The interview with Stormy Daniels — the adult film star and director who claims she once slept with Donald Trump in July 2006 — which was conducted by newsman Anderson Cooper and was broadcast on CBS’s “60 Minutes” this past Sunday, March 25, 2018, was actually recorded on March 8, 2018.
During that same segment, Cooper interviewed Trevor Potter, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission appointed by President George H.W. Bush. Potter was interviewed by Cooper on Friday, March 16, 2018, according to the Campaign Legal Center, of which Potter is founder and president.
On Monday, March 19, one of the segments of CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360°” was about the Stormy Daniels case. Here’s Cooper’s introduction: “A judge has been assigned to Stormy Daniels’ lawsuit in federal court, a district judge appointed by George W. Bush. Full disclosure, I did talk to the adult film actress who said she had an affair with the president and was paid to keep quiet. The interview is set to air on ‘60 Minutes’ this Sunday.” Cooper adds, “In the legal wrangling over the past few days, Daniels has been threatened with $20 million in damages….”
The panel starts a discussion. Near the end of the discussion one of the panelists, Robby Mook, who was Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign manager when she ran for president, says, “I’m not a lawyer, but this could be more cut and dry legally, too. … If [Trump’s] lawyer paid $130,000 to aid his campaign by keeping [Stormy Daniels] silent, that’s potentially a straight-up campaign finance violation if Trump organization lawyers were helping with this. That’s a campaign finance violation. And that hasn’t been talked about much. The interesting thing about this whole situation is this could be the cut and dry legal piece that gets him in trouble before any of the other stuff that we’re talking about.”
Now, in retrospect, having seen the “60 Minutes” interview, I would have thought this would have been the moment Cooper would have said, “Yes, I spoke to Trevor Potter, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, last week, and he says this could be an enormous legal mess for Trump and Cohen. Potter told me, and I’m quoting him now, ‘It’s a $130,000 in-kind contribution by Cohen to the Trump campaign, which is about $126,500 above what he’s allowed to give. And if he does this on behalf of his client, the candidate, that is a coordinated, illegal, in-kind contribution by Cohen for the purpose of influencing the election, of benefiting the candidate by keeping this secret.’
“Furthermore, Potter says the wild card here is that special counsel Robert Mueller could investigate the Stormy Daniels payment.”
I know Cooper could have told us all this because I saw his interview with Potter during the “60 Minutes” interview six days later. Again, it was an on-the-record interview that Cooper had conducted three days before this edition of CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360°.”
But Cooper said nothing about his conversation with Potter on that Monday night. After Mook spoke another panelist talked about something else, and then Cooper said: “The federal election laws which you’re talking about, do you think that it would affect Donald Trump or Michael Cohen?”
Mook again repeated that he wasn’t a lawyer and deferred to two lawyers who were on the panel, Mark Geragos , a criminal defense attorney who is also a CNN legal analyst, and Anne Milgram, a former federal prosecutor.
They spoke and decided that Trump could be affected, but not Cohen. Unlike Potter, neither one of them is a particular expert on the nuances of federal election laws.
Cooper then ended the segment, once again plugging his “60 Minutes” interview with Stormy Daniels that would air six days later.
Let’s jump ahead three days to Thursday, March 22. I’m watching “The Lead with Jake Tapper.” In one segment he’s talking to Stormy Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, who is, by this time, seemingly ubiquitous on the airwaves, especially CNN’s.
Tapper says to Avenatti, “Now, you said today that the president’s attorney resorted to ‘thuggish tactics.’ Describe, what is — what do you mean by thuggish behavior?”
Avenatti answers, “Well, I think a lot of that is going to be — is going to come out during the interview on Sunday….”
They discuss a few other things and Avenatti says that he’s here answering questions but the other side isn’t.
Tapper replies: “To be honest, you have said that your client was physically threatened to stay silent, but you haven’t answered questions on what exactly you mean by that. Who issued the threats, what the threats were. Michael Cohen denies that it was him. So you’re not answering all the questions that I have either.”
Avenatti says, “Well, Jake, it’s not for me to answer those questions, and I’ve told you that she is going to answer those questions on Sunday.”
A few moments later Tapper says, “Now, your client, Stormy Daniels, tweeted that the president ‘had her bullied and broke laws to cover it up.’ Can you elaborate at all who bullied her? Can she prove that the president broke any laws?”
Avenatti replies: “Jake, again, that’s not for me to answer. I’m not dodging the question, she’s going to answer these questions point blank during the telecast on Sunday.”
Similarly, the next day, Friday, March 23, 2018, found Avenatti again on CNN, this time in “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.” In one part of the interview Avenatti mentions “intimidation” and “bullying tactics.”
Blitzer asks him, “Can you name names? Who intimidated? Who threatened?”
Avenatti’s reply, “I think again, Wolf, as I have made clear over the last few days, my client is going to speak to that on ‘60 Minutes.’”
My God people, if Avenatti won’t give you a straight answer, get Cooper on the phone and ask him!
Watching all this at the time, as well as thinking about it in retrospect — what’s up here? Anderson Cooper, CNN’s own reporter, conducted his on-the-record interview with Daniels two weeks before I watched these CNN programs. And his on-the record interview with Potter days before. Yet both Cooper and his CNN anchor colleagues kept treating anything that Cooper found out conducting these interviews as if it wasn’t news that they could report until after it was broadcast by Anderson Cooper, “60 Minutes” correspondent, on “60 Minutes.”
“60 Minutes” has been the most successful newsmagazine in TV history. But that’s what it is. It’s not a news outlet whose stories and reporting generally depend on moment-to-moment, fast-changing events. CNN is a sprinter. “60 Minutes” is a long-distance runner. They both can be terrific. But it’s a mistake to think one is the other.
For CNN, news is news when it happens. Pretending any information that came out of Cooper’s ON-THE-RECORD interviews HE ALREADY CONDUCTED didn’t exist was a total cheat to the only people who matter. That’s the viewers of CNN, who expect CNN to tell them what they know honestly and when they find it out.
“Our mission is to create the finest possible news product and to present hard-breaking, national, and international news, as it unfolds. We deliver unparalleled perspectives across multiple categories, including political, medical, financial, technology, entertainment, and more.
“At CNN, we know our news and want to share it. Our vision is for the network to be broadcast to countries all over the world in English and the various regional languages. The journalists at CNN work around the clock, providing the latest news 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week. We provide live coverage and analysis of news across numerous categories. At CNN, our goal is to deliver accurate information to our viewers with speed so that they are well informed at all times.”
CNN’s Anderson Cooper and his CNN colleagues undercut this mission so Anderson Cooper, “60 Minutes” correspondent, could have a weeks old “scoop” on “60 Minutes.”
CNN founder Ted Turner would not be proud.