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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Interview with Michael Caputo, Former Trump Campaign Aide, Says Mueller Team "Focused On Russia Collusion;" Giuliani: President Trump Repaid Cohen for $130,000 Stormy Daniels Hush Money. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired May 2, 2018 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Rudy Giuliani on Fox News. He also spoke with "The Wall Street Journal," calling the proposed Mueller- Trump sit-down, as "A BS interview that should never be taking place anyway."
With that as a buildup, we're joined now by former Trump campaign Aide, Michael Caputo. Michael, thanks for being with us. I'm sure it's been a long day. So based on your interview today, how much does Mueller's team know, do you think?
MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: Well, I think, the Mueller team knew more about what I did in 2016 than I knew myself. And I think they know more about the Trump campaign than anyone who ever worked there. These guys have got every single e-mail, anything that's ever gone down, and they're clearly focused on trying to identify some Russian collusion.
COOPER: So -- can I just ask, how long were you there?
CAPUTO: I was there three hours. I would compare it to a proctology appointment with a very large-handed doctor.
CAPUTO: It was an awful experience.
COOPER: And you had an attorney present. Does your attorney -- is your attorney able to jump in at times?
CAPUTO: Yes, he is. And he's a former New York attorney general, DennisVacco. He prepared me for this over the weekend. We've been working on it for a little while. We've known for about a week or so. You know, I'm a witness. That's what the AUSA who interviewed me today told me, I'm a witness, not a subject or a target. But it really doesn't matter. Once you get in that room, it's fraught with peril.
COOPER: So when you say they focused almost entirely on collusion, were there specific things that they were questioning you about? Specific days, memos, meetings?
CAPUTO: I don't really want to get into the specifics. I think that they'd be upset about that and it might be considered interference in the investigation. But I can tell you, as someone who left the campaign on June 20th and didn't return to the transition or the administration, they wouldn't be asking me about these allegations of obstruction and they wouldn't be asking me about allegations of financial crimes if some of the other people that they've indicted. They only asked me about Russian collusion. It seemed to me very much that they're still focused on it. They talked about, you know, the WikiLeaks and the D.C. leaks and the Guccifer stuff. And they asked me about a bunch of my friends.
COOPER: Can I ask, were there specific people they were asking you about? Because I spoke to Sam Nunberg after he was interviewed by Mueller's team. He told me that many of the questions were focused on Roger Stone. I don't know if you can say, but was that the case in your interview as well?
CAPUTO: I'm not going took into account like Sam Nunberg today on television. I don't believe that the investigation would appreciate me going into the detail. But everything that were written in the paper, you know, what we talked about there, there are little -- there are some things that I hadn't heard before, but what they're focused on is what people are covering. And I don't think they're convinced yet that there's no Russian collusion, even though they've -- to my mind -- found no evidence. These were not -- this wasn't a polite encounter. They're very professional. They didn't treat my disrespectfully, but I don't think I'll be friending them on Facebook them tonight when I get off the air.
COOPER: So I just want to be clear on what you just said, you do not believe that they have ruled out the idea that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia?
CAPUTO: No, I don't think so at all. I think they're still focused on it. And, you know, I was with the Senate Intelligence Committee with their investigators on Tuesday and they were still fishing around. It reminded me of net fishing. They're just out there, throwing things out there, working if they can get something in. But if we're working with a fishing metaphor, I' say the Mueller team is spear fishing. I think they know where they're going. They're not asking a wide range of questions that seem to be unrelated. They know exactly what they're looking for and they had e-mails backing it up. And I don't think that they ask any questions they don't already know the answer to. Thank goodness I watch a lot of cop TV.
COOPER: Well, that was actually my next question. So, you believe they knew the answers to the questions that they were asking? This was not, as you said, net fishing?
CAPUTO: No, it was not, it was spear fishing. I don't recall in that whole three-hour period where they asked a question that they did not already know the answer to. I think they wanted me on the record to confirm what they believed. You know, when you look back, you know, this is tiring stuff, Anderson.
You know, people say it's so easy, just go ahead and tell the truth. I get that. But when you're sitting there in front of people who are there to kind of jam you up, you know you've got to tell the truth, but you think about every word as it comes out of your mouth.
And you know, you're there, focused on telling the truth, making sure you remember every moment of the episode that you're recalling and it's exhausting. And in fact, you know, some of the times, I stumbled and they corrected me. They knew more about my schedule on the Trump campaign than I did.
COOPER: Again, I know I'm asking some questions that maybe you can't answer, but I've got to ask them anyway. You talked about their -- you know, that you believe that they still looking at collusion. Do you believe that they associate that with President Trump himself, were there questions related to him personally and possible collusion?
[21:05:06] CAPUTO: It's interesting. You know, I was asked after the interview if they talked to me about Donald Trump, and I don't recall them asking me anything specific about the President of the United States. His name came up in the context of another question when someone would -- you know, when was a meeting with the President, et cetera, et cetera, but they never asked me specific questions about the President.
And frankly, Anderson, they never asked me questions about anyone with the last name "Trump." And that included Jared Kushner. They never really asked me about him, either. So I think they're narrowing it down.
COOPER: Mueller recently provided information to the southern district of New York that led to that raid obviously on Michael Cohen's office. Were there any questions about Cohen?
CAPUTO: Yes. Michael Cohen's a friend of mine. I expected questions about him. It didn't seem like they were honing in on him very much. I would say of all the people that I spoke to them about, he was one of the ones that I spoke the least about. But, you know, listen, anybody whose name is in the mouth of the Mueller investigation is in peril, I think. These folks are really focused on bringing somebody in.
COOPER: When you're sitting there, how many people are sitting -- I assume they're sitting across from you. How many attorneys are sitting across from you from Mueller's team and is Mueller there himself?
CAPUTO: Uh, no, Mueller is not there, and the people that were there, I hadn't heard their names before, two FBI agents, an assistant U.S. attorney. They were very busily rifling through papers as they asked me questions. It was very directed, very planned, very professional. They weren't kind, but they were polite. And they allowed me breaks to talk to my attorney. I found it an interesting experience, but not one I ever really want to go through again.
COOPER: In -- we had quoted you in the last hour as saying, a quote you had given, which you've repeated already tonight, saying that they knew more about the campaign than anybody who worked on the campaign. Quoted that to Jim Schultz, the former counsel for the Trump White House in our last hour, and he said that you were on the campaign, for his words, a hot minute. I don't think he meant it in an offensive way. And that it's hard to know how much you knew about the campaign, so he wasn't clear if you could say that what they knew was more than what anybody else on the campaign knew.
So let me just ask you, how much did you know about the campaign to inform your answer that the Mueller team knew more about the campaign than anybody who worked on the campaign?
CAPUTO: I wasn't there from the beginning to the end, if you look at people like Hope Hicks, who was there from the genetic code of the campaign. But I was New York state primary director from November 2015 until we won in April 2016. And then I was brought into Trump Tower as a senior adviser to the President, from that point forward, I resigned from my position at the convention a little bit later on June 20th. That's not a hot minute, but it's probably a hot five minutes.
You know, and I understand what he's saying. You know, you're sitting there on the fifth floor of the Trump Tower, siloed into your communications position like I was, you're not going to know everything that goes on. But I can tell you that these guys know everything. They clearly have all the documents, all the e-mails, and they're ready to rock.
COOPER: Can I ask you, you talk about documents, you talk about e- mails. Could they -- and again, you may not be able to answer this. Can they quote specific conversations that were not on e-mail? For instance, conversations that other people may have told them about or there may have been some sort of recordings of?
CAPUTO: They didn't quote anybody to me. But, it was -- you know, I was kind of -- you know, for example, they have texts, not just e- mails. I believe quite a bit of those. They have spreadsheets full of information that I'm sure they have on every person that they're going to interview. These are very, very thorough and professional interviews. It feels more like an interrogation than an interview. And it's not always kind and happy and smiles. Partway through the process, it got very difficult. This is -- like I told you, this was a proctology appointment and I really don't want to do that very often.
COOPER: And you talk about, they conducted themselves, they weren't kind, but they were professional. Did it seem like there was any kind of a strategy that they used in talking to you? You know, I mean, you talked about watching cop shows, good cop/bad cop, befriending you, however it might be?
CAPUTO: Yes, I think it was three bad cops. But, actually, no, with you know, it's interesting, because they. Didn't -- there's a stakeout where the media is all day, and they asked us to pick us up at a hotel nearby and drive us in through a private entrance. And then when it was time to leave, they asked me to go ahead and get in the car and drive out that way, as well.
And they're very focused on their own security there. They don't want somebody going to the stakeout downstairs, for example, with a backdrop of the building that they're in. And I don't think, really, anybody has ever done that, any of the people who have been interviewed there. It's, you know, listen, it's a very nondescript, very ugly government office with a bunch of locks on the door. The furniture is all second or third-hand. They're all business over there. And they're not looking for any luxury.
[21:10:05] And I'll tell you, from my experience, you know, the people who were in the room with me, it was kind of moving from, you know, a kind and focused interview to, you know, kind of a challenging, what you talking about thing. And it went back and forth. And you know, my attorney, afterwards, was kind of like, how'd I do? Because I'm not used to this. You know, Anderson, I like to talk, you know? And your attorney wants you to just give yes or no answers. He said, how'd I do? And I think he really wanted to put a sock in my mouth at some point.
COOPER: Do you know if they're going to want to speak to you again? Did they say?
CAPUTO: They did not mention the grand jury. I would be shocked if they didn't put me in front of the grand jury, because I might be called as a defense witness, depending upon who they end up trying to indict. They would want to get me locked in on my testimony, so they have nothing to be surprised about. But they didn't mention the grand jury. They did mention that if they come up with something else, would I be willing to come back in again? And, you know, well, I'm not happy about this, and this has cost me $125,000 in legal fees and my family doesn't have that money. The threats keep coming in to my family. My wife got a piece of a sniper rifle in the mail last month.
You know, this is really crushing my children. This whole thing is just an awful experience. And I really don't like the Senate and the House investigations. I think they're purely political. I think they're coordinated. I think the Democrats on the Senate intelligence committee, especially, are still working with the dossier and trying to prove it.
And you know, I told them that yesterday. I told them very clearly that I thought that the investigators need to be investigated. But I want to say that if the Mueller team calls me in again, it's kind of my duty as an American who enjoys the freedoms of this country to respond positively to that kind of an interview.
We have responsibilities here. I don't like the investigation. I would like it to end. I don't want the President to fire Mueller. But I really want this whole episode to be over.
COOPER: You know when you -- you mentioned the money that this has cost, $125,000 so far, I assume that also includes the house testimony and stuff. I don't think a lot of people realize just how financially draining this can be on you.
CAPUTO: It is. And you know, we've all heard about the guys, like me, who went through the investigation into Bill Clinton, the people like me who went through the investigations into Scooter Libby and others. You know, there are casualties like me in all of these investigations. I had heard about them, you know? I didn't really pay attention to that.
But we're going to lose our home, probably. We'll probably have to leave my hometown and move someplace where I can make more money in order to pay this off. Because, you know, the one thing I'll never do, Tucker -- Tucker? The one thing I'll never do -- Anderson, I'm really sorry about that.
COOPER: It's all right.
CAPUTO: Really tired.
COOPER: All right.
CAPUTO: The one thing I'll never do is stiff my attorneys on this, because I think they have been so helpful. And I'm going to pay every single cent of this off one way or another. I'm trying to raise money to do it. They say they have this patriot fund for people who supported the President who were caught up in this jackpot. I haven't heard a word from them. I have to come up with $125,000 somehow and I'm just not pretty enough to do it any other way than raise money.
COOPER: Now that you've had a little bit of time to reflect on the experience, do you think the President should be worried? About going to talk in front of them?
CAPUTO: You know, my advice on television for the last couple of months has been that the President should avoid that at all costs. I wouldn't -- even if they -- even if I didn't go through the interview today and I found out how well prepared they are and what they're looking at, I think the President shouldn't go anywhere near this. I think it's, in a lot of ways, a trap. I think the President is clear on potential Russian collusion. I think the campaign's in the clear. In the end, if they want to get the President, they're going to try to trip him up in an interview like this. And my advice, after being through it is stay away.
COOPER: So the President again, as you know today, called the investigation a witch hunt, which is now at least the 51st time he's done so since taking office. I wonder, based on what you saw today, based on what you heard today, do you think the investigation is, in fact, a witch hunt?
CAPUTO: Oh, you know, I -- I have a lot of respect for director Mueller. When this thing first started, I had some faith that it was going to be done fairly. I'm not so sanguine about it anymore. After they raided Paul Manafort, guns drawn, and pulled his wife out of bed in her night clothes after breaking into the apartment, after they raided the President's attorney and some of the other things they've done in this investigation, you know, I'm not so optimistic that it's going to be fair.
Is it a witch hunt? I don't think I would really want to go there, because I really do respect the special counsel process. I wish it hadn't happened. I wish they hadn't called it. But I think if they fire Mueller, I think it's going to be the end of this presidency. [21:14:57] COOPER: But in terms of the actual interview, you didn't feel -- I don't want to put words in your mouth, because you said, you know, it wasn't kind, but it was professional. You didn't feel it was a witch hunt in the sense of, people yelling at you that you were seen in the force, you know, consorting with the devil? I mean, it's not -- it is a professional interview? With people who had information that they had been researching?
CAPUTO: That's true. No one yelled at me. There were some tense moments in there, but they knew exactly what they were asking me. All of the questions seemed to be directed on a factual basis towards some kind of conclusion they're trying to reach.
Nothing they were asking me seemed, you know, completely outrageous. But I know, I'm very confident that there was no Russian collusion. I'm very confident that the President is in the clear here. I think in the end, they're going to find the holes they're digging to be empty. But they are digging and they're going to continue to dig.
COOPER: Michael Caputo, again I know it's been a long day. I appreciate you talking to us and I hope you, I don't know, have a glass of wine or a cocktail or something.
CAPUTO: Bourbon, Anderson.
COOPER: Bourbon, that's right. I kind of guessed that, actually. Michael, thank you very much.
Our legal panel joins us next with their take on all of this, especially the question of collusion.
Also still ahead in this hour, it's not just the fraudulent doctor's report on the President's glowing good health, which we now know he dictated to his doctor, Presidential truth lies in consequences, if any, of repeated falsehoods from the President of the United States. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Before the break, I spoke with former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo about his meeting with the special counsel team today. I just want to play some of what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAPUTO: I was in the Senate Intelligence Committee with their investigators on Tuesday and they were still fishing around. It reminded me, you know, of net fishing. They're just out there, throwing things out there, hoping they can get something in. But if we're working with a fishing metaphor, I would say the Mueller team is spearfishing. I think they believe they know where they're going. They're not asking a wide range of questions. It seemed to be, you know, unrelated.
[21:20:15] They know exactly what they're looking for. And they have e-mails backing it up. And I don't think that they ask any questions they don't already know the answer to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: He also said that given what he went through, he would not suggest the President sit for an interview with the Mueller team. He said the Mueller investigation is clearly looking into collusion. He said they did not ask about anyone named Trump, that and a lot more.
The legal panel joins me now. Norm Eisen, Jim Schultz, and Sol Wisenberg.
Ambassador Eisen, you now hear this fuller description from Michael Caputo of his experience with the team. What jumps out at you?
NORMAN EISEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the intensity of sitting there and having to answer questions, Anderson, from experienced prosecutors who know more than you do. Imagine what that's going to be like if President Trump has to subject himself to an even more intense version of that. I don't see that happening, having advised defendants for decades, no way should Trump -- I have to agree with Michael -- it just doesn't make sense for Trump, if he tells the truth, he risks incriminates himself on obstruction or collusion. If he lies, it's perjury or false statements. If he takes the fifth, how can you have a President who takes the Fifth Amendment?
So the more likely course is to do battle with this. I don't think the President is going to put himself through a longer, harder version of what Michael described.
COOPER: Sol, I mean, it's interesting listening to Michael k Caputo, who's so struck by the intensity of a voluntary interview. How does that signal how the special counsel's team would handle those who refused to speak voluntarily, those who might be subpoenaed to testify, for instance, before a grand jury?
SOLOMON WISENBERG, FORMER PROSECUTOR: I don't think it speaks to that at all. You've got the a-team here. Nobody has ever denied that Mueller's got an absolutely crack team, brilliant, very hard-working. I would expect nothing less from there, especially since they've been at it for about a year now. But I don't believe they would be any harsher with somebody who said, you know, send me to the grand jury. I'll answer questions in that context.
COOPER: But didn't you say in the last hour, you know, that it's a question of how a prosecutor handles a subject, whether they're a cooperating witness or a hostile witness, right?
WISENBERG: Well, it's both -- yes, it's whether you think you're being lied to, as well. If you think you've got somebody who's going to come in and lie to you, that's going to change how you do the questioning. You're much more likely to confront them and engage in something like a cross-examination.
You know, I don't think that all the stuff I've heard about President Trump doing such a bad jobs in depositions and being difficult to be prepared and being undisciplined, I don't really buy that. I've seen some more recent depositions, video depositions he's done, where he's done very, very well. That's not the problem. The problem is, as others have pointed out, he does not have any idea of the depth of what Mueller knows.
WISENBERG: It's not like President Clinton, when he came in to be questioned by us, they knew just about everything we knew. And you can tell from your guest, Mr. Caputo, the Mueller people have this encyclopedic knowledge. There's just too much that the President would be in the dark about.
COOPER: Jim, you sort of were wondering, you know, when I told you that Michael Caputo had said that the Mueller team seemed to know more about the campaign than anybody who worked on the campaign, you had raised questions about, well, how much does Michael Caputo know about the campaign. I'm wondering, after you hear his description, what do you make of what you hear?
JAMES SCHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: He said he was locked in a room and didn't know a whole lot about what was going on in the campaign and he wasn't there for a hot minute, he was there for five minutes.
Look, you did a great job trying to get some news out of this. I just don't know that there was any news to be had on this, Anderson. So we know that Mueller has a tough team of prosecutors and a skilled group of prosecutors and investigators. We've known that all along. We know that they probably -- that they have e-mails. We know that they've interviewed witnesses. We know that they have text messages and documents. And all of that was just repeated here tonight. And I just don't know where the news is, what the new information is.
And he really didn't back up his bases, to say they're spearfishing. In fact, he turned around and said, I think the President and the campaign are probably in the clear, if he got it right. And then he said in the same sentence, well, they're ready to rock. I'm not sure what that means, either.
COOPER: Well, I think he believes that the campaign, that the President has done nothing wrong, but that -- I mean, he said that the Mueller team doesn't seem convinced yet that there was not collusion there.
Ambassador, I mean, the prospect of the President taking action against the Department of Justice, get involved to use the President's own words on Twitter today. I mean, he could, in theory, replace Rod Rosenstein with someone who then gives -- I mean, Republican allies on the Hill everything they want to know about Mueller's case, which I guess would fly in the face of the Department of Justice tradition. Could that happen?
[21:25:14] EISEN: Well, Anderson, I think things have probably gone a little too far for the President to shut them down. I agreed with Michael's insight that firing Mueller would signal the eventual end of this presidency. I think the same will be true if he goes after Rosenstein. This is -- would be another obstructive act, Anderson! This is how President Trump got in this mess, by firing Comey.
Now if he does it with Rosenstein, it's another nail in his coffin. I think that will cross a red line. So, out of self-preservation, I doubt it.
SCHULTZ: Norm, norm --
WISENBERG: That is not an obstructive act. That's ridiculous.
COOPER: All right, Sol, go ahead.
WISENBERG: I agree with you the obstructive act, too.
Well, it's not -- look, it doesn't come close to obstruction of justice. I don't think he should fire Rod Rosenstein. It doesn't come close to obstruction of justice to fire somebody that you have the right to fire.
One thing they're not really thinking of, when we talk about firing Rosenstein, first of all, it's not going to hurt him. He'll wear it as a badge of honor. The President tends to ennoble the people who he fires. But, you know, he who says, A, must say B. There's going to be someone who replaces Rod Rosenstein. And don't think it will be that easy to find a lawyer who wants that to be in his tombstone or in his obituary when he dies, I'm the guy who fired Bob Mueller. It's not going to be that easy, I don't think, to get somebody in this town to go in and do that.
COOPER: Jim, do you believe this idea that Rudy Giuliani is going to be successful in negotiating a two or three-hour maximum interview with the Mueller team? I mean Jeff Toobin said last hour that a time limit is reasonable for a sitting President. Do you think two to three hours would be enough?
SCHULTZ: I think it is a reasonable amount of time, the two to three- hour timeframe. And I think he has a very good chance of negotiating it. He has a lot of credibility with Mueller. They go way back. And I think Rudy Giuliani is just the person to handle both the public -- this public aspect to this, as outside counsel, and to counsel the President with capability along with flood. I think the two of them are going to be a very good team and hopefully they can get through to the President because that's the most important part of their job.
COOPER: Jim SHULTZ, Sol Wisenberg, Ambassador Norm Eisen, thank you very much. We're going to got to get a break in.
Coming up next, more on the dimensions beyond the law books or the grand jury room, our political panel joins us next.
[21:30:49] COOPER: More now on my conversation with former Trump Campaign Aide, Michael Caputo, who was interviewed today by the Mueller team. He pulled back the curtain for us on what the special counsel appears to be interested in, what he's pursuing, and the focus that his team appears to have. He also said that one key name never came out during his questioning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAPUTO: It's interesting, you know, I was asked after the interview if they talked to me about Donald Trump. And I don't recall them asking me anything specific about the President of the United States. His name came up in the context of another question, when someone would -- you know, when was a meeting with the President, et cetera, et cetera. But they never asked me specific questions about the President. And frankly, Anderson, they never asked me questions about anyone with the last name "Trump."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I want to get reaction now from our political panel. Joining me tonight is Ryan Lizza, Jennifer Rodgers, Rich Lowry, Kirsten Powers, Stephen Moore, and Christine Quinn.
Ryan, I know you spoke to Ty Cobb today. I want to get to that but first, what do you make of what Michael Caputo, how he describes his experience in front of the panel?
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I thought it was interesting he didn't hear the word "Trump" thrown around a lot. He didn't want to go into the details about the names that he did hear, but he talked about how his friends were mentioned.
And the one person that has not had an interview like this as far as I know is Roger Stone. And the later, correct me if I'm wrong, the later you are interviewed in one of these things, I think the more likely, you're more likely to be the subject of the investigation.
COOPER: And Sam Nunberg had said that Roger Stone came up a lot.
LIZZA: Yes. He did talk about Guccifer. He talked about the WikiLeaks. He talked about the entities that were responsible for the hacking and dumping of the e-mails. So it sounds like that was very much what they were focusing on in Caputo's interview.
COOPER: Jennifer, it's interesting to hear Michael say that in his opinion that the Mueller team knows more about the Trump campaign than anybody who worked on the Trump campaign. What does that tell you about the depth of their knowledge?
JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTORS: Well, that's what we've known all along. It's a very serious team. It's a top-notch team. They've done their homework. They've gathered millions, according to Trump, documents from the White House and from other places. So I'm not at all surprised to hear that they know what they're doing and they've done exhaustive research before talking to everyone. That's exactly what will happen if they ever sit down with the President.
COOPER: It's also, I mean, common that they know the answers to the questions that they're asking. That this is not actually asking to get new information, they have documentation, they're basically, what, looking for somebody to lie?
RODGERS: Well, not necessarily. It depends. I mean they talk to a bunch of people. So if they've talked to two out of the three people in the room on a particular issue, they pretty much know what happened. But here's the third guy. Maybe he tells them something different and then they're concerned about it and have to figure it out, maybe it's more confirmation, maybe he knows some other detail. So, you know, they often know the answers and they think they do but, you know, they're still trying to dig some more out of each person they talk to.
COOPER: Rich, I'm wondering what stood out to you? Anything?
RICH LOWRY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, not much, really. He wasn't really a key player. I don't think he's central to any conspiracy involving Russia. I have to say, the release of these questions, if they are an accurate thrust of this investigation are kind of galvanizing for me.
COOPER: In what way?
LOWRY: The idea that a subordinate executive branch official is going to ask the President of the United States what he was thinking when he made a statement in an interview on a TV station strikes me as absurd. And obstruction of justice is not going to be a chargeable offense unless Robert Mueller violates Justice Department guidance on this, which would be a firing offense. So what he's basically doing is setting up a potential impeachment inquiry, eventually in the House.
So what you have is in effect the lead investigative agent for a prospective impeachment inquiry working in the executive branch. This is not how the system is supposed to work. They should not be cooperating with this.
COOPER: We don't know those are Mueller's questions.
LOWRY: And they should be much aggressive than they had been, which I'm glad they're going to take that --
COOPER: Right. We don't know those are Mueller's questions. The reporting is that it's Jay Sekulow writing those down and sort of coming out --
LOWRY: Right, that Mueller said what he was interesting in, mentioned topics and various sub-categories within those topics and he wrote down these questions. But this thing, Rod Rosenstein has mishandled this. He -- from the beginning, the regulations say, you mention the specific crimes that are going to be investigated.
[21:35:03] And in his original charge to Mueller, he didn't mention any crimes. It was a wide-ranging charge, mission he gave to Mueller and it immediately morphed into something else and something that no one --
COOPER: Kirsten, I don't know if Michael Caputo was trying to send a message to President Trump tonight, but it is interesting, basically, his advice is saying, in support of the President is, look, based on what I saw today, don't go in there.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Don't do it. I mean, I don't know why else he would be doing this. What was the point of that interview if it wasn't to send a message to the President and everybody knows the best way to reach the President is through television, right? So he was clearly saying, these people really know what they're doing. They're ready to nail you. Don't come.
STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMICS ANALYST: He doesn't have to go on TV to do that. He could just call --
POWERS: Well, it turns out actually most people who work for him say that that is how he gets most of his information and listens to it. But I guess I'm not following your argument, Rich, though because if you don't ask Trump what he was thinking, I don't understand how you know what the intent was?
LOWRY: The intent for what? What's been obstructed? The reason -- one of the reasons they know so much --
POWERS: An investigation into collusion.
LOWRY: -- is because the White House has cooperated. Obstruction of justice is not collusion. It's an entirely different matters --
POWERS: No, no, no, but the point is, why would he want to obstruct that? Right? It's connected --
LOWRY: What has been obstructed? Tell me, please, what has been obstructed.
POWERS: The investigation --
LOWRY: How so?
POWERS: Well, the firing of Comey --
LOWRY: What happened? What happened? So Comey was fired and the investigation stopped?
POWERS: Then why did he fire him?
LOWRY: But did it stop? Tell me, what was obstructed?
POWERS: It doesn't have to actually --
CHRISTINE QUINN, CEO, WIN: His intent --
LOWRY: What was obstructed? No, with it doesn't. If nothing was obstructed?
QUINN: Then why did he do it?
LOWRY: Then you're in this game where you're a subjective interpretation of the President's motives. That's a political question. That's not a legal question. That's a question ultimately for an impeachment inquiry. It's not for an indictment. And he can't indict him if he's going to follow justice department --
POWERS: -- firing the person that's dong the investigation is obstructing?
LOWRY: What he said --
COOPER: We've got to get a break in, actually.
LOWRY: What he said is that he was angry, that there was no to this investigation. And Comey's memos testify to the fact that he was upset that Comey would not --
COOPER: OK, I've got to get a break in. Hold on. We'll continue this conversation in just a moment. We'll be right back.
[21:40:58] COOPER: We're talking about -- before the break about obstruction of justice, what it means to our panel members. Not that they'd ever do it themselves or anything like that.
Just, Stephen, I mean do you think if the President -- do you see any scenario by which the President avoids being subpoenaed? I mean, if he refuses to go voluntarily?
MOORE: So I was a senior adviser to the campaign. I have not been asked any questions by Mueller. I don't know if there's any Russian collusion, thankfully, by the way, given what Caputo just said.
Look, my view of this is that the big, significant event was when the House report Republicans came out and said there's no collusion here, because it makes this now look more like a partisan attack against Trump and the administration. And I talked to more and more people who believe that -- I don't know the details of this case the way that you all do.
But when I talk to real people on the street, they believe that it's become a way to just kind of paralyze this President. You know, we're not talking about Korea, we're not talking about China, we're not talking about jobs and the economy. We're talking about Russia night after night after night.
And, you know, one of the things I've said on your show many times, Anderson, is, this has to be fenced in. It has to be about what the original investigation was about, which is Russia. So I was glad to hear that Caputo said that that's what they asked him about.
The other thing is, I keep saying that Trump -- I think he should not fire Mueller, but he should certainly start to require that they put some of their cards on the table. Because, you know, if they have all of this information about the alleged collusion, let's see it?
COOPER: Christine, do you think he goes -- gets subpoenaed? QUINN: If he doesn't cooperate, absolutely, I think he gets subpoenaed. There's no question in my mind that Mueller is not going to move forward without bringing the President in for questioning. He's in a stronger hand probably if he comes in voluntarily and they work something out, so it is a shorter period of time or over a appropriate number of days. But I just want to say, the release of the house Republicans' report was an insignificant moment --
MOORE: I don't think so.
QUINN: No, no, no. You talked -- in the same way that when the Democrats come out with their report, it will be an insignificant moment.
MOORE: Let me explain --
QUINN: No, not yet.
COOPER: Let her finish. Let her finish.
QUINN: So look, the Republicans are basically it's like a little boy in the cookie jar and then issue a report that they were not the little boy in the cookie jar. They send a report saying there was no collusion in relation to the President whose water they carry 24 hours a day. It was a zero in this effort.
MOORE: It's important politically because the only way this is going --
QUINN: Because they want to kiss more tuchas, yes.
MOORE: Look, the reason that Nixon was (inaudible) the Republicans turned out. I mean, that's my point, is that Republicans aren't turning out in prompt on this. They say there's no collusion. It's hard for me to see that Trump is in great jeopardy if this is only Democrats --
COOPER: So Jennifer, just from a legal standpoint, do you see any scenario by which the President refuses to go voluntarily and does not get subpoenaed?
RODGERS: The only thing would be if Mueller really doesn't need it. If he just kind of was pushing the interview just to kind of wrap things up that aren't that significant or he just wanted to make everyone know that he was happy to hear the President's side of things. But already has all the information he needs. Then I could see him just not pursuing the subpoena, because the subpoena, I think, will take a lot of litigation. But otherwise, I agree. He's going to go with that subpoena. He's going to see it through the court. And I think he will win there. And we'll see the President and the grand jury.
COOPER: Ryan, you talked to Ty Cobb today?
COOPER: What did he --
LIZZA: Well, he said the same thing he said to a lot of others, you know, on the record, just appreciates serving the President and had a lot of nice things to say about Emmet Flood, his replacement.
Look, this was not a guy who was a pro-Trump person who went into the White House. I don't know if people know this, but Ty Cobb didn't vote for Donald Trump.
And I think his view was that he was there to facilitate the interview, facilitate document production, right, and they are really in this different phase now. And he was a defense attorney without a lot of experience in defending the institution of the presidency, right?
[21:45:01] The new gentlemen that they have in here, Emmet Flood, much of his background is all about working in the White House counsel's office, working for Dick Cheney after Cheney left office, dealing with the tricky issues about the institution of the White House.
COOPER: Maggie Haberman, two months ago is reporting that Emmet Flood is going to be required and the President went after her, saying it's ridiculous, I'm very happy with all my attorneys, Dowd -- you know?
LIZZA: Not only did the President lie about that, but my understanding is, that the President recruited him.
COOPER: All right. We've got some breaking news. Rudy Giuliani has just said that President Trump repaid the Stormy Daniels loan his attorney made to her. We'll talk about that, next.
COOPER: Well, there's more breaking news tonight. Rudy Giuliani has just dropped something of a bombshell on that $130,000 payment to his attorney, Michael Cohen -- Michael Cohen supposedly took out a loan to pay Stormy Daniels. Listen to what Rudy Giuliani said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: That money was not campaign money. Sorry, I'm giving you a fact now that you don't know. It's not campaign money. No campaign finance violation.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: So they funneled it through the law firm?
GIULIANI: They funneled it through the law firm, and the President repaid it.
HANNITY: Oh, I didn't know -- he did?
HANNITY: There's no campaign finance law?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: CNN's Sara Sidner joins us now with more. So this is really the first time anybody from the President's team has said that the President actually repaid Michael Cohen the $130,000.
What Mr. Giuliani did not say is when that money was repaid, which sort of also gets to the question of, when did the President actually know about this payment and this hush agreement with Stormy Daniels? And we don't have the answer.
[21:50:13] SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's really -- we don't. And that's really, really important what you just pointed out Anderson. Exactly when all this happens because part of messing with campaign finances, part of messing with the election is that they would have done this before they would have this agreement that the President would pay him back if he, you know, dolled out the $130,000 in order to influence the election by making sure that Stormy Daniels, a porn star, did not come out and suddenly tell her story 11 days before the election. They signed this agreement to keel her quite.
This is a bombshell. This is huge because Michael Cohen in the past has said the exact opposite and I want to sort of read you some of what he has said in the past. He said, in a private transaction in 2016 that he used his own personal fund to facility a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford. And this is the important part, neither the Trump organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford and neither reimbursed me for the payment either directly or indirectly.
Now we heard that from him in February the 13th of year that have never been reimburse. We do know from a source that he was complaining about the fact that he had not been reimbursed, which then lead to the question, well, did Donald Trump know all that time that he was supposed to be paid back and that could be a problem, especially when it comes to the FEC filing.
COOPER: Sara, I want to bring in Norm Eisen, he is back. He is on the phone. He was President's Obama's ethics czar. Ambassador Eisen, what do you make of this?
EISEN (via telephone): Well, Anderson, its startling revelation. Clearly what Rudy is doing is getting all the bad news out in front. And this is some of the worst of it.
COOPER: Why is this significant?
EISEN: My watchdog group has filed a complaint; in fact, I think it was on your program that we first announced this. The President filed federal financial disclosures. He filed them under penalty, false statement penalty 18 USC 2001. He did not reveal he had a liability, a debt from Michael Cohen.
Now, it will depend on the timing issue. But potentially the President filed a false federal financial disclosure under criminal penalty. So, Rudy Giuliani may, depending on the timing, have just made his client's life a lot more difficult.
COOPER: But, wait a minute, so Ambassador Eisen, if the President, when he filed that did not know -- I mean if his story is that he did not know about the payment at that time, but later learned about it publicly when it -- you know when it broke in the news and then decided, oh, well my friend has paid -- is out for $130,000, then I'll repay him now, then is that OK?
EISEN: Well, Anderson, if that is the end of the story perhaps it's OK. There are obligations to inquire, but we have some reasons to believe that the President may have known. We know there have been reports that Cohen was trying to reach him, there's the implausibility of doing this kind of thing without advising your client. There's the drip, drip, drip nature of, you know, the constant revelation. The President's own low credibility according to "The Washington Post" 300,000 lies. So --
COOPER: Well, also the President's name on the nondisclosure -- I mean, David Dennison, an alias. But there was a line there, or for the President, Jennifer Rodgers, I see you sort of shaking or nodding your head. What do you make of this from a legal standpoint?
RODGERS: Well, I don't know exactly what's in the filing that Norm's referring to. So there could be undeclared for that but there is still a violation here, I think, because the violation is that there was a benefit to the campaign in the form of the hush, right, the silence of Stormy Daniels. That benefit was not disclosed. So, it doesn't really matter for that purpose who made it, who reimbursed whom, you know, it has to do with the President's potential liability --
COOPER: Which Michael Cohen has all along said, this has nothing to do with the campaign, I could have done this months ago, you're ago.
RODGERS: It doesn't matter because the law says if the campaign gets a benefit that benefit has been to be disclosed. And there's really very little question giving the timing of the hush payment that, that was for the purpose of benefiting the campaign.
So, that means there's a violation of election no matter who reimbursed whom. The question is whose on the hook for that? Is the treasury who signs the forms? It is the President himself that knew about it? Is it Cohen? And who is on the hook?
[21:55:02] QUINN: And that's part of the reason.
LIZZA: That is one argument I've heard that counters that is that Donald Trump has a long history we now know of entering into these hush money agreements. So if he is doing this all the time and when it's happened come right before his election could he argue -- you know, this is just -- have know, this is just will cost me doing business. I was protecting the Trump organization, I was protecting my family. It had nothing to do with the campaign. I've been doing these agreements going back a decade, that's a
argument that lawyers on the other side --
QUINN: Correct. It's hard to digest those. It was 11 days before, right? And you have this period --
LIZZA: But if he has a pattern of doing it for years?
QUINN: Yes, but it's hard to digest.
COOPER: But the counter argument to that is the involvement with Stormy Daniels, the allege involvement with Stormy Daniels. And we know we met her, you know she claims the sex happened in 2006.
LIZZA: So long ago.
COOPER: Why wouldn't he have done an NDA back then if in fact it was just one of his --
COOPER: -- oh, you know, this is the routine thing that he has done, that's the counter argument.
QUINN: The ambassador's point is an interesting one to add to the mix. There's clearly potential and real federal election law violations here of a significant nature. But if the timing of the payment and the timing of the President's knowledge of Cohen's payment was before and then the city you have to file your papers yearly, I assume it's same at the federal level. And you have to file all your debts, credit cards, mortgages, other people or whatever, and he few he had this debt and didn't file it. It may seem like a little thing but it's a very significant violence of the law to purposefully falsify those documents.
If he didn't know that's different but it's another legal question getting added to all of these legal questions about the President's behavior.
COOPER: It's also interesting that why would Giuliani reveal this now? What is the -- you know, I mean this was --
QUINN: It was going to come out.
COOPER: Right, well --
LOWRY: Or an existence of exculpatory obviously.
LIZZA: Yes. They've decided now that Cohen being Trump's lawyer on this issue which they previously denied, and Trump making these payments, which they legally denied --
LIZZA: That legally somehow that is better for them even though it's open this new thick of issues that Norm points out --
COOPER: The President did say on Fox & Friends, though he minimized Michael Cohen's legal. QUINN: Right.
COOPER: That he is mostly a businessman, we hand a little bit. He did say that Michael Cohen represents and represented him using both President and past tense in, you know, the Stormy Daniels issue.
LIZZA: It seems like legally they decided this being -- Trump being a party to this arrangement with Stormy Daniels, disclosing that is better legally for them than where they were previously.
QUINN: And there's another potential here that they really just to want to give Cohen the money back to make him less angry because they're afraid of what else he'll say or do.
COOPER: All right.
QUINN: And it's kind of another payoff.
COOPER: We got to leave it there, more reporting on this tonight, no doubt, thanks everybody. We'll be right back.
COOPER: And that's it for us. Thanks for watching. Time to hand it over to Don Lemon. "CNN TONIGHT" starts now. See you tomorrow.