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FBI Has Recording Made Prior To 2016 Election Between Trump And Former Personal Attorney Michael Cohen; Microsoft Executive Told That At Least Three 2018 Political Campaigns Here In The United States Have Already Been Targeted; Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Team Reached Out To The Lawyer For Kristin Davis, Famously Known As The Manhattan Madame; Cohen Taped Trump Discussing Payment To Former Playboy Model; Michael Cohen's Lawyer Fires Back At Rudy Giuliani. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 20, 2018 - 17:00   ET


[17:00:14] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, secret tape. Former fixer Michael Cohen secretly recorded a conversation with Donald Trump about paying a former playboy model who alleged an affair. A source quotes the President saying quote "I can't believe Michael would do this to me." CNN learns the FBI has more recordings.

Boosting Mueller. The President's legal team is worried that the disastrous summit performance with Vladimir Putin could strengthen the hand of Robert Mueller. Could this be a turning point in the special counsel's investigation?

Attack warning. Microsoft says three, three 2018 political campaigns have already been targeted by Russian hackers linked to the group which attacked the Democratic National Committee. That comes as secretary of state Mike Pompeo warns the Russians will continue to undermine western democracy for years to come.

And Putin's power. In Russia, Vladimir Putin is taunting the U.S. after his meeting with President Trump revealing new, high-tech nuclear weapons while hosts on state-run Russian TV say President Trump quote "smells like he is a Kremlin agent."

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news. The FBI now has a recording of then candidate Donald Trump and his former fixer and private lawyer Michael Cohen discussing a payment to a former playboy model who has alleged an affair with Mr. Trump. That according to the President's attorney Rudy Giuliani and another source who say Cohen had other recordings of the President seized by the FBI. I will speak with congressman David Cicilline of the judiciary and foreign affairs committees. And our correspondents and specialists are standing by with full coverage.

But first, let's get straight to CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider.

Jessica, truly a stunning development today. Walk us through the latest information.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It is, Wolf. The existence of those tapes could be a revelation that rocks the FBI's investigation into the President's former fixer Michael Cohen in New York. But perhaps the larger question is, will this impact the special counsel's probe, especially since one source with knowledge of the tape told CNN it is not exculpatory as Rudy Giuliani says it is. Instead, the source saying it is not good for the President.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Michael Cohen secretly recorded multiple conversations with Donald Trump, sources tell CNN, and those tapes are now in the hands of the federal investigators.

Two months before the election, Cohen recorded a conversation with Trump discussing a payment to the former Playboy model McDougal. That is according to Trump's current attorney Rudy Giuliani. McDougal claims she had a nearly yearlong affair with the President right after Melania gave birth to Baron in 2006.

KAREN MCDOUGAL, FORMER PLAYBOY MODEL: I was attracted to him, yes. He is a nice looking man and, you know, I liked his charisma.

SCHNEIDER: McDougal had said Trump tried to hand her cash after the first night together.

MCDOUGAL: After he had been intimate he tried to pay me. And I actually didn't know how to take that.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, AC 360: Did he try to hand you money?


SCHNEIDER: Trump deny it is affair. McDougal said she didn't take the money that night but McDougal eventually sold the story to "the National Enquirer" for $150,000. The tabloid never published it.

Giuliani Trump told CNN that Trump didn't know he was being recorded during that discussion. But on the tape, Trump and Cohen discussed buying the rights to McDougal story from AMI, the parent company of the enquirer. Trump advised Cohen to pay by check so that it could be documented, according to Giuliani.

The recording which one of several seized by the FBI during a raid of Cohen's hotel room, apartment and office back in April, there are other tapes of Michael Cohen and other powerful individuals that the FBI seized beyond the President that could be embarrassing for the people on the tape and for Cohen according to a source familiar with those tapes.

Prosecutors in New York city are examining possible election law violations related to payments of Michael Cohen made to women who allege sexual encounters with Trump.

Adult film actress Stormy Daniels received $130,000 to keep quiet about an alleged affair. She send sued Trump over that agreement. Daniels' attorney is now urging Cohen to release the recordings.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: If Michael Cohen in fact is a true patriot as he wants the American people to believe and as Lanny Davis wants the American people to believe, then Michael Cohen should release all of the audio recordings, and I will tell you for a fact there's more than one, there is multiple recordings, and all of them should be released for the benefit of the American public.

[17:05:00] SCHNEIDER: For now, Michael Cohen isn't commenting. He has been seen on the streets of New York City but has stayed mostly silent, at least publicly.

He sat down with ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos off camera earlier this month signaling his willingness to work with special counsel Robert Mueller, stressing his family not the President comes first.

And late last night after a week of twisted words from the White House regarding Russia, Cohen quoted the legendary broadcaster Walter Cronkite and said, it has never more important than it is now for everyone to distinguish between innuendo and fact.


SCHNEIDER: And Michael Cohen told friends earlier this month he is skeptical that President Trump would ever pardon him if Cohen were to be charged with a crime. In fact, a source tells CNN when the President learned that he had been recorded by Cohen, Trump said, I can't believe Michael would do this to me -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica Schneider, thanks for that report.

Let's bring in our chief political correspondent Dana Bash who has been working this story for us, as well. What are the sources you are talking to, Dana, telling you?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, that according to people who are familiar with this tape and I should say that these are people who are on the Trump side of this, and what I'm going to tell you is that this is the big one. This is the only tape of substance, but there are other tapes -- other recordings I should say, because tapes are not used anymore -- digital recordings of the President and Michael Cohen talking. That this was as Jessica reported this was short and this was about this potential payment which apparently he never even made to help out or to keep quiet this playboy model.

The other question is, what about other recordings that Michael Cohen made? Obviously, the focus as it should be right now is on President Trump. But apparently the feds seized recordings that Michael Cohen made of conversations with other high profile individuals and the question is whether or not we are going to see those.

It's important to note, Wolf, though, that there is a he said/he said situation going on right now because we don't have the transcript, because we haven't heard this short tape. We can only rely on, number one, Rudy Giuliani saying On the Record that it is exculpatory that it shows that the President didn't do anything illegal, didn't break any laws. And you know, despite how the fact that it's not always a great thing when you are talking about paying hush money for a playboy model that you -- who is alleging that you had an affair when you are pregnant, but that's one side of it.

And the other side, sources who are close to Cohen saying, no, no, no. It's not exculpatory. There are things that the President doesn't want out there on these tapes. And so, until and unless we see the content of it, we are not going to know who is telling the truth. But there is a truth here. And in the world with -- when it's hard to find facts, there is going to be a very clear truth here.

BLITZER: And one thing that jumped out at me in Giuliani's statement, he said make sure you use a check so there is a record as opposed to cash. He said don't do cash which suggests maybe earlier deals they used cash as opposed to check which raises all sorts of questions.

Another issue I want to get you, the Mueller investigation. I understand based on your reporting there's some concern among the Trump team, the Trump lawyers, that the President is not so successful summit in Helsinki is encouraging the Mueller team to move forward with certain developments?

BASH: Well, the concern is among people in and around the President's legal team, this is Gloria Borger and I have done reporting on this, is that they felt very confident leading up to the Helsinki summit because they had been quite successful. Rudy Giuliani On the Record in many interviews and the President in many tweets and elsewhere calling the Mueller probe a witch hunt and they have been successful at eroding public support.

The concern is that the performance that President Trump gave and was obviously widely panned gives the sort of view of many that there is something there. That there is a there there, more credence. And that gives the President -- special counsel maybe a bit more of a leg up.

Now, it all boils down to facts and the investigation and the nuts and bolts of what's in it. But a lot of it also is public opinion.

The other thing that Gloria and I learned is that this months' long negotiation between team Mueller and team Trump about a potential interview with the President Robert Mueller, it's nowhere right now. They have been negotiating, they have been talking about the parameters but the feeling up until at least today of the Trump lawyers is that suddenly the Mueller team doesn't feel a sense of urgency to get it done and the question is why? Is he preparing a subpoena? Are there other things that are coming? And they don't know the answer to that.

BLITZER: President calling it in his words yesterday a vicious witch hunt which suggests he won't cooperate. We will see what happens.

Excellent reporting, Dana. Thank you very, very much.

The President has gone off to his New Jersey golf club for the weekend leaving behind a White House rocked by a series of blunders and now this stunning revelation.

Let's go to chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta for the latest -- Jim?

[17:10:22] JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the White House is quiet in evening, one again silenced by news that has overwhelmed this administration's message. And just when you thought the week would end with more cleanup over the President's summit with Vladimir Putin, a very different kind of encounter has come back to haunt Mr. Trump and there are recordings.


ACOSTA (voice-over): In this recording of the President leaving the White House, there was only silence. As he declined to comment on the bombshell of his former personal attorney Michael Cohen recorded Mr. Trump discussing a payment to Playboy model Karen McDougal aimed at covering up an alleged affair.

MCDOUGAL: I'm not a liar. I have perceived that the liar or this nut, all this bad names, I did what I did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you concerned about the Cohen tape?

ACOSTA: Or a President who often boasts he likes to make recordings of the adversaries, it could be the ultimate irony.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Fortunately, we tend to record stories now so we have it for your enjoyment if you like it.

ACOSTA: Attorney Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for porn star Stormy Daniels who is also alleged an affair with the President, believes there are more Cohen tapes covering a range of subjects.

AVENATTI: And I will tell you for a fact, there's more than one. There is multiple recordings. And all of them should be released for the benefit of the American public. The problem for the President is he's got multiple problems relating to the relationship of Michael Cohen. But a very big problem is that Michael Cohen will go down as one of the world's great evidence hoarders over the years.

ACOSTA: Another surprising development involving Cohen, Avenatti said he ran into the former personal attorney at a New York City restaurant Monday night and had a lengthy and productive conversation. It's the latest sign Cohen may be willing to turn against the President, who once complained the FBI raid on the former lawyer was an attack.

TRUMP: An attack on our country in a true sense. It's an attack on what we all stand for. So when I saw this and when I heard it, I heard it like you did. I said, that is really now a whole new level of unfairness.

ACOSTA: The latest twist in the Cohen saga comes as the White House is still cleaning up after the President's disastrous summit with Vladimir Putin. Now the President wants a second rendezvous at the White House, a prospect top administration officials are cheering on. MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm happy that the two leaders

of two very important countries are continuing to meet. If that meeting takes place in Washington, I think it's all to the good. Those conversations are incredibly important.

ACOSTA: Other Republicans in Washington aren't so thrilled.

DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Say that again. That's going to be special.

ACOSTA: The signs the director of national intelligence Dan Coats who seemed floored by the news that the President would invite Putin to Washington, GOP lawmakers are worried Mr. Trump could be played again.

REP. WILL HURD (R), TEXAS: I have seen the Russian intelligence and, you know, manipulate many people in my career and I never would have thought the U.S. President would be one of them. So it's disappointing.

ACOSTA: Former House intelligence committee chairman Mike Rogers who worked on the President's transition was just as candid.

MIKE ROGERS (R), FORMER HOUSE INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: The set-up to Helsinki I think candidly was a disaster. So you had President of the United States really crossing Europe insulting many of our allies and, you know, a little bit rude. My mother used to say rude is a very poor imitation of strength.


ACOSTA: Now, some White House staffers are angry with Dan Coats over, director of national intelligence, for being a bit too frank about his feelings regarding the Helsinki summit. But supporters of the director of national intelligence insists Coats is doing exactly what the President needs on his team. Somebody had to be honest with President Trump even when he doesn't want to hear it.

And Wolf, getting back to the saga over Michael Cohen, we should point out the first lady has released a statement through her spokeswoman about all of this. We can put this up on screen. This is from Stephanie Grisham who is a spokesperson for Melania Trump. She says Mrs. Trump remains focused on her role as a mother and as first lady of the United States. We will have no further comment on the topic.

And Wolf, we should point out. She traveled up to Bedminster this weekend separately from the President -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you.

There's more breaking news just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. A source says special counsel Robert Mueller's team reached out to the lawyer for Kristin Davis, famously known as the Manhattan Madame.

CNN's Kara Scannell is working the story for us. Kara, pretty dramatic stuff. What are you learning? KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: That's right, Wolf. So a lawyer for

Kristin Davis was approached by special counsel Robert Mueller's team. Davis is known as the Manhattan Madame. She went to jail in that scandal that encompass New York's governor Eliot Spitzer.

Now, she also has worked closely with Roger Stone. In fact, they are very close that Stone is the godfather to her child. We don't know why she is of interest to the special counsel. Though we do know that a number of people associated and close to Roger Stone have been interviewed recently by Robert Mueller's team.

Now, her lawyer told me that he is not been subpoenaed yet, but he said that if he -- if the special counsel does subpoena her he will be representing her in the matter. But it does sound like special counsel's office is interested in her as it relates to Roger Stone. I called the special counsel's office and they declined to comment.

[17:15:35] BLITZER: And it does look like all of this is related, the subpoena, the story to her lawyer related to some way to Roger Stone.

SCANNELL: That's our understanding so far. I mean, we have seen a number of people who have worked with Stone being interviewed by the special counsel's office in recent weeks. And we do know that that is for one connection that is obvious to the Mueller investigation since she is so close to Stone and has worked with him at some point.

BLITZER: Let's see what happens on the front. I know there's more reporting to do.

Cara, good work. Thank you very much.

Joining us now, Democratic congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Islands. He is a member of both the judiciary and foreign affairs committees.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.


BLITZER: All right. We got several issues to get through. Let's get back to our top story now.

The FBI is in possession of a recording made prior to the 2016 election just days before between the President, then the President- elect and former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen. On that recording, the two men discuss a payment to a former playboy model, Karen McDougal who allegedly had an affair with Mr. Trump back in 2006. How much trouble could this be for the President?

CICILLINE: Well, I think we know for sure that it reflects again on the President's lack of candor and the President said he had no such conversation, didn't know anything about it. So I think it is going to again raise questions about the President's credibility.

There are obviously some real issues about how those payments were made. Were there other payments made? There are some reporting that there are additional tapes. So I think this is in many ways just the tip of the iceberg. I think it's a signal that Michael Cohen has useful information and information that is potentially harmful to the President.

But it's also great distraction for the President. Just a few days ago, he stood before the American people and the world on foreign soil. And as John McLaughlin, the former CIA director under President Bush said, you know, the U.S. was attacked and the President sided with the enemy.

There was reporting and coverage of that for the last few days. And now the story changed to discussion about this tape. And I think he will benefit from that in some way in the short term because people should not lose sight of what's really important stuff that happened in the last couple of days where the President of the United States stood alongside a thuggish dictator and took the side of Russia against the American intelligence community and dismissed an attack on our democracy.

And there was followed up by Republicans and then Congress who took $380 million out of funding for election security. When we tried to put it back they blocked that amendment.

This is very serious. We ought to be coming together, Republicans, Democrats and Independents to prevent foreign adversaries from interfering in the elections.

BLITZER: Well, let's talk about the fallout for the President's meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. We still don't know what was agreed to in that meeting. Should the White House hold off on preparations for a second Putin summit in the fall at the White House until it's clear what was discussed in Helsinki?

CICILLINE: Absolutely. You know, national intelligence director, the director of national intelligence, the secretary of state, they have not had a readout of what happened in that two-hour meeting. Apparently the President made some agreement, at least that is what the Russians are reporting. No one knows what that is about. I think we should have a lot of concern of what was said in that meeting and what implications flow from that.

This is very unusual to have two heads of state particularly after one of them has attacked the other's democracy to have a secret meeting and to keep the contents of that conversation secret. And the notion that someone who attacked our democracy, who -- interfered with an American Presidential election has been invited to come to Washington to the White House, the iconic White House, which, you know, represents our great democracy, is deeply offensive. It's appalling. It shouldn't happen. I'm all for the President speaking but you ought to have used the opportunity to make it clear to Vladimir Putin that what he did will not be tolerated. That additional sanction will put in place. And by the way, you know, extradite the people that have been indicted for doing this and let us bring them to trial here in the United States.

He could have used that in public view to make that point and very forceful way to protect American democracy and stand up for the country and then instead, he really abdicated that role and in fact supported Vladimir Putin in his denials. It was shameful.

BLITZER: Congressman Cicilline, thanks so much for joining us.

CICILLINE: My pleasure.

BLITZER: Coming up, there's more breaking news. We will have more on the latest bombshell to rock the White House, the revelation that Donald Trump's fixer and long-time personal lawyer Michael Cohen recorded him discussing a payoff to a Playboy model.

Plus, new signs that Russia is keeping up the attacks on the U.S. political system as a top tech executive now reveals that at least three, at least three 2018 political campaigns here in the United States have already been targeted.

Stay with us. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.


[17:24:44] BLITZER: There's further indication tonight that Russia's attacks on the U.S. election system are continuing. Microsoft executive told a security conference that at least three 2018 political campaigns here in the United States have already been targeted.

Let's go to our justice correspondent Evan Perez. He is looking into all of this for us.

Evan, what are you learning?

[17:25:06] PEREZ: Well, Wolf, Tom Burt, that Microsoft executive, speaking here at the Aspen security forum, and he said that there were three congressional campaigns that have been targeted with phishing attacks. Now, these are like fake emails. These are emails with links that are intended to launch malware into your computer and essentially these were attacks that they believe were launched by Russians.

Now, the group that was behind this believed to be the same Russian military intelligence group that was behind the hack of the DNC back in 2015 and 2016 which really indicates that it really illustrates how much that the Russians are still trying to target the U.S. election systems.

We heard just in the day -- last day or so from Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, that they know that the Russian attacks on the election system are still very much going on including they are on guard for possible attacks on the election infrastructure system, ballot fraud. Those are the types of things that they are keeping an eye out for the FBI and the justice department and the intelligence community because they believe these attacks from the Russians, from the Russian military in particular, is very much still going on, Wolf.

BLITZER: Evan Perez in Aspen, Colorado, for us, that conference. Thank you.

Coming up, there is more breaking news. We now know there are recordings of Donald Trump including one discussing a payoff to silence a playboy model. How bad will the damage be?

And Vladimir Putin shows off some new high-tech nuclear weapons. Is he deliberately flexing muscles after his summit with President Trump?


[17:31:23] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news. We're getting more details right now about what's in a newly revealed recording of then-candidate Donald Trump and his attorney Michael Cohen talking about a payment to silence a former playboy model Karen McDougal. Our legal and political experts are here with us. And Gloria Borger, I think you just heard from Michael Cohen's lawyer. What is he saying?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I just spoke with Lanny Davis who gave me this statement and I want to read it to you because it's pretty direct. Obviously, he said, there is an ongoing investigation and we are sensitive to that. But suffice it to say that when the recording that's just been widely reported is heard it will not hurt Mr. Cohen. And any attempt to spin cannot change what is on the table.

And, you know, reading between the lines there, Rudy Giuliani is the person who's been talking today so you have to assume that this refers to Rudy Giuliani saying that this conversation is exculpatory for the president and is good news for him. I spoke with another source with knowledge of the tape earlier who said that the conversation between Trump and Cohen is not as Rudy Giuliani described.

And that it's not good for Trump. So, Wolf, here you have the tale of the tape. You have two sides. At some point we may see a transcript or hear the audio tape and you'll be able to judge. The context of it. And everything else. But at this point, we have two sides of the story here.

BLITZER: Knowing there is a tape in which Michael Cohen and the then president-elect were discussing Karen McDougal, former playboy playmate obviously is politically damaging potentially to the President. Personally damaging. But is it legally damaging?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It could be from a Federal election contribution standpoint. If American media bought the story for --


BLITZER: The parent company of the National Enquirer.

ZELDIN: Correct. Bought the story from Karen McDougal in coordination with Michael Cohen and the Trump organization and failed to report it as a contribution in kind or otherwise, then potentially there is a Federal election campaign violation at hand. As well, what we know is that if this is part of a pattern of behavior then it may be something that otherwise implicates fraud in financial transactions but that's a bit more speculative than the Federal election stuff.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Abby Phillip, the -- this one source said the President reacted by uttering these words. "I can't believe Michael would do this to me." But in recent weeks Michael Cohen has been sending all sorts of signals that he is ready to fully cooperate with the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York which is looking into the criminal investigation.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's no question the President could not possibly have been surprised that Michael Cohen would be at least looking to put something on the table that would help him get out of a world of legal trouble. The President is not -- he is not a novice here. He understands what's going on. But one thing we should keep in mind is that perhaps president Trump doesn't always recall all of the events that happen to him.

We know this for a fact. This is one tape that is a couple minute's long perhaps. Something that he might have said that he probably didn't recognize the significance of at the time but is now incredibly important in this case. I think one thing that's really stood out at me from that statement Lanny Davis gave to Flora was on the table.

[17:35:02] That seem to strongly suggest that this was -- is going to be part of something that Michael Cohen offers to prosecutors to get him out of this bind that he is in. The President is not paying his legal bills. He is on his own and he's acting like this.

BLITZER: Let's not forget who Lanny Davis is. He was Bill Clinton's special counsel at the -- at the White House. Very, very close to Hillary Clinton as well. And now he's a lawyer representing Michael Cohen. This is a big story at least. But there's still fallout that you're learning about from the Helsinki Summit between the President and Putin. I take it some administration officials, senior officials are still in the dark?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a tremendous amount of confusion and frustration about what happened at the summit. There hasn't been these kind of full briefings, interagency briefings about the contents, what was agreed to, if anything. There haven't been any instructions and usually there are internal talking points that are sent around. There's a coordinated messaging. There's a fact sheet.

Cabinet officials are going on T.V. and talking about what happened. None of that is happening here. People are trying to get, you know, crumbs of what happened and put something together but I'm hearing words like puzzling, confusing, you know, painful and just counterproductive to the President's message that meeting with President Putin was a good idea and meeting with him again would be a good idea.

There's a lot of, you know, everyone's in the dark and people are just really puzzled as to why.

BORGER: I just have one little correction here. I just heard from Lanny Davis. He said the last sentence should read in any attempt to spin cannot change what is on the tape. Not table. Tape. LABOTT: Just a little clearer.


BLITZER: Significant word. Gloria, you're getting some new information --

BORGER: My dictation is not that great.

BLITZER: The fallout of the Helsinki Summit may actually be strengthening Robert Mueller's hand?

BORGER: Dana Bash and I are reporting that, you know, there is some concern with those who are on team Trump that the President didn't do himself any good with the Helsinki Summit and that in fact he kind of, you know, may have bolstered the political case against him. He was -- he had the wind at his back. He had an inspector general report that was critical of the FBI. He had public opinion that was going against Mueller.

And suddenly he stands out there and seems to be very friendly with Vladimir Putin. So obviously, in the eyes of the public, it may raise more questions. His supporters, 68 percent are with him. He's got 90 percent popularity in the Republican Party. But, you know, the question is, is Robert Mueller watching that? I mean, we don't -- we don't know. Nothing's happening about an interview.

They seem to be in a lull. So, the question has to be asked, did he hurt himself?

BLITZER: We're going to continue to follow this, everybody. Stick around. There's more breaking news as more details come to light about the newly revealed recording of President Trump and his attorney Michael Cohen discussing a payment to silence the one-time playboy model Karen McDougal.

Also coming up. Russia's spin on this week's summit in Helsinki and at least no doubt about who the Kremlin sees as the really big winner.


[17:42:45] BLITZER: Today over at the United Nations, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hopes President Trump and Russian President Putin will meet this fall in Washington. He tell the reports such a meeting and I'm quoting him now, "makes enormous sense" while the White House spent the week clarifying what happened at Monday's summit, the Russians are spinning their own version of the events.

Let's bring in our own Brian Todd. Brian, the way the Russians are telling it, Putin is the really big winner.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. Tonight, there's a big narrative being pushed in Russia by Putin, by his inner circle and by his state-controlled media that Putin now has the upper hand on President Trump. You know it's getting bad when a T.V. personality on Putin state-run network feels emboldened enough to say the Trump statements make him sound "like a Kremlin agent."


TODD: Tonight Vladimir Putin in full swagger seeking to control the narrative as the fallout from the Helsinki Summit hovers over President Trump.

JEFFRE EDMONDS, FORMER NSC OFFICIAL: Putin seeing an opportunity here. Trump is weak. And, you know, Trump provides him an opportunity to really communicate to the Russian people and the world overall that Russia's back as a great power again.

TODD: There's this high-tech taunt of the U.S. from Russian state-run media, Putin's team releasing new video of sophisticated Russian weapons being developed. A nuclear powered cruise missile, an underwater drone, two new missiles which the Russians say fly faster than the speed of sound. A U.S. official has said some of these weapons aren't close to being operational. Analysts say that's not the point.

BARRY PAVEL, VICE PRESIDENT AND DIRECTOR, THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL: Putin showing the videos of either current or imagined Russian weapons systems is part of the deterrence part from his end saying we have very capable defenses, getting more capable. It doesn't matter what NATO does, you might as well stop trying.

TODD: And since the summit, there's been gloating in Putin's state- controlled media that the former KGB colonel got the upper hand on Trump taunting him for not sticking up for his own country.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we have all been foolish.

TODD: A host on state-run T.V. in Moscow pounced on that with a cruel insult of Trump.

OLGA SKABEEVA, RUSSIAN T.V. HOST (through translator): When he says that because of the foolishness and stupidity of the United States, we have bad Russian-American relations, this smells like he's a Kremlin agent.

[17:45:03] TODD: Another possible sign of Putin's manipulation? Reports of a secret offer, according to Bloomberg, Putin proposed to Trump to hold a referendum on Russia's occupation of Eastern Ukraine. The report says Trump asked Putin not to discuss the idea publicly so Trump could think it over. Supporting what would likely be a sham vote in Ukraine would run counter to America's stance against Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

The NSC tonight says Trump won't support that referendum. An analysts say there's growing pressure on the President to take the offensive and stand up for his own country instead of the Russian leader.

JEFFREY EDMONDS, RUSSIA EXPERT: I think the President needs to stop making statements than make Putin seem like a good guy. (END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: But analysts say they're not confident that President Trump is really going to get tough and turn the narrative against Putin because every time the President shows some backbone like saying he would be Putin's worst enemy if things break down well, then he also seems to waver and extend an olive branch like inviting Putin to a summit in Washington. Lots of concerns of that potential, Wolf.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right, Brian. Thank you very much. Brian Todd reporting. Coming up. We'll have more on the bombshell revelations about a 2016 recording of Donald Trump and his attorney Michael Cohen discussing a payment to silence a Playboy model.

Also ahead, the grim investigation into a tour boat accident that claimed 17 lives including nine members of a single family.


[17:51:07] BLITZER: Breaking news, President Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani says the newly revealed recording of Mr. Trump and his long- time former attorney Michael Cohen contains a conversation about one of their corporations buying the rights to one time playmate's Karen McDougal's story. At the time, the publisher AMI, the parent company of the National Enquirer owned exclusive rights to McDougal's story alleging she and Donald Trump had an affair.

Our Senior Media Critic Brian Stelter is joining us now. Brian, the President has had a long-standing relationship with the owner of AMI. Tell us a little bit about that.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. David Pecker who controls the National Enquirer and a number of other publications. That relationship has been well-documented. But we can't underscore just how weird this is, Wolf. I mean, apparently on this recording we're hearing the two men talking about trying reimburse a super market tabloid for helping cover up their secrets. This is very strange territory.

And it shows how there are certain members of the pro-Trump media that do help Trump out, that try to take care of him in various ways, in this case by trying to bury his secrets. It's also interesting that Rudy Giuliani refer to this as a nondisclosure agreement. Well, American media David Pecker's company says, no, no, no this was not about a nondisclosure agreement, this is about buying her life story and giving her columns in the magazine.

They say they were paying her for work and for photo shoots, not to keep secrets. But obviously, Rudy Giuliani just blew that up.

BLITZER: Good point. Later tonight by the way, your documentary, "THE TRUMP SHOW" looks at how the Trump presidency is changing television. I want to play for our viewers a short excerpt. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the Trump era last minute script changes are

the new reality for scripted T.V.

TRUMP: We will see what we will see.

ALEX GANSA, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, HOMELAND : There's this impulse to be relevant and to comment on what's going on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Alex Gansa is the co-creator of Homeland.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When a big story breaks, do you all talk about whether to incorporate that, how to make that maybe part of the show?

GANSA: It's the first thing we discuss everyone in the storyline, especially now when the news cycle is just so crazy.

BLITZER: Breaking news, defending Putin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Breaking news tonight, a stunning shakeup at the White House.

GANSA: Is this something germane to the story that we're telling?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Foreign star and a major staff departure. Just another day in the Trump White House.

ILENE CHAIKEN, AMERICAN TELEVISION PRODUCER: We are all utterly, utterly blown away. We are all trying to adapt to Trump's America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Veteran show runner Ilene Chaiken.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it fair to say that Hollywood is a -- is a hub of the so-called resistance?

CHAIKEN: It's no secret that Hollywood leans progressive and there's a certain dangerous presumption that everybody who walks into the room is going to share you politics and not everybody does.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Journalist Salena Zito.

SALENA ZITO, WAHSINGTON EXAMINER CORRESPONDENT: People in the middle of the country believe that Hollywood only portrays things in a certain way as though they are the butt of the joke, that their views aren't respected.


BLITZER: Brian, is the Trump presidency now the driving force behind a lot of scripted television?

STELTER: That's what's remarkable, it really is. You know, there are so many show runners, writers and producers who either take jabs at Trump in their scripts or write plot lines that are influenced by the Trump presidency. Only a few shows go in the opposite direction. You know, hands maid tale on Hulu, they had a line of dialogue that sounded a little bit too much like Make America Great Again. So the producer told us, they try to take it out. They didn't want to imply it was related to Trump. But most other shows, they lean-in, they made jokes about Trump, they attack him savagely. I think some viewers eat it up, others are afraid of it. The producers of Will & Grace said to us all the easy jokes about Trump have now been made. We have to be clever, we can't be cheap when it comes to talking about Trump.

BLITZER: Amazing stuff. Brian Stelter. Thanks very much and to our viewers be sure to watch later tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern for Brian's special report, "THE TRUMP SHOW," T.V.'s new reality.

Coming up. The breaking news, the former fixer and lawyer Michael Cohen secretly recorded Donald Trump discussing a payoff to a former Playboy model who allegedly had an affair.

[17:55:08] The President quoted as saying I can't believe Michael would do this to me. And the President's legal team worries the disastrous summit with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki could strengthen the hand of Robert Mueller. Will this boost the special counsel's investigation?


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. I can't believe we're told President Trump was shocked to learn that his former lawyer Michael Cohen secretly taped their conversation about a payoff to silence a playmate. CNN has learned that multiple recording of Mr. Trump are in the hands of the FBI tonight.

[18:00:05] Not good for Trump. A source with knowledge of Cohen's state suggest this newly revealed recording could be damaging to the President. We're getting new information about what was said --