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Sources: FBI Investigation Continues Into Computer Link Between Russian Bank And Trump Organization; FBI Chief Briefs Top Congressional Leaders; Ryan Makes Pitch For GOP Health Care Bill; HHS Doctor Comes Out Against GOP's Health Care Bill; DHS: Illegal Border Crossings From Mexico Down 40 Percent; Pres. Trump Taps Huntsman To Be Ambassador To Russia. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired March 9, 2017 - 21:00   ET



[21:00:08] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, t0ping this hour of "360," were computer servers owned by a Russian bank and the Trump organization communicating? And what if any connection does this have to the campaign in President Trump's tweet storm last week accusing President Obama of tapping his phones?

There is new information tonight of Pamela Brown and Investigative Reporter Jose Pagliery got it. We spoke in the last hour.


COOPER: Pamela, what have you learned about the investigation?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we'd learned the FBI investigators and computer scientists continue to examine whether there was a computer connection between the Trump organization and a Russian bank called Alfa-Bank. This is according to several sources familiar with the investigation.

Now, this is the same server mentioned in a Breitbart article that a White House official said sparked Trump's series of tweets last Saturday accusing investigators of tapping his phone. CNN is told there was no FISA warrant on this server. Questions about the connection between the server and Russian bank were widely dismissed four months ago as an attempt by Alfa-Bank to block spam.

But, Anderson, we're learning that the FBI's counter intelligence team, the same one looking into Russia's suspected interference in the 2016 election is still examining it and one official I spoke was said the server relationship is odd. It seen as somewhat perplexing and investigators are not ignoring it, but the FBI still has a lot more work to do to determine what was behind the unusual activity and whether there's any significance to it. The FBI declined to comment and the White House did not respond to our request for comment, Anderson.

COOPER: So, Jose, I mean, it's kind of confusing explaining what was odd about these communications between this Russian bank (inaudible).

JOSE PAGLIERY, CNN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Sure, Anderson. This can get pretty technical fast. What is so odd about the communication here is that this Russia bank repeatedly looked up the unique internet address of a particular computer server in the U.S. being used by the Trump organization.

The Computerworld is the equivalent of looking up someone's phone number over and over and over again. And while there isn't necessarily a phone call, it usually indicates an intention to communicate, and that's according to several computer scientists we spoke to.

Now, a group of computer scientists who obtained these leaked internet records, records they were never supposed to make public, they were puzzled as to why a Russian bank was doing this. Was it trying to send an e-mail to the Trump organization? These scientists just couldn't tell.

Now, last summer during the presidential campaign, the Russian bank looked up the address to this Trump corporate server some 2,800 times, that's more lookups than the Trump server received from any other source. The only other entity curiously enough doing so many internet lookups for Trump server was Spectrum Health. That's a medical facility chain led by Dick DeVos, the husband of Betsey DeVos who was later appointed by the president as U.S. Education Secretary.

Those two entities alone made up 99 percent of the lookups. And computer scientists we spoke to just found that plain weird. All the corporations involved say they never communicated by e-mail with the Trump organization and they have different explanations for the server activity, but they haven't provided any proof and they don't agree to what the explanation is.

For example, the Russian bank thinks it was receiving Trump hotel marketing last summer, but it hasn't provided CNN with the single e- mail to backup to the theory. Meanwhile, the American Marketing Company that would have been sending Trump e-mails said it wasn't doing that at the time and Alfa-Bank for its part stressed that not a single executive has had any affiliation at all with the president or the Trump organization.

Their statement says that, "Neither Alfa-Bank nor it principals, including Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven, have or have had any contact with Mr. Trump or his organizations." So this potential computer link remains a mystery.

COOPER: Pamela Brown, thank you so much. Jose Parliery, thank you so much.


COOPER: So, as this was playing out, FBI Director James Comey was at the Capitol talking with the leaders of the House and Senate and the two intelligence committees and even though there's much we don't know about what was discussed, given all the news lately, which seems there was much to talk about. Our Phil Mattingly tonight joins us with what he's been learning. So, you have Comey, why exactly was he on the Hill today.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, pretty consistent scene here, Anderson. When Jim Comey comes up and speaks on Capitol Hill behind closed doors, the lawmakers come out and don't say anything at all, which, of course, is kind of a rarity.

But here's what we do know, the bulk of the meeting was about the Russian investigation. Obviously, the two Senate -- that Senate and House Intelligence Committee is conducting a parallel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Jim Comey and the FBI are a huge component of that. Along with that, there was obviously talked about the wiretapping allegations levied by the President of the United States about his predecessor.

Now, it's no secret where Jim Comey stands on this, Anderson, as CNN reported that Jim Comey behind the scenes asked the Justice Department to actually knock down those allegations because it was illegal and made the FBI look very bad and most importantly, wasn't true.

But, those were two of the primary issues that I'm told did come up at this meeting. I do think it's important to note, Anderson, that this is all happening as Senate Intelligence Committee officials are chandelling (ph) out to Langley, to CIA headquarters to conduct their investigation, to look at some of this classified documents.

[21:05:02] So, a lot is happening right now as the investigations really start to ramp up on Capitol Hill.

COOPER: Yeah. So, I mean, is that (inaudible) sources that the current direction of the Senate intelligence investigation, I mean, that trip to Langley, I guess is critical.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, no question about it. I think one of the interesting elements here is sources that I've spoken to said some of the senators that have headed out that way aren't necessarily thrilled with the access of two documents they've gotten, but it is a part of the process and that process as I noted is kicking into high gear in a couple ways.

I talked to some Democrats who say Democrats (inaudible) the intelligence committee plan to call on multiple Trump campaign officials to testify in front of that committee, including Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser who is forced to resign. Carter Page, the Russia adviser to the Trump campaign. And also, Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman. In another element, that's also really important to keep an eye on.

Dianne Feinstein, the veteran senator, former chairman of the intelligence committee herself who is still on the committee told my colleague, Manu Raju, that she is very interested in taking a look at President Trump's tax returns. Obviously, those tax returns that were never released throughout the course of the campaign, no sense that they're going to be released any time soon. Senator Feinstein made very clear, she believes that as they go into this investigation, as this investigation really focuses on the Trump campaign, seeing Donald Trump's business contacts, his business ties may be a crucial component of that. Again, important note, not unlike the testimony, they have subpoena power. This is something they can't actually get a hold of as a committee if they decide to go that route, so something to keep a very close eye on going forward, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Phil Mattingly, thanks.

CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger is back this hour, also Rob Beckstrom, former head of the Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity Center. And joining us, 30 years CIA veteran, Steven Hall, former member of the agency senior intelligence service and CNN National Security Analyst.

Steven, let me just start out with you since we haven't heard from you yet tonight. You know, there are certainly smoke and a lot of questions but no real answers at this point, and I guess this odd communication as it's been described to us between this Alfa-Bank and sort of pinging the Trump organization just adds to it.

STEVEN HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, Anderson. I mean, there is way too much smoke in my view for there to be absolutely no fire at all. I think it's worth taking a second to look at and figure out what role Alfa-Bank is playing. Alfa-Bank in Russia is one of the largest banks. It's owned by Mikhail Fridman who's a very well-known, very powerful oligarch, but makes no mistake.

Alfa-Bank is nothing more than an extension of the Kremlin. There's no rule of law in Russia. There's not protection for banks. There's no independence at all. They basically work for Putin, because an oligarch -- owes his oligarch at Putin.

So, whatever the bank was doing, these anomalous pings that we see between their server and the Trump organization server, you know, the idea that it might just be normal, a normal business relationship. I mean, an oligarch like that works Putin and enjoys his position solely because of Vladimir Putin.

COOPER: Rod, I mean, so when you hear 2,800 pings or kind of calls to the Trump server, what do you make of that? I mean, that everybody we talked to says that sounds odd, but without any real details of what it might mean.

ROD BECKSTROM, FORMER DIRECTOR, DHS NATIONAL CYBERSECURITY CENTER: Yes. Anderson, as we discussed, I think it is very odd and particularly, the first thing is if this was a Russian government operation, Russian hacking is absolutely first rate and their state actors are pros. So, this would be extremely sloppy, but it strange. It shouldn't be happening here.

And the explanation that we're receiving from this supposed mandate report that it was just a response to e-mail spam seems a little spurious. So, I agree with Steve. There is something that seems a bit odd here, but at the same time, it doesn't smell like a sophisticated Russian government hacking operation to me. There could be, but it doesn't smell like (inaudible).

COOPER: You're saying that if there really was a desire to have secret communications between somebody in the bank and somebody in the Trump organization, there are a lot smarter ways to do it than having it, because this is a trail that's been picked up by --


COOPER: -- computer experts.

BECKSTROM: Exactly. And you don't have to do it 2,800 times. You do it once. You get the data that you need and you can do that, you know, in hiding rather (inaudible).

One other thing, Anderson, I picked up in your recent comments here that were very good is that you mentioned that Alfa-Bank stated that their executive said that none of them, none of the executives or leaders have a relationship with the Trump organization. They didn't say that -- none of their employees do or none of their contractors do. So, it's either a carve out that they've done to limit this or to simply be -- they can't verify with all their employees, but it's an interesting comment have they made. I just want to make note of that.

COOPER: Steve, to you if it was -- yeah, go ahead, Steve.

HALL: Anderson, if I could jump in on the intelligence side of this. Rod is right. It wouldn't be normal or clean. It might be a little bit clumsy, but I wouldn't necessarily entirely rule out the involvement of the Russian intelligence services here.

I mean, remember, in the DNC hack, you had both the FSB intrusion sets malware in there as well as the GRUs.

[21:10:07] Any large intelligence organization even as good as the Russians are not entirely 10 feet tall. There is a lack of coordination on that, too. So, I wouldn't 100 percent rule out that there is no chance that this was an intelligence.

COOPER: Interesting.

BECKSTROM: And I didn't say there was no chance. I just said it doesn't line up with the normal high quality of trade craft that I think they would have.

COOPER: True, right.

HALL: I agree.

COOPER: Gloria, I mean, just -- you can't sort of under state the enormous impact of Director Comey now at this point. I mean, obviously, testifying today behind close doors, but on March 20th, on Monday, he's going to be testifying publicly.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And he's going to be on the hot seat, but he's been on the hot seat. During this last election, he put himself there and he's going to be there again, not only does he have to answer questions about whether Barack Obama broke the law and tried to wiretap, you know, Donald Trump, but also, he's got to answer questions about the Russia hack.

And how nefarious it was, how widespread it was and this question of collusion, which is what everybody wants to understand. And whether it -- there was collusion in the orbit of Donald Trump outsiders or whether there was collusion inside the Trump campaign or none at all. And I think that there are questions he's not going to be able to answer in public session.

But don't forget, Congress' job is oversight. And they want to know that the FBI is doing the investigation as thoroughly as they want the FBI to do it and now you got both sides. You got Democrats and Republicans here really trying to get to the bottom of it because the White House has instructed Congress to get to the bottom of it.

COOPER: Steve, I mean, with your 30 years experience working with the agency, you know, when you hear of all these contacts, whether they were minor contacts to some of the people in the Trump orbit have said they were. I talked to Carter Page who has given varying explanations, but said, you know, it's just a very brief conversation with the Russian ambassador and the RNC although, frankly, I'm not sure what he was saying was true or not because he's given so many multiple accounts. But as you spent 30 years intelligence, I mean, just -- what do you make of all these contacts?

HALL: Again, if it were a single incident, you know, it might be explainable or even couple of incidents. You would have, you know, you would say, OK, well, that was perhaps just something that happened, you know, strangely and you just sort of say OK, it's just the way things happen.

But, when you have this constant drum beat that probably is keeping, you know, Donald Trump awake at night as it gets louder and louder, they're just seems to be more and more and more of this data points that come out. And, again, the only way that we're going to get to it is if we have a really good investigation.

Let me add one other thing, Anderson, if I could from my time in the Office of Congressional Affairs at CIA, there's an interesting side note here that caught my attention when we talk about staffers and even members going to Langley to get briefings. Believe it or not, there's a lot of back and forth, you know, in terms of whose got more power in the room as to where these briefings are done. There's always a push for Langley to go downtown to do these things.

The fact that these guys -- and I don't want to make too much of a deal of it, but the fact that these guys went out to Langley indicates that this is probably pretty sensitive stuff and stuff that CIA said look, you really need to come out here to take a look at this. So, that's interesting in and of itself.

COOPER: So, Steve, I mean, as you said, you used to have work for the CIA in relations with Capitol Hill. What do you make of, you know, you have the Senate Intelligence Community, the House, do they have the horsepower to do an investigation like you would like it to be done?

HALL: So, they actually have the mechanical horsepower, if you will. I mean, there is -- the system is in place to exchange sensitive information. Staffers have clearances and they're familiar with how to work with classified information and members, of course, have those clearances simply by being elected to the offices.

The one thing, however, that's working against them in my view in this is they're politicians. They're Republicans or they're Democrats. An independent commission would not have that problem, so you always have that -- you always have a political vein that's running through this, which always, you know, sort of threatens to, you know, derail an actual factual investigation. So that's a concern I do have.

COOPER: Steven Hall, great to have you on, Rod Beckstorm as well, Gloria Borger, as always, thank you.

Just ahead, the White House and Republican leadership scrambling to sell the health care bill that conservative Republicans don't have much love for. We have breaking news on one change that could get some of them on board.

And later, Univision Anchor Jorge Ramos joins me weighing in on a big drop in illegal border crossings. Does he think President Trump deserves the credit? His answer might surprise you.


[21:18:16] COOPER: House Speaker Paul Ryan rolled up his leaves today centered from a PowerPoint screen and tried to close the sell on legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The sales job, though, was aimed as much fellow Republicans as anyone else. Few of the conservatives dislike the bill.

The nation's top medical and hospital association, insurance provider and the ARRP, all have objections to the bill or oppose out right. And late last night, a stunner Medicaid's chief medical officer who is an Obama appointee tweeting, "Despite political messaging from others at HHS, I align with the experts from American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association in opposition to American Healthcare Act."

Meantime, today, President Trump who campaigned on his deal making skills weighed in with his pitch and there's late word tonight that the White House is lining upon conservative calls to rollback Obamacare's Medicaid expansion sooner than the GOP bill currently calls for.

More now from our Jim Acosta who joins us from the White House. So, what's the president doing to push the new health care plan?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he met with some lawmakers earlier today on the Republican side and tonight over here at the White House, Anderson, they're hosting a bowling here at the White House. So, they are literally bowling for votes to get this repeal and replace bill through the House and, I guess, potentially trying to pick up that split you might say in the Republican Party if you'll pardon that very obvious pun.

But in addition to that, Anderson, we are being told by the White House that the president is going to be getting out on the road in the coming days. They have a campaign style event set for next Wednesday in Nashville. But, Anderson, you just mentioned a few moments ago something that we were picking up on last night. There were Tea Party groups.

You mentioned some of the groups that are opposed to the bill on the left side or progressive side of things, there were some Tea Party, a conservative groups here last night at the White House meeting with the President of the Oval Office pushing him to make that Medicaid fix, and that is to limit the amount of money that is spent on Medicaid as part of Obamacare that was supposed to start being phased out in 2020.

[21:20:12] They want to make it January of next year and we are hearing that, yes, the White House is starting to sound receptive to that. I talked to a senior Republican source on Capitol Hill just a few moments ago, Anderson, who said that this is a problem for the House Republican leadership if they start to change this bill as it's going through the process, it's going to get shaky. In the words of the source, "The more this thing is shaky, the more people can back away or start adding their own ideas." So, there is a growing sense of nervousness about the fate of this, Anderson.

COOPER: And the White House, the Republican leaders, I mean, they seem to believe this needs to happen soon. What's behind that?

ACOSTA: That's right. That's why you saw House Speaker Paul Ryan rolling up his sleeves at that presentation up on Capitol Hill, sort of a TED Talk that the Speaker of the House was hosting up there on Capitol Hill to explain all of this to reporters. You don't see the Speaker of the House rolling up his sleeves like that, but he was getting his hands dirty, you might say.

The reason for this, Anderson, is just what I was saying a few moments ago and that is there is a real sense of concern in the House Republican leadership that if the White House starts tinkering with this with other conservatives in Congress who are uncomfortable about this, the whole thing could unravel.

The reason why, in getting back to the Medicaid idea, is because as you start to move things to the right with the Medicaid aspect of this, for example, you start to lose perhaps some of the moderates you're going to need on the Republican side and the Senate when this moves over to the Senate and that is a big reason why all of this has been moving so quickly.

But the question is, where is President Trump? He was not really out in front of the cameras today talking about it. He is supposed to be a little bit tomorrow, but I asked the senior Republican source where is President Trump? Don't you want him out there more on this and the answer was, "absolutely."

COOPER: All right, we'll see. Jim Acosta, thanks. The arm twisting legislating is taking place without a key item, namely a report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office scoring the bill essentially estimating what the bill would cost and how many people could lose coverage, how many people would be covered.

Others outside estimates have put the numbers as high as 10 million, which may explain why lawmakers pushing the bill are also down playing the CBO. CNN Sunlen Serfaty tonight, keep them honest.


SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the White House --

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If you're looking at the CBO for accuracy, you're looking in the wrong place.

SERFATY (voice-over): -- to Capitol Hill.

REP. STEVE SCALISE, (R) MAJORITY: We're not going to wait on someone elected bureaucrats to provide relief from Obamacare to the American people.

SERFATY (voice-over): The newest tactic in the Republican playbook attacked the referee.

REP. GREG WALDEN, (R) CHAIRMAN, ENERGEY AND COMMERCE COMMITTEE: The CBO said that there would be twice as many people taking Obamacare insurance as they're actually are.

SERFATY (voice-over): The referee is the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, the highly respected non-partisan agency that has been leaned on for years as the go-to independent arbiter on Capitol Hill to analyze the financial impacts of legislation.

DOUGLAS HOLTZ-EAKIN, FORMER CBO DIRECTOR: The job by law is to be non-partisan and not take into account party considerations.

SERFATY (voice-over): The CBO early next week is set to hand down what could be a monumental analysis for the fate of the Republican's bill, estimating the cost and how many people could lose coverage.

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Good morning, everybody.

SERFATY (voice-over): Republicans are already bracing for what could be a devastating reports down playing the significance of the numbers, even before anyone has seen them. Launching a preemptive attack --

JIM DEMINT, PRESIDENT, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: They've never been right. I was in the House and Senate for 15 years and really have not been close.

SERFATY (voice-over): -- by calling into question the credibility of the agency.

SPICER: The idea that that's any kind of authority based on the track record that occurred last time is a little farfetched.

SERFATY (voice-over): But Republicans haven't always felt that way about the CBO. Representative Steve Scalise said this in 2013.

REP. STEVE SCALISE, (R) LOUISIANA: There's an independent referee that Congressional Budget Office that scores everybody's budget.

SERFATY (voice-over): And here's Sean Spicer in 2014 during the Obamacare battle tweeting out the CBO's findings. Spicer now blasting the CBO's precision.

SPICER: They were way, way off last time in every aspect of how they scored and projected Obamacare.

SERFATY (voice-over): During the Obamacare fight, the CBO did significantly over estimate the number of Americans who would choose to sign up for coverage through the health exchanges. In 2010, it estimated 21 million would be enrolled in 2016, but only 10.4 million were actually enrolled last year. And since its coverage prediction was so off, so was it's cost estimate.

In 2010, it said coverage would cost $132 billion, but it only cost $110 billion, since so many fewer people were enrolled. But Democrats are still calling foul on the Republican strategy.

SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW, (D) BUDGET COMMITTEE: They're trying to figure out what to do and when the CBO comes out, it's going to show that this cost a lot of money.

SERFATY (voice-over): And pushing the irony that the man at the helm of the agency, the White House is now attacking the head of the CBO.

[21:25:05] Keith Hall was appointed not only by Republicans, but by then House Budget Chairman Tom Price.

TOM PRICE, HOUSE BUDGET COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: You bring a tremendous amount of experience and expertise to the job.

SERFATY (voice-over): Now, the Health and Human Services secretary.


COOPER: Sunlen joins us now. So historically, how reliable a track record does the CBO have?

SERFATY: It actually has a very strong track record, Anderson. Experts say a long history of credibility and neutrality and if you go back to the Obamacare debate and analysis of the CBO then, yes, there were indeed some parts that they were off the mark and got it wrong, but there were also some other areas where there are more accurate, specifically the estimates for the insured rate for non-elderly adults. They nearly hit that right on the mark.

An expert here emphasize that the CBOs analysis, which is called the score is just a prediction, basically a forecast of what could potentially happen and that they usually typically get it much more accurate than other groups do.

And I have to say, it should be noted that lawmakers complaining about the CBO just nothing new on Capitol Hill, but what is notable about this time around is that Republicans are doing so and being critical of the score before it even comes out.

COOPER: All right, Sunlen Serfaty. Sunlen, thanks.

Up next, 40 percent drop in the number of people caught trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border last month. Is President Trump's tough talk in immigration the reason? I'll talk with Univision Anchor Jorge Ramos.


[21:30:26] COOPER: Well, big change at the U.S.-Mexico border. According to Customs and Border Protection, illegal border crossings dropped 40 percent last month. Now, supporters of President Trump understandably say he deserves credit that his tough talk has prevented many from attempting the dangerous crossing.

Joining us tonight for his take is Univision Jorge Ramos. Jorge, the massive drop in border apprehensions last month, the Customs and Border Protection says 40 percent fewer -- it's down 40 percent of people trying to cross illegally. What do you make of that? I mean, is it possible that the tough talk in illegal immigration by President Trump is working, that he deserves credit for that drop?

JORGE RAMOS, ANCHOR, UNIVISION: Let me just say that fear is stronger than any wall. The -- what we are seeing right now is the Trump effect. These people calling their relatives and their friends in Latin America saying, "Don't come here, this is not the right moment."

So, I think it is possible that really no one wants illegal immigration, not even undocumented immigrants. It is very risky for them. It's better to do it in a legal way. And the other positive thing is that I think many Americans, many people who voted for Donald Trump, they really have to understand that there is no invasion. No one is invading the United States. Mexicans are not invading the United States.

The undocumented population has to remain stable at about 11 million for the last decade. So those are the positive things. The negative is that this is the Trump effect, this is created because of the policies of fear and xenophobia and cruelty. This is because they are deporting people who are not criminals, who have no criminal records, moms and dads. And that's completely different than what happen with the Barack Obama administration.

COOPER: What so startling, though, about this drop in numbers according to law enforcement is that this is normally a time when they would see an uptick of 10 or 20 percent, so to see a drop of 40 percent is very significant. And as you point out -- I mean, it does mean that people are not taking a very dangerous journey. Women, children, you know, anything can happen as they're trying to cross over illegally. So, I mean, isn't it -- is it a good -- isn't it a good thing that there's this drop?

RAMOS: It's -- yes, it's a good thing that we don't have more undocumented immigrants coming to this country. There has to be a legal way to do it. They shouldn't have to risk it. Every year there's about 400,000 immigrants, Anderson, who come here illegally, every year. Now, it seems that it's dropping. We'll see if this is going to last, but so far that's good news.

On the other hand, and let me just emphasize that, it also means that Trump is big news in Latin America. It means that they are listening to what we are seeing here. In the last two weeks I've been reporting about many families being separated and destroyed because of Trump's policies and we heard the Secretary of the Homeland Security General John Kelly saying that he's considering separating children from their mothers at the border. What kind of country are we becoming?

I have a question for General Kelly. How do you humanely separate a kid from his mother? How do you do that? So, in Latin America they're listening to this message and what they are hearing is fear, a lot of fear on this side of the border.

COOPER: He's saying, particularly, on that idea of the separation is that he wants to prevent people, discourage people from making the journey, from being smuggled, then a wall policy like that would certainly be met with legal challenges. Is it possible it could also be effective in further curtailing the numbers?

RAMOS: Well, it might be effective, but I don't know -- do we want to be that country? I mean, do we really want to be the country that is separating children from their parents? I don't think so. I mean, that's not the American tradition.

COOPER: In terms of what the president said last week that he wants to see the legal immigration system toward a merit-based approach, thereby in his view, cutting down a number of immigrants who can't support themselves financially. I think to a lot of people, they hear that and think, well that sounds like it makes sense. Are they wrong?

RAMOS: Well, as long as you still have that diversity of immigrants coming to this country, as long as you can unite families and not separate them, yeah, I think that for some people that could be a good idea. But on the other hand, what many people are hearing when they listen to Donald Trump is that they want to go back to 1965. It is not make America great again, it is make America white again.

In 1965 for instance, about 80 or 85 percent of the population was white. Many people don't like the fact that this is truly becoming a multicultural, multiethnic, multiracial country.

[12:35:02] In 2044 -- I think we've discussed that. In 2044, whites will become another minority. We're in the process of becoming minority/majority country and many people don't like and many people think that what Donald Trump is proposing not only with the deportations with this merit system is that he wants to change this trend of multiculturalism and diversity that we're seeing in the country. COOPER: You think that's what behind that idea?

RAMOS: I think so. I think so. It is very clear. Trump's ideas through the campaign were anti-immigrant and xenophobic. He did say -- we are not inventing that. He did say that Mexican immigrants were criminals and drug traffickers and rapists. He didn't some of them. He didn't say a tiny minority. He said Mexican immigrants are that.

He did say that a judge couldn't do his job simply because he was Hispanic. So, those are -- I don't know if he's a racist, but he made those racist remarks. So, yes, there is clearly an idea that the way the migration system is going and the way we are conform demographically is not what he might want.

COOPER: And just for accuracy saying, I believe what he actually said was -- we're talking about illegal immigrants and what he said was that some of them he assumes are good people, I think.

RAMOS: At the end, at the end. But he said they're bringing drugs. They're bringing crimes. They're rapists. That's exactly what he said on June 16, 2015. He didn't say some of them. He was talking about Mexican immigrants, and by the way, I'm a Mexican immigrant and what he's saying is absolute wrong.

97 percent of immigrants haven't committed a felony. Only 3 percent of immigrants have done that, undocumented immigrants. And that's by the way half of what the average is for Americans.

COOPER: Jorge Ramos, always good to talk to you. Thank you.

RAMOS: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Up next, how President Trump is mending fences in Washington with former bitter rivals like Senator Cruz who he had dinner with last night and why the effort could earn him the title of "dealmaker- in-chief" if he gets the GOP health care bill approved on Capitol Hill.


[12:40:57] COOPER: President Trump considers himself the ultimate dealmaker, of course, he's well-known for that. He shares some tips in that topic in the best selling book, "The Art of the Deal". And to get Obamacare repealed or replaced he'll have to become the dealmaker- in-chief in D.C. He's already showing some signs of that with details that are coming out so far. Here's Tom Foreman.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If there is one thing this president likes to do, it's make a deal, so he's put on that hat, first, by cozying up to several senators who were arch rivals during the campaign. He had Texan Ted Cruz and his family to the White House for dinner even posing for a picture with the kids.

Cruz called the Trump family warm and gracious. This is, of course, the same Ted Cruz whose father Trump asserted was somehow connected to the assassination of President John Kennedy.

SEN. RAND PAUL, (R) KENTUCKY: The House bill has been fought forward as Obamacare light, it won't work, premiums and prices will continue to spiral out of control.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Then there is Senator Rand Paul, a candidate Trump belittled on the debate stage.

TRUMP: First of all, Rand Paul shouldn't be on this stage. He's number 11, he's got one percent in the polls and how he got up here? There's far too many people, anyway.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Trump now turning on the charm. The president reached out to the Kentucky senator over his continuing opposition to the health care overhaul and later tweeted, "I feel sure that my friend Rand Paul will come along."

And campaign arch enemy Senator Lindsey Graham has got in the treatment, too. Trump met with Graham cautioning the president against giving in too much to congressional pressure.

SPICER: And if members have ideas, we want to hear them and want them to be part of it. It's not -- this isn't getting jammed through.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Some Republicans stewards are trying to help the president's plan along.

PAUL: The time is here. The time is now. This is the moment and this is the closest this will ever happen.

FOREMAN (voice-over): But the president continues taking a very active role himself trying to close the deal, inviting members of the congressional Freedom Caucus to bowl at the White House, even as many of them have suggested his plan as a gutter bowl, meeting with leaders of numerous influential conservative groups from The Heritage Foundation to Tea Party supporters. And making plans to hit the road and whip up popular support, too.

TRUMP: I think really that we're going to have something that's going to be much more understood and much more popular than people can even imagine.


FOREMAN: It's all very different from what we saw when President Barack Obama was pushing his health reform plan. Indeed, he was sharply criticized for not engaging with Congress enough. Then, again, his plan did eventually pass and we don't know yet if President Trump's will. Anderson?

COOPER: Tom, thank you very much.

Let's get some more insight. Joining me is CNN Contributor Michael D'Antonio, author of "The Truth About Trump" and Christopher Ruddy, a longtime friend of President Trump who is the CEO and President of Newsmax Media, Inc. Christopher, I'll start out with you. When Donald Trump -- when we talked about President Trump as a deal maker, do you know how he goes about that? I mean, because one thing that I always found about talking to him is, he's charming, he can be -- he can bring -- I mean, he can kind of appeal to people even if they don't think they like his policies. But once you actually meet him, he can be a very charming guy. How does he make deals happen? Do you have a sense of that?

CHRISTOPHER RUDDY, CEO AND PRESIDENT, NEWSMAX MEDIA INC.: Well, I have a very good sense of it. I met a lot of political figures and people who have been former presidents and he has the best natural political skills I've ever seen.

COOPER: He reads people well.

RUDDY: He reads people, but he interrelates and he connects with them really well. And he has an incredible ability to look at you and talk to you and zone out the rest of the world.

He -- I was just in Washington last week and I spent a little time with him at the Oval Office, but I chatted with a lot of Democrats. And behind the scenes, they are saying they are thrilled that this president is calling them, inviting them into the Oval Office, inviting them over for lunches. They have not had that.

COOPER: That was not the relationship many had, including Democrats with Barack Obama.

RUDDY: That's the real Donald Trump. He reaches out to people. He builds bridges.

[12:45:02] I know during the campaign, I think people got a very skewed view, partly I think because of the media against him. And I think we're going to see that he's a consensus builder and a dealmaker.

COOPER: Michael, is that what you found, as well?

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, TRUMP BIOGRAPHER: Well, he has charming in person and I think even folks who think they don't like him when they're one on one they have a good time with him. The difference here, I think, is when you get into heavy policy and this was true of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, they knew it inside out and they were selling something that they understood.

Now, when you're a salesperson, you succeed when you really believe in your product and you know it. And I think in this case, President Trump may not be aware, for example, that the person who's going to have the hardest time with this new scheme for health care is a 60- year-old voter who makes $40,000 a year or less. That's his sweet spot, politically. And I think if you were to understand that element of this policy, he might have a different thing to say that these Republicans who come --

COOPER: But not everybody -- I mean, look, Ronald Reagan, you know, certainly didn't -- was not in the weeds in terms of policy. He had an over arching vision on what he want. Now, there were others who filled and allowed the details from these different is different forms of leadership.

RUDDY: Big picture --

D'ANTONIO: It's something that what you want to sell. If you're selling an apartment, you know all the amenities. And I think that in this case, he does have this vision, but there will be people in his own party who are going to have problems with it and that's who he really has to call.

COOPER: But one of the things -- I mean, conservatives were worried about during the primary season and probably maybe even still, is that he's not ideal log that he is willing to -- I mean, he talks about bringing people in a room together and hashing out and making a deal.

RUDDY: Well, Donald Trump believes in things and he's annunciated what an outline does. But I also think he's a practical guy, very pragmatic, listen to results. Barack Obama sort of has won the argument that everybody should get blanket overage. Donald Trump agreed with that in the primary. This House plan gives blanket coverage, maybe not as much as Michael would like to give, maybe not as much as I would even like to give.

And I'm sure Trump would probably like to give people the type of full coverage that he gets for him and his family, but the federal government can't afford that. So there has to be some in between.

And I think where Barack Obama there was no compromise. He didn't work with the Republicans at all. Remember, they were not part of the stimulus bill. They were not part of -- they were not even allowed in to this, consult on the Obamacare bill.

Donald Trump is bringing everybody in, the Freedom Caucus. At the end of the day, the funny thing is I think he might not be able to win over his base as much he's going to be able to win over Democrats.

COOPER: There were a lot of Democrats you said, look, that the Republicans didn't want to work within President Obama. But let me ask you, you saw him, I think last week. I saw you quoted saying, you know, he was angry at the time.

Just in terms of the adjustment, every chief of staff have ever talked over to a president said, look, it's incredibly hard thing to go from campaigning to being the President of the United States. It's an adjustment. Everybody has a rough time early on.

How do you think he is doing in terms of, you know, running a business is one thing, not, you know, all his former employees have non- disclosures. Again, then suddenly he's in the federal bureaucracy and people are leaking. How is he dealing with it all?

RUDDY: Anderson, think about this. These guys go in and the huge adjustment they have in the past, they've all been politicians' hold (ph) political office. Donald Trump is the first guy who's never held political office to be President of the United States. But one of the things I've seen, I've interacted with his companies before, he really figures out things quickly. He came into the New York real estate business. You probably know the background in his early 30s figured it out. Went into show business, had a 15-year career. Two years ago decides he is going to run for president, defeats 15 very able candidates. The Bush machine --

COOPER: Right.

RUDDY: -- the Clinton machine. So, I think he's in a figuring out period and I think we're already seeing some really good things. The press needs to give him a little more latitude. The public, if you look at the poll this week, the tip poll, which is the most accurate presidential poll, 54 percent of Americans say the press should go a little more easy. They are weary of the attacks on him, so.

COOPER: I appreciate both of you being with us. Wish we had more time. We definitely do it again.

D'ANTONIO: Thank you.

COOPER: Christopher Ruddy, thanks very much. Michael D'Antonio, as always.

All right, just ahead, was this another example of bringing a formal rival on board? What the president offered Jon Huntsman and why it's more than a little complicated? Details ahead.


[21:53:04] COOPER: The sources tell CNN the former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman has accepted President Trump's office service ambassador to Russia. It's obviously a high profile, a high stakes posting. If he is confirmed, it will be the latest proof of how relationships in Washington can -- well, let's say, evolved.

Michelle Kosinski, tonight reports.


MICHELLE KOSINSKI, SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, President Trump's choice for ambassador to Russia. Could now be a key player in one of the U.S.' most complicated relationships, a choice made, although more unusual because Huntsman has his own complicated relationship with Mr. Trump.

Last spring, the moderate (ph) Republican said he could support Trump for president, but in October, Huntsman changed his tune after the release of the "Access Hollywood" tape of Donald Trump saying lewd things about women.

He called for Trump to drop out telling the Salt Lake Tribune, "The campaign had become a race to the bottom, that the time has come for Governor Pence to lead the ticket."

Huntsman made ways in the GOP in 2009 when he accepted President Obama's offer to join his administration, a move some saw is a brilliant political play.

THOMAS BURR, SALT LAKE TRIBUNE: Jon Huntsman is remembered as a possible opponent for President Obama. And so what President Obama do, he named him to be the ambassador to China.

KOSINSKI (voice-over): Huntsman took the job, but later quit and ran in the Republican primary anyway. At the time, Trump was critical, trashing Huntsman on twitter. "Jon Huntsman called to see me, I said no. He gave away our country to China." Trump also calling him weak, a lightweight, and easy pickens. But after Donald Trump won the White House, Huntsman appeared to mend fences.

JON HUNTSMAN, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO CHINA: We've talked by phone. We've exchanged thoughts and ideas. I congratulated him on the race and I wished him the best of success.

KOSINSKI (voice-over): So why pick Huntsman now? While the president has passed on hiring many of his critics, including Elliott Abrams and Mitt Romney, he's also opened the door to some rivals topping South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley as U.N. ambassador despite her opposition to him during the campaign.

[21:55:03] And Huntsman, the Trump White House gained someone with respected foreign policy chops, a two-time ambassador who's also led a group critical of Vladimir Putin. A win for a White House opponent's fear could be too cozy with Russia. Other said, this could also be politics.

Huntsman once interned for Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, but lately was said to be considering running against him. Could President Trump be taking a page from President Obama's old play book?

BURR: And the joke at the time was, "Keep your friends close and your enemies in China." The president needs Senator Orrin Hatch. He's the chairman of the finance committee. He is going to be very (inaudible) involved, you know, at the health care stuff, all the tax reform. So, I guess what you do is you keep your friends close and your enemies in Russia.

KOSINSKI (voice-over): Hatch, who said today Huntsman was not going to run against him, has gone to bat for Trump in the past helping him get his cabinet fix approved. Now as long the longest serving Republican Senator, his seat might just be safe. Huntsman gets a big job and Trump gets his ambassador to help him deal with Putin.


KOSINSKI: Huntsman has described himself as this independent thinker, but you have to wonder if he is confirmed, ow much would his personal views and experience even play into his work when so much of foreign policy right now seems so deeply centered within the White House? Anderson?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [22:00:05] COOPER: OK, that's all the time we have tonight. Thanks for watching. Time to turn it over to Don Lemon, "CNN Tonight" begins now.