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Trump Admits He has No Tapes of Comey Talks; Secret's Out: Senate GOP Unveils Health Care Bill; At Least 4 GOP Senators Oppose New Health Care Bill; CNN: Intel Chiefs Tell Investigators Trump Suggested They Publicly Refute Collusion with Russians. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired June 22, 2017 - 21:00   ET



[21:00:22] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: The breaking news tonight, after nearly a month and a half of half answers, none answers that began with a thinly veiled threat, now we know. We know that when it comes to recordings of conversations with FBI Director James Comey, recordings that might have confirmed the president's claim that he never asked Comey to squash an investigation or that he might have backed up the director's version, the president was bluffing. Which settles one question, but opens the door to so many others, including this, was the most powerful human being on the planet just having a bit of fun at the country's expense? Gary Tuchman has the now debunked tale of the tape.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When President Trump sent out the tweet saying, "James Comey better hope that there are no tapes of our conversations," he could have sent out another tweet a minute later correcting the record. Instead he waited over 59,000 minutes, 41 days, nearly six weeks to declare, "I did not make and do not have any such recordings." The president was asked early on about his claims.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That I can't talk about that. I won't talk about that. All I want is for Comey to be honest and I hope he will be and I'm sure he will, I hope.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): No elaboration from the president why he couldn't or wouldn't talk about it. And then weeks later in the Rose Garden --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do tapes exist of your conversations with him?

TRUMP: Yes. Well, I'll tell you about that maybe sometime in the very near future. You're going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer, don't worry.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Not clear what the president meant by his disappointment comment. His staff also did nothing to clear up the matter. This from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on the day of the original tweet.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I assume you're referring to the tweet. And I've talked to the president and the president has nothing further to add on that.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): This from three days later.

SPICER: I think I made it clear last week that the president has nothing further on that. I've answered the question over and over again the same way.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And this from Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders this month.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you try to find out? A lot of people are interested, as you might imagine.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): When James Comey testified before Congress, he tried to emphasize his own credibility by saying --

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Lordy, I hope there are tapes.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): But lordy, it now appears there are not.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Atlanta.


COOPER: No reaction now from James Comey. Plenty for the panel to talk about. Joining us, Jeffrey Toobin, Douglas Brinkley, Bakari Sellers, Gloria Borger, Scott Jennings and Ken Cuccinelli.

And before we start, I just want to quickly reread the president's tweets on this because they do leave some room for interpretation, "With all of the recently reported electronics surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are tapes or recordings of my conversation with James Comey, but I did not make and do not have any such recordings."

Gloria, why 41 days for all of this to get to the point where we are right now?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the most benign interpretation is that Congress gave him a deadline of tomorrow and so he had to meet that deadline. But I think it took 41 days because he was pulling the country's leg on this and a lot of people don't think it's funny, Anderson. You have to be able to believe a president. And I think what he was doing, the White House spin on it was that he wanted to ensure that Comey was telling the truth.

But if you're now the special counsel Mueller, I think, and there are legal people here who know more than I do, but I'm wondering whether you have to start looking at it of whether he was trying to, in fact, intimidate Comey in one way or another.

COOPER: What -- Scott, I'm wondering, how do you see it? I mean, Gloria is saying, you know, a lot of the country didn't find it funny. What do you think was behind this?

SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I don't know what was behind it. I regret the credibility damage that's going to be done to the president here even if it is short term. I actually think he sent a pretty clear --

COOPER: You think there is credibility damage?

JENNINGS: I think in the short term, yes. I don't think this is a long-term problem, necessarily, for credibility, but in the short term, absolutely. I think he sent a pretty clear message, Anderson, several days ago when he said we would all be disappointed with the answer. I mean, pretty clearly there, he was signaling there were be no tapes.

I would just say, as a former White House staffer, I am relieved there are no tapes and glad he put out that there are no tapes because I think the president of the United States needs to be able to get the most candid advice he can get from his advisers and people that walk into the Oval Office. If there was a taping system, he would not get candid, unvarnished advice. He needs it. And so that fact that there are no tapes, I think, operationally is a really good thing for the White House.

COOPER: Bakari? I mean, do you see this -- I mean, Jeff raised the point that this is, in many ways, a diversion from a huge story today on what the Senate bill is on health care, which obviously we're going to talk to Bernie Sanders and others about it in just a moment. How do you see this?

[21:05:03] BAKARI SELLER, (D) FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA STATE HOUSE MEMBER: This isn't that calculated. And I'm surprised they were all stunned that Donald Trump lied to us. The fact of the matter is that Donald Trump has lied to this country. He's lied to us throughout the campaign. I mean we can talk about the original lie that started with the 3 to 5 million voters that voted illegally. We can talk about the birther movement and Barack Obama. We can -- the list goes on and on and on. And so I'm not -- I don't think anybody believed that there were tapes in there.

But even more importantly, I think Scott hit the nail on the head. We have a president of the United States who has a credibility deficit. That not only hurts us domestically but the rest of the world is laughing at us and we do not have the seriousness in the White House. And not only that, you have people who work for you. I actually feel sorry for people like Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Sean Spicer who have to go out there and twist in the wind and have to find themselves in pretzels because their boss lies and they have to clean it up.


KENNETH CUCCINELLI, FORMER VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, certainly, when you've got the kind of tweet power the president demonstrated in the election and to great success in the election, it's just not something he's been able to leave behind and I don't think it's helped him since the election the way it did in the election.

And this is another example. I don't agree with Gloria that now Mueller has to go back and look at the original tweet. There is no reason to think that the president was doing anything much more than pulling -- whether you call it the country's leg or Comey's leg and his comments on the news story not too long after that about, well, I hope Comey tells the truth. I'm sure he'll tell the truth. Well, I hope.

That kind of language certainly was intended, I think, by the president to make sure that Comey told the truth. Most of the rest of the country has less doubts about Comey telling the truth than the president does, though there were some inconsistencies in some of Comey's testimony over the last couple of months.

So I think that's what he was using it for. I do think it hurts his credibility but I don't think it's long lasting much as Scott said here. And this -- the fact that it came out today, the same day as this lousy Republican bill from the Senate, I think, is almost no meaning at all. That's just pure coincidence. The fact that the deadline was tomorrow for the House matters a great deal more.

COOPER: Jeff, I mean, you know, I certainly agree what Ken said about how he -- the president -- or the candidate used Twitter to great effect during the campaign. You know, every attorney, you've said this, Alan Dershowitz has said this. Every attorney we've had on has said, "Look, I would advise the president to stop doing this." The president has now very good attorneys, personal attorneys, you know, and Jay Sekulow being the latest one. They seem unable or unwilling or not interested in stopping him.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: He's the client. The client's in charge. The client does what the client wants. Lawyers can only give advice. And, you know, Donald Trump, big television watcher, saw us night after night during the campaign saying, "Oh, it's all over." You know, the "Access Hollywood" tape, his comments about John McCain, Megyn Kelly. And we were wrong and he was right and he won.

And I think he feels like he has an understanding of communication with the public that is better than his advisers, better than his lawyers. It certainly doesn't make a lot of sense to me. But the truth is, every minute we are talking about these tweets. We are not talking about millions of people are going to lose their health insurance and a tax cut for wealthy people. You know, we're going to talk about later in the program, but, you know, was it calculated to distract attention? It beats the hell out of me. I do not know.

COOPER: But, Doug, I mean, as a presidential historian, presidents have often felt handed in the White House. They've often felt cut off. Donald Trump is certainly somebody who likes, you know, that interaction with people in large auditoriums, not necessarily one on one but, you know, the large crowds and Twitter allows him, as we've said before, to bypass the, you know, nightly news and communicate directly.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, obviously, there's no problem with Twitter. The problem is with Donald Trump's misuse of Twitter, where he's constantly hijacking public policy and twisting things. I mean, this whole idea that he had tapes, we all knew there weren't going to be tapes. However, you know, he did eat up 41 days of the national clock.

We do have soldiers serving in places like Afghanistan that have been dying. It just -- it creates a circus environment, muddies the water and I think he feels that it's advantageous to him. But in the long run, it's the low ebb of presidential history when you have a president that's so untrustworthy that any time he sends a tweet, people think it's still with conspiracy theories and that's what today was. In the end he said, maybe there was something -- maybe there was a bug in the room that Barack Obama left or something, you know.

[21:09:58] SELLERS: You know, one of the things that we have to point out is that throughout the campaign trail, even today, the reason that Donald Trump lies and gets to the point where it's repetitive, where it's a pattern, some of you may even say it's pathological, is because he can do so without any repercussion,

Every single time he has a lie, whether or not is the birther movement with a 3 to 5 million voters. I mean, the list goes on and on, or the wiretaps that Barack Obama did in Trump Tower, he does so without any repercussion. And today, we have Scott and Ken, thank God, who at least saying that it's going to do some damage. But until Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell or some Republican with some gravitas stands up and says that you are eroding the credibility of the greatest nation in the world, he is going to going to keep lying. He's like a child that if you do not punish them, they will keep falling back into this bad behavior pattern.

TOOBIN: Well, I think that's a -- I mean, that's bit much. I mean, he has become considerably unpopular by presidential standards. And -- I mean, that's a consequence of, you know, his behavior as president. So, you know, yes, it's true, he hasn't been impeached and I don't think he's going to be impeached but, you know, I think there has been some cost to him of --

SELLERS: But that's a cost to him and maybe his standing in the historical lore. But I'm just talking about someone putting a stop or a halt to the damage that he's doing to the credibility we have.

COOPER: Doug, how do past presidents tried to break out of that bubble? I mean how past presidents try to get to --

BRINKLEY: They get out of Washington as much as possible. Disappear. FDR would go for a week set of time unreached, you know, by the press.

COOPER: Really?

BRINKLEY: He traveled to the Galapagos for 24 days in 1938 and nobody even knew where he was. And, you know, really. And they, you know, but times have changed and it is a glass house now. People are following the president wherever he goes. But he seems, in my mind, Trump to do a little better when he goes to Mar-a-Lago and goes, you know, to Europe, goes on campaigning like he did in Iowa. When he's in D.C. there, he is watching too much television and he's responding in a guttural way. And in the end, this -- somebody they're going to be the collected tweets of Donald Trump as a historical document with footnotes.

But it's hurting him and the Republicans know it is but he doesn't want to listen to anybody because he does things his way.

BORGER: And, Anderson, you know, what Republicans are doing now is one by one they're trying to say I don't comment on the president's tweets.

COOPER: Right. I asked Mitch McConnell that last week and that's what he said.

BORGER: Exactly. Mitch McConnell, John McCain. But sometimes it gets almost impossible because the president is tweeting on just about everything and we saw that today. And I think what we're beginning to see, today he tweeted on the tapes. He tweeted on the wall he's going to build with solar panels. He tweeted on health care. And what we're seeing, as the press briefings go off camera, we're seeing the president become his own spokesman more and more and more and that's kind of dangerous.


BORGER: Because these tweets can get a little out of control.

COOPER: All right, we've got to end it there. Thank you, everyone.

Coming up next, as we've been discussing, the wraps come off the Senate health care bill and the gloves come off and the fight to stop it. We'll hear from former presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, when we come back.

And later, from a Republican member of Congress who supports what's going on in the Senate.

Also, tonight, a CNN exclusive with two of the country's top intelligence officials said behind closed doors about the president leaning on them about trying to get a message out that there was no collusion with Russia.


[21:17:20] COOPER: The president weighed in tonight on the Senate Obamacare draft bill. He privately called the House version mean, yet celebrated its passage in the Rose Garden all the same. As for this one, which differs slightly but not drastically from the House proposal, he tweeted this. "I am very supportive of the Senate health care bill. Look forward to making it really special. Remember, Obamacare is dead." In a moment, we'll talk to former presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, who joins us with his take on the draft. But first, CNN's Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Within hours of Senate Republicans releasing their health care bill, four members announcing they currently oppose the plan as leaders make the case for its passage.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) MAJORITY LEADER: There will be ample time to analyze, discuss and provide thoughts before legislation comes to the floor and I hope every senator takes that opportunity.

NOBLES (voice-over): Republicans can only lose two votes and still pass the bill. But as it stands now, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Ron Johnson say they can't support the bill in its current form but are, "open to negotiation."

SEN. RAND PAUL, (R) KENTUCKY: The intention is not to take down the bill. The intention is to make the bill better.

NOBLES (voice-over): A pair of moderate GOP senators, Maine's Susan Collins and Nevada's Dean Heller both released statements voicing concerns with the proposal. This new bill allows states to waive the federal mandate on essential health benefits which may not cover treatments for those with pre-existing conditions. It also slows rollback of the Obama Medicaid expansion included in the House bill delaying the start of that process until 2021.

The Senate verse puts back in Obamacare subsidies for premiums eliminated from the House bill but drops the threshold from 400 percent of the poverty level to 350 percent. It maintains a one-year block on funds for Planned Parenthood.

Democrats who don't have the votes to stop the bill are relying to on emotion.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) MINORITY: The Senate Republican health care bill is a wolf in sheep's clothing.

NOBLES (voice-over): Minority Leader Chuck Schumer labeled it meaner. Using President Trump's own description of the House version of the bill, Schumer arguing that this plan may be worse than the original.

SCHUMER: This is a nasty bill. And they're trying to cover it up with little things here and there.

NOBLES (voice-over): The White House has kept its distance in this process but today indicated it plans to play a role in House Senate talks. And this morning, the president reacted to the Senate draft positively.

TRUMP: Little negotiation but it's going to be great.

NOBLES (voice-over): But there will be little time for that negotiation. House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has sent a goal of voting on the bill by the fourth of July holiday. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And Ryan joins us right now. What was the reaction from members of the House on this bill?

[21:20:00] NOBLES: Anderson, for the most part, House Republicans have steered clear of any comment because they want to allow their colleagues here on the Senate side to do their work without any interference but their opinion is important because if this bill makes it out of the Senate and right now that is a big if, it will have to go back to the House to be passed once again before it heads to the president's desk. And this morning House Speaker Paul Ryan said that he hadn't read the bill in its entirety but he had been briefed on it and from his view, there were no real concerns that would prevent it from being passed in the House.

COOPER: Ryan Nobles. Ryan, thanks very much. We're going to be talking to a House Republican later on in the broadcast who was instrumental in passing the Republican version in the House. We'll get his take on the Senate version.

Unlike the Senate, conservatives for former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is coming at the bill from the left and from the ground in some politically key states. He'll be headlining a bus tour this weekend making stops in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, challenging the proposed legislation and urging senators from those states to save the Affordable Care Act. Senator Sanders joins us right now from Burlington, Vermont.

Senator, thanks for being with us.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I) VERMONT: Good to be with you, Anderson.

COOPER: You call this the most harmful piece of legislation you have seen in your lifetime. That's an extraordinary statement. What makes it rise to that level?

SANDERS: Well, Anderson, you're right. It is an extraordinary statement because this is an extraordinary piece of legislation. If you throw 23 million people off of health insurance, if you cut Medicaid by over $800 billion, there is no question but that thousands of Americans will die. If you are sick, if you have a chronic illness and you can't get the kind of care you need, you die. Or maybe you will just suffer year after year after year.

And the purpose of this whole legislation of raising premiums for older workers, of defunding Planned Parenthood, that 2.5 million women, you know what the whole purpose is? It's to provide $500 billion in tax breaks for the top 2 percent for the insurance companies, for the drug companies and other major corporations.

This is barbaric. Frankly, this is what oligarchy is all about. It's the wealthy and powerful say, we need even more tax breaks despite that fact that we're doing phenomenally well. And if it means people in America dying, if it means throwing 23 million people off of health insurance, if it needs telling a 63-year-old worker that his premiums are going to soar, hey, that's not our problem. The only thing we have to worry about is getting even. We're just billionaires now. We need even more tax breaks.

Yes, this is barbaric.

COOPER: What the Republicans --

SANDERS: And it is the worst piece of legislation. Yes, I'm sorry.

COOPER: What the Republicans are saying and what the president has said as well is that Obamacare is dead, that it's collapsing under its own weight. I mean, you know all of these expressions that they've been using and that this basically something has to be done and this is -- this will actually help more people.

SANDERS: But, Anderson, if you talk to -- and I'm not -- these are not my best friends, but if you talk to the insurance industry, what they will tell you is that Trump and the Republican leadership are sabotaging the Affordable Care Act by dealing -- by not putting funding into cost sharing or destabilizing that situation and also not enforcing the individual mandate. So money is not coming in. The insurance companies are totally unsure about the future and they're raising rates.

But let me say this. Nobody denies that the Affordable Care Act has problems. Nobody denies that premiums are too high, that deductibles and co-payments are too high and, by the way, that is why I in the near future, the near future will be introducing legislation called Medicare for all. Guaranteeing health care to every man, woman and child and doing what every other major country on earth is doing.

But short term, short term, we have got to improve the Affordable Care Act. You don't improve the Affordable Care Act by throwing 23 million people off of insurance, including children. Children with disabilities, kids who are now getting help in school are going to lose that. What kind of country do the Republican leadership think we are when they are attempting to bring about this type of legislation beyond my comprehension?

COOPER: On the campaign trail, then candidate Trump said time and time again Medicare, Medicaid, not going to touch those things. That he's not going to lessen those things. This basically sends a lot of power over to the states and -- I mean every analysis I've looked at, it looks like Medicaid is going to be cut.

SANDERS: Well, there's no debate about that, Anderson. We're talking about -- at least in the House bill. We don't have a CBO report in the Senate bill. But in the House bill it's over $800 billion what we think of the Senate bill over a period of time it will be even more than that.

[21:24:57] Now, Trump during the campaign -- and I hope people who voted for him remember what he said. He said, "We're going to guarantee health care to everybody. Everybody is going to get great health care. Great health care." Throwing 23 million people off of health insurance is not great health care. And by the way, Trump also talked a lot about taking on the drug companies and lowering prescription drug costs. There's nothing in this legislation that begins to do that.

COOPER: So, but -- and you know, the question, of course, just from a strategic standpoint is, what can you do about it? I mean, you know, Republicans control both Houses.

SANDERS: Well, I am going to do everything I can and I know there are people all over this country who are standing up and are fighting back and I'll be on the phone, I'm going to e-mail, do everything that I can to tell the Republican representatives, the Republican senators, do not vote for this barbaric piece of legislation which would hurt so many people in this country.

And I'm going to be in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia over the weekend just explaining what this legislation is about. There's going to be rallies, I know, all over this country. There's going to be town meetings all over this country.

You know, Anderson, I don't care what your political view is. I don't think there are many Americans who think that we give unbelievably large tax breaks to billionaires and then tell disabled kids or people who are in nursing homes today because of Medicaid that we're going to punish them. Punish them to give tax breaks to billionaires. Man, that is not what this country is supposed to be about.

COOPER: One of the things also that the candidate Trump talked a lot about on the campaign trail was the opioid crisis. He said he saw firsthand in New Hampshire and in other states the price that people were paying and he talked about it passionately on the campaign trail. Does -- do any of these plans really deal with this? Because my understanding so far of what I've seen of the Senate plan, it actually earmarks money for a shorter period of time than the House plan does.

SANDERS: We have, you know -- and again, you know, when Trump said on the campaign trail is one thing, but I think most Americans now understand that what he said on the campaign trail has nothing to do with the proposals that he's bringing forthright now. He campaigned as a champion of the working class. This is the most anti-working class legislation that I have ever seen. This is legislation for the billionaire class.

So in terms of the opioid crisis, and you're right. This is not just New Hampshire, it's Vermont, you know, it's West Virginia. It is all over this country. If you make devastating cuts to Medicaid, you're going to make it much, much harder for people to get the treatment that they need. And I believe there are police chiefs throughout this country who understand what this epidemic is about and/or in opposition to these terrible cuts in Medicaid in terms of what it will mean for Opioid treatment.

COOPER: Senator Sanders, we have to take a quick break. We're going to ask you more questions right when we come back. We'll just be back in a few minutes. We're going to also talk a little bit about on the state of Democratic Party as the 2018 election gets closer. More up ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:31:34] COOPER: We've been talking with Senator Bernie Sanders about the Senate GOP health care bill. Right now, I want to turn to the state of the Democratic Party in the wake of some key loses in House special elections. Obviously, I mean this whole debate over health care shows the importance of Democrats being able to at least retake the House, if possible. This week, we saw the Democrats fall short in the special election in Georgia, the fourth contest since the president was elected where the Democrats have lost. Why can't the party win a race?

SANDERS: Well, first of all, Anderson, I think it's important to put those contests into a context. And the context is, all of them are Republican seats. And Trump did, in most of those seats, did very, very well. And, in fact, as I understand, the Democrats did much better than was the case in the last election.

So I think when most objective observers feel is Democrats actually have the momentum, maybe not enough momentum right now to win in heavily Republican districts but the momentum is with the Democrats. But having said that, it is my view that the Democratic Party has to do a lot of internal soul searching and to understand that for the last 10 years, the model that they have had really has not worked. It doesn't work when you lose the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, the White House, when two-thirds -- almost two-thirds of governor chairs are controlled by Republicans, when democrats have lost a thousand seats and legislatures all over the country.

And I think what the Democrats have got to do is make it clear for the working people of this country that they are, the Democratic Party, is on their side, is prepared to take on Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry, the insurance company, the fossil fuel industry to create the many millions of jobs that we can create by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure by, in fact, passing a Medicare for all single-payer system.

Anderson, we are the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care to all people and we've got to do that. We have got to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, 15 bucks an hour, pay equity for women. Trump is wrong when he thinks that climate change is a hoax. It is a very dangerous reality. We got to transform our energy system.

So the bottom line here is, I think the Democrats need a progressive agenda. They need to rebuild the party in states that they have ignored for decades where they have almost no presence right now and create a 50-state party.

COOPER: Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan told "The New York Times" just other day that, "Our brand is worse than Trump." Is he right? I mean is the democratic brand --

SANDERS: He may be. The Democrat -- look, I speak as the longest serving independent in American congressional history. The Democratic brand is pretty bad. I mean I don't -- I think the Trump brand is also pretty bad, as is the Republican brand. That's why so many people are giving up on politics. They are looking in Washington and what the average American says, "I'm in a lot of pain. My kid can't afford to go to college. I'm making 10 bucks an hour. What are you going to do for me?" And they don't hear much coming out of Washington. So I think --

COOPER: It seems like they are focusing a lot on President Trump, none -- as you know, running what -- I mean everyone knows that they are against President Trump. I'm not sure people know what they're for.

SANDERS: Well, that's a good point. And I know that many of us are trying to deal just with that very valid point that you're making. What we are for is to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.

[21:35:02] A trillion dollar investment would create up to 13 million good-paying jobs, to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel and into sustainable energy. And when we do that, we create millions of jobs, making public colleges and universities tuition free. Education has changed, technology have changed. Our kids need higher education whether through college or vocational schools in order to get the good jobs that are out there.

And we have got to tell the billionaire class, who are doing phenomenally well, that Trump is serving so arduously right now. We have got to say to this class, you know what, yes, you're going to have to start paying your fair share of taxes so our kids will have the opportunity to get the education that they need. You can't get it all just because you're a billionaire.

COOPER: This is a dumb question, Senator, it's too far off, you wouldn't answer, but are you looking at 2020 as possible candidate?

SANDERS: You know, Anderson, you know, again, you know, this is not really I think where the American people are at right now. They are tired of -- you know, in the U.K, the U.K. had an election. I think it was six weeks, two months. They elected, you know, an entire parliament, prime minister. And we have never-ending elections. The American people want us to deal with the crisis that they face right now today. Create the millions of jobs, raise wages, deal with climate change, deal with pay equity, make sure our kids can afford to go to college. They are not really interested on who is going to be running for president three years from now.

COOPER: Senator Sanders, always good to talk to you. Thank you.

SANDERS: Thank you very much, Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up next, did the president try to get two of his intelligence chiefs to say nice things about the Russia probe, that there was no collusion? They wouldn't say in public testimony but we've learned what they've told senators behind closed doors. A CNN exclusive when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: CNN exclusive tonight on the Russia investigation. Two of the nation's top intelligence officials told investigators the president suggested they say publicly there was no collusion between the campaign in Moscow, that's according to multiple sources. The question is, did the president try to obstruct the investigation? Michelle Kosinski joins us with the latest.

So what more do we know about what the president allegedly asked his two intelligence chiefs?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: What's interesting about these two is that both of them, the director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and the NSA director Admiral Mike Rogers testified publicly in June and didn't say very much. In fact, if you remember, that testimony was really awkward. Senators asking them, why can't you talk about what the president said and they kind of didn't know what to say.

So as part of this reporting, first of all, we know that the reason they didn't quite know what to say is because they had both reached out to the White House and asked them how executive privilege might affect their testimony. They never heard back from the White House. It was only once in private when they talked to two separate investigative teams that it came out that each of them was asked by the president or at least were saying the president suggested to them that they make public statements that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, Anderson.

COOPER: But it's important to point out that both men are saying they did not feel pressured by the president into breaking the law.

KOSINSKI: Right, right. That is a good point. In this testimony that they gave behind closed doors, they said they didn't feel pressured, they didn't take it as an order. But, of course, you know, it's really up to the investigators what this constitutes in the end when they take everything cumulatively and examine it and make their determinations from there.

COOPER: It all obviously came on the heels of Director Comey confirming investigation by the FBI into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.


COOPER: These alleged conversations between the president and both these chiefs came after that.

KOSINSKI: Yeah. There's the timeline. James Comey, then FBI director, announces that there is this investigation into potential collusion. Days later, according to these top two intelligence officials, the president suggests that they need to be making these public statements. Again, they didn't feel like it was an order but they told investigators that it was odd that they were surprised that it made them feel uncomfortable.

Of course, the question here is whether cumulatively all of these incidents constitute obstruction of justice. At the very least, though, we have the president, while an investigation is going on, you see how much this public perception of potential collusion bothers him. You have him making suggestions to these top officials of what kind of things they should be saying publicly, again, during the investigation. So that raises either two things. Either he knew that this was inappropriate or he didn't know and either of those choices is not a good one. Anderson?

COOPER: Michelle Kosinski, thanks very much. Lots to discuss back with our legal experts, Jeffrey Toobin and Ken Cuccinelli.

Ken, let me start with you. I mean both men saying here they did not feel pressured by the president to an anyway impede this investigation. Does that in any way meet the bar of obstruction of justice? Because it certainly seems like it stops well short of it.

CUCCINELLI: Well, it certainly does. I think this whole explication here is helpful to the president. It makes you wonder why was the White House not more on top of its game in terms of talking to these guys when they were headed into public testimony and to settle the question with them in their own minds about the exercise or lack thereof of executive privilege. So this wouldn't have carried on the additional days that it has because this was helpful to the president today. Does it end everything? No, it doesn't. But it's -- you know, they like to get their positives as well and it seems like they could have done this a lot more smoothly and sooner if the White House had just returned these gentlemen's calls.

TOOBIN: I actually don't see how it's favorable for the president. I agree that it's not obstruction of justice in and of itself but it is an indirect corroboration of what James Comey said. I mean James Comey was running the investigation. So telling him to stop it or suggesting that he stop it is potentially obstruction of justice. What these comments to the other intelligence officials just suggest the depth of the president's feeling that he wants to be vindicated and he wants the government, the rest of the government to say that he was not involved in this collusion and he wants it said by people who are not in a position to say it. So I don't think that --

[21:45:15] CUCCINELLI: Well, that's not entirely correct. I mean this was partially, Jeffrey, an intelligence investigation. I mean, there's a logic asking these two. And remember, for those who don't remember, Mike Rogers has been in his position for two and half years now, three years approaching. So he's in Obama appointee there, and he and Coats are both saying essentially the same thing. So I don't think what you're saying is mutually exclusive with what I'm saying in this particular case.

COOPER: Also, Jeff, I mean you could look at this with a benign explanation, which is if there was no collusion, the president understandably is extraordinarily frustrated that this story is out there all the time and, you know, wants whoever around him to be able to say whatever they know or just say can't you guys put out a statement saying there is no collusion?

TOOBIN: That's right. I mean he does want to be vindicated. But, you know, there is, at this point, an ongoing investigation of this precise issue.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: So to say to the people who are part of this investigation, "vindicate me before it's over" --

COOPER: I'm not saying -- I'm just saying it's may be understandable if there is no collusion.

TOOBIN: It is. You're sort of -- it's a version of the Paul Ryan, well, he's new with this sort of thing and he doesn't really understand how it works. I mean when people are doing investigations, you're not supposed to tell them to announce their conclusions, especially when they're investigating you. And that's what the problem with what the president said.

COOPER: Ken, I mean is this in any way appropriate for the president to be asking these two guys?

CUCCINELLI: Well, it's certainly clumsy in the sense that there is an ongoing investigation, but I think a reasonable reading of this is the president probably very strongly believed that he'd already been vindicated. I mean remember, by this time, Comey had told him that he was not under personal investigation and there is some question about combining Donald Trump, the person with the campaign here for purposes of analysis. But he wants to hear from others in government what he already knows to be true and that is that he didn't collude with the Russians in the campaign. And these two are in a position to do that. He is asking them to do what he believes is simply tell the truth but unusually for people heading their organizations to do it in public. That's part of what is so unusual here.


TOOBIN: Just because you believe you are innocent doesn't mean you get to tell people that you are -- that you are innocent.

CUCCINELLI: I mean, that's why we have investigations.


COOPER: Yes. Ken Cuccinelli, Jeffrey Toobin, thanks very much.

Up next, you may remember President Trump celebrate in the White House Rose Garden with law makers after the House passed its version of the health care bill. That bill largely passed because of Congressman Tom MacArthur's amendment bringing the House Freedom Caucus back into the poll. I'll talk to the congressman ahead about the Senate version.


[21:51:47] COOPER: More on our breaking news from Capitol Hill. The GOP Senate health care bill is finally public after weeks of secrecy. Already for Republican senators say they oppose the bill in its current form. Back in May, Republican Congressman Tom MacArthur's amendment helped the House version of the same bill squeak through to pass. I spoke to him earlier.


COOPER: Congressman, first of all, the Senate version of this bill, does it have your support as it stands right now?

REP. TOM MACARTHUR, (R) NEW JERSEY: Well, Anderson, I haven't read the whole thing. I have read summaries of it and I've talked to some of the senators about it. I think it's a move in the right direction. For one, they built off the framework that the House established and I think that's helpful.

So we're not, you know, starting all over again from scratch. And I'm looking at what they did with the tax credits, with Medicaid, with giving states flexibility and so far, I think it's a bill that we can work with.

COOPER: You -- I mean you obviously -- you helped get the House bill across the finish line with your amendment which ultimately brought the House Freedom Caucus onboard and you certainly know the difficulties of getting conservatives and moderates to work together. Does it surprise you that already seeing a split with some of the conservative members in Senate on this bill or is that just kind of routine?

MACARTHUR: No, I'm not surprised at all. I think that those fault lines are there just like in the House and the Senate is going to have to work through them. You know, bear in mind, Anderson, this is a discussion draft that many of those senators are just seeing today.

So, people may be posturing, people may have serious concerns, and I think the Senate is going to have to do the exact same thing that we did in the House, find a way to bridge this divide, and do two critical things. Bring down costs for everyone and protect the most vulnerable. It's difficult. And they have to do it. They have to get this done because every week it seems we're hearing of more markets collapsing around the country, and, you know, 10 million people are depending on their insurance today. They're going to loose it if we don't fix this. So they just have to get this done in the Senate.

COOPER: Do you buy when, you know, the CBO said that more than 20 million people will be off health insurance with the House bill?

MACARTHUR: I don't, Anderson. I've had a problem with the CBO score from the beginning. They have a terrible record on health care. They predicted that 22 million people would be in the Obamacare exchanges in 2016. They were off by 120 percent. And I found a lot of examples of bias in their work. I think that the CBO score has been problem.

COOPER: Last week, the president called the House version of the bill mean. I wonder what your reaction is, concerning you played such a big role in get it passed and, you know, it didn't seem like he felt that way in the Rose Garden last month after it passed.

MACARTHUR: Well he didn't. And I was with the president the Sunday before those comments were supposedly made. I still haven't seen the sources. As far as I know, they're still unnamed sources. So I don't know the context of it. I don't know the why. And so it's really not something for me to respond to.

[21:55:00] I can say this, Anderson, I have lived through my own health care crisis multiple times in my life. I don't believe our bill is mean at all. We're trying to solve a real problem. A problem that's going to hurt -- it's already hurting millions of Americans, but it's going to be devastating for the 10 million that are in the marketplace today if we don't fix it. There's nothing mean about trying to solve a problem that's a difficult one. How do you protect vulnerable people and bring costs down for everyone else? That's -- that is maybe the issue of our time.

COOPER: Many viewers may not realized, you did -- you lost your oldest daughter, Gracie, when she was just 11 years old and you spoken a lot about knowing what it's like to struggle paying medical bills.

MACARTHUR: Well, and Anderson, I had insurance. But -- you know, in addition to the emotional devastation of losing a child, I had over a million dollars of medical bills in her 11 years and insurance doesn't cover everything and we had our own challenges with that. We were a younger family, didn't have a lot of money in those days, and so I didn't know what it's like for people and I just -- I hope the American people will give us a chance to fix this system.

COOPER: Congressman Tom MacArthur, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

MACARTHUR: Anderson, thank you.


COOPER: We'll be right back.


COOPER: That's it for us. Thanks for watching.

Time to hand things over to Don Lemon. "CNN Tonight" starts right now. See you tomorrow.