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AT THIS HOUR

CNN: Cohen Agonized As Trump Ignored His Legal Crisis; CNN: Cohen Tape Leak Could Complicate His Legal Troubles; Soon: Trump Arrives In Midwest To Defend Tariffs; Bipartisan Bill Demands Details Of Trump-Putin Summit; Pro-Trump Reps Introduce Rosenstein Impeachment Bill. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired July 26, 2018 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:00:00]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: -- that and 40 is the new 20. Jim Kelly, I mean, I was so touched watching him at the Espys. He was amazing.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Awesome news.

HARLOW: Thanks, Andy. Thank you all for being with us today. I'm Poppy Harlow. "AT THIS HOUR" starts now.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello on this Thursday. I'm Ana Cabrera in for Kate Bolduan. We begin this hour with new details on the falling out between President Trump and Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney who once bragged he would take a bullet for his brash client.

CNN has learned that Cohen agonized for weeks as legal problems mounted. The White House very publicly froze him out. The split becoming ugly and undeniable really this week when Cohen provided CNN with a secret recording of a conversation he had with then-Candidate Trump.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the White House. M.J. Lee is in our Washington bureau. This is your reporting, guys, exclusively. I'm curious, M.J. We went from, "I'll take a bullet for this guy" to where we are today. When did this shift in loyalty from Cohen to Trump happen?

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, Ana, you are totally right. This is a man who really took pride in being Donald Trump's fixer for so many years. He was the guy that Donald Trump turned to, to clean up his mess, to take care of really anything that he wanted his lawyer to take care of.

His work for Donald Trump wasn't just in the legal arena, though, his title was, and he boasted this to a lot of his friends and associates, that he was the personal attorney to Donald Trump. He liked doing this work. He took pride in it.

As you mentioned, once even said he would be willing to take a bullet for Donald Trump. However, just in our reporting and talking to people, friends and associates of Michael Cohen, we are learning that as he got -- sort of fell deeper into legal trouble, he noticed and realized that Donald Trump was not offering the kind of public support that he was hoping for.

In fact, as you know, the president actually started distancing himself from Michael Cohen, saying things like, you know, I haven't talked to him in a long time. He didn't do that much work for me.

As Michael Cohen saw that unfolding, he even tried, some friends told us, to try sending up sort of flare signals, expressing and signaling through friends that he was frustrated, sort of suggesting that he might be willing to cooperate with investigators.

Even as he did that, there came a point where he realized that the sign that he was looking for from Donald Trump probably wasn't going to come. Of course, we now know what that realization led to.

That was that this week his legal team decided to share with the world this recording that was supposed to be private, a private conversation between Michael Cohen and Donald Trump. That ended up being so very explosive -- Ana.

CABRERA: Jeremy, clearly, Cohen and Trump saw their relationship differently?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Absolutely. That's one of the big questions. You know, Michael Cohen for years has described him relationship with the president not as one of an employee/employer relationship, but really, he saw it as more of a familial relationship.

He saw Donald Trump as somebody that he revered, felt very close to almost like family. I spoke to several folks who are familiar with the relationship between the two of them and familiar with how Trump approaches his employees.

And he said that that was Michael Cohen's biggest mistake was to think for a moment that he was anything more than staff ultimately to Donald Trump. One of those sources told me that the highway is littered with Trump lieutenants who thought that very think, who thought that they were more like family to Donald Trump than simply staff.

But clearly, the isolation that Michael Cohen felt not only -- in particular over the last month, but really going back even to when Donald Trump came into office and when Michael Cohen started to become embroiled in a lot of this Russia-related investigation, both on Capitol Hill and with federal investigators.

You know, it became clear that that isolation really hurt Michael Cohen, that he felt like he had lost this very close relationship that he had with Donald Trump, somebody who he defended very publicly, very insidiously for years in the public arena.

CABRERA: When you talk about the fallout really happening, specifically after that FBI executed search warrant on Cohen specifically, I'm recalling our reporting that Trump was actually advised by his legal team not to reach out to Cohen directly after news of that FBI seizure. Wasn't he, M.J.? LEE: Right. You know, this is a tricky spot, obviously, for both Michael Cohen and Donald Trump in that there is a criminal investigation that is going on about Michael Cohen. They're sort of not able to really publicly speak out.

Certainly, their lawyers would like them to be quiet and not be speaking out as much as they can help it. But obviously, this relationship and the rift in this relationship that is now spilling out into the open could have consequences for this criminal investigation.

CABRERA: Let's talk about those consequences with our legal experts. M.J. Lee and Jeremy Diamond, thank you both for your reporting.

[11:05:09] Possibly adding to Cohen's legal troubles, he may have complicated his status with federal prosecutors. They were caught off guard by Cohen's release of that secretly recorded conversation. Cohen's team did not tell the prosecutors that he planned to share that tape with the media.

Let's get more from CNN reporter, Erica Orden, and Caroline Polisi, a federal criminal defense attorney. Erica, I'll start with you. How is the U.S. attorney's office reacting to this tape being made public?

ERICA ORDEN, CNN REPORTER: Well, as you mentioned, they were not given advance notice that the tape would be released. In general, prosecutors don't really appreciate when aspects of their investigation become public and are made public by the people they are investigating.

In this case, you saw Cohen's lawyer literally broadcast a potential piece of evidence that they have to the entire world. It's not clear whether that would -- that step would jeopardize any potential cooperation deal with the Southern District of New York. It doesn't win Cohen any points with prosecutors.

CABRERA: What do you see as the legal fallout here, Caroline?

CAROLINE POLISI, FEDERAL AND WHITE COLLAR CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It feels like Cohen has blurred the distension between the courtroom and the court of public opinion in this case from the very beginning. I cannot believe the other lawyer signed off on this on Cohen's defense team, a former SDNY prosecutor.

He knows what it is like to be a prosecutor. He knows that that is going to tick a lot of people off in the prosecutor's office. The fact is, if they want to interview a witness now, that witness has this recording.

They can tailor their argument to that. It severely hampers their ability to move forward with this case. It just makes them look weird. It makes them look like they have been played. I don't know what Lanny Davis was thinking when he did this. There have been a lot of weird --

CABRERA: He wanted to defend his client because he felt like his client was being smeared as paraphrase his argument for it. He felt like it was unjustified.

POLISI: Right. Well, it makes me think that perhaps they have approached the SDNY for a potential cooperation deal and the SDNY said, you know what? No, we don't need to cut you a deal in order to prosecute this case. That to me is the only reason why they would be willing to hurt themselves in a potential plea deal by releasing this tape.

CABRERA: We are talking about one tape, but Caroline, Cohen's team apparently has a bunch more tapes. There's 100 tapes according to "The Washington Post," Erica, that are in the possession -- or that Cohen had recorded.

ORDEN: There are many tapes, dozens of tapes. What we know is that a lot of these recordings are of Cohen and Cohen speaking to reporters, Cohen speaking to third parties. We don't -- it's not clear that a majority of them or even many of them are of Cohen and Trump.

The other thing to keep in mind is that the special master in this process in which they are reviewing the documents and material that the FBI seized is making determinations only with respect to attorney/client privilege.

She's not making determinations about relevance of these items to the investigation. That decision -- that determination will be made by prosecutors.

CABRERA: There may be more than 100 tapes. But as far as what we have learned, it sounds like there were 12 tapes that are now part of this ongoing investigation. Caroline, the one tape that we have heard has been debated a lot about exactly what was said.

CNN had an audio forensic expert review this tape to determine what was said. Here is his conclusion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: What do you think Trump says about cash?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm hearing the words so we will pay with cash, or so I will pay with cash. Then Cohen comes back with the no, no, no, right after that.

CUOMO: All right. So, that's how you believe that you hear it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: All right. So, Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, says, well, dueling experts can come to different conclusions. How do you see this tape complicating the legal matters for Trump's team?

POLISI: Well, the fact is, it doesn't much matter whether it was cash or check. Giuliani is saying the fact that Trump wanted it paid by check means he has nothing to hide and that he is not -- it's exculpatory. This tape is not at all exculpatory. In fact, it gives prosecutors an inside view into the mind of Candidate Trump at the time. In the beginning of that tape, they are talking about releasing the divorce papers of Ivana and Trump. He says, you just have to wait a couple weeks or a couple months until the election.

That tells you right there that he is thinking about the information being disseminated in terms of the election. Obviously, the legal issue here is a campaign finance law violation.

[11:10:04] If AMI was undertaking this catch and kill operation with more than one woman -- it looks like it certainly was a pattern or practice. Trump is talking about potentially reimbursing or even if he didn't reimburse, we know it never ended up making the payment discussed on the recording.

But if he was aware of it, that's part of a conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws. It goes directly to his state of mind. It goes to his knowledge. A tape is one of the most powerful pieces of evidence a prosecutor can use in court.

CABRERA: All right. Ladies, got to leave it there. Thank you so much, Caroline Polisi, Erica Order. Welcome to the CNN family, Erica.

Coming up, it's deadline day for the government to finish reuniting migrant families separated at the border. Officials already admit, they're not going to make it.

Plus, any moment now, President Trump lands in Dubuque, Iowa in an effort to defend his trade policy. Don't go away.

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[11:15:15]

CABRERA: Welcome back. Just minutes from now, Air Force One touches down. President Trump once again lands in controversy. The president's first stop today is in Iowa where farmers are reeling from retaliatory tariffs from overseas.

The president trying to tamp down criticism from his base and fellow Republicans announcing a truce in his growing trade war with the European Union.

CNN's Scott McLean is in Iowa for us. Scott, the president is now landing in a part of the country hit hard by these tariffs. What can you tell us about it?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you are absolutely right, Ana. So, officially, the president's trip here to Iowa is to talk about this new White House initiative to address skill gaps in the economy.

But undoubtedly, the elephant in the room will be trade and tariffs in this brewing trade war with China, which, of course, is having a big impact on many farmers here in the state of Iowa. Of course, rural Iowa helped the president to get elected because many farmers seemed to identify with his message that he was talking about even early on in the primary campaign, issues like trade imbalances, issues like currency manipulation by China.

I spoke with the president of the Iowa Farmers Union yesterday, who said that Trump's approach so far on this file has been extremely reckless. He said that he expected a more thoughtful, strategic approach from the White House.

Maybe expecting them to use more of a scalpel than a sledgehammer. He said he knows that often times you have to be tough. He is OK with that as long as it is part of a larger strategy here.

The governor of Iowa, she's also expecting to be here, Ana. She has her own set of concerns about this trade war saying that no one wins in a trade war. The bright spot here is undoubtedly that deal made -- that agreement to make an agreement with the European Union yesterday.

The president even tweeting that the United States and the E.U. love each other. That is going over well with farmers here in Iowa. A lot of people will still be watching today to find out if the president says anything to allay fears of many farmers here in Iowa.

CABRERA: That picture of them kissing each other on the cheek speaks volumes. Scott McLean, thank you for laying out the ground work there, what we can expect. The president scheduled to touch down within the next 10 minutes. We will continue to monitor what's happening there in Iowa and as he continues his trip throughout the day.

Also, this morning, the White House is backing away from President Trump's hastily called second meeting with Russia's Vladimir Putin. But we still we don't have any more detail about what was discussed in the first meeting.

Frustrated lawmakers in both parties are demanding to know exactly what happened in that room in Helsinki. It was a contentious Senate hearing yesterday. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defiantly refusing to divulge anything of substance. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: President Trump believes that two great nuclear powers should not have a contentious relationship. He strongly believes that now is the time for direct communication. The presidents are entitled to have private meetings.

What matters is what President Trump directed us to do following his meeting with Vladimir Putin. You somehow disconnect the administration's activities from the president's actions. They are one in the same.

This is President Trump's administration. Make no mistake who is fully in charge of this and it was directing each of these activities that has caused Vladimir Putin to be in a difficult place today. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Lawmakers in both houses have introduced bipartisan measures calling for a congressional review of the Helsinki summit and also reaffirms the findings of the intelligence community that Russia did indeed interfere with the election. A call from the Trump White House to fully implement the sanctions passed by Congress.

Joining us now are the two sponsors of the House version of this legislation, Republican Congressman Leonard Lance of New Jersey and Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi from Illinois. Gentlemen, thank you for spending time with us. I know today is the last day or day out from your one-month recess. Let's get right into this. Congressman Lance, why is your resolution even necessary?

REPRESENTATIVE LEONARD LANCE (R), NEW JERSEY: I think we have to reaffirm here on Capitol Hill that we support our intelligence agencies. Dan Coats is doing a terrific job. Also, I think that it's important that the Russian sanctions be fully implemented. Our resolution is identical with the resolution in the Senate sponsored by Senators Flake and Coons.

CABRERA: Are you saying that this administration then isn't doing enough?

LANCE: I think that the sanctions should be fully enforced. I hope the administration does that. Certainly, we on Capitol Hill in a bipartisan capacity believe, Ana, that the intelligence agencies are doing a terrific job.

CABRERA: Congressman Krishnamoorthi, did you learn anything valuable from Secretary Pompeo about what happened at that Trump/Putin summit?

REPRESENTATIIVE RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D), ILLINOIS: Unfortunately, no. It was a highly disturbing meeting that they did it in private. We don't know what was discussed.

[11:20:10] But the press conference after that meeting was equally distressing because the president drew a moral equivalence between what our law enforcement agencies and our intelligence community in America is doing to protect our democracy and what the Russians are doing to interfere in our democracy.

It was so important to do a bipartisan resolution to stand by our intelligence community, to reaffirm our belief in their assessment. In my humble opinion, to reaffirm that we have to protect our democracy from Russian interference in the upcoming elections as well.

CABRERA: What I'm hearing you say is this is a symbolic gesture. Maybe a message sent to the current administration of where Congress stands, but yet, we saw this resolution proposed in the Senate and essentially, it's going nowhere.

I want to move forward, though, because I have a lot I want to talk about. Let's play another chunk from the hearing yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR BOB MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Has the president told you what he and President Putin discussed in their two-hour closed-door meeting in Helsinki?

POMPEO: The presidents have a prerogative to choose who is in meetings or not. I'm confident you've had private one-on-one meetings in your life as well. You've chosen that setting as the most efficient --

MENENDEZ: I asked a simple question. Did you -- did he tell you what -- whether or not what happened in those two hours?

POMPEO: Yes, Senator, the predicate of your question implied some notion that there was something improper about having a one-on-one meeting. I completely disagree.

MENENDEZ: I didn't ask your predicate. I asked you a simple question. I hope we will get through it. Did he tell you what transpired?

POMPEO: I had a number of conversations with President Trump about what transpired in the meeting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Congressman Lance, that was a Democratic senator pressing him there. We heard it from both sides and if the parties had been swapped and that was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sitting there during the Obama administration, would you have accepted those answers?

LANCE: I think you raise a fair point. I think that the administration should indicate what was the discussion between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. I would like to know the answer here on Capitol Hill.

CABRERA: So, you believe the American people deserve answers to what happened in that meeting and where this administration is headed in dealing with an adversary that interfered in this country's democratic systems?

LANCE: Yes, I do.

CABRERA: All right. Congressman Krishnamoorthi, the White House says a second summit with Putin in Washington has now been postponed. What's your reaction?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think that's the right move. We should not be having meetings with Vladimir Putin again until -- first of all, we come to grips with the fact that Special Counsel Mueller has indicted 13 GRU officers for basically hacking into our democracy.

Secondly, we still have various disputes with them with regard to Crimea, Syria and other matters. They haven't done anything to address those particular concerns. So, I don't think we should be meeting with next until we see some concrete action on the ground that actually acknowledges our concerns.

Last, I should note that Christopher Wray, the head of the FBI recently said that the Russians are continuing their maligned influence on our democratic system. We know in Illinois, in my home state, they hacked into 500,000 records of Illinois residents.

So much so that the Illinois Board of Elections had to actually inform people that their information is compromised. So, we have to address all these concerns before we have more summits with the Russian leader.

CABRERA: Congressman Lance, I want to ask about some of your colleagues, Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan, who seemed to be spending an awful lot of energy and time going after the investigators in these matters versus the perpetrators. These are the leaders in the House Freedom Caucus. They introduced a resolution to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein yesterday. Now we are learning there will not be a vote on this resolution today, but do you support this?

LANCE: Absolutely not. I'm a member of the Tuesday Lunch Group. We're the moderate Republicans. We're not in the Freedom Caucus. I support the Mueller investigation. I was the first Republican member of the House here on Capitol Hill to say that Jeff Sessions should recuse himself in matters related to Russia.

Therefore, the deputy attorney general became the person in charge. Of course, he appointed Mr. Mueller. I do not favor impeachment in any way, shape or form regarding the deputy attorney general. I favor continuing the Mueller investigation to its conclusion.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Ana, this is just -- this was a naked attempt to kneecap Mueller. OK. You know, this particular article of impeachment claims that the FBI and DOJ haven't turned over documents as part of the Oversight Committee's investigation of the FBI.

I'm on the Oversight Committee. I have seen thousands and thousands of documents. Hundreds and hundreds of text messages from various employees. I can tell you that the FBI and DOJ have turned over almost everything asked of them.

[11:25:12] Except for one document that they acknowledged, which the strategy memo that Mueller has written detailing the strategy behind his prosecution of the current case. That shouldn't be turned over.

This particular impeachment resolution is just a total media stunt. It's not going to go anywhere. If the House leadership is really serious about it, they would call it for a vote, which they're not.

CABRERA: Congressmen Leonard Lance and Raja Krishnamoorthi, thank you both for joining us.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you.

LANCE: Thank you.

CABRERA: Coming up, officials already admit they will not meet today's court-ordered deadline to finish reuniting families separated at the border. So, what are those families supposed to do now? That's next.

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