During the Friday edition of CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront, the eponymous host and her panel reacted to the latest developments in the Trump-Russia investigation, with a litany of memos on both Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort being released by the U.S. District of Southern New York and the Mueller team. As a whole, the panel seemed convinced that the memos may represent the smoking gun needed to take down President Trump. Not surprisingly, Nixon administration White House counsel and beloved CNN talking head John Dean found himself firmly in the pro-impeachment camp.
Former Assistant FBI Director Greg Brower declared that “it’s hard to read this document without interpreting it as just flat out implicating the President of the United States in a couple of different felonies relating to campaign finance laws.” Following Brower’s remarks, Burnett asked former Assistant U.S. Attorney Harry Sandick “if we are at a point where we’re saying the President of the United States committed a felony and, you know, okay, he had no…well then, what are they going to do about it?”
Sandick responded: “It’s not clear that they’re going to do anything about it, for a few reasons. Number one, there are DOJ policies that say that whatever the circumstances, the President can’t be indicted until after he leaves office, and it seems as if the prosecutors in the Southern District and on the Mueller team are going to likely to follow that rule.”
Dean disagreed with the idea that the latest developments in the Mueller probe will “forever disappear into some dark hole of unprosecutable Presidents,” adding: “I think what this totality of today’s filings show that the House is going to have little choice other than to start impeachment proceedings.”
Burnett seemed to agree, pointing that with a Democratic-controlled House, there will be a “real question now of whether you’re looking at a Bill Clinton-like moment where you actually get that impeachment vote.”
Speaking of Bill Clinton, the pro-impeachment crowd at CNN and MSNBC should definitely be careful what they wish for. After all, the Republican-led House of Representative’s decision to impeach President Clinton led to his approval rating reaching an all-time high of 73 percent.
A transcript of the relevant portion of Friday’s edition of Erin Burnett OutFront is below. Click “expand” to read more.
Erin Burnett OutFront
07:09 p.m. Eastern
ERIN BURNETT: Outfront now, John Dean, Nixon White House Counsel during Watergate, Harry Sandick, the former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, April Ryan, White House Correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks and author of Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House, and Greg Brower, former FBI Assistant Director. Okay. Thanks very much to all of you. So much to talk about here. I want to talk, specifically first about Cohen and the Mueller filing from the Special Counsel. John Dean, Cohen provided useful information on multiple Russia matters, we learn here, right, including information about contacts with White House officials that were going on as recently as 2018. Which, you know, as Evan and I are emphasizing, could be a significant change here or new look that we’re talking about a very different timetable. This could mean the investigation is bigger than we thought, John Dean?
JOHN DEAN: It does mean that. There’s that very real potential. With Michael Cohen, it appears, given the fact he went to the, apparently, initially, to the Special Counsel, didn’t…wasn’t truthful with them as a footnote shows. And then went up to the Southern District and had sort of a partial cooperation up there, that he was slow in realizing that he had to come forward. And that’s why this information is kind of dribbled out, out of him. And I think what’s going on, he’s got a very savvy lawyer, principal criminal lawyer, as well as one who is sort of handling the public side of this. And I think he’s relying on what’s called rule 35, where after he testifies, he can go back to the court and say, listen, here’s all the information I have supplied, I’d like a reduced sentence. That’s, I think, his hope.
BURNETT: Which could be, and of course, obviously, Southern District asking for a, for a long sentence, right, more than three and a half years here.
DEAN: They are.
BURNETT: Greg, let me ask you, though, in this filing from Mueller, it is very clear, from what they are saying in here, that Cohen is playing a role in the Russia investigation, which is beyond, above and beyond the Moscow tower, right? We’re talking about Russia related matters, plural, core to the investigation, contacts with persons connected to the White House from 2017 and 2018.
GREG BROWER: Right. These…all of these recent filings, the Manafort filing, the Cohen filings, and the Flynn filing, all are stunning in that they come as close as we’ve seen so far at pointing directly to the President in terms of implicating him in this, this Russia connection to the campaign. And so, the fact that Cohen and Flynn in particular are cooperating with the Special Counsel to the extent they apparently are, can’t mean anything good for the President. And I assume that we’re going to see a lot more detailed information to come in terms of what both of them have been able to provide to Mueller’s team.
BURNETT: Right, Harry, because of course obviously, they are tipping their hand in one sense, right? They’re saying multiple Russia issues core to the campaign, the timeframe seems to be changing, they’re adding another Russian in here but obviously this is all still ongoing so they’re not giving us details on what all these Russian related matters are. But what about this Russian? We have all these details here. This person reached out to Michael Cohen around November 2015. So, you know, Trump announced he’s running for office in June. By November, this person, who as you heard Evan say, could be a totally new person close to Putin that we did not know about, offers the campaign, “political synergy and synergy on a government level.” Repeatedly proposes meetings between Trump and President Putin, and says, a meeting could have a phenomenal impact in political and business dimensions. These details are all in here.
HARRY SANDICK: Yep. And you read this, and how can anyone say with a straight face, no collusion or no contacts with Russia. This is through Michael Cohen, someone who was very close to the President for many years, and different from the Moscow project. Now, it does say the meeting did not happen, but it says in the…
BURNETT: Between Putin and Trump.
SANDICK: That’s right.
BURNETT: It does say that meeting did not happen.
SANDICK: And it also says that Cohen did not pursue further his dealings with this Russian, but that was only according to the Mueller filing because Cohen had other contacts with Russia that he thought would be more productive than this new Russian figure. So there is contact with Russia everywhere. I mean I don’t want to take the entire hour listing all the different connections between Trump and Russia, but this is a very serious addition to that list.
BURNETT: And, April, you know, the other question is, is how much Michael Cohen knew about Trump’s activities, you know, what he really knew. I mean, right? Obviously, it looks like from what we’re learning here tonight, he knew a lot more than we thought.
APRIL RYAN: Yeah. You know, Cohen is connecting the dots. No matter the fact that he has lied in the past and he is considered a liar by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, but Cohen has tapes. He’s got proof that is nailing this down. You know, the President just talked about no collusion. Well, Cohen is maybe bringing something else to the table saying that may not be true, Mr. President, and also the fact that, you know, obstruction of justice is on the table as well. Cohen was someone who said he would fall on the sword for the President. He was loyal to the President.
BURNETT: Take a bullet, right? Those were the words.
RYAN: Now, he’s turned on him.
BURNETT: Direct quote.
RYAN: Yeah, take the bullet. Take the bullet.
RYAN: Fall on the sword. But take the bullet, yeah, for this President because he was loyal to him and there was a payoff at that time.
RYAN: The payoff is over. Now he’s fighting for his own life. He is giving up all the information that could really connect the dots to the Oval Office, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, if indeed it’s true, 2017 and 2018 are in play as well.
BURNETT: So, Greg, you know, in the filing from the Southern District, and this is the crucial part MJ was referring to, right, obviously they’re taking a very tough line against Michael Cohen on his cooperation. But they are saying, in a court filing, right, for the first time, right, they are saying that the President of the United States, you know, knew about this payment to Stormy Daniels. Is this saying the President of the United States committed a felony?
BROWER: Yeah. It’s hard to read this document without interpreting it as just flat-out implicating the President of the United States in a couple of different felonies relating to campaign finance laws. I don’t know that there’s any other way to read that. And so, I think that’s the takeaway from that filing.
BURNETT: I mean, Harry, I know you think that the one…the one out could be did he know that it was a violation, the knowledge.
SANDICK: That’s right. That’s right.
BURNETT: So, here’s the question, though. What happens? If we are at a point where we’re saying the President of the United States committed a felony and, you know, okay, he had no…well then, what are they going to do about it?
SANDICK: Well, they’re…it’s not clear that they’re going to do anything about it, for a few reasons. Number one, there are DOJ policies that say that whatever the circumstances, the President can’t be indicted until after he leaves office, and it seems as if the prosecutors in the Southern District and on the Mueller team are going to likely to follow that rule. The second issue is that because Cohen did not go all the way as a cooperator, did not tell the government everything he knew, did not sign a cooperation agreement, the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District doesn’t have him available to call as a witness. They have a specific program for cooperators. They’ve had it for many, many years, and as they say in their brief, Cohen didn’t follow it.
BURNETT: And yet, John Dean, we are at a point, if you look at that filing and you say that this is a felony, campaign finance violation, and the President knew about it and directed it, that, again, is a new, a new stage here to be so formally at that point, right? This is a court filing in which that is the clear implication.
DEAN: That’s true and that’s exactly what Michael Cohen said in court when he pled. He…in his allocution, he implicated Trump directly, that he was doing it, his instructions; that’s why the payments were made; they were for his benefit. I don’t know that this will forever disappear into some dark hole of unprosecutable Presidents. I think will…it will resurface in the Congress. I think what this totality of today’s filings show that the House is going to have little choice the way this is going other than to start impeachment proceedings.
BURNETT: And obviously, I just point out what everyone watching knows, you now have a Democratic controlled House, obviously not in the Senate but, you know, you have a real question now of whether you’re looking at a Bill Clinton-like moment where you actually get that impeachment vote. April, something clearly on the President’s mind and I want to make a point here because the President is, you know, over time vacillated between Michael Cohen, my friend and an honest broker and a liar. The Special Counsel very clear here on page two of the filing, referring to Cohen, the information he’s provided has been credible and consistent with other evidence obtained in the ongoing investigation. They are making it clear we’ve corroborated all this. We know it’s true.
RYAN: Yeah. I mean, you know, Michael Cohen has been proven to be a liar, but when you have tapes that they have found that may not have been edited, what have you, and you have voices, clearly having conversations, audio tapes, video tapes, whatever tapes, that nails the coffin shut to a certain extent. And then other people who, I guess, if they have evidence on or to talk to, to say, look, we’ve got this, give us the information. It’s not about their word now. It’s about the evidence that’s in front of them. And Michael Cohen has given them the evidence to prove certain things. So this President, I mean, when he goes out and tweets, he’s got to be very careful, because we don’t know. I mean, he doesn’t probably know a lot that’s on the table as well. He may have answered questions; if there are things that we are still finding out, and many who are involved in this are still trying to figure out.