tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN February 27, 2019 2:00pm-3:00pm PST
you and i have a personal relationship not based on color. to even go down this direction is wrong, mr. chairman. >> i want to thank the gentleman for what you're saying. if there is anyone who is sensitive with regard to race it's me. so i get it. i listened very carefully. i think she said she was not calling you a racist. i thought that we could clarify that because mr. meadows you know of all of the people on this committee i have said it
and got in trouble for it, that you're one of my best friends. i know that shocks a lot of people. >> and like wise, mr. chairman. >> i could see and feel your pain. i feel it. and so -- and i don't think she intended to cause you that, that kind of pain and that kind of frustration. did you have a statement? i will yield to you. >> and to my colleague that was not my intention. i do apologize if that's what it sounded like. i said someone in general. as everybody knows in this chamber i'm pretty direct. if i wanted to say that i would have but that's not what i said. thank you mr. clarm fhairman fo allowing many we to clarify. it was not referring to you at all as a racist. >> i thank the gentlewoman for
her excellencomments and workin clarify this. i appreciate the chairman intervening. >> i knew the unanimous consent. i think i need to officially withdraw my request. >> you did it? >> i did. >> okay. sounds good. now, i will recognize you for your unanimous consent. i think you want to put in records and documents. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
>> thank you. i ask that the la times article of july 16, 2018 actually be put in the record which outlines the $1.2 million statement. >> without objection to order any other unanimous consent requests? >> thank you mr. chairman. i ask unanimous consent to make washington post profile of michael cohen part of the record. the story shows cohen to be a selfish manipulator. >> so ordered. >> i ask unanimous consent to make the washington post article south korean firm paid him
$150,000 as it saw as part of the record. i ask to make sentencing statement part of the record. it is a statement establishes that michael cohen continues to falsely blame his crimes on blind loyalty to the president but only cohen is to blame for as many fathers and mothelse st. i ask unanimous consent to make the cnn article part of the record. his accountant was required a lawyer in his sentencing memo. they sent him to blame tax evasion on his accountant. >> without objection to order. >> two more. >> to make february 26th, order
filed by appellant division regarding disciplinary proceedings part of the record. this order which proactively applies starting february 28th establishes cohen committed a serious crime and ceased being an attorney when he was convicted of lying to congress. >> without objection so ordered. the article describes a lawyer, cohen recording his client, trump without the client's knowledge. >> thank you. >> thank you, mr. clahairman. i ask consent to make the huffington post article part of the record.
it is a place for women that describe business oriented. >> without objection so ordered. >> thank you. >> i would ask to make the april 20th, 2018 article in mother jones titled michael cohen said he he has never been the prague part of the record. >> without objection to order. >> thank you, sir. >> very well. >> i have some closing remarks. >> i have some i would like to say myself. is this appropriate time? >> yes. >> i appreciate the opportunity
to share some final thoughts. i knowledged i have made my own mistakes and i have owned up to them publicly and under oath but silence and complicity in the face of the daily destruction of the our basic norms and civility to one another will not be one of them. i did things and i acted improperly. i blindly followed his demands. my loyalty has cost me everythin everything, my family's happiness, my law license, my company, my livelihood, my honor, my reputation and soon my tr freedom. i will not sit back and allow him to do the same to the country. given my experience working for plfrmt trump i fear that if he looses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful
transition of power. this is why i agreed to appear before you today. in closing i would like to say direct t directly to the president we honor our veterans. you tell the truth even when it doesn't you. you respect the law and our incredible law enforcement agents. you don't vil annize them. you don't disparage gold star families, prisoners of war and other heros who have the courage to fight for this country. you don't attack the media and those that question what you don't like or don't want them to say. you take responsibility for your own dirty deeds. you don't use your power to destroy the credibility of those that speak out geagainst you. you don't demonize those looking to america for a better life.
you don't vilify people based on the god they pray to and you don't cuddle up to our adversaries at the expenseov of our allies. you don't shut down to appease your base. this behavior the office of the president and it simply is un-american. it's not you. so to those that support the president and his rhetoric as i once did, i pray the country doesn't make the same mistakes that i have made or pay the heavy price that my family and i are paying and i thank you for the additional time. >> thank you very much. >> thank you mr. clarm.
book his officer and figure out how to make a $130,000 payment. in his testimony he says mr. trump directed me to use my own personal funds to avoidfully money being traced back to him that could negatively impact the campaign. in response to him paying to set up the fake twitter account that he didn't direct the commission of that twitter account. he says i didn't set that up and it was done by a young lady that works with the firm. he did asking them to set it up according to the owner of red finch. the attorneys with the southern district of new york stated that this was when canned about this they said i wouldn't call them liars but that statement is not accurate. mr. clarm, i think maybe more importantly is what we should have been doing today.
should be focused on. i yield back. >> thank you very much. >> you flow, i sat here and listened to all of this. it's very painful. you made a lot of mistakes and you admitted that. one of the saddest parts of this whole thing is innocent people are hurting too and you knowledged that. that is your family. >> you come here today.
when i practice law i respect a lo lot of lawyers that got in trouble and you come saying i had made my mistakes but now i want to change my life. if we do not give people an opportunity after they made mistakes to change their lives a lot of people would not do very well. as i sat here and listened to
both 150ids i felt like -- and people are now using my wording that they took from my that they took from me that didn't give me any credit. we are better than this. we are so much -- we really are. we are so much better than this. i tell my children, when bad things happen to you, do not ask the question why did it happen to me ask the question buy did it happen for me. i don't know why this is happening for you. but my hope is it's for our country to be better.
if i hear you correctly it sounds like you're crying out for a new normal for us getting back to normal. it sounds to me like you want to make sure that our democracy stays in tact. the one meeting i had i said the greatest gift that you and i can give to our children can making sure that we give them a democracy that is in tact. i'm hoping it will help us get back there. when you our president has made at least 8,717 -- 8,718 falts or
i'm hoping to do getter than what we did. i don't flow. i don't know whether they believe you. the fact is you come and you have your head down. let me tell you the picture that really pained me, you were leaving the prison. you were leaving the courthouse and i guess it's your daughter had braces or something on. plan, that hurt me. as a father of two daughters, it hurt me. i can imagine how it must feel
for you. i'm just saying to you, i want to first of all thank you. i know that this has been hard. hopefully it will lead to a better michael cohen. a better donald trump, a better united states of america and a better world and i mean that from the depth of my heart. when we are dancing with the angels the question will be asked, in 2019 what did we do? to make sure we kept our
democracy in tact? did we stand on the sidelines and say nothing. people come in here and say this is the first hearing. it is not the first hearing. the first hearing was with regard to prescription drugs. second hearing, corruption in government. come on, now. we could do more than one thing. we have got to get back to normal. with that this meeting is adjourned.
. >> pretty explosive material here. we are following the breaking news as president trump's former lawyer delivers a damaging blow and truly explosive testimony up on capitol hill. you just heard closing statements clinging the witness, the president's former lawyer, bringing michael cohen to tears. cohen calls the president of the united states a racist, a con man and a cheat. he alleges that the president repeatedly broke the law. he says the president reimbursed him for hush money payments and stolen democratic e-mails and a moscow trump tower content. we have full coverage coming up in the situation room. we have all been covering this
donald trump while he was president of the united states established at least as cohen tells the story that donald trump was intimately involved in the campaign finance violation conspiracy that cohen himself has already pleaded guilty to involving the payment of hush money to stormy daniels. >> explain why it would be illegal to write the $35,000 check. >> michael cohen pleaded guilty to funneling money to silence stormy daniels about her supposed relationship with donald trump on the eve of the election. what he admitted to when he pleaded guilty was that i was spending this money if they were
associated with trump when one of them started asking him questions about contact. he couldn't talk about it. the contact occurred two plonts after the fbi raided michael cohen. they have been trying to say the reason why the payments were made is he wanted to protect his wife. the fbi and the department of justice don't believe so. i don't know how it will hold up. it is not the case. certainly the department of justice here has implicated the president in these crimes and we'll see where it goes from
here. certainly the fact that the southern district of new york is continuing to work on several investigations should worry the president. >> and you have been covering this from the very beginning. there is a lot of concern. it is a bigger threat. >> and i think everyone has been covering the stories has been hearing repeatedly especially as mueller is wrapping up the investigation that the real threat inside the white house is exactly what is the southern district and i think today we learned how much more expansive it could be. it is not necessarily limited to the campaign finances. it is a big concern of the
president trekting if family. he didn't want his son to get caught up in any of this. he couldn't talk about other illegal activities that he believed donald trump was involved with sort of came out later on he was eluding to the insurance payments or bank fraud and that is something that would concern donald trump. it has flog nothing to do with presidency. the only risk would be the statute of limb stations. it was -- let's see if he walks out and makes a statement. first of all i want to say thank you for being here today. i'm thankful for cummings to giving me the opportunity to
tell my truth and i hope as cla clarm said i hope it helps heal america. thank you again. have a good day. >> there he is. he is not answering questions. he will go to a federal penitentiary. it is president trump's own lawyers as going in because of his words the goal was to stay on message mainly the message that the president wanted him to deliver. >> right. i think you heard that. it is sort of the underlying theme to the day. i think the idea that he was
coordinating with the president is one of his arguments. he didn't need to get directed by the president. after working with him he was using the language to keep lying and covering up for the president. yes. certainly this idea that michael cohen said before he lied to congress that he submitted his system to the trump lawyers and they reviewed it. he doesn't say what changes were made but it is whether or not he is implicating other people in the alleged lies that he told. let me step back real quick to the campaign finance question. i think, look, as they pointed
out for you to violate campaign finance law you have to know you're doing that. she is trying to saver t the embarrassment. edwards is one example. i think today is what we are going to see from the democrats now that they are in control. i suspect you'll see donald trump jr., another example of the trump organization be called to congress to answer questions. i think this is a legal violation and for the congress to if they want to go the impeachment route. >> the argument that it was done to protect the first lady, okay.
fine. but the lengths that they went to try to hide these payments, i think that's what is going to hurt this argument. that's what is hurting this argument and the department of justice. this scheme, legal fees and we'll mask it as legal fees and br break it up into $35,000 payments, they went to some length to do that. the other thing when they are having these con ver saversatio. another point where there's a conversation and the president says figure it out. so, you know, it will be i think very hard for the president to say well, i didn't flow what the point of this was. we'll see. certainly the fbi and department of justice to this point have not broke this argument. they laid this out very clearly in their charges. >> the democrats will have a tough question to answer is what now? do they want to pursue this
investigation? several of the better questioners sort of laid out a road map for further investigation including cortez near the end of the hearing. they are saying who else was involved many this? ? his name was all over this hearing. >> we have heard more than we have heard in a long time. the chief financial officer has been with the trump organization for a mere 40 years. >> i could imagine how delighted he was as someone that was involved in the payoff. >> if you look at this entire
two-year investigation what the u.s. attorney of manhattan did, the idea that they implicated him as an unindietded coconspirator i think that's where the democrats can pick up if they choose and hold hearings. this is the campaign finance violation. i think the president has a good answer. you can see that this is where they are going and they are trying to figure out whether or not they are going to make it something that will dominate next year. >> and going into this hearing russia was supposed to be off the table. it was going to be lift behind closed doors. yesterday they were going to talk about business dealings and other stuffer but russia was a big part of today's hearings
that started at 10:00 a.m. it just wrapped up with an hour break. >> there was a bomb shell about russia too, particularly the wikileaks part of the story. cohen testified that he was sitting in donald trump's office before the democratic convention and roger stone called and the president as apparently he often did, put stone on the speakerphone and stone said i just got off the phone with assange and he says they will drop disclosures that are damaging to hillary clinton. trump says words to the effect of wouldn't that be great. trump denied this. roger stone denied this. that's michael's testimony and if it's believed and it can be it suggests that everything said is a lie. >> tell us why it would be
illegal. politically awkward but why would it be illegal? >> i'm not sure it would be illegal. i i think it is an important point to make. to know about illegal activities of others is not a crime. you're not obligated to go to the fbi and say wikileaks is out there hacking e-mails. >> it is. there is a theory that by essentially sanctioning roger stone to go ahead and encourage this release it could make trump a coconspirator. it is all theoretical since they can't be indicted anyway. the political issue is really the most important. it is true that it's a tough call whether that interaction would act as an illegal part. >> you can see him leaving
capitol hill. he will need more of that protection. he delivered a pretty awful assessment of the dangers of feels not only to himself but also his family, his wife and kids. >> that is a very tangible way for him to explain that. it is not on the tone of donald trump but he is worried that people who are not stable, who might believe donald trump and follow that logic that someone out of the blue could harm him. it's how someone else could interpret them.
he says only someone burying his head in the sand would not reck cog fliez them for what they are. threats he is talking about. >> i think michael cohen is certainly very worried about his family. it is something that he has always stressed. he gets very emotional. at the plea hearing he started crying when he was talk about his family. you can see it in his face when he talk ts about his family how difficult it has been for him. he is afraid. he talked about he has so much fear when they go out to eat, when they go to places his family will go ahead of him.
>> the committee chairman walking by. let's see if he stops. >> thank you. ? i'm going to make a short statement. probably won't answer any questions. i'm tired. two years ago i said when they were running together i said it is not about hillary. this was a fight for our democracy. that statement is truer now than
not been any accountability, none. none. couldn't g couldn't get a subpoena, could ntd g n't get a hearing. couldn't get witnesses. all we are trying to do is our job. the constitution is abundantly clear. it says to us every two years we raise our hands and we say that we swear to uphold the constitution and part of that constitution says that we have to be a checks and balance on the executive branch. that's what this was all about. mr. cohen coming in and bringing evidence. i think the checks are very very significant or he talked about the man he knows and basically he did was to reintroduce the american people to the man that he has known for ten years.
the republicans didn't want to hear any of that. that's all well and good but that's not going to get us to where we need to get to as a nation. the question becomes, you flow, where do we go from here? >> well, we are going to study and figure out what we got there. we have got transcribed interviews of people we will be looking at. we have not gotten the kind of cooperation with regard to documents that we need. again, we are going to follow up on this testimony and if you ask me exactly where we are going i can't tell you exactly the areas we are going but we will do things in a very methodical way, a very careful way. the thing that i emphasize to the members of our committee is
that we must be a committee with integrity. i want to be effective and efficient in everything we do. one of the things we have to do is reclaim civility. that's one of the things i was trying to do in there. two, we have got to make sure that we get information. when we have an uncooperative executive branch basically who does not want us to get information and then they tell all of you all by the way, they want to suppress you all. i mean how do you even make a government accountable? so we are going to -- again, i appreciate mr. cohen coming in. i thought he brought a lot to the table. we'll see where we go from there. >> what is the ploes important thing you learned today? >> i believe that he told the
truth. i have been practicing law first of all, as i said in there, i practiced law for many years. one of the things that i did, i represented a lot of lawyers who got in trouble. i'm used to watching witnesses. i think that iehe first of all said i want to change things. i want to ve verse they think sos. i don't want you to miss this. he agreed with me. i told him, if you come there here and you lie and these were my exact words,ly flanail you to
cross, and i meant that. we can't keep going on and lying and lying. we'll never get to any kind of sen sense of normalcy. >> reporter: [ inaudible questi [ inaudible question ] there are a number of areas we didn't get into. i think there are still a number of shoes to drop. i don't flow what it is but i can tell you we work very
closely with special counsel to make sure we did not interfere. one more thing. >> reporter: do you believe -- >> i want to be clear but i said i would rather have no hearing than to have a hearing that interfered with mueller. i think mueller is doing very very important work. the press, come on, guys and ladies, one of the things we have to get back to, we have situation where folks are pleszing with our elections. we have done very little about it. this was an attack on our system of government, our democracy. it is serious. there is a lot that's going to come out of this, things other committees will learn from this. i just talked to adam schiff a
few minutes ago. there are a number of things he will be able to use from our hearing to his hearing. we have about five committees looking at different aspects of the trump administration. again, don't get it twisted. we are doing -- i have said it from the very beginning that we are going down two paths in this committee. w one, we'll make sure we confront the american people on a day-to-day basis such as voting rights and prescription drugs and the affordable care act but on the other hand we also are going to paint a picture of what's happening. >> do you believe the president committed a crime while in office? >> based on looking at the text and listening to mr. cohen it
appears that he did. >> we'll have to see what mueller says. i want to be clear on this. a lot of you have been asking me to do interviews. i literally turned down at least probably 150 interviews over the last few months, once we knew cohen was coming. you know why? the thing i did not want to do was just assume what he was going to say. i wanted him to come in, say what he had to say and then try to tell you what we found out.
i refuse to be a hypocrite when my republican colleagues, when they were in control, what they would do is they would go out and make a headline and try to have a hearing to get the facts to catch up with headlines. usually the facts weren't there. i wanted to make sure i was very careful so you can start asking me for interviews again. >> reporter: [ inaudible question ] >> you have to understand. i have been sitting there for nine hours, eight hours shl. i need to study the transskipcr and see what we have. i want to proceed very cautiously. isn't it interesting not one person on our side even mentioned the word impeachment? not one. they did, but not us.
so, again, i am hoping that -- well, not hoping. i know. this is not the end of a process, but the beginning. >> chairman, you spent several years in the minority of this committee. >> yeah. >> this was your first really big hearing as chairman. >> here we go again. >> how do you think the two parties behaved today given the stakes? >> i felt that, you know, when you get to be my age, you don't -- i don't -- i probably would judge it in a different way than a younger person. but i've been on this committee 22 years. so i've seen a lot. i practiced law. i've seen some of the -- people do some of the worst things in the world. i've seen lawyers disbarred. i've seen all kinds of stuff. and i see it as a part of our history. so the fact that people were arguing back and forth, it was
not as bad as i thought it would be. i thought it would be more tactics but it didn't work out that way. >> where do you rank this committee with all the other hear,s the oversight had? >> this and the toyota hearing number one and two. number one and two. remember toyota? yeah, that was bad. >> all right. >> thank you, guys. >> what do you want the president to know? >> you know, what i want the president to know, i want you to clip my closing argument, all right? that's what i want. i want the president to be reminded of what i said to him in the oval office two years ago. i said to him, i said, mr. president, you can be the greatest president in the world if -- if -- if -- if you went out there and not just represented and did good things
for 35% or 40% of the people but for all the people. of course, he went out and said i told him he was going to be the greatest president in the world meaning he could have cut out the "if." that's what i want. you know why? you know, when i spent time in the hospital six months, you get a chance to think about your life and your death. and you try to figure out what it is that you want the most. and i think most of us, we want to know that our children are going to be okay. we want to know that they are going to experience a democracy. that they're going to have an opportunity. and they're going to have a better opportunity than i had. and that's what i want. when he goes out there and i want him to think about children. i want him to think about the children that he separated from their parents. i want them to think about the
fact that we had children in cages. i want to think about the education of children. in other words, the things that -- and i want -- but more important than all of that, i want him to think about the democracy. a true democracy. got to go. got to go. >> thank you. >> thank you, chairman. >> thank you. all right. elijah cummings, the committee chairman. he made a statement. answered some questions from reporters. obviously feeling this is a critically important day, saying that there could potentially be evidence that the president of the united states was engaged in criminal activity. further investigation now required. he says it's only just the beginning. let's get morreaction. the vice chair, katie hill of california. thanks for joining us. do you believe michael cohen's testimony and the documentary evidence he presented amounts to solid proof that president trump did participate in a criminal
scheme to violate campaign finance laws? >> well, i certainly think it is compelling proof. i don't think that this is the end alm, be all as mr. chairman mentioned. this is the start, right? this isn't the finish. this is where we have opened up a lot of doors in terms of the further investigation that needs to happen. and we'll see where it takes us. but i think that this is -- this should be disturbing to everyone who was watching that there is so much indication that a sitting president committed this kind of a crime while in office. and it's just the beginning, but it certainly is very suspicious and highly concerning. >> according to michael cohen, congresswoman, there are other witnesses to what he described as this payoff scheme. who else would you like to call to testify before your committee and what do you want to know? >> the first thing -- the first person is mr. weisselberg. and donald trump jr. those are ones that popped out for me. but again, we don't want to get
in the way of the mueller investigation or the other investigations that are happening. i think it's very important that we stay in our lanes and do not interfere. but at the same time, our committee is probably the only truly open forum through which the american people are going to be able to see this kind of testimony and see the facts in the same way that we are presented with them. so i do think that it's really important that we call as many witnesses as we can to paint the full picture of what has happened. and as the chairman said, what has happened to our democracy, which is really why i and so many of my freshmen colleagues ran is that we felt like the very foundations of our democracy were being torn down and that we had to do something drastic to fix it. >> mr. cohen had to steer clear of some topics because federal prosecutors in the southern district of new york are still conducting investigations into the president of the united states. what does that say to you? >> i mean, it says exactly that. that there are ongoing investigations and we don't have
any more information than the rest of you do in terms of what exactly those look like because we are trying to do everything we can to not interfere and to not get in the way of that and make sure that nothing gets out. and one thing i've learned in my short time here is there seems to be no shortage of ways that things get to members of congress and then get out to the press. so i can see why they are doing everything they can to make sure that none of us know what that's all about. >> cohen was precise in his words. he says that the president never, his word, directed him to lie to congress about the trump tower moscow project. he said the president speaks in what he calls code and that he understands that code. why should we trust cohen's interpretation of what the president's so-called code is? >> well, i think mr. trump is a very careful man when it comes to preserving his own reputation as it were.
and his own security in terms of getting into trouble. and so i think one of his closest advisers, as mr. cohen is -- was is going to be cued in to what those signals are. frankly like my staff is. they know what i'm talking about when i don't use the full words. they can interpret a nod or just a look of the eyes. and somebody who works with you for ten years most certainly can. so i think that trump was probably very aware of how easy it would be to be caught with a specific statement. and so, you know, can we believe him? can we not? that's up to each individual to decide. clearly it's a serious indication. it's something we need to evaluate with the utmost consideration and ultimately decide where to go from here. >> congresswoman katie hill of california, thanks for joining us. >> thanks for having me. we'll take a quick break. a lot more on the truly explosive breaking news today right after this.
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this is cnn breaking news. >> i'm wolf blitzer in the situation room. we're following all the breaking news on michael cohen's truly explosive public testimony today. the president's longtime personal lawyer calling his former boss a racist, a con man and a cheat accusing him of countless lies and potential crimes. in the day-long hearing, cohen testified about mr. trump's role in illegal hush money payments to women and negotiations for a moscow trump tower. the president's knowledge of roger stone's contacts with wikileaks, and much, much more. cohen declaring that the president's lawyers reviewed and