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Does Cohen plea have legal implications for the president?

Lanny Davis is one of two attorneys representing Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer. Davis joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the legal implications of Cohen’s guilty plea, whether he plans to share information with the Mueller investigation and his desire to go forward with truth in his new life.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    We turn now to a man at the center of the growing legal storm that could implicate President Trump.

    Lanny Davis is one of two attorneys representing Michael Cohen, and is Mr. Trump's former personal lawyer.

    Lanny Davis, welcome to the "NewsHour."

  • Lanny Davis:

    Thank you.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You probably know President Trump is saying today that, yes, he did know about the payments that Michael Cohen made to two women who allege they have had affairs with President Trump, but the president is saying he only knew about it later.

    And he's also saying, as he tweeted a few months ago, that this was money that was his own money, it wasn't from the campaign.

    How does that square with what Mr. Cohen is saying?

  • Lanny Davis:

    Well, let's talk about what the law says. And then I will answer your question about what Mr. Cohen is saying.

    The law says it doesn't matter if it's personal money or campaign money. You have to report the donation, and it must be by a limit of $2,400. As usual, Mr. Trump doesn't either care about what the facts or what the law is, but I'm telling you what the law is.

    As to what Mr. Cohen is saying, he is simply saying that, along with the U.S. attorney prosecutors, that he decided to plead guilty to these offenses, the words chosen collaboratively were that Mr. Trump, without naming him — but we know it's Mr. Trump — directed and coordinated the payment of that money by Mr. Cohen, not by Mr. Trump, because he was hiding, so there's a cover-up quality here, paid that money for, principal reasons, political purposes.

    That makes it a felony. It's the purpose of the money having an effect on the election that makes it a crime. And we now have the spectacle that hasn't happened much in our history where we have, under oath, somebody who is a lawyer saying that the client, the president of the United States, committed a felony.

    And that's where we are as a country, a president with evidence of felony criminal behavior.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let's move to several comments you have been making. You have done several press interviews since Michael Cohen pleaded guilty yesterday in which you said he would be willing to testify about the president and Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election.

    How much can you say? What can you say about what Michael Cohen knows?

  • Lanny Davis:

    So, I'm restrained in saying what he knows. First of all, an attorney, when a client shares information with me, I can't waive attorney-client privilege.

    It's my observation, my opinion that what he knows about Mr. Trump's level of knowledge of the hacking and attempted interference in our democracy by Russian agents would be of interest to Mr. Mueller.

    I don't know whether I would call it smoking-gun decisive. It would be up to Mr. Mueller decide the weight of that knowledge. But I can tell you it would be of interest.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, based on what you know, is this information that suggests the president cooperated, coordinated or anyone representing the president cooperated, coordinated with the Russians?

  • Lanny Davis:

    I believe that Mr. Cohen has direct knowledge that would be of interest to Mr. Mueller that suggests — I'm not sure it proves — that Mr. Trump was aware of Russian government agents hacking illegally, committing computer crimes, to the detriment of the candidate he was running against, Hillary Clinton.

    And as to whether or not that can be decisive in Mr. Mueller's thinking about whether Mr. Trump did anything wrong or not, I have to leave to Mr. Mueller.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    If Mr. Cohen has this information, why wasn't there some sort of cooperation agreement with the prosecutors? Why was Mr. Cohen — but why was he pleading guilty when a lot of people looking at this would say, well, he has information the government would consider of value; they want to cooperate with him?

  • Lanny Davis:

    So, it's difficult to answer the question because cooperation agreement is defined by people in so many different ways.

    I can tell you that he pled guilty because he thought that was the best choice for his family, and he was willing to take responsibility, and he's going to go to prison as a result of his decision.

    However, he's also said and authorized me to say he will fully, consistently tell the truth to whoever asks him to appear and tell the truth. Now, if that isn't cooperation, I don't know what the defined term is.

    Whether there's an agreement or not, I will leave to the prosecution and Mr. Petrillo in New York, who represents Mr. Cohen in the criminal defense arena.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Is that — just finally, is that process under way? Have they now asked him to sit down with them and share whatever information he has?

  • Lanny Davis:

    Are you referring to Mr. Mueller?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I'm referring to Mr. Mueller or his representatives.

  • Lanny Davis:

    In this particular situation, at this very sensitive stage, I can tell you that Mr. Cohen looks forward to sharing everything with Mr. Mueller that Mr. Mueller is interested in, and anybody else, including congressional committees, because he made a turn after serving Mr. Trump and doing a lot of things he's not so proud of.

    And, on July 2, he declared his independence, first on ABC and then hiring me. And he's going forward with truth to power as his new life.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lanny Davis, representing Michael Cohen.

    We hope we have the opportunity to speak with him as well.

  • Lanny Davis:

    Thank you, Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Thank you very much.

  • Lanny Davis:

    Thank you.

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