tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN February 28, 2019 2:00pm-3:00pm PST
service and a couple more of them may run. >> jamie gangel, thank you so much. family, duty, power premiering this sunday at 9:00 p.m. only on cnn. you can follow me on facebook and twitter @jaketapper. our coverage continues right now. >> happening now, breaking news, cohen testifies again. michael cohen is wrapping up another day of testimony up on capitol hill. this time, behind closed doors, with the house intelligence committee. we're hoping to hear from committee chairman adam schiff as soon as that hearing is over. calling more witnesses. a day after co-n's bombshell public testimony, accusing the president of the united states of multiple crimes, the house oversight committee chairman says various committees will investigate co-n's allegations, including the president's role in hush money payments.
president trump walked out early after failing to reach a nuclear deal, blaming north korea's demand for lifting all sanctions. and trusting kim. in a shocking moment during the summit, president trump defends kim jong-un in the brutal treatment and subsequent death of american student otto warmbier. why is he saying he believes the dictator's claim that he didn't know about the case? i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." >> this is cnn breaking news. >> at any moment the house intelligence committee should wrap up its closed-door hearing with president trump's former lawyer and fixer michael cohen. that comes a day after cohen's explosive testimony, directly linking president trump to his own crime. cohen alleges donald trump knew in advance about the release of stolen democratic e-mails and says he broke the law as
president by reimbursing cohen for hush money payments. the president is calling cohen a liar and is complaining about the timing of that public testimony, which eclipsed his summit with kim jong-un, now heading home empty handed, cutting short summit after failing to reach a nuclear deal and taking heat for defending the dictator in the brutal treatment and death of the american student otto warmbier. i'll speak with a congresswoman who questioned cohen and correspondents and analysts will have full coverage of today's top stories. let's begin with our senior congressional correspondent, manu raju on capitol hill. manu, what happens the intelligence committee in the house been trying to get out of michael cohen? >> this hearing has been going on 7 1/2 hours to conclude any minute. at that point, michael cohen is expected to make some comments here. we're expected to hear from adam schiff, house intelligence committee chairman. it's unclear if they've gotten all their answers.
it's expected this could perhaps be carried over into next week. we believe a large segment of the questioning has focused on false statements he made to this very committee in 2017 about the pursuit of the trump organization of that trump tower moscow project at the time he testified before he downplayed the role of the organization, the president, then candidate trump's involvement. we have now learned it has at least occurred through the summer of that year. whether there was any role of the president in editing the discussions about roger stone's communications that allegedly occurred with the president, at least one conversation cohen revealed yesterday that stone called then candidate trump that
he had reached out to wikileaks' julian assange. stone and the white house have all denied that. but, wolf, a lot of things that came out of yesterday's testimony need further probing according to adam schiff, chairman of the committee. cohen could potentially come back again. >> i suspect he will. based on his public testimony, democratic committee chairs are telling you that they're gearing up for a lot more investigation threads about the president. >> that's right. elijah cummings told me that going forward the investigation rb about the hush money payments, including the president's involvement in signing and paying off, reimbursing michael cohen for
paying off stormy daniels as claim of having an fair with the president right before the election. michael cohen released a check that the president signed august of 2017. elijah cummings wants to look into that further along with other people named throughout the hearing, to reach out to them -- question them or even bring them into a hearing. that could potentially include some of the president's family members, who could be contacted by this committee. >> following the transcript if there were names that were mentioned or records that were mentioned during the hearing, we'll figure out who we want to talk to and then bring them in. we got a lot of information that i think will be -- we may not look into it, our committee, but one of the five of the committees will. >> so that could potentially
include donald trump jr. whose name was on one of those checks as well as potentially ivanka trump, her knowledge of the trump tower moscow project. we'll see how they decide to pursue that. alan weisselberg, cfo of the trump organization. cohen alleged yesterday that he had significant involvement in those hush money payments. this is the not over any time soon. he says there could be five or six committees in the house side, investigating all of the investigations that came out yesterday in the hearing. >> alan weisselberg has been working 40 years for the trump organization, going back to trump's own father. a call now for a perjury investigation by the justice department based on what he said yesterday. tell us about that. >> reporter: two republicans very close to the president, jim jordan, the ranking republican, mark meadows, another member close to the president, sent a
letter to the justice department, asking for an investigation into whether michael cohen lied to the house oversight committee over a variety of matters. they say they're completely contradicted by court filings, southern district of new york's claims, including whether michael cohen sought a white house job. he said he did not have any interest in working at the white house. they say that is contradicted by text messages seized by the southern district of new york. they also claim that michael cohen is saying he didn't defraud any bank is also a lie. they say that he did engage in some bank fraud. although he pled guilty to making false statements to a bank, not bank fraud. nevertheless there are several allegations like that throughout the referral, suggesting that he lied to this committee, lied to congress again whether or not the justice department decides to investigate will be up to bill barr. lanny davis, michael cohen's
attorney, says there was nothing false in that testimony and calls these accusations baseless and partisan. >> we'll see if at all where that heads. thank you very much, manu raju. as soon as adam schiff and company walk out of that hearing room, let us know what they have to say. >> evan perez, calling family members, other witnesses. which of these pose the biggest threat poerks tensionally, to the president? >> alan weisselberg, wolf, knows everything. as you said a minute ago he has been working with the organization for decades. he is the cfo of the organization. he has provided information under very limited immunity deal to the southern district of new york in the michael cohen investigation. but he knows a lot, lot more. so if the democrats want to go there, you have to think he is witness number one. his name kept coming up yesterday as manu pointed out.
after yesterday's hearing, he may be a household name. the president's long-time personal assistant, you have to think that she has seen and knows a lot of what happened, especially for a president who doesn't use e-mail. >> hold on a second. michael cohen is walking out. let's listen. >> thank you for waiting around for just me. there's not much i can say other than it was very productive. as i said, i'm committed to telling the truth and i will be back on march 6th to finish up. there's more to discuss. so, thank you guys so much. i'm sorry you guys had to stick around all day long. >> there's some news. he's coming back march 6th to continue his testimony. this committee, other committees, they have a lot of questions. >> they do, wolf. these closed door testimonies, ones run by staff, they tend to be a lot more productive. you tend to have better questions. it's a lot more organized.
look, you could see michael cohen's face there. he's pretty happy with what he's doing right now. going back to your question, the president's long-time personal assistant knows a lot acres great deal about what happened, especially for a president who doesn't use e-mail, doesn't leave a lot of written records of a lot of his communications. what you saw from michael cohen yesterday and behind closed doors today is a road map for these investigators. >> committee chairman adam schiff will emerge from that room momentarily and will want to make a statement. we'll have coverage of that. you make an important point. when there's a closed-door hearing like this, they go into a secure room. >> right. >> the members are there but they usually leave it up to the staff members to go ahead and do the questioning. >> exactly. >> there's no five-minute time limit. >> you don't have a lot of members trying to preen for the cameras and ask terrible questions which we sometimes see
in these hearings, unfortunately. you have staff that's very schooled and educated on the subject matters and ask really good questions. >> manu raju is on capitol hill outside that house intelligence committee hearing room. is that one of those so-called scifs? >> reporter: it is in the basement on the house side of the capital. michael cohen making that comment that he will be back here march 6th to finish that testimony. he had a hard out, we're told, and had to leave at 5:00. more questions that this committee has. whether or not the things that he wanted to ask about, whether or not donald trump jr. told the president about the trump tower meeting that occurred in 2016, all of which have been denied by various parties, what they learned from michael cohen. we'll see how much schiff decides to reveal. this is in a classified setting.
it's hard to get too many details about precisely what michael cohen said in there. he didn't provide much on his way out. i tried to ask him about the criminal referral to investigate what they allege were his false statements to this committee. he did not respond. lanny davis said i will respond and has said those charges are meritless. nonetheless the interesting thing that cohen revealed, he will be back here march 6th to finish his testimony, the fourth appearance on capitol hill before he heads to jail. >> maybe more. march 6th, he was supposed to begin his three-year prison sentence at a federal penitentiary in upstate new york on march 6th but that was delayed for health reasons. he had shoulder surgery and won't begin that prison sentence until may 6th. he will be out of jail for a while. if they want him to come back for yet more testimony behind closed doors, in open session, there's plenty of time.
>> reporter: absolutely. and i asked him before, would you bring back michael cohen if he were in jail? and he said absolutely he could. that's something he would be open to, perhaps compelling him to do that, if he needed to. at the moment that committee seems satisfied with their questioning. the house intelligence committee, probably when he comes back march 6th will be the final time he appears here on capitol hill and we'll see if that leads to further investigation of him, allegations of making false statements. he's not done answering questions. members want to look into all the allegations he made, five or six house committees want to investigate the various crimes he has been alleging that the president was involved with over the years before he was a president and while fs in
offic office. >> it sounds like the democrats feel -- this session has been going on since 9:30 this morning -- was productive and they were getting a lot of answers but now that they have to -- they want to continue this conversation on march 6th which suggests to me, manu, and i'll ask for your thoughts, that they're getting new information. they think it's fruitful, and they want to continue. >> that could be one way of looking at it. i was told at the beginning it was going rather slow, a lot of question about the background and not new information that had been revealed. in the first hour or so of testimony. and house members broke to have a vote. that delayed it for another hour and then republicans had their chance to question as well.
staff members have been doing the questioning. some have had to leave, left early as well. so this has been going on for most of the day. but there are a lot of questions given the format, lot of questions that have not been asked yet, especially given the timeframe that michael cohen had to leave. one reason he has to come back. how much new they've learned we'll see but they've been pressing for answers for quite some time and they haven't gotten everything they want to learn at this point, wolf. >> adamschiff, momentarily, will be walking over. >> here he is now. >> here he comes actually. chairman of the house intelligence committee will make a statement. >> good afternoon.
we had a long day but it wasn't a long enough day. he has had obviously three very long days. he will be returning for additional testimony march 6th. a and. >> we were able to drill down in great detail so march 6th will be the next part of his testimony. the following week march 14th we'll have an open interview with felix xavier on moscow trump tower. just to set your expectations, i should tell you not every hearing is going to be like the open hearing with michael cohen. we're going to try to do as much as we can in open session. some we can, some we can't.
next week with michael cohen will continue to be in closed session. we have to look at these on a case-by-case business due to the investigation. we'll try to do as much as we can in the open. those are the next two scheduled interviews of the committee and with that i'm happy to respond to a couple of questions. >> white house's role in potentially editing the statements made by michael cohen ahead of his 2017 testimony, what did you learn about learn about that as well as the perfect suit of the moscow trump tower project? >> i won't comment on the substance of our testimony today. we will be, at the appropriate poibt, releasing his testimony publicly. we won't do that before his testimony is complete and we'll
have to determine whether there are any investigative equities in terms of the timing after his second session with us. on a number of topics he testify ed about yesterday we were able to go into great detail. we covered a number of items and issues that were not the subject of the hearing yesterday. >> mr. cohen, did he bring any specific documents with regards to russia and the president? >> you know, we are in communication with mr. cohen and his counsel about further document requests following our interview today that we'll be able to discuss at our next session. we went through dozens of documents in our possession with
mr. cohen, but we have additional document requests that we'll be in discussion with him about. this will be the last question. >> did he refuse to answer any questions or would not help the committee with? >> he was fully cooperative. and answered all of our questions and, you know, this has obviously been an excruciating time for him. and we are very grateful that he was very forth coming as he was. we made the same admonishment that chairman cummings made much more eloquently than i, that he needs to tell us the full truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. and none of the questions we had for him went unanswered. thank you. >> so there you have it. more news from adam schiff, confirming march 6th michael
cohen will return behind closed doors and answer more questions from the house intelligence committee and staff. he said it was a very productive interview with michael cohen and said eventually they'll be releasing the transcript of all these interviews with michael cohen but want to wait until they complete their investigation before they do so. on march 14th an open public healing with felix sater on the development of moscow trump tower. evan this is potentially very significant, a, that they're bringing him in to testify but, b, it will be in open session. >> absolutely. if we got a sense yesterday of the type of man that donald trump was in business with, michael cohen saying he is a
liar, a cheat, felix sater will be on the order of that. he is somebody who in the 1990s was in business with the russian mafia, convicted as part of that, some kind of stock fraud scheme and later became an fbi informant. despite all of that, he was involved in this scheme to try to build a moscow trump tower. he is the one that michael cohen was working with to try to deal with the russians as they're trying to build this project and go through business arrangements of trying to deal with the russians to build this project in moscow. obviously those plans went on a lot longer than the president or his family ever admitted to during the campaign. it will help to underline what kind of businessman donald trump has been all these years. he has been in business with
scoundrels, mobsters, people who lie, like michael cohen, who lie and cheat on their taxes. you'll see a lot of the dirty laundry, skeletons that the democrats want to highlight as part of this investigation. >> one of the reasons that michael cohen is about to begin in may a three-year prison sentence is because he lied before congress. >> right. >> under oath about the development of this moscow trump tower. and michael cohen keeps saying this was going to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars for the trump organization and donald trump, if he were to lose the presidential election, was gearing up to make a lot of money. >> right. >> and felix sater was at the
heart of those negotiations. >> he was. and, in fact, felix sater probably helped get michael cohen in prison. it's his communications. he made it clear that those talks were going on a lot longer than michael cohen first admitted to when he made those false statements to congress. this will be one of those days where the democrats will use this to shine the light on the business practices, what kind of businessman donald trump was all those years. he's famous for the apprentice. the point they're trying to make is that donald trump was essentially in business with mobsters, all the sort of skoundrels that he doesn't want you to know about. >> donald trump at various occasions belittled any conversations he may have had with felix satremember, barely knew the guy. >> but according to cohen, sater had an office on the same floor as the president. >> as a private citizen and elsewhere he used to say barely knows the guy, poo poo'ing the whole thing. i want to go back to manu raju.
we got significant news out of the house committee. you're there. you heard the chairman say michael cohen will be back there march 6th and on march 14th an open hearing with felix sater. >> what he wants to investigate as part of his new chairmanship, a big focus of this investigation the president's ties to russia, how that may tie back to russian interference campaign and look at the moscow project, what actually happened is central to that what they find out, whether it confirms adam schiff's suspicions or not is a separate question but they want to investigate that going forward. a rather unusual thing for this committee. typically, interviews have been done, least in the last
congress, behind closed doors. adam schiff has preferred that these be done behind closed doors. bringing this publicly will allow the public to see the pursuit and what's going on with the moscow trump tower project and how they want to focus their investigation on that effort and the president's ties that may exist with russian entities. he would not comment about what happened behind closed doors all day, about 7 1/2 hours with michael cohen. i tried to ask whether the white house was involved, level of involvement and editing a false statement made in 2017 that cohen downplayed the role of the president to get financing for the trump tower. they said they would release a transcript at some point. it probably won't be for quite
some time. and they want to hear from him again march 6th. significant that they want to open up one key witness interview. he tried to downplay expectations saying don't expect what you saw yesterday to happen with felix sater in mid march, perhaps a sign that he may not rae veal as much as michael cohen did just yesterday. >> see what happens. congresswoman eleanor holmes norton, thank you for joining us. what's your reaction to what we just learned, michael cohen coming back to the committee on march 6th? >> i'm really not very impressed because we didn't learn anything. yesterday's hearing was really important. you saw the real michael cohen. we haven't even seen what michael cohen -- what kind of information he has for the
intelligence committee. what we did see in michael cohen was a man as close to the president as anybody could be and closer, in many ways, than his wife. he used michael cohen to verify a lie that stormy daniels didn't exist, for all intents and purposes. not that there was a mountain of new revelations that came out yesterday. i think what was most important, we saw a man as close to the president as you could be, telling us that essentially the president was in on exactly these lies. for example, the check that he produced, the stormy daniels check, that that was overtally between cohen and the president. the president has had to admit that since, after disclaiming it
all together. so i think that the intelligence committee ought to listen hard to michael cohen because he was as close to the president doing his dirty deeds or not, as anybody you're going to hear from. >> you also just heard that felix sater, former business associate of donald trump, will testify in open session before the house intelligence committee march 14th. what light do you think he could shed on this overall investigation into the moscow potential trump tower being built there? >> it's according to what he's really free to say. i mean, remember, we've had people who lied. on cohen, we were pretty sure he was not lying because there was a terrible price to pay. as it was, he's already going to jail. so i -- this is a name that has not come to us before.
cohen is the first true associate we have had to -- we've been able to hear from. i think if you are able to get one of his business associates to really talk, you will hear from somebody very valuable. i'm not sure there is anybody more valuable than michael cohen. you tell your lawyer things you wouldn't tell anybody else. the lawyer/client relationship, of course, doesn't exist here because of the crimes that have been involved. >> alan weisselberg, cfo of the trump organization, has limited immunity. he could be very valuable, indeed. he has been working for the trump organization for some 40 years, going back to donald trump's father. it's not clear if he has told prosecutors about anything other than the hush money scheme that was involved with stormy dani daniels, but he has been, as i say, for years with the trump
organization. do you think he will be able to provide information about other potential crimes by the president? >> no doubt. finally, this man may know about taxes, one thing we have not been able to get. he knows almost as much as michael cohen knows. i say michael cohen knows everything because of the kind of trust you have to have with your lawyer. everything from his income taxes, who he was writing checks to, his bankruptcyies he's a bi deal. >> did you find michael cohen credible? >> i found him credible not only because of how he presented himself. i had to think, what is the worst thing that could happen to this man? the worst thing that could happen, remember, he is still
under investigation. having lied and draw a three-year sentence, will he lie again. i don't think he was lying yesterday. >> what do you think about how the president may have been involved in bank fraud? >> we're getting pretty close to the president's deep involvement in illegal matters. this house has not been interested in impeaching the president. and i don't think even as we are learning new things that seem impeachable that we're going to move forward to impeach him. and the reason i don't think so is that an impeachment is nothing more than an indictment. a u.s. attorney doesn't bring an indictment unless he knows he can move forward and get a conviction with the jury. and, let's face it, the jury in this case, the senate of the united states, is not going to
move any more than it moved on the last time we tried this. so i think this creates a true dilemma because more and more of what we are learning implicates the president in deep illegality and yet the house is stuck on what to do. >> congresswoman eleanor holmes norton from washington, d.c., thank you for joining us. >> of course. >> let's bring in our experts and analysts to assess what's going on. it's all very dramatic. jeffrey toobin, the news out of the house intelligence committee that michael cohen is coming back, more closed door testimony on march 6th and felix sater, business associate involved in plans to build a trump tower in moscow will be questioned at an open hearing before the intelligence committee on march 14th. >> this just shows that, you know, investigations generate their own momentum, or they die. and the question for the house
democrats now is how much did they want to push this? there is a lot they could do, but it's going to take a lot of initiative. are they going to call alan weisselberg? if they call him, are they going to vote to give him immunity in the likely event he decides to take the fifth? what about ivanka, donald trump jr.? should they be open sessions or closed sessions? do they want to subpoena documents as well as individuals? all of this could be done but, you know, it would take a ramping up that the democrats have not done in a long time. and it will certainly generate a lot of criticism from republicans. we'll see if they want to do it. >> whether they're in the majority of the house of representatives right now. they're doing what the republicans wouldn't do. once again that underscores elections have consequences. felix sater. we'll be learning a lot more about this guy over the next
couple of weeks. rather complicated background as we heard from evan perez, once in business with the russian maf mafia, later convicted. became an fbi informant, at one point was intimately involved with planning the development of a trump tower in moscow that could have generated potentially millions if not hundreds of millions of dollars. what do you think he could bring to the table? >> let's say another man with a less than stellar track record of associates and activities that president trump sought to bring into his orbit. wolf, it depends in front of whom he's testifying. we found out he will be testifying in front of the house intelligence committee and democrats in the house are really playing this from a team perspective. house intelligence committee is looking into counterintelligence issues. i would expect those kinds of questions to come up in his testimony in march. and we have the house oversight committee, which has really limited its investigation to false statements by the president and debts and payments during the 2016 campaign. we could see felix satter, don
junior, ivanka and others testify on different types of criminal behavior depending who they're in front of. >> we aye want to bring in democratic congressman eric swalwell of california, who just emerged from that all-day closed-door hearing with michael cohen. thank you for joining us. >> of course, wolf. >> did you learn anything new from michael cohen's testimony today? >> oh, boy. that would be an understatement. we learned a lot of new things. i can't go into them. there's very valuable new leads that we learned and he has been asked to bring back some documents to corroborate what he has told us. we did find him to be cooperative and answered every question we asked. >> so, beyond what he said yesterday during the public hearing before the house oversight committee, you're suggesting that additional new information was released, very important critical information. is that right? >> yes, wolf. >> did his testimony today behind closed doors -- i know you're restricted in what you can say until they release the
transcript. adam schiff says at one point they will release the transcript. did he give your committee new reason to go ahead and subpoena additional witnesses in the investigation? >> we certainly have learned about additional relevant witnesses. that includes what we heard yesterday. different committees of jurisdiction sorting out which one will take up which witness. i found him, i have to say, wolf, different than when we interviewed him in october. he did not want to say anything that could be misleading or inaccurate. i did see him demonstrate that concern when he testified in october 2017. you know, when he perjured himself before congress. he has seen that paul manafort
went from being a cooperative witness. he does not want to touch that same hot stove. >> can you tell us what kind of documents you want him to bring to your committee? >> i wish i could but we're going to try to make this transcript available as soon as the testimony is over and we have checked to make sure it's not invading on any investigative -- open investigations that are out there. >> felix satter, involved in the planning of the trump tower in moscow, why do you want to bring him before your committee? >> he is a russian-american who has worked with donald trump in the past, has worked to bring trump tower to new york and pitched michael cohen on a trump tower in moscow. this individual worked on the 26th floor of trump tower, same
floor donald trump was on. he had a trump organization business card so he's very close to donald trump and very involved in the trump tower moscow deal. there will be public benefit to understand why a presidential candidate was seeking to put a tower in moscow at the same time that we're starting to learn about russia's attacks on our democracy. i think that will be very illuminating. >> is he coming to your committee voluntarily, or has he been subpoenaed? >> i don't want to misspeak on that, wolf. so i'm not clear. i'll just say we do saek to have every witness come forward voluntarily. i'm not aware of a subpoena that's been issued. >> why did you, adam schiff and your committee decide to have this testimony be done in public? >> because of the public value of understanding, again, you have a candidate for president of the united states, somebody who is also a business person and he's mixing the two. he's doing business in moscow
throughout the presidential campaign, beyond the iowa caucus, the new hampshire primary. and not just with the british or mexico. he's doing it with an adversary, an adversary we'll later learn in the campaign was working against our interest and interfering in our election. it's important that the american people understand what donald trump's role was in that trump tower project. >> the president says michael cohen's testimony yesterday, the president claims it proves his assertion there was no collusion. michael cohen did testify that he had no evidence of collusion. although he said he has his own personal suspicions of collusion. how do you see it? >> first, michael cohen said he has no direct evidence of collusion. but he has suspicions of collusion. wolf, as you know, in the law, direct evidence and circumstantial evidence are treated the same. however, it's interesting that the president and his supporters in congress like to pull out what helps them as to what michael cohen says but then dismisses everything he says that hurts them and calls him a
convicted liar. have you to take the good and the bad here. when you take the good and the bad it's all bad for donald trump. >> do you believe michael cohen provided key information to the special counsel, robert mueller, about the collusion part of the investigation? >> i can just tell you, based on, you know, what we've seen from michael cohen's -- his plea, that he has provided hours of testimony to the special counsel. this is a team that's moving expeditiously. doesn't have time to waste. and i would just conclude that, you know, looking at how long he spent with them as compared to others who have been relevant, it would appear that he has been quite helpful to me. >> what was your assessment, congressman, of what michael cohen had to say about roger stone, assange, wikileaks, damaging democratic e-mails during the campaign. >> i watched michael cohen testify yesterday about the exchange with roger stone, it really just confirmed what most of us had believed based on all
the arrows pointing in the direction that roger stone had told donald trump about what julian assange was doing. from our investigation two years ago, donald trump and roger stone had been pals for years. they always talked about politics. they talked on the phone often throughout the campaign and they met in person often. it would actually be a natural for roger stone not to tell donald trump about this and just to take a step back, wolf, roger stone says that his conversations with wikileaks were completely innocent. if they were completely innocent, why wouldn't he have told donald trump about it? if they were nefarious and he was trying to protect him, you would understand why. it adds up to everything we believe we knew from our prior investigation. >> congressman eric swalwell, you've been busy all day. thanks for joining us. >> of course. my pleasure. much more on all the breaking news after this. [music playing] (vo) this is jerry.
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at office depot officemax we're getting more breaking news courtesy of "the new york times." they have an explosive article that had just been posted about jared kushner, the president's son-in-law, how he received the security clearances, "the new york times" saying the president of the united states, father-in-law of jared kushner personally ordered the u.s. intelligence community to grant him top secret security clearances, overruling recommendations from the cia and others. let me read a few sentences from this explosive article. president trump ordered his chief of staff to grant his son-in-law and senior adviser jared kushner a top secret
security clearance overruling concerns flagged by intelligence officials and the white house's top lawyer, four people briefed on the matter said. mr. trump's decision so troubled senior intelligence officials that one at the time, john f. kelly, wrote a contemporaneous internal memo about how he had been ordered to fw eed to give r the top-secret clearance. the white house counsel at the time, donald f. mcgann ii also wrote an internal memo out lining the concerns that had been raised about mr. kushner, including by the cia, and how mr. mcgahn had recommended that he not be given top-secret clearance. >> this memo by the president contradicts what the president said in an oval office interview with ""the new york times"" in
january when he said he had no role in his son-in-law's receiving those clearances. >> i don't think any of us are surprised anymore when the president lies about process and counterintelligence issues. but let's just talk about what this actually means. in layman's terms the president of the united states knowingly directed his team to give a potential counter intelligence risk, jared kushner, access to the most sensitive information in the country. he discounted what experts said and put each and every american at risk because jared kushner is roaming the halls of the west wing. according to the cia and the intelligence community, he should not be trusted to access classified information. we could have, and i'll stress the could, an intelligence asset ro. aming the halls of the west wing because the president was either too narcissistic or too ignorant to listen to officials.
>> officials did raise concerns over ties between his and his family's real estate business and foreign governments and investors. he also -- >> which are counter intelligence risks. >> he also omited from his forms dozens of foreign contacts and had to repeatedly amend those forms, and he was a target for manipulation from multiple governments according to intelligence officials. once again the president was for his own personal gain, for the benefit of his family, >> he is on a sensitive diplomatic -- was in the united a arab emirates, trying to achieve a peace agreement. >> let's not forget the secretary of everything ruled that jared kushner -- we covered a lot but has his portfolio is vast. this isn't -- it's not just the count counterintelligence risk.
we are talking top level of staff. it would be a concern at any level. we are talking about a man who is married to donald trump's eldest daughter who also works in the white house. >> jeffrey, what do you think? >> it's nepotism. the president has the right to do this. he can declassify documents. he can grant security clearances. what he has done is overrule the people who do this professionally for nepotistic purposes. >> there's more breaking news. we will get back to this shortly. there's another significant story we're following. president trump's former lawyer, michael cohen, he wrapped up another day. this time of closed door testimony before the house intelligence committee. he is due to return to that committee next week for more. the hearing followed explosive public testimony in which cohen accused the president of various crimes and likened donald trump's behavior over the years to that of a mob boss. brian todd has been looking into this part of the story for us.
brian, take us through what you are learning. >> reporter: michael cohen and members of congress compared the president to a mob boss several times yesterday. today, we spoke to law enforcement veterans who made the same comparison. they don't believe the culture of intimidation inside trump's world changed very much since he has come to washington. through the eyes of michael cohen, working for donald trump is like working for tony soprano. >> everybody's job at the trump organization is to protect mr. trump. every day, most of us knew we were coming in and we were going to lie for him on something. >> reporter: members of congress are calling it a mob mentality, comparing the accusations cohen made against the president to the same tactics used by organized crime. >> how many times did mr. trump ask you to threaten an individual or entity on his behalf? >> quite a few times. >> 50. more.
>> 500. probably. >> reporter: trump hasn't held back. >> he is a weak person and not very smart. >> mr. trump called me a rat for choosing to tell the truth, much like a mobster would do when one of his men decides to cooperate with the government. >> reporter: in his testimony before the house oversight committee wednesday, cohen described an environment inside trump tower focused on the boss. someone everyone calls mr. trump. a place where cohen didn't have to be told what to do because everyone speaks the same language. >> he doesn't give you questions, he doesn't give you orders. he speaks in a code. and i understand the code because i've been around him for a decade. >> it's your impression that others who work for him understand the code as well? >> most people, yes. >> mob bosses will not utter words that are likely to get them in trouble. they do things by ininference, suggestion. people around them in their crew or people who are fixers, know
what is meant. >> reporter: ed mcdonald would know. he spent 12 years going after mobsters in new york. mcdonald played himself in the movie "goodfellows" striking a witness protection deal. >> i don't know anything. >> come on. don't give me the babe in the woods. i've listened to the wiretaps. >> reporter: it's that distension between the president given cohen a direct order such as encouraging him to lie while testifying before congress or cohen assuming he was doing what the boss wanted that could define if trump committed a crime or not. >> this is what michael cohen was getting at when he was saying, well, i understood what i was supposed to do. you were a better servant to donald trump if he didn't have to tell you, cheat this person, lie to that one and betray this one. it was all automatic. that made him a good coppo in the trump mob family.
>> reporter: after watching how mob bosses operate, he thinks the president seems to relish the comparisons. >> we have a president who seems to go through life trying to imitate john gotti. he starts off with the strut. every time i see him, he seems to be wearing the overcoat. he has the strut, the skoul on his face and the demeanor, we don't take nolg from nobody. >> reporter: the larger comparison is cultural according to cohen and trump biographers. a culture they describe inside the trump organization of threats, betrayal and one way loyalty. >> donald trump, like most mob bosses, doesn't feel beholden to the people beneath him. if he were loyal, he would have given michael cohen a job in the administration. he would have given him a pretty good job. i believe that michael cohen did not get a job because his children, donald trump's children saw michael as part of
a servant class. they saw him as a guy who was good at being a thug. >> reporter: the white house has not weighed in on comparisons to the mob. white house press secretary sarah sanders has called cohen a disgraced felon and says, quote, it's laughable that anyone would take a convicted liar like cohen at his word. >> brian todd, thanks very much. more on all of the breaking news right after this. at fidelity, we make sure you have a clear plan to cover the essentials in retirement, as well as all the things you want to do. because when you're ready for what comes next, the only direction is forward.
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happening now, breaking news. more cohen testimony. the president's longtime lawyer wrapped up his third straight day appearing before congress, revealing he will answer more questions next week. lawmakers are set to interview a russian-born businessman connected to the president and to the kremlin. kushner's clearance. new reporting tonight that president trump personally ordered a top secret security clearance for his son-in-law and senior adviser overruling concerns among officials and within the white house. crossing the red line. after michael cohen publically accused the president of crimes, house democrats now are digging deeper into areas mr. trump warned investigators not to go. will his children and his chief financial officer now be subpoenaed? failure