tv CNN Newsroom With Brooke Baldwin CNN January 18, 2019 11:00am-12:00pm PST
message and vice president mike pence made a surprise in person appearance alongside his wife karen telling the crowd that this is the generation that will restore right to life in america. pence will speak at a dinner tonight as well. the rally's organizer is claiming that this year's crowd is the largest ever. that is it for me. brooke baldwin starts right now. hi, there. i'm brooke baldwin: you're watching cnn. a giant story from buzzfeed tonight involving president trump and michael cohen and an explosive claim that trump told him to lie to congress. if true, here's two words we're going to learn today, suborning perjury. cnn has not confirmed this. not only is suborning perjury a crime, it was also part of the articles of impeachment against
both former presidents richard nixon and bill clinton and we're all old enough to remember 2016 and here was then candidate trump during the presidential debate. >> i know nothing about russia. i know about russia, but i know nothing about the inner workings of russia. i have no loans from russia. >> today the president and his attorney rudy giuliani are calling michael cohen a liar. more on that in just a moment. all this reporting is based upon accounts from two federal law enforcement officials with ties to the investigations, so not michael cohen and again cnn has not independently verified buzzfeed's reporting. there is one more thing. the article claims that cohen did not bring this information to the special counsel robert mueller. mueller actually brought it to him from this piece. let me quote, the special counsel's office learned about trump's directive for cohen to lie to congress through interviews with multiple
witnesses from the trump organization and internal company emails, text messages and a cache of other documents. cohen acknowledged those instructions during the interview with that office. let's start with jessica schneider. this buzzfeed report it actually mirrors court records, so explain to us how that is. >> if you read between the lines of these court filings, brooke, buzzfeed's reporting -- first off, it fits. the first bombshell is that the president directed michael cohen to lie about the trump tower moscow. if you look at the sentencing memo for michael cohen prosecutors put it this way about cohen's cooperation and what he told them. cohen described the circumstances of preparing and circulating his response to the congressional inquiries while continuing to accept
responsibility for the false statements contained within it. that indicates without revealing that michael cohen told investigators exactly how he prepared to testify before congress. he also wrote up something for congress and it does open the door for buzzfeed's reporting that the president told cohen what he could say and reportedly directed him to lie. then there's another part of buzzfeed's reporting that the president supported a plan for president trump or then candidate trump to visit russia during the campaign and meet with vladimir putin one-on-one. buzzfeed even reports that the president told cohen to, quote, make it happen. meaning that meeting between him and putin. and really the court documents say much of the same. and mueller's charging documents against michael cohen it describes this, it describes how cohen took steps in contemplation of individual one works we know is the president, individual one's possible travel to russia. so brooke, all of it really laid
out cryptically in those court filings. today, with those additional explosions revelation and details by buzzfeed that does fit into this. >> how's rudy giuliani responding? >> he's denying this report and he's also repeating the rhetoric we've seen from the president and his team all along, that michael cohen is a liar. here's giuliani's statement that he released today. any suggestion from any source that the president counseled michael cohen to lie is categorically false. michael cohen is a convicted criminal and a liar. to quote the prosecutors he has traded on a pattern of lies and dishonestesty over an extended period of time and for that he's going to pay a very, very serious price. today's claims are just more made up lies born of michael cohen's malace and desperation in order to reduce his sentence. this isn't just michael cohen's
word. we are learning from this buzzfeed article that robert mueller has other witnesses and documents and texts and emails to reportedly back this up that the president directed cohen to lie. brooke? >> he has the receipts as folks have been saying. thank you so much. let's analyze all of it. paul callahan is with us, mj lee is here. david gergen, former presidential adviser to fnixon, ford. if true how damning is this? >> if true and that's still a big if, no other news organization other than buzzfeed has this story at this point, but if it is true, it is a game changer. it would be the first time we have a serious allegation the president of the united states did try to suborn perjury, did ask someone else to lie.
that is a felony and no president is spared from that. bob barr who is just becoming the attorney general has said in his testimony, if a person including the president asks someone to lie or direct someone to lie before congress or law enforcement agency, that is a felony and that felony law applies to all citizens including the president of the united states. >> on the lying, the buzzfeed story says trump directed cohen to lie about the russia project, where have we heard that before? >> this is a line that we keep hearing over and over again. this is the familiar michael cohen versus donald trump dynamic at this point. we have heard it when it comes to the payments to the women, that donald trump directed michael cohen to arrange these payments. we were talking about this just yesterday as you remember about the rigging of online polls that cohen claims -- that the president directed michael cohen to be involved in finding
someone to rig these online polls to make him look good and then now this about the lying to congress, about the moscow project that it was at the direction of the president. this is the defense that michael cohen is now using when it comes to so many things and i'm completely sympathic to the people out there who are going to be skeptical about all things michael cohen just because of the role that he played in donald trump's life and in the campaign, just how ferociously defensive he was of the president, but it is also important to keep in mind that at least when it comes to one of those three things, the payments to the women, we have michael cohen saying that it was at donald trump's direction, that he arranged those payments. we have ami confirming that this is what happened. we have sdny confirming it. it seems like there's agreement that it was at donald trump's direction. of course when it comes to this news story, we don't know yet. >> trump has disavowed all
knowledge and business ties to russia. he was working to cover-up his involvement. >> it's really shaping up in a way that it is kind of analogous to the watergate burglary. nixon didn't go down because of one count of trying to suborn perjury, there were a whole bunch of things that he did to try to cover-up the watergate burglary and that eventually forced him to resign. what you're seeing here with the russia probe, this perjury relates directly to the trump organization's relationship to the russians. how much the president knew about that relationship, whether he was pursuing that relationship? and much of the mueller probe has been focused on that. this could be one piece of a larger picture of criminal activity that mueller may be looking at. >> as we pointed out a second ago, mueller has receipts and these documents, these emails and text messages and so it's --
they're not just taking michael cohen's word for it. team mueller obviously has information to back this up and if this is the smoking gun and that is a big if, wouldn't this be obstruction with a capital "o." >> yes. this would be the kind of felony that people go to jail for. now, i don't know if it's enough to knock the president of the united states out of the box, okay? one count of perjury, a contested count by cohen who's obviously a professional liar and some people would say the president has some skills in that department also. as a lawyer, i know when all of the witnesses in a case are liars, the jury kind of throws up its hands sometimes and says, who do i believe? this doesn't necessarily mean it's a great case just because cohen says it is. >> go ahead, david. i can tell you want to jump in. >> one of the differences from everything else we've had in the past in this whole investigation
is that we've had very, very few leaks from within the legal investigatory people. this is a leak from two people who have been federal investigators as you pointed out at the top brooke and it's also true that there's an element here we haven't seen before and that is that cohen was coached by lawyers very close to the administration on what to say and that -- if that is true, that part of the story is true, we not only have an obstruction, we have a conspiracy by people who either in the white house or close to the white house who may have coached cohen on exactly what he was going to say. >> do you think, david, just staying with you because, you know, some democrats obviously have been talking impeachment if this report is true but we've heard from the house speaker who isn't quite going that far. do you think we're in impeachment territory? >> i think we're in impeachment
territory. i they we ought to proceed with great caution. we're now in a situation where a great deal is at stake for the republic on whether the donald trump is treated fairly, whether his people are treated fairly, and because it's such a delicate time now, i think all of us need to slow down, let the facts unfold, let's see what we have, and not get too far out. i do think there are very suspicious patterns emerging. it is not a defense of what is being alleged in buzzfeed to just go after michael cohen's credibility. we know he lies. this is not about his lying, it is about evidence accumulated by the special counsel's office independent of him, of michael cohen. >> what about the family here? when you read this buzzfeed piece, it's the children who implicated. cohen says he gave both regular updates on the moscow project
that was hinted at around michael cohen's guilty plea. don junior testified at congress in september of '17 saying he was quote/unquote, peripherally aware of it. a spokesperson for ivanka trump saying to cnn, she was only quote minimally involved. how much jeopardy could these family members be in? >> their knowledge of the fact that something was going on with the trump tower moscow deal and that illegal or lies have been said about that is not necessarily criminal for them to know that and not do anything about it. it's a different thing if they testified under oath, then you have perjury. it's a different thing if they met with cohen or were in the room when the president was trying to coach him if that happened. then they could be involved. the second thing i always look at in this whole investigation, i think this could arise to the level of a serious felony. i doubt that it's enough to
knock out the president of the united states. i think you need a bigger, stronger package than that and mueller may be putting that together. i think that's what we have to wait and see what happens and if family members of trump are going to be implicated that could be a reason for him to resign and try to work out a deal to save his family. >> okay. him and resigning is an entirely different conversation that perhaps we'll have down the line. paul, thank you so much. mj, i have more for you. coming up, north korea's lead negotiator leaving the white house a moment ago. what, if anything, was agreed upon there? and just in, a democratic senator is now calling on the fbi to open an investigation into the department of homeland security secretary kirstjen nielsen and whether she lied to congress in sworn testimony. "green book" is the feel good movie
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call for your free publisher kit today! we're back. this is cnn. democrats who officially took control of the house of representatives two weeks ago are vowing to investigate if the president obstructed justice alleging that he directed his then attorney to lie under oath. a detail cnn has not independently confirmed. leaders of the house intelligence and judiciary committees have promised to get to the bottom of it and it's not just democrats emphasizing the gravity of the situation. listen to this republican senator. >> this is about being directed to lie to congress, it's a very big issue. we've got to get both sides of the story and get the facts out as we're trying to do with all this. >> reporter: if he did direct her to lie to congress, is that an impeachable offense?
>> i'm not going to go there. >> let's talk further about this. mj lee is joining me now and david gergen, adviser for presidents. so i want to point out everyone that the cause and effect we're seeing from the presidents decisions, if you fire fbi director james comey, then you have special counsel robert mueller, if you fire attorney general jeff sessions, then you now have the ag nominee william barr who was just asked about obstruction of justice this week during his confirmation hearings. >> so if there was some reason to believe that the president tried to coach somebody not to testify or testify falsely, that could be obstruction of justice? >> yes, under that -- under an obstruction statute, yes. >> if there's some evidence that the president tried to conceal evidence, that would be obstruction of justice potentially, right? >> right. >> in your memo, you talked
about the comey decision and you talk about obstruction of justice and you already went over that. you wrote on page one that a president persuading a person to commit perjury would be obstruction, is that right? >> yes. any person who persuades another, yeah. >> you also said that a president or any person convincing a witness to change testimony would be obstruction, is that right? >> yes. >> okay. >> david, you first. is this not potentially the most consequential nomination of trump's presidency? >> absolutely and i think the fact that bob barr has stated unequivocally, no qualifiers, that if you encourage someone to lie or direct them to lie to congress or law enforcement that is a felony, that is a violation of the law in and of itself and
remember that bob barr's previously the -- one of the reasons his nomination was in some controversy was over the question of what fits obstruction of justice and what is outside that and he's been arguing in that memo, basically, that if you look at the constitutional powers of the president, if he's acting within those constitutional powers, that's not obstruction, but if he acts outside the constitutional powers, then that can be obstruction and he specifically said in his testimony repeatedly that suborning a witness, getting a witness to lie is outside the powers of the presidency, it is a felony and it can be charged as such and the president -- we do not have confirmation on any of the things that are in buzzfeed so far, but if it's -- if it's an -- if the president encouraged someone to lie, he can be held on a felony charge and on obstruction and that's
what happened to richard nixon and bill clinton. they were both held to obstructed because they encouraged lying. >> when you listen, mj, yes, david gergen. when you listen to the senators klobuchar and graham, they hit the -- they hit the nail on the head and this is a few days before we learned of this buzzfeed reporting. is it possible that these senators knew what was coming? >> i don't know if someone in their position would have known that this specific story was coming, but in a lot of ways it is not surprising that she would have wanted to ask him exactly that in the few minutes of time that she had with him. democrats in general are now preparing and laying the ground work as much as they can for potential impeachment proceedings and they just want to be prepared, right. two reasons it is not surprising to me that klobuchar would have really wanted to nail down on this specific issue with barr, one, is that there have already
been a lot of concerns raised especially by democrats about barr's views of the mueller investigation particularly because of that memo that barr sent to trump's legal team. did he already have preconceived judgements about the investigation that would be very concerning to democrats and this was an issue going into the confirmation hearing that democrats really wanted to drill down on and get answers on the record from him. the second thing is there are multiple trump associates who have acknowledged already that they had lied, so asking the ag nominee, what are your views on somebody who might have lied and if specifically the president may have directed these people to lie, give us your on the record assessment of what that would mean in terms of whether it's criminal or not. it makes total sense that they would have asked about this. >> thank you.
always a pleasure. guys, thank you so much. speaking of lying, coming up next, did she lie to congress? a democratic senator is now calling on the fbi to open an investigation into dhs secretary kirstjen nielsen. we'll tell you why next. t-mobile knows dancing is better when you include a partner. singing is better when you include a friend. and unlimited is better with a phone included. it's true. forty bucks with the other guys, doesn't include a phone. so, start the new year right.
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military plane for this overseas congressional delegation when the house speaker planned to then fly commercial, that is when she said the white house put her delegation in danger. >> we have prerogative to travel commercially and we made plans to do that until the administration then leaked that we were traveling commercially and that endangers -- we weren't going to go because we had report from afghanistan that the president outing our trip had made the scene on the ground much more dangerous. >> of course, never far from our hearts and minds, you know, caught in the middle of this tit for tat, the 800,000 federal workers who are filing into food banks now and unemployment offices waiting on the longest government shutdown in history to end. with me now cnn sarah westwood at the white house and so, let's focus on speaker pelosi's words there. tell me more about what it is
she's alleging. >> reporter: brooke, this is a serious accusation from speaker pelosi. she accused the trump administration of leaking details about alternative travel arrangements she and other lawmakers made after president trump denied her use of government aircraft to travel on that planned congressional delegation to afghanistan. the white house is denying that any one there leaked details of the commercial travel arrangements. they were claiming they wouldn't do anything to endanger lawmakers which was a somewhat misleading statements given that this congressional delegation trips are hot spot they're secret for a reason and president trump exposed the existence of this trip to afghanistan when he made public the letter he sent to pelosi informing her that she could no longer use a government plane. the white house is sending mixed messages about what exactly prompted this letter. one senior white house official said that it was not a response to pelosi's suggestion a day
earlier that trump delay his state of the union address until after the government is reopened. another senior administration official saying minutes later that this was retaliation, either way, this escalating feud means the two sides are no closer to any kind of legislative. pelosi is saying that she hopes the leaks of her commercial flight plane was not retaliation for her state of the union move. >> the fact that they would leak the commercial -- that we were flying commercial is a danger not only to us but to other people flying commercially. it's very irresponsible on the part of the president. >> do you view this at retaliation for your letter? >> i would hope not. i don't think the president would be that petty, do you? >> reporter: the acting budget director announced today that all delegates using commercial aircraft will be canceled. that was an announcement given that the first lady just
yesterday traveled down to west palm beach using a government airplane and given the fact that even though president trump denied pelosi the ability to visit troops on a government plane during the shutdown, he himself visited troops in iraq, obviously, on a government plane while the shutdown was under way. brooke, a lot of contradictions from this white house during this petty back and forth between the president and the speaker. >> sarah, thank you. elena plot is with me. i can hear the thought bubbles of everyone watching saying, make this stop. make this all just ends. on this charge from speaker pelosi, of all people saying that it was the white house that leaked information that put her congressional delegation in danger, it's the speaker of the house, how significance is this? >> i think it's incredibly significant, brooke. as a reporter, i don't know that i found any one image more instructive for understanding the whim driven nature of this
white house than what we saw yesterday which is congressional members on this bus headed to get ready to go overseas and immediately just in realtime as we watched this brooke, the bus turns around to head back to capitol hill luggage is carted back to members' office. juxtaposing a scene like that with a clip like you just showed which is to say federal workers dealing with the very, very real and tangible consequences of this back and forth, this petty back and forth between the white house and the speaker, juxtaposing those two things really gets at the crux of what is, you know, really so toxic to american right now about this government shutdown while the speaker and donald trump are engaging in what many believe to be a purely political fight with regard to this shutdown. there are actual people experiencing the impact of this and if polling continues to suggest that american put the blame on trump for this, he's really in danger in 2020 for
rationalizing why this has gone on as long as it has. >> i was talking to a coast guard wife yesterday. february 1 is doomsday for so many of these workers whether their wives of coast guards because that's when credit cards are up and eviction notices start showing up if you cannot make your rent. also just in, democratic senator jeff merkley has made an official request to the fbi to investigate if homeland security secretary kirstjen nielsen committed perjury when she testified to congress about the administration's family separation policy regarding migrants at the border. all of this is coming after cnn reporting that showed trump officials looking into the policy to separate children from their parents in late 2017. let's go to nick valencia who cover this had for many weeks. what specifically is senator merkley expressing his concern about? >> this is really big news.
he was calling on the fbi to investigate whether or not she committed perjury in her testimony before congress in december of 2018 and he says there's compelling new evidence that high level department of homeland security officials were developing a new policy for legal framework separating families as far back as december 2017. if you remember, when she testified before congress in december of 2018, she stated that she was not a liar, that no such policy existed. this is the evidence that merkley is pointing to if we want to bring it up on the screen. it's a memo drafted by high level senior officials in the department of homeland security as well as department of justice which shows, brooke, that the trump administration was drafting policy months and far earlier than we knew to separate families. merkley tweeted at the president about the shutdown saying this is something that he deliberately created by using children, migrant children crossing the border, many of them looking for asylum, using them as political pawns rather than dealing with them or
looking at them as vulnerable human beings. this comes less than a day of another report from the office of the inspector general, hhs, saying the trump administration has no idea how many children that they separated under their zero-tolerance policy. it's potentially that thousands others that the government didn't know about that were separated during that time. brooke? >> thank you so much for jumping on and getting us that news. coming up next, today's news about michael cohen tops off an astonishing week of developments in the russia investigation. does it mean that the mueller investigation is anywhere near closing? david axelrod joins me to talk about what's ahead.
about the trump tower project in moscow. cnn has not confirmed this buzzfeed report, but the president and his personal attorney currently rudy giuliani are denying this report and have attacked the credibility of michael cohen. that news followed a report in "the wall street journal" that cohen also admitted to hiring a firm during the campaign that this i.t. official to rig online polling at the direction of and the sole benefit of trump. so with me now david axelrod. david -- >> just another week, brooke. >> you know, just another friday in the news biz. you read this whole thing. what's your -- if true, this could be the smoking gun is what
i'm hearing from lawyers. what's your biggest takeaway? >> i think the if true is very important. no one's really followed this reporting yet and we don't know what's true or what's not. i think it makes for one hell of a show and michael cohen comes before congress on february 7th. this is going to be item number one when the questioning begins. but, yes, if there is proof beyond michael cohen's allegation that the president directed him to do these things and there are witnesses as was suggested in the buzzfeed piece, then this is very, very serious and i mean, think about it. if the president of the united states directed someone to lie to the congress, what is congress to do with that? i think jerry nadler the chairman of the judiciary committee was right to say we are going to look -- take a thorough look at this without jumping to the next stage, but if this turns out to be true,
the next stage could very well be impeachment. >> yep. circle february 7th on everyone's calendars in red because we'll all be -- we'll all be tuning in to the michael cohen testimony. in the meantime, another huge story has dropped regarding north korea and the president of the united states. so just a bit ago, president trump met with north korea's top envoy at the white house today where they discussed a second summit which we're hearing will take place near the end of february. i should remind everyone this top envoy say former spy chief. this is the same guy who hand deliver that had big envelope to trump last summer with this letter from kim jong-un. do you think they deserve a second summit? do you think that north korea is just totally playing this president? >> you know, it's hard to say. first of all, let's just stipulate that it's better to be talking than not talking, talks
are better than war where we seem to be headed for some time before this bromance broke out, but, you know, what exactly do we get out of the last summit? we gave kim jong-un what the north koreans have craved for generations which is a spot on the world stage. we froze exercises with the south koreans which is something the north koreans desperately wanted. they say they've stopped testing but there's some evidence that they didn't really need to be testing and that they're proceeding at pace and manufacturing weapons. it's not exactly clear what that first summit proud from the standpoint of the united states. it is theater and the president loves theater and right now, he needs some theater other than the drama that is taking place in washington. i can understand why he would want it, but generally you want
some fixed notion going into these things about what's achievable. that wasn't the case in the last summit and it's not at all clear that that's going to be the case going into this one. >> i hear you, it's better to be talking than war, of course, but what do you make of this north korean envoy back at the white house? is this an example of keeping your enemies too close? >> well, you know, what's peculiar about this whole thing, they keep delivering letters to the white house and he displays them to visitors, apparently. >> like a souvenir. >> displaying a letter from his girlfriend at summer camp and it is -- it's really, really odd and you do get a sense that kim jong-un has a real beat on the president of the united states and is playing him, but --
>> who does that remind you of? >> exactly. if it does produce some tangible and verifiable progress on denuclearization, then we can say, yes, something valuable has been achieved. otherwise, this is just some weird relationship among the many that the president has with desbots around the world. >> i know you spoke with the former secretary of state john kerry, he had a lot to say. it was putin that came to my mind when you were talking about kim jong-un. let's watch a clip. >> president trump stood besides president putin in helsinki like we are and literally renounced the consensus opinion of the entire security intelligence community, the united states and of other countries and took
putin's side on the subject. >> i have great confidence in my intelligence people, but i will tell you that president putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. >> i think it's because the russians clearly -- he has some special relationship with them and it's not made public. i think he's fearful that president putin has information on him. i know from my trips to russia, everything you do and say is being listened to and is being followed. while donald trump was pursuing the miss universe contest and trump towers in moscow and visiting, i have no doubt that whatever activities he was engaged in, i don't know what they all were, but i do know from intelligence community personnel that i've talked to that there is huge credibility within the intel community to the so-called steele dossier and to many of that. >> just quickly, david, does
secretary kerry think that putin has something on trump? >> he sure inferred that, he implied that when i asked him directly. so, yes, i think he believes that and he has a lot more to say about the president and where we are in the world. it was a great conversation. >> we can't wait to tune in, david axelrod, thank you. we'll be watching the interview tomorrow 7:00 p.m. eastern here on cnn, the axe files with david axelrod. still ahead, if it's true, the buzzfeed report brings president trump's family under serious scrutiny. ivanka trump, don junior both mentioned. the accusations hitting so close to home for the president, how might he be responding to that?
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next question on all this news today, how much do trump's children know and when did they know it? the role evaughanca and don jr. is front and center amid the latest buzzfeed reporting and how much did they know about this moscow trump tower project. these siblings received regular detailed updates from michael cohen about the negotiation something ivanka trump has denied. ivanka trump's attorney did issue a statement, ms. trump did not know about this proposal until after a nonbinding letter of intent had been signed, never talked to anyone outside the organization about the proposal, never visited the perspective project site and even internally was only minimally involved. cnn did not receive a response
from don jr. nor from cohen but we do know in 2017, trump -- don jr. told lawmakers he was aware of the project but was not involved. with me now is michael deantonio. you know this man better than most. you know how president trump ran his family business and how involved his grown children were. how much do you think don junior and ivanka know? >> i think they knew everything and i think they knew it all along. it's important to note that michael cohen was their lawyer as well. he always took care of problems for them, he always kept them informed of what was going on in the business and so did the president. there really wasn't anything
that wasn't shared in this group of executives. it was a very small operation. when i spoke to don junior and eric and ivanka, they said to me that they were all involved in every project so whether it was a golf course development or business proposal or effort to build the trump tower, everyone had their hand in so that someone could fill in at a moment's notice and take over the project. >> but so then how do you reconcile what you're saying with what the statement that we have from ivanka trump's person today, don junior when he testified at congress that he had peripheral knowledge although they think he lied about that. how do you square that? >> there's also a family tradition of speaking very carefully so that you can appear to deny knowledge of something without actually coming forth
and saying, i absolutely had no contact. if ivanka trump, for example, is saying that she had no discussions outside of the office, that doesn't mean that she wasn't involved in every conference to consider the next steps. so she was aware. especially don junior was aware. the irony in all of this is that eric trump and tiffany trump are the two of the younger generation who may be outside of consideration for this problem because they weren't as favored by the president. >> to be continued. thank you very, very much. more on this developing story. the white house saying they will hold a second summit with north korea at the end of the february. more on that coming up.
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