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W.H.: President Has No Regrets About Wiretap Accusations; Intel Chair Suggest: Don't Take Trump Literally; House Intel Hearings On Russia Begin On March 20th; FBI Director At The Center Of Many Storms; Connection To Corruption In Azerbaijan; Coast Guard, TSA Could Face Budget Cuts. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired March 7, 2017 - 21:00   ET



[21:02:16] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Top in this second hour of "360," the White House stands by President Trump's tweets alleging President Obama tapped his phones during the campaign. What the White House does not do, nor does any law maker who believe in the investigation has offer any evidence at all this point to support the president's allegations or even say that they've seen any evidence. Listen to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer earlier today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has the White House come up with any evidence, whatsoever, to prove that allegation?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the president, we put out a statement on Sunday saying that we have no further comment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is the evidence? Where is the proof that President Obama bugged President Trump?

SPICER: Well, I answered this question yesterday on camera, on your air. So just so we're clear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since yesterday --

SPICER: Nothing has changed. No. It's not a question of new proof or less proof.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you seen any evidence yourself?

SPICER: As far as me, no.


COOPER: As for the lawmakers now looking into it, they have been talking as well. CNN's Manu Raju joins us from Capitol Hill with the latest.

Manu, what's been the reaction from Republicans today? MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, Anderson, Republicans really don't know what the president was talking about over the weekend. I have spent the day talking to top Republicans in the House and the Senate.

They have not seen any evidence to suggest that the president, the former President of the United States ordered any sort of surveillance on the current President of the United States. Even at a closed-door Senate Intelligence Committee briefing earlier today Susan Collins of Maine told me that they actually did not look at any evidence on this issue, so they're waiting for the White House to present some of that as part of their ongoing investigations on Capitol Hill.

Now, Adam Schiff, a top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee says he's going to ask this question to James Comey and other top intelligence officials on March 20th, which is going to be the first hearing of the House Intelligence Committee on the issue of Russia and Russia meddling. But at the moment right now, Republicans are at a loss of what the President of the United States is talking about. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you seen any evidence to support the president's claim that he has been wiretap by the previous president?

REP. DEVIN NUNES, (R) CHAIRMAN, HOUSE OF INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Yeah, I have not. I mean, I have not seen that evidence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you also look into this allegation of wiretapping and the president being wiretap by President Obama?

SEN. JOHN CORNYN, (R) TEXAS: I think all of that is part of the investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe the president when he says that?

CORNYN: Well, like I said, it needs an investigation so we can find out what the facts are. So, we'll follow the facts wherever they may lead.


RAJU: Now, Anderson, at that press conference today, Devin Nunes was asked. I ask him specifically, "Do you think that Donald Trump's tax returns should be part of this investigation to determine any sort of ties between him and Russia?" He said, "He's very leery about issuing subpoenas to get tax returns because of privacy concerns."

Also, Anderson, saying that he's not believe that there's any sort of Russian conspiracy to help elect Donald Trump even that the intelligence community has suggested the opposite.

[21:05:07] COOPER: And there are seems to be concern on Capitol Hill by the FBI that the department is not providing enough information about these investigations. RAJU: Yeah, that's right. In fact, you heard both Devin Nunes and Adam Schiff earlier today raise those concerns, suggesting that. And some of these classified briefings, they were not getting all the information about some of the more sensitive investigations that were ongoing. And even Nunes suggesting that that -- one of those investigations was an investigation to Donald Trump and his associates and Russia during the campaign season last year suggesting that perhaps the Capitol Hill was not aware of what the FBI was doing.

It really shows, Anderson, some tension looming between the intelligence community and the intelligence committees on Capitol Hill at the onset of these investigations, Anderson.

COOPER: Yeah. Manu Raju thanks very much.

RAJU: Thank you.

COOPER: Although the president has yet to elaborate on the basis for his tweets, his defender cite a number of reports, including one in "The New York Times," Jeffrey Lord mentioned in the last hour. Joining us is Matthew Rosenberg of the "Times."

So, Matthew, there's been a lot of discussion about the sourcing of the president claimed that President Obama ordered his phones to be wiretapped. Some saying it not only came from right-leaning websites, but also from an article that you co-wrote in "The New York Times" in January.

So let me get you to address it. Does your reporting in any ways suggest the claim that president's making, that President Obama tapped then candidate Trump's phones?

MATTHEW ROSENBERG, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Nowhere in the story does it say that. It says that there's a broad investigation based on wiretapped and intercepted communications. It does not say whose communications were intercepted.

And I'd also point readers in something that people convene and they leave out is another story that we wrote last week on March 1st that explicitly says that much of the communications were intercepted. There were Russians talking to Russians. They were hearing about things through those communications.

Is there a FISA warrant? Were there wiretaps on Donald Trump or any of his campaign people's phones, I don't know that. We did know that. If we do know that, it would absolutely be in the newspaper.

COOPER: So the communications you were discussing in your article were Russians talking to Russians?

ROSENBERG: The Russians talking to Russians. The communication of the 19th article, I can't get into the sourcing very deeply. I have to be careful with it, but I can tell you absolutely that if this -- if we knew at that time or we knew now that they were monitoring Donald Trump's communications or any of his immediate advisers regularly and we could say that explicitly, we would be saying that in the newspaper. That is a news story.

And the same thing goes with Michael Flynn. They bring up Michael Flynn's communications with the Russian ambassador. He was picked up talking because he was talking to the Russian ambassador whose phones are absolutely monitored and have been probably monitored Russian ambassador to what, 70 years now. That's why he was picked up. They weren't tracking Michael Flynn or wiretapping his calls. They listen to the Russian ambassador and he got on the phone with him and start talking and that's why he was heard.

COOPER: I want to read the line from your article that mentions the word wiretapping, Matthew. It says, "One official said the intelligence report based on some of the wiretapped communications have been provided to the White House." Do you have any sense of who was actually being wiretapped? Again, is that the Russian to Russian communications?

ROSENBERG: I'm going to get careful on that one. I don't want to get into who was being wiretapped, but saying that it have been provided to the White House isn't saying that it was Trump.

And one thing I want to make clear here, which only people understand is that in most cases when people on the phone, say two foreign officials are talking about an American, the name of that American is going to be -- where they call masked. It's going to be blackout or blanked out in the report and only certain people can have it unmasked, only in the certain conditions cannot be unmasked. If you need it for contacts in a national security situation, you could. The people maybe at all figure out some context to that is. But the name isn't ordinarily just made available on intelligence report that are distributed within the intelligence community.

COOPER: And, Matthew, it also says in the same article, "It is not clear whether the intercepted communications had anything to do with Mr. Trump's campaign or Mr. Trump himself." Why do you think, given that disclaimer the story's been brought into this discussion at all?

ROSENBERG: You know, I can only speculate so much here, but this seems like an after the fact kind of justification saying "Hey, look, the 'New York Times' did it, you know, therefore, we're right," which a little ironic, considering these are the same people who go around calling us fake news in saying we're making stuff up.

Look, we're not making this up, but we don't know if Trump's phones were being monitored or not. That's something that I think very few people in this country know and certainly nobody who's talking publicly knows right now.

COOPER: And whether or not there was a FISA warrant, that's not known, I'm assuming.

ROSENBERG: I don't know. What I've heard is -- and what I've read and what the FBI seems to be saying is that there isn't one. But, again, I'll leave that to my colleagues to cover the FBI, cover the intelligence community. And it's just, you know, this is not what we said. And I would point people to the story that came after it and to other reporting that does say they were listening to Russian officials, they were monitoring this stuff, and they were picking people up being discussed.

COOPER: Matthew Rosenberg, appreciate your time. If you can stick around, I want to bring in also the panel. Joining us this hour is Republican Strategist Alice Stewart, as well (inaudible).

Jeff, I want to start with you. You cited Rosenberg's article previously.

JEFFREY LORD, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Exactly. The point is that these "New York Times" stories and others, not just "The New York Times," "The Washington Post," "The Guardian," et cetera, are built -- were building a narrative that the Trump campaign was somehow illicitly involved in Russian contact.

[21:10:11] COOPER: No, no, but you're saying this article somehow validates President Trump's accusation to President Obama.

LORD: Sure. I just listened to this explanation and I still believe that. I mean -- because they trust it as part of the narrative that has been used. The media narrative is that Trump has got this thing going with the Russians and the Russians kicked over the election for him. That's not true. There is no proof of this, whatsoever. But this is definitely part of the media narrative. And I -- this isn't just Jeff Lord --

COOPER: I don't think people are making the allegation that the Russians affected the outcome of the election for Donald Trump.

LORD: That certainly is the allegation.

COOPER: But certainly, Donald Trump feels that's what the allegation is being made, but you can believe that the Russians hacked and that it didn't, you know, that Hillary Clinton lost and Donald Trump won.

LORD: And this is candidly -- this is the difference in the conservative media and the mainstream media. I mean the conservative media, and whether we're talking talk radio or internet, outlets, and all the sort of thing, the belief is totally there that the media narrative has been planted that the Russians swung this election to Donald Trump and then that's what Democrats --


COOPER: All right. Just because it's on the internet it doesn't mean it's true.


LORD: Well, my articles are true, Anderson.

COOPER: Well, of course. TASINI: You keep conflating the two things, though. The question of whether Russians were involved in the election has nothing to do with your allegation that this was all a "New York Times" setup that Donald Trump's allegation that Obama wiretap him. They are two separate things, and you keep conflating the two.

LORD: But where does the information about Trump and the Russians come from? It comes from surveillance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we just had our "Annie Hall" moment, where we actually had the person who wrote the story there, who's saying what you said Jeffrey is not accurate.

TASINI: It's not accurate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a basis for Trump's tweet cannot be this "New York Times" article, because it has no relations between --

COOPER: Well, Matthew, let me just bring you in. Do you want to respond to anything, Jeff, has said?

ROSENBERG: I mean I don't want to get into huge back and forth about this.

COOPER: Right.

ROSENBERG: I'll say that surveillance goes on in many different ways and shapes and forms. Nowhere in this story does it say that Donald Trump was under surveillance. And trust me, if we knew that --


ROSENBERG: It is -- all right, this is what I mean about getting into a back and forth debate.

COOPER: Right, OK.

ROSENBERG: That's kind of not the question, that's the point here. You're saying that we somehow said Donald Trump was under surveillance. And read story, only the most obtuse misreading of this would be the one to conclude that this story says Donald Trump was under surveillance.

COOPER: Margaret, I mean, people believe what they want to believe. I mean, this, you know, we live in a polarized nation and as Jeffrey said, in conservative media there's a narrative out there and Donald Trump supporters believe it.

MARGARET HOOVER, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Yeah. I mean, you can also ask people if they think that the news is biassed, and it largely breaks down along partisan lines, right? So, I mean, this is, you know what, we were talking about earlier.

I mean, Errol called it a potential constitutional crisis. I don't know if it's so much a constitutional crisis, but there is a real burden put on consumers of news to identify and figure out what is real and what is true, all right.

And, are you going to go that you're sort of echoing chamber? Are you going to try to look at multiple sources of news and figure out what is real and what holds water and what isn't? And it takes, you know, a lot of discerning citizens to be able to figure that out.

COOPER: Alice, I keep coming back to this idea that if the president wanted to -- I mean, you know, it's hard to imagine the president would tweet out such an allegation against the former president without having any information. Assuming that is what he did, he still could call up, right, by himself or right now or have people call up the FBI or Department of Justice and find out the facts.

ALICE STEWART, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, CRUZ CAMPAIGN: Well, you would like to think based on the wording of his tweet that he's already done that. Or he actually knows the source of where he got this information from it.

If you dial it back just a little bit, we already had the Obama -- on Obama spokesperson saying we had nothing to do with it. We had the former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper saying he didn't have anything to do with it. But he also said it could still have gone on that he just didn't know about it.

Well, Matthew brings up the point about the FISA warrant. Who would know about that? That would Loretta Lynch. We need to, you know, what did she know and when did she know it about this? But the whole purpose of --

COOPER: Right, but the President of the United States could call the Department of Justice now and get that information and declassify --

STEWART: Exactly.

COOPER: -- anything he wanted to.

STEWART: Exactly. That's -- and that's my next point is that I think that's what he should do. I think he should put out exactly what he knows, where the source of his tweet came from, and let's get on.

Let's talk about the new health care plan. Let's talk about his new executive order, which regard to the travel ban. And I think we're spending a lot of time talking about this that I don't think is helping what his message should be this week and he could very easily put a stuff.

COOPER: Errol, I mean, does this step on, you know, we have seen instances where the president and whether by design or accident has stepped on rollouts they had planned? I mean --

ERROL LOUIS, POLITICAL ANALYSIS, NY1: I think he should live with it. I mean, nobody forced him to get up in the morning and tweet out these absurd charges. Nobody forced him to tell his spokesperson to go out and essentially make a fool of himself at the briefing today.

[21:15:05] Nobody told him to start any of these things. Nobody told him to call for a congressional investigation that nobody wants. You know he could pick up the phone and call Barack Obama. He could pick up the phone and call the speaker of the House. He could have handled this any number of different ways, and he chose not to.

And so let's do all of us the favor of treating him like a responsible adult even though he doesn't act like one all of the time. And say like, "Mr. President, this is what you started, now you're going to live with it. There's going to be an investigation of all of the different things, all of the contacts that you, your financial associate, the oligarchs in Russia that you borrowed money for, for 30 -- from for 30 years, all of that stuff now need to come out."

COOPER: Alice, do you think, you know, we heard from Nunes earlier, Representative Nunes earlier today saying to the media you guys take the president literally.


COOPER: Do you think -- I mean, if I were the President of the United States, I would want people to take me literally, because it seems kind of patronizing not to. But, do you take the president literally?

STEWART: Well, we should. Look, I lived throughout the campaign when he accused my former boss, Ted Cruz's father of being involved to the JFK assassination and that later became -- all people take him literally and not seriously or some people take him seriously and not literally.

LOUIS: You mean that wasn't true.

STEWART: That was not true, news flash. But here's the thing. He's the President of the United States. His words matter, facts matter and I think that when he tweets something like this, surely he knows that -- how it's going to be interpreted. And I just think it's really important that he understands now that every single word he says is going to be taken seriously.

COOPER: Right. We're going to take a break. I want to thank everybody, Matthew as well.

You know, it used to be FBI directors were all but faceless. That's not the case with James Comey. Next, why this director found himself at the center of this and so many other political storms?

And later, what does Vladimir Putin really think of President Trump to Russia's relationship with the U.S. as it is now? Are we slip (ph) into a second Cold War already there? A fascinating conversation with the New Yorker's David Remnick who co-wrote one of the -- really, most interesting articles in the long time (inaudible).


[21:20:02] COOPER: Well, at 6 feet 8 inches tall, James Brien Comey Jr. is the tallest director of the FBI has ever had. With the Clinton e-mail scandal, the Anthony Weiner detour, now he's reaction to the wiretap allegations. He's also become the highest profile director probably since J. Edgar Hoover.

In a moment, Hillary Clinton's former campaign manager who's got his own opinion of Director Comey, but first this from our Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): October 28, 2016, just 11 days before the presidential election, FBI Director James Comey reveals that he is re-examining Hillary Clinton's e-mails. Months earlier, Comey had decided not to recommend criminal charges. But the move to take a second look close to Election Day was in response to thousands of e-mails found on disgrace former Congressman Anthony Weiner's server in a separate investigation.

Comey wrote to Congress, "The FBI has learned of the existence of e- mails that are appeared to be pertinent to the investigation."

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm confident, whatever they are, will not change the conclusion reached in July. Therefore, it's imperative that the bureau explain this issue in question, whatever, it is without any delay.

KAYE (voice-over): Director Comey dropped this bombshell despite the Justice Department and FBI's long standing practice of not commenting publicly and politically sensitive investigation within 60 days of an election.

Comey later explained in a letter to FBI employees why he felt the need to share. "I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed. I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record."

(on camera) : But that's not the whole story. Turns out that same month the FBI was also investigating Russia's meddling in the presidential election. Intelligence officials were looking at possible ties between Russia and Donald Trump's campaign, but none of that was ever made public in the lead-up to Election Day, only the renewed investigation into Clinton's e-mails.

SEN. TIM KAINE, (D) VIRGINIA: There is a very clear and extremely troubling double standard in Director Comey's actions. The director owes the American public and Congress a clear explanation of why there is a double standard.

KAYE (voice-over): Long after the election, in January this year, Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. When asked whether the FBI was investigating connections between the Russian government and the Trump team, he would only say, "We never confirm or deny a pending investigation."

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: I didn't say one way or another.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You didn't say that there were --

COMEY: That was my intention at least. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You didn't say one way or another whether even there's an investigation under way.

COMEY: Correct.

KAYE (voice-over): Comey emphasized that the investigations into Clinton's e-mails had been closed already and was no longer pending or open when he spoke about it days before voters went to the polls.

And now with Donald Trump's latest suggestion that President Obama had his Trump Tower phones wiretapped during the campaign, the FBI director is back in the headlines.

Comey was apparently incredulous over Trump's wiretapped claims, and asked his staff to reach out to the Justice Department to knock down the allegation. Long known for his bipartisan fairness, James Comey is certainly in a tangle with both sides.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: One person certainly saw his professional life rocked what James Comey said is a former Clinton Campaign Manager Robby Mook.

So, Robby, what do you make of the spot that Director Comey is in? I mean, he could publicly refute President Trump's accusation against President Obama and, you know, I'm sure you'll point that he was commenting about Secretary Clinton during the campaign.

ROBBY MOOK, FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER, HILLARY FOR AMERICA: Well, yeah. Look, it's disappointing that we're seeing restraint now and we didn't see restraint last year. But, I think what matters right now is where we go in the future.

And, the fact that Director Comey is in a bind right now, the fact that this is being made into a partisan issue on the Hill and in the White House when it shouldn't be one at all, to me reenforces that we need an independent bipartisan commission to take this matter and get it investigated and come back to us and tell us what happened.

COOPER: Well, it is interesting regarding Comey, because until the campaign last year, the director -- the FBI was not known as a partisan lightning rod. I mean, he served both Republicans and Democratic administrations. Do you give him any benefit of the doubt that his intentions were in the right place?

MOOK: I think he was trying to do the right thing. I assume he was trying to do the right thing. I think where things went a little bit off was the fact that he broke protocol when it came to Secretary Clinton that there are rules in place you're not supposed to talk about a candidate or an election during a certain period before the election, he chose to broke that, but now -- or chose to break that. But, now, we're seeing all kinds of information come out that he had on now President Trump. But then, again, let's just get this entire issue of Russia out of the political space and with some independent people who can objectively tell us what happened.

COOPER: I do have (inaudible). I mean, do you have confidence in Director Comey's ability to oversee an investigation?

[21:25:05] MOOK: I think the argument I'm making is this is so sticky. He shouldn't have to manage all of this. I recognized that he faces some impossible choices, and I would be the first one to say that the choices he faced in 2016 as well were not simple or easy.

And I think this issue has become so polarized and so partisan that we need to lift it out, because what would be a tremendous tragedy would be that a true national security issue becomes so partisan. We don't actually do anything about it.

What I'm very alarmed about is, if this is allowed to happen election after election, you know, you could have campaign strategists like me sitting in a room thinking about Russia and China the way we think about Super PACs, you know, that they're just something that has to be strategically managed. That's incredibly dangerous, and we don't want to ever get there.

COOPER: When President Trump says essentially everything under the umbrella of Russian interference is a witch-hunt by Democrats to make up for a lost election, obviously you'll spill there, but what would you say to his supporters, not him, but the people who hear him and believe that that logic make sense?

MOOK: Yeah. I'm really glad you asked this question. And I know I've said it a lot, but it's worth saying again. We can't treat this like a partisan issue. I understand how his administration would feel threatened by this. It was his aides that were communicating with the Russians, but the message I'm trying to get out loud and clear is we can't allow the Russians or any other foreign country to permeant deeply into our political process, to become entities that campaigns aligned themselves with like there are some sort of interest group. That's just unacceptable.

And, so I would actually urge the president's supporters to reach out to their members of Congress and ask them for this independent objective assessment of what happened.

COOPER: Robby, thanks very much.

MOOK: Thank you.

COOPER: Well, just ahead, as the House Intelligence Committee prepares for hearings on Russian meddling in the U.S. election, why is Russia trying to influence events here in the U.S.? I'll talk to New Yorker David Remnick discovering the deep dive and the answer of that question.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [21:31:05] COOPER: Tonight's breaking news, the House Intelligence Committee will hold its first public hearing on Russia's meddling in U.S. elections on March 20th. The current issue, "The New Yorker" has a deep dive into what is behind the meddling, cover story, active measures, what lay behind Russia's interference the 2016 election and what lies ahead. It was co-written by David Remnick who's the editor of "The New Yorker". It is a fascinating to read.

David worked for years as a reporter and correspondent in Moscow and has written extensively about the former Soviet Union. I spoke to him earlier about what he thinks is driving Russia to interfere in our democracy. The magazine cover itself, by the way, is a rift on "The New Yorker's" first cover in 1925, that's Vladimir Putin as used this tally (ph). President Trump has a butterfly in the magazine's name is in Cyrillic.


COOPER: Attempting to create turbulence within the U.S., for Russia that is a way to overcome their inherent weakness.

DAVID REMNICK, THE NEW YORKER: Well, what does Russia want? It doesn't just want the end to economic sanctions. It wants us out of their realm of what Putin sees as its interests. When we raise something about kleptocracy or the oppression of journalists, you can be darn sure the next time that comes up that we're going to hear about enemies of the people, the phrase that Donald Trump used to describe you and me.

COOPER: Yeah. It's interesting --

REMNICK: There's a kind of moral equivalence game that he plays.

COOPER: I mean, so far there are -- I don't even know if you can say there's smoke. There are certainly a lot of questions about contacts between the people around Donald Trump, around President Trump, and then candidate Trump, and previously businessman Trump and Russia and Putin.

REMNICK: And money.

COOPER: And money, and yet there's not any actual -- there's nothing you can really point to him and wrap your hands around.

REMNICK: Well, what's brought all this to the fore? What's brought all of this to the fore, all of it? For the most part it's been journalism. It's been the "Washington Post," the "New York Times," "The New Yorker," any number of other publications. What is absolutely seems to be self-evident, not to be polemical here, but descriptive in order to get answers to all the obvious questions, has the President of the United States been compromised?

So what agrees is our democracy have been compromise. What do we have to do to prevent this? What measures need to be taken? Journalism can only go so far, and without free and independent and deep investigation on the part of our law enforcement bodies and Congress, we're lost. And so --

COOPER: Journalists can't do it all. There's no way.

REMNICK: I don't think so. I mean, I have great pride in what journalists should be doing and what they are doing at the moment. I think it's an interesting and promising moment for journalism, which has been embattled financially for quite a while in recent years. But it can't do everything.

Even in Watergate, you had courts that came into play. You had congressional hearings that came into play, the famous Senate Watergate hearings, and I think this is where we're headed.

COOPER: It's interesting -- I interviewed this guy, Carter Page on Friday night. And, you know, he's one of the names that is continually come up. And then when you actually meet the guy --

REMNICK: There's a banality to it.

COOPER: Yeah. And I mean, it's --

REMNICK: And a sort of slipperiness to the way he talked to you.

COOPER: Beyond.

REMNICK: I mean, it's just --

COOPER: But then also in a conservative in the --

REMNICK: But here's what we don't have. We don't have subpoena power. We can't -- the president, look, what are the missing pieces in this whole thing? It's the president's business dealings.

COOPER: Right. That we don't really know.

REMNICK: We don't have his tax returns. What are tax returns after all for someone who is a President of the United States put his background for decades that's been in business. You know, essentially a biography, a deep biography, an actuarial -- an accounting biography of all his business dealings. We need to see that.

I feel, you know, as a citizen, we always needed to see that in terms of an honest accounting of who he is and who he has been as a businessman throughout the campaign. And, look, again, we are six weeks into this presidency.

[21:35:05] Look where we are. Look where we are. It's a candidacy that began with a conspiracy theory, the birther theory. And now we have the president of the United States on a Saturday morning, waking up at 6:00 in the morning in Florida and tweeting a half-dozen times without any evidence, without any basis that his predecessor had been spying on him. And then following it up with a tweet about Arnold Schwarzenegger and his ratings. This is where we are. And look how ungrounded we are. There are so many serious issues to deal with.

COOPER: And if -- I mean, on that issue, if not the ratings on the accusation against the former president, if the current president wanted to find out information about FISA court warrants, he can pick up the phone.

REMNICK: Pick up the phone.

COOPER: He can do that.

REMNICK: There has to be some basis in reality though.

COOPER: Right. I mean, the White House is now saying, "Well, look, there needs to be an investigation. We're not going to talk about it anymore until that investigation is done."

REMNICK: Perhaps. I mean, and at the same time, there are so many other issues surrounding his veracity, his stability from day to day, his level -- the level of chaos in the White House.

My colleague, Adam Davidson, just published this week in "The New Yorker" a piece about a business deal that the Trump organization did in which they were dealing with one of the most corrupt families in the nation of Azerbaijan. This is a hotel deal. And it seems that one of their other business partners in this was a business front for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, an organization that this administration wants to declare a terrorist organization. So, I think the level of investigation that's needed is manifest.

COOPER: On the Azerbaijan article which I read is it's fascinating because the Trump organization was saying initially, well, we didn't really -- this was just one of those licensing deals. They just put the name, the Trump name.

REMNICK: It's nonsense.

COOPER: But as you've discovered, that's not the case.

REMNICK: That's the Trump organization. And by the way, Ivanka Trump went to Baku to look into this deal.

COOPER: Right. And was instantly involved in like the landscaping, the --

REMNICK: Interior decorating all of that. You know, you have a responsibility as an American business to do due diligence because of foreign, corrupt practices. And if you -- and as Adam discovered, the most cursory, the most cursory examination of this business would have revealed, as would a Google search, that the Mammadov family, as one of the WikiLeaks cables from the American embassy in Baku said to Washington that the Mammadov family, his business partner, was spectacularly corrupt even by Azerbaijani standards.

COOPER: Corruption in Azerbaijan is --

REMNICK: Is everywhere, is everywhere.

COOPER: David Remnick, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

REMNICK: My pleasure.


COOPER: (Inaudible) is in the coordination with "The New Yorker".

Just ahead, President Trump served up a super size of animosity when he alleged that President Obama ordered his phones be tapped. It's a big deviation from the respect that presidents typically show each other. We'll talk it over with David Gergen who's worked with four former presidents.


[21:42:08] COOPER: As we reported earlier, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters earlier today that President Trump has no regrets about alleging that President Obama ordered his phones to be tapped. Neither the White House nor President Trump has produced any evidence, of course, to support that explosive claim.

The allegation which was fired off in a tweet storm early Saturday morning is the latest example of President Trump smashing a time- honored code among presidents. Suzanne Malveaux tonight has more.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The relationship between Presidents Trump and Barack Obama seem to be getting colder by the day.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Obama, I will say that it's been disastrous for business.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Since the inauguration, the acrimony from the Trump camp has been nonstop.

TRUMP: I've actually called the Justice Department to look into the leaks. Those are criminal leaks.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Trump accusing many government holdovers from the Obama administration of leaking classified and sometimes embarrassing information about him. And while the bombastic language from Trump is not new --

TRUMP: We have a disaster on our hands. We have a man right now that almost certainly will go down as the worst president in the history of the United States.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): The public animosity now that he's in office is at odds with the way past presidents have often behaved.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: We like to believe in our country that our ex-presidents get along and that they act in a civil mannerly way towards each other. Clearly, Donald Trump doesn't know about that tradition and I think he lives in a state of paranoia.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): In times of crisis, presidents have often come together, despite their political differences, to show country comes first.

BRINKLEY: They usually try to treat each other with magnanimous gestures, constant consultation, kindness, because after all, they're the ones that know what it's like to be in the White House.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): From President Ford pardoning Nixon to save the country, to President George W. Bush enlisting both his father and former President Clinton to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.

(on camera): What is the president asking you to do?

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We are raising money. We encourage people to give to the Red Cross.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Presidents have also shared moments of grief. President Obama invited Presidents Bush and Clinton to join him at Nelson Mandela's funeral in South Africa. And Ronald Reagan asked Carter, Ford and Nixon to represent him at the funeral of assassinated Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat.

More recently, the Bushes and Obamas have grown close, seen here at the opening of the museum of African-American History and Culture.

BUSH: That surprised everybody. That's what's so weird about society today, you know? That people on opposite sides of the political spectrum could actually like each other.


MALVEAUX: So far, it isn't clear if Trump is interested in maintaining a friendly relationship with Obama or any previous commanders in chief. His goal is to set himself apart from anyone and anything representing traditional Washington. Anderson?

[21:45:05] COOPER: Suzanne Malveaux. Suzanne thanks very much.

Lots to talk about with CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen, who's been an adviser of four presidents and has seen firsthand how presidents typically treat their predecessors.

David, beyond breaking with tradition, I mean, is there a danger in a current president feuding with a former one? It seems to me you would want to feel like you could call up your predecessor for advice. There's few people who have had that job.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. And we've famously had what's been called a president's club. And it's a fraternity of people who've been president, just a handful, but who have become friends and worked together.

Famously, Ronald Reagan, when he was sworn in, the Iranian hostages were released that day. And Jimmy Carter who had been defeated, Reagan gave him Air Force One to go to Germany to greet the hostages and come back. Carter was forever indebted for that.

Later on, when President Sadat of Egypt was shot, Gerry Ford and Jimmy Carter went together on a plane to the funeral over in Egypt. They had been bitter enemies for a long time, they became friends on that flight and they worked together on a number of bipartisan issues thereafter.

More recently, Anderson, when we had the tsunami hit the Pacific, you remember how President Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton --


GERGEN: -- went up together and raised money all around the world and went together to the site. And Clinton became so close to the Bush family. They almost treated him like, you know, another son.

So, these relationships have made a difference, and it's distressing and sad that in the current situation we have such enmity building up so quickly between President Trump and President Obama.

COOPER: Yeah. And with the latest accusation by the president, I mean, is this something you think that the relationship with the former president can bounce back from?

GERGEN: I think, Anderson, it's going to put a -- make or create a permanent rift between the two. President Obama, I don't think he's going to be taking this public stage and fighting it out with President Trump. But I can tell you this. I think a lot of the people around him, President Obama, the alumni, so to speak, will have no reluctance to take it on.

And by the way, President Trump thinks it's the Obama alumni who have been fomenting their resistance against him and responsible for a lot of the leaks.

COOPER: Yeah. I mean, when you hear that accusation, that idea that, you know, there's a deep state, there's this permanent government, that there are, you know, sort of Obama moles essentially at various locations trying to slow things down, does that, you know, I mean, there is kind of a permanent bureaucracy, is it possible?

GERGEN: There is a permanent bureaucracy, but there's no such thing as a deep state in the sense that that word is used to describe politics in Pakistan or in Turkey, you know, where there are strong men, military people waiting in the wings to move in, intervene, if the current regime doesn't do what they want.

We have a bureaucracy which is, I think, fighting back against the Trump people, whether it be, you know, the state department when, you know, these huge cuts are coming in their budget. Sure they're fighting. Other parts of the government, they're resisting. That's not unusual in Washington. I think it has become, let us say, I think more adversarial in this administration than I can remember in any other.

COOPER: Yeah. David Gergen. David thanks very much.

GERGEN: Thank you, Anderson. COOPER: Well, coming up. Should the president's campaign slogan have been, "We're going to build a wall and the Coast Guard in TSA are going to pay for it?" We'll explain that, next.


[21:52:27] COOPER: President Trump has said that his travel ban is necessary to protect the Americans and so is the wall he wants to build in the border. But the crackdown he wants on immigration could come at a high cost to other agencies tasked with protecting Americans, the Coast Guard, as well as the TSA. Rene Marsh tonight joins us with the details on that. Rene?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we are talking about two agencies critical to homeland security. The Coast Guard protects our maritime borders and TSA protects airports and the commercial airplanes we fly on. Important to point out, these are proposed cuts.

We don't know yet what the final budget will look like. But if they remain as the Office of Budget and Management is proposing, several former officials tell me it would create a strain on agencies and their critical missions.


RENE (voice-over): The Trump administration could be making major cuts to the United States Coast Guard and TSA according to two congressional sources. Their proposed cuts are intended to offset a major increase in military spending and help pay for Trump's ramped up immigration enforcement.

TRUMP: The immigration officers are finding the gang members, the drug dealers and the criminal aliens and throwing them the hell out of our country.

RENE (voice-over): But the Coast Guard does play a role in enforcing immigration laws. Government statistics show in fiscal year 2016 alone, the Coast Guard intercepted more than 6,300 undocumented migrants.

Stephen Flynn, a retired Coast Guard commander, says cuts to his former agency will hurt, not help the president's national security and immigration agenda.

STEPHEN FLYNN, RETIRED COAST GUARD COMMANDER: Just as the lesson we've learned post 9/11 is you can't do this piecemeal. You have to have it as a comprehensive approach.

RENE (voice-over): Among the Coast Guard's duties, securing the waterways near Mar-a-Lago in Florida when President Trump visits. Their proposal calls for a 14 percent cut from its $9 billion operational budget, that includes slashing $43 million from the Maritime Safety and Security Teams which board vessels trying to bring illegal drugs into the country. Over the past five years, Coast Guard cutters and aircraft have removed more than 630 metric tons of pure uncut cocaine with a wholesale value of nearly $19 billion from the high seas. Drugs have been a focus for President Trump.

TRUMP: And for drugs to pour in at a now unprecedented rate.

RENE (voice-over): Flynn warns cuts to the Coast Guard could also impact national security.

[21:55:03] FLYNN: The terrorist is not your conventional armed forces, something the president has certainly knows. And the Coast Guard is a frontline agency for that.

RENE (voice-over): TSA, the agency tasked with keeping terrorists and bombs off of commercial airplanes could see a $500 million reduction. The agency already plagued by long lines and frustrated travelers in the past because it didn't have the funding it needed.

Former TSA Official Paul Schmick.

PAUL SCHMICK, FORMER TSA OFFICIAL: That type of significant cut, we have to question how good will security be? This is cannot be good in either side.


RENE: Well, the OMB released a statement saying in part the budget blueprint will be released in mid-March. It would be premature for us to comment. It went on to say that the president and his cabinet are working collaboratively as we speak to create a budget that keeps the president's promises.

But some Republicans say cutting the Coast Guard budget is a terrible idea. California Congressman Duncan Hunter said in a statement, "OMB needs a reality check." Back to you, Anderson.

COOPER: Rene Marsh, thanks very much. We'll be right back.


COOPER: And that's it for us. Thanks for watching. Time to hand things over to Don Lemon. I'll see you tomorrow night. "CNN Tonight" starts right now.

[22:00:01] DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump's advisers in spin mode over those wiretapping accusations while the president himself is in sales mode on his replacement for Obamacare. This is "CNN Tonight," I'm Don Lemon.

President Trump says he's proud to back the GOP plan for replacing Obamacare --