The Briefing Room: Trump reacts to guilty associates

President Donald Trump reacts to Cohen and Manafort news on Twitter.
18:59 | 08/22/18

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Transcript for The Briefing Room: Trump reacts to guilty associates
Hello and welcome to the briefing room on ABC news political director Rick Klein and we have a powerhouse team here in Washington and also in New York will be joined by us as a unique our White House correspondent Alan Rogan a couple of well also Tommy on this in New York 21 packed. Some of the most consequential events of the trump presidency all taking place in side the last 24 hours. And I want to start with the president's first reaction. For substantive reaction to the news that Michael Cohen his long time attorney and up political fixer. Pleaded guilty to several federal charges in court in implicated him. In some potential wrongdoing the president speaking to Fox News earlier to. They were taken at a campaign finance such a big thing that's a much bigger thing. Did they come out of the campaign they didn't come at it again and they came from me and I tweeted about it and I put I don't know you know but. I tweeted. About the payments. But they didn't come out of campaign back my first question when I heard about it was did they come out of the campaign. Because that could be. A little Dicey. There's so much to its on pack in that in that interview clip up here Thomas covers the justice department for us how does this square with the reality of the laws the president and clear. If he simply cut the check and never reported it anyway. Well one thing is clear that in the guilty plea from Michael Cohen yesterday. The Justice Department specifically the southern district of New York held that what Michael Cohen did was a violation of the law. They allow him to plead guilty to two counts involving campaign finance violations in in their mind. The hush money payments. Were used. As and method of maintain the viability to help the campaign to affect the election and therefore they're saying that's a violation of law. I wanna turn to Tommy Thomas joining us from New York who's been covering this issue in the top campaign for for a long time. This is the latest explanation from the White House from the president and it critical I think in that. Quote is him saying that he knew about the payment after the fact of course the tape that Michael Cohen. Has put out publicly. Shows the two of them talking about that payment before the fact Tommy this is this just seems like it dozens. Where others no doubt the president has has not been truthful a lot of aspects of these payments and what happened with those two women. That much we know at the which also statement yesterday Michael Cohen was in court he was under oath. And he told the judge that he did all of this at the direction of the candidate we know that candidate was Donald. When Michael Cole was was appearing before that judge. After he testified all of this the judge asked Michael co aces did you know what you were doing was wrong any legal Michael Cohen says yes your honor. Michael Cole with the president's personal attorney he knew this was illegal of course the president. I action to of course it's likely it's hard to imagine the president didn't know this was illegal especially his attorney understood that. And and he had these recordings were were written you hear these recordings that were sort of talking in code. They're talking about no cash payments a check in would you go through some of the evidence that the FBI recovered you know they actually have the contract. That that Michael Cohen established with with AM lie to bury the Karen mcdougal's story the FBI has. As that contract it was ripped up it actually never went into effect but they have a copy of the contract of what you you arrangement was gonna be. And then of course you have that that phone conversation that we talked about and that both stormy Daniels and Karen dual speaking to investigators so there's a mountain that is by I think the bigger question for both you hear every else who's working the story myself of course maybe even if Abrams is will the Justice Department. Now go after the president and that's the big question. I wanna get to that because Cecilia Vega joining us from the White House you heard a key defense. If you want to call that for the White House is that the president hasn't been charged with any crime has been accused formally of any crime of course the White House position is that he can't be. And beyond that's so you asked direct police are Sanders about this apparent contradiction the president on tape. It's talking to Michael Cohen about the payment. Now saying publicly is today that he only knew about the payment after the fact. Is so cynical that a ridiculous accusation. Cecilia but it's it's pretty clear he he's contradicting himself. You can call it a lot you can economists speak you can economist truth I mean clearly it wasn't. Factual and it certainly hasn't played out the evidence hasn't played out to show that let the president told the world. And we all remember that video because it was an astounding at the time that he. Knew nothing about the payments to stormy Daniels. And then weeks later ended up admitting that through his attorney and then himself on Twitter that in fact he paid. Michael Cohen out of his own pocket and and now the defense seems to be that that wasn't wrong so. To first hear Sanders to say the word she's backed me was it was a ridiculous. Question to have asked whether the president has lied to the American people I think. Is is probably not going to sit very well what a lot of people because the facts just don't bear out in this case. And he air what what does it mean to have Michael call and cooperating to the question that Tom. Is key in on. Does it mean that there's a further inquiry to we know that for a fact what could they be doing now with the information Michael Cohen put forward even setting aside and the manna for guilty guilty charge. Or cooperates it was not a part of the guilty plea yesterday but his lawyer saying he's ready to talk lawyers saying is red guitar and and we may be talking semantics here. Clearly. At some point the federal prosecutors are likely to sit down when Michael coin again. As they continue to cooperate his information and and one of the critical things that Tom does mention is that. There are other parties involved here. That the people with AMR. The owners of the national inquire you know want to know what who was involved in. Writing up their contract what comic kind of conversations. Weren't there his or documentation of the conversation. Word and other people and its own campaign that were aware. These communications. And of course what. Does Michael Cohen have and others. That would document what the president knew and when he classic. Perry bacon joining us here for a fact that he welcomes the pre contribute to view here Perry. This has been just the mind boggling 24 hours that is the you and I we're we're talking about how how many things were happening all at once yesterday and now to see the White House responding incensed that they are still stabilizing himself after this really unsettled period. The one thing she kept saying was that there have been no charges filed against the president at the very narrow. Explanation is also a very. Limiting when the fact that my assumption actually just here this is that. DOJ is digital that is as we can indict the presidents of the idea that the no charges against them. I was like you know of course there are an obvious target best of that so they'd move to a very very been talking when it. It's point and Cecilia Vega at the White House what is the mood over there is are people shell shocked and eat. Used to the pace of things that are coming out it is is registered on on some kind of political richter scale. That's that other things happen. Cents. Just the change in tone from Sarah Sanders during that briefing other reporters I certainly comments on other reporters are sitting behind me were oddly. Commenting on it one person I overheard said that she seemed sad I certainly. I sense that this is not something that she wanted to do. Look and that's the top job as is it that that this was not the easiest day to be the white house Press Secretary. This sources and we know from Friday to sources they don't really hard time yesterday at the trump legal team the White House the trunk camp. Coming up what a response how you spend something that is almost impossible to spit. I know from talking when other sources that the president himself is frustrated behind closed doors he is still insistent. He is not a part of either of these cases he did nothing wrong. He there was no obstruction so publicly what you see is what you're getting behind the scenes with the exception of this sense of I think just confusion and how to even go about responding to this this complete chaos that there I've covered. Many many chaotic moment covering this White House yesterday was perhaps the most frenetic of them all. Our it was set a new record on how not fun and Rick one thing I would add you notice that the prosecutors yesterday in the southern district of New York took no questions. They say what they had to say at this point they don't want the public to know whether they're investigating the president. Himself directly or not and they're going to let this case unfold. And they're going to do it behind the scenes and but suffice it to say. What typically happens if you have a witness or someone who pleads guilty who makes an allegation of a crime. They look into how to figure out what cap. And tongue out of someone I want to get you on this before we move on because you've you've covered Michael calling know Michael calling you route there yesterday as he was. Going and going into and out of court. You get a sense of of what specifically he is eager to share beyond what we know already we've heard a lot of threats from. Him in from his attorney Lanny Davis about what he knows in his eagerness to talk are there specific things that he can go beyond this that he. By prepared to share. You know Rick it's incredible how Michael Cohen has knelt and under this legal pressure the first time. I came to know Michael calling someone told me you know all of Michael's family essentially saying he's he's like that from children almost he's so close to the president. And the to see him yesterday had a chance sort of run out of the press pennant and shout a question in you know. Michael B had a missing the president he just kind of looked at Nikko look through me. And to see this person who was always so competent really. You know we we we say he was the picture brings really the pole vault to for the president or Rottweiler probably a better sense that he would go out and attack reporters and threaten reporters and go on CNN and trash any any journalist who who was running stories critical of the president or reporting on them. To see this person now completely flip there are court was pretty astonishing. And to pierce point. You'll trot supporters are probably hoping this is this is the beginning of the yen. But if you look at some of the facts in this case it might be yet of just the beginning. That there's a statement here they have evidence that in August of 2015 Rick White when this campaign was just getting started. 80 my the publisher likely David Pecker. Because it'll it'll state and their directly to said he was the head of this company in my close to Michael Cohen and says we have to put together a plan. To make sure there any bad stories we have to bury them this. August 2015. So just that fact alone tells you the pull any behind bearing some of these stories and this is something again want to reiterate this is something. That Michael Colwin. Testified to under oath that he is a lawyer so you could call a liar all you want but he said this yesterday under oath. And Rick it's going back to that point. You have multiple people potentially involved in these conversations. So it's likely that whatever case they built or. Even if they simply want to understand what happened. It's gonna involve giving testimony from multiple people and popular that the maker choices who whether the other going to be forthcoming or not and they may say look nothing happened that Michael Cohen has this all wrong but trust me when the FBI shows up or if you get a grand jury subpoena. That's a lot of pressure. And speaking of multiple people were struck Perry by the conversation you and some colleagues at 530 having kind of a Hank. The biggest threats the trumpet this moment when is it. The matter thwart is it metaphor is it calling is that something that Muller's doing what's your sense of how all of this is is stacking up and ranking. I mean I I thought last week Amoroso video was proper IDO op process and in a tight was like really problematic. Compared of these two things Michael Cohen has been with strong for so long on the campaign before that knows so much. Me and a portal is it's a little less dangerous only because this point he's been convicted he is seem like he's going to court and hopefully it isn't like he's. You know when Chris the president think hole in his really be so you know nuclear rounds among his presence notes. The arm for illegal Ukraine. Look I think all of these things until we get the full Muller reports. And one thing we know. In this town of leaks Bob Miller's office has not been leaking anything and we know a lot he knows a lot more than we do to be determined. Our Pierre Thomas what you get back to be appreciate you being with us here. I want to move onto a piece of political fallout from this that the Democrats on capitol Hillary using. This as a as the new rallying cry to say that they wanted to ladies in the confirmation hearings are Brent Cavanaugh Alley Rogen has been talking to some folks on Capitol Hill. It does he look at the trend. Lot of folks are keying in on. On on the facts yesterday and starting today to use a new term to describe the president. Yet rector definitely sort of zeroing in on this new strategy that seems to be very. Practiced in something that they've all decided this is the way they're going to go. The Democrats are sort of lingering lines and their previous arguments saying that judge Brett Cavanaugh should release all of his documents including those. That are currently not pleaded to be released including. Documents do our part of his tenure as White House staff secretary under George but. Democrats are now saying that the fact that the president. Is accused in this complaint by Michael Cullen is being the person who directed him to make these campaign violations. Campaign finance violations. That it simply underscores the fact that the senate needs more time and more documents to be able to fully consider. This judge. There are a couple of other senate Democrats were saying that we should simply not consider any justice at the president's trying to get on the bench. If any president who is. An unindicted co conspirator in this case as in the the calling plea agreement. But in terms of the effects that this is going to have right. I think you and I both well know anybody who observes this and it appeared as if one is. The senate Republicans have Howard there's not a whole lot Democrats can view. To really come up the works and it and make these public statements because frankly Republicans can do this mostly without Democrats. It's our Sanders 88 to that point calling it a desperate and pathetic attempt Perry. Is she right or is there any chance that it's like Ramon has any chance that. The Democrats succeed because they have now attracts. In terms of catalysts and cordoning having yesterday was he met with Susan Collins and afterwards he immerses and I believe that he thinks Rowe is settled law. We can debate whether he whether he actually believes that construction risen as he visiting different. That sin is you know the Republicans have the votes in the Democrats ultimately this most places where. There's a Mitch McConnell Republican Party that Donald Liberal Party Mitch McConnell wants to get his nominee pat through the senate. I don't think he really cares about what happened yesterday. Yeah they'll put the blinders on is won't think that those fifty votes 51 votes that they'll be they'll be okay I wanna turn to a topic it's our Sanders mentioned at the top of the briefing today that Scott. A big foot possible political implications but it is a pure tragedy the story of Molly tidbits were coming out yesterday her body being found after an extensive search and apparently. The man accused of the of the murder is an undocumented immigrant it is fueling the immigration debate and new. Tommy Thomas you cover all of those trump rallies and you remember when trump would jump on the news of undocumented immigrants committing crimes and championing those causes you get the sense that maybe in other news environment this might breakthrough morbid this actually has the potential. To to fuel some arguments from the president on down on issue that they. They feel like they're on the right side out on the Republican Party side. Yes it just ranges environment to right Rick you have a family. Cruise daughter was in Iowa going to college she was found dead. And it's been less than 24 hours since they've even had that news conference and it will re talk about the politics of this. And it partly because president from as pretty made this a political issue. And if anyone thinks that that he's not afraid politicize this he did it for for nearly two years in the campaign trail he stood on stage with the parents of of of people what lost their children to. To the violence of undocumented immigrants and he made sure those stories were told. Now you know he he had a major pick up well with what happened on the border separating those children from the Pham leases old wife his daughter telling them. Essentially kind and that that policy was wrong from reports and than and then having to reverse this and trying to reunite all those children with their parents. Immigration is still to a huge topic with conservatives with Republicans it's something the Republicans want to run on being tough on immigration all the candidates that we've seen. During this midterm cycle federal buying so for the president are aligned themselves. With immigration including build that wall with maybe the exception. Dennis software with Carlos cabello but but the rest of the Republicans that are aligning themselves they are still running on immigration. At something like mall activity it is so sad that. That this is just happened and yet now this is going to be used as a political will like politicians all across the country took to campaign on and to say when he tougher immigration. Loss and as we close out today I wanna talk about the politics of the day is comics and some fascinating points over 76 days out from the mid terms one thing I'm struck by. Terry I think both. Both sides in a sensor are for little bit other fuels on this you've got very few Republicans who really want to weigh in on what happened yesterday. If suddenly the Lindsey said the more information they need to hear more before they can make any kind of judgment about Michael Collins guilty plea for even about a four convictions. On the flip side. A lot of Democrats don't want to be talking about the I word impeachment Republicans that are bringing up yours are Sanders bring it up to date there is there is a sense to me of of an unsettled political environment where. It was kind of figuring out exactly what the issues are gonna motivated. The Democrats trying to talk about Russia without document impeachment as a hard the hard line Rodman ascendancy trump is corrupt sharpens. You know hired yet people and so on without singing teacher. We look at is that they're you know looks like we analyze it under democratic candidates. We only twenty of them mention impeachment on the refs when it. It's just not so I think we'll see is busily right we she's as we are not campaigning on impeachment if I were mr. White House I would talk about them because you don't know what happens. After the election but so far the Democrats are in pretty disciplined about not really terms leadership at least you know yet Tom's Biron has and in terms of Democrats on the hill very you tuchman impeachment. This story may if push more than happily in what way the other Perry bacon from 538 pleasure having you here thanks to the whole team Tommy on this asleep via an Alley Rogen. I'm Rick Klein you can download the ABC news at the catch us here next time on the briefing.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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