Return to Transcripts main page


Trump, Obama Camps in Touch Since Wiretap Claim; Trump Meets with Conservative Health Bill Foes; Interview with Congressman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired March 8, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:07] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, good evening. Thanks for joining us.

We're getting ready for another Van Jones "MESSY TRUTH" town hall. Tonight with special guest Trevor Noah. It begins at the top of the next hour.

We begin this hour, though, with breaking news on several fronts, including a fresh revelation in the wiretapping story.

Also, the serious sales job by the man who wrote "The Art of the Deal," selling the replacement for the Affordable Care Act. That and a very real question about coordination that continues to dog his new administration, namely, given that this repeal has been seven years and several campaigns in the making, does the White House and the Republican Party, why do they seem so caught off guard by the backlash from primarily their own party?

The House plan, which President Trump is backing, faces opposition from staunch Republicans, nearly all Democrats and not only that, but a whole string of health care heavyweights.

Take a look at who exactly has problems with it. Talking about hospital groups, nurses groups, doctors groups, including the American Medical Association, and, of course, the very influential AARP. It's a formidable list for any lawmaker to contemplate.

Meantime, the president met tonight with a number of conservative organizations, groups that GOP lawmakers also pay attention to get together. It ended a short time ago.

Our Jeff Zeleny joins us now with more on that.

But first, Jeff, I've got to ask you about this breaking news on wiretapping President Trump and former President Obama. What's the latest?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We know that these two presidents have not spoken since Saturday, and actually, since Inauguration Day, Anderson. But I am being told tonight that their chiefs of staff have spoken since Saturday. The former Obama chief of staff, Denis McDonough, reached out, I am told to the Trump administration's chief of staff, Reince Priebus, on Saturday, to talk about this extraordinary allegation that was made on Saturday.

I'm also told that other advisers from both administrations have been having conversations.

Now, we don't know exactly what these conversations are pertaining to, or what they're rolling out, if they're talking about specifics of those claims. But we do know that they have been talking, which is certainly interesting. But, Anderson, all of this wiretapping, all of these allegations, from here to Capitol Hill, are still hanging over this White House, when they want to be talking about health care.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think he's in very much of a sell mode.

ZELENY (voice-over): It's the biggest sales pitch of the young Trump presidency. White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, says the president is ready to twist arms and hit the road to make his case.

SPICER: This is going to be a very, very aggressive, comprehensive approach to making sure that every American understands that there is a major problem and that we are here to fix it.

ZELENY: Never mind the Democratic defiance.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: Trumpcare is a health care handout for the wealthiest Americans and fake health care for everybody else.

ZELENY: It's the fierce Republican opposition the president must first overcome. A point he is making privately to skeptical GOP lawmakers.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I got elected to a certain extent, I would say, a pretty good little chunk based on the fact repeal and replace Obamacare. And many of you people are in the same boat. Very important, so, let's get it done.

ZELENY: That was the president's message to GOP leaders on Tuesday, but today, for the second time this week, he had no public appearances after the White House. The vice president was taking his turn at explaining the plan publicly, hitting the airwaves in six states across the country, all of which he and Mr. Trump turned red in November.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president's indicated that this is the framework, but we're open to improvements in the legislation.

UNIDENTIIFED MALE: Gentleman from Ohio, Jim Jordan.

ZELENY: Yet some of the loudest resistance is coming from congressmen like Jim Jordan of Ohio, a Tea Party member who railed against Obamacare last year on the campaign trail.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: Let's vote Donald Trump to president and let's make America great again.

ZELENY: But now, he has this to say about President Trump's health care bill.

JORDAN: I believe, when you look through it, it's Obamacare in a different form.


COOPER: So, Jeff, I mean, the president is going to have a steep climb ahead of him to get everyone onboard with this health care bill. He's planning on hitting the road soon, right?

ZELENY: He is, indeed, Anderson. We are told he's likely to travel to Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday to make his case there. Kentucky, of course, the home of Senator Rand Paul, one of the most outspoken Republican critics on this.

But, Anderson, he's also making his case to conservative groups that you mentioned earlier. He had several of them here over to the White House around 5:00 or so this evening. And all of them oppose the bill. So, it's clear that he is working on both sides of this, trying to win people over as well as persuade people.

But the question is, what are the consequences for Republicans who don't agree with him? That's something we'll have to find out -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jeff Zeleny -- Jeff, thanks.

As for Congress, House lawmakers began the formal drafting of the bill today, even though the Congressional Budget Office has yet to weigh in on how many people the legislation would cover or how much it would cost. In fact, a number of Republicans went out of their way to cast doubt on whatever the CBO comes up with. Other conservatives, as Jeff just reported, have made their disdain for the measure clear, leaving the GOP leadership with what could be a heavy lift.

CNN's Phil Mattingly has that.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): House Speaker Paul Ryan's not-so-subtle pitch to his still skeptical or even outright opposed members was simple: This is exactly what you campaigned on.

[20:05:05] REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I have no doubt we'll pass this, because we're going to keep our promises.

MATTINGLY: Even as he acknowledged that despite those promises and the full-on support of President Trump, he still has problems inside his own party.

RYAN: What you're seeing is, we're going through the inevitable growing pains of being an opposition party to becoming a governing party.

MATTINGLY: Sources tell CNN, GOP leaders blitzed their members behind closed doors today, with House Majority Whip Steve Scalise placing a split-screen slide on a projection screen of Trump and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The question Scalise asked, whose side are you on?

GOP aides realize it will take more than that, as conservatives continue to threaten to sink the bill altogether.

REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA: It is a lump of coal. Ultimately, it's going to result in the demise of our country, or at least contribute to our debilitating insolvency and bankruptcy.

MATTINGLY: Among those who need persuading, Senator Ted Cruz, who despite the unfounded allegation tying his father to the assassination of JFK --

TRUMP: What was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death, before the shooting?

MATTINGLY: And this unflattering tweet about his wife, Heidi, is dining tonight with President Trump at the White House, with some lobbying, no doubt, with on the menu. And with good reason, on the other side of the aisle --

REP. FRANK PALLONE (D), HOUSE ENERGY & COMMERCE COMMITTEE: Mr. Chairman, I am not -- I'm simply asking for retribution with regard to a parliamentary inquiry.

MATTINGLY: There is no help on the way as Democrats today spent hours criticizing the bill.

REP. RICH NEAL (D), HOUSE WAYS & MEANS COMMITTEE: Does it cover more Americans? No. Does it cut the deficit? No.

MATTINGLY: Mocking the process and the president at the same time.


MATTINGLY: As well as the components for maintaining pre-existing conditions protections, to allowing kids to stay on their parents' health care until the age of 26.

REP. PETER WELCH (D), VERMONT: There is a lot of plagiarism in this bill.

MATTINGLY: The Democratic efforts falling short to have derailing any aspect of the GOP plan, underscoring that the GOP leaders from Trump on down, the issue is their party. And they simply aren't there yet.

RYAN: So look at what this does for -- this is a conservative wish list.


COOPER: Phil Mattingly joins us now.

I mean, as I mentioned earlier, Phil, there are the conservatives and the outside groups, the hospitals, the American Medical Association, the AARP, all opposed to this. What is the path forward?

MATTINGLY: Well, when I talked to House Republican leadership aides obviously who are all in on this, they kind of mentioned two primary things -- money and politics.

Anderson, will those outside groups, obviously, they've written letters of opposition. Are they willing to dump cash on trying to defeat this bill? As of now, the answer is no. We'll have to see going forward. If that starts coming into play, that is severely problematic.

But then you move to the political front. And obviously, Jeff laid out what the president is going to do, and that is a huge portion of this.

But another issue that I've heard raised a lot is, will these conservative members be willing to almost derail President Trump's entire first-term agenda by sinking this crucial initiative? As one told me, when you look at this bill, when you look at what's coming forward, are you ready to deal a grievous wound to your new president that you helped elect this early on in the process? They're calculation right now, Anderson, is, no.

COOPER: All right. Phil, thanks very much.

Let's bring in the panel, Van Jones, you know about the town hall, it's coming up the next -- top of the next hour. Also with us, CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, Trump supporter, Kayleigh McEnany, she's also a contributor to "The Hill", and "Daily Beast" senior columnist, Matt Lewis.

Gloria, I mean, Sean Spicer was asked about this today at the press briefing. But you can -- I mean, Donald Trump ran on being a dealmaker. This could be looked at as his first big test of whether he really is.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it is his first big test. And that's why he's having people over to dinner. I mean, look, it's not easy for him to schmooze Cruz. They're not great friends. He's not -- he's got some apologies to make to Mrs. Cruz, I would think.

And he's trying right now to let people know he's listening to them, he's willing to negotiate. He doesn't want to negotiate with himself, quite yet. But I think when push comes to shove, this is a president who's also going to go on the attack against people who aren't with him. I mean, we've seen it, it could happen on Twitter.

And so, we're not, you know, he'll start out now nicely trying to get them, but if he can't get them nicely, he will campaign against them.

COOPER: Kayleigh, should the president have sort of taken the pulse of the conservative wing earlier, before he reached this stage, and suddenly, they're revolting against this plan?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think he did take the pulse and I think he knew that they wanted a staunch conservative bill, nothing that was negotiable, nothing that included very popular provisions like allowing 26-year-olds to remain on the plan, policies that were good in Obamacare, that have 85 percent resounding approval. He understood conservatives wanted a purist bill that eliminated Obamacare entirely.

And knowing that, what he did was he put forth a very mild wishy-washy plan that angered liberals, angered conservatives, but gives him the room to negotiate and gives him policies and principles that he can give to conservatives.

[20:10:06] I'll give you this, I'll give you this, but I refuse to negotiate and let go of this entitlement.

He's redoing the entitlement in the form of tax credits, so it will ensure that people have some form of care, I would argue. But he's doing it in a way that allows him wiggle room. If he was to put forth a mildly conservative plan, he would have to go the extra mile and make it staunchly conservative.

COOPER: Matt, is that your take?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think -- Republicans are in trouble because what happened is, what Barack Obama accomplished is that he, essentially, now, it is accepted that health care is the responsibility of the government to provide. So, it is an entitlement.

Once that premise is established, then free market ideas don't work, right? Because free market ideas, now we have to -- what do you do about people who can't -- who are too poor to cover? Now people can wait until they get sick and then sign up, right? So, if you don't have a mandate, this doesn't have a mandate, people can wait until they get sick and then sign up. You let them sign up.

So, essentially, this is -- it's Obamacare light, at best. I don't know what's better or worse for Republicans. They might be better off if this failed. So, we're talking about Donald Trump's presidency crashing if this thing fails. It could be worse if it passes. This could be a complete debacle.


VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Governing is hard. Campaigning is easy. Opposition, easy. Proposition, hard.

And the reality is you have a Republican Party that has spent seven years attacking this bill, attacking Obamacare, saying it's terrible. They've had four national elections, and then the very first day they come up with their own thing, the roof falls in and everybody starts running for the doors -- because it's hard to govern, and it's hard to fix things. It's hard to make things work. And I hope that the people who voted for Trump based on these glib

slogans are starting to pay attention now that when you actually start trying -- open the hood of the car and start to deal with that actual engine, this stuff is difficult.

MCENANY: But it is important to recognize, you know, President Obama, it took him a year and a half to get Obamacare. There were so many side deals --


BORGER: There were so many hearings. There was a --

COOPER: Right. But, I mean, now --

BORGER: We know what it costs.

COOPER: I mean, Republicans back then for Obamacare were complaining that Republicans were ramming this down the throats of voters. They were rushing this through. Now the flip is the case. You have Democrats saying about this Republicans --

BORGER: They are rushing it through because they know time is their enemy.

COOPER: We haven't even heard from the Congressional Budget Office, which now the Republicans are saying, even though it's headed by a Republican and used to be praised by Republicans --

BORGER: Right.

LEWIS: Republicans have two problems. They need to do this before like April 15th for two reasons. Number one, they have to do it before a recess, because if these Republican members go back to their district, they're going to be inundated at town halls. It's going to be really ugly.

The other reason is, it has to be part of budget reconciliation. At some point, they have to have a budget, and so, the timing of this -- time is not their friend.

BORGER: Can I just say? Now we know why John Boehner left as speaker.


COOPER: And why John Boehner said a couple of weeks ago, this is not going to happen.

BORGER: This is not going to happen. He knows Republicans have never agreed on health care.

LEWIS: Right.

BORGER: On what to do about health care. And that has not changed in the last seven years. JONES: You know, part of the thing, too, is that we covered the

Obamacare website and it didn't work. And we gave it hours and hours and days and days and days until it finally got to working.

What we didn't do was go back and talk to all those people who really benefited. You've got people who have, you know, kids who were born sick with pre-existing conditions that would have really in a week run out of their lifetime insurance cap. Those kids are now covered. You can't go to those parents and say, I'm sorry, I'm taking it from you.

And so -- and listen. All I want to say is, that is a good thing for America. I know it hurts Republicans' feelings that America's government stood up for America's sick people, but it is good for America.

MCENANY: It is a good thing. But something that I think that's been overlooked is the Paul Ryan plan. The Obama plan didn't cover income brackets between $50,000 and $75,000. That's the middle class for a lot of people. Those are the people slammed by high premiums.

They were not given a dollar, a dime in subsidies. This plan extends a helping hand to the middle class. So, I agree with you entirely. We cannot let people lose insurance, but we can't also overlook the middle class slammed by Obamacare.

LEWIS: It also has these tax rebates, right? So, basically, if you want to make sure that poor people can have access and if you want to incentivize people signing up before they get sick, the way that this plan is doing it, this free market conservative plan, is by a tax rebate. What that means is, if you don't make enough money to pay taxes, the government gives you money.

Is that what Republicans fought for for the last six years, to have a plan that gives away money?

MCENANY: It's a compromise.

LEWIS: A compromise? It's an entitlement.

JONES: This is it. You have this young populist who's sitting here who understands that people need help and you have this young conservative sitting here saying, it ain't the government's business.

[20:15:06] And your party is divided over this. It's fascinating.

COOPER: You're kind of enjoying this.

JONES: I'm enjoying --


BORGER: I think it's the messy truth.

JONES: I think it's a messy truth.

COOPER: We have more to talk about in this hour. A Van Jones town hall at the top of the next. His special guest, "The Daily Show's" Trevor Noah.

Next for us, breaking news: see what the vice president says when asked if he believes the president's wiretapping allegations against President Obama. Will he actually defend the boss? You'll see.


COOPER: Well, you saw at the top of the broadcast of our breaking news tonight, our Jeff Zeleny reporting that chiefs of staff for President Obama and former President Trump have been in contact since Saturday's presidential tweet storm over wiretap claims and plenty more on the subject as well.

Vice President Pence was asked this, and I quote, "The president has alleged that the former president committed a felony in wiretapping Trump Tower. Yes or no, do you believe that President Obama did that?"

The vice president punted. Here's what he told CNN Cleveland affiliate WEWS. He said, quote, "Well, what I can say is that the president and our administration are very confident that the congressional committees in the House and Senate that are examining issues surrounding the last election, the run-up to the last election, will do that in a thorough and equitable way."

That's not answering the question, by the way. Then he changed the subject to health care.

Meantime, those same lawmakers who, by the way, say they have yet to see evidence backing President Trump's claim are now ready to demand proof, should it exist.

Here's South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham speaking to CNN's Manu Raju.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The president has asked Congress to look into whether or not his campaign was wiretapped by the Obama administration. I'll take up that challenge and we sent a letter to the Department of Justice and the FBI, asking them for any information that they may have used to obtain a warrant. The whole purpose of this is to find out if a warrant was issued directly to the Trump campaign.

[20:20:01] MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: And if they don't provide this information?

GRAHAM: Then I'll have done my job. Either they're lying to me or there is no information. And I don't believe they would lie to me about this. I expect them to come forward as to whether or not a warrant was obtained or sought.

RAJU: They would subpoena this information if they don't comply?


COOPER: Senator Graham's Democratic committee colleague, Sheldon Whitehouse, also signed on to the request. And today, four ranking members went to CIA headquarters to view raw intelligence on what was the probe's original mission, investigating Russian meddling in the election.

Our Jessica Schneider joins us now with more.

I mean, it seems like the investigations have been ramping up today. What more do you know?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, you know, the president did say he wanted congressional investigations to look into these wiretap allegations. Well, now those committee members seem to be leaving no stone unturned, in both that inquiry and the probe into Russian hack during the election. In fact, members of the House and Senate intelligence committees are going straight to the source in their search for answers.

We know they've been looking through a wide array of classified information, right at CIA headquarters. In fact, Democratic Senator Mark Warner, vice chair of the Senate committee, he won't say if he's seen any evidence that President Trump or his campaign colluded with the Russians, but he says he did see evidence today of Russian interference.


SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: We've got even more questions now. We've got more information we've got to get access to. I know, as the committee gets into this next stage of listening who we want to have conversations with, but the main thing is that, you know, we're all committed, both Democrats and Republicans today, keeping this bipartisan. The American people deserve to hear all of the facts. A lot of what we saw today was the evidence underlying how Russia manipulated the news, how it hacked into the DNC and John Podesta and leaked out in favor of one candidate against another candidate.


SCHNEIDER: And other members will look at the evidence next week. In fact, of note, Anderson, Republican Senator Susan Collins, tonight, she's leaving the door open to actually requesting President Trump's tax returns as part of the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation.

COOPER: And, Jessica, the FBI director, James Comey, he had a public appearance today, and he spoke. If memory serves me, he did not, though, weigh in on the wiretap allegations? Is that correct?

SCHNEIDER: He didn't, Anderson. He spoke for an hour today at a cybersecurity conference, but didn't talk at all about the wiretapping claims, which sources, of course, tell CNN made Comey incredulous over the weekend. But he did somewhat allude to it, talking about the high legal bar to even getting a wiretap warrant. And then at the end, he made a passing comment, saying that he would be FBI director for 6 1/2 more years, possibly indicating he's fairly certain about the security of his job -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Jessica Schneider, thanks.

South Carolina Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy sits on the House Intelligence Committee. He became a household name, as you know, for his role in leading the two-year House investigation into the Benghazi affair.

I spoke with Congressman Gowdy late this afternoon.


COOPER: Congressman Gowdy, I know as of Monday, you said you had not seen any evidence to support President Trump's wiretapping claim. I wonder, just in the last two days, has that changed at all?

REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: No, sir. I've only interviewed one witness that was considered to have firsthand knowledge, and that was last week, Director Comey, and I have not had access to any witnesses or documents that would inform or instruct that presidential tweet.

COOPER: You've said if the Justice Department has any evidence to suggest that the previous administration Justice Department acted inappropriately, that they are welcome to release that information. Why do you think the DOJ or White House hasn't done that? Shown any evidence to support the claim?

GOWDY: It could be for two reasons. Number one, there is no evidence. Or secondarily, it could be a judicial matter. Anderson, there's something called FISC, which is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and it could be that it's under seal. And I have no way of knowing which it is if it's either of those.

But the executive branch is in position of the affidavits and the warrants and the applications for warrants. So, there are only two ways to lawfully intercept someone's oral communication and the executive branch would have access to documents that support either of those two ways.

COOPER: Right. I mean, just so I'm clear, if President Trump wanted that information, he could just pick up the phone and contact the Department of Justice and find out about what a FISA court, what warrants were issued, couldn't he?

GOWDY: That's true, in theory, although I don't know that we want presidents calling the attorney general or the DAG, the deputy attorney general, and telling him or her what to do. But in theory, you are correct.

The president is the head of the executive branch and to the extent information is held within the executive branch, including classified information, the president has the power to both declassify it and to have it released, as long as it's not held by the judicial branch, which would be a court matter.

[20:25:01] COOPER: Right. He could declassify -- just decide to declassify it, and make it public, even.

GOWDY: He could, in theory. Of course, there could be people -- I mean, you and I are speculating that it exists. So, we'll continue with that speculation that it exists.

It also could impact an ongoing investigation. So, there may be a DOJ reason that they don't want to share it with Congress. They are -- in fairness, they have been reluctant in the past to share information with Congress, which I get, particularly if there's an ongoing investigation.

But in theory, the chief executive controls the executive branch. Therefore, if information existed, it could be released.

COOPER: Do you believe anything actually exists? Do you think there is any evidence?

GOWDY: You know, Anderson, at this point in life, what I believe is less important to me than what the witnesses who have firsthand knowledge say, which is why I think it's really important that we talk to every witness and access every document. I am wrong more than I'm right when I guess, so I'm just going to let --


GOWDY: -- let the witnesses speak.

COOPER: Fair enough.

I want to ask you about the house intelligence committee's investigation to Russia. There are obviously tons of unanswered questions and a lot of aspects of the investigation. Do you expect your committee to get the answers it needs in the initial hearing, which is scheduled to be held on March 20th?

GOWDY: We'll make significant headway, if the witness shows up. Keep in mind, Anderson, they're not under subpoena, they're being voluntarily asked to attend. And I expect Director Comey will come. I expect Admiral Rogers will come. Mr. Brennan and Mr. Clapper are available for shows on CNN and other places. I hope that they're available for the House Intel Committee.

They certainly can unlock some of the questions we have. But by no means, even if they do a phenomenal job and have a completely forthcoming, the inquiry doesn't end. They're not the line level analyst. They're not the line level prosecutors. They're not the FBI agents who initially got the Flynn transcripts.

So, we're going to need to talk to all of the witnesses, not just the five that everybody knows their name.

COOPER: And just lastly, I've got to ask you about reports that you are being considered by the Trump administration for a federal judge appointment. Can you say if you've been approached by the president or the administration about a seat on the federal bench?

GOWDY: I have never met President Trump nor have I had a conversation with him. I am blessed to have two very good friends who happen to be my U.S. senators, neither of whom have been mad enough at my state or the country to put me on the federal bench. So, until Lindsay or Tim tells me to pack my bags, I'm happy to be where I am. Nobody's approached me about it.

COOPER: All right. Congressman Trey Gowdy, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

GOWDY: Yes, sir, thank you.


COOPER: Well, up next tonight, the reaction of former President Obama to Trump's wiretapping claim and new reaction about the chief of staffs actually being in contact.


[20:31:41] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Our breaking news tonight. Lawmakers are now seeking evidence either prove or disapproves Pres. Trump's claim that he was wire tapped during the campaign and that Pres. Obama ordered the eavesdropping. (Inaudible) Lindsey Graham telling CNN he will subpoena intelligence agencies if need.

President Obama looks calm and cool here in the photograph, but we hear he's (inaudible) vibe since leaving office hit a bump this past weekend when Trump went on his Twitter tirade and laid out his wiretap claim. Sources close to the former president say he was irked and exasperated over the accusations.

And again, we've also learned both Trump and Obama chiefs of staff have spoken since this weekend, but Mr. Trump and Mr. Obama have not actually spoken.

Joining us to talk about it all is Former Senior Obama Adviser, David Axelrod, legendary investigator reporter Carl Bernstein, investigator legend, I'm not sure, and Gloria Borger is back as well.

So, David, I mean you've known Pres. Obama for more than two decades now. When you hear people saying that he was irked and exasperated, what does that actually look like?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I've seen him irked and exasperated, sometimes at me, so I know what it looks like. But I don't think -- I think it's wrong to assume that he was irked and exasperated about the personal affront of Pres. Trump after all was accusing him of a crime with that tweet on Saturday, even if Pres. Trump didn't realize it.

But I think what would offend him would be this sort of casual degradation of the institution of the presidency, this suggestion that people would just carelessly ignore what is a very well-defined law and boundaries, and that a president of the United States would, of his own volition, just authorize taps for political purposes on players in the American political landscape. And that is, that, I think, would get him very, very angry and aggravated.

So, and this, I think, is an ongoing concern of his, is less about the policies with which he clearly disagrees on many, but more about the institutional assaults that seem to come one after another from this president.

COOPER: David, I would be remiss if I didn't, I guess, ask you directly, have you talked to Pres. Obama about it?

AXELROD: I haven't talked in detail with him about it, but I know him well enough to know how he feels generally about these things.

And, on this, in particular, Trump -- Pres. Trump was not just assaulting him and his integrity, but also the integrity of the FBi, of the Intelligence Community, even the courts. And this, he would find, hard to take.

COOPER: Carl, there's obviously a long history of presidents not criticizing former presidents publicly. Clearly, the Pres. Trump is not adhering to that protocol in this case. Are there any long-term negative effect, do you think, from a break in precedent like this? I mean is it important for a sitting president to have a good relationship with a former president? Can it help a sitting president?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, it's destabilizing to the country and to the institution of the presidency.

Second of all, we are talking about what some Republicans that I have talked to consider the most irresponsible and disingenuous attack on a previous president of the United States by an incumbent president in our history. There's never been anything like this.

[20:35:04] As David said, he has accused his predecessor of being a criminal, of doing a felony, a felonious assault on our country. It's unheard of.

But let's look at what's underneath to all of this. The Russians, a hostile power, attacked the United States in our presidential election. And the president and those around him, including his Attorney General, including his now fired National Security adviser, have tried to keep the truth about whatever happened from being front and center as it ought to be in the investigations that are ongoing by the FBI, by the Congress, et cetera. That's what we need to stay focused on and that's what this president wants us to look away from, and it's not going to happen.

COOPER: Gloria, do you think Pres. Obama will actually comment on this? I mean, clearly, somebody close to him, you know, let CNN know that he was irked and exasperated.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I was just communicating via e-mail with somebody who used to work for him who said, his reaction was more like, "Oh, come on!" That it was annoying. I think is the way you would put it.

I don't think they want Pres. Obama to go out there and talk about this right now. I think if he's going to go out there and talk, it's going to be about immigration, and it might be about health care, as this plays out through the Congress.

And I think, you know, he can let other people do the talking for him on this and let the investigation take its course, which is what he's going to do.

COOPER: David, I mean --

AXELROD: One thing, Anderson.

COOPER: Good ahead. Yeah.

AXELROD: Yeah, go ahead, I'm sorry.

Well, I was going to say one thing that I'm sure he finds galling is that he actually has come under attack by Democrats for not allowing more information to surface about the Russian incursion on our election, during the campaign, because he was so concerned about not creating a perception of using an intelligence investigation, an FBI investigation, to influence the outcome of a campaign.

So he was doing what he thought was his responsibility as a trustee of our democracy, and then, this president now sort of casually throws off this outrageous charge, without any evidence. So, I'm sure he finds that galling.

COOPER: David, would you expect him to say anything publicly about it?

AXELROD: You know, I don't think he wants to get into a back and forth. The truth of the matter is that Pres. Trump has taken a tremendous beating since those tweets came out. And not just from Democrats, as was pointed out, from many Republicans, who have said, I see no evidence for this. What was interesting to me today, in his briefing, Sean Spicer quoted Jim Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence, as saying, that he had no evidence that there was coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians over this effort to subvert the election. And he used that as an authoritative source.

Well, Director Clapper also said, there's absolutely no truth to the fact --

COOPER: Right.

AXELROD: -- that Trump had been bugged. And apparently, that's not good enough for Mr. Spicer or the president.

COOPER: Yeah. And Carl, you know, Sean Spicer was also asked about whether this will permanently damage the relationship between the two presidents and he said, you know, I have the wording exactly, he said, I think they'll be just fine. Do you agree? BERNSTEIN: I can't imagine that there hasn't been some damage done. This is a rather extraordinary and outrageous thing the current president did.


BERNSTEIN: But we also need to look at the counter-narrative. This idea of a Obama conspiracy, a deep state that is trying to overthrow the United States and his presidency. It is on a part and the same idea as birtherism. And it's not an accident that the same person, Donald Trump, has promoted birtherism and is now promoting the same outrageous conspiracy theory to appeal to those in his base. And it's up to those of us who are in the media --


BERNSTEIN: -- and it's up to those who are investigators in the government to get to the bottom of what happened with the Russians and what we need to know about Donald Trump --


BERNSTEIN: -- and his Russian connections.

COOPER: I got to go to break. Carl, thank you. David, Gloria, as well.

Coming up next on International Women's Day, there was A Day Without Women, marches across the U.S.

Well, President Trump tweeted about his tremendous respect, he said, for women. Cecil Richards of Planned Parenthood says his policies don't live up to those words. She joins us shortly.

Plus, just minutes from now, CNN's Van Jones hosts another "Messy Truth" town hall with Trevor Noah from "The Daily Show." The studio audience is getting ready. We have to guess the conversation is going to get real, real fast. We'll be right back.


[20:43:48] COOPER: First Lady Melania Trump hosted a luncheon today at the White House in honor of International Women's Day. First daughter, Ivanka Trump was there as well.

Meanwhile, A Day Without Women marches were held throughout the country. The latest in a series of demonstrations relying on strikes or boycotts to protest the Trump administration.

As for Pres. Trump, early this morning, he tweeted, "I have tremendous respect for women and the many roles they serve that are vital to the fabric of our society and our economy." It is not the first time, certainly, that Mr. Trump has proclaimed his respect for women. He said so several times during the campaign, often in response to controversy over something he had said or allegedly done. Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, says Pres. Trump's policies on some women's issues didn't live up to his rhetoric. She joins us now.

First of all, Cecile, I wonder what your reaction was to that tweet from the president.

CECILE RICHARDS, PLANNED PARENTHOOD, PRESIDENT: Well, I think, particularly given this week and what this Congress is trying to do to take away health care access for women and health care access at Planned Parenthood, the one way he could show his respect for women is actually allowing them to go to the health care provider of their choice and for 2.5 million every year, that's Planned Parenthood.

So I hope he'll actually listen to the women of this country about their need to access high-quality, affordable care that they get from Planned Parenthood.

[20:44:59] COOPER: I'm wondering, under the proposed Republican replacement for the Affordable Care Act, Planned Parenthood figures prominently. What would it mean for Planned Parenthood if the bill passed as it is right now? Obviously, there may be changes.

RICHARDS: Well, it's really important, Anderson. I know that Paul Ryan, Speaker Paul Ryan has said we're being defunded. But the truth is, we're not in the federal budget. We don't have a line item in this budget. What he's actually doing and what he saying in this legislation is that the millions of folks who count on us now for preventative health care, can, birth control, cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood, would no longer be able be come to Planned Parenthood, and we wouldn't be reimbursed for that care.

It's also really important to understand from this legislation, remind folks that actually abortion services are not paid for by the federal government. So actually, what they would be blocking women from getting from Planned Parenthood is the very services that help prevent unintended pregnancy in the first place. And that's birth control, which is our specialty.

COOPER: But I understand, the White House, they did make an offer to allow Planned Parenthood to preserve its funding, if it stopped providing abortions, an offer which you rejected. A, were you surprised that they reached out with that offer? And did you give it any real consideration?

RICHARDS: Well, first of all, they never did reach out with that offer. I read about it in the paper like everybody else. But --

COOPER: So there was no official offer?

RICHARDS: -- Anderson -- never, never. But it's important to understand that, you know, we see 2.5 million patients in this country every year. One in five women in the country have been to us for health care. We're here to serve women, provide them all the health care they need, that includes birth control and cancer screenings and safe and legal abortion access. And we would never trade away the rights of women or the rights of women to access full reproductive health care for this kind of proposed deal.

COOPER: Have you gotten any assurances from moderate Republicans who might be opposed to Planned Parenthood's funding being tied to -- or tied to this bill. Have they told you they would try to oppose it in its current form?

RICHARDS: Absolutely. I mean, moderate Republicans all across the country, and even, you know, traditional conservative Republicans, who believe that the government shouldn't be in the business of telling people where they can and can't go to for health care, are in opposition to this bill. And that includes millions of our own patients.

You know, we see millions of people across the country, including many of the states where Pres. Trump has supporters. Half of Pres. Trump's own supporters oppose defunding of Planned Parenthood.

And this is what I think Congress is missing. Is that this is -- women's access to health care is not a partisan issue. Women need it from all walks of life. And the real irony, Anderson, is that we are now -- because of the good work of Planned Parenthood and a lot of others, we're at an all-time low for teenage pregnancy in this country. We're at a 30-year low for unintended pregnancy in America. It's because more women are getting access to family planning and good birth control, including a Planned Parenthood health centers, and we need to double down on that progress, and not roll back the opportunities for women in America.

COOPER: Cecile Richards, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you very much.

A quick programming note this Friday, we have a CNN Special Report, Melania Trump, the making of a First Lady. Randi Kaye hosts the hour which traces the First Lady's extraordinary path to the White House, starting with her childhood in Slovenia. That's Friday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern this week.

Just ahead tonight, what CNN'S Van Jones found when he hit the road and went to Arizona's borders to talk to Trump voters, many of them Latinos and also border patrol officers.

And just moments from now, another "Messy truth" town hall, Trevor Noah of "The Daily Show" is Van's guest tonight. That's at the top of the hour. We'll be right back.


[20:52:14] COOPER: Just minutes from now at the top of the hour, Van Jones hosts another "Messy Truth"" town hall. As you can see, the audience is getting ready for a lively discussion. Trevor Noah, host of "The Daily Show" is Van's guest tonight. Plenty of news certainly on the table to talk about, including Pres. Trump's new immigration policies.

Van recently took a road trip to meet Trump voters who were dealing with immigration issues at the border every single day, many of them Latinos. Here's what he found.


VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is where the debate over border security starts, the Arizona/Mexico border. I want to see it for myself and talk to the people who live this reality every day, like the Pinal County Sheriff's Deputies.

If someone is able to go under, over or around the border fence, they walk through this desert, aim for the highways, and disappear into the United States.

Why do you think they're so desperate to come here? Not the ones who are coming to bring the drugs, but the other ones who are coming up here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's America. I mean, what better place to come? I don't know what their personal motivation is to come over here, whether that'd be work or family or whatever, but they're motivated by something.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it's not an easy track.

JONES: And on this day, a drug bust, which is all too common, 600 pounds of pot, in the back of a truck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, this is actually packaged for distribution.

JONES: Out here, law enforcement doesn't know who's around the corner, whether it's a desperate family or an armed drug smuggler. The danger is real.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But all these mountains back up in here, and over here, we have scouts on them.

JONES: And while many people walk through here to find a better life, they're mixed in with smugglers who would do anything to avoid getting caught.

Man, if these guys are going through all of this just to get to America, like, you know, doesn't your heart break sometimes, when you see these guys and you think to yourself --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, my heart doesn't break for them. No, because they're doing something illegal. What's heartbreaking for me is when this stuff gets out to its destination and starts getting, you know, peddled to kids. And, you know, this is the United States. That's what's heartbreaking.

JONES: And inside Sammy's Mexican Grill, Latinos talk to me about their frustration with the new administration.

ZOLA ZERMENO, ARIZONA RESIDENT: When the leader of our world is singling out a whole entire population and sort of making it OK to say these really nasty, ugly things about people that I love, it's not OK. I mean, I personally take offense and I'm worried and I'm scared and it's terrifying.

[20:55:13] JONES: But not everyone in here agrees, including the owners. They support the president now and they backed his candidacy which included displaying a big sign of support.

Why do you think that sign caused so much heartburn for some Latinos?

JORGE RIVAS, PRESIDENT TRUMP SUPPORTER: Since the beginning, Mr. Trump or Pres. Trump now was labeled as a racist. So anyone who supported him was also labeled a racist. And they were saying, how can I -- another Latino can support Donald Trump at all?

JONES: So, what's the answer?

RIVAS: To me, his ideas are very important. Not only for me, for my kids' future, but for the country as a whole.

JONES: When you hear Donald Trump say, you know, the undocumented Mexicans are rapists and those kinds of things, how does that land with you?

RIVAS: Not all of them. But some are. In my opinion, he should have used a more smoother language.

JONES: So did you feel, when -- so those phone calls started coming in, you started getting blasted on social media, how does your wife feel about that? Does she feel intimidated or?

RIVAS: Of course. Because many of the calls were saying along the lines or we're going to do everything we can to shut you down. The huge support that we got from the regular people, that is the -- because they care.

JONES: How does that make you feel?

RIVAS: Overwhelmed. Many of the people say that. We don't support Donald Trump, we don't support what he says, but we do support you. That's deep.

JONES: That's deep. That's deep. When you hear Jorge talking about maybe Latinos are rapists, and you hear Donald Trump say that, how does it make you feel?

JAQUELINE CASTELAZO-SCOTT, PHOENIX RESIDENT: Well, I -- it doesn't make me feel good, only because my experience with Latinos here and workers that I have had that they're illegals.

They are good people, you know, they are hard-working. They have good meaning. And what Donald Trump bothers me because putting everybody -- Americans' mind that the immigrants, criminals are Latinos, for the most part, which I do not believe.

JONES: But by coming here, they are breaking the law. Don't you think it's important that the laws of the country be respected? CASTELAZO-SCOTT: I do think -- and that's when I think it gets tricky. Because I think Americans, the immigration has always been very complex. Nobody in this table and no friends that I have are raising their kids to be tomato pickers. But somebody has to pick those tomatoes.

JONES: The Republicans have run a campaign saying that illegal immigrants are a problem, they're overrunning the country. They're here for welfare.

GABRIELLA SAUCEDO MERCER, TUCSON RESIDENT: Yes. Trump shouldn't have said a blanket statement as he did, because a lot of people got offended. I mean, we live in this environment that if it's not politically correct, it's offensive.

When Trump said what he said about women, what he said about Mexicans, the shoe didn't fit me. And that's my position. I did not get offended. I did not get offended. I was laughing at the stupid things that he was saying, because at times, you know, the man has no brains. And I love him because he's not a politician.


COOPER: Van joins us now. I'm wondering if this was your first trip down to actually go along the border with border patrol and what stood out to you, what surprised you?

JONES: Well, it was my first trip. I wasn't aware that there really is a lot of complexity there, a lot of people who are coming, and they're coming for good reasons.

They're coming to pick those tomatoes, they're coming to help put food on the table for America and do all the great things, because of the way the drug cartels work, they sometimes have to pay some homage or even carry some drugs for the drug cartels.

And so that makes it a much more complicated situation for law enforcement, to figure out what's going on. I didn't know that. But the thing that really struck me was how this small town of ordinary people is really just torn apart by the way that Trump has gone about this.

People are really -- I mean, that's a little bitty town. That guy stood up and said I liked Donald Trump. Then some people started saying they're going to shut his restaurant down and other people jumped up and said, well, he's wrong, but you're wrong too.

And it just turned into this whole big mess. And if the rhetoric, I think, were different, you might not have so much heartburn even in these small towns along the border.

COOPER: Van, appreciate it. Time to hand things over to you. The Messy Truth starts right now.