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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Flynn's Access to Classified Info Suspended; FBI Not Expected to File Charges Against Flynn on Phone Call; Feinstein, Grassley Seek Full Briefing, Transcripts of Flynn Calls; Source: Pence Demanding Answers on How He was Misled; Small Beginnings, Epic Endings; Congress Could Force Release of Trump's Tax Returns; Puzder Withdraws as Labor Secretary Nominee; Immigrant Facing Deportation Takes Refuge in Church. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired February 15, 2017 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[21:00:57] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Topping this hour of "360", we have breaking news in the fallout of Michael Flynn's departure and the larger revelations about contact, reportedly constant contact, during the campaign between top Trump advisers and Russians known to U.S. intelligence. General Flynn's history -- he's history's shortest serving national security adviser appears to be off the hook with the FBI at least for now. Jim Sciutto joins us now with the latest on all of that.
So, what's the -- what do you know, Jim?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: So, Anderson, for the time being, barring new information, the FBI has decided they're not going to charge Michael Flynn for those calls with the Russian ambassador around the time that the U.S. imposing new sanctions.
The FBI telling our Evan Perez that Mr. Flynn has been forthcoming and truthful in his conversations with the FBI and that while he might not have been able to remember all the details, they did not believe that he was being intentionally misleading and that has led them to decide, for the time being, not to pursue charges against him.
COOPER: What are you learning about Mr. Flynn's access to classified material? Does he -- his clearance has been taken away, correct?
SCIUTTO: Well, his access to classified information has been taken away.
SCIUTTO: Something of a semantic difference between losing his clearance. It's suspended. I'm told that this is a standard practice when questions are raised about someone's compliance with the standards for having access to the classified intelligence. So it could be reinstated at a later time, but still it does show the seriousness with which the intelligence community is treating these remaining questions here.
I'm told this by an official from the Defense Intelligence Agency, and it's the DIA, that he used to head of course something of an irony there. He was a former director of the DIA, now having his access to classified information suspended for the time being.
COOPER: All right, Jim Scuitto. Jim, thanks.
Breaking news as well tonight out of Vice President's -- the Vice President's office and administration source telling us he's focused on getting to the bottom of how he was misled. A source also saying that Vice President wants to know which presidential adviser or advisers made the decision to inform President that General Flynn had lied, but not the Vice President, the one he actually lied to. That said, the source telling us, there's no falling out over this between the President and the Vice President.
As for Mr. Trump's take on General Flynn, here's what he said about him today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: General Flynn is a wonderful man. I think he's been treated very, very unfairly by the media, as I call it, the fake media, in many cases. And I think it's really a sad thing that he was treated so badly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: We should point out, it was the reporting of that media which led the President to fire General Flynn for reasons which he has not himself yet explained. That's virtually all he said along with attacking leakers in the media this morning on Twitter.
Let's bring in our national security panelist, CNN military analyst, retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, also, CNN national security analyst, Juliette Kayyem, host of the "SCIF" podcast, and former CIA Russian operations officer, Steven Hall.
So, Juliette, I mean, I don't quite get it. How do you go from one day asking for someone's resignation because they had illegal conversations with Russia or at least because they lied about it to the Vice President and others in the White House to the very next day saying that he's a wonderful man and it's basically the dishonest media which is treating him terribly?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, FORMER U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HOMELAND SECURITY: Yeah, it was sort of a jaw dropper this morning during that press conference, because I thought that the White House had the story straight. They had gone back and forth about whether Flynn had been fired or whether he resigned. And they made it sound like he'd been fired.
So when Trump started to defend him this morning, it's either that he did not remember that that was the narrative or that because investigations, as I believe, are still ongoing, that Trump is bringing his team close. Because we really don't know at this stage where all of these investigations end, in particular because of the "New York Times" reporting regarding that there's continuing investigation about the sort of ongoing, year-long conversations between Trump's team and Russian intelligence.
COOPER: Well, and the third explanation is he wants to keep General Flynn relatively close or at least on his team because, in case General Flynn is testifying or General Flynn has information that the President actually doesn't want other people to know.
[21:05:07] General Hertling, I mean, this argument from the President that Flynn was brought down by leaks, it sort of misses the forests for the trees. I mean Flynn wasn't brought down by leaks, he was brought down by lying.
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Yeah. Anderson, you know, leadership is hard. I've had to practice leadership a lot through my military career. You have to make a lot of hard calls when you're a leader. And sometimes one of the hard calls you make is relieving people. And sometimes it's for integrity violations, but when you do that, you don't blame others. That's the example of a toxic leader.
Now, are leaks bad? Certainly, they are. But the leaks didn't cause Mike Flynn to have an integrity violation. Mike Flynn had an integrity violation. He lost trust with many people, and therefore he was relieved. And for Mr. Trump to come back later and say, hey, he is a great guy and it was the leaks that caused him to be dismiss, it's just an example of toxic leadership and it is somewhat sad, to be honest with you. You know, I wish, Jeffrey Lord was on right now because Peggy Noonan wrote a book called "When Character was King", about the Reagan administration. Character determines leadership. We've got some flawed character I think currently in the President of the United States.
COOPER: Steve, the President claiming that these leaks are coming from people trying to cover up for Clinton's loss. I mean, I'm sure you know from your time in the intelligence community, people leak for obviously, a lot of different reasons, and sometimes it's certainly political, but other times it's simply to alert the public that something untoward is going on.
STEVEN L. HALL, FORMER CIA RUSSIAN OPERATIONS OFFICER: I have to say, Anderson, in my time in the intelligence community, the leaking, it's more political sport. I think that there might be a unique situation here whereby, you know, when you begin your work with the agency, you take an oath of office and the oath that you take is to protect the Constitution against enemies domestic and abroad. And that's a moral obligation.
And then of course you have legal obligations as well, and I can imagine there might be people in the intelligence community who have such serious questions about the administration's connections to Russia, to a whole bunch of other very troubling issues that they might actually find themselves in a really difficult position and say to themselves, you know, I might actually have to act on my morals on this and be prepared to bear the bond of a legal consequences if I get caught.
I don't know that for sure but it would be a very difficult position to find one self in.
COOPER: Steve, as someone who knows Russia well, I mean, what would Russia's -- I mean, what do you make or what are the questions you would like answered about these communications between -- or reports of the communications between the Trump campaign and Russians?
HALL: Well, I mean, obviously, it would be great to see, you know, the transcripts of whatever collection has happened, because in my mind, it's difficult for me to imagine why, and, again, I'm talking about the connections between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence officers last year. It's difficult to imagine why any member of any campaign would have wanted to be in touch with intelligence officers, especially of an adversary nation like Russia?
COOPER: Well, I think it's not clear if they were in touch with intelligence officers, because my understanding it's just with Russians who were known to U.S. officials or to U.S. intelligence. To me that -- there's some gray area there.
HALL: Yeah, they're might be some -- Yeah, I've sort of seen both sides of it.
HALL: There may be some shorthand there from the intelligence community in terms of when you say Russians known to, you know, to the intelligence community, usually means --
HALL: -- that there's some sort of interest in those Russians and, you know, more than likely they're either very senior or, you know, intelligence officers themselves.
COOPER: General Hertling, I mean, what do you make of that sort of part of this and the investigation into that?
HERTLING: I think right now you're seeing Mr. Putin and the entire Russian government push themselves. We're seeing that in various activity, not only in Europe, but with events off of our shores. So I think, yeah, there's some problems there, Anderson, when I traveled in Europe as the command there, there were come countries we didn't take computers into, we didn't take phones into because we didn't know who agents were and we didn't know when or how they were collecting. So it was just better to be very careful.
This whole thing with what occur over the last several weeks baffles me. I just don't understand how a guy who knows a lot about intelligence allow this to happen.
KAYYEM: I would totally agree with that and I think -- I don't if it was just sloppiness that we've seen this and Mar-a-Lago is a perfect example. It just sort of they're not treating intelligence and classified information in the way that we just should demand of them at this stage. They are in charge, he's our President. And there's a reason why we have things like SCIFs, why we keep information classified.
And I think that the other question remains that I raised yesterday is, what kind of advice was going on between Flynn and Trump's teams so that Vice President Pence would not know?
[21:10:04] He -- Vice President Pence, as you just reported, is clearly interested in, who -- why didn't he know this information about Flynn? And so a lot of focus in my circles in the legal and national security community is now on someone we don't talk a lot about, the White House Counsel. What kind of advice was going on there? So I anticipate you're going to hear a little bit more about him in the days to come.
COOPER: And the fact that the Vice President discovered this, that he'd been lied to from the media that Donald Trump constantly is criticizing.
I want to thank everybody on the panel.
Plenty more ahead tonight, including more breaking news on the congressional investigation, potentially a big bipartisan step forward to tell you about. Also the unpredictable nature of many investigations, the kind of started with obscure land deals and so- called third rate burglaries that turn into stories for the ages. Could that happen again? We have perspective in a conversation form people who lived through the impeachment of one president and the resignation of another.
Also later in this hour, keeping him honest was too much for one South American government to take. The CNN story that Venezuela does not want its own people to see, ahead on "360".
COOPER: There's more breaking news tonight. The top Republican and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee taking a bipartisan first step to investigate Michael Flynn's resignation and the events leading up to it. Committee Chairman Chad Grassley and ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein asking Attorney General Sessions and FBI Director Comey to send documents and brief them on the case. Where this leads of course is anybody's guess, which also was said about many investigations that began one place only to end up worlds away. More on that from Brianna Keilar.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I felt it was my duty to persevere.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It spelled the end of a presidency. NIXON: I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.
KEILAR: And it all started with a burglary, portrayed here in the film "All the President's Men".
"Washington Post" reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein followed a money trail from the Democratic Party headquarters break in to the committee to reelect President Nixon, prompting Congress to investigate and unexpectedly discover Nixon taped conversations in the Oval Office.
[21:15:12] The Supreme Court compelled the tape's release, revealing Nixon helped orchestrated cover-up just six days after the Watergate burglary. Bill Clinton's presidency was nearly undone by an investigation into a land deal.
KEN STARR, FEDERAL JUDGE AND U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: We were assigned the difficult job.
KEILAR: Ken Starr, a staunch Republican eventually headed it up. And during his investigation, a former White House staffer Linda Tripp decided to give him her secretly recorded phone conversations with the former White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.
MONICA LEWINSKY, FMR WHITE HOUSE INTERN: Linda, if I ever want to have an affair with a married man, again especially if he's a president, please shoot me.
KEILAR: When Clinton testified in a sexual harassment, case brought by former Arkansas State employee Paula Jones.
PAULA JONES, FORMER ARKANSAS STATE EMPLOYEE: He said, this is the room number, if you could meet him at the room.
KEILAR: He lied under oath, denying sexual contact with Lewinsky.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did not have sexual relations with that woman. Ms. Lewinsky.
KEILAR: The Jones case was ultimately dismissed. The Whitewater probe yielded nothing. But Congress impeached Bill Clinton for lying under oath and obstructing justice, though, he was acquitted. And more recently --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's difference at this point does it make?
KEILAR: -- an investigation by congressional Republicans and the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's role in the Libya attack that killed a U.S. ambassador led to a troubling discovery that arguably helped derail her bid for the White House. As secretary, she had used a personal e-mail account posted on a computer server she kept in her basement.
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: The server will remain private.
KEILAR: The FBI launched an investigation and took possession of the server, which had been wiped.
CLINTON: What like, with a cloth or something? Well, no.
KEILAR: Lawsuits led to the release of Clinton's e-mails as voters doubted her trustworthiness. In summer 2016, FBI Director James Comey announced he would not recommend criminal charges but chastised Clinton and her team.
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: There is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive highly classified information.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Comey reopened the case briefly just before the election after e-mails between Clinton and her top aide Huma Abedin were discovered in the FBI's investigation of Abedin's husband disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner. The case was quickly closed again, but many Democrats and former campaign aides argue it was responsible for Clinton's loss, Anderson.
COOPER: Brianna Keilar, thanks very much.
The panel is back this hour. Joining us also is CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
So Jeff, I mean congressional investigations, criminal investigations very different things.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: They are very different things. But one thing to keep in mind is that when Nixon was forced out of office, when Clinton was impeached, Congress, the House of Representatives was in control of the opposition party. And here, Republicans control the House of Representatives. And they are not inclined to investigate Donald Trump. And you see that throughout these tumultuous three weeks that have be -- that we have seen. And I think that's a major distinction that will help Trump a great deal.
COOPER: Why would the Senate -- I mean it sounds like the Senate is more willing to look into it than the -- than House Republicans?
TOOBIN: Well not to be too cynical or uncynical, there's a lot to look into here. I mean, the Russians may have controlled or attempted to control the outcome of this election with the involvement of the Trump campaign. That's a pretty big deal. I think there's some patriots in the Senate of both parties who think this is worth looking into. And that's what they're doing.
COOPER: And, I mean, obviously, the President is focusing on leaks. Are all leaks illegal?
TOOBIN: No. It is illegal to leak classified information. It's illegal to leak grand jury material, that's before a grand jury. But most of what reporters get is confidential in an employment setting but like who's up and who's down in the White House and who likes whom, that you can get fired for. That's a violation of confidence, you know, confidence.
TOOBIN: But it is not illegal at all.
COOPER: All right, Carl Bernstein, we saw you in Brianna Keilar's speech release.
CARL BERNSTEIN, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: My bar mitzvah picture.
COOPER: Yes. But I think, obviously, as you said in the last hour, you know, you're wary about comparing this, obviously, to Watergate. There's so much we don't know at this point. But in terms of a congressional investigation, Watergate is a clear example of Congress deeming important enough to establish a separate committee to look into it, which again Republicans are resistant to right now.
BERNSTEIN: Well not only was it a select committee of both parties, but the American system worked in Watergate. And Republicans ought to welcome a real investigation of what happened in the campaign involving the Russians. If there is an innocent explanation for all of this, what did the President know and when did he know it, as was said during the Watergate investigation.
[21:20:02] They should welcome such an investigation because we need to find out what happened. Then the great thing that occur within Watergate was this bipartisanship, the key votes for impeachment came from in house judiciary committee, came from Republicans, courageous Republicans. It was Barry Goldwater. The nominee of his party, the Republican Party to be president in 1964, who marched to the White House and told Richard Nixon he had to resign.
All I'm suggesting here is we need Republicans to be, as Jeff said, patriots. Find out what happened. If all is in order, that's great for everybody, but we need to find out and we need Republicans to join with Democrats and say, "We want the truth."
COOPER: Mary Katharine?
MARY KATHARINE HAM, SENIOR WIRTER, THE FEDERALIST: Well, I think here's -- I think it's possible to hold two ideas in your head at the same time, which is to be very concerned about what went down in the campaign and the connections with Russia. And to also to be concerned about the deep state in the intel community feeling emboldened to make what looks like a fairly coordinated leak campaign against the White House. Those are two things that you can be worried about at the same time, and I am. And I would love to get to the bottom of this.
What concerns me is if you do the investigation and so much of this information is classified, does it actually become illuminating to the public? Or do we just see continued leaks from that investigation from either side trying to figure out what's going on? That I'm -- I am concerned that this did not become illuminating in the end, even though it needs to be investigated.
KRISTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: Yeah, I mean I think a lot of people are trying to have that conversation about should we be concerned about what the intelligence community is doing here? And I think under normal circumstances, I would say yes. The only thing that makes this a little different is what is their motivation? And that they are under attack by the President of the United States. I think in a pretty serious way.
And so they do have an interest, I think, in preserving, you know, something they think is very important. They see themselves as protecting the United States. And so that's not a terrible motivation. And that they also see that the President did know about this, and he wasn't going to do anything about it, right? I mean he was --
HAM: I'm not sure with --
POWERS: -- attention is -- only because it was leaked to the media.
HAM: My concern is, I'm not sure that the leaking campaign actually shores up with the American people the idea that they're doing the job that they should be doing. I'm -- I think that might be a miscalculation --
COOPER: We should also point out, the leaks come from a lot of different places, not just the intelligence community or the White House. I mean, a lot of those folks around the President, I imagine --
JEFFREY LORD, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I mean the thought --
COOPER: -- I think as well.
LORD: The thought occurs that somebody is in essence, tapping the President's phone or, you know, using perhaps American intelligence to eavesdrop on their own President. And then --
TOOBIN: Wait, where do we see that?
TOOBIN: You know, I saw a former NSA guy today suggesting that that was a possibility.
POWERS: Is that legal?
LORD: So I mean I'm not saying, I'm not saying it happen --
TOOBIN: Yeah, there's no evidence that has happened.
LORD: I'm not saying in the flip that it has happened. But I'm just saying that this whole business of, as you refer to it, the deep state. That is very concerning, because it doesn't make any difference who's the president of the United States, you can't have a government in open rebellion.
COOPER: Are you more concern about leaks or Russia's involvement --
LORD: I am more --
COOPER: in hacking.
LORD: -- concerned about leaks.
LORD: Really, because I think that this -- I am concerned that the intelligence community and other parts of the bureaucracy that have nothing to do with intelligence are in bearing stages of open rebellion.
COOPER: So leaks from the intelligence community is a bigger issue than leaks from Russia about, you know, conversations in the DNC or conversations that they made --
COOPER: -- for all we know that they have conversations of White House employees or any other --
LORD: I do think so because it concerns me that we would have a part of the American government in rebellion against the head of the American government.
COOPER: But is there -- is it hypocritical for Donald Trump to embrace WikiLeaks during the campaign and say he loves WikiLeaks and now be, you know, complaining about leaks?
LORD: And maybe you got me there. But seriously, I mean this is an institutional problem for the presidency. And they've got to resolve it.
POWERS: But the problem that he created, though. I mean lets just not --
BERNSTEIN: Jeffrey, as one who's been involved in the reporting. Just let me say that you've got a very circumscribe view of how the story has developed and who sources are. Yes, we also need to look at people in the White House who know things about this. We need to look at people in the intelligence comminute, in the Congress to the United States, private investigators, there's all kinds of people and campaign aides --
COOPER: Right, there's a lot of people --
BERNSTEIN: -- to the former president. Don't think this is some kind of coup by the intelligence community. And it's anything that simplistic.
COOPER: OK, that's a good note to end on. I thank everybody. The President thought the issue of his tax returns would go away, not happening. It's become an even bigger question mark in the idea of potential ties to Russia. He's clearly not releasing his taxes. Congress could actually force the issue. We'll look at that, next.
COOPER: With the revelation that high-level advisers close to President Trump were in constant communication with Russians known to U.S, intelligence during the campaigns, the issue the President's tax returns becomes more and more critical. As our political analyst, Carl Bernstein, reported in the last hour, an investigation could touch some potential financial ties, if any, between Mr. Trump and Russia. The tax returns could also answer a lot of questions about that, as you know, he's not releasing them, however, Congress could actually make it happen. Phil Mattingly explains how.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tax returns.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tax returns.
CLINTON: Tax returns.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Donald Trump's tax returns --
KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP COUNSELOR: People didn't care, they voted for him.
MATTINGLY: -- aren't going to be released anytime soon.
CONWAY: Let me make this very clear. Most Americans are very focused on what their tax returns will look like while President Trump is in office, not what his look like.
MATTINGLY: But even as Trump staff sticks to the line that they won't be released until the completion of an ongoing audit, there is actually a way they could become public.
REP. BILL PASCRELL, (D) NEW JERSEY: All I'm trying to do in the Congress what the President couldn't do for himself, and that is give us his tax returns.
MATTINGLY: Here's how it would work. Two committees in Congress have jurisdiction over tax issues. The chairmen of those committees through an obscure 1924 law actually have the ability to obtain any Americans tax returns, including Donald Trump. And they have the power to reveal that tax information for any American, including Donald Trump. [21:30:20] It's been done before when it was decided for the public good that lawmakers would vote to release a staff report about then President Richard Nixon's confidential tax return information. And that, according to Congressman Bill Pascrell, is the same reason he believes the committee should pursue releasing Trump's taxes now.
PASCRELL: The American people on the right path, I'm just a conduit here to get the information out to the American people. They deserve to know this, they deserve to know if their President is dealing in the foreign affairs of other countries, and whether other countries are dealing in our foreign affairs. And if you don't think I'm talking about Russia, you're wrong.
MATTINGLY: But at least for the moment, it's unlikely to happen. Here's why. It's Democrats who are clamoring to use this power and Democrats don't control anything on Capitol Hill.
REP. KEVIN BRADY, (R) TEXAS: That law directs us to look at tax administration. Only look at private tax returns in the case of the tax administration. That is clearly not the case here.
MATTINGLY: Congressman Kevin Brady chairs the House Ways and Means Committee and has pushed back hard on the idea that this lines up with the intent of the law at all.
BRADY: If you let Congress begin rummaging around for political purposes in the tax returns of the President, what stops them from doing it to every day Americans? If that would be an abuse of power --
MATTINGLY: Brady's point, despite Trump breaking nearly 40 years of precedent on candidates releasing their tax returns, there is no specific administrative reason that would force the Committee to act. And until that arises, don't expect Congress to provide any more insight than Trump himself has up to this point.
TRUMP: It's none of your business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: And Anderson, the question is, what happens next if Republicans aren't willing to go along with this? I asked Congressman Pascrell that means that look, there's no necessarily a plan B, there is an expansion of plan A. He's in this for the long term, the long game, and he believes that every time kind of a new revelation comes out related to Donald Trump and his relationship with Russia or other foreign countries that that could help build support for this.
He said he's been talking to members on both sides of the aisle. He's been talking to his leadership and it's worth noting. The Senate committee also has the power to do this. He's been talking to them as well, but he recognizes, it is a long path forward.
And as I noted in the piece, Chairman Brady -- Kevin Brady makes very clear he does not believe this lines up with the intent of the law. And until that changes, it's very unlikely, at least on the house side of things, it's going to change anytime soon. Anderson?
COOPER: Phil Mattingly. Phil, thanks very much.
Joining me now is former Labor Secretary in U.S. -- U.C. Berkley professor of public policy, Robert Reich, the author of "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few". And with us again, CNN political commentator and Trump supporter, Jeffrey Lord.
Secretary Reich, I mean what do you make of this? Is this the step that Congress should take of trying to obtain the President's tax returns?
ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: I do think it is a very important step the Congress should take. And in terms of it being an administrative matter, I can't imagine a more important administrative matter than making sure that our President has not been engaged with a foreign power, in this case, Russia, in basically loading the election and turning the election to his favor. Now, I'm not saying that he's done that, but a lot of evidence is accumulating, Anderson, and every day that goes by, the distrust of the public rose.
And I think one important step that Donald Trump has to make is to disclose his taxes. In 2008, for example, Donald Trump Jr. told a real estate conference that Russia -- Russian money is pouring into the Trump Organization and that a disproportionate cross section of their assets come from Russia. And he presumably, he was talking about Russian tycoons and oligarchs.
Well, that's important information. That would show up in the tax returns, because you can see in terms of interest on loans, exactly who is -- who is that -- who Trump owes money to. I mean I can't imagine a more important set of issues.
COOPER: My understanding on what he was actually referring to was I guess some of very rich Russian guy bought one of the mansions from the Trumps in Florida, paid a huge amount of money for, my understanding, that's what he was referring to. But again, we don't know for sure because we don't really know the extent of any business dealings that may or may not --
REICH: And we need to know. I mean I understand if this were just an idle kind of question, about oh, wouldn't it be nice to have tax returns, it's too bad Donald Trump, you know, violated and broke the tradition from 40 years, that would be one thing. But we are in the midst of a potential constitutional crisis. There are -- there's possibly treasonous behavior in terms of staff members or perhaps Donald Trump himself working with Russia and Russian operatives to actually interfere in the United States 2016 presidential election on behalf of Donald Trump.
[21:35:10] COOPER: Jeffrey, you don't seem concerned.
LORD: No. There's two words for this, Anderson. It's called fishing expedition. The reason to release his taxes as far as his opponents were concern or the media is concern so they can, you know, plow through him and say, oh look at this, look at this, look at this. And then, you know, maybe we should have an investigation here, maybe we should have an investigation here.
I have said, as you know all along, he should never release his taxes. I think we have gotten way off the mark with public officials releasing their taxes here. We've had plenty of presidents in the United States, most of them, 36 of them I think by count who never release their taxes and the country survived just fine. I think we should get back to it. They have a right to privacy, leave them alone.
COOPER: All right. But given all the questions raised about Russia, even with that?
LORD: Yeah. If you want to investigate the Russian thing, then let's do it. Let's investigate the intelligence community, the leaks, the whole nine yards. Let's go in that direction, but I just think that his taxes -- I mean I just --
COOPER: Why -- why would you have an investigation --
COOPER: OK, go ahead then.
REICH: I think it is very, very difficult right now for the American public to rely on the Senate intelligence committee, which is dominated by Republicans, or even rely necessarily on the FBI, which reports to the new Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was a key player in Donald Trump's election and campaign. What you need to do is have a bipartisan investigation. Part of that investigation has got to be to look at Donald Trump's taxes.
COOPER: Jeffrey Lord?
LORD: Well, Mr. Secretary, I mean, I just don't think that this is very productive, and this sets a horrible precedent. I mean, why should we be going into anybody's taxes? If you want to look at taxes --
REICH: What could be more productive than to make sure that our system of elections in 2016, our presidential election --
LORD: Repealing and replacing Obamacare, lowering taxes, getting the economy back on gear. I mean, I think all of those things. Earlier, we played clips of various people including President Trump saying that people didn't care. The only people who seem to care about that, I think, the President right, is the media and his opponents, but the people who voted --
REICH: Wait a minute, wait a minute. This makes no sense at all. If you say, first of all, the assertion that the people don't seem to care is just a search, an assertion. And right now --
LORD: He's elected. He is president of the United States.
REICH: If the people are getting more and more information that Donald Trump's aides and people who are in his campaign were in continuous contact with Russian operatives at a time when we know Russia was intervening in the election on Trump's behalf.
LRD: You don't have any proof of this?
REICH: Well then, I'm sorry, a lot of Americans do have an interest in those tax returns and they have a lot of interest in knowing what was going on. There is no nothing more sacred than our election and our democratic process.
COOPER: Jeffrey Lord, couldn't Donald Trump just alleviate all of this by saying, you know what? Here's --here all the contacts people in my campaign had. Here are the phone conversations. Here are -- we hear the Russian said that why not --
LORD: They have, I mean, the implication here, the sinister implication is that he was conspiring with the Russians.
COOPER: No. I mean, I don't know what -- they don't know what the implication is, so why not just come forward and say --
LORD: I mean, I think as I see these stories developing and listening before --
COOPER: But why not just come forward and say, here are the contacts that we're had?
LORD: I mean, I just don't think it's that bigger deal. I don't think it's a --
REICH: If you don't think as a bigger deal -- wait a minute, wait a minute. Here's first of all --
LORD: Then let's investigate it. Let's get all of us step out there on the table.
REICH: Some of us actually remember Richard Nixon and a three-bit, two-bit burglary and the Watergate complex that cover-up. The cover- up was almost worse the crime --
LORD: I'm grad you mentioned that.
REICH: But the question everybody ask is what did Nixon know and when did he know it? Well, everybody is now asking what did Trump know and when did he know it?
COOPER: Robert Reich, appreciate it, Mr. Secretary, Jeffrey Lord as well.
Coming up, the President's pick for Labor Secretary is out. A closer look at why, Andrew Puzder withdrew, next.
[21:42:53] COOPER: President Trump's pick for Labor Secretary has withdrawn his nomination, fast-food executive Andrew Puzder came under intense criticism for everything from hiring an undocumented immigrant to clean his house to allegations of abusing his wife. The latest now from Manu Raju.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER, (R) HEALTH EDUCATION LABOR & PENSIONS CMTE CHAIRMAN: Andy Puzder would have made a really good labor secretary. He has the experience and background to do that. I respect his decision, however, I understand it.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Andrew Puzder's liabilities began to pile up with criticism over his record running a fast-food empire, but also baggage from the past like his hiring of an undocumented immigrant as a housekeeper. And a newly unearthed decades-old tape from the Oprah Winfrey show where Puzder's ex-wife alleges she was physically abused when they are married. The tape shows Puzder's ex-wife Lisa Fierstein in disguise talking about her allegations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LISA FIERSTEIN, ANDREW PUZDER'S EX WIFE: But that was the most frightening thing, was living because once I made that break and once I made it public and remember my ex-husband was a public figure. Everyone knew him and knew what he was doing. And once I made that public, he vowed revenge. He said, I will see you in the gutter. This will never be over. You will pay for this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Senators privately reviewed the tape and some were alarmed. You saw the Oprah video, what did you think of that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's very troubling.
RAJU: But Fierstein strongly came to his defense, noting that she long ago dropped her domestic abuse allegations. And in a letter obtained by CNN, she told senators that Andy is not abusive or violent. And he is a good, loving, kind man. She said she only appeared on the Oprah show to get a, "Free trip to Chicago." One woman who appeared on the show had a different take.
CHARLOTTE FEDDERS, FELLOW QUEST ON OPRAH: I don't think the reason she was on the Oprah Show was just to get a free trip to Chicago because you literally go in, stay in a hotel, go to the studio and leave. So I just -- I don't believe that at all.
RAJU: But Republicans believe that the bigger problem was his hiring of an undocumented immigrant.
[21:45:00] SEN. ROY BLUNT, (R) MISSOURI: Here's a guy who ran a business that had tens of thousands of employees while he was running it, and apparently no problem there. But one employee that gets paid to help you at the house and you don't ask the right question. And suddenly, you have the same problem that other people have had.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now Anderson, the real problem for Andy Puzder was the math. In the Senate, there are 52 Republican senators, but four, privately told the Republican leadership, they would definitely both know and there were concerns that up to 12 could both know.
And also, some resistance from some other Trump nominees as well, Scott Pruitt to head the EPA, one Republican senator Susan Collins that may announcing tonight she would vote against him. And tomorrow, Donald Trump's choice for Budget Director, Mick Mulvaney will face opposition from John McCain. We'll see if others affect because if they do, it could mean another Donald Trump nominee going down, Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Manu Raju. Manu, thanks.
Just ahead, the CNN story that Venezuela doesn't want its people to see.
COOPER: Over the past two weeks, we've been reporting on passports in the shadows, a year-long investigation that we did in partnership with CNN en Espanol. What we found was alarming, passports and visas allegedly sold through the Venezuelan embassy in Iraq, post effect, the Venezuelan authorities may have issued passports and visas to people with ties to terrorism.
Our reporting got a lot of attention but not everyone wants it to be seen. Today, the government of Venezuelan ordered all cable providers in the country to take our sister network, CNN en Espanol off the air effective immediately. Senior Investigator Correspondent Drew Griffin tonight joins me with the latest.
[21:50:00] So, what led them to do this?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, this has been brewing since Sunday when Venezuela's president, Nicholas Maduro said he wanted the network out of the country. Then today, the Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez who was in our piece, accused CNN en Espanol of performing what she called an imperialist media operation against our country in our broadcast of those passport investigations. And then later this afternoon, Venezuela's National Telecommunications commission told cable companies to pull CNN en Espanol signal immediately. The commission accusing the network of slander, saying our story threatened the peace and democratic stability of our Venezuelan people.
COOPER: Is this the first time this has happened?
GRIFFIN: It's the first time it has happened, yes. The government has threatened CNN en Espanol in the past but this is the first time it's actually ordered the network, were going to be kicked off the air. As you said, our year-long investigation obviously must have struck a nerve. We found, not only that passports may have been issued to people with ties to terrorism but these passports and visas were allegedly sold out of the Venezuelan embassy in Iraq and that U.S. lawmakers have known about Venezuelan officials allegedly issuing these passports to questionable people for at least a decade, Anderson.
COOPER: And what has been the response?
GRIFFIN: CNN en Espanol put a statement out, standing by all of our reporting and its commitment to truth and transparency. In part, this is what the statement reads, CNN en Espanol will continue to fulfill its responsibility to the Venezuelan public by offering our live signal on YouTube, free of charge, and news links on cnnespanol.com so that people may have access to information. Not available in any other way, Anderson, our story is accurate. Venezuelan officials did not offer a single fact to dispute the allegation in our report instead they just yanked CNN en Espanol off the air.
COOPER: Well, of course we welcome any Venezuelan official to come on broadcast and defend it. Drew Griffin, thanks very much.
Tonight, a Colorado mother of four spending the night in a Denver church after getting news that she was threading. She is an undocumented immigrant. She's been fighting deportation for eight years. Her battle came to head this morning. Ana Cabrera has the latest.
ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT BASED IN DENVER, COLORADO: Demonstrators outside the immigration office in Colorado supporting a mother of four from Mexico, Jeanette Vizguerra scheduled to check-in with ICE unlike other check-ins her attorney and pastor entered without her.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Going and to talk to immigration, we'll be back in a second.
JEANETTE VIZGUERRA, IMMIGRANT: My vision is, it's bad.
CABRERA: Vizguerra chose not to show up, instead taking refuge inside a church where she received the bad news by phone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They denied her stay.
CABRERA: Her request for a temporary stay denied despite six previous stays that were granted. Vizguerra first speechless then, in tears her nightmare coming true. We talked with her prior to the check-in about her fear.
VIZGUERRA: It's difficult. My kids are my life. My family is my life. Not my country, there is my house. Is the house of my kids. Is the country of my kids.
CABRERA: And so this is your home, your country?
VIZGUERRA: Yeah, this is my home. I live in more years here than my country. CABRERA: Vizguerra came to the U.S. in 1997. She has three children, ages 6, 10 and 12, who are citizens born in the U.S. Her oldest Tania is 26 with three children of her own. She has legal status through DACA in Obama administration policy that protects immigrant youth from deportation.
TANIA BAEZ, VIZGUERRA'S DAUGHTER: She's basically the backbone of our family so without her my kids would not know their grandma anymore. And they wouldn't see grandma.
CABRERA: This family's future in Limbo since 2009 when Vizguerra was arrested following a traffic stop. She had a fake Social Security number on a job application in her car. She's been fighting deportation ever since.
Did they give you specific reasons for denying the stay this time?
HANS MEYER, VIZGUERRA'S ATTORNEY: When you have blanket deportation policy, you don't need to have specific reasons. You just say, no. And that's exactly what they did.
CABRERA: The local ICE office provided the following response, saying, "Jeanatte Vizguerra-Ramirez, from Mexico, has two misdemeanor convictions. On November 18, 2011, a federal immigration judge originally issued her final orders of deportation to Mexico. Based on these factors, Vizguerra-Ramirez is an ICE enforcement priority."
CABRERA: The news triggering a protest in D.C. Meantime Colorado Congressman Gary Polis has filed a private bill in the House of Representatives hoping to help plead her case.
[21:55:59] For now, she has moved in this Denver church basement, an informal sanctuary where immigration officials have not yet dared to go. She addressed supporters through a translator this afternoon.
VIZGUERRA (through translation): I know that my fight will continue even though I'm inside these walls. There's much that I can do to continue organizing and to continue to support my community. By my community, I don't just mean the Mexican immigrant community, I don't just mean South Americans, there are people from all over the world that are in exact same situation as I am.
CABRERA: How long are you prepared to stay here?
VIZGUERRA: I don't know. It's possible, days, months, or years.
Ana Cabrera, CNN, Denver.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And we'll be back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Well, it's been quite a day but there's also this. It's called the Yosemite Firefall, when the sitting sun hits the Horsetail Fall at Yosemite National Park, just the right angle this time of year. Conditions have to be just right, and it's only lasts for about 10 minutes but what 10 magnificent minutes they are.
The great photographer Ansel Adams came here as child. So captivated his imagination, he saw what you're seeing now. You can understand why he kept coming back. Well, he'd married here and kept making pictures here for nearly seven decades.
That's it for us tonight, thanks for watching. Don Lemon and "CNN Tonight" starts now.
[22:00:08] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Breaking news, the FBI not expected to pursue charges against former national security adviser, Michael Flynn over that phone call with Russia's ambassador.