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tv   Anderson Cooper 360  CNN  May 8, 2018 9:00pm-10:00pm PDT

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>> we're going to bring you results as they come in from west virginia. but breaking news in the mueller investigation and the investigation into michael cohen. cnn learned that mueller investigations have questioned a russian oligarch about hundreds of thousands of dollars deposited into essential consultants llc, the company set up by michael cohen that was used to pay off stormy daniels. hundreds of thousands of dollars from the u.s. affiliate were made after the election. the purpose of the payments by the u.s. affiliate is unclear at this hour. cnn has reviewed documents that appear to show the payments but cnn has not authenticated the documents. their authenticity has already been bolstered by a statement issued by another company tonight, at&t, which is trying to acquire cnn and its parent company time warn per .the information that michael
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avenatti revealed earl yer said that at&t had paid several hundred thousands of dollars to michael cohen's essential con l consultants llc. at&t released a statement confirming that. another company, a pharmaceutical company just issued this statement saying any agreement with essential consultants were before its current ceo took office and has expired. as for why central consultants received $500,000 from a u.s. affiliate of a company owned by a russian oligarch named vikt viktorvekselberg, we have reached out to michael cohen and his attorney and neither have responded. within aapproximately 75 day with the payment of mr. clifford, viktor vekselberg
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caused substantial funds to be deposited into the bank account from which mr. cohen made the payment. these funds may have replenished the account. on october 2016 through january 2018, mr. cohen used his first republic account to engage in suspicion financial transactions totaling $4,425,000 and some change. chief among the suspicious financial transactions is $500,000 in payments received by mr. viktor vekselberg. he and his cousin routed eight payments to mr. cohen's group company named columbus nova llc beginning in january 2017 and continuing until at least august 2017. michael avenatti's report also refers to former rnc official
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elliott broidy. it came out last month that he facilitated a $1.6 million payment to a playboy model that broidy said he got pregnant pz 'dill tad below, mr. cohen received $785 thouks from mr. elliott broidy that originated from an account in broidy's name at bank of america. michael avenatti joins us tonight. a lot to go over. we reviewed the doms that appear to show the payments you revealed earlier today. we haven't independently verified this em. but the fact that at&t has now come out saying that the documents at least related to at&t are correct, obviously bolsters the authenticity of the documents. i know you're not going to say what your information is based on, but you are obviously very confident in the information that you released earlier. >> 100%, anderson. 100% confident. we would not have released this
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if we were not 100% confident in the accuracy of the information. i believe right before we went live, "the new york times" issued an article where they verified the accuracy of what we released based on their independent review of other documents. there's no question that this is accurate. it took a lot of work. we've been work on this for some time. we've been in this case for a number of months. we've been spending a lot of time on the case. we've got a whole team of individuals that are working on the case back in california. and we're highly confident in the information we released. >> let's begin with the $500,000 paid to michael cohen's llc from this company columbus nova, this u.s. company related to a russian oligarch tied to putin. is it clear why he would have paid up to $500,000? >> it's not clear yet. but what we do know is there's $500,000 of payments that took place between january of 2017 -- so this is after the election it occurred in november of 2016 -- and then up through
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approximately august of 2017. so about an eight-month time period of payments totally $500,000. we have yet to hear an explanation from michael cohen as to why the personal attorney to the president of the united states, who at the time at least for a portion of that time was employed by the trump organization would be accepting payments from a russian oligarch to the tune of $500,000. >> the attorney for columbia nova said the company made the payment, that this russian oligar oligarch, vekselberg did not have any involvement in the transaction or any involvement with the decision to hire michael cohen. do you have any evidence to the contrary? >> we do have evidence to the contrary, and also you have the ceo, mr. intrater.
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>> this american company gave money for the inauguration funds. they also gave money, i believe, to the rnc and for some campaign stuff, all of which is legal. at the very least, there may be no nefarious reason here at all is that that this company would have given $500,000 for michael cohen. they could have been hiring him for any number of consulting -- >> for what? his legal skill and acumen, i doubt that. >> but he does have the ear of the president, so a company might want -- but at the very least, it is moronic for michael cohen, who is representing the president of the united states to be publicly seen as accepting money from a company which has such deep ties to a russian
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company with ties to vladimir putin. >> anderson, there's no question about that. but you said he may have the ear of the president. michael cohen should not be selling access to the president of the united states. i mean, this is a big deal. >> do you believe that is what may have happen heerd? >> well, from the series of payments -- and of course there's a lot of talk about the revelation in our report about the payments made by the oligarch, or through the u.s. entity of the oligarch, but there's also other payments that have been disclosed. you referenced at&t, others disclosed within the report -- and it appears that this may be your typical pay to play type of scenario. where you have someone close to a politician in this case the president of the united states, which is highly unusual, selling po sensual access to the president of the united states. i don't believe that michael cohen is registered as a lobbyist. i don't believe he's registered as he should be in order to
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represent any foreign agents or foreign interests. i mean, this is a big deal. i mean, he had to be receiving this money for something. and it's unclear as to what the excuse is as to why he was receiving this money. and let us remember this. up until at least april of this year, michael cohen continued to serve as the personal attorney to the president of the united states. we saw the president on april 1 refer to michael cohen return to his his attorney, in the presence sense. you have to speak to michael, he is my attorney. something along those lines. >> you also said this $500,000 paid from this u.s. affiliate of a russian company, which you believe ultimately was vent over by this russian oligarch, or ordered by vekselberg, it was received, i believe, some 75 days after the payment was made to your client stormy daniels. you said -- you haven't said that this was repaying michael cohen for that payment, but you said that this did essentially replenish the essential
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consultants account. are you making a connection between this payment and the payment to stormy daniels? do you believe this was some sort of repayment to michael cohen? or is this just 75 days after, it's the first money that came in and it replenished the coffers. >> this is what i said in the tweet. i think i was very clear. that it may, in fact, reconstitute the repayment of the $130,000. we don't know yet. but what we do know is the payment to my client was paid on october 27th, 2016. and the first payment from the russian oligarch through the u.s. entity occurred in january of 2017. we're not aware of any other deposits that came in during that interim time period. now there may have been other deposits, but we're not aware of any. and it appears from what rudy giuliani has said most recently -- although that is a never-ending circle as it relates to what mr. giuliani may oer may not say on any gaichb
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day on this. because no one can figure out the truth, at least from the white house on what happened. according to mr. giuliani, the president's reimbursement scheme of this $130,000, the reimbursement scheme with the retainer invoices didn't start until much after this. >> do you have any evidence that any of these companies that were giving money into this account were aware that this was the same account used to pay off stormy daniels? because i would imagine any legitimate company or corporation would be very concerned that the money they are paying to this man, michael cohen for whatever services he is allegedly rendering or offering, that it's going to the same account used to do hush agreements. >> we don't know if they knew or they did not know. but here's what we do know for certain. essential consultants was formed approximately two weeks before the payment to my client of $130,000, okay?
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there's no question in my view the purpose of the formation of that entity was to further shield that payment by scrutiny by not having michael cohen or donald trump's name on it. secondly, the bank account that was set up for the routing of this money, this $130,000 was set up in the name of essential consultants llc. an in connection with that -- and i think i raised this some time ago on your show. we talked about potential charges that could be brought against michael cohen, depending on his financial activity or the activity that occurred at the bank. and i think i referenced on your show the kyc process, which is know your client. and i think i referenced the fact that when they went to establish this account for the llc, the bank would have asked michael cohen questions about what his purpose was, what the expected transaction flow was, et cetera. and we detail in the report now specific information that michael cohen gave to the bank when this account was opened which has proven to be absolutely false.
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>> but a person can change the nature of their business, can they not? >> they can change the nature of their business, but the nature of this business was never, from all indications, real estate consulting or anything else that michael cohen told the bank. >> as we said, there are other companies that gave money. we talked about at&t. this company according to your report, pharmaceutical company paid michael cohen $399,920 in four separate payments from late '17 to '18. do you know why these payments were made? >> no. but what we do know is that the president took a dinner with the ceo of novartis. they appear to be paid in sums that were avoided to avoid connection. >> $999,000, just below the
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$100,000 mark. >> it looks like they were purposefully structured in that way to avoid some reporting requirement. >> i want to read a statement that columbus nova has put out, the american arm of this affiliate of a russian company. they said after the inauguration, the firm hired michael cohen regarding potential sources of capital and potential investments in real estate and other skren ventures. reports today that viktor vekselberg used columbus nova as a conduit for payments to michael cohen are false. he was not hired by cohen or provided funding for his engagement. >> well, columbus nova is owned by 100% to my knowledge is owned by this russian national firm number one. >> they say it's purely an american company, an american ceo, american board. >> well look, mr. intrater is a
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cousin of the oligarch. of all the people that could be i hired for consulting on real estate an and the like here in new york and elsewhere -- there's a lot of real estate consultants. they just happened to hire the personal attorney of the president of the united states who takes $500,000 at the same time period when the president is under intense scrutiny related to his ties to russia? >> that's what i don't understand. >> you don't understand it, i don't understand it and anybody with any common sense in america shouldn't understand it. and look, there's a very easy solution to all of this. i'm going to call for it tonight. michael cohen should turn over all of his bank records from this account for essential consultants from its inception through today. just release them. if there's nothing to hide he should release the bank records and i'm sure it will all be sorted out a eneveryone will come to the conclusion that there's nothing untoward or improper here. i guarantee you that is not what
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would happen if these bank records were released. additional questions would result, because this doesn't pass the smell test. >> the government would also have information on this, that if they wanted to make public they could make public, wouldn't they? >> you're absolutely right. and we have called for the release of the suspicious activity report or reports relating to this account. we wrote a letter to the treasury secretary, we demanded their release, or its release. he did not respond. we have tried to make this a front and center issue without great success. and hopefully at this point now with the release of information, there will be a call for the release of this information, the suspicious activity report or reports relawsuiting to this account so the american people can see exactly what happened here. and whether additional russian money was taken. and in addition, where the money went. did all the money go to michael cohen? did some of it go to the trump organization? did some of it go to the president? because if additional monies
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were received in a pay to play type scheme. and if those monies made their wie either directly or indirectly to the president, then we've got a whole different ball game. >> wait a minute. you're raising the specter that michael cohen is receiving money to get access to the president of the united states and that the president might be receiving some of that money? naseems -- -- that seems -- >> i'm stating this is a possibility. we don't know where all of this money went. and we need to get to the bottom of it. the american people deserve to know where this money went. >> we're going to take a quick break. we're going to have more with michael after this break. we'll also get the latest with the breaking news tonight. the mueller team has questioned a russian oligarch about hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to michael cohen. and the races tonight including the west virginia trade where a candidate served time in prison and described himself as trumpier than trump. there's nothing small about your business. with dell small business technology advisors you get the one-on-one partnership you need to grow your business.
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>> adviswres to investigatored questioned this russian man. he's an oeg gark. his name is viktor vekselberg. they questioned him about hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments that were made to president trump's personal
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attorney michael cohen in 2017. but there were also questions about other money that perhaps went into people affiliated with the trump campaign and the ininauguration ration. those questions were also asked of viktor vekselberg when he was stopped by fbi agents. we're told, anderson, that vekselberg has not been coopera cooperate tif wi coopera cooperateive with authorities. all of these questions you're discussing with michael avenatti have come up as concerns with investigators. >> let's talk about vekselberg, what the fbi wanted to know from him. >> he's one of the most prominent businessmen in russia. he spent $100 million to buy fabregas eggs to bring them home. he was stopped when his private plane landed in the u.s.
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at that time, he was asked in addition to the questions that shimone just asked, he was also asked about payments from his cousin, andrew intrater, his cousin from columbus nova. he donated over $300,000 to trump, the inauguration and the rnc. that's a question that authorities asked vekselberg as well as intrater. columbus nova, the company, has since given a statement. we reached out to them for comment before the story, but they have now given us a statement in which i'll read part of it to you. it stays after the inauguration, the firm hired michael cohen as a business consultant regarding potential sources of capital and potential investments in real estate and other ventures. reports today that viktor vekselberg used columbus nova as a conduit for payments to trump are false. no one other than columbus nova's owners provided funding for his engagement.
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we have a confirmation from columbus nova that they were one of michael cohen's business clients. they's drawering the distinction saying this decision was made irrespective of viktor vekselberg. we know mueller questioned vi e vekselberg about this. >> it's suspicious that they just happened to pick michael cohen for real estate advice, nothing to do with his relationship with the president of the united states. to our knowledge -- i mean, it's not known if there was anything illegal about any of these payments. >> that's exactly right. there isn't, and we should be clear about that. there's nothing, at least from what we've been told by our sources, specifically by one source who has some knowledge of the investigation. there are some concerns given that this viktor vekselberg was sanctioned by the united states for interfering into the u.s.
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election. he's now linked to this company in new york that was paying michael cohen money. certainly those are questions that investigators are going to have. that's why they stopped viktor vekselberg on a plane when he came to the new york area. it's also why they questioned andrew intrater. these are questions they've been trying to look a at to see if this was any financial influence into the president's circle. so certainly these questions, these coincidences here would be something investigators want to look at. >> and it's his cousin running the business? >> that's correct. this was a cousin. some folks have said to us well, he didn't know. but there is lots of different takes on this. but nonetheless there was concern.
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>> where do things stand the kremlin investigation involving cohen in the southern district of new york? >> well, the judge appointed a special master to weed through this difficult issue of what should be covered by attorney-client privilege and what documents the prosecutors can have access to. as they continue in their criminal investigation of cohen's personal financial dealings. now, the special master has said that she's going to set a time line. there's an expectation that the government will have provided all of the documents to cohen's team, as well as the special manst master for this review by the end of the week. the government has handed over already eight boxes of digitized documents, as well as the contents of over a dozen electronic devices. we're expecting aer haing in this case in about two weeks. i think at that point we'll have greater clarity of how big an argument this is going to be. how much of the documents that have been seized are going to be subject to attorney-client privilege. cohen's attorney said in court that cohen only had three clients during the past year.
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>> right. so say he only had three clients, now there's all has to other companies. again, that raises questions. kara, appreciate it. we're going to have more now from cnn national politics reporter m.j. lee. so michael avenatti obviously -- i mean, you know, he's talk about these number of other payments into the account held by cohen as well. what are you learning about those? >> that's right, anderson. according to avenatti, cohen received significant sums of money from a number of entities after the 2016 election. payments that he said calls into question cohen's business practices. let's just take a look at this. in addition to the $500,000 from columbus nova, we also have $400,000 from novartis, the pharmaceutical company and also $200,000 from at&t. we have $150,000 from korea aerospace industries. that is a significant in flow of money into the account of trump's personal lawyer we're
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learning about for the first time tonight. >> what about the response from the companies? >> we received a statement from at&t. essential consultants we paid to provide new insights into the new administration. they paid no legal work or lobbying for us and the contract ended in 2017. at&t is confirming they did pay cohen for his services and what they wanted was insights into president trump. and of course, as you know, anderson, at&t is trying to acquire cnn's patient company time warner. and the justice department sued to prevent that merger from happening in november of last year. and according to avenatti, two of the payments from at&t to cohen were made before the justice department sued to block the merger. i should also note that novartis, the pharmaceutical company also sent us this statement. any agreements with essential consultants were entered before our current ceo taking office in february of this year and have expired.
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>> and just to be clear, this is the same account that was used to pay off stormy daniels? >> that's right. this is kind of a fascinating tws to all of this, that all of the money that we have just been talking about was paid to a bank account that cohen created in 2016 to pay off stormy daniels. s in the hush payment of $130,000 that cohen made to stormy daniels to keep her quiet about her alleged affair with donald trump. so it's certainly intriguing that according to avenatti, that bank account was also used to receive significant sums of money after the election. and i think that we shouldn't lose sight of the big picture. and that is that michael cohen is donald trump's fixer. he was for years the president's right hand man. he constantly spoke to the president. so any payment from any company to cohen is potentially important. and speaking of, i should note, that cohen and his attorney have not responded to our requests for comment tonight. >> m.j., thank you very much. i seem to recall when you first came on, the very fact that it was so easy to trace essential
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consultants to michael cohen is because michael cohen did not do a good job of covering his tracks when he set this company up. >> eh signed as the incorporator, which is absurd if yoer uh ear try you're trying to shield yourself from an entity. at&t said they paid $200,000 get insights into the administration. i guess that's why the vast majority of american people can't get honesty and insights. because they don't have $200,000 to pay michael cohen to get insights. you shouldn't have to pay $200,000 to get insights into the administration. we all know what that really means. that's first of all. second of all, it's interesting that at&t comes out and issues their statement that they paid $200,000 for insights into the administration at the same time you have the entity tied to the oligarch stating that they weren't purchasing access or
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insights into the administration, they were purchasing real estate, consulting services. it's very odd to me. >> and business opportunities, i think they said. real estate. >> capital opportunities, business opportunities. those are very different thing. so i doubt that michael cohen is a one-stop shop for all of the services. imagine this guy, he's like a renaissance man. he's a lawyer, a business consultant, a real estate consultant. an administration insight consultant. is there anything this man can't do? >> if you are looking for some form of expertise from michael cohen, understanding of president trump, access to president trump, that would seem to be his biggest calling card over the last several years. >> that actually would seem to be his only legitimate calling card of the last several yaers. -- years. we shouldn't be selling access to the president of the united states to the people's president. that's michael cohen should not be selling that access. and again, if he's selling that access, it begs the question as
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to where this money went once it made its way into the account. >> there was also this payment of $187,500 from elliott broidy. cohen said he was involved in a hush agreement for an alleged affair that broidy allegedly had that involved a pregnancy as well. but it's interesting that he's paying cohen. i don't know if that's for services rendered. and also these transactions from others, basically -- it's not -- some of them from one account to another. but some of these seem to go back and forth and curve around themselves. >> this $187,500 to ply kel cohen in my view is very suspicious. someone that has represented parties on both sides of settlement agreements, both sometimes i represent plaintiffs and sometimes i represent defendants. i've got a lot of experience in this okay. if you're a potential defendant which is what happened as relates to this broid y i ty
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tytyp type settlement. . you would pay your hourly rate times whatever hour it is. you would not have expected michael cohen to spend a significant amount of time. you would expect michael cohen to bill $10,000, maybe $25,000 for his work. certainly not $187,500, which is a round number and it's inexplicable to me as to why mr. broidy over a period of months would be making regular level payments to michael cohen in connection to that. >> what is next for you. you put this stuff out here. the ripple effects is you don't know where it ends pup. >> we're going to continue to do that.
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i hope that the if the goes on fox and friends tomorrow and i hope that rudy giuliani makes the rounds on fox as well. and, you know, that will i'm sure provide a lot of fodder for us in the coming weeks. >> i assume -- is it fair given our reporting that special counsel mueller talked to the russian oligarch in hundreds of thousands of payments to michael cohen that mr. mueller has all this information? or close to this information that you released earlier? >> we don't know what mr. mueller has and r or what he does have. . >> we have a lot of confidence in his ability and the ability of his team as well as the team that's been assembled from the southern district of new york, which are some of the finest prosecutors in the united states. >> do you expect expect michael
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cohen to come forward and say anything about this? it's highly unlikely he would make some sort of a comment? >> i think he made a comment either yesterday or the day before by the way of twitter. he took exception to the new york times article, which i was amazed at. i had to read it tlooe or four times to make sure it was actually him that posted it because i thought it was so stupid. who knows with this guy. who knows with him, rudy giuliani. but look, they should just release the bank records. they should release the bank records and the american people should demand the release of these suspicious activity reports that are held by the treasury department. so the american people can -- >> the treasury department could do that? >> absolutely. they could do it tonight. there's no issue. they could pup lish the sars. there's no reason why they shalln't publish the sars for the american people. and look, anderson, if there's nothing nefarious here and it was all above board and legit, i don't believe it was for a moment, i don't think that's true.
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but let's assume that it is. then they should want to reluis this information. rudy giuliani should actually tell the president this information so it can be over. >> why did michael cohen skree yat this entity with the purpose of -- the first thing it seemed to pay stormy daniels within days of the election. but it was always used for legitimate businesses. >> i have no idea. >> there's other llcs. you could have -- if you're doing legitimate work, you could set up a shingle and you want people to know that you're working for at&t or for some of these other companies. >> it appears as if he didn't really want this known.
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but again, i don't understand. in november or december of 2016, michael cohen does not appear to have had any of these clients. like novartis or at&t or the russian oligarch-run entity. these appear to not have been his clients in 2016. it was only after the president donald trump was elected president in late 2016 that all of a sudden michael cohen became an expert in business consults and insights into the administration. and all of a sudden the guy is paid millions of dollars. >> lobbyists are often paid lots of money. but michael cohen is not registered. >> they register and they have to disclose things and there's rules and regulations. let us not forget that mr. trump when he ran for president, he said he was going to drain the swamp. wasn't going to take any money. there wasn't going to be any of these high powered lobbyists. i mean, everyone remembers the rhetoric and what was said.
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meanwhile, the guy's right hand attorney, who had an office next to his office in trump tower meanwhile, we find out that immediately after the election he's got his hand out anticipate he's accepting all of this money. >> you tweeted that you're just getting started. is that hyperbole. do you have more information? if so, why not release it now? >> if anyone has been paying attention over the last eight or nine week, they know there's not a lot of hyperbole. we make a lot of statements but we back them up and then some. we do not overprom and underdeliver. we underpromise and overdeliver. and that's exactly what we're going to continue to do. there are more bombshells coming. there's more evidence. there's more information. and i have to tell you this, i'm going to touch on this, okay? there's been a lot of criticism lately -- not a lot. there's been some criticism about our media strategy and how often i've been on cnn and your show and other network, et cetera. it's all a bunch of nonsense. here's the bottom line, anderson. it's working. it's working in spades.
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and one of the reasons, one of the ways that it's working is because we're so out front on this. people send us information. people want to help our cause. people contact us with information. >> when you talk about your cause, what is your cause? what's the end -- >> our cause right now is having the nda invalidated for stormy daniels. holding michael cohen responsible for his defamatory statements. holding mr. trump responsible for his defamatory statements. and ultimately having all the information relating to this account, the llc and the payment to my client laid out for the american people so they can decide what to do. >> michael avenatti, thanks very much. appreciate it. just ahead, more reaction on that payment to michael cohen. this time from preet bhara. with eeel have the latest in west virginia ahead. ♪
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$34.90 more per month. call or go on line today. >> more with michael avenatti about the $500,000 payment linked to a russian oligarch to michael cohen. joining us now is preet bharara. >> we've reviewed the documents that appear to show these payments. we haven't been able to independently verify or authenticate the documents, but
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we have viewed them and it does appear to show these payments. does it make sense that a russian oligarch would be depositing some $500,000 to michael cohen? >> no. it makes no sense at all. if you look at the timing of the allegations about collusion, which is the thing that the president likes to say there's no evidence of and not specifically by that word a crime. conspiracy is, collusion is not. that's all happening in 2016. then there's an election. and in 2017, these payments that you folks have looked at, and i haven't looked at the doms independently. looks like the payments are being made by a russian oligarch with close ties to putin. then in 2018 -- >> being made through a u.s. subsidiary of his company. >> y yes, of the oligarch's company. and then in 2018, that same oligarch is put on the sanction list. the turn of events from '16, '17 and '18, given the swirl of all
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this information is odd. at a minimum, it's a very strange look for the president's personal lawyer. the deposits of large amounts of money would look suspicious. maybe there's no crime and maybe there was nothing necessarily untoward about it, but it looks mighty fishy. and you may not be surprised that there are two different offices looking at this. >> it does seem moronic for the president's personal to be accepting $500,000 from this russian oligarch. >> yeah. >> i mean, it just -- moronic is the only word that comes to mind. or nefarious. >> yeah. they're not mutually exclusive. there are nefarious morons as well. i think that people are going to walk to ask and understand what
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the reason for the payments was. and so if michael cohen gets charged and is not cooperating already, this may be the thing that everybody has been talking about. what information will he have that's of use to either the southern district and their investigation of michael cohen or the special counsel's office in their connection to collusion. it's all speculation, right? maybe michael cohen will give the true reason and maybe it's a nefarious reason. maybe he'll lie about what the reasoning was for these payment thes. we found the people in the president's serble are not above either one of those things. >> michael avenatti is referencing the doms that we've seen but haven't been able to independently authenticate. there was some $4 million put into this account over time. that money basically, as far as we know, at&t put in some $200,000 from october to 2017 to january of 2018.
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and we should say at&t is currently trying to acquire time warner, cnn's parent company. there's a south korean aerospace company. there's a pharmaceutical company, novartis as well some other smaller amounts of money. but if this is -- why would a russian oligarch and a south korean aerospace company be putting money into an llc that michael cohen set up in delaware that was used to pay off stormy daniels? why not have it be a public company? >> i don't know. these are the questions that i assume prosecutors are asking. look, it also could be true that there are innocent explanations and maybe it was poor judgment to engage in a business transaction with someone like this oligarch who's connected to vladimir putin. or it could be that those transactions were nefarious and there's something unlawful about them. there are people who are unable to get confirmed to positions in
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the government because they had some contract you'll reual rela with some russian company. and this dates back to the campaign. it's the thing that makes the president very upset. it's the thing that caused the mueller investigation to begin in the first place. and in the face of all of that, whether you think they're nonsense or not, to be taking money from a person like this, if this is all true and pans out, is pretty extraordinary. >> preet bharara, thanks very much. up next, we'll speak to maggie haberman. you wouldn't accept an incomplete job
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we're dealing with a lot of breaking news tonight. reports of the cash payments to michael cohen. we're keeping an eye on the west virginia senate primary tonight. it's been a while since we heard from maggie haberman, who has
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been keeping close track of president trump's often chaotic white house from his preferences in the senate race to his new personal attorney rudy giuliani. first of all, i want to ask about the story today about the payments. does it -- i mean, just in terms of the optics, if nothing else, from michael cohen to be in business with, even if it's an american affiliate of a -- run by a guy who is the cousin or relative of a russian oligarch whose company is a parent company of this affiliate with close ties to putin. >> i think the argument that cohen and his folks would make is that this was all legal. there was no reason not to make it. nothing prohibiting it. that may be true, but the optics are not good. at a moment when it was already clear that there were investigations -- >> this is after the election. >> correct. it was after the election. it was clear there were already investigations going on into russian influence on the 2016 election. at minimum, as the president's personal attorney you could predict this was going to become a headache down the road. >> rudy giuliani's pushing back on this idea that the president -- that president trump is unhappy with his performance.
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what are you hearing from people? >> what i'm hearing is the president is doing what the president often does because he does not really like interpersonal conflict. he is basically okay with giuliani a little teasing about certain aspects of his performance, but hardly the stern voice we've heard he's had with other people talking about rudy giuliani. so he's fine to giuliani's face, more or less, and less fine after the fact. look, rudy giuliani has become essentially another staffer to donald trump and donald trump is famously up and down on his staff. i don't think giuliani was ever going to be an exception. i also think what trump was hoping giuliani would do, two things, one, he wanted him as a big name, a big splash. his whole thing is no one's ever heard of these other people, the raskins, the new main lawyers to his team working on his case. he wanted somebody who could make a headline. he also liked the fact he thought giuliani could go on tv. he hoped, i think, to some extent, he would believe what giuliani was saying, we can make this go away.
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we can get this done quickly. it's just dragged it out and gotten worse and giuliani is getting a lot of attention, which the president never likes somebody doing. >> giuliani started out when he was first named giving those interviews saying two weeks, the timeframe that we'll get this decided on and talking about his personal relationship with mueller, which i can't imagine would go down well with robert mueller, the idea he's influenced by a personal relationship. >> right. there have been a lot of saying the inside part out loud, right? we well aware ty cobb who has worked within the white house and who has now left the team, he was said by several people to have a good relationship with mueller. but you did not hear ty cobb talk openly about that or float it around. cobb gave a couple of interviews but nothing like what we've seen giuliani do. what giuliani has done that has bothered a lot of people around the president is he's talked a lot about the conditions of an interview. this is an interview most people on the president's legal team do not think he should be doing, period.
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the president, despite the -- is well aware of the danger. giuliani has created this condition where, you know, it's not clear whether mueller will exercise the subpoena power that he has to try to compel the president to talk. but he might almost feel like he has to based on what giuliani has been pushing him toward. >> you had reported that the president was feeling -- i can't remember if it was a month ago. >> or just an hour. >> it doesn't seem to exist for me any more. that the president was feeling more confident in his ability to be president. >> that was months ago. >> he's got this. >> yes. >> i'm wondering these days, do you know is he still feeling that? >> he is still feeling that. it's funny you mentioned that. i had someone close to him bring up that piece to me in the last couple of days, saying that was correct. that is what is happening with him. he is more emboldened. he does feel as if he's got this. which as a colleague reminded me
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is not dissimilar for any president entering their second year, but it's much more pronounced for trump for a couple of reasons. at the same time, he is very aware that there is a pending threat and is that threat has only gotten bigger in terms of the investigation into michael cohen. he is aware of it. he is worried about it. he's not consumed but it is always there. >> he had had a dinner with michael cohen at mar-a-lago weeks ago. i guess it was on a saturday, if i remember. >> that's right. >> there was the phone call to michael cohen, which i believe was right after the raid. do we know are there any more connections? >> my understanding is no. i've heard from a couple of people that the president asks people, you know, how -- who know michael cohen, how is he holding up, how is he doing? you know, i have to imagine that that is said in part to get back to cohen. i don't know of any other direct contact, but what has existed has been enough. >> just in terms of, you know, the chief of staff kelly, kind of feeling within the white house -- is it as -- i mean, i guess with giuliani out there
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sort of making gaffe after gaffe, that's got to have been a concern. >> i mean, it's frustrating -- look, you've seen the stories about how trump is really frustrated. the reality is that, yes, trump is frustrated by what some of giuliani has said. it was predictable he wasn't going to like some of what giuliani's said. it makes the staff's job much harder. this untethered cooperate lawyer answering his phone during dinners. and that is frankly who is the other person we know who has done that over time? that is donald trump. they don't really need two donald trumps. that is, i think, what they're concerned about. i think giuliani is having a lot of fun. i think he is enjoying this. >> he's having a lot of fun? >> i do think he is having fun. >> because he's back in front and center? >> yeah. i think this is -- he's a former prosecutor and i think he's got a long legal resume and i think there is an aspect of this that is enjoyable for him. >> maggie haberman, thanks very much. appreciate it. much more ahead on today's breaking news on michael cohen and payments linked to a russian oligarch. we'll also get to the
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updates going on in four states. primary races including west virginia, where don blankenship right there, the controversial candidate says either way he is a winner because his probation ends at midnight. he was in prison. that's not the strangest thing he's said during this campaign. details ahead. . >> it's not what i would like for the republican party to be.
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