Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Judge Tells Manafort Jury to Keep Deliberating; Michael Cohen Expected to Plead Guilty to Campaign Finance Violations, Tax and Bank Fraud; Cohen Deal Includes Prison Time. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired August 21, 2018 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00]

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: No word, Brooke. The jury has been silent for about 3 1/2 hours now. Ever since they went back into the deliberation room. So, you know, it's assumed that they're working through this. That if they had one count or others their working and taking the judge's instruction to heart here. Maybe working with each other more, showing more deference, listening to each other. Those were all things that the judge said they should do. So, they went back into that jury deliberation room at 11:58 after asking the judge that question. What should we do if we cannot come to a consensus on a single count? How should we fill out the verdict form? And the judge said to them essentially go back, try this, try it again, try some more.

You know, that's standard what a judge does in these cases. It's often referred to as an Alan charge here in district court in Virginia. It's called a Sayer's charge. So, that was something the judge gave to them. And we haven't heard from the jury since.

So, presumably whether they're working on one count, whether they're working on several counts, they have gone back to the deliberation room to continue here. You know, yesterday we got word as to when we could expect to wrap up the proceedings for the day. Yesterday it was 6:15. No word yet from the jury, Brooke, as to whether they might wrap up today. Whether we could see a verdict. Whether there might be more questions. We have all been left lingering out here wondering how this jury is progressing. But the judge telling them, look, go back in there. Keep trying. So, we'll see what happens next -- Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Jessica, thank you. Hang tight. I'm sure with everyone else wondering with bated breath what this jury brings back. Let's go to Page Pate, one of our CNN legal analysts. And Page, if you are -- you know, that jury is back in there. They have been deliberating day four. Now after this question, several more hours. If you are the prosecutor here, are you starting to worry?

PAGE PATE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, Brooke, I don't think so. Because all we know at this point is that they're having trouble with one count. I think it would be fair to assume that the other counts they were able to reach a verdict on and given the amount of evidence in the case, I think we can say there's certainly a good chance that that's a guilty verdict on all those other counts. So, you can't really tell obviously at this point where they are on

that remaining count. But I do expect we are going to hear something today. Because by the tone of that note, it indicates to me that they were having some difficulty and they were just trying to figure out what do we write if we can't come to agreement on this one count. So, the judge telling them to go back and try again may have prompted them to try to reach an agreement. But I think at the end of the day we'll either have a verdict or they'll report back and say, look, we just cannot agree on this one count. And then the judge has the option of taking a partial verdict or simply declaring a mistrial.

BALDWIN: OK, Page, thank you. Paul Callan, go ahead.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I agree with Page that this sort of indicates probably they've already reached guilty verdicts on 17 of the 18 counts. But, let me just be a contrarian as I look closely at the wording. The jury question -- it's hard to read the tea leaves in jury questions. The question was we can't come to a consensus. How do we fill out the jury verdict sheet if we can't come to a consensus on a single count?

Let me phrase that a different way. If we can't find him guilty on any count, what do we do then? Is that a variation on that? I mean, you could read this if you want to be a Manafort optimist, and optimist for him, that they can't reach a consensus on any count. And because the jury verdict sheet doesn't have a box that you check for hung jury. It's just going to have guilty or not guilty as you go down to the counts. It doesn't have a section that says hung jury. So, I suppose that could be an in-artfully worded question that could suggest maybe they're hung up on more than one count.

Now it's been a long time since they went back. Usually when you have a jury that's reached verdicts on so many counts and they're hung on one, they either go back in and they come back quickly or sometimes they come back with a note saying we can't reach a verdict on that remaining count. They've been out for a few hours since they came back with that question.

JOHN LAURO, CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER: As a defense lawyer, my heart is in my throat right now. OK. Because what this signals to me is it's a pretty cohesive jury. They've looked through a lot of documents, 400 exhibits. They've come to a determination on 17 out of 18 counts. Maybe they can't reach agreement on the 18th. I'm really worried as a defense lawyer right now. I think a verdict is coming very shortly.

BALDWIN: OK. We're ready for it. If in fact it comes when it comes, when it comes. Guys thank you.

Any moment back over to Michael Cohen now. The President's long-time fixer, personal attorney, will walk into federal court in New York. He is expected to make a plea deal. We are told would spend time in jail for charges relating to campaign finance violations, tax fraud, bank fraud. So, we'll talk about what this means for this President and the special counsel investigation. We'll be right back.

[15:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) [15:40:00] BALDWIN: We're back. We are just essentially waiting now. Waiting for Michael Cohen to show up at that federal courthouse in New York City. This is the moment where he will be pleading guilty. This is all part of his plea deal to campaign finance violations, bank fraud, tax fraud. And it's how he describes his involvement in these crimes that will be key for everyone listening. So, that's Michael Cohen. We've got Greg Brower now, former FBI assistant director at the FBI's office of congressional affairs. And so, just take me behind the scenes of, you know, when Michael Cohen is first taken into custody by the FBI, just in the last hour or two, what that even looks like.

GREG BROWER, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF CONGRESSIONAL AFFAIRS: Hi, Brooke. I just left court myself and so I'm not up to speed on all of the details of the reporting. I understand that Cohen does plan on entering a guilty plea. Although according to the reporting I've seen, there is not a cooperation agreement per se.

BALDWIN: That's correct.

BROWER: But that's somewhat unique in and of itself. We'll see if that changes over time. But needless to say, that the process that Cohen is about to undergo is a sobering one. He will be brought into the courthouse, processed. If this is a typical sort of initial appearance type of proceeding today, he'll appear before a magistrate judge. The government will put on the record that they've entered into a plea agreement with Cohen. Cohen will affirm that, and it will go from there.

BALDWIN: And that walk even, Greg, into that federal courthouse, will he be on either side of him FBI agents walking him in?

BROWER: Yes, it depends. And it also may be the case that he's allowed with counsel to enter through the back and not have to go through sort of gauntlet up into the front door of the courthouse. I just don't know what's been arranged in this case. Clearly if he was appearing pursuant to a cooperation agreement of some sort all due courtesy would be afforded him and his counsel to avoid the spectacle that might otherwise be waiting for him there or that might otherwise be created by his appearance. I just don't know enough about the terms of this appearance today to give you specifics. But needless to say, again, this will be a very, very sobering experience for Cohen.

BALDWIN: We were just talking to our reporter who is been camped out outside of that federal courthouse in Alexandria on this trial involving Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. That's happening in one orbit down in Virginia and then here in New York you have what you just described involving Michael Cohen, two people, two former fixtures in Trump's world. And just how extraordinary is it that these two stories are colliding at the very same time?

BROWER: It is extraordinary. And, of course, we should all be reminded that neither the Manafort charges nor the Cohen charges are aimed at the President or others in the President's inner circle themselves specifically. It is an incredible confluence of events that we have what appears -- we don't know for sure yet. But I'll go with what I think is the conventional wisdom out there. That it appears that we will have a guilty verdict at least on most counts in the Manafort case today. Manafort being at least for a time the campaign -- the Presidential campaign's senior adviser. And then at the same time we have the President's long-time closest lawyer and consiglieri, if you will, pleading guilty to federal charges in another federal district. It's not good for the President and his team any way you look at it.

BALDWIN: Speaking of the President's team, Greg, let me just play some sound. This is Rudy Giuliani. This is the President's current lawyer talking about Michael Cohen just a couple weeks ago. A moment that really sort of shows how this story, how this relationship between Cohen and Trump started to take a turn. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I expected something like this from Cohen. He's been lying all week or for two weeks. He's been lying for years. I mean, the tapes that we have demonstrate any number of very serious lies by him back a year and a half ago. Including his fooling people, hiding tape recordings, telling they weren't recorded, lying to their face, breaking faith with him, taping his client. Which is a disbarrable offense. I don't see how he has any credibility.

[15:44:53] BALDWIN: Jennifer Rodgers, let me actually go to you for this just as a legal mind listening to him. This was really the moment when open war broke out between this administration and the guy who once said he'd said he'd take a bullet for the President.

[15:45:00] JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST; FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, SDNY: I think that's right. I mean Rudy on behalf of his client is trying to distant him from Michael Cohen and maybe that's the reason why there's no cooperation agreement. It is possible the prosecutors have concluded that he is not trustworthy. The problem is this is the President's playbook. He has these people close. He trusts them implicitly. Everything is great. They're truth tellers until they're not. Until something happens when they have something bad to say about the President and then it's all over. So, Giuliani's comments certainly no one should give any credence at this point. Clearly, the President is going to continue to distance himself from Cohen with this guilty plea today.

BALDWIN: Jennifer, thank you. John, over to you on our reporting that with Cohen it would be he would serve up to three years. I guess that's dependent on a judge. And you were essentially saying, whoa, that's way less time than what bank fraud you were saying 10 to 12?

LAURO: All reports are that he's pleading guilty to a $20 million bank fraud which under sentencing guidelines puts him at 10 to 12 years at jail. He's looking at the abyss right now. The only way in the federal system you get out of that situation is by cooperation. That's why it's so significant.

BALDWIN: Is that what's implied here? LAURO: The only way that you get a significant reduction is if the

government goes to the judge and says this guy really helped me with another case. Otherwise he's looking at a long time in jail. That's why I keep going back to the cooperation piece. It doesn't make sense.

BALDWIN: Page Pate, does it make sense to you? Are you befuddled a tad as well?

PATE: Befuddled is a good word for it. That's the first question I had in my mind when I came to the bureau and realized there's a plea deal in the works. It's easy for the U.S. attorney to put cooperation language in a plea agreement. It doesn't require the defendant to cooperate and it doesn't require the government to give the person credit for cooperation. It just leaves the door open. It's extraordinary that it's not in there unless the government wanted to send a clear message that this plea deal has nothing to do with Michael Cohen being a snitch. If they wanted to send that message, I think they've done that. We come back to the question how does he get three years on a $10-$20 million bank fraud case? It's extraordinary. I want to see the plea agreement and once we read the language, we'll know more about the details.

BALDWIN: Gentlemen, stand by. We should be seeing according to this schedule I have should see Michael Cohen walk through the doors in about ten minutes from now. We'll talk to a former Watergate special prosecutor, we will talk to Richard Ben-Veniste, we will have him weigh in on all things Michael Cohen. Stay with me. Breaking news.

[15:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: As we wait for Michael Cohen's arrival there at the federal courthouse in New York, let's go to our justice correspondent Laura Jarrett who has some new information on all things Michael Cohen. Laura, what do you have?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, we are getting a little bit of inside baseball, if you will, how some of this came about, including how the Southern District of New York worked with the Justice Department to make all of this happen. And as it turns out, the tax division at the Justice Department, you don't hear from often, as well as the IRS, had to sign off on the deal. Even though it's a plea agreement because it related to tax related issues. We also have learned that the public integrity section which typically investigates campaign finance issues and the criminal section as well as the Deputy Attorney General's office were also consulted on the charges so a lot of look cooks in the kitchen on this one but coming down to the nitty-gritty, the timing of the plea agreement.

And why it happened today of all days, I'm told by a source familiar that's really a negotiation between the prosecutors there in New York and Michael Cohen's defense attorneys. But I'm also told that Jeffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney there in New York is still recused and that's why we will see his deputy make the presentation after Cohen's plea agreement in New York. Brooke? BALDWIN: Right. He's set to speak we are told for five minutes after

we hear from Michael Cohen inside the courthouse. Laura, thank you so much for your inside baseball knowledge. It is important. Thank you. I have with me now former Watergate special prosecutor, Richard Ben- Veniste just weighing in on all of this. Richard, my goodness, big picture, this is the man who has gone back years and years with this President. Who is now going to walk in to -- we don't know what door. Front, side, what have you, in front of the judge and he is going to say, yes, I did it. How big of a deal is that?

RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, FORMER WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: Of course, it is a big deal. This is a man who is very, very close to Donald Trump for any number of years. He was the person to whom Trump turned normally when he got into hot water in one way or another. We know with respect to his sexual adventures that Cohen was the guy he turned to, to enter into nondisclosure agreements and various other things.

[15:55:00] And perhaps including things Russian. We may look to Michael Cohen to provide information. And there's no question in my mind but that it behooves him to cooperate once he has decided not to contest the charges against him. And to plead guilty.

BALDWIN: Yes. Explain that. You know, for people watching, thinking, what is it exactly he's pleading guilty to? According to our reporting, campaign finance violations which could be that direct connection to the Trump campaign. And bank fraud and tax fraud. But to the point about cooperation, what he's doing today doesn't preclude that he couldn't cooperate.

BEN-VENISTE: Of course, it doesn't, Brooke. And you're quite right about that. It's likely that he will cooperate. He will be debriefed, and he will look to the prosecutors then to make a recommendation so that he doesn't do the full extent of time for the various criminal statutes to which he will be pleading guilty.

BALDWIN: Richard, stay with me. Paul Callan, I am turning to you because we were talking earlier, and you were saying how some of this just strikes you as bizarre. What's the bizarre part to you?

CALLAN: Well, just the fact that there was no cooperation agreement in place because for a long time we have gotten signals from the Cohen defense camp that he was looking to make a deal. That he was thinking about his family now. Not about the President. And he's got a politically connected lawyer representing him. So, everything pointed to a deal being made. And for him now to go in and take a plea without a deal is very, very surprising. In truth, this happens sometimes. As I mentioned earlier, Rick Gates, a co-defendant with Paul Manafort made a deal with the prosecutors after he was indicted. So, it's quite possible that Cohen can still strike a deal with prosecutors somewhere down the road. But it's not the usual thing that you see. Usually it's the deal up front, the plea and then the case moves forward.

LAURO: And the Southern District has a very rigorous cooperation arrangement. You don't just show up and say I want to cooperate. They put you through hoops questioning you for a long time and they expect you to be totally credible and totally honest and give them something that matters. What this signals to me is he doesn't have something to give them or hasn't said in it a way they believe he's credible. Maybe down the line he can cooperate but if he is not cooperating now, this is a very, very significant turn of events.

BALDWIN: Jennifer, do you agree with that?

RODGERS: I do, actually. I think that there's been plenty of time for him to cooperate. There's no question that the debriefings are extensive, but he wouldn't plead guilty if he was going to cooperate in my view because a defendant loses leverage when he does that. The prosecutors want the defendant to plead guilty. So as soon as he does, that's kind of where the defendant loses a little bit of the grip there. To me the fact that if this in fact a plea agreement, straight plea agreement, no cooperation, I think it's unlikely then that Michael Cohen ends up cooperating unless something changes factually.

BALDWIN: I mean, Richard, I have to imagine Special Counsel Bob Mueller is watching today very closely.

BEN-VENISTE: Of course, he's been briefed on all of this through the U.S. attorney's office. My alma mater. I spent five years there before Watergate. You know, I've seen any number of variations and ways in which you get to the point where an individual eventually provides information to the best of his ability. I can tell you that it was unusual to see an individual spending as much time through his attorney spinning as we have seen here. The Southern District of New York doesn't cotton to that and that could be one of the reasons why there hasn't as yet perhaps been a meeting of the minds, but they'll get to that point eventually given the arithmetic and the number of counts to which we hear a plea will be entered.

BALDWIN: Gentlemen, what if when he's talking with this judge as you point out because you know this district and how this works, specifically when he is talking about the campaign finance violation charge that he is going to plead guilty to, again, we don't know yet until it happens but if it involves those payments which would then involve the President, could the President be implicated here?

LAURO: Presumably, yes. But that's -- we go back to the cooperation. They'll need somebody to come and say what the deal was. These are crimes that go to intent. It's not a bank robbery. What a prosecutor has to prove is somebody had criminal intent, corrupt intent, and that usually requires a cooperating witness to say we had this discussion, we were on the same page and we knew what was going on.

[16:00:00] CALLAN: It's clear as day, though, if you have a campaign finance violation, Michael Cohen wasn't running for office. Donald Trump was running for office. And if a contribution was engineered by Michael Cohen and was unreported it's a contribution probably to the Trump campaign. So, I would say it's very likely that the President's going to get pulled into this.

BALDWIN: Page, I have 25 seconds. Could the President be deposed? PATE: Deposed? While he's President, yes, he could be deposed. If

he has real criminal exposure, I wouldn't think his lawyers let him be deposed but I do expect his name to come up today. Because one of the most important things about a plea proceeding in federal court is a factual basis and the only way do make a factual basis for that campaign violation charge is to say what campaign it involved. So, I think he will be involved.

BALDWIN: All right. Everyone, thank you. It's been a wild two hours. The journey continues. Jake Tapper is up next, "THE LEAD" starts next.