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Former National Enquirer Executive On Cohen-Trump Tape; Migrant Mothers Beg For Their Children In Court; Trump's Push To Drill In Alaska Pits Neighbor Against Neighbor. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired July 25, 2018 - 07:30   ET



[07:31:25] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: CNN has exclusively been given a secret recording between Donald Trump and his lawyer that appears to confirm that President Trump knew about plans to squash a story about his alleged affair with a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal.

Here it is.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY TO DONALD TRUMP: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David, you know, so that -- I'm going to do that right away. I've actually come up with and I've spoken to --


COHEN: -- and I've spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with --

TRUMP: So what are we going to pay with?

COHEN: -- funding -- yes. And it's all the stuff -- all the stuff --

TRUMP: Yes, I'm thinking about that.

COHEN: -- because here, you never know where that company -- you never know what he's going to be --

TRUMP: And he gets it, right.

COHEN: Correct, so I'm all over that. And I spoke to Allen about it. When it comes time for the financing, which will be --

TRUMP: What financing?

COHEN: Well, I have to pay.

TRUMP: So, we'll pay with cash?

COHEN: Oh, no, no, no, no, no. I've got it. No, no, no. TRUMP: A check?


CAMEROTA: Here are the facts.

Karen McDougal was paid $150,000 by the owner of the "National Enquirer" for her story and that story was never published.

Joining us now us Stu Zakim. He's the former senior vice president of corporate communications at American Media, Inc. That is relevant because he knows what goes on behind the scenes at the "National Enquirer."

Stu, it is great to have you here --


CAMEROTA: -- to peel back the curtain for us this morning --

ZAKIM: Sure.

CAMEROTA: -- to explain all of this we've just heard.

When you listen to that recording between Michael Cohen and Donald Trump, what do you hear?

ZAKIM: I hear that they want to take care of a problem that exists and -- by getting it out of the -- out of the public eye. So they know that the story -- the deal has been made with AMI to buy out her story and it seems that they're willing to try and reimburse them for the payment they made to her.

CAMEROTA: Because they need to squash it, so it's called catch and kill.

ZAKIM: Well, catch --

CAMEROTA: So, you get to the story -- you get a really juicy story -- an incriminating story of some kind and then you pay to never run it.

ZAKIM: Absolutely.

CAMEROTA: Would the "National Enquirer" have accepted cash?

ZAKIM: I don't think that would have happened.

CAMEROTA: You think a check had to be cut?

ZAKIM: Well, I think a check wouldn't have been cut either because there's a paper trail, clearly, when there's a check.

CAMEROTA: Well then, how would that payment have been made? ZAKIM: I don't think the payment was ever made. In reality, Pecker would take care of Trump. You've got to understand the basis of the relationship that the two guys have.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but not for free, he wouldn't --

ZAKIM: Well, no because it's how the -- how the "Enquirer" has always done business. They are known for paying for sources.

So the fact that she had the story they wanted to catch and whether they killed it or not is not the issue. They took it off the marketplace so the story would have no life.

I believe -- once again, I don't work there any longer and I'm not on the inside of this story, but based on normal operations I don't think they would have accepted that kind of payment.


ZAKIM: What they got out of it was notoriety. What they got out of it was a story that, if published, could make them more money on the newsstand.

CAMEROTA: Right, but we know that Michael Cohen did make the payment. I mean, we know that he has said that he did make the payment.

ZAKIM: And he did.

CAMEROTA: That he paid it out of his own pocket. So obviously --


CAMEROTA: -- he did pay somebody --

ZAKIM: That was Stormy. You're mixing it up.

CAMEROTA: Oh, that's a good point.

ZAKIM: You're talking about Stormy.

CAMEROTA: OK, so -- but it's the same thing, right?

ZAKIM: It's amazing how we know these people by first names, huh?

CAMEROTA: Yes. But what you hear on this tape is a negotiation for $150,000. So if they're not paying the "National Enquirer," what's your theory?

ZAKIM: I think -- well, once again, I think, number one, it was an impulsive reaction by Trump which we know he does. What am I going to do? Let me just pay and get it -- make it disappear.

But I think because, once, again, the relationship that he and David Pecker have, that transaction wouldn't have happened. There's enough of give and take and win-win for both of them when they work collaboratively, I don't think the payment would have been necessary. [07:35:08] CAMEROTA: You don't think that David Pecker needed to be paid by Trump because again, what's in it for him?

ZAKIM: What's in it for him? Because of his relationship with Donald Trump, David Pecker is now one of the most important media people in this country -- in the world, actually. So, he, alongside of Rupert Murdoch, are now working to advance Trump's agenda.

So that's what's in it for him because when he does that he has access that no other media property has. He sells out in the newsstands, gets more eyeballs to his Web site, and you sell more ads.

CAMEROTA: Can you explain their relationship? What is the relationship between David Pecker and Donald Trump and what -- how did it start?

ZAKIM: It started in the eighties in New York City. I mean, magazines ruled the world -- and we've discussed this before -- and they were gods. And, David Pecker ran a publishing company called Hachette and they ran a bunch of magazines.

But the one that probably got Trump's attention was when he launched "George" with JFK, Jr. Here he was, you know -- maybe this should be for me? Look what's happening.

And so, I believe there was a lot of courtship. And you've got to remember what the eighties and nineties --

CAMEROTA: Donald Trump courting David Pecker.

ZAKIM: Sure, because for anybody -- in that time, he was a businessman, not a politician -- you want to have an alignment with a media head so that, once again, your side of the story -- you get what you want out there. And it's a real win-win for both of them.

CAMEROTA: Tell me what's going on inside the offices of the "National Enquirer" or AMI Media this morning in the conference room with David Pecker and his lieutenants. What are they planning to do about this tape?

ZAKIM: Well, I would imagine that they are coming up with cover story ideas for the various tabs that they publish. Now, you understand the portfolio of magazines and Web sites that are under the AMI umbrella. You imagine a newsstand. If you see the "Enquirer", "Star", "OK", "Us", "Life and Style" --

CAMEROTA: They publish all of those?

ZAKIM: All of these --


ZAKIM: -- with an image.

CAMEROTA: And what is that image going to be now?

ZAKIM: Well, it will be something not pleasant and probably a nice headline that will grab your attention.

CAMEROTA: Hold on. When you say not pleasant it will be -- it will be an attack on Michael Cohen?

ZAKIM: It will be an attack.

CAMEROTA: On Michael Cohen.

ZAKIM: Sure, and to take care of his credibility. To eradicate his credibility by -- to the base that read AMI's publications.

And so imagine, once again, you're walking by a newsstand in an airport or a train station -- every magazine you see has his image with some kind of headline. People don't have to pick up the magazine. That impression is made.

CAMEROTA: Because remember, this already did happen.


CAMEROTA: The "National Enquirer" did put Michael Cohen's face next to Donald Trump's and it says "Secrets & Lies!" And how did that magazine sell?

ZAKIM: It sold out. So, you know, once again, they all won.

CAMEROTA: Can anybody do this? Can anybody have this policy with the "National Enquirer"? Can Charlie Sheen or Lindsey Lohan pay enough money to David Pecker and squash a story?

ZAKIM: It's not those -- it's who his friends are.

So, once again, when you own a media property you own it for a couple of reasons. You want to make some money but you want to control and influence public opinion, and you want to take care of your friends.

So if I hear something bad about someone I know -- and once again, I have access to all these things that will influence how people think -- you betcha I'm going to take care of my friends.

CAMEROTA: Well, Stu Zakim, you have raised many interesting points so it sounds like you believe we need to hear another recording after that one to see if, in fact, the payment ever actually --


CAMEROTA: -- the transaction ever actually went through.

ZAKIM: That would make sense.

CAMEROTA: Stu, thank you very much for --

ZAKIM: Thank you for having me.

CAMEROTA: -- helping to peel back the curtain --

ZAKIM: Great.

CAMEROTA: -- on how it works there -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Interesting discussion. Thanks so much, Alisyn.

All right, a CNN exclusive. Mothers pleading in court to be reunited with their children. The heartbreaking story, next.


[07:42:23] BERMAN: CNN has obtained exclusive new audio of migrant parents whose children were taken from them at the Mexico border. In the recordings, you can hear their heartbreaking pleas to a judge to get their children back.

CNN's Nick Valencia joins us now with this exclusive report -- Nick.


This reporting is the result of a collaboration with my colleague in Washington, Tal Kopan, who has worked around the clock to cover this story.

The hearings are just two of thousands of similar proceedings regularly held across the country, but they are an indication of the struggles of parents who have been separated from their children for weeks or sometimes longer.

In both cases, Judge Robert Powell, at the Port Isabel Detention Center, found the women ineligible to stay in the United States.

Now, according to data maintained by the Syracuse University TRAC Immigration project, Judge Powell denies nearly 80 percent of asylum claims he hears, which is well above the national average but consistent with other judges at the same detention court.


VALENCIA (voice-over): At the Port Isabel Detention Center, the stakes couldn't be higher. An audio exclusively obtained by CNN -- the anguish of parents separated from their children -- pours out in immigration court.

ASYLUM SEEKER: I beg of you, please. Don't remove me from the country. Do it for me, for my son.

VALENCIA: The clips were recorded earlier this month at the ICE-run facility in Los Fresnos, Texas.



POWELL: And where is your child? ASYLUM SEEKER: I don't know. They told me he was here in Texas. I have no one else, just me. I'm begging.

VALENCIA (on camera): The audio was of two mothers at what are known as credible fear reviews. It's their last chance to prove that they have a reasonable fear of persecution or torture if returned to their home countries.

If parents like these fail, they may be faced with a heart-wrenching decision -- be deported as a family or leave their children behind.

ASYLUM SEEKER: I want to say that when I had the interview, I understand some of the questions. Others, I did not.

I was desperate because, at the beginning, they asked me about my son. I was separated from my son. My son remained back in an icebox, thrown on the floor.

I didn't know anything about him when I did the interview.

POWELL: What did you want to say that you weren't able to say?

ASYLUM SEEKER: To give me the opportunity, please, to stay in this country. I need to save my life and the life of my son.

VALENCIA (voice-over): The proceedings take just a few minutes, stunning in their brevity given the weight of the decision.

POWELL: All right, thank you. Having considered all of the evidence, the court finds you have not established a significant possibility that you could establish eligibility for asylum or withholding removal under the immigration laws of the United States.

The court hereby orders that the decision of the asylum officer is affirmed and your case is returned to the Department of Homeland Security for you to be removed from the United States.

[07:45:06] VALENCIA: In an audio from a second hearing, a detainee is so distraught over being separated from her son she can barely continue.

ASYLUM SEEKER: What I want is to be with my son.

VALENCIA: You don't have to speak Spanish to hear the pain in her voice.

POWELL: I understand that, ma'am. Is there anything you want to say regarding your case?

ASYLUM SEEKER: I cannot continue with this anymore. What I want is to be with my son.


VALENCIA: CNN has given the Department of Justice an opportunity to comment on this audio and at this time, they still have not provided any comment.

Meanwhile, we've learned that the government has deported potentially at least 463 parents without their children. The Feds have made no indication how they plan to reunite those parents with their kids by tomorrow's deadline -- John, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Well, it's unimaginable to have to imagine that you don't know where your child is and you don't when you'll be reunited and all of that stuff.

And just one more time, these are people who are not coming in illegally. There is a process to seek asylum. There has always been a process -- for decades now -- and that's what they were attempting to do. But this new zero tolerance policy, as enforced by the Trump administration, has changed that.

BERMAN: And you just listen to these human beings -- their pain inside that courtroom.

CAMEROTA: We will, of course, continue to follow that for all of you as these unifications are attempted.

Meanwhile, drilling in Alaska. Should it be ramped up? This question is dividing tribes in Alaska and we'll explain when Bill Weir tells us his story.


[07:50:41] CAMEROTA: There is an important provision to tell you about that was quietly slipped into President Trump's tax cut bill that has made drilling in Alaska's National Wildlife Refuge legal.

BERMAN: Now the issue is dividing small villages there, pitting neighbor against neighbor.

CNN's Bill Weir -- he went there. He went to ANWR. He joins us now with some just remarkable stories -- Bill.

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Republicans have been trying to crack open ANWR since Reagan, really. They see it as a sovereign right. Don't let the politicians tell us what we can do with our land. Drill, baby, drill.

But the reality is, is the Arctic is melting. It is warming up twice as fast as the rest of the planet.

So the question for those lawmakers is can you believe the man-made climate change and still call for drill, baby, drill in some of the most pristine wilderness left on earth?


WEIR (voice-over): In the little hamlet of Kaktovik, Alaska, the only village inside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, there are three topics of conversation most days -- polar bears, the weather, and Donald Trump. WEIR (on camera): Are you a fan of President Trump?

CHARLES LAMPE, KAKTOVIK RESIDENT: Yes, he does good things, you know, he does bad things. I'm grateful that he got that bill passed.

WEIR (voice-over): December's tax cut bill also opened the Arctic Refuge to drilling and the government is now moving fast to lease 800,000 acres on this pristine coastal plain. This is where the last great caribou herds give birth. A place brimming with life and beauty made all the more fragile by a staggering rise in Arctic temperature.

REPORTER, ITV, BRITAIN: Do you believe in climate change? Do you think it exists?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is a cooling and there's a heating. If the ice caps were going to melt they would have been gone by now, but now they're setting records.

WEIR: That is the exact opposite of the truth.

And this time-lapse of NASA satellite data clearly shows how the relentless burning of fossil fuels is melting the Arctic at a record pace, including the oldest, thickest ice seen here in white, which is why more and more emaciated Nanook are wandering into town. They need sea ice to make dams and hunt seals and without it, whale scraps are the next best thing.

WEIR (on camera): But skinny, hungry polar bears aren't the only warning sign up here. That is the Kaktovic airport and they're moving it away from the coast due, in part, to sea level rise. They're seeing more and more freakish rainstorms in the winter and blizzards in the summer.

But at the same time, all the modern creature comforts in this town, from the clinic to the school, were paid for with oil money. And with the promise of fresh millions for their native corporation, most of the folks here are eager to tap into the one product that is changing their land forever.

GLEN SOLOMON, KAKTOVIK RESIDENT: What do we use for whaling? We use gas and oil. What do we use to go hunt caribou? We use gas and oil. We have this right to develop on our own land.

WEIR (voice-over): A so-called scoping meeting with federal officials lays bare just how emotionally divisive the issue has become.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Think about what's going to happen to this land if there's an oil spill and the response that's going to come along with it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for that message. Can we ask where you are from?

WEIR: That loaded question and the tension in the room shows how much resentment there is for outsiders who want to protect the refuge. And to the Inupiaq here on the coast, those environmental rivals include the Gwich'in tribe up in the mountains, folks fiercely opposed to drilling.

FAITH GEMMILL, NEETSAII GWICH'IN TRIBAL MEMBER, ARCTIC VILLAGE: So they partner with the oil companies. We've told them our position. Like our culture, our spirituality, our traditional way of life is based on the caribou and we're not willing to give it up.

ROBERT THOMPSON, POLAR BEAR GUIDE, KAKTOVIK, ALASKA: I would say that they have the moral high ground there, kind of preserving their culture, and the people that are pro-oilers doing it for money.

WEIR: Back in Kaktovic, Robert Thompson is known as the local anti- drilling gadfly, a wildlife guide who carries a revolver just in case that skinny polar bear gets grouchy.

THOMPSON: This gun is more powerful than Dirty Harry's gun.

WEIR (on camera): Is that right?

WEIR (voice-over): He points out that the native-owned Arctic Slope Regional Corporation is worth billions thanks to royalties from other drilling sites. But that wealth does not trickle down and his neighbors here believe that tapping the refuge will finally bring the wealth and respect they deserve.

[07:55:08] WEIR (on camera): There are a lot of people in Chicago or Dallas or Iowa --


WEIR: -- who believe this is their land, too. It is a national wildlife refuge, like a national park.


WEIR: But then they don't want to keep it pure but --

LAMPE: They will never set foot here. I don't think it's right for them to be able to tell us what we can and cannot do with our own land. You know, we're the best stewards of our land.

WEIR (voice-over): That is the kind of local support pro-drilling lawmakers, like Lisa Murkowski, love to highlight. The senator is a driving force behind opening ANWR and she insists that wildlife won't be harmed.

Despite our numerous requests, she refused to be interviewed and one reason may be that unlike the president, she is one Republican who believes in man-made climate change but wants her state to keep drilling regardless.

FLORIAN SCHULZ, FILMMAKER, WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER: If this will happen here, it would just destroy the entire place. WEIR: Up in the refuge, photographer Florian Schulz is one outsider who has spent years here capturing the magic of this place. And he hopes everyone, including the good folks at Kaktovic, will take the long view.

SHULZ: I'm using resources, I'm driving a car, but I feel we need to think in new ways. We need to think in new technologies and stay with the value of keeping wild landscapes because once they're gone, they're gone.


CAMEROTA: Oh my god.

WEIR: It's worth pointing that the Inupiaq, the native Alaskans in that village, have been screwed over by the U.S. government for so long.

In the forties, the military came and moved their village. They took their children and submitted them to human testing. Put them in freezers because they thought they were genetically averse to cold.

And so finally, they get a chance to tap into exploiting their land a little bit and this fight is telling them they can't. So pain for the sins of the past in this debate.

BERMAN: You know, it's very personal. You have the debate here, you're going to have the debate on Capitol Hill. But for them --

WEIR: Yes.

BERMAN: -- this is their backyard.

WEIR: Exactly.

CAMEROTA: So who's going to decide?

WEIR: Well, it's going to come down to the courts, I'm sure. You know, big NGOs -- environmental NGOs will sue the government.

At the election, the midterms could sway this. There are already bills to pull that drilling provision back out and prohibit it again so the vote will matter, ultimately.

I think they took over a million public comments -- the Department of the Interior -- from all over. They won't say how many were pro or against.

BERMAN: If oil prices stay relatively low -- and you made this point yesterday -- will there be a huge profit or windfall from this?

WEIR: No, that's the thing. And, Murkowski is saying that we'll make billions for the federal government by leasing this but the supply and demand -- there is so much oil elsewhere. They discovered nine billion barrels just outside of the refuge but didn't tell anybody before the vote. CAMEROTA: Bill, you have laid out the debate for us perfectly. Thank you.

WEIR: Can I -- can I pimp If you go to we have this immersive interactive explainer that will help you understand the stakes.

BERMAN: And is that where we have the virtual reality of you wrestling the polar bear?

WEIR: That's why in the back, yes.

CAMEROTA: And by the way, wear mittens next time.

WEIR: OK, mom.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Bill.

BERMAN: All right. We have a lot of news this morning, to say the least, so let's get to it.


COHEN: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info.

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This tape is crystal clear when you listen to it. I've dealt with much worse tapes than this.

LANNY DAVIS, ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL COHEN: He's got truth on his side now and he intends to tell the truth.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: He's going to flip. There's no question. He's now made it clear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing on this tape suggests to me there's an illegal act.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Michael Cohen is very well aware that the gloves need to come off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a profound betrayal of his client walking around like he's wearing a wire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is certainly circumstantial evidence that Donald Trump knew about each of these payments.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

CAMEROTA: And good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, July 25th, 8:00 in the east.

We have a lot to talk about. We begin with breaking news for you and a CNN exclusive.

CNN has obtained a secret audio recording between then-candidate Donald Trump and his attorney, Michael Cohen. This is two months before the 2016 election.

The audio appears to confirm that Donald Trump did know of the effort to pay off and silence former Playboy model Karen McDougal and her story of their alleged affair.

So, here is a key part of that conversation.


COHEN: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David, you know, so that -- I'm going to do that right away. I've actually come up with and I've spoken to --


COHEN: -- and I've spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with --

TRUMP: So what are we going to pay with?

COHEN: -- funding -- yes. And it's all the stuff -- all the stuff --

TRUMP: Yes, I'm thinking about that.

COHEN: -- because here, you never know where that company -- you never know what he's going to be --

TRUMP: And he gets it, right.

COHEN: Correct, so I'm all over that. And I spoke to Allen --