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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Trump Asks Reporter To Set Up Meeting With Black Lawmakers; Trump's Pick For National Security Adviser Turns Down Job; Trump: White House Is "Running Like A Fine-tuned Machine"; Trump: "I Inherited A Mess"; Trump: I Didn't Direct Flynn To Discuss Sanctions; Trump Slams Media, Denies Turmoil, In Marathon News Conference. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired February 16, 2017 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:08] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, and thanks for joining us.
We've got breaking news tonight. A potential replacement for President Trump's outgoing national security adviser has turned down the job. It follows a 75-minute reminder that this president is unlike any other. His first solo press conference since taking office, President Trump's performance today, along with his rejected job offer is raising fresh doubts among some, including a number of Republican lawmakers about the new administration and the new commander in chief.
We've got a lot of ground to cover tonight, over the next two hours. Several former cabinet secretaries, two Trump biographers, a former top CIA officer, Republicans and Democrats alike all on the program.
We start with CNN's Sara Murray and the breaking news.
So, the president's pick to replace Michael Flynn, tell us about him and why he declined the offer.
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Anderson. Retired Vice Admiral Bob Harward is taking a pass on the job of national security adviser. Some say it's because of family reasons, but other sources close to Harward say it's because this is such a chaotic White House, he does not want to be in the middle of it.
Whatever the reason, it is certainly another setback for a White House in a day when President Trump insists, there's no turmoil to see here.
MURRAY (voice-over): Today, an embattled president is dismissing the notion that his administration is in turmoil.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I turn on the TV, open the newspapers, and I see stories of chaos -- chaos. Yet it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine, despite the fact that I can't get my cabinet approved. MURRAY: But controversy continues to haunt the West Wing.
TRUMP: The whole Russian thing, that's a ruse. That's a ruse. And, by the way, it would be great if we could get along with Russia.
MURRAY: The administration is still facing scrutiny of its Russian connections. But Trump kept up a rosy outlook, saying, he'd love to have better diplomatic relations with Moscow.
TRUMP: Nuclear holocaust would be like no other. They're a very powerful nuclear country and so are we. If we have a good relationship with Russia, believe me, that's a good thing.
MURRAY: That's in spite of recent provocations from Moscow. Russia has buzzed a U.S. warship, placed a spy ship 30 miles off the coast of Connecticut, and deployed a cruise missile in an apparent treaty violation.
For now, the White House appears unlikely to respond.
TRUMP: But, hopefully, I won't have to do anything, but I'm not going to tell you.
MURRAY: In a winding and wild press conference that stretched for over an hour, the president aired a list of grievances.
TRUMP: I inherited a mess. It's a mess, at home and abroad. A mess.
MURRAY: Insisted he would take a compassionate approach to children brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents --
TRUMP: We're going to show great heart. DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me.
MURRAY: And leapt to the defense of his travel ban, which is currently being blocked by the courts.
TRUMP: We had a very smooth rollout of the travel ban. But we had a bad court. I think that circuit is -- that circuit is in chaos. And that circuit is frankly in turmoil.
MURRAY: Now, Trump says the administration is crafting a new executive order, based on the court's decision.
TRUMP: We can tailor the order to that decision and get just about everything, in some ways, more, but we're tailoring it now to the decision.
MURRAY: But while the administration is facing pressing priorities, Trump, who once professed his love of WikiLeaks --
TRUMP: This just came out. WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks!
MURRAY: -- is now preoccupied on cracking down on them.
TRUMP: I've actually called the Justice Department to look into the leaks. Those are criminal leaks.
MURRAY: Trump also spent much of his time criticizing his favorite foil, the press.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: If the information coming from those leaks is real, then how can the story be fake?
TRUMP: The reporting is fake.
ACOSTA: I just want to ask --
TRUMP: Jim, you know what it is? The public, they read newspapers, they see television, they watch. They don't know if it's true or false, because they're not involved. I'm involved.
And I'll tell you what else I see. I see tone. You know the word tone. The tone is such hatred. I'm really not a bad person, by the way.
COOPER: Sara, do we know, was this press conference something that had been planned for a long time? Because the White House had been getting criticism, and I think one should give the president credit for taking questions from, you know, from a wide variety of reporters. They've been getting criticism in previous days from only taking questions from some conservative news outlets that they were sort of predetermining.
But was this something, a last-minute news conference or what?
MURRAY: This was very hastily arranged. The president walked into the Oval Office this morning, a senior administration tells him he said, "Let's do a press conference, I want to do a press conference."
And, Anderson, I think what you saw today is vintage Trump. This is what I saw from him for a year and a half on the campaign trail. If he was sick of getting attacked day in and day out and getting criticized and not being the one out there defending himself, so today, he showed up and offered this defense and hit back at the people he thought were his critics.
[20:05:16] Now, this goes hand in hand with the fact that we're told this is a president who really does feel cooped up in the White House right now, and wants to get back to some of these things he relished on the campaign trail. Part of that was press conferences, part of that was sparring with television reporters, but the other part of it are these campaign-style rallies. And that is exactly what we're going to see the president do this weekend -- head to Florida for a campaign rally, less than a month into his presidency.
COOPER: Well, he certainly talked about the campaign today, so he'll be able continue to do that.
Sara, thanks very much. Let's bring in the panel. CNN political analyst Kirsten Powers, Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP, CNN chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, also investigative reporter and author, Carl Bernstein, and Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord, contributing editor to "The American Spectator".
Jim, let's start off with you. First, the breaking news, how big a setback is it for President Trump that his latest pick for national security adviser has turned down the job?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It's a big deal. This is a big job. National security adviser to the president of the United States, and Trump appealed to someone, for whom duty is supreme. For all U.S. service member --
COOPER: Right. He's had an extraordinary military record, very close to General Mattis.
SCIUTTO: Navy SEAL, close to General Mattis, who is, of course, already in the administration. And I'm told by people close to him, this was a difficult decision, between duty to his country, to people he served under before, but this conflict, because he looks at the White House and he sees, and I'm not going to use the colorful terms, this is a family program you have here, Anderson, but he sees a White House that is in chaos.
And that's not something that he wanted to be associated with. And to have that Trump, the duty, which he has shown throughout his life and the many years of service, is significant and it's significant for the administration, if you can't attract that kind of top talent for an extremely important position.
COOPER: Kirstin, what do you think this press conference accomplished? It's certainly, I guess, was a way to push back on those critics who said, well, he's not talking to a lot of different reporters. He took questions for over an hour.
POWERS: I think from his perspective, it shows he's probably a little frustrated with Sean Spicer, is what I would read into this. And this is how he would like press conferences to be handled --
COOPER: Right. If I'm Sean Spicer today, I would not -- I would be nervous.
POWERS: Yes, I would be nervous. And he probably just decided, I'm going to do out and do it, because I know how to do it.
And he did -- I would say the upside of it, if there's an upside of it is, he spent an hour and 15 minutes talking to reporters, taking questions from a lot of reporters, even going back to a reporter who had already asked questions. That's a good thing. You know, we want him to have, you know, have -- we want to have a lot of access to him.
Unfortunately, this sort of war with the media continued. I thought that would be the downside. COOPER: Cornell, I mean, when the president says, everything's going
fine, the rollout on the executive order was -- it went very well, the White House is running like a smooth oiled machine or, I think that was the tree house, I mean, how do you see it?
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NAACP: A smooth-oiled machine, if the machine were a jalopy in a junkyard. The fact of the matter is, when you have press conference that this chaotic, where the press is not the subject of engagement, but rather an object for criticism and for berating, this is not the kind of thing that Americans expect.
And so, when you have a president who favors Twitter as opposed to real engage with the press, real engagement with the public, real engagement of the issues, this is very disappointing.
COOPER: Jeffrey, I want to play a clip of something the president said today about his Electoral College victory. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We got 306, because people came out and voted like they've never seen before. So that's the way it goes. I guess it was the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan.
REPORTER: You said today that you had the biggest electoral margin since Ronald Reagan, with 304 or 306 electoral votes. In fact, President Obama got 365 and --
TRUMP: Well, I'm talking about Republican.
REPORTER: President Obama, 332, and George H.W. Bush, 426, when he won, as president. So why should Americans trust --
TRUMP: Well, no, I was told -- I was given that information, I don't know. I was just given. We had a very, very big margin.
REPORTER: I guess my question, why should Americans trust you when you've accused the information they receive of being fake when you're providing information that's --
TRUMP: Well, I don't know. I was given that information. Actually, I've seen that information around. But it was a very substantial victory. Do you agree with that?
REPORTER: You're the president.
TRUMP: OK, thank you, that's a good answer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I mean, Jeffrey, does it concern you that, OK, OK, look, everybody makes mistake, he says something, that's not true --
[20:10:02] JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: (INAUDIBLE) why are you asking me?
COOPER: He says something that's not true, and then when confronted with it, he said, first of all, he makes up something else, he's like, oh, well, I'm talking about Republicans, and of course, the reporter is able to say, well, actually George W. Bush had a bigger margin.
LORD: Right, right. He made a mistake. In all honestly --
COOPER: But his mistake is just saying, well, someone gave me that information, I have no problem just spurting out information that someone just had --
LORD: He said, I guess. Did you not hear that phrase in there? I guess?
COOPER: Right, yeah.
LORD: Anderson, here's the problem. Let me talk about this presser, you know, as it was today.
What you really saw today was the launch of a new reality television program called beat the press. The star is Donald Trump. The executive producer is Donald Trump. And even into the set design, the East Room of the White House.
Now, he is -- I mean, he is going to make this one of the most popular rituals in America for the next four years. Where he stands up and goes mano-a-mano with his, you know, from what he believes and I think it's safe to believe his staff believes are his adversaries in the media. That's what you saw today.
And he's going to get viewers, he's going to -- the people who hate him are still going to hate him, if not more so. And the people who love him are going to love him even more. So, I really think that we're not --
COOPER: But I'm just saying -- but, but, turning the White House into a reality TV show, is that good for the country?
LORD: Well, you know --
COOPER: You're the one saying he's turning it into a reality TV show. Is that good for the leader of the free world?
LORD: (INAUDIBLE) is television good for the country? I mean, if it's not. You and I and everybody on the panel, not to mention all the experts are gonzo. I mean, that question has long been decided.
COOPER: So, is there anything Donald Trump could do that you would ever criticize?
LORD: What, I'm sorry?
COOPER: Is there anything Donald Trump could do that you would ever criticize?
LORD: Sure, I just said he made a mistake with the business about the Electoral College. Sure, he made a mistake. How's that?
LORD: Is that good?
COOPER: I don't know if it's good or not, but it -- Carl Bernstein, you've seen a lot of presidential press conferences. What did you see today?
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This was very unusual, but I think Donald Trump performed a real service by calling this press conference and being up there and answering those questions, in the way that he did. And I hope we see a lot more of it.
What we saw was a kind of free association. It was sprawling, it was all over the place. It was a road map of his mind. It is a very disturbing road map, in many regards. And I think, particularly, this notion of going after the press and after leakers, he has made it clear, he is going to enter truly Nixonian territory. I've been reluctant to bring up the example of Nixon, and Watergate, but one of the things that happened in Watergate and the origins of it had to do with plugging leaks, the plumbers, illegal wiretapping, trying to stop leaks.
The president of the United States, in all the things that is bedeviling him, can solve most of his problems by being forthcoming and open and transparent and getting down to work. No one in the press that I know of denies that he is the legitimate president of the United States, and it's time for him to focus on that, answer the legitimate questions, including about the hacking, including about his relationship with Russia, with the Russians, et cetera, et cetera.
And if he wants to get on with the business of the country, he has the ability to do it. And right now, he is the impediment.
COOPER: David Gergen, Carl's echoing shin something I said at the start, which is, one does give him credit for answering and taking variety from a wide variety of reporters and putting himself out there. You can't criticize him for not taking questions from reporters one day and criticize for doing it the next day.
But did he really answer questions? I mean, on Russia, do we know anything more than we knew before that hour and 15 minutes, whatever it was, began? The most he said, really, was that -- and I don't want to incorrectly quote him, but essentially, that, you know, he wasn't aware of anybody in his campaign making contact with Russia, or he didn't know about it. He didn't say it didn't happen. He didn't say, I'm looking into it. He didn't say, I'll give you information as soon as I know.
Did we learn more about him, other than getting a very clear window into the head and the heart of Donald Trump? DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: We did get a look into
the head and heart of Donald Trump, and what we saw was very murky. And I -- listen, I think -- I give him credit for having a press conference.
He did go on the record on something very important. He said he did not ask General Flynn, did not direct General Flynn to make those phone calls to the Russian ambassador. He said he knew nothing about people in his campaign having these repeated contacts with the Russians. So, now, he's on record. Let the facts now come out in testimony and in investigations, and see if he bears them out.
There are a lot of us that are skeptical about that. But as much as I think this helps him with his base and continues to communicate with him and, you know, using the old campaign techniques -- I think the press conference, generally speaking, was a fiasco. It gave us -- it showed us a president who's basically not just raucous, but frequently unhinged. And it gave us a very firm sense that he's living in a different reality on many issues.
It's -- he just sees the world differently than what a lot of other professionals in Washington, including the press, see it. And it's hard to shake him out of it.
This business about the Electoral College, this is not the first time this has come up. He's repeatedly said it. He's been repeatedly corrected. And I'm sure when he watches cable news shows, he receives the corrections, and yet he continues to state what are fake facts.
COOPER: Yes, we've got to take a break. Much more ahead. A lot more to discuss, including more on what David just mentioned, the way President Trump answered questions about the extent of those ties, if any, to Moscow.
Later, how people in Trump country saw the press conference and whether it changed their views in any way of the man they voted for.
We'll be right back.
[20:20:05] COOPER: Seventy-five minutes that ran the gamut, spanned the globe. It spent a good amount of time on the Michael Flynn affair, which is not overtime, especially now that a potential successor another has turned down the job.
We heard David Gergen said a moment ago, the questions today about General Flynn's relationship with Moscow, not to mention the administration. If any, those remain, of course, in place. The president answered some of those questions today.
CNN's Jim Sciutto has that.
TRUMP: It's all fake news. It's all fake news. SCIUTTO (voice-over): It was the first time the president answered
questions on CNN's reporting that during his presidential campaign, senior advisers were in constant communication with Russia.
TRUMP: It's a joke. And the people mentioned the story. I noticed they were on television today, saying they never even spoke to Russia.
SCIUTTO: Trump said he was not aware of any campaign advisers or staffers speaking with Russia.
TRUMP: No, not -- nobody that I know of.
SCIUTTO: But CNN is told by U.S. officials that then President-elect Trump and then President Obama were briefed on extensive communications between Russian officials and other Russians known to U.S. intelligence and people associated with the Trump campaign. When pressed, the president said, only that he, himself, had nothing to do with it.
TRUMP: Well, I had nothing to do with it.
SCIUTTO: Mr. Trump also denied any commercial ties to Russia.
TRUMP: I own nothing in Russia. I have no loans in Russia. I don't have any deals in Russia.
SCIUTTO: And when Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, spoke to Russia about sanctions, Trump said that he did not instruct him to.
TRUMP: I didn't direct him, but I would have directed him, because that's his job.
SCIUTTO: Despite his blanket denials, Trump still vowed to find and potentially prosecute those in the intelligence community who he accuses of leaking information to reporters behind stories that he claims are fake.
TRUMP: I've actually called the Justice Department to look into the leaks. Those are criminal leaks. They're put out by people either in agencies, I think you'll see it stopping, because now we have our people in.
SCIUTTO: At the same time, President Trump plans a review of all the intelligence agencies. CNN has learned the White House is considering tapping billionaire Steven Feinberg, founder of a New York investment firm and longtime friend of the president, to lead the review.
TRUMP: The gentleman you mentioned is a very talented man, very successful man, and he has offered his services, and you know, it's something that we may take advantage of. But I don't think we'll need that at all, because of the fact that, you know, I think that we're going to be able to straighten it out very easily on its own.
COOPER: Jim Sciutto joins us now along with the rest of the panel.
There's a statement out by Harward and also more reporting.
SCIUTTO: That's exactly right, to our colleague, Kenneth Paulson (ph). Harward explaining his decision not to take the job as national security adviser, this way saying, "This job requires 24 hours a day, seven days a week, focus and commitment to do it right, I currently could not make that commitment." Clearly part of his calculus, no question.
But we're also told, part of the decision was just the chaos he saw in the White House. And in addition to that, not clarity on the chain of command and his own team. Who would he be reporting to? Would he have control over the decisions that he wanted to have control over.
As you know, Anderson, there's a bit of a power battle inside that White House, decisions made by Bannon, et cetera, various turf wars going on. And we're told, by people close to him, that that was also part of his calculation.
COOPER: Hey, Jeff, is it difficult for -- I mean, I think it is difficult for some people to hear Donald Trump talk about going after these leaks and low-life leakers and during the campaign, he said, he loves WikiLeaks. And read from WikiLeaks --
LORD: You know, Anderson, when you and I spoke about this last night, I said, you got me there. Let me correct myself. Because, you know, the president himself said this today and it's obvious. And I don't know why I frankly, you know, it escaped me last night.
But on the one hand, you're talking about WikiLeaks and a presidential campaign. I mean, not good. None of this stuff is good. But it's not the intelligence community.
If you're leaking stuff from the intelligence community, as you know, that's a federal crime. You can get fined and you'll go to prison for up to ten years. Just leaking John Podesta's staff, not good.
COOPER: But I guess my question is, why are Russian intelligence community leaks a good thing that hurt the United States or hurt -- or that involve themselves in the electoral process, why is that a good thing when these leaks are bad? And why are these leaks real, but the stories that actually report based on those leaks, those are fake? Does that make sense to you?
LORD: Well, I mean, again, I think it comes down to what is literally criminal.
COOPER: No, no, no. My question is, how is the leak real, but the story that reports the leak is fake?
LORD: You know, I confess, I didn't quite get the drift there with that, when he said that. I mean --
COOPER: You're in trouble in Trump world. You're in trouble in Trump world tonight, Jeffrey. [20:25:02] LORD: What did you say?
COOPER: I said, you're in trouble in Trump world tonight!
LORD: Oh, wait, the phone is ringing now.
Carl, does that make sense to you, that the leak is real and they're going to get the people who did it, the low-lifes, in the president's words, who did it, but the story is fake?
BERNSTEIN: Well, again, it's to make the conduct of the press and the leakers the issue here instead of the conduct of the president of the United States. Of course, it makes no sense! What makes a lot of sense, though, is what we are seeing in Donald Trump's intentions. And that is to intimidate the national security bureaucracy, to intimidate those in his own White House, where, incidentally, some of these sources are residing, I think I can say with some certainty, and intimidate those in the national intelligence bureaucracy.
This is a terrible thing that he is threatening, because once you go down that road, you are looking at a kind of situation that can bring the country to a standstill in terms of a war in which the president has declared war on the truth. And that's really what we're talking about here. He's not saying, hey, he says fake news. Let him show us these stories and say, this story is untrue, A, B, C, D, and also with regard to, quote, Russians.
I think what we're talking about, what the FBI is talking about, what congressional investigators are talking about are not just Russians in Russia, but the former Soviet republics and former Russian intelligence officials and present Russian intelligence officials who operate in all of those countries, we are not talking about Trump businesses only in Russia, per se, the Russian federation. We're talking about that part of the world. We're talking about the Trump organization and how its campaign for president, as well, might have had contact with some of these people.
COOPER: OK --
BERNSTEIN: That's what this is about.
COOPER: Kirsten, is -- Jeffrey also makes the point, I think it's an accurate point, for the base, for Donald Trump's base, this plays well. I heard from friends of mine who like Donald Trump --
POWERS: My Twitter feed is filled with people who are very happy with what he did. And have been outside of Trump voters, we need to remember that the average American doesn't have a lot of sympathy for the media.
POWERS: So, I think if he's going to choose somebody to beat up on, it's probably -- if we're just talking for electoral -- COOPER: But in terms of whining, I don't know that this is media
whining. I actually heard more whining from the president how he inherited a really tough situation, that it was a mess. Everything was a mess. I mean, there had been presidents who inherited much bigger messes.
POWERS: Barack Obama inherited a much bigger mess, and didn't complain about it as much as he's complaining about a non-mess, frankly.
But I think that, you know, to me, what happened, most of that press conference was about beating up on the media. I mean, it really was -- that seemed to be the purpose of it. That there was some sort of, you know, pent-up rage that he finally was able to come out and really start, like, knocking people around.
COOPER: We've got to take a quick break.
More with our panelists, including one item that raised a lot of eyebrows. Hear what the president said to an African-American reporter and decide for yourself what to make of that. We'll be right back.
[20:32:15] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Well, (inaudible) fascinating moments in today's presidential press conference. Right now we want to focus on an exchange with reporter April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks. She asked for specifics on the president's campaign platform of fixing the inner cities. And then came the follow-up question, listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Are you going to include the CBC, Mr. President, in your conversations with your urban agenda, your inner city agenda, as well as your ...
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Am I going to include who?
RYAN: Are you going to include The Congressional Black Caucus and the congressional ...
TRUMP: Well, I would. Tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting? Do you want to set up the meeting?
RYAN: No, no, no.
TRUMP: Are they friends of yours?
RYAN: I'm just a reporter?
TRUMP: Go ahead and set up the meeting.
RYAN: I know some of them, but I'm sure ... TRUMP: Let's go set up a meeting. I would love to meet with the
black caucus. I think it's great, The Congressional Black Caucus. I think it's great.
I actually thought I had a meeting with Congressman Cummings and he was all excited, and then he said, oh, I can't move it, it might be bad for me politically. I can't have that meeting. I was all set to have the meeting. You know, we called him and called him, and it was all set. I spoke to him on the phone, very nice guy.
RYAN: I hear he wanted that meeting with you, as well.
TRUMP: He wanted it. But we called, called, called, called. They can't make a meeting with him. Every day I walked in and I said, I would like to meet with him, because I do want to solve the problem, but he probably was told by Schumer or somebody like that, some other lightweight, he was probably told, he was probably told, don't meet with Trump. It's bad politics. And that's part of the problem in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: A lot to talk about, the obviously, first, the issue of his statements about Congressman Elijah Cummings. He says the president's story about -- congressman Cummings says the president's story about not being willing to meet is just not true. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, (D) MARYLAND 7TH DISTRICT: I'm still excited about meeting with the president. I think, basically, his staff gave him some incorrect information. The meeting was never set. We didn't get all of these calls. And he talked about. As a matter of fact, I'm still looking forward to meeting with the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Clearly a difference of opinion what the reality is.
Back with the panel.
Cornell, first of all, I mean there's the Elijah Cummings, the response to the reporter, April Ryan, about, you know, setting up, does she know, you know, is she friends with the folks on The Congressional Black Caucus. What do you make of that?
CORNELL WILLIAMS BROOKS, NAACP, PRESIDENT AND CEO: So the president managed in the span of two paragraphs to be condescending as a man of race and insulting as a man of gender.
Here we have a veteran African-American reporter who's covered the White House, who is categorically respected. And he says to her that, first, he acts like he's not aware of The Congressional Black Caucus, which is the oldest such caucus on the Hill.
And then, he says, well, he hasn't met with them, but he would like for April Ryan, a journalist, to be his scheduler and secretary. She is a veteran journalist. That is insulting, both as a matter of race and as a matter of gender.
[20:35:10] And so, is he saying that with respect to other caucuses on the Hill. Is he saying that with respect to the male journalist? This is ridiculous. But it is a metaphor for the president's views on race, generally speaking. So when he talks about the African-American community as being drug-infested havens, when he deigns to meet with members of the African-American community, he seems to believe that we come in two types, entertainers and athletes. And so, he practices the kind of stereotype by omission, that is to say, not meeting with political leaders, not meeting with the leaders of organizations.
And so, his interaction with April Ryan really is a metaphor for his views on race, which are somewhere between Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal.
COOPER: Jeffrey Lord, you her Cornell says, did that exchange it all raise your eyebrows at all?
JEFFREY LORD, TRUMP SUPPORTER: No, and I tell you why and I have a lot of respect for Cornell, we disagree though on this. I mean I have to say, first of all, the network that she works for, that April Ryan works for, advertises itself as the only African-American-owned radio station. In other words, it's all about being African-American. So, in that context, he asked the question.
Yeah. This is the problem here. I mean, I frankly, I used to think The Congressional Black Caucus when it was first formed was a good thing. I change my mind on this. I don't think there should be any caucuses in the House of Representatives that are divided by race. I mean, heaven forbid if David Duke got elected and wanted to form a congressional white caucus that would just be appalling. Appalling. This is where we get into a problem and it's got to stop.
BROOKS: Sir, Jeffrey, that is -- I'm looking for a word here beyond -- it's completely preposterous to compare the Klan to The Congressional Black Caucus. The Congressional Black Caucus ...
LORD: I'm comparing divided by race.
BROOKS: It's not a matter of dividing by race. It's a matter of affirming racial justice issues ...
LORD: So you would be OK with a congressional white caucus?
LORD: You would be OK with a congressional white caucus? Really?
BROOKS: I didn't say that. What I would be comfortable with ...
LORD: I hope not!
BROOKS: ... is a caucus aligned around issues, a caucus aligned around advancing the concerns of groups that are frequently locked out of the process. That's how The Congressional Black Caucus came to be.
And frankly, sir, you should apologize for even putting the Klan and The Congressional Black Caucus in the same sentence.
LORD: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no don't go there. That's not what I said.
BROOKS: ... I'm not going there, it's what I heard.
LORD: What I'm saying to you is, there's no room in the United States Congress for caucuses that are divided by race. No matter the race.
BROOKS: But sir ...
LORD: There's no place for it.
BROOKS: Sir, let's get back to what the president said. The president didn't seem to recognize the oldest such caucus on the Hill. The president then speaks to a veteran journalist and suggests that she scheduled a meeting. I'm not entirely sure if he is aware that the network that she represents is African-American owned. And that, frankly, is beside the point.
LORD: Yes, it is! That's my point!
BROOKS: Her job is to cover the news. Her job is not to act ...
BROOKS: ... as an emissary or messenger or scheduler for president of the United States.
COOPER: All right, Jeffrey, the only thing she has in common with people on the Congressional Black Caucus is that she's black. So I mean it's essentially, isn't it saying, I mean when I saw it, I was like, he's asking one of the few Africa-American people in the room if she knows the people on The Congressional Black Caucus and can therefore she make a call and set up a meeting. It seemed odd.
LORD: Anderson, it's exactly where we get off track all the time. I mean, she is a reporter, she is a journalist. Period, full stop. That's it.
COOPER: So is her job to call up The Congressional Black Caucus and set up a meeting for the president of the United States?
LORD: No, no, no, of course, it isn't. But it's her network's job not to advertise itself as African-American owned.
COOPER: What does have to do with what he said?
BROOKS: This is the ultimate distraction. COOPER: It's a total distraction, Jeffrey.
BROOKS: Who she works for says nothing -- who she works for does not, in any way, undercut the fact that she is a journalist.
LORD: She's a good journalist!
BROOKS: She's a good journalist and therefore she should be afforded the respect ...
COOPER: ... didn't know what the CBC was, do you think he knew what network April Ryan works for?
LORD: I honestly don't know. I mean, at this point, that was getting to know the White House press corps. I don't know.
COOPER: OK. We've got to take a break here. Two views next on what we watched today from members of the president's own party. Republican lawmakers what some said may surprise you. Also from a former CI director and Secretary of Defense, as we continue.
[20:43:19] COOPER: The people who love Pres. Trump will love him more. The people who hate him will hate him more. That's the reaction to today's press conference from one Republican lawmaker. Another Republican senator has been critical of Mr. Trump. (Inaudible) CNN John King, "He should do that with a therapist not on live television."
It was an hour and 15 minutes that drew strong reaction in newsrooms and living rooms and on Capitol Hill. Manu Raju joins me with more.
You've been talking to members of Congress, Manu. What was their reaction to some of the things the president said today?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, it was a really a range of reactions from people who were shocked by the meandering nature of that press conference to pushback to some of the things that Donald Trump said. Even pushback from some Republicans, particularly on the issue of Russia and his dismissing -- dismissal of Russia, and saying he did not know or that he was not aware of anyone in his campaign who had contacts with Russian officials during the campaign.
A lot of Republicans I talked to said, that's not going to stop Congress from digging into this and trying to get to the bottom of exactly what happened. But also, Anderson, on some other issues, such as Donald Trump's contention that his travel ban was rolled out, "smoothly and perfectly." I talked to Sen. Rob Portman about that. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: He also said the rollout of the travel ban was, "perfect and very smooth." Did you find it to be perfect and smooth? SEN. ROB PORTMAN, (R) OHIO: No, I didn't, as you know. And my comment that next morning, when asked by one of your colleagues was, you know, the extreme vetting wasn't well vetted. And I think everyone would acknowledge that, including Secretary of DHS, who - Gen. Kelly, who had just been confirmed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Manu, the president was also sharply critical of the leaks, obviously, coming from the administration. Will Congress be investigating those leaks?
[20:45:03] RAJU: Well, there's actually a difference between the way the House Republicans are dealing with the leaks issue and Senate Republicans.
House Speaker Paul Ryan today said that this is a potentially a criminal matter. And it also should be investigated by the House Intelligence Committee. But I'm talking to Senate Republicans about this, Anderson, they do not want to go that route including Sen. Richard Burr, the North Carolina Republican who chairs the intelligence committee, told me today that actually he thinks that this is an area the FBI should look into, not his committee. That's something else that the number two Republican, John Cornyn, who sits on the committee, also reiterated to me, as well.
It really speaks to the larger divide between Senate and House republicans about how to dig into this issue of Russia and whether to go after the president's own contacts and discussions with Michael Flynn and whether he directed Michael Flynn in any way to talk about the issue of sanctions with the Russian ambassador. That's something that is going to be under the Senate Intelligence Committee is going to look at, but probably not the House Intelligence Committee.
There's some resistance among Republicans there so, a difference in the approach on this very issue that is getting Donald Trump very concerned, Anderson.
COOPER: Manu, thanks very much. With the president attacking the intelligence community, Former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, says leaks need to be investigated, but in a way that doesn't disparage the dedicated men and women of the intelligence community.
Joining me now is CI Director and Former Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta. Mr. Secretary I want to first start by asking you this new reporting tonight that Vice Admiral Robert Harward turned down the president's offer to replace Flynn as National Security Adviser position. What do you make about that?
LEON PANETTA, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: That's cause for concern, because Bob Harward is a good man. Worked for Jim Mattis. I know him. I think he's very capable at what he does. And the fact that for whatever reason he decided not to take that role raises concerns about whether or not internally there's enough support for a National Security Adviser to be able to do his job. COOPER: I mean, if there is a crisis right now that the White House has to deal with, a crisis regarding National Security, are there the people in place to do that?
PANETTA: Well, that's what I worry about. My understanding is that there is yet to be a meeting of the National Security Council. We're four weeks into this new administration. We haven't even had a deputy's meeting of the National Security Council.
And so, in the absence of having a process and procedure in place, along with a lack of a National Security Adviser, my concern is that if a crisis were to happen and some kind of provocative step were to be taken by the Russians or Iran or something happens in the Middle East or something happens with North Korea, the question would then be, what is the mechanism to deal with that?
COOPER: I mean you've obviously been in Washington, worked in Washington a along time, served as Defense Secretary, director of the CIA, Chief of Staff to Bill Clinton. Have you ever seen a president who appears to be such a -- I don't know if thin skinned is the right word, because that sounds very derogatory, but such a sort of live wire of emotion. I mean that --It's almost like we are witnessing what is going on in the president's head at any moment. And because he's tweeting about it and speaking about it in real-time, you know, oftentimes, presidents are somewhat protected and we don't hear the sort of inner workings of their thought process, but it seems we witness that in real-time with this president.
RAJU: Well, you know, Anderson, in my experience in the White House, every president I've worked with has a lot of those same reactions to the press. I mean, they don't like the stories. They don't like what's been said about them. They're frustrated about, you know, not getting the kind of press they feel they're entitled to. They're frustrated by leaks that take place.
I mean, these are all things that other presidents go through. But they don't spill their guts to the American people about all of those frustrations. They try to deal with it and then they try to act responsibly when it comes to the issues that they've got to confront.
I mean, you're looking deep Donald Trump every time he goes up. And it's very personal, it's about him. It's about all of his concerns about how he's being treated.
And look, in part, that's all very understandable. Because I've seen presidents go through those same emotions. But he can't -- he can't continue to display this to the American people and to the world when as president of the United States.
[20:50:00] You've got to convey a sense that you're taking responsibility and you're taking the steps necessary to deal with the challenges that you're facing.
You're not spending your time simply complaining about how you're being treated in the press. What you're doing is explaining what steps you're taking, legislatively and otherwise to deal with the problems facing the American people. At some point, he's got to get back to that serious responsibility of governing the country.
COOPER: All right, Sec. Panetta, thank you very much for your time. Appreciate it.
PANETTA: Thank you.
COOPER: Just ahead tonight how Pres. Trump's news conference going over in Yuma, Arizona deep red corner, deep red state in tonight's American uncover. We'll be right back.
COOPER: On this program we like to hear from as many different voices as possible, we can get (inaudible) important especially on the day like this. Reaction to Pres. Trump's 75 minute news conference runs (inaudible) much like the news conference itself.
In tonight's America uncovered, Gary Tuchman returns to a deep red pocket of the country to get Trump supporters' reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's easy to find people who voted for Donald Trump at Lutes Casino Restaurants and Bar in Yuma, Arizona, a state that once again went red on Election Day. Tell me why you voted for Donald Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because he wasn't a politician.
TUCHMAN: Many people here saw Donald Trump's news conference. Most of the others heard a lot about it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump said this administration is running like a fine-tuned machine.
TUCHMAN: What's your response to that?
LINDA GOODING, TRUMP VOTER: Well, it's not fine tuned but I know he's going to do the best he can, best he can.
TUCHMAN: Do you think he's over stating it when he says fine tuned.
GOODING: Maybe a little bit.
TUCHMAN: He said this about Gen. Flynn, I don't think he did anything wrong, if anything he did something right, but Donald Trump fired him. Is that confuse you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not really. He fired him because he wasn't truthful to the vice president what he had actually done. He tried to backtrack and say well, I don't remember exactly what I ...
TUCHMAN: But you don't think Flynn did anything wrong?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not really. He was doing his job.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... go with foreign diplomats and find out.
[20:55:07] TUCHMAN: Well, if he didn't do anything wrong, why was it a big deal that he didn't tell Vice President Pence about it if it is routine thing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The news media was all over him about it.
TUCHMAN: Do you think Donald Trump may have fired hill because it looked bad in the news media?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, exactly.
TUCHMAN: He said today the leaks are real, the news is fake.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, a lot of news is fake and has been for years.
TUCHMAN: How could the leaks be real if the news is fake? Why would you complain about leaks if it's not real news?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know but I know there's a lot of leaks and there's a lot of fake news.
TUCHMAN: When he says the news is fake but the leaks are real, does that make sense?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Not really.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But we've seen it before. We've seen fake news.
TUCHMAN: Is it possible the news that you just don't like or Donald Trump doesn't like?
LISA LOYA, TRUMP VOTER: Well, that could be possible. That could be possible. Not probable but possible.
TUCHMAN: I would say that's happened throughout since 1776 when people used quills.
LOYA: That's right.
TUCHMAN: People don't like news sometimes they call fake.
TUCHMAN: But not as much as Donald Trump. Does that concern you at all that he tends to say that so much including at this news conference?
TUCHMAN: Most everyone we talked to here still very proud they voted for Donald Trump but some want him to move on from the list of grievances. Are you still happy you voted for him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So far, yeah. But, you know, that remains to be seen whether I'll stay happy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And Gary joins us tonight. So Pres. Trump was still talking about the election in that press conference. What people you talked to have to say about that?
TUCHMAN: Let's put it this way, Anderson, none of the Trump voters I talked to here in Yuma are saying to me, we love that you're still talking about the election, Donald Trump. Please keep doing it. We would like hearing you talk about the election which occurred over a quarter year ago. They're not saying that, but some are saying there maybe a strategic reason he's doing this.
Nevertheless, what we hear most of type of people is they are ready for Donald Trump's move on when it comes to talking about Election Day (inaudible), Anderson.
COOPER: Gary Tuchman. Gary, thanks very much. We appreciate all those folks talking to you.
Much more ahead in the next hour of 360, more reaction to Pres. Trump's often combative news conference.
Plus new details are why the navy seal Mr. Trump picked to replace National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has turned down the job.