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Sources: Yates to Testify She Warned About Flynn; Clinton Blames Loss on Comey Letter, Russian Interference. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired May 2, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:14] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening.

We begin tonight with the latest in the Russian White House watch. New information tonight about strong warnings by the then-Acting Attorney General Sally Yates to the Trump White House about their national security adviser, Mike Flynn.

Now, this contradicts what the White House has said about that warning by Sally Yates. She is set to testify next week before the Senate judiciary panel as part of the ongoing investigations into Russia's meddling in the presidential election. But tonight, we are learning what she will say.

Jim Sciutto has more.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates is prepared to testify before a Senate panel next week that she gave a forceful warning to the White House regarding then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. This, nearly three weeks before he was fired, contradicting the administration's version of events, sources familiar with her account tell CNN.

On February 14th, the day after Flynn's firing, White House spokesman Sean Spicer described the Yates meeting in far less serious terms.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: She wanted to give, quote, "a heads up to us" on some comments that may have seemed in conflict with what he had sent the vice president.

SCIUTTO: But Yates will explain that in a private meeting January 26th, she told White House counsel Don McGahn that Flynn was lying when he denied in public and private that he had discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia in conversations with Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak. His misleading comments, Yates explained, made him potentially vulnerable to being compromised by Russia.

Flynn was fired 18 days later, only after news reports that Flynn lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. Yates' testimony will book end a week's worth of appearances, starting with FBI Director James Comey before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. Committee members will press Comey for answers on how the FBI worked with Christopher Steele, a former British spy who compiled the controversial dossier, that included allegations there was an ongoing exchange of information between Trump campaign surrogates and the Russian government.

Democrats will push the FBI director on what has been learned about the Trump campaign's contact with Russian officials and other Russians known to U.S. intelligence.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: More than anything, I want to hear that the FBI isn't being blocked or impeded in their investigation, and I want to know that we're going to get to the bottom of this in a balance and bipartisan way.

SCIUTTO: Democrats will seek answers on why Comey spoke publicly about the FBI's investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mail server, but not its probe into Trump's ties with Russia, which was also under way during the summer of the campaign.

Meanwhile, the former British spy behind the dossier insists that his search was urgent enough to share with top U.S. and British officials, but admits that some of his work was not fully verified, this according to court documents filed last month in London.

In a new legal filing obtained by CNN, lawyers for former British spy Christopher Steele argue that his investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia funded by political opponents of Trump served a vital national security interest.


COOPER: And Jim Sciutto joins us now.

Is there how much we're going to be able to find out from these testimonies? From what I understand, a lot of this is obviously classified.

SCIUTTO: It is. And that's going to be an issue because you have the public hearings and then you have the private classified sessions where the Yates of the world can be forthcoming. But in the public hearings, we are told that she's not going to be able to go into a lot of detail, for instance, in what gave her the judgment that Flynn had -- might be compromised by Russia, except in general terms, describing how just simply by lying that made him open the compromise. She won't be able to go further than that.

And then, other officials, James Clapper is going to be coming, Comey tomorrow. They've also indicated to us that they don't expect to drop any big bombshells, for instance, about possible evidence of contacts or new evidence of contacts between Russians and members of the Trump campaign, and that's one of the issues with this. What we can hear is different from what those legislators or senators and House members can hear in private.

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

Joining me now is retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, Steve Hall, and Philip Mudd.

Admiral Kirby, what's your reaction to this reporting about what Sally Yates is going to be able to testify about?

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), FORMER STATE DEPT. SPOKESPERSON, OBAMA ADMIN.: Yes, you know, Anderson, it raises interesting questions. And the three that come to mind, first, are, you know, what's the difference between the forceful warning that Jim said tonight and Sean Spicer saying it was just a heads up. I mean, there is a real disparity there that I think we need to get a little bit more clarity on.

COOPER: Right. Because that's how Trump adviser and the White House characterized what Sally Yates has said, it was like just a general heads up.


COOPER: But a forceful warning obviously seems to be in a different category.

KIRBY: That's very different. So, it will be interesting to hear how she talks about exactly the tone and tenor of what she had to say.

[20:05:00] Number two, what did the White House counsel do with the information? Where did he take it after she gave him this warning, whatever it was, how high did it go? And who else at the White House had privy to the information?

And number three, those 18 days. You know, if they took it seriously, why did it take 18 days to finally make a decision about General Flynn. It they didn't it seriously, maybe that explains it. But it sure appears to me like the decision on Flynn was really based more on the potential for this "Washington Post" story that was about to come out.

COOPER: Yes. Phil, I mean, according to the reporting, Yates told the White House counsel that General Flynn's comments made him potentially vulnerable to being compromised by Russia. I mean, he could have been blackmailed. Does that mean you think that she -- could she have shared the information about exactly why he was compromised with the White House counsel? Would he have been clear to get that information?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think there's a reason she should have. The White House counsel has a responsibility to check not only law, but ethics. Is someone committing a violation on the ethics side that would mean that they should not be in a conversation in the Oval Office about Russia?

But let's be clear: there is two different things we have to understand here, whether General Flynn committed an ethical violation and whether he committed a legal violation, whether he was susceptible to blackmail or whether he lied. I don't understand why she is talking about blackmail. You can talk about Steve Hall about this, but the Russians got what

they wanted out of this. They had a president that supported them, a national security adviser that supported them, and a secretary of state who had received a medal from Vladimir Putin. Why would they ever consider blackmail? Why didn't she just walk in and say, you should be concerned about your incoming national security adviser? I don't get it.

COOPER: And, Steve, again, a lot of details we don't know about the information Sally Yates had learned, but does the idea of blackmail, does that make sense to you? Even if it was blackmail based on that he lied to the vice president and others about what he talked about with the Russians?

STEVE HALL, FORMER CIA SENIOR OFFICER, RUSSIA EXPERT: I think the key phrase here, Anderson, is compromise. So, that can mean a lot of things in the human operations context.

You know, Phil is right. If the operation was a success and they the Russians felt like they had Flynn on their side of things, then, you know, why -- you know, why black mail if they felt they had their man?

You know, on the other hand, if the situation is simply that Flynn had some sort of contact with the Russians or perhaps vis-a-vis his conversations with Kislyak, you know, perhaps the Russians thought, gee, this isn't working out the way we want and let's remind Mr. Flynn, you know, that we had information on him, so he better do what it is that we want. All of that we don't know because the investigation is ongoing. What we do know is that whatever Yates saw concerned her enough that she felt the need to immediately let her supervisors know.

And when you have this kind of counterintelligence, counter-espionage type of information, you don't -- politics don't get into it. You don't fool around with that. You got to get moving and it sounds like what she did was immediately let people know about it.

COOPER: Well, that's -- Admiral Kirby, that gets to the point when we were talking before. The fact that 18 days passed from the time of that conversation that Sally Yates had with the White House counsel and General Flynn being fired, I mean, that's -- if time is of the essence and there is a security concern, that seems like an awfully long time. Former CIA director, General Michael Hayden, was on CNN earlier saying that it seems like Flynn was fired not because of what he was done, but because what he had done was going to be made public by "The Washington Post".

So, that makes it even, if that's true, that seems to make it even worse, the idea that it could have gone on longer than 18 days if it wasn't for "The Washington Post" going to break the story.

KIRBY: Yes, indeed. I mean, the circumstantial evidence certainly looks like it that way and I agree with General Hayden. That's certainly the appearance. And that's why I think -- you know, we need more information from the White House on this. I know that Ms. Yates isn't going to be able to answer that in

testimony, but I think the White House has got to answer for what happened in those 18 days. Was the information taken seriously? If it was, then why did it take 18 days?

And again, all you have to look is the calendar. It was on the 13th of February when "The Washington Post" story pop, and that's General Flynn resigned. So, it certainly looks circumstantial that they were driven by news and the potential for embarrassing stories rather than by trying to do the right thing and trying to discern what exactly happened here.

COOPER: Yes, when you see it on the calendar, I mean, that's a long time.

Thanks, everybody.

Just ahead: Hillary Clinton getting candid about the final days of the campaign and what she believes cost her the presidency.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was on the way to winning until a combination of Jim Comey's letter on October 28th and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me, but got scared off.



[20:13:14] COOPER: Today, Hillary Clinton gave her sharpest public critique yet of President Trump's victory in November, spoke candidly about who she blames for her loss during an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour at an event in New York.

The former Democratic presidential nominee said she is, quote, "back to being an activist citizen and part of the resistance", end quote. She is also writing a book about the 2016 race.

At one point, Christiane asked the former secretary of state about Russian President Vladimir Putin.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What do you make of a journalist who basically said that, in fact, President Putin hated you so much that it was personal, that he was determined to thwart your ambitions? Do you buy that?

CLINTON: Well, he certainly interfered in our election and it was clear he interfered to hurt me and to help my opponent. And if you chart my opponent and his campaign's statements, they quite coordinated with the goals that that leader who shall remain nameless had. AMANPOUR: And some say, you know, could it have been different?

Could the campaign have been better? Could you have had a better rationale? He had one message, your opponent, and it was a successful message, "make America great again".

And where was your message? Do you take any personal responsibility?

CLINTON: Oh, of course. I take absolute personal responsibility. I was the candidate. I was the person who was on the ballot.

And I am very aware of, you know, the challenges, the problems, the shortfalls that we had. Again, I will write all this out for you. But I will say this -- I have been in a lot of campaigns.

[20:15:02] And I'm very proud of the campaign we ran and I'm very proud of the staff and the volunteers and the people who were out there day after day. And --


It wasn't a perfect campaign. There is no such thing. But I was on the way to winning until a combination of Jim Comey's letter on October 28th and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me, but got scared off.

And ask yourself this: within an hour or two of the Hollywood Access tape being made public, the Russian theft of John Podesta's e-mails hit WikiLeaks. What a coincidence. So, I mean, you just can't make this stuff up.

So, did we make mistakes? Of course we did. Did I make mistakes? Oh, my gosh, yes. You know, you will read my confession and my request for absolution.

But the reason why I believe we lost were the intervening events in the last 10 days. And I think you can see, I was leading in the early vote. I had a very strong -- and not just our polling and data analysis, but a very strong assessment going on across the country about where I was in terms of, you know, the necessary both votes and electoral votes.

And remember, I did win more than three million votes than my opponent. So, it's like, really?


AMANPOUR: I feel a tweet coming.

CLINTON: Well -- fine. You know, better that than interfering in foreign affairs, if he wants to tweet about me. I'm happy to be the -- you know, the diversion, because we've got lots of other things to worry about. And he should worry less about the election and my winning the popular vote than doing other things that would be important for the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Clinton also said that if the election had been held on October 27th, she would be president.

Lot's to discuss.

Brian Fallon is joining us. She was press secretary for the Clinton campaign. Jason Miller, who was the communications director for the Trump transition. And CNN political director, David Chalian.

David Chalian, let me start with you, because -- I mean, on the one hand, Secretary Clinton is saying she takes full and personal responsibility for the loss, but then she really basically is blaming the Comey letter and Russia and WikiLeaks.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Exactly. Those two things can coexist, I guess, but it is clear that if you listen to the last bit you just played, she does blame Jim Comey and WikiLeaks as the two reasons she lost this election. This was not the moment she decided to talk at length about her e-mail server problems or about other mistake she made on the campaign I guess. She's going to wait for her book for that, Anderson.

But she is such of the mind that Comey and WikiLeaks were determinative in this election that whatever else is her responsibility doesn't seem all that pertinent to her here.

COOPER: I'm going to go to Brian Fallon and Jason Miller, you guys, in just a moment. We've got to take a quick break. We'll have more from both those men and David Chalian.

Hillary Clinton had a lot more to say during her interview with Christiane. We'll play you more of that as well, whether she believes sexism was a factor in the election. She was asked about that.

Also ahead, there's no funding for President Trump's border wall in the new government spending bill. So, why is the White House calling it a win? We'll look at that.


[20:22:26] COOPER: As we said earlier, Hillary Clinton spoke at length about why she thinks she lost the election and who she blames. Her public interview with Christiane Amanpour took place during the Women to Women International Summit here in New York.

At one point, Christiane asked her about sexism and what if any role she believes it played in the election.


AMANPOUR: You just spoke eloquently about sexism and misogyny and inequity around the world. But do you believe it exists here still? And do you think --

(LAUGHTER) Do you think -- were you a victim of misogyny? Why do you think you lost the majority of the white female vote? The security moms, the people who wanted to be protected about the challenges you are talking about right now?

CLINTON: Well, you know, that -- the book is coming out in the fall. But just to give you -- just to give you a tiny little preview -- yes, I do think it played a role. Other things did as well. Every day that goes by, we learn more about some of the unprecedented interference, including from a foreign power whose leader is not a member of my fan club.


COOPER: We are back now with the panel, Brian Fallon, Jason Miller and David Chalian.

So, Brian, you obviously were intimately involved in the campaign, a spokesperson.

What about David Chalian's point, Secretary Clinton's saying, look, I take full responsibility and yet it was really just the last 10 days and it was all about Comey and all about Russia and WikiLeaks. I mean, I guess, clearly, she is saving something for the book. She said she's going to -- you know, it's going to be her confession and ask for absolution. But can she say she takes responsibility if she is really blaming others?

BRIAN FALLON, PRESS SECRETARY, HILLARY CLINTON PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Two things can be true, Anderson, and absolutely, there are things we'd like to do-over. You heard her say that today. I think our polling was off in a bunch of states and we would have deployed resources differently if we had known the actual state of the race in some of those key battleground states.

I think there has been a lot of time spent about how we could have resonated more on her economic platform. I think her economic platform would have done a lot more for those white working class voters that ended up pulling the lever for Donald Trump.

So, yes, we are constantly thinking about what we could have done to breakthrough better on that. And all that contributed to the closeness of the race. But even in spite of that closeness, I do think -- I agree with her that in the last 10 days, we were poised to prevail and I do think that the Comey letter was difference-making. And independent analysts have confirmed that Nate Silver has gone and looked at the early vote totals in those closing weeks compared to the final 10 days. Two things are true.

COOPER: Brian, if your polling was wrong, as you acknowledged it, how do you know if the polling was right earlier on when Secretary Clinton said, you know, we're clearly in a strong position?

[20:25:02] FALLON: That's a fair question. But we actually have raw vote totals from those states that had early vote processes going on. And now that secretaries of state from many of these key battlegrounds have reported the data, you can see that for instance, going into election day in Florida, we were up by a quarter of a million votes. But then Donald Trump won by 13 points, a remarkable swing on Election Day.

So, all of that proves that there was a huge swing in the late deciders, people that made up their mind in the last week.

COOPER: All right.

FALLON: But, look, this was really -- Anderson, I just want to say, this was five minutes in a 35 minute exchange. I think Hillary Clinton is not going to be a shrinking violet for the rest of her life. John Kerry wasn't, he went back to the Senate. John McCain wasn't, he went back to the Senate. And if Donald Trump lost this election, I stand to be that he would have been -- we would have been hearing from him every single day.

So, she's going to be out there, but I don't think that she or anybody else that worked on the campaign is inclined to dwell on what ifs. I think all of us are looking forward about --

COOPER: Well, she is writing a book about it, so I assume she's going to be doing some what ifs because I assume that's what they are paying her for.

But let me, I got to get to Jason.

Jason, do you buy it was up until October 27th, they were going to win and it was only in the final stretch that she lost it?

JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, not at all, but I do have to tip my hat to Brian, he's in a very tough position tonight trying to defend this. I mean, this is something that losing political candidates do this after every presidential election. It doesn't matter if they are Democrat. It doesn't matter if they're Republican. Part of the grieving process is to go through this and blame other people.

But I do think really what's remarkable here is the lack of self awareness that we're seeing from Secretary Clinton. I mean, nobody else told her to avoid campaigning in states like Wisconsin. Nobody else told her to support unpopular issues like TPP. I mean, the reality here is that Donald J. Trump was the perfect candidate for this election. It was the ultimate outsider, probably the biggest outsider we have seen in American politics where Secretary Clinton was the ultimate insider here, and he ran -- he was -- ran a very good campaign and was the right man for the right time.


MILLER: And also, as we talk about the final home stretch here -- look, let's just be real about this. I mean, Donald J. Trump is a closer. He closed out this race very strong --

COOPER: There was unprecedented interference from a foreign power in the race, I mean, according to all the -- (CROSSTALK)

MILLER: But, Anderson, and this even goes back to what Brian was discussing a moment ago. Even at that time when some of these different things were popping up, the polling showed that Secretary Clinton was not able to put this race away. She was consistently coming in at 42, 43 --

COOPER: Brian, let me -- I want you to be able to respond to that -- Brian.

FALLON: Look, I think the reality has been backed up by all the independent analysis that has happened. You can't dispute the huge swing that you saw in the final ten days of the race. There was a fickle segment of this electorate, Anderson, that toggled between Secretary Clinton and Donald Trump all throughout the general election, and at various points when one candidate would have an extended period where they were getting negative news coverage, you'd see that fickle segment of the electorate drift back and forth, and the campaign simply ended on a 10-day stretch where Hillary Clinton was the subject of a narrative based on Jim Comey's letter that ended up bearing no fruit in terms of those e-mails that he was talking about.

COOPER: David Chalian, what do you think Hillary Clinton does from here on out. I mean, clearly, there's a lot of Democrats who want new blood, who want, you know, the Democratic Party needs new leadership to move it forward. Now, you're going to have President Obama out there, obviously, very young, and, you know, with a lot of years ahead of him to be in public life -- Secretary Clinton as well.

CHALIAN: Yes, the Democratic Party is going to go through a intraparty conversation about sort of the old guard and a new generation of leadership and sort that out. What is clear to me today, Anderson, is that Hillary Clinton is going to very much want to be a part of that conversation. She is not at all wanting to cede the stage. She clearly wants to put her sort of imprint on the day's political environment and she's clearly not going to shy away from doing that.

COOPER: Yes. David Chalian, Brian Fallon, Jason Miller, thank you.

Coming up, remember candidate Trump's promise to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it? Sure, everybody does. Mexico has no intention of paying for it, they say. And for now, U.S. taxpayers won't have to either because there's no money in the compromise spending bill to fund the wall.

The White House, though, says they're winning it. It's how are they spinning it as a big win. How you may ask? We're keeping them honest, next.


[20:23:23] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the White House is trying to spin the compromise spending bill into a win when it comes to President Trump's promised to build a wall along the southern border. Now keep in mind as the budget we're talking about has no money for President's Trump's border wall. Not a cent (INAUDIBLE) peso. What it does have is money for border security in general, money that can be used to enhance existing fencing for example.

But what's really striking today is that Mick Mulvaney the Director of the Office of Management and Budget stood before reporters and spun (ph) into a victory for the president's wall. Not to follow the logic, he had to have a very loose definition of what building a wall will means, much less a big beautiful one as the President has repeatedly promise. You also have to forget the very clear, very simple promised that candidate Trump made on the campaign trail over and over and over.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to build a great border wall. We will build a great, great wall.

We're going to build a wall, don't worry about it.

I promise, we will build the wall.

It's not going to be a little wall. It's going to be a big beautiful wall.

It's going to be a very tall wall, very strong wall, very powerful wall.

It's going to be such a beautiful wall. It's going to be so big. It's going to be so powerful. It's going to be as beautiful as a wall can be. I got to make it beautiful because maybe someday they'll name is wall, the "Trump Wall", who the hell knows?

And who's going to pay for the wall?


COOPER: So, there's repeating, we're talking about the U.S. spending bill, not a Mexican one. Mexico says they're not going to be paying for the wall. And it appears the promised of a wall itself has now morph into a political spin that might make your head spin.

Jim Acosta has more.


[00:05:05] TRUMP: This is what winning looks like.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even though President Trump is crowing that a new government spending bill represents a win for the White House --

TRUMP: After years of partisan bickering and gridlock, this bill is a clear win for the American people. ACOSTA: He is clearly irritated. He did not get everything he wanted, namely funding for a signature proposal a new wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and he is threatening to shut down the government to get what he wants. The president is warning he won't take "no" for an answer during the next budget battle in the fall. Tweeting, "Either elect more Republican senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51 percent. Our country needs a good shut down in September to fix mess." That's just one week after he complain Democrats were prepare to do the same thing. As families prepare for summer vacations in our national parks, Democrats threatened to close them and shut down the government, terrible.

MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: The good one would be something that fixes Washington D.C. permanently.

ACOSTA: White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney tried to defend the President's desire for shut down in spite the fact the administration just reached a compromise.

ACOSTA (on camera): Isn't that what the people want? They want to government of work and pass budgets that can be a compromise and both sides can agree on? How can a shut down be good?

MULVANEY: That's exactly what I think they want, and that's exactly what we have given to them with this agreement. My point to you in response to you to a couple of different questions was that the President wants to see Washington better -- get better. Get fixed. Change the way it does business.


MAULVANEY: It i . It's absolutely is which is why it's so frustrating, which is why it's frustrating they don't have the Democrats go out and say they won and we lost.

ACOSTA (voice-over): It is (inaudible) to spin the compromise a win, Mulvaney said some of the money was going to a "new wall", but it's really just to beefing up existing fencing.

MULVANEY: You can call it "new wall", you can all it replacement, you call it maintenance, call it whatever you want to. The President's priority was to secure the southern border.

ACOSTA: Democrats were quick to pounce on the shutdown talk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't like government shutdowns and we avoid them at all cost.

ACOSTA: This rare episode of compromise isn't exactly sitting while with some Republicans who complained think they gave up too much to reach a deal.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think the Democrats cleaned our clock. I think, you know, there are things in this bill that I just don't understand. This was not winning from the Republican point of view. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And Jim Acosta joins us now. So, is the White House going to try to get funding for the wall in the next budget bill?

ACOSTA: That's the plan at this point Anderson. And keep in mind that this wall has estimated a cost $12-$15 billion. According to Trump administration there are other estimates that are many times more than that and yes, they're going to try to fight this battle out in September when they're going to be gearing up on both sides to him are out a budget for fiscal 2018.

But, Anderson, keep in mind, there's no plan whatsoever that's been hatched by the White House at this point to make Mexico pay for the wall. In fact, take a look at this picture that was tweeted earlier today. It was tweeted by a Conservative Rabbi, named Rabbi Shmuley. He visited Steve Bannon's office. They looked at his war room and this famous white board that he has in the office, it says on the wall, "build a border wall and eventually make Mexico pay for it" not any time soon, Anderson, but eventually, and no timetable of course on what eventually means. Anderson.

COOPER: If memory serves me, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach was Michael Jackson's spiritual advisor. I might be wrong about that, he's been on the program, I'm going to look that up but I'm --

ACOSTA: He was visiting Steve Bannon today.

COOPER: All right. Well, you know, hey. All right, Jim Acosta thanks very much.

ACOSTA: Thanks.

COOPER: A lot to talk about with the panel. Joining me now is Ryan Lizza, Matt Lewis, Kirsten Powers, Jeffrey Lord, and Maria Cardona. I don't know how I know that. But I do know that.

So is there any evidence to support the argument that this budget deal is a major win for the President, Kirsten?

KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: It does seem that way. I think that the President wants to have a win, right? So, he did promise there was going to be a lot of winning, and he hasn't had a lot of winning, and so I think he has no choice but to go out there and try to present it that way.

But it -- accept it from the fact that it doesn't fund the border wall. It also, you know, he doesn't cut funding for Planned Parenthood, it doesn't cut funding for sanctuary cities, it doesn't cut funding for Obamacare subsidies. I mean, this are major issues for Republicans.

So, I think it's hard to cast that as a win, focusing on the border security stuff, it -- the only way you can say that it's a win is if you ever believe that democrats didn't support border security. But that's actually not true, they do support border security. They just don't support the wall.

COOPER: So, Jeff, is this a win for the President?

JEFFREY LORD, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Well, clearly he's going to say so. But Anderson, I've got to be candid, I've been listening to conservative talk radio all day, listening to people calling in. They're most unhappy, interestingly not with him, but with Republican members of Congress. I mean, they really feel these people do not have their act together and what is the point of electing them.

I mean, that they said so went the line today from many people, they said give us the house --

COOPER: All right.

LORD: -- and then they gave them the house and they said, we need the senate, then they said, we need White House. OK, you got it.

COOPER: They have it all.

LORD: They have it all, what are you doing.

COOPER: Right.

LORD: And there is a lot of resentment. And I would say, members of Republican members of Congress are going to have to be very careful here. I mean they need to reduce or there will be a problem.

[20:40:05] COOPER: Matt, I mean you the -- looking again to the fall, you have the President out tweeting and I just want to put up there is that either elect more Republican senators in 2018, or change the rules now to 51 percent, or a country needs a good shut down in September to fix the mess. It is interesting that he was attacking Democrats for threatening a shutdown the week before.

MATT LEWIS, SENIOR COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes, he was I actually read that -- is a message to the Freedom Caucus, who are criticizing him for cutting this bill, for this budget, this bipartisan omnibus budget deal. But this is common (INAUDIBLE). Ronald Reagan won the cold war but was not able to rein in spending. This bill cuts the EPA but like one percent, remember all the hand wringing about how it was going to slash the EPA, it doesn't do that.

And people wonder why do Republicans win elections when spending just keeps going up. You know, the Democrats the last time they were in power, they took a huge political risk to pass health care because they believed it was a moral imperative to give more people access to health care.

Republicans, the last time I checked when President Obama was president said that reining in the debt and the deficit was a moral imperative. When are they going to show some political courage to get that done?

COOPER: Ryan, it is hard for Mulvaney to stand up there and point to those photos of, you know, the fencing, you know, a steel replacing wall for fencing that currently exist. And spin that at somehow part of the president border wall when this is existing areas of fencing that's, you know, part of being updated.

RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORKER: I thought as it's ridiculous for him to point to one thing in the bill that wasn't there, right? The way you do it when you have a big compromise omnibus bill is each side spins the victories that are actually in there, right? So the Democrats are crowing about the things that they got that are actually in the bill.

If Trump wanted to crow about something, he could do with a lot of republicans on the Hill are doing, saying we got this massive increase in defense spending, previously in the omnibus bills when everyone wanted to increase the fence spending the discretionary spending had to go up by the same amount. They broke that in this bill, that's something Paul Ryan is bragging about.

So, it's strange that Trump disappointed by this deal when he did actually get at least some of his priority. But these are --


LIZZA: -- one of the thing -- look there -- all these conservatives who are upset about this, I don't think they have ever had to pass a bill through congress. There are two fundamental facts on these spending bills. The Freedom Caucus won't vote for spending bills. And in the Senate you have a fill filibuster. So unless you have a magic wand that can make those two things go away, you have to have democratic votes for this --

LEWIS: There's a structural problem that republicans will always get blamed for a government shutdown. And they would again if that happens.

COOPER: Maria, it is though -- and the White House does have some in their mind the victories that they can talk about on immigration. I mean that apprehension is border down like 60 percent over the last three months. I mean that would be one thing I would think the Trump administration would want to have out there for them.

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure but I think the problem is Donald Trump in essence brought this about himself talking about the border wall and talking about de-funding Planned Parenthood as kind of a definition of a win, right? We saw that going into this. So we are going get this --

COOPER: And Obamacare as well.

CARDONA: And Obamacare as well. And so when you're the president of the United States, and you're putting things out there for the public to then grade you on, at the end of the day, if he doesn't get any of that, of course it's going to look like a huge loss for him. I think Democrats are spiking the football not because it's a win for the Democrats but because they really believe it's a win for the American people. I mean we talked -- you've talked about it, right? Planned Parenthood is in there. Planned Parenthood gives health care to millions of women who wouldn't have it if wasn't for this clinic, right? You have money for science research, for clean energy, for EPA --

COPER: I do, I against with that --


COOPER: -- I think it's a win. I just don't know how the White House plans to spin it as a win.

CARDONA: Well, they can and I think that's the problem.

COOPER: All right I want get everyone to take on another vote that could come this week. A major effort is on their way on Capitol Hill right now to rescue the new GOP plan to replace Obamacare. The question is do they actually have enough votes? Details ahead.


[20:48:05] COOPER: The White House and GOP leadership are on the verge of losing their latest effort to replace Obamacare. Tonight, there's still short on yes votes and the bill could be about to collapse again. CNN's Sunlen Serfaty joins us now from the Capitol.

So where do things stand?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's really hanging by a thread up here, Anderson. On the outlook is not so good for House Republican leaders trying to get this through. And the numbers are certainly not on their side.

According to CNN's latest whip count, 22 House Republicans have now come out and said that they are against this bill, which is important because that means if one more, just one more House Republican stands up and says they are against this bill, that would kill its chances of moving forward in its current form.

Now, there is some stark reality in this and a Republican House leadership aide saying, like a broken record, "When we have the votes we will have a vote." We know there is no vote scheduled at this point. We know from the math and of course the floor schedule that they just don't have the votes at this time.

COOPER: It's like a haiku. When we have the votes, we'll have the vote. Are changes still being made at this point to try to get more members on board?

SERFATY: Well there certainly is a lot of buzz in the hallways up here on Capitol Hill that changes need to be made and many members want those changes to be made. But the way the House leadership is selling this bill right now to their members is this is the best option at this particular moment to get this through.

And Republican leadership admitting that they understand changes want to be made but telling us, we've not made any at this point and we don't know when we will. I think if we will is a big question as well.

I have to also point out that on Thursday they are facing this deadline where the House is scheduled to take a week long recess that evening. So all week, going into this week, Republican leadership thought this is their best opportunity, this four-day stretch this week to really hold tight on some small momentum that they had picked up.

[20:50:01] But I have to say going into Wednesday, looking at the math, these numbers, all the grumbling up here on Capitol Hill, they certainly are facing a much narrower window of time to get this done.

COOPER: How many weeks did they take off? It seems like every couple of weeks we're saying they have a recess coming up.

All right, Sunlen, it's another story. Sunlen, thanks very much.

Back now with the panel. Maria, it is interesting that, I mean, you know, they voted how many times to repeal and replace Obamacare while President Obama was in office. Obviously, he vetoed it. Unanimous votes, I think, from Republicans most times. And now that they're in power, they can't pass it.

CARDONA: And I think that's part of the big incompetence problem that is facing the Republican Congress because people did see them huffing and puffing while Obama was in power for them trying to repeal it knowing it would go anywhere, so they would pass it, right, 60 times and more than 60 times.

This is a process that took President Obama over a year to do. And for them to now come in with no plan after seven years and wanting to do something in a matter of weeks, makes them look even more incompetent, makes them look petty. But more importantly, makes them look completely disinterested in the real life and death implications of such a monumental legislation.

COOPER: Jeff, I keep thinking if -- and I mean people on the panel have said it for months. But I mean if the White House just focused, say, on infrastructure to start off with and formed a commission to figure out how to repeal and replace Obamacare and then a year from now done it, wouldn't they have saved themselves a lot of trouble?

LORD: I think in fairness to them that they felt that there was so much on the table they had promised --

COOPER: They had to do it.

LORD: That they had to do it, that the pressure was there. If they had done that, what you're suggesting and they had been successful, the steam would run out for Obamacare. And they really felt committed to it. That said, you know, they should have -- the House and Senate Republican should have had this ready to go the moment Donald Trump was sworn in or any --

COOPER: You are breaking ranks with the Republicans twice in a row tonight. You're going to have your card taken away.

POWERS: Actually, when you consider that for the last six years, they have insisted over and over that they had a plan, right?

COOPER: Right.

POWERS: So it actually didn't need to be done in a couple weeks. It should have been something that if you were making this a central argument for your party that this is what you were going to do, then you should theoretically have a plan do that.

And, you know, Mark Sanford came out today and said, "Well, it was always a pipe dream from the very beginning. You know, the idea of a full repeal." It's like what does that mean?

CARDONA: John Boehner said something similar --

POWERS: This is the central argument basically of why you should be electing Republicans.

COOPER: And that one more no vote and it's not going to pass.


COOPER: If it's even brought up.

LEWIS: Yes. It's right on the bubble right now. It seems like the momentum is against this happening. So I mean I think if you had to bet, you would bet that this doesn't happen. And it's, you know, it's pretty amazing that they can't get this done. Because, you know, again, even if this happened, then it goes to Senate, it would change --

COOPER: Right.

LEWIS: -- dramatically if it could even -- but they can't even do this. And I think that, you know, Paul Ryan, smart guy obviously, policy walk, you know -- Donald Trump gets a lot of blame. How much blame though do Republicans in Congress deserve?

COOPER: Right. And how much blame are they going to get next time around, the elections?

LIZZA: Well, I mean, some of the moderates you don't want to vote for this think -- might think that they dodged a bullet by not actually voting for something that takes away the regulations on pre-existing conditions.

And I think Matt is exactly right. Even if it passes the House, this thing -- that Senate has no appetite for the bill that might pass the House, right? So it would get rewritten in the Senate. They go to a conference committee. And then you'd be back in the House with the same buzz saw of the Freedom Caucus saying, no way, we're not going to vote for this thing that came out of the Senate and the conference committee and it would die. So this thing -- even if it passes the House, it seems very unlikely that it could go back to the House and pass.

And I think the important question is, what's the lesson Trump takes from this? Is the lesson he takes from this that the Freedom Caucus is a dead end, that he can't let them write this legislation because it can't get through the system? Or does he double down? And if he actually thinks that the Freedom Caucus is a dead end, you could actually come up with a bipartisan plan on the model of the spending bill that we were talking about in the last segment where you get Democrats on board and you realize that a lot of Republicans actually --

CARDONA: But to fix it, not repeal it.

LIZZA: --had actually come to terms with some major pieces of Obamacare and --


LEWIS: Ted Cruz was right when he said --

LIZZA: What's that?

LORD: And there will be a problem right there.

COOPER: Yes. But you don't think that's possible?

LORD: Well I think if they try to make that happen, I think there will be hell to pay. As we've talked --

COOPER: For the White House? For Republicans?

LORD: For the moderate Republicans --

COOPER: Moderate, right.

LORD: ... and Republicans in general. This is what we've talked about is what I call the Margaret Thatcher term, the socialist ratchet. In this case, Obama moved --


LORD: ... the health care system --

COOPER: Right.

LORD: --here and the idea of Republicans now is just come in and sit on it and tinker at the edges and manage it better and that's not --


CARDONA: But they're also pointing at very difficult -- the reality is that Obamacare is very popular right now. They're finding it very difficult to repeal legislation that is twice as popular as the president and three times more popular than members of Congress.

[20:55:12] LEWIS: Once you give somebody an entitlement, it's very difficult to take away. Ted Cruz is actually right about that. The 2012 election I think was actually the last shot Republicans had to actually repeal and replace. Once it was enacted --


LEWIS: -- people now have this assumption that it is the government's responsibility to provide them with health care.

COOPER: Right. And the pre-existing conditions should --

LIZZA: Right, but Trump can do this in a second. Trump and the entire primary, he reinvented Republican orthodoxy all the time, right? Anti-free trade, protect Medicare and that was Trumpism.

If he tomorrow said, you know what, my plan is we're going to accept the Medicaid expansion, we're going to tinker around the edges on the regulations, we're going to stabilize the insurance exchanges, this plan is now called Trumpcare, he could sell that to his base.

COOPER: There's a lot more to get to in the next hour, including new reporting on our Russia/White House watch. Sources say that former acting Attorney General Sally Yates will testify on Capitol Hill that she gave a forceful warning to the White House that Michael Flynn, the then national security adviser, Russia contacts may have left him compromised. That contradicts what the administration said Sally Yates had said or the way they characterized her warning. Details on that in a minute.


Welcome back. We begin this hour with the Russia/White House watch. The ongoing investigations into Russia's meddling the election. Now next week, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates will testify in an open hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.