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WaPo: Putin Ordered Hacks to Aid Trump, Damage Clinton; Russia Threat: Where's the Urgency?. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired June 23, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:08] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

Tonight, a new report is painting a dramatic and detailed picture of Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election, revealing that last year, the CIA learned that Vladimir Putin himself was directly involved in the cyber campaign to influence the U.S. election. The report is in "The Washington Post." It calls Russia's efforts to influence the election politically the crime of the century.

But keeping them honest, neither today's dramatic story nor the actual Russian hacking, nor the ongoing threat to future U.S. elections seem to be raising much concern within the White House, or even much curiosity. It's sort of like a Paul Revere rode through the night to warn that the British were coming, but his warnings were met with silence.

In a moment, you'll hear from one of the reporters who broke "The Washington Post" story. Not only does it reveal intelligence source from deep within the Kremlin that outlines Vladimir Putin's direct involvement, according to CIA and cyber campaign, but it goes on to reveal a level of concern so grave over the following months, that then-President Obama approved planting the digital equivalent of explosives inside sensitive Russian computer systems to be set off in the future if the cyber battle escalated.

The story also lays out how the Obama administration did far less than many believe was warranted, ironically out of fear of being seen as trying to influence the election's outcome. And perhaps because they thought Hillary Clinton was going to win despite the hacking.

What the story does not do is reveal anything that the American public has not already known at least in broad strokes for almost a year now. Namely that Russia meddles in the election.

Russia continues to meddle in other's elections, Great Britain and France, just to name a two. And according to recent testimony from past and current top intelligence officials, analysts and lawmakers in a position to know, Moscow has its eye on doing it again.

Plenty of very smart people in both parties consider what Russia did and continues to do to be a threat to Western democracy. Some even call it an act of war. Yet, the White House and the president continue to be blase about it.

Here's senior adviser Kellyanne Conway this morning on CNN's "NEW DAY". When asked about "The Post" report about hacking, she answers instead about something else.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: What's the White House's response to this?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: The president has said previously, and we've got confirmation now from Jeh Johnson, from Adam Schiff, from Dan Coats, from Jim Comey, from Mike Rogers, that there's no evidence of collusion, number one. And number two, that this didn't have an impact on the electoral results. We know that Donald Trump won fairly and squarely, 306 electoral votes.


CONWAY: It had nothing to do with interference.

CAMEROTA: We know that, as well. What about this new reporting, that there are three dozen high level officials that say they can connect President Putin with given instructions that hacked the DNC computers and to plant fake stories. What is the current White House doing about this?

CONWAY: Well, Alison, the president has said previous, and he stands by that, particularly as president-elect, that he would be concerned about anybody interfering in our democracy. We saw a lot of people interfering with our democracy by saying he couldn't win here at home.

CAMEROTA: I mean, against Russia, what is he doing specifically to try to stop this?

CONWAY: Alisyn, I realize we just like to say the word "Russia, Russia" to mislead the voters. And I know that CNN is aiding and abetting this nonsense as well. But you've asked me the same question three times now --

CAMEROTA: And you're not answering it, Kellyanne.

CONWAY: Yes, I am. He's the president of the United States.

CAMEROTA: What is he doing?

CONWAY: He has said very clearly that he wants the voter integrity and ballot integrity to be protected --

CAMEROTA: What action is he taking?

CONWAY: -- against any type of interference.

At this very moment, at this very second?


CONWAY: Oh, yes, because we have nothing to say about Russian collusion affecting the electoral outcome.

CAMEROTA: Kellyanne --

CONWAY: Those rabbit holes did not bear fruit.

CAMEROTA: Kellyanne, Kellyanne --


COOPER: If you were following that, she can't or won't name one thing that the president is actually doing to prevent future Russian efforts to disrupt elections.

Now, late today, press secretary Sean Spicer was asked about Russian hacking. We would show you the video, but again today, no cameras were allowed. So, we did what we actually do in court rooms when cameras aren't allowed, that's right, we sent a sketch artist named Bill Hennessey (ph) to the White House to draw some pictures.


REPORTER: Is he concerned about that, Sean?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Of course. He's concerned about any country or any actor that wants to interfere in elections.


COOPER: It's a good drawing.

So, Sean Spicer again not able or willing to single out actually Russia. And Kellyanne Conway, when asked, changes the subject to collusion with Russia, which the administration says the president has been cleared on, or to the president's victory, which is, of course, undisputed. He won.

In any case, avoiding the central question is nothing new. Back in July when reports of Russian hacking began emerging, then candidate Trump treated it as kind of a joke.


DONALD TRUMP, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.


COOPER: By September, candidate Trump was playing sort of coy.


[20:05:00] TRUMP: I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK? You don't know who broke into the DNC.


COOPER: On October 7th, the Department of Homeland Security and the office of the director of national intelligence issued a joint statement warning that Russia was behind the hacking. Just three days later, candidate Trump was focused not on the hacking but what the hackers got, information published by WikiLeaks.


TRUMP: Now, this just came out, this came out. WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks.


COOPER: Well, that was October 10th, three days after the U.S. intelligence community put out a statement.

Now look, in fairness, things get said in the heat of a campaign, that's understood. It's water under the bridge. But the election is over, Donald Trump is president, completely and legitimately.

So, the question is, what is actually being done by the White House?

Well, Kellyanne Conway didn't point this out, but she could have pointed out that the president has signed an executive order on cyber security that calls federal agencies to submit risk assessment reports within 90 days and gives the military a larger share of responsibility for cyber security. Oddly, it does not mention specifically Russia or Russian hacking.

Beyond that, from the president, we haven't seen much action or heard much real concern. And although we're not privy, obviously to conversations the president has had with his top intelligence and law enforcement officials, we do know from some of their testimony, from reports of their testimony, that he's very interested in the Russian investigation, mainly as it relates to clearing him or his associates.

The common thread seems to be a lack of interest in the actual threat.


SEN. MARTIN HEINRICH (D-NM), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Did you have any interactions with the president that suggests he was taking that hostile action seriously?

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I don't remember any interactions with the president other than the initial briefing on January the 6th, I don't remember -- I could be wrong -- but I don't remember any conversations with him at all about that.

SEN.ANGUS KING (I-ME), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: He never asked for a briefing or attended a briefing or read the intelligence reports? JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: You might have been very critical of

me, if I, as an active part of the campaign, was seeking intelligence relating to -- something that might be relevant to the campaign. I'm not sure --

KING: I'm not talking about the campaign, but what the Russians did. You received no briefing on the Russian active measures in connection with the 2016 election?

SESSIONS: No. I don't believe I ever did.


COOPER: Well, a bit later in the broadcast, we're going to hear from a Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee and get his take on how seriously he thinks the president takes the problem.

Right now, CNN's Sara Murray joins us now from the North Lawn.

I understand the White House formally responded tonight to the House Intelligence Committee's request, asking for any evidence, recordings of conversations with former FBI Director James Comey. What did you learn?

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. They did respond. But in his usual fashion, and the response came from one of the president's legislative affairs staffers, his top legislative affairs staffer, not from the president's attorney, White House counsel. And it refers back to what in this letter to the committee, it calls a statement, but is actually the president's tweet, saying: With all the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking, and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are tapes or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make or do not have any such recordings.

It does not go any further than that. It is very short, two-paragraph letter. But one thing, Anderson, it does answer is the question of whether the president's tweets are really statements. This seems to clear that issue up.

COOPER: Press Secretary Sean Spicer had the briefing today again, no cameras allowed. We have the artist rendering. Any real news out of there?

MURRAY: There was a briefing. You can see the sketches that we have in place of the live television images that we would normally have in a White House briefing. You know, he did point out the fact that he believes that President Trump is standing by his January comment, that the Russians were the ones to meddle in the election. We actually haven't heard that from the president directly since January. So, take that for what it's worth.

And Spicer defended these off-camera briefings saying it's a way to have substantive policy discussions. For what it's worth, being in those briefings, that does not seem to be the case. There does not seem to be a difference in terms of the substance in those policy discussions, whether they are off-camera or on-camera. But this is clearly the tact that the administration is taking right now, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Sara Murray -- Sara, thanks very much.

Now, much more on "The Washington Post" story. Adam Entous is one of the three reporters shown on the byline on it. I spoke with him just before we went to air.


COOPER: In the article, you described Russian interference in the U.S. election as politically the greatest crime of the century.

ADAM ENTOUS, WASHINGTON POST: Right. I mean, when you consider, you know, what occurred in 2016, it is truly remarkable. I mean, spy services around the world are constantly stealing each other's secrets. I mean, that's what they do.

[20:10:00] That's their jobs, to a great extent, in addition to analyzing it. But typically, this is done to benefit policymakers to have insights when they deal with that other country. What happened in this case is that the Russians, according to U.S. intelligence agencies, not only were doing what they always do, which is basically snooping around in the computer systems of all political parties, but in this case, they made a decision to basically take e-mails that they knew would be harmful to one side and inject them into the public through WikiLeaks in this case, in order to try to shape the outcome of the election.

COOPER: And, Jeh Johnson, Obama's former homeland security secretary, mentioned this in his testimony yesterday. But you also report that it was Vladimir Putin himself who in fact signed off on these attacks and they have evidence of that.

ENTOUS: Right. I mean, I think that was really the most remarkable, dramatic moment, if you will, that we discovered, which was basically the CIA, in either late July or very early in August, gets very sensitive intelligence from a very reliable source of information. It's very rare for the CIA, despite a popular perception that they have information on everything, it's very hard for them to get Putin himself, him providing an instruction. That is as close to a bombshell internal coup, if you will, for an intelligence service and for CIA as ever.

So, for the CIA itself to get this from such a reliable source of information was a turning point for the administration, as it was trying to decide how to respond.

COOPER: It also -- I mean, that fact, they know Vladimir Putin authorized this, was in on it. It makes the lack of comments by President Trump about this and the doubts that he's raised about Russian involvement even more stunning.

ENTOUS: Yes, I mean, obviously, you know, one should consider the fact that the CIA does make mistakes. I mean, look what happened in Iraq.

So, it's good to be skeptical. And even Obama had a measure of skepticism. He didn't just run with what Brennan presented him, the former CIA director. He instructed the other intelligence chiefs to go out there and to confirm what the CIA had shown him in early August.

So, the same information that was presented to Obama was then presented in early January to Trump. Initially, he sounded like he was receptive, that maybe he was convinced based on what he was told in that early January meeting.

But since then, you can see through his social media commentary and through his public statements that this skepticism is back, seems to be back.

COOPER: But you can't read your reporting on this and not be alarmed at the extent of Russia's intervention, the high level support of it within Russia itself, and seemingly the lack of interest by the current president in that Russian intervention. Obviously, there's a lot of issues, he's arguing that there was no collusion. He feels that he's being unfairly tarred with that.

But just the very fact of the intervention, you know, you have both Jeff Sessions and former Director Comey testifying that they haven't had any conversations with the president, other than initial briefing with Comey, about Russia's interference. It doesn't seem like there's a lot of curiosity or alarm in this White House.

ENTOUS: Right. I mean, in some ways, that may be the most disturbing part of all this. I mean, obviously, something very important happened in 2016, and there can be disputes about, you know, what the intentions of the Russians might be or there might be some disputes over, you know, whether or not this cast a cloud over Trump or not.

And, you know, obviously, the FBI is investigating some of these issues. But really the issue is, is the government, is the United States government taking this seriously and prepared to do something to make sure it doesn't happen again? And as far as I can tell, there is really no effort as far -- you know, that I can see, certainly coming from the White House which, like you said, is not necessarily take thing seriously. Or even for that matter from Congress where divisions are so deep.

It's just not clear if, you know, these divided leaders in Congress and in the executive branch are prepared to compromise to try to address these issues ahead of the next election.

COOPER: One former senior Obama official who's involved in the deliberations on Russia was quoted in your piece saying: It is the hardest thing my time in the government to defend. I feel like we sort of choked.

Was that the feeling of people in the Obama administration that you spoke with?

ENTOUS: Well, I think that is certainly a sentiment that we heard from many officials that we spoke to. They --

COOPER: And part of that -- I'm sorry, was part of it just that they thought Hillary Clinton was going to win and that they could deal with this once in a Clinton administration?

ENTOUS: I think, you know, that might have been part of it. You know, certainly, there's a certain amount of heartbreak for some of these people and some of them were counting on getting jobs in a Clinton administration and now find themselves kind of in the political wilderness.

[20:15:12] But I think in this case what we're dealing with is somebody I know who was personally felt like more should and could have been done. It's really a reflection I think of frustration. But I think at the top, at the highest levels of the government, you know, the president and top advisers, who got to see all of the intelligence and had to weigh the pros and cons, this was very complicated. It wasn't black and white and it cannot be oversimplified. These were tough choices that people were making.

COOPER: It's incredible reporting. I encourage everybody to read it.

Adam Entous, thanks so much.

ENTOUS: Pleasure. Thank you.


COOPER: Just ahead, Hillary Clinton's campaign manager joins us, along with the rest of the panel, left, right, and center.

And later, whether or not he's concerned about Russian hacking is one thing. There's also the question of how much the Russia investigation is getting inside the president's head, with reporting that he needs to vent daily on it. We'll be joined by three Trump biographers, each with insight into how the president reacts under pressure.


COOPER: Before the break, you heard Adam Entous lay out details not just of the Russian hacking of the presidential election, but also how the White House knew what it did and what it failed to do.

[20:20:01] Next week, Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, whose emails were hacked, along with the DNC, will testify on Capitol Hill.

Joining us now, his former colleague, Clinton campaign manager, Robby Mook, who is CNN's newest political commentator. Also, Bryan Lanza, Bakari Sellers, Jeffrey Lord, and Maggie Haberman.

Robby, let's start with you. First of all, congratulations. Welcome to CNN.


COOPER: Do you -- when you see looking back on it, do you blame the Obama administration for how they handled this? Because clearly they, according to this "Washington Post" report, A, it seemed like they thought Hillary Clinton was going to win and maybe could work on this later, but also felt like they didn't want to be seen as influencing the election.

MOOK: Well, I think Adam hit the nail on the head actually in the interview you showed earlier. This was incredibly complex. I do think -- look, I think a lot of people thought Hillary Clinton was going to win. I think there are a lot of people who decided not to turn out and vote or some people who voted third party who would have changed their vote in retrospect if they thought Donald Trump was going to win.

So, I think that was part of it. But I think the whole system didn't work here. I think between national security, law enforcement, the administration, even the campaigns, I think even the news media -- I don't think any of us knew how to handle this situation. It's really important that we understand what happened, and look back. But I think we need to be spending just as much time right now looking at the future and saying, what practically can we do moving forward?

COOPER: So, Bryan, to that idea, what is President Trump actually doing to prevent future Russian hacking? To punish them for what they've done?

RYAN LANZA, FORMER DEPUTY COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: First of all, he put together an election commission. He put that in the first 30 days, sort of a review of the election process.


COOPER: Wait, that was the thing about the illegal immigrants in California.

LANZA: Absolutely. It's elections all together. Specifically, it has to do with IDs and --

COOPER: That actually didn't happen in the first 30 days. He talked about it, but then it was just recently discussed that Pence was put in charge.

LANZA: Like I said, we have this commission that's going to be reviewing those processes. It's going to test those processes. But I think when you look at what took place, you know, last October, last November, it was a total failure on the Obama administration.

COOPER: The question is, what has the president done? So, he's put together this thing that focused largely on what he calls voter fraud.

LANZA: You're deciding what it is focused on now, we'll see what the agenda looks like.

COOPER: I'm just basing that on his tweets.

LANZA: The tweets don't lay out the complete agenda.

COOPER: But other than that, anything else that you can point to? I pointed to in the opening, the cyber thing --

LANZA: Yes. Those are two important things. You have the security that needs to take place of our machines, which is the cyber security executive order that took place, and then you have the commission that is going to review what took place from ID stand point and other methods of how the election was interfered through these processes.

MOOK: But, Anderson, in fairness, this commission, it's some activist secretaries of state. It's not national security or cyber security officials. They are in no process to confront this issue in particular.

So, yes, they're going to look at voter IDs based on false information. I don't think that committee.

LANZA: It's going to include secretaries of states who put together elections. I think they're most on the ground and understand what's going on. It's not going to be some outsider who's trying to guess what's going on.

COOPER: Right, but they probably don't know anything about Russia or hacking.

LANZA: But they certainly understand their equipment. They know what's going on. They know how to test. They know when things are being penetrated.


BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: With all due respect, you're missing the point. We're not alleging that Russia hacked machines. And that is what secretaries of states are in charge of. In fact, what we're saying is that the hacking of John Podesta's e- mails and distributing those things, and coordinating that with WikiLeaks and doing those types of things, that's vastly different than what the secretaries of state do.

But even more importantly, until Donald Trump, because just this week, I believe it was yesterday, he said if Russia was involved in any of this. I mean, if. Until Donald Trump acknowledges that Russia -- if he agrees -- you can shake your head all you want --


SELLERS: One second. Until he agrees with the intelligence community and backs them up and supports them and says what everyone else in this country knows, that Russia interfered with our elections, all this is for naught.

COOPER: Let me bring Jeffrey Lord in this.

Jeffrey, you know, just to Bakari's point, you know, the president has always said, he said this a lot during the campaign, I think it was an effective line, that unless you name radical Islam, unless you name what the enemy is, how are you going to go about actually fighting it, that was Donald Trump's criticism of President Obama, rightly or wrongly. Can you make the same argument on Russian hacking?

Until he acknowledges that Russia was behind this and they're going to try to do it again as the U.S. intelligence community has repeatedly said, how can you -- unless you name it, how can you fight it?

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENATOR: Anderson, I hope you're sitting down, because I agree with you. My point is, let me just read you one part of a sentence from a "New York Times" story on April 7th of this year.

The American military strike against Syria threatened Russia-American relations on Friday as the Kremlin denounced President Trump's use of force, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

In other words, when the president perceives a basic interest of the United States to be at stake, come hell or high water, he's going to act, Russians or not.

What we saw with the Obama administration was an unwillingness to act --

COOPER: OK, I get your criticism of the Obama administration and it's certainly been echoed in this "Washington Post". I guess --


[20:25:01] COOPER: I guess what we're trying to focus on is what now? What is he doing then?

LORD: Well, I think he's going to take into account all the advice of what we're seeing here. We see, of course, "The Washington Post" in this story that you're quoting says despite the dire warnings, there was no meltdowns of the United States voting infrastructure.

COOPER: Again, but --

LORD: The question is, what to do? What to do?

He was just meeting with cyber security people just this week.

COOPER: Right.

LORD: I mean, he sat there with all of the leading lights of the cyber world and internet and, doubtless, they will work on this.

COOPER: Right, that's more about updating IT systems in the federal government, which is a completely valid thing. That's what his executive order was based on, but it didn't mention Russia.

LORD: Anderson, my point is the underlying attitude. If your underlying attitude about the Russians, which was true of Democrats for 50-some-odd years, was appeasement, and let's get along, et cetera, et cetera, Hillary Clinton and the reset button, you are just opening the door for this kind of thing.

COOPER: OK. LORD: Donald Trump, in his first six months, has sent missiles flying into Syria, in objection -- objected to by the Russians.

COOPER: All right.

LORD: He has no fear of acting when he feels he needs to act.

COOPER: All right. Maggie, I mean, you know, whatever the Obama administration did or did not do to stop the Russian interference, no one can change that. The question again of what the Trump administration is doing to get to the bottom of what Russia did to make sure they didn't do it again, is it clear to you what they're doing?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, NEW YORK TIMES WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No. And I don't feel I have any greater answers to this question than you do after listening to the White House gaggle today and listening to surrogates of the administration speak. Look, I mean, there are legitimate reasons to criticize the Obama administration, and Adam covered that in your interview with him. But he correctly said this is a complicated issue where there is no clear, clean line how to handle it at the time.

Our system was not built to process what happened. And we have seen that over and over in news stories, that includes a lot of aspects of this system. So, the question does become, what is this administration doing?

And we have heard a variation of the news media is using this, or Democrats are using this, or this is not an issue. And then we hear, you know, the president really, of course, he's concerned about this.

The president this week tweeted the DNC hacks were a Democratic hoax. So, I'm not sure what we're supposed to take from that, that is feeding into a conspiracy theory that's been debunked all over the place, to use one of his phrases.

So, I don't -- I don't see any evidence of the administration either can separate out -- and by the administration, I should be clear. I'm talking about the president. He can't separate out, he takes everything about Russia as some kind of an attack on him or some of kind of questioning of his legitimacy. And he can't understand why people would like to see more done.

And there are a lot of people, including James Comey in the Senate testimony sort of sounding an alarm, saying Russia is coming. There is more at stake here beyond just this past year.

COOPER: Bryan, you know, Maggie raises a point here. I think Kellyanne Conway kind of verified it this morning in her interview where she wouldn't talk about what's being done, because I don't -- maybe she didn't know about the cyber security executive order, because she should have used that. But she turned it to the media's obsessed with collusion, there was no collusion, he won fair and square. That's not the argument. You can argue about whether there was

collusion or not, you can argue about obstruction of justice, there are investigations going on about that. That has nothing -- and the president won fair and square. There's -- that is separate from what to do about Russia.

LANZA: I think you have to look at it from a macro standpoint. What Russia sees in President Trump is somebody who is not afraid to act. And Jeffrey pointed out the series --

COOPER: How do you know?

LANZA: Well, I mean, let's look at what we did. I mean, Obama did nothing with Syria --

COOPER: That's not true.

LANZA: Absolutely. Did he send -- did he bomb any of the people who were --


COOPER: Bombing is the definition --


LANZA: How did he respond to the chemical attacks?

COOPER: Right, he made a red line --

MOOK: Obama never called on the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump called on the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton.

LANZA: Look, my point is you have President Trump who is not afraid to engage --

SELLERS: But he won't -- but see, the problem with that statement is he won't even acknowledge Russia was behind the interference we're talking about. I mean, until you acknowledge that basic fact, until Donald Trump acknowledges that basic fact, as president of the United States, it's moot.

You want to talk about Barack Obama did? Barack Obama literally crippled the Russian economy with sanctions. And now we know Donald Trump is actually trying to weaken sanctions that the Senate passed by going to the House GOP. We know that as a fact.

LORD: It didn't work.

LANZA: It didn't work.

SELLERS: It did work. In fact, Russia's economy --


SELLERS: Russia's economy, Jeffrey, Russia's economy was falling apart. They simply were. The reason that we know that Vladimir Putin wanted --


LORD: So, in other words, sanctions did not work.

SELLERS: The reason we know Vladimir Putin wanted Donald Trump instead of Hillary Clinton is not anything we have to guess about.

LANZA: So afraid of -- you know, Putin was so afraid of Obama that for eight years, he engaged him and every time, Obama backed down. That's what sort of setting the precedent.


COOPER: At some point, though, when -- and this was the question that was said by Republicans about President Obama's -- at what point does Obama stop blaming President George W. Bush? The question is, at what point does the Trump administration stop blaming President Obama?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Obama ran the election.

COOPER: And actually talk about what they're doing and they're not talking about --


COOPER: And the exact thing, Democrats said about we are where are now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just think in general terms we're flying over the real problem here. OK, a political committee was hacked. We think election administrators, e-mail accounts were hacked. The list of voters could be hacked. At some point we need to come down from tens of thousands of feet and go into the places that can actually --

COOPER: I've also yet to hear anyone from the DNC actually take responsibility for their, you know, not even believing the FBI agent who called them up, to tell them about the hacks, was a real FBI agent according to New York Times reporting, which I still lost my mind but that's another discussion.

I appreciate everybody here. Thank you.

Up next, President Trump believes Special Counsel Robert Mueller is "Very good friends with fired FBI Director James Comey." He also says that it's very bothersome. Two mens certainly at the history, we'll look at what exactly that history is and how much of a problem, if any, it may pose. We'll be right back.


[20:35:05] COOPER: Today, the President again said he had no plans to fire Russia Special Counsel Robert Mueller. However, he also continued casting doubt on Mueller's objectivity because he said Mueller's relationship with fired FBI director James Comey. This is what he said this morning on Fox News. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's very, very good friends with Comey, which is very bothersome, but he's also -- we're going to have to see. I mean, we're going to have to see in terms -- look, there's been no obstruction. There's been no collusion. There has been leaking by Comey, but there's been no collusion, no obstruction. And virtually everybody agrees to that. So we'll have to see. I can say that the people that have been hired are all Hillary Clinton supporters.


COOPER: As for the first part of the five Tea members, CNN identified as of last week, three did make political donations and campaigns since 1988 according to FAC documents. The money totalling more than $53,000 went very heavily almost but not quite exclusively two Democrats and about 30 percent of it to Hillary Clinton.

We should also point out that was as of the 13th of the month. On the 15th, Mueller spokesman told the New York Times that as many as a dozen staffers had been hired and so far there is obviously more to learn about their political affiliations. There's no record of any donations from Mueller himself. Mueller was, by the way, appointed by FBI director -- was appointed FBI Director by George W. Bush. As for Comey and Mueller being close friends, our Randi Kaye tonight is keeping them honest.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No question, these two former FBI Directors have a history. It dates back to 2004, when James Comey refused to authorize an NSA surveillance program called "Stellar Wind" under George W. Bush. Comey learned members of the Bush administration were heading to then Attorney General John Ashcroft's hospital room to get him to reauthorize the spying program. Comey called Robert Mueller, who was the FBI Director at the time to alert him.

COMEY: I told him what was happening. He said I'll meet you at the hospital right now. He's one of the finest people I've ever met.

KAYE (voice-over): Comey was Deputy Attorney General at the time and was serving as acting head of the Justice Department while Ashcroft was in the hospital. He was later named FBI Director in 2013 by President Obama, right after Mueller stepped down.


COMEY: So help me God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, Mr. Director.

KAYE (voice-over): For years, Comey and Mueller have spoken highly of each other. COMEY: It's daunting to follow Bob Mueller, but it's also a gift, given the way he's led this agency for 12 years and I promise to do my best to uphold his legacy.

ROBERT MUELLER, SPECIAL COUNSEL FOR RUSSIA INVESTIGATION: I have had the opportunity to work with Jim for a number of years in the Department of Justice, and I have found him to be a man of honesty, dedication, and integrity.

KAYE (voice-over): Still, after Breitbart quoted a former FBI assistant director saying Comey and Mueller are the best of friends and have been for over two decades, Comey's attorney tried to set the record straight. He told Snopes (ph), Jim and Bob are friends in the sense that co-workers are friends. They don't really have a personal relationship. The Attorney said they've never been to each other's house and that the two men have only had lunch together once and dinner twice.

Another important note, despite some claims the two men are very good friends, Comey had nothing to do with Mueller's appointment as special counsel. President Trump had already fired Comey by the time Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein brought Mueller in to lead the DOJ Russia investigation.

Now, whether or not Mueller and Comey have much of a friendship, they do seem to share many of the same values and beliefs. Both were educated at Virginia University, Mueller at the University of Virginia, and Comey at William and Mary. Both had also given up big jobs at private law firms, and worked with Eric Holder during his time at the Justice Department under the Clinton Administration. While the extent of their friendship remains unclear, they do both share a reputation for having a commitment to credibility, truthfulness, and honestly.

MUELLER: Regardless of your chosen career, you are only as good as your word. You could be smart, aggressive, articulate and indeed persuasive. But if you're not honest, your reputation will suffer and once lost, a good reputation can never be regained.

KAYE (voice-over): Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: Up next, a new report about how President Trump is handling the Russia investigation. It's got some fascinating details about how the President now starts his day on the phone with the member of his legal teams, some revealing other points, coming up next.


[20:40:26] COOPER: Tonight, "The Washington Post" is reporting that President Trump starts each day now with a ritual morning phone call, it's not with the key West Wing staffer or relative, it's with the member of his outside legal counsel to hash out the latest in the Russia investigation. According to Washington Post reporting, which includes interviews with 22 senior administration officials outside advisers and Trump confidence, the President's team is encouraging the call to try to get the topic out of the President's system before the rest of his day begins so he can compartmentalize it to certain (ph) degrees of success apparently.

Joining me now, are three men who have spent some time getting in the President's head, all writing books about civilian Donald Trump. Tim O'Brien is author of "TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald," and the Executive Editor of Bloomberg View Michael D'Antonio. He's a CNN Contributor and Author of the "The Truth About Trump," and Brad Thomas is the author of "The Trump Factor." He's also a Trump supporter.

Michael, I mean, it was very interesting that this morning, this vent session with the President's attorneys, the idea is to do, I guess, what Bill Clinton was able to do, according to the folks who works in the Clinton White House, which was compartmentalize the investigation President Clinton was under. Do you think it works with President Trump?

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR, "THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP": I really don't think it does work. I'm sort of reminded of when I was a rambunctious little kid and my mother would send me out to play to burn off some of the energy. And then within an hour of coming back inside, I'll be bouncing off the walls again.

And I think President Trump is very much like a kid with attention deficit disorder who is easily distracted in one moment. So a phone call with the lawyers or meeting with attorneys might help briefly. But if he's given a pause, I think his resentment about an issue like this, his anger, his obsession it's going to come back. And I think that's why we see later in the day he may still tweet about it and he is obsessing about this being fake, something that the Democrats or press have trumped up.

[20:45:26] And it's why he can't move on to actually helping the country deal with the threats of Russia, rather than just talking about how the threat doesn't really exist.

COOPER: Tim, I mean over the years, you've been a source of the President's anger. You sued by him, is it something that he can't extend I meant that sort of get it out of his head and move on from?

TIM O'BRIEN, AUTHOR, "TRUMPNATION: THE ART OF BEING THE DONALD": No, because I think he is very afraid of the Russia investigation. The core issue here is that this is morphed I think from simply being obstruction of justice investigation or a collusion investigation. I have serious doubts he cares about the collusion piece of it, into a financial investigation.

And I think he is been concerned about that from the beginning. I think that's why he's been so aggressive in trying to derail it, and has put it so front of mind all the time in his administration, because it's going to come back to the money trail. And that is going to lead to his wallet, his business operation. And the thing about someone who over the course of his business career doesn't have a closet of skeletons, he has a warehouse full of them. COOPER: Your feed is breaking up. Brad, you knew the President as a businessman. You reported on him. Would certain issues consume you back then, how do you see his ability to compartmentalize?

BRAD THOMAS, AUTHOR, "THE TRUMP FACTOR": Sure, well, First thing, the obsession with Donald Trump is his work ethic. I mean Donald Trump works harder than any other President we've seen in the White House in a long time. So he does get up early in the morning. Absolutely, that's current, but Donald Trumps knows how to -- he know to focus, he knows --

COOPER: When you say he works harder than any president, how do you know that?

THOMAS: Because, we know he gets up early in the morning. We know he gets up late at night.

COOPER: There's much as added to be?

THOMAS: Yeah. And I've seen him on the campaign trail. I campaigned with him for over a year, went to rally after rally with him. And I've seen that work ethic, believe me, it's there.


THOMAS: Absolutely. And so -- yeah, so as far as the focus, Donald Trump understands what a circle of confidence means. That's how he built a multibillion dollar portfolio, because he knows how to take one project at a time, health care, corporate taxes, those initiatives focus on those issues and he is not distracted and he is not scared of anything. Donald trump is not scared of Russia, believe me.

COOPER: I've got to jump in, because you're describing a guy who is lesser focused on a particular issue until it's done. His tweets, though, seem to indicate the exact opposite. You know, I mean he seems, you know, whether it's infrastructure week that begins with him tweeting about everything other than infrastructure.

THOMAS: Sure. We know what his tweeting is all about. I mean, he is directing his message to his core audience, to his 35 million or so voters who voted for him. That's where absolutely what the Twitter comes involved. He is directing that message to his people. He attended a rally this week. He was -- that same message going out to the people at the rally. So he is focusing on this issues, he's communicating effectively with his audience. Twitter is one of those methods that uses for that communication, obviously.

COOPER: So you think that his tweets are not him venting or him in anger, just grabbing machine and -- at 6:00 a.m. and late at night, you're saying -- you seem to be indicating that it's a very well thought out sort of orchestrated plan that's nothing but good for him, yes?

THOMAS: Absolutely. Absolutely, I think that's worked effectively and that's why he's in the White House. COOPER: Michael, it certainly worked on the campaign trail, and I think there's a lot of people would argue the exact opposite of -- I mean, you know, a lot of these things, you know, we have a special counsel now because of a tweet that the President originally sent out that then able to lead (ph) Comey to leak something. Is that how you see his work ethic?

D'ANTONIO: No, I don't. I mean, I've seen no evidence prior to the presidential campaign that he was, especially, hardworking at all. We now know that he gets very tired. When he was in Italy with European leaders, he was the one in the golf cart following everyone behind while they were walking.

So this is a person who may have good stamina for someone his age. He doesn't exercise. He eats poorly. The tweeting, to me, is evidence of a mind that is not very well focused. And when you listen to him talk, he can't stay focused on a topic long enough to make one coherent sentence, let alone a paragraph. So that's why he's always contradicting himself. He'll say, we have an answer in two weeks and a month goes by. I don't have confidence that he's focused at all.

COOPER: All right, Tim O'Brien I apologize, we lost the Skype on you. Michael D'Antonio, I appreciate it, Brad Thomas as well.

[20:50:00] Up next, another GOP senator comes out against the Republican Senate health care bill, while others won't say for sure, one word and other, they say, they're still looking at the plan. We'll speak with one Republican senator who falls in the undecided camp at this point when we come back.


COOPER: The Senate GOP health care bill has been public 24 hours. There are now five Republican senators who said, they cannot support it, other at least so far. Others have been non-committal, saying they need more information and obviously still reviewing it.

One Republican senator set his litmus test back when the House version of the bill came out in May. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you support a bill that allows insurance companies to cap their payouts to customers?

SEN. BILL CASSIDY, (R) LOUISIANA: As you present that, I ask, does it pass the Jimmy Kimmel test? Was a child born with congenital heart disease be able to get everything he or she would need in the first year of life? I want it to pass the Jimmy Kimmel test.


COOPER: Senator Bill Cassidy, Republican from Louisiana joins me now.

Thank you so much for being with us.

CASSIDY: Anderson, thank you for having me.

COOPER: At this point, can you say in your mind, if it does passed -- if the Senate version passes the Jimmy Kimmel test?

CASSIDY: There's no lifetime limits. A simply answer, yes, it does. There's no lifetime limits. It does lower the cost of premiums. A big thing is, sure you can have insurance but if you can't afford the premiums, you don't really have insurance. And it does lower that cost.

[20:55:07] There's other things to consider, and that's what I'm looking at now. But simply put, if your child is born with a congenital heart problem, there would be no lifetime limits on the cost of the care that he or she could receive.

COOPER: Are there limits on sort of how detailed the plan is that people are going to be able to get? And people may be able to get a cheaper plan but that doesn't have as much coverage, basically?

CASSIDY: The plan which is referring to is essential health benefits. Again, it does not repeal the essential health benefits. So it is still covers maternity, still covers addictions, still covers all the other things that you would expect it to cover. It's probably pretty good. Turns out those are only about four percent of the total cost of the premium. So I personally think that's a small price to pay.

COOPER: Are you ready to support it at this point?

CASSIDY: No. I'm still working through it. We're about 2/3 of the way through it. We, my staff and I are looking at it. I get 10 texts this afternoon is away for this. Stakeholders back home, if you will, looking at it as well. We're just trying to put it back together.

COOPER: What are you hearing from -- you represent Louisiana, obviously, what are you hearing from constituents? Is there -- I assume you hear from both sides but you have --

CASSIDY: I smile because I get one text. The guy is saying, and listen, "My premiums are $1700 a month. My deductibles are $6,000 for me, $13,000 for my family." You have to vote for it. The next text is, "OMG. You can't vote for it because this is actually not right for our state."

COOPER: I get the same texts every night.


CASSIDY: So what I'm trying to do is kind of cut through it. I actually e-mailed one friend back and said, listen, let me explain how it really works. And he e-mailed back in a more conciliatory tone. So a lot of what people are getting is almost if you will slamming the bill without understanding the bill. I seek to understand it.

COOPER: The President had campaigned on not cutting Medicaid at all, not having any reductions to Medicaid. From a number of earlier analysis the Senate bill does seems to limit Medicaid over the years? CASSIDY: Couple things. If someone gets off Medicaid on to private that could actually be a good thing. So first, some of those patients going off Medicaid will go on private insurance. Secondly, what is poorly understood, under current law, the Medicaid expansion is not really sustainable for states. One example, in California, under current law, by 2020, they would have to put up $2.2 billion for the State of California share of Obamacare, for the expansion. My state, $310 million. Really a big chunk of change for our state, which is relatively small. So under current law, Medicaid is not sustainable. It has to be fixed for the states themselves. And I would say also for the patients.

COOPER: Do you have a sense of when you're going to make a decision on this?

CASSIDY: Me personally or them?


CASSIDY: I'm working through on the weekend. I'll go in on Monday. I'll take as long as I need. Obviously, Leader McConnell wants to have a vote next week.

COOPER: Right.

CASSIDY: So we're not cooling our heels. We're working hard. I'd like to know soon. But I have to -- but I will not decide until I feel like I understand the bill.

CASSIDY: Senator Cassidy, I appreciate you joined us.

CASSIDY: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Thank you very much, in New York as well.

Up next, breaking news, President Trump just tweeting moments ago on Russia, we'll have that for you in a moment.