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GOP And Dem Lawmakers Dispute Nunes Surveillance Claims; Spicer Apologizes for Controversial Holocaust Comments; U.S. Official: Russia "Trying to Cover Up" Chemical Attack. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired April 11, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:04] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening.

Tonight, a showdown with Russia over the poison gas attack in Syria, ill-chosen Holocaust comparisons on Passover by the White House secretary, and after days of botched statements from United Airlines for dragging that man off a flight, the CEO issues an actual apology. All that and more on the program ahead.

But we begin with breaking news on the Trump administration charges of improper surveillance by the Obama administration. CNN is learning more about the claims of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes that members of the Obama administration improperly requested the identities of Americans appearing in intelligence reports.

Now, just to refresh your memory, here's what Congressman Nunes has said previously.


REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: There's some information in those documents that concern me, in the reports that I read, that I don't think belong there. It would make me uncomfortable.

Some of it, I think it bothered me enough that I went over to the White House because I think the president needs to see these reports for himself.

I was concerned about Americans' identities being either not masked properly or in fact being unmasked in intelligence reports.


COOPER: Congressman Nunes also said that he would share what he saw with other committee members. Well, he has.

CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto and senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju are here with what those committee members are now saying.


tonight, Anderson, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers and aides are casting doubt on claims by Nunes that Obama administration officials improperly requested the names of U.S. individuals that had been redacted in intelligence documents.

CNN sources say that these lawmakers have now seen the same intelligence documents that Nunes reviewed last month, and they tell CNN they see no evidence that the Obama administration officials did anything out of the ordinary or illegal. One congressional source described the request to me as, quote, "normal and appropriate."

COOPER: Manu, I know you and Jim have talked to sources who have actually seen the documents. What are they telling you about their contents?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, Anderson, one congressional source telling me there's, quote, "absolutely no smoking gun in these reports." In fact, this person even urging the White House to declassify these reports to make it clear that there is nothing alarming in them.

Now, a lot of questions have been raised around the role of Susan Rice, the former Obama national security adviser and whether she acted legally in requesting the names of Trump officials who were incidentally collected in intelligence reports.

Now, President Trump himself has said he believes that she may have broken the law. But, Anderson, multiple sources who have reviewed the documents that Nunes saw say flatly that those documents do not back up the president's claim that she may have broken the law, and that these requests she made appear to be routine requests.

Now, the president, Anderson, has not yet revealed what intelligence he's relying on to make that assertion that she may have broken the law.

COOPER: Jim, I mean even if the Obama administration acted properly, what are the rules for actually making and granting these unmasking requests?

SCIUTTO: Anderson, the rules, they're set by the intelligence community. Certain senior national security officials in an administration, including the Obama administration, can legally make such requests, and the intelligence agencies, principally the NSA in this case, since it involves communication intercepts, then decide whether to grant that request or those requests.

But I'm told that in practice, the requests of senior officials are rarely denied. And now, despite their judgment that Obama officials' requests were within the law and regular practices, some members of Congress continue to have concerns about the justifications given for unmasking requests, some of them, and the standards for the intelligence agencies to grant those requests.

COOPER: And, Manu, I mean Chairman Nunes, he was forced to temporarily recuse himself from the investigation as being investigated by the House Ethics Committee because of his handling or his actions, I should say, handling the documents. What's the status of that investigation?

SCIUTTO: Well, Anderson, both House Democrats and Republicans on the intelligence committee have agreed on a list of witnesses to interview, but there's actually a divide in the witnesses that they want to talk to. Sources tell us that Republicans are mostly focused on those who may have leaked classified information while Democrats are looking for testimony about any of those ties that may exist between Russia and Trump associates.

Now, they do plan to interview all of them as part of this agreement between Democrats and Republicans on the committee. But one person on that list who will also likely be interviewed is Susan Rice, and she will have to defend, Anderson, what she did in requesting the identity of those American citizens. And she'll have to do that not just before the House panel but also likely the Senate Intelligence Committee as well, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Jim Sciutto, Manu Raju, appreciate the breaking news. We'll have more reporting on that in our next hour as well.

Right now, late word from President Trump on Syria. Here's his answer when asked by FOX's Maria Bartiromo about the possibility of deeper involvement there.



[20:05:00] But when I see people using horrible, horrible chemical weapons, which they agreed not to use under the Obama administration, but they violated it --

MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX NEWS: They said they got rid of them.

TRUMP: Look, what I did should have been done by the Obama administration a long time before I did it. And you would have had a much better -- I think Syria would be a lot better off right now than it has been.


BURNETT: His remarks came on a day the administration accused Russia of helping cover up the poison gas attack and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Moscow to meet with his Russian counterpart, the Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Now, Press Secretary Sean Spicer asked whether Secretary Tillerson would confront him about it, Spicer was less than clear following this -- with this follow-up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: In a time that the United States has called out Russia for a disinformation campaign in Syria for collusion with a government it regards as carrying out a war crime, meeting with the Russian president, is it or is it not a priority of this president to have a secretary of state of state convey that directly --

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He is conveying that message. That's what he's doing. But if the head of the Russian government won't meet with him, he can convey it to his counterpart.


COOPER: That was far from the only rough moment for Sean Spicer. He also suggested that Bashar al Assad was worse than Hitler, saying Hitler never used chemical weapons in the way Assad did. Then when given a chance to clarify his remarks, here's what Sean Spicer said.


SPICER: I think when you come to sarin gas, there was no -- he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing. I mean, there's clearly -- I understand. Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate that.

There was not, in the -- he brought them into the Holocaust center. I understand that. But I'm saying the way that Assad used them where he went into towns, dropped them down to innocent, into the middle of towns.


COOPER: Well, needless to say, they were called concentration camps, death camps, gas chambers, not Holocaust centers.

In any case, another explanation then followed, then an apology during a conversation with CNN's Wolf Blitzer which we'll bring you shortly.

But, first, CNN's Sara Murray with more from the White House tonight.

So, President Trump, Sara, is saying that the Obama administration should have used airstrikes against Syria. He was saying just the opposite before he became president.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. He had a very different feeling a few years ago when he was a private citizen. He was taking to Twitter to say the U.S. shouldn't intervene in Syria, that there was nothing that fight could get for the U.S. It wasn't our fight. It wouldn't further American interests.

Now, obviously, it's one thing to say that as a private citizen. It's another thing. Obviously, he is learning once you are in the White House, once you are confronted with those horrific pictures of chemical attacks on civilian and you, as the president of the United States, have the ability to do something about it -- obviously, he did. COOPER: Did we get any further clarity from the White House today as

to whether or not Russia was, in fact, complicit in the chemical weapons attack?

MURRAY: We did not get a good answer on that. The administration is basically saying there was no consensus within the intelligence community that Russia knew ahead of time about this attack or what their role was in it. But what they were clear on is that Russia essentially tried to cover up for Syria. They tried to cover up for Bashar al Assad and for his cruelty.

And so, they're beginning to put pressure on Russia to warn Russia that you are basically in bed with the wrong partner on this. And it was interesting to see one senior administration official lean a bit further into this today and to say, it is a significant question, a question worth asking the Russians. If your forces were intermingled, were co-located with these Syrian forces who were preparing this attack, who carried out this attack, how could you not have known about it?

But, again, the administration won't go so far as to say that Russia knew anything ahead of time. They're saying the tension just is not there yet to conclude that, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Sara Murray from the White House -- thanks very much.

We're going to have more on Sean Spicer's Hitler remarks and his apology in a moment.

But, first, I want to bring you the latest on the secretary of state's visit to Moscow and the rising stakes surrounding it.

Michelle Kosinski is in the Russian capital and joins us now.

So, what is Tillerson's agenda as far as we know? I mean, do we know if, in fact, he will be meeting with President Putin?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Well, the State Department expected that meeting to happen because that's what always happens. As long as Putin's been in office, he meets with U.S. secretaries of state. But then, suddenly, this notion kind of evaporated.

The Russians aren't saying anything about whether Putin will find time to meet with Tillerson. It hasn't been scheduled. It almost seems in some of their responses like they're trying to string the Americans along. The State Department says Tillerson will meet with Putin if he is asked. But look at the message that sends about the state of the relationship, the fact that it hasn't even been scheduled yet.

As for the U.S. message, Tillerson wants to confront his counterpart, the Russian foreign minister, about their stance supporting Assad. The U.S. wants to, quote, "get them to rethink that stance and also to reinforce that the U.S. is going to hold Russia accountable for its actions. Here's some of the criticism that Tillerson levied against Russia



[20:10:02] REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Stockpiles and continued use demonstrate that Russia has failed in its responsibility to deliver on its 2013 commitment. It is unclear whether Russia failed to take this obligation seriously or Russia has been incompetent. But this distinction doesn't much matter to the dead. We can't let this happen again.


KOSINSKI: And we've heard strong responses over the last couple of days from a number of U.S. officials, even to the point of saying the U.S. is open to further military action if necessary.

But from Tillerson today, it seems like as he's approaching this crucial meeting, he's being more careful with his words, not wanting to project too hard a line. I mean, we heard him say things today like he hopes that Assad isn't in Syria's future. He hopes that Russia will change its tune because what it's doing now is not in its best interests -- Anderson.

COOPER: I also understand that Vladimir Putin was asked about Russia's complicit in the Syria attacks today. What was his response?

KOSINSKI: Yes, this was interesting. I mean saying that essentially the Assad regime and Russia are being framed for the chemical attacks. Repeatedly Russia has blamed rebels or terrorists within Syria for stockpiling these chemicals and then using them. That's what they're saying happened last week, that a stockpile was hit and that's how the attack happened.

He even went so far as to compare this dynamic to what happened in the second Iraq War in 2003 and saying that, you know, the U.S. action will have consequences and blaming others besides, obviously, Russia itself or the regime.

COOPER: Michelle Kosinski -- Michelle, thanks very much.

Just ahead, more breaking news tonight. The man who speaks for President Trump, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, apologizing tonight for the controversial remarks he made on Passover no less about the Holocaust and Hitler. We'll have more on that.

Plus, United Airlines has issued a new statement about the passenger dragged off a flight bleeding so that a United employee could have his seat. With outrage growing, now, there are questions about whether the flight was actually overbooked. Details ahead.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Busted his lip.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God! Look at what you did to him.



[20:16:01] COOPER: More breaking news tonight. A rare apology from the man who speaks for President Trump. Press Secretary Sean Spicer just hours after provoking outrage for his comments about Hitler and the Holocaust. It happened at today's press briefing. Spicer was talking about Syria's use of chemical weapons when he suddenly segued into Hitler.

Here again is what he said.


REPORTER: "Hitler didn't even sink to the level of using chemical weapons." What did you mean by that?

SPICER: I think when you come to sarin gas, there was no -- he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing. I mean, there was clearly -- I understand your point. Thank you. I appreciate that.

There was not, in the -- he brought them into the Holocaust center. I understand that. I'm saying in the way that Assad used them where he went into towns, dropped them down to innocent, into the middle of towns. It was brought -- so, the use of it. I appreciate the clarification there. That was not the intent.


COOPER: Well, his remarks obviously came as Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover.

Jeff Zeleny joins me with the latest.

So, walk us through exactly how this all happened. How we got here, Jeff.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, it started off with Sean Spicer trying to say that President Bashar al Assad of Syria was worse than Adolf Hitler, that Hitler never used chemical weapons at all. You saw Sean Spicer trying to clean it up there. That obviously didn't work. He put out a statement, that didn't work.

So, then, he went on to our Wolf Blitzer and launched a multiple apology. Let's watch.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: Why did you even make that comparison to Hitler on gas attacks? As you know, 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, many of them with poison gas. SPICER: Well, thanks for having me, Wolf. I was obviously trying to

make a point about the heinous acts that Assad had made against his own people last week using chemical weapons and gas. And, frankly, I mistakenly used an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the Holocaust for which frankly there is no -- there is no comparison. And for that, I apologize. It was a mistake to do that.

BLITZER: Tell us who you're apologizing to right now. There are Holocaust survivors out there who were listening to what you said and couldn't believe a spokesman, the press secretary for the president of the United States, would make such a statement. So, just specifically tell us who you want to apologize to.

SPICER: Well, clearly, you know, anybody who not just suffered in the Holocaust or is a descendant of anybody but frankly, you know, anyone who was offended by those comments. It's not -- as I said, I'm not in any way standing by them.

BLITZER: Did you not know, Sean, that there were gas chambers where the Nazis brought Jews and others, gypsies, homosexuals and others, mostly Jews, to slaughter them in these poison gas chambers at Birkenau, near Auschwitz, and other death camps?

SPICER: Yes, clearly I'm aware of that. Again, it's -- as I said initially, there's no attempt to clarify this. The point was to try to talk about the use of aircraft as a means by which Assad was using these to gas his people. But it was -- it was a mistake to do that, and, again, that's why I should have just stayed on topic, stayed focused on the actions Assad had taken and the horrible atrocities he committed against his own people.

BLITZER: Have you spoken to President Trump about your blunder today?

SPICER: Obviously my -- it was my blunder, as you put it correctly. And I came out to make sure that we stay focused on what the president's doing and his decisive action. I needed to make sure that I clarified and not in any way shape or form any more of a distraction from the president's decisive action in Syria and the attempts he's making to destabilize the region and root out ISIS out of Syria.

BLITZER: You're the press secretary for the president of the United States at the White House. This is not the first time your comments from the White House, from the lectern there, have been criticized. Are you worried, Sean, that you have a credibility problem right now?

SPICER: No. I think this is why I'm here right now, wolf. You know, I clearly -- as I said earlier to you, to your audience -- when you make a mistake, you own it. My comments today did not reflect the president's, were a distraction from him, and frankly were just misstated, insensitive and wrong, and I wanted to make sure I clarified them as soon as possible.

[20:20:09] So, I appreciate you having me on, but I think that one of the things that I think is important is we all make mistakes. You've made mistakes, other outlets, me, and everybody does. We all hopefully have a bit of forgiveness in us, and I hope that people who understand know that when I make a mistake, I'll try to own it, and I would ask people for their forgiveness.

BLITZER: Sean Spicer, it was good of you to come out and apologize to the American people, indeed to people all over the world for your mistake today.


COOPER: So, Jeff, that was the apology. I just want to make sure I heard one other thing. Did he say he didn't want to step on the president's effort to destabilize the region? I assume he meant stabilize the region.

ZELENY: He did say that, Anderson. He did mean stabilize the region. I went back and asked administration officials and Sean Spicer, they said he meant to say destabilize ISIS there. The administration trying to make clear the fight is against ISIS.

But, again, that speaks to the challenges facing this press secretary here, who isn't always as precise with the many words that he says and delivers every day.

COOPER: Right. I mean, this comes after just the day before he talked about barrel bombs in numerous times and then that had to be kind of explained later.

I mean, it's well known that President Trump watches all these press briefings. Do we know if he was forced to apologize by the president?

ZELENY: Anderson, there's no question that Sean Spicer was told by senior administration officials above him in the food chain, if not the president himself, to come out and clean this up and apologize and take care of this immediately. This was sort of taking on a life of its own during Passover like you said.

Sean Spicer would not specifically answer the question when I asked him if the president directly sent him out, but I know that other advisers inside this administration did. And Sean Spicer said to me as he walked back into the White House, after what was, you know, the biggest apology made by anyone in this administration, he says, "I wanted to make sure that I set the record straight."

The question here is his credibility going forward. Did this solve it, or did this further deepen already worsening problems? Anderson?

COOPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny -- Jeff, thanks.

Just ahead, more on Sean Spicer's statements and the outrage that it sparked. Will his apology make a difference, or is it the beginning of the end for his job? I'll talk with former Bush White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, and also, Democratic strategist Paul Begala.

Plus, a new statement tonight from United Airlines about this video and the passenger who was yanked out of his seat, dragged off a full flight to make room for a United employee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No! . This is wrong. Oh, my God! Look at what you did to him!



[20:26:28] COOPER: Again, the breaking news from the White House, Press Secretary Sean Spicer apologizing for his controversial statements about Hitler and the Holocaust, remarks he made as Jewish people around the world were celebrating Passover.

Here's what he told Wolf Blitzer just a short time ago.


SPICER: I was obviously trying to make a point about the heinous acts that Assad had made against his own people last week using chemical weapons and gas. Frankly, I mistakenly used an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the Holocaust for which frankly there is no -- there is no comparison. And for that I apologize. It was a mistake to do that.


COOPER: That apology from the man who speaks for President Trump, who makes a point of rarely apologizing. It came just hours after Mr. Spicer said that Hitler never used chemical weapons.

Now, reporters in the briefing room were quick to challenge his claim, pointing to the use of gas obviously in concentration camps. When asked to clarify his remarks, here's what Spicer said.


REPORTER: "Hitler didn't even sink to the level of using chemical weapons." What did you mean by that?

SPICER: I think when you come to sarin gas, there was no -- he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing. I mean, there was clearly -- I understand your point. Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate that.

There was not -- he brought them into the Holocaust center. I understand that. But I'm saying the way that Assad used them where he went into towns, dropped them down to innocent, into the middle of towns. It was brought -- so the use of it, and I appreciate the clarification there. That was not the intent.


COOPER: Well, just be clear again, they were death camps, not holocaust centers where millions of Jews as well as gypsies, gay men and others were murdered in gas chambers. That clarification was followed by a statement offering a further clarification and finally hours later, the apology. Joining me now are Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary

for President George W. Bush, he's also a consultant to and board member of the Republican Jewish Coalition, also CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist, Paul Begala.

Paul, I mean, obviously a press spokesman does not want to become the story. This is not the first time for Sean Spicer. Can he survive this?


COOPER: You don't think so?

BEGALA: It's not -- it's not just this outrage about the Holocaust, and he apologized, and I think I have to accept that apology.

It's the whole pattern. The very first thing he did on his very first day on the job was go out and berate the press and spread falsehoods about the size of the crowd at the inaugural, thereby diminishing the credibility not just of Sean Spicer, not about Sean, it's about the White House, about the United States of America.

You know, I always say, watch the organ grinder, not the monkey. Guys like me are monkey. Spicer is a monkey. Fleischer is a monkey.

The president is the organ grinder, and it's his credibility that's at risk. And, frankly, he has a penchant for saying untrue things as well. That's a bigger problem because he's got a four-year no cut contract. Spicer does not. I don't think he's going to make it to day 100.

COOPER: Really? You think he'll be out by day 100?

BEGALA: Because he's making the president look bad. He's making the United States look bad.

COOPER: Ari, I mean, obviously, look, you know, he got caught up in a bad choice of words and dug himself deeper. Do you think he can survive?

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY FOR PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes, of course, he will. Look, Anderson, it's a hard job to be the press secretary, and Sean made a bad mistake today. I say that as somebody not only who used to sit in that job but as a Jewish-American who lost significant members of my family in the Holocaust. I wish Sean had never said what he said.

But having said it, Sean then did realize -- a couple hours late, Sean realized what a terrible thing it was he said, and he did apologize. And I accept that apology.

But what also happens in Washington, and Paul just showed you how it's done, is when somebody says something in a political party that you don't agree with, you try to make them delegitimate, illegitimate. You try to say they can't hold their job. They shouldn't hold their job. He made a mistake. He shouldn't have done it, and I'm glad he apologized.

COOPER: But, you know --

BEGALA: Let me be clear -- I didn't say I would fire him or that he should be fired, I'm just saying -- I'm predicting Trump is not a loyal guy, he said, three campaign managers and three wives.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: All right, there already been a lot of stories about the president dissatisfaction early on which Sean Spicer, you know, apparently according to the reporting set time aside to actually watch press conferences, critiques them.

BEGALA: The problem with the Trump administration is not the administration, it's Trump. And we can change monkeys every day, and we will, he'll churn through staff, he'll burn them out.

It's Trump, this president, all human beings lie, therefore all presidents lie, politicians lie probably more than normal peoples. But this is a different standard. This is a president that has absolutely no regard to the truth. And Spicer made a big mistake today, but the bigger mistake is pounding (ph) and repeating these lies about Pres. Obama, now we've learned that Susan Rice thing going about -- the level of lying in this administration is breathtaking and it's because of Pres. Trump, not because of Mr. Spicer.

COOPER: You know, just yesterday, three times Sean Spicer talked about barrel bombs as being something which could trigger another U.S. military response. At a time when, you know, clearly, the administration, I mean Nikki Haley is saying one thing. Rex Tillerson is saying something else, and then Sean Spicer telling the barrel bombs which then he had to kind of walk back. Isn't that --

FLEISCHER: Well, then you saw in Pres. Trump's interview with Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business, he made a reference to barrel bomb himself and how concerned he was about that.

So I think Sean actually does a very able job of speaking for his boss, he know what is Donald Trump wants to say, he represents his boss and he does that very ably, which is the job of the press secretary. The press secretary is to represent what the president wants said. He made a mistake today, but he's a very fine representative of what the president want to say. When you got a people like Paul who don't like president and they'll do everything they can to undermine and attack the staff as a way of getting at the president because he still --

COOPER: I should have point out, though, Gen. Mattis just today was very vague on whether barrel bombs would in fact trigger military response. Sean Spicer seemed to include it along with chemical weapons and you can argue was he talking about chlorine gas, but --

BEGALA: We don't have a policy in Syria. And that's why I almost don't fault the administration, because it is the problem from hell, and I don't think Pres. Obama has set a policy. It's a very difficult thing. It's like -- I don't actually fault him so much for getting that so wrong yesterday, as there are times and you're too good a Republican to admit this, where you said, I guarantee, I bet my life there's times you said the Pres. George W. Bush, no sir, I can't say that from the podium, no, no, whoa, no sir. The first day when Donald Trump sent him out to lie about the size of his crowd, who cares? The answer was to only say the word, aide says no, --


BEGALA: -- I won't say that. Guarantee, did you ever say --

FLEISCHER: No, because I never had to.

BEGALA: Please.

FLEISCHER: And this is a different White House. You had to in your White House --

BEGALA: Yeah, yeah.

FLEISCHER: -- when Mike McCurry did.

BEGALA: Give me a break.

FLEISCHER: But, the point here again is, if you want to broaden this to broad politics, there are group of the people who still kind of set the results of election in November. And the fact of the matter is, American people made the decision to put someone in Washington who's totally unlike anybody who's ever been there before. There are pluses and minuses, --


FLEISCHER: -- the plus is that we have an outsider. We have a businessman who came here to change Washington. He is deliberately different from the people who came before him.

COOPER: As press secretary, how crucial is it that you don't lie from that podium? That you -- what you says --

FLEISCHER: Of course you don't lie from that podium.

COOPER: And, do you believe that Sean Spicer has said things that were not true from that podium?

FLEISCHER: No, I think he represents what his boss thinks, and his boss thinks so Sean job is to say the president believe that, the president believes why. The argument about the inauguration crowd was a silly argument. It never should have been gotten into in the first place.

BEGALA: Right.

FLEISCHER: And I think everybody's acknowledged that.

BEGALA: The problem is that the president is a pathological liar. And so now he makes everyone around him into pathological liars. That's my --


BEGALA: He was a very popular guy--


BEGALA: He's a very popular guy --


FLEISCHER: -- say a pathological liar when you forget the person that you were for Hillary Clinton on your Superpac. What was her reputation for honesty --

BEGALA: Yeah, but, you know, that election is over --


FLEISCHER: The American people had a choice between two unpopular candidates and what's hard for you to get over is the least popular that won. Donald Trump who was less popular beat Hillary Clinton and you have to get over it.

BEGALA: You worked for a guy who sneaked in without winning the vote either so. He was kind of essentially illegitimate --

FLEISCHER: Well, here we go. Here we go --


BEGALA: -- fondly and the falsehoods that came from that administration.

FLEISCHER: -- here we go with the crazy conspiracies.

COOPER: All right, I think --

BEGALA: You lost.

COOPER: -- Ari Fleischer, thank you very much always. Paul Begala as well.

Coming up, two top National Security professionals weigh-in on the war of words with Moscow, among other things, we'll talk to Admiral John Kirby and Former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden when 360 continues.


[20:33:44] COOPER: Defense Secretary James Mattis spoke out on (inaudible) for the first time since the cruise missile strike on Syria and he said the intelligence on who's responsible for the gas attack points in one direction only.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: It's very clear that the Assad regime planned it, orchestrated it, and executed it. And beyond that, we can say right now. We know what I just told you, we don't know anything beyond that.


COOPER: Secretary Mattis said the purpose of the missile strike was in his word singular. Said the American focus on Syria continues to be defeating ISIS.

Now, a short time ago, I talked about Syria with Former CIA and NSA Director retired General Michael Hayden as well as retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, a CNN Military Diplomatic Analyst John Kirby who served as a Defense Department and State Department Spokesman.


COOPER: General Hayden, where do you see this going between the U.S. and Russia, I mean basically staring each other down right now over this chemical attacks?

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN (RET.), CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yeah, and the chemical attacks, Anderson, are just part of a larger package of things that are poisoning the American-Russian relationship. The activity and the (inaudible), obviously, the interference in the U.S. electoral process, right?

I think Sec. Tillerson is arriving in Moscow with a list of grievances and I think he is going to be pointing out to the Russians that if they expect better relations with the United States, that is going to be conditioned on better Russian behavior. So we'll see how that dialogue goes.

[20:40:11] I mean the secretary has been tough with the Russians in the past when it comes to business dealings. So now he's carrying a diplomatic portfolio but with the same requirement.

COOPER: I mean, Gen. Hayden, the White House seems to be going further than the Pentagon in tying Russia to this attack, it is -- is caution the better way to proceed?

HAYDEN: Look, I am with the Pentagon guys, and I thought that press conference that they had this afternoon was remarkable for its candor and its accuracy and in great care, two or three times. The questions seem to want to put chum in the water to blame the Russians for this, and each time that the general and the secretary were very emphatic, this was a Syrian decision, we're saying the Syrians did this, the Syrians bear full responsibility.

COOPER: Admiral Kirby, from your vantage point, how does Sec. Tillerson approach this meeting with the Russians tomorrow?

REAR ADM.JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY & DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Yeah, I think this is a real important moment for the secretary of state, and I hope that when he sits down tomorrow with Foreign Minister Lavrov that he comes with some big ideas. I mean, whether you support the strike or you don't support the strike, it now could provide them some leverage, some leverage that we haven't always had with the Russians to get them to the table and try to find a diplomatic solution. This is the moment and I hope he takes full advantage of it.

COOPER: How does it provide leverage?

KIRBY: Well, because -- look, if they will continue to believe that we're not afraid or not unwilling, I should say, to use military force, to react to the regime's use of chemical weapons. That might be enough to get them to the diplomatic table. One of the things that was not available to Sec. Kerry and this was widely reported at the time was military options.

And so, when we met with the Russians on many occasions, he didn't have necessarily the diplomacy backed up by the threat of force, that leverage to get the Russians to take seriously real diplomatic solutions. Well that may be different now. I know and it was very clear that Sec. Mattis very narrowly defined this mission and made it clear that the focus militarily remains on ISIS. And that they weren't going to expand the mission, but still you've got to believe that this strike rattled the Russian cage a little bit. And, again, I think Sec. Tillerson should take advantage of that.

COOPER: General Hayden, I mean, Sec. Mattis said today the situation would not spiral out of control because Russia always acts in their best interest the rational after -- and that is not in Russia's best interest for it to spiral out of control. Do you agree with that?

HAYDEN: I think I do, I think that's a very accurate statement. But as John points out, Sec. Kerry was out there almost lost in space sometimes trying to force demand Russian action but he didn't have anything to finish the sentence. And if you don't, this could happen.

So now Sec. Tillerson has this additional tool. I think the Russians will act carefully here. We have not pushed back on them for several years whether it's in the Ukraine, Crimea, in Syria, now that's happened, it does create some space and the Russians are rational actors, Sec. Tillerson has a challenge, but I think he's got opportunity here as well.

COOPER: Admiral, quickly though, if -- for Russia to have to choose between the U.S. or Syria, I mean they do have a, you know, a base there, it's a key --

KIRBY: Yeah.

COOPER: -- ally for them in the region, they need that entree geographically.

KIRBY: Sure. No one is asking them to choose the U.S. over Syria, Anderson. And they're not going to let go of this toe hold they have in the Middle East. They have a long defense relationship with Syria, that's not going to change. But they're not in love with Assad, they're not married to Assad, what they are married to is their interest in Syria and in a stable regime, a regime that can allow them to continue to operate out of there and that's the key. And even they have signed up to all the Geneva Communique which calls for a political transition and a diplomatic solution and a transition away from Assad and towards the government that is selected by the Syrian people. They signed up for that themselves.

So we're not asking them to do anything differently than what they have already said they would do. It's just that now perhaps the Secretary of State has a little bit more leverage when he goes in to that table.

COOPER: General Hayden, was left -- and so my ambiguous today as to whether chlorine barrel bombs would trigger a military response? Are they right to be worry of red lines, in particular to that line?

HAYDEN: I think they are. And, Anderson, I think it was very clear, the secretary said if sarin is used again, we went out there because that was a vital American national interest to not lower the bar for use of these kinds of weapons anywhere in the world.

I think he also made it quite clear over here, as tragic as it is, using barrel bombs with high explosives would not automatically trigger the same kind of American response, and then he left that another world between the two, a bit ambiguous, would be Americans respond if the Syrians used chlorine. And actually, the chlorine use has a bit of a different legal status internationally. I think it was a good thing useful to leave it ambiguous, so is not to invite the Syrians to go ahead and do this.

[20:45:21] COOPER: Admiral Kirby and Gen. Hayden, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

KIRBY: Thank you.

HAYDEN: Thank you.


COOPER: Well, coming up. The CEO of United Airlines has put out another statement, yet another one about this incident caught on video of a man violently dragged off the plane because airline employees needed seats. Plus, new information about whether the flight itself was really overbooked. Next.


COOPER: United Airlines is fully broiled (ph) in a pr nightmare of its own making. And the company is frankly dragging this thing out like it's a passenger on an oversold flight. The CEO has put out a new statement today after a video went viral. The doctor who was involuntarily (inaudible) from a flight and unceremoniously forced off the plane bleeding and screaming. The latest statement contains an apology, too little, too late, after the CEO put out a much more tepid one yesterday and an internal memo that basically blamed the passenger and defended employees. This is why a whole lot of people don't like flying our pr (inaudible). Rene marsh has details. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: As United Airlines passenger David Dao receives treatment for his injuries at a Chicago hospital, the airline is tailsping into a public relations disaster. After video of Dao being dragged from a Sunday night flight went viral.

[20:50:08] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god!

MARSH: The airline first said the flight was overbooked. Then changed its language Tuesday to oversold. United did not respond to multiple attempts to clarify the change. From the White House --

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Clearly when you watch the video, it is troubling to see how that was handled.

MARSH: To late night TV.

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE: The CEO of United released a statement via Twitter. This is what the CEO treated. "This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers." He said re-accommodate. It's like we re-accommodated El Chapo out of Mexico.

That is such sanitized, say nothing, take no responsibility corporate bs speak. I don't know how the guy who sent that tweet didn't vomit when he typed it out.

MARSH: And on social media. United Airlines is feeling the sting. Not just for the violent removal of the passenger, but the airline's lack of compassion. It took two days before the CEO, Oscar Munoz, apologized directly to Dao who had been left bloodied after the incident.

In a statement Tuesday, he said, "I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way." The new statement, a far cry from the e-mail the CEo sent to employees Monday defending the flight crew and calling the passenger, "disruptive and belligerent." And in Munoz, very first statement, he only apologized for having to re-accommodate customers.

MARVET BRITTO, ENTERTAINMENT, PUBLIC RELATIONS & BRAND STRATEGIST: The CEO's response was off mark. It was not in line with the alleged core values of United Airlines. It was not sympathetic. It was not apologetic. And he really seemed to coddle the myth that all passengers are belligerent and/or disruptive, which was not the case in this instance.

MARSH: Although it's legal for airlines to deny boarding to passengers if it's overbooked, lawmakers are also calling foul. Governor Chris Christie is calling on the Trump administration to suspend the federal regulation that permits airlines to overbook flights and remove passengers as a result.

Meanwhile, members of Congress are calling for the Department of Transportation to launch an investigation. Right now, the agency is only reviewing the incident.

The video has breached borders. Trending on China's version of Twitter generating more than 100 million views. Potentially harmful to the airline's bottom line, China is a huge growth market for the airline.


COOPER: And Rene Marsh joins us. Now, do we know what's behind the change in language from a overbook to oversold?

MARSH: Right, so Anderson, overbooking a flight means that there simply just more reservations out there than there are seats. And the airline usually is accounting for no shows. They think that some people may not show up and usually if that's the case, everything is all right. And then oversold flight is when essentially, you have too many people checking in and just not enough seats.

Now, we know that the airline originally said that the flight was overbooked, meaning too many reservations, not enough seats. But then they changed their language. It really remains unclear what's behind the change of the language. They really have not been responsive at all with many of our calls, our e-mails. So that part remains unknown as far as why now they're changing that language, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Rene Marsh, thanks very much. As (inaudible) this may be one of the most shocking examples of the outrageous airline behavior. But it's not the only one, Randi Kaye has more.


RANDI KAYE, CNN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Passengers reacting to flight attendants on board in American airlines jet after the crew tried to remove a woman before takeoff. The woman said she didn't hear a male flight attendant asking her to take her seat in the crowded aisle. Until he started yelling at her, threatening to kick her off the plane. Moments later, after she was seated, a female flight attendant came to remove her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was so mean to me. I didn't do anything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sorry. I have to get you off the plane.


KAYE: By now, the woman was crying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This can't be legal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: if you don't come off I'm going to have to call the officers.

KAYE: That didn't sit well with her fellow passengers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you serious?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the last time I fly American.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just lost a lot of customers.

KAYE: In the end, the woman gave in. American Airlines told the Washington Post they were in contact with the passenger and had apologized.

[20:55:00] On this U.S. Airways flight, a disabled Vietnam veteran was removed for not putting his golden retriever service dog on the floor for takeoff, instead of in the seat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm legally in the right by ADA law. This is a service animal and he can ride with me anyplace.

KAYE: And when crew members told him the pilot won't take off --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You get the hell away from me. I don't care! Get away from me! Leave!

KAYE: The veteran stood and made his case to passengers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have earned the right to have this service animal because of my service to this country in Vietnam. So I'm sorry but I'm not budging.

KAYE: He and his dog were still removed by an officer and rebooked for the next day. Cell phones appear to be a clear trigger for removal. This woman was talking on hers on a Spirit Airlines jet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Leave me alone. Stop it! Stop!

KAYE: So was this woman.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to go home. You're hurting me.

KAYE: This passenger says Spirit kicked her off her flight because of her cleavage. Another passenger backed that up.

CATHERINE SUPP, PASSENGER: Two or three times people came over and said, they are still not covered up enough. She said, if you give me a blanket, I will put it across my chest. I can't help it. These are my breasts.

KAYE: The airline said the woman had been drinking. Though that same fellow passenger said she wasn't acting drunk or misbehaving. The woman's lawyer told us the case may end up in court.

This woman says she was banned from flying, too, because of how she was dressed. The jetBlue passenger was told her outfit was inappropriate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was told that it's the pilot's final say.

KAYE: So she purchased pajama bottoms to cover up for the trip home to Seattle.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I felt disrespected.

KAYE: In the end, jetBlue offered her a $162 flight credit. But she said she just wants the airline to offer sensitivity training.

Randi Kaye, CNN New York.


COOPER: Coming up, another hour of 360.

Breaking news about the claims of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes. The members of the Obama administration improperly requested the identities of Americans appearing in Intelligence reports. Tonight, what CNN has learned ahead.