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Former FBI Chief Named Special Counsel In Russia Probe; Trump: "There Was No Collusion"; Senate Intel Committee Leaders Praise Naming Of Special Counsel; N.Y. Times: Flynn Warned Trump Transition Team He was Under Investigation. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired May 17, 2017 - 21:00   ET


[21:00:02] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: -- law that was broken. Democrats could still say, what about, you know, there are -- seems like there's acts of collusion, whether or not they're illegal or not, it's a question of are they appropriate.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I think the only appropriate answer to that is I don't know at this point. And -- I'm not sure that answer is knowable at this point.

You know, Mueller is in addition to being a very accomplished prosecutor. He's also a very experienced person in Washington and in the world. And he understands the importance of the larger questions here, independent of the criminal culpability of any individual.

So he will be aware of the need for some sort of public disclosure. Whether he files a report, how he makes a public disclosure, I don't know what the answer is and I don't know if he knows at this point.

But certainly -- I mean, you know, Alan was saying it's all over. We'll never know. He's just going to either indict or fold up shop. I don't know that that's the case and I think it may -- will not be.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: But can tell you the fear in the White House is that there will be answers to questions we didn't even know we had and that's the fear of a special prosecutor.

The other thing that I just want to add really quickly is the idea of him lawyering up, that my understanding is that the advice that he's going to get is he should do that immediately, not just for his own personal legal reasons, but also to protect the White House staff in a way that they haven't been protected.

Your friend, Lanny Davis, was taking all the incoming during the Clinton administration or at least the White House staff could deflect to him in a way that this White House staff has not been able to do yet.


(CROSSTALK) PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: When the White House put out statements, very interesting, just three sentences. "No collusion. I look forward to being resolved quickly. I'll never stop fighting for issues that matters." The sentence is not in there. I and my staff and my campaign will cooperate fully. He is going to have to.

He's making a huge mistake politically and probably legally by not volunteering that he will cooperate fully. There are going to be evidence that will be subpoenaed. You don't have an option. Witnesses will be called. He should pledge full cooperation. And the fact that he has not tells me something.

MCENANY: He's going to fully cooperate.


BEGALA: Why do you say so?

MCENANY: Let me tell you the individuals who should be scared. As we know this investigation has wide latitude. It can go any which way. The folks who should be very frightened right now are the leakers who have committed felonies, who have endangered national security, not the Trump administration.

There's no evidence of Russian collusion. People point to Carter Page, a fired staffer who never met President Trump who was given a cease and desist order. That's not evidence of collusion. There's zero evidence and this is not going to be --

COOPER: But when you say he is going to cooperate, I mean, you don't know what the White House response is going to be. You have no way to know.

MCENANY: They are going to cooperate. That statement indicates. We know that President Trump when he's not going to cooperate with something he announces it, he says it. The statement indicates cooperation.

COOPER: But he has already said, -- I mean, his whole attitude toward all these investigations has been, "Look, if they want to investigate, they can investigate." He's never given a full throated, "We are going to give them all the information they wants," statement.

MCENANY: He has said in an interview just last week, "I want this to be fully vetted. I want it to wrap up quickly. I want my name to be (inaudible)."


JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Remember, one thing that scared about -- and remember in Washington also, people change dance partners frequently, but rarely do they change dances and are teams.

And so what's happening now, everybody is saying, "Mueller is this great guy and we all like him." But I have a feeling, you know, two months from now people are going to be saying, "What's he doing going after Tony Podesta and the Iranian deal?" And everybody is going to have Paul Begala's reaction right now.

COOPER: Try not to --


KINGSTON: How did Monica Lewinsky ends up being one of the victims of a real estate investigation called whitewater? I mean, we never really know which direction they're going to go in because they have broad latitude.

TOOBIN: That's really an important point, actually. I mean -- and, you know, brother Begala certainly knows this because I used to visit him in his officer in the west-wing.

I mean, this was -- you don't know where this is going to go. And, you know, once you have someone with subpoena power -- I mean, the Ken Starr's investigation began with a land deal in Arkansas and it land up with Monica Lewinsky.

COOPER: Well, Paul, I mean, since you lived through that to the congressman's point, what does it do to a White House? I mean, you talked the other night about President Clinton's ability to compartmentalize stuff and you said, "Yet, I though he had a remarkable ability and people's (inaudible) that."

But, what is it do to a White House in terms of, you know, for Republicans who -- and people who want the president's legislative agenda to move forward, what is it --

BEGALA: Right. There are good people in that building who are going to become collateral damage. This president will throw them under the bus. They need to listen what John Dean said. They need to do what President Clinton did, which is compartmentalize.

It was our second term. We've really have our act together. It's was a very well run shot at that point. We warned at the early stages like President Trump is when you can have a lot of bumping.

So, there were very few people -- I was one of them -- assigned to impeachment. Everybody else had to do their job. And if you talked about it in a meeting, you were punished, you were chastise. I'm not kidding.

[21:05:05] People stayed in their lanes. We call it the parallel universe. And if you were not part of the parallel universe --

COOPER: It doesn't seem there's a lot of lanes --


COOPER: We've got to take a break. For our viewers who are joining us, we are continuing -- we're going to continue to bring all the latest tonight. First, let's go to Pamela Brown for the latest on this story. Pamela?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest is that Rod Rosenstein, Anderson, the deputy attorney general wanted to make sure that he didn't give a long advance warning to the White House and to the Attorney General Jeff Sessions about this decision to appoint Bob Mueller as special counsel.

In fact, the White House was basically blind sided by this, only finding out about half an hour before the announcement and after Bob Mueller had already signed the order that he would essentially take over the Russia probe. So it's clear that Rod Rosenstein wanted to do this by the book and that is a big reason why he didn't give that advance warning.

And we're told, Anderson, that this decision to do this had been in the works for several days, at least since shortly after the firing of the former FBI Director James Comey. In fact, we know that Bob Mueller was at the Justice Department the day after meeting with Rosenstein.

But even as of late Friday, Rosenstein was telling people around him, according to our sources, that he didn't feel a need to appoint a special counsel. That he felt like, you know, unless the FBI investigation was imperiled that there was no need.

But, clearly, there have been new revelations, including the latest one yesterday that the president allegedly told James Comey that he wanted him to stop the Flynn probe back in February. It raises the question, Anderson, if that was a tipping point for this or sort of how that factored into all of this.

COOPER: And Rosenstein making this decision today. He'd actually recently stated he didn't think a special counsel was needed, right?

BROWN: Yeah. No, that's exactly right. So he had been telling those people that -- around him that, look, you know, I don't think it's needed despite the growing pressure from Capitol Hill, despite, you know, with the Democrats in particular were saying that he needed to do so or resign, he wasn't letting the pressure get to him according to sources we've been speaking with.

And he said he was sort of resisting the calls for a special counsel. So it does make you believe that the latest revelation about James Comey's memos did play a role in this decision to in fact bring Bob Mueller on board as special counsel and remove the Justice Department from the investigation.

COOPER: And just to be clear, I mean, there's a possibility the President of the United States would be interviewed or would have to testify in some way?

BROWN: Yeah, absolutely. He could be deposed, depending on what Bob Mueller sees fit in this investigation. So, essentially, he will have all the authority as the attorney general, so he can convene a grand jury. He can issue subpoenas. He can certainly have the president interviewed as part of this investigation, whatever he thinks is necessary.

COOPER: And as part of this investigation, would he also be looking into the idea of obstruction of justice?

BROWN: He very well could. And what could be telling here is if the Comey memos are released, because if they're not, if he doesn't want them released that could be an indication that he is looking at whether the president tried to interfere in the investigation and obstruct justice.

And so he would want to keep those memos private close hold because it would be a key part of the investigation. We're not sure if that's the direction he wants to go in, but that's just something to look out for, Anderson.

COOPER: Pam Brown, thanks.

For new reaction to White House, let's go right now to CNN's Jim Acosta. So, what is the White House saying tonight?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Anderson, I just talked to a White House official here who describes staffers here as exhausted, "exhausted," because of the last 72 hours of bombshell announcements.

The Russia news that came down Monday when it was revealed that the president talked about classified information with Russian officials. Then last night's news about the Comey memo in which the retired -- former resign -- excuse me, former FBI director said that the president tried to shut down the Flynn investigation. Then, of course, the news that is coming down tonight that Bob Mueller is the special counsel in the Russia investigation.

And I think one other very interesting point, Anderson, to point out and I just got this from administration official that the Attorney General Jeff Sessions was here at the White House when the Mueller news came down. So the president and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions were both very much in the dark when this news came down from the Justice Department that a special counsel had been named.

At the same time, we should point out the response from the White House, the official response from the White House coming from the president is very restrained, very toned down. Let's put this statement up, if we can, just to show you how restrained this is. No shots taken at anybody here.

Here is the president saying, "As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we know. There was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity." He goes on to say, "I look forward to this matter concluding quickly. In the meantime, I will never stop fighting for the people and the issues that matter most to the future of our country."

[21:10:08] But, Anderson, President Trump is going to be waking up to a very different world tomorrow. That is because he cannot, as he did, with the former FBI Director Jim Comey call him over here at the White House for a meeting, for a dinner and try to apply pressure on him. He cannot do that obviously with Bob Mueller, the special prosecutor. As everybody has said over the last several hours since this announcement came down, his credentials, his reputation is really beyond any question, Anderson.

COOPER: Yeah. Jim Acosta, appreciate the update. Thank you.

Not everyone is surprised by the way President Trump has been behaving lately, Tony Schwartz, for example. Three decades ago, Schwartz spent nearly a year with Donald Trump writing the book, "The Art of the deal."

He spent hundreds of hours with him and in a new op-ed in "The Washington Post" he says that President Trump is doing what citizen Trump always did, reacting impulsively and defensively blaming others and inventing stories that don't depend on facts. Tony Schwartz joins us now.

So, Tony, I mean, your regular (ph) op-ed is fascinating knowing the president like you do and you did. I mean, you spent on off a lot of time over the course that year. How do you think he is handling and has handled all of this information, but also the news of a special counsel being appointed?

TONY SCHWARTZ, CO-AUTHOR, "THE ART OF THE DEAL": I think he's in a pretty significant meltdown, Anderson. I think that the sense of siege that he feels because his sense of self-worth is so, so vulnerable that the series of things that have happened have been overwhelming to him.

I think he is reacting from, as I say in the piece, I think he's reacting from a survival place. I think he is being run by the part of his brain that is reactive and impulsive, not capable of flexion. And I think he is in pure defensive mode.

COOPER: I want to go deeper on that, because one of the things you write about -- and this is based on your experiences with him over so long a period of time and getting into his head -- is that he basically -- you wrote that he kind of lives his life in survival mode, that every interaction with him, it's about winning it or losing it. There was -- it's a binary choice. You either win or lose. And this goes back really his entire life.

SCHWARTZ: Yeah. It goes to his very early childhood with a very brutal, difficult father with whom by his own definition he had a business relationship. And guess what from the perspective of attachment, you can't grow up in a healthy way if you lack love from a parent. And the only parent that he valued was his father. His father overwhelmed or overpowered his mother as well.

COOPER: It's interesting --


COOPER: -- is the only photograph he has behind his desk in the Oval Officer or at least did for a long time.

SCHWARTZ: Yeah. I mean, I think, you know, there's a kind of omerta (ph) there. There's a family kind of loyalty, although it's been fascinating to me to watch that and evidence of his meltdown is the fact that he started to scream at Jared Kushner.

Honestly, I think his kids are next and I guess his boys, he doesn't need to worry about or blame because they're not part of it right now. But I can honestly easily see him going after Ivanka if she says the wrong thing right now.

One of the things I say in this piece is that I remember very vividly when I was working with him how terrified people would be of going up against him in any way when he was feeling -- when you could sense that he was feeling the way I guarantee you he is feeling right now.

COOPER: You point to the fact that in the hundreds of phone calls that you listened in on, with his consent I should point out, in all those meetings you went to with him, you never remember anyone ever disagreeing with him to his face. I mean, does he want anyone to disagree with him, because that's -- one of the questions is does he have people around him who can say, "You know what, you shouldn't get on the Twitter machine right now or you should, you know, not say this."

SCHWARTZ: Anderson, this is the most important thing. We've normalized a person who is not in any way normal. Now, I recognize that there are plenty of critics now out there, but this is not a person operating according to ordinary human expectations. And --

COOPER: So, although I would push back on that. Is anyone who reaches the level of president operating, you know -- I mean, to do what it takes to get to that level, it's an extraordinary level of achievement. I'm not sure it's the normal --

SCHWARTZ: No question. But what he lacks as I say because he was so involved in defending himself and still is, is he lacks the qualities that you ordinarily see in someone as they mature, as they grow more secure.

So he lacks empathy, the ability to really connect with other people, self-awareness and above all a conscience, so a clear distinction between right and wrong. There is no right and wrong for Trump. There's winning and losing and that's very different than right and wrong. And right now, he is in pure terror that he is going to lose.

[21:15:03] And by the way, he is going to lose. I surely believe that at some point over the next period of time, he is going to have to figure out a way to resign. And the reason he's going to do that as opposed to go through what could be an impeachment process or a continuing humiliation is that he wants to figure out a way as he has done all his career to turn a loss into a victory. And so he will declare victory when he leaves.

COOPER: You know, you wrote that beneath his exterior. You said -- you sense, "A hurt, incredibly vulnerable little boy who just wanted to be loved." I think a lot of people might be surprised to hear that. But, I know, you know -- I mean, my interviews with him and other people I've talked to who've spent time with him, there is this need of him -- I've never met somebody at his level who does kind of look for approval in some way from, you know, you can -- if you give him a compliment, you can see it wash over him.

SCHWARTZ: No question. I mean, he lives in deficit. And I describe him in this piece as a black hole that you pour adulation and achievement and conquest into him and it just pours out the other end. It doesn't stick. And all I think he wants is for people to love him.

Now, that's really dangerous because he wants people to love him and to adore him so much that he would like not to have any dissent. So he would like not to have a free press because they criticize him. And he would like not to be involved in being president in a democracy because that allows people to disagree with him. So, those authoritarian instincts are really psychological and emotional, not ideological.

COOPER: I remember something you tweeted out, it might have been a year ago, but it stuck in my mind and I've always kind of thought about this when I read the president's tweets or things he says that the criticisms he makes of others, the attacks that he launches on our people, the actual adjectives that he used -- I don't want to paraphrase you too much, but that the adjectives he used to attack other people is what he actually thinks of himself.

So when he calls Comey a grandstander, it's actually what he thinks of himself. When he says somebody is weak, that's what he worries about himself. Am I characterizing what you said correctly?

SCHWARTZ: Very accurately. I mean, it's projecting on to others what he sees in himself and cannot own or must disown. And that is if you look at his tweets -- it would be wonderful for somebody to do a PhD thesis on this.

If you look at his tweets, any ones that relate to other people, I think you can find an amazingly consistent pattern and actually a very accurate self-portrait. I'd love to see somebody do that because the attacks are exactly, you know, young would have called this the shadow. They're exactly the aspects of himself that he finds most intolerable.

COOPER: Then, I'll never going to have a ghostwriter because you know everything about your subject. I don't want anybody to know me this well. Tony Schwartz --

SCHWARTZ: Yeah. I'm never going to do it again. Don't worry.

COOPER: Yeah. You seem affected by it as well. I appreciate you being with us again, thanks. Again, that's a "Washington Post" op-ed.

I want to bring in the panel, Dana Bash, Jeffrey Toobin, Alan Dershowitz, Gloria Borger, Kirsten Powers, and Philip Mudd. It is interesting. It's fascinating to hear from Tony Schwartz.

TOOBIN: Can I just say, you know, Jane Mayer, my colleague at "The New Yorker" did a piece with Tony Schwartz before the campaign. It was when Tony sort of first --

COOPER: Right, publicly. TOOBIN: And it -- I mean, his insights into Trump's character are so amazing. And, you know, I think that interview undoubtedly whetted people's appetite. "The Washington Post" op-ed piece, Jane's piece in "The New Yorker," I mean, this guy really knows Trump better than almost anybody who's written about him.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: We shouldn't overstate some of the psychological things. I think it goes a little too far to say that every insult he throws really is looking at himself in the mirror. We have to be very careful in kind of psychologizing --

COOPER: Right. Well, although there is a pattern to the insult that he gives to other people and it does after while make you wonder why are these -- like, why is winning such a big --

DERSHOWITZ: But if you listen to him, you would think this guy would have ended up in bankruptcy court somewhere.

COOPER: Actually, no. I actually think --

DERSHOWITZ: And not being a very great success.

COOPER: I actually think the opposite. I think most people who attain a great level of success are actually pretty unhappy. And, you know, it comes from a deep place of like longing and need. And I speak from someone who is, you know, relatively successful.

BASH: Anderson, would you like to go off the couch?


DERSHOWITZ: But you're speaking about us, too.

COOPER: Well, you know, yes. I'm sorry, go ahead.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Anderson, there's one other interesting thing that, of course, Tony Schwartz wrote about in the book "The Art of the Deal," because he had to come up with a way, he says and he's written about this and talked to us about it to describe the president's to describe the president's -- let's call it special relationship with the truth and he called it truthful hyperbole, which is his way as he says of figuring out how to say Donald Trump was lying which he did quite frequently without saying that he was lying.

[21:20:22] And when he presented it to Donald Trump and said, "Well, look, this is the way I'm going to talk about you and I'm going to say you engage in truthful hyperbole," Trump thought this was a great idea. That this was the best thing that he had ever heard and he kind of gave him a rationale for not telling the truth for which I think Tony feels forever regretful.

COOPER: We should also say -- I mean, look, the president is also charming one-on-one.


COOPER: And I enjoy talking to him as I think many people who do interview him do enjoy talking to him. But, Kirsten --


COOPER: -- in terms of what's happening now, political transgressions are not necessarily legal transgressions. Robert Mueller's job is not to parse President Trump's qualities as a leader. But you can expect members of Congress are obviously going to continue to try to do that.

POWERS: Right. But I think that this is a really important point to remember, is that telling the truth is actually really important when you're under investigation and you're put under oath, because if you look back to what got President Clinton ultimately in trouble it was perjuring himself. When you look back to what ultimately got Scooter Libby, it was two perjury counts, you know, and an obstruction of justice account as well.

So, I think that the fact that he often -- President Trump often does -- I think what Tony Schwartz said, invention of stories, I would say he maybe doesn't always remember things exactly the way that they happened. We could think of inauguration day would be a good example of that where he kept insisting that the crowds were a certain size when they're weren't. And when you are put under oath and you start having problems telling the truth, I think that you can get into a lot of trouble.

You also have a White House that I don't think anyone would accuse of being run like a well-oiled machine necessarily and that's not even -- I'm not trying to be critical. It's a new White House, who are now going to be thrust in the middle of investigation where you have to -- all your ducks in a row. You have to answer all these questions so honestly and so clearly. And you do wonder what kind of problems could come out of this just from them not answering those questions accurately.

COOPER: And Phil Mudd, I mean, if President Trump had not fired James Comey, do you think he would be facing the special counsel investigation tonight?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I don't think he would. If you look at James Comey's integrity, the people I talked to question his judgment over the past year, for example some of the comments he made about Hillary Clinton after he closed the case, but nobody questioned the guy's integrity or his drive. And I don't think, especially after President Trump humiliated the law enforcement and intelligence community, the investigators and analysts in this case would ever let this bone go.

So I think if Comey were still there -- somebody earlier said that the firing of James Comey got the White House in a worse position. I completely agree. He would have proceeded with this if anything now the White House can't get 10 feet way from this. And Robert Mueller, whom I know personally, won't let him within 10 feet.

COOPER: And, Dana, you have new reporting about how this all transpired for Rosenstein.

BASH: Well, the fact to the matter is that -- yeah, and we reported this real time last week, which I know it seems like two years ago. But it was, you know, when Rosenstein was basically thrown under the bus from his perspective about the Comey firing that he was blamed. They put out a memo saying it was just him. That's when he started to get really, really angry with the White House and it does continued.

I talked to Republican source who was touch with him who said that he was to the point where he was just going to pack his bags. Meaning, he was done. And then I continued to escalate to the point where he was very reluctant to go to Congress. He is going to go to Congress. I don't have any indication that that has been canceled tomorrow, but he is meeting behind closed doors with the Senate.

He wanted to more, more distance himself with this White House and to be the point person on this White -- on this investigation of this White House and that was a big reason.

And so the question now is whether or not James Comey is now going to testify publicly as, you know, this time -- yesterday, we were all talking about that that was going to be the next big thing because Republicans in Congress said that they wanted him to come and really explain himself before the public about what he said in those memos that the president asked him to do that was clearly -- allegedly inappropriate.

But if I -- just to finish. I think that the thing that we need to remember, though, is to sort of connect the dots to the truth, to my reporting tonight, and to the big bombshell news tonight is that this whole question of collusion that James Comey testified about that got the president angry, you know, in March. All of that, it could be small potatoes at the end of the day.

I'm getting tweets, questions about whether or not James -- Robert Mueller will be able to get the president's tax returns. I showed it to him and he said, "If he thinks it's relevant, sure." This could expand and mushroom to a place where the president couldn't even have dreamed when he fired James Comey.

[21:25:02] COOPER: Professor Dershowitz, you were talking about this before. You were giving advice to the president, you would say get a lawyer.

DERSHOWITZ: Well, I would say not only get a lawyer, but I think he has to understand and he has to be told that a grand jury investigation is not a search for truth. A trial is not a search for truth. If it were, we wouldn't say, (inaudible) guilty, go free then one should be wrongly excluded. We wouldn't keep evidence out that is truthful but obtained unlawfully.

A grand jury proceeding is a search for admissible evidence on one side. It is the most fundamental denial of civil liberties. And civil liberties is often the first casualty of partisan politics. We have people say -- talking in the Democratic side, people were talking in the Republican side, nobody is here speaking up on behalf of civil liberties.

Now, even if you are opposed to Trump, I don't like the president that gets sick by going after people in an unfair way. The American Civil Liberties Union is drop the ball on this. They are only after Trump. So somebody has to speak up on behalf of the civil liberties of all Americans and remind people that grand jury take secret testimony. They don't have a lawyer present. You can't rebut the evidence. They only take evidence against you. They don't consider the evidence in your favor. Let's not glorify grand jury proceedings.


TOOBIN: I mean Alan doesn't like grand juries. I think there are lots of responsible prosecutors out there. I think Bob Mueller is a responsible prosecutor. Yes, he is looking for admissible evidence in a possible trial, but he's also trying to figure out what happened. And I think that is an honorable thing. And I think he is an honorable person and I expect that what he'll do.

DERSHOWITZ: I agree, with prosecutor.

TOOBIN: But just to go back to the question you asked, which is what advice would you give Donald Trump. The advice you would give, whether he would follow, this is (inaudible), is don't talk about this subject. Say it's under investigation. I don't want to talk about it.

COOPER: Which is what he could have said all along.

TOOBIN: Would be could have said all along and what he should have said but, you know, that's not how he roll (ph).

DERSHOWITZ: And so if you have a lawyer, don't necessarily announce it. And it doesn't have to be a lawyer who is well-known. Just somebody who is experienced that you can go to confidentially and discreetly and get advice. I suspect he may have such a person, because he is not tweeting and talking as much.

POWERS: Right.

COOPER: Kirsten, do you think congressional Republicans tonight are just breathing a big sigh of relief?

POWERS: Well, it sort of depends. I think if you think that he is innocent, then you should be breathing a sigh of relief, because I think that if ultimately this investigation is seen all the way through, this is a result that would be accepted by most people.

Maybe not bipartisan Democrats, you have Nancy Pelosi who still saying she wants an independent commission, but I think as compared to the investigations that are going on the Hill, which most people see as partisan, I think most people would look at this and say that this is a respected person and whatever he finds would be accepted.

If he is not innocent, and I think obviously there's a lot to be concerned about because this is somebody with very broad authority that is going -- and has a good reputation and if something is there, they'll probably find it.

COOPER: Yeah. We have to -- we have a lot more ahead, including late reaction from Capitol Hill where lawmakers have been grappling with the investigation with one another obviously four months now. And later, more on why the choice of Robert Mueller is drawing such bipartisan praise, a close to look at who he is, what makes him thick and how he earned this reputation.


[21:30:54] COOPER: The naming of a special counsel in the Russia investigation came just as a number of Republican lawmakers began signaling their acceptance should one be named. In some ways, it takes the pressure off.

At the same time, the congressional probes do continue. And in a moment, we're going to speak with one of the Congress members who are part of it. First, wider reaction on the Hill. Sunlen Serfaty joins us with that.

So what have you been hearing on the Hill tonight?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, overwhelmingly positive reaction up here on Capitol Hill, Anderson. Really, that has already gone a long way in lowering the temperatures up here. We heard from Democrats and Republicans really praising this choice saying that Bob Mueller is someone who is very well respected, has a long history of integrity, someone who basically is a known commodity to a lot of the lawmakers up here.

And we heard earlier this evening from the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, and the Ranking Member Mark Warner who, of course, are leading their own investigation in Senate side praising this pick.

They said in a statement, "The appointment of former FBI director and respected lawyer, Robert Mueller, as special counsel for the Russia investigation is a positive development and will provide some certainty for the American people that the investigation will proceed fairly and free of political influence. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will continue its own investigation and to the extent any deconfliction is required, we will engage with Director Mueller and our expectation is that he will engage with the committee as well."

So, emphasizing there in the statement very clear that their investigation does not stop and continue and they expect to have some sort of engagement as going forward with Director Mueller.

COOPER: Right. So the Senate Intelligence Committee said they're going to engage, they're going to work with Mueller during the investigation. There are other investigations into Russia's meddling both the House and the Senate. Do we know what happens to those investigations?

SERFATY: That's right. There are multiple layers to these investigations in both the House and Senate side. And we believe that those all will continue to go on, that that work doesn't stop, that it works in tandem with what Mueller will be working on and starting to be working on.

But I think that there's a real sense and a feeling up here on Capitol Hill that what that does is it takes a little pressure off those who are working up here on Capitol Hill. As, you know, there's been a daily drip of news and lawmakers have had to respond to every little movement of this story. So this might give them a sense of some room to work.

And as they work on their own investigations, we heard from one Republican congressman who is on the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Russia ties and he said he believes that the move would help diffuse the rhetoric on Capitol Hill that everything up here he said has become so partisan and he thinks this choice of this particular special council goes a long way to help diffuse that.

COOPER: All right, Sunlen Serfaty, thanks.

More now from Capitol Hill. Shortly before air time, I spoke with Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. He's a Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee.


COOPER: Congressman, first, I just want to get your reaction to the naming of a special counsel in the Russia investigation.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL, (D) HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It's welcome news, Anderson. This investigation was disrupted last week when President Trump fired the chief investigator, Director Comey. So, I hope this is a way to get that investigation back on track and that the American people can learn whether anyone in the United States worked with Russia during its interference campaign.

COOPER: You'd call for an independent commission to investigate Russian interference. Is that no longer necessary in light of tonight's news?

SWALWELL: No, more necessary than ever. And that's, you know, the other part of the solution here. You know, an independent commission looks forward and we know from the intelligence community that Russia intends to attack us again. And so this would be a commission that would be charged with understanding how we were so vulnerable, whether any U.S. persons were involved, but most importantly, what reforms are necessary so that future elections are secure. And right now, I don't think that can happen anywhere other than in an independent commissioner.

COOPER: So you're saying a special counsel is basically just investigating the legality of what may have occurred in the past and the independent commission would be looking forward, although, would you want an independent commission to also look at Russian interference or potential collusion? [21:34:59] SWALWELL: So an independent commission would look at of course whether any U.S. persons were involved. So the 9/11 commission I think is the best example. It looked at how we were so vulnerable, what the response was and then what reforms are necessary. So, vulnerability like that could never be exposed again.

And so, the Department of Justice is charged, you know, with looking backward at a crime that may have occurred. And, you know, they should still do that. But people are concerned that we're going to find ourselves in a mess like this again. Either because Russia will attack us, or other countries with similar capabilities will come at us. And so, we owe it to the American people to make sure that we're never in a mess like this again.

COOPER: Does the naming of a special counsel relive any concerns you may have had about a thorough investigation into Russian interference?

SWALWELL: Certainly on the criminal prosecution side. You know, Bob Mueller has -- is an individual with the highest integrity who served during some of the toughest times in our nation's history. So, I am more at ease today about the criminal side. But the duty to protect the ballot box and the integrity of free and fair elections, that's on us. That's on Congress and we should not shirk that responsibility.

COOPER: Have you heard from any of your Republican colleagues about this appointment?

SWALWELL: So -- no, I have not yet. But, you know, two Republicans have supported our legislation for an independent commission. And now -- today, we have forced a vote on it. So we've started the process to force a vote because the speaker of the House will not bring it forward for a vote. And so, we're hoping we have enough signatures by the end of the week for the House to vote on this.

COOPER: Lastly, I just want to ask you about "The Washington Post" has just reported that they have a recording of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy last June saying, "There's two people I think Putin pays, Rohrabacher and Trump." Dana Rohrabacher is obviously your Republican colleague in the House from California. What's your reaction to that?

SWALWELL: Well, it's a concerning comment from the House majority leaders. So I asked, Anderson, you know, first, is he speaking with personal knowledge? And if so, did he pass this along to anyone?

I was also concerned that the speaker is accused of saying, you know, let's keep this in the family and not let this outside of this circle of people. And, you know, to me, we're all very concerned about the allegations of ties between Donald Trump to Russia. And we have not seen any action from House or Senate Republicans to get to the bottom of what happened and what we can do to make sure we're never in a position like this again.

So, you know, it's not a joke to me. That's the defense. This is serious stuff. And the American people expect a serious response.

COOPER: Congressman Swalwell, appreciate your time. Thanks.

SWALWELL: My pleasure.


COOPER: More perspective now from David Gergen, who served in the Nixon White House among others, Carl Bernstein, who investigated the Nixon White House and Jason Miller, who served in the Trump campaign.

David, you said on this program last night, "I think we're in impeachment territory now for the first time." How does naming Robert Mueller as special counsel affect your thinking on that?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's the same conclusion, Anderson. I do think it's very good news for the country. You know, this is the first time that the administration has moved in such a way as to give us reassurance that the investigations will be carried out fairly, carefully and, you know, with -- letting the facts go where they might and an independent in a political influence.

At the same time, I do think this is so -- it's so obvious we're seeing a pattern now that this investigation is broadening from what it originally was, which was about is there possible collusion to -- did the White House or did the president personally try to impede or influence the outcome of the investigation that was then under way? And if so, did he break any laws?

And what we know in Robert Mueller in addition to being, you know, so respected, he's going to have enormous authority here. If he decides -- the Justice Department now has given up to Mueller the right to decide who should be prosecuted and who shouldn't. That is -- you know, those are big decisions for a prosecutor.

And also, Mueller is going to be the one to decide now whether the president has broken any law and if so what should be done. That -- and for the White House, that is not good news. Special prosecutors have a way of digging in and gradually finding things they didn't even know were there to start with and the investigations can sway off into a different direction.

As you'll recall, the Bill Clinton years, when that -- I thought dreadful investigation started into his -- into Whitewater, it eventually led us to Ken Starr and to Monica Lewinsky. That's not where it started. That's what -- the Trump White House has now lost control over that outcome of this investigation.

COOPER: Jason, do you worry about that? I mean, where special prosecutor ends up going?

JASON MILLER, FORMER SR. COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Well, I think there is a responsibility both from Democrats and from the media first and foremost to not treat this as a solution in search of a problem. For everyone who's been clamoring for a special counsel and now that there is one, we have to let it run its course.

But I think there's a bigger, broader point for the administration here that's actually a little bit of a silver lining. That too much good news has been getting drowned out over the past couple of weeks when we talk about immigration being down 70 percent. We talk about unemployment being at a 10-year low. All the great things that are happening under President Trump aren't getting picked up at all.

[21:40:04] And pretty clear, this is really engulfed everything in the administration because of this constant media barrage. This is an opportunity really to reset the entire narrative of the administration because now it's in the hands of a special counsel.

COOPER: That does require the president though not to continue to comment on and not to continue -- I mean, that requires some discipline from the president himself as well.

MILLER: Well -- and, look, I think that both the president and the administration is smart enough to realize that there's always going to be some aspect of this administrative state they will be trying to leak information and trying to get him.

But this is why I went back to that point where it's so important for the special counsel, Democrats, even members of the media -- again, we can't let this become a solution in search of a problem. But the administration now has to get back to those core messages to help the president win this past fall, taxes, trade, immigration, defeating ISIS.

When he is talking about these issues, and in particular before this big international trip, I mean, if this news had broke while he was on that trip or immediately coming back, that would have, again, wiped out all the good coverage I think there will be from seeing President Trump on the world stage. They have to treat this as an opportunity. They have to be very focused going forward.

COOPER: Apologize for coughing. Carl, how do you see it?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, what Rod Rosenstein did here is he threw a monkey wrench into a cover up that has been conducted at the White House. And interestingly enough, we have never known exactly what the cover up was about.

What it is that the president or those around him in his campaign have been trying to keep us from knowing and why Comey was fired for trying to find out what that was about. We are going to find out because there now is a real investigation that the President of the United States can no longer control.

So, it's a great moment in which the country can finally say, "Oh, we're pulling back from this terribly dangerous moment in which the rule of law was being flouted and it looked like there was very little possibility that the rule of law would prevail." Now, there's a real chance that it will prevail.

And also, the press, what the press has done here by seeking the best obtainable version of the truth through four months of the Trump presidency is directly responsible for finally getting a mechanism in place in which the rule of law can prevail. The press, particularly "The New York Times", "The Washington Post", "The Wall Street Journal", CNN to some extent as well, and other news organizations have done nothing heroic. They have simply done their job. And the result is that we now have broken a cover up and we have a chance to find up -- find out what has really happened.

MILLER: I have to jump in just make one point. If you go back and look at deputy director -- the Deputy A.G. Rosenstein, his comment tonight, I mean he made very clear in announcing the special counsel that there had not been -- this was not an indication that something illegal or improper had happened. It was the fact that they're going to continue going through this and make sure that they do a thorough job. And I think it's important to point that out.

The core fundamental criticism here, the attack or whatever you want to call it, is that there was some type of coordination between the campaign and a foreign entity. And so far, there hasn't been one shred of evidence that's been put forward saying that that's the case.

Now, we have a special counsel that will go through, but I do think that we have an obligation to not rush and jump to conclusions, especially now that it's in the hands of a special counsel.

BERNSTEIN: I think that's very true. There's no need to jump to conclusions. But the conclusion that we had very solid evidence of was that the White House was trying to prevent the truth from being known both to the public and to investigators. That's what the firing of Comey was about. We have now jumped a big fence, Jason. And we now have a mechanism in place in which the rule of law has a real chance of succeeding.

COOPER: David --

BERNSTEIN: That's all I'm saying, without prejudging.

COOPER: David, I want you to have the final word.

GERGEN: Yeah. I must agree with Carl. But I do want to add one note. This -- the center of gravity in this investigation and what we know seems to be more serious, there may not be collusion or it may be vague or whatever it is, but the evidence is piling up that the president was particularly anxious to protect General Flynn.

We've learned tonight from "The New York Times" that Flynn told people on the Trump team weeks before they came -- Sally Yates came over that he was under federal investigation for his lobbying on behalf of Turkey and yet they've --

COOPER: Yeah. I think we should point out we had not -- CNN has not independently confirmed that yet.

GERGEN: Well, I'm glad you told me that. But, nonetheless, there is growing evidence that Trump -- he fired Comey after -- he asked Comey to drop the investigation against Flynn. He's been very solicitous about Flynn. Flynn seems increasingly at the center of this and the question becomes what is Trump's relationship with Flynn? And why is he looking at what we're looking at?

[21:45:10] COOPER: Yeah. David Gergen, Carl Beirnstein, Jason Miller, thanks very much.

Coming up, what we know about the man who was been chosen to lead the Russia investigation. A closer look at former FBI director Robert Mueller, next.


COOPER: It may have come as a surprise about the White House and the country that a special counsel had been named to the Russian investigation. But lawmakers from both parties said that Robert Mueller is a good choice, the former FBI director as well respected both sides of the aisle. Gary Tuchman tonight has more on what we know about him.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the summer of 2001, President George W. Bush declared --

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: It's my honor to nominate Robert S. Mueller of California to become the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And that was exactly one week before the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 that Robert Mueller began his tenure as director of the FBI. Mueller, a Princeton grad with a master's degree from NYU joined the Marine Corp after college where he served with honor in Vietnam as an officer.

Following his military service, he went to law school, then became a litigator and ultimately became a federal prosecutor. The day after the 9/11 attacks, Director Mueller said this.

ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: The first objective is to determine, identify the hijackers on each of the plane -- each of the planes. Having identified the hijackers on each of the planes, we then have sought to identify any of their associates remaining in the United States.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The nation was in chaos. Weeks after the attacks, Congress passed and President Bush signed the controversial Patriot Act, which enhanced law enforcement investigative tools, including domestic surveillance and increased the opportunity to punish terrorist acts in the U.S.

Three years later though, the bills passage let to a showdown involving Mueller. He received a call from Deputy Attorney General James Comey late at night that President Bush's Counsel Alberto Gonzalez was on his way to the hospital to persuade a seriously ill Attorney General John Ashcroft to reauthorize a key part of the act dealing with the domestic surveillance program. But the Justice Department had determined it was against the law. So Comey, with Mueller's blessing, raced to the hospital to stop Gonzales. JAMES COMEY, FORMER DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: I was angry. I thought I just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man who did not have the powers of the attorney general because they had been transferred to me.

[21:50:02] TUCHMAN (voice-over): Both Mueller and Comey threatened to resign over the incident, but were persuaded to stay once President Bush decided against pursuing the controversial surveillance program. Enjoying bipartisan respect, Bob Mueller served as FBI director for 12 years for two presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I want to thank your outstanding director, Robert Mueller, not just for the introduction but because Bob has led the bureau during incredibly challenging times.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Mueller has most recently been a partner in a private law firm and a visiting professor at Stanford. He will now leave those positions to take on this new and important responsibility.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Atlanta.


COOPER: CNN Senior National Security Analyst Lisa Monica worked with Robert Mueller. She was his special counsel and chief of staff from 2005 to 2009. Lisa Monaco joins us now. Is he the right person for the job?

LISA MONACO, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Absolutely. There is no one better suited in this country for this role at this time.

COOPER: Why do you say that?

MONACO: Because if you look at the authority that the deputy attorney general exercised here and what's required under the statute, the person has to be from outside the Department of Justice, has have a reputation for integrity and in partial decision making and be guided by only DOJ policy, that's the Department of Justice policy, and the law in exercising his authority. That is the person. Bob Mueller is the personification of those characteristics.

COOPER: What -- in terms of not being partisan, he's down the middle.

MONACO: Absolutely. He is guided by no party, by no political ideology. He's guided by the facts and the law and will apply those without fear or favor.

COOPER: What does this mean -- I mean, how does this investigation under Mueller work? What exactly does his role entail? How does he work with the FBI? Obviously, there will be an FBI director who I guess heads the FBI investigation. So, what are his responsibilities?

MONACO: So, it's interesting. Bob Mueller is perfect, in essence for this role, because he's occupied every one of these jobs. He's been a prosecutor, a U.S. attorney heading team of prosecutors. He's been the deputy attorney general just before he was named FBI director and, of course, he's been the FBI director. The relationship, so he understands what the relationships are and ought to be under the appropriate institutional norms of both the Department of Justice and the FBI.

Imagine what he'll do is he will get on the job. He will make sure he's got a team that he's comfortable with, that he's got the resources he needs to do a thorough and competent job, and he is going to be the chief prosecutor. That's what the special counsel role is.

He is responsible for identifying if there have been violations of the law and making prosecutive judgments about that. The FBI is the investigator. Their job is solely to gather the facts and present those to the prosecutor or prosecutors and Bob Mueller and his team to make prosecutive judgment.

COOPER: At the end of his investigation -- I mean, there's been some discussion between Jeff Toobin, Professor Alan Dershowitz in the last two hours over whether Mueller -- if he decides not to prosecute -- obviously decide to prosecute then there will be evidence and that will be made public.

If he decides not to, does he just say there's nothing to -- there's no legality here. There's nothing here to prosecute? Or do you think he would make some sort of description of what he found that given the public's interest in this?

MONACO: One thing I'm very confident of, however, it ends up. Whatever determinations he makes, he'll be guided by what the law requires and what the Department of Justice policy allows.

In other words, he will not stray out of what those requirements are. So, he could potentially decide. I imagine to make a report if there is no investigative judgment rendered, but that will be within the norms of the Justice Department.

COOPER: Fascinating. Lisa Monaco, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

I just want to call attention to that story. David Gergen mentioned a bit earlier that we feel good about reporting with attribution. "The New York Times" reporting that Michael Flynn told the Trump transition team that he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign. He said this, yet he still got the national security adviser job. The transition team knew this and he's still was asked to still serve.

Jim Acosta, Gloria Borger are back. Joining the conversation, Matthew Nussbaum from Politico. All three have been doing some great reporting about the mood of this White House over the past few days.

Jim Acosta, do you have a better sense of what's going on at the White House right now, because now the network says the administration offered them. Kellyanne Conway is the guest tonight and then shortly before air time canceled her appearance.

ACOSTA: I think they are reluctant to go on Fox News in primetime. I think that's a pretty good indication of where they are right now. I think they're in the bunker.

[21:55:03] The president's top advisers are in the bunker, although we should point out the White House has released its schedule for tomorrow. He is expected to hold a news conference with the president of Colombia, a joint news conference. So he'll take a couple of questions from the U.S. press, couple of questions from the Colombian press, so presumably he could get asked about this tomorrow.

Although we have seen in the past, although it hasn't always been the case at every news conference, he'll call on friendly news media outlets in order to avoid answering certain questions. So I think that will be a very telling thing to look for tomorrow at that news conference here at the White House if it indeed happens as scheduled.

At the same time, I can tell you from talking to staffers here, they are feeling exhausted. As one staffer put it to me earlier this evening, Anderson, it's been 72 hours of a bombshell dropping at 5:45 in the evening and the question is just how much more are they going to take of this.

And keep in mind, this is all heading into the president's first foreign trip where he's going to be heading overseas, not going to places where -- you know, the questions are going to be easy, where the questions are going to be tough. He's going to be meeting with the Israelis, meeting with Saudis. He's going to be meeting with NATO, an alliance that he's called obsolete in the past and the G7 as well. So, the road does not getting easier for this president.

COOPER: Gloria, I mean in the coming hours and days it will be interesting to see what the President Trump blames anyone else but himself for this or whether he talks even publicly about this.

BORGER: Well, he never blames himself for anything. You know, if you talk to people who have known him well for decades and people who work with him now and people who talk to him regularly, they all say to a person that he doesn't ever blame himself and as for this particular situation. I've been talking to people who say that the president is blaming everybody right now. That he doesn't seem to have faith in anybody inside the White House.

And that the word that was used to me to describe multiple staffers inside the White House is just consulate. These are people, as Jim points out, who are exhausted but who don't know what they're -- the legal ramifications are for them, who don't know whether the president is going to be able to push his agenda, who don't know from day to day whether the president is going to be up against a wall and continue to lash out of people inside the White House or -- and blame them for his own problems, which he created, by the way. I mean, these are his own self-destructive impulses that they are trying to deal with.

COOPER: Matt Nussbaum, I mean from Politico, what's the latest you're hearing from your sources tonight about how White House staffers are reacting to the announcement of a special prosecutor. Do they have strategy on this and just how they're doing?

MATTHEW NUSSBAUM, REPORTER, POLITICO: Well our understanding is that they presented a pretty united front when they brought this news to President Trump and the word we're getting is that this has helped to sort of bring people together, which certainly sounds like something of the message the White House is trying to push. And we saw the statement they put out. It was measured. It was clean. It didn't include any of those asides like that Comey letter and notoriously did.

But I think like Jim was saying, you know, you can't understate what a -- or rather, overstate what a difficult week this has been for the White House. The communications team has been embattled. They had the president last week questioning their incredibility. This was supposed to be a quiet week preparing for this big international trip and instead they're dealing with crisis after crisis after crisis with that Flynn story you mentioned just adding more fuel to the fire. I think they have to be wondering, you know, what comes next.

COOPER: Yeah. Jim, what's your take on "The New York Times" reporting that Michael Flynn told the Trump transition team he was under federal investigation, particularly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the meeting?

Because Sally Yates said that in her meeting with the legal counsel, that when I talked to her in the interview we heard last night, that that was the first time the White House counsel learned that Michael Flynn had actually been interviewed by the FBI.

ACOSTA: Well, I think it's another indication as to why President Obama warned President Trump -- President-elect Trump at the time, to not hire Michael Flynn. I mean, Michael Flynn was somebody that was known to the Obama administration as being bad news, as being trouble.

Donald Trump liked having Michael Flynn out on the campaign trail because he hated Obama and hated the Obama administration and their policies just as much as he did, was willing to go out there as a retired general and chant lock her up. He was willing to dish out the same kind of red meat that President Trump -- candidate Trump at the time, and his people wanted to dish out on the campaign trail.

Donald Trump -- President Trump was very loyal to Michael Flynn throughout this entire process and it's astonishing at this "New York Times" story is true, and I have no reason to think it isn't true, that these things would be made aware or made known to the transition team during that time and nothing was done about it. But, you know, it is another example, as Gloria was saying, where the president has this capability to be self-destructive.

COOPER: Yeah. I want to thank all of you for joining. Thank you so much. And thank everybody for watching. I apologize for my cold tonight. Time to hand things over to Don Lemon and "CNN Tonight."

[22:00:04] DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Anderson, thank you very much. Much more on our blockbuster breaking news right now. The Justice Department naming a special counsel in the Russian investigation. This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.