Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Chinese State Media: Kim Jong-un Making Surprise Visit to Beijing; Source Close to White House: Plan is for Trump to Continue to Stay Silent on Stormy Daniels; Who is Michael Cohen?; Two More Lawyers Decline To Join Trump Legal Team; White House: President Has "Highly Qualified" Legal Team; Seth Rich's Brother, Parents Sue Over Conspiracy Theories; President Trump Hints Pentagon Might Help Pay For Border Wall. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired March 27, 2018 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:10] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
We begin tonight with breaking news, North Korea's dictator making his first known trip outside the country since assuming power to Beijing. This is just unfolding now after a whole lot of mystery which began with what's believed to be Kim's train. We're learning more even as we speak.
So, let's go right now to CNN Asia-Pacific editor Andrew Stevens in the Chinese capital.
So, what can you tell us about this surprise two-day trip?
ANDREW STEVENS, CNN ASIA PACIFIC EDITOR: Well, now, the big news, of course, that it is Kim Jong-un. I mean, that was the general feeling, that it was Kim, given the level of security that there has been in Beijing for the last couple of days.
He arrived with his wife. We're just finding out that it was at the instigation of the Chinese. President Xi Jinping actually inviting Kim over to talk, obviously about what's going to be happening at the talks, inter-Korean talks, and, of course, the big talk -- big summit with Donald Trump later in May.
What I'm just getting now, I'll just read it to you, this is a quote from Xinhua, which is the state news agency here, quoting Kim Jong-un himself saying: If South Korea and the United States kindly respond to our effort, create an atmosphere of stability and peace, and take gradual and simultaneous steps, the issue of denuclearization on the peninsula can be resolved.
That's what we're getting at the moment now. So, now, confirmed, and I think it's been confirmed now because the train which was carrying Kim has finally cleared the Chinese border. As in the past, no publicity about this at all until the North Korean leader has actually come and then gone, Anderson.
COOPER: Is it known who he's meeting with? And we believe this is a two-day meeting?
STEVENS: He was here for a total of four days. He arrived on Sunday. And the train got into Beijing on Monday.
We know, according to Xinhua now, that he met with Xi Jinping. There were meetings, plural. We don't know exactly what was discussed at those meetings. But given the fact that we're now in late March and the first of the two summits, the inter-Korea summit, begins in April or was held in April, and then the meeting with Donald Trump is scheduled for May. There would be a lot of discussions around that, obviously.
I mean, this is a case where Kim Jong-un needs China in his corner, Anderson. Given the fact that China is North Korea's chief ally by a long, long way and its economic lifeline as well. Kim Jong-un, particularly now, he's facing a much more hawkish U.S. administration with John Bolton and Mike Pompeo added to the inner circle.
So, he needs China really to be acting in concert with him, and vice versa. For President Xi, for China, they need to have -- well, they feel they need to have a position at the top table in these negotiations. They want to have an influence in the way that the talks move forward and the denuclearization of the North Korean -- or the Korean peninsula actually happens. So, it's in both their interests to meet at this stage.
COOPER: All right. Andrew Stevens, appreciate it. We'll continue to follow it over the next two hours.
Now, keeping them honest, something we almost never report on because it happens so rarely. We begin tonight with the president not saying something, not tweeting, not punching back, nothing at all about Stormy Daniels. She's talking about her alleged encounters, of course, with the president, she's talking about the hush agreement she did sign. And all that led to it. And the president, except for denials from his spokespeople, he's been conspicuously, uncharacteristically silent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. President, is Karen McDougal telling the truth?
REPORTER: Mr. President, any comment on Mrs. McDougal?
REPOTER: Will you watch "60 Minutes" on Sunday, Mr. President?
REPORTER: Will you watch "60 Minutes," Mr. President?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, that was the president saying nothing on Friday. He said and tweeted nothing about Stormy Daniels over the weekend. Not Sunday night when the interview aired. Not since -- it's as if he didn't see it.
Now, "The Washington Post" is reporting that the president did, in fact, watch. That he even asked White House staffers for their take on the interview and weighed in on Ms. Daniels' appearance, reportedly saying, she's not his type. His attorney and his attorney's attorney, they have weighed in as well, but radio silence from the president, notably so.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: You also called him a counterpuncher many times. Why has he not punched back on this one?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRSS SECRETARY: Look, the president -- I didn't say he punches back on every single topic. If he, did he would probably be addressing a lot of the stories that most of you write every single minute of every single day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, keeping them honest, the president of the United States certainly can say anything he likes about allegations of infidelity with an adult film actress or he can choose to say nothing at all. It's just that this particular line of reasoning seems just a little thin. To say as Sarah Sanders did the president doesn't always counterpunch against critics is to say, for example, that the president wouldn't threaten to slug a former vice president.
Wait, crazy Joe Biden is trying to act like a tough guy, actually he's weak both mentally and physically and yet he threatens me for the second time with physical assault.
[20:05:06] He doesn't know me but he would go down fast and hard crying all the way. Don't threaten people, Joe.
Someone too busy running the country don't always hit back, Sarah Sanders said, probably wouldn't waste his time on a Democratic opponent he defeated a year and a half ago, but the president has. Remember when they were saying during the campaign that Donald Trump is giving great speeches and drawing big crowds, but he's spending much less money and not using social media as well as crooked Hillary's large and highly sophisticated staff -- well, not saying that anymore. He's also found the time to attack Robert Mueller for the first time by name, James Comey, Andrew McCabe, even counterpunched, if that's even the right word, against Rachel Crooks who's also alleging sexual misconduct on his part.
A woman I don't know and to the best of my knowledge have never met is on the front page of the fake news "Washington Post" saying I kissed her for two minutes in the Trump Tower lobby 12 years ago, the president wrote on Twitter. It never happened.
Now, whatever you think of the president, whether or not you believe the president right there is characteristic for him, it is for better or worse the president we've all come to know which makes hit silence on Stormy Daniels all the more puzzling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: I still don't understand why the president's response has been so different in this case. October 13, 2016, he said these claims are all fabricated. The next day he said, I have no idea who these women are, they're lying. Mrs. Trump has said he will push back ten times as hard no matter if you're a man or a woman, he treats everyone equal.
Why the silence? Is someone advising him to be silent or is he following his own --
SANDERS: I don't think it's sea lent when the president has addressed this, we've addressed it extensively, there's just nothing else to add. Just because you guys continue to ask the same question over and over and over again doesn't mean we have to keep coming up with new things to say. We've addressed it, we've addressed it extensively, there's nothing new to add to this conversation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: One quick piece of breaking news, Stormy Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti has just told CNN that a total of eight women have now come forward to make allegations similar to his clients, come forward to him.
No radio silence from CNN's Jim Acosta who joins us now from the White House.
I'm wondering what are you learning about why the president is remaining silent on all of this?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, it's sort of like the newly discovered human organ that we heard about in the news today, the president has discovered a new ability to hit the mute button. And I'm told by a source close to the White House that essentially the plan for now is for the president to stick to this strategy, to avoid this topic of Stormy Daniels.
And according to this source, one of the reasons why is the president's poll numbers. They feel like the president's poll numbers are holding steady and even doing better. And there is a point there. If you look at our latest CNN poll, his numbers among evangelicals and Republicans, they're pretty strong.
And so, at this point, I think the theory is, do no harm. But, Anderson, even though he's being the commander in brief this week on this topic, you have to wonder if they're setting the stage for really dramatic moment in Washington when he finally does break his silence on this issue, sort of like when Bill Clinton finally addressed Monica Lewinski.
COOPER: Jim Acosta, thanks very much.
ACOSTA: You bet.
COOPER: Two views now on GOP strategist and Trump critic Rick Wilson. His upcoming new book is titled "Everything Trump Touches Dies: A Republican Strategist Gets Real About the Worst President Ever." With us as well is Paris Dennard, CNN political commentator, and he served as White House director of black outreach for President George W. Bush.
Rick, this reporting though the president's privately been calling Stormy Daniels' allegations a hoax, saying she's not even the kind of woman he's attracted to. Are you surprised at all he's not saying those kinds of things at all publicly or not saying anything publicly?
RICK WILSON, GOP STRATEGIST: You know, I think, Anderson, the greatest tell that we've seen so far here is that Donald Trump is terrified of two people in this world, Vladimir Putin and Stormy Daniels. And his silence speaks a lot about the degree to which he knows there's some risk factors here.
And, you know, trying to say things like, oh, she's not my type, when she's in fact demonstrably his type. And that nothing is there, it's a hoax. You know, it is the worst kind of wish casting on his part and I think he's going to end up embarrassed by this. But again, he's the guy who likes to try to shape his reality no matter what the actual facts on the ground are.
And I do think -- I do think it is a major note that his silence on this is deafening. I don't think he's got any legal counsel, you know, to speak of right now outside of Michael Cohen on this. But he's obviously very, very disturbed by what she could say or what she could demonstrate about their affair. And I think that the consistency of, you know, more and more women coming out and telling this kind of story is something he's really, really not looking forward to.
COOPER: Paris? I mean, Sarah Sanders today said that while the president's a counterpuncher, he doesn't punch back on everything. President Trump certainly has attacked on a lot of things, though. Cast of "Hamilton," Rosie O'Donnell, the department store Nordstrom's. I'm wondering what makes this different. Why stay silent on Stormy Daniels?
PARIS DENNARD, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF BLACK OUTREACH FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, Anderson, you just did a fantastic job on the interview, there's nothing more to say. But in all furiousness, I think what this comes down to is the president has denied the allegations. He doesn't believe that they're true, number one.
[20:10:00] Number two, the president feels as if that this is something that is embarrassing to the first lady. Meaning all of the attention, all the speculation, all of Stormy Daniels trying to talk about all of the nitty-gritty details about what she claims happened is just a move to embarrass Mrs. Trump as the first lady.
I think the other point that the president -- why he's not talking about this, is because it has nothing to do with him as a candidate or as the president.
Lastly, I think he's listening to his attorneys. He does have legal counsel, outside legal counsel and inside legal counsel. I believe they're telling him, sir, if you look at the lawsuit that has been filed against Michael Cohen and the sort of obscure way they are claiming defamation, if the president were to say something that they could find to be defaming to Stormy Daniels, they could then in turn sue him for defamation of character, which could open up to discovery and a deposition and more embarrassment to the first lady.
So, he is wisely not talking about this for a whole host of reasons.
COOPER: So, Rick, it's interesting. To Paris' point, I mean, it makes sense from a legal standpoint not to talk. But there's been plenty of times in the past where from a legal standpoint, it would have made sense not to tweet, and yet he did even against the advice of counsel.
WILSON: I think that is why -- that speaks to the risk factor he knows is involved in this. That speaks to the level to which she and others could expose him on his behavior.
And I do have to take issue with something Paris said, because it's just risible to say Donald Trump is worried about embarrassing Melania. This is about embarrassing Melania. His behavior is the source of all this embarrassment. It's the wellspring of all this embarrassment.
You know, if you don't want to embarrass your wife, don't go sleep with porn stars. If you don't want to embarrass your wife, don't go date Playboy bunnies. If you don't want to embarrass your life, don't be a hound and make it a central part of your brand, your image, that you're a skirt chaser.
I mean, this is a thing that Donald Trump has always -- you know, had front and center as his image. So, if he's worried about embarrassing Melania Trump, the source of that embarrassment is always and only Donald Trump.
COOPER: You know, Paris, you said this didn't have anything to do with the campaign. Do you really believe that Michael Cohen paid this money, 11 days, you know, have this contract signed 11 days before the election and it had nothing to do with buying her silence before the election? At a time when the "Access Hollywood" tape had been released, there was a lot of focus on these issues?
DENNARD: Listen, I have not talked to Michael Cohen about this particular issue, so I don't know the exact rationale as to why he paid her out of his own personal funds about $130,000 to do it. But what I was talking about, it doesn't have anything to do with the candidacy or his presidency. It's meaning him personally.
WILSON: But it is him personally.
DENNARD: Excuse me --
COOPER: Let Paris finish.
DENNARD: Michael Cohen did these actions. Michael Cohen paid her with personal funds. This is not something the president or the candidate actually did. So, that's why I'm saying he is not talking about this because it has nothing to do with him as a candidate or him personally as the president. COOPER: OK, Rick?
WILSON: I'm sorry. Look, Paris, I know you're a steadfast defender of this president. But most people don't just whack out $130,000 from their home equity loan to an adult film star a few days before an election to protect Donald Trump. This is not something that happened --
DENNARD: You don't have loyal friends.
WILSON: This is not something that happened in a random, in a random fashion. And, you know, Occam's razor here is that Michael Cohen was engaged in a last-minute thing in the campaign to cover up something that was going to be embarrassing to the president and embarrassing to his candidacy because he is a guy who has for a long time gone out and chased down anything that was mammalian and susceptible to his limited charms.
This is not a guy who was -- Michael Cohen was not a guy doing this because of a random set of circumstances. He was doing this to protect Donald Trump. He was doing it in a way that was representative of a pattern of behavior Michael Cohen has engaged in with other women, forming these NDAs to be set up to protect Donald Trump and his reputation.
And I'm sorry, it is -- it's laughable to propose that Michael Cohen did this randomly and it's laughable to propose Donald Trump hasn't been doing this for decades with other women.
DENNARD: Then propose that, but I will say is that Michael Cohen did something because he as loyal friend to the president --
WILSON: But what happened -- do you believe that he did that just because random porn car called up and said, hey, I'm going to tell people Donald Trump slept with me unless you give me 130 grand? You know, a good lawyer would tell her to pack sand at that point. He knows what she knows and he knows Donald Trump slept with a porn star. Let's just get down to it.
This is the guy who did this and I know you want to deny it, Paris, I get it.
[20:15:00] It's a sign of how loyal you are to Donald Trump. But this is not something that's deniable in the long-term. This is a pattern of behavior Donald Trump has expressed over generations, over decades, his behavior in New York.
COOPER: Paris, does it make sense that Michael Cohen -- I get your point, he's local. Donald Trump is his client. But A, for an attorney to pay $130,000 for their client is unheard of, highly unusual. But also for him to have to take out a home equity line of credit for $130,000 for a billionaire? Does that not strike you is just odd? That like a billionaire would let him take out a home equity line of credit for him to pay $130,000 of his own money and not pay him back or know about it?
DENNARD: Michael Cohen is a very astute, very smart attorney. And he knew very well that if he had talked to the president or then- candidate Trump or asked him for money for this, that would have opened up a whole host of issues for the candidate, now president. He was smart not to do that.
DENNARD: He acted on his own volition, which is what a smart attorney does.
And, look, this is somebody who's terribly loyal. I hope to have friends like that and attorneys that people who would come to my aid and do stuff like that. But he knows in the long run, he will be OK, he will be fine because he did something, because he felt it was the right thing to do, outside of the fact that Donald Trump is a billionaire.
DENNARD: Because he did it because he wanted to. That's loyalty, that's friendship.
COOPER: Paris Dennard, Rick Wilson, appreciate it. Thank you.
Coming up next, the man Stormy Daniels' attorney last night called a thug and Paris Dennard calls a loyal friend, how Michael Cohen earned the reputation that Rick Wilson just spoke of and that he himself cultivates.
Later, his murder became a right-wing conspiracy theory tying him, without evidence, to campaign hacking of the DNC. Tonight, how Seth Richards' brother is fighting back now in court.
[20:20:32] COOPER: The breaking news tonight, CNN's Jim Acosta citing a source close to the White House saying that President Trump will maintain his silence on Stormy Daniels because the source says it has not hurt his poll numbers.
More now on Michael Cohen who figures highly in the Daniels allegation, as you heard, came up in the last segment.
CNN's chief political analyst Gloria Borger has more.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): In the soap opera in which a porn star accepts a payoff to keep quiet about her affair with Donald Trump, there's got to be a guy who gets it done.
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: Where is Michael Cohen?
Where is Mr. Cohen?
Where is this guy?
Where is this guy?
BORGER: Michael Cohen is where he's been since 2007, standing behind Donald Trump, or closer, in his back pocket.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael was, I always like to say the Ray Donovan of the office.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to take care of it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He took care of what had to be taken care of. I don't know what had to be taken care of. All I know is Michael was taking care of it.
DAVID SCHWARTZ, ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL COHEN: He's the guy that you could call up 3:00 in the morning when you have a problem.
BORGER (on camera): Do you know stories of Donald Trump calling him at 3:00 in the morning?
SCHWARTZ: Donald Trump has called him at all hours of the night. Every dinner I have been at with Michael, the boss has called.
BORGER (voice-over): But Cohen did not call the boss, he says, when he decided to pay Stormy Daniels $130,000 out of his own pocket, 11 days before the election.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's ludicrous.
BORGER (on camera): So you believe 100 percent Donald Trump knew?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One hundred percent.
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, TRUMP BIOGRAPHER: There's not a meeting that takes place, there's not an expenditure that is authorized that he doesn't know about it.
BORGER (voice-over): Cohen wouldn't go on the record for this piece but his friends claim it's all part of his job in Trump world, giving the boss deniability and protection.
SCHWARTZ: If you know the relationship between the two people, he took care of a lot of things for Mr. Trump without Mr. Trump knowing about it. That's part of the overall structure is that Michael had great latitude to take care of matters.
BORGER: In Michael Cohen, Trump hired his consigliore, a version of his long time mentor, the lawyer his Roy Cohn, a controversial pit bull, an aggressive defender of all things Trump, no questions asked.
After D'Antonio finished his book on Trump, he got the Cohen treatment in what turned out to be an empty threat.
D'ANTONIO: Then he got mad and it was, well, you just bought yourself an F-ing lawsuit, buddy. I'll see you in court.
BORGER: In 2011, Michael Cohen described his job this way.
MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: My job is to protect Mr. Trump. That's what it is. If there's an issue that relates to Mr. Trump that is of concern to him, it's, of course, a concern to me and I will use my legal skills within which to protect Mr. Trump to the best of my ability.
BORGER: Cohen, a sometimes Democrat, first came to Trump's attention after buying apartments in Trump developments. Then went to the mat for Trump against one of his condo boards and won.
SCHWARTZ: Trump loved him for it. I mean, that was the beginning of it. And then after that, they became close. It was much more than an attorney/client relationship. It was something much deeper, almost father and son kind of thing, always hot and cold.
They -- Donald Trump could be yelling at him one second and saying he's the greatest person in the world the next second. Donald Trump knew that Michael always had his back.
BORGER: For Trump, it wasn't about pedigree. Cohen, who is 51, got his degree from Western Michigan's Cooley Law School and had some initial success in the less than genteel world of New York taxicab medallions.
SAM NUNBERG, TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: If you look where Michael came from in his legal career before he started working for Trump.org, it wasn't like he came from a white shoe law firm. He came from a hard-nosed New York trial firm. Trump has an eye for talent. This was somebody that, I mean, he used to call him his bulldog, his tough guy.
BORGER: At the Trump Organization, he's done a bit of everything. Running a mixed martial arts company, securing real estate branding deals, and even taking care of transportation.
NUNBERG: You know the famous Trump plane. There was an engine issue that he actually took care of and got a really good deal on.
SCHWARTZ: Watching him is like a reality show.
[20:25:01] He's got three phones. He's got the hard line. He's got two lines. He's texting. He's on the computer.
D'ANTONIO: You can almost say this is Donald Trump's mini me. For a guy who started really in the middle class on Long Island to now be quite wealthy himself, known internationally, and yes, he's in a bit of a jam with the Russia scandal.
BORGER: In the eye not only of Stormy but also of interest to the special counsel, Bob Mueller, and Congress.
COHEN: I look forward to getting all the information that they're looking for. BORGER: During the campaign, when Trump said he had no contact with
Russia, Cohen was privately trying to cut a deal for a Trump Tower Moscow. It never happened, but Mueller has asked about it.
NUNBERG: The sad reality is that Michael pursuing that Trump Tower deal in December is just another factor that goes into this whole Russia narrative.
BORGER: Cohen's name was also in the infamous dossier which alleges he traveled to Prague to meet with Russians. He's completely denied it and is suing "BuzzFeed" which published it.
SCHWARTZ: It's immeasurable, the damage that has been caused to him, to his family.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will faithfully execute --
BORGER: When Trump became president, he did not bring his brash wingman to Washington.
(on camera): Do you think he wanted to be in the White House, be White House counsel or --
D'ANTONIO: There must have been a part of him that was dreaming of a great job at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But he's also the guy who not only knows where all the bodies are buried, he buried a lot of them himself. And that ironically disqualified him.
COHEN: They say I'm Mr. Trump's pit bull, that I'm his right hand man. I have been called many different things around here.
BORGER (voice-over): Now he may be called to testify, with the Stormy Daniels case in federal court.
SCHWARTZ: I know Michael Cohen for over 21 years. I know that he will not rest, he will not sleep, he doesn't sleep anyway, right, until he recovers every single penny from Stormy that's due the LLC.
AVENATTI: I have seen a lot of attorneys use intimidation tactics. The problem is, is if that is your speed, if you are a one-trick pony and you use that in every case, when all of a sudden, you run up against somebody that doubles down and that isn't intimidated, well then you're lost.
BORGER: Cohen flew to Mar-a-Lago to dine with the president the night before Stormy Daniels appeared on "60 Minutes", because if you're Michael Cohen, you're the ultimate loyalist.
COHEN: The words the media should be using to describe Mr. Trump are generous, compassionate --
BORGER: And you still believe Donald Trump will be loyal --
COHEN: -- kind, humble, honest --
BORGER: -- to you.
BORGER: Anderson, we're going to have to wait and see whether Michael Cohen's faith in the president, his ultimate faith, is actually going to be returned. You know, this is a very difficult case now, with Stormy Daniels. And there are lots of people who say they wouldn't be surprised if the president turned on Michael Cohen if things don't go well.
But I can tell you he doesn't believe that will happen.
COOPER: All right. Gloria, thanks very much. Appreciate it. Fascinating.
Just ahead, more high-powered lawyers reject the opportunity to work for President Trump as the Russia investigation continues.
[20:31:13] COOPER: Two more attorneys are saying no thanks to offers from President Trump to join his legal team to help defend him in the ongoing Russia investigation. Both of the attorneys Dan Webb and Tom Buchanan are part of the high-power Chicago from Winston & Strawn. This makes the fifth major law firm we know of to receive an invitation to work in the President's defense. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders spoke about that today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President in the last few weeks have re-staff to a number of high-profile lawyer to take him on as a client in the Russia probe. Dan Webb took a pass recently. Ted Olson took a pass recently, and others have as well. I'm wondering why the President has had so much trouble finding an experienced lawyer willing to take him on and who at this hour is his lead council in negotiating with Robert Mueller and Special Counsel?
SARAH SANDERS, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: Look, the President has highly qualified team with several individuals that have been part of this process, Ty Cobb, Jay Sekulow for specific details on any search process outside of the White House, I would refer you to his outside counsel.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is his lead counsel now?
SANDERS: I would refer you to --
SANDERS: -- outside of the White House. I would refer you to Jay Sekulow who can address any detailed questions on that from.
COOPER: As for the President as we mentioned earlier, he's been relatively quiet on the Twitter front lately, but on Sunday he tweeted, many lawyers in top firms want to represent me the Russia case, don't believe the fake news narrative that it's hard to find a lawyer who wants to take this on. Fame and fortune will never be turned down by a lawyer. The summary conflicted, the problem is that a new lawyer or law firm will take months to get up to speed, if for no other reason and they build more which is unfair to our great country. And I'm very happy with my existing team. Besides there was no collusion with Russia except by crooked Hillary and the Dems.
I'm joined now by legal mind who knows a lot about Russia investigations, John Dean, former Nixon White House council and a CNN contributor. Also with us, CNN legal and national security analyst Asha Rangappa.
John, how do you reconcile the President's claim that many big time lawyers want to represent him with the reality that none seems to be coming out on boarder at this time and how perilous is that for the President.
JOHN DEAN, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't think there is an easy way to reconcile it -- excuse me. Because, Trump is just way off base. I think there are a couple of problems. There probably are some legitimate conflicts with firms in Washington. But there's also another problem, and that's the reputation the potential client has. He's a difficult client. He doesn't follow the advice of his attorneys and he also doesn't pay. And I think that last item might be a dominant item.
COOPER: I mean, Asha, is there any reason to believe that Robert Mueller would delay his desire to speak to President Trump if the President doesn't have a team in place?
ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think so. I mean --
COOPER: He's just secular.
RANGAPPA: He -- exactly. If he has an attorney there, Mueller is going to move forward with his plan. I mean, he's been efficient so far. And you know, one thing to keep in mind is that Mueller has an excellent legal team. These are lawyers who went to the best law schools, who were prosecutors, Supreme Court clerks and this is a complicated federal investigation, it involves all kinds of criminal law and it's going to test the bounds of the constitution, just given who Trump is. So, Trump is going to need to get not just an experienced attorney but also a legal scholar. And if he doesn't get somebody who is top-notched on both of those fronts, he is going to get crushed.
COOPER: Do you buy the argument -- I guess that some firms are saying that they have a conflict. I mean, you know, big firms represent many different people, is it true that, you know, they can't represent, if it is a huge firm and it's a different attorneys and their separation between them, they can't represent Trump and somebody else's involvement investigation.
RANGAPPA: And Trump said, there may be conflicts, but, you know, Anderson this is the kind of job that most lawyers have normally dreamed of. It makes a legal career. And the fact that you have a challenging case or even on this unpopular client, it's actually kind of a badge of honor.
[20:35:07] John Adams represented the British soldiers in the Boston Massacre. But as John said, he's a bad client. He doesn't treat his lawyers particularly well. He may not pay him. And let's remember that we're sitting on the edge of our seats every single day wondering if Trump is going to fire Mueller. I don't think he want to be his attorney if and when that happens, because news flash this -- the investigation will go on and then as the attorney, you might get sucked into the vortex also and become questioned by Mueller and no attorney wants to go down that road.
COOPER: John, I mean we always make the caveat that we want to be careful with any Watergate comparisons. But President Nixon's personal lawyers as I understand, he wasn't even agreeing to meet with them at certain points, much less take their advice. So, the notion of a President who trusts his own instincts more than anybody else, does that ring familiar to you?
DEAN: It does very much so. In fact, what happened with Nixon, is he refused until really after he left office to get a highly competent criminal lawyer. Not withstanding advice to the contrary from yours truly, that he needed somebody early. And so, he delayed it and never really did 2have good counsel. You asked the question if Mueller would go forward if he didn't have good counsel. Well the special -- Watergate special prosecutor knew they did not have good representation. I've asked these guys over the years, was there lawyer Nixon ever had while he was in office, that gave you any concern that he was going to be a tough cookie to deal with and they said absolutely none. And they were in fact surprise and how weak the legal representation was.
COOPER: So what -- what did Nixon say to you when you were advising him early on? If he needed to get attorneys?
DEAN: Didn't want to hear it. Did not want to hear it.
COOPER: It is --
DEAN: And did not bring anybody in with that experience.
COOPER: It is John -- I mean baffling that there is no iconic Washington defense attorney eager to take on Mueller on behalf of the President of the United States. I mean it's not a town short of attorneys.
DEAN: I think, it's the -- one of the real issues or some of the firms, is that they won't get paid. That's the rumbling I've been picking up and talking to Washington lawyers I know. But I think there -- I think he'll probably find somebody in Washington that will step forward. You know, he's just -- he's got the word out there now. So I think some Republican lawyer probably will come forward.
COOPER: John Dean, Asha Rangappa. Thanks very much. Coming up, first his parents sued, now the brother of Seth Rich also has filed the lawsuit against Right-Wing activist and media accusing them a pushing conspiracy theories about his brothers murder for political purposes. We'll have the background and the case. And I'll speak with an attorney representing Seth Richard's brother, next.
[20:41:19] COOPER: The brother murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich is suing Right-Wing activist and media organizations for pushing conspiracy theories about his brother's death. It's an unsolved murder, one that police say was probably a robbery gun wrong. That didn't stop some on the right from promoting unfound claims trying to tie Seth Rich to the DNC hacking. His brother Aaron Rich, is now suing accusing the "Washington Times" and other of acting with reckless disregard for the truth, his lawsuit comes weeks after his parents filed a separate lawsuit against Fox News and others for their role in pushing the conspiracy theory, and effort in which one finger loses particularly large. Gary Tuchman tonight, reports.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Another massive breaking story, explosive developments in the mysterious murder of former DNC staffer Seth Rich.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sean Hannity of Fox News hyping a conspiracy theory, about the murder of a young man, named Seth Rich.
HANNITY: This issue is so big now, that the entire Russia collusion narrative is hanging by a thread.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): The conspiracy theory conducted by Right-Wing commentators was this. The 26-year-old Rich for the Democratic National Committee had leaked DNC e-mails to WikiLeaks, it wasn't the Russians who did it. And the murder was committed by some who with ties to the DNC as a retaliatory action. Never mind if there was and is no evidence of that. Sean Hannity was happy to make it all part of his TV and radio shows. 9 HANNITY: Is there any evidence that he might have been disgruntled of the treatment of Bernie Sanders and the unfairness and that -- the fix was in to put Hillary in that position and maybe add evidence of that?
TUCHMAN (voice-over): But again, there wasn't any evidence at all. It was 2all made up. Seth Rich was murder but evidence is always pointed towards a botched robbery according to D.C. police. Despite, that Hannity continued to fan the flames night after night. It took pressure from advertisers pulling their commercials from his show for Fox to finally take action, releasing a statement regarding the original Seth Rich story, publish by its reporter Malia Zimmerman was also now being sued by Seth Rich's parents. The article was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all reporting. Upon appropriate review, the article was found not to meet those standards and has since been removed. After that statement was released online, Hannity on his radio show made it clear he did not agree with the concept of backing down.
HANNITY: I am not fox.com or foxnews.com.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Amid all of this, Seth Rich's family released a statement. The amount of pain and anguish this has caused us is unbearable. With every conspiratorial flare-up, we are forced to relive Seth's murder and a small piece of us dies as more of Seth's memory is torn away from us.
Sean Hannity later declared --
HANNITY: Out of respect for the family's wishes for now, I am not discussing this matter at this time.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): But in case Hannity spends thought he meant, he would never mention this again, he threw them a bone.
HANNITY: I am continuing the work that I promised to do everyday for you and at he proper time, we shall continue and talk a lot more.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Gary Tuchman, CNN, Atlanta.
COOPER: The lawsuit filed by Seth Rich's brother, Aaron is against the "Washington Times", an online activist and his media company and a Texas businessman, joining me now is Michael Gottlieb, the attorney for Aaron Rich. Thanks for being with us.
The defendants named in today's lawsuit, can you explain how they were dragging your client, Seth's brother into this.
MICHAEL GOTTLIEB, ATTORNEY FOR AARON RICH: Yes well -- thanks for having me Anderson. The introduction that you showed the viewers at the start of this piece was sort about the prelude to the suit which was the story that existed about the Seth Rich conspiracy.
[20:45:02] GOTTLIEB: From around January until May. After that, these defendants their name in the lawsuit today decided to make Aaron Rich, Seth's brother the target of the conspiracy theory and sort of names in as the technical mastermind behind the leak and also somebody who took money from WikiLeaks into his personal bank account. That started around the summer of 2017, and the allegations grew more grotesque from there. They started to alleged that Aaron Rich warn Seth's girlfriend to break up with him and leave D.C., because he knew in advance that the murder was coming, they made up a meeting that reportedly occurred at the DNC where Aaron through a chair at Donna Brazile, all of this -- all of it is made up.
COOPER: And they said this went online in articles?
GOTTLIEB: It began on a Periscope actually, that the defendant Matt Couch in America First Media hosts, they have about 200,000 Twitter followers and they get tens of thousands of viewers on their Periscopes and Ed Butowsky actually one of the defendants appeared as a guest on their Periscope on August 15th, 2017 and said there is money in Aaron Rich's account, he needs to come out and admit what he did. It's made up. There is no money in Aaron Rich's account, there's no basis in fact, whatsoever for and it's a complete fabrication.
COOPER: And you're saying this was not sort of, you know, random one office was premeditated coordinated effort.
GOTTLIEB: There was definitely coordination between Ed Butowsky, America First Media and Matt Couch to take this notion or this theory about Aaron Rich's involvement and to spread it as far wide -- as far and wide as they could and to profit off of it. And they have raise money off a bit, they have sold merchandise off it and they now have a team of investigators roaming around in D.C. using that funding in order to go around and talk to people to try approve this theory to be true.
COOPER: And how was this lawsuit different from the lawsuit that Seth parents filed?
GOTTLIEB: Different plainest (ph), different defendants. So, the parents filed a lawsuit that relates a lot to the allegations in the prelude that she played with Fox News. This is a lawsuit against different defendants for dragging Aaron into what was the conspiracy theory that already existed.
COOPER: And the, I mean for the parents just, you know, not only to lose a son but then have their other son being accused of this stuff that there's no evidence or.
GOTTLIEB: Right, I mean devastating for Joe and Mary, and devastating for Aaron who is patriotic American who has worked at the same defense contractor, since basically the day that he graduated from college who has served his country, try to protect national security, he has assisted law enforcement at every available effort including providing them with all of the information that he had about Seth and testifying in front of the grand jury. And he's being accused of being complicit in his brother's murder and covering it up. It is just outrageous.
COOPER: The -- has the Rich family received an apology from anyone involved in spreading these lies?
GOTTLIEB: I think, the parents have received certain apologies, I mean Fox News obviously retracted the story as mentioned in the piece from before. Aaron Rich hasn't received apologies from anyone, even though he has reached out separately to each of this defendants privately, he reach out to Ed Butowsky privately. He reached out to Matt Couch in America First Media privately, he told them how much pain this was causing him. He asked them to stop spreading lies about him. He told them this was false, and they -- not only doubled down on lies they were telling, they spread them far and wide and then worked to place them in an op-ed in the "Washington Times".
COOPER: Yes. Michael Gottlieb, I appreciate your time. We'll continue following, thanks very much.
GOTTLIEB: Thanks for having me.
COOPER: Coming up, during the election campaign, candidate Trump over and over again told rallies that he would make certain that Mexico paid for his promise border wall. And as president, he's trying to get commerce to put the entire build now, perhaps he has another source of funding. We'll tell you ahead.
[20:52:46] COOPER: President Trump is now wondering if someone else should help pay for the border wall, hinting the Pentagon might chip in. Over the weekend he tweeted, "Because of the $716 billion gotten to rebuild our military, many jobs are created and our military is again rich, building a great border wall with drugs, poison, and enemy combatants pouring into our country, is all about national defense. Build the wall through him."
During the 2016 election of course, the border wall became a call and response catch phrase that someone else would pay for the wall. Here's a stroll down that memory lane.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: We are going to build a great border wall.
And who's going to pay for the wall?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mexico.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mexico.
TRUMP: Who's going to pay for the wall?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mexico!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mexico!
TRUMP: It will be a great wall. Mexico is going to pay for the wall.
Mexico will pay for the wall.
And Mexico is going to pay for the wall, and they understand that.
Mexico is going to pay for the wall, believe me, 100 percent.
TRUMP: Now perhaps there's a very different method of payment. Joining me with more CNN White House correspondent more, Boris Sanchez.
So, the President is asking about the Pentagon funding the wall now, is that right?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well that's right, Anderson. It appears he's poised to do that. Two sources telling CNN that the President floated this idea recently with some advisers, even presenting it to House Speaker Paul Ryan during discussions about the omnibus spending bill that he signed into law last week. We didn't really get a clear read of what the speaker's reaction was nor if this is really a serious path forward for border wall funding. Keep in mind that Congress would have to go back and approve any changes to 2018 funding for the budget.
Obviously it didn't really have a whole lot of support last week. It only got about 1.6 billion out of $1.3 trillion bill. And that Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was asked about this during the briefing today. She didn't really appear to commit to this idea. Listen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the wall, I wanted to ask about the President's tweet over the weekend about the military building the wall. And I'm wondering if the President believes he can reprogram funds from Defense Department for wall construction without a vote of Congress or if he's asking the White House to examine that. And what military programs that were included in the omnibus that he would -- he could see cutting in order to pay for what he says is a contrary?
[20:55:10] SANDERS: You know, I can't get into the specifics of that at this point, but I can tell you that the continuation of building the wall is ongoing, and we're going to continue moving forward in that process.
SANCHEZ: Now, a quick note about Vice President Mike Pence, he's actually in North Dakota speaking to supporters tonight, and he brought up the idea of the wall, making a promise to these supporters saying that we will build the wall completely. We will build it all, Anderson.
COOPER: Do we have an understanding where this idea where this idea about the Pentagon footing the bill came from?
SANCHEZ: Well, you get the sense that it is born out of frustration because the President didn't get what he wanted out of that omnibus spending bill. He threatened to veto it that same morning. We did hear from a source that the President has had some musings about exactly how to pay for the border wall. One other idea according to a source was having people who are coming into the United States legally pay more for entry.
Obviously this contradicts what you just heard the President say going back to 2015, that Mexico would pay for the wall whether through reconfiguration of NAFTA or possibly through a refund. The whole thing has caused a lot of friction between President Trump and the Mexican President. And Enrique Pena Nieto of course, Anderson, they're still that unlikely possibility that we may see a check in the mailbox here at the White House at some point soon. We'll keep an eye out for it. Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Boris Sanchez, thanks very much.
Coming up, the quiet after the storm. Why is the President, a self- avowed proponent of punching back 10 times harder keeping quite this time, at least in public and on Twitter, I'll speak with Republican congressman and our panel next to see if anyone has any ideas.
[21:00:02] COOPER: Well, he'll never be mistaken for silent Cal Coolidge except perhaps when it comes to a subject that President Coolidge could really never imagine ever spoken out loud.