Transcript: Actor Tom Arnold interview on 'The Investigation' podcast

Tom Arnold discusses Michael Cohen as the former Trump lawyer reports to prison.

Actor Tom Arnold sat down for an interview for the latest episode of “The Investigation," a new ABC News podcast. A transcript of Arnold's interview as it appears in this episode of the podcast follows here:

COHEN ON TAPE: I hope that when I rejoin my family and friends that the country will be in a place without xenophobia, injustice, and lies at the helm of our country. There still remains much to be told and I look forward to the day that I can share the truth. And thank you all very much.

VLASTO: Can you tell us Tom how you've gotten involved in all this and how did you meet up with Michael Cohen?

TOM ARNOLD: Well you know I'm a - I'm not a journalist like you guys are fantastic at what you do. I've have a ton of respect for what you do but Donald Trump is so, so inappropriately qualified to be president that even his enemies like myself are D-list. And I have to have known Donald Trump for 30 years so I know everybody in his orbit. People like Felix Saylor and, and Michael Cohen have, have come into my orbit. I'm just a private citizen who exercises my First Amendment rights and I care about my country. I have a 6 year old son and a 3 year old daughter. So, Michael Cohen I'll talk about specifically. I had a TV show called THE HUNT FOR THE TRUMP TAPES. And, and I enjoyed doing the show and they had - Vice had seen my tweets about Trump which are how I you know would, would respond and reach out to people and say you know I've seen this or that because I know a lot of the people that worked with Donald Trump on The Apprentice and I've spent time with Donald Trump. He, you know, my relationship with Donald Trump was such that he would call my house a lot and ask me to do The Apprentice. He and Mark Burnett and I never could get my head around doing The Celebrity Apprentice because I didn't see what the advantage was to you know shockingly I did not do it and they, they do offer you a lot. That's the small amount of my soul I still have left. So anyway when he runs for president he becomes a real deal and I get involved and last summer I went to New York City and I knew that Michael Cohen was staying at the Regency and I wanted to run into Michael Cohen. I thought it was important that Michael Cohen flipped on the president. You know for the research I do it for genuine journalists. I felt that was important. And I knew that he would be staying at the Regency and we were filming and I’d hoped to run into him. I knew - I stay at the Regency a lot, my friends own the Regency. I know the people who work there and if you know the doorman you know kind of the comings and goings and you guys know this. So, we'd wrapped up shooting and I was talking to my friend for Rolling Stone who'd been kind of embedded with me for six months and I said, he said, what you guys just said you know all these same people. He says too bad you didn't get to see Michael Cohen and I said he is walking at the door right behind you. And so bam. I went up to him and you know introduced myself. I didn't know if it was going to go badly you know I'm also a guy that believes that this time I'm not objective. You guys have to be objective. There's good guys and there's bad guys right now and I didn’t know if it was going to go well with Michael Cohen. You know people like Steve Tisch who owns the hotel said he's a good guy. And so I you know introduced myself and I said Steve Tisch says you're a good guy and I'm Steve's son’s godfather and he's. And he says oh my son's his age and anyway he seemed like a very nice guy. We took a picture together Brian Hiatt from Rolling Stone took a picture of us. I tweeted that. I stayed downstairs a little bit with Brian and by the time I got upstairs it was, it was a big story that we took the picture and they had already called a Michael Cohen and somebody from the press, who by the way he has a lot of friends in the press, and he, they said are you going to do Tom Arnold’s show and he said you'll have to ask Tom. He didn't say no. That's just a picture. So, it was already a big thing. So, I said, you know, course we're taking down Trump, but I exaggerated our, our comments at the, in the entryway of the Regency. But I knew for sure I wasn't leaving the hotel until he had broken up completely with Donald Trump, because he had both feet you know in the door and I stayed there until, until he - till George Stephanopoulos got there to do the, you know, to do it right.

VLASTO: But listen. Today though we want to talk about tapes that you did get and we have and you've graciously given to us with Michael Cohen. First off I know you didn't know Michael Cohen from that day at the Regency Hotel, but then all of a sudden you guys started communicating with each other.

ABC NEWS’ MATT MOSK: Can you tell us how the how these were recorded. Did he know you were recording him, was he complicit in this? How did this go down?

ARNOLD: Well I mean my iPad. I mean it's a video. I think you guys have – it’s a badly recorded video. You know we had spoken since this summer we had a very, you know, I was, I was pretty mean to him because I really needed him to you know, he, he's a very sweet guy, but he wanted to keep a foot in the door of the White House last summer and it was he just couldn’t do - his relationship with Trump is it was a bad marriage, a bad relationship. He want to stay buddies with people at the White House said and there's just no way to do that and then do the right thing for the country. And so I was pretty tough love on him. I was pretty mean to him, very mean. So that the first time I called him was the 25th of March and, and you know, I, it was the Monday after the Mueller thing had been handed over to Barr and he done the sum – summary, the crap summary. And I said you know my thinking was I'm going to call this guy. You know, I'm just got to say listen man I told you I'd be there for you if you flipped. I'm going to be the guy that’s there. I’m gonna thank you and kind of had some notes and so I called this journalist that was kind of in between us. And, and so I finally I just called him and he called me right back. And then we talked and then all of a sudden Michael Avenatti’s getting indicted on live TV so we take a break. We watch that live. You know I'm in Ottawa, Canada. He's in New York City. Then we get back on. And we talk for like you know you like two guys talking mostly just talking not listening

VLASTO: Well, listen and actually let me throw let me throw to one of these soundbites that we have. These tapes kind of show a side, a little more. It's kind of even though Michael Cohen has testified before Congress and he has said his plea. These tapes sound a little more -

MOSK: genuine.

VLASTO: Yeah genuine he's less performing. And let's, let's, let's listen to this first one.

MC: After a hundred hours of testimony, right, including 7 and a half hours of being beaten up on national television, you know, international television, you know you would think that you would have folks, you know, stepping up and saying, you know what, um, this guy’s lost everything.

TA: Yeah.

MC: I mean everything, my, you know, my family’s happiness, my law license, you know, I lost my business, I lost, you know, everything. My insurance. My bank accounts. All for what, all for what, because Trump, you know, had an affair with a porn star? That’s really what this is about.

TA: Yep.

MC: There’s no tax evasion. And the HELOC? I have an 18% loan to value on my home.

TA: Right.

MC: How could there be a HELOC issue? How?

TA: That’s right, that’s right. That’s absolutely right.

MC: Right? It’s a lie. But they had me on campaign finance, they were going to file as Petrillo put in his memo an 85 page indictment that was gonna include my wife, and you know what I love this woman -

TA: Yeah she’s -

MC: I’m not going to let her get dragged into the mud of this crap, and I never thought the judge was going to throw a three year freaking sentence, you know it’s um, it’s terrible.

TA: It is terrible.

MC: And what they’re doing (UNITEL), what they can do to anybody is just, it’s obscene.

VLASTO: This is a beaten man there Tom. And this was obviously right after his testimony on the Hill. I mean he seems broken. Don't you think?

ARNOLD: Well I mean, he, he wanted to talk to somebody. This is I’m just going to give you the - when I recorded this. He's talking about things like HELOC, I don’t know the financial stuff. I recorded it so I can write everything down. I fly to New York that weekend that Friday spent five days down there. Sit with him, take notes. I meet his wife his daughter. I'd met his son already. Sit it with him take notes because he, he did. The FBI did releases his other server. I take notes, I ask him every question, he opens up all his devices, gives me every contact, all kinds of people that he's done favors for that owe him favors - because you know what people need to step up for him too. First of all he, he's unable to do this himself. He can't say these words on this tape himself, because he's you know made a deal. He can't speak. He can't give an interview and I thought how does a - you know every man and woman gets should be able to tell their truth. He, it, and also do you hear his voice. He sounds, he doesn't sound like he's panicky or under oath or. This is two guys talking and also he's talking to me so I ramble on and then he gets to talk honestly. Then I ramble on and so I said to him listen, it's the best of all worlds you could blame me if anybody says anything you say Tom Arnold recorded me, man. Tom Arnold's a jerk. He recorded me, I didn't know it. So, that's the best thing going, you can always blame me. This is the perfect situation.

ABC NEWS’ JOHN SANTUCCI: Well and Tom let's just play a little more sound from that conversation we have with Michael cause he talks about the 10 years that he worked for Donald Trump. Take a listen to this.

MC: And you take it, but I had a mission that I needed to fulfill. And I needed to get the truth out there and, and very hard when you know you spend 10 years taking care of somebody and their family and you, look I always knew, you know, who he was and what he was and so on. But it didn’t really matter because its, it’s a small microcosm of New York real estate. It’s very different when you start looking to seeing what’s happening now in the country.

TA: Right.

SANTUCCI: And you kind of, and you kind of saw Tom that when he gave those remarks when he's leaving his Manhattan apartment on Monday heading up to surrender to federal authorities to begin his three year sentence, he said there's more truth to come out. What are some of the things that you gained just in your conversations of speaking to him that are sort of the coming attractions?

ARNOLD: Well you know he's got a bunch of. You know he raised a lot of money for the RNC and he saw a lot of, he raised 140 million dollars for them and he saw a lot of, you know, the way they raised money and he sat in a room with specific people and you know even, you know he started working for Trump right up you know during the time of the financial crisis in the real estate world. And so Trump had to - was broke and he had to reach out to people like Jeffrey Epstein, you know, people that are you know had, have issues. And so he knows all of that is that's why when he testified they sent out 81 subpoenas to specific people and he practiced what he was going to testify with so they could send out the subpoenas to Weiselburg and those other people because he knows what's on the other side of that in 2008 or 9.

VLASTO: Yeah but see. But Tom the problem with Michael Cohen is that he lied for years for Donald Trump and lied to every reporter in town and lied, publicly, lied on TV shows why did lie - Now some on the Republican side said he lied again even after he flipped to Congress why should we believe anything about Michael Cohen? Isn’t that the problem here?

MOSK: Hey Tom. Actually on that point I wanted to just hear a little bit about you what you and Michael Cohen said to each other about foreign leaders, leaders in North Korea and some of these other countries. Let's play that and get your thoughts on it.

MC: In the world. You know they put sanctions on North Korea and he removes them?

TA: Right.

MC: He likes Kim Jong Un because he’s my friend?

TA: Yeah.

MC: What kind of nonsense is this? You know. I mean you got Jared and Ivanka who are - they’re kissing up to Mohammed bin Salman (TA: Oh god.) Who kills, who kills this journalist who by coincidence happens to be a cousin of one of my very close friends.

MC: And yeah, I’m not really sure why you’d want to be friends with them or even call somebody like that friends. Oh yeah, Charles Manson, he’s my best friend.

TA: Yeah, yeah.

MC: You know what hey, you know what, I want to go have dinner with Jeffrey Dahmer.

TA: Yeah, yeah exactly.

MOSK: This is, this is the guy who was Donald Trump's most loyal advocate for a long time. He really has a dark view of the president. But you believe the transformation you believe that Michael Cohen has really changed since when you first met him?

ARNOLD: I don't know. I don't know. I don't know what is. You know that's what was, was pretty wonderful about him explaining working for Donald Trump ten years in the, you know, in the real estate business because people need an explanation for that. How could you work for this guy? He's got father issues obviously guys. How did you get involved with somebody like Donald Trump? It’s insane. But to explain the difference between that and now, you know, there's no saints among us. Any of us you know he made some horrible judgment calls, horrible mistakes. He's going to prison. You know, Donald Trump Jr. has made some horrible mistakes. He's not going to prison. You know?

VLASTO: But Tom one person who may, who’s facing charges as well that we have one more recording here who was Michael Cohen's nemesis. Mr. Avenatti so let's listen to this conversation.

MC: You know, and I don’t enjoy other people’s misery you know

TA: Right

MC: It’s, like look what’s happening to Avenatti. It’s called karma boomerang. Right?

TA: Yeah

MC: The guy lied about me every single day. Right?

TA: Yeah

MC: And the world loved it…

VLASTO: What do you think he thinks, do you think Michael Avenatti, I mean, how does he feel about Michael Avenatti?

ARNOLD: Oh my god, he hates Michael Avenatti. Here's the thing. Michael Avenatti. You know only men like Michael Avenatti and Donald Trump run for president the first time they, they want to serve any kind of office. No woman would go. You know I’m gonna serve my, I’m gonna run for president. Like with only a man would do that. You know. But they should in the, in the good world. They would've teamed up together because you know and worked together. Michael Avenatti he hates him. You know he hates him. They're arch enemies both of them Mike Avenatti hates Michael Cohen. Like why are they fighting why does Michael Avenatti fight with everybody too? Its - its bull****. You know Michael Avenatti, you know, there's something up with him too it's ridiculous. He has to take everybody down. Everybody good, bad. I've got to take everybody, I've got to slay every dragon. Well guess what. You know that's a karma boomerang as he says, I don't know. It's ridiculous. Usually I don't know. Men are as*****. What can I tell you?

VLASTO: But what do you think at the end of the day when Michael Cohen is sitting up in jail at Otisville what do you think he's thinking about right today?

ARNOLD: You know my sister went to the Martha Stewart prison for 10 years she - and I went to visit her and it was very similar. And It's pretty sweet let me tell you something, the one in West Virginia.

VLASTO: Sweet?

ARNOLD: I don't know. Yeah it’s - I went there to speak to several times, to speak to the women. And you will never be as appreciated as you are when you speak at a women's prison. Now that's a sidebar. Michael Cohen - What is he thinking? You know here's what I want him to think and what my pep talk this weekend - your son. And this is stupid, did I even say this on the tape? I say a lot of nonsense on that tape because I was nervous I also wanted genuinely, I want him to know he did a good thing. He came through. You know, his sons going to school for four years, when he gets out Michael Cohen will be out. And it is going to be a new world. And he did make a difference. You know I don't know what people think - he genuinely is a good guy. You know we all make mistakes. I mean he's, you know, he's away from his kids. Could you imagine that guys. Could you imagine that? I mean you know, it all the, all of our guts - ego and bul**** when they do close the cell. It's a prison man. It's - no matter what you say. It's not okay. They took away his law license. They took away everything, they do shut off the lights. It sucks. And he's been rich. He was super rich when he met Trump and it's going to suck and your freedom is gone and it is scary. And it’s traumatizing. And it's gonna suck. And there’s no, it just is going to be scary. He’s gonna be that little kid. He was a little kid that was scared enough to work for Donald Trump and think that guy is going to make my life okay. I'm going to work for that guy. So yeah he's gonna be scared so it's going to take him a while.

VLASTO: Let's take a quick break and we'll have more with Tom Arnold and his tapes when we get back.

VLASTO: Welcome back to The Investigation. I'm Chris Vlasto Senior Executive Producer of ABC News joined by John Santucci and Matt Mosk. And our special guest Tom Arnold who has brought his tapes of recorded conversations with Michael Cohen.

SANTUCCI: Tom, I mean, I really want to go back to just more of the things that you got out of him when you were speaking to him because part of what you talk about with him is that he recaps to you the hours of testimony he gave. Obviously, all Americans saw the public testimony he gave, but he also gave testimony behind closed doors and he was talking to you about a conversation he had with Eric Swalwell, a Democrat from California running for president. Let's take a listen to that.

MC: Do you speak to Swalwell?

TA: Oh yes, of course.

MC: So, did you, you know, after my 16 hours of testimony before his committee, (TA: yes) We were sitting just talking for a few minutes, and even during the, during the hearing I (UNITEL) and I said you know the Republicans were attacking me vociferously, and you would think that I had you know killed one of their grandchildren, I mean, it was, they were so tough, they were so angry and they were so you know nasty. Each, and you know I had to just sit there, and sort of swallow it, right?

TA: Yeah.

MC: And then I turned and said you know, I said, do you mind if I say something here in my defense, and they said yeah, and I said you didn’t think I was this bad of a guy when I was out there raising 140 million dollars for the RNC for the vice chair. Right? So, I see Eric turn around and he starts, like, covering his mouth cause he (unintel), so I said so let me say this, right? Those days of me asking friends for a lot of money for the RNC is over and if there’s anybody in this room, right, that’s contemplating on a presidential run, right? I have a lot of very wealthy friends and a lot of them you know are very, you know, happy to donate to where I ask them to, so just give me a call.

TA: Oh my -

MC: So, Swalwell starts cracking up and he’s like, you know, then afterwards, he’s like ‘that was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen, It’s like you know you shut them up.’ They’re attacking me as if I’m the worst human being on the planet but they thought I was the greatest.

TA: Oh, of course they did.

MC: (unintel) Steve Wynn, Elliott Broidy, you know, DeJoy, you know, when the four of us were raising money like it was going out of style

SANTUCCI: So Tom, talk a little bit though about what he's describing there because I know we, when we were talking at the top of this interview we were saying, what are those coming attractions there? Obviously, what we're seeing in the Southern District New York investigation right now related to the president's inauguration is that there's questions being raised about how money was raised and how that money was spent. Do you get the sense from talking to him that there are potentially questions about where some of these donations came from when he was chairing the RNC? People that maybe should not have donated money?

ARNOLD: Well, that's exactly what I was talking about it and that's when I added, this is public record, when I mentioned people like Mark Burnett. It's been in the New York Times. You know there's people that have access to Donald Trump and they bring people from Russia to set up meetings with Donald Trump. Michael Cohen also was involved with that, by the way. You know—

SANTUCCI: Who else besides Mark Burnett, though? Who are some of the names that he told you of people?

ARNOLD: I mean there's [LAUGHS] there’s probably - You know I'm focused on Mark Burnett. You know and he has-- There's those there's 3000 hours of footage that I would like to get out too.

VLASTO: Well listen Tom you know I know. I don't think Michael Cohen now as a felon could vote but you know the election is coming up in two years so who do you think he'd vote for?

ARNOLD: Who knows, who knows who anyone would vote for it's so far away, it seems. You say two years, it's less than two years. But that is a lifetime you guys. Who knows what's going to happen next week. I've got to say this, Trump is going to resign before then, he's going to get frustrated. He's got to get mad. He's got to resign.

VLASTO: Well Tom that's a perfect way to end this podcast. We can't thank you enough for joining us. It was really great. Thank you very much.

ARNOLD: Thank you guys.

VLASTO: Thanks for joining us today. Please be sure to hit subscribe and leave us a rating or a comment. We welcome your feedback. Thanks to our producers Treavor Hastings and Kaitlyn Folmer. For my colleagues Matt Mosk and John Santucci. We'll see you back next week for another episode of the Investigation.