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Michael Cohen Finishes Testimony to Senate Intel Committee, Says He's "Looking Forward" to Tell His Story Tomorrow; Interview With Rep. Denny Heck. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired February 26, 2019 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[18:00:01]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're standing by for new details on what Cohen revealed.

All night long. As the president prepares to meet Kim Jong-un in Vietnam, we're told he's planning to stay up late to watch his former lawyer potentially incriminate him in public. Will Cohen overshadow Mr. Trump's high-profile summit?

And rebuking Trump. We're awaiting a House vote on overturning the president's national emergency declaration at the border. How many Republicans will reject Mr. Trump's drastic action to build his wall?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news on Michael Cohen's congressional testimony.

Multiple sources now tell CNN the president's longtime lawyer apologized to the Senate Intelligence Committee for lies he told under oath in 2017. The classified hearing is still under way this hour. It's been going on all day. We're hoping to hear from committee members when it breaks up.

Also breaking, a Republican congressman and key Trump loyalist has posted a threatening message to Cohen on Twitter. It comes just hours before Cohen's public testimony tomorrow, when he's expected to detail the president's role in his admitted crimes and to reveal new information about Mr. Trump's conduct in business and as a candidate.

I will talk with Congressman Denny Heck. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee. That committee will hear from Cohen on Thursday.

And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown.

Pamela, this is day one of a three-day marathon for Michael Cohen. PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. This is just the beginning, Wolf. Tomorrow is the most highly anticipated hearing, because it's open to the public.

But in a stunning development this afternoon, a sitting member Congress and a Trump ally sent out a menacing tweet directed right at Cohen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): On the eve of his public testimony before the House Oversight Committee Wednesday, Michael Cohen is being met with a shocking threat from a sitting member of Congress.

Trump ally and GOP Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida tweeting late today: "Hey, @MichaelCohen212, do your wife and father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she will remain faithful when you're in prison. She's about to learn a lot."

Gaetz's spokesperson refused to detail what evidence the congressman was suggesting might come up in the hearing, saying the tweet speaks for itself. The apparent attempt to intimidate Cohen comes as the president's former lawyer and fixer spent the day behind closed doors with the Senate Intelligence Committee, facing the same lawmakers he previously lied to.

Republican Senator Roy Blunt telling CNN: "He did spend quite a bit of time explaining what he had told us before that wasn't truthful."

Republican Senator Susan Collins saying Cohen endured -- quote -- "an extensive grilling," adding Cohen "is a very different guy."

QUESTION: Mr. Chairman, what's the most important thing you can learn today?

SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), NORTH CAROLINA: The truth.

QUESTION: Are you sure you can trust Mr. Cohen?

BURR: He sure has a track record of doing questionable, questionable doings.

BROWN: Tomorrow, the most anticipated testimony is planned, when Cohen speaks publicly for the first time at a House Oversight Committee hearing. He's expected to divulge intimate behind-the- scenes details about Donald Trump during his more than 10 years working for him, discussing publicly Trump's role in some of the crimes Cohen pleaded guilty to last year, including the payments to two women who alleged having an affair with Trump weeks before the 2016 election, payments Cohen claims Trump directed him to make.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: He was trying to hide what you were doing, correct?

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY/FIXER FOR DONALD TRUMP: Correct. STEPHANOPOULOS: And he knew it was wrong?

COHEN: Of course.

BROWN: Cohen may also provide documents to back up his claims, a source tells CNN.

Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier telling CNN she expects Cohen to reveal more taped conversations between himself and his former client, if not Wednesday, in the near future.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: Michael Cohen taped many conversations with Donald Trump. We only have heard about the ones associated with the hush payments for Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. So I'm confident that we're probably going to be listening to other tapes at some point that will shed more light on how Donald Trump the businessman skirted the law.

BROWN: House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings says the committee is cleared to talk to Cohen about 10 different areas relating to Trump after working out those topics with special counsel Robert Mueller's office and federal investigators in New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And Congressman Gaetz just talked to reporters moments ago defending his tweet, saying that it's witness testing, not witness tampering.

[18:05:00]

Meanwhile, Michael Cohen is still meeting with senators behind closed doors. Earlier today, multiple sources say he apologizing -- he apologized to them for lying to them in the past -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Pamela Brown up on Capitol Hill, thank you.

We're going to get back to this developing story.

But I want to go to Vietnam right now, where President Trump is gearing up for his second summit with Kim Jong-un just hours from now, but Michael Cohen's testimony clearly very much on the president's mind.

Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. He's with the president in Hanoi.

Jim, Cohen's testimony could be a major distraction for Mr. Trump.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

And I just spoke with a Trump adviser a few moments ago who talked about some of the pounding that Michael Cohen has been receiving from Trump world in the last 24 hours. According to this adviser to the president, Michael Cohen is -- quote -- "without a country" right now. That goes right to the heart of how many people close to the president feel about his former personal attorney right now. And all of that, as you said, Wolf, is overshadowing what's happening here in Vietnam.

President Trump will be meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in about 12 hours from now. The president is still hoping for that breakthrough that he couldn't achieve the last time these two leaders met. And that is some kind of deal that makes sure North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons.

But the president has other worries back home, as in his old fixer, Michael Cohen, preparing to testify in front of the cameras tomorrow, a major moment, possibly a bombshell, in the Russia investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Finally, their sequel has arrived, with President Trump landing in Vietnam hours after North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un settled into his hotel, before both leaders meet for a high-stakes summit.

The president will be caught in a different split-screen, as his one- time personal lawyer and now nemesis Michael Cohen testifies on Capitol Hill, telling lawmakers what he knows about Mr. Trump's business dealings with the Russians and his payoff to porn star Stormy Daniels.

Ahead of Cohen's hearing, the White House is using the kind of rhetoric once reserved for Kim Jong-un, with Sarah Sanders saying in a statement: "It's laughable that anyone would take a convicted liar like Cohen at his word, and pathetic to see him given yet another opportunity to spread his lies."

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY/FIXER FOR DONALD TRUMP: He's going to be an amazing president.

ACOSTA: And the RNC is attacking Cohen's credibility, telling him to enjoy life behind bars.

COHEN: I have never come across the situation when Mr. Trump has said something that's not accurate.

ACOSTA: White House officials will be watching Cohen's testimony, looking for any openings to attack the president's former fixer, as Mr. Trump is expected of us some of the bombshell hearing as it airs in the overnight hours in Vietnam.

The president wasn't showing any nervousness as he arrived in Hanoi, tweeting about a tremendous crowd showing so much love. But the president has worked to do with the North Koreans, who have yet to really agree to any kind of arrangement to give up their nuclear arsenal. That's despite the president's tweet after last year's summit with Kim Jong-un in Singapore, when Mr. Trump declared: "There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea."

It was a love affair, the president said, that was calling out for a second rendezvous.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And you know the interesting -- when I did it, and I was really being tough -- and so was he. And we were going back and forth. And then we fell in love. OK? No, really. He wrote me beautiful letters. And they're great letters. We fell in love.

ACOSTA: But the president is not feeling the love from Democrats, who are seeking to block his national emergency declaration at the border, a bill Mr. Trump is vowing to veto.

TRUMP: Will I veto it? One hundred percent. One hundred percent. And I don't think it survives a veto. We have too many smart people that want border security. So, I can't imagine it could survive a veto, but I will veto it, yes.

ACOSTA: Democrats say the president's border emergency is more fiction than fact.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), NEW YORK: President Donald Trump has more stories than Harry Potter, and all of them are make-believe.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: And there are signs the summit with Kim Jong-un is off to a rocky start already.

The North Koreans kicked the American press corps out of its workspace which was set up at the hotel where the dictator is staying here in Hanoi. The White House barely put up a fight over that, before moving reporters to another hotel here in Vietnam.

The president will have to show more backbone than that if he hopes to get some kind of agreement out of Kim Jong-un that finally results in him giving up his nuclear arsenal. But, Wolf, these talks that are going to be taking place here in Vietnam are going to be completely overshadowed by what's happening in Washington.

If one Trump adviser is telling me behind the scenes that they feel inside Trump world that Michael Cohen is without a country, that goes to this point that they feel that at this point right now that Michael Cohen has essentially been excommunicated by somebody he was very close to for many, many years -- Wolf.

BLITZER: For more than a decade.

All right, Jim Acosta, thank you very much, Jim Acosta in Hanoi.

Let's bring in CNN's Will Ripley. He's reported extensively from inside North Korean. Tonight, he's also in Hanoi for the president's summit with Kim Jong-un.

Will, in one meeting, President Trump and Kim Jong-un are expected to be alone with only translators. Is there concern that could lead to manipulation or Mr. Trump potentially giving up too much?

[18:10:10]

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There certainly is concern from a number of different quarters that President Trump is going to be walking into this initial 20-minute face-to-face with Kim Jong-un at the Metropole Hotel, which has housed guests like George H.W. Bush, Jane Fonda.

And now it will be the site for the summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un. They will have 20 minutes together, just their interpreters in the room, similar to what happened at the beginning of their summit back in June in Singapore.

And what my colleague Kylie Atwood is reporting is, on the Trump side, he's going to go in trying to flatter Kim Jong-un. And, of course, on the North Korean side, that's been their strategy as well. So essentially they're kind of forming a mutual admiration society.

But lost in all that flattery is the fact that North Korea probably has a larger nuclear arsenal now than they did at the beginning of the diplomatic process. And there's been hints being dropped from South Korea from the Blue House that the two leaders could at the end of this summit here in Hanoi announce a formal end to the Korean War, which a lot of people wondering, how could a concession like that happen, when North Korea has yet to take a single verifiable or irreversible step toward denuclearization, Wolf?

BLITZER: It's going to be a lot of drama that's unfolding over the next 24, 48 hours in Hanoi.

Will Ripley, reporting, thank you very much.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Denny Heck. He serves on the House Intelligence Committee. That's the third panel that Michael Cohen will face later this week, on Thursday.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

REP. DENNY HECK (D), WASHINGTON: You're welcome, Wolf.

BLITZER: So we have got a lot to discuss.

I want to start with this truly shocking tweet from your colleague Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida.

He wrote this. And I will put it up on the screen. There you see the tweet: "Hey, Michael Cohen, do your wife and father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she will remain faithful when you're in prison. She's about to learn a lot."

Do you think, Congressman, that amounts to witness intimidation, since Michael Cohen tomorrow will be a witness before the House Oversight Committee?

HECK: Well, first, Wolf, let me say that I have completely run out of patience with people who confuse tweeting the most sensational thing they can with the very hard work of governing in a democratic society which is pluralistic.

I have just had it. I'm done with it. The contest seems to be who can say the most shocking, without boundaries, sensational thing possible in a tweet.

It was vulgar. It was coarse. It was crude. It was personal. And, frankly, it has no place whatsoever in the discourse that we're engaged in here, none.

BLITZER: Well, do you think it's witness intimidation?

(CROSSTALK)

HECK: I think it reflects more on the person who tweeted it than it does anything else, and not favorably.

BLITZER: Should the House Ethics Committee open up an inquiry into Congressman Matt Gaetz's behavior?

HECK: I don't know, Wolf.

Look, what he did was unacceptable. Whether or not, in and of itself, it exceeds the threshold of a violation of House ethics, I think that's a question better left to the members of the Ethics Committee, who spend an awful lot of their time and effort studying these kinds of things and evaluating them against our standards.

But it was unacceptable. In any way, shape or form, it was totally unacceptable.

BLITZER: We will check with Congressman Ted Deutch of Florida. He's a member of that House -- he's the chairman of the House Ethics Committee.

HECK: He is.

BLITZER: The Democrats are now in the majority in the House of Representatives. We will see what, if anything, they decide to do about this.

And we will see what, if anything, the legal ramifications of this, if someone determines that there could be a violation of the law. Witness intimidation would be a violation of the law.

Do you suspect this attack, though, may have been coordinated by Gaetz, who is a very close ally of the president, with the president or some of his close advisers?

HECK: So, I really don't have any idea. And I don't have any basis for answering the question.

But let it be said that it's not clear to me what it is that they can do to him that he doesn't already confront. Remember, two months from now, Michael Cohen is going away to prison for years. And he knows it. And he absolutely seems to have entered a phase of his life which is more involved and focused on atonement and redeeming his past behavior that has led him to be completely honest.

So we will find out.

BLITZER: The last time Michael Cohen testified before your committee, he lied to your committee. That's one of the reasons he's going to jail in May.

What will -- what will be different this time?

HECK: Well, one of the first things that we're going to do when we have the opportunity to talk to him the day after tomorrow is to actually set forth where he lied and have him explained what the actual truth is in that regard.

Above and beyond that, I think just about anybody who's been following the sordid affair of the investigation that was prematurely terminated last year, but which is now continuing anew, under new management, as it were, would come to the conclusion of is that we need to ask him the obvious.

Did the president ever ask him to violate the law? Did the president or then candidate Donald Trump ever direct him to violate law? And I'm actually looking forward to the -- to the opportunity to talk to him with a great deal of anticipation, because I think we're all going to learn something new.

[18:15:05]

BLITZER: Is there any subject off-limits for your closed-door hearing on Thursday?

HECK: I think we're going to be fairly free within the SCIF, the secure facility, to ask him what it is that we need to.

BLITZER: Michael Cohen could shed new light on his contacts with the Kremlin about the Trump Tower Moscow project and the overall relationship between Donald Trump and Russia. What do you hope to learn from him on this specific issue?

And it raises the specific question of whether there was collusion.

HECK: Well, absolutely.

And it's a particular area of ripe opportunity for a discussion, to say the least. I would like to first establish what the timeline was in reality. Remember that we have been lied to about when it was the conversation stopped. We now know that they went on later.

We'd also probably like to know what kind of quid pro quo, if anything, was offered to Vladimir Putin in particular. As we have all read in open sources, there is a suggestion that Vladimir Putin was offered a luxury condominium within the Trump Tower, if the deal could be put together.

There's just an awful lot we can and will learn, I think, with respect to what the circumstance really was throughout 2016, not terminating earlier, as we were once told.

BLITZER: Your Democratic colleague Congresswoman Jackie Speier believes that members of the committee, your committee, will be able to listen to some of the recordings Cohen made of his conversations, including conversations he had with President Trump.

Is that your understanding as well?

HECK: Yes, I wouldn't be in a position to reveal what it is that we have been told we will be able to listen to, for obvious reasons, Wolf.

You always do this to me, but, no, that's not something we can reveal at this stage.

BLITZER: Has your committee received any documents from Cohen to back up his claims?

HECK: The same remarks as above, Wolf.

BLITZER: Can't talk about that.

The House Intelligence Committee has been incredibly polarized throughout this investigation. Do you think Cohen's testimony will change the minds of your Republican colleagues, or, indeed, the American -- the American public?

HECK: So, with respect to the polarization on the committee, I just want to make the point that I'm more than a little bit optimistic that we're going to be able to put this back on a more balanced level.

We had a terrific hearing just this morning on the threats to national security that the rise of authoritarianism represents around the world. And Republicans were present and asking good questions and making good observations.

So I think this committee is headed toward a good -- good space in that regard. And, Wolf, well, it should be. I mean, we remember the ancient rule that foreign policy -- partisanship stops at the shores when it comes to foreign policy. And that's where I think we need to get back to.

But whether or not Michael Cohen will change minds, there are some people that have minds that will never be changed with respect to the president's behavior. But the key here, of course, will be, when he does -- if he does reveal things, is there corroborating evidence in some way, such that it's basically irrefutable?

I suspect that that will be the case. But stay tuned.

BLITZER: There's going to be a lot of drama tomorrow, when Michael Cohen appears for hours before the House Oversight Committee. We will, of course, have live coverage starting at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.

Congressman Denny Heck, thanks so much for joining us.

HECK: You're welcome, sir.

BLITZER: Just ahead, we're standing by to learn more about Michael Cohen's classified testimony tonight.

And we will also talk about the ominous warning by a Trump ally up on Capitol Hill ahead of Cohen's televised testimony tomorrow.

How badly is the president distracted by all of this, as he gets ready for his high-profile meeting with Kim Jong-un?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:23:07]

BLITZER: We're following breaking news, a remarkable tweet from a Republican lawmaker in the House of Representatives, a key ally of President Trump, as his former fixer and personal lawyer Michael Cohen testifies before Congress.

Let's dig deeper with our correspondents and our analysts.

And, Jeffrey Toobin, I will read the tweet from Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida.

He wrote this. Put it up on the screen. "Hey, Michael Cohen, do your wife and father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she will remain faithful when you're in prison. She's about to learn a lot."

Does that look like a threat to you, on the eve of his testimony before the House Oversight Committee?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. It's total gangster stuff.

The problem with pursuing that in some sort of law enforcement context is that the president has tweeted worse things about Michael Cohen. Michael Cohen -- he's threatened Michael Cohen's father-in-law with prosecution.

And whatever else you think of Gaetz, the congressman, he's not in charge of the Justice Department. The president is in charge of the Justice Department and has threatened Cohen's father-in-law with prosecution.

So the sort of Colombo-Genovese approach to this whole relationship with Michael Cohen is consistent across with the president and his allies.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: But I would assume, even if you're a member of Congress, you're not immune from any kind of prosecution -- prosecution for threatening a witness who is testifying before Congress, either in open session or in closed session. Right?

TOOBIN: You're not, but I think it would be difficult for the Justice Department to pursue this, and not pursue the president. And they -- and I just don't think that's going to happen.

BLITZER: But the Justice Department says they can't charge a sitting president, but they could charge a sitting member of the House of Representatives.

TOOBIN: And, at a minimum, the Ethics Committee could look into this, because this is what they're supposed to do.

BLITZER: The House Ethics Committee.

TOOBIN: The House Ethics Committee.

BLITZER: All right, he emerged from his office just a few moments ago, Matt Gaetz, and he offered this explanation. Listen to this.

[18:25:05]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Congressman, does your tweet amount to witness tampering?

REP. MATT GAETZ (R), FLORIDA: Absolutely not.

It's witness testing. When people come before the Congress with an intent to perpetuate their continuous lies, we have an opportunity, and I would say an obligation, to test who those people lie to.

We already know that Michael Cohen lies to Congress. We already know that he lies to law enforcement. Now we're going to find out if he also lies to the people closest to him. And I think that will tell a lot about his ability to tell the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is this, Susan, witness tampering?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think there's a pretty strong argument that it could be.

Actually, I think that the strongest argument as a defense might be that the speech and debate clause, he could say that this really was some integral to a legislative purpose, sort of a dumb thing to raise, actually an important constitutional question.

But, separately, look, this is -- this is potentially witness tampering. It's also really, really inappropriate. What we're seeing here is a congressman not even pretending to be discharging his constitutional function in conducting oversight, but is sort of being open about the fact that this is separation of parties, not separation of powers.

He's out there to be one of the president's sort of thugs and toadies, intimidate witnesses on his behalf, and sort of throw sand in the eyes of the American people. But I think Jeffrey's point is right. It's really hard to criticize this stuff when it is what we are seeing -- we're seeing far worse coming from the president himself. And it is an example that Donald Trump doesn't just degrade his own office. Kind of the fish rots from the head here, and we are seeing the degradation of the entire Republican Party in really important roles.

TOOBIN: I love your use of the word inappropriate. It's so quaint.

(LAUGHTER)

BORGER: Yes.

TOOBIN: I'm sorry. Go ahead.

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN COMMENTATOR: No, no, it's OK.

I was just going to say, I agree with everything Susan said, but I actually think that what Gaetz said there in that clip you played, Wolf, is worse than his original tweet. He wants to stand by the original tweet and say, this is hard-knuckle politics and you -- we're going to dish it out to, Michael Cohen.

That's inappropriate. It's potentially witness tampering. The House could take action. But that -- it is what it is.

But for him to sit there and say that he's witness testing by threatening with some either accusations or gossip or some salacious charges to come out, vs. what he might testify to, is truly lowering the bar for a congressman.

BORGER: Well, and give me a break. How does he know -- how does he know what he tweeted? Where did he get his information from?

He talks to the president all the time. He's friends with a lot of people who work for Donald Trump. I want to know the chain of custody of this tweet and how he gets his information, and why he put it out there just now.

BLITZER: Lanny Davis, who's the spokesman and lawyer representing Michael Cohen, issued this statement -- quote -- "We will not respond to Mr. Gaetz's despicable lies and personal smears, except to say we trust that his colleagues in the House, both Republicans and Democrats, will repudiate his words and his conduct. I also trust that his constituents will not appreciate that their congressman has set a new low, which, in today's political culture, is hard to imagine, as possible."

TOOBIN: Yes, it's true.

But I -- what I struggle with is, are we doing Gaetz's work by repeating this slur and getting it out into the national bloodstream? I mean, I think, at the end of the day, we have to do this, because we're in the news business.

BORGER: He's a member of Congress, yes. TOOBIN: He's a member of Congress, but...

BLITZER: And a close ally of the president.

TOOBIN: And a close ally of the president.

But, you know, this is the problem, when you are so irresponsible and raise these charges. And it's like, should we report every tweet? I think we should. But I don't think it's morally uncomplicated.

HENNESSEY: But, look, I think the important point is not what happens tonight, but what happens tomorrow. Michael Cohen is going to tell a story to the American people.

By all indications, the president and his allies believe that story is going to be overwhelmingly damaging to the president. And so the real intention of this tweet is not necessarily to repeat some salacious rumor. It's to distract from that core message of what Michael Cohen has to say tomorrow.

BORGER: And we know that the context of this is, of course, Gaetz, along with Republican Congressman Jim Jordan, who is on Oversight.

"The New York Times" did a piece and said that they were coordinating with the president to fight back against Mueller. And so this doesn't just happen in a vacuum. He has been a huge defender of the president's. He is very close to the president of the United States.

I have a hard time believing that this tweet would have happened without some kind of blessing from somebody in the administration or encouragement from somebody in the administration.

And I do believe, as Jeffrey is saying, that it's incumbent upon the Ethics Committee to investigate this, because this is not the way members of Congress behave before congressional testimony. I mean, this is unprecedented, to me.

And I think, if I were a member of Congress, I would not want the reputation of my institution, which is already pretty low, to get any lower.

BLITZER: If, in fact, somebody did encourage him from the administration to go ahead and issue this statement on Twitter, Matt Gaetz, and if they conclude this is witness tampering with that individual who encouraged him to do so be charged potentially with conspiracy to commit witness tampering?

[18:30:11]

TOOBIN: To be honest, probably not. I think it would be too attenuated. And this is in the context of heightened political battle. And there is nothing inappropriate about the President's party working in concert to try to discredit a witness who is damaging to them. The problem here is that this is so outside the bounds of normal discourse, even for contested congressional hearings.

I think the only person at any risk, and frankly, I don't think he's in all that much risk is Gaetz himself.

BLITZER: You know, Michael Cohen has been testifying since 9:30 this morning. It's been going on for hours. He's still inside that room. Tomorrow morning - actually, he's coming out right now. There, we see some live pictures. Let's see if he says anything. That's his attorney, Lanny Davis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY DAVIS, COHEN'S ATTORNEY: Mr. Cohen has had a long day. He wants to make a very brief statement and then we're going to leave. But he has had a long day and he wants to make a statement to you guys.

MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP'S FORMER ATTORNEY: First of all, I want to thank you all for sticking around and waiting for me. At this point in time, I really appreciate the opportunity that was given to me to clear the record and to tell the truth. And I look forward to tomorrow to being able to, in my voice, to tell the American people my story and I'm going to let the American people decide exactly who's telling the truth.

So I want to thank you all again for sticking around and have a good night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So there, you see Michael Cohen and his lawyers leaving, including Lanny Davis, after spending hours and hours today behind closed doors. I guess they're walking out in a different direction. But he made his brief statement.

And, you know, Jeffrey, I interrupted you but what do you think?

TOOBIN: You know, I think tomorrow is going to be a really defining moment in the Trump presidency, because, you know, we have not heard from many of the protagonists in this story directly. James Comey gave celebrated testimony in 2017. But all throughout this story, we have been hearing it from journalists and documents and court papers. Here we're going to hear from a principal. Now, people will decide whether he's credible or not.

But I think in terms of, you know, how often have we talked about Stormy Daniels and the money paid to Karen McDougal. Here is the person who actually arranged the payment and he's going to talk about how it was done. That's going to be very significant.

BLITZER: You know, he testified today for, what, nine or ten hours. That's a long, long day. Tomorrow, he's going to do probably the same thing. Is he going to be too tired? This is going to be a serious issue.

SWERDLICK: I don't think he'll be too tired. This is why I think it's so important that we have, as much as possible, of this testimony in public before the cameras so the American people can make up their minds. Some people will not believe Michael Cohen, some people will. The body politic is the ultimate judge and jury of everything that he knows and will say about the President and his inner circle.

BORGER: You know, and our sources are telling us that he may bring documents. We don't know what those documents are, whether they're regarding Trump's financial situation or other documents to prove that he is telling the truth, for example, on the payments to the mistresses, et cetera, et cetera.

And, look, he is going to weave this narrative that is an unflattering portrait of the President that describes him as a liar and cheat. And that's why we see Matt Gaetz, and why we are going to see the President's defenders attack him publicly for the cameras. So it will probably be more trying for him than it was behind closed doors today because the cameras are going to be there. And the republicans are going to go after him as a witness who has credibility problems, and he does have credibility problems. He's admitted to lying to Congress.

And Manu Raju has reported today that he apologized for that, to the Senate Intelligence Committee. But I don't think we can overstate the drama of all of this between the President of the United States and the man he once trusted to do all his bidding.

HENNESSEY: Look, and let's not forget what Michael Cohen is expected to testify to tomorrow. He has already stood up in a New York courtroom and said that the President of the United States directed him to commit a crime, not just any kind of crime, a crime to hide material information from the American people in order to influence the election in which he was elected president.

BLITZER: Hold on, and we're going to get back to this. But there's more breaking news unfolding up on Capitol Hill.

The House of Representatives voting on overturning the emergency declaration President Trump made to fund the border wall with Mexico.

Let's go to our Congressional Correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty. She is working this story for us up on the Hill. Sunlen, so how significant is this vote?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this vote essentially is sealing the deal that this resolution is taking one step forward here on Capitol Hill tonight, that vote in the House, which is not being called yet.

[18:35:01]

But they have the votes that they need, the democrats to push this forward over to the Senate. Notably, as of right now, 13 republicans breaking ranks in defiance of the President and his wishes for the border wall and voting with the democrats tonight.

Now, this bill does head now over to the Senate where that certainly is the real showdown, the fact that you have a republican-led Senate here and the margins for republicans are razor thin. They need at least four republican Senators to break ranks and vote with the democrats if senate republicans want to send this bill to President Trump's desk.

And we've heard from many republican senators voicing their concern over this national emergency declaration, and at least three senators, Thom Tillis, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, confirmed that when it hits at their side of the chamber that they indeed will vote for it, essentially likely sending this to President Trump's desk for his signature.

And, Wolf, as you know, President Trump has been very clear that he intends to veto this bill when it hits his desk.

BLITZER: So how quickly will the Senate actually vote on this legislation and will there be enough votes in the House and the Senate potentially to override an anticipated presidential veto?

SERFATY: Well, the Senate has certainly a little bit more time. They are required to take this up within 18 days and very clear that they are essentially going to drag their feet a little bit. We heard from republican leaders today, Mitch McConnell, who said, sometime in the next few weeks we will vote on this, and when they do and if it passes.

And then if, of course, President Trump does veto that bill, republican leaders are very confident that they do not have the support that they - and they do have the support, they need to likely make sure that they are not have enough to override a Presidential veto, essentially making the President's national emergency declaration going forth, even after all of this exercise and all of this voting up here on Capitol Hill.

BLITZER: All right. Sunlen, thanks very much. Sunlen Serfaty reporting the news.

Gloria, so the House of Representatives, the democratic majority, not as surprised. If the President loses in the Senate, that will be a setback, even if he goes ahead and vetoes and they can't override the vetoes.

BORGER: Sure. I mean, the Senate is not in any rush to take it up apparently. But if he loses in the Senate, which he might, he'll just override - he'll just veto it and they're not going to override his veto. But there was a luncheon and Senators expressed their great displeasure at the President for abusing presidential authority in all of this, reminding the administration that, just wait, there could be a democratic president one day and this sets a precedent that you don't want.

So conservatives are not generally thrilled about it. But in the end, the President will probably get his way with a veto.

TOOBIN: Keep in mind that there are several court cases now working their way through the courts challenging this national emergency. So even if Congress does not succeed in overriding the national emergency, which it looks like they won't, the courts are going to act and we'll see how that goes. BLITZER: Let's go get back to Michael Cohen's testimony, David Swerdlick. I want to you listen to Mark Western. He's the Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. That's the committee that was hearing from Michael Cohen for hours today. He emerged and said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), V.A.: And the only comment I'm going to make is that, two years ago, when this investigation started, I said it may be the most important thing I'm involved in in my public life in the Senate. And nothing that I've heard today dissuades me from that view.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Certainly underscoring how significant and potentially momentous the Michael Cohen testimony is.

SWERDLICK: Absolutely. And if that sort of, you know, vague description of what he heard today is any indication, it at least means that what he heard was something significant and not irrelevant to all of the discussion going on about what the House and Senate and the Special Counsel investigation is looking into with respect to the President and his inner circle. Whether or not anything rises to a crime is a question that is unanswered. But it does suggest that Senator Warner thinks that relevant information.

BLITZER: You've heard all the comparisons that have been made between Michael Cohen and John Dean, who was Richard Nixon's White House lawyer, who eventually went up to Capitol Hill and testified against the then President. Are there similarities here?

TOOBIN: There are great similarities but there's one huge difference. The similarity is that both Dean Cohen were very close to the center of power. The huge, huge difference was that John Dean was ultimately corroborated with the White House tapes, that virtually everything John Dean said about telling Nixon that there was a cancer on the presidency was shown to be true.

As far as we know, and we'll see, there is nothing equivalent here, so Michael Cohen will never be vindicated or refuted in that certain way, the way the tapes that John Dean --

BORGER: And John Dean was in the White House.

TOOBIN: Right.

BORGER: Donald Trump never brought Michael Cohen to the White House and it upset Michael Cohen tremendously. So Dean was at the center of the cancer on the presidency and Michael Cohen was in New York still working for Donald Trump and working for him during the campaign.

[18:40:07]

So there's a big difference. BLITZER: But you know, Gloria, and everybody knows right now that Michael Cohen tape recorded - taped a lot of these phone conversations, if not all of his phone conversations, including with Donald Trump.

BORGER: Right. And we don't - you know, honestly, Wolf, we have the tape that CNN played.

BLITZER: Right.

BORGER: I'm not so sure there are other significant tapes with Donald Trump at all. But we're going to have to see what Cohen testifies to.

BLITZER: What do you think, Susan?

HENNESSEY: One thing to keep in mind is one of the sort issues that Cohen is expected to testify about is potential finance crimes. And so these are areas in which they do tend to produce documents. And so you could imagine a situation in which Michael Cohen tells his story and then it's now the work of congressional investigators sort of pick up that baton and actually go out and use that roadmap to find precisely the kind corroborating evidence that would be necessary for, say, an impeachment hearing.

TOOBIN: But remember two of it. Cohen has already spoken extensively to the Mueller team and to the prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. So any leads that we may learn about tomorrow, the prosecutors already have them, and that, you know, and presumably are acting on them, I mean, if, in fact, the Mueller investigation is winding up. Maybe they're not using them. But the fact is they've heard this story already.

HENNESSEY: But on the issue of corroboration on at least one significant accusation that the President directed him to commit a crime, Southern District prosecutors did allow Michael Cohen to say that in court. They would not have been able to do that unless they believed independently that it was true.

BLITZER: You know, this hearing tomorrow, everybody is going to be watching starting at 10 A.M. Eastern what Michael Cohen actually says. It's interesting and I think Jeffrey and Gloria are absolutely right, the prosecutor, whether the Special Counsel or the U.S. attorney from the Southern District of New York or other U.S. attorneys where they already know what Michael Cohen has, what he doesn't have. And as far as charging the President, the ruling in the Justice Department right now, you can't charge a sitting president. But the House of Representatives can begin impeachment proceedings if they want based on what they hear.

SWERDLICK: They can. And there's a reason that it's one of their duties is that it's in the constitution to at least consider it. Politically, impeachment may not make sense and democratic leadership has signaled so far that it doesn't make sense. But they can't ignore that as a possibility depending on what they learn at the of these hearings, at the end of the Mueller report. Wolf, can I just go back and try and tie together everything we've talked about in the last couple minutes together? Imagine someone like Senator Goldwater rolling over in their grave right now the two things we've discussed here. On the one hand, you have the republicans in the Senate potentially poised to approve the President of the United States, approving an emergency declaration to build a wall over people's private property. On the other hand, you have republicans refusing to hold accountable, at least up to this point, the President of the United States for testimony that we haven't heard yet, but potentially, you know, collusion with a foreign power.

BLITZER: We're going to have more on the breaking news. Everybody stick around, much more right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:47:59] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news.

The former Trump fixer and lawyer, Michael Cohen, just wrapped up a full day of testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, which sources say included an apology for lies he told the same panel back in 2017. On his way out, Cohen said he's looking forward to telling a story tomorrow in public, testimony before the House Oversight Committee.

Our chief political analyst Gloria Borger takes a closer look at Michael Cohen and his testimony to Congress is pivotal.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: The words the media should be using to describe Mr. Trump are generous --

BORGER (voice-over): He was the ultimate loyalist.

COHEN: Principled.

BORGER: Protector and defender.

COHEN: Kind, humble, honest, and genuine.

BORGER: The Trump fixer who said he would take a bullet for his idol, his boss.

COHEN: They say I'm Mr. Trump's pit bull, that I am his -- I'm his right-hand man.

BORGER: Now, in a plot twist worthy of Shakespeare, the fixer has flipped.

COHEN: I'm done with the lying. I'm done being loyal to President Trump.

BORGER: Prosecutors say he has provided relevant and useful information on contacts with persons connected to the White House and his own conversations with individual number 1, aka candidate Donald Trump, to criminally influence the election.

In more than 70 hours of interviews, Cohen confessed to his own financial crimes and past lies and stands to pay the price, three years in prison. But before he goes behind bars, he's going in front of Congress and before cameras now willing to testify publicly to what he knows about Trump's behavior in business and as a presidential candidate.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD), OVERSIGHT CHAIRMAN: I think the public needs to know exactly what happened. And I think he can shed that light on it.

BORGER: A betrayed Trump says it's all a lie, the deceit only serving Cohen's self-interest.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Michael Cohen is lying and he's trying to get a reduced sentence.

[18:50:04] He's a weak person and not a very smart person.

LANNY DAVIS, ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL COHEN: This man has turned a corner in his life, has hit a reset button, and he is now dedicated to telling the truth.

BORGER: No longer dedicated to being Donald Trump's mini-me as he was when he started working for the boss more than a decade ago.

SAM NUNBERG, TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: Michael was, I'd always like to say, the Ray Donovan of the office.

He took care of what had to be taken care of. I don't know what had to be taken care of but all I know is that Michael was taking care of it.

DAVID SCHWARTZ, FRIEND OF MICHAEL COHEN: He's the guy that you could call in 3:00 in the morning when you have a problem.

BORGER (on camera): Do you know stories of Donald Trump calling him at 3:00 in the morning?

SCHWARTZ: Donald Trump has called him at all hours of the night.

BORGER (voice-over): He's not calling now because Cohen is singing, admitting negotiations about Trump Tower Moscow continued during the presidential campaign while Trump denied having any business interests in Russia. He says he was in touch with Trump's lawyers and White House staff as he prepared a false statement to Congress.

And Cohen says at the direction of the candidate, he coordinated payoffs to women accusing Trump of sexual relations -- even releasing a secret recording about one of them.

COHEN: When it comes time for the financing, which will be --

TRUMP: Wait a second, what financing?

BORGER: All part of the job.

COHEN: My job is I protect Mr. Trump. That's what it is.

It's going to be my absolute pleasure to serve you with a $500 million lawsuit.

BORGER: Often with threats as in this 2015 conversation with a reporter.

COHEN: I'm warning you, tread very (EXPLETIVE DELETED) lightly because what I'm going to do to you is going to be (EXPLETIVE DELETED) disgusting. Do you understand me?

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, TRUMP BIOGRAPHER: This is also part of the Trump- Cohen method is you skate on the edge of what's reasonable and maybe even on the edge of what's ethical or legal.

BORGER: Now, Cohen says he's the one being threatened by his former boss.

TRUMP: He should give information, maybe, on his father-in-law. Because that's the one that people want to look at. Because where does that money -- that's the money in the family.

BORGER: After that, Cohen initially backed out of his planned congressional testimony before finally agreeing to sit down in front of three committees this week.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The president of the United States is essentially threatening his family, which to me is another act of potential obstruction of justice.

BORGER: Cohen, a sometimes Democrat, first came to Trump's attention after buying apartments in Trump developments, then went to the mat for Trump against one of his condo boards and won.

SCHWARTZ: Trump loved him for it. I mean, that was the beginning of it, and then after that, they became close. It was much more than an attorney-client relationship. It was certainly -- it was something much deeper, almost father and son kind of thing.

TRUMP: I will faithfully execute --

BORGER: But when Trump became president, he did not bring his brash wingman to Washington.

(on camera): Do you think he wanted to be in the White House, be White House counsel or --

D'ANTONIO: There must have been a part of him that was dreaming of a great job at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But he's also the guy who not only knows where all the bodies are buried, he buried a lot of them himself, and that, ironically, disqualified him.

BORGER: Maybe from working in the White House, but not from working with Bob Mueller and testifying before Congress. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BORGER: And, Wolf, when he was Donald Trump's defender, there was no greater defender. And now that he's Donald Trump's enemy, there may be no greater enemy for the president.

BLITZER: And that hearing tomorrow is going to be explosive at 10 a.m. Eastern.

Gloria, good work. Thank you very much. Much more on the breaks news right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:58:22] BLITZER: We're going to have much more on the breaks news about Michael Cohen's testimony up on Capitol Hill. But another breaking story emerging right now coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

Late this afternoon, the former Vice President Joe Biden dropped another major, major hint about whether or not he will enter the 2020 Democratic presidential contest. Listen to what he told an audience at the University of Delaware.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: We do everything by family meetings because no man or woman has a right to run for high public office without it being a family decision. And there's a consensus that I should -- they want, they the most important people in my life, want me to run. The first hurdle for me was deciding whether or not I am comfortable taking the family through what would be a very, very, very difficult campaign. I'm certain about where the family is.

But the second piece is that I don't want this to be a fool's errand. And I want to make sure that if we do this and we're very close to getting to a decision that I am fully prepared to do it.

But, you know --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My God, just say yes!

BIDEN: No.

(CHEERS)

BIDEN: But I'm not there yet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: But he did say they want me to run, referring to his family, a very significant statement.

I'll be back tomorrow morning at the 9:00 a.m. Eastern for our special CNN coverage of Michael Cohen's testimony before the House Oversight Committee.

In the meantime, follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer, tweet the show @CNNSitroom.

Thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.