Return to Transcripts main page


House Intel Chair Denies Evidence of Trump-Russia Calls; Details Leak on White House Leak Crackdown; Details Leak On WH Leak Crackdown; Bernie Sanders One-On-One; Oscar Snafu; GOP Rep. Gets Vague On Russia Special Prosecutor; House Intel Denies Evidence of Trump- Russia Calls; Trump: Our Military Doesn't Win Anymore. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 27, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:06] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening from Washington, D.C. Thanks very much for joining us.

We have former presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders, on the program tonight. There are late details on president Trump's plans on the eve of his first speech to Congress tomorrow for a double digit boost in defense spending and massive cuts elsewhere.

We begin, however, with continuing question of contact during the campaign and later, between the Trump campaign and Russia. Friday, a powerful Republican congressman said a special prosecutor is needed and he appeared to backtrack today.

Also today, the White House said there's no need for one. Meantime, the GOP chairman of the House Intelligence Committee essentially threw cold water on the story, while denying reports he was enlisted by the White House to pour cold water on the story.

It may seem like a tangled web and there is indeed much we simply do not know at this point, we should point that out. However, our own reporting on some of it is solid, it is extensive, it's clear.

And tonight, CNN's Jim Sciutto has more.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On Capitol Hill today, a tale of two realities, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, a Republican, denying evidence of communications between Trump advisers and Russians during the campaign.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: As of right now, I don't have any evidence that would -- of any phone calls. It doesn't mean they don't exist, but I don't have that.

SCIUTTO: Just hours later, the ranking member of the same committee, a Democrat, who has seen much of the same intelligence, contradicting that assessment.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We have, I think, reached no conclusion nor could we in terms of issues of collusion because we haven't called in a single witness or viewed a single document on that issue as of yet.

SCIUTTO: At issue, recent reporting from CNN and "The New York Times" that investigators are examining communications between Trump associates and Russians known to U.S. intelligence. The administration pushing back hard on "The New York Times" characterization of the Russians as being part of Russian intelligence.

The bipartisan Hill investigation is just beginning its work, gathering documents, and agreeing just this afternoon on the scope of the investigation. It's not yet called any witnesses. Still, Chairman Devin Nunes telling reporters he's been given indications from unidentified officials in the intelligence community that, quote, "there's no there there."

NUNES: There'd be no evidence of that nor is there any evidence that I've been presented about Trump advisers speaking to Russians. As of right now, the initial inquiries I've made to the appropriate agencies, I don't have any evidence.

SCIUTTO (on camera): Are you saying the FBI has not supplied you with that evidence or the FBI has told you there's no evidence?

NUNES: Look, I'm not going to get into which agencies. I think it's important.

SCIUTTO: The intelligence community.

NUNES: But the intelligence agencies have not provided me or the committee any information about those three Americans communicating with Russians.

SCIUTTO: But they have not told you that that evidence does not exist? There's a difference there.

NUNES: Yes, I -- the way it sounds like to me is it's been looked into, and there's no evidence of anything there. You know, obviously, we would like to know if there is.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): The Nunes comments echoed by White House spokesman Sean Spicer, defending the administration's aggressive effort to refute the story.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think Chairman Nunes this morning over and over and over and over again made it very clear that no evidence that has been brought to his attention suggests that reporting was accurate.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Schiff told reporters, however, there is, quote, "a lot of spade work to be done," not only on possible phone calls between Trump advisers and Russians tied to the Kremlin, but also other potential links and communications during the campaign.

SCHIFF: How the Russians operate, how they seek to exert their inference covertly, whether they do that through third parties, individuals, business people, directly, electronically, through encryption, there are a whole host of issues that need to be investigated.


COOPER: And Jim joins us now. So, the disagreement between the two leaders of the House investigation, could that impact the integrity of the investigation?

SCIUTTO: I think it's clear that it could. You know, when these bipartisan Senate and House investigators were announced last month, there was a lot of hope from both parties that there could be cooperation here. But clearly, it could be bipartisan but still partisan.

I mean, you have the chairman of the House Committee there basically eliminating one of the major lines of inquiry, these communications between Trump team and Russia during the campaign. And on the other side, you have the Senate intel chairman, Senator Richard Burr, who was one of the people the White House called on to knock down stories about these communications, you know, in cahoots in effect with the White House.

There are some Democrats are calling for his participation to somehow be changed. So, it really raises the question, Anderson, as we go through this, it may take weeks and months. Do you come to a conclusion that both sides accept? It's a real question whether you do. It might just stretch out this conflict we have on so many questions right now, not just related to Russia, but virtually every issue that comes up in Washington today, two different realities.

[20:05:03] COOPER: And, Jim, just to be clear, in terms of investigations on Capitol Hill, the idea of investigating Russia's involvement in the elections, the hacking, would that be under the same investigation as, you know, investigating any -- if they do exist -- connections between Trump campaign and conversations with Russia?

SCIUTTO: Yes, yes, that's one of the threads that the House Intel Committee will look into. Just today, they announced the scope of their investigations. It certainly includes the hacking, but it also these communications.

And that was the point that Congressman Schiff was making. It's like, we're just starting today, we haven't interviewed anybody. How can we reach a conclusion on this? That was their point.

COOPER: All right, Jim Sciutto. Jim, thanks very much.

More breaking news on this. On Friday, GOP Congressman Darrell Issa called for a special prosecutor in the case. He appeared to backtrack today, telling CBS New and I quote, "I certainly could see where if there is an allegation of a crime at some point, the call for a special prosecutor makes sense." He then added, "Currently, we don't have that." And this evening, his office put out a statement focusing heavily on

the Obama White House. You can decide whether it clears things up or muddies them further. But, quote, "Right now, we have speculation and assumptions but not clarity and fact, including questions about Russia's actions, what the FBI knew of the cyber breaches, what the Obama administration did in response, and potential actions of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn."

He goes on, "President Obama and Attorney General Lynch," he continued, "allowed obstruction and unanswered questions from the American people to linger, clouding their work and calling into question the impartiality of the FBI's finding."

Congressman Issa concluded by wishing the Trump administration well. Quote, "Any review conducted must have the full confidence of the American people, which is why I recommended an independent review. I want the Trump administration to be successful, and that starts by embracing high standards for openness and transparency."

Nowhere in the statement does Congressman Issa use the two words he used on Friday, namely "special prosecutor."

Joining us, Democratic strategist Paul Begala, former Obama White House communications director, Jen Psaki, also, Ronald Reagan's favorite future CNN commentator, Jeffrey Lord. With us as well is former Trump campaign senior communications adviser, Jason Miller, CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, senior political reporter, Nia-Malika Henderson. Ryan Lizza joins us, he's Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker." And finally, "Daily Beast" senior columnist, Matt Lewis.

Jason, let's start with you, since you're new on the panel tonight.

I mean, why not -- to Darrell Issa's point about openness and transparency, if the White House has nothing to hide and there's nothing to any communications. Why not just come forward and say, well, there were these phone calls, that this person may have spoke on the this person and say an investigation is fine and dandy?

JASON MILLER, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN SENIOR COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER: Well, first of all, I've got to say, this is completely cooked up and there's nothing to this. I was glad to see the chairman say in a news clip you just showed that there's no there there.

But I think between Attorney General Sessions, I think obviously, Chairman Nunes and Chairman Burr will go through their process, and that's every right, that's part of the oversight committee that we see from Congress and also from --

COOPER: But the White House has said there's no there there, but they haven't said, well, yes, Paul Manafort may have spoken to this person or someone else may have spoken to this person.

MILLER: Anderson, there's been no evidence that's been put forward. There's been these nameless, faceless sources who still haven't come forward and shown any evidence. And even the four names that they threw out there, two of them gone on TV and said this is absolutely ridiculous. The third had no involvement at all with the campaign. And the fourth, we know from -- the only thing that General Flynn I think really suffered from is, who's maybe a faulty member and could have done a better job at communicating with the administration.

But this whole notion that there was collusion or coordination with the campaign and a foreign government is just silly.

COOPER: Right. But you're assuming that General Flynn has a faulty memory, which for somebody that was the national security adviser, that would be quite a statement of fact. I mean, if he actually has a faulty memory and didn't --

MILLER: I was being kind. He's no longer with the administration. I'll leave it with that.

But the fact of the matter is, this is completely cooked up. The fact is this president is going to come in and turn this town on its head. I think there are a lot of folks, both partisan Democrats who are upset that they lost this election, and also a lot of folks that are career bureaucrats and inside intel community that are upset that they can't control the president.

President Trump has never had any dealings with Russia. This is -- all this is trying to relitigate the campaign. It's completely made up.


PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If there's nothing there, there's nothing that President Trump needs more than an independent investigation to clear his name, right? This is what we know: July 27th, Donald Trump's last press conference in the campaign, he called for the Russians to hack his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

COOPER: His supporters will say that was a humorous statement.

BEGALA: He said, "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing." Maybe a joke. He's got a quite sense of humor.

We know that a few days after the election, the deputy foreign minister of Russia said, there were contacts between the Russians and the Trump campaign. He bragged about the contacts. This is a Russian high ranking government officials bragging about them.

We know, of course, from our reporting, CNN described it as constant contacts. I run a presidential campaign. I was with constant contact with my mama. I didn't have time to call Moscow. It's extraordinary.

We know Russia hacked the DNC. We know Russia hacked John Podesta's emails, I forgot this, I looked it up, the day that "Access Hollywood" tape ran, within one hour of that story breaking, WikiLeaks began leaking John Podesta's e-mails. That was because they wanted to help Donald Trump.

That was a collusion? I have no idea --

COOPER: Jen Psaki, though, is it fair? I mean, Paul is saying the White House should call for an investigation if they have nothing to hide.

BEGALA: Right.

COOPER: But is that really the way things work? I mean, doesn't an investigation in and of itself raise questions about the White House? Are they really the ones to be --

JEN PSAKI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR PRES. OBAMA: I think there are already questions raised and Paul was touching on the fact that the context here is what makes this pretty fishy because the intelligence community, all of the intelligence agencies concluded together that President Putin had directed the hacking. There have been multiple reports of contacts from Russian sources, from White House sources, all over the place between the Trump administration and Russia. So, if there's really nothing there, why not clear it up?

I just want to make one other note. In the press conferences that we saw today, I think we heard them make different conclusions, but not different updates on the status. They haven't reviewed any materials yet or interviewed witnesses yet. So, how can you conclude what's happening?


JEFF LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, listening to Congressman Schiff, I kept thinking, and? And? There's no John Dean. There's no blue dress. There's no Iran-Contra, Ollie North. There's none of this.

It's just word salad. I mean, if you've got something, for heaven's stake, put it out there so we can all see it. They don't have it.

COOPER: But didn't all of those things emerge after people started being interviewed and investigations and --

LORD: Yes. I mean, I don't think we're even close to that. To me. this is --

COOPER: So, Gloria, what does this -- what happens?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: That's a really good question to which I don't have an answer. But I think part of the context here that Jen is talking about is the credibility of the FBI and the CIA also, because you have the CIA director who was brought in to call a reporter and say, this is over with, move on. There's nothing here. And you have the number two person at the FBI pulling aside Reince Priebus at the White House saying, this is all B.S.

And the questions that I have is that should the FBI number two guy have done that, given the fact that this is an ongoing investigation. And should the CIA director have put himself in a political position like that? I mean, I'm not a fool. People talk on background all the time to journalists, sometimes to me.

LORD: Sure.

BORGER: But, but, the CIA director was doing the White House bidding on an investigation that is not finished yet.

COOPER: So, Nia, if Donald Trump and nobody in his Trump campaign had any contacts with Russia and there's no there there, as the White House said, there's still the aspect of Russia's involvement in hacking and an investigation into that.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: You're right, an investigation into that, and allegations around that. Donald Trump obviously hasn't wanted to deal with that. He's said, it's -- you know, it could have a 400-pound guy sitting on a bed somewhere in New Jersey. So, he has shown no real interest in that.

I think for Republicans at this point are really trying to make sure that this has the appearance of bipartisanship, right? When Rubio first came out in couple of Fridays ago, after the Senate Intelligence Committee was briefed, he was like he feels confident that there could be a bipartisan thorough investigation into this.

Now, you have Senator Collins saying the same thing. So, I think that's going to be very important for them to make sure that whatever the result of this is, the public thinks this is a bipartisan investigation.


RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, the common theme, the common theme here is, nobody knows anything. Schiff and Nunes said the same thing, right? They said, basically, we haven't started the investigation. We can't come to any conclusions.

So, you know, this has been reported, and I know this firsthand, the reporters who were put on the phone with Pompeo and with other senior officials, they didn't write off those conversations because they basically said, they didn't tell me anything. They said, oh, "The New York Times" article is incorrect, but wouldn't give those reporters any information for them to go out and sort of knock down that article.

So, we have an enormous amount of smoke and anonymous leaks.

COOPER: We should point --

LIZZA: We need an investigation.

COOPER: And, Matt, we should point out, and Jim has done this, you know, the difference between "The New York Times" reporting and Jim and CNN's reporting. "The New York Times" said, you know, connections between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence officials. CNN's reporting which Jim has repeatedly pointed out, is connections between Trump campaign officials and Russians known to the U.S. intelligence community. Not necessarily, there's a difference. MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I would say you're right, we

don't know anything. And that's why you don't get a special prosecutor because my understanding is that, number one, a special prosecutor would be at least an allegation of a crime being committed.

[20:15:00] And so, look, I totally agree, we should be looking into Russia. There's congressional investigations into Russia. We need to get to the bottom of that.

When it comes to looking into this administration, I don't think there's grounds for that yet. There's not even an allegation of a crime being committed. And the other thing I would say is there's no statutory responsibility for the administration to comply. I think they would be insane right now.

Look, the game that's being played is to pressure --

LIZZA: Yes, we do know that there's an FBI investigation, right?

BORGER: Right.

LIZZA: But we probably don't have enough information to know if that triggers a special counsel being --

BORGER: And there's a question --


COOPER: Let me ask Jim Sciutto.

Jim, is that the case, that unless there's knowledge of a crime committed, no special prosecutor would be appointed?

SCIUTTO: It's partly a political question right, Anderson? It is probably a political question. If it's decided that the bipartisan committees can't reach -- can't do the work, right, to a degree that it inspires confidence in both parties, and that seems to be a real question now, because a month ago when these bipartisan investigations were announced, that was seen as a sign of hope by both parties. But you barely started the investigations, both parties are accusing the other of being biased in effect, as they started, eliminating lines of inquiry or keeping lines of inquiry open that the others do not believe is a reasonable line of inquiry.

And just another point I would make, Anderson, on that distinction between "The Times" story and our own reporting, the reason that's important. "Times" said contact with Russian intelligence. Our reporting said contact with Russian officials and others known to U.S. intelligence.

And Congressman Schiff made a reference to this today. Russia uses a network of people to report back, in effect, to the Kremlin, to the government. That includes business people, that includes diplomats, et cetera. I have pressed and I can say this, Democratic and Republican sources on the Hill, to say, are you saying to me, you have eliminated that possibility that these people, they were speaking to are in that orbit of reporting back to the Kremlin? I pressed them on that issue and I pressed Nunes as well.

And they do not eliminate that, because they haven't answered that question yet. So, that's one of those many lines of inquiry that has not been answered to its fullest, and that's the reason why that distinction is important.

COOPER: Right. But it is interesting, Jim, when we hear from Republicans, the White House pushing back, it's always about "The New York Times" story, which is that very specific language.


COOPER: Is that correct? Right.

SCIUTTO: And listen, it's also, as you said, without a lot of -- because I pressed as well, so explain why you eliminated that possibility? Because again, you know this, Anderson, I'll just remind our viewers. Our reporting a source with multiple officials and intelligence, in many agencies in this city that told us the same thing about evidence of those communications. So, that's the reason we had the confidence to go to air with it, and that's something that hasn't been answered yet by any of the investigation.

And that's why, the fact is, the FBI is still investigating these communications. We know that to be true.

COOPER: All right. Much more with the panel, including the White House war on leaks and the leaks about the White House war on leaks. How about that?

Later, Senator Bernie Sanders joins us.


[20:21:46] COOPER: White House spokesman Sean Spicer on orders of the president is cracking down on leaks in the Russia story. He's taking very seriously, taking serious measures trying to identify White House insiders who may be communicating with reporters and spilling the inside details of every move he makes and others.

How do we know this? Well, it leaked.

The details now from CNN's Jeff Zeleny who's just outside a very leaky vessel.

So, Jeff, exactly what is Sean Spicer doing to try to crack down on these leaks?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: First and foremost, Sean Spicer is trying to get the word out to his staff and others throughout the whole government, throughout the administration, that they are serious about this, the president from the top down is serious about leaks, and they want everyone to stay on message here. So, he had a meeting last week, and he urged, in fact, told people not to use these encrypted apps that you can sort of communicate with people privately in messages that disappear on your phones. And he also checked people's phones to see if they had been sending

text messages and other things to reporters.

Now, we were told earlier today by multiple sources that the president signed off on this, that he was so intent on finding a stop to this -- putting a stop to this, he signed off on this plan. Sean Spicer tells me tonight that's not true, he was acting alone here.

But, Anderson, the point remains the same. We stand by our reporting on that. They wanted to get the word out that they're trying to crack down on leaks. We'll see if that happened, because as you said, word of the meeting leaked.

Now, there are different kinds of leaks. Some are sanctioned leaks, some are not. Perhaps they wanted it to leak, so everyone is on sort of notice here that they're looking for them.

COOPER: I mean, I understand why it's demoralizing for people to have leaks coming out of the office where you're working in. But, you know, as you just pointed out, we should point out the information about the crackdown on leaks itself is coming from a leak. Do we know, were staffers told what would happen if information continued to get out?

ZELENY: Anderson, we're told it's very serious. Sean Spicer and others throughout the government have sent the message that it is simply not acceptable. It's definitely a fireable offense, if people are found out to be leaking things.

But again, all White Houses have leaks. Some sanctioned, some are not. But if they are found to be leaking things, particularly national security secrets, that is, I'm told, to be a fireable offense -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much.

Back now with the panel.

Paul, I mean, you used to work in the White House. Will this work?



BEGALA: No, it will drive you crazy. The first weeks and months of the Clinton administration, there was tons of leaks and it was really frustrating. It took a while and we got our act together. I, honestly, for their sake, I hope the Trump folks do, too.

But this is not the way to get your act together. You treat people like they're disloyal, they're going to be disloyal. This starts at the top. Fish rots in the head down.

Donald Trump would not be president without leaks, we just talked about it -- WikiLeaks. And, by the way, The FBI director didn't just leak, he violated Justice Department guidelines by talking to the press, blasting Hillary Clinton, and leaking a letter attacking her.

He's only president because of leaks. He is at least part famous because of leaks. He created an alter ego for himself, John Barron to call the New York tabloids to brag about his private life.

COOPER: And I believe also, John Miller, though, too.

BEGALA: John Miller.

COOPER: It doesn't matter.

BEGALA: So they're getting their cues from the boss. They feel like leaking is okay.

And, honestly, I know Sean Spicer, he's a good guy. This will probably ruin his career. He'll be a good guy when this is over.

But there's something happening right now, and I suspect it's pressure from the boss that's making him act out of character for Sean Spicer, and it's not good.

[20:25:06] COOPER: Jen, I mean, you were in the Obama White House, certainly, a White House which did not appreciate leaks.

PSAKI: That's true. Look, there are leaks in every White House, no doubt about it.

But what's going on here is they're trying to push the leak story forward. I suspect that they leaked this story purposefully, that Donald Trump asked them to leak this story. They want to keep the focus on leaks and their investigation to crack down on leaks. They don't want us to be talking about Russia and their contacts with the Russians or what -- their involvement in the campaign.

So, this is an effective effort to distract. And, you know, I think the whole --



COOPER: Even Jason looks surprised.


LEWIS: But doesn't this undermine two of Donald Trump's past story lines? One story line being, fake news, anonymous sources that aren't true. Well, maybe they are true. They're leaked. So, this implies that the leaks are real.

And then the other story line was, well, there are leaks, but these are coming from Obama, you know, holdover bureaucrats. Now you have Sean Spicer going to his own team. So which is it?

COOPER: You're all reporters of sources. Why do people leak? I mean, for those who are watching at home -- LIZZA: They leak strategically to --

COOPER: To make themselves look better.

LIZZA: This White House is factionalized and there are people who are leaking on behalf of action that they are associated with. I don't think there's any secret there. Or they leak in more of the way that Jen was talking, which apparently was very common in the Obama White House --


LIZZA: -- where they're trying to paint a story or they have some strategy. And occasionally, it's -- because you have a relationship with the source. And for whatever personal reason, they want to give you information.

BORGER: I think it may be a little different in this White House, and, Jason, maybe you can tell me. But I think sometimes, people in Trump world leak to get the president's attention on certain things. I know that that occurred during the campaign, when there were issues in the campaign that people would tell you things so Donald Trump might read it and then might take some action on it.

So, it's kind --


MILLER: I want to jump in here. I've got to defend Sean a little bit here. I think he's doing a very good job behind the podium, one of the toughest jobs on the planet to do, especially in politics, one of the toughest.

But I think one of the things is, look, I think it's good that the White House is cracking down on leaks. If you were doing this, if you're working in the private sector around the country and you were caught leaking sensitive information or heaven forbid, or if you were caught leaking information out of the CNN newsroom or "The New York Times" new room, they would be calling in Suge Knight to dangle you off the balcony to figure out what was going on here.



MILLER: You guys will find a way to get it.

But, again, this palace intrigue, this continual talk of going back to, you know, who said what and all this, one thing I point out from this story that popped yesterday, there were no sources coming from people who are identified as being in the room. So, I think a lot of this is cooked, this coming from outside the White House. Maybe people hear part of something, they go embellish on it.

But again --

COOPER: So, you don't think (INAUDIBLE) in the White House leak?

MILLER: I think a lot of this is outside. I think it's people who maybe have an ax to grind. Maybe they're part of the establishment that's getting ruffled up.

But all of this talk about leaking, this is not at all connected with what most Americans are thinking. I mean, let's go pack to the job numbers that we saw yesterday, the confidence --

COOPER: Right. But it is -- I mean, the White House is thinking about it enough and worried enough about people inside the White House that they're actually checking people's phones, which I've never worked in a company that's actually checking people's phones.

MILLER: Well, good for them. If you did this in the private sector, you would be fired so quick your head would spin. I think it's good that they're going to crack down. There's almost like this culture that it's something to do or that it's something that's accepted here in town. But no --


LORD: Iran Contra never happened.

COOPER: And Donald Trump has had a history of, I mean, according to reporting, you know, creating alternate personas.

LORD: Here's the thing they have to be cautious about. I mean, we live in this high tech world where there's multiple kinds of devices. You can leak from a landline at home. Then what's the White House going to do?

I mean, they've got to be careful about something. There's a difference saying, I want your cellphone and I want to see who you've been texting on your cell phone. This is about, eventually, if it gets out of control, summoning records from a phone company to see if Jason over here has been leaking. You want to be careful that you don't go down that road --


HENDERSON: Can you imagine how demoralizing it for them to essentially be fog-marched into a meeting --


LEWIS: If I worked at a job and they said we want to see your cell phone, I would be like, see you later.


LIZZA: Jason, though, these were -- what I find a little unusual about this, is they were -- to my understanding, they were mostly communications staffers.

PSAKI: Who are not the leakers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I find a little unusual about this, is they were -- smartest thing they were mostly communication staffers, whose job ...


[20:30:09] JASON MILLER, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN SR. COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER: Whose job is literally to talk to us.

One quick thin, Anderson, I mean we went through a very tough campaign, I think everyone here would agree with that. I've been involved with House and Senate races at least more than our presidential campaign. But a very tiny group -- these people are not -- and that's where I think there's a lot of this talk coming from the outside with people with access ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a good point.

MILLER: And, you know what, good for them for taking ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But Spicer had the meeting. I mean, wouldn't he want to see who is leaking? So why are saying that's coming from the outside?


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: ... he said it was a tightening group. I mean all honestly, you did lose a couple people along the way.

MILLER: Yeah, but it was ...

COOPER: You know, Lewandowski, Manafort. I mean, sort of ...


MILLER: Everybody who's worked for the president wants to see him succeed.

COOPER: Right.

MILLER: Wants to see him do well. And that's why I think (inaudible) motivated agenda. They're likely are even in the White House.

COOPER: All right. Up next, Bernie Sanders on the question of contact between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. Also, his take on revamping Obamacare and how Pres. Trump is doing after one month in office.

Later, the Oscar snafu everyone is talking about. The best picture enveloped mixup earns a spot on "The Ridiculist." Details ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:35:9] COOPER: Again, our breaking news tonight. Just days after saying a special prosecutor is needed to investigate a reported ties between the Trump team during the campaign and Russia. A powerful Republican in Congress gets vague on the whole issue.

Meanwhile another key Republican on Capitol Hill is weighing in as well. I talked about the Russia question and much more with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I spoke to him earlier this evening.


COOPER: Senator Sanders, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Nunez says he has seen no evidence of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, and that there should not be a special prosecutor appointed to investigate. Do you agree with him?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I) VERMONT: No, of course, I don't agree with him. Look, what we have happened is unprecedented in the history of our country. We have a major government, the Russian government led by Mr. Putin actively interfering in our elections, determining and trying to do everything that they could to make sure that Mr. Trump won the election.

Now, there may not yet be any evidence of direct collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. Perhaps today, we do not know. But clearly, this is an issue of enormous consequence. Did the Trump campaign collude with the Russian government in order for Mr. Trump to be the next president of the United States? That is an issue that has to be investigated. And what Mr. Nunez knows today or doesn't know is not important. What we need to do is to investigate whether or not that is true.

COOPER: And how do you want to see that investigation proceed? Because I mean, the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer today said there's nothing there when it comes to collusion with the Russians.

SANDERS: They say -- I mean, Anderson, these are the guys who obviously do not want to pursue this issue. They wish that it would go away. The only problem is, the American people know that the Russian government actively participated in our campaign in an unprecedented way. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that Trump's financial dealings have been dependent on Russian money. What does that mean? And the question of collusion is maybe the most important issue of all.

So it doesn't matter to me what the administration says. It doesn't matter to me what Congressman Nunez says. What matters to me is that the American people have got to learn the truth. And that means an independent investigation. It means the intelligence committee here in the Senate and in the House do everything they can to get to the truth.

COOPER: President Trump today talked about his intentions again to repeal and replace Obamacare. There certainly does not seem to be an agreed upon plan by Republicans how to replace Obamacare. We haven't heard any real details. Do Democrats have an obligation to do more than just not help the Republicans in their efforts?

SANDERS: Do you mean to say that Democrats should work with Republicans to repeal this legislation? No, I don't think our job is to work with them to repeal the legislation. What our job is to work with them to improve the legislation. Is the Affordable Care Act perfect? Far from it. It needs to be improved. We wait eagerly for the Republicans to come forward with a proposal that will improve the Affordable Care Act. Let's work together.

COOPER: I'm wondering when you heard the president saying, "Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated," I mean I thought nobody knew health care would be anything but complicated. But apparently the president said, nobody knew that would be so complicated, were you surprised by that?

SANDERS: Well, some of us who is sitting on the health education committee who went to meeting after meeting after meeting who heard from dozens of people who stayed up night after night trying to figure out this thing, yeah, we got a clue. When you provide health care in a nation of 320 million people, yeah, it is very, very complicated.

And maybe now, maybe the president and some of the Republicans understand you can't go beyond the rhetoric, we're going to repeal the Affordable Care Act, we're going to repeal Obamacare and everything will be wonderful. A little bit more complicated than that. We remain today, and let's not forget it, the only major country on earth that doesn't guarantee health care to all people. We pay the highest prices by far for prescription drugs. Let's address those issues. Let's get beyond rhetoric.

COOPER: The president has been in office for a little over month. I'm wondering, are you more or less optimistic about his presidency now?

SANDERS: I wouldn't say I am more optimistic or less optimistic. I am stunned every day.

COOPER: Stunned?

SANDERS: Stunned, really every day. I mean, you just mentioned to me, he said -- I mean, this is the president of the United States. We have been debating health care in this country for 30 years, and he says, gee, who knew how complicated it was? He's maybe the only person in this country who doesn't know how complicated it is to provide health care for the American people.

And I think when he comes forward with priorities that says we're going to make apparently massive cuts that impact our children, impact the elderly, impact the sick, impact the poor and we're going to significantly increase the military budget at a time when we are spending more than the next 10 countries combined, yeah, I think those priorities are not the priorities of the American people. Then they're going to come forward with massive tax breaks for billionaires like Mr. Trump himself.

[20:40:23] So the priorities they are pushing are way out of touch of where the middle class to this country is.

COOPER: Senator Sanders, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

SANDERS: Thank you.


COOPER: Well, just ahead, the Pentagon budget boost, Pres. Trump says the military doesn't win anymore. It needs to start winning again. Strong words. Will service men and women and military brass take offense or just be glad for the windfall? We'll talk to some ahead.

Plus, the mother of all mixup at the Oscars takes a bow on "The Ridiculist."


COOPER: When Pres. Trump addresses the joint session of Congress tomorrow night, his budget blueprint is expected to be a major focus. He's proposing to boost defense spending by $54 billion which is a 10 percent hike while cutting other federal spending by the same amount.

Here is Pres. Trump hold (ph) dozens of governor today at a White House meeting.


[20:45:01] DONALD TRUMP, (R), U.S. PRESIDENT: We must ensure that our courageous servicemen and women have the tools they need to deter war and when called upon to fight in our name, only do one thing, win. We have to win. We have to start winning wars again.

When I was young in high school and college, everybody used to say, we never lost a war. Now we never win a war. We never win. And we don't fight to win. We don't fight to win. So we've either got to win or don't fight it all.


COOPER: Well, Pres. Trump, he's calling his blueprint a public safety a national security budget. Congress, of course, will have the final say on approving it. Join me now, senior military analyst, we're talking about Gen. Mark Hertling, also Carl Higbie author of "Enemies, Foreign & Domestic: A SEAL's Story".

Appreciate both you being with us. General Hurtling, I'll start with you. What is your reaction to these remarks from the president?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, I tuned in, Anderson, to make sure I understood what he was going to say about the budget and I was confident in terms of some of the things. I'm not sure of the details of this 10 percent increase. But it was interesting to say that because I think the military certainly needs some additional funding. But, I was (inaudible) insulted, I heard him say an untrue statement and really found him once again doing things that good leaders don't do. And here's what I mean by that. I was insulted by the fact that he said we don't win anymore. I'm just going through our vision as history here and today it happens to be the anniversary of the day before the end of the Gulf War. But let's look at our wins over the last 25 years, Grenada, Panama, Desert Storm, the Cold War, the Balkans, Rwanda, the continued protection against North Korea.

So I don't know what the president talks about when he saying those kinds of things and it just doesn't seem necessary when he's rolling out a budget to insult the men and women who wear the (inaudible) for their country. It just doesn't make sense to me.

COOPER: Carl, you're a Pres. Trump supporter, do you find what he said insulting, what's your take?

CARL HIGBIE "ENEMIES, FOREIGN & DOMESTIC: A SEAL'S STORY" AUTHOR: No, I don't. And, you know, to the general's point, yeah ...

HERTLING: Well, Carl, if you don't find it insulting, there's something wrong with you.

HIGBIE: I sat here and listened to you talk, so, why don't you give me a shot here.

HERTLING: You got it.

HIGBIE: The issue here is, you know, general, we have all these people in place in power that we went into Iraq and Afghanistan, which I expect that Donald Trump was, you know, talking about, that you didn't have a goal. You didn't define a goal. And I'd love if you enlighten us on what the desired outcome was in Iraq and Afghanistan if you could?

HERTLING: Yeah, I give you the desired outcome. In Afghanistan, it was to take down the Al Qaeda network and in Iraq, which many of us military try to fight against, it was regime changed. That was the desired outcome. That was the strategic objective which I don't expect you to know because you weren't there at the time. But I listened in on the meetings between the military and the political sources, and this is one of the other things that the president has to understand. The military is sent as an extension of political being. If you go to war, it's because that's what the politicians want you to do and it's not the military that define the end state it's the politicians and they failed to do that correctly in Iraq.

COOPER: Yeah, Carl, ...

HIGBIE: ... agree with that.

COOPER: ... it seems like you're saying it's the generals who are setting the agenda, not setting what winning means. Isn't it -- I mean to Gen. Hertling's point, isn't it political leaders and they are the one who decide ...

HIGBIE: I believe it's both. You know, I believe it's both. And this is what Pres. Donald Trump did very well. As he said generals, you have 30 days to give me a plan on ISIS, and to be honest like we should had a plan a longtime ago on this, but we didn't. So the fact is now, we have to get that done. The issue is ...


HERTLING: ... we have a plan.

HIGBIE: ... to win.


HERTLING: ... we did have a plan against ISIS, and I have repeatedly said this on this program. We had a seven-step ...

HIGBIE: It hasn't worked, general.

HERTLING: ... plan against ISIS and it actually is working quite well in Iraq, and it's more complex than Syria. And I think what you're going to see ...


COOPER: Let the general finish then Carl your point.

HIGBIE: I'm sorry, general, go ahead.

HERTLING: No, it is working quite well in Iraq because we finally have the Iraqis fighting under a new government that Mr. Obama persuaded to take the place of Mr. Malaki.

So, look, I spent a good portion of my life in Iraq. I kind of know what happened when it went south. And it wasn't because of the military. It was because of the government influence, both U.S. and Iraqi government.

COOPER: Carl, you said that ...

HERTLING: And I think that's what Mr. Trump has to realize, that when you're the president of the United States, you are the Commander-In- Chief. You're the one that actually sets the orders. You just don't say hey, generals, give me a plan and you guys figure it out. He actually has to set the strategic end state. I'm not sure he's done that other than saying let's do it quicker, better, and bomb the hell out of them.

COOPER: Carl, you said that we need to deregulate the battlefield and take the handcuffs off the military. I'm wondering in practical terms, what does that mean?

HIGBIE: Well, I think the issue here is fought this, you know, in large part during the Obama Administration we fought this war with our hands tied behind our back. I was there on the ground. I had a friend of mine killed by rules of engagement. The troops are frustrated because we all but have to be engaged before we can engage back. We need to go on the offense. If we're going to win this war we need to take the fight to them, and take the handcuffs off our own troops so they can kill guys. That's what we're trying to do.

COOPER: General ...

[20:50:11] HERTLING: I'd really like to be interested to know the details of your friend who was killed because of a rules of engagement issue. And what I'd tell you during the time that I ...

HIGBIE: Would you like me to explain it to you?

HERTLING: ... which was multiple years, multiple years, there was never a complaint of problems with rules of engagement. There was some issues in Afghanistan concerning the desire by some to go harder against the enemy. And during a time the key commanders and the president said, when you're talking about a counter insurgency operation, you have to win the trust and confidence of the people not just go in and kill your way out of things.

HIGBIE: Well, I think general that solves the problem. Because I think -- when we talk about these rules of engagement, we passed up rights of complains all the time about rules of engagement and they apparently never reach. So there's the problem. It's within the military chain of command structure.

So, somewhere between you and me on the battlefield, the communication lines were lost. So, let's get that fixed. That doesn't have anything to do with the president.

HERTLING: Well, look, I don't think I was in an ivory fortress in Iraq the time I was there. I was out doing patrols not only with my own conventional forces but with Stanley McChrystal's special operators. So I didn't see anything that prevented them from getting the job done and doing the right things on the battlefield. I can't say that for all places on every battlefield, but I know from the fact, working with both Gen. McChrystal and Adm. McRaven that they were very good in terms of explaining ...

HIGBIE: I can say it ...


COOPER: We got to leave the conversation there, Gen. Hertling, thank you. Carl Higbie to be continued. Thank you.



COOPER: Coming up, change of subjects on the end to the hour to put a smile on your face. Remember when we thought the whole Adele Dazeem thing was the craziest thing ever to happen at the Oscars? It's no longer. "The Ridiculist" is next.


COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." But, you know, what can we possible have to talk about, nothing out of the ordinary happened at the Oscars, did it? You know what I'm talking about. Let's review. Hollywood's biggest night, the most spectacular mistake condensed (ph) down to its essence for your cringe-tastic convenience.


WARREN BEATTY, ACTOR: And the academy award for best picture.

FAYE DUNAWAY, ACTRESS: You're impossible. Come on. La, la land.

JORDAN HOROWITZ, FILM PRODUCER: "Moonlight", you guys won the best picture. This is not a joke. I'm afraid they read the wrong thing. This is not a joke. "Moonlight" has won best picture.

[20:55:10] "Moonlight", best picture.

JIMMY KIMMEL, TELEVISION HOST: Warren, what did you do?

BEATTY: I want to tell you what happened. I opened the envelope. And it said, "Emma Stone, 'La La Land."' That's why I took such a long look at Faye, and at you. I wasn't trying to be funny.


COOPER: So, one of the accountants, apparently, handed Warren Beatty the wrong envelope, and he did what anybody would do, he just let Faye Dunaway deal with it. Interestingly, one day to prior the Independent Spirit Awards where "Moonlight" won without incident, by the way. The host of that award show singled out Warren Beatty in what now seems a somewhat prophetic moment.


JOHN MULANEY, COMEDIAN: Warren, that's a weird name.


MULANEY: My name is Warren.

KROLL: You know what, we got a little high before the show.


KROLL: Warren.

MULANEY: We got high in my Rav4. Really, really high right now.

KROLL: But, I bet Warren got a little high before the show, too.

MULANEY: I bet Warren has like a really expensive silver vape that looks like a pistol.

KROLL: No, I bet Warren has got one of those Altoid boxes filled with pre-rolled joints that Danny DeVito gave him.



COOPER: Now, we're not blaming Warren or even the accountant or anyone else really, and all that really matters is we all got to see some incredible reaction shots of stunned movie stars, including this picture that will forever be known as the gosling smirk.

And of course, then came the tweet that were so many that said Bernie would have won, "La La Land" should have campaigned more in Wisconsin where (ph) have you.

The photoshoppers made quick work the card close out referencing Beyonce losing the Grammy's and Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote. On that one, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my assistant Joey's favorite joke headline, the headline, "La La Land" spotted on brisk morning hike in Chappaqua.

It's Hillary Clinton anyway.

In the end, "Moonlight" got the recognition it deserve. We got some means and we're not to breakup the (inaudible) of everyday life. And we will always have the memories of the biggest f-up in Oscar history. That is what I call a win/win on "The Ridiculist."

And just another bit of ridiculistness to bring out of the story, the chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm that's in charge of the Oscar envelopes, was actually booked to be on the program tonight. He canceled a short time ago like 45 minutes ago, apparently on orders from the academy so the plot thickens.

Coming up, second hour of 360. We'll be right back.