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Biden Confirms Obama, VP Were Briefed on Unsubstantiated Claims Against Trump; Officials: FBI Director Comey Briefed Trump on Russia Report; Comey Facing Probe in Clinton Email Investigation; Trump: Sons Will Run the Business, We Won't Discuss; Pres. Obama Surprises Biden with Medal of Freedom. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired January 12, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:06] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

Tonight, new developments in the Russia/Trump story, CNN's reporting of it, and the conflations and fact-fudging by the Trump transition team surrounding it. Now, this began with CNN's exclusive reporting that Mr. Trump last week was presented with classified documents alleging that Russian operatives claimed to have compromising personal and financial information about him. We did not report any of the unverified, unproven claims, not a single one. That is fact.

This exclusive story about the briefing was led by a team of experienced CNN correspondents, and anchors, producers, and backed up by multiple trusted sources.

The news today is that Vice President Joe Biden confirmed intelligence chiefs presented him and President Obama with the same two-page document, Mr. Biden saying intelligence leaders felt obliged to tell the president because they were planning on informing Mr. Trump.

On top of that, about 10:00 last night, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper took the rare step of putting out a statement summarizing a phone conversation last night with the president-elect. In it, he confirms there was a briefing and suggests the alleged claims came up, saying, and I quote, "However, part of our obligation is ensure the policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matter that might affect national security." He's talking here about a two-page summary of unproven allegations about information some people have claimed Russia has.

So, that is two very public confirmations about what CNN reported. Then, just about two hours ago, CNN learned again from multiple U.S. officials that it was FBI Director James Comey who told Mr. Trump of the information. No comment from the bureau.

So, CNN's reporting, we should point out, was correct. Now, last night, Trump's senior adviser, Kellyanne Conway, came on this broadcast. We had a lengthy interview where she was misleading on two points. One, according to her, our reporting that President-elect Trump was presented with this information was not true. And, two, that we, like the online news site BuzzFeed were hyping or linking, excuse me, to a 35-page memo full of unsubstantiated allegations against Mr. Trump that the shorter briefing document was based on.

So, let's take item one. I pointed out multiple times last night to Ms. Conway that we have multiple, and I repeat multiple sources telling us this information. Again, as we just learned tonight, the information actually came from Mr. Comey himself directly to Mr. Trump.

That's not fake information. That's not fake news. That's accurate reporting.

As for item two, the unsubstantiated 35 pages which we never reported any details of and continue not to, here's how that exchange went last night.


COOPER: Do you acknowledge here and now that CNN did not release the 35-page unsubstantiated claims against Donald Trump and was misleading and untrue for Sean Spicer to suggest otherwise?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT-ELECT TRUMP: No. Our incoming Press Secretary Sean Spicer was exactly right as was the president-elect, Anderson. CNN went first yesterday and BuzzFeed went second.

COOPER: We didn't report what BuzzFeed reported.

CONWAY: I didn't say you did but you linked to it in your story.

COOPER: Sean Spicer said we did.

CONWAY: Let me just tell you -- Anderson, let's back up. I know CNN must be feeling the heat today of having a headline yesterday around 6:30 that said, quote, intel chiefs presented Trump with information that Russia could -- Russia had information to compromise him. That is just false.

And as you saw through NBC News reports today, tweets from people at "Politico", no friend of Donald Trump's, and a lot of -- frankly, a lot of outlets, print and electronic outlets, so reluctant and hesitant to go forward with anything close to what CNN or BuzzFeed did.

COOPER: Again, you're conflating what Buzz --


CONWAY: You went first. No, I'm conflating nothing.

COOPER: You're conflating what BuzzFeed --

CONWAY: I just know what CNN did.


COOPER: What CNN did was accurate. For the record, I can tell you precisely what CNN did not do. We did

not describe the unfounded allegations. We have not described them. We will not. We did not link to that document. We did not link to BuzzFeed or promoting their reporting.

Shortly after the interview, Ms. Conway tweeted out a page that she said shows that we did link to it.

Again, for the record, it does not actually show that. Had she clicked on the link, she would have seen that it links to a Dylan Byers' article that neither links to BuzzFeed nor, even describes what it is in the document BuzzFeed released.

As for Kellyanne Conway, she was challenging our reporting, conflating it with a document dump that BuzzFeed made, she asked me this.


CONWAY: What if it's not in the briefing documents, Anderson? What will CNN do?

COOPER: Well, if our report is wrong, we'll acknowledge that.

CONWAY: Really? Will heads roll because they didn't after the election when all the polling were wrong, all the pundits were wrong?


COOPER: Are you telling me right now -- but you've yet to say --

CONWAY: All the chyrons were. All the consultants were wrong. All the anchors were wrong.

COOPER: You're talking about polling during the election, which, yes, all that data --

CONWAY: No, I'm asking -- I just don't think that you'll clean house if the report is wrong


COOPER: So, given what's happened today, given the fact that Vice President Biden has come out, that Clapper has made the statement he made and that we know according to multiple sourcing that it was actually FBI Director Comey who directly spoke to Donald Trump about this, it seems like that's a better question for her.

[20:05:10] I agree with Kellyanne Conway, if we were wrong, we would admit it. But we were not wrong. She was.

The question is, will she hold herself and her team to the same standard?

We asked her to come on the program tonight to discuss these new developments. She declined. She is welcome anytime, as she always is. Joining us tonight is CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta, and two of the CNN journalists who broke the original story, CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto, and Jake Tapper, anchor of "THE LEAD" and "THE STATE OF THE UNION".

So, Jake, the Trump team continues to misrepresent the facts over and over again on multiple fronts even when I presented clear facts to Kellyanne Conway last night, she would not admit they were wrong. Now that we also have confirmation, FBI Director James Comey personally briefed President-elect Trump verbally about the two-page synopsis, do you expect the Trump version of this story to change at all?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: No, because it's been the modus operandi for President-elect Trump and his team to say what they believe to be true even if it is disputed by facts. And then stick with it.

It doesn't have -- you know, if it's Mr. Trump's claim that vaccines cause autism, which is false, or if it's his claim that there were thousands of Muslims celebrating 9/11 in New Jersey, which is false, or it's his claim that there was a report that seems credible about Ted Cruz's father and Lee Harvey Oswald and the Kennedy assassination, which is crazy, it doesn't matter. They're just going to keep on doing and saying what they want. It's a fact-free campaign.

What is important for us is to continue to report aggressively and be precise and careful with our facts and our reporting and continue to inform the viewers about this administration, the good and the bad that they do and just the facts of this administration. And that's what we're going to do.

I don't think that we can really at this point get hung up on, well, are they going to finally admit that we're right? At this point, honestly, I think our attitude has to be it doesn't matter, what we're presenting needs to be right and it's our bond with the viewers.

COOPER: Jim Sciutto, how rare is it to have James Clapper putting out a statement about a phone conversation he had with the president-elect and in it referencing it seems the information that was included in this briefing?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It's extremely rare. I mean, there are a lot of classified briefings that go on. This is the most classified, the most sensitive because it is a briefing delivered to the two most powerful people in the country, right, the president-elect and the current president and his vice president. And there's a reason why they protect these conversations. And yet, we now have two people who were in the room, two people, the vice president and the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, who are offering an account of that briefing that contradicts that of the president-elect.

They say, I mean, in addition to the many sources, more than a dozen, Jake, Evan, myself and Carl Bernstein talked to before these most senior intelligence officials went public with this information, before that, we spoke to people who had knowledge of that conversation who told us on background because of the classified nature of the information involved, they couldn't go on the record, they told us on background, we were confident of that.

But now you have this second step of Director of National Intelligence Clapper and the vice president of the United States going public in effect contradicting, correcting the record, not just that Kellyanne Conway laid out, but frankly I'm more concerned as an American, as a journalist, with what the president laid out. He accused our network, our reporters of spreading fake news when in fact we were right.

And why does that matter? It doesn't matter -- you and I know, Anderson and Jake and Jim would agree, it doesn't matter because of our feelings or whether we can sleep at night. It matters because this is a democracy. It's an open society, and we rely on our public officials, our leaders giving us an accurate presentation of the facts. And the president went out with an inaccurate presentation of the facts which was then contradicted in public by two people in the room, the director of national intelligence and the vice president.

COOPER: And it's interesting, Jake, because one of the things Kellyanne Conway last night was saying, this was a classified briefing and Donald Trump said this as well, so it couldn't be discussed or wouldn't be discussed what was actually said or what was actually briefed on. But you have the vice president talking about information that was given which, by the way, was not classified. I assume this false information or unverified information, you know, was collected by not a government official, not by anybody from the U.S. intelligence community, and also Clapper at least kind of referencing the information that was briefed.

[20:10:15] TAPPER: It's unusual that Vice President Biden would say anything about that meeting in which he and President Obama were briefed by the heads of the intelligence agencies. I can't get to his motive as to why he would, but he acknowledged exactly what we reported happened -- two-page synopsis of that dossier full of uncorroborated information. And the reason that the intelligence chiefs put it together was to make sure that President-elect Trump knew about it.

James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said he did that because it's important for him to know anything that might have an e fact on national security. That's why they shared that information even though it wasn't a product of the U.S. intelligence community. And Vice President Biden said that the intelligence chiefs said they were going to tell President-elect Trump about it.

And now, we know from our reporting from multiple sources that in that meeting, it wasn't the actual four intelligence chiefs with President- elect Trump and his team where that oral briefing went on, the verbal briefing about what was in that two-page synopsis. It was in a one- on-one pull-aside between FBI Director Comey and President-elect Trump. And now, we know the facts.

But it is just as unusual that FBI -- I'm sorry, that DNI, the Director of National Intelligence, General James Clapper, acknowledged this as much as he did, as it is that Vice President Biden did, and I can't really speculate as to why they would other than the fact it was very clear that our report and the reporting that was matched by "The New York Times" and "Wall Street Journal" and "The Washington Post" about this was being disputed and even lied about by the Trump team.

COOPER: Jim Acosta, you tried to ask a question at the press conference to President-elect Trump. He refused to take questions saying you were from fake news. What did Sean Spicer say to you after that?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he came out to me and said what I did was crossing the line and was inappropriate. We should repeat during that news conference when I was trying to ask that question, Spicer threatened to throw me out of the press conference if I kept persisting.

But speaking of Sean Spicer, we should report on a conference call this morning, he was asked whether Donald Trump was going to sue over these stories for libel, and Sean Spicer told reporters that the president-elect would like to move on. I mean, I think that there's something worse than fake news and that's the denial of real news. And beyond that, Anderson, something that might be worse than that is they're just not in command of the facts at this point. When you listen to Kellyanne Conway go sort of all over the place on this, they're just not in command of the facts.

But, you know, I will tell you that, you know, this has been a pattern for the Trump campaign and now the Trump transition, where, you know, they don't like the news that's being reported and they go after the messenger and I think that's just going to continue.

COOPER: Jim Sciutto, why not just say this happened? If you're the Trump transition team, I mean, all that -- you know, you, Jake, Carl Bernstein, and Evan Perez's reporting, the CNN story was about that the intelligence agencies presented this to them, not that the unsubstantiated allegations are true, not even what those unsubstantiated allegations even said, what they are. We've not said any details of that. I mean, that is not part of our story.

SCIUTTO: Well, listen, I don't know. I've asked a lot of people this question, asked a lot of Republicans this question. Many will say to me, it's a very sensitive area for the president-elect, because for him it gets to the legitimacy of his victory. He thinks people are trying to attack the legitimacy of his victory.

And let's be clear here, the intelligence community has not made a judgment, has not assessed, has not attempted that Russian interference elected Donald Trump, so let's make that clear. But there's clearly a political sensitivity here.

But what I worry about is a broader issue, which is a hostility to facts, right, and an effort -- a concerted effort by Donald Trump and his team to call into question the very existence of facts, right, the very existence of nonpartisan news. And that's an issue -- you know, forget about CNN for a moment. I care about CNN and I know we do very good work and I'm confident in my colleagues' work. But it's more about the function of journalism as a whole, of the

fourth estate, going back to George Washington's times, right? This is a pillar of the way open societies work, and one is allowing us to do our work, for instance, letting my colleague Jim Acosta ask a question, right, not shout him down.

[20:15:06] But beyond that, when you produce work, it is well-sourced and you've done your work on it, that can be accepted. But here, you find nearly an administration or nearly an administration, we're a few days from inauguration, that it seems to be part of its strategy to attack information it finds inconvenient or critical. That's a problem for the way this country functions.

COOPER: I want to thank everybody, not only for their reporting, but also for joining us tonight.

As a quick reminder, Jake's at George Washington University for a CNN town hall. His guest tonight is House Speaker Paul Ryan, taking question. It gets under way at the top of the hour. It's going to be fascinating time. That's right here on CNN, about 45 minutes.

Next for us, more breaking news involving the FBI director. He is now being investigated in connection with the bureau's probe of Hillary Clinton's e-mail server. Whatever you think about that, it raises all kinds of questions, including what the new president plans to do about it. We'll talk about it with senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and the rest of the panel, ahead.


COOPER: A report that sources say FBI Director James Comey briefed Donald Trump on the two-page document suggesting Russia may have compromising material on him was one of two stories breaking stories involving him.

[20:20:06] The other, he's facing a Justice Department inspector general's probe into the bureau's handling of the Clinton e-mail server investigation. James Comey saying he's grateful for the investigation and hopes the results are shared with the public.

Here to talk about the implications and there are many, CNN senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Jeffrey Toobin, Democratic strategist and Clinton supporter, Maria Cardona, Trump supporter and "American Spectator" contributing editor, Jeffrey Lord, and in Washington, CNN "INSIDE POLITICS" anchor, John King.

Does this surprise you, Jeff Toobin, that this is coming up eight days until inauguration?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Not really. I mean, this is why inspector generals exist, because this was obviously a huge controversy over whether Director Comey appropriately released that letter on the --

COOPER: That's the focus of the investigation. TOOBIN: That's one focus. There are others. But certainly, that's

the key issue here, which is something that, you know, Clinton supporters remain enraged about. And this is why inspector generals exist to examine the propriety for internal investigations.

COOPER: Why would it be made public, though, that there is going to will be an investigation? Are inspector general's reports usually not?

TOOBIN: Not necessarily, but this is -- it's fairly common that it's -- that they are public. It's not like a grand jury investigation.

What's interesting is that Michael Horowitz, who is the inspector general, is a political appointee, which means usually, like most political appointees, he would leave on January 20th. But there has been historically an exception for inspect generals.

1981, Jeffrey may remember, Ronald Reagan fired a bunch of inspector generals. It caused a big stir of outrage, and since then there has been a tradition of allowing inspector generals to continue, but that's all it is. It's just a tradition. It's not a law.

So, Donald Trump come January 20th could get rid of Michael Horowitz. That's something to keep an eye on because he doesn't like these sorts of references to the fact that may raise questions about his legitimacy.

COOPER: John, I mean, is politics a play at all in this decision to actually investigate do you think? There's certainly a lot of Democrats wanted to see this happen.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Is there gambling in the casino, you ask? Ostensibly, no.

To Jeff's point, this is what an inspector general is supposed to do. If you're covering the transport if you're the inspector general at the transportation department, or covering the Iraq or Afghanistan reconstruction, there's a huge contract that goes out, it's your job to say, was the money spent properly with contracts bid out. If you're the inspector general of the Justice Department, and you all these questions, did Jim Comey follow procedures, not once, but twice, or maybe three times along the way in this investigation? How did the attorney general end up on a plane with the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton?

There are a whole number of questions about this investigation, and how it played out publicly in a middle of a presidential campaign. That's the inspector general's job, as Jeff noted. So, ostensibly, it's not political.

However, everything about this, around it is political. You're right. Democrats will be looking for proof that what Jim Comey did impacted the election, they'll say it cost Hillary Clinton the presidency. Donald Trump will be president -- assuming this investigation goes to fruition, Donald Trump will be president, period. But does he like this? Because it extends this spy novel drama that

captivated the end of the 2016 presidential campaign, that carries over into 2017. If we learn anything from it in 2016, it will take unpredictable turns again.

COOPER: Maria, obviously, you're a supporter of Hillary Clinton, do you like the fact this is being investigated?

MARIA CARDONA, HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTER: I do. I think it is welcome by a lot of Hillary Clinton supporters.

Look, I think, actually, this was a long time in coming. And, certainly, the letter that he put out 11 days before the election is a key part of it. But it started back in July when he gave an unprecedented press conference the day he gave the recommendation to not move forward with charges. That is not done. That is one of the protocols he broke in addition to then yet again putting forward a letter injecting himself politically into an election 11 days before hand.

TOOBIN: By the way, the propriety of that news conference is also part of this investigation.

CARDONA: Absolutely.

COOPER: Also, Bill Clinton going on the plane?

TOOBIN: I don't think -- that was not specifically referred to by the inspector general. But since it's related to this whole story, I have to believe --

COOPER: Jeff Lord, what do you make of this?

JEFF LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean, I find it ironic. The original sin here, of course, is she had a private server and that's what all of this sprang from. None of this would have occurred if she didn't do that.

So --

CARDONA: That's true.

LORD: I mean, you know, the fact that she lost this election --

COOPER: So, you don't believe there should be any investigation?

LORD: Well, no, I mean, frankly, based on what I've seen in the last few days, I would like to see -- a look see at intelligence agencies, period, and these leaks. The fact that -- not picking on CNN or any other news organizations -- but the fact that news organizations are getting leaks from inside the security, you know, the national security apparatus, the intelligence agency, I mean, I just think, you know --


[20:25:00] TOOBIN: That too is part of the investigation. The FBI leaks --

CARDONA: That's right.

TOOBIN: -- in connection with this drama.

CARDONA: With the e-mails.

COOPER: John King, you know Washington very well, how rare is it for -- whether it's intelligence agencies, FBI -- for there to be leaks from, you know, all around in Washington?

KING: There are always leaks in Washington. This is the way it goes. If you want to go back to the Pentagon papers, if you want to go back to any big story in Washington, there are leaks in Washington. Go back to Watergate, there are leaks in Washington.

Often those leaks shed light on something that the public deserves to know. Are they sometimes controversial? Of course. The Obama administration is facing controversy for prosecuting and going after journalists with some of these national security leaks.

So, look, leaks are a time honored tradition and some would say a problem and some say great things in Washington. This, you know, we called -- CNN called its book on the presidential election "Unprecedented" for a reason. Everything about it was unprecedented including this story, including this investigation, including how it was handled, including as chief and Maria, and Jeffrey have talked about, the FBI director coming forward not once but twice in a campaign to explain what he was doing and how the investigation was taking twists and turns.

So, we are -- this is unprecedented but it is the inspector general's job to look at big things when they happen in his or her department. That is not abnormal. Everything around this is so political that I just assume as it goes forward, there will be more fireworks.

COOPER: We should also point out, leaks come from presidential campaigns and transition teams and Democrats and Republicans as well.

TOOBIN: And we should also point out we like leaks. I mean, journalists, I seek them out. I mean, I'm not going to pretend otherwise. So, I think, I mean, this makes --

KING: Jeffrey dash Toobin --


TOOBIN: I'm easy to find on Twitter, Facebook.

So, I think it always makes these discussions by us a little awkward.


CARDONA: But I want to make two points. Jeffrey is right. Clearly, Hillary Clinton's use of her private server is her fault and she's the first to say so. But, there's also no question -- COOPER: I'm sure she's the first one to say so.


CARDONA: But if you look at analytically at the polls, state by state and then nationally, Comey's letter absolutely had an effect on where she was and I, to this day, so many Clinton supporters believe it's because of that letter she's not president today.

COOPER: But that's not the point of an investigation.

CARDONA: No, it is not.


CARDONA: Can I just make one other point to your point, Jeffrey, that Horowitz is a political appointee and can be fired. But I think that's probably why he announced this now, to make it more difficult for Trump to do that.

LORD: Presidents also have to be careful of investigations. I mean, if you're old enough you remember Nixon's plumbers. You know, you don't want to go down that road.

COOPER: All right. I appreciate everybody on the panel. Thank you.

Coming up, was that pile of file folders at Trump's press conference filled with blank sheets of paper? And more importantly, does his plan to avoid conflicts of interest go far enough? The federal government's top ethics official says no way? We'll look into that, next.


[20:31:55] COOPER: Well, some ethics experts were saying that Donald Trump is not doing nearly enough to address the enormous potential for conflicts of interest given his business empire.

At his press conference, Donald Trump said he could run both the country and the company but that he won't do that. Here's what he said about the plan for his business going forward.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: And what I'm going to be doing is my two sons who are right here, Don and Eric, are going to be running the company. They are going to be running it in a very professional manner. They're not going to discuss it with me.

Again, I don't have to do this. They're not going to discuss it with me. And with that, I'm going to bring up Sheri Dillon, and she's going to go -- these papers are just some of the many documents that I've signed turning over complete and total control to my sons.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: As to the details of the plan that the lawyer explained, it includes the President-Elect resigning from all positions he holds within the organization. The lawyer also said no new foreign deals would be made during his presidency. New domestic deals will be, she said, vigorously vetted.

Back from here is Trump supporter, Jeffrey Lord. And joining us from the labor sector, Robert Reich, Professor of Public Policy at Berkley and the author of "Saving Capitalism For the Many Not the Few".

Jeff, let me start off with you. As a Trump supporter, the nonpartisan Office of Government Ethics said yesterday about the Trump plan. He called it meaningless from a conflict of interest perspective. He said, "Doesn't meet the standards at the best of his nominees meeting and that every president in the part four decades has met." The only thing he has in common with the blind trust is the label trust.

JEFFREY LORD, FORMER REAGAN WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL: Yeah. First of all, this is an unusual situation. I mean, he's got this global empire all over the world that bears his name.

You can't say to a family, "OK, you've got to get out of the business while your father goes in as president. I mean, they're not working in the government. They work. This is what they do. So to somehow suggest that the sons get out of the business I think is unrealistic.

And again, this is like the release of the taxes. Now, I grant you politically that anytime there's a move, there's going to be a political story about this. I understand that. I'm sure they understand that.

But, you know, again, I look back to the Kennedy administration. They had all these vast interests of merchandise market in Chicago for one. They never gave it up until 1998 and went all the way through JFK's presidency. Nobody said a thing about it. Nobody cared.

The former president with Sergeant Schrieber, he went into the administration. The whole thing was held by the family. So I just think that you've got to understand this is the way this is going to work and we're going to have to cope with it.

COOPER: Secretary Reich, I mean, about the point that the president- elect made yesterday, that he has in his words a no conflict situation because he's president. He could if -- you know, he said if he wanted to be president and run the Trump organization at the same time. Is he going above and beyond what's legally necessary?

ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: You know, Anderson, first of all, you know, lawyers differ in terms of their interpretation of what the law requires. But somebody who's going to be president of the United States in eight days, you would think would go out of his way to build public trust and build public confidence, particularly when he has an empire that is across 500 different companies across dozens of countries where issues have been raised about his closeness to Vladimir Putin, where there are questions raised about his taxes and about his debt and who he owes debt to and under what circumstances.

[20:35:18] You would think somebody who is going to be president would cross every T and dot every I. But instead, Donald Trump is doing exactly the opposite. He's saying don't worry about it. I'm not worried about it. The public isn't worried about it. I don't have to give you my taxes. I don't have to establish a blind trust. I don't have to put an independent trustee.

And this is total disdain for the Democratic institutions of government. It's total disdain for public trust. And it's going to end up costing Donald Trump a great deal because the next, you can bet, that there are going to be scandals and ethical problems all over the place because the Federal government regulates and provides and distributes money to so many businesses that Donald Trump is involved with, and his sons, and family are involved with.

Anderson, the idea -- the idea that he's not going to talk to his sons and that his sons are not going to talk to him about business is clearly and patently absurd.

COOPER: But legally, Mr. Secretary, isn't he doing more than he has to?

REICH: No, as I said, you know, lawyers are -- have interpreted these laws, governing conflicts of interest very differently. I would say that he is not doing nearly what he should do and that is also the conclusion of the independent ethics officer in the Office of Ethics in the United States government who is independent, who is nonpartisan, who is supposed to be looking at these things objectively.

He is saying exactly what I am saying. Many people out there in the public are saying, what does he have to hide? Why isn't he providing his taxes? You know, for four decades, for four decades, presidents have been doing this, establishing blind trusts, and for even longer than that, providing their taxes.

I mean, when Ben Carson, who is the nominee, Trump's nominee for HUD today in his confirmation hearing, was asked by Elizabeth Warren, can you promise us that you are not going to distribute any of your $32 billion of HUD money in ways that benefit Donald Trump?

And what is Ben Carson going do? He said, essentially, he could not make that promise. Why could he not make that promise? Because there is no blind trust. There is no institutional way for any cabinet member --

LORD: OK, the problem --

REICH: -- to be absolutely assured that he is not going to do this.

LORD: Number one, we just had the election. This has been litigated. All these things were out there for the American public to see. They could have rejected Donald Trump. They did not reject Donald Trump based on this argument. So, I mean, that's been decided by the American people. It's over. But secondly, I will say that we have a bit of a problem here with folks in the "political class" saying that people who have all these business interests have all potential conflicts of interest.

Well, what about conflicts of interest for people in the political class? What happens if you are, like, many suggest with Senator Cory Booker, that he is using his position in the United States senate to run for president? Is that a conflict of interest? I mean, we don't -- we don't examine these things in a political context because all the focus is political people focusing on business. And, and --

REICH: You know, this is -- this is then absolutely a crazy set of arguments. I mean, first of all, we're trying --

LORD: Thank you.

REICH: You know, and now, just let me just say this. I mean, Donald Trump came into government saying that he was going to drain the swamp. One of the reasons he was elected is because so many people are still concerned about all this money in politics, all this money in Washington.

That was the whole -- that this anti-establishment fervor that said effectively, we don't want the status quo. We don't want politics as usual. We don't want big money in politics. That was what he was elected for. He's turning that around. This is another kind of 180 degree turn.

LORD: No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

REICH: A 360 degree turn on behalf of Donald Trump.

LORD: He's talking about draining --

REICH: And he also --

LORD: -- draining the swamp has to do with Washington, D.C. and the culture of Washington, D.C., the culture of lobbyists, the culture of consultants, the consultant class, et cetera.

REICH: And the culture, a big part of the culture of Washington has been conflicts of interest that are scathing the letter of the law. Maybe they observed the letter of the law but they are not observing the spirit of law. There are ethical problems.

I mean, Donald Trump is creating an ethically challenged administration before he even begins.

LORD: Well --

REICH: Eight days before. And one other thing, one other thing, I was amazed at that press conference yesterday. Donald Trump says, "Oh well, the public doesn't care." How does he know the public doesn't care?

LORD: Because he's the President-Elect of the United States. That's how he know it.

REICH: Well, wait a minute, wait a minute. Just because you're elected president of the United States doesn't mean the public is -- you know, a lot of people held their noses and voted for Donald Trump.

It doesn't mean that he has legitimacy. It doesn't mean that he can simply say to and regard all of the institutions of democracy as his play things from now on.

[20:40:03] I mean that -- that -- that being president doesn't give you a license to --

LORD: Again --

REICH: ... undermine the integrity of our government.

LORD: I understand, Secretary Reich. I understand that you and your colleagues on your side of the line are going to be making this argument for --

REICH: It's not about one side or the other. This is about the integrity.

LORD: -- for four years or eight years. I understand that's what's going to happy.

REICH: This is about the integrity of government.

LORD: And I think Donald Trump understands that. But the American people made their decision. It's over. Get on with it.

REICH: Wait. What are you talking about? Nothing is over. I mean, he could impeached, you know, in a year from now.

LORD: And, and --

COOPER: But Jeff, Jeff, I mean you made the point, well, you can't tell his sons not to be in business.

LORD: Right.

COOPER: I mean the question is should Donald Trump still have an ownership of the business? He could have handed it all over to the sons and, you know, completely stepped out of it, not just in the running of it but actually in any ownership.

LORD: I mean, I just -- are we going to say to any businessman who runs for office, "You can't do this."

COOPER: But there are rules for business -- I mean --

REICH: Well, that's what we say.

COOPER: Go ahead.

REICH: That's what we say. We say you've got to get out of your business. And there is -- there is something called Article 1 Section 9 of the constitution, the emoluments clause, which says particularly if you're doing this --


LORD: Well then, Mr. Secretary --

REICH: If you're businesses -- let me just finish. If your businesses are international, you have got to be especially careful not to get any cash from foreign governments because then you are actually violating the constitution of the United States.

LORD: Then Mr. Secretary, then this should have been applied to Secretary Clinton, right, because the Clinton Foundation is, in essence, a business.

REICH: Well, Secretary Clinton was not, number one, she was not president of the United States.

LORD: She was secretary of state.

REICH: And they started to make -- the Clintons started to make the changes that I wish they had made long before in terms of, in terms of their holdings. But they put -- she put her holdings into -- everybody puts their holdings into a blind trust. I mean when I was secretary -- when I was secretary of labor, I mean I had to put all of my --

LORD: The foundation --


REICH: They are not, they are not -- they weren't Donald Trump Holdings. But I had to put my holdings into a trust, so -- and I -- so I would not make any decisions that affected in any way anything that I had invested in.

COOPER: Right.

REICH: Do you understand how important this is from the standpoint of public integrity and public trust?


COOPER: The Trump team is saying because -- they were saying their interpretation is the White House is not an agency. They don't need to go by the same rules, that that people in the Trump transition, that the secretaries do have to go through.

Secretary Reich, I appreciate your time, Jeffrey Lord as well. To be continued.

Just ahead, how Donald Trump's nominee for C.I. Director faired today at this confirmation here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:46:05] COOPER: Well, President-Elect Trump's disparagement of U.S. intelligence agency was part of the backdrop today at the confirmation hearing of Mike Pompeo, Trump's pick to lead the CIA.

During his grilling before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Pompeo pledged to shield the agency from political influence if he's confirmed. He knows the broke ranks with Donald Trump on torture, and on Russia, and the threat it poses.

CNN's Pamela Brown tonight reports.


MARTIN HEINRICH, SENATOR, NEW MEXICO (D): Do you accept the conclusions of the I.C. regarding Russia's dismay (ph)?

MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR NOMIEE: Everything I have seen suggests to me the report has an analytical product that is sound.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Today, CIA Director Nominee Mike Pompeo, testifying in front of the senate select committee on intelligence, blaming Russia for interfering in the election.

POMPEO: It's pretty clear about what took place here, about Russian involvement in efforts to hack information and to have an impact on American democracy.

This was an aggressive action taken by the senior leadership inside of Russia, and America has an obligation, and the CIA has a part of that obligation to protect that information.

BROWN: Pompeo went on to blast Russia for its role in international affairs.

POMPEO: Russia has reasserted itself aggressively, invading and occupying Ukraine, threatening Europe, and doing nothing to aid in the destruction and defeat of ISIS.

BROWN: Pompeo also addressed reporting first on CNN that U.S. intelligence chiefs provided a synopsis of allegations compiled by a former British intelligence official to President-Elect Trump and President Obama.

The specific allegations, which CNN has not verified or included in its reporting, claim that people within Trump's campaign communicated with Russia before the election, and also, that the Russians have compromising personal information about the president-elect.

POMPEO: These are unsubstantiated allegations. I will continue to pursue foreign intelligence collection with vigor no matter where the facts lead.

BROWN: And Pompeo, who was once a supporter of enhanced interrogation techniques, split from Trump on his campaign promise to bring back waterboarding.

TRUMP: Would I approve waterboarding? You bet your ass I'd approve them.

HEINRICH: Can you commit to this committee that under current law which limits interrogation to the army field manual that you will comply with that law and that the CIA is out of the enhanced interrogation business?

POMPEO: Yes. You have my full commitment to that, Senator Heinrich.


BROWN: And next week, we'll also be busy with hearings on Tuesday. Ryan Zinke will go before a committee for Interior Secretary, Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary on Tuesday as well.

And then Wednesday, there will be at least three hearings. We know Wilbur Ross for Commerce Secretary will face the committee. We know Scott Pruitt, EPA Administrator nominee also has his hearing. And Nikki Haley for the U.N. Ambassador post.

There are still three posts that have not been scheduled yet for Treasury, Health and Human Secretary nominee, as well as Labor. So we don't know the dates of those hearings yet. Back to you, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Pamela Brown, thanks.

Just ahead, President Obama gives Vice President Joe Biden a surprise sendoff. And as you'll see, it's kind of a real tearjerker.

Plus, at the top of the hour, CNN's Town Hall with Paul Ryan, the house speaker taking questions about his party's strategy for the first 100 days of the new Trump administration.


[20:52:59] COOPER: Today, President Obama surprised his vice president, Joe Biden, by awarding him the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a tribute. As moving as it was unexpected, so much so that Biden himself was left momentarily speechless.


BARACK OBAMA, U.S. PRESIDENT: Folks don't just feel like they know Joe, the politician. They feel like they know the person. What makes him laugh, what he believes, what he cares about, where he came from.

Pretty much every time he speaks, he treats us to some wisdom from the nuns who taught him in grade school, or an old senate colleague, but, of course, most frequently cited, Kathryn and Joseph senior, his mom and dad.

No one is better than you but you're better than nobody. Bravery resides in every heart and yours is fierce and clear. When you get knocked down, Joe, get up. Get up. Get up.

That's where he got those broad shoulders. That's where he got that Biden heart. And through his life, through trial after trial, he has never once forgotten the values and the moral fiber that made him who he is.

For the final time as president, I am pleased to award our nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Mr. President, this honor is, is not only well beyond what I deserve, but it's a reflection of the extent and generosity of your spirit.

[20:55:16] I don't deserve this, but I know it came from the President's heart. I'm indebted to you. I'm indebted to your friendship. I'm indebted to your family. And as I'll tell you, I'll end on a humorous note, we're having lunch, lunch as in mostly and it's -- it's ever neither one of our minds. We talk like family awful lot.

And about six months in, the President looks at me and says, "You know Joe, you know what surprised me? How we've become such good friends." And I said, "Surprised you." But that is candid Obama. And it's real.

And Mr. President, you know as long as there is breath in me, I'll be there for you, and my whole family will be. And I know, I know it is reciprocal.


COOPER: Well, adding to the emotion of the moment, President Obama bestowed the award with distinction and designation previously given only to President Reagan, Pope John Paul II and General Colin Powell.

Senior John King joins me along with Senior Chief Political Analyst, Gloria Borger.

I mean, Gloria, watching that, at least in the public arena, it's very rare that politicians get surprised very often. It does seem like the vice president was genuinely surprised.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: He was genuinely surprised. He thought he was going to yet another just ordinary farewell event. His staff kept it a secret from him.

And I was told by one of his senior advisors that, in fact, this was an idea that was hatched awhile back by the President himself who wanted to do something to honor Joe Biden. And he thought this would be appropriate.

COOPER: John, you know, the relationship between a president and vice president, it's usually born of political expediency. Talk about the relationship between these two men and how it compares to what we have seen in past relationships.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the biggest difference, Anderson, from what we've as the past, that over time most of these vice presidential-presidential relationships get worse or there are three or four big breaking points near the end.

Al Gore was very frustrated at the end with Bill Clinton. They had some policy fights, policy differences during the Clinton presidency. Al Gore had differences with Hillary Clinton because of her prominent role. At the end, it was because of Monica Lewinsky, the two men barely spoke to each other. Bill Clinton wasn't welcome on the campaign trail.

The Dick Cheney-George W. Bush relationship, incredibly tight, incredibly important at the beginning soured. And not only was there frustration over Dick Cheney's role in Iraq but that the president publicly disagreed with his vice president on North Korea, on Iran and other steps at the end of the administration.

This relationship has gotten better. Has it always been perfect? No. The Vice President sort of got out ahead of the President on same-sex marriage early on. There were other examples of communications frustration on the Obama team with Vice President Biden.

And the Biden team was frustrated early in the presidential campaign where they thought before the vice president had said I won't run, that President Obama was putting his thumb on the scale for Hillary Clinton.

So not perfect, but remarkable actually. And the personal part of it is real. That's not an act. That's real.

COOPER: Gloria, what do you make of the relationship?

BORGER: I think that it's aged well. And I think that these two men, particularly in the last years of the administration, relayed to each other as family men and as fathers.

And we know that when Beau Biden got sick, that there was this moment that Joe Biden told us about on CNN where he knew that he would have to help his son pay for medical bills.

And that there this was moment in the oval office where the President said to, to Biden, Biden said he'd have to sell his house, and the President said to him, "Don't do that, Joe. I'll help you out."

And Biden told that story today and it got him in trouble with the President. But it just tells you something about their close personal relationship as fathers and as real family men who care about their families so deeply.

COOPER: John, that was certainly something we heard echoed by President Obama in his speech in Chicago.

KING: Yeah. And look, the President is going out. He paid tribute to -- the most moving parts of Chicago speech was attributed I think to Michelle Obama. But make no mistake about it. When -- if you are president, if you talk to presidents, if you do this job for eight years, as Barack Obama has now done, George W. Bush has done, Bill Clinton before, and which is very rare in our history, three successive two-term presidencies, the job is a beast. And Joe Biden talked a lot today about how in awe of President Obama he was, did so many decisions, maybe he was the last guy in the room but the President carries the burden of all that.

So presidents come to respect the people who are loyal from day one to the very final day. A lot of the staff leaves. It's a grueling job, a vice president stays.

COOPER: All right, John King, Gloria Borger, thanks.


COOPER: That does it for us. Thanks for watching.

The CNN Paul Ryan Town Hall starts now.