salacious and all designed to undermine this president who he has obviously a bone to pick with. This is undermining -- you want to talk about undermining FBI, James Comey tell all and frankly tell nothing book does more to undermine the FBI than --
TAPPER: Governor --
GRANHOLM: Sixteen percent of America -- excuse me, there are 16 percent more Americans believe Comey than the president.
So we'll see how it comes out. You and I have not read the book because it is not out yet. And believe me I am not -- I can hold two things in my mind at once which is not to agree with Comey on how he handled the Hillary Clinton e-mails.
But also to say, this man has given his life in service and nobody other than this president has been calling -- and his followers have been calling him a liar and a slime ball.
SANTORUM: Hillary Clinton e-mail was not the only problem that James Comey had. This is a serial -- this is a serial problem, guys.
TAPPER: Do you take issue with what Sarah Sanders said, what Senator Santorum says??
KRISTOL: No. (INAUDIBLE) take issue from the White House. I mean, if the RNC wants to put a web page because they have been attacking James Comey in pretty astonishingly sort of pushing old nasty terms.
I suppose the RNC can do that (INAUDIBLE) the Republican National Committee used to think about that's how they want their money spent instead of how the congressional and senate candidates throughout the country.
But, look, I think it's not about Comey. Honestly, at this point it really is about Mueller. And I think Republicans need to (INAUDIBLE) and say, let the investigation go forward. Do not mess around with the justice department.
TURNER: I thought President Trump's voice was going to come out of Sanders mouth at some point. I mean, that was a bit much to come from the president.
GRANHOLM: But -- (INAUDIBLE) Can we go back to this? When you say most Republicans have stood up that is not true. Jeff Flake has stood up and there are a couple of others. Where is Paul Ryan?
KRISTOL: What's interesting though is --
KRISTOL: Some have begun in the last week or two. They're supposed to be to --
KRISTOL: And then maybe marking up this bill, a bipartisan bill this week. So let's see what happens. Majority of Republicans imposed what the Mueller investigation to be completed. Hopefully Republicans and members of Congress will listen to that.
GRANHOLM: Yes. They're (ph) (INAUDIBLE)
TAPPER: The president's favorite channel, FOX News a lot of their personalities have been attacking Comey, attacking Mueller. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Last but not least we have one other crime family we want to tell you about. Well, this is near and dear to Comey's heart. We'll call it The Comey Crime Family. He loves this analogy. Let's stay with it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he has really diminished the credibility of the FBI. He botched two investigations, the Hillary and the Trump investigation and he is now really muddying the waters with the Mueller investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANTORUM: Look, it has to be said that James Comey appointed Patrick Fitzgerald who was the man who Scooter Libby. So you can say this was about the Michael Cohen situation. It also might be about the James Comey situation that adds to the line of inappropriate activities of James Comey.
Patrick Fitzgerald with the Libby investigation I'm sure Bill will agree with was outrageous.
GRANHOLM: OK. Come on, Rick. Putting up a crime family --
SANTORUM: It shows the abuse of special prosecutor.
GRANHOLM: I mean -- but what you're suggesting --
SANTORUM: People. I'm nor depending Sean Hannity's crime family I'm just saying there is a connection between James Comey and Patrick Fitzgerald --
TAPPER: Well, Comey was deputy attorney general in the Bush administration and he appointed a special counsel to investigate.
SANTORUM: He did a horrible job --
SANTORUM: -- and a scandalous job in my opinion.
TAPPER: Patrick Fitzgerald we're talking about.
SANTORUM: Patrick Fitzgerald. I mean, he prosecuted a man he knew wasn't guilty of the crime that he was being prosecuted.
TAPPER: Last word.
GRANHOLM: I hope and I believe, Rick, that you are making a distinction here between Mueller, Rosenstein and Comey. Because, you know, what the president is doing is to pull them all together.
SANTORUM: I understand that. I understand that. TAPPER: Right. Another reminder I will sit down with the former FBI director James Comey for his first live interview that will be on "THE LEAD" Thursday at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. Don't miss it.
Everyone thank you so much for being here.
Don't touch that dial, Mr. President. Because everywhere you turn (INAUDIBLE) friendly (ph) Fox you might see arch nemesis.
That's the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoonion."
TAPPER: Welcome back. It's 6'8" former FBI director James Comey casts a pretty looming shadow that's especially true right now if you're President Trump and you're enjoying your favorite pass time, watching television and that's the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoonion.
TAPPER (voice-over): The president's favorite executive pass time is now filled with land mines.
COMEY: I honestly never thought these words would come out of my mouth.
TAPPER: Former FBI director James Comey is everywhere, talking about golden showers tapes and prostitutes.
COMEY: I don't know whether the current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013.
TAPPER: Weighing in on the president's marriage.
COMEY: He said, you know, if there's even a one percent chance my wife thinks that's true that's terrible.
TAPPER: And the 2016 election --
COMEY: It makes me mildly nauseous.
TAPPER: The president is boiling, calling Comey an untruthful slime ball.
TRUMP: Look at all the things he's done and the lies.
TAPPER: And the president is now trapped in a waking nightmare where no channel is safe, not QVC --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Call now to order that's three (ph) for $19.95. Call now. TAPPER: Not reality television. Not the NBA playoffs. Even the president's most trusted programs might be a risk.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said he would shake things up.
TRUMP: Look at Roseanne.
TAPPER: There will be no escape.
TRUMP: Oh, shut up.
TAPPER: The president says mission accomplished in Syria, does that sound as though troops might be coming home? Former secretary of state Ash Carter will weigh in, stick around.