Return to Transcripts main page


FBI Refused WH Request to Knock Down Recent Trump-Russia Stories; WH Wants Intel Report to Help Justify Travel Ban; Chief WH Strategist Pushes Ambitious Plans. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 23, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:05] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, good evening. Thanks for joining us tonight.

Two CNN exclusives -- new reporting that says the White House pressed the FBI to knock down reports of Trump campaign contact with Russia.

Also tonight, new reporting on White House efforts to factually justify the travel ban, but concern as well among some in the intelligence community that they're being pressured to tailor the reporting to fit a predetermined agenda.

Again, this is reporting you'll only see here on CNN, beginning with the FBI story.

Joining us for that is chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto and CNN justice correspondent Evan Perez.

So, Jim, what did you find out?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, CNN is told that the FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports, including a report by CNN, about communications during the 2016 presidential campaign between Donald Trump associates and Russians known to U.S. intelligence.

Multiple U.S. officials tell CNN the White House sought the help not only of the bureau, but other agencies investigating the Russian matter to say that the reports were wrong and that there had been no contacts, these officials tell CNN.

You'll recall that CNN and the "New York Times" first reported on this just over a week ago. So far, the White House has not commented on the record to CNN.

COOPER: And, Evan, this is not a typical request. How did this start?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, a U.S. law enforcement official said this began with the FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on the sidelines of a separate White House meeting on the day that these stories were published. A White House official says that McCabe actually told Priebus that this "New York Times" story vastly overstated what the FBI knows about these Russian contacts.

But a law enforcement official says that McCabe didn't discuss aspects of the case. We don't know exactly what McCabe told Priebus. And a White House official said Priebus later reached out again to McCabe and to FBI Director James Comey, asking for the FBI to at least talk to reporters on background to dispute the stories. The FBI refused.

And I should add that the FBI has refused to comment on this story.

COOPER: And, Evan, just so I'm clear, was that the day of the report or the day after the report?

PEREZ: The morning after the report.

COOPER: OK, the morning after the report.

So, Jim, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus denied that story. That's what he said a week ago on "FOX News Sunday". Let's listen.


REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: "The New York Times" last week put out an article with no direct sources that said that the Trump campaign had constant contacts with Russian spies, basically, you know, treasonous type accusations. We have now all kinds of people looking into this. I can assure you, and I've been -- I've been approved to say this, that the top levels of the intelligence community have assured me that that story is not only inaccurate, but it's grossly overstated, and it was wrong. And there's nothing to it.


COOPER: So, Jim, what about that? I mean, the investigation is still going?

SCIUTTO: Absolutely. It's just difficult for him to say there is nothing to it. The fact is the FBI is still investigating these communications. Several members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees tell CNN that Congress as well still investigating those alleged contacts.

And that investigation has in fact begun. We know that they're starting to collect documents, other records. This is still an open question. You have multiple bodies here in Washington trying to find the answer to that question with open investigations.

COOPER: And, Jim, just so I'm clear on what CNN's reporting was, because I think what you said was Russians known to U.S. intelligence. He -- Priebus said with Russian spies.

SCIUTTO: This may be why the White House singled out "The New York Times" reporting on this as opposed to CNN's reporting. CNN reported, and I'll stick to that, that there were constant frequent, communications between advisers to Donald Trump, candidate then Donald Trump during the campaign and Russian officials and other Russians known to U.S. intelligence. COOPER: OK.

SCIUTTO: These are people who were monitored by respect of their positions. "The New York Times" said people who were Russian intelligence, that may be the distinction that led to the White House to single them out.

COOPER: All right. Good. I just wanted to clarify that.

Evan, this is not a typical back-and-forth between the White House and the FBI, correct?

PEREZ: That's right, Anderson. The communication between the White House and the FBI is unusual because of a decade old restriction on such contacts. Now, the request from the White House would appear to at least violate the procedures that limit these types of communications with the FBI on pending investigation.

Now, a White House official says that McCabe actually initiated the conversation with Reince Priebus, but either way, the White House is asking the FBI to help refute stories runs contrary to Justice Department procedure memos that were issued in 2007 and 2009 that are supposed to limit the direct communications on pending investigations between the White House and the FBI.

COOPER: Fascinating. Evan Perez, we appreciate it. Jim Sciutto as well.

SCIUTTO: Thanks.

COOPER: Now, tonight's second CNN exclusive, at the center of it, the White House travel ban which is currently being redrafted as you know to pass judicial muster.

[20:05:04] We have new reporting on the White House to provide a factual basis for it. We're also learning about some pushback from some in the intelligence community who have been given the job of evaluating the evidence and who are worried that they're being asked to tailor those facts to fit a preordained conclusion.

Now, "THE LEAD's" Jake Tapper broke the story. He has more for us now.

So, Jake, what are you learning?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, this is about the temporary travel ban on individuals from the seven Muslim majority countries, those countries being Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, Iran, Iraq, and Syria.

A senior White House official tells me that the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department, quote, "are working on an intelligence report that will demonstrate that the security threat for these seven countries is substantial, and that these seven countries have all been exporters of terrorism into the United States, a situation that the official says has gotten more dangerous in recent years and more broadly the refugee program has been a major incubator for terrorism," unquote.

Now, this report was requested in light of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals conclusion that the Trump administration, quote, "has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States", unquote.

But CNN has learned that some current intelligence officials are concerned about this assignment from the White House.

COOPER: Concerned in what way?

TAPPER: Well, first some disagree with the position of the Trump White House. Sources tell the CNN that Department of Homeland Security, they have an in-house intelligence agency called the Office of Intelligence and Analysis. It's nicknamed I&A. They have filed -- I&A filed a report that disagrees with the view that blocking immigration from the seven countries strategically makes any sense. Some DHS officials have said they do not think nationality is the best indicator of potential terrorism.

So, we asked the Department of Homeland Security about this. And a spokeswoman confirmed the report to us and said, quote, "While DHS was asked to draft a comprehensive report on this issue, the document you're referencing was commentary from a single intelligence source versus an official robust document with thorough interagency vetting."

And it's rather remarkable because the Department of Homeland Security went on to essentially disparage its own intelligence division's report saying, quote, "The I&A report does not include data from other intelligence community sources. It is incomplete. Pointed internal discussion about the merits of various intelligence projects and whether they have sufficient supporting data from the broader community is an integral part of developing any official DHS intelligence assessment," unquote.

COOPER: I also understand, there is a concern among some within the intelligence community that the White House is going about this in the wrong way. How so?

TAPPER: That's exactly right. The notion of the Trump White House is seeking an intelligence report to fit its policy instead of the other way around. This is an issue for some people in the intelligence community, sources tell us.

Sources also telling CNN's Pamela Brown that there are those within the Department of Homeland Security that there are concerns that intelligence at the department might be becoming politicized. The department we should say called that accusation, quote, "absurd and not factually accurate."

Now, the bigger point from the White House perspective, according to the senior White House official is that President Trump and his team are determined to prove that the Ninth Circuit Court's argument was wrong, as are those in the media and Democrats who have made the same argument, such as for instance Congressman Jerrold Nadler who appeared on CNN last month.

Take a listen.


REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: The various people who have, in fact, committed terrorist acts in this country from 9/11 onward, none of them came from any of the seven countries that are the subjects of the president's executive order.


TAPPER: Now, the senior White House official tells me that the argument that Congressman Nadler uses there is, quote, "using the most narrow definition of committed terrorist acts that you can use," meaning the definition is only those attacks in which an innocent civilian was killed. That definition, for example, would not include the Ohio state attack last November when Somali-born Abdul Razak Ali Artan, after arriving in the U.S. in 2014, attempted to run over and stab 13 innocent people on campus.

So, the White House intends however they get the report that they want, they want to bolster their case for the ban using a broader definition which would include not just lethal terrorist attacks, but nonlethal, failed, as well as investigations and convictions of individuals attempting to support or join a terrorist report.

COOPER: Fascinating reporting. Jake Tapper, thanks very much.

TAPPER: Thank you.

COOPER: Well, just ahead, he has been called the architect of Donald Trump's political agenda. But White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon also sees himself as a leader of a movement. Agree or disagree with his goals, they were on full display at a conference today as you can see for yourself when we come back.

And later, Univision's Jorge Ramos on the new immigration effort and mixed messages about it. President Trump called it a military operation. But his head of homeland security says, it is absolutely not. Full details ahead.


[20:13:30] COOPER: Five weeks into the administration of President Trump, we've heard plenty from the president. We've heard less from the vice president, less still from cabinet member, some of whom appeared to have vanished from the stage.

We've heard least of all from the man who is one of the president's closest confidantes, senior White House counselor, Steve Bannon. Few of any advisers seem to hold so much sway over the president, yet he rarely speaks in public.

He broke with tradition today at CPAC, the conservative political action conference, and what he said could be the clearest expression yet of what the Trump agenda may be.

CNN's Phil Mattingly reports.


STEVE BANNON, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: He has laid out an agenda with those speeches for the promises he made. And our job every day is just to execute on that. And the mainstream media better understand something -- all of these promises are going to be implemented.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon in his first public appearance since Trump took office on stage. White House chief of staff Reince Priebus dismissing any reports of division and promised to fight for the very agenda Trump laid out in the campaign.

BANNON: He is going to continue to press his agenda. And as economic conditions get better, as more jobs get better, they're going to continue to fight. If you think they're going to give you your country without a fight, you're sadly mistaken. Every day, every day it is going to be a fight.

MATTINGLY: Bannon appearing with Priebus in a public display designed to tamp down an array of reports of dissension in the ranks.

REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: And regarding to us too, I think the biggest misconception is everything that you're reading.

MATTINGLY: Bannon and Priebus united in their belief that the press has been unfair to President Trump.

[20:15:03] BANNON: Just like they were dead wrong on the chaos of the campaign, and just like they were dead wrong on the chaos of the transition, they're absolutely dead wrong about what is going on today.

MATTINGLY: Adding public fuel to the fire that at times has engulfed an administration determined to undercut the media with repeated attacks. The Trump agenda now dominating the conservative gathering he skipped last year, where the Conservative Political Action Conference has become the Trump political action conference.


MATTINGLY: With Trump now the face of the party and the conservative movement.

Trump's team pledging to continue their push to roll back Obama era rules, including last night's move to rescind guidance related to transgender use of student bathrooms.

BETSY DEVOS, EDUCATION SECRETARY: This issue was a very huge example of the Obama administration's overreach to suggest a one-size-fits-all federal government approach. MATTINGLY: Even as questions remain as to whether Trump, far from a

traditional ideological conservative, can keep the party's elements together.

MATT SCHLAPP, CPAC: Can this Trump movement be combined with what's been happening at CPAC and other conservative movements for 50 years?

PRIEBUS: First of all, it has to. And we have to stick together as a team.

The truth of the matter is, Donald Trump, President Trump brought together the party and the conservative movement. And I've got to tell you, if the party and the conservative movement are together, similar to Steve and I, it can't be stopped.


COOPER: Phil, Vice President Pence spoke tonight at CPAC. What did he say?

MATTINGLY: Yes, that's right, Anderson. Just walked off the stage a few minutes ago.

And he closed with four words, "Let's get to work." And that really encapsulated the purpose of his message tonight according to his advisers. He wanted to let the crowd here know, thousand of people in the audience, that they, the grassroots, the conservative activists, need to do just that -- get to work, rise up, that the Trump administration on its own probably can't accomplish everything that it's laid out.

Even as Mike Pence was ticking through the accomplishments that he thinks they've achieved so far, there is a recognition, particularly as they look across the country and see the outcry in town halls and city after city, congressional district after congressional district, that without activists coming to their aid, they could be in trouble.

That's the message you heard from a number of Trump administration officials throughout the day today. And that's the message Vice President Pence wanted to hammer home tonight, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Phil Mattingly, thanks very much at CPAC.

Joining us now is New York One political anchor, Errol Louis, CNN political analyst David Gregory, Democratic strategist Symone Sanders, and Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord, who is also contributing editor at "The American Spectator" magazine.

David, I mean, it's interesting to hear Steve Bannon talking in front of a conservative organization which last year Donald Trump did not actually even attend. He was there the prior year -- talking about economic nationalism, talking about populism. Not necessarily traditional conservative ideas, but the party in many ways has been transformed.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It has been transformed. And I still don't think we know yet, Anderson, to what degree Trump, Bannon and others reshape conservatism. But I think CPAC is a perfect example. This is a conservative group that was not with Donald Trump. Conservatives were not with Donald Trump.

And he's reclaimed the party. They're talking about reclaiming America. He has reclaimed the party and unified Republicans. That was a huge part of his victory. And it's a huge part of his first month.

I think an important barometer, there's a lot of noise, there's chaos, there has been mistakes made. Does he retain support in those critical congressional districts that he won? Because if he can control Republicans by controlling those districts, he can get his agenda done.

COOPER: And, Errol, does he continue to have the support of Republicans obviously on Capitol Hill?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's notable that not many of them are there for the conference this year. In past years, you saw the majority leader there. In the past years, you saw the speaker of the house there. Neither is going to be there this week.

They've got other things to do, obviously. It's a recess week. They're supposed to be getting connected and reconnected with their constituents back in their districts.

On the other hand, look, the president is there, the vice president is there, very high profile. These folks have a nose where there might be trouble, where there might be a problem. And something about this gathering I think they maybe wanted to wait for some of the dust to settle. Let Trump continue learning it into TPAC as Kellyanne Conway put it, complete his takeover of both his standing in the party and with this movement before they want to come around and maybe risk exposure.

That whole sort of fight with the alt-right in expelling some of the more extremist elements with something most lawmakers, most traditional politicians would want to see done before they want to stand on the same stage.

COOPER: Jeffrey, as a Trump supporter, is he in control now of the party?

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, he is the president of the United States. Presidents of the United States control their party. Good, bad or indifferent, over history, they're in control.

I mean, even a weak president like Jimmy Carter who was challenged for renomination, by God, he got that nomination a second time over Ted Kennedy who was supposedly so incredibly popular.

[20:20:07] So, absolutely, this is Donald Trump's party today.

COOPER: Symone, one of the lines that Steve Bannon said, I want to get this right, "we are a nation with a culture and a reason for being." I'm wondering how you interpret it, how you heard that.

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, I go back to the Steve Bannon that said on the CPAC stage today, someone that embraced that he was a conservative is very jarring to me. This is the same person that waged war on conservatives in the Republican Party, people like Paul Ryan, traditional conservatives. The same person that has fostered and then stoked these divisions is extremist language when it comes to people of color, women, Jewish people, Muslims.

So, I think what Steve Bannon was getting to was his nationalist populism, if you will. And we still -- I still believe that we have put white supremacy in the White House with Steve Bannon.

So, it looked temperate on that stage today --

COOPER: When you say, that is that based solely on the one line that Steve Bannon said in an interview about Breitbart being the platform for the alt-right? Because I mean in terms of his actual language, is there anything you can actually point to that says he is white supremacist?

SANDERS: I think it's -- alt-right is nothing but white supremacy dressed up in khakis in my opinion. And so, he said it that one time. And that is something that he's again, repeated and hammered home. And everything that Breitbart has done.

So, Breitbart is the platform that Steve Bannon created. It is in fact the platform that it was his child. It's his baby. So to divorce him from what Breitbart was, I think we just can't do that.

COOPER: But I mean, he's never said -- I mean, look at his record, he has never said anything --

SANDERS: I don't think he would ever say he see a white supremacist.

LORD: That's because he is not.

SANDERS: But he believes a lot of the same things that Richard Spencer believes.

GREGORY: I don't know what's in his heart. I do -- the language of uniqueness of American culture is this kind of white nationalist language to me that harkens back to the kind of language we've heard before. It's a question. And I don't know what the answer to that question is.

I don't know him. I don't know what's in his heart. There is a world view there that I think will trouble a lot of Trump opponents about the uniqueness of America somehow being separated from our -- the history of being such a multicultural society, a welcoming society and a society that assimilates outsiders really well, assimilates immigrants really, really well.

There is a comparison to the vulnerability of Europe that somehow we are the same. And I think immigrants assimilate into America both economically, socially, and culturally, much better than other countries as part of the greatness of this country. That seems to be what he is challenging.

COOPER: Also, Jeffrey, it's not clear -- I mean, how much of Steve Bannon's world view is really President Trump's world view. I mean, President Trump interviewed I think to Reuters talked about the E.U. as being wonderful, if that's why what they like, then he is all for it.

Steve Bannon apparently in a conversation with the German ambassador, you know, gave -- said he would rather have bilateral talks with countries in Europe, not necessarily the E.U.

LORD: Rule number one in any White House is that the president's point of view rules. Rule number two is that, generally, particularly if they're a good president, they have people with lots of varying viewpoints on issues around them. And those issues are given, you know, have that chance to vent.

I mean, Abraham Lincoln said he had this cabinet, the famous team of rivals. They went off in all kinds of directions. There was only one cote vote that counted. It was his. So, this is Donald Trump's presidency. It's his cabinet. It's his staff. He wants to hear divergent points of view.

COOPER: Errol, do you think appearing with Reince Priebus part of this was designed to quell stories about chaos, about divisions? Do you think they did that today?

LOUIS: Well, I mean, for those who want to hear that message, it's a visible sign and you can sort of latch on to that.

But let's also consider that Bannon has sort of not been a public presence except when talking to this select group. So, is he an adviser and an official who has the entire nation's interest at heart or is he a political warrior which is what he sounded like in that clip, telling his fellow warriors we're going to fight every day, we're going to move this agenda and everything else is sort of secondary at best?

What unites them to my ears is power. As long as they've got power and as long as they're winning, everything will be fine. If they have some setbacks along the way, that's when things are not so fine. And that's when the stories start coming out.

And let's keep in mind, no matter what Bannon wants to say the press, keep its mouth shut or the press is always wrong, these are well sourced reports there are lots of people in this administration who have lots of points of view as Jeff said.

GREGORY: That's what I love. They hate the press. They delegitimize the press as the opposition yet they stand in line waiting to call on leak about all the divisions in the White House.


COOPER: Ain't Washington a great place.



[20:25:00] Just ahead, Steve Bannon's unconventional path to the top post in the White House. A Navy vet, a Harvard grad, with Goldman Sachs and Hollywood credits on his resume and a passion for attacking the establishment. We'll look at his record ahead.


COOPER: As we said, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon spoke today at CPAC. He rarely speaks in public. Today, we've got a view of his thinking. He laid out the Trump agenda and took some hard swings, obviously at the news media. No surprise there.

What he said is probably familiar to those who followed his career. A lot of people are just beginning to know him.

Dana Bash tonight reports.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Steve Bannon's CPAC appearance wasn't just notable for what he said, but because he spoke publicly at all.

SCHLAPP: You know, Steve, you're a really likable guy. You should do this more often.

BASH: Don't count on it. Bannon is just fine being the guy seen by the cameras but not heard -- Oval Office photo ops during world leader call, signing ceremonies and business meetings. He is a big thinker, laying an intellectual foundation of what he calls economic nationalism to Donald Trump's about orthodox brand.

PRIEBUS: He is extremely consistent, that as you can imagine, there are many things hitting the president's ear and desk every day. Different things that come to the president that want to move him off of his agenda, and Steve is very consistent and very loyal.

[20:30:14] DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Bannon is a complex character, a Virginia native and former naval officer from a Democratic working class family. In many ways, it makes sense he'd dedicate himself to giving his brethren a voice. But he is also an elite, a Harvard Business School graduate who worked at Goldman Sachs and produced television and movies in Hollywood.

Despite that pedigree or perhaps because of it, he became editor-in- chief of the ultra right Breitbart and began trying to reshape the media landscape by throwing flames at the establishment, even the GOP.

STEVE BANNON, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: What we need to do is bitch slap the Republican Party.

BASH: Now Bannon calls the man who chaired the Republican Party until two months ago his partner. BANNON: The reason Reince and I are good partner is that we can disagree.

BASH: To be clear, Bannon has not change the world has, by signing on to the Trump campaign in August and then becoming White House chief strategist and counselor, Bannon is now in a position to reconstruct the institutions he deplores from the inside.

BANNON: If you think they're going give you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken.

BASH: He is a warrior for his nationalistic cause, creating a think tank of sorts inside the White House to promote it. But Bannon only articulates his views with like-minded media, making way for publications like "Time" to call him the great manipulator, and "Saturday Night Live" to portray him as the grim reaper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's enough fun for tonight. Can I have my desk back?


BASH: Because he doesn't speak out, Bannon leaves high profile attacks like this unanswered.

NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVE, MINORITY LEADER: It's a stunning thing that a white supremacist, Bannon would be a permanent member of National Security Council.

BASH: Sources close to Bannon insists he doesn't care what people think of him. Dana Bash, CNN, New York.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Well, Steve Bannon, his beliefs are not new to Glenn Beck, National Syndicated Radio-Host and founder of the Blaze. He has had strong views about Bannon for some time. I spoke to Glenn earlier.


COOPER: Glenn, I'm wondering from what you hear about Steve Bannon today. Did you learn anything about him that surprise you'd or did it confirm what you already believed about him?

GLENN BECK, THEBLAZE, FOUNDER: No it confirmed what I already believed. What is frightening to me is the lack of reaction from the crowd at CPAC. He dropped economic nationalism two or three times during that. He talked about populism and nationalism a lot. And then said look how diverse this group is. He knew he was an outsider. And by saying things, for instance, about Gore had been saying hey, Donald Trump did this and he promised the people he was going to do that. They were also laying the ground that we are going to -- we're a White House of economic nationalism and populism. That is not conservative. And really, I think very, very dangerous. COOPER: How does that differ than conservatism than many people at CPAC? I mean, in what way -- when he talks about economic nationalism, what does that mean to you? What does that mean to him?

BECK: It means tariffs. And tariffs, as you know, Anderson, it was Smoot-Hawley, the gigantic tariff in 1933 that set the great depression and set it in stone. It is whenever a country feels that they are losing their place in the world, they slap tariffs on. And that will just start to slap more tariffs on from other countries. France and Le Pen has already said that she's going to do that. In fact they're going to re -- if she is elected, remove themselves from the E.U. and start a Russian-Paris pact instead of a United States or NATO-Paris pact.

COOPER: It is interesting how some of the things he says align with what Marine Le Pen is saying in France.

BECK: Very much so.

COOPER: Even the attitude toward Russia is very similar, as we've heard from Donald Trump. There seems to be this admiration of Vladimir Putin.

BECK: You and I have talked about it off air, Anderson. And I keep ringing the bell on this. Every journalist should be reading about Alexander Dugan, because his philosophy, he is a man who is an adviser to Donald Trump. He is very influential and backed by some very rich and powerful Russians. And they are funding and influencing many of -- many countries in the western world into this Alt-Right nature. And Bannon speaks that language. And you heard it today.

COOPER: You know, Steve Bannon also said, "We are a nation with a culture and a reason for being. And I think that's what unites us." How did you interpret that?

[20:35:00] BECK: It's Dugan. It is the fourth political theory. It is this -- it's very cloaked language that many conservatives will agree with, unless you know what the man is saying. And it is a language of traditionalism, nationalism, heritage. But those things are things that are being used now to divide and pull apart to be able to destroy.

The one thing you have to remember about Dugan, is he has said it himself that he is a Leninist. He doesn't believe in Marxism. He believes that Lenin was right to burn the state down. So it's almost an agent of chaos.

And if you recognize the language of Dugan, that's what Dugan is pushing for, chaos in the western world. Uproot everything so it can all be reset into what he believes is a fourth political theory. I don't know what Steve Bannon's plan is after he would burn down the system, but he has talked repeatedly about burning the system down to the ground. That's not good. No conservative would be for that.

We are for conserving the constitution of the United States of America. And as I was watching this last night, or this afternoon, there was two things that came to me. One, he has carried through on some of the promises that I didn't think he would. I didn't think we'd get some -- a real conservative on the Supreme Court. That's a real conservative on the Supreme Court. So he has done some things that a conservative will like.

However, they weren't separating that from the nationalist populist talk at the main conservative stage. Conservatives, they're telling you who they are. They're telling you what they're going to do. And we just seem to be turning a blind eye to it.

COOPER: We heard from Bannon today again attacking the media several times, calling them the opposition party. He went on to label them, "Globalist corporate media." And he also said ...

BECK: Again.

COOPER: ... if you think they're going to give your country back without a fight, you're sadly mistaken.

I mean adversarial relationships are one thing. And you and I talked about the bias and the importance of policing that. But I wonder what you make of this idea of -- the branding the media, the opposition party, the enemy of the country.

BECK: So when you burn it down, Anderson, what are you left with? Right now we're left with a country not knowing who to trust, not knowing -- knowing that what the president is saying is not true, but then saying, well, but I don't believe them either.

COOPER: Right.

BECK: Where is the authority? You can't just burn a system down. And that is a plan. Again, with what you just said about ...

COOPER: Globalists.

BECK: ... the opposition party and the Globalist machinery, that, again, is Dugan language.

COOPER: Glenn Beck, always good to talk to you. Thanks, Glenn.

BECK: Good to talk to you.


COOPER: Well, just to add tonight, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly spend the day meeting with Mexican official, trying to smooth over rising tensions over Pres. Trump's immigration crackdown. They had a tall order to fill, certainly. Did they deliver? We'll look at that ahead.


[20:42:15] COOPER: The Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly have wrapped up their meetings with Mexican officials. The visit was meant to smooth over, obviously, strained relations between countries, tensions that have escalated in the wake of Pres. Trump's immigration crackdown. At a joint press conference, Sec. Kelly softened the rhetoric on the new immigration policy, however. Here is how he put it.


JOHN KELLY, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: There will be no, repeat, no mass deportations. And again, listen to this. No, repeat no use of military force in immigration operations. None.


COOPER: Well, his message though seemed at odds with what Pres. Trump had said just hours earlier.


DONALD TRUMP, (R), U.S. PRESIDENT: We're getting really bad dudes out of this country. And at a rate that nobody's ever seen before. And they're the bad ones. And it's a military operation.


COOPER: That's the first time the White House has called the crackdown a military operation. A White House Spokesperson said Pres. Trump did not misspeak and was using military as an adjective. Semantics aside, the upshot was a mixed message on the tactics and the scope of this executive order. Lots to discuss with Univision anchor, Jorge Ramos.

Jorge, well, the message of the Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly made clear that there will be no mass deportations and that they'll be focusing in on, what he called the criminal element in the United States. Do you believe him?

JORGE RAMOS, UNIVISION ANCHOR: Obviously, we have to believe him. But this contradicts exactly what Pres. Donald Trump has said a few hours before that. Deportations were going to be a military operation. Maybe he misspoke, but if Gen. Kelly is telling us the truth and there will be no mass deportations and no military force will be used in the deportations, then how do you explain the memos? How do you explain 15,000 new I.C.E. agents to do what? To watch movies? To go to Disneyland? No. Of course, there is a lot of fear.

What I can tell you right now in the Hispanic community, there is a lot of fear and confusion. This morning "The New York Times" had a really dramatic story on many immigrants who are not sending their kids to school or not going to work, don't even want to go out to church, simply because there is a lot of fear. So, maybe there is not a military operation. Maybe no mass deportations. But not yet. Not yet. I think -- I think Donald Trump has clearly xenophobic anti- immigrant agenda.

COOPER: The White House has said he meant military as an adjective, meaning a precise operation. And Kelly says absolutely no military personnel. But I mean, as you and I have talked about before, you know, there are many who believe that the definition of criminality is now under these new orders is so broad that it really can affect just about anybody. And there is huge discretion on the part of law enforcement, more than there was before about who they want to deport.

[20:45:04] RAMOS: I agree with you. And that's precisely the problem, because if the new definition of criminal is anyone who cross illegally the boarder from Mexico to the United States, then we have 11 million criminals in this country. And that is not true. I think also the problem is that Donald Trump is criminalizing the immigrant population.

Let me just give you an example. Since 1990, the undocumented population grew from 3.5 million to about 11 million, which is the number that we have right now. At that exact time, according to the FBI, violent crime decreased 48 percent. In other words, the more immigrants that you have, the less crime that you have. I know this goes against what Donald Trump is saying. But that's the truth. Those are the numbers. And unfortunately, Donald Trump is criminalizing immigrants in this country. And that's simply not true and not fair.

COOPER: In the shadow of the expansion of immigration enforcement, the Trump administration they're leaving in place the protections they say they were put in place for dreamers and undocumented parents of U.S. citizens. What do you make of that decision? Does that -- do you think that is permanent? Does that calm some fears?

RAMOS: I hope so. I've been listening to Donald Trump for a year and a half, and he has been saying that he has a big heart. I hope that he shows that big heart with the dreamers. We're talking about 750,000 dreamers. He hasn't done anything against them right now. But he can do much better. He can legalize them if he really wants to and just go beyond that.

Right now Pres. Trump has control of both chambers of Congress. He could have legalization of 11 million with one signature. And he simply doesn't want to do that.

So I think we have to be very clear that there are two completely different options. They can go with a (inaudible) for enforcement and scare the population and make sure that everyone is leaving, as they're doing right now, or just go the civilized way. Follow the U.S. tradition and legalize 11 million as they've done with me and many others in the past.

COOPER: You know, those who support what the White House is doing say, look, this is just -- this is just following existing laws. These laws are on the books. And if it means that a police officer who stops somebody who, you know, goes through a red light and finds out they're undocumented and decides to deport that person, well, these are the laws on the book, and the police have the right to do that.

RAMOS: I understand. But the fact is that undocumented immigrants came to this country to help us. Yes, you and me and everybody watching. They are here because they are harvesting the food that we eat and building the houses where we live and baby-sitting our kids. They come here because we need them. And they are not criminals. They're not rapists. They are not terrorists. And it is very unfortunate that Pres. Trump is promoting the idea that immigrants in this country are criminals and terrorists and rapists, because that is not true. They are here because of us, Anderson. They are here because we need them. And they are here -- we're partly responsible for them. Thousands of American companies are hiring them and millions of Americans have benefit from their work.

COOPER: The other question I always have is unintended consequences of something. If an undocumented immigrant is, you know, if a woman is beaten by her husband, does she then no longer feel safe enough to go to the authorities to report that? If somebody witnesses a crime happening to others and they're undocumented, will they cooperate with police and talk about what they saw if they fear the police then turning around and asking them for papers and having the power to deport them?

RAMOS: Exactly. And that's the reasoning behind the idea of sanctuary cities in Los Angeles and Chicago, New York, and many others. And also, what I'm really concerned right now, Anderson are the children. There are 4.5 million children, U.S.-born children who have at least one parent who is undocumented. So is the new policy of the United States separating families? Is that what we really want to do? Are we in a country in which now children have to come out and legally defend their parents?

Last week I interviewed Jessie Vargas (ph), 13 years old who came out in my show trying to defend her father, Mario Vargas who is undocumented. So is that the country we want? I sometimes do not recommend it, honestly.

COOPER: Jorge Ramos, thanks for being with us.

RAMOS: Thank you.

COOPER: Well, coming up, some GOP lawmakers face tense Town Halls across the country. Others are taking a different approach, not going to them in the first place. Details ahead.


[20:53:27] COOPER: Well, in Town Halls across the country Republican lawmakers have been facing some intense crowds but at least they're facing them, other lawmakers are simply avoiding their angry constituents instead or refusing the whole Town Hall meetings. Manu Raju tonight has more.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: At Rowdy Town Hall meetings, Republicans are getting an ear full from voters worried about Pres. Trump's plans to repeal Obamacare.

But some Republicans are keeping a low profile, and skipping Town Hall meetings all together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to host the Town Hall? RAJU: Senator Marco Rubio was confronted by one his constituents in Miami on Thursday morning, asked about why he isn't holding Town Halls for his constituents.

In Columbus, Ohio, critics seized on Congressman Patiberi's no show at a Town Hall.

In Allentown, Pennsylvania, protesters held their own events demanding Sen. Pat Toomey show up.

And in Vista, California, Congressman Darrell Issa was confronted by protesters gathered outside his district office.

REP. DARRELL ISSA, (R-CALIF.): My hope is this morning we'll find a way to bridge these two groups.

RAJU: But he later decided to skip a Town Hall meeting organized by some of his critics.

ISSA: I'm sending staff there and they will be there while I'm here.

RAJU: In Carson City, Nevada, Sen. Dean Heller planned to have a friendly meeting with the local chamber of commerce, but the meeting quickly turned contentious and he was pressed to have a Town Hall that would include more voters, the senator who is up for reelection next year said he'd have a Town Hall on this condition. No reaction from the audience.

[20:55:03] SEN. DEAN HELLER, (R-NV): I'll do a town hall meeting if you promise one thing, is that you won't applaud. No applauding, all right? And I tell you what, no booing, either. Just no applauding, no booing.

RAJU: Some Republicans like Florida Congressman Carlos Curbelo are eager to avoid a moment that will go viral online and eventually be used by their opponents. In a statement, Curbelo's office told CNN that he will, "Not be part of any planned chaos events."


COOPER: And Manu joins me now. I mean, that's been the criticism by some Republicans that these are planned events and these are paid protesters, they have gone as far as saying, which is the same thing they said about Tea Party protesters and Democrats said about Tea Party protesters back in 2009. I mean is there belief that some Republicans may vote against repealing Obamacare because of what they are hearing back home?

RAJU: There is certainly a fear, Anderson. There is really not much margin for error for House and Senate Republican leaders. On the Senate side, you can't lose more than two Republican votes and today Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said that she would vote against any plan to repeal Obamacare and also defunded Planned Parenthood and got rid of that expansion of Medicaid and as we know House Republicans want to do both. And the House side, you can't lose more than 20 Republican votes at the moment. There are 24 Republicans who hail from districts in which Hillary Clinton won and those decisions are going to really hit the road. The rubber is going to hit the road, Anderson in March when the House starts to vote on these proposals, on repealing and replacing Obamacare and at that point, these members have to make some key decisions but too many defections could mean the end of efforts to derail Obamacare, Anderson.

COOPER: Manu, thanks very much.

In the next hour we're going to talk to a Republican congressman who is actually going about this in different way instead of avoiding, having Town Hall. He's actually scheduled more, he has three this week alone.

Also coming up in the next hour, two exclusive reports. CNN has learned the White House wanted the FBI to knock down reports about communications between the Trump teams and Russians known to U.S. intelligence. The FBI refused, we'll have that exclusive report ahead.

Plus, Pres. Trump also is seeking homeland Security's help to build the case for his travel ban. Why that has raised concern among some intelligence officials, we're talking in the CNN next.