Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Intel Chiefs Presented Trump with Claims of Russian Efforts to Compromise Him; Soon: President Obama's Final Speech to the Nation; Interview with Rep. Elijah Cummings. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired January 10, 2017 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:19] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Erin, thanks very much.
Good evening from Chicago, where if Carl Sandburg were writing the poem today, he might add a phrase or two in addition to "City of the Big Shoulders" and "Hog Butcher for the World". Something along the lines of launching pad for president, or writer of history.
Tonight here at McCormick Place, President Obama will look back on his time in the White House and, by extension, his place in the pages of American history.
The president and first family arriving at O'Hare on Air Force One about an hour and a half ago. Crowds, however, have been lining up outside the hall since early this morning. Some, no doubt, were in Grant Park, not far from here, for the president elect's victory rally eight years ago.
Tonight will be the bookend to that remarkable moment. And it is a big night in more than on respect, with significant developments, perhaps even seismic developments involving his successor Donald Trump. We'll bring all that to you.
CNN's Michelle Kosinski joins us now to start things off.
What do we expect from President Obama tonight?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Anderson.
Well, it sounds like he's going to take a page or several from his early speeches in Chicago. He's going to try to impart optimism, try to inspire people, even coming off this bruising election with America still reeling from it, with divisions laid pretty bare.
This was the defeat for him too. I mean, his legacy is already under fierce attack. So, he wants to leave on an optimistic note. And from the few excepts that the White House has released, he wants to focus on American values. He wants to look at where he came from. How he got to where he is. What he still believes in.
As he's going to put it tonight, he feels that, you know, the only way change happens is when ordinary Americans get together, work together, and demand it, Anderson.
COOPER: Do we know if he's going to be touching on issues of race, which he has been talking about more in the last few years of his presidency.
KOSINSKI: Yes, that's a good question. You know, throughout his time, his unprecedented push on the campaign trail for Hillary Clinton, he tried to say so many times that America is not as divided as some would say. And then, towards the end, when the race was razor close, he backed away from that a little bit. He talked about trying to heal divisions. That's we've been hearing most recently from him.
So, it sounds like he wants to talk about moving forward, healing those divisions and to focus -- when he talks about American values, he also wants to hit upon diversity. I think we're going to hear that be a strong element of his speech tonight.
COOPER: All right. Michelle Kosinski, thanks very much.
The audience right now, as they await the president, listening to Eddie Vedder perform on stage.
CNN "INSIDE POLITICS" anchor, John King, joins me, along with CNN political analyst Kirsten Powers, CNN senior political commentator and former senior Obama advisor, David Axelrod, our chief political correspondent Dana Bash, our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, also Obama 2012 press secretary Ben LaBolt is joining the panel, former congressional Black Caucus executive director, Angela Rye is with us, and "New York Times" Jodi Kantor, author of bestselling biography, "The Obamas."
John, let's start up with you. I mean, this is not a campaign event. It's not also really a good-bye to the country because he's 55 years old and he has a long, you know, career ahead of him. What do you expect tonight?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESONDENT: I think that's one of the fascinating questions. This is a very rare moment in our history. Three successive two-term presidents, in the case of Clinton and George W. Bush, and then Barack Obama, three relatively young men when they took the job and three young men when they leave the job.
What will he do next? I think David and Ben can fill in more about what they expect because he's not someone who relishes day-to-day political combat and he seems to indicate he wants to step back and only step forward when he thinks it's necessary.
And yet, if he says goodnight -- and it's interesting, talking to people coming to the hall. They're in a bad mood, as Michelle just noted. They don't like what's about to happen in the inauguration of Donald Trump, but they prefer most of the people I talked to said they want to celebrate the last eight years, not focus so much on what happened on November 8th while they're here tonight.
So, what he does in post presidency is largely an unanswered question, in part because I'm not sure. David and Ben know this more than I do. I'm not sure he knows the answer just yet, as to when he steps forward.
COOPER: David, how do you feel on this mean? I mean --
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I said earlier, you know, it really struck me when I picked up that credential that said farewell address of the president because I have a drawer full of credentials that go way back to the 2004 convention when he was a keynote speaker through Iowa, New Hampshire, two campaigns the years in between on presidency and to realize that this is the end of that particular part of the story is very moving to me, and I'm sure to a lot of people here.
[20:05:02] COOPER: It's also actually sort of a sad pincher on the credential. I don't know if you can see this, but it's the Obamas from behind kind of looking out over -- I guess --
AXELROD: It is. But, you know, I don't want to oversell this, because I do not anticipate a sad speech. I anticipate a speech that talks about richness of our democracy and what we have to do to keep it vibrant in the future. That's where he's going to go with speech.
His farewell speeches historically dating back to George Washington have been a review of where we've been, but very much a focus on where we need to go and the advice the outgoing president has for the country. This is the opportunity I think he's going to seize tonight.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, on the way here, I was listening to the podcast you did, the interview David did with the outgoing president, which was so fascinating to listen to. It's like being a fly on the wall with these two old friends reminiscing about 25 years in politics.
COOPER: That's the Axe Files podcast on CNN.com.
BASH: The Axe Files --
BASH: But one of the many things that struck me as I would think about in the context of fate (ph) that's going to come here, is he said to you, you talked about hope and change. He said that hopey changey thing, how is that going for you?
BASH: And, obviously, he was sort of kidding, but sort of not in that he did come in with hopey changey thing as Sarah Palin called it. And, you know, had reality smack him in the face over and over again.
The last reality of which is leaving and having somebody who disagrees with him on just about everything that he pushed for for eight years coming in as successor. But the fact that he wanted to give this kind of speech and this aide, David knows this better than I, were saying that he decided it's the summer he wanted to do it here and not in Washington says a lot about how he wants to (INAUDIBLE) this presidency.
AXELROD: I'm sorry. Go ahead.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This person said to me, there's one thing I can tell you. This is not a policy speech.
BORGER: This is not a State of the Union. This is not okay look at what we did. Here are the ten great things I've achieved.
This is in a way about hope and change for the future because I think he wants to leave on the same note that he came in on and that's not easy to do particularly with these people here who don't feel very optimistic about the next president.
COOPER: And you know this president better than most.
BEN LABOLT, OBAMA 2012 CAMPAIGN PRESS SECRETARY: In some ways, I don't think this will be a farewell speech because the Obama presidency wasn't about just one person. It was about getting Americans from different backgrounds involved in democracy and I think we'll see a call to action really from my generation and the generation younger. We've got to stay engaged.
In some ways, that's the answer to the Trump residency that this isn't just about one person. It will take all of us organizing in our communities, organizing at a national level to fight for what we believe in and core American values.
JODI KANTOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: But I think the president has a difficult choice to make in the next few months and years. We may see the beginning of the answer tonight. The ex-presidential tradition is to get on helicopter on inauguration day and fly away and really be very hands off and almost do like a quick retirement from American political life.
However, this is a really unusual moment in American history. It's very confusing for a lot of people to even think about what happened in the last election. The Democratic Party is sort of in meltdown with the election results, wants very badly for both of the Obamas, who are really two of the only unifying figures, plus the president has begun to indicate in interviews he does want to do some of the work of rebuilding the party.
So, he's going to have that choice to make, whether to remove himself more or whether to engage more.
AXELROD: I think it's important to as we interpret the meaning of this location to recognize that he not only became the president-elect in Grant Park, but his career began on the South Side, a few miles south of here, as a community organizer, with a belief that belief organized at the grassroots and make a difference in their lives. And I think he's given us clues in the last few weeks, including in the podcast, about what he wants to do.
What he wants to do is inspire people to do the same thing and walk that path. He understands that his part of the journey is done certainly in politics, but he wants to encourage others to take up the work of bettering their community, bettering their country. And I think that's where his foundation is going to go.
ANGELA RYE, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Michelle Obama just I think it was last week talking about losing hope, Democrats know what it feels like to lose hope. I think this was also an interesting choice because he talks about the fact this is where he found himself, where he really came into his own. So, this is that opportunity for America that once again come into our own. Not to lose help. He's going to continue to be a hope and change ambassador.
[20:10:02] But first to lean into what America is really supposed to be about. And I think he's got the great opportunity to do that tonight.
COOPER: Kirsten, he didn't have to be here in Chicago tonight. He could have made the speech anywhere, but he wanted to be in Chicago.
KRISTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALSYT: Right. And I think a lot of the people here are looking for is a path forward. They don't really know how to respond to Donald Trump. This is not what people are envisioning. They were probably imagining the celebration of Hillary Clinton being president.
Now they have to sort of mourn the president leaving and also understand how to move forward with hope. And I suspect he's going to probably be able to figure out how to give people that pass forward.
KING: I just think to this question of what he does next to Jodi's point about organizing and trying to invest in the future of the party, the challenge is so enormous because when he bursts into the scene, remember, he generationally leapfrogged Democrats. That convention in 2004, John Kerry was the nominee. Hillary Clinton was in waiting. John Edwards was there. Joe Biden was in waiting.
We could talk for a half an hour about the number of Democrats who thought they were the next national star of the party. And there were a good impressive group. Now, who is it? Who is it?
The party is led by Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, California, and Chuck Schumer of New York. No disrespect to them, but as the president himself has noted, one of the problems for the party right now is in Middle America, Illinois, Iowa, mostly Republican leadership, and who is the next generation? Who is the State Senator Barack Obama who is going to come on to the scene or young Democratic senator coming on to the scene? The party has been wiped out in the Obama years for all his success at the presidential level.
AXELROD: People ask me about this all the time. It's indeed a problem for the Democratic Party. But I always remind people that four and a half years before he was elected president, almost no one knew who Barack Obama was. So, we don't really know where the next leadership is going to come from.
But on this issue of where to go and the path forward, it strikes me, George Washington made the first farewell address and his message was that our greatest enemy is division, is disunity. That we need to come together various sections of the country and if we get into sectionalism and rivalries, we're going to be weakened.
In a sense, this president has the same pass. I think what we face today is a deeply divided country. And we can't -- and I think part of his message is going to be, we can be political opponents, but at the end of the day, we're all Americans and we ought to value what we have and honor that democracy.
BASH: And this is where you quote Hamilton, to teach you how to say good-bye.
BORGER: In one sense, I think it's easier to say good-bye and give a speech like this than it will be for the president, the ex-president, the former president, to figure out how he navigates that role because as former presidents, because what he appreciated so much about George W. Bush was that Bush stayed out of things. And Bush didn't go on the campaign trail and second guess him all the time.
And there are some issues that he fundamentally and so personally aggress -- disagrees with Donald Trump, like for example, if there's a Muslim ban, and health care. How does he navigate that role in the future? When does he speak out without getting in the way?
COOPER: We've got to take a quick break. We've got a lot of news to get to also in this hour as we await President Obama. We'll have more on President Obama's farewell speech, about 45 minutes from now and his legacy.
When we come back, though, a CNN exclusive. What our reporting reveals about allegations that Russians have compromising material on the next president of the United States Donald Trump. It's story you won't find anywhere else.
And as we go to break, listen to Eddie Vedder and the Chicago Children's Choir. You're watching our coverage of President Obama's farewell address.
EDDIE VEDDER, MUSICIAN: That time changed me and changed us. No matter what they talk about repealing this or taking things away from us or going backwards a few steps on progressive issues, they can't take back --
COOPER: Eddie Vedder talking into the crowd here. He's got the Chicago Children's Choir behind us here at Chicago McCormick Place. We got -- we'll get back to President Obama's farewell speech, which
is going to be happening here at the top of the hour. I was going to bring it to you live.
We want to turn though to a story that is breaking right now involving the next President Donald Trump. My colleague Jake Tapper joins me for that -- Jake.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Anderson.
Let me bring you now, a CNN exclusive. CNN has learned that the nation's top intelligence officials presented information to President-elect Donald Trump on Friday and President Barack Obama on Thursday about claims of Russian efforts to compromise President-elect Trump.
The information was provided as part of last week's classified briefings, intelligence briefings regarding the Russian efforts to undermine and interfere in the 2016 presidential elections.
I work on this story with Jim Sciutto, with Evan Perez and with Carl Bernstein. All of us have been working our sources for several days. They all join me now.
Let me start with my colleague now, Jim Sciutto. Walk us through the basic outline of what we've learned.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: So, this was a team reporting effort at CNN. And multiple officials with direct knowledge of those briefings tell CNN that classified documents on Russian interference of the 2016 U.S. election that were presented last week to President Obama and to President-elect Trump, included allegations that Russian operatives claimed to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.
These allegations were part of two-page synopsis paged on memos compiled by former British intelligence operative, whose past work U.S. intelligence officials consider credible.
[20:20:05] The FBI is now investigating the credibility and accuracy of those allegations which are based primarily on information from Russian sources. But the FBI has not confirmed many essential details in the memos about Mr. Trump.
Classified briefings last week, I'll remind, were presented by four of the senior most U.S. intelligence chiefs, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, FBI Director James Comey, the CIA Director John Brennan, and NSA director, Admiral Mike Rogers.
The two-page synopsis also included these allegations -- that there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government. This according to two national security officials.
CNN has confirmed that the synopsis was included in the documents that were presented to Mr. Trump. We cannot confirm if it was discussed in his meeting with the intelligence chiefs as well.
I'll note the Trump transition team has not yet commented on this as have not the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Jake, and FBI.
TAPPER: That's right. For several hours now, we told the Trump transition team about the story and they said they would have a statement for us. They have yet to provide it. When they do, we will provide it to you.
And just to underline, this information, this two-page synopsis was an addendum. It was an annex to the intelligence community report on the Russian hacking. It was not part of the report in itself.
SCIUTTO: That's right. The focus of these briefings was the intelligence and analyst behind the intelligence community's assessment that it was Russia who did the hack of election and Russia's intent was to help Mr. Trump. This synopsis though included in this briefing which shows its importance was not part of overall assessment.
TAPPER: Now, Evan, what we have here are allegations being made by Russians, that they have potentially compromising information, financial and personal about Donald Trump, and information -- allegations that there were exchanges of information between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. But so far, the intelligence community has yet to corroborate these allegations.
So, why even bring it up to President-elect Trump and President Obama?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: But, Jake, there's a couple of reasons why we're told that they were give -- why they decided to do this. The senior intelligence officials included the synopsis in part to make the president-elect aware that these allegations involving him are circulating among intelligence agencies, senior members of Congress and other government officials in Washington. The officials said that they also included it in part to demonstrate that Russia had compiled information potentially harmful to both political parties, but only released information damaging to Hillary Clinton and Democrats.
Now, this synopsis was not part of an official -- the official intelligence community report about the Russian hacks. But it really, you know, underscores that, you know, it augments the evidence that Moscow intended to harm Clinton's candidacy and to help Donald Trump. Several officials acknowledge these briefings to CNN.
TAPPER: It's fascinating story.
Let me bring in the legendary Carl Bernstein, because, Carl, when we're all working together on this story, you brought this to us. This information, the underlying memos upon which the synopsis that was included as an annex into the intelligence community report. These underlying memos -- they did it not start with U.S. intelligence. They did not start with FBI or U.S. law enforcement.
Where did they come from?
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The underlying memos were produced by a former British MI-6 intelligence operative with great experience in Russia and the former Soviet Union. He had been hired by a Washington political oppo research firm, does opposition research and he had been doing -- this firm had been doing opposition research on the Trump campaign, on Donald Trump for both Republicans and Democrats opposed to the Trump presidency.
And as this firm in Washington started to look at Trump's businesses in Russia, his trips to Russia, his business ties to Russians and those of others in his family, they then took their information to this MI-6 person in London, former MI-6 person with whom they had worked before to see where they would further develop their information. And over the course of months, he began producing reports.
And by August of 2016, he was sufficiently concerned by the substance of the reports to go to Rome, turn them over to an FBI colleague and counterintelligence colleague in Rome from the FBI and it was then forwarded to the FBI in Washington, these reports.
Subsequent to that, a former British ambassador to Russia contacted John McCain and said there's this information floating around produced by this MI-6 guy and a meeting was arranged between John McCain and MI-6.
[20:25:05] Someone -- a meeting arraigned between the former ambassador and McCain and at that point, McCain got the information shortly afterwards, the underlying memos. He then turned them over, memos subsequent to the ones that had been turned over the FBI in August. They now go through December.
McCain turned those over to FBI Director Comey personally in December, on December 9th. And now, people are awaiting to see what the FBI and other investigators produce now that they have this underlying information.
TAPPER: And what's interesting -- we obviously as we said earlier, reached out to Trump transition team to get a response to the fact that these intelligence officials provided this information in a briefing to President-elect Trump and to President Obama, as well as some senior congressional leaders, suggesting that Russians were making these claims. We've been trying to get a response from the Trump transition team for several hours now.
I'm told that President-elect Donald Trump finally issued a response that I can I think safely assume is about our inquiry. He wrote, quote, "Fake news. A Total political witch hunt."
OK. I'm not really sure what that specifically addresses. The news that we're bringing you is that these intelligence officials provided this information to President-elect Trump. If he believes it's a political witch hunt, that's certainly his perspective.
One of the things that's interesting, of course, Jim, is that a lot of these allegations have been out there before. We haven't reported on them. We haven't discussed them, but what changed is the fact the intelligence officials, these senior intelligence officials brought them to this level of saying, hey, President-elect Trump, you should know about this for the reasons that Evan enumerated.
Who else knows about these charges and allegations?
SCIUTTO: Let's be clear here. You have U.S. intelligence agencies. They have not corroborated this, but are not dismissing these allegations, right? They are not, in effect, treating them as fake news.
You have the FBI that has not yet corroborated this, but they aren't dismissing it. They are investigating. And you have to be clear, Democratic and Republican lawmakers who are pursuing this and, in fact, want to talk about hearings on this, both to look at alleged communications between the Trump surrogates and Russian operatives during the campaign, but also into the other personal and financial, more salacious details.
So, there are multiple outfits as it were in Washington from both parties that are taking this at least seriously on the face of it. They haven't confirmed it.
In addition to that, we know that on the Hill, the eight senior most congressional leaders, the four congressional leaders, plus the four majority and ranking members of the intelligence committees have also seen this. This is the so-called "Gang of Eight", and they have and we can see that based on some of the questions coming out in the hearing today for Attorney General Nominee Sessions, they have not dismissed this out of hand either.
TAPPER: And, Evan, some of this information was floated last year. Then-Senate Majority Leader Harry sent a blistering letter in October to the FBI director saying that he possessed explosive information about communications between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Today, now retired Senator Harry Reid said that his statements speak for themselves.
What changed? Why is this now elevated?
PEREZ: Well, we now know that Harry Reid is saying this is exactly what he was talking about when he sent those letters. We know the FBI has been business looking at allegations, including the allegations that there have been surrogates of the Donald Trump campaign who were in touch with intermediaries of the Russian government. Now, none of this has been proven. None of this has gone anywhere, in part because of the election.
The FBI had to put a lot on hold and on simmer so to speak until after the election. And now, there's a renewed interest in this, especially in light of the report from the intelligence community. I can tell you, as early as last summer, I began looking at some of these allegations and so, it tells you something that these have been around in Washington. Again, we haven't confirmed them, but it is something that is being taken very seriously and they're going to have to get to the bottom of it.
TAPPER: And, Carl Bernstein, let me ask you, the idea that intelligence chiefs, people at the level of the head of the CIA, the head of the director -- the director of the National Intelligence Agency, that these individuals would bring this to President-elect Trump, to President Obama, why would they do it?
BERNSTEIN: They want to see that there is an investigation done that is thorough and complete about whatever is there or is not there.
[20:30:02] And there obviously is some concern as a new administration comes in with new national security officials that perhaps there might be a disinclination to do the proper investigating.
So they have laid down a marker, they've taken the information to the outgoing president of the United States, to the incoming president of the United States, and said, here it is, and we are going to make sure that this matter is investigated and it's not going to go away. I think it's very significant and it also does not say that they have expectations of what their findings will be but rather they're going to run it down and determine what the findings are.
TAPPER: All right. Carl, Evan, Jim, thank you so much. Anderson, back to you in Chicago.
COOPER: Jake, thanks very much. We'll obviously continue to follow this, bring you any updates throughout the next two hours as we wait for President Obama to begin his farewell address. A look back at what he said eight years ago here in Chicago after he made history and the legacy he leaves behind. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Welcome back. We're at Chicago at McCormick's Place, were about 25 minutes from now, President Obama will give his farewell address to the country. We just learned he is on the way here. That so over 8 years ago, in Grant Park, not too far from where we are tonight. President-elect Obama made history with this victory speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.
If the answer is spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled, Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states. We are and always will be the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP) [20:35:16] COOPER: Joining us now to talk more about the legacy President Obama leaves, the example he has and mark his administration has made on law and justice in this country, Maryland Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings.
Congressman, thanks very much for being with us. Tonight, when you hear that clip of President Obama's 2008 speech, the promise in his voice about an America where all things are possible, do you still think he still has as much hope now as he did then?
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, (D) MARYLAND: I certainly do, I think he has as much so, but I have to tell you Anderson that, having sat at the top Democrat in the oversight committee to see the opposition that he had over the past many years, I'm sure he knows without a doubt something he said many times, change is hard and so I'm sure and he does have hope, but I'm expecting tonight for him to have a very upbeat speech and I'm expecting him to -- and one of the things I've admired about the president, he seems to have a keen sensitivity of his audience and of the American people.
And I think he knows it right now on the American people are very concern, some of them are scared, some of them are unsure. And I think one of the things he'll be trying to do is create a bridge to that future and give him a way to look at life so that they can be a part of the continuous change that he tried to do. Now and basically he's heading off the baton, so that they can now run forward.
COOPER: We obviously are seeing efforts now by the -- the new administration by Republicans in Congress to repeal Obamacare. As you see President Obama's legacy, and obviously it can take decades for history to really assess what a president's legacy is, what a president -- how history will view him, but what stands out to you as the legacy of President Obama?
CUMMINGS: I think one of the major will always standout will be Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act. A lot people -- I know it may have been beaten up by many, but the fact is, is that there are so many lives that have been saved and so many lives that have been touched. And I think the other thing that I think will be significant is his many efforts with regard to civil rights. One of the things that the president has said to me often is that, you know, he doesn't want people -- like African-Americans, Hispanics and others, to be fighting the same fight over and over again. He wants diversity to be known as our promise and not our problem.
And so I think again is going out with a 56 percent favorability rating it will only go up. And I think in the times to come, people will look back. And I've said it on many shows they'll miss President Obama. They're going to miss the -- Michelle Obama and they're going to miss the Obama family. I am very, very proud of the president and very proud of his family.
COOPER: A the first African-American president, there are some who felt President Obama quickly early on didn't focus enough on issues particularly affecting --
COOPER: -- African-American communities or speak about race relations as much as they wanted. What do you say to that?
CUMMINGS: Well, I have to remind people that when he came in he was -- the country was losing 800,000 jobs. So he had to get that recession under control. Keep in mind, he had to deal with the Ebola crisis, he had to deal with the BP spill. I could go on and on. Many of these things have been forgotten. But he had a lot to deal with. Then he put for a stimulus package that I know he wished could have been more but he had all kinds of opposition going against him.
So he had to be president for the entire nation. But the fact that, you know, he brought down the unemployment rate substantially both in the general population and throughout the country, the fact that the has made a difference with regard to health care now with the Affordable Care Act, some 20-plus million people now able to get the treatment that they need to stay well. Those are the kinds of things that mean something to people. Those are the personal things. The fact that graduation rates have gone up substantially from high school. That's significant. And so I think people will look back and I think history will be very favorable to this great president.
COOPER: Congressman Cummings, I appreciate your time tonight, thank you very much. We are back now with the panel, we're about 20 minutes away from President Obama's speech. Angela Rye, what you may, you just heard Congressman Cummings talking about what he believes the president's legacy is going to be.
[20:40:03] RYE: Well, I'm certainly not going to oppose one of my former bosses but truly I really I agree with what Congressman Cummings said. I worked for the CBC when we were dealing with a core issue at the time. We were hemorrhaging jobs not just in this country but particularly when it came to the African-American population here. We had the unemployment rate double the national average. People were frustrated and angry. The CBC launched a jobs initiative that we asked the White House to participate in. And the president declined.
I remember personally feeling so hurt because I was, like, there's no other way for us to solve this. But the president went on to do things his own way and we ended up having a partnership for the American jobs act to push that forward. It was -- yet another example of unprecedented Republican instruction. They wouldn't even consider the bill and we were hemorrhaging jobs.
COOPER: It's interesting now though Democrats are facing the question do they try to do to this administration what they criticized the Republicans doing to the Obama administration.
AXELROD: The threshold question for Democrats because there is so much anger about the way this president was treated and particularly people point out the fact Senator McConnell sat on the Supreme Court nomination for a full year or almost a full year and now is rushing through nominations for this president and presumably will do so with the supreme court nominee. And Democrats have to decide to we do to them what they did to us? And I think it's a dangerous thing. I personally understand that sentiment, and I think on matters of principle Democrats have to fight this administration. But if Democrats take a position that we're not going to cooperate on anything, then we're in this sort of mad cycle of mutual destruction.
BASH: And I don't think that they're there. I don't think that's what they're going to do if for no other reason that's not -- it's not how Democrats operate and to be quite honest --
AXELROD: That's a point among some Democrats --
BASH: I know, exactly, because they don't tend to do succeed as well as Republicans on the pure politics of it. But I remember eight years ago, being on Capitol Hill, and Obama came in, not just with a hugely popular, you know, approval rating, but also a super majority in Congress. The Trump administration, Donald Trump himself is in a very different position right now. He doesn't have that popularity. He's never mind (ph) the super majority, he's a razor seating majority in the United States Senate and he has got many Republican who were going to go up against him, never mind Democrats.
So everything is scrambled. And I think that, you know, a lot of people are trying to look at the comparison and I think that they really are --
COOPER: And I just want to point out we are being told President Obama has entered McCormick Place so he is here, he is in the building. We're about 17 minutes away.
AXELROD: It is a moment that calls for humility if you're the president because you did not win the popular vote. You narrowly won the Electoral College by the margin of 70,000 votes in three states, and it does call for a spirit of compromise. But I'm not sure we'll get that.
BORGER: Well and the question is will he compromise with his own Republican?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
BORGER: Will he deal with his own Republican? And, you know, to talk about the person who's going to speak here this evening, he's got a 57 percent approval rating. Barack Obama can find a way to use that with Democrats in the country taking on an agenda without directly challenging Donald Trump personally, I bet he'll do that and may he may find a way, I mean I think Democrats are going to look to him because as you were talking about earlier, who else do they have right now. They really don't have anybody else.
COOPER: And Paul, do you see ex-President Obama, the former president Obama doing that, speaking out in the way that George W. Bush did not?
PAUL LABOTT, OBAMA 2012 CAMPAIGN PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I don't think he's going to be a day-to-day pundit on CNN although I'm sure there are contract negotiations coming on from the network. But I think what we're going to hear tonight is asking for the next generation to get involved. There are more than 30 state houses on the ballot in two years and if president-elect Trump doesn't listen to public opinion he's going to pay a massive price at the polls in two years and lose the farm (ph) team that they've been building up in the states. So political winds can change very quickly. And I think President Obama will be an outside advocate mobilizing his allies to take on those fights.
RYE: And Anderson, if I may, I just want to push back on this idea a little bit of, you know, the ghost some the Democratic bent. There are a number of young leaders who are rising and just haven't had the popularity. You mentioned earlier, David, the fact that nobody knew Barack Obama was just 4 1/2 years before his run, that they create, the new Congressional Black Caucus chair, fairly young, sharp lawyer, Hakeem Jeffries is a new member that's been appointed and steering in policy in the House. Cory Booker is one who testified against Jeff Sessions. There are a number of younger leaders rising and I think president ready to answer the call.
[20:45:02] COOPER: We got to take another quick break. More with our panel ahead. 15 minutes away from the president. President Obama's farewell address scheduled to start off in about 15 minutes. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Well, it ends where it began, here in Chicago. President Obama's farewell address beginning in just about 12 minutes. In the eight years he's been president, Mr. Obama's hometown has been weathering incredibly challenging times to say to least 2016 was the deadliest year in almost 2 decades. 762 murders, thousands of incidents of gun violence. President Obama has spoken about gun violence in Chicago, including just last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It's been heartbreaking. You see what happens in Chicago, and these are communities I know and love. And there are so many good people there, and there are people who I know have been personally affected by levels of violence. What I've done is assigned the Justice Department to work with the mayor's office and the police department in Chicago to identify exactly what's going on and what do we need to do to fix it. I don't think there's any one single perfect answer. But clearly, we as a community have to come together, and I look forward to being part of that conversation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Since 1968, Father Michael Pfleger has lived and ministered in the African-American community in the west and south side in Chicago, he's the senior pastor of the Faith Community of St. Sabina. Father Pfleger joins us now.
Father, it's good to see you again. President Obama --
MICHAEL PFLEGER, SENIOR PASTOR FAITH COMMUNITY OF ST. SABINA: Good to see you Anderson.
COOPER: -- was active in neighborhoods like yours even before you went into politics, you know him well. Did you hope you would do more than he has to try to counter the violence that's only increased since he took office?
PFLEGER: Well I guess I have hoped that more could have been done with the gun issue, and obviously nobody was going to budge on that. He tried to push that as hard as he could. I would have hoped more resources could may come to the south side and west side of Chicago.
I think the reality is that would be easy to say that the south and west sides were failed by President Obama, but they've really been failed by America, by the system of America. And it's much bigger than the president. I think that he is brought a different tone to America and he brought hope to America, and his made a lot of big changes, but unfortunately, there are segments of Chicago and the rest this country that still stand abandoned.
[20:50:04] COOPER: There were more shooting deaths in 2016 in Chicago than at any time since the early '90s, what is -- what's behind that rise, do you think? I mean obviously, it's a complex issue, but you and I have talked about this before. But can you make sense of it?
PFLEGER: Well, I think with a couple of things we're seeing Anderson, number one is the double digit unemployment, underfunded, underperforming schools, people coming back from prison with no hope, no job. $20 and a bus card, a lack of economic development. Foreclosures, abandoned buildings. We see neighborhoods that look like third world countries. And then there is the social media, that people are angry, and people are mad, and people are hopeless. And so as that projects that, I mean arise it to a new level and amps up to a new level I think and then the proliferation of guns. I say all the time, you put two lions in a cage and you don't feed them, one's going to kill the other. You cage in whole communities and you don't see them with resources, we're going to kill each other.
COOPER: What do you want to hear from President Obama tonight? What do you hope to hear from him?
PFLEGER: Well I hope to hear first of all, that he will bring us back together again as a country and keeping us focussed. Right now, now remember, the majority of this country is angry, mad, disappointed, and there's enormous amounts of this country that are afraid. And I'm hoping that President Obama will charge, particularly, the millennials, the young adults of this country and young people in general, it's time for you to rise up. It's time to stop waiting on a Congress, waiting on a president, waiting on a federal government. It's time for young people to say, we are going to make this country be who we think it should be. So I hope he will bring hope to a people that are very angry in this country right now and also put a real charge to young people. It's on you now. Rise up. I'll work with you, I'll support you, but now it's time for the young people to stand up really strong.
COOPER: Well Father Michael Pfleger, I appreciate your time tonight. We'll be listening along with you. Back with the panel, joining us now former South Carolina State lawmaker Bakari Sellers as well as our panel.
Bakari, we haven't heard from you this evening. Are you hopeful tonight? I mean how do you feel -- obviously, you're Democrat, you supported President Obama. You wanted Hillary Clinton to be the next president.
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I hope tonight I'm going to be able to drink from that spring of hope again. I think that a lot of Democrats over the past two or three months since the election, since November 8th are been going through, not just Democrats, some Independents, and some American as well that just been going through period of despair.
I've seen what the president is going through, I've seen the racism that's been heard (ph) as lay. I've seen, you know, (inaudible) to a member of Congress saying that his wife had a fat butt, to Sarah Palin saying that he should stop shucking and jiving, to people using the n- word that looks like the officials. I've seen all of that, but I've seen this man rise up time and time again. And he's leaving the country better than he found it. And to Father Pfleger's point, I think in fact it shows especially on young people, that we, too, can be a part of the change we want to see.
And Anderson, I always think about that one picture that I'll always remember from the Obama administration, is a 5-year-old Jacob Philadelphia who went in and just wanted to see what the president's hair felt like. And so the president bent over, and this young black boy, he was dressed to kill. You know, look amazing, look better than you Anderson, he was able to touch his hair, and for me, that symbolism is so powerful.
And tonight I'm going to go out of this building hopefully with a new sense of hope, still believing, not in this country was or is but what it can be.
COOPER: The -- obviously tonight is not just President Obama is going to be here, Michelle Obama is here. We expect to see her entering the hall about a minute from now, as well as Mr. and Mrs. Biden, the vice president and his wife, Dr. Biden, are both here. We also expect to see, but we only will be hearing, obviously, from President Obama tonight.
I mean, you can't talk about President Obama without talking about Michelle Obama, without talking about his family and the impact his family has had in the White House and on the country at large.
BORGER: Can I say, no matter what you think of the Obamas' politics, you look at that family and you look at the way they have conducted themselves while in office, and you have to admire it. And you have to say there hasn't been one sort of ethical scandal about the family or anything else. Not a thing. And you look at them, and you say, they sort of define role model for American families.
[20:55:00] And also, in a way, his relationship with his vice president has become a role model for a president's relationship with somebody he works with.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: To the point of the family, I think if you go back eight years to the race that certainly affect from the 2008 election, there were some people who just couldn't fathom the possibility of people supporting him, who couldn't believe they're going to have the first African-American president that it actually happened, and people who opposed him that were terrified at the prospect. I can do think, there's a lot of conversation the country now, some people say race relations have been setback during his presidency.
I think they guess 5 years and 10 years happen, and those who opposed him realize the White House is still there. We had an election, and somebody else won, like it or not, we still had debates. They were amazing family in the White House. Whatever them -- I'm not smart enough to tell you the pulse of race relations now, is it better or worse, in fact 8 years ago, I think in 5 or 10 years, the fact politics aside whether you agree or disagree with health care, whether you agree or disagree or anything, in 5 or 10 years, race relations in America will be better because we're still here, everything turned out just fine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And every single day.
KANTO: It is not only as advice her Barack telling (inaudible) can laid up. It doesn't getting at the rest of their life and Michelle Obama is a very young first lady. She's going to be in her mid-50s when they leave the White House. And from almost the beginning of their marriage (inaudible) her life has been shaped by what her husband is doing. She's had to defer to his sort of his political priorities. He's never going to run for anything again. He is so into degree (ph) the public demands, her hearing her voice it's going to be great. We may see ample facts on his career, and have -- here she is.
COOPER: Here we see.
KANTO: She once said to me, I interview the Obamas in the Oval Office about their marriage, and I asked them, how do you have an equal marriage while one person is president, and Michelle Obama said you really can't, but the equality of a marriage is measured over a really long time, and we're going to be married for long time to come, so in some sense it may be Michelle Obama's turn right now.
BASH: And the fact is David Axelrod isn't here anymore, but another thing that really struck me that the president said to him recently is when he was asked how he has been able to stay so centered and still calm throughout, you know, all the tumult that is politics, never mind a presidency. And his answer was sometimes you're just born that way, but also he said is because of his wife, because she is the rock. She is somebody who keeps him centered, who keeps him grounded. And, you know, that's something we have seen, certainly, throughout the history of the presidency, but I think it is the most stark with this particular couple and this president. BORGER: And, you know, we watch his children. I mean we remember them when they were little. And they came into the White House. Now they're eight years older, they're young women, going to college. And it's as if they've grown-up before our eyes, because they have.
COOPER: You also think about Michelle Obama speaking at the Democratic Convention this summer, talking about seeing her daughters on, playing on the White House lawn, a house that was built by slaves.
RYE: One of the most profound moments she had, actually, and I just can't emphasize this enough, that when you think about how so many black kids are raised with the standard.
COOPER: I just want to point out, the national anthem is about to start at President Obama's farewell address in Chicago let's listen in from singer-song writer BJ the Chicago kid. Let's listen in.