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WH Won't Say If Trump Agrees That Russians Meddled In 2016 Campaign; Trump: Warmbier's Death "A Total Disgrace"; No Details Yet From GOP On Senate Health Care Bill; Unanswered Questions At The White House; Georgia's High-Stakes Special Election; Bloomberg On Trump, The Environment; Bloomberg On 2020 Presidential Race. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired June 20, 2017 - 21:00   ET



[21:00:58] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Well, the breaking news, results coming in right now in a Special Congressional Election that we've been following. And many see it as a leading indicator for 2018. It's now getting national attention as drawn the biggest dollar contributions of any House elections in U.S. history. We're talking about $50 million.

Right now in Georgia's 6th House District, it is close, very close. You can see the numbers there. CNN's John King is tracking the results. He joins us once again. So let's just walk through the numbers, John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Still very close, Anderson, but significant since we last spoke, Georgia six now red. You see it right there. Jon Ossoff had a narrow lead he's (inaudible) short time ago. Karen Handel now has a narrow lead, about 500 votes or so. How did this change? Let's switch maps to show you the three counties in this district.

I just want to pull it out. Fulton County is the largest district. The district -- I'm sorry to have to do this every time we do this, but the votes come in from the county, so the entire county fills in, but the district is up here.

And the thing that has changed is more votes have come in from the most Republican county in the district, this corner of Cobb County here, where Karen Handel has taken a bigger lead. She was up 55-45 with the first early votes. Some more votes have come in. Now she's up 57-43. That's exactly what she needs to do. It doesn't mean it will carry out through the night that way when we get the vote is actual cast today, but as these early votes come in, what she needs to do, run it up in Cobb County, the most Republican part of the district, as much as she can, and she's doing that at the moment.

You come over to Dekalb County, this is where Jon Ossoff has to run it up again. This is the most Democratic part of the district. This has not changed since the last time we spoke, still 60-40 in that area. And the most populist part again is Fulton County up here, not down Atlanta, but up here in the northern part of the county. That hasn't changed as last we spoke, 52-48, again, with the early vote.

So they expect, Anderson, the early vote to come in. We got most of that in now and now we have a few more hours as we go through the vote actually cast today. Both campaigns say this is just the early night, early numbers, plan for a long night. If you check in the two camps who's feeling more confident right now, I would say it's definitely the Republicans, but again, it's early.

COOPER: John, how do you spend $50 million on one Congressional seat?

KING: One of the local news stations down there, Anderson, actually added a newscast, so they could keep taking in the money from these -- so a lot of it was on TV ads, a lot of it was on radio ads, a lot of it the new age, we live in digital ads, ads in social media, ads on Facebook, ads on, you know, as you surf the web and a lot of the money in the finals days on the ground. Voter identification. Making sure you turn people out. Make sure you have multiple contacts with those voters. Do everything you can, old-fashioned literature in the mail. This is such a hotly contested race. They believe it will send such a national message that every last dime being spent, without a doubt.

COOPER: All right, we'll watch it very closely over the next hour. I'll check back in with you, John.

The president weighed in on the race this morning. As you might imagine, he's a Handel supporter. Other questions, the White House had less to say today, more on that and the rest of today's development from CNN Jeff Zeleny.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONENT (voice over): The White House was hoping to change the subject today from the lingering cloud of the Russia investigation.


ZELENY (voice over): But during his first televised briefing in eight days, Press Secretary Sean Spicer didn't help matters with this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just very plainly, a yes or no answer, does Pres. Trump believe that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 elections?

SPICER: I think I have not sat down and talked to him a about that specific thing. Obviously, we've been dealing with a lot of other issues today. I would be glad to touch base.

ZELENY (voice over): Asked again, Spicer gave the same answer.

SPICER: I have not sat down and asked him about his specific reaction to it, so I would be glad to touch base and get back to you.

ZELENY (voice over): Keeping 'em honest, the entire U.S. Intelligence Community says Russia did interfere with the election. And the president's reluctance to acknowledge it has confounded his allies and armed his critics. It's also helped fuel the investigation on Capitol Hill and by a special counsel.

Meeting with the president of Ukraine in the Oval Office today, Mr. Trump had strong words for North Korea about the death of Otto Warmbier, the University of Virginia student who died Monday. He'd been in a coma after 17 months in North Korean captivity.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) U.S. PRESIDENT: It's a total disgrace, what happened to Otto. That should never ever be allowed to happen.

ZELENY (voice over): Mr. Trump implied Pres. Obama was to blame, since Warmbier had been detained since January 2016.

[21:05:06] TRUMP: Frankly, if he were brought home sooner, I think the result would have been a lot different. He should have been brought home that same day.

ZELENY (voice over): A former National Security Aide to Pres. Obama said at least 10 Americans were released from North Korean custody during the last administration. "It's painful that Mr. Warmbier was not among them, but our efforts on his behalf never ceased, even in the waning days of the administration," Spokesman Ned Price said. All of this while the biggest Republican priority, repealing and replacing Obamacare, is still under wraps in the Senate.

After once hailing the House version of the bill during this jubilant rose garden event, the president lately has been describing it as heartless and mean.

SPICER: The president clearly wants a bill that has heart in it.

ZELENY (voice over): Senate Democrats are seizing on the president's criticism.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) MINORITY LEADER: I think Pres. Trump summed up his health care bill best with one word. Mean. For once, on the topic of health care, my colleagues and I find ourselves agreeing with the president. This bill is mean. Very mean.


COOPER: Jeff Zeleny joins us. Now, why -- I mean, particularly on the issue of Russian hacking, Russian involvement, why is it so hard to get answers from this White House?

ZELENY: Anderson, they certainly aren't new questions. They've been out there for months and months now. It's been seven months since Election Day. But we've seen the press secretary and other administration officials simply being unwilling to answer questions, largely because the president's answers are a moving target. We've seen him being have flexible in one use of the word here, to be, you know, answering these questions. So they do not want to speak for him, because he may change his mind and suddenly throw them under the bus here. But it's also a legal matter now. Everything that is being said inside this White House, from that podium, could be used against this administration or in the investigation here. It's one of the reasons they're being so dodgy. It's one of the reasons we're seeing fewer press briefings than ever before. My guess, this one today will be the last one for a while, Anderson.

COOPER: Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much. Let's bring in our panel, Susan Page, Matt Lewis, Kirsten Powers, Scott Jennings, and Jen Psaki.

Scott let's start with you. The -- I mean the entire U.S. Intelligence Committee clearly believes Russia was involved in this, does it make sense that the White House can't answer the question whether the president believes that?

SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASST. TO PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I do think it is true. There are a lot of things presidents don't discuss with their press secretaries. That's been true in every administration. And at some level, what Donald Trump has to say about it and what Sean Spicer have to say about it might just be conjecture. We know what the Intelligence Community thinks and a lot of people believe they did try to meddle in the election. We also know there's an investigation going on.

And so, the conjecture of Donald Trump and Sean Spicer versus letting the investigation play out, I'd personally like to see the results of the investigation. That's more definitive --

COOPER: Right.

JENNINGS: -- than the conjecture of people who may not know.

COOPER: But you have James Comey testifying that the president never really talked to him about it. You have the attorney general also saying that he and the president never really discussed it. It doesn't seem like anybody's actually trying to do anything about what Russia did. I mean if that was an act of war, if it was -- you know, we have an election coming up in 2018. Shouldn't the president be spearheading the U.S. Intelligence Community's efforts to make sure this doesn't happen again?

JENNINGS: Well, I think that you have to let the investigation play out before you know what to do. I think it's extremely concerning. A lot of Republicans I know think the Russians tried to meddle. They think they tried to hack into state election systems. This is all extremely concerning. I don't think there's a lack of concern. I think, though, there is a need for more information before you can apply a strategy to try to stop it. So I don't take their answers to be anything other than, we need these investigations to be finished, and then we can make some decisions and make some information available.

COOPER: Jen, I mean if the president never talked to his attorney general about it and has never talked to the then head of FBI about it, that does seem to be a lack of concern, no?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. And so, I was still in the Obama administration when this was all happening. And we knew and Donald Trump was briefed right after he was elected. The election happened 7 1/2 months ago. So, beyond the investigation, what we're talking about here is not whether or not there's a decision about whether there was collusion. We're talking about how to prepare our systems, how to prepare our state governments, and what we should be doing 15 months out from the election.

As you mentioned, the attorney general hasn't been briefed, no one has said that Pres. Trump has raised this issue with them. That would lead anyone to conclude that there haven't been National Security meetings about it either. And that should be very concerning.

COOPER: I mean, Kirsten, the idea of waiting until several years go by and the various investigations are over, that's like we're saying, let's wait for the 9/11 commission to finish its work, before we figure out how to protect ourselves against Al Qaeda.

KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: Right. It's the type of thing that you would think, when you come into office, would be one of the first questions you would ask. You would say, we just had this really momentous thing happen, it's very troubling, that was probably going to happen again, unless we do something. And I want to find out, you know, what's your best assessment of what happened and what are your recommendations about how to protect us moving forward?

So the fact that the president has not, as far as we know, asked for any information about this, the fact that the attorney general, at no point has requested any information about this is very unusual.

[21:10:08] COOPER: Does it strike either of you as odd that the press secretary wouldn't have asked that question?

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: I think it's extraordinary. And I think if you look at previous White House Operations, you don't see this lack of information, even times of war or impeachment or terrorism. And in fact, when there's a crisis, most White House Operations try to increase the amount of information that they're putting out about what's going -- even when they don't know everything. You know, that was certainly true after 9/11. That there was an effort to try to let Americans feel informed.

You know, it seems to me that this doesn't serve the interests of the press. It's very frustrating for reporters. I don't think it serves the interests of the public. It certainly does not serve the interests of the White House. So, to not do a better job explaining what the president thinks and what he's going to do about it, whatever his position on it is.

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And you mentioned 9/11. Donald Trump made it a point to say, no, we have to call it what it is. We have to call it Radical Islamism, because if you don't call it what it is, we can't really fight it, if we're not at least willing to say what it is. Well, we can't admit that Russia, everybody knows that Russia was behind this, then you could argue that how are we going to be prepared to handle it if we can't even acknowledge, if the president can't even acknowledge that Russia was behind trying to hack the election.

PSAKI: And we know, consistently, every National Security official who's testified has said this is ongoing, that this is an effort that is ongoing.

COOPER: And it's going to happen again.

PSAKI: And it's going to happen again. So we have an election this year, we have gubernatorial race. We have, say, a couple of special elections. We're about 16 months away from hundreds of members of Congress being up for election. The Russians are not out to keep the Republicans in power. They're out to create chaos and confusion in our system. They're doing that. There are things that can be done, addressing our cyber weaknesses, doing more to get our systems in place, working with governors at a statewide level, Democrats and Republicans. None of that seems to be happening. Maybe there's something we don't know, but that's exactly what they should be doing right now.

JENNINGS: I think if we were preparing to combat the Russians and what they plan to do in the future based on what they've already done, we wouldn't be doing it out in the open. So I bet you there are meetings going on in the Intelligence Community to combat what we know they did. I would also point out, Pres. Obama --

COOPER: But who's involved in those meetings if the former FBI director was not and the attorney general was not?

JENNINGS: Well, maybe they're not at liberty to discuss it publicly. I think she's right. There may be things going on we don't know. I will also just point out on urgency, Pres. Obama knew this was going on and had been briefed on it before Election Day last year, but did not report it to the American people until after Election Day.

COOPER: Well, why should he talk about it if the current president doesn't talk about it?

JENNINGS: Well, you were worried about urgency. I'm saying that there may be reasons why presidents don't rush right out with everything they know at the moment they know it.

POWERS: But there was an election going on.

JENNINGS: Wouldn't it have been --

POWERS: I mean you can debate whether or not he should have, but I don't think there's any question that if Pres. Obama was still president, he would have --

PSAKI: And there was a conclusive statement made out by 17 Intelligence Agencies, then he ordered a double down review before the end of his administration. So the fact is, you pass the baton from one president to the next. And any president coming in, Democrat or Republican, should have been starting --

COOPER: I just got -- CNN is projecting Republican Ralph Norman will win the special election in the South Carolina 5th Congressional District, defeating Democrat Archie Parnell in a closer than expected race to fill White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney's seat. Much more ahead tonight, including the breaking news from Capitol Hill on the secret of Senate health care bill leaving some Republicans think the process is wrong. We heard from John McCain earlier. More ahead.


[21:16:44] COOPER: In addition to hotly contested, very closely watched Georgia House race, there is also a Special House Election tonight in South Carolina. We told you about it right before the break. CNN is projecting a Republican, as expected, will win it. And we have new numbers in Georgia for that. Let's go to John King. What are you looking at, John.

KING: Anderson, look at the map right now. Jon Ossoff ahead 51 to 49. If you look district right again. About half of the expected vote is in anyway. That's the full district.

Let me break it down by county.

And again, I'm going to be doing this throughout the night just the way that fills it here. I'm going to pull this out to make it a little bit bigger. The Congressional District is not all three of these counties. It's up here in the northern part of these -- northern part of Fulton County. This is Cobb and this is Dekalb. The biggest area for Jon Ossoff, one of the reasons he has the lead at the moment narrowly is because he's running it up, as expect.

Now we have not only early vote, but some votes cast today are coming in, 51-49 in Dekalb County. It's the most Democratic area of the district. He needs to keep the numbers in the ballpark of something like that, run up the vote total here to help him over here, where you see Karen Handel holding. This number has been pretty consistent all night long, a 20-point lead, 60-40 in the most conservative part of the district, the northern quarter here of Cobb County and the most populist part is the northern part of Fulton County here and Karen Handel ahead there at the moment, 53-47. If she can keep that lead, that bodes well for her. But at the moment ago when you come back to the full district, Jon Ossoff ahead at the moment, as we count the votes. And this is where now we have most of the early vote in, Anderson, starting to get some of the votes cast today. This is a big turnout test for both parties. Jon Ossoff with a narrow lead right now.

Remember early on back in April when you had that crowded field in the first election, Jon Ossoff started he was up about 60 percent at one point. He ended up winning the race just below 50 percent at 48 percent. So don't bet on this right now, but if you're the Democrats, Jon Ossoff leading at 51-49. Still counting the vote, Anderson. We're going to be here for a little bit.

COOPER: Although, what, a few minutes, Karen Handel was in the lead. So it's going back and forth.

KING: That tells you you've got a very competitive district. And just the fact it's competitive is news because this is a Republican district since the Carter administration. But after losing Montana, losing in Kansas, just losing in South Carolina, four Republican House members joined the Trump cabinet. There have been now the four special elections will be down by the end of tonight. Republicans have held three of those seats. This is the one left in play. The Democrat leading at the moment. Stay with us.

COOPER: All right. John King, we'll continue to watch. We're back now with the panel. Susan, should this race be so closely watched? Because I mean a lot -- you know, from both Republicans and Democrats are putting a lot into this, $50 million.

PAGE: I think I speak for all of us when I say, we've always watched Georgia 6th with great intensity every election. You know, I'm not sure it should. You look at -- remember Jack Murtha's special election was up in 2010, spring of 2010, really fiercely fought like this seen as a big sign of how things were going to go in November. Democrats held on to that, didn't matter. They lost control of the House in November, anyway.

And so, you don't want to over interpret this, but I think it has a huge effect. And if Karen Handel can hold on, I think helps Mitch McConnell get health care next week or wherever he brings it up for a vote. I think it is -- even if Democrats have a kind of a moral victory, that was close in a district that didn't used to be close, I think it is somewhat reassuring to Republicans that they can figure out a way how to maneuver around Pres. Trump and his low approval ratings and still hold on to their seats.

COOPER: Matt, do you agree that it would help McConnell get health care done next week? And if so, why?

[21:20:03] LEWIS: Well, you know, I think that winning, nothing succeeds like success, right. And so if there's momentum, that could give some recalcitrant Republicans, Republicans who are maybe getting a little bit of cold feet, a little bit worried about the voters a little comfort. And I do think that although this isn't predictive, right, you can't extrapolate from -- say if Democrats win this, you can't extrapolate what this means that the House is going go Democratic.

I, you know, I use a sort of sports analogy. When a team is out of the game, you want to keep them out of the game. And if all of a sudden they make a good play, they score a touchdown, the crowd gets in the game now. Now, they have momentum. That is what Republicans want to keep Democrats from getting. If Democrats win this race tonight, then all of a sudden you're going to have Democratic activists, and candidates and donors who are excited and motivated. And that, you know, actually could have consequences.

COOPER: That's the only sports analogy I've ever heard that I actually understand. I appreciate that, as I know nothing about it. How important do you think this race is?

POWERS: Well, I think it's already important no matter who wins, because I think if you are a Republican who has a wealthy, highly educated district, you're paying attention to this. Because this is saying that there is a certain group of people that are unhappy with Donald Trump, because the only way that it gets this close is if Republican voters are crossing over.

So, you know, so I think even if she pulls it out, it doesn't look like it will be like -- by a lot. And so -- so a certain segment of the Republican Party, I think if they're not, should be start stepping back and going. OK, this is a little bit of a referendum, at least from a certain element of Republican voters. You know, this isn't a super, super conservative district but it is a Republican district, and it is one that will require Republican voters voting for, you know, crossing the line.

COOPER: Scott, you don't look nervous.

JENNINGS: I don't feel nervous because number one I think Karen Handel is -- looks to me like she's in a pretty good spot right now. Number two, if the Democrats go on and lose this race, it is extraordinarily demoralizing. They've thrown everything but the kitchen sink at this race. The average Congressional candidate who wins normally spends about $1.6 million.

COOPER: That's incredible.

JENNINGS: And Ossoff has spent, what, $25 million? If you can't win under these conditions with that amount of money, if you're sitting on the sidelines tonight as a possible Democratic candidate, wouldn't you say to yourself, I'm in a worse district than this, why in the world should I even run? And so I think tonight, the Democrats have more at stake that be the Republicans because if they lose, it is demoralizing to candidate recruitment efforts.


PSAKI: Look, I think, one, there's an historic number of candidates expressing an interest in running. So many that there are going to be 10, even more in a lot of districts around the country. I think Democrats will have to play a role in keeping the party energized and keeping people across the country energized, who gave small dollar donations. But there are more than 90 districts who are more Democratic friendly, Democratic leaning than this district. So, while we're going to have some work to do if we lose this race, this is by far, there are a lot of other opportunities. Let's also --

COOPER: Although the Democratic Party has plenty of issues facing just in terms of internally of what is the Democratic Party? Who are they?

PSAKI: No doubt about it. That's for sure. And what's interesting, often, about special elections, is that they may not be an indicator of everything to come, but they can also be an opportunity to try things out. And in this race, health care is a huge issue. And the AJC poll 81 percent of respondents care deeply about health care. So if the Democrat does win, that is going to be a big sign for Democrats to keep running on that issue too.

COOPER: All right. I want thank everybody. Up next, no answers to simple questions from the White House. And how this White House compares to other when it comes to transparency? Keeping them honest, ahead.


[21:26:36] COOPER: Well, we raised this at the top of the broadcast. The unwillingness of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer to answer simple yes or no questions about matters big and small, all of which the president has either spoken or tweeted about already. Instead, Spicer says he hasn't asked the president. He hints or outright promises to ask, then never seems to.

Keeping them honest, we're actually keeping a list of the questions. Are there tapes of the president's conversations with James Comey? Do people contribute to global warming? Does the president believe Russia melded in the election? Did president Obama wiretap president- elect Trump? Did voter fraud give Hillary Clinton the popular vote victory? What's weird is that on all these questions, the president has already weighed in, either hinting at or flat-out stating an answer. Yet when Sean Spicer is asked for a yes or no, he says he doesn't know and hasn't asked. Hence, that list which we just showed you, which we'll be showing wherever one of those questions is asked or answered or the way it's been for months now when it's asked and not answered.

Earlier this evening, I spoke about it with "Washington Post's" Phillip Rucker, CNN Political Analyst and American Urban Radio's April Ryan, CNN's Jim Acosta, and Presidential Historian Douglas Brinkley


COOPER: Jim, I just want to read something that you tweeted yesterday. You said, "Call me old-fashioned but I think the White House of the United States of America should have the backbone to answer questions on camera." The White House did do a briefing on camera today. There were still a number of questions there on Russia notably that Sean Spicer simple just wouldn't answer.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Anderson, I guess Rome wasn't built in a day. We did have the cameras on in the briefing room today, but we didn't exactly get all the answers we were looking for, incredibly. It's amazing to me that we didn't learn this until now. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that he hadn't talked to the president about whether he believed Russia interfered in the presidential election. That left everybody with their jaws dropping at the very end of that briefing. And I asked Sean, well, doesn't the president believe that Russia is fake news? He has tweeted that on occasion, the president has, that he believes the investigation is fake news, but he gave us no response to that.

COOPER: April, what's interesting, I mean if, you know, in these no- video, no-audio briefings they're doing, if it's an attempt to control the message, it could just end up doing the opposite. When cameras and microphones are allowed I mean the words do speak for themselves. APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The words do speak for themselves. And, you know, TV needs the camera, they need the video. Radio, we need the audio. There's so many different people who need quotes to go on the record. And when you don't have the audio, when you don't have the cameras, and when you do not have the permission from the White House principle or the press secretary to use the quotes, where's the story? What can you write? And it's really not about us. And Jim is actually right. But it's not about us. It's about the American public. If we, indeed, are not allowed to disseminate the message, the American people lose out. They didn't find out about what's happening with this president, the leader of the free world, the man that is elected, the 45th president of the United States. So, it is important that this process, this access continues to happen.

COOPER: Phil, you wrote a really smart piece for "The Washington Post," in which you put the White House's attitude towards transparency into the wider context of what's actually happening across Washington.

PHILIP RUCKER, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yeah, that's exactly right. And we see this beyond just the White House. We see federal agencies in the Trump administration refusing to provide key documentation and answers to Congress in their hearings, but also in their requests from Congressional Overseers. And we also see in the Senate right now, with the health care bill, it's being written by one senator, Mitch McConnell, the majority leader from Kentucky, a Republican, and some of his staff members, fellow Republican senators have not seen this bill and certainly the Democrats haven't.

[21:30:17] COOPER: And Doug, I mean just historically, has there ever been a White House as wary of transparency as this one seems to be? Because, I mean in one weird way, they are transparent in that Donald Trump tweets in realtime and you get kind of like a realtime Rorschach test of what's going on in his head. But in other ways, they're just not saying things.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: No, I think nobody -- no president has tried to obstruct the press the way Donald Trump has. He's constantly threatening them, calling them enemies of the people. Right after he won the election, he ran around New York and tried to get rid of the press corps from following him. He's at war with what he considers the mainstream media. Great presidents learn how to massage the press and use it to their benefit.

Since Theodore Roosevelt with Cartoonistor or FDR, you know, we used to call reporters at the White House, beg them to come and spin the globe and talk about what was happening in the world or John F. Kennedy using these press conference exchanges to boost his youthful and energetic image. Donald Trump does none of these things, because he knows that he's not that quick on his feet and that anytime he says something, he's giving people sort of rope to hang him. Hence, the tweets caused him trouble, be if he was doing -- going on Sunday shows, he'd be giving more problems for his legal case.

COOPER: Jim, could there be a trickle-down effect happen here? I mean could the White House be setting the tone for the rest of the government, including Capitol Hill I mean to this point?

ACOSTA: Yeah. I think they are. And remember, it was just a week ago or so when the Senate Republicans tried to ban cameras from talking to reporters, people with cameras in the hallways, talking to senators. And that is an additional chilling effect. They eventually back off from that.

But jump off with what Douglas saying, Anderson, I fear that there is some permanent damage being done to how we cover the presidency in this town. The president has refused to provide his tax returns. He has refused to provide health records that are really credible. I mean, the health records that they provided are really just not credible. They're not letting us look at the visitor logs. The president is not holding regular news conferences.

And yesterday, they tried this business of having an off-camera, no- audio briefing. And so it's just a slow but sure chipping away at what we consider to be normal access and openness here in Washington. And my concern is, no matter who comes in after Donald Trump, they are going to try to pull the same thing. And we're just going to allow them to do it. Because we said, well, it happened during the Trump administration. And so that's why, you know, it may come across as, you know, pushing a little too hard, sometimes. But we have to stand our ground in this area, as April will say, during these briefings that we're involved in. You know, we're here to ask the hard questions and they are paid by us to answer those questions. And that's it. That's the bottom line.

COOPER: April, how does it compare to prior administrations you've worked with?

RYAN: Yeah, I'm glad you asked, Anderson. I started during the second term of Bill Clinton. And even in Bill Clinton's worst day, the press still had access. It was hard but they still gave us information. And after each presidency, the access has lessened in so many different ways but it's lessened. And now really, I would say, it's at its worst.

COOPER: Phil, there are some who argue, you know, that Pres. Trump is a business man without a background in public service --


COOPER: -- and that this may play a role, when you're own your own company and certainly when you spin your own, you know, legend, as he has in New York over the decades, you just, you know, that's what you're used to doing.

RUCKER: Yeah. You're exactly right. And there's a temptation in sort of everything that somebody does in business or in their private life to try to shield yourself from scrutiny and exposure. But this is a totally different realm. He is a public servant. He was elected by the people. The leaders of the federal government here in Washington serve the public. And the public has a right to know what's happening. There's a demand for accountability in the public. This isn't a matter of, you know, whether April, or Jim or I get our questions answered and we get face time with the principles. It's a matter of getting information for the American people so that the public can hold their leaders accountable and know what the president's actually doing.

COOPER: Doug Brinkley, Jim Acosta, April Ryan, Phillip Rucker, thank you all, appreciate it.

RUCKER: Thank you.

RYAN: Thank you.

COOPER: Just ahead, we're going to have the latest tally in the fight for House Sea in Georgia where there are spending $150 to $250 per votes. The candidates have a lot more riding on it than just money.


[21:37:51] COOPER: We've been watching this race all night. New vote totals coming in from Georgia's 6th district where more than $50 million has been spent in pursue the seat vacated by Pres. Trump's Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. Republican Karen Handel has now pulled out ahead. For the latest, let's go to John King. John?

KING: And, Anderson, as you can see, the Georgia 6th congressional district, red on the map. Let's stretch it out a little bit. As you just noted, the Republican candidate, Karen Handel, now with a six- point lead, 53 percent to 4 percent, pretty healthy lead. We're at about two-thirds of the expected vote counted. So still some votes to count from today but roughly about two-thirds of the anticipated vote has been counted 53 to 47. Republicans will feel good about that, although we are not to the finish line yet.

Let me break down the district for you, as we've been doing through the night. Pop this out a little bit and just to keep reminding you, this part above this green line is the district. So you're getting votes from Fulton County, which includes Atlanta, but only the voters up here in this part of the district actually cast ballots today, same for Cobb County and Dekalb County.

So what's happening in this race right now? We've said this throughout the night. The most important part of the district, Cobb County for Karen Handel. She needs to run it up big. She's doing just that, 61 percent 39 percent. In the most Republican area of the district, the Republican is winning and winning big. The most Democratic area over here in Dekalb, essentially mirror image, right. Jon Ossoff doing what he needs to do there. Running it up by a big healthy margin there. The key to this race is the most populist part of the district which is this northern part of Fulton County, 53-47 in Fulton County. That essentially mirrors what's happening in the rest of the race. So as we've counted more votes, Karen Handel has stretched her lead from the early vote in this part of Fulton County, the northern, most populous part of the district. That is why, Anderson, again we're about two-thirds of the vote counted and the Republican candidate has a lead. And we're going to count the rest of the votes but the results here tonight are going to start a very, very big national conversation. And at the moment, Republicans, especially because they think they did pretty well today, turning out voters on Election Day. At the moment, Republicans are getting more optimistic here.

COOPER: Yeah, John King. John thanks. We'll check in with you again. Back with the panel, David Chalian, Gloria Borger, Mark Preston and Dana Bash.

David, what do you make of how these numbers are looking so far?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: When John was just going county by county, I thought it was interesting, Cobb County was John was saying is the Republican stronghold. Karen Handel is actually over performing there, what, remember, back in April, you saw 11 Republican candidates, combine them together, and she's over performing the percentage that all the Republicans got in that Republican stronghold back in April. That is a good sign for Karen Handel. She really is running up the score where she needs to.

[21:40:21] And I think you're going to start seeing a conversation take place here among Democrats, if indeed, they fall short here, again, a district that is not home turf to them but they put everything into it. And if they fall short, we're going to start moving into a conversation about bellyaching in the Democratic Party about what went wrong here and how to run in the Trump era because they clearly, if they fall short here, have not figured that out yet.

COOPER: Yeah. Gloria, I mean if Democrats do fall short, if Republicans win, what is that conversation look like for Democrats?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's not going to be pretty. Because there are going to be some Democrats who say that Ossoff shouldn't have run to the center the way he did in this race. He was clearly an anti-Trump candidate but he didn't run against Trump head-on because he knows this district, it's a Republican seat. So he ran a more moderate race. So there are going to be Democrats who are saying, you know, you would have won if you had just taken on the president more frontally. And then there are going to be other Democrats who say, look, this guy did as well as anybody could possibly do, given the fact that this is a solid Republican seat, which has been won by 20 to 25-point margins for decades.

And so, what the Democrats need to do and they -- if they lose here, they're going to have to try to figure out what the best way to run against Donald Trump is. And I think the answer is going to be, you have to take it district by district and in this district, they're going to have to kind of take apart their strategy. Republicans had a really good strategy here. They looked at the voters that the Republican voters. There were 36,000 of them that didn't vote in the primary but they were high-propensity Republican voters and they targeted them and they got those people out to vote. So the Democrats also have to look at the mechanics here.

COOPER: Yeah. I mean, Dana, you know, I don't think you can say that, talking about Democrats not running against Pres. Trump, I mean, certainly, Hillary Clinton, you know, one of the knocks on her was that that was her whole focus. Just, you know, I'm not Donald Trump and going after Donald Trump, when that certainly didn't work.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. That's exactly right and, you know, obviously, this was and is, has been a race about the president. And that's certainly what the Democrats have tried to make it about. But also, about very important issues to voters, like health care. And if you look at the polls, that's what the people who said that they were going to the polls cared most about.

But, you know, I think that the idea that this is, OK, this is a Republican district, historically, since Jimmy Carter and why was it competitive in the first place, and of course, it should go Republican if it goes that way. You can make that argument. However, this might have been a Republican district but not historically a Trump district, in that Mitt Romney won by double digits. Donald Trump won this district up by, I think like one percentage point or a little bit more than that.

So, to David's point earlier about Democrats kind of -- and Gloria about looking inward and trying to figure out how to run in the Trump era. This was supposed to be the district that they could have done that because it is wealthy, it is educated. And the kinds of voters who in are in this district were supposed to be the kind the Democrats could pick off from the Republican. If the Republican ends up winning, it throws the whole Democratic strategy into kind of up in the air and they kind of have to re-figure it out all over again.

COOPER: All right. We've got to take a quick break. We'll have more with all of you. Thanks very much.

Up next, Billionaire Michael Bloomberg was a critic of candidate Donald Trump but considering that Bloomberg has produced a new documentary on climate change, his views of Pres. Trump may surprise you.


[21:47:29] COOPER: The votes continue to come in from Georgia's Special House Election. Republican Karen Handel now pulling out ahead of Democrat Jon Ossoff. Brianna Keilar is at Ossoff Election Night Headquarters. Kaylee Hartung at Handel Headquarters. Let's start with Brianna, what's the scene there?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Anderson. Well, people here I think are a little bit more nervous than they have been. They're waiting for Jon Ossoff to come on stage. Beyonce was just up talking to them but I was talking to sources and there are certainly a lot of nerves coming from Democrats. They're still holding out some hope that some vote by mail some of that early vote that was sent in by some voters could come in and be positive for Jon Ossoff.

However, it is looking like he is the one who has ground to make up in the vote totals. And Republicans that I've been talking to, Anderson, say that Karen Handel is outperforming the voter models they have constructed to see if she can have a win. So right now, they're still waiting but a lot of people, they say, even if Ossoff wins, or pardon me, loses, they feel that there's something happening here and it's an indication that maybe votes on the left might matter more than they did even back in November.

COOPER: Interesting. Brianna Keilar, thanks. Let's go next to Kaylee Hartung at Handel Headquarters. More optimism there, Kaylee?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT. Yeah. Anderson, as those latest numbers for Karen Handel were announced in this room, Jere Wood, the longtime mayor of Roswell, Georgia, one of the largest cities in this state in Fulton County, the mayor got up on stage and declared, we're going to win. The crowd here went wild. But I was standing next to a GOP state party official who was more cautious in his assessment of the information we have to this point. He said, we want it to happen and what we predicted to happen to this point is happening. You've got Ossoff heavily favored in Dekalb County and Cobb County turning in strong for Handel. But this is all going to come down to Fulton County. This is what the Handel campaign expected. It's the largest county of the three. They expect those results to be the last to come in. So, a period of darkness, if you will, now Anderson, all eyes on Fulton County later tonight.

COOPER: All right. Kaylee, thanks very much.

Now the outspoken New York billionaire who didn't end up running for president in the last election, although he came very close. I mean Michael Bloomberg who served as mayor of New York for 12 years. Instead, just kept it being CEO of Bloomberg and a philanthropist including producing a new documentary about climate change called "From the Ashes." I spoke to him earlier about the billionaire who did run and won who Bloomberg had said stands a 55 percent chance, in his estimate, of being re-elected. There's (inaudible) issue with Pres. Trump's environmental policies.


COOPER: Your new documentary "From the Ashes", I want to talk to you about coal. How much of the problem of a climate change is linked to coal?

[21:50:11] MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: A very big percentage. Coal is far and away the worst fuel you can burn and it is the fuel that's predominantly used around the world to generate electricity and in many cases to heat, as well. India and China, enormous dependence on coal which they are, thank God, starting to understand and trying to get off although it would be much more difficult for them.

America it used to be 80, 90 percent was dependent on coal, then it got down to 50. Today, it's a small percentage. And the number of people working in the coal business has declined while in fact the demand has gone up because there's still -- whatever the word is.

COOPER: Meteorological. BLOOMBERG: Meteorological coal. And there still lots of coal that we export, in that sort of thing. But the coal industry at the same time we've had this effect on people using less coal which has been much more modern for the last two to three generations. It has -- we've automated the coal industry. That's what's brought down the coal miners' jobs.

COOPER: When Pres. Trump talked during the campaign even now about putting coal miners back to work, is he selling them a bill of goods?

BLOOMBERG: I don't want to characterize anything the president said. Let me say there is nothing that is going to save coal miners' jobs. They will continue to decline as technology gets better and as we use less coal, but it's mainly the technology that's doing it.

And to put it in context, there are more people that work at Arby's than work in the coal business. So there are lots of people and even in New York, you look at stores that are closed because of Amazon and people being able to rent clothing and things like that. Coal miners are case where we have to help them. And, in fact, the president's budget took away funding from a few of these organizations that are trying to train coal miners in new careers.

And Bloomberg philanthropies, I'm happy to say, has stepped in and we're trying to support them. We've got to do something about coal miners, but we've got to do something for people in lots of industries where technology is killing their jobs.

COOPER: Does it matter if the president of the United States won't go on record saying whether or not climate change is real?


BLOOMBERG: I think it's just embarrassing because virtually every scientist with peer review says the same thing.

COOPER: In the past, he said it was a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.

BLOOMBERG: Look, I'm not here to criticize the president. Is it helpful that America pulls out and the president says these things? No, it is not helpful. Is it a disaster for the world? No, it just makes us look foolish. Nobody -- no reputable person or scientist doubts that we are creating an environmental and a climate change problem. You can have arguments about whether in 2030, 2040, 2050, it will start heating up, whether we can get to a point where it's so hot you can't stop it from getting hotter, that's a theoretical possibility. Nobody knows.

COOPER: Is there any chance of you running for president? And I know you seriously looked into it.

BLOOMBERG: I have said that I might run for the president of my block association. No, I -- there's no secret that I thought about it. I think there are enormous problems. It would be an honor if people thought I could do something about them. And I'd love to have the opportunity to try.

COOPER: But you were willing to really invest in a run. I mean I read as much as a billion dollars.

BLOOMBERG: We had commercials made. We have lawyers on staff to get on the ballot. We had -- did lots and lots of polling. And what we really found out in the end is that an independent cannot win.

COOPER: Where do you see Democrats now? I mean I think you gave --

BLOOMBERG: They're being pulled to the left. You saw Hillary being pulled to the left.

COOPER: Do they have a message actually for 2020?

BLOOMBERG: Well, I don't know. I thought that Hillary never really -- I think she would have been a decent president. I said when I talked to the DNC that I had many disagreements with her. And I'm not here to endorse her. Let me just say I didn't vote for Donald Trump who is a very nice guy but I don't think is the right person to be president of the United States for a variety of reasons which I talked about then. But Hillary never got a real message out. And Donald Trump I always thought one of the reasons --

COOPER: It would be interesting to get a real message beyond don't vote for that guy?

BLOOMBERG: It was don't vote for that guy and the gender issue whereas Donald had a saying, "Make America great again." I don't know what again means, but America. That's patriotic and great. That's a good word. And I thought -- it's not quite that simple. But we do live in a world of 140 characters. And slogans matter. And it's just -- you don't think that that's what your decision is based on but it predisposes you to really want to do something. And I never understood given most of the media is Democratic -- why Hillary couldn't find somebody to give her a good tag line. That's what she should have done, I always thought.

COOPER: I think recently you gave the chance that Donald Trump would be -- that Pres. Trump would be re-elected 55 percent.

[21:55:02] BLOOMBERG: Yes, sure. Because --

COOPER: You think about that?

BLOOMBERG: Well, the incumbent always has an advantage. It depends what the world is like in 3.5 years. If the economy is good, he can -- he had roughly 50 percent of the public vote, a little less, but in the right place. So he got elected because of the Electoral College. Bt he had roughly half the people wanted him to be president. And if it turns out that he is OK, some of the half that voted against him because they thought he would be a disaster probably wouldn't think that anymore. So that would help him. Incumbents always have an advantage. And the Democratic Party is going to be torn apart by the left and the centralists. Now, the Republican Party is also being torn apart between the centralists and the hard right but they've rented a candidate. The candidate has rented a party and they will probably without much fuss get behind Donald Trump, I would assume, assuming he runs for re- election.

COOPER: All the investigations going on by -- on Capitol Hill by the special counsel, do you believe there's any "there there"?

BLOOMBERG: I don't know if there's "there there." But if there's an allegation, you have to have a competent independent investigation that will either find something wrong or remove the cloud. It is very difficult to govern when there's a cloud around you.

Having said that, the president just has to get it out of his mind, stop tweeting and focusing on running the government and let the investigation go on, because without that, he'll always have this problem. And if he could get rid of it and he says there's nothing to it, so I take him at his word. But he's got to prove that there's nothing there. You can't just say there's nothing there.

COOPER: Do you follow him on Twitter?

BLOOMBERG: I don't know. I don't think so.

COOPER: Mayor Bloomberg, I appreciate it. Thank you.

BLOOMBERG: Thank you for having me.


COOPER: We'll be right back with the latest results from Georgia's House race.


COOPER: We are out of time. Time to hand things over to Don Lemon for the latest on Georgia's special election and much more tonight. "CNN TONIGHT" starts right now.