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THE SITUATION ROOM

Oversight Chair Demands Info on Ivanka's Security Clearance; Source: Kim Jong-un Tried to Salvage Hanoi Summit with Handwritten Note to Trump; Michael Cohen Wraps Up House Testimony, Rep. Adam Schiff (D) California Calls It Productive, Says Ex-Trump Fixer Answered All Questions; Interview With Rep. Jim Himes (D) Connecticut. Aired on 6-7p ET

Aired March 6, 2019 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Testimony was edited, allegedly by another Trump attorney. Cohen speaking out just moments ago, after a daylong hearing.

Ivanka's advantage. Sources tell CNN that the president personally granted a security clearance to his daughter and senior adviser, ignoring his top aides' concerns, just as did he did for her husband, Jared Kushner. Tonight, the House Oversight chairman wants details and is considering subpoenas.

Art of the deficit. The U.S. trade deficit balloons on Mr. Trump's watch, breaking records, despite his promise to shrink the imbalance. Have his America-first policies backfired?

And last-ditch effort. CNN has learned that the North Koreans tried to salvage the Trump-Kim summit as the president was about to leave Vietnam. Stand by for exclusive new details on what Kim Jong-un did and what went wrong.

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: Breaking news this hour, the president's longtime fixer and lawyer Michael Cohen wraps up his congressional testimony, promising he will continue to cooperate even as he prepares to go to prison in May.

Cohen facing the House Intelligence Committee for a second time and offering new evidence after publicly accusing Mr. Trump of committing crimes. The panel's chairman called the hearings productive and said Cohen answered every question.

CNN has learned that Cohen gave the committee documents showing edits to his false 2017 congressional testimony about that Trump Tower Moscow project. Cohen told lawmakers last week that another attorney for the president made changes to the written statement. I will talk with Congressman Jim Himes. He's a key member of the

House Intelligence Committee. He's been questioning Cohen, together with his colleagues, all day. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju.

Manu, you're just outside that committee hearing room. What are you learning about what Cohen told the committee today?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he gave the committee for the first time documents showing edits that were made to his false testimony that he delivered to the same committee back in 2017.

At that time, he downplayed the effort by the Trump Organization to pursue the Trump Tower Moscow project. He also suggested that then candidate Trump wasn't that involved in those discussions, discussions which he initially testified ended back in January of 2016. He later acknowledge lying to this committee, saying that those discussions occurred all the way until June of 2016, and then said publicly that the then candidate Trump was heavily involved in all of those discussions.

He also alleged publicly that Trump's attorneys, Jay Sekulow, as well as attorney for Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner Abbe Lowell, were involved in the preparations and in the editing of that statement that was delivered to Congress.

Well, for the first time, Wolf, we are learning that the House Intelligence Committee received documents showing edits that were made to that false statement back in 2017. The question is what exactly were in those edits. We don't know that yet.

But after the testimony today, Michael Cohen emerged and said, he's willing to cooperate even further with this committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY/FIXER FOR DONALD TRUMP: I believe they're happy. I have given them my assurance that any additional information that they need, I'm here to cooperate and will continue to cooperate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: And also Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman, made it very clear that after the second day of testimony before this very committee, he's satisfied with what Cohen said.

He acknowledged getting new documents and he suggested that there could be even more documents that Cohen provides.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: He was fully cooperative with a committee. We had requested documents of Mr. Cohen. He has provided additional documents to the committee. There may be additional documents that he still has to offer. And his cooperation with our committee continues.

So I think the members found it an enormously productive session.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: Schiff later called it important testimony as well. But he would not disclose why he thinks it's important. He would not answer questions, including my own, about whether or not he has any concerns about the Trump attorneys' role in editing those statements and whether he agrees with Michael Cohen's public testimony that the president's attorneys did change those statements, something that the Trump attorneys have denied, saying that they were not involved in editing the timeline of that false statement that was initially provided to this committee.

But, nevertheless, it's bound to be a subject that that Democratic-led committee plans to investigate going forward -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What else are you learning, Manu, about the questions that Cohen faced?

RAJU: Well, one of the big areas that both the Democrats and Republicans were interested in learning about were discussions about pardons that may have taken place after Michael Cohen's properties were raided by the FBI last year.

[18:05:00]

You will recall, at that time, then Cohen, the personal attorney of the president, was -- the president was very concerned about what happened there. He had not flipped on Cohen -- Cohen had not flipped on the president yet. But there were some questions about whether or not Trump's attorneys had conversations with Cohen's attorneys about a pardon to potentially prevent him from going forward and cooperating with federal prosecutors.

There have been reports suggesting that Cohen's attorneys had discussed with Trump's attorneys the idea of a pardon. Michael Cohen himself publicly said that he did not personally seek a pardon. And Republicans want to know if he perjured himself in any way. And Democrats want to know if the president tried to obstruct justice in any way.

We do know there are a lot of questions about that. It's unclear exactly how he -- what he said in this classified testimony. But that's been an area that members want to focus on. And it will be in an area that potentially prosecutors want to focus on as well.

Cohen, of course, acknowledged last week, Wolf, that the Southern District New York is looking into at least one conversation the president had with Michael Cohen after Cohen's properties were raided -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, lots of investigations are going on right now.

Manu Raju, reporting for us from Capitol Hill, thank you.

Let's talk more about the breaking news on Michael Cohen's testimony today.

Our Crime and Justice Reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Cohen, he lied to the committee once before, one of the reasons he's about in two months to begin a three-year prison sentence. And that's a problem potentially about his credibility, his honesty.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is. It's a big problem for Michael Cohen.

But we have seen from Michael Cohen is, as you said, Wolf, he has receipts. What we have learned is that he keeps records and he has documents, and that's what he's using now to corroborate some of the information that he's both provided really to the special counsel's office, which they have come out and said -- the Mueller team has come out and said that they have found him credible with respect to parts of their investigation that they needed him for.

He's now appearing before members of Congress. He's bringing documents. We know he's a record keeper. He's got tapes. He's got all these documents. We saw him wheeling stuff in today. We don't exactly know everything yet, but he's going to be able to probably corroborate everything he's telling them through documents.

BLITZER: What kind of trouble could the president's lawyers be in if they helped Michael Cohen edit his statement, which was false, and they knew it was false?

PROKUPECZ: So here's the thing. If they knew it was false, and if they were involved in this conspiracy, let's say, to commit perjury or obstruction, whatever, then they obviously could face a lot of problems.

But we don't always know that the president necessarily even tells his lawyers the truth, right? His lawyer Jay Sekulow denied that they had anything to do with altering the statement. He said that this testimony by Michael Cohen that attorneys edited or change his statements to Congress to alter the duration of the Trump Moscow negotiations are false.

So his attorneys have come out and said, this is not true. Certainly, we don't know what exactly the president has told the lawyers about this. It could be very -- very well. We have heard people complain that the president lies to his own attorneys. So it could be that kind of a situation here. We just don't know.

But his attorneys are denying that they had any role in altering any of these statements.

BLITZER: Two months from today, Cohen begins a three-year prison sentence in a federal penitentiary in Upstate New York. We will watch what happens between now and then.

Shimon, thanks very much, Shimon Prokupecz reporting.

Let's go to the White House right now, where there are escalating scrutiny on security clearances granted to the president's daughter and son-in-law. New division emerging right now. The House Oversight Committee chairman says he wants details on Ivanka Trump's security clearance, following new CNN reporting on the president's role in granting her access to sensitive information.

Our senior White House Correspondent, Pamela Brown, is following the breaking story for us.

Pamela, first, the focus was originally on Jared Kushner and not necessarily his wife. But now the focus is on Ivanka Trump as well.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, because of this new reporting from me and my colleague Kaitlan Collins.

And, tonight Wolf, the White House is facing these renewed questions about it security clearance process and whether the president gave his family members working here at the White House special treatment, after we learned he pressured officials to give both his daughter Ivanka, as well as the son-in-law clearances, against top White House officials' recommendations.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Special person, and she's worked so hard, as you all know.

BROWN (voice-over): Tonight, pressure mounting on the White House to explain its security clearance process. The House Oversight Committee chairman says he wants answers after sources tells CNN President Trump demanded his daughter and adviser Ivanka be given a clearance, despite objections of two top White House officials.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're not going to comment on security clearances. That's the policy of the White House and that continues to be the policy of the White House. We're also not going to get into comments and a back and forth over things that are currently dealing with the oversight.

[18:10:03]

BROWN: Ivanka told ABC several weeks ago her father wasn't involved.

QUESTION: There are a lot of people that question whether you were given special treatment by the president, overriding other officials.

IVANKA TRUMP, ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Absolutely not.

QUESTION: Can you speak to that?

I. TRUMP: There were anonymous leaks about there being issues, but the president had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband's clearance.

BROWN: Sources tell CNN it's possible she didn't know. One person familiar with her process says -- quote -- "She did not seek nor have outside counsel involved in her process, as no issues were ever raised."

CNN's reporting comes days after "The New York Times" revealed the same thing happened with the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Today, freshman Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib announced she's taking steps to launch impeachment proceedings against Trump, even as Democratic leadership say it's too soon.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: They continue to be a group that is totally taken by a small, radical leftist fringe of their party. And they're completely controlled by it. They know that's not enough to beat this president. So they're going to look for other ways to do that.

BROWN: Democrats may choose to focus on the president's economic record after the merchandise trade deficit hit a record high of more than $890 billion, the worst in the history of the United States.

Both the trade and budget deficit increase surpassing President Obama's record, which Trump routinely bashed on the campaign trail.

TRUMP: Our trade deficit in goods with the world is now -- think of it -- $800 billion, trade deficit. Can you imagine? This is the legacy of Barack Obama. This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton.

BROWN: And in yet another economic blow, the GM assembly plant is closing in the key state of Ohio eliminating some 1,700 positions by the end of this month.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Now, it's important to note overall job growth is still in an upward trend. And last year was the best for manufacturing jobs in decades.

But, certainly, the GM plant closing is only adding salt to the wound of the ballooning budget and trade deficits, despite President Trump's America-first policies -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Pamela, thank you, Pamela Brown at the White House.

And now that the House Intelligence Committee has wrapped up its hearing with Michael Cohen, let's bring in a top Democrat on that panel.

Congressman Jim Himes is joining us. He took part in the questioning today.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Good evening, Wolf. BLITZER: So, Michael Cohen says he believes all the members of your

committee were satisfied, very happy -- his words -- with his responses today. Is that true?

HIMES: It is true, Wolf.

It was a pretty grueling day, day number two in front of this committee. It went on for the -- for a solid day. Michael Cohen's had some sort of shoulder surgery. So he was actually in a lot of pain as he did this, but he soldiered through a lot of very specific questions, very, very different than the public oversight hearing which the American public got to see last week, of course, because it's behind closed doors, without news cameras running.

As such, it was very factually driven. Lots of information covered. Lots of, as our chairman said, new information and new documents provided.

BLITZER: The chairman also said it was very productive. He said that several times. You agree?

HIMES: I do agree. We were really able to get into the details, and, sadly, I'm going to respect the chairman's wish that we not discuss, for a bunch of reasons, the substance of what was said in that meeting.

We may call follow-on witnesses as a result of what we learned today to come testify before the committee. And, therefore, it's important that we sort of keep what happened in that room in that room. But it was productive. We learned a lot.

The transcript will be released and made public. So all of these questions and some of the things that CNN is reporting will be known sometime in the not-too-distant future.

BLITZER: When you say not-too-distant future, what does that mean?

HIMES: Well, I don't know exactly.

We don't have to go through the process of declassification with this transcript, because, of course, Michael Cohen was not privy to classified information. That's what's hanging up a lot of the transcripts that were done in the last Congress' investigation. So, again, it'll be the decision of the committee when to release them.

But, when that decision is made, there should be no impediment to getting them out into the public.

BLITZER: So did you learn new information today?

HIMES: We did learn new information. And that's -- that's why I'm confident in saying it was a productive day.

And I don't want to get into the specifics of what we learned. But I can help you think this through. Michael Cohen obviously made public allegations about the process in which the statement for which he was held to account -- that is to say, the statement to the House Intelligence Committee about what exactly happened with respect to Trump Tower Russia -- of course, the special counsel used that to charge him with lying to Congress.

You can imagine two things. He might have -- and I do say might have -- talked about some of the people that were involved in the process of forming what was a very detailed document. And it is also possible that some of the new material that he provided today might have pertained to that.

[18:15:05]

Now, why do I say that? Because we either have the written material that will allow us to get to questions around that document, or we can always summon people who might have been associated with the creation of that document to come testify before us.

And, of course, watching what happened to Michael Cohen when he testified inaccurately, when he lied to this committee, those witnesses would presumably tell us the truth about what really happened on whatever issue it is we may seek to talk to them about.

BLITZER: Cohen also says your committee can follow up with him if you need any additional information.

Do you think that will be necessary? Will you be doing that?

HIMES: I hope not. It really was a grueling two days, not just for Mr. Cohen, but, obviously the staffs of the -- the staff of the committee put in a ton of work in order to make this as productive a day as it was.

So I hope it won't be necessary, but you never know. Again, Mr. Cohen has given us any number of follow-up items on a whole bunch of topics. So I do -- I hope he doesn't need to come back. And he really was remarkably cooperative. I can't tell you how different his testimony was in tone and style this time around than when he came before us sort of in the service of Donald Trump, when he was sort of antagonistic.

This time, the guy has got a -- you saw this a little bit in public -- the guy has got a heck of a sense of humor that showed. He feels like or he seems like a man who for whom a significant weight has been lifted, even though, of course, he's facing a pretty harsh term of incarceration coming up in the spring.

BLITZER: In May, he begins three years in a federal penitentiary.

You said that these Cohen transcripts, once they are released, will address some of CNN's reporting. Are you referring to the -- to our report that Cohen handed over documents to try to prove that -- his claim that the president's lawyers edited and reviewed his false testimony?

HIMES: Yes, I appreciate the question, Wolf. Again, I don't want to get into the business of confirming stories.

You have your story. I will stick with what the committee is saying, which is that we were provided with substantial new information today.

And if you think about it, in and of itself, that's pretty interesting, because, previously, the committee had requested pretty much all of the documents related to most of the topics that we are interested in. And, today, we get a whole new set of documents.

And, again, I don't want to get into the substance or the issues covered by those documents. But, as you might imagine, those documents have other people's names on them. They have things that are slightly at odds with what we heard the first time around.

So when we say it was productive, I think that's what it means, without getting into the specifics of what was said or done today.

BLITZER: Are these documents, from your perspective, decisive? Or do you think you need more information from the White House or other witnesses?

HIMES: Well, very rarely is a single document decisive. And you wouldn't be making too big of a leap of faith to assume that, if a document exists, it has been viewed or authored by or participated in by somebody other than just Michael Cohen.

So, part of where we need to go from here, particularly -- and, again, I don't want to confirm anything, but particularly if there are issues of interest for follow-up here, is, we're going to need to talk to the people who might have seen those documents, might have been part of those documents.

That's why I think we are characterizing today as a productive day.

BLITZER: Well, do the documents point to individuals who may have committed a crime?

HIMES: Again, Wolf, I don't mean to stonewall, but you will appreciate that, if we do want to call people to come and ask questions of them about documents or about any of Mr. Cohen's testimony. The investigation would be best served by not getting into the specifics of what Mr. Cohen said.

So, let's just say, this was productive. There are any number of follow-ups. I do think, when the transcript is released, it will -- it will be of interest. It will probably be regarded as controversial, as everything that Michael Cohen says is.

But we have got some follow-up to do, based on today's -- today's time with Mr. Cohen.

BLITZER: Will Felix Sater be testifying before your committee next week in open session, as the chairman announced last week?

HIMES: Yes, he is coming. And I think the chairman made that announcement last week. He is

coming. I'm not sure if a determination has finally been made about whether it will be an open and closed session. I think the intention last week was that it would be an open session.

But I think, obviously, the chairman reserves the right to -- base on what we learn and what's happening, to decide whether it'll be an open or closed session.

BLITZER: Because there's been some speculation it might be delayed. Have you heard that?

HIMES: I have not heard that. But we have certainly seen delays before.

BLITZER: You certainly have.

All right, Congressman Jim Himes, thanks so much for joining us.

HIMES: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, just ahead, we're going to dig deeper on Michael Cohen's latest round of testimony and what more he may have to offer, as Democrats investigate the president.

And the former U.S. attorney, Preet Bharara, there you see him. He's standing by live, as we cover this breaking story.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:24:20]

BLITZER: We're back with the breaking news.

The House Intelligence Committee chairman says Michael Cohen's testimony today and the materials he provided will allow the panel to advance its investigation substantially.

We're joined now by the former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. He's a CNN senior legal analyst.

Preet, thanks very much for joining us.

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Sure.

BLITZER: So, what are the potential legal ramifications for President Trump if his lawyers edited or attempted to edit the false testimony that Michael Cohen gave to Congress?

BHARARA: Well, as with a lot of things we talk about here and elsewhere, the devil is in the details. It depends on what was said. It depends on what was known. It depends on what the president knew.

Now, if it's the case, in the worst-case scenario for the folks you mentioned, that Michael Cohen prepared testimony that was completely accurate as to the timeline for the Moscow Trump Tower project, and then handed it over to Trump's lawyers, and the Trump lawyers' edits basically took something that was truthful and made it false, and that happened with the knowledge or at the direction of the president himself, then, obviously, that's a very, very serious and terrible thing.

[18:25:23]

It doesn't sound like from the reporting that that's what's going to be borne out by the fact. It sounds like what probably happened is, Michael Cohen submitted some testimony that was knowingly false in some measure, because he was trying to toe the party line that he thought the president wanted him to take, that the talks were very abbreviated and ended before the Iowa caucuses in 2016 with respect to the Trump Tower, and then there were some tweaks made by the lawyer.

So until we know what tweaks were made and with what knowledge, it's hard to say what the implications are.

BLITZER: Well, is it possible that the lawyers didn't know the testimony that Michael Cohen had drafted was false?

BHARARA: That's certainly possible. And we have seen in this scenario with the president and his lawyers and other people around the president and their lawyers, that there seems to be some disconnect between what the truth is and what the lawyers have known.

Jay Sekulow has had to apologize previously for putting forward information that was not quite correct, because he didn't have the information. One of the lawyers that's being talked about in connection with your question here, the review of Michael Cohen's testimony, is Abbe Lowell.

And Abbe Lowell in a separate matter just a few days ago looked like he was throwing his own client, Jared Kushner, under the bus with respect to how the security clearance process worked, so if this is a case where people don't tell their clients everything, which may give the lawyers some safety here.

BLITZER: Let me get your reaction to the "Wall Street Journal" report that Cohen's lawyer raised the idea of a pardon with the president's legal team. Do you believe there was anything improper or potentially illegal about that?

BHARARA: Again, as I -- on this question also, it depends on what happened, who knew what, what the words were that were used.

In the reports I read, it's not clear what language was used. It's also the case, according to the reporting, that it was Michael Cohen lawyer who raised it as an initial matter. That doesn't necessarily take it out of the realm of being something improper or potentially unlawful.

But the fact that this was something that was -- that was raised by Cohen's lawyer, I think, minimizes it a little bit. And so, at this point, we don't know the language that was used. We don't know what the specificity of the language was. We don't know whether Donald Trump knew about it.

And we certainly know that nothing has -- came with it. So until you know those details, who said what, why and when, and was it more than something nebulous, what people were feeling out, what the possibility of a pardon was, I think it's hard to say.

Again, as with the other question, the worst-case scenario would be for them -- which seems unlikely and also preposterously stupid -- is if there was a conversation in which Cohen and/or his representative said to the president and/or his representatives that, in exchange for a pardon, I will shut up, or he was asked, if we pardon you, will you shut up?

I don't think the facts will necessarily bear that out. But we will have to see.

BLITZER: CNN has also learned, Preet, that President Trump overruled his intelligence officials and one of the senior advisers to grant his daughter, Ivanka Trump, a security clearance, in addition to his son- in-law, Jared Kushner.

The White House so far has refused to hand over any documents on the security clearance process to the House Oversight Committee, amidst their demands for those kinds of documents.

Does the White House have standing to do this?

BHARARA: Yes, I don't know if standing is the right word. I think they certainly have some legal ground that they could argue.

It's arguable. Maybe there's executive privilege that they're going to claim. The bottom line, it appears to be this is going to be embarrassing to the White House. It's a serious matter. Security clearances are done on a nonpartisan, professional basis.

And the fact that the president and his White House was treating security clearances in a sort of casual way, you give them to relatives, you don't give them to other people, you take them away from, as in the case of John Brennan, somebody who is your adversary politically as a way to punish that person.

So I think it's an important issue for the committees to take a look at, and I think they will. And if they have to fight it in court, I think that's a good fight to have.

BLITZER: I suspect there will be a huge legal battle over this.

Preet Bharara, thanks, as usual, for joining us.

BHARARA: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, we have got a lot to unpack.

We have got our panel standing by. Our experts, they're getting ready to assess everything we just learned.

Much more on the breaking news right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:34:02] BLITZER: We're following breaking news. President Trump's former fixer and personal attorney, Michael Cohen, wrapping up his second appearance before the House Intelligence Committee just a little while ago. Chairman Adam Schiff says Cohen answered every question put in. And Schiff calls the closed-door testimony very productive. Let's dig deeper with our experts and our analysts.

And, Gloria Borger, tell us a little bit more about what you're learning right now about Cohen's false testimony to Congress that got him into trouble, one of the reasons he is going to jail for three years, and the role the President's other lawyers had in all of this.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we have source in that says that Michael Cohen wrote the testimony himself, it was edited by his lawyer and then it was circulated around to the other lawyers who were part of the joint defense agreement. And as Preet Bharara, alluded to just a moment ago, they made tweaks here and there. But the important point, the discussions about Trump Tower Moscow ended in January of 2018 remained in the testimony.

[18:35:02]

And our sourcing says that the lawyers had no indication that any of the information in the testimony was inaccurate. And that now we know, of course, that Michael Cohen wrote this and did it because he thought it was what the President wanted him to do.

BLITZER: To end the negotiations in January as opposed to July or August or November, because they continued for much of that year.

BORGER: But these were lawyers making tweaks but not a big change, like change the date of when the Trump Tower Moscow ended. That did not --

BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, what do you make of that?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the facts, as Gloria describes them, suggests that these lawyers didn't do anything wrong. I mean, what matters is whether they authorized or put in false statements. And as Gloria describes it, she didn't.

I mean, the real issue is Cohen's own culpability, which is acknowledged, and the larger question of did the President himself have any involvement in putting out the false story that the negotiations ended sooner than they did. He certainly said that publicly. But as we all know, it's not a crime to lie to the public or to the press. So it doesn't sound like, as these facts are described, that there are any new legal implications to what went on here.

BLITZER: But what if -- we know, Jeffrey, that Cohen knew it was false to say the negotiations for the Trump Tower in Moscow ended in January of 2016. And he put it in there, he says, because the President wanted him to say that to Congress. And it wasn't changed when the other lawyers reviewed it. What if they also knew it was false?

TOOBIN: Well, that is potentially a problem. But I am not aware of any evidence that these lawyers knew that it was false. I mean, that's a very serious accusation or possible accusation against lawyers. And as we all know, lawyers are, for the most part, dependent on their clients for their facts. I mean, especially for something like this.

I mean, these lawyers would have no independent knowledge of what went on with Trump Tower Moscow. They would have -- they would only know what they were told by their clients. And it would be very difficult to get at that information because of the attorney/client privilege. So I don't know legally where this situation goes. I suspect probably nowhere.

BORGER: Well, and I was told that the documentation showed that they had reviewed, showed that it ended in January of 2018.

BLITZER: 2016.

BORGER: I mean, 2016, sorry. And if Michael Cohen had been having extra conversations with the President of the United States, he could keep those conversations to himself and not tell attorneys.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, David Swerdlick, that Congressman Jim Himes, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, they just told me that what they heard behind closed doors today was very different than his public, than Michael Cohen's public testimony. He says it sounds to him and hear what he said, what Schiff said was an extremely productive meeting.

DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes. And Congressman Himes told you that he learned something today. He didn't specify what he learned that was new.

BLITZER: He said he learned a lot.

SWERDLICK: Yes. He said he learn a lot. So if you go by Gloria, obviously, has the latest reporting on this. You go by some of the earlier reporting from "The New York Times." Cohen says he has emails and documents showing that lawyers made changes to his testimony. If it's not substantive, then as you are saying and as, Jeffrey, is saying, it may not matter in the end. But I think the key is what is in those emails and what is in those documents that he apparently gave to Congress?

BLITZER: Jackie, I'm going to play a clip. This is how Cohen, after the eight, nine hours, whatever it was, characterized the session. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP'S FORMER LAWYER: The hearings went very, very well. I believe that all of the members were satisfied with the statements and the responses that I gave to them. I told them that any additional information that they would want, they should feel comfortable to reach out to my counsel and I would continue to cooperate to the fullest extent of my capabilities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And this how the Chairman, Adam Schiff, described the meeting. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), C.A.: He answered every question that was put to him by members of both parties. He was fully cooperative with the committee. We had requested documents of Mr. Cohen. He has provided additional documents to the committee. There may be additional documents that he still has to offer. And his cooperation with our committee continues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLIZER: How concerned should the President be right now about what he has -- what Cohen provided and the additional documents he may yet provide?

JACKIE ALEMANY, ANCHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: I mean, I think the President should be concerned. What has become very clear after Cohen's testimonies this week is just how central he was and how much of a nexus of the Trump Organization he has been. And there's been a domino effect in terms of the way that these investigations have on Hill, have progressed since Cohen's testimony, that he is almost single handedly spurred.

[18:40:06]

But I think we, obviously -- as Preet Bharara and as Gloria said, there are so many questions still to answer here. But I think the way in which Cohen really helps move the ball forward is that he is leaving this trail of bread crumbs for democrats to continue to reach out to for additional witnesses to corroborate all of these pieces and that Cohen continues to drop.

And this -- Jerry Nadler, the Chairman of The Judiciary Committee, just issued a request for 81 different people tangentially involved in this investigation. If any of those people put forward documents that corroborate what Cohen has been saying in any way, again, this just continues to push the ball forward in a certain way.

BLITZER: And there's going to be more hearings, Gloria, coming up supposedly, Felix Sater, this Russian/American businessman as early as next week.

BORGER: Right. And don't forget, Felix Sater was key to Trump Tower Moscow. Felix Sater, was the one standing to benefit tremendously financially and was sending emails to Michael Cohen about our friend, Putin, and how great this is going to be for Donald Trump and why we need to get this deal done. And he was the one who continued pushing the deal, even after that January. So I think Sater is kind of a key figure here that they are going to want to hear from.

BLITZER: We're going to get a lot more in all of this. Let's take a quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:46:05] BLITZER: We have more breaking news. The House Oversight Committee now seeking documents from the White House about Ivanka Trump's security clearance as well as documents pertaining to her husband Jared Kushner. So far, the White House is refusing the request.

The chairman of the committee, Elijah Cummings, tells CNN there may be additional conversations before he decides to issue a subpoena.

You know, Jackie, this is a big deal. The president legally can give top secret security clearances to anyone he wants. But, politically, it's very awkward.

JACKIE ALEMANY, ANCHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST "POWER UP": Yes. The president claims that -- if he makes this decision, it can happen. But, obviously, there are a lot of concerns here. I actually just talked to Senator Chris Murphy, who was very concerned that potentially granting Jared a security clearance when career officials advised against it meant that Jared was potentially providing confidential, classified information to people that Mohammed bin Salma, to players that shouldn't have this kind of information that potentially hold it against the Trump administration when it comes to making pretty important foreign policy decisions.

BLITZER: What can potential problems could be -- could have been holding up Ivanka Trump's security clearance?

BORGER: Well, if Jared was having problems with his security clearance, Ivanka was part of the whole Trump Tower Moscow proposal. And that could potentially be part of it.

Maybe there was a sense that she didn't deserve to have a top secret security clearance given her portfolio. And we don't know exactly. Our reporting hasn't shown exactly why they were holding it up. But they obviously had their reasons. And Jared and Ivanka were both serving in the same pool, it seems to me.

BLITZER: What do you think, Jeffrey? Is there work she's doing based on what we know publically that requires security clearances?

TOOBIN: Well, she has taken overseas trips on behalf of the president. And that -- anything relating to foreign policy is usually classified. Although, most of her work it seems to me at least publicly involves issues like family leave, that don't involve national security information. But, you know, overseas trips, she had a meeting with Angela Merkel.

She represented the government at an international conference early in the administration. You know, there's a very good question about why nepotism should rule in making those decisions about whether she should have those responsibilities. But I can certainly see why once she has them she needed a security clearance.

BLITZER: Elijah Cummings, the chairman of this committee, you know, David, he says he needs more conversations about subpoenas. The White House is refusing to provide the relevant documents.

Where is this heading?

SWERDLICK: Right, I think the committee eventually will get to the subpoena stage if they don't feel like they're getting the information they want from the White House. And they probably also anticipate legal challenges along the lines of executive privilege, even though it's unclear, let's say, that memo written by former chief of staff John Kelly and former White House Counsel Don McGahn would fall into that category. I think that's debatable.

But Congressman Cummings knows he can get there but maybe there's a way he can coax that information out one way or the other, including from some of the reporting before he actually forces the issue.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting. Amidst all of this, we got some new numbers out today, Jackie. I want your thoughts on the trade deficit this past year in goods.

And take a look. It's gone up to almost $900 billion. It increased dramatically, even though the president often repeated that that trade deficit was going down on his watch. It hasn't gone down. It's gone up pretty dramatically.

ALEMANY: Yes, I mean, it's exactly the opposite of again what you just said, the president had promised. I think this is actually going to be something that will haunt him, potentially into 2020. I think a key -- you know, there is a poll that came out this week, "The Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll that showed that the race is actually a lot tighter than I think either side, Democrats or Republicans, realized, and what it's really going to be contingent on is how well the economy is doing next year.

[18:50:02] So, if this continues, that does not bode well for his 2020 reelect.

BLITZER: Yes, because --

TOOBIN: Can we just say that a big trade deficit is not necessarily a bad thing for the economy? I mean, Donald Trump has this fantasy that trade deficits are terrible things. But, in fact, you know, the fact that, you know, Americans are prosperous enough to buy a lot of goods overseas doesn't mean that the economy is doing badly. And in many respects, it's a good thing.

BLITZER: Well, the president -- but the president as a candidate and since taking office, he's made this a huge issue that the U.S. was going to narrow. Close down that trade deficit. Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: But -- it's bad economics.

SWERDLICK: Yes, our "Washington Post" colleague, David Lynch, did a great story where he pointed out and talked to experts who simply said, look, it's the macro economic factors, strength of the dollar, et cetera. The tariffs and trade deficit issue is not moving the needle, as Jackie said. If we head into the 2020 cycle with a strong economy, that will affect the race one way, and if it starts to go down a little bit, that will affect --

BORGER: But, you know, you have a strong economy, and a majority of the people in this country still think we're headed in the wrong direction. What is that about?

SWERDLICK: They think that, and yet president Trump's approval rating in "Real Clear Politics" is at 43 percent today, essentially where he was on inauguration day.

BLITZER: We'll see if the president changes his tune about trade deficits. I suspect he won't.

All right. Everybody, stick around.

Just ahead, a CNN exclusive. New information about the failed summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un and how the North Korean dictator tried to salvage it at the very last minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:56:15] BLITZER: CNN is learning exclusive new information tonight about the summit between President Trump and the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, that collapsed last week in Hanoi when President Trump walked away.

Our Chief National Security Correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is with us. Our CNN national security reporter, Kylie Atwood, is working the story with us as well.

Jim, what are you learning about the last-minute effort, the last- minute effort by the North Koreans to try to save the summit?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, in a summit really of wild swings, this was something of a last-minute Hail Mary that the vice foreign minister of North Korea, as President Trump was leaving the hotel in Hanoi where these talks were taking place, delivering a personal message from Kim Jong-un himself, attempting to resurrect the talks to find agreement before the two leaders parted there empty-handed, specifically to resurrect this exchange of North Korea dismantling the Yongbyon nuclear complex there, a significant one, though not their only one, in return for partial sanctions relief.

But in the view of the U.S., according to our reporting, it was not specific enough, particularly the definition of how much of this nuclear facility, what degree of sanctions relief. And so, the president continued with what he now refers to as the walk.

BLITZER: Yes, the walk away from that. They even cancelled that luncheon that had been set.

You were there in Hanoi, as well, Kylie. There were signals going into the meeting that there wouldn't be a breakthrough. What are you learning?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, that's right, Wolf. Even before President Trump sat down for those hour-long negotiations or for that dinner with Kim Jong-un on the night before, it was his negotiators and his chief diplomat Secretary Pompeo that were facing road blocks when they were trying to deal with these North Koreans who are known to be fickle and unpredictable.

So, Secretary Pompeo lands in Hanoi. He's hoping that he can actually meet with his counterpart, Kim Yong-chol, his North Korean counterpart, who he's met with in the past. But that never manifests. The secretary actually waited for a few hours, hoping it would come to fruition. The meeting never happened, obviously, leaving a sour taste in the mouth of Secretary Pompeo on the eve of these negotiations.

Now, I want to point out that, you know, a source explained to me, someone who knows these negotiations, knows the North Koreans, what actually could have been accomplished between Pompeo and Kim Yong-chol before Kim Jong-un and Trump were going to meet. Not very much. Of course, Kim Jong-un and President Trump don't like to be upstaged by their underlings, by, you know, their working-level officials.

But it was a very foreboding sign on the eve of the summit that ended up delivering no results, no deal on either end.

BLITZER: A lot of anger as well.

You know, Jim, so what comes next in the nuclear talks between the U.S. and North Korea? I think there's a lot of fear that Kim Jong-un may decide he needs to undertake some sort of provocative step now to underscore that.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and listen, a sign that at least he's at least rattling the saber, these new satellite photos showing activity again and a ballistic missile testing site. The president, when confronted with his news today in the Oval Office, said that he was not happy. Handing a message of his own back to Kim. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would be very disappointed in Chairman Kim, and I don't think I will be. But we'll see what happens. We'll take a look. It will ultimately get solved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Indeed, we'll see what happens. No current, next round of talks scheduled, and certainly no new Kim-Trump summit scheduled yet as well, Wolf.

BLITZER: Because there is, kylie, some significant concern right now. He might do a test or something along those lines.

ATWOOD: Of course. It's always possible. He has the capability to do so.

BLITZER: Yes. And let's see if he does or he doesn't. This is an important moment in U.S./North Korea relations right now.

Guys, thanks very much for that.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @wolfblitzer. You can tweet the show @CNNsitroom.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.