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Source: Cohen Has Talked to Mueller for Hours about Trump's Russia Dealings; Attorney: Kavanaugh Accuser Open to Testifying Next Week. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 20, 2018 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Talking to Mueller. A major development in the Russia investigation. President Trump's former personal lawyer reportedly sitting for hours of interviews with the special counsel, Robert Mueller's, team.

[17:00:11] Open to testifying. The woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault three decades ago is now open to talking to lawmakers about it but not Monday, as the Judiciary Committee chairman has demanded.

Protests and pushback. Opponents of the Kavanaugh nomination target the offices of swing-vote Republican senators, leading to dozens of arrests while Kavanaugh supporters work to push past the controversy to a vote.

And plane theft? A shocking airport security breach. A man jumps an airport fence in the middle of the night, makes his way onto a parked passenger jet, and tries to get into the cockpit before being taken down by maintenance workers. Now, we're learning he's a licensed pilot. What was he planning to do with the plane?

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news involving President Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and the special counsel, Robert Mueller's, Russia investigation. ABC News, citing sources, is reporting that Cohen has had hours of interviews with the Mueller team over the last month, primarily focused on all aspects of President Trump's dealings with Russia.

We'll talk about that and much more with Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen. And our correspondents and specialists, our analysts, they are also standing by.

First, let's get more on the breaking news with our justice correspondent, Evan Perez, and our CNN crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz.

Shimon, what is the latest?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you said, the special counsel, according to this ABC News report, met with Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney to the president.

The report says that the meetings have taken place over several hours over the last month. Certainly, would spell -- could spell more trouble for the president, who just within the last few weeks, saw his former campaign chairman cooperate with the investigation.

Now, according to this report, Wolf, the special counsel asked the former -- Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney, about dealings that the president had with Russia, asking questions about possible collusion, other dealings.

And the other thing significant here, which would go to the obstruction investigation, is whether or not Michael Cohen was promised, either through the president or someone else, any kind of a pardon.

So certainly this would spell -- could spell more trouble for the president and would be a significant move here for the special counsel if, in fact, they did meet with him and did interview him for their investigation.

BLITZER: You know, Evan, Michael Cohen was the president's longtime so-called fixer and personal lawyer for at least a decade. How big of a threat, potentially, is his cooperation with Mueller, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and maybe even with the attorney general in New York? How much of a threat is this to the president?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, potentially, he does pose a threat to the president, depending on what exactly he says. What stories he is telling, obviously.

Look, we haven't confirmed this report. This is an ABC report. We've reached out to the special counsel. We're reaching out to Michael Cohen and his team to try to see what they will tell us.

But look, we know that for many years, Wolf, that Michael Cohen was, as he described, the president's fixer. He said he was willing to take a bullet for the president, and now suddenly, he's going in to talk about the president's dealings with Russians, which obviously, is something that raises questions about whether what he's talking about, the president's business, which you know the president has identified as a red line. Something that he believes investigators should not be touching as a result of this investigation.

We'll see what Mueller ends up doing with any of this information. But certainly, as this ABC report says, there are other agencies that are also involved, including as you mentioned, the state of New York, attorney general, and the prosecutors there in New York that are still looking at some of the other issues around Michael Cohen and the Trump -- the Trump Organization.

I asked Michael Cohen's lawyer, Lanny Davis, for comment to this ABC story. He said, quote, "Lanny Davis, attorney for Mr. Cohen, declined to comment. No inference should result from this no comment."

Any reaction coming in from the White House, anyplace else?

PEREZ: Well, we've talked to people close to the president, and one of the things they immediately said was they're not surprised. They expected that Michael Cohen would probably, at some point, talk to Mueller, despite all the fireworks that -- that Michael Cohen has caused as a result of his plea deal.

But they also expressed that they don't think it's a big deal for the president. They are confident, they say, that Michael Cohen does not have anything to -- to harm the president. Of course, that's what you'd expect the Trump team to say.

But you've got to -- you have to think that they are looking back at everything that Michael Cohen was involved, especially because he was so close to the president for many, many years, the keeper of a lot of his secrets. You have to be prepared for whatever eventuality might come from this.

[17:05:09] BLITZER: So what can -- assuming this ABC story is correct, what does Cohen get from all of this cooperation?

PROKUPECZ: Even though he's --

BLITZER: By the way, I want to show our viewers, these are live pictures coming in from Joint Base Andrews outside of Washington, D.C. This is in Maryland. The president just landing on Marine One from the brief little flight from the South Lawn of the White House. He's about to board Air Force One on a flight to Las Vegas. He's addressing a political rally there later tonight, but go ahead, Shimon.

PROKUPECZ: Look, even though he's pleaded guilty, he's not cooperating. He hasn't been given any kind of a cooperation agreement. There could come a time during his sentencing, which is scheduled to be in December, that the special counsel or maybe even the attorney general in New York, the New York state attorney general, decides that his cooperation was fruitful; they were able to learn things; they were able to pursue investigations, take action as a result of this information. And they can then go ahead and write a letter to the judge saying, "Hey, this guy was helpful to us. Give him a break. Maybe instead of three years in jail, he gets a year in jail.

Or in the end, if his cooperation becomes the biggest thing in this entire investigation, he could -- it could be that he doesn't see any jail time at all. In the end you have to wonder if that is what Michael Cohen is hoping for here, because no one would touch him -- no one would touch him as a cooperator while this thing was ongoing, while the -- his investigation was ongoing. Now that he's pleaded guilty, he's facing jail time, they don't have to worry about his credibility as much. They've never made any promises to him, but in the end, he could get something.

He himself has said he's doing this. He wants to cooperate for the good of the country, for his family. He wants to do the right thing. But this could prove significant if he is helpful and help him avoid jail time in December.

BLITZER: He's supposed to be sentenced, Michael Cohen, December 12, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, around the same time that Paul Manafort, by the way, is supposed to get his sentence.

PROKUPECZ: And Michael Flynn.

BLITZER: And Michael Flynn, as well. The president's former national security adviser, the president's former campaign chairman and the president's former personal attorney. They're all supposed to be sentenced around mid-December.

PROKUPECZ: Going to be a busy December.

BLITZER: Something along that. We'll all be busy those days. Guys, thank you very much.

Also breaking this hour, Christine Blasey Ford is now open to testifying, according to her attorney, about an alleged sexual assault by the U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh when they were in high school.

Our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is joining us right now -- Jim.

Ford's attorney says that, in exchange for her testimony, she wants -- and I'm quoting her now, "terms that are fair and which ensure her safety." Update our viewers.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The negotiations are going on back and forth. The White House is sort of at the mercy of events at this point, watching all of this unfold just like everybody else.

And today, as you said, there was a very significant development as Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, says she could be prepared to testify next week.

That announcement came after we reported earlier today that the Senate Judiciary Committee could be flexible with its deadline, stating that Ford could make her decision by tomorrow morning or later, if she wanted to, as to whether or not she would sit down in front of that panel on Monday.

It sounds like she has made her decision, but it's not exactly what the committee wants.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We believe Christine Ford. We believe Anita Hill.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We believe Christine Ford. We believe Anita Hill.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We believe Christine Ford. We believe Anita Hill.

ACOSTA: The battle over the fate of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is escalating once again, with protests on Capitol Hill and demands flying back and forth.

The latest: an e-mail to the Senate Judiciary Committee from the legal team for Kavanaugh's accuser, Christine Blasey Ford. The e-mail states Ford is willing to sit before the committee next week, adding she wishes to testify, "provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety. A hearing on Monday is not possible."

That was in response to a letter from Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Grassley, who had set a Friday morning deadline for Ford to decide whether she would appear at Monday's scheduled hearing, but sources told CNN that Friday deadline is negotiable, saying Ford has time to weigh her options.

Democrats wonder what's the rush?

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: As a prosecutor, you know you cannot rush something like this. You have to have people investigate. As for the Democrats on the committee that asked for it, this rush to judgment makes you wonder what else are they trying to hide?

ACOSTA: Ford's attorneys say their client wants the FBI to investigate her accusation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while they were in high school. But Republicans are refusing that demand, even though Grassley himself was receptive to an FBI probe into Anita Hill's allegations against justice Clarence Thomas in 1991, accusations he described as an 11th-hour charge.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R-IA), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: When the FBI has completed its work, every committee member should be notified and have access to that report, and a determination by the committee should be made as to how we need to proceed with any allegations. A rule like this should ensure, once and for all, that even an 11th-hour charge like yours has been fully considered.

[17:10:09] ACOSTA: With her attorneys warning Ford has received death threats, her family released a statement showing support for Kavanaugh's accuser, saying, "We know how difficult this is for her. Chrissy is not someone who chooses to be in the spotlight."

Her accusation promises to have a major impact on the upcoming midterm elections. Republican Congressman Ralph Norman mocked the accusation facing Kavanaugh at a debate in South Carolina.

REP. RALPH NORMAN (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The latest late-breaking news from the Kavanaugh hearings: Ruth Bader Ginsburg came out, and she was groped by Abraham Lincoln.

ACOSTA: It's no wonder Democrats say Ford is reluctant to testify.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I do hope that she testifies, but I deeply respect her hesitation, given the ways in which her life and her family's life have already been disrupted by attacks, by disrespect, by death threats.

ACOSTA: As for Kavanaugh, the judge stayed behind closed doors at the White House, prepping for a possible hearing that may exclude any other witnesses.

As aides to the president said, Mr. Trump has been bragging about the way he has handled his latest Supreme Court pick.


ACOSTA: Now the Senate Judiciary Committee is now weighing its next move and how to respond to these demands coming from Ford's legal team. The committee could potentially hear from Ford later on next week if the GOP members in charge of that panel agree to her terms.

Wolf, the president asked about this as he was leaving the White House just a short while ago. He did not respond to those questions, but our colleague Jeff Zeleny was on the South Lawn of the White House, and according to our colleague Jeff Zeleny, Bill Shine, the deputy chief of staff over here, did respond to some questions from reporters and said that the White House fully stands behind Brett Kavanaugh -- Wolf.

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

Let's bring in our congressional correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty, who is also working this important story for us.

Sunlen, based on all the reporting you and your colleagues up on the Hill have done, what comes next?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is exactly what will be discussed at -- on a phone call, Wolf, potentially later tonight; could happen at any moment between the three sides: Senator Grassley's staff, the staff for Senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the committee, and the attorneys for the accuser, Dr. Ford.

Now this was a phone call that was specifically requested today in an e-mail from Dr. Ford's attorney, and she requested specifically that they discuss the conditions for Ford's potential testimony in front of the committee.

And of course, it is, again, worth repeating and worth highlighting again that the conditions have -- for the last 40 hours have been the real sticking point here. We have seen them grapple over the who, whether it would be just Dr. Ford and just Judge Kavanaugh and other outside witnesses. The where, whether it would be in California, here on the Hill, or another location. The when, of course, a big question. The chairman has set that hearing for Monday, but Dr. Ford's attorney today being very clear that they cannot make Monday happen. So that is out of the picture.

And, again, it's also worth repeating that in that e-mail today, that statement from Dr. Ford's attorney, they said that they will potentially testify next week if the terms are fair. So this phone call, the negotiations over what's fair and what terms and what's agreed to, a lot riding on what exactly is discussed on that phone call and potentially worked out -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good point. If Professor Ford does not testify, Sunlen, will the vote still happen next week in the committee?

SERFATY: Officially, that is very much an open question, but we are certainly starting to see Republicans lay out their argument that this is her chance and that it's hers to choose to come to or not.

And if she does not, then it is very clear that they will likely proceed towards a vote and look no further than what Senator Cornyn, the Senate majority whip, told my colleague Manu Raju today when asked about this. Cornyn said, quote, "If she doesn't want to participate and tell her story, there's no reason for us to delay. I think it all depends on what show decides to do. We've all made clear this is her chance, but if she doesn't want to do that, then we're going to have a markup."

And, of course, a markup means essentially to move towards a vote on Kavanaugh's nomination. And you couple that, of course, also, Wolf, with what we've heard from some other important Republican forces, Senator Corker, Senator Graham and Senator Flake all saying, essentially, the same thing: if she doesn't show up, then it's time to move towards a vote. That certainly adds to the drama and certainly this high-stakes moment, this will she or won't she potential testimony.

BLITZER: We'll stand by here to get the latest on that phone call, a very critically important call, indeed. Sunlen, thanks very much.

Joining us now, Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.

Senator, we have a lot lot to discuss. I want to take a quick break and begin our conversation right after this. Stand by.


[17:19:10] BLITZER: The breaking news this hour: ABC News is reporting that President Trump's former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, has had hours of interviews with the special counsel, Robert Mueller's, team over the last month, primarily focusing in on all the aspects of the president's dealings with Russia.

Joining us now, Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We have lots to discuss, including the allegation against Judge Kavanaugh. I want to get to that. But first, how significant is it, according to ABC News, that Michael Cohen has been sitting down for extensive interviews with Mueller's team? VAN HOLLEN: Well, Wolf, it's very significant, because we know that

Michael Cohen was one of the people closest to Donald Trump over a long period of time. He was known as Trump's fixer, in on a lot of discussions Trump had on a whole variety of issues.

So the fact that he is fully cooperating and talking to Mueller is a very important development, and it probably is one of the reasons we see the president continue to talk about trying to get rid of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, because he sees that, the president sees that as a way to try to derail the Mueller investigation that seems to be closing in on more and more important information every day.

[17:20:17] BLITZER: Considering how closely Michael Cohen worked with the president for more than a decade, do you think he can offer information that no other witness, at least so far, has been able to offer Mueller and his team?

VAN HOLLEN: Oh, I'm sure there are things that Michael Cohen knows uniquely among all the witnesses because of that relationship that he had with Donald Trump. And he has agreed to cooperate fully with the Mueller team and so this is a real -- a deep well of information that the Mueller team will be getting.

BLITZER: Let's move on to the Kavanaugh nomination for the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a series of tweets, the Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans, they now say they immediately reached out to everyone involved in this alleged incident, going back some 35 years. They say they have statements, and they say it's the Democrats on the committee who haven't participated, and Professor Ford's lawyers are the ones who are stalling. How do you respond?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, Wolf, the real issue here is what is the goal of the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee? Because if your goal is to get to the truth rather than just try and railroad through a nomination, then you would ask the FBI to conduct an investigation for this important reason.

Lying to the FBI is a crime, and for the life of me, I don't know why Republicans want to shield Brett Kavanaugh from an interview with the FBI about this incident, as well as this other witness, Mark Judge. And the fact that Professor Ford has asked for an FBI investigation makes it clear that she has nothing to hide, because she's willing to talk to the FBI and give her story.

So that is the big question, the mystery. Why is it that they don't want the FBI interviewing these people, when the FBI requires people to tell the truth under penalty of law?

BLITZER: How do you think the committee and Professor Ford, for that matter, how do you think they might be able to reach an agreement on what a fair hearing would look like? What does it look like for you, a fair hearing?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, I'm going to leave that discussion to Professor Ford's lawyers and the others involved. But from my perspective, you would want an opportunity to hear from other fact witnesses.

I mean, the whole reason Professor Ford is interesting in -- interested in having the FBI investigation is because she doesn't want it to be just a he said/she said type of hearing. She wants the FBI to bring forward facts that they've put together by interviewing people under penalty of perjury and, therefore, under criminal penalty. And -- and that -- that is the key here, Wolf.

Again, what is the goal? I would hope that the goal would be to get the facts and to get the truth, and that's why it's so suspicious that Republicans just want to fast-track this entire thing.

So I hope that they will take a step back and recognize that, if they try to fast track this nomination, and the true facts come out later and show that Judge Kavanaugh and the team were just lying, it will create all sorts of additional problems for them. So get this right on the front end rather than pay the price on the back end, and after all, we're talking about someone with a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

BLITZER: Important point indeed.

On a different topic, I want to get your thoughts on something that's happened today in your home state of Maryland. I want to express my condolences for that -- to the victims of that mass shooting that occurred just outside of Aberdeen, Maryland. It's an awful situation. What can you tell us about this mass shooting that occurred, including deaths and injuries.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, Wolf, yes. I wanted to, first of all, thank all the first responders, emergency responders, very quick on the scene. It required not just local law enforcement, federal law enforcement, federal officials, as well.

Terrible tragedy. We had three victims die, plus it appears the shooter now is also dead.

We're -- we've been in touch with local law enforcement authorities, and we're continuing to monitor the situation.

Obviously, our hearts go out to the victims of this shooting, but, Wolf, what we're going to have to gather the facts, but it just seems every day, we're talking about another killing, in this case another sort of mass shooting. And we have to, we absolutely have to take active measures to prevent this kind of gun violence. It's tearing our country apart.

[17:25:05] There are things we can do, common-sense things we can do to prevent this kind of violence on such a widespread basis. It doesn't mean you can stop every shooting, but we know there are things that we can do to reduce the death toll from gun violence. And it's simply gross negligence that we're not doing it on a national level. Again, not any particular incident I'm talking about, but if you look at the -- the tragedies around the country.

BLITZER: Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. Once again, my condolences to the families of those who were killed earlier today. Thank you so much for joining us.

VAN HOLLEN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: The news -- the breaking news, I should say, continues next. We're going to have much more on Michael Cohen's reported cooperation with Robert Mueller, the hours of interviews he's said to have given. Is he sharing damaging information about the president?


[17:30:30] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're following multiple breaking stories including a report from ABC News that President Trump's one- time personal lawyer and attorney, personal lawyer and fixer, I should say, Michael Cohen, has participated in multiple interview sessions lasting for hours with investigators from the special counsel Robert Mueller's team. Let's discuss this and more with our political and legal experts. Dana Bash, how significant is this cooperation?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is ABC reporting, and we haven't matched it ourselves here, so, you know, just to be on the cautious side, this is clearly something, just big picture, what Michael Cohen wanted and wants, because he is in a lot of trouble, and how does anybody who's in a lot of trouble get into less trouble when it comes to a potential jail sentence, and that is to cooperate and to say that you have something that is worth something for the prosecutors. And if you're the President of the United States' fixer, that something should potentially be or could potentially be information on the President. So, we'll see exactly how it shakes out, exactly what, if anything, Michael Cohen did say to Robert Mueller and his people, but, again, this is -- has only an up -- excuse me -- an upside for Michael Cohen.

BLITZER: Because he's supposed to be sentenced December 12th.

BASH: Exactly.

BLITZER: And if he's cooperating fully, maybe they'll write a letter to the judge, the special counsel, the U.S. attorney in New York, saying he's been a good guy, he's been very helpful. Maybe they'll reduce sentence for those eight guilty pleas that he's already pled to. You know, Bianna, of the conversations reportedly dealt with the President's dealings with Russia, what does that tell you about the scope of Mueller's investigation, where it stands right now?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, as Dana said, this has not been corroborated by CNN, but given what we do know about Michael Cohen, he himself has been very open about having known a lot of Russians and Russian businessmen over the past few years, over the past decades, actually, and that's about the length of time that he's known Donald Trump as well, so you put two and two together.

We've seen videos of the two men with Russian oligarchs in Las Vegas as well as other places, so one can imagine that if he -- if the President has something to hide or he's concerned about something with regards to Russian relations or Russian interest, business interests, in particular that Michael Cohen would possibly know more about that. And this is something the President has likely been anticipating and worried about since the federal officials raided Michael Cohen's offices and hotel room back in April.

BLITZER: You know, Laura Coates, according to ABC News, the interview has lasted for many hours over the past month, what does that tell you about the amount of information potentially that Michael Cohen has and the potential value it could have for the special counsel?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It indicates to me that they actually are receptive to him. And if they're receptive to him, they have some reason to believe it's credible information he's giving, they're not short-changing him, they're not having a quick is 15- minute conversation to be dismissive of him, which is a very big deal for a prosecutor to who already -- someone who has already pled guilty to crimes to says I'm going to bank on your credibility here and allow you to give me information, and I may be able to corroborate it with alternative independent means.

So, if you have this perception from the Muller's probe, it's indicating that there actual is good credible information. They can at least corroborate in some form or fashion. It doesn't mean it may pan out to the complete benefit of Michael Cohen but this is where he was not before pleading guilty. Remember, at that time, they weren't even willing to allow him to dismiss all the counts against him or to have no jail time recommended. This was all part of a plan, I think, that he is trying to have the leverage turn in his favor.

BLITZER: Another fascinating nugget in this ABC News report, Chris Cillizza, is that investigators are asking Cohen whether or not anyone from the Trump camp, anyone associated with Donald Trump actually raised the notion of a pardon for Michael Cohen. Why would that be so significant?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR AT LARGE: Well, because it would be certainly -- I don't know. Laura will tell me if it's obstructing the probe, but it certainly is getting in the middle of the probe to say, hey, look, we'll take care of you at the end of this, it's exactly what Donald Trump has said he wasn't doing, never been discussed. This is -- they've said the same thing as it relates to Paul Manafort, well, we've never thought of that. I would say though that, the last two plea deals. So, Cohen and then Manafort, I think, are the two most meaningful going forward, took the longest.

[17:35:01] Because Cohen -- and Bianna touched on this -- Cohen knows everything in Trump world that is not really the 2016 campaign. Paul Manafort knows a lot of what was the 2016 campaign. Now, Trump says he only worked for him a short time. Well, it was five months at the absolute epicenter of the fight for the Republican nomination and him becoming the Republican nominee. That covers a ton of ground. So, if you so those two guys with open-ended cooperation deals, and in Cohen's case, cooperating that we -- at least according to ABC -- know of. You know, we don't know how it comes out, but my gosh, that's a lot of ground that Mueller either has, is or will cover.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting --

COASTES: And Cohen --

BLITZER: One at a time. Let's go to Bianna first.

GOLODRYGA: Well, I was just saying, Cohen must be considering whether or not he can trust the President, if in fact, he is being promised that he will be taken care of. Remember, this is the same man that he said he would take a bullet for. The President had from all reporting indicated that he may bring him to Washington and he seemed to have just dropped him like a hot potato, and according to reports, that really upset Michael Cohen. So, now, to have him come around when the next 20, 30 years of his life right now could see him behind bars, and the President saying, just trust me, may not cut it.


COATES: Also, if you're the prosecutor, you're asking the question about the pardon because you're testing the credibility of Michael Cohen. Your information is only useful to me if you don't have an axe to grind and you think you're going to be giving truthful information and then help my investigation, but you're trying to undermine it by saying, I'll tell you whatever you want to hear right now because I'll get pardoned anyway. It doesn't really matter what I do or say here, they also want to know if there was a conversation because they do not fully trust perhaps Michael Cohen's information or their credibility. If he's had this conversation, well, what is to stop him from being untruthful with their investigation?

CILLIZZA: And which, by the way, he's been all over -- I mean, the last few months, notwithstanding, he's been all over the map as it relates to his loyalty to Donald Trump, what he knows, what he doesn't know. Remember, Michael Cohen, his story on the Stormy Daniels payments has now been proven totally, totally wrong.

BLITZER: That was then, this is now. So, obviously, stuff changes.


BLITZER: Everybody, stand by. There's more news. What we're going to talk about today is other major breaking story, the woman accusing Judge Brett Cavanaugh of sexual assault when they were both teenagers now is signaling she's open to testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week, but not, repeat not on Monday.


BLITZER: We're back with our political and legal experts. And Dana Bash, we're getting some new and potentially very significant reporting coming in from our Manu Raju and Ariane de Vogue, and I'll read it to you. "Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee are now looking into the possibility of an outside counsel who is female to question Christine Blasey Ford if a hearing actually happens," this according to a Republican source familiar with the matter. Our guys are reporting this could help the Republicans overcome its lack of any female Senators on the committee. There are 11 Republican Senators, the majority on the committee all men. They're still working out the conditions of any hearing. A hearing is not yet confirmed but potentially if this happens, it could be significant.

BASH: Absolutely. And remember who suggested this yesterday. I'm losing track of our days, but this week, was Susan Collins, who is really driving the train on a lot of this, Republican Senator from Maine, a critical, critical vote, not on the committee, but because her vote is so important to the ultimate confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, what she says and what she recommends has a lot of weight. Having said that, it's also for all of these men, many of whom were on the committee back in 1991, during the Anita Hill hearing. Remember how bad it looked, and probably frankly how bad it felt for some of them to be sitting up there on a huge panel of all men. Now, there are some women, four women on the Democratic side, but the Republican side, no women at all.

And so, you know, we were talking as we were learning this information, it's -- these are -- these are high wire act questions across the board, and what's worse for Republicans? To be seen as questioning from a bunch of men, or is it worse to potentially be patronizing by bringing a woman in which is -- which is transparent because they don't have women already on their panel? It's maybe (INAUDIBLE)

BLITZER: I'm going to let Bianna weigh in because we did some checking. In the history of the Senate Judiciary Committee, there's never been a female Republican member of that committee, so this is obviously very, very sensitive material. 11 Republican men, 10 Democrats, four of the democrats are women.

GOLODRYGA: Well, it would depend on who this woman is, as Dana said. Who -- what is her background? Is she independent? If you're just going to bring in a female Republican, I'm not sure that that would -- that would please or at least convince Dr. Ford and her camp that she would be treated fairly, but remember, I believe Anita Hill in her op- ed this week suggested an independent prosecutor be brought in as well. So, a female optically would look very -- or at least much better for Republican men, many -- a few of whom were experiencing this very same instance in 1991, but it depends on who this woman is and what her background is.

[17:45:00] BLITZER: That's important. Very important, Laura. How do you see it?

COATES: (INAUDIBLE) expertise is important. One of the things that Anita Hill talked about was the fact that have you 27 years later, and you don't have a protocol of how to deal with this issue, you're still grappling with ways in which you could have optics take the precedence as opposed to the underlying fact-finding investigation here. If this is a qualified person who is able to convey questions in a way that's open-ended, that is not trying to tiptoe and walk on eggshells but also tries to get the questions answered in a way that's respectful and allows the senators with their role to figure out the criteria and qualifications are there for Judge Kavanaugh to be on the Supreme Court then so be it, but either way, the terms need to be applied is that she has to as the witness, not be in a situation where she is simply in a combative lion's den and frankly, that's beneficial to Justice -- Judge Kavanaugh as well. CILLIZZA: I just think it's -- Dana, hit it which is it's --

politically speaking, it's a no-win situation. I think if you gave every Republican a truth serum and said would you rather have the hearing or not, they'd all say we'd not, not because they don't think it's important to hear the story, the detail the allegations and talk to Brett Kavanaugh and his response, but because they are extremely concerned in some ways haunted by the Anita Hill in 1991, those proceedings, they worry so much about how it looks. Now, again, if you bring a woman, an independent counsel sort of person in there, may be -- but I mean, the thing that you've learned I think from all of these events that are broadcast to people through television, you never really know how it plays until it plays out.


CILLIZZA: Rick Lazio thought it was a great idea to walk in front of Hillary Clinton and say, will you sign this at that debate in 2000, and it didn't work out that way.

COATES: Hard to say. I find it hard time given a complete benefit of the doubt that good conscience is what has governed people's refusal to repeat Anita Hill. They were also talking about the year of the woman that follows right after that. And so, I think it's often misplaced in terms of thinking about their -- concern about looking bad and being the overbearing berating Arlen Specter during that hearing, and much less thinking about, well, what's going to happen if we get this wrong in an election. That's governance.

BLITZER: Everybody, stick around. There's a lot more news that's unfolding, including another very alarming story, an alarming breach of airport security. A man who has a commercial pilot's license, get this, manages to sneak on to an airliner parked for maintenance. What was he planning? We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Tonight, we're learning some alarming new details about a bizarre incident in Florida where a man is under arrest after jumping an airport security fence and sneaking onto an airliner that was parked for maintenance. Let's bring in our own Brian Todd who's working the story for us. Brian, what are authorities saying?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one airport official said, quote, obviously, there seemed to be some planning involved here. This young man had a commercial pilot's license and officials tonight are still trying to ascertain just what his motive was.


TODD: In the middle of the night, a flight school student sneaks onto a parked airliner, leaving his car engine running, authorities say, he jumps a fence, runs across the tarmac and boards an American Airlines airbus 321 that was parked for maintenance at Melbourne International Airport in Florida. Maintenance workers said they saw a shadow.

LORI BOOKER, SPOKESWOMAN, ORLANDO MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: A maintenance employee spotted the intruder and immediately notified the specially trained Melbourne Airport Police Department which was on the scene and was able to arrest the subject within two minutes.

TODD: He twice attempted to enter the flight deck and even after he was caught, he again turned and ran toward the plane. Authorities say the suspect is Nishal Sankat, 22 years old from the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago who is studying at a nearby flight school. Records show he got a commercial pilot's license in January. He faces charges of trespassing, burglary, and attempted theft of an aircraft. But no word on a motive or on what his intention was. Authorities said systems in place and heroic action prevented something that could have been much worse.

BOOKER: You can -- rest assured that we believe that in this instance, our security worked just fine.

TODD: Just last month, an authorized airport worker took off in a 76- seat turboprop in Seattle, flying erratically for an hour, while sporadically talking to controllers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess. Never really knew it until now.

TODD: Fighter jets were scrambled in case he was a security threat but after an hour, he crashed. Still, the incident raised concerns about whether parked airliners are secure if one could be so brazenly stolen. In the Florida case, there is no known link to terrorism as of yet, but security experts say ever since extremists crashed four planes on 9/11, any attempt to access a plane is concerning.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: We've seen what can happen with 9/11 of terrorists attending flight school, gaining access to the cockpit, the damage that can be done. So, this incident will be a great concern to U.S. counterterrorism agencies as they investigate.

TODD: One area they could investigate, the suspect's ties to Trinidad and Tobago.

CRUICKSHANK: Trinidad has been a country in which a significant number of extremists have travelled to Syria, to Iraq, to join ISIS from. Over 100 --


[17:55:05] TODD: Now, we have to emphasize as our terrorism analyst, Paul Cruckshank, emphasizes that right now, there is no known connection between this suspect and a possible terror plot but the incident, of course, does expose the concern out there among military and counterterrorism officials about extremist ties to Trinidad and Tobago, Wolf, that's one of many things that investigators are looking at tonight.

BLITZER: Yes, very significant, potentially significant development. Brian Todd, thanks for that report. There's more breaking news we're following, President Trump's former personal lawyer, reportedly giving hours of interviews to the special counsel, Robert Mueller and his team about the Presidents' dealings with Russia. How valuable is Michael Cohen as a witness to the Russia investigation?