Please Credit Reference & Usage: “CNN’s Michael Smerconish”
Trump Organization EVP Michael Cohen discusses Donald Trump's controversial presidential campaign, and the incendiary comments Trump made about latinos.
FULL TRANSCRIPT BELOW.
Smerconish airs Saturdays at 9amET and replays at 6pmET
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: Here to respond, representing Mr. Trump, is Michael Cohen. He’s the executive vice president of the Trump Organization and special counsel to Donald Trump.
Michael, thank you for being here.
You heard my critique. The floor is yours to respond. I hope you’ll tell me how you think Donald Trump can grow the GOP tent.
MICHAEL COHEN, EVP TRUMP ORGANIZATION AND SPECIAL COUNSEL TO DONALD TRUMP: Well, Donald Trump is a force in and of himself. Donald Trump is not somebody who’s going to kowtow to anyone. He’s right now he's leading the polls. And if he's not leading the poll in a specific state, then, in all fairness he's number two.
So, one of thing for sure. He’s going to be on the stage for the debate and he’s going to have his voice heard.
SMERCONISH: The case that has given prominence to the illegal immigration issue, of course, is this horrific murder of Kate Steinle in San Francisco about 10 days ago, and I agree with Mr. Trump that the fact that the man who apparently killed her, or allegedly murdered her was able to break in to the United States - I think the number is five times - is proof of our problem with porous conditions at the border.
But here's the issue: the way in which Donald Trump has approached this is to distort some of the facts. "The Washington Post" this week, in looking at his public statements, gave him four Pinocchios. So, how is he going to win the non-white vote if you’ve got have fact checkers out there saying he's not telling it straight?
COHEN: Well, he is telling it straight and Donald Trump speaks from the heart, which is something very different than any of the other politicians do. What they do is they go ahead and they have polls, in order to see whatever they are going to say is going to poll well, and then they create a speech based upon that. And that’s not going to help the party. It’s not going to help this country.
All Donald Trump wants to do is to make this country great again. He wants to put people back to work. He wants to bring companies that find it economically benefit to leave this country to come back. This country needs to grow its economy and I’m going to tell you, Mike, that the interesting thing is when you say, how is Donald Trump going to re-brand the GOP and create relationship with Latinos?
First, there’s two parts to that. The first is what Donald Trump said at his speech was not directed to Mexicans. That's a gross distortion by the press, by the liberal media that wants to take Donald Trump out of this race. He did not say Mexicans and he certainly did not say Latinos. He said Mexico, and he was referring to the Mexican government.
What he then did is, on probably more than 10,000 speeches and meetings with both liberal media, as well as print and television, he went ahead and he explained exactly what he mean, that it’s the Mexican government, not Mexicans.
SMERCONISH: I understand that.
COHEN: That wasn’t enough.
SMERCONISH: No, I -
COHEN: So he put up explanations - let me just finish this. So, he put out statements that explain it. But they still don't want to hear it. And so, Donald Trump is not backing down. It doesn't back down to anyone.
SMERCONISH: But, Michael, Michael, I know - and I want to get to that, too. I don't consider myself part of a liberal media. I just want to get to the facts.
And the facts suggest that proportionately, those here in this country illegally are committing less crime than native-born Americans. And that's what "The Washington Post" was getting to when they called out Mr. Trump and they said this just isn’t true.
COHEN: Well, tell that to the family of this young girl that was killed.
The bottom line is, this is not an issue about one person, though, in all fairness, if you look to see the tragedy that took place in Charlotte, what a great result that that had for Charlotte and the American people, and let’s hope that the same thing happens for this beautiful, young girl that was killed in San Francisco.
This is a time for immigration reform. And that's something Mr. Trump feels strongly about.
SMERCONISH: You referenced the liberal media. Last night in California, took his own shot at the media. Let's all watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, the problem is you’ll the statement in half, you’ll cut it down so you leave out what I actually (ph) said, which you always do, because the press, in many cases, is very, very dishonest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Michael, is he too thin-skinned to be president?
COHEN: He’s not -
SMERCONISH: He lets no criticism go unpunished. I have to tell you - a year ago when I started with CNN and I gave him a passing reference to him, he quickly tweeted out and told Jeff Zucker my boss they were wasting money on me. I mean, is that the kind of guy who’s got a temperament? Can he take the critique while he’s in office?
COHEN: Donald Trump does not have thin skin. What Donald Trump does is he doesn’t let people attack him without being attacked back. That’s just his nature, that’s what’s made him the success that he is.
SMERCONISH: Well, I think there’s a difference between being attacked and just offering criticism that’s fact-based. You’re the executive vice president of the Trump Organization. Have you calculated the hit to his brand that all of these business ties that have been cut by sponsors have generated?
COHEN: In comparison to his net worth, which is in excess of $8 billion, it's small potatoes to Donald Trump. The bottom line is, his goal is to make America great again and he's willing to sacrifice these dollars that these spineless sponsors decided to walk away from Mr. Trump. They’ll all be back down the road when he ends up taking the White House.
SMERCONISH: RNC chair Reince Priebus called Mr. Trump this week to ask him to tone it down. My understanding is that you facilitated that call, and that you listened in.
Did Donald Trump respond to Reince Priebus plea and say that he would take it down?
COHEN: Well, I’m not so sure that that’s accurate - yes, I’m -
SMERCONISH: Well, tell me what happened. What was said?
COHEN: Well, Chairman Priebus did call my office. I then think connected into Mr. Trump, and I was privy to the conversation.
As counsel to Mr. Trump, it's a little bit difficult because it's a conversation between my client as well as the chairman. So, I want to thread very lightly on that.
I was not a request for Mr. Trump to tone anything down. It was more of congratulatory phone call, as Mr. Trump is leading the polls. He did however say that the GOP is actively seeking to create a better relationship with the Latino community and that he should just take that into consideration.
Mr. Trump said, listen, I’m going to be because that’s the only thing I know how to be. I’m not one of these phony politicians that in all fairness to the ones that got us into the trouble that we’re in.
SMERCONISH: OK. Hearing from you, I think that Donald Trump as a result of that phone call plans no change in his approach to going after the nomination?
COHEN: Listen, Donald Trump has a great relationship with Latinos. This is all being fostered by groups that want to create something for themselves. Eventually, he’s going to have the Latino community voting for him as well, because the people who are most hurt by illegal immigration happen to be legal immigrants.
And it’s not he’s against immigration. His grandfather came from Germany. His first wife from Czech. He’s current wife from Slovenia.
He is not anti-immigrant. Donald Trump wants immigration. It's what created this country to be the wonderful country that we are. What he does want is legal because it’s just better for the economy. It’s better for the country. It gives these people the opportunity to create the American dream for themselves.
SMERCONISH: Has he categorically ruled out running for president as a third party candidate?
COHEN: Why would he even think about it at the moment? He’s the frontrunner of the GOP. Now -
SMERCONISH: No, wait, I let that pass I think three times.
I’m unaware of any poll that shows him the frontrunner. I know that he’s doing well in New Hampshire and Iowa. But the national surveys that I have seen put him somewhere in the 7th position. By the way, not bad, he's in the top ten.
But which poll is he leading?
COHEN: Well, take a look, just for example, the one that came out on Thursday. "The Economist" has him leading in the national poll.
SMERCONISH: I’m going to look it up.
Michael Cohen, I’m appreciative you would be here. Next time, send your boss.
COHEN: It's a pleasure.
I sure will. Right now, he's busy on the trail.
SMERCONISH: I understand.