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Report: Michael Cohen Recorded Trump Discussing Payment to Playboy Model; Coats Opposed Trump Feeling He Had to Defend Work of Intel Agencies; Coats Considered Rogue by The White House; Trump Invites Putin To Washington DC Stunning Intel Director. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired July 20, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: All right, Wolf. I am Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me this afternoon. The breaking news today, there's a tape, could be tapes. Source tells CNN that the FBI is now in possession of a recording between the President and his loyal confidant, former personal attorney Michael Cohen when they discussed payment to a former playboy model who says that she had an affair with then private citizen Donald Trump. The President's new attorney, Rudy Giuliani, says President Trump had no idea he was being recorded. A source says when he was told about the tape, Trump said, quote, "I can't believe Michael would do this to me."
The White House has denied McDougal's claims of an affair, and this tape was seized in that massive FBI raid. Sources say Cohen kept a trove of recordings. With me now, MJ Lee and Jim Acosta. MJ, let's start with you. Tell me more about what was said in this recording?
MJ LEE, CNN national political reporter: Well, Brooke, if only we had a transcript or the actual recording, so we could listen to exactly what was said between Michael Cohen and Donald Trump at this time. We do know this was a secret tape, according to Rudy Giuliani. In that Donald Trump claims he didn't know at the time he was being recorded. Michael Cohen did this without Donald Trump's knowledge. And we also know that this was a recording that was taken in by the FBI as part of its gigantic raid of Michael Cohen's home and office some months ago. We also know based on Dana and Gloria's reporting that there are other recordings of Michael Cohen speaking to Donald Trump. That of course is very significant, again, that there are other recordings involving the President.
And we also know that of the recordings that were taken, also include recordings of Cohen talking to other significant people. Now, back to the woman at the center of all this, Karen McDougal, former playboy model that alleges she had a ten-month long affair with Donald Trump years ago. I want to play a sound bite of her interview with Anderson Cooper, the only sit down she's done on camera. She doesn't mention recordings, conversations between Michael Cohen and Donald Trump, but she did at the time talk about the fact she knew that her lawyer at the time, Keith Davidson, was having conversations with Donald Trump's lawyer, of course, Michael Cohen. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Do you think Donald Trump would have been aware of this deal?
KAREN MCDOUGAL, FORMER PLAYBOY MODEL ALLEGES SHE HAD AFFAIR WITH TRUMP: One of the big complaints with why I think my contract is illegal is because his attorney was talking to my attorney.
COOPER: You're saying Donald Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen --
COOPER: Was talking with Keith Davidson, your attorney.
MCDOUGAL: Speaking with Keith without me even knowing, without my knowledge. I would assume that maybe he knew. I know his attorney did. I can't say that he knew. Bottom line is this. I offered to give back the 150, even though I only got 55 percent of that. I offered to give back the 150 just to have my story rights back. The story is out there now. I'm not telling the nitty-gritty details as you can see, I am selective of what I am saying about our relationship. I'm not out to make money on this. I'm out to get my rights back to prove a contract was illegal, that I was taken advantage of, and then go back to my life, period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEE: Brooke, given this explosive reporting today about the recording between Michael Cohen and Donald Trump, it is now impossible to believe that Michael Cohen was entirely acting on his own. This has been the narrative from the White House. And the big question is what other recordings are out there?
BALDWIN: We're going to come back to that in a second. Jim, to you, talk to me about this I don't know, happenstance or not meeting between Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels' attorney earlier this week.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: People bump into each other all the time in New York City. I was talking to him earlier this afternoon, he said on Monday he was in a restaurant in New York City and Michael Cohen happened to be in the same restaurant at the same time that they ran into each other, according to Michael Avenatti, they spoke briefly, but he said it was a productive conversation, could end up being a critical meeting. He stresses this was happenstance.
[14:05:00] But Brooke, I think it is very interesting these two men were talking to one another. Keep in mind they were basically sworn enemies, all but sworn enemies before Michael Cohen started indicating he may end up cooperating with federal authorities in this investigation.
So, I think we'll have to wait and see exactly what comes of this, but Michael Avenatti is saying he did have a pretty civil, pleasant exchange with Michael Cohen, and Michael Avenatti claims, he said this to me on the phone, said this to wolf earlier today, that Michael Cohen has multiple recordings of himself talking to the President, and if that's the case then there may be more of interest to authorities working on the Russia probe than just this Karen McDougal matter. It may cover a range of subjects according to Michael Avenatti.
I think as time goes on, we're going to find out what's in the recordings. Avenatti says he was given copies of recordings seized by FBI agents. If that's the case, the Cohen legal team presumably has copies themselves. If that's the case, the Cohen people would obviously know what could be released to the general public and what might be of interest to everyone when it comes to this investigation, and you know, Michael Avenatti is saying if Michael Cohen is out there and do the patriotic thing, release the recordings. Obviously, that won't sit well with the Mueller team. Sounds as though we're scratching the surface, Brooke, when it comes to the recordings.
BALDWIN: Sounds like it, if there are more than one and maybe there are so many recordings Michael Cohen wouldn't have to flip in the end. We'll talk to a lawyer about that in a second. Jim Acosta, thank you so much. Chief White House correspondent. A couple of other panelists to bring in, Dana Bash with the scoop, and Chris Cillizza is with us. CNN politics and editor at large. Michael Geragos is here, one of our favorite lawyers who we have lots and lots of questions for. Dana, first to you. You have this reporting on the President's response to learning this tape exists and that it surfaced, the whole I can't believe Michael would do this to me. Tell me more about how the White House is responding.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We haven't heard formally from the White House, but we are hearing from the President's attorneys, including and especially Rudy Giuliani on this. As MJ reported earlier, what they're pushing out is that this is exculpatory, meaning that this helps the President, this is the argument that his lawyers are giving, because this makes it clear that the President according to them, this is what the transcript they reviewed shows, the President wanted to make any payment on the up and up, wanted to write a check, wanted it to be recorded, meaning like basically receipt or invoice to make sure this is clear this is part of nondisclosure agreement apparently, but that in the end the payment wasn't even made because the news outlet, help me out, Brooke.
BASH: AMI, thank you.
BALDWIN: It is Friday. Been a long week. I said Michael Geragos, Mark, I apologize just had to get that in. I have Michael Avenatti, Michael Cohen on the brain. Has been a doozy of a week. Go ahead, Dana.
BASH: We're all feeling it. Anyway, that they didn't need that payment because they had already given the payment. So that's number one on the sort of substance on it. One thing I want to clarify here is what I was told regarding other recordings between Michael Cohen and Donald Trump, what I was told is that others exist but that they're not consequential, that this one that we're discussing which is about two minutes long apparently according to people who have seen the transcript, and about this and about a couple of other topics, but that other recordings were things like call me back, I'll see you later today, things like that, that those are not consequential. That's what we're told. We'll see.
I think it is interesting, I would love to know what Mark Geragos who is an attorney thinks about this, if this establishes a pattern of Michael Cohen recording his client, Donald Trump. One more thing I want to say is that I was told in addition to Donald Trump there are recordings that the FBI seized between Michael Cohen and other significant people, powerful people I am told, separate and apart from the Trump orbit.
[14:10:00] BALDWIN: OK, I want to have Mark respond to that potential pattern in a second. Something else. Chris, I wanted to go to you. One of the central questions in all of this is why would the Trump campaign, if this recording exists and this conversation happened between Cohen and Trump, why didn't the Trump campaign say in fall of '16 they knew nothing about it when clearly Trump knew all about this.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Why did Donald Trump say he had no idea where the money came that Michael Cohen used to pay Stormy Daniels off. The obvious reason is he didn't want to talk about it publicly and so he obfuscated or lied about it in order to get around. I think to Dana's point, mundanity is in the eye of the beholder to some extent. Now we don't know what exists here but what we know of the relationship between Donald Trump and Michael Cohen would lead us to believe that tapes, secretly recorded tapes of conversations could be problematic in that.
Michael Cohen is Donald Trump's fixer. He is the guy that does the stuff no one else is willing to do. That's how he got into Donald Trump's good graces, whether that's paying off Stormy Daniels or this conversation about Karen McDougal, we know that's Cohen's role. Let's see what else is in those. Again, to Dana's point, Cohen's conversations with other people, there's potential for significant embarrassment, who knows about legal exposure. But significant embarrassment here. The fact that Michael Cohen was willing to secretly record these against a guy he said he would take a bullet for speaks to the fact that Michael Cohen may not be as loyal now at least to Donald Trump as he was then.
BALDWIN: On the legal exposure point, que Mark Geragos. We know federal prosecutors are investigating Michael Cohen for a number of potential crimes, campaign finance, bank fraud, et cetera. Now we have this knowledge that the President was possibly having conversations with Cohen on issues that are subject to said investigations. What does that expose him to?
MARK GERAGOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well look, first of all, we've got to unpack this a little bit because first of all if the reporting is that there is a recording and if that recording, remember, there was a special master, they put a judge in the mix here, that's what was asked for when they seized stuff from Michael Cohen's office, if there is a what's called a privilege log, it would list every entry of something taken that they claim was privileged, the special master would then rule yes, it can come in and the government can see it or no, the government can't. We don't know necessarily that the government has this any more, the special master could have said no, this is attorney/client privilege conversation, you have to give it back, you can't look at it.
That's why they have dirty and clean teams when they execute search warrants. That's the first point. The second one is that the President's lawyers have to be very careful they don't waive the privilege. Right now, Michael Cohen even though he has much bigger fish to fry than his bar license, he doesn't hold the privilege. He doesn't have the ability. It's not something where he can say I'm going to just turn these over because I have a patriotic duty. That's up to the President to waive the privilege. And when dana says they're telling her I've read the transcript, and this is what it says or confirming it, that's perilously close to the President waiving the privilege. They may want to do that because they may say well, it is exculpatory, it shows he didn't know in real time what was going on, that he only learned after the fact, that's what they're pushing out right now, they can waive the privilege, but I would be very careful about that because you can't just surgically do it.
BALDWIN: At the end of the day what could this amount to for the President legally speaking?
GERAGOS: Legally speaking for the President, it can show if they're going to say the President has already waived the privilege by having one of his lawyers confirm to somebody, somebody in the press, that in fact I read a transcript, this is what it says, then they could use that. Then the prosecutors can use this. Then they could say well, if we have forms, financial disclosure forms, financial disclosure forms have under penalty of purge perjury they're being filed, as a prosecutor that's the first step in trying to take somebody down, looking at disclosure forms saying they lied on disclosure forms, now you have a tape in real time that may indicator corroborate that.
[14:15:00] So a lot of this is speculation until we see somebody ties up exactly when the call was, what was said on the call, what was discussed on the call, and then goes back to the disclosure forms to see if there was something that may or may not have been untrue.
BALDWIN: Mark, Chris, Dana, thank you so much for jumping in on that conversation on the breaking news today.
Coming up next, the other major piece of news, President Trump, Vladimir Putin, the sequel. The President invites the Russian leader to the White House for a second summit this fall. Among those caught off guard by this major announcement, the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats. How the White House is reacting to his candid conversation.
Plus, investigators this hour in Missouri are trying to find out why a tourist boat capsized leaving 17 dead. We have all those details ahead.
And breaking news out of the Middle East. Israel launching an attack on targets inside Gaza this hour. We are live there next. You're watching CNN, I'm Brooke Baldwin.
[14:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) BALDWIN: We are back. You're watching CNN. I am Brooke Baldwin. Shortly the President will be headed for his golf resort in New Jersey. In his wake he is setting up an epic sized mulligan that's baffling the beltway.
A second meeting with Vladimir Putin, and this time in Washington. It is a head spinning development after four days of nonstop fallout from the first summit that was just on Monday. It forced Trump to walk back one comment, negate another, and then admit he misspoke. But there's something more. Could be the biggest negative of all. The building buzz that Dan Coats, Trump's Director of National Intelligence, could be on his way out. An intelligence official says the White House is quote, unquote, mad after coats' response at a national security event yesterday. Coats was caught off guard when he was told that Putin would be coming to Washington to see Trump and coats revealed some opposition to the way the Helsinki meeting was handled.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I don't know what happened in that meeting. I think as time goes by and the President has already mentioned some things that happened in that meeting, I think we will learn more, but that is the President's prerogative. If he had asked me how that ought to be conducted, I would have suggested a different way, but that's not my role, that's not my job so it is what it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the White House for us. Jeremy, we're learning about why Dan Coats didn't back away when asked about Putin. Tell me more on that and more on the White House reaction.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Brooke. U.S. intelligence official tells CNN Dan Coats felt it was important he defend the intelligence community, that he continue to speak the truth. That's something he even said yesterday when he was asked whether he has considered resigning, he said he has, but as long as he can continue to seek and speak the truth, that he would likely remain in his position. But all of that is now coming into question following his appearance at the Aspen Security Summit, because Dan Coats did more than just defend the intelligence community.
He issued a surprising, stunning rebuke of many of the President's ways he approached Russia, he expressed shock at learning about a second meeting. He said he would have advised against the President's solo meeting with Vladimir Putin, and even said he wouldn't have allowed Russian senior officials into the oval office last year when the President welcomed them. This put Dan Coats' relationship with the White House and President back on the rocks. It appeared earlier this week he was back on track.
Remember initially Dan Coats issued a statement defending the intelligence community after the President's news conference there, but then the President just a couple days later said that he thought dan coats was excellent. He said he trusted his judgments. Now again, all of this back on the rocks. One of the intelligence officials that spoke with CNN said they were worried about potential Comey moment, that's referring to the firing of the FBI Director James Comey, but a lot of speculation now abounding at the White House and in the intelligence community about dan coats' future. We'll keep you up to date on that. Brooke?
BALDWIN: Stay on that, Jeremy. Thank you very much. Onto the analysis of Dan Coats and Putin coming to Washington, with me now, CNN national security analyst Steve Hall who served as chief of Russia operations for the CIA and Shane Harris, intelligence and national security correspondent for "The Washington Post.". Wrote the book. "At War, The Rise of The Military Internet Complex."
Gentlemen, Shane, let me start with you on Dan Coats. Let's all watch together the moment when Dan Coats is sitting there on stage and learns that Putin has been invited to the White House. Roll it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: The White House has announced on Twitter that Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in the fall.
[14:25:00] DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Say that again?
MITCHELL: Vladimir Putin --
COATS: Did I hear you?
MITCHELL: Yes, Yes.
COATS: OK. That's going to be special.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: The DNI responding in real time. Then you also have Shane reporting that a senior White House official says it is Coats who's gone rogue. Tell me more about that.
SHANE HARRIS, INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I was in the room for the exchange, you could hear the laughter. It took everyone by surprise when Andrea Mitchell read the announcement from the White House. I don't think that Coats was going rogue at all in this. It's not even in his DNA. He's pretty quiet. He did obviously as you saw in previous clips, he stood up for the intelligence assessment, he answered honestly when asked questions about did you know what went on in the meeting with Putin and Trump. I think in that light hearted off the cuff moment where he says wow, this is going to be special. What he is not doing is spinning, trying to make excuses for the White House, he is not claiming he did know about the summit because he didn't. I think it is that kind of failure of dan coats to bow and scrape and clean up and play defense for the White House that's made people angry about this.
BALDWIN: After everything that has happened this week, Steve, why do you think the President would invite Vladimir Putin to the White House?
STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST AND SERVED AS CHIEF OF RUSSIA OPERATIONS FOR THE CIA: Brooke, god only knows. You know, this is a guy who I mean, we're all familiar with the litany now, Dan Coats said the dashboard is blinking red in terms of potential cyber attacks against the mid term elections in the United States. We already have the well documented from our intelligence services attacks against our democracy in the 2016 Presidential elections. We have a guy that was intellectual author of assassination attempts of Russians in Great Britain which resulted in tragic deaths of innocents there. We have a guy willing to steal parts of other countries. It goes on and on and on. So, what is President Trump's response? Let's have him to the White House. That sounds like a good idea. We have to keep asking why because for me --
BALDWIN: Why do you think?
HALL: I think, again, I've said this before, before the Helsinki meetings I was thinking geez, who knows. I didn't want to go to what the darkest possibility is, but when I see this continued behavior, I have to think that he treats Putin so differently than he does other dictators that he knows, I think Putin has to have something on him. He is not afraid to take the gloves off when it comes to Kim Jong-Un, he is not afraid to start a trade war with China. Why does he treat Vladimir Putin so differently? The only explanation I can think of that makes a whole lot of sense is that Putin has something on it him.
BALDWIN: I keep hearing this metaphor today, almost like you're robbed, you're going to be robbed again as we were hearing in Aspen, Shane, I'm sure you heard the Microsoft executive saying that they have detected attacks on three 2018 campaigns. Keep in mind the fact that Putin would be coming to Washington around the mid terms in the fall, it's almost like you have been burglarized, and you're holding the door open for the guy about to steal your stuff.
HARRIS: Right. This question of what is it with Vladimir Putin and the President has absolutely hung over every conversation at the summit the past two days. People here are disoriented, stunned by what happened in Helsinki. You could hear the laughter in the room when Dan Coats learned that the summit was also sort of masking some of the people were having, they couldn't believe they were really hearing that after everything we saw just on Monday that the White House is now bringing Vladimir Putin over for a visit.
The very question what is it between the two men, why can the President not side with his own intelligence agencies? That's the question on everyone's lips, talking about current and former national security officials. This really is the top tier of people responsible for these issues in the government past and present and they're all struggling to figure that out right now.
BALDWIN: I want to turn to new reporting from Dana Bash and Gloria Borger at CNN. Sources are telling them that Trump's legal team is worried that the President's poor performance at the summit with Putin Helsinki may actually benefit the special counsel here, may benefit Robert Mueller and his investigation. Trump's lawyers say it is hard to actually make a case for they keep calling this a witch hunt when you have so many that were appalled, Steve, at the summit behavior with Putin. You were just saying that you believe perhaps now it is kompromat that the Russians have on him because of the way he acted.
HALL: I think Trump is -- should be worried about this. I think Mueller continues to look and it is not as exciting as the idea of tapes and stuff like that, it is the money, it is how he got his empire essentially, he being Trump. I think Mueller is taking a close forensic look at that. I think even if you look at open source reporting on this in the press, you see a whole series of very disturbing in my counter intelligence view connections between how Trump managed to become successful and how Russia helped with that. And if Russia did do that and Putin was involved in that, then he can hold that over Trump's head very effectively. That's my concern.
BALDWIN: Steve Hall, Shane Harris, gentlemen, thank you so much.
Coming up here, more on breaking news this hour. The FBI has tapes of President Trump and his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, discussing payments to a former playboy model. What could this mean for the President.
Also, ahead, Israel launching what's being described as a wide scale attack on Hamas military targets in Gaza in response to a --